Archive for November 2010

DADT Policy or How Stupid Are We?

Well the DoD issued their report and cautioned  against rapid implementation.  Deja Vu 1948 and integrating the miliary.  48% of Combat troops were uncomfortable with gays serving although the majority of all troops were overwhelmingly for it.  So let’s take a lesson from history.  President Truman ended segregation in the military against military brass and a poll that showed that 63% of all troops were against it.  Certainly it was to his political advantage, but he was still bucking the mainstream when he issued his Execute Order in 1948 and set up a Presidential Panel to oversee the process.  It was just simply wrong and it was time to make it right.  Now President Obama’s problem with integrating gays into the military is that he has a law preventing him from doing that if he had the courage of Harry, which I strongly doubt.  But Congress could do the right thing today.  They won’t because they would rather pander to bigots and fools instead of standing up for our Constitution. That is where we are today.   Their lack of moral courage on this human rights issue is all you need to know about whether Congress is up to making the hard choices to solve our economic problems.  Most other industrialized countries have done this, but it is just too hard for us.  Let’s face it, we are just stupid and paralyzed in our stupidity.  America is now a second rate country rapidly becoming a backwater nation led by the ignorant.  Is that direct enough for you?

Earmark Insanity or How Stupid Are We?

Contessa Brewer (eye candy) on MSNBC was questioning Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio on why they defeated the earmark ban today.  I can never figure out if the question is just stupid or they are baiting the Senator to set the record straight.  The question was basically, “If there is a concern about controlling the federal deficit, why not start with earmarks?”  Why is this so stupid?  Well earmarks have nothing to do with the size of the budget to be spent, only how it is directed.  So banning earmarks has nothing to do with reducing the size of the budget.  The budget is established first long before the earmark process begins.  Second, earmarks account for less than 1% of the total budget.  It is an ant in the stampede of elephants.  Third, as long as earmarks are transparent, they provide a healthy way for Senators to bring home the bacon and direct money toward worthy projects.  It is why we elect these people and one of the reasons why seniority is important.  So as long as there is full visibility about what they are and who sponsored them, what is the problem?  If they are frivolous or are political payoffs, we can turn that politician out of office next year.  This is typical of the Tea Party and the Republicans,  much to do about nothing while our real problems fester.  Think about this in another way.  These people hate government and regulations, yet they want to use government to pass legislation and regulations that tie the hands of their legislators while turning over the allocation process to “government bureaucrats” .  So what do these people really believe?  They are totally irrational and are being used as a tool by the Republicans who represent only the rich.  Just how stupid are we?

Celebrating Secession

I see where the South is looking to celebrate secession with parties, celebrations, dancing, and other acts of merriment (Celebrating Secession Without the Slaves).  I guess they forgot about the enslavement of the blacks and how this could be seen as a celebration of their defiance of human rights.  Of course the secession in their minds had nothing to do with Negros, but the celebration of State’s rights.  Like voter discrimination and segregation is a State’s right.  It is a grand act of denial so much like the people who have been elected recently to “solve our problems”.  But I guess from my point of view, in many ways it is too bad they weren’t successful in their secession.  We would not have had George Bush and the country would be moving forward instead of mired in dead Republican ideology.  Of course there would be all that foreign aid we would have to send to the third world South, not to mention the fence we would have to build along the border between the North and South to keep the rabble out.

Obama Freezes Federal Wages

Deja Vu.  “Regan freezes federal wages.”  Don’t you just love this inspiring leadership?  Drip, drip, drip.  What is the integrated strategic plan for a way forward?  What a failure as a President.  Let’s see.  I have these old tired worn out Republican ideas about fixing the economy so I will just throw them against the wall and see which ones stick.  This is strategic planning?  It is putting a finger in the dike.  And none of it is working. I am going to quote from Robert Kuttner’s post this morning in the Huffington Post (Backbone Please) which I think sums it up totally:

… the media are infatuated with the idea that excessive partisanship is a symmetrical problem. If only the Republicans and the Democrats would meet each other halfway, the nation’s ills would be solved. It is hard to watch the Sunday talk shows without seeing one interviewer after another demanding, why can’t you people just compromise?

There are two problems with this formulation, one tactical and the other substantive. The tactical problem is that the Republicans and Democrats aren’t playing the same game. So if the Democrats meet the Republicans half way, the Republicans only demand that they do it again. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is identified as media enemy number one because she rejects this nonsense.

The tactical asymmetry connects to the substantive problem — the fact that the solution to what ails the economy is somewhere to the left of most Democrats, not midway between, say, President Obama and Mitch McConnell. The economy will be fixed only with more public investment, more progressive taxation, and more regulation, but partisan compromise dictates less of each.”

Too bad our President can’t figure this out.

Jousting At Windmills

Well the chattering class was at it again and it was all non sequitur.   The chattering class are those that follow and make a living tracking the inside the beltway political bantering.  Neither the chattering class nor the politicians they chatter about seem relevant to our problems anymore.  The number of people who think we are on the wrong path keeps growing while this sideshow goes on and we are all becoming more aware of the irrelevancy of our political process.  I started to write this blog several years ago to address the illogical statements or failed ideas being replayed, but the discussion has become so irrational and irrelevant that it is not about who has the right approach, but who is less relevant.  If you question that, I suggest you listen to David Stockman, Regan’s Budget Director, on Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN  Sunday morning.  From the Republican side of the house, he points out the insanity of where we are, the irrationality of the present Republican Party, and the failure of our President to lead.  Those in Washington are jousting at windmills while the nation faces the real enemy, the lack of leadership and moral courage to face our future honestly.

Here, I think, is something we can agree on:  In order to prosper we need a modern infrastructure to support commerce, a well educated and healthy workforce, and an economy that is geared to world competition that benefits everyone.  Thomas Friedman, in his op-ed piece this morning, Got to Get This Right, said basically the same thing.  In order to get there, we need some some real  leadership that is ready to leave this ideological and counterproductive debate behind and do the obvious.  So far that leadership is not evident.

Right now the Republicans are recycling their small government, low taxes, and unregulated market place that has gotten us to this point in the disaster our country is becoming.  True government isn’t smaller, but it is less effective, which in effect makes it smaller.  Their activated right wing, the Tea Party, is offering absolute drivel that will just make things worse as they wish to be back in the 19th century.  The Democrats have spent so much time leaning to the right to stay in power, that they have no backbone anymore to stand for anything.  From Frank Rich’s point of view in his op-ed Sunday morning,  Congress is never going to solve our problem since they are in fact, Still the Best Congress Money can Buy.   The President lacks either the moral fortitude, or a basic understanding of what he stands for or what needs to be done, to lead the nation.  He has made it abundantly clear that he cannot stand up and lead the nation to face our difficult future and make the tough decisions that need to be made.

What we need to do is not rocket science.  I think Tom Friedman has it exactly right.  We have to embrace the two commissions’ reports on dealing with the deficit.  In this case we can then debate the differences, but at least we are on the right track.  We will need to raise some taxes and cut others.  We will have to cut some programs, and invest in others.  That is a road map forward and a real discussion we should be having.  Instead we have politics as usual: hate immigrants, deny their children education that benefits all of us, tax cuts for the rich or a compromise to nowhere, ignoring our crumbling infrastructure, watch the states slash their education budgets, gay bashing, denying an extension of unemployment benefits (which benefit the economy), denying the START treaty, continuing a useless war in Afghanistan, and it goes on and on.  We are totally out o f control with no rational hand on the rudder.

So who is going to step up and lead us?  Who is going to layout “an integrated plan for nation-building at home that includes not only more spending but hard choices”?  Certainly it isn’t our President who has shown he just does not get it and everything he does is planned around politics instead of the good of the country.  Certainly not our Congress who is captured by moneyed interests that do not want to see changes to their profiteering.  I think we are at the great crossroad in our national history.  Someone has to step up and lead this nation.  This and the failure of President Obama is why many of us are looking elsewhere for leadership.   Most Americans get it.  So just how are we going to take back Washington and reinvigorate our government?  I just don’t know but it is the only way forward if we are not going to continue our slide into the also ran category.

Little Thoughts

I am watching Jon Anderson and the Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra and student chorus perform and it is awe inspiring. So many kids with so much talent working together to create this beautiful experience.  This is what we are abrogating with our slash and burn tactics in the schools. First we cut the arts and then we loose our ourselves. Expressing our talents is what really gives us the creativity to be truly human. See anyone in Washington fighting for the arts? We have such little minds and I am looking at what we are throwing away.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Turkey Day Weekend

The Estancia at La Jolla - Spanish courtyards in a beautiful location

Yes I have been remiss at writing.  I spent three lovely days in San Diego away from the snow and rain, which by the way, it is snowing and raining today.  It was cool in San Diego, low 60’s.  I guess all things are relative.  At the hotel we were staying at (Estancia in La Jolla), they have a lovey pool and spa.  After a good work out with the weights and the elliptical trainer in their exercise room, I was enjoying the outdoor hot spa when two boys showed up (4 and 6), and although I thought it was a bit cool for the pool, in their exuberance, they leaped right in.  Their father was right behind them and I mention that they are tough to tolerate the cold water.  He said, they are from Anchorage and this is summer.  It is all relative.

We always spend one of the winter holidays (Christmas or Thanksgiving) with our son in San Diego.  I prefer Christmas because it is closer to spring and makes the winter seem less long, but we switch off.  My son and I like to spend the holiday morning in the surf which makes the rest of the day all that much more special.  My wife tolerates it.  We have a routine which I highly recommend.  We catch the earliest flight we can down there so we can sit outside on the patio in La Jolla and have breakfast, and then have the whole day to play.  We returned in the early morning after Thanksgiving, which is a great day to travel because the crowds are non-existent.  Security, even in defamed San Diego was a breeze.  Then when we cooked a turkey at home so we can have leftovers.  There are some traditions that are sacrosanct.

On Thursday, we went to the beach for a little surfing.  I had brought my Nikon and I wanted to get some good pictures of AndyThe Only Way to Spend Thanksgiving Morning surfing so I decided to forgo surfing and get some pictures.  I have to tell you though, I am still suffering from missing a day in the surf.  But it motivates me to lose some weight and get my flexibility back in my knee so I can do my get up move.  Watching the surfers, including Andy, catch a wave was just inspiring and motivates me to not give up yet.  There is still one good ride left out there for me.  Maybe next Thanksgiving I can get the whole family down to San Diego for some real fun.

For Thanksgiving dinner we went to one of my standbys, Pacifica Del Mar, to sit on the veranda overlooking the ocean.  They were serving a three-course meal which could be traditional or fish.  It was delicious and I had a 2007 Tori Mor Pinot Noir with dinner.  But even on this Thanksgiving Day the hard economy intruded.  A young couple sat next to us and we struck up a conversation with them.  They were from Austin, brother and sister trying to find jobs.  She had finally found one, but her brother was still in the hunt.  There are a lot of really nice kids out there, well educated, hard working, and struggling with no help from Washington.  It is a major waste of our potential.  After dinner we saw a new bar across the way and went over to test it.  It worked fine and the staff was truly fun and friendly.  It was a great day.

It was a good day- Andy at Home

Upon return, the one shock was that we had had a hard freeze while we were gone and all the beautiful yellows, greens, and reds in the vineyard were brown and dead.  In a short week everything had gone from fall to winter.  Now it is the long haul to Spring.  The same could be said about our politics, which you will note, has been missing in this blog.

Let’s face it, we are just not making sense.  The newspapers tell us that people are out spending so things are getting better.  Oh really?  Ask yourself what they are buying and who is making it?  Our problems are real and complex and buying things made in China is not going to address them.  Oh, but corporations made the highest profits in years while the nation staggers under unemployment.  Meanwhile the politics that are being discussed are irrelevant.  Sarah Palin weighed in on us helping North Korea.  North Korea?  And people think that this level of ignorance is what we need?  What can I tell you.  We have stopped making sense.   So anyway for a few days it was nice just to enjoy a little vacation, family, and friends, and not worry about politics.  Tomorrow, however, is another day.

Looking in the Mirror

There was an article in the Washington Post pointing out that “Dems held on to majorities in urban regions”.  But the quote I loved was, “The Republican Party’s big gains came largely from districts that were older, less diverse and less educated than the nation as a whole.” Very much like the people they elected.  “Republicans do the best in areas typically not growing very fast and don’t look like the present, or certainly the future of the country.”  Looking backward is such a winning strategy.  We are in for a long unpleasant ride while being held hostage by people with small, unimaginative minds.

Note:  Apparently many of us Progressives are beginning to think alike about the only hope is to forge a political movement that forces the Democrats in Congress and our moribund President to take up the fight.  This op-ed by Robert Kuttner hits many of the themes I have been hitting and gives me hope that there will be a ground swell:  Saving Progressivism From OBama.

Speaking of fat old white men, did you see where the Pope had suggested that in some cases, using a condom might be warranted.  Like our politics, isn’t it interesting that fat old white men, who haven’t a clue about the real world, try to tell us how to live in it?  Same comment about Janet Nepolitano explaining that they feel our pain on TSA pat downs.  Suppose she has ever stood in line and get’s humiliated like the rank and file?  Suppose it does any good?  The inmates are in charge of the asylum.

As Dancing with the Stars Goes, So Goes the Nation

On Dancing with the Stars. Bristol Palin, daughter of Sarah, has reached the finals. And along the way, we saw far superior talent fall by the wayside. Young Palin has worked hard and she is “folksy”, but her dancing skills are mediocre at best. So on a show that uses popular opinion to select the best, we are selecting mediocre. As Dancing with the Stars goes, so goes the nation.

I mean we really are in la-la land these days. I would like very much to hear how the nation is going to prosper from Republican policies of smaller government, lower spending, and less regulation. Well, wait a second. By prosper, I did not mean the upper 5% (of which I am one which is truly scary). We have heard from two bipartisan committees on our economic way forward and neither agrees with the Republicans on the tax cuts for the wealthy, and for that matter with the Democrats on saving the below $250 grand crowd. Both agree we need to delay our real deficit reductions until after 2012 when the economy is better, and then we all face a tax increase. Yet neither party will step to the plate on these realistic proposals.

I look at the future of education and I shudder. Here in California the class sizes have been growing while we fire teachers and counselors at a record pace to balance the budget. It is not much different in other states and yet we decry the state of education and think it is our only salvation to compete with the rest of the world. Is it me or is there a disconnect here? And that is just the tip of the iceberg. We have been on this me, me, me trip and while we have been treating ourselves to low taxes, our infrastructure is falling apart. Those that think we are in tip-top shape haven’t traveled abroad lately to enjoy really first rate facilities, internet connections, no dropped cell phone calls, wonderful mass transit systems, and of course, free medical care.

Meanwhile the Republicans label President Obama a socialist bringing on the nanny state, while those of use who have followed him know he is a moderate Republican. There was an interesting article in the NYT today about cutting the cost of medical care as critical to your ability to manage our deficit in the future. Notice that all European countries have better medical outcomes than we do at half the cost, yet President Obama can’t quite understand that the market place is not the way to provide health insurance. Like I said, a moderate Republican. Continuing to offer market place solutions that only make things worse.

So we hunker down in our denial, doing the same stupid things we have been doing, and expecting that it is going to get better. That is the mentality that is voting for Bristol Palin on Dancing with the Stars. It is the envy and hate of the mediocre toward the truly talented and smart.  It is voting for one of their own, not for one of the best.   It is almost like if Bristol can win, it shows we were right on everything else even though it is patently obvious she is not the best talent.   It is where we are today. In denial.   Republicans aren’t making sense. Tea Partiers are making even less sense. I am not talking about their anger, we are all angry, but their “solutions”. Congress seems to be totally out of touch with reality, or at least the reality of most of the people outside the Beltway. The media is totally missing the lack of critical or rational thinking that represents the political class today and is enmeshed in covering the politics of the issues and not their efficacy.  And least we forget Americans who think they are voting tax freedom and all they are voting for is empowerment of  corporations to further transfer wealth to themselves and jobs overseas.

A recent poll showed that almost half of Americans don’t know that the Republicans took over the House. But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Part of the problem in my mind, is that the “liberal elite press” and the spineless Democrats have let the Republicans use them as a megaphone. Saying it is so makes it so, and the Republicans have been unchallenged in their miscommunication by a compliant press (or lazy) and Democrats who won’t fight back. In 2008 we elected a President who seem to fight our fight and would not be a push over, only to find out that he was a push over and did not even understand the fight he was in. He probably still doesn’t.

Meanwhile the false messaging of the Republicans has gone unchallenged except for a few of us who even the Administrations calls “liberal whiners”. Turns out we were right and people have totally turned off to this administration.  But I said there was a light at the end of the tunnel and there is. Some of the movers and shakers (George Soros for one) have finally come to the conclusion that not being in the fight is not working.  We have to do some thing to start counter the false messaging that is resulting in a clearly non critical analysis of where the Republicans are going to take us,  The discussion is now about how do we separate ourselves from a failed Administration and take on the Republican talking machine. Not fighting and trying compromise with an immutable force has not worked and the lesson of the last election was not to move right, it was do something that works.  Moving to the right may get compromise, but with ideals that will fail except for the very rich.

Well if we are going to be able to do anything, first we need to win back the voters. That is not by trying to be more Republican with failed policies that will just lead to more failure. It is by countering the misinformation that is out there. It is by challenging them every step of the way. It is by showing the bankruptcy of their ideas and not compromising with failure. The light is dawning that we have to get organized like the Republicans. Our advantage is we actually have truth and reality on our side. Now all we have to do is actually engage in the fight. Forget President Obama. At best we will have to drag him into the fray when he realizes it good be politically good for him.

So back to Bristol Palin and all those who are voting for her. She is winning because the focused few have stolen the show.  Their lack of critical thinking/judging skills does not hinder their ideology.   We are letting the focused ignorant lead.  Maybe in a TV show that is okay, but for a country fighting for the future of our children, it is sadly misplaced. We need the best and the brightest, the most talented, engaged in real critical thinking about policies and real outcomes, not fairy tales and pots of gold at the end of taxless rainbows.

Vine/Wine Friday (Last One This Year)

Lower Vineyard 11/19/2010 - From top to bottom Grenache (Green to Yellow), Mourvedre (Red and loosing leaves), Syrah (Yellow), Counoise in the foreground, and the Watcher

Vine: I thought I would write a small narrative to sum up all of this year.  Small would be the operative word.  It has been a hard growing season up here.  To sum up, with shattered bunches in the Grenache (incomplete bunches due to poor pollination) and sunburn in the Syrah, things were not looking good.  With a very cool summer, and with intermittent temperature spikes, the grapes were just confused and slow.  Last harvest of the Mourvedre was in early November and it still really hadn’t gotten to where it needed to be.  I don’t have any numbers yet on the size of the harvest, but I am guessing it was down about 30%, maybe more.  But many of my vintner friends tell me that the quality was outstanding.  That, I think, remains to be seen.

Now as we approach middle to late fall, snow is predicted this weekend.  If it shows up as forecast, it will be the earliest snow I remember up here.  Last year we got the earliest snow I could remember in early December.  It was a couple of feet and I was stranded up here for a week, unable to get out (and gimping around because I had ruptured my patellar tendon).  So don’t tell me we don’t have climate change.  Okay, one year does not make a trend, but it is strange.  One of the things you will note in the pictures I took this morning, along with the beautiful colors, is the amount of green ground cover (cover crop) in the vineyard.  With the early and regular rains, the cover crop is regenerating which will be a good protection against erosion over the winter.  So it is the end of another year.  Nothing to do now but wait till spring and prune.  I replanted about 15 plants that were either weak or had died this year.  I will do some more replanting next summer.  Most of my losses were in the Grenache.  Every thing else is hearty.  Sleep well my grapes.

Upper Vineyard Syrah and a good cover crop 11/19/2010. Snow Tomorrow

Wine: Well I have two eating establishments to recommend.  The first is close to home, in Sacramento called Café Rolle.  It is a small café on H street up toward Sac State and it is a true French Café that was visited by the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.  It was lunch time and I had a lovely smoke salmon sandwich on real French bread, with a Kronenbourg 1664 beer.  It was wonderful.  This place is a true find and is worth a visit.  They are open for lunch Tuesday through Friday, and for dinner only on Wednesday through Friday nights and closed on Monday.

The other recommendation I can heartily make is an Italian Restaurant called Farina in the Mission District in San Francisco.  I was lucky enough to be invited to dinner there by one of the proposal managers, Regina Whelchel at the firm I frequently work at.  Regina is a true foodie and so going to a restaurant she recommends will always be an adventure and a treat.  Now I knew this was going to be a good night because when I arrived there, it was the middle of week and there was no valet parking, but there was a parking spot right next to the restaurant.  In SF, that is akin to winning the lottery.  I arrived before the others so I sat at the bar and struck up a conversation with a local who gave me a complete tour of the menu.  When the others arrived, we simply order tons of small plates and tasted everything.  It was wonderful with all the pasta being made fresh right in the restaurant.  I think I am becoming addicted to Italian food.

Italian wine is always a  challenge for me, since I am truly ignorant of their good wines.  One of my compatriots ordered a Barbera, which was okay, but lacked a finish and needed some body with the foods we were eating, so on the next go round I ordered a Super Tuscan, 2007 Uccelleria Rapace (Brunello (Sangiovese Grosso), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).  I know I like most Super Tuscans and the waiter recommended this one and it did not disappoint.  It is a wonderful restaurant, very warm and friendly and the food was just wonderful.  Thank you Regina.

Carpe Diem.