Saturday, March 29, 2008


In a recent blog post, The Age of the Anti-Cassandra, Paul Krugman bemoans the inclusion on Hillary Clinton’s proposed panel to solve the sub-prime crisis those who, like Alan Greenspan, architected the fucked-up mess in the first place.

Same dynamic regarding Iraq.

In his little rant, Krugman provides a 1931 utterance of John Maynard Keynes:

A sound banker, alas, is not one who foresees danger and avoids it, but one who, when he is ruined, is ruined in a conventional way along with his fellows, so that no one can really blame him.

I’m so glad Professor Krugman is again available on the New York Times website for free!
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Which presidential candidate said the following about education?

[We] Spend so much time teaching students to use computers but we don't teach kids how to shop for their maximum health, safety, and economic well-being... what's the point of earning money if you're just going to lose it to corporate scams?

Check your answer here.

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Colleagues of mine in Rudy’s Group, (365/yr, 9:00am, tennis, GGP), include a very sophisticated, and low-profile (redundant?) couple, Nick and Betty Maffei.

We were chatting one morning and blogging came up and we finally exchanged addresses and I looked at Nick Maffei’s San Francisco Photo Blog. I highly recommend it.

As a native blahblah, I think I know plenty about the geography of San Francisco, so it’s a pleasure to discover how ignorant I really am.

Alice Marble Tennis Courts? Never heard of them. I’ve heard of Alice Marble, one of greats in the history of SF sports.

As Nicks latest post shows, Alice Marble courts are at the top of Russian Hill.

All his photos are clickable for hi-res, and they are mostly of things, or from perspectives I wouldn’t expect.

All pleasure.

BTW: If you click around Nick and Betty’s other sites you’ll see how much fun they’ve had since the mid 1990s or so (e.g., teaching computing on cruise ships). The only mention of anything before then has to do with the Army Security Agency. Oh, oh!

So, they’re like Nick and Nora Charles, or, like Bernard and Fiona Samson.

Very nice photos.

Coincidentally, Alice Marble served as a spy in Europe for US intelligence during World War II, even sustaining a gunshot wound at the hands of a Nazi agent. At least according to Wikipedia.

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Friday, March 28, 2008


The issue of bicycling in San Francisco always rouses negative emotions in me.

The rude, illegal behavior of many cyclists contributes to this, but there is more.

Bicycle advocates seem to think that their agenda is pro-environment (show me the numbers) and therefore “progressive.”

In general, “progressive” refers to collective, shared solutions to social needs.

A bicycle is a personal transportation device.
An automobile is a personal transportation device.

While reasonable people can compare and contrast the benefits and drawbacks of these two types of personal transportation devices, neither has anything to do with “public transit.”

As a political effort, bicycling is reactionary.

Public transit (Muni) is progressive.

So that explains the bicyclists’ fuck-you attitude—they’re basically right-wing survivalists. Look at their physical fitness, and derring-do.

Recently Fog City Journal covered a City-Hall-steps rally (all one word in German) advocating implementation of the City’s Bicycle Plan, which has been stalled by inadequate Environmental Impact Studies. (Just like right-wingers, bicyclists don't much appreciate EIRs.)

I gush over Luke Thomas’ photography, but this story had photos by Adam Aufdencamp which are also very impressive. Taken together I think of the photos as “The Faces of Cycling.”

Above pictures are details from Mr Aufdencamp’s photos of some of the cycling advocates at the rally.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008


You know, the Magi brought baby Jesus three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I’m guessing gram-for-gram, the myrhh was most precious.

I’m not saying I’m the baby Jesus, but like the humble stable of His birth, my digs, after some recent archeology, needed purification.

So I’ve been burning Nag, Champa that is, in my bedroom. It smells like a Hari Krishna parade, or a Head Shop. Such sweetness!

I’m using joss sticks from Bangalore, mfrd by Shrivinas Sugandhalaya. They named it after the religious leader Satya Sai Baba. [This might be like giving a great player’s name to a particular model of baseball glove—my first was a “Marty Marion.”]

I’m not religious, but the smell seduced me and I actually looked the guy up.

There’s lots of mumbo jumbo and the usual pedophilia claims, but Wikipedia distills Satya Sai Baba’s doctrine for us:

Sathya Sai Baba's teachings are said to be realized by observing the following four principles:

There is only one Caste, the Caste of Humanity;
There is only one Religion, the Religion of Love;
There is only one Language, the Language of the Heart;
There is only One God and He is Omnipresent

One can study these words, or, one can light an excellent stick of Nag Champa.

And breathe.


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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


They call it a relay, as if the entire route was covered by runners handing the torch from one to the next.

However, looking at the official schedule of the Olympic Torch Relay, it seems that much of the route is not covered on land or sea.

April 7, 2008 the torch will be in Paris;

April 9, the torch is due here in San Francisco;

April 11, Buenos Aires; and, get this,

April 13, Dar es Salaam!
They must be using airplanes to fly the torch between cities on the off-days. Do you think they really keep the flame lit? It seems easier and safer to simply strike a match in each new city.

It's a torch-tour, like a rock band tour, except instead of a music performance there's a short relay through the city along a circular route.

Anyway, I’m proud as a San Franciscan to see the grassroots resistance to the Beijing Olympic torch’s movement through our city.

I don’t advocate any violence, but for some people non-violent civil disobedience could be an appropriate response to China’s behavior in Tibet and Sudan.

China’s behavior is so awful that Mayor Newsom won’t even announce the route of the San Francisco leg of the torch run. It’s like he’s ashamed of it.

There’s already been a firebomb thrown at the Chinese consulate.

Hopefully, the hassle will loom so large that all the fun-ness will go out of the SF leg, at least for the Chinese government and its craven SF toadies. They could do the run at some private venue with heavy press restrictions—sort of how the games themselves will be reported.

Hopefully, some Olympic committee or other will foot the bill for police overtime. Do you think?

In future, City Powers should resist the urge to promote authoritarian regimes.

Go S.F.!

Free Tibet!

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Judging from reports and soundbites it seems that Obama’s Philadelphia speech on race today could be a turning point for America’s quality of life.

There are some people who enjoy, approve, even benefit from the downtrodden status of so many African Americans. At the other end are moralists who cast shame on the US for its treatment of Black people.

For people in the middle, racial divisions are an annoying, troublesome aspect of our society that diminishes their overall quality of life. Wouldn’t it be great if our huge racial tensions could simply recede!

Barack Obama is qualified to promise the American people that no other candidate can promise—racial reconciliation. At least a process.

He’s both black and white, as he sort of said in his speech. He understands both sides, is intimately familiar with both sides. In fact, he is both sides.

Anyone can promise foreign policy stuff and economic stuff.

Only Obama can promise racial reconciliation. He has to come up with some sort of program and surrounding rhetoric, but he can own the issue.

Then, Hillary and McCain will be asked, "What is your program for racial reconciliation?"

Peace and prosperity, plus increasing racial harmony.

Dumb crackers played a race card. Obama holds the ace. I hope he plays it.

I can’t believe it… I hope!

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Saturday, March 15, 2008


One seeming miracle in my lifetime is Bishop Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which attempted to deal with the classic question of how do we end the cycle of retaliation spawned by historic wrongs.

Tutu and Mandela understood that the task of rooting out and punishing all of the wrongdoers from the apartheid era would consume the new government and drown the country in blood.

Somehow former perps and former victims have to live side by side. Whatever the success of Tutu’s commission, the mere attempt is occasion for some deep hope.

Simply ignoring historic wrongs disses the most recently oppressed, like, someone has to eat it, and that someone is you.

[Click on the picture of Tempie Cummins to read some of her testimony.]

That’s the situation we have in the United States regarding slavery and its social aftermath.

It’s awkward.

There’s been some truth, but there’s been very little reconciliation in the United States, so it’s considered rude to talk about it.

Barack’s pastor talks about it, apparently, all the time.

An early question about Obama was, “Is he black enough.” [Not my question, I’m just reporting this shit.]

Now, with the preacher video clips the insinuation is that Obama is way too black.

Which raises an interesting question: can an African American national candidate these days be both black enough and not too black?

I’m thinking that “black enough for black voters” might still be a little “too black for white voters.”

BTW: Watching the clips of Barack’s pastor, I find myself agreeing with almost everything he says. Hold the 9-11 crap. Hold the goddamn America crap.

Parts of this clip have appeared on TV, with white commentators, and some new African American commentators clucking their disapproval. In this clip, at least, I think Reverend Wright it right-on.

Reverend Wright is definitely too black for white folk.

Obama’s response so far is that of a kid who’s been caught. “Not me,” he pleads. Poor baby!

With so much time before the national election Obama seems to be in a rope-a-dope mode. Barack should remember that toward the end of each rope-a-dope round Ali threw a flurry of punches that kept the scoring close.

Or maybe he’s just on the ropes.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008


It’s the sort of play that demands a neutral palette. It’s serious not colorful.

When it goes to the big screen it will be in black and white.

Like Twelve Angry Men, On the Waterfront, To Kill a Mockingbird, In Cold Blood, it definitely demands black and white. I already see the stark, hard-edged trailer exploding off the screen.

In the used-to-be-rural hamlet of Omelet, named after an historic egg joint which remains to this day the major source of “foreign exchange,” local politics is mostly a no-sweat, low-cost endeavor.

The neighboring hamlet, called Sally Sue, is named after its own main commercial endeavor, a bordello.

Because of their proximity, Omelet became a euphemism for Sallie Sue, which allowed “Omelet” to serve as an intransitive verb. Thus, if a man tells his wife he’s “going to Omelet” it could mean he’s gonna eat, or maybe he’s gonna have sex.

Locals enjoy the ambiguity and love to discuss what goes into a really good omelet.

Yep, folks in these parts have an easy going sense of humor.

Except, once every five years, they have to paint what they’ve come to call sarcastically, “the courthouse,” which, for all its shack-shambletude, is the only improvement on Omelet’s only publicly-owned property.

Besides painting, the effort usually includes minor landscaping (weed removal) and miscellaneous repairs. It’s Omelet’s biggest expenditure, and coming only every five years is paid for by a special tax, which kind of gets the residents’ attention.

The process of creating the contract, appropriating the funds, and choosing contractors has been so contentious in the past that old timers have pet names for it.

They used to call it The Lottery, after the short story.

Then, in the 1950s they started calling it To Serve Man.

In the 1970’s they called it Woodstock, which evolved into Woodburn, until these days it’s simply The Burn.

You’ll find omelets with these names on the menu at the hamlet’s famous diner, also called Omelet.

So, it’s 2008, and it’s time to paint the courthouse.

The factions and issues are lined up.

-Employ illegal aliens/undocumented workers?
-Contractor provides domestic partner benefits?
-Use higher priced, experimental, eco-friendly paint?
-Bike racks!
-Sell the property to Starbucks and lease-back meeting room space.
-Let “Old Henry” do it. He needs the money.
-Female contractors!
-Union workers!
-Non-union workers!
-What about birds?
-Let’s get a defibrillator.
-Feng shui!

Anyway, the exact issues don’t matter, they merely serve as scalpels to reveal the human interior, from funny to ugly.

Will there be fistfights, as usual?

Could tragedy strike?

Will the courthouse get painted?

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Though the boys throw stones at the frogs in sport…

We pretty much accept the idea that a person who orders a murder, and/or a person who pays to have a murder committed, is as guilty of the crime as the triggerperson.

Thus, if you believe, as I do, that the US invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is an international crime, then those who funded and continue to fund the crime are guilty.

McCain considers the invasion and occupation a good thing to do, with goals still worth pursuing for a hundred years if necessary.

Hillary says she agrees with the overwhelming majority of Americans (surprise) that the war was wrong. She promises to bring some US soldiers home sometime—just vote for her.

Barack says the war was “a bad idea,” sort of like boys throwing stones at frogs. He wants us to think that he’ll withdraw our troops, all responsibly and such, a little faster than Hillary would.

What do our three leading candidates have in common? They have all unfailingly voted to fund the invasion and occupation. And all agree that they’ll keep at least some US troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future.

You follow my logic? To me all three are war criminals. None of them should be allowed to lead a Boy Scout troop let alone the so-called free world.

And torture? Let’s not even talk about it.

…the frogs do not die in sport, but in earnest.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Our mayor is talked about on Huffington Post. He’s going big time.

The article is by an East Bay writer named Mayhill Fowler. She disses our boy-mayor to a national audience.

As we’ve heard, Newsom has been on the campaign trail for Hillary [note: San Franciscans voted for Obama in the recent primary]. Ms Fowler begins:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is one of the prettiest but alas not one of the sharpest in the Democratic pencil box. Chatting with local pundit Phil Matier, in less than two minutes on the early morning news Mayor Newsom confirms the Clinton game plan for winning the Democratic presidential nomination.

[Note: she blows the first sentence. She should have said, “…alas not one of the sharpest Democrats in the pencil box.”]

Fowler continues:

"It's a very subjective thing--intelligence analysis. You can go either way," Newsom informs Matier. Since when does a city mayor know anything about national intelligence analysis?

And concludes:

Just returned from junketing with the former President around Texas, Gavin is parroting Bill, who clearly had a good time holding forth in the back of that black Texas SUV.

Later she gets in this dig:

"Do you think for a second the Bush Administration will take all that objective data and hesitate to manipulate it in the context of this campaign?" Newsom rejoins. Trust me--this reasoning is way too Machiavellian for the Mayor.

Picture this: Bill Clinton and Gavin Newsom sharing an SUV between dry Texas stops. Sooner or later they gotta start swapping desktop-tail stories.

Not a tornado, but converging dust devils.

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Monday, March 10, 2008


I just got an email from a nice person who saw a recent post regarding Benefit Magazine.

My correspondent said that Benefit Magazine has ceased publishing:

The magazine and Benefit has folded now... office closed, assets being sold off, looking for someone to buy the name. People unpaid...
So I called Benefit Magazine to confirm. I called the contact number they provide on their website.

Bong bing ding. We’re sorry, the number you called has been disconnected…
Could it be true? If so, the tenure of Tim and Ruby will be remembered as the Heyday of Benefit Magazine. And, whether or not the magazine could survive without them, it didn’t.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008



The Board of Supes turned down the million dollar wheelchair ramp!

So Michela says she’s gonna sue the City.

I guess the reason given by the 6-5 majority—too expensive—didn’t satisfy.

It’s like, the City wastes money on all sorts of things. It’s discrimination to not waste money on the disabled. We demand equality of waste!

Anyway, for visitors here who aren't familiar with Fog City Journal, please look at their coverage of yesterday’s Board of Supervisors vote, especially the photographs. It’s a great example of what FCJ does best.

I love Luke Thomas’ photography. The ramp vote story contains political portraiture that’s a cross between Rembrandt and Diane Arbus, group-documentation as heavy as anything by Franz Hals, and epic (or mock-epic) storytelling ala Jacques-Louis David.

What I’m trying to say is they’re really, really good.

The copy is superb, but Fog City Journal is like Playboy. No matter how interesting the articles, I look at the pictures first.

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This Matier & Ross story of grand embezzlement from a non-profit that operates the City-owned garage in Golden Gate Park is based on statements from Sam Singer, who is a paid spokesperson for the alleged victim, the Music Community Concourse Partnership.

It’s full of one-liners.

According to the story the Chief Financial Officer of the non-profit only “borrowed” the $3,600,000.00 ($3.6 Million) in order to play the stock market.

Colley said he had fully intended to return the money, but then the market took a nosedive.

This is well worn joke. All embezzlers are “only borrowing.” Of course, that’s not what (I’m betting) the accounting entries say. The accounting entries (I’m betting) contain little fibs. Like, $3.6 Mil worth of little fibs.

But, hey! His lawyer describes him as “a family person [sic] with the best of intentions.”

Ha, ha, ha!

The funniest part of the story is that the accused has been discussing “restitution” with his former employer.

Here are the figures from a nice free amortization calculator to tell us what “restitution” in this case could mean.

I assume that if Colley had assets that could be liquidated to make the Concourse Partnership whole, this would have been done already and we never would have heard about it.

If Colley pays back the $3.6 mil as if it were a 30-year mortgage with a 5% interest rate (a sweetheart deal), his monthly payment would be $19,325.58. That’s a lot of after-tax cash to come up with, month after month, especially if you consider that an admitted embezzler’s income potential, at least in areas involving financial responsibility, tends to "nosedive."

Or, let’s say there’s still some cash around and he gives it back, and let’s say the outstanding amount is only $1 Million. A thirty year 5% rate would require a monthly payment of $5,368.22, which equals almost $65,000 per year. What are the chances those payments will keep coming in… for thirty years!

I think it more likely the public will pay.

To paraphrase MLK:

Screwed again, screwed again… God Almighty, we’re screwed again!

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