Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Random Comments

1.  Much as I hate to side with Republicans on anything, the arrogance and partisanship of some Democrats, especially in the House, is self-defeating and, as the Republicans are saying, not what the American people want - or the President either for that matter.  Barney Frank may be the most repulsive of the lot.  Even if he's right on the issues, his approach will yield negative results in the long run.

2.  And what about this new Mayor in Portland?  He admits to lying about having an affair with an 18-year-old male intern.  And just because he's gay there is a movement to keep him in office, with people saying it is homophobic to ask him to resign.  Give me a break.  It has nothing to do with his sexual orientation.  If a straight politician did the same thing there would be a clamor for his head.  Sam Adams should go.

3.  And speaking of wonderful politicians, I'm partly on Blago's side.  He's probably guilty of all kinds of nefarious things.  But again, that's not the point.  As he says, he's being railroaded by a group of self-righteous politicians who see a chance to nail him.  Let him stand trial in a real court, not one of the kangaroo variety, and see what happens.  You gotta admire his chutzpah.

4.  I was glad to see that Bill Kristol is out as a regular columnist for the NY Times.  When his column began appearing about a year ago, I read it a few times to check it out.  I found what he had to say shallow and uninteresting.  I'd love to see the Times include a conservative columnist regularly on their Op-Ed pages, a la Bill Safire or Bill Buckley (any of these guys got a name other than Bill?) but Kristol ain't it.

5.  I've been happy for a new reason every day since Obama was inaugurated.  What a pleasure it is to see policies I endorse being turned into reality.  Don't stop, O.

6.  My new HDTV is awesome.  I'm mesmerized by the quality of the picture.  Wow!

7.  I was sorry (but not surprised) to read that Netanyahu is likely to win the Israeli election in two weeks.  That's just what we need - an Israeli leader even more bellicose and truculent than their more moderate ones.  I've always believed that with time and some common sense any intractable problem can be solved.  But the issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians may be the exception.  I saw an aerial shot yesterday of the West Bank settlements.  Lovely, new islands of sticking it to the locals everywhere you look.  280,000 people live in these protected hamlets.  And they all are committed to staying there forever.  After all, God told them it's the right(eous) thing to do.

And with that, I'm done for now.  Have a nice day.   

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day

Today was a great day.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Iran +

Our on-again off-again trip to Iran is on again.  We had tickets to go a year ago and then realized that we'd be there during their two-week New Year celebration.  Not the best time for visiting.  At the same time our macho Texan in charge of going to war was saber rattling. Better not to be there if the Americans were going to bomb the place.  So we decided to reschedule for this spring, figuring a new president was a safer bet, at least in the near term.

Israel is always a wild card in the Iran equation.  We had no doubt they'd take military action when they felt the threat pushed them past their boiling point, which is low to begin with.  As it turns out they're now diverted by Gaza and that should slake their need for blood for a while.

As we discussed this trip over the holidays both Sandra and I realized that our reluctance to push the 'go' button had less to do with any possible war than with not being eager to go on another long trip so soon after our 3 1/2 weeks in Italy this past fall.  But also we saw the likelihood that if we didn't go at this point we might never do it.  So we concluded - Let's do it.

Our original plan was to include Syria, Jordan and Greece.  Then we began thinking about Uzbekistan.  Samarkand, the old Silk Road, sounded kind of exotic.  That would mean not going to the Middle East.  But in the end we went back to Syria and Jordan, but not Greece, which would have jammed us into a timetable that was too compressed.

So the decision was made.  And I went to work researching and contacting travel agents in Iran. Americans can get a visa for Iran, but are required to be in the country on a guided tour.  The tour doesn't have to be large - 2 people are fine, but the arrangements must be made by a local agent.

From the beginning, one travel agent, Let's Go Iran, most favorably impressed me.  They responded quickly, paid attention to our preferences and interest in a slightly off-beat customized itinerary, were competitive in price, and seemed to have the right approach to customer service.

So yesterday I agreed to use them and we're moving forward.  Our contact is someone named Parisa Evazi.  From the tone of the emails I received I assume Parisa is a woman.  Our last messages were particularly enjoyable.  She asked if we wanted to include a camel ride.  Cutting it would reduce the cost slightly.  I suggested we bag the camels and commented, "I find camels pretty uncomfortable, don't you?"

She said:  "Well, regarding camel riding idea.  To be honest I am afraid of touching animals, so never never, even in my dreams try to test riding them."

We leave March 31.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Amazing Charlie Rose

At the end of the year it's not unusual for a TV program to produce a feature about people who have died during the past 12 months.  They say a few words and show a few clips of the person being acknowledged.

Charlie Rose does it differently.  He shows an excerpt from an interview he did with that person.  Yesterday, as I watched him honor person after person after person I asked myself, "Is there anyone this guy hasn't interviewed?"  Since he's done about 20,000 interviews, the answer is clear.

There they were:
Paul Newman
Sidney Pollack
George Carlin
Bernie Mac
Eartha Kitt
Harold Pinter
Van Johnson
Robert Rauschenberg
Heath Ledger
Bill Buckley
Osbourne Elliot
Tim Russert
Anthony Minghella
Studs Terkel
Michael Crichton

And more . . .

In my eyes the tribute is to him as well as to those he is honoring.  Every time he talks with someone I learn something.  In a calm, probing conversation without polemics, he goes about his work with the demeanor of a close friend and the skill of a brain surgeon.

Thank you, Charlie Rose.