Saturday, April 30, 2011


The default position for critics of American foreign policy is “America should do something.”

Assad is doing bad things in Syria: Do something about it.

Quaddafi is doing bad things in Libya: Do something about it.

Iran is a danger to us: Do something about it.

China is backsliding on human rights: Do something about it.

The Israelis and Palestinians should settle their differences: Do something about it.

And so on . . .

The context for these ‘do something ' plaints is American exceptionalism. We are the best. We are the strongest. We know what to do. We are ordained by God to rule the world, save the world, lead the way. This, of course, is bullshit and has within itself the seeds of our eventual downfall. But tell that to the chest-thumping USA USA USA shouters. Tell that to them and you’ll be labeled a traitor, maybe even a would-be terrorist. So our esteemed politicians will be the last to say such things – even if they know it is true.

Change of subject:

Donald Trump has rendered me speechless. He is so disgustingly ugly. His egomania is so out of control. His righteousness is so sickening. And worst of all – I am convinced he actually believes the crap that he says. It’s not an act. I hope he does run for president. He would waste a lot of his money. He would be shown to be a buffoon on a daily basis. And he would lose badly. And you know what? After all that his ego wouldn’t even be dented. I now take a solemn oath: I shall not ever again write about this clown in these pages.

Israel has a real problem, and no easy way out. Not only are Hamas and Fatah getting together to present a united front in the service of statehood, Egypt is changing its policy and can no longer be counted on to be a buffer between Israel and their Arab neighbors who want to do bad things to them. Very worrisome. I wonder what the “America should do something” people would recommend.

I was impressed by the marriage in London yesterday. They pulled off a complicated ritual flawlessly and with aplomb. Very well done. And the visual part of the TV coverage was outstanding. As to the commentary? No comment.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back To The Ball Yard!

Went to my first game of the season last night at ATT Park, home of our World Champion San Francisco Giants. The only problem was that we lost to Atlanta.

But that was a small price to pay for the joy of just being in the place. I’ve been going to 5 or 6 games a season since this ball yard opened 11 years ago. Beautifully located near downtown, with a view out over the bay toward Oakland, it’s a fan-friendly atmosphere with good seats, good food and, at least last year, a team that was the best in baseball.

There was one difference last night. I’ve never seen so much energy from the fans. I attribute it to the residual effect of winning it all. It was like attending a very big party. For a guy like me, who goes to actually watch the game, it can be annoying. The people in front of us, for example, barely paid any attention to what was happening on the field.

But again, a small price to pay for the fun of just being there. Our next game? May 21 against Oakland.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Quick Look Around!

Suicide bombers in Afghanistan

Suicide bombers in Iraq

War in Libya

Protests and deaths in Syria

Protests and deaths in Yemen

Riots in Nigeria

Piracy in Somalia

Inflation in China

Government opponents imprisoned in Zimbabwe

Artists imprisoned in Vietnam and China

Riots and deaths in Burkina Faso

And closer to home:

Dueling politics

Anti/pro-immigrant movements

Anti/pro-abortion movements

Anti/pro-gay movements

Anti/pro-government movements

Competing visions for what America should be

Competing answers for what to do about the deficit

No trust among competing elected officials

No respect among competing elected officials

No commitment to finding common ground among competing elected officials

A confused public

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Something Must Be Right!

Obama must have done something right in his deficit speech yesterday. How do I know?

The Wall Street Journal is apoplectic

Paul Ryan has gone ballistic

Boehner and the Republican leadership are huffing and puffing and fuming

What other evidence do you need?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Message #12 - Stop Making Excuses!

This is the 12th in a series of messages:

Because is an overused, useless word.

I was late because.

I didn’t do it because.

I lost my temper because.

I forgot because.

The accident happened because.

Sound familiar? Stop Making Excuses!

Your because may be true. But so what? That it’s true doesn’t change anything. Whatever happened happened. The reasons are irrelevant. You either have the results or the reasons why not. It’s black and white.

You are addicted to excuses. I’d like to feel that I can help you break your addiction, but I’m afraid it’s bigger than both of us. So why bother talking about it? Let’s just chalk it up to wishful thinking despite mountains of evidence that what I have to say will make about as much difference as a fart in a tornado.

It’s like excuses are hard-wired into our DNA. Human beings just love excuses.

Some excuses are too wonderful not to love. Here are a few actual statements from insurance claims in which drivers were asked to summarize the details of their accidents in the fewest words possible:

I was on my way to the doctor with my rear end trouble when my universal joint gave way causing me to have an accident.

An invisible car came out of nowhere, struck my car and vanished.

The pedestrian had no idea which direction to run, so I ran over him.

I saw a slow moving, sad faced old gentleman as he bounced off the roof of my car.

The indirect cause of the accident was a little guy in a small car with a big mouth.

The problem with making excuses is that 1) they don’t change anything and 2) you actually think they do.

Let’s begin with Excuses 101. The one you and everyone else know so well – I’m late because . .

If your reason would change the outcome from you being late to you being on time I could see some value in it. But it doesn’t. If you’re late you’re late. And wouldn’t that be refreshing – to hear someone say, “I’m late because I’m late.” You want to put more words around it? You can add, “I said I’d be here at 2. It’s now 2:30. I’m late.” Period.

So what’s behind the excuse? Why bother? Because you’ve got it in your mind that a good excuse will get you off the hook. You want me to conspire with you and conclude that it was unavoidable. You want me to bond with your cockamamie excuse. And you don’t want me to think you’re a bad or irresponsible person.

Excuses are so pervasive and we are so conditioned to expecting them we aren’t even conscious of how ridiculous and meaningless they are. You should try a little experiment to prove how true this is. Just listen to people. During the course of a day you’ll hear excuses and more excuses. It won’t take you long to see how laughable they are.

There’s a difference between using an explanation as a way to avoid responsibility and telling someone what happened when that information would serve a useful purpose. On the surface you may think this is a distinction without a difference, but you know very well which is which.

A danger in sending you all these messages is that you’ll turn insights into rules. Yes, I’m being assertive. You’ve got that right. I want to get your attention. But I don’t want you to blindly follow what I say without thinking for yourself.

Let’s say you have an automobile accident. Obviously, going down the path blazed by our friends earlier in this message isn’t going to get your very far. But being able to present a clear summary of what happened is appropriate and important. That’s not an excuse designed to diminish your responsibility in the matter. It is what’s called for as a legitimate response in that situation

If your boss questions you about a piece of work you’ve done, telling her that explanations aren’t very powerful is not a smart answer. Again, it is appropriate and important for you to tell her what she wants to know.

The next time you’re about to say because, stop yourself long enough to make sure your because is a useful contribution to the conversation.

And Stop Making Excuses!!

Thursday, April 07, 2011


The unknowns abound:

Will the government shut down tomorrow night? Whether it does or doesn’t, the saga demonstrates that partisan ideology trumps leadership in this great land of ours. It’s fair to blame the Republicans for creating the crisis. Two months ago they insisted that the budget be cut by $32 billion. The Democrats said no and then yes +. They are now willing to cut out $33 billion. Ooops. The Republicans changed their mind. They now want $62 billion cut. The Republican leadership buckled to Tea Party pressure. What a surprise.

The bigger question is what to do about the long-term deficit. Here there is absolutely no leadership from Obama or the Dems. The Bowles-Simpson proposals, representing a bi-partisan group that Obama asked to come up with ideas, were received by the White House and then ignored. Many of these proposals were innovative, courageous and worth considering. They even confronted the sacred issue of entitlements and dared to suggest they be modified.

Here it is appropriate to give credit where credit is due, though it pains me to do so. The most courageous new ideas have been put forward by Paul Ryan and his Republican colleagues. They are proposing changes that will fundamentally alter the entitlement sacred cows. I doubt that when I see the details I’m going to like some of these ideas. But a tip of the hat to these guys for having the guts to get the conversation up on the table. It’s about time.

Libya is another unknown. My bet: There won’t be a military victory for either side. Rather than a long-term stalemate, there will be a diplomatic solution. Defections will leave Gadhafi with few friends and the world against him. He’ll then go someplace else to live out his days. Who or what will take over is a mystery that will only be revealed in the fullness of time.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Only In San Francisco!

The Tenderloin District of San Francisco is an area to the south of Nob Hill near downtown. It is seedy. Drugs. Prostitutes. Homeless. Rundown hotels. Looked on by many locals with a mixture of revulsion and affection.

How the Tenderloin got its name is a matter of historical debate. There are many stories and myths, but no one knows for sure. We only know it has been the Tenderloin for longer than any living person can remember.

Now some interlopers want to rename it. PETA to be specific. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are suggesting that our beloved Skid Row be called the Tempeh District. Tempeh is a protein-packed fermented soybean product.

In a letter to our Mayor, PETA says “The city deserves a neighborhood named after a delicious cruelty-free food instead of the flesh of an abused animal.”

The Tempeh District? Really? Wanna bet? How about a compromise? We can call it the Fermented Soybean District. Come to think of it, that’s not bad.

Have a nice day!