Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Do Something?

We keep hearing from the experts that we should do something about (fill in the blank).  The we is the United States.  The something is whatever bad is going on in the world.

Intervene and stop the killing.  Intervene and stop the chaos.  Intervene and change the direction in places where it’s not headed where we want it to go.  Intervene.  Isn’t that the American way, America’s job?

It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about.  Syria or Ukraine or Russia or China or Egypt or civil rights violations or the famine or the latest outrage in a place few have heard of.  Do something, America.

The assumption behind all this is that we can flex our muscles and change the world.  After all, we’re the most powerful and successful power on earth.  That assumption wasn’t right even in the ‘good old days’ when America’s hegemony was unchallenged.  And it certainly isn’t true today.

There are times when we should do something, provide leadership.  But not every time – about every thing.  The experts should hold their fire.  But that won’t happen.  To do so would, after all, throw into question their expertise – or so they think.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Only in San Francisco!

Some people who work in Silicon Valley want to live in San Francisco.  To make life easier for them companies like Google have been providing transportation for these employees – comfortable buses with wifi and pickups not far from where they live.

Good idea, yes?  Reduces traffic congestion on the highways, saves energy, costs less.  Yes, a good idea unless you’re one of the San Francisco progressive crazies who see capitalist conspiracies around every urban corner.  Then it’s a nefarious plot to penalize average working people who don’t have perks like this.

They say these big bad Google buses clutter up muni stops.  They inhibit disabled people from getting on and off buses.  They encourage tech workers to live in the city, which causes rents to rise.  It costs the city money.  Etc., etc. 

A sensible progressive friend of mine, who didn’t see conspiracies everywhere, once said:  “Don’t be so broad minded that your brains are falling out.”  These idiots are now trying everything they can think of to banish Google buses.  Most recently they’ve asked the Board of Supervisors to do an environmental review that I guess they hope will prove Google buses are the cause of global warming.  Who knows what they really want?  Except to perpetuate a class war that in this case doesn’t exist.

I’m for reducing inequality.  I’m also for common sense. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I’ve been watching a documentary about the Kamikazes during World War II.  In the Spring of 1945 a desperate Japan was willing to try anything to delay a planned American invasion of their home islands.  In that atmosphere the Kamikaze strategy came into existence.

Kamikazes were suicide attacks by Japanese pilots, crashing planes laden with explosives into American warships to damage or sink them.  Over 2,000 planes made such attacks.

As I was watching the film I realized that Kamikazes were, in fact, modern era pioneers in the suicide bomber phenomenon that is being implemented on a daily basis today.  Conventional wisdom has held that the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka first used suicide bombers in the 1980’s.

While the weapon technology being used today isn’t the same as it was during World War II, the Japanese can claim the unwanted distinction of being the first suicide bombers.

Monday, February 10, 2014


It’s time for an assessment of NY Times Op-Ed and other columnists.

My favorites are David Brooks and Tom Friedman.  I’m impressed with the range of Brooks’ intellectual depth.  I’m not always interested in what he focuses on, but my own intellectual breadth is expanded when he dives into a subject that is new to me.  Even when I disagree with him, I am willing to consider his conservative political views seriously because he presents his points of view with serious, non-inflammatory precision.

Friedman has the ability to present complicated situations in creative, straightforward ways.  His common sense approach is most evident when he discusses the Middle East, his primary area of expertise.  He is sometimes a little smug and lets his ego get in the way, but I set that aside in order to benefit from the wisdom he brings to his columns.

I usually read Paul Krugman, even though his incessant drumbeat of dissing economic opinions with which he disagrees is hard to take.  Most often I’m on his side of the economic issues he raises.  It’s just, enough already Paul, I got it, is my response.

Maureen Dowd more often than not is a pain in the ass.  Except when she goes off on some female-oriented or Catholic diatribe I take the time to check her out.  I like her best when she sharpens her claws on some politician.  Her ability to eviscerate a target is second to none and fun to read.

Nick Kristof is usually worth reading even though I find him predictable.  I resonate with his focus on developing countries and what many would call ‘do good’ causes, even though his approach can be saccharine. 

Ross Douthat, the most predictably conservative Times pundit, is a good writer and very bright.  I read him when the subject interests me.

David Carr’s media column on Monday is a ‘must read’ for me.  Always an interesting take on subjects not usually covered elsewhere.

Joe Nocera I read more often than not.  He got my attention when he started taking on the NCAA and its feudal approach to college athletics.

Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and Charles Blow I read less often than not.  Just don’t find what they have to say very interesting.

Bill Keller, who I heard today will be leaving the Times, has been writing longer pieces, usually interesting and well done.  I’ll miss him.

But the one I miss the most is Frank Rich.  He was the best.