Monday, December 1, 2008

Mysteries of Newspaper Delivery, continued

The Times was on the porch this morning, where it belongs. But it was raining hard, so even a slacker might have felt compelled to do the right thing. No holiday card yet.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

On The Motives of the Paperboy/Woman/Man

For a certain kind of ex-New Yorker, the Sunday Times is a big deal. Now that I have a porch, I really look forward to stepping outside in my pajamas and scooping up the One True Newspaper. We've been getting delivery for about a year and a half; for most of that time, it was bliss.

Then, about six weeks ago, things fell apart. Two weeks in a row, the paper ended up not on our porch, but on the sidewalk. Dangerous. The Sunday Times comes rolled up in a plastic bag. It's the size and shape of a fireplace starter log, plenty big enough to launch a pratfall. And a lawsuit.

We figured there was a new delivery person on the route. We complained. The Times promised to fix it. They did, sort of. For the last month, no more sidewalk, but no porch either. Instead, the paper has consistently landed somewhere on the steps in between.

Now, this morning, the paper was back on the porch! Small miracle. Cynic that I am, I immediately assumed that the new, lousy delivery person was upping the service level in anticipation of a holiday tip.

Upon reflection, I've come up with some other possibilities. Maybe the pre-holiday timing is a coincidence. Maybe there were more complaints, and the new person was forced to start doing the job right. Or maybe there were more complaints and s/he got canned, or quit, and the new new person is doing it right. Or maybe someone was filling in for the original person for a couple of months; now she's back and doing her usual splendid job.

In the next few weeks, the delivery person will drop off the holiday card/tip solicitation. If the name matches last year's, I'll have the answer. If not, I'm left with my theories...the holiday card. That's where I had them.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How About Al Gore For EPA Administrator?

My wife's idea. Sounds like a winner. Sure hope the transition team reads my blog.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Leaving Office In Disgrace? You Betcha!

A lot of people think Sarah Palin has a political future. I think her past is catching up with her: ethics violations, bridge-to-nowhere flipflops, secret Yahoo email accounts to sidestep Alaska's public records laws.

This is the future of the Republican Party? Sounds more like the greatest hits of Nixon and Bush.

Many Alaskans have strange ideas about morality, but I don't think Governor Palin will make it to the end of her first term. Let the hue and cry begin.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

How The Other Half Lives

I was standing outside a bar last night (does a common theme emerge in these posts?), talking politics with some people. We started listing the various canards and pseudo-evidence that might keep a poorly-informed voter from supporting Obama: He's a Muslim, a terrorist, a member of Al Qaeda, his middle name is Hussein...

A woman standing nearby yelled, "That's not true, and I'm voting for him!" Great, right on, we responded. But, "You need to get your facts straight!" she yelled. No, we were joking, we explained. "Doesn't sound like joking to me," she said, and returned to her cellphone.

In short, she was an intrusive pain in the butt, far more interested in excoriating than in educating. She's voting the right way, but I wonder how many votes she's cost Obama with her hectoring.

And I got a sense of how folks on the right must feel when we true believers explain things to them. It's not fun to have a stranger yell at you. It doesn't make you reconsider; if anything, it makes you even more certain that Obama and his supporters are scary.

I understand the frustration - we're fighting racism and a massive campaign of lies. But it doesn't matter how right we are - stay calm, or stay silent.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm Calling It Now: Obama Wins Virginia

I was at a blues party this past Sunday. I was wearing my Bush's Last Day t-shirt. The guy sitting in front of me was wearing a B-52 bomber peace sign t-shirt, "Peace The Old-Fashioned Way." White guy, middle-aged.

I told him we probably disagreed on all sorts of things, but I thought his shirt was cool. He told me I was making assumptions that might be wrong. We chatted. He was right.

He's a vet, served in a bomber wing, is proud of it. But he had no problem with my t-shirt. As a conservative Bush voter, he feels "betrayed," and his feelings about the Iraq war match mine: senseless, the wrong war.

He's not thrilled with either presidential choice, and he wouldn't say how he's planning to vote. But he did say that he hopes that "young man" can lead the country. So, again, this is a prototypical McCain voter who's actually somewhere between uncertain and Obama.

Another reminder that, in these polarized times, there are smart people in the middle with nuanced views.

Finally, a caveat, my margin of error: I do most of my political fieldwork with a bellyful of good beer. Unlike the media elite, however, I admit it.

My Money Went To Wall St. And All I Got Was This Lousy Bailout

Good thing Congress acted so quickly to reduce market volatility.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

OMG Democracy!

The richest, strongest special interests lost one today. Whatever their reasons, an odd coalition of House Republicans and Democrats said no to business as usual.

Will it last? I'm not optimistic. But, for one day, it's possible to believe that maybe, just maybe, we can wrest control of our government back from the lobbyists.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

$700 Billion

The argument goes something like this: we have to do something, or thousands of people in the financial industry will lose their jobs. Banks, leery of taking on more bad debt, will stop lending money, and we'll have a credit crunch. If no one can borrow money, that'll prolong the housing market collapse. Thousands of people in construction will lose their jobs. More people out of work means more people behind on their mortgages, more foreclosures, more bad debt and failing banks. A downward spiral. The bottom? A recession, or maybe this century's Great Depression.

Okay, let's put aside for a moment the very necessary discussion of just how likely this doomsday scenario really is. Let's stipulate that, if we do nothing, disaster will play out just this way. Let's assume that we have to do something radical and expensive to avert calamity.

That still leaves a $700 billion question: is a huge bailout for bad debt the best way to stop the meteor? Right now, it's the only solution the Bush administration is offering: make taxpayers the buyers of last resort for Wall Street's mistakes.

But $700 billion is a lot of money. It can pay for a lot of restructured mortgages to keep people in their houses. It can pay extended unemployment benefits for a lot of laid-off workers. And it can ease a credit crunch by guaranteeing debt - new, solid debt issued by lenders willing to submit to rational regulation in return for a federal guarantee. The kind of debt that gets repaid.

Any Wall Street dealmaker knows that you don't take the other guy's first offer. We taxpayers should keep that in mind as we look at the Administration's bailout plan.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Perfectly Executed Double Pander

John McCain's bizarre vice-presidential pick is a brazen pander to two key voting blocs: women and the religious right. Plainly, he will do just about anything to win the election, principles and good sense be damned.

Sad, really. Eight years ago, McCain ran on his beliefs, and Karl Rove whupped him good. Lesson learned, integrity jettisoned. What a steep price to pay for a shot at the Oval Office.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Drill Now, Drive Later. Much Later.

Some regions of the Outer Continental Shelf are protected from oil and gas drilling. Some people think we ought to be drilling away in these regions. Slate notes this 2007 government study on the market impact of increased drilling.

First, timeliness. Assuming that leasing begins in 2012, the study says that expanded drilling "would not have a significant impact on domestic crude oil and natural gas production or prices before 2030." Eighteen years.

Next, price. Even in 2030, when significantly more oil is flowing, "any impact on average wellhead prices is expected to be insignificant."

So, if we start today, we can have no effect on prices as early as 2026. Let's do it!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Virginia, The Swing Commonwealth

It's early, but a poll shows McCain and Obama in a dead heat in Virginia. The state is very much in play, and it may go to the Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since LBJ. McCain is going to have to spend time and money here if he wants to hold this traditionally red state.

Not that this is a surprise. Northern Virginia skews liberal, the state is 20% black, and the odds are very good that Virginia will soon have two Democratic senators.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


About a year ago, we had pizza at Sette, and it was terrific. Classic New York-style pizza. The service was erratic, but the pizza more than compensated.

Last night, we went back, and things have changed. The pizza was just okay. We had two pies, and both came out of the oven too soon, with limp, undercooked crusts. The toppings were good quality, but they hadn't had time to blend.

We started with bruschetta and a salad, which were fine, but it's all about the pizza. The only real beer on the list was Sierra Nevada, and they were out of it. On the plus side, the service was good, but we won't be going back.

But fear not, Richmonders, you still have two choices for great pizza:

  • Ariana's in the Museum District. We get our delivery pies from Ariana's. They're consistently good, and occasionally perfect;

  • Tarrantino's, the pizzeria annex at Tarrant's Cafe, Broad and Foushee. Abundant cheese and toppings, and the crust is outstanding. You can order off the regular menu, too - try the world-class cheesecake.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

High Gas Prices - More, More!

Years of blather about foreign oil and environmental damage did little to change the driving habits of the typical American motorist. The Prius was for Hollywood liberals; real patriots drove Hummers.

Now we know the price of change. When gas gets up around $4 a gallon, Americans start acting rationally. They stop buying monstrous trucks and SUV's. And they drive less.

The next step? Bump up the federal gas tax a dollar, and use every dime of the money to subsidize alternative energy technologies - wind, solar, electric cars.

Of course, it'll take a real leader in the White House to pull this off - someone who has the guts, and the political capital, to ram through a good-for-you tax increase. Someone who's willing to talk honestly about gas and taxes. Maybe someone who first brings the troops home, then positions the program as a JFK-style moon landing challenge...maybe.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


Mark Warner is the perfect VP choice for Obama. He's a phenomenally popular white Southern Democrat. When his term as governor of Virginia ended, he left office with approval ratings near 80%. He's done the "real change" thing - he had to, to put up those MVP numbers as the blue leader of a red state.

Warner should also meet with the approval of the business community, because he's been there, done that, too. Before he went into politics, he was a telecom entrepreneur, and he made a few hundred million. And he has some stature on the national scene. A couple of years ago, he was on the cover of the Sunday Times Magazine as a potential presidential candidate.

The downside? Warner is running for the Senate against Jim Gilmore. Odds are Warner will trounce Gilmore, so any Warner change in plans is very much to Gilmore's benefit. And "Senator Jim Gilmore" sounds very scary - he has Bush's skills coupled with a mean, nasty vision. But a Warner vice-presidency might cement 16 years of Democratic control of the White House. That would be almost enough time to repair the damage.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Moderate Republicans For Obama?

I was at a party last night. The host, a middle-aged white Southerner and moderate Republican, is leaning towards Obama. He likes Obama's message of change. He likes Obama's willingness to talk to the other side, both in Washington and around the world. And he's afraid McCain is too much like Bush.

Is he an anomaly, or is this a trend? Is McCain's base an illusion?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obama Gets It

American politics these days comes down to three things: attack, attack, attack, and be brisk about it. And when someone attacks you, don't bother defending yourself - just counterattack, counterattack, counterattack. Save the well-reasoned point-by-point rebuttals for the News Hour.

The Republicans get this. John Kerry didn't get it, and he got swiftboated.

Obama gets it. His "appalling attack" response to Bush's appeasement canard is top-notch political jiu-jitsu. He leaves Bush bloodied and dazed (granted, not hard). He also drops McCain in the Bush mess, so that any McCain response becomes a defense of failed Bush policies. Sweet.