What's All This Then?
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
If you have any Brooklyn Bridge shares in your portfolio, then perhaps you are among the thousands, maybe even millions, heartened by the news that Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Parliament have approved the appointment of a prime minister and President Bush is about to release the "QUARTET ROAD MAP" to show those pesky Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, how to live peacefully, side by side, in two sovereign states, each about the size of Bill Gates’ back yard.
I don’t own any kind of bridge stock myself, and it may be just coincidence, but I’m not among those thousands or millions celebrating the coming peace in the Middle East. It may come one day, but I see nothing in the appointment of Mahmoud Abbas and the "come on fellas, let’s work this all out" admonition of the four pillars of the quartet that will succeed where more than a half century of efforts have failed.
I hope I’m wrong. Honestly. But the last time I looked at the conflict, the roadblocks to a peaceful settlement that have been in place all these years were still there and showed no signs of being removed.
The 21 Arab states with more than 5 millions square miles of territory, have yet to demonstrate their full acceptance of the idea of a tiny, Jewish, democratic state about the size of New Jersey in their midst, that is going to remain a Jewish, democratic state and is not going away and not going to allow itself to become anything but a Jewish, democratic state.
I know that there are peace treaties between Israel and two of the Arab states, but the general non- acceptance persists throughout the Arab world. Just read their newspapers and examine their school curricula.
All of the other road blocks flow from this pervasive non-acceptance.
55 years after the re-establishment of Israel as a sovereign nation on a fraction of its ancient territory, thousands of Palestinian Arabs are still housed in "refugee camps." None of the approximately 600,000 Jews forced out of Arab lands are living in refugee camps.
Arab nations are host to and support terrorist groups that launch terrorist attacks against Israel. They justify their support by calling the terrorists freedom fighters They are "freedom fighters" because they are fighting to "liberate their land." Not just disputed areas of the so called west bank and Gaza, but the land of Israel.
All the road maps in all the atlases of the world aren’t going to lead to two peaceful, sovereign nations living side by side until the Arabs accept the Israel that I’ve described and acknowledge that it is a sovereign nation and not occupied territory and that the populations of those refugee camps are not going to be allowed to move into high rise condos in Tel Aviv.
I might get mildly get encouraged if I see some real signs of that happening. Heck, I might even invest in a few shares of Brooklyn Bridge Preferred. But I’m not holding my breath.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
An interesting piece on the PBS News Hour last night. About Blogging. More than half a million people Blogging they said. Why? A combination of narcissism and creativity. Well I’m a Blogger. albeit of very recent vintage, and I guess I’m somewhat narcissistic and (I hope) reasonably creative. But I became a Blogger because of a character in a television show.
It was because I had decided, many months ago, before I knew there was such a thing as Blogging, to join the Cosmo Kramer universe.
Kramer, as you may know if you are or were a fan of Seinfeld - the television sit-com that was number one or two in the ratings for most of its nine year run on NBC - was Jerry Seinfeld’s wacky neighbor, who never seemed to work for a living and in show after show, managed to get himself involved in one crazy situation after another.
Among the more memorable Kramer escapades were his dinner party with all of the ingredients prepared while he was showering, his multiple self destructive attempts to collect on law suits filed by a Johnny Cochran type lawyer, his inventions of a coffee table book in the shape of a coffee table and a "smell of the beach" perfume, his arrest as a suspected serial killer and his appearance on the Murphy Brown show as her new secretary.
But my favorite was his "in house" television show. That was the one where he finds a discarded television talk show set in a dumpster, sets it up in his apartment and proceeds to host his own "talk show" with Jerry, George, Elaine and Newman as his "guests." As each enters the Kramer apartment, they are greeted with recorded music and canned applause and invited to have a seat and join in the conversation being watched and listened to by an imaginary audience. In one episode involving the talk show set, Jim Fowler of Animal Kingdom fame, is sitting in a guest chair with an exotic animal on his lap and a puzzled expression on his face, and after watching the proceedings for a while, asks "where are the cameras?"
Well of course, Kramer didn’t need cameras. What was important and very real to him was that he had his own talk show. Cameras might have added something extra to the mix, but it wouldn’t have changed the fact that in his mind, Kramer’s apartment was a television studio and he was a talk show host.
I guess I decided that if Kramer could be a talk show host in his apartment, and do it without any cameras to broadcast his shows, I could be a newspaper columnist in my house, without any newspaper to publish my columns.
So, in true Kramerian style, I started writing a once in a while "column" for my own amusement, usually touched off by something I’d read in my daily newspaper. I figured it would be like keeping a diary devoted exclusively to the silliness of the times I live in, and that if I lived long enough, it would be interesting to look back a few years later at what it was that evoked such a reaction, and see how historians looked at the same events - if at all.
And now I’ve out-Kramered Kramer! With Blogger, I have a publisher for my columns and the potential of them being read by as many people as might read REAL columnists (paid for their work) in REAL newspapers (that you have to buy). It’s a scary thought really, that ANYONE can do this!! It can be a scary place, this Internet.
Saturday, April 26, 2003
I have to make comment on the continuing comic soap opera that is the airline industry in the United States. Company after company in dire straits. Major airlines on the brink of bankruptcy. Major airlines IN bankruptcy. Major airlines asking employees to take huge pay cuts to help them survive. This at the same time that one pays a multi million dollar "signing bonus" for a new CEO to come aboard and almost immediately files for bankruptcy. This at the same time that the CEO of another reveals that bonuses and pension deals are being locked in for top executives and is forced to resign. And the blame for their troubles?? 9/11/01. That’s a date that’s rapidly becoming the number one convenient excuse for any kind of business failure, downturn or just plain disappointment. And of course the economy - and THAT can be easily linked to 9/11/01. And now SARS.
But it seems to me that airlines were in trouble long before any of these events appeared in the soap opera script. I’m not going to take the trouble to attempt any kind of business analysis here. There’s plenty you can read in business publications and in the business sections of daily newspapers. But I’ll make one observation and state the conclusion that logically follows. I used to travel a fair amount. From a major city where I live to other cities around the country, major and not so major. All the flights I took had scheduled departure times. Few departed when they were scheduled to depart. Yet, almost without exception, the major carriers trumpeted the frequency and departure times of their flights from my city to other major cities as a reason to use them. . At one time, it was a centerpiece of their advertising campaigns. And it made absolutely no sense. Business people like to leave at a certain morning hour for their destination - say from Chicago to New York. Airline A would announce that it had a flights to New York at 8 a.m., 9.a.m. and 10,a.m. Airline B would then come along and boast that IT had flights to New York 15 minutes BEFORE the hours of 8.9 and 10 a.m. And airline C would have schedule flights at 7.55, 8.55 and 9.55 a.m. And so on.
It was all nonsense of course. Only so many planes could take off in a given period of time and so it became the luck of the draw as to which would leave closest to its ANNOUNCED departure time. And if you were able to peek inside the cabin of each departing flight, you would, as often as not, see plenty of empty seats. It didn’t take a mathematical or business genius to conclude that if LESS flights were taking off at those announced departure times, there would be far fewer empty seats, huge fuel savings, more on time departures and greater all round economic efficiency. The conclusion of course is obvious. There were and are simply more flights being offered than are needed. There is too much competition among too many carriers for the needs of the flying public. In other words, if there were fewer airlines and fewer flights, airline companies wouldn’t be going down the tubes. 9/11/01 notwithstanding.
For those who don’t fly that much, the same sort of thing is more easily recognizable in the retail field. You’ve seen it. Chains are either going under, or merging or closing stores. It’s not just because the economy has slowed down. It’s because there’s a limit to the number of retail stores that can be sustained at a profitable level, in good times OR bad. In a logical world, only the number of airline companies and planes required to serve the actual needs of the flying public would be operating at any given time. And only the number of retail stores required to serve the buying needs of the public would be open for business. And all would be making a profit. It’ll probably end up that way anyway. Less airlines and planes. Enough, but fewer retail stores. It’ll happen because we have a free and open society and a market driven economy. But what a painful, soap opera way to get there. Through illogical regression.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
In order to understand this post, you'll need to look at my very first post which was under the name IF I WERE KING and the URL of civis-bellator!!! This is a little like being able to go back in time and re-write your life. I decided that WHAT'S ALL THIS THEN? was more appropriate to who I am and how I look at the world than IF I WERE KING. The latter is in use all over the Internet, and let's face it, we can't all be King and it's just too much of a chore to try to persuade everyone that I am indeed, THE KING. And besides which, no one could bother to look up the meaning of civis-bellator. (It means citizen warrior). So instead, picture an English movie, a country setting and a tall, gray haired, square jawed, steely eyed bobby, complete with uniform and traditional bobby's hat, alighting from his bicycle, entering the scene of a crime or disturbance or some other situation calling for his presence, casting his eyes over all those there assembled, pulling out his notebook, flipping to a clean page, removing a pencil from behind his ear and with it poised over the notebook, saying, n a clear and stern voice... "WHAT'S ALL THIS THEN??" I'll be asking that question and through the power granted me by the great and powerful BLOG, I'll also be providing the answer. And I look nothing like the aforementioned English bobby, except maybe for the gray hair. What little I have left.
This is a royal decree, so listen up. The following words or phrases are hereby and henceforth forbidden. No utterance of these words and phrases will be tolerated, nor may they be reproduced in print or in any other form. Violations of this decree will bring down the wrath of this royal personage on the violator(s) and I assure you it could be most unpleasant. The banned words and phrases are as follows:
Twenty Four Seven!!!!!
Please listen carefully as our menu has changed
God Bless America
Weapons of Mass Destruction
I could comment at length on all of these but fir the moment, I’ll confine my comments to the last two and I’ll be brief.
The guy (or gal) who came up with "cash back" should win some kind of international con man award. What an advertising concept. Hey folks, come on in and buy a car.. give us a few bucks for a down payment and WE’LL GIVE YOU A WHOLE LOT OF CASH BACK!!! Yes sir!!.. We’ll hand you a thousand, two thousand, maybe more - all in crisp $100 bills. That’s the impression we’re conveying until you find out what we really mean. Of course it isn’t anything like that at all. It’s just another way of saying, we’ll quote you a price and then give you a discount of (pick the amount). It sounds very much like the old flim flam language that auto sales people have used for years - dressed up in 21st century language. Caveat emptor folks.
"Stuff Happens" is Don Rumsfeld’s flip explanation for any of the horrors happening in Iraq. Looting. Violent crime. Assassinations. What a thoughtful, incisive guy. He could fit in almost anywhere. A spokesperson for a major hospital. Sure, one out of three people who are admitted to this hospital die - but heck folks, STUFF HAPPENS. A police chief in a major city. Sure, we averaging eighteen murders a day this year, but heck folks, STUFF HAPPENS. Spokesman for NTSB after a crash of a 747 killing 400 people… STUFF HAPPENS…..
Someone needs to grab hold of this guy and stuff something into an appropriate orifice……
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
WHO DECIDES FOR IRAQ?
Some people are complaining about politically influential companies getting all these no-bid multi billion dollar contracts for reconstruction work in Iraq. Some are even pointing fingers and snickering because the contracts prove the real reason we invaded Iraq in the first place. Business!! Oil!! Hegemony!!
Me, I’m just blown away by the whole concept of the United States government deciding what work should be done by whom in a country on the other side of the world that we say we have liberated and want no part of governing.
How about the Iraqis deciding what work needs to be done and by whom? How about the Iraqis having some say in where the money will come from to do what needs to be done? Maybe, if sanctions can be removed and their oil revenues can again be used by them for whatever purpose instead of going into the food for oil program controlled by the United Nations, they can pick the companies and exercise control over their own future.
There are a lot of reasons why the United States is hated in many parts of the world, and I think that most of the reasons can be chalked up to ignorance. But ignorance isn’t at work here. There’s no ambivalence about what we’re doing. We’re the big muckety mucks. We’re making the re-building decisions and we’re awarding the contracts. The Iraqis have some other companies in mind to do some work? Maybe French? Maybe Russian? Too bad . The decisions aren’t theirs to make.
Yes, we’re being good Samaritans. We caused a lot of damage and by golly, we’re going to come in and make everything whole again. Even better than it was before. But it looks to the world as though we’re doing it because (a) we have the muscle and our muscle is one of the things that people seem to hate about us, and (b) we want to exercise influence, particularly over Iraqi oil, which most Arabs seem to believe is why we’re there in the first place and for which they also hate us.
And I can’t sign off on today’s comments without an observation about the growing voices in a "free" Iraq calling for an Islamic Republic. It’s a little early in the game to speculate about what kind of government will eventually evolve out of the rubble that obscures the landscape today, but the rumblings make the pollyannish pronouncements by Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, various conservative advisors et al about a democratic Iraq and the potential to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, just a little naïve. ....
Monday, April 21, 2003
Has anyone else noticed a strange similarity among many of the major players in the Arab/Islamic/Terrorist/Freedom Fighter/Allah lover/Great Satan hater crowd? Pretty much whenever we run across one of them, we have to stop and think twice about WHO the person is. None of them seem to have a single, known, recognizable name . You’ve seen the stories. There’s a new graft minister of Palestomania - Abu Wannaboboo also known as Booboowanna Baboo. Or maybe we caught a wanted terrorist. Bubba El Busbus also known as Yubadubbadoo!!
What’s going on here? I can understand Mohammed Abdul-Raouf Arafat Qudwa al-Husseini. changing his name to Yasser Arafat. The guy wants recognition and that mouthful is one big downer for anyone who wants to be a regular mention in late night show monologues. Can you imagine the trouble Jay Leno would have with it? He’d probably fracture his chin trying and how the hell do you sue an Arafat for personal injury? Letterman might do better though. He has a weather reporting background and that could help with tongue twisters.
But what’s with the new (maybe) prime minister of the PLO or whatever area, people, concept. he will be representing if Yasser, AKA all that other stuff, ever lets him take office? I’m referring to Abu Mazen, AKA Mahmoud Abbas. Or maybe the other way round. It sounds not unlike aliases on a criminal rap sheet. Or speaking of another kind of rap, maybe he had thoughts of being a middle eastern Eminem and wanted to have those two "M" names known and registered. On the other hand, his AKA’s are perilously close to Mohammed Abbas who goes by the name of Abu Abbas when he’s murdering people in wheel chairs that he meets on pleasure cruises in the Mediterranean, and that could be a problem when he sits down with Ariel Sharon. If THAT ever happens. Incidentally, as far as I know, Sharon doesn’t have any "also known as" after his name.. Of course he’s known by other names throughout the Arab world, but I don’t have an Arabic/English swearword dictionary to include them here..
I suppose there is a perfectly understandable explanation for all these AKA’S. Maybe it’s just an Arab tradition. But it still leaves an impression of something going on that’s a little less than truthful. Maybe even sinister. Give me good old fashioned American AKA’s any day. Tricky Dick. Slick Willy. How much more truthful or less sinister can you get??
Saturday, April 19, 2003
UNITED NATIONS THEATER
Someone asked if I would comment on the latest diplomatic pronouncements by France and Russia. What can one say about these two stars of the theater of the absurd? These two permanent U.N. Security Council members that spearheaded the opposition to military action against Iraq, have now come out foursquare against the preposterous idea of lifting the sanctions against that country. Never mind that the reason that sanctions were imposed in the first place - the regime of Saddam Hussein and his refusal to come clean about anything - have been removed. In the logic of our Franco-Rusky friends, having voted against removing the reasons for sanctions, they darned well aren’t going to be talked into voting to remove the sanctions themselves. No siree. No siree bub!!
You don’t have to look far to discover the motivation behind the strange behavior of these two regimes. Look in your papers. Watch television. Listen to radio. They have/had deals with Iraq and don’t want to lose them. They resent US domination and influence. They’re mad at George Bush. They lost a bundle betting on Gore. Take your pick.
But the reason doesn’t matter. The two nations are caught up in a script written for the aforementioned theater and from all appearances, they’re going to play it out through the end of the last scene of the last act. You could only hope that the play would close after one performance, as would happen with any Broadway floppo, stinko. But this is U.N. theater folks. It’ll probably run for a thousand performances.
And you wonder why UFO’s only land in places where the Sheriff’s name is Bubba . I think that’s comment enough.
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Sometimes I wonder about the sanity of our nation. We are supposed to be a beacon to the world. We are supposed to be the paragon of democratic freedom and tolerance. The right to dissent, as loud and publicly as we choose, is written into our laws. We can call our president an idiot or a crook and not be hauled off to jail or spirited away in the dead of night never to be seen again. (Not that I think it would be that bad an idea where certain people are concerned). As is almost always the case when we become engaged in any kind of military action, we have disagreement among our citizenry. Some people are automatically against war of any kind. It’s their right but I think it’s wrongheaded. Some people are automatically supportive of any military action we undertake and that is often wrongheaded. And we sometimes call each other names. But what has been happening recently is calling up memories of the early fifties and McCarthyism. People who have spoken out against the Iraq war are being labeled as unpatriotic!!! People are bringing pressure to bear to deny employment to actors who have spoken out against the war. Some have expressed fears that a McCarthy type blacklist is being formed. I don’t think that will happen, because in the last fifty or so years, we have matured as a nation. I don’t think we could ever again have a HUAC - a House Un-American Activities Committee. I don’t think we could ever re-instigate legalized racial separation. On the other hand, we have the Patriot Act, to my mind, an ominously named piece of legislation. And we have people being held without access to legal representation. We have an administration that trumpets the rights of individuals and decries big government, but government keeps growing and some rights are being severely compromised. It’s all something to watch very carefully. I’ll be doing that and commenting, right here.
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
MARKET FLIM FLAM
Do you have any stock market investment? If you do, do you know that you’re talked about on radio and television and written about in newspapers and magazines every day? It’s true. Just listen to a stock market report on any radio station in the US. It’ll tell you what you’re thinking or what you thought today. It’ll tell you whether you were in a good mood or bad, whether you were optimistic or pessimistic and how you felt about just about any event that was taking place anywhere in the world. And it would tell you THAT was why your actions and those of countless other investors, caused "the market" to go up or down TODAY. And it’ll tell you the same thing tomorrow and every other business day that stock exchanges are open. If "the market" goes up 100 points today, it’ll be because investors (you) felt confident or were encouraged by (pick the topic; i t really doesn’t matter). And if it goes down 250 points tomorrow, it’ll be because, since yesterday, investors (you) had lost confidence in or were now worried about (pick your topic; it matters about as much as it did yesterday). And if you believe any of this, I have a wonderful opportunity in a fine bridge for sale in one of New York’s prominent boroughs. The grand plan is to convert it to a toll bridge. The potential is for millions in annual profits.
I don’t know for sure who puts out these daily pronouncements of why "the market" goes up or down each day, but when you get the same explanations and the same wording on just about every radio or television station you listen to or watch, you begin to get the feeling that you are listening to a P.R. handout rather than individual analyses. It’s flim flam folks. For years, market advisor Richard Ney - the former actor who was once married to Greer Garson - maintained that major market movement was manipulated by SPECIALISTS , the people at stock exchanges whose job it is to maintain an orderly market. He didn’t just allege that they were the power group that determined stock prices from day to day. He pretty much called them a bunch of crooks. He did it in the books he wrote. He did it in his newsletter. He did it in radio broadcasts. And no one ever took him to court!!
Click here if you'd like to learn more about Ney's theories . I don’t know how right or wrong he was. I don’t even know if he’s still alive. But I do think it’s significant that no specialist ever sued him for libel or slander and that he was never compelled to cease and desist. . I think it tells us that any explanation offered for why "the market" soared yesterday and collapsed today, should only be taken with a huge dollop of salt, ionized or not - caveat emptor.
Friday, April 04, 2003
NEW BASEBALL RULES
Baseball season has begun. Many moons ago I was sort of a fan. Now I have very little interest. I barely know which teams are which, and apart from a few stars that are almost impossible to avoid if you watch television news or read newspapers, I don't know any of today's players. What I DO know is that baseball could benefit from some rule changes. Here's one that I think would make the game more interesting, would play havoc with standings and drive oddsmakers nuts. You should only need one run more than your opponent in order to win a game. Well of course I hear you saying. If you have one run more than the other team, you win. O.K. But what if you have 10 runs more than the other team? What good does it do you to have an extra nine runs that you really didn't need? The way the game is played today, those extra nine runs are a waste of effort. Good for absolutely nothing, except maybe for the egos of the players that scored or drove them in. But I propose that we make good use of them. I propose that runs over and above the minimum one run needed to win a game, be placed in a team's "reserve run reservoir," to be used in subsequent games as needed. A total of five runs from a team's reservoir would equal one run in a regular game and could then be used to TIE any game in which they are behind at the end of nine innings. If a team has 10 runs in it's reservoir and is behind by 2 runs at the end of nine innings, it can withdraw and apply those 10 reserve runs and send the game into extra innings. Reserve runs couldn't be used in the extra innings - only within the regulation nine inning span. I think it would make for an interesting season. Maybe I'll think up something for pitchers. Maybe after the cocktail hour. Maybe after a couple of cocktail hours. Hey, pitching is hard....
Thursday, April 03, 2003
SHUT UP LIMBAUGH
If I were indeed a king with absolute power over my subjects, I would order significant changes to the constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights. In my realm, dangerous free speech would not be allowed, and I of course would decide which speech was dangerous and which not. (Or would that be what not)? Whatever. Probably my first decree in this area would be to order the removal of Rush Limbaugh from the airwaves. I decree that his "speech" is indeed dangerous. It is dangerous because his radio gimmick is to demonize, day in and day out, those whose political views differ from his, blaming them for all that is wrong in this country. It is dangerous because he attributes evil motives to the words and actions of those who hold political views that differ from his. THOSE people, in Limbaugh’s view, are not TRUE Americans. "THEY, " in Limbaugh’s view, are "not what this country is about." Sound familiar? Substitute JEWS for Limbaugh’s favorite demon, ‘LIBERAL" and substitute the name GOEBBELS for Limbaugh and you’ll begin to understand the potential for evil in this man’s reckless behavior. (Yes, I know he is a big supporter of Israel, but it’s an appropriate analogy nonetheless). I call his radio performance a "gimmick" because that is what I believe it truly is. I have no doubt that he is a rock- ribbed conservative, but his radio program reflects much more than conservative views. There are plenty of highly conservative people in the broadcast media, but most are reasonable and rational in their discourse and don’t adopt the Limbaugh approach. Limbaugh knows that there is a large audience for the outrageous right wing ranting and raving that constitutes his daily radio act and he’s not about to stop it as long as the money keeps rolling in.. For sure there aren’t enough passionate people on the left to support a nationally syndicated radio show devoted to ranting and raving against conservatives, which is probably why there aren’t any out there. And how many people would become slavish fans of a middle of the road talk show host who didn’t rant or rave against anyone? Let’s face it. Right wing ranting and raving is where it’s at in radio. And that scares me. It scares me because it’s unlike any other fad. It scares me that there are millions of people who tune in Limbaugh daily and accept as fact whatever he alleges is fact ; who nod in agreement when he attributes those evil motives to statements and acts of politicians or media types he disagrees with, or anyone in the public eye more than two degrees to the left of Attila The Hun. It scares me because many of those millions are allowed to vote. So watch out Limbaugh. The day after my coronation, your voice is banished from my kingdom. You can stick around. Just keep your mouth shut.
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Since this is a brand new blog and I am a senior, with no prior experience at electronic ego self-massaging, I was ill prepared for the question of what title I wanted for my blog. I thought a latin URL - CIVIS-BELLATOR - would do fine. (Look it up if you're curious). I also considered.."Mad as hell and not going to take it any more?"(From a great movie). "To be or not to be?" (No, I'm not suicidal). "Why is a mouse when it spins?" (Don't try figuring that one out). But what could be greater than to be an almighty king whose word is law? IF I WERE KING. Sounds good. I'll try it for a while. Watch this space. I guarantee it will get interesting.
(LATER - MUCH LATER)
Except that, as you can see, a while after I started, it changed to WHATS ALL THIS THEN!!!