Friday, June 26, 2009


I write letters ...

I wrote this one to the President:

President Obama,

You and others have expressed the wish that you will, as president, be a transforming politician who changes the very terms of our political debate. In particular, you have expressed support (and pushed legislation) for a strong and healthy progressive agenda. In particular you have begun efforts to address our great societal need for improved access to health care, perhaps via government run health plans.

We all know that US enterprises, both small and large, have suffered in the global market-place because they have to pay for health care for their employees while their competitors abroad have employees whose health care is paid for by the government. Additionally, we all know many entrepreneurs who would love to grow their businesses and contribute more to our economy but cannot as they cannot afford to pay for health insurance for additional employees and cannot, even with today’s unfortunately large pool of unemployed, find qualified employees who will work in any job that does not provide health care benefits. We all know that the US needs what has been denigrated as “socialist medicine”.

Yet, your proposals for even modest versions of a public option are likely to fail in the Senate. Some of my fellow liberals have dismissed this as the fault of centrist “blue dog” Democrats who are too willing to compromise on what should be uncontroversial aspects of the progressive agenda. I, however, feel that political opposition to “socialized medicine” reflects a broad popular opinion against government ran programs.

This opposition to government programs in favor of private enterprise, even in an age when we have seen how poorly the free market works, is not irrational. People fear, for example, that government ran health care will result in long waiting times for medical care. Why? Well, when I go to a store to purchase something, I might grumble when I have to wait in line for minutes on end, but I rarely would wait, even on a crowded day in a warehouse store to purchase big ticket items, for more than a half an hour. On the other hand, just today my wife and I spent almost two hours in line to get a passport for my daughter. Previously, I have had to wait over a half a day to get a drivers’ license, and for the majority of a day to get a marriage license.

So long as people associate federal, state and local agencies with long waiting times, people will naturally and rationally fall prey to scare tactics about how “socialized medicine will involve long waiting lists” and thus be opposed to even the minimum necessary reforms in our health care system. More generally, so long as the everyday interactions people have with government involve long waits, speed traps, big city political corruption or catch-22 situations, people will be opposed to the entirety of the pro-government progressive agenda our nation needs to do well in the 21st century.

If you truly wish to be a transformative politician, you need to address all of these issues. Make sure nobody has to wait for 2 hours to hand in paperwork to get a passport. Put strings on stimulus money that will buy local political machines off and keep them on the straight and narrow as well as push recalcitrant agencies like the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles to reform (as other DMVs have done). This nation can continue to be a city on the hill and beacon of a forward thinking agenda, but only if we create conditions on the ground where people have every reason to think that a “big government agenda” will be beneficial to them and not result in their having to wait in long lines for medical care, etc., as they have to wait at the post office for a passport or at the DMV.


My wife told me to whom to complain about the actual wait time (was it the inspector general or the post-master general? I forget ... I'll have to ask her later) ... but how can we expect people NOT to think that they will have to wait forever to receive medical care if we have "socialized medicine" when they have to wait so long just to turn in government forms? As I've been harping on for years on this blog, people don't like gummint for a reason and if the Democrats want people to support a progressive agenda, they'll need to do a much better job seeing all the trees that make up the forest of anti-government sentiment and addressing those issues.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Because Blogs Come and Go

... and change addresses, I've updated my links. If I've removed your blog, don't feel insulted ... I've just not noticed any activity recently there. If you want me to add your blog, I might consider it ;)

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Some Poems About April

The showery weather, even though it is June, has got me thinking about April and poems I meant to write about scenes from that month ...

Following a pre-Evening Thunder Shower

A uniform pall
of the lightest slate
is really a dazzling
tensor of chrome 53
once etched to salt
a rainbow
like the one emerging
from the recent storm
whose banging of flint
against the filigree
of the span over which
I now drive
started no fires

The only conflagration
is a slowly descending orb
even a few days ago,
would have already succumbed
to a cold

But it is April now (and Old 'Possum has allergies)
so her late afternoon showers
don't end in darkness
but rather in the long lilac light -- a Debussy nocturne or Rorem picture of morning --
of a spotless mind's looming star eternally on the verge
of setting

The Morning After

Steamy petrichor liberated from yesterday's rain
and broken sticks of orange from yesterday's pipe
waft through the windows
carried along by the pressure of the sun
which every day
floods the house
with gossamer silver dawn curtains
with monotonically increasing promptness

How soon will the sun wrap itself around us
like a boa
choking us out of our slumber?
How will we remember this first sign
of chartreuse
when the world is too verdant for us?

The faint powder left by the burning
will be a faint memory
and we won't even know whether
it was a mist or a tsunami
that hit us
so gently
on this early April morning

Monday, June 15, 2009


I'm no Zionist but ...

... anti-Zionist types drive me crazy.

First, we Jews are persecuted because we are deracinated cosmopolitans (doesn't that sound like a diet mixed drink?). So what do we Jews do? We put down roots (why a doctrine that acquieces to anti-Semitism like that has become the sine qua non of Jewish identity also drives me crazy, as do New York drivers and many other things ... is it any wonder my wife says I need to chill? ;) ). I disagree with that (vide supra), but there it is.

But then what happens. Conveniently the world says "oops! we were wrong to persecute deracinated cosmopolitans ... now we'll persecute people who put down roots in land in which other people might live (which is everywhere". Perhaps dispossessing people is wrong. But isn't it convenient how the world decided to finally make this a moral issue when Jews started doing it?

I'm not saying two wrongs make a right or embracing moral relativism (and why are supposedly religious Jews doing so in their support of Zionism?), but the world's newfound discovery of morality at just a time when we Jews are not on the loosing end of things is, as the Church Lady would say, just so conveeenient.

And that so many lefties don't get it (when they are otherwise all about empathy) really says a lot, don't it?

(c.f. the comments section for any post about Israeli issues at Matt Yglesias' blog to see what sort of thing would prompt me to make a post like this)


Dear New York City Drivers

Why are you so impatient when people slow down to look for parking? People park in this city. Get used to it. You probably are going to park soon too. Do you want me to honk at you when you stop suddenly with no warning to start parking? No. Well, then stop honking me when I slow down or stop, even though I signal my intentions properly, etc.

I guess the essence of being an NYC driver is to be utterly incapable of handling common occurances (c.f. previous blogs on the driving here): rain? snow? either drive like nothing is happening or slow down to ludicrously low speeds to be "safe" ... the idea that snow or rain should be something you would know how to handle is just not NYC-esque. People slowing down/stopping to park? honk your horn as if the person doing said activity is doing something completely outrageous that nobody else ever does in this fair city. Kids crossing the street to get into a playground? That never happens! Feel free to zoom past any playground at a speed that'll get you an 8 point ticket in Central NJ ... etc. ...


Updates: I guess that NYC drivers were perfectly polite and reasonable to me when I had NJ plates also fits under the rubric of NYC drivers not being able to expect the expected: "oh noes, this must be one of those NJ drivers I've heard so many bad things about but I've not ever seen [since three minutes ago]: I guess I'll have to give him a wide berth and let him merge, etc. and be very patient with him -- as you never know what these mysterious NJ drivers, whom we almost never encounter in NYC, are gonna do next".

However, note the plural in the word updates ... something shocking happened this morning: NYC drivers were actually responding appropriately to the rain (slowing down a reasonable amount, etc.)! I guess I shouldn't write anything lest I jinx it, though ... I'm knocking wood that this continues on my commute home!

Friday, June 12, 2009


Today's the Big Day ...

... in which the government is going to force all of us who live in big buildings having roof-top antennas that don't receive UHF signals well to get cable.

I wonder if, even though this whole DTV mess started during the era of Bush & CO, the GOP will use this as another example of how "Democratic governments interfere in your lives and make things more expensive and force you to do stuff you wouldn't do", etc., etc.?


Well, whaddya know! Our "high definition", "digital" television doesn't actually have a digital tuner ... so I guess I need to get the converter box after all. I wonder, though, given that we can barely receive any signals in our apartment (and our rooftop antenna can't receive UHF signals worth beans), if even after I get said converter box (if I can find one) we'll have TeeVee.


Update: the Alberich household now has entered the DTV age. And you know what? Nu ...

Anyway, our rooftop antenna receives a few channels (but not all) and the amplified antenna I purchased gets the rest, so we have DTV ... but it sure ain't all that. My wife likes it though.

Monday, June 08, 2009


My 0.02$ on the EP Elections

(1) the victory of the center-right is not nearly so big as the media's been playing it up to be, but the "even the liberal media says even the Euro-weenies are moving toward the right" is gonna be a big talking point in the 2010 midterms

(2) the center-right in Europe is not the same as our center right (as the liberal blogs have been reporting in what should be our talking point to neutralize the above talking point): the Christian Democratic movement, from its very origins, is more akin to our Bull-moose movement that died out with TR going back to the GOP and which otherwise has largely been absorbed into the Democratic party (as has the McKinley GOP, FWIW, c.f. Atrios' comments about the elites as well as M. Lind's comments about McKinley's GOP being now part and parcel of the Democratic party in Made in Texas).

(3) The larger point, however, is that this does point, however, to the difficulties our side will face in the 2010 midterms. Any lack of economic progress will be used against the Dems. Let's not think that 2006 and 2008 mean the GOP era is over. The Dems still have not addressed the underlying causes of the "Reagan backlash". Archie Bunker-ism still is a potent force because nowadays even a young person like me can say "things were so much better in the olden days -- when my dad was my age, he could afford to live in a nice house in the 'burbs on just his salary ... now with my wife out of work -- even with my roughly equivalent salary -- it's tough to make ends meet". As long as people think things were better off in the "good old days", they are, by definition, oriented toward conservative/reactionary thinking. Moreover, Obama and the national Dems have as yet done little to address major beefs with "gummint" (anyway his powers are limited as most of these beefs deal with state/local government, as I've frequently discussed on this blog ... although Obama can put strings on the stimulus money that will at least help break the political machines, etc.), which both undermine the Democratic "pro-government" ideology and often involve Dems. and hence make the Dems. look bad.

We have momentum as a party ... but the EU elections indicate how easily this momentum might be lost in 2010 if we aren't careful. Let's keep the ball rolling fellow Dems!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009


Longevity II

I tried this vaguely Balkan-style tobacco even though it has gotten not the best reviews because it was the most "everything but the kitchen sink" mixture Barclay and Rex had when I had a chance to stop by (is it my imagination or are there simply, in spite of the plethora of stores advertising they sell cigars, no good tobacconists in Queens?). While I generally like C&D tobaccos, this one is not a hit. However, I must say that it is a really, really good digestif, so to speak: after a nice lunch, it really got both my digestive and brain juices flowing.

Update: I have noticed nice notes of wine and tarragon (!) developing toward the end of the bowl lately.

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