PS... A Column
By Paul E. Schindler Jr.
Some things are impossible to know, but it is impossible to know these things.
Feb. 19, 2001
Those Wacky Republicans
I have a day job, so I need to make it clear to anyone who comes here that the opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not represent those of my employer, my family, or your great-aunt Mathilda. Offer not valid in Wisconsin. You must enter to win.
Table of Contents:
Those Wacky Republicans
I finally figured out what it is with the Republicans and Bill Clinton. They think he's going to be their Herbert Hoover, the guy they can run against--and win elections by running against-- for a decade or two. After all, the Democrats ran against Hoover from 1932 through 1968.
I love the GOP! Just when I think, like Will Rogers, that I don't belong to any organized political party because I'm a Democrat;
Just when I think that the sum of McGovern, Carter II, Mondale and Dukakis is a party bent on political suicide;
Just when I think Peter A. Brown was right in 1991 when he said the Democrats wouldn't take the White House again for a generation because of electoral college math;
Just when all those things happen, the GOP shoots itself in the foot. Well, they have the guns for it.
I hate to break it to them (remarkably, very few Republicans read my column on a regular basis), but Clinton ain't Hoover. I mean, if you couldn't beat him in 1996 and couldn't impeach him in 1997, what makes you think he'll make a good whipping boy? But please, squeeze that Clinton tar baby tighter. Makes you look like just what you are: a bunch of whiny white southern millionaires who are still trying to refight the 1992 election.
All this stuff going on with Clinton now? Sleazy as hell. I won't say a word to defend the furniture. As for the Marc Rich pardon, please see the Cap Weinberger pardon that Bush Senior made at the 11th hour of his administration. Weinberger was never tried either. Don't tell me they're not the same. They are. The money doesn't make a damn bit of difference. And Weinberger's putative crimes were a much greater threat to the future of the Republic than Rich's.
I will not condone or defend tax evasion, or trading with the enemy. I can and will heartily condemn Cap and the Reagan gang for using the U.S. Constitution to wipe their feet for four years. Hey guys, Congress said no, clearly and unequivocally, and you went ahead and did it anyway. All of it. That's high crimes and misdemeanors if I ever saw them.
I can't wait to see the batch of pardons W. will hand out at the end of his first and only term.
By the way, I knew the right would engage in some out and out triumphalism, and now they have. Check out this story in the San Francisco Chronicle, which includes this great phrase, "tarred as heartless and compassionless, if not out and out mean." Well, yes, because many of them--not all, but many, especially in leadership positions--deserved to be so tarred. The upshot of the story: the right has learned to hide its iron fist in a velvet glove, again, for the first time since Reagan, so now it's winning!
Apropos of the hearings this week, I think I know why the exit polls showed Al Gore had won: because he actually did win a clear majority of the votes of those who thought they had voted. It was only when you got through throwing out the votes of the poor and the confused that W. won his "victory" and was elected "president" in the first American presidential election decided by a 5-4 vote (even Hayes-Tilden took a commission vote of 8-7).
It wasn't really anything too specific--well, I guess it was. I realized this week that, had I fallen to the street instead of hobbling to the curb in NYC after I sprained my calf muscle, I'd almost certainly have been run over and killed. Pretty scary. So I wrote a note to my wife Vicki which I've decided to reproduce here:
Since life is a place full of nasty surprises and unpleasant twists, I try, consciously, every day, to appreciate and cherish my life, my health, my wife and my children. Amid the haste and rushing around it is essential, every day, to be grateful, profoundly grateful. Should anything happen to any of us, let no one say, "They didn't appreciate what they had when they had it.
Less Power To Us
A friend of mine, who obviously does not live in California, sent in this delightful analysis:
I've been amused at all the fuss and debate going on in California about the power situation. The politically correct view seems to be that it's the result of some vast conspiracy between utilities, oil companies, the CIA, and the Trilateral Commission, or something. It's not.
No power plants have been built in the state in a decade, I read. The power market was partly deregulated, so wholesale prices varied according to demand, while retail prices were fixed. Soon nobody could provide retail power without going broke.
Congratulations. California has just proved yet again that the law of supply and demand remains a basic principle you can't get around. The state will be cited in future Econ textbooks.
It really doesn't matter much what any utility company did. Granted, managerial incompetence might have worsened matters -- and keep in mind that until recently, those companies were run by quasi-bureaucrats, working for a state-regulated industry, which means essentially the same kind of people who run the Division of Motor Vehicles provided your electricity. Greed could have aggravated it, although if you stand on a street corner and throw money at somebody, you really shouldn't complain if he stoops to pick it up.
But the fact remains, even if everybody involved acted with the best of motives and the kindest of intentions, when you artificially restrict supply of anything -- say, electricity, by not building power plants -- the price is going to go up. If you try to cap the price at the far end -- the retail end -- it's going to bulge in the middle, the wholesale level. The retailer has very little choice in the matter. He can go broke, or he can fail to respond to demand. I gather your utilities are doing both.
I am a little curious about what the state hopes to accomplish with its 15 billion-dollar (!) bond sale; I haven't seen anywhere what the money is to be spent on. My guess is California intends to repeal the law of gravity,and it wants to get ready for the air-travel boom.
Computer Industry News
After years of having the dorkiest site on the web, I think it's cool that the New Yorker is actually posting content.
However, let me note that I have read a strongly contrarian view, by online columnist Ken Layne. I guess you'll just have to decide for yourself. In the same column, he also dissects UPI's current troubles.
If that's too genteel for you, try this site recommended by my daughter Marlow.
The only series daring enough to theorize about what would happen if Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy lived together.
So many great George Bush jokes. But the restraint continues.
Top Ten Signs Your Dot.Com is close to "THE END"...
My colleagues Tom LaSusa, Ethan Welkes and Chandra Steele wrote this first class piece of work:
10) To save money, everyone in office required to use one email address
The Top 15 Political Valentine's Day Cards
No. 8 with no bullet…
Feb. 14, 2001
15> To Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, from George W.:www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 2001 by Chris White ]
Selected from 62 submissions from 34 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors are:
Spike Jones, Atlanta, GA -- 1 (11th #1)
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 8
You want the facts? Go to the Internet Movie Database.
Michael Apted was just 23 in 1964, when he co-directed the half-hour Granada television (British) documentary 7-Up, based on the Jesuit aphorism, "show me the child at 7 and I will show you the man." He has revisited the same people every seven years; 42-Up, filmed in 1998, is the latest version. It stopped in U.S. theaters for a cup of coffee last year, and is still priced for rental at $80 via Amazon.com. It now takes two hours to tell the stories, but the time is a good investment. Vicki and I saw 28-Up at a San Francisco theater, and started taping our girls at 5. Lacking Apted's patience, we tape every five years, and just finished editing Marlow at 5-10-15 and 20. It makes for fascinating viewing. Highly recommended. Rent it, if you can find a rental store clever enough to stock it. Or you can get a taste by buying or renting 35-Up or 28-Up. Roger Ebert loves this series of films. I do too.
Reid Ashe, a predecessor of mine at The Tech took note of the perennial MIT charm school story which recurred here last week:
I'm glad to see the NY Times article on MIT Charm School didn't escape your attention. My wife wondered aloud if they'd offer a remedial course for alumni...
Amazingly, my wife had the same question…
Richard Dalton forwarded a forward containing this very enlightening (pun intended) story about the architect of California's electrical fiasco.
Master of Disaster
But it was Daniel W.L. Fessler who started it all… at the offices of the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
Funny, neither Fessler nor his boss, former fathead and ex-California Governor Peter Wilson have any comment on the disaster they wrought. It's a great story. Read it.
A former UPI editor named Jack Warner is being feted on a mailing list I'm on. Two memorable phrases of his:
"Don't you think this lede could use a verb?"
Another journalism note, from the current Slate magazine online:
What are the four most discouraging words you can read in a newspaper? "First of a series."
Dan Rosenbaum had a few choice words about last week's cigar story:
Lovedthe cigar story. Of course, there's almost no possibility of it being true.
Back before I had a life, I was an active participant of the Usenet group alt.folklore.urban, a high-volume newsgroup where attribution is a way of life and the written word is a contact sport. Check out www.urbanlegends.com (the a.f.u. archives) for details.
Urban legends have a structure nearly as formulaic as slasher movies -- not surprising, given the latter clearly derives from the former. Legends generally are utterly specific in detail, except for any that could be used to confirm the story. (In this case, the name of the cigar smoker, insurance company, location, or time element. Frequently, details of identity consist of "a friend of my cousin" or some other pseudo-specific reference.) Often, the protagonist is a trickster tweaking authority or convention (teenagers having sex on a parked car, smoker insuring cigars). And at the end, there is always moral comeuppance against the trickster: the kids having sex are killed by a slasher, the smoker is jailed. It's not enough that the kids be caught or that the smoker has to give back the money; the form requires the wages of sin to be horrible.
The key to the story here is that the trickster got his money from the insurance company without even paying the first premium. Sorry, policies don't go into effect until a premium is remitted. It's the consideration in a contract. No consideration, no contract. I'm surprised that no one has tried to sue over the initial sale of UPI, since the legendary dollar appears never to have changed hands....
I wonder if it is considered part of the form to include one obvious error. For example, the "USPS Plans To Charge for Email" urban legend that resurfaces on the Internet every year or so includes the name of the sponsoring member of congress, an easy to check fact that turns up no such person, now or ever, having served in the U.S. House.
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