Tuesday, June 28, 2005


Over the weekend I was in Winston Salem with my two brothers, my wife and one sister in law celebrating an achievement of one aunt who worked as a professional sports writer and one aunt who has lived a life of service.

The aunt who was a sports reporter was awarded the Red Smith Award which the AP gives to outstanding sports reporters. Mary Garber was a sports reporter on the Winston Salem paper for more than 50 years. She is the first woman to receive the award. There is a good story about her on the Women Sports Writers Association page. She started when the males on the paper went to WWII. They came back and rather than being relegated to the society page she convinced her editor to stay in sports. There are lots of stories about her contacts and friendships with major sports figures of the century (Jackie Robinson, Carl Ellers, Big House Gaines, Billy Jean King) but the real stories are her friendships and stories about the athlete who had one crowning moment. I can't tell you how many times in the last 30 years, when I have visited, that some grey headed gentleman has come up to the table - pulled out a yellowed press clipping about some long forgotten high school game that Mary wrote about and and then wanted to say hello to "Miss Mary." The importance of sports in our society should not be underestimated.

Her younger sister, Cornelia, lived a slightly different life. She took care of three members of my family -first her dad, then her mom and now her sister. She contributed to the community in a raft of volunteer activity - book clubs, service leagues, little theater. While Mary is slightly introverted, Neely is the extrovert - always the life of the party. She is able to tell stories with the best of them. Many of them are true - many are also funny. Both of them examplify simple contributions to their community. Mary has been more visible than Neely but both seem to cut in at all levels of society.

On Sunday, they held a BBQ with their next door neighbors for the neighborhood. It was amazing in two ways. First, that these two ladies had lived in the same house for more than 80 years. That is an achievement in itself. Second, the neighborhood, which is made up of a pretty diverse group of people - are all appreciative of the contributions that both have made to the neighborhood. Those contributions have been large and small. For example, on Saturday morning a group of Black business people came over to the nursing home where Mary is recovering to wish her well. They were very kind - but clearly reflected the affection that she had offered in covering high school and college games in the area. A story is told about Mary going to a Black high school long ago where one young student said to another "What is that White woman doing at our school?" The other kid said something like "That is Mary Garber and if you do something good she will write about it in the paper." Those were from the larger community - but one attendee for the BBQ called them the "glue" that holds the neighborhood together.

On Sunday morning we went to church with Neely - at the church where my parents were married. The church is a grand old place - very similar in age to the one my wife grew up in. Part of the service was for Neely to show off her relatives to her buddies. But part of it for me was a chance to reconnect to something that has been in my family for a very long time.

This weekend was a good chance to see my two brothers (sister Nancy was working) and my two aunts. But it was also a chance to re-educate myself about what is important in life. If you want to see the people involved I did a website at my home page but you can get to it directly by clicking HERE

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Supreme Court on Private property

Today there was a contrast that I thought was interesting. At Econologthere was a post about libertarians - with a great quote
"Libertarians see the state as just another human institution, with the same moral status as a supermarket or a bowling league."

It was especially timely as the Supreme Court issued its land use decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The slim majority argued that it was ok to move a couple of families out of their homes merely because some local government unit had decided that an economic development project took precedent. There is a good post - including a copy of the decision here.

Glen Reynolds at Instapundit has a witty post wondering whether this court is the Emily Latella Court - this was not one of Anthony Kennedy's finest hours. Instapundit includes a comment from Charles Fried

I think the quote on libertarians is a bit off the mark - indeed there are some limited number of instances where a governmental decision should take precedent. But as several pointed out today there should be some very stringent considerations in making that type of decision. In the same way that taxes should be raised with supermajorities - eminent domain decisions should be made with some extraordinary procedures.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Private Accounts

Robert Bennett, Senator from Utah, was on Squawk Box this morning touting his "compromise" on Social Security that will not include private accounts. As he explained his plan - the idea would include Pozen indexing - which would introduce equity based indexing (more for people with lower incomes) and longevity based indexing (life expectancy at retirement would be taken into account for benefits) into the system without raising the retirement age. Neither change is a bad one. But the longer term effects of private accounts on both the size and scope of government and on the personal empowerment for individual citizens should not be lost. It looks like some members of the GOP have shown a lack of intestinal fortitude - if the Dems just hold their breath long enough - things like private accounts will just go away. The GOP should change its name - what is "grand" about a party that is not willing to fight hard enough on basic principles?

Commencement Speeches I would have liked to have heard II

In this morning's Sacramento Bee, Peter Schrag makes an important point. Richard Rodriguez, author of Hunger of Memory as well as a raft of other writings on the Latino experience and on broader topics of life in America, had been invited to speak to the Haward State (now called CSU East Bay) graduation. But a small group of Latino activists protested. Rather than diminish the day for graduates he withdrew. Rodriguez made a compelling point - the day should not be on the graduation speaker but on the graduates and the expected protests would have detracted from that. It is a shame that any place that calls itself a university does not have the gumption to encourage the free exchange of ideas. Rodriguez showed class in his statement - like his much of his writing - he offered a profound elegance that the activists lack.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Bluegrass in the Mountains

Each Father's day the California Bluegrass Association holds a festival on the Nevada county fairgrounds. The last four days are basically concerts. (Before that are workshops.) This year Rhonda Vincent and Rage were there, so was The Del McCoury Band, so were two other bands I really liked Lost Highway (which I had heard before) and True Blue- which I had not. The Grascals were also there, and I like them a lot. Finally, there was IIIrd Tyme Out which is a band that has been around for a while and like Del McCoury is consistently great. McCoury always amazes me. His energy on stage is infectious. His two sons, who now play with him, are excellent technically (as is Del) but Del's enthusiasm is wonderful.

The festival is a low key affair - music goes from about 10 in the morning to 11 at night with two breaks - one for lunch, one for dinner. Everyone sits on lawn chairs or blankets under the pines. On Friday night it was very cold. If you like that kind of music - this festival is a must. The CBA Website will tell you all about it and their other activities.

Friday, June 17, 2005

When are apologies appropriate in politics - E.J. Dionne's Column is a bit short

In a column this morning in the Washington Post, E.J. Dionne suggests that Tom Delay and Bill Frist should apologize to the nation because the autopsy of Mrs Schaivo found a significantly diminished brain capacity. It is a good piece of rhetoric but fails on other grounds. In the Schaivo issue, I was offended by both sides because I think both sides lost sight of the key principle that Mrs. Schaivo was, even in diminished capacity, still a human being. The decision whether to kill her should not have been taken over by the apparatus of the state. Although ultimately the question is one which our laws have not caught up with our technologies (we can now sustain a person indefinitely - remember Mrs. Schaivo was not being sustained by extraordinary means). So yes, I think Frist and DeLay owe us an apology. But then all of the politicians who jabbered on this issue also owe us an apology for not dealing with a developing issue in an intelligent manner. Granted Mrs. Schaivo had diminished capacity but where is the appropriate place to draw the line? Does the "principle" established in this case allow a family to decide to terminate a child with an extremely low IQ? On the other hand does the GOP position require that we consistently take extraordinary means to sustain life no matter what the cost? There is a slippery slope here that I am quite uneasy about. The policy questions here are very tough - 1) When should another person have the ability to make a decision about the viability of another person's life - absent a consistent life sustaining technology intervening? 2) Is a feeding tube different than a respirator - or more importantly which technologies are appropriately turned off and which are not?

Then we get to Dick Durbin. Durbin this week called Gitmo a "gulag." Doesn't that also deserve an apology? In the first instance, both the right and the left (but mostly the right) interposed public policy into an area where fundamental issues are unsettled in a way that did not treat the object of their quest with dignity. In the second instance, a US Senator in the second role of the minority made knowingly false accusations trying to undermine the president. If Dionne were being balanced he would ask for an apology from both. The character of political rhetoric turns many voters off - the extreme statements on important issues treat the voters like buffoons - but make the politicians look like them. Dionne's last line in the piece should be read broadly - "No, we should not move on. We should remember that some politicians will say whatever is necessary to advance their immediate purposes. Apologies, anyone?"

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Commencement Speeches I would have liked to have heard

Steve Job's Stanford Commencement Address is a good example of a great commencement speech. It is short. It makes some profound points in a clear and at times very personal manner. He divided his comments into three stories - the benefits of dropping out of Reed, doing a job you love, and dealing with mortality. He ends it was Stuart Brand's mantra from the last Whole Earth Catalogue - stay hungry, stay foolish. If you want to be inspired - read the speech.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Old Rockers

On Saturday we went to a concert called Hulaballo - at Raley Field. It was an interesting melange. First, the age of the concert goers was older than I expected. Should not have been surprised - who knows who the Hollies were. Second, some of the groups were worth seeing - Johnny Rivers is a really great guitarist - whether you like his songs or not. The Grass Routes were wonderful - and lots of fun. Best line of the evening - "Buy our best of live album - I have a grandchild to support!" But their music was also fun.

Al Wilson was as I remembered - a good R&B/Soul voice in a lot of genres. The rest were less than memorable.

People mostly had a good time - although some of the aging rock fans were a bit annoying. Some of the music was dated - but a lot of it was not. Maybe I will go to another one in about a decade.

Friday, June 10, 2005


The response of the markets suggests that Apple goofed when they linked with Intel. As an original Macintosh Evagelista I say BALONEY. The essence of Apple, at least since the reappearance of Steve Jobs, has been the operating system. OSX is impregnable compared to Windows. It also is filled with wonderful bells and whistles that Mr. Baumer only dreams of.

So what are the risks?

#1 - Execution - The Osborne Problem - my first computer was an Osborne - when Adam Osborne announced his next generation of machines, he killed his company - or so the folklore goes - because his channel died and he failed to deliver. The conditions here are quite different. First, Jobs wisely created backwards compatability - the PPC and Intel platforms will be able to work across each other. He offers an environment called Rosetta that will allow programmers to write on both chips without doing work twice. Second, that also allows a transition among those who want to buy a PPC model. The chatter in the WWDC seems to have been - this is not tough and will increase our market. So in the short and long term this seems to make sense.

#2 - The Maginot Problem - Let's face it, Windows is not open source but it is certainly a leaky boat as it relates security. It has more viruses than the NIH. If we go to their chip will we face the same problem? I think not - I am not a programmer but those I know say the inherent issue is with the software not the hardware. OSX is unix based and less likely to have the same kind of problems that pre-Longhorn Windows has. In this case I would rather be a Tiger than a cow.

#3 - The market comparison problem - With an intel chip why buy a Mac? The simple answer is even greater flexibility. Look at the comments about the latest operating system - most border on the scale of insanely great. Walt Mossberg had it right when he wrote his comments about Tiger. What Mac users get out of this is a bit more flexibility on size and battery life and speed. We still have Apple engineers who have some of the best designers in the business.

#4 - Will the company lose focus? Apple has lived well in the last couple of years based on the iPod but also on some really great software. The sold base of the new OS - several weeks into launch - is more than 2 million units - according to Jobs' speech at the Developer's conference this week. The adoption rate is quick. Thus, this seems to integrate with current focus and also seems to offer some long term benefits.

I for one often am not a fan of Job's speeches at Macworld and the WWDC - but the substance of his message - the linkage he got from a couple of major dogs including Mathematica, Microsoft and Adobe - suggests that the pros like this deal. If you want to see his WWDC speech and judge for yourself you can at Steve Jobs at WWDC

The Dopes on the Supreme Court

In the recent decision on medical marijuana I thought Justice Thomas had it about right, as he often does. He said the following in his dissent - "The majority prevents states like California from devising drug policies that they have concluded provide much needed respite to the seriously ill." He also commented "Our federalist system, properly understood, allows California and a growing number of states to decide for themselves how to safeguard the health and welfare of its citizens."

I am not sure where Scalia was on this - it seems odd that he voted with the majority. But in this case Thomas had it right.

A really interesting article on European federalism

In an article that appears in the electronic edition of The New Republic, Niall Ferguson argues that the no votes against the proposed constitution are based more on a relatively sophisticated understanding of federalist principles - i.e. a constitution where the individual parts are pretty different in size and economic power needs to have the kinds of mitigations between (or more properly among) the sizes to be able to work. The unique balance in the US model which used the big state/small state model - might be a more appropriate model. That is really clear thinking.

Interim Status on "Saving the Republic"

There are several quick comments on the recent votes to dislodge the logjam of nominations in the Senate.

1) So far the deal has worked pretty well - we've (the American people) have gotten a couple of pretty good judges confirmed after several years of petty delay. but

2) There are a couple of big boulders in the road ahead - including the Bolton nomination - which is not in the same class but certainly important.

3) Sheets and some of his colleagues can certainly not be accused of lowering their level of rhetoric. The senior senator from New York - whose antics are always a bit sophomoric - has lived up to his reputation. I often wonder what it would be like to live in his world where cataclyism invades one's every breath. The seat he inhabits is not in the line of Roscoe Conklin - that was the Moynihan/Clinton seat - but his rhetoric is often in the spirit of the man who commented in the 1880s - Those who fear the allure that patriotism has for scalawags and scofflaws, have not noticed the clarion call that reform has for these same people.

Twain's quote was better - "nothing need's reforming so much as other people's habits."

4) Even with the deal, if it holds up, the real tests are to come - especially when the first Supreme Court nominee is in place.

5) Finally, the deal may have increased the number of no votes, at least for some of the nominees. With the deal in place some mid-leaning dems may have felt no obligation to consider these issues fairly.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

What to do about Ground Zero

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had a long article on an attempt to broaden the theme of the 9/11 memorial at ground zero. In a post today at SISU the author has a much better phrase for this effort by the left to divert our attention from this hallowed ground - she calls them "grave robbers" - and that sounds about right to me.

There is plenty of time to debate silly claims like the Amnesty International rant that we run gulags like the Soviet Union. There are also plenty of locations to commemorate almost any other issue that enough people who want to fund it can choose.

But the location where the Twin Towers were should be reserved to honor the memory of those who died that day. The monument should be simple and focussed. Why in the world should it be anything else?

A few weeks after 9/11 a concert was held to raise money for the families of the victims. Operaman appeared and sang a great line about the Saudi shiek who had offered $10 million but but put a condition on it partially blaming America for its plight. As you may remember Mayor Guiliani said to the shiek - take the cash and shove it. If Soros wants to fund this thing - we should collectively tell him to go find the shiek.

In today's WSJ a person on the Commission tries to play it down by saying there will be some additional stuff around the memorial in the freedom center and then has the audacity to quote from Lincoln at Gettysburg. Wouldn't it be more moving to simply have the memorial at that place and use some other place to make the political statement?

Monday, June 06, 2005

Duck Walking with the LA Times

In Friday's LA Times there is a page one article with the headline "He's not walking like a duck." The article then goes on to suggest that Bush was defensive in his last press conference and is therefore a lame duck. When you go to the inside part of the story - it is a bit more balanced - listing the strengths that Bush has compared to other second term presidents of recent memory. The story comes from news that was created by the tone of the questions in the news conference and then is mitigated when you get to its meat.

There could be an interesting story here. a) Bush has been extraordinarily ambitious for a second termer (in terms of goals and programs) and b) most presidents at this point in their tenure begin to lose steam. Then the story could have analyzed the situation with a bit of care and precision. But then that would be reporting.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Dinner with Jedgar

In 1969 my wife and I were recently married and about to celebrate our first Christmas in Washington, D.C. On Christmas Eve we decided to splurge and went to the Redwood Room in the Mayflower for dinner. It had snowed that evening and so we found the place empty save three other people. In the center of the room was Vance Hartke and his wife. Hartke was a senator from Indiana and was a leading opponent of the war in Vietnam. In the corner of the room was J. Edgar Hoover, eating alone.

We were seated and almost immediately, the Senator came over to our table and asked us if we would like to join him and his wife for Christmas dinner. We moved to the larger table and the Senator said let's see if the Director would like to join us. Hartke walked over to Hoover's table to invite him. It was far enough away so that all I could hear was Hartke's midwestern twang going on for a couple of sentences. Then I heard Hoover say a single "No" in a basso profundo. Hartke came back to our table and said, "the Director has decided not to join us this evening."

That evening was memorable if for no other reason that I was working on a thesis on the War Powers Act, and so got a chance to talk to one of its authors. But he also made sure that conversation was not all about business. Hartke later sent me a copy of his book. But the one word reply from Hoover also stuck in my mind!

Dejavugate - the Role of W. Mark Felt

I should first admit that I worked in the Nixon Administration - twice. But I should also comment that after the first experience I went on to work for the guy who cast the deciding vote against one of the worst Supreme Court nominees ever (up to then - G. Harold - Justice Mediocre - Carswell). ( I will write about that experience some time in the future.)

The revelation of who Deep Throat was this week has brought back a lot of thoughts or is it acid reflux? Who is the hero here?

Some suggest that the former deputy director of the FBI W. Mark Felt, who served as Woodward and Bernstein's source, is a hero. I think that is silly. He was a sworn officer of the law - he ignored his responsibilities and oath to respond to a perceived slight when he did not get the top job. He was disgruntled that Mr. Gray had been named to replace Jedgar. (The contraction of J. Edgar - in my first year in DC I had an interesting interchange with Jedgar - again later on that one.) I find no valor in his conduct. He was convicted of a series of illegal acts in other areas and was pardoned by RWR. So no, I do not find him a hero.

Some have suggested that the two reporters and their editor are the heroes. They spun a pretty good yarn about a second rate burgalry and its associated crimes - some of which were pretty serious. It is pretty clear that the editor and possibly the two reporters were excited about their role in bringing down a president. Prior to Watergate the Post was a second rate paper. It still is - consistent bias in its news pages, too much about social goings on, blah, blah, blah. What the process did spawn was a generation of reporters who are in the business of social change not reporting. There really is not a snake under every rock but some reporters still look for the next "gate."

Some have suggested that the convicted in this process, especially Liddy, were the heroes. Liddy and some of his crew were certifiable at the time of their work upon which they were convicted. While I think he has done a great job since then is in his prison ministries, I am not sure I would count him as a hero - especially in the role during the events. Here, even if his conduct during the scandal was less than admirable, since then it has been stellar.

What this has done for me is to remind me of the one person I really admired during the process - he was a guy who was slightly older than me - who broke the law, admitted it, served his time, went back and restablished a life of merit. At a party among friends soon after he was released from prison, my wife (who had not know him) asked him about his situation - and he came back with a simple statement - "I made a mistake, was seduced by the trappings of power, but it was still my responsibility" - For my money one of the heroes of this was Seattle attorney Egil "Bud" Krogh.

As for the scandal - I am not sure it was as legitimate a crisis as those on the left have portrayed it. I am pretty sure we have gotten both good and bad from the time we went through to get to all of the people that ultimately got removed. In one strange sense, the dems should be the ones who dislike Felt's role. The McGovern rules, which caused immediate and long term problems for moderate democrats, were a partial result of Watergate. We got arguably one of the worst presidents in the history of the republic (Carter) as a result of Watergate - his performance brought on Reagan's three terms (yes, POTUS 41 was really a third term). All that and crisis TV may be a pretty high price to pay.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Jermaine Clark as Commentator

At yesterday's game of the Rivercats, Jermaine Clark, one of the fastest utility men in baseball was the guest on the radio broadcast of the game. Clark is a pleasure to watch on the field - his base running is very quick. For right now he may be a hot prospect for the A's but when he is done with baseball, he is also a hot prospect for announcing. Johnny Doskow, the voice of the Rivercats is one of the best in the game - with clear and concise reporting of the game and great side chatter about the team and baseball. But Clark did a wonderful job of filling in details. He sounded bright and intelligent. The Rivercats can be heard on the net or on 1380 AM. Jose Reynoso is the Spanish announcer for the Cats and also quite good.

At 29-25 the Rivercats are in the lead for the Southern Division of the Pacific Division of the PCL - with Albuquerque and Oklahoma ahead in total wins in the American Southern Division - there are four divisions in the league (N/S American and Pacific). But at this point in the season there are plenty of teams who could be contenders.

At the team breakfast I won a half innning of being in the booth with Doskow and am looking forward to that opportunity. I know I will have two questions for him. Every baseball voice has some unique phrases - Doskow's is "holy kadelphia" - who knows where that came from. The other is something that came out of the breakfast. The people who sat with him at the breakfast asked him about the worst call he ever made in a game - he said it was in Appleton Wisconsin where he called a ball playable that was actually a home run out of the park by about 40 feet - I wonder how tall that outfielder was.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

What is really happening in the EU?

Most of the traditional media are speculating that the rejection of the EU constitution in France and the spiking of it in the Netherlands is somehow a reaction against free market policies of the bureaucrats in Brussels. Indeed, as Chancellor Schroeder once commented there are very high expectations for a social welfare state - he said 'Germany has the oldest university students and the youngest retirees in the world." - so there is some of that.

I suspect that while that is part of it - the real reason is the inherent intelligence of the voters and their manifest distrust of the elites. This afternoon I went through the proposed draft and picked out only a few examples of the absurdity of some of the language in the lengthy document. The document includes lots of vague detail. Declarations of rights which by any reasonable standard would be uneforceable in any reasonable proceeding but expanding expectations none-the-less. Perhaps the voters did not act out of fear but more appropriately out of "self interest rightly understood." I think those areas of improvement will remain - but the non and nee of the last few days and nein and no that would come from other places will be there as long as the voters feel the soft and hard effects of bureaucratic interventions in their lives.

If the elites are smart in this, and based on the comments from the Marshall Fund person a few days ago (*quoted several days ago) they may not be, they will think a bit more carefully about the real business of drafting a constitution not a laundry list.

Posted below are just some examples of the absurdities in the European Constitution.
ARTICLE II-89 Everyone has the right of access to a free placement service.
ARTICLE II-91 1. Every worker has the right to working conditions which respect his or her health, safety and
dignity. 2. Every worker has the right to limitation of maximum working hours, to daily and weekly
rest periods and to an annual period of paid leave.
ARTICLE II-112 1. Any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be
provided for by law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms. Subject to the principle
of proportionality, limitations may be made only if they are necessary and genuinely meet
objectives of general interest recognised by the Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms
of others. 2. Rights recognised by this Charter for which provision is made in other Parts of the
Constitution shall be exercised under the conditions and within the limits defined by these relevant
Parts. 3. Insofar as this Charter contains rights which correspond to rights guaranteed by the
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the meaning and scope
of those rights shall be the same as those laid down by the said Convention. This provision shall
not prevent Union law providing more extensive protection. 4. Insofar as this Charter recognises fundamental rights as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, those rights shall be interpreted in harmony with those traditions. 5. The provisions of this Charter which contain principles may be implemented by legislative
and executive acts taken by institutions, bodies, offices and agencies of the Union, and by acts of
Member States when they are implementing Union law, in the exercise of their respective powers.
They shall be judicially cognisable only in the interpretation of such acts and in the ruling on their
legality. 6. Full account shall be taken of national laws and practices as specified in this Charter.
7. The explanations drawn up as a way of providing guidance in the interpretation of the Charter
of Fundamental Rights shall be given due regard by the courts of the Union and of the Member