Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Obama and His Decisions High in the Polls

There's a new USA Today Gallup Poll. See the results here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Some Are Still Saluting Free Market

Andrew Sullivan today passes along Charles Krauthammer's response to Paul Krugman's thinking. He may have a point, but haven't we seen "free-market control" just about drive us into the ditch? I think I understand that a pure, survival-of-the-fittest free-market is theoretically wonderful to some people. But how much more evidence do we need that such a pure system carries huge risks when carried out by impure human beings?

Least-Favorite Quote of the Day

"Shoppers continued to file into the store as emergency workers tried to save the man, the newspaper said."
--Chris Dolmetsch at Bloomberg.com

Will Economic Reform Happen?

Paul Krugman worries that our fixation on the fix of our economic system may crush any possibility of long-term change.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Different Kinds of Christians

It's good to see the Onion come along and explain this.

Especially at Thanksgiving time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Economy is Very Grim

The broad stock market is now down 50% for the year. Very little good news is coming from the financial world. Things look very bleak indeed. Some encouragement comes from how much bad news there is. Most predictions about the economy and financial markets at any moment turn out to be wrong. But one phenomenon has repeated itself through history, When virtually all the experts are convinced that things are terrible, they begin to get better. So, listen to the experts!

Paul Krugman says that the transition between presidencies may carry big risks.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Lots of People Love Sarah Palin

"Well, as to that whole reason, she’s, you know, just about the only way she KNOWS how to be from her schooling, I mean going to six colleges and getting a journalism only at the end. But gosh, I mean really, can’t we all see that how much she’s done for the base of Lincoln’s party is everyone now knows that even a gal like her can grow up and succeed at success through doors that are open to her, by God! It’s not like, though, we should take for granted that she’s done so much without the benefit of a great language that so many people have shown isn’t even really necessarily mastered besides when they go into politics! Gosh, give her a break here, she’s only tryin’ to say what she meant to say, and not what you’re all trying to tell everyone she was saying anyway."

— Michael Temlin, New York, commenting on Dick Cavett's column about Sarah Palin

Friday, November 14, 2008


We are seeing a sometimes-disturbing backlash to the election of Barack Obama, unashamedly fanned by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and most other conservative talk-radio hosts.

Folks, these people are in the entertainment business. Their job is to attract and hold an audience. Period. You cannot attract and hold an audience with policy discussion. It must be loud, angry, confrontational or otherwise compellingly entertaining. Do not rely on call-in shows for political or policy information. Do rely on them for entertainment.

Don't we know this?

See Andrew Sullivan's blog.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Time for a Media Colonic

We are hearing gobs and gobs and gobs and gobs about how the Republican party might reconstitute itself and even come back to power. I'm somewhat interested in this, but can we PLEASE give it a rest for a while?

My theory is that many excellent reporters did their job well over the last eight years. And their job was to carefully develop sources in power and connected to power. In the last eight years, power was strongly centralized in the White House. This power was usually unaffected and unchanged by new facts, data or circumstances--wherever they came from. If the media reported information contradicting a White House statement or policy, it meant nothing. So reporters were rewarded for sticking to the company line.

The result was a dysfunctional dependency on dribblings from the White House and those connected to the White House, such as neoconservative commentators (who had an Oval Office IV) and very conservative think tanks. Over the last eight years, the more ravenously you ate the scraps, the more successful you were as a reporter.

These reporters are still showing up to be fed at the same places a week after the election, and they're hearing all kinds of stuff. But the scraps don't mean what they used to.

So it's time for the media to stop feeding and have a colonic. Then they need to start over, diligently and creatively reporting what's happening from a wide variety of sources never heard from before.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Things Have Changed

"The North Carolina county where Palin expressed her delight at being in the 'real America' went for Obama by more than 18 percentage points."
--Frank Rich, in today's New York Times

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Theology of Abortion

Recently, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was lambasted for saying that the history of Christian thought shows no consensus on when human life begins. She had done her homework on this. Read more here.

Governing is Not Campaigning

"Bush took Karl Rove into the White House, turned policy into an arm of politics, and governed the same way he campaigned: treat the press as an out-of-favor interest group, control the message at all cost, repeat it incessantly regardless of changing facts, admit no mistakes, show no uncertainty, reward loyalists, and ignore critics or else, if necessary, destroy them. This approach to what’s known as strategic communications won Bush two elections; it also helped destroy his Presidency. Campaigning and governing are not the same. They are closer to being opposites."
--George Packer. The rest of his blog is here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Loud Buzz

Everywhere I go today, people are talking about the election. In the church office, at lunch in the local cafe, at the coffee shop. This is a phenomenal day.

This morning at my polling place, there were just three people in line, though the parking lot was full.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday in Cambria

We are headed home tomorrow after a week-long adventure with the Rin Tin Twins--our annual visit to Cambria. It's cool and fresh here, and the big political issue on Tuesday, as always, is water. In the 21 years we've been coming here, there's never been enough. No new water meters have been issued here for at least ten years--many people who own buildable lots have watched their value fall to almost nothing.

They're planning a desalinization plant, but there's still controversy, especially over how it will be paid for. There's at least one no-growth candidate on the ballot. (They're electing representatives to the Cambria Community Services District.) Some no-growthers don't want anything at all done about water. They like things as they are, thank you very much.

I've always thought of this as a fairly conservative area, so I've been surprised at the large number of Obama yard signs.

"My Wife Made Me Knock on Doors for Obama"

This is a VERY interesting piece from the Christian Science Monitor that gives a moving perspective on the meaning of this election.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A New News Show Actually Worth Watching

It's been a long, long, long, long, long time since I have found a TV news show I can watch and enjoy regularly. Sure, I catch Jim Lehrer once in a while--especially if something serious is going on. I may also surf to one of the network newscasts from time to time. I like Jon Stewart, though he's on a bit late for me--and the reruns seem stale the next day.

I also really like NPR's All Things Considered, Marketplace and Weekend Edition. Morning Edition is too much for my fragile disposition first thing in the morning.

My TV staple for a long time has been a few minutes with CNN, which is a hit-or-miss proposition.

Over the last few weeks, I've been very pleased to find something new, refreshing, thoughtful, articulate, witty and non-bombastic--The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. She's kind of like Terry Gross after a triple espresso. In her interviews, she asks the questions that I always seem to be asking (with the possible exception of "why do so many people choose to be so stupid?")

She pays attention and is respectful to her interview subjects, and usually provides new information about much-covered news items. She has a very rational way of viewing events and their possible impact on us. I don't know how she does it, but, even though she's only 36, she has none of the copycat smarminess of so many of her peers. She may be the most mature program host on MSNBC.

Her program is a gift to my understanding of the world.

Now Here's Some Motivation to Vote!

Krispy Kreme, that's right, Krispy Kreme, is offering a free patriotic doughnut to everyone who comes in on Election Day with an "I Voted" sticker. Sign me up! Quick! What day is today?

Mayor Sanders on Prop. 8

Friday, October 31, 2008

Turkeys in the Yard

A few minutes ago I was making coffee while watching turkeys in the yard from our Cambria kitchen window. If you look hard, you can see one of them in the picture above.

Where the Economy Is

According to data released yesterday, consumer spending began declining before the current economic crisis truly began. It's reasonable to assume that the decline continued or even accelerated through October. Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman writes about it this morning.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

How Might President Obama Govern?

Some thoughts from the San Luis Obispo Tribune.

Thunderstorm in Lebanon

Unexpected Endorsement

"Somehow Ronald Reagan’s party of western individualism and limited government has ended up not just increasing the size of the state but turning it into a tool of southern-fried moralism."

"There is no getting around the fact that Mr Obama’s résumé is thin for the world’s biggest job. But the exceptionally assured way in which he has run his campaign is a considerable comfort. It is not just that he has more than held his own against Mr McCain in the debates. A man who started with no money and few supporters has out-thought, out-organised and outfought the two mightiest machines in American politics—the Clintons and the conservative right."

--The Economist, endorsing Barack Obama for President.

An Early Voter Speaks

"Voted early on Monday evening in Georgia. Took 2 hours but waiting in line with my fellow Georgians reminded me that no matter what happens, there are a lot of really wonderful people out there. Even though this country seems to be ripping itself apart via party lines, it's obvious to me that at some point, we'll remember that we're all in this boat together.

"To Jackie in West Palm, who posted that she couldn't check her status, she should see if she can do that online. The Georgia Secretary of State website allows you to check your status online - very efficient to do before heading to the polls!"

— runrachelrun, Atlanta, GA (from Droves Vote Early)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fallacy of the Day

"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."
--Carl Sagan

I love this quote, because it highlights a fallacy under which so many of us live. Sorry I can't remember the name of the fallacy. I know it has a name, but we're going to have to use a pseudonym. Let's call it Fred.

I've told the story before of the radio producer I used to work with. He had a sign over his desk which said "A Clean Desk is the Sign of a Sick Mind." Clever, yes. Contains an element of truth, yes.

But because he prided himself on archeological layers of paper and debris on his desk, I often assumed that his interpretation of the sign was the implied reverse. That is, he saw himself as the picture of perfect mental health.

Which, I'm here to tell you, was not the case.

Rents On the Rise

More from the Boston Globe. Is this a national trend?

Thrills, Dread and High Ratings

What should pop up on Google News this morning but this headline from boston.com: "Obama Poised for Landslide?." This incites thrills in fervent Obama supporters and dread in fervent McCain supporters. Among everyone else, there is much more interest than usual.

Tuesday night's election coverage will have the biggest TV audience of any news programming this year. Indeed, since 9/11.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Very Ugly Side to America

Examples of extremism are accumulating as election day approaches. One of the most notorious was last week, reported by the Las Vegas Sun. Their site was bogged down for days following. In case you missed it, here it is.

Theology and Economic Failure

Quote of the day:
“I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.”
--Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve

This is a more-revealing statement than first appears. Greenspan has an eminently reasonable and thoughtful response to the financial crisis and what caused it. There are those who say it's all his fault, because, as always, we need to have someone or something to blame for our problems, especially the serious ones. And he certainly bears significant responsibility.

But there is something much bigger at work, and David Brooks describes it here.

Economic matters are always talked about as a set of rational processes with clear explanations. We attempt to make judgments based on our understanding of these processes. But not really, as it turns out.

We actually make decisions based on our perceptions, which are quite tricky. It is this way in religion, too. We think we are religious or not religious based on rational, thoughtful analysis of some kind. We don't realize that we begin with perceptions involving complex, underlying, unconscious assumptions. What we see we see through these filters.

From a theological standpoint, a key underlying assumption is either "I can trust people" or "I can't trust people." None of us are aware of how our perceptions are shaped unless we examine ourselves honestly.

Alan Greenspan's assumption was "I can trust people"--that is, people and institutions would work efficiently in attempting to make money for themselves and their shareholders.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Evidence We Live in a Golden Age

I was so pleased to learn a few weeks ago that my shaving cream had oatmeal in it. Really. Now I can combine shaving and breakfast.

Saying "No-Yes"

Have you ever noticed that when someone says "Needless to say" they always then say to us what they consider needless to say?

Newspaper Endorsements

Here's an interactive map of newspaper endorsements for President nationwide.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Essential Dilbert, Especially for Unfortunate iPhone Haters

The woman with the triangular hair is my favorite character.

View From Here

Memorable Blog Accusations

We all know that outrageous claims are made and scandalous rumors spread about political candidates on the internet. There's an interesting sort-of summary of those about Obama in this blog post.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

McCain Accidentally Left on Bus

John McCain Accidentally Left On Campaign Bus Overnight

Proposition 8

Proposition 8 is essentially a civil rights matter. If you believe the California constitution should be amended to restrict the legal rights of committed gay and lesbian couples, vote yes. This would not be on the ballot, and the California Supreme Court would not have acted if it were possible for committed gay and lesbian couples to receive equal legal rights as married heterosexual couples. But years of experience has proven it is not possible.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Newspaper in Second-Reddest State Endorses Obama

Yesterday The Salt Lake City Tribune endorsed Obama.

Joe The Plumber is Not a Victim

"We may be fascinated by Wall Street, and bogus yarns like Joe the Plumber’s. But the real story in this country right now is the increasingly dire plight of those heading toward the bottom of that ladder...."

--Bob Herbert, in yesterday's New York Times

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Sage of Omaha Speaks

In the many years I've been reading about Warren Buffett, and reading his Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter (always very entertaining), I've never heard him say what he says in today's New York Times.

A lot of attention has been paid to Buffett over the last few months, especially since he is an advisor to Barack Obama.  He is amusing, self-effacing and, incredibly, manages consistently to both talk and act rationally about investing.

His column is really worth a read.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Daily Observation

"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for - in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it."

--Ellen Goodman (1941 - )

Let's Hear it For Oscar Wilde

Today is his birthday.  A great quote: "The only thing to do with good advice is pass it on.  It is never any use to oneself."

Monday, October 13, 2008

Crackly Dry

The picture is Aurora Borealis over Whiteknife.  Here in San Diego, much of our day has been spectacularly windy and quite dry.  I'm sneezing and my lips are dry.

We are on fire watch, as is most of southern California.

On that note, a bit more dp (disaster preparedness).  The Red Cross (redcross.org) sells a variety of prepackaged dp kits for people like me who don't like to be re-preparing every three months or so.  You can get them for your car, workplace and home.  There are also organizations that sell packaged water that will keep for a few years.

Bit number two: have at least one fire extinguisher and know how to use it (1. Pull, 2. Squeeze).  

Saturday, October 11, 2008

They may not do well in the next several months, but looking ahead two or three years, investors may see some of the best opportunities of their lives

The title is a quote from an interesting article in Barron's.  Number one rule of investing: If you're losing sleep over your investments, something's not right.  This is quite literally an excellent rule.  The idea is to take just enough risk to make you a teeny bit uneasy from time to time.  But you shouldn't be losing sleep, even at times like this.

If you are that fearful or obsessed about your paper losses over the last month, you need to do something.  Maybe it's simply to cal your financial advisor.  Maybe it's to change your allocation.  It's okay to do whatever you need to sleep better.

Remember that, just like at any time, any decision you make now will carry consequences and risks, so be sure to have as clear a picture as you can of what those are.  Also be clear with yourself that your account balance is what you see in front of you--it isn't what it was a month or a year ago.

Stocks may go much lower, or they may bounce around for months.  Or, they may go higher.  No one knows.  Try to be rational, and take the severe doom-and-gloomers with a grain of salt.  Virtually all of them are long-time gloom-and-doomers and, like the proverbial broken clock that is right twice a day, they have now, finally, been right.  This doesn't mean they are correct in what they predict now.

The Barron's piece provides some perspective.  For the supremely rational, there are some interesting opportunities.

Voting Has Consequences

Bob Herbert makes the case for how profoundly and demonstrably wrong conservative Republicans have been over the last 30 years.  At the same time, they have been able to convince a huge number of voters to join their cause.  Read Herbert's piece here.

West-Coast Hurricane

Today Hurricane Norbert is hitting Baja California.  We are in the middle of a world-wide economic crisis.  Governor Schwarzenegger has announced the arrival of our wildfire season this weekend.

Time for a cup of coffee.  Make it a good one.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Disaster Preparedness: Give Me a Break

When I hear the words "Disaster Preparedness," my eyes glaze over.  What inevitably follows the enunciation of these words is the recitation of an impossibly long list of commandments assembled by someone with OCD and too much time on his hands.  To do these things requires a full day's work once a week!

There is always not enough attention to priorities--for example, what is the most important thing to do to get ready?  Do you have any idea?

I'm part of a joint effort by the Episcopal Diocese and the United Methodist Churches of San Diego to both continue to rebuild from October 2007, and to prepare for the 2008 fire season, which is upon us.  So I'll pass along some simple and easy things I've learned.  Just time for one right now.

What is the most important thing to prepare for?  What is the highest-probability "disaster"?  It's a power outage.  In virtually any natural disaster situation, the power will go off, and stay off.  And, of course, we have power outages when there's no natural disaster.  So we need to be prepared for the power to be off for at least three days.

That's enough for now.

Should I Move Everything to Cash?

Excellent piece yesterday in the NY Times considering the temptation that all of us feel to simply sell all investments and put the money in  a mattress or something.  It might feel good, but it's probably a bad idea.  Read it here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

News Mantra of the Day

"Is it going to be enough?"  Referring to the "700 billion dollar bailout."  I have heard this approximately 438 times in the last 48 hours, and I haven't even had the news on that much.

I know the answer, and I think we all do.  The answer is "we don't know."  Nobody knows.  But we keep asking the question, expecting a definite answer.

Right now, books are being written comparing this economic crisis to 1929.  And there are striking similarities.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

I'm Back

What a fine headline that is.  Back, indeed.  My problem is that I set impossibly high standards for myself that I can't keep up with.

Yesterday voting began at the San Diego Registrar's office.  I'm pleased to announce that I am in the process of deciding how I will vote on our propositions.  I plan to vote for everything labeled a "scheme" in a TV spot.  I love schemes.

I will also vote for everything labeled "big."  Especially "big oil."

I also like corrupt politicians.  Call one corrupt, I'll vote for him/her.

I'm also beginning to favor anything using the "Wall Street" label, especially when it is compared to that nasty "Main Street."

This morning on CNN, I was immensely pleased to see an interview with Joe Six-Pack.  The real, actual Joe Six-Pack.  I'm thinking of writing him in.

I always thought the Maverick was a stupendously ordinary compact car from Ford back in the 1970s.

Aren't you glad I'm back?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Fiesta Island, July 7, 2008

More on California United Methodists and Same-Sex Marriage

This is from the United Methodist News Service:

California United Methodists react to same-sex ruling (UMNS)
By Marta W. Aldrich

On the heels of a California Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to same-gender unions, two United Methodist legislative bodies in California have approved gay-friendly statements that are stretching the denominational promise of "open hearts, open doors, open minds." 

The church's California-Pacific Annual Conference, convening June 18-22 in Redlands, approved three measures that support same-gender couples entering into the marriage covenant. Each "encourages both congregations and pastors to welcome, embrace and provide spiritual nurture and pastoral care for these families," according to a June 27 letter to the conference from Bishop Mary Ann Swenson and other conference leaders. 

That same week in Sacramento, the California-Nevada Annual Conference approved two measures on the same issue, including one that lists 67 retired United Methodist clergy in northern California who have offered to conduct same-gender marriage ceremonies. The resolution commends the pastors' work in offering continued ministry. 

The statements are the strongest yet on the issue by California United Methodists and have drawn cheers from gay rights advocates, who say the church and its pastors should extend to same-sex couples the same level of support it provides heterosexual couples. Others say the conferences are on the verge of breaking a Scripturally based covenant with the rest of the 11.5 million-member worldwide denomination. 

The United Methodist Church, while affirming all people as persons "of sacred worth," considers the practice of homosexuality "incompatible with Christian teaching." Its policy book, called the Book of Discipline, prohibits its pastors and churches from conducting ceremonies celebrating homosexual unions. The denominational statements were affirmed last spring during split votes by General Conference, the church's top legislative body. The assembly, which met April 23-May 2, convenes every four years and represents United Methodists worldwide. 

That same month, California's high court overturned a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, making California and Massachusetts the only U.S. states to allow gay couples to marry. California began to issue licenses June 16. For more on this story, log on to http://www.umc.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=lwL4KnN1LtH&b=2433457&ct=5661893.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glastonbury Festival, Somerset, England, June 28th.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The United Methodist Church in Southern California Supports Gay Marriage

The governing law of the United Methodist denomination, The Book of Discipline, says that "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" cannot be ordained as ministers in the church. In addition, it says that UMC ministers may not perform same-sex marriages nor may they be performed in UM churches.

Of course, gay marriage is now legal in California, after the state Supreme Court struck down all laws preventing it. A challenge to this ruling is coming in November, when an initiative will appear on the state ballot to amend the state constitution to outlaw any marriage except those between one man and one woman.

There are many, many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people attending our churches, and there are gay and lesbian ministers who manage to stay below the radar, as in "don't ask, don't tell."

In the midst of this, the California-Pacific Annual Conference last week passed the following three resolutions.


Pastoral Response to Legality of Same-Gender Marriage in California

Whereas many people who we know and love in our parishes are celebrating with overflowing joy the recent California Supreme Court decision to recognize their place in society and their right to be married, and

Whereas beloved same-gender couples in our parishes are coming to us with their desire to celebrate their love and commitment, and to have those affirmed not only by the state but by their faith community as well, and

Whereas the legality of same-sex marriage in California, the needs of our parishes, and the demands of love require a pastoral response from the clergy and congregations of the California-Pacific Annual Conference,

Therefore, be it resolved that we recognize the pastoral need and prophetic authority of our clergy and congregations to offer the ministry of marriage ceremonies for same-gender couples.

Be it further resolved, while we recognize that we are governed by the Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, we support those pastors who conscientiously respond to the needs of their parishes by celebrating same-gender marriages, and we envision compassion and understanding in any resulting disciplinary actions.


Protecting Marriage Equality in California [Opposition to “California Marriage Protection Act”]

Whereas the Book of Discipline 2004 states in ¶162(h) that: “Certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons,” and “We insist that all persons, regardless of age, gender, martial status, or sexual orientation, are entitled to have their human and civil rights ensured,” and

Whereas the 2008 session of the General Conference of the United Methodist Church, held in Fort Worth, Texas, has adopted the resolution titled Opposition to Homophobia and Heterosexism, calling on: “The United Methodist Church strengthen its advocacy of the eradication of sexism by opposing all forms of violence or discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual practice or sexual orientation,” and

Whereas the Supreme Court of the State of California ruled in the case of In re: Marriage Cases (2008), when it struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage, has found the right to marry to be civil right of all citizens, and that “the essence of the right to marry is freedom to join in marriage with the person of one’s choice,” and that “An individual’s sexual orientation – like a person’s race or gender – does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.”

Whereas a so called “California Marriage Protection Amendment” will appear on the November 4, 2008 General Election ballot, seeking to overturn the California Supreme Court decision, and

Whereas this amendment would be a profound misuse of our state constitution for the purpose of restricting the civil rights of one group of citizens, such an amendment would be in direct contradiction of the principles and spirit of the United Methodist Church:

Therefore, be it resolved that the 2008 Session of the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church Opposes the California Marriage Protection Amendment, and calls upon United Methodists in favor of the defeat of this act to work with all their might for its defeat, and

Be it further resolved that we call upon the laity and clergy of our churches in the California-Pacific Annual Conference to answer the call of General Conference by providing a witness against heterosexism and any discrimination based on sexual orientation, and in so doing, to be actively involved in protecting the civil rights of all Californians as they pertain to the right to civil marriage, working through correspondence with elected officials, through public venues such as newspapers, periodicals, radio and television, and the venues offered by the internet, and through other opportunities as they rise.


Affirmation of Marriage Equality in California

On May 15, 2008, The California Supreme Court issued its decision holding that marriage is a basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation. The week the California Pacific Annual Conference 2008 will be in session, history will be made in California as legal marriage becomes available to gay and lesbian couples. Gay and lesbian couples in many of our churches will be married in the weeks and months to come.

Whereas California has led the marriage equality movement, beginning 60 years ago, by striking down laws prohibiting marriage between interracial couples (Perez v. Sharp, 1948);

Whereas on May 15, 2008, the California Supreme Court issued its decision holding that marriage is a basic civil right of personal autonomy and liberty to which all persons are entitled without regard to their sexual orientation; and

Whereas as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, the State of California will begin to license and recognize same-gender marriages on June 16, 2008;

Whereas the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church states that “certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons.” (¶162.H)

Whereas: The United Methodist Church understands family “to be the basic human community through which persons are nurtured and sustained in mutual love, responsibility, respect, and fidelity.” (¶161.A)

Whereas the California Pacific Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church has had a long history of ministry with, by and for lesbians and gay men through which the Holy Spirit has taught us the sacred worth of all persons and our ministries have been shaped accordingly;

Therefore be it resolved that the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church celebrates the Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality;

Be it further resolved that the California-Pacific Annual Conference of the United Methodist church support same-gender couples who enter into the marriage covenant and encourage both congregations and pastors to welcome, embrace and provide spiritual nurture and pastoral care for these families.


A Statement Offered by the Bishop and Cabinet
In response to inquiries regarding same gender marriages
Shared with the Cal-Pac Annual Conference meeting in session in Redlands, CA
Sunday, June 22, 2008

With the change in California law regarding same gender marriages, pastors and congregations have been asking how they can respond. Our Holy Conferencing and action on resolutions at this Annual Conference have sought common ground in this regard. Neither our actions nor the actions of the state of California change the present Discipline of the United Methodist Church. The 2008 General Conference did add clarification that the prohibition against holy unions (Ph 341.6) applies even when same gender marriage is legal. This provision becomes effective in 2009.

The Episcopal office and its extension through the District Superintendents fulfill two roles, pastoral and supervisory (presidential). In the pastoral role we want to affirm that your Bishop and cabinet are available for counsel, encouragement, support, and reflection. In the supervisory or presidential role, we are officers of the church and responsible for upholding the order of the Discipline. Despite our diverse individual perspectives, we are obligated to process complaints arising from breaches of these provisions in a manner appropriate to the circumstances.

In considering pastoral care, rituals and celebrations, pastors and congregations will need to understand the rules, risks and the scope of consequences as well as recognizing the continuum of possible ministries which can be offered.

As we seek to remain in compassionate solidarity with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, this may be a time to promote ecumenical partnerships and a variety of engaging ministries.

Ultimately, the Annual Conference, cabinet and UMC, can not make the decision regarding your course. We can not eliminate risks or consequences or determine your heart or behavior. These decisions reside in the space between you and the call of God. As a cabinet, we will be in prayer for our pastors and congregations as we all seek to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in responding to the heart of Christ as we extend compassion and hospitality to those seeking the sacral agencies of the church.

Monday, June 23, 2008

I Know, I Know, I Know

I've taken an early-summer spontaneous hiatus from "The Daiy Observation," as I'm sure you've noticed. Part of my excuse is that I was away at the Cal-Pac Annual Conference session. It's nice to have an excuse, even if only partly.

I'll be back on board shortly. Thanks for your patience.

In the meantime, repeat after me, "spontaneous hiatus, spontaneous hiatus, spontaneous hiatus."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Soothing Election-Day Jitters

This entry is devoted to a very interesting quote of the day:

"We're just going out to the car to smoke a little and then come back in. It should make the numbers more tolerable.”

That comes from San Diego mayoral candidate Eric Bidwell, asked at midnight on election day if he was leaving election central. He came in fourth.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Are These Moments of Stereotyping or Sexism?

Get Ready!

Quote of the day:
“I finally figured out the only reason to be alive is to enjoy it.”
--Rita Mae Brown

It seems my problem with uploading to Blogger is now solved.  As with many computer problems that simply go away, I'm not sure exactly how it was solved. But I'm glad things are working.

So now I have a backlog of pontification. And we can't have that.

Get ready for a possible onslaught.

Isn't that a great word, "onslaught"?

Object of the Week

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


You may have noticed that posting has been quite erratic over the last week. I have been experiencing technical difficulties in posting videos. As soon as I can devote some time to resolving the problem, we'll be back on track.

Thanks for your understanding!

Fiesta Island, June 3.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Kid Could Paint That

Relief workers resting, Wenchuan county, Sichuan province, China May 23.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Play Ball!

Quote of the day:
“Otis elevator estimates that it transports the equivalent of the world’s population every five days.”
--The New Yorker, April 21

Sherman, our German Shepherd puppy, is more than five months old now. Objectively, I must say he is adorable and very smart.

The house is a mess, but he is adorable and very smart.

Years ago I read somewhere that living with an animal keeps you in constant contact with nature. Once in a while it does dawn on us that there are creatures quite unlike us sharing our home with us. It’s a regular ecosystem. More correctly, it’s an irregular ecosystem.

Most mornings Sherman and I spend time

(I was interrupted here by a trip to the backyard to throw the tennis ball to Sherman.)

As I was saying, most mornings Sherman and I spend time with a tennis ball in the backyard. Lots of dogs love to chase tennis balls. Sophie, our 5-year-old German Shepherd mix, loves it.

Some dogs even bring the ball back, and a few will even give it to you. Sophie brings it back about half the time and then drops it when and where she gets distracted. For Sophie, the fun is in the chase.

Sherman brings the ball back every time, in a very curious way. He takes a meandering route, and will usually pause along the way to drop the ball and pick it up. He seems to be trying to hide it from himself, so he can go about finding it again. He’s been known to dig a hole, drop it in, and paw the ball in the hole for a while.

He sometimes will stand on the edge of our canyon, drop it, and watch it roll down the side. Our canyon now contains approximately 83 tennis balls. By the way, the best source for cheap tennis balls is Sears Essentials. They’re about 30 cents apiece there. That’s right. $24 worth of tennis balls in the canyon. Geez, having a dog is expensive.

I’ve noticed recently that Sherman is not chasing the ball. Rather, he carefully watches where I throw it, and then he goes and finds it. When he can’t find it, he goes into search mode and will not stop until he finds it. He also loves to engage with Merrie or me in finding the ball.

It’s an incredible feeling to have a dog work with me to do something. I’m not used to it.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Iron Man

Quote of the day:
“White criminals commit the biggest crimes. A brother might rob a bank. A white man will rob a pension fund. The brother is going to get ten to fifteen years because he had a gun. The white guy will get a Congressional hearing because he had a job and a nice suit.”
--Wanda Sykes

“Iron Man” is not what you’d expect. Yes, it’s a movie based on a comic book. But the movie is much more than that.

Watching the first ten minutes makes you think this is a story about the war in Afghanistan. Really. There’s not a tinge of goofy setup in it.

Robert Downey Jr. is terrific. He takes the tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of George Clooney’s Batman about ten steps further. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud (LOL) moments that are not just for kids. Unlike Trix.

Jeff Bridges is perfectly cast, and clearly relishes what he’s doing.

The director is Jon Favreau, who made and starred in the now-classic “Swingers.” He does something that’s hard to find in the movies. He integrates future technology in a way that is both fascinating and realistic.

I had a lot of fun watching such things as Downey manipulating an interactive holographic image. I don’t know how that technology will work for us in the future, but it’s reasonable to think we’ll see it someday. Indeed, it may already be happening somewhere.

Technology is a full-fledged character in this film, and it’s a very entertaining one. How many movies can you say that about? Usually technology is used as a platform to demonstrate the talents of the filmmaker and thus it winds up being over-the-top-whiz-bang-wowee-give-me-a-headache.

Not here. Favreau has shown a knowing and deft touch with all the dozens of advanced devices.

It all makes “Iron Man” a good time at the movies.

Note: when you go see it, be sure to stay until after the credits. There’s another scene there.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to read all 300 names in the credits. Whew, an awful lot of people worked on this!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Video: Is Credit Crisis Over?

Obama, Clinton

Quote of the day:
“It’s easy to be generous with other people’s money.”
--Preston Creston

There’s now a 99.9% chance that Barack Obama will win the Democratic nomination. Until last night there was a chance for Clinton to wind up ahead in the overall popular vote (including Florida), which may have persuaded enough super delegates her way to swing the nomination.

But that’s not possible anymore. The electability question won’t overshadow the clear lead Obama will have at the end of the primaries.

Hillary Clinton may be on the ticket as vice president. Everyone has strong but mixed feelings about this--especially her supporters and Obama’s. But it’s an intriguing prospect, as even Andrew Sullivan admits. (I’d provide the link to his popular blog, except it seems to have degenerated into an obsession with his half-hourly neuronal twitches.)

There was a politically poignant moment this morning as former Senator George McGovern switched his endorsement from Clinton to Obama. Working on his 1972 presidential campaign was Clinton’s entry into politics, and Bill was active in that campaign. I’m sure it was a hard conversation that McGovern had with Bill and Hillary.

I responded to this because that was the first election in which I voted, and I also worked in the McGovern campaign.

My mind also wanders into thinking how much better off the country would have been had McGovern won in 1972, thus sparing us of the scandal and constitutional crisis of Nixon’s second term.

It’s a long time ago now, and yet many of the issues of that 1972 campaign--especially peace and economic security--are still with us in 2008.

And we still look ahead with hope that we can find answers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

American Idol

Quote of the day:
“I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from them. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.”
--John Wayne. (Don’t mention this quote in Orange County or you will immediately be arrested.)

A deadly storm in Myanmar, a world grain crisis, political conflict in Zimbabwe, a presidential primary in Indiana and North Carolina, suicide bombings in Iraq.

And all America is saying to itself, “It’s going to be David versus David in the ‘American Idol’ finale.”

Indeed, let’s get down to the real news. There are four contestants left: two strong ones and two weaker ones. Surely Syesha will be going home this week or next.

And so will Jason, in spite of his “adorable, sensitive, childlike, reggae-guy” thing. These compelling traits evidently have managed to disguise only a passable singing ability and what seems to be either a confused or a cooly ironic disinterest in the competition. Is he stoned or what? He’s a regular shadow of Sanjaya.

Though, fortunately, just a shadow. And not of your smile. Or anyone’s smile.

Overall, “American Idol” has been stronger this year, in both the singing ability of the contestants (yes, Carly went home too early--there are not enough voters for woman rockers) and in the quality of the production. I’d say about three out of four shows this season have been quite entertaining--compared to past years’ average of one out of two.

I like David Archuletta. His voice is truly amazing. Imagine a 17-year-old with a gift like that. He is extraordinary, and I hope he finds his way into a great career.

David Cook is the favorite to win. While his voice is not as singular as the other David, he is more versatile. He is a natural on-stage performer, and he has a strong creative gift for choosing and arranging songs. These are intuitive things that can’t be taught.

He’s probably quite a good songwriter, too. I’m sure we’ll get a chance to hear his original work sometime in the next year.

Four to go.

Or, more correctly, three to go and one to stay.

Video: Myanmar Cyclone

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The King of Kong

Quote of the day:
“Where have all the cowboys gone?”
--Paula Cole

I was sure “The King of Kong” was going to be about nerd obsession. It turns out this is just a piece of it. And not the most interesting piece.

This is a documentary about the people vying to be the world-record holder in Donkey Kong. Remember Donkey Kong? It was a long time ago. Along with Pac-Man and a few others, it was one of the most-popular video games in the 80s.

Though Donkey Kong is quite crude by today’s game standards, it still is among the most popular games.

The primary contenders here are not youngsters. The youngest looked to be about 35, and the others are past 40. A woman vying for the title in another game was in her 70s. While they all occasionally seemed to be having fun, they really take this stuff seriously.

The last time I remember playing Donkey Kong I lasted about a minute. To approach the scores of these people requires playing 2 1/2 hours. On one quarter.

That’s obsession. Obsession. Obsession. Obsession.

My eyes get blurry just thinking of staring at a game for that long.

Having said all this, “The King of Kong” is not really about “Kong.” It’s about “who is king?” The politics, manipulation and subterfuge caught me off guard--and really got me involved with these characters.

It’s a very interesting and surprisingly intriguing film. I highly recommend renting it.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Kindle

Quote of the day:
“People do more of what’s convenient and friction-free.”
--Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.com

Six months ago Amazon introduced an electronic book reader called Kindle. It has been very popular. For a while they were having trouble keeping up with demand.

As much as I am interested in the applications of technology, I’ve always been very skeptical of devices on which you can read books. Most are hard on the eyes and emphasize technology over the actual reading experience.

I do love getting news and information from the internet, especially since page layouts have become more intuitive and attractive. There’s a hitch to this, though.

Even with a bright and sharp monitor, it can be quite tedious to read anything long. I think the internet is built for browsing. Hence the “browser.” And it’s built for referencing.

Images, sound and video are important tools on the web. These three things are irrelevant in the average book. Novels, poetry and non-fiction may contain black-and-white illustrations, but that’s about it.

I’ve always considered reading a book a unique experience. I wouldn’t consider reading a book on the web. It’s never entered my mind to even try it.

For the same reasons I would also not consider reading a book on my iPhone, or any PDA. It’s a little-bitty screen, and I would be fumbling with it so much it would distract from the experience.

Book lovers say things like “there’s nothing like the feel of a book.” They talk about its portability, and a vague connection felt with the author through the physical pages. All of this is true.

From everything I’ve read about Kindle, it succeeds admirably in replicating key parts of the “book experience.” The screen is practically identical to a printed page--black on white with a high resistance to glare. Very easy on the eyes--and you can enlarge the text.

Owners seem to love the chance to carry around a few dozen books with them. And they rave how easy it is to preview, buy and load books directly onto the Kindle from anywhere. The size and weight of it are just about ideal--roughly the same as a paperback. You can highlight and make notes in the margins.

Evidently, there are a couple of major drawbacks. While more than 100,000 books are available, when Merrie went searching for many of the books she wanted to read, most were not available. I suppose this will be remedied over time as Amazon secures more rights.

More unfortunate is that the design of the keys on the device is clunky and not intuitive. Many owners complain about accidently turning pages, or having to fish around for the “home” key which takes you back to your list of books. They also complain about the time lag when turning pages, and the menu functions in the software design.

Amazon is the biggest book seller in the world. They know about books. They are not hardware or software designers.

I think a device like this is in our future, and is a very good idea for many reasons, personally and ecologically. I give Jeff Bezos a huge amount of credit for the work done on this product. It’s also admirable that one of Amazon’s (huge) goals is to increase the attention span of Americans. Kudos for that. (I don’t use the word “props” yet.)

Wouldn’t it be interesting if Amazon worked in partnership with Apple to get the design right?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Vonnegut Wisdom

Quote of the day:
“Maximize demand, minimize supply and buy the rest from the people who hate us the most.”
--Peter Schwartz of Global Business Network, describing America’s energy policy in today’s New York Times.

Quote of the day no. 2:
“Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.”
--Kurt Vonnegut

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I am guilty. I do this. I admit it.

This is to be distinguished from mea gulpa, which means “I drink my beer too fast.”

“Everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.” This is played out in all kinds of ways.

At our jobs, we try to do just the fun staff--planning, researching, “strategizing”--and farm out the real work to those who work for us. Let the assistant do it. Then the assistant can hire an assistant to do it. Welcome to government work.

If we have to do too much everyday stuff, or if we can’t move up in the organization, we get bored.

At home, we want to continually change things and remodel. When it comes to just taking care of what we have, it’s yawn city.

A fascinating corollary to this is spending weeks and lots of money to fix up a room or a back yard and then only using it a couple hours a month. This boils down to spending more time preparing it and taking care of it than enjoying it.

There may be a direct analogy to the theological cliche “everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.” Then again, maybe they just sound the same.

The more-appropriate theological analogy may be the being/doing comparison in stories such as that of Mary and Martha. Martha couldn’t stop busying herself when Jesus was around, while Mary simply was there.

Something to think about. Or not. Whatever. I’m bored. Time to go mess something up so I can rebuild it.

Video: Mazda Destroying 4,700 Brand-New Cars

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Key Identity: College or Not?

Quote of the day:
“In Pennsylvania, Obama did everything conceivable to win over Clinton’s working-class voters. The effort was a failure. The great uniter failed to unite. In this election, persuasion isn’t important. Social identity is everything. Demography is king.”
--David Brooks, in today’s New York Times

David Brooks’ column today points out a gradual yet profound demographic and cultural shift that’s happened in the U.S. since the 1950s. It’s worth spending a couple minutes reading it, if you haven’t already.

He suggests that the social hierarchy that was present for many generations has given way to an education hierarchy.

Due to the fact that there is now such a large percentage of college graduates, they are forming a sort of tribal cohort and making life decisions accordingly. So are those with no college degree.

While there is little conflict between these groups, there is a certain common worldview that is prevalent among the well-educated, and another among the less-educated, Brooks says.

These two groups supersede anything regional, though they tend to live in separate parts of cities and counties. They are, in effect, distinct tribes.

In the Presidential campaign we endlessly hear about “black and white,” “working class and elites,” “rich and poor,” “urban and rural,” “women and men,” “young and old” and so forth.

It’s very interesting to consider that the real determinant may be “college degree or no college degree.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Tax Rebate is in the Mail

Quote of the day:
“[The reality show] ‘The Hills’ isn’t aiming to stimulate or inspire; I think people watch it mostly to figure out why they’re watching it.”
--Nancy Franklin, The New Yorker, April 21

Well, well, well. This week most of us will be getting a cash gift from our government. Isn’t that special?

I’m not about to send ours back, but this is a bit of a lame idea. This tax rebate is based on the premise that we need encouragement to spend money. I don’t know about you, but I have no problem spending money, thank you very much.

I suspect that most Americans also have no such problem. For those who do, or who are congenitally parsimonious, what makes anyone think a sudden cash infusion is going to change them? I don’t get it.

Yes, I know, “economists” say we are strapped, and have no money to spend. After in-depth analysis and discussion, they have concluded that If we just had some money, we would spend it.

We can certainly hope the equation is this easy. But I suspect most of us have gotten past the stage of getting 50 cents from Mom and buying a candy bar with it.

We’ll see.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


Quote of the day:
“If we’ve learned any new rule in the 2008 campaign, it’s this: Once our news culture sets a story in stone, chances are it will crumble. But first it must be recycled louder and louder 24/7, as if sheer repetition will transmute conventional wisdom into reality.”
--Frank Rich, in today’s New York Times

When you’re done reading this, go to your Netflix queue and add “Young@Heart.” Even better, find a theatre showing it and plan to go today or tomorrow. Don’t put it off.

This is the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long, long time. I was glad to see it in a theatre so I could enjoy others enjoying the film, too.

It’s a documentary about a group of seniors who perform rock music together. I know, it sounds corny with a high potential for condescension and sap.

But there is no condescension or sap, and what corn there is is deliberate and self-aware. This movie is a joy.

There is a variety of singing talent among the members. It is amazing and a hoot to watch a 92-year-old recite “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the Clash with an authentic knowingness. At another moment in the film, as an 80-year-old began to sing the Talking Heads’ “Life During Wartime” for the first time, Merrie leaned over to me and said “he’s channeling David Byrne!” And he was!

I just used the word “authentic.” “Young@Heart” is so appealingly authentic--we meet these people as they are, and as they discover joy and creativity within themselves. Then they share it with an audience who goes wild and brings the house down.

There is also sadness in the film, and it is treated straightforwardly, without either playing it up or playing it down. It is real and poignant.

The word “poignant” is not in Hollywood dictionaries these days, and this film about defines it.

The other word that perfectly fits this film is “fun.” It was on the screen and in the theatre.

These are funny, real people who love to have fun, and it is the fulfilling purpose for their lives.

Mark your Oscar ballot now. Best Documentary. No one else need apply.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Quote of the day:
“I think she wants us to follow her.”
--A response to Lassie on the TV show of the same name.

Quote of the day no. 2:
“I think she’s just whining.”
--A response to Lassie never heard on the TV show.

“Faithless” is directed by Liv Ullman from a script written by Ingmar Bergman. You could call it a Bergman epilogue. The movie is about as close to Bergman as you can get without actually being Bergman. It’s a laugh a minute.

Those Swedes, they’re so much fun.

Most of the time I have a single opinion about a film--it’s either good, ok or lousy. But I have two opinions about “Faithless.”

On the one hand it is a unique, powerful and real emotional journey. The movie’s description says that it’s based on a real incident in Bergman’s life.

The acting is superb, and it is on display in beautifully shot, carefully crafted scenes that are long with no camera movement. As usual with Bergman, the movie has the feel of theatre. Up-close theatre.

This sort of intense and intelligent character study has just about disappeared from American movies, so it’s refreshing to come across a good film that is so single-mindedly about character.

I’ve always liked Bergman. Especially his earlier, funnier films. Just kidding.

I have to admit that I can’t watch “The Seventh Seal” without cracking up over the many parodies of it, and Woody Allen’s allusions to it in his films.

The fact is that Bergman will still be watched and appreciated in 100 years, while every film in theatres this weekend will be a smelly vapor in the ozone layer.

My second opinion about “Faithless” can be summed up as: “Give me a break, Liv.” The movie is way too long at 2 1/2 hours. Bergman’s unique vision could carry a film that long, but Ullman has a problem here.

It’s as if she’s decided one way to give homage to Bergman is to make a 2 1/2 hour film. The story certainly doesn’t demand that length--many things are never explained or even described. Of course, except for the basic outline, the plot is not important here--as it was never important to Bergman.

It is rather about emotional stories, and they are always both unclear and deeply felt. Putting those timeless kinds of stories on the screen was Bergman’s gift, and his enduring magic.

I suggest renting this and watching about the first 90 minutes. Take a break and see if you want to watch the rest. Maybe you will.

Better yet, rent “Wild Strawberries”--a very very fine Bergman film that especially speaks to anyone over 50.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

America's Number One Issue

Quote of the day:
“Ignorance in the United States is not just bliss, it’s widespread. A recent survey of teenagers by the education advocacy group Common Core found that a quarter could not identify Adolf Hitler, a third did not know that the Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of speech and religion, and fewer than half knew that the Civil War took place between 1850 and 1900.”
--Bob Herbert in yesterday’s New York Times.

Quote of the day no. 2:
“When I compare our high schools with what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our work force of tomorrow.”
--Bill Gates

Education is one of our “been there, done that” issues. We hear statements like those of Bill Gates and columnist Bob Herbert and we think, “Yeah, yeah, ok. We’ve heard this before about a gazillion times. I guess we just can’t do anything about it.”

And it seems we really can’t. We just keep getting stuck in the political mud. Significant change in our schools requires both more funding and consensus. Both of these have proved impossible so far.

More funding is impossible because there is nowhere for that funding to come from. There are too many other urgent spending priorities, and raising taxes is politically unpopular.

Consensus is impossible because of long-standing entrenchment of three groups: reform-minded administrators, teachers and activist parents.

The only way any of this will change is if we can free ourselves from the mud in which we are stuck.

What is the mud? It is us. It is our apathy and indifference.

If we were to simply insist on change and take responsibility for it, things would begin to change. There are a number of examples of successful schools that can serve as models.

We can look to them for leadership and help, or we can face the consequences.

Interesting, Unusual Russian Perspective on Democratic Primary

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Oil Highest, Dollar Lowest

Quote of the day:
“ There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey.”
--John Ruskin

I woke up this morning to news that oil is at $119, an all-time high, and that the dollar is at .62 euros, an all-time low.

It sounds like a broken record. Yet what makes this news is the relentlessness of these moves. Oil has been at or around all-time highs for the last four months. The dollar has been at or around all-time lows for more than a year.

There is no sign that either direction will change any time soon. The current surge in the oil price is partly due to a disruption in the supply coming from Nigeria. This is a short-term effect, which means that oil’s price will likely back off a bit after a while.

But the key words in that sentence are “a bit.” As always, there will be choppiness in oil prices. One day the price will be down a few dollars, the next week it will be up a few dollars. Or vice-versa.

But it is untenable to suggest that oil prices are “going back down.” Yes, in the short term, they probably will. The long-term trend, however, is inexorably higher. And eventually MUCH higher, as China’s and India’s economic development continues to accelerate.

Indeed, we are headed for an oil crisis in the coming years. There will come a point when world oil production cannot possibly keep up with both current needs and the needs of millions of new drivers and hundreds of new industrial companies. We don’t know when this crisis will happen, but it will happen.

The dollar will keep sinking as long as the primary direction of interest rates is down. A very weak currency is part of the price we pay to give ourselves cheap credit to buy what we want, and to help prevent businesses from having to scale back.

Everything has a price. Everything has a consequence.

Another Primary Day

Quote of the day:
“ The reason lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place is that the same place isn't there the second time.”
--Willie Tyler

Well, at long, long last, today is the Pennsylvania primary. Watching the news these last few weeks, it sometimes seems as if nothing else is going on nationally.

The voting patterns will be interesting to watch. It’s possible for Barack Obama to pretty much have the nomination sewed up. Most likely, though, we’ll continue to see continuing mini-dramas until election day in November. That’s 6 1/2 months from now. Oh, boy.

I really hope some entertaining things happen, because the issues are getting a little tiresome.

That sounds ridiculous, but I mean it. All three of the candidates have developed positions on just about everything meaningful. Sometimes their proposals are detailed and very insightful. And very necessary.

The tiresomeness comes from incessant repetition, and from efforts to be very certain and increasingly precise in forecasts and calculations. Any level of precision in knowing how much something will cost, or what the effects of any proposal might be, is impossible for any candidate.

Doing this is very difficult for those whose job it is to manage the government. Hearing someone running for President say emphatically that either tax cuts or any program is going to be paid for through cutting “waste” (or “pork-barrel spending”) or some other manipulation of the budget is a stretch at best.

Yet all three candidates are doing this, because it’s what they think we want to hear. Maybe some of us do.

What is very, very clear is that the Iraq war costs something like $200 million a day. And interest on the national debt costs us about $650 million a day. We are much deeper in debt than we were seven years ago.

I’ve heard just one of the candidates talk about this.

But is this trend going to change?