Friday, March 24, 2017

Checking Out

(Graphic from Paragon)
The human animal is, of course, more complex than one-dimensional economic man. Nevertheless, economic motivations are powerful and often are the principal driving force for behavior. The high cost of housing is finally turning the tide on Bay Area population movement. [bold added]
the number of people moving out has begun to catch up with the number moving in, new census data show.

In fact, in some parts of the Bay Area — including Santa Clara, San Mateo and Marin counties — already more people are leaving than arriving, according to the estimates released Thursday, which cover the period from July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2016...

“Job growth has slowed, and that leads to a lessening in demand to live in the Bay Area,” said Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California who had not seen the new census figures. “But it’s not like we’re having outright job losses or increasing unemployment. That’s not happening.” [snip]

“The key here is being able to afford to live in the Bay Area,” said Johnson. “Jobs and housing are really the primary criteria driving people’s decisions. It’s kind of a balancing act between the two. If jobs predominate, people are moving in. If housing predominates, you have less people moving in.”
The Bay Area is not...yet...Hotel California, where "You can checkout any time you like, But you can never leave."

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Just Show Your Cards Already

Representative Adam Schiff, the ranking Member (top Democrat) on the House Intelligence Committee, said yesterday about the rumored Russia-Trump connection:
“I don’t want to go into specifics, but I will say that there is evidence that is not circumstantial and is very much worthy of investigation, so that is what we ought to do,” Schiff said.
I don't know about you, dear reader, but I'm fed up with dark hints of Russian election interference, influence and collusion, "evidence" that may or may not exist, the leaking by Trump opponents and a possible cover-up by the Trump Administration.

Let's follow the lead of that great American game, poker, and have everyone show their cards. And if Representative Schiff is obeying laws that enjoin him from revealing what he knows because the information is classified, let's have President Trump declassify everything so people can talk about it.

And don't hide behind "it will reveal sources and methods" because adversaries know more about American spycraft than the American public does anyway.

Let the chips fall where they may.

If the Fall Doesn't Kill You, the Bathtub Will

Amidst the clamor over fake news and alternative facts, here's a government statement (in bold) that's 100% fake, no matter what your political opinions.
A lawyer representing the family of dead Russian whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky was in a serious condition after a fall from a four-story building ahead of a key court appearance, Mr. Magnitsky’s former employer said Wednesday.

The lawyer, Nikolai Gorokhov, 53, was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday to argue that new evidence was grounds to reopen the case into the death of Mr. Magnitsky, who was found dead in prison in 2009 with broken fingers and bruises all over his body. [Blogger's Note: "Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Mr. Magnitsky died of heart failure."]

Russian state media said Mr. Gorokhov fell late Tuesday out of the building window together with the bathtub he was helping workers carry to his apartment.
Defenestration of Prague (Lego Interpretation)
I luckily read the following after I had swallowed my coffee:
The Interfax news agency said the incident was caused by unsafe handling of the tub and that law enforcement agencies weren’t investigating foul play.
He survived:
Mr. Gorokhov was in intensive care in a serious condition, but that he was responsive and speaking to doctors.
The doctors would be advised to stay away from windows.

BTW, next year will be the 400th anniversary of the Defenestration of Prague.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

To Your Liking

(Graphic from Florida politics)
The controversy over sanctuary cities has each side arguing the moral superiority of its own position. One result is certain: the conflict between Federal and Local law enforcement has left the bad guys opportunities to exploit.

For example, if I were engaged in street sales of illegal drugs in San Francisco, I would have as many undocumented immigrants as possible working for me. If they were arrested, San Francisco police, following Administrative Code Section 12I.3. Restrictions on Law Enforcement Officials, will detain suspects for ICE only if they have committed violent felonies. Because of the explicitly declared policy of non-cooperation, SF police are especially motivated to release non-violent offenders as quickly as possible. My runners would be freed post-haste.

Legal residents or even citizens can also find this policy to their liking. If a bad-guy-citizen were accused of, say, breaking and entering, he could affect his most fractured, accented English and have a friend inform ICE that he was in county lockup. (Of course, it helps to have the right surname.) Either his act will be convincing to the locals who will release him before ICE arrives, or Immigration will take him away, whereupon he will produce the proper papers and again be released.

Hey, bad guys, come to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or maybe anywhere in the State of California . Whether or not you have papers, you will find our state to your liking.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Rich Live Longer, Too

David Rockefeller in 1981, when he retired as Chairman
of Chase Manhattan Bank (WSJ photo)
When John D. Rockefeller was born in 1839, Martin Van Buren was President. The Civil War was still 22 years away, and there were only 26 States.

John D. Rockefeller's last surviving grandchild, David Rockefeller, died yesterday at the age of 101.

John D. Rockefeller was by some measures the richest man in history. Not only did he bequeath immense wealth to his descendants, he apparently blessed them with genes of extraordinary longevity. John D. died at the age of 97.

The American experiment isn't as old as it seems.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Honolulu Chinatown

The Cultural Plaza, built in the 1970's, never did spark
a much desired urban renewal in Chinatown
In the 1950's my grandmother would often take me to Chinatown. The friendly shopkeepers would give me a piece of candy or char siu (roast pork). I would stare at the live chicken that grandmother picked out, destined for slaughter in her back yard. (When I first saw a cleaned, de-feathered, and refrigerated chicken it was a wonder, as well as expensive.) The last stop was Char Hung Sut, where we would pick up noodles, rice cake, and manapua (pork buns). Chinatown was always colorful but never upscale....until now.

The lei shops on Maunakea St. are still there (WSJ photo)
Per the WSJ - Honolulu's Chinatown is "newly hip":
New owners are taking over nondescript spaces and tearing down the stained drop ceilings to create tall, airy spaces; ripping up the worn linoleum and smoothing the concrete floors underneath. They’re also expanding the area’s offerings, peddling everything from moules frites (at the bistro Grondin) to Italian linen dresses (at Echo & Atlas), as well as sophisticated Hawaiian wares.
I'll check it out on my next trip, and it looks like I'll have to save up, too.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Continence Shifting

Pope Francis said that the Catholic Church may allow the ordination of married men:
he might consider ordaining married men who could work in rural areas where there are few priests...he said married men who are already involved in the church — called “viri probati” — could be useful....The idea of viri probati is an old one, but recent strains on the Catholic Church have brought renewed attention to it, the AFP reported. Countries such as Brazil have large Catholic populations but few priests, so some people have been looking for ways to expand the clergy’s ranks.
Married Episcopal clergy have become Catholic priests under Pope John Paul II's "Pastoral Provision". Sometimes whole Episcopal congregations convert along with their ministers:
On January 1, 2012 the Vatican expanded the Pastoral Provision by creating a special nationwide diocese, similar to the Archdiocese for the Military, called an “ordinariate” through which Episcopal priests and their entire congregations can enter the Roman Catholic Church.

So far [note: the article was written in 2012], the special diocese has seven parishes. One of the most active is in Scranton, Pennsylvania, led by a young Catholic priest who is married with seven children.
If enough exceptions are granted, then the fundamental principle will be questioned. The centuries-long mandate for priestly celibacy may vanish more quickly than most of us thought.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

They Deserve a Break Today

On Thursday the person in charge of McDonald's Twitter account seemed to have a brain [freeze]:

Gullible commenters of both the left and right praised and dissed Mickey D's for its impertinent tweet. The Twitter post is obviously a fake or the result of a hack. Large public companies don't risk alienating a good portion of their customers by making political remarks, however strongly some executives might feel toward expressing themselves in such a manner. (They might chance it as individuals, but that would kill a shot at a promotion.)

McDonald’s mostly stays out of politics, declining to comment publicly on administration policies that could affect the restaurant industry, deferring comment to the industry’s trade group.
It's not clear, by the way, that McDonald's management has a monolithic political view. According to the The Center for Media and Democracy [bold added]
" McDonald's political action committee (PAC) spent a total of $1,071,627, including $735,875 to individual candidates, at the federal level in the 2014 election cycle. Of candidate contributions, 55 percent went to Republicans and 45 percent to Democrats.")
McDonald's followed shortly with a claim that it was hacked:

To its credit McDonald's got out in front of the controversy early. It was also lucky that there wasn't more mischief done.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Concert Privileges

Bill Graham, 1931-1991 (Chronicle photo)
If Starship, successor to Jefferson Starship, in turn the successor to Jefferson Airplane, "built this city on rock and roll", it was promoter Bill Graham who built rock and roll in the City:
he rose to prominence during the Summer of Love, having brought Jefferson Airplane to the Fillmore in 1966, the first show under his new company, Bill Graham Presents. He also helped launch the careers of such artists as Janis Joplin and Big Brother & the Holding Company as well as the Grateful Dead.
During the 1970's Mrs. Blogger took her first job at Bill Graham Presents. Well-known musicians often dropped by the offices at 10th & Harding, hardly meriting a glance from the overworked staff. There would be opportunities enough to see them perform from backstage.

Decades later, the line-ups for BGP's Oakland Coliseum Days on the Green seem incredible (examples: The Who and The Grateful Dead appeared together, as did Fleetwood Mac and Peter Frampton, in 1976). The music lasted all day.

And then the moment was gone.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

With Flowers on Our Brain

The Chronicle's Special Edition
The Chronicle commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

In 1967 an estimated 100,000 hippies and young people who aspired to be like them converged on San Francisco for months of music and partying. There was also another side. The "squalid" reality
of kids living on the streets like refugees, panhandling for food, a sudden epidemic of speed and toxic psychedelics laced with animal tranquilizer (and worse) left something to be desired for many.
The glory of the Summer of Love lives on in the selective memory of baby boomers, who 50 years later can be seen on the corner of Haight and Ashbury taking snapshots of their children and grandchildren. (For the record your humble blogger was barely in high school, 2,000 miles away.)

(Chronicle photo)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

California: The Government We Deserve

Do you know the way to (Lake) San Jose? (Chron photo)
If we have about a quarter of an inch of rain by July, it will be California's wettest year. [bold added]
According to Golden Gate Weather Services, this year’s rainy season, going back to July, has seen just 0.27 inches less than the record-setting 28.30 inches of rain that had fallen — on average across the state — at this point in the soggy 1968-69 rain year.

Meanwhile, precipitation in the northern Sierra, which is crucial to the state’s fickle water supply, is tracking ahead of any previous year. As of Thursday, an average 77.8 inches of precipitation had fallen between Mount Shasta and Lake Tahoe since Oct. 1 — about 212 percent of average for the period, according to the state Department of Water Resources.
The good water news may well continue:
Federal forecasters said Thursday that the chances of an El NiƱo developing by fall are on the rise — now between 50 and 55 percent —an outlook that could skew the odds in favor of yet another wet winter.
Oroville spillway: we don't even maintain
the dams we do have (Chron photo)
The drought is over, but it would have been nice if California had built dams or reservoirs to store all this excess water for a not-rainy day.
Now, California is experiencing near-record rain and snowfall. Had the state simply completed its half-century-old water master plan, dozens of new reservoirs would now be storing the runoff, ensuring that the state could be drought-proof for years.

Instead, more than 20 million acre-feet of precious water have already been released to the sea. There is nowhere to put it, given that California has not built a major reservoir in nearly 40 years....

Governors who cannot build a reservoir have little business fantasizing about 200-mph super trains.
When California experiences another water shortage in 3, 5, or 10 years officials will blame carbon emissions that cause climate change that cause the drought. And Californians will accept the fines for watering lawns and washing cars, because the water shortage will be all our fault.

We get the government we deserve.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

No Safe Spaces for the Wealthy and Powerful

Steve Kerr and Andre Iguodala (SI Photo)
Golden State Warriors veteran Andre Iguodala was fined $10,000 for the following comment: [bold added]
Asked in Minnesota if he had known before the game whether he would rest Saturday against San Antonio, Iguodala said, “Nope, no clue. I do what master say.”
To longtime followers of the Warriors Andre Iguodala clearly was not speaking maliciously; by all reports coach Steve Kerr has a great relationship with the players, and Mr. Iguodala was making a lighthearted reference to the historical white-black power relationship. (By the way, Steve Kerr makes $5 million a year, while Andre Iguodala's salary for the current season is $11 million.)

In the modern era everything one says can be put under a microscope (or be captured by a super-sensitive listening device). Close friends of different racial, religious, etc. groups can make joshing comments to each other that, taken out of context, sound inflammatory to those who become outraged at the drop of a bad-sounding syllable.

Your humble blogger has been on the giving and receiving end of these interactions in high school and college with people who are still friends; thank goodness he went to school then, for he and they would be suspended today.

Steve Kerr's reaction:
“I wasn’t the slightest bit offended. He’s got a very cryptic sense of humor. The only thing I would say is there’s certain humorous things you should say in the sanctity of the locker room and certain humorous things you might want to keep from the media. That was one of them, and he knows it.”
People who are wealthy and powerful deserve safe spaces, too.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Reporting is Necessary

From 2013: $15 beer in a Waikiki bar.
From the Sunday Chronicle: Hawaii: The next craft beer paradise?

With "fake news" widespread, I'll have to head back to the Islands soon to check out this information first hand.

Having been over-exposed to the fruit from a two-summers stint in the now-defunct Dole Cannery, I'll skip the Pineapple Mana Wheat beer, however.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Change in Climate

The Reverend Anna B. Lange-Soto, who is the Vicar of the Episcopal Church's Spanish-speaking congregation on the Peninsula, spoke to us for over an hour. Her focus was about recent difficulties her congregation is facing with stepped-up immigration enforcement.

Mother Anna's comments
People felt safer under President Obama, who deported criminals but for the most part left other undocumented immigrants alone.

President Trump says that deporting criminals is the top priority but ICE has behaved as if everyone is fair game.

25% of Latinos in the area are undocumented.

How to support undocumented immigrants:
Use churches as a sanctuary; ICE so far has not raided church property.

"Rapid response": show up when ICE is conducting a raid. Being present as a witness and/or recording their actions will influence agents' behavior.

Accompany people to court hearings. A show of support from the community may affect the outcome.

Demonstrate at the Richmond ICE detention facility on the first Saturday of every month.

Advocate changes to immigration law through elected representatives.

Blogger's comment:
As individuals we can subscribe to any of Mother Anna's recommendations, but if we are acting under the auspices of the church, we must consider the differing political views of all members as well as the constraints under which religious organizations operate. I suspect that our assistance will end up short of advocacy but long on basic human needs such as food, shelter, education, and medical care.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Binders Full of Tax Instructions

I'm a long-time subscriber to tax professionals' (don't try this at home!) software, and the pages in the manuals have ratcheted up every year.

The height of the stack has now reached six inches; the publisher has advised that this is the last year that it will send out a printed copy.

Financial consultants tell us that people spend less if they had to pay cash for everything.

Betcha we'd have a lot fewer regulations, rulings, and even laws if we had to look them up on paper. Just saying...