Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

In the press of other things, I missed posting a poem last Wednesday. Such is life, and fate. Today's entry deals with these kinds of ideas. I'll admit I'm a romantic: I believe in true love,and happily ever after.

But . . .

When love and fate mesh, it is a wondrous thing. But so much can go wrong, even if we are careful. Here is a wistful look at love, destiny, and the vagaries of fate.

THE SUBSTITUTE

There are those whose lives are meant to be entwined,
Lovers thrust together by the force of destiny,
When choice and fate converge, that they may be
Connected at the soul, the heart, the mind.

Within their closed circumference one can find

Two curves in perfect fit -- his yang, her yin,
That in each cycle once again begin
To cluster into love's sweet spiral bind.

But consider -- if in the vast span of infinity

One of them becomes displaced in small degree;
Is born a decade late, perhaps is sent
To the farthest corner of the continent --

The distant echo of an unfelt touch, an unseen face.

Who will be the one who comes to take his place?

Copyright JazzBumpa. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PTUI!*

Following the surprise success of Great Expectorations, 19th century Flemish novelist, Neti Pott Hawking-Spitz wrote a string of sequels, including Pickbeak Papers, David Hockerfield, Tale of Two Hankies, Mystery of Edwin Drool, Beak Hose, Nicholas Mucusby, and Master Humphry's Clog.

Some people consider these to be great literature, but IMHO, they're hack work.

___________________________________________
* See 39D.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Me, Soloing


Note the close resemblance to my avatar!

No extra charge for the excellent back of the head.

Photo copyright Tom and Jeri. All rights reserved. Lefts, too.
Unauthorized duplication is strictly prohibited, and would be ridiculous anyway.

Aaaarrrrggggghhhhhhh!

When my family and I go out at night, it makes me feel safer just knowing I am able to have my concealed weapon.

- A constituent of Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

I got this from E. J. Dionne, Jr.

Other thoughts can be found here and here.

It's one of those moments.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

In Which I Berate a Columnist

Award winning author and columnist Mitch Albom can usually be counted on for intelligent and insightful commentary. Not today, though. His column in the Detroit Free Press is nothing more than a badly thought-out, misleading piece of right-wing tripe.

Here is my response, which I sent to him in an email.

Dear Mr. Albom:

Usually I read your column and think, "Mitch nailed it again."

Not so, today, though. In fact, for the first time ever, I must accuse you of sophistry. Your column is filled with all kinds of wrong; and out of respect for your intellect, I have to believe you know better. Have you been influenced by P.J. O'Rourke?

First, suggesting an increased tax on the rich is not resenting them. It is moving our Nation closer to the conditions that prevailed at a time when America enjoyed real prosperity. In the 50's and early 60's, marginal tax rates were in the 90% range, not the 35% range. Since then, while tax rates declined, so has GDP growth. I illustrate this on my blog.

Meanwhile, wealth disparity has increased, reaching a level not seen since 1928.

That is what is meant by, "The richest 1% of this country has had a pretty good run of it for many, many, many years." In fact, during the recent Bush administration, the average wealth of individual tax filing households in the richest 1% increased by $1 billion, or more. So, "Eat the Rich," is hardly what is being suggested.

And, no, the other 99% have not had a good run. Since the Reagan years, those in the lowest 20% have seen their real wealth deteriorate by 1 to 2% per year. Over this time span, there has been a massive redistribution of wealth from the poorest to the richest, and those at the very top have gained the most, by a large margin.

Do you really believe that the rich do not have available, and employ with great vigor and enthusiasm, all manner of tax dodges? To suggest that they do is not insulting. To suggest that they don't is either frankly dishonest or demonstrates naivety that is unacceptable in a professional commentator. To the extent that the use of tax dodges might be reduced, you could perhaps attribute the change to the fact that at a 35% tax rate, such dodges are worth less than they were under higher tax rates. Further, you blithely brush off the low tax rate on capital gains, saying such income is based on income already earned and taxed. In other words, rich people have the wherewithall to indulge themselves in this tax-favored activity, because they're ALREADY RICH!

Sure the richest 1% pay over 40% of the income taxes. That is not because the tax system is unfair to them. It is because they bring in far, far more than 40% of the income. But, surely, you realize this. And you must also realize that you are, in a very misleading way, quoting marginal tax rates while suggesting that they are the effective tax rates.

Worst of all, and this truly is insulting, is your snide suggestion that the real beneficiaries of Obama's health care plan are those people "who never really look for work, who don't bother in school, who look for ways to live off the state," recycling in your own ill-considered words the old Reagan canard of Welfare Queens in Cadillacs. And you build straw men of noble single mothers and greedy pigs. I know you are not naive enough to believe any of that.

Then you actually go on to use the phrase,"milking the rich."

What's up, Mr. Albom? Everything about this article - the gratuitous snark, the wrong-headedness, the straw men, the callous disregard for reality and truth - says "not Mitch Albom" to me. How can a person who has always been so right-minded and reasonable suddenly be regurgitating right-wing talking points a la Fox News and the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal? What, sir, has happened to you?

Yours in grave disappointment,

JzB

My Real Age

I enjoy the LUANN comic strip, but I never expected it to speak to me personally.

Cycles


For my money, this lovely nymph qualifies as a fairy (albeit of the non-winged variety.) But, evidently, not in Alabama!

Sunday Music Blogging

Harry Connick Jr. takes us on a Bourbon Street Parade, featuring LeRoy Jones and Craig Klein.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Stranger at the Gates, Part 2

Back at Crooked Timber, they have a guest post on the Gates matter by Brandon del Pozo, "a captain in the NYPD (now working for Internal Affairs on internal police corruption cases, but with plenty of experience as a beat cop in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and as a police instructor too). He is also a Ph.D. candidate in philosophy at CUNY."

I found this post to be, at first, reasonable, then unsettling, and finally disturbing.

I can't remember ever using the word sophistry in a sentence before; but as I read del Pozo's post, the word was echoing in my brain. The first few commenters at CT do a pretty thorough job of dismantling his argument.

First, he speaks of abstractions, as if they apply in this case. Then, he misstates the time line. Then he channels both Prof. Gates' and Sergeant Crowley's thoughts, in ways that are unfavorable to the one, but favorable to the other. Then he constructs an invalid set of responsibilities for each of the participants, all the while cleverly building a deceitful house of cards, with a particularly disturbing sidetrack into police control.

Prof. Gates' responsibility consisted of showing the Sergeant 1) his identification, and 2) his right to be in his residence. No one disputes that he did those things. Sergeant Crowley's first responsibility was to determine if a crime was in progress. Having determined that there was not, his responsibility was to 1) defuse any heated situation, and/or 2) leave.

At the very least, Sergeant Crowley failed to do his job properly. At worst, he lured Prof. Gates out of his house, so he could perpetrate a false arrest. Unfortunately, both appear to be true.

It is worth emphasizing that, aside from the Sergeant's successful determination that there had been no crime, whatever else happened between the two men inside the house (since there is no allegation of assault) is of absolutely no relevance. Anything that Prof. Gates said, in any tone of voice or choice of vocabulary that you can think of, is of no legal consequence.

In short, President Obama had it right. The Police handled this stupidly.

Update: Here FWIW, is the police report.

I reads like an ex-post contrived piece of fiction.

Update 2: (7/26, 4:15 p.m.) A deconstruction of a portion if the police report.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Of Wind and Instruments

Regarding the park concert last night. After a day of very changeable weather: heavy rain, light rain, sun, overcast, etc., it was fine when we got to the park. Soon, though, dark clouds loomed to the west, We started about 15 minutes early, in hopes of getting in a full program before bad things happened.

By the time we got to the storm motif in the WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE*, I was warily eyeing the sky, (about 2:15 to 3:30 in the link captures the ominous mood quite nicely) between the chromatic trombone romps(3:35 to 4:10.) But -except for a few sprinkles and one nasty gust of wind, we got through it unscathed.

An experience outside player always fasten his music. I had mine securely fastened to the folder with cloths pins. Then, in the middle of A MAN AMONG MEN**, a very nice march by Henry Fillmore, a gust dumped my whole folder on the stage. All my carefully ordered music scattered at my feet. By the time I gathered it all up - now in a random heap, the march was over. I was a bit flustered, but settled down, and the rest of the evening was quite pleasant.

Yesterday was VANILLA ICE CREAM day, and the 104th anniversary of the invention of the ice cream cone, in honor of which, we capped the evening with ice cream cones - natch! It would have been wrong not to.
______________________________________
* Rescored for Concert Band - Alas, no cello
** Can't find it on Youtube. Wie Schade!

Stranger at the Gates

Oh, wait. It's my own house!

The incident involving Professor Gates and an over-zealous police officer has garnered a lot of attention. I am highly critical of the arresting officer. This is not in any way a defense of Gates. This is a situation where there is plenty of wrong to go around.

We will never know exactly what transpired between the two. Both were heated, and probably fatigued when the incident took place. In the high emotional charge, I'm sure they have very different recollections.

But there are degrees of wrong. Being unreasonable, belligerent and offensive are not crimes. Insulting a policeman who is inside your home is not a crime.

For a cop to arrest somebody because he pissed him off is an inexcusable breach of authority by someone who's motto is "To protect and to serve." Remember - they work for us!

Urbino nails it.

The dropping of the charges is a near-certain indication that the cop was wrong. The intransigence of the officer, and the victimized stance of the police union in the wake of Obama's comment do nothing to change my view.

The Boston Globe had the police report up on their web site, but then took it down. An excerpt can be found here.

Update: I want to draw attention to a conservative (probably libertarian) take on this. As the commenter goes off topic and draws broader conclusions, he loses his way, in my opinion. But that's because I'm a progressive!

Squid Hugging

'Cuz, sometimes ya just gotta !

Monday, July 20, 2009

Marketing

Remember this old slogan?

THINGS GO BETTER WITH COKE

OK. Maybe I'm dating myself here.

That is the sort of quasi factlike statement that inspires neologisms like "truthiness."

But, whatever might have been truthy of things in general, appears not to be truthy of yak's milk.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sunday Music Blogging

OK. It's a couple hours early. But give me a break, I've got a big day tomorrow. Playing at noon to kick off the Jazz Fest, then hanging around till deep in the evening to hear the BIG CATS play.

For now, here is a song that I absolutely love. And this version is special. I actually know, and have made music with Ray Heitger - though if he remembers me at all, it is probably with disdain.

Anyway, a very nice rendition of DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT MEANS TO MISS NEW ORLEANS?, featuring Ray's son, DUKE, with a cameo appearance by Ray on clarinet.

Enjoy

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

Another real life event. This happened several years ago, while driving home on an early July night. The first line is inspired by an old FAR SIDE cartoon. After that, it gets more serious.

FIREFLY

The killer windshield returns, thrusting
Its airborne swatch of destruction
Through the summer night:

Merciless executioner of countless
Unnamed winged hexapods, reduced
To gelatinous acid smears.

A firefly strikes its match
Against the glass, extinguished
In a final lightning flash.

Ten miles down the road
Its faint glow still lingers, feeble
Candle-curse against the dark.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

In Which I Encounter Brain Damaged People And Am Conflicted

A few months ago at Edge of the West, one of the regulars posted something, and in the comment section someone asked, "What's your point?" My thought was - geeze, it's not like this is a PhD thesis, or a peer reviewed journal article. It's just a blog post. Sometimes you might want to present a collection of facts, write to gather your thoughts or come to grips with something, or just riff on an idea. And that ought to be OK. All of which is preamble to what will likely be a long, rambling, and ultimately pointless blog post.

Last Friday was a very strange day. It started with being awakened by a squawking duck. A mother duck and her 16 hatchlings have been waddling along, hither and thither, behind my yard for a few weeks. My yard is the only one in the immediate area that has a fence (chain link) and the ducklings have been able to get in and out under it. On this morning, Mamma Duck got in and was stuck. She ran back and forth, getting more frustrated and agitated. An upset duck can make one hell of a racket. I threw on some clothes and went outside to try to help her. I will freely admit, though, that I had no concept of what helping a frustrated duck was actually going to entail. Problem solved, though. By the time I got outside, she had found her own way out.

So, the Lovely Wife and I went out to breakfast. We took the morning newspaper along. Our waitress noticed the tragic lead story on the front page about five teenagers who were killed racing a train to a crossing. She made a comment in passing about "stupid teenagers." Something about her speech and mannerisms seemed not quite right. When she came around again to refill our coffee cups, she said she was in a similar accident, years ago, with two fatalities and two survivors. She suffered a closed head injury, was in a coma for seven weeks, and wasn't expected to live. She was pleasant, and did a good job - but clearly lost something in the accident that can never be replaced. We left feeling unsettled.

Later that day we went out to run an errand. Our subdivision opens out to a rather minor major street. A sort distance away it crosses a Major Major street. As we sat at the corner of minor and Major the LW noticed a man in a wheel chair on the edge of Major street. He seemed to be having trouble. I made a quick right turn, and stopped next to him. He said he was OK, and wanted to get to the gas station at the next corner, where Major intersects Major2.

I pulled into a parking lot, handed the wheel to the LW, and moved the wheel chair away from the street. I pushed it to the gas station through the adjoining parking lots. The young man in the chair asked me my name, and I gave him my first name. I asked him his name and he told me, Leroy. I also learned that he lived in my subdivision. All of this was difficult. I had a hard time understanding him. The gas station had a small convenience store, and Leroy wanted some chips and cookies. We also got him a bottle of water, since he has been struggling in the summer heat.

Leroy kept saying he was OK, and didn't need any help. I asked how he was going to get home. "Walk," he said, meaning, rolling in his wheel chair. The LW said we should call the police. But Leroy got very agitated. He did not want the police. So we gave him a ride home in our van. He didn't want a ride home, but acquiesced. Then, he wanted to be dropped off in the street, so he could make it home on his own. Leroy was concerned about getting in trouble with his mamma. Eventually we got him to point out the house he lived in. We pulled into the driveway, and a man came from the house. I helped Leroy out of the van and back into his wheel chair, and turned him over to the man. I told him Leroy was concerned about being in trouble. He told me Leroy had brain damage. This was pretty clear, though, from his physical and mental impairments, his lack of judgment, and the slightly distorted shape of his head.

We left, and finally ran our errand. The LW thought we didn't handle the situation properly. I'm sure we did the right thing, but not at all sure we did it the right way.

Nagging questions:
Should we have called the police. No doubt I will if it happens again.
Did we endanger ourselves? Or put ourselves at legal risk? These thoughts came much later.
How did Leroy get away from his caregivers?
Did they miss him?
Were they looking for him? (Apparently not.)
Did they even know he was gone?
What happened to him after we left?

So, here we are, at last, at the end of a story with no plot, no moral that I can discern, and, as promised, no point. I'm trying to figure out what I should think and feel, but have no satisfying answer.

Sunday Music Blogging

Michael Nelson takes us Over the Rainbow.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Economic Optimism

Hale "Bonddad" Stewart thinks the worst is behind us, and supports this viewpoint with graphs.  

I'm not convinced.

First, he makes this statement:
"(This is another reason I believe the recession is technically nearing the end; the 4-week moving average of initial unemployment claims has been dropping for several months)."  

Yeah.  It's dropped from about 650,000 to about 630,000.  This is not exciting news, and might just be a blip.  We'll know more in a few months.

Next, the non-farm payroll employment change improved from about negative 750,000 in January, to about neg. 350,000 in May.  Oops - back to neg 450,000 in June.  He calls the latter an outlier in the series.  This is only true if the 5 month extrapolation is valid.  Again - we'll see.

The Challenger Job Cut Report shows a precipitous decline in job cuts, while new jobless claims have only leveled.  What gives?

The seasonally adjusted number of mass lay-offs dropped, but recently started moving up again, which Stewart shrugs off.

Retail, food services, auto, and home sales have stopped declining, as has real personal consumption expenditures.  None of them have started to increase.  Plus, extended unemployment benefits are starting to run out.  This can only further stress our consumer-spending-driven economy.

Manufacturing and non-manufacturing indexes have been increasing rather irregularly for several months.  However, they have yet to reach the downward sloping trend lines evident since 2006.  (Imagine a line laying on top of the bars in Stewart's graph.) 

The six month forecast of general activity has come close to its maximum possible reading, while current activity is still near zero.  The last time this spread occurred was in '01-'02.  Not a happy comparator.

General business conditions are still negative, and the most recent change is down.

But my biggest objection is that Stewart draws his analogies and conclusions based on data series that only go back to 1948.  If the proper analogy for these times is The Great Depression, he is ignoring the most relevant historical data. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

For a time, in the early 90's, I was the poet laureate of dental extractions.

I was gifted with two lower wisdom teeth.  No wisdom up above.  Make of that what you will. My daughter wound up with three - for a while.
 
Here is a real-life event, recorded more or less as it happened - given an uncertain amount of poetic license. "Spoiled Brat," referring to my daughter, was an inside family joke at the time.*

Karen In The Chair

The outlook wasn't brilliant for the impact three that day:
They were destined for eviction from their cozy hideaway.
To leave them there would be unwise. There's trouble they could cause:
Like pressure on the molars, or infections of the jaws.


Their fate was to be broke' up, like a would be double play;
Yanked out like a pitcher on a sad, bad spit-ball day;
Then thrown out like a runner who can't quite steal that base;
Because we have the wisdom now to help Karen save face.


Those who preceded Karen in this Wise Dentistry
Related their pained mem'ries of extraction misery.
So our stricken spoiled brat was faced with grim despair,
And now we had to take our chance with Karen in the chair.


The X-rays had uncovered Karen's outlaw band of three.
We were struck with wonder at her wise asymmetry.
What wisdom could explain her ab'rant oral geometry?
No doubt a cursed remnant of her strange heredity.


There was ease in Karen's manner, quiet dignity and grace.
The procrastinator's blessing kept the smile upon her face.
Responding to our questions she just sang a happy tune.
"Oh, yes," she said, "I'll worry, but not one minute too soon."


She put off the appointment, willing wise to wait
But was unable to avoid the setting of the date.
"Any other day will do," she said through clenched teeth.
"But let's not undertake this job on Friday the thirteenth."


Ol' Doc said, "You've got your nerve, it branches there within,
One fork tiptoes to your tongue, the other to your chin.
You may feel a tingling in the tip before we're through,
But it shouldn't be a problem for someone as young as you."

So Thursday came: the right day for advancing oral health.
Ol' Doc glanced at the calendar, saw that it was the twelfth.
He opened up his tool box and surveyed the power there;
Put on his mask and goggles; escorted Karen to the chair.


Ol' Doc offered goof balls, Mickey Finns, and laughing gas.
Karen said, "I will not whine, my jaw's not made of glass.
But just so I won't feel it, and will not have to pout,
We would both be better off if you just put me out."


They needled her a little bit. We know this girl is tough.
But it was the consensus that a local's not enough.
So our stricken spoiled brat was saved from grim despair
As she drifted off to slumber in his not-so-easy-chair.


And now the latex covered hands into her mouth did slip.
Drug sleep drooped in Karen's eye, a clamp curled Karen's lip.
There with wrench and pliers, drill and hammer, brace and saw,
"I can dig it," Ol' doc said, while working at her jaw.


The clamp has fled from Karen's lip, her teeth have extra room.
Her swollen cheeks are packed with gauze, her head is filled with gloom.
Amid the fragments, smoke, and gore her Wisdom headed South;
We know a molar victory was won there in her mouth.


Oh, somewhere in this favored land a smile is shining bright;
A girl is eating apples, not chicken soup and yogurt light;
And somewhere steaks are sizzling, 'taters crunch and diners shout;
But there's no chewing in our house--Karen's Wisdom was struck out.


___________________________
* Spoiled? OK. Yeah. Probably. Brat, though? Not so much.
A few hours after the surgery, she was helping me move furniture.

Monday, July 6, 2009

If You Give a Mouse a Piece of Toast . . .

.  .  .  He's going to ask for a cup of coffee.*

When you give him the cup of coffee, he'll probably start remembering things.

And this if fine, to a point.

But he's not getting any of my Lagavulin!
_______________________________
*Nope.  No apologies.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Independence Day Music Blogging

Contrary to what lying partisan hacks like Bill O'Reilly, Ben Stein, and Bruce Tinsley*  will tell you, Liberals** do love America.

Here, Sam the American Eagle leads us in The Stars and Stripes Forever.

__________________
*  The knuckle-dragging moron actually found a way to screw up the 4th of July.  Impressive, in a depressing sort of way.
** Frex: Me

Friday, July 3, 2009

Que sera, Sarah?

I will freely admit that my feeling for Sarah Palin is the deepest contempt.

My horror at her selection as the vice presidential nominee in 2008 inspired my entry into the blogosphere.   As I said at the time: "Sarah Palin is a lying, unqualified, bullying, flip-flopping political hack."   

Eventually, enough people saw through her to perceive the cynicism and hypocrisy that her selection represented.   As thoughtful conservatives abandoned the Republicans, largely because of her, this might have influenced the general vote enough to usher in the Obama presidency.

Her resignation today as Governor of Alaska is a deep disappointment.  I was eagerly looking forward to her presidential run in 2012.

But I must also admit to a bit of schadenfreude.


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Collapse Continues

There has never been a better time to be retired and on a fixed income.

As long as my pension fund is solvent, and the SS Admin keeps its promises, my income will be fixed.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday Poetry Blogging

The date stamp on the file for this poem is August, 2000, so I suppose that's when I wrote it. It is the narrative of a real incident, just as it happened. My wife and I were driving around one day, rather aimlessly, and went into a park. There was a lake, and we took our shoes off, and waded along the shore line. It wasn't crowded, but there were quite a few people there, in the water, and along the beach.

I am not a religious person, but this was a deeply moving event. Here is how it happened.

SAVING TIME

Such a simple thing, to lift a child.
Hands grasp her sides, a second pair of ribs
Beneath plump arms, and swing her high:
Inconsequential weight on angel's wings.

Farther down the beach a gathering:
Mexican Pentecostal Church of God
All clad in white and black, their Sunday best,
With angel voices raised in Spanish hymns.

That little girl, no taller than my knee
Has not yet mastered walking on dry land.
In childish guile she flees her family's eyes
Makes her way to water's edge, and in.

Senor Juan Baptiste strides chest-deep
Into the lake. The others, arms raised high,
Invoke God's power as he grasps behind the neck,
Supports each penitent beneath the waves.

When no one else was looking at this girl
I saw her falter, fall, then float face down.
Two splashing steps, hands on her ribs,
I raise her out and draw her to my chest.

We could have driven past this lake today,
Or lazed another minute on the shore,
Or turned our wading walk the other way,
Instead, I found myself above this child.

Juan Baptiste mouths a Spanish prayer,
Lifts his new-found brother from the lake,
As I lift and hold this child close to me,
Saved, as by the very hand of God.