Friday, April 23, 2010

form fails function

From the New York Times report on the Milan Furniture Fair... a magazine rack:

1) Won't that look great when it has magazines piled on it?

2) Aside from your dentist, who keeps enough magazines around to need a rack for them?

It's a bit like haute coture fashion shows where they dress models up in stuff no sane person would actually wear.

Monday, April 19, 2010

burning the beatles

You probably think the Vatican's recent pardon of the Beatles seems rather quaint and out-of-touch.

But back in the 60's parents and authority figures everywhere were seriously panicked over The Beatles.

One day when I was about seven or eight I went down the street to visit my friend Lori. She was a year or two older than I and very much into everything that was hip and groovy and rock and roll. On this occasion I found her sitting on the floor of her room with all her records (a disc-shaped audio format that preceded the CD), very unhappy.

"The President has passed a law, and now it's against the law to listen to Beatles records and my dad says we have to burn them all tonight or we'll go to jail."

I had no idea they were that dangerous. I knew The Beatles had a cartoon on Saturday mornings but in our house we only had records of Handel's Messiah and folk singers like Burl Ives so I wasn't well-versed in them. I do recall that when I had asked my mother for a record of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" she vetoed that because it was "not a very nice song". So my first impression was only that this new legislation wouldn't affect us much.

I don't know how long Lori's dad got away with this deception. Maybe a week of no Beatles records played in the house before Lori noticed that none of her friends had been shipped off to internment camps.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

we have a winner

Ladies and gentlemen... the direct mail advertising brochure image most likely to make me never want to buy a product.

I don't know if Time-Warner Cable thinks that is how I view myself, or if they think that is what I want to come to my home and install Time-Warner Cable, but I do feel better now about not having cable.

Monday, April 12, 2010

no names please

Russian President Medvedev goes for the extra point while commenting about Obama:

He's (a) very comfortable partner, it's very interesting to be with him. The most important thing that distinguishes him from many other people – I won't name anyone by name – he's a thinker, he thinks when he speaks. Which is already pretty good.

Someone - I won't name anyone by name - won't be getting a Christmas card from George and Laura this year.

But I can see Sarah Palin shrewdly remixing this to her advantage. Her 2012 anti-Obama campaign will promote her "not a thinker" image.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

my proposal for a palestinian-israeli settlement

All the current focus is on trying to hammer out a two-state solution. The problem with that is no matter where the border goes, both sides are going to be disappointed that some portion is permanently out of reach. Also, there has been a de facto two-state setup in place since the 1967 war. How well has that worked? Calling the Palestinian part a country and planting a flag there won't solve much.

I'm proposing a one-state solution. That is not a new idea, a number of optimistic individuals have been floating such for years.

This is my version.

The most-mentioned problem with a one-state scheme is that the Arab population will eventually outnumber the Jewish population, win control of the government and pass laws detrimental to the Jews.

That demographic trend is a likely one, and the example the Israeli government has set in dealing with the Arab minority under their jurisdiction is not uniformly bright. Something other than pure, electoral free-for-all is needed:

We'll divide the new unified country into, say, 100 parliamentary single member districts. They are all gerrymandered so that no district is more than 60% Arab or Jew.

In the first election cycle, all the even-numbered districts must elect a Jewish representative and all the odd-numbered districts must elect an Arab. In the next election cycle, every district switches. Even-numbered elects Arabs, Odd-numbered elects Jews. This doesn't mean they'll only have one candidate on their ballot each time; both Arabs and Jews present several political parties.

In an elect-a-Jew year, even majority Arab districts will have to elect a Jewish rep and in elect-an-Arab year even majority Jewish districts will have to elect an Arab.

My expectation is that by eliminating Arab vs. Jew contests the population will gravitate toward more moderate, can't-we-all-just-get-along candidates. With several Jewish candidates on the ballot, a Jewish candidate will likely have to court Arab votes to get over the 50% mark even in a majority Jewish district. After the election the winning Jewish candidate will have to account for Arab constituent concerns if he hopes to win next time he runs.

Because the district is guaranteed to elect a Jew of some sort, the Jews in that district will not need to vote as a bloc out of fear of "the other side" winning. The Arabs in that district won't need to vote as a bloc either; what would be the point? Politics will organize along more practical issues like taxes, the environment, sex scandals...

And vice-versa in districts scheduled to elect an Arab.

Initially, election cycles would be short, perhaps a year, so even though all winning reps will not be eligible to run in the very next election (because of the required Arab/Jewish switch), the election after that, in which they will be eligible, is only one more year away. This prevents them from regarding their term in office as a lame-duck situation and disregarding the concerns of their voting constituents.

These short terms will allow the population at large to quickly see that the sun still rises in the east and that water still flows downhill no matter who is in office.

It's also entirely possible that non-ethnic parties will form, like the Green Party, that have suitable Arab or Jewish candidates available for each election, offering continuity from one cycle to the next, even though the actual person serving is not the same.

Won't this plan consistently result in a 50-50-stalemate in the parliament?

Possibly, but most practical issues in this new country are not Arab/Jew divisions. They are bread and butter issues like where to build roads and schools, who to tax, water management, economic development...

Coalitions beyond simple Arab-Jewish lines will form to get things done.

This alternation plan would continue for 50 years. For 50 years neither Arabs nor Jews need to worry about being an electoral minority. After 50 years the most extreme actors will have passed from the stage and people who do not know the current conflict will have grown up to take their place.

In the fiftieth year we begin to unwind the ethnic mandate. One Arab-majority district and one Jewish-majority will be converted to simple anyone-can-run status. In the next year, two more districts will be converted. I expect that before the next 50 years elapses we will have run out of Arab and Jewish majority district pairs, but we will continue converting two districts at a time. The overall effect is to push the minority's loss of guaranteed seats out to the latest possible time.

Obvious questions:

How will a "President" be elected?

This country will be a parliamentary democracy so the elected MPs will choose a Prime Minister. Electing a President at-large would be divisive at the outset. For the first 50 years the role of a head-of-state in such a country will be performed by an international panel, perhaps one delegate each from Russia, Europe, the Arab League and the USA. Each of these has significant ties to the people in Israel and Palestine and each has expressed serious desire to reach a settlement.

This head of state panel would have oversight powers over law enforcement in the new country to make sure it is fairly applied.

If this sounds like babysitting, it is.

After 50 years, a President could be elected at-large.

Who can live where?

It would be like the US. Anyone can live anywhere they can afford to buy a home or rent an apartment. Hopefully with 50 years of stability the economic state of the Palestinians will have risen.

What about Palestinian refugees currently in other countries?

Part of the plan is a regional settlement granting Palestinian refugees full citizenship in the country they are currently residing in. Most of them have been born and raised in these countries, like Lebanon or Syria or Jordan, and might well prefer to stay with what they know, especially if they had the full rights of citizens.

They could also choose to forgo that citizenship offer and return to the territory of the new country. Palestinians who still have legal titles to homes in what is now Israel would probably want to make this move and they could pursue their claim in the courts. Some internationally-funded financial assistance would be needed to ease the displacement of current Israelis who would have to give up land or to compensate Palestinians who would prefer to not physically retake the land.

What if Jewish extremists assassinated all the Arab candidates running in their district? Or vice-versa?

First, that's a crime that would be prosecuted and punished like any other murder. But were it to happen, an electoral commission would allot that vote in the parliament to whatever party won that district.

What if a candidate weren't really the Arab or Jew they claimed to be?

All candidate have to be party members so fake Jews or Arabs would be sniffed out pretty quickly by their parties. A party devoted to secretly fielding Manchurian candidates would be unlikely to be able to organize on a national level.

What about the people who are neither "Arab" nor "Jew"?

I've been using "Arab" and "Jew" rather simplistically here. There are a certain number of Arabs who are not Islamic but are Christians. There are also some Christians who are not Arabs (Greek Orthodox descended, for example).

For candidacy purposes, Arab Christians could run as "Arab" and non-Arab Christians would run as "Jews" for the first 50 years. That seems to be the way they are aligned currently. Once their district has been converted to anyone-can-run status it wouldn't matter anymore.

For voting purposes, anyone can always vote any way they want, of course.

What would this new country be called?

"Bob" would work.

How do you get them to agree to this?

At this point it's clear they're never going to agree to anything. This settlement would be imposed by the regional and world powers.

They'll never be able to live together in one country.

That wasn't a question! None-the-less, there is some success in Israel now with Arabs and Jews living together. There are a substantial number of Arabs who are Israeli citizens now, who serve in The Israeli armed forces now and serve in the the parliament now and are active in civic life now. It could possibly work.

And as I noted before, two states separated with a wall in between is not tenable. If it were no one would be trying to find a "solution" today.

How will we trigger the apocalypse to hear the seventh trumpet to raise the beast of the sea to cast into the lake of fire if Israel doesn't fulfill Biblical prophecy by resuming animal sacrifice on the Temple Mount?

Well, you got me on that one. In the meantime, could you put that lake of fire out? Brimstone makes my eyes itch.

What qualification do you have to devise a peace plan?

None, but the qualified people's track record isn't any better than mine so far.

Friday, April 02, 2010

things to not do at your DUI arrest

I had jury duty yesterday and today. A young woman was charged with Driving Under the Influence.

Based on the testimony we heard in court and the video of her arrest we watched, here are my observations on what does not work well if you've been pulled over by the police:

If the cop asks you to recite the alphabet, do not ask to use the Russian alphabet.

If he asks when you last ate, do not say "two days ago".

If he asks what you ate at that time, do not say "nothing".

Then, don't volunteer, "That's why I get drunk so fast!"

If you ask the officer a question and he says he doesn't know the answer, don't keep repeating the same question.

And at your trial, don't laugh when this video is replayed.

Her defense attorney didn't have much to work with. He did all he could to suggest the Field Sobriety Test had been less than perfectly administered. But that wasn't a deal killer. It did not create "reasonable doubt" that she had been driving while intoxicated which, after seeing all the evidence, we decided she had been.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

neither A nor B nor B nor A

This is almost April-Fools-worthy...

Have you ever wondered about famous band reunion tours that don't reunite all the old band members?

The Dallas Symphony is currently promoting what they say it is "the most authentic ABBA show to date", an ABBA concert that brings together zero of the four signature ABBA members.

Whatever could the less authentic shows have been like? Muppets?