Saturday, August 31, 2013

Gun nuts on parade

Via Wonkette, another of their occasional (but all too frequent) roundups of gun nuts behaving -- well -- crazy.

 Our other story of Responsible Firearms Ownership comes from Owasso, Oklahoma, where Joshua Snow heard someone breaking into his home early Monday morning, grabbed his gun, and chased after them wearing only his underwear. He somehow ended up banging on the front door of neighbor Jimmy Null, who looked outside, saw a guy wearing only underwear and carrying a gun, and shot Snow with a 12-gauge shotgun. Perfectly reasonable home protection.

Amusing reading if you are not a neighbor.

Do you feel safer knowing that in this great country people like this have a constitutional right to have firearms? I know I'm not.

Most. Delusional. Rightwinger. Ever.

Really. The Washington Post quotes far right stemwinder David Horowitz speaking to a TP revival thus:

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black,” Horowitz told the crowd, which was predominantly white. “It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”
Right, nobody is attacking Obama at all.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Henry Vestine was right on

Henry Vestine, who was the guitarist in Canned Heat, once (or maybe more than once, I don't know) gave a PSA at a concert in LA. Quoting from memory, it went: "If you are big, strong and stupid, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department needs you."

And will give you deadly firearms, even if you are also a hotheaded drunk.

In discussions about firearms, the gun nuts often say that CLOs (certified law enforcment officers) are an example of how very safe firearms can be in the control of a trained professional.

That's reason #867 we call them gun nuts.


What could possibly go wrong?

 A Republican state senator from Arkansas who is leading a legislative committee on the subject of giving guns to school teachers accidentally shot a teacher during an "active shooter" drill earlier this year, the local paper of record has uncovered.
Please read the whole thing, on my best day I couldn't make this up.


Arkansas wetback

Bobby Jindal's admonition to the Republicans to stop being the stupid party isn't working.

It used to be that August was a black hole for political news. Each congressperson headed for his own district (or a Scottish golf holiday paid for by lobbyists) and some of them held constituent meetings -- recently called town halls.

Even local papers hardly covered these snoozefests, but the advent of smartphone cameras has changed that. Now, the ridiculous pandering to contributors in country clubs and union halls that used to go unnoticed is posted on the Internet, perhaps swinging elections, as Mitt Romney found.

At the very least, these little clips are providing those of us who take politics as a joke with more laughs.

The linked piece has me of two minds. I suspect that Congressman Gary Miller was just trying to say something to break the ice a little with people who were 1) questioning his position; 2) not very close to him in social terms (age, color, background). In an earlier time, a pol would have recognized they were not voters and brushed them off.

As the background reveals, Miller could have seen this as an opportunity to tone down some of his earlier, now inconvenient positions on immigrants. So perhaps, on the fly, he was trying to be nice and the first thing that popped into his head was really, really stupid: that having been brought from Arkansas to California at the age of one gave him an experience he can relate to that of Latino wetbacks brought from Mexico or Gautemala to California at the age of one.

Or maybe Miller is just dumb. Sometimes it's hard to tell. Since immigration seems to be one of his top issues, you'd think if he was smart he'd have prepared a bit of a spiel expecting just this sort of encounter to arise. So for now, RtO is going with "just dumb."

It is interesting to note that California, land of recent immigrants, has never been welcoming to the most recent of them. The term Okie retains some currency, I think, perhaps because many young people are exposed to "The Grapes of Wrath" in high school, but its companion term of the mid-30s, Arkie, is heard much less often.

If Miller's family had been Arkies, then he might perhaps (if given a few more seconds in a quieter environment) have made a connection between the difficulties his parents had faced in the strange new land of Californy and the problems of being a newcomer from south of the border, but, no, they didn't emigrate until 1949.  (But see further down for a different version.)

I don't believe antiArkie sentiment had much force left by 1963 or '64, when Miller would have started thinking about work and/or education.

However, according to Wikipedia, citing the congressional bio service, Miller was just lying, arriving in California in his teens. It is interesting, also, that Miller completed Army boot camp and was then purged from the service, reason unstated.

So maybe he isn't dumb. Maybe his problem is character.

His flack's statement following exposure of his remark was mealy-mouthed even for a sitting congressman.

Last point. The Post says his district is about half Latino (without saying how many are illegals). Miller's website does habla espanol.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New meaning for 'stock market crash'

Jonathan  Weil says Nasdaq warned its investors that things like today's computer failure might happen. Too bad it didn't warn people investing in "financial paper" it manages.

Weil, a business writer I admire, goes a little overboard. The "warnings" are meaningless boilerplate that all SEC-reporting businesses put in their statements. Platoons of first-year associate lawyers brainstorm every thing they think might conceivably happen -- short of a meteorite destroying the earth -- and dump them in.

There is no ranking. The chance of a computer failure (like the earlier failure in Nasdaq's case) is treated as equally likely as a tsunami in New York Harbor.

I have read a number of these warning lists. I have never, ever seen a warning about the most serious threats to the property interests of owners of stock. Real warnings would say things like:

"Our board of directors consists of a boys-club of drones who show up at meetings only to play golf and collect their $265,000 checks."

"The CEO has inappropriate personal contracts with the Corporation, structured so that as the Corporate results decline, he benefits."

"Our business model requires bribing foreign officials and hoping we don't get caught."

"The CFO faked his educational history on his resume. We know it but want to keep him."

"Our management training program consists of giving jobs to the otherwise unemployable children of senior managers."

"The transportation director owns an on-call labor services business, and whenever the Corporation needs temporary help on the loading dock, he brings these workers, who are paid excesssive rates."

"The CEO is a drunk who is incoherent after 11 a.m."

"We are not required by law to take prudent safety measures at our plant, so we don't."

"We have retained a specialist law firm to break the labor unions and lower the morale of our line workers."

"We have no real understanding of the business we are in. We just paid $2 billion to acquire a start-up business with no income. We don't know what this subsidiary does, but there's a lot of buzz about it."

"We are years behind on maintenance of our plant."

"We dump poisonous wastes in the streams and save millions."

None of these is made up. 

Tennessee family values

Them Volunteers is on a roll. Can we have a double reprise of Rocky Top, please?

After same-sex couple victory in Collegedale, church ousts gay detective's family

From the Times Free Press, a paper I once aspired to report for.


Where have you been all my life?

Bradley Manning is shaping up as the Caryl Chessman of the 'Teens, an obviously guilty criminal who is the darling of the bleeding-heart liberals. Got that.

But I was floored by Dana Milbank's column on Manning's sentence in The Washington Post:

But whatever you think about Manning, his trial and his pretrial treatment exposed how zealous the national security state has been, even under this Democratic president.
Really, Dana, you didn't know about the zealous national security state until Manning let the cat out of the bag? And that a Democratic president would back it to the hilt?

I was born in 1946, just about the same time as the zealous national security state. It was Harry Truman who introduced loyalty oaths, and before that Wilson who purged national security threats by deporting hundreds on the "red ship."

Later came Jack Kennedy, murderer of Ngo Dinh Diem.

Ain't no flies on the Democrats when it comes to protecting our precious bodily fluids.

You might suppose that, with a largish fraction of leftists unsheathing their knives on Obama over this issue, that the Republicans would be at least trying to split off the moderate Democrats over it, but no, he's black, they're white, so he's still a seekrit Mooslim who hates America and white people.

I don't know which faction is more delusional on this issue. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Questioning the news


OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Charges are expected to be filed on Tuesday in the suspected killing of an Australian university student in Oklahoma by three "bored" teenagers who decided to kill someone for fun, according to prosecutors and police.
Christopher Lane, of Melbourne, was found dead of a gunshot wound Friday, according to police in Duncan, Oklahoma, located about 81 miles south of Oklahoma City.
Explain to me again why having easy access to firearms is a good thing.


Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) announced Monday evening that he will renounce his Canadian citizenship, less than 24 hours after a newspaper pointed out that the Canadian-born senator likely maintains dual citizenship.
Why does Ted Cruz hate Canada so much?

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Delusions of democracy

RtO has not had anything to say about the Koran Belt for a while. At last check-in, about 10% of majority-Muslin "nations" were failed states, and another 10% were headed that way.

And western liberals were ignoring all that and expecting an Arab Spring to reverse the political trajectory of 14 centuries (50, in the cases of Iraq and Syria). Rightwingers were even more delusional,  expecting  cheap, quick military action to -- well, it was never made any clearer what was expected out of invading Libya, Syria or Egypt than what was expected of invading Iraq, but something good, and, if that road was not taken, then they could at least whip Obama for being a sekrit Mooslim and/or weak-kneed.

There is no sharper division of opinion between left and right Americans than their differing conceptions of Muslims as political actors. Leftists believe that, if only freed long enough to choose, Muslims will choose modernity and democracy, but that while this choice will be indigenous, it will also be broadly friendly to infidels and mostly compatible with western values. In other words, Muslims are like Japanese, despite quirks, like us. Rightists believe that, given the proper doses of carrots and sticks, Muslims will subordinate their local interests to whatever does America, and especially American business interests, the most good.

It is interesting, then, to ask Muslims what they want. And to pay attention to the answers. One person who does this is Shibley Telhami, who has a depressed answer in a Washington Post piece called "Egypt's Identity Crisis."

Nut grafs:

Islamists may have also misunderstood Arab attitudes about democracy. When Egyptians are asked which country they would want their own nation to look like, their top choice has been Turkey, a democratic Islamic nation ruled by an Islamist party. And in 2011 and 2012, Egyptians and other Arabs identified Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the leader they most admired outside their own country.

It is easy to misinterpret such admiration as Arabs seeking only the right mix of Islam and democracy. But the reasons are far more complex, as I found in my polling results. Arabs want a combination of many things that Turkey’s model offered: a country that balances democracy and culture, but also a stable, strong, prosperous nation, and one that makes them feel proud on the world stage. Erdogan, who personally symbolized the mix of Islam and democracy in many Arab minds — at least until the recent upheavals in Turkey — was not selected by Arabs as the favorite leader until he was seen as standing up to Israel on the 2008-09 Gaza war.
Telhami here makes the fundamental mistake that Americans, left and right, always make about Turkey. It is not, and never has been, democratic. For generations, it was a disguised military despotism; and, by a unique but not unpredictable maneuver, transformed into a (not very well) disguised religious tyranny.

But that error does not negate the value of Telhami's listening. Notably, Muslims, at least the Arab ones, will subordinate almost any of their local or national interests to hating on the Jews.

Few majority Muslim states are natural nations. Turkey, like Egypt, is two countries sacked up inside one border. What Telhami describes is not Turkey but Istanbul. Egypt is similar, but its split is not urban/rural but Muslim/Copt.

The better model to use to describe Egypt under "democracy" is Lebanon under its "democracy."

The cobbled together condominium that attempted to balance the sectarian interests in Lebanon appeared, for a while, to have created a stable and prosperous, though not strong nation. The prosperity was (like America's today) unbalanced, mostly because the Muslims and Druze refused to modernize.

Be that as it may,  politically the condominium was unstable. The differential birthrates meant that, as long as elections continued to be held, the Muslims would soon dominate. It would have occurred by now.

But Muslims do not -- as one commenter to Telhami's piece observes -- think democratically. To them, politics is a zero-sum game. Winning an election, if that is the form that transition takes, merely means my side gets to be the oppressor now.

Lebanon's outlook was not enhanced by the baneful presence of Palestinians, who are the political plague of the Arab world, but even without that infection, the antidemocratic feelings of the Arab Muslims would have led to what did happen. Rather than wait to take over a functioning state at the ballot box, they preferred to destroy it immediately.

When Muslims tell Telhami they want prosperity, it may be so; but there is little evidence they understand how to go about it.

Telhami thinks the Egyptian Islamists "may have misunderstood" Arab feelings about democracy. More likely, they did not care. RtO has often quoted the Syro-German political scientist Bassam Tibi to the effect that Arabs do not care about democracy.

This is certainly true of the Muslim Brothers. Their ideology is antidemocratic, so it was always delusional to think that "first democratically-elected president of Egypt" was a meaningful title.

But on the purely practical level -- politics as George Washington Plunkitt described it (protecting "honest graft" by timely delivery of scuttles of coal to shivering constituents) -- the Brotherhood despised looking after its own interests.

The minimum requirement for dealing with Egypt's many problems was to at least leave the Copts alone. The government, such as it was, made a priority of harassing them.

Probably it had to make at least some gestures against the Copts to mollify the hatreds of the majority -- these gestures could have been scuttles of coal, not sufficient to genuinely improve the condition of the core constituency but enough to keep them quiet so the government could get on with governing (especially, from the Brothers' perspective, of quietly neutering the modernizing and secularist sectors of the cities).

But like the Islamists in Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Iran, they just couldn't.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tennessee, land of delusions

I haven't lived in Tennessee for a long time, but the newspapers inform me that nothing much has changed there (except that Chattanooga now has a well-regarded aquarium). The Knoxville News-Sentinel has a story about a typical legislator, this one introducing a bill to protect the right to offer "traditional greetings" in schools at Christmastime.

Never mind that a traditional friendly greeting in a Tennessee school is "Hey shithead, climbed off the sheep stump yet?" And if you don't know what a sheep stump is, you didn't grow up in east Tennessee and I'm not going to tell you.

Nut grafs (and I do mean nut):

“This stops all these silly lawsuits that say you can’t say ‘merry Christmas’ or ‘happy Hanukkah’ or have a Christmas tree,” said Campfield, R-Knoxville, who has pre-filed SB1425 for consideration by the General Assembly in 2014.

While unaware of a specific case where Christmas has become an issue in Tennessee schools, the senator said he knows of people “afraid of lawsuits” and passage of the bill would provide them with reassurance.

This for people who also are afraid blue demons infest their houses but are reassured to know they can be chased away with red olive oil.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Food stamp nation

I expect the rightwing noise machine to be all over this story like white on rice.

Seems like the 47% went big for Romney.

I particularly like the compassion displayed in this quotation:

Cleda Turner, director of the Owsley County Outreach Corp., a non-profit that distributes food to children through schools before they go home for the weekend, said she would like to see greater restrictions on what can be purchased.

“I don’t think starving the children is the answer, but I think there should be real strict restrictions,” she said.
From your mouth to Congress's ears, Cleda.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Why Obamacare is better than what we have now

Read this.

Anything. Absolutely anything is better than what we have now.

Bye-bye Blackie

I wrote the piece below about my friend Blackie for The Maui News. There was much more of Blackie that I could have used, but you've got to stop somewhere. I should have mentioned, though, that Blackie was the only person I've known who owned a tugboat:

In a world of pussyfooters, Blackie Gadarian walked in hobnailed boots. They were disguised as black Keds, part of his invariable costume of orange shirt and black trousers.

Blackie said what he thought, whether the subject was cheapskates, jazz music, traffic, ignorant tourists or the value of a college education.

Not that Blackie downplayed education or college; he was a well-traveled, well-read read man. But he considered, and proved in his own long life, that you could do very well without going to college. Each year, he and his wife Sara presented $500 grants to Lahainaluna School graduates who were not going to college.

Blackie was, among other things, a machinist. He made rolling stock for the Lahaina, Kaanapali & Pacific Railroad, and custom brasswork for the Hyatt Regency. The later, larger and grander Grand Hyatt used off-the-shelf  brass, which Blackie deemed a comedown.

If you only know Blackie for his frequent, short, funny letters to the editor of The Maui News, you missed the essence of the man. He loved to talk, and lots of people -- I among them -- enjoyed listening.

You heard the most surprising things. At the invasion of Tarawa in 1943, a torpedo sank the small aircraft carrier Liscombe Bay, killing 600 Americans in a matter of minutes. Once Blackie mentioned he had been aboard a similar carrier just a short distance away. He never said anything else to me about his Navy service.

Late in life, after he closed his bar, Blackie’s Boatyard, and his machine shop, he wanted a place to work, so he bought a lot on Luakini Street and  built a place with a pool table and workshop. A neighbor came over and pointed to a tree on the lot.
As Blackie told it, “He told me a Hawaiian family had lived there in the old days, and they drank and they threw their empty bottles under the tree. ‘If you dig there, you’ll find plenty of collectible bottles.’ So I immediately had four inches of concrete poured around that tree. I don’t want anybody digging up any damn bones.”

Blackie was famous for throwing customers out of the boatyard. He told me he once threw out a young couple who tried to order one hot dog between them. He considered that unacceptably cheap.

Some people disliked such displays, but when an African-American woman he had ejected filed a discrimination suit, Blackie testified under oath that he threw people out without regard to race, creed, color or national origin, claiming a personal best of 23 in one day. He was acquitted of racial prejudice.

The Boatyard was filled with Blackie’s gags. He probably was most proud of the whale egg, which was about two and a half feet long and resided in a glass case with a placard that explained that Maui’s humpbacks laid their eggs in crevices at the bottom of the Alenuihaha Channel. Blackie claimed that many tourists believed it, and I believed him.

Blackie called me a few months ago to say he was working on his memoirs. I said I would be the first to want to read them, but I guess that pleasure will have to be foregone.   The one and only Blackie Gadarian died July 21 after a short illness and a long life filled with fun.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review 295: A Conspiracy of Decency

A CONSPIRACY OF DECENCY: The Rescue of the Danish Jews during World War II, by Emmy E. Werner. 212 pages, illustrated. Westview, $26

Three countries did a good job of protecting their Jews from the Nazis -- Bulgaria, Italy and Denmark. All were nations that the Germans were anxious, for one reason or another, to conciliate, up to a point.

Emmy Werner’s “A Conspiracy of Decency” depicts Denmark as ready, at first, to be conciliated. Students rebelled early but the establishment was prepared to cooperate. But as the Germans cleared Jews out of other parts of Europe, eventually even equivocal havens like Denmark were targeted.

Werner notes that timing was crucial to the success of the Danish rescue. The Germans did not start demanding anti-Jewish measures until late in 1943, by which time it was obvious that Germany was in decline. Both Danes and Swedes were emboldened. (The Swedes withdrew transit rights  for German troops to move to Norway.)

And, it appears, the Germans occupying Denmark had a lively appreciation of how soft their war was (many were convalescing from injuries suffered in  Russia); so they were disposed not to interfere.

However, it took the courage of one man, a German shipping executive, Georg Duckwitz, to tip off the Danes.

With only hours to react, the Danish resistance was able to hide and then evacuate nearly all the Jews. There were only about 7,000, almost entirely assimilated.

Werner, a psychologist, is more interested in individual stories than in government policies, and she notes that later studies suggested that personal knowledge strongly affected responses. Danish Jews had never lived in ghettos and had had civil rights for 130 years. This explanation goes only a little way. German Jews were deeply assimilated, too.

However that may be, the Danish response was unique. Nowhere else did returning Jews come back to apartments that had not only been preserved but cleaned and painted, and sometimes freshened with cut flowers.

Many of them anyway.

It seems to have had something to do with hyggelig, a Danish word and aspiration to a life that is cheerful, comfortable and cozy.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

More on the CRA

A long-running disagreement, both here at RtO and over at the Post-Judd Alliance where I comment a lot, has been over the role, if any, of the Community Reinvestment Act in the financial collapse of late 2008.

The argument goes that the government forced banks to reduce their requirements for mortgage borrowers, thus flooding the secondary market with bad paper that prudent bankers would never have written except under coercion.

RtO has given numerous examples why this cannot make sense, ranging from mortgage collapses in places where US law does not run, like Spain; to the fact (and it is a fact) that although the CRA is a national law, the distribution of bad paper was nowhere near uniform -- lots of lousy mortgages in Phoenix, very few in South Dakota.

As far as RtO is concerned, the disagreement is settled. But from time to time, a factoid comes along reinforcing the notion that whatever was going on, the CRA wasn't forcing it. Today's example, reported by Bloomberg News, concerns a lawsuit vs. Bank of America alleging (again) misrepresentation to secondary buyers, in this case, of $850 million in debt.

Bad stuff, if true, but down in the story is this graf:

The company failed to disclose that more than 22 percent of the mortgages in the pool were made to borrowers who were self-employed and that its own standards weren’t followed to verify their income and assets, the department said in its complaint.

More than 40 percent of the 1,191 mortgages in the pool didn’t “substantially comply” with the bank’s underwriting standards, the Justice Department claimed. Employees who worked on the origination of the mortgages admitted that the bank “emphasized quantity over quality” and that they were instructed by supervisors that it wasn’t their job to discover mortgage fraud, according to the Justice Department’s complaint.

Since Bloomberg didn't do the math, RtO will do it for you: Those mortgages averaged about $775,000. Even at California prices, hardly entry-level housing for immigrants from Guatemala.

UPDATE: Saturday

Bloomberg has a followup story, which repeats a statement from the first one, one I should have pinpointed in the original post, since it nails down the fact that the bankers did not regard these loans as CRA garbage:

Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco bought about $600 million of the pool while Wachovia Bank purchased about $235 million, according to the complaint.

Little as I regard the smarts of bankers, I think even the dumb ones would know enough to stay away from loans they regarded as legal setups imposed by the Democrats. That they were trading these as good paper just proves that the rightwing narrative about the CRA is hooey.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Dropping a BRIC

Hmm. Bloomberg News reports:

The March 2012 deal valued Batista’s empire at $35.5 billion, including publicly traded and closely held units, and he was rated at the time as the world’s 8th richest man. The entrepreneur, who boasted of overtaking Carlos Slim as the world’s wealthiest individual, is now worth an estimated $100 million, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
The story is actually all about some oil sheikh getting skint. Well, at least it wasn't somebody who works for a living.

Not as far inside baseball as they thought

Even as an old newspaperman, I don't care about who is chairman of the Washington Post, and I really, really don't care if he wears lime-green Jimmy Choos.

So I care even less than nothing about how much the New Republic  worries about whether the New York Times' profile of the publisher was sexist for mentioning the shoes. (It may be that the Choos were the dress and the shoes were Blahniks. I don't care.)

I do note, however, that last week there was another boring survey about whether women are numerous enough in newsrooms or get all the bylines in the Times (see for hypertrohied worry), which fits ill with A.J. Liebling's admonition that until there are schools for publishers, it matters not whether there are schools for journalists.

Anyhow, presumably nobody will care any more about the publisher's Jimmy Choos now that the publisher has sold the job to Jeff Bezos. I bet he looks adorable in lime-green Jimmy Choos.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

90% of life is just showing up

Or 100% for a man named KK Ho, who lost his job but kept showing up anyway, pretending to be a bond trader. The Bloomberg News story does not explain how, or if, Ho got income from showing up.

I recall a story, from 40 years ago, about a guy who lost his job, which was something in demand, aerospace engineering or something like that. The story did not explain why, since the field was good, he didn't just get another job; but instead he made a sort of a living for a couple of years by sending out resumes.

In those days, men with his background were sought after, so employers would send him plane tickets to come to an interview. He cashed the tickets and drove instead, living off the difference.

But the story of the parking lot attendant who just showed up and after years disappeared with millions is urban legend, according to

I feel sorry for the other Mr. KK Ho, who may (or may not, who knows?) be a legit trader in the same city. Bloomberg could not satisfy itself about that. But with only 100 Chinese surnames, and a fairly limited roster of given names or initials, the possibilities for confusion in an increasingly connected Chinese working population appear to be enormous.

It's bad enough with the US Office of Foreign Asset Control, which keeps a list of foreigners with whom designated businesses (mostly financial, including the pawnshop where I work) cannot trade. Not even to buy a $10 silver ring.

There are a lot of alleged drug dealers on the list, and if one Juan Garcia in Colombia comes to the attention of the DEA, then Kamaaina Loan is forbidden to deal with any Juan Garcia, unless we can prove ours is not the DEA's.

Not easy to do.

The fines for violations are very large, too.

The iconic building of our times

In the Middle Ages, the characteristic building in Europe was the cathedral and in Southeast Asia the stupa. In the decades either side of 1900, it was the railway terminal.

This year, I have been flying into many unfamiliar airports, but looking out the window, something seems the same at all of them. The giant, flat-topped warehouse, the characteristic building of the 21st century.

Everywhere. While putting up a snarky post for Kamaaina Loan about the largest building in the world, I was surprised to learn what the largest buildings are. I still think of "largest building" and "Pentagon" together, but the Pentagon is only 13th ranked among those with the largest floor space.

I was vaguely aware that the biggest building (which can be variously defined) is a Boeing assembly plant in Washington but was startled to learn (if Wikipedia can be trusted) that the second-largest is also in Washington, a warehouse for Target to redistribute imports.

There is even a grocery warehouse in Ireland, for pete's sake, that ranks eighth.

Not all big buildings are warehouses. There is even a giant parliament in (unlikely as it seems to me) Bucharest. But while there is only one Aalsmeer flower market, everyplace has giant warehouses, and plenty of them.

It is now easy to understand why Warren Buffet paid $45,000,000,000 for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (which is paying off nicely for him, thank you). On my trip to Arizona last month, I was struck by the endless BN trains, each a mile long and separated only by a few miles as they chugged across the desert. I counted more than 200 cars on a short one, pulled by four engines. Most of the trains had five.

Crap from China.

Not only are giant warehouses everywhere. All across America (and presumably elsewhere), U-Store places proliferate. As a long-time buyer of abandoned property, I know that most of these are used to store crap -- often broken crap -- from China. Stuff people buy but never (or seldom) use.

(The expansion of the U-Store businesses is also due, I think, to the migration of Americans from houses to apartments. What used to molder in garages and  basements, now slowly decays in commercial storage.)

 The way warehouses used to be. In Gainesville, Florida.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Found Sounds 16: Joel Katz, steel guitar

One of the pleasures of my retirement job as Social Media Director (as of last month, I have a title) of Kamaaina Loan is listening to Joel Katz play during our webcast of Wailuku First Friday each month.

Katz usually sets up outside Old Wailuku Grill, just a few doors down from where Jason Schwartz and I interview passers-by and tell dog-walks-into-a-bar jokes (, from around 5-7:30 p.m. first Fridays).

But until last night, I hadn't had a chance to walk down and speak to Katz. I bought his album, "Hawaiian Steel Guitar: Hawaiian to Jazz" (

From the liner notes, I discover why I have always liked steel guitar so much:

I was drawn to the steel guitar by its versatility in articulation, pitch, and tonal color -- second only to the human voice.
I didn't know that.