Sunday, December 18, 2005

REBUTTAL TO BUSH’S SUNDAY SPEECH

Let’s return to a simpler America when civilians were forced to jump out of skyscrapers to avoid being burned alive. Let’s stop ruining illegal oil deals between peaceful European countries and sovereign leaders of quasi sectarian Middle East nations? Let’s pass resolutions and sanctions, but let’s not overdo it.

Remember when a terrorist act against Americans was met simply with a swift speech and clinched jaw vowing to get the bottom of whoever did it followed by the bombing of an office building during third-shift custodial's lunch hour and mission accomplished? I, for one, felt delight knowing they probably lost a lot of important paper files and it would take weeks to locate the electronic backups.

Let’s have none of this na├»ve cowboy shit, you hear me? None of this taking the fight to the enemy, do I make myself clear? Let’s just wait here peaceful like for the next attack and have our speech ready to denounce it. There isn’t a terrorist act ever fashioned that we can’t properly belittle if we have a few hours, a thesaurus, and the kind of president that feels out pain. If the intelligence community would get off their butts we might get to a point where we have the speech ready ahead of the disaster.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Novak exits CNN for Fox News

Robert Novak, whose syndicated column sparked the CIA leak case and who stormed off a CNN set earlier this year, will join Fox News Channel as a contributor.

Novak, 74, and the network mutually decided not to renew his contract the ends Dec. 31. Fox News Channel confirmed Friday that he would be a contributor to the network beginning in January.

Once one of the most recognizable faces at CNN and one of the few conservative voices there, Novak had fallen out of favor with CNN brass in recent years with his style and the pundit-debate format of shows like "Crossfire" and "The Capital Gang," which he executive produced.

On Capital Gang and Crossfire, CNN used him as a partisan gunslinger, but he and Rowland Evans hosted a great Sunday morning show, EVANS AND NOVAK, that was as thorough and intelligent as the MEET THE PRESS or FOX NEWS SUNDAY. Eventually CNN added liberals Mark Shields and Al Hunt to the lineup and then dropped it completely.

Novak has gained infamy for his role in the Plame ordeal, but more people should read his Washington columns. The Plame thing got out because Novak has some of the best sources in town and has a real good feel on the heartbeat of Washington. He was one of the few to boldly predict that the Republicans would take over both Houses of Congress in 1994 when the Conventional Washington wisdom said that they'd merely make strong gains. His columns are full of the kinds of stories that no one else has. A good example is his latest column in which he explains how Democrats are trying to keep the report on the Clinton era Henry Cisneros scandal sealed.
A recently passed appropriations bill, intended to permit release of this report, was altered behind closed doors to ensure that its politically combustible elements never saw the light of day. But if that happens, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley will still try to force its release. As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with oversight of the IRS, he wants the first real investigation of the tax agency.

That investigation would be a long walk into the unknown, with possibly far-reaching consequences. Prominent Democrats in Congress have spent much of the last decade in a campaign to suppress Barrett's report. Its disclosures could dig deeply into concealed Clinton administration scandals. These vital considerations, not the mere continuation of a $58-an-hour independent counsel position, is why Republican lawyer Barrett for a decade would not close down his prosecutor's office.

If this were just about one politician's illicit love life ruining his political career, Barrett would have ended his operation long ago. But an IRS whistleblower told Barrett of an unprecedented coverup. The informant said a regional IRS official had formulated a new rule enabling him to transfer an investigation of Cisneros to Washington to be buried by the Justice Department. Barrett's investigators found Lee Radek, head of Justice's public integrity office, determined to protect President Bill Clinton.

That triggered intensive efforts to get rid of Barrett and suppress his report by three of the toughest Democrats in Congress: Sen. Carl Levin, Sen. Byron Dorgan and Rep. Henry Waxman. At the same time, the powerhouse Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly -- representing not only Cisneros but also the Clintons -- was filing multiple suits with federal appellate judges supervising the independent counsel.

Don't imagine Brian Williams will be covering this one when Scooter Libby still has portions of his body unburned by cigars stubs.

It will be interesting to see how Fox uses Novak.
TORTURE AND OUR CASUALTIES

Jonah Godberg made an interesting point in the latest issue of NR. He says that the world has understood the harsh reality that some innocents die in a war and it’s not immoral. So how can we say the torture of the truly despicable is a worse act? The rationale that the information you get from tortured prisoners is useless is purely anecdotal. There are no measurements.

The issue has also illuminated the two-faced media’s worry about American casualties. A few small atomic weapons could have leveled Baghdad and any other city that we felt harbored terrorists with minimal American losses. Our losses are a result of our humanity. We’re trading our lives to spare the lives of civilians. It would be very easy for someone to measure roughly how many American lives would have been saved had we only bombed from the skies and how many innocent lives would have been lost as a result. And if the media were truly concerned with American casualties foremost, then they would be making the point daily.
The torture issue is an example of how the media wants to make it more difficult for the military to accomplish the mission one the one hand while complaining that the mission is taking too long on the other.
SOWELL ON THE MEDIA'S WAR
The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy's victories and our losses.

Losses suffered by the enemy are not news, no matter how large, how persistent, or how clearly they indicate the enemy's declining strength.

What are the enemy's victories in Iraq? The killing of Americans and the killing of Iraqi civilians. Both are big news in the mainstream media, day in and day out, around the clock.

On the contrary, the American deaths in Iraqi are a fraction of what they have been in other wars in our history.

Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster.

Even after Nazi Germany surrendered at the end of World War II, die-hard Nazi guerrilla units terrorized and assassinated both German officials and German civilians who cooperated with Allied occupation authorities.

But nobody suggested that we abandon the country. Nobody was foolish enough to think that you could say in advance when you would pull out or that you should encourage your enemies by announcing a timetable.

There has never been the slightest doubt that we would begin pulling troops out of Iraq when it was feasible. Only time and circumstances can tell when that will be. And only irresponsible politicians and the media think otherwise.

I had this same conversation at a poker game a few months ago and again last night at a Christmas Party. Many smart people I know haven't considered war historically and how one-sided our victory in Iraq has been.

They seem to be hung up on the causalities, but none of them can name an amount of casualties that are acceptable for this particular mission, though they all imply that some level of casualties are acceptable, because Clinton's Bosnia action was justifiable and we lost men there.

It takes five minutes for them to get around to Vietnam, but they don’t know the amount of men that died there in comparison. Ultimately, the war is a disaster not because we haven’t achieved anything, but because the media decided the WMD issue was important instead of Saddam violating the Cease Fire of 1991 and breaking the 17 U.N. Resolutions.

It would be fun to write a series of articles framed as news reports about the 1940s in which we took nothing but facts and made Roosevelt look like some sort of blood thirsty conqueror. It would be a snap.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

KATRINA HEARINGS, part 2

The most sensible comments came from the corrupt William Jefferson, D-LA. I met Mr. Jefferson once when I was working at Tulane and didn't trust him, but that's like saying I met a dog that panted, you kind of expect it. Louisiana politics are notoriously corrupt.

He explained that four classes of people suffered harm post-Katrina:

1. People who chose not to evacuate;
2. People who were required to stay, e.g., emergency workers;
3. People who could not evacuate because old or infirm; and
4. People who could not evacuate because no means to do so, i.e., poor.

Of the fatalities, most were old or sick and already vulnerable. Like a storm blowing through a forest, the weaker branches are the ones that snap (my analogy). The number of healthy poor people who died as a result of Katrina was small, in any event certainly not worthy of the massive outcry. (See previous post.)

He flatly declared that the proximate cause for the suffering in New Orleans was the breach in the levee system, not the failure of this guy or that guy or such-and-such agency or bureaucracy. He stayed focused on learning from and fixing the problems rather than blaming the enemy for political gain, so I had to hand it to him. He took the high road -- although the cynic might say that he does so because of the investigation into his own dubious affairs and therefore needs to recast himself in a favorable light. (What, me skeptical?)

He detailed how 92 percent of the local population, about 1.2 million people, were successfully evacuated, and that's pretty good.

But still, if Bush hadn't caused global warming, none of this would have happened. Hopefully Clinton can take care of that with his "surprise" appearance in Canada. (See "No Class" post.)
BUSH LIED, WHITES DIED

How inconvenient for self-important libs and the MSM. And who would have guessed from all the hysterical coverage that the body count came in under 1,000? No matter, just don't report anything that exposes the bias.

In other news, I listened to Kathleen Blanco testifying on Capitol Hill last night on C-SPAN Radio. Talk about the Peter Principle! She was terrifically unimpressive. I don't think she answered a single question specifically -- all generalities, platitudes, evasion, denials, and finger-pointing. It is clear she is in way over her head. Say what you will about Mike Brown, when he testified, he gave names, dates, documented facts, and his own professional opinions. At least you knew what he was saying.

What's funny about these hearings, and all congressional hearings, is that the congresspersons don't really care how, or whether, the subject answers their questions. They just want to get their stilted, harassing questions on the record. One of the Republican congressmen was most concerned about Blanco pronouncing his name correctly, and constantly interrupted her replies. A Democrat congresswoman asked a lengthy, four-part question that no person could have answered without taking notes. She used almost all of her time asking the question. All the questions were political and it was all posturing on both sides. Why must we go through this silly, tedious exercise? Isn't that what Hannity & Colmes is for?

Statistics Suggest Race Not a Factor in Katrina Deaths

By Nathan Burchfiel CNSNews.com Correspondent

December 14, 2005

Statistics released by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals suggest that fewer than half of the victims of Hurricane Katrina were black, and that whites died at the highest rate of all races in New Orleans.

Liberals in the aftermath of the storm were quick to allege that the Bush administration delayed its response to the catastrophe because most of the victims ere black.

Damu Smith, founder of the National Black Environmental Justice Network, in September said that the federal government "ignored us, they forgot about us ... because we look like we look." Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in October said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency wasn't fit to help the storm's victims because "there are not enough blacks high up in FEMA" and added that, "certainly the Red Cross is the same." Rapper Kanye West used his time on NBC's telethon for the hurricane victims to charge that, "George Bush doesn't care about black people."

But the state's demographic information suggests that whites in New Orleans died at a higher rate than minorities. According to the 2000 census, whites make up 28 percent of the city's population, but the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals indicates that whites constitute 36.6 percent of the storm's fatalities in the city.

African-Americans make up 67.25 percent of the population and 59.1 percent of the deceased. Other minorities constitute approximately 5 percent of the population and represented 4.3 percent of the storm's fatalities.

Overall for the state, 658 bodies have been identified. Forty-seven percent were African-American and 42 percent were Caucasian. The remaining bodies were either non-black minorities or undetermined. An additional 247 victims have not been identified, so their demographic information has not been released.

Monday, December 12, 2005

RICHARD PRYOR 1940-2005

Pryor shown most in the concert films. My favorite was LIVE ON THE SUNSET STRIP. He recounts the episode where he caught on fire claiming that he mixed some 2% and whole milk, dipped a cookie in and it blew up.

BLAZZING SADDLES (1974) - Richard Pryor didn't appear but was brought on as a writer according to Mel Brooks so that they could get away with the racial humor. Brooks said that Pryor wrote the Mongo parts of the film.

SILVER STREAK (1976) - Gene Wilder stars as the normal guy who witnesses a murder while traveling on a cross-country train. Pryor appears midway through and the whole tone of the film changes. Pryor is funny and helpful to Wilder in a way that makes him immediately lovable. This is one that I can watch over and over again.

STIR CRAZY (1980) - Wilder and Pryor re-team for a film that I saw 20 times when I was a youngster, but it probably doesn't hold up as well as the first one. This time the pair are sent to jail for a bank robbery they didn't do. Wilder learns that he's a natural at riding the bucking bronco and that helps in their escape.

SOME KIND OF HERO (1982)
- This wasn't seen by many. It begins with Pryor taken prisoner during Vietnam. They make him sign a confession for his atrocities and when he returns home after the war, the Army makes him suffer for doing so. It's an interesting serious role for Pryor although it wasn't a great movie.

THE TOY (1983) - Pryor and Jackie Gleason wasted talent in this silly movie about the spoiled boy that they both love.

SUPERMAN III (1983) - This movie ruined the Superman franchise with the big hook being Pryor skimming off fractions of cents to embezzle (later played to hilarity in Office Space) and the bad guys making some sort of kryptonite type substance that doesn't kill superman, but turns him into a jerk.
NO CLASS

You never see former Republican presidents pulling this kind of b.s.

Bill Clinton to Surprise U.N. Conference
Friday, 09-Dec-2005 8:10AM
Associated Press

MONTREAL - A contentious U.N. climate conference entered its final day Friday with the long-term future undecided in the fight against global warming, and with a surprise visitor on tap to rally the "pro-Kyoto" forces.

Bill Clinton, who as president championed the Kyoto Protocol clamping controls on "greenhouse gases," was scheduled to speak at the conference Friday afternoon - in an unofficial capacity but potentially at a critical point in backroom talks involving the U.S. delegation.

The U.S. envoys, representing a Bush administration that renounced the Kyoto pact, were said to be displeased by the 11th-hour surprise, although there was no formal protest, according to an official in the Canadian government, the conference host.


How much of a "surprise" is this going to be when it's a lead story in today's press? O how they love him, as he expresses his patriotism by undermining the administration.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

ITALY PART II

Venice Calls

We were lucky that we decided to travel to Venice on Saturday. If we had chosen Friday we may have thwarted because of the general strike. Our train was delayed over an hour on Saturday morning and I had to wonder if it was due to the late night boozing the general strike no doubt brought about. The train trip to Venice was nice especially since it was snowing outside and it gave me an opportunity to read Raymond Chandler’s THE LITTLE SISTER. It was the last Philip Marlowe novel that I hadn’t read and I’ve been saving it for years for a special time. Chandler only wrote seven altogether and I squandered the first four in a month back in 1993. I also took along a Travis McGee and a Nero Wolfe having started the tradition of reading American detective books on the 2003 trip when I brought the Dashiell Hammet Omnibus and read RED HARVEST AND THE DAIN CURSE.

It couldn’t have been more miserable when we arrived. The snow had turned to rain meaning that we got all of the cold along with the moisture we could have done without. Venice only has 60,000 residents, I read. Everyone else commutes into the city each day. A greater number of tourists sleep each night on these small islands than do Venetians. It makes the whole thing more like a theme park and less like a community.

I wasn’t surprised by the architecture or the canals. They are well documented in movies and TV. I wasn’t prepared for the sidewalks and little squares in and around the smaller canals. It gave the city a real intimate feel. Our hotel was located in a maze of such little alleyways and the directions on the website to the hotel were incorrect. One of the hotel reviews stated that it was worth taking the 50 Euro taxi rather than the 4 Euro waterbus because the Taxi got you to a private little landing in front of the hotel. I just couldn’t see paying 40 more Euro when I would probably get lost anyway the first time we left the hotel.

Their directions hinged on locating a square that was actually on the opposite side of our hotel. Luckily we had the DK Italy book with a street by street breakdown of Venice. It didn’t have our street but we were able to head in a particular direction and eventually find a landmark. It was like an old video game I use to have where you are inside the maze without benefit of the bird eye view.




















Nighttime came to Italy about 5pm each evening and with our delayed train trip it was almost dark by the time we were settled into our room. The greatest thing about being in Venice is that it’s small enough that you can walk to the important places in little time. We could get to the Rialto Bridge and cross it in about 3 minutes. It took another 10-15 to get to the famed San Marco Square.

From the time we crossed the Rialto Bidge the path to San Marco square became a shopping mall. Every upscale and medium scale and even cheap store was located on either side of these narrow sidewalks. Put everyone’s umbrella into the equation and you have a comic picture of “excuse me” and duckings. We were warned that Venice was flooding with all the rain and my sneakers got soaked enough that I bought the 12 Euro pair of boots before the night ended.


I was told and read many places that Italian food in Italy was different than Italian food in America. I suppose that is true, but it wasn’t to the degree that I was expecting. This may have been because I was only in the bigger cities that were more likely to cater to tourists. It may also be because many American Italian restaurants have slowly introduced more authentic Italian cuisine to the point where the difference is becoming blurred. When I was a kid Spaghetti and Meatballs were Italian. Now I can get Chicken Florentine at Carrabbas and Pasta Milano at Macaroni Grill. One dish that was new to me was Gnocchi. Tiny dumplings served with the same sauce that you’d put on pasta. I liked it enough that I vowed to make it from scratch if I could find a recipe. Trish even brought a package back from the Italian market in Rome. The punch ine was seeing two varieties for sale in Publix on Sunday morning when we returned. Sometimes the exotic is right in front of your face if you bother to look.

The Italian dinner breaks down into courses.

AntiPasto – Appetizers like Brushetta

First Course – A pasta of some kind or Gnocchi or Rissoto

Second Course – Fish, Steak or poultry

After that on the menu were sections labeled Salads, Desserts and pizzas. I would order from these and try to guess where in the meal they would show up.

We found after a while that you could skip the second course. Meat was not only the most expensive but also the most boring. The food at the restaurants was all the same quality whether you paid $10 or $30 for dinner. When we got to Rome we just started eating at the same restaurant near the hotel every night. They had a big menu and plenty of variety to keep it fresh. The couple who owned the place saw enough of us that we went from getting the formal “arrivederci” to the friendly “ciao” by the end of our trip.

Some highlights were the spaghetti and tomato sauce from the first night mixed with a hint of pepperocini powder. It wasn’t too hot and yet gave the dish a distinctive kick that I intend trying to duplicate. The bruschetta in Rome was the best I have ever had, seasoned tomatoes and uncooked mozzarella on the top of Texas-like toast. If I could figure out the seasoning it will be a great party dish.

And although I criticized the meat for being over-priced the Italians cook steak just right. They don’t ask you how you want your steak they just bring it medium rare and it tasted perfect the three times I tried it.

The pizza was hit or miss. We found a place near the hotel in Venice that spread the dough by hand and the pizzas were the best we tried. It tasted like good ole New York Pizza. Other locations seemed to buy the pizza offsite and microwave it into a rubbery mess. None of it tasted like Pizza Hut, thank the good lord. And I think that is why people say the pizza in Italy is different. I don’t like to eat that fast food pizza if I can help it, so I think I was more at home with the Italian variety.



We skipped the Venetian art Academy after our disappointment with the Uffizzi in Florence. Instead we saw the Peggy Guggenheim museum of Modern art just down the way. Modern Art has its hits and misses as much as any period, but the variety of subject matter was welcome and her museum had some very interesting pieces including a Salvador Dali and a few Picassos.








We did the Gondola ride on Sunday morning and it was touristy and overpriced, but a must none-the-less. Our boat was run by a father and son team and since most boats were solo, I surmised that the son may hang out with his dad on weekends to learn the family business.















We also saw this old Byzantine looking church on Sunday and the palace that housed the Venetian government during the years it was an independent city-state. The palace was connected to a prison that would allow tribunals to send guys right to the can after sentencing.













I often times pay the extra money to get the audio tour to different museums, but the experience is hit or miss. It worked out best at the Guggenheim, but I nearly passed out listening to the painstaking detail of how the old government of Venice worked. The dramatic voice would explain what happened in every room and constantly speak of “The Doge” who was some sort of magistrate ruler of the city. I like history and this was just plain dull.







San Marco square also had a healthy bird population that would make Hitchcock shudder.


On Sunday night Trish and walked about 25 minutes to get back to the train station area so that we could visit the casino. Located upstairs from some sort of hotel, the once casino in Venice looks like it could rolled into a hidden room if the cops came to bust the place up. The roulette tables, and slot machines were authentic, but nothing else in the rooms said casino. You could imagine the whole thing packed up and tomorrow the place was some sort of suite for visiting royalty. Trish played slots and won 40. I lost about 20 playing roulette. No poker, of course.









I took the first photo of Trish and I couldn't quite decide how I wanted to frame it. How much head room did I want versus how much of the buildings did I wants to see? Looking at the verticals gave me the idea for the second photo where Trish gets a Hitchcock cameo.


NEXT TO ROME. . .
DEBATING
Being forced to recognize that there are different points of view helps make bright young conservatives such good debaters. They learn early on the limited persuasiveness of shouting at someone with whom they disagree, "You're an idiot." Of necessity they have to develop the ability to cast their arguments in ways that appeal to those starting from very different premises. . . .

Liberals can be wonderful people, and boon companions, but they often have a hard time dealing with people of opposing views--especially when they cannot dismiss them out of hand as idiots. Too often they have spent their entire adult lives surrounded almost entirely by those who think just like them, and it comes naturally to dismiss those of other views as intellectually or morally challenged.

It's true. I can debate the war one against five and not get a better retort than "Bush Lied." They quote the media quoting the 911 Commission Report and when you offer the unreported parts they stare blankly.
GM'S MANAGEMENT STYLE
General Motors' CEO Rick Wagoner, had a rather whiny piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, blaming G.M.'s problems on, well, pretty much everybody except G.M.'s management.

I talked about this with a friend the other day. He's no foreign-car snob: He drives a Dodge Ram pickup. But he said that he'd had it with lousy G.M. products, and probably would never go back.

General Motors finds itself in the same position as Schlitz beer. Once a top brand, Schlitz gradually lowered the quality of its product, through a series of individually imperceptible cost-cutting moves, until one day consumers woke up and said, "This beer tastes lousy," and abandoned it. The brand has never recovered, despite a couple of campaigns aimed at telling consumers (in more polite terms), "Hey, we don't taste like watered-down horse pee anymore!"

Quality slippage is too common and I think it comes from the short-term thinking linked with mobile executives and stock options. If companies offered stock options that weren't redeemable for 10 years, you'd see a lot more long-term thinking. It would have to take a board of directors insisting on it.

Monday, December 05, 2005

BACK FROM ITALY

In Florence for the First Three Days

I'll probably write 20 pages about observations and experiences, but it would be too cumbersome to publish it here. For Junto Boys, I’ll try to keep it to political, cultural and historical observations the best I can.

Delta showed every reason why they are going belly-up. The plane seemed ancient with scattered movie screens with everyone watching the same thing. The headset audio was wretched. The people on the plane were nice and helpful, but the check-in staff in Rome coming back was horrible and we never did get any kind of explanation for our two-hour delay going over. I might fly Delta again if the travel time is under two hours, but I’m probably through with them for good.

We had a great location in Florence. We were by the river with a five minute walk to the Duomo which is the skyline landmark of the city.

(Photo Courtesy of the German couple that loved headroom.)

I saw a great documentary on the Medici family a year or so ago and this was the city they owned for 300 years. They were the patrons of Leonardo and Michelangelo and Raphael and they even produced a few Pope’s, one of which hired Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel.

I was first aware of Florence when I saw the 1960s Disney film ESCAPADE IN FLORENCE. It wasn’t much of a movie, but I was a kid and they were riding motor scooters all through the city and the plot wrapped around some art thefts and it always stuck in my mind that I needed to see Florence to see these paintings. Their main Museum is the Uffizi and we could walk there in 5 minutes. All the big Renaissance artists were present as were a bunch of medieval painters, but it was a big disappointment to me.

Medieval art is not much to look at, with its flat surfaces and endless unidentified saints with their not too subtle halos overhead. But the renaissance work only seemed to add a third dimensional quality and little to the plot line. One of the few exceptions was Leonardo’s “Annunciation.” His use of lines and distance was very captivating.

Much of the rest played out like an art class where every painter of the day gave us his version of Madonna and Child with a 5 year-old midget posing as the baby Jesus. The other assignment seemed to be creating the most tortured looking Christ either on the cross or on his way to calvary. It’s not like they didn’t have enough material from the New Testament to choose from. Some of this art was literally made for headboards and given to lucky couples as a wedding gift. It would certainly spoil the mood to put it politely.

On the last day we made the obligatory trip to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s “David.” I’m not a big sculpture fan and it’s not a very big museum despite the fact that it’s priced like an all-day ticket. I’ve seen so many replicas of David that I already knew what it looked like. Mom even had a small one in the living room when I was a kid. There were two big replicas of David around town, one in the place where the original one use to stand near the Uffizi and one on a hill across the river. I’m here to say that no replica does the thing justice.

(We weren't allowed to shoot the original, but here is one of the duplicates.)

The original is 12 feet tall and made of the cleanest whitest marble. You first see it at a distance and it’s beautiful. As you walk closer you start to notice details and it loses none of its magic.

The Academia also housed the “prisoners” statues that Michelangelo never finished or decided they were better undone. They really look like people trying to escape the marble. Michelangelo is a genius that lives up to the hype. It was just as evident looking at the Sistine Chapel ceiling later in Rome and comparing it to the Sistine chapel walls painted by others. His work seems to tell a story with action whereas his contemporaries were posing people for a picture.

We also toured the Medici palace that is currently used as a government building. Not worth the price or time really. We went to the church where Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dante, and Machiavelli are buried. It was like an Italian version of Westminster Abbey.

Just walking the city was fun and we shopped at a nearby market for breakfast and Trish enjoyed Buffalo Mozzarella every morning for a fraction of the U.S. cost. I bought an Italian leather hat the first morning so as not to give myself away as an American with the baseball cap. Nearly everyone made us for Americans anyway what with my non-Italian leather bomber jacket. They’d start speaking English to us from 15 feet away.

We saw “David” on a Friday during the first of two general strikes we witnessed in Italy. It has something to do with the upcoming election and it was a great example of the European love of socialism. The Galleria closed at 1:45 that day because of the strike and we would have missed “David” entirely if we had not showed up early. We happened along a demonstration in the square behind the Galleria and it was right out of some movie from the 1940s with the old fashion platform speakers and guys shaking their fists and speaking like the revolution was on its way. We saw peace flags all over the place and even red hammer and sickle flags. It was kind of disturbing to think that they could get a rally up for communism after their history of fascism. It goes to show that any segment of the population is ready to trade liberty for the iron boot promising a bowl of warm gruel.

(Standing in the cold rain beats working I suppose.)

These people were so much like the fringe element that could be seen protesting on C-Span right before the Republican convention in 2004. On a positive note, the rally didn't bring a big crowd and the audience didn’t respond to any of the speakers despite the obvious pauses looking for it. I didn’t even have to know Italian to know the crowd wasn’t engaged enough to care. It seemed kind of funny that day as you can see by my mocking photo. It was less funny the second time in Rome.

I’m not sure what the Italian tax rate is to support the welfare state, but the taxes aren’t coming from alcohol sales. You can buy a decent bottle of red wine at any market for less than 3 Euros. Hard liquor was cheap too. I wasn’t surprised that the European spirits like Scotch and Vodka were cheaper, but even Kentucky Bourbon cost less than here. Only beer seemed to be about the same price.

In Rome the following Friday I saw a woman pushing a stroller and complaining to her husband that he had put the Soviet flag in the stroller instead of carrying it himself. It seemed to be in her way. Anything for the revolution, but wives must carry the instruments of protest. You’d be hard pressed to find a picture of a Soviet citizen pushing a stroller through Red Square in the 1980s, a wasteful luxury to the Bolsheviks. Just having to carry that baby would probably turn that lady into a counter-revolutionary. I might have told her so if I spoke Italian.

Next Time . . . Venice

Friday, December 02, 2005

FAVORITE QUOTES

This poll asked businesspersons to share their favorite quotes. If you like pithy quotes, as I do, you might enjoy their replies.

My own favorite: "Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he will stand before kings; he will not stand before mean men." (Proverbs 22:29, quoted frequently to Ben Franklin by his father.)