Monday, December 15, 2008

Things are getting stranger and stranger

Just when you thought things couldn't get any stranger...President Bush goes grandstanding in Iraq instead of staying home and tending to the mess his party made on the auto bailout.

So what does he get for his trouble? The Arab version of the bird, you know, the finger -- a pair of shoes tossed at him. Serves him right.

A few years ago, while studying Japanese customs before writing a story on how to do business with the Japanese and preparing to greet a Japanese family we were "hosting" through a Yale program, I studied up on some international customs. In some cultures, it's considered a prime insult to show the bottoms of the feet. In others, shaking hands is taboo, while in others, extending the left hand is considered bad form. Some men kiss, while in some cultures, like Israeli, polite conversation involves a lot of yelling.

I came upon the shoe thing with many Arab cultures. I guess Bush now knows about that, too.

There are about 35 days left in the Bush presidency. He should sign whatever deal is made on the auto industry, then take himself to Crawford, Texas, for the rest of the time. He should return on Jan. 20 to hand over the keys to the executive washroom (yes, the Lowinsky memorial executive washroom).

He should also know with certainty about the applause he receives on Jan. 20. It's like the windbag speaker who finally sits down. The applause isn't for what he said, but only because he finished saying it.

Page 2 -- How dumb can you get?

President-elect Barack Obama asked the Bush administration for permission to move into Blair House, the official guest residence, on Jan. 5, so his children could start school with the new term. 

Bush administration officials said no. They had an explanation. It doesn't matter. It was a stupid thing to do. So what if the residence was promised to someone else? Move them into a hotel. When the new sheriff comes to town, you don't want to tick him off. It's true that these officials probably would have been out of a job anyway, but now they've ticked off the most powerful man in the world . Not a good move for people who will be looking for a job.

Barack Obama doesn't seem like a man who suffers fools or insults lightly.

Ask Alfredo Carrion. 

This guy was supposed to be secretary of housing and urban development. He then opened his big mouth at a Yale talk. You don't talk about a Cabinet appointment until after the big guy announces it.

Sure, he's getting a good job with the new administration. He has the president's ear. But what he doesn't have is a Cabinet appointment. He doesn't have a seat at the big table in the Cabinet room. He isn't in the line of presidential succession. He doesn't get to sit in the front row at the State of the Union. He doesn't get the big office, the big car and all the rest that goes with being a member of the Cabinet. I think he now knows to keep his big mouth shut. Tough lesson.

Page 3 -- You gotta have tzaichel

Tzaichel is a Yiddish word. It means common sense, or good sense. 

The cops in New Haven don't seem to have it when it comes to issuing parking tickets.

A couple of years ago, they towed some cars in Jewish neighborhoods on Jewish holidays during street sweeping. They posted the warnings during the holidays, when Orthodox and many Conservative Jews are forbidden from driving, then towed the cars the next day. 
Now they towed cars outside a church while an important service was going on inside.

Yes, cars at the church were double-parked, but, according to the story in the New Haven Independent, the practice had been going on for years. Blatchley Avenue is not one of the city's prime avenues, so a little double-parking isn't a threat to life or limb.

The cops in New York have been ticketing cars during snow storms for violating the alternate-side-of-the-street parking rules. Those stupid rules mean that, for two hours every other day, cars have to be moved so street sweeping can happen.

The City Council finally had enough and is passing an ordinance stopping this practice, which does little except fatten the city coffers. 

Maybe it's time the Board of Aldermen pass a law that makes it illegal to ticket cars on holidays and celebrations. The city needs money, but doesn't need it that badly.

Page 4 -- Happy Birthday

I just want to publicly say happy birthday to my wife, Sue. My partner for the past 37-plus years in life and one-plus in business, she, of course, is celebrating by helping one of the kids. That's what she does.

Much love and many, many, many happy returns.

Until next time...

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