California Budget Deficit? What California Budget Deficit?

The Gubernator announced his last May Revise  this past Friday.  It was greeted with the usual rending of garments and gnashing of teeth now a customary part of the California budget blowout.   To close an almost $20 billion deficit His Arnoldness is now proposing freezes on local education, more slashing of government workers’ numbers and pay and huge cuts in social welfare and state medical care, including the complete termination of Calworks. Take that , you million mooching kids living off of state handouts.

But what are you going to do when the state is running almost 25% in the red?

And Our Last Action-Hero Governor can’t even depend on a last minute uber-dramatic rescue from Obi Wan Obama.  Washington’s response to  the Governor’s January request for $7 billion in reimbursements for Federal programs?  Drop dead.  Washington’s likely response to his new $3.4 billion beg?  Ditto.

Our Term(Limited)inator in Chief shouldn’t be  asking for a paltry $3.4 billion, anyway.  If the Feds have the audacity to insult the Golden State with such brass tribute he should throw it back in their faces.

No, what  one of the most successful businessmen in Hollywood History should demand is $70 billion.  That’s BILLION, with a big “B”. $70 billion is how much more California pays the Feds then the Feds give back in services and spending.

Californians get back about 78¢ for every dollar collected here by the Feds That means for the $313 billion  per year Californians pay the Federal government the Feds put back around $224 billion  in services and payments.  Which leaves California with that magic $70 billion deficit vis-à-vis  D.C.

Rather than running a $20 billion dollar budget deficit  in terms of revenues and spending  California actually has a $50 billion surplus. That is, if the Golden State got to keep all the gold it ships off to Washington.  Who then ships it off Red States like Mississippi, Alabama and all the others who get more back than they put in to the Federal slot machine.

I heard a commentator on the Dennis Prager show today compare Germany bailing out Greece to Texas bailing out  California .  Sorry but that’s the wrong comparison.  Texas gets back 94$ per dollar it sends.  Alaska gets back  a whopping $1.84.

So it’s Germany is to Greece as California is to Alaska, SAT fans.

Note to Feds: pay us our $70 billion, please.  We’ll take it in gold, if possible.

Note to Sarah Palin:  Shuttup already.  Your state takes more federal money per dollar sent than any other and you have the nerve to cry at your own Tea Party?  How about  you send us Californians—Real Americans who pay a lot more in shouldering the burden of being Americans than you and your mooching Alaskans—the $3.6 billion more you get back from that hated American government than you send in?

Consider it a down payment on monies owed California by a grateful nation.

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Road to Nowhere

The filing for bankruptcy by the South Bay Expressway underscores a fundamental flaw in the “government as business” crowd’s political philosophy.  Simply stated, the “private property” model, in many if not most cases, has serious difficulties providing “public goods.” Which is why, for the last, oh, I don’t know—just how old is civilization?  Six thousand or so years?—the private sector has continuously failed to displace the public sector from key areas of human life.

Human beings form civilizations to collectively provide the things which humans need to survive and prosper but can not efficiently provide on their own.  Things like collective security (cops and troops).  Things like public works (roads, bridges, dams).  Things that cost any individual too much to produce.  Ever try to pay for your own private army or bridge?  A few wealthy—really wealthy, like Kingly  of Gatesian wealthy—people might be able to do so on a small scale but most can not do so at all and no-one can do so on a scale that supports a modern industrial economy.  By collectivizing labor, either through the direct contribution of labor “in kind” or indirectly through taxation–which is simple a monetarization and reallocation of labor—the community can produce the things we all need but can not or will not produce for ourselves.

Road and other infrastructure construction has been  a function of the state since ancient times.  When the great Western civilization of antiquity collapsed, so did such construction.  The result was the dark ages.  Not a lot of new road building then by private or public entities.  A handful of toll roads replaced the great Roman road network. The rest was Medieval history.

Over the last 500 years resurgent civilization (Some call it “big government– I call it what it is: Civilization.) began harnessing collective energies to produce public works again. The result was the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution.  Recent efforts to privatize essentially  public goods in the names of an exaggerated conceptualization of the free market have typically gone the fate of the South Bay toll road.  The private entity that takes over providing the public good for private profit either becomes heavily subsidized by the state to meet its bottom line (private prisons come to mind) charge an incredibly inflated price to provide formerly  publically provided services (vocational training by community colleges being replaced by  for-profit technical institutes and colleges like the University of Phoenix and its nursing program)  or simply fail and go bankrupt (like the Toll Road crew.)

Except they can’t just fail and go away like any other business.  Mervyn’s can close its doors forever.  A toll road that is now a major artery along which homes and businesses have sprung can not be plowed under and forgotten. Government will have to step in and take over the operation and funding though at potentially higher costs than if government had simply controlled the project from the onset.

Candidates for public office, from local city council to statewide positions who proclaim how government should operate like a business and that  the private sector can pretty much do anything the public sector does cheaper and more efficiently should keep the fate of the South Bay Toll Road firmly in mind.    There are simply some things government does better.  That’s why government and civilization have evolved together for millennia.  Of course, I don’t expect ideologues driven by their visions of Utopian free markets to be swayed by such simple appeals to history and logic.  I would wish they would at least remember what is becoming my favorite phrase these days:

The Government that  governs least is Somalia.

The Axman Cometh

Forgot pigeons.  The most foul municipal fowls in San Diego are rosters.  And they’ve come home to roost

Cranky old misanthropes (like yours truly) have being saying ever since the great crisis of ’02 that the City of San Diego was only putting off its day of reckoning.  The pension crisis became business as usual once the Housing and Credit bubble hid the reality of how underfunded long term pension obligations remained.  Now that the bubbles have popped the pension fund has once again become a huge drain on general fund resources.  And, of course, when investment income streams dry up tax revenue streams are sure to follow.  

Think of the City’s current financial problems as being the same as California’s drought.  No snowpack, no water.  Sinking economy, no revenue, simple as that.  Yet, rather then move to shore up City finances during the good years (and, believe it or not, 2004-2008 were good years) the Mayor and Council took the low, easy road (just as previous Mayors and Councils did during the good years of the 1990s).  No significant moves were made to reign in pensions, trim city work forces or, more importantly, raise revenues to pay for all that “big government” that everybody seems to dislike—unless it’s cut, that is.  Then all those Tea partiers tend to whine about the lack of governmental lemon and sugar.

So now the Mayor and Council must make cuts.  First on the block,  some 200 jobs of mostly mid to lower level employees for a savings of some $20 million dollars.  Not bad.  Just $150 million to go.  The Mayor’s office also said today that most of those who lose these jobs will be able to transfer into currently vacant positions scheduled to be filled.  I’m trying to understand how this isn’t really a push and not a real cut (the net savings from the 200  cuts being offset by filling and paying salary on the 200 vacant positions).  In any event, the savings is but a pittance.  Other bombshell ideas – like pulling out all the fire rings at City beaches to save a few hundred grand – may be DOA as the Coastal Commission sets up hurdles and local residents rally to save their right to pass a Bota bag around the municipal camp fire.

Side note 1:  While 3400 people have signed up for the Facebook group “Save the San Diego Fire Pits”  I must ask how many have signed up for the Facebook group “Raise My Taxes To Save the San Diego Fire Pits”?  The answer, me thinkst, will be zero.   Which is symptomatic of the structural problem:  the Voters want.  They’ve been conned into thinking (by elected officials and the voters own venality) that they can have without paying,   They can’t.  At least forever.  And forever seems to be ending over the next two fiscal years. 

Side note 2:  If ACE parking can have dozens of unattended parking lots where drivers simply swipe a card or insert cash into a machine to get a little ticket saying they’ve rented a parking space for a set amount of time, why can’t the City do the same with fire rings?  Set up machines and charge an hourly rate that covers maintenance costs with a little profit (extra revenue) on top of it.  If people want to hang out at the rings let them pay for it.  And DON’T subcontract it out to ACE parking so they can take the profit.  Surely City employees are competent enough to manage the service.

I find myself incredulous that, increasingly, the only voice operating outside of fiscal fantasy at 202 C Street is Carl “Demonic” Demaio who keeps pointing out that one time fixes ain’t gonna fix this problem.  I differ with Demaio in terms of remedy – he wants to cut, cut, cut – though his proposed cuts alone aren’t going to fix this problem.   

The city needs to do three things to get out of this mess.  First, it needs to figure out a win-win strategy to restructure the pension fund that will cut down on yearly outward obligations without negatively impacting pension recipients.  How you do that, short of bankruptcy proceedings, I don’t know.  But the municipal unions are not going to hand back the benefits the city legally gave them.  Nor should they.  The people of San Diego benefited from their services and are bound to the agreed to compensation.  Maybe inkind compensation—like boosting medical or long term care provisions in exchange for cash-out offsets—can be considered.

Second, the City needs to pursue deficit-offset funding sources.  Unfortunately, most of these – State and, in particular, Federal—are outside the City’s control.  Some, though, may offer more flexibility.  I can’t believe I’m about to write this but, Keynesian economics wins out.  If the local economy is hurting the only way to generate a bigger revenue base in the future is to invest heavily in the infrastructure for such a base in the present.  That means, if ever there was a time to pursue the three big city infrastructure projects — new city hall, new main library and, gulp and heaven forgive me, new football stadium—this is the time.

Big concrete and steel projects mean big spending and payroll in the region over the next five plus years.  Which will help offset municipal deficits projected into that same period. Which will generate additional revenues (at least from the stadium and eventual ancillary development) in the out years.  With Obama banging on bankers to show more civic responsibility and do what bankers are supposed to do—lend!—the credit crunch may be coming to an end.  This can offer the city a tap of money to support these projects.  In addition,  getting these projects underway may open up taps of state and federal monies as well.  Indeed, perhaps the NFL and Chargers organization can be hit up for more up front monies now in exchange for an expedited stadium deal and public monies later.  While it would constitute another one of those lousy one-time money fixes, a patch in a sinking boat is still a patch.

I know I’ve railed against all three projects in the past but, as Keynes said, when times are hard having the government pay a man to dig a hole and fill it back up again is still better than having the man unemployed.  Ultimately a new Charger stadium may not be the best long term use of municipal monies but it may be one of the quicker ways to get money into the municipal treasury and the local pocket.   

Third and finally, the Mayor and council have to look at longer term fixes, such as true-costing future development projects to be sure that, when the next building boom and bubble comes, as it inevitably will, developers and buyers must pay the true public cost of their projects in terms of future city services and expenditures rather than just passing them off to the public trough.  

There is, ultimately, no such thing as a free lunch or fire ring. Time to roast some roosting rosters of fiscal foolishness and set the house in order.

Crisis? What Crisis?

I have a piece on San Diego’s pension fund discomforts and budgetary woes today in the analog edition of CB.  Check it out here.

And what’s all the pension fund  hoo-haw about, anyway?  I thought that fiasco was over?  I mean, wasn’t it only the chicken little likes of fringe thinkers  at Voice of San Diego or The Reader or the whacko lefties  at at  CityBeat who cited—get this—official facts and figures to foolishly warn that the pension was still heading full-bore into multi-billion dollar oblivion? After all, banishing Mike  “The sky is falling and bankruptcy  still looms” Aguirre from public life was by itself supposed to solve any lingering pension problems.  Did you hear our now erstwhile city attorney  Jan  “the Ferret man”  Goldsmith  saying anything a pension crisis during last year’s campaign—or ever since?

Back when Mad Mike was warning the pension deficit could drown the city in red ink the total magnitude of the problem as around a billion dollars.  Now we awaken from slumber (or, better said, personal financial nightmares) to discover that the deficit has swollen to over two billion dollars?  Where was the screaming along the way?  True, it was little less than a year ago that Joe Esuchanko, a consulting actuary for the City of San Diego, dropped his little bombshell about the pension deficit exploding four times faster than local home prices were imploding.  But the city council spent more time taking one last opportunity to bash Aguirre back then  for running hundred thousand dollar office benefits than deal with Esuchanko’s stark numbers so how serious could the problem be?

I seem to recall reading a piece by local icon of intelligence Don Bauder last spring in which he was pointing out how bad the pension fund already was—and how much worse it was going to be—but then the fund’s actuary (I think it was) stood him up for an interview and never got back to him.  Correct me on this if I’m wrong—I’ve been going through back issues of the Reader looking for the exact quote.  But that was months ago.  We’re only having a kinda public awareness of this now?

Meanwhile Pension Fund Hefe  David Wescoe seems complacent about two billion dollar deficits.  According to him, the chasm of debt due to the crash of the pension fund portfolio is simply a natural fluctuation of the market which will no doubt right itself in the long term.  Of course that is what the pension fund management said back in 2002—when the pension debt was half of what it is now.  Inspires confidence, doesn’t it

And the worst  Jay Goldstone is worried about is laying off another 300-400  jobs because they had to kick the $30 million they had to give to the Pension kitty in any event?  The city’s required pension fund contributions may routinely top a quarter billion per year over the next decade to maybe 20%-25%  of their total unrestricted general fund  outlays!  At the rate things are going in a few years, the city may only be able to employ 300-400 people, total.

Go Fish

fish-in-newspaperFish left such a thoughtful comment to my last post that I had to take the time to address in an illustrious fashion.

Dear Fish,

You smell like a three-day-left-in-the-sun-real-world-version-of-your-online-avatar.

Sincerely,

Lunacy

No, no. that’s not what I really meant to say.  As far as I know Mr. Fish (who should really pal around with Mr. Chips) is a paragon of hygiene and Body Shop botanical splendor, the mental images of sub par dentistry and grimy fingernails his less than genteel online manor suggests notwithstanding.   A serious statement (or as close to one as Fish seems capable of tapping out with a solitary finger) deserves serious response.

What did then Candidate Obama mean –and his supporters hope for—when promising change?   That would be Change from the worst economy produced by any two term president in modern history?  (And no, this is not the Obama recession any more than the first two years of the Gipper’s Administration are called the Reagan Recession.)  This is not the verdict of left wing hippy type intellectuals.  Check out former Bush speech writer David Frum’s comments last week in which he pointed out:

In terms of income growth and poverty reduction, Bush performed worse than any two-term president of the modern era. Even in the best year of his presidency, 2007, the typical American household still earned less after inflation than in the year 2000. The next year, 2008, American households suffered the worst income drop since record-keeping began six decades ago.

Or maybe it’s change from a litany of some of the biggest mistakes made by any modern administration as summarized  by Craig Newmark, a list which includes:

• Going to war on false premises;

• The greatest disaster relief failure in American history;

• Controversial (and, one might add, potentially dangerous and often unconstitutional assertions of Executive Power;

• Becoming the first administration in modern US history to overtly condone torture;

• Unprecedented politicization of the departments of the Executive Branch (can you say Justice) and political patronage appointments of demonstrably incompetents (see number 2 above) ;

• Fiddling while Wall Street burned and then putting out the fire with a trillion dollars in public money; and

• Gutting environmental policy while exposing millions of Americans to increased health and quality of life risks.

Or how about change in simply ending what an overwhelming numbers of professional historians (more than any other president at this point in the post-presidency) call one of the worst administrations in history.

Of course my own personal favorite bit of change:  having a president who can now use the language of Shakespeare without making the Bard want to switch to French.

Fish,  read a book.  Read history.  Read SOMETHING other than right wing blogs perused while listening to right wing talk radio.  Obama is not the best thing since sliced bread.  He is not the Messiah.  He is making plenty of what I consider to be significant mistakes which all into question his ability to produce the change his supporters hoped for.  But by any objective standard he is so far performing better than his predecessor.  That is a good thing.  Democracy worked.  The people spoke and maybe things improve.

So Fish, I sign off with YAJSCIIYLKJARRWTIJWTDYIMY.EHOC.*

Best, Lunacy

(*You are just so cute in your little knee-jerk and rude reactionary ways that I just want to dip you in my coffee.  Extra hot, of course.)

I

New York (Times) State of Mind

lehman_brothers-1.la

A set of articles in Saturday’s and Sunday’s NYT weave an interesting story, though the paper of national record doesn’t actually connect the dots.  Indeed, the first two page one articles from Saturday pretty much contradicted each other.  Joe Nocera, in his “Talking Business Column” presents an amusing argument that  Lehman Had to Die So Global Finance Could Live”.  According to jolting Joe, then Treasury Secretary Henry “Damn the Cost, Full TARP ahead” Paulson had to let Lehman collapse (and bring the commercial paper markets and, with it, the global economy, a half-heartbeat away from a full on financial heart attack) in order to create enough of a crisis atmosphere so as to make the resulting TARP bailouts politically doable.  Rahm Emanuel says never let a good crisis go to waste.  Apparently Paulson’s motto was “never let the lack of a good crisis get in the way of making a great crisis.” 

Now, I might quibble with Nocera’s leap of faith argument that the decision to euthanize Lehman was a cold, calculation on Paulson’s part.  At the time lots of heads smarter than mine were scratched trying to find a rhyme and reason as to just whom the Bush team was saving and whom they were leaving to the wolves.  So maybe this is so much seeing faces in clouds on Joe’s part, crediting more calculation to Paulsen’s actions than are due.  Who knows, maybe someday a tell-all memoir will come out saying that Paulson didn’t save Lehman’s because their CEO stole a pudding off his cafeteria plate at Dartmouth.  On such capriciousness have the wealth of nations hinged on occasions past. 

Nor do I disagree that the collapse of Lehman was the direct, The-End-Is-Here, moment that compelled the Democratic Congress to shell out almost a trillion dollars in the peoples’ money essentially to Paulson’s personal checking account so he could dispense it to whom he chose, how he chose, without accountability or liability.  Under no other circumstances short of extra-terrestrial invasion  by the Piranha People of Proxima Prime could I imagine a Congress so scarred as to capitulate on their fiduciary obligations so totally and readily. 

No, my beef is with Nocera’s conclusion  that  Paulson’s actions in letting  Lehman die so as to secure TARP to allow Wall Street to live was a good thing.  I think it just as likely that, had a bailout of Lehman under terms more stringent than, say those applied to AIG, been conducted in early September last year the ensuing panic would not have occurred.  Instead, a much more gradual unwinding of the toxic  mortgage-bundled securities lacing bonds portfolios across Wall Street  might have been addressed  without the crushing  credit crunch that actually occurred.  Moreover, with the luxury of time a bailout of Lehman’s might have allowed, Congress would have been less hasty—or panicky–in  passing a trillion dollar, no strings give away to the same Lords of the Universe who brought the financial universe crashing down. 

But, then, perhaps that was precisely the Paulson point.  Perhaps Paulson wanted a crisis so severe, so abrupt, so catastrophically precipitous that he could force a blank check out of Congress to give to his homies on Wall Street (which was—and no doubt will be again in the future—the Paulson family’s true home address)  with far less restrictions than any parent puts in place before handing a twenty over to a teenager.  Wall Street got the bailout and the right to continue business as usual.  Which, according to the front page article above Nocera’s, is exactly what they’ve done. 

Meaning “Nuttin.”

The article,  “A Year Later, Little Change on Wall Street” details just how little impact having crashed the family economy into a tree has had on the boys of finance.  As a result, a trillion dollars latter,  the American people have bought themselves nothing back bankers ready to do it all over again.  

Meanwhile Peter Goodman’s an article in the next day’s Sunday  NYT  Magazine,  (Big Spenders, They Wish)  underscored the impact of our last generation of Finance Uber Alles  public policy:  the hollowing out–and possible collapse–of the American Middle Class.  (You remember the Middle Class – the people upon whose shoulders and wallets the economy and this little thing called “democracy” have historically rested?  My, but they were SO 20th century.)  As Goodman reports, all one  really has to know about the inequity and long-term stupidity of the last twenty-five years of unabated supply-side economics is this:

 “Many [in the middle class] have lived beyond their incomes simply because incomes have been outstripped hby the costs of middle-class life. By the fall of 2008, most American workers were bringing home roughly the same weekly wages they had earned in 1983, after accounting for inflation.”

 

But at least Wall Street is alive and kicking.  That would be, kicking us in the head.

Perhap’s Nocera’s title should have been “Lehman had to die so Wall Street didn’t have to change a thing.” Or maybe better yet, “Lehman had to die so Wall Street could keep on raking it in from the rest of us.” 

 Quick, knave, findeth me my editorial pen…

Summer Song

 Broke my long hiatus from punditry today with an article on the city’s faux-budget. Read it, hot from the pages from CityBeat Analog, here. Haven’t written since my last, aptly named entry, “Last Hurrah” back in April. Don’t really plan to write any more until the end of August. I’m not teaching this summer, for the first time in around 20 years, so I’m taking the summer off from my usual concerns–teaching, administrating, teaching, punditrying and, of course, teaching–to pursue other pursuits (beach, patio, other writing projects, beach, patio and, above all, five o’clock proseco time in the gazebo. I’m not kidding. We have a freakin’ gazebo and, every summer day at 5, adjourn there for a glass of cold proseco. It’s a good life.)

In any event, what is there to say right now that’s worth saying? At the local level things in June, 2009 are not really all that different than in June, 2000 or 2001. The city continues to muddle along with the usual mediocre municipal mundanity: precarious finances, feckless leadership and a gentle diminishment of America’s finest city to just another over-extended, under-repaired American town. Frye will be off the council soon, Jerry will be off to gentlemanly retirement and DeMaio will be Mayor—so it has been written, it seems, so it will be done. The Tribe of Five Old White People will continue to dominate the County. The Airport Authority will continue to plan billions of dollars in new projects that will never be spent for an airport that will never be adequate or replaced. The Chargers will continue to lobby for their new stadium which will inevitably be built with public monies (my suggestion, alas, that they build it beneath a three trillion dollar convention center expansion—which, I think, around the amount the convention center really dreams of spending) whether it takes another year or ten. Only the decline of the UT and the tantalizing possibility that the new owners might realize that if Kittle and Kompany continue to dictate editorial viewpoint the paper’s circulation will continue to shrink to the sixty-five and older north of Mira Mesa Boulevard crowd offers some hope for a break in the local monotony. Who knows – by fall the UT may have a new crowd (albeit probably a bunch of twenty-somethings paid minimum wage) flogging the pagewaves. Couldn’t hurt.

Of course, things have changed dramatically in Sacramento. Six years ago we had an unpopular second-term governor disowned even by his own party presiding over massive state deficits, declining services, increasing taxes, unrestrained partisan warfare with absolutely no realistic solutions being offered by the legislative leadership lugs. Oh, how times have changed. (Dramatic pause for sarcastic effect.)

And, at the national level, we have our Obama moment, Act One. Tobacco has been regulated. Some form of healthcare reform is on the way. The economy is no longer sinking. Yay. Except that the tobacco reform is about two generations too late to really matter, the healthcare reform is going to be delightfully watered down and any leveling off of economy we’re currently seeing is actually a consequence of actions taken last fall before Obama came into office. It takes around six months or more for policy decisions in DC to trickle into the real economy—the Obama stimulus won’t really begin to be felt until late summer and, by then, will be revealed, I fear, to be too little. Unemployment continues to rise – my bet is it eventually hits 11%-12%. Foreclosures continue to mount and the other shoe of the real estate debacle—the commercial side of the house—is caving. (Count empty storefronts and commercial “For Rent” signs next time you’re out.) At some point Obama’s love affair with Wall Street and Wall Street types has got to end and more aggressive Keynesian tactics aimed at homeowners and consumers have got kick in. According to retail experts, it’s going to take ten years, at this point, to get back to consumer spending levels in 2007. If everything starts turning around now. Obama keeps going the path he’s going and he runs the risk of becoming the American Kiichi Miiyazawa, (the Japanese Prime Minister who helped keep Japan from falling into depression back in 1990-1991 but, instead, ushered in a decade plus of stagnation.) The world can—and did—survive a stagnant Japan. It won’t survive, with any stability, a stagnant United States. Meanwhile national discourse has degenerated to a nasty level that simultaneously makes dock workers blush and insults the intelligence of second graders. I’m taking the summer off from Fox, MSBNC and the entire AM dial. I haven’t heard one original thing said (Obama is a radical, communist-socialist-muslim-American-hater and Republicans are Rush Limbaugh) in months by any of my brethren (albeit it far more lucratively compensated kin) in punditry. My bet is, come September 1, I turn on Sean Hannity and Chris Matthews after a two-month hiatus and I won’t have missed a beat. Maybe, by end of summer, democracy will have come to Iran. (Which I doubt. Erstwhile president Ahmadinukejihad will emerge from this ultimately stronger, probably having co-opted the authority of the religious clerics and, thereby, regressing Iran back to a standard authoritarian model.) If democracy does triumph, however, people are going to (oh, it gives me gout right down to my little toe to write this) reassess the Bush-Cheney theory of viral democracy. Look at Lebanon. But that’s a debate for another month.

In short, I go into the summer feeling crotchety and persnickety about all things political. By summers end, though, batteries recharged, feelings reinvigorated, I’ll be back to pound the punditry pages. Hopefully in a reformatted format—one of my summer projects is to try and upgrade and integrate this blog into more comprehensive website that can be useful to both my students and you, my faithful reader. (If there are any of you left – alas, even poor Mlaiuppa has bailed on me given my niggardly natterings. ) As such, a bid you summer time adieu. Look for me when the dog days are over, if you care to.