Archive for March 1, 2009

Big Government

March 1, 2009 Leave a comment


Monday night I read Richard Parker’s review in the current New York Review of Books of Jeff Madrick’s new book The Case for Big Government. This would have been ideal preparation for President Obama’s address on Tuesday, had I watched it. But instead I had other things on my mind when I got home from school after two long afternoon meetings, and so I sat here getting caught up on email while Gail listened on the radio as she made a delicious chicken cashew stir fry dinner. Only in reading about Obama’s speech since, and then reading the first few pages of the book Friday night and last night (though I didn’t listen to the speech Tuesday night, I did order the book, even as the speech was on, and it arrived Friday afternoon), have I realized that the book and speech are a perfect match.

Regarding the speech, I still haven’t gone back to watch it on youtube, but I’ve read a fair bit about it. For instance, here’s an excerpt from George Packer’s comments on it in his blog:

Look at the front page of today’s Times. The headlines are historic and suggest one of those tectonic political shifts that occur only once every two or three generations: “OBAMA, BREAKING ‘FROM A TROUBLED PAST,’ SEEKS A BUDGET TO RESHAPE U.S. PRIORITIES,” “Tax Rise for Wealthy—Push on Health and Energy,” “A Bold Plan Sweeps Away Reagan Ideas.”

Reagan changed America above all by changing the terms of political discourse. Between his message to Congress on Tuesday and the ten-year budget proposal he released yesterday, Obama has shown that he wants to do the same. There are no more defensive apologies for having to bring government to bear on problems that the private sector can’t solve. He is making, or rather restoring, government as the instrument of a vast social and economic change, summed up in the word “equality.” The Times is right to compare this moment to 1932 and 1980.

As for Madrick’s book, Princeton University Press has been kind enough to post Chapter 1 at the book’s website. Given that there are only three chapers, this turns out to be about a third of the book. It includes in particular all that I’ve read so far, including the representative passage that I have placed below the fold. Madrick argues that the conventional wisdom that government spending is inefficient and high taxes are a drag on productivity is simply false, not supported by the empirical data. Moreover, although I have yet to read this part, so I simply quote from Richard Parker’s review, “Madrick first provides a short history—a primer, really—of government’s often-forgotten but central role in the nation’s long economic rise from the 1770s to the 1970s.” I’m looking forward to this. Perhaps I’ll have more to say later. For now, here’s the promised excerpt from the book:
Read more…

Categories: Books, Economics, History, Politics

Introducing Henry Sofie

March 1, 2009 Leave a comment


Last month I wrote about the loss of Jessica’s cat Peter Sofie. Since then, she has been spending some time looking at shelter cats as candidates for adoption. This culminated in her decision to adopt Henry, and two days ago Gail went with her to bring Henry home. Following my birthday dinner last night, Jessica drove Joel back to her condo and Gail and I drove up there so we could all see him.

Following the shelter’s instructions, Jessica is keeping Henry confined to the bathroom for a few days so he can become accustomed to the surroundings without having too much new space within which to roam. But with all of us there, she brought him out so he could see us. He’s very comfortable with strangers. Gail and Joel each took turns holding him, we all petted him, and he purred continuously. At one point, he got down and explored the living room a bit, heading for the door to the balcony, running behind the couch, getting into some bags, lying under the dining table. Ultimately he came to rest in the entry space between the living room, bedroom, and bathroom, where he flopped on his side and his back, seeming quite relaxed. I took the photo above at this point. He then went back into the bathroom on his own and we left.

Welcome, Henry.

Categories: Animals, Family

Birthday Dinner

March 1, 2009 Leave a comment


I don’t have a birthday this year. I’ll have to wait another three years for the next one. But somewhere between yesterday and today I did get a year older. And to celebrate, we went to dinner last night at Il Terrazzo Carmine, the Italian restaurant in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle where Gail and I have celebrated many of our birthdays (or non-birthdays) in recent years. For whatever reason, I didn’t focus on what we might do to celebrate until late yesterday morning, when I finally called Carmine’s and heard the message that they were pretty full last night, but might have space at 5:00 or 8:30. I was instructed to leave a message and they’d get back to me after 3:00. If it were just the two of us, they might have been able to squeeze us in at a regular table, but with Joel’s return from Boston Friday night and our niece Leigh Anne’s return from New York for a few days, once you throw in Leigh Anne’s parents, Jessica, and Cynthia, we were a party of 8. I left a message requesting a table for 8 at 5:00, we told everyone to meet there if they didn’t hear from us again, and we waited.

The call came at 3:15. George told me that they were pretty full and a party of 8 couldn’t be handled in the dining room, but they could put us in the lounge. I’d never looked closely enough at the lounge to see how the tables were laid out. He said there was a series of tables of 2 and they could put some together. Same menu, same service, same tablecloths, just like the regular room. I asked what it was like, and he said (after noting that I must not come there very often) that some people even prefer it. For a big occasion, like a birthday, they like to see and be seen. (I had told him it was my birthday.) I wasn’t too worried about that, but I clearly had no other option, so I said yes. He then asked what time — 5:00, 5:30, 6:00? I said I thought I had no choice. He then said if we didn’t come, they could easily fill the space with others. At that point, I was thoroughly confused about the path the conversation was taking. I just thought it was 5:00 or 8:30. Well, anyway, I said we’d be there at 5:00, since that was what everyone had been told, and that was that.

We arrived at 4:55 and were ushered into the lounge, where Jessica already was seated. The room was intimate, very pleasant, a row of tables on one wall with the bar and stools along the other, except the bar didn’t run all the way to the far wall, so there was room for one more two-top in the far corner beyond the bar. We were in the other far corner, away from the bar, near the two-top. So we didn’t feel right up against the bar or bar-seated patrons. We were, in fact, quite out of the way. Along the wall was banquette seating, with four facing chairs.

I won’t try to describe what we all ate. I’ll focus on me. I started with the risotto of the day, which was prepared with a spicy bolognese sauce and sausage. My main dish was the grilled rib veal chop with rosemary oil essence, served with shoestring potatoes and arugula. It was all fantastic, as was the bread. Gail had the cannelloni as an appetizer. I love their cannelloni, and got to taste one bite of it. And then Gail had their ossobuco, served over saffron risotto. I got to try her risotto too. Joel had Fettuccine Al Pesto Con Gamberi — fettuccine with Gulf prawns — and I also got to taste his fettuccine. For good measure, I tried Jessica’s fettuccine alfredo, not on the menu but made special at her request. There were a few pasta dishes on the menu that I didn’t get to try, but this was enough. Oh, I also got to try half a lamb chop.

Carmine’s is great. It’s a mystery to me why we don’t eat there more often. A few years ago, as a Christmas present, I gave Gail a punchcard with punches for the twelve months of the next year so we could eat there monthly. We didn’t, so I renewed the gift with a new punchcard the next year. We still didn’t. And a third year, and we didn’t again. Maybe this is the year. We’ll have to make up for January though.

Shortly after the dinner plates were removed, our waiter appeared with a surprise, an order of tiramisu pierced by a lit candle. Happy Birthday was sung, I blew the candle out, and the waiter re-appeared with the dessert tray. Gail and I ordered profiterole to share. A delightful ending to a wonderful meal.

On leaving, we headed up to the other side of downtown so we could stop by at Jessica’s Belltown condo. More on that in my next post.

What’s Dale Chihuly doing at the top? Well, somewhere between our main course and dessert, he dropped by the bar to join in the celebration. I guess word got out that we were there — the see-and-be-seen phenomenon — and he headed down to be part of it.

Categories: Family, Food, Restaurants