January 24, 2017

I’m A Believer

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 2:10 pm

For a very long time, I was convinced that if we could not have Paul Goodman’s Jeffersonian anarchy, we should at least strive for universal socialism. But I finally came to the conclusion that socialism only works for small heterogeneous states – in short, for Scandinavia.

These days I espouse full-bore capitalism and I am shocked at how few real capitalists there are.

I doubt there is a single CEO that believes in real capitalism. Never mind what they say – their goal is real monoplo\y. It’s the only explanation for their devouring interest in politics.

Real monopoly wants the world to rely on half a dozen companies for fuel, a handful of media outlets, and privatization of all utilities – just for openers. Real monopoly is well on its way towards owning our water and this – courtesy of Oxfam – is where our food comes from: chart

Real capitalism is defined by competition in free but regulated markets. Just like law enforcement in cities, the government should be there to encourage good behavior and discourage cheating.

That’s why we got the Sherman Anti-trust Act. It prevented the 19th century commercial practices of price-fixing, monopoly and other unethical trade practices.

[Incidentally, did you get your invitation to sign up for a rebate from the dairy industry? If you’ve used any dairy products in the last ten years you can join the class action claim to get your $10 settlement – the industry was found guilty of rigging the price from 2003 until the present in the following states:

Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, or Wisconsin.

To sign up before the end of the claim period on Jan.31, go  to]

Because I am a true capitalist I plan to spend a lot of email-writing energy urging my representatives to restore Sherman to full strength. How it got so sickly will be the next topic.


December 31, 2016

Moving on

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 6:45 pm

There is a great deal to say about 2016, but it is much too soon to say it. Let me mull it over for a bit and I’ll get back to you.

In the meantime, I am celebrating the heavy rains that freed Northern Califormia from the grip of the drought this fall -We went from 40 to 20% of the state officially drought-stricken this year, though we in the south are still on short rations.

Best wishes to all for a happy and prosperous New Year.



October 19, 2016

‘Neither Snow nor Sleet, nor Aging of the Fleet…’

I am a huge fan of the US Postal Service, so their recent years on the Republicans’ Ten Most Wanted list of government agencies has been painful to watch.

truck Joshua Reading at Foreign Policy magazine summed it up nicely: “The biggest obstacle to a more efficient post office may be the U.S. Congress, which has failed to approve reform efforts such as setting up retail outlets in post offices, raising prices, shuttering less-used offices, and ending six-day delivery. (As part of its new cost-saving measures, the USPS has managed to circumvent Congress by keeping only parcel service on Saturdays so that, technically, there’s still some service six days a week.)”

But things are finally improving for the venerable USPS – someone had the bright idea of playing to their strengths. They do after all go everywhere and now they do it for Amazon, Fed Ex and even UPS.  That last mile has turned out to be very profitable for them.truck

And that means they can finally replace their geriatric truck fleet – the Northrup Grumman trucks that were new in 1987 were set to be retired after 24 years, but were declared usable – by necessity -for another six years. Now the deadline is upon us and so the USPS is taking bids.

This is a $6 billion contract which does not seem like small beer to me, but maybe it is, because Ford, Nissan and GM, who were all automatically short-listed, failed to make the cut;  I suspect they weren’t interested. (For more, go to Motley Fool.)

Here are your finalists:

  • AM General
  • Karsan Motors
  • Mahindra
  • Oshkosh
  • Spartan Motors
  • VT Hackney

AM General evolved from Jeep via American Motors and gave us the Humvee. Karsan is a Turkish company, Mahindra is Indian and VT Hackney is a subsidiary of VT Systems, which is a subsidiary of a company mostly owned by the government of Singapore.truck

Apparently the old rules no longer apply, because I thought federal contracts had to go to American companies, preferably with union workers.  So call me old-fashioned or ultra-nationalist or whatever you like, but I think American tax dollars should support American workers. Oshkosh is one of the top 100 federal contractors already, so I vote for Spartan, which was started by  four engineers from Diamond Reo when that company closed down years ago. I think six billion will matter to them and be a good thing for the state of Michigan.

In any event, all six finalists have gotten $37 million to build a prototype, which should be available for testing next year. The USPS is looking for fuel efficiency of course and any other green breakthroughs the companies can come up with.  Pretty soon the little truck on the corner wil be brand spanking new and we may have not just the largest (six thousand pieces of mail go through the USPS every second) but the most efficient postal service in the world.




August 31, 2016

What I did this summer

Filed under: commentary,history — jchatoff @ 7:17 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Not very damn much, to tell the truth. June and July just kind of slid by, the weather generally mild – often below normal – and pretty benign compared to the rest of the country.

At least until this month, when the wild fires started. They got quite close and for several days the air was nasty and cars were covered with ash.


Sunset through fire smoke.

It didn’t last too long though and soon things went back to normal here in Pleasantville – normal until Sunday night, when an aggressive raccoon decided to make a meal out of my little Doxie-MinPin mix.

She’d barked just once and then run out of the room, barrelling through the screen door to chase the intruder off the porch. Seeing her mistake almost immediately, Lola turned and headed for the safety of the living room.

But the raccoon wouldn’t let go of her back leg until my sister-in-law grabbed a broom and whacked the crap out of him.

So we wound up in the pet ER and Lo came home with a big bandage on her foot and a pack of meds. The docs and techs were great and she seemed to be the only patient, so while we waited, we got into a little convo with the receptionist and I don’t know how – probably my doing – we started talking about Social Security.

She was shy of 30 I think, and mentioned in passing that she doubted that there would be any benefits for her by the time she retired and it just made me feel so sad.

It isn’t only the pitiful job market, student loans and climate change that have been dumped on Millenmials, it’s also the shocking inadequacy of mass media, which delights in fear-mongering and which can’t be bothered to provide actual facts.

Here’s a fact: Raising the cap or raising the tax – or both – would make benefits available for the indefinite future.

As it is, we are good until 2030.

At the moment, the cap is $118,500. After that amount, no SS tax is deducted. If you make 300,000 or 3 million, you pay FICA only on the first 118,500.

Raise that by 100,000 and every Millennial can enjoy a spartan but predictable old age like the rest of us.

For more actual facts, check out The Motley Fool:

May 15, 2016

Let a thousand salvias bloom…

…because, depending on who you talk to, there are as many as 2,000 species and so you can.

Some botanists insist there are only about 700, but there is a perfectly acceptable list of 986, so I’m sticking with that. Wikipedia has a list of them and just under the letter A you will find almost 80 salvia species.


Salvia farinacea ‘rhea’ – a beautiful blue, but a tiny bit water-needy

What’s good about salvias is that most of them are not only drought-tolerant, but are uncomplaining when it comes to mediocre soil, which makes them an excellent landscape plant here in Southern California. And all the places that will soon be just like Southern California.

Most of them are also extremely popular with pollinators, which, as we all now know, is a very important aspect of home gardens.

Salvias are the largest genus of the Lamiaceae or mint family – hilariously also known as the deadnettle family -and include shrubs, herbaceous perennials and annuals. And compare their variety, for instance, to their cousins the lavenders, which number only 39.

The name comes from Latin salvere, which means to heal, to feel well – clearly it’s been a medicinal herb for a very long time. Generations have used it for tea, though these days it is used primarily I suspect for its flavor, especially at Thanksgiving, when everyone touts their sage dressing.


Garden sage. Photo by Kurt Stuber

Thus, Number One on the very long list of salvia species is Salvia officinalis, garden or common sage.

Salvia divinorum is also pretty well known, since it has psychotropic properties. And another member of the family – chia – is familiar to most people, though I was surprised to find it in the salvia family.

A lot of what makes salvias salvias has to do with the flower, which has a kind of orchidish look, but for all the gory details about the calyx and corolla, you’ll have to find your own way to Wikipedia. I still can’t keep my racemes and panicles straight.

Because they are low-maintenance and good for pollinators, I have recently become a huge salvia fan and I would like to share a great resource with you –

That is the link to Flowers by the Sea, a nursery in Mendocino CA that specializes in salvias and ships from now until mid-June. They literally have hundreds of salvias to choose from and the website is loaded with info. Go right to ‘Getting Started with Salvias’ and they will even tell you what’s best for your planting zone.

In any event, you can heal your garden and your water bill and make the world a better place for bees and butterflies this year, one salvia at a time.


A lovely pink salvia I saw at the nursery – sorry, I don’t know its name, but there are many pinks to choose from.

April 19, 2016

Unequal pay days, Part II

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 7:41 pm

Well, that was easy -thanks to a website called, the effect of gender bias on paychecks all the way through our sunset years is right out there.

The two little dimes that women don’t get when dollars are being handed out add up, on average, to  $3,600 every year of retirement. Here’s the nice graphic:


So, there you have it. Women are still living a little longer than men,  but if you think they’re having more fun, forget about it. You can find them during the last week of the month at the food bank or outside Whole Foods looking for donations.

*  * *

Californians, heads up – an Assemblyman from San Diego is trying to get rid of the Coastal Commission and flogging the bogus argument that cities and counties can handle our beautiful coast more effectively.

No, no, no. Never mind all the obvious arguments in favor of state-wide environmental policy, riparian rights enforcement and the fact that cities and counties can’t hand off their beach responsibilities to the state fast enough.

No, the true test of the California Coastal Commission – which has been an official non-partisan, quasi-judicial body since 1976 – is that over time it has managed to outrage everybody at least once.  You can’t ask for more.

Unless of course you are a rich person in Malibu determined to keep the hoi-polloi  out with fake No Parking and No Beach Access signs or that bane of modern American life, the Developer.

So if you can find out who represents you on the shadow planet Sacramento, tell them no messing with the CCC!



April 12, 2016

Happy Pay Equity Day!

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 8:11 pm
Tags: ,

Or equal payday or pay day or something. Not very catchy and what does it mean anyway. And why April 12?

Ah, well, once you know that, you know everything. Here is how the White House visualizes it:


Got that? Women work 15 and a half months to earn the same money men earn in 12 months.  (For comparable work, etc.)

Elizabeth Warren calls it a national embarrassment, quite rightly.

Whether or not anyone will correct this shameful situation is debatable – we have, after all, so many shameful situations to correct…

What I would like to know is, what are the ramifications of this discrepancy when men and women reach retirement age? Are the 20 million-plus women receiving Social Security benefits on average receiving 20% less?

Okay, I am not going into the weeds on this, trying to figure out how FICA deductions are affected, because I honestly haven’t a clue – I’ll ask the SSA and get back to you with their response.

box factory

These ladies working in a box factory would have liked a little gender equity. LoC


December 30, 2015

Eyes only

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 3:43 pm

This, the sixth and last blog of the year, is meant for a very small number of readers, possibly even just one, the one who will continue the work of family history.

Fact is mixed a bit with some fiction here, but I have carefully noted whenever a case is not documented. And I cannot tell the story without some invention.


My Findagrave t-shirt

I begin with John, the first of our ilk, who was transported in 1676. I use the word ‘ilk’ deliberately/ for its Scottish origins, which I think John was. But all I know for sure is that he was brought from England by someone who very likely received about 50 acres of land for paying for his passage – and its likely he was indentured.

John arrived in 1676, 40 years into the settlement of Maryland, one of about 35,000 settlers, and like many he was too poor to pay his own way. That’s all we know a bout him.

He may have been the father or even grandfather of the first documented citizen. one Nathaniel of Charles County, who married Elizabeth in 1715 and produced at least four sons that we know of. This Nathaniel was doing okay, his wife having brought him 100 acres of land for tobacco production. Tobacco had been and was still the specie of the colony. You paid your taxes to Lord Baltimore with tobacco and bought more land with it.

That 100 acres. known as Churchover. came to Elizabeth from her mother, Jane Smith, who had received it as a dowry from her father, John Smith.

That land may have taken the family from the laboring class to landowners for the first time, because four generations later, boys were still being named John Smith.

So, at the time of the Revolution, the family could be said to have prospered. but afterward, things were a little dicey. Nathaniel and Elizabeth had another Nathaniel, born in 1723, and he and his wife Mary had 9 children, of whom at least seven had issue.

Divvying up the land – increasingly worn out by tobacco farming – would leave everyone hanging by a thread and so of the eight kids surviving, one took off for western Maryland and claimed his land patent, two girls married and became part of the Catholic migration to Kentucky and another boy also went to Kentucky, though not as a Catholic.

Kentucky had a lot to offer. It was still a frontier, but with good land that could be homesteaded and it wasn’t too hard to get to. In fact the Ohio River was the Route 66 of the 18th century – small towns peppered it on both the Ohio and Kentucky sides.

All you had to do was get to Wheeling WV, and you could do that via the Cumberland Road.

But then came the War of 1812 and afterward, a great push to expand the frontier and so Congress was very generous with land patents to vets and even authorized money for new infrastructure.  Thus the Cumberland Road became part of the new National Road and got a macadam surface.

And three sons and a daughter of John Smith’s grandson – who bore his name – set out for Ohio.

But that part I have invented. Yet how else to explain that two brothers and their sister settled in a town through which the National Road passed, while the third brother paused just long enough apparently to hear the news about land in Missouri, whence he traveled immediately.

Or maybe he – Jesse – meant to go there all along, being the youngest of the three and thus more adventurous.

Now back to what is documented.

It turned out to be a poor choice, for Missouri very nearly put an end to Jesse’s line and that would have included me. He and his wife and two sons and a granddaughter all died over the course of two or three years, owing to an epidemic of black measles.

Black measles was a painful, rapid disease involving a bad rash and people still die of it, but now we call it Rocky Mountain spotted fever.  Researchers died trying to nail it down, but in the 1870s, when the ticks came to northeastern Missouri, it was still a horrible mystery. They finally found the tick vector in the 1920s, though it is still fatal in about five percent of cases.

But I am here because one son had gone to Ohio to visit family and had met his cousin Ellen and married her and stayed in Ohio.

Where no more disasters befell them – aside from WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, Viet Nam, and the usual floods, drought and recessions that we all live through.

But all this genealogy has solved one mystery:  Why my father diagnosed every illness as Rocky Mountain spotted fever. He made a joke of it and that little catharsis must have eased a great fear passed down through three generations.

September 27, 2015

Gone fishin’

Blue whale about to breach off the coast of Catalina Island, 9.25.15 - photo by J Chatoff

Blue whale about to breach off the coast of Catalina Island, 9.25.15 – photo by J Chatoff

I would like to thank Senators Warren Magnuson of Washington and Ted Stevens of Alaska for their work in creating the Essential Fisheries in our coastal waters – I’m pretty sure that’s why I was able to see two of the largest creatures that ever lived on earth feeding in the waters near Catalina Island last Saturday.

On October 11, 1996, Congress passed the Sustainable Fisheries Act (Public Law 104-297) which amended the habitat provisions of the Magnuson Act. The re-named Magnuson-Stevens Act (Act) calls for direct action to stop or reverse the continued loss of fish habitats. Toward this end, Congress mandated the identification of habitats essential to managed species and measures to conserve and enhance this habitat. The Act requires cooperation among the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the Fishery Management Councils, and Federal agencies to protect, conserve, and enhance “essential fish habitat”. Congress defined essential fish habitat for federally managed fish species as “those waters and substrate necessary to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity.”

I am a big fan of the federal government and of those men and women of foresight who participate in it. I love those old boys who could see which way the wind was blowing and thought it was their job to do something about it.

Pew Research has a good take on it:

Warren Magnuson died in 1989 and Ted Stevens in 2010, but that happily feeding blue is a legacy to be proud of.

July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth

Filed under: Uncategorized — jchatoff @ 1:20 pm

from the pedicab drivers of Venice Beach!


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