When major appliances need repairs, I usually don’t fix them if they are over 10 years old. I replace them. Tenants sometimes ask me why I don’t repair old appliances. That happened just recently. I replaced a 15-year old refrigerator that needed a new door gasket. That seemed wasteful and bad for the environment to my tenants, sending a 15-year old refrigerator to the dump that could be repaired. This isn’t because I don’t think about the environmental consequences of my business decisions. I think about that a lot. I used to fix old appliances, but not anymore. And here’s why…..

The 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. In 1973, a number of Arab countries launched a coordinated invasion of Israel on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. It became known as the Yom Kippur War. The U.S. and many other Western nations supported Israel in this war. In retaliation, Arab oil exporting nations declared a oil embargo against the West. The embargo lasted for over 6 months and led to a very serious economic crisis in the U.S. The wholesale price of oil went up by 400%. Gas stations rationed gasoline, if they had any, and many didn’t have any. People couldn’t get to work. Trucks couldn’t deliver food to supermarkets, etc. Because of the crisis, Congress passed a series of laws in 1973 and 1974 designed to make the U.S. less dependent on imported oil. The best known of these laws was the one that required automobile manufacturers make cars more fuel efficient, with deadlines phased in over a number of years. You have probably seen the stickers on new cars that show you how many miles per gallon a car gets. Well, we didn’t have those stickers before the Arab Oil Embargo. There was no way for car buyers to know how many miles per gallon a car got. Once the government starting testing cars, they found that the average new car in the U.S. got only 11 miles per gallon in 1973. Today it is 25 miles a gallon. In 1973, new houses were not required to have insulation in the walls or attic. Now they do, also as a result of the Arab Oil Embargo. Another law mandated that manufacturers of major appliances make them more energy-efficient. A refrigerator sold today in the U.S. uses 75% less electricity than one of the same size made in 1973. That’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? The motors are more efficient, and the insulation and door seals are much better than they used to be. This is why I don’t repair old refrigerators. Washers, dryers, kitchen stoves, water heaters, and dishwashers are now all far more energy-efficient than they were in 1973 as well. During the Yom Kippur War, both sides suffered heavy losses, but neither side won. The U.N. negotiated a cease fire, leaving both sides about where they were at the start of the war. I think the real winner of this war was the American public, because Congress would never have passed these dramatic energy efficiency laws if it hadn’t been for the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. Although most Americans have never heard of the Yom Kippur War or the resulting Arab Oil Embargo, that war had a huge impact on the way we use energy in the United States today.


The Berkeley city council voted unanimously last week to ban gender-specific words. That means that words like ‘landlord’ and ‘landlady’ are out. So – what am I supposed to call myself? Should I call myself a ‘landperson’? To me, ‘landperson’ sounds like a person who lives on the land, as opposed to a person who lives in the sea, like Aquaman. I suppose we can’t say Aquaman either in Berkeley. ‘Aquaman’ is gender-specific. I guess he’s now ‘Aquaperson.’ I asked an aide to a councilmember what city employees intend to call landlords now. He said ‘property owners.’ I told him that ‘property owner’ and ‘landlord’ do not mean the same thing. Most property owners in Berkeley are homeowners, not landlords. He said he knew that; however, a lot of the new words the council approved do not mean the same thing as the words they replaced. For example, according to the new law, a ‘sportsman’ is now to be called a ‘hunter’ in Berkeley, but those 2 words don’t mean the same thing. You don’t have to kill something in order to be a sportsman. A yachtsman is a sportsman. So is a professional soccer player. In most European languages, the word for ‘landlord’ doesn’t carry the emotional baggage of the word ‘landlord’, which sounds sinister and arrogant. You know, we aren’t actually ‘lords of the land.’ In most Latin-based languages, the word for ‘landlord’ means ‘proprietor.’ In French, the word for landlord is ‘propriétaire.’ That sounds far nicer than ‘landlord.’ In German, the word is Vermieter, which means ‘he who rents’. That also sounds nicer than ‘landlord.’ So back to my original question –  what am I supposed to call myself now?


The Nobel Peace Prize. Some people with a lot of blood on their hands have been awarded Nobel Peace Prizes, people like Yasser Arafat and Henry Kissinger, who got a Nobel Peace Prize during the Vietnam War. This happens because the Nobel Prize committee sometimes gives peace prizes to people as an incentive to make peace rather than as a reward for actually making peace. And sometimes they award a Nobel Peace Prize to somebody for no apparent reason at all, like the one they gave to Barack Obama soon after be became President of the U.S. As at a press conference shortly after the prize was announced, Obama said he truly had no idea why he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Prize for Chemistry and/or Physics. This award is usually noncontroversial and goes to worthy recipients like Marie Curie and Albert Einstein. However, some terrible people have also received a Nobel prize in science. Who was the worst of them? My vote goes to the German chemist Fritz Haber. Fritz Haber was the father of chemical warfare. He invented the first poison gas weapons, beginning with chlorine gas, which he invented shortly after World War 1 began in 1914. Later that same year, Haber invented mustard gas, which is even deadlier. Fritz Haber’s wife Clara, who was a noted chemist in her own right, was horrified by her husband’s work and tried unsuccessfully to get him to give it up. She became increasingly depressed as her husband enthusiastically invented ever more deadly poison gases. In 1915, Clara shot herself in the heart and died. In her suicide note, she begged her husband to give up his work with poison gas. By the end of World 1, over 1 million men were killed or permanently disabled by poison gases invented by Fritz Haber. In 1918, at the end of the war, Fritz Haber was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry. What were they thinking!?! In the 1920s, Fritz Haber invented Zyklon, a form of cyanide gas, similar to mustard gas. Zyklon was used by the Nazis to murder millions of Jews, including most of Haber’s own relatives. When Hitler came to power in Germany, Fritz Haber moved to Switzerland, where he died unrepentant right to the end. Shortly before World War 2 began, Fritz Haber’s son Hermann Haber moved to the United States. He too became depressed thinking about his father’s work and committed suicide in 1946. Fritz Haber reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein, the mad scientist who was completely oblivious to the moral dimension of what he was doing. It seems to me that the Nobel Prize committee was also completely oblivious to the moral dimension of what they were doing when they awarded a Nobel Prize to Fritz Haber.


This is the stupidest mass transit system in the U.S. The Las Vegas monorail runs behind the big hotels on the east side of the Las Vegas Strip; however, the majority of the big hotels are on the west side of the Strip and set back from the street. As a result, monorail stations are a long walk from most hotels. For example, from the entrance of Caesar’s Palace to the Caesar’s Palace Monorail Station is over 1/2 mile. From the Mirage, the monorail station across the street is over a mile away. How many tourists and convention goers are going to walk that far? But the route isn’t the stupidest thing about the monorail. The stupidest thing about the Las Vegas Monorail is that it ends across the street from the airport. The last station on the monorail is the MGM Grand hotel. From the MGM, you can see the airport across the street, but you can’t get there on the monorail, and you can’t walk there either. The entrance is on the opposite side of the airport, almost 2 miles away. The reason that the monorail doesn’t go into the airport is because the taxi and limo drivers in Las Vegas objected to the monorail going into the airport; however, the investors decided to go ahead and build it anyway. This is another example of: ‘What were they thinking?’ Predictably, the Las Vegas monorail went bankrupt after just a couple of years of operation, and there is still no plan to extend the monorail into the airport across the street from the last station.