Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Florida man angry with father
for cooking potatoes, pours
potatoes and urine on his head.

Somehow life seems to go on In Cloud-cuckoo-land. There are apparently going to be not one, but two marches on Washington by gun-totin’ patriots, upset, among other things I guess, because Obama is going to take away their guns. The fact that Obama has done nothing whatsoever to take away anyone’s guns is apparently irrelevant to these gun-obsessed loonies (I suspect Obama has other things on his mind). But I confess I’m not really at all clear about this. It seems that it is illegal to carry guns in Washington, D.C., whether openly or not, so one of these groups is going to assemble in Virginia, as close as they can get to Washington. The other group is supposedly going to march in Washington (but without guns?). I guess these people enjoy tilting at imaginary windmills, as most of the things they seem to be opposed to are not about to happen. It’s like they live in an imaginary world where not even a semblance of reality is allowed to penetrate.

I don’t understand the purpose of these demonstrations. If it is to demonstrate they have guns, and the right to have guns, it would seem utterly pointless as no one is claiming otherwise. They pretty obviously are not intending to actually overthrow the government (at least not yet), so I guess maybe they think they will intimidate Obama and Congress into doing something (precisely what I do not know). This is similar to the Starbucks situation where some of their customers are coming armed for reasons that are, I think, absurd. The only explanation I have heard is that they are trying to prove they have the right to do so. I think “childish” might be too generous a description of this behavior. Anyway, I don’t care whether they carry their guns into Starbucks or not (I don’t drink coffee), nor do I care to worry about whether they have the right to do so (I assume if they don’t have the right they will eventually be arrested). I suspect there may be a few of the Teabaggers and others who have legitimate arguments against one thing or another, but those who are carrying around banners of Obama as Hitler, or Obama as communist, socialist or fascist (or all three at the same time), or Kill the Bill, simply have no idea what they are about. They are truly in Cloud-Cuckoo-land (Cloud-Cuckoo-land is a place I first heard about from A. R. Radcliffe-Brown, a well-known anthropologist, who, I think, spent much of his time there, but that is another story entirely).

Well, it appears that my President, whom I voted for and supported, is now embarked on a campaign to do everything I did not want him to do. He is going to allow drilling off our coasts, is helping promote nuclear energy and even burning biomass, all things I think are highly undesirable. This is in addition to his accelerating the ridiculous and unnecessary “war” in Afghanistan, sanctioning Iran, and I’m pretty sure doing other things of which I do not approve. I might give him some slack on drilling, but never on nuclear. And as I think burning biomass is a lost cause they will probably be abandoned as soon as people come to their senses and realize how both unfeasible and undesirable this would be. So why do I continue to (more or less) support him? Because, as I have mentioned before, it’s the only game in town.

The alternative would be to support Republicans, but they, too, are living entirely in Cloud-Cuckoo-land at the moment. When Obama became President they announced they would be the party of “no,” and they have kept their pledge. They have done absolutely nothing for either our country or its citizens, nothing. They have even consistently been opposed to things they themselves first thought of doing, like individual mandates, offshore drilling and so on. They are opposed to these things now simply because Obama wants to do them and they are dedicated to one thing, and one thing only, bringing down the Obama Presidency (as they tried to bring down Clinton’s), thinking this will allow them to regain power. Why they believe that by being totally uncooperative at all times, and for everything, is going to restore them to power is evidence of their residence in Cloud-Cuckoo-land. Similarly, if they think by embracing the Teapartyers they will win elections, that, too, is evidence of Cuckoo-land. Decent Republicans (a questionable assumption at best) have allowed their party to be taken over by the residents of Cloud-Cuckoo-land, have mistakenly even been seeing encouraging them, and have thereby destroyed any credibility they may have had. They have allowed their party to slowly rot away while embracing racism, greed, immorality, hatred, and injustice. Now, desperate because of this, they are threatening violence and promoting civil discord, and above all, making a mockery of government.

It is worse still to be ignorant of your ignorance.
Saint Jerome

Horses can sleep both standing up and lying down.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Green Bay man gets
six years for roasting
ex-girlfriend’s Pekinese.

I am hardly an authority on publicity. I basically despise publicity and those who deal in it. But if it is true that all publicity is good publicity (and I’m afraid may be correct), I think Rachel Maddow is being sucker-punched by Scott Brown, the freshman Senator from Massachusetts. If you have not followed this story, Brown has claimed that Rachel is going to run against him for the Senate. He also has said that the Democratic Party in Massachusetts has asked her to do so. Neither of these claims is true, they are demonstrably and absolutely false. Maddow, of course, denies it, as no doubt she should. She keeps insisting on her show it is not true she is running, she has not been asked to run, and Brown has just made the story up to aid him in fundraising. I have little doubt this is true. Rachel demands that he stop lying about this, a reasonable demand given that he has, in fact, been lying consistently about it. However, Rachel seems to have lost sight of the basic premise that all publicity is good. The more she complains about it and insists it is not true, the more publicity Brown receives. In fact it doesn’t matter in the least whether Brown is lying, he’s getting far more attention than he could possibly get otherwise, millions of dollars worth of publicity, simply by the fact that he is being mentioned on Rachel’s show night after night. The fact that he is lying, which Rachel rightly thinks is wrong, is basically irrelevant. Nobody will care if he is lying, all they will hear is Senator Scott Brown’s name over and over and over. So Rachel, as much as I adore you and your show, you are the one who should stop. Just ignore him, he’s taking advantage of you. You are right, he is a liar, and he is indeed capitalizing on your name, but you are unfortunately helping him. It’s just like our dear departed Lyndon Johnson said, “I know he didn’t have sex with a goat, but I want to hear him deny it,” or something to that effect.

“The proof,” I guess, “will be in the pudding.” That is, I’m still not too enamored of the Health Care Bill. I want to believe that it has good things, and some of the things do seem to be truly fine: 30 plus millions more insured, no refusal for children with existing conditions, no longer a limit on benefits, and so on. But with no public option, no real control over premiums, health care costs could presumably just keep on spiraling up and up forever. If this should happen it will be a disaster. If, on the other hand, we end up with a public option, or even more sensibly, with a single-payer system, it will be an absolute triumph. But as I have said before, until the insurance companies are dealt out completely, it will not constitute real reform. I wonder why it is so easy to understand why banks and lending companies should not be allowed to act as unnecessary middle-men for student loans, while insurance companies are allowed to continue as unnecessary middle-men for health insurance. I suspect the billions involved in the student loan case are probably a pittance compared to what the insurance companies will harvest.

I hate being kept in the dark about what is going on here and there in the world. I strongly suspect I am not being informed about why we are in Afghanistan. I don’t like believing that President Obama is stupid, but if there is not some reason we are in Afghanistan I don’t know about, I think he must be. First, it is known that Afghanistan has long been the “graveyard of empires.” No one, including Alexander the Great, managed to conquer this rugged, tribal land, nor could England or Russia. Second, there is no obvious reason we should continue to be there, al Quaida is apparently gone, third, we claim no territorial demands, fourth, the Taliban are not a threat to us, fifth, it is now clear that attempting to train a functional Afghan army is a total disaster, sixth, the government we are trying to support is completely corrupt, and seventh, The Afghans don’t want us there. It must have something to do with oil, or at least keeping oil from central Asia from flowing to China or somewhere we don’t want it to go. But, if this is true, we are never told this. We are just told it is to insure our security, a claim that is so hollow it is pathetic. Or, failing the oil hypothesis, we are there for no other reason than to keep a “war” going to feed our greedy, insatiable, military/industrial/political complex. The one thing I am absolutely positive about is that we are not there for any humanitarian motive. Humanitarian motives might provide a pathetic excuse for our infernal meddling around the world but they do not exist in our aggressive and misguided attempt to rule the world.

Have you ever seen anything as pathetic as Silly Sarah trying to sell an increasingly senile old man to the voters of his home state? With that awful shrill voice and the utter hogwash that pours virtually non-stop from her mouth she just manages to make McCain look older and more useless than he is. He will probably win because his Republican opponent is so much worse, and the voters in Arizona will probably get what they deserve, but it is truly painful to watch. There is nothing like watching one complete phony try to sell another one. McCain did enough damage to our country when he insulted us by picking this nitwit woman as his running mate and gave her a national stage, he should retire before doing any further damage. As far as Sarah goes, having had her greedy moments of fame, she should take her money and return to her rightful status as feisty but basic brood mare. I confess I cannot stand her, cannot stand the sound of her voice, cannot stand her abysmal ignorance and pretentiousness, and most of all I cannot stand what her dangerous lies portend for the future.

There are three intolerable things in life - cold coffee, lukewarm champagne, and overexcited women.
Orson Welles

The Olmec, and perhaps others in the Americas, invented a wheel, but used it only on toys.

Monday, March 29, 2010

On Accountability

Arrested for running nude
through supermarket, young
man says he was “just bored.”

I am wondering how long any organized group, be it a city, county, state, or federal government, a sports league, investment group, church league, restaurant, or any other organization can last when there is no accountability. At the moment this is, or I believe is going to be, a serious problem both for the U.S. government and the Unholy Church of the Unrepentant Pedophiles. I don’t care much for Christopher Hitchens, but I think he is quite right to point out that in spite of the virtually world-wide sex scandal involving that institution, no Priest has been held accountable. That is, at least none has been convicted of a crime or gone to jail even though their crimes have now been often made public. Whether the Pope himself is involved in this scandal I do not know. It would seem to be true, however, that the Pope’s insistence this is just “gossip” cannot be taken seriously. This scandal, which seems to grow worse with every passing month, has already cost the church millions if not a billion or more, and there is seemingly no end in sight. Will the church be able to survive this or will it eventually collapse?

Unfortunately, the same lack of accountability seems to be involved in our own government. Whereas it is known that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Yoo/Rice/and many others were involved in war crimes, some of these even admitted, there is no move to hold any of them accountable as near as I can tell. Apparently the hope is that everyone will just forget about it and it will eventually disappear, lost in the dustbin of history. But if there is no accountability in government how can such an institution continue to function?

It would seem to me that accountability is something that is fundamental to organization of any kind. If the members of an organization can do anything they wish and not be held accountable, that is the very antithesis of organization. That is, how can there even be organized life without accountability for failure to honor the organization? Are we to believe that individuals, like corporations, can be “too big to fail?” Can the obvious and even admitted war crimes of Bush/Cheney simply be ignored, swept under the rug, or excused because of their former high office? This seems to be what is about to happen. I suspect that however long it may take, this lack of accountability will bring down our nation. Citizens will refuse to respect the laws, criminal banks and insurance companies will be “to big to fail,” and someday the whole edifice will come crashing down. This may not happen in my lifetime, or even a longer time, but it would seem to me (at least hypothetically) inevitable.

Quite by accident I stumbled on Obama’s speech to our troops in Afghanistan. After a short time I had to turn it off. I suppose as Commander-in-Chief he had to say the things he said, but I thought it was an absolutely shameless performance. He insisted, for example, that he would not send our troops anywhere unless there was a good reason for doing so, but he was standing right in the middle of a situation where that was not true. There is no good reason for us to be in Afghanistan, and there is also little likelihood that we can in any way “win” or be successful no matter how long we stay. He said our presence in Afghanistan was vital for American security. I do not believe that even for a moment. Al Quaida seems to consist of at most a few hundred criminal individuals, mostly in Pakistan and in other parts of the world. There are said to be very few in Afghanistan. The Taliban are no threat to the U.S. and never have been. Obama said we have to help the Afghan people defend themselves from the Taliban. The Taliban are themselves Afghans, they didn’t descend on that unfortunate place from outer space or even from other parts of the world. In any case the Taliban are a problem for Afghans. To assume they cannot deal with their own problems (as they have for thousands of years) is nothing but blatant paternalism, just as is the assumption they desperately want our form of democracy (or the democracy we foolishly seem to believe we have). Furthermore, if our presence in Afghanistan is so critical for our national defense, why are we at the same time desperately trying to figure out how to get out of the mess we have made?

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility.
Ambrose Bierce

Rice is the second most cultivated grain after maize.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

1491 - book

1491 New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2008)

I cannot honestly claim to have read this book. I intended to read it. I have read parts of it and I have perused all of it. But it is far too detailed and complex to simply sit down and read for pleasure. It is my intention to read it carefully, probably in the fall, when the garden is put away, the snow is on the ground, there is a fire in the living room, and I have the time to dedicate to such a tour-de-force.

The major questions are simple enough, when did the first people arrive in the Americas, where did they come from, and how many were here before Columbus? The answers are not so simple, involving as they do evidence from archaeology, botany, genetics, linguistics, geology, medicine, chemistry, climatology, and other sciences, to say nothing of the historical records, such as they are.

More specifically, this book reviews the growing evidence against the claim that the Clovis peoples of the American Southwest were the first arrivals, coming across the Bering Strait during a specific time period when a land bridge existed, and also against the long-standing claim that all of these early arrivals were simple hunter/gatherers living in small groups and constituting a relatively small population.

Unless you read this fine book (or are a professional researcher up-to-date with all the developments) you cannot possibly understand the enormous complexity of these issues and the evidence pro and con. It is necessary, for example, to understand the importance of crops like cotton, beans, squash, potatoes, and most of all, maize, as well as the methods and techniques employed to grow these various crops. You will no doubt be amazed, as I was, to discover that slash-and-burn agriculture, long believed to be thousands of years old, probably was not even possible before the advent of stone tools, or that the invention of the milpa (type of planting) is one of the world’s greatest inventions.

With respect to population density the author visits all of the major large cultures, cities, and civilizations that have been more and more revealed in the archaeological record: the Inca and Maya, of course, but also the Toltec, Cahokia, Norte Chico, the Iroquois, other lesser known areas, and even the Amazon basin that, until recently, was regarded as very sparsely populated. In most of these cases the archaeological evidence cannot be questioned as the people left behind huge monuments and cities that are still being discovered and excavated. In cases like the Amazon, however, it is not so simple. It was assumed that the jungles did not support large populations and therefore there must have been few people there, but now the opinion is changing. This is partly based upon the writings of Gaspar de Carvajal who, for reasons I will not bother to explain, left the first written description of the Amazon. He reported large populations living in villages stretching over hundreds of kilometers. He was not taken seriously for a very long time because he also reported giant, bare-breasted Amazon women who captured men in order to mate with them. It is true that the soil in the Amazon was extremely poor and could not have sustained large populations, but there is now evidence that large areas were artificially built up for the purpose of growing crops, a development that perhaps makes de Carvajal’s account not quite so far-fetched.

Of course when it comes to this type of research it is always the interpretations that come to be questioned, and not only the interpretations themselves, but the means used to make them. With respect to populations, for example, some argue that shortly after the post-contact period a full 95% of the American population perished because of introduced diseases. There is no doubt that many perished but 95% may not be a reasonable assumption. You also must consider that early estimates of the populations tended to run to a million or so individuals, whereas now there are some who argue for almost hundreds of millions (these are the ones who believe in the 95% death rate). Still other people argue that the initial estimates were deliberately kept low to hide just how bad the Americas were violated by Europeans. Some claim there were more people in the Americas at the time of contact than there were in Europe, and some believe that “New World” cities were larger than Paris or London. Some claims are so apparently outrageous you might think the book should be titled “Archaeologists Gone Wild.” And some of the interpretations are so at odds with others they result in personal animosities and feuds.

There are, even now, no answers to the three questions. We still do not know with any certainty where the earliest Americans came from, how long ago they arrived, or how many there were at the time of contact. We seem to be creeping slowly along towards answers that may in fact never be completely possible. At this point it is probably safe to say the earliest settlers did not all come across the Bering Strait, did not all come at once, they arrived before the Clovis people, and there were many, many more than previously believed.

This book provides such a wealth of information, so much detail, so many questions and controversies it requires serious study. It is clearly the most definitive survey of the available evidence and is deserving of a great deal of time and effort. Study its slowly and enjoy.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The World Sort of Turns

Widow takes his ashes
on world tour he missed
because of his fear of flying.

I suppose I might write a blog about Silly Sarah and John the Elder but I can’t bring myself to do it, it’s just too absurd and Silly Sarah is precisely the kind of housewifey know-it-all that could easily excite me (and I suspect many other men) to domestic violence. So let me offer a brief run-down of some recent events in the ongoing comedy otherwise known as human behavior:

An immigrant couple was arrested because there were photos of the man kissing his baby. Really, this happened. A clerk in some store processing film saw pictures of a man kissing a baby and suspected him of child abuse. The child was taken into protective custody, the parents may be deported, hopefully back to some country where men routinely kiss their babies. It is not clear what will happen to the baby.

A man was arrested for running through the meat section in a supermarket with a knife, cutting open packages and throwing raw beef on the floor. He said he was doing it to protect girls from becoming chubby. He is a vegetarian who was angry at his mother for cooking a pot roast.

A 33 year-old man was arrested for beating a quadruple amputee because she was blocking his view of the television.

A pregnant Seattle woman was hit with a stun gun because she refused to sign a citation, thinking it might mean she was guilty. She was driving a son to a sporting event. No doubt he learned a lesson about law enforcement.

A road rage incident was sparked because a driver had an Obama bumper sticker. A car following him repeatedly rammed into his back bumper, gave him the finger, and shouted obscenities.

As I have mentioned before, after 68 years of marriage a 90 year-old man murdered his 89 year-old wife during a domestic dispute.

The first male prostitute at a Nevada brothel quit because there was not enough demand.

A drunken man was arrested in Pennsylvania for giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dead opossum.

In Memphis a corpse was found under the bed in a motel room where a couple had just spent the night. It was not clear how long the corpse had been there.

As you are no doubt aware this is just a teeny-weenie sample of what passes for everyday life here in the U.S. (and, I am sure, around the rest of the world as well). And these are only mild examples!

Perhaps a better example of the absurdity of human behavior might be found characteristic of Republicans. They have held up Obama appointments to important posts in government for months for purely political reasons. Now they are angry because he has made 15 recess appointments. He did this in spite of a letter they sent him signed by all 41 of the fools asking him not to do it. Go figure. Go Obama!

Several weeks ago I googled the question: “Why was Edward Kennedy called Teddy?” I began receiving “Google alerts” regularly, at least one every day and often more than one. I have yet to receive one that says simply that “Teddy” is a common nickname for Edward. Go figure.

I think it is quite interesting that Silly Sarah is campaigning for McCain, a basic nobody trying to help someone who was somebody. I wouldn’t vote for McCain no matter what, but you know what, the guy running against him for his Republican Senate seat is far worse. It’s hard to believe but I think it’s true.

Once when I first started this blog I suggested that the worst country-western song was probably “Drop Kick Me Jesus Through the Goal Post of Life.” Someone from England commented: “How about ‘It’s Mighty Lonesome in the Saddle Since My Horse Died.'” See, there used to be things that were actually funny.

Think of what would happen to us in America if there were no humorists; life would be one long Congressional Record.
Tom Masson

There may be as few as 100 red wolves surviving in the wild.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Meant to Be?

Watch 'n Wait: So good to hear from you after all this time! Yes, it's true, lots of men eventually suffer from prostate cancer, but not usually until they should be well past worrying a lot about erectile dysfunction (I said "should be"). I'm not sure I think this accounts for the apparent insatiable demand for aids for performance. A lot of it is probably just a result of the pharmaceuticals manufacturing and encouraging demand. Anyway, thanks for the comment and best wishes to you.

Drunken Punxsutawney man
arrested for giving mouth-to-mouth
resuscitation to dead opossum.

I hesitate to even mention this incredibly complex topic, and I have no idea how to realistically do anything about it, but I believe it is true – human beings were not meant to live the way we currently live. We were meant, I think, to live with nature, not to attack and destroy it. Of course when there were fewer people on earth it was much easier than it is today, and I suspect the myth of the noble savage living at one with nature is in itself just that, a myth. “Savages,” as near as I can tell, did not always live completely at one with nature, but because they were fewer, and because they did not have the destructive technology we now have, they were unable to destroy nature as easily and routinely as we have increasingly learned to do. However, in some instances they tried. For example, in the New Guinea Highlands there are vast stretches of grasslands (kunai). The soil is not very productive in these areas and nothing much grows there except a tall, tough grass with sharp spear-like leaves. Cattle cannot eat this grass except if it is periodically burned they can eat the tender new shoots. Of course there were no cattle there, having only recently been introduced by Europeans. But my point is simply that those unproductive grasslands are the result of human intervention, they were caused by the systematic burning over many years of what was there previously, burning to hunt, to clear ground for cultivation, and also during warfare and raiding. The people who inhabit these grasslands learned to adapt to life there, they learned to raise pigs that do well there, and to make salt from burning the grass and processing the ashes. They learned to trade with other people who lived in the nearby forests for products they needed but could not produce themselves, black palm for bows and arrows, stone axe blades, bird-of-paradise plumes for decorations, and so on. The Plains Indians in the United States were well adapted to their environment as well, as long as there were plenty of buffalo. Indeed, there were so many buffalo they could not possibly have killed them all even if they had desired to do so. The Arctic Eskimo, as we know, learned to adapt to an unbelievably harsh environment. If you look around the world at people who lived in various environments prior to the Industrial Revolution, in the jungles, the deserts, the arctic, wherever, it is more or less true they were adapted to their environment. People lived as hunter/gatherers or small-time horticulturalists, and did not have a particularly bad impact on their environments. As humans we tend to pride ourselves on our adaptability.

All of this began to change dramatically with the Industrial Revolution and the technological “improvements” that resulted. It seems to me we have gone from being highly adaptable to becoming highly maladaptive, as far as living with nature goes. Whereas “savages” might have destroyed things had they had the means, they couldn’t and didn’t. But we have done so and have created modes of existence that simply violate the previous human condition. Our inventions and technological innovations have become antithetical to what should be our more natural condition. The invention of the internal combustion engine, for example, in some sense a remarkable achievement, has in some respects been a disaster for life on the planet, not only wasting natural resources but also killing us by the hundreds of thousands. Bulldozers and huge cranes and backhoes have allowed us to build gigantic dams on our rivers, but only at the cost of destroying priceless natural resources. The invention of plastic, now becoming a true ecological disaster, is perhaps one of the worst of our “achievements.” These inventions were not intended to create the problems we now face, but they were created without considering the consequences that would follow their use. We have not been content to leave nature as it is, but have arrogantly thought to change it and make it exist for us, rather than we for it. This has, I believe, been in many ways disastrous, although I doubt most people today think of it that way. I do, I don’t believe humans were meant to live in huge crowded metropolitan areas, having to spend hours commuting back and forth to where they work, breathing foul air and enduring road rage and exhaust. I don’t believe each human should have a thousand or more pounds of steel and plastic, with hundreds of horsepower, just to drive to the supermarket to buy packaged food produced under questionable circumstances and of questionable nutritional value. I do not believe we were meant to suffer from obesity and diabetes to the point where it has become a national emergency. And related to all this, I don’t believe we were meant to live in a situation where profit is the most important motivating factor in our behavior. There was nothing like the profit motive that exists today in the smaller pre-industrial societies that existed for thousands of years previously. Economics was imbedded in systems of kinship and village, location, history, and even religion, it did not exist as an independent institution.

I do not mean to suggest that somehow we should go back to “the good old days,” or that all progress and technology has been necessarily “bad.” Frankly, I don’t exactly know what to think about it all, I don’t have any way of knowing what was “meant to be” in human affairs. I am pretty sure the human body and psyche were developed for hunting and gathering, digging in the earth, and wondering about the “Great Mystery” of it all. Sometimes I wonder, while sitting in front of the TV or my computer, if even wonder still exists in any extensive form: “God is dead,” but not March Madness, the NFL, “Lost,” and “American Idol,” to say nothing of “Dancing with the Stars,” and “Hip Hop.” “Life” goes on, or does it? Sometimes I think maybe some "Intelligent Designer" designed people with free will just to see if they would use it wisely. He/She/It lost.

A lifetime is more than sufficiently long for people to get what there is of it wrong.
Piet Hein

Stem cells can be successfully harvested from wisdom teeth.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Inevitable

After 68 years of marriage,
90 year-old man kills 89 year-old
wife in domestic dispute.

As the health care bill is finally passed and the overwhelming news topic is now the threats, violence, and blame, all of which will no doubt be covered more or less exclusively for days (to keep our little minds away from serious problems like bankruptcy, war, accountability, and so on), my idle mind once again has turned to thoughts of little importance but intense curiosity. I have been thinking about the inevitable. Not the inevitable in general, but the inevitability of certain developments in the future. For example, I believe it is inevitable that soon “Don’t ask, don’t tell” will be a policy of the past. As I believe in this inevitability I wonder why they bother with the half measure they are now touting, a measure that will temporarily help some and unfairly not help others. Gates said the reason for this approach is not because DADT is not going to be repealed, but rather, how it is to be accomplished. This seems to me a feeble excuse as it could just be done, just as Truman integrated the army. In other words, just do it!

Another inevitability, I believe, is Gay marriage. There is no doubt in my mind that eventually Gay marriage will be the law of the land. As more and more states are already allowing such marriages it will become more and more apparent that having Gay marriage only as a States’ right will become dysfunctional and increasing problematic. By then it will be impossible to rescind such rights and the fact that it was regarded as such a social problem will recede into dim memory.

Legal marijuana is another problem that will eventually pass and be recognized everywhere. It is inevitable. The absurdity of keeping pot illegal and jailing hundreds of thousands for the (non) crime of using it, thus needlessly filling up our jails and prisons will soon be more widely recognized, along with the fact that governments are missing out on a lot of tax monies, will bring us to our senses eventually. This will start this year in California and will undoubtedly spread elsewhere. Laws in various states have already begun to change.

I think it is also true that we will inevitably lose the “war” in Afghanistan (just as we lost the “war” in Iraq). We might eventually get out with some false claim of “winning” but it will be just that, a false claim. First of all, there is nothing we can “win” there to begin with. The only way we can avoid losing is to continue what we are doing now, continuing the “war” for no purpose other than that it exists (and keeps the military/industrial/political complex going). Sooner or later we will have to acknowledge we can no longer afford such expensive busy work and it will end.

Closer to home I think it inevitable that the Snake River dams will eventually have to be breached. It will become apparent, even to those who don’t think like I do at the moment, that maintaining and operating the dams and potentially losing the salmon runs is a fool’s errand (it probably always was). Not having the dams will be more economically sound than having them and there are other ways of moving potatoes and wheat to the coast (if, that is, we still have a viable economy at all in the future).

There are no doubt other things that will prove to be inevitable that I can’t think of at the moment. And you may not agree these things are inevitable as I do. I think they are inevitable because they are “right.” They all “make sense,” and to not do them will prove to be foolishly maintaining rules and laws that are no longer either necessary or useful. Only the future will tell if I am right about this, but if I were a betting man, I’d bet on it. If these developments are inevitable why not just do it now? Of course it’s because not everyone agrees with me. I guess that’s inevitable.

On a different topic entirely, I am beginning to wonder about erectile problems. We are currently being absolutely overwhelmed with ads for Viagra, Cialis, and other products designed to help men with erectile dysfunctions. I recently heard on one ad somewhere or other that “millions of men have now used “x” (one of these “aids”). It occurs to me that if that many American males are having problems with their erections, there must be some more serious problem involved, like maybe bad water, poor diets, oedipal guilt, mother fixations, maybe even talk radio or global warming. That is, it doesn’t seem “normal” to me that so many American men apparently suffer from this problem. Of course they could just want more and more sex and the limpness they experience is simply from exhaustion and overindulgence.

One final stupid question: will automobile insurance eventually be free? I ask this because I know little or nothing about economics and I hear repeatedly that the marketplace will determine prices. As there are now almost as many ads for car insurance as there are for erectile dysfunction, and as each of these companies claims to have substantially lower prices than the others, if this keeps on, will the “product” be reduced in price sufficiently by the competition to be given away (perhaps as a bonus for buying life insurance or flood insurance or something else entirely)? I realize this is a stupid question, but if I can buy furniture with no money down and no payments or interest for “x” amount of time, why can’t I get anything I want in much the same way? It’s the American way.

Yet ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
'Tis folly to be wise.
Thomas Gray

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Irrational Hate

Woman gardener dressed only
In yellow thong and pink gloves,
inspires rule changes in Boulder.

I guess I may be hopelessly confused as I sometimes am. What’s with this awful show of violence, the cursing, spitting, rock-throwing, death-threatening, apparently irrational response to the health care bill? I might understand this if there was an issue that somehow warranted it, for example, abortion, or anti-war, or even gay marriage, issues that people might at least conceivably have strong passions about. But we’re talking about health care, trying to improve health care for those who already have it and for the many millions that do not. How can anyone be so passionately against such a thing? What makes it worse is that most of what they are so worked up about are things not even in the bill or about to happen. I mean, one might feel strongly that it is going to cost too much, but we argue about costs on lots of things all the time, arguments that don’t lead to violence or death threats. You might also legitimately be opposed to “a government takeover,” but this is not a government takeover. To want to kill someone because they voted for it is to perform a completely irrational act on behalf of something that isn’t happening. You might not like the individual mandate that makes you have to buy insurance, but you have to buy car insurance and as far as I know, no one killed over it. Someone might feel truly passionate about abortion being federally funded, but there is no federal funding for abortion in this bill, to insist otherwise is, again, completely irrational. You might be concerned over so-called “death panels,” but there are no death panels. This is health care for people we’re talking about, health care, get it? It is trying to alleviate pain and suffering and bankruptcies and the madness of losing your health care because you get sick or lose your job. So…even if there are parts of the bill you don’t like you are ready to kill? There are parts of almost all bills someone doesn’t like, they don’t threaten to kill anyone about it. It appears to me that those who are threatening violence and throwing bricks and spitting on people and yelling racial and homophobic slurs are all worked up about purely imaginary problems. That is, they are completely delusional and out of control for reasons that make no sense. I guess this is what happens after weeks, months, even years of listening to Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, Coulter, Savage, Malkin, and the rest of the weekly hate mongers who, for a few pieces of silver (actually many pieces) are willing to promote anything, including mindless violence. This is not how government is supposed to work, at least not in the United States.

What about this militia guy from Alabama, living on Social Security Disability checks, inciting people to throw rocks at democratic buildings and suggesting they load up their guns and so on? Aren’t there laws against inciting to riot? Is he being investigated or arrested or anything? And if he is, what about Silly Sarah who isn’t really silly anymore, telling her mindless minions to reload and take aim at certain democrats? What about Limbaugh and Beck? These jerks have been inciting people to riot for years. Do we have to wait until someone actually gets murdered, perhaps many people get blown up, before being able to do anything about this constant stream of utter irresponsible, hateful drivel that emanates from our airwaves and televisions? And now even Republican leaders, desperate to find support anywhere they can, are encouraging these filthy lies and threats. The worst elements of our society are taking over what used to be a viable political party and turning it into a frenzied mob of crazies who no longer even need a viable excuse for their behavior, they are, indeed, just a mob.

What has happened is, I think, a direct result of the Nightmare Years of the Bush/Cheney administration, although the seeds of their fall began in earnest during the Clinton administration when they began to morph into a criminal conspiracy rather than a legitimate political party. The Republican Party itself is now every bit as irrational as the mobs they have inspired. If they believe they are going to make great gains in the coming elections based upon their performance in the past few years they are going to be badly mistaken. If they think they can win because the Democrats have failed they will now have to think again. Of course they will always have their base of the altogether loony, but that is probably no more than 30% of the voters at most. Personally, I believe the Republican Party is doomed and will eventually either have to disappear or emerge as something entirely different.

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs it is the rule.
Friedrick Nietsczhe

It is technically possible for an oyster to fertilize itself.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Stuff and Nonsense

Two women fight so violently
in Children’s Museum they
create massive hole in lobby wall.

Stuff and nonsense. How in world has the United States managed to fall into so much confusion, hate, and seemingly endless conflict. The passage of the health care bill was a great and long overdue achievement. You might think people would be relatively content to have a kind of security they have never experienced before. You might think they should even be happy about it. Perhaps they will be after it has begun to work and people will perceive what a massive and welcome change it is. In the meanwhile, however, there is more darkness than light, more confusion than common sense, more violence than reason, more hate and bigotry than we’ve seen for a long time. There are many different ways to look at this.

There is, of course, a basic philosophical difference between Democrats and Republicans. The former see an important role for government in the affairs of its citizens, the Republicans believe less government is better. This difference has important implications for budgets and social programs of all kinds. But this cannot account for what is going on at the moment as this difference of opinion has characterized our politics for a very long time and never before caused such a mess. And most of what is going on is basically a mess. A recent poll indicates that some 67% of Republicans believe Obama is a socialist, some 47% cling to the fantasy that he is not an American citizen, and some 24% actually seem to believe he is the anti-Christ. With those numbers it is not too difficult to see where much of the trouble lies. The fact that all three of these beliefs are demonstrably and absolutely untrue doesn’t seem to register with those that hold them. Then there are those who believe Obama is acting like Hitler, totally false. Some believe he is going to take away their guns, false. Others are convinced he is a Muslim, false. Still others accuse him of being a communist, also false. Then there is claim that his health care bill will result in a government takeover of health care, false. And of course there are some who are simply blatant racists who will never accept a Black man as President. Don’t forget those who believe in death squads, and even others who seriously entertain the rumor that Obama is going to stop them from recreational fishing, both false.

There is little doubt, I’m convinced that Fox (fake) News and the preponderance of right-wing talk shows have contributed to this growing problem. The Republican Party’s singular obsession with regaining power instead of helping the country also is an important contributor. But how is it that so many Americans seem to believe in things that are so obviously false? I believe this has a great deal to do with our failed educational system. You might argue, for example, that there is a war going on between those who are well educated and those who are not. Amazing numbers of our young people never finish High School, and I don’t believe our High Schools prepare children very well when it comes to citizenship, social responsibilities, civics, and such (actually I don’t believe they prepare them very well for anything at all, but there are, I am sure, rare exceptions). With steadily deteriorating schools and grossly underpaid teachers I guess you shouldn’t expect much. I know from personal experience that our High School students are bored beyond belief with their High School experiences (exception sports, of course).

The problem is greater than our High Schools, however. There is a serious resistance to knowledge and learning for its own sake in the United States, a powerful anti-intellectualism that I think is crippling us in some respects. The idea of a “classical” or “liberal” education has all but disappeared, to be replaced by the idea that a University if supposed to prepare you for a profession, a job (which explains why there are now so many professional schools associated with Universities, Business, law, Nursing, etc.). Thus you find people highly knowledgeable about their specialty but virtually illiterate e when it comes to anything else. I have personally known and worked with many M.D’s and Ph.D’s who were experts in their respective fields but knew next to nothing about human behavior, society, or culture. Many of these individuals knew nothing about evolution, nothing about any people other than the Americans they came into contact with, and very often nothing about politics, our political system, beyond that you could probably find in eight year-olds. I have even been asked if there are people in the world who have no language, or people who married their sisters, or who thought that everyone in New Guinea must be cannibals. These were not stupid people, they were just incredibly ignorant about anything except neurology, oncology, noses, throats, and chest pains. In order to master their chosen profession as quickly as possible they simply bypassed any courses that were not considered basic and relevant. University education was not always like this, students studied languages, the classics, humanities, philosophy, literature, and other subjects as well as biology and chemistry. Even if this is all true, there still remains a vast gap between those with an education and those without.

During the last elections a friend sent me a chart that purported to show a correlation between the average I.Q. scores in different states and political preferences. There was no doubt that states with lower I.Q. scores preferred Republican or conservative candidates. I didn’t take this seriously because I don’t believe much in I.Q. scores and I didn’t know how such average scores could be obtained or how reliable they could be. Even so, I’m pretty certain there is a correlation between education and political preferences. I’ll bet that most educated people are far less likely to believe in the nonsensical claims about Obama than others, and we have far too many others here in the U.S. This is why Republicans do not in general want to fund education or improve it, they know they would lose too many votes. Obama will try to improve educational opportunities, the Republicans will oppose all attempts to create an informed citizenry (an absolute necessity for a functional democracy). As for those who believe in the anti-Christ, people being swallowed by whales or riding dinosaurs, what can I say?

The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.
Elbert Hubbard

Saltwater crocodiles are the largest reptiles on earth, growing sometimes to slightly more than 25 feet in length.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sore Losers

Wisconsin man upset with
the waxy buildup on his car
attacks car washer with hammer.

Man, oh man, I’ve heard of sore losers before, but have you ever seen any as bad as these Republicans? You are probably aware of the racial comments uttered at a number of our Black Congresspersons, and the homophobic slurs thrown at Congressman Barney Franks, and the fact that one Black Congressman was actually spat on. There were also bricks thrown through the windows of Democratic headquarters in New York, and no doubt more problems that were not reported at all. It would be easy to say this was merely a few isolated cases of inappropriate behavior, but when you realize that in some cases Republican Congresspersons were themselves involved, as one from Texas who shouted out “baby killers” during the deliberations, and few, if any of them, spoke out against these abuses, it is difficult to conclude this is not at least implicitly being sanctioned by the Republican Party itself. When you add to this the intemperate and virtually out-of-control vituperation of Boehner, and the usual absurd remarks by McCain and others, you begin to wonder if anyone ever in their lives said “no” to these spoiled jerks. It was a democratic contest, you lost, you might at least lose gracefully, but there is nothing graceful about our contemporary Republican Party of no, no, no, a thousand times no, no matter what the issue is.

The Republicans have been totally opposed to health care reform from the beginning and they have done everything in their power to keep it from happening. There is every reason to believe they will keep on resisting until the bitter end. This is not at all surprising. Republicans have been opposed to every reform designed to help ordinary working people from the very beginning. They were opposed to the 40 hour work week, and 8 hour working day, paid vacations, minimum wages, and everything ever proposed to alleviate unpleasant conditions for working people. One conclusion you might draw from this record, especially relevant to the moment, is that Republicans actually would prefer you to suffer and die rather than give you a single nickel of help. If you are an ordinary working American the Republican Party is not merely an opposition party, it is your mortal enemy. It wants you to work for the least wages possible, to live in slums, to lack health care, and, presumably, to go hungry because it will motivate you to work merely to survive rather than thrive. While it is difficult to speak for history, it is obvious their behavior at the moment, at least, is motivated solely by politics. They want to recover power and they do not care what means they have to employ to get it. In other words, they don’t care if you starve or die of untreated medical conditions, or if your children have to go without health care, or if you die prematurely, have rotten teeth, cancer, or the plague, they want to recover their power to continue fleecing you from whatever little monies you might have left. You don’t think so? Where is any Republican health care proposal that addresses the problems of health care in America? Where is any attempt by Republicans to better the lot of working Americans in any aspect of life whatsoever? When have you ever heard anything from Republicans other than “lower taxes,” and “less government?” Apparently they are made to repeat these phrases one thousand times a day throughout their entire childhood: meaningless , useless, mindless, repetitions that blind them from any reality outside of their own childish selfishness. Tragically, I suspect they come to actually believe this simple-minded nonsense.

Now that the health care bill has passed they are swearing to repeal it. This confirms for me what I have suspected for a long time, Republicans have absolutely no conception of reality, especially as it has to do with the ordinary lives of ordinary people. Now that the Democrats have finally achieved something that has eluded government for almost a hundred years, and passed a semi-universal health care bill with many fine provisions, a bill, for example, that makes it illegal for children to be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions, and also illegal to stop someone’s insurance because they finally became ill, a bill that also allows some 32 million people who did not have health care to have it, Republicans are going to campaign to repeal it? This is, in my opinion, so ridiculous an idea as to make me question their sanity. I guess this is somehow related to their claim the American Public was/is opposed to health care reform and, now that they have it, will be willing to vote to repeal it. This suggests to me that not only are they out of touch, they are downright delusional. This idea of repealing the health care bill is not held merely by a bunch of tea party loonies who think Barack Obama is a socialist, greed is a virtue, Ronald Reagan was a saint, and Moby Dick is a venereal disease, but by the major leaders of the party, McCain, Romney, Cantor, Boehner, Huckabee, and others.

There is an old saying about gambling that I think may be pertinent here, “If you can’t afford to lose, don’t play.” Far be it from me to offer advice to Republicans, but they will surely lose if they try to repeal health care. And they can’t afford to lose any more than they already have. Their strategy of just saying “no” to anything and everything Obama tries to do in order to destroy his Presidency (and our nation along with him) verges on treason. As it is presently constituted the Republican Party has no redeeming social virtues, is actually preventing our government from functioning as it should, and is causing far more harm than good (indeed, it is impossible to perceive any “good” in it at all). Personally, I hope they will campaign on repealing health care, and I hope they run Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, along with the slogan “Up with the skirts, down with the pants.” They can’t self-destruct too soon to suit me.

The demagogue is one who preaches doctrines he knows to be untrue to men he knows to be idiots.
H. L. Mencken

Wildebeest can live for up to 20 years.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

America's Army - book

America’s Army: Making the All-Volunteer Force, Beth Bailey (Harvard University Press, 2009).

Beth Bailey is a Professor of History at Temple University. This book is, I think, good example of what a competent historian can do with a topic of this kind.

I confess I had never thought seriously about the change from the draft to a Volunteer Army, other than to initially believe I didn’t think it was a good idea. This was partly because I was out of the country during much of the serious controversy, and partly because I just didn’t really think much about it. I had no idea how complicated, complex, difficult, and far-reaching a job it was to make this switch. First, there were moral problems involving the basic obligations of citizenship, then there was race, and after that the problems of gender, and after that the practical problems of just how to go about bringing such monumental changes, and then even after that, questions about what skills were really necessary to serve in a modern army. That this was accomplished at all I find almost miraculous.

I did not understand that the issue of changing to an all-volunteer army came about because of the combination of Richard Nixon’s opportunism and the Chicago School of Economics. Nixon understood the disenchantment with Vietnam and the draft, and realized that doing away with the latter would be an astute political achievement. The argument for doing so quickly became one of the market place. It would be economically sensible (that is, cheaper) to have an all-volunteer army than to continue the draft. Furthermore, because of modern technology and the probabilities of the “wars” of the future, it was obvious that the army would require soldiers with more education than previously, and with more intelligence than previously. There was a fear that an all-volunteer force would inevitably consist of Blacks lacking these qualities, along with the poor and less educated. The problem became one of how to recruit the kinds of individuals the modern all-volunteer army would want. It was quickly decided that in order to achieve this goal it would be necessary to raise the pay of soldiers, and also to do away with some of the more onerous and unpleasant aspects of army life, such things as KP, unnecessary “policing” of the area picking up trash, polishing the interior of belt buckles, to say nothing of the bullying of drill sergeants, and so on. But of course this new image of army life had to be sold to recruits and so became a marriage of Madison Avenue and the Army. It would be left to the marketplace.

Much of this book is a record of just how the Army (with the help of the advertising industry) went about this change. It is actually quite fascinating to see how the ads changed with changing perceptions of young people and their values, and how they changed over time from the 60’s to the 70’s to the 80’s and 90’s and to the present time. Not the least of the problems had to do with gender and what to do with female enlistees. There was, of course, great resistance to having female soldiers at all, and then, when it became obvious there would have to be such soldiers (as the quotas could not be met otherwise), what, exactly would they be required (or allowed) to do. Here again technology entered into the equation. As women were not perceived to be as physically capable as men, and therefore not as able to be infantry troops or engage in hand-to-hand combat, how could they be allowed to perform the same MOS’s (Military occupational specialties) as men. If they couldn’t be ordinary foot soldiers why could they not fly fighter planes or drop bombs that did not require basic physical strength?

I believe it is true, as Bailey suggests, that the Army was actually far ahead of American culture in general, when it came to working out these problems of race and gender. I think it is pretty much the case that race is no longer much of a problem in our military, but gender differences still are working themselves out. And now, of course, there is a renewed emphasis on gays in the military (but it, too, I am sure, will soon be a forgotten issue).

I was initially opposed to an all-volunteer force because I feared it might easily have more loyalty to those who paid it than to the country or constitution (as in the case of that nitwit graduate of one of the right-wing law schools who admitted she had vowed loyalty to George W. Bush, apparently even unaware of how totally inappropriate that was). Now I don’t believe this need be a problem as long as our volunteers are made to swear an oath to the constitution and understand where their loyalties must lie. By far the most serious problem is with the mercenary troops that have been more and more a part of our military adventures around the world, a problem that is just now receiving the serious attention it deserves. Bailey does not deal with this at all, but it is totally unfair to criticize someone for not writing about something she was not writing about. America’s Army is a fine and detailed account of how it is we arrived at an all-volunteer army and makes you appreciate just how almost impossibly difficult and cleverly this transition was achieved.

I am still not completely convinced that an all-volunteer army is the best solution to national defense. The best solution is probably to have an all-volunteer cadre readily available for most defense problems, while at the same time having some form of national service whereby all young people are at least minimally prepared to serve in one capacity or another if necessary. The issue of national service, having to do with basic questions of citizenship, is far too controversial and complicated to be dealt with here (maybe later).

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Crazy American Health Care Plan

Woman, 37, admits strangling
daughter, 18, because she
“pushed my last button.”

Welcome to the Crazy American Health Care Plan. I believe the Health Care Bill now under consideration and coming up for a vote on Sunday is going to pass. I guess, like many, in general, I think that is probably a good thing, barring any alternative. Let me review this business as I think I understand it. In the United States, roughly speaking, some 20% of the population suffers 80% of the health problems. The insurance companies do not insure the 20%, opting instead to only insure the 80% that is healthier. Then, when someone in the 80% does happen to develop a health problem, the insurance companies find a way to cut them off, either by claiming some previously undisclosed pre-condition or finding some other loophole. This is basically how insurance companies make their profits. Under this new bill this is going to change. Insurance companies will be forced to cover everyone, including the 20%, and they will be no longer be allowed to cut people off when they need it most by claiming pre-existing conditions or whatever. In order to make these changes economically feasible it is necessary to mandate that everyone be insured (or pay a fine if they are not). I am not enough of a mathematician or statistician to know if adding an additional 32 million people to the health care business is sufficient to make up for the profits that would otherwise be lost. I assume it would be or otherwise it would not happen. What I do know (or at least think I know) is that it doesn’t much matter, because as I understand it, the insurance companies will still be allowed to skim of some 20% or more as profit. This means that health insurance in the United States will still cost 20% (or more) than it would have to if we had a single payer system. If this is so, why do we allow it to happen? The answer, I guess, is that America is a capitalistic society that puts privatization and profit ahead of everything else, and Americans have been taught to believe that anything else is either socialism (an absolutely terrible, unthinkable, horrible thing), or that government is too incompetent to do anything right (like Medicare, Social Security, the Post Office, Public Schools, the Veterans Administration, and so on). Opponents argue that you should not want a Government bureaucrat to come between you and your doctor. They seem to believe that having an Insurance company bureaucrat, interested only in generating a profit out of your misfortune, between you and your doctor is fine. This is a view that to me is either totally irrational or a deliberate preference for profit over people (which is, I believe, a pretty standard Republican position). Thus, if a public option or some functional equivalent is not added to the current bill you can just assume it is a gift of billions to the Insurance industry.

Apparently some “porn star” is now threatening to make public some racy messages she received from Tiger Woods. This is, of course, after the worst of his scandalous behavior has been pretty much put to rest. So why would she do this? Either she is just mean, or she seeks publicity, or she thinks she will stand to gain monetarily, or perhaps all three, or more likely, the last two. I am always reminded of Somerset Maugham when I see things like this: There is hardly anyone whose sexual life, if it were broadcast, would not fill the world at large with surprise and horror ( W. Somerset Maugham).

It is being claimed by Obama and Hillary there is no serious disagreement between Israel and the U.S. If that is so it means that the status quo will prevail, which also means there will be no peace in the Middle East and the U.S. will continue to scratch the back of Netanyahu and bow to Israel once again. Obama has it within his power to insist that Israel stop its slow genocide of Palestinians, stop building more settlements, stop their blatant racist imperialism, and make a serious attempt at peace and a viable Palestinian state. Apparently this is not going to happen. It has been suggested that there be a new “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy wherein no one is supposed to ask if Israel is violating International law as usual, and they are not going to tell. This is absolutely disgusting and means we will continue to participate in Israeli war crimes and be the major obstacle to peace in the Middle East. It has been said that Obama is going to be too busy to meet with Netanyahu when he arrives next week. I hope he is. I hope every leader of every country on earth will be too busy to meet with this racist warmonger until he gets the message: STOP YOUR OUTRAGEOUS GREED AND RACISM!!

An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
George Orwell

The coyotes that have been missing for a while are now back, and close to the house.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stupid, or What?

New Jersey ex-con
arrested for urinating on
women at bus stop.

Are people really stupid or what? At a meeting of the U.N. to discuss a ban on fishing for bluefin tuna, because they are rapidly disappearing, the ban was turned down because many nations felt it would harm their fisherman. What in the hell do they think will happen to their fisherman when there are no tuna? Commercial fisherman for years have refused to practice any genuine conservation and are now coming under increasing pressure to do so. This is the source of the absurd claim that Obama is going to stop recreational fishing, because commercial fisherman have tried to drag recreational fishing into the argument to bolster their opposition to any controls. People seem to have learned nothing from their hundreds of years of experience, they still seem to believe that you can cut all the trees, catch all the fish, use all the oil, dam all the rivers, kill all the animals and birds, and so on, without having to pay any consequences. There actually are some pretty smart humans. You can tell who they are, they’re the ones being ridiculed and laughed at by the no-brainers. The idea “there’s always more where that came from” wasn’t appallingly serious when there was still a frontier, it is humanicidally serious at the moment.

When someone becomes known as a genuine loony-tunes, like Michele Bachmann for example, or an always wrong pathological serial liar, like Dick Cheney, or a pathetic idiotic bumpkin like Glenn Beck, or a disgusting witch like Ann Coulter who would suck the blood out of children for a buck, or even an evil, dishonest, bloated, blowhard, druggy hatemonger like Rush Limbaugh, why does the MSM continue to inflict them on the public at every opportunity? It must be simply because there are a lot of people like them out there (a thought so frightening I don’t like to think about it). But what this really means is (I guess we should already know) the networks will do anything for money, anything at all. Nothing seems beneath them anymore. They don’t even pretend to offer news now that they have discovered how well “infotainment” pays off. While this makes the purveyors of all this pig pucky lots of money, it is truly a disservice to the broader community, and does, in fact, contribute to the break-up of communities. I guess it is pretty silly to speak of the American community as any sense of community was lost quite some time ago. We still are a nation, however, and as a nation we are not well-served by any of the above “celebrities” who serve no useful purpose while constantly promoting hate and conflict. They make shouting “FEAR” in a crowded theatre look like mere child’s play.

Somewhere on the Internet today someone suggested there must be a Republican “Stupid Farm” someplace in the South that produces all these stupid Republicans. I hadn’t thought of that but it could be true. I wonder if Bachmann spent some time there? Maybe she had a scholarship. I wondered for a long time why so many Republican “Spokepersons” were dumb blonds until it finally dawned on me that because the Republican Party is almost exclusively White there would naturally be a lot of blonds (sometimes it takes a long time for something to dawn on me). I think they must be required to attend the Stupid Farm in order to become Spokespersons as they tend to always say the same things the Party tells them to say, they’re like parrots. Instead of saying “Polly want a cracker,” they just mindlessly repeat “Tax breaks,” “Socialism,” and “Big Government.” By the way, how does one get to be a Spokesperson? There seems to be an endless supply of them, mostly all blonds. There are also an inordinate number of Democratic Spokespersons, but at least they are much more diverse. Does merely claiming to be a Spokesperson make you one? Is it a real job? Do you volunteer or have to be drafted? Does it pay real money? Does it pay at all? Does anyone pay attention to whatever these Spokespersons say (I know I don’t).

Well, after all these months and all the speeches, and all the arguments, and all the lies, it appears that on Sunday we will finally get a vote on a rather questionable bill on Health Care. No one seems to like this bill but everyone will hold their nose and vote. It will probably pass by a slight margin. Some say it has lots of good things, some say it’s awful. It will certainly be awful if it is not seriously improved by reconciliation.

On the 43rd State Blues: Democracy for Idaho blog today there is a wonderful short piece by Sisyphus. Idaho Republicans should be forced to read it, at gunpoint if necessary. Perhaps they might at least partially come to their senses (probably this is beyond hope). They apparently are proud of the fact that Idaho is going to be the first state to sue the Federal Government if the Health Care Bill passes and mandates insurance for everyone. This will be another lost cause, a complete waste of time and money, and just another stupid thing for Republicans to do. I’m not sure I understand the logic behind this move, but I think they will claim it is unconstitutional for the Federal Government to force people to buy insurance. They will no doubt do this while on their way to their insurance company to pay for their mandated auto and truck insurance. Sigh.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
T.S. Eliot

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flat Earthers

Drunken Kentucky man puts
five-week old son in oven, calls
911 to ask what charges he faces.

Just out of curiosity, has anyone heard any Republican spokesperson say ANYTHING that is actually true in the past few months?

Now, after I guess about eight or more years of failing to capture or kill Osama bin Laden, Republicans are worried about him being tried in our criminal courts. This has forced Eric Holder to say that bin Laden will never be taken alive, so not to worry. I should think the odds are that bin Laden will not be captured or killed at all. He will probably die of old age in bed wherever he may be (I tend to think he’s in Constantinople, my wife thinks Belarus). I am not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I might make an exception in this case. There must be a reason why bin Laden has not been captured or killed in all this time, and it can’t be simply because he lives in a cave somewhere in Pakistan. If I had to explain it, I’d bet it’s probably because he is still a CIA asset and still being kept alive because (1) perhaps he knows too much to be captured, (2) we would not have any excuse for continuing our absurd “war” in Afghanistan, and (3) maybe the CIA and the Bush’s don’t want to give up their cut of the drug money. But what do I know, I’m just another idiot trapped in a culture of constant lies, dishonesty, and misinformation.

I sort of like the Ed Show, although I didn’t at first. I thought he was much too abrasive. But last night he did something I found truly irritating. He does this telephone poll where he asks a question and people vote yes or no by phone. Apart from the absurdity of such a poll in the first place, last night his question was: If the Democrats fail to pass Health Care Reform who will be the most guilty, Pelosi or Obama? How absurd can a question become? How about big Pharma, big Insurance, big Hospitals, or big Doctors? How about all the Congresspersons and Senators on the receiving end of all that largesse? How about the anti-abortionists? How about all the nutcases that scream socialism at the top of their lungs? How about the Republican Party that has done everything they can to not only stop Health Care but also bring down the Obama administration (and our country along with it)? Sorry, Ed, you blew it big time last night and made stupid look stupid.

For the first time in a very long time there is developing a serious problem in U.S./Israeli relations. In retaliation for the Israeli insult about building 1600 new illegal units in East Jerusalem, Netanyahu has been seriously challenged and apparently asked to rescind the order. So far he has refused. So now we will finally see if the U.S. will actually stand up to Israel and insist they comply with the law and the wishes of the International community, or if, once again, they will blatantly ignore us as they always have. Personally, I believe if we cannot or will not insist they stop the illegal building and settlements this time, there will be no hope whatsoever for peace in the Middle East, probably ever. Apparently some of our Generals have finally perceived that Israeli intransigence and arrogance is negatively affecting our own attempts in the Middle East, and that our interests are not always the same as those of Israel, so perhaps something positive might actually occur. Please Great Mystery, let it be so.

We have here in our county a restaurant at a truck stop where every morning our local members of the Flat Earth Society meet for coffee and conversation. Usually the topic has something to do with the latest Rush Limbaugh horse poop. I doubt that any of these people read anything to speak of, and whatever information they have is limited to Limbaugh and Fox News and is then just passed on between each other. I do not ordinarily patronize this place, but the other morning I needed to meet someone there so I could not help overhearing part of the conversation. It had to do with the claim that President Obama was about to stop them from recreational fishing. He was going to stop them from fishing in our lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, or wherever fishing might occur. Their blind hatred of Obama (and all “Liberals”) is apparently so great they were unable to appreciate the utter absurdity of this claim. I guess that as Limbaugh and Beck had repeated this fantastically unbelievable horseshit they accepted it as fact. I guess as Obama has not yet taken away their guns they had to shift to a new absurdity. These guys are all of an age where you can safely bet they are all getting money of one kind or another from the Federal Government, either Social Security, Medicare, Farm subsidies, or whatever, while at the same time bitching incessantly about the evils of government. They invariably vote Republican against their own best interests and then complain about what happens to them. I would not characterize them as stupid, merely incredibly ignorant, and I guess too lazy to bother to question the hate mongers that besiege the airways and provide them with their daily topics of conversation. I find their behavior and beliefs so bizarre someone should study them, just as you might study a colony of monkeys or baboons (not me, I couldn’t stand it).

One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain't nothin' can beat teamwork.
Edward Abbey

The turtle lives 'twixt plated decks
Which practically conceal its sex.
I think it clever of the turtle
In such a fix to be so fertile.
Ogden Nash

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Please Explain

Louisiana man, angry with
wife, arrested for firing
shotgun blasts at his fence.

I heard some newscaster today say that conditions were now favorable for the Republicans. Perhaps that is so, but if so, I would like someone to explain it to me. His remark was in the context of the outcome of the 2010 elections. I understand why people might be upset with the Democrats, and I understand they might want a change, but please, what have Republicans done that would make anyone in their right mind want to vote for them? A third party I could understand, even a vote for a Green party, or Socialists, or perhaps even Communists I might understand, but Republicans? I defy you to tell me one thing the Republican Party under Bush/Cheney, or even now as the minority party, has done for the American people (this is what government is about, isn’t it, unless, of course, you believe, like Republicans, that government is really for the corporations and the wealthy). The Bush/Cheney career is well known for its war crimes, tax breaks for the wealthy, and privatization...period. The current Republican Party is basically treasonous in their wish to see our current administration fail. Thus I fail to understand how, even if one wished to vote against Democrats, one could possibly vote for Republicans, who created this unholy mess we are in and have advanced not a single viable or feasible alternative idea about anything, unless you believe their usual nonsense about tax breaks for the rich, limited government, the privatization of everything, and unbridled capitalism (the very problems that are threatening to destroy our country).

I believe that expanding health care for some 30 million citizens who do not now have it is a very worthy cause. Similarly, I believe that keeping Insurance companies from their terrible abuses is also a worthy cause. I believe that saving 45,000 lives a year by expanding health care is a worthy cause. The question that tugs at my mind is: is giving the Insurance companies further billions upon billions of profit worth it? I suppose one might argue that saving all these lives and expanding health care is worth whatever the cost may be. But this is not very satisfying when one realizes it does not have to be that way. We could have a workable, efficient, economic, single-payer system that would be far better than what we will have if this bill actually does pass, and will not require giving billions more in profits to the insurance companies. Even a public option will not exclude the insurance companies from participation in health care, a situation you can be sure they will exploit to the utmost. As I have said before, many times, some things are too important to be left to the private sector, health care is surely one of them. The profit motive, which is the backbone of the American enterprise system, is basically incompatible with a truly Democratic society. Privatization ought to be reserved for things like cosmetics, jewelry, fashion, and other non-necessities, not vital human needs like health care, energy, water, food (except maybe junk food), prisons, and education.

It appears that even our stalwart, Dennis Kusinich, may have been sweet-talked into voting for this terrible billion dollar gift to the insurance industry, with, of course, the promise that it will be changed over time into something that actually may resemble genuine health care reform. I confess I wonder if we are about to be betrayed by those who have claimed to support the public option. As I understand it, the Senate has said they would pass a public option if Pelosi would produce one out of the House, but it is not at all clear that she will do so. This in spite of the fact that the public is in favor of a public option, Pelosi has claimed to be in favor, Obama has likewise claimed to be in favor, and it would seem at the moment to be entirely possible – but may not happen if, as Pelosi claims, she does not have the votes, which I find almost impossible to believe.
I think about “States’ Rights” pretty much the same way I feel about privatization in general. If we are going to allow States any rights they should be restricted to picking a state flower, animal, fish, or fowl. Some of them have in the past, and are proving again at the moment, they are unwilling to enter the 21st century along with the rest of us. Texas is about to rule on changes to the textbooks their children will be allowed that essentially will keep them immersed in the 18th century, and they wish to re-write history according to religious and other nut-cases. As Texas is an important buyer of textbooks there is some chance their changes might eventually affect other states (textbook publishers have no more morals than anyone else actively engaged in the profit business). Personally, I think Texas should be encouraged to secede and take Oklahoma, and perhaps another couple of Southern States along with them. I’m beginning to think winning the Civil War may have been a mistake.

It cost about 75 cents to kill a man in Ceasar's time. The price rose to about $3,000 per man during the Napoleonic wars; to $5,000 in the American Civil War; and then to $21,000 per man in World War I. Estimates for the future wars indicate that it may cost the warring countries not less than $50,000 for each man killed.
Senator Homer T. Bone

Horses have the largest eyes of any land mammal.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No End in Sight

Argument in car results in
her beating him with phone book
and shooting him in genitals.

There is no end in sight. This is not meant as a pun, although you make think otherwise when you read this. As the Massa story has lost its interest, and as there is little else going on except speculation about health care, my semi-active mind has led me to think about trends in American culture. The trends I have in mind all seem clearly to lead in the same direction, to revealing more and more about everything. Think of an obvious example, women’s bathing attire. When I was a boy, women still dressed in almost full length bathing suits, then one-piece suits began to get smaller and more revealing and then, horrors of horrors, the bikini appeared. Now the bikinis have turned into thongs and become so small one wonders what can possibly happen next. It seems unlikely in this case that bikinis will be abandoned for full nudity (a possibility) because that would leave no mystery at all. Not that there is much of a mystery, everyone knows what is concealed. It’s true there are all nude beaches here and there but they seem not to have captured more an a few aficionados.

Consider also the case of ads for things like toothpaste, mouthwash, and such. They used to be mentioned by name but that was about all. Now, of course, we witness people actually brushing their teeth, gargling, singing about their dentures, shaving and perfuming their armpits, shaving their legs, removing their corns and bunions, and so on. Granted these are things people have done for a long time, it has been only recently that we have been so privy to observing them.
There are other, perhaps more serious acts, that never even used to be mentioned, let alone witnessed. Hemorrhoids, for example, formerly not even mentioned in polite company, are now commonly mentioned in ads for suppositories and things to alleviate the discomfort. We now see people on bicycles or sitting on benches moaning about the fact they did not use such and such a remedy. These ads get more and more revealing as time goes by. I fully expect it will not be long before we will be shown the particulars of how these things are supposed to be used, pictures of them being inserted and so on (hence the not intended pun). We also see now problems with the prostate, illustrated with pictures and explanations of urinary problems and etc. The same thing, I suspect, may also happen with tampons and other protective pads for women. Why should the directions for use not be shown in the ads for those too dimwitted to know how to use them? I recently saw an ad for condoms. The first such ad I have seen. I saw this on a program someone else was watching, so perhaps these ads are more common than I think, I just don’t know. The ad almost revealed exactly how one would use a condom, except that the details were obscured by an artificial sort of fog.

This, of course, leads to perhaps the most obvious place to look for more and more revealing ads, the artificial erection ads that now appear almost constantly. Not long ago such a topic would never have been mentioned, let alone widely publicized. It would have been someone’s guilty little secret. But now, with Viagra, Cialis, and other ads virtually dominating the airwaves, this is apparently a topic generally accepted by most everyone. At first these drugs were just mentioned in ads, then couples were hired to act in them, and then they became more and more suggestive, even leading her to the bedroom door. So what will come next? The obvious answer is to actually enter the bedroom, then perhaps a scene of disrobing and maybe even some foreplay, and then no doubt we will witness the actual act itself. You don’t think so? Don’t bet against it.

I see no reason not to believe these developments will be inevitable. We’ve already seen all of this in the movies and on television where nudity and sexual intercourse are quite commonplace. This is a far cry from that terrible moment when Rhett Butler uttered the absolutely shocking word “damn” at the end of the movie, Gone With the Wind. The Hays Office did everything they could to protect the public from just about everything but that, too, is gone with the wind. Now it appears that anything goes. We have not only sexually explicit scenes but scenes so bloody and gory and terrible it makes you wonder what it is about people that motivate to witness this stuff.
I do not bring this up to necessarily condemn these trends, merely to observe that they are occurring and it seems there will not be any turning back. I do believe there is far too much superfluous violence on television and in the movies, but as far as the rest goes, I’m willing to just wait and see where it ends. Maybe we’ll eventually get to see naked ladies thrown to the lions, or mating with giant slugs, or being beaten (sorry, we already have this), or performing “unnatural acts” (oh, yeah, we have those too if you know where to look). I’m certain my limited television viewing, and my hardly ever going to movies, has not allowed me to understand the full range of this stuff, but I do wonder where it all leads.

The cable TV sex channels don't expand our horizons, don't make us better people, and don't come in clearly enough.
Bill Maher

An asparagus patch, properly planted and tended, can last for 20 years or more.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Ground Truth - book

The Ground Truth The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11, by John Farmer (Riverhead Books, N.Y., 2009)

John Farmer was senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission. Now that further information has surfaced about the unfortunate tragedy of 9/11 he has attempted to further straighten out the facts of the matter. I don’t want to say this is a bad book. In many ways it is useful and insightful, but I think it also contains a serious flaw.

Farmer believes that what occurred during 9/11 was basically a systemic failure. That is, our various institutions were simply not up to the job. He carefully traces the movements of the hijackers as they traveled to and from the United States prior to the hijackings, and shows how they rather easily penetrated our country even though there were obvious reasons why at least some of them should not have succeeded, and points out various instances that were either not reported or investigated as they should have been.

More importantly, he analyzes the organization of the most important players, The CIA, FBI, DOD, and NORAD. He demonstrates, successfully I believe, that none of these organizations were prepared for the terrorist attacks that occurred. They were, he points out, still oriented towards the Cold War, and had not managed to re-organize themselves for the new situation that had been developing for some years. Even when they attempted to change they did not always succeed. For example, even when George Tenet sent out memos specifically instructing his personnel to change their focus and concentrate more on terrorism, they failed to do so, at least quickly enough to matter. There was, Farmer suggest, a fundamental disconnect between the leadership and the organization being led. Much the same thing was true of the FBI, whose major preoccupation has always been domestic law enforcement, and had not completely embraced the newer emerging problem of international terrorism. At the Department of Defense, where, after the fall of the Soviet Union they were attempting to restructure, they had not completely succeeded. The joint Canadian-U.S. command, NORAD, that had been designed to protect our joint airspace, and at one time had a thousand fighter planes available for that purpose, by 9/11 had been reduced to a mere fourteen planes. In effect, our entire defense system was not prepared for the job it was compelled to attempt. There was little or no communication between the various agencies, jealously over their own turf, and a dysfunctional chain of command.

Farmer goes on to argue that although we should have learned from our experiences of 9/11, with respect to organization and preparedness for national disasters, we did not, and the same systemic failures occurred during Katrina. Even though Katrina was a totally different disaster, and even though the various organizations involved were not all the same, the same problems arose. He makes a good case for this.

Farmer acknowledges that what we were told by our government about 9/11 was not true. It was “spin,” designed to make us believe that the system had actually worked when in fact it had not. Basically, the story we were told was designed importantly to absolve anyone from responsibility for the tragedy that ensued, once it had been planned, presumably in the caves of Afghanistan, and once it had been successfully completed and the towers collapsed and the 3000 killed. What I find so unsatisfactory about The Ground Truth is that Farmer does the same thing, only in reverse. Whereas we were initially led to believe the system worked, and no one was responsible, Farmer argues that the system did not work, but he does not speak to the issue of responsibility or accountability. In both cases everything is blamed on “the system.”

But systems don’t operate on each other, they do not fail independently of those whose job it is to make them operate. At no point does Farmer truly suggest any individual person was a fault, except perhaps in a couple of cases where the individual made a presumably “honest” mistake. There is no suggestion that Tenet did anything wrong. He mentions Michael Brown, of course, but there is not even a hint that Brown was completely unsuitable for the job he was supposed to do. Even when Farmer reports on Brown’s testimony that he was told by the White House to lie, he does not raise any question about who lied. It appears that the White House itself, along with the other institutions involved, are reified, made into concrete objects that can speak and act on their own. But someone at the White House told him to lie, and that person was probably told to tell him to lie, the “White House” does not itself speak, nor does the “FBI” or the “CIA.” Without speculating wildly, it has to be the case that there were lies and misinformation passed along during the whole terrible misfortune and up and down the whole chain of command. Otherwise the “spin” could not have been created. When the Governor of Louisiana was told the levees had not been breached, when they had been even earlier, she was not told the truth (for whatever reason). Lies were clearly told about the New Orleans Police Department that basically disintegrated when some of the Officers began looting, and reportedly even shot some innocent civilians on a bridge. Lies were told about whether or not one of the hijacked planes was shot down, about who gave the order (in fact this order was never even communicated to the relevant pilots), about what supplies were being furnished to the disaster area, and when, and so on. I will concede that in many cases lies might have been told because of misinformation, but it cannot be the case that no one, no single individual, at any level, had anything whatsoever to do with the failures of 9/11 and Katrina. There has been no accountability, and will never be any as long as everything can be blamed simply on the system, “the system did it.”

Farmer does offer what I think is sound advice for what went wrong with the systems. Basically, he believes that people present on the ground at the time need to have more authority and power. The system has to function from the ground up rather than from the top down. Those at the top may be able to design and put into place the kind of system required, but they cannot deal with the practical realities when they occur. I had a bit of trouble puzzling over the title “The Ground Truth.” What farmer has in mind is that what is happening on the ground is the truth and should be respected above all else. I thought at first he might mean something like the truth ground into the ground, or the truth ground up and fed to us like bad hamburger, and frankly, when we are told the “system done it,” that is what we are being fed. As long as there is no individual accountability for failure there will never be a system that will work. Accountability was not valued by the Bush/Cheney administration, and it is not being valued by their current defenders either.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Woman in reverse runs over
husband; unaware, she goes
forward, runs over him again.

It is that awful time of year again when taxes become due. Income taxes, that is, other taxes go on all the time. Gas taxes, taxes on clothes, taxes on booze, cigarettes, guns, and just about anything you can think of. Here in Idaho we even have a tax on groceries. Can you believe a tax on food, a basic necessity? Now I hear they are considering a tax on pizza. We already have that so I suppose it will just increase. The income tax is the worst.

I don’t object to taxes in principle. You know, when you live in a complex culture taxes are a necessity. We have to have policemen, firemen, roads, bridges, schools, stuff like that. I don’t object to the income tax when I assume it is being used for some useful purpose. I object, however, when I realize my taxes are being used to kill innocent people all around the globe for more often than not completely unnecessary “wars.” I find it morally reprehensible that my taxes are used primarily for the military/industrial/political complex that now has control of our lives. I especially resent it when I think about the fact that I am helpless to do anything about it. Of course I could refuse to pay my taxes, but that would only result in lots of trouble and potentially even prison. I don’t even hate the IRS. They are just doing their job, disgusting as it is.

What I really hate is the fact that having to pay income taxes makes me feel so completely stupid. I don’t have a lot of money, and I don’t have a very large income, but it is just large enough, and comes from enough different sources, there is absolutely no way I could possibly do my own taxes. I have to hire an accountant and put up with his/her paternalism (and hope that they actually know what they are doing). As it appears to be the case, probably no one in the entire United States actually understands our complete tax code, and it becomes more difficult and complex year after year, non- stop. I don’t cheat, I try to be as completely honest as I can, but I absolutely dread the fear of being audited and how complicated and difficult that would be. I have no doubt an auditor, if they wished, could find me in violation of rules and regulations that neither I nor my accountant were aware of. This whole procedure is basically just a non-written, unstated agreement that I will try to do the best I can and they will overlook most of the errors, as it is much simpler that way. As I am not in a high bracket I doubt they care very much as long as it appears to be reasonable. Aside from the fact that I have to pay, the whole enterprise is basically a farce. I know it, my accountant knows it, and the IRS knows it, but we all conspire to pretend it makes sense. As long as you pay, and as long as it appears within reason, it makes enough sense to continue year after year until you mercifully pass away (no one dies anymore, they all just “pass away,” or, more rarely, “are called to meet their maker”). I look back fondly to one of the tax experts I had in California. He was recommended to me by friends on the faculty and agreed to come to my office. I looked with amazement, even awe, when he first appeared, a large heavy-set Black man with one eye that seemed to have a life of its own, his shirt open to the navel, displaying a pair of heavy gold chains. He had a large diamond ring. The first question he asked me was “How do you feel about paying your taxes?” He was not only an accountant but also a lawyer. I loved him.

You know there was no income tax in the United States until 1861 when one was created to help pay for the Civil War. The first tax was 3% of anything over $800. Until 1941 the tax rate for the lower bracket was never more than about 4%, it went up that year to 10%. It was not until well into the 1930’s that the income tax was considered much of a problem for ordinary folk. I remember when I was a child overhearing a conversation between my father and another man. My father asked him how he was going to get around paying some tax. He replied, “I’ll just claim I made this money before there was a tax and kept it in a safe deposit box.” I don’t know why this stuck in my memory all these years but it has. It was not uncommon in the 1930’s and even into the 40’s for people in my father’s “business” to keep their money in cash rather than deposit it in a bank (not unwise, given all the bank failures in those days).

When the Tiger Woods scandal first occurred and there was doubt about whether he would ever play golf again, I said he would play in the Master’s. I am sooo smart! It was obvious he would play in the Master’s. He has an excellent chance to beat Jack Nicklaus’s record of 18 majors (I believe he has 14 already) so I knew he would not take a chance of missing every opportunity to win every possible Major Tournament. So now, having done his obligatory penance, attended some pretentious “sex clinic,” apparently more or less made up with his wife (or at least convinced her to stick with him), he is ready to go. The tour will make more money than ever, Tiger probably will also, and if he wins and keeps on winning no one will care how many affairs he had. And really, why should they? What does his private life have to do with his golf? He is the greatest golfer in the world, quite probably the greatest that will ever be. It would be unthinkable for him not to continue his quest. I wish him and his wife well. I hope he wins the Master’s.

The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling.
Paula Poundstone

My cats will not eat corned beef.