Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Joke Time: Three Old Ladies

Three old ladies were sitting side by side in their retirement home reminiscing. The first lady recalled shopping at the green grocers and demonstrated with her hands, the length and thickness of a cucumber she could buy for a penny.

The second old lady nodded, adding that onions used to be much bigger and cheaper also, the demonstrated the size of two big onions she could buy for a penny a piece.

The third old lady remarked, "I can't hear a word you're saying, but I remember the guy you're talking about."

Picking My Brain 06-10-31

"Wayne's Brain Pickings" - Cats can't tell the difference!


"I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the Secretary of Defense." - George W. Bush, White House, Apr. 18, 2006 [So, he's hearing voices, eh?]


Instead of saying "We must reduce our dependence on foreign oil," I think it's time to start saying, "We must end our dependence on unsecure foreign oil". I think we should start framing the debate that way. Using the word "reduce" implies that total elimination is not the goal at all, even though we know it should be. But if all we talk about is merely "reducing" this dependence, then we are too mollified by pitiful reductions in this dependence. And make no mistake, at this point in time, we are dependent on foreign oil. If we talk about ending this dependence, then we become more accepting of the changes we know we must face. And it would make all those renewable energy ideas seem less crazy to some of the nay-sayers who worry about the cost. Given the long term benefits, such as surviving, among many other things, such as having children that survive, I think we might be willing to pay more for the energy we need.

Stop worrying about what the Capitalist Pigs think of the idea. They're stupid, because they're greedy and selfish and not at all interested in your best interests. If they're recommending a stock, it's because they profit from you buying it. I do not believe their denials. If the stock was such a great one, why wouldn't they be buying it? And if they're not buying it, then why not? These people view things through one and only one lens: Does it make me more money, or do I lose money? Nothing else matters to them. They have this very twisted idea that the "market" is where you find the "best" solutions. BULLSHIT! The "market" is only interested in profitable solutions. But what we may have to do will likely cost money and may not be a hugely profitable industry. That's too bad, because the current system MUST change. You know, when you go into business, you know up front that you are taking a risk. You could lose everything, but you could also make a lot of money. Some people make obscenely huge, unjustifiable, idiotic amounts of money. These lucky bastards literally make more money than they know what to do with. And the sad thing is that not only is it not enough for some of them, but that they become the role model for others. They become the dream. They become the ones put up as examples of why you should do this, because some day this could be you. Yeah, you and hundreds of millions of other people, so it's highly improbable that it's going to be you. But don't let that bother you.

While I was going through Air Force basic training down at Lackland Air Force Base way back in '83, I was having a hard time adapting to this whole "military thinking" thing. I do, after all, have a brain which I do, unlike many others, enjoy using. So this over-simplified "You've got to be smarter than the box, Schneider"-type thinking was really beginning to get to me. And then one day, I had an epiphany. The reason it sucked so much was because it was supposed to suck so much. That was the point! And what they wanted to know was how well you could adapt to that. Of course it was stupid. Folding your underwear and T-shirts so they were exactly six inches square (as measured with a ruler) was obviously nothing they would want you to be doing in the event of an actual war. (They would hope you would have more important things to think about. The ability to prioritize is also a valuable trait they look for in a recruit.) But the entire point was to make you do something mindless and stupid and to do it as accurately as you could. It was all a mind game, and that's why it sucked. As soon as I realized that, a great weight lifted off me, and I sailed throught he rest of basic training without any worries about how well I could handle the Air Force. They wanted to play mind games with me, and I felt was well armed for combat in that arena. Anyway, the point of this little story is that once you can accept the futility of fighting a situation, the pressure you feel is reduced tremendously. I'm not talking about giving in or giving up, I'm talking about accepting the reality. Instead of trying to eliminate this new unpleasantness, you accept its presence and figure out how you'll deal with it. I've come to realize that I'm never going to "strike it rich", and so my outlook is less clouded by the disappointment of not having "struck it rich" yet. Don't let the idea that some day you might also be one of those rich investors stop you from rejecting their attitude of solving the problems of the world solely through the "market." Dependence on unsecure foreign oil is costing us way more in the long run than mere cash. It will cost lives. It has to end. If making the planet habitable for humans everywhere means taking someone's obscene wealth until he has only his enormous wealth to sleep on at night, then I can live with myself if we have to take it from him.


In twenty minutes or less, what the hell is wrong with Doctor Sen W. Frist? He actually claims that the Democrats want to raise your taxes and surrender to terrorists! First of all, I'm not surrendering to anyone, asshole! Not the terrorists, and not our government. But I repeat myself (to borrow from Mark Twain.) And second, taxes were irresponsibly cut too much, especially for the very wealthy. The rich people in this country neither needed nor deserved all those tax cuts they got. The president is lying when he attributes whatever strength in the economy he perceives to the tax cuts. It's bullshit, fallacious reasoning, like so many other excuses he gives. Democrats want to roll back the taxes on the wealthiest, and see how that helps. When you hear Bush saying to whatever crowd paid to see him (his campaign speeches these past couple of days have been freebies) that "the Democrats want to raise your taxes," it probably is technically accurate in that he's talking to a pre-screened crowd comprised of upper-income people, the kind of people who got over-generous tax cuts. But it's not true of everyone. The Democrats certainly don;t want to raise taxes on the poor, and anyone who says they do is lying. And if they hesitate to agree (as I imagine Frist would), then they're still lying, because it's obviously not true and they know it. And I'm not a Democrat, either, but I am smart enough to know that I am not safe under Republican policies.

Anyway, Jon Stewart had a good bit on this last night. He talked about the fictional Democrat of which Frist spoke, and they show a lawn sign for "Dumbfuck McDoesn'texist", and below that, two items "checked off", "Raise Your Taxes","Surrender to Terrorists". I swear, the politicians down in Washington really don't have a high opinion of us. And considering we send more than 95% of them back each time, can you argue with them?


I've been having problems with my car recently (one reason I didn't run out and buy two computers for home) and I know it still doesn't run perfectly. I took my car in to get an oil change and inspection, and when the mechanic went out to get the car, I think I heard him groan when he first saw it. That's never good.


The big day is one week away. Remember, if you don't vote, you can't bitch.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Picking My Brain 06-10-30

Now at 83% Customer Satisfaction in the latest JD Powers and Associates survey! Thanks, folks! I couldn't have done it without five out of six of you!

“To announce there must be no criticism of the President, and to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, it is morally treasonous to the American public.”
– President Theodore Roosevelt


I think I know why there are so many bad drivers out there. It's very simple. You don't have to know how to drive in order to get a license. And once you get your license, you don't have to learn how to drive in order to keep it. (It seems you mainly have to learn how not to get caught.) And those who do learn, look who's teaching them - their parents! Their parents aren't the best drivers in the world either, you know. Their parents are the bad drivers you see and do your best to avoid every day. And it looks like their multiplying! And teaching their kids to drive!!

I went to high school with a kid who was tall for his age, grew up on a farm, and drove tractors and pickups since he was, like, 12. When he went to get his license and the examiner told him to start the road test, he put his left hand on the roof of the car and palmed the steering wheel to pull out. The examiner said, "Stop! You failed." He was pretty pissed about that. But what other bad habits did he develop? The thing is, he re-scheduled his test, performed on his best behavior for the duration of the road test, and then started driving the way he had been (apparently for years, at the age of 16) once he got his license.

One of the things that I didn't like was that if you failed your road test you got a copy of the examiner's score sheet, so you can see why you failed and what you have to learn to do correctly. Makes sense. But if you passed (as I did), you don't get that sheet in the mail. You just get told that you passed and your license will be arriving in the mail within six weeks. You don't even get told how you scored, so if you did some things wrong and didn't realize it, you might just keep on doing those things wrong until you get into or cause an accident. I hope they've changed that in the almost thirty years since I got my license. Making progress sounds, I don't know, "progressive"?

I was lucky. My senior class was (at the time) the last one that would get Driver's Ed. And I was also fortunate to have a very good instructor (whose exact name escapes me, and I wouldn't want to get it wrong). To this day, I remember something he taught us that hit me in such a way that it became almost a mantra to me. He said, "When you look in your rearview mirror, just glance at it. Don't study it. If you're going to study it, you might as well turn around and look out the back window." I always think of that whenever I catch myself taking too much interest in what's going on behind me, instead of in front of me (where I'm headed.)

While stationed at Ramstein AB in West Germany, I discovered a whole different attitude toward driving, and a great deal of it makes sense. [Quick side note: Whenever I think about the fact that while I was there from '86-'88, it was still called "West" Germany (the Good Guys!). There was that Simpsons episode where Homer was thinking of buying a new car (a Yugo, perhaps?) and he asked where the car was made. The salesman said, "The country no longer exists." That's how I think of where I was last stationed in the Air Force. "The country no longer exists."] Anyway, their testing system to get a license is a hell of a lot harder than ours, and they have a lot of other great ideas, which I plan to talk about another time. Moving on...


I'm still a little "miffed", shall we say, about what happened over the weekend with the blog host people who make this wonderful blog possible, when possible. It would be unfair to be "pissed" about being unable to publish anything or work on it for a day or so, because it is free and they handle a lot of things that beginners like me would be lost at having to do on our own. But it came back up right before I was about to give up and go home from the office yesterday, so I was able to post a few more things. I hope you like the new song parody. And that was Tippy as a little kitten, several years ago. I used that one because he still acts that way. And the blog seems to be working now, so happy days are here again. (Not counting Iraq; Afghanistan; Darfur; voting districts using electronic voting machines that produce no verifiable paper trail; climate change; stagnant wages; sexual predators in Congress; New Orleans still suffering; miners still unsafe; O'Reilly's still lying; habeas corpus eviscerated; no-bid-cost-plus contractors poisoning our troops; more than eight billion dollars under CPA control unaccounted for with impunity; over two trillion dollars unaccounted for but uninvestigated because it was it was announced September, 10, 2001 and by the next day it was "so September 10th"; hundreds of thousands of people fleeing economic hardship and a corrupt government into a neighboring country only to be put to work at pitiful wages doing jobs the local citizens don't like to do themselves; Republican chairs of committees and Democrats taking bribes, and who knows how many others there are since they decided not to investigate themselves much due to someone's ego; this has been the deadlist month for our troops in Iraq all year so it can't be getting better; that even I could have struck out looking with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth in Game 7; and there's a pathological liar with his finger on the button who thinks the voice in his head that told him to invade Iraq was God's and not Satan's). But my blog works again.


So John Boehner thinks Donald Rumsfeld is the right man for the job. What job would that be, destroying the finest, best-equipped, best-trained fighting force in the history of the world? How can anyone find him unaccountable for his complete failure to achieve results? Virtually every pre-war assumption they made (except swiftly defeating the Iraqi Army, of which there ws never any doubt in anyone's mind, especially mine) turned out to be false, and he just acted like that was to be expected. Hey, Rummy! It's time to put your resignation in writing, hand it in, and walk out the door. You have long over-stayed your effectiveness. There is no other reason to stay. Your resignation is the only way you have left to serve your country.


So, Congressman Roy Blount (Ferengi Party - MO, In charge of a Majority of the House's Whips), says that the survey saying 54% of Americsns have a negative view of the economy must be the media's fault. Why do these assholes equate a strong Dow Jones average with every American having a better life?


If the Republicans somehow come out keeping both Houses of Congress this year, that alone would be proof that the vote was rigged. WE need to go back to paper ballots. Despite what some people may think, it is entirely possible to do it. It's not like one person has to count all 100,000,000+ votes cast. Each district will count a few thousand votes, and the election supervisors (whatever their titles) can hir enough people to do the counting in the larger districts. By the way, why are some voting districts so much larger than others? Paper ballots is the first step, but there is a great deal more to do about Election Reform, a topic I hope to be covering soon. I want to research this one, and nothing I write could do anything about this year's elections, but I would like to feel like I'm doing something about 2008. If you would like to learn more about the dangers of these new electronic voting machines, visit Black Box Voting.


What is Rush Limbaugh's mental malfunction?


I remember in the early days of HBO we used to get a guide with our cable bill. This was when I was in college living off-campus. When it came to decide what movies to watch, we had our own ratings system. A movie got one star for each warning they gave about the movie. So, a "four-star movie" was always one that contained violence, profanity, nudity, and sexual situations. They tended to be the ones we chose. You have to remember, this was around 1980. Regular TV fare was still pretty tame by today's standards. "Dynasty" was about the raciest thing on TV. Ah, those were the days.


That's all for now. And don't forget to turn your clocks back if you haven't done so already. It's no coincidence there was no one on the highway when you left for work this morning.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Meet the Cats: Tippy

This is Tippy, my Special Little Guy. He still thinks he's a kitten at heart. We named him that because he has a little bit of white fur on the end of his tail. When he was very little, he was very sickly. He used to lapse into semi-comatose states from time-to-time. Apparently he wasn't quite done yet when he was born, and his organs still needed to grow in order to function correctly. They eventually did and he's over that now, but he did give us quite a few scares. As a result of spending a good deal of his early kittenhood oblivious to the world around him (on account of his constant near-death episodes), it seems he didn't get enough oxygen to his brain. He also never properly learned from other cats how to clean himself up. Anywhere. He would decide that Daddy's (that's me) shoulder would make the perfect place to stand and start being pawful. [Some call it kneading, from when the kittens would knead at their mother's teats to get fed. I'm told it's also something they do when they're very happy to see their "parent" (that's me, again).] We call it "being pawful" because he likes to stand in place lifting one paw up and putting it down, then doing it with the other for a bit, then stopping and stretching his paw out sideways, as if to shake hands, with his toes completely splayed, meowing away. We call that "being pawfully cute." He calls it, "Where's my dinner?" But I knew he loved me, and he was so cute that when it came time to bring the kittens we had at the time to be put up for adoption, I couldn't let him go. He had grown on me. He had this cute habit of trying to scootch himself over on his back, but would often have a claw stuck on something. So he would move about five degrees of arc with each scootch until he got all the way on his back, with his belly up waiting to be scratched, and that same claw (such as his right one in the picture) still stuck where it was, stretched across his chest. But he would still purr and ask to be belly-rubbed. He gets very pawful when you do it, his eyes close and he slows down his pawfulness, and he's just so cute. It's enough to make up for the times his once-oxygen-starved brain makes him go wacky and tear around the place. Of course he's bigger now, but when I talk about him, just think of this face.

Picking My Brain 06-10-29

If you're reading this blog for a living, you're at work now!


"They haven't been right about one thing. That's one of the most amazing aspects of this, the Left hasn't been right about one aspect of this whole Iraq situation...they've not been right about what would happen in Iraq, they haven't been right about anything. And this is not pointed out by the mainstream press. The more wrong you are, the higher your stature is. It's amazing." -Rush Limbaugh, 4-21-03 [As it turns out, yes we were.]


It occurs to me that we might not have so much hostility in this country toward people who don’t speak English if we Americans were more open-minded and intellectually curious enough to want to learn other languages. But since we have so many people who lack intellectual curiosity, they believe the solution is that other people learn to speak American English. (If they learned to speak the Queen’s English, too many Americans would still have trouble understanding them.) These ignorant people might argue, “Why should I have to learn to speak their language? Why can’t they just be made to learn English?” To this I would only say, “Why do you not want to learn new things?”


Here's one of those random silly thoughts I get from time to time. I'm picturing George Stephanopoulos on a new Sunday morning talk show called "Talkin' Like Grups." He and his weekly coffee table of guests sit in large, oversized chairs so that his legs, and those of his regular guests Robert Reich and Madeleine Albright, dangle down. LIke I said. One of those random silly thoughts. After I do this for a while, I'm going to stop warning people that I'm saying one of those things. You'll just have to figure it out for yourself. It may not always be so obvious.


Loved Keith Olbermann's Friday night newscast. (I noticed that he refers to it that way, and as I don't wish to offend him any further than I may have already by writing to him and calling it a "show", I will use that term from now on.) His #1 segment was a tribute to the death of (no, not Habeas Corpus, he did that one already) "Stay the Course." The president has retired the phrase. A satiric look, of course, but funny in that he started off showing the interview in which he said "We've never been stay the course." As happens so often when he talks, alert peoples' ears perked up (as did some of their dogs') and they said, "I'm sure I heard him say that at least a few times." (Even when people talk to themselves, they use italics. Strange, isn't it?) Then he showed Tony Snow defending the President (as is his job, which I believe he is only just coming to understand) and saying that they looked back and could only find about eight times when the President used "stay the course." So Keith showed those eight times that they probably found, along with at least 21 others they apparently didn't look too hard for. (DubyaSpeak.com has a list of 41 times.) So, in the end, they look like the buffoons they are for trying to think we're the idiots they clearly are.


From an e-mail I got from The Rockridge Institute:

Staying the Course Right Over a Cliff
The Bush administration has finally been caught in its own language trap.

George Lakoff's new analysis of how George W. Bush and his administration have failed Framing 101--and why the Democrats may be missing a golden opportunity--is featured as an Op-Ed in today's New York Times. We invite you to read the article here.

We encourage you to take one more simple step, if you agree that the ideas in this article are worth sharing. While viewing the Op-Ed on the New York Times website, please click on the email link on that website to send it to a friend. Because The New York Times posts a list of the most emailed articles on its home page, emailing the article to a friend in this way will not only let your friend know about these important ideas, but also bring them to the attention of many more New York Times readers.


I think I'm going to start writing about driving, and how many people do not seem to understand the concept behind it. I once heard that in a survey, something like 85% of the people thought that they were "better than average" drivers. This is, of course, mathematically impossible. More than half the people cannot be better than half the people. Yet when I drive out on the roads, it seems to me that more than half the drivers are worse than half the drivers. I'll save the bulk of it for another post (or "feature"), but let me leave you with one very simple rule for driving on any multiple lane highway: If you want to drive the same speed as the car in the lane next to you, then get in the goddamn lane next to you.


So an analysis was done that showed that red cars are no more likely statistically to be ticketed on the highway than any other color car. If true, then do car insurance companies still justify charging more for insurance on red cars? You may not be more likely to get a ticket driving a red car than any other, but you are 73.2% more likely to be ticketed if there are live birds pecking at your car as you drive down the highway. True fact.


Bill O'Reilly was a guest on Letterman Friday night and it was great! Letterman did to O'Reilly what O'Reilly does to his guests. He dominated the conversation and gave O'Reilly little chance to coherently respond. At certain points, I saw O'Reilly stop, close his eyes, turn his face downward a bit as if to take a deep breadth, and try to calmly say something. (I saw him do that same look during the Jeremy Glick interview, the young man whose Port Authority-employed father was killed on 9/11.) He was clearly getting agitated and Letterman knew it! At one point O'Reilly tried to go off on a rant and made the mistake of saying, "You call Bush an evil liar..." and Dave interrupts to say, "I didn't say we were a bad country, I didn't say he was an evil liar. You're putting words in my mouth, just the way you put artificial facts in your head." At one point O'Reilly tried to justify his validity as a knowledgeable source by pointing out his ratings. (Apparently O'Reilly forgets that millions of people CAN be wrong, and often are.) And as Letterman was getting in all these great digs, O'Reilly kept (mockingly) re-assuring the audience, "We're actually good friends. This is just an act." Letterman let him repeat that remark several times without commenting on it, either confirming or denying, which means it wasn't true. Letterman ended the interview with, "Well, I don't know what I'm talking about and I suspect you don't either." If, like me, you're a dislike O'Reilly, then you might enjoy Lying Man.


I've been having trouble with this blog the past few days, but I understand others have, too. I also posted another song parody right before I posted this one, so it should appear below. This one is about what the detainee's might be going through down at GTMO. The tune is The Loving Spoonful's "You Didn't have To Be So Nice." I hope you enjoy it. If the song didn't make it to the blog, I will make sure it does soon (somehow.) I like it.


That's all for now. I may or may not get down to the office to post stuff again until Monday. Have a good weekend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Picking My Brain 06-10-27

You are picking Wayne's brain.

Finders keepers.


"You ain't drunk if you can lay on the floor without holding on." - Jerry Lewis


I guess there are times when Joe Scarborough and I agree. They just finished airing a report about casinos in Las Vegas and how much money they take in from each dollar played for certain games. For some the casino kept as much as 20 cents out of every dollar, but for slots the figure was a low 6 cents. And yet those slot machines (those thousands of slot machines that you see in them) bring in more revenue than all the other casino operations combined. They are what drives the whole casino operation more than the celebrities or the card and gaming tables. The report finished and I said, "Wow". Joe Scarborough raised his eyebrows and said, "Wow". (I better start checking the Book of Revelations to see if this is in there.)


Tippy's going mentally irregular again. Something tells me he's going to be trouble tonight. I've got to find that "off" switch on him.


I wish TV producers would be a little more alert to what their network is doing when running a live show. Scarborough is doing his show from Las Vegas (I won't speculate on his motives). They've been using various Las Vegas-themed songs (including Elvis Presley's "Viva, Las Vegas!") as "bumpers" (as I think the term is called, the music going to and returning from commercials). So they're doing their news recap and it ends with, "Five more soldiers were killed in Iraq today bringing the monthly total to 96, making it the deadliest month of the year." And then right away they come back with "Viva, Las vegas! Viva, Las Vegas!" I thought it a little on the insensitive side. Could you try to coordinate these things a little better, guys?


Apparently Kevin Federline thinks that he's figured out how you know you've gotten through the toughest part of a relationship. He says that he's no longer embarrassed to buy feminine hygiene products for his wife. Once you've gotten through that, "you're through." Through what, Kevin? The first month?


Here's a question failed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld can ask himself the next time he takes over a press conference. (He emphatically took responsibility for the failures in Iraq.) If asked why he should still remain in his position, he would undoubtedly answer that he serves at the pleasure of the President and that if the President wanted him out, he would be out. (He claims to have offered his resignation twice and it was refused. He did not say if it was offered in writing.)

So, Mr. Secretary, your question for yourself is, "Would you trust the judgment of any President who would accept such failures from his Secretary of Defense?" And no, you cannot rephrase this question to yourself.


"You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps me fire you." - Stephen Colbert, opening to last night's repeat of The Colbert Report


I'm going to stop this here while I go work on a couple of things that are turning out too long for this segment of our show. Tune in again next time when we hear our 72-year-old Aunt Louise turn to her canary and say, "Can you help me with my Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage forms?"

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Picking My Brain 06-10-26

Serving the internets since about two weeks ago!


"Madam Speaker. Last Sunday, the Nation celebrated George Washington's birthday. Washington was known for his honesty. We all remember that story of how he admitted to chopping down the cherry tree. Now, if that were Bill Clinton, he would have blamed Ken Starr and the vast right-wing conspiracy for chopping down that poor cherry tree." - Re. Tom DeLay (R-TX). Congressional Record, H583, 2-28-98

DubyaSpeak.com has compiled a great list of forty-one times where Bush has said "stay the course". These quotes all came after we invaded Iraq, and some show him saying it twice in a row (counts as one).


So I'm listening to Bush say that this year the referendum is 'Who's gonna keep you safe?' and (while smiling), 'Who's gonna keep your taxes low?' (paraphrased) As I so often ask when I hear him speak, "So which is it?" Are we supposed to vote on the very life or death issue of our own personal safety, or the very flippant, selfish, deficit-exploding issue of whether or not our taxes are too high? If you're able to worry about whether you're paying too many taxes on those hundreds of thousands of dollars in (often for you folks) unearned income, then you are not at all concerned about your personal safety. He is not addressing 99% of the country when he talks about "keeping your taxes low." He's talking to the people who give money to the Republican Party. I heard once (and no I can't cite a source because I heard it, I didn't find it on the internets) that something like 19% of American people think they are in the top 1% of income earners. (So there's 18% of the country that are clearly delusional. That must account for 60% of that 30% of the country that still supports "Bonobo Bush. Where are the rest? Hmmm, perhaps some mega-church? Just a thought.)


Sorry to interrupt this blog, but my cat, Tippy, is going whacko again. For the past few nights he's been darting around the house crashing into things along the way (he's a clumsy boy, but he's cute). It's like he has Spring Fever, except this idiot gets it at least twice a year.


Here's a conversation stopper at parties. "Don't you hate it when the cops knock on your door, point to the front of your car and ask, 'Is that your blood, sir?'"


BRI - Trivia - The "Bathroom Readers' Institute puts out a great series of books called "Uncle John's Bathroom Reader". If you're like me in that you both enjoy trivia and take shits, you'll love this series of books. They are packed with an eclectic collection of various length articles covering everything from history to pop culture to music and film trivia to puzzles and all kinds of things, written for the purpose of having something to read in the john. They really are educational. Here's a couple of little items (part of a larger article) to give you an idea of what you can find in them. (There's more than a dozen!)


In 1770, American revolutionaries published these detailed directions for tarring and feathering, which was, at the time "a mob ritual."

How to Tar and Feather Someone

"First, strip a person naked, then heat the Tar until it is thin & pour it upon naked Flesh, or rub it over with a Tar brush.
"After which, sprinkle decently upon the Tar, whilst it is yet warm, as many Feathers as will stick to it.
"Then hold a lighted Candle to the Feathers, & try to set it all on Fire."

I present this information purely for historical purposes. I do not advocate the use of violence to solve problems. On the other hand, I'm also slow to react. All I can say is, teach your kids about fire safety.

Then there was this gem.


You think Richard Nixon was "a little" stiff and formal? Here's a memo he sent to his wife on January 25, 1969.

To: Mrs. Nixon

From: The President

With regard to RN's room, what would be the most desirable is an end table like the one on the right side of the bed, which will accomodate two dictaphones as well as a telephone. RN has to use one dictaphone for current matters and another for memoranda for the file, which he will not want transcribed at this time. In addition, he needs a bigger table on which he can work at night. The table which is presently in the room does not allow enough room for him to get his knees under it.

Okay, rather than ask her in person, he sends a memo to her. And they must not have been sleeping in the same room or else he could have leaned over and said, "You see that table right next to you, Pat? You think you could get another one just like it for over here, big enough for these three things and high enough to fit my knees under? Thanks. Good night, Sugar Plum." (I'm only guessing that he called her "Sugar Plum". I have no idea what he called her in the privacy of their own home. Maybe her called her "Toots.") But why send a memo? To his wife? "A little" stiff? Yeah, like he was also "a little" power-hungry.

I like those books.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One Reason We Are Where We Are Today

I present to you this excerpt from David Brock’s excellent book, “The Republican Noise machine.” It really helps to explain why we are hearing about some of the social arguments involving government that we have been for the past few decades, and more so since the Republicans took control of just about all of it. They have had an organized long-term strategy begun in the ‘70s to achieve the position they’re in today. We’ve seen what they want to do to Social Security. They want to divert the money going into it into the risky stock market (“personal investment accounts”), without explaining where the money that’s supposed to go into Social Security will come from. Keep in mind (and this is not conspiracy talk, just a simple fact) that you and I are not the prime beneficiaries of heavy investment in the stock market, the multi-millionaires and their friends (the politicians who made the millionaires’ enjoyment of their money better thanks to lower taxes) are. This excerpt shows how the wealthy conservatives invested some of their money along the way.

Because the mission of the think tanks is construed as “educational” under the federal tax code, millions of dollars in, essentially, political contributions are deducted every year as charity. The beneficiaries of this largesse – Heritage, AEI [American Enterprise Institute], and a labyrinth of media-focused imitators – began to transform the media landscape for conservatives in the mid- and late 1970s. The debate on government regulation and social spending was being reframed; liberal programs and proposals were targeted for discrediting; and conservative strategies for dismantling so-called Big Government were being widely touted in the press – deregulation, school vouchers, tort reform, supply-side economics, the property rights movement, medical savings accounts, and new military programs like missile defense – all hatched and test-marketed in this sweeping privately funded public relations campaign.

David Brock is CEO and founder of Media Matters for America.

Picking My Brain 06-10-25

If you find my keys among today's pickings, please drop them in the nearest U.S. Mail Box.


"This morning my administration released the budget numbers for fiscal 2006. These budget numbers are not just estimates, these are the actual results for the fiscal year that ended February the 30th."
-- Dubya releases budget numbers for a fiscal year that apparently ended on a fictional date, Washington, D.C., Oct. 11, 2006 (courtesy DubyaSpeak.com)

Scarborough Country

Kinky Friedman was on a three-way of "pundits" and used a good term. He said he represents "The Middle Finger Vote". I like that. It has a better ring than "protest vote". (Sheesh, that sounds like something a liberal would say, which is why I'll stop using it.) It's "Middle Finger" for me from now on. But to be honest, as funny as the guy is sometimes, I'm glad he's not gonna be my governor. He's a little scary, though Jane says she does like his story about the hummingbirds. I won't go into it here; you can read his book. Nice story.

As I write this, Bill Maher is waiting to come on the show. As the first segment ended and they went to commercial, they showed Bill sitting in whatever little room he was in (his home?) and he had a strange look of what might be concern on his face. And I wondered then (and still do because he hasn't come on yet) if Bill would ask Joe about what Kinky said as he signed off. He said, "You know Joe, I define politics like this. You've got 'poli-' which means 'many', and you got 'tics', which means 'blood-sucking insects'." That was a joke on the cover of one of Bill Maher's books. Did Kinky know that Bill was going to be on?

P.S. They didn't discuss it in the first part of the interview. The second part airs tomorrow night, but I don't always watch Scarborough. I almost wish I hadn't watched this half. I forgot that one of my favorite new shows Eureka was on at the same time. I still haven't adapted my TV viewing. Luckily I remembered the episode from the first time they aired it. [Full disclosure: I did that link because I need the practice. I'm still learning. Still, it's a good show, especially if you like sci-fi. Very intelligent and funny.]


Unless I'm mistaken, it appears that the White House was used for partisan political purposes during a campaign when a bunch of talk radio hosts broadcast from there, interviewing members of the administration. Something doesn't sound right about this. I may be ignorant, but I could have sworn that this was a highly illegal use of the White House and taxpayer money. You know, it is our White House, and if it is being used illegally, don't we as private citizens have some recourse to demand that the Justice Dept investigate to see if any laws were broken? I need to look into this. Keep your ears open about this, folks. I might be getting all jittery over nothing. I hope so, though I don't like what that implies, either.


Glenn Beck (guest on AC-360 [transcript] right after the above crime was reported) suggested that reading Bush's words, rather than hearing them, is more uplifting (on account of he's so bad at public speaking). I have to presume that Beck is referring to Bush's speeches, and not his extemporaneous comments. Of course Bush's words look better on paper, they're not his words! They're the speechwriter's words, and he probably cringes whenever he hears Bush speak them. (Personally, I wouldn't want to listen to Bush read any speech that I wrote for him.) I suggest that Glenn Beck check out Dubya Speak. It always makes me laugh, and they even have a number of audio clips so you can hear it for yourself.


First item on the list of Things to Do once the Democrats take over at least one of the Houses of Congress: The first time they sit down to negotiate anything with Bush, they must make it absolutely, positively unmistakable that the American people have made it crystal clear that they are dissatisfied with this administration and its policies. If they were happy with them, the Democrats wouldn't be there to negotiate. There is no way around that simple fact. If people want the Republicans to continue rubber-stamping Bush's agenda, then they won't vote for change in thirteen days.


Well, have a good day, everyone. As Krusty the Clown says, "Give a hoot! Read a book!"

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Terrorists Among Us

Once again, a million thanks to Keith Olbermann, for saying what needed to be said, out loud, for all the world to hear. The Republican Party is blatantly using terrorism to persuade voters to elect them this November. It is vile. It is disgusting. It is morally reprehensible. They promised us they wouldn't politicize 9/11 right after it happened. Then they sold pictures of Bush on AF-1 on 9/11 to raise money, not for the victims' families, not for the first responders who put their lives on the line every time they respond to a call, and not even for a public memorial to honor those who died that world-changing day, but for their own political party. Whenever greed, corruption and scandal reared their ugly heads to show them in a bad light, they suddenly announced that we were in danger, that the terrorists are threatening to kill us again! And quite often, it either wasn't nearly as bad as they said it was, or it was ridiculously outdated, or it was a total lie all along. (Olbermann's excellent rundown of such lies can be found here.) Now they see that the country is about to vote them out of office in two weeks. So to keep their phoney-baloney jobs, they resort to the one thing that has always worked for despotic governments seeking to remain in power, they pick an enemy and then tell you that this enemy wants to destroy your way of life (irrespective, ironically, of just how good or bad one's way of life might currently be.) They've been running around this year trying to convince people that if the Democratic Party gains control of even one House of Congress, that you might as well pick out your coffins and pay for your funerals in advance, because you will die. They are deliberately trying to scare you, to frighten you, to put you into a perpetual state of fear, and then they are telling you that only they can save your life. They, the Republican Party, are terrorizing you. They, the Republican Party are, by definition, terrorists. As much as I despise the political agenda of the Republican Party on so many issues, I do not make this claim lightly, and I do not use the word carelessly. The Republicans are terrorists.

terror n. 1. intense, sharp, overmastering fear: to be frantic with terror. 2. a feeling, instance, or cause of intense fear: to be a terror to evildoers.
-Syn. 1. alarm, dismay, consternation. TERROR, HORROR, PANIC, FRIGHT all imply extreme fear in the presence of danger or evil. TERROR implies an intense fear that is somewhat prolonged and may refer to imagined or future dangers: frozen with terror HORROR implies a sense of shock at a danger that is also evil: to recoil in horror. PANIC and FRIGHT both imply a sudden shock of fear. PANIC is uncontrolled and unreasonable fear, often groundless, that may be prolonged: The mob was in a panic. FRIGHT is usually of short duration: a spasm of fright -Ant. 1. calm.

terrorism n. 1. the use of terrorizing methods. 2. the state of fear and submission so produced. 3. a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

terrorist n. 1. a person who uses or favors terrorizing methods. 2. (formerly) a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror. 3. an agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.

terrorize v.t. 1. to fill or overcome with terror. 2. to dominate or coerce by intimidation.

To get you to vote for them, they are trying to put you into some state of alarm, dismay or consternation, that's for sure. They are certainly not trying to put you in a state of calm, or else you might start paying closer attention, and that's the last thing the Bush Administration wants. So they are trying to keep you edgy, nervous, worried, alarmed. But what kind of alarm? Are they just trying to cause you spasms of fright with their message? No. Panic? Hell, no. They certainly don't want to be causing panic now, two weeks before Election Day. Wait two more weeks for that. Is it horror they wish to instill? No. The attacks themselves were horrific, but not what the republicans are doing. But terror fits the bill quite nicely.

They're telling you about potential attacks on the nation's important financial institutions (many in heavily Democratic-leaning areas) only to finally admit to us that the plans were about three years old at the time and were found early on in the war someplace in Afghanistan. There was no danger to the public, and they had to know that. They had to, because to not understand at the time they announced it that there was no danger to the public, when it was obvious to all of us the moment we heard how old the plans were, would have to mean that they are incredibly incompetent. And just this past week our highly-touted, poorly-run Department of "Homeland Security" tried to spook us all with a non-existent multiple-football-stadium attack. Again, once little bits of information about the threat started leaking out (one would presume long after this information was already known to them) it became clear to the public that it couldn't possibly be for real. So why the terror alert? What purpose did an obviously unnecessary terror alert serve if not to put you in a state of fear from some non-existent, imaginary enemy? This is terrorism, and it is being practiced on you, and it is being committed by the very people who run your government. The President of the United States of America George W. Bush, Vice President of the United States of America Richard Cheney, and the Republican National Party are terrorists.

There, I said it and I'm glad.

Picking My Brain 06-10-24

Look what fell out of my brain today.


"In another age she might have been considered beautiful, but not after the Pleistocene Epoch." - Woody Allen


So I'm driving around yesterday and I accidentally hear on the radio an update on the World Series. Well, I no longer care about the World Series. The Mets are out of it, and as far as I'm concerned, there will be no World Series winner this year. There have only been two winners of the World Series. One was in 1969 and the other in 1986. Both times it was the New York Mets. I do not consider any other "supposed" winners to be valid. I'm sorry but that's just the way I am.


I'm getting tired of hearing Republicans (and conservatives in general) claiming that "Regulation kills business." Bullshit! A corporation does not exist in nature. A business exists because of regulations, and the US Constitution grants Congress the authority to regulate commerce among the several states. What these people want is a world of commerce ruled by caveat emptor (let the buyer beware). It would be nice if the world were a liberal paradise where no one needs to lie about anything, but we're a long way from there. The only way to protect consumers from unscrupulous businessmen is through regulation. The only way to stop businesses from polluting our environment is through regulation. ("Voluntary standards" are no standards at all.) The only way to stop utilities from ripping you off when you buy vital services (like electricity) is through regulation. It is an absolute lie that "The Market" will bring about the best solutions. That all depends on what you define "the best" to mean. If it means strictly profitability, then a lot fewer solutions to problems are going to be found. We're just going to have to face the fact that sometimes it costs more to do what you have to do. Just because there's no opportunity to make a huge profit off it is a piss poor reason to not bother to try.

Suppose a hypothetical, taking place fifteen or twenty years in the future. The Earth's population has grown to about 7.5 billion people (7,500,000,000). A brilliant young scientist working on unlocking the secrets of the genetic code manages to unlock a big one. She has found a way to trigger the necessary genetic code within each one of us to cure any disease we may have without any further treatment. It is one hundred percent safe, and one hundred percent guaranteed. Once treated, your body would heal itself of anything that the genetic code found flawed. Anything. Cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, all these diseases and more would be vanquished from the Earth. The treatment would be the same for each person, but the healing time would vary according to ailments. But they would eventually heal, and the more life-threatening flaws would automatically be dealt with first (your genetic code is that smart.) But the treatment is expensive. It would cost in current dollars around $20,000 for each individual's treatment, regardless of age or medical condition. To treat every person on the planet would cost around one hundred and fifty trillion dollars ($150,000,000,000,000). Do you want to say it's not worth it? Do you want to say that the opportunity to end all disease on the planet is just too expensive to do, and that there is no way that a business could see a profit in trying to do that, and so it shouldn't be attempted? Why does everything have to be profitable to be worth doing?


George Lakoff, of The Rockridge Institute, has helped us see what has been happening in the political debate, and helped us see why one side seems to dominate all the time. It's because of something called "Framing the Debate", and it's the reason the Democratic Party seems to be without plan or vision. Neither is true, and there are plenty of ideas in the Democratic National Committee (ACLU), despite what you hear from the Republican National Conference (NAMBLA). The thing is, the way the issues are being talked about has a large part to do with how you envision solutions to that problem. For example. There are a large number of illegal immigrants in this country. That much is pretty much not in dispute. (The 11-12 million figure is.) But what's to be done about it is largely being decided by how the problem is being defined. Is the problem that we have an ill-defended border and too many illegals easily slip in and take the jobs Americans won't take? Or is the problem that we have too many employers willing to violate the law and illegally hire undocumented workers because they work for less than minimum wage? In the first instance, we talk about building fences and clamping down on people who overstay visas, but in the second instance the talk is about clamping down on employers who hire illegally and such. So how you see the problem tends to limit how you define the solutions. In this (admittedly simplified) example, no proposed solution is given for both problems, and there's no reason both sets of solutions can't be done, yet few people talk about doing both. They tend to talk about doing one or the other, and it's because of what they perceive the problem to be. This determines what they will accept as viable solutions. I mean, if what you're proposing doesn't fix the problem as I see it, why would I support your proposal? Or vice versa? If you see the problem as one of illegal immigration and I see the problem as one of illegal employment, how are we going to come to an agreement on what to do?

I have often said that the problem isn't that health care costs so much in this country, it's that they charge so much. They seem to be making nice profits in the pharmaceutical industry, so why can't our government negotiate for lower drug prices? They can repeal the asinine part of Billy Tauzin's boondoggle to Pharma (his future employers, like, immediately after it passed) that prohibited the government from doing that. If they can pass a laws stopping themselves, doesn't it stand to reason that repealing that law would open the door to negotiations? Why don't they talk about that, instead of just how much it costs?

And for fun, think about the alleged prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and GTMO, and try to remember how the issue was being discussed. Did you notice that it tended to be about what should be allowed at Abu Ghraib or GTMO? But how often did you ever hear being discussed in the media, "Should we even have an Abu Ghraib or a GTMO, where these kinds of things could happen?" You might have heard it once or twice here or there, but not on the major political talk shows, and certainly not from the conservative side. What they wanted to talk about was how much they should be allowed to do there. What we tried to talk at them about was how little should be allowed. And if you tried to question the wisdom of having such places, you were branded a terrorist-sympathizer. For having morals and a sense of human decency toward another human being.


A guy walks into a bar. He orders a drink and the bartender gives it to him. He pays for the drink and then quietly drinks it. He orders another drink, pays for it, and quietly drinks it. He orders another, and then another. This scene is repeated two or three more times until he decides he's had enough. Or somebody does. Maybe it was the bartender. Sufficiently inebriated, he gets up and staggers home.

Happens every day.

Oh, and then three guys yank him into an alley, rob him, and beat the shit out of him leaving him for dead.

That part doesn't happen as often. But it could if you let the Democrats take control of Congress.

Wouldn't you rather be able to stagger home drunk in safety?

Vote as if your life depended on it, because it does.

Vote Republican.

This message paid for by Republicans for an Orwellian Future.


Well, that's what fell out this time. I should have something a little later today on The Terrorists Among Us.

'Til next time, beware of government warnings! (This message brought to you by the Department of Homeland Security.)

If you enjoyed stopping by, please tell your friends, and thanks again for visiting.

I'm outta here. We're off the air? Is this thing off? What a godda...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Picking My Brain 06-10-23

I found this stuff floating around my head last night.


"Teach a child to read, and he or her can pass a literacy test." - George W. Bush


  • Dilbert
  • fans, here's my real-life encounter with an in-duh-vidual. This happened many years ago and, as Dave Barry would say, I swear I am not making this up. I asked a waitress at a local restaurant, "Do you know what time it is?" She answered, "You mean now?"


    It's time to get it straight in the public's mind: It's not the "Foley Sex Scandal", it's the "Foley Coverup Scandal". Republican Florida Congressman Mark Foley had inappropriate communications with underage children in the care of the US House of Representatives. The leadership in his party was told suspicious things were going on years ago and rather than protect the children in their care, they chose to try to hide what was happening in order to protect a "safe" congressional seat. That Foley has resigned was only the first of many, many steps that must still be taken, some of which are going on now though I don't think any reasonable person could be blamed for being suspicious of any report coming from the Republicans.


    Remember Tom DeLay? He's the former bugkiller who ran for Congress because he was upset when DDT was banned. They use to call him "The Hammer" (and yes, to his face). Remember how he was in all kinds of trouble because, among other things, he helped block legislation from coming to a vote in the House that would have extended US Labor Law to the US Territory of the Marianas Islands? There's a lot of slave labor and forced prostitution going on there because US Labor Law doesn't apply. This legislation could have put an end to much of that. Well, DeLay resigned in June. So who's stopping this legislation from being passed now? (Or did they pass it quietly, without fanfare?)


    Trivia Question #1

    Now, the idea is to pose a fun question to test your knowledge of trivia, not to see how fast you can Google the answer. That's really not the point. The idea is to come up with the answers from your own memory. Okay? Remember, using the internet to find the answer defeats the purpose.

    There are four states whose capitals begin with the same letter as the state. Name the four states and their capitals.

    The answer will be revealed in some future post where my brain gets picked. Oh, and in accordance with New York State law and my financial situation, there will be no prizes for getting the correct answer. Just the satisfaction of knowing that you might have won thousands on Jeopardy! if only ALex Trebek asked you this and not me.


    Okay, so I came across something about the Foley Coverup Scandal that laid out a potential excuse for how it got as far as it did. Hint: It's lame. Apparently when they last revised the procedures for how to protect the young Congressional pages, the procedures were done with the mindset of protecting the young female pages from the male congressmen. They never considered male on male contact. Even if that's their excuse, did they not consider a female congresswoman hitting on a young male page? Or did they think that was socially acceptable, and that the young male page wouldn't mind? Like I said. Lame. Let's hope they come up with something better like, oh, I don't know, how about the truth?


    While I wholeheartedly support a Democratic takeover of the House (and Senate), I will not accept Nancy Pelosi as Speaker if she continues to say that impeachment is "off the table." Hey, Nancy! There is ample evidence in the press that constitutional violations have occurred by this administration. You have a constitutional duty to conduct investigations into these abuses of power and corrupt contractor practices. If the evidence leads to impeachable offenses (among other places, you might look into why the president diverted some $700,000,000 from fighting terrorists in Afghanistan to begin planning for the invasion of Iraq in 2002, a misuse of how Congress authorized the money to be spent; nail that and most of the rest of his expenditures in Iraq become something akin to the "fruit of a poison tree", so to speak), then you must begin impeachment proceedings. If you do not fulfill your Constitutional duty, then they will have gotten away with what they did. And that, Nancy, is simply unacceptable. Your place in history will be defined by how well you fulfilled your Constitutional obligations. When the nation turns control of the House to the opposition party, it is a clear signal that the status quo cannot continue. You must listen to the people, and begin to expose what these criminals have been doing for the past six years. You've got two years to produce results or you're fired.


    Headbanger Alert A googol is an actual number in mathematics. It is equal to ten raised to the power of one hundred. Mathematician Edward Kasner (1878-1955) coined the term. He asked his niece what to call it. Barney Googol, with the goog-goog-googoly eyes, was one of her favorite cartoon characters, so she suggested "googol". True story. A googol-plex is another actual number. It is equal to ten raised to the power of one googol. Now, get ready for this. The googol-plex is such a large number that it cannot be physically written out because it has more digits than there are subatomic particles in the known universe! You may go back to deciding if you want one lump of sugar in your coffee or two. By the way, a googol-plex is not, in reality, a movie theater complex, despite what you've seen on The Simpsons. But it is a great name for one, and now Jane and I use it for any such multi-theater copmplex.


    Well, that's all that was floating around today. Tune in next time when we hear Gary Owens say, "Tune in next time!"

    Sunday, October 22, 2006

    Picking My Brain 06-10-22

    I picked at my brain for a bit, and here's what came out on the end of my finger.


    "In the 24th century, there will be no hunger and there will be no greed, and all of the children will know how to read." - Gene Roddenberry, creator of "Star Trek"


    In the "TV Networks Ought to Think More Department", MSNBC put up this graphic during a story about Republican Party Coverup Beneficiary Mark Foley, "PAGE SCANDAL:PRIEST CONFESSES". (As Jane asked, "To molesting pages?")


    Watched Jack Cafferty on Saturday afternoon. His topic was "Broken Government" to promote his upcoming special of the same name. He managed to hijack the CNN crawl and run some e-mails from viewers. That was a great idea. Some e-mails were very good, and some were silly funny. (http://www.cnn.com)

    "Why can't we have ordinary Joe people run our government?"

    Well, sir, because you drive on the highway with "ordinary Joe people". Would you want them running your government? As libertarian as I am, I still think that government should be left to the experts. The problem has been the "experts" from whom we had to choose. Writing legislation is a complicated and tricky process. You have to make sure that it covers exactly what you're trying to make a law about. We need people who have the right kind of organized mind that can do that kind of thinking. Not everyone can. The problem is that the ones who have been running too often are untrustworthy people who have learned how to manipulate the system to their own personal advantage. You want to know one reason why so many old timers in both Houses of Congress are millionaires? Not just because some of them came from money, but because they used to be allowed to personally keep leftover campaign contributions. (I think they came to their senses and ended that, but I could be wrong. If someone out there knows, feel free to say so. I don't mind being corrected.)

    "Would you want to do business with an ATM that didn't give you a paper receipt?"

    Brilliant. Use this as an argument against these "suspicious" electronic voting machines. More info here (http://www.blackboxvoting.org/) And yes, I know I'm being polite with the word "suspicious". Many think the word "criminal" would be closer to the truth. I cannot argue with them, but I know enough to know that I shouldn't. I'll have some ideas another time about election reforms. Some are crazy enough that they just might work.
    Jack ended the show with another great idea. "You want to send a message? Go in there and vote every incumbent out...(say to them), 'You've got one term to prove to us you can do the job, or you're out, too'." I wholeheartedly concur.


    This ever almost happen to you? Part of my job involves inventory control, and a co-worker forwarded me an e-mail from her female manager asking that an inventory count be adjusted. After doing so, I began to reply back "The count has been corrected." Except that I apparently didn't press down hard enough on the "o" key, and it didn't appear the first time. I almost sent the potentionally career-ending message before I spotted the disastrous error. My only saving grace is that she has enough of a sense of humor that she probably would have written back, "Thanks, Wayne. What for?"


    What campaign tactic will they be resorting to next? "My opponent supports breast cancer, as evidenced by these things I doodled in my office this afternoon." It wouldn't surprise me one bit.


    I have to say that I feel really sorry for deaf people who have to rely on closed captoining to understand what's being said on TV. The pre-programmed shows are usually okay, although I have noticed a tendency for long sentences to get shortened or altered in order to help keep up with rapid dialog, but it's the live events (like sports or news or even taped Sunday morning political shows) that provide the best humor. For sheer entertainment at the expense of the of ill-served hearing-paired, try putting your closed captioning on. Maybe you'll catch things like this:

    Rey Ordonez used to be a hotshot wunderkind shortstop for the New York Mets. ["Ordonez" should be spelled with a tilde over the "n", but I don't yet know how to do that. When I learn, I'll use that kind of punctuation correctly. I mean no offense to my Spanish-speaking friends out there.] Anyway, the closed captioning frequently spelled his name as "OR DON'T YES".

    Last month during the controversy over the ABC piece o'crap "Path to 9/11", a guest on MSNBC was transcribed as saying, "WHERE WAS THE DEMOCRATS' OUTRAGE WHEN MICHAEL MOORE PRODUCED FAIR REPUBLICAN HEIGHT 9/11?"

    Later during that discussion, Sandy Berger's name was spelled as "SANDY BURGLAR." I don't think that's what the person actually said.


    Watched the Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (they need to shorten this official name) United States Senator debate between incumbent Lincoln Chafee (R) and former RI Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse (D) taped this past Thursday. In questions regarding a case he prosecuted, Whitehouse kept referring to the "old peoples' housing project". It's nice to know he had such an endearing interest in the "old people." Aren't they supposed to be respectfully referred to as "seniors"?
    During his closing statement, Whitehouse mentioned speaking to a woman who bought body armor for her son. Can anyone out there, anyone at all, especially those among you who support the Bush Administration, please explain to me why this had to happen? Our own government sent these people into harm's way without this proven life-saving equipment. Why are mothers forced to buy this life-saving equipment for their children? And why aren't they being reimbursed for it? I'd really like to know. You know, it gives a new twist to the very old phrase, "Come back with your shield or on it. Oh, they didn't give you a shield?" How many times have we been told by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (whose two resignation offers were declined by President George W. Bush, according to him) that we have "the best-equipped, best-trained troops in the world"? How many times was that a lie? Why is this man still our nation's Secretary of Defense? Here's an idea. Rumsfeld's supposed to be in great shape. If Rumsfeld can survive a proposed interrogation technique, then it would okay to use those techniques on detainees. Fair enough? I think so.


    Well, that's all that was on the finger this time. Tune in again soon to see what else is lurking inside Wayne's brain.

    I Can Help With Some Commonly Confused Words

    Some of you know me from my long boring or short stupid posts at www.ThinkProgress.org (thanks for stopping by). I see a lot of people posting comments (there and in the other big blogs, not this one) and they’re using the wrong words, especially where apostrophes are concerned. I'm not going to name any names, and if you recognize yourself in here, please don't take offense. Instead, take it as constructive criticism. I see earnest efforts at erudition erode to entropy, eventually ending erroneously. (I'm sorry, I just couldn't shake that sentence out of my head, but as the song goes, "That's What Blogs Are For".) So, to help you out, here are some tips.

    Here's one I've made myself and, to be honest, I'm a little embarrassed by it, because I was passionate about what I was saying on the matter. It's "habeas corpus", not "habeus corpus". I am guilty as charged. I should have known better, but I saw it spelled the wrong way in another post and I, being the silly person I am (and lapsed member of MENSA), copied it the way I saw it. In fairness, the person I copied probably did the same thing. We can blame ourselves collectively or we could find the guy that started it and beat the shit out of him.

    "Lose" and "Loose"
    "Lose" is the opposite of "win". "Loose" is the opposite of "tight". I can't count how many times I've seen people write about "loosing" this election coming up. If it helps to remember, a "loss" (one "o") is what happens when you "lose" (one "o"). And "loose" (double "o") rhymes with "noose", which I’m sure a lot of you have been thinking about as Election Day approaches, which might explain some of the confusion. I can understand that.

    Now, contractions and possessives give a lot of people trouble because they both involve the mysterious apostrophe, strange foreign cousin of the quotation mark. Everybody knows the quotation mark and what it means. You are quoting someone. But that half-pint of a quote mark, the ay-post-tro-fee, is just some weird thing that some people seem to like to use more than others, though no one seems to know when to use it and when not to. Well, I'm no expert on the subject, and I can't give you a complete list of dos and don'ts. But I can help you remember how to use a few examples correctly whether you're posting in a blog or writing an angry manifesto about why you blow people up. (I'm looking at you here, Ted.)

    "You're" and "Your"
    "You're" is a contraction of the two words "you are", while "your" is the possessive form of "you". A good trick, and one that works with the other contractions I discuss below, to figure out whether or not to use the one with the apostrophe is to use the two words "you are". If your sentence makes sense this way, then it's okay to use "you're". If not, then you probably want to use "your". For example, would "If you are sentence makes sense..." make sense? That's how I knew I should use the word "your" before.

    "They're", "Their", and "There"
    The first thing to remember is that all three start with the letters "t-h-e". I see a lot of people misspell "their" as “thier”, but just remember that they all start out with THE same letters. "They're" (Moe) is a contraction of the words "they are". "Their" (Larry) is the possessive form of "they". And "there" (Curly) is the other one that you use when the other two don't fit. Just as when you need to decide between "your" and "you're", the same test works with "they're". Just stop and ask if the sentence makes sense if you use the two words "they are". Use "their" when you’re referring to something that belongs to or is characteristic of "them". And if those two don’t fit, then use "there". The Republicans think that their strategy will win this year, but they're in for a big surprise when we all vote them out of there.

    "We're" and "were"
    Just apply the same rules as for "they're" and "there". We're convinced they knew all along there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and lied to us to get us to support their illegal war.

    "It's" and "Its"
    This one turns out to be easier to get right than you might think. Like the others, "it's" is a contraction for "it is". The two-word substitution test should help here, too. Also, remember that "it" is a neutral gender term. To figure out if you should use "it's" or "its" when using the possessive case, pretend you're talking about a man or woman, instead of a thing. Whenever it would be correct to use "his" or "hers" (no apostrophe in either one), that's when you would use "its" (the other one without an apostrophe.) Ironically, "his", "hers", "its", "theirs", and "ours" are the only possessive forms that don't use the apostrophe, as best I can recall. English majors please correct me. And plurals! Don’t get me started on plurals. Plurals almost never use an apostrophe, so don’t automatically add “’s” when you pluralize a word. But that’s content for another post, as my great grandfather used to say (though it’s possible he was referring to something else.)

    "Here" and "Hear"
    You "hear" things with your "ear", so if you're talking about being "heard", then you want "hear". If you're talking about anything else, you probably want "here".

    Funny story. Jane and I were discussing whether the proper use for the expression is “Hear! Hear!” or “Here! Here!”. While trying to look this up in the dictionary (which I HIGHLY recommend as a reference source not only for proper grammatical usage, but for historical information as well), I found this under at the bottom of the word "here" (keep in mind that as I read it out loud, without having read it first myself, neither of us could quite follow what they were talking about until they got to the example):

    "-Usage. It is generally considered nonstandard to place HERE, for emphasis, in an adjectival position between a demonstrative adjective and a noun, as in This here book is the one you're looking for.

    Three things: First, our confusion in part was because this wasn't sounding like it was going to clarify our question, but that sentence was designed to be confusing. Second, Jane was right and that “hear” can also mean, “Chiefly Brit., to applaud or endorse a speaker (usually used imperatively in the phrase Hear! Hear!)”. She’s so smart! Third, note the correct usage of the word "you're".

    I hope this little guide helps. As a last piece if advice, let me quote one of the bumper stickers on my car: "READ A FUCKING BOOK"

    Happy Anniversary, Honey

    Today is Oct 22, 2006. Jane and I were married eighteen years ago today. I remember how it rained really hard that day, and everyone said that was good luck. We decided to get married at the restaurant where the reception was being held. I remember telling the Justice of the Peace that I wanted a "short and sweet" ceremony, because all Jane and I wanted was to be married and we didn't need all the pomp and circumstance. I remember the Judge saying, "Now Wayne and Jane I will ask you a series of questions the correct answer to which will be, 'I will.' Wayne do you take this woman Jane to be your lawfully wedded wife from this day forward 'til death do you part?" "I will," I said. "Jane do you take this man Wayne to be your lawfully wedded husband from this day forward 'til death do you part?" Jane said, "I will." "By the power vested in me by the State of New York, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." I remember our friend Phil coming out of the bar with a drink in each hand saying, "I missed it???" Ah, what a day.

    Thank you, Honey. I love you always and forever.

    Friday, October 20, 2006

    Wait 'Til Next Year

    I'm stunned. I can't believe it. I can't believe the Mets lost! I was so sure that if they won game six, they would win game seven. Well, at least it was relatively quick. The game was tied until the eighth and then ended fairly quickly after that, so it’s not like they were losing from the first inning and never had a chance. It was a good game, and it featured my all-time favorite kind of play: robbing a home run. Endy Chavez went up and took Scott Rolen’s home run away. And it wasn’t one of those “iffy” catches where you could argue it might not have gone out. This was clearly over the wall and pulled back in. And the best part was that he got a double play out of it! Oh, well. No point in dwelling on it. I won’t blame Heilman for giving up the home run. I will blame Beltran for striking out looking with the bases loaded. That will take a long time for me to forgive. So, that means only one thing:


    Friday, October 13, 2006

    Why Capital Punishment Doesn't Work

    Before I get into the gist of what I have to say, I have a question for those of you who follow some form of Judeo-Christian religion and yet support the use of capital punishment: Isn’t God supposed to be the one who decides who lives and who dies? And who are you (or the judge, or the jury) to play God? That’s not for me to answer, as I am an atheist.

    I don’t believe in killing people except in cases of actual self-defense. What do I mean by "actual"? Well, if someone were trying to kill or seriously harm Jane or me and I thought that deadly force would be the only way to stop the danger to us, then I could live with myself if I managed to kill the person. I would prefer to find a way to stop him that didn’t involve taking his life, but if I had no other choice, then I could do it. I'd much rather knock him over the head really hard and call the police.

    Once a potential killer is in custody and no longer is a danger to anyone, then killing him is unnecessary. I do not favor the use of capital punishment by the state. I’m not saying it’s unconstitutional because clearly the Framers accepted that it would be around; I just don’t believe it does any good. It’s clearly not a deterrent. Take the state of Texas, for example. Texas has a number of ways that you can legally kill people (such as stopping theft of property during the night), yet people still murder other people illegally. And it’s not as though Texas is one of those states where death row inmates are unlikely to have their sentences carried out; they carry out quite a few executions throughout the year. So the theory that “if you take someone else’s life, yours will be taken in return” clearly hasn’t stopped people from killing each other in Texas.

    In fact, if you were to look at the murder rates in states without capital punishment versus those with it, you will find that the states without capital punishment tend to have lower homicide rates than the states that do (or there is virtually no difference.) So you can’t argue that “it stops the killing” because it clearly doesn’t. And what is accomplished by putting someone to death for a murder committed years before? Punishment? I think not. It’s more like revenge than anything else. The guy’s locked up and, if proper procedures are followed, he’s not going to harm any innocent people. So why kill him?

    Some argue that they don’t want their tax money spent feeding this guy for the rest of his life. I have news for those people: it’s cheaper to do just that than to sentence him to death. Anyone sentenced to death gets automatic appeals that the taxpayers pay for. These appeals can cost as much as $2,000,000 and when it’s over, will still likely end with the person being executed anyway. Numbers vary, but if it costs $50,000 a year to house an inmate, then that two million would pay for forty years of imprisonment, assuming the prisoner lives that long. So it’s clearly cheaper for the taxpayer to sentence someone to life without parole than it is to sentence them to death.

    Does anyone really believe that these killers prefer to spend decades in prison over having their misery ended? Not likely. Take the case of Timothy McVeigh. He decided to waive all his appeals and petition the president for some kind of clemency. Apparently his lawyers forgot to tell him that the president was George W. Bush, the man who laughed at the idea that James Byrd’s killers were going to “get the death penalty” (insert big smile and grin here.) He also ridiculed Karla Fay Tucker’s pleas for mercy. So I don’t know what McVeigh was thinking if he thought his sentence would be commuted. So why did he do it? Because he did not want to spend any more time in prison. Given the option of a few more years of staying alive behind bars versus having his misery ended, he chose to end his misery. If you wanted to punish him, really punish him, you could have commuted his sentence to life without parole and make him spend the rest of his life behind bars. Instead, he took the easy way out, and we taxpayers still paid for his appeals. So no, these guys fear spending decades in prison more than they fear being put to death. I believe that one reason people use guns in a crime is that they hope the police will kill them in the process. Then they don’t even have to go through a trial let alone spend years in prison. So they fear being alive in prison more than being put to death. Generally speaking.

    Finally, what if the person you’re planning to execute really didn’t do the crime? Innocent people have been executed, it’s undeniable. How is justice served by putting someone to death for something they didn’t do? The real killer will easily get away with it even if caught because they can raise enough reasonable doubt about their supposed guilt. After all, the state already executed somebody else for that crime. Are prosecutors going to start arguing that the state was wrong the first time? Why wouldn’t they be wrong the second time? Under our system of law, once someone is found guilty of a crime and executed, the entire integrity of the system depends on pretending it was right all along. Otherwise, all the justifications for sentencing someone to death fall apart.

    One last thing: The “Kitty Dukakis” question. Some of you may remember the 1988 presidential candidate debate when CNN anchor Bernard Shaw asked Gov Michael Dukakis (a known opponent of the death penalty) if he would support the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered his wife Kitty. His answer was so devoid of emotion that it wouldn’t surprise me if some people fell asleep during it. My answer to the question if I would support the death penalty for someone who raped and murdered my wife, Jane, would be, “No, I’d want to kill the fucking bastard with my own two hands. But I would not want the state to do it on my behalf. And I would gladly accept spending the rest of my natural life behind bars because to live without Jane would make me useless to society anyway.” But that’s about the only time I’d want to kill someone. So don’t hurt my wife, because I love her that much.