Miscellaneous Musings & Opinions
More recent 'Musings' postings can be found here.
Blacklisting: It seems to me that every spree-killer of the last 20 years has been dressed in black. So, how come Congress and the President aren't proposing banning black clothing outright? If they can't get an complete ban, why not make everyone who wants to purchase a little something in black pass a background check and go through a 14 day waiting period?
And these so-called Trunk Shows that travel from town to town - aren't they just fronts to make it easy for questionable individuals to purchase something black, stylish and trendy?
I'm sure that the Little Black Dress Lobby will be unhappy with any restrictions imposed (as will clergy, nuns, tragic hipster dufuses and goths) but, after all, shouldn't we all have to make sacrifices for the safety of innocents? (posted 12/20/2012, permalink)
Oh, The Humanity! The Twinkie Nation has been shaken to its core. Hostess Brands, makers of Twinkies (an American staple since 1930), Ding Dongs, Yodels as well as Drake's Funny Bones, Devil Dogs, Pound Cake (made since 1888) and the abominable Sno Balls has ceased operations and is in Chapter 7 liquidation bankruptcy. Hostess shut 33 bakeries and 565 distribution centers nationwide, as well as 570 outlet stores.
There was a rush by desperate snack aficionados to acquire every single Hostess treat from store shelves. Lifestyle writers offered Sunday supplement lamentations about How Things Will Never Be The Same Again. There were rumors that Matthew Arnold's poem, 'Longing', would be rewritten as an ode to the late Twinkie.
Hostess has been in trouble for years. Escalating union labor costs, falling sales (a drop of almost 30% since 2004), industry overcapacity and high sugar prices tied to U.S. trade tariffs contributed to the firm's demise.
The mortal wound came when one of the firm's largest unions, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, began a nationwide strike prevented Hostess from producing and distributing products from multiple facilities. The company shuttered all plants last week, laying off over 18,000 workers, many - if not most of them - union members.
These union drones basically voted themselves out of a job - a colossally stupid thing to do given the state of the economy. Most are semi-skilled at best and will never again see the high wage levels they enjoyed as Hostess employees. Enjoy your dog food dinners, morons. No Ding Dongs for you.
At this writing, the unions are in talks with what remains of management but you shouldn't get your hopes up. The shelf space at supermarkets has already been allocated to someone else who ponied up the required slotting fee.
Undoubtedly, someone will buy the brand assets, especially Twinkies - Hostess' best-seller. Over 320 million of the indestructible yellow boluses were sold each year. Of the other products, I'm not sure.
I was never a Twinkie fan but I did have the occasional craving for a Devil Dog or a pack of Funny Bones, although I haven't had either in twenty-plus years. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, I've always been partial to Tastykakes.
Nevertheless, I was quite fond of Hostess-filled donuts, which came in boxes of 12. These were powdered sugar-dusted cake donuts which contained a secret purple goo filling. Cue up Homer Simpson: "Mmmmmmm - secret purple goo."
In the late 1980s, a variant was briefly available in Oregon. It had the same donut construction but, instead of powder sugar, they were enrobed in chocolate. It was rumored that these Frankendonuts were taken off the market because everyone who ate them with any regularity eventually ended up wearing insulin pumps.
Hostess also owns the Wonder Bread brand. I clearly remember watching 'Howdy Doody' on television in 1952 or so.
When the New York-based show went to commercial, the ads were often for Wonder Bread. But, in Philadelphia, local ads were always substituted, since Wonder Bread was not yet available in the area. Sometimes, we Philly viewers would see partial Wonder Bread ads if the assistant producer was asleep at the switch. Since we couldn't buy it, Wonder Bread filled me with a sense of ... well ... wonder. It was the Forbidden Fruit; therefore, I wanted it.
But, when Wonder Bread finally became available in Philly, I was disappointed. It was soooooo ordinary. Stroehmann's Bread was much better. And, of course, it had lovable Grandpa Stroehmann as pitchman. There was no Grandpa Wonder. Just polka dots. (posted 11/21/2012, permalink)
Indian Affairs: An American Indian tribe is considering taking its case to state court after its lawsuit against four beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska was thrown out by a federal judge. Blogger Kathy Shaidle wrote, "They gave us smokes. We gave them booze. I call it even."
The Oglala Sioux Tribe governs the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota - just over the state line from Whiteclay. Last year the four beer stores named in the suit sold the equivalent of 4.3 million 12-ounce beer cans even though Whiteclay has only 11 residents.
The Connecticut-sized Pine Ridge Reservation is home to 40,000 residents and has struggled with alcoholism for generations, despite an alcohol ban in place since 1832. It also spans some of the most impoverished areas in the country.
Well, you can't stop free enterprise. Or good marketing: find a need and fill it.
Alcohol, hookers, porn and pancakes have been around since the Dawn of Man, although those early pancakes were pretty crappy and the hookers didn't smell so good. The point is - prohibition never works. Only self-control does.
Maybe it is time to close the reservation, offer training/counseling for those who want to be helped and send them off to the real world where they will no longer have to exist in a cocoon of poverty, booze and bad behavior. Many such reservations, originally conceived as a legislated, guaranteed homesteads offering cultural sanctuary for Indians, have deteriorated into zero-opportunity ghettos.
I have never understood the politically-correct celebration of Indigenistas, which seems to have started in the 1960s when Buffy Sainte-Marie sanctimoniously appeared singing her sad (on many levels) songs, appointing herself as spokesperson for an underachiever culture that didn't write anything down, invented nothing, domesticated not a single animal, never had anything like the Renaissance, Magna Carta, Arabic numbers, noodles, an abacus, Book of Kells or Thomas Aquinas - a people that basically spent two-plus depressing millennia fishing, weaving and making up stories about coyotes and bears.
And many of them are now drunks. Is it any wonder? Isolating an ethnic group of people is as unhealthy as frybread. By the way, South Dakota has proclaimed it as the State Bread.
Allow me to make another historical comparison about the Great Native American culture: In the 15th Century, Brunelleschi's magnificent dome was completed topping the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy. During the same period, the Irish - a tribal people whose island was subject to numerous invasions by foreigners - still managed to rebuild the fortress known as Bunratty Castle, which remains standing in County Clare. By the 15th Century, massive German castles dotted the banks of the Rhine. The Royal Palace of Lithuania was constructed in the 15th Century.
What structures did Native Americans of the same period have? Wigwams. I rest my case.
We already know that Native-Americans can succeed - there are countless examples throughout this great land. But this 180 year-old 'reservation' social experiment promulgated by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs is an abject failure and needs to be overhauled, if not eliminated. Capitalism and casinos have done far more to raise Indians out of poverty than the BIA ever did. (posted 10/25/2012, permalink)
Are EU Kidding? This year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the European Union. This seems kinda like awarding the Nobel Prize in Medicine to an abscess.
That muffled explosion you heard was the corpse of Alfred Nobel dynamiting himself in his grave.
Follow this progression of 'peace' prize winners:
Yasser Arafat > Kofi Annan > Jimmy Carter > Al Gore > Barack Obama > EU
Therefore, these are my predictions for next year's Peace Price finalists: Rubik's Cube. Alec Baldwin. Monty Python's Dead Parrot. Hugo Chávez. The Simpsons' inanimate carbon rod. Sean Penn. Stewie Griffin. And the Oslo telephone directory. (posted 10/15/2012, permalink)
Everything In Its Place: My wife picked a complimentary copy of the Oregonian last week. I noticed that the obituaries are now in the Business section.
I always get a little freaked out when newspapers put death notices in the Living section. (posted 10/8/2012, permalink)
Blowin' In The Wind: I will no longer buy products advertised on television where the commercial has happy whistling as background music. It's a sure sign of a scam.
One such ad is being run by Nationwide Insurance, implying that - aw, schucks - they're just friendly small-town folks who happily operate on the second-floor of an old brick building just above ol' Doc Feebly's Pharmacy & Soda Fountain, instead of residing in a huge freakin' skyscraper at One Nationwide Plaza in Columbus, Ohio.
Nationwide is one of the miscreants who tried to rip me off when I owned my Corvette, refusing to insure it unless I bought a substantial whole life insurance policy from them.
The whole whistling thing reminds me of the Lyle Langley Monorail Scam, although he played a piano and sung a happy tune. Probably because he couldn't whistle. (posted 8/10/2012, permalink)
Aren't They Pretty Much The Same Thing? How come ADD is bad and requires medication, while multitasking is considered a special talent? (posted 7/9/2012, permalink)
Separated At Birth? Is it just me or does this thing look like one of the robots on Futurama?
Billion Dollar Business Idea: I'd like to open a chain of franchised exercise clubs. Each one would have a Roman theme with Ionic columns a big dome in the center, vaulted ceilings and a colonnade screen out front.
The name: Pontius Pilates.
Each club will have a Diocletian Bath and Caldarium with Judea hot tub. Membership levels will be named Proconsul, Senator and Emperor (top level, of course). All signage will have Roman fonts.
Naturally, every location will have a large central room with marble clad walls called the Pilatearium.
This could be an even bigger success than my designer water drink idea. (posted 4/25/2012, permalink)
Plurality: Order a couple of center-cut tenderloins and they're known as filets mignon, not filet mignons.
When you order a couple of breakfasts at Mc Donald's, is it Egg McMuffins or Eggs McMuffin? Eggs McMuffin sounds like the name of a 1920s Irish mobster. (posted 4/19/2012, permalink)
Ding Dong: Ten years from now, will you still be able to ring someone's doorbell? Or will you have to download a doorbell app first? (posted 4/9/2012, permalink)
Cool, Man: I got a spam e-mail from the Hip Recall Legal Center. If it's so hip, do they employ beatniks? I wonder if there's Muzak in the office. Maybe Brubeck, Shearing, Coltrane or the Modern Jazz Quartet. (posted 3/30/2012, permalink)
Paper Or Plastic? Oh, that's so last century. Besides, the answer in this century is: reusable bags.
The question for 2012 is: Burma or Myanmar? Some news organizations use one while others use ... well ... the other.
I vote for Burma. The Myanmar crowd were too lazy to write their own national anthem, so they just sang the country's name over and over to the tune of the Meow-Mix song: "Myanmar Myanmar, Myanmar Myanmar, Myanmar Myanmar Myanmar Myanmar ..."
The Burma national anthem is 'Kaba Ma Kyei' which means 'Till the End of the World'. That sounds like the title of a Celine Dion hit from the 1990s. Oh, that's so last century. (posted 1/23/2012, permalink)
Sudsy Posting: James Lileks has recently written about motel soaps.
Several years ago, after reading one of his Daddy-Daughter tales, I sent him this note: "When my daughter was about your daughter's age, she particularly liked motel soaps. They were a perfect size for her small hands.
Her 'collection' eventually took up a full dresser drawer. Whenever I'd come home from a trip, she'd hug me and ask, "Got any soap for me, Daddy?"
She used up most of the soaps while away at college. She is now an grown-up businesswoman but, whenever she travels, she now brings back motel soap for me.
So, James, there will be good payback of some sort from your daughter in your future." (posted 1/18/2012, permalink)
Some Breeds Are Worse Than Others. Found in this season's Wireless catalog:
The Name Game: Toyota and Honda are successful brands which were growing in market share until the production troubles caused by the tsunami in Japan and, more recently, the flooding in Thailand.
Hyundai and Kia are fast-growing brands which are rapidly picking up market share. Buick - once a dying brand - is experiencing remarkable sales increases. Nissan has improved its share of market over the past five years. Rolls Royce sales are booming. Bentley is also doing well.
What do these brands have in common? Their models have names: Corolla, Avalon, Civic, Accord, Pilot, Sonata, Elantra, Rio, Optima, Regal, Verano, Altima, Sentra, Ghost, Phantom, Continental and Azure.
Lincoln dropped the Continental and Town Car models, replacing them with meaningless three-letter designations. As did Cadillac - gone is the Seville, DeVille, etc. In the last ten years, sales of Lincoln and Cadillac have dropped by half.
Note to manufacturers: People like to buy cars with names - even mediocre ones. BMW, Audi, Lexus and Mercedes get a pass because their models have pretty-much always had numerical, alphabetic or alphanumerical designations.
I hope that, when Toyota finally brings the much-anticipated FT-86 sports coupe to market, it is renamed the Toyota Tiger. Or Tornado. Or Terrorizer. (posted 11/11/2011, permalink)
We Got The Beat: With apologies to the late, great Go-Go's, the song title seems applicable to the recent rash of black mob violence, including beatings at Wisconsin state fair where hundreds of young black people assaulted whites, even pulling fairgoers out of their cars.
Then there's those flash mob lootings and beatings in Philadelphia, Chicago and other urban areas. It makes me wonder if flash mobs are just a cruel, high-tech evolution of the culturally-embedded Talking Drums - a communication tradition still used in Africa.
In Peoria Illinois, a mob of blacks walked through a white neighborhood yelling "We need to kill all the white people around here."
A Christan Science Monitor article discussed another black 'pastime': "a game called 'Knockout King', played primarily by groups of black teenagers, where the point is to approach and quickly strike a stranger, often whites or immigrants, in an attempt to knock them unconscious with the first punch."
Even in Ireland, black hooligans are viciously beating up whites. "One man - a Dublin DJ - was almost killed in the attack as he suffered serious head injuries when he was set upon by the gang. The level of violence has shocked gardai and the many witnesses to the race hate orgy."
A black publication, UhuruNews.com, an organ of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, boasted that the mobs in Philly "are gatherings of young African people, male and female, who have come together to demonstrate their rejection of neocolonialist authority and rule." I call bullshit. Philadelphia has a black mayor and most of the power positions in the city are held by blacks. It's been that way for many years.
Flash mobs seem to be attacking only productive taxpayers. Apparently, not one of the mob members has a job or pays taxes. This is a classic 'bite the hand that feeds'. No one seems willing to stop these gangs of thugs. Law-abiding blacks are afraid. Cops are afraid, hamstrung by charges of racial profiling. Let's stop the madness. These are violent criminals committing hate crimes against another race.
Remember Kent State? There was one student riot. People were shot and killed. Kent State never had another riot. U.C. Berkeley has had continuing riots over something or other for almost 50 years. Why? Because no one ever fights back with deadly force. I rest my case.
Want to stop the riots and disperse the mob? Make the order of the day: 'Protect the innocent. Shoot to kill.'
Ann Coulter has the same idea. Regarding the riots in the U.K., she wrote, "A few well-placed rifle rounds, and the rioting would end in an instant. A more sustained attack on the rampaging mob might save England from itself, finally removing shaved-head, drunken parasites from the benefits rolls that Britain can't find the will to abolish on moral or utilitarian grounds. We can be sure there's no danger of killing off the next Winston Churchill or Edmund Burke in these crowds."
Bang. Bang. Yer dead. (posted 8/15/2011, permalink)
"Harden Not Your Heart" is a phrase used by Christian churches and organizations, especially when asking for financial support for the "less fortunate" and/or those "poor people in the Third World." The implication is: "harden not your heart; open up your wallet." It's an incorrect interpretation of Psalm 96:8, which was actually about the Israelites questioning the existence of God during a time of strife.
According to U.S. estimates, the recent drought and famine in Somalia have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5. Getting aid to the people has been made more difficult because Al-Qaeda-linked militants control much of the country's most desperate areas. Tens of thousands of refugees have fled south-central Somalia in hopes of finding food at camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and in Mogadishu, the Somali capital. Food riots have broken out at some camps, causing additional fatalities.
This is one more indication that much of Africa is ruled by thugs, many of them sworn enemies of the U.S. There are better things to do with our charity - help flood and tornado victims in our own country, for example. (But most of them are from the South or Midwest - flyover country - and not nearly as photo-appealing as some helpless fly-bespecked black waif with an empty bowl in his/her hands.)
Unfortunately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that the U.S. is giving an additional $17 million in aid for Horn of Africa nations, including $12 million to help Somalis. How much will actually reach the people who need it? And how much will end up being used to buy more Laser-guided shoulder-fired surface-to-air missles?
I've written about the vast corruption throughout poverty-stricken Africa before, noting, "Many African rulers rely on aid to feed their people while they destroy their livelihoods through a neglect of, and even by destroying, infrastructure. ... In badly-run developing countries, governments channel aid to small elites. Poor people in villages and shanty towns never see any aid. Infant and child death rates remain high and women still die in unattended childbirth in countries on which aid is focused."
In an Irish Times article titled 'Africa is giving nothing to anyone - apart from AIDS', Kevin Myers presented a compelling argument for making Africa lift itself from its own morass. "Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there. The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a priapic, Kalashnikov-bearing hearty, siring children whenever the whim takes him."
Then there's Haiti, which is (again) woefully unprepared for even a hurricane, a common occurrence in the region. The foreign volunteers who are providing aid are mostly rebuilding Haiti's ubiquitous corrugated tin-roofed plywood shacks - hardly a storm-resistant design.
Following last year's earthquake, I wrote that, over the years, "Haiti has lost its infrastructure, its wealth, its agriculture and its best people. No one knows how to 'fix' this dysfunctional country and now its chronic illnesses are exacerbated by this latest injury. If Haiti were a person, it would be lying in a hospice awaiting its last breath."
The Middle East is no prize either. Radical Islamists routinely denigrate/abuse their women and demand the death of anyone who doesn't subscribe to their extreme religious beliefs.
Secretary Clinton has said recently that, in Syria, the Assad regime has killed more than 2,000 of its own citizens in recent months. Sounds worse than Libya, where we're busy trying to depose a nutball dictator so that a bunch of possible Islamic terrorists can assume power.
What are we thinking?
Speaking of religions, 'the least of my brothers' - an overused cliché if there ever was one, is another Biblical quote which has been hijacked by people using it for their own money-seeking, and/or guilt-imposing agendas. Kathy Shaidle has a wonderful saying which she periodically uses as a headline: 'The 'poor' are the rich Jesus warned you about'.
Meanwhile, the U.S. remains in a bad recession. The stock market is in free-fall, destroying the retirement plans - and lives - of many of its citizens. The national debt has now surpassed the GDP. 'Entitlements' have reached the point of unsustainability. We are broke and the recently-enacted, nonexistent government "spending cuts" are a joke.
It's time to fix America and let the rest of the world fend for itself. It's also time to wise up.
I'm closing my wallet to most charities. I don't care if I'm pilloried by do-gooders with their faux 'heart harden' whipping chant. Enough is enough. (posted 8/11/2011, permalink)
Death In The Family: Last week, our propane-powered grill died. The venturi had been rusting through for a while and I managed to keep it more or less attached to the manifold body with a strategically placed pair of pliers. Everything finally let go and one side was actually backfiring - shooting flames right on the propane tank. Not good.
The grill was nine years old and the manufacturer had gone out of business. Our last propane grill died of a rusted manifold but lasted about 15 years. That manufacturer had also gone belly up.
Prior to that, we had always used a charcoal-heated hibachi grill. There is a great deal of manly ritual involved with proper firing of a hibachi: the creation of The Great Charcoal Pyramid, the interlayment/underlayment of combustible newspaper, the starter fluid Dousing Ritual and the Tossing of the Match. As with all ceremonies, it is time-consuming: the fire must be checked on and tended to regularly until the coal is the correct color. There is a required Lavage Observance as well. Charcoal is inherently dirty and you'll doing food handling activities, so there is always The Washing of the Hands to remove black soot, newspaper ink, residual starter-fluid odor and other assorted filth.
My parents never had an outdoor grill, so I learned these various ceremonies (and Special Incantations whenever I burned my fingers) by observing friends who had cookouts, reading the back of 20-pound bags of Kingsford and recalling my altar boy training as an incense thurifer at funeral Masses. Actually, the little charcoal briquets placed in the gold thurible looked like the Kingsford ones except each had a small cross embossed on the surface.
Come to think of it, charcoal grilling is a cleansing ritual just as ceremonial incensing at religious events. The symbolic value of the fire and smoke is that of purification and sanctification. In one case, it's the soul. In the other, it's the meat.
The only ceremony in the propane-cooking process is Changing The Tank, which happens twice a year - kinda like Advent/Lent. Or taking off/putting on snow tires. But I digress.
Even if you can find a replacement manifold for an old propane grill, you've got the problem of trying to get the decrepit rusted bolts off without breaking/stripping them. And, when you're done replacing the failed part, you've still got a dirty antiquated grill challenging you to guess which component will fail next. And I don't mean the pushbutton igniter - a feature which inevitably stops working within a year of purchase. Sometimes mere weeks. Keep matches handy.
I went shopping for a replacement. There were the usual expensive brand-name grills, including huge stainless steel wonders that look like Art Moderne crematoriums from the 1930s.
There was a cheapie propane grill on sale for $79 - fifty bucks off the usual price. It's a 'Char-Broil' brand. I think part of it may have been made in the Middle Kingdom; the website states, "Our Corporate Headquarters are in Columbus, Georgia with a Satellite Office located in Shekou, Guangdong Province, China."
The company is apparently a wholly-owned subsidiary The W.C. Bradley Co. of Georgia. During the Civil War, one of its divisions manufactured cannon balls for the Confederate Army.
I brought the grill home in the enormous trunk of my '39 Plymouth business coupe which doubles as a truck when the occasion requires. I had no trouble fitting the big cardboard box in the opening. I brought a pack of bungie cords but didn't need them. The trunk closed completely - no tie down required.
My relationship with the Char-Broil is not off to a good start. The instructions claimed it would take 35-45 minutes to assemble. Yeah, right. I spent almost three hours putting the damn thing together.
So, like a new bride who - after the wedding - turns into quite the shrew, my newly-acquired grill has already damaged my self-esteem, belittled my engineering talent and made me feel like less of a man.
I just hope it can cook. (posted 7/19/2011, permalink)
Why They Name Their Fat Kids 'Tundra': An R.L. Polk study showed that Toyota accounted for "15% of all new car sales to African-American car buyers last year. Ford came in second at 11.7%, followed by Chevrolet, Honda and Nissan."
I remember when blacks were big GM buyers, particularly the Pontiac and Buick brands. Especially the Electra 225: "Got me a Deuce and a Quarter, baby."
As Fat Albert used to say, "Hey, Hey, Hey." (posted 5/3/2011, permalink)
History And Pear Juggling: On Sunday, we watched the end of the eight-part miniseries, 'The Kennedys', which starred Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes. The History Channel pulled the series from its schedule, after claiming that it "wasn't a right fit with its brand." Hmmmm. I thought its 'brand' was 'history'. Reelz Channel subsequently picked it up and aired it.
'The Kennedys' has been panned by many critics, one calling it a "paint-by-numbers recitation of history." I enjoyed it. It wasn't a complete family portrait but, rather, a sketch of several selected Kennedy figures. Was it incomplete? Yes, but so is most history.**
Was the miniseries slanted? Of course. Narratives of the past always reflect the bias and/or point of view of the historian/author/screenwriter/story teller.
For the less famous who have walked the Earth, details are even sketchier. One of my cousins remembered an uncle because "he used to juggle pears." Even though he raised a family, fought fires and undoubtedly accomplished many other things during his lifetime, the sands of time have eroded memories/impressions to a light pencil drawing almost 50 years after his death.
Of my great-grandparents, I know almost nothing. I have yet to find photographs of them. Sadly, their life stories have been pretty much reduced to sparse, faded records and what was printed on the memorial cards distributed at their funerals.
For most of us, there will be few lasting markers of our presence. The garden projects, home remodeling work, business reports, spreadsheets, tweets, Facebook entries and other little footprints disappear with the passage of time.
We can only hope that the good deeds we've done, the lessons and values we've passed along to our children and grandchildren and/or the societal changes we've helped to create will somehow make an impact on subsequent generations. (posted 4/13/2011, permalink)
** I did have some issues with the cars in this $30 million epic: The filmmaker tried to pass off a 1950 Bentley as a pre-WW II Rolls Royce. Segregationist protesters at Ole Miss were seen bashing a burned-out late 1950s Jaguar Mark IX sedan in 1962 - a highly improbable scenario. One of the Mississippi state police cars shown was a '54 Hudson Jet - an unlikely selection. The replica of the SS-100X Presidential limo used in Oliver Stone's movie was passed over for a conventional four-door Lincoln convertible for the November '63 Dallas scenes.
Meltdown: All the news networks have been interviewing "nuclear experts" about the crisis in Japan. Every one of them seems to be a stern-faced, older male wearing a dark business suit and serious tie.
Shouldn't a nuclear expert "with experience" have a giant head, glow green and look more like Morbo from Futurama?
Or the Incredible Hulk? (posted 3/15/2011, permalink)
Coughing Fit: I just opened a new bag of Halls cough drops. The individual wrappers are now imprinted with inspirational messages such as 'You've survived tougher', 'Don't waste a precious minute' and 'Don't give up on yourself'.
The cough drops now carry the slogan: A pep talk in every drop.
Stop this nonsense! I just want to stop coughing. I don't need a life coach. (posted 3/3/2011, permalink)
Moral Relativism: For the past couple of weeks, we've heard the Left call for civil discourse. And an end to violence.
Last week, a West Philadelphia doctor who ran a "house of horrors" abortion clinic has been charged in the deaths of one woman and seven babies, who prosecutors say were born alive then killed with scissors.
Kermit Gosnell, 69, raked in millions over 30 years performing illegal and late-term abortions. Officials described his squalid clinic like something out of a horror movie. "There were bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building," said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams. "There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose." The grand jury report said the clinic had blood on the floor, a stench of urine in the air and cat feces on the stairs when agents raided it.
Gosnell has been named in at least 15 malpractice suits, but Williams said state regulators ignored complaints about his clinic and that the office hadn't been inspected since 1993.
Patients endured barbaric procedures at the hands of the twisted doctor, officials charged.
Gosnell "induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord," Williams said.
This was no fly-by-night operation, either. Gosnell made over $1.8 million in one year, the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia reported. Also, Gosnell is reportedly the target of a federal probe into illegal prescriptions. Here are a few of the atrocities claimed:
• One woman, for example, was left lying in place for hours after Gosnell tore her cervix and colon while trying, unsuccessfully, to extract the fetus. Relatives who came to pick her up were refused entry into the building; they had to threaten to call the police. They eventually found her inside, bleeding and incoherent, and transported her to the hospital, where doctors had to remove almost half a foot of her intestines.
• On another occasion, Gosnell simply sent a patient home, after keeping her mother waiting for hours, without telling either of them that she still had fetal parts inside her. Gosnell insisted she was fine, even after signs of serious infection set in over the next several days. By the time her mother got her to the emergency room, she was unconscious and near death.
• A nineteen-year-old girl was held for several hours after Gosnell punctured her uterus. As a result of the delay, she fell into shock from blood loss, and had to undergo a hysterectomy.
• One patient went into convulsions during an abortion, fell off the procedure table and hit her head on the floor. Gosnell wouldn't call an ambulance, and wouldn't let the woman's companion leave the building so that he could call an ambulance.
The sad thing is, many of these abortions were funded by taxpayers. The government paid for them but failed to deliver on the promised oversight. What kind of political and medical culture decided to not investigate why women kept showing up at hospital emergency rooms almost dead? Was it because they were afraid of the pro-abortion lobby? Or because the doctor was black? Or because many of the patients were poor, black and/or immigrants and no one cared about them? Or because the agency in charge is staffed by lazy, incompetent drones? Maybe we'll find out as the story unfolds.
Complaints against Dr. Gosnell date back to 1983, according to the grand jury report, but none moved state regulators to action. A grand jury report offered its own theory: "We think the reason no one acted is because the women in question were poor and of color and because the victims were infants without identities, and because the subject was the political football of abortion."
The Left - always pro-abortion - has been strangely silent about this kind of violence. "Guns kill" is their mantra; they are less comfortable with "scissors kill." Remember all their outrage about Abu Ghraib? Yes, there was mistreatment of prisoners. But none were killed. Or even maimed. Yet death occurs every day at abortion clinics.
When Roe-v-Wade became law 38 years ago, abortion was promoted as an answer to unfortunate and tragic circumstances (rape, mother's life jeopardized, pregnant, severely-retarded women and the like). And, the aborted tissue was presented as nothing more than a group of cells - almost like one's appendix. But legalized abortion quickly became a form of birth control for the lazy and the careless. Later, "partial birth abortions" took the spotlight. This barbarous practice appalled many moderates who were formerly pro-abortion.
Meanwhile, scientific advances have made many early-term fetuses viable. Medical technology has vastly improved since 1973 and fetuses can now survive as early as 20 weeks - less than five months into the pregnancy.
The use of ultrasound has shown the public that very young and tiny fetuses look like babies, not blobs of protoplasm. The new queasiness over abortion is not simply due to increased efforts by the pro-life movement. Rather, it is because ordinary people now realize that abortion has run amok and the "tissue samples" being destroyed are, in actuality, children. Or near-children.
Regardless of how you feel about early abortion, after five months, it's a baby. As liberals like to say about climate change: "The science is settled." And, as science gets better, the threshold of fetal survival will continue to drop.
It is time for taxpayer funding of murder to stop. Pro-Life Republicans and one Democrat in the House of Representatives have introduced HR 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, designed "to prevent federal funding for abortion procedures by codifying the Hyde Amendment, which has long barred federal agencies from paying for abortions."
Almost seven years ago, Peggy Noonan offered this sad comment: "If you smoke a cigarette on a beach in modern America you are harming the innocent. If you have a baby scraped from your womb, you are protecting your freedom." No more. The slaughter must stop. (posted 1/24/2011, permalink)
Mental Cases: Eric Fuller, who was wounded in the shooting rampage in Tucson, has blamed Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the Tea party for the tragedy.
Over the weekend, Fuller crashed an ABC town hall meeting. When State Rep. Terri Proud (R-Tucson) rose to explain and clarify current and proposed gun legislation in the state, several people groaned or booed her. One of those booing, according to several witnesses, was Fuller. Shortly thereafter, Fuller told a local Arizona tea party leader "you're dead" as he snapped his photo.
Fuller was arrested for disorderly conduct and intimidation. He was heard to shout "You're all whores!" as he was escorted from the room. Police took him to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Fifty years ago, my high school biology teacher, the late, great Rev. John J. Fay, S.J., told us students that "10% of the people you meet in life are certifiably nuts." I later mentioned this to a friend who worked in retail, who quipped, "He's probably low. Based on the customers I deal with, I'd say its more like 20%." (posted 1/18/2011, permalink)
Something To Talk About: The real 'conversation' we need to have following the tragic shootings in Tucson isn't one about politics. Or words. We need to discuss mental illness.
ACLU-supported lawsuits and legislative changes emptied out most mental hospitals in the '70s and '80s. The do-gooders never acknowledged the differences between the harmless mentally-ill and the dangerous nut jobs. All were given "freedom." That's the period when the homeless population began to proliferate. They were now "free" to live under bridges in cardboard refrigerator boxes. And free to go off their meds.
Dan Cirucci, who is about my age, has written, "When I was growing up, mentally disturbed people were routinely institutionalized. In other words, they were taken off the streets and removed from orderly society. That's because they were considered a possible danger to themselves and others.
But somewhere along the way all that changed.
Over the years, it became increasingly hard to institutionalize such people - to get them (and/or us) out of harm's way. Much of this turnaround came about because of court rulings - rulings that some lawyers and judges and social engineers (those who feel they know better) considered 'enlightened'."
There's even a bureaucratic name for this "program": deinstitutionalization.
"And so now, mentally unbalanced people - mentally troubled people - seem to be everywhere: in public places and spaces, on street corners, at shopping centers, wherever."
In various Simpsons episodes, simple solutions are offered. In a 1992 episode, Homer was institutionalized for wearing a pink shirt and failing a take-home personality test which he has Bart fill out for him. At the assigned nuthouse, doctors have developed their own system: "Well, we have a very simple method (stamps Homer's hand, 'INSANE'). Whoever has that stamp on his hand is insane." Homer asks, "Does that mean I can come back for free?"
In a 1997 episode, after losing all his money, Montgomery Burns goes to a supermarket for the first time in his life, announcing to passerby, "I'm shopping!"
However, Burns is unfamiliar with various grocery store protocols and gets trapped in a dairy case, then becomes confused by ketchup and catsup: "I'm in way over my head!"
Chief Wiggum is called to take him away: "Relax. You've gone off your nut, so we're stuffing you into an old folks' home. Those, uh, store guys signed the commitment papers."
If only real life was so easy.
Dan concluded, "We've got to stop pretending that this isn't a problem. We've got to begin taking responsibility for the safety of ourselves and others once again.
Forget 'civility'. We're talking about public health, welfare and safety. This is a subject that needs to be discussed - that needs to be brought back into the public arena. This is a debate that we need to have. And we need to have it now."
Amen. (posted 1/12/2011, permalink)
Papal Bull: When I started doing volunteer work, I quickly realized that there were two kinds of people: can-dos and pontificators.
Can-do people are action-oriented and want to get stuff done. They are results-driven and not afraid to get their hands dirty.
Those who pontificate want to sit in upholstered chairs or sofas and have endless meetings. They like to "facilitate" things. And they always have great reasons why they can't show up on Saturday to dig, build or paint something.
I've met many suggestion-intensive, work-adverse people in my lifetime. I call them Armchair Popes. They sit in comfy chairs (or thrones) and dispense marching orders and 'expert' advice. Some of the ones at larger organizations write occasional Encyclicals.
Over the past 30 or so years, I've noticed that the ratio of can-doers to pontificators is dropping.
No one wants to work. There is no longer an energetic Mickey Rooney or Judy Garland to urge people, "Hey kids, let's put on a show!"
My very last volunteer assignment found me getting up early, checking my e-mail and discovering that the person in charge bailed at 11 pm the night before. Her chosen substitute was an armchair pontiff, whom I had assessed upon meeting as both clueless and stupid in a Monty Python 'Twit of the Year' kinda way.
Interestingly, this particular project was overseen by a committee. None of the five committee members could bothered to show up for this key fund-raising work session. In fact, I had never even met two of them, even though I did much of the work.
When I arrived, the Pope was in full-panic mode and gave me a list of "emergencies" which needed to be dealt with in the next 20 minutes. I said, "Sorry, I'm very busy with my assigned task (a speaking/teaching engagement to paying clients), which will keep me fully occupied for the next three hours. Since you're in charge here - you fix this stuff."
Then, since my back was bothering me, I stole his comfy chair.
One of my fellow can-doers arose from his sick bed and stopped by later. He wanted to say goodbye and wish me well. He told me that attendance at the non-profit's monthly meetings, which I had boycotted for the last 18 months because they had become lengthy, useless and boring, had dropped from 20-25 people to 6 or 7.
He also revealed that the organization is now full of people who make lots of labor-intensive suggestions but won't do any of the actual work. (Refer to the sentence three paragraphs up about no-show committee members.) He said that he was fed up and would probably resign in the near future. And, in short order, he did. This turn of events is saddening but all too common in bureaucratic organizations.
The problem with the world today is that there are too many Popes and not enough parish priests and missionaries. (posted 12/7/2010, permalink)
It's Always About The Children: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is proposing to expand the required field of view for most vehicles. The net effect of such a regulation would mandate that every car, SUV and truck have a rear-mounted video camera and dashboard visual display adding several hundred bucks to the cost of every vehicle.
Every year, 228 people die as a result of "backover incidents." (As a point of reference, 256 people die from falling out of bed each year.) Proponents of the back-up camera regulation use the well-known Simpsons' Helen Lovejoy defense, "What about the children!?" They point out that 100 or so of the 228 deaths are toddlers.
I love kids but hate it when people play the "children" card. In the scheme of things, it's much more tragic when a family breadwinner is killed. Such an event can throw the remainder of the family into financial and psychological crises. Especially "the children." In the great triage of mortality, working moms and dads count more than kids, singles or geezers.
But I digress.
NHTSA says that small children "can't be trained to listen for backup beeps." No studies have been offered to support this claim. Even if true, the same simple car-mounted speaker could broadcast the voice of Elmo or Cookie Monster yelling, "Get the #$@& out of the way, you little $@#*@&!" That'll get their attention.
In fact, the agency has no idea if its new regulations will reduce deaths at all. This is simply another feel-good mandate with no scientific basis. And it will cost more than $20,000,000 per life saved, assuming that 228 lives are actually spared.
I'd bet there are lots of things, such as childhood leukemia research, that would offer a better return on "investment."
Instead of demanding that car buyers fund possibly-ineffective and expensive 'fixes', clueless drivers should learn to use their mirrors before placing a vehicle in reverse. Especially parents with young-uns.
There is some irony at work here. The number of accident-prone idiots behind the wheel has proliferated because of child safety regulations. In olden days, danger-filled playgrounds, toys, bicycles (and everyday life) offered effective methods for culling the herd of kids who lacked common sense.
Because of child safety regulations which began in the 1960s, younger people with no common sense remain alive and active. They are now weaving their gigantic SUVs in the left lane while drinking lattes and chatting on cell phones. Or texting. And are running over people while backing up. This is progress? (posted 12/6/2010, permalink)
More 'Musings' postings can be found here.