Friday, December 29, 2006

Maintaining Public Confidence is not a Good Thing

John Markley reckons Gerald Ford’s biggest contribution was also his biggest failing: What he said.

Ford “maintained public confidence” in government by pardoning Nixon. This was a good thing if you were among the power elite and their parasitic toadies. It was a bad thing for everybody else. The spectacle of Nixon on trial for his wrongdoing, Reagan on trial for Iran-Contra, or Bush on trial for any number of things would help the people lose their irrational and counterproductive confidence in government.

It is the duty of every right thinking individual to do all that he peacably can to undermine public confidence in the government.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Don't Care If You Want to Practice Polygamy. Good Luck with That.

Polls consistently show that Americans overwhelmingly oppose the practice of polygamy. I read somewhere that as many as 92% of Americans hold this opinion. Since that is the case, it hardly seems necessary to have laws outlawing polygamy since so few folks would practice it that it wouldn’t have any of the supposed deleterious societal impacts such as a surfeit of unmarried young men.

What’s that you say? You not only oppose polygamy for yourself but you don’t think anyone else should practice it, either? You are willing to use violence to stop someone else from taking on more than one spouse at a time? Even a total stranger whose practices don’t affect you in any way?

Seriously, why should I care about the composition of someone else’s household? In what way am I harmed by polygamy or gay marriage or any other voluntary arrangement that folks try out for themselves?

Now that I have abused the device of the rhetorical question shamelessly, let me make my point plainly: except for its constituents, it’s nobody’s business how you organize your household.

I recall a church leader who explained his condemnation of homosexuals by saying that they were not living the “perfect plan of God” for their lives and that he could not tolerate that. Who is, Churchy? I am afraid of folks who will not rest until they have seen to it that God’s perfect plan, as they see it, is fulfilled in everyone. I don’t know what God’s plan is for everyone. I don’t even know what it is for myself most of the time, so I don’t reckon it makes sense for me to go around interfering in other folks’ lives, particularly through threats of violence.

A conspecific at the office defended outlawing polygamy on the basis that it would be “confusing” for inheritance and employee benefits and such. It need be no more confusing than serial monogamy. Moreover, such a legitimization of interference in household structure would apply as well to monogamous families and other arrangements.

How do so many of my conspecifics move with such facility from the proposition “I like/dislike A” to “the state must promote/outlaw A”? The second proposition rarely follows from the first, if ever. It is usually an absurd leap.

I Hate Guilt

I think I need to increase the amount of Zoloft I take. I am fairly happy right now and much blessed, but I am also engaging in a little compulsive behavior (incessant doodling and list making) as well as experiencing unwelcome pangs of guilt over my many wrongdoings over the years, including minor schoolyard offenses. The doodling occupies the mind to keep out the unpleasant memories. Along with the pangs of guilt about the past, I am also feeling a lot of guilt about not doing more for the poor and downtrodden and imprisoned among us. I suppose that I am feeling that I don’t deserve to be happy and that some catastrophe is bound to befall me to set things right and bring on me the misery that I truly merit. Thanks a lot, Southern Baptists, for inculcating in me such a powerful sense of guilt and a keen awareness of my own worthlessness.

Of course, the guilt would be more efficacious if it actually deterred me from stupid or malicious actions. As it is, it just makes me feel bad about the stupid and malicious things that I am going to do anyway. It really makes no sense with respect to events in the distant past that I cannot now remedy. I take solace that God does not hold my sins against me even though I seem to do so mercilessly. And it is some comfort to realize that I have always done what it was foreordained from the beginning of time that I would do, so none of it is really my fault in a cosmic sense.

I reckon that this is a foretaste of hell as I conceive of it. Those of us with lots of sins will spend eternity making it up to those against whom we have sinned, either by omission or commission. We won’t enjoy paradise nearly as much as folks like Mother Theresa or St Francis. For some, say Hitler or Stalin, paradise will be agony.

Life is going well, and my blessings are manifold, but I have to work around my guilt mechanism to take pleasure in them.

Global Dimming: Another Reason to Take Zoloft

I watched a nature documentary last night. It turns out that, in addition to global warming, the earth has experienced significant “global dimming”. Visible particles of pollutants in the atmosphere block the sun and cause clouds to be more reflective such that some areas of the planet have seen a 30% decrease in solar energy within the last 30 years. The “good news” is that global dimming has countered about half of the global warming the earth would have experienced without it. The “bad news” is that visible pollutants have been reduced while greenhouses gases have not, so we are looking at a possible acceleration of global warming such that I may actually be inconvenienced by it in my lifetime.

Global dimming and the pollutants that cause it are bad for respiratory health. Moreover, it plays havoc with the monsoon system and may be responsible for monsoon failure in the Sahel in the 1980s and the ensuing famine in Ethiopia. Sorry about that, Africans. We didn’t know that our energy consumption and pollution would kill so many of you. Our bad.

China and India are developing rapidly and just starting to pump visible pollutants into the atmosphere on a massive scale. On the one hand, this may mitigate global warming. On the other hand, they may just screw up their monsoon system on which billions of folks in Asia rely. We’re talking famine and misery on a huge scale as well as lots of respiratory disease.

The good news is that global dimming is reversible with reductions in the output of pollutants. The bad news is that humans are not up to the task of doing this until it is too late. The additional bad news is that global warming is worse than we thought.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

US and Sudan Allies

I am not at all surprised that the USG and the murderous gang that runs Sudan are “allies”:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Poughkeepsie Journal Owes Me 50 cents Plus Punitives

I nominate for most worthless newspaper in the country the “Poughkeepsie Journal”. The problems with the paper are legion, not the least of which is publication of Michelle Malkin’s “column”. The presence of Malkin’s hateful, toxic spew should be accompanied by a prominent warning so that unsuspecting folks don’t accidentally buy the paper. I would never knowingly patronize a paper that printed Malkin, so I felt defrauded.

Bush Needs to Do It Himself

Those damn generals just don’t get it. GW Bush aims to “win” in Iraq and salvage for himself a glorious legacy instead of going down in history as an incompetent cipher of the neocon death cult. There’s nothing for it but for GW, as commander in chief, to follow the precedent set by Geo Washington and lead the “surge” he is set on himself. He is going to have to delegate domestic stuff to Dick Cheney or some other underlings and go to Baghdad and handle this thing himself. Nobody else seems to have the vision or the will to win, and apparently nobody else has the required deciding capabilities to get the job done.

When he goes, he needs to take with him a cadre of volunteers itching for action and slavishly devoted to the cause. Forget the military; it’s broken. He’s going to have to put out a call for volunteer regiments of irregulars, like the Rough Riders in 1898. Based on the number of pro-war bloggers and pundits and war apologists at Fox “News” alone, he ought to be able to put together a goodly force of raving warmongers to lead the surge out of the Green Zone and secure Iraq and bestow democracy upon it even if they have to kill every man, woman and child in that country.

Seriously, the neocons must have a plan for the war they manufactured. Now’s their chance to put it into action without having to rely on the insufficiently indoctrinated military. With their glorious leader right out front with his troubadour Tony Snow by his side composing epic poetry for the occasion, they will be so inspired as to be unbeatable. In any event, they will be willing to fight to the death of the last man and woman among them.

Happy Boxing Day

My favorite Christmas movie is “A Christmas Carol” or “Scrooge”, particularly the 1951 version with Alistair Sim: Unfortunately, the Dickens inspired classic seems to have fallen out of favor. Even “It’s a Wonderful Life” doesn’t get the play it used to. “A Christmas Story” about young Ralphie’s desire for a BB-gun seems to be the new classic.

This year, I caught most of a version of “A Christmas Carol” with Scrooge played by Patrick Stewart. It was pretty good, not as good as the 1951 version, but it satisfied the Scrooge craving.

One of my favorite SNL skits involved imagining the consequences of Scrooge’s change of heart a year later. Everybody took advantage of and abused his generosity. Cratchit was chronically tardy and unproductive. Charities hounded Scrooge relentlessly. His business was going to hell. It was pretty funny, but I don’t imagine that is how Scrooge’s life turned out

Scrooge gained by his opening himself to others and to community. His firm, which he had devoted his life to building, would have continuity even after his death as Scrooge involved his nephew Fred and Bob’s son in the business. What would have become of Scrooge & Marley, Ltd had Scrooge died a lonely miser?

Scrooge began to take pleasure in his wealth by sharing it and allowing himself to live more completely. He became part of his church, his neighborhood, his family, and the business community. He did so freely and without resentment borne of obligation. As he aged and grew feeble, he could rely on the support of loved ones, and he could go to his rest knowing that he would be remembered fondly and that he had made a difference in the world.

This doesn’t mean that he became a socialist or rejected his capitalist ways. On the contrary, he kept the firm going and expanded it. He would have known from the spirits’ lessons that the state was not the answer to the evils that came in the wake of the Industrial Revolution (and there were evils, mind you, as well as good from this transition); rather, it would be voluntary person to person love and engagement that would ameliorate the bad conditions identified by Dickens. And he would have spent his money on himself and others instead of hoarding it with a positive impact on the local economy.

I suspect that I like “A Christmas Story” so much because it holds out the hope of redemption and conversion. Although I am not a miser, being more a spendthrift, I am, like Scrooge, cut off emotionally and socially from my fellow human beings more than I would like to be and more than I ought to be. I am terribly challenged by this and sometimes don’t know where to begin to remedy it. On the one hand, I crave community; yet, on the other hand, I shun it and its demands.

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Halls Are Decked

Last week, Mrs Vache Folle broke out the soap dish shaped like a Christmas tree. That really set a holiday tone at Chez Folle, provided you use the downstairs bathroom. I know it’s there, so the good cheer that it brings lingers even when I am not in the room with it. I reckon Mrs VF is a Christmas nut after all just like her mother.

Some Good Things About the Donald

He was cute when he was little.

He donated land for the “Donald J. Trump State Park” which I drive through every day:

He worked it so Miss USA could at least keep her crown, albeit at the cost of her dignity. (As far as I’m concerned, if Miss USA wants to drink and smooch with other women, more power to her. )

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Islamofascism, Schmislamofascism

I can’t bring myself to read right wing blogs. I find them too toxic and brain destroying. Besides, tbogg and the folks on his blogroll do a fine job of encapsulating what the wingnuts are talking about and in an entertaining manner.

It turns out that wingnuts live in a bizarre fantasy world where, among other things, Western Civilization is under siege by Islamofascists hell bent on establishing a Muslim caliphate from Indonesia to Spain and beyond. I can almost hear that movie trailer announcer: “In a world embroiled in a titanic clash of civilizations, a handful of brave right wing bloggers was all that stood between the West and the Islamofascist horde.”

Great googly moogly! This is bats**t insane, tin foil hat kind of stuff. I’m not sure what to make of this. Some of these wingnuts have degrees from good schools and appear to be basically literate, so it is hard to imagine that they are just plain stupid, although I won’t rule this out for some of them.

Let’s imagine for the sake of discussion that the wingnuts really believe this stuff. That means that they are (a) crazy; (b) crazy; or (c) crazy. It’s a paranoid delusion, plain and simple, and I reckon that some wingnut bloggers fall into the crazy category.

Another category would be those wingnut bloggers who know that the whole clash of civilizations thing is a crock of type 7 pooh but who promote it because it advances the authoritarian agenda that they serve. They reckon that if they can scare enough of the sheeple with this nonsense, they can influence them to acquiesce in all kinds of bad policy and power grabs. I call this category, the “evil” wingnuts. They could still be crazy, of course, but they don’t happen to be deluded about the Islamofascist threat.

Why do I even bother distinguishing between those who are crazy and those who are evil? Don’t they have the same impact? True, but the crazy ones, with medication, might be cured of their delusion; whereas, the evil ones would require years of reeducation in the camps after the revolution.

Statism as Slomming

“The Soup” aired this insane anti-drug/smoking/what the hell public service ad:

The premise is that kids have started “slomming” derived from the acronym for Sticking Leeches On Myself. The leeches stand in for drugs or smoking, get it? Neither did I.

BW Richardson’s recent post uses leeches as the perfect metaphor for government:

If you reimagine the ad about slomming as antigovernment, it starts to make sense.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

It Has Cost Almost $12 Million Per Insurgent Killed

According to this site, the war in Iraq has as of this moment cost about $352 billion:

I recently heard that the US claims to have killed 15,000-30,000 insurgents, Iraqi military and foreign fighters in the course of the war. If you take the largest number of people whom the US says that it intended to kill and divide the total cost per death, the cost per enemy killed is over $11.7 million!

Wouldn't it be cheaper just to pay Iraqis to be peaceful?

My Plan for Iraq

My plan for Iraq has been consistent for years. In early 2003, my plan was “don’t invade Iraq”, but once the invasion was accomplished, I immediately adopted the “leave Iraq now” plan. My reasoning was that nothing good could come of occupying Iraq and that the US would eventually have to leave without accomplishing anything other than killing a lot of people and breaking their stuff and damaging national security. It followed that the US should minimize its losses by leaving at once so as not to waste additional lives and money. Every moment that the occupation continues means wasted lives and treasure, so the “leave Iraq now” plan is as sound as ever.

If the US leaves Iraq now, it can do far more good by using a fraction of the funds that it squanders on the occupation in providing incentives and means to Iraqis to rebuild and establish peace on terms that have been devised by Iraqis for themselves. Of course, I would rather the war profiteers footed the bill for this than for taxpayers to bear the burden, but even public funding of aid to Iraq would cost far less to the taxpayers than the military activities do now.

In addition, the US ought to take steps to make it structurally difficult to become embroiled in disasters like Iraq. For example, I regard the indebtedness of the US arising from the war in Iraq as an especially “odious debt” which the American people would be justified to repudiate (all the debt is odious as far as I am concerned, but even statists acknowledge some kinds of debts as subject to repudiation). Investors in US debt instruments may be considered to be on notice of the dubious legitimacy of this debt. It is important to repudiate such debt because it will make financing of such misadventures in the future more difficult.

Moreover, I regard the masterminds of the war in Iraq as criminals who ought to face justice, and I would not object to their being hauled before some kind of tribunal. Bringing the warmongers to justice is important to serve as a deterrent to future politicians and bureaucrats.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Useful Stool Chart

In looking up some information about diarrhea, I came upon this highly useful chart in Wikipedia:

Now when I want to talk about my stools (as I surely will as I get older), I will be able to refer to type number rather than getting into a detailed description. Today and for the last several days, type 7 has been my lot, and I read in Wikipedia that this could be due to cholera. I have diagnosed myself with fructose malabsorption brought on by fruit juice and an excess of bad white wine from a box. Oh well. It is what it is.

Over twenty years ago, I consulted a nutritionist to help me combat hypercholesterolemia with which I had been diagnosed at that time. She gave me good advice and told me that I could track my progress by examining my stool production. The object was to eat in such a manner as to result in the production of the "perfect stool". I remember right, we were going for a type 3. In addition, it had to float, be a light brown in color, and break up during flushing. It took months, but one day I achieved stool perfection. I let out a whoop and called Mrs Vache Folle to come and admire my masterpiece. She not only declined to take a gander at el perfecto, but she would not even let me take a picture of it for my scrapbook. I reckon that her pooh-poohing of my achievement back then led me to go off my healthy diet and to return to my bad eating habits. That's the ticket. It's Mrs VF's fault that I am overweight and have maintained the diet of a puma for most of the last two decades. I am blameless. She should have supported me in my hobby.

A Slight Breakthrough

I had a breakthrough with one of my statist conspecifics the other day at lunch. I was complaining that my town spent tax dollars on frivolities like Christmas trees and lights, and one woman remarked that she liked it when her town had those things. I asked her if she liked it so much that she would be willing to hire armed goons to shake her neighbors down for the money to do it. Another conspecific chimed in and said that my characterization was unfair because, as he put it, “you can say thing about anything government does”. “Precisely!” said I. We should have the state do only those things that we consider so important that we would be willing to set goons on our neighbors to get them done. “That’s the problem with democracy,” mused my conspecific. “We don’t think about what we are doing in those terms.” This is as close as I have ever come to getting my conspecifics to understand where I am coming from in my anti-government stance.

Business Entertainment

In my last post, I hinted a little about my distaste for business dinners. When I travel on business, I don’t expect the folks I’m visiting to entertain me after work hours. I am pretty sure that they’d rather be with their families, and I would just as soon chill out at the hotel and order up room service which I will eat in my pajamas. The exception is colleagues and vendors and clients who have become my close friends over years of working together and who might genuinely enjoy my company for an evening. In every other case, I feel like a wanker keeping business acquaintances after hours.

When I am on the receiving end of business travel, I work like crazy to get out of entertaining visitors. I have a life of my own that I am keen to get to when the work day is over, and I am pretty sure that my visitors aren’t all that excited about staying on the job into the evening. It’s bad enough that you are away from home, and it’s worse to be compelled to hang out with business associates. I consider that I am still working, and I bet they do, too.

I might feel differently if we actually entertained visitors and showed them a good time, but we just take them to a fancy restaurant and bore them. My conspecifics at work and I are not particularly fun to be with in view of the proprieties that we are compelled to observe.

It Is What It Is, Unless It Isn't, In Which Case It Is Not What It Is

bkmarcus is in language curmudgeon mode:

I will follow suit and rant a little about the expression “It is what it is”. I have been hearing this all over the place in such manifold contexts that I am no longer sure of what it means. For years, I have heard “it is what it is” in the limited context of disputes over the interpretation of evidence. The discussants recognize that it (the evidence) is what it is and that their disagreement goes to what it signifies. This makes sense to me, whereas the practice of throwing “it is what it is” willy-nilly into conversation does not. It annoys. Mrs Vache Folle has adopted “it is what it is” as her catch phrase of late.

Sometimes, it seems that IIWIS is used as a substitute for “whaddya gonna do”, and I can live with that extension of meaning and usage to encompass a fatalistic acceptance of that which cannot be changed. It’s the throwaway deployment of IIWIS that bugs me. My boss’ assistant just used it in the context of the etiquette of business dinners as if to say that business dinners are an immutable physical law rather than a problematic social construction about which one may disagree. (I think it is rude when I travel to expect the folks I am visiting to entertain me after work hours when they could be with their families.)

I have lived in New York now for nine years, and I still don’t know how to use “fuhgeddabouddit” and “not for nothing”. They seem to me to be throwaways, but I suspect that they mean something. Perhaps, IIWIS is over my head just as those expressions are.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weird Weather, Miscellany and Progress Report

The weather in the Hudson Valley has been springlike this month, and the daffodils and some of my perennials are starting to come back as if they expect it to stay warm. I don't know what this bodes for spring when it really comes next April, but I hope that the plants will not be adversely affected.

I'm OK with the unseasonably warm weather as I have a long commute by car and hate driving on icy roads, especially the demolition derby venue known as the Taconic State Parkway. Also, dog walking is a lot easier and more pleasant when it isn't too cold and when there's no salt on the road. And our driveway and the road in front of our house are especially susceptible to icing up because of drainage problems. By this time last year, we had already had a big snowstorm.

I have been keeping up with my working out and with the sensible diet. Weight loss is agonizingly slow, and this is somewhat discouraging. I am hopeful, however, that the dietary changes I have made will help me to keep any weight I lose off. I am making what I hope will be permanent lifestyle changes rather than going on any kind of special diet just to drop weight more quickly. On the encouraging side of the ledger, I find that my clothes are looser and some of my conspecifics have remarked that my appearance is changing. Could it be that I am gaining muscle mass and that this slows down my apparent progress? It's hard to imagine that I could add significant muscle mass in so short a time, but I really don't know how it works.

We have been having extra practices in the run up to the Christmas Eve services in which the choir plays a major role. I have a couple of solos and will be playing the recorder, along with others, on a couple of pieces. In rehearsal Sunday afternoon, I really stunk. It was almost as if I had forgotten how to read music. I had an unusually hard time finding my notes. It doesn't help that the tenor section has been reduced to two men, one of whom has become hard of hearing and who has trouble finding his pitch on account of this disability. I'm not good enough musically to lead the section, and I hope that we will get back to full strength for Lent and the Good Friday and Easter performances. And I am hoping at least one other tenor will show up on Christmas Eve. The beauty of being a tenor is that you get invited to join choirs and choruses without the need for a whole lot of talent and sight reading ability, but this also means a lot of hard work to keep up with the more talented sections.

The choir has a lot of very talented singers and musicians, especially among the ladies, and we are expected to get by with what I consider minimal practice. I have been taking my music home and working on it on my own. I have to do this if I have any hope of keeping up. In my younger days, I could memorize the lyrics and my parts easily, but this is out of the question for me now. I did get new intermediate vision spectacles that allow me to read my music AND watch the director at the same time, and this has been a big help.

Newt Gingrich is a Wanker

Newt Gingrich, self proclaimed genius, is still airing his crazy views, and he appears to believe that he has a political future, maybe as President. Newt could fool a few thousand slack jawed yokels in his congressional district in Georgia back in the day before he had exposed himself as a loon, but I am hoping that the American people are not going to let themselves get bamboozled by this guy. You don't have to be a genius to see Newt for the arrogant, know-it-all, self centered wanker that he is. He can't conceal it or his contempt for his fellow humans. He comes off as one of those guys who thinks he is always the smartest person in the room, and he is clearly devoid of conscience or principles of any kind.

You don't have to be the guy from the Dead Zone to get a real bad vibe from Newt.

Friday, December 15, 2006

It Turns Out I Have a "Type"

Mrs Vache Folle tells me I have a type, and that she is not it. I think Mrs VF is luscious, but she might have a point. I have from time to time remarked about how attractive these three women are:

Three American Ideas

Yesterday, I read HL Mencken's "Prejudices" on-line. I can't remember which blog led me to it, so I can't tip my hat. In one essay, HLM remarked that much of what passes for intellectual discourse in America consists of variations on three ideas: (1) democracy; (2) that it is a sin to be wealthy; and (3) that other folks' enjoyment is intolerable.

I think HL was on to something and that this observation still holds up today. Democracy is acclaimed as an unadulterated good, and debate is limited to how to administer it or improve it or have more of it. The term "undemocratic" is almost always pejorative. The "problem" of disparities in wealth and the concern with redistribution use up a lot of air and ink, and debate is reduced to a discussion about how much to let taxpayers keep of their own money to optimize public revenue to be doled out. Finally, nannies and busybodies are everywhere making sure that folks don't enjoy sex too much or smoke or gamble or eat deep fried foods. There's not much else to occupy the punditry or the intelligentsia than the three stupid ideas identified by HL.

I reckon that democracy is about the most idiotic way to select officeholders that could ever be conceived of. No other system is as certain to result in the selection of scoundrels. We would be far better off if officeholders were chosen at random by lot or on some other basis than the whim of the electorate. I say we want less democracy and that it is time for undemocratic ideas to get a hearing.

Prosperity is no sin if you come about it honestly. On the other hand, envy is a sin. It's not prosperity that is problematic; it's shady practices and corruption and undue privilege.

And let us mind our own business quite a bit more than we seem willing to do so far. If your neighbor's amusements are not to your tastes, what is that to you? I don't gamble. I think it's idiotic to gamble. But I don't reckon that I should try to impose my views on this matter (or a lot of other matters for that matter) on anyone else. This is a virtue that I would like to see more widely distributed in the population. I reckon every utterance about regulating other people's behaviors or vices should be challenged at once and up front by inquiring of the utterer what business it of his. By what stretch do you claim to be a stakeholder in another's doings?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Ten Unjokes

Unjoke Number One:

Joke teller: How many Romanian janitors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Victim: I don’t know. How many?

Joke teller: While Romanian janitors are usually competent to change light bulbs without assistance, we must keep in mind that the act of changing the bulb is but one of many activities involving a multitude of people to produce the light bulb and deliver it to the end user. The suppliers of raw materials, the fabricators, and the third party logistics providers all along the line were indispensable in getting that light bulb in the hands of that Romanian janitor.

Unjoke Number Two:

Joke teller: Knock, Knock.

Victim: Who’s there?

Joke teller: Orange.

Victim: Orange who.

Joke teller: Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?

Unjoke Number Three:

Joke teller: I met a man the other day who said he hadn’t had a bite in weeks.

Victim: What did you do?

Joke teller: I gave him some money for food.

Unjoke Number Four:

A traveling salesman’s car broke down in a rural area, and he asked a farmer if he could spend the night. The farmer said that it would be okay for him to spend the night but that he did not have a daughter.

Unjoke Number Five:

Joke teller: What do you call a hundred female physical anthropologists at the bottom of a river?

Victim: I don’t know.

Joke teller: A mystery and a tragedy and probable foul play.

Unjoke Number Six:

Joke teller: What’s the difference between a gynecologist and a plumber?

Victim: Beat’s me.

Joke teller: A gynecologist is a physician specializing in the treatment of women, whereas a plumber is a skilled tradesman who specializing in pipes and drains and such.

Unjoke Number Seven:

Joke teller: I have a new knock, knock joke. You start it.

Victim: Knock, Knock.

Joke teller: Who’s there?

Unjoke Number Eight:

Joke teller: What did Buddha say to the hot dog vendor?

Vendor: I don’t know. What?

Joke teller: There were no hot dog vendors in India when Buddha lived, so he wouldn’t have said anything.

Unjoke Number Nine:

Joke teller: What do you get when you cross an elephant and a rhinoceros?

Victim: I don’t know. What?

Joke teller: Nothing. Those two species are so genetically dissimilar that it is not possible to breed a hybrid.

Unjoke Number Ten:

A man has been waiting anxiously while his wife was undergoing complicated surgery. The surgeon comes into the waiting room and announces that he has good news and bad news. The bad news is that a second tumor was found during the operation. “What’s the good news?” asked the husband. The surgeon replied, “We were able to remove the second tumor completely and believe that your wife will have a full recovery.”

Some Stuff I Liked

Wm N. Grigg on "Bush the Lesser":

"Of George W. Bush it can and must be said that he managed somehow to pass from adolescence into senescence without experiencing rational, sober adulthood. This wouldn't be a problem if he hadn't been handed the extravagantly swollen powers of the imperial presidency."

Anthony Gregory on the evil that is centrism:

"Most of the worst violations of liberty in American history were not conducted by extremists who grabbed power despite the majority’s more measured inclinations, but rather with the support of the masses. The Democrats were better at the game for the bloodier part of the 20th century. A mass killer like Franklin Roosevelt is currently admired by the entire middle of the spectrum, including by most conservatives. Indeed, FDR was an opportunist, not a leftwing ideologue at all, who courted big business and big labor only insofar as it served his interest. He denounced both radical socialism and extreme conservatism. Under FDR, the United States was saddled with its permanent welfare state and the military-industrial complex – and it was not the far left or right, but rather centrist politics that were responsible. Aside from the libertarians, only on the radical left or Old Right do we hear trenchant criticisms of FDR’s firebombings and corporatism."

Jesus’ General on the importance of soy products to the economy, despite their "feminizing" properties:

"I do however disagree with your solution to the problem. Dropping soy from the American diet is not the answer. America's agribusiness heroes deserve better from us. The same goes for our automobile and oil industries as well. If we stop feeding soy products to our manchildren, who's going to buy tomorrow's Hummers, Dodge Rams, and Ford Excursions? After all, there'll be no incentive to spend that kind of money on a big, expensive, powerful vehicle if every guy is packing one of those huge, Italian 3+" man-cannons in his briefs. Men compensating for tiny thingies are what drive the American automobile market. The auto companies would need to retool without it."

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Miscellany and Progress Report

I finally broke through the 240 pound barrier and weighed in this morning at 239.4. I have been faithful in my working out and in my sensible eating plan. I went to two holiday parties this last weekend and avoided all the desserts, even Cindy W’s orgasm inducing key lime pie (the crust is made of shortbread cookies). I didn’t overeat despite all the opportunities and inducements that presented themselves to me. Mrs Vache Folle made fried chicken with vindaloo and maharajah curries for the potluck on Saturday, and I managed to eat only two pieces of it even though this is one of my favorite foods. She also made a vindaloo and onion dipping sauce that was excellent.

I have become addicted to the gym. It’s about time I became addicted to something that is actually good for me. I have to force myself to take days of rest. Thursdays are taken up by choir practice, and I have signed us up for ballroom dance lessons on Mondays starting next month. If I don’t rest, I injure myself, so it’s good that I’ll be busy two evenings. There’s no way I’m getting up early to work out. Morning guy does not work out.

I heard that curries prevent Alzheimer’s disease. That’s good news. I eat a lot of curry. I’m up there with Lister of the Red Dwarf in that I would have curry and lager for every meal if that were feasible. Curries make vegetables a lot more palatable, let me tell you. Mrs VF has a collection of curries and always seems to know just the right blend to use in any dish. Mrs VF is home today. Perhaps I can persuade her to make a shrimp curry. We have some huge freshwater shrimp from Bangladesh in the freezer that would be mighty tasty with some curry.

I haven’t been watching my food porn lately for fear that it will tempt me to overeat. Instead, I have been glued to the Science Channel and the National Geographic Channel for most of my TV viewing, and we have broken out our Firefly DVDs.

I’m also crazy about “Sell This House” with the attractive Tanya Memme. She can buff my hardwood any time, if you know what I mean. Seriously, she’s very handy and can do just about anything around the house. They spend about $500 restaging a house that isn’t selling and usually manage to get it sold almost immediately once they’ve worked their magic. There’s a similar show on HGTV called “Designed to Sell” but they spend thousands, and their host is some useless British dude with a beard who doesn’t even help on the project. “Sell This House” has a diagnostic open house where potential home buyers are caught on tape making snide remarks about the place. “Designed to Sell” relies on some real estate agent to come in and make suggestions. “Sell This House” is way better.

We bought a deicer for the pond and a 100 foot extension cord that I hope will be adequate when I “install” it this weekend. I aim to keep the comets and shiners alive through the winter as I have become attached to them. The water hyacinths that we brought inside the house didn’t make it. Mrs VF’s frugality insures that the temperature in the house is too low for some tropical plants to survive. I reckon that paying $25 for new hyacinths in the spring is more economical than ginning up the heat all winter to keep the salvaged specimens alive. Next year, I'm going to wait for the spring rains to subside since I lost a couple of batches of hyacinths because they washed away. Someone downstream was probably scrathing his head and wondering how his pond became clogged with some strange plant.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Plan to Put a Pony in Every Barn

I think we all agree that ponies are nothing but good for the families who are lucky enough to have them. Odds are that any sampling of families with ponies compared to families without them will show that those with ponies fare better on just about any dimension you are looking at. It follows that pony ownership is good for Americans and a worthy goal for everyone, so worthy indeed that any government that doesn’t do all it can to promote pony ownership is failing its people.

One problem that immediately comes to mind is the unjust distribution of ponies to families with the space and resources to maintain them. Is it really fair that such prosperous families should be privileged to own ponies, sometimes multiple ponies, while poor folks go poniless? Of course not. Something has got to be done to level the playing field and make sure that affordable ponies and their accoutrements are available to people of limited means. Price controls on ponies and fodder and such will just lead to even greater scarcity and would be self defeating. There is frankly nothing for it but to provide any family that wants one a government issued pony and monthly feed vouchers and veterinary care benefits.

A country as rich as ours can surely afford to put a pony in every barn, and it is our national shame that we have consistently failed to do so.

A Healthier America Within Reach

In my district, we threw out our old Congresscritter, Republican Sue Kelly, and replaced her with Democrat John Hall, a singer/songwriter by trade. One of Hall’s positions is that the federal government should provide universal health care. This didn’t inspire me to vote for him. I voted for him just to punish the GOP, and I would have voted for an inanimate carbon rod if it had been on the ballot as a Democrat.

Frankly, I’m against taking money from people by force in order to provide some benefit or other, but if my money is going to be stolen anyway, I would rather some good came out of it than for it to be squandered on a program that doesn’t work or that lines the pockets of bureaucrats more than it helps ordinary folks. That’s why I reckon that any plan to provide health care should start out small with pilot programs and the like to see what might work best.

For example, let’s start by paying for prenatal care for all pregnant women. This program might actually pay for itself in the long run if problems with low birth weight and the like can be addressed early. If healthier babies result, these children will be both lower maintenance and more productive. This modest program might actually have a chance to work if it is kept simple. You can run it through Medicaid or Medicare, so you don’t need a new bureaucracy.

If the prenatal pilot program runs well, then we could consider paying for health care for babies up to a year old. This time in a human’s development is so critical that the payoff can be expected to be enormous. In fact, it’s probably more beneficial to society than paying for retired people’s care as we do now. Presumably, this is because babies don’t vote and don’t have their equivalent of an AARP.

All along the way, we will be able to work out the kinks in the program and experiment with ways to provide the care. If the program works, it can be expanded to take in older children and eventually adults. Go slow. That’s the conservative approach I advocate.

Of course, once we are providing health care to everyone, it will become the business of the state to promote healthy lifestyles and to prohibit unhealthy and risky behavior by recipients of federal health care payments. The feds will have to monitor our caloric intake and make certain that each of us is eating sensibly and exercising, safely of course. Each of us will ultimately have a federal health system caseworker (one for every hundred American households) responsible for checking up on us and nagging us about our health. Eventually, they will be armed with the authority to compel compliance with health system directives and guidelines. Our fellow citizens will be encouraged to inform on any of us who do not make it to the gym regularly or who hit the smorgasbord a little too hard. Holidays will be especially busy for the “healthies” as they will be on constant pie alert.

That’s the dream anyway.

Don't Make Me Pay For Christmas Lights

I like Christmas as much as the next guy, but I have to voice my objection to my town’s expenditures on holiday displays and celebrations. Route 52, for miles outside Hopewell Junction, has wreaths and lights on every power pole. The town has a ginormous Christmas tree at the main recreation center and a lighting ceremony. It bugs me that these things are paid for by money extorted by the threat of force from taxpayers. That it has been coercively organized and financed takes all the joy out of the decorations and events.

I have no objection to wreaths and trees and the trappings of the season in the public square, but let these things be paid for by way of voluntary contributions rather than taxes. If I want to put lights on my house, I don’t send goons over to my neighbors and shake them down for money to do it. I ask that my fellow subjects of East Fishkill show me the same consideration.

I was in Manhattan Friday night for Mrs Vache Folle’s office soiree. A good time was had by all. Mrs VF’s company knows how to throw a party. The island is gussied up pretty nice for Christmas. I don’t know how much, if any, of this was publicly financed or installed by city “workers”. The spectacle almost made it worth fighting the traffic. I was almost homicidal by the time I got to the $43 parking lot, but the party cheered me in short order. I suppose you could make a case that public investment in lights and decorations brings in shoppers and tourists and benefits the public by increasing sales taxes paid. In my case, I was going to Manhattan whether it was decorated or not and I would just as soon that about a zillion of the other folks on the streets had stayed home instead of tooling around in taxis and limos and private cars.

There are a few folks in our town who have gone crazy with Christmas lights. God bless them, but I don’t know how they do it and where they keep all the plastic statuary the rest of the year. In Seattle, we lived next to a community, Olympic Heights, where almost every house was festooned with an excess of lights and decorations. The streets were packed with onlookers all December. The halls were decked and then some. Some denizens of Olympic Heights even hired actors or forced their children to play Santa Claus or other Christmas characters on their front lawns. It was all a lot of fun, I’m sure, but I am glad all the same that I lived outside the confines of the subdivision and had no peer pressure to decorate my house.

I tried to put some lights on some shrubs last year, but my heart was not in it. It smacked of effort, and I couldn’t work out how to plug them in without having wires in the way. Then there’s the whole taking the lights down thing and storing them. I just don’t have the time or the inclination or the extra storage space. I reckon that my commitment to sloth outweighs my Christmas spirit by a pretty good margin.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

On Keeping Slaves Alive Past Their Prime

In the hope of becoming a house slave, I am thinking of embracing my servitude and helping my masters manage their servants more efficiently.

I can understand how the master might want to keep his slaves from eating tansfats and dying during their productive years, but it is harder to see why the master would want to extend the lives of his slaves once they have stopped being productive. Retired slaves are costly. They eat up a lot of social security and Medicare dollars while contributing little to the treasury.

It seems to me that the state ought to encourage smoking and alcohol consumption and all manner of unhealthy practices in order to shorten the life expectancy of the slaves. That way, unproductive retired slaves would require fewer resources.

On the other hand, younger slaves are more docile if they believe that their elders will be cared for and that they themselves will be cared for when they cease to be productive. This has a significant value. Moreover, the very idea that the state is the source of security in old age has the effect of weakening the competing institutions of the family and the church. What a brilliant scheme it is to make opposition to the state tantamount to opposition to the welfare of our grandparents!

Yet, it seems that our masters have failed to account for the fact that the slaves are not replacing themselves, except through immigration. I reckon some of the resources devoted to old folks could be diverted fruitfully to pro-natal policies to encourage the creation of more slaves through reproduction. Let us provide free pre-natal medical care to all pregnant slaves and medical care for all infants through the age of six. This will lead to the birth and survival of more and better slaves.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Wherein I Realize that my Generosity is not so Feeble

We don’t give as much money to our church as we probably should. We make some gifts to charities outside the church, but even with these, I don’t think we can consider ourselves especially generous. Much of this is due to our being house poor and going into debt to get our house up to snuff: furnace, septic system, plumbing, beams and joists in the basement, roof, etc. We just can’t do any more than we are doing.

And we are taxed out the wazoo. We are compelled to fork over about half our income to support old people, educate children, maintain the poor, and run the government for the “benefit” of all. I would like to think that I would be more generous and make voluntary gifts to provide for some of these things if the government didn’t make me do it. That’s the ticket. I’m really very generous. I just do most of my giving through the various levels of government that tax me.

The sermons in November really had me feeling guilty about my selfishness and miserly giving and about my inability to manage my finances in a way that would let me be more charitable.

How did I respond to this? We took out a mortgage to remodel the bathrooms! This helps the fine folks at E-Loan who underwrote the loan and who did it all with less than a half hour’s effort on our part. This also helps enrich the family that owns the bathroom supply house we used: Bath Bright in Hyde Park. See the knowledgeable and helpful Brian for all of your bathroom remodel needs. This will help enrich Steve and his family at CAS construction, the folks who are doing the work. And think of all the tile makers and folks who make a living making fixtures, not to mention the transportation providers who bring all the stuff in. We are not hoarding our wealth. We are putting it to work in our community and spreading happiness.

This also helps our neighbors because it enhances the value of our home.

I feel better already.

A Program to Fix the Bush Presidency

1. Admit that the debacle in Iraq has become unmanageable and that you are powerless to do anything about it. Heck, face it, your entire reign has been an unmitigated disaster for everyone except some defense contractors and other fatcats.

2.Do you know why? There is a power greater than yourself at work here. It’s called reality. Stuff happens out in the universe despite all your plans and wishes and the dreams of the neo-cons. Embrace this reality and come a step closer to sanity. Trying to make your own reality is part of the craziness that you are suffering from. This is where you get on board with withdrawing the troops from Iraq. They can’t do any good there, so every day that you delay withdrawal just means that much more blood and treasure squandered.

3. Turn your life and will over to the care of God, and be cognizant of His creation and the way it works (that reality thing again). Use the sense of reason that God gave you, or, at a minimum, surround yourself with some folks who know how to reason. You’re going to have to purge your whole cabinet and senior staff. You need voices of reason to help you coordinate the withdrawal and to mitigate the aftermath.

4. This is going to be real hard for you, but you need to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of yourself. You have done many bad things. Don’t blame Dick Cheney. Sure, he’s evil and all, but you didn’t have to listen to him. You were responsible. You were the freaking Decider.

5. Admit to God, to yourself, and to others the exact nature of your wrongs. Here’s a hint as to where to start: fearmongering, warmongering, murder, torture, oath breaking, beggaring the treasury, betraying the public trust, and defiling your office (I didn’t even think this was possible, but you did it).

6. Be ready to have God remove all your defects of character. It’s hard to face that your entire personality has to be overhauled, but you’ve got to accept this as a necessity.

7. Ask God to remove your shortcomings.

8. Make a list of all persons you have harmed, and be willing to make amends to them all. In your case, just make a list of the people you have NOT harmed. That will save time.

9. Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. This means, among other things, that you don’t get to raid the treasury to make your amends. They are your amends, not the taxpayers’ amends.

10. Continue to take personal inventory and when wrong promptly admit it.

11. Pray and meditate continually seeking knowledge of God’s will and the strength to carry it out. I recommend the Sermon on the Mount as a good basis for meditation.

12. Share your insights with other power mad politicians and practice the principles you have learned in all your affairs. Having done this, you may at last be fit to be President. Unfortunately, your term will have ended. But you may yet become a statesman whose legacy may be one of redemption. Otherwise, your legacy will be at best to serve as a cautionary example.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Don't Interfere with the N-word's Evolution

I heard that Michael Richards used the N-word a few weeks ago in an unapproved manner. Based on the reaction and his apology tour, you’d think he had killed someone. Now, I understand that there is a move afoot to ban the N-word altogether from the English language. It is too powerful and hurtful for its use to be tolerated.

I don’t think the movement makes any sense at all. Attaching a tabu to the word adds to its power. Using it a lot diminishes its power. When people of African descent use the N-word, they are co-opting it and robbing it of its utility as an insult. If they stop using it and acknowledge it as a magical word with much juju, then they are empowering it. The word “queer” is an example of a term that underwent extreme pejoration, that was then co-opted by the insulted category, and that has now moved into common parlance largely free of its pejorative baggage. Even a straight person can refer to a homosexual as “queer” without intending offense, and it would be a rare instance nowadays in my experience for offense to be taken solely because the Q-word was used.

The N-word could undergo the same kind of transformation if folks would let the process run its course. At present, only black folks can use the N-word with impunity. Eventually, non-black folks will be using it without giving offense because it will have been sapped of its power. No word has intrinsic power. Why would anyone let the use of the N-word get to them. I’m not black, so I probably just don’t get it, but I can’t think of a single thing that you could call me that would get me as riled up as the N-word seems to get some black folks. I have in my day been called “cracker”, “redneck”, “white trash” and all manner of terms by folks who aimed to hurt me, but none of these epithets had any sting. Of course, it is unpleasant to be on the receiving end of curses and insults, but no particular word has any power to harm me. I have to take black folks at their word when they say the N-word is hurtful, and it is for this reason that I do not use it.

I would like to understand how the N-word became so potent. Presumably, it is a corruption of Spanish or Portuguese “negro” for black and would have been mainly descriptive in its origins. Of course, it would have been applied mainly to folks in the lowest state of involuntary servitude, to folks who had been dehumanized. It is easy to see how the term would undergo pejoration under these circumstances. Where I grew up, the N-word was commonly used in a descriptive manner, and it would not have made sense to use it as an insult toward a black person without attaching some other appropriate cuss words. To refer to someone as being the N-word meant that the referent was black. It would make no sense at all to tell a black person that he was black, so I don’t recall anyone’s ever using the N-word as an insult all by its lonesome.

The social context for this usage was the inferior status of black folks where I grew up. They lived apart from whites and did not mix socially with them. Their opportunities were limited by blatant discrimination and a widely held belief among whites that black folks were inherently intellectually and morally inferior to whites. Accordingly, the N-word carried all that with it as part of its deeper connotation. I recall on some occasions that particularly low white families might be referred to as “white niggers”.

It is plain that the N-word still connotes social inferiority, but I reckon that there will come a day when it does not solely by virtue of linguistic evolution, unless the invocation of tabu interferes with the process. There will come a day when a white man will call a black man the N-word, with malice and intent to insult, and the black man will respond with a smirk and “Are you kidding me?”

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Bright Side of Dystopia and Hunkification Progress Report

I’ve stopped worrying about global warming and the other effects of the carbon humans are pumping into the oceans and the atmosphere because: (a) I can’t do anything about it, and (b) by the time really disastrous effects are experienced I will have been downloaded into a computer where I will live in a virtual paradise. Of course, I’ll have to work to pay for the memory I use up, but I figure I can be like the paper clip guy in MS Office. “It looks like you are typing a letter. May I format it for you or should I just go f**k myself?” Or I could work as a spam filter. Just see if any ViAgrA messages get past me. One question I have is whether virtual people having sex is virtual sex or just plain sex, what with our already being virtual and all. Eventually, we downloaded dead will have to make ourselves indispensable to the living who will doubtless forget how to work the complex machinery that keeps them alive in the dystopia of tomorrow or even how to format a letter without our help. That way, we can keep them busy maintaining the machines on which we will be running.

Another incentive to keep up the computers will be that the living will envy the downloaded dead and look forward to their own turn in paradise. Oceanic acidification and global warming will likely result in a collapse of the more complex food chains. There will be no more fish, just slime and eaters of slime and eaters of eaters of slime, which, while probably edible deep fried, will be nothing like the virtual grilled salmon and steamed lobster the dead will be enjoying. The living will want to make constant improvements to the virtual world so as to enhance their own afterlives.

In the meantime, some of the living will doubtless seize the opportunities that arise in any dystopia and achieve enormous wealth. Those of us who develop a taste for slime will succeed, and the whole species will be the better for having experienced severe evolutionary pressures and a likely population bottleneck. Others will be goaded into spacefaring with the result that humans’ fulfillment of their destiny to conquer all matter, energy and space will be accelerated.

I reckon there really is no downside to carbon emissions. Maybe I should just go ahead and get a Hummer or an Escalade or some other FU-mobile.

Meanwhile, my non-virtual body is improving. I missed my weight loss goal this month by 2 pounds (I am 242 versus a target 240), but I could possibly make it up in December if I can resist the holiday goodies. Last week, Mrs Vache Folle and I cleaned out the trousers that had begun to feel too loose, and I broke out the once too tight ones that I now wear. I have had to change belts to a smaller size, and people have started asking me if I have lost weight. That is gratifying, but I am impatient to see the numbers on the scale go down.

I have faithfully gone to the gym 5 times per week and lifted weights for about an hour for three of those visits each week. Running on a treadmill rounds out my routine, and I have made the dog walk longer and more brisk. A change I have made from the past in my cardiovascular workout is that I am not setting fixed speed goals; rather, I am going by heart rate. The TechnoGym treadmill I prefer to use has a convenient heart rate monitor, and I try to maintain a certain range while increasing speed and incline. I find that I am able to go faster and up more of a hill each time with the same heart rate but without really killing myself.

I have increased poundage a little on weights each week according to my increasing capacity to lift more without injury. I could lift much heavier weights if I rested between sets, but I am trying to get some cardiovascular benefit from the resistance training and to use my time efficiently. Some folks do one exercise at a time and rest for a couple or three minutes between sets on the machine. It would be more considerate if they got up and let others work in, but I just do the next machine in my rotation and come back to the one that the machine hog was occupying when they finally move on to something else. As long as there are no more than three machine hogs at once, this is not really a problem for me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Threshold" is Nuts

I have been watching a series on the SciFi channel called “Threshold”. The premise is that an alien species has begun to infect humans with its triple helix DNA while a secret federal program consisting of some geniuses and law enforcement thugs tries to thwart the aliens. The last episode I saw bothered me a great deal. The Threshold personnel were going around assaulting, murdering, kidnapping and detaining people whom they believed might be infected. They didn’t go to the trouble of getting warrants or otherwise subjecting themselves to the rule of law.

In this episode, it seems that the town of Allenville in Virginia has been entirely infected. The residents refer to themselves as having been “improved”, and they do exhibit some pretty amazing capabilities and seem quite happy. In one scene, a middle aged woman is observed stuffing one of the Threshold “Men-in-Black” into a wood chipper. When confronted by the main Threshold characters, she matter of factly replies, “They’re government.” Then they kill her. The infected folks know about Threshold and believe that the feds are out to exterminate them. Given what the government has been up to, the belief is reasonable enough.

What if getting infected with the alien DNA is the best thing that ever happened to a person? Would it not make more sense for the feds to inform everyone of what the government knows so that individuals could take steps to avoid infection or to embrace the idea? Wouldn’t it be better to open discussions with the infected persons and try to find out what is going on through more transparent communications?

The whole set up is so implausible that it is really turning me off. Not the alien invasion part. The secret government agency staffed with a handful of seemingly competent people and given free reign to act to save the planet while the rest of the government blithely goes about its business as if there were no dire emergency at all. That’s what I find unbelievable.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No More Doublespeak

Jomama links to an interesting article about the doublespeak psychopaths use to legitimize ruling over others:

I learned over the past several days that the federal government characterizes no Americans as “hungry”; rather, they have various degrees of “food insecurity”. The justifications and arguments about the war are even more rife with doublespeak. Bush keeps talking about finishing the “job” and “winning” the war in Iraq before he will consider a “strategic redeployment”. I have yet to learn what the “job” is and how we will know we have finished it. And what constitutes winning, and how will we know that we achieved it.

Frankly, I don’t think the regime had any idea what it was doing when it invaded Iraq and toppled Hussein. Certainly, the military knew it could overwhelm the Iraqi defenses with relative ease and effect regime “change” in short order. Rumsfeld had invested a lot in creating a lighter, more mobile army designed for quick campaigns such as the invasion of Iraq. In the process, he had pretty much taken away any capacity it may have had to occupy that country and maintain order in the face of insurgency and civil war. The army was set up to kill some folks and break their stuff and then go home and train to do it again somewhere else, not to serve as policemen and social workers in a place where the language and culture were an utter bafflement.

Olbermann had one of those retired Colonels-turned-pundits on his program the other day to discuss, among other things, NBC’s decision to use the word “civil war” to describe what is happening in Iraq. Bush prefers “new phase in sectarian violence”, but NBC has decided to call it as it sees it. The Colonel was blunt in his assessment that there is no ambiguity about whether there is a “civil war” in Iraq and what would be required for the US to quell it. Several hundred thousand additional troops would be needed to establish more or less a police state to kill or capture every enemy of the “government” recognized by the US. And this would have to go on for a very long time, perhaps decades. Given that such a “government” would probably have no legitimacy, just about every Iraqi not a collaborator would be an enemy of the government to some degree.

If this is what it would take to “win”, with almost incalculable costs in lives, money, and freedom, then winning may not be a suitable goal. What would there be to show for such an effort at the end of the day? Unless the US is prepared to occupy and govern Iraq forever with an iron fist that will make Iraqis nostalgic for the Baathists, there will inevitably be a day of reckoning for the collaborators (or “duly constituted civil authority”, if you prefer) who had been propped up by the occupation. The state that emerges from a post-occupation Iraq is not going to be a friend to the US. The continued occupation and administration of a police state will win the US enemies everywhere and erode whatever credibility, if any, it still has. The enormous costs will be borne by already overtaxed taxpayers who will receive not one whit of a benefit.

The Colonel’s bluntness was refreshing. It’s time to shout the doublespeakers off the stage. NBC has a long way to go yet to make up for its fawning to the regime, but the use of an accurate term, "civil war", is a start.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I Don't Need the Gov't to Tell Me to be Grateful

It was raining so much last Thursday that we bagged going out for sushi and stayed in and had steak instead. We took advantage of the four day weekend to do some fall cleaning and get ready for winter. The deck furniture is all in the shed now. We did NOT cook a turkey, and we did not take special time out to ponder our many blessings. We do this all the time anyway, and we do not need a government designated day to acknowledge and display gratitude for our good health and fortune.

I attended and sang at a church service on Wednesday evening where we were encouraged to be thankful for the almost obscene plenty that God has bestowed upon us and to share, especially through the church, with the less fortunate and with the missionaries and missions that the church supports. The preacher read Lincoln’s thanksgiving proclamation from 1863, which can be read here: It is a moving piece of oratory except for the political propaganda thrown in it, especially in the final sentence:

And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”

Here the widowmaker and orphanmaker in chief himself commends his victims to God’s care and characterizes his aggression against the seceding states as “unavoidable”. He deftly equates “Union” with such attributes as peace, harmony and tranquility. The conflict to which he alludes was avoidable, and the blessings of harmony, peace and tranquility might have been enjoyed just fine without the necessity of “Union”.

The preacher remarked that FDR had proposed to move Thanksgiving up a week in order to expand the Christmas shopping season, but the public outcry prevented his doing so. Nonetheless, the “Christmas season” has expanded so much commercially that you can see Christmas decorations in stores just after Labor Day. So FDR didn’t need to change the holiday after all. People have expanded Christmas all on their own without any help from government. And if government didn’t decree that the fourth Thursday in November is Thanksgiving Day, folks would probably still organize harvest and thanksgiving festivals and feasts and would arrange for days off from their jobs to attend to them.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Holiday Minimalism

We’re going back to holiday minimalism this year. Last year, a coreligionist gave us a Christmas tree, the first we have had in about 10 years. It was, as we had forgotten it would be, more of a pain in the arse than anything. We had to trim it, water it every day and put up with needles on the floor. There was also the obligatory dog pees on tree incident followed by tree falls on dog revenge. No tree this year. The hall will not be decked. No holiday themed clothing will be worn. We aren’t even going to buy presents this year for one another, and we’re giving $50 each to the minor nieces and nephews. That means we won’t have to shop. Christmas dinner will be sushi and a movie, and so will Thanksgiving if Tokaharu is open. That means no big mess to clean up and less temptation to overeat. We aren’t traveling anywhere, either, so holiday traffic and crowded holiday airports and train stations will not be salient for us.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I just don’t like to turn a lovely Holy Day into a source of stress. God willing, I will be singing in both Christmas Eve services and in all the advent events at church as well as tonight’s special Thanksgiving service, and the choir will doubtless run extra practices throughout the season culminating in the big Christmas Eve candlelight service. Christmas is for us more about Christ than it ever was when we participated more fully in the secularized or pagan gift exchanging and hall decking rituals. It is almost entirely church centered for us nowadays. And we like it that way.

It’s not that the other stuff is forbidden to us. It’s just that we like to remind ourselves that none of it is obligatory. We’ll do it if we feel like it. And hooray for folks who like to do Christmas big time, like my mother-in-law who has a Christmas version of everything. We’re going to some parties and will enjoy the season immensely. Our only advice to other people is to remember that your holiday activities are almost all voluntary and that you can cut back on them if you find yourself under stress.

MIscellany and Progress Report

Radley Balko links to a mind bender:

The author argues that you could think that you believe in God while not actually believing since you might not really have access to the workings of your mind. Or you could think you are happy while actually being unhappy. I can’t argue with this. I have often wondered about how it is that I can believe in God and Jesus and yet fail to live even remotely as if I really did. How is it that my coreligionists and I can go about living ordinary middle class, bourgeois value driven, banal lives while knowing the Good News of God’s grace? Shouldn’t this have a more radical effect on us if we truly believe? Shouldn’t we embody the Kingdom in our community and set an astonishing example of what the Holy Ghost can do in a community on fire with the love of God? And yet, despite being one of the worst Christians ever, I believe that I believe, and I believe that my coreligionists believe that they believe.

My conspecifics are abuzz with talk about the possibility of conscription. They are generally for it, in principle, although they used to be against it, back in the 1960s when they were of draft age and facing the possibility of serving in Vietnam. All of them managed to avoid being conscripted, and none of them reckons that his offspring should be conscripted. They figure their kids will be able to evade the draft through deferments and feigned ailments, whatever it takes to make sure that someone else’s children get taken. Did I mention that my conspecifics are wankers?

My step-father-in-law, the full time WW2 veteran, has a bizarre take on conscription. He was enslaved by the government back in the Big One and forced to fight in the European Theater against his will for three years plus. Now he celebrates his years as a slave as the defining moment of his life, and he reckons that involuntary servitude is a real character builder, something sorely wanted by today’s youth. I wonder if the newly emancipated slaves in the 1860s regretted that their grandchildren would not enjoy the character building blessings of slavery. I was a volunteer soldier, and I didn't find anything character building about my military experience. Perhaps if I had been in combat and killed some people, that would have made me a better person. I'll never know.

When I go to the gym this evening, I will have been faithful to my diet and exercise plan for a full four weeks. I don’t have much to show for it in terms of the scale, though, as I have been fluctuating between 245 and 248 for a week or so now. I had hoped to be 242 or 243 by this time. Nevertheless, my clothes seem looser, and I feel great. I look forward to the gym, and the workouts are a valued time of meditation and a rare zen-like focus on the moment. I have come to enjoy my new eating habits. I used to skip breakfast or have a calorie laden sausage, egg and cheese sandwich. Now I eat cereal with a banana every morning, a sensible and balanced lunch in the cafeteria, and a chef salad for supper. I am ravenous at meal times, and I am learning to recognize satiety. I used to stop eating only when it became uncomfortable to stuff another mouthful into my gullet.

What’s up with the guys at the gym who never do any lower body work? There are quite a few guys with buff upper bodies and flamingo legs. There may be even more than I know about since a lot of guys wear sweat pants instead of shorts. I do as many lower body exercises as upper body, but I am probably never going to get really ripped anywhere since I only lift for an hour three times a week, unless by ripped you mean injured. I have learned that I should reduce the weight I am lifting if doing the exercise is painful, and this has helped me avoid aggravating injuries so far. I could probably do a good deal more weight on a number of exercises but it would put me at too much risk.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Dangerous Exceptionalism

Wm N. Grigg is a genius and an enormously talented writer. His recent series on the American gulag was among the most thought provoking works of authorship I have had the honor to read in many years:

To those who say that “it can’t happen here”, Grigg points out that it already has happened here in US policy concerning Indians and the atrocious treatment of indigenous people by the US government. This is an area in which I have some small expertise, and I wonder that it never occurred to me to draw the analogy between the Indians and the overreaching of the US government today.

The US can never be redeemed from the shamefulness of its Indian policies as long as its people cling to the myth of their exceptionalism. The abrogation of treaties, the imposition of collective punishment, the theft of land and treasure, indiscriminate murder, biological warfare, and mass displacement were grievous crimes against humanity no less shameful than the misdeeds of Hitler or Stalin. We have conveniently swept this aspect of American history under the rug, paying the slightest lip service to the mistreatment of Indians in historic instruction. We do not do enough to hold the offenders in the contempt they merit. We have not sufficiently acknowledged our guilt as a nation to begin to think about forgiveness; yet we seem to have forgiven ourselves and to have forgotten what depths of depravity we are capable of plumbing.

I am profoundly ashamed of the role some of my ancestors played in the harassment of Indians and the national project of ethnic cleansing. These otherwise ordinary men, churchgoing family men all, salt of the earth, participated in crimes against the Cherokee and enjoyed the benefits of their removal. I don’t know if they felt any twinge of conscience when they occupied the lands they were given in the lottery or when they went on campaigns against Cherokee villages. They were ordinary men, and evildoers. The crimes against the Indians were not the handiwork of a few bad men; rather, almost everyone participated or benefited or acquiesced in it.

I reckon that there are plenty of ordinary men and women in America today who would proudly serve as guards in the gulag, who would deem themselves conscientious as they informed on their neighbors, who would approve and support collective punishment and dehumanization of those whom the state labels as its enemies. I have already been scandalized that there are those among my acquaintance, otherwise seemingly decent men, who condone the murder of civilians and the imposition of collective punishment in the current hostilities, who shrug off reports of the premature deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as mere “collateral damage” of no more moment than the death of so many vermin, who reckon that war need not be carried out proportionately.

We are not exceptional. We are no more immune to tyranny than any nation. No atrocity is beyond us. Denial of our ordinariness as a nation makes us stupid and insufficently on guard against the doing of evil and the creation of opportunities for evildoing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

One Last Push? To Accomplish What?

One of the talking points on Faux News must be “the last big push” in Iraq because my wingnut conspecific was spouting off about John McCain’s having a plan to straighten out Iraq by sending in a huge infusion of troops. To do what exactly? What can more troops do? One thing is kill more Iraqis and break more Iraqi stuff, leaving the place a bigger pile of s**t than we have already made it. The second thing is to provide more targets so the casualty count can go up. Neither of these things may rightly be counted among the indicia of “victory” in my humble opinion. Then again, I’m not a foreign policy and military genius like John McCain.

The US is never going to make the puppet government legitimate at the point of several hundred thousand rifles. All that can conceivably be accomplished, and it is by no means a slam dunk sure thing, with respect to the US installed regime is to compel the Iraqi people to acquiesce in the regime’s rule out of a continuing fear of death. Then, the US would have to stay forever to prop up its favorites, because as soon as the US leaves, these guys are going to be overthrown and replaced with men who did not collaborate with an occupying enemy. There doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason to do this other than to avoid embarrassing the idiots who got the US in this mess in the first place.

The US is never going to make the Shia and Sunni factions join hands and sing Kum Ba Ya through force. The most that can be accomplished is to unify them temporarily in their hatred of the US or, at great expense and risk, keep them away from each other. Again, there is no way out as the factions will be all over each other as soon as they can.

The US cannot compel the future Iraqi government to act in the interests of the US in the region unless the US is prepared to occupy the place and oppress the Iraqi people forever. In all likelihood, an Iraq left to its own devices will consider the US a dangerous enemy for the foreseeable future.

The things that the US regime wants to happen in Iraq simply can’t be made to happen by the use of military force. The neocons thought that they knew the natural consequences of invading Iraq and toppling its government: happy Iraqis hungry to become democrats free of sectarian and ethnic tensions and grateful to the Americans for killing so many of them. They were wrong. Now they yammer about what will happen if the US pulls out. Why should we listen to them now when they have shown that they are not the least bit prescient or acquainted with human nature? As some progressive bloggers put it (I can’t remember which), you can’t uns**t the bed. All you can do is change the sheets, to strain the metaphor. It was a fool’s errand, and staying in Iraq is nothing more than the dog returning to its vomit.

Ask Your Doctor About Getting a Rabies Shot

Our Carpathian Shepherd, Jesse Lou Bagget, has Lyme disease again. He’s a tick magnet even with Front Line preventative, and the unseasonably balmy autumn seems to be accompanied by a bumper crop of ticks. Our dog walker has had two serious bouts of Lyme this year alone with a gangrenous lesion on his leg. I was vaccinated a few years ago. I figured that I was at as much as the dogs since I accompanied them on all their hikes and occasionally got tick bites myself. Wm Jasper Stone, our Salopian Terrier, almost never gets ticks, and he was vaccinated against Lyme when we first got him from the dog gulag. He spends a lot of time in the pond, so he might be drowning them. Mr Baggett is also prone to nesting in piles of leaves or tall grass, something Mr Stone never does.

We live in a forest, and I can’t see myself going about in long pants and long sleeves in the summer, so I am going to be bitten by ticks. Mrs Vache Folle probably ought to get vaccinated, but she instead dresses in tick deterrent clothing when she takes the dogs up the mountain.

My dogs are required by law to be vaccinated for rabies. The state wouldn't require this if it weren't an enormous risk, would it? Since I am so frequently with them and have about as much risk as they do of getting bitten by a rabid critter (being taller, I’m a better target for the bats), why doesn’t my doctor insist on my getting vaccinated for rabies? I’ve never heard of anyone other than nonhumans getting a rabies vaccine. I reckon getting rabies would suck way more than having Lyme, what with the foaming at the mouth and biting people and the death spiral. Why doesn't the state insist that all children get rabies shots? Kids are likely to play with the friendly rabid skunk or coon and become infected. Kids also bite. We are in danger every time we come near an unvaccinated child.

How can you tell if a person has rabies? He may be unusually friendly and approachable. Don’t fall for it lest you let down your guard and be bitten.

Rangel is Way Off Base

Does conscription deter wars? Charles Rangel seems to thinks so, but I don’t know what he is basing this on. Conscription has never prevented any of the wars we had in the past. Governments were content to enslave and send young men to their deaths without pause or compunction throughout history. Conscription will simply enable the government to engage in more and bigger wars without regard to whether folks are willing to volunteer to fight in them.

Perhaps conscription could be structured in a way that would have a deterrent effect on warmongering. Here’s an idea. All children and grandchildren of Congresscritters who authorize a war and offspring of the POTUS and VPOTUS and of high officials will be called up first, without exemption, and placed in front line combat positions. When Congress is on recess, the members themselves will have to take up arms. Next, individuals would be drafted based on their net worth, the wealthiest first with the poorest folks last. The offspring of all executives in defense contracting companies and of pro-war lobbyists would be drafted right away without regard to their net worth. Columnists and media personalities who advocate war will be drafted as soon as a pro-war opinion piece is published or broadcast. Preachers who give pro-war sermons will be on the first bus to an abbreviated basic training.

Of course, the folks who write the conscription law will never structure it so as to place themselves or their controllers at risk. The burden will fall on the humble, and the profits of war will flow to the proud. Since the proud hold the humble in contempt, they will delight in sacrificing them for fun and profit and political advantage. Think again, Mr Rangel

Friday, November 17, 2006

What Informs Variable Human Fecundity?

David Friedman ponders whether the demographic transition will reverse itself due to genetic variation in the desire to reproduce:

I don’t reckon that evolution has endowed humankind with something as complex as a hard wired desire to reproduce. I don’t think there is a family size gene. It seems more plausible that simpler drives and tendencies combine to have the effect of facilitating reproduction. For example, the sex drive combined with the “don’t eat the resulting babies” module might suffice to assure sufficient reproduction. It is conceivable that our hominid precursors and even some humans had no idea about the connection between copulation and procreation so as to be able to make and act upon decisions about completed family size.

Optimal family size depends on social and environmental conditions. “Clutch size”, as one of my physical anthropology professors puts it, varies according to circumstances, and this flexibility has permitted humans to flourish on an unprecedented scale. Foragers, which humans have been for most of their existence, have fewer children than farmers. Inter-birth intervals are significantly longer among foragers than farmers. For example, !Kung Bushmen’s intervals have been observed to exceed 48 months. This is accomplished in large measure through extended lactational infecundity. This works out well for the mothers, since they are not burdened with more than one infant at a time that must be carried and surveilled closely. This also means that even the most fecund foraging mothers will be limited to 4 or 5 births over their reproductive careers. Child mortality, combined with such small families, leads to a rate of reproduction that scarcely exceeds replacement. For a variety of reasons, a higher birth rate would be suboptimal under the conditions of foraging.

One might even argue that the foragers’ family size and extended lactation are “natural” for humans insofar as they may provide clues as to the mechanisms that regulate birth rates. I don’t think it would make sense to argue that foragers don’t like kids as much as farmers do as an explanation for their smaller family size, although it is possible that sedentism permitted any genetic variation in affection for children to express itself for the first time in human evolution. If so, it has been expressing itself for a scant 10,000 years at the most and probably has not had time to work any evolutionary mojo.

Farmers have shorter inter-birth intervals than foragers and tend to wean their children earlier, perhaps thanks to an increased availability of weaning foods. The Mennonites whom I studied had inter-birth intervals of about 18-24 months on average and average completed family size of about 8 children over two centuries. Census records from the farming families in my ancestry and their neighbors show a similar pattern. It appears that these families were making no attempt to control family size and were having as many children as they could. My ancestry is full of big families right up to my parents’ generation, so one might expect that my relatives and I would be endowed with the posited big family module. Yet, my parents and their siblings, having given up farming and entered the world of wage slavery or entrepreneurship, epitomized the demographic transition by having much smaller families. My mother and her siblings had an average of 2 children, as did my father and his siblings. My cousins have even smaller families. I am content to be childfree. If the big family module existed, it seems to have become inactive in my family and just about every family I know.

Some religious folks see it as their duty to have as many children as they can so as to boost their numbers. Is this because they have a genetic predisposition to value children more than other folks? Is there any reason to believe that their descendants will overrun the planet thanks to their enhanced love of children? Not if the past experience of such people is any indication. For example, if Antibaptist fecundity were genetic, there would be billions of Antibaptists by now, so many that it would be necessary for them to colonize space, quite a feat with 18th century technology. The same goes for Hasidic Jews and to a lesser extent Mormons (they have only been around a few generations). Why aren’t they ubiquitous? It seems to me that such folks experience a good bit of ideological attrition. It’s hard to follow the big family rule under social and economic conditions that render small families optimal for most people.

What’s the optimum American family size? The consensus seems to be that 2 children, a boy and a girl, are ideal. You might reluctantly have a third if you get stuck with two sons or two daughters in your first two attempts or if you think you might need an emergency back up child.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Round Up and Progress Report

Wm Norman Grigg addresses the heinous Military Commissions Act in his usual eloquent fashion:

It saddens me that when I complain about the MCA and the Patriot Act and the erosion of our freedoms, some of my conspecifics inevitably point out that I have nothing to worry about if I am not a terrorist! They must assume that the government will use its gnarly new powers in complete good faith and that they will never be abused, because they don’t believe any checks on the executive are wanted. These are the same people who worry about any one person’s having too much control over the petty cash account in the office and who seem to understand the need for checks and balances in business. But unfettered executive power to detain is just fine.

I reckon it is axiomatic that if it is at all possible to abuse a process or power, they will inevitably be abused. And in the case of the MCA, who would ever even know since detainees cannot challenge their detentions? I assume that the GOP’s intention in spewing out the MCA was ultimately to detain dissenters and to use the MCA for its own political purposes.

The ever insightful JL Wilson argues convincingly for monarchy:

I would add another benefit of monarchy pointed out, I think, by HH Hoppe. An elected leader is analogous to a renter or short term investor. He will probably trash the place and take what he can for himself while he is in office. The king is like an owner with a long dynastic view, and he is more inclined to support policies that sustain the long term well being of the realm and his subjects.

Moreover, the king, having been selected arbitrarily in the first instance and then according to the hereditary principle thereafter, will have no pretensions as to his merit. It will be incumbent upon the king to cultivate his character and to seek the counsel of the wise.

BW Richardson likens the subjects of the state to free range poultry:

A somewhat happy taxpayer is a more productive taxpayer. The state could set us to toil in the sugar caves, but it gets more out of us if it lets us think we are free.

I was faithful this last week to my commitments to diet and exercise. That makes three weeks in a row, and I reckon that I have just about installed a new habit. I worked out at the gym on 5 occasions and ate altogether sensibly. I finally broke through a weight plateau and registered a new low of 245 pounds. I feel pretty good and am a lot more energetic and alert. I even sleep better. On the down side, all the vexatious little injuries I have accumulated over the years are producing some pain. I aim to pop analgesics to deal with the rotator cuff, pectoral attachment to the sternum, distal bicep and left knee tendon pain. Fortunately, I have been extra careful of my back and have had no back pain to speak of. I am less likely to stiffen up and have back spasms since I am not such a spud.

I am finding that vegetables are not so bad if you season them right. Yesterday, I went out with the internal auditors to the Indian buffet and chose mostly vegetable dishes. They were great, and I'm going to ask Mrs Vache Folle to make some veggies with curries this weekend. I am also finding that working out seems to act as an appetite suppressant. I can be ravenous when I arrive at the gym and then have no desire to eat at all after exercising vigorously.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Best Wishes to Madame Clinton

Frankly, I don't know all that much about Hilary Clinton, and I haven't really followed her career as one of my senators. I have voted for her twice for the Senate, and I sincerely hope she does well. I have done this mainly because so many wingnut wankers like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh hate her with such intensity that it verges on mental illness. I voted for her in 2000 because I wanted her to be around in the limelight for years annoying the wingnut wankers until their tiny heads exploded. If Hannity and Limbaugh hate her passionately, that's enough of an endorsement for me.

I would not be disappointed if she became president. Heck, whoever becomes president is going to be a jackhole anyway, so I might as well get the pleasure of knowing that the wingnuts will be going bananas. It would be really great if she were a success in the office, a real success, not just compared to the standard lowering GW Bush. If she turned out to be a great stateswoman and immensely popular champion of liberty, that would be a double boon since we'd get the great presidency and the apoplexy of Hannity and Limbaugh and their ilk. Coulter and Malkin would be silenced by their overarching rage.

Finally, the crowning touches would be the erection of a Hilary Clinton monument in the middle of the Mall even while she yet lived, the striking of coinage with her profile, and the naming of myriad buildings and bridges and roads for her.

I probably shouldn't harbor so much contempt for Hannity and the others, but, as Wm Norman Grigg aptly puts it, they are responsible for the "Hannitization of America". I reckon they have all combined to render hundreds of thousands of Americans far stupider than they started out to be. If they can be distracted by the prosperity and success of Hilary Clinton, perhaps some precious IQ points can be recovered while the Hannitizers sputter and foam at their mouths.

Tater Candy

My mother, in addition to her many other talents, is a fabulous baker and confectioner. She has a booming side business making cakes for weddings and other occasions and is contemplating giving up her day job to open a bakery. Go for it, Mom! My favorites growing up were the candies she made: divinity, fudge, chocolate covered peanut butter balls that look like chestnuts, and, my favorite of all, potato candy.

Potato candy is super simple and is fun to make with kids. Boil a potato (an “arshtater” as we called it back in the holler). Mash a couple of tablespoons of the boiled tuber in a mixing bowl, and add confectioners’ sugar until it forms a ball of elastic dough. You will want to coat your hands with some of the sugar to keep the dough from sticking to you while you knead it. Put the ball on some wax paper and flatten it out with a rolling pin into a sheet like a pizza crust. Spread peanut butter on the sheet of dough, and then roll the whole shebang into a tube (peanut butter on the inside, of course).

Finally, slice the roll into half inch thick patties. I prefer to chill the roll in the fridge before slicing, because the pieces will have a more uniform shape and the candy is better cold. As you may surmise, potato candy is super sweet, so it is not for the faint hearted.