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?”