Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Peru Photos On Line

For any who may be interested, the lovely and talented Tara Flynn of Infinity Church in the Bronx has posted her pictures from our mission trip in Peru:

I am the one called "Dennis" in some of the photos.

Arial is Good

This is my signature font, Arial. I just realized that I could change the font on this blog. I don't care for Times New Roman one bit. I use Arial whenever I can, both because I like it and because it lets me distinguish my work from that of others in the office. If a document is in Arial, it is probably my work product. I think Arial is easier to read than TNR and looks more professional.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How "Saved" Are You, If All You Care About is Being "Saved"

Steve Scott questions whether evangelism is what the church is all about. I would like to think not, but getting into the subject makes me more than a little queasy. The whole damnation/redemption narrative bothers the hell out of me.

Here’s how it was laid out for me when I was living among the Baptists. Adam and Eve committed what seemed to be a pretty minor infraction and brought down the wrath of God on themselves and their posterity. Because of this sin, every human being is condemned to eternal torment in Hell. You can get out of this by following the Law to the letter and sacrificing animals, although you will almost certainly fail in some respect and burn forever anyway. Or, God could pay the blood price Himself by becoming human and allowing Himself to be killed. This would wipe out the effects of sin, but only for certain individuals.

It gets complicated when you try to figure out who is saved and who is not. The Baptists I knew reckoned that you had to “accept” Jesus as your “personal Lord and Savior” and stop sinning. You had to be careful not to “backslide” and lose your salvation. Heck, you could never really be sure you had been saved in the first place what with the possibility of lingering doubt. The only way to be sure was to follow an increasingly restrictive regimen of joyless living and condemnation of others.

When I became a Calvinist, it seemed to get simpler. God saved whomever it pleased Him to save, and those who “believed on” Jesus were the elect. Of course, you still couldn’t be sure that you were among the elect so you’d have to manifest signs of salvation through righteousness and good works.

In either case, the Christian offers to the unbeliever a narrative of a vengeful God who offers a way out through beliefs and practices that are patently unattractive and often at odds with the teachings of Jesus. Where is the love? A loving God condemns most of mankind to eternal torture with no hope of redemption, and the followers of His Son are fixated on their own fate in the afterlife.

If I am in Christianity for the afterlife, it is hard to see this as a sign of the transformative power of the Holy Ghost working within me and allowing me to love as Jesus commanded me to love. It is just selfishness and egoism on a grand scale. It means that I really don’t get it at all. I’m probably not even saved.

I hope that I’m in it for the Kingdom, here and now and wherever mankind may be over the next few billion years. I want to love my fellow man, those in the world today and those who will come after us. If I advance the cause of the Kingdom one iota, I will benefit untold generations in the future and help establish a persuasive living witness for the Gospel and the transforming power of the Holy Ghost.

Monday, January 28, 2008

What Do YOung Suburban American Christians Have to Teach Third World Earthquake Victims?

We arrived in Peru about 6 in the morning on a Sunday and slept for a couple of hours before visiting the churches we would be working with. In the evening, there was a service at Pastor D's church. A group of Americans on an eleven month mission trip around the world had been camped out in the church yard for a couple of weeks and had been helping with vacation Bible school and other projects. This group, comprised mainly of twenty-somethings, helped lead the service.

I have to tell you that I cringed when Sister Tammy shared from one of Paul's letters about how Christians shouldn't complain or argue. She had been complaining it seems about how the chicken poop in the washing water had not helped with her hair care regimen and that she had been bitten a lot by bugs. She had asked God to help her and He had used the wind to open her Bible to the verse about complaining and arguing. Good grief! She was, it seemed to me, comparing her voluntarily undertaken minor inconveniences with the plight of the earthquake victims! And as far as I could tell, they weren't the ones who had been complaining, although we might have cut them some slack if they had been.

A young man got up and shared about how Paul considered his hardships a temporary matter and that we should all look forward to sweet, sweet death when the inconveniences of earthquakes having destroyed one's town will no longer pertain. That's easy for Mr SuburbanAmericanWhoNeverMissedAMeal to say. All he cares about is souls and their fate in the afterlife, and it is a great comfort, at least to him, that he doesn't need to worry much about the suffering of others in this world as long as he had helped lead them to the Lord.

The arrogance of these twenty-somethings was almost unbearable. Frankly, they were really there to learn and to develop, and I doubt that any of them had a right to consider himself or herself the spiritual superior of anyone in Chincha. Maybe at the end of the journey they will have learned humility and will cringe when they think of how they were at the beginning. Under the circumstances, they ought not to have been called upon to teach or preach.

I'm Back From Peru

I got back from Peru yesterday afternoon. I have not completely processed the experiences I had there, but I can relate that my heart was broken by what I saw and heard. The poor people of Chincha Alta, Chincha Baja and Tambo de Mora are still living in rubble all these months after the earthquake. Sanitation, water and other things that we take for granted are enormous challenges for them. Much of the sanitation is handled by an army of stray dogs.

We didn't build any houses. The materials never arrived. We spent the week putting in the foundation of a church and parsonage, all with hand tools alone. We bought a ton of rice and doled it out in the refugee camps and some neighborhoods. We visited people in their hovels and prayed with them. We entertained little children and bought them ice cream. We accomplished next to nothing in material terms, but we showed the people of the area that their brothers and sisters in Christ remember them and love them.

Most of our group was of Puerto Rican descent from the Bronx and well able to communicate with the people. This allowed us to speak more directly with the individuals whom we came to serve than if we were just a bunch of anglophone gringos. I admire the way they make do with what is available, how they manage to smile in the midst of so much loss.

I will probably blog about Peru exclusively for the next few days as I use this blog to help me process the experiences.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Little Kids are Gross

I'm not one of those germophobes who keeps a can of Lysol on his desk and washes with antibacterial soap a dozen times a day. Very few things skeeve me out, and I'm not afraid to get down in the muck when I have to. Growing up on a farm, you get used to dealing with all kinds of effluvia and excreta. I'll sit on a dead cow and eat a burger, but little kids give me the heebie-jeebies.

I can't stand their sticky little fingers and the constant streams of snot flowing out of their tiny little nasal cavities. Half the time, they are walking around with loads in their pants, and they'll put anything in those filthy little mouths of theirs. They think nothing of sticking their fingers up their asses and then touching all your walls or your food or even your face. How do parents stand it? Don't they see their children for the filth bombs that they are?

And they carry all kinds of viruses and bacteria. Half the time I am exposed to a child, I get sick with some upper respiratory infection. I try to keep my distance for this reason, and I don't care any more if parents get offended when I don't want to come into direct contact with their child or anything that it touched.

Have you ever seen a little kid eat? The chimps at the zoo eat more decorously. Pardon me if I'd rather not sit across from or next to your toddler at the table. Talk about an appetite suppressant!

Using the bathroom that kids use is an adventure. I don't much want to use the same bathtub that they used and where they frequently crap and always pee while bathing. That hand towel hanging up in their bathroom? It belongs in the medical waste receptacle, and I'll just dry my hands on my pants.

Anyway, your kids probably aren't like this.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Disparities in Income: Feature or Bug?

It has been said that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. That’s great if you have a boat. If you don’t have a boat, the rising tide won’t help you. Maybe you can get a job scraping the barnacles off of someone else’s boat. And if you have a crappy boat that is barely seaworthy, lifting it on the rising tide won’t change a thing. It’ll be that much harder to salvage if it sinks.

I have been told by some libertarians I have known that income disparities between the very rich and the poor and middle class should not be any of my concern. That would just be “politics of envy” or “class warfare”, both of which are presumably such bad things that playing these cards forecloses all discussion.

I am supposed to assume that the very rich got very rich because of the miracle of the free market and their superior ability to work within it. Good for them! The very poor must be plain lazy and stupid or they would be very rich, too. Disparities in income aren’t problems; they’re s sign that the system is working. It’s a feature, not a bug!

But when has this ever been the case? The Kings of Egypt were no more virtuous than the legions of slaves that they exploited, and it wasn’t the free market that made them rich and powerful. The aristocrats and gentry of pre-industrial Europe didn’t work their way up to their exalted status by taking advantage of the free market. If the distribution of wealth in our society today comes to resemble that of 18th century England more than the America of the 1960s, why would anyone assume that this is any more a product of laissez faire than it was back then?

If there were truly free markets and no advantages given to the well connected, what would the distribution of income and wealth look like? I bet it wouldn’t look like what we have now.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Today's Douchebag: Ramesh Ponnuru

Ramesh Ponnuru reckons that Barack Obama’s career wants belittling. Ponnuru is a 33 year old professional wingnut who writes for National Review. He lives in a glass house. Wingnuttery has such a shallow bench that anyone with a pulse and college diploma can qualify as a public intellectual on the right.

More Electioneering

When I become President, I'm not ever going to wear a tie. I won't let anyone call me Mr President. I'll just go by my first name. Instead of Hail to the Chief, I'll have "Bad to the Bone" played on a boom box.

My White House won't be anything like the "West Wing", that TV show where White House aides constantly roamed the corridors in packs talking real fast and never going home. In my White House, quitting time will be 5:00, and folks will be expected to go home to their families and have lives. I'm going to look younger when I leave office thanks to that gym in the basement.

I probably won't bother with press conferences. I'll have a web page where anyone, journalist or not, can post questions, and someone on the staff will try to answer all but the stupid ones. If your question doesn't get answered within a reasonable time, it's because it was a dumbass question. This process will allow us to do any research we might need and get out a meaningful response instead of spewing out some off the cuff nonsense. If I could get Stephen Colbert to be my communications director, that would be great.

I will continue to blog. I'll have a lot more readers, so I'll probably take ads and make a few bucks on it. I'll have a weekly radio or TV show which, unlike past Presidents' shows, will have a variety format.

I won't give out Medals of Freedom except to wankers whom I aim to insult. Perhaps egregious lobbyists and parasitic contractors would make good recipients. I'll think of some other way to honor the truly honorable, as if they needed it.

Every day, I will commute the sentence of at least one federal prisoner. Every day, each member of my Cabinet will be required to identify something that the agencies under their direction can stop doing or that can be left to the states or that can be done more cheaply. Every day, I will identify a corporate hog with its snout in the government trough and put pressure on Congress to stop the gravy train. By "every day", I mean every working day, of course.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Yet Another Douchebag: Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen in WaPo reckons Barack Obama is obliged to render an opinion on Louis Farrakhan because a magazine connected with Obama’s church gave Farrakhan an award of some kind. Obama didn’t give him an award, and Obama has nothing to do with the magazine.

Does Richard Cohen have to answer for every Jew in the world because he is a Jew? What if some rabbi says something idiotic? Does Richard Cohen have to respond to it? Or how about having Richard Cohen answer for every white monotheist ever? You didn’t speak out about Pat Robertson’s last moronic statement, Mr Cohen. May we assume that you approve?

What a douche.

Government Works!

I don’t sign on to the “government doesn’t work” mantra. It works, or can work in the hands of competent governors. It’s just that it doesn’t usually work to accomplish what it is generally supposed to accomplish.

Take the debacle in Iraq, for instance. This adventure has worked magnificently if you consider it your goal to line the pockets of certain contractors. It hasn’t done anything for national security, but it was never intended by its designers to do so. It got GW Bush, a crook and a boob, re-elected as a “war president” by distracting the electorate and feeding mindless jingoism.

Look at the Katrina relief efforts of the US government. Sure, the area is still a complete disaster, but a lot of well connected contractors got a big payday.

The Great Pyramids probably couldn’t have been built without a government running the show. No private individual would have had the wherewithal to enslave enough people and divert manpower and resources to such a seemingly useless project. Now, millennia later, the pyramids bring in lots of tourists and their money. That Cheops was one forward looking governor. No private company could afford to wait thousands of years for a payoff.

Slavery on a mass scale could not have been carried off in the American colonies and the US without the support of government. You need a navy to patrol the seas and protect the supply chain, and you need government courts and law enforcement officers to enforce your rights in your slaves. Otherwise, they’d just run off. If you doubt what I’m saying, try keeping slaves now without government backing. It’s just not worth the effort.

Look at the War on Drugs. Of course, it hasn’t stopped the trade in drugs, and it has actually created a whole set of social problems, but it has permitted close surveillance and policing of poor people and has facilitated massive infusions of cash into the enforcement, incarceration, and prosecuting industries.

Government works. You just have to figure out what those who wield government are really trying to do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Tony Snow, Douchebag

I wasn't sure if Tony Snow was a douchebag or just played one on TV until I saw him on Bill Maher. He's definitely a douchebag. At one point, he responded to Matt Taibbi's observation that the people who are telling us how well the "surge" is going are the same people who have been wrong about everything else so far by saying that this was "cynical and cute". I have learned that the party that calls the other party's position "cute" or uses similar dismissive language is always the one that is the most full of shit. Those kind of blowhard tactics are sure signs that the speaker is not really worth listening and is probably playing to a constituency of retards. I suppose that we should be grateful that they self identify so conveniently except that they take up space and use air that useful people could be breathing.

If I Had KIds, They Would Have to be Smart, or I Couldn't Love Them

Mrs Vache Folle and I had a nice weekend. We ate at the CIA on Saturday night. On Sunday, we went with our neighbors and their three small children to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ordinarily, a trip to an art museum with small children is something that I would pass on, but our neighbors have done a pretty good job raising their kids not to be complete whiny ass titty babies, and their children are fairly intelligent and curious. I'm not saying they were perfect little angels or anything, but they were not the least bit annoying and they lasted as long as I did before suggesting that it was time to go (my brain was full).

The Met is pretty cool and is not just a bunch of paintings. I spent all my time in the Roman, Egyptian, and medieval sections. I spent a lot of time with the armor and the ancient firearms, and I reckon that I would have been in hog heaven if someone had brought me there as a child. If I had a son, which I don't, I would hope that he would be the kind of kid you could take to the museum. If not, I don't think I could love him. I can't imagine the pain of being burdened with a stupid child. What can you do if your child is a dumbass? I suppose if you can tell early enough that your child is lacking in the intellectual curiosity department, you can go ahead and try again to get a smart one, that is if you want to risk having two supid children.

I Confess to Performance Enhancers

I'm not an athlete, but I am in competition with other people who have my same skills. I confess that I have been using perfomance enhancing substances to get an unfair advantage.

When I get respiratory infections, I take antibiotics instead of fighting off the bugs the old fashioned way. I keep my cholesterol down with Vytorin (ask your doctor if it's right for you), and I control my anxiety with Zoloft. When I experience pain, I take analgesics.

It doesn't end there. I use sunscreen to keep from getting burned, and I repel insects with a chemical ointment. I don't get enough vitamin D naturally, so I take it in pill form.

I just want to succeed so badly. Is that so wrong?

Save the Music, or I'll Kill You

I had a conversation with one of my co-religionists and fellow choristers about the "Save the Music" campaign. She reckoned that musical education was very important and beneficial and that it was unfortunate that budgetary restraints had caused some school districts to cut back on music and the arts. I agreed with her. We disagreed a great deal on what to do about the situation. She believed that the best solution was the provision of federal funds to local school districts for music programs. I felt that individuals who cared strongly about the issue could get together and donate money to school districts or, even better, directly to students to enable them to get musical instruction.

She was adamant that my solution was unrealistic. She didn't think enough people would give enough money or that the money would be directed to the right places unless the feds controlled it. Also, she didn't think it would be fair for some people to get away with paying nothing at all if they didn't support the program. All I could do was gape at her in disbelief and ask her if she were having a laugh. For her, the solution of first resort, indeed the only "realistic" solution, for bringing about a desired result was for federal goons to take money by force from her fellow subjects and distribute it to other levels of government. Did I mention that she is a staunch Republican? She probably wouldn't go as far as to mug her neighbor and give the money to a poor kid for piano lessons, but she is promoting the moral equivalent of that action. Yet there seems to be no way for me to make her see things my way.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hierarchy Schmierarchy

The dominance hierarchy between our two dogs is easily misunderstood by outsiders. Jasper, the Salopian Terrier, struts around as if he owns the place and has been known to take food right out of the mouth of Jesse, the Carpathian Shepherd. Jesse moves about stealthily and rarely makes an aggressive move. Jasper looks at first blush to be dominant, but he isn't. Jesse is the king of all he surveys. He's just very comfortable with his position and rank, and he likes Jasper. Jesse is not motivated by food at all, and he will give his food to Jasper unless it is something he really cares about, like a ham bone for instance. Then Jasper knows that he must keep his distance and wait for Jesse to finish. Jasper knows that Mrs Vache Folle belongs to Jesse and that he has to wait his turn to greet her. Jasper knows that Jesse owns the sofa and that he has to wait for Jesse to give him the signal that it's OK to join him. Jesse is a gracious leader, unlike our last alpha dog, Cassidy the Bitch Queen from Hell.

This situation reminds me of the status hierarchy in my hometown when I was a kid. It was not as simple as a direct correlation between status and income or wealth. There was a huge difference between old money and new money, and no amount of money would raise you much above the status of your birth. New money folks were ostentatious in their spending and consumption, and they were often douchebags to those less prosperous than themselves. Old money tended to avoid displays of wealth and to be gracious towards servants and social inferiors.

Certain professions were considered "respectable" regardless of the level of compensation: teacher, lawyer, doctor, clergyman, military officer, engineer, accountant. The occupants of these professions by and large strove to be gentlemanlike in their dealings with others. Others were not despicable, but they conferred no special status: salesman, merchant, factory owner. The occupants of these positions varied considerably in their degree of graciousness or douchebaggery.

My grandfathers were both what might be called "yeoman farmers" and entirely respectable because of their integrity and conduct, but my parents descended into the working class with the passing of farming as a viable way to make a living. They were by no means despicable on account of this but were required to demonstrate worthiness of respect on an individual basis. I strove to become "respectable", but I failed to recognize that the whole status scheme that I was working in was archaic and did not much apply outside the confines of backwaters like my hometown. Here I am, a lawyer and a former military officer, yet no more entitled to respect on either account than any other schmendrick.

I don't much care any more about "respectability". I quit that game. Perhaps I lost it and am just facing reality. I don't use titles and prefer for people to call me by my first name. I am not offended by familiarity in address by my supposed social inferiors. I don't reckon that there is such a thing. We're all the same in the eyes of God. I aim to show the same degree of courtesy to a waiter or a porter as I would to the Pope, and I find it amusing when folks insist on titles and honorifics in address. I cringe when people are disrespectful to servants and others whom they deem beneath them, and I regard this as a sign that the disrespectful individual is not particularly respectable. I look back in shame at the times that I was a first class douche in my dealings with service workers.

Somewhere in the Bible there is a line about one of the worst things that you can see being a slave who has become a king.

More About In-House Lawyers and How Great They Can Be When They Are Me

Another way that an in-house lawyer can add value to an organization involves contract drafting, negotiation and review. The in-house guy knows your business and what the real important issues are for you. He knows what to give in on and where to stand firm. He knows what conflicts have emerged in the past, and he aims to address them in future contracts. Unless he's an incompetent wanker, he's not going to waste time in pettifoggery and nit-picking, and he's going to work in plain language whenever he can.

He can really add value by facilitating collaborative negotiations among the business men and women who will be living with the contract. In my opinion, it never hurts to put in language that memorializes the parties' spirit and intent and that promises good faith dealings even if it is utterly unenforceable. It's there to help you when you are looking your counterpart in the eye as you discuss some dispute that emerges. It can be very helpful. The possibility of future litigation is probably the least important aspect of drafting a contract and the easiest to address. Frankly, commercial litigation over the terms of contracts are pretty rare in the scheme of things, and I doubt that this is any testament to the skills of lawyers. The most painful losses associated with disputes that emerge in commercial contracts are the losses of business. The best way to deal with theses kind of disputes is not in contract provisions but in managing the buisness that the contract covers.

I really enjoy negotiating contracts, especially if my counterparts are skilled. It is often the case that they are not, and this diminishes the enjoyment considerably if not altogether. I turn dealing with the unskilled into a kind of game where I see how much I can teach him or, if he is unteachable or an outside lawyer churning a file, how far afield I can take him. If he wants to quibble over some immaterial language, I'll pretend to care and trade it for concessions in areas that I actually consider important.

Where your in-house guy can be of big help is in the time he takes to turn contracts and redrafts around. Your out-house guy won't get to it until he has to, whereas your in-house guy should be sensitive to the business team's timetable. If you work for a vendor, your display of efficiency and respect for other people's time will reflect well on your company and will earn you the respect and appreciation of your constituency within the company.

Another way for the in-house guy to win friends and influence people is for him to know his role in the scheme of things. Ultimately, everything about the potential transaction is a business decision. It is the lawyer's job to explain the risks and to help the business team decide whether to take them in view of the rewards and how to deal with them creatively, if possible. It's not his job to be the dealkiller, the killjoy, or the millstone around the necks of the business team (unless they need you to play bad cop). He's not on the front line; he's support. If the business people you have to deal with come to see you as an impediment rather than a help, you will never get the whole truth about anything and will be circumvented.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some of What I've Learned as an In-House Corporate Lawyer

I've been an in house corporate lawyer and an out-house corporate lawyer. I've been a litigator and a transactional kind of attorney. I have learned from these varied experiences that one of the ways an in-house law department can add value to an organization is in the litigation oversight function.

An organization's own legal counsel will, given the opportunity, take it to the cleaners and bill it dry. The bigger and more prestigious the firm, the more likely it is to churn your files and run up the bills. It's what they do. All the internal incentives of the firm are geared toward separating your company from its cash. This is easiest to accomplish in litigation where the process of discovery, dealing with experts and preparing for trial permits counsel to baffle the client and frighten them with the prospect of failure if anything is left undone or if any corner is cut. An experienced in-house lawyer can save the company a fortune by putting the brakes on unnecessary churning and avoiding activities that add little or nothing to the outcome of the proceeding.

Take the discovery process, for example. There are ample opportunities for lawyers to engage in ancillary battles over the minutia of discovery and whether the opponent is completely compliant and never misses a deadline. This is expensive and rarely helps. It can even hurt by pissing off the court and poisoning the well with opposing counsel. A client without a litigation manager might actually find his lawyer's aggressiveness comforting, and the lawyer is more than happy to comfort him day in and day out at hundreds of dollars per hour. Courts have enacted meet and confer rules to cut down on time wasting niggling over discovery because it is absolutely irresistible to lawyers to pad their bills with this kind of activity. In-house counsel will have none of this (unless of course your in-house counsel is a transactional dweeb with no litigation experience, in which case you might as well have no litigation management)at all). In just one major litigation, an in-house counsel can save the organization more than his costs in salary, benefits and expenses.

A good in-house lawyer will be able to manage more than one case and really add value. The key is for him to remember that he is not trying the case and that his oversight does not entail going over every pleading and document in the case. He has to keep his focus on the big picture and overall strategy and the desired outcome. The only things he will go over in detail are the bills. If the lawyers are so untrustworthy that he feels that he has to keep an eye on too many details, he should fire them and find someone he can work with.

The organization has to be on guard against having its legal department expand beyond its ability to add value. This can happen if the in-house attorneys are exercising too much oversight. There may be exceptional circumstances justifying some of these activities in rare cases, but any of the following is a sign of too much involvement in the litigation: (1) the in-house lawyer enters an appearance in the case; (2) the in-house lawyer attends depositions; (3) the in-house lawyer attends routine hearings; (4) the in-house lawyer writes any significant part of a pleading, memorandum or brief.

There are a number of ways to cut down on churning files without much effort by the in house lawyer. For example, research is a category under which a lot of overbilling occurs, so requiring that all research billed be accompanied by a written product cuts down on the temptation to add hours. Another way is requiring approval before embarking on any motion.

Litigation management alone is reason enough to bring on in-house lawyers if you have any litigation to speak of.

How to Get Universal Health Insurance

I'm not an advocate for government provided health insurance, but I can see that it might be beneficial on some levels. It would make employees less dependent on their employers and more able to change jobs or to go into business for themselves. I know lots of folks who feel constrained in their choices by a fear of being without health insurance for their families. Also, many people who don't get health care now would be able to get it. I have known many folks whose only visits to the doctor were in emergency rooms.

I reckon that advocates for universal health insurance are going about it the wrong way. A gradual approach might win over more voters and assuage fears of socialized medicine. How about adding pregnant women to the Medicare rolls? That would have potentially huge societal payoffs with all women having access to prenatal care, and it would be politically difficult for opponents to come out against pregnant women ("Damn those mooching Preggos!"). Many of the probable opponents of the program are anti-choice and advocates for the "unborn" (this always makes me think of the "undead"), so program advocates ccould ask how folks who profess to love fetuses so much could deny them health care just because their vehicles are poor.

Once this is in place, you could start talking about expanding the program to cover nursing mothers and suckling children. What kind of monster would deny a suckling child a check up?

Another way of selling this program to probable opponents is to point out that it is pro-natal. It's a subsidy for Americans who reproduce. Don't a lot of right wingers constantly whine about how we aren't reproducing enough and how pretty soon the third worlders will take over by the force of demographics? This is cultural insurance! If you're going to subsidize ethanol, why wouldn't you subsidize reproduction? Get your priorities straight, wingnut.

This program may encourage women to nurse longer, and I don't reckon that any harm would come of such an outcome. The program could be expanded to cover the live-in fathers of the unborn and the sucklings in an effort to promote intact families and to make sure that the unborn and suckling beneficiaries continue to have the economic and emotional support of their fathers. Keeping these fathers healthy is critical to the program. Don't wingnuts complain about the collapse of the family and fatherlessness all the time? Here's a chance for them to do something about it.

To keep adminsitrative costs down, we might as well presume that all children up to a year old are suckling and eligible for benefits together with their parents. That would eliminate the need to send out lactation police to check up on who might be getting benefits without actually giving milk. Also, some women can't nurse, and it would be unfair to penalize them and their children.

If the program works and it can be shown that improvements in overall health have resulted, it would be a shame to cut the kids off just when they were doing so well. It would be time to expand the program to continue to cover them during those critical first six years. It would be hard to justify denying benefits to kids who were born before the start of the program, so they'd have to be added as well. If things go as planned, then we will see improved performance in first graders and even more improvements in health, and it would be irresponsible to squander the investment we have made in children's health by cutting them off at this point. We might as well keep them on the rolls until they reach the age of majority.

In this manner, you might win over the most authoritarian wingnuts by playing to their concerns and issues, and you will ultimatley win over big business because the costs of children's health insurance will have become socialized rather than falling on business as part of compensation packages.

I have left folks 18 to 65 on their own, but you can see how this range could be closed gradually until everyone is covered.

In the Goodness Department, I Have a Long Way to Go

I picked up some pills that are supposed to prevent my contracting malaria when I am in Peru in a couple of weeks. I signed on to go to Alta Chincha to help rebuild after the devastating earthquakes that hit the area last fall. Our church has a number of opportunities for such mission trips, but I have never before had the leisure to take one. When I got laid off, I figured that I had no excuse.

Moreover, I felt a strong conviction that I ought to go on this trip, so I ponied up for airfare and expenses and committed to going. I don't know what to expect except that I will be performing hard labor for a week. Given my lack of skills, I will likely do more demolition than construction. I don't speak Spanish except for what I picked up watching Speedy Gonzalez cartoons. "Buenas dias, Senor Pussy Cat" should come in real handy. I'm trying to leave myself open to any possibilities.

When I look at my life, I see that I do so little for my fellow human beings. I try to be considerate and courteous, patient and kind, and what have you, but I rarely go above and beyond to lend a helping hand to anyone. I have never visited anyone in prison who was not my client or a witness I had to interview. I don't do anything much to feed the hungry or clothe the naked or shelter the homeless. I hope I get some points for not doing much in the way of harm, because I am way behind in the good deed department. I used to volunteer lots of time to children as an advocate in court and to men afflicted with AIDS. For many years, though, I have not been master of my own time and have had little chance to volunteer for anything.

I hope I can count some of my taxes toward my good deed quota. I pay them involuntarily under threat of violence, that's true, but I resent the expenditures on welfare so much less than I resent some other spending. In fact, there are lots of programs for the poor and downtrodden that I would support voluntarily if the government hadn't robbed me of the chance to do so. I'm against public education, and it chaps my arse that I have to pay for the schooling of children from families who can easily afford to educate their own kids. I don't begrudge the money spent to school poor kids, although I wish it weren't organized coercively. I don't begrudge anyone his food stamps, but those no bid contracts in Iraq make my blood boil.

If I were going to cut government programs and expenditures gradually or on any kind of schedule, social welfare programs would be the last to go. If I cut taxes on a schedule, the rich would get their cuts last. Don't get me wrong. I'm against all government programs on principle. I'm just against some of them less vehemently than others. If I don't count this as an element of my goodness, I'm not going to have much to go on, so work with me here.

If I had to choose between a new weapons system and prenatal care for everyone, I would choose the latter. If I'm going to be robbed, at least let the robbers give to the poor and not to themselves and their rich constituents.

Mrs Vache Folle would doubtless tell me to compare myself to Charles Manson rather than to Mother Teresa in evaluating my goodness. I am probably better than most. Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm "relatively" good.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Punditry as a Possible Career?

How can I get a job as a pundit? They can be adamant about how an election is going to play out, and when they are wrong, nobody ever calls them on it. And their predictions were taped! John McCain is done, they said. The same guys are now calling him the Comeback Geezer. Clinton was inevitable, then she was toast, and now she's something else altogether. Obama was going to ride the Iowa wave all the way to a landslide (mixed metaphors, anyone) in New Hampshire.

Here's my shot at prognosticating. The Democrats will nominate Clinton/Obama. The GOP will nominate Romney/Huckabee. The Democrats will win unless my own candidacy takes off in a big way, in which case America will win.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shotguns for 12 Year Olds

One of Mrs Vache Folle's nephews turned 12 and was given a shotgun by his grandfather. This was only fitting and proper. Because there is an ugly custody and visitation dispute, Mrs VF's side of the family is all up in arms (not Mrs VF who likes to mind her own business). What about the younger siblings? It's not safe for them for the eldest child to have a firearm! What a crock. The eldest child has to wait until his little brothers come of age before he does anythng or owns anything? Please. It's up to the boy's mother to decide whether he can have a shotgun and under what circumstances, and everybody else should just shut his pie hole.

I aim to buy him a supply of ammo.

Go See "Juno"

We caught "Juno" on Saturday night, and we're telling everyone to go see it. The lead character, Juno, is played by a young actress, Ellen Page, who should, if there is any justice in the Hollywood world, become a huge star.

The story revolves around 16 year old Juno's unintended pregnancy and her decision to allow a yuppie couple (Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) to adopt. But the story is nothing like what you might expect. This is no Lifetime tear jerker. This is the funniest movie I have seen in a long, long time.

Buy a ticket and encourage this kind of excellent film making.

My Running Mate is My Mate

I was reminded that I want a running mate. If you write me in, you might as well write in Mrs Vache Folle as Veep. She's going to be involved in everything anyway, and she is the person most likley to carry on my agenda if I die in office. Also, having her as Veep means that, even if the Constitution is not amended in time to allow me to serve for life, we will have a shot at a 16 year co-presidency, so to speak.

Of course, she will carry on the traditional duties of First Lady: hosting parties, not having sex with the president, and running some philanthropical enterprise. Mrs VF's pet cause will doubtless be pit bull related.

Monday, January 07, 2008

If Taxes Are Membership Fees, How Do I Resign My Membership?

I actually heard someone try to reframe taxes as “membership fees” the other day. What a bad analogy. If I don’t want the benefits of a club, I can quit and stop paying membership fees. If I stop paying taxes, people will come and kill me or kidnap me.

I can think of several more apt reframes for taxes. “Taxation is theft” is pretty dead on. Taxation as protection. Taxation as rent. Taxation as the price of civilization gets bandied about a lot but I don’t reckon it’s very persuasive if you dig into the analogy to any depth.

Grace is More than a Gift

Yesterday’s sermon was about grace and how grace should be the number one message of Christians. Christians should hope to be thought of as gracious. This message was delivered in the context of Epiphany and in the midst of metaphors about gifts.

I don’t know that gift giving is all that as a metaphor for God’s grace. Gift giving comes with so much cultural baggage that it may be more confusing than helpful. Christmas gifts are especially problematic from a metaphorical standpoint. We don’t give Christmas gifts to just anyone. We also tend to expect an exchange of gifts, or in the case of kids we ostensibly condition gifts on good behavior. Receiving a gift often seems like it imposes an obligation. And there is some notion that it is possible to reject a gift.

With God’s grace, there is no way to reject it. No action on our part is necessary. No obligation is imposed. It is conditioned on nothing. It is unexpected, undeserved, and beyond reciprocation. It is so much more than a gift, in the human sense of the word, that the metaphor of gift giving diminishes it.

I was, like many children, an ungrateful little shite. I was conditioned to expect some loot at Christmas, on my birthday, and on certain other occasions, and I occasionally felt shortchanged, especially after my father split on us and family finances were a problem. It never occurred to me then that my folks were under no obligation whatsoever (except for social pressure) to give me anything and that anything I got was purely gratuitous. No wonder my father abandoned me. I’m sure Mom regretted that she hadn’t done it first.

Looking back, I now realize that I ought to be grateful that my parents didn’t sell me for medical experiments. A belated thanks, Mom and Dad.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

I Begin to Lay Out My Agenda

If I had a campaign manager, he or she would probably point out that I have devoted too much effort to telling folks why they might not want to vote for me and not enough time on why they should embrace my candidacy. I have explained in general terms what it would mean for an unknown, running under an alias with no money and solely as a write in, with no political party to support me to be elected. It would mean that I would have the power to bring about change, not just talk about it. Moreover, my core characteristic of sloth would insure that change would be in the direction of less executive authority and devolution of power to the states and to the people. I will begin in the next weeks to lay out my agenda as president for the electorate to evaluate.

Let me begin by pointing out that I don't have many friends or close relatives. And since I will be elected by regular folks without any political favors to be repaid, I won't be able to begin to fill all the political appointee jobs that will be in my gift. So, I'm going to leave the vast majority of them vacant and save their salaries and expenses. Let's face it, these political appointees don't usually know what they're doing anyway, and by the time they get up to speed they're being replaced. They are dispensable, especially for me since I don't need to buy votes by giving out sinecures to political hacks and their in-laws.

Speaking of dispensable employees, on the first big snow day after my inauguration, I will declare a holiday for all but indispensable federal employees in Washington. Anybody who doesn't show up for work will then be laid off. I recognize that these are hardworking, capable folks who do a good job for America, but the rest of you really shouldn't be forced, at the point of a gun, to support "dispensable" federal activities. Besides, think of what a boon it will be to the private sector when all these talented, productive individuals devote themselves to more meaningful pursuits.

I will begin on my first day the immediate withdrawal of the armed forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and I will initiate audits of contracting in the war zones with a view to recovering what has been lost to fraud and abuse. All no bid contracts will be cancelled at once.

These are just a few of the things I will do right away, and you can see that substantial savings will be realized.

Lack of Experience or Competence No Bar to White House

Another objection to my candidacy is based on my lack of experience. I have never been a US Senator or a Governor of a state, nor have I served as Vice President of the US. These are apparently the positions that are considered as the training ground for the presidency. I submit that they have no bearing on the duties of the presidency and are only prerequisites because they demonstrate political capabilities and support. My candidacy is all about avoiding this kind of business of usual, so if I had been a Senator or a Governor I couldn't honestly say that I am above the fray and an outsider.

Look what Senators, Veeps and Governors have done so far and tell me why you should consider entrusting the presidency to any of those nutters instead of to me. For the most part, I've had to make an honest living. My background as a working stiff is as meaningful as the experience of any of the candidates when it comes to what it takes to be president. Hell, all they've demonstrated is that they know how to get folks to throw money at them and to get elected to offices. Those skilss don't mean peedoodlysquat when it comes to presidenting.

Besides, haven't we all looked at the big executives and said to ourselves, "Good Lord, what a tool; I could do his job a whole lot better." Admit it. Unless you're a brown noser, you've never looked at your bosses with admiration and awe annd said ' Wow, what a leader!"

So, when my opponents point out the deficiencies in my resume, just ignore them. They don't know what they're talking about.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Weak Character No Bar to the White House

Another objection to my candidacy is that my character is flawed. It's true. Then again, the parties' candidates are even more flawed. They want to be president and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. That's as sure a sign of a bad character as I can think of. I, on the other hand, don't really want to be president at all, and I will not expend any real effort to get elected. I will serve if elected by some miracle out of a sense of duty and the conviction that God must have willed it.

Sure, I have been financially irresponsible in my life. But that was with my own money. As president, I'll be making a quarter of a million bucks a year and will have a free house and a monster expense account. In the past, I just didn't have enough money. As your president, I'll be rolling in it. After I'm done, I'll have book deals and speaking fees to keep me in fine style.

I smoked pot and used recreational drugs in the past. It's true. I bet the other candidates have, too. Besides, do you really want to have the dweeb who wouldn't take a hit off the joint as your president? Of course not.

I'll admit it. I have patronized sex workers. What of it? I paid them, didn't I? I respect them for their professionalism. I do not view this as any reflection on my character.

I am mentally ill, but my illness is well controlled with medication. Can my opponents say the same?

I am undisciplined and gluttonous. What's your point? You won't see me making a bunch of secret service agents go jogging or biking. And I won't be clearing any brush. I am one of you, oh mass of obese Americans! I feel your pain, and hunger.

I experience lust. I've never been presented with the temptation of an intern who wanted to blow me, so I don't know how I would deal with it. I'm apparently not very blowable in any event so the issue probably won't come up.

So don't let the fact that I have a weak character and questionable judgment influence you against me. All these flaws can be dealt with or even put to good use in my office. If my sloth should fail me and I become overly active, you can count on my gluttony to kick in and distract me.

You Are Throwing Away Your Vote No Matter Whom You Vote For, so You MIght as Well Vote for Me

Some may argue that voting for me would be akin to "throwing away your vote". It probably would, but so would voting for any of the candidates from the political parties. If any of them is elected, it will be more of the same, so voting for them is not really expressing any meaningful choice.

A vote for me, however, is a vote for real change. Even if I don't get elected, which I probably won't, you'll have sent a message that business as usual is intolerable to you. Of course, nobody much cares what you think anyway. Except me, the candidate who cares, a little at least.

If I am elected it will be a miracle and would require unprecedented grassroots support. Think about it. I am not aligned with any party, and my name will not appear on any ballot. I'm not going to raise any money or advertise or appear in any debates. Hell, I'm not even using my real name to campaign. That means if I get elected that I will have so much genuine popular support that Congress and the media won't be able to mess with me. I'll be able to get my radical agenda across and ram it down the establishment's throat. Unless they have me assassinated or something. I won't be beholden to anyone except you, the people, who put me in office. I won't even be beholden to you, to tell the truth, but that's beside the point.

But what if I turn out to be a tyrant or fail to follow through on my promises? Tyranting is hard work, too hard for my liking, so that's not a real concern. If I don't follow through on my radical agenda, you won't have lost anything because the other candidates certainly won't do anything about the situation in Washington. Moreover, I would lose my moral authority to defy Congress and the media, and I can't be bothered with being president if I can't cut government down to size and increase individual freedom. I'm not really in this for the salary and free housing, although those will be nice. Anyway, why would I squander the incredible opportunity that my miraculous election, brought about by millions of people writing in my fake name, presents to effect real and lasting change? The bottom line is that you just have to trust me. I can't be any worse than the other guys, and you know it.

Let me give you an example of how my presidency, backed by popular support, might work. Take the War on Drugs, for example. The War on Drugs does more harm than the drugs themselves and costs way more than any legitimate benefit that the people derive from it, so I am for ending it. I will suggest to Congress that they repeal the prohibitions on drugs. Even if they don't do this, I will set the priorities of the executive branch such that the War on Drugs will be very low indeed. And I will pardon anyone convicted of a drug offense in a federal court. If Congress doesn't like it, they can impeach me, if they dare what with my incredible popularity and all. Of course, if you don't want to end the War on Drugs, you might not want to vote for me if it's that important to you to be a wanker who butts into other people's affairs all the time.

Another thing I could do with your suypport is veto anything I don't like that comes out of Congress, even if it's just a miniscule rider or earmark. If the government gets shut down, I don't care, and you probably won't either. The longer it stays shut, the more folks will see that it is dispensable. Let Congress override my vetos and show where they stand.

Vote for me, or don't vote.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

My First Campaign Promise: Honesty

When I ran for student council president at my high school, I decided to be completely honest. I pointed out that the presidency was a meaningless position that would serve no purpose except to let me pad my college applications. The council had no authority whatsoever outside of administering the homecoming parade and dance, and this was governed by so much tradition that there was no room for movement. My opponents promised all kinds of things: better lunches, more vending machines, longer intervals between classes. They knew they couldn’t deliver on these. I lost that election.

I still stand by my policy of complete honesty and as I make my run for the presidency I intend to give it to you straight. If I become your president, you can count on one thing. I am not a workaholic. Come 5:00, I’m done. I will doubtless break GW Bush’s record for vacation days. I aim to do as little as I possibly can while in office. Heck, I’d rather be Vice President and do absolutely nothing except pray for the president’s good health.

That said, you can be assured that I will do everything I can, short of working late or on weekends, to reduce the responsibilities of the executive branch. I don’t want more presidential power. That just means more presidential work. So look for me to return to the good old days when presidenting consisted of being the “Chief Magistrate”, so to speak. I will cut departments to the bone and eliminate entire programs if I have to. I will veto anything that might increase my workload.

Because international emergencies mean overtime, I will work to keep these to a minimum by engaging in a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Why not just delegate everything to underlings like Ronald Reagan, who was also stupendously lazy? Because, let’s be frank, the underlings are mostly going to be people whom I smoked pot with back in college. They can’t be trusted. There’s no reason to believe that they will be remotely competent. And lots of the appointees will be people I don’t even know. They’ll be cousins of friends of people I smoked pot with and such like. God only knows what they might do if left to their own devices. The best bet is to end the programs or streamline them so that no executive decisions will have to be made except in the most extreme circumstances.

Legislative initiatives? Who can be bothered? As far as I am concerned, that’s the job of the legislature. And what about letting states handle as much as possible? That’s the easiest way as far as I can see.

As president, I will not rest (Monday through Friday 9am –5 pm with a 2 hour lunch) until I have made the presidency a sinecure. If you’re looking for a vigorous, hardworking, self starter in the Oval Office, I am not your man.

My Pledge to Run a Clean Campaign

I decry the politics of personal destruction, and I aim to run a campaign on the issues, to take the high road. You won’t hear me talking about my opponent’s predilection for philately. That’s between him and his partner and whichever of his gods he reckons is responsible for that compartment of his life. I won’t even bring it up if he tries to interest a nine year old girl in his peculiar practice, although it is not something that I would ever do. I’m not saying I wouldn’t discuss it with my wife, although as we all know marriage usually means an end to such activities. Anyway, enough said. My opponent’s practices in the privacy of his own home have nothing to do with his fitness for the office he is seeking.

My campaign made up an ad suggesting that my opponent has been known to use public restrooms in airports and train stations for more than numbers one and two, if you take my meaning. I’m not going to allow the ad to be run, and to show the kind of ads I consider distasteful, I’m going to put this one on the internets as an example of how campaigns should not be run. Let it be a cautionary example to all.

I pledge that I will not exploit my opponent’s many personal weaknesses and weak character for political gain. I will let the voters decide whether his inexperience and stupidity should disqualify him from office. Maybe the voters don’t care about a candidate’s history of drug abuse and week long benders, and that is perhaps fitting and proper. Maybe, a candidate’s having murdered a prostitute has nothing to do with his ability to serve as president , and the voters will have to decide that issue. It won’t be me that brings it up.

Some may say that a candidate’s having trained in an Al Qaeda sponsored facility calls his loyalty and judgment into question. That’s for the voters to decide. Others reckon that a paranoid schizophrenic who is noncompliant with his regime of medications should not have his finger on the nuclear button. That’s for his psychiatrist to say.

Happy New Year However You Mark It

JL Wilson went to Times Square on New Year’s Eve and enjoyed it. Good for him. You will never catch me there, mainly because I can’t seem to stay up until midnight these days.

If I think back to the last time I was awake to usher in the New Year, it must have been in the early 1990s in Seattle. Mrs Vache Folle and I went down to the Space Needle and waited for something to happen to the Needle. Then we went home on the bus. There were lots of people there, but nothing like Times Square, and getting home was easy. Seattle is warmer than New York, so the temperature was not a deterrent . Seattlleites are painfully polite, so there was no fear of hostile drunks or cutpurses. Someone yelled at us from a car as we stood at the bus stop, “Happy New Year, Bus Takers!” It was not unpleasant but it was truly pointless, and we never bothered to do it again.

The Best New Year ‘s Eve ever was when we ushered in 1991 on the deck of an ocean liner berthed in the harbor of Funchal. The town was festooned with lights, and the whole population must have set off fireworks at midnight. I have never since seen such a display. Many of the dignitaries from Madeira were on board for the party. That was a helluva night, let me tell you.

Aside from my somnolence, there are other reasons I no longer go out on New Year’s Eve. I reckon that January 1 is a pretty arbitrary date for starting a year. I would prefer that we used one of the solstices as folks used to do. Or any meaningful date, for that matter. January 1? Why not August 3, or Arbor Day? I just can’t get worked up about January 1.

I tend to be socially phobic, and the drunk driving Nazis are so active that I am deterred from having a single alcoholic beverage if I have to drive. How can I socialize with people I don’t know very well if I can’t use a social lubricant? Also, I worry that the majority of drivers I will encounter on the way home will be intoxicated and out to kill me.

But just because I prefer not to go out, it does not mean that I am not still happy that those who do enjoy it. I rejoice in their happiness. We’re not all the same. We are diverse, and I celebrate diversity.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Continentally Speaking

I'm not so sure I know how to talk about people who live on the Asian landmass or who had ancestors from there. It turns out that "Oriental" is offensive, or at least mildly so. "Asian" doesn't tell you much. You could be from Yemen or Siberia and still be Asian, although it appears to encompass Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, other Southeast Asians to the exclusion of others. People from India and Pakistan are "South Asians". I don't know whether Burmese are South Asians or just plain Asians. Fortunately, I don't have to talk about Burmese people very often.

Pretty soon, if our experience with Oriental is any guide, Asian will be offensive, if it isn't already. Too bad. It's really handy for talking about people whose precise origins elude you. I can't always tell if someone is Korean or Japanese, Chinese or Vietnamese, Laotian or Thai. Excuse me for not having made a study of the distinguishing characteristics of various Asian nationalities.

You'd think "Eurasian" would describe anyone from the Eurasian landmass, but it doesn't. You have to be a combination of Asian and European.

So far, "African" remains a perfectly cromulent expression for someone from sub-Saharan Africa, unless you are of European origin, in which case you don't get to be African. In college, the Organization of African and African American Students denied membership to a white third generation Zimbabwean because she was not African enough. I reckon that Pan-Africanism has kept Africans from being offended about being lumped together on a continental basis. I've never encountered an African who was annoyed that I didn't recognize his tribal affilation or nationality.

I'm a "North American" because I come from the US or Canada. Mexicans and people from the Central American isthmus don't get to be North Americans even though they live in North America. Because I'm from the US, I can call myself an American. Canadians are not Americans. Neither are Brazilians. The denizens of the US have coopted the entire hemisphere.

Authoritarians for Anarchy!

The other night, Mrs Vache Folle and I were coming home from a social gathering, and the roads were a tad icy. It was late. There was no traffic. We were on the isolated country roads of our immediate neighborhood. Nonetheless, I came to a full stop at a three way stop sign on a hill where there was some risk that we wouldn't be able to continue our ascent due to icy road conditions. This was not occasioned by the likelihood that the intersection might be surveilled (it never is) or any concern for safety. It was a pure reflexive response to an authoritarian upbringing. It's the same reflex that keeps me from jaywalking even in New York side streets when everyone else is doing it and that makes me observe speed limits even when it is almost dangerous to do so. If there is a rule, I am apt to follow it without thinking about it. I wouldn't dream of trying to get through the express lane at the market with one too many items. It makes me uncomfortable on some level to violate rules, no matter how stupid or inapt they may be under the circumstances. I am the perfect self policing subject.

Does this make me a bad anarchist? Mrs VF thinks so.


Mrs Vache Folle and I painted the downstairs bedroom yesterday. The room has lots of woodwork, sliding glass doors, a picture window, a closet, an alcove and a knotty pine ceiling with beams; so you can imagine how much masking tape we had to put up before we could get started. Taping is half the battle, we have learned. We had painted the room a kind of forest green over three years ago but this had faded to the color of unpainted drywall and made the room seem like a cave in winter. The relatively dark color meant we had to slap on a coat of primer. It then took two coats of the yellow Mrs VF had chosen (the same yellow everywhere else in the downstairs except for the bathroom). By the time we got to the end of the first coat, daylight was gone. It turned out OK, though, with only a couple of spots wanting touch ups.

These spots involve the trim areas, Mrs VF's specialty. My areas, where the roller is employed, are all perfect. As usual, the trim areas are the weak spot. I don't blame Mrs VF for this; nobody could be more careful at trimming. It's the useless devices that we have been using for trimming. They just seem to smear and glob paint or even to remove the paint already applied. There must be some kind of mini-roller that could be used to prevent these problems and make trimming go faster. I always finish my part, consisting in of 98% of the area to be painted before Mrs VF gets halfway through the trimming. I'm not saying she's dogging it or anything; nobody works harder at trimming than she. I'm saying that there has got to be some better trimming technology, and I refuse to paint again until we have found it.

People Who Happen to be Disease-Ridden

It's dehumanizing to call people by nouns that name their disability, so I'm told. You shouldn't speak of "the blind" or the "deaf"; rather, you should speak of people who happen to be blind or who happen to be deaf. The same goes for diabetics, epileptics, narcoleptics, lepers, schizophrenics, and just about any handy term for talking about the disabled, er excuse me, people who happen to have a disability. This makes sense to me, especially if you're talking about the person in a context in which his disability does not pertain. "The leper wants to know if he is going to get hit with the alternative minimum tax if he takes his bonus in 2007." Otherwise, if you are talking about the disability, it shouldn't be all that hurtful to use the disability naming noun. "It's mostly lepers down at the leper colony."

The one disability where it may be OK to use the noun that names it is death. Nobody complains when you speak of "the dead". Nobody insists on your saying "people who happen to be dead".