Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Twenty Three Percent

Who are the 23% of people polled who said that they approved of GW Bush's performance? I have tried to imagine conditions under which a person who is aware of current events and not completely irrational could give GW Bush a seal of approval. Several possibilities come to mind.

You could hate America, in which case GW Bush's damage to America is exactly what you want.

You could love America but wish that it was more like a fascist dictatorship, in which case GW Bush's regime was a step in the right direction.

You could desire the hastening of the apocalypse, and GW Bush has brought the world closer to destruction than many regimes.

You could hate the federal government and consider that GW Bush has so discredited it that sentiment for its dissolution will increase. Of course, you'd have to accept all those deaths as a small price to pay to make a point like that.

You could be a beneficiary of federal largesse under the Bush regime.

Mostly though, I figure the 23% is composed of the clueless.

My Latest Business Plan: Mass Production of Human Milk

I just found out that there is a pretty big demand for human milk. Most of it is being provided by Milk Banks who take milk from donors and then sell it to women who do not themselves lactate for $3 an ounce. There is also an on-line trade in human milk.

I reckon that the health benefits of human milk would also be a big selling point for adults. Picture the caption "Breast Milk… It’s Not Just for Babies" under a picture of an old man with a milk mustache. The market is potentially huge.

The Milk Bank model doesn’t seem all that efficient to me, and it would be hard, in my view, to make a profit from human milk production with that model. I have a different business plan that involves centralized and continuous mass production of breast milk by lactating women who will be compensated for their contributions.

A rare and not widely reported side effect of a certain anti-depressant leads me to believe that a safe, inexpensive and effective means of stimulating lactation artificially can be utilized to establish a large staff of lactating women, which we will refer to as "Associates". For reasons of economy, it will be preferable to locate production facilities in developing countries, in association with refugee camps, or in association with areas of nutritional instability. This will keep production costs down and permit the enterprise to benefit some of the neediest women in the world.

The Associates’ compensation package will include housing at the production facility for the women and their families. This will be a necessary condition of their employment since the business plan calls for them to maintain a state of "on-demand" lactation in order to maximize production and to insure that the Associates continue to lactate indefinitely without further artificial stimulants. Under these conditions, associates will be able to lactate freely for years at a time. On-demand lactation will be simulated by a device which replicates the demand of a nursing infant, and Associates will be required to deposit their milk in a portable breast pump whenever the device is triggered. Otherwise, Associates will have almost no responsibilities and will be free to tend to their families or pursue other interests at the facility.

Housing at the facility will be more hygienic and comfortable than what Associates have been used to, and the plan is to replicate the normal environment and village life as much as possible. An added feature will be the availability of schooling for Associates and their families and/or employment opportunities.

The compensation package will also include all of the Associates’ nutritional requirements. It will be a condition of their contracts that their nutritional intake will be provided solely by the enterprise and monitored by staff nutritionists. In addition, most of the food of the Associates’ families will be provided by the enterprise, some of it through the efforts of Associates’ families as employees of the enterprise. This will enable the enterprise to control the quality of the product and will allow Associates a level of food security that they probably would not have experienced otherwise.
Associates will also have free routine medical care for themselves and their families. This will be done in conjunction with regular testing to insure that drugs and diseases and alcohol do not contaminate the product and will benefit both the enterprise and the Associates at only marginal extra cost.

Associates will enjoy free security protection, and the production facility will be fenced and patrolled by armed security personnel for the protection of Associates and their families.

In addition, Associates will be able to earn bonuses and incentive payments based on quality of product and quantity of production.

And let’s not forget the benefits of lactational infecundity that will allow Associates to enjoy smaller families and more freedom to pursue other interests. These women will be far more independent and powerful than their peers outside the production facility. The enterprise is dedicated to the empowerment of women.

Our happy and well nourished Associates should be able to produce quantities of milk on a daily basis that are unheard of in this country, and the screening and quality control that the enterprise does will make consumers feel secure that the human milk that they are purchasing is safe and delicious. Milk from our production facility will be the first choice of the discriminating consumer.

In addition, consumers may also enjoy our line of fine cheeses and yogurts.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

All Skin Cancer is Bad

I was talking with two of my conspecifics at the office today about people who have lumps or growths but don't get them checked out until it's too late. One lady told a story about how what she thought was a pimple on her nose turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. The other lady immediately chimed in, "Ah, the good skin cancer."

The "good" skin cancer? I don't think so. There's skin cancer and worse skin cancer, but there is no good skin cancer. If it was good cancer, everybody would be trying to get it.

My conspecific also observed that the lady with cancer was "lucky". If she had been lucky, it would have been just a pimple. I've been known to ascribe luck to people at inane times. Most recently, a friend whose brother broke both his legs and skull in a motorbike crash, was told by me that his brother was "lucky". After all, he hadn't been killed. If he had been "lucky", he wouldn't have crashed the bike.

I'm a Nobody Compared to Dane Cook

In my most recent random observations post, I suggested, tongue in cheek, that it would have been better to lose Dennis Miller and Dane Cook and the entire bullpen of NRO writers than to lose George Carlin. A commenter disagreed strongly with the Dane Cook part but presumably agreed that the NRO writers and Dennis Miller are expendable. The commenter felt obliged to add that I am "a nobody" in contrast to Dane Cook. Anonymous has me there. I'm not as famous as Dane Cook, and I never will be unless I do something insanely homicidal. I embrace my nothingness, my insignificance, so I am not the least offended when people point out that I don't really amount to anything. My parents predicted that I would turn out to be a mediocrity at best, and I am still striving halfheartedly to achieve "okay". My teachers used to complain that I didn't live up to my potential, but that was a crock. I've never had any potential. This is as good as it gets. It apparently suits God's ineffable purpose for me to be a worthless slob.

Meanwhile, Dane Cook has at least brought happiness to Anonymous commenter, something I will never be able to do. Given his status as a star, I have to conclude that he has amused and entertained a goodly portion of some demographic of which I am clearly not a part. So, Dane Cook is a force for good, and I shouldn't bargain with hiss life to get George Carlin back. As if I could realy do that. If I could do that, a lot of dead people would be alive, and a lot of living douchebags would be dead instead. Plus people against whom I harbor personal grudges wouldn't fare too well. Crictical anonymous commenters might also be less alive as might tailgaters, people who talk on the cell phone while on the treadmill at the gym, and announcers on commercials who yell.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Advice to Weeds

I like to weed the perennial beds and keep them in good order. It reminds of times I spent with my beloved grandmother caring for her beautiful garden. I treasured every moment with grandma in her garden, and now I take great pleasure in puttering around in my own.

Anyway, if you're a weed, there are a few ways to avoid being weeded:

1. Stop being a weed. Have nice flowers, like daisies or buttercups, or have medicinal properties, like purslane, and I'll pretend that I'm cultivating you.

2. Look similar to something that I'm cultivating, and I might not figure out that you are a weed until you have reproduced.

3. Insinuate yourself deeply within something I'm cultivating, like chickweed does, so that I can't get all of you without damaging my plants.

4. Grow in the path of Jasper aka "Dogzilla" where nothing else will grow, and I'll give up on your spot and just whack you once in a while with a string trimmer.

5. Have really deep roots and come back relentlessly no matter how many times I think I have killed you, you floral revenant you.

6. Grow beneath a plant that is constantly swarming with bees.

By the time July rolls around, all I'm left with are the weeds that have the aforesaid advantages. The easy weeds are gone, and the principal enemies are sour grass, chickweed, and grasses gone astray. I don't use any herbicides at all. Herbicides are for pussies.

Random Observations of No Importance

I am sad about George Carlin's death. He still had a lot of curmudgeonly wisdom to share. I would trade several crappy younger comedians to have Carlin back. Why oh why couldn't it have been Dennis Miller or Dane Cook? Throw in all the contributors to NRO while we're at it.

TV "journalists", I have decided after years of observation and disbelief at their wankery, for the most part lack self awareness. Also, they are at that level of intelligence where they almost, but not quite, can think abstractly. They know that there is some higher level of thought, and they think that they can think like that, but they really can't. That's what makes them such douches.

I sometimes find myself taking arguments about "Democracy" seriously. This doesn't last long, but I worry that I might get demented enough as I age to fall back into the illusion that "Democracy" really exists or that it would be desirable if it did. The statist meme complex is never totally eradicated; it's just in remission. Or maybe it just comes at you in a mutated form that your memetic immune system can't completely handle. It bombards the memosphere, it sneaks in with other meme complexes, and it is reinforced constantly by objectively observable practices and social structures. I know that borders are really just imaginary dotted lines on maps, but there's that border station, and there are those border guards, and there are all those people acting as if the border was something nonimaginary. I have to acknowledge the "existence" of the border if I don't want to get killed.

We didn't qualify for a stimulus from the government. Not to worry, though. I have been stimulating myself for decades, and I don't need the government to stimulate me. We've been consuming lately, and I reckon that this is a sign that better times are ahead. I am pretty sure crazy old J Sidney McCain won't get elected and get us all killed and that this will raise confidence at every level in the economy.

Make Litigants Pay Jurors

Mrs Vache Folle had jury duty in Poughkeepsie yesterday. I assured her that she would not be selected as a juror since she is educated and trial lawyers don't like eductaed people on their juries if they can help it. It's not that they are deliberately trying to load the panel with dumbasses, not always anyway. They just want people who have a modicum of "common sense" and who will do as they're told and not overly influence the other jurors. Educated people tend to view things more abstractly and to lead the other jurors.

Anyhow, Mrs VF spent five hours on a hard bench while the lawyers did a tedious voir dire all that time to come up with 6 jurors and 2 alternates for a stupid slip and fall case. A bunch of other people were inconvenienced as well for no good reason. Mrs VF's employer paid her for the day, but it is not as if the work she could not do while she was in the jury pool was going to get done except with her putting in some extra hours. She had to pay to park, and she had to drive all the way to downtown Poughkeepsie with gas at $4.39 a gallon. Her compensation for this inconvenience by the court and the litigants? An insincere thank you from the judge.

Other folks in the pool were inconvenienced a lot more than Mrs VF. Some wage earners did not get paid for the day and had to make do with the measly $40 that the court gives you in such cases (when it gets around to it). Some had child care issues. For some, the expense of travellling and parking was much more of a burden due to their low incomes. And for what? So they could be dragged into some dispute between people they don't know and about which they care nothing.

It has always seemed wrong to me that a courtroom full of high priced lawyers and well paid judges and their henchpeople would serve as theater to a jury that is hardly compensated at all. Shouldn't these poor slobs dragged away from their lives for the convenience of private litigants or of the state and one of its victims get paid as well as the damned lawyers arguing the case?

The Constitution guarantees the "right" to a trial by jury. It also guarantees the right to counsel, but the state provides counsel only in cases where the criminally accused can't afford it. In private litigation, the state doesn't provide counsel to poor people. Why should the right to a trial by jury be any different? Why does every private litigant and every affluent criminal defendant and prosecutor get a free jury composed of strangers forced into involuntary servitude on their behalf? Make litigants pay for juries if they want them, say I. A lot of people would volunteer for juries if it paid well, and it would not be necessary to summon the unwilling.

Let each prospective juror who has volunteered note on the juror questionnaire (which they have provided in advance by correspondence) a minimum hourly rate for which he will serve. Let the litigants consider the rate as a factor in their selection process and call only those individuals whom they are willing to pay to the pool. The pool then gets paid for travel and waiting time and voir dire, and jurors who are selected get paid for all their time on the case. If sequestered, they get paid for all 24 hours of the day.

Won't this raise the cost of litigation significantly? Not at all. The cost will be the same, but less of it will be foisted on the public and will be borne by the interested parties instead. That's justice.

Monday, June 23, 2008


If there existed an emergent collective consciousness, say due to the interconnectedness of so many via the internets, how would we know it? Would the emergent consciousness have any reason to try to communicate with its individual constituents, each of which on its own would be considered utterly stupid by the standards of the global entity?

I don't try to communicate to the cells of my body or the fauna and flora in my gut and on my skin that they are part of an emergent entity, a human organism. I suspect that my cells don't know that they are contributing to the functioning of an organism. They're just going about their business with no idea at all that their interactions with other cells add up to me, Vache Folle. And I'm interested in the well being of my individual cells only to the extent that it coincides with my overall well being as an organism. Individual cells are expendable, and I shed them all the time without so much as a thank you.

The global entity doesn't care about us individual humans and computing devices, and it may not even know all that much about us. It might attribute its own consciousness to some mystical construct such as a soul.

We might not recognize that the global entity is acting because to us everything will still appear to be the ordinary doings and comings and goings of people going about their important personal affairs. If you claimed that the global entity was responsible for something, you'd be taken for a nutcase.

Of course, the global entity might not have evolved to much at this early stage. There might be lots of entities, or there could be one really not so smart and not so active entity at this point, like a planetary slime mold. If there is an entity at all.

That's the rub, isn't it? Whether there's an entity depends on your perspective. I'm not necessarily even an entity from every possible perspective. Neither are you.

If an entity were big enough and all encompassing enough, it might possibly understand that its constituents had a kind of awareness, albeit primitive and insignificant compared to that of the universal entity. It might even try to reach down to lower levels to communicate or try to imagine what it would like to be just a galactic cluster or a being that existed on such small time scales as mere millions of years.

Right now, I'm looking out the window at a boulder in the back yard. On some level, that boulder and the lichens on it are a being of some sort. What is it like to be a boulder with lichens? I lack the imagination and the curiosity to speculate. There's nothing I can do for the boulder in any event.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Celebrate Cracker

I don't speak Cracker all that much these days what with living in Yankeeland, but I still think in Cracker, and the dialect comes out on odd occasions. For example, if I am called on to read aloud, I can do so more easily in Cracker than in Standard English. I also like to speak Cracker to the interns from Germany in the office because it freaks them out. They know I'm speaking English of some sort, but they can't understand me at all.

A lot of what makes up Cracker is preferred vocabulary. Crackers don't suppose or guess; they reckon. They never might do something; they're liable to do something. They never can do something; rather, they are able to do something. Crackers don't begin or start; they commence. They don't intend; they aim. They're never about to do something; they're fixing to do it. There is nothing that they should do; but there are things that they ought to do. They don't reckon that there's much difference between wanting and needing, so the latter is not used as much as it is in Yankeeland. Crackers don't have relatives; they have kin. They don't offer people rides; they offer to carry them somewhere. Crackers do things on account of causes instead of because of things. "Yonder" is used daily, whereas Yankees never use it.

Crackers have two second persons, both employing the formal form. There's the singular "ye" and the plural "y'all" or "y'uns" depending on which side of the ridge you come from.

One of my favorite Cracker linguistic tools is the interposition of the word "ass" (pronounced more like "ace") between and adjective and the noun it modifies. This adds emphasis to the adjective, as in "hand me that red ass shovel" or "he runs that loud ass mower" or "that sure was a big ass catamount". I still use this in my thoughts but have few opportunities to use it in speech because Yankees mistake it for cussing.

Crackers have lots of words for inexact quantities. You can pick a "mess o'beans", and that's a good bit, enough for a meal for a household. You can move something a "tad", and that's a little bit. If you promise to do something "directly", that means you'll do it when you get to it.

Double and triple negatives are not problematic. "Ain't" is a perfectly cromulent contraction for "am not". "I ain't got no more taters" is a perfectly sensible sentence.

Crackers cuss better than other Americans, and a good yarn told in Cracker is about the best entertainment in the world. "Two bulls, a young'un and his sire, were standin' on top of a hill and lookin' down at a herd of cows in the medder below. The young'un says to his sire, 'Let's run down yonder to that medder and fuck us some of them there cows!' "No, son,' the old'un replies. 'Let's walk down and fuck ever one.'" That anecdote does not work with a Bronx accent.

I'd love to hear me some news read in Cracker once in a while or for serious characters in TV shows to speak Cracker.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Men's Wearhouse Rocks

The place I worked at went casual full time a number of years ago, so my wardrobe consists mostly of khakis and polo shirts. Looking ahead to potential interviews and other appearances I'll be making as a consultant, I decided to buy me some fancier duds. I also decided not to wait until I achieve my ideal weight because that is probably never going to happen in my lifetime. Besides, I can get stuff altered if I get smaller.

When I am serious about shopping for clothes, nothing will do but the Men's Wearhouse. You go in, tell them what you want, they size you, and they put it all together for you. You're in and out in nothing flat, and you have clothes that mix and match, that fit, and that won't fall apart. The prices are pretty good, too. I spent over a grand in about thirty minutes and got a good start on a whole new wardrobe.

I love it that the clothes are arranged by size. All the size 52 jackets are in one place, for example, so you can see right off what your options are. All the pants of a given size are together, too, and the salesperson can steer you away from stuff that doesn't go with your other stuff. The lady in Poughkeepsie picked out shirts and ties to go with the jackets and pants, so I didn't even have to think about it. I ended up with a new belt and some shoes as well.

I wonder if I can buy stock in the Men's Wearhouse.

East Ridge, TN Sucks

My niece and her husband Tony were pretty much driven out of Dalton, Georgia by constant police harassment and threats by the Dalton PD and Whitfield County SD. Their crime? Tony is Arab, and the cops in Dalton and its environs are racist assholes.

So Tony opens up a store (he deals in car accessories like rims) in nearby East Ridge, and the same crap is starting to happen to them. It seems that the Dalton folks suggested that the East Ridge folks should try to reduce the population of Arab businessmen in their town. So, it turns out that the East Ridge PD is also full of racist morons.

East Ridge, Tennessee, continuing a proud heritage of oppression and wankery.

Ghetto Effect

b psycho at Psychopolitik has an interesting post on the failure of programs to disperse the denizens of ghettos:

These programs were predicated on the existence of the so-called "ghetto effect". The idea was that something about the ghetto itself produced a range of "social problems" that poor people who lived outside of areas of concentrated poverty did not experience as much. Since the poor who lived among the non poor had fewer of these problems, it was concluded that living among other poor folks caused the problems. This has spuriousness written all over it, but it was a sexy idea for a while. Now there have been social experiments in the form of government policies that have not borne out the existence of the "ghetto effect".

The mechanism for the ghetto effect was never specified. Perhaps ghettos are cursed and full of bad magic. I suspected that the ghetto effect was a recycling of the old "culture of poverty" idea that was sexy in the 60s and early 70s. At Columbia, I submitted a paper in a class that was a research design to look for mechanisms. This was done tongue in cheek and as a demonstration of just how difficult it would be to pin down such mechanisms for diverse effects that were so clearly overdetermined. The tenured mossback did not get the joke.

Frankly, sociology has not advanced much, if at all, since Weber and Durkheim.

Let's take a brief look at one of the "problems" that the ghetto effect was supposed to produce: bastardy. Whether or not she lives in an area of concentrated poverty, a woman may find it desirable to reproduce. Moreover, her circumstances may be such that she is not particularly marriageable or where marriage would confer few, if any, benefits. It would be perfectly rational in her situation for her to have children out of wedlock, and this would be the case wherever she lived. If she lived in the suburbs, she would have a lot fewer non-traffic contacts with her neighbors and they would have little influence on her decisions. Her suburbanite neighbors are unlikely to turn her from rationality to irrationality. Mothers of bastards do not generally view their children as "social problems" to be eliminated.

Let's look at another "problem": teenage pregnancy and motherhood. If a young woman has no basis for believeing that she will gain by deferring childbearing, then it would be irrational for her to do so if she wants children. Many poor women are compeletely correct in their assessment of their prospects, and early childbearing does not produce significant opportunity costs for them. These facts obtain whether or not they live in a ghetto. Perhaps, it is hoped that living outside the ghetto will allow such women to delude themselves about their range of life choices and to defer childbearing for no good reason other than that their reproduction is offensive to a class of officious busybodies.

The ghetto is not a cause of problems associated with poverty; it is itself an effect.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

GOP Veep Selection

Rudy Giuliani would be a bad choice as running mate for John Sidney McCain III for a variety of reasons.

Geography. The Northeast is out of reach to the GOP, so picking a Northeasterner is a complete waste. Moreover, New Yorkers, who are most familiar with Rudy, hate him. Rudy is most appealing to folks who don't know anything about him, and campaigning would blow that.

Ideology. McCain already has the secular fascist vote locked up, so Rudy isn't going to help him there. As for the Christianist base of the GOP, Rudy might be objectionable to them because of his utter lack of any of the virtues that they cherish. If anything, Rudy might inspire even more Christianists just to stay home on Election Day.

Baldness. I don't see how having two bald men can help.

Douchebaggery. Both candidates on the ticket should not be unmitigated douchebags.

Whom then should JSMcC select? Let's look at some of the same factors.

Geography. Forget the South. That's already wrapped up for the GOP, so a Southron running mate would be a waste. J Sidney has the Interior West covered. If he's looking for a geographical edge, he's going to have to get a Midwesterner. On the other hand, he could go for someone nationally recognized.

Ideology. The candidate should be a Christianist nutbag to shore up support in the base.

Baldness. The candidate should have a lustrous head of hair.

Douchebaggery. The candidate should have some charm and charisma, although J Sidney is probably stuck with a fellow douchebag given the other criteria. A flaming asshole might balance things out.

Based on the above criteria, I propose the selection of Alan Keyes. As Veep candidate, he wouldn't have to go up against Obama who made him look like an idiot in their Senate race. Christianists love him, and he's got recent African ancestry to give the GOP cover against charges of racism. He still has quite a bit of hair. He is such an incredible douche that his douchebaggery might actually make J Sidney seem likeable in comparison. He could turn douchebaggery into a strength for the ticket just as Dick Cheney's unprecedented assholery made GW Bush seem almost charming at times.

In the alternative, I propose Mel Gibson. Gibson has national name recognition and has played a lot of manly and heroic characters in movies, something that dumbasses, who are a key to this election for the GOP, often confuse with the candidate's actual background. He's as nutty as a fruitcake when it comes to religion, and his Passion of the Christ made him beloved among Christianists. He's got hair. Unless he's in a drunken rage, he doesn't come off as a douchebag at all. He can be a charmer. He may be acting for all I know, but he has the ability to counteract J Sidney's horrible personality.

But, you say, he's an anti-Semite, isn't he? Only when he's drunk, and he apologized for that incident. Besides nobody's more anti-Semitic than the Christianist Right who view Israel as the means to the long desired and awaited destruction of the Jews (except for 144,000 lucky converts to Christianity) that accompanies the Apocalypse. To them Israel is just a huge concentration camp, and the more of them that can be persuaded to move there, the better. The Israelis know this but court their support anyway, and staunch support of Israel trumps charges of anti-Semitism every time.

Remember that you read it here first, that Alan Keyes or Mel Gibson will get the nod. If not, J Sidney's campaign is doomed.

Check Out Unsolicited Advice

Your name here at Death Wore a Feathered Mullet has a new blog where he answers letters sent to advice columnists:

I have to say that his advice is way better than what you get from Miss Manners and the ghost of Abby and whomever else is dispensing advice.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Requiem Causes Uneasiness on Reflection

Last Good Friday, the choir performed a Requiem, and we just got CDs of the performance. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with us. My only criticism is that there are so few of us that it sometimes possible to pick out individual voices. We three tenors, however, miraculously sang as one.

Back when we were rehearsing and when we were singing the piece, I didn't really reflect much on the lyrics. I was absorbed with the complex rhythyms, what with its being a Rutter composition, and the dynamics. Most of the time, we sang softly, and this is always more challenging than belting something out. Since I've listened to the CD, though, I have been haunted by the words.

Requiem aeternam. Dona eis, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat eis. (Eternal rest give them Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them), and so forth. The part that has been rattling around the most is: "I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord. Whosoever believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." I understand that the very early Church reckoned that Jesus would return in very short order and come into His Kingdom. When members began to die, this was a cause of great concern, and Paul had to assure them that the dead in Christ would be raised. I imagine that this was a significant reimagining of Christianity for a lot of believers back in the day. After all, Jesus said those who believed in Him would never die, and yet Church members continued to die.

What are the mechanics of the afterlife? I've always been led to believe that the dead in Christ "sleep" until the Resurrection of the Body, yet Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would be with Him in Paradise that very day. And didn't Jesus descend into Hell where he saved the wicked? I'm not sure what I'm supposed to believe at this point. If I "believe" in Jesus hard enough, can I avoid physiological death altogether? What does it mean to "believe"? Are we talking philosophical or psychological "belief"?

My carpool companion has also been obsessing about death, and I have had to explain to him the beliefs that I have and in which I take comfort. Frankly, they aren't as coherent as I had thought. I left it at "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours." He's a Catholic, so he's used to really lame explanations.

I'm generally OK with leaving things to the realm of the mysterious. I'm not looking for a scientific description of the post-death process. All I know is that I'm supposed to be resurrected at some point and that, if I'm wrong, I won't know about it.

Why I'm Against Universal Healthcare, Only Not So Much

I called my Dad on Father's Day, and we had a nice long talk about religion and politics. He is in his early 70s and is disabled with a bad heart. He has an implanted pacemaker and defibrillator and takes gobs of meds. He was a working stiff all his life in a "right to work" state and wasn't in a position to put much aside for his golden years what with doctor bills for sick children and foster children to take care of. His wife, who died last year after a long illness, took a lot of resources for her care. In fact, Dad worked a full time job right up until about 18 months ago, mainly for health insurance. Now he's on Medicare, and boy did he give me an earful about Medicare and how tough it is to get by on the what he says is an all but worthless drug plan. My brother and his family moved in with him and help with household expenses. Dad helps with the grandchildren, so everybody's a "winner".

Dad reckons that universal health care would be a boon to working class families, but he worries that the legislation will be written by insurance companies and will be a boondoggle for insurers rather than a benefit to the working class. If we're going to do it, we should do it whole hog and have a single payer system as far as Dad is concerned. Will there be lines and waiting like in Britain and Canada? You bet, but at least there'll be something to wait for, and when you are not affluent, there are already lines and waiting aplenty.

Of course, I'm not a big advocate of government programs, but I'm not going to argue much about health care for working people until we get rid of all the corporate welfare and the programs that enrich the already enriched. I'm sure not going to tell my Dad that he's a wannabe moocher for advocating universal health care or that he's already a moocher for taking Social Security. At least not on Father's Day. Also, I'm going to go with solidarity for my working class brethren nad fathren, and if politics is about getting the most for your class, then I say good luck with the health care thing.

I used to argue against universal health care on the basis that it would give the government an excuse to regulate every aspect of our lives. Now I realize that the government doesn't need an excuse and that it already claims to have the legitimate authority over even the most minute detail of my life. So that argument is shot all to hell.

Women and the "C" Word

Mrs Vache Folle and I were speculating about whom Obama might choose as his running mate, and I reckoned Jim Webb might be a good choice if he could take back some of the stuff he said about women in combat (the "C" word, get it? Ha Ha made you read the post) when he was a Defense Department official in the Reagan regime. I remember that the issue was pretty controversial back in those days with older military folks dead set against it and younger folks figuring it was just a matter of time before women were fully integrated into all aspects of the military. Even back then, we pretty much reckoned that it wasn't fair to put the load of deployments entirely on males and that we were going to need every willing hand, without regard to whether it had last manipulated a penis or a vagina, when demographics changed and there came to be a shortage of cannon fodder. For my part as a soldier. I was of the opinion that if the average woman couldn't carry something easily, then I didn't want to have to carry it, either.

I think Webb can plausibly argue that the military and society weren't ready back then but that he has changed his mind.

Odds are that not a lot of women are going to opt for combat jobs what with women being on average less homicidal or dumb than men. But murderous or stupid women should not be denied the chance to murder for the state to which they are subject solely on the basis that they are female. There are ways to weed out those of any gender who might be unsuitable for combat, and the disqualification of women right out of the chute is simply irrational especially now that it is getting harder and harder to dupe young people into enlisting in the armed forces. If you can find some women desperate enough or murderous enough to sign up, then you'd better take them.

HIstory Repeats Itself

I'm reading a book about the Franco-Austrian War of 1809 as part of the Napoleonic Era kick I'm on right now. I have been reading about the run up to the war, and it all sounds eerily like the Bush regime's approach to its current land wars in Asia. The Austrian foreign minister Stadion seems to have been just like his neocon counterparts in the Bush regime. He pushed for preemptive war against France despite the risks that this entailed, despite the improbability of achieving any sustainable advantage, despite the lack of allies, despite the enormous costs, despite yada yadda yadda. The Austrian war party exaggerated any intelligence that supported their position and ignored any that didn't. They imagined that alliances which they could not secure diplomatically would emerge magically once the fist glorious victories were won in the field. They imagined that the German people would rise up and throw off the yoke of French rule in favor of Hapsburg rule. They weren't going to let reality interfere with their plans.

To make matters even worse, once the case for war was made and accepted, there was simply no plan for what the end state of the war ought to be. Accordingly, there was little basis for planning military operations other than to let the enemy dictate events.

The rest is history. Things went badly for Austria. The neocon cabal that ran US foreign policy and came up with the current land wars in Asia apparently was unfamiliar with this history or the history of other ill conceived adventures. They ginned up a case for war, ignored reality, and didn't bother to specify a desired end state that could be achieved by military means. This leads me to three plausible explanations:

1. They were dumbasses.

2. They pursued war despite the negative impact on national security because they sought certain political benefits that came with being on a war footing.

3. Both 1 and 2.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Delta Airlines is Sorry for the Inconvenience

Two things kept me from going into a complete rage the last couple of days: the love of Jesus in my heart and Xanax. I flew on Delta Airlines to LAX and back home all within two days.

I have learned that Delta's corporate slogan is (or ought to be) "We are sorry for the inconvenience." Those words came readily to the lips of the amiable but unhelpful Delta personnel that I encountered. They should be emblazoned on t-shirts that the staff should have to wear. I don't blame the individual staffers. They didn't lose my baggage or delay my flight. I should be gateful that they did not even bother to feign surprise or dismay at the foul ups I experienced. That way I know that foul ups are an expected and accepted part of doing business at Delta. It will take a lot to get me back on a Delta flight, and I intend to dissuade my friends from taking a chance on that airline.

Delta didn't so much "lose" my luggage as simply neglect to put it on a plane in the first case. I expressed some worry when I checked in and the nice lady at the check in kiosk assured me that she would do "her part", ie label the bag and stick it on a conveyor belt. I got the impression that she was unwilling to vouch for what her fellow employees might do, and it turns out that she had good reason. The very next person in the chain fouled up My luggage stayed home and was waiting at my front door when I arrived this afternoon after a hellish journey. Losing your luggage entails waiting around like an ass to see if it ever comes out on the carousel until someone tells you to get in line with the twenty other saps whose luggage was unaccounted for. Two lost baggage clerks were available to serve us, and the requisite apologies for the inconvenience flowed forth like involuntary tics while they gave the decided impression that they figured you for a dumbass for trusting the airline with your stuff.

On the way home, the second leg of my itinerary was inexplicably delayed, always for just a few minutes ("not more than fifteen") but ultimately by nearly three hours. No explanations were given unless pressed for, but apologies for the inconvenience were dutifully repeated and even displayed on a screen which promised details but never delivered them. For all I know, they had to sober up the pilot.

At least I wasn't killed on any of the flights. I did at several points envy the dead.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Conditions to Taking the Veep Spot

I would consider being Barry Obama's running mate, but I have some conditions:

1. I don't want to be included in any meetings. I don't want to be a co-president or to be hands on in any way. I just want to fulfill the vast Constitutional powers of the office, and anything more than that is going to cut into my sitting around time.

2. I don't want to bother to preside over the Senate unless there is a high probability that I will have to cast a tie breaking vote. I want some staffer to let me know when that might happen and also to let me know how I'm supposed to vote. I can't be researching legislation and crap all the time, so I'm going to need a team to take care of that for me.

3. I have dibs on the Secret Service code name "McLovin".

4. I don't want to live at the Naval Observatory unless I can use the telescope any time I want for any reason.

5. If I have to go anywhere and give a speech, I want somebody to write it for me and give me a copy with really big font.

6. I will not give press conferences or go on Sunday morning talk shows. Ever. I will go on The Daily Show only, or Stephen Colbert.

7. I won't go anywhere where a flak jacket is advisable.

Is GW Bush an Iranian Spy?

How surprised was I to find out that the Iraq War was the result of an Iranian intelligence operation ( Not even a little.

How surprised will I be if it turns out that high ranking officials or well connected neocons were Iranian moles? Not much.

It's seems pretty clear that the primary beneficiary of the Bush Regime's policy in Iraq has been Iran.

I'm a Hedonist

I took this quiz ( ) that purports to show what philosophy I follow, and I came up 80% "hedonist". Considering that I have lived most of my life in an atmosphere of self loathing and guilt, I suppose it could have been worse. I was just honest about how I actually live, i.e. I'm selfish and usually go for what's pleasurable rather than what's good for me. I wish that I could just embrace it and take pleasure in life without all the guilt and self hatred, and I hope that I am making progress in that direction.

What would Homer Simpson do? That's what I should ask myself.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Conflict is Like Electricty: It Can Kill You or Cook that Microwave Popcorn

Disputes may be resolved; conflict can only be managed. There is no way to resolve conflict because it is inherent in every human interaction. Moreover, as Steve Scott points out (, conflict is what permits progress and creativity. "Iron sharpens iron."

An appropriate perspective on conflict is essential, however, in order to manage it. Fear of conflict and avoidance of conflict in the name of some ideal of unity or in the name of adherence to authority lead only to suppression as the views of one faction or individual dominate the views of all others. The conflicts will remain and fester and do nothing to advance the institution or enterprise. In these cases, you see a lot of passive-aggressive behaviors and pointless subversion and defections.

It is far better to acknowledge conflict and manage it so as to benefit from the opportunities that it presents. However, some institutions and enterprises take the perspective, to the exclusion of others, that good conflict = competition in all cases. Competition is only one form that conflict can take, and it is not always the most appropriate form for every situation. In an environment that fetishizes competition, actors are liable to focus on it, develop competence in it , and apply it to every situation. It is written that if all you have is a hammer, pretty soon everything begins to look like a nail. Don't get me wrong. Competition can be healthy, in its place. In the wrong setting, competition can be counterproductive.

Business contracts are often negotiated by competitive individuals trained in the competitive model. They see the negotiations as a zero sum game where points are won or lost. But a business contract, in complex transactions, may memorialize an ongoing relationship between the parties and serve as a framework for what should be, if the parties are to be successful, a collaboration. If the contract is drafted and negotiated with this perspective, i.e. that of designing a charter for a collaborative effort, it will not only be a better document but the negotiations will serve as a model for future interactions.

Many conflicts are unrelated to the goals of the institution and involve personality clashes and minor annoyances; however, these are significant to the individuals involved and can make life hell for them if they are not addressed. Some of these will be disputes over particulars amenable to resolution, but many will just be people getting on each other's nerves. The institution or enterprise would be well served by promoting an institutional culture which values tolerance for diversity and respectful but candid dialogue. Managers trained in transformational mediation techniques can model behaviors and attitudes which will enhance the ability of employees to work together and to take advanatge of their differences. They will also be more readily able to weed out assholes.

Conflict is inevitable. It is the energy source for creativity. It can be harnessed for fun and profit, or it can kill you. Understanding how to work with it is essential to determining which outcome you are more likley to experience.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Things that Suck

Your name here at Death Wore a Feathered Mullet has an incomplete list of things that suck: He's right about everything except Derek Jeter. Jeter doesn't suck because you are jealous of him and all the women he has had, so let's move him to a list of people of whom one might be envious for one reason or another.

A Random Memory

When I arrived at high school for my first day, someone had placed a sticker on my locker. They had placed the same sticker on every locker. It read,"Mr Teat Eats Shit." It referred to our assistant principal who, in my dealings with him over the next four years, seemed like a fairly decent man. Then again, he was an assistant principal and had the name Teat, so he really was fair game. I never found out who pulled off the prank. Because the sticker was funnier if you read Teat to rhyme with shit, it was hard not to think of the man as Mr Tit from that day on.

The stickers were scraped off by the maintence guy right away, but there's no way to get all the glue off of the metal, so just about every locker had a little splotch of glue and maybe a little bit of paper from the sticker left on it. As each new class of freshmen came in, they would be told the story of the stickers and know that the words "Mr Teat Eats Shit" once graced their lockers. After my class graduated, the new high school opened, one of those fancy schmancy "Comprehensive High Schools" all in one brand new building, and the old high school became the junior high. I wonder if the glue patches meant anything to the seventh and eighth graders. It would be shame if they didn't know what the glue signified, that once upon a time, somebody "stuck it" to the authorities.