Thursday, September 25, 2008

Voting For Spite

JL Wilson has a pretty good idea about what to do on election day:

He reckons we ought to (a) vote for a third party candidate to send a message, or (b) buy Lottery Tickets instead. Or maybe both. Anyway, it makes a lot of sense on many levels.

For me, though, voting is entirely about spite. I loathe the GOP and what they have done to the country. John McCain has got to be stopped. So I figure on voting for Democrats for the next couple of decades. If the Democratic party nominates a steaming pile of shit, then I'm going to vote for the steaming pile of shit. At least that was my theory until now.

With this bailout that's going on right now, though, it's beginning to look as if the Democrats are, in fact, about as loathesome as the GOP. I'll wait and see what comes out, but I'm not going to be shocked if it's a major capitulation and giveaway to the tycoons.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Trickle On Economics

$700,000,000,000 is a lot of money. If I had started working 7 million years ago when I would have been a chimplike hominid precursor but made about the same as I do right now as a semi-employed "consultant", I would just have finished earning my 700 billionth dollar. Of course, demand for environmental lawyers was not as great during the pleistocene, so I would not have earned nearly as much. I would have had to start back when I was a shrewlike protomammal hiding from dinosaurs to get anywhere near $700 billion. Of course, I wouldn't have been able to save it all, so to amass $700 billion, I would have had to start saving during the precambrian era when I was crawling on the sea bed.

Let's put it another way. $700 billion is enough to buy every man, woman and child in China a really nice bicycle or a 32 inch HD TV. Or you could buy 5 million raised ranch homes for people who were displaced by foreclosures. You could buy 25 million oversized SUVs. It's also about $2,333.33 for each American. Or rather from each American.

If you took 700 billion dollar bills and stacked them up, I reckon the stack would be nigh on 13,500 miles high. Better use hundreds if you aim to stack the money. Actually, it would be highly impractical to put together such a stack. It would be unstable to say the least. Just stack the money as a thought experiment, okay?

There's a lot better ways to spend $700 billion than giving it to fat cat bankers and financiers. It's not going to trickle down to you and me, that's for sure. I call it trickle on economics. It is sometimes referred to as central planning.


I appreciate it when businesses put political yard signs in front of their establishments. If they promote GOP candidates, I don't have to bother patronizing their businesses. Thanks for the heads up.

There are a lot of candidates for petty offices, and none of them identifies by party on their signs or ads. I understand that Republicans want to run away from the GOP legacy of corruption and incompetence, but I don't know why Democrats don't tout their nonGOPness. I am going to vote for a straight Democratic ticket in every race, no matter what. That saves me time in researching the candidates and issues. Party affiliation is indicated on the ballot.

The GOP candidate for Congress in my district recently attached an addition to his yard signs that reads in big red letters: "IRAQ WAR VET". What possible relevance could this have to his qualifications for Congress? To me, it says he was a dumbass. Any temptation I had to vote for him was removed.

McCain has got to be stopped. That's all I know. And the GOP has to disband or be rehabilitated so that electing them won't necessarily mean turning the machinery of the state over to crooks and power mad authoritarians. The only thing that will help the GOP is to lose elections, lots of them, for about the next twenty years or so. A few high profile prosecutions would be helpful, too.

Although if the Democrats fold on this bank bailout thing, I'm going to have to break out my pitchfork and torch.

Credit Default Swaps

This graphic told me all I needed to know about credit default swaps and why the financial system is in the shitter. An investor buys the credit default swaps as insurance that certain debt instruments won't default (or as a speculator), and the insuring party promises to pay the debts if they go bad. The original insurer then sells the contract to somebody else and so on until nobody knows whom they're dealing with any longer. Because you can buy the insurance, you feel better about crappier bonds, and because you can assign the contract to somebody else as an insurer and get off the hook, you don't have to have good underwriting standards. Money sloshes around like crazy with no meaningful controls or grounding in reality. Whee!
$45 trillion of these credit default swaps are floating around. They're not all going to get cashed in, but more are than you'd expect if the parties to the transactions had been paying attention to the underlying securities and employing sound underwriting practices. Then again, what was the incentive? Be too prudent and lose out on a lot of business. Besides, Uncle Sam will rescue you if it goes bad. Whee!

Monday, September 22, 2008

No Bailout

I'm aganst the proposed gazillion dollar bailout of the financial wizards, especially in its current form where the Minister of Money has unfettered discretion and there's no strings attached to anything. This is ass backwards, I tell you. These guys aren't going to flood the market with easy mortgage money or do a damned other thing to help us shore up the housing market. Screw 'em, says I.

Can we get some smart people on this problem for a change?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


On my way out of church last Sunday, I saw a bumper sticker with the above image on one of the cars in the parking lot. This image really sums up my feelings about people with different religions living together in a single society. We should strive to coexist. We'll just have to agree to disagree about which of our religious opinions is correct, if any of them are. In the meantime, there's no good reason we can't get along and be good neighbors to one another.
We don't have to like each other's religious beliefs or agree with them or accept them in any way. We just have to acknowledge that people differ in matters of faith and that no amount of reasoning or arguing is going to make any difference. That's because, let's admit it, all our religious beliefs are completely irrational and not susceptible to reasoned debate. From an objective perspective, they're all just about equally crazy. I profoundly believe certain propositions about God, but I have come to realize that I should not expect anyone else to give them any more credence than they would Flying Spaghetti Monsterism or Wicca or Scientology or Mormonism or Catholocism or any other religious belief.
Belief is involuntary. We don't choose to believe anything. We just believe or disbelieve as the case may be, so there's no reason to hold anyone's religious beliefs against him. They believe what they believe because that's what they believe. They were brought up in the Flying Spaghetti Monster tradition, and it stuck, maybe. Or they just woke up one morning and decided that they really were infested with millions of tiny aliens. For me, when I got as far from my Southern Baptist roots as I could, I finally recognized Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I don't have a reasoned apology for it. It's just what I believe, and I thank God for the gift of belief.
This being the case, it is important that government remain utterly neutral on the question of religion and involve itself in no way with the advancement of one religious belief over another. If there is a free market in religious memes, that will work out a lot better than a centrally planned religious "economy". Folks will come to believe that which suits their personal requirements or that which God leads them to believe. Anything religious that comes from the state will be designed to further the interests of rulers rather than getting anyone closer to the truth about God.
It is utterly irresponsible, even criminal, in my opinion, to attempt to use political means to compel others to abide by your religious beliefs or to promote your religious beliefs via force and fraud, ie government. My enemies are not necessarily those who believe differently from me; they are those who refuse to respect my right to believe differently from them.

More About Names

Almost everybody in our family gets a nickname. Even our dogs have nicknames. Jasper is "Boom Boom", "Boo Boo Kitty", or "Sir Frogs a Lot". Jesse is "Mister BIster" or "Bister" or "Bissah Boo" or "Bagbag". They seem to know their nicknames. We use their surnames when we want to talk about them without drawing their attention. Mr Stone and Mr Baggett is how we refer to them in those cases. Mr Baggett's pretty much deaf now, so I don't reckon it matters what we call him. The best way to get Mr Stone to come to you is to call Mr Baggett.

We had a dog a few years ago who had been born deaf. We taught her commands in the form of hand signals. She was pretty obedient, but if she didn't want to obey, she'd turn away and pretend she couldn't see you. Her name was Trudy, short for the Intruder, as the other dogs considered her. She became Toodle, Woodle, Doodball, and the Fly (in the ointment). Cassidy the hellhound was Cassy, Caster, Caster Disaster. Her evil sibling Sundance was Sunny, Bunny and Boo.

Mrs Vache Folle calls me Honey or Booberry. She's Goo. I don't know how that came about.

I've been known as Toby, Desi, and Buck at various times in my life, none of which resemble my name. My father is Rooster, and almost everyone knows him as such. My brother is Sport, and I swear that most people think that's his right name. Dad and bubba are senior and junior of the same name. My sister never had a nickname, except in her bowling league, where she was known as Pollack for reasons that escape me. She accidentally named her kids with names that have a pretty good foundation in family history. Her grandkids have Arabic names, but they'll doubtless be tagged with more crackery nicknames in due time. Hassan will become Hoss and Falestine will be known as Tina.

Mrs Vache Folle and her brother both go by their middle names. So does my mother, and so did her father. Her nephews use their made up Keystone Kracker middle names as well. I rarely even acknowledge that I have a middle name. It's Alan, a name that is good only for extra emergency back up names. It goes with Edgar Allan Poe or Rodney Alan Rippy but is otherwise of little use. I suppose you could be an Al, but that could be Albert or Alexander or Alphonso or some other interesting name.

In my family, almost every Mary was a Polly, every Martha was a Patsy, every Margaret was a Peggy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Naming Names

I'm beginning to think that we need rules for naming children. First off, you can't use nonsensical noises as names. And don't use a name just because it sounds superficially like it fits in with your ethnicity. You want an African name? Look up some real African names, for crying out loud. Naming your kid with a fancy sounding surname, eg Bristol Palin, doesn't change the fact that you're white trash. If you're going to name a kid with a surname, use one of the hundreds in your own family tree (or tens if you're from Texas) so that it means something. Don't name your kid the most popular name du jour. Do you know how many Madisons of both sexes will be in your kids' class? Naming him Bob will make him more distinctive at this point.

Here's how a lot of American families doled out names back in the day. First son is named after the paternal grandfather; first daughter after the maternal grandmother, usually the name they used with their maiden surname. If my paternal family had followed this I'd be Reuben Lister Warnack, and my sister would be Lottie Bailey Warnack. We'd have been unique. Reuben Lister was my great great great great grandfather, and his memory would live on in my name. I would have referred to myself as Lister and have been made fun of by Red Dwarf fans. Otherwise, I'd have been made fun of as the inept manager of the Partridge Family. Children can be so cruel.

Second son is named after the maternal grandfather with the given name he used followed by his surname. Second daughter is named for the paternal granny. The third of each sex is named after the parent unless that name has already been used. Then you head up the line to great grandparents.

This system affords you the opportunity to use surnames as given names without just making something up because you think it sounds swanky. It also avoids any hurt feelings in families since, you know, rules are rules. Finally, it permits families to maintain their history and tradition. My given names coincidentally match certain distant ancestors, but I know that my parents were unaware of this when I was named. I prefer to think that my names reflect the rich family history on that side.

McCain Responds to Charges that He is a Liar

"My friends, for five and a half years in the hellhole in Hanoi, I had to lie to survive. Under constant enhanced interrogation techniques, then known as torture but now known to be perfectly OK, I was forced to lie to keep from revealing military secrets. I was forced to make false confessions to war crimes. By the end of my confinement, I was no longer capable of discerning truth from lies. I sacrificed my ability to tell the truth for my country, and I'll be damned if I am going to let anyone question my honesty now. If I'm a liar, it's because of my service. You really have to hate America to blame me for my service connected disabilities. Besides, I can't lie because lying requires intention, and since I can't gauge reality at all, I can't form an intention to lie. So everything I say is the truth as far as I can tell even though it might not conform to facts about the world outside of what's left of my mind. Yeah, that's the ticket."

My two cents on the meltdown

I reckon we should count our blessings during the financial meltdown. For one thing, the geniuses who ran all these institutions into the ground didn't get their hands on the Social Security Trust money. Secondly, we don't have all that much money anyway, so we don't have a lot to lose. I don't think I was heavily invested in the financial sector. Thirdly, we get to wallow in schadenfreude for a little while.

I lived through something like this, albeit on a smaller scale, back in the 1980s when the S&L's went down under the weight of greedy, corrupt managers who saw deregulation as a license to steal. Perhaps the geniuses who are taking down the banks now saw deregulation the same way. Some of them may have gotten their training in the S&L debacle.

I'm a libertarian, so I am supposed to celebrate deregulation as if by reflex. But I don't harbor any illusions that the folks who run the deregulated institutions are honest, so I expect that they will try to steal or cheat whenever they can. The deregulation in this instance was just enough to permit the foreseeable evils that we are now experiencing. It could hardly be called a blow for liberty of the sort that a libertarian ought to care about. The whole system is still a fascistic conspiracy between the ruling class and the state. It's just modified to let some rulers skim a bit more off the top. In the end, who will be the biggest losers? It won't be rulers, let me assure you. Somehow this is going to get foisted on the regular schmoes just like the S&L crisis.

I'm keeping an eye on who gets blamed for this mess. Already, my pastor seemed to suggest that it was folks who took out mortgages who were to blame, although I imagine he was just trying to make a point that the congregation could identify with. We don't have many investment bank CEOs in our church. If only those idiots hadn't opted for that bonus room they couldn't afford and then defaulted on their mortgages, we wouldn't be in this mess. Poor deceived investment bankers!

It made perfect sense to get into the housing market and to count on flipping the house before the ARM kicked in. A lot of people made money doing that, and there was no reason to expect that the housing market would go into the shitter the way it did. If housing prices had stayed up, then there would have been a lot less of a problem. The solution, in my humble opinion, is to prop up the housing market by making mortgages even easier to get, not harder. Propping up the banks is like treating hemmorhoids with a throat lozenge. Help the people. Restore their wealth. Houses are all most of us have in the way of an investment. The wealth effect of a healthy housing market feeds consumption, and that heats up the economy. Could this be any more obvious?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Country First?

I saw that McCain has a slogan "Country First", and I wonder what it means. Does it mean that the country, i.e. the state, should have first priority in every subject's life? Before family, friends, church, God, self interest? I assume that this is the case since whenever McCain talks about the country, it seems to me that he means the state, not some other abstraction. He reckons that his military service was service to his country, ergo country equals state to McCain.

Country first means that the state is above criticism, especially when it is doing what it does best, killing people and destroying things or threatening to do so. We shoud each ask ourselves in all that we do how we can serve the state better and more fully in thought, word and deed. How can we support those ultimate state servers, the military? In a sense, we civilians exist solely to support the military with our treasure and our young people. Maybe I'm reading too much into the slogan.

Maybe I'm not. Since so many authoritarians comprise the right wing base of the GOP and since it seems that they are calling the shots, we should expect the GOP to be the party of subservience to the state. Isn't it true that the right wants to regulate every aspect of culture and society so as to make them conform with their view of how folks ought to live and think? Isn't it true that they have selected control of the governmental apparatus through control of the GOP as their means of achieving their agenda? In that case, "Country First" could mean that taking the country is just the first goal, that the world comes next, and then the work of controlling all of us can begin in earnest.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Time for a Slave Army?

I spoke to a man tonight who was in the National Guard from 1960 to about 1970 and who related that he and his men had been accused of being "draft dodgers" because guardsmen were not mobilized for Vietnam. The gentleman and I agreed that it must have been politics that led the US government to draft slave soldiers for Vietnam instead of mobilizing the Guard and Reserve, but neither of us could speculate what the reasoning was.

I reckon that it would have been a major fraud on the Guardsmen and Reservists to send them to Vietnam, a conflict that had no bearing on the defense of the country. They have always been recruited heavily on the basis of national defense. The same could be said of regulars to a slightly lesser degree. Slave soldiers are under no illusions. They can be used for any purpose. So the government was just being faithful to the part timers and militiamen in the Vietnam War.

Lately, the government has broken faith with the militia and sent them off on adventures with no relation to national security on false pretenses when they ought to have had the decency to enslave subjects to fight in the Middle East. Not, of course, wealthier subjects.

Third Day of Trial

Today I was reminded of how much I despise the justice system and those who work so hard to make it dysfunctional. Another judge obsessed with his own power in his own little domain and indifferent to the participants and jurors. Anyone who came within 18 inches of the flag got a lecture on how it was "sacred", as if that very flag had draped the coffin of his dead war hero son. More lawyers whose only aim is to obfuscate and confuse. Otherwise, it went as well as could be expected in view of the overwhelming douchebaggery surrounding the proceedings.

Meanwhile, I made the mistake of looking at the newspapers (LA Times, USA Today} left outside my hotel room door. Recovering from the extra stupidity takes all day. Note to self: ignore worthless papers. Also, I'm avoiding all political discussions unless I'm drinking.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


I freaked out my carpool companion the other day when, in response to his remark that he would be immortal through his children, I replied that my nieces and nephews were as closely related to me genetically as his grandchildren would be to him. Hahahahaha! My genes are perpetuated without my having to raise children of my own. Sadly, I fear that he began to regret having bothered to reproduce.

Of course, I will likely be forgotten by my kinsmen before he will because folks are prejudiced in favor of direct ancestors. I know that uncles and aunts are just as interesting or even more interesting than ancestors, so I follow them as a genealogist. Hell, cousins are fun to learn about, too.

Second Day of Trial

My trial testimony is over, so now I'm just an extra rather than a bit player in the drama. "LA Law" this isn't. I have been trying to imagine how all this looks to the jurors, and I reckon they went home tonight thinking "WTF?"

I am just too damned tired to take in downtown LA come the evenings, so I've been holing up in my room working or zoning out to the TV. Now that I'm no longer a high ranking executive of the company, the lawyers aren't interested in entertaining me as they used to do. That's just as well, although I genuinely like our lawyers. It's one of the reasons that I was an advocate for them in the corporations and even after the sale, that they are decent people as well as being exceedingly competent.

Even my relations in the area have begged off spending time with me. Just as well, since it would have been a major hassle for me and them. Besides, we are probably not closely related enough to exchange organs in an emergency, so there's not much point in keeping close.

I suspect that I'm getting sick and that a bout of bronchitis is in cards in the near future. Please let me get through flying first. It sucks, let me tell you from experience, to be sick away from home.

I really hate using the laptop without the regular keyboard and mouse.

Otherwise, all is well in LA for Vache Folle.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Sorry, Jury Slaves

I'm in my hotel room in LA waiting for room service again after a long day in a trial where I had nothing whatsoever to do except be present as the avatar of the corporation I used to work for. Nice work if you can get it. A jury was selected today in the usual way. I was tempted to throw in my two cents about prospective jurors but held my tongue. It's not my call, and the whole selection process is done from the scrotum (or female equivalent) in any event. I thought too many smart people were left on the jury for my taste, but then again the pool was unusually rich with educated and creative types.

Anyway, thirteen involuntary servants were interjected into a dispute among corporate entities about which they have no reason to give a rat's ass. And the judge had the temerity to tell the ones who were lucky enough to get away that they were unfortunate not to get to perform the wondrous duty of deciding some total strangers' contractual dispute. The injustice of it appalls me that these folks were ordered under pain of arrest to show up for this and then told how lucky they are!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

I'm Tuckered Out

I survived the weekend and my flight to LA, but I am plumb give out as we used to say in North Georgia. Friday night was dinner in the theater district with my nice uncle, aunt, cousin. I really like them but come from a different world. Uncle is a very successful businessman and a staunch Republican, and he actually believes that McCain kept his POW status a virtual secret up until this year. I kid you not. Anyway, we had a very nice time with them and I look forward to seeing them again despite our political differences.

Saturday, the cable guy came and so did Mrs Vache Folle's nephews (Huey 13, Dewey 12, and Louie 10). They're not too bad except that Dewey is a total douche sometimes. We played monopoly all afternoon (it was pouring), took them clothes shopping, stopped in the Animal Kingdom pet store, and went out to the hibachi restaurant. I had to get up at 4 am Sunday to catch a plane to LA, then met with lawyers for hours on end. Now I am drinking.

These activities cut into my sitting around time way too much. This was classic overscheduling. I,m going to get room service and eat it naked while I watch the TV in my hotel room. I am not to be disturbed for the next 12 hours.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I Am Good Enough

Mrs Vache Folle chides me for my inability to accept myself for who I am. The running narrative in my mind is one of regret, self recrimination, and failure. I can turn anything into an opportunity to fail by setting unrealistic goals that I will not be able to meet. Then I will ignore what I actually accomplished and focus on what I failed to do.

I attribute all my successes to luck and all my failures to my own flawed character, when I should be doing the opposite like most people do. Here's my new mission statement: "I succeed and add value to the universe because of my character, and I fail because of my circumstances. I take credit for good outcomes and shift the blame for bad outcomes to others. I have always done the best I could have done under the circumstances at the time. If God had intended for me to be a better person, He would have made me one."

Monday Night Potty Training

Mrs Vache Folle just handed me the Fall 2008 Continuing Education schedule for the Carmel Central School District. Course #108 on Monday evenings from 6:30-8:30 is "Potty Training". Tuition, at $45, seems like a steal. If you need continuing education on how to use the potty, I reckon this would be a sound investment. Most of us were taught by amateurs and never had the benefit of professional educators. Maybe a refresher might not be such a bad idea. I may have been doing it all wrong all these years for all I know.

I don't remember not being potty trained. Back when I was a young'un, folks stuck us on the pot as soon as we could sit up. Cloth diapers were a pretty good incentive. Also having diapers out to dry on the line as your kid aged was generally taken as a sign that your kid was feebleminded.

Nowadays, I see kids that seem pretty old to me walking around with pantloads rather than going to the bathroom, and their parents appear to be disinclined to press the matter. They're not doing their kids any favors. Frankly, if my parents had let me endure months of uncomfortable pantloads instead of informing me about the convenient potty alternative, I'd have figured they didn't love me very much. Thanks, Mom and Dad, for sharing the secret of the bathroom without undue delay.

I have spoken with some of these seemingly hateful parents who let their kids crap themselves for months on end, and I have been surprised to learn that they believe that their children will start going in the potty when they are "ready". Ready? Who isn't ready for such useful information as the existence and purpose of the potty?

It should be a pretty simple matter to potty train your kids. I've never done it, but I imagine that all it takes is a little explanation and instruction.

Dad: "Billy, you know how sometimes you crap in your pants and how uncomfortable that can be?"

Baby: "Sure do, Dad. And it's more than a little humiliating to have to be cleaned up and to wear a diaper."

Dad: "Guess what, Billy? When you need to crap, you get a certain feeling that should serve as a signal."

Baby: "Come to think of it, I've often noticed a twinge in the bowel a few minutes before I poop all over myself. I have come to dread the inevitable pantload that ensues."

Dad: "When you get that feeling, head for the bathroom and sit on the commode. Lower your trousers first, and the poop will fall into the bowl rather than soiling your pants."

Baby: "Why didn't you tell me this before?"

Friday, September 05, 2008

Times Square Not Times Square

My favorite kinsmen were in the city for the tennis matches and invited us to dinner on Restaurant Row Friday evening. I went straight from the office in Westchester, and Mrs Vache Folle stayed in Midtown and killed time by shopping. I was way early, so I took a stroll over to Times Square and Broadway and 42nd Street. It was hopping on a Friday evening what with all the tourists and theater-goers.

I first visited Times Square almost 30 years ago when it was blessed with hookers and junkies and "adult" businesses. I enjoyed my first peep show and my first hummer for cash. Good times.

It's all changed now. It's a tourist's dream. There is so much to choose from in the city that never sleeps. At 46th and Broadway, there's an enormous Olive Garden restaurant. If that's too exotic for your tastes, only a couple of blocks away is a Ruby Tuesdays. There's even an Applebees just off Broadway on 42nd. For those who are looking for the true cosmopolitan experience, check out Planet Hollywood or the Hard Rock Cafe. Times Square has become pretty much every mall in every middling city in America, only with the risk of death by cab and with lots of crazies handing out flyers for stuff. To pay for sex, you have to go all the way to 8th Avenue.

Don't get me wrong. There are tons of great restaurants, and the theatre is not to be disdained, except for the Disney stuff that the tourists eat up and revivals. But just think of the visitors from flyover country who come to Times Square, gawk at the signage, and eat at the Olive Garden after taking in a double decker gray line bus tour. Then they pay big bucks to see the freaking Lion King. Thanks a lot, Rudy.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Modest Reforms I Would LIke to See

Nine Supreme Court Justices is not enough. They don't take enough cases, and in the ones they do take they seem to phone in their decisions at times. Nine Justices means that every selection of a new Justice is so fraught with significance that the demented old farts are reluctant to retire unless a president of their own party is in office. Also, it means that presidents feel obliged to appoint youngish Jusitices so as to have a lasting presence of ideological fellows on the Court when these guys aren't really ready. If you're under 60, you're not experienced or wise enough to be a Supreme Court Justice.

Having only nine means that you are likley to get less of a range of viewpoints than you might have if there were more Justices. Nowadays, the Justices are starkly right wing authoritarian versus starkly left wing authoritarian with no room for nonauthoritarian ideas.

Let's solve these problems by increasing the number of Justices to 27 immediately, Routine individual cases could be decided by panels of nine, chosen randomly from the 27 for each case, and cases of major Constitutional import could be referred to the whole Court. Also, I would require every Justice who has not previously served as a trial judge to preside over trials as an acting District Judge until they have a few trials under their belts. These guys are way out of touch with the realities of trial work and the nature of real evidence.

And the Senate and President would do well to consider picking Justices who have had real private sector jobs at some point in their lives. No prosecutor cum law professor cum appellate judge, please. How about an honest to God trial lawyer?

While we're at, let's increase the size of the House of Representatives to 3000. That would be one Congresscritter for about every 100,000 Americans. Wouldn't that be way more representative? And the range of views and ideas would be broadened. There'd be more districts, and I bet it would be harder to gerrymander them into rotten boroughs. Parties would find it harder to impose discipline, so individual Congresscritters could more often vote their consciences.

Finally, let's make the presidency more of a ceremonial post rather than an actual executive with power and adopt a Parliamentary system for the real work of government. The presidency has been a failure as an institution.


I'm too retarded to figure out how to embed a freaking video, so you'll have to follow this link:

It's worth it, and no it's not a Rick Roll.

This is one of the reasons that The Daily Show is considered my many to be the best news show on TV. They show the contradictions, hypocrisy and inconsistencies that the real news outlets don't seem to notice.

How can the asshats that Stewart highlights take such different positions with straight faces? In the case of Bill O, it's because he is not sentient. He will deny that he said the first thing or claim that it's out of context (when confronted with the tape) or just call you names. He doesn't get it. Karl Rove is sentient but evil. He lacks a moral commitment to truthtelling and is blessed with no capacity for shame. The others understand that the media are dumbasses who won't question any narrative they're working at the moment.

Democrats need to learn how to say inconsistent things without feeling dishonest or stupid. The numbnut voters aren't going to notice. They don't remember anything more than a half hour ago. Say whatever you need to say at the moment to win points with the yahoos, and if your opponents call you on it, say they're liars who hate America. Oh, and use the inconsistencies the GOP throws up to call them, not hypocrites, but "flip floppers". Hypocrisy is nothing compared to flip floppery in what passes for voters' "minds".

Democrats must recognize that the electorate that they are courting is not really the hard working, salt of the earth, common sensical everyman/woman that they have conjured up in their imaginations. They have those folks wrapped up. They are going for people who vote with their sphincters. Which, by the way, work better than their brains.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In Defense of Food is Worth a Read

Mrs Vache Folle read me a lot of the good parts of Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food". His principal point is that we ought to eat food and not just ingest nutrients, that "nutritionism", as he calls it, reduces the complexity of whole foods to individual chemicals which may, or more likely may not, work as well when taken out of the context of the whole food item, the meal or the whole diet. HIs advice is to eat real food, not too much of it, and mostly plants.

Mrs VF and I have tried to be more mindful of what we eat and where it comes from, and "In Defense of Food" provides some helpful guidelines. If the product has more than five ingredients, especially if you don't know what some of them are or can't even pronounce them, it ain't food. Run away from the health claims.

This is a great follow up to his "Omnivore's Dilemma".

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Leave Bristol Palin Be!

Bristol Palin is a 17 year old human being who has every right to have sex with anyone she wants to. She can decide to have unprotected or imperfectly protected sex, and she can get pregnant. She can then decide whether to go through with the pregnancy or to terminate it. Then she gets to decide whether to keep the child or put it up for adoption. She doesn't need anybody's permission. Is this a great country or what?

That Bristol's mother is a politician and McCain's choice for Veep should not be made Bristol's problem. Barack O'Bama agrees with me on this. John McCain, whose campaign leaked the news to Reuters, may not agree. His nutzoid base may not agree.

Maybe Palin ought to have considered how this would play out for her daughter, what with her being a nutzoid anti-sex scold herself. If it were me, I'd have passed on the VP thing. Then again, if I had gone into labor with a special needs child, I wouldn't have rushed back to Bumfuck, Alaska to give birth. I'd have called Jerry Springer, because I'm a man. Of course, if I weren't really pregnant, which is likely because I'm a man, I wouldn't want to have my fake birth among strangers who couldn't be relied on to keep my secret.

The Garden

I have to say that I am very pleased with the progress I made in the garden this year. I repaired the "levees" by the weir where the pond empties when it overflows, and I am pretty sure that I overdid them such that they will not fail absent a flood of Biblical proportions. Just to be sure, I replaced the perennial beds by the weir with sod. The grass never seems to wash away no matter how much flooding we get. The perennial beds by the pond (them as did not get washed away) have thrived so much that I have expanded them all. I terraced the far side of the pond where the sides were steepest and put in plants, most of which I moved from the flooded beds or got at sales.

In order to repair the damage alongside the weir, I took sod and detritus from the front of the house which I turned into a long planting bed instead of weedy grass. I had success with geraniums, bee balm and day lilies, but I overestimated how much sun part of the new bed gets and foolishly transplanted some flowers there that clearly want full sun. I have since dug up many of these and transplanted them yet again to the terraces and to a new bed that gets lots of afternoon sun. I used to have wildflowers there. I aim to transplant some of the abundant ferns from the woods to the shady area as well as to other shady areas by my mailbox and driveway. I have done this elsewhere to good effect. The ferns are attractive, and they are free.

The pond itself has done well, but the heron has finally eaten every last comet. The koi are too big, and the shiners are too small, so maybe he will leave us be for now. The pickerel weed that I once counted as lost has thrived beyond all expectations now that it is no longer in the path of Dogzilla the Mighty Frog Hunter. The hardy water lilies have propogated frighteningly well. They hide the common snapping turtles quite well.

Next year, I aim to plant native plants almost exclusively. I would especially like to grow persimmons, lingonberries, high and low bush blueberries and fraises du bois. Of course, I will continue to encourage the raspberries to expand, and I want to keep adding to my concord grape vineyard (I have two vines at present). If the laws change, I aim to replace my entire back lawn with marijuana plants.

I would like to put in a greenhouse in the sunniest and swampiest part of the back yard, but Mrs Vache Folle is going to pooh pooh this.

I'm Pissed to be Passed Over for Veep

My foreign policy credentials are way more impressive than Sarah Palin's. I have been to Canada many times as well as to Mexico. I have spent time in the Bahamas, Barbados, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica, Martinique and St Vincent and the Grenadines. I've been to Peru. I have visited Spain, England, Scotland, Wales, Poland, and Slovakia. I visted Portugal (Madeira) and Morocco.
I had a couple of hour layover in Frankfurt, but I didn't leave the airport. The same goes for Haiti.

Mrs Vache Folle has been to even more places including much of the former Soviet Union.

In all these places, I spoke to people about their concerns and dreams and felt their pain. I ate their food and ogled their women.

I went to The American University which, despite its name, is lousy with foreigners, many of whom I befriended and with whom I spent many hours stoned and speaking freely about international affairs. Lots of my friends majored in international affairs.

I read a lot and have an atlas that I look at often.

Forget the Constitution

If you follow "Constitutional Law", you get the feeling that it has frequently amounted to subverting the cunning plan of limited government that the Founding Fathers designed. Take the 10th Amendment. Seriously, there really is a 10th Amendment that provides that the enumeration of rights in the Constitution is not exhaustive and that the other rights are left to the states and the people. But you'd never know it from the way the federal government works and the way that the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution. Darling of the right Antonin Scalia famously opined that rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution were not cognizable. Supreme Courts, both leftward and rightward leaning, have consistently written the 10th Amendment out of the Constitution. When the 14th Amendment is construed to apply restrictions on the federal government to the states and when anything counts as "Interstate Commerce", there is nothing outside the purview of the federal government. The states are reduced to political subdivisions that exercise authority entirely at the sufferance of the Imperial Government in Washington.

The forms established by the Founding Fathers are maintained, but not the substance. Even Caligula kept a Senate, albeit one in which his favorite horse was said to have been made a member. Otherwise, the Imperial Government's resemblance to that established by the Founders is purely coincidental. Most recently, the Emperor and his court, with his pets in the Senate and the House, have sought to render the Congress an impotent rubber stamp. To be fair, this process has been ongoing for decades.

The Founders' bold experiment failed. Every time power collided with Constitutional limits, power won. Constitutional limits, once the Founders died, have never been anything but an argument thrown in to support one's position on a particular occasion. The same voices who cry out for states' rights on abortion cry out for federal intervention on gay marriage.

The original intent of the Founders will never again be realized. Without a Revolution, we will never return to the original meaning and system of governance enshrined in the Constitution. If such a Revolution succeeded, it would doubtless come about that the vision of the Revolutionaries would give way to power just as it did for the Founders.

When the Revolution comes, let us not reinstate the Constitution that the Founders gave us. Let's try something altogether new and unambiguous. Even that will ultimately fail us, but we may be able to apply the lessons of the failed American experiment in order to gain more time for the new regime.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Smarter Emperors, Please

On the surface, you wouldn't think that a poltician's opinions about evolution versus creationsim would matter all that much. For me, though, it's a deal killer. Creationism, at least the kind that subscribes to the idea that a supernatural entity created everything just as it is and that nothing evolves, is for me one of a number of important indicia of (a) stupidity or (b) cynical pandering by someone who knows better. I'm not saying that you have to buy into evolutionary theory whole hog or that you have to demonstrate competency in it. I just want my political leaders to be smart enough to know how science works, what scientists mean by a theory. These days, a lot of policy decisions call for at least a rudimentary understanding of the canons science and an appreciation of what the scientific method entails. A politician who lacks that is suspect and then some.

Also, I want political leaders to understand that factual assertions about the world and normative assertions about what one ought to do are not the same kind of assertions. If one says that "human life begins at [pick your point]" as a factual matter, it does not follow that this assertion has any normative or public policy implications whatsoever. You might, in the alternative, say something like "human life, for the purposes of assigning civil rights, begins at [pick your point]", and this would be a perfectly cromulent normative assertion on which public policy might be based. If you don't know the difference between factual and normative assertions and the implications thereof, you are too stupid to lead.

Moreover, I want political leaders who understand that all normative assertions are ultimately arbitrary and that religious beliefs are entirely subjective and irrational.

Why do I, a self professed anarchist, want smarter political leaders? I reckon that the smarter ones are marginally less likley to get me killed and more likley to grant me more free rein as a human being than the dolts.