Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Barbara Kellerman

Barbara Kellerman has a piece in WaPo wherein she admonishes the US not to dither with respect to Iran:

I link to the article not because it is interesting. It is not. Rather, I link to it to show an astonishingly bad piece of writing and advice from a member of the faculty at Harvard. This would have been a B- paper in the classes I taught.

Kellerman compares the president of Iran to Hitler and Iran to Nazi Germany all the while denying that she is making facile historical comparisons to Hitler and Nazi Germany. She then outlines a vague nine step program to engage Iran multilaterally on a wide range of issues while being prepared to use any weapons at our disposal. Step nine is "don't be delusional". I would add a step ten: "disregard Barbara Kellerman."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Flavored Cigarettes: Good Riddance

I heard that flavored cigarettes (except menthol) are about to be banned on the basis that they are "starter" cigarettes aimed at kids. Back in my day, we didn't have flavored smokes to entice us into smoking. We usually started smoking by trying "rabbit tobacco", an abundant wild plant that provided no satisfaction of any kind. Too bad we didn't know about Jimson Weed back then.

All the men in my family smoked, mostly cigars. My father favored Pall Malls and my stepfather Lucky Strikes. Women did not smoke, although my grandmother dipped snuff. My grandfather rolled his own cigarettes with Prince Albert in a can. He did it one handed and made a perfect cigarette effortlessly. At my grandparents on Sundays, the men would smoke up the parlor, and I would run around with the other kids under the smoke cloud. All we could see were the men's legs and feet.

In high school, the only place on campus you could smoke was the "Smoke Hole", the space under the walkway by the gym, and most of the smokers were from the ranks of the unsavory classes. The ambience of the Smoke Hole did nothing to encourage smoking.

I always assumed I'd smoke some day, and I finally started on Marlboros when I was 21 and old enough to know better. My then girlfriend smoked and turned me to the dark side. I smoked for 20 years, up to two packs a day. I settled on filterless Camels after a few years. I quit ten years ago this month, although I still smoke in my dreams.

I could never abide flavored smokes. No matter how desperate I was for a cigarette, I would not smoke a menthol. I suspect that menthol smokers smoke them just to reduce instances of bumming. Clove cigarettes are unbearable even to be around, and clove cigarette smokers tended to be hippies in my experience. So the inability to buy falovered smokes will not inconvenience me one bit. This is a loss of freedom that I will not notice.

Friday, September 25, 2009


Terrorists will attack America if:

(a) the US leaves Afghanistan; or.

(b) the US stays in Afghanistan.

Census Fears

Slack jawed yahoos fear the census:

All the wingnuts in red districts should absolutely avoid being counted at all costs, while denizens of blue districts should go overboard to cooperate with the census takers. That'll show the liberals.

Colonoscopy Day

The colonoscopy results were not as favorable as I had hoped, but I am waiting for the pathology report before I freak out or anything. The procedure went a little long because of polyp removals, so I came out of anesthesia before it was entirely over. I got to see my innards on a flat screen TV. I was still dopey enough that the sensation of the probe was not overwhelming.

I felt good enough the afternoon after the procedure that Mrs Vache Folle and I did a 3.6 mile power walk. The arch supports my podiatrist prescribed made walking almost painless. There are a couple of killer hills on our route, but I reckon this just makes it more interesting. It is a great joy to be able to exercise again after several weeks of debilitating foot problems.

After the procedure, and 30 hours without food, Mrs Vache Folle treated me to fried oysters at Joe Willy's Fish Shack and Ice Cream Parlor. They were pretty good but a little bready for my tastes. It was good to eat again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

This and That

We watched the Prime Time Emmys last night and were pleasantly surprised that it didn't suck. Neil Patrick Harris was a terrific host, and there was a great deal of self referential humor and meta-humor that played on all the aspects of awards shows that make them long and boring. For example, the president of the academy was introduced and then thanked for not speaking. There were no presenters of presenters, and some presenters presented more than one award at a time. There was a clock that showed how far behind schedule the show was. Winners with multiple people were limited to one speaker, and all the winners kept their remarks short and sometimes funny. 30 Rock ruled the evening.

I went to the podiatrist on Thursday and found out my heel problem is plantar fasciitis. I got a shot of cortisone right in my heel and a prescription for arch supports. The podiatrist wrote down the diagnosis so I could "Google it". That way he didn't have tell me that the root cause of the problem was my being a fat ass. Later, I visited my proctologist and set up a colonoscopy for this coming Thursday. I swear there must be a gravitational anomaly at the scale in her office.

We drove to Kingston on Saturday to get local, grass fed, organic meat at Fleischer's and to take in the farmers' market. We got some cheeses and bread, some nectarines and brussels sprouts, and some comb honey. We bought a month's worth of meat. We also had lunch at a delightful French restaurant, Le Canard Enchaine. Lunch there will now become part of our monthly Kingston routine.

Among the things we acquired at Fleischer's was a brisket. They had stocked up for the Jewish holidays, although I don't know if the place is kosher. We don't care, since we're not Jews, and if we were Jews we'd probably be secular bacon eating Jews like most Jews we know. Anyway, Mrs Vache Folle brushed on a mix of broth and barbecue sauce, and we cooked the thing at 275 degrees for over five hours. At an hour before it was done, we threw in a mess of taters, carrots and 'shrooms. The meat was practically falling apart and melted in our mouths. The leftovers have been callling to me.

I did a lot of mucking this weekend now that the water level in the pond is very low. Mrs Vache Folle, as part of mucking avoidance, harvested and processed a lot of vegetables from the garden. She found a pretty good recipe for turnips, and we used the carrots in the brisket. We'll have to give away squashes and chard, if we can get any takers. I need to pull out at least 50 more wheelbarrow loads of muck, and there's lots more to harvest from the garden.

We still don't have a choir director, so I haven't been singing in church. I haven't even been attending services. I don't know what the plan is for the choir, but I'll be very disappointed if the church goes all contemporary, all the time and dispenses with the chancel choir. Frankly, I'd have to change churches or just spend some time church-free. The music program is that important to me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More Exodus

Moses, and his brother and mouthpiece Aaron, are charged with informing the Hebrews that I AM, the God of their ancestors, is going to take them out of Egypt and install them in the Promised Land. Moses has been given some magical powers (a staff that becomes a snake and a leprous hand that heals itself) to convince the Hebrews of his bona fides. Moses and Aaron are also charged with approaching Pharaoah about ketting the Hebrews leave.

At the same time, I AM hardens Pharaoh's heart so that he won't let the Hebrews leave in order that He may smite the Egyptians with a series of plagues. These culminate in the visitation of the Angel o' Death and the demise of every firstborn. (As a firstborn myself, I have always taken issue with this story. Why not the secondborn for a change?) The Hebrews take off, not before plundering, and Pharoah pursues them. Moses parts the Red Sea, the Hebrews cross on dry land, and the Egyptians are drowned.

The story strains credulity, but it makes for one powerful myth for nationbuilding later on. Does it matter whether the Hebrews actually fled fom Egypt? Not as far as I'm concerned. Which is a good thing since I'm pretty sure it didn't happen on the scale suggested by the story.

A Mystery

God made Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and their ilk for His own ineffable purposes, and He made a mutlitude of humans stupid enough to heed them. Farther along, we'll understand why.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Democrats are Better than Republicans

Right wingers seem to be all over the place ideologically. The coalition includes country clubbers who just want to keep their taxes down and swarthy people out of their neighborhoods (except their servants) and Christian Dominionists who want to establish an American Taliban of sorts. Then there's them as are motivated almost entirely by race and ethnic hatred. Moreover, there's a slew of just plain authoritarians who can't stand it when anyone has any choices in life they they themselves wouldn't make (or claim that they wouldn't make). What holds all this together? Stupidity on the part of the right wing electorate and a shameless desire for power at any cost by the right wing leadership. Otherwise, the coalition makes no sense, and you'd have some Republican politicians who at least pretended to give a rat's ass about the well being of the country.

That's also why it's easier for the right to keep its focus on a set of insane talking points and to be disciplined. There aren't any real differences of opinion among them, just competition for place within the Party. They don't have to think about policy or the common good, because that's irrelevant to them. In fact, the shittier things are, the better for them since they rely so heavily on fear and anxiety.

The Democrats, while not being saints, actually seem to care about policy and to have genuine good faith differences among themselves. This makes them look "undisciplined" compared to the GOP with its officials marching in lockstep all the time. The left sometimes wishes that its party were more ruthless and under tighter control, but that would be a monstrous tragedy and the end of even the appearance of democracy. If we had two parties engaged in a no holds barred power grab, they would destroy the country. As it is, the GOP may be able to destroy the country all by itself.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I noticed that some right wing jack offs have decided to be "anti-Czar" and to claim falsely that they represent the majority. Do you know who else took these same positions? Vladimir I. Lenin, that's who. He was against the Czar, and he called his party the Bolshevik Party, or Majority Party, even though they did not represent a majority.

It turns out the GOP is full of Commies.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Celebs Behaving Badly

I have had a few meltdowns in my day, but I was lucky that they didn't take place in very public situations and they weren't on tape. I can identify with Serena Williams and her tantrum involving a line judge. I might have promised to put the ball in a different orifice. Of course, Miss Williams will suffer the consequences. This isn't the NFL, you know. It's better to be able to control these things, and I am blessed that the Holy Ghost has helped me curb my anger.

Kanye West's behavior was of a very different order. It was the height of douchebaggery to take the stage and spoil Taylor Swift's and, ultimately, Beyonce's moments. He's not likely to suffer any consequences. Maybe this will start a hip hop/country feud that will end in a bloodbath. I hope not. He should have written a poem that expressed his feelings and put it to music.

Monday, September 14, 2009


On our way out of NYC a week ago Sunday, we had to stop on the Saw Mill Parkway for a DWI checkpoint. I had had a cocktail and a glass of wine several hours earlier but was not impaired in the least. It's possible that my blood alcohol content might have exceeded the ridiculously low level for driving while intoxicated, so the checkpoint provoked a little anxiety. I was prepared, however, to follow the advice I always give: look the cop right in the eye and lie. If he asks you whether you have been drinking, say "no, I haven't". Never say anything like "I had a couple of beers" or "I had wine with dinner". That's all the thugs need to make you blow in the breathalizer doohickey.

They didn't ask and just waved me through. To be cute, a couple of cops stood just inside my lane and pretty much dared me to brush them with my side mirrors. I didn't, though. That's another piece of free legal advice for you. Don't run over the cops.

I hate it when cops ask me "Do you know why I stopped you?" I do not plan to incriminate myself, and I have a hard time holding back a smart ass rejoinder. Some of the responses that come into my head are:

"Racial profiling?"

"Those warrants from Arizona?"

"You solved all the murders and don't have anything better to do?"

"You're hitting on me?"

Do as I do. Don't say these things out loud. Don't provoke the police, especially bored to death highway patrolmen. They genuinely have nothing better to do than fuck with you.

I know where the cops hang out on the Taconic, so I always abide by the speed limit when I'm in their hunting grounds. They're too lazy and unimaginative to occupy new stations, so everybody speeds like hell except where the cops usually lurk. The junction with I-84 is a favorite cop hangout so slow down as you approach it.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ungentlemanlike Conduct

I know that Congresscritters, especially from the GOP, are unmitigated douchenozzles by definition, but they should at least pretend to act like ladies and gentlemen.

Take Shouty Joe Wilson, for example. He's an example of how gentlemanlike conduct is no longer to be expected from Members of Congress. I reckon they'll let anybody be a Congressman these days.

Shouty Joe is also a retired colonel of the National Guard, a calling that once was reserved to gentlemen. Nowadays anybody may receive commission it seems. He's a lawyer, too, another once respectable profession now made available to all comers and having no more dignity than that of an intinerant grifting driveway resurfacer. See how far we have fallen as a society when an officer and a lawyer and a Congressman no longer feels any need to try to behave with decorum during an address by the President of the United States to a joint session of Congress. The man's a southerner, the last holdout for good manners, so we know civility is good and dead.

Let's hope that Shouty Joe's mother did not live to see his shameful conduct.

Workers Comp Pays for Pizza Cook's Weight Loss Surgery

Via Huffington Post I found this story about a pizza cook whose employer is being forced to pay for his weight loss surgery The 340 pounder was injured on the job, and his doctors opine that he has to drop considerable weight before required back surgery can be undertaken.

This is an instance I reckon of taking your victim as you find him. If a really fat man hurts his back or knees or hip or what have you, there's a good chance that weight loss surgery will be needed as a prerequisite to healing the injured part.

The author of the article reckons that this will give employers an incentive to take a pass on really fat applicants for employment.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


What is the one thing that Meat Loaf won't do for love? I don't think he ever said.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

GOP Rebuttal to School Speech

Learnin's for queers!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

This and That

My aunt and uncle are in town for the tennis matches, so we started following the tennis to be able to converse about it with them. I must say that I've enjoyed the amazing run of fellow Georgian Melanie Oudin a/k/a the Russian Slayer.

I have had something wrong with my right foot for several weeks now. My heel hurts excrutiatingly all the time even though there are no signs of inflammation or contusions. I am set to see a podiatrist next week. The same day, I'm also scheduled to see my ass doctor to set up a colonoscopy. Has it really been three years? The procedure itself is not so bad, but the prep is medieval.

Yesterday Mrs Vache Folle and I treated ourselves to spa manicures and pedicures. Today, I aim to muck in the pond and wreck my beautiful nails. I haven't been able to muck all summer because the incessant rain has kept the pond too deep, so I've got some catching up to do.

Speaking of the pond, that blue heron is hanging out in a tulip tree by the back yard even as I type. He's waiting for Jasper to let down his guard so he can eat my comets.

The neighbor's cats have been eating the voles by the big shed. Good for them. The voles have been emboldened by the food scraps in the compost heap, and now the cats are taking advantage. Maybe they'll stay away from the bird feeder for a while.

So many of my countrymen are batshit crazy that it is truly frightening. At least some of them have had the decency to self identify by taking their spawn out of school today to keep them from being exposed to President Obama's innocuous speech.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

What Harwood Said

Half Moon

Four centuries ago this week, Henry Hudson in his vessel the Half Moon discovered the Hudson River. All along the Hudson Valley, we are celebrating the quadricentennial.

As an expat from Dixie, you'd think I had no real stake in the quadricentennial, but you'd be wrong. It turns out that some of my ancestors, the Van Hoozers and their kin and affines, were among the earliest settlers in the Hudson Valley and the founders of Claverack about an hour north of where I now live. One of the Van Hoozers made his way to North Carolina in the 18th century and spawned a great many southern descendants.

Jan Franze Van Hoozer (or Van Hussen as it was sometimes spelled then) was from Huss in Schleswig Holstein. He migrated to Amsterdam and then to the Hudson Valley in the 17th century.

I'm also related to Livingston of Livingston Manor, so I'm looking forward to the quadricentennial as a celebration of my heritage.


When someone uses the expression "boots on the ground" with a number to describe an investment in personnel, are we supposed to divide the number by two to get the number of people? I vote that we use the expression only when there's no precise number involved as in "enough boots on the ground" or "more boots on the ground" or "fewer boots on the ground". I also vote that we use the expression sparingly in the context of discussing the importance of land forces in a military undertaking. It should never be used to describe a parade or a crowd.

I really like the expression "true dat". I have been insensibly substituting it in my speech for "tell you what" and "boy howdy". It gives me a more urban edge, don't you think?

If I hear "it is what it is" one more time, I may very well kill someone. What the hell does that even mean? To say that something is what it is is to say less than nothing about it. I have taken to responding to this expression with "or is it?" to which I get befuddled looks. I suspect an insidious Randian influence at work.

I haven't gotten any traction with my campaign to make "smell you later" the preferred farewell phrase. My German agent dropped the ball and failed to introduce it into Europe as I had hoped. I like "see you later" because I get to say "not if I see you first", but "smell you later" would really rock.

I had a friend in university who responded to "how are you" with "better than most and not as good as some". I reckon there is a social compact that dictates that the response to "how are you" should invariably be "fine, and you", but there are many folks who didn't get the memo and who insist on describing their minor ailments and complaints. This forces me to pretend to care. I have taken to offering radical advice on how to deal with the complaints, and I hope that this will provide a disincentive to the whiners (as I call them in my head). Maybe I'll answer "how are you" truthfully and see how it goes. "How are you, Vache?" "Pretty good except for persistent scrotal and perineal itching, and you?"

I have not had the opportunity to use "see you in hell" in conversation in years or to have it directed at me. What a shame.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Obama's Vietnam

On Countdown, or some such show, the other day, it came up that some GOP strategists were looking to make Afghanistan "Obama's Vietnam". The opening salvo may have been George Will's column calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

What would the target constituency be for such a strategy? Democrats and Obama supporters tend to be smart enough to know that Aghanistan was inherited by Obama and screwed up by GW Bush. Even the most anti-war of liberals aren't going to align themselves with the GOP. I reckon you might keep some of them home on election day, but the GOP is bound to nominate a scary candidate that will offset any tendency on the left to stay away from the polls.

Is there some group in the swing voter set that the GOP would be courting? I suppose that there are quite a few complete dumbasses among swing voters. At the least the GOP is counting on a high level of dumbassery.

What about the GOP base? I reckon they'll do as they're told. Cognitive dissonance only matters when there's sufficient cognitive capacity. Still, the GOP has invested a lot in the meme that supporting the troops equals supporting the war, and it may be hard for even the most authoritarian among us to do a complete 180. Every weekend for years, a bunch of yahoos hang out on Route 9 near the Galleria Mall and wave flags and signs that support the wars and the troops. Across the way, some peace demonstrators do their thing. If the call goes out from Rush Limbaugh, will these folks cross the street and carry peace signs?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Coyote Serenade

For over five years now, we've been regaled from time to time with the strangely beautiful midnight caterwauling of some animals. This gets Jasper all riled up, and we have to drag him in from a barking frenzy. Mrs Vache Folle has for years insisted that this was a rout of coyotes, but I always reckoned she didn't know peediddlysquat about life in the country. It turns out she has been correct all along. My apologies for doubting you, Madam.

I saw one of them yesterday in broad daylight down by Kiyiwana farms. Of course, they're naturally diurnal and only stick to darkness to stay shy of humankind, so this was not alarming or anything. What beautiful animals they are.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


We've finally worked our way through Genesis and are ready to examine the fabulous tale of Exodus. Let me be honest with you right up front. I don't believe this story. It's just not borne out by history, archaeology or common sense. I'll grant that some "Hebrews", as we find them called for the first time, were enslaved in Egypt and escaped to the Promised Land, but I reckon most of them were already in the Promised Land and that the refugees from Egypt and the various tribes in situ united to take control of gthe region at some point. Exodus was a useful myth to bind the tribes together and to justify their genocidal rampage across the land.

That's not to say that Exodus isn't interesting or useful for instruction. We get the first inklings of God's Law in Exodus.

The central character, other than God, is Moses. He's a Hebrew by birth, but he ends up adopted by Pharoah's daughter. He commits a murder and has to flee into the land of Midian. He settles in with Jethro, the priest of Midian, and marries one of his daughters.

Meanwhile, back in Egypt, the Hebrews have been complaining about their mistreatment so much that God hears about it. Then He remembers that covenant he made with the patriarchs and decides to use Moses in His plan to liberate the Hebrews and install them in the Promised Land.

For reasons known only to God, He appears to Moses in the form of a talking burning bush and informs Moses of his mission. Moses asks God His name, and God replies that His name is "I AM". God promises that He will smite the Egyptians and that the Hebrews will get to plunder them on their way out.

Texas Has To Go

The idea that states may secede from the US was pretty much laid to rest in 1865. However, we haven't yet tested the idea of expulsion of states. I say we try it out on Texas. Texas is a cancer on the US, and it must be amputated if our country is ever to be healthy.

Imagine America without Texas. Pretty nice, huh?

Texas would make a handy third world country right in our backyard for any other whackos to emigrate to. We'd have Texas as an example of what life would be like if the whackadoodles were in control. That'd shut a few folks up.

Of course, we'll want to close all military installations and move our stuff out of Texas before we kick them out. Texans in the military would be discharged unless they renounce Texan citizenship and take a loyalty oath. Texans should be required to have visas to travel to the US, and most of them shouldn't be allowed in under any circumstances. Texans hate us for our freedoms.