Tuesday, November 08, 2011

A Jobs Program the GOP Can Get Behind

Americans need jobs, but the GOP is determined to keep the economy sluggish in an attempt to bolster its chances in the 2012 elections. A jobs program has to be totally irresistible in order to get past the GOP. I propose that the US create at least 1,000,000 jobs quickly by invading Iran.

Iran has over 600,000 active military forces and some 3 million combat ready paramilitary personnel, so it will take a sizeable force to conquer that country and to subdue it after the initial conquest. I reckon 1,000,000 troops would not be too many, and additional support personnel will also be needed. This means jobs aplenty, especially for young people.

The GOP loves land wars in Asia and hates caution, and they haven't shut up about the threat that Iran poses for nigh on a decade now. So I don't see how they could credibly oppose a war of conquest and subjugation in Iran. The Christianist right loves instability in the Middle East in the hope that it will trigger Armageddon, so those folks will be on board with the plan.

Aside from creating jobs in the short term, the O'Bama administration would benefit in a variety of other ways from a Persian War. Firstly, it is difficult to criticize the President during wartime, especially if you are a mindless nationalist as many of the GOP are. Secondly, O'Bama can do just about anything in the name of national security, including silencing dissent, and nobody in the opposition will be able to gainsay him without sounding like a defeatist or an America hater. Thirdly, O'Bama can credibly argue that America can't afford to experiment with a GOP administration in time of war since the GOP has demonstrated its incompetence in both governing and in war fighting.

It's time to mobilize America and get her people working again. Let's attack Iran without delay.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Somali and Norway

I spent an idyllic week in Nantucket ignoring the news. Now that I'm back I have two observations. Firstly, I am glad I never got on the bandagon with the "Somalia is the proof that anarchy works" crowd.

Secondly, anti-Islamic wingnuts spend a lot of time arguing that all Muslims are somehow responsible for all Islamist terror because Islam is a religion of violence. Given that, isn't it fair to argue that anti-Islamic wingnuts are culpable for the acts of the anti-Islamic Norwegian nutbag who killed all those people because militant anti-Islamicism is a philosophy of hate?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Rob Bell

This morning I started reading Rob Bell's "Love Wins". It is deceptively pithy, and it took me longer to read a few pages than I would have expected given the large type and simple writing style. An earlier work of Bell, "Velvet Elvis", was very influential in my spirtitual journey and very liberating.

I suspect that this book will advocate some form of universalism. I have universalist tendencies myself. Hell makes no sense to me at all. The whole concept of this fleeting life as a test with eternal ramifications makes even less sense to me. It causes me to question the very notion of an afterlife.

In one passage, Bell writes about how someone had once remarked that the great peacemaker Gandhi is in hell. I have been thinking about this all day. Some folks reckon that Gandhi is right there with Hitler in eternal torment. And maybe Hitler was introduced to the Four Spiritual Laws in his bunker in Berlin and prayed the formulaic prayer to receive Jesus as his "personal Lord and Savior" right before he died, in which case Hitler's in heaven! Does this make any sense at all?

I'm not saying that Gandhi deserves to be in heaven and Hitler deserves to be in hell. Nobody deserves anything. For me, it ain't about deserving. It's about what a loving God might be expected to do. It's about the boundaries, or lack thereof, of grace. Would a loving God create weak mortals, predestine them to act in certain ways and then torment them forever because they acted as they were ordained to act? I suppose that it's possible, but it boggles the mind and confuses the heart to contemplate it. I suppose that if I end up in hell, it might be for my own good or for the furtherance of some grand unfathomable purpose.

Maybe the suffering of the damned is meant to entertain and amuse the saved in heaven and to enhance their experience by serving as a contrast to the bliss which they enjoy. Think how lucky and grateful you would feel if you were spared the torments which were inflicted on people who had been no worse than you in life, maybe even better. Of course, if you really enjoyed the suffering all that much, you'd be kind of a douche.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Public Schools

Is it morally wrong for me to enroll my newly acquired daughter in public school while at the same time opposing the coercive organization of education? After all, I have been paying school taxes out the wazoo for years now while reaping no benefit, and the alternative is to pay tuition at a private school in addition to school taxes. I'm going to do it anyway and rationalize it somehow, but I'd prefer to learn that I've still got some antigovernment cred even though I receive a government benefit.

Friday, July 08, 2011

Retiring the R-Word

I've been finding out lately that I can't use the R-Word any more when talking about stupid people and stupid things. For the time being I've reverted to "feebleminded". I did the same thing when the word "illegitimate" and "illegitimacy" became problematic. I dusted off "bastard" and "bastardy".

Stop Saying the American People Aren't Stupid

I frequently hear pundits of all stripes state "the American people aren't stupid." They don't really believe that, do they? A quarter of us are positively feebleminded. Half of us cluster around average intelligence where abstract thought and complex reasoning are just beyond our ken. The remainder of us have the theroetical capacity for abstraction and reasoning but lack the inputs to utilize this capacity. Clearly, the American people ARE stupid.

Look at the evidence: a GOP majority in the House; the existence of the WWE; the use of the word "intellectual" in connection with Jonah Goldberg; the election of GW Bush, twice.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Debt Ceiling

If I were O'Bama, and Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling, I'd just keep paying the country's debts anyway on the basis of the 14th amendment. They could try to impeach me for all I'd care. Then again, I'm not like O'Bama.

I don't assume that my opponents have the interests of the country at heart, and I don't think that the problems of government can be fixed simply by manning it with good people. Every 4 years, the electorate is apt to put a complete douchenozzle in the White House, and then the structural deficiencies of the system become glaringly manifest. We need to restructure the system so that evil and incompetent administrations simply can't do that much harm. Also, I don't generally like to start negotiating from the point where I think me and my opponents should probably end up. I like to let my opponents negotiate for what they want after I put what I want on the table. That way, if my opponents are not negotiating in good faith, I won't have bargained against myself.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bachmann Paradox

Michelle Bachmann has a problem. A major part of her core constituency, the radical right wing evangelical branch, reckons that folks with vaginas are disqualified for leadership roles and should just shut their cake holes.


Here's my translation of some of Congresscritter Bachmann's ravings when she announced her fringe candidacy for President.

"I'm a peace through strength conservative." Translation: I aim to give the military industrial complex a blank check.

"I'm a fiscal conservative." Translation: I am insufficiently self aware to understand that this is completely inconsistent with that first thing I said.

"I'm a social conservative." Translation: I think I know better than everyone else how to live and I will use violence to impose my preferences upon society.

"I'm a Tea Party conservative." Translation: I am doubling down on my incoherence.

Friday, June 24, 2011


I can hardly believe that victory has finally been achieved in Afghanistan and Iraq. I reckon that it would be cool to travel to Kabul or Baghdad and eat in the Olive Garden and have a drink at the Hard Rock Cafe in each downtown area. I wonder where our soldiers like to hang out when they are off duty now that the war is over. Probably wherever the women are. I imagine that we'll see a lot of war brides now that the troops can mingle with the populace in safety. They won't just be limited to the brothels and strip clubs in the immediate vicinity of the bases.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Optimism Bias

I listened to an interview on PBS the other day of a scientist who has researched the phenomenon of "optimism bias". It turns out that humans tend to be optimistic and to imagine positive outcomes even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. That explains the invasion of Iraq. It also explains the many boneheaded business decisions that I have seen made over the years. I'm trained as a corporate lawyer to point out the possible downside to every "exciting new opportunity" and where appropriate to dampen the unwarranted enthusiasm of the business folks. I try not to get too cozy with the business team lest I catch the infection of optimism and overlook the potential problems that I'm paid to bring up. This is not usually difficult for me since most of the busness folks dislike me and will get me involved only when they are required to under operating procedures. They think I'm a downer with my pesky reasoning.

Optimism bias puts bread on my table. Long live optimism bias.

I'm not immune to it, of course. I imagine that my future will be happy and bright even though there are an infinite number of scenarios, mostly beyond my control, where my future is bleak and miserable or brief. How would I drag myself out of bed every day if I didn't imagine that I'd survive? Why would I bother with those Lotto tickets if I didn't see myself winning? Nobody would ever do anything if they imagined the worst all the time.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I fell in love with someone who lives on the other side of the imaginary dotted line of death known as our national border, and in order to enjoy the privilege of living with my loved one I am required by the government to jump through a series of hoops. Unlike anyone else, I am obliged to prove that I can afford a wife. Also, unlike anyone else, we are obliged to prove that we want to get married for legitimate federal government sanctioned reasons. For six months, our petition for a visa worked its way through Citizenship and Immigration Services and is now in the hands of the State Department where it will take some more months of processing.

Unlike other brides, mine has to prove to a bureaucrat that she knows me well enough to win the Newlywed Game in order to earn the right to live with me. Unlike other brides, she has to pass a physical and to prove that she's never been a troublemaker or a prostitute. We have to gather reams of documents and get them translated and notarized and stamped by all manner of officials.

What would be the downside of simply taking our word for it that we love each other and want to spend our lives together just like any other engaged couple?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Social Conservative

What do these people have in common?

They're "Social Conservatives". When they were alive, they wanted to establish authoritarian governments to impose by force and violence their views as to how to live.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Missing Snakes, etc.

My northern water snakes seem to have disappeared. Year after year, a family of water snakes has made its home in my pond. They were present in April after the thaw, but I have not seen them since. My hypothesis is that the pit bull (who went to live with my ex) used to keep their predators away and that they have been eaten. I also have been abandoned by my hummingbirds despite faithful maintenance of two nectar silos. The hummers showed up as usual in the first week of May but disappeared.

A Five Guys burger restaurant has opened in Fishkill. They make a damn good burger and fried taters, possibly the best I've ever had. Yesterday, I stopped by after picking up my cholesterol medication at the Walmart and ordered a double bacon cheese burger with the works.

I didn't watch the GOP debate. I figured it would just be a contest to establish who is the craziest and most authoritarian. The GOP will pick Pawlenty or Romney, whichever one can convince the most people that he has lost any vestiges of sanity.

I became addicted to George RR Martin sword and sorcery fiction after watching Game of Thrones on HBO. I don't know what to do until the next installment comes out in July. I've read a couple of decent novels to fill in the gaps: Everything is Illuminated, about an American who travels to Ukraine to find the woman who saved his grandparent from the holocaust, and The Anarchist, about the assassin of Wm McKinley. Usually, I hate sword and sorcery fiction. It always seems like the authors wrote down their D&D escapades, but I found Martin's work very enjoyable.

I enjoyed Pentecost/Music Sunday. I couldn't help wondering what the congregation would do if I stood up and started speaking in an unknown tongue. Presumably, I'd still be confined for another 24 hours or so.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


I have had it up to here with coverage of Anthony Weiner's "sexting scandal". I turn off the news if they even mention it. I know all that I need to know about it. It is way past time to move on. It's not as if Weiner had sponsored anti-sexting legislation or had been otherwise hypocritical, in which case the story would be a little fun. Wiener sexted and then lied about it, as anyone would have. What is so fracking amazing about that? Nothing. When he was first asked about it, he probably should have said "Jealous much?"

Friday, June 03, 2011

Righteousness and Temptation

It's easy for me to point out how much more righteous I am than Tiger Woods or John Edwards or any other rich and powerful philanderer. I have never committed adultery. Shame on them and hooray for me.

On the other hand, I have never really been tempted in the same way that rich and powerful men are. No Waffle House waitress ever threw herself at me, and none is ever likely to.

Moreover, I don't think that my libido is as powerful as that of these philanderers. Illicit sex just smacks of too much effort as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Democratic Friends

I don't criticize my Democratic friends as much as I do my Republican ones, primarily because they don't make as many bizarre assertions. They're pretty much up front about what they believe and what they want, and they tend to be too embarrassed to make intentionally spurious arguments.

One area where I do have a bone to pick with my Democratic friends involves some of the assumptions which they seem to make about humanity. One is that all people are equally intelligent and educable. This has serious policy ramifications. Given enough money and resources, any pupil can grow up to be, if not Stephen Hawking, then at least a Certified Public Accountant. Everybody should be able to get a college degree if they wish. The key to American prosperity is more technical training in order to tap into American ingenuity and permit every American to get a high tech job.

Where does this assumption come from? We all know from experience that some people are smarter than others and that intelligence and educability vary significantly from person to person. In recognizing this obvious fact, it is not necessary to make any statement about the hereditability of intelligence or the correlation of its distribution with other factors. We need to admit that a significant proportion of the population is unsuited for high tech work or higher education and that what is needed are good manufacturing jobs which permit persons with more limited intellecual endowments to earn a decent living. The current system simply treats such people as if they don't exist and exposes them to unwarranted stigmatization. My Democratic friends are left making unneeded apologies for poor people who have failed to respond to educational opportunities which are of no real use to them and who have simply been left behind in an economy that has shed its manufacturing foundation.

I'm not saying that all poor people are stupid, but I am saying that most stupid people are likely to end up poor in a society that doesn't take them into account. Even people of average intelligence are increasingly being left by the wayside as opportunities for them to get high wage jobs disappear.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Republican Friends Part 2

What I meant to write about when I started in on my Republican friends was a conversation that I had with some of them about passenger rail. They were adamant that it should be totally private because any government involvement would result in inefficiency and bad service. Even subsidies would be a bad idea, according to them. Motoring, they argued, was ingrained in our culture as Americans and that is why Americans prefer motoring to riding by rail. Clearly, Americans have freely chosen motor carriage to rail carriage in the free market.

It did not occur to them that the system of roads on which Americans enjoy the motoring experience is owned by the government and maintained by the government and that motoring is, therefore, heavily subsidized. It never occurred to them that Americans' choices about transportation might be influenced by these subsidies. The "Government Turns Everything It Touches to Shit" mantra did not seem to apply to the road system and the infrastructure underlying motoring. That was entirely satisfactory and apparently such a part of the existential substrate that they were incapable of appreciating the inconsistency in criticizing subsidies to railways as a matter of principle while accepting massive subsidies for travel by personal motor vehicle. By the way, when you dig down below the surface even a little bit, the GTEITTS mantra does not seem to pertain to the military, either, or the police and fire departments or, indeed, to 90% of what the government does. It only applies to programs of which they disapprove.

I don't buy into the GTEITTS mantra. I'm against government involvement in things as a matter of principle because I prefer that things be organized in a manner that isn't predicated on coercion and the threat of violence. There is no reason in principle that government can't do things quite well and efficiently if capable people are in charge and resources are properly allocated. There's no reason to believe that governments can't run railroads. They do it all over the world. There's no reason to believe that large corporations will necessarily run them any better or in the public interest. If you accept the legitimacy of subsidies and partial public ownership of the motor carriage system, then you should also accept the legitimacy of subsidies and a degree of public ownership of railways. Then it comes down to arguing the basis for preferring motor carriage over rail or vice versa or the proper mix of motor carriage and rail or whatever informs priorities in transportation policy.

My Republican friends believe that they differ profoundly from my Democratic friends on the issue of the proper role of government. But they don't really. They pull out the GTEITTS mantra now and then, but they clearly don't mean it especially since they seem to support increasing the size and scope of government every chance that they get in connection with programs that they like. GTEITTS seems to me simply to be a way of avoiding coming up with a meaningful argument for or against a particular policy. It is not indicative of an underlying suspicion of authority or of a libertarian streak. It's just a gimmick. Unfortunately, my Republican friends don't seem to have the time to think about it enough to realize it, (that is, unless they are far more cynical than they appear).

Republican Friends

I am actually friendly with some people who are willing to associate themselves with the Republican Party. They're nice decent people who are enjoyable to be around, so I don't really understand how they can align themselves with the forces of evil and ignorance. Of course, when I talk to them, it does not appear to me that they are racist or homophobic or warmongering or interested in bringing about an authoritarian dystopia. They favor lower taxes and less government control, but they are also suspicious of concentrated power in the hands of big corporations. It seems to me that they would be better off as centrist Democrats since they are not especially libertarian, but they seem to believe that Republicans stand for their ideals.

I suppose when I look at the GOP, I tend to see the coalition of nutjobs and neocons and to overlook the millions of normal people who are neither but who don't seem to have caught up with what the GOP has become. I wish that these Normals would take back their party. America needs a GOP that can actually govern, a GOP that doesn't go about looting and messing things up as soon as it gets power. I want to see a GOP that stands against authoritarianism, not a GOP that represents a more loathsome and sinister form of it.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Believe in the Holy Catholic Church

On Sunday, I confessed along with my brothers and sisters in church that I believed, among other things, in the "holy catholic church". Of course, being Protestant, I understood that this meant the universal church, not the Roman Catholic Church. I also understood it to mean the church, as comprised of the elect, and not the various manmade institutions referred to as "churches" or sometimes as "the church". I have never had a problem distinguishing between these two concepts and disregarding the temporal institutional form of the church when making this confession. I believe that in a spiritual sense the church is both holy and universal notwithstanding the disunity of organized Christianity.

An argument can be made that the apparent disunity of organized Christianity is a terrible witness to the world and that the appearance of disunity is confusing to seekers and a basis for claims of hypocrisy by critics. Accordingly, I agree that it is important to work toward ecumenical unity and harmony among Christian organizations.

On the other hand, I have often seen calls for unity used as a cudgel to enforce conformity to the narrowest and most confining point of view. The faction which seeks to impose its intolerant or restrictive point of view on the institution threatens schism with those who decline to adopt their point of view and then accuses them of creating disunity for failing to fall in line. For example, if I advocate an open and affirming stance toward homosexuality, then I am the one who causes disunity by refusing to go along with the homophobic faction's declaration of what is permitted belief. For them, I must confess that Jesus is Lord AND hate gay people. It is not enough to confess that Jesus is Lord. If I declare that the form of baptism is subject to a high degree of freedom, those who are otherwise inclined will decry my heresy and accuse me of creating disunity for failing to see the light as they see it. I must confess Jesus as Lord AND totally immerse adults only.

In my view, unity and conformity are two different things. If I confess Jesus as Lord, surely I have a sufficient amount of common ground with others who also confess Him as Lord to work together with them to advance the Kingdom without agreeing with them about every detail. If I love my brothers and sisters, surely I will be willing to accept a pretty wide range of points of view just as I accept a diversity of personalities and gifts. It's only when I claim to be some kind of an authority on spiritual matters and insistent on conformity that I become intolerant and divisive.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Spring Wildlife

I had my first hummingbird sighting on Good Friday, a fat female presumably stopped for a rest on her way to her territory somewhere further north. Our resident bird usually shows up between 5 May and 9 May. I spotted a male this morning but I couldn't be 100% sure that it was our regular guy.

Since the weather turned nice, I have been jogging in the park along the Saw Mill River after work. If I wait until around dusk, I find that a lot of rabbits hang out by the trail. They lie in the grass real still until I run by them and then they jump out and startle the crap out of me.

Another sign of spring has been the appearance of the great blue heron and wood ducks in our pond. Since the pit bull went to live with his Mommy in Jersey, there's nobody to challenge the waterfowl. Maybe they'll hang out more. I wouldn't mind.

I accidentally stepped on Brad the northern water snake the other day, and we both fled from one another, me cursing and him doing the snake equivalent. I was barefoot at the time, and it gave me a start.

Warm weather birds are coming back, and I've even got some bugs.

Spring has sprung. BFT.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I was briefly interested in Ayn Rand. Then sophomore year ended, and I moved on. I was a total dweeb and unathletic, but I never had any delusions that I was secretly superior to others, and I never thought much of the whole notion that smart people or selfish people or rich people were somehow morally superior. This was especially true of wealth. I grew up in an environment where a lot of lowborn folks managed to get rich in the textile business, and it was easy to see that wealth did not do anything to improve any of them. Them as were virtuous when they were poor continued to be so, and them as were not did not appear to acquire any virtue along with their property. On the contrary, they simply became insufferable.

Old money seemed to be another matter. Some of the old wealthy families seemed to have spent their leisure time in acquiring learning and social graces and in developing a sense of obligation to the community. They didn't have the snobbery or arrogance of the newly rich, nor did they engage in ostentatious displays of their wealth. They sponsored art and beautification and educational opportunities. I barely knew their children since they all attended private schools in other towns, but I admired and respected the aristocratic adults with whom I came into contact. They did not have any illusion that they deserved or merited their status. They humbly acknowledged that it was inherited and an accident of birth.

In college, I encountered a lot of children of wealthy merchants, and almost all of them were total douchebags. They had no shame in announcing to all and sundry that they were superior creatures by virtue of their fathers' having bought them fine cars and giving them 4 figure monthly allowances. They seemed to believe that they deserved all this largesse and that those of us who did not have wealthy merchant parents were beneath them no matter how you sliced it. This was probably the natural byproduct of filial love which these merchants expressed mainly by showering their children with property and every indulgence. They did not want their children to experience the shame or deprivation that they had been made to feel before they became wealthy through hard work and good fortune. I did not accept their assessment of my self worth, and I confess that I was often impatient and contemptuous of the princes and princesses whom I encountered in school. I pitied the parents of these ingrates. The parents seemed like such nice people for the most part, but they had turned their children into monsters.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Of course, I mangled my Latin in the title of the previous post. Casus Belli, I meant to write. One of my own pet peeves as a language curmudgeon did not stop me from fracking that one up. When I was a young lawyer and still had secretaries to type for me, they would always change "cause of action" to "course of action" whenever it appeared in a document. It drove me crazy, but I could never get them to stop "helping" me in that way.

I heard O'Bama speak on the radio about "carnival barkers" today as he addressed the birther nonsense. What an apt expression for Donald Trump, although the man's name was not specifically mentioned. Them as subscribe to this birther hooey are either deluded dunderheads or racists for whom birtherism is an expression of their irrational hatred of O'Bama's partial blackness.

Why does the GOP want to keep the economy in the s****er? Lots of reasons. High unemployment weakens unions and worker solidarity. It puts workers more under the thumbs of the corporate interests behind the GOP. It makes people afraid, which in turn makes them stupid enough to vote for Republicans in 2012. The GOP is counting on the stupidity of the electorate and their forgetting who caused this economic mess and fiscal trouble in the first place. Also, for the evangelical Christofascist wing of the coalition, it strengthens families because people who are poor or insecure have to depend on their families simply to survive.

A part of this GOP strategy seems to me to revolve around keeping the housing market depressed. The GOP aims to get rid of federal entities that buy mortgages and replace them with private banks which will require bigger fees and downpayments and higher rates of interest. Also, they'll make it easier to get a kidney than to get a mortgage. This will really hurt an already moribund housing market and, worst of all, have an impact on me personally because I'm trying to sell my house. Frack the GOP! Frack the stupid, stupid mortgage bankers.

I'm sorry, was I raving? Forgive me. In better news, the hummingbirds are back as of Good Friday, and it's really, really spring at long last.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Causus belli

Why did the nations have to pretend that they give a rat's patootie about civilian casualties when they decided to intervene in Libya? Who is the constituency which must be deluded in this manner? In my mind, it seems preposterous for the US to blubber about innocent civilians now when it so cavalierly dismissed this as "collateral damage" when it was doing the killing. Why don't the nations simply announce that they are seizing an opportunity to overthrow a player who annoys them? The dictator of Libya has been demonized for decades, so your average hooplehead will reckon it's a fine idea to get rid of him. And why not simply set a precedent that unmitigated douchebaggery of the sort that Libya's dictator has been known for is a sufficient rationale for war once you piss off enough other players? Maybe this would make the other annoying players try to play more nicely.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Personal Economics

I have been stopping for gas almost every day as a hedge against rising prices. Already I pay more than $4.00 per gallon. My recently departed car pool companion would have been apoplectic. His pet peeve was gas prices, for which he entitrely blamed evil speculators. I don't know whom to blame. I'm pretty sure that the proprietor of the gas station isn't getting unjustly enriched and that he makes the same few cents a gallon as usual whatever the price may be. I'm thinking of buying a second, more fuel efficient car for commuting in fair weather (I used to have a Honda Civic for this purpose but this went with the ex in the divorce). My CRV gets reasonably good gas mileage but nothing close to what I need to make the 80 mile round trip cost effective. Right now, I'm spending about $15 every day to commute, and since my car pool partner died, this is all on me.

I was unaware that taxes weren't due until 18 April, so I mistakenly did my taxes on 14 April. I had expected to be royally hosed but was pleasantly surprised by how little I owed the feds and that I had actually overpaid the state. I didn't even take any specious deductions like declaring my pit bull as a business expense due to his services in securing my home office. This year I expect to be able to file as a married person and to have more exemptions as a parent, and I think that I will be able to set aside enough each quarter to cover my obligations assuming that my planned nuptials occur. There's a new commuter tax in New York that I don't really understand how to pay and report. All self employed people have to pony up to pay for the train system whether we use it or not.

My ex-wife and I let the listing on our former marital abode expire. Our real estate agent did absolutely nothing to sell the house except encourage us to lower the price every month until we would have to pay someone to take the place. Neither of us can afford to write any big checks at closing, so I reckon that I'll just live in the damned place with my new family until the housing market recovers a bit. We're not looking to make any money. We expect to take a loss of over $100,000 just so that we don't have to be entangled by continuing to own a house together, but we can't deal with being "underwater". Neither of us has any cash to throw away, and there isn't enough spite involved in the divorce to induce either of us to spend money for the sole purpose of never having to speak to one another again. The future second Mrs. Vache Folle is not keen on living in the house that I shared with the first Mrs. Vache Folle, or I would just buy my ex out and refinance.

I've been shopping for health insurance for when my new family arrives, and the prospects are unattractive. I'm probably going to have go with a policy with a huge deductible but which gets me the rates that the insurance company has negotiated with the health care providers. This will still cost me over $800 per month in premiums. If I were responsible, I'd also get life insurance and disability insurance, but I can't deal with all this right now.

My plan is to win the lottery, in which case all my economic woes will be resolved.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nuclear Power

I suppose I am not alone in thinking more than usual about the safety of nuclear power plants. Occasionally, I drive past a group of demonstrators holding up signs with messages calling for the closure of the nearby Indian Point power plant. Given the potential for a huge catastophe, I have often wondered why such a plant would be located so close to an important population center. Why not put such plants in remote areas where the consequences of rare catastrophic failures would result in fewer casualties and less disruption to the national economy? Why not put these plants in rural parts of Texas? The local folks would benefit from the addition of high paying jobs to their communities, and if the corporations which run the plants cut corners on safety (which they inevitably will) and permit catastrophic failures they'll be sheltered from liability by the corporatist state governments which they already more or less control. Moreover, the rest of the country won't miss the contaminated areas all that much, relatively few people will be harmed, and evacuation will be relatively easy.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Thinking about Religion

I frequently drive past a few churches that feature attempts at clever or inspiring messages on their signs. The Episcopal Church now has a message that exhorts passers by to let their "hearts be broken by the things that break God's heart". I read this on the way to the dentist and meditated on it at length to distract myself from the discomfort of the cleaning I was undergoing. How am I supposed to know what breaks God's heart? In what metaphorical sense does God have a heart that can be broken? And if, as I am often told to console me in times of sorrow, heartbreaking events are manifestations of God's will, am I supposed to imagine that God's heart breaks even while His ineffable will is being carried out? I can't make sense of that sign. Over the past several months in church, our pastor has problematized "postmodernism" or at least the aspect of postmodernism that allows that various points of view can be seen as equally valid. It seems to bother our pastor that anyone (Oprah Winfrey has been called out a couple of times) might take issue with someone else for questioning "their truth". In my view, our religious views are not inconsistent with postmodernism, and I would think that pastors would embrace it. After all, modernism was the enemy of faith which is, in actuality, a premodern way of thinking. Postmodernism validates and legitimizes faith and faith based truth claims whereas modernism devalued it. Apparently, our pastor equates the certainty that the believer has in the truth of his own faith based truth claims with the kinds of allegedly objectively verifiable truth claims in which modernism gloried. I don't know what the point of all the preaching along these lines has been. We think we're right and that our beliefs are true. So what? We can't prove them to be true any more than anyone else with an entirely different set of irrational beliefs about metaphysical propositions. We'll come off like total jerks if we try. I had an interesting discussion the other day about the afterlife. My interlocutor and I both agreed that we were completely stymied about just how our immortal selves would occupy eternity. Nobody in all our religious indoctrination had ever given us a clue. What kinds of projects will we be able to undertake?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Farther Along

All week I've been turning to the old hymn Farther Along. My dear friend died suddenly on Saturday, and he was a decent and loving man with three little children. He's gone, and the world is worse for it, but Newt Gingrich lives on. Countless other worthless douchebags continue to take up space and waste air and resources while Dan is lost to us. It makes no sense, and I am left only with the deeply unsatisfying idea that one day God's purposes will be revealed and will be understood. Or maybe not. Maybe I need to be content with the idea that God has a plan, that it involved the tragic and premature death of a great guy, and that I will never ever understand it. I don't suppose that I need to understand it. Maybe there is no divine plan at work here. Maybe it's simply the senseless tragedy that it seems to be and that part of being a sane human is reconciling ourselves to the fact that the universe is unfair. What is the difference among these three stances as a practical matter? None that I can see right now. They each involve resignation to some ineffable and irresistible forces. There's no sense in being angry at the universe or God or whatever one deems the author of these events.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Foreign Policy Double Standards

Does it bother me that the US does one thing in Libya and something else inconsistent in similar situations in other countries? Not a bit. That's because I realize that the US is a sovereign state answerable to nobody except more powerful states. The US does what it does in Libya for a variety of reasons having everything to do with its perceived interests at the moment and in a particular geopolitical context and nothing at all to do with the stated purpose of protecting civilians from being killed. When it has suited the US to kill civilians, it has done so with gusto. Certainly, the US doesn't stand for the proposition that the murder of noncombatants is always something which warrants international interference. Had any nation sought to interfere with the US when it killed civilians, this would have been met with resistance. It has also stood idly by while millions of civilians were slaughtered on many occasions when it felt that it had nothing to gain from intervening. Perhaps if Libya maufactured teddy bears instead of producing oil, the US would be less inclined to meddle in the Civil War there. The humanitarian rationale for interference is just a rationale for public consumption.


I have encountered many folks who declare themselves libertarians who seem dismayed at my approval of regulation of corporations. How can I call myself a libertarian if I don't support unfettered corporate action? In my view, a corporation is a creature of the state. A collection of businessmen approaches the state and receives from it a license to do business with limited liability and with the ability to concentrate capital and power beyond what any ordinary subject of the state could hope to amass without the help and blessing of the state. Moreover, they seek to do this with almost no transparency. If you go to the state seeking these kinds of concessions and special privileges, I reckon that the state can impose any conditions on this that it pleases. And to the extent that these conditions accidentally protect me and other folks from predation and the abuse of power by the various syndicates, then I'm doubly behind them. Frankly, I'd just as soon have only the state (and its myriad annoying subdivisions) to deal with.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Reruns of Firefly can be seen on the Science Channel on Sunday evenings at 10:00. Occasionally, I suppose in an effort to justify the show's airing on an educational channel, Doctor Kaku comes on and makes some comment. Last Sunday, he talked about wormholes and exceeding light speed in "Serenity", Captain Reynold's ship on the show. I don't think "Serenity" has FTL capabilities, but I reckon it doesn't matter as long as more people get to see this outstanding series. Does the History Channel ever have any actual history any more? Every time I tune in, the show is about Nostradamus or space aliens or some such nonsense. I haven't watched enough to know for sure that I'm right, but I can't imagine that you can make a whole series about people with shitty jobs. Ice Road Truckers and Ax Men and Deadliest Catch sound like good premises for documentaries but not entire series. Just sayin'. I still haven't seen any Real Housewives or Kardashians, but I have actually watched an entire episode of Ru Paul's Drag Race. For me, The Biggest Loser is must see TV. Lately, the show has been way less about the interpersonal drama after hours and more about fitness. I've learned a lot about diet and exercise from this show. Also, I just love watching the trainers torture fat people. Tosh.0 and The Soup keep me abreast of popular culture. Since Keith Olbermann quit, I haven't really watched the news (except the occasional Last Word) other than The Daily Show. I listen to NPR and the BBC religiously. I've been watching Deadwood again. I like the Al Swearingen credo: I want to trade to advantage and come once a day. I don't hate the sitcom Modern Family. Otherwise, I've been watching movies and science and nature documentaries when I bother to watch TV.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Core Mission

Lately I've heard some politicians on the TV talk about the "core mission" of the federal government. So far, I've heard its said that some program or other is not part of the core mission but so far I haven't heard anyone expound on what is the core mission of the United States government. Based on what the United States does with its money, I'd have to surmise that the core missions are two: to maintain a bloated military on the one hand and to maintain a population of old people in relative health and comfort on the other. Are these missions connected?

Monday, March 21, 2011


I'm not sure what the military intervention in Libya means. Does it mean that the UN aims to intervene in all civil wars where there is a high risk of civilian casualties? Or just the ones where the member nations would like to see the civil war succeed? Or just the ones where lucrative oil contracts are up for grabs?

Friday, March 18, 2011


It would be a lot easier to evaluate whether state action was appropriate or effective if the state had a known purpose. If you assume that the state's actions are efficient and appropriate and then work back to the purpose, then you get a hodgepodge. Under that analysis, the purpose of the state appears to be (a) to perpetuate its own existence; (b) to provide employment for bureaucrats; (c) to maintain the existing power structure; and (d) a million other seemingly unrelated and conflicting purposes.

In my opinion, the state should devote itself to the overarching human project of taking control of all matter and energy in the entire universe and turning it to the benefit of mankind. Citizens should demand notning less than individual immortality, total leisure, and unlimited resources at their disposal. A primary sub-goal on the way to achieving these aims should be to get us off this planet before we destroy it or some cataclysm befalls it. Anything that doesn't promote the primary goal is a waste of time and energy and resources.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

What Have I Been Up To?

When the first Mrs Vache Folle left me, I had to start working a lot more hours to make up for losing her income. I ended up with the house payments. That cut into my blogging time and my time for keeping abreast of events. Then I began a frenzy of skirt chasing, and that took most of the rest of my time. Also, I needed time and space to get used to my new situation.

Last August, I met a lovely woman on line and began an intense correspondence. I fell head over heels in love. She is perfect for me in every way except one: she happens to live 7 time zones away in Ukraine. I flew to Ukraine and spent some pleasant weeks with the woman of my dreams in Yalta on the Black Sea. I ended up asking her to marry me and applying for a fiancee visa for her and her daughter. Since then we have corresponded or spoken daily, and we met again last month in Prague. We are now waiting for some federal bureaucrat to look at the visa application (it has been 13 weeks since I filed it). If we are lucky and our application is processed in the average time, we will be united in August and will get married. I will also have a teenaged stepchild.

That's what I've been up to. Work and travel and courtship.

I have opinions about stuff

What with all that's gone wrong in Japan, I keep expecting Godzilla to make an appearance. Maybe he could help with that atomic power plant, but he'd probably just destroy more stuff.

The romantic in me would love to see America help the Libyan revolt succeed, but I am otherwise glad to see that America now has a government that is cautious and thoughtful about the use of military power. It is perhaps ironic that the foolhardy use of military power by an administration devoted to its unfettered use has effectively fettered the government for years to come and endangered national security far more than the threats which the Bush administration imagined.

Remember in 1992 when the presidential candidates of the Democratic Party were described as the Seven Dwarves? The crop of GOP contenders for 2012 makes the '92 Democratic hopefuls seem like titans in comparison. I predict that the GOP will nominate a former governor who is not obviously insane but that he will have to pander to the Tea Party crazies so much to get the nomination that he will scare the s**t out of the general electorate. Maybe the GOP should take a pass on 2012 and go ahead and nominate a total bats**t teabagger and get it out of their system. That way, none of their legitimate, non-crazy candidates will be tainted by the Tea Bag craze of the moment and will still be in good shape for 2016. Between now and then the GOP could work either to get the Tea Bag nuts under control or at least distance itself from their more loony elements.

Wouldn't it be nice if we Americans could follow in the footsteps of Czechoslovakia and break up amicably? I'm tired of having my government influenced by people in Oklahoma and Wyoming and Texas and those other backward places that would just as soon be ruled by the Christianist equivalent of the Taliban. I think I'd be better off if I lived in a smaller country comprised of the states of the Northeast from the Potomac up. That way, we could pursue our dream of being more European (a lot of us have actually been to Europe and like a lot of what we have seen) while the slack jawed yahoos in the other states could do whatever idiotic thing they wanted. We'd also get to keep more of our money instead of having it redistributed to the red states.

I hate reality TV, except for the Biggest Loser, the show where some sadistic personal trainers torture morbidly obese contestants. That's entertainment! I watch it while I'm on the elliptical at the gym. If I had nothing else to do but diet and exercise like the contestants on The Biggest Loser, I'd be thin. I used to like the nanny shows, but I got tired of the endless parade of stupid, lazy parents and became frightened for civilization.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lamar Alexander

On The Last Word the other day, I saw a clip of Lamar Alexander comparing concerns about nuclear power plant safety in the wake of the problems in Japan with concerns about automobiles in the wake of a car crash. The analogy might have been apt if a car crash could potentially kill hundreds of thousands of people and wreck the economy. I conclude that (a) Lamar Alexander is a moron; (b) Lamar Alexander's remarks were directed at morons; or (c) both of the foregoing.

Master of the Obvious

I'm pretty sure that everyone with any sense at all has already said this a few times, but let me add my voice to the chorus of those who reckon that anyone who really cared about the deficit would have opposed extending the Bush tax cuts, at least with respect to the wealthiest taxpayers. Eliminating that part of the tax cuts would not have had a significant impact on the economy, and it would have helped to close the budget gap. If you pushed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthy, then you should just shut up now about the deficit. You are not credible. You are simply pandering to your imbecilic, misinformed base.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bonds Between Teachers and Students

Occasionally, I find myself agreeing with David Brooks. The other day on NPR, he was talking about his most recent book in which, apparently, he has discovered that emotions and our nature as a social animal matter. He talked about the need to apply this fact to policymaking. For example, he seemed to suggest that the emotional bonds among teachers and students are important considerations. I spoke aloud to my car radio, alternating between "hear, hear" and "d'uh".

In my own experience, whenever I felt that my teacher genuinely cared about me, even loved me, it made all the difference in the world. Like my peers, I was sensitive to indifference and hostility, and the benefit that I derived from school was vastly greater when I had teachers with whom I felt an emotional bond. These were the sort of teachers who continued to manifest an interest in me long after I had left their grade assignment.

If we accept the premise that these emotional bonds between teachers and students matter, I wonder why we insist for the most part in having teachers assigned to a single grade where they are limited (except for failures) to having students for a single academic year. Wouldn't it make more sense to have teachers follow their students for several years through three or four grade levels? That way, deeper bonds could develop, and teachers could really get to know their students and their families. In the current system, teachers barely get to know the children (and vice versa) before they lose them and start over with a batch of strangers. And children are confronted with the unknown every September. We're squandering the hugely important emotional factor.

Of course, it would be hellish to be stuck with a hostile or indifferent teacher for 3 or 4 years at a stretch or for a teacher to be saddled with a class of dolts. Presumably, a school district which adopted an approach which promoted bonding would also arrange to weed out teachers who didn't develop bonds with the kids. And maybe longitudinal exposure to a group of children would help indifferent teachers to form attachments with their pupils.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Radicalization of Muslims

If the hearings hadn't been called by hypocritical douchebag Peter King, I might have accepted the premise that Congress ought to look into radicalization of American Muslims as a potential threat. But the hearings do not appear to have on the agenda the creation of an operational definition of "radicalization". How "radical" do you have to be before you are deemed to have been "radicalized"? What if you become radically committed to love and community service? Does that count? How meaningful is any of the testimony if the very topic has been left undefined?

Moreover, the hearings, despite their title, do not appear to be concerned with measuring the "extent" of the problem. A couple of anecdotes about nutty young Muslims does nothing to help us understand the extent of the problem, if it is one, or the potential for radicalization, whatever that might be.

Finally, if it is determined that some American Muslims are vulnerable to radicalization, what might a committee chaired by the likes of Peter King propose? Yellow armbands with crescents? Segregation of Muslims into camps or ghettos where we can keep an eye on them? Surely, a man who blatantly aims to smear and isolate an entire category of Americans by the way he conducts these hearings would be disinterested in efforts to fight memes with memes, the only way consistent with our values to confront the alleged threat. These hearings are about pandering to xenophobes.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I've been trying to figure out how Medicare makes any sense for the state. Why maintain a program to keep old people alive and healthy after they are no longer of any use to the state? As far as I can tell, the costs of doing this likely outweigh the taxes that old people contribute. Maybe having their parents and grandparents dependent upon the state in this manner makes younger people beholden to the state. Maybe this program is valuable for maintaining the illusion that the state exists for the benefit of its subjects instead of the other way around. These are all good reasons, up to a point, for such a program, but the potential skyrocketing costs associated with demographic changes should make us revisit it.

Perhaps the state should invest in a propaganda campaign designed to remind old people that they, too, are expected to sacrifice for the good of their country. It is their patriotic duty to die if they become ill and require expensive treatment.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Fat, Lazy Kids and Parents Who Hate America

I have heard that the military is finding new recruits fatter and in worse shape than ever in history and that this has entailed expensive modifications to training. Parents of fat kids, why do you hate America? Why have you failed in your patriotic duty to produce young adults who are physically ready for combat? Shame on you.

It's too expensive to take your fat lazy kids away from you and raise them in government camps, so we should probably just have DoD take over scholastic physical education and school lunch programs. Then we can target those families which do not support the training regimen with increased surveillance and removal of the children as a last resort.

And another thing, parents. Why have so many of you failed to indoctrinate your children as to the desirability of military service? It is appalling that so many inducements must be offered to get your children to volunteer. We need for kids to see service as an honor and something that they would gladly do for free. We would be turning away volunteers if parents were doing their patriotic duty in promoting service.

Maybe we need to evaluate the tax deductions granted to parents and reserve these for parents who fulfill their patriotic obligations.