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.