Word from Elu
I have just received a letter from my peripatetic and frustrating client, the Sublime Elu, handwritten on the stationery of the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados, which is as follows:
"I’ve received your incessant missives, and let me first whisper wise counsel in your ear: Chill out. My feldspar interests are taking care of themselves. I do heartily agree with your plan to expand my position in hafnium futures. The bright kids may find a work-around for the electronic applications, but you can’t fool Mother Nature - not even cadmium or boron stands beside hafnium in neutron absorption, and high-heat research will be hog-tied by the shortages. We stand to make a killing, and you be sure to get a little of the action for yourself.
"Note above, I’m at Foursquare as an unpaid materials consultant. However, they are instructing me in pot distillation of rum. Given that I will return to West Virginia in the Fullness of Time, and the climate there is not conducive to the production of sugar (and for quality rum, the sugar must be fresh), it may not make a whole lot of sense that I’m becoming a master rum distiller, but since when have I let sense get in the way of learning?
"I am exceedingly concerned about our dear high school friend, Janese. Enclosed, please find a carefully wrapped (imperial) gallon of our best aged rum, and I charge you to personally deliver the same to her and recommend it as a wonderful restorative. And give her my love, as well as the attached SEALED letter, the contents of which are none of your concern (but which are worthy of publication in a blog which is less uptight than yours.) Perhaps my old friends in the Shelf community could pass along their own greetings to this wonderful lady, in care of you, if you will be so good as to pass them along - personally - it'll do you good to get out of that glorified whorehouse you call an office and get among people. [Note: An extra $50 bucks just went on SE's bill.]
"What is this blathering about the Israelis? Have you slipped a cog? I’m not talking fulfillment of prophecy stuff here, I’m talking cold, hard cash. Try to follow along, OK? My ceramics patent generates 3% of my off-shore income. (Handy of the Caymans to have PO Boxes and no income taxes, huh?) Both Pratt & Whitney and GE use my breakthrough ceramic materials in their engine housings. They sell the engines to Lockheed-Martin. Lockheed-Martin puts some in F-16's and some in boxes as spares, and sells all of the stuff to Israel. So when you get my wire transfer (to your offshore numbered account), say a little “thank you” to Moshe and the boys and get off their asses.
Back to the pots.
Dull, dull, dull? I suppose in some sense. Last night, we went to a little picnic at the church, and it was just a thoroughly American event. Wait, wait, wait. Yes, thoroughly American. Traditional. Nostalgic. This does not involve raising anti-Islamic/Russian/whatever flags, or disparaging anyone - but it’s a celebration of people and things and memories which are important to us. The church served hot dogs (odd ground animal parts, nitrosamines, and other goodies – I’ll pass) and otherwise it was the conventional covered dish thing, from the ordinary to the remarkable (e.g., someone brought a “zucchini-chocolate cake,” which was a lot tastier than it sounds.) One of the elders just bought a Prius, and there was a good bit of fun hassling him about it. Were he to park it outside (unlikely), it would be delicious to alternately add and siphon gas to and from the beast. Well, perhaps the remarkable part is that it was dull from the perspective of every external observer, and a thorough pleasure to be there among ‘em. I'm glad I committed to going with LaJ and Mama-san. I hope that all the little kids there keep this as one of their dim memories as they grow.
I spent Sunday afternoon with dearest Janese, currently doing heavy medical stuff, and Christina, another dear friend in the same high school class. Oh, yes, I did deliver SE’s fine rum, much to the annoyance of the various healthcare folks, and Janese promised to give it a whirl. (The nature of medical stuff going on is beyond the proper scope of this writing. Simply, please keep Janese in your heart & prayers.) Chris & I stayed for a couple of hours, much of that reminiscing about the years at Parkersburg High School. It’s a subject of wonder. Were those years long ago, or only yesterday? It feels like both. I think of all that has happened in the last 30+ years, and so those days are so remote. But then we talked about that niche in the hallway where we had lunch; the greasy burgers served downstairs; the rich kid who drove the pristine racing green Morgan; hurt feelings that last even to today; and just generally the things from a time that, in retrospect, seems very pure and very simple. And I’ve heard that lots of the teachers have died - good people - but I can see them and hear them right now. So how can they be gone? The building is still there - same hallways, same circular drive. I don’t know whether to feel joy to be back there in my heart or sorrow over some loss, the same loss that everyone at least has the opportunity to feel in their life.
Good grief, what schmaltz. I need a six-pack of Curmudgeon Cola.
Flatland, and a Luddite Contest
Jan is in Marietta, Ohio. It’s right on the Ohio River, at the confluence of the Muskingum. When you sort of fall off the Allegheny plateau a few miles east of the Ohio, the land changes noticeably. That’s when I realize how accustomed I am to very hilly terrain. And down by the river, particularly on the Ohio side, it’s just downright flatland. When I talked to Chris about where the nursing home is at, she mentioned GPS. Hey, a map, I can live with. Mapquest is OK, it’s just a source of detailed maps. I compass I use, although I seldom really need one. There is just some sort of directional awareness I have. I don’t know if that’s a guy thing, a mountain thing, or an individual peculiarity. But, but, but - NO GPS. You will not catch me looking at or listening to TomTom, DickDick or HarryHarry. I will not be led around by circuits and silicon. “I am not a number. I am a free man!” (Anybody recognize the last? OK, minor contest. The last two sentences are a quote from a short-lived TV series with Patrick McGoohan and a recurring role for Leo McKern. What was McGoohan’s characters car license number? Prize = pristine paperback copy of Riders of the Purple Sage, by Zane Grey. That's livin'.)
Viva La Gazette
The Charleston Gazette (the “state’s newspaper”) today features a story about a hoax where people were told to collect the screw on caps to plastic bottles to raise money for cancer research, and how horrible such a thing is and so forth. OK - hoaxes are nasty and evil, I’ll grant you, and the perpetrators should be hung by their thumbs. But give me a break - how smart is it to conclude that collecting bottle caps will materially aid cancer research? If you want to financially aid cancer research, there are a number of tangible things you can do:
1 - Contribute to legitimate non-profits, e.g., American Cancer Society.
2 - Do work that creates value and contribute the proceeds to the same - a car wash, a bake sale.
3 - Don’t fall for corporate nonsense, clicking websites and piously think you’re doing good when it’s just generating a corporate chuckle as they take a few pennies from the big bucks they save because they are on welfare and dangle it to distract you. Instead, call on government to treat so-called American corporations that exist as post office boxes in the Caymans as foreigners, to require American corporations to pay taxes on the income that they report to their shareholders (i.e., only keep one set of books), and for government itself to invest in the general medical system (dare I say universal health care?) and research.
The Gazette also opposes Governor Manchin’s amicus ("friend of the Court") brief in support of the Supreme Court hearing an appeal of a huge punitive damage verdict against DuPont which was rendered by a jury in Harrison County. The tort system is flawed out the wazoo, and everyone bleats about “reform,” but nobody really wants much reform. Damages are determined by a lay jury. In determining punitive damages, what it will take to deter a defendant from bad conduct in the future, it may as well be play money. To the corporation, offering a just settlement to atone for the actual damages it causes is unthinkable - unless the dollars are right. And then, it’s not a matter of doing the right thing for justice, it’s doing the right thing for the bottom line, and if that's just, it's an unintended consequence. To the warriors of justice, it’s a money thing. John Edwards didn’t get the cash to run for President by writing wills really well. One of the plaintiff’s counsel in the DuPont case is Mike Papantonio of Florida, who has written a couple of strange books on practice talking about Atticus Finch and Clarence Darrow. He’s venting outrage on behalf of the silent victims because of the nasty governor. The 1/3 of $400 million is unimportant, right? Why do plaintiffs get punitive damages? They do not reflect actual injury, they reflect deterence. Perhaps punitives should be paid into a foundation, to be used for the benefit of ALL persons harmed by the corporation. And are money damages a legitimate threat? Gerry Spence argues for a “corporate death penalty” for repeat corporate criminal offenders. And can we not do more effective oversight in advance of crashes? What about access by OSHA and EPA? What about responsibility in funding and investing pension plans? In revealing toxins released? (There are some toxins not found in nature for which zero is the only appropriate acceptable emission.)
The governor is entitled to an opinion. He is not going behind anyone’s back. He has filed a brief. He is asking the Supreme Court - a coequal branch of government - to consider what he has to say and to adopt a procedure followed in 48 states. They will consider it, and they may tell the Governor to go to hell for all I know. If the trial judge had thrown out the punitives, the plaintiff’s lawyers would welcome the “interference” by the governor, and DuPont would deplore it. All that counts is the cash.