26 June 2009

Why Bother To Read Titles? You Never Know What Bushwah I'm Spouting Anyway. Just Read the Post, Dammit.

Looking Beyond The Late, Great King of Pop

To those mourning the death of the King of Pop, permit me to say that I am not totally insensitive to your pain. Celebrities occupy an odd role in our society, and sometimes we feel an artificial personal connection to them, especially when our own lives are lacking in genuine personal interaction. There is also a modern penchant to enjoy angst, the gnashing of teeth, rending of garments and that sort of thing, and it would be impolite to expound on that here and now, and so I'll let the crowds around the Walk of Fame wail in peace. As for me, I never met him and know nothing about him other than what was communicated to me by an unreliable and hysterical press and so I do not have sufficient reliable information to make any informed judgments.

Permit me further to add a couple of other examples of people for whom we should be praying, and whose lives and "homegoings" we should be remembering and celebrating this day:

Officer Henry Canales, Houston PD - Killed in the line of duty, 23 June 2009. Officer Canales was working undercover investigating a criminal conspiracy and was shot by the criminals when a deal went bad. In undercover work, officers seldom can wear any protective vests, etc., nor can they carry weapons of the power and capacity which they normally carry.

William Thompson, Dushore Fire Company, PA - Died in the line of duty, 18 June 2009. At the age of 65, Bro. Thompson was still responding to calls and fighting fire. The physical stress of this call was too much for him, and he is now answering the Last Alarm.

Both gentlemen leave families to whom they were devoted.

To date in 2009, there have been 63 line of duty police deaths, 51 line of duty firefighter deaths and 8 line of duty EMS deaths.

Celebrities Must Lead Us In All Things

At a Massey Coal (naturally) facility this week, a number of activists were arrested for trespassing. They are righteously angry that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that “monuments,” or fixed objects controlled the location of boundary lines, rather than a careful, engineer-certified, metes and bounds description prepared with the latest in laser measurement devices and even GPS equipment. This is significant because if the survey were correct, Massey could not put a coal handling structure where one is located, 240 feet from an elementary school. (Now, the fact that monuments have been the preferred method of determining the location of boundaries since the concept of land ownership was developed in medieval England seems to get lost in the argument.)

Among the activists arrested were Ken Hechler and Daryl Hannah.

No criticism of Ken Hechler as a celebrity is intended. Mr. Hechler was a member of Congress in the 60's. He is an historian, and wrote a well regarded book, The Bridge at Remagen, about a battle in World War II in which he participated, as well as other historical tomes including a personal memoir of working for Harry Truman. He served as West Virginia Secretary of State in more recent years, and that is largely an administrative position held by people getting ready to run for Governor. So if Mr. Hechler is taking a principled stand, I’ll listen to what he has to say. This principled stand is fine, but damned limited, because it provides only a path to cutting electric production.

Those who trade off on celebrity earned in unrelated fields annoy me when they expect that to impress. Daryl Hannah has found success in acting, and I don’t know enough about the subject to criticize her in the slightest. I am unaware of any specialized knowledge or study she has respecting energy policy.

Indeed, the whole notion of single-direction focused protest of the dramatic type, getting oneself arrested, that sort of thing, is simply shrill, not rational. Coal structures are negative things – Well, you can say a lot of objective things supporting that, and couch them in lacy language. However, simply “tear them down” is insufficient and lazy. Once again, Mr. Physics is at work here. Facts, so they say, are very stubborn things. We are addicted to energy. No more mountaintop mining. No more strip mining! Hell, no more coal!! Dare I say: NO MORE FOSSIL FUELS. That would soooo drastically reduce pollution in so many forms - carbon, particles, metals, it would be paradise. Oh, there would be a little problem with methane from the decaying bodies of the human die-off, but that wouldn’t last but a couple of years.

Whose power do we turn off first?

Simple answers. Simple minds. Simpletons.

Early Project Notes:

A possible collaborative project may be writing about what “people should know,” or what qualities and knowledge is necessary or advisable for a positive and successful life.

By the way, how do you keep track of notes of such things? Paper? Flashdrive, hard drive? Do you have copies or back ups? Or, do lots of people not keep these sorts of odd things? This is a real question, I have no idea.

In any event, what should people know or do? Just a few thoughts of mine: Start a fire; comfort the dying; diaper a baby, drive a truck; propose a toast; read aloud. I remember that Robert A. Heinlein had a collection of aphorisms of a character, Lazarus Long, one of which was such a list, and I may be borrowing a couple of items from the recesses of my memories.


Another Inquiry Into the Breath of Understanding From Poetry, With Contest

Once again, your tattered scribe has been interrogated about the origin of the closing of these Dispatches, “Pippa Passes,” this from Friend Jan at CCC.

Having explained the full glory to Friend Jan, I’ll again run a modest contest for the best explanation of “Pippa Passes” as it applies to this place. The prize will be a not-randomly-selected-but-not-necessarily-glorious selection from the rambling library of Friend Elu, currently in terra incognita on his world tour in search of investment opportunities in feldspar, kivas and trillium.

Friend Jan and Preacher Joel are disqualified from this contest, Jan having been given the Truth and Joel having twigged to the absolute heart of the matter within an hour of the last time this petit contest was run. If some persons (such as Pastor Josh, Parson Jim, or Brother Bert) enter, they will be held to a higher standard. I know it’s unfair, but you guys already know that’s the Secret of Life and pass it along at every opportunity. However, Bert is funnier than Josh or Jim, so you guys need to listen to Bert and catch up.

Pippa passes.


20 June 2009

Why Nobody Goes TO Nigeria; Are You Tending 15 Gravesites?

Some Advice For Citizens of Nigeria

Ladies and Gentlemen:

I’ve never been to Nigeria, but I feel that I’ve come to know you through so many unsolicited emails from various citizens. I’ve come to hear about your government, your banking system, domesticity, family matters and many other aspects of Nigerian life. Well, I hope you don’t take offense, but it looks to me like it must really suck to be you, at least the way you operate these days.

Let’s begin with plane crashes. Don’t the airlines have any mechanics there? Airliners are sensitive beasts, and they need a little work from time to time, or the damn things will just fall out of the sky. Every week, I’m hearing from one of you that you mother, father, cousin Hakeem or beloved secret pinky pal went down in an air crash in the jungle leaving you lots of dinero. Look, a little consumer action may be appropriate here – If people quit buying tickets on Air Nigeria, maybe management will twig to the notion that folks would like a better than 50-50 shot of landing on the wheels on a runway.

And assassinations, why would any idiot take a government job there? Hey, the pay may be good and having heavily armed (and poorly trained) soldiers kiss your ass all the time is probably a rush, but if you’re gonna take a bullet in the brain guaranteed, I’d give this government service deal a little advance thought.

Also, your money management skills seem a touch primitive. Do you have full access to the internet there? Has anyone there gone to a European or American business school? You see, banking is a worldwide phenomenon. You can arrange electronic or paper transactions so the money never touches the Nigerian banks. Some places (I’m thinking Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, for example) even pretend to keep it secret. Then, you wouldn’t need my bank account information nor need to offer me 40% just to move your own money out of Nigeria.

Well, folks, it’s entirely your decision, but if it were me, I’d be beating feet outta that place. There have to be dogwork jobs on freighters, that sort of thing, and once you get to somewhere that doesn’t crash every other airplane or sell ammo only by the case, you jump ship. If you’re in Mexico then, head north, come on over to the land of opportunity and you got ‘er done.

Oh, if you’re really one of the shitheads in Milwaukee scamming, get off the computer and go get a job.

Somebody Needs to Take Care of the Cemeteries

I’m OK with my name. It’s easy to pronounce, common enough that it’s not odd, yet uncommon enough that if I call someone I know, usually “Hi, it’s Roger” is all it takes to start the conversation. I am extremely glad that my parents refrained from naming me “Somebody,” because then I would be impossibly busy.

I am reminded of that again this morning by a story in the Times-West Virginian about the Woodlawn Cemetery. This is a cemetery overlooking the downtown. It is on a lovely hill, and contains the gravesites of many prominent people from our history, as well as thousands of citizens, and it is still being used for interment.

Our culture respects the dead and their bodies. That respect includes maintaining the cemeteries in orderly and attractive condition. For the newer cemetery which is still selling lots of plots and doing lots of burials, that seems to go pretty well, since marketing the new plots, vaults, etc., requires that the grounds be beautiful. That suggests without promising that this beauty will somehow be an eternal thing. Also, when the cemetery is really active, there are immediate family members of the recently deceased who supply extra care to individual graves, extra cleaning, flags, flowers, etc.

At some point, graves become icons, curiosities or invisible. The icons, great and small, are of people that modern folk have heard of. A recent novel by Dan Simmons, Drood, was a supposed manuscript by a popular Victorian novelist, Wilkie Collins. There was a photo of his somewhat neglected, yet large and ornate gravestone. That’s the only connection we have to him, here is the spot where whatever remains of the physical body inhabited by the person known as Wilkie Collins is deposited in the ground. The logical sense escapes me, but I’m not exactly mainstream, am I?

A grave is a curiosity when the person observing it has no clue who the departed is/was, but feels something (a connection to the past? An interest in the carving?) by his/her observation. The people who do “gravestone rubbings” are in this class. That feels vaguely macabre, but I suppose it's harmless. But finally, graves will go forgotten. We rail against that and have little victories against that. My partner’s sister researched the family history to find the grave of an ancestor, and found it in the middle of a meadow, the stone laid down and nearly destroyed. She erected a new stone and fenced the grave, and thus put off the vanishing of this grave by . . . I don’t know how long. Not forever. Not even the rocks live forever. The wind will blow and the rain will fall, and there will even be what comes after what Carl Sagan called “the last perfect day.” I’ve seen estimates that for every person living today, there have been 15 others who have come and gone. That’s a lot of graves to tend. And we know that there are not that many graves.

Woodlawn Cemetery has been there for 150 years. It doesn’t have much income, so it cannot do much maintenance. It scratches for grants and such, and the State sends inmates from a nearby minimum security prison to do groundskeeping. [Whether that is a wise use of state resources is a topic for another day.] But it’s still not enough to make Woodlawn Fairmont a Forest Law Hollywood Hills. And so, voices are heard in the community, “somebody has to do something.”

“Somebody has to do something” should be printed on a banner to be carried at the head of a parade. Marching in this parade (or, more probably, riding in vehicles driven by someone else) will be the whining, the lazy, the complaining, the unimaginative, the short-sighted, the “I-got-mine” Brigade, the people who are the eternal spectators and consumers. If someone is not willing to say, who needs to do what and what will I do to help, his/her opinion really doesn’t interest me. Lacking commitment, s/he lacks the slightest credibility.

Oh, a final word about graves. Does it matter? Natural processes return flesh to basic components to be reused by the biome. “For all I’ve created returns unto me, from dust were ye made and dust ye shall be.” I am comfortable in the promises of my faith, even though some of the practitioners (many of whom believe that effectively communicating faith requires near-screaming) say that if you go for other than traditional burial, you’ll be punished or lose out in the Hereafter. So while the knowledge that in the long-away Fullness of Time, there won’t be two molecules of the physical “me” hanging together isn’t exactly cheery, I guess I can trust in God and just suck it up and move forward.

But I’ll be damned if I’m gonna stick the job on Somebody.

Pippa passes.


17 June 2009

Dreadful editing error misleads vivacious LaG; Answering Rags re Freemasonry; Ain't ALL Violence Hate Crime? It Just Makes Me Sick

If I Refer To LaG Again As "Elderly," I Will Have Knucks On My Head

In my flowing description of Tim kidnapping his mom for a fire call, I appeared to refer to LaG as "elderly," that being one reason I didn’t abandon her at an airport and go strolling about on a Mom hunt. LaG, if you recall, is my own Mom who, at a young and vigorous 85, is a force to be reckoned with. Let's see, what happened, what happened. I KNOW! Obviously, someone at Blogspot altered my original script, where I referred to LaG as "elevated," meaning advanced on the planes of morality, power and spirituality. That grevious error was pointed out to be gently by LaG, and so I swiftly correct that erratum at this time. That is my story and I'm sticking to it.

Minor Observations on the Freemasons

In answer to dearest Rags, my longtime Shelf compatriot, who asked why the Masons are a "secret society" in a comment to a post on the Shrine Hospital funding problems:

Melissa, darling, Google "Masonic ritual" and you will see several versions of the "secrets." Some of them are fairly accurate and some of them are belly laughs. I have a lot of fun with the videos on youtube where "investigators" "expose" the Masons. Often, they have been "investigating" the bottoms of bottles of spirits or the unopened tops of their psychotropics.

Freemasonry is not secret. I am not aware of any "secret" which is not available somewhere online. Mind you, they are all buried in the garbage and because I have made a promise, I won’t separate that wheat from chaff, but trust me, the stuff is there somewhere.

Freemasonry is not secret, it is private. As I understand it, the Catholic confessional is private, and yet we have a pretty good idea of what happens there. A lawyer’s conference, ditto. I shudder to think of the activities at bridal showers, and whenever a group of ladies is discussing one, they clam up when I come within earshot. I assume that blood sacrifices, Satanic music played backwards and so forth isn’t going on, but I cannot be sure. Doing things in privacy aids people in expressing themselves, turning their thoughts inward and concentrating, and sometimes simply adds to the fun. Nothing more, nothing less.

With respect to your question about why various churches go from disapproving of the Masons to criticizing the Masons to banning their members from belonging, there are their stories and there is my/our view. Their stories concern blood sacrifices, demonism, strained construction of the street plans of Washington and other rather silly stuff. (Getting a Masonic design out of the street plan of Washington takes myopia and idiocy. However, take a look at the street plan of Sandusky, Ohio, which with a fair wind and minimal understanding of inserting stuff I have placed below. The planner was the Master of the Lodge there, and it would take equal idiocy to deny that he stuck the primary Masonic symbol right into the street plan.)
However, in some strict doctrinal respects, I understand some of the churches’ views. The Masons are religiously and politically ultra-tolerant. No atheist can be a Mason. Beyond that, there is no religious inquiry at all, ever. I can sit in lodge with a Christian, Jew, Hindu, Muslim, etc., in perfect harmony, attend prayer, and so forth. The ability to do that offends some beliefs. It is a specific offense within the organization to discuss let alone argue religion, politics or anything else disharmonious in the precincts of a lodge. Oh, also, there is a misperception (often intentionally misrepresented) that Masonic ritual includes representations of resurrection of others than Christ. Again, Google it, it can be a hoot.

And we will simply put up with this stuff because (1) we will not break the privacy which is important to the organization and (2) the First Amendment has to permit loony stuff in order to let sane stuff flow, so who cares?

Attorney General Holder and Hate Crimes Legislation

Today, Attorney General Eric Holder called for much stronger legislation against "hate crimes," which are crimes motivated by discriminatory beliefs. Kill a gay person intentionally not knowing him/her to be such, that's murder, and pretty bad. Kill him/her because they're gay, that's worse, and should be punished more severely. That's the idea of hate crime legislation. He cited recent incidents where a late-term abortion doctor was killed in church, a guard at the Holocaust Memorial was killed by an old nutzoid white-power-Aryan guy, and two soldiers were attacked in the US by peeved Muslims.

Holder quotes from today:

"Over the last several weeks, we have witnessed brazen acts of violence, committed in places that many would have considered unthinkable: a sacred memorial in the nation's capital, a recruiting station for the nation's armed forces and a church in the nation's heartland * * * The violence in Washington, Little Rock and Wichita reminds us of the potential threat posed by violent extremists and the tragedy that ensues when reasoned discourse is replaced by armed confrontation [Oh, yeah, that's a real new phenomenon, people using violence first, isn't it?] * * * I testified in support of stronger federal hate crimes legislation when I was deputy attorney general almost 10 years ago. My friends, that is far too long to wait. Too long to wait for the authority to prosecute offenses motivated by a person's gender, disability or sexual orientation. Too long to wait for the tools necessary to staunch the rising tide of bias-motivated violence directed at the Latino community. Put simply, too long to wait for justice."

[Full disclosure: One day I must write about the expenditures for the Holocaust Memorial. I must be independently wealthy to do so, because LaJ makes it clear that my welcome will become a tad worn when that occurs.]

I hadn't heard about the Muslim thing, but the other incidents have been all over the news. It appears that the "suspects" are "alleged" to have toted guns into public places and gunned down people. [The "suspects" and "alleged" is a bit of fun. The mainstream press has more guts about creating misleading, incomplete or shady impressions of ordinary folks than bluntness about violent crime. These guys took guns and intentionally shot people without justification. That's murder.] Hate crime motivation looks at their motivation. So long as they have the capacity to form criminal intent - know what they are doing, know that it is wrong - it doesn't matter why they do it. The victim is just as dead.

Years ago, around 2000, there was a murder near Fairmont of J.R. . . . darn, forget his last name. Quiet fellow, black and gay. I'd run into him at our office once or twice and that was the impression he left, just a quiet guy. Some teenagers killed him by beating him up and then running back and forth over him a few times with a car, partly to kill him and partly to make it look like a hit & run. [They were vicious, but not too bright.] The boys were charged with murder and tried as adults, there was public street stuff (including our buddies the Westboro Baptist Church Moron Brigade from Kansas) and there was a lot of noise about how West Virginia desperately needed hate crime legislation. (This might not be a good time to disclose to one loyal reader, LaG, how close I got to being arrested for taunting the Chief Nitwit from Westboro.) Anyway, the Marion County Prosecuting Attorney at that time was the late G. Richard Bunner. Richard was a short guy, built like a fire plug, who still had a working farm. He wasn't the greatest trial lawyer on Earth, but he knew what was right and you could trust his word absolutely and that's the best epitaph I know for a lawyer. After Richard caught hell for 3 or 4 days in the press because he wouldn't label it a "hate crime," he blew. "Well what in the hell do you think it is?," he bellowed. "They ran over him with a car again and again! That's hate! That's why we've charged 'em with murder!"

Richard was right. Hate crime legislation is bullshit feel-good tokenism for mouthy special interests. We are losing the war against drugs. Anyone who says differently is lying or stupid or both. We are losing the war against gangs. Anyone who says differently is lying or stupid or both. As a society, we are too greedy, lazy and afraid to deal with crime, rather than have press conferences and giving speeches with indignation and cute but moronic solutions that we know won't work while we hope that the whole thing doesn't collapse on our watch.

Pippa passes.


14 June 2009

Very calm and reasonable observations, worthy of telling the kiddies along with Dr. Seuss

“A Cake Walk”

Where in the United States or elsewhere about the Globe is “cake walk” in the common vernacular? Google it, and the primary references are to an old Southern musical tradition and to connotations of things which are easy.

We have the honor to represent the Town of Fairview, West Virginia, in its legal affairs. (Fortunately for all, it is an ultra-pleasant place with little need for constant legal services.) When I’m called upon to go there, I enjoy the drive, I enjoy the company and conversation, and I just feel attached to a part of an America spirit that has slipped away from so many places.

One of the premier events of the year in Marion County is the Fairview 4th of July Celebration. It is, I seem to recall, lawful in the United States to burn the American flag as a form of First Amendment speech. I sit here safe in No. 3 Equity Court on a Sunday afternoon, and I picture anyone going into the precincts of Fairview at any time of the day on any day of the year and setting fire to Old Glory. Fairview is filled with many veterans, many of whom hold the Purple Heart, and every resident of Fairview I have ever met is a strong, moral and hard-headed patriot. The 4th of July is not a date in Fairview, it is a way of life. And so, to those who value their First Amendment rights, consider Fairview an intelligence test. Burning a flag there would indicate a stunning lack of brains on your part, and validate Darwin’s theories.

There are also light-hearted parts of the 4th of July Celebration. I was talking to one of the Fairview folks this week, a Purple Heart veteran, who was describing this year’s plans. Among them is an honest-to-Gosh cake walk. In this case, it is not a Southern dance thing, it is a fundraiser which is a cross between a raffle and musical chairs, the prizes in which are cakes. Does it sound hokey? Oh, it is, it is, deliciously so. You can hear Aunt Bee in the background, Ma & Pa Kettle’s Model A, a steam whistle, and when you look around the only hair colors are those naturally found in humans. And that’s OK. There is a reason that we long for simplicity. There is a reason that we desire a return to things that are uncomplicated and non-confrontational. We are caught in a Gresham’s Law of Social Behavior, where crudity drives out civility and where we assume that the only rational response to an idiot is more idiocy.

Through my enlightened friends in Fairview, we can see that there is still an America where simple and clear values persist, and where people can have simple fun without apologizing or pretending that they must feign some deep understanding of some high-minded social mishmash that MTV approves of.

Shriners; The Bastards! They are Closing Our Hospitals!

You know the Shriners, of course. They are the guys (men only) who were the funny red hats (fez’s, actually), perform in parades, and (according to Ray Stevens) raise harmless drunken hell at conventions.

There are, perhaps, a couple of things that you don’t know about Shriners. First, they are all Master Masons and, therefore, of some presumed basic decent standing in the community. (This is a general observation. There have been lots of exceptions, unfortunately.) Second, until the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation got the money from Warren Buffet, the Shrine was the largest (i.e., most money) private foundation in the world. The Shrine operates 22 totally free children’s orthopedic hospitals. By totally free, I mean that the patients and their families pay nothing. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada. These hospitals employ world class surgeons, therapists and other health care professionals. Shriners all over America furnish transportation and other support, and to most of them it is not some abstract service, it is a mission. I know a disabled Shriner who devotes all of the time and energy that he has to the work for the children. This is a bear of a man. I last saw him at a high school graduation, where one of the crippled children he had sponsored when she was a toddler in a wheelchair walked across the stage to get her diploma, and he was weeping unashamedly. Folks, that is a man's man. (The Shrine also operates three world-class free burn centers.)

So what’s the problem? Well, the financial geniuses collecting their bonuses and stock options have presided over the investment system generally tanking something like 20%. The value of investments is down and the income on investments is down. That’s how the Shrine pays for these hospitals. American Express got a bailout, Goldman Sachs got a bailout, GM got a bailout. The Shrine didn’t get a bailout. And so, the board is faced with the probable necessity of closing six hospitals. Why? Not enough mony from current income. If the Shrine keeps these hospitals open, it will use principal to do so, greatly reduce income in future years, and endanger all of the hospitals.

The angst within the Shrine is terrible. This is the reason the Shrine exists, to help children. These conditions which are limiting income are economy-wide, and the investment performance of the Shrine is exceeding most other non-profits. And patients are frightened, because they have depended on quality and free care.

Some “patient rights advocates” have responded vigorously – with petitions demanding that the Shrine not close any hospitals nor reduce any services. Hey, there you have it, problem solved! When someone becomes an “[anything] rights advocate” or “[anything] activist,” is the lobotomy included for free or do they have to pay extra? Step right up, folks, hear my moronic and simplistic declaration, ignore cause and effect, screw reality, and It Shall Be So! And then desperate people with real world problems who will grasp at anything are led to anger and guaranteed failure, rather than turning any of their efforts and energy into any path that may actually work. “Dammit, DO SOMETHING!” is sooo much easier that sitting down and spending the time and making the effort to think about what to do and then doing it.

When someone proposes anything, not only is it a fair question, it is a necessary question, what are the effects of your proposal on the obvious weak points? When someone protests anything, not only is it a fair question, it is a necessary question: What is your PLAN? Anything less is sloppy, intellectually lazy and politically opportunistic.

We Have Gravely Insulted The Israelis And Cannot Make Amends

Some modern Christian writings on apocalyptic matters view the modern political state of Israel as necessary to the fulfillment of Biblical end-time prophesy. Beats me, I’m just relating what they say. One theme seems to be that there will be more and more trouble and dissension.

Are we at some tipping point? This week, President Obama was talking on the telephone to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel from the President’s office. Although Mr. Obama was nattily dressed in a suit, he was kicking back and had his feet up on his desk, as some folks are wont to do. An infidel photographer was present, and the photographer took a photo of the President from across the desk, showing the soles of the President’s shoes. To compound the crime, this photo was published.

Naturally, there was an outcry in the Israeli press. No matter that Mr. Obama was doubtless kissing Mr. Netanyahu’s ass in the manner that American presidents have done since 1948. (“The USS Liberty, Prime Minster Eshkol? Piffle, it was only flying the largest American flag available when your aircraft attacked and killed 34 Americans in international waters, it could have happened to anyone, think nothing of it!”) However, the soles of the President’s shoes didn’t match the pucker of the President’s lips, and so we must grovel at Israel’s feet. The $3 billion in foreign aid we give Israel every year ($95/second) is as nothing. That they lie to us about having nuclear weapons, forget it. For we have flashed shoe leather at them. This is unforgivable. Woe be on us. No matter that Mr. Netanyahu wasn’t there physically before the President. No matter that no Israeli saw it in person. It’s the principle of the thing, and even Israelis love to be victims, don’t they.

Well, I demand that we make amends. We don’t deserve to be a part of the future of Israel. We don’t deserve to talk to them. We don’t deserve to send them money. We cannot risk offending them again.

Thus saith the Lord.

Tim's Mom Goes On A Fire Call

Today we had a nice little extended family dinner at the local Applebee's to celebrate a close cousin's birthday. (Happy Birthday, Chris!) LaG (Grandmother) rode with me, and LaJ (Tim's Mom) rode with him. En route, I got a phone call from Tim that he was "diverting" to a fire call. And, apparently, kidnapping LaJ. Upon inquiring, he tersely informed me that it was for a plane crash, and by then LaG and I were nearing the interstate and saw the parade of engines and tankers heading for the airport.

Understand, a car wreck is a car wreck and a fire is a fire -- but a plane crash, well, that's a plane crash. No fireman or rescue man can pass one of those up, even if it requires some little thing like kidnapping your mother. Statistically, plane crashes are not big deals here, because Marion County has no airport that will handle anything with a jet engine. Nearby airports (Bridgeport and Morgantown) normally handle communters and smaller aircraft, although the maintenance facility in Bridgeport receives larger aircraft with crews. But, a plane crash is a plane crash and you just don't miss it.

On the other hand, for spectators, calls generally are spectacular bores. LaG and I made a gallant effort to rescue LaJ, but Tim drove to the scene and I would neither drive past the marshalling area for extra apparatus nor leave elderly LaG and saunter down a long runway on a Mom hunt. So, we went to dinner and in the Fullness of Time, they reappeared.

LaJ ungraciously recalled similar experiences 20+ years ago, but I do not recall that happening.

Pippa passes.


08 June 2009

Good Lord, He's Talking Politics Again?

“Arf, Arf, I Don’t Have to Think, I’m In Politics”

Reluctantly, I understand that some modern politicians are too competitive, petty and short-sighted to acknowledge, let alone gently praise, wise actions of political opponents. When an office-holder hits a home run, the most effective response is graciousness, followed by silence and the sour grapes of “Oh, yeah? How about the the starving children in Gambia, you could have helped them with that program and you didn’t because you hate them.”

But going even farther and saying that the good result a politician gets is a bad result looks really stupid, doesn’t it? That doesn’t bother West Virginia Delegate Kelli Sobonya, who has rung the Capital moron bell this week.

I make no bones about my support for Governor Manchin. But everyone is acknowledging that he has put West Virginia in the best possible position to weather these tough economic times, including having a huge “rainy day” surplus fund in the bank, equal to a minimum of ten percent of yearly gross state revenue. (And Schwartzenegger thinks he’s tough?)

Delegate Sobonya, a Republican from Cabell County, excoriates the Governor because the Wall Street Journal recommends only a five percent surplus fund. (Remember the WSJ? Lehman Brothers used to have a thousand copies delivered every morning. Need New York City office space? Where Lehman Brothers was is available. Other firms are still on Wall Street, operating on our tax money.) So, we have a national Administration spending trillions against the will of the national Republican party, and now people in the state Republican party oppose saving money.

I'm back to that old Gospel tune, I Wonder as I Wander. I wonder: Should Governor Manchin be flattered that it now takes slobbering idiocy to criticize his economic policies?

A Modest Proposal for American Prosperity & Peace

Thesis - Since 1980, we have endured 21 years of screwball economics.

That does not damn the intentions of the authors thereof. Indeed, it is perilous in the extreme to challenge (at least openly) anyone’s intentions. Their intelligence, yes; their sanity, sure; but not their intentions. In almost every instance, a person believes that what he or she is doing is good or at least justified. To promote that conclusion later, he, she and those who stand to benefit from a finding that the decisions were correct will use every sort of logical mishmash to justify the purity of the actions, the necessity of any suffering as collateral damage caused by the opponents who made the actions harder and, if the results aren’t rosy, remind us that undoing the work of the unGodly takes time. Presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II believed that they were conservatives seeking to reduce government and balance budgets, and that Democrat obstinence and Factors Beyond Their Control blew up the deficits.

We had an eight year hiatus from screwball economics with President Clinton, for if you ignore the packaging and look just at results, it was eight years of peace and prosperity, he downsized government a tad, ended “welfare as we know it,” and ended with a healthy budget surplus.

President Obama is not a “Clinton Democrat.” He has abandoned Bush II screwball-economics-by-stealth and instituted the Screwball Economics Circus Parade, with a trillion bucks tossed on the table to be carved up in earmarks, loans, incentives, kickbacks, graft, payoffs, payola, backscratching, pork, overdue infrastructure replacement, worthless infrastructure construction, and kneejerk nonsense.

We need to look back to what worked, the 42nd President, Mr. Clinton. It’ll take a constitutional amendment to make him eligible for reelection. And to accomodate the personal weaknesses which doomed his administration to vulnerability to vicious irrelevant rumors and zany expensive attack, we'll give him every Wednesday off, and call it “It Never Happened Day.” We'll give him a pager, and if we really, really need him, we’ll page him. Otherwise, let him alone, don’t bother him, and don’t bug him about what happens on It Never Happened Day.

Eye on the ball. Results matter.

Symbolic Sacrifice, Reckless Decision

The Obama Administration has submitted its proposed budget to Congress which will, of course, rewrite it, slip in earmarks & pork, make lots of corrupt legal deals and a few corrupt illegal deals. Such is life.

To show fiscal responsibility (oh, please, stop it, I’m dying laughing here), the Administration has proposed what it terms significant cuts. You might think that’s odd with a trillion dollar stimulus, but work with me here, OK?

Among the cuts are:

The Administration proposed cutting the F-22 fighter production program to 187 units. This aircraft has been in development for 15+ years, and is intended to replace all of the operational fighters in U.S. service. Like it or not, current military doctrine uses these aircraft heavily. They are damn expensive, owing largely to ruinous development cost, which will now be apportioned to a fraction of the planned units. If a future Administration decides that the old equipment which will have to be retreaded due to the production stop on F-22's isn’t up to the task, there will be a loooong delay in restarting production and bringing more units of the F-22 online, even if the manufacturers make the same aircraft without modifications due to future technology.

The Administration cuts funding for the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. Let’s just send the Arabs the ammo and quit giving them subtle ways to screw us. If we don’t use an all-hands approach to energy, we lose. Coal is the future of electrical generation for decades. Live with it. But nuclear is necessary. Nukes make radioactive waste products with long half-lives. These products have to be stored in a stable location. "Oooh, golly, it’s dangerous to store" it is a stunningly stupid attitude, and when the lights go out, those now complaining about storage will be the first to complain about lack of generating capacity.

And the Administration cuts $400 million in assistance to states and localities for jail costs to house illegal aliens who commit crimes. Right, don’t enforce immigration for political and economic reasons [don't piss off liberals & Hispanics, and have illegal cheap labor available), and cease supporting one of the programs which helps cover your own blunders. Smart.


There’s a public awareness campaign for everything. Everybody has a colored ribbon for something, so much so that now they have to go to color combinations to keep things sorted out. Rallies are good. Decorative flags, fine. Car magnets, kickin’. There’s an Abused Children awareness campaign going on downtown right now.

But until you prevent the abuse, until you help the child, you have done nothing. Until you have raised money for research for breast cancer or provided care or services to patients, you’ve done nothing. If your ass is not in the grass, you are a spectator. Between TV and videogames, we are teaching our youth a spectator ethic, and the asses in the grasses grow rarer and rarer. Results matter. Results matter. Results matter.

Pippa passes.


05 June 2009

Public Blogging & Private Writing, The Willingness to Enter the Fourth Dimension of Time, and Other Pertinent Observations

I have developed a very small but extremely discriminating, lovely, handsome, intelligent, classy (and in a few cases redneck) readership. One measure of that is the noise I get when the time between posts stretches out a bit.

When I was in junior high school, my dad told me that I needed to learn to type. Why, I asked? Don’t big important people have other people to do that stuff for them? There ensued one of the many priceless lessons in self-reliance, humanity and humility and also the physical world benefit that I did indeed learn to type. I was impatient and didn’t wait for a school course, and Dad had a course on 33-1/3 rpm LP’s. [I hope, nay, I pray, that someone will be bewildered by that reference.] I started using his old Royal 440 that he kept on his desk at home, and my fingers have kept tapping since.

When I first was “called to the bar,” it was a tad unusual for lawyers to know how to type. I remember a temporary injunction hearing in Philippi before Judge Luff around 1980 where there was no one available to prepare the temporary injunction I obtained that needed served immediately. (For Four and others, full disclosure requires that I state that it was a restraining order against a large picket line in a strike.) Not a big deal, where’s the typewriter, I asked, and I typed the order. For some reason, Judge Luff found this exceedingly amusing. (The guy wore a red robe, and he found me amusing?)

A day never passes without lots of writing. A day never passes without some of that writing, usually a lot of that writing, being personal/custom in nature, i.e., not legal documents themselves. I enjoy it when that can be in the pure blog form, but circumstances often require that these communications go elsewhere. My trusty dented & scratched Sony laptop has been steadily shuffling electrons into my custom formats over the past couple of weeks, but they all have been for private recipients. Ah, if there is ever such a book as The Collected Correspondence of Roger Curry, what will the people say? [Probably, “Damn, that guy was odd.”]

Inconveniences like the necessity to work, sleep and attend to life in the non-electron world have kept me from time to blog lately. So here I am. I’m still looking for that door into the Fourth Dimension of Time, which will free up unlimited opportunities to write, read and Generally Think Great Thoughts.

The Uniqueness of Workmanship

When Tim was age 2 or so, he started going up to Grandfather’s house to “play shop,” that is, they would vanish to the wood shop for hours and play and incidentally, he would learn motor skills and the use of tools and what a joy it is to make things. As he grew, Tim became a good woodworker, and he and Grandfather collaborated on lots of projects until Grandfather’s death. One of the projects was a lectern which is still used in one of the Courtrooms in the Marion County Courthouse.

While a church a couple of weeks ago, I saw a similar lectern and saw that it had some design features resembling those that Dad used. Well, they always, always signed and dated their work on the bottom, so I turned it over. It was unsigned, but I didn’t need to see that to know that it wasn’t their work. As simple a thing as the type, number and placement of the fasteners (lots of nails only, no glue, rather than 2 screws countersunk at each corner with the joints also glued) made it obvious. It fascinates me that different workmen “leave tracks,” and show different characteristic styles. That’s true on lots of areas. Locally, I can usually identify the work of a couple of architects, a couple of finish carpenters/cabinetmakers, lots of lawyer-writers, lots of judge-writers, some local artists, and so forth. There is uniqueness everywhere.

More on Life Alert® and Other of Those Radio Pendant Things, and Why You Gotta Get Them for Old People

A year or more ago, I strongly recommended the use of those radio pendant things that are advertised for old people who spend time alone. The idea is that they wear a necklace with a small (smaller than a matchbook) radio transmitter and if they get in trouble, they press a button. The pendant transmits to a receiver in the house, and that calls a communications center which determines the problem and gets help.

Right before I had originally recommended them, I had talked to a young doc, an anesthesiologist, in a effort to get some medical backup to convince LaG why these things are a good idea. A short version of what he said is this: Old people have circulation that isn’t great. If they fall and cannot get up, the tissue pressing on the floor starts to die slowly. As tissue dies, it gives off chemicals [he didn’t specify what] that attack the organs of the body and put these people in ICU’s where they are at great risk of dying. His opinion put me over the top, LaG started using one and I still strongly recommend them to others.

Yesterday morning, I received a call from the communications center that LaG had fallen at home. She was unable to get up, and had pushed the button. On the way there, I called 911, owing to her age and medical status. It turned out that she was not seriously hurt, just “walking wounded,” bumps and bruises. The radio thing worked exactly as it should have. This saved at the least a great deal of pain and anguish and at the most a very adverse medical event.

These things cost less than $30 a month, and many hospitals have programs for them.

Oh, an aside - as the paramedic from Rescue 20 (Tim’s company, my old company) was interacting with LaG, I was impressed at how kind and professional she was and chagrined at how very much I have forgotten about patient care over the years. That’s definitely a “use it or lose it” proposition, and when we turned aside a lifetime EMS licensure push in the early 80's, that was the right decision.

Idiocy, Part I:
Whining Idiots

On the “news” recently was a picture of a pretty 11 year old girl and her glowering mother. The girl is a grade schooler whose classmates (other 11 year olds) put a “threatening” video on the internet about her. The “offenders” were punished at school and stuck into some sort of counseling. Not enough, says Mom. My daughter was the brunt of terror, and I want those brats PUNISHED. We’ve been through hell, and so forth.

This is just another symptom of the “I wanna be a victim, too” society. You get attention. The siren song of that is hard to resist. People help you and care for you and care about you. If someone calls you an idiot, others will leap to your defense and point out that they are hard hearted.

And until we kindly tell this Mom and her compatriots to lighten up, have a Coke and a smile, and shut up, we will continue to be distracted by this silly shit.

Idiocy, Part II
Calling Disraeli: Gimme Some Statistics

By God, polling is great. If you satisfy all of the requirements to avoid the pitfalls (clean and large survey population, method to ensure high response, neutral & specific questions), statistics are useful to predict public reaction at a given time to an issue. We have come to love polls and depend on polls. Moreover, polls show us that “we matter,” and that “the people have a voice.”

Indeed, the ideal of America is that the people have a voice. Remember, however, that lots and lots of press, lobbying and advertising is meant to conceal or divert and not to inform. One method of diverting a gullible publish is to overload the public with anything from the uninteresting to the meaningless fol-de-rol (e.g., which actress wore a dress last night that “left nothing to the imagination.”)

I’ve seen a new low in diversion, one that says “You people are soooo stupid, I bet we can run this one past you.” Press and entertainment outlets are running polls about how many people believe trivial things for which there is an objective answer. I saw that in a poll concerning Susan Boyle, the lady amateur singer in Britain, where people were asked if she really had experienced some sort of mental breakdown. 82% didn’t believe it. I have no idea what the facts are, and don’t care. But no matter how many people believed or disbelieved this trivial flea on a gnat’s ass, in the physical world, it is either true or it isn’t.

There are enough problems as it is living by polls. When leaders use polls to determine public policy, they are falling into the old Roman Bread & Circuses routine. There is a view that our economy is a wreck, credit-laden, production-poor, and needs a readjustment that only a depression can bring. [My opinion is not well-informed, as I do not have a sufficient understanding of society-wide economics.] OK, poll that one, and you’ll get perhaps a whopping 3% favorable response. And yet, perhaps it’s true. The International Panel on Climate Change says that it is very likely that human burning of fossil fuel has contributed materially to raising the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere and raising the mean temperature of the planet. Poll that. If you poll anyone but the IPCC and similarly trained scientists, the poll is meaningless.

We as a society are becoming stupider and stupider. The information explosion helps us do that by making unimportant, unsupported, anecdotal, irrelevant and out and out false information available for the taking.

OK, maybe we’re just swimming in ignorance. We’ll soon know. Ignorance can be fixed. Stupidity can’t.


Soon, I will blog in extenso about some personal defense issues. A number of examples have been in the press lately. Consider this one:

In mid-May in Oklahoma City, three teenagers armed with pistols entered a pharmacy to commit a robbery. A late 50's employee behind the counter (retired Air Force officer) pulled a pistol and shot one of them in the head, putting him down but not killing him. (It is unlikely that he was aiming for the head. Few people are that good a shot in those situations.) The other two teens determined that robber was a bad vocational choice and fled. The employee followed them to the door and decided neither to shoot them in the back nor run after them. Then, the employee returned to the counter, got another pistol, came back around the counter and shot the kid on the floor five more times, killing him. The employee has been charged with murder.

Everyone I’ve talked to who is familiar with firearms agrees that the employee was OK up until getting the second gun, and that from then on, his actions were improper. However, opinions of whether those actions were legal or moral were all over the map. We’ll examine those a bit.

Pippa passes.