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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Something there is that does love a wall

Ace looks at the highly effective wall the Israelis put up and asks: "Are the Amnestias against the wall because it won't be effective -- or against it because it will be effective?"


Opponents of the wall genuinely think that sealing the border is impossible--at least those in the mainstream do. Furthermore, if they refuse to even entertain the notion that sealing the border is possible a) they will never be proven wrong; and b) their adversaries will never be proven right. And it doesn't hurt that their stance will make them the favored choice at the polls for the very vocal hardcore believers who think that any attempt to close the borders is a betrayal of their ideals.

The argument that X is an intractable problem so we shouldn't even try to fix it is kind of an odd argument for the left to be making, considering their faith in social engineering. Yet it's become their fallback position in recent years.

In the 1970s and 80s, before Rudy Giuliani took office, it was an article of faith that NYC was ungovernable; crime would continue to skyrocket and the homeless--who virtually took over in areas like Times Square and Tompkins Square Park--were there to stay. This belief in the intractability of the problem was genuine, but it didn't hurt that not rocking the boat was the favored position of the liberal establishment's core constituents. No, the homeless and the squeegee men and the muggers didn't vote. But homeless advocates, the ACLU and professional racebaiters did. And they were very vocal.

Anyone who attempted to address the chronic problems of the city was punished. A case in point: Ed Koch and Joyce Brown. Koch tried to get Brown, a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, off the streets but was thwarted by the ACLU. Then Dinkins took office and the status quo became intolerable.

Yes, it's funny that the same people who believe they can legislate away obesity and poverty consider it unrealistic to tackle other problems. But they do.

Consider education. Vouchers could not be condoned because they were unfair and they wouldn't work anyway. That the teachers' unions opposed them didn't hurt either. The No Child Left Behind Act isn't exactly a conservative darling, but for years the powers that be railed at the idea of imposing any standards or benchmarks on schools. The argument went that teachers would just "teach to the test," leaving students with a big gap in other, important "life skills." Rejecting benchmarks on those grounds meant that legislators didn't have to hold teachers and school administrators accountable for failing schools, which helped them hold their grip on power. But over time, as conditions in certain inner cities schools continued to worsen, the stance of the unions became unsupportable and now they're pulling back and starting to embrace things like merit pay.

The Iraq war is another case in point: It's a quagmire and we can't win so let's just pull out our troops and go home. The daily casualty reports bolster this point of view. And the antiwar--any war--faction is loud and growing louder each day. Since it looks as though we'll be out of there in a few months, they can never be proven wrong on this point.

So what of the wall? It may be another measure that will die on the drawing board. Unless and until someone who walks across the border commits a major act of terror. Let's hope it doesn't get that far.

Shameless self-promotion time

The Jillian Chronicles: An Ongoing Saga

    I. Dispatches from the Jillian Chronicles
    II. The incident with the cherries
    III. The phone call

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Unethical ethicist

Douglas Kern has some fun with the news that New York Times ethicist Randy Cohen was dropped from a Washington state newspaper for violating its ethics policy.

My highest law-school grade was in Legal Ethics. I achieved a stellar grade because I devised an infallible mechanism for solving any legal ethical dilemma. My mechanism was this: Remember that legal ethics is a system of rules:

1) designed by sociopaths;
2) for sociopaths;
3) to prevent public acknowledgment of their sociopathy;
4) while still allowing said sociopaths to fleece said public.

Once you realize that contemporary ethics is not morality but the clever simulation of morality, you’re halfway to qualifying for an ethics-consulting job.

Kern's point is that the rule Cohen violated--he contributed to in violation of the paper's rule that its staff not contribute to political organizations--serves as a fig leaf for journalists to maintain the illusion of objectivity.

True, though regular readers of Cohen will not be surprised at his support of Move On. Cohen's philosophy, such as it is, seems to be that any action one takes is ethical as long as you're sticking it to "The Man." See this article by Jacob T Levy who takes Cohen to task for, among other things, telling a reader that it would be unethical to report shoddy work by a temp because it's immoral to "force" someone to have such a lousy job.
In response to the question about how to handle a poorly performing temp, Cohen declared, "if anyone's acting unethically here, it's your boss; it is ignoble to force people into soul-deadening, pointless, poorly paid jobs.... Organizing work into tedious, repetitive tasks, while profitable for the few, makes life miserable for the many; some political economists have called it a crime against humanity." In other words, as long as we have a division of labor, ethics is inapplicable to decisions we face about who does what job. In the face of"a crime against humanity," how could there be anything wrong with submitting fraudulent resumes, evaluations, or timecards?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

CIA family jewels more like the keystone kops

Particularly this bit, where they try to enlist the mafia to help them get rid of Fidel Castro.

In documents that often read like a cheap detective novel, the story is outlined: The pitch was made to [reputed mobster Johnny] Roselli at the Hilton Plaza Hotel in New York and Roselli was initially cool to the idea. But the contact led the agency to two top mobsters, Momo Salvatore Giancana and Santos Trafficant, who were both on a U.S. list of most-wanted men.

Giancana, who was known as Sam Gold, suggested firearms might be a problem and said using a potent pill that could be slipped into Castro's food or drink might work.

Eventually, six pills of "high lethal content" were provided to Juan Orta, identified as a Cuban official who had been receiving kickback payments from gambling interests, who still had access to Castro and was in a financial bind.

"After several weeks of reported attempts, Orta apparently got cold feet and asked out of the assignment. He suggested another candidate who made several attempts without success," the document said.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Guest blogging by Rachel

of Tinkertytonk fame.

Rachel will be posting her witty and insightful remarks on my blog while I am comporting in the surf.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Well, I took all my clothes off to blog...

and it got so warm I had to take a shower.

The ruling classes have decided...

what we in the proletariat should like.

In this case it's amnesty. However:

1) This bill is incredibly unpopular with the general public....

2) This bill is even more unpopular with conservatives than with the general public.

Why the rush to do something about the 12 million illegals--excuse me, undocumented Americans--now here? Are they going someplace? Or are they like ticking bombs, who will self-destruct if we don't do something?

Why not just continue the practice we have been engaged in since the last amnesty, and just ignore them, while shoring up our borders? When the borders are closed we can decide what to do with those who are still here.

By the way, I see the Palestinians are leaving the Gaza strip in record numbers. May I make a suggestion, that they not come here? We have enough cab drivers who won't pick up blind people. Also enough home-grown terrorists.

All we need is a bunch of disaffected, untrained and rebellious young men to make mischief here. How about Saudi Arabia as a destination? I hear the weather is lovely there at this time of year.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Going to Hawaii

I understand this is the Hawaii state flower. Is it hibiscus? I don't know, and I'm too lazy to research it. Anyway, this is by way of saying I'm going to Hawaii. On Sunday. I plan to do nothing but swim and sit on the beach, although I would like to see the Arizona.

A friend redux

A reprise from a year ago.

Call her Edna. We used to go out to eat. The waiter shows us to a table.
E: Oh, not that one, it's too cold (hot, near the window, near the door). Shows us to another table.
E: Could you turn the music down? It's too loud.
Astonishingly, the music gets turned down. Waiter comes to take our order.
E: Is the pasta made with eggs? I don't eat eggs. I have high cholesterol.
Waiter, who speaks little or no English, disappears into the kitchen. Comes back. The answer is no.
E: I'll have cranberry juice, very cold, but no ice. Waiter brings cranberry juice.
E: This has ice in it. Waiter takes it away. Brings another, sans ice.
E. It's not very cold.
E orders an appetizer, main course, and tira misu.
Me: I thought you were watching the fats--cholesterol, you know?
E: Oh, I always do that.
I have a cup of cappucino. Nothing else. The bill comes.
E: It's $45--Should we just split it?

Blog nekkid day

It's coming. Tomorrow.

Matt says so. Anyway, I'm leaving my clothes off. How about you? It's hot out there.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Should little kids play outdoors?

The general agreement seems to be that they should not, although we did.

When I was a little kid, I played outdoors whenever I wasn't at school or asleep. I used to play in the snow until my fingers and toes turned to ice and my clothing was drenched, then come indoors, stand over the hot air register and cook myself--and then out again.

Every season had its games. There was hopscotch, jump ropes, jacks (for us girls). Both boys and girls played marbles. There were paper airplanes. Some of the more sophisticated boys made airplanes out of kits and flew them. Or we played tag, or hide and seek. Hide and seek was most fun when it was growing dark and the mothers started calling everyone in. Some of the older boys played touch football or baseball in the street. The games broke for cars.

When I had no one to play with, I would take long walks to see if other, unknown neighborhoods were more interesting than ours. They were, because I had never been to them before.

My mother used to give me money to go to the drugstore at the end of our block and have an ice cream. Sometimes she sent me on errands to the drugstore.

Downtown was exciting because forbidden. But we had a way around this. I told my parents the other kid's parents were driving us, and she did the same, and we rode the bus. I loved the bus.

When I learned to ride my bike, I rode, with friends or alone, as far as I could go.

When I became nine or ten, I became a bookworm and preferred to stay indoors and read. My grandmother had no patience with this. She thought reading during daylight hours was sinful, somehow. You should be outdoors, or go clean your room.

I am so glad I experienced this freedom. Kids nowadays are hothouse plants. I feel sorry for them.

My Comcast days

Glenn Reynolds had his problems with Comcast. So did I.

The first tech who came to install our television and internet connection brought equipment different from what we had requested. We wanted to be able to record programs. He brought the plain vanilla equipment. He started to install it anyway with a brooding look on his face. "I've had a bad day," said he.

Then he discovered he would have to go out in the back yard to do something or other, which did not improve his mood.

The TV worked, sort of. The Internet, not so much. Of course we were unable to record anything, but let that pass....

When the bill came, they were charging us for premium service. The first of many phone calls ensued, which I would characterize as Comcast 1/ Miriam 0. In short, we never did get the billing straightened out. Putting that aside for a moment...

Our Internet did not work. I begged, pleaded and threatened until I coerced them into sending another tech. When I told someone at their office about the horrible tech who had come to the house, the person sighed. "Oh, that guy! Well, he doesn't work for Comcast, he's an independent contractor. We've had lots of complaints about him."

Says I, "So why don't you stop using him?"

"Oh, he's not that bad."

Another tech came to the house and told me the first tech had attached everything to the wrong cables. He had to rewire. It still didn't work very well. Meanwhile...

We started paying them only for the services received, and they started phoning us. To settle this impasse, we canceled our service and got Dish TV and DSL Internet and the hell with it. However...

The last chapter had not ended. Comcast wanted us to deliver their equipment to their office.

I refused. They called for a while then stopped calling. End of story.

Remind me to tell you about my adventures with Verizon some time.

Land of Hope and Glory - Last Night of the Proms 06

Watch this if you're an Anglophile.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Me at 16

My high school graduation picture. I'm having so much fun scanning these old photos into the computer!

Looking through these pictures, I'm beginning to get annoyed, retroactively. You see, I was the pretty one in my family (it was a small family) but I was always the fat one. Fat in this case meaning 5'3" and 120 lbs. But my girl cousins were all so skinny you could see their belly buttons from the back, and to me skinny was the gold standard.

Of course, I didn't let the pretty part stop me for a minute, but the fat part really got under my skin. I had the feeling all through high school that the world was a tuxedo and I was a pair of brown shoes. I always felt fat and was always dieting. Possibly because my mother always felt fat and hadn't put on a bathing suit in 20 years, even though she loved swimming.

Now I'm mad! I wasn't fat! However, now I am fat. Just ask the cardiologist. But I just bought two bathing suits and I am going to Hawaii and I'm going to wear them! I'm going to swim!

I also bought two cover-ups.

A granny of the old school

Bubbe, my mother's mother.

She sure doesn't look like today's grannies, does she?

Guns don't kill people...

but us pissed off grannies might:

[A] true story which took place in New Jersey several years ago.

A little old lady, a widow, was playing cards with a group of friends when an intruder tried to break into her house. She warned him to get lost, and went back to her game.

Later in the evening, he tried to break in again, and the stout codgerette shot him. Whether he was killed, I don't know--I think not. But he was effectually stopped.

The old lady was arrested. Seems it is illegal to have a gun in Paterson, NJ. After a public outcry, the charges were dropped.

Mess with us old ladies at your peril.

Who's pickier?

Men or women?

It all reminds me of poor Ron, who worked at our library for a while. Mostly he was known as Poor Ron, as in:
"Ron called in sick today."
"Oh, poor Ron."
"Phone call for Ron."
"I think he went to lunch. Poor Ron."

Ron lived with his mother. I suspect she picked out his clothes. He gave all his money to Dr Atkins of diet fame. Atkins felt Ron's problem was carbs, and that he needed weekly vitamin shots. He was as thin as a rail and for lunch brought, not a sandwich or salad or slice of pizza like everyone else, but some Godawful mess prescribed by Atkins.

Poor Ron used to talk to me about his romantic problem, his problem being that he didn't have any romance whatever. I don't think he ever went out with a girl in his life. He wanted to place a personal ad in the local paper to see if he could meet someone.

I tried to help him formulate an ad, until I realized that Ron had exacting requirements. He wanted a woman between the ages of 25-28 (he was 42), 5'6" and 120 lbs. She had to be educated and successful, a good dancer...but you get the idea. Ron, the dork, wanted a woman who probably could snag Brad Pitt.

I don't know how his ad campaign turned out, but when he left us he was still alone, dressed by his mother, and getting weekly vitamin shots. I guess no lucky girl jumped at the chance to take on Ron.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I don't know what Uncle Moe got for Father's day

as I wasn't present at their celebration. My own father got, on two separate occasions, handkerchiefs from Woolworth's and a deck of the finest playing cards the drugstore could offer. These gifts had the merit of at least being useful. My father did blow his nose and play cards.

Uncle Moe got ties for his birthday, which was celebrated on Thanksgiving. Why Thanksgiving? Well, your birthday was celebrated on the Jewish holiday closest to the actual date. I think this might have been derived from the Russian custom of celebrating your birthday on your saint's day. We didn't have saints, so we improvised. My cousin Esther's was Yom Kippur. I'm not sure how that worked out in terms of gifts. Did she get them before the fast began, or after it ended? Mine was Purim.

My mother and my uncle Moe had been born some time in November, when there was no convenient Jewish holiday to hook it onto. So we celebrated them both on Thanksgiving. I bought my mother the feminine equivalent of whatever I had bought my father--in her case, the hankies had flowers embroidered on them, but the playing cards were unisex.

Mother was always grateful for these gifts, especially after seeing what Uncle Moe had gotten. Uncle Moe had three children, and his gifts escalated in awfulness. They were presented with all the brio of a magician producing a rabbit out of a hat. A solid gold toothpick was produced on one occasion, I remember. The tableau always included one tie--I wish I had a picture of it, but they don't make them like that any more. Here is a feeble substitute:

Uncle Moe's ties were much, much worse. For one thing, the flamingo was hand-painted, in luminous colors. It glowed in the dark. It even glowed in broad daylight.

My Uncle Moe was a quiet, subdued sort of man, the sort you would want for your family doctor, which was what he was. I never actually saw him wear one of these objects. But he must have had a drawer full of them.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Hamas vs Fatah

I once made some remarks about the difference between Hamas and Fatah, and I still keep getting hits from same, although I am far from being an expert. So I thought I would expand on the topic.

The Difference between Hamas and Fatah:

1. Hamas wants to drive Israel into the sea. Fatah just wants to kill Jews. Drowning, while is would be nice, is optional.

2. Fatah followers go to the mosque to get fired up to kill and maim Jews and their political enemies. Hamas guys skip the mosque part.

3. Hamas guys wear masks when they go around killing people; Fatah guys wear beards and masks.

4. Hamas persuade others by means of Kalashnikovs; Fatah prefer AK-47.

5. Hamas followers revere Yassir Arafat; Fatah members loot his house and steal his peace prize.

6. Hamas guys like to blow up buses. Fatah folks prefer pizzarias.

7.--My God, aren't six reasons enough? Figure it out for yourselves. I can't do all the work around here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Ah! Fond memories of working at the library

Another goodie from my archives.

Mrs. Dempsey wasn't only an old lady, she was a SENIOR CITIZEN. She was born that way. She went right from mewling and puking to whining and bitching. She was also on a FIXED INCOME.

Back in the day, when we had VCRs, she borrowed some videos, one of which she returned damaged. It was actually off its spool. The clerk at the desk explained that she had to pay for the ruined video--I think it was $20. Mrs D replied that this vicious video had ruined her equipment, and she was in no way at fault! We should have paid her for the repair of her equipment! And anyway, she was a SENIOR CITIZEN.

She went on to ask why $20? We explained that that was the replacement cost. Mrs D didn't think she should have to pay for a brand new video, we had already gotten some use out of it, hadn't we? It wasn't new any more. And she was a SENIOR CITIZEN.

She went around and around on this with the clerk, who then called her supervisor, who told her the same thing. Her next interview was with lucky me, the head honcho. I explained it all again. As she was taking up a whole morning's worth of time of three library employees, who theoretically could have been doing something else, I asked her how much she thought was fair. She thought a dollar would do the trick. And there we agreed to disagree. Oh, yes, and before she left, she asked me if I could give her daughter a job.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from the board president, who had also had a discussion with Mrs. D. Apparently he had persuaded her to pony up $10. She also asked him if we could give her daughter a job. His reply is not part of the record.

A day or two later, Mrs D came into my office. She opened up one of those change purses with a snap closure, and grudgingly doled out 10 singles, slowly, one at a time. This was supposed to make me feel bad, as she was a SENIOR CITIZEN and LIVING ON A FIXED INCOME.

I gave her a receipt and thanked her for bringing the matter to a successful conclusion. Then she asked me to give her daughter a job.

She wasn't the worst of the job-seekers, however. One man came to me and asked me to give his mother a job. There wasn't much she could do, he explained, as she spoke little English. I think he considered the library a high-class sort of day care for seniors.

Another family used to leave their brain-injured son in the library for hours. If he had just sat still we wouldn't have known him from our other nutcases, but he insisted in walking around the card catalog (which we still had then) over and over, gathering speed like a jet engine, and making much the same noise.

Then there was Mildred. She came in with her stuffed doll, which she seated next to her. We were okay with that. But when she started to call various staffers over to engage the doll in conversation, admire its wardrobe, and discuss its politics, something had to give. I ordered the entire staff not to speak to the doll. That put an end to it. Mildred was crazy, but she was not stupid.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Socialism for the rich...

free enterprise for the poor.

For a governor who got elected by amassing a reputation for standing up for the little guy against Wall Street bankers, Governor Spitzer sure got taken to the cleaners by JPMorgan Chase. Mr. Spitzer yesterday acknowledged that the bank — 2006 profits, $14 billion — was getting a subsidy for its new downtown building of more than $200 million — or more than $25 from every man, woman, and child in New York City.

It turns out that the governor's acknowledgement may understate the amount of the subsidy, which, according to the watchdog group Good Jobs New York, includes goodies such as a $5 a square foot rent subsidy and a sales tax exemption on things like fancy office furniture for the investment bankers. A press release from Governor Spitzer also announced that the company will get $20 million from something called the " World Trade Center Job Creation & Retention Grant Program."

You might think if it lures a company away from another state, it will be worth it. However, JPMorgan Chase is currently located in midtown. That's midtown New York, not Hoboken, New Jersey.

Food for thought

Can this possibly be true?


come from a family of migrant workers. It sucks. There’s no nobility in that lifestyle. Period.

If you think the people “doing the jobs the lazy Americans won’t do” are grateful for the chance to mow your lawns, bus your tables, and wipe the dirty asses of your spoiled rotten brood, you’re deluding yourself....

How can any sane individual believe that an immigrant, illegal or otherwise, will be excited about assimilating into a culture that only sees them as a source of easy votes, or cheap labor?

France had the same attitude with the African immigrants they brought in as cheap labor…we all know how that snuck around and bit them in the ass…

It sounds reasonable that people would resent being second class citizens. The British conquerers considered the Irish merely as "hewers of wood and drawers of water," and we all know how that worked out, don't we?

We really need to rethink this immigration thing.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Six ounces of chicken breast

It's official--I'm too fat! The cardiologist seemed a bit put out--people with cardiac issues are supposed to stay slim, optimally. And here I am creeping up on the weight of a truck driver--at 5'1".

So--I go to the library and thumb through diet books, looking for something barely palatable I can manage to get by on for four to six weeks, or possibly indefinitely. Since I really have no idea what I eat or how much, or what I should eat or how much, I bring home a bunch of diet books.

All of the diets are based on different theories: high carb, low carb, high protein, and so on. But they do have some things in common. First, eat breakfast. They recommend oatmeal, and I can live with that, although my idea of a nice breakfast involves French toast or pancakes, or possibly a runny egg and buttered toast.

For lunch, the diet books recommend half a turkey sandwich and half an apple or six grapes. I can do that. Not with enthusiasm, but with grumbling acceptance. Although I might have seven grapes or two-thirds of an apple.

It's dinner that gets me. Dinner on a diet always includes six ounces of chicken breast, grilled, accompanied by maybe one half cup of plain brown rice and a veggie or two. Or in the case of the high protein diets, the chicken breast and veggies without the rice.

I can't face the chicken breast. By the time I was 18 I had eaten a lifetime supply of chicken. We invariably had chicken every Friday night and all day Saturday, and I am sick of it in all its forms. Then, when my cholesterol proved to be high, I ate chicken about seven times a week--with mango salsa, with chutney, with hot sauce, with cold sauce, and it always tasted just like chicken. No matter what you do with six ounces of chicken breast--and the books have plenty of suggestions--it always tastes like chicken breast. The idea of buying, cooking, serving and eating grilled chicken breast five out of seven dinners a week is a total turnoff.

I will eat chicken soup, but only with matzoh balls floating around in it.

I guess I'll have to opt for the vegetarian diet. Or I could exercise for three hours a day. Yes, that's much better.

How many undocumented Americans does it take to fix a driveway?

I'm looking out my window now, and the answer would appear to be six: One to drive the roller that flattens out the soil; one to sit in the truck and watch; and four to clown around, shoving and pushing each other like kids in a schoolyard, laughing all the while.

Possibly they are not undocumented: they might be proud American citizens all; but judging from their conversation, Spanish is their native language. Maybe they were all born here and have triumphantly managed to retain their culture.

I don't want to be too hard on these young men. They are hardly more than teenagers, if that, and they are working, if not very hard. I don't blame them for being in this country. If I were in their shoes, I would make every effort to be here myself. I bear them no ill will.

President Bush seems to think that we have to "do something" about the 12 million illegal aliens in this country. Why do we have to do something? We haven't "done anything" for years, and can continue to do so. Let's "do something" about those who aren't here yet. Let's prevent others from violating our borders. If we do a good job of this, and few or none get into this country, then the 12 million will gradually shrink by attrition. Some will go home. Some may die.

As for "jobs Americans won't do"? We could make the same argument about slavery: we need slaves to do the work free men won't do. That argument didn't seem to work last time it was tried. We will either have to 1) pay more; or 2) import non-citizens for specific finite jobs, and send them home when the jobs are over; or 3) find other ways to get the work done, such as mechanization. No-one is chopping cotton any more, since the invention of the cotton gin.

Secure the borders first. Build the fence. And while you're at it, build one between us and Canada as well. Lots of undesirables come into the country that way, and Canadians are notorious for having a lax immigration policy. They will let anyone in, for almost any pretext. Okay, they are a sovereign nation: they can let anyone in that they choose, as long as they keep them and don't ship them here.

Once the borders are in good shape, we can resume liberal immigration policies, should we wish to. Meanwhile, the immigration bill recently defeated in the Senate is an ugly, misbegotten thing, a stepchild no-one could love.

Americans don't want to be hard on people who want to come here to work. The average American citizen is not a bigot. He has two concerns: security, and maintaining English as the official language. These are legitimate concerns and should be seriously addressed by our legislators.

Let's fix the leaky roof before we invite the world over for a slumber party.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

If I ran Lebanon...

First, I would have dropped a bomb on that refugee camp that was giving grief, stationing snipers around the building(s) to shoot anyone that ran out. Yes, that would do it--and save Lebanese lives to boot. After all, the Lebanese government is duty bound to protect Lebanese citizens, isn't it? So how many lives have been lost by their countrymen during this latest whateveryoucallit?

I understand there are 200 or 300 or 400 bad guys in this refugee camp giving grief. A really humongous bomb--or two--should take care of them. Those who fled would be taken out by the snipers. Yes, more Palestinians would be killed, but fewer Lebanese would be killed, and the thing would be over. It would probably save lives in the long run. It would certainly save real estate.

And no-one would have had the balls to plant a bomb in downtown Beirut. They would have been too busy shaking in their shoes, or being dead.

Act crazy and the world respects you. Better yet, they fear you. Ask Ahmydinnerjacket. It works for him. Imagine him taking Americans hostage while Teddy Roosevelt was president! Ahmydinnerjacket would be changing his underwear frequently, the ugly little sod.

I know I just don't understand war, or international relations, blah blah. So don't bother to tell me.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I've often wondered....

About relatives.

Did God invent extended families to embarrass us?

The author is talking about Van Thieu Rudd, the cringe-inducing nephew of Kevin Rudd, but his observation pertains to many of us. How did these get into my family? How did I get there?

Forget the old world relatives with the heavy accents: they can't help it, they were born abroad, and not in some interesting place either. They came from some hellhole in the former Soviet Union--Minsk, Pinsk, who cares? The smartest thing they ever did was get on a boat and come here. That, and survive when they got here, of course.

It's the younger people I can't understand. My cousin Sam, for instance, who lived in his parents' house (they had moved out and given it to him) with a number of cats. Sam did not believe in altering animals; it wasn't natural. It was his theory that they deserved to have fun just like we did. This led to the cat census increasing exponentially after a while.

Sam had many degrees, including a PhD and a law degree. But the only job he liked was driving a taxi. Since Sam rarely worked, he was hard pressed to buy cat chow, let alone human food. But the cats survived and thrived. Sam, on the other hand, died.

My brother is another case in point. Why did he decide to wear a crash helmet when ever he got into the car? And what possessed him to buy, let alone wear, a shiny red track suit? This brother is short and stout and would we well advised not to wear anything red. Why did he decide that natural gas was played out and try to install an oil tank in my mother's backyard? (She wouldn't let him.) Why does he devote every waking hour to a crackpot scheme to harness sea solar power, whatever that is?

And why did he need to teach his eldest child and only son to memorize the bones in the foot at the age of four? If he wanted the kid to be a podiatrist, it didn't work.

Speaking of the aforementioned eldest son, why does he want to go live in Syria and perfect his Arabic? Well, he doesn't look Jewish. That's a blessing, I suppose.

Monday, June 11, 2007

An oldie but goodie

from my archives:

The Republican Party was supposed to be conservative. I was misled. They will spend all of your money, including the loose change under the floormats in your car.

The Democrats will also take the cigarette lighter, CD player, and air freshener. Moreover, they are going to subsidize research on methods of converting the lint in your belly button to clean, renewable energy.

No more special counsel

My blood is boiling about the Scooter Libby show trial. Fitzgerald was way out of line, but that's what special counsels do. They have unlimited time and money and can carry on their investigations as long as they like. Forever, in fact.

Which leads me to my great insight of the day: why a special counsel? Not enough people work for the justice department, in order to actually do anything they have to bring in an outsider?

Mr Charm, in his career as an educator, had cause to deal with government agencies, and he told me that no-one in government actually does anything, in education at least. If something has to be done, actually done, they have to hire an outside contractor.

What do the people who "work" for the "government" actually do? Do they have really good games on their computers so they can while away the day without dying of boredom? Do they e-mail their friends? Do they shop online at Do they knit sweaters for their nearest and dearest?

Just asking.


Carnival of the insanities is up at Dr Santy's blog.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

When I read this I don't feel as guilty...

Another clothing collector exhibits her closet.

I personally am into shoes in a big way, particularly sale shoes. I try to wear each pair at least once and then if they are totally unsuitable I give them to the Good Will. I still have many too many.

My other weakness is black sweaters. I have: wool, cashmere, cotton, long-sleeved, short sleeve, pullover, cardigan. They feature buttons, zippers, ruffles, lace. When I open my drawer I can't find anything. All I see is a sea of black.

Need any free home improvement stuff?

How about some nice tools? I myself would love to have an electric screwdriver, and a few new bathroom fixtures would not come amiss. Especially given Home Depot's liberal policy toward shoplifters.

An internal memo from Home Depot outlines that associates cannot accuse, detain, chase or call the police on any customer for shoplifting.

So, you of the shoplifter-American community, Home Depot welcomes you to drop by and help yourselves. Just don't be greedy and ruin it for the rest of us.

Why do cars always die on the weekend?

As you can see, I started owning cars at an early age. This was my first car. I don't remember the circumstances exactly, but I can possibly extrapolate from the picture: the car has broken down, and I can't go to the corner soda shop for an ice cream soda. Result: incredulity, followed by weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.

People think I am indifferent to cars, just because I can't tell one from the other. Not so. I love cars. I particularly love having my own car. It represents freedom and mobility. I consider people who want me to ride public transportation with horror and disbelief. Cue up for a bus in the freezing cold weather? Wait for hours on a sweltering street? Carry packages in a tote bag instead of carelessly throwing them in the back seat? Me? Are they nuts?

Frankly, if push came to shove, I'd sell my house and live in my car.

So my car breaks down on Friday afternoon, and I'm stuck without a car until Monday. In this case, I will be stuck until I buy a new car, as this baby suddenly needs a lot of work.

Should I write a book?

Some of my fans (well, a very few of my fans) have suggested I write a book about my family. So I have been looking through my archives to see whether I had enough stuff, and I am astonished to say that I have reams and reams of blather: some family, some library, some merely cosmic Republican angst. I am impressed by how long I have been keeping this up.

Another impression: the stuff I wrote last year and the year before is better written and wittier than the stuff I am churning out nowadays. I blame it on Bush.

I haven't finished my Miriam Retrospective, but so far I do have enough material for a book, albeit a very slim volume, not unlike those slim books of self-published poetry that turn up now and then at book sales. I wouldn't have a clue as to how to publish this stuff. I'm pretty sure Greenwood Press (who published the only other book I had anything to do with) wouldn't be interested.

So do I print it out and staple it together with a pathetic homemade cover, like a real loser? Do I sell it myself?

On second thoughts, forget it. The mere thought of all that work makes me tired.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Mother's law practice

Most of her clients were poor--either African Americans recently from the south or white people from the hills of West Virginia--also recently.

Many of her clients settled arguments by breaking a beer bottle and attacking their opponents with the broken part of same. But some of them had done other things, not all of them legal. The woman who came to clean her house had shot her husband, whereas the guy who mowed the lawn had kited checks.

I don't think any of them were hardened criminals. For the most part, they were country people who had a tough time adjusting to the mores of the big city. Their propensity to try to cure their troubles with the aid of a few drinks didn't help.

But they adored her. They named their children after her. They would show up at the office and ask for her by name. If she wasn't there they left. They seemed to think she had some kind of legal magic which would cure their problems. She was also a soft touch. Sometimes money went from lawyer to client instead of in the other direction. For this reason, as well as the fact that her fee schedule hadn't changed since the Eisenhower administration, she did not become rich.

She needed them as much as they needed her, and she was always there for them. A sample phone conversation:

10:30 p.m., Saturday night
Client: Miss Goldie, Fred is in trouble.
Mother: What happened?
Client: He's in jail!
Mother: When did they arrest him?
Client: Thursday afternoon.
Client: Can you get him out?
Mother: I'll do my best.

And she did.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Paris Hilton released from jail

for health reasons.

I bet your didn't know being wealthy is a medical condition? Or is it being stupid?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Crazy house in Massachusetts

So a friend of mine and I went to Massachusetts to visit one of her old college chums. She lived in a five bedroom house overlooking the ocean. She and her husband occupied one of the bedrooms, and we stayed in another. The other three bedrooms were filled with stuff. One was filled with papers and other ephemera which Eve was saving up to take to the dump, when they got around to it. They had not gotten around to it for several years.

We went to put our clothes away in the dresser provided by the management, but the drawers were filled with empty Jergen's lotion bottles and Pond's cold cream jars. The closets contained Eve's old clothes and those of her son, who had married five years previous, but who knows, he might want these things some time. The other bedrooms contained a number of quaint artifacts, such as wooden skies which would be fine if they were waxed and if they had not lost their camber, and tennis rackets which were out of date when Chrissie Evert was a competitor. Old college textbooks added to, but did not complete, the mix. I'm not sure, because the rooms were too full to use, and we could only gape through the open doors.

Eve's study contained all the papers she had used when she taught Sunday School in the 1970's as well as papers she was using when she taught English at a community college. Eve spent her spare time going through these papers in case they might be useful. Every night she spent two or three hours sorting this junk. Her efforts had all the effectiveness of shoveling out the Atlantic with a teaspoon.

Pasted on the kitchen wall were pictures her son had colored when he was a boy. (Did I mention that he was grown up and married?) There were also schedules for trains which had long ceased running, conferences which were long over, and recipes Eve would like to try as soon as she got the study cleared out. These items were covered in a rich patina of kitchen grease.

They lived, as I have mentioned, overlooking the sea, and a tidal wave had once inundated the living room. A grand piano had been destroyed during this mishap but had never been removed. I could see her point. If you can't bring yourself to throw out cans and bottles and newspapers, getting rid of a piano must be daunting.

She still owned every garment she had worn since puberty. At breakfast on Saturday morning, she wore a shirt she had worn in high school and which had not been so great even then. I suppose the ones which were no longer wearable were in one of the closed-off bedrooms, waiting to be recycled, but I didn't ask.

I only went to her house that one time. By the next time we visited Massachusetts, there was no space for visitors. The bedroom we had formerly occupied was filled with the overflow from the other rooms.

Eve is a widow now. When I picture her, she is still in the house, but by now the usable space has dwindled to the kitchen with a cot in one corner, and the kitchen is filling up fast. Soon she will be living in her car, which is parked in the driveway--did I mention that the garage is too full to use?

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Shoe frenzy

I was heading out the door on the way to Target, when I heard The Call of the Shoe. It said something like this: You haven't bought any shoes in days! What are you going to wear in Hawaii? Old, mainland shoes? Get thee hence!

So I did. I must tell you, the last time I bought serious shoes it was for therapeutic reasons. The foot doctor advised me to go to the New Balance store and buy myself some serious shoes plus orthotics. He even gave me a coupon worth 10 percent off.

The New Balance store was not like the rest of the stores in the mall. There was a quiet, respectful hush. Then Ron, the shoe guru, waited on me. At his side was Rahim, his disciple, who was learning the shoe trade.

Ron wouldn't let me even try on any of the shoes I thought looked okay, but allowed me my choice among three or four rather ugly styles which he said provided the proper support. I chose two of the least repulsive, and Ron brought out these models in various configurations of size and color.

A pair was settled on, and Ron proceeded to choose orthotics to suit the configuration of feet and shoes which had been decided upon. He inserted the orthotics in the shoes, and rang me up. The combo cost $130. But what the hell, proper shoes were worth it, no?

I duly wore the shoes with orthotics to the gym and promptly developed a limp. My right knee, hip and foot started to hurt. Nevertheless, I wore them conscientiously for three weeks--after all, the foot doctor and Ron the Shoe Guru knew what they were doing, didn't they?

Apparently not. I went to K-Mart and bought a cheesy pair of shoes for about $8, put them on, and was immediately cured. I felt like one of those invalids who go to faith healers and rise up and throw away their crutches. A miracle! The othotically correct expensive shoes ended up in the Good Will box. I hope that, if anyone buys them, they will not experience any difficulties.

Ever since then I have avoided the shoe department. But today, the siren song was too strong. I went to the shoe store and three pairs of shoes got up and followed me home. Then I went to TJ Maxx and bought another pair for good measure. All four pairs together did not cost as much as the New Balance fiasco.

The moral of this story: I'm not sure there is one.

Now I have to throw away four pairs of shoes or rent one of those storage units that advertise on TV.

Caarnival of the Insanities is up

Lots of good bloggy reading:

Friday, June 01, 2007

Dr Kevorkian returns

like a character in a horror movie.

He's a nasty piece of work by all accounts. Apparently many of his customers were not dying, just deeply depressed. Having a serious illness can do that to you. I'm glad no-one pulled the plug on me during various periods when I was depressed and couldn't see a reason for living. I would have missed a lot.

I don't believe in assisted suicide--not that I believe that people suffering terminal illnesses should be subjected to heroic measures. But there is an alternative. A friend of mine benefited greatly from hospice. She was dying of ovarian cancer, and after all the chemo and radiation failed, she had hospice to care for her. A woman came every day and looked after her needs; medical and spiritual help was also available. Thus she was able to be in her own home, pain-free, and spend time with her family and friends. Of course, it was terribly, terribly sad. The death of a young person is sad. But having Kevorkian parachute in, say hello, and pull the plug, would have been sordid.

I'm also not crazy about the idea of a doctor standing by, licking his chops and waiting to administer the fatal dose, as in Oregon. I want my doctors to care whether I live or die, and to try hard to ensure the latter result. There is too much of this culture of death in our society. Life is a miracle and we should treasure every moment of it. Leave the death-worship to the Islamic Fascists. They enjoy it.

Get ready for naked blogging