Category Archives: Politics

Reading With Fakename: John Le Carre

Presently I’m reading the latest book (published this year) by Le Carre, titled “A Delicate Truth”. No offense intended, but I thought John Le Carre was dead. But he isn’t. He’s 82 and still writing, and writing well. How marvelous is that?
A little about the book: The story is about an “incident” that takes place on the Isle of Gibraltar, which is a British territory, much to the annoyance of Spain. There is a very hush-hush mission to capture a “high-value target” (read: terrorist) who is on the island to purchase weapons from an arms dealer who is a British informant. The mission goes horribly wrong, although some of the participants don’t learn this for years.
In some ways the book is as suspenseful as anything else Le Carre ever wrote. And while it may seem dated now, “The Spy Who Came In From The Cold” should be on every list of the top 100 books ever written. The problem is, this book suffers from poor editing. It shifts from one person talking to another person talking or from back then to right now, with no warning. It should be a new chapter, or at the very least, a little division like ****** at the bottom of a line. So you often find yourself having to go back two pages to catch where the direction changed. Very annoying.
One of the other challenges, although I find it kind of charming, is the language. It’s British English, which I don’t speak very well, although I’m getting better at it. A bonnet, you say? Isn’t that something you wear on your head? No? In keeping with that, there is the British “habit” I guess…I don’t know how else to describe it…of asking a question at the end of a statement. I specifically noted this passage, which I swear I am repeating word for word, to illustrate this “habit”.
Referring to a retired diplomat: “He’d got as high as they’d let him go, mind you. Reached his ceiling, hadn’t he?–as far as they were concerned. Nobody’s going to give him the top billet, not after what happened in Hamburg, are they? You’d never know when it was coming home to roost–well, would you?”
I wonder if this happens because Britain is too close to France. French syntax is of course all backward as far as English speakers are concerned, but it seems to have a way of rubbing off. Prime example: Cajun and Creole speech in Louisiana. Say you’d like to make a statement: “I’d like some French fries”. How you speak it is a question. “I could have some French fries?” (My unspoken response was always, Well, you could, but you’d have to ask for them.) Or you really want to emphasize a statement. You don’t say “I really don’t like French fries”. You say, “I don’t like French fries, me”. We now know for a fact that it is you personally who doesn’t like French fries.
None of this takes away from Le Carre’s grasp of his subject matter or his ability to tell a story. And without saying so outright, he asks moral questions. Where do you draw the line between secrecy and accountability? Between good intentions and the bad results of those intentions?
It’s a very timely story. Arabic terrorists. Edward Snowden. I’m almost finished, and at the moment, I’m fearing for the survival of both the main characters. We shall see.

Fakename on Health Care in America

I finally, in my mind, managed to crystallize the three main objections to the PPAHCA today. That’s the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act, aka, Obamacare.
Objection #1: It’s Obamacare. I hate Obama. Nothing he is for can be good. Mainly because he is (check all that apply) a socialist, Communist, Nazi, Muslim, sleeper terrorist, black.
Objection #2: I still can’t afford it. This is the part that sadly may be true. Because the Republicans gutted the law before it was passed, keeping it unaffordable. Not to mention the Tea Party, the Libertarians, and the Anarchists, who don’t believe that health care is a right. Everyone should lift themselves up by their bootstraps and be able to purchase healthcare as a privilege. The only time you have a right to life is if you’re a fetus.
Objection #3: I should not be forced to buy a product I don’t want, even if I CAN afford to. Because I’m an American! I’m free as a bird! This is the objection I find most ridiculous. I think you most certainly should be forced. Because unless you do, as a person who has insurance–I’m paying for your healthcare. I want to stop. Or at least I’d like it to be cheaper for me to help pay for your health care. I’m not convinced that PPAHCA will make it cheaper for me, but this is at least an attempt.
Unless you’re living in a cave, you know that the U.S. government is partially shut down. I picture people in other developed countries, who resolved the issue of health care long ago, asking what the hell is wrong with us? Good question.
The only good thing is that by partially shutting down the government, Republicans are committing suicide. I just don’t understand how they don’t get that. I say, keep it up. It’s a snake eating its own tail.

A Short Lesson in U.S. Government

This post is for my non-U.S. friends, and for my U.S. friends who haven’t bothered to learn.   I kind of get Britain, but Canada seriously confuses me.  I can’t even figure out how they arrange their postal zones or geographic divisions, much less their government.

So if you’re as clueless about the U.S. as I am about Canada, here goes.  Ahem.  (Drum roll.)  Long ago and far away, once upon a time, the U.S. was a colony of Britain.  (Wasn’t everything?) Then we fought a war and won.  Now what?

So the so-called Founding Fathers, who have been all but canonized here, came up with this document called the Constitution.  It lays out general guidelines for how we would govern ourselves.  We being new at it and all.

The chief idea is that power would be spread out amongst three separate branches of government, which are supposed to have equal power and act as a system of checks and balances.  The idea was not to concentrate power in the hands of one tyrannical leader, such as the hated George III.

These three branches are the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial.   This means, the President, Vice-President, and Cabinet (Executive), Congress (which consists of two bodies, the House of Representatives and the Senate–seems to me like the House of Commons and the House of Lords in Britain), and the Judicial Branch, namely, the Supreme Court.  Each of these branches has certain controls over the other.  On the surface, it would appear that Congress has the most power, since they make the laws. But the President can veto them–but Congress can override the veto. There usually isn’t much appetite for that.  But the point is, that’s the first check.  The President can veto a law or sign it.  Nothing becomes law unless the President agrees.

Then, finally, there is the Supreme Court.  If a law gets past both the President and the Congress and someone challenges it, the Supreme Court decides whether it’s in keeping with the Constitution.  If not, in their opinion, the law is nullified.  Then, Congress can go make a new law and the process starts all over.  In essence, therefore, I’d say the Supreme Court wields the most power.

The people on the Supreme Court are nominated by the President, but must be approved by the Congress, so it’s all interwoven.

This brings me to gun control.  Sorry to sneak that in. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads, verbatim, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed”.   The Supreme Court, most recently in 2010, confirmed that this includes individual ownership of guns, not just as a member of a “militia”. (Whatever that is or was.)

So why are we still talking about it?  I’ll tell you my opinion.  Sheer paranoia.  Because there is a segment of the population in the U.S. which is distrustful of the government, and believes without constant vigilance that we will turn into Nazi Germany tomorrow. That’s a disconnect from reality.

For the umpty jillionth time, let me say that I’m for gun ownership.  Not that anyone believes me, because I think there should be greater control and accountability.  That gets me lumped in with the “Ban Guns” people.  Another disconnect from reality.  But in the U.S., no one is coming to take away your guns.  Perhaps you are anti-hunting, which is your right, but technically you would have to be a vegetarian to be consistent. Ever seen how they kill cows?  Perhaps you’d like to be Ghandi, and die rather than commit violence against another person.  Not me.

The point is that we do live in a nation of laws.  This is not Somalia.  It’s imperfect, but as Winston Churchill pointed out in 1947, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”.  And technically, we don’t live in a democracy.  I think of democracy as mob rule.  We live in a Republic, with representative government.  Sometimes those representatives have to go against the wishes of their constituents to do the right thing.  And thank goodness for that. Otherwise we would still have slavery, women couldn’t vote, and we would still be killing Native Americans.

Gun Number One

Or, Why I Don’t Own A Gun Anymore.

I bought my first handgun when I was in my mid-twenties.  Here’s what happened.

I was living on the top floor of a quadruplex in midtown Memphis.  It was a “shotgun” arrangement.  Bedroom in the front, bathroom, dining room, living room, kitchen, all lined up in a straight line from front to back.  For some reason I can’t recall, I decided to sleep in the “dining room”.

It was a pretty neat place.  On the other side of the top floor was a young married couple, the woman was named Claudia.  Claudia and I had much in common, and became friends.  We had balconies outside our “bedrooms” which were accessed by a set of floor-to-ceiling windows rather than a door.  We filled our balconies with houseplants from spring through fall.  We also loved flowers, and spent many Saturdays going together to junk stores, searching for flower vases and decorative “frogs”–the things you put in the bottom of vases to separate flower stems. Then we would go to a sort of flea market, have barbecue, and buy fresh flowers for the week.

Claudia also loved cats, as did I.  She had two Burmese cats, the youngest of which we referred to as the watchcat.  If you knocked on her door, the watchcat would proceed to howl in that strangely human way they have, like Siamese cats do.  He was also an attack cat.  Once the door was opened, he would attack your ankles in spite of the fact that you were being welcomed into the apartment by his owners.

I too had a cat, and one day she had kittens.  Sometimes I would put them on the bed and play with them before putting them back in the closet where they were born.  Then one day, I was sitting out on the balcony, and a guy next door, who lived in an identical building, on the side next to mine, said, How are the kittens?

I said, How do you know I have kittens?  He said, I’ve seen you through the window, playing with them on your bed.  Oh. My. God.  So I bought a gun.

First I sought advice from an ex-military acquaintance.  His first question was, Can you kill somebody? Because if you can’t, there’s no point in you buying a gun.  And don’t answer now.  Go home and think about it.  We’ll talk later.

After many sleepless nights, I went back and said, Yes.  I would hate it.  I might have nightmares for the rest of my life.  But if it was down to me or them, I would always want it to be them.

He said, then you’re ready, and gave me advice on what to buy.  I bought a snubnose .38 Smith and Wesson.  The advice was, buy something light enough for you to handle, but something with stopping power.  No girl guns.  I bought it at a gun shop called American Firearms or something like that.  I had to undergo a background check and wait 15 days to get the gun.

My acquaintance, whose name I have sadly forgotten, promised to show me how to use it.

Lesson Number One:  Dry-firing.  Unloaded, point the gun at things and pretend to shoot them.  You will get the feel of the gun and its trigger, and lose your fear of the gun.

I did not grow up around guns.  When I was a small child, my father used to hunt, so he must have had a shotgun. One day I came across him and his hunting partner gutting and cleaning a squirrel they had killed.  I was horrified.  I burst into tears and ran back into the house.  My father never hunted again.

Once I got the gun, my Saturday flower-hunting was replaced by Saturdays at the shooting range.  (In addition to the feel, you have to get used to the noise, which is startling.)  My acquaintance/teacher taught me gun basics.  Don’t ever point it at anyone unless you intend to shoot.  Don’t ever shoot unless you intend to kill, because you are never going to be good enough to aim to wound.  Aim for the central mass of the person.

Slowly I absorbed these lessons, and it became about accuracy.  My gun did not have much of a range, so my targets would be like 25 feet or closer, and my acquaintance/teacher’s targets would be like 50 or 100 feet.  He said I didn’t need anything closer than that range, because if I ever had to use the gun, it would be when somebody was already in my apartment.

Next post:  So whatever happened to that gun?

The State of Medicine in the U.S.

Which is pretty sorry.  Let me tell you a story.  Last Thursday afternoon, I went to the pharmacy for a refill on one of the two medications I take for hypertension, and found out the prescription had expired.  I asked for a small supply to get through the next few days until I could get the prescription refilled, and they said they couldn’t do that, because it’s a “controlled substance”.  What?

It used to be you could call your doctor and ask for a refill, but now they (at least the clinic where I go) requires the pharmacy to do that.  Which the pharmacy does by sending a fax.

On Friday, I went to the pharmacy, but the prescription had not been filled yet.  They hadn’t heard from the doctor.  My clinic is closed on weekends, but I hoped they had called it in late Friday.  So I called the pharmacy.  No luck.

I waited until Monday, which was Christmas Eve, and called the clinic.  They were closed.  I got a recording which said, “If this is an emergency, please hang up and call 911 or go to the Emergency Room”.  Well no.  I’m not going to the Emergency Room (an $800 minimum charge) for a $10 generic prescription. So I called one of their sister clinics–there are seven in the area–and they said, “We can’t help you. We don’t have access to your records. But if is this is an emergency…”

One of the initiatives of the President’s health care plan is moving toward electronic records, so that any caregiver has access to your history.  I confess I was somewhat leery of that, but now I get it.

The thing is, while I wouldn’t go to the ER, it was becoming something of an emergency.  Saturday, after missing a day and a half of the medication, I had a massive headache, which I knew meant my blood pressure was up.  I chose to try to be very quiet and still and wait.  And hope I didn’t have a stroke in the meantime.  The headache never went away, and plus, I felt sick.  The kind of “sick” that you are when your blood pressure is high is not easily described.

It was no use calling either the clinic or the pharmacy on Tuesday.  It was Christmas Day, and both were closed.  On Wednesday, I called the pharmacy.  Still no prescription.  I called the clinic.  They said, “Yes, we do have the fax from the pharmacy, but the thing is, it’s still on the doctor’s desk. She’s been the only doctor here today and has had to see all the patients”.

On Thursday I called the pharmacy back.  Still no prescription.  On Friday I called again.  They had it, and it was ready.  By this time, I’m very, very sick, and was having trouble contemplating the idea of moving from the couch.

So here are a few things that are wrong:  no electronic record.  Not enough doctors.  The fact that doctors in the U.S. expect to be rich.  Which is understandable, since the cost of medical school is astronomical.  Assuming you ever make it out of that debt in your lifetime, then you’re faced with malpractice insurance, which is equally astronomical. The cost of going to the Emergency Room–which is the primary source of medical care for those without health insurance. So if you do have it, then you are paying for all those who don’t.  (Thus the $800 minimum.) So wouldn’t it be better if everyone had it?

Having said all that, I’d say that in order to have a good medical professional, you also have to be a good patient.  For instance, don’t fail to notice that a critical prescription is expiring just before the Christmas holidays.

Yes, Let’s DO Talk About Gun Control

And right now.  No, now is not the time to wait for a while and mourn.  Now is also the time to get mad.

You’d have to be living in a cave at the moment not to know that yesterday, a gunman entered a K-4 elementary school in Connecticut and murdered 20 children aged 5-10, and six adults.  Then himself.  And prior to that, his mother, at home.  So counting him, 28 people.  As far as we know.

11 days before Christmas.

The weapons he used were two semi-automatic handguns:  a Sig Sauer, and a Glock 9mm.  He left the Bushmaster .223 M4 rifle in the car.  Not enough hands, I guess.

If the assault weapons ban in the U.S. had still been in place, his mother (to whom the guns were registered) would not have been able to purchase them. At least not from a federal or state licensed dealer.  Gun shows, transactions between individuals, doesn’t count.  They were classified as assault weapons because they are capable of firing up to 32 rounds using an extended clip.  But it requires a trigger pull each time it fires, as opposed to fully automatic, which only requires one trigger pull and keeps firing until you let go.

The meager gun laws we do have in the U.S. already do say that you can’t buy a gun if you’re an ex-felon, or if you’re mentally ill.  The latter prohibition is big enough to drive a truck through.

I’ve read of gun dealers who refused to sell a gun to someone who acted strange, even when the buyer’s background check was “clean”.  We need more people like that.

Which brings me to the National Rifle Association (NRA).  Whom I hate.  But first:  I’ve owned handguns.  I know many, many people who own weapons of various kinds, and who are members of the NRA.  The NRA does a very good job–and they may be the only organization that does–at teaching about gun safety, even to kids.  They conduct classes and training, for children and adults.  But somewhere along the line, the NRA has gone off the rails.  Now they are a major lobbying organization, and they have adopted a “slippery slope” philosophy:  ANY gun control is a step toward banning guns for everyone.  So they vigorously fight any response to even the most heinous gun crimes.

But control is not a ban.

You would think they would understand this, but logic is not involved here.

One of the arguments put forth regarding the ban of assault weapons is that as long as criminals and crazy people can still get them, you, as a law-abiding citizen, must be free to buy evermore increasing firepower to match what the criminals have.  What about the concept of preventing criminals from having that firepower?  Then you wouldn’t need it yourself.  You could (eventually) de-escalate.  It will take time.  Because the criminals can still buy those weapons at gun shows and from each other.

The assault weapons ban in the U.S. expired in 2004.  It’s time to bring it back. But improve on it.  It was wimpy in the first place.

Politics According to Fakename

First, Florida.  Do you think we could learn to hold an election here?  Palm Beach County, the largest in the state and home of the infamous butterfly ballot and hanging chads from the 2000 election, still hasn’t finished counting its votes.  Not that it really matters.  Obama won, and Romney has now conceded Florida, so let’s just get it over with, shall we?

On Thursday, two days after the election, Miami-Dade County finished counting its votes.  They blamed the delay on the number of “provisional” and “absentee” ballots they had to count.  So says the Supervisor of Elections for that county, who followed it up by saying, “Still, am I embarassed?  Yes.”  That was entirely refreshing.

Okay, due to Hurricane Sandy, many people in New York and New Jersey had to vote using provisional ballots (for my non-U.S. friends, this means you are voting in a different place from where you are assigned.  An absentee ballot is one you mailed in rather than appearing in person).  On election day, some people in New York and New Jersey were voting in tents, by flashlight.  And they called it.  So why hasn’t Florida been able to get it together?  There is a simple answer to that:  because it wasn’t as close in New York as it is in Florida.  It’s dangerous to jump to conclusions.  Once it got to a certain level in New York, the rest of the ballots were essentially unnecessary.  It isn’t whether Obama won, it’s by how much.  Not so in Florida, where we are a tidy microcosm of a divided country.

Much has been made of the fact that this year the Republican Legislature reduced the number of days you could vote early from 14 to 8.  Early used to mean two weeks before election day, which was November 6th.  And indeed, I’d say it caused problems.  Long lines for early voting.  I personally waited in line about 45 minutes, which is nothing compared to people who waited in line for 5 or 6 hours.  However, again, it’s dangerous to jump to conclusions.

Bill Cotterell, the now-retired political reporter for the Tallahassee Democrat, occasionally writes guest columns.  He pointed out the following facts:  We’ve known the number of days were going to be reduced for almost a year.  While the number of days were reduced, the number of hours were not.  The polls were open for 96 hours in both scenarios.  (Not really a good argument in my view, but it is a point.) 

Yesterday, political writer Paul Flemming had an article in the newspaper headlined “Lord have mercy, Florida voters are sane”.  He is referring to the 11 Constitutional Amendments put on the ballot by the (Republican) state Legislature.  Only three were approved, and they had to do with tax relief for wounded veterans. low-income seniors, and the surviving spouses of veterans and first responders.  As for the rest, Flemming says Florida repudiated the “cynical shenanigans of the Legislature”.  He was surprised.  Me too.  But happily.

Also in yesterday’s newspaper, I learned there is a serious movement afoot to amend the U.S. Constitution to overrule the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.  I think this will work.

And now for the Presidential election.  There is an amazing amount of hand-wringing and tooth-gnashing going on in the Republican Party.  Why did we lose?  Also in yesterday’s newspaper there was an editorial by Michael Reagan, son of the late former President Ronald Reagan.  Essentially he argues that Republicans today are not “real” conservatives like his father (well,that’s an arguable point), and that the campaign was a mess and focused on the wrong things (okay, no argument there).

One of the things he said was this:  “First they tore each other to shreds in a bitter primary, smearing their eventual nominee in debates as a rich, uncaring profiteer who put working people out on the street and shipped their jobs overseas”.  Well….?

He more or less concludes with this comment:  “But give credit to Obama’s Chicago Gang.  They ran a much better campaign–on the ground and in the air.  They got out his message of class envy and federal entitlements for all, without any trouble from his toadies in the media [more about toadies in a minute].

Now bigger deficits, higher taxes, and a stagnant economy lie ahead for as far as the eye can see.  And socialized medicine–which my father warned was coming to America 50 years ago–is going to soon become a reality via Obamacare.”

Um, no Michael, that’s not quite right.  Here’s what the deal is: we are breaking up with the Republican Party.  You know that awkward moment when you break up with someone, and you say, “It isn’t you, it’s me”?    In this case, it’s you.

What kept puzzling me throughout the election process was how certain conservatives were that they would win.  I just couldn’t see it,and thought they were wrong.  But I wasn’t certain.  Part of it is the tendency of the media to imply that all points of view are equivalent.  So fringe ideas get airtime or column space, and you never have a real feel for how many people actually agree or believe in ideas other than your own.  Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It forces you to come to an independent decision. But therefore, I really had no certainty of how the election would go, just an impression.

But there is a group of people who are married to the idea of only listening to other people who agree with them.  The people who invented the term “Mainstream Media”.  And now we are back to toadies.  The media people whose main goal was to keep their watchers/readers happy so they would keep coming back.   I leave you with this incredible article from The Atlantic.


When I was in the 8th grade, I participated in a debate. I was maybe 13 years old.  This was actually an assignment by our English teacher.  Pretty brilliant of her actually.  She was trying to teach the effective use of language. The previous year, we had already gone through grammar, and that was not her job.

So in that vein, we were unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) assigned our “sides”.  This meant you could be assigned to a “side” you didn’t believe in.  The idea was that you had to research your “side”, and present forceful and plausible arguments for it.

As I recall, our debate was about whether or not slavery was wrong.  I don’t even remember which side I was on.  I think I was on the “slavery is wrong” side, which would make it a lot easier to defend your position.  There wasn’t one person in our class who thought slavery was a good idea, but they/we still had to defend it passionately and articulately.  And that was the teacher’s  point.  If you say it well, you can convince anyone of anything.  Not only did we learn debating, but we learned history.  We had to re-fight the Civil War.

Whichever side I was on, I do at least remember that our team won.  Probably I was on the pro-slavery team, because the only thing I remember vividly is having to go to the bathroom and throw up right afterwards.  Maybe that was just nerves.

But this taught me a valuable and lifelong lesson:  you don’t have to actually believe in something to argue persuasively.

This brings me to the first Presidential debate of 2012.  One of the rules of debate is that you must at least include a modicum of accuracy.  (So, for example, you can argue that the Civil War was not about slavery, it was about cotton, and trade. )

In this first Presidential debate, almost everyone agrees that Mitt Romney “won”, and that includes me.  Romney did an outstanding job…of debating.  The thing that disappointed me most is that the President was not nearly as aggressive as he is capable of being.  I wanted him to confront Romney on numerous occasions for his blatant lying.  But most of the time when Romncy was speaking, the President was looking down at the podium.  Sometimes you would see him with a little smile on his face, like, Isn’t this amusing?  Well, yes it is.  You should say so.  Out loud, instead of smirking to yourself.

But that is one of Obama’s legendary failings.  He comes across as, for lack of a better word, snooty.  Too intellectual for the hoi polloi.  He treated Romney as beneath his notice, as if he were an annoying flea that he would prefer not to deal with.  Yeah, me too, but that isn’t a good move in a debate.

It was only the next day that the President said, the guy who showed up last night, claiming to be Mitt Romney, is not the same guy we’ve been hearing from for the last 18 months.  Haven’t all been there?  The best comeback is always something you think of later.

Back to Mitt’s win in the debate, and the modicum of accuracy part.  You can argue how many angels will fit on the head of a pin (answer: either none or an infinite number, they don’t have mass.  Presumably.)  And you can argue a completely invalid point and still win a debate.

The loser of the night is really the moderator, Jim Lehrer.  He exercised no control whatsoever.  What is the point of having a moderator?  He might as well have left the stage to the candidates to just duke it out.  He was too overawed.  Gwen Ifill of CNN was far better.  “Your time is up!”.

Looking back, it’s possible that the President “won” after all.   Mitt Romney is a flea, and a lying flea at that.  I think more people got a chance to see it in action.

Regardless of the debate, Mitt Romney will never overcome his remarks about the 47%.  But he tried hard.  E for effort.

Lately I am actually trying to stay away from politics as a topic, if you can believe that.  That’s because I am on the verge of losing friends over it.  But this…I couldn’t resist.

I had to prop my eyelids open with toothpicks to finish watching this debate, but it was worth it.  So I will watch the rest of them too.  Next week is the vice-Presidential debate and I wouldn’t miss that for the world.  In one corner, Paul Ryan, the smart young whippersnapper Ayn Rand devotee.  In the other corner, Joe Biden, the older, experienced guy who cannot be underestimated.   As the T-shirt says, old age and treachery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm.  Note to self:  I gotta get one of those T-shirts.

The Republican National Lovefest

I’m not a member of any organized political party–I’m a Democrat.–Will Rogers, 1930.

That’s not exactly what he said, but close enough.  And it rings true.  I’m a card-carrying Democrat, as in, it’s enshrined on my voter registration card.

Sometimes it can be a little embarassing to be a Democrat.  Like when they do shameless pandering, but hey–what can you do?  Be a Republican?  Republicans are shameless panderers too, but they do a better job of it.  At least they’re better at concealment of their motives, whereas Democrats are all kinds of transparent.  They (We) are like little kids who tell a lie with our fingers crossed.  Like nobody can see those crossed fingers and know exactly what it means.

Yesterday, I got an email from Paul Ryan, who wanted me to support him and Mitt Romney in their efforts to be America’s Comeback Team, after four years of failed leadership.  So here is my question.  How did Paul Ryan get my email address?  He got the email address right, but the message begins, “Dear Priscilla…”  Which isn’t my name.  I mean, you have to wonder–if they can’t get that right, can they run a country?  I can see it now.  “Dear President Puffkin, or whatever your name is…”

On Friday, my favorite editorial writer for the Tallahassee Democrat, Paul Flemming, wrote a piece called “Bored in Tampa?  Wanna bet?”  The gist of the article was that just in case you thought there would be no drama left in the Convention, he suggested several issues you could bet on, just to liven things up.  It would make a great drinking game.

Here are a couple of examples.

Name the distance, in miles, of Sarah Palin’s designated seat from the podium.  My guess is, 4,805 miles.  That’s the distance between Tampa and Anchorage.  Your turn.  If you get closer, you win.

More arrests.  Hookers or Occupy protesters?  This is kind of an inside joke, because Tampa is famous for hookers.  Could this be the reason the Republicans chose Tampa, during the most active month of the hurricane season?  My money is solidly on the Occupy protesters, because hookers are smarter than they are.  They manage to get arrested way less often.

I hope Paul Flemming will be going to the Democratic National Lovefest too.

Wow! TV Really IS a Wasteland

First, a hearty welcome to my one visitor each yesterday from India, Sri Lanka, and Chile.  (Why?)

So last night, in a fit of irrationality, I decided to do something I almost never do–channel surf.  I probably watched each of these programs I cruised past for anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds.

First program–and I can’t even tell you what channel this was–was a guy, a radio talk show host I’d never heard of, saying, “Obamacare is a government takeover of the insurance industry”.  I can still remember when they used to call it a government takeover of health care.  At least now they are getting a little closer to right.  Which is like saying they’ve made it from Alpha Centauri to Pluto.  Now they’re at least in the same solar system.

“So”, he says, “Do you want the same people who run the postal system to run the insurance industry?”  And the crowd roars, “NOOOOO!”

Well, let’s talk for a minute about the U.S. Postal Service.  It was authorized by the Constitution.  The first Postmaster General was appointed by Benjamin Franklin in 1775, at the Second Continental Congress.  I quote from the Wikipedia article on the history of the USPS:  ”  The USPS is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality”.  So they’ve been delivering mail for over 200 years.  They deliver mail (by donkey) to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (yes, there are people living there).  Are they struggling now?  Yes.  But I’d say that’s a pretty good track record.  So why?  What “killed” the USPS is the Internet, and email.  Is that their fault?  Or the government’s fault?  And do the people in the screaming crowd in front of this radio talk show host know or understand any of this?  Fakename says, “NOOOOO!”  All they care about is that the price of a stamp went up by one cent last year.  Which of course means they are being gouged by the government and their rights are being taken away.  Or something.

So you can see why I rarely channel surf, since I can go off on a tangent about something I saw for all of (in this case) about 20 seconds.

Next stop:  MSNBC, which had a program on called “Inside San Quentin”.  What IS it with these prison programs?  Why are Americans so fascinated with what happens behind bars?  I don’t get it.  This took about 5 seconds.

Next stop:  CNBC, for an episode of “American Greed”.  I watch this sometimes, and often it’s about Ponzi schemes of one sort or another.  Bernie Madoff may have been the most glaring example, but really, it’s happening everywhere.  This is one of those programs you can watch and congratulate yourself on not being that stupid.  Because for these schemes to work, the participants have to be extremely gullible.  Madoff’s genius was in convincing people that there was an exclusivity to his operation (you had to beg him to steal your money).  Madoff’s operation appealed to the worst:  greed, naivete, and egotism.

I’d like to say that I’ve never had enough money to be that stupid.  I’d like to generalize and say that perhaps everyone with little money is more careful with it.  But think about the people with limited incomes who spend all kinds of money buying products from QVC, because “it’s such a great deal!”  Gambling.  Entering sweepstakes.

So last night’s episode was about an offshore banking scam.  Offshore banking–who does that remind me of?  This particular one was in Grenada, not the Cayman Islands 🙂

I probably spent an entire minute on this program–but I was not in the mood.  So as you might expect, I ended up at the NatGeoWild Channel.  They were airing a program on pit vipers.  First up was the infamous Gaboon viper, which has the distinction of being the heaviest viper (though not necessarily the longest), with the longest fangs and the highest venom yield of any venomous snake.

Naturally, if you’re bitten by one, you are almost always in the middle of nowhere, unless you’re crazy and keeping one as a “pet”.  Which this guy was doing, and another guy was trying to measure the length of the fangs.  The owner is holding the snake’s head (no gloves, even, but he had a lot of tattoos.  Think that helped?)  Suddenly, and very calmly he tells the measurer person and the cameraman to back away, because he has to let go.  It all happens so fast that you don’t realize it’s because he’s been bitten.  The snake had punctured its own lower jaw with its fang to bite him.  There is a moral to this story.

Next segment:  Tallahassee’s very own Bruce Means, who is bitten by a rattlesnake.  Bruce is tecnically an ecologist, so I guess I’d have to say he has a special interest in herpetology.  He is an expert in everything from the tiniest and most endangered salamander to the most dangerous of native pit vipers.   You know, rattlesnakes.

And then–I fell asleep.  This is kind of the reverse of trying to tell someone about a dream you had.  You are on a mission to Mars, with somebody you went to high school with, and then you’re naked in a room where you have to take a test, and you can’t remember who Schopenhauer was, and then what happens?  You wake up.

That will teach me to channel surf when I’m tired.