Thursday, September 21, 2017

No Blog Today



I'm just not in the mood to write anything today.

But please come back tomorrow for the announcement of the Left-Cheek Ass Clown for September. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Acknowledging the American Aristocracy


We all know there's no such thing as an American aristocracy, right? Unlike, say, England, we do not have kings, queens, dukes, earls*, counts, barons, viscounts, lords, ladies, princes, or whatever. Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution spells it out pretty clearly -

"No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States..."

Less clear is the rest of that section, the much-cited and disputed "emoluments clause," which goes on to state that -

"... no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."

We won't talk about the emoluments issue here ... that's a topic for another post. For the time being, let's just talk about whether or not we have an American aristocracy.

Hint: the answer is yes.

Of course, we don't call our betters by hifalutin' titles like people with official aristocracies do. We have a president, not a king, although Donald Trump seems not to comprehend the difference. The American aristocracy is based not on a happy accident of birth, but on a combination of wealth, success in business, and political influence (which is often an outgrowth of the first two). American aristocratic families, albeit without formal titles, include the Rockefellers, the Astors, the Kennedys, the Clintons, and the Roosevelts. We even have an American court jester, although at the moment he doubles as the president, and not everyone thinks he's funny.

But let's consider this: why don't we just go ahead and acknowledge that there really is an American aristocracy? After all, it seems to work for our British cousins and, Constitutional restrictions notwithstanding, it seems as if we might as well go ahead and accept reality. I propose the following Constitutional amendment to rectify the problem:

Amendment XXVIII

Section 1.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution is deleted and replaced with the following: "Titles of Nobility may be granted by the United States or by the several States as acknowledgement of achievement in business or finance, significant accumulation of wealth, or great political influence from whatever source derived. Persons bearing titles of nobility shall be exempt from laws governing taxation, conflict of interest in government service, and transparency of records and actions in public service.**"

Section 2.
The following officers of the federal government shall hold the indicated Titles of Nobility:

The President of the United States shall henceforth hold the title “King” or “Queen,” and be addressed as “Your Majesty.”***

The Vice President of the United States shall henceforth hold the title “Grand Duke” or “Grand Duchess,” and be addressed as, “Your Highness.”

Senators and Members of the House of Representatives shall henceforth hold the title “Lord” or “Lady,” and be addressed as “Your Lordship” or “Your Ladyship.” In writing, they shall be addressed as “The Right Honorable _____” (for Republicans), “The Left Honorable _____” (for Democrats), and “The Halfway Honorable” (for Independents).

Cabinet Members other than the Secretary of the Treasury shall henceforth hold the title “Lord” or "Lady," and be addressed as “Your Lordship/Ladyship.”

Justices of the Supreme Court shall have the title of “Lord” or "Lady," and be addressed as “The High and Honorable Justice _____”. The Chief Justice shall be addressed as “The Most High and Honorable Justice _____.”

Section 3.
Other titles of nobility to be applied to lesser positions in the federal government shall be decided and bestowed by the incumbent President, except for the Director of the Bureau of the Census, who shall henceforth hold the title "Count" or "Countess," and be addressed as "Your Lordship/Ladyship the Most High Enumerator."

Section 4.
Family members of individuals bearing titles of nobility, who have been appointed by their parents or siblings to government positions, shall henceforth hold a title appropriate to the position. If they are appointed to a position for which no title has been established, the family member who appointed them shall select an appropriate title.

Section 5.
Individual States, Cities, Counties, Parishes, or other political subdivisions of the United States may establish their own Titles of Nobility.

Section 6.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

This takes care of the issue of aristocracy in government, but what about the need for an aristocracy that recognizes the political and economic disparities among other Americans? This one's a little harder, but I have (as you would suspect) a few suggestions:

CEOs of major corporations would hold titles based on the economic worth of their holdings, with "Lord" or "Lady" being the top tier.

Heads, presidents, or directors of major political and national special interest organizations would hold the rank of Lord. The heads of the Republican and Democratic National Committees would be addressed, like Senators and Representatives, as "His/Her Lordship/Ladyship the Right/Left Honorable _____" (depending on the party to which they belong). Heads of national special interest organizations would be addressed according to the focus of their organization. For example, the head of the National Rifle Organization might hold the title Lord High Master of Arms, and be addressed as "Lord/Lady the Most High Caliber _____."

I think it's time we recognized and accepted the existence of an American aristocracy, and I believe my suggestions are a good start toward that recognition and acceptance. What do you think? Should we use the same aristocratic titles as other countries (kings, queens, lords, etc) or come up with some that are uniquely American, particularly at the state level? Leave a comment and let's get your ideas.

Have a good day, and be comfortable with the title you will always hold under any system - "serf."

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Although we do, of course, have a Duke of Earl, a King of the Road, and a Queen of the Silver Dollar.

** Mr Trump has already made this a fait accompli, so we might as well live with it.

*** A transgendered incumbent would be permitted to choose his or her title.

† It just seems more appropriate.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

When "Weird" Doesn't Quite Express What You Want to Say


One of the nice things about loving language is knowing other people who share your fascination. My friend Mary sent me a link the other day to this wonderful article from Oxford Dictionaries: 17 Synonyms for Weird.

In a world that is getting more and more weird every day, we need to avoid linguistic fatigue when we try to describe what's going on. The article provides a great list, but my favorite is:

Ostrobogulous 

It means, "Slightly risqué or indecent, [and is] also applied arbitrarily to things which are bizarre, interesting, or unusual in some other way." I think this is an absolutely wonderful word that rolls off the tongue in a W.C. Fields-ian sort of way.

I have often been described as eccentric (a word that did not make the list of 17, except as part of the explanation of other words), an adjective I wear with pride, and one of my oldest friends blogs as Gonzo Dave ("gonzo" did make the list).

You can read the full list of synonyms on your own and decide which ones speak to you. And what words do you use that aren't on the list? Leave a comment and help us all improve our vocabularies.

Have a good day. More offbeat, wacky, and madcap thoughts coming.

Bilbo

Monday, September 18, 2017

Something is Rotten in the State of Denmark. Not.


In Act 1, Scene 4 of Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," a palace guard named Marcellus sees the ghost of the dead king appear on the palace walls and suggests to his friend Horatio that "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

Well, there may be something rotten in Denmark, but it's apparently not rotten enough to make the Danes miserable. According to this article in HowStuffWorks, Denmark is noted for being one of the happiest countries in the world, and there are five reasons they're happier than the rest of us ... the first two of which I think are of particular interest to present-day Americans:

#1. They Trust Each Other. Wow! Trust ... what a novel concept! According to an author who has written on the issue of Danish happiness, trust in one's fellow citizens is "taught in schools and learned through everyday interactions with trustworthy and responsive institutions." I suppose there was a time in America when we trusted each other, but - except for our closest friends and family members - that time is long gone. We've fake-news'ed and insulted ourselves right out of the ability to trust our fellow Americans ... which is bad news for our civic culture and democratic institutions.

2. Their Welfare State Works. To the average American, the term "welfare state" conjures up the horror of hard-working, upright citizens forced to support a vast underclass of lazy, worthless people happy to do nothing at their expense, and a visceral hatred for taxes is encoded in the DNA of every American. But contrary to the assertion by Donald Trump and the unshakeable belief of most conservatives that Americans are the most heavily-taxed people in the world, Danes pay as much as 52% of their income in taxes. As the author of the article notes:

"... in exchange for forking over half their earnings, every Dane gets free health care, free K-college education (students are actually paid $900 a month), highly subsidized child care and generous unemployment benefits."

The article goes on to note that surveys reveal that nine out of 10 Danes say they pay these huge taxes gladly, because they see that they're getting something for it.

As my father would have said, can ya manganese that?

We Americans have so thoroughly drunk the Kool Aid of belief that government is always the enemy and taxes are always bad that we cannot conceive a situation in which that's not the case, in which we might actually be happier under a different approach to taxation and overall social welfare.

It may be that the Danish model wouldn't work on an American scale ... but wouldn't it be interesting to try?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Musical Sunday


Yesterday, in honor of International Talk Like a Pirate Day coming up on Tuesday, Cartoon Saturday featured cartoons about pirates. Today, we continue the pirate theme with one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite singers - Jimmy Buffett's "A Pirate Looks at 40." It's a great song that has one of my all-time favorite lines in it:

Yes, I am a pirate - two hundred years too late;
The cannons don't thunder, there's nothing to plunder, 
I'm an over-forty victim of fate
Arriving too late, arriving too late.

There's a pretty long introduction in this video, in which Jimmy Buffett talks about the story behind the song. I set the video to start at 2:35 (the beginning of the actual song); if you want to hear the whole history, go to YouTube and watch the whole thing. For now, take yourself to the bounding main and join all the other over-the-hill pirates ...



Aaaarrrr, mateys!

Have a good day, and enjoy the rest of your weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cartoon Saturday


Halfway through September ...

Credit monitoring firm Equifax suffered a huge security breach that may have exposed the personal data of up to 143 million Americans; North Korea continued poking military fingers in the world's collective eye, launching another medium-range ballistic missile over Japan; a bomb exploded on a commuter train in London on Friday, injuring nearly 30 people and leading the UK to raise its terror threat level to "critical;" after an amazing 20-year mission to Saturn that returned vast amounts of scientific data and thousands of beautiful photos of the ringed planet, NASA destroyed the Cassini spacecraft by plunging it into Saturn's atmosphere to burn up; and protests broke out in downtown St. Louis on Friday afternoon hours after a judge found a former police officer not guilty of first-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of a black motorist.

Because this coming Tuesday (the 19th) is International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I thought we'd feature cartoons about pirates today ...

You have to look closely, but it's really funny ...


This is what happens when you hire the low bidder to design your jolly roger ...


It's an understandable mistake ...


When careers clash ...


Eh??? ...


Google Glass for pirates ...


It's kind of obvious, but still funny ...


Oops ... wrong eyepatch ...


When GPS replaces the traditional treasure map ...


Pirates in Ikea ... I imagine the peg legs would have names like "Peggo" or "Stomp," and the hooks would have names like "Haken" or "Gancho." 


Aaaarrrrr, mateys! We be done with Cartoon Saturday for this week. If ye didn't enjoy it, ye can walk the plank.

It should be a nice, if warm and sticky weekend here in NoVa ... just in time for me to catch up on the yard work that didn't get done while we were in Ohio and while it was too wet to mow when we got back. Oy. 

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow, when Musical Sunday returns.

Bilbo

Friday, September 15, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage


As you know, last weekend Agnes and I traveled to Ohio to visit our son and his family (four of the six grandchildren). The two older children go to Beavercreek High School, the mascot of which is - as you might suspect - the beaver.

Now, I cheer for the battling Beavers of Beavercreek as loudly as anyone else, but you have to admit that the choice of mascot has some unfortunate connotations ... "beaver" being a somewhat crude nickname for ... um ... private parts of the female anatomy. All of which brings me to the first group of entries for this week's Great Moments in Editing and Signage, which feature playful editorial references to the humble beaver ...







You will note that I didn't offer any commentary on those. I figured that anything I said would only get me in trouble.

Here are a few more gems to round out this week's collection ...

Perhaps they should have used aliases ...


Why am I not surprised? ...


This street must be in an older part of town ...


Finally, I hope this poor fellow got reunited with Amber ...


And so you have it ... the second collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage for the month. I hope you enjoyed beavering through them, ha, ha.

Remember - I'm always happy to accept your inputs for "great moments." Snap a photo or scan a newspaper or magazine item and e-mail it to me at der(underscore)blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com, and I'll give you a shout when I use it.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.

Bilbo

P.S. - My mission to meet my fellow bloggers continues! Yesterday afternoon, John Hill and I had dinner together when he passed through NoVa on his epic motorcycle road trip. We had a great time getting to know each other, and I for one am looking forward to our next meeting. Sadly, he did not bring any good Ted Drewes custard packed in dry ice ...


Bilbo

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The People's Choice, 2020


You may have seen this great recent Bizarro cartoon ...


The best part is the campaign slogan: "Make-Believe Leadership for a Make-Believe World."

Sad, but true.

Later on today, I'll be meeting fellow blogger John for an early dinner as he roars through town on his road trip around the country. I always enjoy meeting with fellow bloggers, and it's always fun to see the reactions of people experiencing Interstate 95 in NoVa for the first time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when we experience more Great Moments in Editing and Signage.

Bilbo

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

And You Thought Drivers in (Enter Name of City/State) Were Bad ...


I read a really horrifying article by Geoffrey Sant on Slate.com last week. The title was "Driven to Kill" and the subtitle was "Why Drivers in China Intentionally Kill the Pedestrians They Hit."

Wow.

I'll let you read the whole story on your own, but the bottom line is that in the Chinese mix of law and tradition, it is economically more advantageous to a driver who hits a pedestrian to make sure the person is dead rather than just injured. A Chinese driver* is liable for the medical care of a seriously injured person, which can run into many thousands (if not millions) of dollars if long-term specialized care is needed. On the other hand, if the person is killed, the problem can be solved with a one-time payment to the family. As the article points out,

"In China the compensation for killing a victim in a traffic accident is relatively small—amounts typically range from $30,000 to $50,000—and once payment is made, the matter is over. "

Thus, it makes sense for a driver to commit murder, often backing up after hitting a person and running over them again and again in order to make sure they're dead.

Sort of like the GOP approach to Obamacare.

Have a good day. If you're in China, be careful crossing the street.

More thoughts tomorrow.

Bilbo

* Applies both to drivers in the People's Republic and in Taiwan.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Start Waving Goodbye To ...


We're back!!

Agnes and I drove out to Dayton, Ohio, to visit our son and four of our six grandchildren. We really lucked out: weather was beautiful the entire weekend, traffic in both directions was light (except for the usual rush-hour mess around DC on the way home, and the joy of navigating through Columbus, Ohio). We took in a Beavercreek High School football game and marching band performance on Friday night, watched the Troy Invitational Marching Band Competition on Saturday evening, and cruised the Beavercreek Popcorn Festival on Sunday, and visited our granddaughter Ava's school for the Grandparents' Day festivities on Monday morning. All in all, a great weekend.

But now we're back, and it's time to get back to the old blog ...

I'll be 66 years old before long, well into the time of life when one asks where the %#$! the time went. And not just the time, but a lot of the things we grew up with.

Here's an interesting online article from Kiplinger - 10 Things That Will Soon Disappear Forever (And 7 That Refuse to Die). I don't agree with everything on the list (which you can read for yourself at the link), but there are four items on it that I find ... well ... sad. They are:

Keys. I know it's wrong, but I can't wrap my head around the idea of a really secure lock that doesn't have a key. Of course, I've grown used to the key cards that open hotel doors and monitor access to various areas, but there's just something about the feel of a metal key and the comforting clunks of the bolts it withdraws that's just a lot more satisfying than the click of an electronic lock.

College Textbooks. One of the reasons for the vast amount of student debt carried by many people is the astronomical cost of college textbooks. But it seems that many - if not most - of those books are being replaced by digital copies that can be read on an electronic reader. The companies that print those books, and the college town bookstores that sell them, are very concerned about the potential loss of their profits, both from the initial sale and from the subsequent sale of used textbooks, but I can see some value in this transition. Yes, I will always prefer hard-copy books to digital versions, but a digital book can facilitate searching for specific information, and it can be highlighted and allow the insertion of personal notes as much as a paper copy. And they should be cheaper, although the difference between the cost of hard-copy and e-books on Amazon.com indicates that the savings won't be as much as they probably should be.

Neighborhood Mailboxes. Mailboxes were already being removed from a lot of places because of security threats, but they may well disappear altogether simply because no one sends actual letters any more. As a person who loves sending and receiving letters, I find this really sad.


And,

Personal Privacy. In the age of the Internet and ultra-invasive corporate data vacuuming (look at all the elements of your personal information that are "required" when you fill out a simple product warranty registration), you can kiss the last shreds of your privacy goodbye. Of course, there's a lot of privacy we willingly give up when we share information on social media, but that's a personal decision.

I found the list of things that refuse to die somewhat less surprising, especially these items:

Parking Meters. Of course they refuse to die ... municipalities make a lot of money from them, both from the basic parking fees and from the fines and fees levied on people who exceed their time limits. Parking meters, in whatever form, are never going to go away.

Pennies. They're a pain in the neck and we all have thousands of them squirreled away in every nook and cranny, but as long as we have a wide range of sales and use taxes that make transactions end up with odd numbers, we'll have to deal with them. One thing I did learn from the article, though, is the vested interest of the zinc industry in continued penny production.

And,

Paper Checks. I used to write dozens of checks every month - at stores, to pay bills, or to send money to other people. Nowadays, of course, I pay almost all my bills online through my bank (although never by direct debit) and pay for almost everything with a credit card that offers me a modest amount of cash back on each transaction. There's still a place for paper checks, though ... there are a few businesses and services that don't accept electronic payments, and some people still like to have the proof of payment provided by a check with all the right stamps and endorsements on it.

Other things that are disappearing fast:

Courtesy and Civility. On an individual level, they're still here, but underemployed; and,

Common Sense. Just look at Congress.

What things do you see disappearing around you, and how do you feel about it? And what other things do you see refusing to die? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.

Bilbo