Thursday, March 31, 2016

Another Interesting New Expression

Yesterday I introduced you to the wonderful new word anecdoche, referring to "a conversation in which everyone is talking and no one is listening," and to my neologism anecdouche, referring to a person who takes part in an anecdoche. I love words.

Today I'd like to share another new word ... expression, actually, that I found in an article by George Dvorsky titled 20 Crucial Terms Every 21st Century Futurist Should Know:

Repressive Desublimation

The concept of repressive desublimation was first developed by political philosopher Herbert Marcuse, and described by author Annalee Newitz this way - 

"It refers to the kind of soft authoritarianism preferred by wealthy, consumer culture societies that want to repress political dissent. In such societies, pop culture encourages people to desublimate or express their desires, whether those are for sex, drugs or violent video games. At the same time, they’re discouraged from questioning corporate and government authorities. As a result, people feel as if they live in a free society even though they may be under constant surveillance and forced to work at mind-numbing jobs. Basically, consumerism and so-called liberal values distract people from social repression."


Are we being repressively desublimated by living in a modern consumer society that discourages questioning corporate and government authorities? Hmmm ... I wonder if we prove the existence of repressive desublimation each time we unthinkingly give up our phone numbers or e-mail addresses when the checkout clerk at the store asks for them, or when we look at obvious government-sponsored vote fraud such as we saw last week in Arizona and still support egregiously stupid voter ID laws.

What do you think? You do still think, don't you?

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for more Great Moments in Editing ... less intellectually challenging, but more fun. More thoughts then.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Word for the Day

I ran across an interesting article the other day (as I often do): 23 Names of Emotions You Feel, but Can’t Explain, which led me to the Word of the Day for today:


It's defined in the article by James Sama as, "A conversation in which everyone is talking, but nobody is listening."

It's a great word for this raucous and uninspiring election season. And I would add a new word of my own to describe an individual carrying on such a useless conversation:


There are, after all, a vast number of them nowadays, and they deserve their own word.

Have a good day. Don't get caught up in an anecdoche with an anecdouche, and you'll be happier and better adjusted.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Who Writes This Stuff?

Just a quick rant today ...

Yesterday morning at work, I booted up my computer and when my login screen appeared, I typed in my personal ID code. Instead of logging me in, the system popped up this message on my screen:

"Provider could not perform the action since the context was acquired as silent."


After a while I figured out the system was telling me that I had not engaged the number lock on my keypad before typing in my ID code.

So riddle me this, Batman ... why couldn't it just tell me that? What IT ass clown figured that an ordinary computer user would understand this malarkey?

Who writes this stuff?

I don't know about you, but I'm ready to relocate ...

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, assuming I can convince the network to let me in.


Monday, March 28, 2016

Musical Monday

Yesterday's poem on Poetry Sunday provided Philip Schultz's little discourse on what he likes and doesn't like, and several of you added your lists of things you like and don't like in your comments. I'm glad you did, because it lets me feel like I'm getting to know my Internet friends a little better. In this week's Musical Monday offering by Robbie Fulks, we find out what it is that he likes ...

And as for me, I like sunrises and sunsets, laughing children, honesty, politeness, corned beef and cabbage, puns,  good music, warm summer days, women with hairy arms, ballroom dancing, playing Scrabble (both online and live), and enjoying cruises with Agnes to places we've never been before. There's a lot more, but that's a subject for another post.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Poetry Sunday

In case you were wondering where Mr Philip Schultz stands ...

What I Like and Don't Like 
by Philip Schultz 

I like to say hello and goodbye.
I like to hug but not shake hands.
I prefer to wave or nod. I enjoy
the company of strangers pushed
together in elevators or subways.
I like talking to cab drivers
but not receptionists. I like
not knowing what to say.
I like talking to people I know
but care nothing about. I like
inviting anyone anywhere.
I like hearing my opinions
tumble out of my mouth
like toddlers tied together
while crossing the street,
trusting they won’t be squashed
by fate. I like greeting-card clich├ęs
but not dressing up or down.
I like being appropriate
but not all the time.
I could continue with more examples
but I’d rather give too few
than too many. The thought
of no one listening anymore-
I like that least of all.

How about you, Dear Readers? What do you like and not like? Leave a comment.

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


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Cartoon Saturday

Spring is here and the craziness goes on ...

The so-called "Islamic State" has claimed responsibility for deadly bomb attacks against the airport and a metro station in Brussels, Belgium, that killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds more; A patient is suing Yale New Haven Hospital for allegedly removing part of the wrong rib during surgery and then trying to cover up the mistake; the National Rifle Association's Family Website has introduced a series of re-written fairy tales in which characters such as Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood pack heat to protect themselves from danger; the indictment of another 48 bikers on various charges of criminal activity bring to more than 150 the number of people indicted as a result of the deadly pitched battle between rival gangs and police in Waco, Texas; last year; and in Florida, researchers are equipping captured Burmese pythons with radio transmitters in an attempt to locate and remove the vast number of the huge snakes that have devastated wildlife in the Everglades.

Agnes and I enjoy cooking, but we also enjoy going out to eat occasionally, and letting someone else do the work. For this edition of Cartoon Saturday, let's look at a selection of cartoons on the topic of dining out ...

My daughter has been on my case about my weight lately, and so I think she'd approve of a place like this ...

I suppose it would be sustainable, but not particularly filling ...

Be careful what seafood you order ...

I think I've eaten here ...

Perhaps he should have shopped at Victor's Secret ...

I know exactly how those pairings work ...

Sadly, we're getting there ...

I think I've eaten here, too ...

I'm surprised this isn't how the restaurant at the Ikea store works ...

First world dining problems ...

And that's it for our final March edition of Cartoon Saturday ... I hope you enjoyed it and are inspired to patronize a local restaurant.

It looks as if it's going to be a beautiful Easter weekend here in NoVa. The cherry blossoms have peaked in DC, the weather is supposed to be very pleasant ... good news for all the families who have planned Easter egg hunts tomorrow. I need to do some yard work this morning, and later Agnes and I have to go out and lay in supplies for granddaughter Elise's birthday party tomorrow. No rest for the weary.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts coming tomorrow on Poetry Sunday. Be here.


Friday, March 25, 2016

The Left Cheek Ass Clown for March, 2016

Ah, good morning, Dear Readers, and welcome to the announcement of the

Left-Cheek Ass Clown for March, 2016!

As you know, the choice is not easy to make, as there are always great hordes of ass clowns clamoring for recognition. But in this trying period of our history, the number is unusually large and the decision correspondingly more difficult. The presidential primary season has revealed swarms of ass clowns in much the same fashion that a kitchen light at 2AM exposes swarms of cockroaches … the difference being that cockroaches probably serve some useful purpose.

With this in mind, I have decided this time to declare a tie in the competition for the award, it being just too difficult to decide which recipient is the larger of the two ass clowns. Ladies and gentlemen, Dear Readers, I give you

The Left-Cheek Ass Clowns of the Month
March, 2016

Ted Cruz


Donald Trump

Mr Trump, already a three-time winner of this award, proclaims his worthiness every day. He is utterly unqualified by any measure for the office of President, and even conservative stalwart George Will described him as “a stupendously uninformed dilettante” who brings to all matters “arrogance leavened by frivolousness.” He does not understand domestic affairs, foreign affairs, the rule of law, or the Constitution. He advocates the torture of terrorism suspects. He deliberately and gleefully insults individuals, ethnic, and religious groups, and even happily spread an Internet meme featuring an unflattering comparison of his wife Melania and Heidi Cruz. He has encouraged violence at his rallies, both directly and indirectly, against those who oppose him. Anyone who thinks Donald Trump is presidential material – particularly at this juncture in our history – is in need of serious psychiatric counseling.

Senator Ted Cruz, a two-time previous winner of this award, is a man intensely disliked even by members of his own party. He was perfectly willing to shut down the entire federal government in an attempt to derail the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”). He denies the existence of man-made climate change, opposes immigration reform, rejects marriage equality, and continues to demand the complete and total repeal of Obamacare (although he does not have ideas of his own on how to make health care affordable). He rejects all compromise with his opponents on any subject, and takes a strictly literal view of the meaning of the Constitution*.

I will be roundly criticized by my conservative friends for picking on Republicans yet again**. They will ask why I have not chosen to bestow this award on, for example, Hillary Clinton. The reason, as I have explained over and over again, is that I am a fundamentally conservative person who believes that he should be able to expect better than screaming, shouting, and obstructionism from the party to which he once belonged. The GOP has learned nothing in the last eight years, despite having recognized its problems, published a plan to fix them, and then ignored it. Conservative Republicans have become a joke, draping themselves in the Constitution, and yet advocating policies and positions totally opposed to it.

I do not particularly like Hillary Clinton. Although I don't think she's the Evil She-Devil from Hell painted by her opponents, I also don't think she is a good choice for President. And in competition with people like Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, she is also not the best choice for Ass Clown of the Month ... either cheek. When the GOP grows up and starts acting like a group of responsible adults with well-defined and well-presented plans for fixing the nation's problems, rather than simply opposing whatever the Democrats try to do, I'll start looking elsewhere for awardees. Until then, feel free to establish your own award and present it to whomever you like.

Our Left-Cheek Ass Clown of the Month award for 2016 is presented to Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz - two people who, in a less crazy world, would be voting for ... not running for ... president.

Have a good day. See you back here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. More thoughts then.


* He obviously believes that the Founders, in 1789, had the wisdom and foresight to predict conditions that would exist more than 200 years later, and to write a Constitution that requires no amendment, interpretation, or questioning. Well, there was that little bit about slavery, but that’s not important now.

** I have, actually, presented it to Senator Harry Reid.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Slight Detour into One of the Reasons Government Has Grown So Huge

I'm about to take the usual detour from random thoughts into the Friday-through-Monday cycle* of routine posts, which means that you'll have to wait until next Tuesday for the next part of my government reorganization plan. But just to whet your appetite and to give you an idea of the magnitude of the challenge of getting government under control, I thought I'd share with you one of the most amazing things you will ever see: a chart which depicts the major systems acquisition process for the Department of Defense:

Now, obviously you can't read anything on the chart at this size ... click it to embiggen it and, if you still can't read the detail, go here.

The US military operates some of the finest, deadliest, most technologically advanced weapons in the world, but it’s a miracle that any of them actually get built. The Defense Acquisition System is a monument to bureaucratic and fiscal complexity, and ensures that it’s virtually impossible to field anything quickly. Much of the process is devoted to ensuring that (1) things that are built are actually needed and justified by documented requirements; (2) things that are built are delivered on schedule; (3) things that are built work as promised when delivered; and (4) things that are built comply with all relevant laws and Congressional direction**. All four of these steps are fraught with danger and complexity (such as “requirements creep,” low-bidders coming back to the till to ask for ever more money, and reliance too early in the process on technology that isn’t quite ready yet), but Congressional political considerations also play a role. For instance, there is scarcely a single major weapons program that does not have parts manufactured or assembled in dozens of different Congressional districts as a way of ensuring Congressional support for the program.

I'll have more to say on all this later. For now, look at the chart and think about how many people and how much money it takes to make all those things happen.

Crying is authorized.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for the announcement of the Left Cheek Ass Clown for March ... believe it or not, I haven't yet decided who to name. That's how difficult the choice is getting to be.


Ass Clown Award, Cartoon Saturday, Poetry Sunday, Musical Monday.

** And boy, can Congress give direction when there's money and political considerations involved.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Let's Be Honest, Shall We?

I had a frightening thought while I was in the bathroom the other day*.

In this crazy time in American history, a lot of people are espousing all sorts of ideas, wrapping themselves in the Constitution as if they knew what it said other than “God says you can have all the guns you want.” We have people who want to be president advocating blatantly unconstitutional actions**, and we have sitting senators glibly spreading a quasi-Constitutional gloss over transparently political maneuvers***.

The frightening thought I had on my porcelain throne was this: if even our elected leaders, and those who seek the nation’s highest office, either don’t understand or choose to ignore the Constitution they invoke so piously, we’re screwed.

I thought about this in the context of the oath I took as a brand new Air Force Second Lieutenant in 1973, that I re-took with each promotion over the next 23 years, and that I administered to my son on his commissioning in the Air Force:

"I (name) do solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

Military officers do not swear allegiance to the nation, the President, or the Congress … we swear to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We take this so seriously that many officers stationed here in Washington, DC, choose to take their oaths in front of the actual Constitution, which is on display in the National Archives.

Enlisted personnel take an oath of enlistment which also invokes the Constitution, but is different from the oath taken by officers:

"I, (name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God." ††

The major difference is that enlisted personnel swear also to obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me. The reason is, of course, that military discipline requires soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who will not just blindly follow orders, but will follow orders according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Specific mention of the President underscores the tradition of civilian control of the military … you may recall that the Constitution specifies that the President is the Commander in Chief of the armed forces (Article II, Section 2).

Now, we’ve established that military personnel swear allegiance to the Constitution rather than to the President or Congress, and that’s a good thing. But what happens when those at the highest levels – as I wrote above – either don’t understand or choose to ignore the Constitution that they invoke so piously. Who interprets what the Constitution actually means?

Under our system of government, Congress makes the laws, the President executes the laws, and the Judiciary interprets the laws. This means it’s the Supreme Court that provides the interpretation when required … most certainly not Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Mitch McConnell†††, or John Cornyn.

Senators, if you want to play political games, go ahead. But be honest about it … don’t drape the Constitution on your ploys like cheap festoons on an idol. By doing so, you insult those who take their Constitutional responsibilities seriously ... and who, unlike you, run the risk of dying for them.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Don’t laugh … it’s where I do some of my best thinking.

** Yes, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, I’m talking to you.

*** Yes Senators McConnell and Cornyn, I’m talking to you. And yes, I’m sure many of you can quote lots of Democratic senators who have done similar things … which, of course, excuses the present bad behavior.

† The language is specified in law: 5 USC 3331.

†† The language is specified in law: 10 USC 502.

††† Speaking of Senator McConnell, you may not have been aware that under his interpretation of the Constitution,
the approvals of the National Rifle Association and the National Federation of Independent Businesses are required as a qualification for service on the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bilbo's Government Reorganization, Part 1: Homeland Security

You will recall, Dear Readers, that last week I started a discussion about reducing the size of the federal government. This is one area where I am in fundamental, although not total, agreement with most conservatives and libertarians, although we approach it from differing perspectives.

I believe, as do my conservative and libertarian friends, that government should be as small as practical, that its activities should be limited to those which are essential at each level (national, state, and local), and that it should be as unobtrusive as possible in the life of the average citizen. The problem, as I wrote before, is that we have an enormous government today because we’ve asked for it … not in so many words, but we have decided as a nation that there are services and protections we want and expect our government to provide, and our government has grown a gigantic bureaucracy to provide them.

And so today we have a national government that spans three branches (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial), fifteen cabinet departments, some 57 “Independent Establishments and Government Corporations,” and any number of other dogs and cats* that exist both on and off the books. Beneath that, each state has its own government with all its own departments and agencies, and below that, each county (or parish, yes, Angel) and city or town has its own mechanism of government. The total number of people employed by government structures at all levels in this country is probably larger than the population of many other countries.

So how do we put this beast on a diet?

In my earlier post, I suggested reducing the number of national-level cabinet departments from 15 to seven, but – in true political candidate fashion - did not provide any details. Today, I’d like to start spelling out what I’d do if I were king**. I’ll start with a look at the low-hanging fruit of the cabinet, the Department of Homeland Security, or DHS.

DHS was established in the wake of the hysteria that followed the terror attacks of September 11th, 2001, in order to address a perceived lack of coordination among the various agencies which shared responsibility for various aspects of our national defense. Instead of strengthening the lines of management and coordination and clearly designating an existing agency*** as the responsible lead for defense of the homeland, Congress reacted in time-honored bureaucratic fashion by adding another layer of management to an already convoluted structure. Here is the organizational chart for DHS as it exists today:

Now consider these points, most of which are common to all government agencies:

1. The establishment of DHS required the creation of a whole new management layer … essentially, everything in the top three rows of the chart. Not a single one of these organizational elements actually contributes directly to your security … each one simply provides managerial oversight and direction to those that do. Every single agency of the government has a General Counsel, a Legislative Affairs office to deal with Congress, a Public Affairs office to issue calming words during periods of disaster and scandal, and a Policy office to churn out directions to the people actually doing the work.

2. DHS, and every government agency, has a Secretary, a Deputy (or Under) Secretary, and any number of Principal/Deputy/Assistant Secretaries, each of whom has a staff of aides, executive assistants, regular assistants, secretaries, liaisons to other agencies, etc, etc. While someone clearly needs to be in charge, and to have a supporting staff to – if nothing else – respond to inane questions from Congress, all those staffs consist of people who need salaries, office space and supplies, computers, and all the accouterments of a modern office. This means a great deal of money is being spent simply on defending the boss and the budget … not on defending the homeland.

I propose to eliminate the DHS and reassign its duties and functions as shown in the annotated DHS organization chart below (click it to embiggen it):

As you can see, I would completely eliminate the management layers of the organization, and reassign the actual “doers” to one of the seven new cabinet offices. Most would fold into the Department of Defense, some to the Department of Justice, and others to the Departments of National Infrastructure or Citizen Services. The Bureau of US Customs and Border Protection would be divided between the Treasury Department (Customs) and the Defense Department (Border Protection).

Now, I don't know if this is practical or not, but it seems logical and rational to me. It's easy to pick on DHS because of the way it was kludged together in the heat of passion and the absence of thought and study. In the coming days and weeks, I'll look at the rest of the cabinet departments and let you know what I'd do with them.

Have a good day. More thoughts coming.


* No offense intended to our canine and feline friends.

** Besides hiring a deep bench of headsmen to help me roll heads.

*** I thought that was why we had a Department of Defense, after all.

The Departments of State, The Treasury, Justice, Labor & Commerce, Defense, National Infrastructure, and Citizen Services.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Musical Monday

In addition to the usual songs with lyrics, I enjoy a lot of instrumental music. I was introduced to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass many years ago by my parents, who were great fans, and this is one of my favorite Herb Alpert tunes. If your red corpuscles are not up and surging around and ready to do great things after you've heard this tune, something's wrong. I'm sorry about the quality of the video, but it's the best I was able to find ... nothing wrong with the music though ...

Hope this gets your week off to a rousing start. Have a good day ... more thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Poetry Sunday

Did you ever wonder? ...

Why There Are No More Miracles
by Hal Sirowitz

God would perform miracles in the old days,
Father said, but nowadays if he set a bush
on fire, like he did for Moses, the fire department
would rush to put it out. The newspapers
would send out photographers. There’d be
an investigation. A reward would be given
to help find the arsonist. Some innocent person
would get blamed. God has enough people
believing in him. Why does He need
all that commotion for the sake of a few more?

Why indeed? There are miracles enough in the birth of a baby, the glory of sunrise and sunset, and the beauty of a woman in the soft light of evening. Who needs burning bushes? If we wanted miracles, we could wish for rational statesmanship to break out in the GOP.

But I'd bet on the burning bush if I were you.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Musical Monday. More thoughts then.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Cartoon Saturday

It's been a long week and the weekend promises colder temperatures, rain, and ... yes ... snow. Oy.

In Atlanta, a man was arrested and charged with aggravated battery after police said he dumped scalding water on a same-sex couple as they slept; eight sailors on the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower were injured Friday when the arresting gear that catches landing airplanes broke on the deck of the ship during a landing; a construction worker in Los Angeles was killed when he fell 53 stories from a skyscraper under construction and landed on a moving car; pop entertainer Madonna has come in for heavy criticism after an incident in a concert in Australia in which she invited a young woman onto the stage, then pulled her top down to expose her breast; and Donald Trump*.

Although cold, rain, and wet snow are predicted for today and tomorrow here in NoVa, the last few days have been very nice. The birds singing happily in the trees inspired this week's cartoon theme ...

If birds had restaurants ...

and ...

Do mother birds have brag books? ...

Two riffs on a theme ... here's number one (so to speak) ...

and here's number two (so to speak) ...

It's obvious, but still funny ...

Sad, but true ...

Hmmm ... an avian conspiracy theory?

Another one that's obvious, but still funny ...

Tarzan of the pigeons? ...

And there you have it for this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. Later today we'll be meeting our friends Ken and Nadja for lunch, followed by a pleasant weekend of household chores. This swinging lifestyle will be the death of me yet.

Have a good day and a great weekend ... and if you live in the DC/Maryland/NoVa area, stay warm and dry. And, of course, come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday. More thoughts then.


* That's all. What more do I need to say about him?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Great Moments in Editing

We've made it halfway through March, and I think we've earned another round of Great Moments in Editing, don't you?

Where the discriminating cannibals shop ...

I wonder if he read the last item before he made the decision to turn Amish ...

Well, I guess it's truth in advertising ...

Must be the latest thing in physical therapy ...

Evidently the spelling award wasn't one of them ...

When musicians fall out ...

Police blotters are often very interesting ...

It'll keep the pros busy between executions ...

No, the OTHER left! ...

Another unfortunate juxtaposition of headlines ...

And there you have it ... your biweekly fix of editorial gems, odd signage, and general abuse of the language. Something to take your mind off the political circus that's making us a laughingstock around the world.

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


Thursday, March 17, 2016

More About Government Reorganization: Start at the Beginning

Yesterday in this space, I offered an initial look at my proposal for reorganizing the federal government. I'll be giving you more details on it in the coming weeks, but I think I may have gotten ahead of myself. Let me go back a step and show you what I ought to have shown you before I wrote yesterday's post.

How many of you, Dear Readers, know what your federal government looks like? I don't mean in terms of neoclassical marble buildings or the well-PhotoShopped color photos of senior officials that grace agency websites, but in the form of a organizational chart? Here it is - click it to big it; if you still can't read it, you can find it online here:

Now envision each of those blocks on the chart expanded into its own chart. As an example, here's the organization chart of the Department of Homeland Security:

Now envision each of those blocks under Homeland Security as a large group of people with its own organization chart and budget. Go down another five or six levels (at least) and you'll eventually come to a single person sitting at a desk, being paid a wage and benefits.

That's a lot of people, who need a lot of money and a lot of real estate and office supplies. Many of them are hard-working, well-meaning people doing important things for the American people. Others are not. How do we separate the vital civil servant wheat from the political hack chaff?

Yes, Dear Readers, your government is too big*. Making it smaller and better will be very difficult, but not impossible. Starting next week, I'll go into more detail on the reorganization plan I proposed yesterday. I welcome your ideas and comments, as long as they're constructive. There's no shortage of people who are good at bitching and complaining ... what we need are thoughtful people with ideas who are willing to work with others to make things better.

Let's start the discussion.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow to end the work week with another edition of Great Moments in Editing. More thoughts then.


* Want to see just how big it is? Start here.