Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Code Has Been Broken!

Every so often, one cartoon seems to sum it all up ...

What more needs to be said?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Your Papers, Please

One of the stock scenes in spy movies involves the steely-eyed secret police agent confronting a hapless citizen and demanding to see his or her "papers." The scene works because in most of the world, citizens are required to carry government-approved identification documents, and present them when requested by someone in authority. This isn't so in the United States, because our theoretical "right to privacy" supposedly prevents the Evil GovernmentTM from mandating a national identity document. This allows us to maintain a cherished freedom from demands from steely-eyed secret police agents, but proves problematic when those times arise when there's a legitimate need to prove definitively who we are (for voting, check-cashing, and other legal issues), how old we are (to buy alcohol or tobacco, or go to some movies), where we live (for tax or voting purposes), or whether or not we are actually citizens (to prevent illegal voting).

So, how do we do that?

Most of us don't carry ... or even have a copy of ... our birth certificate, which theoretically proves exactly who we are and where we were born - and thus our citizenship status. Unfortunately, it's not a photo ID, which is what is usually required. And chances are that if there were a picture on your birth certificate, you don't look very much like it any more.

Here in the US, the humble driver's license is the most common form of identity document ... we are, after all, a nation built around a culture of cars and driving, and the acquisition of a driver's license is more or less a rite of passage for young people. But it's not a universally acceptable form of identification, because while it provides basic information like a photo, name, age, sex, and address, as well as other information like a fingerprint or one's status as an organ donor, it does not necessarily prove citizenship. Also, every state's driver's license is different in format, organization, and data presented, making it not very useful for identification in Wisconsin if you are from, say, the Republic of Texas. And finally, what if you can't or don't drive, because of age or disability - should you be required to spend the money (as much as $55, depending on the state, not to mention the cost of any driver training required) for such a document?

Some Americans have a passport, which is the gold standard of identification in that it proves both identity and citizenship; however, relatively few Americans travel, and the cost of a passport ($135 for a first-time adult application) is beyond the reach of many lower-income citizens.

And so I ask again: how do we prove who we are? This is no small issue at a time when there's a vast, manufactured hysteria over in-person voter fraud. And because we are a nation composed of 50 individual states, populated by citizens intent on preserving the sanctity of their privacy, there is no single nationally-recognized, readily obtainable form of identification, universally accepted for all legal actions.

I started thinking about this when my friend Lily directed me to an article pointing out that in Wisconsin, a military identification card issued by the Department of Defense is considered valid ID for voting, but a photo ID issued to a former service member by the Department of Veterans' Affairs is not. A little study revealed that there is a tremendous difference among the various states as to what documents are considered valid as proof of identity for voting. The list of acceptable IDs for Virginia is here; for purposes of comparison, here is the equivalent list for Texas*.

Privacy interests notwithstanding, we have a common interest in making sure we can identify ourselves when necessary. If I were you, I'd check - right now - to make sure that you have a form of ID acceptable not only to your local election officials, but also to the endlessly suspicious and steely-eyed poll watchers from the major political parties. You don't want to be deprived of your right to vote because you don't have an ID everyone will accept.

Let me just finish by saying that I have absolutely no problem with requiring a person to show a valid identification document in order to vote. But if it is to be a requirement, it is the responsibility of government at the appropriate levels to ensure that every eligible citizen is able to obtain the required ID conveniently, and either free or at a reasonable minimum cost.

So now, before I wish you a good day, how about some ID to show me you're entitled to it?

More thoughts tomorrow.


* Naturally, Texas would accept a license to carry a handgun as proof of ID for voting. Oy.

Monday, August 29, 2016

When Walls Don't Work

One of the major points of the GOP platform for the coming election, as insisted on by their standard-bearer, Donald Trump, is the construction of a mighty wall across the length of the border between the US and Mexico. This wall will supposedly secure our southern border and keep out all sorts of undesirable people.

The building of walls to keep out undesirables has a long history. It was tried by the Chinese (The Great Wall of China), the Romans (Hadrian's Wall between Roman Britain and Scotland), the French (the Maginot Line facing Germany) and the government of the former German Democratic Republic (The Berlin Wall or, as they preferred to call it, the "Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart"), among others. History shows that none of them worked particularly well.

Mr Trump's wall notwithstanding, illegal immigration is indeed a problem we need to face. Unfortunately, we don't approach it realistically. Building huge walls and rounding up and deporting millions of illegal immigrants are not realistic solutions: they are too expensive, morally questionable, and unconstitutional ... not to mention that we can't maintain the public infrastructure we have already, much less a twenty-foot high-tech wall thousands of miles long. We need a comprehensive, detailed, realistic approach for immigration reform.

And as it happens, I have it.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a long time have seen this several times before. It's slightly tweaked from previous versions, but all the essentials are the same (I have added a section dealing with the impact of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution on questions of birthright citizenship). I have sent copies of this plan to all my elected officials and to Presidents Bush and Obama, all of whom have responded with thanks-for-your-interest-in-this-serious-issue-blah-blah-blah letters, and the dumbassery has gone on.

If you've seen this before and don't want to read it again, come back tomorrow for something else. If you like it, feel free to copy it and send it to your elected reprehensives ... it's not copyrighted or anything. Perhaps it will fall on fertile ground, although in the current atmosphere, I doubt it.

Bilbo’s Comprehensive Compromise Immigration Reform Plan

First, Congress enacts legislation to create a new category of immigration status – the “Provisional Resident Alien (PRA)” – and designate the status with a new form of ID card – let’s call it a “Blue Card.” Anyone who is in the United States illegally as of the date of enactment will have a grace period of six months to register for PRA status and obtain a Blue Card without fear of arrest, imprisonment, or deportation on any immigration violation charge.  They would, of course, be subject to arrest for outstanding criminal violations unrelated to their immigration status.

A person registering as a PRA must pay a fee of $100 per person or $500 per family (whichever is less) for the privilege of obtaining that status. This fee does two things: it levies a fine for having broken the law in the first place, and it partially funds the cost of the new program.  It provides something for those who oppose blanket amnesty, because it imposes a penalty, albeit a modest one, for the willful violation of the law. Many churches and immigrant rights organizations will object to the fine because they think it’s either unfair or too much for poor immigrants to pay; in this case, individuals or organizations who object to making the illegals pay the fine could be offered the opportunity to pay it on behalf those who, for whatever reason, can’t or won’t pay it themselves.

Once a person has been granted PRA status, they will be required to obtain a valid social security number, and will be entitled to the same rights, privileges, and social services as other legal immigrants; in exchange, they will be required to obey all laws, pay all taxes, enroll in basic English classes, and otherwise act as responsible members of American society.  They will have the protection of labor laws which require payment of the minimum wage, and with a legal status, will no longer be subject to exploitation by shady employers.

Initial PRA status would be valid for five years.  At the end of this period, the individual must report to the immigration authorities with proof of employment, proof of a clean police record (no felonies), and proof that taxes have been paid.  If these conditions are met, the individual may either extend the PRA status for another five years, or apply for citizenship.  Citizenship is not automatic – it will still have to be earned through the same naturalization process completed by many millions of legal immigrants throughout our history, with the clock for all associated requirements starting at the end of the PRA period, regardless of how long the individual has already been in the country.  This protects the interests of those who have weathered the legal immigration process by preventing previously-illegal immigrants in PRA status from “jumping the line” for quick citizenship.

On the date the grace period for PRA status applications ends, anyone still present illegally in the country will become liable for arrest and deportation.  Because the great majority of previously-illegal immigrants will have taken advantage of the opportunity to legalize their status by becoming PRAs, those remaining in an illegal status will probably those with criminal records.  Immigration authorities can then proceed to concentrate on this much smaller number of more dangerous criminals.

On the date the law is enacted, most immigration enforcement agents would immediately transfer to border security duty to crack down on  new illegal immigration. Border security will be severely stiffened and those caught attempting illegal entry to the country will be summarily deported after being photographed and fingerprinted. Facilitation of illegal immigration (whether by “coyotes” who help smuggle illegals across the border or by those who knowingly employ illegals) will be made a felony, as will a second illegal immigration attempt.

On the date the grace period for PRA registration ends, a set of very steep fines and jail sentences goes into effect for businesses and individuals hiring persons who are in the country illegally (without a Green or Blue Card).  This will help to remove the economic incentive for businesses to support illegal immigration.

Employers would be responsible for reporting to the immigration authorities any change in the employment status of a PRA. If a person in PRA status is fired from a job or becomes unemployed, his status is revoked and he must leave the country until otherwise eligible to apply for legal immigration in the future.

Several people who have reviewed my plan over the years have reminded me that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution states that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside." This means that children born within the United States - even to those illegally here - are US citizens*, even though their parents may not be. If we as a nation wish to change the birthright citizenship status of children born in the future to illegal immigrant parents, the relevant part of the Fourteenth Amendment would have to be amended, perhaps to read,

"All persons born in the territory of the United States to parents who are citizens thereof, and those who have attained citizenship through lawful naturalization, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

Regardless, although children born in the US to illegal immigrant parents are citizens under the Constitution, the parents of those children would be required to obtain PRA status just like any other illegal immigrant.

This takes care of those who are in the country illegally today. But comprehensive immigration reform must also address the need for a responsive program to allow unskilled, low-wage workers to enter the country to take jobs that might otherwise go unfilled. PRA status can be used for these persons, too. Businesses would project their labor requirements, and the State Department would make an appropriate number of PRA visas available to meet the need.  Immigrants would then apply at the US embassy or consulate in their home country for PRA status covering any period of time from six months to five years, and need only maintain a job and pay taxes in order to maintain their status.  At the end of five years, they would also have the opportunity to apply for citizenship under the same rules as any other person in PRA status.

This plan won’t please everyone, but that’s the nature of a compromise, and the ability to compromise is what has been missing from political discourse in this country for too long.  The advantages of the PRA plan are:

1. It offers a way to legitimize the persons already here illegally (who, after all, are too numerous and well-protected to be rounded up and deported), but imposes a fine on them as a condition of legalizing their status (i.e., no reward for having broken the law in the first place).

2. It funds itself, in part, through the fines collected from those applying for PRA status.

3. It provides resources for increased border security by freeing up immigration agents who otherwise spend their days fruitlessly hunting down illegals.

4. It provides a pathway for low-wage workers to legally enter the country and take advantage of economic opportunities not available to them at home, while contributing to the US economy in taxes.

5. It removes the incentive for businesses to hire and exploit illegal immigrants who cannot seek their rights for fear of exposure and deportation.

6. It does not, of itself, provide the “path to citizenship” that is a red line for hard core opponents of immigration reform.

7. It recognizes the reality that there are children of illegal immigrants who are, by virtue of being born in the United States, citizens, and requires the parents to legitimize their status.

The downside of my plan is, of course, that prices on some goods will rise.  We’ll pay more for the produce picked by immigrants who are finally being paid a decent wage, and the services provided by those who no longer live in the shadows and earn meager wages.  But I believe that in the long run, this plan represents a good start toward a stronger America and a better life for those who would share in its dream.

There you go. Sorry for the repetition of the topic over the years, but it doesn't seem like anyone in a position of authority and leadership has a plan even half as good. What do you think? Where does my plan fall short? How can it be improved? Leave a comment. Send it to your elected representatives if you like.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* The 14th Amendment was intended to establish the citizenship status of freed slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War. In 1898, in the case of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court interpreted the 14th Amendment to clarify that children born on American soil are U.S. citizens without regard to their parents’ status. The Court held that a baby born in San Francisco to Chinese parents -- Chinese subjects (they had an emperor back then) were prohibited by law at the time from becoming U.S. citizens -- was a citizen at birth under the 14th Amendment. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Poetry Sunday

What more is there to say? ...

Ode to Chocolate
by Barbara Crooker

I hate milk chocolate, don't want clouds
of cream diluting the dark night sky,
don't want pralines or raisins, rubble
in this smooth plateau. I like my coffee
black, my beer from Germany, wine
from Burgundy, the darker, the better.
I like my heroes complicated and brooding,
James Dean in oiled leather, leaning
on a motorcycle. You know the color.

Oh, chocolate! From the spice bazaars
of Africa, hulled in mills, beaten,
pressed in bars. The cold slab of a cave's
interior, when all the stars
have gone to sleep.

Chocolate strolls up to the microphone
and plays jazz at midnight, the low slow
notes of a bass clarinet. Chocolate saunters
down the runway, slouches in quaint
boutiques; its style is je ne sais quoi.
Chocolate stays up late and gambles,
likes roulette. Always bets
on the noir.

Have a good day. Wine, chocolate, and fruit usually help to make it so.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Cartoon Saturday

Is this month ever going to end?

Hundreds of people were killed when a remote region of Italy was struck by a powerful earthquake; twelve people were killed and injured when gunmen attacked the American University in Kabul, Afghanistan; in Japan, a truck driver was arrested by police after he struck and killed a woman while he was playing Pokemon-Go; Maine Governor Paul LePage came in for criticism after he left a profanity-laced voicemail for a Democratic state senator who'd irritated him; and a French court has suspended a local ban on "burkinis," full-body Islamic-friendly bathing suits for women which expose only the face, hands, and feet.

No matter what you choose to wear at the beach, the world's a crazy place, and we need our weekly cartoon ration to help keep ourselves sane. No running theme this week - just a random selection of good cartoons from my collection ...

Well, she gets points for honesty ...

My kind of place ...

As the rich get richer, those farther down the chain learn to make do ...

They can be aggravating ...

It may have started with banks and airlines, but it seems like everybody's getting into the extra-fee act  nowadays ...

Lemme hear you say, Hallelujah! ...

Stealing the right book ...

Safety signs, updated ...

True enough ...

And that's it for the last Cartoon Saturday in August - hope you enjoyed it.

It's going to be another hot, muggy weekend here in NoVa ... my daily power walk and the mowing of the lawn are going to be ugly. Later this morning, Agnes and I will be going to the local Home Depot to take a class in backsplash tiling - maybe we'll be able to do the fancy tilework above the stove and the sink that we've been planning since the Bronze Age.

Have a good day and a great weekend. Be safe. More thoughts tomorrow, when Poetry Sunday returns.


Friday, August 26, 2016

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for August, 2016

How quickly the time passes ... it seems like only two weeks ago we were naming our Right-Cheek Ass Clown for August, and now it's time to turn the other cheek, as it were. Tempus is fugiting, as my mother used to say.

It's never easy to single out one supreme ass clown for dishonor, there being so many contenders out there and this being an election year and all, but once again I've done it ... and have gone beyond the rich pickings of the political world to do so by designating not one, but two winners for this period!

A few days ago my old (by which I mean, "long-time and dear") friend Patty put a note on my Facebook wall that succinctly said, "(Bilbo), a few sentences on the bad boys of Rio" ... and so ...

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, I hereby designate the first co-winner of

The Left-Cheek Ass Clown for August, 2016

Ryan Lochte

Olympic swimming champion Ryan Lochte found himself in water hotter than he's used to when his tale of having been robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro turned out to be a false story intended to cover up the actions of he and several teammates, who urinated on the walls of a Rio gas station. Rather than being "robbed at gunpoint," the men were confronted by armed security guards ... a version of the story backed up by security camera footage and the statements of Mr Lochte's fellow athletes.

At a time when the nation is in dire need of people to admire and look up to, we are fortunate to have athletes like Simone Biles,  Katie Ledecky, and Michael Phelps as role models for our young people and ambassadors for the United States. 

It's sad that so many others don't live up to our hopes and expectations, but instead limbo under the low bar set by a society that doesn't value dignity, manners, or good behavior.

For his actions at the Rio Olympics that reflected poorly on himself and his country, Ryan Lochte is named a co-winner of our Left-Cheek Ass Clown for August, 2016.

But wait - there's more!

A firestorm erupted this week in the world of spiraling medical costs when the Mylan company, which manufactures the Epi-Pens that are a life-saving device carried by thousands of people*, announced that it was jacking up the price of a standard two-box set of Epi-Pens from about $100 to $600, drawing comparisons with last September's Left-Cheek Ass Clown Martin Shkreli of Turing Pharmaceuticals, who increased the price of the drug Daraprim by nearly 4000%. The CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch**, blamed "the system" which she said needs to be "fixed," and scrambled to recover from the public relations disaster. You can read more of her double-talk here. Oh, and she assures us that "No one's more frustrated than I am."

For the latest example of corporate greed, moral cowardice, and the utter lunacy of our health care system***, Mylan CEO Heather Bresch is designated as the co-awardee of the Left Cheek Ass Clown award for August 2016.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - more thoughts then.


* Including me!

** Daughter of West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.

*** Still waiting for the GOP's alternative to Obamacare. Just sayin'.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Naming Airplanes

I ran across an interesting article by Daisy Carrington the other day on CNN - How Planes Get Their Names.

You've probably never given much thought when you fly as to whether or not your airplane has a name ... all you usually care about is the size of the seat you've been painfully wedged into, or where your luggage will end up. But it seems there is a whole culture built around the naming of aircraft by the companies or nations that operate them. For instance, Israeli carrier ElAl names its airliners after cities in Israel, and Virgin America* picks names that are puns, or clever in some way, such as #Nerdbird, an aircraft that serviced various high-tech cities. Hugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy Magazine, called his personal airplane The Big Bunny.

The Air Force names some of its airplanes, too. During World War II, almost every airplane had a name and accompanying nose art** painted on it - for instance, the Enola Gay which dropped the first atomic bomb, or The Ruptured Duck, which was one of the B-25 bombers that participated in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Tokyo. Today's B-2 "Spirit" bombers are named after states, as in Spirit of Ohio, Spirit of Washington, and so on. We are unlikely to run out of names for B-2s, as they're so expensive that we'll run out of money to build them before we run out of state names to give them.

This leads me to wonder if we shouldn't have appropriate names for the campaign aircraft of our presidential wannabes.

Hillary Clinton's campaign aircraft could reflect her penchant for secrecy, be painted in camouflage tones, and have a name like Nothing to See Here.

Donald Trump likes to name everything after himself, but his campaign aircraft should have a catchier name ... like No Returns, in honor of his refusal to release his tax information. Or perhaps Comrade One, in honor of his bromance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Any other ideas? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow, when we'll name our Left-Cheek Ass Clown for August. More thoughts then.


* Happily, virginity is not a prerequisite for flying on this airline, although there's no telling how that might change if the GOP wins the election.

** Most of which would result in howls of outrage today for its "sexist" nature.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Term Limits

Among the many remedies often suggested to help solve the problem of inept and unresponsive government is the imposition of term limits for members of Congress - restrictions on the number of consecutive years or terms of office an individual can serve before being forced to retire. Many people strongly favor amending the Constitution to provide for term limits ... a 2013 Gallup Poll showed that an astounding 75% of Americans favored them. Those who favor such limits point to the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951, which limits the presidency to two terms, and ask why such limits should not apply to lawmakers as well.

I've gotten into any number of online arguments on this topic because I don't believe term limits - for the presidency or for Congress - ought to be part of the Constitution.

The aforementioned poll showed that 75% of Americans favor term limits for both houses of Congress ... but those same Americans keep reelecting the same people to more terms. The average voter seems to believe that term limits in principle are a good thing, but should apply only to all those other crooked, useless politicians and not to the hard-working, principled statesmen who represent their own district or state.

I look at proposals for term limits the same way I look at proposals for a balanced budget amendment ... not a bad idea in theory, but not something that belongs in the Constitution. We all know that laws mean whatever lawyers say they mean - for example, the Second Amendment* established the foundation for state militias as a defense against federal encroachment on the rights of the sovereign states, but it's been lawyered over the years into granting citizens the right to own deadly weapons for any reason. As much as "strict constructionists" may wish it differently, the Constitution means exactly what Congress and the courts interpret it to mean.

If you're serious about wanting term limits, do your civic duty and vote out the people you're displeased with ... don't foist your responsibility off on the Constitution.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* What it says is, "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 first four words have been both ignored and litigated out of existence.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Guidelines for Political Party Representatives Arriving at Bilbo's Door

We are now into the season when vast armies of political drones fan out and go door-to-door in our neighborhoods, trying to convince us to vote for their desired candidates. I don't mind this ... I actually enjoy talking to someone, as opposed to hanging up on stupid and time-wasting robo-calls which invariably attack one candidate without shedding any light on the positions of the other.

Yes, I enjoy the opportunity to exchange views with campaign workers, although I find that they usually arrive with their minds made up, and are interested only in changing my mind rather than allowing new or contradictory information into their own. With this in mind, here are a few guidelines for vote scavengers who come to my door ... who should know up front that I do not suffer fools gladly:

1. I get one vote. Your job is to convince me to give it to your candidate. It is not your job to convince me to vote against anyone else. See #3 below.

2. All I want to hear from you is specific information on your candidate's policy proposals and stands on issues. If you can't answer detailed questions about them, go away and send someone who can. Don't waste my time.

3. Don't say anything about the other candidate ... I do not care in the least about your opinion. The other candidate's representative can tell me about him or her ... all I want to hear from you is what I specified in #2 above. I am perfectly capable of comparing information I get from the two of you and making decisions on my own.

4. Don't get mad at me when I ask you detailed questions and try to pin down evasive answers. My experience shows that you will probably interpret probing questions as attacks on your candidate, rather than as attempts to gain information you should have at your fingertips. If that's your attitude, go away and waste someone else's time.

5. With respect to #4 above: detailed questions about your candidate do not equate to support for the other candidate. You should be prepared to answer such questions. If you accuse me of being stupid* or supporting the other candidate just because I want better information about yours, be sure your nose is far enough away from the door to avoid being hurt when I slam it shut.

There's more, but these will do for now. Be sure to observe them if you show up at my door in search of support.

Have a good day. Ask good questions and expect good answers when the scavengers come to your door ... but don't get your hopes up. More thoughts tomorrow.


* This actually happened in the last election, when two ladies representing Mitt Romney got very upset when I kept asking them policy questions they couldn't answer. The older of the two said I was clearly dumb enough to be voting for Obama ... which was the end of the discussion.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Answers to Your "Ask Bilbo" Questions

Last Monday, lacking any better ideas for a post, I decided to dust off a topic I used back in 2011. At that time, I offered to answer any reasonable question anyone sent in, and ended up getting enough questions for two more posts.

This time, I only got four questions back ... I guess many of you were afraid of what I might say. Here are the questions and my responses:

Mike had two questions. The first was, "What would it take to get you to vote for Trump? My answer: a lobotomy*. The second was, "Should Bilbo go back to work?" The answer to that one is: only if our savings run out or if the Republicans win the election and destroy Social Security.

Goodstuff asked, "Does my blog make me look weird?" In order to answer his question, I had to check out his blog - Goodstuff's Cyber World. My answer: yes. But it's a good weird.

My friend Mary in Germany sent an e-mail in which she asked, "You're good with words. What is the Indian tourist office trying to say?" Attached to the e-mail was this jpg:

Well, Mary, all I can say is that I assume they want us to visit Varanasi**, and that Donald Trump is writing their advertising copy.

If anyone has any more "Ask Bilbo" questions, go ahead and send them in; I'll answer them as they arrive.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Angel didn't ask a question of her own, but left a comment in which she answered Mike's question with "extreme duress." 

** A city also known as Benares, located on the Ganges River in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It contains more than 2,000 Hindu temples and is considered to be the spiritual capital of India.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Musical Sunday

You've probably never heard a pop song in Hungarian, have you? This is a great tune about the importance we put on appearances, and a fascinating video from a Hungarian pop star named Boglárka Csemer, better known by her stage name of Boggie ...

I thought she looked good at the beginning.

In case the Hungarian is beyond you*, there's another version of the song in French called "Noveau Parfum" ("New Perfume"), with an identical video**. You can watch it here.

Have a good day. See you tomorrow for the responses to "Ask Bilbo." More thoughts then.


* Don't worry, it was beyond me, too.

** The French was beyond me as well, but I still liked the tune and the video.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cartoon Saturday

August drags on ...

The tremendous earthquake you thought you felt was Donald Trump apologizing ... sort of ... for some (unspecified) of his disgusting rhetoric; massive floods in Louisiana are being called the worst natural disaster in the US since hurricane Sandy; the Department of Justice has announced it will phase out the use of privately-operated Federal prisons; shock rock star Alice Cooper has announced his latest run for the presidency, under the campaign slogan "I can do nothing as well as they can do nothing"*; and the State Department claims that a $400 million payment to Iran was used as "leverage" to ensure the release of American hostages, and was not a "ransom"**.

I'm sick of the whole political circus, too. Let's get to the cartoons - this week, we'll get musical with cartoons taking off on the lyrics to popular songs.

Fifty ways to ... uh ... never mind ...

They're blinding you with science ...

Where to go when the pharmacist doesn't know the answer ...

The clowns are all in Congress, so ...

Smart kid ...

And when he grows up ...

She seems to have entered the wrong shop ...

It's a clue ...

Ah, WOOOO ...

When your resume is all over the place ...

And so goes this week's edition of Cartoon Saturday. I hope it helped you take your mind off of whatever your mind has been on.

It's going to be another hot weekend here in NoVa, but not quite as horrendously steamy as the last few days. Perhaps I'll even be able to go outside without a snorkel to get away from the TV, the radio, and the newspapers for a while.

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


* True.

** You say "tomato," I say "to-mah-to."

Friday, August 19, 2016

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

He's back!!

Yes, Agnes and I are back from our little vacation ... we drove down to Chincoteague Island to spend some time splashing in the ocean with our grandchildren, eating seafood, and watching the wild ponies. In an election year, it's nice to be able to see a whole horse once in a while.

But now we're back and ready to get back into the swing of things. The "Ask Bilbo" questions are trickling in and will be answered on Monday; in the meantime, let's get ready for the weekend with more Great Moments in Editing and Signage ...

There are some odd thieves out there ...

Be sure to get there early to get the best pieces ...

We're sorry, too ...

Say that again, please ...

I'd suspect it, too ...

I'm shocked ... shocked, I tell you! ...

I think this sums up the level of understanding of much of the electorate ...

It's about time we honored our wait staffs ...

This office really needs an assistant ...

I think this should be the official wine of Congress ...

Great moments in editing and signage ... because not all the stupidity is coming out of Washington.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow, when Cartoon Saturday returns. Be here.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Taking a Break

I'll be taking a break from blogging until Friday, when Great Moments in Editing and Signage returns. Agnes and I are going to do some fun stuff for the next few days, and I'll be concentrating on recharging my creative batteries, coming up with some new ideas to keep this blog fresh and interesting for you.

In the meantime, send in your "Ask Bilbo" questions and I'll answer them on Monday.

Have a good day and stay cool over the next few days ... limit your outdoor activity, drink plenty of water, take lots of breaks in the shade or the AC, and I'll see you on Friday.

More thoughts then.


Monday, August 15, 2016

The Return of "Ask Bilbo"

Since I am widely regarded as a fountain of useless knowledge, it seems that I ought to share it with you once in a while. Well, other than in my regular posts, of course.

Back in 2011 I tried this out with a post I titled Whatever You Want to Know. Or Not. We'll See., in which I offered to answer any question you submitted (within the bounds of propriety, of course). My readers asked enough questions that it took two posts to answer them all: here and here.

And so I thought I might circle back and try this again. It's been five years since the last time, and things have changed radically in the world. If you have a question on any topic you'd like the Fairfax County Curmudgeon at Large to answer for you*, leave a comment on this post, e-mail it to me at "der_blogmeister(at)yahoo(dot)com" with the subject line "Ask Bilbo," or send me a PM via Facebook if we're connected there. Remember that there are children who read this blog. I'll answer them when I get enough for a decent post.

Have a good day. Send in your questions, and I'll answer them for you. More thoughts than you probably ever wanted to know at that time.


* And if you really want to hear the answer ...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Poetry Sunday

Some say it's an acquired taste, and if so, then I've acquired it. There's nothing quite like a gin and tonic on a hot day, unless it's a gin martini. Or gin and tonic popsicles. And what could be more appropriate on a beastly hot Autumn day than a poem based on that wonderful liquid ...

by Jacqueline Berger

I like a green olive
stuffed with a pimento
after it has been submerged
for some time in a martini.
I like to go downtown with my husband,
sit in a booth at the Grand
and let the drink rub the edge
off the inane fight we had
about the furniture salesman
and whether he treated us fairly,
my view, or whether he tried
to put one over on us,
my husband's view.
In some moods we'll fight about anything
just to make the other
carry the weight of anger
we lug all day through our lives.
But that moment
when we climb into bed
on a winter's night,
letting our bodies lie down,
letting the day be over,
it’s not unlike the way gin
loosens the rope, lets float
the raft into its stillest waters.
Happy hour, when the landscape
loses its daylight meaning
as it slips into the silk of dusk
before night pours down its jazzy notes
in a cathedral of crushed velvet.
We are sitting side by side in the booth,
watching the flurry of holiday shoppers
come in from the cold.
By now the salesman is a jerk,
or he's a helluva guy,
either way is fine.
We are talking about anything,
having drifted out into the calm
plainness of intimacy. Nothing
profound, just a place to rest
at the end of the day,
the cord between us swinging gently
after the bells have stopped their ringing.

Bottoms up!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Cartoon Saturday

Two weeks into August, three months from the election, and in desperate need of a humor transfusion, that's us ...

Twenty-four people were hospitalized when a JetBlue airliner encountered a patch of severe turbulence on Thursday; GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump tried yet again to walk back a bizarre statement, this time his claim that President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were the founder and co-founder of ISIS; Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton released her income tax records for public scrutiny, increasing the pressure on Donald Trump, who has so far refused to release his own; actor Thomas Gibson, star of the long-running TV show "Criminal Minds," was fired after an incident in which he kicked one of the show's writers over a script disagreement; and in the latest of series of amusement park accidents, a three year-old boy was hospitalized after he fell from a roller coaster at a Pennsylvania park.

This week, in honor of the parts of the economy nobody is talking about fixing, I offer a selection of cartoons dealing with the high cost of medical care.

It's important for medical professionals to bill insurance companies properly ...

Somehow I never quite understood how a government-run health care bureaucracy was different from one run by the insurance companies ...

A new approach to anaesthesia, which will still be billed at the old rates ...

The importance of reading the bill carefully ...

This is the prescription side effect with which I'm most familiar ...

Truth in labeling ...

More side effects ...

A new approach - time-release billing ...

How the television ads for medications ought to go ...

Know what your plan will cover before you agree to the surgery ...

Take two of whatever you can afford and call me in the morning.

It's going to be another steamy hot weekend here in NoVa, so if you have to be outside, be sure to wear a hat, drink plenty of water, use sunscreen, and try to avoid things that get you angry and overheated, like political advertisements. 

Agnes and I will be going to see the Cirque du Soleil show "Kurios" this afternoon, which ought to be amazing, and is held in a huge, air-conditioned tent. Even in the unlikely event the show is not as good as we expect, the air conditioning will make up for it.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for Poetry Sunday ... more thoughts then.


Friday, August 12, 2016

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for August, 2016

A new month is here, and we're just about 90 days out from the 2016 presidential election. Happily, the election comes after Halloween, so perhaps we might see some of the presidential wannabes dressing up like principled statesmen in whom we can trust.

Aren't fantasies wonderful?

Anyhow, it's a new month and it's the Friday on which we name our

Right-Cheek Ass Clown for August, 2016

Although my conservative friends routinely accuse me of a dastardly and unconscionable liberal bias*, when I turn to the world of politics to bestow this award, I really do try to bestow it on the most deserving ass clowns, regardless of party. In my opinion, which is the only one that counts, since it's my blog, the most amazing sustained levels of ass clownery are coming this season from the GOP, which was the party to which I belonged for many years. The party as a whole is tearing itself apart and degenerating into a scrum of noisy people who believe in the importance of rights over responsibilities, the most insane of conspiracy theories, and the fundamental evil of those with whom they disagree. And the GOP bears the responsibility for creating and nurturing the atmosphere which has produced one of the most unqualified and toxic presidential candidates in American history, who is hereby presented his sixth Ass Clown Award,

GOP Presidential Candidate
Donald Trump

Each time it appears that the bar cannot be lowered any more, Mr Trump comes up with some new, staggeringly-inappropriate and unpresidential comment. This past week it came in a speech in which he said,

"Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, and if she gets to pick … if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is. I don’t know."

In case you didn't quite follow that, it can be interpreted as Mr Trump suggesting that "Second Amendment [read, armed] people" should take violent action against his political opponent.

Of course, Mr Trump and his supporters would like you to believe that that's not what he said, or that he was making a joke, or that the Evil Liberal MediaTM is ganging up on him and twisting his words ... although he seems to be doing a fine job of twisting the language on his own.

For yet another example of distasteful, irresponsible language that continues to demonstrate his lack of fitness for the presidency, Donald Trump is awarded the Right-Cheek Ass Clown Award for August, 2016 ... his sixth award overall and the second in a row**. As an American, I'm ashamed of the picture this presents of us to the world.

Have a good day, and come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday. I don't know about you, but I could use a good laugh.

More thoughts then.


* I really am conservative in that I believe in a sound and prudent government that is as small as possible, consistent with what we as a nation expect it to do for us; however, I am more liberal in social matters. Sue me, it's my blog.

** Two weeks ago he shared the On-Crack Ass Clown Award for July with Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.