Friday, July 21, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

Yes, Dear Readers, it's time once again to bring out a new collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage! And best of all, the GOP can't repeal it! Read on ...

Something our old dog Sidney could have used, if not on the course ...

I think someone is taking the concept of "smoked meat" to an unfortunate level ...

Just the right place to park the kids while you enjoy that home-cooked food ...

How come they never had children's specials like this when I was a kid? ...

Why don't we try next door, instead? ...

I think this was part of the GOP version of health care ...

Well, sure ...

Tomato, tomahto ...

Um ...

It's always good to have household help with varied talents ...

And there you have it - the last collection of editorial and signage gems for July. I hope you enjoyed them, and that you'll be back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Face Off

The seventh season of "Game of Thrones" premiered last Sunday night, and it was as awesome as we fans had expected. It has become one of my all-time favorite shows, and I own the first six seasons on Blu-Ray discs, which I watch frequently to take my mind off the news.

Another of my favorite television shows is the original (pre-Tom Cruise) "Mission: Impossible," in which Impossible Missions Force leader Dan Briggs (and later, Jim Phelps) assembled teams of unusual specialists to carry out ... well ... impossible assignments. I loved the show because the villains were always really bad, and they always ended up totally screwed in the end as the IM Force's complex plans came together and left the bad guys wondering which truck had hit them.

Now, you might think that Mission: Impossible and Game of Thrones don't have much in common, but they do, as I was reminded with the passing earlier this week of veteran actor Martin Landau. Landau played the character of Rollin Hand, "The Man of a Million Faces" on the show, and many episodes climaxed with a character peeling away a false face to reveal a grinning Rollin Hand (or, later in the series and in the movies, one of the other IM Force agents) ...

On "Game of Thrones," the character of Arya Stark (brilliantly played by Maisie Williams) ends up in the city of Braavos where she trains to be one of the "Faceless Men" - assassins who take on various identities, murder their targets, and vanish without a trace. Several key scenes in the show reveal a character peeling away a false face to reveal a vengeful Arya Stark, much as Rollin Hand helped bring justice to the bad guys through his disguises ...

It's been said that we each have three faces: the first is the one you show to the world; the second is the one you show to your family and closest friends; and the third is the one you never show to anyone, because it is the truest reflection of who you are.

It's what makes us ... appealing.

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


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It May Be "Legal," but Is It Right?

This is a question posed by Asha Rangappa, an associate dean at the Yale Law School and a former FBI agent, in a recent op-ed article in the Washington Post. In order to answer that question, Ms Rangappa turned to an individual with whom FBI agents are familiar.

Carla F. Bad isn't a real lady, but a mnemonic device to help FBI agents remember the elements they use to assess the suitability of persons for positions of public trust: Character, Associates, Reputation, Loyalty, Ability, Finances, Bias, Alcohol, and Drugs.

As Ms Rangappa writes about the technical question of whether or not Donald Trump and his associates have broken the law,

"... focusing on bright-line rules of criminality misses the point. The deeper question is whether members of Trump’s administration can uphold the trust that has been placed in them as stewards of the government they have been chosen to lead. On this front, the criminal code shouldn’t be the only yardstick. Even if Trump’s aides and family members have managed to toe the line of the law, the news out of the Russia investigation so far leaves little reason to have faith in their judgment."

Let's see how Ms Bad would assess Donald Trump ...

Character: The man is a congenital and unrepentant liar who doubles down on his untruths in the face of evidence to the contrary. His ability to evade censure for the most blatant lies is amazing.

Associates: Vladimir Putin. 'Nuf said.

Reputation: Golden with about 39% of the electorate; in the toilet with the other 61%. And he's not particularly well thought of in financial circles, either.

Loyalty: Demands it of subordinates, but isn't known for returning it.

Ability: During the presidential campaign, he memorably said that the United States was in terrible shape and "I alone can fix it." So far, I haven't seen anything fixed, Congress is a laughable circus bereft of presidential leadership and direction, and the international leadership of the United States has vanished.

Finances: Mr Trump has filed for bankruptcy six times, although in fairness, most involved his casino properties and happened during a period when the casino industry overall was struggling. He has been sued at least 60 times by individuals and businesses seeking payment for services provided to Trump and his properties, and has bragged that not paying taxes means he's "smart." Don't hold your breath waiting for his tax returns.

Bias: Mr Trump does not care for Mexicans or for men who have been prisoners of war*. He also does not want to have any "poor" people in positions of economic responsibility in his administration. In general, he is biased against "losers."

Alcohol: No problems - Mr Trump is reported to be a teetotaler.

Drugs: No reported problems. Although there have been unproven rumors of past drug use, the only drug Mr Trump is reported to be taking is finasteride, which is used to combat male-pattern baldness.

So, how do Mr Trump and Ms Bad get along?

Giving points for a lack of problems with alcohol or drugs, Mr Trump scores only Carla's first name and middle and last initials ... but given the evidence for them, it's bad enough.

Mr Trump may skate at the very edge of what's legal, but if he were a young person trying to get a security clearance, Ms Bad would probably argue against him on seven out of nine grounds.

And we've elected him president. What does that say about us?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Although he never ran the risk of becoming one, never having served in the armed forces.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Betteridge's Law of Headlines

I ran across an interesting item the other day in an article from Mental Floss titled, Ten Rules, Laws, and Theorems You Should Know. I'd already heard of some of the listed rules/laws/theorems, particularly Godwin's Law*, about which I've written before, but one of them was particularly appropriate to our current obsession with news, both real and "fake"**.

Betteridge's Law of Headlines simply states that, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no," and the article goes on to explain that,

"If the answer is yes, then the headline would simply make that declaration. A question in a headline implies that either (1) The writer doesn't have enough facts to be sure of the answer, (2) The question makes the available information more sensational, or (3) The writer is honestly just asking for the reader’s input."

I think that Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies directly to our overwrought 24-hour news cycle, and the need to draw in readers/listeners/watchers by any means necessary so that advertising revenues can be kept up. A headline framed as a question implies that there is more to the story, and that tantalizing details are coming if one reads on ... which is almost never the case***.

There is also an academic version of Betteridge's Law of Headlines which applies to scholarly articles. It's called Hinchcliffe's Law (more properly, perhaps, Hinchcliffe's Paradox), and you can read all about it here.

Don't thank me for bringing this to your attention ... it's all part of my ongoing effort to help you cope with the bizarre world of alternative facts and blissful ignorance.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1."

** For purposes of discussion, "fake news" can be defined as "news reporting that contradicts what the reader or listener is convinced is true."

*** In current slang, a "nothingburger."

† No, "paradox" does not mean "two waterfowl."

Monday, July 17, 2017

Fixing What's Broken

The other day my friend Ed posted a commentary on Facebook in which he discussed reactions to a story about a woman who, after the death of her husband, relied on Medicaid to provide medical care for her children. The story generated an ever-downward-spiraling swell of anger and vituperation, accusing the woman of being lazy, demanding she get a job, accusing her of living large at the expense of others, and worse. Ed's commentary on the story and the online reactions to it ended with this paragraph:

"At one point in the discussion, someone asked, how did we get here? That's what I am wondering about. What has gone wrong in our culture that so many people are filled with this anger, looking for something to be offended at, and so bereft of the simple human virtues of kindness, civility, and empathy? How did rage and contempt become successful marketing tools, while compassion and kindness are looked on as weakness? What got broken with us, and how do we fix it?"

How, indeed? There are a lot of reasons our society has become more coarse and uncivil.

One of them is the lack of good examples set by parents. When I was growing up in the 50s and early 60s, my parents were loving, but strict. We were expected to be polite and courteous, and to reserve anger for the few times it was the only reasonable response to a bad situation. Nowadays, it seems that parents ignore foul language and bad behavior on the part of their children, whether because they're too busy with work and their own recreation to pay attention to it, or because of a misguided belief that their children should "express themselves honestly," even at the expense of common courtesy and civility.

The comforting anonymity of the Internet is another, allowing despicable trolls to spew hatred and propagate the most ridiculous lies, wrapped in the warm blanket of anonymity provided by a screen name and an opaque IP address. It's much easier to act badly when you don't have to face the target of your bad behavior.

Yet another is the belief of many present-day Americans in the absolute primacy of individual freedom over responsibility to others. When the individual is considered supreme, it isn't much of a stretch to believe that one has not only the right, but the obligation to say and do whatever one wants, without regard to the rights and feelings of others. It represents the erosion of empathy and compassion - two things that once were hallmarks of America and its people.

An outgrowth of this attitude is the belief that if another person has fallen on hard times, it is their fault for not accepting personal responsibility for their own lives. If a person loses his or her job as a result of economic decisions made by their employer, is it their fault? If they try to find a new job and discover that all the jobs for which they're qualified have been sent to India and China where workers are cheap, is it their fault? If they try to get the training and education that will qualify them for other jobs, only to find that it's priced beyond their reach, and their governments - in the sacred interest of cutting spending - have eliminated the assistance that might have helped them, is that their fault, too? Yes, we each have an obligation to be responsible for ourselves and our well-being ... but we also have an obligation to understand that sometimes there really are circumstances beyond our control.

Finally (for now, at least), we have elected to the presidency a boorish and utterly unqualified individual whose personal behavior is in many ways the opposite of what we once found admirable in our leaders. His total lack of gravitas, crass behavior toward women, proud ignorance of public policy, jingoistic attitudes, cavalier jettisoning of decades of international agreements and norms, and crude, 140-character Twitter attacks on those who disagree with him demonstrate the sort of person many of us were ready to put in the chair once occupied by George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. Our children look at his execrable behavior and assume it must be okay because, hey, he's the president ... and why should they be expected to act any differently? And why did we decide things were so terrible that a person like this seemed like a good option to so many people?

What got broken with us?

How do we fix it?

They're excellent questions. I think the first one is easy enough to answer; the second, much harder. We can fix it only by returning to the qualities that really did make America great: not just individual determination and self-reliance, but on a sense of community and a shared understanding that we all have a role to play in making the country great by working together and helping each other.

Unfortunately, I don't see that realization dawning on much of America any time soon.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Poetry Sunday

This diagnosis applies to me, too ... although some days it's harder to live with than others.

by Sharon Olds 

By the time I was six months old, she knew something
was wrong with me. I got looks on my face
she had not seen on any child
in the family, or the extended family,
or the neighborhood. My mother took me in
to the pediatrician with the kind hands,
a doctor with a name like a suit size for a wheel:
Hub Long. My mom did not tell him
what she thought in truth, that I was Possessed.
It was just these strange looks on my face—
he held me, and conversed with me
chatting as one does with a baby, and my mother
said, She’s doing it now! Look!
She’s doing it now! and the doctor said,
What your daughter has
is called a sense
of humor. Ohhh, she said, and took me
back to the house where that sense would be tested
and found to be incurable.

Have a good day, and try to laugh at something besides the government.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Before we begin, let me state definitively that I did not collude with any foreign power or entity on the selection of these cartoons. Now that that's out of the way ...

A sinkhole in Florida* that swallowed two houses appears to have stopped expanding, having reached a size of about 250 by 225 feet and 50 feet deep, and appears to be full of chemicals and septic tank fluid; the meeting between Donald Trump, Jr, and Russians who offered to give the Trump campaign information damaging to Hillary Clinton's candidacy last year is being called a "Democratic plot" by the wildly-spinning pro-Trump media; during his visit to France for Bastille Day celebrations, Donald Trump again demonstrated his remarkable command of diplomacy by telling the wife of French President Emmanuel Macron, "You're in such good shape. She's in such good physical shape. Beautiful" ... what a charmer; and at least three people have been killed in a huge fire in a high-rise Honolulu apartment building.

Enough with the bad news ... on to the cartoons! Agnes and I love to cook, and so it seems appropriate to share a collection of cartoons about food and drink ...

Oui! ...

One drawback of GMOs ...

I think I'll have something else, thank you ...

Speaking of backhanded compliments ...

How mom cooks ... 

I'm looking for this food truck ...

Well, yes, it would be ...

When the eggs really, really need to be poached ...

I make substitutions like this, too ...

I think we have some things like this in the back of our refrigerator, too ...

And that's it for this edition of Cartoon Saturday. It's being published over a data connection with my cell phone because we returned yesterday from our trip to Chincoteague Island to find out that we have no land-line telephone, television, or internet service ... and our provider can't have anyone out to fix the problem until this afternoon. Oy.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


* No, not Mar-a-Lago, a different sinkhole.


Friday, July 14, 2017

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown for July, 2017

It's a new month, and that means it's time to select two new prime examples of supreme ass-clownery ... a tough job, but one you've come to expect me to take on. The challenge gets harder all the time, particularly given the exceptionally strong showing by the political class, where ass-clownery is fast becoming an art form.

After much consideration and fortified by the consumption of a great deal of medicinal alcohol, I have decided on

The Right-Cheek Ass Clown
July, 2017

and the award goes to

The Trump Family

Before I get into the citation, I just want to point out a few things. First of all, this award does not apply to the entire Trump family - just to Donald Trump, his three business- and politically-active children (Donald Junior, Eric, and Ivanka), and his son-in-law and chief advisor Jared Kushner (not pictured above). Son Baron Trump is still too young and innocent, and wife Melania Trump is ... well ... not active enough to be considered for the award.

Although Donald Trump has received the Ass Clown Award a staggering seven times over the years, most of them presented before he entered politics, I've decided to present him and selected family members with the award yet again, primarily because of the towering ethical swamp they have brought to Washington*, shamelessly using the presidency to boost their business and augment their personal fortunes. In addition, the Trump administration has run the White House in a nepotistic fashion unseen since John F. Kennedy named his brother Robert as his Attorney General in the 1960s, with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump occupying very senior advisory positions despite a complete lack of experience in public policy. I was appalled when, at the G 20 summit last week, Mr Trump's seat at the table of world leaders was temporarily occupied not by an official government minister (such as the Secretary of State or the Secretary of the Treasury) but by his daughter, who does not occupy an official position which required Senate confirmation. Say what you will, I think** that was a major signpost on the road to the United States' loss of power, influence, and leadership in the world.

The Trump Family is turning the United States Government into a branch of the Trump Organization ... and no one seems to care.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Readers, the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for July, 2017, is The Trump Family. And we've got another three and a half years to go.

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


* One of his campaign slogans may have been "Drain the Swamp," but he's brought an enormous swamp of his own with him. The sad part is that so few people seem to care.

** And I'm not alone.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Temporarily Closed

Well, hello! Nice to see you, as always.

I'm taking a break from posting today, as Agnes and I are enjoying the sand, sea, broiling sun, and legions of tiny insects at Chincoteague Island, and I have other things to do than post the blog. You know I love you, Dear Readers, but time spent with the grandchildren will always take priority over you*.

But don't despair! Tomorrow's post, in which the Right-Cheek Ass Clown for this month will be announced, has already been written and will appear in this space on schedule tomorrow morning. Be sure to come by and be either entertained or enraged, depending on your political persuasion.

Have a good day. Regular posts will resume tomorrow.

More thoughts then.


* I originally wrote "...will always trump you," but couldn't bear to write that word unnecessarily.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Bring Back the Duel!

Yesterday while I was researching my daily "today in history" Facebook post, I discovered that it was the 213th anniversary of the day on which Vice President Aaron Burr* shot and killed former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel. This got me to wondering if there isn't a way to end the gridlock in Washington by bringing back dueling as a way of settling differences once and for all.

I imagine that it would be particularly appealing to Republicans, because it would be a win-win situation for them: the chance to get rid of pesky Democrats once and for all, and an opportunity to show their support of the gun lobby. It would also appeal to Democrats by stressing the need for responsive and affordable health care for the losers.

I think I'll write to my elected reprehensives and suggest it. What could it hurt?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Disclaimer: I am distantly related to Mr Burr on my mother's side of the family, but did not collude with him to obtain information which would help him win the duel.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The Downside of Immortality

There's a certain appeal to the idea of living forever. Of course, forever is a long time, and you need to fill up all that time with things to do, which can be a problem. As author Susan Ertz once said, "Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon."

There are practical drawbacks to immortality other than boredom. An episode ("Escape Clause") of the old Twilight Zone television series dealt with a mean-spirited hypochondriac who sold his soul to the devil in order to live forever. When his wife accidentally fell to her death, he confessed to killing her so that he could beat the electric chair; his lawyer, however, managed to get his sentence changed ... to life in prison, whereupon he exercised the "escape clause" in his contract for a quick and painless death rather than eternal imprisonment.

There are other downsides to immortality, too, such as these that I found in a meme that showed up on my Facebook feed ...

 - Tearing your favorite article of clothing and discovering that it's irreplaceable because the technique of its manufacture has been lost;

- Realizing you've thought of the perfect comeback to someone who's been dead for three hundred years;

- Not being able to make your favorite dish any more because one of the critical ingredients has gone extinct;

- Having strong opinions about sports that are no longer played;

- Getting a song from the 13th century stuck in your head and being unable to get it out because you don't remember how it ends and you're the only person on Earth who knows it; and,

- Having that perfect pun you've been waiting for a chance to use no longer work because of linguistic drift.

Of course, there's not much point in wishing for immortality when there's a pretty good chance we won't have a viable planet to live on in the not-too-distant future, as discussed in this disconcerting article by David Wallace-Wells.

Gives new meaning to the Vulcan greeting "Live long and prosper," doesn't it?

Have a good day, no matter how many more of them you may have. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The Deepest Hole

A very interesting article popped up on my Facebook feed the other day: What Is the Deepest Hole That Humanity Could Possibly Dig?

No, it doesn't look at what we're doing in the political and social arenas, although I could understand you making that assumption.

The article contains a fascinating, 8-minute video that dives straight down into the earth, looking at the various depths to which humans have dug, along with the depths of some natural features. It begins with the depth of the average grave* - 6 feet, or 1.8 meters - and continues down to the deepest hole ever dug by man: the Z44-Chavyo oil and gas well on Sakhalin Island, which is an astounding 12,376 meters (40,600 feet) deep. In between are these waypoints:

- The Paris Catacombs - 66 meters, or 217 feet below the streets of the City of Light;

- The deepest metro station in the world, in Kiev - 105 meters (346 feet);

- The deepest train tunnel, connecting the Japanese islands of Honshu and Hokkaido - 240 meters (787 feet);

- The deepest hole ever dug by hand - the Woodingdean water well in the UK, dug in 1862 and coming in at 392 meters (1,300 feet);

- The deepest hole from which you can stand at the bottom and see the open sky, the Bingham Canyon open pit mine in Utah, at 970 meters (3,200 feet); and,

- The deepest working part of the deepest mine in the world: AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng gold mine in South Africa, coming in at a staggering 4,000 meters (more than 13,000 feet). It takes workers more than an hour just to go from the surface to the deepest mine face, where the temperature of the rock is more than 150° F.

So, Dear Readers, when you ask "how low can you go?", the answer is "pretty darned low." And we still haven't considered political discourse.

Have a good day. Watch where you step ...

More thoughts tomorrow.


* A useful statistic, given the GOP approach to health care.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Musical Sunday

One of my favorite groups is The Statler Brothers, and the first one of their songs I ever heard was this one, their first major hit, about dealing with the aftermath of a breakup ...

Nowadays, I don't count the flowers on the wall, but the herbs growing in the garden. I still love the Statler Brothers, though.

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


Saturday, July 08, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

Here we go again ...

Donald Trump met with his new boss at their first sit-down meeting on the sidelines at the G-20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, on Friday; new strains of gonorrhea are proving to be "smart" in adapting to antibiotic treatment, and are exceptionally difficult to cure; bowing to the inevitable, Senate majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that if Republican Obamacare replacement legislation, as expected, dies in the Senate, the GOP-led Congress will need to take action it has so far avoided to shore up Obamacare-related insurance markets; North Korea launched its first long-range missile with the capability to strike parts of the continental United States, leading to the usual round of complaints that there are no good options* for dealing with the Hermit Kingdom; and the House of Representatives sprang into action on a critical issue that Americans are very concerned about, enforcing a dress code that prevents women from wearing sleeveless dresses**.

This week, in response to the administration's general favoring of business interests over those of working stiffs, I thought that a collection of cartoons dedicated to galley slaves might be appropriate ...

I've worked in places like this ...

Thank goodness for Casual Fridays ...

When Eskimos travel by boat rather than dogsled ...

There are good ways to save money on travel, and bad ways to save money on travel ...

Arriving for work ...

It's always a good idea to check out the travel agent before you let them book your vacation ...

And it's also a good idea to check your seating whenever possible ...

Now this is brutal ...

Even the galley slaves have to pay attention ...

It might have helped with upward mobility on the crew ...

And that's it for this edition of Cartoon Saturday - Michael can finish rowing that boat ashore now.

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


* I could almost agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one ... much as I hate to agree with him on much of anything.

** In the GOP view, they are apparently not considered "appropriate business attire."

Friday, July 07, 2017

Great Moments in Editing and Signage

It's been a while since we last had our serving of editorial and signage gems, since my rant about Congressional buffoonery over health care bumped the last installment. But it's a new month, and so now it's time for your long-delayed batch of editorial and signage gems ...

There's a lot to be said for diversifying your business ...

I think they may need to rethink their packaging strategy ...

Uh, no, thanks ...

On a what basis?

You can celebrate too soon ...

Well, where else would it wait?

You just have to keep an eye on those old retirees with time on their hands ...

Someone has to take a stand against those children ...

When you really don't want to spend too much on the bachelor party ..

It had to happen ...

And there you have it ... June's final collection of Great Moments in Editing and Signage. Be sure to come back tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday - more thoughts on the funny side then.


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Fireworks, Legal and Illegal

Well, we've survived another Fourth of July, albeit with diminished hearing from all the ass clowns who insist on sharing their vast arsenal of firecrackers, cherry bombs, M80s, sparklers, Roman candles, and noisy, blazing fireworks of all kinds for a week before and a few days after the holiday. You'd never guess that many types of these fireworks are illegal in many states and municipalities.

Yes, you heard that correctly.

Many states and municipalities across the country restrict the sale and use of fireworks, because somebody might get hurt ... but you can buy all sorts of firearms without restriction*.

That noise you hear with what's left of your hearing is the sound of logic shattering.

Have a good day. Come back tomorrow for more Great Moments in Editing and Signage ... more seditious thoughts then.


* Don't get your knickers in a twist ... I know that the Constitution guarantees the right to "keep and bear arms," and says nothing about "fireworks." Nevertheless, the fact remains that we restrict sale and use of fireworks in the interest of safety, while tens of thousands of people are killed and injured by firearms ... which is pretty stupid.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017


One of my favorite websites, WordSpy, introduced me to an interesting new word the other day: fearonomics (noun) - "The negative impact of fear and anxiety on economic activity; the use of fear to sell products and services."

It seems to me that this is an especially good word for the present day, particularly in the second meaning. For instance, how many millions of guns continue to be sold in this country every year because of the fear of

(1) tyrannical, overreaching government that wants to take your guns away*;

(2) armed criminals**;

(3) violent, uncontrolled illegal aliens***; and,

(4) America-hating liberals bent on ruining the country?

Sex may sell, but so does fear.

And as President Franklin Roosevelt memorably said in his first inaugural address,

"So first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

I think we've done a spectacular amount of retreating in the last few years, and it's not doing anyone any good. Let's think about advancing for a change.

Have a good day. Don't give in to the counsel of your fears, or let your spending be driven by fearonomics.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* The fact that it's done a pretty inept job of doing it for the last 200-odd years notwithstanding.

** Who, oddly enough, find it extraordinarily easy to get their hands on plenty of guns.

*** Who should be deported or jailed, anyhow.

† Contrary to popular belief, it may not - at least, in the long run. Check out this article from Psychology Today.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July!

Agnes and I are on the way home from a whirlwind visit to Pittsburgh to see our son, daughter(-in-law), four of our six grandchildren, and my sister and her family. It seems wrong to have to drive home on the actual holiday, but when you have to face the staggering amount of holiday traffic between Pittsburgh and NoVa, you do what you have to do in the vain hopes of maybe - just maybe - beating some of the rush. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, here's your thought for the holiday ...

Play safe and have a great holiday. More thoughts coming.


Monday, July 03, 2017

Talismanic Incantations

One of the concepts with which most of us are acquainted in the age of Game of Thrones and Harry Potter is that of the magic spell, a set of words imbued with mystical powers. A good example from the Harry Potter realm is the "Stunning Spell," which renders its target temporarily unconscious ... it is cast by pointing a wand at the victim and shouting stupefy!*.

Other magical incantations are familiar to all of us from books, movies, and cartoons ... terms like abracadabra**, hocus pocus***, and shazam.

I thought about magic spells and incantations the other day when I read the text of the 9th Circuit Court's decision in the case "State of Hawaii v. Donald Trump, John Kelly, and Rex Tillerson," which struck down the Trump administration's proposed ban on travel to the US from six majority Muslim nations. The decision contained this memorable line:

National Security is not a "talismanic incantation" that, once invoked, can support any and all exercise of executive power under §1182(f).

Upon reading that line, it occurred to me that much of our political and social discourse today consists of shouting talismanic incantations at each other as if their deployment will magically cause our opponents to come to their senses and recognize the unarguable superiority of our viewpoint. Here's a partial list of the magic spells and incantations most frequently invoked in America today:

National Security! Contrary to the 9th Circuit Court's opinion, this is a very powerful incantation often used to justify actions that would otherwise be considered unwise, illegal, or downright un-American.

Freedom! This is the quintessential American magic word, and is similar in meaning to the longer incantation Don't Tread on Me!. Note: it must not be used in conjunction with other, lesser used and nearly archaic magical expressions which might dilute its power, such as Responsibility and Empathy.

Choice! This is a shorter, quicker-to-employ version of the traditional American incantation Don't Tell Me What to Do!. Note: it applies only to the choice option desired by the person delivering the incantation; its use does not imply that others should enjoy the same equality of choice.

Fake News! This incantation is used to cast doubt on spells the wizard does not like.

Religious Freedom! Note: this incantation may be used in the United States only by American Christian wizards; its use is forbidden to adherents of all other religions. Conversely, when used in places like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it implies only the freedom to practice Islam.

Keep and Bear Arms! Note: this incantation works only when accompanied by the frenzied waving of a firearm; a traditional magic wand is not effective.

Job-Killing! This incantation is used to counter economic spells the magician does not support and cannot fight in any other way (i.e., with statistics or logic).

Government Overreach! Similar in general intent to Job-Killing!, this incantation is used to counter other spells which invoke government powers the magician does not like because they are not to his advantage. It is often invoked in combination with Freedom! and Choice! to increase its perceived power.

Obstructionist! This spell is used to damage the image of an opponent by characterizing him as a wizard unable to cast spells of his own, able only to interfere with spells cast by others.

Racist! and Sexist! These are often employed when no other spell works. They have no particular value other than to deflect attention away from spells other wizards may try to cast.

Those are just a few of the modern American talismanic incantations I can think of ... which other ones do you recognize? Leave a comment.

Have a good day. And as my mother would have reminded us, please, thank you, and excuse me are very good magic words at any time.

More thoughts tomorrow.


* I was under the mistaken impression that this was a spell that made the victim stupid, and had been maliciously directed at Congress. My bad.

** It appears in the Harry Potter stories as one of the three "unforgivable curses" - "avada kedavra," the "killing curse."

*** "Hocus Pocus" is linguistically interesting, being apparently derived from the Latin words "hoc est corpus" ("this is the body (of Christ)" in a parody of the rite of transubstantiation in the Christian mass).

† This is the applicable text of that paragraph of the law: "(f) Suspension of entry or imposition of restrictions by President. Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate."

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Poetry Sunday

This week we here in America celebrate Independence Day, the Fourth of July. It's a day for picnics, parades, and speeches worshiping the great god "Freedom." There is no day of celebration for the great god "Responsibility."

In honor of Independence Day, I thought that this poem by a poet with the single name of Scarlet would be appropriate ...

Freedom of Choice
by Scarlet

everyone has choices
you can choose to be good
or bad
you can choose to do the right thing
or the wrong thing
you can choose to help fight this war
or you can choose to ignore it
if you fight you can choose how
most choose weapons
but they create more problems
than they solve
for they hurt the innocent
few choose their voice
it is a wonderful choice
but only for those few who can be heard
heard and taken seriously
I choose a pen
so I may write it all
and it will be there for all whom choose to read
you see we all have choices
good or evil
love or hate
fight or ignore
right or wrong
which will you choose?

Which will you choose, indeed, with the freedom you have until we give it up willingly in search of an imagined security?

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, July 01, 2017

Cartoon Saturday

And what a week it's been ...

Senator Mitch McConnell cancelled a planned Senate vote on the GOP plan to "remove and replace" Obamacare, figuring that it would be better to wait rather than face a losing vote; in England, tests showed that the cladding panels that contributed to the terrible Grenfell Tower fire were not only highly flammable, but have been used in scores of other buildings across the country, leading to the threat of other such awful conflagrations; the upcoming fraud trial of Martin "Pharma Bro" Shkreli, who became known as "the most hated man in America" after increasing the price of a vital drug by 5,000%, is being complicated by the inability of the court to find prospective jurors who don't already hate him; Donald Trump achieved the near-miraculous feat of earning condemnation by Congressional Republicans when he tweeted grossly insulting and unpresidential comments about MSNBC commentators Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski; and the White House announced that Donald Trump will visit France to take part in Bastille* Day celebrations next month.

This week, in honor of the unfocused anger that seems to drive all our politics and social interactions we are featuring cartoons about anger, rage, and general pissed-offness ...


I hope the teacher manages to pull it together ...

I think I'd go to the restaurant down the street, instead ...

Don't text while driving, either ...

Essence of old white male anger ...

Ah, yes ... that would be a causative factor ...

That will help, assuming everyone plays along ...

You need to keep the patients apart in order to obtain real improvement ...

The doctor from the second cartoon still isn't back yet ...

When you hire the right person for the job ...

That's it for this edition of Cartoon Saturday ... and if you don't like it, that's just too %#&@! bad, so get stuffed.

Just kidding ...

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


* Rumors that Attorney General Jeff Sessions will accompany Mr Trump in order to study the Bastille for lessons applicable to US prison policies are, at the moment, unconfirmed.