Monday, May 26, 2008


Froma Harrop, a syndicated columnist, is usually good, but her latest column is far off the mark. She has made a glaring error in her logic, the result of not bothering to check the dictionary.

In writing about the Iowa primary caucuses, she says “.The caucuses …disenfranchised many parents of small children, shift workers and those who couldn’t drive in the dark.”

BALDERDASH! An explanation of the terms is in order:

We are talking about preferential primaries. The key word is preferential, wherein members of a political party state which candidate they prefer to run in a general election.

Primaries are political party functions. The rules are set by the parties. Only those who are members of that party, or those the party has chosen to allow to participate, may state a preference.

Even though preferential primaries use the state voting apparatus (polling places, poll workers, etc.) they are still party functions.

If a political party decides they want to hold caucuses instead of using a ballot, that is their business. If you don’t like it, don’t participate.

Back to the Iowa caucuses. No one was disfranchised (the better term). The word is defined to mean “To deprive (a citizen) of a right or privilege, especially of the ballot.” In more common usage, we consider this as preventing a person from voting.

No one prevented parents of small children, shift workers or those who couldn’t drive in the dark from participating. Had they thought it was important enough, they would have found a way to participate. The circumstances might have made it difficult, but there was no wall of prevention.

Froma Harop goes on to complain that the caucuses are a “deeply undemocratic process,” because they produced no vote count and there were no secret ballots. So what? Such are important only in an election. This (primaries and caucuses) is a selection process, where members of a political party decide which candidate they prefer to run in a following election. For this process, a show of hands is as good as anything else.

As a final error, Froma says that “They (the voters in Michigan and Florida) went to the polls in good conscience. Why are they being punished?” I would think the answer is obvious. The DNC makes the rules. These states broke the rules. Live with it and get on with your life, instead of crying “Foul!”


Monday, May 19, 2008

Junk Mail

Junk Mail

I get lots of junk mail. Most of it is rather irritating. You have to understand that direct mail advertisers work on a 3% return. That means if 3 out of a 100 people buy what they are selling, then they make money. The other 97 of us have to put up with their junk mail.

There are several banks in America that are absolutely convinced that I really need another credit card. I don’t. I have one, and that’s enough! My old Daddy told me a long time ago, “Boy, every man needs one wife and one credit card. He’ll never want another of either.” But I digress.

The funny thing about these offers is that they all emphasize how low are their interest rates. I guess they assume that just as soon as I get my new card, I’m going to max it out. Now that is dumb! Nobody in their right mind pays the interest these people charge. But they are persistent. Every week I get at least one offer for a new card.

This would not be so bad, except that these direct mail solicitors have decided that since they are sending me a letter, and have gone to the trouble of preparing an address label, then they should get full value for all their effort. So I get a thick envelope, filled with pieces of paper, offering me not only a new, pre-approved credit card, but also all sorts of other things, none of which I need or want.

I have become really ticked-off about these unsolicited solicitations. There was a time when I would just deep-six the envelope without even opening it. I am wiser now. The senders often include a return envelope, with prepaid postage. So if they give me this chance, I pack up all their pieces of paper in the envelope, and mail it back to them. After all, they are paying the postage. I was always taught that if you receive a letter, you should send a reply, especially if somebody else is providing the stamp. I do include a note saying “Put this in your landfill.”

Think about it. We didn’t ask for all these wonderful deals they are offering. Why should we have to dispose of their junk? If we send it back, then whoever sent it has to pay the postage; they have to dispose of it; and the US Post Office gets the business, which they need. It’s a win-win situation!

If enough red-blooded Americans would just follow this simple ploy, we could put an end to much unsolicited junk mail. Of course the US Postal Service would lose a lot of business, but they can always just raise postage rates to make up for it.

But then that’s the view of the Resident Curmudgeon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

A puzzlement

There are many things in this world that puzzle me. I catch myself saying “Why do they do that?”

Puzzlement #1: On the interstate highways in Virginia, there are signs, which say “Speed Limit Enforced by Aircraft.” Now this puzzles me! They don’t say speed limit monitored or detected by aircraft, but enforced by aircraft!

Just what does that mean-enforced by aircraft? Every time I see that sign, I always imagine a Virginia State Trooper on the radio talking to a Virginia Air National Guard plane. “Hey, Charley, we got a white SUV doing 77 at mile marker 284. What ordinance you got on board?” “Napalm?” Nah, that’s too messy. Got any rockets?” “All right, we’ll teach that rascal not to speed in Virginia. Hit him with a rocket and I’ll call in the wrecker.” If that is what they mean by enforced, then it kinda makes you want to obey the speed limit, doesn’t it?

Puzzlement #2: I have some golfer friends who claim the only reason they play golf is for the exercise. Now golfers, like fishermen, have been known to stretch the truth a bit. But if they are only after the exercise, why is it that every one of them will almost kill for the opportunity to park next to the pro shop, where they will have the shortest walk to their golf cart, which they will then drive around the course so they can get their exercise. I must be stupid, but I don’t think getting in and out of a golf cart really qualifies as high intensity exercise. If they really just wanted to get some exercise, why don’t they park far away in the parking lot and carry their bags to the 1st tee? Even better, why don’t they walk around the course?

I think that I already know the answer. Walking would take too long. They must get their exercise in a short period of time. Of course, 15 minutes on a treadmill will do that. But then whoever said golfers were rationale?

Puzzlement #3: Why do joggers insist on running in the street, when there is a perfectly good sidewalk available?

I actually have an answer for this one. A jogging friend of mine told me the secret. Of course, anything a jogger says is suspect. Anyone who willingly moves faster than a slow walk when there is not a sheriff’s posse chasing them probably should not be believed. But anyway, he said that if you run on the sidewalk, there are driveways and other surface imperfections, and you might turn an ankle.

Now, let’s see if I understand this. Rather than run on the sidewalk, where you might turn an ankle, it is better to run in the street where you can get hit by a car? Now that is a puzzlement!

But then that’s the view of the Resident Curmudgeon.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Car poor

There are several residences in my county that can be classified as “car poor.” Maybe this is the wrong term—maybe they should be called “car rich!” I’m referring to those residences where there are many more cars permanently parked around than there are drivers.

Many of these places probably qualify for the Trash Up the Neighborhood Hall of Shame. To determine whether a property qualifies, I have developed a simple rating system.

Basic score:

Add (1) point for every vehicle (minimum of 5) parked on the property.
Vehicle includes cars, pick-ups, trucks, trailers (with or without a boat),
motorcycles or scooters. Bicycles don’t count.

Bonus score:

For every vehicle parked in the front yard: 2 points.
For every vehicle up on blocks, either in driveway or front yard: 2 points
For every vehicle missing a major body part (hood, fender, door, etc) 2 points
For every vehicle with a body part painted a different color than the rest of the vehicle: 2 points
For every boat not on a trailer: 2 points

Special bonus:
For every garage so full of junk there is no room for a vehicle: 3 points

To qualify for the Hall of Shame, the conditions must exist for a minimum of 30 days. (One time events, such as birthday parties, family reunions or NASCAR race days, do not count.) A minimum of 10 points is required.

Down my street is a genuine contender. At last count, there were 7 vehicles (4 cars, a delivery van, a motor home, and a boat on a trailer) on the property. Two cars were parked in the front yard. The garage is so full of junk that it hasn’t held a car for many years. All these vehicles have been there for at least 6 months. This place, on a major street, scores 14 points.

Recently I saw the ultimate in single vehicle score. It was a blue pick-up with a black driver side door, missing the hood, up on blocks in the front yard, with a john boat in the pick-up bed. By this scoring system, this single vehicle rates 11 points, enough single-handed to qualify for the Hall of Shame. I hate to tell you about the rest of the derelicts scattered around the property.

Look around. There might be contenders in your neighborhood.