Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Christmas Lament

A Christmas Lament

An old, old story that has been oft retold.

Of a special time, of a night still and cold.

A new-born infant, and where does he lay

But out in a stable, in a manger of hay.



Calm and serene the dear Mother lay there

Hearing the sounds in the cold, night air.

Of shepherds and wise men coming to see

This special new baby, this Savior to be.



Each year at this time, we retell this story

How Angels were singing, in splendor and glory.

And like them our loud hosannas we raise

And fill our churches with music and praise.

But then immediately head back to the store

To buy and buy, to get more and more.

Until sometimes we really don’t know

Just how much we have, for it's all just for show.



Perhaps it's just me, but I don't understand

The hustle and bustle that's all through our land.

Forget the baby, for that's long gone by

The important thing now is how much can we buy.

An old, old story that has been oft retold.

Of a special time, of a night still and cold.

But don't ask of us where does he lay

For we no longer know. We have lost the way.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Riding the train

The wife and I made a train trip yesterday, from Washington, DC to Cary, NC We like to ride trains. Son-in-law could not understand why we were willing to spend 6 1/2 hours on a trip when he could drive it in a little over 4 hours. Of course, when I ride with him, I am a total nervous wreck at the end. That boy thinks he is running a NASCAR race.

This was a short but fun trip. Daughter, who is at the Library of congress, had driven down to Chapel Hill to give a presentation at a conference. We drove back with her on Saturday. That son-in-law, who is on the Council of Economic Advisors, has an apartment on 15th st, very near the White House. While daughter took him to their townhouse in Columbia, MD for the weekend, we stayed in the apartment and roamed around doing some of the tourist things.

Tuesday morning we came into Union Station on her commuter train, arriving about 8:20. Our train didn't leave until 3:00, so we had lots of time for a leisurely breakfast, and then some roaming around. We visited the new capital visitors' center, which is impressive but rather crowded, with lots of school groups milling around, awaiting a tour.

More enjoyable were the Botanic Gardens, which are just in front of the capital. This is a WOW! well worth a second or even third visit.

We returned to Union Station about 1:00 for a late lunch in the Center Cafe, right in the middle of the great rotunda. Food was good, although not gourmet quality. But, the people watching made up for it. I like Union Station. It is a kaleidoscope of sizes, colors, costumes and languages. There are lots of weirdos in this world, and many come through Union Station.

I saw more men (and a few women) wearing suits and ties than I had seen in a long time. Around here, the only time one sees a suit is either a wedding, at church or in court. I decided that all the suits I was seeing had to be either lawyers, lobbyists or other such low-lifes. One thing about suits. They all carry a big briefcase. This must be a part of the uniform. As soon as they sit down, they immediately pull out a lap-top or a cell phone, or both. There must be something in the rules governing suits that requires they look busy and important at all times.

But I digress. Our train left, on time, at 3:00. The trip was delightful! We had lots of legroom to stretch out, doze, read, work crosswords, observe the scenery or watch people. One thing about train tracks--they don't go down Main Street. No, they go down the back alleys, so you get to see a lot of things you would never see otherwise. It may not be scenic, but it is very interesting. We saw areas of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina not before seen, and visited a couple of new cities (at least the stations)

We had reservations for 7:30 in the dining car. The wife and I searched our memories for the last time we had eaten in a dining car. We finally decided that it was either 1971 or 72, aboard the Super Tourist Train heading south from Taipei.
Anyway, the food was good, and reasonable in price; the wine was excellent and the coffee was hot and strong. Couldn't ask for more.

We stopped in Rocky Mount, Wilson, Selma, Raleigh and finally Cary, about 15 minutes late. We had left a vehicle at the station, so we only had some 23 miles to home. All in all, a most enjoyable trip which we hope to repeat soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Stupid sign

As I watch the debate? over Health Care Reform, I often think I have seen the ultimate in stupidity. I realize I had not seen it until now.

This may well be the ultimate!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Health Care Reform

It is said that if you tell a lie often enough and loud enough, people will believe it. Such is the case now with Health Reform. Certain persons, Limbaugh, Palin et al have been telling a monstrous lie. What is really sickening is that these cretins know it is a lie, but have been persistent in repeating it.

Why? To get revenge. First: The American voters threw the Republicans out of office, realizing governing by their old-boy network had brought the country to the brink of disaster; and Second, because they can’t stand the fact that the elected President is black.
Therefore, their approach is to oppose anything and everything. Who cares if this hurts the nation? Who cares if it hurts Americans? By God, they will have their revenge!

The current debate on Health Care Reform is a perfect example of this mendacity. These idiots are screaming “death squads” and euthanasia and “ do in Grandma!” This is all pure Bull Shit!

Look at the facts: HR 3200, introduced July 14, 2009 is the proposed legislation in question. Section 1233 of that bill is titled ADVANCE CARE PLANNING CONSULTATION.

What this section says is that every 5 years, an individual may have a consultation with a practitioner (defined in the section as a MD, NP or PA) regarding advanced care planning. Medicare will pay for this consultation. Notice the key word “MAY.” It doesn’t say the death squad will come by to check on Grandma, or that Grandpa must undergo an examination every 5 years to see if he will be allowed to live. That is what the liars are trying to tell the American public.

Probably the most inflammatory rhetoric concerns creating an “order regarding life sustaining treatment.” In short, this allows an individual to state his/her preferences regarding life sustaining treatment. IF executed by the individual, it allows him/her to state whether they want full treatment, or to limit some or all or specified interventions.
For example, a person could specify that if they were in a comatose state, they did not want artificial nutrition and hydration. This is nothing new. Such preferences have been incorporated in living wills for years. It relieves the family of the burden of making such decisions. The key point is that it is the individual’s desire.

There is a provision that such an Advanced Care Planning Consultation may be performed more frequently if there is a significant change in the health condition of the individual. I’m sorry but that doesn’t mean that if you are diagnosed with cancer, you have to go before the “Death Review Board.” What it does mean is that in that case, if you don’t have a Living Will, you will be given the opportunity to create one or to change an existing one. This would be in consultation with a practitioner. Medicare will pay for it.

So, you can do what I did: Get a copy of the bill and read it, or you can be really stupid and listen to what the liars are telling you.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Health Care Reform-Orwell was right

Do you remember Animal Farm?George Orwell hit it right on the nose. In that story, the pigs had to come up with a simple slogan the sheep and remember and repeat. They settled on "Four legs good--two legs bad" which the sheep bleated over and over. It worked, helping to keep the stupid mass of sheep appeased.

We are seeing a similar process in action now. The FRRI (that's the fundamentalist radical republican idiots) have come up with some equally simple slogans for the masses. Listen, and what do you hear? Death Squads, martial law, government takeover, socialized medicine.

It is really difficult to accept the fact that some Americans are so stupid they actually believe that one innocuous provision of a proposed House bill means that the Death Squad will come to their house and do away with Grandma.

I really find it difficult to believe that some people are actually that dumb! I suspect that such people never read a newspaper, never listen to the national news on radio or television, and are too willing to listen to and believe the outrageous lies of some RFFI.

How low, oh America, will you sink before finding fortitude?

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Grandson Alex

How do I describe my Grandson Alex?
He is jumping and leaping
Crawling and creeping,
Bounding and wriggling
Bouncing and jiggling,
Skipping and hopping
Jumping and bopping,
Smiling and winking and dancing around
Grinning and twisting, both feet off the ground.
Laughing and giggling and yelling and more
Climbing and falling kerbang to the floor.
Rolling and turning and punching and kicking
Throwing and catching and dropping and picking.
Stepping and stomping and running and racing
All the neighborhood pets he is chasing.
Pushing, pinching, bending, bucking, always on the go
Calling, singing, shouting, cheering, joy from head to toe.
My Grandson Alex is living proof, for all the world to see
Perpetual motion does exist, especially when you are three.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The confirmation circus

It has started! The Big Top Tent is up, and the performers are in place. For a short while (too damn long) it appeared the confirmation circus would be over shadowed by the MJ Circus, a pure media event. But that one has ridden off into the sunset, clearing the stage for the Washington opening.

Featured in this circus are 19 Senators, none of whom have ever met a microphone or TV camera they didn't love. Each of these performers have an uncanny ability--they can hide a question inside a 10 minute speech. It is amusing to watch the confirmee struggle to ascertain exactly what is the question hidden among all that verbige. Good luck to her-she'll need fortitude to listen to all this without becoming totally bored out of her skull.

Someone please explain to me why we need a network "color commentator" during this hearing? We have such animals at football, basketball, baseball, tennis and other such media events. They are supposed to dazzle us with their inside knowledge of what really is going on, as the networks consider viewers as too stupid to understand otherwise. But, we need this at a confirmation hearing?

I think the "lame stream media" has gone too far. Their attitude seems to be that everything exists for the sole purpose of allowing them to sell ad space.

And mark my words, when Satomayor is confirmed, the first question the media will ask is "How did you feel.....?" I wish to hell they would find another question. I'm tired of hearing quasi-literate personalities being asked to describe something they don't even understand.

How low have we fallen? We take a washed-up drug addict freak who happens to be a ex-pop star, and allow the media to turn his funeral into a week long extravaganza of greed and mercenary interests.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Ambalance chasers

I recently got a speeding ticket. It was a bit of a shock as the last traffic citation I received was in 1975. This one was a real cheap bust, as it was at a place where the speed limit suddenly changed from 55 to 35, on a down hill stretch where speed drops off slowly. But, that's not the story.

Within the next 2 weeks, I received 13 letters from law firms in the area, earnestly soliciting my business, and forecasting dire consequences if I didn't immediately contract for their services. They all guaranteed (more or less) that for a fee of from $70-100 they would be able to get this reduced from speeding to a non-moving violation. Ha! I had already accomplished that by means of a courtesy visit to the DA's office.

Two of these firms were at least 50 miles away. Times must be tough in the legal profession if they are willing to drive that far, and take up that much time for a rather small fee.

I suppose that for someone with a full schedule, not having to spend two hours in traffic court might be worth the fee.

I have lots of time, so I didn't begrudge the imposition. Actually, the entire process was a Chinese fire-drill. Anyone with just a tiny bit of common sense could streamline the operation, save much time and lots of expense. Even though all the information is on a computer system, apparently the traffic court people just haven't mastered such new concepts. For them, it is still a pencil and paper process.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Confirmation Circus

The circus is coming! It promises to be an epic production of pathos, drama, slap-stick and stupidity.

The big top tent has not yet been raised, but the side shows have already started. Listen to the spiels of the charlatans, magicians, snake-oil peddlers, street corner evangelists, lobbyists, talking heads and assorted other experts. "Yowsah, yowsah, step right up ladies and gentlemen, see the two-headed baby, the gorilla with three legs, the strong man and the bearded lady!"

To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "never has so much been said by so many about so little." The so-called battleground today swirls around the word empathy. It is a shame so many of the talking-heads have not bothered to look up the definition of the word. Do they really think a judge can operate in a vacuum, totally without empathy? That is big-time stupid.

But the real show is yet to come. At the actual hearings, we will once again see" (1) Senators who fall in love with any TV camera they see; and (2) Senators who cannot understand that any judge worth the title is not going to say how he/she will rule without hearing the facts of the case.

It is a circus, totally useless, expensive and time consuming. But that's the way we do things. Often not too smart, but at least entertaining.

Friday, May 22, 2009

A mark of respect

Pay attention MSNBC, CNN, FOX, and whoever else thinks they are ordained to educate the masses.

We have only one president of the United States. His name is Obama. His title is President Obama, not Mr. Obama. I don't care what they taught you in journalism school. It is President Obama.

Second point: We have only one Vice President in the United States. Currently that is Joe Biden. His title is Vice President Biden. Remember that!

We have several Ex-Vice Presidents or former Vice-Presidents. They are exactly that - exs or formers. They do not rate the title Vice President. Pay attention! When one of you "talking heads" calls him Vice President Cheney, that is an insult to the office and the man occupying that office.

You, the Lamestream Media, have throughly pissed me off. Don't make me come up there.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Talking Heads

The more i watch and listen to the so-called "national networks," the more I appreciate the BBC.

The big boys, MSNBC, CNN, FOX are becoming increasingly obnoxious and stupid. It is comical to watch how they work so hard to create a story where none exists! They have to produce "news" 24/7, and they are desperate.

I can forsee the day when the following scenario will occur:

Headline--President Obama sneezes while chatting with the Second Secretary of the Embassy of Gabon.

Immediately each of the lame-stream media will assemble panels of pundits (or so-called experts- an "ex" is a has-been, and a "spurt" is a drip under pressure) to microscopically examine whether this constitutes a major change in our strategic strategy vis-a-vis sub-saharan Africa.

You think this is far-fetched? Listen and watch. These idiots are doing things almost as stupid already.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


(My apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)

Once upon a midnight dreary as I struggled, weak and weary,
Over a changed Form 1040 I had never seen before.

Back and forth I did the sums, looking for deduction crumbs,
Hoping, ever hoping that I’d find a way to score.

But, alas, twas not my lot to escape an awful blot
Upon my worldly fortune, Uncle Sam keeps wanting more.

My mind grows dim with sorrow; the due date is tomorrow,
And I must find the answer else I’ll end up very poor.

Can I claim those gambling debts resulting from my stupid bets?
And should I try to itemize my bar bill from the club?
What about my one contribution, will it not bring absolution?
Surely I can claim deduction for the new pants that I tore.

Alas tis midnight past, and the time is flying fast, and I must find an answer to the question: How much more?

You may think my answer funny: I’ll just send them all my money,
And request that they return to me all that not spent before.

It is now six months gone by, and as yet there’s no reply,
Could it be that Uncle Sam will give me no succor?

Then the Raven came rapping, rapping
The Raven came rapping, tapping at my window door.

Oh to be so doubly blessed, a messenger from the IRS!
Surely he has come to tell me that my problems are no more.

And I said “Oh bird austere, do you bring me news of cheer?
If you brought to me a refund, then together we will soar.

I am down to bread and beans, for I do not have the means
To buy a decent meal. Tell me, Raven
Am I affluent, as I was in days of yore?

Quoth the Raven, “Nevermore!”

Al Manning- The Resident Curmudgeon

Monday, March 23, 2009

How's that again?

I am absolutely convinced that the concept of "proof-reading" is rapidly becoming totally alien to American newspapers. As a result we are often treated to some very interesting errors, which are either amusing or disgusting, depending on one's reverence for the English language.

As an example, here is an interesting little tidbit from the Durham Herald-Sun. The writer, describing an upcoming basketball game, had this to say:

"The Blue Devils will take on No. 9 Michigan State (21-10), where current Duke coach Joanne P. McCallie led the program to seven highly successful seasons before coming to Durham, at 7 p.m."

Read this one aloud, then answer the following question: How does the writer know she came to Durham at 7 p.m.? Maybe she arrived there at 6:30, or maybe in the afternoon?

Yes, the commas are in the right places, but when read, this one doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

How's that again?

Radio and television announcers work under pressure. Sometimes they make hilarious errors. Yesterday, I heard a radio announcer, giving the weather forecast, announce very solemnly, "The high today is expected to be only 35. Current temperature is 36."

The first time I heard this, I chuckled and thought he just misread his script. But I heard the same thing two times in the next hour. Apparently, no one at the station was listening, or bothered to change the script.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Lamestream Sports Media

There was a press conference a couple of days back. A "famous" baseball player was explaining how he had used some banned substances, and was now begging forgiveness. Yawn! Big deal. So what? This seems to be an everyday event.

There were 200 media people there. Think about that. It took 200 "specialists" to cover one story. This doesn't count the hordes of network "experts" who yapped constantly before, during and after the press conference.

Does it require that many different versions to explain what was or was not said? That seems totally insane.

Let's be generous, and say that half the media there were photographers. That leaves only 100 reporters. But if each writes 5,000 words (they would have to write that much to justify their expense accounts) then we have a good sized novel being produced.

Is it any wonder that many of our national media companies are in financial difficulty? Their management must be totally incompetent.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Speak English

I am constantly amazed at the propensity of bureaucrats to make up new words or phrases to replace definitions that are commonly understood.

We recently saw a good example of this unnecessary creative effort. An airliner went down near Buffalo, NY. A government spokesman rather pompously stated there had been an "Air Safety Event." No kidding! Everybody else knew there had been a plane crash. Why not say that? A plane crash is easily understood.

Perhaps this bureaucrat felt that, from his self-exaulted position, such a prosaic term was not sufficently grandois. Therefore we were blessed with this example of word-wooze.

Monday, February 09, 2009

What economic stimulus?

The more I read, watch and listen to the arguments concerning the so-called stimulus package, the more confused I become. I certainly can not claim to be cognizant of the subtle nuances of economic theory. I leave that to my son-in-law, a Professor of Economics. But even with his explanations, simplified to my level of comprehension, I still have some questions.

Everyone seems to agree that we must create employment, or maybe re-employment to recall people who have been laid off. What I don’t understand is how tax cuts are going to create jobs?

One argument is that if people are given a tax cut then they will have more available income, and in theory, at least, will rush out and buy more stuff. That will, in turn, require more clerks to sell more stuff.

The problem I have with this argument is simple: What kind of a tax cut can increase available income for those who have no income. A 10% increase in zero is still zero. I don’t believe we have any type of negative tax rates.

The other scenario concerns tax breaks for business. The theory seems to be that if we provide tax breaks for business, then business will have more cash flow, and will hire more people. I see a problem with this theory. Suppose we take a business that has been losing money, and has laid off employees. Presumable they would reduce operations cost to at least the break even point. Now offer this business a tax cut. Does anyone really think they will immediately rehire personnel? I don’t think so. I think they would decide that if they were at break even with a reduced work force, then a tax cut would allow them to realize a profit, keeping at the same personnel level.

In either case, I fail to understand how tax cuts will really stimulate employment or reemployment. In my simplistic approach to this problem, I think I would follow the example of FDR. Give them shovels and make the dirt fly! We have lots of things that need fixing (including our banking system, but that’s another problem that won’t be solved by a tax cut.)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Thoughts on the inauguration

My daughter, who lives in the DC area,emailed me sending pictures of the festivities. She, her husband, his sister and another friend made the pilgramage. This was not their first inauguration. A couple of presidents back, they had seats in the capitol area, thanks to a friendly congressman. But this time it was very different.

They had use of a condo in Arlington. They spent Monday night there. Tuesday morning, they bundled up and walked almost 3 miles in the freezing cold, to the Lincoln Memorial, where they watched on a jumbotron.

From the memorial, they were over a mile away from the actual ceremonies. Why make that effort? Their answer: It was such a historic occasion that they wanted to be a part of it.

These are not starry-eyed young Liberals. Jennifer, my daughter, is a Research Specialist at the Library of Congress. Chris, her husband, is a Professor of Economics at Johns Hopkins. If anything, they are a bit conservative. Yet, they felt it was that important. At the memorial, they met people who had traveled from Atlanta, again just to be there.

Sitting in the comfort of my home, where the temperature was nowhere near that in Washington, I could but faintly sense the electricity, the enthusiasm, the feeling of positive change in the air.

Maybe you had to be black, and be there to fully appreciate the moment. It was an experience we may never witness again. But, oh my! Wasn't it something?