Thursday, December 30, 2010

For profit schools

There was an interesting article this week about how the for profit school associations have recently hired a truck-load of lobbyists. Their purpose? To influence, water down or defeat proposed regulations concerning government funding for this category of schools.

Recent investigations have reported that some of these for profit schools are nothing but diploma mills, many with horrible graduation rates and hiring potential. Too many are turning out "graduates" with little skills or knowledge, but with huge student loans. Some of these schools have a reputation for pushing government student loans, promising that students will quickly find good jobs so they can repay the loans.

The investigations also show that for many of these schools, 90% of their revenue comes from government grants and student loans. Think about that! 90% of their revenue. BUT, they don't want any government oversight. It's another case of "give us the money and then go away, so we can do what we want with it."

No dammit! If my tax money is providing their revenue, then I want to know what the hell they are doing. Otherwise, if they don't want any oversight, let them go to Goldman-Sachs, or Bank of America. These people are really good at ignoring where the money goes.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

However you may wish to say it:

Gajan Kristnaskon

Joyeux Noel

Froehliche Weihnachten

Mele Kalikimaka

Buone Feste Natalizie

God Jul

Feliz Natal

Feliz Navidad

Friday, December 17, 2010

Majority Rule

I was always taught that a "majority" was one more than one-half. Since there are 100 Senators, then a majority should be 51.

In our Congress, a majority is required to pass any legislation. But in our Senate, it seems that some different mathematics are in play. There, a majority is 60!

Now let's see if I have this right. The way the Senate calculates this requirement, 50% of 100 +1 = 60.

No wonder things are so totally screwed up. Our Senators, those paragons of virtue, intelligence, morality, fidelity, honesty and integrity cannot do simple math.

Maybe it is time we sent this whole bunch back to school for remedial math, and brought in a new crew. If we do this, then one of the prerequisites to run for the office will be to demonstrate a working knowledge of basic math. There are a lot of other requirements I would like to impose upon any candidate, but I will settle for this as a starting point.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Pity the poor rich

Recently a Republican talking-head stated that we had to extend tax breaks for the upper 2% because this will help reduce our high unemployment. Give me a break! Does this mean that without extension of the tax reductions, the poor rich people will not be able to hire a second maid or augment their landscaping crew? We're talking about taxes on personal income, not on corporations. The jobs we need will come from companies and businesses, not from individual's staff.

The Republicans still seem to be wedded to the totally discredited theory of "trickle-down economics." You know that fallacy: give all the tax breaks to the big corporations, and the benefits will eventually trickle down to the working class. This is partially true, but in our economic environment, the working class will be in China or India.

Actually, in the past 10 years or so, we have seen this trickle-down effect in operation. Unfortunately, it didn't trickle very far--only to the top executives in the US financial sector. I haven't seen these people hiring too many additional housekeeping staff or lawn boys. Instead they all seem to be purchasing beachfront property in the Bahamas. Well, at least it helps the real estate market there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Republican losers

I had an interesting conversation (debate?) with a hard-shell Republican. He earnestly tried to convince me that I too should support his party, and should work at it as much as he did (or tried to do). I heard the usual litany of problems facing the US: unemployment; deficits; too much government control; too much involvement in foreign affairs; too many restrictions on big business and sundry other problems, large and small. He followed this with an impassioned plea that I should “join in the fight,” as he put it, to clean up the mess.

My answer was simple. “No, I don’t support losers.” He got rather upset with that, and started in on how much his party has gained in the last election, and how much more they expected to win in the next. I cut him off short. “You may have won congressional seats, but you are still losers. Yes, we are facing many problems. Yes, positive action will be required to solve them. Yes, it will be a long, difficult battle. Many difficult decisions and many unpopular actions will be required. But your party isn’t willing to even try. Your leadership has decreed that their goal is not to help America or to solve any problems, but only to make sure the present administration doesn’t solve problems or help America. What they are saying is to hell with America and her problems. If they can defeat President Obama, and make sure that no problems are solved during his leadership, then they will be a success. That’s a real chicken-shit goal! Do nothing and make sure nobody else does anything constructive. No thanks. That’s the mark of a loser, and I don’t support losers. I may be old but I’m not stupid.”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big League Goof

It is well known that the newspapers have abolished the position of proof reader. Look at any paper on any day and you can readily see the effect of this cost cutting.

It is also apparent that the wire services have followed. This little gem came from the Associated Press on November 11. The reporter was commenting on the relationship between two football players, and gave us this thoughtful insight:

"Haden lived with Newton for 1 1/2 years and considers his former roommate when the two were at Florida his best friend."

I don't know what you should call this. There is certainly a 'dangling' something or the other here. It would be difficult to take this simple statement and muddle it up any worse. Vive la educaciĆ³n!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Election of 2010

Congratulations, America! You now have the best government that big money can buy.

But, don't get too euphoric about this. Remember all those millions and millions of $ that big corporations plowed into the campaigns? These are the same corporations that our Supreme Court has decided should have the same rights as people. Don't kid yourself. All that money was not a gift or a donation. Oh no! That was an advance payment, or maybe just a down payment. The bill will come later, and it will be a whopper!

So, enjoy while you can, America. You will pay in the end.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Negative ballots

We have a general election coming up. Every four years we go through this whether we need to or not. We don’t really have any choice. Our Constitution says we must do this. So once again we will go through the dreary business. It’s dreary because Congress, as usual, has failed to implement the Resident Curmudgeon’s plan for reform of the election process.

The inability of Congress to understand the brilliance of my reform plan is disheartening. Of course, there are those who say that the US Senate couldn’t recognize a good idea if it jumped up and bit them. Others say that the House of Representatives are so busy running for reelection they don’t have time to consider anything of merit. For whatever reasons, they have failed to enact the most fair, innovative, democratic, representative change to the American political process since the repeal of prohibition.

My reform is very simple. We need negative ballots. How many times have you gone to the polls, looked at the ballot, and decided that all the candidates are scoundrels? Yet our election process requires that you vote for one of them. (Or 2 or 3 in multiple seat elections). How many times have you decided that none of them are fit to hold office? But, in the end, you have to vote for somebody. My proposal will let you vote against somebody.

Now think about this. Wouldn’t that make you feel better? Sure, one or more of the scoundrels are going to get elected, but it wasn’t your fault. You voted against them! Even better, in the process you did not help any of them get elected! In a multiple seat election, like in a County Commissioner election, where there are 5 candidates, and the ballot says vote for 3, you would be allowed to vote against 3. Even better, you could vote for 1 and against 2. Or vote for 2 and against 1. That would be pure Democracy in action. You could really make your preferences known.

I predict that if my reform plan were implemented, it would increase America’s Gross National Product, decrease the number of divorces, increase church attendance, and probably reduce the amount of smog in North Carolina.

This proposal is really not so far out. In some of the more progressive states, some judges do not run in a contested election. Instead, they run against their record. The question is: Should Judge Blank be returned to the bench: yes or no? Now that, in essence, provides a negative ballot. You can vote against returning the rascal to the bench.

There is one very important caveat to my reform plan. If any candidate ends up with a net negative total (that is, more people voted against him/her than voted for him/her), then he/she will never again be allowed to run for any public office. Now that would be a major improvement.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dingbat Politics

“Those who do not study history are bound to repeat it.” We are seeing yet another evidence of the truth of this old saying. Now the dingbats are crying that the ultimate solution to all our economic problems is that we must remove all restraints on big business. The theory is that if big business is “allowed” to prosper, the resulting growth will result in new plants opening, more jobs, and a resulting “trickle down” effect that will benefit the working class. Sounds like pure Reaganomics to me. BALDERDASH! This has never worked, and will not work now.

The underlying theory is that big business will be self-regulating, if unrestrained by government regulation. Competition will force fair prices and more efficient production, resulting in more jobs and greater prosperity for all.

This theory fails for two very basic reasons. First, there is little competition. Mergers of the past 20-30 years have effectively eliminated it, especially in the financial sector. Many large financial institutions today compete only with their own subsidiaries.

Second, this theory ignores greed. We have seen too readily the effect of greed by big business on our economic situation. We have seen financial institutions go almost berserk in their quest for a share of the easy money. We have seen business practices, greedily adopted by supposedly reputable institution, that should never be tolerated by civilized countries. We have even seen bond rating companies, long viewed as a type of policemen on the industry, greedily succumb to the lure of the fast buck.

Given the freedom from any government regulation, big business would not immediately increase production, build new plants and provide new jobs. No, they would take the profits, pay huge bonuses to undeserving executives, and ship the jobs to China or India. That’s the route to quick profits, to hell with the situation in America.

So to all the dingbats out there who are loudly supporting this theory, I say: Read history, starting with the past 4 years, and then going back to the turn of the century. Pay attention! You might learn something.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

What price principle?

There is an old adage about national politics that says:
"A statesman plans for the next generation; a politician only for the next election."

It appears that Senator McCain's flip-flop on the "don't ask, don't tell" question is a prime example of this. He sold his soul for votes. Now, he must live with his own conscience, if he still has one.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dingbats in Montana

The Montana Republican Party adopted an official platform last June that included a plank in support of making homosexuality illegal.

The Montana Supreme Court struck down such laws in 1997.

To put such a policy in the official platform that has already been declared unconstitutional by the highest court in the state must rank right at the top of the list of really stupid things to do.

Maybe the dingbats just don't realize this has already been before the court and declared unconstitutional? How else can you explain such stupidity?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I promised myself I would not write about politics this year. So far, I have strayed only a couple of times. But now I realize I can have my say by writing, not about politics, but about comedy.

Many people have mourned the dearth of comedy on TV. These people are not watching the right programs. There is some really great comedy out there, but it is all on the various news programs. That’s where the dingbats are quoted, and they are getting a lot of air time, and saying a lot of really stupid things. The networks and the “talking head” analysts love this. It makes their job so much easier. The analysts in particular are in heaven. They don’t have to do any research, or even write their opinions. They can just wait for one of these dingbats to say something stupid, which seems to spontaneously occur every time they open their mouth, and then take them to task. Must be a good life.

Personally, I have thoroughly enjoyed the political season. I haven’t laughed so much in years. I’m not certain which is my favorite dingbat theory. There have been so many, like the “birthers”, the “deathers”, and all the various conspiracy theories. Some people are just not happy unless they can put the blame on some kind of conspiracy.

Probably the best total dingbat conspiracy theory concerns the fourth plane in the 9/11 attack. According to some of the “teabagger” dingbats, this plane did not crash killing all on board. Instead it landed a secret airport (no one seems to know where) The passengers were loaded onto a military transport which then took off (apparently by remote control) flew to some unknown location where it was shot down by other military jets. The original plane was then flown to Pennsylvania (again by remote control?) where it was crashed into that field. Why? Because this was some sort of vague, unknown, fuzzy conspiracy by the US Government to do something? The dingbats are not sure, but they are convinced that somehow the government must be at fault. Now, isn’t that worthy of a slot on comedy central?

There seems to be only one consistent attribute for the dingbats. They all have the same motto. “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind is made up.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Boss Bird

I recently put up a hummingbird feeder. It is attached to our screen porch so we get a close up view of them while they are feeding. They are beautiful and very entertaining.

But, one bird has decided the feeder is his (I assume it is a male. I can't see them well enough to determine sex, but only a macho male would act like this) He flies in, has his fill, and then perches on a nearby trellis and stands guard. Woe unto any other hummingbird that dares approach the feeder. Boss Bird launches a kamikaze attack and drives them away.

I would never have thought that such a cute, tiny little bird could be so territorial and so aggressive! I can't tell if it is only other males he drives off, or is he impartial as to sex. I wonder if he allows his own mate to feed while he is on guard. I have never seen him allow any other to feed.
Maybe he flies back to he nest and then allows her to feed.

I'm sure it is the same bird, as he always perches at the same spot on the trellis. Yesterday I watched as he stood guard for over an hour. During that time, he had two snacks, and drove off three interlopers. Nobody else feeds while he is on duty!

I wish I knew just how many hummingbirds I have in my yard and surroundings. I could put up more feeders, but this guy might decide they all belong to him.

I guess this proves that macho males have the same attributes, no matter what the species.

Monday, June 28, 2010

What did they really mean?

Associated Press story of 6/29/2010. Reporting the Germany-England soccer match, the reporter wrote "...a match which hinged on a bad referee's decision."

I can't imagine why the World Cup would hire a bad referee. Did they know he was a "bad" referee when they hired him? If so, surely that is ground for some sort of international protest.

I would like to think they hire only good referees, any of whom might make a bad decision.

Those who write for general public consumption must exercise caution in the use of the language. Otherwise, the public might be led astray.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A case of stupidity

The local paper carried a story this morning about how some two hundred people waited in line, some for as long as 12 hours, to buy the “latest” electronic gizmo. The line stretched from the store to outside the mall. This was on one of the hottest days of the year. Some of these people took off from work to do this.

It is hard not to consider this as absolute total stupidity! What in hell is their priority? How could they possibly consider that buying this electronic gadget on the first day it goes on sale to be important?

Maybe this is merely another indication of the depth to which some have fallen. To them it is not a question of “keeping up with the Jones.” No, they want to be the Jones, to be first to own the gadget, as if this is important. Do they somehow get more points on the great scoreboard of life just because they were “first?” Do the sensible people who are willing to wait a few days suffer a point deduction?

Whatever. If nothing else, it proves how some are obsessed with “materialistic gizmoism.”

Monday, May 17, 2010

Redheaded Stepchild Poetry Event

"Redheaded Stepchild," a very unique (they only
publish poems that have been rejected elsewhere) and outstanding poetry journal published in Raleigh is coming to Hickory for a special Poetry Hickory event featuring poets from their recent issues. Each poet will read a poem from the journal and a couple of others as well. The reading will be held Saturday, May 22, from 1:00 to 2:30 at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory.

For information, call
Scott Owens at 828-234-4266 or email him at To get a preview, visit "Redheaded
Stepchild" online at

Friday, May 07, 2010


We have some relatives who are real “tea-baggers”, and most irritating, they are “birthers.” Their motto is “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with facts.” It’s probably just as well. From my observations, I think these people would be totally confused with any fact.

They do seem to follow the formula set out by Orwell in Animal Farm. Give the “sheep” something simple they can repeat over and over.

The truly amazing argument put forward by the “birthers” is that on the day President Obama was born, his parents, along with some unknown political activists, lobbyists and influence peddlers, got together and decided that he would become President in 2008, and thus it was necessary to forge a birth certificate. They claim he was actually born in Kenya, Thailand, Timbuktu, SE Australia, Madrid or New Delhi—someplace other than Hawaii. By their reasoning, it was all a grand conspiracy. They do love a conspiracy. That way they can blame lot of people for something they don’t want to believe.

Their other big argument is that the hospital in Hawaii issued a “Certificate of Live Birth” rather than a Birth Certificate. The “birthers” claim this ‘proves’ he wasn’t born in Hawaii and everything is a forgery. Maybe President Obama wasn’t born at all, but is actually an extra terrestrial from Mars or Jupiter.

One of my daughters was born in the Navy Hospital at the Naval Air Station, Memphis, TN. They issued a “Certificate of Live Birth,” which is very common in many states. But by the logic of the “birthers” this proves she is not a US citizen. HAH! I would like to see them try to tell her that bit of nonsense!

A simple Google search will turn up many sites that can debunk these lies. A good one is

Of course the “birthers” would never bother to look at the mountains of proof already available that shows they are totally wrong. They can’t be bothered. Besides, any facts would only confuse them, and they are easily confused. After all, when you listen to Lush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck Sarah Palin or the other “reporters” on Fox News all day, you soon arrive at the point where you can’t recognize a lie if it jumps up and bites you.

Monday, April 19, 2010


A poem about the day the Oklahoma City bomber was executed.

Hordes of reporters milling around,
Interviewing each other.
Desperately searching for an illusive scoop.
They can't interview the 168.

National media provides blitz coverage,
Hourly, then by the minute.
Everything you don't want to know.
What about the 168?

What did he say, what was he wearing,
What does he think?
As if this was important.
What about the 168?

Constant repetition almost makes him a folk hero,
A man admired for his stoicism.
He's the hot news today.
What about the 168?

National media giving advice to the survivors,
telling them how they are supposed to feel, to act, to think.
As if these national hotshots knew anything.
What about the 168?

Second by second, we hear how he died,
Eye-witness accounts are the holy grail.
Much ado about the demise of a killer.
What about the 168?

True justice might have been better served,
Had no one bothered to attend.
He would have been exterminated, unnoticed.
And that would honor the 168.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The bank stimulus program

Thoughts about the bank stimulus program.

The yammerheads out in the blogosphere, as well as some of the talking heads on national TV are demonstrating once again their propensity to either forget or ignore history.

Now, some of these idiots are claiming that the first bank bail-out was not necessary. They seem to think we were not really facing an economic crisis. They are now back to preaching that big business, if left alone, will be self-regulating, and will solve all their own problems. BALDERDASH! To ignore history is to repeat it.

Last November, I had dinner with an imminent economist, a Professor at a prestigious university, and a member of the Council of Economic Advisors. My question to him was, “How close did we come, in September-October of 2008, to an economic melt-down?” I expected his answer to be 30-60 days or so.

His answer shocked me. “3-5 days.”

His reasoning is very simple. He said “It was a potential crucial problem with inter-bank lending, which was already beginning to dry up. The solvent banks were realizing they had to protect their own clients, and could not risk further loans to crippled banks. If Congress had not passed that bill on the second try, the ban on inter-bank lending would have spread to ATM machines. That would have been fatal!”

It works like this. If your bank card is issued by Bank A, and you go to an ATM machine owned by Bank B, than a very short-term inter-bank loan is involved, until Bank A reimburses Bank B for the money you withdrew.

But, Bank B, which is solvent, decides they are not going to make any more inter-bank loans to Bank A, which they consider to be a risk. So the next time you go to that same ATM machine, you insert your card and receive a notice that withdrawals from cards issued by Bank A will no longer be honored.

What would you do? You would immediately go to Bank A and withdraw all your money! You have heard the stories from the 1930’s when banks closed up and left depositors out in the cold.

We would have had a bank run, which would have caused the insolvent banks to close. The panic would have spread, fueled by the national media, and we would now be in the middle of a major depression.

We came that close, yet the idiots cannot face facts. The funny thing is that although it happened during the last months of the Bush administration, they try to blame all this on President Obama. Wonder why?