Sunday, August 31, 2008

What a boat!

Alex and Christina rented a Jeep Commander for their drive down here because they needed to move her into a new apartment before they left Boston. Wisely they took my car to drive down to Philly to go to church and visit some friends this morning. So I just took their rental for a little spin to the Wawa to see how it feels and handles.

What a boat! No, I take that back. What a land ship!

Not wanting to scratch it I parked a reasonable seeming distance from the bollards at the Wawa based on the view over the hood. After I got out I saw that I was almost five feet away from those bollards.

Reminds me of driving the aircraft carrier. We had to remember that, from our position on the bridge, when a sailboat disappeared under the loom of the flight deck dead ahead it was almost 600 feet in front of the bow. Not that it mattered much. Sailboats and cabin cruisers and suchlike only disappeared dead ahead under the loom of the flight deck when we were going out of San Francisco in the deep channel just to the right of the center of the Golden Gate Bridge. We weren't going to maneuver to avoid them even if the bow lookout warned that one of them was about to be pulped.

None of them ever was pulped, at least when I was driving, but that used to be an interesting time. Most interesting was observing how slow the pleasure boats were actually going when they were torqued up to the max trying to keep up with us as we accelerated after going under the bridge. Twenty knots, and almost all of them were falling behind. Twenty five knots, and they were planing, the ones that could. Thirty knots, and all but the slim racing boats were lagging.

Most times we continued at thirty knots until we were a hundred miles or so off shore, all the racing boats having long since dropped away from lack of fuel. Then we would come around to whatever course and make whatever speed we needed to to maintain thirty knots of wind down the angle deck while we recovered our eighty or so aircraft, which would fly out from the shore base they went to before the ship pulled into port.

If the recovery operation went smoothly, within eighty minutes or so, all would be sweetness and light. If it went not so smooth the Captain's face would get redder and redder as the minutes passed and we would know that the next day would see a lot of drills for the flight deck crew and a round of visits to the bridge for quiet little chewing outs of the commanders of the offending squadrons. If there were too many exciting incidents, incidents like landing signal officers saying one too many times or a little too shrilly, "power, power, power!," or "left rudder, left rudder, left rudder!" or "wave off! wave off!" the Captain's head would look like it was about to explode with a bang louder than the bang of each of the aircraft as it hit the deck. The next week or so would be exhausting, drills at all hours of the day and night, practicing, practicing, practicing until he was satisfied - not that he was ever truly satisfied.

Every carrier landing is a potential disaster as a hundred thousand pound aircraft hits the deck at over a hundred miles an hour and is decelerated to a stop in a couple of hundred feet, especially once the bow is filled with parked aircraft. And don't even think about the possibilities when planes are landing one per minute while others are being refueled and armed with bombs and rockets and proceeding to the bow catapults one per minute to be launched.

On the port wing of the bridge we had a red control panel shaped like the flight deck with buttons, each of which could nearly instantly douse the part of the real flight deck near where they were on the toy flight deck with fire fighting foam and salt water. We had had a long lecture about the financial effects of such a dousing on the electronics and such of multi-million dollar aircraft when we were indoctrinated in the use of that system. Following that lecture the Captain had told us that we should not for a moment hesitate to push one, or as many of those buttons as he told us to, if he should ever tell us to. Further he told us that we shouldn't hesitate for a moment to push one or as many of those buttons as we thought necessary in the event we ever saw fire on the flight deck, even if he was occupied with other things and hadn't yet told us to.

Thirty knots was about as fast as we ever went when I was driving, or even when I was on the bridge and just observing before the Captain approved me to drive. I was aboard when we went faster, during the sea trials we went through just after coming out of the shipyard, but I wasn't on the bridge during that day. The bridge was packed with senior officers that day and I was a very raw Ensign then, still sometimes a bit unsure which way lead toward the pointy end of the ship and which way lead toward the blunt end of the ship in the interior passageways. Not that I ever let the sailors in my deck division ever know I wasn't utterly confident.

Admiral Rickover himself was aboard on the day of the sea trials. He was personally on the bridge when they tested the ship's acceleration from dead in the water to it's maximum attainable speed and then tested its maximum ability to decelerate by executing an all back emergency engine order. I was on the fantail during that test. It's probably the only way in life to get an appreciation of just how much force a team of 120,000 horses all pulling as hard as they can in one direction can exert. The fantail was bouncing, actually bouncing, under the strain - hard to believe thick steel can flex enough to allow that kind of bouncing. The whole of the hundred thousand ton ship was vibrating and shivering so much that you moved around on the deck like one of those little men on the vibrating football game board if you stood flatfooted.

Update - When I qualified as officer of the deck a few months later after a grilling about ship handling and safery procedures and such by the Captain and all the department heads in his sea cabin up behind the bridge the Captain congratulated me with some words he clearly relished. "Congratulations Mr. A. . ., You are now a qualified Officer of the Deck of the largest warship in the history of the world. Report to Mr. B on the bridge and relieve him of the watch." Reflecting on it later I became sure he was appointed to command of that ship with those same words. They were true at the time.

The Reagan class carriers outweigh the Enterprise by a few thousand tons nowadays. But they aren't faster! As the first nuclear powered carrier, built in the 1950's with cost no object, Enterprise was way overbuilt, especially the engineering plant with its eight reactors and four engine rooms.

For you non-Navy types, Officer of the Deck is Mr. Sulu's job in Starship Enterprise. I never fail to get a little thrill when Captain Kirk orders, "Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu." And I'm one of the few Star Trek watchers who always remember that Mr. Sulu is still up there on the bridge of Enterprise keeping a sharp watch in charge of the ship while Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock are back in the engine room or transporter room with Scotty, or playing tourist down on the planet with Bones and whatever crewman is going to be vaporized by the aliens.

About Sarah Palin and "experience"

There has been a lot of commentary about whether Sarah Palin is qualified to be President should she and John McCain be elected, and should something then happen to McCain.

Elizabeth I became Queen of England in 1558 when she was 25 years old. She did fairly well by her country.

From what I’ve seen and read of Sarah Palin so far she’s got as good a prospect as any of the four in the running to do okay if she should suddenly become President at 45 years old. Aside from her experience in government, a woman who has successfully juggled a full time job and five kids ranging in age from one year old to late teen age while staying on good terms with a 20 year husband knows quite a bit about delegation, decisionmaking and practical crisis management.

Very few of our presidents have been anywhere close to “qualified” by experience for the job. The good ones have exhibited good judgement. Some of the worst ones have been the best qualified on paper.

Update - Jonah Goldberg at National Review posted a great letter from a reader on this issue:

"Who would you hire?

To borrow from Ross Perot (not always a good idea), would you hire any of these people as a manager at your company?

Palin you'd offer the job to right away, and then you'd sweat until she accepted it.

McCain would seem like a decent choice, but wouldn't make or break you either way.

You'd wonder how Obama possibly thought he was qualified, and you'd leave him to be hired by some other company where they fall for people who say all the right things.

And you'd be telling stories about Biden's interview, and making jokes about it, for years."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Maybe McCain got the idea of picking Palin from this

Maybe Senator John McCain got the idea of picking Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate from this video. It's pretty funny.

And, it turns out that way back when she competed in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant after being selected as Miss Wasilla. She also won the Miss Congeniality award in Wasilla. Apparently she hasn't always been congenial since then; her Alaska political opponents call her Sarah Barracuda. She can probably go one on one with Barack Obama on a basketball court, she hunts, she fishes and she's married to a part Eskimo who's a union member and a champion snowmobile racer. Oh, one other thing, she returned to work three days after having their fifth kid. The Democrats will be making a big mistake if they underestimate this woman, especially since their presidential candidate isn't a lot more experienced than she is.

This 2006 newspaper article gives her whole history.

The things you remember

It's funny the things you remember. I was just at the bank depositing a check preparatory to paying the last of our ridiculously outrageous real estate tax bills. While I was at the bank I got a couple of hundred dollars in twenties. I'm pretty modern about paying with credit cards for most things but Linda is somewhat less so. We go through an outrageous number of twenty dollar bills around here.

I can remember when a twenty dollar bill represented one-third of my pay for a sixy hour week at Harry's Potato Market. That was before I claimed to have another job opportunity after my first year of high school and Harry raised my pay to $1.20 an hour. Of course that was cash pay, so there were no outrageous taxes taken out of. And the job carried some fringe benefits. I got all the fruit I had any desire to eat, and I could take home all of the spotted fruit Mom had any desire to make into pies and such. And I sometimes got to accompany Harry on his trips with that old truck to deliver boxes of produce to various little stores and restaurants in Norristown and Bridgeport and Trooper and Plymouth Meeting. Harry would talk to the owner and I would carry the box into the back. Sam, or was it John, told me about a time when a box fell off the back of the truck on Airy Street and spread fruit all over the road as they went up a hill. "Don't look back," Harry said, as they roared away.

Whoa! A hawk, a redtail I think, just made a kill down by the bamboo grove where I mowed yesterday. And there he flies away. That garter snake who's been hanging around in the garden must have gotten complacent travelling toward the creek. He forgot there is no high grass now. Well, he won't be wriggling long. It's surprisingly rare that I see a hawk on the ground - maybe ten or fifteen times in the thirty years we've been up here in Collegeville. Nature photographers must be supernaturally patient people.

Anyway, back to Harry. Another fringe benefit of my job at Harry's was watching Harry and the other characters who came and went at the Potato Market during those late grade school and early high school summers. Harry was a Sicilian of a kind they don't make anymore, or, if they still make them, you don't see them in this country any more. Or maybe I don't hang around in the right places anymore.

Several of Pop's friends were Sicilians. Lardy and Chink, I think, were Sicilians. Louis Hop was also a Sicilian, but he was an altogether different kind of Sicilian, and he wasn't really one of Pop's friends, he was a neighbor. Reds and Tommy were also Sicilians, I think, but they weren't Pop's friends either, they were business associates.

Reds was also an albino, a very exotic person in 1950's Norristown. I only saw him a couple of times, and that was when I happened to be with Pop on a trip to town when Pop visited him to drop something off or pick something up. Reds talked about coins sometimes after he and Pop had finished comparing their lists and doing their calculations.

Reds talked about coins as investments, not coins as spending money like the ones in the big bowl Uncle Joe Sky had in the middle of the dining room table as a centerpiece. Uncle Joe would tell me to dip into that bowl and take a few of those coins when I went to his house with Pop. I knew I wasn't allowed to dip into that bowl when I went by myself to visit Aunt Lucy. Aunt Lucy made the best waffles, and she would make those waffles anytime if you just went in and said hi and sat down at the kitchen table and talked with her while she stirred up the batter and heated the waffle iron over the gas. She was funny, Aunt Lucy, and interesting to talk with; but mostly I remember her waffles. She put lots the Caro syrup on top of the waffles on her plate. I liked to put a little pool of syrup on the side of my plate and just dip each bite of waffle in it.

Much later Pop said Reds was one of the smartest guys he knew and he wished he had the money back then to invest in coins the way Reds told him to. Pop had a pretty good coin collection but he just put it together by looking at all the coins he got in change. Sometimes he got a lot of change. When I asked why it was so dark in Reds' apartment Pop told me Reds had to stay inside with the shades drawn because too much light bothered his eyes. He also told me Reds had no hair anywhere on him when I asked why he had a bald head and no eyebrows. Another time Pop told me Reds had no pores, so he couldn't sweat and had to be careful about getting too hot.

Pop's friends, the boys he called them, were a diverse lot. I think the three Jiggses, Frankie, Chollie and Louie, were Neapolitans. Cappy was a Mundelaise, and Worm's people were Bolognese, I think. Butch and Doc's people were Marche's, like our people. The Count's people, I think, were Roman, from Rome that is. None of us thought of ourselves as Roman Romans. We were Italians in those days. Sicilians were Italians too, but they were a different kind of Italian. We went to Holy Saviour church. The Sicilians had their own church, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.

Have I mentioned that I'm a pure Marche' from all four grandparents. That's pronounced Mark with emphasis on the M and the K and a little "eh" on the end. I could have joined the Marche' Club, but I never did because Pop never did. He had a long standing grudge about the Marche' Club from the time he returned from the Navy and they denied him a little disability payment he should have gotten by virtue of Grandpop A's membership. Sam and Jas could have joined the club as well if they wanted, but Marianne couldn't have - no girls allowed. Not that it matters anymore; the club is gone. Our generation is the last to have enough pure Marches to make a local club.

Grandpop L, a club member in good standing, had a little joke he told about Marche's that Mom translated for me. "What's worse than a dead body in the living room?" "A live Marche' at the door." I guess it works better in Italian. The idea is that you're going to get be able to get rid of the dead body a lot easier than you're going to be able to rid of the hardheaded Marche'.

Grandmom L, who was a Marche', used to occasionally refer to Sicilians as "Le Chiboudeys," when she was going strong with Mom and Aunt Mary M at the kitchen table. Or she would call them "Shockeys." But she only talked about them like when her daughter-in-law Aunt Nancy wasn't around. Shockey was just an Americanization of Sciacca, which was the village most of the Norristown Sicilians came from. Pop or his buddies would call one another Shockeys or Napolitans or Mundelaise or Bolognese all the time as in "You Shockeys are all alike" so that wasn't interesting. The fact that Grandmom L might refer to a Sicilian as a Shockey wasn't anything special.

But Chiboudeys was clearly something different, something interesting, especially because it was accompanied with that little hand flip Grandmon L gave when she smiled in that way she only did with Mom and Aunt Mary when she thought us kids weren't watching. It was a broader, purposely transparent version of the smile Mom would have on her face when she would say "This is delicious," about some dish she had taken a couple of little tastes of. I don't think Hillary Clinton ever met Grandmom L or Mom, so she must have learned that smile from someone else.

That hawk is down there again and he has something else. A mouse. It must be good hunting in the newly mown field. I have never seen a hawk on the ground twice in one day.

Mom dodged my questions about Chiboudeys for a long time. And when she finally did tell me what it meant the explanation made no sense. Mom said Chiboudeys meant "onion eaters." That made no sense because Mom had also told me once that they were so poor in the 1930's that Grandmom L would sometimes only have an onion to put in Grandpops lunch box as a substitute for a piece of fruit. So there was a clear case of a pure Marche' biting into a raw onion with his lunch sandwich and yet mom's claiming Grandmom used "onion eaters" as a secret epithet that made them all laugh.

Mom uncomfortably dodged when I presented her with this obvious inconsistency and she would never visit the issue again. It's a terrible world. A world in which a mother will lie to her own son.
And I still don't know what "Chiboudey" meant.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The real reason Obama picked Biden

All the political commentators are wondering why Barack Obama picked Senator Joseph Biden as his running mate. And none of them can seem to come up with a good reason.

Biden is much older than Obama and he's been a senator for more than thirty years, so he hardly fits Obama's message of "We are the change we have been waiting for." And Biden is from Delaware which only has a few electoral votes, so he doesn't add much to the ticket in that regard. Biden has a lot of experience on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, so he probably knows where Azerbaijan is, and he probably knows that the Georgians in the news a lot lately don't eat grits and gravy. But Biden being so experienced is a bit of a two-edged sword. Having Biden on the ticket may reassure some folks, but it may also reinforce the concern among other folks that Obama himself doesn't have much experience.

So why did Obama pick Biden when he could have picked someone like Governor Ed Rendell? Rendell is younger than Biden, and he's a much fresher face on the national scene. And Rendell might have some real clout when it comes to winning Pennsylvania's big electoral vote count.

I think Obama picked Biden because guys like Rendell, guys with a future in politics, dodged when he asked them. They think he won't win. And running for vice-president on a losing ticket is about as healthy for a political career as getting caught in a love child controversy.

Which brings me to John Edwards. He ran for VP with John Kerry in 2004 - and they lost. Being an old VP nominee didn't help him a lot when he ran for president this year. He got trounced by both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and that was before the love child controvery hit the papers.

Then there's Joe Lieberman. He ran for VP with Al Gore in 2000 - and they lost. Joe Lieberman more recently found himself ganged up on by members of his own party in Connecticut when he ran for the Senate again. Being an old VP candidate of their party didn't cut much mustard with them.

Most of you have forgotten Jack Kemp, so I'll tell you he was a football player and then a long time congressman. He ran for VP in 1996 as the running mate of Robert Dole. They lost, and nobody has heard of Jack Kemp since then.

Here are some more loser VP candidates - Dan Quayle 1992, Lloyd Bentsen 1988, Geraldine Ferraro 1984, Walter Mondale 1980. All losers, and all have gone nowhere since they lost. There's a pattern here. Running for VP is outright political poison if you lose.

And what if you win? One of the country's countless forgettable VPs memorably described the office of Vice-President of the United States as not being worth a pitcher of warm spit. Less than a pitcher of warm spit, that's what you get if you win!

If you lose you're almost certainly headed for the political graveyard. No young politician with half a brain in his head will accept an offer to run for vice-president unless he's pretty darn sure the presidential candidate he's tying himself to is going to win.

So now you know why Obama picked Biden to be his running mate. The young Democratic Party politicians all turned him down. They've been watching Obama's poll results decline ever since early Spring and they don't like the trend. They're acting excited about Obama, but they think he's a sinking ship and they don't want to go down with him.

Barack Obama picked Joe Biden because he couldn't convince any of the other nationally known Democrats to run with him.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Where's the global warming when you want it?

It's been a very unusual August this year up here in Pennsylvania.

I know it's been unusual because I haven't been in Sam and Deb's pool at all in August. Every other year since he and Deb got the pool I've found occasion to be up there floating around at least once or twice each August. We simply haven't had any strings of the 90 plus degree days and warm nights it takes to get that pool up to the 80 or so degree temperature which has become my minimum required comfort level.

Back in the old days I would happily go into the ocean down in North Carolina when the water temp was in the mid 70's. And back in the really old days I would inch into the ocean in Stone Harbor or Avalon even if the water temp was down in the high 60's or low 70's. Back even further, back way deep into the mists of time, I remember me and Sam and Jas spending long periods in the surf at Atlantic City unless the water was so cold your arches and ankles hurt from standing in it. But that was the ocean, and the ocean is different from a pool. A pool should be comfortable.

Mom and Pop only took us down the shore one or two days per summer back in those really, really, old days, so we approached the beach and the ocean with a certain amount of determination. We were singleminded in getting our full quota, and then some, of sand and surf and sunburn on those days no matter the cost in pain. And there was some pain, for back then before people knew about skin cancer we went to the beach without an umbrella. When Mom slathered the Coppertone of that era on us she was basting us like turkeys rather than swaddling us in any protection.

Me and Jas used to get moderate sunburns on our noses, shoulders and insteps, but Sam, lighter skinned, used to get as red as a lobster. You think I'm kidding, but him and Jas know I'm not. It's surprising he never got sun poisoning.

Marianne, after she arrived to go to the shore with us, spent most of such days in her portable playpen covered with a beach towel like a bird in a cage, so I don't remember her ever getting sunburned. I do, though, have a picture up on the other computer of her chubby little face and her chubby little legs and arms poking out of a cute two piece swimsuit; but I don't know how to put pictures on the blog yet.

I put that in about Marianne because I've gotten some flak for not including her on this blog when I write about Sam and Jas. But, duh, do the math! Marianne wasn't born til 1960 or so. And thus far I've mostly written about stuff that happened in the 1950's. Also, by the early 1960's Mom was plenty wise concerning our ways with toys and windows and bikes and pets and first generation TV remote controls and swivelling easy chairs and other things.

Mom would never have let Me and Sam and Jas out of her sight with something as fragile as a one or two or three or four or five year old. As a result I was too old by the time Marianne became available to participate in interesting events out of sight of Mom to remember her as a participant in many interesting stories, although there are a few. There is, for instance, the interplay of Jippon and Lion-Lion. I haven't gotten around to writing about that yet even though Jas and Sam and I were talking about Lion-Lion just the other week. We were wondering where he is, something we periodically do. We know where Jippon is, but we don't know where Lion-Lion is.

But I have digressed. . .

August is supposed to be hot. It was always really hot when I was a kid, and it was always hot before this year. And just to prove I can do investigative journalism I asked the lily lady the other day if she ever remembers an August as cool as this one, and she can't remember one either. The lily lady has been growing daylillies up there above Fairview Village since back when I first commuted to Fort Washington 33 years ago. Her gardens looked old then, and she looked old then. She has to be twenty, maybe even thirty, years older than me. She's so old I'm amazed each time I stop to look over her garden and find her still alive to answer her door.

So this is not just me. The lily lady said this is the coolest August she ever remembers. So where is all this global warming I've been hearing about?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Grinches who plan to steal Christmas

Edward John Craig over at's Planet Gore blog noticed that the Bronx Zoo has cancelled it's Christmas Light display for this Christmas to save energy and supposedly preserve the planet. says the Wildlife Conservation Society cancelled the Christmas lights because running them for 33 nights used as much electricity as a three person household uses in a year.

Treehugger didn't calculate the effect on all the tens of thousands of children in New York who enjoy the light show and whose lives will be just a little bit poorer for their lack. It also didn't mention that all the thousands of people who won't be going to the zoo on any given evening to see the Christmas lights will either be staying at home on that night with the lights and TV, or they will be out somewhere else doing something that will be using electricity. Finally, Treehugger didn't mention that one of the reasons people who earn enough money to support themselves choose to live in expensive, dangerous, cramped, smelly, ugly and noisy cities is because of the excitement of institutions like zoos and family oriented special events like Christmas lights at the zoo which can only be done when you have lots of people nearby to enjoy them and pay for them.

And, guess what, people who choose to live in dense cities, like the Bronx, are much more efficient users of energy than those of us who have abandoned the cities for all the reasons I listed above. That's because people who live in cities use mass transit a lot more than suburbanites and they tend to live in smaller and more energy efficient homes and apartments than suburbanites. If one or two families out of all the millions of families in New York is pushed over the edge and decides to move to the suburbs because of this kind of stupid, meaningless, self-righteous, nanny-state kind of stuff their decision will probably result in far more energy use and harm to the environment than this dumb decision will save.

Electricity usage is ubiquitous in our modern culture. A far better use of Treehugger's and The Nature Conservancy's time would be to convince people one person at a time to go back to living in caves and cowering in the dark under animal skins from when the sun goes down until it comes up again in the morning.

All treehuggers are not imbeciles, but the folks at The Nature Conservancy who made this decision certainly are. Another thing, I bet they made this decision after a long meeting in an air-conditioned conference room where they drank coffee shipped from South America, tea shipped from India and bottled water shipped from France.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sonny is in the hospital

I just called Sonny and talked to him. Angie called me earlier to tell me he was in the hospital.

Sonny is in Shore Memorial Hospital down in Somers Point. He was at the beach with Pat and the kids for what was supposed to be a week, but he had to go to the emergency room with back pains after a couple of days. They thought he had a kidney stone and sent him back to the beach house; but then it turned to a pretty serious infection that gave him a fever so high he was delirious. Checking him over for that they found what they think may be a heart problem. So he's there until at least Monday when they plan to do a stress test.

We're all walking masses of potential problems. Once the docs start rigorously probing and testing our well used bodies they find all sorts of stuff.

The good news it that Sonny sounds to be in fine fettle and he's looking forward to getting back home after Monday, or at least getting transferred to a Philly hospital if he needs any further tests or such.

During our conversation Sonny filled in a detail that I never knew about Uncle Froggy. Turns out he eventually had his back hair shaved off after people kidded him about it for long enough. Who woulda thunk it? Uncle Froggy was a metrosexual way back in the 1960's.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Of sailing ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings

When I started thinking about this post it was going to be about Harold W heartily welcoming me and my dad as new neighbors in 1979 or so. I was going to title it “Guns and Poses” because Harold was carrying a rifle that day even though it wasn’t hunting season. I know it wasn't hunting season because after saying "Hello Neighbors," and shaking hands Harold saw me glance at the rifle and he said he was going down to the woods to see who was shooting down there since it wasn't hunting season. In Norristown and in Trooper where we used to live people didn't carry rifles when they went to talk to people.

Then I got to wondering how Pop could have been with me when I met Mr. W the first time. I remember the meeting taking place up along the swale between Harold’s corn field and our property. But that’s across Doony Brook from Pop’s house, so how could Pop have gotten there?

That got me to thinking about Doony Brook, and the incorrect sign the township politicians put down on Route 29 that labels it "Donny Brook" even though I told them when they were talking about it that it's labelled "Doony Brook on the plat for our property. Years after I first met him Harold said he also told them it was called Doony Brook when I asked him about it. Mr. C, who was old as dirt, also said he told them it was called Dooney Brook but that's no surprise because we bought the property from him so he had seen the plat. For a little while then this post was going to be titled “Doony Brook, Dummies and Donnybrooks,” but then I got to trying to remember how Pop was dressed at that first meeting with Mr. W. My idea was to use my mental image of him as a memory aid to decide whether he was really there. And that got me on the subject of the various images Pop presented in different places at different times.

After thinking about that for a while I decided to title the post “Pop and Hip-Hop,” because it was going to be about the possibility that Pop started an important if regrettable social trend. Pop, you see, was from the hood, and he was always of the hood even after he moved away from it, although you would never guess that if you saw him in a suit at a funeral or a wedding looking more like Johnny Carson than Johnny Carson. But at home in Trooper or Collegeville, or even for a quick trip to the Wawa, when he was in relaxed mode Pop occasionally wore the elastic top of his boxer shorts smartly pulled up way above the waist of his sagging shorts. And he did that long before those rapper gangstas started wearing clothes with that kind of style and flair. Pop was every bit as capable as Mr. W of presenting a memorable image to new neighbors.

Thinking about Pop in his glory got me on a long riff about Pop’s colorful pals. Like Louie Jiggs and Louie Hop. Louie Hop also presented multiple memorable images to different audiences. I remember him as a friendly man in slacks and a loose shirt who would walk us kids down to Babes and buy us an ice cream or a lemonade. And I remember him as a very big and daunting man when he was sitting, scowling, on his stoop in a wifebeater tee shirt while his wife was singing, that’s what Mom told us she was doing, in the house. Sitting on the stoop at such times Louie Hop was a sort of Luca Brasi looking character, scary, with an unfriendly face and a far away look and lots of black hair on his arms and chest - lots of hair.

Uncle Froggy had lots of hair on his back when he had his shirt off at the beach, and he sometimes scowled and acted like he was mean. And he had a gruff and very loud voice, but Uncle Froggy wasn’t scary, at least not to me. He was never gruff and mean acting at the beach. He was just like a big kid playing in the surf with me and Matty and Sonny. I think Sam and Jas were a little scared of him, but they were really little kids then.

When Uncle Froggy was working the counter at Babes and me and Matty went in for lemonade Matty would give him a dollar for two big lemonades and he would give us each two quarters back as change, sometimes even three quarters each. I was pretty good with money even as a little kid and I asked Matty about it one time when we were walking back up to Grandmom L's house on Walnut Street. He told me not to worry about it. And he surely knew about such things because he was older.

Louie Jiggs used to do stuff like that too. Pop would give him a dollar or two for giving me, Sam and Jas haircuts, and he would give each of us a quarter or two quarters. Pop almost never asked us to give him those quarters, so we would go to Babes for lemonade, and if Uncle Froggy was there you would give him a quarter for a lemonade and get three dimes or six nickels back as change, sometimes even some extra pennies as well. Pennies were important in those days. You could buy a little pack of red hots for a penny, or was it two pennies? Sometimes Pop would borrow our quarters if he and Mom had been quietly talking at the kitchen table about money being really tight, but money wasn't often that tight. And even if Pop borrowed our quarters we would still get the lemonade if Uncle Froggy was at the counter at Babes, or we would get a soda if Lou was at the counter at Lou's.

I saw Pop maybe save Louie Hop’s life one day. Mrs. Hop, you see, was chasing Louie around his car in front of their house, two doors down from our house, and she had a little gun in her hand and it was going bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. Or was it bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang? At any rate Pop went out after Mom sort of peeled me away from the screen door, and he took the gun off of Mrs. Hop after saying something like, “Come on Florence, you don’t really want to shoot him.” I think I remember him saying that, but Mom or Pop might have told me what he said to Mrs. Hop. Mom always said to us that "I grabbed you kids" to pull us away from the screen door, so that would mean that Sam must have been there with me. Jas was much too small then to be standing at the screen door. I don't remember Sam being there. But I remember that little gun.

I also remember how funny Louie Hop looked running around that car. But I can't remember what kind of car it was. There's a funny thing about the Hops. I can't remember their real last name. I remember that Florence was Mrs. Hop's real first name but I don't remember her last name because I never knew Louie Hop as anything but Louie. The "Hop" was to distinguish him from Louie Jiggs if Pop and Barber and The Count and Lardy and Cappy and Worm and Doc and Chink were talking about him at the corner.

I seem to remember that I called Mrs. Hop "Mrs" and not Florence. That was odd because I only called a few people "Mr." or "Mrs." back then. Mrs. G was definitely Mrs. G for instance. None of us kids would have dared to call her Florence. But I called Betty P "Betty" even though she was Frankie Jiggs wife, for example. And there is another oddity, because sometimes Pop and the boys called Frankie Jiggs "Barber", but he wasn't a barber, he was a politician, which I know because of the way Pop used to kid him about it. His brothers Louie and Charlie were both barbers, but Frankie wasn't. Come to think of it Frankie and Louie and Chollie had another brother, or did they?

I say Pop may have saved Louie Hop’s life because to this day I don’t rightly know if Mrs. Hop shot five or she shot six before she handed Pop the little gun. I also don't know whether she was really trying to hit Louie. Roy Rogers always hit whoever he was shooting at, and from a lot farther away than Mrs. Hop was from Louie. Another thing I don't know is whether she would actually have killed him if she had hit him. Roy Rogers never killed the people he shot, he just wounded them. Another thing, Louie Hop was a very big man and the gun was very little. It was a revolver that looked smaller than my cap gun, but it wasn't shiny like my cap gun. That I definitely remember, I think. It was probably a twenty-two caliber, but it might have been a thirty-eight. I was only four or five or six years old at the time.

I can’t remember whether I ever heard Mrs. Hop singing after that day. I don’t think I ever did. Much, much later Mom told me that she didn't think Louie ever hit Mrs. Hop after that day. Mom liked that story a lot. She thought Mrs. Hop was trying to hit Louie that day when she shot at him, but Pop always said he didn't think so. She was pretty close to him when she was chasing him around that car, but he was moving pretty quick. She was screaming something at him also, like she was mad or something, now that I think about it, but I can't remember what she was screaming and Mom and Pop never told me. There was lots of stuff I wanted to know that they never told me. I really wanted to know what Grandpop L sort of whispered in Italian that time everybody laughed so loud, but they wouldn't tell me. Pop always told me he would explain it when I was older. And then I forgot to ask him about it when I was older.

Pop also wouldn't tell me what it meant when Harry M yelled that sentence and waggled one finger at that woman when he was really mad. That sentence contained something like "Puttano" and "Du Leeowlo" and some other other Italian that I can't remember anymore. Pop smiled real broad when I repeated that sentence to him, but he never told me what it meant. Pat M also wouldn't tell me what that sentence meant even though for years after that he would waggle his finger and say "Pu. . . Pu" to his dad when Harry was acting cranky. And Harry would say, "Go ahead Patty, just go ahead."

Well, anyway, by this time I was well on the way to the barbershop, excuse me, salon, for my monthly clip. And I had to turn off the Donald Westlake audio book in the CD player because with all of the above rolling around in my head it was impossible to pay proper attention to Westlake’s silly tale about two groups of small time hoods that are both preparing to rob the same corporate malefactor of great wealth. That crime is going to go way wrong, like Westlake’s crimes always do.

I had to turn off the booktape because the thoughts in my head were swimming faster than Michael Phelps as I drove to the salon, but not as straight. They were swimming around as fast as they used to back when I would have occasion to be talked to by Mrs. M, not Harry's Mrs M, John's Mrs. M who owned the luncheonette. Mrs. M was one of the world’s great talkers but her plot lines and time lines interweaved as capriciously as those of V.S. Naipaul, whose autobiographical pastiche I am again trying to read.

Anyway, I got thinking about the time Mom did Mrs. M's laundry when Mrs. M's washer broke down. Mrs. M was so pleased that she talked her way around to believing that she had hired Mom to do her laundry every week, and Mom didn’t realize she had maybe agreed to do Mrs. M’s laundry every week until a little later when her thoughts slowed down and straightened out. And Mom went over and apologized to Mrs. M for a long time because she didn’t have time to do her laundry. Mom was working then at Farm Credit for Mr. K, who limped even though he had that one special shoe with the big thick sole and heel. That was before Mr. K retired and the Egyptian became the boss at Farm Credit. I never saw him. I wonder if he really was an Egyptian. An Egyptian would have been pretty exotic in Trooper in those days although I guess that was in the 1980's so maybe he really was an Egyptian.

Mom was very precise sometimes and not so precise at other times. Some of her stories changed over time and then changed back, and some of her stories contradicted other stories. Mom liked the story about Mrs. M and the laundry a lot because she could never figure out just how she came to agree to do that laundry. When she told the story about the laundry she would always tell about the time that Sam took a big swig from the sweety bottle that was filled with used cooking oil. Sam thought it was soda. The sweety bottle story connected to the laundry because Mom used a sweety bottle to sprinkle her clothes with when she ironed. The sweety bottle also connected to Sam because he was late off the bottle when he was a toddler and mom used to say she ended up giving him his milk in a sweety bottle with a nipple. But that never made sense because the laundry sweety bottle and the used oil sweety bottle were no bigger than the baby bottle that Marianne was sucking from by about that time. Or was that later? Sam is much better than me with ages and years things happened.

Well, anyway, after a while I reached the Great Clips Salon by courtesy of the mysterious autopilot that handles things for me when I'm paying no attention to the road and yet still manage to get somewhere without getting things like bicycles and highway cones and pedestrians stuck onto the front of the car. But the autopilot wasn't working perfectly today because first it took me past the CVS instead of stopping to pick up my prescription and then it took me past the Redners shopping center where the Great Clips is even though the purpose of the whole trip was to get a haircut. So I had to turn around at the Acme and go back. All in all the autopilot was working like crap, but not as badly as the time it took me down to Bala Cynwyd to the empty building where I had my old job when it knew that I had been working in Fort Washington for almost two years. I wasn't too irritated that time it took me down to Bala Cynwyd because I was listening to a really good book tape that day.

Anyway, it was lucky the autopilot got a little turned around because then my whole plan for this post was turned around. I arrived at Great Clips just as one of the stylists was going home and a new stylist was coming back from her break. So I drew the new stylist, who was shaped like Louie Jiggs, but who talked like Mrs. M. Not that I need a stylist. I’m a number three clipper for the sides and a number four clipper for the few stray hairs on top. Anyway this new stylist wasn't a walrus, and she didn't talk about sailing ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings; but she did talk and talk and talk about wonderful things that took me right back to the old days.

She talked about going to Jersey with her father and brothers to buy pick your own tomatoes by the bushel. At first I thought she was talking about long ago but I later realized she meant now. She talked about hair dressing in Naples and in a couple of other cities in Italy. And she talked about her relatives in Rome and in Naples. And she talked about her brothers and her father and her making sauce, she called it sauce, she's from South Philly. She talked about them making enough sauce to put up a full year’s supply for several families. Great big vats of sauce put up in hundreds of jars. And this is now, not way back then. She threw in the names of people in Rome and in Naples and in Philly and how they are related and she even threw in some of that old who did what to whom and when. Just like Mom and Aunt Mary or Aunt Carmella used to when they really got cranked up. She talked about living in Lafayette Hill with her dad, and how he still makes wine and she cranks the grinder that pulps the grapes. Thirty boxes of grapes last year.

Grandpop L used to get a lot of boxes of grapes to pass down through the little window into the cellar. I cranked the grinder for him one time. But I didn’t crank it long. Matty did most of the cranking. Or was it Sonny? Matty and Medio used to go down and drink the wine sometimes because Matty knew where Grandpop hid the key. But they couldn't have drunk much of that wine. Nobody but Grandpop drank much of that wine.

I drank it a couple of times when I went down to the cellar with Grandpop to help him fill up one or two of the bottles with no labels that he had. We filled the bottles from the little brass spigot on the barrel after he unlocked the padlock. I never saw where he got the key because I was always looking at the press with its big gear and those slats on the sides and the heavy iron bottom with the little lip. I helped him one time when he squeezed the grapes with that press and I remember the wine running over that little lip. It tasted really sour to me when he gave me some in a glass he filled right from the little lip of the press. It tasted a little better when it came from the barrel but I still didn't like it.

Anyway I couldn’t think about that very well because the stylist was still talking about wonderful things. She makes sausage at home with the intestine for the skin. She uses a hand grinder. Her wrist hurts after she grinds the sausage. Her brother has a motor on his sausage grinder. He makes a lot of sausage. He likes hot sausage. She likes the sweet. She told me his name, but I can’t remember it. She has been a stylist for thirty years but she just started at this Great Clips. She used to work at another Great Clips a couple of years ago. Her and Dawn, I think it was Dawn. Or was it Cheryl? Her and Dawn or Cheryl started three weeks ago at Great Clips in Collegeville. She doesn’t mind the long commute from Lafayette Hill because it gives her time to think. And sometimes she listens to booktapes! So she must have an autopilot too. But I don't think she told me the names of any books.

And now I can’t remember her name so I’m not sure I will be able to get her to cut my hair and talk at me when I go again to Great Clips in a month or a couple of months.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Everything may not be perfect in Pennsylvania

Everything may not be perfect in Pennsylvania, but at least we don't have alligators in the streets. I hope Al and Doris have their dog on a short leash down there.

On the other hand there were also reports of catfish in the streets. Al and Doris may be having fish for dinner.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Anytime you want to be depressed read Dalrymple

I've been reading articles by Theodore Dalrymple for years. He's now retired, but he used to be a doctor for many years with the British National Health Service and before that a doctor at a clinic in Africa. He's an excellent writer who unfailingly makes depressing subjects interesting.

The link below will take you to his latest article in City-Journal Magazine. If you like what you see you can find years of his writings by following the links to the author archives at

Any of his old articles make good lunch time reading if you can stomach the sorts of things a mental health doctor is confronted with in a free clinic in a British slum.

Flash - Some Republicans are as dumb as Democrats

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican, wants to put huge windmills on top of his city's skyscrapers to make the city green. What especially caught my eye was that he was quoted by New York Times reporter Michael Barbaro as saying that he imagined the Statue of Liberty’s torch being one day “powered by an ocean wind farm.”

Duh! Mr. Mayor, with all due respect, the Statue of Liberty's torch doesn't have a light in it anymore. The old torch, which did have a light in it, was replaced by one covered with gold leaf when it was renovated in the 1980's. And, duh! Mister Barbaro, you might have followed up by reminding the mayor or pointing out in your article that Miss Liberty's torch is already powered by the renewable energy of. . . reflection.

I owe seeing this item to Greg Pollowitz at National Review's Planet Gore blog. Mr. Pollowitz, who is probably a lot smarter than Mayor Bloomberg and Mister Barbaro, and who is also probably a bit more of an engineer than me, noted that the Mayor ". . . didn't say which buildings (he wants windmills on) . . . probably because putting a giant windmill on top of a giant skyscraper creates engineering stresses that said building was not designed to absorb. . ."

You can read the whole thing at

Update - the more I think about it the more proud I am of avoiding the cheap temptation to go on with a very politically incorrect riff on this post given the probable ethnic backgrounds of Mayor Bloomberg, Mr. Barbaro, Mr. Pollowitz and Al Gore. Could it be that I'm finally maturing? Nah, it's just that to work that riff has to start "A Jew, a Dago and a WASP pedal their bikes from an environmental conference to a smoke free smoothie bar where they find a Polack smoking a cigar and sipping a bourbon,". . . I'm not fully pleased with the rest of the joke as I've developed it so far. If anyone comments with a better completion than I have it will be posted here for posterity to admire.

Update 2 - August 21st
"NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Michael Bloomberg is backing off his suggestion to put windmills on city bridges and rooftops after newspapers mocked the idea with photo illustrations of turbines on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.
"There are aesthetic considerations," Bloomberg said. "No. 2, I have absolutely no idea whether that makes any sense from a scientific, from a practical point of view.""

So now Mayor Bloomberg admits he was an idiot last week. It's a fair guess that he's still an idiot. What a maroon.

The whole article is here -

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Darwin Award candidate

One of my cleverest Christmas presents ever was when I gave Alex a Darwin Awards desk calendar when he was about 18 years old. The calendar described one award winner on each of its 365 pages. Here's a potential candidate for a Darwin although I hope he survives and thus doesn't achieve full qualification for the award.

Bernard Cornwell - feh!, V.S. Naipaul - double feh!

I finished reading "Redcoat" a week or so ago and just realized I haven't commented on it. It's too blah to comment on beyond saying that Cornwell's Sharpe novels are much much better. It may be that Cornwell was just lazy, or it may just be that the American Revolutionary War is boring, boring, boring. I'm glad those bewigged fellows did it but I'm never going to read about it again.

So, reeling in horror from "Redcoat," I picked up V.S. Naipaul's book "The Enigma Of Arrival" only to find myself plunged into the sort of introspective mess which clearly appeals to some people but which makes me rabid. Naipaul, whose book "The Bend in the River" I very much enjoyed, Naipaul proceeds to take his very interesting life story and make it terminally boring by examining it in such detail and confusing it with so many flashbacks and forward leaps that after about a hundred pages I was hoping he would be set upon by a frenzied fox and then be run over by a horn blowing pack of pursuing fox hunters. I was only half way through when I put it down to pick up "Sharpe's Escape" to prove to myself that Cornwell hadn't gone senile or something before he wrote "Redcoat" - he hadn't.

One of those old philosopher dudes is famous for saying 'the unexamined life isn't worth living.' Whole packs of dull thinkers have made livings out of approvingly discussing that saying over the millenia. Well I'm here to tell you that the overexamined life should be ended by a rabid fox and then be trampled into the flinty earth of the English countryside by the thundering hooves of a pack of overbred horses.

What made the Naipaul book doubly annoying - no, triply annoying - is that my copy, bought used at Wolfgang Books down in Phoenixville, is endlessly underlined and annotated by the sort of prissy over analytical English Literature student who should himself be crept up on by mangy canids with little flecks of white foam dripping from their slavering jaws.

I can well understand why the other Greeks, the ones with good practical common sense, made that Socrates guy drink the Hemlock which worked so slow that they had to listen to him drone on and on for hours before he finally stopped. There probably wasn't a rabid fox handy at the time. Nature red in tooth and claw has a lot to recommend it.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The most important issue in this election

This news video spells out the most important issue facing us as we decide how to vote in November. It's worth watching two times, once for the audio and once to read the scroll at the bottom. Hat tip to John Derbyshire, the crankiest poster on The Corner, which is one of National Review Magazine's blogs. Mr. Derbyshire did the investigative journalism to uncover this important information.

Update - just after I posted the link to the election video above I came upon a post by Jonah Goldberg at National Review that made me scratch my head until I realized how obviously true it is.

It seems that someone ran a poll that showed pet owners tend to prefer McCain while people who don't have pets tend to prefer Obama. It sounded unlikely at first but then I realized that my brother Sam, who has a stouthearted dog, prefers McCain, while my brother Jas, who doesn't have a pet, prefers Obama. I have a loyal frog, and guess what, I prefer McCain. My son Alex, who doesn't have a pet, prefers Obama.

Give me green power, but don't give me power lines

Environmentalist say they want green power, but when someone actually tries to give them green power they make it impossible because they don't want anyone to build the power lines necessary to deliver the power. This is going to be a very big fight because if the country is going to go over to renewable power in a real way the little power line links talked about in the column below are tiny compared to what will be necessary. Going over completely to renewables as folks like Al Gore suggest would mean thousands of miles of big power corridors spreading out across the whole country to hold superconducting electric lines surrounded by liquid hydrogen pipelines to keep them cold.

This opinion column in the Wall Street Journal tells the story - - I've pasted a copy of the article below because the WSJ requires registration.

Wind JammersAugust 18, 2008

In this year's great energy debate, Democrats describe a future when the U.S. finally embraces the anything-but-carbon avant-garde. It turns out, however, that when wind and solar power do start to come on line, they face a familiar obstacle: environmentalists and many Democrats.
To wit, the greens are blocking the very transmission network needed for renewable electricity to move throughout the economy.

The best sites for wind and solar energy happen to be in the sticks -- in the desert Southwest where sunlight is most intense for longest, or the plains where the wind blows most often. To exploit this energy, utilities need to build transmission lines to connect their electricity to the places where consumers actually live. In addition to other technical problems, the transmission gap is a big reason wind only provides two-thirds of 1% of electricity generated in the U.S., and solar one-tenth of 1%.

Only last week, Duke Energy and American Electric Power announced a $1 billion joint venture to build a mere 240 miles of transmission line in Indiana necessary to accommodate new wind farms. Yet the utilities don't expect to be able to complete the lines for six long years -- until 2014, at the earliest, because of the time necessary to obtain regulatory approval and rights-of-way, plus the obligatory lawsuits.

In California, hundreds turned out at the end of July to protest a connection between the solar and geothermal fields of the Imperial Valley to Los Angeles and Orange County. The environmental class is likewise lobbying state commissioners to kill a 150-mile link between San Diego and solar panels because it would entail a 20-mile jaunt through Anza-Borrego state park. "It's kind of schizophrenic behavior," Arnold Schwarzenegger said recently. "They say that we want renewable energy, but we don't want you to put it anywhere."

California has a law mandating that utilities generate 20% of their electricity from "clean-tech" by 2010. Some 24 states have adopted a "renewable portfolio standard," while Barack Obama wants to impose a national renewable mandate. But the states, with the exception of Texas, didn't make transmission lines easier to build, though it won't prevent them from penalizing the power companies that fail to meet an impossible goal.

Texas is now the wind capital of America (though wind still generates only 3% of state electricity) because it streamlined the regulatory and legal snarls that block transmission in other states. By contrast, though Pennsylvania's Democratic Governor Ed Rendell adopted wind power as a main political plank, he and Senator Bob Casey are leading a charge to repeal a 2005 law that makes transmission lines slightly easier to build.

Wind power has also become contentious in oh-so-green Oregon, once people realized that transmission lines would cut through forests. Transmissions lines from a wind project on the Nevada-Idaho border are clogged because of possible effects on the greater sage grouse. Similar melodramas are playing out in Arizona, the Dakotas, the Carolinas, Tennessee, West Virginia, northern Maine, upstate New York, and elsewhere.

In other words, the liberal push for alternatives has the look of a huge bait-and-switch. Washington responds to the climate change panic with multibillion-dollar taxpayer subsidies for supposedly clean tech. But then when those incentives start to have an effect in the real world, the same greens who favor the subsidies say build the turbines or towers somewhere else. The only energy sources they seem to like are the ones we don't have.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Say hello to my little friend

I haven’t watched the Olympics very much, but I did watch Michael Phelps win one of his seven gold medals the other day. He’s an incredible athlete, like all of those who get to the Olympics, only more so. Michael Phelps is in the very prime of life and at the very peak of possible physical condition. He can probably generate nearly a half horsepower for long enough to swim a hundred meters, and he can probably generate one-third horsepower all day long, like most superbly conditioned athletes.

As hard as it may be to believe, there was a time when I could have stood next to Michael Phelps in a pair of swim trunks without complete embarrassment. I certainly wasn’t in anything like his perfect shape, but I could probably muster one-quarter horsepower for a while. Of course, that was a very long time and many cheese steaks and packs of cigarettes ago. In my present condition - with my 220 pounds somewhat differently distributed around my body than they were back in that brief season – I can maybe sustain a couple-tenths of a horsepower for the minute or so it takes me to power a bow saw through a round of maple about the thickness of my thigh.

I wish I could generate more horsepower when I want to cut thicker rounds of wood, but I can’t, at least not for any sustained period of time. Not that it matters, for I have a moderately powerful little buddy to help me. It’s a two and half horsepower electric chainsaw with a fourteen inch bar. It will power through tree trunks up to about twenty inches in diameter without the slightest hint of strain although it needs a bit of skill once the diameter exceeds the length of its bar.

I bought the electric saw a couple of years ago to replace an old four horsepower gasoline model with a twenty two inch bar when the old saw’s starter clutch finally gave up the ghost after like a million pulls. I considered getting a comparable new gas model, but there had been a few incidents with the old saw over the years, especially as I got older and my hands and arms lost a bit of their strength. So I replaced it with a tool quite a bit less powerful in a rare demonstration of good sense.

My old gas powered saw could cut through bark as thick as a boot top and go on to sever a round of wood as thick as an instep in a heartbeat, even when it wasn’t fully revved up. Fully revved up, it could slice through a tree limb as thick as a thigh in the time Long John Silver could scream “Shiver me timbers.” It could also kick its chain back at someone’s forehead with the strength of four mules when someone wasn’t careful enough handling it.

My electric saw is much less daunting. It will cut through a round of wood as thick as an ankle or an instep very easily, but it takes a bit of time to do it. It’s true that it will go through a limb as thick as a thumb in an eye-blink, but the thing is designed in such a way that one’s right thumb must be on the trigger safety in order to make it run, and I’m much too old and wise now to operate a chain saw without having my left hand, with its thumb, firmly in control of the kickback preventer grip. Additionally the thing hardly ever kicks back very hard at all because of its much shorter bar. All in all, it’s very safe. It’s highly unlikely to do me more damage in a careless second or two than a good emergency room crew can correct in a few hours. And its final safety feature is that it’s literally impossible for me to stray out of sight of the house with it because of the extension cord.

Not that I take it for granted. I handle it with a certain amount of care, and I stop handling it when my hands and arms get tired. Finally, I only use it when Linda is home to drive me someplace in a hurry in the highly unlikely event that I should for some reason need to be driven someplace in a hurry.

So anyway, earlier today I was down the driveway cleaning up some big fallen limbs with a machete and my bow saw when I came upon a nest of those big ants that live where side branches have rotted out. I learned a long time ago that those ants can bite way above their weight class and they can definitely find their way up the handle of a bow saw to a tender wrist when they’re irritated. I was already getting a bit tired from hand sawing anyway so I went and got the chain saw.

Now you have to understand that I’m accustomed to talking to annoying little furry things and obstinate trees and stuff when I’m alone way out in the woods. I’ve even said a choice word to an ant that bit me. So it was no surprise at all that I put on my best Tony Montana voice and gave the ants a bit of warning after I was set with the chainsaw.

“Say hello to my little friend,” I said to the ants as I revved the thing. And then I realized my neighbor was out on her porch near the driveway. Well, hopefully she’s an Al Pacino fan.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

It's August - time for a game of Risk

Back in the old days before air conditioning and these new fangled computer things were all the rage the middle of August was prime time for long games of Pinochle, Risk, Stratego or Monopoly on the picnic table out under the apple tree. If Carl S came over we always played pinochle but otherwise the board games were the favorites. And Risk was the favorite among the board games, which was fortunate because most of us learned a lot more about world geography from Risk than we learned from Sister Mary Stickwielder.

We learned, for instance, that Australia was the best continent to control because there was only the one entry point from Siam to Indonesia. The player who ended up in control of Australia after the initial war of all against all was almost always the eventual winner if he controlled himself and simply patiently built up a super massive army in Siam, fighting only enough to conquer either China or India each turn to get a risk card and then leaving one sacrificial army in that country for another player to take to get his risk card.

While the struggle for Australia was going on another struggle would be going on for South America, which was the consolation prize since it had only two entry points to defend.

The two or three or four players who found themselves driven out of both Australia and South America had to fight and exhaust themselves uselessly over North America, impossible to defend with its three entry points. Or else they had to retreat to the out of the way places like Siberia and Yakutsk or South Africa and Madagascar to play a waiting game of slowly building ever larger armies defending useless territories that no one else would have reason to attack.

Then things would settle down to a war of nerves as armies piled ever higher and the players with Australia and South America began slow inevitable expansions, conquering one country at a time until the stalemate cracked open when one of them decided he had the means to try to take and hold North America, or Asia or Africa. That's when Ukraine and Middle East started to come into play. Ukraine was key to holding Europe or defending Asia while Middle East was key to holding Asia or Defending Europe. Many more Risk armies fought and died in Ukraine and Middle East than ever died in any ten of the other countries on the board except on those rare and usually insane occasions when someone decided to try to crack Australia with a massive death or glory attack involving all his forces. But usually it came down to Ukraine or the Middle East as either the tinderbox or the site of the armageddon battle that had to happen before it was time for lunch or supper.

Just like now, only in the real world, for yesterday Ukraine told the Russkis that it would not permit the Russian fleet at Sebastopol to leave port to attack Georgia, a country so small that it isn't even on the Risk map. Georgia is an undefined part of either Ukraine or Middle East depending on how you squint your eyes when you look at the Risk map. Even on the real world map Georgia is so tiny a country that its hard to find. A little tiny sliver South of Russia, East of Azerbaijan and North of Turkey and Armenia, a sliver that is drawn differently on different maps depending on the date they were drawn.

The Russians have been slyly and more or less quietly taking over a couple of parts of Georgia for the past ten years. The parts the Russkis have been taking over are Ossetia and Abkhazia, slivers so small that they're hard to find even on real world maps unless you blow them up real big. Blow them up with a magnifying glass I mean, not blow them up with the hydrogen bomb or two that would easily suffice for either of them.

Well, for the past couple of months the Russkis have been secretly building up a little pile of armies near Georgia, and all the while they have been patiently giving the Ossetians some surplus guns and rockets and stuff to shoot at the Georgians with. This finally got to be like way too much for the Georgians, so they decided to kick some serious Ossetian ass with a little pile of armies that they have been patiently building up.

So that brought us up to 8/8/08, a day so auspicious to the Chinese that they moved the start of the Olympics to coincide with it. Well, it turned out that 8/8/08 was also special for the Russkis, for that was the day, when the whole world was looking at folks singing and dancing and swimming and acrobatting and such in China, when they decided to start their pile of armies toward where it could kick some serious Georgian ass, something they proceeded to do while the smiling president of the Russkis was the Olympic swimmers along with the smiling president of the North Americans and the smiling presidents of the Australians and the Africans and the Europeans.

Now you can imagine the history and state of the game. Russkis tickle Ossetians. Ossetians kick Georgian ass. Georgians kick Ossetian ass with their little pile of armies. Russians kick Georgian ass with their bigger pile of armies. Ukrainians, who have a pretty big little pile of armies of their own, warn Russians that they will not permit Russia to kick Georgian ass with their navy. And the Ukrainians can do this because the Russian navy in the Black Sea is all based at a port which is sort of controlled by Ukraine. Who thinks that kind of shit up? The designers of the Risk game would never have been so stupid or careless as to put one country's navy port in a whole other country, if there were navies in the Risk Game that is.

So, it's mid August and the great Risk game is underway just like in the old days. No one knows whether the Russians will be a bit peeved and decide to kick serious Ukrainian ass with the moderately big pile of armies that they haven't been using to "adjust" the set of Georgian buttocks. And no one knows whether the folks who have a middle sized pile of armies in Europe or the folks who have a big pile of armies in North America will decide whether now is the time to risk it all.

And don't even think about what the folks who have the great big pile of armies in China are thinking after seeing the Russkis do a great big number two all over the Olympic moment they've been looking forward to for ten years. Even like a million years ago the Greeks were courteous enough to kick no ass and do no number twos on one another during the Olympics. "Thou shalt kick no ass during the Olympics" is like one of the oldest international laws ever invented, right after "Thou shalt not bogart another king's main squeeze until after you stick a sword in his gut" and "Thou shalt not make like mincemeat out of another king's ambassadors and then get cute and send them back to him baked in a pie."

But I have digressed. We were talking about Ukraine and Middle East and Ural and Afghanistan on the Risk board, the equivalents of Ukraine and Georgia and Ossetia and Abkhazia and Azerbaijan and Russia and Turkey and Iran and Iraq and a whole bunch of other little countries on the world map with all its pretty colors and neat borders.

Did I mention that after August comes the Fall and then the cold Winter. And a middle sized oil pipeline goes through Georgia while a lot of big honking oil and gas pipelines go through Ukraine. Oh, and did I also mention that Risk was a great game for it's day but it was already out of date even in the 1950's and 1960's. By then an even better game had been invented, a game that Matthew Broderick selected when he hacked into the big defense computer during that movie, a game called Global Thermonuclear War.

But surely nobody in the real world would play that game. We're far too civilized in this day and age for war games in the real world.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I haven't mentioned my garden lately

I haven't mentioned my garden because I've been too busy picking and hauling.

I just picked about twenty pounds of tomatoes, three zucchinis and a bunch of basil. Fortunately Linda took about twenty pounds of tomatoes with her this morning to give to people at her workplace, and Jas and Sam have also taken some. Otherwise we'd be awash in the darn things even though I've been cooking so many of them so many different ways for dinners that Linda is starting to get that look she got earlier in the season when we were eating Swiss Chard every day. We've had baked stuffed tomatoes, bruschetta, tomatoes and zucchini, eggplant from Sam's garden stuffed with tomatoes, tomatoes in salads, etc., etc., etc.

Yesterday I made fresh gravy (that's sauce to you barbarians) from tomatoes, basil, onions, celery and, I'm ashamed to admit, bought meatballs. I put it on those dried cheese tortellinis they sell in the market. The best part is that I finally tried Molto Mario's trick of cooking the tortellinis very al dente and then finishing them for a couple of minutes in a large saucepan with the sauce. Excellent!

Word has it that Al R down in Florida has a garden as well. I heard that the cartoonists and animators who drew the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree show are heading to Lady Lake to take a look at Al's tomato plants. Seems they may pick one of them to star in a new show called Charlie Brown's Tomato Plant.

At least that's what I heard. . .

"Environmentalists" reveal their true colors

Reason Magazine has a good article about environmental groups which are fighting against solar power plants here -

Solar electric power costs something like four to five times as much as power from coal plants but even if you want to pay that you have to realize that there are a lot of environmentalists who are going to fight big time against building solar power plants. The biggest problem with solar is that you need a lot of land, a lot of land at least as understood by people who live in cities.

Anyone who has been to the Mojave Desert or Death Valley knows that there are many areas out there where you could put a huge power plant that would never be seen except by the most dedicated hikers. And don't even get me started about the amount of no-name waste land there is in Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico. My brother Jas and I drove a twenty three hundred mile circuit out there a few years ago during a week of hiking and sightseeing. There are some very beautiful and interesting areas, but there are also long, long stretches where no one but a crazy prospector in deep love with his burro would be eager to leave the main roads. Even in the national parks there are large areas where you see no one for long periods of time if you walk more than a couple of miles from the main park headquarters.

If environmentalists won't allow solar power plants to be built on waste land what will they allow?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Once more into the breech

There is probably no more literate and thoughtful geopolitics site on the web than Commentary Magazine's "Contentions" blog but that doesn't mean that folks there don't sometimes see other world issues through lenses colored by their positions on other issues so I found myself in a back and forth with a couple of very well informed fellows. I've removed comments by other parties that didn't bear on the thread.

Russia, Georgia, and IranNoah Pollak - 08.12.2008 - 11:42 AM
The response of the West to Russia’s invasion has been to dress up in tough rhetoric a helpless message: What can we do? And there isn’t much the free world can do. The most aggressive proposals consist only of arming the Georgian army and throwing military and diplomatic support behind other nations which live in Russia’s crosshairs. One important reality narrows options and prevents serious consideration of a First Gulf War-style response: the fact that Russia is a nuclear power.
This is a lesson surely not lost on the Iranian regime, which like Russia has territorial designs on its neighbors, wishes to play an outsized role in its region, and views an American-allied democracy on its borders (Iraq) with about as much benevolence as Putin views such nations on his borders. Those who confidently predict a “containable and deterrable” nuclear Iran should consider the suddenly not-so-deterrable nuclear Russia and ask themselves whether such confidence is warranted.

10 Responses to “Russia, Georgia, and Iran”

2J.E. Dyer Says: August 12th, 2008 at 12:03 PM
Perfect, Noah. The problem with the nuclear-armed Soviet Union was always that it was NOT containable. We never succeeded in containing it, unless you credit the 53+-year armistice in Korea to the “contained” column.
Those who think it would be better to “contain” Iran than disarm Iran misread the history of containment (or don’t even know it).
The “contained” don’t have to directly confront the US, NATO, or anyone else with strategic nukes, to steadily push back our line of “containment.” Their method will be the one perfected by the Soviets: attack nations on the periphery — by subterfuge if possible, rather than outright military invasion — and calculate that, again and again, we will consider ourselves out of position, or not obligated, to respond.
Consider that during the years of the USSR’s existence, there was only one occasion when the US or any other Western power literally reversed, with force, a Soviet-client Marxist coup or incursion in a third party nation. Where did we do this? Grenada. From 1917 to 1989: Grenada.
Containment ain’t all that.

3Sully Says: August 12th, 2008 at 12:22 PM
Noah Pollak - I wholeheartedly agree that a nuclear Iran is a seriously bad prospect, but this is a seriously overstretched analogy.
J.E. Dyer - You missed Afghanistan as an example of where a Soviet incursion was reversed.
And both of you missed Vietnam, where a non-nuclear state took over a neighbor despite our massive effort over a very long period.

4Noah Pollak Says: August 12th, 2008 at 12:31 PM
Sully, The point of the analogy was to show that when a state with large regional ambitions is also a nuclear power, the ability of its rivals to deter its aggression is significantly reduced. The Soviet incursion into Afghanistan was indeed reversed, but only after years of bloodshed; more importantly, the vital point here which bolsters my argument, and J.E.’s argument, is that the Soviets felt sufficiently undeterred that they launched the incursion in the first place. With nukes, the Iranians will no doubt feel the same way toward, say, Bahrain. Which is exactly my point. No?

5Forbes Says: August 12th, 2008 at 12:37 PM
Shorter version: Under a policy of deterrence and containment, a nuclear power is neither sufficiently deterred, nor contained, to prevent acts of aggression.

6J.E. Dyer Says: August 12th, 2008 at 12:44 PM
Sully — nope, didn’t miss either of them. We failed to contain the Soviet client in Vietnam. Period. We lost the whole country to the Soviet client (Hanoi) and the Soviet orbit. Within six months of the fall of Saigon, the Soviet Navy and Air Force were using the old bases in South Vietnam to patrol the South China Sea.
In Afghanistan we supported the rebel tribes, whose persistence and ungovernability eventually induced a Soviet Union that was pulling in its horns on all fronts to withdraw from there also. It’s arguable how to call this one, but I don’t include it with Grenada for several reasons, such as the ten years the Soviet Army occupied Afghanistan, and the sea change that had already been induced by Reagan’s policies in the Soviet posture: agreeing to the INF treaty; not responding when Poland effectively declared her political independence, and Czechoslovakia hers, or when Austria opened her border to the East Germans; remaining passive and impotent as Iraq and Iran duelled in the Persian Gulf, and the US performed the role of enforcer for the safety of international shipping there.
A strong case can be made that we got the Soviets out of Afghanistan — which, after all, IS in Russia’s back yard, and matters to her security as Mexico does to ours — not through a “containment” policy, but by the destruction of the Soviet Union itself, through the package of pressures applied by Reagan. That’s why I don’t include it as a victory for “containment.” The very definition of containment means that you don’t defeat or transform the opposing power itself, you merely pen it in behind a containing perimeter.
And the truth is, that never worked. Only forcing the Soviet Union to disintegrate stopped her career of expansion.

7Sully Says: August 12th, 2008 at 12:46 PM
Noah, Again, no argument that Iran will feel more free with nukes, but they already feel pretty darn free to mess around in Iraq without them and they feel pretty darn free to intimidate about the Straits of Hormuz without them. And I suspect that Russia, with its massive conventional forces, would feel pretty darn free to mess with Georgia without them as it did in breaking its assurances about eastern Europe after WW2 without them given the logistics and such of anybody else making an issue of it.
Everything isn’t comparable to Iran just as everything isn’t comparable to Munich.

8Sully Says: August 12th, 2008 at 1:01 PM
J.E. Dyer, Good points. And with this “And the truth is, that never worked. Only forcing the Soviet Union to disintegrate stopped her career of expansion” I totally agree.
The problem in Iran is the regime and it will remain a problem as long as it exists.
Re Vietnam - I was over there in a destroyer helping to guard the minesweeper which were pretending to sweep the probably self-deactivated mines in Haiphong harbor. And I was over there a couple of years before that in a different ship to observe the kind of shouldering and electronic harassment we delivered to the Soviet intelligence trawler that periodically visited Yankee Station. I actually had the conn of an aircraft carrier during one such exercise which caused them to leave the area in a hurry and stay away for a while. “What’s the bearing of the trawler? “207 degrees.” “Make your speed 30 knots and make your course 207 degrees.” And then a bit later when he was about 5,000 yards away - “Come right one degree.”
We lost South Vietnam because of self-deterrence rather than deterrence by the Soviets.

9Dellis Says: August 12th, 2008 at 1:05 PM
Another analogy to this situation is our allied Gulf states within range of Iranian nuclear missiles. They have seen how little the U.S. will do to protect its ally Georgia in the face of an invasion by a nuclear armed adversery. Why would Saudi Arabia & friends not conclude that they need nuclear weapons too, since the U.S. nuclear shield is nowhere near 100% credible? Do we really want every nation in the world armed with nuclear weapons? How soon until one of these made its hands into terrorists, or until a minor row between states escalated to nuclear war? This is surely America’s national interest at stake, no matter how narrowly you define what America’s interests really are.

10Seth Halpern Says: August 12th, 2008 at 1:07 PM
I hope nobody here is implying that we could invade, regime-change and “reform” Russia even if we had nukes and they didn’t. Maybe the first two things, certainly not the third. If our objective is to unhitch the Slavs from their Slav mentality, way better to rely on natural demographics until Russia shrinks out of its self-imposed harness and explores alternative arrangements. But by then we may need them against the Chinese anyway.

11J.E. Dyer Says: August 12th, 2008 at 2:18 PM
Sully — You say, “We lost South Vietnam because of self-deterrence rather than deterrence by the Soviets.”
Truer words were never spoken — but the pretext for our self-deterrence started with the USSR being a nuclear power, all the way back in 1954 when Ike decided not to assist the French at Dien Bien Phu. What people still don’t understand is that we NEVER intended to “win” in Vietnam: to defeat Hanoi and ensure that Vietnam was not subsumed in the Soviet orbit.
A whole cottage industry emerged in the early 1960s to define how to fight “limited wars” in the nuclear age. The basic premise was that no interest was worth a nuclear war to protect, and that we somehow had to figure out how to wage a satisfactory security policy without the “destabilizing” idea of actually changing whatever the current situation was.
So the Soviets could retain whatever they managed to present to us as an existing situation. This was a horrible, bloody travesty in Vietnam, where we lost 58,000 lives in our bid to avoid actually defeating Hanoi.
Your description of shouldering the intelligence collection trawlers (I remember those guys well from the 1980s) is quintessential Robert S. McNamara, Mr. Limited War/Limited Objectives himself. Achieving an actual military effect against North Vietnam would, in his view, have been provocative, destabilizing, and might bring us into direct conflict with the USSR or China. He actually thought it was a good idea, instead, to administer a series of tactical pinpricks to Hanoi and her sponsors, and call that a show of resolve.
This practice got us the Tonkin Gulf incident. It got us a lot of aviators shot down over North Vietnam. What it did NOT get us was any political impression on North Vietnam, other than that we weren’t serious, and would go away eventually if Hanoi could just hang on.
Hanoi was right, and McNamara was wrong. The Soviets were right: we would fold, in a struggle on the periphery, because they were nuclear. They never even had to issue a threat.

15Sully Says: August 12th, 2008 at 4:16 PM
J.E. Dyer,Again excellent points, but I’m not as sure as you that the nuclear issue was as defining as you state. Particularly I think it mixes up with the disadvantage a morally self limited democratic leader has when up against a bloody minded dictatorial one who cares not a whit (or appears not to) for the safety of his own population let alone that of his adversary.
For one example Eisenhower settled for a draw in Korea against a conventional armed China after Truman fired a bloody minded McArthur in part for suggesting stuff like a nuclear windbreak along the Yalu which would certainly have won the war albeit a bit messily. For another the same Kennedy who brought in McNamara and his system analyst idiots clumsily and riskily backed down the Soviets over the missiles in Cuba when the issue was closer to home.
The good guy necessarily cedes a huge advantage in caring about the population oppressed by the bad guy. Nuclear weapons magnify that advantage but they don’t create it.
Given Iran’s use of children as mine sweepers during the Iraq war I don’t want them to have nuclear weapons but they are a big problem regardless unless we plan to build up a sufficient force to invade and conquer them, which I seriously doubt.

16lester Says: August 12th, 2008 at 5:07 PM
or we could accept things aren’t perfect in the world and be thankfull we have more freedom that the people in iran and russia and china and use that freedom to out innovate them, make better movies, steal all their best and brightest, and beat them in the olympics every 4 years.
eventually they will give in when they see there is no hope in planned economies, something we’ve known since 1917 (google “economic calculation problem” )

17M. Simon Says: August 12th, 2008 at 5:35 PM
So the Soviets could retain whatever they managed to present to us as an existing situation. This was a horrible, bloody travesty in Vietnam, where we lost 58,000 lives in our bid to avoid actually defeating Hanoi.
Uh, guys. We didn’t lose in Vietnam. Congress gave it away. Go back and read your history again.
As to Georgia. Russia stopped after 5 days. The 1,000+ American trainers are still there. Why would they stop if they were winning? It is not their way. Let us wait until the dust settles and see what the real results are.

18Sully Says: August 12th, 2008 at 5:53 PM
Blimey - now I find myself in rough agreement with a lester post!
I’m retiring from this discussion.

What about the jobs legal American workers can't do

Over at Pajamas Media Ruben Navarette Jr. makes the tired old argument that we have to stop enforcing immigration laws because there are "jobs Americans won't do."

He uses as his example a slaughterhouse which has become much less efficient because it was raided by the immigration authorities and can no longer use illegal aliens who were quite happy to work fifteen hour days for $7.25 per hour with no extra pay for overtime while being sexually harassed and otherwise abused by the management - I'm not kidding, he actually uses that example.

I think Navarette has an excellent point, but he doesn't go nearly far enough because he fails to address the crisis involving the many jobs which legal American workers simply can’t do.

To take but one example, all over the country companies are digging mines with six foot high passageways through rock at great financial and environmental expense because child labor laws prevent them from using little children who could work in mines with only three or four foot high passageways. If employers could use three foot tall children as workers in mines they could produce the same amount of coal, uranium, lead, etc. at much less cost and as a result the children who were not working could have even cheaper happy meals.

If we stopped enforcing child labor laws we could help out the economy and the environment at the same time because little children can do many jobs better and more efficiently than much larger adults can.

Write your congressman today demanding a stop to this madness. Do it for the children.

You can read the entirety of Navarette's profoundly stupid opinion piece here -—-still-doing-the-jobs-americans-wont/

It's all over but the scooping

Perhaps we really are in the last days of civilization.

Monday, August 11, 2008

We cannot be responsible for the whole world

Michael Rubin, on National Reviews blog The Corner, like many other commentators is decrying President Bush's apparent inaction as Russia is beating up on a little country named Georgia which is just north of Turkey on the Black Sea. Rubin, correctly I think, points out that many other small countries around the world will no doubt draw a lesson about our likelihood to come to their aid based on what they see us do in this situation.

One problem I see with his post is that he compares the situation of Russia versus a very small country right on its border with other situations, like Taiwan and Poland, where the defensive tactical situation is not nearly as stark, and other situations where the relative power of the potential aggressor to the potential victim is not nearly as great, like Israel and other Middle East countries vs Iran and like Colombia vs Venezuela.

The stark fact is that Russia can apply heavy conventional military power against Georgia, which is right on its border at relatively low cost, while we, and all of the NATO allies for that matter, simply can't apply equivalent power in Georgia without a major mobilization. And there is no way our citizenry is going to support a major mobilization right now even if that were wise.

Another aspect of this situation is that it was perfectly predictable by countries who have a lot more fat in this fire than we do and who could have prepared themselves to oppose it. The Russian action primarily threatens Europe, so any action against it should be lead by the European nations and they should do any heavy lifting with us at most acting in support. T he fact that none of the European powers, separately or together, have the military capability to confront Russia is a problem that the Europeans should have done something about years ago. If this Russian action frightens them they can easily afford to increase their defense budgets and build up their military cababilities to forestall any future Russian conventional movement further west.

We cannot and should not take responsibility for the safety of the whole world.

Michael Rubin's post is here :

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The surprise of the week - Not!

I’ve had a couple of surprises over the past couple of days. First an old friend of mine who lives in Ohio sent me an email asking what I thought about the, uh, passionate public relations work John Edwards was doing on the side while he was standing by his wife like a moral paragon after she was diagnosed with cancer. Then two other friends asked why I haven’t written on this blog about the little package that apparently resulted from the extended game of “Squire and Milkmaid” that John and his PR honey were role playing to get their creative juices flowing, so to speak, when they were working on videos for his Presidential campaign.

My biggest surprise was learning that there are actually two people who read this blog. My second biggest surprise was learning that anyone was surprised that John Edwards was hypocritical enough to be privately conducting relations with his blonde public relations specialist while he was publicly professing everlasting devotion to his brunette marital relations specialist.

You see I think almost all politicians , and almost all other people who organize their lives around seeking power over other people, are users. I think being a user is practically a qualification for attaining power over other people. And I grew up hearing my Aunt Mary R periodically refer to politicians as whoremasters. So I’m hard to surprise about the result when men attain enough power to think they can keep it secret when they, uh, gather a few rosebuds while they may.

When the historians and geneticists revealed that Thomas Jefferson was playing “Who’s wearing the shackles now Massa” for a long time with Sally Hemings I wasn’t surprised. When I learned that Franklin Roosevelt was playing “Warm up the springs” with his secretary when he was supposed to be soaking in the warm springs I wasn’t surprised. When I learned that Dwight Eisenhower was playing “Bend over Beethoven, here comes the bratwurst” with his aide while he was planning the defeat of Nazi Germany I wasn’t surprised. And when I learned that Bill Clinton was playing “Moisten the cigar” with an intern in the Oval Office I wasn’t surprised about anything except the fact that Monica Lewinsky (Monica Lewinsky?) could get him excited enough to put a stain on her dress while he was talking to Yasser Arafat (Yasser Arafat!) on the phone.

So I’m certainly not surprised that John Edwards was playing “Sock it to you baby” with his PR gal while he was making a big show of loyalty to his wife and working on a plan to sock it to all of us by becoming President.

What did surprise me about the Edwards thing is that he’s only been paying her $15,000 a month to keep quiet despite the fact that he’s worth tens of millions from his years of suing and harassing and ruining honest doctors for providing the best care that medical science knew how to provide to mothers and infants. That $15,000 a month number surprised me because last year when he was still in the running for President and she was pregnant with expectation of their love child she could have presented him to the media trussed up over a barrel wearing only wingtip shoes and knee length black socks and she could have freshly paddled his scrawny ass cheeks so they would have a nice rosy glow in the pictures.

I can only conclude that she’s a poor negotiator.

Update - If you can't picture who John Edwards is you may want to go to this link, but only if you have a strong stomach - What a maroon! -