Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday rerun: Name Blame

Funny how things can slip your mind for years and years, and then pop up, isn't it?  
I had forgotten this for a long time until the other day, when I was recounting the time a cop I knew was sitting in a nondescript police car, wearing nondescript plainclothes, at a shopping center on the county's east side.  A guy came darting over and said, "Hey buddy, can you give me a lift outta here? I just robbed Kresge's!"  The guy and his bag o' loot plopped down in the car, and got a free ride outta there and right to the local precinct, where he and his bag o' loot were unceremoniously separated.  For all I know, it might have been ceremonious, but I'm certain the guy didn't get to keep the loot when he moved to the license plate factory.

Kresge's was where the fake clock tower is now.
But on that same shopping center parking lot several years later, a guy who had the same name as I - not the WWII general, or the slain Black Panther leader  or the onetime major league pitcher, to name some other examples of people with my moniker - killed himself and his family, blowing them up in his Ford Taurus station wagon.

 I heard the story on the morning news and had the usual reaction to suicide, which is that I feel bad for whatever lunacy would drive a person to miss even one day of this wonderful world that unfolds daily, but mainly really being mad that other people -his wife and kids - had to go with him.  The line from Neil Young always comes up: "There's one more kid who will never go to school, never get to fall in love, never get to be cool."

But then the curious thing started happening.  No one called to see if I was a) a general in WWII b) a Chicago militant  or c) a Chicago Cub,  as the aforementioned Marks were, but people we hadn't heard from for years called (this was pre-email, for crying out loud!) to are you?  Or they'd call Peggy and everything ok?  No one called and said, I was just making sure you weren't the guy who blew up his family at Middlesex...

But you know, they just had to be sure.  

And just for the record, I ain't this one, either!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday rerun: Back when she was Young

It always amuses me to hear people wistfully going on about the "good old days" when "people were honest and did the right thing" and were "good Americans, especially them actors and all, 'cause up til this Jane Fonda, they were people you could look up to."

Until you knew the truth, and then you'd find out that people have always been pretty much the way they are.  Ever heard of Judy Lewis?

Judy Lewis passed away last week, but she was born in 1935 to actress Loretta Young, just back from spending eight months hiding out in touring Europe.  No one was to know that Loretta Young had given birth, you see.  For one thing, she was a VERY Religious Young Lady and for another thing, her baby daddy was jug-eared hambone actor Clark Gable, who was a VERY married man at the time. They fell in love while making a movie called "The Call Of The Wild" (indeed!) and they acted like two telegraph keys: they just didit, didit, didit. And all this without a condom or at least some sort of rhythm!

So what they did was, Loretta had the baby, put her in the bullpen of foster care, and then  - because she felt the same maternal urges that so many single women with burgeoning careers have - she told everyone she adopted the little jug-eared baby who looked more like Clark Gable than Gable himself.
They operated on the child's ears at the age of 7, for the love of Pete, to pull them a little closer to her head.

We don't know why Clark Gable, once free of his marriage, didn't marry Loretta.  Maybe he found her a little too deceptive.  Or maybe he was busy banging 1/2 of Hollywood.  But Loretta married a guy named Tom Lewis, and they had two children, while continuing to claim that Judy was "adopted."
Gee, you wouldn't think that would mess up a person's head, would you, to find out from the guy you are about to marry at age 23 that your father is a bad actor in movies and the woman you had always been told had adopted you as an infant was your birth mother? “It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted or acknowledged by my mother, who, to this day, will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child,” she said in an interview in 1994, when her inevitable tell-all book came out.

For  heaven's sake, COVER THOSE EARS!
Her mother, saint that she was, responded by not speaking to Judy for three years.  By that time, Judy had given up her career as a soap opera actress and had become a licensed family and child counselor, a job to which she must have brought a great deal of empathy.  Perhaps she could understand her mother.  I don't.  Loretta never came clean about all this when she was alive, which she stopped being in 2000, and then her tell-all posthumous autobiography told it all. 

Here's what the old girl told her daughter when she finally admitted what she did:  “And why shouldn’t I be unhappy? Wouldn’t you be if you were a movie star and the father of your child was a movie star and you couldn’t have an abortion because it was a mortal sin?” 

Loretta Lynn, noted country singer, was named for Loretta Young.  A picture of Ms Young hung on the wall of the Webb family home in Butcher Holler KY, and her mother liked the name.   I just thought I'd end this on a happier note.  Loretta Lynn has brought pleasure to millions.  Loretta Young couldn't be honest with one.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Status quo?

Shortly after the time of dinosaurs roaming the earth, I worked at Baltimore County 911, and one of the things that the calltakers - the amazing people who answer the 911 phones and find out what people need and enter information into the computer - always had to remember was that they usually knew more about what was going to happen than the caller did.

For example, let's say a man calls, and says that a) someone is breaking into his house and b) this has upset his wife to the extent that she, at 38 weeks, is going into labor and both of them notice that c) the kitchen is on fire because the burglar knocked over a patchouli candle burning on the window sill as he clambered in through the window.

And this scenario unfolds more often than you might think, and IN YOUR OWN NEIGHBORHOOD, for crying out loud!  Be vigilant!

But the calltaker remains cool and on point all through this.  He or she will get all the information into the computer, indicate that the police, fire, and EMS forces need to respond, and gives those responders all the info they will need.  And, just as important, the operator will tell the person what to do until the help arrives and makes sure they know that help is on the way.  That sort of communication is vital.

All of this leads me to a minor, teeny, little bitty request that I am asking of the 835,525,280 Facebook subscribers worldwide, and that would be this, if I might humbly ask...

Please don't write Facebook updates that scare and upset the people who care about you by giving only a little bit of information.  Such as...

"Sitting here in the ER waiting to be seen...doesn't look good..."

"I really don't know if I can go on dragging this broken heart around any longer.  I never knew anything could hurt me this bad."

"Fred called and said it looks like the transplant might take...thanks for your prayers!"

And so forth like that.  And meanwhile, those of us who care about the person who writes these things are frantically back-pedaling through their previous statuses, but there is nothing to even mention possible illness, heartache or organ transplant.

So remember, at those moments when you really need a friend, let a friend know what you've got going on, please!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banned on the run

No wonder people in other countries scoff at us.  Here in America, we seem to have so much free time that there is always time for this Mark Harvey fellow to don some sort of wacky outfit and dart around on the playing field where athletes are trying to ply their trades.

In April, he jumped onto the baseball diamond at Oriole Park at Camden Yards and ran around in his Batman outfit, before being caught and banned from the ballpark for life.

On Sunday night, in the second quarter of the Ravens/Patriots game, he was on the football field, darting about in Batman shorts and a cape, with some sort of "Don't be a bully, be a superhero" slogan written on his chest.

He says that he did all this in the cause of stopping bullying.  That's funny.  For one thing, he is just jumping on a worthy cause espoused by Ray Rice and other people who have legitimate reason to run along the gridiron at M&T Bank Stadium.  Bullying is a nefarious trend, and should be stopped.

For another thing, you can't tell me that this clown from Anne Arundel County cares one whit about bullying.  No.  Not at all.  What he does care about is bullying a crowd of 71,000 football fans, a nationwide television audience and, most tragically, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, into being denied their football game while he cavorts childishly.

He's now banned for life from the football stadium as well.  I would suggest that he try running barefoot on some hockey rink next.  Unless he's afraid that he'd get cold feet.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Once, around the track...

It's that wonderful time of the year, when we can actually go outside for more than 30 seconds and not fear melting onto the asphalt.  It's just lovely weather this week in Baltimore: low humidity, temps in the 70s, pure blue skies without clouds.  Just fantastic for those of us who shun the infernal heat and stickiness of summer.  And fall has just begun!

Something that we like to do at this time of the year is go down to the high school and walk around the track that rings the football field.  As young guys bust out their football moves and run, tackle, pass and catch, there's a dedicated pack of people of all ages doin' the track.

You'll find young, fit people who apparently intend to stay that way.  Lord help them, though, to take all this just a littttttttle bit less seriously!  Hot a-mighty, the looks on their faces as they zip around the track, all intent and sweaty.  These are the people with significant investments in lite-weight athletic gear, made just for the purpose of running in circles.

A more mid-range group of tracksters are the moms and/or dads with kids.  Sometimes, the parents want to fit into group "a" above, and leave their kids panting along after them, their stubby little legs trying so hard to keep up!  And, more pleasant to see, some parents actually jogwalk along with their kids and have a good time, without bringing that annoying sense of competition into it all.

Now and again you will see people who make me think of those old movies where someone has to lose ten more lbs. overnight to get into stewardess school or something, so they get into one of those white boxy contraptions that look like top loading Maytag washers, but are really sweat boxes.  They only work in movies and 50's sitcoms, you understand.  But sometimes on a Friday, you'll see someone who has to shoehorn him or herself into some sort of fancy duds for a gala that weekend, and they figure that if they strut around the track very intently, they can leave that excess avoirdupois right on the high school track.  I wish them the best with that!

And look at who's last here!  The seniors - here we are!  Sauntering along at our own sweet pace, doing four laps to make a mile of it, and wondering why everyone else is in such a doggone hurry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Words can hurt

You have to wonder what in the devil is going on in this world when you read stories like this.  I read this yesterday, and it saddened me for hours to think that a fellow traveler here on Spaceship Earth could be this mean, this cold of heart.

This person - we'll just call her Katie - is a big fan of the New England Patriots football team, especially of their all-Pro quarterback, Tom Brady.  So, the other night when the local eleven beat the Patriots in the big Sunday Night Football game, Katie lashed out in the most vicious way one could imagine.

The hero for the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday was Torrey Smith, a second-year player fast becoming a fan favorite in Baltimore for his pleasant personality and his knack of running a long way down a football field and catching a ball thrown his way.  He scored two touchdowns and gained over 100 yards in the game, and it was all the more remarkable in that a lot of people wouldn't even have played.

At two in the morning on Sunday, Smith left the team's hotel downtown, after advising Coach John Harbaugh that he had received word that his younger brother Tevin had been killed in a late Saturday motorcycle wreck.  He headed for his family home in Virginia with Harbaugh's blessing, told to come back only if he cared to or felt able to play in the game that night. 

With what must have been an unbelievably heavy heart, he went out and played his game on Sunday, and because every once in a while, life is more like a movie, things turned out the way they did, and Torrey Smith smiled for the first time that day leaving the field.

Tevin and Torrey
Katie's heart must have been heavy too, and so she got out her phone or computer and twittered a tweet so vile that I'll not repeat it here, referring to Smith contacting his brother about the game.  I mean, her team lost, so let's not give credit to the winners!  Let's hurt them and try to drag them into the same gutter in which Katie's heart dwells.

So, you can go to the article and read her filthy words, but it won't cheer you up any to realize she might ride the same bus as you do one day. 

Meanwhile, people are contacting her employer, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.  Hopkins is a world-renowned teaching hospital.  People from every corner of the globe come here seeking medical assistance and healing. 

And deep within the halls of that medical school works a woman whose heart beats with naught but malice and hatred toward a man whose only sin to her was to be on the winning side in a football game.

I wish her all the healing that her sick soul so clearly needs. 

A football game, for God's sake.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Election projection

With just a month and a half, more or less, until the election, I figure that most people have made up their minds how they are going to vote.  And IF they are going to vote.  Any turnout less than 100% disappoints me.

The only big thing in the MD election would seem to be the referendum over building a new gambling palace.  Proponents are running TV ads about how great it would be to have more More MORE gambling in the state, and they say that we will all benefit from the loot pulled in by slot machines and so forth.  Opponents say it's not a good deal for the state, but then it turns out that the money for the ads in opposition to the gambling dens is coming from the people who operate gambling dens in neighboring states.  Obviously, Marylanders wouldn't flock across state lines to gamble so much if they didn't have to. And so that goes.

There doesn't seem to be much interest in the congressional races, and here and there someone with about as much chance as a Lutheran running for Pope tries to unseat an incumbent, spending a lot of money for very few votes.

And here's what I'm thinking.  Nothing I say is going to change anyone's mind about whom they support for president, and for doggone sure, nothing anyone sends me is going to change my mind about my chosen candidate.

So I hereby pledge that I am not going to post, or write, or circulate anything about the candidates until after the election.  No need to dive into a well of nastiness when we all know who's going to win anyway.

Don't worry, I'll have plenty of other stuff to talk about.  Replacement referees, the price of steak, my annual Spring Fashion Preview:  all just ahead!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Rerun: Humans Race

Two people still in their early 20s -a couple, a girl and a guy who once had their entire lives ahead of them to do with as they pleased - are dead now because over the weekend, they were among the crowd of onlookers at the scene of a drag race on the west side of the county. Mary-Kathryn Michele Abernathy, 21, from Columbia, was pronounced dead at the scene, as was her boyfriend, Jonathan Robert Henderson, 20, of La Plata.
According to the local papers, this all happened on Sunday morning at 3 am. People had pulled their cars off to the side of the road - and not just any old country road; they were on I-70, a main superslab that takes one West. Or not. It would seem that most in the crowd were there to watch, and then a police car came along, and everyone was hot-footin' it out of there, and a car that may or may not have been racing slammed into a parked car, seriously injuring the parked car's driver, who was standing alongside his vehicle. It was that vehicle that ran into Ms Abernathy and Mr Henderson, two more of the crowd gathered to watch other people drive too fast.

You have to wonder about a society that has a segment - no matter how small - of people who are so into their cars and how fast they can make them go that they decide to appropriate several lanes of an interstate highway to serve as their drag strip.
You have to wonder about the fragility of life. On the one hand, no one should be out at 3 o'clock in the morning without some useful purpose, and watching other people race their cars is not counted among such purposes. On the other hand, the injured man and the fatally injured couple were just watching, not participating, from all appearances, so the argument can be made that it was just bad luck and wrong-place, wrong-time. You hear all the time about people doing really risky things and living long and fruitful lives, and someone else makes one small mistake and they're gone. And can you even count it as a mistake, just to be a spectator at someone else's risky action?
This is something to think about, but don't expect to know the answer on this earth. That's why I look forward to getting to heaven, so all these answers will be made clear. Why are some taken so soon? Why is a Hitler, a Pol Pot, a Pinochet, allowed to inflict such enormity?
I want to know these answers, but then again, I'm not in any hurry to get them.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday rerun: Get the picture?

Yesterday, I had to get a new printer/scanner/copier/toaster/deep fryer for the computer. I think I told you this: Windows Vista is all snobbish and everything, and regarded my 2002-model scanner and printer as being relics of the Pleistocene era, if not earlier.

So we got a new one - birthday gift from Peggy to me - and I go to hook it up and what do I find in place of written, clear, step-by-step instructions? The deadliest form of information to me: the pictograph.

You know what? I think that if all Adam had to go on was a pictograph, you and I never would have been born. I for one need words!

Take fig. "A" here:
this is an instruction sheet - an thumbnail sketch, if you will, from IKEA, showing how a man can upturn a bar stool and trim his thumbnail, using a screwdriver. Or, it's showing how to loosen the seat part so that the noisy guy from his office will take a laughable pratfall at the next office happy hour at O'Herlihy's Ye Olde Ale House, which will be followed by a sternly-worded memo from the big boss on the following Monday.

Fig. "B"
is an ancient Sumerian hieroglyph, showing how best to plant a tree, using one's hand, a rake, and some Hot Pockets ®. If you think this led to successful crops, well, have you had any postcards from Sumeria lately?

Anthropologists have finally decided, after years of fierce bickering, that fig. "C"
is an Egyptian guy's shopping list. It would appear that he needed to stop off at the Nile-O-Rama and pick up some asterisks, eye drops, a fish for dinner, toothpicks and gummy worms. He didn't get to the store after all, as he suffered a rupture trying to carry a stone tablet around in his toga. Toga. Toga!

I finally got the printer printing and scanning but it took longer than it should have. Words might have helped. A thousand of them would have saved me from looking at the picture of where the print cartridges went, or was that a picture of the filtration system at Grand Coolee Dam?

Dam if I know.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A little slip of paper

It's going to be hard to decide what is true and what is simple conjecture, but as if there isn't enough confusion in our lives, along comes Karen King from the Harvard Divinity School, and she says that she has a piece of paper suggesting that Jesus Christ was a married man.

Lookie, I will admit that I am hardly a biblical scholar, having spent many a squirmy youthful morning in Sunday School planning activities for later on Sunday that were not exactly divine.  But I don't remember anyone even suggesting that Jesus had a wife.  This little piece of papyrus, alleged to be authentic, contain phrases in which Jesus mentions a wife and says that she will be able to be a disciple.

The papyrus
We think that's what it says.  What we don't know is whether the person who wrote these words knew what he or she was talking about.  There was a lot of debate back in the early days as to whether Christians ought to be married or have sex.  Or either.  This hardly solves anything conclusively.

But scholars, biblical or otherwise, can all agree on one thing.  If Jesus did indeed have a wife, she was, like my wonderful wife, a saint.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Genuine Star

If you happened to see Kellie Pickler on the the "Ellen" show the other day, you saw a woman I consider to be a unique American performer.  We have followed her career from the days when she was an "American Idol" contestant, and she did very well on that show, and now is very popular in the country music field.

She is attractive, no question about it, and she sings well too.  The thing that I think makes her very special is that she is not interested in being anyone but herself.  Even back in the Idol days, she told everyone that her family was not exactly Mom and Dad Apple Pie.  Her folks were in and out of jail and in and out of Kellie's life, and so she was raised by her grandparents, finished high school and was working at a Sonic drive in while getting ready to go compete on "Idol."  She is a humorous and good-natured personality when appearing on talk shows and the like, and seems genuinely appreciative of the good fortune that her talent and hard work have brought her.

Now, she finds her best friend, Summer Holt Miller, fighting breast cancer.  Kellie thinks it's important to have a cancer buddy when facing that awful disease, and so she buzzcut her hair right off to match up to her friend.

A lot of people would have hemmed and hawed and said, I'm right here for you, buddy.

Kellie told Ellen, "It's just hair!" and she made the commitment to help her friend.

As noted country music lover Ben Franklin once said, "A good example is the best sermon."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Tomato Soup

They call this kid "The Flying Tomato" because he has red hair...and redneck ways.

Shaun White is his name.  Apparently, he is a hero to those who are into skateboarding, snowboarding, bicycles, and video games in which an animated figure rides a skateboard, snowboard, or bike.

He's no hero to the Nashville Police Department, which had to respond to his overnight activities at 2 in the yawning this past Sunday.  Mr F. Tomato, apparently intoxicated, had busted up a hotel phone at the swanky Loews Vanderbilt, then pulled a fire alarm, requiring every other decent person in the hotel to get out of bed and go outside in their underwear because a 26-year-old who makes millions playing childish games just had to be childish.

In all the commotion, White tried to get away in a cab, only to be stopped by a hotel guest who told the driver police had been called. White kicked at the man before running away, say the cops, who also report that the man chased White.  It seems that the skateboarder's face had a slight collision with the other guy's fist.  His legendary sense of balance lost to the alcohol, White fell back and hit his head against a fence, police said.

Down at headquarters, this pillar of society was gracious enough to pose for a mugshot, displaying his newly-decorated mug.

Is White the first or last young, rich kid to make a fool of himself in public at 2 AM?  No. But let's hope this is the last time for him. 

You see, Mr. Tomato, when you pull a fire alarm, a signal is sent to the Fire Department and they send men and women running to the location to provide aid.  Sometimes, they are involved in a horrible accident on the way, and people are killed or injured.  Sometimes, other people in other locations really do need the help of the people who are tied up playing their part in your foolishness.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Did he have to say this?

What I had in my hand
I went into a grocery store yesterday (big surprise, eh?) and I saw a manager-type guy speaking to a cashier.  I was waiting to pay, my nuts in my hand, and I heard this...

He said, "Oh? Have you heard the news yet?"

She said, "No, what's going on?"

He said, "You'll probably be hearing about it later...."

She said, (voice rising slightly with panic setting in) "Is the store closing or something???"

He said, "Well, I shouldn't say anything'll find out soon enough..."

Well, now, that was pleasant, wasn't it? It's dangerous to play amateur psychologist, especially when I am so busy of late playing amateur electrician.  I know it's dangerous to read too much into things, but I think that the manager displayed what is most likely a type of passive-aggressive behavior.  At least, that's what we laypersons refer to as passive-aggressive behavior.   He darted into the garden of the young lady's thoughts, sowed the seeds of doubt and fear, and then, rather than sharing the truth as he knew it, withdrew into the shady corners, probably looking to find the dairy guy or a seafood clerk to rile up. 

I once heard the term "abrasive negavitism" and that's surely what this man was pulling.  The young woman was upset and sad after the man slithered away.  No one likes to be told that their job is about to be yanked out from under them, and to do that halfway is twice as bad, leaving her in such doubt.

Maybe this man has had a lot of bad news dumped on him over the years.  If that's the case, I'm sorry, but for the love of Pete, try not to spread the misery around like that.  There's enough worrying and fretting already going on around here.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Queen's Greatest Hits

 From the Associated Press:

LONDON — A French magazine on Friday published what appeared to be photos of Prince William's wife Kate sunbathing topless at a private house in southern France, prompting a strong condemnation from the royal family.

Officials said the royal family was considering legal action for a "grotesque and totally unjustifiable" invasion of privacy in the same country where William's mother Princess Diana died while fleeing paparazzi.

The couple was "saddened" by the use of the photos, which appear genuine, royal officials said.

The revealing pictures of Kate in Closer, a popular gossip magazine, were blurry and shot from a distance. The publication claimed they were taken on a guesthouse terrace in France where the couple vacationed earlier this month.

"Their Royal Highnesses had every expectation of privacy in the remote house. It is unthinkable that anyone should take such photographs, let alone publish them," a St. James's Palace official in London said. "The incident is reminiscent of the worst excesses of the press and paparazzi during the life of Diana, Princess of Wales, and all the more upsetting to the Duke and Duchess for being so."

The palace official said representatives of the couple were consulting with lawyers. "We feel a line has been crossed with their publication," the official added.

William and Kate, now formally known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, were touring the Far East and South Pacific to mark Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee when the photos were published.
No major British publication carried the photos, including Rupert Murdoch's top-selling U.K. tabloid The Sun, which last month ran photos of a naked Prince Harry cavorting in a Las Vegas hotel room.

Well, the rest of the story is that a guy claiming to be Prince William, Sir Duke of Cambridge (he said it in an English accent) called me to ask for security advice.

"There must be some way to stop people from printing topless pictures of my wife," he hollered. "We can't 'ave every bloke seeing where she has "Touch of Class" tattooed on her sternum, can we now?"

I pondered the topic for a fortnight, as we say across the pond, and then it came to me.  I called Willie back.

"Cheerio, Willie," I said.  "I say, old man, how about this:  if you and your wife don't want naughty pictures of yourselves without any clothes on being taken and about...don't go outside without any clothes on?"

I'll not soon forget what Wills said then.  He paused for a moment and then he said, "Oh. Simple, that. Ay ay ay."

William then asked if I had any ideas about how to stop people from taking pictures of his daffy brother, the Duke of Daffy, from parading around nekkid in Las Vegas hotel rooms.

I said to check back in a fortnight.  This one has me stumped. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday rerun: A lovely neighborhood called Audrey Meadows

Yesterday’s entry used the word “tawdry,” and I had heard the word had an interesting etymology, so what I did was, I looked it up. The story reads like “The Princess Bride,” or something from the Brothers Grimm.Around 640, there lived an English princess named Ethelreda, better known as Audrey. ( Perhaps she did not wish to be confused with Ethel Mertz.) She married a guy to help her father, King Anna (listen! I’m not making these names up!) but hubby #1 bought the farm within three years, and in all that time, they had never got around to consummating the marriage. Even though she had taken a vow of virginity, she got married again, when her Uncle Ethelwold (!) thought it would be a great idea if she tied the knot with Egfrid, son of King Oswy of Northumberland. Old Egfrid wouldn’t go along with the chastity pledge, being married and everything, and so he started making moves on her, to no avail. He attempted to bribe the local bishop, Saint Wilfrid of York, to release Audrey from her vows. Saint Wilfrid refused, and helped Audrey get away. She fled south, with her husband right on her heels. They reached a promontory known as Colbert's Head(sorry - wrong picture!) (there it is!) and it was there that suddenly the waters started to rise, and for seven days Egfrid had to cool his own heels in the muddy waters.(I am going to pause here to tell you that this Colbert's Head is near Dover, and to remind you if you ever go to England and have someone ask you if you saw the White Cliffs of Dover upon your return, the only possible answer is "See them? I had dinner with them on Thursday!"). I mean, "E" was only a man, and he wasn‘t going to hang around forever without his connubials, so he took off and married someone with a more conventional view of marriage. Audrey, taking a conventional view herself, moved to a convent, and went on to build an abbey.
Now here’s where the story takes an interesting turn. Audrey was to die of an huge tumor on her neck, and thought this was visited upon her because, in her youth, she liked to wear many necklaces. But, prior to her death, she had become enormously popular in her area, owing to her many good deeds and steadfast faith, so throughout the Middle Ages, a festival, "St. Audrey's Fair", was held in her town of Ely on her feast day. People, as they will, bought all sorts of cheesy merchandise at these fairs, and the necklaces and neckerchiefs for sale in her honor were considered low-grade, but still, they were dedicated “to Audrey,” and that became corrupted to the present-day word “tawdry.“

Still no explanation on why her father’s name was Anna. This is all true, I’m telling ya!

Now I’m going to look up why I’ve never met a girl named “Jackie” (or any alternative spelling thereof) who wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun to be around.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Saturday rerun: The Show Must Go On...Right After This

I'm going to open the floor to suggestions from the audience on this one (pause for laughter.) I just don't know what to think, so I ask for your thoughts. I'll give them right back.

My mother lives in a senior high-rise; she is in the independent living area. There are also assisted living and nursing care components where she lives. There is also entertainment galore. A movie every Saturday night, concerts and musicales, book clubs, lectures, all sorts of things to do.

But she told me about some odd entertainment that took place the other night. A local man - a professional, not some goober who just rode in on a turnip truck - showed up to sing a program of show tunes. And he is not a guy who lives there, although any regular visitor to most of the malls in this area would recognize his surname. Accompanied by a buddy on piano, he warbled his way through the usual "Send In the Clowns," "If I Loved You," and "Shipoopi."

And so then, his cell phone rang.

And he takes the cell phone out of his pocket and takes the call!

And holds a personal conversation, while the audience sits puzzled and somewhat restive (several people got up and walked out.)

At length, the man's wife - if she really was his wife - came up on the stage and mildly upbraided him for wasting everyone's time. She told him to end the call and get on with the show.

And then he says, "Time for an intermission, folks," and sticks his cell up by ear and makes a call.

And then when he was finished with this call, he closed the phone, put it back in his pants, and went on with the show.

Now, again, this man is not under treatment that we know about, is not a resident of the home, and in fact continues to ply his profession here in town.

I think this leads to only two possibilities:

a) he is about the most rude entertainer ever, completely self-involved, with not a whit of interest in his audience or

2) it was all some sort of post-Andy Kaufman latter-day Dadaistic performance art concept piece.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I await your verdict.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Betting on a number

Everybody loves to watch cop shows and rescue shows and a certain amount of people devote time to listening to scanners, so they can hear about what the real police and fire/EMS people are up to in their town.

And outside of grabbing the garden hose when the neighbor's grill sets the hollyhocks on fire, most people can't know the thrill of putting out a fire.  Of course they can join a volunteer fire company...

And for very good reason, we don't allow each other to pretend to be police.  But  - here's a way you can put yourself in the shoes of a first responder, on his or her way to your house for an emergency call.  It could be a prowler, a medical issue, an oven on fire. 

They've been dispatched by the good folks at 911 and they hit your street and go to find the correct house...and your house number isn't marked!  Or it's in small brass numbers up above the front door, or someplace else equally invisible.

Here's what you time you're pulling up at the old hacienda with a car full of groceries, pretend you don't know which house is yours.  And all you know is the street and the numericals.  Is the number clearly posted, so the responders don't have to waste time figuring out which house is yours?

Seconds count.  So, please make sure.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Stuck on you

Paul Harvey used to call them "bumper snickers," but that was in the day when cars and trucks had real bumpers.  You'd drive along and the guy ahead of you had "I LIKE IKE" or "84 LUMBER" on his rear bumper, and you got the message (whether or not you wanted to.)

Then they took to covering the bumpers with some sort of plastic, so there is no chrome to which to affix your sentiments.  And without a clear target, we've gone crazy.  Bumper stickers are all over the back of the car, the side of the car, sometimes all over the entire car.

If you'd like to, google "images" "bumper sticker" and see the 53,200,000 results.  It's a stunning photo array.

There's a theme here, but I'm not sure I get it.
Anyway, cars are now covered with slogans, mottoes, salutes and suggestions.  We use magnets too, and only recently have we found that these magnets, after a couple of years of baking and freezing to the metal, are harder to remove than the stickers. 

My question is, why do we go out and pay $30,000 for a new Excommunicator XL350, and then gum it up with "My kid skateboards better than your honor student"?   I see people babying their cars at the car wash, lovingly swabbing the hood and roof with baby shampoo and a real chamois, and then toweling it off with imported cotton diapers, finishing it off with a carnauba paste wax, buffed to a high sheen with a brush made of gnats' eyelashes.  And then they run down to Aut-O-Mart and get a sticker that says,"HORN BROKE - WATCH FOR FINGER"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Listen to ALL of the words

We all did this at one time in our teenaged years - a parent said, "You can go to the movies if you make your bed, clean up your room and cut the grass," and all we hear is, "You can go to the movies."

I don't want to belabor the point, but on July 13, the president of the United States was speaking on the topic of how cooperation is vital in all enterprises, and how any and all business concerns in the nation get a boost from government-sponsored education, infrastructure and research, and here is what he said:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there. (Applause.)
If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.
So we say to ourselves, ever since the founding of this country, you know what, there are some things we do better together. That’s how we funded the GI Bill. That’s how we created the middle class. That’s how we built the Golden Gate Bridge or the Hoover Dam. That’s how we invented the Internet. That’s how we sent a man to the moon. We rise or fall together as one nation and as one people, and that’s the reason I’m running for President — because I still believe in that idea. You’re not on your own, we’re in this together.

And if you listen to FOX News, and other misguided interpretations, you think that all he said was,"You didn't build that."

I know a lot of this is deliberate obtuseness.  It's easier to deny what the man says, if you happen to support his opponent. And even Mr Obama said he might have improved his syntax in stating his point, that we are all in this together, and there is not one person with a business who is not part of a group that helped.

But I'll sit right here and wait for someone to show me a business that exists without government - that couldn't count on the police to come if there was a crime, or the Fire Dept to respond to fire or EMS emergency, or any of hundreds of government services, or a business that survives in a total vacuum.

People like to point to Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, people to whom we are in great debt for their technological wizardry.  These men built their businesses upon advancements made by others.  Which is not to gainsay their amazing ideas and production, but since computers go back to the days of the abacus in using digital technology, you have to say that others were involved.

How about, for those of you hollering, "He said I didn't build this!!!!!," could you just say," I don't like him!!!!" instead, just in the interest of accuracy?

By the way, I didn't build this blog by myself. And someone else taught you how to read it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mr Fashion Advice

Hot a'mighty, what a "Hugh N. Cry" (as I once saw it written) there was right before the Olympics when it was revealed that the uniforms that the American athletes would be sporting as they paraded around London were made in China.  Remember?  Wow, what a commotion. Ralph Lauren made the uniforms, which is to say he designed them and then had the actual tailoring done in China.

Well sir, everyone from the water commissioner on up to the President of the United States and the man who wants to be the next one of them had something to say about this outrage.  Well, sources said that Willard "Mitt" Romney did not like hearing people remind them that when he was head cheese of the US Olympic team in 2002, he had the uniforms made in Burma, also known as Myanmar, also known as a human rights hellhole.

But leave it to good old "Smokey John" Boehner. The Speaker of the House decried the decision to outsource the uniforms.  “You’d think they’d know better,” he said.

This has been on my mind since the Olympics.  It really doesn't matter much to me where the uniforms were made.  I understand the political hay to be made off the issue, but since most people chattered about their ire via cell phones and computers and laptops made far far away from here, what the heck?
This did not have to happen
My objection is that the uniforms were made at all. Look at how weird they were!  Sort of like tour leaders at some industry exhibit at a convention of life insurance salespeople.  Do Americans wear berets?  Au contraire, ma cheri amour!  Do athletes need to wear ties? 

No one asked me, but they could have had all the athletes run down to WalMart and be issued a couple of pairs of Dickies® pants, some polo shirts and a denim jacket, and there you go.  Nikes for the land athletes, flip flops for the swimmers and divers. 

You wanted them to look like Americans, didntja?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sit right down and write yourself a letter

In this hustle-bustle world of email and text messages and shouts and grunts, the fine art of letter writing is a thing of the past, along with wearing a tie to dinner and wearing a tie anywhere. When was the last time you received a handwritten letter from someone?

Same here. And so, the folks at have come up with a way for you to get a letter.  Not handwritten and sealed in a fragrant envelope with X's and O's and other snappy codewords, as in the past, but it's a way to write yourself a letter today and have it emailed to you on October 27, 2045 if you plan to be around then.  The website is here if you want to try it.  If I were forty years younger, I would write a letter to Future Me advising myself to buy Apple stock.  As it is, I have to write a note to remind myself to buy apple juice.

And all this reminded me of a song.  Country music oddball David Allan Coe, a man with talent and skill who decided to fritter both of them away by making racist and salacious music, recorded "X's and O's" early in his career, and for those of you under 80, this sort of thing actually happened.  Men and women would write love letters to each other, and then write cute codes on the envelope, presumably for the amusement of the letter carrier (who gets mentioned in the song this way: "p.m.p.m.d.s.o.f. 's not hard at all -  -
please mr. post man don't stumble or fall").

One thing about emails and texts: you can't write on the envelope.

Another thing about them is, they are free.  As soon as you pay for a computer, a phone, a text service and internet access.

Be a lot cheaper to buy some stamps, but anyway...

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday rerun: He wrote a song called "You Can't Wynn, Stewart"

There was considerable excitement (at least with me) during the Ravens game the other afternoon when a new Volkswagen Jetta commercial came on, and the music in the commercial was the great Wynn Stewart singing his great hit "Another Day, Another Dollar," which he recorded in 1962.  You can see the commercial here.

I am going to try to find some way to write to the ad executive from VW - someone who, I'm pretty sure, was born after 1962 - and thank them for saluting one of the best country singers ever.  I hope his family gets a nice payday from this, because Wynn (born Winford Lindsey Stewart in Morrisville, MO, in 1934) never quite got the big payday he deserved.  By the time he reached his teens, his family had moved to California, and young Wynn did the usual route - smalltown radio shows, talent contests, small-label record deal - until he signed with Capitol Records in 1956.  That big break didn't pan out, so he went with Challenge Records for a few years and cut hit after rockabilly hit there.  This was the genesis of what's called the Bakersfield Sound, a grittier sound for Country music than what was coming out of Nashville.  Nashville was veering more toward what they called a "country-politan sound," meaning that they wanted city folks to buy country music. If only they had realized that we city folks would be happy to buy any real country sound, such as what Wynn Stewart, Buck Owens and others were making out west.

One of the others was a former jailbird named Merle Haggard, who showed up looking for work and was hired to play bass in Wynn's band.  Always more generous with others than with himself, Wynn wrote Merle a sad song to sing.  It was called "Sing A Sad Song," and it became the first of Haggard's several hundred country hits, while Wynn had to wait a while for his ship to come in.

Ironically, that ship docked when Wynn moved his sound more to the east.

I'm sorry, but the online radio station to which I am listening - KYMN in Northfield, MN - just did a PSA for an all-you-can-eat waffle breakfast at St Anne's Church this Saturday.  If ever two phrases blended in perfect harmony - "all you can eat" and "waffle breakfast," those are the two best, I'd say.  Sorry for the interruption.

Pardon me.  Wynn Stewart moved his sound more to the east - a little more country-politan, if you will - and hit with the Record Of The Year in 1967 with "It's Such A Pretty World Today," which was used in a K-Mart commercial a few years back.  After that came a few more hits, but as the 70s came along, more and more country artists were doing the rougher-hewn style that Wynn had pioneered twenty years earlier, and Wynn, Buck Owens and others were relegated to cast-off status, prophets without honor in their own hometown, as it were.  He only lived to be 51, dying of a heart attack in the middle of an attempted comeback in 1985.  I saw him perform here in Baltimore in the late 60's  and he was great.  I'm glad you get to hear him now.  Please, go buy a Volkswagen, would you?  Tell 'em Wynn sent you!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Guest Speaker Day

Here is the text of President Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention as prepared for delivery and released by the convention’s press office:
We’re here to nominate a President, and I’ve got one in mind.

I want to nominate a man whose own life has known its fair share of adversity and uncertainty. A man who ran for President to change the course of an already weak economy and then just six weeks before the election, saw it suffer the biggest collapse since the Great Depression. A man who stopped the slide into depression and put us on the long road to recovery, knowing all the while that no matter how many jobs were created and saved, there were still millions more waiting, trying to feed their children and keep their hopes alive.

I want to nominate a man cool on the outside but burning for America on the inside.  A man who believes we can build a new American Dream economy driven by innovation and creativity, education and cooperation. A man who had the good sense to marry Michelle Obama.

I want Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States and I proudly nominate him as the standard bearer of the Democratic Party.

In Tampa, we heard a lot of talk about how the President and the Democrats don’t believe in free enterprise and individual initiative, how we want everyone to be dependent on the government, how bad we are for the economy.

The Republican narrative is that all of us who amount to anything are completely self-made.  One of our greatest Democratic Chairmen, Bob Strauss, used to say that every politician wants you to believe he was born in a log cabin he built himself, but it ain’t so.
We Democrats think the country works better with a strong middle class, real opportunities for poor people to work their way into it and a relentless focus on the future, with business and government working together to promote growth and broadly shared prosperity.  We think “we’re all in this together” is a better philosophy than “you’re on your own.”

Who’s right?  Well since 1961, the Republicans have held the White House 28 years, the Democrats 24.  In those 52 years, our economy produced 66 million private sector jobs.  What’s the jobs score?  Republicans 24 million, Democrats 42 million!

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics, because discrimination, poverty and ignorance restrict growth, while investments in education, infrastructure and scientific and technological research increase it, creating more good jobs and new wealth for all of us.

Though I often disagree with Republicans, I never learned to hate them the way the far right that now controls their party seems to hate President Obama and the Democrats.  After all, President Eisenhower sent federal troops to my home state to integrate Little Rock Central High and built the interstate highway system. And as governor, I worked with President Reagan on welfare reform and with President George H.W. Bush on national education goals. I am grateful to President George W. Bush for PEPFAR, which is saving the lives of millions of people in poor countries and to both Presidents Bush for the work we’ve done together after the South Asia tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake.

Through my foundation, in America and around the world, I work with Democrats, Republicans and Independents who are focused on solving problems and seizing opportunities, not fighting each other.
When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better.  After all, nobody’s right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day.  All of us are destined to live our lives between those two extremes.  Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn’t see it that way.  They think government is the enemy, and compromise is weakness.

One of the main reasons America should re-elect President Obama is that he is still committed to cooperation.  He appointed Republican Secretaries of Defense, the Army and Transportation.  He appointed a Vice President who ran against him in 2008, and trusted him to oversee the successful end of the war in Iraq and the implementation of the recovery act.  And Joe Biden did a great job with both.  He appointed Cabinet members who supported Hillary in the primaries.  Heck, he even appointed Hillary! I’m so proud of her and grateful to our entire national security team for all they’ve done to make us safer and stronger and to build a world with more partners and fewer enemies. I’m also grateful to the young men and women who serve our country in the military and to Michelle Obama and Jill Biden for supporting military families when their loved ones are overseas and for helping our veterans, when they come home bearing the wounds of war, or needing help with education, housing, and jobs.

President Obama’s record on national security is a tribute to his strength, and judgment, and to his preference for inclusion and partnership over partisanship.

He also tried to work with Congressional Republicans on Health Care, debt reduction, and jobs, but that didn’t work out so well.  Probably because, as the Senate Republican leader, in a remarkable moment of candor, said two years before the election, their number one priority was not to put America back to work, but to put President Obama out of work.
Senator, I hate to break it to you, but we’re going to keep President Obama on the job!

In Tampa, the Republican argument against the President’s re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn’t cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in.

In order to look like an acceptable alternative to President Obama, they couldn’t say much about the ideas they have offered over the last two years.  You see they want to go back to the same old policies that got us into trouble in the first place: to cut taxes for high income Americans even more than President Bush did; to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts; to increase defense spending two trillion dollars more than the Pentagon has requested without saying what they’ll spend the money on; to make enormous cuts in the rest of the budget, especially programs that help the middle class and poor kids.  As another President once said – there they go again.

I like the argument for President Obama’s re-election a lot better. He inherited a deeply damaged economy, put a floor under the crash, began the long hard road to recovery, and laid the foundation for a modern, more well-balanced economy that will produce millions of good new jobs, vibrant new businesses, and lots of new wealth for the innovators.

Are we where we want to be? No. Is the President satisfied? No. Are we better off than we were when he took office, with an economy in free fall, losing 750,000 jobs a month.  The answer is YES.

I understand the challenge we face.  I know many Americans are still angry and frustrated with the economy.  Though employment is growing, banks are beginning to lend and even housing prices are picking up a bit, too many people don’t feel it.

I experienced the same thing in 1994 and early 1995.  Our policies were working and the economy was growing but most people didn’t feel it yet.  By 1996, the economy was roaring, halfway through the longest peacetime expansion in American history.
President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did.  No President – not me or any of my predecessors could have repaired all the damage in just four years.  But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the President’s contract you will feel it.
I believe that with all my heart.

President Obama’s approach embodies
the values, the ideas, and the direction America must take to build a 21st century version of the American Dream in a nation of shared opportunities, shared prosperity and shared responsibilities.

So back to the story.  In 2010, as the President’s recovery program kicked in, the job losses stopped and things began to turn around. The Recovery Act saved and created millions of jobs and cut taxes for 95% of the American people. In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs.  But last year, the Republicans blocked the President’s jobs plan costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another jobs score: President Obama plus 4.5 million, Congressional Republicans zero.

Over that same period, more than more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs have been created under President Obama – the first time manufacturing jobs have increased since the 1990s.
The auto industry restructuring worked.  It saved more than a million jobs, not just at GM, Chrysler and their dealerships, but in auto parts manufacturing all over the country.  That’s why even auto-makers that weren’t part of the deal supported it.  They needed to save the suppliers too. Like I said, we’re all in this together.

Now there are 250,000 more people working in the auto industry than the day the companies were restructured.  Governor Romney opposed the plan to save GM and Chrysler. So here’s another jobs score: Obama two hundred and fifty thousand, Romney, zero.

The agreement the administration made with management, labor and environmental groups to double car mileage over the next few years is another good deal: it will cut your gas bill in half, make us more energy independent, cut greenhouse gas emissions, and add another 500,000 good jobs.
President Obama’s “all of the above” energy plan is helping too – the boom in oil and gas production combined with greater energy efficiency has driven oil imports to a near 20 year low and natural gas production to an all time high.  Renewable energy production has also doubled.

We do need more new jobs, lots of them, but there are already more than three million jobs open and unfilled in America today, mostly because the applicants don’t have the required skills.  We have to prepare more Americans for the new jobs that are being created in a world fueled by new technology.  That’s why investments in our people are more important than ever. The President has supported community colleges and employers in working together to train people for open jobs in their communities. And, after a decade in which exploding college costs have increased the drop-out rate so much that we’ve fallen to 16th in the world in the percentage of our young adults with college degrees, his student loan reform lowers the cost of federal student loans and even more important, gives students the right to repay the loans as a fixed percentage of their incomes for up to 20 years.  That means no one will have to drop-out of college for fear they can’t repay their debt, and no one will have to turn down a job, as a teacher, a police officer or a small town doctor because it doesn’t pay enough to make the debt payments.  This will change the future for young Americans.

I know we’re better off because President Obama made these decisions.

That brings me to health care. The Republicans call it Obamacare and say it’s a government takeover of health care that they’ll repeal.  Are they right? Let’s look at what’s happened so far. Individuals and businesses have secured more than a billion dollars in refunds from their insurance premiums because the new law requires 80% to 85% of your premiums to be spent on health care, not profits or promotion.  Other insurance companies have lowered their rates to meet the requirement.  More than 3 million young people between 19 and 25 are insured for the first time because their parents can now carry them on family policies.  Millions of seniors are receiving preventive care including breast cancer screenings and tests for heart problems.  Soon the insurance companies, not the government, will have millions of new customers many of them middle class people with pre-existing conditions.  And for the last two years, health care spending has grown under 4%, for the first time in 50 years.

So are we all better off because President Obama fought for it and passed it? You bet we are. There were two other attacks on the President in Tampa that deserve an answer. Both Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan attacked the President for allegedly robbing Medicare of 716 billion dollars. Here’s what really happened. There were no cuts to benefits. None. What the President did was save money by cutting unwarranted subsidies to providers and insurance companies that weren’t making people any healthier. He used the saving to close the donut hole in the Medicare drug program, and to add eight years to the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.  It’s now solvent until 2024. So President Obama and the Democrats didn’t weaken Medicare, they strengthened it.

When Congressman Ryan looked into the TV camera and attacked President Obama’s “biggest coldest power play” in raiding Medicare, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  You see, that 716 billion dollars is exactly the same amount of Medicare savings Congressman Ryan had in his own budget.
At least on this one, Governor Romney’s been consistent.  He wants to repeal the savings and give the money back to the insurance companies, re-open the donut hole and force seniors to pay more for drugs, and reduce the life of the Medicare Trust Fund by eight years. So now if he’s elected and does what he promised Medicare will go broke by 2016.  If that happens, you won’t have to wait until their voucher program to begins in 2023 to see the end Medicare as we know it.

But it gets worse.  They also want to block grant Medicaid and cut it by a third over the coming decade.  Of course, that will hurt poor kids, but that’s not all.  Almost two-thirds of Medicaid is spent on nursing home care for seniors and on people with disabilities, including kids from middle class families, with special needs like, Downs syndrome or Autism.  I don’t know how those families are going to deal with it. We can’t let it happen.

Now let’s look at the Republican charge that President Obama wants to weaken the work requirements in the welfare reform bill I signed that moved millions of people from welfare to work.
Here’s what happened.  When some Republican governors asked to try new ways to put people on welfare back to work, the Obama Administration said they would only do it if they had a credible plan to increase employment by 20%.  You hear that? More work.  So the claim that President Obama weakened welfare reform’s work requirement is just not true. But they keep running ads on it. As their campaign pollster said “we’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers.” Now that is true. I couldn’t have said it better myself – I just hope you remember that every time you see the ad.

Let’s talk about the debt. We have to deal with it or it will deal with us.  President Obama has offered a plan with 4 trillion dollars in debt reduction over a decade, with two and a half dollars of spending reductions for every one dollar of revenue increases, and tight controls on future spending. It’s the kind of balanced approach proposed by the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission.

I think the President’s plan is better than the Romney plan, because the Romney plan fails the first test of fiscal responsibility: The numbers don’t add up. It’s supposed to be a debt reduction plan but it begins with five trillion dollars in tax cuts over a ten-year period. That makes the debt hole bigger before they even start to dig out.  They say they’ll make it up by eliminating loopholes in the tax code.  When you ask “which loopholes and how much?,” they say “See me after the election on that.”

People ask me all the time how we delivered four surplus budgets.  What new ideas did we bring? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.  If they stay with a 5 trillion dollar tax cut in a debt reduction plan – the – arithmetic tells us that one of three things will happen: 1) they’ll have to eliminate so many deductions like the ones for home mortgages and charitable giving that middle class families will see their tax bill go up two thousand dollars year while people making over 3 million dollars a year get will still get a 250,000 dollar tax cut; or 2) they’ll have to cut so much spending that they’ll obliterate the budget for our national parks, for ensuring clean air, clean water, safe food, safe air travel; or they’ll cut way back on Pell Grants, college loans, early childhood education and other programs that help middle class families and poor children, not to mention cutting investments in roads, bridges, science, technology and medical research; or 3) they’ll do what they’ve been doing for thirty plus years now – cut taxes more than they cut spending, explode the debt, and weaken the economy. 

Remember, Republican economic policies quadrupled the debt before I took office and doubled it after I left.  We simply can’t afford to double-down on trickle-down.

President Obama’s plan cuts the debt, honors our values, and brightens the future for our children, our families and our nation.

My fellow Americans, you have to decide what kind of country you want to live in.  If you want a you’re on your own, winner take all society you should support the Republican ticket.  If you want a country of shared opportunities and shared responsibilities – a “we’re all in it together” society, you should vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden. If you want every American to vote and you think it's wrong to change voting procedures just to reduce the turnout of younger, poorer, minority and disabled voters, you should support Barack Obama.  If you think the President was right to open the doors of American opportunity to young immigrants brought here as children who want to go to college or serve in the military, you should vote for Barack Obama.  If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American Dream is alive and well, and where the United States remains the leading force for peace and prosperity in a highly competitive world, you should vote for Barack Obama.

I love our country – and I know we’re coming back. For more than 200 years, through every crisis, we’ve always come out stronger than we went in.  And we will again as long as we do it together. We champion the cause for which our founders pledged their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor – to form a more perfect union.

If that’s what you believe, if that’s what you want, we have to re-elect President Barack Obama.

God Bless You – God Bless America.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Read all about it

Ms Curry
In publishing news, there's a story going around that some unnamed book-publishing firm is ready to offer Ann Curry eight million semolians to write a "tell-all" book about how the Today Show tied a can to her, and also to tell about how Matt Lauer ALLEGEDLY likes an occasional piece of chicken on the side and how Savannah Guthrie ALLEGEDLY took some Englishman away from his wife and later married and divorced him.

Mr Lauer (r)
Have we reached the information saturation point in this country?  Do we all have enough knowledge about the history of this nation, do we all speak at least two languages, is everyone up to date on everything we all ought to know?  OK then.  If that's the case, then I guess it's time to take our feet off the gas pedal and coast for a while.  Nothing says "putting my mind on hold" like "reading a book about Matt Lauer getting some strange nookie."

I guess this book will be ghostwritten and I guess it will come out on the bookstands and on the Kindles and the E-readers and the Whooz-Its and people will read about all this fooling around involving people who have to get up in the middle of the night to go to work.  I used to have to do the same (get up for work in the middle of the night), and yet there seems but scant interest in my memoirs.  Which is good, because I retired of my own free will and I never knew the taint of scandal and I don't know anything about people horsing around on the job.  I just don't.  Other peoples' sex lives should be of interest to them and them alone.

I always ran away faster than Paul Ryan at a marathon when people (always males) would begin telling me about how they "did it" to someone the night before. They always made it sound so, sided.  Which it might have been.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eye on Crime

On Labor Day night, Baltimore County's Police and Haz-Mat teams were called to a house just east of Towson to deal with some stored hazardous materials.

Two young men, entrepreneurs as it were, are charged with coming up with a business plan and then trying to put that model into action.  Only problem is, according to the police, what they were planning to sell was Mountain Dew bottles, filled with engine starter fluid and water. 

For those of us who are not up to date on the latest methods of chemical self-abuse, the point of having one of those bottles is to inhale the fragrant contents and put yourself in a doped-up state.

It must work well, judging by the look in the eyes of one of the young men charged in this caper:

I cropped this picture out of the Parkville Patch just to show the look his countenance beamed toward the cop taking his mug shot. Not to say that he's guilty of anything, but in case he is by some wild chance, let's show this picture to any person of any age who says, "Hey! Let's sniff some engine starter fluid as a means of increasing our vitality and joie-de-vivre!"

Beside the danger to the neighborhood of having chemical production going on down in the basement, the risk of having inhalants circulating among us is serious.  Think about it.  You don't want to wind up like this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Turning on the Fans

There's a movie that I wanted to see when it was out in the theatres for fifteen minutes, but I missed that narrow window of opportunity.  It's on free-per-view right now, on the Sundance channel movies, and it's called "Big Fan."

Patton Oswalt, who played a guy who lived with his mom and sold subway tokens in a tiny booth on "King of Queens" really steps out of his comfort zone in this one. He plays Paul Aufiero, a guy who lives with his mom, but is a parking garage cashier in a tiny booth in this movie.  But I'm not knocking it.  The movie is great.  All I can tell you is that it's about a guy who devotes his entire life to being the #1 fan of the New York Giants football team.  Tell you any more, and I'd be ruining it for you, and I do recommend it.  Trust me.  I was right about "Ernest Has Jury Duty," wasn't it?

With football season approaching, people in Baltimore are in an odd state.  The baseball team is doing better than it has in any season since 1997, and the football team wasn't much good in that year.  Now the Orioles are right in the middle of the pennant race and the Ravens start their season this Monday with expectations that this has to be the year they win it all.  (No pressure there...)

I'm a big fan, myself, but I enjoy the game from the perspective of watching talented athletes do what they do so well.  Paul Aufiero is a character who represents those people who seem to misplace the perspective, taking the wins and losses of his team entirely too seriously, and even saying, "We're gonna win..." as if he were out there at left tackle or something.

I don't even think the players themselves get so stoked up as to call and argue a botched double play or dropped interception with a guy on a radio show or another caller.  In fact, I have read stories about people who became professional athletes because they were born with a preternatural ability to throw, hit or catch a ball, and not because they were deeply interested in it.  They even say, in some cases, that they couldn't care much about the history of the game.  They see it as a nice way to earn more than they would at almost any other occupation except for being CEO of Bain Capital, and they drive home after the game, wondering why people are hollering on the radio about a game that's already over.

Listen, it's no problem if some wish to display an overwhelming interest in sports, but "Big Fan" will show you that there is a dangerous side to all this.  And I might as well admit that we watched it on Monday evening, because the Orioles had played (and won!) in the afternoon that day, and so there was no baseball to watch that night. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Getting off on the big foot

Please raise your right hand if you know what a "Ghillie Suit" is.

No, it's not the suit that they make you wear when you go to meet Marge and Nick Ghillie.  It's a camouflage outfit that makes the wearer look like a field of parsley.

You can see why being dressed like that could be helpful in trying to sneak up on people in vegetative surroundings.

Now, let's see right hands from everyone who thinks that putting on a Ghillie Suit and hanging around the local highway is a good idea.

Take that right hand and use it to pat yourself on the back if you didn't raise it this time.  Because, that practice proved fatal for one Randy Lee Tenley of Kalispell, MT, who donned his Ghillie and then positioned himself in the right-hand lane of Highway 93 not so long ago, and was promptly struck by two cars.  He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The trooper who investigated, Jim Schneider, said that Tenley "was trying to make people think he was Sasquatch so people would call in a Sasquatch sighting. You can't make it up. I haven't seen or heard anything like this before. Obviously, his suit made it difficult for people to see him."

It comes as a surprise to those of us who spend our days living our lives, working and earning, loving and learning, that we have others among us whose primary interest is dressing up like a gigantic hairy primate who lumbers around the woods of the northwestern United States and western Canada. Well, listen, it's like juggling chainsaws:  you can do it if you wanna, but you gotta be careful.

Or, you oughta.