Monday, May 28, 2007

Fattest Man on Melrose

Today being Memorial Day, and therefore a Holiday, we decided to drive into L.A. and do some shopping at trendy stores on Melrose and Robertson. The people who need the holdays the most, retail workers (slaves) all have to work on virtually every major holiday now. That means that those of us who can afford to take off time when we want to, will not be inconvenienced by the stores selling cheap Chinese clothing,with fantastic markups, being closed when we want to shop.This is especially ironic on Labor day, but worked O.K. today too, the day the nation has set aside to pay tribute to those who have died in the various wars we have participated in. It used to be that Americans were late for every war, Then for awhile we were mostly on time. Finally, we started coming ahead of everyone else and , of late, we are just about the only ones who show up at all, other than those we are shooting at.. This tends to make the number of Americans killed to be a rather high % of those of fight on our side, assuring generations of Memorial Days in years to come.

But back to L.A. L.A. makes me nervous. Unlike towns like say, Chicago, where I blend right in over at Mike Ditaks, I look rather out of place in L.A. Today, I was easily the fatest man on Melrose Blvd. This counts all men, not just customers of the stores or patrons at the restaraunts, but also the retail sales personel, the waiters and waitresses, the cops and security guards, even the cooks. I felt self conscious walking down the street with all of these thin people. I don't like to eat in the sidewalk cafes for fear that I won't fit. It does not help that L.A. has completely given itself over to health food. With what is served on the menu, there is n o way any person could gain weight here. At the restaraunt where we ate, they had a few non health items on the menu, but they were at the back under a section called "protein", and they were very expensive. A turkey sandwich was $17. It paid to eat healthy there, and indeed, I had a delicious veggie burger for only $11.50.

I have been coming to Southern California for about 25 years. L.A. has been the arbitrator of America culture for about 50 years. Roughly since television production moved here from New York. I did not say elite culture, although they are probably just about on top of that too by now. I'm talking about the culture of suburbia, the middle american, what used to be known as Main Street culture back in the days of Babbit. It still starts here, every new trend, every new idea, every quick fad, all start within a 50 mile radius of where I ate lunch. So it is damned inconvenient that the Californians get me, and the rest of the nation, to buy into a fad, like fast food, and then turn their backs on us when we partake of it. There must be a quarter of a million Jack in the Boxes out here. There is no way that even one person who lives here ever eats there.I bet there has not been one person from Southern California in a fast food place, other than In-Out Burger (which is more of a cult, than a restaraunt) since Lyndon Johnson was President.

Woody Allen once lampooned California by saying that the only cultural advantage to living here was being able to turn right on a red light. Well, all of America followed that trend too. So according to Woody, I guess there are no more cultural advantages to living out here at all. Which is fine by me. No great conversation ever started over a couple of fruit smoothies. It takes alcohol to bring out the best of Americans, and probably beef to. Meet you at Ditkas. I'll buy.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Catching Ronnie

Continuing my life long pursuit of dead Presidents, I convinced my family to take a break from viewing Southern California colleges and drive over to Simi Valley to view the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. I caught up with Ronnie in a beautiful replica of the South Lawn of the White House which had been paid for by Merv Griffin. Back in the 1960s, I used to watch the Merv Griggin show a lot during the summer. When the movie "Lost Horizen" was remade during that period, Merv had the sitting Gov., Ronnie Reagan on his show, along with other Hollywood luminaries to celebrate the event. Merv and Ronnie, I think actually, Nancy and Merv stayed close for years and when Ronnie decided where he wanted to be buried, Merv was nice enough to pick up the tab for the landscaping.Merv has made and lost and remade a lot of money, but as long as his production of the "Wheel of Fortune" stays on the air, no one will be holding any benefits for him.He did the Reagans proud with his recreation of the white House lawn. It is beautiful, and set in the climate of southern California, a lot more comfortable than the original.

So there was Ronnie, somewhere under the ground, and me looking down on him as I have so may of his presecessors, from Washington to Lincoln to two Roosevelts, two Johnsons, a Polk, a Taft,a Kennedy, a Jackson, two Adams,Wilson, Jefferson and Nixon. I'm typing this in a hotel lounge, so I'm sure I have left out a few. They all had at least two things in common. They had all been President, and they were all dead. Most of them have very nice gravesites, even if Merv did not pay for them.

I never was a political supporter of Reagan while he was alive. But I have come to recognize that he was a great President. Certainly one of the ten best. That's not as hard a list to make as you might imagine. The current officeholder shows how even medioctity is appreciated in the White House. God, if we only had mediocrity now ! Old Millard Filmore is mostly forgotten, but that's not only because he was not great. It's because he never screwed things up so bad that it will take generations to get things straight again. The current office holder will be remembered for a long time. Not as many people will drop by his gravesite as they do Reagans. Merv Griffin is not going to recreate any part of the white House lawn for him. George will probably lie quietly on the ranch in Crawford.

The election of an American President is a crap shoot. Some guy has an electable name, or gets to run against a duffus, and he can sneak in. The White Houise has been full of Zachary Taylors, Warren Hardings, U.S. Grants, and George W. Bushes. But George has a chance to eclipse them all. I may beat George to the grave, which is too bad for a number of reasons. But one is that Crawford is so close that I would like to drive on up and pay my respects when his time comes. Make damn sure he's really down there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

California Dreamin'

Just three more days and my little family is off to Claremont, California to look at colleges. We have looked at a lot of colleges in Texas, the midwest, D.C. and Virginia, New England, and now California.Parents enjoy the college trips more than the perspective undergrads do. Kids have to worry about their parents embarrasing them by asking stupid questions. I find that they are also a lot less interested in the college itself than they are the shopping area around the college, or maybe my family is unique in that way.

Baby boomers, most of whom went to large state universities, practically for free, have spawned an enormous industry by pushing their kids into small and exclusive schools. I was shocked a couple of years ago to hear a local yellow dog Democrat ask a friend of mine if he was aware of any "signifigant admits" lately. In other words, any kid get into a school worthy of our conversation ? A school that we can brag about and have other kids with lesser children envy us for. Through this attempt at reflected glory, Baby Boomers have not uttered a peep about the fact that they are paying a great deal more for their kids to receieve roughly the the same education that they themselves received.. I am typical, I suppose. I went through seven years of under grad and law school and the total paid directly, for the whole seven years, to the two universities was under a thousand dollars. That won't even pay application fees today for some of the more aggressive students.Really. It won't.

As a result of their need to have their egos boosted, the boomers, and their willing co-conspirators, the colleges and universities of America, have taken a good deal of childhood away from the kids. All over my neighborhood, kids put in outlandish hours of study and extra curricular work and charitable work so that they can build a resume to catch the attention of the Ivy League.Maybe it will all be worth it. Maybe the generation who attends a thousand different small liberal arts colleges will be happier that the generation that attended just a few state universities. Maybe they will be happier in their marriages, make more money, have whiter teeth and have less emotional problems than our generation did. For some that will surely be the case. For some though, the only advantage will be that they will be throwing up on Sunday mornings in a nicer dorm room.

So as I head for California, and I am really looking forward to it, I leave you alone for a few days. The blog producers wanted me to run some "Best of Mills of the Gods" while I was gone. Maybe the Ed Ames episode. But that's not my style. No one should ever read the same blog twice. Few should read it once. I dismiss you to read other blogs, and better.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Last Monkey Blog.....

for awhile.

I found a group on line which is trying to get December 14 declared "National Monkey Day" in the United States. As I detest the lack of Federal holidays between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I signed the petition and urged many of my friends to do likewide. Few responded. As an offshot of my effort though I am now on some kind of a monkey mailing list and get storys on a daily basis from around the simian world.

One story that needs to be explored is the ongoing monkey problem in New Delhi. New Delhi, like much of India was once surrounded by forest. As the city grew, monkeys, hundreds at a time, began roaming New Delhi, looking for food and whatever mischief they could get into. Last December, a group of harrassed Indians petitioned the Indian Suprmee Court to force the government to get rid of the monkeys. Since that time, the "Monkey catchers" of New Delhi, who are known as some of the least successful of all Indian bureaucrats, have caught a grand total of two monkeys. Worse, a group of Hindus managed to free one of the incarcerated monkeys, for what was said to be religious reasons.From January 1 through April 23 of this year, the Indian government advertized for more monkey catchers. Not one person applied for the job. The head of the Monkey control division in New Delhi said that there were a variety of reasons for the lack of successful recruitment. He named several, religious reasons,danger of the job,and the desire for a more conventional type of employment were among those cited.

This problam is, even now, being debated in the Indian Parliament. The Parliamant building itself, is said to be over run by "battalions" of monkeys who are biting people, stealing their lunches, harrassing them and taunting them. The taunting part intrigues me. I'd hate to be a pretty girl and have to walk the Monkey gauntlet every day, trying to get to my job. Big gangs of monkey toughs , chattering and scratching their rears and private parts, pitching feces now and then. That's no environment for a memeber of the Indian Parliament to have to work in.

Few may remember that back in the Spring of 2001, New Delhi was terrorized by a four foot high "Monkey man" who was sneaking down people's roofs at night and attacking the. These siteings almost ended in tragedy when a mob of Indians mistook a four foot tall wandering Hindu Sabu for the "monkey man" and beat him up. The last report I saw on Wikipedia about the Monkey man clained that he had boarded a flight for Russia in December 2001(also reported in Russian newspapers), although a "monkey like machine" flashing blue and red lights was spottted in New Delhi in 2002.

This old story about the Monkey man reminds me that, at that time, some people felt that the New Delhi citizenry was succumbing to a mas illusion, along the lines of "Big Foot" or the "Loch Nest Monster" Maybe this latest monkey rampage is nothing more than a relapse. I have watched the Texas legislature over time, working at a frantic pace, to pass God knows what awful laws, in the days alloted to them every two years by our ultra permissive State Constitution. I can easily see the Austin, Texas citizenary succumbing to the illusion that the legislators are, in reality, just so many monkeys, down there on the floor, taking bannana bribes and voting yes or no at the bidding of their trainers. That's pretty much the way the Texas legisalture works anyway. There is no reason to believe we would not, and every reason to expect that we would get better governemental service out of about 150 Indian monkeys than we do the thieves that serve us today. Hey India, I can solve your monkey problem, want to trade ?We'll throw in the lobbyists !

Monday, May 21, 2007

Corn or Flour ?

Among the many things I know little about, agriculture is certainly one. It is amazing how little I know about important things in life, but ask me questions about the 1961 Yankees or the 1896 American Presidential election, and you will get the proverbial ear full and more.Actually, I have never liked people who seem to know a lot about everything. As the Zens should say, until you know "nothing about nothing" you have no knowledge ( that "everything about nothing" always struck me as oxymoronic.Knowing "nothing about nothing" though, just try to get your arms around that after three or four drinks).

So since I know little about agriculture, I have been off base, or so I thought about the ethanol issue. First, I was against it on moral grounds, how could you use corn, which could feed Africa, to lower the gasoline bill of a bunch of rich people ?Yes, I said rich, anyone, in the world, who owns a car is rich by over all world standards. Then someone that knew something about agriculture (but did not know "nothing about nothing" and no, that's not a double negative) explained to me that the corn grown in the American midwest for use as ethanol fuel is not consumed by humans. So I felt better. Until a rancher friend of mine explained to me that that type of corn was consumed by cattle and that the ethanol corn growing could cause beef prices to go sky high. So, I got a little upset at that, but I don't eat much beef and it is a really inefficent food anyway, so I shrugged it off.

But today, ah today we have a problem. I just learned that because of corn growing for ethanol, the price of the tortilla in Mexico has doubled. That may not mean much to you when you pay for your combination plate over at El Chico, but it means something to a family that eats practically nothing but tortillas. The good news is that the Mexican farmer can now get a high enough price for his corn to where he can compete with American Agri-business for the first time since NAFTA went into effect. That's right, the country that invented corn, has not been able to grow it as a staple for over 20 years.

So it turns out that I was right all along. Ethanol is a moral issue. If it doubles the price of the food for the poorest of the poor, that's a moral issue. Some argue that this will help the United States with its immigration problem. It seems that after NAFTA, the small farmer in Mexico could not make even enough to cover his expenses for growing corn and so millions left the land, and a whole bunch of them crossed the river. We are mad about them coming over here and taking all the jobs that we refuse to do, but it never crossed our collective minds thatAmerican Agri-business was making a double profit here. They now have the Mexican market all to themselves, and have driven the former Mexican farmers over here so that they could exploit them for substandard wages. What a deal ! A win/win as we call it in the USA where we know everything about everything, but nothing about nothing.Will the high corn prices drive immigrants back to the land in Mexico. Experts say not, they say that more than 70% of the Mexican immigrnats are urban. Wow, how do they know stuff like that ? They sneak over here and blend in or hide out, and yet we have all of these statistics on them. Social Science is a wonderful thing. I don't know much about that either.I need to ask one of my neighbors. I got to talking one of them at a party this weekend and mentioned a part of Austin, not far from us, that I really liked. It is about a mile from us. "Yeah, they have no mosquitos at all in that neighborhood" he replied. Now how the hell could he know that ?

Friday, May 18, 2007

For Women Only

J.W. Marriott, a pretty darn profitable hotel chain, is creating "women only floors".These "women only floors" will have "women only lounges" on them, so women travelers can drink in peace. The rooms will cost $30 more a night for, in which, according to Marriott, the women will not only be more secure, but will get the "additional pampering that women like". I have been unable to find if the 'women only floors" will be served by "women only bell boys(girls), if room service will be brought up to the room by "women only", or if the hotel "engineers" who come and fix your a.c. and cable problems will be "women only". To guarantee that secure feeling that Marriott believes women crave, I suppose that all of the aformentioned jobs will have to be held by women. We can't have a man up their polluting the floor.

All of this is where I came in. Back in about 1962. Only in those days it was "men only" clubs, associations, businesses and professions. No one outside of a YMCA ever dreamed of a "men only" hotel room. The cost of such a room would be prohibitive, because the daily clean up would be 10X a normal family room, where women make sure things don't get out of hand. I doubt very seriously that any hotel chain will champion a "men only" floor, much less a men only lounge. The women only lounge is of dubious legality. It is illegal to refuse to serve anyone at a place of public accomodation (that engages in interstate commerce) based on sex. Perhpas Mariott will argue that they are not in violation of the law because they are providing "seperate but equal" accomodations to men in other areas of the hotel. Well, I may not be much of a lawyer, but I know where that argument takes you. What the Marriott will have to do, it seems to me, is turn their women's floor into a private club that only women can join, which they do for the extra $30 a day, payable at at check in.The private club can discriminate all it wants. If it wants to get picketed like the golf club at Augusta did.

What will inevitably happen is that women will get sick off the whole idea.At least they will if they are anything like men. Marriott would have to pay me $30 a night to stay on an all male floor.Nothing makes me cringe like the sight of suited up, freshly shaven men marching down a hall ,double time, at 8:00 a.m. to get to some bull shit meeting.I can't imagine putting up with a whole floor of that. The testostorine level would smell up the whole floor.I assume that women have similair things that irritate them about each other.

What Marriott ought to do, of course, is segreagate in other ways. The non-smoking floors and rooms was a good idea. I'd be for a floor where everyone pledges to be in bed by 10:30 with the T.V. off. I'd love a floor where we all agreed not to look around when we walked out our doors, so that our neighbors could pull the USA today paper off of the dooor handle in their under wear.A no kids floor ? Fine with me. A floor where the A.C. is always kept at 59 ? I'd pay $30 extra a night for that. College student only floors, traveling sports team only floors, non drinking floors,seminar guest floors (name tags only), all of these would be fine, and certainly legal. I'd even agree to seperate floors and lounges for vacationers and road warriors. That would be useful.An express elevator only floor ? That's worth $30 a day. Marriott's problem is that its vision is too pedestrian. It takes no creativity to divide up floors by sex, or for that matter, race, religion or sexual preference. It is just a creepy (and maybe illegal) thing to do.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sorry Day to be a Human

the Five Top stories and why I will not blog today.
1.Father microwaves baby
2. 17 year old Kurdish girl publicly stoned to death for dating a Sunni
3. Twenty Two killed in Drug Lord/Police gunfight south of Arizona
4. Columbian Policeman escapes to tell of nine years he has spent chained at the neck with other drug kidnap victims
5.Southern Ocean so absorbed with CO2 that more will be sent into the atmosphere to warm the planet (this happened 50 years before expected from the wordt computer modeling)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

To a Mouse

My youngest (and I'm sure he would say, best looking) law partner knows of my peculiar affinity for stories about chimpanzees. Consequently, he sent me an interesting one the other day about a woman in Europe who is trying to get guardianship of a chimp. In orfder to do that, she has to prove that the chimp is human. She is trying to do this through expert testimony, the lynch pin of the argument being that chimps have about 98% of the DNA you and I do. While I have certain doubts as to whether chimps are human, I contacted, via e-mail, the author of the story, a Scottish newspaperman, to see if I could assist the attorneys involved in trying to bring about the adoption. The world being what it is today, I received an instant reply from a very gracious Scot who told me that he had picked the story up off of a European wire service, he gave me a number of nother reporter to call (in Scandanavia). Due to a rather incessant billable hours commitment, I chose not to follow the story any further.

One of the things that intrigued me about the story was a scientist speaking for the defense perspective. He seemed incensed at the whole idea and announced that mice have 90% of the DNA we had and quetioned whether the world was ready to give 90% of human rights to mice. Well that did not sound so bad to me. I have nothing against mice. I asked my daughter her opinion of the matter that night. Her response was "what more rights do the mice want ? They have more than 90% of our rights now. They have freedom of movement, can eat when and where, and mostly what, they want, sleep when they are tired and mate with whomever (or is it whichever) is in the general vicinity. My daughter was confusing rights with the absence of the exercise of authority. She has not yet spent $175,000 of her parents money, over a four year period, to live the latter while she studies the former. Mice have only the rights we choose to give them and a good many of the "little white mice" species, far from having rights, live a rather horrible life ingesting tobbaco and other drugs and running through mazes in the name of science.

The great Scottish poet Burns, thought that the difference between people and mice was that mice had no psychological baggage of guilt or anxiety. "Still thou art blessed compared with me, the present only toucheth thee, but ouch I backward cast my eye on prospects fear, and forward though I can not see, I guess and fear."Burns made this observation after writing a number of lines about the mouse in question scurrying around to put together a nest before the winter frost set in. If Burns really thought that mice did not worry, then why was this particular mouse so concerned about getting his nest built on time ? According to Burns, any member of the species would, at that time of the year , be expected to be lounging around in the sun, or, looking to catch a grain filled freight to Florida for the winter.Frankly, that's how Burns lived his life. He was not really a poet so much as he was a song writer who spent all the time that he could drinking whiskey and debauching women. Still, at the end of the day, hundreds of milions of people, if not mice, in the English speaking world sing his words at the stroke of midnight every New Years Eve. He work is in every major English Poetry anthology ever published. For all of my responsible ways, I have a mostly unread blog and one poem on a Cowboy Poetry web site about Wyatt Earp. But Burns had no where near the "rights" that I have. His whole country was in subjugation to the English. He could have been arrested, drafted and probably simply killed by authorities from outside of his native land on the most minor of whims. I can legally say anything I want to any government official and(apparently) carry a Glock with a 17 bullet clip down Congress Avenue at high noon, if I choose. Which of us has the greater life ? That is the question that the chimp needs to be asking himself as he petitions the court for human status. Oh, wait a minute, that's right,the chimp did not petition, someone(without asking him) petitioned for him to be a human. Does anyone see the irony here ?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Road rage

Whoever keeps score of these things says that Miami is the epicenter of road rage in this country. That is two years in a row with the title. This is nonsense. Miami is full of more drug deals going bad than any town in the world. The fact that its citizens are reporting car to car gun battles as road rage ,instead of open gang warfare, actually makes Miami seem a safer city than it really is. That is why the Miami Chamber of Commerece does not get upset at the road rage award. They know that the news could be a lot worse.

I used to get a lot of road rage. Mostly when I lived in Houston and was a major league driver. I spent a lot of time time on Highway 59 screaming at people who cut me off, or drove too slowly, or looked at me the wrong way. When you are young, you are impatient.You could cut deeply into road rage by not allowing anyone who lives in a city with more than a million people to drive until they are 35. I don't get mad here in Austin. Who cares ? If you don't care what time you get somewhere, and you don't see every traffic incident as a direct challange to your manhood, there is no reason for road rage.I can't even recall the last time I honked my horn. I bet it's been two or three years.

All of this means that, while I no longer get road rage, I am an enabler of the same.People are much more likely to blare their horn at me, curse at me, give me the finger or an icy stare than they were when I was always driving 80 on the freeway. Even my wife and daughter get upset that I drive too slowly. They also get upset when I drive too swiftly so it is just better that I travel alone.Today, as I was driving down 12th street, getting ready to turn onto Lamar. a car was stopped at one of the three lights I have to go through every day. They hesitated too long, but I did not care, I was listening to a story about how the Taj Mahal is turning yellow.That was a lot more interesting than getting to work right on time.A yellow taj Mahal, who would have ever thought that would happen ? And if the Taj Mahal, why not the White House ? Well I never got to find out because a young man behind me blared his horn to try to get the poor woman in the car in front of me to move. She did. We all made the light. Then we got stopped the next one, which we would have anyway, I do every day. So all of that irritation made no difference in his life at all. He still got to work at the very same time we would have had he not honked his horn. He is more irritated, his blood pressure is a little higher, and his commute was just not as pleasant as if he had
just turned up his radio for a minute and listened to the story of a three hundred and fifty year old pure white marble building turning into nice, urine like, shade. Indeed, according to the story, if there were less of us on the road, polluting the skies and leaving our BigFoot sized carbon footprint, The Taj Mahal would still be white. Now THAT is something to get road rage about.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Check the Drop Box

If all goes as scheduled, one of my partners will be the father of twin girls (I am lobbying to call them Lucy and Ethel) tomorrow. This all comes on Mother's Day weekend. News Agencies around the world are using this weekend to publish the story of the drop off box for babies that has been set up in a Japanese hospital. I thought, whan I heard the term "drop off box" that that was a euphemism for an anonymous placement service. But no. I saw a picture, it is a real drop off box. The kind that you place the baby in and give a wheel a turn and voila, the baby is now on the otherside. If it works like a library, it will be open all the time and be very stacked up with babies when everyone reports for work on Monday.

I don't mean to make light of the problem of unwanted children. I am glad that the Japanese have the option of turning the baby in if they can't handle it. There have been times when I wondered if there was a drop off box for 17 year old girls. It can be quite overwhelming.But the drop off box is a bit impersonal. If I was designing the system I would make it more like a Jack in the Box drive through, where you stopped your car and told the clown what you were dropping off, and then drove up and handed the kid off to a real person wearing a paper hat. At least in Japan they are using the window type drop off system and not just the slot and slide system which American libraires favor. This is much more like a "Blockbuster" drop off box.

Of course, for real convenience sake, we could make it like a Netflix system where the hospitals sent you prepaid and preaddressed envelopes that you could drop the baby in and never have to leave the house. The U.S. mail would do all of the work. For a country as vibrant as Japan, their drop off system strikes me as excedingly low tech.

As I alluded to above, if all of this works out, there is no reason to stop at babies. Teenagers, bosses, CPAs, steroid using ballplayers, these all strike me as crying out for a drop box system.Some targets would require bigger boxes than others, but if it meant a few less members of the Texas state legislature, I for one would be willing to pay the price. When you think about it, the last thing in the world you would ever want to drop off is a baby.Babies are innocent, precious and lovable. You usually like to keep things like that. At least that's my experience. Here's is my prayer that the baby drop off box in Japan is never used. At least until the kid hits puberty.

CODA- Japanese newspapers reported today that a three year old child was left in this drop box night before last(5/15). The Prime Minister of Japan has called the action unacceptable, and an age limit has now been put on the box.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The right to travel

Documentary maker Michael Moore is being invstigated by the United States for illegal travel to Cuba. I am only a minor Moore fan. I liked his G.M. film, but I thought that his film about Bush was heavy handed and unfair. That's an even bigger sin because no stretching of the truth is needed to make George W. Bush look like one of the worst three Presidents in American history. It is too early to say for sure, but he could be the worst. It hurts the cause to have Moore treat such a dufus unfairly. Makes all the rest of us look bad.But I am upset about the administrations actions on this one.

Let me be clear, what Moore did, taking ten Americans to Cuba for medical treatment, without permission, is flat out against the law.Let me be also clear that travel to Cuba has been restricted to greater or lesser degrees, by Presidents of both parties, for almost fifty years. This is not a partisan issue.It is a freedom issue. I don't understand how anyone in this country can favor the government telling us where we can and can't go. That is none of their business. I understand that if you start making secret trips to Iran, that the government is within its rights to, and indeed I favor, increasing surveilance on you when you get back. But I don't think the government should keep you out. Look at Cuba.

We have had an economic boycott against that nation for over 45 years. It has not brought the Castro regime down. It has inconvenienced many innocents in both Cuba and the United States, myself being one, since I have not been able to go watch baseball over there.Is a free country ever well served, short of a war with battle situations, in locking its people in ? We spend a lot of time in this country screaming for a fence to lock perfectly nice people out. Why is there never a hue and cry about those of us locked in ? What is it that Moore can do in Cuba that will in any way effect us ? Even his films don't sway votes. No one who ever went to a Michael Moore movie had to be convinced by it to vote Democratic. He preaches to the choir. This country has constitutional rights for saying anything you want, but not going anywhere you want. Does it make sense that the constitution should give you a right to carry an assault rifle, but not take a boat trip of 90 miles from Florida ? The time has come to stop this nonsense. The govenrment hat is big enough to keep you out of Cuba today, is big enough to keep you out of Canada tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Somewhere Imus is giggling

Rev. Al Sharpton, whom I usually find quite amusing and a very good debater has made a nice little gaffe which makes him sound like a religious bigot. In debating an atheist the other night he said that "the Mormon" who is running for President "will be defeated by those who believe in God." In defending himself the next day, he dug himself a deeper hole by saying that Mormons "don't believe in God the way I believe in God." All of this is a God send to Mitt Romney, the Republican Mormon running for President. Having been on the defensive in his campaign for switching practically every belief he ever had (and had stated in previous campaigs) to appeal to the Republican base, he can now run as the JFK of the 21st century, having to over come religious bigotry. And bigotry from a prominent Democrat at that !

All this proves that Sharpton talks too much. I'm not taking about the quality of his speech, but the quantity. If your mouth is open every minute of the day, statistically speaking, you are going to say something stupid every now and then. And when you make your living jumping on people who say stupid things, the stupid thing that you finally say will be gleefully jumped on by the press , who makes their living jumping on everyone. I'm not sure why Sharpton brought up Romney in this debate, although the truth of the matter is that he never mentioned him by name, maybe he was talking about Donny Osmond. The fact of the matter is that there are a lot of good reasons to vote against Mitt Romney, not the least of which is that he has a stupid first name. I don't think it is a Mormon name. There was a monkey by the same name on my daughter's "Reader Rabbit" program when we were teaching her to read.I don't recall the monkey being Mormon.

Sharpton is lucky this time, he has been sued for slander before and lost. At least this won't cost him any cash. It may cost him a few friends, presuming he had any Mormon friends to begin with. If he knew any, he probably did. I have expressed before in these pages that I have yet to meet a Mormon who was not a nice guy. I think it is some kind of a prerequisite in their religion.Which makes it unique among all the religions in the world, as far as I can tell. I'm sure Mitt Romeny is a nice guy. He probably is changing all of his political views because he is such a nice guy that he does not want to offend, in any way, the people listening to his speeches. So when he ran against Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, he was for gay marriage and abortion rights. But now that he is running in a Republican primary in South Carolina, he has to be nice and say that he is very much against those things. I know what you are thinking, can we have a guy who speaks for our country that is so sensitive to other people's feelings ? Won't he tell us one thing and then change his views at negotiating sessions so that he does not offend the other country he is negotiating with. Why the hell not ? How could it be any worse than what is going on now, where we have a President who seems to go out of his way to insult every other country in the world ? Look where that got us.

But back to Sharpton. He has a radio talk show too. It would be the height of hypocrisy on my part if I did not say to his boss what I said to Don Imus boss. You just can't have people who say things like that working for you. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out Rev.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Hilton to Gitmo ?

Some "West Hollywood" psychologist is saying that a 45 day stay in jail will not cure Paris Hilton.Depends on where she does her jail time. A 45 day stay in Guantanamo Bay might change a few of her habits. Let's see how she likes the water board treatmant. But really, cure her from what ? Patris Hilton is not doing anything wrong. she is living her life as she chooses to live it. As long as the normal rules of society apply to her, i.e., she goes to jail when she breaks probabtion, who in the hell cares how she acts ?

People are opining that she will come out of this "bigger than ever". What does that mean ? She already has more money than God, what do I care if she gets a few more bucks for doing a "Simple Life in the Slammer" ? I'm not going to watch it anyway. As near as I can tell, this woman makes a living by going to parties and having her picture taken. People have been doing that since at least the days of Lily Langtry. It is a time honored, if not quite noble, profession. In my old age, I have come to the conclusion that the public is going to spend its time and its money on whatever or whomever entertains it the most. Even if it did me any good to complain about the attention given to a woman who appears to be among the most shallow on this earth, it would do no good.It is none of my business. If I really wanted to help out in this life , I'd do something in the anti-drug program or try to stop clueless people from throwing all of their money away at the dog races. I don't do that, why should I care about Paris Hilton and her brainless devotees ?

Paris did do something right, she filed her publicist for giving her bad legal advice. Of course, people who rely on publicists for legal advice usually get what they pay for. In this case, 45 days in the slammer. Paris, in speaking for herself, summed up, "I feel that I was treated unfairly and that the sentence is both cruel and unwarranted and I don't deserve this." She said this as she and her mother left on a shopping trip (presumably to find some things that go with orange jump suits). Well the sentence is not cruel, I don't practice criminal law in California, so I have no idea if it is unwarranted or not. It seemed about right to me from my perspective in far off Texas. As I said earlier, Paris Hilton should be able to live the life she wants, as long as all of the rules of society apply to her, including the one where you don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Three Score

My senior law partner finished his sixtieth trip around the sun today. Since 60 is the new 55, he does not feel all that bad about it. Considering the alternative, there is much to celebrate. Still, when the bible gives you three score and ten, and you have completed three score, it is probably time for a little reflection on the past, especially since looking ahead is not particularly exciting. At a Mexican restaraunt at lunch today, the wisdom of this sectagenarian was shown when he explained to us that "the root cause of homelessness is that the homless don't have a home" . Truer words were never spoken, and one marvels at the insight which longevity sometimes, but not inevitably, brings.

The problem with my partner is that he has already reflected on the thing most 60 year olds reflect upon, retirement. When I began working with him 17 years ago, he told me that he was going to retire in 28 months. He said that every morning when he took his shower, he mentally clicked off another day.As I said,that was 17 years ago. He has had one retirement scheme or another for almost each one of those 17 years. He has done way too much reflection on the subject, soI believe that he will be more profitably spending his time reflecting on other things.Chief on his wish list right now is to become a Texas naturalist, whatever that means. I think he aspires to acquiring instruments for doing chemical analysis on the waters in and around Austin, so that he can make daily and horrifying announcements on a web page. I looked for a pith helmet as a birthday gift, but could not find one that you did not have to order. An aside here. Pith is a funny word because when you say it, it sounds like you are saying piss with a lisp. Indeed, if there was such a thing as a "piss helmet", you would never know for sure which helmet, pith or piss, the person with a lisp was talking about. Like the old Seinfeld joke about seltzer and salsa. Where the hell does pith helmet come from ? The ancient meaning of pith was "spinal cord". Even today, to "pith"an animal means to severe its spinal chord in order to kill or disable it for scientific purposes. The "pith"in the "pith helmet" is a cork like substance found in Indian swamps. The "pith" in a "pith helmet" as spoken by one with a lisp, is urine.

That aside sort of got away from me. Back to the heart of the matter. My partner, with or without a pith helmet, looks about the same as he did when he was in his mid 40s. He and I shared a trainer(at different seesions) when he was 49, and I very easily convinced her that he was 70. I told her that I was concerned with her pushing him so hard, because I did not want him to have a stroke or heart attack on her time. My partner, for some reason, got quite upset with me when she started easing up on him, and then told him the reason. He said that I had taken advantage of her naivete', which is somewhat true. She was about 21. But what I had really taken advantage of is that he looked a lot like Harlan Sanders staring out at you from a bucket of chicken. To be fair, a Harlan Sanders that only weighed about 175. I guess he really looked like a young Harlan Sanders who had dyed his hair and beard white.

Colonel Harlan Sanders lived four score and ten years , and ate transfats every day of his life. My partner keeps himself in excellent shape, eats right and will probably make the four score and ten. And when he does die, I know the last thing he will say to anyone: "You know, I was thinking last night about when I retire."

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Super Czars

The FDA has just named this Dr. Acheson as its safety Czar. This comes less than a month after President Bush wanted to name a War czar to help with figuring out what to do in Iraq. For a democratic society we sure appoint a lot of czars. I recall an energy Czar back in the 70s and several other Czars since.

Now the last real Czar ended up getting shot by a firing squad in Russia shortly after the revolution. So I'm not quite sure why anyone over here wants to be a Czar. None of these U.S. Czars get to hold office very long, and for all I know, the position comes with a susepctibility to hemophilia.

Czar is most often associated with the Russians. But the word derived from Caesar. The Germans used a similair derivation, Kaiser. The Russian leader was actually often called a Tsar here in the west because that is the closest pronunication. The academics, however, always called the office Czar. The first Tsar was quite possibly St Boris I of Bulgaria. The Russians got around to using both that tem and that name a little later. Boris is one of the most important slavic names here in the west because of its long time association with "Rocky and Bullwinkle" bad guy, Boris Badinov, who, for reasons that were never really made clear, spent several years trying to kill off an animated moose and squirrel team. Boris' partner, and presumued paramour, was a very tall slinky woman named Natasha. I always thought that Natasha's naive and unquestioning following of Boris set the women's movement back by several years, just as Boris probably lengthened the cold war through his constant use of those big, black round bombs with the long rope like fuses that you had to light.

At any rate, I think that it is time to rfetire the use of the term Czar by the american media.I suggest the return of the seldom used "kingpin". Kingpin, which unfortunatly became associated with organized crime, is a word which is much more appropriate for American political leaders. The kingpin is the first among equals, is constantly the one people are aiming at, and when he goes down, he tends to take a whole bunch of other folks with him. It may take awhile to get the unsavory taste of the word kingpin out of our language, but if that was done for Czar, with it's thousand year connotation of war and the gulag, certainly kingpin can come back. If not kingpin, then how about kingfish ?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

lethal injections

Dr Jay Chapman, the guy who invented the currently in use lethal injection cocktail thinks that it may be time for an upgrade. A couple of states have already held the injection to be cruel and unusual punishment. One of the recently departed asked, sometime after being given the injection, if there might not be a way to speed up the process. It seems that the injections are, at times, much more slow moving than everyone thought. Sometimes the inmates slowly suffocate. One of the problems in the cocktail is pancoromium bromaide, which paralyzes all muscles, including those needed to breath, making death slower and quite painful. when asked by a reporter why he included pancronium bromaide in the first place, Dr Chapman replied, "that's a good question, maybe I should have left it out."

It is a lot tougher to kill people painlessly than it would seem. One way to do it would be to make sure that they were completely unconscious before killing them. All that would take would be carbon monoxide. You'd just kind of drift off and then they could dispose of you pretty much any way they wanted. We could also do the executions in anyone's garage, with the door shut. Of course that would cut down on the witnesses.

I'm not upset with Dr Chapman. He had the best of intentions. After a Utah firing squad killed Gary Gilmore in 1976 ("let's do it"), Chapman mentioned to some colleauges that we are much more merciful in putting animals away than people. Of course, few animals have committed a henious crime. But Chapman set out to do something that was more, not less, humane, which in this country is somewhat unusual. The most humane and painless way of all ? The guillotine. It's only bad politics that keeps us from using Madame Guillotine right now. It has a bad rap because of the French Revolution and Marie Antoinete. But really, it was fast, efficent and, as far as anyone knows, painless. But it will not be brought back because we never take a step back in technology. If we did, you'd have a fucking telephone in your house that you could actually hear out of, instead of one of those ultra light, hollow, p.o.s. that they sell to us these days.

Of course there is the other side of the argument. Just because something hurts a little, does that really make it "cruel and unusual" ? Remember, the phrase is "cruel AND unusual. Not Cruel OR Unusual. It may be cruel to hand someone a fist full of live wires and watch an electric spark shoot through his head, but it's not that unusual, people get electrocuted all of the time. 50,000 people die in car accidenets every year. How unusual would it be to tie a guy up in the middle of a road and give the keys to a car to a drunk driver ? There would be some poetic justice in that.Maybe we should not be making it so easy on these murderers.

At any rate, it seems that the current lethal injection cocktail is about to go the way of the hangman. It has had its day. That makes it wide open for the next execution device.Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door. Hmmm, a giant mouse trap.......