The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Pondering Financial Matters

I saw a headline that bothered me. Why would that headline bother me? Because it reminded me of some thoughts I had in the years before The Great Recession.

People often do not remember that the Clinton presidency gave us a recession at the end, which Bush inherited. The events of 2001 could have made it much worse but the administration (with the help of Congress) encouraged home buying. Which led to speculation on housing... which led to the games the banks played with derivatives... which led to the collapse... which we seem to be having great difficulty getting out of.

The headline suggested (to me) that they are at it again. Cheap loans encourage people to buy homes. But they also encourage people to speculate in real estate.  Speculation leads to quickly rising prices which are good for the speculators but bad for people who want to buy homes to live in. The real estate industry then uses the rapidly increasing prices to urge people to buy and we end up with a sort of inflationary spiral, a "bubble", that will eventually (if it is not slowed down somehow) lead to a collapse in the housing market (the bubble pops). In the meantime, however, the bubble produces jobs and makes the economy look pretty good.

The idea behind home loans is that it gets easier to make payments as your income rises. And that is true... so long as the loans use a fixed rate for the term of the loan. But we now have variable rate loans. If your pay increases faster than the interest rate adjustments, you won't feel much pain and you will be fine. But if it doesn't? Then you will feel a lot of pain.

A lot.

Friday, June 27, 2014

What To Believe?

I used to be a "pub crawler" back in my drinking days... way back, when I was young and still had a healthy liver, that is... Today, I am an "internet crawler" who wanders through the internet from time to time looking for a "interesting story" instead of a drink.

I think I found one here. It is interesting because the previous story I perused spoke of how and why some people believed things that others did not. That story can be found here.

I have an hypothesis that we all believe what we want to believe. That is, we either agree with a story/report or we don't. And we do that based on our cumulative experiences or teachings. I am not saying I am above this, I do it too. And I also, on occasion, knuckle under to peer pressure. That is, I will come to accept as true or valid that which it seems like the majority believes. But that majority, or that belief, can change with who my peers are. Or I seek out like-minded peers so as not to challenge those beliefs.

When I was in my twenties, I was pretty liberal in my thinking. I hung around with liberals, I agreed with them, I thought like them, and I avoided (as much as possible) speaking unorthodox (to them) thoughts. I, like most folks, wanted to get along and, as the saying goes, one must "go along to get along." Or so I tended to believe at the time. But we evolve, we can change. We can learn new things, alter our beliefs, form new opinions. And I think we do... many times throughout our lives. But the how and why of those changes intrigues me.
Some years after I got out of the Navy, I realized I had dropped my dislike of it and retained my "good" memories of that life, eschewing the "bad" ones, changing how I viewed that 4 year period. Think of a marriage that ended in divorce; these usually do not start out with rancor and animosity (just the opposite usually) but they end with them. It is only much later that we might think of that marriage in a good light. Unless, like my own first marriage, the scars run pretty deep and the rancor does not mellow out. The experiences in a second marriage will likely have a huge impact on how one comes to feel about that first one.

I have a brother and a brother-in-law who are polar opposites. The brother, who was once pretty conservative, is now pretty liberal (though he retains some prejudices and bigotries of his earlier days) and the brother-in-law (Frank) is very conservative and has been throughout his life, as far as I can tell. I once made the mistake of discussing evolution with him and found he firmly believed it to be a hoax. My brother, I learned, is a "911 Truther" and firmly believed the Bush administration was behind the attacks, or they just  knew of it in advance, as well as believing the buildings fell because explosives were planted. I could not make a dent in either of their beliefs. I no longer even bring up those subjects with either of them. It's pointless.

I am occasionally stunned by what some people believe. I am mystified by their reasoning and befuddled by the fact that they do not believe as I do on these matters... whatever matters are at issue at the time. And then I mentally slap myself as I realize that much depends on who they view as their peers.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Bearing In Mind

I see a lot of things on the golf courses I play. Many animals, for instance. Otters,  Foxes, wild pigs, alligators, and lots and lots of squirrels. Also all sorts of birds: Egrets, Sandhill Cranes, ducks, woodpeckers, cardinals, Florida redbirds (very similar to cardinals) and many I could not name if I wanted to.

But, yesterday, I saw an animal I hadn't see outside a zoo... a black bear. A big one. 400-500 pounds. As we were playing, I noticed a police car with his flashing lights sitting on a street in front of some houses that bordered the 8th hole. Then we heard his loudspeaker exhorting us to leave the course. There really was nowhere to go... Then we saw the bear, padding along on the back lawns of those houses. he passed us about 40 yards away then turned and crossed the fairway behind us, maybe about 50-75 yards back from the green we were approaching.

Florida is an interesting place.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Will You or Won't You?

The title is misleading. It's really about free will. We don't ever talk about "free won't", though, do we?

But free will also includes free won't. In other words, free will includes the ability to say "no." I had a friend back in the Navy who offered this, "Everyone is actually free, even a slave can say 'no.'" I thought about that and decided that he was correct, technically. The slave who says "no", however, risks his/her life for exercising that freedom. Freedom is constricted in any society, more so in/for some than for others. It is constricted by consent of those who are willing to remain a part of a society.

My own stint in the Navy taught me a lot about the concept of freedom. I was not free. I had agreed to a period of servitude in which I gave up my freedom; similar to being a bonded servant. I was not forced into it, I did so freely of my own accord. Except that I didn't, really. You see, the draft was active at the time and we were engaged in a war in Vietnam. My only real alternative was to take a chance on getting drafted at some point. Getting drafted would mean being forced into the Army, essentially at gunpoint.

Let me give you another thing I once heard that same Navy friend (let's call him "Herb" since that is his name) once argued with another shipmate. He argued that we were not free in the United States. His opponent disagreed. Herb said that if we were truly free, there would be no draft. His opponent tried to counter that we needed the draft in order to man the military which protects our freedom. Herb simply pointed out the obvious contradiction in that concept. But that didn't end the argument. Herb finally walked away as the opponent suggested he was engaging in sedition. And, under the UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice), that was a crime. So, Herb withdrew before his opponent decided to report him for it.  Proving that we certainly had little or no freedom of speech while in the service.

But I want to talk about free will; do we have it or do we not? if we feel coerced into a decision, did we exercise free will or did we acceded to pressure? My decision to enlist was coerced by the circumstances of the times but my decision to enlist in the Navy was unfettered. Basically, I thought of it this way: If I had to serve, I wanted to decide which branch I would serve. Let's call this "limited" free will.

And, if I believe (as I do), that we are "wired" by genetics to filter external stimuli in a certain way ("he's just like his father") and programmed to react in specific ways by family (based on societal "norms), can I still believe in free will? I can... but perhaps it would be foolish to do so.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Memory Evoked

Each day I get some comic strips in my email. I am a simple man who likes simple pleasures and comic strips provide these for me. I have written of my penchant for comic strips before.

Never mind that Gocomics (which provides a daily selection of strips in an email... for an annual fee) has had me upset for the last few months because it is often failing to include some strips and a few of the ones they do send are out of sequence. They are working on this, so they tell me. I still enjoy them. Perhaps it's because reading them evokes a much simpler time in my life.

You know the time I am talking about; when life was new and Mom and Dad provided all that you needed (but not, of course, all you wanted). When home was a refuge and represented safety and comfort. A time when you were still learning about this world and being amazed by it in a Good Way and not stunned and dismayed and outraged so much. My memories of listening to actors read the "funnies" (as we called them) on the radio as I looked at the pictures may even be false ones. But I suspect not as I recall the arrival of our first TV set pretty vividly.

Or maybe I have conjured these memories out of thin air, who can know for sure? Perhaps I saw a movie where the kids gathered around the big radio and listened to them being read and I just adopted it as my own; wanting it to be part of my life and taking it psychologically. Imbedding it as if it was real.

In any event, that doesn't matter now. I believe that memory and it gives me great comfort. That is all that matters. This one evoked another memory, one from my stint in the Navy.

At the end of my SONAR training, the instructors had us fill out what were referred to as "dream sheets" where we requested postings we would like to be given. The instructors pointed out that we could ask for any posting we'd like but that we would likely get "tin cans out of Long Beach" so that is what we should request. Few of us followed that advice. I know that I didn't; I requested Oceanography School.

But, sure enough, that "tin can out of Long Beach" is what all of us in that class got.

Monday, June 23, 2014

More On Pot?

As I was perusing my NY Times links, I came across this and was intrigued. So I followed up... I Googled the case, finding an article from a local Denver TV station and then I Googled the name of the shooter, Richard Kirk, and learned that he apparently had a prescription for pain medication. I could not find anything telling me his medical history.

I did learn, however, that the woman had been on the phone with 9-1-1 for twelve minutes before she was shot and killed. And that it took sixteen minutes (starting from the beginning of the call? The gunshot? This is not discernible from any story) for the police to arrive (a station was nearby, by the way).

It sounds like a propaganda piece to me. And it sounds like there is much more to this story...

Saturday, June 21, 2014

I Do Not Understand Why...

...more people are not disgusted. The IRS has engaged in the absolutely worst thing they can do: they targeted certain groups, based on indication of ideology, leading up to and during a political campaign.

It is, according to the White House, a "phony scandal." However, the White House first said it didn't happen then that it did but it was done by a couple of rogue agents in Cincinnati then it comes out that it wasn't confined to Cincinnati but went all the way to Washington. At some point, Lois Lerner (the director of IRS Exempt Organizations at the time) was called to testify before a Congressional Committee. She read a prepared statement and then invoked her Fifth Amendment right not to speak. Neither you nor I could get away with this in a court of law. So far, Lerner has.

Now we learn that all of the emails (minus the ones we already knew about) were lost due to an unrecoverable hard drive failure. I do not work for the IRS (Heck! I don't work for anyone) and never have... but I have worked at a large corporation that had a lot of computers. Backups were scheduled on a regular basis. I will presume that the federal government would not do something similar unless there was rampant incompetence throughout the agency. Therefore, all of the emails could not have been lost. Following that logic, the emails must be being kept away from Congress, illegally.

I don't know if you do regular backups but are you shocked that, perhaps, neither does the IRS?

You do realize, I am sure, that such an excuse would never work for the poor citizen being audited by the IRS? Just imagine telling the IRS auditor that all of your records were lost in a hard drive crash. Would they say "No problem... that's perfectly acceptable. You are free to go." Or would they prosecute?

But where is the outrage about this scandal? Where is the media? All I hear are crickets...

Here's an excerpt from an ABC News story on it:

Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, asked Koskinen to testify a week after the IRS disclosed that it had lost an untold number of emails to and from Lois Lerner. Lerner headed the division that processes applications for tax-exempt status during a time when, the IRS has acknowledged, agents improperly scrutinized applications from tea party and other conservative groups.

Camp was clearly expecting Koskinen to be more contrite.

"What I didn't hear in that was an apology to this committee," Camp said after Koskinen's opening statement.

"I don't think an apology is owed," replied Koskinen.

The IRS commissioner also dismissed Camp's call for a special prosecutor to investigate, saying it would be "a monumental waste of taxpayer funds."

What incredible arrogance! At some level, these people work for us! We pay taxes so they have the jobs they have. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Whose Right?

My previous post spoke about my curiosity and subtly hoped my readers also had that penchant.

I then went to another blog (by clicking on "Next Blog" at the top of the page) and found a rant about a movement having their freedom of speech suppressed. Since I am a strong advocate of free speech, I read the post. I may have misunderstood it because it seemed to jump all over the place before revealing a total of two states proposing laws to limit some speech (notably by pro-Palestinian groups, the article claims) and a university in Boston (Northeastern University in Boston... though the location was not mentioned) banning a certain group for a year.

It also revealed the New York law failed early on but the Maryland bill was not quashed [yet].

When I was a teen and into my twenties, I had a dislike for the ACLU. It was based on peer comments and newspaper articles and editorials. And then I read about the ACLU's defense of the American Nazi Party for a march in Skokie, IL.

It's important to note that many residents of Skokie are Jewish and that, at the time, many were survivors of Germany's Nazi concentration and death camps. Still, the ACLU chose to fight for the right of the National Socialist Party of America to march in that town. At first, my reaction was "What the Hell are they doing?? This group is offensive to those people and to allow them to march would be highly offensive and wrong." Then I began to consider what Freedom of Speech is all about. It changed my view of the ACLU and it changed, forever, my position on Freedom of Speech and the Constitution.

In the end, the Nazis did not march, though they won the right to.

I began to formulate, in my mind, the proper response to the march (if it took place). One response would be for anyone who felt offended, but who happened to be on the streets used that day, to turn their backs on the marching Nazis. The other response would be to laugh and point at the marchers. Laughter is infectious and I thought others would join in once it started.

You see, true Freedom of Speech means hearing voices at times that you would rather not hear. It means we, as individuals, have the ability to discern right and wrong and the government does not have the right to dictate it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I Am Curious (Blogger)

A few of you will recognize the paraphrasing in the title of this post. Most will
likely not. Which should disappoint me... I like to think of my readers as the curious sort in that they seek out information and like to learn more about issues and events... but I realize that not everyone is all that inquisitive and most are indifferent. I just happened to be raised in a family headed by a guy who pushed inquisitivity as an asset. And who supported in that by my mother. My father (and mother) would often quiz me about the details and background not only of my friends but of my opinions and positions.

One of the things on this page is something called Feedjit. This application tells me where my readers come from and often gives me what they came here to read. Some are easy to figure out; this, for example , seems to be popular. But it is because of the young lady depicted there, I strongly suspect. But there are others that are popular destinations on this site that I don't understand:

"Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah! What does that mean anyway?"
"The Cough - The Picc Line Story"

Sometimes Feedjit gives me a hint as to how they found the posts in question (a search for "big breasts", for example) but more often does not. Don't get me wrong, I like that readers come here, regardless of why and how...Which piques my curiosity...

Perhaps my readers can shed some light on these...

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pointless Blathering

The more I read comments following articles in the Washington Post or NY Times, the more I fear for the future of this country and, possibly, all of mankind. I think people do not think before commenting.

For example, I read this opinion piece and then read some comments. One of them, offered this bit of "wisdom":

What we have been facing [is] the death of a thousand cuts. So there is no need to say Bush did this, or say Obama did not do that. What we need are some real long range strategies that work.

Long range strategies almost never work. They would work, in all instances, if you could control the actions of all the people involved... from the leaders to the individuals on the front lines... until the strategy is completed. But no one can do that. All we can hope to do is anticipate what our opponents might do and plan accordingly. There is a Murphy's Law that goes "No [battle] PLAN ever survives initial contact."

In WWII, the Japanese had a strategy wherein they would attack Pearl Harbor and the resulting damage to our fleet would set us back 6 months or more, giving them time to gain and keep control of much of southeast Asia and the island nations in the Pacific. Unfortunately, they left us with a few carriers, a bitter taste in our collective mouth, and a huge desire for revenge. It did not set us back 6 months (though it did set us back somewhat); we adapted, we created new strategies, and we fought back. We did not do what the enemy expected. This is the primary lesson of the history of that period.

An old saying goes "Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."  But the question is "What should I learn?" If you misinterpret history then you have not learned from it and are doomed to fail.

I do not know what we should have done, nor do I know how things would have turned out had we not invaded Iraq in 2003. I also do not know what things would be today if McCain had won in 2008 or Romney had won in 2012. I only know what things are today with Obama in charge. If George W. Bush had a long range strategy, Obama wouldn't have followed it anyway.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

An Icon Died,

Tony Gwynn, 8-Time National League Batting Champion, Is Dead at 54

When I was growing up, ballplayers no longer came from the towns they represented. It got worse... they chase the Big Bucks and go wherever the pay is highest.

But, at one point, that was the norm; players grew up either in the town or nearby. Something changed over time. Not all ballplayers grew up and joined teams in their city (Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore and played minor league for them before being traded to Boston and then to New York) but many did.

Tony Gwynn was born in San Diego, grew up there, and played for the San Diego Padres his entire career. So why was he an icon? Because he didn't want to play anywhere else. I am sure he got offers and I am sure a number of teams wanted him in a trade but he stayed put. He refused free agency in favor of multi-year contracts. After retiring from his baseball career, he went into coaching and spent ten years coaching baseball at San Diego State (his alma mater).

They do not make guys like this anymore, it seems.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Rumors And Innuendo


At Commencement, Obama Mocks Lawmakers Who Deny Climate Change

But, once again, these alleged deniers are not named. In fact, no one is naming them. Yet, they offer them up, imply they are all Republicans, and the too many take it for fact. Personally, I think there is no such animal. A myth of a boogeyman used to frighten those on the left and to generate hate for Republicans among the less knowledgeable. Who are the "less knowledgeable?" Why, the vast majority of us; the ones who accept rumor and innuendo as fact and do not bother to investigate. Hey, investigating means taking the time and who has time when there are TV shows to watch?

I wrote about this the other day.

Almost every day I get emails offering some story or other that sounds good but is false. Snopes is helpful, as is Politifact. But do the senders bother to take the time to check on the validity of what they are sending? No, of course not.

Just the other day, I received this:

: Fw: Fwd: Why Burger King is leaving Military Bases
Sent: 6/6/2014 4:07:43 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Why Burger King is leaving Military Bases

Why Burger King is leaving Military Bases

The Burger King national headquarters announced this month they will be pulling their franchises from our military bases. Soon to follow will be Popeye's Chicken, Pizza franchises and the chain of barber and beauty shops which operates inside the gates of our military facilities. Reason? Obama's mandate that all companies who do business with the federal Government pay a $10.10 per hour minimum wage.

The companies cite the fact that a limited military customer base cannot sustain acceptable profit margins while still offering up a hefty share of profits to The Army and Air Force Exchange System's Health and Morale fund and paying $10.10 an hour as Obama has directed for any contractor doing business with The DOD. For those who don't know, hundreds of commercial franchises have operated on military bases for years. This partnership has been a boon to the non-profit AAFES system. All profits go toward programs such as organized athletic programs for the military and their dependents, exercise equipment, support for social clubs and the like.

Coming at a time of tighter defense budgets the withdrawal of commercial franchises Is going to put quite a squeeze on the military health and morale programs. Every time a military grunt got a haircut, every time a military wife got a manicure or hair styling, with every burger or slice of pizza or chicken dinner sold, a portion of the profits went to this much needed program.

Alas, as with all things Obama, every time he does something to please his socialist friends, someone suffers. In this case it will be our military. While this will be a serious loss for our stateside troops, the troops who will be most hurt by this are our troops deployed to remote areas of the world where our military folks had little to look forward to but a Burger King Whopper and fries at a small concession that might bring them a little bit of home to their lives.

This should not surprise at all but it does. I should have been prepared for this when Obama eliminated hot meals for our troops in Afghanistan even as He and Joe Biden were booking $500,000 per night hotel suites in Paris and London....or Obama's total disregard for costs as he and Michelle have run up over $600 million dollars in vacation costs during his tenure. Oh well, I understand the military's food research facility up in Illinois is Working on "Pizza in a Pouch" for the new cold ration packs. "Screw the Grunts" seems to be Obama's philosophy...even as he and Michelle host Jay Z And Beyonce at one of those fancy White House dinners.

The sender even prefaced the story with "Doug, this is true." Except I debunked it inside of 2 minutes. Here's the link to Politifact on it.  

 Read it for yourself. I am sure you receive these yourself but my question to you is:

Do you bother to check them out or do you just pass them on?

If you do the former, I am proud to know you. If you do the latter, well...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Bits And Barbs

I wander about the internet in search of sanity. Of course, I never find any but that doesn't discourage me, I keep trying. Like Don Quixote, I tilt at the windmills of the internet. Perhaps I am a masochist.

What I find are comments like this:

Voters are finally getting wise to the smarmy politicians who worship at the altar of the free market god. Neoliberalism, which started as a creepy Reagan/Thatcher fetish, has now metastasized into a global mega-cult. The ultra-rich are the high priests, and the rest of us are the human sacrifices.

I cannot make sense of it... "Neoliberalism"?  What does that have to do with Reagan, Thatcher, or free markets?

But the comment continues:

The fact that thousands of children have been confined in border-state concentration camps, with near-zero public outrage, is the scariest proof of all that the US is now the grassroots fascism capital of the world.

The phrasing is wonderful, very creative, but the substance is insulting and offensive. At least to me. But it continues...

There's an average of one new school shooting every single week. Even police officers have become moving targets of unhinged right wing extremists. So the Justice Dept. has quietly restored its domestic extremism investigatory unit, five years after dismantling it to placate the NRA-loving, white supremacist-enablers of the GOP.

This person undoubtedly does not think she is an extremist. But she is also likely certain that those who disagree with her are. She would likely describe herself as "open-minded" and "tolerant" but I see no open-mindedness or tolerance. I see just the opposite; I see hate and bigotry and intolerance. I am, apparently, nearly alone in this since she received 676 "recommends" for her words.

Another blogger with whom I have had discussions with on the matter says he doesn't see these comments anywhere. I offered that he should peruse the Washington Post, The New York Times (where I found this comment), and the Huffington Post... they are rampant.

Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of this coming from the other side; "DemonRats" is one epithet I have seen and there are plenty more.

I do not understand. At one time, we didn't hate each other based on our political party affiliation. No, we hated each other for the color of our skin, for speaking another language, for our religious beliefs, for our accents. Oh wait, we still do that last. Have a southern accent? You will be assumed to be a bigot, and stupid, and probably one of those "white supremacist-enablers of the GOP." And never, ever, tell someone you are a NASCAR fan.

This comment was in a response to an article in the New York Times about Eric Cantor's loss in a primary.  I am saddened by the attitudes I see in this country. Sure, when I was growing up, prejudice was everywhere and if you were black, brown, or Jewish (and, in some places, Catholic, Italian, or some other minority), you might have trouble buying a house in suburbia or getting your children enrolled in the neighborhood schools but political leanings? People didn't much care. Few asked who you voted for and no one got upset if you voted for the party they did not support.

Maybe we just traded one prejudice for another.

Friday, June 13, 2014

I Think I Will Just Walk Away

Shall we talk about Bowe Bergdahl? You know, the guy who was just freed by the Taliban in exchange for 5 Really Bad Guys who were caged in Gitmo. The one who is all over the news of late.

mom, dad.
The future is too good to waste on lies. And life is way too short to care for the damnation of others, as well as to spend it helping fools with their ideas that are wrong. I have seen their ideas and I am ashamed to even be american. The horror of the self-righteous arrogance that they thrive in. It is all revolting. Three good sergeants had been forced to move to another company [...] one of the biggest shit bags is being put in charge of the team [...] [My battalion commander is a] conceited old fool [...] In the US army you are cut down for being honest... but if you are a conceited brown nosing shit bag you will be allowed to do what ever you want, and you will be handed your higher rank... The system is wrong. I am ashamed to be an american. And the title of US soldier is just the lie of fools. The US army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at. It is the army of liars, backstabbers, fools, and bullies. The few good SGTs are getting out as soon as they can, and they are telling us privates to do the same. [...] I am sorry for everything here. These people need help, yet what they get is the most conceited country in the world telling them that they are nothing and that they are stupid, that they have no idea how to live. We don't even care when we hear each other talk about running their children down in the dirt streets with our armored trucks. We make fun of them in front of their faces, and laugh at them for not understanding we are insulting them. [...] I am sorry for everything. The horror that is america is disgusting. There are a few more boxes coming to you guys. Feel free to open them, and use them.


And his father's reply:
Dear Bowe, In matters of life and death, and especially at war, it is never safe to ignore ones' conscience. Ethics demands obedience to our conscience. It is best to also have a systematic oral defense of what our conscience demands. Stand with like minded men when possible. dad.

I was reading a Washington Post article which portrays him as a troubled, confused, young man who felt he didn't fit in. I understand that. For most of my life, I didn't feel I fit in either. And, possibly because of that feeling, I didn't fit in.

When I enlisted in 1965, I had misgivings almost immediately... certainly by the time I was on a plane on my way to boot camp. But I had committed to a 4 year stint and I also felt that I had to do it. I also felt I was "running away" from my life as it was up to that point. I don't know if that last thought was also in Bergdahl's mind when he enlisted the first time (Coast Guard) but I do think he was disappointed in the Coast Guard's boot camp; probably thought it would be tougher. Maybe he thought he could be a hero... jumping out of helicopters to rescue people at sea... and learned that they were the elite and were selected based on performance, attitude, and aptitude. And maybe he felt he couldn't/wouldn't measure up and, so, had the proverbial snowball's chance. So he bailed instead. And later enlisted in the army... and, when it didn't live up to his expectations, decided to bail on it also.

The Navy disappointed me too; I thought boot camp was too easy and discipline not tight enough. I felt that way throughout my 4 years. I went in looking for structure and discipline and came out realizing that the only one who would provide that for me was me. But, even so, I didn't discipline myself or establish structure in my life for some years after. I wasn't ready.

Pity him, identify with him, see him as a victim... whatever you wish to do. But I believe we are all "products" of our family dynamics and think there is much to wonder about when it comes to his.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

We Must Pass More Laws!

There was another shooting at a school the other day. Details are sketchy at this point; no name for the shooter (who apparently killed himself before the cops arrived) but there was one other fatality... a very popular 14 year old boy. And that is where the focus was yesterday; on that boy and how beloved he was. I do not doubt that.

Among the things we do not know:

1. The name of the shooter.*
2. What his motive was.
3. Who his intended victim was (the popular kid or the teacher who was wounded).
4. Where the shooter got his gun.
5. What kind of gun it was.

Apparently, the police are not revealing any of this. And the media is not pressing hard for the information.

On the other hand, the usual people are demanding that something be done to stop this. I have no idea what would have prevented this or any of the shootings we have seen reported in the last year or more. The teen who did this shooting in Oregon, for example, is prevented by law from purchasing a firearm. Oh wait, yes I do... Outlaw all firearms and confiscate them. It will not stop crime and murder but it will stop these crazy shooters. You see, these crazy shooters get the guns from others (one recent exception... the Santa Barbara shooter) who usually purchase them legally.

It's a small price to pay to stop the wanton loss of innocent life. Just give up your right to ever own a firearm (2nd Amendment) and your privacy and right to be secure in your home and person (4th Amendment) and everything will be wonderful. While we're at it, we may as well get rid of the other 8 amendments that make up the so-called Bill of Rights... they just get in the way of the government protecting you, the individual citizen. And we all want the government to be the only ones protecting us from all the evils that exist, don't we? 

Write your Congressman and Senators. Demand a police state. It's the only way we can be safe.

*Update: 6-11- The police have identified the shooter as a fifteen year old student of the school where the shooting took place, motive is still unknown at the time of this writing, and he stole the weapon (or weapons; one report was that he had multiple weapons) from his home. The weapon identified was an AR-15, a semi-automatic rifle the media calls an "assault rifle." He stole the weapon.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How's Your Weather?

For I have the warmth of the sun
(Warmth of the sun)
Within me at night
(Within me at night)

So sang the Beach Boys back when I was a surfer dude. But, of late, it has taken on a different meaning: one of doom and gloom. 

I was reading some article somewhere and the comments after it and I saw mention of Republicans as "deniers" of global warming. Since I am not a believer in letting things lie, I decided to see if I could find the names of these Republicans who are, apparently, denying global warming. I Googled "Republicans who deny global warming" in the hopes of getting some names.  I didn't. Get any names, that is. What I got was accusations that the Republican Party was full of these deniers. But none were named. I also found these unnamed Republicans were also being called "flat-earthers."

In other words... putting it simply... I am denying that any Republican has been quoted as denying Global Warming. Perhaps, like me, many of them are skeptical that man is the cause of global warming and, perhaps, they are skeptical that any of the schemes to combat it will be either successful or not harmful to the economy.

I am, of course, a confessed skeptic and cynic. And I vote accordingly. I find it odd that those who once distrusted all authority figures (and "anyone over thirty") seem to have no trouble accepting the concept of man-made global warming. I think my brother believes in it but he is also a "911 Truther" and thinks George Bush was behind the attacks. He doesn't, however, believe that Obama was born in Kenya... after all, he voted for him twice. Quite the accomplishment since he is also a bigot who neither likes, nor trusts, black people (and Cubans and Puerto Ricans and Mexicans and American Indians and anyone who does not have white skin or speaks a foreign language).

Besides, I am more worried about an asteroid destroying most, if not all, life on Earth.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Swapping Lies?

This is obviously about the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five high-value Taliban prisoners at Gitmo (the affectionate term for the prisoner housing in Guantanamo, Cuba). If you have had your fill of punditry on the subject, this would be a good time to leave this page or read something else.

Everyone, it seems, is having his/her say on the matter and there is no reason I shouldn't toss in my two cents worth. Talk is cheap... maybe that's where the "two cents" comes from... or maybe it's because an opinion is worth double what thoughts are  worth. Either way, I have some things to say...

Obviously, we wanted this guy back. Not just because we don't want to leave our soldiers behind but also because people held captive by the enemy can sometimes have valuable intel about the enemy's command and control structure and procedures/processes without realizing it. I have no doubt that gleaning this intel from Bergdahl's statements on his capture and internment with these Taliban "soldiers" is part of the process that is underway.

Right now, however, we (you and I and the general public) have no idea what he went through, what he did or did not do, and what intel he might have given the Taliban during captivity. Nor do I think we will ever know. By "given the Taliban", do not think I believe he gave any information willfully. He wouldn't have to. I am assuming these terrorists know how to "read between the lines" when interrogating their prisoners... just as our people do when interrogating whatever prisoners we have.

All we have right now are rumors and bits and pieces of possible events and snippets of information that may be inaccurate and out of context.

Just be glad you do not have to go through any of it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Yeah... And What If It Wasn't?

A month and a half ago (April 23rd), NASA found a rather big asteroid headed our way. "There is zero chance of an impact," they say, it won't hit us; just pass close (relatively, that is, about 700,000 miles away) tomorrow.

The folks at NASA are happy to announce this. I suspect, however, that if it was going to smack into us we would not have heard a thing about it.

"Because NEOWISE is a space telescope observing the dawn and twilight sky at infrared wavelengths, it is particularly good at finding large NEOs that make relatively close passes to Earth," said Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator of NEOWISE at JPL. "Using infrared light, we can estimate the object's size, and we can tell that it reflects a fair amount of light. That means it's most likely a stony object."

I am not encouraged. The size (an estimation, of course) is presented as
The NEOWISE data estimate asteroid 2014 HQ124 to be between 800 and 1,300 feet (250 and 400 meters).

That's a pretty big range. I wonder if the estimation of distance was similarly determined.

Anyway, rest easy... there's nothing they can do about it anyway. Let's speculate...
If the thing was an actual threat, would there have been enough time to try one, or more, of the schemes that might divert it?

Just askin'.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Why Did They?

Seventy-one years ago today, men fought and died for a cause and I wanted to make a few comments about that important landing/invasion.

Think about it: thousands of young men got onto ships and went off to engage the enemy. They rode out the early morning hours on rough seas and then got into landing craft which handled the seas even more poorly. When the landing craft lowered the ramps, these young men faced machine gun fire and many never even lived another minute. The ones who did still faced enemy fire and many drowned in the rough surf trying to get to the beach.

Imagine: You have been awake for hours, you are seasick, you are a long way from home and have been for some time. You are about to face an enemy determined to kill as many of you as possible. They will do this with bullets, with mines, with shells from cannon. You will find little cover and some of you will have to climb up cliffs while the enemy tries to kill you with bullets and grenades. It will be Hell on Earth and you have no idea if you will be among the living at the end of the ordeal. But you have no choice. No one is offering you one; not your commanders, not your NCOs, and definitely not the enemy.

You really don't want to be there but you enlisted, or maybe you were drafted but didn't mind so much..., the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and your nation was at war. You thought it your duty to defend her, to fight, maybe even die. But this was not the way you had thought it would be nor was it  against the Japanese. This was against Germans, people who looked like you, and it was going to be a tough slog against a well equipped army full of seasoned veterans. You didn't volunteer for that, you volunteered for the uniform, for patriotic reasons, and you never realized how bad war could be.

But now you know, with guys you knew dying all around you, guys who never made it off the landing craft, guys who did but died soon after. And then there were the ones who got wounded, lost limbs, lost eyesight; bloody and whimpering and calling for their Mommas. You found out that morning why they say "War is Hell."

These young men eventually returned home, had families, and went on with their lives. They became our fathers, our grandfathers, our uncles. And we often do not appreciate the sacrifices they made that day and in the next 11 months to put an end to a truly evil regime.

 Remember them.

Let's Get Out The Torches And The Pitchforks!

While I might wonder just who knows what a pitchfork is anymore, the sentiment is clear: It's time to hate the rich!

As usual, someone else says it better. Still, I want to go on record as being just as amazed at how much people envy the rich... while hating them.

There's an old Ten Years After song called "I'd Love To Change The World" that has these lines:

Everywhere is freaks and hairies
Dykes and fairies, tell me where is sanity
Tax the rich, feed the poor
'Til there are no rich no more

The sentiment struck me as odd. What would a world without the rich look like? And would we really want that? The song (and the band) is from the 60's (my formative years) and my mind wanders to it every time I see/hear people complain about the "1%." Never mind that the first two lines would stir up a {bleep}storm involving political correctness.

It reminds me of people who hate whatever minority is at the forefront of what passes for their minds. If there were no black people, for example, would the world be a better place? How about Hispanics? Or pick any group that you wish. Hitler chose the Jews and tried pretty hard to irradicate them. Didn't work, of course, just as his dream of world domination didn't work... but it cost a lot of lives to stop it. Still, there are people who forget the lessons learned of that era and have no problem hating this group or that.

And, I have to admit, it's pretty easy to hate the rich, isn't it? Envy and hate seem to go hand in hand. It's an odd combination when you think about it, envy/hate, but envy leads to resentment and resentment leads to hate and it all makes sense to those who do not look beyond emotion.

There are movie stars who have stirred up some controversy; Gwyneth Paltrow and Charlize Theron come to mind.

These are very rich people, famous people, who chose to put themselves out there in the public view and then whine about the attention they get. In the above cases, the negative attention. But they also complain about the lack of privacy they experience. Which has always amazed me. They want to be adored but they don't want to be adored too closely. And they tend to articulate this poorly. No wonder people can hate the rich while envying them. Many of the rich make it easy to do so. And the rest of us, the peons who helped make them rich and famous, think we would be different; we would be grateful for our fame and riches, share the money, do good works... yadda-yadda-yadda...

But we probably wouldn't. We'd follow the same pattern; get famous and rich and then resent the "demands" made on us. Because, after all, we are human... and so are celebrities... and so are the 1%.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Random Thoughts On Movies And Fear

Movies do not scare me. Generally, that is. I had a difficult time sitting on a toilet after watching Jaws but that was more apprehension than fear.

The other night, I watched 2001: A Space Odyssey. The last time (and the first time) I saw it was a theater in San Francisco in 1969. My ship was in drydock at the shipyards there and a few of my stoner friends thought it would be a good idea to watch the movie. It was quite the experience, especially since we had gotten quite stoned before we entered the theater. And got more loaded while watching it since it was San Francisco (meaning no one much cared if you lit up a joint) and theaters still allowed smoking in some designated sections. So we did.

Watching the movie the other night, I have to wonder what I was thinking back then. The movie doesn't make a lot of sense. Parts of it are very good but, overall, the story is incoherent. Lots of pretty colors and great music, though, I am sure I appreciated those things at the time. Excellent special effects at the time. Now, with CGI graphics, it is bland.

The movie was not a scary one. Not by anyone's standards, I hope.

But fear has become a selling point. I just saw an ad for precious metals wherein William Devane asks "What's in your safe?" and brings up the national debt (the size of that debt is truly scary). Soon after, another precious metals ad talked about a pending financial disaster. I have to admit, I am a bit worried about a possible super-inflationary period that will make what many of us went through in the 70's seem tame by comparison.

I had just separated from my first wife and had transferred to West Palm Beach. I bought a house at what would have been a truly cheap price in California but wasn't just so-so in Florida. I assumed a VA mortgage at 13% and was happy to get it. Inflation rates were high (around 11-12% in the month I bought the house) and mortgage rates were outrageous. And I would have had a hard time qualifying so getting an assumable loan at pretty much a lower rate than a bank would charge was a Good Thing.

But, as I watched that ad for precious metals, I began to think about what the underlying message was: FEAR! Fear of inflation, fear of financial disaster, fear of the future. I started to think about other ads which had that underlying theme. Some of them are mild; just fear of missing out on a good deal. Some were more stark, like the precious metals ads, but all had some element of fear involved in the pitch.

I don't know about you but I don't buy anything out of fear.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In Defense Of Small Cars

Let me preface this by saying I like my little Focus, really.  It is getting excellent mileage in town (averaging 24.5 MPG driving within a 10 mile radius) which is the primary reason I bought it; for the economic advantages. I got tired of the 14 MPG I was getting with my Lucerne.

What I miss about the Lucerne is the remote start feature, the "set it and forget it" AC, the rain-sensor windshield wipers, and the ride. Part of the ride issue is that the Focus has small tires that are filled at (to me) a high pressure. I can probably find a way to lower pressure and improve the ride a little while maintaining the viability of the Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). Or not. I can live with the stiff ride if I cannot. I can live without remote start (though I could probably add that via a third party system) but I will continue to miss the AC system and the rain-sensor windshield wipers.

The AC bugs me because it seems either too cold or too hot whereas, in the Lucerne, I simply set the temperature I wanted and left it alone. The remote start would usually cool off the interior by the time I crossed the parking lot. When starting up, the AC kicked in recirculation of air and ratcheted up the fan speed to maximum. That would not happen with the Focus; even with remote start, I would have to remember to set the AC to "max" and set the fan speed to "4" before leaving the car. I suspect I wouldn't do that most of the time.

I can tolerate the ride because most of the cars I have owned as an adult have been small cars.

When I first met Faye she owned a Chevy Caprice Classic while I owned a Honda Civic. One of the small ones built in the late 70's. Her Chevy dwarfed my little car and I was uncomfortable driving it. It wasn't nimble and it handled like a large barge. But it was roomy and comfortable.

I am torn again, however, between nimble and uncomfortable and comfort and convenience.

We are never happy, are we?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Top Forty

I am no doctor. Nor am I a lawyer. This means I have no qualifications to comment on the Casey Kasem saga. And it is a saga. And I will comment... , I can still have an opinion or two about anything at all. I am a blogger, after all, and there's nothing stopping me. However, take everything I say with a large grain of salt and form your own opinions on the matter.

Casey's wife, a rather large blonde bombshell when they married (quite possibly much larger now), and his children from his first marriage are in a battle over his care and custody. Casey is in poor health at age 82 and cannot even speak. A sad situation for a man who made a career out of his voice. He may not be able to communicate his wishes at all. I assume that is true because this battle would not be happening if he could. Perhaps there are other reasons, if he can communicate in some way, that he is not being asked. Perhaps there are questions of competence. I do not know.

What I will speculate on is what the battle is all about: money. He is allegedly worth around $80 million. Whoever  controls Casey, controls that wealth.

That sounds crass, and maybe it is, but that is
what I believe this is about.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Are We Mad?

That would be "Mad" as in "crazy", not "angry." I just got through perusing a NY Times op-ed wherein the author vents about the prevalence of misogyny in the culture. Misogyny is simply the  "hatred of women." It manifests itself in many strange ways. It can lead to violence as well as to social withdrawal. And it has become a Big Topic since the killings in Santa Barbara. The guilty party wrote an online screed (which many have described as a "manifesto") where his views of women were made quite clear. Full of anger, full of confusion, full of hatred.

I admit that I do not understand women (What man does?) but I do not think that means I am misogynistic. I trod a rocky path with women and girls throughout my life. I, too, have seen girls hooked on abusive boyfriends and husbands, returning to them instead of running away. I do not comprehend this. Or didn't... until I went through my first marriage. You could say it was one of those "love-hate" relationships but, instead of physical violence, it was full of psychological warfare.

But that ten (really more like 14 since that is when the divorce was granted) years didn't turn me into a misogynist, I don't think. I desired relationships with women and have always enjoyed such relationships more than male friendships. I am more comfortable with the females than the males in my life.

We humans are a complex lot, full of contradictions. Womanizers and playboys are seen as misogynistic yet women seem attracted to them. Men are both afraid of and fascinated by beautiful women and pretty girls (watch the TV ad which talks about "tomorrow" where the pretty girl approaches the awkward teen boy and asks "Are we still on for tomorrow?"). He clearly is caught up in mixed emotions. The young male actor does an excellent job expressing the dichotomy he feels at the moment.

I have felt that same dichotomy on a first date with an exceptionally pretty girl as a teen boy. Afraid to fail and scared to try to succeed. Sometimes too scared. I dated a young girl in junior high  but didn't kiss her until a party where "spin the bottle" was played. That was a year after we first dated. My reticence  worried me, as I am now sure it worried her. I don't know what thoughts went through her head but mine were simple... I was afraid. Afraid I would upset her, afraid I would do it wrong somehow; that she would then reject me. Silly fears, I know, but I was just 14.

Does that make me misogynistic? I didn't hate girls but I was afraid of them.  Still am, I guess.