Flimsy Sanity: December 2006

Flimsy Sanity

In individuals, insanity is rare; but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule. - Friedrich Nietzsche

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Yesterday on C-Span Book TV

The authors of Tiger Force were on. The book is about the atrocities this group committed in Vietnam but it is more about the vast cover-up that ensued and lay dormant until three years ago. I know conspiracy theories get a bad rap, but sometimes they are accurate. If you are interested, you can get video from the book TV site.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Fidelity by Briton Riviere

Peacechick Mary posted that Xrista (Gadflying) had died. She often commented on many people's blogs and I know that she was a lady that thought for herself. I especially liked her spunk and her disrespectful attitude toward power. I dedicate this wonderful painting to her spirit.

An Afternoon with Art

Nava has an interesting post about an art exhibit that displayed 3 white canvases and seemed to attract a lot of attention from the phonies. That reminds me of a story from my early twenties. A friend and I had gone to Minneapolis for a weekend of goofing off, theatre hopping and Christmas shopping (incidentally got to see Steve Goodman sing at a bar that weekend). At the time, there was an exhibit of Picasso's work at the main gallery in town, the Walker I think. No way would I miss something like that. Not that I was a Picasso fan, but just the chance to see something so famous was a chance I would not get again. I remember we buzzed on through and then stopped to have lunch at the snooty restaurant with all the buffaloes (dowagers with humps and big fur coats). Ate some overpriced little cracker with a dollop of egg salad and a little cavier (the lowest and the highest extremes in egg prices - and the first and last time I tasted cavier) and noticed that all the people were kind of giving us disapproving glances. Sure we were laughing (affectation always cracks me up) rather than talking in hushed tones and sure we were dressed for comfort, but what the hey, we paid the same amount as they did to get in. Anyway, as we were leaving, I noticed that all those rich fraus expected us to step aside for them - an unwritten code of etiquette about how peasants should treat the lords. When we got to the street, I told my friend, "Watch this." I walked back up the crowded stairs and when I would meet a buffalo, I would take a half step to the right - just enough that they would have to take a half step also in order to pass. Most would not but would wait for me to move farther and I would just wait them out. The looks of hatred I got were priceless.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Lazy Guy Lyle Biggs

Thursday, December 28, 2006

I Highly Recommend

The group blog Wise Bread is hilarious, especially contributor Will Chen. I highly recommend that you go there for a laugh, especially you, my fellow old fogies. Gives you great hope for a future in the hands of folks like these.

So True

Why Is It?

Rich people can give $10,000 to each child (each year) tax free and the children do not have to declare the gift on their taxes. People who get small gifts (such as tips) cannot have $10,000 worth free before paying taxes on them.

God's Master Plan

Immigration!!! Do you think it is God's Master Plan to give this land back to the Indians?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Read any Good Books Lately?

I bought a few books to celebrate Christmas. I am on the cheap side and never buy books while they are "hot". I can wait 6 months or 6 years until they are a penny on Amazon or sometimes I find them on Paperback Swap. So here is what is on my bookshelf:
Never Shake Hands with a War Criminal by Barry Crimmins - a comic commentator on Air America

The Power to Harm: Mind, medicine and murder on trial - a book about the dangers of Prozac (ten years old, but what the hey)

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. Subtitle: Pseudo-science, superstition and bogus notions of our time.

The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald about the Archer Daniels Company.

My advice to anyone wanting to live frugally is to practice patience. Did you admire the Beanie Babies when they were selling for $30 apiece. Had you waited six months you could have bought them by the pound. Want the latest technology? Wait four months and get it for 99 cents on eBay ($25 shipping). Like the latest fashion? Wait 8 months and pick it up dumpster diving. This advice is free and that is what it is worth.

Thanks Dave

In Jerusalem, a female CNN journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who
had been going to the Wailing Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for a
long, long time. So she went to check it out and there he was!

She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave,
she approached him for an interview. "I'm Rebecca Smith from CNN, Sir.
long have you been coming to the Wall and praying?"

"For about 60 years."

"60 years! That's amazing! What do you pray for?"

"I pray for peace between the Christians, Jews and Muslims. I pray for all
the hatred to stop and I pray for all our children to grow up in safety and

"How do you feel after doing this for 60 years?"

"Like I'm talking to a fucking wall."

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Blaming the Victim

Conservative opinion has shifted from "stay the course" to how Iraq should stand up for themselves, that we should not have to do their policing forever. Nevermind that the country is bombed to hell, full of spent uranium, has a puppet government chosen by us (who wants us to stay to preserve themselves), is in shambles with most of the best people in exile. Kind of reminds me of how they say abused women must have asked for it. 70% of the Iraq people want a divorce from us. Let us get out and let them fix what we broke in our rage filled rampage.

New Years Resolutions

Time to dig out last years resolutions. I can use them again as they have never been touched. There is of course the exercise one. Penn and Teller have a great video from their Bullshit series on exercise and health clubs. And the healthier eating one. And the one about looking for the good in people despite all the cheating I see everyday. All unused just waiting to be dusted off.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Secret Santa

The newswires had the nicest little story about a Secret Santa. It was about Larry Stewart, 58, a man who made millions in cable television and long-distance telephone services and gave $100 bills to poor people. They showed him at a laundromat, a poor people habitat.

Stewart said his giving started in 1979 when, after being fired from his job one week before Christmas, he was eating at a local drive-in. He forgot his own cares when he noticed the waitress, (who was working in the cold for change) and gave her a $20 tip.
Stewart said her tearful reaction was "his Christmas present," and he's continued his acts of kindness every year since then. As his personal fortunes grew, so did his giving.
Over the past 26 years, he's handed out $1.3 million.

When I first heard it, they said he had been homeless and someone gave him $40 and he swore he would give back. I thought it was pretty amazing that a man could go from homeless to millionaire and googled it hoping to find out more. The news gets so many things wrong all the time. Anyway, both are great stories. His charity probably isn't even deductible since he doesn't have receipts. .

A New Year's Party Fashion Tip

Who is More Dangerous to Young Minds

The conservatives are angry that so many universities have a liberal leaning faculty. Now the sciences, the maths, the business courses, medicine are probably attracting realists going to school so that they can enjoy a higher income. The problem, as the conservatives see it, is in the "liberal arts" fields - the literatures, the philosophy departments, sociology, history departments. The people who teach these courses and the people who choose to go into these fields are probably idealists. As such, money may not be their main motive and ipso facto few conservatives are in these fields (except for potential lawyers). The graduates are stuck with degrees that are useless unless they teach, enter the "helping" professions, or write - all occupations that spread liberal ideas. No wonder the right wants it stopped.

Now lets look into the Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary definitions of liberal and conservative. A "liberal" is defined as "one who is open minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways". Liberalism is defined as "a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties." A conservative is "one who holds to traditional views." Conservatism is "a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and prefering gradual development to abrupt change."

To summarize, we have two choices: Those who say "We can do better" or those that say "we are the best". Those who want more liberty and those who want less and more order.

I have two little complaint stories about conservative teachers and I am sure conservatives have complaint stories about liberals. For most of last year, I volunteered at the school library. The librarian was hard right and bought personal books with school money, but that type of dishonesty wasn't why I quit. She bought absolutely no books on the environment and discarded the ones that were already on the shelf and bought crap like Bible stories, William Bennett, and Dobson books.

When I was a senior in high school, we had a Civics class (called Present Day Problems) taught by a charismatic coach. All the girls were in love with him and one girl would even "faint" regularly because he would carry her out of the room and she enjoyed being held in his arms. As a textbook, he used the book The Naked Communist. I found out later that this was published by the John Birch Society.

"It's a Wonderful Life" is Communist propaganda

According to Wise Bread the FBI considered the film communist propaganda and they show the documents to prove it.

I love this movie because it shows people banding together to help a good person out. It's unrealistic but one can hope.

Speaking of hope, don't you just love the Emily Dickinson poem.

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

Apathetic Agnostic

Omnipotent Poobah recently had a great entry about his own beliefs and some of the comments were interesting too.

I think the reason we tell children fairy tales is to condition them to fantasies so when we expose them to Bible stories they won't laugh in our faces. The idea that faith, instead of reasoning is a virtue is the most obscene thing I have ever heard.

As far as God goes, I don't know and neither does anyone else. I am amazed at natures vast variety. The fact that no two blades of grass are identical staggers my mind. The fact that things are light years away boggles me. I cannot understand why the sun does not burn up or that the earth's core does not cool down.

I am not impressed with mankind, however. I think nature thinks there are too many people and is doing its best to kill us off with new diseases. Of course, war helps some. Naked puny animal speciman with such a high opinion of itself thinking God looks just like him.

Ironic, No?

The kids in school make "Meth Kills" posters in school and a good portion of them are on Ritalin.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Christmas

HAPPY XMAS (War Is Over)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very Merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight


And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
A new one just begun
And so happy Christmas
We hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young


War is over, if you want it
War is over now

Happy Christmas

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Quote for the Day

Deck the Halls

With Cows and Collies

A Christmas Quiz

Frosty the Snowman's Baby Picture

Lawyer Tot

Friday, December 22, 2006

Just Learned How To Scan

Got a ten dollar scanner, printer, fax at a rummage sale and thought I'd share some Christmas cards I liked and kept through the years. I must be doing something wrong because it did not copy very sharp. If you can't read it, the last one is named venison.

Merry Christmas Everyone - May You Get What You Need

Inside says: "I Can See, I Can See"

Add this to your favorites

Here is the site that you need when you want to talk to a human rather than the automated machine. It is called Get Human and it is a database of 800 numbers with instructions on how to bypass the recorded messages and get right to a human. I don't know how good it is to know this information since nearly every company got a grade of "F".

Join The Herd

I've always been fascinated by animal behavior, especially when an animal exhibits the traits we think are uniquely human. Elephants mourning their dead, prairie chickens dancing to prime their hen for sex, a cow babysitting calves while the rest of the herd goes off grazing, monkeys using a stick as a tool to dig out termites, the list is long. About a month ago I heard someone on TV talking about how animal behavior is determined by majority rule rather than by a leader (sorry, I didn't catch his name or his book). He said that when over 50% of a herd start to move, the leaders follow. Nearly all the politicians voted for the war in Iraq, but now that public opinion has shifted against the war, the leaders are rushing to get in front of the herd. As I have mentioned before, Darwin is widely misquoted. He did not say "survival of the fittest", he said it is "survival of the ones most adaptable".

One of my favorite books is Charles McKay's Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds. It is assigned to college business students and often I think the message they take away from it is that "you can make a lot of money if you can predict a fad." or "investing in a fad is great provided you get out fast enough" . They are more intrigued by tales of financial speculation and timing investments rather than learning of mass insanity. A section on the Crusades talks about how the year 1000 stimulated predictions that the world would end and that Christians should reclaim the holy land to fullfil Bible prophecy. Another section talks about the witch trials and how shame about them ushered in the age of enlightenment. Still another talks about all the schemes trying to make gold (alchemy).
In fact, cases such as Tulipomania in 1624--when Tulip bulbs traded at a higher price than gold--suggest the existence of what I would dub "Mackay's Law of Mass Action:" when it comes to the effect of social behavior on the intelligence of individuals, 1+1 is often less than 2, and sometimes considerably less than 0. -Amazon
Project Gutenberg has the book on their site if you want to read it for free, it is long past copyright as it was written in 1841.

When we look at fads (including word choice - remember when everything used to have "parameters" and now "transparency" is the buzzword) fashion (don't blame just women, men's necktie widths are just as faddish),we see the human animal is a herd animal and groupthink is more powerful than anything. The leaders impact is exaggerated and the cream doesn't always rise to the top. Yahoo is a better search engine than Google (though the Google maps are exceptional), Apple has a better system than Microsoft. Advertising and group mania is more important than actual value. I for one will join the herd against this stupid war. I also would have joined a herd against the war in Afghanistan but I am pretty much alone in this theory - We didn't bomb the shit out of Indiana cause the Oklahoma bomber trained there.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Family Values

Even the worst of people often have family values and will treat their own family very well while screwing their employees or invoicing $300 hammers to the Pentagon. Hitler was probably nice to Eva. Now I know it is stupid of me to bring up Hitler so early in this tiny essay because:"
On the Internet, there is a dictum known as "Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies," coined in 1990 by a man named Mike Godwin. This law holds that "as an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1." Anyone who has spent time on political discussion boards can see that it's true; in any charged debate (abortion, Iraq, Israel, foreign policy), it's only a matter of time before someone compares his opponent to Hitler.
It's commonly understood that once Godwin's Law is invoked, a conversation is dead-and that any person who invokes Nazis almost definitely has failed to make his point. It's what philosopher Leo Strauss, the great inspiration to neoconservatives like Rumsfeld, called Reductio ad Hitlerum - the absurd smearing of any opposing line of thought as "Hitleresque." Thanks to Truthout

But back to family values. "Family Values" is code for (1)rejection of homosexuals right to exist and (2)abortion legislation and then somewhere down the line about raising an ethical family. People only concerned about their own family aren't necessarily admirable. Actually, people who place family values over human values are probably the ones setting up offshore accounts and trust funds to protect their wealth for their family instead of paying their fair share for their easily acquired income. Human values consist of letting your neighbor mind his own business rather than imposing the family structure you have chosen for yourself on them. Talk of the "sanctity of marriage" is rather ridiculous when the divorce rate is 50% but preachers don't criticize divorce because half the congregation would walk out. Human values can even mean NOT doing the most instinctual conduct of all animals - that of reproducing more humans into an overcrowded, polluted world.

I had an uncle that was the most unethical person I have ever met. Actually stole from widows and orphans (Conducted the fundraiser for a family whose father and child were killed in a fire and most of the money disappeared) but he was a great family man - except for occasionally cheating on his wife. Of course he and Clinton are the only men in the world that have ever done that and lied about it.

George's Christmas Stocking

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Great Description of our Rulers

Just ran across this older post from Driftglass. Absolutely a great read that I highly recommend to my two readers. I'm impressed. Went to more current entries and here is a newer entry from Driftglass :
The Bush White House with their CEO President operates in the public sector in exactly the same way as the most parasitic of consultants operate in the private sector.

In the end, they are not invested in the health of the company with which they are temporarily under contract. Quite the contrary; they exist only to maximize their own power and profit and secure their next gig. So when that Prime Directive happens to coincide with the larger needs of the organization, they’ll Do Good.

But when the needs of the company – or the nation – are impediments to maximizing profit and power, the good of the country goes under the bus without a backwards glance, and you leave it to the Marketing team to sell chaos to the rubes as “creative destruction”.

Like the tailors of the Emperors new Clothes, every effort is focused on making sure that the terms of contract – the deliverable -- is kept forever open-ended and progress is kept forever unmeasurable.

And when things start to fall apart you hear the same hoary, bullshit excuses raised over and over again. That only the Faithful can see the garment. On the True and Loyal can see the progress we are making in Iraq. And ultimately those who will not go along with the collective delusion are those who are ultimately blamed for its eventual failure.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Why is it?

Why is it that a solitary person talking about end times is a reject, but a group doing the same is a political force determining international relations?

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Gift Cards

Snopes Grift Card entry explains how crooks steal gift cards, often sticking the consumer with a worthless piece of plastic. The site talks of many ways that consumers are cheated by scammers - for example, thieves troll stores where gift cards are sold on aisles and they make note of the card number.
They then call the retailer to check on the account balance, which allows them to see if a card has been bought and activated and then they shop for products online.

I want to point out another problem with gift cards. This has happened to two people I know who were given gift cards but when they went to redeem them, they were told they were not worth full value. Apparently there is a short time period in which they must be used or the value is depreciated. Last year, my sister received a $50 gift certificate from a pupil's parent (bucking for an "A" no doubt) and when she went to use it several months later, she was told it was only worth $30. Just this week, my friend who was given a gift card by her employer was also told the card was not worth full value also - and she just received it. When she called the number on the back, she was told that the call (to someone in India) would depreciate the card value by an additional $1.

So my advice is - give cash. The gift cards are bullshit from every angle.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

A Quote

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone – Keynes

Family Values

Cheney's other daughter - the heterosexual - is principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, making her the No. 2 official in the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. The post reportedly entails actively working to develop regime-change strategies for Middle Eastern countries, mainly Syria and Iran. Nepotism anyone?

What I'm Reading Now

I know probably everyone else has read it already, but I finally bought a copy of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn. I have heard about it for quite awhile but was just too cheap to buy it - thought I would run across it somewhere while book scouting. I think I read it was the most reviewed book on Amazon as most people love or hate it - many think it is unpatriotic and Zinn is (horrors) a SOCIALIST.

This book looks at the America of the little people, the pawns in the game of control. Columbus was a cruel bastard and Zinn mentions body counts and specific instances of murder if the natives did not bring enough gold. He documents the slave trade profitability with statistics on the money made by the Dutch and English traders and explains why families were intentionally split up to demoralize the slaves. We are raised with the notion that it is impolite to talk about uncomfortable facts. I see it in family histories, the Christmas letters I get (which leave out the unpleasant), and it is also true of what we call "history" in school.

This book is very good therapy for me. If you think you were mistreated, you are definitely not alone in the history of America. This is a history of money in USA as it is ALWAYS about money.

Family Photos

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Great Idea

The discussion on C-Span was legislator corruption and one caller suggested that the states pay the salary of their senators and representatives rather than the federal government - although I suspect the salaries are a small portion of their incomes.

Christmas Dinner at Sesame Street

Romance Books and Sporting Events

I have a small bookselling business and I am struck by the huge supply of romance books. Just out of curiousity (I swear it was just that) I read a couple. They are all slight variations of the same storyline. Girl meets bad boy, girl is separated from bad boy, girl rejoins bad boy(who is really misunderstood) and lives happily ever after. It struck me that romance books and sports share a lot in common. Now first let me admit my bias. I think both are goofy and a waste of time and money. Like romance books, sports have the same story over and over - boys (usually) chase some ball or puck around for about an hour in an arena costing an average of $188 million.

Both sports and romance books fulfill fantasies - the sports fan (who often played - or wished they could- in their youth) and the reader (who often had - or wished they had - romance in their youth) relive the excitement of participation and both sports and romance audiences are insatiable. Both neglect to enrich the fan in any way as no one is any smarter, stronger, or richer for having read or watched the same event repeatedly.

According to Wikipedia, In North America in 2002, sales of romance novels generated $1.63 billion and comprised 34.6% of all popular fiction sold. Over 2000 romance novels were published, and there were 51.1 million romance novel readers. I could not find the total cost of sports but when you factor in school gymnasiums, coach salaries at the school level, sports injuries, costs of city stadiums and player salaries, gambling on the outcome, newspaper sports pages and their reporters, and the number of fans buying tickets to watch the ball chasing, I am sure you would be impressed.

The $185 million cost of renovating the New Orleans Superdome was mostly covered by refinancing existing bonds and FEMA money while the city has hardly been touched. The priorities of this country are really screwed up when fantasy has a higher priority than reality.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Southern Brain

As a pacifist I believe most wars are a big mistake. I believe we should have let the South secede and our country would have benefited. Sure, the slaves were freed but it took another hundred years before racist treatment became unlawful (although any visit to the deep south will still sicken any egalitarian). The South fought bitterly against the passing of the Civil Rights Bill and democracy was raped with poll taxes, literacy tests a lawyer would have trouble passing,and intimidation of the black voter . They are almost totally responsible for the Equal Rights Amendment
not being passed
because the mentality that could accept owning other humans is a mentality that is antithetical to democracy - the idea that people are equal. It has been my experience in my many trips to Texas that all the low-paying dirty jobs are done by African Americans and Mexicans. The churches do not seem to be integrated from my observation so I have no doubt the faith based initiatives are a bad idea especially in the South.

The South is a backward place. In education the South makes up the lowest ranks. In the 44 standards used to judge the liveability of a place (things such as crime, high school graduation, per capita personal income, median household income, expenditures for education as a percent of all state and local government expenditures, books in public libraries etc.) the South again fills the bottom rungs. The Southern states (except for Texas) all receive more federal funds than they pay in taxes. The South claims it has the most advantageous climate for industry but that is because Unions are not allowed. Arkansas based Walmart mirrors the southern view on employees.

So my question is this. Why do the Southern Republican states get to dictate our nations agenda? Why do we go to the South to get so many of our Presidents when the area is responsible for pulling down the nation's standard of living average? In my lifetime we have had Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Bush and Brush.