Saturday, April 30, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

More than 300 people have been killed and hundreds more remain missing in the wake of savage tornados that devastated a wide swath of the American South; Donald Trump set new (if low) standards for polite and respectful discourse when he delivered a speech in Las Vegas liberally (!) laced with the so-called "f-word;" Robert Mugabe, the saintly ruler of Zimbabwe, apparently invited himself to the beatification ceremony for former Pope John Paul II...perhaps hoping (in vain, certainly) that some of that goodness might rub off on him; the final voyage of the space shuttle Endeavour has been delayed because of mechanical problems; and Congressional Democrats and Republicans are springing into action on soaring gasoline prices by (predictably) blaming each other for the problem.

Well, at least there's Cartoon Saturday to help get you past the buffoonery.

Are you as tired as I am of endless television ads from lawyers, encouraging you to make big bucks (for them) by suing for everything and anything? Mark my words, this is what it's coming to ...

Fellow blogger John is an interesting fellow who represents the unlikely combination of skill sets of air traffic controller, minister, and magician. In his honor, a pair of cartoons about magicians ...

and ...

Do you remember the classic television show Lassie, about the faithful dog that was forever rescuing the hapless Timmy from some sort of harm? This is how a typical episode would probably run if filmed today ...

Which store do you suppose is the one where Andrea shops ...?

I have quite a few cartoons about migratory birds, but this is a new one ...

There's a group and a plan for everyone ...

The revenge of the arcade games ...

If you're a government contractor, there's an assumption (especially on the part of Republicans, lately) that you are a money-grubbing, opportunistic crook and an all around pest ... similar to a Republican, as it were. This is how it sometimes feels of late ...

And finally, the part that didn't make it into the Bible ...

It looks as if it's going to be a nice weekend, so maybe I can get some work done in my garden before Agnes and I head off tomorrow with our friend Nadja to a wine-tasting event out in the scenic Virginia boondocks. Life, as ever, is good.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, April 29, 2011

On Remembering and Forgetting

Depending on how long you've been reading this blog, waiting breathlessly for me to write about something you care about, you may recall two posts I wrote on the subject of forgetting. The first one, which you can read here, dealt with the problem of refusing to forget past injuries; the second, which you can read here, linked you to a very interesting article on the importance of forgetting and the problem of the endless retention of information. Or, as Salvador Dali might have said, The Persistence of Memory...

So, forgetting is important ... but so, of course, is remembering.

The list of things for which I may someday be remembered does not include the excellence of my memory. I can't remember a $%#! thing unless I write it down, and then I can't remember where I wrote it down. I'm not as bad off as the fellow in the movie Momento, but I'm bad enough. I need help remembering.

Fortunately, that help may be here. I'm in the process of reading a fascinating book titled Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer.

Mr Foer discusses how we have, over time, lost the ability to remember information as a result of the rise of writing, the decline of traditional techniques of memorization, and the explosive growth of cheap, long-term electronic storage. He also describes some of those lost memorization techniques; some of them, like the memory palace, I've heard of before, but never heard described well. From a linguistic/semantic standpoint, I found it fascinating that Mr Foer describes the derivation of the expression "in the first place" - it refers to the location of the first element of a series to be memorized at the beginning of a trip through the rooms of a memory palace.

The whole subject is fascinating, and I've decided to try to create my own memory palace as a way of being able to remember things for more than five minutes at a time. I'm going to use the house in which I grew up as the starting point, and I'll let you know in a few weeks how (or if) it works out.

One other very interesting point made by Mr Foer circles back to my earlier blog posts on forgetting: he notes that all the memory champions (yes, there are competitions for memory professionals) also develop techniques for forgetting ... for clearing out unwanted or unnecessary memories from the rooms of the memory palace.

Remembering and forgetting - important sides of the same coin, both essential for our mental and physical well-being, and a fascinating topic to read about.

But now, I need to remember to go get dressed, walk Nessa, and head off to work.

Have a good day. Don't forget to remember, and remember how important it can be to forget.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Age of Ignorance

Those of you who are my Facebook friends may remember Massimo Pigliucci's thought-provoking article I linked to last Monday - Ignorance Today. As we suffer through an era full of self-important, self-styled experts and mental midgets who shout loudly about things of which they know nothing, this description of "the paradox of ignorance in our era" by Mr Pigliucci is worth pondering:

"...on the one hand, we are constantly bombarded by expert opinion, by all sorts of people – with or without Ph.D. after their name – who tell us exactly what to think (though rarely why we should think it). On the other hand, most of us are woefully inadequate to practice the venerable and vital art of baloney detection (or, more politely, critical thinking), which is so necessary in modern society."

We live, sadly, in a time in which we are awash in information. We can Google up the answer to any question in a few seconds, and tune into any one of thousands of TV shows, radio broadcasts, and public forums in which opinionated talking heads shout past each other, unwilling to give any intellectual ground because they're so convinced not only of their own righteousness, but of the essential wrongness of everyone else. We have access to vast amounts of raw knowledge, but no longer have the ability to sift that think critically about what we hear and separate the vital informational wheat from the chaff of BS.

Birthers, hard-core religious fundamentalists, Donald Trump, Tea Party zealots, Rush Limbaugh and Nancy Pelosi - we're surrounded by people who endlessly bloviate, but don't quite seem to know what they're talking about, or to understand the implications of what they say. Expressed another way, we're becoming a nation of pancake people - people who read widely (usually on the Internet), but have no depth or context to what they read. While I often describe myself as a fountain of useless knowledge (which I'd be amazed at the wealth of trivia I can call up), I try to put that information into a usable framework and connect it with other information to generate real, useful, actionable knowledge.

We don't learn to do that any more. As Mr Pigliucci writes,

"...the need for critical thinking has never been as pressing as in the Internet era. At least in developed countries – but increasingly in underdeveloped ones as well – the problem is no longer one of access to information, but of the lack of ability to process and make sense of that information. Unfortunately, colleges, high schools, and even elementary schools are unlikely to mandate introductory courses in critical thinking on their own. Education has increasingly been transformed into a commodity system, in which the “customers” (formerly students) are kept happy with personalized curricula while being prepared for the job market (rather than being prepared to be responsible human beings and citizens)."

Bilbo's First Law says never let anyone else do your thinking for you, but perhaps it also needs a corollary: don't forget to think.

You'd be amazed at what ass-clownery you can recognize - and discount - when you do.

Have a good day. Think. More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Post #1700 - A Matter of Taste

According to the counter on my Blogger desktop, today is my 1,700th post. Great Caesar's ghost! - this is an occasion that calls for a post full of deep thoughts, insightful observations on human nature, and intriguing philosophical discussion of the important issues of the day.

Or, I could just write about taste. Not necessarily good taste, but taste nevertheless.

I call your attention to this fascinating article from yesterday's online Washington Post: Taste Buds Are Just One Reason Why We Love Some Foods and Hate Others.

When we taste something, we're actually using all of our senses ... how we perceive the taste of something combines not just the basic tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, "unami" ("savory") or a combination thereof), but also its smell (there's a reason we avoid rotten eggs), appearance (does it look appetizing?), feel (all things considered, we don't like to eat things that are slimy, for instance), and sound (if it's supposed to crunch when we bite it and it doesn't, something may be wrong). All of our senses combine to generate what we think of as the taste of something.

The basic tastes convey specific meanings to us: if something is sweet, it probably contains sugar we need for energy; if it's sour, it may be a warning that it's spoiled or unripe. A savory taste could indicate a food high in protein, while a bitter taste may warn of something that's poisonous, as many poisons are bitter. A salty taste indicates the presence of sodium, which our bodies need for many basic functions.

There are many other things that bear on how we perceive the taste of a particular food. The article discusses research which shows that we may tend to like the flavors of the foods our mothers ate while they were pregnant - these flavors may pass through amniotic fluids and, later, through breast milk, possibly signaling to the baby that if it was good enough for Mama to eat, it must be safe and wholesome.

Some tastes appear to appeal to have a cultural basis (we tend to like the things the people around us like) or a sexual one (research shows that, yes, women tend to like sweet things more than men do).

In the end, how we perceive the taste of various foods is intensely personal. I love Brussels Sprouts and asparagus and don't like beets; I enjoy steak but detest liver. Others may have the opposite opinions. And, of course, if you don't know how else to describe the taste of something, you can always say it tastes like chicken.

And, lest I go too far and transcend the bounds of good taste, I'll just quit here.

Have a good day. Enjoy a tasty lunch. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

On Dressing Right

Two related things came up yesterday...

First, this wonderful post from Chrissy on the level of angst experienced by a woman trying to figure out what sort of dress to wear to a wedding. This is one of those things that makes me glad to be a man: if the invitation says "black tie" we know we're supposed to wear a tuxedo (black, duh), unlike our ladies who can spend weeks agonizing over what sort of dress to wear (length? color? neckline high or low? material? gloves? no gloves? hat? no hat? jewelry? AAAUUUGGGHHH!!!). If you're a man, it's fairly easy to be ... well ... sharp-dressed ...

Good luck, Chrissy...hope you find the right dress. Perhaps this will help ...

Yesterday I ran across the only article I've ever read in the Financial Times that I understood: an essay by Geoff Dyer titled The Perfect Summer Dress. It provides a great summary for the ladies of the rules for selecting the ideal dress for summer wear, and includes interesting guidelines like,

If the dress is very short then it is too obviously sexual. And then, because the wearer has to make sure that the dress is not too revealing, she is all the time having to pull it down or restrict her movements, thereby contradicting one of the essential purposes of the summer dress: absolute freedom of movement.


Above all, it must be simple. Bows, frills, sashes and so on detract from the essentialness that is the essential quality of the summer dress. It is the irreducible symbol, the last layer separating the naked fact of a woman from the world.

Oh, and (according to Mr Dyer) it has to be sleeveless. After all, the Constitution gives you the right to bare arms (the Founders clearly appreciated a beautiful lady in a summer dress, too). For a connoisseur of beautiful female arms like myself, a summer dress just has to be sleeveless. Of course, it also gets back to that exposed armpit thing we've been discussing, but heck, it's summer ... go for it.

Well, that's all for now. I have to get dressed (black tie not required, happily) and go to work. I have angst of my own about that, my vision being color-deficient and my fashion sense somewhat impaired...but then, as long as I don't look like Bozo the Clown, I guess I can get away with pretty much anything.

It's the beauty of being a guy.

Have a good day. Dress well. More thoughts tomorrow.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Standing at the lip of the huge, smoking crater where the economy used to be are the people who helped to create it - the wizards of the financial mismanagement community, their pet politicians ... and their accountants. What can we say about accountants? Here are a few things ...

What's the definition of an accountant? Someone who solves a problem you didn't know you had in a way you don't understand.

What's the definition of a good tax accountant? Someone who has a loophole named after him.

When does a person decide to become an accountant? When he realizes he doesn't have the charisma to succeed as an undertaker.

What does an accountant use for birth control? His personality.

What's an extroverted accountant? One who looks at your shoes while he's talking to you instead of his own.

What's an auditor? Someone who arrives after the battle and bayonets all the wounded.

Why did the auditor cross the road? Because he looked in the file and that's what they did last year.

There are three kinds of accountants in the world: those who can count and those who can't.

How do you drive an accountant completely insane? Tie him to a chair, stand in front of him and fold up a road map the wrong way.

What do accountants suffer from that ordinary people don't? Depreciation.

An accountant is someone who knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

An accountant who was having a hard time sleeping went to see his doctor. "Have you tried counting sheep?", the doctor asked. "That's the problem," the accountant replied. "I make a mistake and then spend three hours trying to find it."

Accountants: the people you can count on. For something.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Guest Post

Hi, there! It's me again, Nessa ... you know, Bilbo's dog. I haven't blogged for a while (actually, since last Christmas), and many of you have been asking why I haven't been around. Well, I've been here, but I just haven't had too much to say that Bilbo hasn't already covered. He's been trying to train me to bite Republicans, Democrats, and Tea Party wingnuts, but I don't like it, because they all leave a bad taste in my mouth. He should just bite them himself instead of complaining about them all the time.

Anyhow, there are other reasons I don't blog very often. First of all, do you know how hard it is to work a keyboard with paws instead of hands? It's not easy, let me tell you. But there are a lot of other reasons why we dogs don't work well with computers. Here are just a few ...

Things started to go south when we realized we couldn't stick our heads out of Windows '95.

We still don't understand why there's not a FETCH command available on all platforms.

Have you ever tried to read a monitor with your head cocked to one side?

Bilbo gets really upset when I "mark" the websites I visit.

Just hearing that stupid "You've Got Mail!" thing is not nearly as satisfying as barking hysterically at the postman.

That fire hydrant icon is just not as good as the real thing.

The boss knows we're browsing instead of working because of that darned involuntary tail wagging.

We keep bruising our noses when we try to catch that MPEG frisbee.

We need an emoticon that signifies tail-wagging.

Typing will be much easier once they introduce the Microsoft Tactile Mouse with Opposable Thumb.

Carpaw Tunnel Syndrome is really painful.

Have you ever tried to work with a saliva-coated mouse?

We're still looking for the's.leg newsgroup.

Butt-sniffing is more direct and less deceiving than fooling around in online chat rooms.

Well, I guess that pretty well sums it up. Today is something called Easter. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but it seems to involve eggs, candy, and fancy hats for the ladies. Like Christmas, it also seems to have something to do with the master you worship, and how he rose up after three days. Well, I worship Bilbo, and Agnes is always complaining that it takes him three days to rise up and get anything done, so I guess this is all about him. Hmm...maybe he'll make some of those good eggs for breakfast. I should head out to the kitchen and practice my Sorrowful Lab LookTM so I'll be ready when they get to the table.

On behalf of all us dogs everywhere, Happy Easter! We know you'll be busy with those egg hunts and Easter baskets and such, but don't forget to play with us while you're at it. Who knows ... we might find some of those eggs you hid last year and forgot about!



Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

The St Louis area has suffered heavy damage, including closure of Lambert-St Louis International Airport, because of severe tornadoes (but, happily, Mike and Claudia are okay); a woman in Tennessee who went into cardiac arrest at a Lady Gaga concert was saved by paramedics, but is upset that she missed the concert; Senator John McCain, who ought to know better, is in Libya to urge increased American support for rebels fighting against He Who Can Not Be Spelled; French police are searching for a man after the discovery of the bodies of his wife and four children buried under his house; and actress/role model Lindsey Lohan is free on $75,000 bond after being sentenced to 120 days in jail for theft and violation of her drunk driving probation.

If you can't escape to the 14th century like Craziequeen, at least you can engage in a bit of escapism with Cartoon Saturday.

We lead off this week with two views of modern technology ... how we summon 21st century cats (if they condescend to come) ...

And how we seek ever more effective ways to get clueless morons to turn off their cell phones at artistic events ...

Here's a series of cartoons that take off on an otherwise unpleasant criminal activity ...

and ...

and a bit of a twist on the subject ...

Have you ever found yourself in the embarrassing position of standing at the cash register, unable to pay the bill? Aaarrr! ...

This happens to me, too ...

A little something to think about as we grudgingly prepare for the 2012 election season ...

One of the stories that didn't make it into the Bible ...

And finally, if you want to have the freedom to worship God according to the dictates of your conscience, you have to ... uh ... never mind ...

It's Easter weekend, the traditional start of spring and the holiest season of the Christian calendar. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we'll be enjoying an Easter egg hunt with our granddaughters and looking forward to the coming of summer. After yesterday's cold, miserable rain and the terrible storms in other parts of the country, I think we're all ready for some more enjoyable weather.

Have a good day and a great weekend. More thoughts tomorrow.


Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Friday

And about damn time, too. Having yesterday managed to, as Mike generously pointed out in his comment, piss everyone off, I guess today I'll just offer a few odds and ends to cap off an otherwise undistinguished week and help us coast into Cartoon Saturday and the Easter weekend.

Speaking of the Easter weekend, Tabitha - The Best Daughter-in-Law in the World - reminded me last night during our Skype call about this classic Easter conundrum ...

Today, April 22nd, is the anniversary of the birthday (in 1724) of philosopher Immanuel Kant, of whom it has been said that while Genghis Khan, Immanuel Kant, ha, ha. Immanuel Kant appears as a peripheral character in a series of gritty and atmospheric mysteries by Michael Gregorio set in Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars (strongly recommended reading, Andrea!).

Today is also Earth Day. It was first observed in 1970, but its roots go back to the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson's landmark book Silent Spring, which exposed the effects of pesticides and other chemical pollution on the environment. An estimated twenty million people nationwide participated in the first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, an event which helped pressure the government into establishing the Environmental Protection Agency and passing the Clean Air, the Clean Water, and the Endangered Species Acts ... all of which are considered terrible examples of job-killing out-of-control liberal government interference by Republicans, who think clean air, water, and endangered species are overrated, anyhow.

From the Department of How's That Again? comes this stop-the-presses quality news story: More than 7 Million Candles Recalled for Fire Risk*. Hmmm ... isn't that sort of the point of a candle? In a related story, Republicans are furious about the recall, claiming it is yet another example of an out-of-control liberal government imposing job-killing restrictions on the candle industry and limiting Americans' Constitutionally-guaranteed freedom to accept the risk of dying in a fire.

And finally to wrap up the week, thoughts on achieving inner peace:

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,
If you can conquer tension without medical help,
If you can relax without alcohol,
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs ...
You are probably the family dog.

Nessa wanted me to put that in.

Have a good day. Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday ... more thoughts then.


* Yes, I know the headline doesn't tell the whole story, but just let me have the joke, okay?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of Baseball and Religious Beliefs

Although I've never been especially fond of either organized religion or baseball, the combination of the two can reveal some essential truths. I've seen this clever piece in a number of places before, most recently on Miss Cellania's wonderful website, and I reproduce it here (with my own additions and edits) for your enlightenment ...

Calvinists believe the game is fixed.

Lutherans believe they can't win, but trust the Scorekeeper.

Quakers won't swing.

Unitarians can catch anything.

Amish walk a lot.

Pagans sacrifice.

Jehovah's Witnesses are thrown out often.

Scientologists play injured.

Televangelists often get caught stealing.

Episcopalians pass the plate.

Methodists want to rewrite the rules.

Evangelicals make effective pitches.

Fundamentalists balk.

Hindus refuse to kill the umpire, because he might be a relative.

Muslims will play the game, but only in accordance with the original, perfect, and unerring set of rules handed down by Abner Doubleday.

Twelver Shia Muslims don't think the game can be played because the Umpire is in hiding.

Mormons are in left field.

Dunkers are down by three.

Adventists have a seventh-inning stretch.

Atheists refuse to have an Umpire.

Jews are still waiting for the Umpire.

Catholics believe there's only one Umpire, but He covers all three bases.

Baptists want to play hardball.

Premillenialists expect the game to be called soon on account of darkness.

Rastafarians will only play on grass.

The Pope claims never to have committed an error.

And, because some people take their politics as seriously as their religion ...

Democrats want to make sure the blessings are equally distributed.

Republicans believe in cutting sins, rather than observing new commandments.

Have a good day. Worship at the church/synagogue/temple/mosque/forest/circle of stones of your choice ... and let everyone else worship at theirs.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ultimate Truths of the Universe

I think I set a new record yesterday for number of comments received on a single post. But since I can't write about armpits every day, I guess I should look for something else with which to entertain you today. How about this abridged list of the Ultimate Truths of the Universe (with my commentary, of course)?

1. Indecision is the key to flexibility.

2. You can't tell which way the train went by looking at the track (And even if you're on the right track, the train will run over you if you don't keep moving).

3. There is absolutely no substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.

4. Happiness is merely the remission of pain (This is related to the classic admonition that "the beatings will continue until morale improves")

5. Nostalgia isn't what it used to be (The "good old days" weren't necessarily good...just old).

6. Sometimes too much to drink is not enough (Bilbo's Corollary: any problem is easier to face if you've stockpiled enough gin, tonic water, and fresh limes).

7. The facts, although interesting, are irrelevant (This is intended to be a factual statement, Senator Kyl).

8. The careful application of terror is also a form of communication (A truth not lost on al Qaeda, Hamas, and the dumbass who added discussion of "death panels for granny" to arguments about health care reform).

9. Someone who thinks logically is a nice contrast to the real world (And has no future in politics).

10. Things are more like they are today than they ever were before.

11. Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for (The first rule of modern politics).

12. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler (Otherwise, Republicans and Democrats won't be able to understand it).

13. Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate.

14. I have seen the truth, and it makes no sense (This is actually a memorable quote from G.K. Chesterton that you may recognize as my personal motto).

15. Suicide is the most sincere form of self-criticism (Unfortunately, you can only use it once, and you're not likely to benefit from the insights).

16. If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.

17. All things being equal, fat people use more soap.

18. If you can smile when things go wrong, you've figured out who to blame.

19. One seventh of your life is spent on Monday (Mike can tell you how much of it is spent on Friday the 13th).

20. Every time you make ends meet, some ass clown moves the ends.

21. Not one shred of evidence supports the notion that life is serious (And nobody gets out of it alive).

22. The more you run over a dead cat, the flatter it gets.

23. There is always one more imbecile than you counted on (This is related to the classic observation that foolproof plans never allow for the ingenuity of fools).

24. You may think this is as bad as it can get, but don't count on it (The 2012 presidential race is coming).

25. Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it.

Have I missed anything? Add your personal ultimate truths to the comments.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Problems You Never Knew You Had

You know, Dear Readers, that you have lots of things to worry about nowadays ... political ass-clownery, an economy in ruins (largely thanks to political ass-clownery), and insane levels of religious intolerance, just to name a few. You also know, thanks to floods of television ads from law firms with names like Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, Hungadunga, and McCormick (thanks, Groucho!), that you may be on the verge of dying a horrible (but financially lucrative in the meantime) death from all sorts of diseases, poisons, and medical malfeasance you wouldn't know about if it weren't for television ads run by big law firms. And on top of all that, the advertising industry wants all you insecure ladies out there to know that your well-being is menaced by all sorts of ghastly things like bad breath, vaginal odor, and ... gasp! ... exposed armpits!

Yes, Friends, you may enjoy this very interesting article by Libby Copeland from - The Cure for Your Fugly Armpits: How Advertisers Create Body Anxieties Women Didn't Know They Had, and Then Sell Them the Solution.

The article begins with a look at the recent advertising campaign by Dove Ultimate Go Sleeveless Deodorant, which implies that women's armpits* are naturally ugly, and promises to turn them from the Ugly Ducklings of Summer Exposure to dry, sweet-smelling, and attractive hints of her hidden beauty, waiting to be proudly exposed by the sleeveless dresses she's always been ashamed to wear. It then goes on to discuss other great moments in advertising, including the marketing of Lysol as a contraceptive and vaginal deodorant and the horror of bad breath, which leads unfortunate women to the curse of always being a bridesmaid, but never a bride.

Oh, for pete's sake. Ladies, if the worst thing you have to worry about is whether or not your armpits are attractive, you have a pretty good life.

I don't pay much attention to advertising any more, especially ads for cures for erectile dysfunction, ambulance-chasing law firms, and candidates for political office (who need those cures for erectile dysfunction so they can better screw the voters once in office). Neither should you.

Have a good day. Ladies, don't worry about the sleeveless dresses - I promise not to criticize your armpits. More thoughts - unrelated to armpit hygiene - tomorrow.


* By the way, there are actually websites out there dedicated to celebrity armpits. Don't ask me how I know.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Hunting Elephants

No, this post is not about going after Republicans with hostile intent, although on most days that might seem like a good idea. It is about actually hunting elephants, and how this activity might be performed by members of various professions. I thought I'd pull this out of Bilbo's Mighty File O' Bloggable Stuff and update it because I can't bring myself to rant about political stuff on a Monday which will be tough enough to get through, anyhow.

Here's how various professionals hunt elephants:

MATHEMATICIANS hunt elephants by going to Africa, throwing out everything that is not an elephant, and catching one of whatever is left.

PROFESSORS OF MATHEMATICS will prove the existence of at least one unique elephant and then leave the detection and capture of an actual elephant as an exercise for their graduate students.

COMPUTER SCIENTISTS hunt elephants by exercising Algorithm A:
1. Go to Africa.
2. Start at the Cape of Good Hope.
3. Work northward in an orderly manner, traversing the continent alternately east and west.
4. During each traverse pass,
a. Catch each animal seen.
b. Compare each animal caught to a known elephant.
c. Stop when a match is detected.

EXPERIENCED COMPUTER PROGRAMMERS modify Algorithm A by placing a known elephant in Cairo to ensure that the algorithm will terminate.

HARDWARE ENGINEERS hunt elephants by going to Africa, catching gray animals at random, and stopping when any one of them weighs within plus or minus 15 percent of any previously observed elephant.

ECONOMISTS don't hunt elephants, but believe that if elephants are paid enough, they will hunt themselves.

STATISTICIANS hunt the first animal they see N times and call it an elephant.

CONSULTANTS don't hunt elephants, and many have never hunted anything at all, but they can be hired by the hour to advise those people who do.

CONTRACTORS hunt elephants on behalf of state governments which don't have enough state workers left after budget cuts to carry out unfunded federal mandates to conduct elephant hunts.

DEMOCRATS don't believe in hunting elephants, but will share the elephants you catch with the people who voted for them.

REPUBLICANS believe there would be plenty of elephants for everyone if only job-killing taxes and onerous government regulations on elephant ownership were eliminated.

TEA PARTY REPUBLICANS believe the government spends too much money on elephant-hunting, that all funds dedicated to that purpose must be eliminated from the federal budget, and that absolutely no new taxes to facilitate elephant-hunting be imposed, ever.

BIRTHERS won't believe you've actually caught an elephant until you show them a certified, signed birth certificate with a raised seal, signed by a zoologist who is recognized as a world-class expert on elephant patrimony. And if you get that, they will also want DNA test results proving it's really an elephant.

MEMBERS OF PUBLIC EMPLOYEES' UNIONS don't hunt elephants because everybody knows that public employees don't do anything but sit around on their wide backsides while enjoying generous benefits and accumulating huge pensions.

THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT hires hackers to break into the computers of other governments that already own elephants and digitally transfer ownership to selected Chinese zoos.

THE LIBYAN GOVERNMENT hunts everything, and figures that sooner or later it'll get an elephant.

LAWYERS don't hunt elephants, but follow the herds around arguing about who owns the droppings.

SOFTWARE LAWYERS will claim that they own an entire herd based on the look and feel of one dropping.

SENIOR MANAGERS set broad elephant-hunting policy based on the assumption that elephants are just like field mice, but with deeper voices.

QUALITY ASSURANCE INSPECTORS ignore the elephants and look for mistakes the other hunters made when they were packing the jeep.

SALES PEOPLE don't hunt elephants but spend their time selling elephants they haven't caught, for delivery two days before the season opens.

SOFTWARE SALES PEOPLE ship the first thing they catch and write up an invoice for an elephant.

HARDWARE SALES PEOPLE catch rabbits, paint them gray, and sell them as laptop elephants.

Got another idea for how someone hunts elephants? Add it as a comment!

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

More Cartoons

I know that we just celebrated Cartoon Saturday yesterday, but the state of the economy and the political buffoonery oozing out of Washington like sludge from a water treatment plant have yielded a bumper crop of great editorial cartoons that are worth showcasing. Here are a few of the better ones ...

Since it's tax time, and one's thoughts turn to the fairness (or not) of the tax system, we might as well fantasize a bit ...

There was much outrage recently when it was revealed that the General Electric Corporation had paid not a single cent in taxes on profits of billions ... and got a refund of the taxes they didn't pay. And it was all perfectly legal, GE being able to hire much better lawyers and more Congressmen than you and I. When you can fleece the little taxpayer legally, you may as well be up front about it ...

Both Republicans and Democrats seemed to go out of their way to make themselves look like moronic ass clowns during the recent budget standoff that threatened to shut down the entire government. I wonder how it all played in Peoria ...

The Republicans have painted themselves into a fiscal corner by demanding the budget be fixed by spending cuts only, with absolutely no discussion of "revenue enhancement" (that's government code for "tax increases"). Want to see what happens when the average Republican thinks about taxes? ...

If you thought the recent budget fiasco in Congress was bad, just wait for them to take up the budget for fiscal year 2012 that begins on October 1st. And if you think those are bad, just consider that we're going to have a presidential election going on at the same time. Or maybe not, since the Republicans' candidate bench is not especially deep ...

(And, lest you think I'm being unduly hard on the Republicans ... even though they've earned it ... it should be noted that the Democratic bench is not especially packed with world-class statesmen, either. The only difference is that the Democratic nobodies at least make an attempt to pretend they care about Real People.)

The Republicans are very serious on reducing the size and powers of government. Here's one way they're working to do it ...

And finally, we all know that the Republicans have come into their majority in the House of Representatives fired by a messianic belief that "the American people" have given them clear marching orders on what to do. It may have escaped their notice, but I am an American person and I think they're a bunch of self-important ass clowns who aren't terribly interested in what the American people think ... unless, of course, they're wealthy or incorporated. But nevertheless, the Republicans are convinced they're on a mission to turn things around ...

... and a fine job they're doing, too.

On a new, somewhat related topic, Faithful Reader Chrissy (who, for reasons of her own, loves my use of the term "ass clown") recommended a while back that, in addition to Cartoon Saturday, I start a regular feature along the lines of "Ass Clown of the Week." I think that's a great idea. The only problem is that I don't want to encourage additional ass-clownery by making them think they can get additional exposure by receiving a prestigious award. Nevertheless, because I think Chrissy's idea has merit, and because she routinely comments on my posts, and because who doesn't love a lady who writes so eloquently about poop, Bilbo's First Certified Ass Clown Award

is presented to Donald Trump:

This award is presented to Mr Trump in recognition of his boundless egotism and willingness to embrace long-discredited birther conspiracies in an attempt to make himself look like a meaningful candidate for president.

Congratulations, Mr Trump. Don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

Have a good day. Submit your recommendations for the Certified Ass Clown Award to my e-mail address. Submitters whose recommendations are selected will receive credit in my prestigious and widely-read blog.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cartoon Saturday

Tornadoes spawned by fierce storms have killed at least 17 people across the American south; an Iraqi immigrant in Arizona has been sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for murdering his daughter because she'd become "too Westernized;" NATO is running short of precision bombs for use in Libya, and may need to ask the US to chip in and help out with bombing; the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has approved a budget plan to cut trillions of dollars from the federal budget, even though it has no chance of approval in the Democratic-controlled Senate; and the search continues along remote Long Island beaches for more victims of a serial killer already known to have murdered eight women.

I don't know about you, but some weeks you could probably use more than one Cartoon Saturday...

Cartoons about GPS navigation are becoming more frequent ... and funny ... all the time. Here are two of the latest ones ...

and ...

As you know, I've been trying for years to bring some order into the chaos that is my study here at home. I'm ready to get serious about it, though ...

There are some very specialized Human Resources departments out there nowadays who can find you just the right person for any job, no matter how dirty ...

It's well-known that conservative Republicans are enraged by Public Broadcasting because they view it as too "liberal;" however, some GOP strategists believe they might be able to co-opt some popular PBS characters to advance their own socio-economic messages ...

The dating scene has changed quite a bit from the days when I was out looking for love ...

How often do you hear the word ziggurat, much less see it used in a cartoon? ...

Broken or fixed? That's an interesting philosophical question, to which the answer is probably, "both" ...

So, what if some of those allegorical stories from the Bible are really true? ...

And finally, a cartoon that pretty much sums up the way I feel most weekdays around 5:00 ...

Today is rainy, chilly, and miserable here in Northern Virginia ... a day for running errands and getting indoor chores done ... but tomorrow's weather is supposed to be a bit better. Time now to get some of those errands and chores done.

Have a good day. Congress is still in session - watch your wallet.

More thoughts tomorrow.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Of Duck Soup, Taxes, and Spending

Some of you may recall the classic 1933 Marx Brothers film Duck Soup, in which Groucho played a fast-talking con artist named Rufus T. Firefly who becomes the dictator of the bankrupt nation of Freedonia, and ... well ... the plot is complicated and silly, but the movie is hysterically funny. I thought about this scene from Duck Soup in the context of the latest shenanigans coming from Congress. President Firefly is chairing a meeting of his cabinet ...

Minister of Labor: The Department of Labor wishes to report that the workers of Freedonia are demanding shorter hours.

Rufus T. Firefly: Very well, we'll give them shorter hours. We'll start by cutting their lunch hour to twenty minutes. And now, gentlemen, we've got to start looking for a new Treasurer.

Minister of Labor: But you appointed one last week!

Firefly: That's the one I'm looking for.

Secretary of War: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! Enough of this. How about taking up the tax?

Firefly: How about taking up the carpet?

Secretary of War: I still insist we must take up the tax!

Firefly: He's right. You've got to take up the tacks before you can take up the carpet.

That was 1933. It’s now 2011 – almost 80 years later – and it feels like we're living in Freedonia: we have a government in which Republicans only want to take up the spending carpet, while Democrats believe you have to take up the tacks, too.

Some things never change. But at least in Duck Soup, the squabbling was funny.

So now that the funny part is over, let's talk about taxes, shall we?

Taxes have been around and people have complained about them for as long as there have been organized societies. No one likes to pay them, but they're an unfortunate and necessary fact of life. They've been used to control or punish populations, support corrupt aristocracies, and marginalize minorities (as in political or religious poll taxes). The real, fundamental purpose of taxes is to raise money to operate the government, but in today's America, taxes serve many other purposes, including:

- Paying for common services the public has agreed are the responsibility of the government (national defense, public safety, education, etc);

- Encouraging business activity (on the theory that the loss of immediate tax revenue from the businesses will be compensated for in the long run by the taxes paid on worker incomes, sales taxes, etc); and,

- Advancing desired socio-political agendas.

Here’s the issue in modern-day America: in exchange for taxes paid, citizens have come to expect certain services from their government ... but there's no widespread agreement on what those services ought to be. At the national level, generally speaking, we expect the government to provide a military to defend us, regulate national-level trade, represent the country in foreign lands, and provide the administrative machinery of a national government (national-level courts, coinage of money, etc). At the state level, we expect the government to provide for a state militia, regulate commerce within the state, and provide for state-level courts, public safety, and state-wide infrastructure. At the local (city/county) level, we expect the government to provide schools, police and fire protection, emergency services, and essential public works (water, sewer, local street repair, trash removal, etc).

So what does that all mean? In some quarters, it has come to mean that the government has a responsibility to provide universal health care for citizens; that illegal immigrants have a right to the same services and protections provided to citizens; that the government has a responsibility to protect the environment and ensure that the food we eat and the drugs we take are safe and wholesome; and that the government should support or underwrite the arts and culture.

All of these things are good and worthwhile (except, in my opinion, providing services to illegals). Unfortunately, we can't pay for them all any more.

What must we do to get our fiscal house in order?

Speaking with all the wisdom and authority I wield as a person with absolutely no background in government, economics, or politics, I believe we need to do two things:

1. Though it pains me to agree with brainless Republican ass clowns on anything, we must cut spending ... but we have to do it smartly, without causing sudden and massive shock to the country. Government must stop doing the things that are nice to do (such as, sadly, supporting the arts and culture) so that it can afford to do the things it needs to do.

2. (cue the howling mobs of hysterical tea party wingnuts) We must restructure the tax code to eliminate loopholes and breaks for special interests, and ensure that each citizen and business pays its fair share of the tax burden. We must end the gross fraud of voodoo, trickle-down economics that shifts the tax burden away from businesses and privileged classes to the lower and middle classes.

Easy to say, of course, but very difficult to do.

Cutting spending is not easy, because no matter what line item you pick at random out of the government budget to cut, reinforced battalions of well-funded lawyers and lobbyists will spring out of the ground as if sown from dragon's teeth, spouting dense clouds of statistics and spewing lawsuits, fighting tooth and nail and marshaling earnest crowds of deeply aggrieved Plain Folks to argue that the Republic will fall if the government doesn't provide funding support to (insert desired sacred cow here).

And raising taxes isn't easy either, because businesses and the wealthy have a vested interest in shifting their portion of the tax burden to you ... and they can afford more and bigger lawyers to do their fighting for them than you can.

In my humble and marginally-informed opinion, it's the very height of gross irresponsibility to demand sudden, deep cuts in spending without addressing the idea of revenue as well. Yes, you can cut the lunch hour to 20 minutes and take up the carpet as Mr Firefly recommends ... but you have to take up the tax, too.

Unfortunately, I don't think anyone in Congress has the guts to do both, so start tightening those belts, folks - we Real People are going to receive fewer services (both essential and nice-to-have) while finding more of the tax burden shifted to us.

We need a leader like Rufus T. Firefly: at least he was honest about fleecing the citizens.

Have a good day. Tomorrow is Cartoon Saturday.

More thoughts then.


Thursday Odds and Ends

Today is April 14th, which is a day of no particular note except that it's the anniversary of the date in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated while watching the comedy "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington ... leading to the classic, blackly humorous comment, "So, Mrs Lincoln, other than that, how'd you like the play?"

Tomorrow is a more portentious day - it will be April 15th - the day on which we Americans dig deep into our pockets to render unto Caesar that which is his. I sometimes wish I could be Caesar and get rendered to, except for that whole ides of March thing. But I digress. Tomorrow in this space, we will talk about the subject of taxes - an important topic and one guaranteed to make Republicans froth at the mouth. Today, we'll just talk about odds and ends in the news, because I'm not feeling particularly original.

Deal with it.

In Pakistan, hysterical religious vigilantes inspired by the nation's draconian blasphemy laws have murdered a man who had been accused of insulting Mohammed, but had been investigated and exonerated by the courts. There is, of course, no compulsion in religion. Except in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and other such garden spots of brotherhood and tolerance...

Speaking of garden spots, North Korea has once again arrested an American citizen on a charge of "committing a crime against North Korea." Here in America, we balance our budget by borrowing from China and ruthlessly slashing programs that do not directly benefit the well-to-do. In North Korea, they raise funds by arresting foreigners on trumped-up charges and ransoming them back to their home countries.

China - the same forward-looking nation that has made it illegal to reincarnate without state permission - has now banned stories dealing with "fantasy, time-travel, random compilations of mythical stories, bizarre plots, absurd techniques, even propagating feudal superstitions, fatalism and reincarnation, ambiguous moral lessons, and a lack of positive thinking") from Chinese television. After all, life is so good in the present (unless you are Ai Weiwei), why would you want to fantasize about living in the past?

From the Department of What Were They Thinking? comes the story of a billboard advertising the TV series The Walking Dead ... on the side of a funeral parlor. What more can I say?

And finally, hold on to your wallets: Congress will be voting today on the fiscal year 2011 budget agreement (a.k.a. The Great Republican Budget Blackmail Deal of 2011), giving tea party-backed ultraconservative demagogues another opportunity to hold the nation hostage. When last I looked, the word compromise wasn't defined as my way or the highway, but that seems to be the new GOP scorched-earth approach. Fiscal year 2012 ought to be interesting ... once it gets here in 2014.

That's all. Come back tomorrow and we'll try to talk rationally about taxes. I can't promise it will be fun, but it's a discussion we need to have.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - Although tomorrow is the traditional tax payment date, don't forget that this year's deadline to pay your federal income tax is Monday, April 18th ... it seems that tomorrow is Emancipation Day in Washington DC, which the IRS treats as a federal holiday for tax filing purposes. You get an extra three days to file and pay. Use them wisely.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

"Not Intended to Be a Factual Statement"

Have you ever wondered why Congress is held in such low esteem? There are obviously a lot of reasons, but one of the largest is the utter disregard for the truth and the blatant manufacture of "facts" on the part of many of its members. Consider Arizona Senator John Kyl's claim that abortion is "well over 90% of what Planned Parenthood does." You can watch the Senator's comment and see some reporting on the activities of Planned Parenthood here.

The actual figure, as it turns out, is about 3%, the balance going to other women's health services. In a clarifying statement issued after this discrepancy was pointed out, Senator Kyl's office stated that his comment "was not intended to be a factual statement." You can view Stephen Colbert's satirical take on that marvelous dodge here.

I'm glad we cleared that up. What's the world coming to when our elected reprehensives have to resort to - ugh! - facts to bolster their arguments? I'm not worried, though ... Congress has a long and distinguished history of inventing the facts needed to support it's policy desires. And why not? As Mr Colbert pointed out in the specific case of Senator Kyl (but applicable to Congress in general),

"You can't call him out for being wrong when he never intended to be right."

Should the Federal Government be subsidizing the women's health activities of Planned Parenthood? That's a subject for real debate, not wild lies and distortions based on a particular party's social agenda. My personal opinion is that it shouldn't, but that has nothing to do with the value of the services Planned Parenthood provides. After all, that money would be much better spent on tax breaks for businesses that will allow them to continue to not hire new workers because people don't have jobs that would allow them to earn the money to buy the goods and services the businesses provide.

Well, I thought that sounded good when I wrote it. In any event, I can always claim it was never intended to be a factual statement.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"What Democracy Means to Me"

I was going through my old humor file this morning in search of bloggable material when I found this wonderful piece originally performed - according to my notes - by Johnny Carson on September 11, 1991. Here is his wonderful soliloquy titled, "What Democracy Means to Me" ...

"To me, democracy means placing trust in the little guy, giving the fruits of nationhood to those who built the nation.

"Democracy means anyone can grow up to be president, and anyone who doesn't grow up can be vice president.

"Democracy is people of all races, colors, and creeds united by a single dream: to get rich and move to the suburbs ... away from people of all races, colors, and creeds.

"Democracy is having time set aside to worship -- 18 years if you're Jim Bakker*.

"Democracy is buying a big house you can't afford with money you don't have to impress people you wish were dead. And, unlike communism, democracy does not mean having just one ineffective political party; it means having two ineffective political parties.

"Democracy means freedom of sexual choice between any two consenting adults; Utopia means freedom of choice between three or more consenting adults. But I digress.

"Democracy is welcoming people from other lands, and giving them something to hold onto -- usually a mop or a leaf blower. It means that with proper timing and scrupulous bookkeeping, anyone can die owing the government a huge amount of money.

"Democracy means a thriving heartland with rolling fields of Alfalfa, Buckwheat, Spanky, and Wheezer**.

"Democracy means our elected officials bow to the will of the people, but more often they bow to the big butts of campaign contributors.

"Yes, democracy means fighting every day for what you deserve, and fighting even harder to keep other weaker people from getting what they deserve.

"Democracy means never having the Secret Police show up at your door. Of course, it also means never having the cable guy show up at your door. It's a tradeoff. Democracy means free television, not good television, but free.

"Democracy is being able to pick up the phone and, within a minute, be talking to anyone in the country, and, within two minutes, be interrupted by call waiting.

"Democracy means no taxation without representation, and God knows, we've just about had the hell represented out of us. It means the freedom to bear arms so you can blow the "o" out of any rural stop sign you want.

"And finally, democracy is the eagle on the back of a dollar bill, with 13 arrows in one claw, 13 leaves on a branch, 13 tail feathers, and 13 stars over its head--this signifies that when the white man came to this country, it was bad luck for the Indians, bad luck for the trees, bad luck for the wildlife, and lights out for the American eagle.

"I thank you."

Johnny Carson was a smart and funny guy. I miss him.

Today, think about what Democracy means to you. Or what the Republicans say it means to you, since ... after all ... they absolutely know what the American people want. The wealthy and well-connected American people, anyhow. You could also think about what it means to Democrats, except that they aren't organized enough to know themselves.


Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


** For those of you not old enough to remember, those were some of the members of "Our Gang."


Monday, April 11, 2011

The GOP Health Care Reform Plan

Congressional Republicans, whipped into a frenzy by the tea party monkey on their backs, flush with their perceived victory in the Grand Budget Fiasco of 2011, and convinced they have a "mandate from the American people," are now setting their sights on the 2012 budget. Which, the way things are now going in Congress, will not be approved until well into fiscal year 2014 anyhow.

One of the budget items which is the target of much GOP outrage is spending on health care. Now, there's no question that health care costs are utterly insane, that Real People are having a tough time getting the care they need, and medical professionals deserve to earn salaries commensurate with the life-and-death responsibilities they bear. The issue is one of figuring out how to minimize the cost of health care and the government's responsibility to help pay for it while maximizing profit for the insurance and prescription drug industries.

This is not easy.

However, Bilbo's Random Thought Collection has obtained a copy of some of the initial GOP proposals for reducing the cost of health care and, in the interest of keeping you informed of those things which have a significant impact on your life, I hereby pass them on to you for your perusal:

- Medical professionals consulted in the drafting of the plan include Dr. Who, Dr. Kevorkian, Dr. Fu Manchu, and Dr. Demento.

- Patients requiring anesthesia will be offered three choices: a shot of whiskey (bar brands only), a bullet to bite on (no larger than .22 caliber), or a Louisville Slugger to the head.

- Annual breast exams for women will be scheduled during non-peak hours at the nearest Hooters.

- Reconditioned dialysis machines previously used at Jiffy Lube are authorized for low-income patients.

- Second opinions on diagnoses reached by multiplying the the initial treatment estimate by 0.50. Insurance payments will be based on the lower number.

- Annual vision exams consist of counting the patient's number of eyes. If the number is two, the patient passes. If the number equals one, the patient's vision is considered adequate. If the number equals zero, it's a pre-existing condition not covered by insurance.

- Rectal thermometers may be sanitized by wiping them with wadded newspaper.

- The standard initial treatment is, "Take two leeches and call me in the morning."

- Expensive X-ray machines are not allowed, but each doctor is issued a pair of X-ray specs.

- Generic drugs may only be used to treat generic diseases.

- Dentists required to fill cavities with spackling compound.

- Medical imaging consists of the doctor carefully examining the patient through 3-D glasses.

- Cat Scans conducted with real cats (feral alley cats for low-income patients).

- Tongue depressors not required to eliminate all traces of Fudgesicle.

- Well-baby care consists of leaving your baby on Angelina Jolie's doorstep.

- Radiation treatment for cancer patients consists of one-way tickets (coach class) to Chernobyl or Fukushima (insurance company's option).

Good luck.

Have a good day. Stay can't afford not to. More thoughts tomorrow.


Sunday, April 10, 2011

The National Stupidity Condition - DUMBCON 1

Those of you who have been around this blog for a while may recall that back in 2009 I proposed the establishment of a national Stupidity Condition to help assess the prevailing level of stupidity across the nation and the world. I modeled it on the military's system of "defense conditions" (or DEFCONs, for short), and called them DUMBCONs, and they turned out to be quite popular. You can read the original post here.

About six months after that, one of my co-workers passed me a similar idea someone else had come up with - the STUPICON. This was essentially the same as my idea, but came with cool graphics and had only four levels (A through D), as opposed to the DUMBCON structure, which had five levels (5 being the lowest and 1 the highest) and no cool graphics. You can revisit that post here.

Well, in the wake of the colossal ass-clownery perpetrated by Congress in the Great 2011 Budget Fiasco, I believe it's time to dust off and update the DUMBCON, and add a cool graphic (because, as you know from watching the TV news, nothing can be properly explained without a spiffy graphic - preferably animated).

Dear Readers, I give you the updated DUMBCON structure:

Here's the updated version of how it works:

DUMBCON 5 - ordinary, day-to-day level of stupidity. People actually pay attention to clueless twits like "Reverend" Terry Jones, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Harry Reid, John Boehner, or anyone from the tea party; Lindsey Lohan is arrested again for something or other; people continue to listen to rap music. Congress is in session ...

DUMBCON 4 - things are more stupid than usual. Congressional Republicans and Democrats blame each other for the crisis du jour; Congress continues to spend money on military equipment the services don't want, but which are built in the districts of key lawmakers; Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad make lengthy speeches blaming the US for everything wrong in the world back to the extinction of the dinosaurs; Osama bin Laden issues another video or audio tape that gets 24/7 air time on al-Jazeera television.

DUMBCON 3 - things are getting pretty stupid. Congressional Republicans demand President Obama intervene to help the Libyan opposition, then beat him up once he does; mindless dumbasses continue to insist that President Obama was actually born in a stone cottage in Tierra del Fuego despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; Republicans continue to believe that all will be well if we just get rid of unions, eliminate all spending on social programs, and slash taxes on businesses and the wealthy; Democrats continue to believe ... well ... whatever it is they believe in (they're still not sure themselves).

DUMBCON 2 - start shaking your head - it's getting really stupid out there. People continue to believe Faux News is "fair and balanced;" a crazy person shoots a Congresswoman in the head and kills and injures many more at a public event, and the NRA says that guns had nothing to do with it, that the killer would have done it anyway - he'd just have asked his victims politely to line up in sequence so he could strangle them individually; the EPA once again accepts industry threats about the economic consequences of requiring them to clean up toxic wastes and emissions, and dutifully waters down the latest set of proposed environmental protection standards.

DUMBCON 1 - stupidity beyond your wildest dreams. Go back to bed and hide under the pillows. Former Mayor Marion Barry of DC gets away with yet another outrageous act and blames criticism of his despicable behavior on racism; businesses increase prices to cover their "increased costs," but demand their employees accept wage cuts that will prevent them from buying the products they make; Congress postures and bloviates for months without passing a budget, then finally reaches agreement at the last possible second before having to shut down the government. Each side declares victory ...

... and blames the other for the fiasco ...

We're at DUMBCON 1. And the way things are going, it looks as if we probably won't need DUMBCONs 5 through 4 any more.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.