Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I can't make this stuff up

EL PASO -- Four men were killed in a shooting at the OK Corral nightclub in Juárez early Monday, police said.

Read the rest of the little story in the world's worst newspaper. Think I read somewhere recently that the death count in Juaritos for the year was up to 1,000. I bet that's more than American deaths in Iraq this year.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Oh, so that's why they call it fall

Spent the whole day watching CNBC and CNN on and off, while the big deal in Washington went into the ditch. I've been afraid to check the balance on the 401(k), a proposition I usually call the Six-Horse Fund because of its frankly speculative nature. It's had years 40%+ and some the other direction ... an interesting bet for a non-risk-averse sort like me. On the bright side, I went and bought a pound of jumbo shrimp for six bucks and grilled them with a little bacon wrapped around them, made a green salad, washed it all down with some Portuguese white that went jes fine, thank you. Even if it's the end of the world, it's not the end of the world. Shrimp's still cheap in **Adrift and the weather's been beautiful of late. Tomorrow should be nearly as interesting.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Do cigars count as a green, leafy vegetable?

I'm always tickled when something I love – olive oil, red wine, avocados – is found to have health benefits. Don't guess it will ever happen with the stogies, but there are indicators that they're not as bad as the anti-tobacco zealots would want to make us believe. From a piece in Reason a few years back:
Once easily misled by the scare tactics of public health officials and anti-smoking activists, the mainstream press is starting to acknowledge something that medical studies have been finding for decades: The typical cigar smoker faces hazards far less serious than the typical cigarette smoker does.

Read it all here. On the other hand, Freud and U.S. Grant were both cigar smokers and both died of cancer of the jaw or throat. I told my doctor that my cigar-smoking uncle lived to 93 or 94 and my whiskey-drinking uncle lived to 90. Doc just said, "It probably kept them alive." Nothing like an enthusiasm to give you a reason to get moving in the morning, even if it's just to move to the chair on the porch for the first cigar of the day.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Are we on the downslope?

Journalist and patriot Georgie Anne Geyer has some pointed observations in her column of Sept. 25:
WASHINGTON -- Lurking behind the infamous $700 billion bailout that is monopolizing our attention these tumultuous days, loom other even more important questions -- deadly serious and historic questions -- that have become, all too suddenly, the true stuff of our new reality.

Read the whole thing here. I've always admired Geyer for her level-headed take on things, so her concern matters to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Shuffling off

Guy who sends me stuff sends me another funny obit from Dallas.
... Born April 3, 1951 in North Carolina. He was one of eight children. His older sisters regularly beat him up, put him in dresses, and then forced him to walk to the drugstore to buy their Kotex and cigarettes.

Sounds like he got out OK, if not alive.
Get to a certain age, you're gonna look over the death notices every morning, with special attention given to the decedents' ages. This week we had a woman check out who had the precise same D/O/B as my wife. We can only hope that fills the quota for that birthdate for the present time.

Myself hates this

Just saw Barack on TV speaking on the bailout bill. He used 'myself' as the subject of a sentence and then used 'I' as the object of a preposition. This guy is supposed to be the brightest in politics? It may be true, but if it is, the Republic is doomed. Lowers my estimation of Harvard, which already stood pretty low because of W's degree from there. Pronoun blunders annoy me inordinately. Don't they teach these nice distinctions any longer?

More bailout

From Timothy Egan op-ed in the NYTimes:
“I’m a dirt farmer,” said Senator Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who still lives on his family homestead. “Why do we have one week to determine that $700 billion has to be appropriated or this country’s financial system goes down the pipes?”

Read the rest here.

Ohhh dear, what can the matter be?

The moronic fratboy who sits in the big chair in Deecee crawled out from under his rock last night to tell us we really really really need to back that money truck up to Wall Street and start unloading right now, no dawdling lest the Republic fall. They've sunk the Maine, attacked our ships in Tonkin Harbor, and have weapons of mass destruction that can only be stopped by giving Hank P sole authority over $700b, no partial payments, please, and no restrictions. Remember how we got the wicked Patriot Act? We can wait a few days to get clear on this welfare-for-Wall-Street deal. NYT story tells that congress members are getting buried under constituent communications, almost all against this bill. This might be the kind of congressional vote that a constituent will remember for more than a couple of weeks, maybe even until the next election.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Travails of the Vicad

Well, the Advocate added another chapter this morning to their interminable series of stories about people who do grievously dumbutt things, incur consequences, and then call the Advocate to complain about their fates – people who go nuts in a school administrator's office and get in trouble, people who call police and then make things difficult for them, a woman who complained about impound fees on her van that turns out to be evidence in a murder case wherein she is the accused. These unhappy people call an Advocate reporter and get their story in the paper. Story today was something about people whose loose dogs got hit by a car and hurt. Their desired resolution seemed to be that the cop who hit the dogs owed the irresponsible pet owners some kind of reparations. It ends up making the paper look dumb dumb dumb to appear to take the side of the clowns who call in with stories like this.*
Then when I made a routine check of writer jobs on JournalismJobs.com, I see an ad for a sports editor and for a sports copy editor-page designer job for the Vicad. What this means is that Coy Slavik, who's been more than a quarter century at the Vicad, has quit. They'll miss him, as he has run a good department. That loss plus the other resignation, the copy editor, leaves them short-handed on the very brink of high-school football. Poor Advocate ...
Then Sunday saw the fifth installment of the series on the immigrant deaths five years ago. It may get to be like the Super Bowl – Fatal Funnel Installment 5 – or maybe rate Roman numerals: FF-XVII someday. There must be some particular contest they're aiming at with this thing, as I'm sure nobody is calling in demanding more stories about the incident.
*Apparently it was the neighbors who first called the paper. I didn't read it with much attention.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just an idea

The big dogs are swearing we must have the bailout money and right now and no strings on ol' Henry P, so he can just spray it around without hindrance as he thinks best. I think it would be nice if the Congress would designate just a tiny fraction of that $700b – say, $1b – to support the office of a special prosecutor assigned to investigate fraud in the markets. I think the guy who prosecuted the Enron crowd might be a good choice. Punishments can, after all, include fines, so this little project would probably pay for itself many times over and maybe serve as an object lesson to future captains of finance who might be inclined to sell worthless securities. Just a thought ... I'd love to see a few of these grasping bastards shuffling off in orange jumpsuits and trailing shackles.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Welfare for Wall Street

This whole damn bailout hoohah gives me the jimjams; I can't ecape the lingering fear that somehow it will constitute a bunch of money directed to people who don't deserve to be saved from their own stupidity or avarice or both – the people making $30k who bought $300k houses and the slime who ran their mortgages through and then laid off the action to other greedy chumps. I'm happy to detect at least a little resistance to the plan. Friedrich von Blowhard has some links to non-enthusiasts:
The Paulson plan for bailing out the financial sector is extremely dubious. The prospect that it will get rubber-stamped into legislation by a panicked Congress within the week is a distressing, but sadly real, possibility. I strongly urge you to oppose passage of this proposal without – at a minimum – a full and thorough airing of the issues involved.

Read all of Friedrich's stuff here. Someone on there has a nicely snide crack about Ronnie Raygun's remark that the nine most terrifying words in the language being "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you." Don't guess we'll hear that for a few months ... Realistically, the fix is in, and we're on the hook for the money, like it or not.
And from the WaPo Web site Sunday evening:
Sources familiar with Treasury's thinking said last night that the department is also continuing to monitor troubled financial firms and may have to intervene in the markets again this week, before Congress acts on the bailout, to address specific flashpoints
The story indicates some possibility of the Ds imposing some restraints on the money gusher. Read it here.

Friday, September 19, 2008

What's your FICO score, Uncle Sam?

From a Reuters story on the Web:
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pressure is building on the pristine "AAA" rating of the United States after a federal bailout of American International Group Inc, the chairman of Standard & Poor's sovereign ratings committee said on Wednesday.

Read the rest of the sad story here, and then consider that the story came out before announcement of the big bailout, which may run a trillion dollars. I can come up with a thing or two that might be better bought for a trillion dollars. Just think, W wanted to put Social Security in the hands of the people who've brought us this debacle.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Creeping socialism?

Is that a black swan croaking outside my window or is it simply a buzzard drawn by the stench of death? The nabobs of our govt are gathered together this evening to put together a plan to bail out the criminally inept classes of Wall Street for the hopeless hash those miscreants have made of the American economy. Money guy I know writes, "It is very hard to be deceived by companies and govt regulators
alike." I don't know when this will end, but I'd venture a guess how it will end – badly for ordinary citizens.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Don't wanna rush the calendar, but this morning felt like the first real norther of the fall had come through during the night -- cool, crisp, dry. It was a great morning for a walk. Nothing brewing out in the eastern Atlantic, so maybe summer is sort of over for this year. Certainly hope so. One hurricane panic a year is enough; I wonder how those poor Floridians can abide doing it two or three times a season. From what I saw of Florida, it's not a good enough place that you'd want to abide that sort of misery just to live there. We have some DPs from Ike staying here in our village. Poor babies.

Monday, September 15, 2008


We got the August electric bill today ... it was ca. $450. That's a mortgage payment not a utility bill. A utility bill is $28.57 or $59.84. Shocking. We been turning off everything in the house that draws electricity ever since it came. Then herself took her little Honda CRV to town for 90,000-mile work. Another thousand bucks. I read that the SS payments will go up in Jan but Part B Medicare will mostly wipe it out. On the bright side, of course, we have those 401(k)s that replaced pensions. They're just sitting there enjoying the tremendous gains in the mighty American stock market, piling up the bucks to pay for electric bills. How'd the market do today?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

No Ike here

We came bopping back down 183 quite early this morning, got here about 10:30. Went through heavy rains around Victoria, and it's been raining a bit down here but nothing tropical or torrential. I talked to Mike the Pilot and he was out of electricity where he was. That would make him one of about three million ... what a misery to contemplate. At least the storm knocked the top off the heat for the moment. The pup was very happy to pee on familiar ground and smell the wind off the bay. The happiest contrast is the quiet here ... no traffic noises in the distance and even fewer people than usual are here. My 85-y-o neighbor stayed but abandoned his trailer for a room with a friend. He gets to be smug, I guess. Things still fell off-balance, and we have to take down a bunch of window coverings, and there's been a hatch of those vicious little marsh mosquitoes about half again the size of a gnat. Pix of blown-out windows in downtown Houston offices were pretty scary.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Looks like we did the smart thing by bailing yesterday. We ran west to Tx123 and followed it up through Stockdale and Seguin and like that to San Marcos. There was a little traffic fleeing the storm, pulling boats and laden with possessions, but very little. Rita was such a traumatic escape trip that we were twice shy this time. Austin is starting to fill up; the news has interviews with unhappy refugees in local schools, and we saw many buses this morning. Otherwise, we've acted like we were here to have a good time ... enjoyed the company of our hosts and shopped like yuppies this morning. We are watching the Weather Channel constantly and hoping the water doesn't get too high at home and that electricity stays on so we can go home Sunday and unboard. Hope all is well with friends up the coast.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

We'll meet again ...

but I don't know where or when. We're about to put up the boards over about half the windows and deal with the rest in the morning. Ike seems like he's going to head right up 4th Street in **Adrift sometime early Saturday morning. We – people, pup, even two specimens of house vermin – are gonna head out for Austin to impose on the kindness of friends. Pick the favorite books, put in a few clothes, the complete works, maybe some CDs, guess we'll abandon the old vinyl records and maybe 2,500 excess books with the thought that they're insured anyhow. Less comfort there than you'd think if you've spent 45 years acquiring books ... to call it collecting would imply more system than exists. See y'all, maybe just later today.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Funny but damning obit for Mamá Dearest

Guy who sends me stuff sent me a bizarre obit a few weeks back. It had been up on a newspaper Web site but was pulled down. I pass it to you, redacted to protect the guilty:
D___ A___
1929 - Aug. 7, 2008
D___ A___, born in 1929 in New Mexico, left us on August 7, 2008. She will be met in the afterlife by her husband, R___, her son, P___ Jr., and daughter, R___.
She is survived by her daughters [six named], and son B___; grandchildren [19 named] ...; great-grandchildren [21 named] ... I apologize if I missed anyone.
D___ had no hobbies, made no contribution to society and rarely shared a kind word or deed in her life. I speak for the majority of her family when I say her presence will not be missed by many, very few tears will be shed and there will be no lamenting over her passing.
Her family will remember D___ and amongst ourselves we will remember her in our own way, which were mostly sad and troubling times throughout the years. We may have some fond memories of her and perhaps we will think of those times too. But I truly believe at the end of the day ALL of us will really only miss what we never had, a good and kind mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. I hope she is finally at peace with herself. As for the rest of us left behind, I hope this is the beginning of a time of healing and learning to be a family again.
There will be no service, no prayers and no closure for the family she spent a lifetime tearing apart. We cannot come together in the end to see to it that her grandchildren and great-grandchildren can say their goodbyes. So I say here for all of us, GOOD BYE, MOM.

Seven kids and 40 grands and greats might make a soul grouchy. I remember an occasion at the paper when a second woman in some guy's life inserted her own version of his obit, naming herself as some kind of survivor – surviving trick? – and listing her kids as his. Musta made some uncomfortable moments for someone, I'm sure, though not the decedent.

Monday, September 8, 2008

No like Ike

Well, here we go again, watching another hurricane out there in the east. Most of the models seem to have the thing arriving at my street corner sometime Saturday. I'm not frantic yet, as we've seen so many turn off, especially this far out, but I will start to get frantic about Wednesday if things don't alter. My favorite possible track is one that puts it coming ashore somewhere about Soto la Marina, Tamps., down south of Matamoros. Next best would be somewhere in the King Ranch. Not that I'm mad at Santa Gertrudis cows or Mexican fishermen, but those are the least populated areas in the projected strike area. I did the Rita evacuation and am not eager to repeat the thoroughly miserable experience. Fortunately, friends in Austin have offered sanctuary at their house should things come to the worst possible end. Sensibly a coastal resident knows that the Big One will happen – it's been a long time since Carla – but not now, please.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


A bookish young relative sent me a little disquisition from the Salon site on the semicolon, a punctuation mark I really like. ...
Recently someone asked me what my favorite punctuation mark was. I did not even hesitate. The semicolon. Duh. To me, the semicolon has a certain elegance, like a vodka martini; I don't whip it out every day, but on occasion, and with great relish.

Read it all here. The accusation lodged against the semicolon is that it is somehow girly. Oh, well. Henry James could make a sentence go on for a whole page simply by grafting independent clauses together with semicolons. When I was teaching in Mexico I tried to get my students to learn the use of the mark, as in Spanish it is permissible to string together sentence after sentence, joining them only with commas; in English this habit will make horrible run-on sentences that are completely unacceptable. Semicolons will cure the problem. Some editors have an unreasoning prejudice against semicolons and excise them without mercy, and some like them just fine. It's kinda like cat people and dog people, I guess. I always suspected that the antis just didn't understand the true nature of the mark.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


We hear a lot of talk about experience lately. One of the German military authors, and I don't remember which one, wrote, roughly, "Though my mule accompany me on fifty campaigns, at the end he is still a mule." Experience has its value but if you can't take its lessons, it is worthless.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Grin, equal time doctrine

Jesus was a community organizer. Pontius Pilate was a governor.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

OMG, as the kids write

The DJIA dropped some 340-odd points today. The people who always have the nifty explanations about why the stock market does this or that had no explanation about why it dropped. I have a theory: People looked around this morning and understood that the Rs have nominated a guy promising a continuation of the catastrophic policies of the last eight years, the Ds have nominated a guy who gives great speeches but is worrisomely opaque in some way, so then the thought came that that money might be better off in a Folger's can out in the back yard. Everwho gets to be president will have some really thorny problems to work through.
Friend of mine, a lady of some mother wit, lived in Alaska and knows one of the principals on the other side of Sarah Palin's little war with the state police. My friend swears her friend is totally reliable and Palin's behaving badly. Plus, the Alaska press roughs her up, and they tend to have a pretty good take on people. I'm sorry she's bogus, as she is a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.
Then, Doofus Dick Cheney talking about bringing Georgia into NATO is just the thing to irritate the Russians just when they're feeling tetchy. How would we like it if Russia were forming military alliances with Mexico?
I wish this election were over ...

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Gnats and camels

I'm not in any way a Republican, but there's something going on here lately that annoys me a bunch about the Ds. Since McCain chose the questionably qualified guv of Alaska as his VP, the machine has cranked up on her. One of the deals has been a 20-year-old DUI conviction for her husband. The guy's a commercial fisherman fah Crissake ... of course he gets drunk now and then. Be stranger if he didn't. My village is full of guys in white boots – a.k.a. Seadrift ropers – riding bicycles. It may be that these guys are simply very environmentally conscious or can't afford cars, but my usual assumption is that they've lost their licenses. Thing is, a few days ago, the Dems worked themselves into a purple froth over Sen. Teddy Kennedy, a pussle-gutted wet brain and a lifelong cheat, chiseler, trimmer, and coward. If he were named Teddy Gogarty, he'd be tending bar in South Boston, and he wouldn't be able to vote because he'd have a felony conviction for that stunt in the summer of '69. Not defending Palin's drunk driving, but it was a long time ago, apparently he hasn't repeated, and you gotta take care of that beam in your own eye before you get too interested in the mote in the other guy's eye.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Comic strip news

'For Better or For Worse,' the sweet-natured comic strip about a Canadian dentist, his bookshop-owning wife, and his likeable kids took some odd turns in the Sunday funnies this week and left us wondering 'what the hell?' Here's an explanation of what's going on from trade mag Editor and Publisher.

Decline of $EEUU

The U.S. dollar has dropped 8% against the Mexican peso this year. How's it holding up against the cowrie shell?

Monday, September 1, 2008

More bad type

The Vicad today had a headline on Page 1 that was made up of human figures forming letters, like the YMCA thing people do as a gag. Baaaaaaaaaad.

Labor Day misc.

Looks like Louisiana came out better than it appeared it would. You gotta feel that NO will necessarily disappear anyhow as nature makes it ever more untenable.
We purport to honor working people today. I think the American working class is in a worse place than it has been since the Great Depression and little prospect of digging out. The oligarchs always did despise seeing those nasty proles getting all that prosperity that should have been going to them, the oligarchs. The policy of the government since Ronnie Raygun took office has been to move as much power and money to the hands of the richest and their surrogates, the corps. The Wall-Street-Journal Rs with their globalization and trade treaties and open border enthusiasms and the drooling goo-goo wing of the Ds with their contempt for white working people have managed a thorough rape of a working class that was once the best in the world – skilled, productive, and industrious. The Rs still work themselves up to rants about the dangers of a unionized working class, even as union membership disappears in everything but public-sector employees. It's time for the 21st-Century version of the IWW to show up and start organizing.