Electile Disfunction

I’m still absorbed (Actively appalled, shocked, massively disappointed, etc.) with our recent election. Because, after all, it’s really all about me. Just kidding. And I promise, no more political bullshit on the blog for a while after this.

And while I am imperfectly pleased with the results, Mr. Trump won it fair and square, by the rules in place at the time. And I still hope he somehow becomes a fine President. Or at least an adequate one. Which I doubt. But I wish him well.

And now, to make things even more strange, I find myself agreeing with Trump on what I feel is a very important political idea.

I don’t know yet, from any reliable source, who won the most votes. Last I heard, Hillary led the popular vote by over two million. Doesn’t matter. But Trump and I agree on this: Get rid of the Electoral College. He says he would win in either case, Electoral College or not. I doubt that strongly. But to me, it isn’t important. The election is now in our rearview mirrors.

The issue should be “How do we conduct our elections from here on out?”

It should be clear by now that the Electoral College (Hereafter referred to as EC, to save wear and tear on my Backspace key.) doesn’t work especially well. Even if Hillary won the popular and/or EC vote, I’d still want to get rid of the EC. It is, when you get down to the business end of it, anti-democratic. It gives more weight and importance to some voters and less to others and that is unfair. It may have served a purpose way back when but we don’t need it anymore. Mr. Trump says, and I agree, that it is undemocratic. And that alone should be enough reason to scrap the EC.

But I think there is a more important reason to determine our President by popular vote instead of the EC.

I think it would compel, or at least encourage, candidates to go out among the electorate, to visit places they otherwise wouldn’t, to give less attention to large campaign contributors and Wall Street and more time and attention to everyday people. As a quick-and-dirty-example, due to the EC, Hillary didn’t campaign in West Virginia because she knew, correctly, that she wouldn’t win the state. If we used the popular vote to determine who wins, she might have gone there and spent some time among the working people and the unemployed people. The West Virginians might or might not have voted for her. But she would have had to confront, up close and personal, some of the problems that our government has failed, over many years, to address. Same for Trump. I didn’t see him in the inner cities, asking young mothers who’ve already had a child killed over some stupid gang bullshit how we can make our cities livable. Or asking why a Republican governor poisoned the water of an entire city and isn’t on Death Row.

Our Presidential (And other) candidates, spend way too much time in the company of wealthy campaign donors and lobbyists and way too little time seeing and speaking with (Not at.) people who live paycheck to paycheck or welfare check to welfare check. They’d know, or at least learn, that most welfare recipients are white people. That our inner cities and rural valleys have similar problems- too few jobs, nothing except low-paying jobs, no union protection, no job security, nothing for graduating kids who need a job that isn’t at Walmart. That there are many understandable reasons for the nationwide drug epidemic and it ain’t because poor people are lazy. It’s because there aren’t enough good jobs. It’s because the few jobs that exist pay shit wages and offer no benefits, other than having to work two or three jobs to support a family. It’s because the Mom and Pop stores that used to be the heart of downtown are now boarded up because of a Walmart outside of town on the highway. And Walmart (Or Bass Pro Shops, or Cabella’s or Home Depot), in all likelihood, was granted tax breaks by the town council to keep them from locating their minimum-wage businesses elsewhere but that dumped more of the tax burden on the remaining residents and businesses. Killing the EC might just encourage our “leaders” to get out among the rest of us and discover what they are doing to our country.

No professional politician knows the indignity of living on welfare or Food Stamps. None of them know what it’s like to have strangers examine what you’re buying at the supermarket and, sometimes, comment on what you’re buying in a manner that suggests that you are a moocher undeserving of government help. It might be an idea to have anyone running for high political office try to live on nothing but government assistance for a few months. Hell, it might be a good idea to have that as a requirement for high public office. To go hungry because the welfare check doesn’t last a whole month because you had to pay the electric bill or your old piece-of-shit car broke down. To live for months on end with a toothache that can’t be treated. To see a loved one die from cancer that could have been cured but, due to government cutbacks, there’s no money for health insurance or free medical care so your loved one isn’t really killed by cancer but by indifference. Or by the Governor of your state who refused to take Federal money for health insurance because that might make Obama look good and we certainly can’t have that.

If our politicians went to rural areas and spoke to family farmers, they might understand how damn hard it is to be a farmer and how much more difficult it has become since the government decided that factory farming is the way to go. And how there are no lobbyists for a family farmer but hordes of them for huge factory-farm corporations. I find it ironically sad that former Senator Bob Dole was known as “the Senator from ADM” because he was in the pocket of Archer Daniels Midland, a giant in the factory farming industry. One of the Bozos currently in the Senate, Mike Pompeo, is known as “The Senator from Koch Brothers”. You’ll be hearing a lot about him soon.

It probably wouldn’t hurt but might induce nausea in our Exalted Leaders if they actually spent time on the floor of the chamber where Bozo the Congress meets. A few years back they might have been treated to the sight of Tom Delay (Republican. TX. Surprise!) handing out checks from the Oil Industry ON THE FLOOR OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ten minutes before a vote on, wait for it- the Oil Industry.

In short (Or maybe not), the people who want to run the country ought to actually SEE the country, listen to the people, see and admit the outright bribery and corruption, the purchasing of votes that constitutes the normal process of governance. The Democratic Party was once the party of working folks and poor folks. The Republicans, who have always, at least for the past fifty years, been the party of Big Business, just got a sizable majority of the votes of poor and working class people. How did that happen? Why did these people vote against their own economic interests? Yeah, Fox “News” and the rest of the right-wing noise machine didn’t help but it happened because the people have, in large part, stopped believing what the Democrats say. The Democratic Party needs new leaders, new candidates, people who aren’t corrupted or co-opted by the sewer that is politics in Washington. People who will stand with farmers, poor people, ordinary Americans. New leaders who will stand shoulder to shoulder with Union organizers, vote for card-check, over and over and over no matter what the Republicans say or do until it becomes law. The Republicans made “union” a dirty word. It’s well past time for the Democrats to reclaim it. The Republicans and conservatives made the word “liberal” an epithet. It’s a word to be proud of. The other party made it a word about enabling welfare moochers. A lot of people bought into the fiction the “Liberals” wanted to tax America right out of existence. The Democrats need to get out there and explain and prove how they are the party of job growth and fiscal responsibility. I’ll wait here while you look up the numbers.

The new Democratic candidates have to persuade voters everywhere, in every corner of the country, that the Democratic Party is the party that really does care about ordinary people. Since 1980, without exception, unemployment has risen under Republicans and lessened under Democrats. Budget deficits have been smaller under Democrats than under Republicans. People who voted for Trump seem to have forgotten exactly how pathetic Dubya’s administration was. When Obama took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs per month. Unemployment is now down to 4.5 per cent and the markets are at an all time high and gas is two bucks a gallon. Dubya exploded the National Debt. Obama brought it down but listen to Fox “News” and the rest of the right-wing noise machine and you’d think that Obama caused all of our problems. Democratic candidates and organizers have to get out where the voters are and show them the numbers.

They need to see, firsthand, the privation, hopelessness, weariness and desperation so common all over America. They need to see how what’s left of our middle class is hanging on by their fingernails so that they don’t fall on their brethren below. They’ll get a better picture of America if they have to leave their little enclaves and retinues and go out and listen. America doesn’t need any more speeches or fancy commercials where the candidates stand around in shirtsleeves pretending they give half a shit about you. Our political class needs to listen to America. Getting rid of the EC can only help to get our people listened to.

And if the politicians can see all this and not want to take a torch and set fire to Washington D.C. and Wall Street, we, the people will know them by their friends and actions and we will vote. We’ll know whether they encouraged or allowed Wall Street to break our economy again. If they bail out the bankers but not the people, we’ll know. If they privatize the profit but socialize the risks, we will know. We will vote. And we will act. When you have nothing, you have nothing to lose.

Random Truths, Part the Third

Random Truths. A Collection of Mini-rants. Part the Third.

After over 60 years of living, I’ve come to understand a few things that are totally true, whether you believe them or not. I originally meant to collect these things and send ‘em to my kids but who knows- maybe somebody else will either learn something or get a laugh or two. Most of these were NOT written by me. Wherever I know or remember who originally said any of these things, I will credit the author.

This will be added to from time to time and will probably never be done. The list is literally random. I am the Poster Child for A.D.D. So sue me.



A person’s worth to society should never be measured by how much money they have or how much money they make. There are good and bad in every stratum of society. A checkbook is a lousy way to measure people.

The job title someone has does not necessarily reflect their value to the rest of us. If all the lawyers and all the garbage collectors suddenly disappeared, whose loss would we mourn more? I’m not picking on lawyers, it’s just that they are not as essential to everyday life as trash collectors yet they make far more money. Next time garbage collectors go on strike and trash piles up in the streets, go stand next to a lawyer and see if things smell any better.

The people who deal with society’s waste are owed a lot of respect from the rest of us. But the titles don’t reflect that. GARBAGEMAN. He’s not made of garbage. He keeps our civilization habitable.

Ever notice that you don’t often see an old trash collector? It’s because it’s a damn tough job that is physically demanding and most who do that job wind up broken or crippled before they’re old enough to retire. People sometimes complain about the relatively good wages trash collectors make. Spend a day dealing with unspeakable filth and heavy lifting and see how you feel then.

Teachers do not get the respect they should, either. Most of them view it as a calling. In addition to the specialty they have (Math, English, etc.), they spend a lot of time learning how to teach. Then they hit the classroom and have more rules and regulations and demands than you can believe, frequently imposed by people who have no idea whatever what teaching is like. We cut school budgets but expect teachers to make every child a genius. We don’t get involved in our child’s education, except to criticize the teachers if our little darlings aren’t making the grade and to vote against school funding.

People often say “Teachers only work ten months a year”. That’s right. And they only get paid for ten months. And of course there are the morons (Chris Christie comes immediately to mind) who think it’s a crime for a teacher to belong to a union. Sure, why should they be able to bargain for better working conditions or better salaries? We’re only entrusting our goddamn future to them. We expect miracles from our teachers but don’t want to pay them what they’re worth or give them any respect. And of course, each of us is an expert on how and what to teach. You know those kids down the street whose parents don’t give a shit, never taught manners to, etc.? YOU go take over a class with thirty or forty kids like that and then tell the teachers how easy they have it. No wonder that the burnout rate for teachers is insanely high.

Anybody who is trying to sell the idea of “School Choice” is, in fact, trying to sell you on the idea of school vouchers, which is a conservative scam to put public money into private hands and private and religious schools. And vouchers are widely and correctly seen as a way to break teacher’s unions. Likewise with “Charter Schools”, which have a profoundly disturbing tendency to make public money disappear.

It is my personal opinion that all private schools should be banned, excepting religious schools which would receive ZERO public funds. I have a strong suspicion that if the offspring of politicians and CEO’s had to attend the same schools as ordinary people’s children that the learning environment would improve dramatically.

Anybody who doesn’t realize by now that prejudice is wrong, stupid and wasteful needs to be culled from the human herd.

I can’t remember where I first saw this but anyone who thinks that going to church automatically makes one a good person probably believes that going into the garage makes one a car.

Every single religion, without exception, has its share of assholes. Atheists and agnostics as well.

Stupid is logarithmic. Two stupid people are 100 times more stupid than one stupid person alone. Three stupid people are 1000 times more stupid than one stupid person. Beware of stupid people in large groups. (From Wright’s Laws of Stupidity, Jim Wright’s Stonekettle Station blog. Go there and read the whole thing. He is a smart and funny man.) Here’s a link: http://www.stonekettle.com/2007/08/you-gotta-have-science.html

I don’t fish anymore because I suck at it. But fishing has much to recommend it. When you are fishing, you cannot be mowing the lawn, painting the fence or fixing the house. About all you can do is sit, trade stories with your fishing buddies and drink beer. There are far worse ways to spend time.

Someone once said that fishing was a jerk at one end of a line waiting for a jerk at the other. I swear it wasn’t me.

Someone also once said “Behold the fisherman. He goeth forth at dawn full of high hopes. He returneth at dusk smelling of strong drink and the Truth is not in him.” Wasn’t me either.

People will believe almost anything if you tell them that Winston Churchill said it first.

The early bird catches the worm. But the second mouse gets the cheese.

Never take the last beer from someone’s fridge.

There are lots of things that aren’t as good as they used to be and I’m sure, since I love to complain, that eventually I’ll get to most of ‘em. But one thing that for sure has gotten better is the automobile. When I started driving, (Gawd!) almost half a century ago, any car that got over about twelve miles per gallon was an “economy” car. Most get over 30 mpg today and the numbers keep going up.

Cars are FAR safer today than in the past. Our driving still sucks like an atomic Hoover but the cars are demonstrably safer.

When I got my first car, it was generally considered pretty good if a new car survived to 100,000 miles. Many expired long before that. Today most cars, with reasonable care, will last 200,000 or 300,000 miles or more. My daughter owns a Subaru that is so old that to get replacement parts, we need to go to a quarry. Still runs like new.

And cars are a lot more environmentally friendly than they used to be. Yeah, we burn WAY too much fossil fuel but highly leaded gasoline is a thing of the past and you rarely see even an old car with noticeable smoke coming out of the exhaust. Everybody, none louder than I, bitched about the EPA regulations that were going to permanently screw up cars. Everybody, none more than I, was wrong. Cleaner, faster, more reliable, longer lasting, safer. What’s not to like?

Brumfit’s Law- The critical mass of any home-made explosive is never less than half a bucketful. Allegedly named after Emanuel Brumfit who, while concocting his own explosives, kept adding ingredients without making any progress until he reached half a bucketful at which point he left the room without using a door.

I’d fly a lot more calmly if the first sign I saw at an airport didn’t say “Terminal”.

“Data” is plural. “Politics” is singular.

Carlin’s Law (George Carlin): If your kid needs a role model and you ain’t it, you’re both fucked.

Sattingler’s Law: It works better if you plug it in.


Some of the numerous things that I don’t understand.

I like to think, although I have no proof of this, that I’m probably no dumber than the average person. I mean, I know that there are many folks who are vastly smarter, in myriad ways, than I am but I don’t generally think of myself as a total dumbass. That all having been said, here’s a partial list of the many things that I fail to comprehend.

Electricity. No matter how many times it is explained to me, no matter by whom, even an elementary understanding of electricity utterly eludes me. As Dereck Williamson said in his brilliant and hysterically funny book “The Complete Book of Pitfalls” (Out of print for years. Find it and buy it anyway. VERY funny book.), whenever you ask an electricity expert about the subject, they immediately take a piece of paper and begin drawing wavy lines, a real help. Then they explain how electrons (Ever seen one? Me neither.) flow first in one direction, then another, changing back and forth sixty times per second. Yeah. Sure. Lotsa help there.

All I know for certain, having done some experimental field work in matters electrical, is that you can’t see electricity, except for lightning and you sure as Hell don’t want any closer familiarity with lightning; you can’t hear it (Thunder is noise, not juice.); it would probably be lethal to attempt to taste it; I don’t EVER want to smell it but you CAN feel it. I speak with a certain amount of authority on this as I have, inadvertently, occasionally dangerously, usually stupidly but ALWAYS painfully felt electricity many times, some of which appear elsewhere in my blog. Electricity HURTS. It also kills. Not me, so far. But I’ve been lucky. My advice is to leave it alone, much as you would an unexploded bomb. Nothing good will come from a closer study.

Plumbing. I totally grasp the concept, which is to contain liquids in pipes and move them where they are wanted and keep them from where they are NOT wanted. The problem here is not in the theory or methods of plumbing, but in the actual application of such knowledge. A crucial skill is “sweating” a joint. This does not involve marijuana but at some point, you will fervently wish that it did. Sweating a joint involves putting two pieces of copper pipe together, applying “flux”, a compound that helps solder to flow and heating the whole mess up with a small propane torch until the solder flows into the joint, sealing it. Most neophytes begin by brushing on the flux, holding the pipes together, igniting the torch and heating the pipes until the solder flows smoothly and you scream in agony as your hand sticks to the now-superheated pipe. This sort of plumbing frequently takes place in basements, cellars or crawl spaces, which involves working with all these things above your head. As Mr. Williamson points out, plumbing can be very rewarding, once you learn to regard hot solder down your neck as a reward.

Wiper blades. There seem to be many methods of attaching wiper blades and wiper arms to automobiles, all of which seem to be in the experimental stages. I have owned and driven numerous cars, vans and trucks for almost fifty years now. I have yet to successfully change wiper blades or, Goddess Help Us All, wiper arms. The last time I bought new wiper blades for my car, I went to an auto parts emporium, stated what I needed to the seventeen-year-old girl behind the counter and told her that I had less than no idea how to install them. She cheerfully sold me what I needed and said that installation was free, if somewhat demeaning, which she charmingly left unsaid. In less time than it would have taken me to find my car keys, she had swapped out the blades and I was good to go.

Years ago, I owned an elderly van of indeterminate mileage that my friends christened “Death Wish”. The seats had been reduced to mere sagging springs, the floor afforded an excellent view of the road passing underneath and the driver’s door had an unsettling way of opening itself on right-hand turns. It was, in short, the type of vehicle that the police never pull over, the operating principle being that whoever owned such a vehicle already had enough trouble.

The part of the van in the worst shape was the wipers. There were small remnants of rubber still attached forlornly to the metal but they had ceased being effective around the turn of the century. The previous century. I was then, as I am now and will probably always remain, impecunious. Couldn’t afford to fix the door or the floor but I could at least afford to change the wipers. And as it was winter and the weather miserable, I pulled Death Wish into my small garage/woodshop. It barely fit but it was better than working outside. I tried for over an hour to figure out how the Goddamned wiper blades came off but with zero success. I should probably point out that by the time I actually got into this project, it was fairly late at night, definitely too late to phone for competent help.

That’s when I decided that, if I couldn’t get the wiper BLADES off, I could maybe remove the entire wiper ARM and take the whole damn thing to a parts store the following day. The wiper arms seemed even less likely to part from the van than the blades were, having been affixed there since, approximately, the invention of the automobile.

This is probably an excellent place to tell you that using an eight-foot 2X4 as a lever to try to force “stuck” wiper arms from a van is NOT a good idea. Nobody told me this. My shattered windshield did. I had now taken a ten dollar project and cunningly turned it into a two hundred dollar project, to the amusement of everyone who heard about it.

To this day, I have absolutely no knowledge whatever about how to change wiper blades unless there is a seventeen year old girl around to help out an old man.

Bourbon. It has become fashionable, particularly among “Hipsters”, whatever they may be, to drink Bourbon. I have no aversion to anyone drinking Bourbon. I can’t drink it and don’t understand why. I seem to be mildly allergic to something in it. One sip and I will have heartburn that could ignite rocks. No matter which brand. I can and often do enjoy single-malt Scotch, I like Irish whisky but Bourbon is forever forbidden to me. I’m (For once.) not complaining. I just don’t know why.

Quantum mechanics. I’m no genius but I have a pretty fair understanding of physics, at least on a human-or-larger scale. Many of you probably don’t remember or never heard of Rube Goldberg. He was a cartoonist who drew the most complicated, silliest, most ridiculously complex contraptions to accomplish remarkably ordinary tasks. Note: He is very much worth looking up. Quantum mechanics makes Rube Goldberg’s inventions look far simpler than an ordinary coat hanger. Not only does any remote understanding of quantum mechanics elude me, I halfway suspect that it’s all a large joke being played on the rest of us by those people who write enormous equations on chalkboards, knowing that we mere mortals have a less-than-zero chance of telling whether it’s science or high-grade malarkey but don’t wish to admit that we don’t understand. They then use this to leverage grant money from the government in order to keep themselves in chalkboards until the end of time or until Rep. Inhofe smartens up.

Time and space. I thought I understood these things. After listening to very highly educated people for some years now, I have almost no understanding of either. All I can state for certain is that I am ALWAYS late, no matter where I go or when or how far. I suspect that this is a genetic flaw as my ancestors came over on the Juneflower.

Gravity. Gravity is easy for me to understand, in general. What eludes me is why gravity has such an abiding and particular hatred for me. If I can fall down, up, sideways, into something, out of something, off of something, onto something or in any other way come a cropper, I will. Guaranteed. By Gravity. When I were a lad of nineteen and doing construction work, my foreman was filled with wonderment at the fact that I could walk a two-by-four outside wall sixty feet off the ground, pause in the middle to nail something, then descend to the parking lot where I would trip over dust. Or a finish nail. He commented on it almost daily and was probably surprised at the end of each day when he found me still alive.

Starbucks. Only in the last few years have I become a coffee addict. But I have been shown by others, all with a greater familiarity with coffee than I, how to go about obtaining and making great coffee at home. I have yet to go anywhere other than home and had coffee that even approached “acceptable”. The two worst were: Starbucks and Starbucks. In different states. The coffee utterly sucked at both places but in different ways. From one, I obtained coffee that consisted of about 75% hot water and 25% grounds. From the other, I got coffee that tasted remarkably like paint thinner. Each one at about five dollars a cup. Minor rant: WHY, in the sacred name of Harry Mabs, does Starbucks insist on calling its different-sized containers by odd names? TALL. VENTE. GRANDE. Especially when the “Tall” is the smallest they have. Everybody understands “Small, medium and large”. Why overcomplicate things? To take your mind off of the fact that you’re about to pay five clams (Or more.) for a paper container of Liquid Crap? And the names of the varying drinks would confuse an English major. Rant over.

It’s coffee. Not rocket science. Run hot water through (Good) ground coffee beans. Pour some into a mug. Add (Or don’t) some sugar and/or milk or cream. Drink. For those who seek to make coffee that is FAR superior to Starbucks, at home, here is how we go about it at Hysteria Hall.

Learn just a bit about coffee. One thing I never knew was that un-roasted coffee has a very long shelf life. So, we buy our coffee in whole-bean five-pound bags from a company (Unpaid plug- Coffee A M) that doesn’t roast any coffee that it hasn’t sold. If I order on Tuesday, the coffee won’t be roasted until Wednesday or Thursday, then shipped in a plastic bag with a one-way valve that lets pressure out but no air in. Cost, for the Costa Rican we prefer here, including shipping, is about 41$. Lasts a month or longer. Spend a few shekels on a burr-type coffee grinder. Don’t grind until you’re ready to brew. Outstanding coffee. Just the way we like it- blacker than Mitch McConnell’s heart and strong enough to stand a spoon upright in the cup. For less than the retail of eight cups of Starbucks crap. Hell, it’s even cheaper than buying canned ground coffee like Folger’s or Maxwell House and running that sheisdreck through your Mr. Coffee machine. In the Age Of The Internet, there is no excuse for anyone to drink crappy coffee. If a blazing incompetent like me can do it, so can you.



No matter who you are, where you live or what you own, at some point you will discover that inanimate objects- things- break. Whether solid or liquid, hard or soft, electrical or computer related (Think Magick here.), eventually everything will break. Even if I haven’t been near it or you. Stuff just does that. Owning stuff is hard but repairing stuff is harder. Sometimes, explaining how something broke is even more difficult than repairing it.

When you own stuff, you have to remember things like “Is it mine? Or did I borrow it?” “Where is it?” “What happened to the instructions?” “Is this still under warranty?” (No.) “Can this be fixed?” “Or is it just easier and cheaper to throw it away and buy another one?”

Some of these questions are easily answered, like “Where is it?”. Just go out and buy a replacement and the original will just show up automatically before you get home from the store. Other questions can be tougher. “My car stopped running. Should I buy a replacement?” Unless you are a mechanic, you’ll need the advice of one to answer that question. Some simple fixes can be free (My mechanic found a bad wire and put in a used one he had hanging around. Wouldn’t take a dime for it). Other fixes can cost more than a 100 foot yacht. If, like certain people I know, you’re driving an 18 year old Toyota and you’re looking at a $6000 repair bill, not a lot of sense in fixing it unless you are exceptionally attached to the car. If this is the case, you have bigger problems than I can help with. But the point is, for $6000, you can buy three more cars identical to the one you have, each with its own set of problems.

If you have household electrical problems, I can help. First, determine whether the appliance itself is faulty. If it’s lamp or a small radio, take it to another room, plug it in and see if it works. Often, this will pinpoint your problem. However this trouble-shooting method has its limitations. It’s very inconvenient to use with refrigerators, furnaces and the like. Some folks use a “Multi-meter” to see if there’s power but it requires at least some basic knowledge of electricity. Do you set the meter for “Volts?“ “Amps?” “Ohms?” Are all three lurking inside your outlet? What the hell are they anyway? An “ohm” sounds like a place a Cockney would go after the pubs close. I find it easier to disregard these terms and look for smoke. Not active smoke, as in a fire, although if you have one of those, perhaps now isn’t the time for electrical work. The smoke to which I refer takes the form of a short column of soot above an outlet. If you plug a functioning electrical appliance into that outlet, it will not work. The soot is the clue. It means that all of the smoke has leaked out of that outlet and it will need repair. This proves, BTW, that electricity is, in fact, smoke. So forget the ohms, amps and volts and comfort yourself with being grateful that smoke rises. If it sank, it would form deadly puddles of electricity on the floor. Think of THAT! One wrong step and BLAMMO!

You’ll find sometimes, that you cannot get something repaired. Years ago, varying “repairmen” fixed things from washing machines to TVs and radios, irons, etc. I don’t even think that there are any TV repairmen around anymore. And if there are, it would probably cost more to repair your TV than buy a new one.

Liquids can also be trouble. In one’s home, liquids are supposed to be contained by the plumbing system. If you turn a faucet and water comes out, all is well. If anything else comes out, problem. If nothing comes out, also a problem. If you turn the faucet off and stuff still comes out, BIG problem. All of this is easily fixed by finding the main shutoff for the water in your home and closing the valve. Yes, it makes showering, washing dishes, etc. difficult/impossible and may cause complaining from others in your domicile. Just tell them that you’ve found a way to cut the water bill by 100%!

You can sometimes cure an ailing appliance by yourself. A friend had a washing machine go on strike, demanding a new pump. Since I live only a couple miles from an appliance sales/repair place that has EVERYTHING, I was provided with a serial and model number and dispatched to order or otherwise obtain another pump. The gentleman behind the counter takes a one-second look at the info and says “New or used?”. I ask the price differential, it’s $75 new, $35 used. I tell him “Used”. He says “Follow me” and we head to a field behind the business where there are about 100 used washers awaiting pickup for scrap. Five seconds later, he has the top off, shows me where the pump is (Surprisingly easy to get to.) shows the two bolts that will liberate the old pump and facilitate installing a different one and the two hoses that will have to be disconnected before surgery and reconnected after. All simple and straightforward. Even tells me that it is unlikely that the pump is bad, that this particular pump is very common, should last almost forever and only fails when a small bit of cloth gets lodged inside.

I take the pump to the washer. Someone has already removed the front and unplugged the machine. I explain all that the gentleman at the appliance place said. My friend notes that a very small section of a bath mat has gone AWOL and we both wonder if this is, indeed, the cause. We set to work. The hoses are a pain in the ass to remove as they are attached by old-fashioned automotive spring clips like they used on radiator hoses forty years ago. Of course, the water to the machine is off and eventually, after some ambitious and highly creative swearing, so are the hoses. The bolts are undone and the pump removed. A couple of hand-operated cycles of the old pump produce, as if by Wizardry, the missing piece of bath mat. The pump now works fine. We bolt the old pump back in place and take a quick break before tackling the hoses.

The final steps are to connect the hoses, test the pump and then put the front back on. I should have obtained new clips for the hoses but hadn’t thought of it earlier and it is now about 9:30 pm on a Sunday and the only way I can get newer-style hose clamps is to steal them from someone’s car. We both dismiss this idea as remarkably stupid (How the hell do you explain that to a judge without winding up in the State Home for the Bewildered?) and decide to re-use the original clamps. Since there are two hoses, one black and one white and since the black one was a real son-of-a-bitch to remove, we attach that one first. Finally, after even more ambitious swearing, the black hose is in place and the goddamned clip is back on. Another quick break.

Well, we both decide that it’s now time to test the pump. The washer is plugged back in, the water turned on and the “Start” button pushed. The old pump works a treat. Especially since we forgot to replace the white hose and water is flowing generously all over the floors and highly intemperate language is flowing everywhere else.

Remarkable sometimes, how astonishingly witless people can be. Especially if I’m one of them. Unplug washer, kill water, employ mop, swear vigorously and then, laugh at your own stupidity. Or otherwise, you’d put an old radiator clip around your throat and wait for your own pump to seize up.

Washer has finally been rendered operable. People have been rendered tired and wet. Home has been rendered wet. Tiredness of home is difficult to judge.

I had planned to cover more ground in this post but I don’t want to make this thing too long so, in a future post we’ll cover other useful advice, such as why you shouldn’t employ a 2×4 to install windshield wipers, how to get water to flow uphill, why wine bottles and heads are not good together, nor cats and computers, actual plumbing repairs, how to accidentally crush things you are attempting to repair and why it’s never a good idea to violate Sattingler’s Law.

Stay tuned.


I have had cause to mention in previous writings that I, as a general rule, am not a “Cat Person”. I bear them no ill will, in fact, cheerfully (Most of the time.), I share my domicile with three of them. One of them is a quiet but intensely needy female who expects to be the center of all attention for miles around. She is slowly and quietly ventilating my left thigh as I write this in order to remind me that my primary mission in life is to pet her. The blood leaking from my thigh means nothing to her. Otherwise, she is the soul of good nature, a beautiful animal and, well, kinda nice even though she’s a cat. She is also, however, clumsy as all Hell. We have two-foot deep windowsills in both the living room and dining room. The sills are eight feet long. One would assume that with a combined surface area of 32 square feet, she’d be able to maintain her balance. One would assume that incorrectly. She loses her balance more often than even I do, not a small achievement even when considering that I never use the sills as a walkway or sunning spot. She’s our young’un, about ten years old. She is remarkably inept not only with matters of balance but also eyesight.

Most people think that cats have excellent balance and superb night vision. I’m getting to be an old man (All of you, just shut up.) and my night vision is better than hers even if her balance might be better. I at least have the excuse of owning an artificial knee (That does not work properly at all and we’ll get to THAT story someday.) and an artificial hip. So, neither of us will ever compete in the Cat vs. Human Olympics. In any event, she is imperfectly nimble.

In a previous epistle, I have mentioned Aloysius, Beelzebub’s minion here on Earth. My facts regarding him were, however, incorrect. I had him pegged as being about 16 years old when in fact he’s nearly (Or past.) twenty. He remains as he was- ancient and immoderately grumpy. He might or might not have parted his moorings yet (With him, it’s hard to tell). But he still has some hop left on his fastball. His deep-seated need to be on the other side of every exterior door has only increased and I can now report with satisfaction, if imperfect English, that he now holds both the World Indoor and Outdoor Records for being indoors and outdoors and indoors and outdoors, etc., ad infinitum ad nauseam. I have been up twice, in the short span of time that it took to write this paragraph, to let him in and out. He’s finally tired, for the moment, of going in and out and in and out, etc. and decided to sleep by the wood stove. Our hearth has room for four (Count ‘em FOUR.) cats. We have but three cats. And, the best places to curl up for an overheated nap are, as follows, behind the stove, in front of the stove or to the left of the stove. The right side of the stove is where the loading door is. Any guesses where Aloysius is napping? Of course! He’s directly under the loading door. The excess heat occasioned by opening the loading door to add wood to the stove wakes him up and starts another round of in-again, out-again threshold crossings.

Which brings us to Satan. That was never intended to be his real name, he was Magilla and we called his sweet departed sister Ogee, both being names from a kids cartoon series of long ago. Magilla, the black cat that attempted to assassinate me on the night of the Perseid meteor shower as related in an earlier post, morphed into Satan long ago once we discovered his proclivity for breaking glass. In our last home, we had a porch, lined with windows and each sill had bottles of cobalt-blue glass (This description is required so that nobody says “Blue glass? Must be from Kentucky then!” Beatles fans may complain directly to me.) along their length. Until “Magilla” decided that the world sounded MUCH better with a background of tinkling, broken glass. For the record, it must be said that Magilla (Now Satan. Try to keep these things straight.) had an accomplice. Which explains how Aloysius came to have the middle name of “GODDAMNIT!” Fast forward to our current diggings where Magilla/Satan discovered that a LARGE glass container filled with glass beads and marbles and plants made for fun-filled and long-term enjoyment. He could upset the container and spill the contents onto the counter, then, at his leisure, push some broken glass or a marble or two off onto the floor. If done in the middle of the night (When else?), it might keep humans awake for HOURS.

He has now tired of that. (We also removed anything breakable from anywhere Satan could reach). He’s having a middle-age crisis. Which means that I am suffering the effects of it. He is diabetic but that never gets him down. His new hobby is called “Vomit-Fest”. Despite, quite literally, being fed the most expensive cat food in the USA, a food recommended by his vet, a food that, judging from its price is made up entirely of platinum and diamonds, a couple of times a week he decides that it’s time to cough up anything he’s eaten in the past day or so. He has also decided that I am to join him in his exercise regimen and, to that end, only barfs indoors. This works as follows- he pukes and I either notice right away and have to stop everything in my life and clean it up or, and this is the part he really likes, I don’t SEE his handiwork and slip in or on it. It has the consistency and lubricating properties of 40 weight motor oil.

I’m just now getting over our last training session. A few days ago, I was under full sail toward the laundry room and failed to notice that Satan had left a viscous present for me. Despite the surprise, I must say I gave it my all. I used the old but classic Charlie Brown Launch (Difficult, as I was tacking hard to starboard.), followed by a smooth full-layout-with-a-half-twist. I would have stuck the one point landing perfectly but smote my head on the formica countertop before coming to rest with what was left of my body on the laminate kitchen floor, which we installed directly over concrete.

If not for the Russian judge, I think my routine would have scored a perfect 10.0.

Fucking cats.


I was born into an analog world. Since that time, the rest of the world has quite clearly gone bonkers, that is to say digital. The first computer I ever saw was the size of a large living room and required enough cold air to keep it from overheating to create its own climate. My son pointed out to me that the first computer I saw had less “computing power” or some such than my cell phone has. I realize that they’re called “smart phones” now but, apostate that I am, I learned “cell phone” first so that’s what my brain tells my mouth to call it.

My cell phone and I have an uneasy, often adversarial relationship. Perhaps this was caused, and this is a true story, by when I went to the cell phone store to purchase it and asked the twelve year old “manager” for “The Stupidest Phone you have in the store.” Yes, I really said that. Maybe my phone heard it and now harbors ill will toward me. I had intended no insult to the phone, I was merely looking for something I could someday learn to operate, like an abacus perhaps. The problem is that I’m not terribly good at technical things. In point of fact, I tend to have enormous trouble operating anything more complicated than a hammer. In any event, the cell phone and I got off to a rocky start. I had believed, naively as it turned out, that I could use my phone to perform three useful (To me) functions: Making telephone calls, receiving telephone calls and telling me the time. The phone had other, more sinister ideas.

When I wanted to call home to say I’d be late, I would often find myself attempting to apologize to an irritated man in Iceland whom I’d awakened from a sound sleep. The problem here seems to be that the engineers who designed this piece of yak dung (Thought I was gonna say “Shit” didn’t ya?) made the keys used to operate this INSTRUMENT OF SATAN approximately one-fourth the size of my fingertips. I admit that I have large hands. I understand that this is a “Thing” with our future President. He needs to worry about more important “things” but I digress. I was cursed with fingers that closely resemble bratwursts so, since the operating keys are, as noted above, one quarter the size of my fingertips, it should not surprise anyone, not even a life form as little-evolved as cell phone engineers, that every single fucking time I try to dial this menace, I hit four times the correct number of keys. (Editor’s note: He’s raving. Ignore him. It’ll pass as soon as he figures out where I hid the whisky.) No wonder Lars Larsen in Iceland is getting testy. Would it have killed the engineers (Aha. An idea.) to make phone buttons the size of fingertips? Before I have to head for the Bromo and a handful of Valium, I suppose that in order to lower the tension around here, I should talk about something else.

That something else is- wait for it- Answering the fucking phone. All my life I have hated telephones with a blinding, shrieking passion. Now that most people who know me refrain from calling, my phone only “rings” (Actually, it plays a selection of intensely crappy music.) a few times a week. So, whenever I hear a shitty refrain emanating from my trousers and it doesn’t sound like an out-of-tune Sousaphone with an angry goose lodged in the bell, I pull out my phone and attempt to answer it. Seldom in the long history of our language has the word “attempt” been used with more precision. (Thank you, Bill Bryson.) There’s a green horizontal bar across the screen that I’m supposed to drag down to the bottom of the screen in order to answer my call. This maneuver is successful no more than one-third of the time, possibly because just above the green “Answer” bar, there is a red bar of equal size that kills the incoming call so I often find myself yelling into the phone “Hey Lars! Is that you?” to no one. My phone is also generously provided with several buttons around its rim. I don’t specifically know their functions, if any, but I do know that one of them terminates phone calls. So, if someone calls and actually gets connected, with my giant hands and sausage fingers, I almost always accidentally hit the “Terminate” button and the caller is hung up on.

And don’t get me started on texting. In any group of people these days, most of them will be heads down, staring at a small screen while giving both of their thumbs a vigorous workout, chimp-like, on the keyboard. This, I don’t mind. Whether they’re playing a game or texting, as long as they are not jabbering at me, I’m happy. What I do take issue with is when people are talking or texting on their phones while driving. This is clearly forbidden in the Gospels, Book of Edsel, Chapter three, verse four, Section A, Row 37, Seat 9. It sayeth: “Text thou not when thou art behind the wheel of a moving vehicle for it is an abomination unto me. Neither shalt thou use a cellphone, as it is also sinful unto me. I am an all-powerful and just and merciful God and I love you all as my children but it’s getting Goddamned difficult to keep up with ten million chowderheads at once. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head and the Guardian Angel Union is bugging me about overtime. Knock it the Hell off, before somebody gets hurt.”

It should go without saying, but it won’t, that my feeble attempts at texting are even less successful and considerably more time-consuming than dialing. I have what I believe is called a Voice-to-Text function in my phone and a friend showed me how to use it. You just push a button and then speak into the phone and, wonder of wonders, it turns my voice into a text in what appears to be Icelandic. I have given up on Voice to Text because I’m now getting Cease and Desist Orders from Lars Larsen’s attorneys and his wife is threatening to smack me upside the head with a herring.

My cell phone also boasts two, count ‘em, two cameras, both designed to thwart any chance of taking a decent or even tolerable photograph. The cameras have several idiosyncrasies. It is way too easy to activate one of them. It usually happens when I’m trying to dial the damn phone and instead of numbers I get a faint view of the ground in front of me. The reason the image is faint is that the screen reflects back into your eyes all of the fucking light on your half of the planet. This leads to awful photos. You’ll try to photograph a hippo at the zoo but because of the glare, you end up taking a picture of a minivan, thinking it’s the hippo. You take numerous shots, following it as it moves slowly past, so that maybe one photo will be clear, totally unaware that it is just an ordinary minivan. After a while you stop and realize that it was not a hippo but a minivan and you look back over your shoulder and see The Line. The line separating “kinda normal” from “Maybe I’d better Taser this fool.” The couple driving the minivan has stopped and are talking in loud voices to a police officer.

They’re kind of hard to understand but the officer says loudly and clearly- “What seems to be the trouble, Mr. and Mrs. Larsen?”

Random Truths, Part the Second.

Most Americans are overweight. For many years now, the medical community has attempted to deal with our obesity crisis by giving us useless advice. “Eat right and exercise.” say the medical people. I very recently heard a reprise of this aria from my cardiologist. This advice is patently absurd, for three reasons:

1. Healthy food tastes like shit.

2. Unhealthy food tastes wonderful.

3. Exercise is unpleasant and time-consuming. If you pay a gym membership fee or have to pay a sitter so you can get some exercise, it can also be expensive.

Until something is done to alter these facts, all the whining in the world about eating right and exercising is just more noise. Besides- it has been proven that when one diets, one’s body reacts by trying harder to keep fat on.

If you’ve managed to diet and have lost significant weight, congratulations. It doesn’t change anything about what I’ve written above. All laws have exceptions. And don’t write in telling us how you did it. Just enjoy it now, before you put the weight back on. Because, most of the time, you will put the weight back on plus, usually, a little more. Ain’t life grand?

Gumperson’s Law rules the entire universe. It states that “The probability of any occurrence is inversely proportional to its desirability.” Burn this Law into your brain.

Never challenge Worse. By saying “Things just couldn’t get any worse”, you have challenged Worse and things will go downhill from there. Trust me.

If you see an ad on TV for anything that seems miraculous, especially if it is a way to lose weight, remember that if it really worked, they wouldn’t need to advertise it.

In the 1950’s, TV commercials were limited to three minutes per hour. At the present time, commercials take up twenty minutes of any hour. Not counting the little “silent commercials” in the lower corner of your screen. I don’t know who is in charge of all this but during the 50’s the airwaves belonged to the people of the United States. If they are our airwaves, how can we get back to having three minutes of commercials per hour?

Further TV griping: Why am I paying for no fewer than four channels that show nothing but commercials? I do not consider The Home Shopping Network a real channel and I resent the fuck out of paying for it. I also resent paying for religious channels. If I want to listen to blithering nonsense from Pat Robertson, I can probably find him on the net. I don’t want his demented ass in my house and I sure as HELL don’t want to pay for it.

In fact, what we really need is so-called a la carte programming from our TV “providers”. Then, we would only pay for the channels we wanted to have, which is how it should be. Unfortunately, the mega-corporations that have the monopolies on TV “service” have purchased the members of the FCC, which could change all this in five minutes if they had the Public Interest in mind. And the monopolies wonder why we hate them. As of this writing, the two most-hated companies in America are Comcast and Time-Warner Cable. They are perfect examples of why monopolies and oligopolies should never be allowed to exist. I don’t know about you but every so often, I “lose” a channel on my cable TV. When I call to complain, I am invariably told “You weren’t paying for it anyway, which you should have been.” Why is it that when I “lose” a channel, my bill does not drop correspondingly? Any of you seen your cable bill drop? Ever? Me neither.

If you wanna make a cable “provider” CEO scream that “The sky will fall!”, just say the magic words- a la carte. See how fast he sends lobbyists bearing loads of cash to Bozo the Congress (Thank you, Russell Baker.) and the FCC.

Every single year since I allegedly became an “adult”, I have sworn that the shit they show on TV could not possibly get any stupider. Yet, every single year, the shit on TV reaches new lows. No wonder one of the earliest commissioners of the FCC, the great Newton Minow, described TV, over fifty years ago, as a “vast wasteland”. He is ninety years old as of this writing and I cannot imagine his disappointment with the shit on the Idiot Lantern today.

Who the hell are the Kardashians and why are they famous? And seemingly innumerable? And why are they all over my TV and my damned computer? The same goes double for the cast of Jersey Shore, which, I am proud to say, I never saw one second of.

I mentioned lobbyists above. Who among us wouldn’t be filled with joy if every lobbyist in America just instantly disappeared? We might actually see our elected representatives think about our needs instead of Corporate America. I see that I have just crossed the line into Fantasy Fiction.

Lobbying shouldn’t be an occupation. It should be a crime.

People in government who regulate a particular industry should never be allowed to work in that industry after leaving “Public Service”. Similarly, people from any industry that is overseen or regulated by the government should never be allowed to go into government service. Once you pick a side, you stay on that side. The public shouldn’t pay a fox to guard a henhouse.

No person who works in Public Service should be allowed to take any gifts in any amount of any kind from anyone at any time. Ever. Make it a hanging offense, just to show people that you’re serious.

Public officials should be expected to be totally honest and forthright. Even the appearance of impropriety is to be avoided. This is one of the many good reasons that we need to get money away from politics as soon as possible.

The second worst decision in the history of the Supreme Court is the infamous “Citizens United” decision which says, laughably, that corporations are People. And entitled to “free speech rights” including the right to purchase politicians wholesale.

What was that? Did I hear someone asking what the single worst decision in Supreme Court history was? Easy. Bush v. Gore. Five Republican “justices” decided that no matter who had more votes, George W. Bush was going to be “president”. What a triumph that turned out to be.

I’m sure that this has happened to most of you. I got suckered into one of those damn FB quizzes. This one was to see if I qualify to join Mensa, the semi-exclusive group of those who have a high IQ. I passed it easily. This leads, inexorably, to a question- If I’m so fucking smart, why ain’t I rich?

Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky at morning, sailor take warning. Red sky at noon, start drinking-soon!

I intend to eat good food, drink good beer and enjoy fine whisky, even if it shortens my life expectancy. A life spent eating granola, fruits and berries and drinking low-fat soy milk may turn out to be a long life. I bet it’ll sure feel like a long time. Besides, who wants to be 115 years old in a hospital dying from nothing?

Believe nothing that any car salesperson tells you. Especially the ones who whisper conspiratorially “My boss’ll kill me if he finds out about this but we have a special incentive bonus. Today, right now, I’ll sell you the car at this price! But only if you sign now.” Utter bullshit. Like he’s gonna put his job on the line to give you, a total stranger, a good deal. Besides, any deal that is good today will still be good tomorrow. I’m not proud of it but I used to sell cars, for a brief, hellish period of my life. The dealer has all the cards in his favor. Even if you know the exact price the dealer paid for the car, they will attempt to bullshit you in every way known to man. The only chance you have of getting your car at your price is to walk. Salesmen are not permitted to let a customer walk away without “turning them over” to his “boss” who may be just another salesman with a slightly different line of bullshit. If anybody gets between you and the door, walk right over them. Once they realize that you’re serious and won’t be bullied, you can probably make the deal you want. If not, go elsewhere. That dealer isn’t the only one selling that car. Don’t forget, the dealer really doesn’t own all those cars- his bank does. The longer the car sits, the more it costs the dealer. And any dealer would rather make a short (Low-profit) deal than no deal. Yeah, dealers are entitled to make a reasonable profit but you don’t have to be the person who buys his yacht. Use the internet. Find out what the car really costs, offer maybe a thousand dollars over cost. They may scream and moan that they’ll lose money. More bullshit. They’d rather have a fast $1000 deal then a slow $5000 one. Remember, you do not have to buy anything. When in doubt, walk.

On the same subject, do not buy aftermarket stuff from the dealer. Clear coating, soundproofing, rustproofing, fancier sound systems, etc. can all be had for less money and higher quality elsewhere. And don’t pay any “Dealer Prep” charges above the price you agreed to. The dealers are compensated for “prep” by the manufacturer. Same thing with “Destination charges”. Again, if they give you a hard time, walk. If you gave them a deposit, ask them to return it. If they don’t then demand it back. The louder the better. And preferably on a Saturday afternoon when the showroom is busiest. One loud, unhappy customer can kill several sales in just a few minutes. True story- long after I got fired (Cause I was a lousy salesman), I went to a dealer and hassled them down to a good price on a new vehicle.When I went back, my salesman wasn’t there and my deal was suddenly $1000 higher. I dropped the “Bullshit” flag and killed the deal and demanded my thousand dollar deposit back. They gave me a check. A bad check. After it bounced, I waited until Saturday afternoon, walked into the showroom waving the check and yelled “Hey! Your check bounced!” You would not believe how quickly they came up with a thousand dollars in cash so they could get me out the door.

Never use your current car as a “trade in”. It will complicate making a deal and give the salesman and dealership more tools to screw you with. Sell it privately. You’ll get a higher price (The dealer will only pay wholesale.)

A final note on car buying. Never let a dealer finance your car. Work out your own financing beforehand. You will always get a better deal from someone other than the dealer, especially if you gave him a short deal. He’ll want to make up for that by financing you. He gets a cut, the salesman gets a cut, the banker gets a cut. The higher the percentage rate they hit you for, the more each one makes. Seriously, do your own financing or pay cash but never let the dealer finance you. I once sold an expensive car to a guy who could afford it. He willingly and uncomplainingly paid full sticker. I thought  “Great! I’ll make a good dollar on this deal!” Then, I financed him at four points over the going rate. Made my month.

There is no such thing as an illegitimate child but there are numerous illegitimate adults. Newt Gingrich comes to mind.

If you have been asked to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” in public, such as at a sporting event, take heed of the following, from the Book of Doc, Chapter 1, Verse 1, Section 127, Row 13, Seat 5: Thou shalt not add extra syllables and other extraneous vocal acrobatics. If thou hath pitched the song so low that all thou can hit on the low notes, such as “say” in the first line and “gleaming” a bit further on, is kind of a strangled whisper, people will rightly assume that thou intendeth to do an octave jump on the word “Free” near the end of the song. Everybody hates that. Do not do this, as it is an abomination in my presence. Verily I say unto thee, sing it as written and embellish it not. Thou art at a sporting event, not a voice contest on some idiotic “Reality TV” show. If thou heed me not, I shall find thee and clobber thee.

Doc’s long-awaited (And long and windy) deconstruction of the 2016 election.

“What do we do now?”
I’m writing this mostly to the Democratic Party and its members but I don’t think any Trump voters or Republicans would find anything offensive and might even like parts of it.

I admit it. I thought it was the End of the World when Trump won. The entire government being run by the Republicans. A Republican Supreme Court that we’d have to endure for decades. Utter ruin. But maybe, just maybe, it isn’t as bad as it looks.

How’d we get here? For a long time now, we’ve divided ourselves into Blue and Red and stood on opposite sides of the street screaming bumper-sticker slogans at one another. Not a good way to persuade the other side that your ideas are better, just a way for each side to hate the other even more.

The Democratic Party, long known as a circular firing squad, went from “Ready, fire, aim!” directly to shooting themselves as soon as they picked up their guns. The Party doesn’t have any values that ALL Democrats believe in. Everybody picks a direction and goes charging off on their own. No destination in particular, no exact goal in mind. We don’t even care what other Democrats think. We just rush off into battle. Totally unprepared. For generations, the Democratic Party has been by far the largest political party in America. But Democrats control few state legislatures or Governor’s mansions and we just gave away the Senate, House, Presidency and Supreme Court to the Republicans. Quick rant- Just to be accurate, Mitch McConnell refusing to allow a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee was a move only an asshole would make. Legal but WRONG. “The incoming President should make that decision”. Bullshit. Obama was elected, twice, fairly and in accordance with our laws. Since when does McConnell get to rewrite the Constitution? The day will come that he and the rest of the Republican Party will regret this. Rant over.

The Democrats used to be known as the party of the working man. If we can make America a good place for the working class, it’ll be a better place for all of us. Democrats should burn this into their brains. There are mid-term elections in two years and the number of seats in the Senate that Democrats have to defend will be higher than usual. Now is the time to start laying the groundwork for the mid-terms and trying to win over some Red state voters.

In contrast to the Democrats having innumerable factions, the Republican Party seems to have only two- conservatives and extreme conservatives and they waste a lot of energy fighting one another. The Republicans, having brought it upon themselves, are considered to be a party where bigots are welcome. This does NOT mean that all or even most Republicans are bigots! But the party should purge itself of the bigots, the alt-right, the haters, the white-supremacists. As our nation becomes more diverse, the number of people who will put up with a party that tolerates hate decreases. If the Republican Party continues to court only white people, it will shrink into well-deserved oblivion. Once more for emphasis, Republicans are NOT all bigots. It would be wise for all Democrats to understand this and act like they understand.

It might be a good idea for the Democratic Party and individual Democrats, to look closely at the Red states and the people who live there. Most of the people who live in Red states don’t hate women, minorities or anybody else. But a lot of them are, justifiably, pissed off that their jobs are disappearing or already gone, their Main Streets becoming boarded-up ghost towns, their kids have no prospects for making a living wage unless they desert their birthplaces. That a lot of people have found in using drugs an antidote for the hopelessness of where they live. Change a couple words and I’ve just described our urban ghettoes. Poor people and working class people across America have an awful lot in common. And they are PISSED! And they should be. Our system has utterly failed these people and a lot of them saw in Donald Trump a sledgehammer with which to kill the system. Maybe they are shortsighted in this but you better understand where they’re coming from.

When Democrats and liberals look down on Red staters we do them and ourselves a disservice. Same with those in the ghettoes. They are all Americans, our brothers and sisters. If America is to prosper, everybody has to have a chance to prosper. Economic security among working class Americans has been declining for some time now. All the politicians promised to do something about it but they’d rather spend their time in partisan warfare and feeding at the trough of lobbyist money. Jobs? No time for that.

Lobbying should be a crime, not an occupation.

America should be proud of its freedom of religion. Where I live, almost nobody attends church. We had better never look down on those who do. Everybody has a right to worship, or not, in whatever way they wish, whenever they wish.

Different parts of the country have very different cultural traditions that need to be understood. I have friends who live in the South. There’s a deep Southern tradition of friendliness. Even toward Yankees like myself. Most of the rural parts of America have long traditions of gun ownership and hunting. Maybe we could summon up some respect for people who own guns. Democrats had best believe that America cannot and should not attempt to take people’s guns away. If all of us show a bit of sense and respect, we might end up with gun laws that protect the public without giving the N.R.A. something else to scream about. Minor rant: The N.R.A. leadership is a serious obstacle to ANY chance of common sense gun laws. Rant over.

Democrats should be smart enough to realize that we need a strong opposition party to keep us from going completely off the rails. Republicans should smarten up and understand that it’s a really bad idea to have rich white guys who are not doctors tell women what they can or cannot do with their bodies. Women are more than half the voting population. They expect and deserve to be respected. Republicans- if you manage to overturn Roe v. Wade, all you will accomplish is to make it harder for poor women to get abortions. The rich will continue to go where abortion is legal. And the number of abortions is unlikely to decline. So overturning Roe will mean the same number of aborted fetuses but a much higher number of dead women. You cannot back policies like that and call yourself “Pro-life”. Both parties should work together for policies that make abortion safe, legal and rare.

I suggest that Republicans lose the anti-choice plank of their platform. It is a total deal breaker for a lot of people, myself included. They also should tell Grover Norquist and his enablers to take a hike. A vow to “never, under any circumstances, raise taxes” is counter-productive. Sometimes, a policy can be too simple. Norquist’s policy is a prime example. If the Republican Party continues its march to the extreme right, at some point it will go over a cliff.

Democrats, we need to actually be a party of inclusion, not just talk about it. We are not the sole repository of common sense or patriotism. If we want people to stop looking at us as a bunch of smartass elites, then maybe we shouldn’t act like we are. If we want people to vote Democratic, we need to listen to them, respect them and give them good reasons to vote for us. Talk is cheap. Results count. The more we can separate the Democratic Party from Wall Street and its pernicious influence, the better. There’s another 2008 style crash coming within two years or less. I guarantee it. We’d better not be caught in bed with the bankers. We oughtta be making sure that anyone who games the system goes to prison. For decades, hard time, not eighteen months in “tennis prison”. The SEC and IRS should have their funding for auditors and watchdogs tripled. We’d get every dime back fifty times over.

Everybody in both parties needs to understand that there is a vast gulf between flag-waving and actual patriotism. Any dope can buy a flag. A patriot loves his country when it’s right and yells his head off when it’s wrong.

Almost done now. At last. Is that a sigh of relief that I hear? My final point: Everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Nobody is entitled to their own facts. Fox “News”, Breitbart, Newsmax, Limbaugh and their ilk have done nothing except sully the reputation of journalism. The “mainstream media” are called that for a reason. The best of them report the news straight down the middle, no slant either way. The best newspapers confine their opinions to the Op-Ed page. The Wall Street Journal is considered a conservative paper. But you’d never know it unless you read their Op-Ed pages. Their news reporting is right down the middle. The Times and the Post are considered, rightly, to be liberal papers. But only on their opinion pages. The news reporting is straight down the middle. The best news media outlets have reputations to protect and the best way to lose their reputations is to slant the news in any direction. I’m not trying to denigrate all conservative journalists, only those who shade their reporting to serve a political interest. There are a fair number conservative writers whose work I admire greatly and try never to miss. It’s damned hard to be well informed if all you hear or read is stuff that caters to what you already believe. Sometimes, the other side is right. In my humble opinion, intentional ignorance and patriotism are mutually exclusive.

To steal directly from Jim Wright’s excellent Stonekettle Station blog- “If you want a better country, try being better citizens”.

Random stuff. Part one.

Random Truths. A Collection of Mini-rants. Part the First:

After over 60 years of living, I’ve come to understand a few things that are totally true, whether you believe them or not. I originally meant to collect these things and send ‘em to my kids but who knows- maybe somebody else will either learn something or get a laugh or two. Most of these were not written by me. Wherever I know or remember who originally said any of these things, I will credit the author.

This will be added to from time to time and will probably never be done. The list is literally random. I am the Poster Child for A.D.D. So sue me.

People can and will look you straight in the eye and lie to you anyway.

Whatever you do, do it well. Whether or not it is appreciated is not important. You are, by doing any task, signing your name to it.

Reputation is what others think of you and it’s important. But character is who you really are and it’s more important. It predicts what you’ll do even if nobody will ever know. Cultivate both but guard your character more closely.

Never order the “Special” in any eating establishment after 9 pm.

If you do something stupid or unsafe enough times, it will come back to bite your ass. Like driving drunk. Or texting behind the wheel. Don’t. Just don’t.

Anyone who is nice to you but treats waitresses and waiters poorly does not deserve to be your friend.

If you see someone doing something violently wrong, you have a moral duty to try to stop them. You may not stand idly by while a stranger is being attacked, or someone is beating an animal etc. To Hell with your personal safety, how will you feel afterward if you don’t act? If firearms are involved, get outta there pronto and call 911.

In any situation where you are not certain what the right thing to do is, ask yourself “What would my Mom think if she found out about this?”.

Never lend money that you can’t afford to lose.

On a related note, lending money to a friend can kill a friendship. So can borrowing from one. None of this applies to my own friends, who are without flaws. After all, they put up with me. And they loan me money.

If you borrow anything, including money, return it when you said you would or earlier and make sure it’s in the same or better condition that when you borrowed it. Borrowed your friend’s truck so you could move? Return it. Clean. With a full tank.

When in doubt, always say or do the kind thing.

Most politicians have no interest whatever in you unless you are a rich campaign donor. Vote anyway. Every once in a while, the good guys win one. Don’t vote? Don’t bitch.

People who abuse animals have forfeited any right to be treated as human.

Believe it or not, dogs can detect earthquakes 15 to 90 seconds before they occur. This is absolutely true. The science is kinda complicated but if your dog is going batshit for no reason, you felt a sudden quick “What the Hell was that?” bump, and if you live in a quake zone, it won’t hurt anything to take your dog’s word for it. A ninety-second head start can mean the difference between life or death. No shit.

The words “Hey y’all, watch this!” are often final words.

Stolen from Jim Wright’s superb Stonekettle Station blog- Cats are furry machines created for the purpose of transmuting hundred dollar bills into used cat litter.

Be the person your dog thinks you are.

Another from Jim Wright- Cats are pointy at five ends.

I’ve lived over sixty years and I’ve been to two county fairs and a tobacco-spitting contest but I’ve never seen anything so disgusting that a dog won’t roll in it.

There is only one toy that you can purchase for your cat that it will actually use- a catnip mouse. Costs less than a buck. All other toys will be studiously ignored by the cat, regardless of cost. Do not spend money on cat toys. They’ll amuse themselves with shit you never dreamed they’d like to play with.

Catnip works on all members of the feline family. Remember this if you acquire a feline that is bigger than a house cat. A lynx or a mountain lion that is wired on catnip is gonna be a problem.

Bunnies are superb house pets. They belong inside, not outdoors in a hutch. They are intensely social creatures and suffer greatly if they are alone and only have a tiny hutch to live in. Not enough people know this. Now you do and I expect you to take this light unto the world. Also, they love to chew wires and they only have to hit the wrong combination of wires once. Your kids will not appreciate a fried bunny. Either keep all your wires where the bunny cannot reach (Good luck with that.) or armor them (The wires, not the bunny. Do I have to explain everything?), preferably with metal mesh. The stuff they sell at pet stores as wire armor is plastic and bunnies take to it like it was crack.

Actual, verifiable fact- 80 per cent of people think they are above-average drivers. Consider yourself warned.

A nervous cop is a nasty cop. They have a difficult job. Don’t make cops nervous. If the lights go on behind you, pull over as soon as it is safe. Leave the lights on, turn on the 4-ways. If it is dark, turn on the inside light and roll the driver’s window down. If you have passengers, tell them all to sit still. Put your hands on the steering wheel and leave them there. When the officer comes up, s/he will want to see your license, registration, insurance card, etc. Before you move, tell the officer where these items are and ask if it’s OK to get them. They’ll tell you whether it’s OK to get them or not and when to get them. Remember, you want the officer to feel safe. Being polite won’t hurt either. Don’t ask why you were pulled over, the cop will tell you, assuming they had a real reason to do so. BTW, they don’t need a reason. Don’t argue, don’t tell the cop that the Mayor is your brother-in-law. Shut up, sit still and be patient. Ninety per cent of the time, if you do the above, the cop will let you go even if you’re guilty of a minor violation. If you’re drunk or have drugs in plain sight, you’re going to jail. Deal with it. The cop has zero discretion on stuff like that- if they let you go, they can lose their job. If you are getting arrested, do not resist. Go along quietly- if you try to fight or run, you’re just gonna end up tired and sore and in jail anyway.

Don’t bullshit a cop. They are trained to observe stuff you never thought of, they have computers in their cars and can, in less than five minutes, find out more about you than your Mother knows. If you’re license is revoked, they knew before they pulled your ass over. They hear lies all day and all night long. They hate being lied to. So would you if you had their job. Tell the truth, be cool and polite.

This should go without saying but never, ever, under any circumstances offer a bribe to a cop. Even if you’re trying to be slick and have a hundred dollar bill wrapped around your license. You’re not slick. You’re telling the officer that you think that their honor is up for sale. Bad move.

Same thing applies to PBA cards, etc. If you have one or more in your wallet along with your license, the cop will see them, especially (Hint.) if you keep your driver’s license behind a couple of PBA cards. If you pull a PBA card out, now you’re asking for special treatment. Just leave the card where it is, assume the cop saw it, shut up and don’t be a dick.

Still working the car motif, if you see someone broken down on the side of the road, only you can decide whether to help or not. You’re not legally obligated, unless someone is in clear danger of dying. If you do decide to help, be smart. If you see a woman alone, stop well back from her car, get out slowly and have your cell phone handy. Walk slowly toward the car but stop well short of it. Imagine yourself alone in the dark with a total stranger nearby. Ask, or more probably, if you’ve left sufficient distance between you and the other driver, yell “Are you OK?” or “Do you need help?” or “Have you called for help?”. If you’re told the other person is OK, the final thing you should do is ask if they’d like you to wait in your car until help arrives. Let their answer guide your actions. If they haven’t called for help, ask if they want to borrow your cell phone. If so, tell them to roll the window down slightly, just enough so you can pass the phone in. Stay back from the car as much as possible, this is a stressful situation and you don’t want to add more stress. Imagine your daughter or wife in this situation. It goes without saying that you should mind the passing traffic so that some idiot doesn’t mow you down. If it turns out that the person has a flat but doesn’t know how to change a tire, as long as they have a spare and a jack, you should just volunteer to fix it. Regardless of the weather. Or if you’re wearing your brand new suit. Just do it. You’d want somebody to help your kid or your wife. Without stressing them out. So change that tire and get over it. You’ll feel better when you get home. Trust me.

On Not Driving.


Many, many years ago, when I was a young “adult”, I had, shall we say, a closer than sensible or legal relationship with drugs. Many drugs. Most drugs. I am not proud of this at all but it remains the truth. I would have cheerfully snorted dry laundry detergent, especially if one of my numerous drug-addled friends had told me that the bluish crystals it contained were delayed-action chemicals that would make me higher, and keep me that way longer. I would have smoked shredded tires that had been marinated in Drano, provided that somebody had informed me that Drano was better than LSD. Thankfully and very surprisingly, I never OD-ed and well before I turned thirty, I’d lost all interest in illegal substances and I will be eternally grateful for that.

And, although vast portions of both memory and intellect have been, to put things charitably, imperfectly improved by the experiences of my “drug years”, there are certain things that I am richer for.

For one, I am possibly the only living being to have ingested more psychoactive chemicals than Keith Richards and yet, compared to him I look surprisingly normal. (We’re grading on a curve here.) Yes, he plays guitar better than I do and has written dozens of wonderfully popular songs and is wealthy enough to purchase an entire subcontinent but he has a severe case of ugly. In comparison, my face, despite its numerous and manifest imperfections, appears almost angelic when compared to Keith’s. Who I’m sure is a nice person and, no matter how scary he looks, probably won’t chew my head off or anything like that. I hope. (Just a side note here. Keith Richards has been totally drug-free for over a quarter century. Can you imagine what he’d look like now if he hadn’t quit? I don’t believe he’d make a good poster child for “Just saying ’Yes’ to drugs”.)

Another thing I’m richer for is having memories, such as they are, of that period of my life. And, I learned things as well.

Things like, that when one is under the influence of very high-grade LSD, playing acoustic guitar for hours on end and recording it will result, once the drugs have worn off, in a startling realization that one is not the Second Coming of Eric Clapton. In fact, one sounds more like a tone deaf octopus playing the cello while affected by a powerful spasmodic nerve agent.

Perhaps my fondest memory of that period of my life is this:

Several of us were at an apartment, rented by our friends Ed and Joanne, the downstairs of a two-floor frame dwelling, listening to music and occasionally passing the guitar around. Also passing other things around. Illegal cannabinoids. Not an unusual event for my friends and me. Until the arrival of Kevin. The names here have been changed to protect the guilty. Kevin’s parents owned the bar that we liked to hang out at on the rare occasions when any of us had money. Kevin worked as a bartender there. This particular night he had gotten off early and showed up about midnight at Ed and Joanne’s apartment.

He brought some beer and wine as a communal gift and also something else. He said it was “Black African Marijuana”. I’m pretty sure it was a form of marijuana and it certainly was black. There will never be a way to determine where it originated. Speculation afterward ran the gamut from Africa to Kashmir, to Uranus and to places outside our solar system. My friends and I were used to the effects of illegal substances; in fact several of us could have been authorities in the field. But none of us had ever experienced anything like the effects of this stuff. I do remember, with surprising clarity, that the bowl passed precisely two times around the group. And two times around was enough. More than enough. WAY more than enough.

Kevin’s gift induced a two hour giggle-fest, the sort of thing where nobody can move but everybody thinks that everything in the world is funny, including the fact that nobody can move. Yes, exactly the sort of intellectual soiree that anyone who knows me would have expected. Eventually, Joanne retired for the evening as she had a real job and had to work the following day. As to the rest of us, some passed out, some didn’t and Kevin, at long last, had to head home, about ten miles away. Ed and I accompanied Kevin to the porch and watched him cross the street to where his car was parked.

NO, we SHOULD NOT have let him drive. I know that now. But this was forty years ago and attitudes were different. It was a weeknight, extremely late and the chances of him hurting someone else were, to us, remote.

The chances of him hurting someone else turned out to be far more remote than we thought.

Ed and I were positioned, on the porch, to the rear of Kevin’s car, about fifty feet away, and watched Kevin get into his car, close the door and start the engine. The he put on the headlights, actuated the turn signal and hit the gas. Then, he turned the wheel and hit the brakes. Followed by more throttle, more signaling, braking on and off, more gas, on and off, more turning of the steering wheel etc.

It occurred to Ed and I simultaneously what had happened. We both howled with laughter at the fact that Kevin had forgotten to put the car in “Drive” and was, as a matter of fact “driving home” in “Park”. DAMN, that WAS some powerful marijuana! Ed and I just collapsed on the porch, helpless, laughing hysterically. I would imagine that at least five minutes passed before we could even talk, let alone stand. Then we thought, as stupid and stoned people often do, that “the cops” or a neighbor might notice and maybe that we’d better inform Kevin of the extent of deviance between his objective and his actions.

We tried to muffle our mutual hysteria (As by now it’s maybe four in the morning.), help one another across the street and up to the driver’s window of Kevin’s car. I knocked on the window and was treated to the sight of a six-foot three individual, head turned full left to look directly at me, screaming in a tone not unlike one that might be made by a washing machine being murdered by a circular saw. Eyes the size of dinner plates. With his lower jaw open almost to his navel. Trying to exit the car by way of both the roof AND the driver’s window simultaneously. And with a degree of pallor on his face that has never before or since been achieved by anyone of the Caucasoid race. Kevin is spectacularly, and I use the word advisedly, rattled. He had thought he was nearly home and in the midst of making a turn off of the highway to the street he lived on.

This, naturally, is by orders of magnitude, the funniest thing we have ever seen in our lives. Ed and I revert to Hysteria Mode, lying in the street, laughing so hard that we both probably wished that the police would come by and just shoot us as we realized that standing up again was not a possibility and that even breathing again was questionable.

Kevin, for his part, showed no appreciation whatever for our corrective actions and at one point, rather unpleasantly threatened to kill us both with a tire iron. We would have immediately agreed to being killed if only it would make us stop laughing.

This is why drugs are a bad thing.