Bad Joke of the Week

The bad joke of the week was inspired by an actual event. Here I will just reprint the news item in its entirety.

By Mark Potter Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/14/2005 7:27:30 PM ET

MIAMI — The trail begins at the Federal Reserve building in East Rutherford, N.J..  In mid-December, a large tractor-trailer is loaded up and heads south, bound for the Fed in New Orleans. Sealed in back of the truck is $180,000 worth of newly minted U.S. nickels. They are in 900 bags and weigh nearly 23 tons.

That’s 3.6 million nickels — and soon they would just disappear.

“Somebody actually went out and stole 3.6 million nickels,” says FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela. “I mean, who would ever think that would happen?”

FBI agents and police are baffled over how it happened. The driver, Angel Ricardo Mendoza, a private trucker from Miami, has also disappeared.

“He’s either a victim or a suspect,” says Sgt. Richard Mestre of the Miami-Dade Police Cargo Theft Task Force. “We’re not really sure.”

Mestre is used to dealing with stolen cars and appliances, but he’s never seen a case involving nickels.

There are very few clues. Investigators do know that after leaving New Jersey, Mendoza gassed up at a North Florida station on Dec. 19. They have the credit receipts. On Dec. 20, Mendoza called his boss, saying he was in Tallahassee and would soon arrive in New Orleans. He never made it and hasn’t been heard from since.

When I read this a few years back I got to thinking, “Just how do you spot the man who stole 3.6 million nickels? Here are the top ten ways:

10. For some reason he likes to drive 55 miles per hour.

9. Parking meters: No problem.

8. Airport security: Big problem.

7. Buddy, can you spare 3.6 million nickels?

6. He will give you 3.6 million nickels for your thoughts.

5. Only shops at the five and dime store.

4. For God’s sake, don’t ask him to change a $100 bill.

3. If he wants he really can nickel and dime you to death.

2. It’s not just his spurs that go jingle jingle jangle.

1. And the number one way to spot the guy who stole 3.6 million nickels: Ask him “Are you glad to see me, or is that a roll of nickels in your pocket?”

John Mather at UT San Antonio

The San Antonio Skeptics hosted an outing at the University of Texas at San Antonio Friday night. The UTSA faculty sponsored the talk by physicist John Mather, who six years ago was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work measuring the cosmic background radiation. The talk was titled “A History of the Universe, from Beginning to End.” Mather’s current project is the James Webb Space Telescope, and I present to you below a link to a video I made of his video. It shows the JWST assembling itself after being cleared of its launch vehicle at some date in the future to be named.

Preventing Voter Fraud

Hey! Birthday coming up. Send congrats, presents. The State of Texas did. They sent me a driver’s license renewal notice.

As you know, our state government is working hard to prevent voter fraud. Since voting by illegal aliens is rampant (possibly once or twice each election), the State of Texas has enacted stringent measures to identify people qualified to vote. In order to vote, as I understand the law, I will need to show some kind of photo identification this coming November. One acceptable form of photo ID is a Texas driver’s license.

That’s why, for your protection and mine, the State of Texas requires, when you renew your license, you clearly identify your citizenship status on the application. Presumably this information will show up on your new license and will prevent you from voting if you are not a citizen. The State of Texas goes to great lengths to determine your citizenship when you apply for your license renewal. They require you to state your citizenship status on your application. See below:

Of course, I carefully checked the YES box. I did not want to lose my right to vote and to cast these idiots into the abyss. I did not elect to register for the draft.

The Rape of the Lock

I could not help remarking on this. The parallel is impossible to ignore.

Amish Bishop Found Guilty of Beard-Shaving Attacks

The leader of an Amish splinter sect and his followers were found guilty today of violating federal hate crime laws for conducting a series of bizarre attacks in which they shaved the hair and beards of other Amish whose religious beliefs they disagreed with.

A jury found Samuel Mullet Sr. and 15 members of his church guilty of the attacks that rocked the picturesque Amish communities of eastern Ohio.

As I understand it, these people, who out-Quaker the Quakers, cannot suppress their militancy when matters of intolerable religious insult assault their sensitivities. Extreme action was mandated, and a courageous band of righteous warriors did shoulder the burden of correcting the heinous insult. Specifically, groups of men accosted the miscreants at their door stoops, laid hands upon them, and meted out the appropriate punishment. They took scissors in hand and whacked off the sacred hair and beards of the offenders.

Well, that was that. The matter wound up in criminal court, appropriately tagged as a hate crime (religious section), and the bishop who directed the actions faces up to ten years in prison. An example is being made.

So, how come I keep thinking of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Surely, good people, high-standing officials of a major religious movement should have been able to find better use for their time and industry, not to mention the next ten years of their lives. That way, our over-priced criminal justice system could find a much better use for our tax money than to process and incarcerate people who commit felonies with scissors.

On another thought, as long as I am getting literary, maybe a better parallel would be Much Ado About Nothing.

Motorcycle Challenge

A few years ago.. OK, many many years ago, when I lived in Austin I was writing this column for a local TV listings flier. It was called Motorcycling Excitement, because each column was supposed to feature something about motorcycles. Anyhow, here is a scan from one of the copies I kept. In fact, this article is what this posting is all about.

Motorcycling Excietment

Anyhow, my friend Lou told me that he was taking a business course at the University, and somebody had brought up this business venture that was being shopped around. The idea was to build a new American motorcycle, and to build it here in Austin. The name for the project was Challenge, and I understood the bike would be called the Challenger.

Anyhow, this guy Art headed up the project, and he lived in Boerne, Texas, so I went there with local artist Tony Bell, who would eventually be producing some publicity art work for the project.

At the facility in Boerne we got to see a massive prototype machine with a revolutionary engine type. It was a horizontally-opposed two-stroke that made use of components produced by a company in Kyle, Texas, that manufactured water pumps. The photo shows Al and Art plus another person plus Hedly Cox. Cox was from Great Britain, and he had previously raced in the Isle of Man TT and had developed a constant wheel base front suspension for motorcycles.

At the facility in Boerne

So, we had a good look, and it was a great outing, and we came back, and I wrote up this item about the project, and Tony produced some excellent renditions of the finished product as it would appear dressed up for police patrol work.

But nothing ever came of the project. No motorcycles were ever produced or sold. It seemed that the development team poured the majority of their efforts into raising capital. I knew some people who were approached to invest in the company, but none of them ever felt comfortable enough to do so. I have wondered since whether there was ever a serious effort to build and sell motorcycles. And I have long wondered at how many people eventually invested in the company and how much.

So, that’s the story, but there is an epilogue. Years later I was participating in an Internet discussion group, and some topic related to church-state separation came up, and it centered on Boerne, Texas. I swear these people are crazy, because very shortly the conversation got off the topic of church and state and onto The Boerne Identity, the spy novel and the subsequent movie. Some people in the discussion were software types, and they drifted off onto the Boerne Shell versus BASH (the born again shell), and I realized that I was the only person in this world-wide discussion group that had ever been to Boerne, Texas and knew how to pronounce the name. So I was glad to inform this worldly cadre that the closest pronunciation to the town’s name is Bernie.

Now I live much closer to Boerne, and have plans to regularly visit the town to take in their local Octoberfest. It’s interesting how things sometimes come around full circle.

Bad Joke of the Week

Is it Saturday again already? Time for the Bad Joke of the Week.

I was visiting my friend, Warren, and he seemed down in the dumps, so I asked him how things were going.
“Not so good,” he told me. I lost my job, and when I couldn’t make the payments the mortgage company repossessed the house. Then Angela divorced me and ran off with the mortgage broker. Last week I was driving to my mother’s funeral, and some drunk ran a stop sign and hit my car and wrecked it. Of course he didn’t have insurance, and my insurance had lapsed. I wound up with four broken ribs.
I was feeling sorry for my friend Warren, and I said, “Gee, that must be painful.”
“Oh,” he said. “It only hurts when I laugh.”

The Toxic Video

What a quaint thing this is, this video featuring presidential candidate Mitt Romney and some wealthy contributors. It shows something, but not necessarily what you see on the surface. The conversation over the past few days has centered on thoughts that the candidate expressed as though they demonstrate his true agenda. I find myself looking a bit deeper.

I look at the other people in the room. They are surely wealthy, but more than that they are conservative and wealthy. Their view of the world is what has brought them to Romney. Their wealth is what has brought Romney to them. They may not need Romney, but Romney needs them. A presidential campaign requires large sums of cash, and these wealthy conservatives are the ones who can bring it to the party.

So I am going to concentrate on these wealthy contributors. What else besides money have they brought to the gathering featured in this toxic video? They have brought a  mind set that is well known to the candidate, and it is through the candidate’s words and the candidate’s responses that we get a glimpse of this conservative mind set.

What we see is that, public posturing aside, these people do not view this country as a unity of spirit and purpose. They view it and the world as their own circle plus everything outside. Cautions about class warfare are just a smoke screen. There already is a class warfare, and they have already chosen sides and declared a war. Only this is not a war for public consumption. It is a war waged with a wink and a nod and a corporate handshake. And cash delivered in large amounts in return for political favors.

And this is what conservatism has come to mean. Bemoan the demise of a once noble premise.

Ride, Congressman, Ride

Francisco Canseco of the Texas 23rd District is my favorite congressman. In fact he is my only congressman, and it feels good to know he is looking out for me. Not you, maybe.

I signed up for Congressman Canseco’s occasional newsletter, and I was so glad to receive the following news from him:

As a devout Catholic and father of three children, I have a great appreciation for the role that traditional values of faith and family play in our lives and communities.  As the representative for the 23rd District of Texas, I’ve been fighting to defend these traditional values from a hostile federal government.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of faith in American life, which is why freedom of religion was enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.  Sadly, our religious freedom has come under attack in recent months.  Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule using authority granted in Obamacare that would require all health insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.  This rule would force anyone providing health insurance, whether it is a Catholic hospital or a pro-life small business owner, to pay for services that directly violate their religious beliefs.  This was nothing more than an aggressive intrusion upon religious liberties.  While I have fought vigorously to overturn this ruling, the Current Administration has refused to back down and the rule went into effect on August 1st.

In the preceding text I added emphasis to the part I want you to think about.

I just love it when politicians inject religion into our governmental priorities. How else would we know if our own faith were right and proper unless we received informed guidance from the federal government? I am glad I can count on my congressman to properly instruct me in my religious life.

I mean, how would we know that enforcement of our laws were contrary to our principles if we did not have our politicians to keep us daily informed? Take me, for example. I was absolutely clueless that including contraceptive medication in an insurance program prescribed by the government would injure the religious sensitivities of somebody who had been told by a higher and unseen authority that this is sinful. Now I know. Congressman Canseco has set me straight.

To keep his message brief, Congressman Canseco left out the part that prescribed blood transfusions are injurious to people’s religious beliefs, as is the act of administering immunization vaccines. Please protect our rights, Congressman.

Also, I am glad Congressman Canseco reminded us of his Catholic faith. It’s good to know what side our government representative is on, so that others of a different faith can take a seat during his congressional term. Protestants can remain respectful. Jews can just keep quiet. Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists can take a hike. And don’t let that door hit you on the way out.

Don’t you just love it when our government gets this involved in our private lives? If you don’t love it now, you will in time. Or else.

Is this the ball game?

Sometimes you’re watching a game, and there are professional teams on the field, and the action is a wonder to behold. And there is this team, and they may not be your team, but you are in awe of their control of the ball, and you have to say to yourself, “Wow, how do they do that.”

Your admiration grows as the game progresses, and you are moved by the way they manage the ball, and, even though this is not your team, you wait in anticipation at what they are going to do next.

Then something happens. From all appearances this team still has amazing control, but you don’t see the movement you should be seeing. The movement you have been watching in wonder for some time is less than you have grown to expect. Then sometimes the movement falters, and something dawns on you as you sit watching. This wonderful team is no longer pulling from its reserve, and the truth becomes apparent. There is no depth. You may have seen all you are going to see. It’s at this point the question hits you. “Is this the ball game?”

I have been watching the Romney team since last year, and it was long apparent he was the only candidate the Republican Party could put in the field in any sense of sanity. Save Jon Huntsman, the remainder of the pack would be hard pressed to carry water for a serious campaign. Now it is possible we are seeing that even Mitt Romney cannot build up the momentum required to unseat a popular and capable president. There were warnings early on, and the worry is now beginning to become apparent.

In the beginning all Mitt Romney had to do to get the job was to stand up straight and keep his mouth shut. The remaining Republican candidates one by one talked themselves out of the lead. Whenever Romney did speak, his talk was muted and presidential. He avoided sounding silly. The problem was, Romney maintained this stance by not saying anything of any importance. That was supposed to come later.

It is now later.

Of late Romney has had more to say, unfortunately for his candidacy. On foreign policy he has been quick to respond to movement or non-movement by the real president, but the response was always in a reactive mode. If the president was trying to back Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into a corner, Romney was quick to accuse him of being timid. When the president declined to threaten Iran with military action, Romney accused him of abandoning Israel. The point being, that all this time Mitt Romney was not offering any realistic course of action. The run for the nomination was now over, and the candidate has stopped acting presidential.

More recently Islamic radicals leveraged a toxic, anti-Muslim video into a lethal attack on our embassy in Libya, and Romney exploited our Egyptian embassy’s attempts to diffuse the situation as an example of the administration’s coddling of the Islamists. As an Air Force plane brought home the bodies of our ambassadors, even members of Romney’s own party were urging him to cool it and to get with a positive message. All this good advice may have come too late.

A recent slight shift in the tone of the daily news reflects a growing unease about the Romney candidacy. Here is a bit of that:

Amid rumors of discord, Romney seeks to shift strategy

LOS ANGELES—Amid rumors of staff infighting and a slide in the polls, Mitt Romney is looking to reset his campaign starting with a speech here Monday before Hispanic voters. He’s shaking up his relentless focus on the economy and offering more specifics about a broader range of policies and a clearer argument about why he would be a better president than Barack Obama.

Two senior aides privately dismissed reports of discord over the strategy implemented by Stuart Stevens, the Republican presidential nominee’s chief strategist—insisting his job is not in danger and that internal staff grumbling cited in a Politico report published Sunday wasn’t as dramatic as described.

But looking to regain control of the message, the campaign offered up Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, who dismissed the idea that Romney is instituting a major change in strategy, arguing instead that Romney is putting forward “a renewed emphasis” on policies he’s previously proposed.

A recent poll gives the president a five-point advantage over Romney. This is not a good place for a challenger to be seven weeks prior to the election. Other developments do not make the scene any better.

Leaked videos show Romney dismissing Obama supporters as entitled ‘victims’

LOS ANGELES — Mitt Romney was dealt a new distraction when a video surfaced Monday that shows him dismissing President Obama’s supporters as “victims” who take no responsibility for their livelihoods and who think they are entitled to government handouts.

In the video, published by Mother Jones magazine, the Republican presidential nominee tells a private audience of campaign donors that the backers will vote for Obama “no matter what” and that he does not “worry about those people.”

Forty years ago, maybe even 32 years ago, this attitude may have swung some weight with the voting republic. Now it only sounds Nixonian or at best Reaganesque. More and more “those people” are people you need to appeal to in order to get yourself elected. These are votes that Mitt Romney is going to need in 49 days.

I have seen people, and I even know some who, when they do not like a candidate, will outdo themselves coming up with bad things to say about the person. He is stupid, he is deceitful, he is dishonest, he is evil, he is criminal. I find this approach does not work the best toward making your argument.  It shows the accuser as being partisan and biased with an agenda of his own. Painting yourself this way is not the best approach to selling your point. I prefer to remember Mitt Romney as somebody who aspired to great heights and was almost good enough.

Video of the Week

This week it’s Bracken Bat Cave. Bracken Cave the summer home of the world’s largest bat colony, and if you think you’ve ever gone bats before, you need to see the little buggers come out at dusk looking for something to eat. Here’s the video. This shows just a minute or so of the flight, which lasts for two to three hours.


Bracken is just north of San Antonio, so it’s a short drive from my house. My plan is to head up there again for more photos. I will be looking for a sunny day next time.

Bat Conservation International hosts tours during the weeks the bats are in residence. The bats are Mexican free tail bats, which means they spend the winter in Mexico. The next few weeks are all that’s left in this season, so make your reservations soon, or wait until next spring. When you make your reservations keep in mind there are no rain checks. Very few bats come out when it’s raining, and you do not get a refund. Plan your trip for a dry day, of which this area has a lot.

If you want to copy the video you can click on these links. One is high-resolution and takes a long time to load.

Bad Joke of the Week

Here is the bad joke of the week, but first there is a story that goes with it.

I have this cousin about my age, and we used to scrap when he lived down the street from me when we were pre-school. He was a tough kid, and it was obvious he was destined for great things. Then later in life I joined the Navy Reserve, and I had to take this entrance examination to see if I was smart enough for the Navy. There were 85 questions, and you had to get so many of them right to pass. Somebody (another cousin) told me later that the Marine Corps had the same examination, but the passing grade was lower. So my cousin, the tough one, took the test to get into the Marine Corp, but he did not score high enough to qualify. So he went to Texas A&M and got a degree in physical education. Which brings us to the Bad Joke of the Week:

There was this player on a college football team, and he had to be making progress in his school work to stay on the squad. The grade reports came out, and the coach came around to see him and to check on his grades. It was not good. The player had four Fs and a D. The coach saw immediately what the problem was. He told the player, “Look, you have to quit putting all your effort into just one course.”

Romney Romney

It sounds so nice, I had to say it twice.

I know there is a God. I know there really is, because I have been talking to God.

God told me, “I heard you praying last night,” and I asked, “How do I know you really are God? You could be somebody else pretending to be God. Tell me what I was praying for.”

And God responded in all His wisdom, “You were praying for Sarah Palin to be president of the United States.”

I said, “That’s true. You really must be God, because only God would know what I was praying for. So there really is a God after all. Then, are you going to make Sarah Palin president of the United States.”

And God in all His wisdom replied, “No.”

“But why?” I pleaded.

And God answered as only He does, “Because you are having too much fun already. Besides, you have not been to church in weeks.”

I began to suspect I was not really talking to God, and I reminded Him, “You are wrong there, God. I have not been to church in decades.”

And God responded in all His wisdom, “God counts time in His own way.”

“But,” I pressed on, “what will you give me? I prayed, and you should answer my prayer. What can I have?”

And God responded in all His wisdom, “You can have Mitt Romney.”

And I was pleased to take second best and to be satisfied with my lot in life. Glorious be the mercy of God.

You may have guessed by now my previous endorsement of Mitt Romney for president was tongue in cheek. I did say that although I think he is a person with many qualifications, I have no plans to vote for him in the coming election. More so, I am donating money to his opponent Barack Obama.

In my glowing praise of Mitt Romney I purposely glossed over some of his notable shortcomings for the job as president. I will now discuss one aspect of this otherwise successful politician that makes him unsuitable for the job.

Early on I noticed that when it comes to foreign policy, this candidate is a little short in the legs. An example showed itself glaringly this week, but there were early warnings. Mr. Romney appeared often in the news second guessing the real leader of the free world on how to deal with our global adversaries. For example, while President Obama continued to hold a steady course in opposition to Iran’s preparations for developing nuclear weapons, Romney was quick and strident to advocate precipitous action. It’s the kind of thing we see at high school football games. Somebody on the sidelines is sure to shout something like “Send Thompson up the middle, Coach!” While it’s well and good that sideliners show enthusiasm and support for the team, the coach is the man who has been working this game all season and is the one who will take the hit if the team falters. The sideliner can bloviate at his leisure with little self risk. So it seemed with Romney.

Now comes this:

Romney under friendly fire for his response to embassy attack in Libya

Will Mitt Romney’s hasty response to the deadly attacks on the American diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya go down as the misstep that doomed his campaign to unseat President Barack Obama?

The Republican presidential candidate came under fire from Republicans and Democrats on Wednesday for politicizing the outbreak of deadly violence in the Middle East, including the breaching of the American Embassy in Cairo and an attack on the American Consulate in Libya, which claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other diplomatic workers.

Word was getting out about a video produced in California that heaped ridicule on the Islam religion and on the prophet Mohammed in particular. When the toxic video began to surface, diplomats in Egypt initiated action to defuse the developing situation by putting some distance between the United State Government and the sentiments expressed therein. It has long been the policy of our government to demonstrate respect for all religious beliefs, including Islam and Christianity, but people in countries like Egypt and Libya are unaccustomed to our concept of church-state separation, and they are apt to see such a depiction as sanctioned by the United States.

As expected, elements in the Muslim world reacted violently to the insult, and began moves to strike out at the perceived source. People in Cairo attacked our embassy and tore down the American flag. The deadly attack in Benghazi was the height of the unfortunate consequence that our diplomats sought to forestall.

Now Romney’s attempt to politicize the actions of the Cairo staff and to characterize their position as appeasement is meeting resistance even within his own party. It is understandable that a person running for office needs to show some space between himself and his opposition, else what reason would voters have for not electing the other guy. Once in office the challenger can, if he is so inclined, begin to show some sense and to take some reasoned actions. The worry of the voters is that the candidate they see may be the official they elect. So it has been in some notable examples in history. It is this kind of voter worry that may eventually bury Romney’s bid for the office. Somebody needs to give him some good advice, and quickly.

Because People Can Die

A few days ago I threw out this catch phrase, “Because people can die.” I put that out to make the point that there are real consequences to believing false things. It’s not just a matter of “Wow, did I ever get that wrong” or “No, Mr. Burston, that’s not the right answer. You lose $2000.” Crops can fail, wars can be lost, businesses can go bankrupt, and all manner of dire consequences can accrue from reliance on mistaken beliefs. And very immediate to all of this is that people can die.

I did not need to wait long before daily events presented me with yet another example to illustrate my point. This week some idiots who falsely believe that their favorite historical person actually obtained divine wisdom from a magical voice out of the air and later died and ascended into outer space took offense at a movie that heaped ridicule on said prophet and proceeded to take their offense out one some other people and did kill them. What makes this tragedy the more pointless is that the people promoting this movie, themselves, believe in a magical person who died and then ascended into outer space. The whole thing is so sad, because none of it had to happen it these people had stopped to think for a moment: “Wait, nobody really obtains wisdom from a magical voice and then dies and ascends into outer space. And nobody is really the earthly offspring of a magical person who lives in outer space and who then allows himself to be tortured to death before ascending into outer space. This is all just a bunch of malarkey, so let’s just forget the whole business and be friends.”

Unfortunately, things do not work that way, such is the unfortunate construction of the human mind, at least in many cases. So now we have an apparently endless procession of mindless concepts of pure faith and fraud to assault our senses and to keep us cowering in the dark for what turns out to be no real reason at all. Here is my favorite example of a lineage of idiocy:

A magical and all powerful person created the universe in just six days, although later it was revealed he was unable to defeat the people of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. This magical being put forth a human offspring in the form of a man child born to a virgin teenage girl, and this man child spoke many good things of human behavior before contriving to have himself sacrificed for the sport of the Roman rulers. This dead person then came back alive and eventually ascended into outer space. Later a desert dweller in a nearby land claimed to hear the voice of the original magical person, and he eventually convinced others this was so before he, himself, died and ascended into outer space. Much later a man on the North American Continent convinced others that he had gained magical knowledge by peering at reflections on “seer stones” placed in the bottom of a stovepipe hat. His followers maintained that Native Americans were one of the ten lost tribes of Israel, and they also believe that this man obtained golden plates with ancient writings that had been buried in the ground, but which nobody has ever seen. These people also believe that wearing magical underwear will protect the wearer. Another man, much later, told a group of his friends that he was going to start his own religion and thereby get rich. And he did, and he concocted a scheme that involved having people pay money to his church to rid themselves of the ravages of what he called “engrams,” and he invented a machine called an e-meter for determining whether a person needs to pay more money to the church.

And the one thing that all these beliefs have in common is? They are all equally valid. And they are all equally false. And they are all equally protected from government interference under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, and nobody is supposed to question these beliefs or to mock them, because that would be an infringement on people’s religious liberties. And these liberties tend to override other people’s freedom of expression in denouncing these idiocies.

And that is where it stands today, and today four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens,  are dead who were alive earlier this week. Anti-government elements used a trumped up story of the anti-Muslim film to motivate local radicals into attacking the American consulate in Benghazi. These people were killed as much by stupidity as by anything else. Please keep this in mind the next time you make silly statements regarding the reality of the Devil or the inerrancy of the Bible or some similar silliness. All too often the truth does matter.

Romney for President

There, I’ve said it. Romney would really make a good president. Here are some points:

First, he is not an idiot like a great many in his party. He rejects the attacks on science being pushed by those in the upper (and lower) reaches of his party. You think the Republican Party is the party of dumb? Look somewhere else besides Romney. Romney is sure people are complicit in the current warming trend on this planet, and Romney knows and says so that the science behind biological evolution is true and factually based.

Besides that, Romney is a smart and capable person. His success in business shows he knows how to run an organization, of which the United States government is probably the world’s largest. His experience in setting the Salt Lake City winter Olympics straight shows he is crisis management capable.

His experience as governor of Massachusetts demonstrates he is willing and able to address the real concerns of the people he governs.

Now let’s look at Paul Ryan. I admit I have not studied Ryan, nor have I researched him since he got the nod for VP two weeks ago. However, from all appearances, he is bright, capable, energetic and motivated. He would make a good vice president.

On the other hand there is Barak Obama. He, too, has demonstrated himself to be smart, resourceful, energetic and motivated. And quite capable. His management of the health care reform legislation shows considerable management and political skill. His commitment to his country was also demonstrated by his drive and determination in the elimination of Osama bin Laden. Two other presidents had a shot at this idiotic master of destruction, but only Obama had the political will to follow the task through to a successful conclusion. His actions since taking office have demonstrated his compassion for the people he governs. He could have easily cemented his hold onto the office by stiffing his voters and letting the Republicans win on the health care bill. He took the political hit and kept his promise.

Then there is Joe Biden. If anything I would characterize Joe Biden as a poor man’s Harry Truman. Humble should be his middle name. After years in politics he has little in the way of financial wealth to show for it. He could have accumulated his current financial standing by working as an engineer. In comparison to Harry Truman, if anything happened to Obama Joe Biden could step up and keep the country on a steady course until his term. Keep in mind that Truman took over from a very powerful president, oversaw the conclusion of the war in Europe and authorized the use of the atomic bomb to force the Japanese out of the war. Joe Biden may be no Harry Truman, but this country could do worse than have Biden as a president stand-in.

So, why am I getting ready to vote for Barack Obama? Let me tell you why.

First, I voted for Obama the first time because the alternative was offensive to the extreme. John McCain is an honest politician with the interest the American people at heart. This he has demonstrated time and again in his public positions and in his voting record. And McCain is a true American war hero, who has given as much as a warrior can for his country and still be able take a breath. All of that is of no avail when it comes to selecting a leader of the country. A problem McCain has is that he can often be counted on to make poor choices when the stakes are high. A couple of points:

I recall Senator McCain in Baghdad during the height of the hostilities there being interviewed by a journalist. He was telling us how things were going so well in the conquered country. It was hard to keep from noticing that the senator was making this proclamation while surrounded by armed guards and wearing a bullet-proof vest.

During the 2008 election much was said of the 3 a.m. phone call. How would a candidate act when he received a phone notice of a breaking crisis in the middle of the night? That was important to voters, especially with the image of a dumfounded President Bush being told of the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately for John McCain, his phone call came too early in the campaign. He was offered the choice of Sarah Palin as a running mate, and all that voters could hear was the swish of the bat as the senator swung at empty air and said yes. The moment I heard that Palin would be the VP candidate I knew the outcome of the 2008 election. How come the senator from Arizona could not see this?

At the same time, Obama appeared to have much going for him. He campaigned for a lot of things I am in favor of, which means he did not endorse the odorous causes which seem to have become stuck to the Republican Party for the past few decades: religion in government, anti gay, xenophobia, anti union and anti science. So Obama got elected practically in a walk, and I am glad to have him as president.

And the main reason I am going to vote against Mitt Romney, despite the fact he is such a good guy and is so capable is that he hangs out with a bunch of Republicans. Mr. Romney, ditch those guys and run again. I will see you in four years.

I wrote all of this in my mind weeks ago, intending to post it after the conventions and after the campaigning had started in earnest. Now I need to tack on the following, because I find it to be such a tragic statement on the character of the American voter.

Southern whites troubled by Romney’s wealth, religion

LYNCHBURG, Virginia (Reuters) – Sheryl Harris, a voluble 52-year-old with a Virginia drawl, voted twice for George W. Bush. Raised Baptist, she is convinced — despite all evidence to the contrary — that President Barack Obama, a practicing Christian, is Muslim.

So in this year’s presidential election, will she support Mitt Romney? Not a chance.

“Romney’s going to help the upper class,” said Harris, who earns $28,000 a year as activities director of a Lynchburg senior center. “He doesn’t know everyday people, except maybe the person who cleans his house.”

She’ll vote for Obama, she said: “At least he wasn’t brought up filthy rich.”

It is hard for me to say this, but Harris is doing what I consider to be the right thing, but for the wrong reasons. Get this: Obama a Muslim? This is stupidity written in stone. Voting against a person because of his financial position? Here is a person letting her spleen make her decisions. The sad part is, this kind of thing appears to be what is driving much of the electorate this season and all times in memory. We are going to be governed by people put into office for all the wrong reasons. As a person who attempts to make decisions based on reason and well-considered judgment, I find this situation to be appalling to the rim. God, please save us from ourselves.

Full disclosure: In case what you have just read has given you the wrong idea about me, the facts are this:

I do not believe in God or religion in any form.

I have donated to the Obama re-election campaign and will again if I think it will help him win.

The day before

I remember it fairly well. It was Monday, a day like any other. A day that still snags my memory. It was the day before.

I left work with the idea of driving the new turnpike that opened that day and would take me almost to my house. I drove a few blocks north and ran into trouble. The streets were blocked, and I had to detour around and back onto the expressway before making it up to the new turnpike.

The next morning I picked up the newspaper from my front lawn and found out the reason for the traffic tie-up. A motorcyclist leaving work had rammed the barricade on the bridge over the expressway. He was dead at the scene, and police were investigating the accident. Whoever he was he died the day before and never saw the special edition that came out in the afternoon.

The list of people who cannot afford to purchase life insurance at any price

I have this hackneyed saying, “What goes around, comes around.” Somebody else has put it more succinctly: “Fuck with the bull, you get the horns.”

You can call me a bleeding heart liberal if you want to, but this gives me the feeling that sometime, somewhere, there is a price to be paid for stupidity.

This idiot spent six years in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo before being released. This reinforces my idea that we are better off with these people out where we can shoot at them rather than in our custody enjoying kosher meals at our expense. My recommendation? Forget about the military trials. Turn them all loose. And tell them we will be seeing them again.

Bad Joke of the Week

God, I almost forgot to do one. Anyhow, a day late is better than not at all.

So, we were having an ant problem, and at the grocery story the wife mate was looking at ant spray on the shelf. “Here’s a lemon scent, and here’s also a pine scent. Which should I get?”

I thought about it for about a half second and decided. “Sweets, I don’t think the ants give a fat rats ass.”


This goes back a long way. Of course, most things go back a long way, but this is unique in that I think I know when it first started. It started for me about the seventh grade.

I greatly enjoyed learning science in school, starting in the fourth grade, where Mrs. Morris taught us about the planets and such. Later in the seventh we had this science teacher, who was really not a science teacher. In high school there was a principal science teacher, and we learned a lot of useful science from him. But ours was a small town school they could not afford to hire separate teachers for all subjects for all grades, and seventh grade teacher was hired for another specialty, not science. Anyhow, he was teaching us science, and at least I was enjoying it. Then came the explanation of helicopter flight.

A helicopter, the teacher explained, had this big rotating blade on top, which we all knew from seeing them in the movies and on TV. The rotating blade blew air upward, creating a draft, which flowed over the body of the helicopter from the bottom, lifting it up. This I knew was not true, first from having seen helicopters in the movies and on TV and also from knowing a little about how things worked.

I knew that helicopter blades were like wing surfaces that generated lift by moving through the air with an upward pitch, just the way an airplane wing works. The aerodynamic lift on the blades was translated into a lifting force through the rotor blades’ drive shaft, and that force was applied to the helicopter’s frame, lifting the entire contraption off the ground.

I didn’t make a big deal of this revelation in class, but I kept the lesson in mind and determined to check out whatever this teacher told us in the future. This got to be a bad habit, and by the time I left high school I was beginning to question most sources of conventional wisdom. At first this questioning came in the form of availing myself of multiple sources and checking them against each other. If bright and successful people gained their success through certain knowledge, then there might be good reason the think their knowledge had some basis of fact. And that was it. Facts were that knowledge that, when applied properly, produced useful results. More specifically, if a helicopter designer tried to apply my science teacher’s idea the helicopter would not fly.

Much later in life than I am proud to admit I learned to spot possibly spurious “knowledge” and to run down sources of contradictory evidence in order to refute or, rarely, to confirm. One of the areas of phony knowledge I ultimately dealt with was the paranormal—psychic abilities and such. But before that, shortly after I left high school and while I was at sea on a ship with lots of time to think things through, I analyzed and discarded all religion.

In discarding religion, particularly the one I grew up with, which is Christianity, my thought process went like this. “Having lived in the real world for nearly 20 years, does any of this make sense? Do the precepts of Christianity bear any semblance to real-life experience?” The answer I received to these questions was “no.” In the world we do not see dead people coming back to life. In the world we do not actually converse with an unseen person with enormous and magical powers. The stories that are provided to assure us of these things are the kinds of stories people would tell if they were just making up stories. These stories are not what you would hear from somebody telling of actual events. These stories are just too reassuring and too convenient. This is the stuff of fiction and not very good fiction at that.

So, I became convinced on my own of the unreality of Christianity and, by extension, of Judaism and Islam. Without giving it much deeper thought I by default also discarded the Norse myths, the Greek and Roman gods and Shintoism and Hinduism. As I grew older and studied more I determined there are factual reasons for discarding these religions. The Bible is supposed to be the authority for Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but it is severely devoid of fact. The Earth is not 6000 years old, there was no flood of Noah, Moses was a mythical person, and there was no exodus of Hebrews from Egypt. More than that, the Bible is self-contradictory in a number of places, rendering it useless as an authority on its own authority.

Along with these religious convictions went any number of associated beliefs, including life after death, the power of prayer and the authority of the church. And my life has been better for it.

All of this rambling has been inspired by a posting on Facebook earlier this week. A school mate from my home town posted a charming note that described the Devil’s reaction to the Bible. “When you carry a bible… the devil gets a headache,” on through “When he sees you living it… he flees.” I thought those were worthy thoughts, except for one thing. The Devil is a mythical character. I considered it risky to base one’s actions on a fictitious character (like Long John Silver), and I mentioned this fact to my former school mate. Another respondent on the thread reminded me that the Devil was, indeed, real, and I doubted this fact at my peril. This information was a bit jarring, especially the use of the word “real.” I had to reply with something like, “The Devil is real? Is this a new definition of real?” I was then shortly put in my place with a response to the extent that my comment did not deserve a response.

So, perhaps I was out of line, calling into question an unknown person’s interpretation of the word “real.” After all, does not every one of us have the right to their own definition of reality? We hear this all the time from the new-agers. What matters to a person is what is real to them, not some trumped up definition from scientists and philosophers. Normally I could go along with this idea, except for one thing. I have developed a standard response whenever somebody asks me why I bother to set others straight on this, including people of no consequence to me. My response, “Because people can die.” I do not appreciate having people die because they misunderstood reality. People will always die from needless accidents and momentary lapses of attention. But to have somebody die because of a fundamental disconnect of their thought processes somehow cheapens their life and all they have, or might have, meant to the world and to people who knew them. And these are not just empty words. People do die. Some examples.

In 1997 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult, including their leader Marshal Applewhite, took poison so they could journey to an alien spacecraft. They had abandoned reality and had packed their suitcases before lying down on their beds for the last time. When police recovered the bodies, the suitcases were still there beside the beds. If the Heaven’s Gate members actually went to the spacecraft behind the comet Hale-Bopp, they forgot to take their suitcases.

In November 1978 over 900 members of the People’s Temple committed suicide or were murdered. They had followed to the jungles of South America an out of kilter religious leader who had lost touch with reality, losing their own sense of reality in the process.

A religious leader named Vernon Howell convinced other members of the Branch Davidian sect of a coming apocalypse. It was to become a self-fulfilling prophecy when Howell (also known as David Koresh) and adults in the sect killed themselves and their children during a police siege of their compound near Waco, Texas, in April 1993.

In 2001 19 deeply-religious men killed themselves and thousands of others by hijacking and crashing passenger airliners. Their deaths were no less religious-based than those of the previously mentioned cultists. They were completely convinced that the next thing they would see after the onrushing ground or building facade would be a heaven in which they would all be richly rewarded. Whether they would have hesitated in their actions if they had known the truth I can only guess. Perhaps not. We have known perfectly reasonable people who willingly gave up the remainder of their lives for the lives of others or for a principle they valued higher than life. To die for self-deception may be the ultimate folly.

These people died needlessly and foolishly, and this upsets me. All people will eventually leave this life, and many will do so in inglorious ways. But to die on the altar of self-deception is compounding the sin.

So, it disturbs me when people let loose their grasp of the facts and latch onto bits of mental fluff as though they were life savers in an open sea. My thinking is that if people make judgmental errors about the small stuff, they will possible be accident prone in more serious matters. They may also screw up in decisions that affect me and even some sane people. There’s the opportunity for tragedy.

The Man Who Knew too Much

Saturday again. Time for the bad joke of the week. Sorry.

So I was working with this guy Ray out in California, and we took a day off and scoped out the scenery at Venice Beach. Coming the opposite way toward us was this cute girl, and she was wearing a bikini bottom and a t-shirt. The shirt had a logo on it, “Je ne sais pas.”

Ray spoke some French, so I asked him what that meant. He said he didn’t know, so I let it go at that.

Walking in a winter wonderland

What you see is what you get