Friday, October 31, 2008

More John Galt In The News

Of course we already had John Galt donating money to Obama's website.

Now we've got people talking about "going John Galt" in response to higher taxes for high earners. And they're not talking about a secret valley hideaway. It's a lot simpler than that.
Perhaps it is time for those of us who make the money and pay the taxes to take it easy, live on less and let the looters of the world find their own way.
Meanwhile, Obama wonders:
You know I don’t know when, when they decided they wanted to make a virtue out of selfishness.
Why would you think it was good to keep your pay
when the government offers to help you give it away?

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Larry Sechrest 1946-2008

I was terribly sorry to hear today that Larry Sechrest has died. My heart goes out to his wife, Molly, whom I have known for many years.

Larry was the author of Free Banking, a book which argued that government-run central banking is a bad thing.

From a summary:
Central banking accepts all the methodological precepts of socialist central planning. It is constructivist. The planners pretend to know more than they can know. They presume that their knowledge is better than the market. They use their power to override market signals of prices and interest. And the results are about as successful as socialism...
How can this be?  We are told constantly that the Fed's mistakes are a "failure of capitalism."  

Could it be that the Fed and its Chair
wouldn't exist under laissez-faire?

Transparent Appearance

Stepping lightly down the creaky stairs,
ghosts attempt to take us unawares.

They wish to whisper secrets in our ears,
reminiscing over vanished years.

Sliding by the corner of your eye,
the glowing vagueness waves a slow goodbye.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Protozoa on the Brain

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoa. 

I used to think a protozoa was just a professional tozoa. But, no. It's a kind of one-celled animal. 

In this particluar case, it's a brain-invading parasite.

Your brain is probably fine. Only 20% of Americans are infected. And a lot of people don't seem to suffer any ill effects from the infection. But consider what it does to rodents:
T. gondii infections have the ability to change the behavior of rats and mice, making them drawn to rather than fearful of the scent of cats. This effect is advantageous to the parasite, which will be able to sexually reproduce if its host is eaten by a cat.
How clever of the parasite
to feed the rat to the cat
by making its brain
go slightly insane.

But I maintain it's impolite
to treat a host like that!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Time To Redecorate

My wife did a tour of the White House.  She says it's Really Small.  Miniscule compared to Versailles.

But it's got a big yard
with lots of guards.

But He's Good At It

When you're reading Mamet,
a phrase like "damn it"
barely counts as a curse.

Count on encountering worse!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Yawning Abyss Or Just A Yawn

Some conservatives are excited about finding an Obama radio interview where he advocates "redistributive change."

But some libertarians argue that redistribution is old hat. For example, David Bernstein writes:
At least since the passage of the first peacetime federal income tax law about 120 years ago, redistribution of wealth has been a (maybe the) primary item on the left populist/progressive/liberal agenda, and has been implicitly accepted to some extent by all but the most libertarian Republicans as well.
I suppose the key is that "implicitly accepted." Which suggests it has been "explicitly rejected".

Bernstein goes on to reflect:
Is it okay for a politician to talk about the redistribution of wealth only so long as you don't actually use phrases such as "redistribution" or "spreading the wealth," in which case he suddenly becomes "socialist"? If so, then American political discourse, which I never thought to be especially elevated, is in even a worse state than I thought.
Perhaps so, but worse in which way?  The left may be big on redistribution, but they have never succeeded in selling it on its own merits. Instead they have proceeded by selling particular programs by means of more specific arguments.

Generally, they argue from "need to help the poor."  Not from "need to tear down the rich."  You might argue that mathematically the two are one, but the emotional appeals are quite different.

You might say they've been a bit sneaky about their intentions - at least in the political arena. So whose fault is it that people are upset when the taboo is broken?

If your side has been sneaking
be careful of leaking
your true agenda
in all its splendor.


I can't figure out a motive yet in this horrible triple-murder involving close relatives of Jennifer Hudson. The poor thing had to i.d. her dead nephew today.

Why kill 2 adults, kidnap a 7 year old boy, and then kill the child?

Was some lesser crime planned
but it got out of hand?

Or is this another bloody page
of domestic rage?

Sunday, October 26, 2008


"Christmas is coming. The geese are getting fat." Sure enough, they're all over the place. But we're not allowed to capture them and cook them.
Killing geese outside of hunting season, or outside of designated areas during hunting season, is a federal crime and may violate state and local laws as well.
They were near extinction in the 1940's. But now they're all over. And they are messy. Listen to this sad complaint:
I have been frequently going to a public beach that is infested with Canada geese poop. It is everywhere! There are a lot of children and families also at this beach.
Once they were an endangered species.
Now they fill our parks with feces?

Shame on  you, you naughty geeses!

First Sighting

I saw some wild canines last night.  About a block from my house.

To me they looked like foxes.  Small.  A pair.  Under a street light.  One with a very bushy tail, and one with no tail at all.

A neighbor of mine said she spotted a coyote at the same place.  I imagine she saw the same critter I did.  I vote foxes.  But hey, we're both city folk, what do we know?

Whatever they were, I've never seen them around here before.

Maybe they were gray foxes, which are native to Illinois, and which can climb trees.

I thought that I would never see
a canine that could climb a tree.

All the squirrel in the area
are on notice: please bewarea.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kita y Fernanda

Saw a play full of Spanish-speaking actresses tonight. Well, they spoke English too, which was good for me.  I'd have to say the target audience is Spanish-speaking women,

The title charaters, Kita and Fernanda, are a couple of Mexican-born girls who spent years growing up together in the same Texas house.  Kita is the daughter of the maid. Fernanda is the daughter of the owner.

Ann Filmer directed.  Which always means you get great acting. I felt the outstanding performance was Suzette Mayobre, who played the complex character of Fernanda, the rich girl who struggles for acceptance.

Even the rich,
can have trouble finding a comfortable niche

Limits of Experience

Two ways to look at it:

Peggy Noonan:
When it comes to his career, his decisions are thought through and his judgments sound.
Thomas Sowell:
But the country does not deserve to be put in the hands of a glib and cocky know-it-all, who has accomplished absolutely nothing beyond the advancement of his own career with rhetoric...
My guess is that we'll learn soon enough
how he handles executive stuff.

Cutting Loose

From the pages of Vogue,
to Republican rogue...

Yes, Sarah Palin, formerly featured in a fashion magazine, is now rumored to be veering from the party line:
"She's lost confidence in most of the people on the plane," said a senior Republican who speaks to Palin, referring to her campaign jet. He said Palin had begun to "go rogue" in some of her public pronouncements and decisions.
Control starts to slip
on a desperate ship.

Is It Contagious?

The top aide of the governer of New York had a little problem: he hadn't paid 300,000 dollars worth of taxes on time.

The aide is a former Jesuit priest.  
Did he forget the moolah was due?

His lawyers said the complaints should cease
because this guy was a victim too.  

Specifically, his lawyers said he suffered from "non-filer syndrome."  Which you may not have heard of.  Which nobody had ever heard of.

People seeking excuses will
sometimes claim to be mentally ill.

But I recommend being leery
when it's their very own theory.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Give Me A B!

A young woman, a McCain volunteer, reported falsely that a robber, an Obama supporter, had carved a "B" into her face.

If you look at the picture, here, you'll see the "B" is backwards.

Oh, yeah, a dyslexic robber, who barely scratches her, but nonetheless writes neatly.

The situation is getting clearer
I bet she did it herself in the mirror.

Some right-wing bloggers fell for it.
Now the left will give them hell for it.

If you must work in the mirror, scratch an "O".
It's left-right symmetrical, you know?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan Shocked

Alan Greenspan is shocked, and can't figure out why banks did not act to protect their shareholders.

"Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder's equity – myself especially – are in a state of shocked disbelief."

Probably I don't know enough to understand what he's shocked about. But even when people are acting in their self-interest, they make mistakes. Especially when "everyone else" is making the same mistake. Bubbles and panics are examples of that.

Bubbles are trouble
and panics are double.

Residing in Colorado

John Galt donated online to Barack Obama

Oh, wait, no.  Someone donated using Ayn Rand's hero as a fake name.  To prove a point - that the name and address validation feature was turned off at Obama's site.

It's okay with me.  I haven't heard there's a law that says you have to turn on this feature.  Sure, there are all these pesky rules about who can donate - limits on size - bans on foreigners - and so on.

But I believe the donors can be trusted.
At least until a bunch of them get busted.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

No Wonder It Died Out

Today I was looking at an interesting book on learning Latin by reading excerpts from Ovid.

I saw the book was showing "ita" as the word for "yes". But elsewhere I have read that, strangely:
Latin has no simple words for the unqualified "yes" or "no" that is so common in English.... Saying yes or no takes a little thought in Latin.
In Latin, you can't "just say no".
Nor can you "just say yes".

You have to think before you express
that it is, or isn't, so.

The Obesity Crisis Spreads

We just saw the biggest raccoon we'd ever seen.

He was sitting in the middle of an alley, just watching us.

By the light of the moon
we saw the raccoon -
he was hunkered down not far away.

He was monstrously big
liked a furry masked pig
and he eyed us as if he would say:

"Humans keep walking.
I don't need your stalking
or worrying how much I weigh."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


I just finished reading November, by David Mamet. It had a six month run on Broadway earlier this year. Nathan Lane starred as a totally corrupt incumbent president. He's the schlep protagonist. It's a comedy, with lots of laugh lines, but very cynical about Washington.

It's gag-heavy but turns philosophical at brief moments. My favorite exchange occurred after a woman risked her life to save the life of the President. He asks her why she did it. She tells him that he's the President - that the people voted for him.
He: They were mistaken.

She: That's their right.
The republic has lumbered along
even if some choices were wrong.

Non-Placental Lament

Why is the possum America's only marsupial?
Does it feel lonely away from the rest of the groupial?

(Its relatives live down under - that is indupial.)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Grunting and Squealing in Wisconsin

A man in Wisconsin is being sued for bringing 31 wild pigs into the state - and releasing them into the wild.
Johnson said he wanted to establish a population for boar hunters.
Now, if hunting them appeals to you, remember not to use a Taser.

The state of Wisconsin is looking to bill him big time.

They want to charge him 31 thou
for each and every boar and sow.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who Could Have Done This?

Al-Qaida denies that they have fallen prey to a cyber-attack.
The Associated Press first reported in September that the Web forums that typically carry messages and videos from Al-Qaida and its allied groupings had ceased functioning around Sept. 10, just as the group said it was set to release a new video message.
The timing is suspicious.
The outcome is delicious.

John Kass, Guest Poet

John Kass, Chicago Tribune columnist, plumbing the plight of an unlicensed citizen:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Not So Shocking

A sheriff's deputy takes on a wild boar:
The animal then flashed his tusks toward onlookers. Tibor tried to stop it with his Taser, but the 50,000 volts had no effect on the animal.
Tasering a wild boar
doesn't even get it sore.

From A Small Acorn...

Here's an article about the ACORN controvery that says:
By legal definition, to commit voter fraud means a person would have to present some kind of documentation at the polls - a driver's license, a phone bill or another form of ID - that bears the name of Mickey Mouse, for example.
That's the definition? In all 50 states? That's funny because I never present any documentation when I vote. 

I say who I am, they look me up on a print-out, and check my name off.

Wouldn't it be voter fraud if I lied about who I was - say at a second polling place - and voted again - even if I never showed any documentation?

Unless my judgement is flawed,
even paperless voter fraud
is outlawed.

The Challenge of Maternity

The livejournal "writer's block" feature asked:
Have you ever gone back and re-read a book you loved as a child only to find it incredibly disturbing now that you're an adult? Like The Giving Tree, for example: a terrifying tale of self-sacrifice or a reassuring story of maternal love?
Which reminds me of this sonnet by Gwen Harwood:

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt.
Someone she loved once passes by — too late
to feign indifference to that casual nod.
"How nice, " et cetera. "Time holds great surprises."
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon... "but for the grace of God..."
They stand a while in flickering light, rehearsing
the children's names and birthdays. "It's so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,"
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, "They have eaten me alive."

I think a lot of women have felt this way. Usually they get over it. I think. 

Having a child.
How primitive. How wild. 

They drift through people's dreams
and drive them to extremes. 

Thus does human nature
defy erasure.

I May Write Her In

Tonight at our house, the illustrious Gen LaGreca, who has a masters in philosophy from Columbia, and who appeared on the Glenn Beck show, is going to lead a discussion about individual rights.

Individual rights
have often proven effective
at fighting off
the claims of the collective.

Friday, October 17, 2008

License to Plumb

If your choices seem dumb and dumber,
consider Joe the Plumber.

A lady at work kept making fun of the fact that he wasn't licensed. I asked her if she had ever used an unlicensed plumber. Well, yes, she had.

Licensing acts as a sentry,
a barrier to entry,
which raises the rates
of those behind the gates.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Spreading It

Here's a supposed explanation 
of modern progressive taxation:
It's not that I want to punish your success. I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they've got a chance at success, too. And I think that when we spread the wealth around, it's good for everybody.
Obama doesn't want to punish anyone. He just wants to help someone else. And that just happens to involve taking stuff away from the first person.

Take away 
from person A
and give to person B.

How that helps us all, I can't quite see.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Ethnic America

For book club, my wife led a lively discussion of Ethnic America: A History, by Thomas Sowell, a solid book from the eighties that adroitly explores the history of a big bunch of ethnic groups in the U.S., debunking myths left and right.

People of different races,
pouring in from divergent places,
arrived in humongous throngs
and somehow got along.

Reading Report

Play reading, and discussion afterward, went well.

Our prior reading had a lot of typical audience member type people.  This reading was weighted more toward play directors, and so was interesting in different ways.

I do think I have a tweak or two or three to make still.  But I have to think about it and mull it over.  Or "process it" as one director said.

The actors were mostly doing "cold readings," where they perform while doing their own first reading of the play.

Even cold,
they did some clever things
that bowled me over.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Say, How Do They Grow Them That Way?

Swiss geneticists are legally banned from violating the dignity of plants.

They're confused about this.
The main problem is the lack of clear examples of plants being handled in undignified ways. Such examples would have given the guidelines more normative heft. One of the few examples given is "terminator technology", modifying plants so that their offspring are sterile. Does this imply that seedless grapes or any of the other commonly used agricultural plants that do not reproduce sexually are an affront to the dignity of creation?
So don't just go on heedlessly
eating grapes grown seedlessly!

Looks Like Fun

A flock of pigeons flaps by,
charcoal wings against a cloud-white sky.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Adventure, Completed

I ran and walked the marathon. I had my worst time ever: 5hr 18min. But I feel fine, so I am NOT complaining. Even though my brother beat me by half an hour!

I wore my shirt that says "In My Dreams I Am A Kenyan". I got a lot of positive comments about it. (Thank you, stellavision , for recommending it.)

It was hot - 84 degrees by 11 am. They had "red alert" banners waving, and a lot of people were wilting a bit. But there was plenty of stuff to drink this year.

They also kept trying to spray us down with water.

Since telephones do not take water well,
I had to zig and zag to protect my cell.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Invitation to a Play Reading

For the few readers of this who may be in the Chicago area... On Tuesday, 10/14, at 7pm, we're planning a reading of my play, Ready Or Not, at Dream Theatre Company, 556 W 18th St (at Canalport Ave). This will be real live talented actors, who do amazing things with a script. It's free. The atmosphere will be highly informal. It should be fun. It should run around 90 minutes for the play itself. Then I'm sure we'll have some conversation about it. Reactions are welcome. It was well received in its previous public reading. My idea is to produce it soon.

Preliminary readings often result in script modification!

The setup is that a young businessman returns home after spending time in a Mexican prison. He expects to be welcomed back, with open arms, by his wife and his employer. He finds the situation more complicated than expected, and it keeps getting more complicated, with twists and turns. It's serious, but often sometimes funny. You could call it a dramedy. It touches on issues of loyalty, betrayal, and government corruption.

I'm excited.
You're invited.

Congratulations, North Korea!

I see where North Korea is no longer listed by the U.S. as a terrorist state. I always thought it was an odd designation, since I wasn't aware of North Korea being involved in terrorism exactly.

Selling weapons to other scary governments isn't quite terrorism. Or is it?

Still, they rate as infernally evil,
for what they've done to the millions
of their own civilians.

I wish them internal upheaval.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I guess this is part 2 of the love story from yesterday.

The morning came and they awoke together.
Dawn's slanting rays cracked through the curtain folds.
He wondered where he'd lost the clothes he'd worn.

She wondered what was in his mind, and whether
he meant to bolt away. She starts to scold
herself for giving in, and feels forlorn.

He rolls her way.  His pillow squirts a feather
into the air.  He catches it and holds
it out to her and says he has to warn

her that his heart, which had been quite untethered,
floating freely, lost and unconsoled,
feels it has found a place to be reborn.

In the Footsteps of Pheidippides

I'm tackling the Chicago Marathon Sunday.  

I hurt my right Achilles tendon somehow during the Chicago Triathlon, in August, and I'm not sure it's quite right yet for the distance.  So I'm taking a conservative approach to this 42k fun fest.

After all, about 40,000 people have signed up, and misery loves company. 

I'll jog slowly, or walk if I must.
But it's 26 miles or bust!

Sixties Deja Vu All Over Again

I really don't like "sixties" radicals.  I knew some of them.  Not the famous ones.  But I knew some at fairly close range, and I found them stupidly scary.  I got the sense, at the time, that they were unrealistically channeling their frustrations - and were willing to hurt people for the sake of the experience.

In 1972, at Columbia, when the radicals broke in the doors to Hamilton Hall, and broke into the Dean's office, I was right there.  Yeah, I went right inside the building, observing.

I may not have quite fit in with the crowd.  I remember a little neighborhood kid, wearing a crash helmet, asked me and my friend if we were narcs.

And I met a few of the people involved with the 1969 takeover at Cornell.  I met them a bit afterwards, that summer.

The 1968 Democratic Convention riots were in my hometown.  I skipped observing them because the police were busy smashing the heads of rioters and observers alike.  They were nondiscriminatory that way.  Still, I did talk to some of the protestors afterwards.

Which brings me to Bill Ayers:
I do not keep him in my prayers.

No, I've never met him.
But I think it's too bad that the Feds failed to get him.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


I started this on the train home.  I suppose it's a miniature love story, perhaps more racy than graceful:

He did not think that love was for the asking,
but, feeling hopeful, asked her nonetheless
if she would stroll with him across the park.

The red sun vanished.  Still they went on basking
in mutual warmth, and then a soft caress,
her hand upon his arm, threw off a spark.

The conversation took a turn, unmasking
the strength of his desire to possess
the depths of her.  She made a smart remark,

deriding hesitation, and then tasking
her wooer to show fire, not finesse.
He took her and she melted in the dark.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Map Reading

I was just looking at a map of the United States, and I came to a realization.  

Now that I've visited Utah, I have been to almost all the states.

I only have two to go:
Alaska and Idaho.

I figure I should visit Alaska first, on a fact finding mission.  I figure that our next president will be from Chicago.  But I figure the president after him may be from Wasilla.

The parties take their turns
as the country's stomach churns.


These deals where the government insures things, or sets up a quasi-business entity to insure things, are not really like commercial insurance.

Because they're almost always set up to "insure" something that normal insurers don't want to insure - because it looks too risky.

The politicians praise the up side - 
now people can buy homes!
No longer will they be tortured 
by actuarial gnomes.

As Barney Frank said: "I do think I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness that we have in OCC [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency] and OTS [Office of Thrift Supervision]. I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation towards subsidized housing..."

Rolling the dice
is all very nice
until, instead of baby getting a new pair of shoes,
you simply and suddenly lose.


The Feds have indicted a college student for hacking Sarah Palin's email account.  The story says he did it using Yahoo's password recovery tool.  Enough of her 'personal information' was publicly available for him to successfully pose as her.

Uh oh.  I have Yahoo email.

But probably no one wants to read it that bad.

I suppose the college student didn't think through the fact that this particular hack would get the attention of high government agencies.  When they decide to devote their resources to tracing internet exploits, they're pretty good at it.

I would get nervous
if I thought my hack 
would be tracked back 
by the Secret Service

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Seeing Is Believing, Or Not!

I watched the debate.  I'm not especially happy at having done so

Ann Althouse is claiming that Obama wore an earpiece during the debate, and that it was visible on HD-TV.  She claims it's a transparent crescent.

I've stared but I don't see it yet.
I suspect it's only sweat!


I guess I over-reacted.
Ann has already retracted.

Monday, October 06, 2008


I rode along the route of America's first transcontinental railroad today.  I was pedaling.  They've converted a stretch in Utah to a bike trail.

I rode the Union Pacific trail
and tried to imagine laying rail
on such a monumental scale.


Today I was able to take
a walk into the Great Salt Lake.

You might think with the intense salinity that nothing would be alive in there.  But... no, there's a bunch of living stuff - brine shrimp, brine flies, algae, and birds.  No fish though.  It's too salty for fish to survive.

On the shore, beneath blue skies,
small piles of salt were crystallized.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Big Dig

We visited Bingham Canyon Mine today, in Utah.  It's where a lot of our copper comes from.  You see it as a huge open hole in the ground - 3/4 of a mile deep - with carefully tiered sides.

Where there was a mountain, now there is a hole.
You have to dig when copper is your goal.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


I finished Allan Levite's gripping book of political theory, Guilt, Blame, and Politics. I had my quibbles, but the book is a really impressive study of the roots of modern liberal collective guilt, of the sort which says all Americans are guilty for starvation in Cambodia, etc.

Right at the end, he offers what he sees as a new solution: convince the individual who tells you these things that HE or SHE is NOT guilty. Teach them to see that they have personally done nothing to harm Cambodians, and that it is time to shrug that burden of blame off their shoulders. Once rid of the toxic shame, they will see politics anew, stop pursuing self-sacrifice, and stop looking for a leader to restrict their choices to the straight and narrow way.

I actually think there's something to this. But I don't imagine the task is easy.

Often it's difficult to convince
people of their own innocence.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Biden and Palin Mix It Up

I sat through the whole debate, which is unusual for me. I haven't listened to any pundits yet, but I thought the moderator seemed evenhanded, and I got the feeling the 2 candidates actually liked each other, which was a very strange development!

Of course, they both skipped all over the place, dodged questions, diverted attention, and came back over and over to their standard talking points. I think she attacked greed more than he did.

What exactly distinguishes greed
from a normal desire to succeed?

Do they think that greed is simply wanting too much? Or do they think that greed is pursuit of wealth in reprehensible ways? Those are very different ideas. I think they get run together a lot.

I was really watching for big major mistakes from the VP candidates. I expected them to stumble. They were certainly awkward at times. But they came across as surprisingly normal to me and I don't know what to make of it. Maybe I'm getting excessively tolerant.

I didn't detect major gaffes
of the type that invite outright laughs.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Let Us Rephrase

Let's have no more talk of "bailing"
companies that are failing.

Why?  "Bailing" is unpopular.  We need to change the word. McCain says so.

When cleaning up their mess, you
instead should call it "rescue."

UPDATE: €300bn rescue fund for Europe

Yeah, rescue, that makes it all sound more palatable.

Even when you're nearly broke, 
remember - word choice is no joke.