Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Poem for Elmer McGuirt

Ann Althouse wrote on her blog:
Seems like a poem should be written about Elmer McGuirt.
She linked to a news story about a homeless guy with this distinctive name who robbed a bank in Tampa, got on a bus, and started giving away most of the money to other bus passengers. He was caught.

So far, a lot of the entries are in limerick form. I followed suit:

Elmer was hopelessly homeless,
Penniless, shirtless, and combless.
He stole cash one day
Then gave it away.
Now he's in jail so he'll roam less.


He was sort of a private Fed,
With a stimulus to spread.
He deserves a big thank-ye
Just like Bernanke,
But he's off to jail instead.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Which is the Pitch

The debate I mentioned yesterday, about whether Rand is a help or hindrance, with Marsha Enright and Heather Wilhelm, is available online here

You have to let an ad run, and once it runs you might want to skip ahead to about 10:30. That's when the intro to the debate starts. It's really a very short debate, followed by a longer question and answer session.

To some extent the debate recapped articles the 2 women had authored.

Heather Wilhelm in the Wall St. Journal:
Rand held some insight on the nature of markets and has sold scads of books, but when it comes to shaping today's mainstream assumptions, she is a terrible marketer: elitist, cold and laser-focused on the supermen and superwomen of the world.

How are free markets best "sold"? A more compelling approach flips Rand's philosophy on its head, explaining how everyone, especially society's neediest, benefits from economic liberty
Marsha Enright and Gen LaGreca in the Daily Caller:
Free-market capitalism arises from a social vision that cares about the smallest minority of all: the individual. That vision recognizes the moral superiority of the right of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—the very vision identified by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and fought for by the Founding Fathers.
I'm thinking we need a rap version of the debate video - something along the lines of the funny Keynes/Hayek video.

Free markets help everyone - the rich and the poor.
Everyone prospers when there's more - more - more.

But which is the pitch with more marketing verve -
"Markets help you prosper!" or "Markets help you serve!" ?

Import Export

The Economist has an article explaining the obvious:
Rich countries are outsourcing carbon-dioxide emissions
Actually, this understates the case. Rich countries are outsourcing all sorts of emissions, not just CO2.

We preen
on being green
but it's really a mark of wealth.
We outsourced the dirt by stealth.


Attended a debate tonight between my wife and Heather Wilhelm.

The topic was: "Does Ayn Rand help or hinder the cause of liberty?" My wife took the "she helps" side.

It drew a good and lively crowd.
Marsha emerged, of course, unbowed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Fun New Questions

Usually it's pretty easy to get a passport if you're a U.S. citizen.

But what if you're one of those U.S. citizens who doesn't have a normal birth certificate? Well, they have a procedure, and they want to tighten it up with fun new questions:
Were you baptized or circumcised? Who was present when you were born? Where did your mother work?
You might not know whether you were baptized, and you might not know where your mother worked.

At least you can check, very quickly, whether you have been circumcised!

As for "who was present when your were born"...

I'll vouch for me and my mother,
I cannot be sure of another.

But doubtlessly, me and her!
I don't recall, I infer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I just finished reading Alcestis by Euripides. Alcestis gives her life to save the life of her husband. Herakles, son of Zeus, defeats Death in a wrestling match and brings Alcestis back to life. But she must remain mute for 3 days until the stain of death has left her.

I was struck by some rough similarities, here and there, to the Easter story.

Birds flap wings
all around
as new life springs
from the ground.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Drums of the Unknown Protest

I heard the drumming
of a protest coming
so I looked to see
what their cause might be.

But I couldn't tell
what their signs might spell.
They were upside down
drifting toward the ground.

If they were protesting the cold rainy day
I might have joined them just to say

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Juror Opinion

Blago returns for a retrial, and the judge is looking for a few good jurors:
An overwhelming number of potential jurors for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's retrial believe some politicians take bribes or view the entire political system as corrupt, the judge in the case said Thursday.
Wait. How could anyone NOT believe that "some politicians take bribes"?

All too often we lock some up
for taking bribes and being corrupt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


My iPhone is keeping tabs on where it goes - which is pretty much where I go.
Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised.
Well, isn't that heartwarming. I'm not involved in anything clandestine at the moment, but if I were a spy I think I would want a different phone - one that was less zealous about recording its own whereabouts.

If you plan to commit the perfect crime,
leave the phone home at the time!

So if the the police decide to pry
you'll have an apparent alibi.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Dreary spring drags on.
Someone has kidnapped the sun!
Cough up the ransom.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Code of Silence

Bacteria lack nuclei.
Do you ask the reason why?

Sad to say, they will not tell.
So we locked them in a cell.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Picky Picky

Unfortunate moments in spell-checking failure:
Whereas critic Roger Ebert (a confessed and outspoken activist for left wing causes) concedes that politics may color one's view of the film, he believes that the films utter inemptitude (and loyalty to Rand's original) ought to keep folks opnions honest.
I can understand getting "opnion" wrong. I suppose everyone's got an opnion on how to spell it.

But... inemptitude! I think if you're going to accuse someone of that, you should be extra careful with your typing.

That "m" should be dropped, not kept,
to keep your spelling ept.

20th Anniversary Benefit

I attended a benefit for Council Oak Montessori school last night. I received an award as a founding member of the Husbands Support Group, for the men whose wives have devoted their lives to making this school a success.

I publicly read a poem I had written some time ago for the children of the school:

Once there were some parents who were going to start a school
They said, what will we call it? We must pick a name that’s cool.
They thought of lots of names but mostly they were pretty rotten
I’d tell you what they were, except, they all have been forgotten.
And then one father said: hey what about that old oak tree
That grew near here, that grew so tall? You know, it seems to me
That tree was something special. The Potawatomi,
The native tribe that roamed this land before the settlers came,
Had special meetings by that tree and called it by a name.
I don’t know what they called it in the language that they spoke,
But when they spoke in English, they called it “Council Oak.”
A council was a meeting where they gathered to discuss
Big things. They sat in circles, a little bit like us.
They sat beneath the tall oak tree, in a peaceful spirit.
This school is named after that tree. Remember when you hear it!
And don’t forget to tell your friends, now you know the story,
Of how this school got the name “Council Oak Montessori.”

Friday, April 15, 2011

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

I had the opportunity to see the film one day early. I really liked it. Okay, I loved it. I'm going to see it again tomorrow, so tomorrow I might be able to be a little bit more reflective about it.

As a big fan of the book, I was impressed by how closely they stuck to the original story. I never had that sense of being cheated that comes when a film version wanders too far from a beloved text.

I don't know how the movie will play for people who haven't read the book. I think it will work. But I'm not sure.

Harmon Kaslow, one of the producers, took questions at the screening. He seemed very happy with the movie's success in getting in a lot of theaters.

They said it couldn't be done.
But here they are with Part 1.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ryan Responds

Paul Ryan didn't like the president's big budget speech much:
Rather than building bridges, he’s poisoning wells.
It's interesting to see Ryan publicly bashing Obama for his partisanship. He must sense Obama is vulnerable on this issue.

Last time around, Obama ran as a leader who would transcend partisanship.

As a message, he can keep on trying it.
But this time around, who will be buying it?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Loser's Lament

What a sweet sentiment from Nancy Pelosi:
...the fact is that elections shouldn't matter as much as they do...
I even agree, sort of, with the abstract claim.

Elections would matter a lot less if the government weren't so deeply involved in our daily lives.

It hugs and harms
with octopus arms.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Don't I Feel Safer?

Video of TSA doing a pat down on a little girl:

When you're 6
you're such a risk
you must be frisked!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Long And Short Of It

The former director of Hawaii's department of public health is now asserting that she has twice examined the original birth certificate - signed by a doctor - of you-know-who.

But, she says, all such originals are for-eyes-only:
"It's a Department of Health record and it can't be released to anybody," he said. Nor do state laws have any provision that authorizes such records to be photocopied, Wisch said. If Obama wanted to personally visit the state health department, he would be permitted to inspect his birth record, Wisch said.
So, according to her, even the prez wouldn't be allowed to take a copy.

That sounds kind of odd. But governments do love to keep documents secret!

Will her claim knock Trump
into a grumpy slump?

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Why Do They Call Him Socialist?

I had a fascinating real-life conversation with an African American woman and a man from Ireland who is now an American citizen. We were talking about why American conservatives perceive Obama to be a socialist. They both, initially, found the claim inexplicable.

The Irish American man is disgusted with the way Americans approach politics. He said that in Ireland, Obama would be viewed as a conservative moderate.

I said, sure, in Ireland.

Then I started talking about the textbook definition of socialism - public ownership of the means of production.

The African American woman is an Obama supporter, but her daughter is a Republican who voted against Obama. She saw right away how the public ownership issue could be perceived in Obama's bailouts of banking and the automobile industry.

To the Irish American, it seemed that these industry bailouts were the opposite of socialism - they were government support of private industry.

It was an interesting conversation, because we were able to proceed, after some initial misunderstandings and emotional frustrations, to at least agree on what some of the underlying disputes were.

Political discussions that actually clear the air
are distressingly rare.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Culture and Childrearing

P.J. O'Rourke has a funny and insightful review of Amy Chua's Chinese Tiger Mom book. He begins by observing how Chua has riled up America's moms. Being told you're a bad mom tends to get moms upset.
But being a male parent with a typical dad-like involvement in my children’s lives​—​I know all of their names​—​I thought Battle Hymn was great. That is, I thought it made me look great. Not that I read the dreadful book, but I did buy each of my children a copy and inscribed it, “So you think you’ve got it bad?
What most amuses me about the Chua story is that she thinks she can parent better than her husband - because of her superior Chinese mothering traditions. She and her husband are both Yale law school professors, but her husband is Jewish. According to the Daily Beast:
He was raised in a conventionally success-oriented New York Jewish family. His father was a shrink. His mother was an art critic who, writes Chua dismissively, “believed that childhood should be full of spontaneity, freedom, discovery and experience.” (Chua devotes a fair amount of room to her ideological conflicts over child-rearing with her mother-in-law.)
Here's the thing. Even if Chua doesn't like her mother-in-law's child rearing methods, her mother-in-law somehow raised a person who is at the same general level of accomplishment as Chua!

Here's the other thing. Jewish people have been enormously successful in America, across academic, professional, and business endeavors. They must know something about raising successful children. Statistically speaking, I would bet that they are more of a success story than the Chinese.

O'Rourke calls himself an "Irish Setter Dad".
But I bet he's not bad.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Cheesehead Turnabout

There was an election Tuesday for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice. The Democrat ran on the platform of overturning a recent Republican bill that took power away from public employee unions. The Democrat seemed to win by 100 or so votes. It was a great victory, of great significance, trumpeted across the land.

Then some more votes were found. Republican votes. And the Republican was ahead by 7000 or so votes.

You know what this means:
“Small, state-wide election with vital national implications soon to have no national implications whatsoever.”
The really important trends
are set by your friends.

Elections won by your foes
are merely sideshows.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Don't Pepper Me Bro!

Catchy opening sentence:
Colorado police had to pepper spray an eight-year-old boy after he went into a rage in the classroom.
The kid was a holy terror, no question. He even broke off sharp pieces of wood trim and tried to stab teachers, according to the story.

But, wait.
He's eight.

I think the brat had it coming. But the report says the police "had to" spray the kid. Can that be right?

Back in the day
before pepper spray
the average cop
would have made the kid stop.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Forward Looking

Someone was talking about a book, Stumbling to Happiness, and told me
...looks like this book tells you all the ways you tend to be unobjective, especially about the future...
Like they say, prediction is hard, especially about the future!

Hence, I gather, the "stumble".
So should my brain be humble?

Or if I'm feeling dumb,
should I buy this book
to learn new ways to look
at all that is to come?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Presenting as Victims

Many feel aggrieved.
Not all can be believed.

Travels With Steinbeck

I must admit that I've never read Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck. I'm weak on the American Naturalists as a group. But friends have read it and liked it.

It was presented as a true account of a trip around America by John Steinbeck, accompanied by his poodle. It was a best-seller, and has moved into that vague status of modern classic.

But it turns out it wasn't a true account. Bill Steigerwald, a journalist, has a written rather revealing article at Reason:
Using clues from the book, biographies of Steinbeck, letters Steinbeck wrote from the road, newspaper articles, and the first draft of the Charley manuscript, I built a time-and-place line for Steinbeck’s trip from September 23, 1960, to December 5, 1960. The more I learned about Steinbeck’s actual journey, the less it resembled the one he described.
What Steinbeck did was turn a boring trip into an interesting and inspiring one. He turned it into a novel. But he claimed it as true.

Perhaps he figured
he'd gather more boodle
by claiming as true
his tale of the poodle.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Back in the U.S. of A.

Two flights today. Naples to Munich and Munich to Chicago. In terms of Italian time, I woke up at 4 a.m. and arrived at my house at 11 p.m.

It is now 1:30 a.m. Italian time. I am tired. But I have the hiccups. So I can't sleep!

It's hard to doze off to sleep
when your stomach goes bleep bleep.

Friday, April 01, 2011

In Search Of Dessert

Today we succeeded at riding the bus. We waited about an hour. One bus passed us by because it was already overpacked with people, at least we assume that's why the driver didn't stop. Eventually a fairly empty bus came along and we ventured to the town of Maori. The name has nothing to do with the New Zealand aborigines, that's just a coincidence.

We went in pursuit of a pear-ricotta torte which had been raved about by my son's doctoral thesis adviser, an Italian not given to hyperbole. We didn't know the name of the place, but we knew it was to be found in a bakery in the main square. Somehow this information proved adequate, although we had to ask around a bit.

It was, indeed, delicious.
And possibly somewhat nutritious.