The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Of goats and sheep and words better said.

Engaged in a political discussion in another forum. Sometimes, I find what I need to say has already been said, and said better, by someone else.
Today, I bring you the words of The Bard - I do not say Shakespeare because I am convinced Shakespeare did not pen these words, rather it was the work of a contemporary writer of the time who partnered with the businessman Shakespeare.

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!
Brilliance in it's simplicity and brilliant in the statement therein.
It is, to my thinking, the antithesis of the modern politician to whom party affiliation and loyalty means more than doing the right thing, to whom lying and double-dealing is a matter of course. Voters publicly abhor this, yet they continue to return the same people to office over and over again.
Consider the sheep, widely believed to be the most stupid of the typical domesticated herd animal. This is a reason the Bible refers to people as sheep.
Yet, among the sheep, the occasional goat will wander. Where a sheep will stand and accept indignities, a goat will fight back. There is a reason curmudgeons are often called goats.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action. - Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.
Here's to  hoping 2011 makes me more a goat than ever before.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Applying a gold standard

As much as I hate to admit it, I do like Bill Clinton for one thing.

He got federal spending under control. I don’t like the way he did it, but he did it. That’s more than any president in my memory has managed to do.

Warning. If you click this link nothing bad will happen, but you’ll be looking at a commentary filled with economic statistics, numbers and other stuff tom ake y9our eyes glaze over unless you are an economist.

Summating what he says, return to the federal government spending levels in 2001 when Bill Clinton was in charge and the budget was balanced

I don’t agree with everything this UGA professor says, especially bringing back Clinton. But I like the fact Clinton led Congress to a balanced budget.

That’s more than you can say about any president in my memory.

At that, Clinton didn’t do enough to reign in spending. Hidebound to a dogmatic agenda and political party, he couldn’t do much more.

This is what separates liberals and conservatives and all the other political divides out there from the realists.

Realists deal with reality. The others deal with wishes. Yes they do. If they didn’t deal in wishes, then we’d have a balanced budget, very low taxes, a stable economy and a responsible citizenry.

How about you? How do you define yourself? Liberal, conservative, libertarian, anarchist, fascist, socialist, communist or whatever? Reboobican, Damnocrat, Tea Farty, Liberaltarian or one of other other splinter groups out there?

Lemme ask you this - what makes your particular political ideology stripe correct and the others wrong?

Before you answer that, lemme ask you this: What gives you the right to dictate the course of affairs of another adult human being?

Your answer will be used against you.

If I object to your attempts to control me, what makes you right and me wrong? For that matter, what makes me right and you wrong?

Set aside things like actual crimes - murder, rape, other forcible actions. These are obvious attempts to coerce another against their will. Pretty much everyone who is rational agrees this is a crime. Murder certainly is a crime because it deprives a person of their life. Aggravated assault is likewise a crime.

Or should we set those aside?

If these attacks on a person are crimes, then what about economic attacks? Is this a crime? If you take money from me, against my will, is this a crime? If you steal my wallet and take my money, is this a crime? Why?

If you attempt to take money away from me and I resist, is this a crime?

Enjoy paying income taxes do you?

There, in a nutshell is my chief problem with liberals. They steal my money and spend it on things I have objections to and restrict my rights. Wait, that’s my objection to conservations. Dangit, that’s what I object to in Reboobicans, no Damnocrats, wait  … theTea Farty.

Ah heck. It’s what I object to in all of them. Which you knew, I was just making an extended point.

I also object to all others restricting my rights.

But it’s what they do.

A maxim if power is: To exert power, you must first take it from someone else.

The taking can be a voluntary submission or it can be taken by force. Simply because taking that power is legal under the laws of the land does not make it just.

Realists admit that sometimes force is necessary, but it should be the minimum amount of force needs to obtain the correct end in the shortest amount of time possible. One the goal is achieved, the only force which should then be applied is to maintain the status quo.

Realists of my stripe also do not like using force because we know it can be later used against us. All the rest don’t get that. They believe rules apply to others.

How about you? Are you willing to apply the same rules to yourself which you put on others?

The Golden Rule still applies.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

OK this sucks, but I'm posting it anyway.

Like a statistically significant percentage of the United States population, I spent part of the holiday season in prison.

Some readers will eye that statement with a snort of amusement while others will goggle.

Thursday evening I visited the state prison in my community as is my wont. This time was different. I packed in a movie - Cotton Patch Gospel - and 80 bags of popped microwave popcorn. Yes, a sizeable percentage of my Thursday was spent irradiating a species of grain with high intensity radio waves in an effort to cause the water locked in the kernels to superheat, thereby making the starched interior of the grain seed explode.

Last year I did the same thing - excepting I told the inmates for several weeks running that we'd be watching a movie and having popcorn for Christmas. This year I merely said we'd have a special service.

24 guys turned out. Two left before the opening ceremonies were complete.

The remainder enjoyed a movie, multiple bags of popcorn and reported it was a grand evening.

I've opined on the subject of my visits to prison before so I won't do so again. Eventually, maybe, L and I will get around to reposting all my old blogs here so you can read about prison.

I only ask - what is the real difference between you and those men? You are perfect, never broken the law or committed any kind of infraction which could result in your being put into the Iron Bar Hotel?

Anyway we were leaving, me to home and the men to the dorms, one asked me where my church is.

I told him "Right here."

He asked again. "Right here," I replied. "This is my church."

Indeed it is. The men there call me Pastor. To them I am a pastor. I do not like being called a pastor, but I accept it because it is the truth. The idea make me nervous, anxious and makes me want to run away and hide. I do not want to be a pastor, but in the words of my late Dad, "Sometimes you have to say, I don't want to do this, but I'm going to do it anyway."

I tell you know with the exception of watching my kids perform in the Christmas production, I have not been inside a "church" in months. I opined on church a while back and don't intend to revisit all that here. I do not know if I will ever set foot inside a formal "church" ever again, except to see my kids perform, a wedding or a funeral.

Why? Because I am not welcome there, a subject which I have already written on and so won't bore you with it again.

Yassee in a thread in another forum, the thread author attacked me (typical response from intellectual dullards with an exaggerated sense of cerebral achievement) and suggested I am the problem instead of the things I pointed out as possible problems.

Indeed. I am the problem. There are certain items I will not compromise on. I will not give in, back down or apologize for. I also admit to massive ignorance, which is a major crime worthy of the death penality to the mediocrity mentalists.

Yes, in the spirit of the season, Yes Virginia, I am the problem.

I won't morph into the role others want for me. I will not bow gracefully to dictates I see as inane. Many call me Rebel without a cause because of this. I have a cause and if you know it, please join me. If not, I shall not explain it to you. Knowledge must come it its due time.

You may accept me as I am or reject me as I am. You may expect me to live to your standards for me.  I probably won't, but don't let that stop you from having your Great Expectations.

 I have my own hypocrisies and even my own standards for excellent. I even have standards by which I judge others, including you.

You may call me a hypocrite (which I admit to being) but I ask you, by which standards do you judge me and judge others? Whether or not you announce the verdict is irrelevant. Do you measure up to the standards which you hold others accountable to?

I have been called hard and untrustworthy. I accept those adjectives. Don't trust me. Do not look for surcease from me because there is not rest to be found here. Because you see, yes, I am the problem.

No one is ever satisfied when they look in a mirror.

My church is not confined to a man-made structure with organized rules of who may do what, how often and more attention given to how much is collected in tithes on a given day. My church is wherever my foot is. My church is wherever my hand reaches out in help, happiness, anger and malice.

My church is me, a flawed temple trying to remodel and repair while storms assail it inside and out.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Terror on 4 legs

Yevver been attacked by a dog?

I have. Have the scars to prove it. The dog that attacked me lasted maybe another 2 minutes.

One of my dogs was killed for attacking a child. I told my dad to do it as I didn’t think I could pull the trigger.

Dogs that attack children don’t live long around me. I kill ‘em.

The Old Man’s dog jumped my daughter last time we were up there. He barely talked me out of killing the dog. When we go back if the dog jumps another child, I will kill it, right there on the spot no questions or quarter given.

I’ll put a bullet in it and if I don’t have a bullet, a knife will do the job.

Another of my dogs bit an adult when that adult got between her and my children. In this case, I don’t have a problem. Athena was protecting my children against what she saw as a threat.

Children, any children could do whatever they wanted with Athena. If she had too much, she’d leave.

Dogs panic people. This officer may be one who was afraid of dogs. So when the dog charged, he shot it.

The dog was protecting his territory, doing his job. I don’t fault the dog a bit.

Some of you are gonna wonder why the officer didn’t taser the dog. I can’t get in the officer’s head to tell you, but I can tell you a taser might not have penetrated through the hair to the skin.

Further, hitting a moving target with a taser ain’t easy. I recently witnessed a deputy attempt to taser a wild hog at a couple of yards distance. The hog was still. One electrode hit the hog and the other sailed past.


Second guessing is easy to do. But I still ask, what would you do?

Me? I dunno. I’ve been charged by dogs and have always gotten them to stop. The one that attacked me got me from behind and by surprise.

I have pulled a gun on charging dogs as well, again the dog stopped.

I have been chased on my motorcycle by dogs. If it’s a place I frequent, I stop, get off and have a talk with the dog. Literally. Sometimes I have to speak to the dog a second time, but it does quit chasing me.

Keeping up with Fred is easy. Keeping with technology, not so much

Get with the program

In 1972, I think, A hand-held calculator was released to the general public. It did simple math, add, subtract, multiply and divide. Not much else.

Cost? $199 as I remember.

Today you can get solar-power hand held calculators smaller than a tiny cell phone for free. Give-aways.

Never mind cell phones.

Remember the first laser discs? Giant things the size of a 33 1/3 record? One movie per disc.

My grandma died, never learning to program her VCR or DVD player.

I remember when touch screen voting machines were brought to the Kiwanis Club. Members queued up to try it. I got my turn and zipped through it so fast the demonstrator was irked she didn’t get to tell me how to do it. The Judge was present that day and refused to do it.

“I’m afraid of it,” she said.

Years ago, I could build webpages. I could read the internet language like it was English. It was one of 4 computer languages I learned in the course of being me.

This was, as I said, years ago. Now I have no idea. The computer languages I learned are more obsolete than a politician 5 years out of office. Java to me is still coffee.

Technology waits for no one. Keep up or get left out.

The cutoff is 90 years old. In other words, if you are 90, you don’t have to sign up for this, You can continue to get your check in the mail.

89 years old? Sorry. Gotta get that direct deposit.

This is gonna panic a lot of people. A lot.

There are many elderly people who absolutely depend on their Social Security checks to live. They take the checks to the bank to cash ‘em and immediately pay bills.

Yes, you and I understand there’s little difference in direct deposit v. taking a check to the bank to cash it, but to people used to getting that piece of paper in the mail, it is a terrifying change.

Now, I am reminded of Fred back in Eastpoint FL. Fred was a commercial fisherman, oyster harvest mostly. I seriously doubt Fred had a bank account. I know he didn’t have a real address, at least according to the Post Office. He got his mail General Delivery at the Eastpoint post office.

Provided Fred lives long enough to retire, not a guarantee, he’ll have to get direct deposit. I dunno if Fred will be able to manage that.

If you are my age, think about the technological advances we’ve seen in our lives.

Now think about what the next 20, 30 and 40 years hold.

Are you gonna be able to keep up?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Turn it around and you get ...

I am writing the annual Year in Review article for the paper. This means wading through a year’s worth of newspaper archives, pulling important stories and rendering them into a Twitter-sized bite of information.

Of itself this is not unusual. Been doing this for years and years.

What is unusual is the sheer amount of racism I see in a local City Council’s actions.

I call it racism because that’s what it is.

The Council has repeatedly attempted to favor a certain group of people based, in my opinion, strictly on accidents of birth.

Someone else reading these same stories may argue it is not racism, maybe economicism (a word I just made up which means to favor or slight groups of people based strictly on economics) or even geographicism (see above note).

Both other “isms” can fit the situation because the affected people in the City do live predominantly in one area and they are predominantly among the city’s less affluent.

But when the Council members also inject the word “race” into a number of the discussions, it kinda renders the idea of the other “isms” a bit less relevant.

Why are the Council members doing this?

One council member, on the forefront of these discussions, routinely talks about the pursuit of “justice.”

Where is justice when one group is slighted at the expense of another? Where is justice when one group is favored over another?

Do you want justice to be impartial or play favorites?

Can two wrongs make a right? Is it right to attempt to rectify the wrongs of generations past on the backs of generation present? Can you really hold the son accountable for the actions of the father? Should the law be changed top benefit one at the expense of another? In looking over a years worth of Council stories, I believe several council members say the answer to these questions is Yes.

Among the stories being brought up is a failed effort to ban “sagging” which is the fashion trend of wearing pants at or below the buttocks. Race absolutely was injected into this discussion by several people, even by the people of that ethnic heritage who wanted the fashion trend made illegal in the city.

Hrm. Can self-policing be called racism? If one group demands an action and it is not racist, why is the exact same action brought by another group racist?

The fashion is often called saggin in the popular media.

In what is absolutely going to REALLY make a LOT of people mad, I tell you to take the word and reverse it.

G’head. Blame me. I’m just pointing out reality and saying the things other people want to say but won’t. Shoot the messenger. It’s OK. I can take it.

Pushin' back

I watched, as did a bunch of people, the live Census ‘cast yesterday.

I watched from my computer.

I also spent a good deal of time using strong language.

The problem was the census is conducted once every 10 years. This means once a decade, a few government bureaucrats get to take center stage for the entire world.

They must, of course, blather.

They spent 30 minutes congratulating each other and talking about how important the census is.

Never mind everything they said was ignored. They had control and they were gonna use it to inflate their egos.

This infuriated me. Had I been in Washington sitting there in the media room with lots of other reporters, I’da been muttering, twitching and complaining.

This is also typical of bureaucrats. Rather than do what’s important, necessary and what is wanted, they talk or push paper. It’s what they do to continue to justify their jobs. Rather than do the job, they talk about doing the job.

Rememebr this is the Census we’re talking about, a Constitutionally mandated function of the federal government.

It’s also a glaring symptom of the problems inherent in our government.

But this time, rather than being stuck in a live audience, I was part of a cyber audience and got to vent, thanks to internet technology.

The Census folks invited Twitter questions. So I gave ‘em.

Here, in reverse order is the stuff I slung at ‘em, provided I did it correctly.

Wiregrass Farmer


@USCensusBureau WE WANT NUMBERS not back patting.

@USCensusBureau SHUT UP. Give us numbers already

@uscensus - Less blather. More results.

@USCensusBureau In 2000, rural areas felt they were dramatically undercounted. How was this addressed this time?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Change? Change? There is no change.

Are you a member of the Tea Farty?

Get mad. G’head. I started to say I insult Reoobicans and Damnocrats so I see no reason to not use the same paint brush to slather members of the newest group of professional hypocrites to hit Washington D.C.

But I don’t insult them. I cogently and accurately describe them in the vernacular I use. Same with the Tea Farty.

Get mad.

Then read this.

Telling quote from the story: But the 52 members of the newly formed caucus sought 764 earmarked spending projects for their states and districts, valued at just over $1 billion in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, according to the Citizens Against Government Waste's "Pig Book."

I will admit to NOT being the smartest person on the planet. I also freely admit that I don’t know anything. That’s why I ask questions.

So some questions.

If the Tea Farty is supposed to cut spending, why request $1 billion in pork?

Where is the accountability? Where is the responsibility? Where is the honesty? What happened to campaign pledges?

I will note not all the Tea Farty coalition folks in Congress did request earmarks. At least they didn’t this time.

“Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) founded the Tea Party Caucus for lawmakers who were supported by the aggressively conservative movement or share its goals of limited government and reduced federal spending. Bachmann was not on the earmark list.”

There are others in Congress who are complaining about the pork. At least they complain right now.

But when the phone calls from mayors, County Commission chairmen, Authority members start coming in requesting money for various projects, you’ll see the pledges to cut spending go out the window.


The problem is the people who voted for “Change” in the past two elections merely flipped the coin over to look at the other side.

That’s not change. That’s just a slight shift in the point of view for the same subject.

Change will not come as long as people continue to vote for Reboobicans and Damnocrats, no matter what coalition they claim to support and no matter what promises they issue on the campaign trail.

You want real change? Vote for a real third party candidate.

Monday, December 20, 2010!/photo.php?fbid=1786427341235&set=a.1786427021227.101267.1256090131&notif_t=photo_tag

What yer missin'

If you don't subscribe to my weekly column (just read this), here's a sample of what you are missing.

The weekly piece is always humor, at least to my way of thinking.

Get yer dose every week at -

Santa is a what?

I am not the first person to make this observation, but I think in this era of terrorism, copping a feel at airports, warrantless wire tapping and WikiLeaks it is prudent to review what we know about the Jolly Old Elf.

I think he’s the original Black Ops Special Detail. Except in red. I just don’t know whose side he’s on.

Let’s examine the evidence.

“Santa Claus is coming to town.”

Not too much ominous there, except it is a formal announcement of his arrival. How many people do you know who post advance notice to the world about their pending arrival? The only ones I know of are terrorists and politicians, both of whom make grand announcements that they are coming to ruin your life. By the way if you can tell the difference between a terrorist and a politician, please let me know.

“He’s making a list and checking it twice.”

Double-checking to make sure he gets things right. The only people I know who double check things are lawyers, Navy Seals and Army Rangers. The lawyers check things twice because the judge frowns at ‘em if they get it wrong. Navy Seals check twice because once they are done, there’s nothing left to check. Blowing up the wrong place is highly embarrassing.

“Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice.”

This sounds like Santa is a member of the Tea Party and is running down the list of people who did and didn’t support the Federal Deficit - I mean Stimulus Package this year.

Notice there never is any criteria for what puts you on the naughty list and the nice list. You have to guess. Just like the IRS or dealing with a mentally unstable terrorist or a politician, you never know what will set one off. You have to walk on eggshells, hoping Santa doesn’t have an aversion to egg products.

Maybe Santa is neurotic.

“He sees when you’re sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.”

Disturbing. Santa is definitely spying on you. He’s gotten hidden cameras in your bedroom or a giant TSA Airport Scanner built into the walls of your house. Either way, I think it’s pretty safe to say you will soon be appearing on YouTube snoring and drooling into your pillow. I’d suggest you do something about those slippers and the boxers you wear to bed, but it’s too late now.

Even more worrying, does he have the bathroom wired for sound and pictures or just sound? What did he think about you after you had that extra spicy burrito last week? I wonder if that bumped up the score on the naughty list.

“He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.”

Again, we go right back to the definition of bad and good. No criteria for it. What’s good to a guy who spies on sleeping people, makes a list to decide whom to punish and whom to reward? Do you really want to know what Santa thinks is good and bad?

The answers might shock you even worse than seeing the Youtube video of your neighbor asleep at 2 a.m.

One up on Dad

Gotta wonder if, 40 years down the road, will he remember yesterday?

His daddy and I certainly hope so. We’re gonna remember it for a long time.

Sitting here racking what passes for a brain, I vaguely remember the first critter I put paid to. A coral snake. I stomped it to death in Athens. Barefoot, I’m told. That was just the first in a long line of critters which have met their demise directly or indirectly by my hand. My initiation into the society of hunters was not a matter of putting meat on the table, but rather rescuing my slightly older cousin Shoan from the snake. Chivalry in a 4 year old.

Sunday afternoon, my 4 year old nephew Jake Baker entered the fraternity of hunters. He killed an 85 pound wild hog. Not too shabby for a a fellow half the size of the hog holding a gun nearly as long as he was tall.

The first shot was a bit far back. The hog jerked aside as he was shooting. Second shot right through the boiler plate. The hog turned, his back legs wobbled. He turned again, jumped and collapsed. Dead hog. His daddy put an insurance shot through the spine at the base of the head. Since this is for a historical record of sorts, I helped Jake shoot the hog while his Dad observed.

His Dad, btw, has never killed a hog. Jake has now done something his father has not. His Dad wouldn’t have it any other way.

If you are a dad worthy of the name, you understand. If you are not a dad, then you don’t understand.

The hog was caught by a friend whose donated a number of wild hogs to me over the years. When I got the call, I asked Jake if he wanted to shoot it. He did.

On the way to collect the hog, it morphed, in Jake’s mind into a duck.

“Will it fly?” he asked.

He worried about being able to kill it.

“Can I have three tries?” he asked.

At the woods, the he saw the hog.

“That’s a pig,” he said.

For those wondering, a pig is a domestic animal. Unless you are fortunate, all your pork products come from a pig. A hog is a wild animal, generates bred in the wild from domestic pigs which got loose or were turned loose. If you are fortunate, you have pork products which come from wild hogs.

On the way back to his grandmother's, it morphed again into a guinea pig.

We skinned and quartered the hog at my house, pulling the tenderloins which went to his grandmother’s house and were cooked with the rest of supper. Everyone got a bite.

That's the way it should be. Hunters provide for their family.

Friday, December 17, 2010

You can't borrow this armor

Dunno where he is these days, but wherever he is, I’m pretty sure JFL is generating much consternation.

I worked for him for 2 and a half years in Florida for a couple of papers. The papers were sold to the folks in a neighboring county and JFL left the paper.

A lot of people think I am stubborn, hard to get along with and can’t be trusted. I’ll plead guilty to the first two, but suggest if you think I can’t be trusted then your expectations are not where they need to be. In regard to the first two, JFL could (and did) give me lessons. Was he trust worthy? As far as I knew him, yes.

JFL had a flair, even greater than mine, for the dramatic. I remember going to the Courthouse to get the list of residents who’d signed a net ban. This was as controversial in Florida, at the time, as gay marriage in California. I arrived at the courthouse, told the Board of Elections what I was after. After considering grumbling and commentary, the list was handed over.

Within a day, word was out that I had the list of signatures and now JFL had it. You could feel the heat rising. There were allegations for forgery, faked names and so forth.

We never ran the list of names. John said he wanted to see who signed it.

That’s the way he rolled. Myself, had I sent a reporter to get the names, I would have printed the names in the paper.

That’s where JFL and I parted ways where a newspaper was run. He did play favorites.

A lot of people will tell you I play favorites. This is where they say I can’t be trusted.

I say show me some proof.

As I remarked to a friend in town recently, when I step out as the editor of the newspaper, I don’t have a friend. None. Anywhere. Not a single person. No one. Not even you, who may be reading this column.

“I get that,” he said, leaning back in his chair. Indeed, he is one of the few people I can talk to who fully does understand that and fully gets it.

When I step out as me, leaving my editor’s hat hanging in the office, well then I hope I do have friends. I certainly need ‘em. I know some folks count me as a friend and I cherish that. I consider them friends too.

Yanno the definition of friend, right? Acquaintances help you move. Friends help you move bodies. There are a few people in this world who can call me in the wee hours of the morning and the first words out of my mouth with be “Do I need to bring you a shovel too?”

I shall try to explain the difference.

As the editor, I am in a position of making daily decisions that affect people. While it’s never happened to me, I have colleagues in the biz who’ve published something. A day or so later, a person in the article committed suicide over the article.

I have run articles which resulted in people being arrested, fired, sued, divorced and a lot of other negative consequences.

Did I like doing it? Well. Where the person got just desserts, yeah. Otherwise, no.

 I’ve been threatened because of the stuff I write. I’ve been threatened over stuff I planned to write. I did write it. (A great way to make sure something absolutely gets published is to threaten me.)

So why’d I do it?

Because you have a right to know. It’s my job to give you information and let you make the decision. I try to get you information as complete and accurate as I can.

Do I always succeed? No. I do make mistakes. But far more often I am lied to, mislead and given incomplete information.

There are also times when someone feels I didn’t do enough to tell the whole story. In their eyes, I’m guilty. In my own eyes, yeah, I have fallen short, but more often I consider I did what was necessary and more important reasonable.

I can’t count the times someone has badgered me about a story being nothing but lies.

This is where JFL and I again parted company. He’d take the person apart.

“You are saying he’s NOT the mayor?” JFL would ask.

“No. He is the mayor,” the person would say.

“So the story is not all lies,” JFL would say.

Then he’d walk down the entire news story line by line, word by word rubbing the complainer’s nose in the fact the story WAS true and accurate, it was just the complainer did’t want the story published. That infuriated all kinds of people.

I found it amusing. But I don’t do it. I let the person rant and when they are done, I walk away.

Yassee, as the editor I don’t have friends. I do have an obligation to the truth. I don't play favorites.

If it comes down to the point of delivering the truth or protecting you, well, I hope you have armor cause I'm not loaning you my editor's armor.

If the truth hurts, you ain’t living right.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

High Tech Redneck

Shop online much?

Ever wonder what it’s costing you to do so?

Some years back before digital cameras were ubiquitous and we still used film, I dealt with a camera shop in a nearby town. Got enlargements done there, 1 hour prints, bought speciality films like VPS and others.

She also sold camera gear, which I didn’t buy having invested around $10K over the years in various bodies and lenses (which are now worth about $250 (sigh)). She also did some camera repair.

People would come into her store and ask her about the various models she had on display. They’d fool with the camera a moment and walk out. 10 minutes later they were at a superstore giant retailer where they bought the exact same camera for a bit less, sometimes a good bit less, than the camera store lady could sell ‘em for.

This torqued her to no end.

Come time to get a camera repaired, they did come to see her. Also went to her for enlargements and custom printing, this being before the insta-print machines. The CUSStomers complained vigorously about the prices she charged for repair, enlargements and so forth.

She charged the prices she did so she could stay in business. As business she had all the regular overhead - salary for herself, need to make a profit, rent, taxes, replacing consumables and rotating stock, etc.

As a speciality shop she had an additional expense - a limited inventory. Yes. That is an expense. Because with a limited inventory and a limited product line, she could not spread her costs and expenses and revenue stream across a huge variety of items. She was limited in what she sold. Because of this, she had to charge a bit more to make enough money.

In addition, as a small independent business, she paid more for the things she bought than a giant retailer. A supergiant can negotiate cheaper prices ‘cause it buys in bulk. Bulk means less packaging, shipping, handling and everything that does not “add value” to the end product.

A small business pays more cause it costs more to send small amounts to that business.

But. Her shop offered something the giant could not.

Expertise and experience. She knew cameras and the whole industry around cameras and pictures.

Do you think the giant retailers have that kind of staff?

She’s since folded the shop, unable to compete with digital cameras and computers with laser printers that generate prints as good looking as anything she could do in a darkroom and even electronic storage. But that’s another column for another day.

I’ll tell you a story about expertise and experience. A company had a giant machine break down. No one could fix it. They called a repairman. He worked for about 5 minutes and the machine was running. He billed the company $5,000. The bean counters wrote back, demanding an itemized bill because it only took him 5 minutes to repair the problem

Itemized bill.

Repair $50.
Knowing what to repair and how, $4,950.

When you shop online, you put a hurting on local retailers, the kind of people who employ people in your community, pay taxes in your community and contribute to the Little League baseball teams, high school events, churches and the other things that make for a quality of life in your community.

Eventually local shops will close. It’s happening in my town. Since I’ve been here we have had a net loss of industry and business. Yes. It has hurt my community a lot. Taxes are up. Way up. Government supplied services are down, way down. Unemployment is way up.

But, this is apparently what people in my community want. I am certain they will vigorously object, but as Lil Ed sings “I look for the purse.”

In other words, your money says more than your mouth.

Yes, local folks are typically more expensive in the short term than shopping online. But in the long term, what you are doing shopping online is slowly strangling the life from your community by cutting off the lifeblood of money which circulates there.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Rewarding incompetence and taking the blame

Lemme run this one past you.

Meet Person A. A wants to be considered, judged if you wanna, evaluated, reviewed, liked, accepted and even rejected for the person A is, his abilities, desires, what he does, how he does it and what he doesn’t do and how he does that as well. Arg. Confusing.

A wants people to consider him strictly based on the way he does stuff. Variables. Look at A in the light of things he controls. Ah. much better.

Meet person B. B wants to be considered on the basis of skin color, ethnicity, and racial descent. Look at B based on the things he can’t control.

Now I ask you, which person would you prefer to associate with? Why?

It’s been my experience that B and folks who think like him are always prejudiced. They believe they are superior to others simply because of accidents of birth. They believe they deserve special consideration based on those accidents of birth.  B believes other groups are oppressing him.

Folks like A certainly can be prejudiced, but are less likely to be so. If there is oppression, A sees oppression coming from larger forces than just a group of people who share a common ancestry. But, A will also admit that those of a common ancestor can band together to oppress others.

Your mileage may vary.

How about you? Do you want to be known as a ________ (racial/ethnic type) American (or whatever your country is)?


Seems to me if you insist on being considered FIRST based on ancestry, then you carry a lot of unnecessary baggage. It’s my thinking if you take part of the package you are obliged to take the entire package. Doesn’t make sense? Lemme slap a f’r’instance on you.

Want to be considered “African” before you are American? Cool. Then you must take the blame for slavery in the United States because it was the African nations which sold their fellow Africans into slavery.

Oooo that’s gonna make some people mad. G’head. I used a little mental process I call logic.

If you take part of it, then you are taking all of it the way I see things.

Want to be considered first a person and then get into ancillary matters that bear on the situation? Makes a lot more sense to me.

Why should it matter where your ancestors came from when you apply for a job? What matters more is your ability to do that job, right?

In an ideal world, yes. In the United States, no.

I run help wanted ads all the time which state hiring preferences will be given to minorities and women.

Uh, what?


Ya want the best person for the job? Or do you wanna fill a quota by hiring someone who can’t do the job?

Quotas have ruined and wrecked more jobs and projects than I can count. Affirmative action dumbs things down, reducing quality and encourages mediocrity.

It also punishes those who can by rewarding those who can't.

Yeah, I have proof.

Yassee, I'm all about people using their abilities rather than excuses.

Which now brings me to today’s point - Firing bad teachers.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to fire a bad “minority” teacher in the South? Probably not. In short, unless the teacher is actually arrested, it can’t be done.

Yeah, I have proof.

Fire a white male teacher? Look for an excuse no matter how flimsy and the teacher is out the door.

School superintendents in several states and more than 10 school systems have told me this off the record. On the record, they won’t admit to it. Why? Political fallout would put them right out of a job. I ain’t faulting the superintendents. They have to work within the system. They are not in a position, like me, to buck the system and scream for changes.

So I’m buckin’ and yellin’.

Do you want a better school system? Then get politics and unions out of education. Both only serve to further the interests of the more incompetent at the expense of the competent.

Fire incompetent teachers. How can you tell if a teacher is incompetent? Ask other teachers and the administration. Ask the parents of students in the class.

Better yet, look at student performance under that teacher.

Ooo. Let’s hold teachers accountable for the performance of their students. Radical idea. One which the unions approach with flaming torches and pitchforks because they can’t get their hands on tactical nukes.

All students can achieve. They don’t always achieve at the same level, but the can do it. Given a good teacher and quality classroom environment, students will learn, grow and increase their mental acumen.

Yeah, I have proof of that too.

Under poor teachers, the ones who need to be fire, student  achievement suffers and growth is scant if there is any growth.

Yeah, I have proof.

Lemme replay this record. I’m basing my arguments on reality. You do not have to accept reality. But do not expect reality to re-order itself because you don’t like it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

I don't read letters to Santa any more

Just finished laying out the stack of letters to Santa, which we publish each year. Been doing this for more than 20 years now.

I quit reading the letters years ago. It hurts too much.

Mind you, I love the letters, I love reading about the kids and their wishes and how much they genuinely love Santa Claus.


There are the letters where the kid does not want anything material. He (or she) just wants his momma and daddy to get back together.

It hurts I tellya. A lot. So much, I no longer read letters to Santa.

Kids don't deserve that kinda hurt. No indeed. No way. No how.

When otherwise rational adults can't get along and kids are involved, the kids suffer the most.

Rather than focus on the children, the two parents turn the children into a political and legal football, a leverage by which one parent can force the other parent to do something.

No. That ain't how this is supposed to work.

Myself, I believe parents who treat their children like that are just as guilty of child abuse as a child molester.

Yeah. I said it. Yeah I mean it.

Yeah, I think if you are one of those divorced parents who uses your children as a tool against their other parent your sorry ass needs to be thrown under the jail.

Except that too is not fair to the kids.

There's another kinda letter that hurts too, just slightly less.

The letters from children requesting not toys, CDs, games or such, but asking for new shoes, new clothes. You know these kids are serious. They ask out of need, not want.

Dammit. That hurts.

If it is parents who are genuinely trying but can't, well, that's one thing.

If it's parents who can afford cigarettes, but not new shoes. Yeah. You're a child molester too in my opinion.

There are also parents whose children are beneficiaries of various charities. They kids do get toys and clothes.

Day after Christmas, Mom and/or Dad has all the stuff at the flea market selling it to buy drugs. Calling these parents child molesters is an insult to a child molester. These parents need to be run over, slowly, by very slow moving very heavy vehicles.

Reading those kinda letters makes me want to haul out my Uzi and go hunting The Most Dangerous Game. Except that too won't be fair to the kids.

It ain't right. Kids deserve better.


And there was a young man born in a valley. His elders told him nothing existed outside the valley, all was void and empty and to leave the valley meant sudden and certain death.

Their elders had told them the same thing. They saw no reason to leave the valley as it supplied all they wanted and needed.

The young boy, born of a curious mind, set about to find out the truth. And so he went up the mountain at the edge of the valley.

He peered over the mountain top and was immediately attacked by a mountain lion and eaten.

The people in the valley below sadly shook their heads and reminded each other that to leave the valley was certain death and the boy brought it on himself.

But in the instant before he died, the boy saw another valley similar to but different than the valley which he’d left.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fighting for … well, what are we fighting for?

Talked with BA over the weekend. Among the subjects was terrorism and terrorist attacks.

According to independent monitors, the country which suffered the most terrorist attacks over the past 12 months (so sayeth BA) is Pakistan.

Pakistanis killing Pakistanis.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.

Afghanistan is sometimes called the Graveyard of Empires. Great Britain moved in, got beaten to a bloody pulp and exited stage get the hell out. The Soviet Union, which shared a border at the time, also attempted to impose Soviet rule in Afghanistan.

Ripped to pieces and shredded like a confidential document, the Great Bear also pulled out.

So here cometh the United States. What made our leaders believe they could do something the other countries couldn’t?

Excessive stupidity in the guise of super patriotism.

The only solution to Afghan is to seal the borders and shoot anyone attempting to leave.

Don’t like the idea? Tough.

The only thing that unites Afghans is an outside aggressor. The invader leaves the Afghanis resume killing each other, which they have been doing for 1,000 years. When 5 year olds tote Kalashnikovs and learn to shoot anyone who acts differently, they will not lay down their guns when they turn 21.

All they know is fighting. It defines them. They will fight till they die.

Get used to the idea.

Terrorism, if you want to be realistic about it, is as old as humanity.

What country is most in danger of a terrorist attack? Eyeball this.

There is a major problem with this information. It puts lie to the idea that the United States and other countries are major targets of terrorism because of our capitalistic economies and our world involvement, especially support for Israel.

In fact, the biggest danger from terrorism, if you look at the real figures, are Muslim extremists trying to kill each other.

Yeah. A religion of submission.

The simple fact is ever since Mohammed died, his followers have been killing each other to death over their interpretations of the Koran and who is supposed to lead Islam and who ain’t.

I tellya. Reminds me too much of the Christian Church.

Yeah. I said it. I meant it and the historical record backs me up. You don’t have to believe me. Furthermore, Christians continue to kill Christians all over the planet.

The history of religion is a history of violence. More people have died in violence in the name of religion than anything else.

In that regard, adherents Christianity are not on the moral high ground compared to Islamists. They both stand in neck deep mud.

Dot not believe that atheists have clean hands either. Atheists have long persecuted those who have a religious faith. Agnostics, because of their inherent uncertainty, may be less guilty but they too have taken to bloodshed over differences of religion.

I wonder what God thinks about all the violence.

Some advice you are free to ignore

If you will permit me a moment of hubris, how monumental depends entirely on your perspective, I am a word slinger of moderate talent, a paragraph architect of middling design and a sentence construction crew of fair proportions.

I am a writer, in other words. I’m fair at the task. Not great, not bad, except for moments of occasional brilliance and occasional moments where I’d be better off pumping septic tanks.

Every so often someone comes to me and asks for writing advice.

This takes 2 forms. One is straight writing advice. T’other is journalism advice.

In my years of assembling letters into semi-coherent fashion, I have driven a few people out of the writing business. More specifically out of journalism.

I say it was for their own good. Journalism and writing for mass consumption is NOT a pleasant place. It is not easy. It is not simple. Arrogance is rewarded. Timidity is crushed ‘neath the wheels of monster trucks driven by the competition.

The two people I ran out of journalism were, bluntly put, idiots and wimps blindly searching for a creative muse who would gently guide them to a path of excellence. I have encountered other people over the years who would have benefited from this advice. They pursued a career in journalism, investing 4 years of their life in college and a bit more time trying to be a journalist.

They failed. Spectacularly. They entered another career field disillusioned and disappointed.

They should have come to me in high school.

Yassee, journalism advice is easy.

Go get the information. Write the story. Keep yourself out of it. Your deadline is _______.

Journalism’s muse is a cigar-chomping, green eyeshade wearing, bull-necked, incredibly cynical and immensely wise 55 year old curmudgeon with three stiff belts of That Old Janx Spirit under his belt for lunch who doesn’t give a damn about your opinion, your views or what you may think of the subject matter, provided you turn in 15 inches of typo-free copy 30 minutes before deadline and you get both sides quoted.

Now writing advice, straight writing, that is a horse of a different planet. Journalism and writing, excepting the case of Hunter S. Thompson and Gonzo journalism, only share parts of a language.

So when someone asks me for writing advice, I un-knot my guts, defrost my brain and re-engage voluntary muscle control and tell them.

“My opinion doesn’t matter. Your opinion is the only one that matters. Go ye forth and write.”

S’truth. Absolute 100 percent truth.

Over the years I have been given 4 pieces of writing advice which have stuck with me.

Two pieces, I shall not share and I shall hope to carry these two bits of advice to my grave where they will moulder and decay to never again haunt the brain of a writer. The people who gave me these two pieces of advice, if there is any justice in the world, are dead themselves and so cannot inflict themselves on any other unsuspecting greenhorn writer. If they still yet live and I come across them … it will not be pretty.

Not even Reba McEntire could convince me to divulge those two items, so obnoxious I find them.

The other two items, I gladly share.

Kurt Vonnegut in his first speech as a successful writer told the college crowd (I paraphrase) “Why are you doing sitting here listening to me? Go! Write!”

The other bit of advice came from a full time freelance. He’d just turned down a request from a magazine to rewrite a piece to fit the editor’s requirements. He said it was the best feeling he ever had, to say “no” to an editor. His advice is “Write for yourself.”

So if you ask me for writing advice, I say, “Go and write for yourself.”

And that is literally all you need to know and do.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

One for the record books

A disgusting reality

Seek ye not higher meaning or depth of thought in the following for it doth exist not therein.


 A better writer than I could talk about how the clouds in the sky looked like a slab of giant’s ribs. The sliver of moon peeking through the clouds was a shaving from a silver coin. The pecan trees reached into the night like a witch’s fingers casting a potion to hex someone who’d done her wrong.

A better writer would tell you of the evolution of the primeval struggle for protein that led to humans walking upright and big brains from the animal protein our ancestors consumed. He might tell you of the need to protect hard-worked crops from depredation by the animal kingdom. He could even talk about the satisfaction of provided sustenance for the family by the hunters own hands and how this brings him closer to the animals he will consume, a kinship shared and felt and secure knowledge of exactly what will be eaten v. the antiseptic and sterilized world of buying pre-packaged meat of indeterminate origin at a supermarket.

But yassee, I ain’t that kinda writer. So you’re going to get a more grounded story.

Friday when I got home from deer hunting (nothing, again), I said I planned to go coon hunting that night. Susan would rather hunt varmints at night than do just about anything else. She’s good at it too.

So, I said I’d take her. This was, you understand, my plan all along.

Back from deer hunting, she asked several times when we were leaving. I told her 9 o’clock and that was all she needed to know.

When we finally peeled out from the house, we rolled up the highway. I turned into the orchard and immediately saw 2 deer. Does. Right next to the highway on the hill. Muttering imprecations, we watched the deer watch us for a moment. I turned off to head down to the edge. We were after coons.

Can’t shoot deer at night, which Susan reminded.

She started shining with a small LED flashlight. I wondered why there was so little light. It took me a few minutes to realize she was not using the big light.

That rectified, we had to stop a few minutes later and let her put gloves on. It was cold.

We rode the distance. Nothing.

Back on asphalt, we headed to another place to hunt. THERE! Two coons at the edge of the road.
One broke right and the other left. I jerked left, heading right off the highway never even thinking about what kind of ditch or embankment might be there. The coon was hauling to the woods. I stepped on the gas and he stepped on whatever passed for his accelerator.

He escaped into the woods.

It was only after looking for place to get back to the road, safely, that I recalled the night Dad tore after a bobcat through a just harvested corn field in his old blue Datsun, me in the middle, Mom holding Shag in her arms. What a ride.

We crossed the road and looked to where the other coon had gone. Susan saw eye shine in a tree. We got out with the big flashlight and looked in the tree.

For the longest time, nothing. I walked to the far side of the tree and saw a shape and a ringed tail. Susan, meanwhile, had gone back to sit in the truck. I yelled to her I found the coon.

“I told you I saw something up there,” she said.

I did not doubt her, but me finding what she saw was problematic.

“Come stand next to me,” I said. “Shoot him from here.”

BOOM! First shot low. “Shoot again.” Bark flew. Coon stayed put. Shot low.

“Go get some more shells and come back. A short blob in a giant parka several times too big with a 20 gauge Browning in one hand trundled into the darkness back to the truck for more ammo.

“All right. Stand here and shoot.”


The coon jerked around and started coming out of the tree.

“Shoot again,” I said, as the coon came down. She didn’t. It got lower.

“Don’t shoot. It’s between us at the truck.”

The mortally wounded coon hit the ground and stumbled off.

“Wait,” I cautioned. She was shooting a full choke and at 10 yards, she’d have vaporized the coon.

It stopped at a tree.

“All right. Come back here and shoot.”


A few minutes later a coup de gras (from me) to the head and the coon was in the back of the truck.

“Daddy, I have a friend at school who thinks I’m evil because I kill animals,” she said.

“Does he eat meat?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“And have you pointed out an animal has to die in order for him to get meat?”


“And what does he say?”

She let out a noise of intense exasperation and frustration, imitating her friend, “‘Well! That’s different,’” she said, quoting him.

“Ask him how it’s different,” I suggested.

You may object to my teaching my daughter to hunt. Go ahead, but understand that when you chomp that burger, an animal died. You killed it just as surely as I kill the deer in my freezer.

The difference is I admit to what I do.

If you object to the idea of consuming wild animals or find it repulsive, I point out to you - I know exactly what I’m eating. When you buy meat in a store, do you know what you are eating?

The reality might be more disgusting than you can possibly imagine.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Closed minds make the best chains

And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
Matthew 13:58

Disregard the theological implications of that statement for the time being.

Instead, look at the end of the statement. Their unbelief.

You can convert that word “unbelief” to rejection, disbelief, denial, refusal, denigration, derision, self-righteousness, or any other word which means to put someone down because you want to. It's not quite ignorance, because ignorance is simply a lack of knowledge. What I'm talking about is rejection.

A good way of looking at it is Close Minded.

Never mind what the person is capable of. Never mind the abilities. Never mind what the person can do.

All that is irrelevant because there is something about the person that just doesn’t fit.

Closed minds make the best chains.


How many people have you rejected because you simply didn’t like them?

How many times have you been rejected because people simply didn’t like you?

If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave.
Matthew 10:14

Again, disregard the theology of the statement and concentrate on what it says.

If you go somewhere and the people will not accept you and let you contribute, find somewhere else to be.

As for me, I have set a firm deadline for a certain matter. Sept. 1.

Accept me. Allow me to do what I can or I will find somewhere else to be.

I will not be bound by the chains of your mind any more.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Planting confusion and harvesting nothing

Among the many other things which I do not understand is:

Someone gets mad when their business is not mentioned in the paper, but will not advertise because they say advertising does not work.

I ask why it’s important the business name appear in a news article.

“So people will know we’re here and what we do.”

Ain’t that the point of advertising? I ask.

“Advertising doesn’t work.”

Then why do you need the business name in the paper? I ask.

Then, the person looks at me as if I’m about the most stupid person walking the planet today.

If the advertising doesn’t work, then why should the person care if the business name is in the paper or not?

It either works or it doesn’t.

Ain’t that the truth about so many things in life? Either it works or it doesn’t.

I find the things that actually work and work well require effort on my part. The more effort I put forth, the better things work.

If I don’t do anything, then I can expect to get nothing back.

As a man sows, so shall he reap.