Friday, December 14, 2012

the right to bear arms

A long, long time ago in a place called Europe, there were basically two classes of people: Nobles and Peasants. The Nobles owned the land, which had been given to them by the King, who'd had it given to him by God. The Peasants worked the land and made it produce by the strength of their backs and the sweat of their brows. Then the Nobles gave some of the produce to the King, and as a reward to the Peasants, would sometimes let the Peasants come into the Castle and watch them eat.

You can see right away that every once in a while an especially bright Peasant would realize that the Peasants were getting the shaft, and perhaps foment a revolt.

The Nobles, no dummies they, either, could see this, too. So they figured out a way to keep the Peasants down. And here's how they did it: they decreed that no Peasant could own or even learn to ride a horse, and Peasants were not allowed to have weapons, such as swords, in their possession. So whenever the Peasants rose up, the Nobles would just ride them down with their horses and skewer them with their swords.

You still with me, NRA? Because here's where it gets interesting. Allowing Nobles to have swords and not allowing Peasants to have swords became known as “The right to bear arms”.
Nobles had the “right to bear arms” and Peasants did not have “the right to bear arms”. Because if they did have that right, there was a very strong possibility that the Nobles would get their asses handed to them on a platter, the Peasants would no longer work for them and the King would be very angry.

This situation persisted in this place called Europe for a very long time, several hundred years in fact, until some of the Peasants (and Nobles) came to the hallowed shores of America. They had a war...we call it the Revolution, but it was really a matter.

After the colonists had won their war and had their own country for a while, it became necessary to have a Constitution. That's the one that begins “We the People...”

Included in that Constitution was a section now known as The Second Amendment. And what it said, and still does, is that everybody had “the right to bear arms”. Simple as that. But what it meant is no Nobles, and no Peasants. Still does. It didn't mean, nor does it now mean, that everybody should run out and buy an assault rifle.

Thursday, December 6, 2012



There was a time when I found myself in desperate need of actual work…actually there have been somewhat more than several of those times, but I’m only going to discuss one of them today. 

Anyway, I had a friend of sorts, a prince of a fellow, actually,  who owned a string of theatres which showed what were called “dirty movies” back then, and he offered me a job as a projectionist at one of his places.  I jumped at the chance, frankly, because in addition to earning some money I actually would learn a new skill to add to my set:  operating a Hortzon 35-mm projector.
It was a complicated machine.

My first day on the job I spent under the tutelage of a projectionist at a theater other than the one I was hired for, in order to learn the duties of my job. My tutor was an actual bonafide member of IATSE.   My job was basically to keep something on the screen at all times. Which required two projectors, so while Reel #1 was unwinding off Projector #1, I would be loading up Reel#2 onto Projector #2, and when I saw that little square in the corner of the screen, it would signal that it was time to unleash Projector #2 onto the fevered viewers in the darkness below.
The movies then were not much different than those of today(I know because I accidentally stumbled across some internet pornography when I mistakenly typed “video porn” into the Google search box), though there’s a lot more anal fascination currently.  It’s a cultural thing, I suppose.  But basically they were of the same format:  a lame (and always blessedly short) plot line leading to displays of sexual activity….the French maid, the lady cop, the neglected housewife and the pool guy, the teacher who keeps a student after class, your basic juvenile fantasies enacted on the silver screen.  There were also “hippies” in some of the flicks, as the world at large was pretty sure that “hippies” had great sex.  Those “hippies” are respectable property-owning, tax-paying  AARP members now, so we’ll leave them alone, shall we?  
One thing about pornography that I discovered back then is that, after a few times of seeing the same movies while waiting for that little square to appear in the corner, well, it gets to be at first boring, and then tedious, and then downright aggravating. The same camera angles recording the same coital positions, the same “ummms” and “ahhhs” and “ohhhhs” on the sound track. Over and over and over and over and over.  I mean there’s only so many ways….even when new movies arrived each week, they turned out to be just as dull as those the week before.
Another of my duties was that, if a film should break, I had to throw the other projector into action and take the broken film off its Hortzon and into a little room off the projection booth, where I would splice it back together. I learned to splice a film really really well.  The usual reel was about 12 inches in diameter.  One day while I was back there splicing a broken film, I happened to look under the splicing table and saw that there were two empty 18-inch reels.  Think about this:  if a twelve inch reel holds, say, 40 minutes of film, then an 18-inch reel, using that math stuff, will hold a lot more, because of the ever-increasing length of film with each turn of the reel..
I had an idea.

While showing the first movie for the day, I would splice all the other movies for that day onto one 18-inch reel, set it up on the other Hortzon and when the first movie ended, let it rip.  When it had finally unwound, I’d turn on the other projector while I respooled the 18-incher.  Once I got rolling, I was actually working about 2 hours out of every eight.
Nobody ever noticed that most of the movies seemed to be coming from the same projection window.  I turned the sound in the projection booth down  as well, and at last had a complete perfect job: one where I had to do almost nothing.  I could read the New York Times, for instance, even do the crossword puzzle if it was before Friday and therefore easy enough to do in the two and a half hours the 18-inchers were unspooling.  I kept a film on the other Hortzon just in case one of my splices broke and I had to turn it on, and to run while I rewound the 18-incher.  At the end of my shift, I took the splices back apart and restored them to their 12-inchers.  Nobody caught wise. 

All went along just fine, the films never broke, the place never caught fire, nothing happened.  I admit that I got a little laissez-faire.  I started cranking up the 18-inch and lying down to rest my eyes a little from all that splicing. 
My last day in the pornography industry happened like this:  I was lying on the floor resting my eyes, when I gradually became aware of the "thlip thlip thlip” sound of a broken film slapping the projector.  One of my impeccable splices had given way.  I opened my eyes and the first thing they saw was a pair of elegant millionaire Miami Beach pale green alligator shoes, which I immediately recognized as belonging to my boss and benefactor.   “Panama, believe me, I know this stuff is boring, but you cannot go to SLEEP, so I gotta fire you.  As soon as you finish today, you’re finished, okay?”
And so I undid my 18-inch reel for the last time, put the movies back on their proper 12-inchers, collected my pay (there was even a little bonus – I told you the guy was a prince), and walked out into the wonderful, sultry Old Miami Beach afternoon, cleansed by the sun.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Item number: 360514977457

I've been looking at this Abacus box for must be ten years.  
I got kinda interested in it a few years back and looked it up.  I got all excited because, though I could find the accompanying book by the hundreds on Amazon, I could not find one single other actual, genuine, No 748 Abacus, like the one pictured here.  It's the "toy" Ideal made to go with the Abacus book.  It's all pre-post-modern.  It wasn't the digital age yet, is what I'm really saying.

So I put it up on ebay, expecting that the huge community of nerds out there on the net would take notice of it, maybe think of it as a cool present for their boss, bless their hearts, and snap it right up.  Did the Millenials take the bait?  Oh, I guess a couple of non-scientists came across it, but nobody scientificalistical seemed to give a big RA.  Maybe they were on Facebook being somebody.    No offense intended.

So I didn't sell it.  And,. like I say, I've been looking at it for the past ten or so years.  And time is waning.  Do I want to continue to be the caretaker of this valuable icon from the glory days of yesteryear?  Because I'll tell you, if I die and this box is left on it's own, it's gonna go right into the landfill, lost forever in the detritus of humanity. 

So I've decided to put it back up on ebay, for absolutely totally almost nothing.  Maybe somebody smart will see it this time.  Maybe they'll buy it.   It weighs three pounds, and I'll ship it cheap as I can.  Then you can look at it.  And marvel.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Here's the problem: America is just so damn big that Americans never actually go anywhere else in the world except in uniform. I'm talking about Europe, boys and girls, not Iraq and Afghanistan, where, let's face it, nobody wants to go anyway.  And when we get there in our uniforms, we tend to spend most of our time on base, because on base we feel almost at home. We never have to step out of our comfort zone, never have to deal directly with the indigenous populations. The PX is like Wal*Mart., the base movie houses play American movies...all is set to live a sequestered life while we wait for the Russians or North Koreans to come over the line. Then when our tours of duty are over we come home unchanged and unaffected by where we've been.  Your average American tourist is just a big ole provincial asshole who goes to Cancun and thinks he's seen Mexico.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A LETTER (apparently from Australia)

Dear Danny
The wind industry employs 75,000 Americans. And right now, a bill to protect those jobs isn't going anywhere, because Speaker of the House John Boehner -- who sets the calendar for the House of Representatives -- doesn't want to schedule it for an up-or-down vote.

Hey Boehner -- what are you waiting for?

These good-paying jobs for skilled workers in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance

are critical for helping our country move out of the outdated energy economy of previous decades. If anything, we should be adding jobs in this and other renewable energy industries. But instead, we're letting these jobs be lost.

Tea party pressure is causing John Boehner and other House members to let the wind industry die. But what does that mean for the future of this country? We must prevent the House from playing a game of chicken with our economy and our future. It's time we put as much pressure on Boehner as the tea party has! Please sign the petition now.

Thank you for taking action,

Emily L.
Care2 and ThePetitionSite Team

Dear Emily
I'd be the last guy to support John Boehner. But I don't think the wind energy proponents have researched the downside of windmills. 400 feet tall (think forty-storey building), blades more than a hundred feet long, the ends of which are moving at well over 100 mph. Constant whoompf-whoompf of noise 24/7, harmful to the physical and psychological health of those living near them. Tons and tons of concrete poured to make the pads on which they are anchored. You seem to be writing from Australia, which has a lot more unused and unusable space than America.
I have only one horse in this race... the health and well-being of not 75,000 workers, but 350 million (and counting) Americans. Let's put 75,000 people to work on Solar.
panama red

Thursday, September 20, 2012

or if I'm so smart why ain't I rich?
Finance, especially of the high kind, has always been a mystery to me. I blamed my lack of a Harvard MBA, or something, anyway, for my lack of understanding.
But over the last few months I have come to understand how Bain Capital worked under Mitt Romney. And now I know why I ain't rich. And probably why you ain't, either.
Wanna get rich? Here's how to do it:
Put together from a bunch of investors a couple of million bucks. You can do this, when you have the confidence to know that it's gonna work. So, then you take that couple of million bucks and you go see a bank, and based on having a couple of million bucks and a four thousand dollar suit, you borrow, say, a hundred million bucks. The bank will lend you this because you let them in on what you're gonna do.
You have found a company that is in trouble financially. Taking that hundred million bucks, you buy a controlling interest in the company. Now the company owes YOU a hundred million bucks, because it's a debt of the company now. So now the company has to pay you (and the bank) back. Sometimes the profit/loss ratio of the company is such that the only way the company can make the payments on the debt is to begin to sell off its assets. Or to raid the retirement accounts of its employees. Or a combination of both.
So as the assets are sold off and the funds raided, the company and the people who depend on employment there now have squat.
Do you care? Not on your life. Because your goal is to make money, not continue to pay a labor force to produce goods on machines you have already sold off. So the company tanks, but only after you have your hundred (and two) million bucks back, plus whatever you've paid yourself for managing the company into the ground.
The original investors profit from letting their money “work” for them, and the bank gets its principal+interest. Some guy in China gets equipment to continue to manufacture whatever. Everybody's happy. Except the people who used to have jobs at the company.
Now, assuming that you really could put together the original couple of million and then the hundred million, would you do it?
Me, neither.
So where we fall down in this scheme is the part about putting people in a failing company out of work. Why? Because it may be slick money management and it may turn a profit, but at heart it's immoral.
And that's why you and I may be smart but we ain't rich.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012



JFK's death and the World Trade Center.
I was in a bar in Amsterdam when the first plane smashed into the World Trade Center. And I saw the second one crash into what was left ten minutes later in the same bar on television.

Dazed, I went out into the street, where my friend Mohammed pleaded with me not to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few.

As it turns out I only blame 19 Muslims for the World Trade Center. I don't even blame Osama bin Laden, or at least I only hold him as accountable as I do George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld and others, who all at least had foreknowledge that this was going to occur.
I believe the whole thing was rigged. I do.
These guys were spoiling for a fight, and they were gonna have it no matter what.
I'm not going to go through all the reasons yet again for why I believe what I believe. Nobody who reads this is going to care anyway. They haven't yet.
Except that I may get disappeared I don't either.
See ya.

Thursday, September 6, 2012



people keep writing me asking for money.
I mean, ME, of all people
I think it all started with my wife.
Yeah. That's the ticket, I'll blame her.

We used to get these pleas for money from
an Indian school and perhaps orphanage out west somewhere.
One time they offered us an Indian blanket
if we gave them $100.
I mean, who could pass that up, so we did.
We got this fleece kinda thing that was made in China.

You know the charity with the kids who need cleft palate repair?
Well, Patty used to fork over ten or twenty bucks every time she got something
from them in the mail.
Turns out the guy who runs the charity makes about 800K a year.

It seems that Barack, Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Alan Grayson,
Truthout, MoveOn, and organizations I haven't even heard of
are totally gonna lose their elections or go under if I don't
come up with at least $25 apiece for them. I've never been this important.

So Patty weaseled me into writing a check to Michelle
for enough to pay for the brake job I need on the old Volvo

But that's it. No more mister nice guy. I'm gonna start direct emailing
these people and asking them for money.
But I ain't voting for Romney no matter how much superPac money he spends.

Why? Because then I'd REALLY be a sucker.


Squirrel is home.  Poor little guy.  I'm sure (I mean SURE)that he thought that when he came home it would all be okay, that he'd be able to eat again just like always.  It's gonna take some doing..he has to go back for another operation(to remove the wire that is currently holding his lower jaw together) and then he's gonna have to learn to eat all over again.  Currently we have to feed him with a syringe.  But it's better than being dead, and it's certainly the choice HE made.

And the other kitties don't know what to make of it...the dumber more forgetful ones don't remember him and are thus put out by this interloper...his little sister YumYum growled and hissed at him the first night, ran outside and wouldn't come back into the house until next feeding time the evening after.  She's not stupid, but she IS jealous, you see...all through this she's been the little princess, laying up on the bed and eating bon bons and being told how very very special she is, and now, suddenly here's THIS guy getting all the attention that should rightfully be hers.
So now we're not letting YumYum out until she adjusts and forms a working relationship with her bro.
Opie, the old yellow cat, is mellow as always about everything.  I wish I knew his yogi.  So that's what's up with Squirrel.

Monday, September 3, 2012


I know that life is trouble
Know that life's a bitch
Rich man never happy
Til a poor man make him rich

Ain't got much time left in this trouble
Got to speak before I go
Lived for much too long here
And only wonder, never know

Saturday, September 1, 2012


My cat Squirrel got hit by a car. He got hit in the side of his head, which pushed his maxilla over to the right, and broke his mandibular synthesis.
In people talk this means that his face was smashed and his lower jaw broken in the front where it normally comes together. Also in people talk this means that he is a mess, and lucky to be alive.

But after he had dragged himself across the field and through my lawn and up the steps to the deck and up the steps to the kitchen door and through the door to flop helplessly on the floor, bleeding from every orifice in his head yet still wanting to live, and knowing that the people here would take care of him, what choice did we have?

He is lucky to have us as friends. I am lucky to have a couple of understanding vets who will front me their services for a limited time and keep him pumping.
So we raced through the night to the Murfreesboro Pet Emergency Clinic, after talking to our usual vet, who had vouched for us financially I'm sure, and we arrived to find competent kitty trauma docs waiting to take whatever action we decided.

So: put him down, or go for the big bucks treatment and try to bring him back from the edge? “How's his brain?” asked my wife the RN. 
 “Well, he's still in there. He's hurt but he knows where he is and who he is, if that's what you're asking,” said Dr Stevens.
 “So all of this trauma is physical and he's not gonna be a rutabaga?” 

She turned to me. Having spent a lot of time with crazy cat ladies, I knew my line. “Okay,” I said.
Patty said, “Do what it takes to save him, then.”
Okay,” said Dr Stevens.
And so they did. And they patched him up and cleaned him up and took x-rays and got him high enough to get through the night. For a little more than the price of a good Mexican Telecaster.

The next morning, I got out of bed at 7 and took him to Dr. Kinard, his usual vet and one of the kindest souls I've met here. “It's going to take some doing,” Chuck said. “But we'll beef him up and get the inflammation down as much as we can for a few days and then we'll try to rebuild him.” I mentioned the bill. “Don't worry about that now. I know you and I know this cat.”

It's been a week now since the asshole going sixty though our thirty clipped my little cat, flinging him into the field next door. Last Monday Dr. Kinard wired his mandible back together, but afterward he said there was scant little he could do about Squirrel's upper jaw, which is sitting about a quarter of an inch further right than it should. All those delicate little facial bones crushed or displaced are impossible to restore to their former relationship to each other. 

This morning, Saturday, I went to visit Squirrel at the vet's. One or both of us has gone every day.
Squirrel still has to be fed with a syringe, but when the vet's assistant brought him into the room where I was waiting, he began to act like the Squirrel I know so well. Bunting my face and purring, making biscuits while I loved on him. I put him down on the floor and he started doing figure eights around my legs, and like most bobs, talking a blue streak.

I know it's not prudent for a guy in my income bracket to throw money away on a cat.  I have other obligations.  But his determination to stay living and his trust in us to help him do that trumped every consideration of prudence. Had I just put him down two weeks ago, I would not have had the joy of this morning, with my little bob-tailed friend, now so glad to be alive and so glad to see me. Am I a sucker? You bet.

I've had a talk with Squirrel in an attempt to get him to reconcile himself to his new condition. I've explained to him that being a leading man is off his agenda. “But you know, you can still get a lot of juicy character roles. Character actors have longer careers anyway,” I say.
I mean, look at Luis Guzman. Guy works all the time.”

Squirrel, with his little lopsided face, only purrs and bunts me again.  He'll come home Monday.

Friday, August 24, 2012



I took a trip up to Streetsboro, Ohio – a suburb of Cleveland – recently to appear with my new friends the Womack Family Band at Honky Tonk House Concerts (they're great, by the way).
I always enjoy these solitary drives. They permit me to talk to myself.   Much as I'm doing here, I'm sure.
One thing I noticed since last trip up was the new proliferation of signs dedicating aging bridges and stretches of deteriorating highways to local heroes fallen in this continuing war-of-choice in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems like every piece of crumbling infrastructure is dedicated to someone's child's dream of serving their country.
I have no zinger here for this story. Only a question: is the lost life of even one American kid justifiable to pursue the hegemonic fantasies of old men?
Reinstate the draft. Put everybody's kid in harm's way.
it's always the old who lead us into War, always the young who fall”
                                                                                               ----Phil Ochs

Friday, August 17, 2012


I love you, Nedezhda
I love you, Yekaterina
I love you, Maria
You are magnificent
You are Pussy Riot
Vladimir Putin is just a pussy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012



I've been watching Mitt during his trips to the heartland. I notice that, in order to appear to be one of the “folks”, Mitt has taken to wearing blue jeans. He still wears the business shirt, but the sleeves are rolled up, dammit, and Mitt's ready to get in there and pitch right in with the hay baling or the barn raising or whatever it is that these people do.

The only problem is that Mitt just doesn't look comfortable in jeans. For one thing, they're too new, ain't been washed once, I betcha. Rather than a man of the people, Mitt looks just plain uneasy in his newish, bluish, purple denim trousers.

My wife actually owned two Cadillacs once. And having been around rich people, she assures me that Mitt is no doubt familiar with the feel of jeans and that he probably is in the habit of wearing them when he mows his lawn, changes the oil on his car, or fiddles with the outboard motor of his bass boat. He just wants to look nice and sharp for the voters, despite his humble beginnings.  And he has magic underwear and is very kind to his pets.

I'm sure she's right.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I'm not tough enough for this game
Not smart enough, not rich enough,
Not famous enough, not talented enough

I've been doing this for so long
for so little that sometimes
I wonder why I don't stop.

I'm not tough enough, smart enough,
rich enough, or talented enough
I'm just fool enough. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Panama Goes on a Diet


A few months back I got to looking in the mirror, something I do not do as much as the tone of these essays would imply. Anyway I noticed that I was, hopefully, getting fat. I say hopefully because either I was getting fat or my entire underlying abdominal muscular structure was giving way and my guts were getting ready to fall down around my knees. I got on the scale and got out my online chart and discovered that not only was I fat, I was borderline obese. Borderline. Obese.

I got in touch with my personal trainer, who was taking a nap in the bedroom.
Patty?” I whined manfully. “I'm borderline obese.”
Told ya,” she said supportively. “Time for a diet, Chubs.”

As it happens, she'd been in touch with our chiropractor and had been looking at a diet plan called Medifast. Here's their deal: they send you a big boxful of boxes and every three hours you choose one thing from one of the boxes and eat that. That one thing is sufficient to keep you going for another three hours, no matter which one you choose. Three hours later you choose another thing from the box. Most of the time the food is palatable, some of it downright tasty. But it ain't bad is my point.
And once a day you get to actually eat something. A real meal. We invariably have either broiled chicken and a salad, or baked salmon and a salad. We have these because these are what I can fix, and me cooking for both of us is part of my personal trainer's philosophy. “You need to be in closer touch with what you're eating,” she says. 

I did not go into this blindly. I researched it on the internet, and found some criticisms of the plan. One of these revealed that this is sort of a pyramid scheme, which it is. There was much chortling amongst the regulars on the forum. About how stupid a person would have to be to fall for this scam. There was a picture of the moderator of the forum. She looked like Shamu. I therefore gave the nod to my personal trainer and she signed us up.

So far I've lost quite a few pounds in two months. And it ain't torture. I'm not going to say how many pounds I've lost, because I hate that kind of stuff, but it's something on the order of two large cats.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Panama Encounters the Secret Service

Like many of my gullible fellow seniors I've recently become the victim of a Nigerian scam.
Okay, I knew that an email that asked me if I wanted to make a thousand dollars a month from my home in my spare time was too good to be true. Knowing this, I wrote back to Mr Duyt Mallow and told him that yes, I'd like to make a thousand dollars a month at home in my spare time. And sat back and waited for what would come next. I'm always up for a scam.

What came next was an in-depth interview that basically wanted to know my address and explained what my duties would be. My duties, it turned out, would not be very stressful. All I had to do was receive packages at my home and then put new labels on them. This, it was explained, was because “we are an English company and many of our goods are purchased there in the States, but we do not want our American customers to know that they actually came from America.” Well, this made sense to me. I often tell European audiences that I'm an American, and I find that this goes over well with them, despite being the truth.

I prepared myself for an onslaught of packages to be re-addressed and sent out. A few days later a Federal Express truck rolled up to my house and dropped off one, count 'em, one dinky little package.
Oddly, although the package had my address on it the addressee was someone named Redden. But I got my new label in an email from Mr Mallow and slapped it on the package and sent it to someplace in Valley Stream, NY. Prepaid via Federal Express. Meantime I'm copying every label and saving every email, because I know that somewhere down the line some investigative agency is going to want to know all the details.
This is the kind of thing old people do. We get bored. It passes the time. We're snoopy. We think we're Miss Marple or Matlock or somebody.

A couple of weeks later another package arrived. “Wow, this is easy work,” I said to myself. Got the label, sent it out to a different name, but also to the same building in Valley Stream, NY. I did break confidence and I slyly opened this one. It had shoes in it. Pretty expensive ones, too. But I resealed it and sent it on, prepaid Federal Express. My first month of employment was just about over and I was
wondering how my employers were going to approach the fact that I had done twenty minutes' work for one thousand dollars.

I must say that they were not prompt in getting my thousand dollars to me. But after two more weeks I got another letter from Mr Mallow, apologizing for not getting my payment to me, but the company had been in the throes of reorganization (he didn't say “throes of reorganization”, I'm just trying to keep this interesting), but things had settled out now and my payment would soon arrive, and my situation was being handled by Mr Bench, to whom I should write and communicate my readiness to receive my payment. .I wrote Mr Bench.

My letter from Mr Bench stated that the “authority” in the company had agreed to pay me and that my paycheck of one thousand dollars should be arriving any day now. Federal Express showed up again, this time with a FedEx envelope addressed to me. I opened the envelope. Inside was a cashier's check, not for one thousand dollars, but rather for thirty-eight hundred dollars. My lucky day.

I soon got another email from Mr Bench saying, oops, we sent the wrong amount, and I should go to my bank, deposit the check in my account, keep my thousand dollars and then send the balance to some guy in Charleston, SC, via Western Union. I could by this time imagine some crew in Nigeria laying their fingers up beside their noses a la “The Sting”.
I replied to Mr Bench that I was going to send his check back to the address it had come from, and please send me a check for the thousand dollars. He wrote back, “go ahead and cash it, it's okay.”

So I went over to FedEx. And asked Ashley, who works there, to Google the address the envelope had come from and see if it was a real address. So she did and it was. “They also have a phone number,” she said. “Do you want it, too?” I would have said “you betcha,” but Sarah Palin has ruined that phrase for me, so I was stuck with Yes. It was a place in Birmingham.

I dialed the number. The company was named Underground Wiring(not really) and the kid who answered was named Mike(really). He told me that the guy I was calling was gone for the day, but did I want to leave a message? “Yes, I do,” I said firmly. “Tell Bill that I'm sending back the letter he FedExed me.”

“Is this about a check?” Mike asked. Yes, I said. “Listen, the Secret Service has been in here all day talking to Bill, because somebody got our Fed Ex account info and has been using it like crazy lately, so if that's what this is about, you should get in touch with your local law enforcement people.”

“Okay,” I said.

I called the Secret Service office in Nashville. Apparently they are tasked with a lot more than just guarding the president and stiffing hookers in Cartagena. But it was Friday, and I got a message saying no one would be in until Monday and I should leave my number and the nature of my call. So I did.

I gotta say that even Mr Mallow and crew were more prompt when it came to getting in touch, because I didn't hear from Secret Service for a week. Or ever, actually, because I had to call them again. Which I did today.

I got through to the receptionist and she put me through to the “duty agent”.

Ring. Ring. “This is (unintelligible). How can I help you?”

“I'm sorry, what's your name again, please?”


“Could you spell that? I'm hard of hearing.”

“Who is this?”

“My name is Danny Finley. What's yours?”


“Okay, 'Dan', I'm calling because I've gotten involved with some scammers and I have a lot of information that I'd like to pass on to you. I think you'd be interested.”

“I don't think so. You see, there's nothing we can do once the money is out of the country. If you're supposed to send something to someone via Western Union, then anyone can go to any Western Union office anywhere and get the money.”
“Really? Don't you think you should maybe talk to Western Union about this?”

“Really. It doesn't work that way. It works the way I just said.”

“So you're not interested in these reams of information I've collected about these guys?”

“No. These are guys sitting in Nigeria or Ghana, and we can't touch them.”

“So I should just forget this whole magilla?”

“That'd be my advice, yeah.”

“Well, thanks for your time.”

“No problem”.

Well, it sounds like a BIGASS problem to me, but what do I know? I'm just a bored little old man in Rockvale Tennessee. Now I know how the Secret Service stays secret. They don't do anything unless the president is coming to town. Or they have a hot date in Cartagena.

It's "its".

It's “its”

You may think it's because I deeply care about your being able to write a cogent, coherent thought, and about your being able to express yourself more concisely, precisely, etc., because I love you. I don't. I do it because I can't stand to see the same crap jerk mistake made over and over and over.

Notice I didn't say “mistakes”, plural. I said “mistake”, singular.

So I'm not going to take you to task for “to, two, and too” today. Apparently no matter how many times you hear it, it will not sink in that these are words that sound alike, but do not mean the same thing. Instead I've decided that for a while at least I'll just drop my left shoulder like an offensive lineman and plow on through this garbage I constantly get from out there, they're and their.

Nope. Today we're going to go to town on “it's”. I see this poor orphan abused all the time even by people who have Letters After Their Names. I thought I'd clear this up for you, even those unfortunates with degrees.

It's “its”. Invariably. Unless you are making a contraction of “it is”, it's always “its”.

There is no “I before e, except after c(unless you're spelling 'weird')” rule here. Unless you're saying “it is”, it's always “its”.

There! You just earned your English Degree. Thank you for reading. I feel much better now.
Snacks, naps and playtime

Wednesday, July 25, 2012



I think I said a couple of days ago, only in a more charming and entertaining way, what everybody now concedes: giving more money, and it was a gift, to jerks who had just finished proving that they were incapable of handling such vast sums was a mistake. But it seems that there was nobody there who pointed this out. Or something.

What is it about a four-thousand-dollar suit that inspires confidence? Frankly, I'm always a little leary about a guy who paid more for what he's wearing today than I paid for my old Volvo.
Is it like the circular reasoning that says “Why is he the Prince?” “Because he lives in the Castle.”But why does he live in the Castle?” “Because he's the Prince.” So that we say, “Wow, this guy has a four-thousand-dollar suit. He must be smart to be so wealthy.”

Given that most of us would not think, wow, here's a 4000 dollar suit. We'd just know the guy was well turned-out. We wouldn't actually recognize 4000 dollar suits if they bit us on the ass. Which they do. Every day.

Now, me, I'm lucky and pretty well-off. And of course I mean in the sense that I almost always have pretty much all I need, own my house on which there is no “reverse mortgage”...what a brilliant idea some financial maven had with that one...sometimes I have to take my Telecaster to the pawn shop, but I always get it back. I've done this so often that the broker and I are on first-name terms. But I generally manage to avoid the traps and snares that come up.

I eat well enough that I occasionally have to encourage myself to eat a little differently, a little more shambala, in order to be more attractive, to myself anyway, and I'm not so poor that I am desperate for nourishment and gratification, for some hunger deep inside that has nothing to do with food, that I eat cheaply and become obese. The root cause of obesity, you'll notice if you're paying attention at all, is poverty.  Mostly financial, but some others, too.

But I'm not here to talk about socialism and class warfare. No. That's not true. Those are exactly the things I'm here to talk about. Most of this stuff I write is preaching to the choir anyway, but then who else would listen? So I think we're all all more or less socialists, excepting those couple of beloved and smart libertarians I keep occasional company with, sitting around this fire. I think I mean we're all sociologists.

So on to class warfare. Class warfare exists, and they're waging it. Unless we're talking about Class with a capital “C”. That kind of Class warfare doesn't exist because these guys, these captains of industry (oh, wait! We don't have Industry anymore), these Titans of Finance, then, haven't got Class. All they have is 4000 dollar suits and control of vast amounts of numbers, practically meaningless to them at the levels they talk about, but for most of us they mean food, clothing, shelter, that kind of stuff. Soon enough, though, it's gonna mean clean water.  Jump back.

So why didn't the Government just bail us, the little guys out? I mean the money, as Will Rogers supposedly once said, would be back in the hands of the big guys by nightfall anyway. We would have been happy, they would have been happy, the Government would have been heroes.

I know what's been trickling down on us. And it doesn't smell like money.

Monday, July 23, 2012



A few days back I sent out a bold-face all-caps forward about how the Congress has passed laws that benefit Congress but nobody else. Laws that have created special healthcare provisions for itself, special retirement funds, I don't need to go on and on; you've all received these things in your email. This thing was supposedly engendered by remarks made by Warren Buffett, though whether that's true or not is also irrelevant.

Basically, here's the problem, once again: The guys who “created” the country, these farmers, printers, surveyors, slave-holding plantation owners, all being heavily influenced by the Enlightenment, never had it dawn on them that in setting out the rules of government they were setting up what amounts to a Racket. A Yakuza. A Mafia.

They did not envision that they were creating a new class of employment, that of the career politician. So that by the time Andrew Jackson was clearing the area east of the Mississippi of pesky redskins, there were guys who had already served multiple terms in Congress, and had no plans to go back to their crummy little law practice in Paducah or wherever, and because Congress is the origin of all laws, no laws in regard to term limits ever got passed.

Except when FDR got so damn popular, then Congress got right to work on that term limits thing, because it only applies to the Presidency.

So, hero that I am, a few days back I said “I'll get back to you with how we can fix this situation” because I'm so damned smart and have the ability to read and own a computer, etc.

Here are the results of my research: WE'RE SCREWED.

We're screwed because the only way a Constitutional convention can be called(and this has never happened) is if the legislatures of three-quarters of the several States agree that we need to have one. Notice I didn't say the populations of three-quarters of the several States, but the Legislatures of three-quarters of the several States. So who occupies those seats in the Legislatures of the several States but career politicians, only they're career state politicians. Just like the same three guys who always run for road commissioner in your county are career politicians. Or at least that's what they're shooting for.

So read it and weep, friends and neighbors. Congress should pass just one more law, changing Emma Lazarus' “I lift my lamp beside the Golden Door” to “Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here”.

That's what I think.

Sunday, July 22, 2012



Because a few years back I was a tireless worker and contributor to Barack Obama's campaign, I guess, lately I've been receiving letters from Michelle suggesting that I send in five bucks so that I might, just possibly, there's an infinitesimally small chance to, perhaps be invited to have dinner with Barack and Michelle. Along with countless “real” donors, I suppose.
Don't get me wrong. This not going to be one of those letters where I complain about how disappointed I am in Mr. Obama's presidency. Although I am. A lot. Starting with when he didn't just leave the State of the Union podium and deck Joe Wilson from South Carolina for calling him a liar.
I think this would have sent a message to the Republicans that they've been needing to hear for some time, and that things would have gone much more smoothly legislation-wise, had that occurred. But that's just me.

Nope. This is not going to be one of those letters, although it almost turned into one in the paragraph above. This letter is about how I feel being asked to participate in a lottery, the prize of which is being invited to have my picture taken shaking Barack's hand and to have a meal at the same time he does, only about twenty tables away. “We'll even pay your airfare!” Michelle says.

I'd rather they use the airfare they've set aside for this pony show and use it to get re-elected. 
For that matter, I'd rather have a bass boat.  Obviously, they already know they've got my vote.
Whose chowder-headed Ivy League idea was this, anyway, Michelle? Have you and Barack gotten so out of touch with your base and with where you come from that you can't see what a slap in the face this offer is to me? You should have used that left hook on Joe Wilson. Hey, there may not be many left in the proletariat, but here's one over here. A very non-worshipful one. One of the public you rich people like to call “folks”. I mean, you're offering me a prize that I don't want, and I'd be ashamed of any Democrat who did want it.  Dinner with the President, indeed.

Like you won't forget my name by next day. “Who was that funny little man who won the Lottery, Darling? You know, the one from Tennessee? I'm sure somebody on the staff will send him the robo-signed photo of you shaking hands with him.”

Here's my five dollars. No, Thank You on the Dinner.

Friday, July 20, 2012


We once had a dog named Peter...we don't need to go into the derivation of the dog's name. It had something to do with his hygienic maintenance habits, okay?

Anyway, right after we got the dog, and he was a cute little dog, the road department came along and blacktopped the dirt road out in front of our house. Whereas before Peter was happy performing his ablutions just about any old where, as soon as that road got put in, and as soon as it was cool enough to touch, Peter began to hang out in the middle of the road, doing his thing.

Well, we tried. We said, “Pete, get out of the road. Somebody's gonna come around that curve and hit you and kill you. “ But no matter what we did, up to and including going out and picking him up and depositing him back in the yard, he'd still find a way to be back in the middle of the road, luxuriating in the sun and soaking up the warmth of the blacktop. His own private San Trop.

And of course it wasn't long until a car, a little pea-green Chevy coupe, did come around the curve and before Peter, being all self-involved and all, could leap up and escape he got knocked ass over teakettle over to the side of the road, where he lay still. We thought he was dead. We all went to bawling and crying and just carrying on something awful, saying “Aw, poor Peter. He was such a good dog. But he just wouldn't listen. Poor little guy.”

But miracles do happen, and after a little while Peter woke up. And we were joyous. The only thing was that after he had come fully to his senses and for some time later he walked with a limp. And of course, everybody who came to the house said stuff like, “Aw, poor little Petey. What a sweet little, good little dog,” and comments of that nature.

More time went by. He didn't go in the road any more. And after a while, Peter regained the normal use of his right hind leg that had been hurt, praise be, and for all intents and purposes you couldn't tell that anything had ever happened to the little guy. I mean, he would run and jump and chase the balls we threw, he could even jump rope! You never in your life saw such a little engine of happiness.

But when he was bad and got scolded for sucking eggs or doing any of the other things that country dogs are capable of, his ears would droop, he'd look up at you sadly and accusingly and whimper and walk away. Limping.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


Joystick”. Nobody knows quite where the term comes form, or if they do, they certainly aren't revealing it.

Not Google. Not Wiki.

Here's what Wikipedia says:
Joysticks originated as controls for aircraft ailerons and elevators, and is first known to have been used as such on Louis Bleriot's Bleriot VIII aircraft of 1908, in combination with a foot-operated rudder bar for the yaw control surface on the tail.

Then it goes on to say that the term may have originated with some gent named George Somethingorother, who referred to it as the “Georgestick”, and over time this became “joystick”.

I don't think so.

I speculate that given the advent of the airplane and therefore the joystick having occurred at the turn of the century, and the positioning of the joystick being between the pilot's legs, that the origin is quite obvious. Probably everybody at Wiki knows this, too, as you don't have to be an etiologist to figure it out.

So am I saying that in the early airplanes the term “joystick” was a not-so-oblique reference to the erect human penis? Yes. I am. You bet your sweet bippy I am.

I mean I can imagine Monsieur Bleriot discussing what to call the control mechanism for aircraft control. “I know!” says Monsieur Bleriot. “Let's call it a joystick.” Except he says it in French. And he chortles endlessly. Also in French.

That's what I think.

Monday, July 9, 2012


My sister pretty much relies on me to chase down internet rumors for her.  Usually I go to Snopes, like most everybody else.  Pretty easy work and I'm happy to be of service, since I owe her so much in payment for the love she has lavished on me over the years in complete contravention of what I deserve.
In my family, we are all Democrats, Obama fans all., excepting one incredibly dense niece and a brother who seems to be just plain hateful.
So today, she got one of these screeds, generated either by a rabid, slavering well-meaning but ignorant right-winger or by a toadie or perhaps even a paid operative of the likes of Karl Rove or the Koch brothers, to wit that by 2014, after a not-so gradual per-year increase in the monthly cost, we're going to be paying $247.00 for our Medicare.  Currently we seniors pay a little less than $100 a month for Medicare.  Although I go to VA for my medical care, I prefer to keep my Medicare active for a couple of reasons, one being that I believe in contributing my portion to my fellow seniors' fund for altruistic reasons, and the other being that if I ever need the Mayo Clinic or Sloan-Kettering, I want to be able to go in and drop my Medicare card on the desk and get admitted, diagnosed, sliced and diced, radiated, packaged and frozen, or whatever.
So I was a little disturbed to learn that Obama, whom I'd always thought to be a man of the people in public anyway, could possibly be running this horrendous scam on us unsuspecting seniors.

Go here:

So of course this email my sis got is obvious horseshit.    I do not know where these rumors come from,  whether somebody mis-hears what they thought they heard on Fox News, or whether they are the result of vicious and total LIES by The Enemy, who hate America so much that they don't care what the Supreme Court says when it says something they don't like.  I give you Rand Paul.

I suspect, since most of the hateful, bigoted, and just plain wrong emails that come from the ignorati out there tend to be not speld very gud or  writ very gud either and this email was written by somebody who has none of those faults, that is a plant written and shotgunned out there back in January by someone who got paid or expects to get paid for doing it when their mendacious seed comes to fruition in November.  Good luck on that one, butthole.
Vote Democratic.  We may not fight as dirty and therefore be as effective as our opponents, but is Honor and Sense of Fairness a bad thing?

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Lately I've been ending my letters with the word Snacks instead of Thanks. Why?, you may or may not wonder.
I got tired of writing Thanks. Apparently I'm a needy little person, and I write emails asking folks for stuff: do this for me, do that for me, please help me to...the list is practically endless.

And then people write me back and say “Okay”, or “Sorry, I can't do it”, and I have to acknowledge that they at least understood my message, or that they got it anyway.
But “Thanks” has lost its power, at least with me.  Doesn't express the gratitude I feel toward folks who grant me a little part of their attention.
The other day the little woman and I were waiting for a seemingly interminable length of time at some Bureaucracy. And we couldn't see what was going on, as the door was closed, and Patty says, well, it's about 11 a.m., so they're probably having cookies and milk and now they're gonna unroll their little towels and lie down on the floor for naptime. So that should only take another fifteen minutes.
Something about that image appealed to me: the idea of harassed government workers having a scheduled little break, just like in daycare.  So they wouldn't get cranky. A good idea, I thought, reminding myself to always have a towel with me in case I need to lie down somewhere.
So then I decided to end my letters more pleasantly, and the daycare image having taken hold, I choose now to end my letters more sweetly . More childlike. A word that is more warm and friendly, more evocative of the gratitude I feel toward those who have written me back, a word that in and of itself suggests the goodness of childhood.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

 FED up.

Why do we have a system where the Fed lends money to the Banks so that the Banks can buy Government Bonds, which the Government then has to repay at interest?
Why doesn't the Fed lend money to the Government, charging the same interest rate that it now charges the Banks? Then the Government can pay the Fed back, and the deficit will drop by trillions.
Where does the money go? Where does the money come from? Whose money is it anyway, when you get down to it? Why is the Government lending money to the Banks so that the Government can borrow money from the Banks?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Un Hommage A Charles Trenet

"...better than spam..."
- a satisfied reader


I have been in love with  "La Mer", possibly the most recognizable French tune (with the

exception of "La Marseillaise"), for most of my life.

It was written by Charles Trenet, un chanteur extraordinairre.  And though Bobby
Darin recorded the melody, his "Beyond the Sea", while wonderful in its production and
orchestal arrangement, bears little resemblance to the lyrics of Monsieur Trenet.

To a non-French-speaking American, a category into which I definitely fall, the
words are very French-sounding.  Not knowing the words in French, it had
occurred to me to write my own version in that language, using the words and phrases
I  already know,  or those I remember from Mrs Lemaster's French class in eighth
grade, during those times when I was also taking French lessons from Candy Jordan.
With any luck, Candy's an old granny by now, and Mrs Lemaster has gone to that
big French class in the sky. But the rules of writing this faux-French song would be
that the song itself did not have to make sense, only that the words must sound very
French and be those that an American would recognize, without necessarily knowing 

what they mean.  This would prove to be more difficult than it sounds.

I have some Francophone American and English friends in Paris, and this song
will most assuredly seem stupid, or perhaps merely sophomoric, to them.
This is not my problem.   They can deal with their tragic supercilious smugness on
their own blogs.

Here are my words to "La Mer", with apologies to Monsieur Trenet, Mrs Lemaster,
 50 or 60 million Frenchmen, and especially Candy.  Never was a girl so aptly named...:

Music by Charles Trenet
French lyrics for les Americaines  by
Panama Red

La mer
Arrondissement, et chien,
cherchez la femme
Mangeons gateau dans le bateau
Mais je ne connais
Ou est ma tante

Donnez mon chat, ma cher,
et mon chapeau
La concierge dits "quel beau cadeau!"
Je m'appelle Pierre, et c'est mon table

Cet vin
est chardonnay ne pas 

vin ordinairre
pardonnez-moi, la vache qui rit
defense de fumer avec ton oncle

Gendarmerie, toute suite Merci beaucoup
Comment allez-vous?  Eh, bien, et tu?
Et ta maquillage
Est sur la table


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Panama and the Live Sex Show

P A N A M A  A N D  T H E  L I V E  S E X  S H O W
The Dutch do business slowly.
We're sitting in the office, or we're sitting in the studio all day. Martin orders in. Because of her ties with Surinam, Surinamese food is a big part of the Dutch cuisine. Lots of curry and spices. I would kill for yankee pot roast. But I get through it with my tongue and palate barely intact. We go to a bar/coffeehouse called Free City. Winner of the coveted (yeah, right) High Times Cannabis Cup for 1991. The barmaid is an ex-girlfriend of Martin's, as many here seem to be.
We talk about a couple things: how long til the US goes to hell in a handbasket. Shipbuilders coat their vessels with a paint to render them free of algae and barnacles, only trouble is, the stuff is leaching out into the ocean, killing coral and salmon. There is a big salmon/PCB scare on here. Back in Seattle we're running out of salmon.
The bar we're sitting in, in addition to having the coveted(yeah, right)High Times Cannabis Cup also has a window corner where there is a floor-to-ceiling cage of lorikeets...little parrot-looking birds anyway...little Jimmy Buffett birds...All green with red heads except one little fella who is blue with a kinda buff-colored head.
The other day, on my accidental ramble to the outskirts of town, I noticed a lot more birds than I see in the Centrum where I live, for which I was grateful, having read Silent Spring. Anyway, though, some of these birds were obviously feral parakeets or something. Not your typical native North Sea avian.
Used to see whole flocks of parrots flying over Coconut Grove in Miami...escapees from Parrot Jungle who'd gotten together and formed a gang. I mean big ole macaw mothers. Twenty and thirty and forty at a time. Go flyin over the Grove squawkin an shit. If they'd taught them to curse like sailors before they escaped it would have been perfect.
Back to the bar, where I am watching the lorikeets. The little fella with the blue and buff color combo has struck up a conversation with one of the red and greens.
Pretty soon, he's trying to mount her.
I say Hey Martin, these birds are having sex. Soon the whole bar is standing in front of the cage watching the more intimate aspects of lorikeet life. Imagine. Here you got the Dutch, noted for their blase I've-seen-it-all attitude, I mean drug education here means they teach the kids how to roll a good joint, and here's fifteen jades all standing like schoolchildren around this lorikeet cage like it was a National Geographic special.
This quickly deteriorates into shouts of encouragement, some worldly kibitzing to the young male as to technique, various oh-babybaby overdubs, and bets as to when this consummation will be, well, consummated. I gotta say this is a frisky and vocal little couple here, but soon this live sex show is over and the drinkers drift back to the bar. We have more sometimes desultory and sometimes animated conversation. And then it's time to go to the Monday night jam at MaloeMelo. I gather up my things and just as I'm leaving take a last look at the birds.
He's bringing straw. She's making a nest. Perfect.