Thursday, December 31, 2009

Eric Margolis on the U.S. State

Margolis makes the following points:

1. A 23-year-old Nigerian's attempt to bring down a Northwest-Delta flight to Detroit will not be the last such terrorist act. "US military forces are currently engaged in combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, West Africa, the Philippines and, likely, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Blowback is inevitable." As airline travel becomes more onerous, more people will decide to drive or avoid travel altogether. "Bad news for the suffering airline industry." Does this mean upcoming airline bailouts or airline nationalization?

2. With more debt seen as the solution to the massive debt (funded by cheap credit) that got us into the financial meltdown of 2008, a healthy economy is out of reach. "Taxpayer money went to rescue Wall Street nabobs ordering $350 bottles of wine while people on main street America could not pay their medical bills."

3. "Those who hoped the US would change course under Obama to play a positive, cooperative, non-imperial role in world affairs were profoundly dismayed.

"We see continued occupation of Iraq, the expanded, trillion-dollar war in Afghanistan, military operations in Africa and now Yemen. The White House stonewalling on releasing torture documents, failure to prosecute the Bush era’s torturers and kidnappers, refusal to end domestic surveillance and continued violations of the Geneva Convention."

4. The government continues to blockade communist Cuba, yet it allows trade with communist Vietnam.

5. "Military spending has risen from US $667 billion under Bush to $734 billion under Nobel Peace Prize laureate Obama. Add an astounding $49.8 billion more for intelligence."

6. "The US is bankrupt and living on credit from China. But Washington’s national security juggernaut keeps rolling on, finding new enemies around every sand dune."

7. "Afghanistan, graveyard of empires, may also become the graveyard of Obama’s presidency."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Laugh at the state

According to Richard Stengel of Time Magazine the White House gatecrashers are evil because they get people laughing at the king. Sorry, but that's why they're good.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Yogurt pancake recipe

(Freedom fighters need to eat, too.)

Yogurt Pancakes or Waffles
Serves 4-6 people

3 eggs beaten
3/4 cup yogurt (plain or flavored – I use vanilla)
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsp melted butter (half a stick)

Mix all together with a whisk or beater. Lumps are OK. Let batter sit for 5-10 minutes before cooking. Use 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Pancakes will be about 4 inches in diameter. You can add nuts or fruit once they are on the grill, but I’ve found they fly off when you flip the pancakes. Make sure your griddle is hot enough. When you flip the pancakes they should be an even, dark brown.

For waffles, pour the batter in an X pattern across the griddle. Use two 1/4 scoops of batter for each leg of the X. This will make 4 waffles.

Serve pancakes or waffles with melted butter and warm syrup. You might also try topping them with vanilla yogurt (or whatever flavor you prefer) and fresh blueberries.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Our Thanksgiving

We had a nice Thanksgiving, and I hope you did too. Here's a brief video of some of the chatter that took place at meal time.

Thanksgiving humility

The free market, to the extent it is allowed to exist, provides us with incalculable benefits through the international division of labor. In this land of plenty, people aren't as thankful as they once were. Why? Austrian economists explain it with the principle of marginal utility. As Gary North writes,
People look at the value of what they have just received as income, and they are less impressed than they were with the previous unit of income. They focus on the immediate – "What have you done for me lately?" – rather than the aggregate level of their existing capital. They conclude, "What’s past is past; what matters most is whatever comes next." . . .

There is a major problem in thinking this way. It is the problem of saying "thank you." . . .

The problem is, we look to the present, not to the past. We look at the marginal unit – the unit of economic decision-making – and not at the aggregate that we have accumulated. We assume that whatever we already possess is well-deserved – merited, we might say – and then we focus our attention on that next, hoped-for "util" of income.

As economic actors, we should recognize that the reason why we are allocating our latest unit of income to a satisfaction that is lower on our value scale is because we already possess so much. We are awash in wealth. We are the beneficiaries of a social order based on private ownership and free exchange, a social order that has made middle-class people rich beyond the wildest dreams of kings a century and a half ago. Or, as P. J. O’Rourke has observed, "When you think of the good old days, think one word: dentistry."

Monday, November 23, 2009

ClimateGate

Scientists cheating to promote a political agenda? With governments drooling for more power and in line to expand exponentially if the global warming zealots get their way, it's easy to understand why we see data tampering, denial, and cover-up.
As the contents of a hacked climate change unit’s server in Britain were exposed on the Internet Friday, the event had some of the scientists involved scrambling to explain their emails and skeptics believing they had found a smoking gun. On the surface, the emails seem to indicate scientists modified data to fit the anthropogenic global warming theory, tried to silence dissenting opinions and reflect a concerted effort to restrict access to climate data possibly by deleting it.

The emails and documents were illegally obtained from a server at Britain’s Climate Research Unit, University of East Anglia and then posted to a Russian server. From there, the file and its contents spread like wildfire across the Internet. Inside are over 1,000 emails and dozens of documents that detail private correspondence among some of the world’s top climate scientists.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The endless reach of the state

Writes Michael Rozeff:
Capital flight is a significant method of eluding the reach of the state and its oppressive regulations and taxes. Money can go anywhere on earth. The U.S. and other states want to close down this escape hatch. If one or a few states that operate tax havens or respect financial privacy do not cooperate, then the U.S. and other states look for ways to break them down.
They've done this to Switzerland and are doing it to all other states where wealth attempts to hide. The rationale is, some people - the very rich - are evading taxes, and this isn't fair. But unless you believe in double standards, cheating a thief is perfectly ethical. The assault on tax havens means less capital will be available for investment worldwide as money literally goes underground. As Rozeff notes, this "is a victory for proto–world government."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

IRS calls on Robert Kahre

Murray Rothbard described government as a criminal gang writ large. Here's one example of it.

For a background briefing on the Robert Kahre case, go here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Man builds stair-climbing wheelchair

Li Rongbiao, 67, and his wife Wang Huifang, 65, live in a fifth floor apartment in Beijing. His wife broke her leg, and it used to take them a half-hour to get from their apartment to the ground floor. Li decided to sell his apartment for £44,000 to spend his time working on an electric wheelchair that could go up and down stairs. After a year's work, he now has a foldable wheelchair that can climb nearly 3,000 steps - the equivalent of 50 floors -- on one charge. Read the story.

When government was a lot smaller, Americans used to invent things like this. Now, our most innovative products are new ways to go into debt while shifting the liability to others.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blood and Gore, Cap and Trade

The title refers to David Blood, a former Goldman-Sachs exec, and Al Gore, global warming alarmist, Nobel Peace price recipient, and former government employee. According to Paul Mulshine, Blood and Gore are set to make big bucks if the Senate passes the current cap and trade bill.
the British Broadcasting Corp. created quite a stir with an article headlined "What Happened to Global Warming?" In it, BBC climate correspondent Paul Hudson gave a summary of the problems facing the alarmists: "For the last 11 years, we have not observed any increase in global temperatures. And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise."

Hudson went on to cite numerous scientists skeptical of the theory of anthropogenic global warming. But perhaps the most damning observation came from a scientist who supports the theory. Mojib Latif is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the group that set the panic off with its 1996 report on global warming. According to Hudson, Latif concedes "that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years."

Hmmm. Ten to 20 years is what I would call "the near future." Didn’t a certain former vice president of the United States win a Nobel Prize by pushing a movie that told us that the melting of the polar ice would cause sea levels to rise by up to 20 feet "in the near future?"

Perhaps Al Gore was talking about a different future, one in which he gets rich off the panic he helped create. If the Senate passes that cap-and-trade bill that’s now before it, Gore stands to make a fortune through his stake in the investment firm he set up with former Goldman-Sachs exec David Blood to deal in carbon credits.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pelosi's finest hour is our nightmare

The health care bill that Pelosi and company approved yesterday is estimated to cost $1 trillion over the next decade. The actual costs, of course, will be far higher, assuming the country is still around in 10 years. The bill passed 220-215. One Republican, John Cao of Louisiana, backed the plan, while 39 Democrats opposed it. According to Bloomberg,
Lawmakers hailed the step as a historic follow-on to the 1965 creation of the Medicare program for the elderly and disabled. They said the bill would cover 36 million uninsured Americans and curb costs. New rules would prevent insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions, and seniors would get help obtaining preventive care and medicine.
And I promise you, it will work as well as every other government program.

There is still some hope. The in-fighting in Congress could conceivably kill any kind of health care legislation.
The spotlight now moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid is struggling to get the votes to even begin debate on his version. Once the Senate passes a bill, lawmakers from each chamber would work together on a compromise for a new round of votes, a process likely to take months.

Reid last week wouldn’t commit to meeting Obama’s goal of signing a health-care bill into law by the end of the year. Already, it has been almost four months since four of the five congressional committees assigned to work on health care passed their versions of bills.

And House leaders can’t be sure of retaining all the votes they won last night. The bill passed over the objections of Democrats who favor abortion rights after an amendment put restrictions on the use of federal funds for the procedure for people using new insurance purchasing exchanges. Some Democrats said they wouldn’t back final legislation with the provision.
Then there's always secession or nullification. On nullification, Wikipedia says:
Nullification is a legal theory that a U.S. State has the right to nullify, or invalidate, any federal law which that state has deemed unconstitutional. . . .

One of the earliest and most famous examples is to be found in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions, a protest against the Alien and Sedition Acts. In these resolutions, authors Thomas Jefferson and James Madison argued that the states are the ultimate interpreters of the Constitution and can "interpose" to protect state citizens from the operation of unconstitutional national laws.
Is the provision of health care a constitutionally-assigned task to the government? No, it isn't; therefore, the states could nullify any bill passed on those grounds. Trying to slip it in on the back of the General Welfare clause makes a mockery of the idea of limited government (which in truth doesn't work, but that's another issue) and the Constitution itself.

Secession is appealing, but I think most people would find it hard to break ranks with the country they've grown up with. They would need something better, and since most people don't accept the libertarian philosophy of nonaggression in government, their idea of "better" would be loaded with problems, if they had any ideas at all.

But what about health care reform? If government shouldn't attempt it, who should? Here is an answer that deserves close attention.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dumb and getting dumber

Professor of Economics Walter Williams writes:
the longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce." That's a sobering thought. The longer kids are in school and the more money we spend on them, the further behind they get.
His solution? Unrestricted competition.
Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn't be surprised by the results. It's a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

Millions continue to starve in East Africa

The most popular villains said to be causing the pitiful conditions of these poor people are said to be either an insufficient amount of foreign aid or climate change. Julian Morris, Executive Director of International Policy Network, has a more radical theory. In a word, government. In his words, " it was and is the result of policies in the affected countries that inhibit freedom and incentives to trade, own land, and invest in diverse, prosperity-enhancing economic activities."

Subsistence farming dominated life before about 1800.
first in England and soon in many other parts of the world, people began to rise above subsistence. They specialized more narrowly than before in the production of certain goods and they traded with others who also specialized. This led to increased output, as specialists were able to produce more than generalists. Competition in the supply of goods drove innovation, which led to further increases in output. Agricultural production rose dramatically and famine declined. . . .

Since the 1920s, global deaths from drought-related famines have fallen by 99.9%. The reason? Continued specialization and trade, which has skyrocketed the amount of food produced per capita, and has enabled people in drought-prone regions to diversify and become less vulnerable.

In places where trade is restricted, people are forced to remain subsistence farmers. So, when drought occurs, the majority suffer and many die.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pelosi's Magnum Opus

David Harsanyi, a columnist for the Denver Post and author of Nanny State, refers to Pelosi's Health Care Package appropriately as Masterfleece Theater. It provides Americans with over 1,900 pages of lawyer-speak.
So curl up by a fire with a fifth of whiskey, and just dive in.

But drink quickly. In the new world, your insurance choices will be tethered to decisions made by people with Orwellian titles (1984 is only 268 pages!), such as the "Health Choices Commissioner" and "Inspector General for the Health Choices Administration."

You will, of course, need to be plastered to buy Pelosi's fantastical proposition that 450,000 words of new regulations, rules, mandates, penalties, price controls, taxes, and bureaucracy would have the transformative power to "provide affordable, quality health care for all Americans and reduce the growth in health care spending."

It's going to take some time to deconstruct this lengthy masterpiece, but as you flip through the pages of the House bill, you will notice the word "regulation" appears 181 times. "Tax" is there 214 times. "Fees," 103 times. As we all know, nothing says "affordability" like higher taxes and fees.

Ron Paul on Afghanistan, H1N1, Iran, and other issues

As interviewed on Russia Today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Migrating to a new Mac from an old one

Here are two problems I ran into that weren't resolved with Migration Assistant. Both solutions worked. I had my old G4 iMac on the same network as my new Mac laptop so I could access files as I needed them.

1. When running iMovie for the first time, I noticed it had no music resources, even though iTunes was running okay. Why couldn't iMovie access iTunes and get the list of songs? After a web search I found this item from Apple support:

Under some circumstances, you may not see the iTunes Library in other iLife applications (iMovie, iPhoto, and iDVD).

Products Affected
iMovie, iPhoto, iDVD, iTunes

Symptom
  • When selecting audio for a slideshow in iPhoto, the option to choose music from iTunes is not available. The pop-up menu says "iTunes not found".
  • When selecting audio in iMovie, the option to choose music from iTunes is not available. The pop-up menu says "iTunes not found".
  • When you click the Audio button in iDVD the message "Launch iTunes or later to populate this list" appears.
Solution
  1. Run Software Update to make sure QuickTime, Mac OS X and your iLife applications to up to date.
  2. Make sure that iTunes has been opened at least once.
  3. The iTunes Music Library.xml file may be unusable. Try recreating the XML file used to populate the music listing. Follow these steps:
  4. Quit iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and iTunes.
  5. Click the Finder icon in the Dock.
  6. Choose Go > Go to Folder
  7. Depending where your iTunes Music Library is, enter ~/Documents/iTunes or ~/Music/iTunes and click Go.
  8. Locate the "iTunes Music Library.xml" file and drag it to the Desktop.
  9. Open iTunes.
  10. Create a new playlist by choosing File > New Playlist.
  11. Quit iTunes.
2. When running iWeb the first time I couldn't access my existing website. Again, a Google search uncovered the following discussion from Apple:

If you still have your old Mac, the file is here:

~/Library/Application Support/iWeb/

Where ~ is your Home Directory.

Move the file to the same location on your new Mac.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How the state ruins health care

Thomas DiLorenzo has a helpful article on Mises.org this weekend, American Healthcare Fascialism. ("Fascialism is a term he invented to reflect the combination of economic fascism and socialism on a given social phenomenon.) The healthcare industry today is the result of a century of socialist and fascist interventions, yet most people consider it a free market entity suffering from inadequate government intervention.

At the beginning of the 20th century, 90 percent of all hospitals were private, for-profit organizations. Then states and local governments began intervening in the hospital industry, so that by the 1990s only about 10 percent of hospitals were private, and even most of those received subsidies of some kind. With the subsidies come "reams of regulation, making them fascist by definition."

Milton Friedman published an essay on the hospital industry called "Input and Output in Medical Care" (Hoover Institution, 1992), in which he shows that government takeover of the hospital industry is a case study in the economics of bureaucracy: "According to Friedman, as governments took over an ever-larger share of the hospital industry (being exempt from antitrust laws), hospital personnel per occupied hospital bed quintupled, as cost per bed rose tenfold."

The healthcare industry follows a simple rule: Healthcare socialism has failed; therefore, we need more healthcare socialism.

After discussing the failures and corruption of Medicare, Medicaid, the AMA, and the FDA, along with so-called "certificate of need" (CON) regulation, in which area hospitals have the power to decide whether there is a need for more hospitals, DiLorenzo concludes:
The only sensible approach to healthcare "reform" would be massive privatization of America's socialized hospitals, combined with deregulation of the medical professions to introduce more competition, and deregulation of the health-insurance industry. Free-market competition would produce medical "miracles" the likes of which have never been seen, while dramatically lowering the cost of healthcare, just as it has done in every other industry where it is allowed to exist to any large degree.

This is not likely to happen in the United States, which at the moment seems hell-bent on descending into the abyss of socialism. Once some states begin seceding from the new American fascialistic state, however, there will be opportunities to restore healthcare freedom within them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

US Joins Ranks of Failed States

From the article, by Paul Craig Roberts:
According to reports, the US Marines in Afghanistan use 800,000 gallons of gasoline per day. At $400 per gallon, that comes to a $320,000,000 daily fuel bill for the Marines alone. Only a country totally out of control would squander resources in this way.

While the US government squanders $400 per gallon of gasoline in order to kill women and children in Afghanistan, many millions of Americans have lost their jobs and their homes and are experiencing the kind of misery that is the daily life of poor third-world peoples. Americans are living in their cars and in public parks. America’s cities, towns, and states are suffering from the costs of economic dislocations and the reduction in tax revenues from the economy’s decline. Yet, Obama has sent more troops to Afghanistan, a country half way around the world that is not a threat to America. . . .

In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the USA. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Infectious Lies by Robert Klassen

Robert Klassen writes:

I define a bureaucrat as a person who makes decisions affecting other people, but who has no personal stake in the outcome.

Some bureaucrat has decided that squirting an active virus up a child’s nose is a vaccination. That child will be infected, and will shed the active virus for several days everywhere the child goes. This guarantees the spread of the virus. We are told that this is a good idea. That is a lie.

Bureaucrats are in the habit of lying. Why not? They have job security, and they can’t lose.

Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The high cost of a long life

Wise people save for old age. But who can put aside enough money to save for a time when one's infirmity requires 24/7 caregiving?

My mother has lived a frugal life. She's now 94 and seldom gets out of a chair. When she does, it is with assistance and requires great effort on her part. She cannot safely walk without a walker. She needs someone to cook meals for her and help her to the bathroom. Others shop for her and clean the house.

She has had a physically active life, but she didn't jog or play tennis or do exercises, which she considers "for the birds." Mostly she spent her time doing housework and some occasional dancing. As she aged arthritis set in and it became painful to move. She suffered a possible stroke recently and spent three weeks in a rehab facility undergoing physical therapy, which she found very difficult. Though staffed by friendly people, the rehab facility itself was a depressing sight, at least it was on the floor where she lived. When I would pay her a visit I unfailingly saw old and shriveled people sitting idly in wheelchairs, scarcely giving evidence of life.

She's home now and feels better about that, but there is the matter of paying her caregivers. Nurses visits are covered by insurance, but not caregiving services. The agencies that provide around-the-clock caregiving usually charge $20 - $25 an hour. At $20/hour, that works out to $14,400 for a 30-day month (30 days x 24 hours x $20). Add to that the usual monthly bills, and you could find everything you've saved evaporating quickly.

My mom had a roommate while she was in the rehab facility. Let's call her Karen. Karen was about 10 years younger than my mom, I would guess, and far stronger. She had no trouble handling a knife and fork and could move with a walker at amazing speed. Her mind was fully intact. I wondered at times what she was doing there, given her level of health.

One day Karen's granddaughter paid her a visit. I was in the room visiting my mom at the time and overheard parts of the conversation. The granddaughter was despairing over how she could afford to keep Karen in the rehab facility. Karen had just lost her second appeal to Medicare for more money. Karen's other insurance was gone, and no family member could afford to keep her. In short, Karen had no other place to go, and she could no longer afford to stay at the nursing home.

I then went away for two weeks, and during that time I called my mom several times and Karen would usually answer the phone first. Somehow, I thought, the money had been found to keep her there.

When I returned and paid a visit to my mom, I noticed Karen's bed was stripped to the mattress. Had she finally been released? No, my mom said, she contracted pneumonia, and they took her to the hospital.

The next day I learned Karen had died.

I was stunned. At no time did Karen exhibit symptoms of illness, particularly a respiratory infection. She didn't cough, sneeze, wheeze, or sound congested. With her walker she could and did move about with ease. Can pneumonia set in quickly and kill a person virtually overnight? Apparently, it did. From Wikipedia:
Up to 5% of patients admitted to a hospital for other causes subsequently develop pneumonia. Hospitalized patients may have many risk factors for pneumonia, including mechanical ventilation, prolonged malnutrition, underlying heart and lung diseases, decreased amounts of stomach acid, and immune disturbances. Additionally, the microorganisms a person is exposed to in a hospital are often different from those at home . Hospital-acquired microorganisms may include resistant bacteria such as MRSA, Pseudomonas, Enterobacter, and Serratia. Because individuals with hospital-acquired pneumonia usually have underlying illnesses and are exposed to more dangerous bacteria, it tends to be more deadly than community-acquired pneumonia.
Curiously, the pneumonia also ended Karen's financial problems.

Higgs on partisan politics

The essence of politics, according to Robert Higgs:
. . . it’s all a fraud, designed to distract people from the overriding reality of political life, which is that the state and its principal supporters are constantly screwing the rest of us, regardless of which party happens to control the presidency and the Congress. Amid all the partisan sound and fury, hardly anybody notices that political reality boils down to two “parties”: (1) those who, in one way or another, use state power to bully and live at the expense of others; and (2) those unfortunate others.
I am in full agreement.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The missing Nobel prize

From a Tom DiLorenzo post on the Lew Rockwell blog:
So Obama joins Woodrow Wilson in the pantheon of American presidents who have won the Nobel Peace Prize (Wilson won it in 1919). I learned this morning that nominations for the prize had to be in by Feb. 20, about one month after Obama was inaugurated. That means that the prize went for his rhetoric during the campaign, not anything he could have actually accomplished. As I recall, his two most memorable foreign policy pronouncements during the campaign were 1) advocating that the U.S. bomb Pakistan; and 2) escalating the war in Afghanistan. He did order the murder of some people in Pakistan by bombardment shortly after taking office. I’m still surprised, though, that he won the prize after killing so few people. Usually, one must be a major league murderer like a Wilson or a Teddy Roosevelt to win such a prize.
Who would be the recipient of a Nobel prize if the committee decided to award one for the best warmongering? Might Obama walk away with both awards? Perhaps American presidents would be excluded from the category of warmongering since it is part of their job as the world's cop. The path to world peace is perpetual war.

Incidentally, Adolf Hitler was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1939, but the nomination was shortly withdrawn. Too bad for Hitler's Nobel credits that his aggression couldn't be packaged more diplomatically.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A possible TIA

I recently drove 800 miles to Doylestown, PA to see if my 94-year-old mother would prefer living in the South with me and my family. As it turned out, there really wasn't a choice available. She's undergoing therapy -- reluctantly -- for a possible TIA suffered on September 16. (A TIA, I learned, is an acronym for a minor stroke.) My daughter Katie happened to arrive that day to spend a few days with her and ended up staying nearly two weeks to keep her spirits up while she recovers in a rehab facility. Katie plans to move up there in the next week or so to help her grandma out around the house - when she returns home again. She spends 99 percent of her day in bed, barely moving. Her mind is intact, thank goodness, but recovery is coming slowly.

Here's some video I took September 28, before Katie and I began the long drive back home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Turning a speed camera on itself

This:
. . . [F]our youths from Canberra [Australia] recently pulled off a trick of breathtaking bravado to gain revenge on a mobile speed-camera van operating in the area. Three of the group approached the van and distracted the operator by asking a series of questions about how the equipment worked and how many cars the operator would catch in a day. Meanwhile, the fourth musketeer sneaked to the front of the van and unscrewed its number plate. "After bidding the van operator goodbye, the friends returned home, fixed the number plate to the car, and drove through the camera's radar at high speed -- 17 times. As a result, the automated billing system issued 17 speeding tickets to itself.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

"You lie!" many times

Jim Davies provides an excellent analysis of the Joe Wilson transgression. Writing at Strike the Root, Davies points out that in Britain, politicians are expected to use euphemisms instead of direct speech when the words in question happen to be forbidden.
Churchill, early in his career, wanted to call someone a liar but settled on the substitute phrase "terminological inexactitude" so as to bypass the prohibition . . .
Things are done differently over here, usually.
Is there catcalling across the aisle? Are there rude interruptions? Groaning, hissing and booing? As often as not a speaker speaks only to the C- SPAN camera, all his colleagues having found better uses for their time than to listen. What a shocker, therefore, when Joe Wilson (R, South Carolina ) interrupted the Prez last week in full flow and shouted, "You lie!"
Here is what President Obama was saying prior to being accused of lying:
"There are also those who claim that our reform efforts would insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false. The reforms I'm proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally."
Davies then proceeds to show that the preceding three sentences are loaded with lies. For example, Obama refers to his proposals as a "reform." But reform implies improvement. Is there any evidence that government has ever improved health care with its interventions?
Again and again government has intervened in the industry, to mandate this and prohibit that, each such intervention boosting the price spiral every time; as I wrote here recently, the very notion of making health care appear cheaper than it is causes demand, and therefore total cost, to rise. So government participation has been an unrelieved disaster, and Obama is proposing more of it; therefore, without a shadow of doubt, his proposals or any variant on them are the very opposite of "reform" and he was lying absolutely, and Joe Wilson was right.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Where's the evidence?

We're told a big jet smashed into the Pentagon on 9-11. If it did, why is the evidence so shoddy?


video

Collapse of WTC 7 not open to question?

Justin Raimondo, in the article cited in my previous post, asserts:
. . . anyone who questions the official story – the narrative of 19 Arab dudes going on what would seem to be a rather quixotic jihad, haphazardly making their way through a strange foreign country on their own, all the while readying themselves for The Day That Changed History – is denounced as a "conspiracy theorist," a crackpot, and worse.

Of course, some of the people who challenge the official story are, indeed, crackpots: they think some kind of "controlled demolition" took place inside the World Trade Center, and that no plane hit the Pentagon.
Does he include WTC 7 in his assessment of those who think "some kind of 'controlled demolition' took place inside the World Trade Center?" If the following video is characteristic of "crackpot" analysis then I would appreciate someone setting me straight. It raises questions. What are the answers?


video

Why Obama's Green Czar was canned

Justin Raimondo writes:
President Obama’s "green czar," one Van Jones, was recently pressured into resigning. His crime? He had once signed a letter originating with one of the "9/11 Truth" organizations calling for a new investigation of the terrorist attacks. No, he hadn’t declared that 9/11 was an "inside job," as some of the more flamboyant "truthers" assert: indeed, he hadn’t challenged any one specific aspect of the official story. All he had asked for was a new investigation – and once this got out (thanks to Fox News nut-job Glenn Beck), he was shown the door.

This is the way our society deals with uncomfortable questions about "official" explanations for the inexplicable – by purging all dissenters, and even anybody who asks a question without necessarily having a ready-made answer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Strike-the-Root's coverage of 9-11

If you haven't visited Strike-the-Root today, by all means do so. They're running some excellent articles calling into question the "official story" of 9-11. Some of those articles are:

Top 10 Reasons for a New 9/11 Investigation
My column from 2007, posted again because the situation hasn't changed: the events of September 11, 2001 continue to be used as justification for tyranny against the American people and for military occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. With a new Preface, and otherwise unchanged.

Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe
The full peer-reviewed study by an international team of nine scientists, as published earlier this year in The Open Chemical Physics Journal (PDF; 25 pages) and on which the mainstream media (the NY Times, for one example; CBS' "complete coverage" page on the 8-year anniversary, for another) have been breath-takingly silent. This quite readable study is an absolute smoking gun: Large amounts of an exotic, very high-tech explosive were involved in the destruction of the World Trade Center buildings.

Editor in Chief of Open Chemical Physics Journal Resigns After Controversial Article on 9/11
An interesting discussion thread on an unusual development; the paper on Thermitic Material was apparently somehow published in an end-run around the editor (or so she claims), who then resigned and, in related remarks, denied her own area of expertise.

Speaking Out has Cost Some Authors of the 'Thermite' Study Their Jobs
No surprise, given that the Official Story is supported by (and protective of) very powerful interests. A scientist who debunks the Official Story of 9/11 is like an economist who debunks central banking: a nuisance and a danger to the power elite.

Rumsfeld Says $2.3 TRILLION Went Missing from the Pentagon in the Period Leading Up to 9/11/2001
In an amazing coincidence, Rumsfeld announced this stunning bit of news on the perfect day to bury it: September 10, 2001. Link is to vintage CBS News reportage by Vince Gonzalez, who points out that $2.3 trillion represents "$8,000 for every man, woman, and child in America." The Enron gang and Bernie Maddof seem like Boy Scouts in comparison. This scandal remains open but largely ignored. What was done with all that money? Video, 2 min 53 sec

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

"When you're ready to compromise . . ."

I like Macs and thought this ad was creative.


video

25 years ago: The First Private Rocket Launch


The rocket - The Conestoga 1 - carried a payload of 40 pounds of water and soared 321 miles during its 10.5 minute-ride that reached a sub-orbital height of 195 miles. It took off from a Texas cattle ranch and landed in the Gulf of Mexico, where it sank to the bottom. It's still there. Space Services of America, the company that undertook the project, had seven employees at the time, one of whom was Deke Slayton, a former Mercury 7 astronaut who was also the company president and mission director.

Conestoga 1 "was fired by people who weren’t out to invent anything — they just wanted to prove that you didn’t need a massive space program to power something into space."

Mission accomplished.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gary North on Obama's Speech

From North's article:

Obama will deliver one speech for children ages 5 to 18. It must communicate effectively -- even inspirationally -- to kindergarten students and legal adults taking Advanced Placement, college-level classes.

Can you imagine Karl Rove telling Bush to read My Pet Goat to a combined class of kindergarteners and calculus students? They called Rove "Bush's brain." What should we call the dimwit who dreamed up this scheme?

I have this vision of how the speech will begin.

Hello, boys and girls. My name is President Obama. That is because I am the President of the United States. Do you know what the President does? He gives speeches like this one. He controls the use of nuclear weapons. He tries to look important, when the whole world knows that Nancy Pelosi is running the show, which is why I have to give a speech to Congress tomorrow night. She told me I needed to get front-and-center behind her health insurance bill.

Today, I am going to talk to about a government program called public education. It costs a trillion dollars a year. Do you know what a trillion dollars is, boys and girls? I mean, what a trillion dollars are? That is the size of my administration's budget deficit every seven months. But this will be down to only $900 billion next year and every year thereafter until 2019. We are fighting waste in Washington.

And so on, for 20 minutes.

Bush was widely criticized for not responding to a national crisis rather than continuing to read My Pet Goat. But nobody asked this: "What was the President of the United States doing in a third grade classroom reading a book to kids?"

Read the full article here.

American hypocrisy

Paul Craig Roberts on Robert Gates' anger over an "insensitive" American journalist:
US War Secretary Robert Gates has condemned the Associated Press and a reporter, Julie Jacobson, embedded with US troops in Afghanistan, for taking and releasing a photo of a US Marine who was wounded in action and died from his injury. . .

The American Legion jumped in and denounced the Associated Press for a "stunning lack of compassion and common decency."

To stem opposition to its wars, the War Department hides signs of American casualties from the public. Angry that evidence escaped the censor, the War Secretary and the American Legion attacked with politically correct jargon: "insensitive," "offended," and the "anguish," "pain and suffering" inflicted upon the Marine’s family. The War Department sounds like it is preparing a harassment tort.

Isn’t this passing the buck? The Marine lost his life not because of the Associated Press and a photographer, but because of the war criminals – Gates, Bush, Cheney, Obama, and the US Congress that supports wars of naked aggression that serve no American purpose, but which keeps campaign coffers filled with contributions from the armaments companies.

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua M. Bernard is dead because the US government and a significant percentage of the US population believe that the US has the right to invade, bomb, and occupy other peoples who have raised no hand against us but are demonized with lies and propaganda.

For the American War Secretary it is a photo that is insensitive, not America’s assertion of the right to determine the fate of Afghanistan with bombs and soldiers.

The exceptional "virtuous nation" does not think it is insensitive for America’s bombs to blow innocent villagers to pieces. On September 4, the day before Gates’ outburst over the "insensitive" photo, Agence France Presse reported from Afghanistan that a US/Nato air strike had killed large numbers of villagers who had come to get fuel from two tankers that had been hijacked from negligent and inattentive occupation forces:

"‘Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt,’ said 32-year-old Mohammad Daud, depicting a scene from hell. The burned-out shells of the tankers, still smoking in marooned wrecks on the riverbank, were surrounded by the charred-meat remains of villagers from Chahar Dara district in Kunduz province, near the Tajik border. Dr. Farid Rahid, a spokesperson in Kabul for the ministry of health, said up to 250 villagers had been near the tankers when the air strike was called in."

What does the world think of the United States? The American War Secretary and a US military veterans association think a photo of an injured and dying American soldier is insensitive, but not the wipeout of an Afghan village that came to get needed fuel.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Reasons to be happy in unhappy times

Stewart Browne names ten reasons libertarians can hold their heads up, all of them built around technology and the internet. The big reason: Even as government holds humanity back, technology continues to propel us forward.

I would word it differently, putting humans in the driver's seat instead of some faceless technology, but Mr. Browne understands this quite well, as his article shows.

Personally, I find happiness spending time with my family and friends. And though this may sound odd, I find a significant degree of contentment understanding why the world is in the mess it is in. The contentment comes not only from understanding, but from knowing others can understand, too, and therefore it is not futile to work for liberty.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Mary Jo Kopechne

The sainthood of Ted Kennedy may be assured following the orchestrated respect the political class has paid him, but his involvement with the death of Mary Jo Kopechne should not be sentenced to the memory hole.

Her brief bio on Wikipedia reveals that she:

1. Was fond of political coercion herself, as channeled through the political activities of Robert Kennedy, then later as a member of "Matt Reese Associates, a Washington, D.C., firm that helped establish campaign headquarters and field offices for politicians and was one of the first political consulting firms."

2. Was a very bright young woman and a dedicated campaign worker. "Kopechne and the other staffers were politically savvy, and they were chosen for their clear heads and ability to work long hours under pressure on sensitive matters."

3. Was one of six so-called Boiler Room Girls, the name associated with the female staffers of Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. The other five appear to have had or are still having highly successful careers. "By mid-1969 she had completed work for a mayoral campaign in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was on her way to a successful professional career."

4. Did not have to die when she did. From the Wiki article:
On July 18, 1969, Kopechne attended a party on Chappaquiddick Island, off the coast of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, held in honor of the Boiler Room Girls. It was the fourth such reunion of the Robert Kennedy campaign workers.

Kopechne reportedly left the party at 11:15 p.m. with Robert's brother Ted Kennedy, after he — according to his own account — offered to drive her to catch the last ferry back to Edgartown, where she was staying. She did not tell her close friends at the party that she was leaving and she left her purse and keys behind.

Kennedy drove the 1967 Oldsmobile Delmont 88 off a narrow, unlit bridge without guardrails that was not on the route to Edgartown and it overturned in the water. Kennedy extricated himself from the vehicle and survived, but Kopechne remained in the vehicle and was found dead.

Kennedy failed to report the incident to the authorities until the car and Kopechne's body were discovered the next morning. Kopechne's parents said that they learned of their daughter's death from Ted Kennedy himself before he reported his involvement to the authorities, but that they learned Kennedy had been the driver only from wire press releases some time later. . . .

A week after the incident, Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident after causing injury. He received a two month suspended sentence. On a national television broadcast that night, Kennedy later said he was not driving under the influence of alcohol nor had he engaged in any immoral conduct with Kopechne.

The Chappaquiddick incident and the death of Kopechne became grist for at least fifteen books, as well as a fictionalized treatment by Joyce Carol Oates. Questions remained about Kennedy's timeline of events that night, about his actions after the incident, and the quality of the investigation and whether official deference was given to a powerful politician and family.
And this from David Galland, Managing Director of Casey Research:
My issue emanates from a stop some years ago by the side of the road in Martha’s Vineyard. On the island for a vacation, I took the short detour to see the site of Kennedy’s infamous accident at the bridge to Chappaquiddick. Getting out of the car, I vividly remember my first impression.

“This is it? That’s where Kennedy’s car went in?”

The thing is that the canal is narrow and shallow. I’ll give Kennedy the benefit of the doubt that he was disoriented – massive quantities of alcohol will do that to a guy – but I won’t give him anything toward his contention that he couldn’t have taken more active measures to save Mary Jo Kopechne’s life.

Any reasonably strong swimmer – which I assume he was, having grown up on the water – could have made the shallow dive necessary to get her out. But even if he was too drunk or scared to pull that off, he could have quickly found the help needed to get her out before the air bubble in the car was exhausted and she drowned. Instead, walking by a fire station and a private house, stopping at neither to request help, he trod a circuitous path to his hotel, where, after changing into dry clothes and lamely trying to establish an alibi by visiting the front desk to complain of a loud party, he turned in.

It was only nine hours after driving off the bridge, and after a local fisherman had discovered the car, that Kennedy finally reported the accident.

This is, of course, all part of the historical record – an interesting part of which you can read by following the link below to the FBI files on the accident, made available thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request.

http://foia.fbi.gov/foiaindex/chappaquiddick.htm

But I will never forget my visceral reaction to the sight of that small and shallow channel, the certain knowledge that Ted Kennedy was a sociopath, a coward, and a cretin, who made every possible move to rescue his political career and almost none to save the life of a young woman.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Doughboy: A young reader's short story

Doughboy

by

George F. Smith


Close your eyes and think of the worst thing that could happen to you.

Think you got it?

Bet you don’t.

Imagine this: it’s the first day of summer vacation, and you bust your ankle jumping out of a tree.

Okay, I fell out, but I was planning to jump.

I like to jump from things. When I get older I want to be a stunt man in the movies.

I’m a tough guy but this made me cry. I didn’t cry when I fell. I only screamed.

My mom drove me to see Dr. Wingate. The doctor is not one of my close friends.

He said, “Chad, I’ve got good news!” Dr. Wingate never has good news when he says that. “Now you’ll have a good excuse to sit around and read all summer. Your foot’s going to be in a cast. Can I be the first to sign it?”

That’s when I cried.

I was too mad to read. For the first few days I sat like a piece of rotting fruit watching TV. Do you know how awful daytime TV is?

Sure, my friends came to visit. Davey and Hack came to sign my stupid cast. So did Shannon, who thinks I’m her boyfriend. Then they went back outside and disappeared forever.

But I was about to make a new friend.



One day I decided to go out back with my Book of Big Things.

It takes awhile for me to get someplace. I walk with crutches, and everything gets in my way. Even worse, mom came along in case I needed her.

Our house is on a hill, and we have some woods behind us. I saw the tree that I fell from. At least it was big.

A small stream runs through the woods. We’re not getting much rain this year so the stream isn’t very deep. In fact, it’s pretty much just mud.

I wanted to lay in the hammock but mom wouldn’t let me. “You might fall out,” she said. Mom would keep me in a glass jar if she could.

“Let me know if you need anything, hon,” she said, then went back inside.

So I sat in a lawn chair with my book. I read about big animals, big planes, big buildings. Even big trees. They’re called redwoods.

I wondered if the tree I fell from is a redwood. I thought probably it was.

Then I saw something moving on the ground.

It was only a leaf. But leaves don’t move by themselves. And there was no wind to move it.

Something was underneath the leaf.



It was sneaking up on me. Sneaking up very slowly, so I wouldn’t notice.

I rolled out of the chair on my hands and knees. I crawled to the leaf and picked it up.

A turtle. A turtle smaller than my hand was sneaking up on me.

I laughed. “Who do you think you are?” I said. In a blink his head and feet vanished.

Mom doesn’t allow me to have pets. “They’re smelly, and they would ruin the house,” she told me before. “And pets will bite you.”

But this guy was so small, mom would never know he was around.

I decided he and I were going to be pals.

“What’s your name?” I asked him. But he didn’t have much to say.

“Listen,” I said, “I gotta call you something. I can’t just call you ‘turtle.’”

So I looked at him and thought about what to name him.

“Maybe I should call you soldier boy, because you’ve got a helmet and were crawling on your belly like a soldier under fire. Yeah, I should call you soldier boy. How do you like that name?”

He didn’t have much to say.

Then I remembered a story my dad told me once when he came to visit.



Dad likes to talk about wars. It makes mom upset when he does. We were watching TV and an ad came on showing the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Dad said to me, “American soldiers were once called ‘doughboys.’ They were heroes of the First World War.”

I asked, “Why, because they looked like him?” I gestured at the TV.

“No,” he said. Then he told me the story.

He said a long time ago American foot soldiers were sent into Mexico. As they marched along they’d get themselves covered with dirt and sand. It turns out the soil in Mexico is called adobe, which is pronounced “ah DOE bee,” which is sort of like saying “a doughboy.” Since the soldiers also looked like doughnuts when they were coated with the stuff, someone started calling them “doughboys.”

“Man,” I said to him, “if I were a soldier I wouldn’t let anyone call me ‘doughboy.’”

“You would if you lived back then,” he said. “A doughboy meant a good American fighting man. Soldiers were proud to be called doughboys.”

I wondered if that name would work for my turtle?



I decided it would.

Then it struck me. Doughboy was looking for a new home. It used to be the creek, but it had dried up.

“I’ll help you find a new place to live,” I told him. “But we’ve gotta keep you alive until we get you there.”

I put him in my hand. He still hadn’t come out of his shell.

“It’s not going to be easy, you know. Me, the hobbled one. And mom, the party-pooper.”

Then I had an idea.

What was it mom said when she went inside -- “Let me know if you need anything”?

She won’t be saying that again for awhile.

“Hey, mom!” I hollered.



When she came out, I told her I was getting hot and wanted to sit under the umbrella at the patio table.

So she put the umbrella up for me while I crutched my way to the patio.

Then I asked her to please get my Tommy squirt gun. And a big bowl of water. A BIG bowl. While she was inside I hid Doughboy behind a straw broom leaning against the house.

She brought a bowl out from the kitchen.

“Not big enough, mom,” I said.

“If it’s too big you won’t be able to refill the gun,” she said.

Then I showed her how I’d tip it over the edge of the table into the gun’s water tank.

“There’s a big bowl in the garage,” I told her, “sitting under a huge flower pot we don’t use.”

She made a lot of noise getting the flower pot bowl. I guess it was buried under some junk.

“Anything else?”

I could tell she needed a big smile so I gave her one. “Would you get me some bubble soap? The kind with the wand that you wave and make bubbles?”

She was trying to look happy.

“I need something to shoot at,” I explained.

While she drove to K-Mart to get bubble soap, I hobbled about the yard on my crutches and scrounged up a pile of stones. I put them under my chair.

I gave her a hug when she came back with the soap. Moms like hugs.

As soon as she was inside I filled my Tommy gun. I spilled a lot of water on the patio, but that was okay, I had more than enough. Then I waved some bubbles into the air and blasted them. I howled when I made a hit. I wanted mom to feel good.

Besides, I was having a ball.

Then I built a little island in the center of the bowl with the stones I had collected. So Doughboy could sun himself.

“Okay, Doughboy,” I said, “your new digs are ready.”

I hopped to the broom and moved it aside.

Doughboy was gone.



When a mud turtle disappears on dry land you don’t panic. It’s a turtle, not a jack rabbit. It couldn’t be far.

Unless something got it.

The only predator I could think of was mom. But maybe a bird had swooped down on him while I was stone hunting.

Then I looked--

--on top of a wall on the other side of the garden -- the garden adjoining the patio--Doughboy, moving toward the edge, his escape velocity amazing--

--and beyond the edge, a big drop into another garden with huge rocks in it--

--and me, anchored by the stupid cast, watching, helpless--

--but not quite helpless.

I dropped down and crawled like a flash flood in his direction.

Ever crawl with a cast on your foot? It’s hard and it HURTS! And I couldn’t think about what I was doing to mom’s flowers. I kept yelling, “Ow! Ow! Ow!” while I crawled.

Doughboy fell before I got to him.

But a spider web had broken his fall. I caught him before he slipped through--

“Chad!”

--”What are you doing!” I yelled at him.

“CHAD!”

I looked back. Mom, standing on the patio, her hands on her hips. Big trouble.

“What are you doing!” she hollered.

This was a good time, I thought, to tell the truth.



She didn’t take kindly to Doughboy.

“I won’t hear of it!” she said. “Those things carry diseases. You could get very sick.”

“I’m only going to keep him while we find him a new home.”

“That’s what you think.”

She turned and went inside. When she came out her hand was wrapped in a plastic sandwich bag.

She stuck the hand out. “Give him to me,” she demanded.

“Um, I don’t think that’ll work.”

“Why not?”

“He could bite through it.”

“Nice try, Chad. Put him in my hand.”

“C’mon, mom.”

“Now.”

I set Doughboy in her bagged hand. “What are you going to do with him?” I asked.

“Flush him.”

“You can’t do that!” I shouted.

“It’s nothing but a filthy rodent.”

“It’s a reptile. All he wants is another place to live.”

“I’ll see that he gets there fast.”

She headed for the door. I almost panicked.

“Let me do it!” I hollered. She stopped. “Please.”



Maybe you think I had a plan, but I didn’t.

When we got to the bathroom she insisted I wash my hands. Then she got one of those stupid sandwich bags and made me put it on.

She handed Doughboy over. “I’ll give you one minute,” she said.

My heart was pounding. “Time to go, little buddy,” I said. Doughboy had his head out, peering around, wondering where he was. “You’ve fallen into enemy hands, and she’s putting you to death for being a turtle.”

“Chad!” she growled.

“Know that you died a brave soldier, well-deserving of your name. Don’t hate her for doing this. Grandma wouldn’t let her have pets, either. In her heart she believes she’s ridding the world of evil. Bet you didn’t know you were evil, huh?”

“Put him in the toilet.”

“Minute’s not up yet!” I protested. I glared at her and felt my eyes fill up with tears.

She was getting nervous. She looked at her watch, then back at me. “Twenty seconds,” she said.

“We all need someone, Doughboy. Too bad you didn’t have anyone who cared. If mom had someone who cared, she probably wouldn’t be doing this to you.”

“Stop it!” she said. “I won’t have you putting a guilt trip on me for doing the right thing. Put him in the toilet.”

“Sure, mom.”

I set Doughboy in the bowl. What an awful way to die. Then I placed my hand on the flush handle. I stood like a soldier waiting for a command. “I’ll flush when you say, ‘kill.’”

She said in a shaky voice, “We care for each other.”

I didn’t feel much like agreeing.

“We do,” she insisted.

I shrugged.

She looked at Doughboy. “Go ahead,” she said and started to turn away.

“You’ve gotta say ‘kill.’ And you’ve gotta watch.”

She said something awful then pushed my hand down, flushing the toilet. Doughboy was being swirled in smaller and smaller circles, headed to his death.

“Get him!” she screamed, plunging her hand in and blocking the drain. I slapped my hand on Doughboy’s shell and pulled him off the back of her hand.

Then I set him on the floor and gave her a hug, a real one this time. She was sobbing.



Doughboy seemed to like the home I built for him. And mom got him some turtle food at the supermarket.

I was happy to have him around. I made soap bubbles for him once and read to him from my books. He liked to look at the sky, except when it thundered.

I didn’t know much about turtles so mom got me a book from the library.

You know how turtles can’t get back on their feet if they flip over on their shells? Same thing if they swim upside down in shallow water. If you’re going to keep them as pets, make sure you give them enough water to right themselves when they swim.

And be careful you don’t feed them too much. Otherwise they’ll get too fat for their shells.

The book I read got me to thinking.

I felt like I was keeping Doughboy in jail. I said I would find him a new place to live. That’s what I decided to do.

So a week after he crawled up to me from the woods in back, we drove to a nearby cemetery that had a nice pond with ducks and other turtles.

I set him down on some grass and watched while he crawled toward the water. I’ll never forget how small he looked. Even the grass looked bigger than Doughboy.

As he reached the water’s edge he stopped. He looked around, checking out the pond.

Then he did something I didn’t expect. He looked back, at me.

He didn’t have much to say.

“Good luck, Doughboy,” I said.

“Bye,” mom said from behind me.

Then he waded in and swam away.


The End

How the Fuzzies Lost: A Short Story

This was written long ago and is based on real events.

How the Fuzzies Lost

By

George F. Smith


The Fuzzies and the Hairies seized the spotlight that year. The rest of us existed to let those two pile up wins and play for the championship.

School officials who ran the Saturday morning basketball league frowned at those names, especially Mr. Bereman, the gym teacher/football coach built like a wire who loved his job because it gave him an opportunity to practice sadism legally. He was never without his clipboard, glasses, or suspicious look.

Hairies? Fuzzies? Those names are strongly suggestive. Frown.

A grown-up's frown in 1958 usually foreshadowed something worse, so we were braced for Bereman to go airborne. Surprisingly, he let the names stand, in the usual adult way of granting permission without approval, not knowing such a minuscule concession could be cited in later years as an incubator of our moral decay.

The Saturday morning league was a consolation for those of us who tried to make the school team. Amherst had for years towered over the competition in Western New York high school hoops. If you were inclined to wager, you bet on the margin of victory, not on whether they would win. Only a few were chosen to carry on the school's dominance each year, leaving a lot of us available for less glorious activities.

"Spider" Mike Bray captained the Hairies, "Banger" Steve Altman piloted the Fuzzies. They built their squads with the best and most popular discards from the school team tryouts. Spider was a lean speedster and master of the no-look pass; Banger was a burly loudmouth with a quick temper who lived to win.

On sign-up day in the gym three other teams emerged, but a few of us were still homeless. Bereman hollered out that anyone not on a team should go over to the east corner basket and wait there. As we arrived one by one we met like strangers on an elevator, standing around and averting each other's eyes.

From this debris of double-discards our team was born.

For our captain we elected a stoop-shouldered kid named Bob whose favorite TV show was Maverick and whose scout-leader father had taught him that planning and preparation could occasionally offset serious shortcomings.

Maverick had ways of dealing with shortcomings, too.

"So, what are you guys called? The Creepies?" Bereman asked when he came over to take our names down.

"Nope. Niagara," Bob said with a broad grin, enjoying his role as bearer of the unexpected.


A week later we had our only preseason game—against the Fuzzies.

“You guys better not miss any shots,” Banger warned as we took the court. He was smiling. The Fuzzies had recently held their own in a scrimmage against the school team, and four of his five starters measured taller than any of us. Banger, the football team's fullback, was built wide but not particularly high. Naturally, we figured to get killed.

It turned out the Fuzzies were so confident of winning when it counted they could afford to drop a nothing game to a bunch of nonentities like us. At least that’s what they assured us afterward in the locker room.

We were inclined to believe them, but winning left grounds for doubt. Had Paul, our guard, simply had a hot shooting day? We guessed probably so. Banger or Spider would've recruited him if he'd been any good. Then we had this guy, Ed. Ed liked baseline jumpers and made them more often than not. No one knew Ed very well either, so we figured he’d just been lucky, too.

But Bob and I, we wondered.

We started the regular season by proving the Fuzzies right. True to their promise, they beat us—in a close game.

In the late Fifties, the “team player” phrase so rampant now hadn't been coined yet, but that didn’t stop us from thinking that way. A team, we agreed, had players with roles, and the role of the shooters was to take good shots. The other players would get the ball to them. Paul and Ed, we decreed, would be our shooters. If we wanted to win, that's the way it had to be.

We tested our strategy on the other three doormats during the following weeks. It worked, but then we figured almost anything would work on them. With our game against the Hairies only a few days off—which would close out the first half of the season—we were about to find out if we were the best of the bad or actual contenders.

Since the Fuzzies had edged the Hairies the previous week, we had a hunch we could play them tough. When we heard that one of the Hairies' best players would miss the game because of the flu, we thought: this is our chance.

But we blew it. They beat us by a point.

Midway through the season the Fuzzies were on top undefeated with the Hairies right behind them at 4-1 and us – Niagara – hanging around at 3-2. We would play the same teams again in the second half of the season.

At this point we began to sense possibilities.

When the regular season ended the top two teams would play for the championship—on a Saturday night. Tickets would be sold, parents and friends would come to watch. A guy on the gymnasium's public address system would announce significant events of the game, as if we were real players. The team that won would receive a championship medal the size of a quarter.

We wanted to be there. We wanted to win it all. And to do that we couldn’t afford to lose another game.


Two days before our rematch with the Fuzzies captain Bob came down with the flu.

Things were even worse for the Fuzzies. They were stricken by the flu and something called lax. Some of their players didn’t think they needed to show up. Weekends, after all, were for sleeping in. They were good, no need to prove it to anybody, why should they crawl out of bed for a stupid game against us?

Saturday morning arrived like a bad hangover for the Fuzzies. With Banger on the phone berating one of his no-shows, the referee declared the game a forfeit and awarded the win to us. Banger slammed the phone down and ran screaming onto the court: “We’ll beat you with four players!” Then to the referee he snapped, “Come on, start the game!”

“It’s still a forfeit,” the ref reminded him.

“Who cares? Let’s go!”

And he proceeded to give us a clinic in what it took to kick butt. They played like hockey players in a grudge match, out-hitting and outscoring us. He gloated and laughed at us in the locker room after. “That’s the only way you guys will ever beat us,” he shouted, “and it’ll never happen again! You stink! We beat you with only four players!”

I stopped by Bob's on my way home and ran up to his attic bedroom to give him the news. I found him sitting cross-legged in bed, an old T-shirt hanging from rounded shoulders, hair omnidirectional and complexion near-death. When I told him we won he didn't believe me. "Would I risk contamination to tell you a lie?" I said. That convinced him. He threw a fist over his head and let fly with an imprecation, which sent him into a coughing fit.

"By forfeit," I added, when the barking subsided.

“Oh,” he said, then smiled and shouted: “It still counts!” The excitement got him hacking so hard his talking was reduced to interjections of profanity. On the plywood floor a stack of 45's was playing, and Little Richard was belting out, "A-wop-bop-a-lu-bop!" through tinny speakers.


Luck, the lady whom Maverick-Bob loved the best, had returned his affection with the forfeit win. Knowing her fickle ways we rededicated our efforts to keep our winning streak alive. Bob recovered, Paul and Ed were hitting their shots, and we were all playing our self-imposed roles.

It was clear even to our 15-year-old brains that Paul had been passed over by the elite teams because they didn’t like him. He had boyish looks and sometimes tried to impress the in-crowd by smoking a cigarette or telling a dirty joke. He didn’t think we were worth impressing that way. Ed was the quiet type whose friends didn’t play sports, so the other teams, not knowing he was good, simply passed him by.

We extended our streak by winning our second-last game of the season—putting us at 7-2— then took time to watch a match-up between the Hairies and Fuzzies. With one loss each, both teams were tied for first. The mood was serious, the game close all the way, but the Hairies prevailed. Spider had his guys playing tight defense and making careful shot selections.

As the players headed for the locker room it struck me: I had seen the Fuzzies lose, not by forfeit, but by being outplayed. No one had done that before. And the team that beat them was our next opponent, in a game we had to win.

I recalled with a shudder that they had beaten us earlier, missing one of their stars.

“The Hairies won with intensity today," Bob said later in his room. "We need to do something about that.”

“We could ask them not to try so hard."

He shot me a dirty look, then his face lit up. "Listen—what if we wore crazy uniforms? What if we wore knee socks, and sailor hats turned down over our ears, and . . . and loud jerseys? And painted our faces?"

“They'd laugh at us,” I said, admiring his genius.


We picked up the components of our new look piece by piece during the coming week. If it was going to work, it had to be a surprise – a sudden surprise – so we didn't talk about it with anyone, not even our teammates. On the eve of the game, we held an emergency team meeting and gave our guys their new identities. They all thought it would be fun, but most didn’t think it would help.

In the locker room on Saturday morning, the Hairies dressed and went out to warm up while we lollygagged around. Then we donned our costumes, part-way. A couple of guys smeared their faces with red muck, then started goofing off.

“Hey!” Bob yelled. They froze. “We're here to win. And wipe that stuff off. We can put it on during the pre-game huddle."

We warmed up without our hats, with our shirts off and our socks rolled down. When game time approached we swung into full gear. And held our breath.

“What's this?!” Bereman bellowed, as we took the court for tip-off.

Would he stop us, make us change into normal playing clothes—

Declare a forfeit?!

"Just a little fun," Bob said, card shark to dupe.

Bereman waved his clipboard in dismissal. “You've come this far, get on with it.” He folded himself onto a bench along the edge of the court, fighting back a smile.

We played possessed while the Hairies watched; we won in a blowout. The Fuzzies, who had just trounced their opponent, dropped by to laugh.

“Now we’ve got a three-way tie,” Banger said as we cleared the court. “Someone loan Bereman a dime.”

A coin toss would give one team a bye to the championship game to meet the winner of a playoff between the other two.

People cry that the universe as a whole is devoid of justice, but after Spider alone called the outcome correctly on the first toss, we saw evidence to the contrary. Spider's team, the Hairies, got the bye. The Fuzzies would play them for the championship. All they had to do was beat us in the coin-toss game first.

The Fuzzies were delirious. Revenge was at hand. There would be no forfeit this time; the better team would win, and no team was better than the Fuzzies.


We were glum. Our confidence had been delusional; we had no real talent. We were in a playoff game by the grace of a forfeit and some trickery. We had run out of ways to win.

We held a cheerless team meeting. Every attempt at self-assurance seemed feeble in the face of the overbearing Fuzzies.

“What would Maverick do?” I asked captain Bob.

He stared into space and began whistling off-tune. "Cash in his chips," he said, trying for a joke.

We couldn’t turn to fans for support because we didn't have any. We were too old for our parents to care, and too unexciting for anyone else to give a hoot.

Minutes before the playoff game was to begin, we still hadn’t found a way to beat them.

“The trouble’s with our name,” said Stewart, our tallest player, after missing a mind-numbing succession of warm-up shots. “‘Niagara’? That’s stupid. We need something cool.” Cool, a good Fifties word.

The ref was blowing his whistle, signaling tip-off was imminent.

“Let’s do what got us here!” Bob commanded as we all hunched over in a circle. Then as he tried to refresh us about what we had done to bring ourselves there, nerves overtook him. Nothing much sensible came out of his mouth, other than we needed to be aggressive. We took the court to confront the grim-faced Fuzzies armed with confusion.

We did a good job of keeping the ball away from our best shooters in the first half, while allowing the Fuzzies plenty of open shots and offensive rebounds. Captain Bob drove the lane for layups, showing no respect for their defense and coming away empty almost every time. Following his lead, other guys tried the one-on-five approach. When the half ended the Fuzzies were so far ahead we wanted to hide.

“We're panicking!” I yelled at Bob across the locker room during halftime.

"I know!"

Silence.

“Everything they’ve got’s in their mouth,” came Paul's calm voice. “They’re laughing right now because they think the game’s over.”

More silence.

“Paul’s scored one basket,” I said.

Bob thumped Paul’s shoulder as if trying to pick a fight. “Listen, you’re bringing the ball down court from now on. Keep it until you get a clear shot or see an open man. Ed, stay with him, then drift to the baseline and wait for a pass. The rest of us need to draw the defense away from them and be ready.”

“Speaking of defense,” I said.

"Damn it, smother them!" he screamed.

The second half was a repeat of the first, only we switched sides: they did the choking, we did the scoring. And Paul did the playmaking. He moved over the floor like a dancer, supreme in his element, confident of every move. If more than one defender started to crowd him, he'd whip the ball to one of us for an open shot. If the defense backed off, he'd find his spot and put up the jumper. He finished as the top scorer and number one in assists.

And he was the MVP in the championship game, as well.

By then, a few of the Fuzzies had recovered from their playoff loss to come watch us play the Hairies. Banger wasn’t among them. To my delight, my father came. I suspect the Hairies still couldn't take us seriously, and after the confidence-building win over the Fuzzies, we had them in our hands. Quiet Paul led us in slaying another giant.

As we headed for the showers after the game, one of the Fuzzies came down from the stands for a look at my championship medal. Though he had to squint to see it, I wish today it was still among my possessions.

I hadn't seen Banger since after the coin-toss game, when he stood straight-shouldered under a shower cursing us. He couldn't stand our shrieking and howling. A season he would soon forget would be a lesson we would always remember. Like the river of the same name, Niagara dropped its great surprise near the end. His guys had bigger egos than us, player-for-player they had more talent. No doubt if they staged Hamlet they'd all try to play the lead.

We didn't, and that's what pulled us through.

The End