Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Gosh I had a wonderful day Friday, the 19th of June.

I am coming home from work, traveling south on a suburban road, thinking what a beautiful day it is,

(This is how I felt before)

when someone traveling north decides to make a sudden left turn and dart in front of me.

Apparently he did not see me, but I saw his car just for an instant, long enough to swerve right. I avoided "T-boning" the errant traveler, but he did not avoid me, smashing into the midsection of my car on the driver's side.

This precipitated a high speed spill in my small "toaster" (Scion XB, 4-door, for those taking notes on survivalist cars). I was both spinning and rolling over, and wound up hitting the concrete curb twice before winding up passenger side down, hanging from my safety belt.

As the car was spinning and rolling over (very, very slowly - a very strange internal effect) I thought "well God, maybe this is it." I wondered if the roof would hold up as the car was flopping over. I felt really peaceful, although I was totally disoriented as the the car spun and flipped. I thought I was in the oncoming lane of traffic, hitting other cars, but it turned out I was just in a losing battle with the high concrete curb by the side of the road. Eventually the curb gave in and the car flipped again onto the grass, passenger side down.

(This is how I felt after toaster came to rest.)

As I hung by my safety belt, looking out my twisted, shattered windshield, I started taking inventory. I could move my toes and my fingers. My legs felt fine. My back and neck felt fine. I could not see any blood. I did not hit my head. After a second or so I came to the conclusion that I was probably fine.

And what was weird was the sense of euphoria that came over me, like I had just been through a ride at an amusement park. Only, for the first time in my life, I was not ready to puke!

(How I felt after euphoria set in.)

The rest of the evening was interesting but pretty tame, as they pulled me from the wreck, put an ungainly collar on my neck that made it difficult to talk, tied me to a board and hauled me off to the trauma center in an ambulance. There they took about 30 X-rays and a CT scan.

At about 10:30 the doctor gave me a prescription for Tylenol III and sent me home. My only visible injury was a slight scrape and bruise on my left collar bone, where the safety harness saved my life.

I got to keep the neck brace as a souvenier. It probably cost $250. Some day I will check the insurance bill and see. I am pretty sure my brother could make one for $7.00 in materials. My wife has already tossed it out, as it is ugly, bright yellow and just takes up space.

All evening long at the hospital everyone kept asking me what kind of car I was driving. I would tell them a Scion and they would look puzzled. Then I would say "a toaster" and they would say "Oh, yeah!"

Thanks, God. Thanks, Scion. Thanks, safety belt.

The truly miraculous thing is that when I checked the car Monday morning I found that my newly acquired bottle of Russian vodka, given to me by a fellow worker for covering some event here in 'Merica while fellow worker was in Russia testifying before the Duma, was intact.

Basically everything else in the car was in tiny smashed pieces or bigger smashed pieces. Except the vodka bottle.

The Russians know how to make vodka and, apparently, vodka bottles, too. So I got that going for me.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


(A reader chimed in on "I Had a Dream, Like Wow!" After acknowledging some of the positive contributions of capitalism and rich people, the reader had some unhappy comments):

Reader: However. Let's get some things clear.

Would EO actually like to state that the past eight years of conservative republican business loving government bears no responsibility for the stinking hellhole that we find ourselves in?

EO: "Stinking hellhole?" America is not Mogadishu. Yet. The Bush Administration certainly bears responsibility for what happened on its watch.

Now THAT'S a hell-hole.
by Chogra

Reader: EO strikes me as a man who sells a broken down house and laughs at the new owner for spending money to fix it.

EO: If you are arguing that all the money we are now spending by quadrupling the Bush deficits is necessary to fix the economy, that is clearly false.

The Obama administration is trying to do much more than repair plumbing leaks left over from the Bush Administration. It is taking out a whopping jumbo loan to build a shiny new 12,000 square foot mansion with 7 1/2 baths. That's the import of Rahm Emanuel's wry line about not letting a crisis go to waste.

Reader: But I digress. The "Democrats and liberals want to screw the rich" argument is crap.

EO: There are plenty of democrats and liberals who genuinely or cynically seek to gain power through generating class envy. Take, for instance, Franklin Roosevelt, who even infuriated fellow Democrats with his class warfare demagoguery.

FDR: Liberal, Episcopalian, Class Warrior

Reader: Here's what I think is the basic difference between "Conservative" and "Liberal". When liberals think about government by the people, for the people, they don't forget that second part.

EO: Liberals tend to forget that "the people" are also the ones paying the taxes.

The basic differences between liberals and conservatives don't revolve around conservatives forgetting people and liberals remembering them.

Some examples. When confronted by a social problem, liberals tend to assume that more government is the solution. This is because having government compel a change is conceptually much more direct and simple than trying to convince people to change by other means, including free market incentives.

Conservatives tend to be concerned about expanding government, since the expansion is very difficult to reverse, and often has long-term ill effects on people. Bush undercut his popularity among Conservatives by serving up big deficits and increasing government spending.

Liberals often assume that proposed governmental policies will work as intended. Conservatives tend to be concerned about unintended consequences. For instance, data suggest that well-intended welfare spending can actually harm poor people by creating economic disincentives to healthy behavior, like seeking employment or having a two-parent household.

Liberals frequently assert that conservatives who question the benefit of a proposed government program are acting from mere selfishness. But social conservatives generally give far more of their income and time to charity than liberals. This contradicts the simplistic "conservatives are selfish" theory.

Governance, for liberals, demands taking everyone into account. And I think this is why 'liberal' implies 'change'. When everyone in the jurisdiction is pretty much the same (white farmers in the 18th century, let's say), government is fairly simple. Everyone pretty much agrees about the basics. Same morals, same outlook, same religion. But when you start getting some plurality things start to get messy.

Governance was not "fairly simple" in the 18th century. Things were very messy during the Revolutionary War. We fought a Civil War in the 19th century - things were even messier, as in 500,000 dead messy. Disagreements abounded.

Civil War Dead, by tomsaint11

Human society is normally messy. One of the drivers behind liberal social philosophy is an effort to smooth the "messiness" of plurality and freedom. The chosen method is to increase government involvement in the affairs of citizens for the purpose of ordering the "messes."

This can be a noble goal, but it often makes the messes worse, not better. Think Mao's "Great Leap Forward" or Johnson's Great Society, neither of which came close to their intended goals, but cost hundreds of billions. In Mao's case, it also cost tens of millions of lives. Liberals often ignore or deny these consequences and simply move on to bigger "fixes."

Chairman Mao, by Andy Warhol.
Big Killer Liberal.

I think the current administration's fixes are well intended. I also think they will have a variety of rotten, unintended but perfectly foreseeable outcomes that will overwhelm the good intentions.

A liberal insists, annoyingly, on trying to take everybody into account; a conservative says let's keep the way we've been doing it.

Liberals didn't lose power in the 1990s because they were "annoying." They lost power because they had a long history of taking "everybody into account" by pouring taxpayer money into hugely expensive and well-intended programs that were failing. This was harmful, especially to poor and middle class people.

Reagan was popular because he sought to change the liberal status quo, not preserve it.

Ron Reagan, annoying conservative.

Liberals will now have 8 years or more to demonstrate to America that their policies are effective. If the policies fail, liberals will be voted out of office, not because Americans are "annoyed" but because liberal policies failed.

Right now I am alarmed at the "mortgage payments" on the new 12,000 s.f. mansion Obama proposes to build. I am concerned the country will wind up like Argentina. I don't think running up ruinous debt takes "everybody into account," and especially not the poor people in whose name this mansion is being built.

The liberal message is hard to get across because doing liberal things (that is, trying to take everyone into account, not just the ones with the money) is complicated. Liberalism guarantees complexity.

The liberal message is actually very easy to get across, because it is fundamentally simplistic: everyone should be taken care of, and the best way to do it is have government do it directly. Liberalism as currently practiced is actually an effort to simplify society, which is painfully complex when left on its own. Obama got the message across very well. Al Gore and John Kerry were just lousy communicators.

John Kerry and America:
"What we have here is a failure to communicate."

Conservatism is simple. If it ain't broke don't fix it! Except, oops, we're talking about the economy, which is.. umm... broken. And was broken by, yes, conservatives.

Umm, broken? Nah. The Obama White House recently said the economy is in fundamentally good condition. Doesn't sound broken.

If you are talking about the sub-prime mortgage crisis, that is an excellent example of well-intended social programming gone very wrong.

Sub-prime lending had its genesis in the 1990s as a liberal social policy that sought to enlist private lenders in supplying money to people who couldn't afford standard mortgages. Bill Clinton and other democrats pushed the program through a combination of carrots - like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae buying up sub-prime loans, and the Federal Reserve loosening lending standards - and sticks, like the Justice Department opening investigations on banks that didn't make sub-prime loans.

The fact that the Bush Administration grew fond of this particular pet alligator because it stimulated growth in the housing sector does them no credit.

Pet Alligator, by Judy Goreland

By 2005 Bush was trying to put more stringent controls on the program because of concerns about the viability of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He was harangued by the likes of Barnie Frank and Chris Dodd, among other liberals, as a heartless bum out to hurt poor people, and Democrats managed to defeat the effort to cage the alligator.

Barney Frank, annoying liberal.
Guardian of sub-prime lending.

Bottom line: lots of poor people are now being crushed by the consequences of a program originally intended to benefit them.

Now we are going to "fix" the problem by quadrupling the annual federal deficit, and along the way the government will buy up a big chunk of the car industry and the health care industry.

The Bush deficits were a bad idea. Quadrupling the Bush deficits is also a bad idea, however nobly the money will be spent.

So EO, I envy you your simplicity. But if you don't have any ideas about how to fix things,

I have lots of ideas. No one listens. Ah me.

please stand aside and let the work begin.

The baton is in your hand, sir. Go forth and do good.

Now it is time to listen to "Trouble," from the Music Man, about a charming and eloquent huckster who convinces people to engage in massive social spending.

Everything works out well in the end, which is what EO hopes for America.

Friday, June 5, 2009


I was at the Mall tonight. I became preoccupied by a detail, something that happens when I have not been scrupulous about taking my medications.

For some reason 88% of women age 25 and under think that jeans two sizes too small make them look more attractive. Ditto with blouses.

This is clearly untrue, but how to get the word to the self-deluded women wearing denim encapsulated donut rolls around their upper thighs? I am normally outspoken, but in this instance I'd rather get the word out anonymously.

Even scary skinny women look bad in jeans that are too tight. It just emphasizes the "too skinny" factor, and no one is comfortable looking at that. Check out Amy Winehouse. She's famous, got a great voice, but do you like her pre-rehab in jeans? I say no, no, no.

I noticed another fascinating, and perhaps related, anthropological fact. 72% of the the males age 25 and under think that their underwear is attractive to other humans. They wear their oversize pants belted down around their thighs to make sure everyone can check out their underwear.

Again, every person in the mall will tell you they don't want to look at the underwear. I asked 10 people at the mall - "do you want to see my underwear?" Every one of them backed away from me with a look of disgust. One person called for security. One man called me a freak and threw his soda on me.

For the last 10,000 years the unanimous verdict of all human cultures has been that male underwear is NOT attractive. You will find no classic sculptures wearing a pair of men's jockey shorts. Either they are naked or they have clothes on. No Chinese clay soldiers in underwear. Check out Neanderthal paintings - no men in underwear. Check out any art history book - hardly any men's underwear in there.

Boys get pants that are way too big, so they can show off their underwear. Girls get pants way too small to show off their adipose tissue. I say the true purpose of clothing is to camouflage what lies beneath.

I urge some new federal regulations requiring pants that fit. It will be rough sledding at first, but give it time. Public policy is never easy.