Tuesday, January 26, 2010


EO just read a piece about GITMO prisoners being transferred to a state prison in northwest Illinois that is almost vacant. Apparently there is anxiety about housing Islamic terrorist in the continental U.S. No one likes the idea, but the Administration seems to like keeping prisoners at Gitmo even less.

The plan is to buy this vacant state prison, convert it to a federal super-max, and then transfer Gitmo prisoners there for military tribunals.

Thomson Correctional Facility.

Of course, we already own Gitmo and upgraded it a few years back to hold military tribunals. So we are doing this twice, so that we don't have to keep the prisoners in Gitmo, where the Administration says they are an Al Qaeda recruiting tool. I don't know how they measure that; maybe with telephone polls of impoverished Islamic youth.

Anyway, the plan is to keep them northwest of Chicago, which will not be an Al Qaeda recruiting tool. So much.

I know, it's very confusing when you try to get it in your head. You can read more about it here.

Al Qaeda must be really torqued that we took this fantastic recruiting tool out of their hands. Because who wants to go to northwest Illinois? Especially in the winter. Used to be you either died and went to heaven, with all the virgins, or got captured and went to Gitmo, in Cuba. Which had fantastic weather, especially compared to Afghanistan.

But no more. Now you go to Thomson Correctional Facility, which looks like this in the winter:

Illinois blizzard. Ugh.

Anyway, people are in an uproar. Let me propose a very simple, inexpensive, and elegant solution.

There is a high security United States Penitentiary in Lee County, Virginia, not too far from the Cumberland Gap, where Daniel Boone first passed from Virginia into Kentucky. Lee County is the tip of the spear point of Virginia, deep in the heart of the country explored in "Search For The Wrong-Eyed Jesus," a great film about religion in the rural South that you should rent from Netflix soon.

Lee County(in orange): The Heart of Appalachia.

EO is familiar with Lee County, having spent a short and happy part of his life acquainting himself with some of the County's more sordid citizens. Interesting Lee County facts: it is west of Detroit. It is closer to 7 other state capitals than it is to Richmond, the capital of Virginia. You are talking splendid Appalachian isolation here.

Instead of taking these terrorist mopes - I'll call them the "Gitmoese" from now on - and putting them up in Illinois, where we have to pay for heat and air-conditioning and weight rooms and law libraries, EO says put them at USP Lee.

Under EO's plan, the Gitmoese would be shown every courtesy, and would be allowed (and even encouraged) to wear their native garb. Shortly after arrival, the Gitmoese would be summoned to the front gate and permitted to leave USP Lee, with an official apology from the Bureau of Prisons for wrongfully detaining them.

Right away, we get congratulated by France for surrendering. Maybe we even get some love from the UN. You never know.

Some good lovin' from France.

The warden of USP Lee would announce over the local radio that the Gitmoese had departed USP Lee on foot and may be looking for accommodations.

The Lee County Daniel Boone Society's Ladies Auxiliary Committee would make sure the Gitmoese were welcomed.

Womenfolk in Lee County: hunters AND gatherers.

It's 25 miles to a movie theatre from USP Lee; not a lot of entertainment at hand. The strange Gitmoese accents and exotic garb would attract a lot of attention. Folks would welcome a visit from the Gitmoese, although it wouldn't last long.

Did I smell a terrorist?

These brave freedom fighters would survive for about 18 minutes before being flayed, cubed and added to a stew. Or possibly put into a pie.

Daniel Boone Society president greets Gitmoese.

Before the flaying and cubing (customarily done by the womenfolk), a local would ask, with a slightly cocked head and ambivalent grin, “Ya'll 'er not from around here, are ye?” So right there is your due process.

It's just a suggestion. Maybe there are some legal problems, but we have tons of unemployed lawyers right now, and they can work on it.

Now be honest, the plan does have a certain appeal, am I right?

Monday, January 18, 2010


O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart! 5
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

- Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman, foreseeing the health-care debacle of 2010.

So Massachusetts just said "No We Can't" to health care reform.

Teddy Kennedy's seat just went Republican.

Democrats got a deserved kick in the rear-end for taking "Ted Kennedy's seat" for granted.

Senator-elect Scott Brown smiling at his Earthquake.

The impact this made can be measured by the ruckus coming from the Democratic Party. So far my favorite quote from the Massachusetts earthquake is the following, quoted at CNN:

[Rep. Anthony] Weiner ridiculed House Democratic leaders for holding a meeting to brief House Democrats on negotiations with the White House on a health care bill, telling reporters, "They're talking as if, 'What our deal is, what our negotiators are at the White House' -- yeah, and then the last line is, 'Pigs fly out of my ass' ... it's just, we've got to recognize we are in an entirely different scenario."

And this unexpected tribute to George Bush from Howard Dean (remember the "Scream?"):
I also think that we're going to have to not have a circular firing squad. The message that I think, the anecdote I give is that we have to be tougher. The Democrats haven't been tough enough. George Bush would have had the health care bill done a long time ago. It would have gone through reconciliation and been what we wanted.

Howard Dean, wishing Obama was tough, like George Bush.

There seems to be a consensus among those on the left-wing that Obama was not tough enough. For a sample of left-wing anger with Obama and Martha Coakley (the Democratic candidate who lost "Ted Kennedy's seat"), read columnists at the Huffington Post, like Drew Westen and Peter Daou.

The problem is, apparently, that the Obama administration was not savagely left-wing enough. Had they been more partisan, this wouldn't have happened.

Bloggers wish Obama were more like his buddy William Ayers.

Interesting perspective. The argument is hard to reconcile with the terms of the election: Obama ran as the "anti-Bush," the erudite, polished reconciler. What, did people think he could suddenly turn into James Carville?

The argument is also hard to reconcile with the purely party-line vote on health-care in both the House and Senate. The argument seems to be that it is not enough to leave all the Republicans behind, Obama should have pushed a bill that would have choked even moderate Democrats. That would have won over America and avoided Scott Brown.

This all sounded eerily like the advice Rehoboam took after King Solomon died. When Israel gathered at Shechem to complain about the taxes and forced labor Solomon had imposed, Rehoboam's response was "my father ruled you with whips, I will rule you with scorpions." That didn't go over so well: civil war ensued, and Rehoboam wound up ruling over 2 tribes, while 10 tribes left him.

You could look it up (1 Kings 12).

Rehoboam, trying to puzzle out what to do after Scott Brown.

These are interesting times. It fascinates me that a party with a 59-41 majority in the Senate is on the defensive. It fascinates me that left-wing Democrats are wishing Obama were more like George Bush. But there you have it.

Maybe Obama needs a cowboy hat.


Ben Nelson in new role as "The Really Unpopular Guy."
(Picture link)

Democratic Senator Ben Nelson's approval rating has fallen to 42%. He was the most popular Senator in the Senate in 2006, with an approval rating of around 73%. Meanwhile, his Republican Senator buddy from Nebraska, Republican Mike Johanns, has a 63% approval rating. Nelson voted for RPCare (Reid/Pelosi health care reform), Johanns against.

Republican Senatorial candidate Scott Brown came from double digits behind to a statistical dead heat in two weeks. But not in the heartland. No indeed.

Scott Brown and Martha Coakley. Making history tomorrow.

He is running in a special election for Ted Kennedy's Senatorial seat in Massachusetts, which is as close to a sure thing as Democrats have in Congress. Democratic fear is so significant that Obama went to Massachusetts to campaign over the weekend. The New York Times ran a front page article on the race.

Whatever happens in Massachusetts on 1/19, Democrats are having serious problems with the American voter over health care.

In another NYTimes article, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California reported that constituents calling her office are running 4-1 against RPCare. That's FOUR to ONE against, in California, which is a heavily Democratic state.

Senator Feinstein trying to find her "happy place."

RPCare is in conference now, with very big differences between the House and Senate versions. Changes on either side are fraught with peril, because the margins of approval were very slim and the opposition in both chambers is highly motivated and was frozen out of the bill drafting process. Obama has jumped into the negotiations with a heretofore unseen vigor. He and other Democrats are becoming nervous as they absorb what the polls are telling them.

I don't really pity the Democratic party. They were the beneficiaries of American anger over a government being run down the side of a mountain with no brakes. In President Bush's case, it was the Iraq war and the expansion of the housing industry. Both were funded with huge debt and piled high with policy errors big and small. When the economy went smash-up Democrats won big.

Republicans: 2008.
Democrats: 2010.

Democrats got control of the federal government and immediately stepped on the gas and went off-road "baja." Not only are we going to run the war in Iraq and Afghanistan on debt, we are going to bail out banks and auto makers, and fund a trillion more dollars of federal health care. Never mind unemployment is over 10%, we've got a crisis to exploit.

Baja is hard. Especially with unemployment so high.

Except that wasn't exactly what the American people had in mind.

So now comes the backlash. It appears the Democrats have hit some land mines and damaged the Humvee, so to speak.

Democrats needn't worry too much, long term. Republicans will find a way to blow things up. They'll just come into Congress and promptly go off on their own big government borrowing bender, have their own smash up, and cede power back to the Democrats.

So cheer up, Democrats. It's just the circle of life.

Hakuna matada.

Democrats looking forward to the mid-terms of 2014.

Over the next 2 years we may get a more fiscally prudent government, like Clinton after the mid-term watershed in 1994. And that would be a good thing right now.

Friday, January 15, 2010


Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Dear Lord, things are bad in Haiti.

There's a blog that collects information about Haiti (The Big Picture). The news is catastrophic. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere is hit with the largest earthquake in the last 200 years. The Red Cross estimates 50,000 dead, but nobody's counting. The corpses are stacked up like firewood outside the morgues, and the dead are being buried in mass graves - there is no time to dig individual graves.

Some pictures from "The Big Picture:"

Some supermarket chains (Publix, for instance) have set up a system for making a contribution when you pay for your food at checkout. Go, Publix!

You can donate $10 to the American Red Cross by text messaging. See their website for details.

I haven't been able to verify this website is righteous. I believe it is. If you want to be absolutely safe, just contact Red Cross directly, through traditional channels, and make your donation that way.

But don't miss the opportunity through neglect.

It is good to remember, at times like these, that no one is actually very poor in America, not compared to the poor of Haiti. Not by a longshot. So give what you can give.

God bless the United States Military. The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Carl Vinson is off the coast of Haiti as of this morning. See Navy.mil. 2,200 Marines and 3,500 soldiers of the 82nd Airborne have been dispatched.

Right now, it would be good to pray. I would imagine Christians in Haiti are praying the Our Father as we speak. Perhaps we could join them, and continue to do so regularly, remembering them to Our Father.

Papa nou ki nan sièl la,
Nou mandé pou yo toujou réspékté non ou.
Vi-n tabli gouvènman ou,
pou yo fè volonté ou so latè,
tankou yo fè-l nan sièl la.
Manjé nou bézouin an, ban nou-l jòdi-a.
Padonnin tout mal nou fè,
minm jan nou padonnin moun ki fè nou mal.
Pa kité nou nan pozision pou-n tonbé nan tantasion,
min, délivré nou anba Satan.
[Paské, sé pou ou tout otorité, tout pouvoua
ak tout louanj, dépi tout tan ak pou tout tan.]


And Amen.

Monday, January 11, 2010


I've decided to visit upon the world a radical new concept in self-improvement:

The Top Three List.

There are many, many benefits to the Top Three List, especially as opposed to the Top Ten List, but I will reduce them to Three (which number, in all its grammatical forms, will always be capitalized) in the Spirit of Threeness:

Reason #1: Most Top Ten lists are way too long.

Four stooges would have been one too many.

Reason #2: I can't remember lists with more than Three things, anyway.

Reason #3: Three was good enough for the Trinity.

So let me start the "Year of Three," as it is already being called by breathless commentators, by explaining the Three Reasons.

Most Top Ten Lists Are Way Too Long.

If you have ever watched David Letterman, you will remember, perhaps, that during his Top Ten lists 7 out of 10 items on the list get a kind of polite golf laugh, like "ha ha (was I too loud there?)"

Most things need to be edited. Considerably. Especially self-help books. A personal favorite - "Children of the Self-Absorbed: A Grown-Ups Guide To Getting Over Narcissistic Parents." I'm not even sure what the title means.

Three French hens are perfect. Who knew what to do
with the turtle doves, anyway?

Think about it. How much anxiety did you have in middle school trying to fill up two pages with thoughts about some historical character? So why be anxious? I will just cut to the chase and target Three suggestions at a time.

I Can't Remember Lists With More Than Three Things, Anyway.

This is a well-known fact in EO's life. This is the reason Mrs. Optimist always stops herself and says "I should write a list, shouldn't I?"

And she is right.

When we were first married (decades ago) I was offended by this. "What, do you think I'm so stupid I can't remember four things?" I said. Turns out I do not have sufficient RAM to remember more than Three things on a list. Sometimes when I am tired or chemically enhanced my list remembering capacity dwindles to two or less.

By contrast, Mrs. Optimist's list-remembering capacity is approximately two-dozen.

That is correct.

She is an excellent nurse, and before that, an excellent waitress, and all along a fabulous mom, all of which put a premium on being able to remember long to-do lists of entirely disconnected things with uncontrolled ids screaming for your attention.

It still amazes me.

I have been at the supermarket on several occasions with a cell phone in my hand, calling Mrs. Optimist for the Third or fourth item on the list I should have taken with me. This would be humiliating to the ordinary person, but I convert humiliation into irritation. That is my coping mechanism.

Three Was Good Enough For The Trinity.

One of the things we don't really understand about God is his Trinitarian nature - God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Mother Church has spent 2,000 years pondering this essential fact, and still calls it a "mystery." That does not mean we do not understand anything about it. We just don't know all about it.

Why do God and quantum mechanics involve superposition mysteries we can't understand?
(Picture link)

This characterizes the advice-giving function, generally. If you solicit advice, it means you don't understand something important, and need to understand it better. Otherwise you wouldn't go to the trouble of asking for, and especially receiving, advice.

Good advice comes in small doses of powerful stuff. It needs to be small, because we need to be able to remember it, no matter how crazy the situation gets. And if it is good advice, it is powerful. It motivates us to change, which is very difficult and takes lots of energy. Sometimes good advice changes an entire life around. Sometimes good advice results in eternal life.

Like these words of Jesus: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Good advice - short, easy to remember, life changing. It involves three components, by the way: our repentance, his kingdom, and its propinquity.

So I am sticking with Threeness when dispensing advice this year. During criticism, normal logorrhea will govern.

Friday, January 8, 2010


First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then comes health care in a baby carriage

Back in BCT (Big Coldtown) for the holidays, EO perused the local newspaper. Call it the BCT News.

Mostly, EO likes to read the sports pages. Sports are controversial only within narrow boundaries. Who will win the BCS game? The Alabama Crimson Tide or the Texas Longhorns?

Roll, Tide, Roll. Sorry Longhorns fans.
You get to find out right away. Simple.

Alabama fans. Simple. Happy.
Not so with political and social problems. Years and decades go by before we get to compare results with predictions. Cause and effect are hard to diagnose, and so varied and complex that no immediate solutions suggest themselves, even if the diagnosis is spot on.

Reading an opinion piece in the BCT News, my head started spinning. The angry white Democratic newspaper columnist spent 10 sputtering column inches denouncing Republicans and telling Democrats how to win the fall elections, despite the growing unrest over health care reform.

Suggested talking points for Democrats were that
  1. a Western European health care system will make us more civilized and humane,
  2. anyone opposed to Obamacare is a heartless swine, intent on stiffing the poor,
  3. it won't bust the budget, because the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says it will be paid for with new taxes and lots of cost savings, and
  4. Republicans are hypocrites, because the Medicare prescription plan Bush II gave us in 2003 is in the red.

Typical Republicans rushing to oppose health care reform.

Some people who oppose the new health care legislation may be heartless barbarian swine, intent on oppressing the poor and wallowing in their hypocrisy, but not all fit the bill. None of the mud slung in the column actually addressed the facts. All the mud was just ad hominem ("against the person," not the argument). When someone resorts to ad hominem attack, it always means his logical arguments are not so good.

Here are a few reasons I oppose Obamacare. Actually, it should be called Reid/Pelosi Care (RP Care), since Obama had a comparatively minor role in creating the legislation. I will therefore give the program's actual authors their due.

Proud Parents of health care reform.
(Picture link)

Reason #1: I oppose RP Care because it is a huge expansion of Medicare/Medicaid, a system that has already metastasized wildly beyond all CBO predictions and threatens to bankrupt us.

Reason #2: I oppose RP Care because the federal government has shown no capacity for running a responsible health care insurance program. I don't believe it will suddenly gain that competence.

Doesn't matter if the government is Republican or Democrat, politicians are bad at health care and worse at health care insurance. President Johnson proved it first, and every administration since then has confirmed it, culminating with President Bush's 2003 expansion of Medicare prescription coverage, which is hemorrhaging debt as we speak.

This is not to say politicians don't mean well. They often do. They are just bad at health care and health care insurance.

Reason #3: I oppose RP Care because the promised cost savings are the same pious nonsense every new federal program claims in order to pass CBO's scoring system and not blow the budget. These cost savings are always based on eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" and "controlling costs." This hasn't happened for 40 years, under Medicare/Medicaid. Quite the contrary, every decade we are "shocked, shocked," to find Medicare/Medicaid costs outstripping even our most outlandish predictions.

Now, suddenly, cost control will happen miraculously for RP Care, a much larger and more complex program than Medicare/Medicaid, because the bill says so.

"So let it be written, so let it be done." Pharoah, ca. 1500 B.C. Pigs flying, hippos dancing the mambo.

"I believe I can fly."
The hyena will lie down with the lamb.

And will eat it.

Reason #4: I oppose RP Care because it will continue to inflate health care costs faster than the average rate of inflation (see "No We Can't" for more on this). This has happened for 4 decades with Medicare/Medicaid, under Republicans, under Democrats. If aliens from Neptune ruled, it would be the same result.

The Ood decide to subsidize health care.

If the government puts a trillion more subsidy dollars into health care, why wouldn't the rate of medical inflation continue to exceed ordinary inflation? RP Care is an "answer" that actually worsens the problem, like getting another credit card to pay off the first one. Eventually that little scheme always has an ugly end.

We already subsidize health care for the poor. That's called Medicare. It's broke. Now we are going to subsidize the middle class. A lot more people in the middle class, my friends. Not gonna work.

Reason # 5: I oppose RP Care because we just got to see a lesson on federal subsidies gone wild. Remember the housing market, into which Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac injected steroids by making a market for sub-prime loans? All in the name of benefiting the poor? Did that inflate the cost of housing beyond the ordinary rate of inflation? Did that just blow up in our faces? Yes and yes. Ditto RP Care.

Results of sub-prime fusion experiments.
Reason #6: I oppose RP Care because, based on our 40 years of experience with Medicare/Medicaid, the costs of RP Care will fast out-strip our ability and willingness to pay. It will put us in such a hole that the only way out will be to completely nationalize health care.

Reason #7: I oppose RP Care because we already know what nationalized health care will look like: VA and Military hospitals. Ever been in one? I have. I've had to spend years of my life wrestling with the inadequacies of health care in both settings. Perfectly fine people work there, but combine the efficiency of FEMA and the nurturing skills of the IRS and you get the picture.

Check out how the federal government takes care of its war heroes. Then ask whether the new Health Assurance and Hospital Administration (HAHA) will take better or worse care of the average schmo, like you or me.

Reason #8: I oppose RP Care because we just tore a bigger hole in the federal budget last year, buying up banks and auto companies, than we did for 8 years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Whether the trillion dollars in new debt to finance the bail outs was necessary or not, I say clean up the existing credit card before signing on for a new one. (Check out the cool debt clock!)

* * *

So there you have it. Not everyone opposes RP Care because they are barbarian swine hypocrites intent on oppressing the poor.

Conan the Barbarian about to oppress the poor.

Some people actually think it will be bad for America.