Monday, November 29, 2010

One More Unpleasant Thing

Try as I might, I can’t get worked up about the latest TSA dust up.

I hate flying and have hated it for years now.  I cope with it by turning off my outward senses, going with the flow as it were.  I wend my way through the crowds, entering the maze at the end of which sits a TSA person with their little black light pen and colored ink marker.  While negotiating the maze, I pull out my license and boarding pass, put what’s in my pants and shirt pockets into my jacket pockets and start unzipping the laptop case.

After saying thanks to the TSA person (what can I say, I was raised to be polite, saying thanks is almost an involuntary reaction to any encounter with a person – as a bonus you usually get a return nod, smile or a thanks or all three), I get in the next line to go through one of the magnetometers, and now maybe a full body phone booth thingy.

As we get closer to the tubs, tables and roller, people bunch up, I’ve never quite figured out why.  I take two tubs.  Shoes go on the bottom of one (except when TSA switches things up and tells you to put them on the belt or in their own tub), jacket gets folded and goes in, laptop out and in its tub and I’m ready to go.  At some point in this process, the person behind me will almost always hit my heels with their rolling suitcase and/or shove their first tub into my hand which is on the back end of my last tub. 

Then there’s the person that charges through the magnetometer, not waiting for the high sign from the TSA person.  Go back Sir or Madam.  Now come ahead. Next, step right up.

Then I go through the bumping and shoving routine again while picking up the freshly X-rayed belongings. 

Adding ten seconds in one of the new phone booths to the mess just doesn’t seem like a much greater affront to my dignity.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

With Apologies to Many

When I was in confirmation class, I don’t remember how the subject came up but I asked the Pastor about Jonah and the Whale.  I’d read (not in my Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod grade school science book) that whales have baleen and can’t swallow anything much larger than a krill.

Silence, and on to the rest of the day’s lesson.

You are living on the shore of the Mediterranean in the year 0 (or a year or so later depending on the chronology your progeny subscribe to).  It’s December 24 (or perhaps another day of the year, again depending).  Everything is pretty good.  You are a Jew, doing what all your neighbors do, worshiping your God as prescribed by the local powers that be.

You wake up the next day and you don’t know it but everything has changed.  I know, it took a long time for the Triune God concept to become mainstream.  But it did change that day didn’t it?  Jesus was born.  Or maybe it was thirty-three years later on a Friday, or maybe a Sunday, the sacrifice and the ascension have taken place.  Now everything changes, right?

And of course it didn’t.  But what’s an ancestor of Christianity supposed to do?  At what point are you an upstanding member of the religious community only to find yourself an unbeliever?

God, the Christian God, is in charge of this.  When did He decide that you aren’t going to Heaven if you don’t buy into the change He made that He didn’t tell you about?

I suppose Hell is OK today for those of us that have had centuries to accommodate our beliefs and haven’t.  But, isn’t it a little unfair to flip a switch way back then and change the rules?  And the switch did have to be flipped didn’t it?  Otherwise it doesn’t make sense, right?  Or is it that the whole thing doesn’t make sense?

Why shouldn’t it make sense?

Why is it that almost all religions when you strip the ground rule trappings away say pretty much the same thing?  Love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others, don’t do the bad stuff like kill and so on.  Rephrase the teachings as it suits you.  They are of course societal rules, creating norms that allow us to live together smoothly, more often than not.

Does that mean that there is one God, who’s content if you live a good life?  Or is creating a god a human need, something missing in our short lives that cries out for an afterlife where everything is better?  Or, God Forbid, so to speak, are only the Christians (or a flavor thereof) or Buddhists or so on right?  And if there is a category of belief that is Right, I sincerely hope some Taliban or Iranian religious guy or the Glenn Beck’s and Sarah Palin’s of the world haven’t nailed it.  That would be truly sad.

Monday, November 22, 2010

I was reminded of one of the reasons for Thanksgiving

I just saw a commercial in which a woman’s voice said “don’t forget Mrs. So and So” and the guy was shown with his snow blower clearing a sidewalk.

When my parents were older their neighbor used to come over with his tractor and cut grass and blow snow.

Neighbors can be good; and, it isn’t necessarily true that good fences make good neighbors – he went out on to the road to get next door – no fence just a lot of trees he didn’t want to damage.

Not to mention the flats of fresh strawberries he used to leave on the porch during harvest, and all the other things a good neighbor does because it is what they do.

Since I haven’t thanked you, and it is the season, Gene, you made my parents’ life a bit easier and better.  (Tim if you read this, let him know.)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I’m reading that Republicans are between a rock and a hard place on earmarks. 

Their rambunctious supporters in the Tea Party are against government spending of all kinds, including earmarks.  But veteran politicians know that bringing home the bacon from Washington is a large part of getting re-elected.

And, of course, all Republicans are against wasteful government spending (as long as the spending isn’t being wasted on the military, being spent to shore up their support by the rich, to buy agri-business support with crop subsidies and so on).

What to do?

You redefine what you’ve been doing.  Georgia’s Sen. Saxby Chambliss is going to vote for the pending earmark moratorium.  He says he’s always been against wasteful spending and earmarks*; but, you knew there was a but, didn’t you?

“However, there are times when crises arise or issues come forth of such importance to Georgia, such as critical support to the port of Savannah, and the nation that I reserve the right to ask Congress and the president to approve funding.”

Here, and I always thought the way you ask your colleagues and the President to spend money was to have a vote.  I guess voting would get in the way if the money is critical to Georgia or the nation.

So, let’s sum up.  Earmarks and wasteful spending are bad.  But, if a politician decides something’s important or there’s a crisis that requires spending money, that’s not wasteful.  The politician is honor bound to spend away by way of an earmark or otherwise.

And look at it this way, the money is relative pocket change.  The U.S. population last year was about 305 million people.  Money spent on earmarks was $19.9 billion (  That’s only $65.24 a head.  Would make for a hell of a Christmas spending stimulus though – Federal gift cards to all, and to all a good time.

*”Chambliss has been the sole sponsor on 47 earmarks worth $580.5 million from fiscal year 2008-2010. He has been a co-sponsor [of] 313 earmarks worth $1.7 billion. His name has appeared on $2.3 billion worth of earmarks.”  From an AP article.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Making the Internet Work for You

I’m going to New Orleans for the Christmas weekend. 

Since I gamble a bit, I stay free at Harrah’s hotels or their “partners.”  But Harrah’s New Orleans has gotten cheap lately – I apparently don’t gamble enough for a free room at Christmas.  But they were going to give me a “deal.”  I booked it at the Hilton Riverside through Harrah’s.  Then I thought to check the hotel’s own site.  $40 a night cheaper.  Great deal Harrah’s, and thanks.

Then I decided to look a little further.  Nothing good at all the rates, other than the auction stuff, which I’m not willing to do, were more expensive than the actual hotel sites.

So I tried  It wanted $10 more than Hilton wanted; but, it had an amazingly good deal at Country Inns and Suites, $26 cheaper than the Hilton (and $56 cheaper than booking the room directly with the hotel’s website).  Same distance from the casino and closer to the French Quarter.

So, I have free WiFi, free breakfast and free cocktails in the afternoon and probably a bit smaller room for $65 bucks a night less.  I’m a happy camper.  Thanks nice Indian lady that goes by “Alex” at

Commander’s Palace, Casemento’s, Murial’s, here I come.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Is the TSA all that bad?

I flew from New Orleans to Atlanta earlier this week.

The security line was medium long, not unexpected because it was the tail end of morning rush hour.  As we got to the magnatometors, there were two lines, or so it seemed.  As it turned out there were three, as one split off from the right line – but you couldn’t really tell that from where people chose a line. 

Then, the TSA lady shut down the line that split off, trapping a couple in it.  The TSA lady kept saying something that I wasn’t paying much attention to as I wasn’t involved.  I do know that what she was saying in a heavy Louisiana accent wasn’t clear.  It wasn’t at all clear to the couple who were unfortunately New York City types.

The couple finally figured out what she was saying (they were cut off and had to move to the other side of the table to go through the second of now only two machines).  They expressed their ire.  She told them she had told them three times.  They expressed their ire.  She told them they should be quiet or they “might not be flying anywhere.”  They gave venomous looks, she threw a haughty look, left and we all looked around at each other.

Cultural disconnect I suppose, with a gratuitous “I’ll let you know who is boss” parting shot.

All that said, that is the first time I’ve ever seen a TSA person acting close to stupidly in the ten years I’ve been flying since 9/11.  In that same time, I've seen them dealing with stupid people, clueless people, handicapped people, parents with screaming kids and so on, all with often some resignation, but usually with equinamity.

How ‘bout you?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Now what?

I haven’t gotten the full flavor of post-election GOP joy and Dem depression, having been waylaid by a 24-hour bug.  But, as best I can tell, Obama and the rest of the Dems say they are willing to compromise (they’ve said, but not done much of that since January of 2009) with the GOP folks.  The GOP folks say that of course they’re willing to compromise, they always have been (despite a record of being the Party of No).

But, let’s look at what has changed.  Obama is still in office.  The Dems control the Senate, with a few less votes; but, they are still in charge.  The GOP controls the House.  What’s changed?

I’d posit that nothing’s changed.  Running the House just makes it easier for the GOP to say no.  It doesn’t give them the necessary votes to actually do much of anything unless the Dems go along.  Both sides will begin immediate jockeying for 2012.  Neither side is going to put itself out on a limb that can be sawed off by the other side.  Indeed, I’d bet the GOP will do more nay saying and try to set up vetoes by Obama to provide campaign fodder.

While Rome burns, both sides will be scheming to rule the ashes.

But there may be a surprise on the way.  Remember all that stimulus money?  Remember how the GOP whined and groaned about how it was the ruination of all that’s good in America?  Remember how a lot of it found its way to state governments who used it to balance their budgets, enabling them to continue services and not raise taxes?

There won’t be billions to throw around for state 2011 and 2012 budgets:

So, what are state governments and their dependent cities and counties going to do?  They are going to cut services and raise taxes for all those tea party folks that voted for them. 

The result?  I’m not sure.  People are going to bitch; but, who are they going to bitch at?

All of the national GOP people are saying they want to cut taxes.  I suppose they’ll argue come 2012 there hasn’t been enough time for the benefits to trickle down (sound familiar?), if they renew the Bush tax cuts and blame the Dems if they don't.  The Dems are going to argue that they were right in the first place, look at all the suffering that has resulted.

And if the economy is still in the dumper, I’ve got money (not confidence) on the GOP in 2012.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I listened to a guy talking to another guy today.  He was sufficiently loud for me to hear most of what he said.  The other guy pretty much nodded and said uh huh.

The guy announced that he called himself Chef So and So, so as to differentiate himself from people that cooked that had not bothered to go to culinary school.  He went on and on about his restaurants (note that plural) until I quit paying attention.

I’ve written before about labels, I think they’re a bad idea – they get in the way of people actually talking.

Titles aren’t a good idea either.  I am an “Attorney at Law.”  It says so on my business card; and, I have a license and all that.  I have never referred to myself as such.  Not even as an Attorney.  If asked, and forced to answer, I tell people I’m a lawyer.

Maybe I’m being a reverse snob; but, I’m thinking you ought to demonstrate your abilities, not announce what you think they are by labeling yourself.

I’ve always hated when a receptionist or nurse says “Doctor will see you now.”  Not Doctor Smith.  Not the doctor.  No, he or she is so important the title itself says it all. 

Of course you've heard "Chef has prepared a wonderful special tasting menu for guests tonight" or something of the sort.

An inside insight:  Not all Attorneys at Law are all that good at being lawyers.  Some people with an M.D. got C’s.  Professor (or in an academic setting Full) Professor Jones may well not live up to the hype of the title.  I've had some pretty poor, pretty expensive food from a Chef or three.  

People that insist on titles are compensating.  Keep it in mind when you are judging them.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Health Care Voting Tip

Whether you call it “Obamacare” and think it is the unholy work of spawn of the Devil or think health care reform is long overdue, with the reform law not going far enough, you can influence the implementation of the law tomorrow in the voting booth.


“Voters in four states, including Georgia and California, will directly elect an insurance chief on Tuesday. And in nearly three dozen other states, whoever is elected governor will name the commissioner.”

Elected or appointed, that person will have a lot of say on the matter going forward.

“[U]nder the federal health law, state insurance chiefs will have a long list of new consumer protections to enforce. For example, starting in 2014, health plans can't charge women or sicker people more.

“They're also helping to write the regulations for their own expanded powers. Congress left it up to an obscure group — the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — to essentially decide critical details, such as what health plans can claim as actual medical care vs. administration and profit.”

Here’s a tidbit from the website,, of the GOP candidate here in Georgia:

“There are solutions to our on-going health care crisis, but they will need to come from the private sector. Government provided health care has failed in England, Canada, and everywhere else it has been tried. You need to ask the recipients of our Medicare and Medicaid programs, VA healthcare, and all other government provided programs if they like their results. Why would we think that a single payer, government system for all Americans would do any better?”

Think he’s going to be a big supporter of the new law?  I don’t.  One more little thing to think about, brought to you as a service by Rather Than Working.