Wednesday, October 08, 2014


SOAB (Son of a bitch!). I thought I posted a couple of weeks ago until Bear asked me today if I stopped blogging. It's a little dated by now, particularly the football stuff which I had started writing a few weeks earlier. But, regardless, here it is:

I can't believe how little I've blogged in the last few months. I must be busy between work and vacation.

I did fix the last post's photo problem and managed (the tedious way) to get the photos directly on it, so you don't have to use the link. I'm just so hi-tech.

Today is a potpourri day here-a little of this, a little of that, so as to ease my way back into it.


I started writing this weeks ago, before the two Super Bowl teams faced off in the new regular season - Denver and Seattle. I wrote: "If Denver beats Seattle, it will feel like the underdog beating the bully and many people will feel good about it. Me too. Seattle has so much to lose. Not only will their SB victory be partially revenged but they will be 1-2. That would be some turn around. If Seattle wins, they will both be 2-1.  I am betting on Seattle again. Wait, no, Denver. I don't know."
So, Seattle won, and now 5 games deep, they do still seem like the best team in the league.
David Wilson put on an all around show Monday night showing why he is at the top of his game, between his legs and his arm. He only seems to throw smart passes. Even when he is scrambling, he doesn't throw into coverage. And he is a Fran Tarkentonesque escape artist. Becoming a bigger fan than I was last year. He also seems to be a genuinely nice guy. But, most of them do.

On the other hand, even Seattle seems a step down from last year. There is not a single standout team right now nor a single player who is dominating the league. There is always some team that people want to leap frog to the front, and they fold. Carolina may be the latest one. People were very high on Carolina a few weeks ago and the Chiefs until last week. The undefeated teams have all come crashing down to earth. Now Dallas, The Giants, SF and NE are all on the upswing. San Diego (predicted by the world's most sinister blog commenter, Bear) may be the real deal.

But still, my favorite teams are SF and NE and despite rough starts, they are both, to my relief, playing better. I've picked them for the Super Bowl, though they are clearly not the best teams. I root for them anyway (sort of) so why not pick them?

I have to admit though, SF's QB, Kaepernick, who seemed like one of the biggest threats in the league the last two years, but this year he appears to have lost confidence or concentration or both. Tom Brady is still Brady. As bad as his stats are, like last year, many commentators notice how he seems to manage to make more out of situations with little talent around him than anyone else. He got blocking though this Sunday and they trounced their opponents.

One thing I've concluded. Regardless of what an amazing quarterback Peyton Manning is, he is possibly he worst actor I've ever seen - and I've suffered through second graders putting on a play. It's a free country. He can make commercials. I wish he won't. As he said to Papa John recently on one of them - "Brutal."

More football

But, leave that all aside - what the hell is going on in the NFL?  They've so joined the legion of the politically correct that they are acting more like the National Football Investigative League. Other than one maniac I know (no names here, but he lived in Montana for a while and occasionally comments), everyone seems to think Ray Rice went way overboard in knocking out his wife and a prosecution would be appropriate. I do too. Clearly he snapped. But, we know she came across the elevator towards him and we do not know - because it is not on video - what the last 6 months have been like for them? I'm not saying she went after him over and over. How would I know? But, no one in the media seems interested in it. To go by the media, everyone is in agreement that all is as should be now only we need more suspensions and codes of civility in the NFL.

The fear of losing revenue - and please don't think this is about anything else, has led Roger Goodell to make a press conference and call for an investigation as if he himself slugged his wife. Stop apologizing.

These are my concerns or questions -

-Why isn't it important what led up to that moment?
-Does she too deserve to be prosecuted?
-Since that incident, she married him and has stood by his side. Who is the NFL to question her wisdom? Their friends say it was a one time thing (again, I wouldn't know) and that it is unfair to judge him by one incident (although, it really was really disturbing to watch). Does anyone remember what happened with Warren Moon? His wife basically rescinded and blamed herself. They still prosecuted him and he was acquitted.
-Why would they want to impair Rice's wife's life by denying her husband a livelihood?
-Most important, doesn't the possible destruction of Rice's career - and that is what some in the media and watchdog groups are calling for, mean that NFL wives will decide to keep their mouths shut if they are abused or risk losing all they have? This is the real problem I see. As usual, the road to hell. . . .

Really, whatever the Rice's problems are, this is out of control. Sure, it would be great if so many NFL players weren't testosterone high-octane young multi-millionaires who have been spoiled and pampered much of their lives involved in a violent sport, but they are. But, I don't think most fans want the NFL to carry on like a government agency, not even their female fans. And, according to the statisticians at the NY Times (the 538 blog), NFL players have not only a lower incident of crime, but a lower incident of domestic abuse than the general public for men in their age group (though it is by far their biggest problem). So, why are they pretending it is a problem? Oh, right, money.

The United Kingdom (phew!)

Personally, I thought it was a better idea for Scotland to stay put. This was not a question of their living under tyranny. For security purposes, for financial purposes and for our own selfish reasons, it was better to stay than go.

Just a thought. Scotland has been somewhat united with England since 1603 (when James VI of Scotland became James I - the James of the King James Bible) and formally since 1707. Britain gave them an opportunity to secede from the union of three or four hundred years. We (the U.S.) may have wanted them to stay in that union for our own purposes, but no one in our government disapproved of there being a vote.

Imagine then if Texas or Alaska (the usual suspects) decided to leave the union? Would we allow a vote? Of course not. But, Texas has been part of the union for a little more than a century and a half rather than three or four. and Alaska has been a state only a few months more than I've been alive. Not that their citizens would vote yes either. But, why is it that we would not consider letting them, or any state go when Britain can risk letting a huge chunk of their nation separate?

You can make legal argument.  A ridiculous case, Texas v. White (actually fought over U.S. bonds) held a few years after our civil war that states had no right to unilaterally secede from the union. Actually, there is really no constitutional text which requires a state to stay put. And while I'm not sure that we'd be sending troops into Texas to stop them at this point in history (maybe Delaware), but, I can't imagine we'd put up with it like our cousins across the pond.

I'm not a guest - I'm a customer

Someone at my bagel store (well, not really mine) called me a guest the other day. Personally, I don't like it when businesses refer to me as a "guest." Maybe it's okay when you are on their website just wandering around. But, when you buy something, you are a customer, not a guest, which to me implies some kind of relationship where you do not have to pay for kindnesses. 

I know, I know, it's PR bologna, but, the truth is, I'm not sure anyone who is a customer is ever going to buy more or be happier because they are called a "guest." It's like when businesses take someone who could be working and make them greet everyone at the door; the idea being that you'll appreciate it if they personally welcome you? But, if that's the case, you are already inside - why would you care?  Maybe it works with some people if they are walking by their place of businesses. For some reason sex establishments like strip clubs seem to think this is a good idea. Some restaurants too. It has never made me want to go inside. Actually, I feel a little put off by it and cringe that they are going to speak to me. I could be wrong as it is a nutty world, and maybe it does work with some people, but, generally speaking, people I talk to seem to all feel the same way about it. Just do a good job and stop being so obsequious to us.

Uh, oh, not you Sweden

When I used to travel more often, particularly in Europe, I met some Swedes. I liked every single one I ever met. They just seemed uniformly nice, not to mention the best looking group of people I could imagine. They have a more socialist model than most states and have not done bad economically (they have their issues, like every country). Part of their success I think is due to the level of homogeneity they have - one language, one group of people (not so many immigrants people fighting to get into near arctic climates, though they have some) and very little in the way of defense spending (though comparable to many other countries). They spend about a third of what we do for defense as a percentage of gdp and even a little more than half of that which Britain and France spends (again, as a % of gdp).

But, what bothered me was their recent decision to recognize Palestine as a state.

It's not that I don't want Palestine to be independent someday and soon. In fact, though generally pro-Israeli, because they are far more enlightened in their behavior than their neighbors and are our ally, I wish Israel would unilaterally recognize Palestine and throw it on the world to make it work, reserving the right to defend themselves indiscriminately and without concern for international opinion. But, if it happened right now, Palestine would already be a failed state. It has no currency, no defense, no single government and is occupied and controlled by Israel. Recognition is not going to change that. If anything it will make it harder.  I guess Sweden thinks if a bunch of states recognize it as independent (though, who rules - the PLO or Hamas?) something will happen. It is not realistic while Hamas still controls Gaza.

What I'd really like is the world to treat Hamas like they are treating ISIS.

Dear Abby

I mean John Adams' late wife, Abigail, not the late advice columnist. Abigail really was a fascinating person in her own right and it is worthwhile to spend a little time reading their correspondence or a biography of her or them together. I occasionally read some Adams' family correspondence and it never fails to please me. One thing she would do that at least surprises me is quote from poetry verbatim in her letters. You can tell (scholars I should say - I'm not paying that much attention) she's not copying it because she makes mistakes here and there. It's all from memory.

In 1775 the Adams' friend, Joseph Warren, a medical doctor and now rather forgotten revolutionary war hero who died in battle at only 34 years old. Warren was active in Boston revolutionary politics, and it was actually him who sent off Revere and Dawes to warn Sam Adams and John Hancock of the British raid to capture him.  Though a newly commissioned general, he fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill as a private and died there. You could probably read an awful lot of revolutionary war books and still never have heard of him, but he was quite well known at the time and after he died counties and towns throughout the original states were named for him (if you ever pass through a Warren or Warrensburg, etc., that's him). Anyway, though this really isn't about him, his death was a big deal to the Adams family, who knew him personally.

When informing her husband of her death, Abigail wrote that his death reminded him of a poem by William Collins entitled Ode Written in the Beginning of the Year 1746, which actually commemorated British troops fallen in battle in Scotland during a Jacobite rising some 30 years earlier. Collins is another 18th century figure who we never hear or read about anymore but was a big deal back then. Here's the poem:

How sleep the brave who sink to rest
By all their country’s wishes blest!
When Spring, with dewy fingers cold,
Returns to deck their hallowed mold,
She there shall dress a sweeter sod
Than Fancy’s feet have ever trod.
By fairy hands their knell is rung,
By forms unseen their dirge is sung;
There Honor comes, a pilgrim gray,
To bless the turf that wraps their clay,
And Freedom shall awhile repair,
To dwell a weeping hermit there!

I admit it.  I often like poems that rhyme better than others. So shoot me.

The poem must have been on her mind that year (Collins was long dead) as she taught it to their son, John Quincy, and when he was an old man (he was a child during the Revolutionary War) more than 75 year later, he mentioned she taught it to him right then and was still able to quote it from memory in a letter to a friend. 

There's no overarching point here. I just liked the poem and its importance to the Adams family. 

Sam Spade meets Fatty Arbuckle

When I was in San Francisco this summer I sent the girls shopping and walked around a bit on my own. I passed by John's Grill, which probably wouldn't even be open anymore were it not immortalized in Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, where Spade stopped for a bite (you can still get the same meal - pork chops and some sides I think). It got me thinking of Hammett and his longtime girlfriend, the writer Lillian Hellman (not that he wasn't married). I loved Hammett's five novels and rank them thus:

The Glass Key
The Maltese Falcon
The Thin Man
The Dain Curse
Red Harvest

Yes, TGK better than TMF, but they were all great. He really started something. Even Raymond Chandler said he owed a lot to him. But Dash was a drunk and not a nice one either. The truth is, it is hard to like him, though he had his moments too. He got his knowledge about being a detective from the time he was a Pinkerton detective. While he was one, they were helping out Fatty Arbuckle, the movie star accused of rape and manslaughter. Talk about forgotten. Arbuckle was the discoverer of both Buster Keaton and Bob Hope and both a friend of Chaplin and a world famous comedian in his own right. He had three trials, the first two being hung juries and the third in which he was acquitted  by the jury (who actually wrote him a letter of apology). The Pinkerton's were working for him and thought him innocent too (I have no idea if he was or not), but I love this playful squib written by Hammett at the time:

"I sat in the lobby of the Plaza, in San Francisco. It was the day before the opening of the second absurd attempt to convict Roscoe Arbuckle of something. He came into the lobby. He looked at me and I at him. His eyes were the eyes of a man who expected to be regarded as a monster but was not yet inured to it. I made my gaze as contemptuous as I could. He glared at me, went on to the elevator still glaring. It was amusing. I was working for his attorneys at the time, gathering information for his defence."

Secrets of the Secret Service

The Pinkertons are a nice segue into the Secret Service. Pinkerton himself, the original American detective, helped save Lincoln as he made his way to Washington, D.C.  The formation of the Service was actually on Lincoln's desk when he died. But, it didn't protect the president until after McKinney's assassination (apparently, the assassination of Lincoln and Garfield not being a sufficient hint that something should be done).

My major feeling about the Service right now is shock and disappointment. Here I was, a very cynical guy, who is constantly saying that almost everything in this world operates incompetently. But, even after the prostitute scandal just about a couple of years ago, I thought that was about ethics and not competence. But, maybe it was a big clue.

I don't know what is going on with them. Forget the number of people who have crossed over onto the White House lawn, fired shots at it, or gotten onto an elevator with the president (seriously?), this last debacle needs a stronger word than incompetent to describe it.

The most amazing part to me is not that he actually made it to the house itself, though that is amazing, but that he overpowered the ONE guard at the door. One guard!

A few things came to mind.

First, was the guard on a cell phone or tablet? Why would I think a thing like that? Maybe because every time I am in a building now where they have security guards, they spend the same amount of time doing that as just about everyone else.
Second, is everyone picturing every group of terrorists in the world having conversations like - "What if instead of sending one man, we send a dozen?"
What would they do? Are we even remotely prepared for this?
The disgraced former director of the agency, Julia Pierson, said she wanted the agency to seem like Disneyland to the public. Words fail.


The biggest dispute about the most famous terrorist group in the world seems to be whether to call them ISIS, ISIL, IS or IL. I like ISIS and am sticking with it.

Leaving aside that I am disgusted with both the president and the congress for ignoring the constitution and not dealing with this issue (the first is the president's fault, the second congress's), I really think we should be involved. I admit I am a little of a hawk, but the kind that doesn't want to build nests. Do what we have to do, help out who we strongly feel shares our political values and go home.  I just think we should be in the business, not of chasing monsters, but killing people who cut the throats of our citizens and those of our allies, and then make sure the video gets circulated.
I remember reading Theodore Roosevelt, who would now be considered a terrible racist and a bit of a nut job by many people, that once we lose our martial ardor, we are done as a country. I really don't even want to hit anyone myself, never mind shoot anyone, but that's probably typical and he may be right. This isn't about empire. It's not about oil. It costs us money to do this. What fighting ISIS is about is having a world where we can all do business and interact without getting our throats slit. Isn't that good enough reason? If it is not, why should our enemies not think it is a good idea?

That's enough for today. See you folks in church.

1 comment:

  1. football: sticking with my picks: San Diego and Seattle (still think Saints are a long shot). UK: vote worked out for the rest of the world, but really, an independent Scotland?? Now? Why? Principle? Please! "guest" vs "customer": labels are beside the point and complaining about that is kind of whiny yuppyville. Now you want to talk about customer service as a dying art, i'm with you but whether they call you a guest or a customer is the least of it. Sweden: About damn time the Swedes toughened up. Too much kissing Russian ass over there. Abby: Love the girl, fascinating historical figure, real tough broad. Sam Spade: Dig him, preference is Mike Hammer as a character but Hammett is far superior writer to Spillane. Like chop meat versus prime rib. Secret Service: Their incompetence surprises you, really? What planet do you come from? ISIS: Totally agree with you, blow their s--t up. No apologies necessary. Stop trying to make rules for war, completely insane. Just whack 'em.


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About Me

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .