Saturday, February 27, 2010

In the Shop, Making Sawdust

In the shop, making sawdust this morning to the sounds of America’s Sister Golden Hair


This is an endgrain vase from spalted birch.

Urn 1

Urn 2

Eventually it will get dyed and carved into a style similar to this pieces:


And then we’re off to the Fur Rendezvous in Anchorage today.



What are you doing with your Saturday?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Oh, You Disingenuous Bastards, You!

No, no I’m not talking about the healthcare thing.

No, I’m not talking about the politicians.

…though, come to think of it, I guess the title of this post would work for that too.

No, I’m talking about Alaskan Airlines.

Alaskan Airlines To Offer WiFi On All Aircraft.

Oh, I don’t think so.

Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m all about connectivity. I’m all about WiFi while travelling. And I’m nine kinds of enthusiastic about being able to post updates to Things That Chap My Ass About Air Travel from in the actual air (or while marooned on the runway in Chicago for ten hours in a blizzard with the ripe stench of overflowing lavatories and strapped in next to a guy that reeks of aromatic ass and burning hemp and some fervent eyed crazed Palinista who wants to introduce me to Jesus personally).

I think the big WiFi in the Sky is a great idea and if it keeps the flying masses occupied so they annoy me less, I’m all for it. 

I think it’ll come in very handy in a variety of situations. It’ll be terrific for business people and bloggers and writers and the average Joe.  Or in a terrorist takeover, it could damned useful then.  Say you’re a suicide bomber, WiFi and Twitter could be a godsend, “40SweetVirgins Allah Ack… Oh DAMNIT! Hello my Jihadist Tweeps, any of U on flt483 right now? My lighter is out of fluid. Can U help a martyr out?”  See?

As an Alaskan who frequently flies Alaskan Airlines, I think it’s great idea to offer WiFi for a modest fee. 

So what’s my problem?

I’ll tell you what my problem is – it’s the goddamned wireless part of WiFi.

Wireless, that means radio waves.

On airplanes.

Seriously, What. The. Hell?

We’ve been told for years, decades in fact, that we can’t use wireless devices on airplanes.  No phones, no GPS units, no portable TVs, no radios, no nothing that makes radio waves in any way – because, and I quote every pre-flight safety brief ever, the electromagnetic interference could jam the plane’s flight control and FUCKING KILL US ALL!  Make a phone call at the wrong moment and we end up as tomato paste surprise spread all over a corn field in Iowa, right?  Isn’t that what they’ve been telling us? Send out a tweet as the plane makes a critical maneuver and suddenly we’re plunging from 30,000 feet in a flaming death spiral!  Check your Blackberry mail while on final approach to O’Hare International and you get to experience a “water landing” in the middle of Lake Michigan and maybe find out if that seat cushion full of beer farts really does turn into a flotation device.  Use your Android to update your Facebook Wall as you leave the terminal at JFK and the plane suddenly veers off the taxiway and accelerates out of control like a Toyota Camry in a grocery store parking lot (what? Too soon?).  Sync up your Bluetooth headset and the engines will explode into giant balls of flame and shredded turbine blades, the fuselage will suffer explosive decompression, and the seven foot tall basketball player seated in front of you will suddenly recline his seat in defiance of FAA regulations and jam your spleen into your spine, and every baby on the plane will burst into red faced hysterical screaming and bubbling snot filled crying at the same exact moment! It’ll be terror at 20,000 feet!  Death! Chaos! Aaaaaaah!

Well, that’s how they make it sound.

But now suddenly, Alaskan and other airlines are offering WiFi

Suddenly it’s just OK for three hundred passengers to fire up their laptops and surf the internet while in flight?  Suddenly it’s perfectly fine to literally bath the interior of the aircraft in RF energy?  The skies will be full of connected passengers downloading airline maintenance records and playing video poker.  HULU videos will replace that insipid in-flight magazine.  And I don’t even want to speculate about the weird guy who took his laptop into the lavatory ten minutes ago.

It’s just OK now?  What the hell happened?

I see two possibilities: either a) The airlines spent hundreds of billions converting all of their flight controls and fly-by-wire systems to EM hardened, RF shielded, surge impervious C2 like something from a cold war nuclear bomber, or b) the bastards were lying to us right from the very first time Orville and Wilbur soared off that sand dune at Kitty Hawk.

Frankly, the odds are that it’s probably the second option. Just saying.

Which begs the question, what else are these sons of bitches lying to us about?

I’ll tell you, once you’re on to them, it’s easy to spot the discrepancies:

“Northwest Airlines regrets to inform passengers on Flight 1542 that there will be a slight delay while we fix a minor maintenance issue…”  Riiiight. The maintenance crew dropped a wrench into the engine and they can’t find it, didn’t they?

“…we’re should have you on your way shortly…”  We’re number 53 for take-off.

“Here’s your snack box, Sir…” Listen, bitch, yogurt and a handful of raisins isn’t a snack.  I bet those pricks up in 1st class are getting microwave pizza rolls, corn dogs, and a deli tray. And while we’re on it, two tiny pretzels and a little plastic cup of warm ginger ale isn’t cutting it.  I paid $1400 for this flight, the least you can do is pick me up a turkey hoagie and some fucking Doritos on your way into work.

“Would you like a blanket?” Blanket? Blanket? Blanket for who? Keebler Elves?  That ain’t no blanket, I’ve got hankies bigger than that.

“Delta Airlines regrets that Flight 425 with service to Miami will be delayed due to weather…”  Uh huh.  The pilots showed up smelling of Tequila and cheap prostitutes again, didn’t they?  From the other side of that locked door you can hear, “C’mon Capt’n Bob, drink the coffee, you’ve got a 9:02 and you’re late.” “No, don’t wanna!” Do not be concerned, everything is under control.

“We guarantee that only highly trained and professional security personnel will be examining your person in the full body scanner.  Pictures cannot be stored or downloaded…” to internet porn sites. Trust us.

“Whoa, sorry there folks! We’re experiencing a little ‘clear air’ turbulence…”  Turbulence, another word for “Holy fucking Shit! Where’d that 747 come from! Turn! Turn!”

“I’m sorry, Sir, there are no Emergency Exit Row seats left…” You lying whore

“Gooood Morning, Folks, this is Capt’n Pudknocker from the cockpit.  Blah blah blah yabber yabber babble babble and thanks for flying with us today. We know you have a choice when it comes to air travel and we sure appreciate you choosing Continental today!”  Choice? What choice? We didn’t spend $700 so we could end up shoehorned into this sardine can because we had a fucking choice, you dolt.

“…you should have plenty of time to make your connecting flight at LAX…”  if you’re an Olympic sprinter.

“…and again we’re sorry for the inconvenience and you may redeem this $400 voucher on any future US Airways flight or that of our Blue Star Brown Ring of Quality partners…”  Some restrictions apply.

“…oxygen will be flowing, even though the bag does not inflate…” Sure and it’ll smell just like vacuum.

“…the National Transportation Safety Board’s crash investigation has determined that this issue is not a problem with other aircraft, however it is recommending a voluntary upgrade to the non-explosive flux-capacitors…” Take the train.


Frankly, I don’t trust anything these people say.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my tray table in the upright and locked position and secure my electronics for takeoff…

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Die, Microsoft You Bastards, Die!

You know what I hate most about Microsoft Windows?

The bizarre random inconsistency.

Nine times in a row it does the same thing, and then on the tenth time, it just suddenly does something completely off the wall for no damned reason whatsoever that you can determine.

Whatever you’re trying to do, it won’t do that. No matter what combination of curses you try.

Sooner or later, you’re going to have to reboot the computer. Microsoft has some kind of pathological requirement that you reboot whenever it appears that you might be trying to do something simple and routine.

I’m trying to upload pictures from my camera.

I’ve done this dozens of times since I bought the camera. Normally I just plug in the USB cable, the pictures gadget recognizes the camera, finds the pictures, and uploads them. Done. I write the blog post while I’m doing it.

Not today.

Suddenly Vista just doesn’t recognize the camera. Lalalalalalalalalala, I don’t see no camera. I can’t do it manually because it doesn’t register the camera’s internal drive – which is probably the actual problem and why the transfer gadget doesn't start. I can’t just pop the chip out of the camera and put it in the computer’s chip reader because it’s formatted in Nikon’s proprietary format – which the chip reader doesn’t recognize.

So now I have to screw around for an hour to figure out what the problem is.

Seriously, Microsoft, and you wonder why people hate your fucking guts?

Go on, tell me what you think is Windows’ worst feature.

Oh, and let me add a preemptive “fuck you, Linux Guy” and a “fuck you, Mac Guy” I am really not in the mood for your smug giggling at the moment – which, of course, will not stop you from making some smarmy comment about your super wonderful Gucci-neato operating system.

Hence the preemptive part.


I’m guessing the device driver for the Nikon is corrupt. 

I have now passed the point where I’m willing to screw with it any further tonight, and am rapidly moving into the realm of random violence. I feel a burning need to kick puppies and punch a bunny repeatedly.

I was going to show you what I’ve been spinning on the big lathe, but you know at this point I am so damned irritated that I’m going to go drink beer and watch something on cable. Probably something about bunnies being punched in the face, or eaten alive by aliens.

See you tomorrow.


Note: No actual bunnies were hurt during the drafting of this post – but they could have been, oh yes, they could have been.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don’t Even Start

Today’s google search phrase:

“Jim Wright Leia Slave Bikini Sexist Comment Scalzi Whatever” 

from some persistent goon in Australia, and:

“stone kettle jim wright on the Whatever sexist homophobe”

from some jerkoff in Palo Alto.

Several dozen search hits altogether today.  I have no idea what brought this up again and frankly I do not care.

This is where I stand: You may kiss my ass.  Don’t start that shit again.  I quit Scalzi’s site because of you assholes, and I put up with a month of hate mail.  You win. I hope you GenderFail fucks are very happy playing with yourselves.

Talk about it all you like somewhere else, but don’t start that shit here.

You stay on your side of the Internet and I’ll stay on mine.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Music Selection

Boom, Like That, off the Shangri La album.



Seriously, who but Mark Knopfler would write a song based on Ray Kroc’s autobiography, Grinding It Out*

It’s songs like this that are the reason I love Knopfler’s music.


*Kroc, just in case you don’t know, is the guy who turned the McDonald brother’s hamburger stand into the McCorporation it is today – and in the process screwed the brothers right into the ground.  His philosophy was if your adversary is drowning, you “put a hose in their mouth and turn on the water.”  Grinding It Out is a damned interesting read.

Dick Cheney, Palms Read, Fortunes Told

Former Vice President, Dick Cheney, predicts “Barack Obama’s a one-term president.


Other Famous predictions by Dick Cheney:

- Deficits don’t matter.

- I think we are in fact on our way to getting on top of the whole Katrina exercise.

- We will in fact be greeted as liberators.

- We believe he [Saddam] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.

- In Iraq, a ruthless dictator cultivated weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. He gave support to terrorists, had an established relationship with al Qaeda.

- I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.

- Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.

- It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.



It’s like shooting fish in a barrel…or friends in the face.

Folks, if Cheney says that it’s going to rain soup, I probably wouldn’t rush to get out my bowl and crackers.

There’s a reason why they call him “dick.”

Just sayin’

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Constitutional Cultists and the Mount Vernon Statement

Remember TQM?

Total Quality Management?

It’s a methodology for improving process control in manufacturing. It was cooked up by a professor named William Edwards Deming (yes, Edwards, not Edward – it’s his mother’s family name). Deming was primarily a statistician specializing in quality control. He is widely credited with improving US production methods during the Cold War, but it is his work in the Japanese auto industry for which he is renown. Throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, Deming taught Japanese auto manufacturing top management how to improve design, production, testing, sales – and especially the quality of their products – by improving the overall process of manufacturing.

The results were dramatic.

The first Japanese auto imports into the US and European markets were a poor joke. “Made in Japan” was synonymous with “crap” and their cars were cheap tiny junkers which many Americans regarded almost as the embodiment of those clownish, squinty-eyed, near-sighted, buck-toothed Jap caricatures of WWII.

Deming changed all of that.

Today, well, today Japanese auto manufacturers own the market worldwide, due in significant part to Deming and his process of Total Quality Management.

American industry took notice - eventually. There’s a fairly famous example of Ford executives trying to figure out why Americans kept requesting Ford vehicles that were made with Japanese transmissions and power-trains instead of American made ones – even though both were made to the exact same specifications (the Japanese ones were made to much tighter tolerances, i.e. if the spec called for plus or minus 1/8 of an inch, Japanese parts were consistently a quarter of that, making for noticeably better performance and smoother operating transmissions with significantly lower maintenance issues. The tolerances on American parts ran the gamut, from one extreme of the spec to the other, making for significantly lower quality and poor consistency in transmissions made in the US and dramatically increasing manufacturing and maintenance costs).

TQM worked. In Japan. It revolutionized manufacturing. In Japan. Deming is considered almost a Saint. In Japan.

American manufacturers saw what was happening in Japan, and suddenly they wanted some of that magic too. Deming, who in the 60’s couldn’t even get past the lobby receptionist, was suddenly getting phone calls from the CEO’s of Ford and GM. He became a lecturer and consultant. Unfortunately, TQM, and other systems such as John Boyd’s OODA loop, had somewhat limited success in American industry. While the new methodology did improve American manufacturing it was no where near as significant as in Japan. On the other hand, they did spawn an entirely new industry: the Process Efficiency Consultant – quite possibly the single most hated parasite in the American business sector. Nowadays, Deming is regarded with somewhat less enthusiasm among American business than he is in Japan.

And then there are those of us who were in the US Navy during the 80’s and 90’s. Mention Deming and TQL (Total Quality Leadership) to us and you’re likely to get punched in the nose.


It’s not Deming or TQM per se, whose ideas and methodologies are basically sound, it’s that they were filtered through layers and layers of facilitators who had less and less understanding of the basic principles and what had made the system such a success in Japan. Like a Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox, each iteration of the process became just a little bit more fuzzy than the last – and by the time Deming’s ideas became the US Navy’s TQL program it was a blurry and incoherent mess. Anybody who served in the Navy during the hated TQL period can tell you horror stories about an endless stream of facilitators fresh from their “train the trainer” courses and as enthusiastic as a Mary Kay sales rep hopped up on cocaine and caffeine and one tube of blush away from the Pink Caddie. We saw endless presentations of fishbone diagrams and Gantt charts and process vs. product flowcharts. We were repeatedly victimized by an endless succession of “Process Action Teams” and XO’s Quality Tsars and more gods bedamned facilitators.

Take the Vision Statement for example.

The Navy’s version of TQM always started with a vision statement.

Vision Statements were supposed to convey the Commander’s vision to us knuckle-draggers, empowering sailors on the deck plates by clearly explaining the reason why the organization existed in the first place. Every Navy command had to have a vision statement, every department within the command had to have one, every division within each department had to have yet another one. Like matter spiraling down into the event horizon of an enormous galaxy devouring black hole from which nothing could escape – not matter, not light, not intelligence – hundreds of thousands of man-hours disappeared into Process Action Teams during the never ending generation of Vision Statements. These PATs were curious structures, all the more so for a military operation, because they lacked a formal hierarchy. Navy TQL Implementers had interpreted Deming’s methodology to mean nobody could be in charge, and so the PATs placed senior officers, experienced NCO’s, and junior inexperienced and uneducated personnel all on an equal footing. Chaos was the usual result, that and random Brownian motion. And because actual work still had to get done, Commanders usually assigned the fuckoffs and suckups and those they could do without and those too unlucky or stupid to get out of it to the PATs. They say that a camel is a horse designed by committee, and the vision statements that emerged from the TQL PATS were often big smelly ten humped camels with crossed eyes, knock knees, and drool covered muzzles. I recall one such vision statement from a Washington DC Headquarters command that I was assigned to in the mid-90’s (we were often forced to memorize them in case the IG asked during inspections): “To maximize our potential synergy in order to achieve strategic and tactical superiority by leveraging advanced technologies in the electronic battlespace of the 21st Century” (I shit you not). That was a pretty average example of a Navy vision statement (I understand it took two weeks of discussion to determine whether or not to include the word “potential.” Apparently some folks felt that using the word potential indicated that we might not have actual synergy, and maybe we shouldn’t be advertising that. Others argued that synergy is always a potential and not a measurable rest state value. Others just blinked and nodded wisely every time the word synergy was mentioned. All agreed that synergy must be used in the statement, nobody had a clue as to what it meant but it sounded like something we’d want) (As an aside: I once suggested that our vision statement should be “Drive around the ocean, blow shit up.” My suggestion was rejected, but seriously, isn’t that what the Navy does?).

It’s a damned good thing that we didn’t have a major war during this period – because we’d all probably have gotten shot in the head while trying to figure out how to leverage our potential (or not) synergy.

Nobody had any idea of what that vision statement meant – and that too, was pretty typical of Navy vision statements. Far from clarifying things, the vision statements were just meaningless gibberish that gave the appearance of something constructive but only made things worse – because the manpower and assets used to create them could have been used to achieve actual results instead of being locked in a conference room for a month. I.e. you can talk about the mission, you can argue about the mission – or you can do the mission. (Eventually the Navy quietly dumped TQL and moved on to other management flavors of the week. Those of us who have been around for a while learned to ignore whatever process the brass were currently bloviating about. TQL, ISO9000, SEA21, Mentoring (with a capital M) whatever – if you gaffed it off long enough the current management fad would just go away anyway, and you had time to get the things done that actually needed to be done).

What happened, and what always happens in these cases, is simple (but not necessarily apparent while it’s happening, nor is it necessarily obvious amongst the carnage after the tidal wave has passed you by): There is a huge difference between a “professor” and a “facilitator.”

A Professor is a professional.

A Facilitator is an amateur.

Those who design systems, be they computer systems or management systems or systems of government, usually understand the systems in detail. They are, usually, experts. They study the causal effects, the problems, the people, the goals, the pitfalls, the scope and boundaries, the limitations, the primary and secondary and tertiary effects, the controls, the adaptations, where to apply the system and where not to apply the system, and more than anything the reason why the system was necessary in the first place.

Facilitators rarely understand any of that. I’m not saying that amateurs can’t use the system, can’t even teach aspects of it – at the familiarization level – but it is very, very important to understand the limitations of lay-people when it comes to teaching and managing complex systems. Especially systems that directly involve people.

Wright’s 1st Rule of Experts: If you learned it in a classroom and you’ve spent years developing experience and you can produce some form of mainstream credentials, you might be a professional. If you learned it in a seminar, you’re an amateur. Know the damned difference before you open your mouth.

It’s the difference between designing a computer system at the micro-circuit level and configuring a router. It’s the difference between a theoretical mathematician and using a calculator. It’s the difference between running the company and working on the assembly line. It’s the difference between a board certified immunologist and somebody who learned about vaccines on the internet. Anybody can ride on an airplane (unless you’re Kevin Smith), but damned few folks could design a modern aircraft from first principles. It’s the difference between an evolutionary biologist and a creationist.

And that’s what happened with Deming’s TQM in the United States. It’s what eventually seems to happen to all management fads here in the United States (and to be fair, it happens outside the States too, but the degree of facilitator fuzziness is far more pronounced here where we increasingly pride ourselves on the common sense of Joe the Plummer instead of actual education, professionalism, and empirical evidence). The designer’s vision is lost, the underlying reasons for the system’s creation are lost, or corrupted, or co-opted by the facilitators. These things often end up costing inordinate amounts of money and vital assets and priceless time and rarely produce any change in the corporate structure where it really matters, at the top. Witness the American auto industry, despite decades of chasing the latest management and efficiency fads – the Big Three are no different, fundamentally, structurally, organizationally, than they were in the 50’s.

The end results of this are all too apparent in the auto industry and elsewhere.

Why do I bring this up?

Because it’s a pretty good example of what happens when you let amateurs run things, when you let the lowest common denominator teach the next generation, and when you don’t really understand why things exist and why they were designed that way in the first place. It’s what happens when you don’t understand first principles.

Let me give you another example: It’s like those Cargo Cults that grew up in the New Guinea jungles following the end of WWII. Soldiers flooded into the South Pacific during the war, they brought with them all kinds of wonderful things that the primitive islanders had never seen. More than that, the islanders had no context to even begin to understand the construction and manufacture of that advanced technology. To the islanders, these things were magic. This did not mean that they could not be taught to use advanced technology however, and dozens were given cursory training in firearms and some were even taught to drive jeeps and operate equipment. After the war ended, the soldiers, sailors, and airmen simply left – and all of that wonderful technology went with them. The islanders believed that they could summon back the “cargo” if they performed the rituals they had learned from watching the soldiers.  So they built “runways” complete with ersatz lights and hangers and taxiways to call down the C-47’s. They repeated the magic words, call signs and radio procedures, they had heard from the vanished servicemen. They built whole bases, complete with jeeps and gun emplacements made from bamboo in order to fool the airplanes into landing with their precious cargo. They sang and they danced and an entire religion grew up around the quest for the vanished cargo – but, of course, no cargo came. The cargo cultists performed the rituals in an attempt to facilitate the return of the cargo, but they had no real understanding of the true situation, and so they were forever doomed to failure.

Again, why do I bring this up?

Well, because today near George Washington’s ancestral home another group of facilitators, of cultists, have gathered to light the landing lights and chant and pray and wait for the cargo.

A gathering of conservative “grassroots” leaders (or those who pretend to be “grassroots” leaders but are really part of the mainstream GOP, such as Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC)) assembled today in what was once the library at Mount Vernon, where they signed something called “The Mount Vernon Statement.”

Let’s call them Constitutional Cultists, shall we?

These people don’t believe in the Constitution as it exists today, they believe in some mythological constitution – sort of like Sarah Palin’s version of George Washington.

Let me give you an example:

Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead — forward or backward, up or down? Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?

That’s a direct quote taken from the Mount Vernon Statement. It’s is not taken out of context, it is a standalone paragraph. According to the leaders of the conservative party, America must not, cannot change. Change is bad, where it may lead nobody knows. Change is dangerous. Change is a lie.

This paragraph shows, more than any other, why these people, and their Tea Party brethren, are cultists, facilitators, amateurs. This paragraph more than any other in the Mount Vernon Statement shows how little these people understand the principles and ideas that the Constitution was based upon.

America must not change?

Then why did the founders build the instruments of change into the very fabric of the Constitution itself? Why did they include a very specific process for changing the Constitution? Why did they themselves change it, adding the Bill of Rights and other amendments? The Constitution as it exists today, is not the Constitution penned by our founding fathers – that document has been changed many times.

I was going to detail those changes specifically, to rub these retards’ collective noses in their own ignorance, but there’s no need.  My friend and fellow UCFer, Eric, has done a far better job than I can over on Giant Midgets. If you haven’t read his piece, you really should. Eric demonstrates rather succinctly the difference between a professional, like himself, and amateurs.

These people, these Constitutional Conservatives, are cultists. The constitution that these fools rally to defend so fervently, so passionately, so dogmatically, does not exist, and in fact has never existed. Their version of the Constitution is a myth. This America they wish to reclaim for themselves, this promised land of their founders, is no more real than the coconut radios and bamboo jeeps made by pacific islanders to bring back the Cargo.

The Mount Vernon Statement is mumbo jumbo, a bunch of words that sound good, but like those Navy TQM Mission Statements mean absolutely nothing.

When examined in detail, it’s gibberish, it’s a camel designed by committee.

Right from the opening paragraph, it’s meaningless nonsense:

We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.

We recommit ourselves? Meaning what? Conservatives have fallen off the conservative wagon? Last time they took this oath, it was by the light of flickering candles in William F. Buckley’s basement, when on September 11th (Whoa, there’s an evil omen), 1960, they all swore blood allegiance to the Sharon Statement (one can just see them in their newspaper pirate hats made from folded Wall Street Journals, with little wooden swords and a sign declaring “No Stinky Girls Allowed!”). And what ideas of the founding fathers are we talking about here? Do Constitutional Cultists commit themselves to the ideas of George Washington? Do they? Really?  See, Washington hated the idea of political parties, which he felt pitted citizen against citizen. And in point of fact Washington specifically railed against the formation of political parties in his farewell address in 1796:

"All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

"However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion."

Why, it’s as if Washington was able to see 200 years into the future and witness the events in his own library, is it not?

What about Alexander Hamilton, who was what today we would refer to as a radical leftist. Thomas Jefferson would certainly be labeled a progressive today and James Madison was certainly left of center. So were many other founders, so when the Constitutional Cultists “recommit” themselves to “the ideas of the American Founding” I have to ask if that includes these radical liberals as well? If not, then which ideas and which founders, specifically, are they committing themselves to? Do they commit themselves to compromise with liberals? Because that’s what the founders did, they compromised. Federalists, anti-Federalists, left and right, they sat down and hammered it out, they got the damned job done, they compromised. Do these Constitutional Cultists commit themselves to that ideal, the ideal of compromise? How about that “based on the rule of law” bit? Aren’t these the very same people who say the President is above the law (well, if he’s a conservative, of course)? Who say he can order torture and detainment and rendition, including that of American citizens, at will? “They sought to secure national independence?” How’s that again? America had been independent for nearly a decade by the time the Constitution was written and ratified.

The opening paragraph of the Mount Vernon Statement is gibberish. It only makes sense, after a fashion, if you don’t know what any of the words mean.

This is the difference between professionals and amateurs. The difference between the real Founders and a myth. This is the difference between men of intellect and those who sneer at intellect and label it elitism. This is the difference between the real living and changing Constitution and the fantasy constitution alluded to in the Mount Vernon Statement. This is the difference between those who create true democracy, and those who only facilitate it.

This is the difference between true patriots and those who would only pretend to the same status.

In the end, it's just gibberish.

Frankly I’m surprised they didn’t toss in “synergy.”

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

See, Here's the Thing...

...I've got a pounding headache.


And I'll see you tomorrow.

Headache Better today, but not gone.

It's not migraine, fortunately. Just eyestrain I think.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Things That Chap My Ass About Presidents Day

This arrived yesterday.


Butt Paste*. 

Apparently for my chapped ass.

Good timing, considering that I’m finding this day particularly ass chapping.


First, my computer is running glacially slow.  It’s because Microsoft wants to install updates on my machine and I won’t let it.  After a couple of days of being denied, the update process begins stealing clock cycles in an effort to force you to reboot by slowing your machine down to a crawl. THIS PISSES ME OFF. Fuck you, Microsoft, I’ll reboot my computer when I’m damned good and ready and until then you can jam your updates right up your collective colons.  In fact, if you keep pestering me, I will never reboot. Because I’m like that.  I just killed the update process via the task manager and you know what? I’m not going to do the updates for another week, maybe two. Suck on that, Bill.

Second, as you might have noticed, I blew up that beautiful spalted birch bowl this morning in the shop.  I was trying a technique advocated by a “professional” wood turner. You know what?  Screw him. I’ll continue to do it my way, thanks.  My way doesn’t blow up bowls.

Third, it’s raining.  In February. In Alaska. It’s 37 degrees out and raining.  Walking from the shop to the house is worth your life.  I just know I’m going to slip and land on my bad shoulder.  This is making my ass more chapped than usual – if that’s possible.

Fourth, the idiot motorhead who lives at the bottom of the hill behind me has the day off too.  You know what that means, despite the fact that the snow is melting off because it’s raining, it’s snowmobile tune up day! Rev rev rev rev REV FUCKING REV! All goddamned day long.  I swear to God, if he doesn’t stop soon I’m going to get out my old 1000 watt tube amp and start blasting ABBA down the hill – and don’t think I won’t.  I’ve got a set of powered bullhorn speakers used for public announcing at outdoor venues, hooked up to the amp they’ll peel flesh off bone, and turn the remaining bones to jelly, at a thousand yards – with Dancing Queen blasting through them, they’ll induce mass suicide for a two mile radius, and frankly, I don’t really like my neighbors very much anyway.

Fifth, Presidents Day.  Is this a stupid holiday or what? 

Presidents Day. Seriously?

We should call it what it is, Federal Employee Paid Day Off Day or maybe Excuse For A Sale At Wal-Mart Day or Just Another Reason To Close the Post Office Day.

Presidents Day.  How stupid. What are the Presidents Day traditions?  Do we deep fry a turkey? Put up colored lights? Paint eggs? Shoot guns into the air and light off firecrackers? Nail some guy to a cross?  Burn witches?  Is there corned beef involved? What? I’m a little vague on what this day is supposed to be about.  Originally, we celebrated George Washington’s birthday.  I guess I can dig that.  George was the father of the United States, he threw a silver dollar across the Mississippi, wrestled a polar bear when he was only three wearing nothing but a coonskin cap, and fought off the Nazi’s after they bombed Pearl Harbor – or something.  OK, I’m not sure exactly what George did, but he’s Sarah Palin’s hero and that’s good enough for me. 

But that wasn’t good enough for everybody else, oh no. 

Pretty soon, people wanted the day off for their favorite President too.

So then we had Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday. That was fun, people dressed up in stovepipe hats and went to see a play… 

But pretty soon people were talking about taking the day off for Thomas Jefferson’s Birthday. And then there was Benjamin Franklin’s birthday - he was never the President, but he’s on the money and that confused a lot of people and besides he discovered electricity and that ought to be worth a couple days of drinking and tailgating and some kind of bowl game.  Pretty soon folks were talking about taking Grover Cleveland’s wedding anniversary off and going up to Big Bear for a four day weekend.

Then somebody came up with the idea of Vice President’s day, and Speaker of the House Day, and Take Your Press Secretary To Lunch Day, and Spend A Night In The Motel 6 With Your Congressional Page Day.

By the end of the 1960’s, things were just totally out of hand – there were so many holidays that the 60’s seemed like one long party. That’s where hippies came from, it wasn’t a cultural revolution, it’s just that everybody had been basically drunk for a decade (which also explains the hygiene issues).

So around about 1971, Congress sobered up long enough to create Presidents Day. Technically, it’s supposed to be Washington’s Birthday but saying that out loud started the whole “what about my president!” thing all over again.  So we just call it Presidents Day. Or President’s Day. Or Presidents’ Day – nobody is really sure what to do about the apostrophe. 

The problem with “Presidents Day” is that it is supposed to be a day we all take off and ruminate on the greatness of our leaders here in the US.  And sure, that sounds terrific in principle, but in reality there were some real duds in the ol’ Presidential line up. 


Take Marty Van Buren:


Give this guy a red rubber nose and we’re talking Bozo the Clown here.  And that’s how a lot of people felt about him.  In the 1830’s there was basically no federal banking regulation and so banks just did whatever they pleased – including handing out huge loans to people who couldn’t pay them back, ever.  A massive financial crisis resulted.  Marty was a rich elitest and liked to live the highlife, you can imagine what the average voter thought of him by the end of his first term.  Fortunately, thanks to the Fed nothing like that can happen these days.


Or how about John Tyler:


Tyler ended up in the White House by default.  President William Henry Harrison gave the longest inaugural speech in history – in the pouring rain, in freezing temperatures, without a coat or a hat – and as a result had the shortest presidency of all time when he died from pneumonia less than a month later.   Tyler, who was Vice President, was sworn in as Harrison’s replacement.  Tyler was so widely hated that he is often confused for George W. Bush by historians.  His entire cabinet resigned in protest of his policies. The House tried to impeach him and he was voted off the island by his own party.  After he was unceremoniously evicted from the Oval Office, he joined the Confederacy and died during the Civil War as a Representative of the CSA House.  Personally, I think the guy missed his calling, he could have made a killing as the “before” picture for any number of laxative manufacturers.


Do we really want to celebrate James Buchanan?


It’s creepy uncle Fester! This guy basically caused the Civil War. Be sure to raise a couple of brewskies in his memory, won’t you?


Rutherford B. Hayes:


The only President with a more sissified first name than Millard Fillmore (seriously, Millard? Were his parents just trying to get him beat up every single day of his life?). This guy lost the popular vote, but won the Presidency in court – thank God that kind of shit doesn’t go on any more.  His inauguration was actually held in secret, for fear that he’d be assassinated if he appeared in public for his swearing in.  His wife as known as Lemonade Lucy because she banned alcohol from the White House – funny, but you’d think she’d drink pretty much continuously if she had to sleep with this guy. C’mon, Lucy, give The Beard some sugar!


Then there’s Warren Harding:


Widely regarded as “The Lost Munster,” Harding is considered by most American historians as probably the only US president who can’t look at George W. Bush and say, “Well, at least I didn’t suck as much as that guy.” He was easily corrupted, an adulterer, a horrible leader, a worse public speaker, and the cause behind the Teapot Dome scandal. He died in office and the only reason anybody noticed was because shit started getting better.


How about this guy?


Actually, I’m sort of in favor of celebrating William Jefferson Clinton on Presidents Day – with a beer and a cigar and by (wink) not having sex with that woman.


And finally, how about this pudknocker?


If you call it Presidents Day, then you have to celebrate all of the presidents.

Looks like I’m going to need a bigger tube of that butt paste.


Go on, name the guy you think was the least worthy to be honored on Presidents Day.



Happy George Washington’s Birthday, folks.

Hope yours is better than mine.




* It’s Zinc Oxide, for diaper rash.  It says “Pleasant Scent.”  Seriously? Hey, Honey come over here and smell the baby’s lemony fresh ass!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Just Because…

…it’s Friday night!

Jello shots for everybody!

Everybody! Up on the counters and tables.

I wanna see air guitar like you don’t have teenaged children who are watching in utter horror!

I wanna see some dancing like you won’t need an entire tube of Ben-Gay tomorrow!


Yes, yes!



Crap.  You all went to bed already. Didn’t you?


Thursday, February 11, 2010

This Week’s Very Important Question

On the way home from Anchorage tonight I was listening to my ZEN instead of my usual NPR and the news.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been loading up some pre-programmed playlists. Vintage stuff mostly.

One of those lists was “Greatest Rock Anthems of All Time,” those great power ballads of my teenaged years, 70’s classic rock. You know, that great music we all thought would never die.

Except, well, maybe some of those songs should die. Quietly.

Granted, there’s a serious nostalgia factor here and I’m willing to cut many of those old tunes some slack, they bring back great memories of my first car and school dances and the rumble of 33 vinyl on a belt driven turntable blasting through a tube amp. 

But others? Well, let’s just say that - from the perspective that the intervening thirty years have given me - some of those songs didn’t age well. Really, not at all.

Take Kansas. In the 70’s they were everywhere, on every radio station, in every cassette player.  I probably listened to Point of Know Return a million times and I still enjoy hearing it. The MTV video is pretty hysterical too, now, but I remember when those effects were cutting edge (the hair, well, that never goes out of style):

But then there’s Dust in the Wind, probably Kansas’ best known hit and one of the “Greatest Rock Anthems.”

Holy freakin’ crap what a depressing tune. God Gravy, man, don’t listen to it alone in the car, you’ll end up driving straight into a bridge abutment.  I’m sure there’s a video of it somewhere out there in the bleak gray soulless desolation of the dying and lonely Internet, but I’m not linking to it here. You can go find it for yourself. I’d recommend you make sure your Xanax prescription is up to date first though. It’s a wonder any of us made it out of the 70’s alive.

Next up?

Led Zeppelin, Stairway to Heaven.  Hey, Zeppelin had some great tunes, but seriously folks Stairway isn’t one of them.  Oh sure, I can hear your heads exploding from here (and an especially loud bang from somewhere in North Carolina). Yes, I know. Stairway was the most requested FM radio song in the 70’s, hell I’m pretty sure I was one of those callers.  I know it’s considered one of the top five greatest rock tunes of all time by pretty much any compilation you can name. But damn, folks, have you listened to this song? I mean as an adult? As a sober adult. Really, check out the lyrics. They not not profound, they’re complete nonsense:

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The truth will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she's buying a stairway
To heaven...

What the fuck is that?

It’s gibberish, that’s what it is. Gibberish. It’s not because I’m old, it’s gibberish. The whole damned song is like that. I know, I know, but face it folks, if it only makes sense after a tab of acid and two doobies rolled from pages torn out of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, it’s probably really just complete crap. And speaking of gibberish – anything by The Doors. Just sayin’.

Styx’s The Grand Illusion aged pretty well I thought, Alan Parson Pyramid sure didn’t (though I still love In the Lap of the Gods, though I don’t think you could call it rock and roll).

Then there are songs I absolutely hated when they were popular.

And now?

Now they make me smile and crank up the volume until my ears bleed. AC/DC’s You Shook Me All Night Long for example.

Or Twisted Sister, We’re Not Going To Take It. This has got to be one of the best MTV rock videos ever made (of course, it helps if you’ve seen Animal House).


So anyway, here’s your question, in two parts: a) Worst Rock Anthem Ever? and b) Best Rock Anthem Ever?  


Remember, the correct answer grants you access to the shelter when the zombie apocalypse comes, the wrong answer will likely result in your untimely conversion into zombiechow.  Think carefully, the songs in column B will likely end up as the soundtrack within the shelter – try to pick something that goes well with machinegun fire. Imagine blasting the shambling undead to Twisted Sister. Cool huh? Fun? Yes.   Now imagine facing a wall of reanimated corpses bent on murderous intent to the sounds of Dust in the Wind. See?  Bring that shit into the shelter and you’re going to get sent out for a bottle of record cleaner in the middle of the night.


Think about it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Jeffery Scott Shapiro Is A Deluded Whackaloon!

And yet again, FoxNews demonstrates a profound lack of journalistic integrity. Why am I not surprised?  Updates noted in the text

Seriously, Minnesota, what the fuck?

Do I miss George W. Bush?

Are you kidding me, Minnesota?


You’ve all seen the news reports, there’s a sign on I-35 outside some flyspeck conservative chancre sore of a town named Wyoming, Minnesota. It features the smirking fuck-you features of our erstwhile president, Chimpy McBush, and the caption, “Miss Me Yet?”

No, asshole, I don’t miss you. 

Frankly if it was up to me, I’d erase George W. Bush from history the same way Egyptian Pharaohs used to have their stonemasons chip the images of their predecessors off the sides of the temple walls.

The sign was put up by a small group of anonymous businessmen who seem to be suffering from teabag poisoning there in their little Minnesota Unibomber cabins.

Needless to say, it made the news.

Needless to say, it made FoxNews.

And in fact, FoxNews' Jeffrey Shapiro’s article waxes nostalgic for Bush in what may be one of the most bizarrely creepy cases of puppy love FoxNews has yet published.  The man clearly loves his Bush to a disturbing degree.   

As is usual for FoxNews (Fair and Balanced!) the article is more made up hyperbole than accuracy.  Take this little Fox factoid:

President Bush remains the only president in history to face a foreign attack on the continental mainland of the United States. His responsibility was unlike any other commander in chief in history.

Apparently neither Shapiro nor the FoxNews editors have ever heard of The War of 1812 and that dustup where the British took Maine away from the United States, and then marched into Washington and ate the President’s dinner at his own table before burning the White House to the ground while President Madison and the First Lady fled into the hills.  After the White House wiener roast, the Redcoats set about burning, looting and destroying the rest of the US capital.  

The British then moved on to Baltimore – you might have heard of that battle, the Battle of Baltimore - The Star Spangled Banner is based on it.  But I guess that neither Shapiro nor the great American Patriots at Fox are familiar with either Francis Scott Key or the defense of Fort McHenry.  But you know, fuck it, it’s such a small footnote in American history why confuse Fox’s fair and balanced reporting with facts. Right?

Update: The FoxNews article linked to above has been clumsily edited to read:

President Bush remains the only president in history since the 1812 burning of the White House to face a foreign attack

on the continental mainland of the United States. His responsibility was unlike any other commander in chief in history.

The editorial change is not noted anywhere in the article.  Fox simply changed history and pretended like it didn’t happen. 

Way to show that fair and balanced journalistic integrity, Shapiro. Really, way to go.

Other than that though, there was never any attack on the mainland US.

Well, other than the Mexican American War.

Or that whole Civil War thing.  Lincoln, that big sissy never shouldered the kind of responsibility George did. No siree.

I also really like Shapiro’s qualifier “continental mainland” (and really, what the hell does that mean? Is that like dark black? Or Neocon Wackaloon?) because if you include the attacks on the Alaskan and Hawaiian territories that marked the opening of WWII, or the Japanese and Nazi submarine attacks on American shipping along the Continental US’s coastline (including the dropping of saboteurs on the mainland), well that just sort of renders Shapiro’s whole argument null and void.  And, of course, FDR’s management of the country during that conflict pales in comparison to the burden born by George.

I can see why Shapiro deliberately couched his statement to exclude mention of the WWII attacks, because even Fox’s ignorant subscribers wouldn’t let you get away with making such an obviously false statement, unless you deliberately excluded the attacks on Pearl Harbor and Kiska.  And make no mistake, Shapiro knows what he’s doing, otherwise he wouldn’t have phrased his article the way he did, he deliberately limited the scope of his accusation in order to make his point.  In journalism this is no different than outright lying, it’s lying by omission, and the fact the Fox’s editors let him get away such a clumsy and obvious lie speaks directly to the network’s credibility and turns their tag line, “Fair and Balanced,” into a mocking dig at their own readers.  Shapiro couldn’t tell the truth, it would have voided the false point he was trying to make and, after all, the truth wouldn’t meet Rupert Murdock’s editorial standards for fair and balanced Obama bashing if actual facts were included in Fox’s articles. And beside, actual history might just confuse Teabaggers and Neocons - who just sort of make up history as they go along anyway.


FoxNews is what happens when you let pinheads like George W. Bush “reform” public education. Ditto times two for FoxNews subscribers.


Shapiro sort of waves his hands over Bush’s declaration of two wars and the resulting massive disaster and budget deficit, then he brushes that aside like a battered wife discussing what a wonderful husband she has while she holds a hand over her swollen eye and split lip,

But he saved America, not just from the terrorists, but also from the apologist self-doubt and self-loathing that President Obama appears to support.”

George W. Bush saved America. He saved America from the terrorists.


Then why are we still fighting them? Why then are conservative media outlets like FoxNews and their pundits like Beck and Limbaugh crying that the terrorists are winning? Why then are conservative media whores like Sarah Palin urging us to declare war on Iran in order to “get tough on terrorism?” 

Why then is Osama Bin Laden still out there, eight years later, still making videos and financing attacks on the US?

Calling Bush America’s savior is a lot like thanking ENRON for rolling black-outs. This idea is so ludicrous that it damned near defies comprehension. 

And I’ve never been able to figure out where people like Shapiro get the whole “apologist self doubt and self loathing” bit – unless they’re talking about how they always end up apologizing for George W. George.  Apparently if you hide out in the National Guard when the country needs you, you’re a patriot as long as you wear an American flag pin on your lapel and send other people’s kids off to fight and die in a foreign land. Shapiro’s logic is this, George the Monkey Boy loved America. Everything he did, he did out of love. He should be forgiven for everything, all those lives, because his love for America was so great and so pure.  And when his approval rating fell to the lowest in American history, well George just took that in stride because he loved us all too, despite how disappointed he was in us personally for letting him down.

Shapiro opines that this billboard marks a return to courage, the courage of the George W. Bush years.  He then mentions that the folks who love America enough to put up this sign, there on that road outside Wyoming, Minnesota, remain anonymous – you know, like true patriots who are too afraid to use their real names, or you know, go off to war and actually fight for this country, or… well, you get the idea.  I guess they love this country too, just like they love George.

As long as you love America, it’s not hypocrisy.

Shapiro ends with:

We do miss President Bush, and we will never forget what he did for America and the world; not now, not ever

I miss George W. Bush and his band of lunatics like I miss a case of tertiary stage syphilis and an outbreak of genital warts.

But Shapiro got the rest of it right, we will never forget what Bush did for America and the world.

Miss Me Yet?

No, Shapiro, I don’t miss George W. Bush.

Not now, not ever.



If Shapiro has a bigger than life-sized poster of George The Pinheaded, oiled and clad only in a loincloth, hanging on the wall of his bedroom - I don’t want to know about it.  You can keep that shit to yourself.