Dec 28, 2010

Sarah Palin Really Can't Spell

She typed it refudiate.

She meant refeudiate, of course.

As in: "In 1941 we had to refeudiate with the Germans."
A little while ago I wrote about $4 bacon. Looks like I understated the case. As bad as 2010 is, next year looks worse for the two basic food groups, i.e., (1) bacon and (2) everything lese.

More government-mandated and subsidized corn likker is going into our Suburbans and Lexi.  That makes corn dearer. Right now it's trading at an amazing $6+ a bushel. That means it is harder for pig farmers to make a buck. That means they're not so anxious to raise pigs. That means fewer critters on the market. That means higher-priced pig parts.

No such post would be complete without a reminder that the Washington payday loan office operated by Bernanke and Geithner plays a leading role in this stunning remake of that movie classic, "March to Weimar."

I'd have used a more clinical word

So Pennsylvania Boss Democrat Rendell thinks we're becoming a nation of wusses because a little snow storm moved big-money football to cancel a game. Right on, Ed. That's what I've been saying all along.

Although canceling ball games wasn't really one of the reasons I had in mind.  I was thinking more along the lines of governors who veto self-defense bills because they might irritate  enough scared soccer moms and dads to make a difference at election time.  

Dec 26, 2010

A rasher of dumb

In case you're wondering why your pig fat laced with microscopic meat slivers costs upwards of four bucks a pound lately, most of the answer is here:

The (U.S. Energy Information) agency said 4.8 billion bushels of this year's 12 billion to 13 billion bushel corn crop will be needed to satisfy ethanol demand.

The word "demand" is a fraudulent use of language unless you think a political bribe  to Monsanto and the Farm Bureau constitutes "demand."

The reporter seems doubly joyful that the 48-cent to one-dollar per gallon subsidies on ethanol and biodiesel  have been renewed. The agrithugs get richer.

The rest of the four-buck bacon price is due to a Bernanke/Geithner /Obama trick with disabling the governor on the currency engine.


Possibly, just possibly, some one from the depths of Pelosi land will stumble across this and go "Huh?" It's like this, Sunshine. Bacon comes from hogs. Hogs  eat corn.
My most obnoxious personal geekery begins on Boxing Day, the countdown to that glorious date when wearing socks is an option.

At these coordinates we have 20 days until the average daily high begins rising -- from 21 to 22.  This is my personal favorite; my Six has just been told extraction Hueys are on the way.

In  59 days, on Feb. 22, the average daily high reaches the freezing point.

And in just 79 days the daily mean exceeds 32. Three days later, on St. Patrick's Day, we plant our potatoes. On average. :)

Dec 25, 2010

Christmas dispensation

--In Iraq, a  father kills his daughter for wanting to be a suicide bomber. (H/T Roberta)

--Iowa Area Education Agency bigwumps use your tax money to create a private subsidiary which is apparently making money for someone through bid-rigging and  other fiscal peccadilloes.

--A Pakistani father doesn't kill his daughter for wanting to be a suicide bomber, and she blows up 40-some folks.

--Congress won't pass cap and trade, so the EPA says it will do it, or something very like it, by decree.

--French officials are congratulating themselves for finding most of their jetliners in the Orly drifts and persuading America to ship them some de-icing fluid, which they forgot to re-order.

--Italian thugs (calling themselves anarchists) bomb some embassies.

--Et al. Just another Yuletide season.

But I revert to my childhood training. On Christmas, don't worry, be happy, love everybody.

Time enough to nail the poor, misunderstood, miscreants next week.

(Edit: Correcting an error in the second paragraph. The probabable thugs are not from the community colleges in this case. They're from the AEAS which were established to improve publek skuls by adding a layer of bureaucracy to vital process of tossing your money around.)

Dec 24, 2010

December 24, 2010

The smartest people I know carry  their cynicism  openly, like a Peacemaker in a fast-draw rig.  It is the best defense against  a world of questionable sanity and undeniable unkindness.

About this time of year, however, some of us set it aside if random events conspire to evoke the awe of a four-year-old watching Daddy pretending to clean the chimney lest Santa get too sooty.

About midnight the light snow began, windlessly and perfectly, a Bing Crosby dream of the Christmases we wish we had had.  A watery sun will  shortly rise to reveal a fresh two inches of whiteness, a virginal cloak hiding the smudge of earlier snowfalls.

Among other things it moves me to imagine the most romantic kind of Currier and Ives winter print, with a sleigh of toys for apple-cheeked children and the makings of a feast. I send it to you with a hand-written "Merry Christmas."


Dec 22, 2010

Far be it from me to suggest Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner and Barack Obama have their heads up their dark places, but copper is knocking on the $4.30 door, a record, and humble lead continues to command well over a buck.

Never mind the $3+ self-service unleaded of which I burned a bit this morning on a trip to town for the monthly bulk pack of Federal .22s and a 100-round carton of 12 gauges.

The suspects named above, aided and abetted by a bipartisan coalition of congressional zippety-doo-dahs, continue to soothe us with "Hush little baby don't say a word, 'bama's gonna buy you ...". 

 Inflation in America? Simply not possible.

Dec 20, 2010

Woad trip

I'll depend on you folks for an eclipse report. It's strictly IFR here with ground visibility less than three miles.

In return, I'll pass along my observations if I happen to spot naked blue people dancing around my oak trees in the morning.

Anyone seen my Coppertone?

About this time Kurt was posting this gem from one of the East Anglia climate frauds:

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is," he said.

...two other things were happening.

The Eurozoners were still digging around in drifts, trying to find their Airbuses, and I was trying to get artsy-craftsie with:

Al, we still gotcher your Glow Ball warming hanging.

....has always been at war with Eastasia

Support your local Telescreen.

Genuflect to your  new "state fusion center." It seeks to know you better than God does.

And, for Heaven's sake, do nothing suspicious.

The Washington Post is doing a series on federal, state, and local police lust to put you, me, and the other  330 million of us under the microscope.

A trip to WalMart (which is cooperating with the snoops) for a bag of rose fertilizer and a gallon of kerosene for your shop heater gets you  -- or in due course will get you -- a place in the database of suspected terrorist ANFO freaks.

"At the same time that the FBI is expanding its West Virginia database, it is building a vast repository controlled by people who work in a top-secret vault on the fourth floor of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington. This one stores the profiles of tens of thousands of Americans and legal residents who are not accused of any crime. What they have done is appear to be acting suspiciously to a town sheriff, a traffic cop or even a neighbor."

The cost is hideous, tens or hundreds of billions; we're in the dark because, of course, telling us what we're paying would alert Osama that we're trying to  catch his acolytes.

So far the universal Telescreen seems to be quite effective in nabbing Sad Sacks with outstanding traffic warrants. And tracking the vacationer who photographs a Staten Island ferry boat.

Folks, the WaPo piece is long. It is worth your time.

And it is actionable if your habits are as suspicious as mine.  At least three times this year I have entered WalMart in the deep dark of late night to purchase munitions to fit my BL22,  (a weapon fully capable of killing at 100 yards). There is no place in the Miniluv database for a lame explanation about disliking crowds. So, from now on, I'll buy the Federal 550 bulk packs at Noon, in the Darkness thereof.

Dec 19, 2010

About that foreign weenie...

Every time truth requires me to admit to using a 9mm Eurowimp as my bread and butter piece, I feel compelled to get all defensive about it.

I loopholed the 59 cheap, as it should have been. It was intended to be trading stock, but my vestigial conscience denied permission to foist it off until it could be used as intended. So I disassembled, deburred, throated, and polished the internals. Most significantly I ground enough metal from the frame to permit the trigger to go back far enough to trip the sear every time. This is the truth, and I can still display the tool marks to doubters.

About the time I finished making the damned thing work right,  I got sucked into the high-capacity vortex which was just gathering speed in those days.

"Look,"  I thought,  "with 13 rounds in one magazine, I am  reasonably well covered for any threat I can imagine, even if I can't immediately put my hands on the spare."  

It remains a valid point, even after a guy becomes totally disenchanted with the 9mm as a defense round. (You can hedge your bet with zippy hand loads, and I do.) Besides, I really like shooting the thing.

But the controlling point is that my life has become almost as threat-free as a modern American life can be.  On the rare, all but nonexistent, occasions when I don't t think that Pollyanna-ish view is justified, the pipsqueak goes into the safe, and out comes one of Mr. Browning's (PBUH) 1911s in the decisive .45 ACP.

I do not urge this solution on others.

The uncarried pistol

Out of an essential,  I had to warm up the van and drive a mile to the country convenience store before sunrise this morning.


My usual carry pistol is a SW 59, a turn-in by a police department which could not tolerate the criminally slipshod quality. Diligent frobnistication has turned it into a fast, dependable, and accurate defense piece.  It generally lives in the vehicle, as does a purely recreational Ruger RST4.

Yesterday morning I brought them inside for a routine inspection and wipedown. I neglected to put them back.


Years ago I spent a three-year career break in some misery, teaching in a high school. Among my burdens was a hard-luck kid of no motivation, a surly attitude, and an explosive rejection of my insistence that everyone, college prep or metal-shop  loafer, should have at least a passing acquaintance with Shakespeare, Dickens, and the elements of civilized speech. His hatred of me apparently was profound.


I made my purchase and got into the van. As I started the engine a massively-bearded six-foot-something apparition emerged from behind a black Suburban with something in its right hand. It banged on my window.  It occurred to me that, being unarmed, a speedy drive-off would best satisfy the requirements of prudence.

But this is a small community, my small community, and habits of friendliness die hard. I cracked the window three or four  inches, just enough to communicate. Still, I shifted into gear and held the brake pedal down with the left foot, the right one poised over the accelerator.

Comes the voice:

"Hi Mr. _____________. I had this left over from the box and thought you might want it."

I accepted the rolled Sunday newspaper and said, "Thank you."

I can't imagine the synaptic processes that led to recognition of my old English-hating student.

"Hey, is that you _________ ?

"Yep. Just thought you might like the Sunday  paper, Mr.____________. Merry Christmas."  


Dec 18, 2010

Set back, relax, and enjoy your flight.

The Iranian-American businessman who forgot to take his loaded  Baby Glock out of his computer bag was a little embarrassed to find it after a flight from Houston. He thought maybe the crack  TSA security operatives ought to be, too. 

 "It's just impossible to miss it, you know. I mean, this is not a small gun," Seif told ABC News. "How can you miss it? You cannot miss it."

But the TSA did miss it, and maybe --- I dunno, just maybe -- I can answer  his question.

Was one of these in the  security queue, motivating the TSA  fellas to lose concentration and squabble quietly over whose turn it was to gape at the pervoscan, or probulate her as a opt-out?  I mean, I'm just askin', here.
Bettie Page

Dec 17, 2010

"Hi. I'm Al Sharpton, better known as The Rev.Mr. Al. I have some other peoples' money and I want  your gun."

The Rev. Mr. Al's disciples will be at the church tomorrow, cash in hand, allegedly paying $200 - $600 for working guns.

(Note the picture. In the second row down, third from left, is what might be a nice old Smith spur trigger.  Don't tell Tam. She'd probably get all hostile at the thought of it being melted down for a manhole cover, especially before she can profile it as a Sunday Smith.


If you're too far away from Harlem, you can shed that pesky old Luger in Portland tomorrow.  For a fiream they'll give you a $50 local megamart gift certificate. A BB gun will net you a whopper of a $5  "Burgerville" certificate. Cheapass Oregoniads.


An idle wonder: Do they promise to turn off the surveillance cameras -- especially the ones with digital face recognition -- in and near the buyback sites?

Mika, you idiot

I've always kind of liked you because you are capable of keeping your mouth shut even when the MSNBC cameras are rolling and because you look pretty sexy making those moues of disgust  at Joe.

But you closed the segment with The Rev.Mr. Al Sharpton this morning by wishing him well in scheme to  "keep the guns from coming into the city and going out."

And going out?  Seems to me you'd be thrilled with lethal weapons leaving Gotham. But, then, I've never been very good at finding the logic in things teevee news personalities say. I'm sure the lack is in me.

(The Rev.Mr. Al was on the show to hustle for  tomorrow's  NY gun buyback.)

Dec 16, 2010

Style note

I shall henceforth require my correspondents to use word frobnicate from time to time. As, for instance, threatening: "If those damned statists keep frobnicating the Constitution, I am going to kick their incrementalist arses."

I know.  All geekish young readers are already aware of the term, but my South African pal Wouter has this morning bestowed the lovely gift of discovery on me. He had to frobnicate this and that to make a new computer battery work.


On a related note, I am pleased to see reduced  media usage of the horrible and unnecessary wordoid "bling." Thank you all for heeding its official prohibition by the authoritative TMR.

Passages: The Heater from Van Meter

Bob Feller of Van Meter, Iowa, gun captain aboard the USS Alabama (BB 60) and baseball player, dies at the age of 92.

He rode Alabama through her stint in the North Atlantic as part of the British Home Fleet, then through the Canal to the Pacific where, from the Gilberts to Tokyo, he and his shipmates  didn't miss many of the major campaigns.

He was not a draftee.

He is the only USN chief petty officer in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Dec 15, 2010

My second day of Christmas

It's hard to be snarky when wrapping Christmas gifts. This one goes to a good lad who shows  interest in small arms; I decided he should at least be aware of St. Ackley.

Probably the first Christmas card of my very own.

 Dec. 4, 1944

  "Dear Jimmie ... Merry Christmas and Love, Uncle Amzie"  
(Corporal, AUS, combat engineer)

Dec 13, 2010


A federal judge says the federal government does not have the authority to require  you to buy health insurance.  That element of Obamacare is, therefore, unconstitutional.

The pleasure here has nothing to do with health care, and little with Obamacare.

Break out the Templeton Rye and toast U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson of Richmond for simply pronouncing what should be a self-evident truth: There are some things governments have no privilege  to do.

Dec 12, 2010

Maybe my mind does work weird.

The good man at Random Acts of Patriotism publishes a nice take on the TSA boys eye-raping Donna D'Errico, and a quite different image comes to me.

Janet Napolitano in a little black dress, oozing her way to the front of the security line, stage whispering,  "Me. Me. Probulate Me. Please."

So sue me.

Cheated Death Again

It was brutal, but the practical effect on me was about 36 hours of enforced sloth. We're now behind the blizzard --  in garish sunshine, in the middle of one of those huge mid-continent high-pressure systems that portend days of sub-zero annoyance.

Never mind.  It keeps out the riff-raff.

Paul appeared at 10 a.m. on his sturdy International Harvester M, and  my lane  is   now passable. As Jinglebob reminded  us yesterday, it is good to live in a place where "neighbor"  is still a meaningful word.

Dec 11, 2010

Arm the Iowa Hawkeyes

A Fort Madison Democrat by the name of Gene Fraise is the new chairman of the Iowa Senate Judiciary Committee. Among other things,  this means he's the crisp-suited critter who can pretty much decide what public safety matters the other 49 senators can and can not vote on.

One proposal would amend the state Constitution to recognize the right to  use arms for  personal defense and, perhaps, depending on final wording, defense of your property.

Senator Fraise finds this chilling.  "I've always felt like we've got to be real careful about what we start sticking into the constitution," he said.

Danged straight, Senator. For instance, sticking all that stuff about freedom of speech and privacy rights and what-all into constitutions has caused all sorts of inconvenience for senators and presidents and so forth. It makes the proles uppity.


Adding a 2A style amendment to the Iowa Constitution is part of the liberty wish list for the 2011 session. The askings include a move to adopt the Alaska/Arizona/Vermont philosophy. (By what right does a state have any business whatsoever hamstringing a right guaranteed by the federal Constitution?) 

Never mind, says Senator Fraise. "At first blush, I'd say I don't think we want to go down that road, but I'm open to looking at it, with reservations."  Translation:  "Not a  prayer, John Q.  Any such thing gets lost  in my blushing drawers."

Another proposal would forbid cities  to water down Iowa's new shall-issue law by restricting concealed or open carry in parks and public buildings. That gets city commissars nervous. For instance, Keokuk Police Chief Thomas Crew said "the last thing his city needs is irritable people openly carrying weapons when paying their parking tickets or handling other city business."

May I make a constructive suggestion, here, Chief? Thank you. Stop doing so much petty crap that tends to make so many of your subjects irritable.


It's early in the lawmaking circus, so I of course have no idea how all this will end. But the GOP -- pretty libertarian on gun rights, if on little else -- recaptured the house, 60-40, and closed the senate Democrats gap to 24-26.

And Republicans in the upper house are led by a fellow whose sentiments are not in doubt.

"Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, R-Chariton", ... bought his wife a .38-caliber gun for their wedding anniversary.

Shaking Hands with Admiral Beaufort

(Or, "Where's the Furshlugginer St. Bernard When you Need Him?")

The century-old burr oaks shimmy in the wind.  I cannot see the  road some 250 feet away.

It is timely, therefore,  to think of the admiral's classification of winds. As the Camp J day progresses, we'll work our way up the scale.

First, Force 7:  Whole trees in motion. Effort needed to walk against the wind.

Then, Force 9:  Some branches break off trees, and some small trees blow over. Construction/temporary signs and barricades blow over.

(Those are the land conditions. For a further journey into mortal fear,  see the link for parallel effects asea.)

The six inches of snow today will add to the merriment as we progress toward a predicted low of minus 15.

If you care to have your sympathy further elicited, see it live.

Dec 10, 2010

Theocracy 101

The Iranian woman sentenced to death by stoning may have been freed due to pressure from the slightly more civilized world, according to AFP and  the Vancouver Sun.

She was convicted of two crimes, involvement in her husband's slaying and sleeping around. The murder charge finally brought a 10-year prison sentence, but letting strange hands and whatever creep up under her abaya generated the death-by-stoning decree.

I submit that is all we need to know about governments which claim to have God's unlisted number on speed dial.

Dec 9, 2010

In Praise of Matt Dunham, AP photographer

I can't recommend highly enough that you look at Mr. Dunham's photo of Charles and Camilla under seige.   A less staid editor would have captioned it, "The Duchess needs fresh stepins."

This one will win prizes, and I'll give odds on it taking the Pulitzer in spot news photography.

His other riot shots aren't bad, either.

Kicking the Duke's Carriage, Oh My!

We sadly note that England has given us a disrespectful lead. It seems that London youth today have been observed kicking the carriage of His Future Royal Majesty. And on Regency Street, no less, even with Mrs. Future Royal Majesty, Camilla, aboard.

The AP determined that this event required a bulletin and a quick subsequent lede  quoting a Charlie factotum that "Their Royal Majesties are quite unharmed."

I, for one, am quite relieved.

And the AP, on it's own, reports that the couple, after speeding off, dismounted at at London Palladium to view a Royal Variety Performance,  (Judge Lynn in "Divorce Court" reruns?)  "looking quite composed."  This, too, is heartening.
The protesters are angry because Parliament, which has recently discovered that the Exchequer is still bare, plans to triple university tuition to 9,000 pounds per annum.


I probably wouldn't have found this worth a little essay except for one factlet. AP said one protester carried a sign saying "Education is Not For Sale."

Look, you little batty English socialist nincompoop. If it isn't for sale, then what in the Hell have you parents been sweating for all their lives? Where do you think that chunk of their paycheck went every fortnight? Or that confiscatory value-added tax they forked over every time you whined for a for a pretty new waistcoat and the latest pop CD while you were in the lower forms? If it isn't for sale,  where the deuce does it come from? Your Inland Revenue Service is funded with unicorn farts, maybe?

Now, if you had said that your universities are as bloated as ours, that students are getting a bad bargain at almost any tuition level, then I wouldn't be calling you a  stoned-out, smack-brained, collectivist doowhackadoo whose economic understanding is lower than whale excretia.

And if that ain't the ever-loving truth I'll kiss your arse at Buckingham Palace during the Changing of the Guard and give you an hour to alert Fleet Street.

Dec 8, 2010

Survival things

Coffee. America is wired on coffee. When the ships stop bringing it, social unrest will escalate.

So the savvy preparer makes room in his secret bunker for a good supply. It is most efficient to hold the instant version. Of course, the effete SHTF survivalist might want keep grounds on hand for personal use, reserving the powder for barter. Two ounces of Folgers "crystals" for a pound of Unique. Take it or leave it, Bub.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

(Next survival exegesis: whiskey.)

Dec 6, 2010

M1 Carbine and Military Personnel Policy

This policy would have shortened World War 2:

Any recruit who could immediately, intuitively, attach the sling to the carbine, threading web around the oiler correctly on the first try, should have been instantly promoted to staff sergeant.

His Obamaness and the Troops

Kurt has a funny take on it, with photos.

(And is an addition to the blog list.)


On December  7, 1941,  it started for us. 

McGee: "With every passing year  it will seem more quaint, the little tin airplanes bombing the sleepy giants." 

Not many months later, sergeants barely old enough to shave crept through the western Pacific island  jungles. It was not quaint for them. It was ultimate struggle. 
 For personal survival.  For revenge. And yes, for Mom and apple pie.

Fools are  willing to forget these men and women. No one else.

Dec 5, 2010

Loophole AAR

I shillied and shallied and came home only a few small-denomination Federal Reserve Promises lighter.  The headline buy was a vintage Pacific case trimmer.

I know I mentioned wanting another .38/.357 shooter, but I got emotionally involved instead with  a pretty  $900 SW 25 in .45 Colt. I made no long-term commitment, though a return to re-fondle and re-consider is not totally out of the question.

(Is Providence telling me to quit fiddling with minor calibers? )

To make my fellow WW2 arms fans feel better -- if you bought yours long enough ago --  the offerings were limited to one so-so 1911A1, a Remington Rand at $2,200.  No Garands. No Carbines.

Savage 99 prices caught my eye. There were several, about $800 to about $1,900, the latter for an 80 percenter in .250.


If I do go back, I'll  try to come home with, at least,  the ratty Mossberg 144LSA, one of the more underrated  target .22s.  The price is too high, $150, but maybe I can negotiate well enough to make a refurbishing worthwhile.

Tamara and the Sailor

When Tam graces a fellow's thoughts  with a link and  kind words , the readership curve goes vertical, and I like to browse through the site meter to see where some of these new readers are.

I was especially taken with a hit from UTC + 3, which is the sand box, The origin was a net openly identified with the United States Navy, and I picture a tired sailor in a dim compartment,  braced in his work chair against the chop of a shallow sea, taking a moment to look in on the rest of the world and divert his mind from  the dreariness of a sea warrior's environment.

Which, as older guys say too often, takes me back.  Years ago I spent most of Advent aboard a pitching little ship on an Asian sea and Christmas itself among throngs of people speaking a strange and chattering tongue, people to whom it was just another day. To  a man -- boy, really -- raised in the  American tradition it was disorienting and disheartening. To be homesick at Christmas is to have a real disease.

And so, Unknown Visitor, I wish you the strength to endure the season in your haze-gray box and an early return to the land of your parents. Merry Christmas, Mate.


Dec 4, 2010

Show Time

Another weekend, another show

   Another Loophole, where we will go...

(With apologies to Cole Porter, PBUH, too.)


This is one of the small country shows, at the Jackson National Guard Armory.  We expect a high proportion of hobbyists behind the tables, trying to unload their old surplus  stuff. That interests us more than acres of dealers loaded down with black guns or, at best,  the latest factory output of ho-hum quality attached to birch stocks.

My inner thug is telling me I really ought to own another handgun or two.  For one thing, my shelves are fat with .38 Special and .357 Magnum rounds, and the only shooter I own for them is a Taurus snubby. I hear Pythons are pretty nice.


My loopholing  habits have changed.  When the world was a better place, I'd always toss in a few pieces I was tired of for trading stock. No more. I and most of my comrades have adopted the never-sell-a-gun philosophy. We keep them all  on grounds that the Messers Bernanke and Geithner can't press a computer key and create 60 billion Colts and Winchesters out of thin air.

Dec 3, 2010

Dear Mr. President:

Could you please take a moment to tell me the name of the next young American who should die for President Thieu, errr, I mean Karzai, of course.


Dec 2, 2010 I kicked sand is his face back

Washington is beyond any hope of parody. The President and Mrs. Obama today wet kissed Congress for turning the nation's school children into legions of Arnie Schwarzeneggers and Twiggies. Fortunately,  it's going to cost only $4.5 billion (B), plus overruns. For a time we were frightened that it would be expensive, but it's only a little more than half of the new money the Fed printed today.*

The new nutrition standards would be written by the Agriculture Department, which would decide which kinds of foods may be sold and what ingredients can be used on school lunch lines and in vending machines.

"The $4.5 billion bill approved by the House 264-157 would also try to cut down on greasy foods and extra calories by giving the government power to decide what kinds of foods may be sold in vending machines and lunch lines. The bill could even limit frequent school bake sales and fundraisers that give kids extra chances to eat brownies and pizza."

Since the Ag Department boss is our old buddy Tom Vilsack, former weekend gardener and mayor of Mount Pleasant, I thought I would reintroduce you to the man now in charge of your kids' school food.

Tom is the one on the right, a lithe example of American manhood, or, as we used to call him when he was our governor, Ol' Brownie Bake Sale.


*The latest  iceberg collision of the QE2. Ben invented $8.3 billion to buy federal bonds.

Of COURSE she misses me.

Sarah Palin is about eight miles north of Camp J,  signing books in WalMart. I'm cleaning up paperwork, enjoying a nice fire of oak and ash, and waiting for her heartborken email lamenting my absence .

I'll reply -- with all the compassion and sensitivity I can muster -- that I always avoid groups of more than 5,000 people when I can gracefully do so and remind her that I already saw her once.

On a Bike Trail Built for Few

Sill looking for an explanation of how we destroyed our economy so badly? Come visit. On a five-minute drive I will illustrate it for you.

We'll be motoring along the busy two-lane state highway which has just been graced by a new bike trail.

First, however, kindly permit me a brief personal aside. I am a fan of the trail concept.  People who walk and ride bicycles instead of driving cars and trucks  become healthier and wealthier.  When protein-based locomotion is substituted for fossil fuel, we reduce our overseas cash-exodus and debt problem.  Our world becomes a little cleaner.  It's all good, or would be if  (a) trails were built with a degree of intelligence and (b) they actually went somewhere.

The one I refer to starts at the driveway of a big church well outside of town and ends a couple of miles away near the entrance to a  lakeside park. Aside from a country convenience store mid-way, there is no reason travel it except to look at pretty scenery on one side and the highway on the other. So virtually no one uses it.

Which is not related to the three other primary absurdities, the least of which is that about a third of the trail goes through a public hunting area. Before long some lonely yuppie will be biking along on his Koga Kimera and notice a guy with a gun. He will make a  horrified complaint to pliant authorities who will then be faced with a dilemma. Do they close down hunting, or do they offend the hoplophobic wailers,  noisy all out of proportion to their numbers? You get one guess, and it will be right.

It is more ridiculous that this trail -- and all others in this  part of the world -- are built to standards more often associated with roadways for Freightliners, fully paved with (most likely) over-specified concrete. Someone with access to the public tit missed the point that a trail, by definition, is intended for Nikes, Schwinns, and baby strollers.  Call it, generously, GVW limits of of 600 pounds, and those would be tandems piloted by the couples who badly need the exercise.

The best for last: One and-one half miles of this trail are easily visible from the highway, and just for the Hell of it I counted the traffic control signs -- on the trail and meant only for all those bikes and baby strollers. Forty-two in the mile and one-half. Some warn of curves, the sharpest of which limits visibility to maybe 300 yards.  Some alert the soccer moms to the beginning and end of the trail. But most, and I swear to the gods this is true, are incline markers, cautioning that the trail drops or rises 10  or 20 feet in the next couple of hundred yards.

Ignore the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the underused trail bed itself Just multiply 42 by a couple of hundred dollars, the minimum imaginable cost of buying the treated posts, the signs, and people and equipment to install them. You get $8,400.

So what, Jim? You're bitching about a pittance.

No, I'm inviting attention to the reason why our Leaders this week are stumbling around Washington, wall-eyed  with the realization that we have nearly borrowed ourselves into Third-World debtor-nation status; why an American plea for IMF bailout loans in the next decade is no longer unthinkable. Why you may wake up one morning in the near future and discover that your stash of  well-hidden C-notes,  totaling  a thousand dollars, for emergencies,  won't buy your hungry kid a Happy Meal, even if they remain legal.

Bike trails built to Interstate Highway standards, a million or two  to dissuade kids from eating Cheetos, a few billion to send an extra $250 to each of the nation's old farts.  They are linked to a pervasive political attitude: "Dream up something  -- damned near anything -- that sounds nice and green and healthy and friendly, and, of course, badly needed. Hire a lobbyist. We'll find a way to make you happy by extorting your neighbors, Of  course, they're broke too these days, but we'll just borrow what you need and sign their name to it."