Jul 22, 2018

The Marble Urinal Conspiracies

I don't remember peeing in the actual White House. Besides,  any relief I sought there would have been mundanely in the servants' wing, the press room facilities, during the AP days when I  (rarely)  attended Ron Nessen's briefings.

A different story existed across the alley in the garish old rococo Executive Office Building, built by an architectural Timothy Leary in the 1870s and 80s.  I did a bit of business there as a low-rank political operative in the Reagan years. We swilled coffee during  business hours, and fancy beer and wine flowed freely enough late in the day.

A man's bladder has its requirements, and the American taxpayers of the late 19th Century ensured his need would be met in grand and glorious style. Those flamboyantly grained marble pissoirs were two feet wide and tall enough to make a coffin for a short man. No where else in my life have I actually giggled shaking out the last drops.

I almost always made up little fantasies about my pissing predecessors. Did Teddy Roosevelt dangle his big stick there while conferring quietly with an adjacent William McKinley about which Cuban hill to immortalize? Did his cousin  Franklin sidle up next to Cordell Hull and, sotto voice,  plot ways to goad Tojo into attacking Pearl Harbor?

They certainly could have, validating a life-long suspicion that our masters will  always find ways to to secretly scheme to piss away our fortunes and our lives. And how better than companionably unzipped, shoulder to shoulder, at the upper end of the Washington, D.C. sewer system? No secretary with her shorthand pad. No recorders. No snoopy little aides with pals in the press corps.

All this comes to mind as we open another chapter in our largely aspirational quest for the oxymoronical "open government."

The internet apps wizards say they have found a way to make official government email both private and self-destroying. They mean they have at long last emulated Mr. Orwell's memory hole. It is now the libertarian Winston Smith clandestinely battling the Inner Party. Of course people like you and I root for Winston, but probably to little avail.

For instance, if you see Presidents Trump and Putin heading for the same Helsinki privy, rest assured that they can privately plot to organize your world according to their own  secret designs. There will be no leaks.

Feb 26, 2018

Flash! The Official 99 Best Greasy Spoons

I had just about recovered from the hideous Michelle Obama drive to turn my digestive tract over to the federal government. Some of her influence remains, particularly in the school lunch industry, but in general I believed that the clamor  had died down for federal cops to inspect our food-processing innards.

Quite a few serious studies concluded that her drive for whole grain and seasoning-free entrees had resulted primarily in overflowing garbage cans at the end of the lunch line. The American citizenry decided it was unnecessary to evade a Big Mac Attack or decline a slice of Pizza Supreme just because Michelle said so.

Little did I think that my beloved Iowa bureaucrats would take up the cause.

This one is not in the name of nutrition, but of money. The state tourist bureau lady is quoted:

“We looked at places that served a unique dish or had a unique atmosphere, maybe they’d won an award for the best burger or best tenderloin,” she says. “Also, we travel and find restaurants we enjoy. We also looked to Yelp for some positive reviews there.”

So, the sovereign state of Iowa (Our Liberties We Prize and Our Rights We Will Maintain) has dubbed one restaurant in each of the 99 counties as the best places to stuff our gullets. At least it is done not in the name eternal youth through macrobiotics but in pursuit of greater tax revenue.

Couple of things here: What in the name of holy hell qualifies her and her associates to choose the eateries which will tickle your tongue? Some money was spent on this, including, one infers, 
reimbursed travel to find the juiciest burgers.

(Heard in the tourist bureau office?   Hey, gang, let all go find some really good eats. Might as well. We can collect milage and bill the goodies to the taxpayers. Research, doncha know?) 

Reviewing pertinent constitutions and statutes. I find  no mandate for my Leaders and Regulators to pose as Duncan Hines.

Not to mention the thousands of other restaurants helping pay for the boondoggle which informs the world that they are second best. At best.

Feb 19, 2018


By now most people should have seen the Washington Post refutation of the widely circulated statistic reporting 18 school shootings so far this year. The number comes from Michael Bloomberg's "Every town for GunSafety," and it is false.
Carrying it a little further, the Post reports that since the 1999 Columbine massacre about 150,000 kids have been present in a K-12 school when a shooting took place. With about 50 million K-12 kids in the country, that means 49,850,000 were not exposed to school gun fire. The percentage is thus about three one-thousandths one per cent over some 19 years.
One more boring statistic, not nearly as flammable as marches on Washington or frantic street demonstrations: There are roughly 98,270 high schools and elementary schools in our country. About 170 of them, according the the solidly liberal and anti-gun Post, have experienced shootings while, therefore, 98,100 of them have not. That percentage is 18 ten-thousandths of one per cent. 
Feel free to fact-check.
Nothing here is meant to minimize the horror of any murder; it is meant to attenuate the mindless drama.

(Just blowing the dust from my blog wth this little item I first posted to Facebook.  How y'all doing out there?)

Sep 22, 2017

Idiots of the Corn

Here in the idyllic heartland, one of the common crimes is  burgling and vandalizing isolated old farmsteads. The optimistic thugs are usually looking for antiques and other fencible merchandise (copper is always popular), and they often get away with it, earning, I judge, an hourly income about half of what they could make flipping legal if disheartening burgers.

A couple of years ago drones became the new toy of choice for our local gendarmes. (If you smell some hefty federal grant money here, I forbear arguing with you.)  They would make crook-catching a snap.

Down around Emmetsburg (nee "The Irish Settlement") it didn't work yesterday.

The crime was eyeballed by a citizen who called the cops who descended with enough men and materiel to set up a perimeter around the corn field into which the miscreants had fled. This all happened at mid-morning. Aside from the manpower, the lawn order lads deployed a small manned airplane and two drones.

We can assume a good time was had by all in the air and  on the joysticks.  Hour piled upon hour as they buzzed back and forth over the fading green of high September maize. It isn't too hard to imagine that the suspects watched the aerial crime-buster craft for while, shrugged, then settled down for nice long naps. A little before supper time they snuck out and tried to make their getaway through an adjacent field of soy beans where they were spotted by a citizen innocent of possessing a drone, a thermal imager, or even one of those old-fashioned Cessnas. He phoned the cops and the lead panned out. The county jail population rose by two at sundown.

My personal belief is that the law officers are spending this equinox day preparing new grant proposals to increase their drone force.

The Luddite who lives in one of the sub-basements of my soul finds all this pretty damned funny.