Friday, December 31, 2004


There's an interesting group called Digital Global that supplies images. The tsunami that happened on the 26th generated some good stuff. This link from their web site is one of the retreating water at a place called Kalutara, Sri Lanka. Just looks like another day at the beach, don't it? I guess that what is interesting about the pictures is the fact that they're so pure and distant. The technology tends to connect the facts of an event without really communicating the horror. Neutral and without the horrors of reality. Just some good stuff from overhead. The body count is now well over 100,000 and still going up and all the school kids are sending the contents of their piggy banks to the Red Cross. Curious. What are they supposed to do with the money? Send the grieving relatives to the movies? Do they need shovels? Really?

I suppose the problem that I'm grappling with is one of perception. Because we have a chance to actually see such an event we can look inside ourselves and feel empathy. But the 2 million who have died in Central Africa in the last year didn't even make a ripple in the Indian Ocean. No TV there. No dramatic footage. No pictures from space. No made for TV movie? Where's Bruce Willis fighting his way through another disaster?

Seriously, what can they do with the donated money? Buy all the survivors iPods? Bluetooth earplugs? A boombox to go into each coffin to make the trip across the Styx more enjoyable?

Sigh. Happy New Year.


Thursday, December 30, 2004


I sent my friend Dan that piece of Michael Barone's. His reply:

Bob: I just couldn't read that crap without some


Baron sets up an interesting straw man. It
doesn't work. For example:

"...Government issued regulations were set up to
protect the environment. Few Americans want to
undo these changes."

Really ?? A perusal of the newspapers in
the past two weeks, not to mention the last four
years, would give lie to that. Ease air
pollution restrictions, weaken regulation of the
national forests and more, just recently.

"... Take black Americans, the most heavily
Democratic constituency -- 88 percent to 11
percent for John Kerry in the 2004 NEP exit poll.
Blacks have been voting for Democratic
presidential candidates by similar margins since
1964, when Republican Barry Goldwater opposed the
Civil Rights Act. ..."

Actually, its 1936 -- up until that time Black
American turned out
for the New Deal and rejected the pro-business
Republicans who insisted that "prosperity is just
around the corner." It was, its called World War
2 -- the New Deal didn't end the Depression, but
it alleviated a great deal of suffering while
causing some problems by its solutions.

"... That was a big issue, then. And never mind
that a higher proportion of Republicans than
Democrats voted for the bill in Congress --
Goldwater did oppose it..."

Nice trick -- shifting from "liberal" to
partisan labels. The Southern Democrats made
many Republicans look reactionary with their main
issue -- segregation. They gutted the New Deal
in the South, insuring that the 'niggers' didn't
get the aid. FDR was forced to accept their
death grip on legislation, until he went after
them in 1938 and got clobbered in the off year
elections by appeals to racism from Conservative
Democrats. The New Deal was DOA after 1938 as
the "Boll Weevils" bottled up progressive
legislation in committees dominated by
Conservative Democratic chairmen. I would submit
that the South has changed a great deal, and it
hasn't changed at all. Ever since Johnson signed
the Voting Rights Act in 1965 the South began a
shift in their partisan label from Democratic to
Republican. They had always been "conservative"
(a polite term for it) and LBJ did that they knew
those damned liberals would eventually do --
actually get the 'niggers' to vote. Damn LBJ.
And, wow, here's Nixon and then Reagan who dusted
off the idea of New Federalism and States Rights
(and called it 'forward looking') -- nice code
for you-know-what. George Wallace anyone? While
you're at it, get a load of Dubya's court

But "Dubya" takes it to a new level -- squeeze
the states and the social programs by cutting
them, running up the debt and cutting taxes at
the same time, shifting the burden for Medicaid
now (who knows what later) to the parsimonious,
regressively financed states, with subtle
references to class and race, while flattering
the rednecks that they're really "entrepreneurs."
Its good stuff, it works, largely due to their
immediate self-interest and the self-flattering
portrait painted of them by the Conservatives.
David Stockman laid out the plan in the early
80's, and it appears that Dubya and his cohorts
are following it. Soon, ketchup will be declared
a vegetable.

"... the antiwar constituency, an important part
of the Democratic coalition in 2004. These voters
denounce the war in Iraq in much the same terms,
with much the same arguments,..."

He's kind of ignoring something here, don't you
think? For example, the "Weapons of Mass
Destruction" that never turned up. We were lied
to about Vietnam, we've been lied to about Iraq.
Its painfully true that the liberals have their
troglodytes, just as the conservatives have them,
but please, the point of departure for the war
turned out to be a lie. Hello! Do we just write
that off? Do we not see also a parallel with
trying to "win on the cheap" (turned into "lean
and mean military"), not inconveniencing the
middle class, and not having an exit strategy
(Bush Senior wrote that he didn't invade Baghdad
because there was no appealing exit strategy more
than 10 yrs. before this mess) -- Richard Perle,
the neo-con guru, wasn't worried about an exit
strategy, nor was Rumsfield, Ashcroft or any of
the other "REAL MEN" enacting the neo-con agenda.
The irony is that the only veteran in the bunch
is the one they portray as a 'girly-man' ---
Colin Powell.

"...On the economic front as well, Democrats
seem to be looking more to the past than the
future. The Social Security system as it exists
is obviously not sustainable: ..."

Yes, and a nice qualifier: " it
exists..." borrowing from Clinton's pitch on
welfare reform. Bottom line with Social Security
is that it does need to be reformed -- too many
recipients (especially the recently arrived
immigrants -- that is a huge departure from the
intent of the program) and yes, more tax revenue
-- the great unmentioned -- the salary cap above
which the very wealthy do not contribute more to
a "social" program. No other industrial country
funds its social safety net in such a regressive
manner. Bush's "forward looking" plan it to
divide young and old and sell the fools on
playing the stock market -- apparently that will
always work --- except for 1987 or 1929 or 1921
or 1913 or 1893 ....etc. The Neo-Cons can't
stand any of the social safety net programs so
they alienate people on the basis of age or race.
They are proposing something "different" but do
not have a long-term answer. They'd just like to
give all of us a chance to bring out the real
entrepreneur, deep inside, that we've always
wanted to be. The strong will survive but they
don't say what will happen to the weak (or
imprudent or plainly unlucky investor). Neo-Con
is just another way of saying Neo-Social
Darwinism. And they call it "forward looking"
There's much more I could write about this
disingenuous article, but frankly, I'm just tired
of the dungeon of a mind this man exhibits. All
the problems are solved, its the best of all
possible worlds dear Pangloss, and the future is
ours. It'll all just happen. And then....the
government withers away because there'll be no
need for it (see Jeb's 2nd inaugural address,
FYI) -- just as the Dictatorship of the
Proletariat "withered away" --- after millions of
deaths and seven decades of repression and
Its always been interesting to me that the
purveyors of utopias, whether Herbert Spencer or
Karl Marx, have as their long-term answer, the
state will just "wither away." One sees it
occurring by evolution and the other by
revolution -- but the remedy offered by these
conservative and liberal extremes is most
unsatisfying and impaired by an unrealistic
otherworldliness. Opponents are characterized as
not being "forward looking" and chastised for
their imbecility by a gaggle of Amway salesmen,
thoroughly excited by the idea that "everyone"
can be a millionaire. Not good math, and
certainly not good for the overwhelming majority
of citizens in the republic.



Thanks Dan.Does this mean that I'm not gonna be a millionaire?


Saturday, December 25, 2004


Well, while the rest of the country is having a very white Christmas, we are having a cold and wet one... but I don't hear any whining. I'll take the Florida version of a White Christmas any time to what they're having in Baltimore right now. Hehehe.

What passes for a family with me went over to Mike SanFilippo's house last night for a Xmas pigout. Me, the daughter Katie and her unborn progeny, and the official boyfriend Stan. Nice guy, but I'm not sure that he realizes that he's in over his head with this crew. Mostly he makes me feel old. Sigh... he bought her a ring. Saved up for the thing on layaway. I think he's in love. I doubt if it will matter too much to Kathryn. She's 6 months along on her adventure in parenting and loving it. I figure, let him have all the diaper changing... I'll just drop by occasionally to inspect their work.

Sunday we go down to St. Cloud to eat the holiday turkey at the Leete's house. I got specific orders from Sandy (Tommy's bride)to assure Kathryn's appearance. She wants to see the expanding waistline I suppose. I call it part of the Female Mafia. They close ranks and us guys might as well go out to sit by the barn. Actually, Sandy may have a professional interest in the pregnancy. She's a Lactation Specialist at Arnold Palmer Hospital, where Kathryn will be hatching the future kid, and she probably wants some assurances that she will get assigned to superintend the infant from birth. Like I said, Mafioso at work.

So it's turning into a nice holiday, surrounded by friends and family. If I ran a bank I'd probably meet an angel sometime this weekend and... no, wait... that's a different movie.

The JAC is quiet so far (amazing) but I'll go in for a while this afternoon just to satisfy myself. I suspect the weather is discouraging too much crime. The cops don't like to get out of the car in the rain so arrests go down. Somebody has to be bleeding to get arrested in this weather. Hopefully it will last through tomorrow.

So Merry Christmas all. Have a second helping just to hold you over till the New Year. Pray for the same quiet times in Iraq. I got a nice Season's Greetings email from Sgt. Rick Flood yesterday. He's still snipering (he loves to brag about his kill count) for the good guys (Air Cav) outside Falujah somewhere. Rick... please be careful. We need you here at home brother.


Thursday, December 23, 2004

Check out Rachel Lucas's new look. Very Nice!


Tuesday, December 21, 2004


When is it considered socially acceptable to joke to a stranger that people like you should all be dead?
Answer: When you find out someone is a lawyer.

I learned this little point about the expression of hatred when Christmas shopping today. The salesman saw that I had an American Bar Association credit card and proceeded to tell the ancient joke about what you call a large number of lawyers in a crashed bus at the bottom of a body of water, with the answer being "A good start." He was Madison enough to make the body of water Lake Mendota.

Now, you could substitute any group for lawyers in that joke, and I'm sure the joke has had many versions over the years, used to express hostility to all sorts of groups. But the only version I've ever heard is aimed at lawyers, because apparently it's just perfectly fine to say anything nasty you want about lawyers. But here I am, buying Christmas presents at the man's store. How about a little "Merry Christmas"? Or even "Happy Holidays"? What the hell, I'd settle for "Seasons Greetings"?

Sunday, December 19, 2004


Well, here's the beginning. Check it out ---

Tom and I went over yesterday and closed the deal. The previous owner is a nice guy named Ray. A local contractor there in Melbourne who is moving on up the pecking order of boating... bigger and better. The boat is in pretty good shape, considering the beating that everyone over there took in this year's storms. The mast and rigging are in good shape too. Apparently, the compression post that transmits the weight down from the mast to the keel, was not really properly supported... even from the manufacturer (!) and when it finally got some lateral force against it sufficient to break the rigging chain plates the mast just came down. No damage, just no mast. This is the kind of fun stuff you learn about in the torrid Florida latitudes. I'm just very glad I wasn't aboard out in the Gulf Stream when the thing gave way. It does say a lot about the little boat though. Hell, the thing is actually one of those "good old boats", and it has done a lot of sailing without a proper connection to the keel. Spookey. Ray said that when he went looking under the compression post the glass step that the post is supposed to sit on was about 6 inches forward from where it was supposed to be. Even at this late date I should go over to Clearwater and find the guy that was paid to put the step there and beat him to death. Sigh.

Anyhow, it's Christmas at Bob's place. Beer for everybody. Let's go sailing.


Saturday, December 18, 2004


I just managed to get hold of Ray over in Melbourne and Tom and I are going to go over and check out the new boat. A small Morgan. The first of the OI series thank you very much. Got dismasted in the recent hurricane and the previous owner would rather sell it to us and move on than fix it up.

Needless to say, things are looking up. Maybe I can quit whining about losing that Irwin last month. And it's in time for Christmas! Pictures to follow.


Sunday, December 12, 2004


I eat lunch at a place called Lam's Gardens down on Colonial Drive just about every day. I'm a regular and the family that owns the place are friends of mine. So it wasn't too strange for me to find myself chatting about political things, including this blog and the whole bloggosphere. Mark Unpronouncable (you expect this American Cracker to actually deal with those Oriental names? get real), and his brother, were sitting around yesterday with me talking about The Belmont Club and the home invasion story of that British guy and the subsequent shit storm that occurred last week. The Belmont Club has a pretty thorough run up of the incident and what it means both to them and to us.

All of the standard shibboleths are in play: gun control, self-defense, castle rule, racial profiling, class wars... the works.

Mark was concerned because he has been thinking about buying a handgun for self-defense. But he is reluctant because he has 3 fairly young children in the house and his bride is against the idea because the kids may get hold of a weapon and rain sorrow down on their family. A reasonable concern. His brother is dead set against it, in spite of the fact that he was the victim of an armed robbery there at the restaurant this year. Some street turds came in and emptied out the till of the restaurant after holding a handgun to his head. Mark was amazed that no one in the restaurant even noticed that they were being robbed. They just kept on eating as if it was no big deal.

What did I think? The fact that both of them read this blog makes me an expert, I suppose (sigh). But this did start me to thinking about the origins of my friend's delimma. This is a guy who works hard and is smart in business and has managed to get about half of his huge family out of China (somewhere near Hong Kong I understand) and all the way around the world to Orlando, Florida where they are all slogging along working out the traditional American Dream Machine.

Now these guys are both in transition from a culture that was primarily British-leaning and now they find themselves nearly in the heartland of Crackerness. This has to be conflicting. All I could say was that a gun is one of those things that... if you need it and don't have it you're screwed, but if you have it and don't need it it will always be a secret threat to your future. In other words, if Mark does go buy himself some firepower then he is also obliging himself to a big long series of aggravations: One, he must train himself to the safe use of the firearm. Nothing is more dangerous than a gun in the hands of an amateur. My example was with my airplane. I fly a very quick Velocity experimental aircraft and I had to get myself qualified in the thing before I could even crank it up on the runway. To do otherwise is not only stupid, it's illegal. Just owning the plane doesn't mean that I can use it safely. Same thing with that Glock. Two, he has to train every member of his family in gun safety. I mean every one. In my own family, I have a young daughter (not so young any more... a grown woman) who was raised around guns. Even as an infant she knew that there were "don't touch" things around. That gun could "hurt a baby" and it could also get her a spanking. To this day, my 24 year old kidlet calls off limit things "don't touch" things that will "hurt a baby". Don't touch 'puter. Don't touch daddygun. Don't touch matches. Don't touch TV remote. It's not a big deal. Just don't touch the damned things. And for good measure, it's a good idea to have them out of reach. Buy a trigger lock if you have impulsive mice in the house. For me, Kathryn was also a good baby and I never had any troubles, but you know best.

Then Mark's brother raised the issue of having guns in the first place. Lots of folks oppose gun ownership just on fundamental ontological grounds. Should we have guns at all? Well, that's one of those cultural differences between the us Americans and our brothers over in the old country (and many other places). America has, since the beginning of this country, been a nation of riflemen. And today, organizations like my beloved Marine Corps say that every Marine is a rifleman. They make even the Commandant of the Corp qualify. And they should. They are called upon to defend this country. And they do. They're doing exactly that in Iraq as we speak.

"Yeah, well, what's that got to do with us arming ourselves and putting our family at risk?"

"Reasonable question. The answer mostly involves manhood and immediate response time."


Well, that British guy actually went to his front door blind and opened it to a crew of thugs who proceeded to do a home invasion that resulted in his death and the serious injury of his wife. He just assumed that he was safe. Why did he think that? I suspect that he trusted the police to protect him from home invaders and robbers. Why? Well, he was some kind of big shot who paid a lot of taxes and figured for that kind of money the government should see to it that he didn't need to concern himself with individual safety. And he's right. Dead right. But... can they deliver? Nope. Try as they might, the cops can only respond to a criminal complaint. Hear that? The cops can't do shit until something actually happens. Until then, the thugs that killed the British guy were just blokes driving around in a ritzy neighborhood admiring the expensive architecture.

Is it any different here? No. Our cops are armed and perfectly willing to protect that homeowner, but they can't very well go down to the 'hood and pistol whip some kid who MIGHT be thinking about committing a home invasion at your house. Sorry, folks. By the time you call in a 911 call the bad guys are long gone. All the cops can do is fill out the paperwork and help clean up the mess.

"Yeah... but if I were to shoot one of them I would get in trouble."

Maybe, but in America we have what is called the Castle Rule. You have a right to defend your own home and your own life. But... you are tinkering with life and death issues here. You damned sure better know when you can fire and when you can't and you'd better stand ready to hire a lawyer and protect yourself after the fact as well as when you plug some cretin who has broken into your home with evil intentions.

Why? Because we are armed and dangerous... as a whole society. Here in America the vast majority of us are armed whether the government likes it or not. All governments disapprove of average citizens owning the wherewithall to protect themselves. The Chinese oppose gun ownership, not because they are British, but because the Chinese government doesn't want to have a wave of pistol toting peasants in the next Tienimen (sp?) Square demonstration. The government only has guns. It's the same thing here in America. The cops don't like it when Joe Citizen comes up with a handgun. But it happens all the time. And, I'll suggest to you that it is this fact that makes the average cop polite to the average citizen. Most cops will knock first... even if they have a warrant. At least the smart ones do.

My grandfather was a row crop farmer in Sumter County and was a card carrying member of the Klu Klux Klan back in the old Depression Days. And his best friend was the Sheriff of neighboring Lake County, Willis McCall. Ever see the movie Cool Hand Luke? Well, that was a true story about a guy in Tavares who ran afoul of Sheriff Willis McCall. They made a movie about it. Well, when Willis retired he just went to farming like my granddaddy. He wouldn't allow a motorized disc harrow in the grove near his house. Made too much dust, he said. My granddaddy was the same way about a piece of muck land near his back barn. Had the ground cleared by hand or with a team of horses. The joke always was that that was where Willis buried his mistakes.

Mark, you may find a time when you have to make some hard choices. You may be looking down the barrel of a gun and know that if you don't fight you're gonna die. And at that time you are going to have to decide whether you are willing to do what has to be done, even if it hurts, or is painful and expensive, or even terminal. The question is Will you fight no matter what? That British guy let some animals into his life and he paid the price because he was not able to fight back.

But believe this: if they come to my house, I intend to take a look at them before I open the door. And if I make the mistake of letting them in and they give me a half a chance, I intend to take as many of them as possible to visit St. Peter right along with me. The truth is, some dogs just won't fight. I will. And you will have to kill me if you want to hurt me or mine. My advice? You should knock and state your business because I don't care if the government wants to protect me or not. I WILL NOT go quietly into that good night.

The question is... which are you?

Mark decided to get a gun. I gave him directions to a gunsmith and owner of a decent school and range. I suspect that he will learn that gun ownership is actually a lot of fun. His brother decided no. And he was the one who was robbed at the restaurant. Go figure.


Thursday, December 09, 2004


Nursing Home

Ethel was a bit of a demon in her wheelchair, and
loved to charge around the nursing home, taking
corners on one wheel and getting up to maximum
speed on the long corridors. Because the poor
woman was one sandwich short of a picnic, the
other residents tolerated her, and some of the
males actually joined in.

One day, Ethel was speeding up one corridor when
a door opened and Kooky Clarence stepped out with
his arm outstretched.
"STOP!", he shouted in a firm voice. "Have you
got a license for that thing?"
Ethel fished around in her handbag and pulled out
a Kit-Kat wrapper and held it up to him.

"OK" he said, and away Ethel sped down the hall.

As she took the corner near the TV lounge on one
wheel, Weird Harold popped out in front of her
and shouted, "STOP! Have you got proof of

Ethel dug into her handbag, pulled out a drink
coaster and held it up to him. Harold nodded and
said, "Carry on, ma'am."

As Ethel neared the final corridor before the
front door, Crazy Craig stepped out in front of
her, stark naked, holding a very sizable erection
in his hand ...

"Oh, Good Grief," said Ethel, "Not the
Breathalyzer again!"

Monday, December 06, 2004


I found a great source of pictures from Iraq.


Saturday, December 04, 2004


I suppose that it is the change in the weather that brings out the bleak sadnessness of it all. Little flashes of human folly that illuminate the present. Last night I found myself surrounded by serious drinkers: middle class boat people determined to hurt themselves. Elaine obliged them by making triple Long Island Iced Teas and following them with straight shots of Jose's cactus juice. Needless to say, things got wierd... then ugly... then dangerously close to criminal.

I blame the change in the weather. Today the sky is overcast and the temps are in the 60s, promising to drop down into the 50s then the 40s with the fall of the sun. Windy, bleak. Like something out of a Cormac McCarthy novel. Frozen hovels next to the spent corpse of a riverside town full of broken promises. The food is good but the bar is full of women with names like Candy and Sugar... names of doughnuts... smelling of diesel. Flesh grey in the bar lights, dimples of soft fatty rolls of unclean laundry, smelling of unwashed nightmares but still determined to give the unsuspecting the ride of their lives.

Two middle aged women burst into flames: fighting, pulling their hair out in clumps. The sodden men stood and watched, faces blank until one of them managed to push the other down, then the crowd cheered before turning back to their shouted conversations. Tired juke box rock and roll, Meatloaf at 100 decibels. Bat out of Hell backdropping older men trying to hustle the younger, hungry shopgirls. Chubby waitresses out looking for a retirement plan, holding their cigarettes like post-Deco movie starlets, rolls of fat pouring over their beltlines. Stumbling men in their dock shoes and catalogue windbreakers. Captains of industry, to the man... retired shopkeepers.

Outside, the wind blows through streets unprepared to this northern bleakness.
This is a community unaccustomed to needing shelter from the wind. Outside, the bird spirit whistles through the streets. A cold and bloodless, bony claw of cold indifference that pits one human against another. And even in the false warmth of the night time pulque madness there stalks the shadowy beast of the bird spirit. Whisshhh. You feel the gentle touch of the wing as it brushes past you and you feel your blood run cold. We are all going to die. It's just a matter of when.

But what the hell. Tequila always does that to me.


Thursday, December 02, 2004


I'll just tell you --- life is good!

Day by Day is back.