Archive for May, 2012

The List

There are a few people in my life who are on The Republican List.

What?  You don’t know about The Republican List?  Maybe you call it something else.  You see, they get these emails, usually a couple a day, and send them to everyone they know who haven’t filed a restraining order.

These are, of course, political emails.  Some of them are jokes – or at least meant to be – with Obama always being the punch line.  The rest are about Obama, his wife, members of his administration, or Democrat congressional leaders, detailing some outrage they have committed or spoken.

The problem with these emails is, they aren’t true.  Every time I go to check – Snopes, Urban Legends, Wikipedia, or just plain Google searches – they turn out to be mostly or completely untrue.  Often the emails are years old, though they purport to be current.  Often the emails written about Obama were originally about Bush.  Or Clinton.

What really unsettles me, however, is that whoever originates these emails and sends them down the list don’t care if they are true or not.  Just not important, you see.

What is important is anger.  Anger is everything.

The originators of these things – be they employees of the GOP or campaigns or just internet lurkers who think they are working for The Cause – want you to be angry as hell.  They want you livid.   They want to make sure that, no matter what happens, you will arrive at the polls in November to vote out Obama.  They want you seething and seeing red.

You see, if they can get you to vote Republican out of sheer rage and fear, their job is done.  They don’t have to win your vote.  They don’t have to campaign on issues of importance, they don’t have to tie themselves to positions they don’t want to take, and they don’t have to cut ties with certain of their contributors.  All they have to do is make you angry, keep you angry, and coast to Election Day.

Don’t get me wrong.  Obama deserves to lose reelection like no other president in history.  There is ample reason for this, for anyone willing to look for it.  But instead of fighting with the truth on their side, instead of using moral persuasion, instead of debating issues on merits, these political cretins want to use lies and smears, shamelessly, easily.  I would not want them on my side.  I will not forward their emails, even on the rare day that they are actually right about something.

Yes, of course there is – has to be – The Democrat List, where people are treated to the comedic stylings and half-truths of Al Franken and others of his ilk.  Just the other day, a liberal family member reared up in disgust and indignation at the mere mention of Romney’s name.  I mean, it couldn’t have been for anything that Romney said or did; he hasn’t said or done anything of importance in his life, yet this dear woman was fit to be tied just having to contemplate his existence.  Certainly, he is being smeared and trashed by workers of the left as Obama is by workers of the right.

You want an end to dirty politics and dirty politicians?  You want campaigns to focus on what is real and what is truly important to you?  You want an election season that doesn’t make you feel the need to shower repeatedly?  Simply stop giving the cretins what they want.  Make them work for your vote, don’t just give it to them.  Punish those who use lies and deception as a matter of course.

Vote for something, not against.



Sine Wave or Tangent

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately.  Started well enough, I think, but I have obviously tapered.

Part of the problem is length.  I look at some blogs and the writer manages to convey a thought or express an opinion in a few sentences, while I take that long to clear my throat.  Just can’t think of anything short to say.  Okay, how about: neither Obama nor Romney have any goal or desire except as to who should be president for the next four years.  That was short and simple.

Okay, there was my recent back injury and sitting in a chair was about the worst thing I could do to myself for about three weeks.  That had to have had some effect.  Oh, and work was pretty busy, what with Memorial Day Weekend in the Hamptons and stuff.  Also, there is the new puppy, a Boston Terrier, not my idea, who craves – nay, demands! – attention.

I would like to say that the time I spend blogging is time I could spend writing, so I have just been too busy writing.  Sounds good, but probably only slightly true.  Haven’t done much writing either.

Except for yesterday.  I actually wrote a page of my expanded version of Lifeboats.  I had outlined a lot of stuff in the last two months, but this was the first time I had actually written one of the new sections.  It is very short, just a conversation between two men, but I like it.  One of them is supposed to be German and I am not so sure I carried it off – will look again.

See, that’s about nineteen sentences so far and they are about nothing, like a Seinfeld episode, but less funny.  We’ll see what happens next.

Categories: Publishing

Stinkin’ Badges

Most places I have lived have had three flavors of police: 1) State Police, paid by the state, 2) County Sheriff, paid by the county, and local police, paid by the local municipality.  If there were no municipality, or they did not have police, then the Sheriff’s office covered the area.  Naturally, the three levels of police specialized in enforcing the laws of their employer – that is, the state police enforced state laws – but they were all peace officers and all responded to emergencies.  These were mostly good people, doing a tough job fairly well.

Not saying there were never any others.  Park rangers, federal and state, are fairly common.  Certainly, the feds have created de-facto federal police out of agencies that started out with administrative tasks, like the ATF, now all carrying guns and badges.

But when it comes to police diversity, New York is probably king.  To start off with, New York, like just a couple of other northeastern states, has townships.  No, these are not another name for city or village – townships are subsections of counties.  Suffolk County, where I live, is divided into ten townships, each one with their own police force.

Yes, there is something called Suffolk County Police, differentiated from the sheriff, but that is actually the five western townships pitching in together and they have no jurisdiction outside those five townships.  Then there is something else called Suffolk County Police that is actually paid by the county, but these are centralized functions, such as detectives and the academy.

My village – actually, an unincorporated hamlet – has no police of its own, though it did for decades, ending in the early 1970s, so the Town Police watch over us.  But, go just two villages to the west and you have, for example, the Village of Quogue.  If you live in Quogue, you are covered by:

Quogue Village Police

Southampton Town Police

Suffolk County Sheriff (rarely showing up, admittedly).

New York State Police.

Did I mention that Quogue is a bit of a speed trap?  But that isn’t all.  Further “helping” out are:

Bay Constables, sort of fish an game wardens.

Transit Police, who watch over the Long Island Railroad.  They specialize in watching for pedestrians running for the train and who duck under the sidewalk gates, while the train is stopped.

Coast Guard, obviously in charge of drunken boat pilots, but the town has police boats as well.

DEC, environmental police, I guess, with cars similar to the State Police and, apparently, guns and badges.

Park Police.  I think they belong to the county.

Which is sort of my question with all this: do we really need all these layers?  Could not the sheriff’s office be the highway police for county highways AND watch over the parks?  And maybe the trains, if someone really thinks it that important?  Or the county could contract with the towns to provide these “services” within their jurisdictions.

You see, the more police agencies and agencies with police powers we have, the more they cost, and the more those agencies will find reasons to ticket us, fine us, and stick their noses into our business, in order to help pay their budget and justify their existence.  Then the various benevolent associations, unions, and administrators start calling for more laws for their members to enforce, to help keep them employed and justify expansion.

Sure, you can argue the merits of any single law or police agency.  But it is the total mass of laws and police agencies that are indefensible, that cost far more than any benefit they may be providing and, what is more, I know I have left some out.  There are even more individuals out there authorized to point a gun at me and accuse me of a crime and cost me tons of money to defend myself, even if I am eventually exonerated.  I forget about these people until I pass yet one more emergency vehicle out on the road.

All this, mind you, on the less populated end of Long Island.  How many different flavors of cop patrol the streets of Manhattan?


Categories: Pet Peeves

Open Memo to Michael Cloud

Dear Michael:

Just got my Liberator Online email today – been getting them for over ten years.  (For you lurkers, it is a monthly (?) newsletter from Advocates for Self Government, a non-partisan group that teaches people how to talk about the benefits of freedom to people in general)  Listed prominently in the Liberator was the fact that you  have got a new book out.

Michael Emerling Cloud, you are one of the stalwarts of the freedom movement and probably its best speaker.  You have a lot to teach, so it is well you have another book out.

So, the first thing I thought of when I saw the ad was, could I get it on my Kindle?  Oddly, as I researched it, no.  Okay, maybe you just haven’t had time yet.

Looked a little further, went on Amazon and looked for Michael Cloud.

One book – and not for the Kindle.  Yes, there were some other books by Michael J. Cloud, but that does not appear to be you.

So, Michael, if I may politely ask, “What the *hell* is the matter with you?”  I mean, really, I have three ebooks out on Amazon – it is easy.  And you actually have readers!

Not only is the Kindle the wave of the very near future – have you noticed the news stories about Kindles, Nooks, Ipads, and tablets in the past year? – it makes distribution a breeze.  Your readers, poor hard-working freedom advocates, will be able to pay less for the book, increasing sales, while you and the publisher make just as much money if not more.

And not just for your new book!  No, you can publish all your old ones at virtually no cost.  Heck, not even just your books; you can also publish your audio productions electronically through Amazon.

Okay, I suppose you have some publishing deal with Advocates that you think makes this unworkable.  It doesn’t.  Advocates can set up a store on Amazon.  When people go through Advocates’ website to buy an ebook or audio program from Amazon, Advocates will make extra money.  Really, it is win-win for all concerned.

Let me be a little frank here – the quality of many of Advocates’ products has always been a little bit… questionable.  But if you and Advocates could concentrate on digital products going forward – don’t forget, the backbone of the freedom movement is the tech crowd, early adopters – you could vastly improve the quality of your products while lowering the price.  Or does the thought of increasing sales frighten you.

So come on, man!  It is an election year and people could use your products right now!  A few days work, a little help from the techie volunteers you know you have access to, and you could have this up and running by the end of the month.

What are you waiting for?

Frankly Scarlet

Just finished reading Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet.”  It is a short novel and, as many will tell you, it is the first Sherlock Holmes story.  As far as I can tell, I have never read it before.  It is probably unread by many people.

You see, most of the Holmes stories are short stories, because most of them were written for the magazines of the time, and most of the Holmes books are anthologies of those short stories.  Most of the Jeremy Brett television series was also taken from the short stories.

Most of the Holmes movies through the years have been remakes of “Hound of the Baskervilles.”  (I, of course, do not count the recent Robert Downey Jr. movies, which are sort of Holmes as if played by Jason Statham.)  The reason for this is simple: the short stories are too short to be made into movies and there were only ever four novels and, apparently, Hound is the easiest to make into a movie.  Scarlet would be very difficult to make into a movie, for reasons I will get to in a moment.

“A Study in Scarlet” is, like most Holmes stories, a first person narrative written from the point of view of Dr. John Watson.  The first chapter or so is taken up with his story: medical doctor without connections, joins the army, goes off to war, is severely injured, is returned to England, no family, needs cheap lodgings.  An acquaintance introduces him to Sherlock Holmes, who is also looking for cheap lodgings and, as fate would have it, has found the perfect place if only he could find a roommate.

After introducing us to both characters, the story starts reading like any other Holmes story: dark, foggy London streets, a couple of locked-door murders, red herrings, mis-directions, and Holmes never quite letting Watson (or us) in on his thoughts and plans.  So, I was digging all this, getting into the story, making a few deductions of my own, when, about halfway through, Holmes leaps up, places handcuffs on a man we have never seen before, and announces to all that this man is the murderer.

Huh?  Half a book to go, you understand.

Here is where it gets weird.  Going from Watson narrating a first-person story in 1881, the next chapter is in third-person omniscient form, telling the tale of an old man wandering in the desert.  With a young girl.  In 1847.  In Utah.

Chapter after chapter goes on, telling how these two survivors come to be found by the Mormon migration, come to live with them, and prosper.  It is some time before the character of the murderer actually shows up and, yes, all of this is his backstory and we do come to find out why he would eventually kill the men that he did.  Precious few pages remain when we are finally returned to the present (!) and Watson takes up the story again, pretty much the killers full, complete, and very detailed confession, followed by Holmes detailing how he had come to his conclusions.

Well, you can see why this would never make a movie – at least, not a low-budget British movie.  Utah?  Thanks to Doctor Who and Blake’s 7, I have seen every stone quarry in England and, I promise you, not one of them would pass for Utah or any other desert.  To make this portion of the story work – and it would be too much of the story to just leave out or gloss over – they would actually have to fly a crew to Utah – or, at least, Morocco – and they just do not have that kind of money.

There was a 1933 version, but it had nothing to do with Utah or Mormons – in fact, it has a character from “The Red-headed League,” so maybe that is what it is.  Meanwhile, “Hound of the Baskervilles” takes place in the English countryside, with hills and mores.  That they can do, no problem.  So, the TV/movie-watching public has never seen this Sherlock Holmes origin story.  Hope someone tries it, one day.


Categories: Reading

Walk and Talk

In case you haven’t seen it, some of the West Wing crew got together for either a long public service announcement or a short short feature.  Just goes to prove that there is nothing that Martin Sheen will not do (he was a Soul Hunter on B5, for crying out loud).  Looks like they filmed it at the Reagan Museum.

It’s fun.


Also, feeling much better today.  Might actually find some time to sit in a chair tonight and do that thing with the keyboard and fingers.


Categories: Oddities

Adjusting the Vertical

The big news in New York on Monday was that the World Trade Center was once again the tallest building in the city.  As it nears completion, the new tower has surpassed the Empire State Building.

The people building it have much to be proud of, I am sure – it cannot be easy to build something that tall.  Yet it is much easier to do so today than it was when the twin towers were built and far easier than when the Empire State was built.  I read a few years ago that it would be as easy for us to build a 300-story structure today as it was to build a 100-story structure back in the seventies.

Thing is, there just is not any reason to.  City high-rises exist at all because of the communications and transportation difficulties of the past.  The cities started as ports, then it made sense to put the factories near the ports, and then it made sense to put the offices by the factories.  When your best communications device is a compressed air tube, you had to keep things pretty centralized.  Since there was only a finite amount of land near the ports, the cities had to build up, rather than out.  Housing for port, factory, and office workers only compounded the problem.

Today, there is not much call for this.  Factories have mostly moved out of the cities, long ago, connected to the ports by rail and universal shipping containers have made shipping very cheap.  Many corporate headquarters have also moved out of the cities, though some have stayed.  Most of those businesses that remain in the cities are there for convenience, not necessity, such as stock traders, advertising companies, and jewelers, who feed off each other and steal each other’s employees.  Most of our commerce, these days, is out on the beltways.

I expect that somebody will build a 200-story building very soon.  Then, maybe, a 300-story tower.  It will not be easy and it will be something to be proud of.  But it will be show-boating – a status symbol – not a bell-weather of the future.

Oh, and I am not going up in any of them.  They’re lucky to get me on a plane!


Categories: Trends