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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Why I Don't Cuss

If you have read more than one or two of my posts, you may have gotten some indication of the fact that seldom in my writing and never in my personal communications with others do I use profanity. (My communications with myself are another matter entirely.)

This is notwithstanding the general attitude typified by a character in a movie, the name of which I have long since forgotten, who said that he could never trust a man who didn't curse.

The first and most basic reason for my avoidance of the habit is that to this day I still try not to do things that my long-gone mother wouldn't have wanted to see me doing. Her principles have stood me in good stead because they stood her in such good stead despite her having to undergo much more trying times than any I have ever seen (except one), and I am trying to emulate her in living for a long time with a clear mind and a clear conscience.

Yet, just as I do, she still knew all the "bad words" and how to use them, though she did so in only one context, ever, and that was in a series of bitter arguments that she had with her second husband during the several years of that situation. On top of the earlier shocks of my father dying way early and then to find a little later that I had been born that hideous, inferior, awful thing commonly called a "nigger," and the worst kind, too, that is, a male one, which meant that not only did the mere sight of me bring on instant and chronic suspicion but also that I was barred by law and by custom from most of the public schools and almost all the restaurants, department stores, and other establishments downtown in the Nation's capital, from those marital affrays of my mother and my stepfather I got a third gigantic psychological jolt in my juvenile gut, which caused me ever afterward not only to swear off swearing but also to avoid verbal confrontations of every kind.

That has turned out to be a big stroke of luck, and it ties in with another reason why I don't cuss. The habit of using bad words means to me that a person is in a state of chronic anger, and I regard anger as a voluntary illness, right up there with choosing to have a strep throat or even a rare blood disease.

I also don't cuss because I know a lot of other words, and I take a huge delight in digging them out of the slowly fogging recesses of my mind and using them. Unlike a lot of people I wasn't off somewhere playing with myself in a dark corner of the cloakroom while my classes were being taught the uses of that wonderful though widely abused language called "English," or more accurately, "American."

Yet another reason is that there's a definite hypocrisy involved in using profanity. Unless you are a complete ...bounder, you have to develop the skill of using it in some circles though not in others, and I would not be capable of always remembering when and when not to do which. I believe in talking to everyone the same way. There are too many other things that need to be kept in mind meanwhile.

P.S. I just thought of yet another cause. My mother often threatened to wash my mouth out with laundry soap if she ever caught me using bad words, and sometimes something makes me think that she actually did that, once, because on my tongue I can still taste that powerfully acrid brown laundry soap that housewives used to use. Yet I really have no real memory of that ever happening, and I keep wondering whether instead I've been able to imagine such an incident so accurately that I've always been completely unable to separate the fact of it from fiction.

Going for One's Self

Michael Steele, a former Lt.Gov of Maryland, a state in which, in a very different era, I spent nearly all my adolescent years, was voted in to be the new chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Incidentally, he is also a Rainbow, that is, black, or African-American, or whatever. And "incidentally" is definitely the right word there, as in this case that identification is trivial at best.

It's hard to see how the choice of him will be of benefit to anyone ...except Michael Steele. Maybe if he has a Lamborghini in his driveway and a yacht on the Chesapeake, now he will be able to afford two Lamborghinis and two yachts. Otherwise....

A different color of paint on an iron fist does not make the blows of that fist any softer.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Last night, courtesy of Netflix, we saw -- a couple of years late -- Michael Moore's film that contrasts the U.S. health industry, especially the HMO's, so unfavorably compared to those of other countries with not nearly as many financial resources.

This movie has been roundly condemned by U.S. repressives, and that must be because it pits the urge to be patriotic squarely against the much more basic need to be cured of all physical pains and ills and still remain alive, and the latter drive eventually has to win, among all but the most ideologically hidebound and idiotic of people.

Moore started with looking at the health system in Canada, then went on to those of Britain and then France, and he ended with Cuba. The U.S. hardasses, mostly centered in the G.O.P., condemn these systems as being socialistic, but if that is true, then to a sick person socialism is greatly to be preferred, because it means, among other advantages, most of them currently unthinkable in the U.S., universal health care with no one being turned away, timely health care, inexpensive meds, modern technology, doctors who are by no means impoverished -- and absolutely no need to be worried about insurance.

Meanwhile Moore also makes the key point that socialism has long been alive and well in other services in the U.S. anyway, especially in the fields of free media and public schools, so why not in the all-important business of staying healthy?

There are two kinds of people in the U.S. -- the 60 percent who have health insurance and the 40 percent who don't, and among those 60 percenters are tbose who in charge of things and have no interest in seeing the 40 percenters receiving similar care, because after all, they must think, what was the point in becoming affluent and privileged if everybody else with less means could nevertheless fare just as well in all the important respects?

This is part of the "Pull Up the Ladder Syndrome," which can be seen in other areas of American life as well.

The new U.S. government is concentrating on the bad economy first, but there's no reason why the badly ailing and inequitable U.S. health care system can't be overhauled at the same time. And from "Sicko" it looks as if the first step would be abolishing the system of health insurance entirely, along with all its inequities. Surely the people who rake in so much at that game can find something else to do that wouldn't be so harmful to others, and meanwhile it's highly immoral anyway to force those who are already ill to wait and, often, to die, and well before their time.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Utter Inconsequentia

It's good to see, once in a while, a news item that means something to several people, yet, from where I stand, is so inconsequential that, try as I might, I can't even concoct any reasons as to why it should be important and therefore feel absolutely no need to care about how it turns out. That doesn't happen every day.

I'm speaking, of course, of the election tomorrow by the Republican National Committee of its next chairman.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Agitated on the Airliners

A few days ago a flight that was due to leave from Istanbul and headed for New York was delayed for two hours, because one of the passengers, an American, complained that he didn't feel safe because there were too many "Arab-types" aboard. In response the Turkish authorities hauled not only him but also all the other passengers back off the plane, and though they had done absolutely nothing to warrant it, those others had to undergo other security checks, in accordance with "international practice," before resuming their flights.

This comes hard on the heels of a similar incident in which eight members of a Muslim family plus a Rainbow friend were hauled off a plane due to go from D.C. to Florida, simply because as they were proceeding down the aisle after boarding, one of the women, probably talking louder than was considerate, was overheard saying that the seats near the engines weren't as safe as others elsewhere.

In that case all nine were questioned by the FBI and then released, and the airline issued apologies, though I wouldn't be surprised if they have also since been sued.

I guess, eight years after 9/11, people are still expecting the worst, and maybe they think it's long overdue. Or maybe they've been looking at the several competently-made movies about the flights involved in 9/11, with the one that smashed into the ground in Pennsylvania, I think Flight 75, having two films made about it, neither one of which have I been able to watch to the end, though I recorded both off the dish, because the suspense involved is a little too much. But maybe people see these films and imagine that had they been aboard those flights, those several "Arab-looking" young guys sitting quietly but looking a little tense would have stood out like sore thumbs to them -- never taking into account all the effects of not only hindsight but also of the way that the movies direct attention to the conspirators in ways that would never have occurred to any of the other passengers, so wrapped up would they be in their own personal concerns, comfort, and, I'm betting, the use of their ubiquitous cellphones.

The name of the villain involved in this story must not have rung a bell with the people who wrote the articles that I saw on the incident, and so they simply identified him as an American. But it certainly did resound loudly with me, though not clearly. The man who sounded the bogus alarm was a guy named Daniel Pincus, and I felt that he was quite famous for something, though the closest my mind could get was maybe a conservative pundit. But when I did a Google, all I got was that there is a tenor singer by that name, but not one of the biggies in classical and opera.

So why did that name still pluck the strings in my mind so strongly? I think that also there was a well-known New York chessmaster named Pincus back in the 1940's or so, though not necessarily a Daniel, but maybe....

I have not had occasion to board an airliner since the month after 9/11, when my wife and I were struck by a tragedy that for us personally and instantly and totally dwarfed the airline catastrophes that had just happened, and ours had nothing to do with airplanes. But what I hear about what's involved with riding airliners these days just strengthens my strong though possibly unhealthy belief in the many virtues of staying strictly at home.

People are too crazy for me, and there are lots more of them than there used to be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

In the 60's. Really?

The march of the cold continues. This morning it got down to 18 F, at or near which reading it always is around here at dawn these days.

But at least, about a week ago the water line going up into my workshop finally thawed out, though when the temp hit only the middle 40's. As soon as the flow resumed I dropped everything and rushed under the building to insulate that last foot and a half of the 1-inch black plastic pipe going up through the floor, and a few days later the temp got down to 9 and the water was still rushing.

Unless you are your own water company, as I am, you may not be able to imagine how much satisfaction you can get out of turning on a faucet several times a day, just to see the water still running.

Around this time my wife was looking at a movie about Lily Langtry, and passing by I just happened to catch a moment in which the famed beauty and actress, in her own advancing years, said that wanting to move to a warmer place is a sure sign of old age.

I don't have those longings, but I had stopped thinking that such a benign temperature as 63 was still possible. That is what the temp is supposed to hit later today. I'll believe that only when I feel it.

The Torturers

With their ice-hearted, dark-minded, and fork-tongued sponsors now no longer in a position to give the orders, what is to become of all the bright-eyed American boys -- and girls -- who became torturers?

They can't be expected to go back to cats and butterflies, just as we are told that shipwrecked victims in the old, sailing ship days who felt constrained to resort to cannibalism (after accusing all inhabitants of Africa of the same), had trouble thereafter losing their taste for that abominable delicacy.

But we can hope that these demobed boys and girls won't find too much new employment as local police and prison guards.

When all the other pressing concerns give B. Obama some time to turn his attention to it, he might want to put out some words about the U.S. having a larger proportion of its population behind bars than any other country.

That could begin with doing something about the drug laws. Those should vanish into oblivion right behind the poll taxes and the Jim Crow laws -- all three of which legislations had exactly the same ultimate purpose.

Like torture, indulging in a taste for prisons as a growth industry is not the American way either.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Unlucky Dears (Sic!)

In his Rook's Rant back on the 18th, Rook ran a long bit in which the country comedian Jeff Foxworthy did up Rook's beloved home state, Minnesota, in the same vein that he used to become famous years ago while savaging the rednecks. You know. "If you do (such and such), you might be a redneck." Or in this case live in Minnesota.

It's likely that Rook posted this with me in mind as much as anybody, because of references I've made to his state now and then

I think, however, that Foxworthy took it easier on the denizens of Minnesota than he did on the rednecks, and his propositions didn't seem to be nearly as exaggerated. Several of those could apply to rural Virginia as well, especially this one: "If you know several people who have hit deer with their cars more than once, you might..."

My wife has hit only one deer, but she knows a woman who socked not one but two in the same night, and she also has a close friend, a charming woman, who has notched up at least three strikes on her front bumper. We also have a nearby neighbor who has hit deer twice, and I am certain that this area is teeming with others who have experienced that mishap at least that often. But it's not unusual to see herds of 20 or 30 deer at night even just right up the road from here, in the fields belonging to G. and C., and the wonder is that the collisions don't happen more often, and not only in Va and Minn but also in the many other states in the U.S. where the deer if not often the antelope also roam and procreate.

I myself, however, have never hit a deer, just as I have never been tailed by bored local sheriff's deputies driving around at night with nothing better to do -- another aggravation that one hears about now and then.

--I can only dare to say that quietly on a weblog, where I can't be heard. If I were to say that aloud, everyone in my vicinity would immediately howl and shout, "But you never go anywhere!"

But that's the idea, isn't it?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Yesterday turned out to be even more salutary than I had thought. It marked a year having gone by while Andante, the lady not far from here, in N.C., who writes the "Collective Sigh" weblog, has been fighting cancer and the resulting chemo.

She said that in the first stages nobody expected her to be around for the summer. But I posted a comment on her site yesterday saying that I, and I am sure others of her online acquaintances at least, never had such a thought and instead knew that she would be around for the Obama inauguration, just as we expect her to stay on the job for a long time to come. She is that kind of redoubtable lady, and it's painful to think of all that she is having to endure with the chemo meanwhile.

This morning I woke up thinking that I should have added that she, and Steve Bates, who is also struggling with medical issues, and more than one, still have, along with the rest of us in what Rook calls the "blogosphere," far too many things left to observe and to talk about, to be going anywhere any time soon.

As chance would have it, though she heard this last night but didn't tell me till this morning because she thought the news might affect my sleep, J., a fellow artist in the county and whose wife, L., is another very admirable lady whom I know quite well, left here, because of the Big C, way back in Oct or Nov.

Anyway "Andante."

That's a great name, and it is also the title of one of the many paintings that I would like to do in the time remaining, though I'm thinking I had better get going. My hands and eyes aren't all that they used to be.

This painting will be close to four feet high, yet it will be outlined entirely with the profile of Michael Tilson Thomas, the well-known conductor of one of the big orchestras in Britain. Inside the profile, in the background, will be the misty vaulted and arched interior of a hall in which his charges are playing the Andante movement of a clarinet concerto by the American composer Aaron Copland. And in the middle ground will be the tilted figure of the solo clarinetist, whose name I can't remember. I saw and heard this performance on the Artist Showcase on the dish, and it had a powerful effect.

I long ago made and gessoed the masonite panel on which I intend to paint this, so at least there's that.

Great Day After

You mean to say it's done? You mean to say that GW Bush has left Washington and need not ever be heard from again? Are you saying that D. Cheney is gone, too, and so is his crooked scowl and his face twisted with evil intent? Are you saying that the C. Rice harpy has been knocked off her perch, and will never again be able to declare anything about foreign affairs or anything else that anyone will be obliged to hear? And are you also saying that Karl Rove is a specter of the past, dumped deep down history's trash bin?.

Who among the ringleaders of that cabal that pulled the main levers of U.S. Government for so long a time with such bad effect have I left out? Oh, well -- and I mean it is well. But can it really be? Is it true that the American political system actually worked and now that bunch is out of there, lock, stock, and barrel? Though for how long before they swoop back in from behind the gravestones of their victims and in different guises, maybe on Halloween -- that can't be known. But these first hours of their dispersal are already beautiful enough.

I didn't think those monsters would stand for this. I even thought, as I heard speculated upon quite often, that they might stage some sort of national emergency, and they would claim the authority to stay in power so as to deal with it, for years more if they could have worked it so.

But it's obvious what happened. You could tell from their relative silence as yesterday approached. They had run completely out of ideas...even one as terrible as rigging up a way to stay on.

But we can say that they never had any real ideas to start with, and, seeing in 2000 that by crook they had actually been allowed to replace B. Clinton, they faked things all the rest of the way, using as their only compass direction going south whenever Clinton would've headed north.

They must never have had to solve computer troubles. In working on apparently hopeless problems on computers, I've found that you're never lost as long as you have ideas.

I've heard that B. Obama has a couple of ideas. Let's see what he does with them, and whether he can come up with a lot more.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Three Thoughts on This Day

Well, today is the Big Day!

Those members of the majority who follow such things, which amounts to as much as a quarter of them, are in a state of great excitement. This is because for the first time a person will be sworn in as President who doesn't look like them. If it had been J. McCain instead, few of the analysts and headline writers would have used the words, "the 44th white President."

To me on the other hand, all this looks perfectly normal and no terrifically big thing, because I grew up used to seeing people who looked like me in positions of authority all around. And in addition to those experiences and what I am about to see now, I witnessed how Virginia didn't miss a beat after in my mind an even more unlikely event took place and D. Wilder was elected governor, as there are likely to be a number of more fair-minded people in the other states than there are in the region where, not so long ago, the dominant group fought like cats and dogs for the right to continue to "own" other human beings and to have powers of life and death over them just as if they were pigs and chickens.

It seems to me anyway that what happens with the country as a whole is more the responsibility of the American public than it is of the President. A wise leader is of no avail if the people he's leading can be influenced to head off into less admirable directions. Despite the abundance of computers, things aren't materially different from what they were on the savannahs a million or two years ago, and there is always the Limbaugh element running along the edges of the group and screaming, "Don't go that way. Go this way!" for no other reason than that they don't like the complexion of the leader.

Eugene V. Debs hit exactly on this point when, about a hundred years ago he said something like, "I won't promise to lead you to the Promised Land, because if I could, someone else could come along and lead you back out." And that is precisely what happened in the U.S. from 2000 through 2008.

Yesterday J. McCain was heard saying that B. Obama would have his support but that he wished it was him who was being inaugurated today instead.

I thought that remark, aside from being too obvious, also showed his usual lack of class, because it seems to be clear as day that there are millions in the country, seemingly a big majority, who are just as glad as they can be that it's not an old bird who had been swallowed whole by bitterness and a younger woman given to poll-parroting nonsense who are about to be put at the controls of the plane. The man's record with bringing planes back home intact was not good, while the woman was given to confusing congenital flightiness with having taken flying lessons.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now Only One Day Left!

Unlike the great majority of Americans, I am reluctant to let loose my share of the hopes and dreams that will rise tomorrow in such overflowing abundance over the millions who will inundate the Nation's Capital and the inner Federal City, an area that, after so many years of absence, is still so familiar to me because I have criss-crossed it so often, mostly on foot but also by streetcar, bus, car, and invisible wings in my nighttime dreams.

There have been far too many bitter disappointments in the story ever since the first formerly free citizens of Africa stepped ashore in the English and Spanish colonies across the Atlantic, as slaves, and so began the most visible aspect of the question that had been central to American life ever since the first English and Spanish "settlers" arrived here a little earlier, and that question was and still is, shall the Master-Slave relationship be used and maintained? And that question has applied not only to the Old South but to many other areas of America life as well.

And, when all is said and done, it doesn't help that the history of B. Obama's forebears is mostly missing from the pages of American history in ways that that of the heavily and unjustifiably maligned Rev. Jeremiah Wright are not. That's a point that so many would very much like to overlook, or to forget, or never to realize in the first place, but I think it should always be kept in mind while the countless congratulations -- many of them inward directed -- and prayers of the next few days are being made.

Still, despite the torrents of refuse of many kinds that will be unloaded on the D.C. sewage and trash systems by such a huge number of freedom-loving citizens dropping down on it all at one time, tomorrow figures to be a far, far better day than it might have been, and lightyears more than any in the past eight years ...to the degree that any day at all on this beautiful globe is superior to any other.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Two More Days

It seems almost incredible that in just two more days a large number of the criminals that have run the U.S. government through all the 21st century so far will be forced to stand down, and finally a different group of people will take over. They come in with the highest hopes of many, though it will still remain to be seen if they turn out to be criminals, too. That's because of the reigning Tyranny of Votes.

Of course the Bush people were criminals even before they came into power, and as they came into power.

The American public is always, at least on the surface, regarded as being guiltless, especially by politicos, but actually they are accomplices to any evil-doing being committed by their presumed leaders, unless they move fast to dump the felons, and at no time has that been more clearly demonstrated than during the two Bush terms. I'm speaking not only of those who voted them in but also of the ones who didn't protest their crimes and who went along with everything and now can be seen finding all kinds of excuses for those scoundrels, and among the sorriest sights of today are the people who feel sorry for them.

The Bushes leave behind a country awash with a sea of crimes, the latest of which are financial and whose perpetrators are known but will never be punished, except maybe by an authority higher than humankind. Yet reasons can be found to feel sorry for them????

Much Better Cold Today

I feel much better this morning, though I still did awaken at 4:30, after staying up last night till 1:30 just so that I could enter today at a much more decent hour, one with daylight. Right now, at 6:30 AM,Weather Underground says that the temp in the county seat is 29.1 degrees, and here in the tiny frost pocket valley where we are, 14 miles away, it is as usual a few degrees cooler, at about 26. That's decent, though still not enough to unfreeze the water line going into my shop, a foot of which I intentionally left uninsulated just to see what would happen, after the water kept coming even when the temp dropped as low as 18 degrees. The 12 the next day turned out to be different.

The forecast today had been a small chance of snow, but now the prediction is only for cloudiness, and up to a balmy 45!

I don't know what I'm going to do about the cold, because next winter it will be cold again, and in the year after that, and ever and ever. Meanwhile I lump Florida in with Minnesota and the majority of the other states for a big variety of features that can be done without, so that there's little to no chance of me becoming a "snowbird," because at the very time that I am struggling with its weather, I think Virginia's is still a cut far above most of the rest of the country, including Florida. Actually, the only thing really wrong with northern winters, even in Minnesota, is that they refuse to be only two months long, which would be about right.

I'm trying to decide if being cold is really pain. If it is, it must be a special kind of pain, just as parts of the sex act involve a certain delicious pain, and being hungry is still another kind of pain, and so forth and so on. The file cabinet drawer up in the human brain must be extra large to accommodate all the different kinds of pain that the human body is subject to.

Those who believe that global warming is a hoax most likely are heartened by temps like we've been having for a lot of mornings, but the truth must be that the most subtle and dangerous result of climate change is at work -- the "Conveyor Belt Effect," wherein all that ice that is melting as a result of warming is dropping continents of fresh water into the seas, especially in the Antarctic, and that could cut off the salt water Gulf stream and other ocean currents that keep places temperate and bring on a new Ice Age to many of the parts of the world that till now were best suited for human habitation.

People don't think about that, but I wouldn't be surprised if it's not too long before the confirmation finally starts sinking in.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Cold

As yet another sign of how misplaced the priorities are when it comes to what the media chooses to report, as well as what its audience chooses to hear, see, and read, the news is full of mentions about everything except one of the things that these days matters most, and that is the cold. That figures if you live in a place closer to the tropics and you haven't chosen to be your own fuel company, and if your blood is still thick, which applies to most on the planet. But if you are freezing, then all other considerations fly out the window. That must be why there is considerably more fear, loathing, and murder in and around Israel, for instance, than you hear about among the Inuit and the Laplanders.

I have been steadily cold for several months now, maybe since the Summer Solstice.

Last night before I fell asleep, at around 11, the outdoors temp read at 10 F, and I knew the next morning was going to be especially tough, though Weather Underground had been predicting that for days. This morning when I awoke at 5:30, it was minus 4 degrees outside.

All my life I've lived in the midAtlantic region of the U.S., and seldom have I been in a subzero day. But I know that to Rook of Rook's Rant, a longtime Internet friend and one of the saltiest and most humorous characters that I know of, online or off, -4 degrees isn't even worth mentioning.

For some reason, through most and possibly all his life he has lived in Minnesota, the traditionally coldest state in the U.S., even including Alaska, where at least they have the Matanuska Valley, where they grow cabbages as big as thera balls. Minnesota has 10,000 lakes, with frigid winds constantly blowing off of each and every one, and it is the home of International Falls, which for years has recorded the coldest temps in the nation, though a nearby town with a name like Desolation or Desperation or some such has been fiercely vying to take over that honor and where, even as we speak, the temp undoubtedly has a zero added to the wrong side of what it is here.

Not long ago Rook worked and rode bicycles on his "tour-de-Rook" in or near those towns, yet he wondered why lately he had a mysterious illness. And you will seldom read on his weblog any mention of the situation in Minnesota that matters most, aside from Al Franken's squeezing out a Senatorial win (though he has strangely ignored that, too) -- how well his state is keeping up its icebox rep.

I wonder if Rook knows how unreasonably and unbelievably cold minus forty (40!) degrees is, as was recorded in the northern part of his state and also in another place that is also much better suited to be visited than to be lived in, Maine, just the other day? Probably not, just as he has probably never seen fit to use the term "witch's teat."

Instead, if he says anything at all about the cold, he will just remark that yes, maybe it can get a little nippy but that's one of the rewards for living in this great place, and instead he will casually drop in an anecdote such as one about his lady, who once got so caught up in a difference of opinion that she was having with someone that she stood outside in the snow in a verbal slugging match for half an hour, barefoot! And you know that Minnesota snow must be a lot colder than Virginia snow.

He might try to retort by using the word "snow" in another meaning, by saying,"--But no deeper than Virginia snow." To which my answer would be, "What Virginia snow?"

But tomorrow there's a 30% chance of snow here, with temps in the 30's. I am glad even for that modest chance, because, among other things, then it will be a lot warmer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another Arrogance of Microsoft and Its Windows

At around 3 this morning in my workshop (yes, quite often I am in my workshop at 3 in the morning), I was fiddling with one of my two computers in there when I noticed that the other was rebooting.

That's funny, I thought. I thought I had already turned that on some time before.

A little later I saw a little notice above the taskbar. It said that Windows had just installed a very important security update in my computer, and that had necessitated an automatic restart.

In other words Win XP had put something on my computer, then turned it off and then back on, all without my okay and participation.

Microsoft's Big Brother Bullpoop at work again!

The history of computing has, as much as anything, been a battle between the users of that company's products and that company's inability to resist trying to do all the thinking for the users. But I guess that's what you get in a constellation packed thick with millionaires.

My wife and I know a young couple that we just love, for certain reasons, and recently they visited, and I was stirred to give them one of my best little stained glass pieces, a "marble box." But I do not love the company that the husband is so lucky to work for, money-wise. (They absorbed the small company for whom he had been working.)

Among many other charges, Microsoft must be making the lion's share of its money these days selling programs that need constant security updates.

Maybe most people do, but I don't give a diddly damn about the security of my computers. My thinking is that I have three in active operation, and they're so small scale and so behind the times technology-wise and so not networked together that I feel in no danger of a virus grabbing them all at once. And if something got one or even two of them, I'd still have another in operation while I was fixing the one. And in any case, I've never been so afflicted in even one that I know of. And as with beehives (and, if I can say this, cars -- you don't have to drive both all the time), no one should ever have just one computer working.

I guess I buy into the theory that in the matter of computer viruses, you have the same scare stuff as we suffered in the recent theft of a cool 810 billion dollars from the American taxpayers for the infamous banker bailout. Entities like Microsoft and anti-virus companies thrive on viruses, trojans, and other such sicknesses because those things create a demand for their products. It's like doctors applauding the unlimited use of tobacco and alcohol.

So hardly a day seems to go by when Windows XP is not flashing a message after bootup saying that another update needs to be installed. And the update is always for security, so Microsoft never feels the need to say in detail what the update is going to do -- provided, of course, that that is really the reason for the update -- and the update is never ever to improve the normal clunky operation of the Windows. And now, sometimes, the Windows even installs the update without asking.

A bunch of gangsters the Microsofts are. No wonder Linux has been able to make so much headway against their Windows.

I wonder how many times Microsoft has tried to buy Linux or Google and then demobilize them. It's well known that that's how Microsoft deals with so much of its competition.

Microsoft is a huge virus in and of itself. That's the default that should be recognized.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Oh No! Not Vick's Vapo-Rub Now!

These days one reads the constant flow of articles on new medical findings only at great peril to what one all along saw as being the Great Truths, especially if one thinks he has longstanding evidence to support those truths.

Now they're saying that Vick's Vapo-Rub actually not only has no medicinal value, but also it is dangerous to infants and young children, because it inflames their airways.

It has been many months since I've been an infant, but for decades now Vick's Vapo-Rub has been my handy-dandy all-purpose remedy of choice, especially in the Winter, the Season of Sore Throats, and I have energetically said so. Though I had more or less forgotten about it in recent years and now I don't think I even have any, I usually took it by rubbing it under my nose so as to breathe in the menthol or by rubbing it on my throat thinking its benefits could be absorbed that way, but in my earlier days I would try to get closer to the trouble by actually swallowing a little of it. (Could that have been the cause, in the last eight years, of things blocking the way now and then as if caught on a shelf near the top of my throat and refusing to move on for hours at a time, and once for a couple of days?) That was before some time passed without doing that, and then I discovered that my palate had changed and the stuff had lost all of its already limited tastiness. But whatever the method of taking it, Vicks usually worked for me. Psychosomatic?

So why did "they" have to wait so long to tell us this? And I mean it has been a very long time.

Here is another definition of age: it's listening to people sawing away at the tried and true credos that have always been the posts holding up the house in which not so much your body as your mind has for so long a time dwelled so comfortably.

The Gator Lady

I think I can say that the lady who operates the My Musings weblog and who attests to her many sterling qualities by never letting my weblog go unnoticed for long, must be in Seventh Heaven now. A few days ago the group that claims so much of her affection, a college football team apparently called the "Florida Gators," became the national NCAA champions for the second time in three years by beating another team with the equally curious name of the "Oklahoma Sooners."

Still I had reason to doubt her sanity when she reported that on the day of the game, reduced almost to a state of nausea by her excitement, she went to work but announced to one and all that she wouldn't be doing much if anything constructive because she had to attend to the title game, and she was all togged out in Gator colors and other paraphenalia, including something called scrunchies stuck in her hair. But as she didn't also report that her co-workers thought she had gone bonkers, I assume that the level of insanity was general in her vicinity, and maybe in all of Florida for all I know, though not at her level.

She also spoke of a football pool in which she is about to win some serious money, after she had already won the same pool a couple of years ago.

As her knowledge of football with regard not only to the Alligators but also to many other teams seems to be equalled only by her encyclopedic acquaintance with all hurricanes that have ever come anywhere near her, I think it is extremely foolhardy for anybody to go up against her in that area of research and calculation, or in any that can attract her attention. The person who beat her out in the pool last year obviously did so only by throwing caution to the winds and sailing through ahead of winds of sheer and extensive luck.

I know that.

The Painted Rooster

Seventy-one years ago my father left this life, and a year or two later my mother remarried. That involved relocating her, my sister, and I from the edge of D.C. to a part of the suburbs that was almost as rural as the area in which I now live. It was called Landover, Maryland.

There my new stepfather, an attorney, had a great 1-acre place with two interesting buildings that quickly became my exclusive territory. One was a large chickenhouse, and the other was a garage/barn that was used as neither. It had a central room with a concrete floor and an attic above. On either side of that were two more rooms that, however, had dirt floors and rough plank walls. Consequently nothing of value was ever stored there, though they contained stuff that was quickly going to rot, and I was the only one ever to step in those side spaces. I don't remember what was in the left-hand one. The right-hand one contained all the shutters that belonged to the house, but in our time they never returned there.

The thought that something should be done about those two areas lingered in my mind long afterward, mainly involuntarily in my nighttime dreams, even after, in the 1950's or '60's, that whole place disappeared under a highway interchange in the teeming suburbs of today.

Along one side of that paved central room ran an elevated area, and not long after we moved there, my stepfather had the house repainted, and one day the painters left a 5-gallon bucket of paint open on that platform.

Some chickens were around, and I happened to see the rooster jump up on the rim of the bucket. He wasn't as smart or as agile as a cat. As a result he teetered for a moment, lost his balance, and fell into the oil paint and drowned.

After I reported this incident, I was rewarded by being roundly accused by my stepfather of picking up the rooster and dropping it into the paint.

I suppose that he had noticed that there was no love lost between me and that rooster, and it had chased me several times. But the attorney should also have known that his charge was totally ludicrous. The rooster had sharp-pointed spurs that to me looked to be six inches long at least, and it had an attitude to match, and at age 9 or 10 there was absolutely no way I was going to go anywhere close enough to that sucker to pick him up or do anything else with him. And I have to say that I wasn't nearly as regretful about his terrible fate in the cream-colored paint as I would've been in all later stages of my life.

After that relations between me and my stepfather never regained even the level of mild hostility that had already existed between us from the start.

I think it was a little after that that he also accused me of ruining one of his apple trees in his tiny orchard by taking a hand saw to one of its bottom branches. But there logic and the evidence was on his side. I really did cut that branch but couldn't finish the job because the branch was at least four inches thick. I defended myself by saying that I was pruning the tree.

But I am grateful to him for getting us out to that place. It was incredibly more outstanding than the Washington Redskins football stadium for which Landover has been famous for years more.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Side-Off-the-Wall Opinion No. 829

I am increasingly of the opinion that nothing should ever be done at night, except the truly bizarre and time-consuming activity of sleeping.

I say this even though I do quite a lot of stuff during the darkness. But that's because I'm pushed into it by my inability to sleep more than about six hours at a stretch, and unfortunately, at this time of the year the Sun must necessarily stay on the other side of the Earth for more than half the day, every day.

Venture into the Outside World

Last night I did quite an unusual thing for me.

In the company of my wife and my neighbor G. and his wife, I went to a party far from home.

The occasion was the 60th birhday of my longtime good friend and neighbor directly across the road, the famous potter, K. Here is his site, which illustrates beautifully the great distinction of himself and our gravel road.

Every year there's a birthday party for K., but the most recent ones had all been held at his house, directly across the road. But obviously 60 is such a round number that this one had to be held at a bigtime venue far beyond our humble, gravel road, a theater a good 25 miles away, and at night and in the rain.

There were a LOT of people there, and a good time was had by all.

I was noticed by a lot of people, too, and for various reasons. The main one was that I seem to have developed a reputation for sensibly never leaving my nice "homemade" house on our nice gravel road, and therefore there were a lot of acquaintances and friends present who hadn't seen me for years, and, of course, vice-versa.

A lady there complained that she only knew about five people there, and I wanted to tell her that all she needed to do was to keep looking, and eventually the cloaking scrim of 15, 20, or 25 years would fall away and she might find that actually she knew a good half of the many dozens of the people who were there, as I had discovered, in spite of seldom leaving the easy familiarity of our beautiful gravel road.

The flyer that the redoubtable L., K's wife, sent out urged people to bring along poetry and some food, and E., my wife, brought along something called "spring rolls" that she got from one of her homes away from home, the local and very genuine Thai restaurant. And I brought along an excerpt from one of my novels (all of them unpublished), that I was going to pass off as poetry, because it was poetry.

It's been a tradition of K's yearly birthday parties (which I am certain is actually L.'s idea -- she is an extremely loving lady), to have everybody read some poetry, but that was when the parties were held in the greater confines of their house right across the road. But this thing was too bigtime, and besides, there was live music.

K. has long had a little band, and they were the stars of the night, not least because he was joined on the stand by his two sons -- the older, K., on I think bass guitar, and B. on the drums.

And later in the night that was followed by other of the numerous musicians on hand taking their turns on the stage. So, alas, up to the time I left, which I thought was pretty late in the night for me, there was no poetry reading, which was fine with me.

Nevertheless I had spent entirely too much time earlier in the day rehearsing reading my excerpt as loud as I could in front of a lot of people and actually having as much fun reading it aloud, with all the proper inflections, as I had had while writing it, and so the Great Outside World missed this sterling chance to hear me give this stunning delivery -- complete with a few bad words that I personally never use but which were used profusely whenever the mood struck her by the female character whose stream of consciousness recollection I would've rendered.

That, however, is the way the world goes, and even though poetry is a form of music, generally musical performances with instruments trumps it by a country mile.

And besides, K., the star of everything last night, and deservedly so, had a fabulous time, and so did we all, and I have still not quite wound down from it. Maybe dashing off this post, as I am about to finish doing, will help.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Judas Goats in the G.O.P.

Once upon a time in a thread somewhere, someone said that it would be at least 50 years before the G.O.P. would have a minority on the national ticket. Actually, Colin Powell had a pretty fair chance of being the G.O.P. Presidential candidate in place of the younger Bush, if my memory is correct. But Powell nixed it, bowing, maybe principally, to his wife's fear of the horrible magnifying glass effect they would undergo if he accepted.

Things change.

Later in the same thread someone else said that with Colin Powell as Bush's running mate, the Republicans would grab 45 states. This was a while ago, and I doubted that, and soon afterward Powell's credibility dropped to practically nothing. His "Iraq speech" at the U.N., hailed by many at the time as a great triumph, turned out to be the instrument of his downfall, because of its blatant untruths that the invasion itself revealed, and so Powell completed the process of being debased that has been the fate of so many people of his ethnicity who have put personal gain ahead of principle and thrown in their lot with the Republicans.

Some, like Supreme Court judge Clarence Thomas and Bush's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, were debased long before they gained their high positions.

There was never a doubt in my mind that Thomas' accuser during that very contentious period when he was nominated, Anita Hill, was telling the truth about his practice of sex harrassment. The Senators should've listened to her. The country would've been spared the sight, and Rainbows would've been spared the humiliation of all these subsequent years of seeing a wooden dummy occupying that Supreme Court chair and ostensibly in their name, as part of Antonin Scalia's ventriloquist act. Thomas just sits there, session after session and year after year, rarely asking any questions, rarely offering any insights, and just routinely making decisions that Nathan Bedford Forest might have applauded.

During the first Nixon Administration there was a man with a name that combined those of the top general on each of the two sides in the Civil War. As a GS-22 in HUD he was at the time one of the highest ranking Rainbows in government. But he became fed up with the administration's policies toward minorities, and he made a speech to the NAACP in which he attacked many of the same figures who, just a year or two later, were felled by Watergate. For a couple of weeks after he was summarily fired, he was a hot figure in the news.

I know about this because, at the suggestion of and through the management of a friend, I wrote an "as told to" book about it that was published. I titled it "The Star-Spangled Hustle."

Robert Lee Grant was not the nicest fellow you ever saw. He was unbelievably arrogant. He was a misogynist. In short he was a Republican. Following his brief moment of fame though not fortune, in the 30-some years since then, I have heard absolutely nothing from or about him.

More recently J.D. Watts, a former football star and Congressman from Oklahoma, ranked fourth in the Republican leadership in the House, but it wasn't long before he chucked all that. He said that he wasn't being consulted as much as he thought his standing deserved. Maybe, unlike Rice and Powell, his pride was too strong to allow him to bear for long the natural humiliation of his party affiliation -- and maybe he had also noticed that his father had become nearly as famous as he for saying that "a black man voting for a Republican is like a chicken voting for Colonel Sanders."

I call these people "Judas Goats," after the animals that happily lead others of their kind to the slaughter, confident that the same fate does not await them.

Such people are a common and maybe even an essential part of the human condition, though why that should be is one of the big mysteries of existence.

And now today two Rainbow politicians are among the six viable candidates for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, to be decided in a few days. One from Maryland, while the other is more infamous because of the way, in 2004, as Secretary of State of Ohio, he manipulated the vote to the Republican advantage in that state.

Their names, respectively, are Steele and Blackwell.

What's in a name? Highly interesting and meaningful these are, considering the circumstances.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A "Grand Theft" Cautionary Tale

...Occasionally, however, we see a news story that we can really relate to because it touches on our own experience on several points.

Recently a 6-year old boy in the Northern Neck area of Virginia missed his school bus or something. His father had left for work, while his mother was still asleep. So he jumped into the family car (the article I read said he stole it, but how can you steal your own family car?), and away he wheeled. He was anxious to get to school on time, 16 miles away, so that he wouldn't miss the free breakfast there, plus he had to go to PE later. And he almost made it, though he was so short that he had to drive largely standing up.

The area was rural, and he safely crossed a bridge and went through several interesections. Apparently he went along at a pretty good clip, too, passing peaple and such. But then, only a mile or so from school and the great meal, he didn't look far enough down a two-lane road, and wouldn't you know. We can all identify with this. Nothing less than a tractor-trailer showed up, coming on fast in the other lane.

The kid's stubby 6-year arms quickly whipped the car back into the right lane, but then -- this, too, could've happened to anybody but rarely does when you are only 6, except on computers -- in his haste he overcorrected, went off the road, up an embankment and slammed the rear of the car into a utility pole, finally bringing his excursion to a halt, and he missed the meal but not the PE later, and his parents were arrested.

I am familiar with the Northern Neck. It is a beautiful and peaceful place, and I can see how it wasn't that much of a miracle for the family car and the utility pole to have been the only things that took a beating. The Neck is a pleasant drive of 200 miles or so east from here, and two of my best friends, L. and his beautiful wife of many years, M., live there. We visited them a few years ago, and we have a standing invitation to come back whenever we want, but it is another epic journey for me.

So I wouldn't have voted, either, for arresting the parents. The report said the father was under court order not to leave the kids alone while the mother was sleeping. But quite often reporters are no more diligent about asking the right questions than the ones with the answers are in giving them. So what that court order was about is hard to guess.

But if that incident was indeed what so many would say it is, then arresting the parents strikes me as being a strange and ungrateful way to give thanks for the miracle. But the public, using the law as its always willing and iron-gloved surrogate, always has to jab its sticky fingers into everything. I suppose the law would defend itself by saying the arrests will prevent similar incidents in the future, but how many 6-year olds are even aware of such cautionary tales, and also they don't stay 6 for long.

And anyway, we might find that a lot if not almost all male kids ignite high risk escapades from which I have always thought the big miracle is that they escape so often, nearly though not quite scot free with memories, misgivings, and maturity being what they are. This puts them in better position a little later to make their lives available to professional patriots and others to be expended in wars or other similarly stupid activities. As naturally cautious as I am, I had a couple of early events myself, and when I was older than 6, though, unlike this one, none of those would have physically injured anyone else had they taken the direst road.

Another way in which I can identify is that the kid had already learned and polished his driving skills on computer games such as "Grand Theft Auto." I've never played that, but I do happen to own hundreds of other PC computer games that I collected when I was younger, in my 40's, 50's, and 60's, including a number that involve driving everything from subs to cars to aircraft to space cruisers. But "Grand Theft Auto" has been a subject of sharp discussions for years, because it is so "graphic," and I believe that I've even read that you don't lose too many points if you happen to pick off a pedestrian or two while you're at it.

So that's another credit we'll have to hand to the kid and to the genes he was given and the way he was brought up through all those many years by his parents, though I suspect they'll stay in a state of shock for much longer than they will be shut away.

Anybody would be.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

What Should Be Done About Gaza?

That question is easy to answer. The walls sealing off Israel should be torn down. Hamas should melt down their rockets. The checkpoints should be disassembled and carted away. The suicide bombers should be reminded of the first part of Patton's key dictum about such matters, namely that "nobody ever won a war by dying for their country," but not the second part, which went, "they won the war by making the other poor, dumb son of a bitch die for his country." Everybody, especially the "settlers" in a land already settled for millennia, should go back home. Jerusalem should be turned into an international peace park, while the whole of the Gaza Strip should be converted to a deer park, and Israelis and Muslims should give agnosticism a better look.

We can confidently predict that none of this will be done any time soon, and instead the murder and mayhem will go on for generations more, with the picture in Gaza and thereabouts remaining nearly the same at the end of your children's long lives as it does now for anybody who came of age in the late 1940's, when all of this started (unless it already did in Samson's time).

In comment sections to almost any article about the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, you will find people who apparently think the situation is just lovely, as shown by how they scornfully dismiss those who have never been to Israel and Gaza, arguing that without that experience, no one can know what it's really like over there and so should never dare to say anything about it.

But my question always is, "What is there to know?"

Are they saying that If I were to suddenly go bonkers and therefore go there, I wouldn't find a big ghetto with many thousands of people crammed into a very small space, from which rockets are regularly and clumsily fired and into which other rockets are regularly and somewhat more precisely fired and keeping the whole place in a constant shambles of wreckage, blood, and tears?

This is such a huge globe, with nothing much going on on almost all of it, and to think that contesting one of the smallest of fly specks on it with the utmost fury is all that a large number of people can find to do with themselves!

News for the Birds

I don't know what to make of the great majority of what passes for "news." Therefore I find it impossible to make any comments about it.

Shakespeare's words, "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," cover too much of the "news."

Bad things inevitably lead to nothing, but then, so do many worthwhile things.

The natural world is much easier and healthier to contemplate.

For instance, around here at least, no matter how cold it gets -- and according to my bones and blood it's been really cold a lot of the time this winter -- whenever you go outside you will almost always hear some birds singing.

Of course, whether or not in their eyes they are singing at all is a big question. Most likely they are just talking and otherwise signaling to each other, back and forth or falling on ornithological deaf ears. But anyway, there they are, and it comes across as song to our ears.

But there's something that it would be really great to know, which is, exactly what are they singing or talking about, when they should be stopped cold, like us?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Dodging the Health Care Bullet

...Or "How Long Do We Deserve to Live Without Unbearable Physical Difficulties and to Live at all, Without Having a Card to Show the Front Desk?"

Speaking of medical coverage and the problems of paying for it, my recent post titled "Toward Medicare for All" got me to thinking about what happens if one adopts my favorite way of getting rid of all uncomfortable situations (and people), which is to wave a magic wand at them and saying "Bye" or "Later" or some such, and watching it or them recede to nothingness in the distance, as has happened a surprising number of times.

Medical care involves first of all living with a reasonable lack of physical discomfort. (Age increasingly makes the word "total" an impossibility in that statement, and so "reasonable" must be used as the modifier instead, though often only barely.) And also it involves not saying "Bye-bye" to everything just yet, voluntarily or involuntarily. But if medical care in accordance with modern standards comes at a monetary price too high for one to afford, it seems logical -- though in the eyes of many not reasonable -- to forgo the expense of paying for it and therefore having it, in the same sense that having to forget all about owning a sports car, a yacht, or merely a new cellphone doesn't have to be the end of everything.

So, casually skipping past pain and handicap to the ultimate biggie -- since that is what everything eventually comes down to -- how long does a person deserve to live when living entirely disconnected from the medical services of his time?

Naturally that question has absolutely no answer, and even reviewing one's own medical history throws no light, as it depends too much on what the Fates have to say, and I've never heard of any university that offers courses in learning how to hear those intentions, much less influencing them.

In my case I can say that things could have gone tragically against me as early as about age 22, had I not been transported to a military hospital in California. But would I have contracted that regional enteritis in the first place, if I hadn't been in the Air Force at the time? In any case the military paid for the whole thing, including two months in the hospital. This was after my childhood period, that now weird-sounding era of the 30's and 40's when it was still customary for family doctors to come to your house and take care of things that didn't require trips to the hospital, for which your situation had to be really, really serious.

After that I was lucky enough to stay clear of going into the medical shop for repairs through nearly the next 50 years, marked by several extended periods when I carried no discernible medical insurance. Then came that fateful year of 2001 and turning 70, when it became advisable to ask people in hospitals for help, first in Atlanta and again a few years later here in Virginia. Both times it was for situations that weren't anywhere in the class of triple bypasses and such but still were best not left to my usual system of toughing things out.

But how does that relatively happy medical history compare with the millions of instances meanwhile when, like nearly everybody else, my time in this world could've been shortened considerably and in a flash, in the air, on the Pacific Ocean, and especially on automobile roads and train tracks?

I guess, aside from stuff like genes, the reason I am still here and able to split my firewood is that I've usually gone uncommonly far out of my way to avoid tempting the Fates. Whether or not that's true and therefore is the Ultimate Answer amounts, however, to a couple of other questions.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Technology's Ultimate Curse

Thinking about how things used to be with regard to medical care throws some light for me on present problems not only with medical care but also with the other big bugaboo confronting Americans today, the financial situation -- aside from the one that they try to ignore in the same way that they would a bleeding, 5-inch, self-inflicted gash in their hindparts, namely the hapless and hopeless military adventures in and around Arabia.

Technology is a wonderful thing, but inevitably there comes a time when it badly overstays its welcome. It's like a fruit that stays on the tree far past the moment when it becomes ripe. Refusing to drop off, instead it merely changes its shape and appearance and grows ever larger, while obscuring the reasons that once made it a worthwhile food.

--I intended the two paragrahs above to be followed by several more illustrating what I was trying to say. But then came the end of one year and the beginning of another, marked mainly by constant cold that numbed everything for me. So I wrote those passages nearly two weeks ago, and now I can't fully remember what else I wanted to say, that is, in the fire of the early morning when I was thinking so much about it.

I do remember that first and foremost I meant to speak of how modern medical care involves such complicated and expensive procedures, equipment, medicines, facilities, and highly trained people that it looks to me as if most of us can't really afford any longer to stay healthy in case something hits, because things work out so that not nearly that much money comes our way so that, unlike in the past, we can pay our own way. And for sure there are lots of people who feel that the paupers, the involuntary ones as well as the voluntary ones, don't therefore deserve to get that care and therefore to stay physically comfortable or even alive..

But medical care isn't the only area where you see that principle at work, due to technology and stuff like efficiency getting too far ahead of itself. Look at computers. Look at automobiles. Look at telephones. Look at books and libraries. Look at grocery stores. Look at money managing. Look at warfare, modern American style. And that's not all.

Cold Water on the Still Hot Cubans

In a Newsweek article titled "Castro's False Claims to Success," (the blogger link didn't work) a man named Jorge Castenada who used to be the foreign minister of Mexico attempted to throw the typical cold water on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution. This will undoubtedly gladden the hearts of many of the Cuban exiles in Miami. The author pooh-poohs the revolution's achievements in eudcation, health care, influence on other Latin-American countries, and just generally keeping their heads above water for so long a period against all odds without succumbing.

Yet not once does the author so much as mention the embargo that has been so tightly in place through nearly all that long period, and, along with other measures exacted by the U.S. at the urging of those exiles, has been much more responsible for the island's shortcomings than has the doings of the regime.

If I knew where I have it, I could show you a little essay that I wrote three or four decades ago, saying that if the Americans had played it cool and had let tourists go there freely, Cuba would have long since been securely back into capitalism's grip. I see no reason why that still doesn't hold true today. But we've seen, haven't we, how stupid policies can have a life of their own, if they're to the benefit of even a small group of rabid enough people.

Without that embargo there's no telling where Cuba would be today. Not long ago Michael Moore showed how, even in the face of that towering obstacle, the medical care system there has merits not commonly shared by the far better endowed U.S. system.

China was luckier. It wasn't an island but a huge landmass instead, plus the Chinese exciles didn't take over San Francisco, say, and from there conduct an unremittngly hateful campaign of siccing the dogs on the homeland while itself prospering and also forming a highly poisonouse lump in the body politic of the host country, as the Cubans in Miami have done.