An Epic Tale

Tom Gauld's Characters for an Epic Tale

Limbe' & Port-au-Prince

It's over a month since the Haiti earthquake and it seems there's so little done and so much more to do. I admit, I'm glad I don't live there anymore.

Marxism at its best

Dick Cavett:
In California, Groucho asked if I’d like to join him for lunch at the legendary Hillcrest Country Club. I was surprised when he only nodded to the famous faces at the comics’ table and steered me past them to the writers’ one.

Groucho: [sotto voce] Comedians can’t talk about anything but show business. Writers know politics. But they also know the important things in the world. Like literature and psychology. And poetry, and history, and young women with great sets of pins like our waitress.

He was right on all counts. They were legendary names and the talk was rich. And funnier than Limbaugh. Even at his best.

Regarding Sarah

"It’s lamented that the youth get their news from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. It’s lamentable that they get more from them than from the news. Both guys cover books on broad subjects. The 'real' news gives Sarah Palin’s book as much time as if it were important. You could almost get the idea she had actually written it."
--Dick Cavett

Thought for the day

"Atheism is a non-prophet organization."
-George Carlin

Thought for the day

"The only difference between a church and a cult is real estate."

--Frank Zappa

Thought for the day

"Religions are founded on the fear of the many and the cleverness of the few."-Stendhal

A!O's Taming of the Shrew Cast 2009 Student Production

Regarding Sarah

"There is no expedient to which man will not resort to avoid the real task of thinking."
-English painter Joshua Reynolds

Fun with venn diagrams

Thought for the day

"I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."
-Stephen Roberts

Thought for the day

The Family That Prays Together is Brainwashing the Children

Pretty Little Things

My 'Flap Jack' Kalanchoe thyrsiflora (foreground) is a great indoor plant and it's beautiful too. The succulent's colors are highlighted by the Floraline jardinières.

Farmers Market Visit

Potato and Greens Soup

Like so many of my winter soups, I start with a butter and onion base and add what I have available. A little experimentation is fun.

Any pretty little potatoes will do.
I like the bite of mustard greens, but any greens are fine.

With a base of butter, vidalia onions and leeks, I diced small potatoes and sauteed the lot. After adding water the soup was boiled until the potatoes were almost cooked.

Add fresh mustard greens and kale.

Corn on the cob is off season and pricey, so I settled for adding a can of corn kernals found on sale at Bells for 0.25ea. If fresh corn is available use two cobs.

Add 2-4 veggie bouillon cubes. Add water as needed to just cover the mix. Cook another 5 minutes. If fresh corn is used, it will take a little longer to allow the corn to cook.

Add 1-1&1/2 cp milk. Warm and serve.

Regarding Sarah

The idiots are taking over
it's not the right time to be sober
now the idiots have taken over
spreading like a social cancer, is there an answer?

Mensa membership conceding
tell me why and how are all the stupid people breeding
Watson, it's really elementary
the industrial revolution
has flipped the bitch on evolution
the benevolent and wise are being thwarted, ostracized, what a bummer
the world keeps getting dumber
insensitivity is standard and faith is being fancied over reason

darwin's rollin over in his coffin
the fittest are surviving much less often
now everything seems to be reversing, and it's worsening
someone flopped a steamer in the gene pool
now angry mob mentality's no longer the exception, it's the rule
and im startin to feel a lot like charlton heston
stranded on a primate planet
apes and orangutans that ran it to the ground
with generals and the armies that obeyed them
followers following fables
philosophies that enable them to rule without regard

there's no point for democracy when ignorance is celebrated
political scientists get the same one vote as some Arkansas inbred
majority rule, don't work in mental institutions
sometimes the smallest softest voice carries the grand biggest solutions

what are we left with?
a nation of god-fearing pregnant nationalists
who feel it's their duty to populate the homeland
pass on traditions
how to get ahead religions
And prosperity via simpleton culture

the idiots are takin over

Lyrics of the song "Idiots Are Taking Over" by NOFX

They're voting for Sarah too.

Dear Sarah: Say It Is So, Run for President
by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Dear Sarah Palin:

I hear you're pondering a run for the White House in 2012. Last week, you told Fox news it would be ``absurd'' to rule it out.

I'm writing to ask that you rule it in. I very badly want you to run for -- and win -- the Republican nomination for the presidency.

I know you're waiting for the punch line. Maybe you figure I think you'd be a weak candidate who would pave the way for President Obama's easy re-election.

That's not it. No, I want you to run because I believe a Palin candidacy would force upon this country a desperately needed moment of truth. It would require us to finally decide what kind of America we want to be.

Mrs. Palin, you are an avatar of the shameless hypocrisy and cognitive disconnection that have driven our politics for the last decade, a process of stupidification creeping like kudzu over our national life.

As Exhibit A, consider your recent speech at a so-called ``tea party'' event, wherein you dismissed the president as a ``charismatic guy with a teleprompter.'' Bad enough you imply that teleprompter use is the mark of an insubstantial man, even though you and every other major politician uses them. But what made the comment truly jaw-dropping is that even as you spoke, you had penned on your left palm, clearly visible, a series of crib notes.

Mrs. Palin, if Obama is an idiot for reading a prepared speech off a teleprompter, what are you for reading notes you've inked on your hand like a school kid who failed to study for the big test?

In the Fox interview, you scored Obama for supposedly expecting Americans to ``sit down and shut up'' and accept his policies. But when asked when the president has ever said that, you couldn't answer. Obama, you sputtered, has just been condescending with his ``general persona.''

I found that a telling moment. See, ultimately what you represent is not conservatism. Heck, I suspect that somewhere, Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan are spinning like helicopter rotors at the very idea.

No, you represent the latest iteration of an anti-intellectualism that periodically rises in the American character. There is, historically and persistently, a belief in us that y'all just can't trust nobody who acts too smart or talks too good -- in other words, somebody whose ``general persona'' indicates they may have once cracked a book or had a thought. Americans tend to believe common sense the exclusive province of humble folks without sheepskins on the wall or big words in their vocabularies.

I don't mock those people. They are my parents, my family elders, members of my childhood church. I honor their native good sense, what mom called ``mother wit.'' But if it is insulting to condescend to them, it is equally insulting to mythologize them.

More to the point, something is wrong when we celebrate mental mediocrity like yours under the misapprehension that competence or, God forbid, intelligence, makes a person one of those ``elites'' -- that's a curse word now -- lacking authenticity, compassion and common sense.

So no, this is not a clash of ideologies, but a clash between intelligence and its opposite. And I am tired of being asked to pretend stupid is a virtue. That's why I'd welcome the moment of truth your campaign would bring. It would force us to decide once and for all whether we are permanently committed to the path of ignorance, of birthers, truthers and tea party incoherence you represent, or whether we will at last turn back from the cliff toward which we race.

If the latter, wonderful, God bless America. If the former, well, some of us can finally quit hoping the nation will return to its senses and plan accordingly. Either way, we need to know, and your candidacy would tell us. If you love this country, Mrs. Palin, you can do it no greater service.

Run, Sarah, run.

If you must: Pray at home, not at school.

Raising His Voice
By Pam Lambert

Defying Georgia's Moment-of-Silence Law May Cost This Teacher His Job

THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR WAS ONLY minutes old when Brian Bown gave his sophomore world-history students a lesson they won't soon forget. He had just launched into a lecture on the Protestant Reformation when principal Delores Hendrix's voice came crackling over the public-address system at South Gwinnett High School in Snellville, Ga., 25 miles northeast of Atlanta. Hendrix was ready to lead the daily 60 seconds of "quiet reflection" that became Georgia law in July. Bown was not. "I told the students they could do what they wanted to do," he says, "but I was going to teach."

As a few teenagers pulled out Bibles and others simply listened, Bown, 41, continued discussing Martin Luther—one of his heroes—and his defiance of the Catholic Church. Ironically, within two days he would be talking about Luther in a very different context. Addressing reporters outside the U.S. Courthouse in Atlanta on Aug. 24, Bown compared himself to the 16th-century religious rebel as he described the suit he had filed to challenge the constitutionality of the moment of silence—and to save his job, from which he had been suspended the day before.

"The clear intent of this law is to bring prayer back into the schools," says Bown, who was raised an Episcopalian and prays every day before leaving for school. "I believe it is totally abhorrent to ask any teacher to preside over something so obviously unconstitutional. If I were to back off, I could never go into a classroom again."

That wouldn't appear to bother George G. Thompson, Gwinnett County's superintendent of schools, who suspended Bown with pay pending a board hearing later this month. (Bown had made his views known in advance to both school officials and the media. He was suspended the second day of the term after refusing to change his stand.) Thompson has also recommended that Bown be fired for "conduct unbecoming a teacher." That, he says, includes disrupting opening day with his "very confrontational" behavior. "From our point of view, this is an issue of professional conduct—of how Mr. Bown handled his objection," says Thompson, who regards the moment of silence as "harmless." Regardless of what the board decides, Bown says he will pursue his legal challenge of the Georgia statute.

During his own high school days in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Ill., Bown—the youngest of three sons of Larson Bown, an engineering company manager, and his wife, Norma Jean, a onetime band singer with Bob Hope, Tommy Dorsey and Gene Krupa—was a far cry from the man who now proclaims, "I never, ever keep my mouth shut." A self-described nerd, he says he started coming into his own—and developing an interest in civil liberties—while earning his bachelor's degree in political science at Illinois State. After getting a master's in education from Chicago's Loyola University, Bown went to work as a newspaper stringer covering high school sports. Sports-writing got him into what he calls "the real me"—teaching.

"I always had this ability to bring people out. I could get the crankiest old-fart coach to tell me what he really felt about the game," recalls Bown as he relaxes with his Siamese cat, Kitty, in the sparsely furnished house he has rented since his divorce last year after six years of marriage. "I remember thinking that if I could have that effect on those knuckleheads, imagine what I could do in a classroom."

What Bown seems to have been doing at South Gwinnett for the past five years is shaking things up. He made the debate team nationally competitive, but in 1992 was forced to step down as coach because of what Thompson calls "problems of supervision of students." Among them was an incident reportedly involving alcohol use on a road trip—something Bown's lawyers have advised him not to discuss. Though some students criticize his liberal views and abrasive style, others praise him even if, like Heather Barton, 16, they don't always see eye-to-eye. Barton, a member of Active Christian Teens, says Bown is "the best [teacher] I ever had because he challenges you to stand up for what you think."

Snellville has been forced to do just that. Bown says he has received phone threats but also dozens of messages of support from local residents and others. At South Gwinnett, students sport competing buttons, some proclaiming, "Honor the moment of silence," while others say, "Pray at home, not at school."

The debate, Bown maintains, is exactly what he's after. "I've always seen my primary job as equipping kids with abilities to think and evaluate so that when they go out in the world they can make the right decisions—which very well may not be my decisions," he says. "I want them to argue with me, to know what they stand for—and to be willing to take the consequences."

A great obit

When Charlie Wilson died last week, the obits included some great stories including these:

It was never easy getting Wilson reelected in the heart of the Bible Belt. TV advertising man, Mark McCannon, who worked for Wilson, recalls how nearly every campaign, they had to cope was some embarrassing revelation about Wilson's after hours activities. The problem was, Wilson wasn't ever really embarrassed. At the beginning of one contest, Wilson called his strategist into his office.

Mr. MARK MCCANNON (Strategist for Charlie Wilson, Former): "We sat down and he (Wilson) said, 'Boys, you know what? I know we had a lot of issues in past campaigns that were difficult to deal with, but I want to reassure you this time it's going to be easier. Because I've settled down, met a good Christian woman; she sings in the church choir, doesn't drink a lick, I love her, and we're planning on getting married - just as soon as she graduates from high school.'"

And then there was this story:

Charlie Wilson's tryst with a stunningly beautiful Russian model was no joke. The two were seen together everywhere in Washington. When Wilson announced they were getting married, politicians on both sides of the aisle were aghast. The Congressman from East Texas knew more about American military spending and the CIA than practically any man alive. What in the world was Charlie whispering to her under the covers? He was called before a Congressional committee and ordered to explain. Wilson told them to relax, saying, the only secret I'm giving her is Victoria's Secret. It was an answer they could all believe, nevertheless, Good Time Charlie broke it off with the Soviet model not long after.

Southerners' Snow Fears

To be fair, I'll start by saying that I had a sled and iceskated as a kid, so I have to wonder about the fear which snow strikes in the hearts of my fellow Georgians. Already as of 8:30 AM, Arts!Oglethorpe has cancelled its performance for tonight. Schools are cancelled or will have early release. The lines at Kroger were ridiculously long. (Yes, I was there to buy bread and milk, among other things, but Friday is my normal grocery day.) The usual Dufus was shoving cans on top of the fruit. There was only one line open and ten people with cartfuls standing in that line, as the smaller orders went to self-checkout. Even northern based Kroger can't take "snow" seriously in the South. In short, there had better be snow,and a hell of a lot of it.*

*"hell of a lot" defined as at least 16 inches or more!

The Daleks Have Arrived!

Is Mary Ellen Cheatham Dying on Air?

Is Mary Ellen Cheatham Dying? Why does GPB have an on air reporter that sounds like a six pack a day smoker with half a lung on a ventilator? This 30?something reporter sounds closer to death than Mary Ann McPartland.

Commas: They Save Lives!

Get rid of Louisa Lim

Rhotacism- VOCAL PROBLEM - PRONOUNCING 'R' - a defective utterance of the /r/ sounds
a sort of lisping - as 'weally, quite attwactive' for 'really, quite attractive'.
an example of faulty articulation; a speech disorder consisting of imperfect pronunciation of the r sound.

Beware Louisa Lim's tongue!

Why does NPR employ Louisa Lim, a journalist with a speech impediment called rhotacism? Her WepoWts on NoWth KoWea aWe impossible to listen to. EveWy time Lim WepoWts I Wun foW the Wadio dial. Translation: Replace the "W" with an "r".

Watching the Princess Bride, there is an aisle rolling, hilarious scene with a priest with a rhotacism lisp. On The Big Bang Theory, Barry Kripke, an unlikable co-worker of Leonard and Sheldon, has a case of rhotacism where he pronounces "r" and "l" as "w". And we can't forget Elmer Fudd from Looney Tunes.

Often employed as a humorous element at best, a speech impediment, in fact, a journalist with irritating, distracting, and unprofessional speech doesn't belong on the Wadio.

“How Can 59 Million People Be So DUMB?”

When George Bush was re-elected, Britain's Daily Mirror ran the headline “How Can 59 Million People Be So DUMB?” As Sarah Palin took the podium at the Tea Party convention yesterday, I was reminded that, yes, Americans can once again be this damned stupid.

The way Obama and the Dumbocrats have pissed away every opportunity in the past year, I wouldn't be surprised if Palin tops the Republican ticket on the 2012 ballot.

I knew the Democratic party was off to a bad start last year with they welcomed that whiny, sniveling little weasal Joe Lieberman home with open arms. Forgiving his endorsement of McCain and his contemptuous switch from Democrat to Independent when ousted by the CT voters in the Democratic primary, the stupid Democratic "leadership" gave Jumping Joe his chairmanship of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

From Wikipedia "The United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs has jurisdiction over matters related to the Department of Homeland Security and other homeland security concerns, as well as the functioning of the government itself, including the National Archives, budget and accounting measures other than appropriations, the Census, the federal civil service, the affairs of the District of Columbia, and the United States Postal Service." That's a lot of power in the hands of a weasel.

What the hell does one have to do to piss off the Democrats? Apparently that traitor Jumping Joe didn't do enough to draw their ire. By passing himself off as an Independent, whiny Joe has positioned himself to receive a posh chairmanship and continues to bad mouth the Democrats, their policies, and their leadership. Is there anything that Joe can't do wrong without taking a reward from his antics?

Hell Joe, here's an idea, when Palin gets picked as the Republican Presidential choice in 2012, kiss up. Who knows? Jumping Joe could jump onto the ballot once again as VP nominee, this time for the Republicans, his true masters. And when we see that 59 million people can once again be this dumb, Jumping Joe can jump to the Senate podium as President ProTem and those wussy Dumbocrats will once again welcome the treacherous bastard with open arms.

With Jumping Joe, that whiny, treacherous, sniveling little bastard in mind, it's time to celebrate Weasel Stomping Day:

Dude, where's the rest of my order?

What's up with the hippie-dippy stoner dude at eastside Taco Stand?

Three times now the "dude", a chip off the old hashish, has screwed up our order AND argued about it. WTF? Geez, we order the same thing every time. I think I know what I order by now. Don't argue with the customer, dude.

So much for customer service and east side Taco Stand. Looks like we're off to Watkinsville Taco Stand next time. After all, it is three strikes and you're out!

Thought for the day

"He who pays the piper calls the tune."
-Anglo Saxon maxim

Thought for the day

"All I can do is be me,
whoever that is."

Bob Dylan

I wish it would snow...

"I wish it would snow so I could build a snowman version of you and run snowman you down with my car."

-What I thought to myself when the rude bitch at the Lexington, GA, library pissed me off. Again.

Thought for the day...

L'enfer, c'est les autres.

Hell is other people.

-Jean-Paul Sartre

T Shirt Idea

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold.

If you like, I can serve you now.

Why do people vote against their own interests?

The Republicans' shock victory in the election for the US Senate seat in Massachusetts meant the Democrats lost their supermajority in the Senate. This makes it even harder for the Obama administration to get healthcare reform passed in the US.

Political scientist Dr David Runciman gives his view on why there is often such deep opposition to reforms that appear to be of obvious benefit to voters.

Last year, in a series of "town-hall meetings" across the country, Americans got the chance to debate President Obama's proposed healthcare reforms.

What happened was an explosion of rage and barely suppressed violence.

Polling evidence suggests that the numbers who think the reforms go too far are nearly matched by those who think they do not go far enough.

But it is striking that the people who most dislike the whole idea of healthcare reform - the ones who think it is socialist, godless, a step on the road to a police state - are often the ones it seems designed to help.

In Texas, where barely two-thirds of the population have full health insurance and over a fifth of all children have no cover at all, opposition to the legislation is currently running at 87%.


Instead, to many of those who lose out under the existing system, reform still seems like the ultimate betrayal.

Why are so many American voters enraged by attempts to change a horribly inefficient system that leaves them with premiums they often cannot afford?

Why are they manning the barricades to defend insurance companies that routinely deny claims and cancel policies?

It might be tempting to put the whole thing down to what the historian Richard Hofstadter back in the 1960s called "the paranoid style" of American politics, in which God, guns and race get mixed into a toxic stew of resentment at anything coming out of Washington.

But that would be a mistake.

If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing. And that makes anything as complex or as messy as healthcare reform a very hard sell.

Stories not facts

In his book The Political Brain, psychologist Drew Westen, an exasperated Democrat, tried to show why the Right often wins the argument even when the Left is confident that it has the facts on its side.

He uses the following exchange from the first presidential debate between Al Gore and George Bush in 2000 to illustrate the perils of trying to explain to voters what will make them better off:

Gore: "Under the governor's plan, if you kept the same fee for service that you have now under Medicare, your premiums would go up by between 18% and 47%, and that is the study of the Congressional plan that he's modelled his proposal on by the Medicare actuaries."

Bush: "Look, this is a man who has great numbers. He talks about numbers.

"I'm beginning to think not only did he invent the internet, but he invented the calculator. It's fuzzy math. It's trying to scare people in the voting booth."

Mr Gore was talking sense and Mr Bush nonsense - but Mr Bush won the debate. With statistics, the voters just hear a patronising policy wonk, and switch off.

For Mr Westen, stories always trump statistics, which means the politician with the best stories is going to win: "One of the fallacies that politicians often have on the Left is that things are obvious, when they are not obvious.

"Obama's administration made a tremendous mistake by not immediately branding the economic collapse that we had just had as the Republicans' Depression, caused by the Bush administration's ideology of unregulated greed. The result is that now people blame him."

Reverse revolution

Thomas Frank, the author of the best-selling book What's The Matter with Kansas, is an even more exasperated Democrat and he goes further than Mr Westen.

He believes that the voters' preference for emotional engagement over reasonable argument has allowed the Republican Party to blind them to their own real interests.

The Republicans have learnt how to stoke up resentment against the patronising liberal elite, all those do-gooders who assume they know what poor people ought to be thinking.

Right-wing politics has become a vehicle for channelling this popular anger against intellectual snobs. The result is that many of America's poorest citizens have a deep emotional attachment to a party that serves the interests of its richest.

Thomas Frank says that whatever disadvantaged Americans think they are voting for, they get something quite different:

"You vote to strike a blow against elitism and you receive a social order in which wealth is more concentrated than ever before in our life times, workers have been stripped of power, and CEOs are rewarded in a manner that is beyond imagining.

"It's like a French Revolution in reverse in which the workers come pouring down the street screaming more power to the aristocracy."

As Mr Frank sees it, authenticity has replaced economics as the driving force of modern politics. The authentic politicians are the ones who sound like they are speaking from the gut, not the cerebral cortex. Of course, they might be faking it, but it is no joke to say that in contemporary politics, if you can fake sincerity, you have got it made.

And the ultimate sin in modern politics is appearing to take the voters for granted.

This is a culture war but it is not simply being driven by differences over abortion, or religion, or patriotism. And it is not simply Red states vs. Blue states any more. It is a war on the entire political culture, on the arrogance of politicians, on their slipperiness and lack of principle, on their endless deal making and compromises.

And when the politicians say to the people protesting: 'But we're doing this for you', that just makes it worse. In fact, that seems to be what makes them angriest of all.

Credit: Originally aired as Turkeys Voting for Christmas first broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday 24 January and repeated on Wednesday 27 January at 2045 GMT.