June 30, 2005

NJ Government Shutdown? (Updated)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:06 pm

As of this writing, the Democrats in New Jersey’s Legislature (Democrats control both the senate and the assembly) have not been able to agree on a budget. While each side of the Party of the People postures as having the people’s interest in mind, in reality, they remind me more of a pack of jackals fighting over the meat on a carcass.

If they cannot come up with a budget by midnight tonight, New Jersey’s Government will shut down, except for “essential services”.

The Democrats should do everything in their power to keep that from happening, because if the government shuts down, no one may notice. Worse yet for the Democrats, the people might just like things better that way.

Update: Last night, the Democrat Legislators struck a deal and passed a compromise budget, thereby beating the midnight deadline and the possible shutdown of “essential services” in the state. Although the rules require that one day passes between committee approval and a floor vote, the Republicans will cooperate with the Democrats by voting to waive the one-day requirement so that the budget can be passed today.

Of course, it is damned near impossible to figure out how badly the New Jersey taxpayer will be screwed (and screwed we most certainly shall be), because in New Jersey the name of the game is “Rebates.” The state takes income tax proceeds from taxpayers and redistributes some of them in the form of “rebates”. So, a “cut” in rebates equals an increase in tax. Clever, no?

It seems fitting that, in this state, taxing the citizens is not unlike a State-Run Shell Game.

So, what do we have under this Jabberwockian System?

The best I can tell is that we have a $500 million cut in tax rebates (i.e. $500 million in income tax money the state will be keeping, instead of redistributing). However, that comes with a promised $270 million in “mandated spending cuts” (Color me skeptical).

Math is not my strong suit, but that looks to me like this amounts to a $230 million tax increase. However, in JerseyTaxSpeak it’s really not an “increase,” because the state already has the money. It’s just giving less back. Clear?

One thing is, however, clear. We’ve been mugged again.

Embarrassing Moment, To Say the Least.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 7:00 pm

Key, of Key Issues, shared a story about her being publicly embarrassed at a local eatery by the slightly too-loud remarks to her by her young daughter. In turn, Moogie, of Moogie’s World, wrote of becoming red-faced in a supermarket as a result of a statement to a stranger that only a three-year old could make. Both stories are hilarious, even though the incidents described in each were surely anything but funny at the time for those involved.

Those stories reminded me of a similar one told to me by a guy I used to work with about 15 years ago. I frankly do not remember whether he knew the person who is the subject of the story or whether he was there (in the bank) when it happened. Either way, I am told that it is a true story. Here goes.

A young, attractive, well-manicured, well-coiffed, expensively-dressed suburban mother brought her son into the local bank in their very upscale town so she could take care of the family’s banking. The little guy (We’ll call him “Tommy”) appeared to be about five or six years old.

The line on that day was particularly long. Not surprisingly, it didn’t take too much time for the little guy to become bored. He wandered over to the stand-up writing desk where the withdrawal and deposit slips are available for use by customers, and, despite his mother’s protestations, he grabbed himself a few of each and returned to the line next to his mother. By this time, there were still a half-dozen people in front of the mother and a half-dozen more had lined up behind her.

Here’s how I’m told it went from there.

Mom: “Tommy, I told you not to touch anything. Now you go back there and put those papers back where you found them.”

Tommy: (Completely ignores Mom and plays with the deposit slips)

Mom: “Tommy, you heard me. Put those back where you found them!”

Tommy: “No.”

(Of course, by now everyone on line is listening to this exchange.)

Mom: “Don’t you dare tell me ‘no’. You put those papers back this minute!!”

Tommy: “No.”

Mom: “That’s it! If you don’t put those back right now, I’m gonna tell Daddy about this when he comes home, and he will not be happy.”

Tommy: “If you tell Daddy, I’ll tell Grandma I saw you with your mouth on Daddy’s pee-pee.”

The mortified mom, with son in tow, quietly and quickly stepped out of the line and left the bank, quite possibly never to return.

June 29, 2005

Yet Another List.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:09 pm

I receive these “You Know You’re a(n) XYZ If…” lists in my mailbox with some regularity. I have specifically received a few “Redneck” lists, but I believe this is the first I’ve seen this one, and some of them struck me as pretty funny. So, being too lazy to write anything original, I thought I would pass this on.

Note: Some of my best Blog Buddies from the Jawja Blogtoberfest and the Wreckyl in Jekyll are from south of the Mason-Dixon Line, and I know that they all have senses of humor the size of Finland. If, however, you might be offended by a bit of “Redneck” humor, please skip this post.

1. You take your dog for a walk and you both use the same tree.
2. You can entertain yourself for more than 15 minutes with a fly swatter.
3. Your boat has not left the driveway in 15 years.
4. You burn your yard rather than mow it.
6. The Salvation Army declines your furniture.
7. You offer to give someone the shirt off your back and they don’t want it.
8. You have the local taxidermist on speed dial.
9. You come back from the dump with more than you took.
10. You keep a can of Raid on the kitchen table.
11. Your wife can climb a tree faster than your cat.
12. Your grandmother has “ammo” on her Christmas list.
13. You keep flea and tick soap in the shower.
14. You’ve been involved in a custody fight over a hunting dog.
15. You go to the stock car races and don’t need a program.
16. You know how many bales of hay your car will hold.
17. You have a rag for a gas cap.
18. Your house doesn’t have curtains, but your truck does.
19. You wonder how service stations keep their restrooms so clean.
20. You can spit without opening your mouth.
21. You consider your license plate personalized because your father
made it.
22. Your lifetime goal is to own a fireworks stand.
23. You have a complete set of salad bowls and they all say “Cool
Whip” on the side.
24. The biggest city you’ve ever been to is Wal-Mart.
25. Your working TV sits on top of your non-working TV.
26. You’ve used your ironing board as a buffet table.
27. A tornado hits your neighborhood and does a $100,000 worth of
28. You’ve used a toilet brush to scratch your back.
29. You missed your 5th grade graduation because you were on jury duty.
30. You think fast food is hitting a deer at 65 mph.
And last, but not least…
31. Somebody tells you that you’ve got something in your teeth, so you take them out to see what it is!

Thanks to my friend Brian, the Air Force Vet.

Umbrellas … Where Are They When You Need ‘Em?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 7:05 pm

umbrella.jpgEver notice that umbrellas always seem to be at home or in the car whenever you are neither at home nor in the car and the farookin’ skies open?

Well, it rained torrents when it was time to leave work today. Of course, at the time, my umbrella was nice and dry at home on my front porch.

Obviously, I should have brought it with me, given the unambiguous and ominous weather reports that were on the radio and television last night and this morning. In the future, when mondo thunderstorms are predicted, a good place to put Mr. Umbrella is up my ass, right next to my head, which encases what little brain matter I have when it comes to weather reports and umbrellas.**

**Special thanks to Gail, who loaned me an extra umbrella she keeps at her desk. She said she keeps it in case she forgets hers, but I know better. She knows of my umbrella numbskullery.

June 28, 2005

Gettin’ It Done … Again.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 7:00 pm

On any given day, a group of energetic young people board the aircraft. After they have properly stowed their belongings, they take their seats and await departure. They catch a glimpse of the pilot and notice that he is a distinguished looking gray-haired man. They feel that they are in good hands. Just another routine commercial flight, right?


The foregoing scene is played out on any given day in Iraq, as infantry troops climb aboard the UH-60A Black Hawk helicopters that are being piloted by men like Chief Warrant Officers De Wayne Browning and Randy Weatherhead, both of whom are grandfathers and who were flying combat missions in Vietnam before most of their current passengers were born. Link.

They, like many other Vietnam Vets serving in Iraq, are members of Guard Units that were activated to serve in Iraq and who are serving with distinction. Having fought in Vietnam provides them with an interesting perspective on flying combat missions in Iraq:

“There was a lot more action in Vietnam than there is here,” says Chief Warrant Officer Herbert Dargue, 57, of Brookhaven, N.Y. But the danger in Iraq is higher for those who are shot down but survive. “There’s no such thing as a POW,” he says, referring to the terrorists’ penchant for executing Westerners.

“The enemy in Iraq has ‘absolutely no value’ for life,” Dargue says, who flew Huey helicopters in Vietnam from June 1968 to June 1969.

Chief Warrant Officer Browning, who received the Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam for rescuing a crew from another helicopter that had been brought down by enemy fire, doesn’t just fly helicopters in Iraq. In his spare time, he does volunteer work at a nearby children’s home.

Quite simply, I am in awe of these men, and men like my friend (and now Master Sergeant) Lou, who made it through the Vietnam War in one piece and who again answered the call to serve in Iraq.

Damned fine people.

June 27, 2005

E-Z Open.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:52 pm

Of my many shortcomings, one that rears its head with vexing regularity is that I am unable to properly open stuff.

How many times have you seen on a cardboard container of stuff, “Press here to open”? I don’t know about you, but I when I “press here” all I manage to do is cave in the cardboard. I suppose that by “pressing here” one’s finger is supposed to pierce the cardboard with the ease of a stiletto. After the initial failure, pressing again merely renders the cardboard a bit of mushy paper. Ultimately, I have to abandon the “press here” spot and start ripping away at anything that looks like a seam or a flap.

This happens often with cereal boxes. With each new box, I ready my “pressing” finger and carefully aim for the “press here” spot. With foolish optimism, I go for the kill, only to produce yet another soft dent over the “press here” spot. Having learned that multiple pressing is futile, I tear away at the box top, much as I expect Zippy the Chimp might do.

Once the box top has been torn to shreds, I am poised to proclaim victory, but the battle is far from won. Peering into the gaping hole that used to be the box top, I am confronted with the damnable “envelope” in which the cereal itself is packaged. No “easy open” here. There isn’t even anywhere to “press here.” I suppose there are those who can neatly open that airtight cereal bag, but I am not one of them. By the time I finally get to the cereal, it looks as if the cereal box had been attacked by a scavenging bear.

Oh, and how about food packaged in pouches where all one has to do to get at the contents is “tear along the dotted line”? Perhaps a plastic surgeon with a laser scalpel could “cut” along the dotted line, but for me the operative word is “tear”. I often end up placing a badly damaged pouch of half consumed stuff inside another plastic bag and doing the “two twists and place down on the twisted piece” trick. Now that’s easy opening.

Then there are those silver things that are underneath twist-off lids. I love Skippy peanut butter, and there is nothing quite like the anticipation of making the first knife thrust into a virgin jar of the stuff. Unfortunately, after I unscrew the lid, I have to deal with the silvery cardboard thing that is somehow welded to the top of the jar. I have tried various ways to remove this farookin’ peanut butter barrier in one damned piece. Alas,I have never succeeded. I always wind up poking my finger through the thing and into the peanut butter, necessitating removing the hateful thing in pieces. And there is always…always a little bit of that silvery crap that sticks to the top of the jar.

The clincher (and the inspiration for this post) occurred last night. I wanted to open one of those twelve-can “Cool Packs” of A&W Diet Root Beer. As you know, when these cardboard things are properly opened, one is able to place the twelve-pack on the refrigerator shelf, and the design of the box is such that the weight of the cans pushes one can to the front into the little cardboard well that is created when the box is properly opened. All twelve cans store compactly, they stay cold, and one is always easily accessible. Well, maybe that’s the way it works in your house, but it sure as shit doesn’t work that way for me.

Opening a twelve-pack really requires pressing the “press here” spot with two or three fingers in order to get your hand in the position that permits the tearing of the end of the box along the dotted lines, which folds down to create the little cardboard well that permits one can at a time to be conveniently removed from the refrigerator. I think I’ve gotten it right once. I usually end up tearing the entire end off the box, unleashing all twelve cans to roll out of the box as if they were depth charges.

Last night, I must have been particularly short on patience, because after several unsuccessful attempts to get my fingers through the “press here” spot, I grabbed a nearby pair of scissors and stabbed the box as if it were charging bull. In my anger and frustration, I had forgotten that under the think layer of cardboard were cans of fizzy soda. That brilliant move left me with a mortally wounded twelve-pack and a can that was pissing root beer all over the counter top and kitchen floor. Just farookin’ great Jimbo.

Don’t even get me started about opening a new CD.

I can only conclude that when the “opening stuff” genes were being handed out, I was seriously shortchanged. However, the good news is that I did manage to catch one very important “opening stuff” gene. Turns out that I am a gott-damned virtuoso when it comes to opening beer, wine, champagne and booze.

Who the hell needs Cheerios anyway?

June 26, 2005

The Flag Amendment Redux.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 1:04 pm

In comments to the previous post, two readers, both of whom opposed the adoption of the Flag Desecration Amendment, nevertheless posed interesting questions concerning the issue of “expressive conduct”:

If one rationalizes to the extent that flag burning is protected by that first amendment (free speech), [o]ne could use the same reasoning to conclude that a political assassination is also a first amendment right.

[W]ould splashing a lot of gasoline around onto people threatening to burn a flag be considered “conduct” or “speech”?

A political assassination would constitute murder under applicable state law. Similarly, throwing gasoline on people with the intent of incinerating them (albeit, ultimately brought on by their own despicable act), would violate any number of criminal statutes, depending on the circumstances and the outcome of the act.

I believe that this issue would be controlled by United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968) in which the Supreme Court ruled, “When ‘speech’ and ‘nonspeech’ elements are combined in the same course of conduct, a sufficiently important governmental interest in regulating the nonspeech element can justify incidental limitations on First Amendment freedoms.” 391 U.S. 367 at 376.

Assuming that political assassination or throwing gasoline on people threatening to burn the flag each contains both “speech” and “nonspeech” elements (and I think it is fair to say that each does), the state clearly has an important interest in punishing murder and other conduct likely to result in death or serious injury (i.e. the “nonspeech” elements). As such, it can justifiably limit the “speech” elements that are incidental to the acts themselves.

Truth is, I agree with sentiment expressed or suggested by several readers that the real tragedy with this issue is that it has occupied so much time and attention, particularly at a time when we all have much more important things to worry about.

June 24, 2005

The Flag Amendment and the American Legion.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 10:34 pm

Flag burning.jpgYesterday the House voted for adoption of an amendment to the Constitution that would outlaw flag desecration, “flag burning” being the words that are customarily used by the proponents of the amendment to fire up emotions and garner support. Previous attempts to amend the Constitution have failed in the Senate, and, in my view, that’s a good thing.

I have never supported such an amendment, because I believe, as the Supreme Court noted in its opinion in Texas v. Johnson, that flag burning (as despicable as I find the act) is a form of speech, which is and must remain protected by the First Amendment.

“But, wait!” the amendment’s supporters urge, “There is no First Amendment issue, because flag burning isn’t speech! It’s conduct, and that’s what we want to ban.”

I disagree. The act of flag burning (the kind that makes everyone angry, as opposed to, say, the ceremonial retirement, by burning, of worn flags conducted by veterans’ and fraternal organizations) is obviously conduct, but there can be no doubt that it is conduct intended to communicate a message. Supporters of the Amendment would be hard pressed to suggest otherwise, given that the it is the very message intended to be conveyed by flag burning that has the supporters of the amendment riled up.

In the communicative sense, flag burning is only different in degree from the display of the middle finger in anger or defiance. Flipping someone the bird is, after all, “conduct,” but its communicative message is crystal clear, which is to say, it constitutes “speech.”

The American Legion, an organization of which I am a proud member, has collected a small fortune from its members in support of its campaign to have the amendment adopted. It has also engaged in massive lobbying efforts to seek support for the amendment, which efforts, in my view, could have been better directed toward the advocacy of issues that could actually help veterans.

As part of its relentless campaign, the Legion offers up poll results that show that more than eighty percent of the people in the country support the amendment. Of the poll, the American Legion National Commander has said:

“When asked a straight forward question, most Americans will give you a straight answer – Protect Old Glory.”

Here are the “straightforward” questions he referred to:

1. “How important do you think it is to make desecrating the U.S. Flag Against the Law? Extremely important, very important, somewhat important, or not important at all?”

2. “Do you favor or oppose the passage of a Constitutional amendment that would allow Congress to enact laws to protect the U.S. flag?” The possible responses were: “strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, strongly oppose, and “don’t know.”

3. “Would you likely vote for someone who is opposed to protecting the U.S. Flag?” The possible responses were, “yes, no, and don’t know.”

I think it is more accurate to say that the best way to get the answers you want on a survey is to ask emotionally loaded questions that relate to a complex issue and only permit “simple” answers.

I believe that even a good number of long-time American Legion members would not be so quick to support the amendment, if they were to take the time to consider what potentially can happen if such an amendment is passed.

For example, over the past few years, I have had something resembling the following exchange with many Legionnaires:

Me: “How would you feel if some day Congress passed a law making it a crime to wear a Legion Cap?”

Him: “Don’t be silly. Congress couldn’t do that. That would violate our constitutional rights.”

Me: “Are you talking about your First Amendment rights?”

Him: “Absolutely.”

Me: “Wait a minute. Wearing a cap isn’t speech: It’s conduct, no?”

Him: “Huh?”

Me: “You said that congress could outlaw flag burning because flag burning isn’t speech, but rather it’s conduct. And I’m asking how is flag burning different from wearing a Legion Cap?”

Him: “You’re being ridiculous. You can’t equate burning Old Glory with wearing a Legion Cap. It’s different.”

Me: “Well, let me ask you this. When you wear your Legion Cap, do you wear it to keep your head warm?”

Him: “No. They’re not even good for keeping your head warm.”

Me: “Isn’t it more accurate to say that when you wear your Legion Cap, you are saying something? By wearing the cap, aren’t you letting the world know that you are a veteran who served in time of conflict, that you’re proud of your service and the service of others, and that you support causes that improve the lives of veteran’s in general?”

Him: “I suppose so.”

Me: “So, both you and the flag burner are each ‘saying something,’ he by burning a flag and you by wearing a Legion Cap. So, again I ask you, how you would feel if Congress passed a law prohibiting you from wearing your Legion Cap?”

I wish I could report that at the end of these dialogs, the “Him” always said, “You’re right. I hadn’t looked at it that way before.” The good news is that more than a few do say something just like that. Unfortunately, many simply say, “I don’t give a damn what you say. I want Old Glory protected.”

I believe that the American Legion should rethink this issue, but given the amount of monetary and political capital that the organization has invested in getting the amendment passed, I doubt that it will happen.

June 23, 2005

Assisted Computing Facility.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 6:53 pm

In reaction to yesterday’s post, which was one of many in which I have admitted to being a Techno-Dope (or perhaps the victim of a Techno-Conspiracy), Zonker drafted an open letter to daughter TJ suggesting a possible long-term solution to my techno-dipshittery. Be sure to follow Zonker’s links for the full picture.

I’m thinking about packing up my toothbrush and guitar and signing myself in.

June 22, 2005


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:14 pm

ziggy.jpgI’m sure you all know Ziggy, the cartoon character who seems to have a perpetual black cloud over his head. You may call me Techno Ziggy.

As you know, I live in fear of fooling with Mr. Template, or anything that has the word “config” in it. I wonldn’t go near an SQL, even if I knew what it was. I am battle scarred from tangling ass with Mr. Laptop.

Still, I keep trying.

I got the message from Symantec informing me that my anti-virus software is about to expire.

I read the message with dread, as I sensed the dark cloud already beginning to form. Knowing that this was a task I could not ignore, lest my computer become completely devoured by viruses, I followed the links. In so doing, I learned that I could “renew” my current subscription, but that my current version (2002) is considered a cyber-relic not worthy of ownership (and not “supported” – I loathe that word). Clearly what I needed was the souped-up 2005 version.

I noted that the “cloudette” was beginning to become a genuine cloud.

I followed all the links, provided all the requested information, choosing the “download” version. I printed all my confirmations, and now it was time to click the “download” button and watch the magic happen. I stared at it for a while, hoping against hope that everything would work out fine. I took the plunge.


The download window appeared and, in short order, did nothing – zero, zilch. The damnable thing just sat there in freeze mode only to be followed by one of those really scary “error” windows. The instructions advised that I should feel free to try again (Thanks a bunch), which I did. I held my breath and again pushed the button that now mocked me by calling itself “Download.”


NOTHING. Nothing, that is, but the same lifeless download window appeared, only to stare at me in hateful defiance and download nothing. Abso-farookin’-lutely NOTHING.

The cloud has now fully formed and is getting ugly.

Seeing as how I had just paid for “support” (Did I mention that I loathe that word?), I called the Customer Service number and was connected to a nice fellow with a Canadian accent. I explained the problem, and he had me look in my current files under “Norton.” I did that, and confirmed that the only Norton anti-virus software that is on my machine is the current version (i.e the one I’ve been using). Call me a smartass, but I believe that all that exercise accomplished was to confirm that the software I just bought and which I could not download was not on my machine. Gadzooks! Imagine that?

I stupidly thought that confirming a non-download would be the stepping-off point for solving my problem. However, the nice fellow said, “I’m afraid that there’s nothing I can do for you other than to change your order to the disc set, which you can install locally.” (I’m sure I’ve mentioned how much a truly loathe the word “support”). Feeling like I did in calculus class decades ago when I was too lost to even ask a question, I simply sighed and replied, “Sure.”

The ferocious dark cloud just emptied its contents on me.

My order was duly changed, and in three to five working days, I will receive a box via UPS containing the necessary disc and instructions.

At that time, the cloud will again form, I will speak again with a nice fellow for “support,” and I will end up with a computer that is a virus magnet.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell you about my call the other day to Comcast about my Television cable service. Right now, I’ve got to get out of these wet clothes.

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