Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bring in the New Year Oz-Style

December 31, 2011; 2:30 PM
Ahhh Oz, you really know how to bring in the New Year.
Take that New York . . . let's play, "Can you top this??"
More later . . .

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ending of a Year

And so another year ends. Not one of the great years one would say—a dismal economic performance worldwide, and a broken US political system. Might we hope that it can only get better from here (despite the dismal forecasts for 2012)?

But, as I was in that half awake-half asleep mode this morning, I thought of 60 years ago, as I was approaching the end of 1951 and looking forward to my high school graduation that coming June.  My excitement at the coming graduation and my planned attendance at Stanford University in the Fall of 1952 made the closing out of 1951 and the upcoming year look to be exciting. 
The downer in all that excitement, of course, was the ongoing Korean War. That war provoked considerable discussion and not a little consternation among my male friends, most of whom were either already 18 or soon to turn 18. The magic 18 had nothing to do with conventional stuff like drivers’ licenses or legal drinking, but rather the draft.  Would the war continue and would we all, therefore, be drafted to serve in that war?  My “coming of age” date was December 17, 1952. I would be at Stanford at that point, so whether I would be drafted at all might depend on whether the war turned into a larger conflict.
I was just becoming aware of politics and I was excited about the coming election, even though I could not yet vote. Eisenhower was the great father figure who had played a major role in World War II.  Hopefully, we all thought, he would be able to act in such a way that Korea would be contained, although China was widely regarded as a serious wild card.  Happily, for me at least, my student status prevailed and I remained out of the draft.  Happily too, the War finally ground to a halt with an Armistice. The shooting stopped.
So, as we approach 2012, some 60 years has passed and we still have one ongoing shooting war. We really don’t seem to get it—we the World of adults I mean.  It is difficult to escape the notion that adult males especially, love to shoot things, people especially, and now, especially if it can be done at a distance, using somebody else’s son or daughter as the instruments of destruction.  If it isn’t organized religion, it’s oil, or territory, or to remove somebody we don’t like at the moment (see Sadaam Hussein and George W. Bush).  We seem to possess an inexhaustible supply of reasons to shoot people.  “Love thy neighbor” seems a passing bad joke.
And to listen to all the chest thumping going on amidst those royal, loyal republicans running for that very high office, I remain confident that one or more of them will dream up some argument for invading Iran, once elected (except for Ron Paul who, although terminally nuts on most fronts, seems predisposed to stop getting us into wars).  I remain hopeful that this parade of delusional clowns will all self-destruct on election day 2012 and go back to their main business—getting really, really wealthy.  If there were only some legal way we could imprison them, and the global bankers,  for their roles in crashing the world economy. But alas, they will all go scot free and continue to grow their fortunes. Such is life.
So, as the year ends, I am visibly older than the young sprout anxiously looking forward to 1952, but I nonetheless continue to look forward to the coming 2012.  Who knows, maybe common sense will suddenly strike the world of adults . . . it could happen.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Eve of Christmas

December 24, 2011.

The table is set with dishes aplenty. The stockings hung by the chimney with care.  The fresh bread fills the kitchen air, while the meat cooks slowly and the red cabbage simmers, all adding to the aroma.  Everything begins to be ready, awaiting children and grandchildren.  The ghost of Christmases past hover about the house, but all the memories are sweet, the images warm.

We wish to all the good peoples of the world, “may you find peace, and love, even a fraction of what we hold dear within our little home.  May all the terrorists of the world stop and return to their homes to consider a different future, one devoid of violence.  Look upon the children, and smile; do what is right for them and all will be well.”

So, to one and all, have a safe, and happy Christmas Eve and Christmas. If you look to Hannukah, or to some other celebration, may yours too be filled with joy and love.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Days

Well, I missed Beethoven’s birthday this year—December 16th seemed to just come and go.  But Ludwig, we love your stuff, especially that 9th that you completed but never heard yourself. Deafness in a composer is the definition of cruel irony, huh?

And then December 17th came and went, and I embarked on my 78th year—78 . . . wow. What can I say? I ain’t middle-aged any more. Nice celebration, though . . . lots of family members, lots of hugs, a lot of love flowing about. Nice.
And now we approach Mrs. Schmidt’s 76th—Thursday to be precise. Wow! My child-bride turning near middle-aged.  It’s amazing this one day at a time thing. Before you know it, serious history has come and gone.  And it’s the history thing that grabs at us. Our grandson has been writing papers on contemporary history—you know, the New Deal, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Bay of Pigs. For him, ancient history; for us the stuff of our lives.  His paper on the New Deal was a great piece, but the thing that struck us most is that he could have been writing about today, without the Roosevelt rescue team. I see republicans today playing the same role as the Hooverites did in 1930—“let’s do nothing and maybe all this crap we brought about will just go away.”  And when our grandson asks us questions about the Cold War, or that JFK fiasco, the Bay of Pigs, or the mess called Vietnam, our memory banks tend to go into overtime, flooding us with that time—sitting around drinking martinis, after our work building deadly intercontinental missile systems, and arguing about whether it would be better to head to the hills (the Sierra’s) or head for the coast if the Russkies and the Americans got into a full-out pissing match involving nukes because of the Cuban mess. Yeah, those were good times, huh? Saber-rattling it was called, but when the sabers turn out to be hydrogen bombs that can reach cities within a few minutes, it seems of a different order.
So, we hope for Mrs. Schmidt’s birthday, to get rid of all those memories for at least the hours of celebration.—dinner at our splendid Italian restaurant, Gianni’s in Concord. It’s a place we hold dear as a special celebration venue—great food, hospitable company, great staff helping us to enjoy special evenings.
And then on to Christmas, where the sparkle in our grandchildren’s eyes is real, and their smiles sublime.  On Dancer, on Prancer . . .

Thursday, December 15, 2011


So, what are we to make of this Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA)?

On the one hand, who doesn’t want online piracy stopped? On the other hand, many, many people believe that this Act is akin to destroying the village in order to save it, to fall back on that old Vietnam War saw.  One Twitterati whit noted that the current Congressional debate is somewhat like a family gorging themselves on wine and rich food at a Thanksgiving dinner, while attempting to discuss String Theory.  Not a bad analogy, I thought. And an added problem is the timing. It would be difficult to imagine worse relations between the warring political parties than that which exists today.  Every time the Dems want to pass some bill badly, the Republithugs attach some poison pill non-germane amendment.  The Dems are apparently too timid, or perhaps too stupid to do the same in return.  So, really nothing rational is taking place and debates on any subject must be somewhat akin to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, with John Boehner playing the role of the Hatter.

As with so many things, the Act seems well-intended. We should really do something to stop or at the least disturb the ability of various people and companies to steal copyrighted music, and films. One might imagine, in a “best of all possible worlds” (certainly unlike the one we inhabit currently) legitimate companies such as Google and PayPal would refrain from providing financial cover to piratical firms.  But apparently in today’s world of commerce really almost anything goes (which is of course why we are in the midst of this Great Depression II).  However, as we imagine, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.  And so it is with this SOPA.
The primary problem, according to its antagonists, is that it would allow government to shut down any web site it (government) doesn’t like.  Could that be?? Oh, it sounds familiar. Oh, I know, isn’t that at least conceptually similar to that republithug bill attachment that allows the executive branch to arrest and incarcerate for life without lawyer or trial any individual it deems a terrorist???  So, we know that at least the possibility for some such mischievous outcome is possible with SOPA, especially in the hands of the wrong President.  It would seem we have another of those, “be careful what you wish for” things.
Perhaps we need to find some other way to shut down the piracy.
And on exoplanet Congress, I wonder whether the Senate, instead of just passing or trashing the Boehner-inspired bill that adds the pipeline to the tax relief for the middle class, has considered adding a provision that would pay for the bill, and then some, by, say, quadrupling the taxes paid by the top 1%? Think of the blood pressure readings that would be experienced by Mr. Boehner with that one.

Saturday, December 10, 2011


It is getting increasingly difficult to understand the fervor displayed by some of the 99% for Republican candidates like the Newt. The Newt represents in the whole all of the folks whut brung us to this low state, the one we now lovingly refer to as The Great Depression II.

My life has begun resembling bookends. I was born into this odd place called Earth in 1934, the dreary middle of Great Depression I. My grandparents—the Scottish ones—had lost most of what they had accumulated since coming to this Great Nation from Scotland around the turn of 20th century. Their losses were a direct result of greedy bankers/investment brokers, and corrupt corporate CEOs . . . you know, the same sort of folks who have brought us to our current state of despair. So, it’s sort of, “been there, done that”. One major problem is that I don’t see an FDR waiting to produce a rescue plan. I guess the Newt is playing the role of Herbert Hoover, the guy who refused to do anything rational to get us out of the Depression, and who led fairly directly to the election of FDR in 1932. FDR, perhaps like Obama today, had to do battle with his republican foes in order to get anything done. Except that FDR wasn’t faced with the money machine that a corrupt and very republican Supreme Court has unleashed on the country.

When I see letters to the editor indicating that the writer would vote for the Newt, despite holding many reservations, because he would never vote for Obama, who, after all, has done nothing to bring us to full employment, I despair. The guy intends to vote for the guy who, along with his good friends, delivered us into this state. Excuse me, I am tempted to write, do you not understand who is responsible here? And when you all croak that the President cannot/does not produce jobs, only the 1% can produce jobs, does it not ever occur to you that, therefore, it is the 1% and their republican faithful, who are at fault . . . not Obama??? Do you people never engage your brains before speaking/writing? Ever? Know this republican faithful. The Newt represents one of the gravest dangers this Nation has faced in perhaps the past 50 years.
And on Planet Penn State, Mr. Sandusky has been arrested again, this time for Victims 9 and 10. Victim 9 testified that Mr. Sandusky’s wife was at home, while the boy-child yelled for help as he was being raped, but no help ever came.

Monday, December 5, 2011

All-State Strikes Again

So, someone runs through a red light at an intersection with blind corners and hits my car. He accepts responsibility, and asserts that he never saw me until we collided. His insurance, All-State, claims that I am partly responsible under North Carolina's1% contributory negligence statute, so they refuse to pay my claim for damages. I assume, instead, that All-State adjusters get paid partly on the basis of how many legitimate claims they can deny.
"You're in Good Hands with All-State" is kind of liking assuring bank tellers,
"You're in good hands with Willie Sutton."