JUNE 2020

JUNE   2020
He Has Dragged Us Back Forty Years.


Thursday, May 22, 2008


I suspect the problem begins with the oft quoted but not well understood phrase, “pie are squared.” In the first place, it’s not. In fact, you cannot square a circle. And, since, pi is the relationship between the length of the line forming a circle, divided by the distance across that same circle, and this somehow always works out to be 3.141592653589793238…etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitas, infeliciter, and never repeating,...
...to find the area of a circle you simply multiply pi times the radius of the circle, times the radius of the circle, or, in math-speak, A= piR squared. That means you can never turn a circle into a square of the exact same size: close but never exact. And it oesn’t matter if it is a great big circle or an itty-bitty one. Pi is always 3.141 etcetera, etcetera.If you are a math freak this is obvious, while the rest of us have to be satisfied with accepting that Pi is an irrational number: live with it. But I ask you, what is the value of knowing pi? I had a fourth grade teacher who was so obsessed with having her students memorize the value of Pi to twenty decimal places that she had us memorize the following poem: “Sir, I send a rhyme excelling, In sacred truth and rigid spelling, Numerical sprites elucidate, For me the lexicon’s full weight”. Each of the 20 words of that poem has the number of letters required to read out the first twenty digits of pi. I had to memorized that poem again in my thirties because as a ten year old I found most numbers irrational and I couldn’t spell the word Nantucket, let alone rhymes like “elucidate”. So this poem was as much a mystery to me then as the number Pi remains today.I am older now and I have made a fool of myself in front of an innumerable people, and have grown so used to making mistakes in public that I hardly notice the embarrassment anymore. So I admit I still find pi a puzzle. But every time I make a mistake, I learn something new, such as; never turn down a chance to use the bathroom, never loan money to attractive women, never invest in a Nigerian lottery ticket, never give out my social security number over the phone, and never question the value of pi.Legend has it that the great Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse was struggling over the solution to pi when a Roman soldier blundered into his study. The old man supposedly snapped, “Don’t touch my circles!”, whereupon the chastised legionary pulled his Gladius and separated Archimedes’ head from his face. I suppose that if Archimedes had been sitting in his bathtub, as he allegedly was when he discovered that displaced water could be used to measure density (Eureka!), something else might have been separated. But, suffice it to say that before computers, finding pi was a great big pain in the Archimedes. He managed to figure out that pi was somewhere between 3 10/71 and 3 1/7. He might have done better if he had invented the decimal point, first.
About the year 480 CE the Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi figured out that pi was a little more than 3.1415926 and a little less than 3.1415927. After that the decimal point zealots took over. The German mathematician and fencing instructor Ludolf van Ceulen worked out pi to 35 decimal places, and in 1873 the amateur geek, William Shanks, worked it out to 707 decimal places. But William made one tiny little mistake in the 528th number and that threw everything else off. But it was such a good try that nobody noticed his screw up until 1944. Today computers have figured pi out to one trillion digits to the left of the decimal point and still no repeatable pattern has been detected. It is still a little bit less than 3.15 and a little bit more than 3.14. All that has changed is the definition of “a little bit”. It keeps getting smaller and smaller but it will never be zero.Still, pi remains the “admirable number” according to the devilish little Polish poetess Wislawa Szmborska. While being infinitly long it includes “…my phone number your shirt size, the year nineteen hundred and seventy-three sixth floor, number of inhabitants sixty-five cents, hip measurement two fingers a charade and a code, in which we find how blithe the trostle sings!” (…and no, I have no idea what or who the hell a trostle is. The Oxford English Dictionary doesn’t either. Do you?)I do know that a physician and crackpot amateur mathematician from Solitude, Indiana named Dr. Edwin J. Goodwin thought that he had “solved” pi to the last digit and none of this irrational numerical horse feathers for him! And he decided to make it his own personal private property. But in order to profit from his discovery (you know how wealthy the Pythagoras estate is) Dr. Goodwin needed a legal endorsement. And rather than subject his brainchild to the vagaries of the copyright peer review, the good doctor instead offered his theory as an accomplished fact to the local politicians. The proposal, Indiana House Bill 246, “…an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered…to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost…provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature…”, actually made it through the Committee on Canals and Swamps in record time, and was passed by the full house on February 5, 1897, by a vote of 67 to 0.
Unfortunately, in the Indiana Senate, some wiseacre showed the bill to a visiting Purdue party pooper, Professor of Mathematics C.A. Waldo. The lawmaker then asked if the professor would like the honor of meeting the amazing Dr. Goodwin, and Professor Waldo replied that he already knew all the lunatics he cared to know, thank you very much, and with that comment Dr. Goodwin’s brief bubble of fame was burst. On February 12, 1897 any further vote on the bill was postponed indefinitely. It was not a victory for logic so much as an avoidance of a victory for ignorance, which is pretty much the same thing that happened in Tennessee about 30 years later.Still pi remains one of the most popular mathematical equations, if mostly poorly appreciated by those of us who aren’t trying to generate a random number or navigate a jet plane across the North Pole, or predict the next stock market bubble, or launch a satellite, run a radio station, process an X-ray or a Cat-scan, drive a submarine, drill for oil, purify gold or etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitas, infeliciter.
Just trust me, and always trust pi. It lifts your spirit, gives you a sense of security and keeps your circles on the square. To share it just try singing..."Pi, Pi, Me oh my, Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry, all at once, ...oh my, I love pi!

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The Pi pie, provided with the generous kind grace of "VROG in Bristol" http://www.flickr.com/photos/vrog/1441303189/

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I gotta admire the determination of the fifty year old Japanese inmate of Fuchu Prison who committed suicide last February 19th by stabbing himself in the head with the broken end of one of his chopsticks. This was, I guess, the final proof that you should never play with your food. One can only thank God the gentleman in question was not restrained in a western prison where he could have stabbed himself with a bread knife, or worse, a Swedish prison where he might have had access to a deadly spork. But, as it was, this spunky, determined manic depressive found a way to kung fu himself to death with his eating utensils. Now that was a demented determination
But the winner in the “determined to do something stupid” award – if ever there were such an atrocious thing – would to be the 46 year old coal miner Alan Urwin of Great Britain whose wife left him in 1994. Over the next three months Alan survived three separate drug overdoses. Not one to be discouraged easily Alan then decided to electrocute himself by wrapping a bare electric cord around his naked body and climbing into a full bathtub. He then plugged himself into the wall. He blew a fuse and suffered a damn good shock. However, showing a real “never-say-die” spirit, Alan then bent the wire to form a noose, which he suspended from an overhead beam. He stood on a chair, slipped his head into the noose and jumped into eternity, or would have except the wire was too thin to support his weight. The wire snapped under the tension, and Alan landed on his butt. Still not deterred Alan then broke the gas pipe in his room, laid down next to the open end and breathed deeply for several minutes. But even though the tiny house was now filled with toxic fumes, much to Alan’s dismay he was still alive. He grew impatient, and struck a match. The resulting explosion blew the roof off his room, and blew out one of the walls. Alan suffered nothing worse than flash burns. However his career as a dead man was cut short because he was convicted of arson and given two years probation, with the requirement that he undergo psychological counseling. Having finally gotten the message that the universe had been so persistently trying to deliver, Alan went into therapy and a year later was described as “cheerful and speaking to his wife again”: not that he wanted her to feel bad or anything.

According to the Taiwan Fortean Times, a couple in Taiwan took the old adage “…till death do you part…” a little too literally. In-laws and out-laws from both families opposed the match of Corporal Huang pin-jen and his transvestite boy-girlfriend, Chang Shu-mei. But, seemingly determined to prove that no matter how sad and pathetic your life may seem, an attempted suicide can always reduce it to the level of farce, our forbidden couple decided to commit a romantic joint suicide. They jammed their heads into a large plastic bag and tied it off at the neck. But the tension (or maybe his/her partner’s breath), induced one of them to nausea, and he/she/they threw up in the bag, reducing the level of romance substantially and forcing the other to choose vomit before death. He chose death first and clawed his way out of the bag, inadvertently rescuing his companion at the same time. How disapointing.


The devoted lunatics then tried to drive off a gorge along the Central Cross-Island Highway, intending, if they survived the crash, to drown in the river far below. But they missed the river and landed instead in a cushion of trees and bushes which left them unfortunately uninjured. In desperation they checked into the honeymoon suite at the two-star Samantha Hotel in Taipei. (It has since closed). After a romantic last supper they tied bed sheets together to form a pair of nooses, which they then attached to ceiling rods. But they were inexperienced in suicide attempts and had misjudged the length of their suicide pact. When they jumped from their chairs they landed on their feet and broke through the ceiling of the room below. Luckily for them, the crackerjack staff of the Samantha Hotel failed to notice the wrecked ceiling right away. So the lovebirds had time to use the gas powered fireplace to put a coda on their love. They fed several coins into the unit, turned the flames up full and then blew them out. They quickly passed out from the toxic fumes, but the timer on the gas jets ran out before the boys numbers came up. They woke up several hours later with splitting headaches.


And finally, in mounting desperation, the boys leapt, hand in hand, out their 12th story window. What could possibly be more romantic than that? It was a beautiful gesture – as long as you didn’t have to pickup the crumpled broken and bloody bodies off the ground. But then it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it? Unfortunately, no, it’s not: because once again the fates were opposed to this union, especially in death. The boys somehow missed the street below their 12th story window, and landed instead on the tin roof of a five story restaurant. They thundered through the roof and landed on a lobster tank, temporarily freeing dozens of doomed crustaceans, at least those that were not crushed instantly (a bunch of damned unlucky lobsters, if you ask me), and finishing their adventures in insanity by landing on a banquet table.


The boys suffered numerous fractures and cotusions and bruising but were finally in stabilized in stable condition at a local hospital. And when their families heard how dedicated pin-jen and Shu-mei were to killing each other, both families agreed to accept the match. I can’t wait for the relatives reaction when the couple decides to have children.


The lesson I take from all of this is that no matter how crappy your life may feel, you can always make it worse by trying to kill yourself. Don't be an idiot. Stick around and be miserable, like the rest of us. It's only fair.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

VICKSBURG; The Campaign

I want to tell the story of the most amazing military campaign in American history, U.S. Grant’s campaign against Vicksburg, Mississippi in the spring of 1863. I will try and tell it in sequence and in real time. And I will begin with the observations of an amateur military genius, Abraham Lincoln, who tried to explain to those who were celebrating the capture of Memphis, Tennessee on June 6, 1862 that such victories were not enough. He lectured his cabinet, “Vicksburg is the key...The war can never be brought to a close until that key is in our pockets….We may take all the northern ports of the Confederacy, and they can still defy us from Vicksburg. It means hog and hominy without limit, fresh troops from all the states of the far South and a cotton country where they can raise the staple without interference.” And I have never found a more cogent or accurate description of the strategic situation in the spring of 1863 than this one.
New Orleans had been captured on May 1, 1862. That closed the Mississippi river at its mouth. The battles of Island Number Ten, and the river fleet Battle of Memphis, on June 6, 1862, put the river in Union hands down to the Tennessee/Mississippi border. Only a narrow waist of land between Fort Hudson and Vicksburg, Mississippi remained under Confederate control. Along its entire torturous course between those two high points, to a breadth of forty miles, where the bottom land slowly melded into “The Big Muddy”, the land was part swamp, part river, and solid ground only between floods. Only at the bluffs along the East bank of the river was solid ground, and only at Vicksburg did a railroad line actually touch the stream on both shores. Which is why the Confederacy had turned Vicksburg into “The Gibraltar of the Confederacy.”


On paper it looked like a simple point to defend. The city was just south of a huge S bend in the river. Any warships coming downstream would have to slow to make that 90 degree turn. Accepted military thinking and some experience said that Union warships would never survive the bombardment from heavy artillery atop the bluffs at Vicksburg. The town’s northern land shoulder was protected by the 200 mile wide and 50 mile thick swamp of the Yazoo river delta, overlooked by Haynes Bluff. That seemed to restrict any land assault from the North to the inland route, down the line of the Mississippi Central Railroad.
Union Forces under General Steven Halleck followed that line and managed to get as far as Corinth, Mississippi by June 1st, 1862. But every time Halleck ventured out from Corinth the Rebel cavalry under Nathan Bedford Forrest would slip around “Old Brains”, cut his supply lines and burn the railroad bridges behind him and Halleck would have to slink back into Tennesee again. The Union Navy ran war ships up the Mississippi River past the guns at Fort Hudson and tried to shell Vicksburg into quick submission. But the Confederates refused to give up the city, trapping the warships. By the end of the summer 1862 Halleck had been transferred to the East and Grant had been forced by rebels and circumstances to retreat to Memphis and move to to the West bank of The River.
General Grant really had three enemies to defeat. His most dangerous opponent was the War Department in Washington, noe personified by Hallack, who, like the Department before him, meddled away Union strengths. And then there was the river. Even today it remains a half mile wide South of Vicksburg, powerful, ponderous and twisting, an gumentative stream. It was far worse in 1862. Grant’s most easily defeated opponent was Lt. General John C. Pemberton, a Pennsylvanian who had chosen to fight for the South. He was a skilled officer who had been given limited means (42,000 men scattered between Haynes Bluff, Vicksburg and Port Hudson, Mississippi) to defend an objective of unlimited importance. Grant understood intuitively that all that mattered was to occupy the Vicksburg bluffs. He himself wrote decades after the war, “The campaign of Vicksburg was suggested and developed by circumstances.”
The Navy had begun a canal that might eventually bypass the big bend just above Vicksburg by joining the Walnut and Roundaway Bayous before reconnecting with the river below Vicksburg at the tiny hamlet of New Carthage. From his new base at Milliken’s Bend, on the West bank of the Mississippi across from Vicksburg, Grant started his men digging again. But when a dam at the northern end of the ditch collapsed, flooding out the Union camps, the canal was abandoned. Next Grant tried a different tact. There was a circuitous maze of bayous that logically seemed to eventually connect an abandoned Mississippi bend, Lake Providence, 50 miles North of Vicksburg, to the Red River just before it rejoined the Big Muddy above the high ground at Fort Hudson. But some how, no matter how close they came, the bayous always seemed to end just before reaching the Red. Another route down the Tallahatchie was blocked by a Rebel fort in the interior of Mississippi. And an attempt to follow Steele Bayou to Black Bayou to Deer Creek to Rolling Fork Bayou to the Sunflower River to outflank Haines Bluff on the Yazoo also failed. And an attempt to dig another bypass of the big bend just North of Vicksburg, the Duckport Canal, also failed.So did a December attempt at a coup de main assault on Haynes Bluff by Sherman's corps. Still all those labors had kept Pemberton constantly trying counter and anticipate Grant’s next move. And Grant took notice of that.


It was a dry spring that year in Mississippi, burned by drought. And just at the moment that Grant needed the Rivers to supply his army the low water threw yet another difficulty in his way. The very fates seemed determined to defend Vicksburg. But as spring spread across the Mississippi valley in 1863, Vicksburg had just six weeks left as a Confederate Supply base. What at the end of March looked impossible would, by the middle of May be inevitable, an all but an acomplised fact. And the story of how that came about remains one of the most amazing stories in all of long history of that old man river.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

BRAND NAMES: Helpful Words to Describe Our Political Perdicament (A)

ABBACINARE: To identify your opponent with a wedge label from which they can never escape, i.e. Liberal, Commie, Pinko, Tree hugger, Right Wing Nut Job. Originally this was the popular form of corporal punishment of branding criminals with a hot iron.

ABSCISSION: An advanced form of stuttering. To either forget what you were about to say or to realize that what you were about to say could get you in trouble. To rethink in mid-sentence or to forget what you were talking about while you are saying it. As in the speeches of George W. Bush. i.e. – "I’d rather have them sacrificing on behalf of our nation than…you know…endless hours of testimony on Congressional Hill". And, "We’ve got pockets of persistent poverty in our society, which I refuse to declare defeat…I mean I refuse to allow them to continue on. And so one of the things that we’re trying to do is to encourage a faith-based initiative to spread its wings all across America, to be able to capture this great compassionate spirit". Also a surgery to remove an abnormal growth.

ACCELERATED DEATH BENEFITS: When a pol accepts an appointed post from allies before being term limited out, or before being indicted for criminal acts or before or after the voters refuse to re-elect them. i.e.; in November of 200 incumbent Senator John Ashcroft (R- Missouri) was defeated for re-election by St. Louis Mayor Mel Carnahan, who had died three weeks earlier in a plane crash. President George W. Bush then nominated Ashcroft as Attorney General of the United States. Originally the phrase meant a policyholder's option to use cash benefits from his/her life insurance to finance medical care during serious illness. Often used by AIDs victims.

ACCOUNTABILITY: An archaic concept. The functional opposite of bureaucracy, such as Congress or the Pentagon. Or the idealistic, “He who makes the mistake pays for the mistake”, as opposed to the reality of, “He who reports the mistake pays for the mistake.”

ACCULTURATION: The process by which idealistic men and women come to Washington and are gradually turned into bitter, blind, selfish bastards and bitches. See Beltway Insider. (Except for your congressman, of course).

ACROSS THE RIVER; Pentagon slang for the White House and Congress, as in “those people across the river”.

ACT OF STATE: A legal precedent which holds that the government cannot be held legally responsible for its stupidity or carelessness - e.g. Act Of God. See Accountability and Bureaucracy.

ACTORVIST: A Hollywood star who is lends his or her support to your opponent.

ACTUS REUS: Latin shorthand for “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”. A man is not guilty for his acts alone but must also have a guilty mind. Except, of course, in politics where all minds are assumed to be guilty and all actions are initially assumed to be legal.

AD BOMINEM: To appeal to the lowest common denominator electorate, to appeal to prejudice, special interests and bigotry, religious or racial - the only political strategy that works the first time every time.

AD POLICE: A group who scrutinize your political advertising for inaccuracies, exaggerations and misstatements. Also known as AD WATCH and NITPICKERS.

ADVANCEMAN: The staffer(s) who preceed you to a political event to make sure the crowd is large and enthusiastic and screened for opponents, the media have been properly placed and the background is attractive but will not detract from your image. See FRAUDILANCE.

ADVOCACY ADVERTISING: Advertising paid for by a particular group in support of a particular cause and which attacks your opponent without actually naming you.

AGEIS: Originally this came from the Greek word "aix" or "aig" meaning a goat. Ageis originally refered to the goat skin shield worn by Zesus and Athena. This developed to mean the armor worn by warriors to protect their chest or body, and currently means someone or group which offers protection or sponsorship to someone or a group, as in The 2004 Karl Rove smear campaign against Senator John Kerry, operated under the aegis of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Also see BARON VON ROORBACK, SWIFTBOATING.

AFFLUENT: Having wealth. i.e. Republican. Often confused by liberals with effluent. The term Affluent Society was first used by economist John Kenneth Galbraith in 1964 to describe Western Industrialized Societies as opposed to everybody else.

A FIDUS ACHATES: Grk. A faithful friend, someone willing to support you in such a way as to make themselves look like a fool, an idiot or even actually risk becoming a criminal. i.e. Alberto Gonzolas. See also ; FLUNKY, FRONT MAN, BROWN NOSE, PUTZ.

AFTERBOOMER: A person born after the baby boomers, between 1965 to 1974.

AGITPROP: Department of Agitation and Propaganda set up under Lenin by the Central Committee of the Communist Party in the 1900‘s, to ferment revolution in Russia. Also, the Republican Attack machine of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater.

AGRARIAN CAMPAIGN: A campaign in which the candidate expects to lose, but which is run largely to raise his/her name recognition and/or position him/her for future elections.Spreading manure to feed future benafits. The prime example of this was Senator John F. Kennedy’s bid for the Presidency in 1956, which laid the groundwork for his successful nomination and win in 1960.

AHISTORICAL: A mythical event or object, such as a unicorn or the German Kaiser's 1918 "Stab in the Back": vaugly connected to reality but inflated so as to justify a denial of that reality; i.e., "George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was ahistorical, in that it ignored the realities of 9/11, and the British and French colonial experiences in Iraq, but was also historical because it was based upon his father’s popularity gaine by fighting a successful war against Iraq a decade earlier.

ALIEN AND SEDITION ACTS: four acts passed by the blindly Federalist Congress in 1798 and signed into law by President John Adams. The Naturalization Act required that all immigrants live in the U.S. for 14 years before they could apply for citizenship. (The previouis requirement had been 5 years.) The Alien Act allowed the president to arrest and deport any foreign nationals who were considered dangerous to the peace and safety of the United States during peacetime. The Enemies Act made it legal to arrest, jail and deport any foreign national during wartime. And the Sedition Act defined as treason the writing of any …false, scandalous or malicious writing… about governmental office holders. Some 25 editors and writers were arrested under the Sedition Act, the majority of them Jeffersonian Republicans. The negative public reaction to the Sedition Act played a major part in electing Thomas Jefferson to the Presidency in 1800. Jefferson then pardoned all those arrested under the act and the new Republican dominated Congress then voted to repay out of the public coffers all fines levied – with interest. See; PATRIOT ACT.

ALIBI IKE: A candidate or advisor always making excuses. Orig. title of a Ring Lardner short story (1924) and later a comic strip.

ALPHA MALE SYNDROME: The anti-wimp effect in which the pol must over display and be overly aggressive in public speeches - also known as STEROID POLITICS - to avoid having pundits call him/her a wimp.

ALSO RAN: Any loser in an election.

ALTER KOCKER: Yid. A crotchety, fussy, ineffectual old man. See DICK CHENEY

AMBIGUOUS: The essential element in all politics. To state a position in such a way that it can appeal to two conflicting groups while offending as few as possible. To wander around a subject or statement without actually coming close to it.. To confuse as to intent.

AMEN CORNER: 19th C. Amer. Slang. A place where the politically powerful gather. In late 19th Century New York, a room was reserved in the "Fifth Avenue Hotel" for local politicians to secretly meet in. Also, a rear pew where Deacons sat to keep an eye on parishioners during services and shouted their support for the sermon.

AMOS KENDALL: One of the unsung founders of the Democratic Party. Kendall had been born in Dunstable, Massachusetts in 1879. He moved to Kentucky in 1814 and worked as a tutor to the children of politician Henry Clay. In 1816, with Clay’s assistance, he became editor of the "Frankfurt, Kentucky Argus of Western America" and turned it into one of the most influential newspapers of its day, thanks largely to his vicious pen. Kendall was tall, thin and prematurely white haired. He was also a puritanical workaholic hyperchodriac with a talent for venmon. When Kendell fell ill, Clay's wife nursed him back to health. In 1824 he threw his paper’s support behind Henry Clay for President, even though Clay had not supported the Reform Party – see PANIC OF 1819. But Clay’s subsequent deal with John Quincy Adams – See JOHN Q. – angered so many of Kendall’s readers he reluctantly shifted his support to Andrew Jackson to save the paper. In 1827 Kendall, along with his assistant editor Francis P. Blair, proved himself invaluable to candidate Jackson. Kendall became the center of a public relations machine that spread innuendo and smear throughout western newspapers so expertly that Martin van Buren, Jacksons official campaign manager, took notice. It was the first time such a nationwide media campaign had ever been attempted, and the first time a political party coordinated their talking points nationwide. Kendall and his fellow political journalists thus helped found the DEMOCRATIC PARTY which elected Andrew Jackson President in 1828. Kendall was rewarded with a Federal job - Fourth Auditor of the Treasury, which was a cover for his real work in Washington. According to Rep. Henry Wise, (Whig – Virginia), Kendall was…"the President’s thinking machine and writing machine and his lying machine…chief adviser, chief reporter, amanuenis, scribe…Nothing was well done without (him)." He was the KARL ROVE of the first half of the 19th century. In 1834 Jackson named Kendall as the Postmaster General and Kendall proceded to perfect the SPOILS SYSTEM, firing any workers who were Wigs or Know-Nothings, and replacing them with any Jacksonian Democrat who wanted a job. In an earie pre-echo of Tom Delay’s “K” street project, Kendall even decreed that any company which the Post Office did business with had to hire Democrats exclusively or need not bother to apply for future Post Office contracts. He even fired companies that already had contracts but kept Whigs on their payroll. One stage line, Stockton & Stokes, sued when Kendall cancelled their contract to carry the US mail, an action which was clearly illegal. But government lawyers tied the case up with delaying motion after motion. When Martian van Buren replaced Jackson as President in 1836, Kendall stayed on as a powerful advisor. Finally in 1840 Kendall resigned his job as Postmaster and started up a new newspaper in Washington D.C., "Kendall’s Expositor", which supported van Buren for a second term. When van Buren lost the election to William Henry Harrison both the paper and Kendall went bankrupt. Worse, in 1841, Stockton & Stokes finally got their case heard before the Supreme Court, which awarded them $162,000 in public money for their illegally cancelled contracts, and an additional $11,000 to be paid personally by Kendall. But Kendall was too connected to stay broke for long. In 1845 he became Samuel F. B. Morse’s business manager, helping to create and run the newly formed International Telegraph (which would later become International Telephone and Telegraph – or I.T.& T.) Kendall retired in 1860, fabiously wealthy, but disgusted that the Democratic Party he had help found was supporting sucession. A portion of his fortune founded Gallaudet University. Amos Kendall died on November 12, 1869, having outlived all of his contempories.

ANARCHISM: The idiotic theory that government is the source of all evil, and that no governing body is to be preferred to even the most noble. It became an organized political movement (with no suggestion of irony) under Prince Peter Kropotkin and Mikhail Bakunin in Russia in the 19th Century, as well as in France under Pierre-Joseph Proudhon. President William McKinley was murdered in 1901 by a self proclaimed anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, who actually had a long history of mental problems, which to a greater or lesser extend might be said of all anarchists. In American politics, Ron Paul was still running for President in 2008, long after Senator John McCain had become the "presumtive" nominee, but his efforts were hampered because he refused to encourage any organized resistance to McCain, as that would violate his anarchist ideological roots.
ANGRY WHITE MALE: The largest single voting minority in America, conservative males opposed to any gender and/or racial equality legislation which might negatively affect them. Also referred to as the "Extra-chromosome voting block".

ANONYMICE: Those ubiquitous anonymous administration sources who provide thousands of inches of newspaper space each day by making comments not for attribution but which are intended not to inform but only for propaganda (See PROPA-GANNON) purposes. "The epidemic of anonymice infesting American journalism has turned me into a sadistic rat-catcher, ready to flatten the skull of every anonymous source that leaps off the page", Jack Shafer, Slate Magazine. March 4, 2005.

ANOTHER COUNTY HEARD FROM: Someone silently listening to a debate who finally speaks up and raises an issue previously disposed of, when the other participants can then then say, “Another county heard from.” Originally from the 1876 disputed Presidential election between Democrat Tilden and Republican Hayes. The race was a virtual tie, and there were slow recounts in South Carolina and Florida that took weeks, with results slowly trickling in county by county, with each new county report see-sawing the final result. Every day a new headlines reported a new victor, and the headline “Another County (was) Heard From” became very familiar that year.

ANTICIPOINTMENT: the let down when a speech or ad campaign fails to live up to generated "buzz" or expectations.

ANTITRUST: The forgotten belief that without limits capitalism will choke to death on it’s own wastes, like a fat man at an “All you can eat” buffet. i.e; as John D. Rockefeller once said, “Competition is a sin.” To protect Adam’s Smith’s invisible hand from picking it’s own pocket, corporations must be prevented from gaining complete control of the marketplace, which is their natural objective, and thus forming trusts or monopolies, which control prices instead of the market place controling them. An economy of trusts or monopolies is not capitalism or free enterprise, and does not function in the consumer’s best interests, and must, in Karl Marx's phrase, "...bury itself ." The opposite of SUPPLY SIDE ECONOMICS.

ANXIOUS GENERATION: Generally the X and Y-Gens who believe they will not receive the benefits from Social Security or Medicade or Medicare because the Baby Boomers will bankrupt those systems.

ANXIOUS SEAT: A once safe voting district where demographics are shifting or which might be re-districted out of existence. See 2008 Republican Party

ICAL: Not concerned with politics, i.e., stupid, blind to your own self interest. May also mean a non-partisan, which is a biological condition similar to being an asexual fiend.

APOLOGIST: One who defends or propagates the Talking Points. Also known as a “mouth piece”, or “spokesperson”.

APPARATCHIK: a bureaucrat by nature.

APPEASEMENT: The discredited political philosophy that the best way to avoid conflict is to compromise before the fighting begins. In the 1990's the Democratic Party practiced appeasement on Welfare Reform, when it became clear that the majority of Americans (including Democrats) wanted it, and would vote Republican to get it. The GOP was determined never to practice appeasement; See RINO.

ARTHMONANCY: The art of predicting the future by numbers. Pollsters and the Pundits who love them.

ATTACK AD: Also known as an Attack Video. Negative Advertising is the only kind of political advertising that always works. When Attack Ads were faxed to thousands of fax machines they were called ATTACK FAXES. However this practice has largely been dropped because of their perceived overly invasive nature. This has led to BOUNCE FAXING, using the negative perception of Attack Faxes to harm your opponent.

ATTACK DOG: A FRONT pol who says in public the vicious, nasty, and perhaps socially offensive things about your opponent you don’t wish to run the risk of saying.

AUSTERITY: Harsh. A government program when there is little available money, as in a recession, which is an economic cycle when somebody else can’t get a job. When you can’t get a job it is called a depression.

AWKWARD-SQUAD: A clumsy and or inexperienced political staff; e.g., Hilary Clinton hired an awkward squad staff in 2008.

AXIS-OF-EVIL: The second most famous phrase from George W. Bush’s 2003 State-Of-The-Union speech. Defined by shrub as Iran, North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, while those nations who opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq were known as the AXIS OF WEASEL.

AXIOM: Your opinion. A concise statement which is obviously and inarguably true.

AZREAL: The political consultant who teaches the candidate to deliver the same stump speech and key phrases over and over while sounding fresh. Originally this was from Hebrew, being in Judaism and the Moslem faiths the name of the angel who separates the soul from the body upon death.

(Submissions and suggestions for additions to this dictionary may be made on this page, but will become the property of "The Public I".)


I was thinking about ignorance yesterday, while watching the pictures out of Sichuan. On May 12, 2008, at exactly 2.28 pm and one second (2:28 am and one second in New York City ) beneath the mountains 56 miles West-northwest of the provincial capital of Chengdu, a chunk of bedrock 140 miles long and 12 miles deep, shattered. The result was a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, which produced four minutes of violent ground shaking, surface displacement of 29 feet and an estimated 50,000 dead. Officially this will be called the Wenchuan Earthquake, because giving it a name is a way of making such violence comprehensible.
Not far from epicenter of this hell on earth, on the border of Nepal and Tibet, the monolith of Mount Everest rises 29,035 feet above sea level. Scattered about its upper slopes are about 120 bodies of climbers who died too high up the mountain to justify their retrieval. And all of this – the earthquake, the 50,000 dead, Mount Everest , the border and the climbers - are all products of the same elemental force. And according to surveys most Americans have no idea what that force is.
In Susan Jacoby’s book, “The Age of American Unreason”, she recounts a conversation she overheard in a New York City bar shortly after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in that city. First Man: “This is just like Pearl Harbor”. Second Man; “What is Pearl Harbor?” First Man; “That was when the Vietnamese dropped bombs in a harbor, and it started the Vietnam War”. Ms. Jacoby blames the great “dumbing down” of America in large part on the overuse of the word “folks”. I’m not sure I can agree with her on the cause, but the effects are evident, especially in Iraq, a nation which, according to a 2006 National Geographic poll, 37% of young Americans can’t find on a map. Worse, according to the same survey, half of our young adults can’t even find New York!
According to Bob Wise, President of Alliance for Excellent Education, half of America’s high school students drop out before graduation perhaps in large part because half of those who do graduate are not given the skills to get a good job. AT&T has tried to answer the public’s demand for an end to “outsourcing American jobs” but can’t find 5,000 qualified customer service representatives in San Antonio, Texas. Their CEO Randall Stephenson, explained why the corporation felt the need in April to donate $100 million to help solve the failure of America’s schools. He said, “We’re not giving our children…all the opportunities they need to succeed.” Under the mantra of “No new taxes” our high school graduation rates have dropped to 18th place in the world, 15th for reading skills and 25th for math. Perhaps it is time to stop repeating empty phrases that we are “the greatest nation in the world” or proclaiming ourselves to be members of “the greatest generation” and start paying the price required to actually live up to those accolades.
According to Andrew Alden, of About.com, “The Tibetan Plateau is an immense upland…not just the largest, highest area in the world today …it may be the largest and highest in all of geological history….Nearly 100 million years ago, India separated from Africa…moving north at speeds of around (6 inches) per year...(and) about 55 million years ago…began to plow directly into the Asian continent…(So far it) has pushed more than (120 miles) into Asia, and its still moving at a pretty good clip.”
It is that collision that threw up the sea bed that lay between India and Asia, like the metal of two cars in a slow motion head-on crash. We know this because locked in the limestone, dolomite and silt stone which make up the rock atop the highest point on the Earth are the fossilized remains of trilobites that scuttled across that sea bed 60 million years ago. Now they have been crumpled 6 miles into the sky. It is that continuing collision that killed perhaps 50,000 people on May 12, and 240,000 in Tangshan, China in July of 1976 (in a 7.6 quake), and 9,300 people in a 1933 quake along the very same fault. And it matters not if you choose to deny this reality in favor religion or fantasy, because those people are still dead, and all of them died where and when they died because of the same underlying reason – what is called plate tectonics.
About eight million years ago the Himalayas rose high enough to first block the moist South west winds across the Indian Ocean. The wall of mountains created the seasonal monsoon rains that now feed two billion people across south-east Asia. And after the monsoons end each year those two billion people and another two billion across East Asia depend for their drinking water and crop irrigation upon the Ganges, Indus, Bahmaputra, Yangtze, Mekong, Yellow, and a thousand smaller rivers. And all those rivers – all of them - are fed by the so called “The Third Pole” of the Himalayas - 46,298 glaciers, large and small. In the 1970’s these glaciers covered 18,865 square miles. As of 2007 they covered 17,158 square miles. You may prefer to have faith in the fantasy’s offered by coal and oil companies, but the reality is that 4 billion human beings are being threatened with starvation because of one simple underlying reason - what is called global warming.
Today there are six times as many people alive as were living at the start of the Industrial revolution. There are 13 times as many people alive today as were alive when Columbus’ three tiny ships set out across the Atlantic. And there are now 20 times as many people walking the earth as those who might have seen Caesar Augustus parade in triumph through the streets of Rome. And the ratio amongst humanity of fools to thinkers has not changed much over all of that time. But education still helps to cut down on the general level of ignorance.
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