Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Reflections

      Memorial Day, formerly Decoration Day, was originally observed on the 30th of May. (The bill changing it to the last Monday in May was passed on June 28, 1968. It became effective at the Federal level in 1971.)
      Decoration Day was originated in 1868 by order of the head of the Grand Army of the Republic. It was supposed to be a day when the graves of the war dead were to be decorated with flowers.
      There are two versions as to why May 30th was chosen - one declares that at that time flowers would be in bloom all over the country; the other says that it was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle of the Civil War.
      My first remembrance of a particular Memorial Day is the one in 1941. At the time I had been taking music lessons for eight or nine months, and had been participating in the “junior” high school band for most of that time. The “senior” band was scheduled to play in two parades on Decoration Day, Friday, the 30th.
      The day before, the band director told me I was promoted to the senior band, and gave me my uniform. Never mind that I had never played the music, and either missed or misplayed most of the notes during the parades – I WAS IN THE BAND!
      I was twelve years old at the time, and the real significance of the holiday had not yet bored its way into my skull.
      Beginning with the War for Independence, over 1,316,000 Americans have died in war. Even sadder, 623,000 lives, or 47.3%, were lost in the War Between the States. Almost half the lives were lost while we were fighting with each other!
      Today we are still fighting with each other. While it has not erupted into a physical battle, it has progressed to the point where gridlock at the Federal level has almost been accepted as a way of life.
      According to a recent CBS News poll, almost 55% of Americans of both parties are dissatisfied with the way things are going in Washington. Yet normally centrist politicians have either been voted out of office, e.g, Arlen Specter, or have had to scurry to the outer fringes of their parties to stay in the running, e.g., John McCain.
      Recently there has been an upsurge of voters changing their registration to Independent. According to a recent Rasmussen poll, “if the trend continues up, the unaffiliated or independent voters may overtake the Republicans and Democrats as the majority of voters.”
      Unfortunately they will have even less chance to choose their candidates – in some states, including Pennsylvania, only members of the two major parties may vote in the primary elections. If we cannot come together to reconcile our own differences, why are we trying to be the police force for the entire world?
      So on this day of remembrance, let us pray that are Armed Forces will be brought home soon. And let us reflect on the wisdom of ALL our battles, both the external and the internal ones.
      Have a thoughtful day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

We Are All In This Together?

      Please bear with me for a little background on my main subject.
      As with most nations, the U.K. is experiencing serious problems with its financial system. For the calendar year 2009 the UK budget deficit was 11.4% of GDP, and its general government debt was 68.1% of GDP. Although the UK is not a member of the European Common Market, these ratios compare to the market’s targets of 3% and 60% respectively. As a result Queen Elizabeth II gave an austerity speech on the opening day of Parliament this past Tuesday.
      Some of the queen’s comments outlined changes to the traditional political system, e.g., a new voting system for members of the House of Commons, fewer and more "equal-sized constituencies," and the right of voters to recall elected lawmakers who are found guilty of serious wrongdoing. In the near future there will be proposals to make the House of Lords “wholly or mainly elected.”
      She also called for a ₤6 billion cut in public spending, and canceled a ₤5.1 billion plan to issue a national identity card. Caps in certain immigrant quotas, changes in the postal service and pensions, and other proposals to "restore trust in democratic institutions and rebalance the relationship between the citizen and the state," were also included in her speech.
      But the major thrust of her message was that, “The first priority is to reduce the deficit and restore economic growth.”
      The opening of parliament includes traditional ceremonies. In 1605 the Catholics attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament. To make sure it doesn’t happen again, the Yeoman of the Guard first searches the cellars of the Palace of Westminster.
      Although it has been several hundred years since a monarch faced a hostile parliament, a member of the House of Commons is taken hostage in Buckingham Palace, and wined and dined until the monarch returns safely. (In actuality he is released even before the monarch leaves for parliament.)
      After having been assured of her safety, the queen, accompanied by cannon fire and red-jacketed Yeoman on horseback, is driven in her glittering carriage to Westminster, where she dons the royal robes in preparation for the main event.
      The members of the House of Commons are summoned to attend the queen’s speech by her messenger, Black Rod. When he arrives at the House chamber, the door is slammed in his face, symbolic of the right of Commons to admit no one except the queen’s messenger. It is then reopened so that Black Rod can deliver the summons. (No monarch has entered the House of Commons since 1642.)
      The queen delivered her message seated on her throne. She wore the regal robes and the royal platinum crown, studded with some 2,000 diamonds, including the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor.
      At the conclusion of her speech, the queen confirmed that she and the Duke of Edinburgh will visit Canada in June and travel to New York to visit the United Nations in July.
      Really drives home the idea of austerity, don’t you think?
******
      In many cultures the soul left the body temporarily in sleep; if it left permanently, the body would die. Thus it was important that the soul be induced to return from any absence. In some cases dreams are considered to be actual adventures of the soul while the body is asleep, as illustrated by the following:
      The Santals, a large tribe in India, told of a man who fell asleep, and his soul, in the form of a lizard, entered a pitcher for a drink of water. While the soul was inside, the owner of the pitcher covered it; consequently, the soul could not return, and the man died. While his friends were preparing to burn the body, someone uncovered the pitcher and the soul returned to the body, which immediately revived. He said he had been down in a well to get water, but had found it hard to get out.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Common Sense Is Not All That Common

      Two recent news stories make me wonder whatever happened to common sense. Both are taken from the Lancaster Pennsylvania Intelligencer Journal/New Era.

      Four years ago a local woman was going through a very rough period in her life. She had been through a divorce, her daughters were all grown and had left home, and she was suffering from a debilitating illness which left her in a wheelchair. Unable to perform her preschool teaching job, she was stuck in depression.
      One day she found a tiny bird which had fallen from its nest. It still had fuzz on its head and had not yet grown feathers. In spite of the fact that experts predicted it would not last more than three days, she nursed it back to health.
      The bird eventually grew into a female house finch. After it learned to fly, it had the run of the house. It didn’t like the darkness, so her “mother” got her a night light. The bird reminded the mother at eight every night to turn on the light, and it awakened her in the morning by perching on her head and pecking at her hair.
      But it was a two way street. Caring for the bird got the mother through her illness and out of her depression. The two have bonded; the experts would say the bird has imprinted on her benefactor. They have almost literally saved each other’s life.
      Two days after the above story appeared in the newspaper, a representative from the Pennsylvania Game Commission showed up with a warrant in his hand and three policemen in tow – no warning, no letter, no advance notice of any kind. As the representative chased the screeching bird throughout the house, the lady begged to be allowed to catch it for them. “No, if they want your help, they’ll ask,” one of the officers told her.
      Under both federal and state law, keeping a wild animal without a license is illegal. But it seems to me she could have been notified by letter, and given a chance to turn the bird over to authorities.
      Almost by definition, district attorneys are not known for being soft-hearted, but even though he has no jurisdiction in the case, the local DA has asked the game commissioner to grant a temporary rehabilitator’s license to allow the bird to remain in the home. The commissioner has said he would consider it, but so far nothing has happened.
      If a rehabilitator decides the bird is able to be returned to the wild, that’s what will be done. If it's not able, I don’t know what will happen.
      I know that we must have rules. But experience tells me that common sense is a useful attribute for any supervisor to have, along with the permission to use it at his or her discretion. This case cries out for such action.
      What do you think?
******
      At 10:20 on a recent night, a man carrying a $600 computer set off a theft alarm in a Kansas Walmart store. A customer service manager went after him. She told him that if he showed her his receipt, she would remove the sensor on the computer.
      He refused, and kicked her. Then he punched her. Finally he let go of the computer and took off.
      When she went back inside, the assistant store managers checked to see that she was OK. Then they thanked her for preventing the theft.
      The next day, two hours before the end of her shift, an assistant manager told her she was fired!
      A Walmart spokesperson said that though they appreciate her action, it’s against policy for anyone except a manager or someone in asset protection to try to stop a customer from stealing, because it may put the employee or a customer in jeopardy.
      In my opinion, she should have got a reward, or at least an official “Thank You.” Believe me, I know - employees like that are hard to find.
      As I said above, common sense is a useful attribute for any supervisor to have, along with the permission to use it at his or her discretion.
      I guess the secondary moral of the story is, “If you want to steal something at Walmart, do it while the manager is taking a break.” Just kidding.
      Again, what do you think?
******
      Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries anthropologists have had the opportunity to study many primitive cultures which have turned up in remote areas of the world. In most cases these cultures have followed similar paths to understanding their environment.
      In all cases the earliest and biggest mystery confronting man was that of the death of people close to him: mates, children, clan members, etc. A common acceptance concept was that of a soul which survived the death of the body, either to wander about as an animal or a disembodied spirit, or to be born again in another form.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Titanic Artifact Exhibit

      On April 10, 1912, the luxurious ship, Titanic, set sail from Southampton, England enroute to New York City. Carrying over 1,300 passengers and a crew numbering just over 900, the “unsinkable” ship was the largest vessel afloat.
      Its 159 furnaces burned 600 tons of coal and produced 100 tons of ash each day in order to achieve a top speed of 23 knots.
      Some of the most prominent people of the day were traveling in first class; the passenger list included names such as Astor, Guggenheim, Strauss and of course Margaret “Molly” Brown (better known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown because of her efforts in aiding other passengers as the ship sank.) In today’s dollars, passenger rates ran from $900 in steerage to about $100,000 in some first class cabins.
      The first hint of trouble came at 1:45 pm on April 14, when the ship Amerika warned that there were icebergs ahead. In spite of that the Titanic continued at full speed. At 11:40 pm on the moonless night, the crow’s nest reported “iceberg, right ahead.” While the ship missed the iceberg above the waterline, beneath the surface five of her watertight compartments were sprung open. She sank at 2:20 am on April 15. Of the 2,200 people on board, just over 700, less than one third, were saved.
      The wreckage was discovered on September 1, 1985, at a depth of 2.5 miles. Salvage operations have recovered over 6,000 artifacts.
      We attended the exhibit of some of these artifacts in Harrisburg. They ranged from tiny to huge. For example, who would expect that after all those years at the bottom of the sea, such small things as a paper wrapper for a razor blade, a partly filled champagne bottle, or a perfume salesman’s tiny samples, still with a scent, would be recovered. Also found were hundreds of dishes, cooking utensils, personal items, even currency.
      At the other end of the scale was a huge porthole cover which required help from a crew member to open. Replicas of both a first class cabin and a steerage cabin were also on display.
      But what really brought out the emotions was the display of messages and accounts of the tragedy by the survivors: husbands’ farewells while putting their wives and children into lifeboats, eyewitness reports by crew members – all the personal stories that illustrated the humanity of the passengers. These were real people with real lives, many of them going to the new world hoping for a better life.
      It is a display of pathos, heroism and bravery which should not be missed.
******
      Early man found himself in a world buzzing with activity. Wild animals attacked, violent storms uprooted trees and made streams and rivers overflow, and countless other dangers and unknowns threatened him. But man’s powerful new tool, language, soon supplied a vast array of concepts which he could use to cope with the surrounding world.
      Man Takes Control – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What Sort Of Christian Are You - OT or NT?

      I first published this post on November 7, 2009, with the title “A Christian Dichotomy.” I think it bears repeating.

      In 2007, Jamie Leigh Jones testified at a Congressional hearing that she had been gang-raped in 2005 by as many as seven co-workers while working in Iraq for KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton. After an Army doctor examined her and gave forensic material to her employer, she was placed under guard in a shipping container, where she remained without food or drink for 24 hours. Finally a friendly guard gave her a cell phone which she used to call her father. She was released only after her father asked the US embassy to intervene.
      When Jones tried to take legal action, Halliburton/KBR used a clause in her contract, which required disputes to be settled by arbitration, to block such action.
      In 2007, Jones filed a joint civil suit against Halliburton/KBR and the only assailant she could identify. According to the legal papers, Jones was given a knockout drug while drinking with KBR firefighters.
      “When she awoke the next morning still affected by the drug, she found her body naked and severely bruised, with lacerations to her vagina and anus, blood running down her leg, her breast implants and pectoral muscles torn, which would later require constructive surgery. Upon walking to the rest room, she passed out again,” according to the papers.
      Jones' account was confirmed by U.S. Army physician Jodi Schultz. Schultz gave the rape kit she used to gather evidence from Jones to KBR/Halliburton security forces, after which the rape kit disappeared. It was recovered two years later, but missing crucial photographs and notes. Jones’ lawyers said that 38 other women have contacted her, reporting similar experiences while working as contractors in Iraq, Kuwait and other countries.
      On September 15, 2009, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jones, and found that her injuries were not in any way related to her employment and thus, not covered by her contract. She is now cleared to have her case heard in open court.
      Senator Al Franken has reversed the usual career path: he became a comedian first, then went on to become a Senator. Jones testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October, 2009, concerning Senator Franken's amendment to the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill. The amendment restricts contracts between employees and companies which use mandatory arbitration in their employment contracts. This measure was passed by the Senate by a vote of 68 to 30. In order to get 68 votes in favor of passage, there must have been at least eight yea votes cast by Republicans. The votes against were all cast by Republicans.
      I am certain that most of those Senators, both for and against, are good, practicing Christians. How, then, could they in good conscience have cast such widely divergent votes on such a heinous subject?
      One of the descriptions of the Christian God is God, the Father. But the Bible tells us of two fathers with opposite characteristics: (1) the old Testament’s jealous and vengeful God and, (2) the loving God of the new Testament.
      The Roman god, Janus, was depicted as having two faces because it was believed that he could see transitions from an old vision to a new vision. I believe that modern day Christians see the difference between the jealous God and the loving God not as a transition, but as a split, which determines their outlook and approach to life.
      Thus a father who identifies with the old Testament’s God tends to lay down a set of rules, let his children alone as long as they follow the rules, and punish them severely when they break the rules. A father who follows the God of the new Testament is more inclined to take his children’s responsibilities upon himself, reward them when they do the right thing, and quickly forgive them when they transgress. Both fathers are following the Bible.
      By itself, either approach has its problems. The old Testament father can be too harsh; the new Testament father can be too easy. After all, Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” He did not say, “Love your neighbor better than you love yourself.” I am quite sure He meant the golden rule to include children as well as neighbors.
      The old/new Testament approach applies not only to children, but to life in general. Republicans, who tend to identify with the old Testament (although they may not realize it) sometimes appear to be somewhat heartless, and even vindictive. And Democrats, normally new Testament followers, often tend to relieve people of responsibilities they should assume personally, while at the same time giving away the store.
      I want to be quite clear on this: any given individual tends to follow one or the other description, but may vary his or her approach in a particular situation. I can’t say whether the 8+ Republicans who voted yea normally follow the old Testament, but they followed the new Testament on this occasion. The 30 nay voters fit the old Testament profile.
      The yea voters in this case apparently decided that protection in a situation such as that undergone by Jones was a responsibility that should be assumed by the employer. As for the nay voters, John McCain explained that he did not think that the government should come between employers and employees. Apparently he and his fellow Republicans decided that neither Jones nor KBR had committed any wrong, thus they should handle the situation without interference.
      Both the yea voters and the nay voters are all believing Christians who just happened to fix upon opposing descriptions of God, the Father.
      Questions for the yeas: To what extent do you think an employer can and should control employees who are not on duty? To what extent do employees have any responsibility for their own actions?
      Question for the nays: If you actually believe that the government should not interfere in the employer/employee relationship, are you ready to roll back wage and hour laws, child labor laws, OSHA, hazardous material laws, and many others?
******
      The classification system built into the young language soon enabled man to divide the world into subjective categories: good vs. evil, fast vs. slow, dangerous vs. safe, green vs. red, friend vs. foe, clan vs. everyone else, etc.
      Drawing upon the growing inventory of words, the Spirit, as the saying goes, jumped on its horse and rode off in all directions. Man could contemplate objects and events which had no referent in the real world. Imagination was born!
      The Growth of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Look At Libertarianism

      Because of the nomination of Dr. Rand Paul to be the Republican candidate for Senator from Kentucky, I have decided to take a closer look at Libertarianism. I must admit that on first glance it sounds appealing.
      According to the Libertarian Party’s web site, “Libertarians strongly oppose any government interfering in their personal, family and business decisions. Essentially, we believe all Americans should be free to live their lives and pursue their interests as they see fit as long as they do not harm one another. In a nutshell, we are advocates for a smaller government, lower taxes and more freedom.”
      According to Libertarianism: A Primer by David Boaz, “Libertarians defend each person's right to life, liberty, and property-rights that people have naturally, before governments are created. In the libertarian view, all human relationships should be voluntary; the only actions that should be forbidden by law are those that involve the initiation of force against those who have not themselves used force - actions like murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and fraud.”
      Generally libertarians also oppose any form of taxation or interference in the economic system.
      As near as I can tell, the role of government in a Libertarian society would be that of building highways, maintaining the Armed Forces, law enforcement, etc., but that brings up a few problems.
      First of all, it takes money, and government money comes from taxes of some kind. Second, who would decide where the highways should go? How would the necessary land be obtained? Or would highways be built by private enterprise? This is unclear in libertarian writings.
      Things like helping the poor or those without any property-rights would be on a voluntary basis. Although barring certain classes of people from your business premises would be allowed, no business-person would do so because he would be losing not only the business of the forbidden class, but also the business of those people who might not think it a responsible thing to do.
      But suppose all these problems could be solved, such a Libertarian Utopia would still be subject to the one problem faced by all Utopias: it would be inhabited by human beings. And human beings are subject to the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride.
      Let’s face it; in the beginning the United States came pretty close to being such a society. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers came along and wrote the Constitution with its wonderful Preamble, mostly ignored in the Libertarian philosophy: We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
      When the great boxer, Joe Louis, was asked about his decision to enlist in the racially-segregated Army in 1942, he replied, "Lots of things wrong with America, but Hitler ain't going to fix them."
      Neither is Libertarianism.
******
      Working with language and logic, the Spirit could rearrange, combine, and transform the vast number of memories in the human brain to create wholly new solutions (and problems). The speed of creativity was increased by many orders of magnitude. Insights became possible. For the first time, a man could run through the streets screaming, “Eureka, I have found it.” He could also say, “If you don’t bow down before my god, I will kill you.”
      The Growth of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Dr. Rand Paul and the Constitution

      The day after winning the Republican Senate primary in Kentucky, Libertarian Rand Paul suffered an attack of foot-in-mouth disease. In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, he was asked whether he believed businesses should have the right to refuse service to African-Americans.
      Yes,” Paul said. “I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form. … But I think what’s important about this debate is not written into any specific ‘gotcha’ on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?”
      Paul has previously gone on record as favoring the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the public domain, but believes that the government has overstepped its powers by extending non-discrimination to the private sector. In other words, government can require non-discrimination in organizations that receive public funds, but freedom of speech trumps non-discrimination for private businesses.
      I do not think Dr. Paul has thought this through. In the first place, even though freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, there are limitations. (The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic – Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.)
      But the issue here is not freedom speech, it’s freedom of action, which, although not specifically mentioned in the Constitution, is also limited. (The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins - Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.) In other words, actions are restricted when they cause harm to someone else.
      There are also other restrictions on actions. Assuming I do not collect insurance, is it OK to burn down my own house if I don’t like it? May I abuse my children? After all, they are mine.
      These examples illustrate that there is a vast difference between speech and actions. The KKK can have all the parades and rallies they want as long as they do not, repeat, do not harm anyone.
      Dr. Paul uses a restaurant as an example; if the owner decides not to serve a certain category of customers, they can find another place to eat. But what if it’s the only restaurant in town?
      Suppose I own an auto dealership in a small town, and I sign a contract for an African-American to buy a new car. When I send him to my bank for financing, the bank refuses to serve him because of his color. Now two people have been harmed by the banker’s stance. And assuming it is the only bank in town, where can either one of us find an alternative?
      But the biggest problem of all is that if Dr. Paul’s line of reasoning were to be followed to its logical conclusion, the United States would be returning to that shameful period of discrimination which was supposedly ended in 1964. I would hope that the citizens of Kentucky have better sense than to send him to the Senate in November.
******
      God simply considered the act of creation to be good. For God, the means (creating) justified the ends (creation). Because man had not yet been formed, mankind’s “good” and “evil” had not yet been invented.
      The Wisdom Of Genesis – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Election Results

      Finally I can turn on the TV without having to watch Arlen Specter Swiftboating Joe Sestak’s military career, nor do I have to put up with Sestak holding forth on Specter’s switch of parties and cozying up to President George Bush throughout most of his Senatorial career.
      Both stories were true; Sestak repeatedly showed a clip of Specter admitting he changed parties in order to be re-e-lec-ted, and another of President Bush telling how he could always count on Arlen. Of the two, the switching of parties was probably the most effective; in the eyes of the voters it branded Specter as untrustworthy and not a true Democrat.
      As to Sestak’s military record, the following is from the Navy Times of July 25, 2005: “Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (DCNO) Vice Adm. Joseph Sestak was administratively reassigned July 25 by new Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen, according to Rear Adm. T. McCreary, chief of naval information.
      “A source within the Navy Department said there were no allegations of misconduct on the part of Sestak. Rather, he said, the move is being made because of poor command climate.” This was effectively the end of Sestak’s military career.
      So the voters have decided; Specter’s bid to become a six term Senator has been canceled.
      Even without the impact of Sestak’s negative commercials, Specter supposedly had one other thing going against him: the anti-incumbent mood of the country. In Kentucky, ultra-conservative Rand Paul, backed by the Tea Party, scored a win against the Republican party favorite, Trey Grayson; and in Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln, backed by labor unions, is facing a runoff against popular Bill Halter.
      In Pennsylvania, however, the anti-incumbent argument did not fly – according to the intelligencer Journal “All but one incumbent state legislator won their primaries, and every single congressman who faced an opponent was victorious.”
      But both parties are troubled by the primary results.
      Historically the majority party loses seats in the mid-term elections; the mood of the country today is particularly troubling for the Democrats. While they can afford to lose a few seats in the House, their tenuous majority in the Senate is definitely in jeopardy.
      As for the Republicans, the apparently rising strength of the Tea Party is a serious problem. The further the mood of the ex-faithful shifts to the right, the more likely it becomes that the party will lose the important votes of the more centrally located party members, as well as many Independents’ votes.
      Of rising concern for both parties is the slow but steady ascendance of the Coffee Party – the people who don’t worry about party affiliation. These people are clamoring for the major parties to give up the negative attitude, start cooperating, and take a shot at doing what is right for the country.
      What a radical, although interesting idea! Let us hope its time has come!
******
      But the real power of language lay in its enabling man to speak of things in his “inside” world: his ambitions, hopes, dreams, fears, emotions, insights, ideas, etc. It is obvious that other animals feel certain emotions, for example, the gazelle fears the lion. But the gazelle who escapes the lion cannot tell other gazelles about the intense fear he felt.
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Arizona's Immigration Law

"Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Emma Lazarus – The New Colossus (On the base of the Statue of Liberty)
      The State of Arizona recently passed a strict immigration law which gives the police broad powers to detain any person suspected of being in the country illegally. Unless suspects are carrying proper documentation, it is the intention the law to prosecute and deport them.
      Officers are not only allowed to question suspects - they are required to do so. Anyone who thinks police officers are not enforcing the law is allowed to sue the local government or agency. Not carrying immigration papers at all times is a misdemeanor. Several other states, including Pennsylvania, are considering passage of similar legislation.
      Arizona has a rather large percentage of immigrants, primarily Hispanics. Although it would be unconstitutional for a state to pass a law requiring suspected illegal Hispanics, the de facto result of this law is just that. I suspect that illegal immigrants with blue eyes and blond hair - and there are such things - will have no problems with Arizona policemen. But woe be to any dark-skinned, Spanish speaking persons, even American citizens, who wander along the streets of Phoenix.
      But I also understand what has prompted this law: the lack of Federal activity regarding the immigration problem. With an estimated 12M illegal immigrants in this country, the Federal government should long ago have passed pertinent legislation.
      I do not intend to rehash the rationales for and against illegal immigrants - they take jobs away from citizens, they don’t pay taxes, they commit crimes - all sorts of urban legends, whether true or false.
      The first thing that must be done, whether it takes new technology, more manpower, major construction, whatever, the huge influx of persons sneaking across the Mexican border needs to be stopped.
      Assuming success in this endeavor (a fairly big assumption), what next? The cost of finding, prosecuting and deporting 12M people would probably be greater than the cost of maintaining the armed forces.
      Politicians trolling for votes seldom consider that the cost of enforcing any law needs to be balanced against the problems that would be caused by its non-enforcement. In this case I believe that most intelligent citizens, i.e., non-politicians, would agree that a cost/benefit analysis is in order.
      I do not think that designing a system whereby illegal immigrants could become citizens is amnesty. It doesn’t have to be easy – such things as paying a fine, then returning home and applying for readmission after, say, five years, would not be out of line.
      To give due credit, President Bush attempted to create such a system; he was thwarted by his far right constituency. Originally John McCain supported that endeavor, but has backed off now that he needs votes.
      My personal opinion is that the Arizona law is bigoted, harsh and probably unconstitutional. That said, I also believe that Federal action is long overdue.
      As someone once said, “The United States has always had an immigration problem – ask any Native American.”
******
      Through the power of language man was able to pass along skills to children or apprentices. Whether through logic or trial and error, a workman could develop a new flaking process for the manufacture of arrowheads, then teach it to others in his trade. Practical information learned through experience ― the best place to hunt, how to track game, the location of the closest berry patch, etc. ― could be passed to children and clan members while seated around the campfire.
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Woman Made Me Do It - Adam

      [The Lord] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
      Genesis – New Revised Standard Version.

      One of the tasks I had to perform at my job as a cost accountant was to speak to factory foremen to determine the cause of irregularities in production costs. In particular, one man stands out in my memory; his first response when I asked about a problem was always, “Whose responsibility is that?”
      It was not my job to establish responsibility – my job was to 1.) pinpoint the problem, 2.) fix it, and 3.) set up safeguards so that it didn’t happen again. But the foreman’s first impulse was to determine where to point the finger. (No, not that finger.)
      When I had my accounting business, I often had to visit a client to ask about a problem. Invariably the first response of the accounting clerk was, “I didn’t do it.”
      My usual reply was, “I know, but you are the person who gives me the information. All I want to do is get it corrected and see that it doesn’t happen again.”
      The ducking of responsibility is common among bank tellers, food servers, and countless others who face the public on a daily basis. They may not be personally responsible for problems, but they are on the front line for their employers. Where else can the public turn for resolution of problems?
      The point is that the executives of BP, Transocean and Halliburton were following an ancient tradition of finger pointing with their exhibition before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee this past week. The entire outcome of the hearing boils down to one sentence repeated three times, “He did it!” President Obama quickly decried the performance, pointing out that there was enough blame to include all of them plus the government.
      Fortunately, the CEO of BP has stepped up and agreed that his company will pay for the cleanup. The government has written BP urging that they do not limit their payments to the $75M liability cap as prescribed by law.
      As bad as the 5,000 barrel per day leak has become, let us hope that it does not have the drastic consequences for the human race as the disaster evoked when Adam said, “The woman made me do it.”
******
     Each object came to be a member of a class, and then was identified by modifiers to differentiate it from other members of its class. For example, a duck is placed in the class of “birds,” then identified as the bird with the wide bill, short legs, and other attributes which make the “duck” different from other birds. If necessary, man could name one duck “Donald” in the morning and another one “Daisy” in the afternoon, but he could also speak intelligently about the “flock” of ducks that flew over last evening.
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

President Obama's Supreme Court Nominee

      President Obama has nominated his second Supreme Court Justice, Elena Kagan. Already a minor feeding frenzy has started. If she has ever had so much as a traffic ticket it will come out in the next few weeks. And like living in a small town, if they can’t find anything bad to say about her, they’ll make something up.
      Since she has never had judicial experience, there is no way to look back and evaluate her decisions, however, as the dean of Harvard Law School, she has published enough articles so that one can get some idea of her approach to the law.
      But what she has written has already taken second place to what people prefer to believe she has said. And to make matters even more confusing, as part of her previous positions as counsel to President Clinton, and Solicitor General for President Obama, she has had to defend some positions that do not necessarily agree with her written positions.
      For example, on a major decision handed down this past January, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, she argued that the government may prohibit corporations and unions from using their general treasury funds to make independent expenditures for speech that is an “electioneering communication” or for speech that expressly advocates the election or defeat of a candidate. The Supreme Court struck down the law.
      Her writings indicate that she is a determined believer in free speech, thus it would seem that the job required her to argue for a cause which is contrary to her private belief. And I understand that – it is what attorneys do.
      In spite of the fact that she has been nominated by a Democrat, a group of conservative attorneys has come out in support of her. "She has had a remarkable and truly unusual record of reaching out across ideological divides," said Michael McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge who was nominated by President George W. Bush.
      But in spite of any conservative support, Rush Limbaugh, not unexpectedly, claims she is passionate about socialism. He fully expects her to continue to advance President Obama’s socialist programs. Freedom is at stake, although to this point I haven’t been able to put my finger on any freedoms we have lost.
      Freedom of speech? No problem. Freedom to assemble? Untouched. Freedom to worship or not worship as we please? Intact. Freedom to travel from state to state? Ok, unless you have a Hispanic look about you and are traveling to Arizona. (I hate to see this, but a similar bill has been introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Hopefully saner heads will prevail.)
      But I have saved the best accusation for last. This past week the prestigious Wall Street Journal printed a 17 year old picture of Ms. Kagan at bat in a softball game, along with a two line caption which raised a question as to her sexuality. The New York Post followed a day later, with the headline, "Does this photo suggest high court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian?"
      Blogger Michael Wolff, followed up with, "To say the obvious: it's the hair. She sure looks gay." I looked at the picture, and it sure looks as if seventeen years ago she participated in a softball game!
      But they couldn’t fool Rush. He decided the whole gay imbroglio was originated by the Democrats so that people would not notice Kagan’s real “passion”: socialism.
      For the next few weeks there are two sure bets: 1.) Ms. Kagan is not going to say anything revealing about her views on today’s hot topics, and 2.) The Republicans are going to be turning over every rock that they suspect hides dirt.
      Oh, and one more thing: After all the posturing, she will be approved.
******
      The expansion of the memory and the computing ability of the human brain were absolute prerequisites to the development of language. Without the brain one could remember neither the words, nor their connections to the outside world. And without access to the memories of the vast number of events and situations stored in the human brain, there would be no way of creating solutions to the problems faced by the early humans. Mankind would be no better off than other animals.
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Retirement Community Residents Speak

      Prior to 2007, Pennsylvania retirement communities were exempt from real estate taxes on property utilized for assisted living residents. Property utilized for independent living residents, administrative offices, etc., was taxable. In 2007 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that if an organization met the requirements for classification as a charitable institution, all its property was exempt. The exemption is not automatic; the institution must apply for it. Several retirement communities have done so, causing considerable controversy. The following letter was sent to local newspapers.


      Editor, Lancaster Newspapers,
      Editor, Lititz Record Express,

      There has been considerable controversy recently concerning the elimination of property taxes paid by retirement communities. As long as the exemption is available, we think it is incumbent upon them to decide whether or not to apply for it. Although financial considerations are important, we believe there is an additional ethical obligation which they must consider.
      One of the requirements for the success of a republic such as the United States is that of an intelligent, well-informed electorate. Because of the current economic crisis, schools are considering eliminating teaching positions. We do not feel that it is a good idea to further disrupt their budget problems by suddenly eliminating a significant portion of their funding. Furthermore, county and local governments are also facing budget problems; a unilateral decision to suddenly pay only an arbitrary percentage of property taxes further exacerbates the budgetary process for these entities.
      We also feel that, regardless of ownership, taxing a particular piece of property in accordance with its value, without regard to ownership, is fair. Suppose, for example, a commercial organization owns an office building valued at $500,000. If the organization sells the building to a retirement community, the building suddenly becomes tax exempt. That’s not fair to other taxpayers.
      Letters and opinions printed recently in local newspapers put forth several reasons why independent living areas of retirement communities should be tax-exempt. To us these reasons appear specious; reasons given and our responses to them boil down to the following:
• They employ thousands of people and purchase many local goods and services. So do taxable entities.
• They don’t send any kids to school. OK, let’s exempt any property owner who has no kids in school! So much for a future intelligent electorate!
• They maintain their own roads, shovel their own snow, etc. Their (P)ayments (I)n (L)ieu (O)f (T)axes (PILOT) cover police protection. But suppose police, ambulances and fire trucks couldn’t arrive at their community in a timely manner because the roads needed repair, or the snow hadn’t been plowed, to whom would they complain?
• Their residents contribute individually to the ambulance association and the fire department. So do non-residents.
• Many of their residents are employed and are paying local wage taxes. So are non-residents.
      Before one thinks we are disgruntled taxpayers, consider this: we are residents of Luther Acres in Lititz. When our CEO announced recently that a decision had been made not to apply for the tax exemption, he received a solid round of applause from our residents. As a good member of the larger community, he had made the difficult ethical decision, not the easy financial one. We are very proud of him.

      Glenn and Barbara Grunenberger
*****
      But because of the infinity of objects man found in his world, naming was a little more complicated than Genesis implies; it was impossible to label each individual. Man might be able to give one name to the duck he saw this morning, and a different name to the one he saw this afternoon, but that became impractical the first time he had to speak about a flock of ducks. However, once he developed the power of classification ― what Genesis calls eating the fruit of the tree of good and evil ― the problem was solved.
      The Wisdom Of Genesis – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Show Business

      Some time ago Barbara and I attended the show Midlife! The Crisis Musical. It was recommended by a neighbor, who said it was hilarious. He was correct. I thought I recognized some of the characters, then I realized I was seeing myself.
      Two scenes in particular hit home: In one a man walked into a room and couldn't remember what he was looking for; the other was of two men in a doctor's office, waiting for a prostate exam. I could identify closely with both situations, which I am sure are familiar to any man who has reached the age of 50.
      We do not see plays as often as we used to. Since we have been in Pennsylvania (2004) we have gone to six or eight plays – approximately one per year. At one time we held season tickets to several playhouses – sometimes two at the same time. (Different dates of course). I estimate we saw at least 150 plays during the 37 years we lived in California, ranging from rank amateur to very professional productions.
      When we first arrived there we attended shows at a theater-in-the-round, where we saw the likes of Betsy Palmer in South Pacific and Richard Harris in Camelot.
      For several years we had tickets to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the premier playhouse in Los Angeles. Another couple attended with us, and we all went out to dinner after the performances. Obviously, we went to matinees.
      Probably the most boring play we saw there was A Man For All Seasons, featuring Sally Kellerman. I had read the book, and was very disappointed with the production. I would say this play was very forgettable, but it was so bad that I can't forget it, no matter how hard I try.
      We saw Phantom Of The Opera twice, and loved the exciting music of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the wonderful special effects – the crashing chandelier and the phantom rowing a boat across the stage, among others.
      Probably the funniest show we saw there actually consisted of two "dark" plays. One in particular – whose name I can't remember – was hilarious, not only because of the action on the stage, but also the action of some of the spectators around us.
      The idea was that when the stage lights were lit, the characters were supposed to be floundering around in darkness, and when the lights were off, they were supposed to be able to see. As the lights were turned on and off, people around us were saying, "Now are the lights supposed to be on or off?" By the time the show was over, they still hadn't figured it out.
      We saw some big names in show business: Liz Taylor, Jack Lemmon, Charlton Heston , and many others. We found that the biggest names did not always indicate the best shows.
      Eventually the quality of the plays downtown went into a recession at the same time the prices were suffering from inflation, so we dropped those tickets and bought others at a smaller theater near our house. Again the plays varied in quality.
      For example, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood was a musical based on a novel that Charles Dickens was working on when he died. Much of the action took place in the audience as the actors wandered about the theater. Since it was unfinished, the audience was offered a choice of two endings. We didn't particularly care for the play or the endings, but that's just us.
      Another show which did not impress us, especially since we had seen it before, was Annie. I guess people thought that since the star was a child, it would be a good play for their children to see. But it's not; it's a play about the great depression, and kids do not understand the situations. They soon become bored, and it's very distracting. Also, I suppose I am getting older, but it seems to me the singing is more shouting than musical.
      On the other hand, Foxfire, starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy was outstanding.
      In addition to our season ticket attendances, we managed to see a few other performances. One we particularly enjoyed was Jesus Christ, Superstar at the Universal Amphitheater in Hollywood. We went there with Barbara's sister and her husband, who happened to be visiting us at the time. We all thought it was very good – I believe the brother-in-law used it as a teaching point in his Sunday school class.
      At that performance Groucho Marx happened to be in the audience. While he was deep into the twilight of his life, he had two very young and very beautiful ladies helping him get around. I have never seen a nicer pair of "crutches."
      We also attended some very amateur productions, but fortunately I don't remember much about any of them.
      Some of our adventures happened outside the theater. On one occasion we were going to dinner after the performance. The husband of the couple with us decided to take us to a Greek restaurant he had found. After driving around for quite some time, he admitted he didn't know exactly where it was. He kept telling us, "But I know how to find it from the airport." After about an hour he decided to go to the airport and start over. He really did know how to find it from the airport – It took him about five minutes. The food was good, but it was not that good.
      I am glad we managed to see all those plays, but I am not quite as excited about live theater as I used to be. I wonder why.
******
      Most likely the first words were little more than cries to warn others of approaching danger. But as with all things, once the first “words” became available, they were transcended and transformed. Using the sounds found in nature - birdsong, waterfalls, animal cries, rustling leaves, storms, etc. - as models, naming of objects probably followed soon afterwards.
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mother's Day

      My mother has been gone for almost 60 years, and I still miss her. Several years ago I wrote the following item about her for my web page. It lists just a few things I remember – there is no mention of the fact that she was also my cook, maid, shopper, seamstress, nurse, teacher, counselor and general “go to” person for every emergency, large or small.
      And although I suppose she sometimes felt pretty good about some of my small accomplishments, I also gave her headaches which no amount of aspirin could cure. If your mother is still with you, take it from me – you will never be able to repay her for all the hats she wore. Let her know you appreciate her.
******
My Mother
      In addition to being a wife and mother, she was a musician, seamstress, and part time waitress. My favorite time of the day was while she had dinner cooking, and with a few minutes of spare time on her hands, she would sit down at the piano and play her favorite songs. Although she studied piano for only one year, she was one of those rare individuals who make the rest of us wannabe musicians jealous - she could listen to the music and then play it, melody, harmony, and rhythm. How I envied that talent! I have been told that she was also a good violinist when she was younger - I regret that I never heard her play.
      She was always active, always laughing, and her laughter was contagious. She didn’t laugh at anyone, yet she always found a reason to laugh with someone. She had an excellent sense of humor.
      She sometimes made her own clothing, but only if she happened to see a pattern she really liked. But she loved to make things for other people, particularly for children.
      She was also an excellent waitress, both a dinner waitress and a cocktail waitress. She worked partly to help out with the family finances, partly because she liked being around people. She was no pushover, however. One evening when she was working as a cocktail waitress at the American Legion Home, one customer was particularly demanding. At the end of the evening he left her a dime for a tip. Picking it up she ran after him and handed it to him, saying, “Here, you forgot your change.” He was a little less obnoxious thereafter.
      Since we never owned a car, mother on her bicycle was a common sight around Manheim. One time she rode to Baltimore to visit her aunt, a distance of almost one hundred miles. It was a two day trip each way.
      She died in 1951 at the age of 46.

******
      Somewhere along the way man developed one thing which gave him a huge advantage over other animals: a highly developed brain. We know this because of his tool-making ability, for which evidence abounds, not only in archaeological digs, but also in anthropological studies of primitive tribes which even today turn up from time to time. Although a few lower animals have developed rudimentary tools, none has been able to match even the axes, hammers, arrows and spears ― not to mention the computers, aircraft, economic systems, religions, etc. ― which the human race has invented.
      The Growth Of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Friday, May 7, 2010

Memory Is A Tricky Thing

      Probably most people born before 1930 can remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Likewise most born before 1950 remember their location and activity when they heard of the assassination of president Kennedy. And I am sure that people born prior to 1990 remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. Why bring this up?
      In 1996 I purchased a computer program for recording a daily journal. I faithfully kept it up every day through 2004. At that point I discovered that everything dated between July 28 and October 25 of that year had disappeared from my hard drive. Gone! Zilch! Nada! And the software company no longer serviced the program! To say that I was upset would be an understatement.
      So beginning in 2005 I started keeping my daily journal on a new program – one for which technical services were available.
      I have finally got around to transferring my journal from the old program to the new one. During the process I have been reading some of the stuff I wrote during the period I was using the old one. I am amazed at how much I have forgotten – things that I am sure seemed important when I wrote them – and now I don't remember anything about them.
      For example, apparently I took a course in Creative Writing in 1998. I don't remember a thing about it, although I completed ten lessons and got a good grade. One would think I should remember something like that, but I don't.
      After Barbara retired in 2000, we made it a point to go on a "date" once a week. Usually we went to a movie and had dinner at a restaurant afterward. As I look back over the movies we saw, I remember very little about any of them. I don't even remember the titles. Apparently I enjoyed most of them, but when I try to remember anything about them I draw a complete blank.
      Equally strange is the ability of the mind to remember things that never happened. Mark Twain once said he is not surprised at how much he remembers, but he is surprised about how much he remembers that isn't true.
      Recently I read a column in which the writer mentioned that he used to go with a girl whose father gave him some good advice. He distinctly remembers standing on the porch at the family's summer place, and her father came through the door and told him whatever it was.
      Some time ago he ran into the girl after many years, and mentioned the incident to her. "But our summer place did not have a porch," she said, and showed him pictures to prove it.
      I have written about a favorite place of mine when I was about ten years old. I remember sitting under a huge tree in a meadow, and thinking about whatever ten year olds think about. Recently I went back to that meadow. There is no tree, nor is there any indication that there ever was one – no stump, rotting branches, nothing. But I still remember it.
      The mind is a funny thing.
******
      One thing is certain: the animal is not thinking logically. He can never think to himself, “If situation A occurs I will react according to plan B.” Logic is impossible except through the use of language. It is strictly wordplay, and is of value only insofar as its premises have some connection to the surrounding world. Regardless of the world from which one’s premises arise, it is wise to touch base with the real world before taking action based on a logical conclusion.
      The Growth of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Guardian Angels

      Recently I read that 50% of Americans believe in guardian angels – supernatural beings that protect individuals from harm. Stories abound about people who were in dire trouble, and an angel showed up to remedy the situation. Here are two:
     
A lady is driving down a deserted country road at night, and gets a flat tire. Not having a cell phone, and with no idea how to change a tire, she apparently will be stranded for quite some time. Suddenly a man shows up out of the darkness, and changes her tire for her. When she goes for her purse to offer him some money, he is no longer there. He must have been an angel.
     
A driver is waiting at a red traffic light. When the light changes to green, he tries to drive, but his car refuses to move. While he is trying to get going, a careless driver speeds through the red light, after which our driver's car moves just fine. If his car had moved when he first tried, the other driver would have crashed into him. He was protected by an angel.
      But whose angel was it? The speedster was also saved from becoming involved in a serious crash. Perhaps his angel was the guardian.
      In 14th century England there lived a Franciscan friar known as William of Occam. He advanced a principle – Occam's Razor – that is still in vogue today. Boiled down to everyday language, it says that if a given event has more than one explanation, accept the simplest one.
      In the first instance above, the simplest explanation is that a nearby resident was out for a stroll when he spotted a lady in distress. He helped her, then took off into the night from which he came. She may consider him to be an angel, but there is nothing supernatural about him.
      In the second story, Occam's Razor would suggest that the car refused to move because of vapor lock, dirt in the fuel line, or other mechanical failure – again nothing supernatural.
      In neither case is it necessary to postulate some sort of divine intervention. I find it hard to believe that the creator of the universe set up a series of "laws" which He is deliberately going to break whenever one of his creatures gets into trouble.
      It has been said that it is very difficult to prove that something does not exist. For example, Bertrand Russell wrote, "If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes." I am sure that almost everyone would agree with Russell that the probability that such a teapot exists is very, very low.
      So for all I know, somewhere among the billions and billions of stars there may be planets overflowing with unicorns, or on millions of them there may be a man named Santa Claus, who delivers toys to tots from a flying sleigh once a year.
      Likewise, there may be gazillions of angels flying around in outer space. But because there is no real evidence that any of these are true, I would set the probability of finding them very low.
      Here is a question for angelophiles: If everyone has a guardian angel, why are there any accidents?
******
      Certainly a lower mammal is capable of fleeing from a threat, or enjoying a good meal, but he can react to a situation only as it transpires. He cannot sit down and plan what he will do if the dog in the next block threatens him, or even what he will do if he finds himself in a generally threatened position. Nor can he plan ahead in other than the most rudimentary way, such as going hunting when he is hungry, or sleeping when he is tired.
      The Growth of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Category 7

      The Encarta Dictionary defines the term double-entendre as “ambiguity in which one meaning is sexually suggestive.” Although it’s true that this category is often the home of the risqué pun, I think that definition is way too narrow; I expanded this category to include any joke with a double meaning. For example, a mondegreen (see my blog of August 31, 2009) is not even recognized as a joke when it happens, but it becomes humorous when it is retold. If someone mistakes the hymn, “Gladly the Cross I’d Bear” for “Gladly, the Cross-eyed Bear,” it is not funny until someone retells it. For that reason, I consider the retelling of mondegreens, or for that matter any misunderstood words, as being jokes in the double-entendre category. Some of the following examples are rated TVMA14-D.


      Question: What's the difference between a light bulb and a pregnant woman?
      Answer: You can unscrew a light bulb
******
      A lady told her veterinarian that her dog had been acting nervous.
      Veterinarian: “Let’s check him out.” After looking him over, the veterinarian said, “He’s fine. He has some long hairs in his ears, and they tickle him. Get rid of those and he should be OK.”
      Lady: “How do I do that?”
      Veterinarian: “The easiest way is to go to the drugstore, and get some Nair hair remover. Put it on the long hairs, and they’ll be gone in no time.”
      While the lady waited for the pharmacist to wrap her purchase, she asked, “How do I use this stuff?”
      Pharmacist: Well it needs to be diluted with water. Mix it five to one for use on your legs, and ten to one for use under your arms.”
      Lady: “Oh no. I am going to put it on my schnauzer.”
      Pharmacist: “In that case make it twenty to one, and you had better stay off of your ten-speed for a few days.”
******
      NEWS FLASH - GOD ANNOUNCES THE 11TH COMMANDMENT!
      During a recent staff meeting in Heaven, God, Moses, and Saint Peter concluded that the behavior of Ex-President Clinton has brought about the need for an eleventh commandment.
      They worked long and hard in a brain-storming session to try to settle on the wording of the new commandment, because they realized that it should have the same style, majesty and dignity as the original ten.
      After many revisions, they finally agreed that the eleventh commandment should be: "Thou shalt not comfort thy rod with thy staff."
******
      A customer carried a small suitcase into a bar. Placing the suitcase on the bar, he said to the bartender: “Let me show you something.” He opened the suitcase and brought out a tiny man, just one foot high, and a little piano and bench. The little man sat down on the bench and began to play requests – classical, jazz, pop, anything and everything.
      Bartender: “Hey, that’s really neat. Where did you get something like that?”
      Customer: “I’ll show you.” He again reached into the suitcase and brought out a lamp. Handing it to the bartender, he said, “Rub it.”
      When the bartender rubbed the lamp, the proverbial genie popped out and said, “Whoever rubbed the lamp is entitled to one free wish.”
      Bartender: “OK. I’d like to have a million bucks.”
      Genie: “Granted.” The door opened and ducks began to pile in - large ducks, small ducks, ducks of all colors, hundreds, thousands and more.
      Bartender: “You know, I think your genie has a hearing problem.”
      Customer: “Tell me about it. Do you think I asked for a twelve inch pianist?”
******
      After getting nailed by a drone, Osama makes his way to the pearly gates. There, he is greeted by George Washington. "How dare you attack the nation I helped conceive!" Washington said, while slapping Osama in the face.
      Patrick Henry comes up from behind. "You wanted to end the Americans' liberty, so they gave you death!" Henry punches Osama on the nose.
      James Madison comes up next, and says "This is why I allowed the Federal government to provide for the common defense!" He drops a large weight on Osama's knee.
      Osama is subject to similar beatings from James Monroe, and 65 other people who have the same love for liberty and America. As he writhes on the ground, Thomas Jefferson picks him up to hurl him back toward the gate where he is to be judged.
      As Osama awaits his journey to his final very hot destination, he screams - "This is not what I was promised!"
      An angel replies "I told you there would be 72 Virginians waiting for you . . . What the hell did you think I said?”
******
      As Porky Pig said, “Th . . . th . . . that’s all folks.” I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them. Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. In particular, let me hear about any jokes which do not fit in any of the categories.
******
      What was man like before the development of speech? Of course, we will never really know, but undoubtedly he shared some of the characteristics of lower animals.
      We know that some higher animals dream, so most likely early man also had dreams. For example, when a dog sleeps, he sometimes wags his tail or emits growls. It is quite natural to assume he is dreaming of something pleasurable in the first instance, and a threatening situation in the second. It is likely that early man had similar dreams. Probably he enjoyed a good meal, both in his daily life and in his dreams. Whether awake or asleep, he undoubtedly encountered situations which aroused fear, and in either case he fled just as a gazelle flees from an approaching lion.
      The Growth of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Category 6

      Jokes in Category 6, distortion of ideas, take some generally accepted viewpoint of life, and twist it to the point where the outcome is completely unexpected. As the 1909 Times article says, “The simplest is the deformity of something that is regarded as good manners, or good morals, or dead certain to happen. Twist it around and the joke lies in having your story come out the other way.” Two examples follow:
     
The fairway at the ABC Country Club ran alongside a highway. As one foursome played along the course, a funeral procession passed by. One of the golfers removed his cap and held it over his heart until all the cars had passed. Another member of the foursome commented upon how touched he was that his partner had shown so much respect for the deceased, to which the respectful golfer replied, “Well, it was the least I could do. We would have been married twenty-five years next Saturday.”
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                December 1st
      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      I'm happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will take place on December 23rd at Luigi's Open Pit Barbecue. There will be lots of spiked eggnog and a small band playing traditional carols ... feel free to sing along. And don't be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus to light the Christmas tree! Exchange of gifts among employees can be done at that time; however, no gift should be over $10.
      Merry Christmas to you and your family.
      Patty Lewis - Human Resources Director

      December 2nd

      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      In no way was yesterday's memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday that often coincides with Christmas (though unfortunately not this year). However, from now on we're calling it our "Holiday Party." The same policy applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. There will be no Christmas tree and no Christmas carols sung.
      Happy Holidays to you and your family.
      Patty Lewis - Human Resources Director

      December 3rd

      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      Regarding the anonymous note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table, I'm happy to accommodate this request, but, don't forget, if I put a sign on the table that reads, "AA Only," you won't be anonymous anymore. In addition, forget about the gifts exchange-no gifts will be allowed since the union members feel that $10 is too much money.
      Patty Lewis - Human Researchers Director

      December 7th

      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      I've arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest from the dessert buffet and pregnant women closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with the gay men; each will have their table. Yes, there will be a flower arrangement for the gay men's table. Happy now?
      Patty Lewis - Human Racehorses Director

      December 9th

      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      People, people-nothing sinister was intended by wanting our CEO to play Santa Claus! Even if the anagram of "Santa" does happen to be "Satan," there is no evil connotation to our own "little man in a red suit."
      Patty Lewis - Human Ratraces

      December 10th

      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      Vegetarians-I've had it with you people!! We're going to hold this party at Luigi's Open Pit whether you like it or not; you can just sit at the table farthest from the "grill of death," as you put it, and you'll get salad bar only, including hydroponic tomatoes. But, you know, tomatoes have feelings, too. They scream when you slice them. I've heard them scream. I'm hearing them right now. Ha! I hope you all have a rotten holiday! Drive drunk and die, you hear me?
      The Bitch from Hell!

      December 14th

      TO: ALL EMPLOYEES
      I'm sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness. I'll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime, management has decided to cancel our Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay.
      Terri Bishop - Acting Human Resources Director
      (Jokes Galore)
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As always, I ask my readers to click on the “Comments” button below, and add any thoughts, additions or jokes they may have to the list. The category for tomorrow is distortion of meaning (double entendre).

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      It is important to note that the creative activity does not judge the value of its output. Consider the following:
      Hester, a physical fitness devotee in her mid-20s, ate all the right foods, exercised regularly and got eight hours of sleep every night. During her annual physical checkup, the doctor discovered a lump in her abdomen. After exhaustive testing, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. An aggressive series of treatments was begun, and the cancer soon went into remission. But gradually it returned, and eventually she succumbed to it at the age of 31.
      Some unknown aspect of Hester’s nature or nurture combined with the cells of her pancreas to create a chaotic growth. Chemotherapy, radiation, etc. were able to halt the growth temporarily, but the underlying pathological activity was too strong to resist.
      Introduction – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

Monday, May 3, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Category 5

      In some languages the subject of a sentence is indicated by its ending. If words are written out of their normal sequence, the reader can still make sense of the sentence. For example, in such a language, if I write “man bites dog” when I really mean to write “dog bites man,” the reader still understands what I mean to say because the ending of “dog” indicates that it is the subject, not the object, of the sentence.
      Not so in English. Obviously, the wrong word order can completely change the meaning of a sentence.
      This characteristic of the language is a source of jokes for Category 5: Distortion of language. Here is an example. Warning – This story is rated TVMA14–L.
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Upon seeing a beautiful, statuesque nurse, a patient remarked about her to the doctor:

Patient: “You certainly have a beautiful nurse.”

Doctor: “Yes, she is very beautiful, but she always gets things backwards. If I tell her to give a patient four pills every two hours, she gives him two pills every four hours. If I tell her to give him three teaspoons of medicine every six hours, she gives him six teaspoons every three hours. She causes a lot of trouble.”

Just then the door burst open, and a man came running through the room holding up his pants; the nurse came running after holding a pot of boiling water.

Doctor: “See. There’s an example. I just told her to go prick his boil!”
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      Another characteristic of the English language is its habit of absorbing words taken from other languages. This leads to a proliferation of homonyms; words that sound alike but have different spellings or meanings. It’s not a problem with written speech, but can lead to many humorous situations when spoken. For example:
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A blonde goes to the post office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards.

Blonde: "May I have 50 Christmas stamps?"

Clerk: "What denomination?"

Blonde: "God help us. Has it come to this? Give me 6 Catholic, 12 Presbyterian, 10 Lutheran and 22 Baptists."
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      As always, I ask my readers to click on the “Comments” button below, and add any thoughts, additions or jokes they may have to the list. The category for tomorrow is distortion of idea.
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      The one thing that all of our examples have in common is that individual entities were somehow transcended and transformed to create new and often different entities. Persons with a religious outlook will attribute the underlying process to God, Jehovah, Allah, etc. while those with a scientific outlook will attribute it to entropy or perhaps "tiny strings vibrating through ten or eleven dimensions." Throughout this book I will attribute this activity to the action of the Spirit. Although the term has a religious connotation, I cannot think of a more descriptive name. I hope those with a scientific bent will bear with me.
     Introduction - The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

There Are Only Seven Jokes - Category 4

      Although Category 4, distortion of pronunciation, is probably home to some non-ethnic jokes, I couldn’t find any. Because I promised an example for every category, I submit the following with my sincerest apologies:

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Leroy is given a homework assignment. Still befuddled by the whole school thing, Leroy is a trooper. He was given another set of vocabulary words to use in sentences.

      Here's what he handed in:

HONOR ROLL - We was playin poker on the stoop the other day, man I was HONOROLL.
DISMAY - I went for a blood test, the doctor pulled out a big needle. He said, "DISMAY hurt a little."
OMELETTE - Every time I start a new job, OMELETTE go after a week.
DEFENSE - I ran from the cops, and hopped DEFENSE and got away.
LOCKET - I slam the door so hard, I LOCKET.
DOMINEERING - My girl's birthday was yesterday, I got her a DOMINEERING.
KENYA - I needed change for the subway, so I axe a stranger KENYA spare some change.
DERANGE - DERANGE is where da deer and antelope play.
DATA - At my basketball game, I scored thirty points. My coach said, "DATA boy!"
COPULATE - I called 911 and an hour later when they show up, I said, "COPULATE!"
BEWARE - I asked the man at the unemployment office, "Is this BEWARE I get a job?"
COATROOM - The judge said, "One more outburst like that, and you'll be thrown out the COATROOM."
DECIDE - I like Wanda and Yolanda, but I like to have a couple of babes on DECIDE.


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As always, I ask my readers to click on the “Comments” button below, and add any thoughts, additions or jokes they may have to the list. The category for tomorrow is distortion of language construction.

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      Through the power of speech, the Spirit was able to create religion, architecture, music, democracy, love, altruism, and all those achievements which we judge to be good. Unfortunately, since the Spirit praises the act rather than the results of creating, it also brought forth murder, incest, wars, hatred, jealously, AIDS, and other pestilences.
      The Wisdom Of Genesis – The Spirit Runs Through It.

The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon