Archive for the 2011 Category


I generally keep my notes for future essays in my head but in some cases on an old dictating machine on my desk. Two of these notes appeared simultaneously and I thought that there were enough similarities that they could be married together. The first essay has to do with the ancient word for an insect, “pissant.” That explains the first word in the title. The second word, “politics,” is also related to the pissantries. The third entry in the title is “a gorgeous mistress” named Kimberly Bell, who was the mistress of Barry Bonds, the home run king, for many years. I will take each subject separately but from time to time you may see how they have become married.

The word “pissant” is an older term which refers to an insect. The insect is an ant that seeks the feet of humans and animals. The word “pissant” is far from a vulgarism. It is a living creature, just as bedbugs and gnats are living creatures also. Pissants dart from one section of the body to another and are generally just plain miserable. They are hard to swat and the pressure from the swatter is sufficiently great to move them to safety.

As I have related in earlier essays, my parents were quite religious. But they had frequently identified politicians who were bothersome as pissants. Unfortunately, that word is no longer in common usage because of the advance of insecticides that destroy the pissants in their nests. And so we see that the pissants became largely worthless creatures who now no longer bother us, but who have also disappeared from the latest dictionaries.

During the last few months, there have been inaugurations of several Republican governors in the Midwest and now one in Maine who have qualified for the title of pissant extraordinaire. Apparently these governors have made compacts which they have set out to rule the bargaining rights for state workers. They have set out to achieve these ends by all means fair or foul. In the state of Maine, the new governor there has declared that a mural in the state labor department is offensive to him and must be moved. Yet the mural, consisting of perhaps 13 panels, depicts workers in Maine building boats, fishing, and doing all of the other things that require labor in the state of Maine. The panels have existed for some time but now the new governor has decided that he is an art critic who wants them moved or put in storage. His complaint is that when businessmen come around to the department of labor, they will conclude that the panels prejudice the department against business.

In the Midwest, we have such governors as Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the governor of Ohio named John Kasich, who have passed legislation denying state workers the ability to bargain their wages. As someone who knows a little bit about labor relations, I view this as a temporary situation because given a bit of time these governors will be recalled or defeated in the next election. But these governors clearly qualify as pissants. If my parents were alive today, which they are not, they would identify these governors as clear examples of pissantries. They are making buzzing sounds as pissants do. The results of their labor are nil. These governors, including the Midwestern ones and the one in Maine, deserve to be terminated like bedbugs or gnats. But their time will come in recalls or in elections.

Well, so much for pissantries and politics. It is now time to turn to Kimberly Bell, who was Barry Bonds’ mistress for several years. I suspect that some of my readers may wonder who this Barry Bonds is. I will tell you.

Barry Bonds is the son of Bobby Bonds. Both of them were famous baseball players. Barry Bonds, according to baseball records, is the greatest home run hitter of all time. I dispute that, as do many others, because it is reasonably clear that Bonds had the help of steroids as he compiled his home run record. But then as his playing career drew to a close around 2007 or 2008, Barry Bonds was implicated in a steroid scandal involving not only himself but a star swimmer in the world Olympics. The swimmer was a female and, at the time, she admitted her use of steroids and was sent to jail for a short period of time, say two years. But old Barry Bonds wanted once to tough it out and in the process lied, or so it is alleged, to a grand jury about his intake of steroids. And that is what the trial that is taking place as I dictate these lines on March 24, 2011 is all about.

Bonds contends that he took no steroids but that his trainer gave him a combination of flax seed and another thing called Cream. The federal government has witnesses who will testify that they have seen Bonds injecting himself or having a trainer perform that service. At this early point in the trial, it would seem to me that the evidence against Barry Bonds is reasonably overwhelming.

But hovering in the background is a witness for the federal government who will deliver, it is alleged, some damning evidence. We all know that Barry Bonds’s feet jumped by two or three sizes and that the muscles in his arms expanded greatly during a winter off-season when he said that he was not taking steroids and the government said that he was. But regardless of his arm measurements and muscles and the size of his feet, we now come to Kimberly Bell, whose testimony will be extraordinary.

It is an established fact that Kimberly Bell was the mistress of Barry Bonds. There seems to be no dispute on this point. On the other hand, Miss Chicka, my wife, contends that Barry Bonds had a wife as well as the gorgeous mistress. I contend that a man can have a mistress regardless of his marital status but there are those who contend that mistresses apply only when there is a marriage involved. I regard this question as being a pissant one which shall give me the license to say that these two essays are married. In any case, we know that Kimberly Bell was a long-time mistress of Barry Bonds. During that association, there must have been occasions when sexual relations took place. Now we are told that Kimberly Bell is prepared to testify in this federal trial that she is certain that Bonds took steroids because the size of his testicles shrunk. I am not an expert on these matters but I advise all of my readers to pay close attention to the reports from San Francisco having to do with Barry Bonds’s testicular size.

When Kimberly Bell testifies and states that the size of Barry Bonds’ s testicles has shrunk, the defense attorney defending Mr. Bonds should have a field day. In the first place, he will probably taunt the government for not calling Barry Bonds’s wife to testify about the size of his genital equipment. We can believe that the wife had known Barry Bonds longer than the mistress had, and thus a good comparison of before and after taking steroids would be available. But Mrs. Bonds, if there is such a person, is not on the witness list for the government.

Let’s go back to the cross examination of Kimberly Bell. It would be very interesting to know how she had determined that Mr. Bonds’s testicles had shrunk. For example, did she take measurements before and after steroid use was attributed to Mr. Bonds. The defense attorney might inquire of Miss Bell how the size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles compared to other persons, male, that she had observed. This all goes to the point of whether the witness was an expert on the size of male testicles. Then the witness might be asked to provide the jury with the current size of Mr. Bonds’s testicles. She may also be asked whether the shrunken testicles occurred quickly or whether it was a matter of gradual disappearance. But throughout his cross examination the defense attorney is always at question for failure to produce Mrs. Bonds, if there were one. It would seem to most observers that his wife would be in a better position to testify as to the size of this equipment over a long period of time than his mistress.

But the fact of the matter is that the government is going to rely upon the testimony of Kimberly Bell. Because she was merely a mistress of Barry Bonds, it may cause some on the jury to question her value as a witness. Nonetheless, I am advising my readers that they should follow the daily reports from San Francisco to see how the cross examination of Miss Bell proceeds. For all I know, we may get a high definition exhibit of Mr. Bonds’s private parts.

I would make a prejudiced juror in this case because I do not believe that Barry Bonds is entitled to be called the home run king. That title belongs to Henry Aaron, who compiled his record with the Milwaukee Braves and then the Atlanta Braves. He used no steroids. Aaron is a gentleman who was moved to congratulate, not very warmly, Bonds when Aaron’s home run mark fell to second place. Henry Aaron is a credit to the game of baseball. Barry Bonds is a predator in the records of our national pastime.

Well, there you have my thoughts on pissants and politicians such as the governors in the Midwestern states and Maine, as well as my thoughts on the testimony of Kimberly Bell. I regret that I did not become a lawyer. It might have offered me the opportunity to cross examine Kimberly Bell. I would suspect that the lawyer who does the cross examination will remember it for the rest of his life and use it in after-dinner speeches for many years to come. But more than anything else, my notepad is empty and my brain has been relieved of carrying these two potential essays around. That in and of itself makes writing these two essays more than worthwhile. To think that I have informed my readers about pissants and Kimberly Bell’s testimony fills me with joy unending.

March 27, 2011


This one has a sister essay from about a month later that’s also worth a read.

An interesting fact about pissants (which are just wood ants) is that they get their name from their smell; their nests smell like urine, due to the construction material and the formic acid that the ants produce. Incidentally, the resemblance to these ants was what inspired the name of the “Formics,” which are the evil aliens in everyone’s favorite Mormon Sci Fi book, Ender’s Game. (Turns out that ol’ Orson Scott Card is a direct descendant of Brigham Young himself, who knew?). Anyway that series is pretty terrible but it does involve a space war against what I’m now realizing is a race of scientifically advanced pissants, which adds a fun spin to the series.

I regretfully have nothing to contribute regarding the size of Bonds’s testicles, but I think it’s pretty screwed up that he’s allowed to keep the home run record.


In previous essays I have always credited Sven Lernevall of Stockholm with the observation that the English language is a rich language. Sven’s native tongue is Swedish and he has mastered the English language gracefully. When I comment on the mother tongue, it seems to me that the comments tend to be endless. I suspect that this is a function of Sven Lernevall’s rules that the English language is a rich one and there are additions almost daily.

You may recall an essay which was done recently which commented upon the prevalence of the word “right” in our discourse. There is a right way to do things, and the thing to be tended to is “right in front of you.” In that essay, it appears that some comments on “right” were left uncultivated. And so let us take a look at them.

Recently I visited a physician in New Jersey whose residence is in New York. As a means of passing time, I asked him, “Do you still live in New York?” I expected to be told that New York was his home and would be the home of his children. I was flabbergasted to find that the physician told me that recently he had abandoned New York City and moved to a residence in one of the less populated areas of New Jersey.

Apparently after Thanksgiving, the physician and his wife had notions of moving to New Jersey to be closer to his work in Berkeley Heights. With that thought in mind, the two of them decided to take a look at an open house which had been carried by the builder for more than two years. Now if that house had been offered to me, I would have had some questions. The first question would have to do with the location of the house. The second would have to do with its design. In any event, the builder persuaded the physician to buy this house. The physician told my wife and me that the builder made “the price right.” So “the price is right” is another entry into the long series of stories about the “rightness” or the “righteousness” of the English language.

Now, leaving the builder and the physician on the right issue, we are confronted with the subject of human rights, which should not detract from our appreciation of animal rights. In this debate, it is clear that the rights will always prevail.

Now to demonstrate my impartiality, I have searched in my lexicon for something to balance the “rightness” of our language. Two entries popped into mind. When something is not fully consumed but is so good that it is saved for the next meal, we call it leftovers, not rightovers. Sometimes the leftovers taste better the second time around than on the first time. Then of course, it is common to hear someone say, “I left my wallet behind” as distinguished from “I right my wallet behind.” But on balance, the rightness of our language is overwhelming as opposed to the leftness.

I suppose that the rightness and leftness of things constitutes some sort of neologism. But for the time being, I think it is appropriate to put the issue of rightness right there for review at a later date.

Now we come to four phrases, having nothing to do with rightness, that have enriched the English language. All four come from the pen of the Australian composer Eric Bogle. Bogle is now an Australian but he was born in Peebles, Scotland. Bogle is the composer of the well known anti-war songs “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” and “No Man’s Land,” also known as “Private Willie McBride.”

The first lines are from “The Promise,” a song composed by Bogle to comfort the widow of a fellow song writer. In that song, there is a haunting refrain. It says:

“I can’t foretell the future,
The wheres, the whens, the whys.”

I have been a long-time observer of music and the English language, and I have never before seen this construction having to do with the wheres, the whens, the whys. That is a masterly composition which does great favor to the English language.
The second phrasing does not have to do with the love of two human beings, but rather it has to do with Bogle coming to the conclusion that he now felt more at home in Australia than he did in his native Scotland. The lines are from the song “Green and Gold.” They are:

“I wandered half the world over,
left no wild oats unsown.”

The line about leaving no wild oats unsown seems to me to deserve a Nobel Prize.

The third reference to a song by Eric Bogle comes from “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda.” On this occasion in 1915, the Australians were sent into a battle at Suvla Bay where disaster against the defending Turks awaited them. There is a line to the effect that:

“And those that were left, well we tried to survive,
In that mad world of blood death and fire
And for ten weary weeks I kept my self alive,
Though around me the corpses piled higher.

Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse overhead,
And when I awoke in me hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead.
Never knew there was worse things than dyin’.

This is a powerful indictment of careless wars such as our invasion of Iraq. I hope that every prospective soldier will listen to the line from Eric Bogle. In this case, the Turkish shell had caused the loss of both legs to the Australian soldier. “Never knew there was worse things than dyin’.” These are sobering thoughts to every prospective soldier.

Finally, the last Boglism is contributed by his mother Nancy. When Bogle was a youngster, he may have expressed the wish that weekends could come sooner, so that he could avoid attending school. Nancy Bogle responded to these sorts of wishes with the comment, “If wishes were fishes, we would all cast nets in the sea.” Eric, her son, fashioned a lovely song with the title, “If Wishes Were Fishes.” There is a lot of truth in the thought that if wishes were fishes, we would all cast nets in the sea.

There you have my thoughts on this cold Sunday afternoon as February draws to a close. Yesterday I heard my first radio broadcast of an exhibition baseball game being played between the New York Mets and Atlanta. That means that spring is not far away. Once it arrives, I will be emboldened to search out more richness for our mother tongue.

February 27, 2011


Bogle probably takes a close second to Mencken in the contest for Pop’s most-admired content producer. Currently he features in 10 essays, compared to Mencken’s 19.

I appreciate the attempt to balance leftness against rightness. He’s correct in that left words make up a pretty short list. “Leftenant” and “left out” are pretty much the only additions that come to mind that are not explicitly concerned with the leftward direction.


For better or worse, I was born in this country and so my mother tongue is the language of the Anglo-Saxons. Those of us who speak the English language are quite fortunate in that the language of the Anglo-Saxons has now become the lingua franca of the world. Perhaps one of the reasons for the English language to maintain such a paramount position has to do with the fact that it is a rich language that seems to welcome additions to its vocabulary.

From time to time in these essays, I have commented on the additions to the language and such will be the case in the following essay. I want to make it clear that some of the additions to the language are nothing less than atrocious and bastardizations. I will leave it to my readers to distinguish between those that they will welcome into the language and those that they wish to reject. This essay will be devoted to several newcomers to the Mother Tongue.

So let us start with some of the new words that we find in newscasts and often in print. The first word or phrase is “looking forward” or “moving forward.” “Looking forward” is a term dear to the heart of nearly every politician that I have heard in the past six or eight months. There is no such thing as “looking backwards.” We should all go forward by looking forward. The former press secretary to Barack Obama, Robert Gibbs, is a major offender when it comes to the phrase “looking forward.” So, as a progressive, I have no choice but to look forward hourly and when tomorrow comes, I will still be in a position to look forward again.

The second word which has beleaguered the English language is “transparent or transparencies.” This is nothing more than an attempt by politicians to say that they are being honest with us. As we all know, politicians are not all that honest even though they contend that their propositions are fully transparent. Perhaps we should say that we are looking forward to an honest politician who does not need to tell us that his proposals are always transparent.

Now we come to an entirely new phrase that has me largely baffled. The term is “skin in the game.” I assume that it means that there is some risk involved as in the case of a wager at the race track or participation in an election. The term seems to suggest that only those who are involved and taking a risk may be heard from. Perhaps this is a restricted construction about skin in the game but, as I said, it leaves me largely baffled. I see no future for skin in the game and hope that it dies a peaceful death soon because it is a bastardization of the language.

The next term makes a lot more sense. That term is “optics.” When Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy, fools around with teen-age show girls, the “optics” to most Italians and the rest of the world are atrocious. But Berlusconi will not take my advice. The show girls that he toys with are not only in their teens, but may well be simply prostitutes. Berlusconi should resign the Premiership and join the Assumption Abbey Monastery in Ava, Missouri, a group that observes silence and makes the best fruitcakes known to man or beast.

Now we come to what I consider a bastardly phrasing in the English language. It has to do with the term “referencing.” When someone sticks a gun in my ribs and robs me, I refer it to the police. I don’t “reference” the police department. Why this term has gained popularity, particularly in the circles around Hillary Clinton, is a mystery to me. For all these years, we have gotten along with “refer to” as opposed to being “referenced.” So I say that we should reject this term before it goes further.

There is also the matter of “partnering” which Mrs. Clinton and others seem to favor. Partnering is an obvious term but I do not see that it improves upon someone saying this fellow over here is my partner as opposed to saying that we are partnering. I think this comes close to being a bastardization of the Mother Tongue.

Another new term we hear almost constantly is the term “focus like a laser.” Politicians love to “focus like a laser” but that term does not endear me to such a politician. Focusing like a laser is the careless man’s way of saying that he will pay attention to the details of the proposition to be considered. This is another bastardization.

And that brings us to a term that is baffling to me called “one off.” It was used the other night during the State of the Union address when politicians of different parties sat next to each other. The question is, “Is this a one-off arrangement or will we go back to the seating arrangement that was seen in previous years?” I see no future for the term “one off.” I believe it should go by the boards along with “skin in the game.”

Here is another Hillaryism. Mrs. Clinton is an avid devotee of the term “tasked.” It means that you assigned responsibility. Being tasked is popular in political circles in our nation’s capital. But that word is sort of an abortion in our language.

Now we come to the term “incentivizing.” I had two friends from the Australian Telecommunications Authority who appointed the three of us to oversee new words for the English language. One was Randolph Payne, and the other was John Hampton. Randy is deceased now and John has retired and seems to have left no forwarding address. Randy and John and your old friend Ezra would consider “incentivizing” as thorough and complete bastardizations of the Mother Tongue. It should not be repeated within my range of hearing.

Next is the term “doubling down.” I had always assumed that the term came from the race tracks. If a man lost his wager on the first race, he would double the bet on the second race to make up for his loss. But now we find that doubling down has to do with such things as Obama’s sending more troops to Afghanistan. According to observers, which do not include me, Obama is doubling down on the war in Afghanistan. I believe this to be an atrocious construction.

Now we come to the term, “under the bus.” It has to do with abandoning friends of long standing. For example, when we abandoned our support for Hosni Mubarak, commentators would say that the U.S. has thrown Mubarak “under the bus.” I believe that this construction has the ability to stand the test of time.

There is a television program which states that, as the program nears its end, we are “approaching the shallow end.” I assume that this comes from swimming and pools where there is a deep end and on the other end of the pool is the “shallow end.” As in the case of throwing someone under the bus, this construction has a happy future.

Finally we come to the term “getting under the hood.” It has to do, for example, with the Federal budget which appears at this time of year. Getting into the details or under the hood of the budgetary details might also be called “getting into the weeds.” It strikes me that, once again, as in the case of putting someone under the bus, this construction may be with us for awhile.

There you have more than a dozen new constructions of the Mother Tongue. Some are laudable, some are middle of the road-ish, and some are plain bastardizations of the language. I said earlier that I would leave it to my readers to accept or reject those terms, but I believe my prejudices are clear for all to see. If someone were to use the phrase “skin in the game” or “tasked” in a conversation with me, I would call for the cops.

January 30, 2011


I notice that the two car-related sayings make it through without issue — I’m gonna say that’s filling station bias, right there.
On a somewhat unrelated note, a friend of mine has made a whole career out of focusing lasers. Many lasers, it turns out, have massive focus issues, which probably isn’t what that phrase is going for.


I don’t watch much television these days, being confined to the dialogue. But in noodling around the television, I ran into a program featuring an interview involving two homosexual men. From what I could gather, the two men have been together for more than 20 years and a crisis has now arisen. It seems that one of them has contracted AIDS and that the other one is subject to deportation by the Immigration authorities and seems likely to be deported.

While I grieve for the person who has the problem of AIDS and who has the problem of deportation, my interest went to another factor. Apparently they have become married out of love for each other. This is a development that I support. Straight people can marry; why should not there be a provision for marriage between homosexuals? During the interview, there were constant references to the other partner as being called “my husband.” This was a bit jarring to me, that each of them referred to the other partner as “my husband.”

Perhaps I have been influenced by those right-wingers who contend that marriage should be between one man and one woman. But the constant references to “my husband” were a bit jarring to me.

In a marriage between two heterosexuals, generally speaking the wife does the cooking, supports her husband, and provides him with sexual relief. In this long-standing homosexual arrangement, apparently there is no wife at all. I am quite certain, or it is my belief, that one or the other of the homosexual males provides those services to the other. As for the references, I suspect that I have been taken in or influenced by the right-wingers who contend that a marriage is between one man and one woman.

The references to “my husband” bring to mind the slip of the tongue by Condoleezza Rice who once referred to George W. Bush as “my husband.” I am sure that Mrs. Bush would lay a prior claim to George W. Bush and that she has the wedding certificate to prove it. In the long term, I support gay marriage even though I am as straight as a man can be, I believe. But my curious nature is aroused by two partners in a marriage, each one calling the other partner “my husband.” Clearly, perhaps what is needed is a new term combining the best aspects of “my wife” and/or “my husband.” If Condoleezza Rice can make a mistake by calling George Bush her husband, I see no reason why any new term applying to the homosexual community would be objectionable.

I have heard of the other partner being referred to as “my roommate” and “my partner.” These are not inspiring terms. Perhaps we should pay attention to the relationship between two lesbians as a clue as to what the other partner should be called, but at the moment, I will await to hear from my readers as to their suggestions. If a new term could be invented as a result of Ezra’s Essays, I would be more than happy to hear of it.

August 15, 2011


I don’t actually see the issue with “husband” — and I think the ‘generally speaking’ part of this essay is maybe a little dated. I guess some concessions have to me made for age, though. His heart was clearly in the right place with this one.


I have just finished dictating a small essayette on husbands in a homosexual arrangement referring to each other as my husband. From that point it is logical to proceed to the Mormon practice of polygamy. As a means of getting Utah into the United States, the Mormons were forbidden to take multiple wives in the practice of polygamy.

I have never understood the doctrine of polygamy. In the Muslim faith, I believe that each man is entitled to four wives. The issue of polygamy lives on. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he had at least two of his wives on the premises.

But in the interest of fair play, what is wrong with women having multiple husbands? Man has practiced polygamy for years, but, again, in the interest of fair play, one should believe that religion or some custom should dictate multiple husbands for each woman.

This is a suggestion which I believe will not be taken seriously by the powers that be, but I think it has a great deal of merit. I do not buy the argument on the right wing that marriage is between one man and one woman. We can accept the practice of homosexual relationships. What would be wrong with a woman having multiple husbands? I am not interested in a confrontation over this point but it seems to me that in the interest of fair play, females have a right to contend that they are being unfairly treated. For myself, I have one wife and she has one husband. It suits both of us pretty good. I believe that the idea of multiple husbands is a thought that is worthy of consideration. Significantly, I do not believe that any religious organization would take up the cause. Apparently, the idea that multiple wives or polygamy is practiced may draw some shame from the religious authorities. But in any case, the final analysis seems to be that one wife and one husband is the ideal arrangement. That is all well and good, but even here, my vocabulary is so limited that I would not be able to find a term for multiple husbands. And so I leave you there on this essayette, pondering whether the idea of multiple husbands is worthwhile.

August 15, 2011


Very egalitarian, per usual.

Worth noting: this essayette was not completely finalized, and I think that deserves a disclaimer. Pop may not have been happy with me for publishing something that wasn’t completely up to his standards, but I think it was worth putting on the site regardless, because the message is good. There are a lot of double standards out there, and the very fact that the word “polyamory” (just meaning ‘many loves’) generally will first bring to mind a one-man-multiple-women scenario means that it’s worth questioning this sort of thing.

Here’s the unfinished section in particular; I redacted the second sentence. If anyone can guess what he meant and could fill in the word in question, that’d be very appreciated!
I have never understood the doctrine of polygamy. I am certain that capsites (?) meaning multiple wives are legion. In the Muslim faith, I believe that each man is entitled to four wives. The issue of polygamy lives on. When Osama bin Laden was killed, he had at least two of his wives on the premises.




I know a man who speaks lovingly, respectfully, and admiringly about his own mother-in-law. Can you imagine that? His mother-in-law furnished the title for this essay. This woman was born in 1878 in the Sudetenland. There is considerable mystery about whether in 1878 the Sudetenland belonged to the German Confederation, Austria or was in the territory claimed by the Czechs. But that is beside the point. No matter how you cut it, Frau Fischer always considered herself to be a Czech, as did her family and her countrymen. At this late date, this essayist can only say to Frau Fischer, “How to go, Herta.”

We were honored to have Frau Fischer with us during her life, which extended until she was 87 years of age.

I came into the knowledge of the maxim that “old age is a disease” through a roundabout way. Frau Doktor Fischer, who had escaped from Czechoslovakia, had a daughter named Hana. During the Second World War in England, Hana married a friend of mine whom I did not know at the time. As it turns out, Hana married a preacher’s son from the great and luscious state of Missouri. Her husband managed to escape the confines of the “show me state” by joining the Eighth United States Army Air Force which took up residence in England for nearly all of the Second World War. After the war, Hana and her husband eventually wound up in New York City. Her husband is, of course, my old friend of more than 40 years named Howard Davis.

On several occasions, Howard has repeated to me the maxim that “old age is a disease” but he always attributes it to his mother-in-law. Not many men speak so respectfully and lovingly about their own mothers-in-law. But that is Howard’s style which may stem from his growing up in the sacred soil of eastern Missouri towns such as Defiance and Cape Girardeau.

Frau Doktor Fischer’s husband was a physician with offices in Olmütz, Czechoslovakia. Under the German formal system of language, the wife acquires her husband’s occupation upon marriage. Thus the proper form of address is Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer. The translation of Knopfmacher into English is button maker. The Knopfmacher-Fischer household was Jewish and when the Second World War was taking place, it developed that the Sudetenland and Czechoslovakia were no places for Jewish people to reside.

Fortunately Herta escaped with her daughter, son and at least one other sibling to the safety of England. Before the end of her life, she came to live in Philadelphia. She visited New York often, where she spent much of her time with Howard Davis and his wife, Hana Fischer Davis.

It was during these years that the maxim of “old age is a disease” was passed on to her son-in-law, an advertising executive with the N.W. Ayer organization in New York. My brain received the information about the maxim in the late 1970s. I’m sorry that it took so long for me to learn of what is in store for all of us as we go around the bend.

Before going further, I should point out that when Frau Doktor Fischer came to England, the Holocaust was taking place and her husband, Herr Doktor Fischer, the physician, tragically disappeared into it. This was the fate of many Jewish people who simply wanted to reside peacefully. But Adolf Hitler had other intentions.

This morning, I arose at 7 o’clock in order to keep an appointment with an orthopedic physician and surgeon. There had been pain for several weeks or months in my leg and shoulders. The physician, Michael Mirsky, who is of Russian or Polish ancestry, examined the X-rays and pronounced that I had “a bad case of arthritis.” My extensive research discloses that there is no such thing as a good case of arthritis. This diagnosis was not a major discovery in that from time to time over the past many years, arthritis has painfully descended upon my bone structure. It is not a welcome visitor but in time and with exercise, it has always seemed to pass.

The cold weather that we are now experiencing in New Jersey seems to prolong the effects of arthritis. But I trust that in time it will diminish or, if I am lucky, go away. Clearly, the problem is that I have lived so long that the maxim that “old age is a disease” has long since applied to me.

I am far from being alone as a sufferer of old age. The physician that I visited this morning has a full schedule of people suffering from arthritis and more serious diseases. But it is clear that old age produces all kinds of ailments.

I thought that it was important in this essay to point out that Howard Davis’s mother-in-law had it exactly right: old age is a disease. If there is any doubt on this subject, I would produce the testimony of Gregorio Russo who works in the produce department of the local Whole Foods Market. Gregorio Russo’s parents lived in a town south of Naples, Italy. His father, who was a bit of a philosopher, told Gregorio, who is now in his 60s, that as he made his way in life, he should avoid growing old. If he were to avoid growing old, there would be no great need for the doctrine that old age is a disease. But the alternative to growing old is not necessarily an attractive one.

Frau Doktor Herta Knopfmacher Fischer has contributed a major maxim to those of us who are involved with gerontology. And so it is that I am able to accept the problems of arthritis philosophically. It gives me great comfort to know that Frau Doktor Fischer has identified the source of my displeasure. On the other hand, I am comforted by the thought that she lived a long life and was able to receive such admiration on the part of her son-in-law. My only regret is that I did not know her because I would have been a Herta disciple much earlier in life.

January 29, 2011


I hope that most people get along with their Mothers in Law; I always figured that the alternative was more of a trope played up by the media than an actual phenomenon. That aside, Doctor Buttonmaker lived a full an interesting life; it’s a shame she doesn’t feature in more essays. Howard Davis certainly does, though! He’s in at least 34, at the current count.


My linguistic skills are limited. I speak the mother tongue of English in a generally acceptable form. I used to mutter a few words in Italian and some in German. A lack of use has tended to cause those skills to diminish. And then there are two derivatives of the English language which are worthy of note here. The first is “country speak” which is the language used by my parents and their rural counterparts. Secondly there is another language called “Washington speak.” As a general principle, I understand country speech and Washington speech perfectly. But I refuse to use them for speaking purposes. However, in the current case, there is a phrase in Washington speech which is worthy of our attention. That phrase is “the new normals.” Obviously the new normals are used to distinguish them from the old normals. A few examples come to mind immediately.

Formerly the countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Libya were run by dictators. They offered us no great trouble. So it’s fair to say that they were the old normal view. Now that the dictator of Egypt is banished to live in a palace in the south of Egypt and now that Colonel Gaddafi appears to be headed for the ropes, we have a new normal. Throughout the Middle East, there are other examples of the old and the new normals.

It used to be at this time of year that the New York Mets, a baseball team, would be in search of the free agent market while offering astronomical sums to corral a star performer. Ahhh, but that was old normal. Since the owners of the New York Mets were subject to the magical wonders of the Bernie Madoff scheme, the owners, Mr. Wilpon and Mr. Katz, are out of money and are looking for somebody to buy their ball club. So the new normal is that the New York Mets will go in to the season with a tattered lineup and will hope to make it through September, when some new finances may occur. To put it succinctly, the old normal for the New York Mets was that they were the new kid in town trying to challenge the New York Yankees. But since Bernie Madoff has performed his miracle, the new normal for the New York Mets is that they hope to avoid a last-place finish.

A final example of the old and the new normals has to do with the US House of Representatives. The old normal was that the House was under Democratic control with Mrs. Pelosi being in charge. Since the elections of last fall when 57 new right-wing representatives were elected, the House has changed its speakers and the new normal for the Obama administration has been to get used to the change in ownership.

I hope at this juncture it is clear what I mean by the examples of the old normal and the new normal. I am fond of the new age in Washington speak because it is easily transferrable from the world of politics to the human condition. For example, during the days of our youth, we were not only carefree but pain free. The joints in our bodies were basically pain free and we thought that illness was never going to be our lot in life. That was the old normal. The new normal for older people is the scourge of arthritis and forgetfulness and a string of other failures that are now normal and plague the human condition. The carefree days of the rule of the old normal have been replaced by such things as ingrown toenails, loss of hearing, and diminished eyesight. This is the state of the new normal. Under the old normal, I used to mow our half acre of grass with a 22-inch lawnmower and think nothing of it. In the new normal for the past six years or so, I have asked a contractor to take care of the grass growth.

Under the old normal, I used to be amused by patients keeping track of their doctors’ appointments. That was the old normal. Under the new normal, I’ve got so many doctors’ appointments that it is quite confusing. So you see the new normal has universal appeal that will apply to virtually everything.

The new normal of Washington speak is also appropriate for the end of life. Fortunately, the new normal at the end of life also includes walkers, wheelchairs, and help to climb into bed. I do not mean to end this essay on a downer, but the facts are the facts. With that, it seems to me that life at its end results in more new normals than one new normal being replaced by a diminished other new normal. We can’t all be like my 55-year-old neighbor who was going full speed until he dropped dead. This fellow missed the new normals that go with the end-of-life process. But in any case, according to the hand that we are dealt, we see the end of life as one of diminishing prospects that we are obliged to accommodate. Rather than bemoaning our diminished lot in life, we should all rejoice because we have politicians in our capital city that have finally done something worth while. So let me say hallelujah while we rejoice in ecstasy.

March 11, 2011


Pop had such a funny way of ending his essays. It’s so often punchy, or humorous, or sarcastic, or powerful — I’d say that a strong closing statement is one of the hallmarks of a great Pop essay. I just picked out a random recent one and found this: “I suspect that when history is written, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney will be remembered for having taught us to hate. What a terrible epitaph.”


Over the recent Christmas holidays, my daughter and her legally-wedded husband went to a movie which must have had to do with George VI of England who stuttered. Apparently my daughter was impressed by the film, which my mother would have called a “picture show.” Eva Baker and Frances Licht, who are associated with these essays, also saw the movie and were favorably impressed by it.

My mother’s belief has always been that picture shows are the consummate work of the devil, which accounts for the fact that I did not see a picture show until I was 13 years of age. At that point, “The Sign of the Cross” was being shown at the Shady Oak Theater in Clayton, Missouri. I persuaded my mother to permit me to see that show on the ground that it contained religious content. It was an atrocious film and for the rest of my life I have avoided movie theaters. Nonetheless, my daughter and her husband thought that the film about George VI was impressive and for that reason Suzanne, the daughter, made a request of me. Rather than interpreting her thoughts I simply offer her email for your consideration.

Suzanne’s email request for an essay January, 2011.

Pop and Judy –
Yesterday Carl and I went to see a movie. We rarely do this, but it was a holiday, so we did. We went to see “The King’s Speech” which is about the stuttering problem that King George VI had and his relationship with an unorthodox speech therapist. The relationship had to be kept hidden at first. It was actually well done as a movie.
What struck me about the movie that I thought would be of interest to Pop was the depiction of the importance of radio in the lead-up to WWII (George VI had to make speeches to rally England, of course, so being a “stammerer” was quite a problem), and the introduction of news reels in the late 30’s. In the movie, everyone in England was basically glued to their radio as George VI announced the declaration of war on Hitler, as Hitler refused to relinquish Poland.

I said to Carl on the way home that it was sad that in less than a century we’ve gone from radio/newsreel/TV broadcasts of major events that the whole country collectively sees and experiences together — to today, when the news is splintered into internet and cable TV news and everybody gets their news their own way at the time they choose. That led us to speculate about the news reels that were shown in theatres. Did everybody see them in the late 30’s? Once a news reel of Hitler came out as he invaded one country and then another, would most everybody be in a movie theatre in the next week or so to see it, or would just a few people in the US see it?

Pop, how about an essay about living in the US and the run-up to WWII – news reels, what you remember about it, what was the prevailing opinion in Missouri about what was happening in Europe and how did people get their news.

That is my request for 2011.


As a preliminary to my response to my daughter’s request, there are some points that need to be made. If there is any one else in this world who is less of an authority on movies and pictures shows, I would like to meet him. I believe that I own that title exclusively.

A second point that must be made at the outset is that the generation to which my daughter belongs is unacquainted with the thought that there was a time in this country when there was no television at all. None! Furthermore, there were no computers and ipso facto there was no such thing as email and internet. None! This may be hard to choke down, but as we used to say in the Army, “Them are the facts.” No television, no computers, no email, no internet.

Our means of communication were local radio, national radio, newspapers, and news magazines and the local and long distance telephone system. There was no such thing as saying, “I saw it on television last night.” Charles Osgood appears on a CBS television program on Sunday mornings and always uses his long term radio sign-off, “I’ll see you on the radio.” But Osgood was not around in the pre-war period that we are talking about. And so, let us proceed to parse Suzanne’s email with the hope that in the end it will make a bit of an essay.

At the outset, there seems to be a misconception that newsreels were a major source of information for the American public. While I was not a theater goer, I believe that is hardly the case. If I understand the concept of newsreels, they are short features of news reports shown between films. It must be remembered that in the pre-war period, those newsreels had to be shot by hand, developed, and then distributed. My guess is that the newsreels that you might have seen at your local theater reported events of perhaps two weeks prior. Also, it is my belief that newsreels had to show such things as successful bombings and the stance of our troops in victorious poses.

May I suggest that nowhere was the Bataan death march or any similar event shown on a newsreel. That would have been a downer and I suspect that downers were not the subject of newsreels. My belief is that newsreels were designed to give the audience a pumped-up feeling that everything was right in this world. For the first two years of World War II, there were very few things American audiences could feel encouraged about.

So the net result is that newsreels had their place in the theater between the major attractions as a source of information. They were not intended as a major source of news. I would have considered them unreliable and late in arrival.

Our main source of information came from the radio and from newspapers. Curiously, the news on the radio was usually confined to a fifteen-minute segment which had few commercials in it. What we got was 14½ minutes of news rather than the current situation where we cannot tell what is news and what is advertising. The news, in my recollection, came on at 6:00PM. It was often followed by orchestras such as Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.

There was no such thing as “all the news all the time” stations. We had entertainment and at 6 PM or thereabouts we had the news for 15 minutes. It is possible that there was national news on for 15 minutes followed by local news resulting in a half-hour news broadcast. But of that I am not quite so sure. The reader here must remember that in those days of 1942 until August of 1945, I was not a resident of this country. By enlisting in the United States Army, I found myself in Africa, Sicily, and Italy.

It was the custom of the broadcasting companies in this county to station correspondents in many of the major capitol cities where news events were to be anticipated. The foremost correspondent abroad belonged to CBS. He was Edward R. Murrow and was stationed in London throughout the war including the “blitzkriegs” of the German Luftwaffe. When correspondents could not get their reports to the United States, they would use Murrow to establish that link. Murrow was a jewel as it relates to the news during the war.

But during my overseas service, when noontime approached, we would search for a radio receiver that could pick up the news broadcast from the BBC in London. I can remember with great clarity that the programs usually started with a signal followed by an announcer saying, “London calling.” The BBC broadcast had almost no propaganda and no commercials. It told the news as it was, good or bad. As a result, the troops paid a great deal of attention to what the British Broadcasting Corporation had to say. If there are any kudos to be passed out for the run-up to the war in Europe, it must go to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Now we advance to the question asked about the prevailing opinion in the great and glorious state of Missouri. For many years, probably starting in the 1920s, a major voice in the run-up to the war were the reports in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. When I was overseas, my mother read those dispatches faithfully in the hope that she would find my name in them. But that was not the case. The Post Dispatch had bureaus in Washington and published reliable news during the period when Hitler was invading several countries and when Tojo, the head man in Japan, was doing the same in the Far East. The Post Dispatch did not hide the facts from the people. In the early part of the war, we were losing. It was after this time in early 1942 that I joined the American Army. There was no good news during those days, and I suspect that my parents may have believed that their youngest son was going away for good. But the fact is that the mainstay we were able to rely upon were the newspapers such as the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

I gather that there were other newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune run by Bertie McCormick, who published glowing reports of our successes or near successes. But that was not the style of the Post Dispatch or the New York Times. So in retrospect, I must conclude that the main source of news came from newspapers and radio.

Prior to our entry into the war, a group of senators led by Robert Taft of Ohio seemed determined to keep us from engaging in that conflict. Taft, for example, was wildly opposed to the “lend-lease” program which released destroyers from the United States to Great Britain to help in their defense. But I must conclude that the general outlook in Missouri was that there was a job to do in the war, and that we should set about doing it promptly.

On the other side of the ocean in Great Britain, the Prime Minister was a gentleman named Neville Chamberlain. Chamberlain and Taft were two of a kind. History will record that Chamberlain made a trip to Germany and came back with a document that he said would guaranteed “peace in our time.” The ink was hardly dry on that piece of paper when Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.

Finally we turn to the question about the generational divide. There is some debate as to whether we are better informed today than we were in the run-up to World War II. The recent disclosures in the private dispatches from our diplomats as demonstrated by Wikileaks would lead me to conclude that in many cases, we are being hoodwinked. But before the Second World War, most Americans could trust what appeared in reputable newspapers such as the New York Times and the St. Louis Post Dispatch and the broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow. I cannot say the same thing for the news that appeared in the Chicago Tribune.

In all likelihood, we must be better informed today than we were back then. On the other hand, if you want a biased opinion today, on the Republican side you must tune in to Fox News. If you wish to have a biased opinion in favor of Democrats, you must tune in to MSNBC.

St. Louis, which was a sophisticated town, had the Post Dispatch, as I have mentioned. We had the National Broadcasting Company appearing on the KSD station of the Post Dispatch. Then we also had the Columbia Broadcasting System outlet on station KMOX. If the American Broadcasting System (ABC) existed at that time, I am unaware of it. Mind you, I am speaking as a person who has long ago kissed the 80th birthday mark goodbye. It seems to me that between KSD, KMOX, and the Post Dispatch, we were reasonably well informed.

But if I massage this question a bit, does anyone believe that the Bataan death march would be included in the news broadcasts of the current era? And that was not the only example of thoroughly unpleasant news.

But again, I am a biased reporter. You realize that at this juncture in my life, I cannot see a damn thing. Accordingly, all of the information I receive has to come through my ears. May I assure you that the oral presentation ain’t so bad. This is precisely where I started in the years before television intruded on our lives. For a St. Louis native, that would have been around the period 1948 to 1950 when television came into being there.

With my sight being the way it is, I now receive my news orally and I am not here to complain about it. Now I do not recommend that all of you lose your sight so that you may enjoy oral presentations of baseball games and the news of the world. I am here to say that television has added a new dimension to our lives. But on the other hand we were getting along quite well without it.

In conclusion, my hope is that Suzanne’s email has been sufficiently parsed, and that you have some idea of the feelings of the American public as World War II approached.

Now as to the story about King George, I must add that the inspirational speeches were made by the Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The King often was found at flower shows and receiving Boy Scouts and wholesome things of that nature. The job of informing the British public and inspiring them was left almost exclusively to Winston Churchill. King George was regarded as a nice person but when compared to Churchill, he was clearly the second, or third or fourth banana. During that time, I was serving with British troops in Italy and Africa. I believe that I am correctly assessing their views on the Royal Family. The King’s job was to visit military hospitals and occasionally say a few words to the British public. Before and during World War II, George the Sixth was more of a bit player than a person of significant influence. And as for newsreels, my belief is that they had limited newsworthy qualities during that trying period.

Unfortunately, I dictated this essay on the same day when the killings were taking place in Tucson, Arizona. All of this accounts for my making hash of this essay. Next time, I will try to do a bit better, providing we don’t have more murders by deranged people with guns.

January 8, 2011


I don’t think this was a botched essay whatsoever. It’s interesting to encounter another medium that Pop was deliberately closed off to, though. No fiction, no movies, very little internet. Clearly his strategy worked for him, but it’s hard to imagine being isolated from so much content for no convincing reason.
I think the 24-hour news cycle probably does more harm than good. Presenting news only when newsworthy things happen, in my estimation, makes the news more reputable. As it is, it’s constantly full of meaningless fluff content, and news channels grow ever more indistinguishable from entertainment channels. Fox and CNN are the worst offenders. Fox is just a joke, whereas CNN pretends to be a news channel but is basically just theater; it hires talking heads to come say insane things, then reacts to those things.


About four miles south of this house is a major highway. It is called Highway 22. If one were to leave this house and turn left upon reaching Highway 22, it would eventually lead to the Holland Tunnel and New York City. If, on the other hand, the driver were to elect to make a right turn, he would find himself eventually in Pennsylvania and Ohio and environs further west. In recent years, a new highway has been constructed that leads to the Holland Tunnel which was supposed to relieve the high-density traffic on Highway 22. That to a large extent has been accomplished, but Highway 22 still carries a major amount of traffic and it proceeds at high speeds.

On each side of Highway 22, there are small business establishments, set back about 50 feet from the highway. Generally speaking, those business establishments have graveled driveways on which parked cars may be placed. As a general proposition, I believe it is fair to conclude that these are the places for mid-to-low-level retail commercial establishments. Along Highway 22 you will find none of the high class stores that are on Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue in New York City. Because of the speed of passing automobiles, when one wishes to enter Highway 22 from one of these business establishments, it is a matter of proceeding to 50 or 60 miles an hour in a very short period of time. Because of the graveled driveways, this results in gravel being strewn behind the departing cars.

The business establishments along Highway 22 on this stretch of New York City suburbs are not of an elite character. There are pawn shops, stores that deal in pornography, discount tire manufacturers, and stores of a similar nature. About the only saving grace is that Highway 22 is the home of one car dealership selling BMW cars. That dealership is the jewel of the Highway 22 business empire.

Now you realize that for better or worse, my eyesight is completely and irretrievably gone. Nonetheless, if I were to conclude – as I probably never will – that I needed a fire arm to protect myself and my loved ones, I would head for the business establishments along Highway 22 because that is where I am sure there are dealers who will sell guns and ammunition. Upon reaching the parking lot of such a dealer in guns and ammunition, my wife would park the car and I would alight wearing my sunglasses and using my sturdy white cane. The sunglasses and the white cane are used to announce to the world that there is a blind man in their midst. I do not do this as a means of seeking pity. Of course not. I do it as a courtesy to people who can see, so that they will know that there is a non-sighted person in their midst. If I wanted pity, I would not go to a gun dealership on Highway 22 to find it.

Once the car is parked, my wife would come to the right side and I would extend the walking cane into the walking position. We would then enter the place that sold ammunition and guns. When we reached the inside of the gun dealership, we would attempt to find a clerk to help us.

Now as a general proposition, very often the clerks ignore me and speak to my wife as though I did not exist. The clerk, seeing the sunglasses and the white cane, might very well say to my wife, “Is this man mentally sane?”

Inevitably my wife would say to the man, “Talk to him. He can talk.” And so it would be that the clerk would ask me if I had ever been committed to a mental institution. I would tell him that of course that had not been part of my background. I would assure the clerk that I am not insane and that insanity is not a characteristic of the Carr family.

Then I would ask the clerk for a Glock automatic handgun and an extended ammunition clip of bullets to go with it. If I understand correctly, the Glock has ten bullets in the chamber plus one in the firing position. But the extended ammunition clip provides 20 or 30 more bullets to shoot. Now that we have established that I am not a recent graduate of a mental institution, the clerk and I might make a bit of small talk. He might ask me what use I intend to make of the Glock handgun. I would tell him that I intended to protect my wife and myself and more often than not would shoot at cans in the back yard for target practice. Now mind you, if I understand the law correctly, and I believe I do, that is the only question the gun dealership clerks can ask before selling a weapon and ammunition to customers. Whether the clerk believes that I can hit a can for target shooting is beside the point. I contend that I am not insane and the clerk is obliged to sell the gun as well as the extended ammunition clip to me.

That is the state of the record in every state in this great and glorious union. In the state of Virginia, which is not far from here, I conclude that people who sell guns with ammunition are not even obliged to ask the questions about insanity.

Obviously what precedes the subject of this essay is the ease with which Americans are able to buy guns. Some of those Americans are mentally incompetent. But that is not the concern of people who make ammunition and guns. Their intent is to sell as many guns as possible, even to the drug cartels in Mexico, because it looks a lot better on their bottom line.

As you are aware, last Saturday, January 8, there was a shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Six people were killed and a number of others were gravely wounded. Among those killed was a nine-year-old girl named Christina Taylor Green as well as a federal judge. Among those wounded was an Arizona Congresswoman named Gabrielle Giffords. But this mentally unbalanced gunman was shooting without rhyme or reason and if he hit a nine-year-old girl or a 70-year-old jurist, so be it.

On Wednesday, January 12, the President of the United States, Barack Obama, went to Tucson to participate in a memorial service for those who were slain and those who were injured. Mr. Obama made a speech that was well received by observers covering the entire political spectrum. I listened to that speech and came away wondering why Obama did not mention the thought that an insane man or a mentally imbalanced person could buy a gun with an extended ammunition clip. As I have said, his speech was well received by all factions in the political spectrum but not so much by this old soldier.

The obvious fact is that a gunman used a Glock semi-automatic weapon to shoot his victims. But there was not a single mention of taking those guns away from the mentally incompetent, even from cowboys who love to “pack heat.” There is a very good reason why Obama left this out of his speech. He knows, as do most all other politicians, that to criticize gun ownership is to criticize the National Rifle Association. If such criticism occurs, the NRA strikes back and uses its enormous resources to defeat any such politician who has the intent to step out of line. Let me state this a little more clearly. The NRA is, in my estimation, a sinister force. According to the NRA, citizens may carry fire arms concealed or in the open. If the NRA had its way, every citizen of this country and perhaps the non-citizens as well would be armed. Any move by a politician to impose sensible limits on the use of guns arouses antagonism from the NRA. They will convert that antagonism into votes at the next election. To criticize the NRA is to jeopardize the source of your income.

Look at it this way. The past few years that the gun restrictions have been largely removed from legislation, there have been dozens of incidents in which people who are unbalanced mentally or who have a political agenda such as those who advocate jihadist thoughts, have committed mass killings. Here is a very very partial list.

You may remember Major Akbar at Fort Wood, Texas in 2005 who was blamed for the deaths of 13 killed and 31 wounded. In 2005 at a church service in Field, Wisconsin seven people were killed by a gunman. In Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania on October 2, 2006 a truck driver killed five school girls execution style in an Amish community. There were also six wounded in that attack. In Blacksburg, Virginia in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, there was a gunman who shot 47 people, killing 32. In Omaha, Nebraska in December 2007, there was a gunman who killed nine people and injured five during an attack at a shopping center in the mall.

This is only a tiny slice of the killings that have taken place in this country in recent years. Yet no politician known to me is willing to take on the NRA. This is left to a widow from Long Island named Carolyn McCarthy. Her husband was killed on the Long Island Railroad and her son was gravely wounded by an attack about ten years ago. Mrs. McCarthy has now become a Representative in Congress and has a bill that would make some very minor improvements in restricting the sale of extended ammunition clips. Peter King, a Representative also from Long Island, has proposed a bill barring the use of firearms within 1,000 feet of a federal official. As of this writing, the NRA had no comment. But when there is an election to be held, you may be sure that the NRA uses political muscle to defeat any politician who opposes its agenda.

And so it is that I mourn for the victims of the shootings in Tucson. But I must conclude that that is only the latest tragedy that we must deal with. We look at the killings in the United States and wonder what has happened to this democracy. And I too wonder. As a former soldier, I know a little bit about guns. I never owned one before I joined the army and I have never owned a firearm of any sort since leaving the army 65 years ago. There are those such as former Vice President Cheney and the Supreme Court Justice Scalia who consider it sport to murder an innocent bird. In this category, I have always been guided by the admonition of my father. When I was five or six years old, he told me that he would never kill a bird because “He loves his life as much as you love yours.”

Ah, but it will keep happening until a politician has the spine to oppose the NRA. Unfortunately the memorial speech at Tucson the other night by the President of the United States made no mention of the gun that killed Christina Taylor Green. We all knew that it was a gun that killed her but that was not mentioned in the tributes to the dead and injured. And so I conclude with four lines from the Australian composer Eric Bogel who wrote the anti-war song known as “The Green Fields of France.” It is also known as “No Man’s Land” and more popularly is called “Private Willie McBride.” Unfortunately these four lines summarize my view at this time.

Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame,
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain.
For Willie McBride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.

I suppose that I could play the recording of the song about Willie McBride to the fellow who wants to sell me a gun down on Highway 22. But I suspect that all he wants to do is ring up a sale in his cash register and not worry about what a blind person is going to do with the Glock semi-automatic that he sold me. And that, my friends, is the state of the record in this gorgeous country. Until we deal with the NRA, we will continue to find that the killings will go on, “Again and again, and again and again.”

January 15, 2011


Yeah, pretty much. I could date this essay as 2017 and freshen up the list of recent horrific shootings and nobody would be the wiser. Nothing meaningful has changed. Other first world countries do not struggle nearly so much with this.


It must be that springtime brings blossoms and the discovery of five horrid men. Why this is so is beyond me, but the facts are the facts.

First on the bad fellows list is Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was formerly the head of the IMF. He earned a superior salary of $450,000 a year with no income tax being attached to it. His treatment of a maid in a hotel I hope is well-known to everyone. He is the first of the horrid fellows that come to mind.

The second one is a fellow named Giovanni Ramirez who is a fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Because another fellow attending the opening day game in Los Angeles wore a San Francisco Giant tee shirt, Ramirez thought it was appropriate to attempt to beat him to death. Opening day was March 31 and the San Francisco fan, Bryan Stow, is still in a coma. I hope that the authorities find a place for Strauss-Kahn and Ramirez somewhere in the deep jungle of our penitentiary system.

The third fellow who is in our hall of infamy is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California. I am sure you have read that Schwarzenegger was the father of a child who was born to his housekeeper. For a bit more than twenty years, this woman tended to the needs of Schwarzenegger’s wife and family. When his wife found out about the affair, she moved out and took the children with her. Schwarzenegger’s time of trial has just started.

Then there is John Ensign, the former Senator from Nevada. He was engaged in a long-term relationship with the wife of his Chief of Staff. The wife claims that he forced his way into the relationship contending that if she did not agree, he would terminate the employment of her husband. How sordid.

I find that Ensign’s conduct was reprehensible in the extreme. He took advantage of his position. My guess is that the wife of his former Chief of Staff is speaking the truth when she said he forced his way into their marriage.

The last horrid person is John Edwards, the former vice-presidential candidate. He is accused of taking about a million dollars to cover up the affair he was having with a woman who was supposed to take his picture, then followed him from town to town in his presidential aspirations. This woman had a child by Edwards.

In the final analysis, it is the children who are being hurt. There is the Schwarzenegger case and the unfortunate episode involving John Edwards, the former Senator who was running for President.

The springtime of the year 2011 has brought us these five characters. I hope the courts will not show much mercy to Ramirez, who beat the San Francisco Giants fan into a coma. I have no respect at all for Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

I understand human failings, but in my estimation these five fellows went too far. They are beastly fellows and qualify for the title of this essay which is about five horrid men.

The case of Anthony Weiner, the Congressman from New York, who used his twitter account for unusual exchanges, looms potentially as a sixth horrid man. I suspect that when all is known, it may be that the five will have a sixth companion. We will have to see about that.

May 30, 2011


Ramirez turned out to be innocent — they had the wrong guy. Weiner though, man oh man. Maybe the craziest story of the lot; you should watch the documentary if you haven’t yet.

If I had to do a retrospective scumbag power ranking here:
1) Strauss-Kahn
2) Edwards
3) The dudes who weren’t Ramirez
4) Weiner
5) Ensign
6) Arnold