Friday, April 02, 2010

Everybody, Sing! (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 56)

It's pleasant to get up early on a Saturday morning, sitting in the early morning sunrise with music quietly playing, the whole house to myself, just drinking coffee, and thinking... and googling images of Sweetie's latest Hunk of the Week:

Mike Vogel

You Don't Know Him Without You Have
seen She's Out Of My League, a movie which for some reason I remember as "She's Out Of His League." Lately, my memory has been getting more and more like my dad's memory, which is to say it's not so much a memory as it is "a tool for just making things up and believing them." My dad, for years, has done that, coming up with new names for people and movies and TV shows, and even falling back on generic descriptions. Here's a true story:

Once, my dad called me up and asked if Sweetie was around. I said she was but she was busy, and asked what he needed.

"She knows about movies and stuff. I want to ask her who starred in movie." Dad said. I said I'd ask her and asked what movie it was.

"That one with that one guy, you know?" That's an exact quote. That's exactly what he asked me to ask her. So, to point out the humor of that situation to Sweetie (and as a way of whistling past the graveyard) I asked Sweetie if she knew who that one guy in that one movie was.

And she got it right. (It was Steve McQueen, maybe. I don't know, now. I just know that Sweetie got it right.)

Now I've become that person, that person who can't remember and so he just makes up facts and those facts become his life, something I started years ago when they asked me for my ZIP code at a store.

"53576," I said, without any hesitation.

Sweetie, who was with me, said "That is NOT our zip code." And I had to correct it.

This week alone, I've been trying to think all week what the name of a song was that I used to play on my radio show back in college, and I finally remembered that it was, without a doubt, "Bedlam Boys" by Michael Penn.

Only there's no such song; just this morning I learned that when I tried to look it up. It's actually Brave New World by Michael Penn,

A fact I wouldn't have ever figured out, if not for Google, which is why I was serious when I said that I was going to subcontract my memory out to Google.

And I misremembered, twice, the name of Middle's boyfriend, which probably serves him right.

And now, when I went to post the Hunk of the Week, Mike Vogel,

I couldn't remember his name. All I could remember was that Sweetie had said he was in the movie she saw with The Boy last week, the movie I remembered as "She's Out Of His League," only there wasn't any such movie.

Mike Vogel right now is playing Jack in "That One Movie About Leagues" and he's also been in movies like Cloverfield -- which prompted Sweetie to ask me "Which one was he in Cloverfield?" a misguided question if ever there was one: I'm lucky to remember there was a movie called Cloverfield, let alone that there were actors in it.

And Mike Vogel, as I look over his career, was also in two other movies Sweetie loved, the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Havoc, a movie Sweetie ordered on DVD, unrated.

So Sweetie's this week been implying that she just found out about Mike Vogel in "A League Of That Guy's Own" but it seems to me that she's known about him for a lot longer, since he's been in all these other movies that she liked.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: First off, I should correct myself a little. There's no song Bedlam Boys by Michael Penn. There is a song called Bedlam Boys, and here's a great version of it:

I've been listening to that as I write this, and it's giving me a dreadful sense of foreboding about Mike Vogel. (As you'd expect, if you read this.)

That song raises the question, "Did Mike Vogel actually sing in the movie "20,000 Guys In A League Under The Sea?" It doesn't seem to raise that question, until you follow this logical chain of thought:

1. I went to Youtube to look up Bedlam Boys by Michael Penn.
2. I realized Michael Penn never sang that song.
3. I then googled some of the lyrics I could remember, and found out the song was called Brave New World.
4. I then went back to Youtube and looked up that song.
5. I then wanted to hear the actual song Bedlam Boys to see if I'd ever heard it before.
6. I hadn't.
7. Mike Vogel played a guy who's in a Hall & Oates cover band in the League Of Extraordinary Geeks movie.

Which naturally leads me and you, back to Youtube to find out if there's any videos of Mike Vogel singing Hall & Oates songs.

There's not, but there's Mike Vogel singing Shine from Wuthering Heights:

I just showed that to Sweetie, and she said "How come everyone sings?" a question I understood, because Sweetie has liked a lot of other hunks in the past who also sang,

so it seems like that's a major factor in Sweetie deciding to like someone...

... which makes it lucky for me that way way back when Sweetie and I first began dating, I played the guitar for her and sang True Companion by Marc Cohn, and probably somewhat lucky that later I played my hit (?) song (?!) Eatin' Gummi Bears...

but it seems like everyone really does sing, from Mike Vogel to James Marsden (another prior hunk)

To Robert Downey, Jr. (who sounds a lot like Peter Gabriel):

to John Corbett:

To Jason Schwartzman?

and so on.

So everyone really does sing. Sweetie was right.

Even Mike Vogel.

Reason I Assumed Sweetie Likes Him: Since I didn't remember who he was and only vaguely remembered the movies Sweetie said he'd been in (He's Out Of Cloverfield's League), I had no real reason in mind why Sweetie might like him. The picture she put on our computer desktop to celebrate his week of Hunkiness is this one:

That was the only thing I had to go on, so I went with striped shirt. Sweetie probably liked the striped shirt he had on. I mean, what else is there to like in that picture? The casual beard? The cool hair? The chiseled good looks? The almost-hypnotically-blue eyes? Please. It's got to be the shirt.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's a doll." And something about him being cute or maybe boyish. I don't know; my memory is shot. But I'm pretty sure it was something about being boyishly good looking,

an ominous thing for a guy like me to hear. I'm the exact opposite of boyishly good looking. I'm not boyish, I'm not good, and I'm not even looking. I'm oldmanishly-ugly-unlooking.

But I could buy a striped shirt, I suppose.

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: Actually, I think I did just make my point. I've got nothing left to say here. So I'll just finish by pointing out that I figured out who he is in Cloverfield. He's this guy:

Special LAW&ORDERPOCALYPSE update! This week, it was announced that skier Lindsey Vonn (who I remembered as "Someone") is going to be on one of the Law & Orders... so we're that much closer to the end of the world.

a little incompatibility is the spice of life (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 48)

I Do, I Will, I Have
by Ogden Nash

How wise I am to have instructed the butler
to instruct the first footman to instruct the second
footman to instruct the doorman to order my carriage;
I am about to volunteer a definition of marriage.
Just as I know that there are two Hagens, Walter and Copen,
I know that marriage is a legal and religious alliance entered
into by a man who can't sleep with the window shut and a
woman who can't sleep with the window open.
Moreover, just as I am unsure of the difference between
flora and fauna and flotsam and jetsam,
I am quite sure that marriage is the alliance of two people
one of whom never remembers birthdays and the other
never forgetsam,
And he refuses to believe there is a leak in the water pipe or
the gas pipe and she is convinced she is about to asphyxiate
or drown,
And she says Quick get up and get my hairbrushes off the
windowsill, it's raining in, and he replies Oh they're all right,

it's only raining straight down.
That is why marriage is so much more interesting than divorce,
Because it's the only known example of the happy meeting of
the immovable object and the irresistible force.
So I hope husbands and wives will continue to debate and
combat over everything debatable and combatable,
Because I believe a little incompatibility is the spice of life,
particularly if he has income and she is pattable.


About the poem: Ogden Nash seems to have written about me and Sweetie before me and Sweetie ever existed. Except that I always feel guilty and get up to get her hairbrushes off the window (metaphorically speaking) and then I go buy her a frosted sugar cookie to show her I love her.

(And then she goes and figures out how to open up the bathroom door that was locked from the inside somehow, even though I didn't think it was possible.)

About The Hot Actress: One thing Nash left out is that in some marriages, the wife also suggests hot actresses for the husband to put on his blog -- like how Sweetie suggested "Jill Goodacre-Connick." Way back on March 5, 2010, she emailed me this: "you need to add Jill Goodacre-Connick to the list.... she is gorgeous!"

Thursday, April 01, 2010

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Numbers Sixty-One And Sixty-Two and Sixty-Three

61. Longer school days.

62. Longer school years.

63. Pay teachers a lot more.

The Boy will hate me for the first two of these -- but he's graduating high school in June, so by the time the world adopts these solutions (about July, '010, I figure) he'll be on his own anyway.

Putting students in school longer during the day, and for more of the year, helps everyone -- teachers, students, parents. Here's how I'd shape up the day:

7:30 - 8:00 a.m.: Free period/study time/students meet with counselors & administrators.
8:00-12:00: Academic Classes.
12:00-1:30: Free period/study time/students meet with counselors & administrators.
1:30-3:00: Academic Classes.
3:00-5:00: Mandatory Athletic/Artistic Time. (Football, or art class, or band, etc.)

That kind of day means that parents would not, after preschool, have to worry about daycare or babysitting, for the most part (which, by the way, frees up money parents would otherwise spend on daycare, money that can be used to pay increased costs of more school time.) It also builds an ease-in period into the morning and breaks up academic subjects, while having supervised homework time and time to meet with counselors.

It then shifts the extracurriculars and nonacademic classes to after school, and makes participation in something mandatory. Why should all kids have to take gym class? Or music class? And why should kids who are on the football team be in gym class, as well?

Then, the longer school year should be 11 weeks on, 2 weeks off, year-round. Doing that would guarantee that there is no significant gap in education. In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell posited credibly that a big problem with education is that during the no-reason-for-it summer break, some kids go on learning, as their parents have time to read to them and take them on trips or they go to camp or what-have-you, while other students essentially freeze in place as their parents can't afford those things -- creating an education gap.

Year-round school eliminates that, and eliminates the "wasted days" before vacation. Ask any person who's willing to be honest, and they'll tell you that the last 1-2 days before any significant time off (Christmas and summer break) are largely wasted: students are too excited about the break to pay attention, so no learning occurs. By eliminating those and making 2-week breaks a regular thing eliminates that "excitement gap" in learning.

By making teachers go year-round, too, society will realize that teachers really do work, and start actually paying them more. Which is important, and that's why it's number 63.

When you make the pay low for a position that requires skill, you will attract two kinds of people to it: People who are really amazingly dedicated to that thing, and people who can't do anything else and are bad at what they do.

Both those kinds of people will get hired for low-paying, unpopular jobs, because the jobs are low-paying and unpopular -- so the employers are desperate and have to fill spots.

So teachers fall into one of two groups: They're either incredibly dedicated people, or incompetent slackers.

Now, ask yourself this: Which kind of people are more numerous in the world, the amazingly dedicated, or the incompetent?

What we're doing by paying teachers too little is forcing dedicated people who need money to go into something else, and leaving the teaching to the (rare) amazingly dedicated person and the (all-too-common) incompetent slacker.

Prior entries:

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... but it was murder to get there. Read
Eclipse, the haunting sci-fi book from Briane Pagel. Available at and on your Kindle.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I can't think of any funny little intros... (3 Good Things From 3/31/10)

so here's today's 3 Good Things from yesterday...

1. The temperature hit about 70 degrees! The picture at the right is from last year -- but it's meant to celebrate a great night last night, as the temperature got warm enough for Sweetie and I to take the Babies! to the park and try to play soccer with them on the tennis courts, and then swing the night away. We're not far from more water fights, trips to the splash park, and other summer fun now.

(I know; we're three months away. But at least I don't have to wear my winter coat anymore.)

2. I had a really good conversation with Sweetie. Sweetie and I have plenty of good conversations, but sometimes, one stands out, and last night's was one of those: We had a great time, taking a drive after the trip to the park, talking about... everything, and nothing, really: the kids, and people who have tons of money and give it away, and just life.

3. Dinosaur in the Play-Doh! I bought some Play-Doh for Mr F over the weekend. It turns out that he doesn't like it, but Mr Bunches does. So last night, Mr Bunches and I played Play-Doh, with me making shapes like "star" and "square" and possibly the worst "Tree" ever (it looked like a mushroom... a little). Then Sweetie showed me the game she had invented with Mr Bunches, Dinosaur in the Play-Doh. You play it by making the Play-Doh a wide, round, flat field, and then taking one of the hundreds of tiny toy dinosaurs that fill our house, and mashing the dinosaur into the Play-Doh, while yelling Dinosaur In The Play-Doh!

Mr Bunches then does it while you yell the catch-phrase, until he gets bored, after which you're left with a patch of Play-Doh imprinted with miniature dinosaur shapes. (At some point in the future, I'm sure, scientists will rush in and announce they've discovered Playvelociraptors.)

108 Down, 10,637 to go: "Mr Mastodon Farm," by Cake: Because who doesn't assign symbolic meaning to random events in their life?

24 Hours Of Pizza Could Be The New National Trend, If You'd Just Live Like Me (3 Good Things From 3/30/10).

The picture to the right shows the work I'm trying not to start doing just yet... something that's being greatly aided by the fact that my computer apparently has another virus on it. Luckily, I've got 3 Good Things from yesterday to ride out the trouble this morning...

1. I'm 2/3 of the way through 24 Hours Of Pizza... Yesterday, I got my mileage reimbursement for the month -- a little monthly bonus that I celebrated by ordering pizza for dinner, making sure to order enough that there would be leftovers for breakfast, and for my lunch.

To guarantee leftovers, I had to enter into the Treaty of Pepperoni with The Boy: I won't touch the pepperoni pizza (which he claims to love even though he doesn't because nobody over the age of 12 actually likes pepperoni pizza, plus I proved scientifically that The Boy doesn't really like pepperoni pizza, long ago) if he doesn't touch the sausage pizza.

2. Mark Watson played some cool music for my drive home. Remember, I make it a point to try to support family and friends who do stuff -- our whole family does: last week Middle and Sweetie helped her sister-in-law host a cosmetics party -- so when I found out yesterday that Mark Watson, who's married to a coworker of mine, was DJ'ing a show on Madison's 91.7 FM from 5-7, I tuned my radio into the show for the ride home, and I was not disappointed: Mark played some of the best rock I've heard in a long time. I hadn't listened to music radio in years (unless I was forced to), but I've now programmed in 91.7 on my car radio and listened to it on the way in this morning, too.

3. I got through 57 emails in one afternoon. I've been getting further and further behind on work emails; by yesterday, I had 92 of them to get through. Beginning in the late afternoon, I began reading and responding to as many of them as I could before heading home to the waiting pizza. 57 in one shot -- leaving me, after the new ones coming in, with 52 to go. Sigh.

107 down, 10,638 to go: This was the song I chose to listen to on my iPod on the walk from my car into the office. As Van Wilder pointed out in Definitely, Maybe, the music you pick for your walk to and from work is very important. In this case, I went for commanding/wistful: 7 Nation Army, as covered by Vyvien Long:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

McDonald's, 1 (Jobs v. Life)

Life is what happens when you're not working.-- Me.
Jobs v. Life is an ongoing attempt to explore my life through the jobs I've had. Read it from the beginning here.

I read somewhere that 70% of people had their first jobs at McDonald's. That's a statistic, true or not, that's always stuck with me about my time at McDonald's, the first "real" job I had in my life.

Another thing that stuck with me from McDonald's is
"Time to lean, time to clean." That's a saying I was introduced to right off the bat, when I was working the french fries-area -- at McDonald's they stick you on the most dangerous/least-skill-requiring job the moment you start.

"Time to lean, time to clean" was a mantra when I worked at McDonald's, and it occurred to me the other day just what an impact that saying had on me as I was cooking crepes for dinner on Sunday night. I made the first batch of crepes and poured two onto the griddle. I then had a few minutes to wait until they could be removed and cream-cheesed. In that few minutes, I wiped
down the counter, packed up the eggs and put them away, and started making my bag lunch for the next day.

Then I realized, as I did that, that I always do that: Almost everytime I'm cooking lunch or dinner, I do something else during the Time to lean phase. I load the dishwasher, or unload it, or clean out the 'fridge, or organize the cabinet full of four different kinds of Pop Tarts.

Time to lean, time to clean. I am not an energetic person. I'm not motivated, not like that. Most of my life has been spent trying to minimize the amount of labor expected of me.

And yet, for the past 25 years, I've put into practice one of the first things I was taught at McDonald's: Time to lean, time to clean. I've applied it not just when making crepes on a Sunday night at home, but in law school, when I'd do my laundry: I'd take my laundry over to the washers and driers at my apartment complex, and bring my homework with me, the cleaning being doing homework as my clothes swirled and tumbled. I put away my laundry last night while watching TV, turning leaning into cleaning again.

People think that McDonald's has conquered the world because (I bet) everyone
everywhere has at this point eaten at least one McDonald's hamburger, but that's not how they took over; they took over because McDonald's -- whatever percentage of people once worked there -- has insinuated itself into our minds, causing people to react the way McDonald's wants them to even without realizing it. I was a terrible McDonald's employee (I've been a terrible employee at most jobs I've had), or if not terrible, certainly not very good, and yet I absorbed a great deal of McDonald's-isms and apply them in my life to this day.

I certainly didn't expect the job to have that kind of lasting impact on me when I first applied for it. I applied for the job because I had to get a job. I'd turned 16, and at 16, the rule in our house was to get a job, a real job, not a paper-route job.

(The distinction between real work and paper-route work was one my Dad made an
d one that I absorbed, much like time to lean, time to clean. For the remainder of my life, from 16 on, I would associate paper routes with avoiding real work, a notion that did not cause much trouble for me until adults began taking over paper routes and doing them for work, at which point I realized that I looked down on those adults who did that, assuming that they weren't doing real work, even though in general I try to believe that any work is real work if you're actually doing it, that no way of earning money is dishonorable. That conflict in my mind grew more acute when, during and after my parents divorce, my mom helped make ends meet by herself doing a paper route, driving the papers around with my sister or my little brother helping. I didn't want to think that my mom was not doing real work, but I couldn't help associating paper routes with not real work.)

(That conflict in my mind would then end, years later, when my dissolute older brother Bill woul
d take a job delivering papers. Anything Bill does for a living adamantly does not qualify as real work. Bill deciding to support his family via delivering papers not only clarified for me that paper routes are not real work, but also came full circle in a poetic way that life otherwise rarely displays: Bill's first job was the paper route -- a job he used to earn money while avoiding any responsibility or work -- and the last job I knew about him having was a paper route. I assume that Bill took the paper route "job" recently for the same reasons he took it at 12, and that assumption confirmed a lot, in my mind, about paper routes, and about Bill, and about my family, in general. It also seemed a good place to stop caring about most of those things, and so I did that.)

The rule that 16-and-up requires a real job is one that I impose in our own house, too: at 16, each of the kids had to get a job, too. Oldest was the first to be required to comply with my imposition of the rule, and she got a job... at McDonald's, a McDonald's only a mile or so from our house. That, too, seems poetic in a way that both life, and McDonald's, otherwise rarely displays.

(This was poetic, too: Oldest was, also, a terrible McDonald's employee.)

When it was time for me to get a real job, I didn't know where to go or how to begin. Living in Hartland, and specifically in Hartridge -- a subdivision outside the town of Hartrid
ge, and a subdivision now best known in this area of Wisconsin for being the location of former Packer Mark Chmura's hot tub hijinks -- left me with few opportunities for nearby jobs. Hartridge was, and is, a subdivision that sits about a mile from "downtown" Hartland -- "downtown" Hartland in those days being some insurance offices, some banks, Wolf's Cobblestone Inn (the location of choice for many a prom and homecoming dinner), a couple of gas stations, and maybe Jackson's Department Store.

I can't remember, now, if back in 1985 when I turned 16, Jackson's Department Store, which sat on the main thoroughfare throug
h "downtown" Hartland -- Capitol Drive -- was still in business. I recall that it sat on Capitol Drive right next to the Bark River, more or less, and next to Phillip's Drug Store and two doors away from the gas station where I would end up working in a few years - but I don't know when Jackson's Department Store stopped being a going concern and began being some other type of business or empty building. All I really remember is that it was called "Jackson's," that it had, on the main floor, clothing and a candy counter, and that on Saturdays when I was younger my brother Matt and I would ride our bikes to Jackson's, "in town," and spend a dollar each to buy some candy to take home in little white bags, candy we'd save for that night when we would camp out in our family room, sleeping in sleeping bags in front of the TV and trying to stay up late to watch Don Kirschner's Rock Concerts.

All of which has nothing to do with McDonald's.

There weren't many places, then, to work in Hartland. There were no places to work in Hartridge, our subdivision. Hartland had places like Corrao's Music Store, and Skateworld, and Red Owl, and Piggly Wiggly, but those didn't seem like places to work, or at least I never really considered working at them.

Further out from Hartland were the other cities around us: Pewaukee, to the East. Chenequa and Nashotah to the North, and Delafield to the South, down Highway 83 to the Interstate. And down Highway 83 to the Interstate there was, back then, a little commercial center that featured a McDonald's, a Burger King, a tiny strip mall, and the "Happy Barn," the "Happy Barn" being a big barn that had been converted into a store (I think an antique shop, or maybe a bait shop, or both) and which had a big smiley face on it:

(The Happy Barn doesn't exist anymore. The barn itself is still there, but it's no longer smiling and has been renamed the Amish Barn.)

That little commercial center sat at the intersection of Highway 83 and I-94, about five miles from our house, and somehow, I decided on applying for a job at the McDonald's there, doing so even though I typically didn't have access to one of the cars my parents had (we had two, but I rarely had use of either of them) and so I'd have to bike the five miles (up pretty steep hills) or get rides whenever I worked.

Despite the distance, I applied there, filling out an application and getting an interview almost immediately by the manager. The interview took place in the booth closest to the counter, during a slow period in the day. I'd gotten the application at that time, and turned it in, following the other rule that my dad had, that rule being Always turn in the job application directly to the manager.

That's a rule I follow, too, to this day -- although I haven't applied for a job in years, and when I did apply for this job, there wasn't an application and I couldn't find the manager if I'd wanted to; I replied to a "blind box" ad because I was desperate to find a job that would pay me actual money, as opposed to the job I had, that of being self-employed and making no money.

I try to get the kids to follow that rule, too, sometimes with mixed results. Recently, The Boy wanted to apply for a job at a bakery where one of his friends worked. We were going to have him drop off the application on the way to other errands, on a Saturday. As he got into the car, I mentioned to him that he should always try to turn in the application during a time when the manager is there, so that he can hand the application to the manager and meet in person, right away.

"That way," I told The Boy, "The manager gets to know you right away and puts a face to the application, so when he reviews it, he'll remember seeing you and have a positive impression." I was echoing what my dad had told me, two-and-a-half decades ago: dress up to turn in the application, and hand it right to a manager. I tell all the kids that, too, although they don't always listen: Oldest once wore a halter top and short shorts, with the nose ring she had then, to turn in an application for a job at a nursing home. "I don't know why they didn't hire me," she complained, and then got mad when I said it might just have had something to do with the fact that she had applied for the job dressed like one of Christina Aguilera's backup dancers.

On the Saturday we were going to turn in the application, The Boy agreed to follow that rule and didn't turn it in, saying he'd wait until Monday and then take it. When we got home from our other errands, The Boy went off with friends and I went in, where Sweetie asked if we'd dropped off the application.

"No," I said. "I told him he should wait until the manager is in and hand it directly to him and he said he'd do that."

"Did he tell you," Sweetie asked me, "That his friend works there and she said specifically to come turn it in today?"

"No," I said. "He didn't mention that at all."

Later, when I asked The Boy about it, he had no explanation for why he'd failed to tell me about the friend who already worked there and how she'd said Saturday would be best to turn in the application. "You were all insisting that I turn it in Monday," he said.

As of now, The Boy has never turned in that application, at all.

I turned in my application to McDonald's, handing it to the manager, and getting my interview right away, sitting in the booth trying to answer the few questions he asked me, questions like "Why do you want to work at McDonald's?"

I had no real answer to that. I wanted to say I'm supposed to get a job, and this is really the only place I can think of. I said something like that, that it seemed like a good place to work and that, and I got hired.

"You start next week. Call me to get your schedule later this week," he said. "We'll start you on the fry vats."

He's ready for law school. Or politics. (Quote of the Day, 43)

"Where's my pants?"
-- Mr Bunches

Mr Bunches, and Mr F, are continuing the nudist-y ways they've grown to love over their 3 1/2 years of life -- only now with more pretend defenses. Lately, Mr Bunches will take off his pants in another room, and then, when discovered, will hold up his hands and look innocent and ask "Where's my pants?" in a tone of voice that implies the pants have snuck away and he's bewildered by the whole thing.


Claudius' path to space was lit by starlight, and covered in blood. Read Eclipse, the stunning sci-fi novel about Claudius strange and horrifying journey to the stars. Click this link to go buy it.

It's classic Babies! pictures time! (3 Good Things From 3/29/10)

It's supposed to get up to 70 degrees this week, and also I'm wearing my new favorite shirt of all, the cool-colored blue one. That makes my 3 Good Things almost irrelevant...

1. The cupcake wrappers came out exact. I'm a big proponent of celebrating the little victories in life, like last night, when I made cupcakes for Sweetie. I grabbed all the spare old cupcake wrappers we had laying around, and after deciding not to use the "tinfoil" ones because they were confusing -- they had tinfoil wrappers with white wrappers inside and I didn't know if I was supposed to use one or both of those -- I grabbed a set of the Winnie-The-Pooh wrappers and began putting them into the cupcake pans.

As it turned out, I had 24 cupcake slots, and had grabbed, randomly, 24 cupcake wrappers. So, you know, not the exact same as picking the winning lottery numbers, but good nonetheless.

2. The Arena Of Bust-It! We got the Babies! a "Jump-O-Line" as a present over the weekend. It's a big inflatable ring that they're supposed to use as a trampoline and which is supposed to, in my mind, stop them from jumping on the beds (which they do by taking apart their beds and stacking their mattresses up to create better bouncing.)

So far, they've mostly used the Jump-O-Line as a clubhouse, turning it upside down and crawling in and out of the door that way, but that changed last night when, as a pre-bath warmup, we invented "The Arena of Bust-It!" -- taking the game of Bust It! to a new level by dropping them into the Jump-O-Line/Arena and then tickling them and knocking them down and pushing them into the walls... which as I read it, sounds very unparenty but trust me, it was fun and they loved it and nobody got hurt, aside from many, many static electricity shocks, because it is, after all, a giant inflatable thing that generates enough electricity to power our house.

3. I forgot to mention that I won another contest! I get more and more of my new music from Muruch, a great music blog, and recently I was notified by the site's owner that I won a copy of the The Bird And The Bee CD. So if you like free music, check out Muruch -- come for the contests, and stay for the fun and insightful commentary on music.

106 down, 10,639 to go: In honor of winning that CD, and because Sweetie saw She's Out Of His League on Saturday and liked the guy who, in the movie, was a member of a Hall & Oates tribute band, here's Maneater by The Bird And The Bee:

Monday, March 29, 2010

Coffee is a standalone drink. (3 Good Things From The Weekend)

I have so many good things going on that I can't list them all, sometimes -- like last week, I forgot to mention that I won tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters by correctly knowing that Einstein came up with the Theory of Relativity. Here's my 3 Good Things from the past weekend:

1. Mr Bunches and Mr F helped me at the office on Sunday. And by "helped" I mean "wore their pants the entire time." Sunday, I took both Mr F and Mr Bunches -- Mr F's in green, to the right, -- to work with me to get caught up on stuff. While I went through emails and mail and bills and things, they watched "The Emperor's New Groove" on Youtube, and ate hash browns, and tried to sneak into other lawyer's offices, and, at one point, drank coffee creamer... but that latter wasn't entirely my fault.

Mr Bunches had drank all his milk, and wanted some more. I went to check our office refrigerator, and found a half-gallon of milk with an expiration date of "1/10/10." The only other kind-of-milk related thing in there was creamer for coffee, so I poured him a half-glass of that and he went off happily to dance to the music in his movie.

So you can see, it's not my fault, because what kind of law office doesn't have a fresh gallon of milk available on a Sunday morning?

The pictures on this post were taken during our walk to the mailbox to mail a letter for Sweetie; we opted to stroll over to the post office because it was a nice-for-March-in-Wisconsin day, and along the way took some snapshots like the one below, of Mr Bunches in front of a Humpty Dumpty which for some reason memorializes someone in front of the City-County Building in Madison. (Mr F wouldn't sit by the statue, disliking either heights, or silver egg people, or both.)

2. Well, I liked my meatloaf. Saturday night, I made meatloaf, by request, making it extra good (and letting it cook while the Babies! and I went to the park.) The meatloaf had ground turkey and real, hand-grated parmesan cheese and had, in addition to the usual bread crumbs, pretzel crumbs and hand-torn bits of bread and sweet & sour sauce and was delicious, and so far I'm the only person who liked it.

I also realized something as I was cooking it, and what I realized was this: All you need to make a meal fancy is to say what's in it or what you did to it. Take my meatloaf. If you came over and I served you meatloaf, you'd probably say to yourself "That's it? Just meatloaf?" (You'd probably also say "Does he ever bother to pick up the Babies!' toys before dinner?")(The answer to that latter would be "No, not really, because they'll just throw them around again so I pick them up when the Babies! go to bed.")

But if you came over and I served you "Sweet & Sour Parmesan Meatloaf With Hand-Torn Breadcrumbs," you would be bowled over and think "Wow, that's really something."

You might not even notice the toys laying all over.

3. Sweetie shared her Frozen Mango Drink with me. Sweetie and I went on a date on Saturday, going to eat lunch at Panera before going to pick up a DVD player for our bedroom.

Sweetie always gets this "Frozen Mango" drink at Panera, something made up of mango and whipped cream and ice, and it's pretty good. This time, ordering, I noticed that underneath the "Frozen Mango" on the menu, in the same category, was something called a "Frozen Caramel" drink. So I ordered that, only to find, to my surprise/dismay, that the "Frozen Caramel" includes espresso, and while I'm a coffee drinker, I don't want my coffee (a) cold or (b) mixed with anything else. Coffee is a standalone drink; mixing it with other things wrecks those other things.

When I told Sweetie why I wasn't drinking the Frozen Caramel, she said "You know, it's a coffee place," which I disputed -- Panera isn't a coffee shop, it's a sandwich shop, and also, the drink was in the same category as the "Frozen Mango," which doesn't have coffee in it, so why should I assume that the "Frozen Caramel" would have coffee in it?

But, Sweetie shared some of her Frozen Mango with me over lunch, and we got the DVD player, and a wonderful time was had by all. Or at least by us two.

105 down, 10,640 to go: In honor of my date with Sweetie, here's What Ifs + Maybes, by Bromheads Jacket:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

I am perfectly free to tell you how much money you should make. (Also, I'm right about it.)(Also, you're full of hot air.) (Publicus Proventus)

Publicus Proventus now has its own site! Click here!

I am alternately proud and dismayed to live in the type of country I live in, the kind of country which has the genius and foresight to create a Snickers Fudge and then sell it to me in ready-to-eat form; imagine the prosperity of a country in which a Snickers bar can be made more declicious, less nutritious and still available for about the same amount of money that the average African earns in a day.

Imagine: a day's worth of calories for me, a day's worth of labor for them. What a country!

That is, though, dismaying to me, at the same time; the patriotic surge of pride (and hunger) I feel when I see the Snickers Fudge bars stacked six deep at the checkout counter -- surrounded by their chocolate-y, nougat-y, fatten-y brethren, also dismays me a little, because I realize that I could buy one of those candy bars -- little though I need it-- and have bought many of those candy bars -- ditto, only past tense -- without thinking about the extreme luxury that surrounds me, a level of luxury that I (mostly) take for granted.

A level of luxury I don't need -- no matter what people like Kimberly have to say. And a luxury I am free to hector not just myself about, but also you.

Back in the fall, as I was toying around here and there with doing what I'm doing now -- writing posts with an expressly political bent -- I posted one called "Shame On America Sunday: Housing Edition." In that article, I took a (selfish) lady named "Susan Saperstein" to task for being greedy and a hoarder of resources.

I won't repeat that attack here -- Susan Saperstein probably doesn't care what I think, because if greedy, selfish people cared what others thought, they wouldn't be greedy in the first place.

But that article brought a recent attack from Kimberly, who isn't willing to stand by her views publicly, and may for all I know be Susan Saperstein. Here's what Kimberly wrote:

I'm really not sure why you have such ridiculous rules regarding people's incomes and cost of homes. You do realize that Suzanne Saperstein lives in California, right? I also live in California, in a VERY modest home. My house is worth more than $500,000, and it's not excessive in any sense of the word.

America is great because people have the OPPORTUNITY to WORK for what they want. The unlucky family you mentioned in your post was swindled, but that's no one's fault except the con artist's and their own. Since when is it the Sapersteins (or any other wealthy person's) responsibility to pay for perfectly able-bodied, able-minded people's homes and necessities?

When you adopt a socialist view like your own, you neglect the reality that without reward, people cease to work hard. (By the way, are you happy now that you're being taxed so that complete strangers can have medical coverage on your dime, in the same way that welfare recipients and people under every other government-failure program have done?)

In criticizing the Sapersteins, I certainly hope that you have taken into account that their monetary donation to Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles is the LARGEST donation the hospital has EVER received. Without their "excessive wealth," who would help medical institutions in such a significant way? The government? Keep dreaming.

I firmly disagree with your ideas about wealth caps and government-run health care. I'm not part of the problem. I'm one of the people who think clearly about the negative effects of a socialist system.

As you may guess, I disagree with Kimberly and every greedy resource hoarder who backs her up.

Kimberly says that her house isn't excessive "in any sense of the word." She's wrong: In California, the median income for a family of seven is $68,030. That means 1/2 of all the families in California make less than $68,030 per year. Kimberly's house is the equivalent of nearly 8 years' total gross income for half of the people in her state. That's excessive, and resource hoarding.

Kimberly says America is great because people can work for what they want, and it's nobody's problem but the victim's if they're swindled. That's her vision of America: You can work for what you want, and anyone can rise to the top... but if someone takes unfair advantage of you, then screw you and go home.

In America, though, you can't automatically work for what you want, because while all people have (theoretically) equal opportunity (they don't, actually) all people are not born equally, and to me one of the beautiful things about America is that we share. A great deal of America's premise, and promise, is built on the notion of sharing what we have. Kimberly, in saying that you can work for what you want may be unfamiliar with concepts like the Oklahoma Land Rush (where the government gave land away for free) and milk price supports -- whereby the government artificially controls the price of milk to keep it affordable for Kimberly to take home and put in her Subzero restaurant-quality refrigerator (I'm assuming), while also making sure that milk farmers make money and that milk prices are stable across the country.

That's all fancy-talk for giving stuff away, Kimberly (and her supporters.) You didn't work for the milk you bought and drove home in your giant SUV. You got a government-sponsored handout to cover a portion of the cost of that milk.

Kimberly then espouses an idea that was in vogue last year, when nutjobs like Glenn Beck were supporting the ludicrously-insane notion that they would "Go Galt," a reference to the sophomoric stylings of some character of Ayn Rand's that passes neither for good fiction nor good thinking. Someone goes Galt when they opt not to work or earn money to avoid, say, a tax on their income. Kimberly, and other muddy-headed thinkers like her, suggest that they would Go Galt if we taxed income more, showing how illogical they are and also how little they understand the economy.

In the first instance, Going Galt isn't going to be done; I'm not aware of anyone ever having done it, and the only people who could afford to do it would be people who are independently superwealthy anyway -- or, as I term them, resource hoarders like Susan Saperstein.

It's not going to be done because even an increase in taxes, even confiscation of money, will not take away the incentive to earn money that's not confiscated.

Let's say you earn $100,000, and pay no taxes: You have $100,000 a year in your pocket. I then propose to tax income at a rate of 25%. Are you going to Go Galt? That is, are you going to opt to make no money to avoid paying that tax? If so, you're dumb: Even after my tax, you're earning $75,000, which is better than nothing.

Suppose I said, instead, that I'm going to tax 50% of all earnings over $100,000. Will that take away your incentive to earn more, as Kimberly suggests? I doubt it: Every extra $1,000 you make would be $500 more in your pocket, even after my tax. Don't you want your $500? Of course you do -- you'd rather have $500 than nothing, right? (Don't answer that, Kimberly -- you won't be able to unless you abandon your own stance.)

Now, let's consider the idea that I'm going to confiscate all money over $100,000 a year. Would that take away one's incentive to work? Again, I doubt it: You might not want to work hard enough to earn more than $100,000 a year -- but you'll still want to work hard enough to earn that first $100,000.

Consider, then, what happens if I do confiscate all money over $100,000. You're selling your products-- Snickers Fudges, let's say - -and you hit $100,000 in income. You now know that everything after that you're giving to me, so you're getting no benefit if you go on working. You may well make the logical decision to stop working for that year.

If you do, will that take away demand for Snickers Fudges? Or will people like me still want them, even though you're not selling them, so we'll buy them from that guy over there, who will step in and sell us a Snickers Fudge (or a substitute) until he earns $100,000?

I think the latter is more accurate -- and shows why not only would there not be a huge dampening of the economy through a high-taxation rate, but also shows why you just might go on working even if you don't get any benefit after $100,000. Here's why: You might lose your customers.

If you're a Snickers Fudge magnate, and you start selling on January 1, and you hit the $100,000 mark on January 30, you could take the rest of the year off, because after that $100k, you'll get no direct benefit. But if you do that, and if people still want candy for the rest of the year, they're going to buy it from someone else... and then, next January 1, when you start selling your candy bars again, we may all be tired of your Snickers Fudges and want the new thing we got into buying from January 31 through the end of the year.

So there's an incentive to keep working, right, Kimberly? You want the $100,000 next year, too, and you want to keep your job. But even if you don't, some other guy will and he'll earn his $100,000, too, and the economy will keep going.

It'll keep going because people will still need stuff, even if you, Kimberly, refuse to provide it. If you Go Galt, if you opt to not do whatever it is you do to earn money, be that blogging or ranting on TV or selling Snickers Fudge, society is still going to want candy bars and nuts on TV, so someone else will happily step in and fill in for you.

That's why the threats from certain portions of society to go Galt are okay with me: please, do. If everyone on TV goes Galt, they'll need people like me to start writing TV shows and I can quit blogging and begin writing the next big sitcom hit.

And that's why the threats demonstrate such a basic misunderstanding of economics: I didn't buy that Snickers Fudge yesterday, patriotic and delicious though it might have been. I went Galt on it. I've never bought a Snickers Fudge, but plenty of other people have, and Snickers is doing just fine without my participation in their little economy.

Kimberly also asks whether I took into account the Sapersteins having made the largest donation ever to Cedars-Sinai Hospital, a donation that is unknown in amount, but which exceeded $14 million, according to Cedars-Sinai. I didn't, and I don't, and here's why: David Saperstein has a net worth of $575 million. If I assume that Saperstein's Cedar-Sinai donation was $28 million -- an assumption, only -- that amount to 4% of his net worth.

He kept 96%, in other words. So while it's nice that he gave away his pocket change, I'm not about to clap my hands for someone who still hoards wealth. If Saperstein gave away $28 million -- again, an assumption -- he'd be left with $547,000,000. To get an idea of how much $547 million is, consider this:



That's thirty million. Do that another 517 times and you'll see what 547 million looks like.

$547 million cannot be spent in a lifetime, even if that lifetime is selfishly devoted to haute couture, as Susan Saperstein's life is. $547 million allows you to spend $5,470,000 a year for a hundred years.

Or $10 a minute, every minute of every day, 24 hours, around the clock, for 100 years. If you spent $14,000 per day every day for 100 years, you wouldn't, at the end, have spent $547,000,000.

But the Sapersteins and Kimberlies of the world want me to believe that there's nothing wrong with hoarding that kind of money -- nothing wrong with holding on to money that cannot be spent, ever, in your lifetime, even though others could sorely use that money.

What if the Sapersteins had H1N1 vaccines? What if they had 547,000,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine and refused to give that up? And then, under pressure (and for tax purposes), they said "Okay, we'll give you 4% of our H1N1 vaccines, but we're keeping the rest!" Would you then, Kimberlies, think that was okay, that little kids and elderly women were getting swine flu and dying while the Sapersteins had all this vaccine they could never use but didn't want to give up? Would you argue that if you forced them to give up just a little more and they'd never miss it, that the Sapersteins would have no incentive to stay healthy anymore?

I doubt it -- but you don't make the connection because they don't have H1N1 vaccine, they have dollars, and people think you can't hoard money.

But you can.

And the Sapersteins, and lots of people like them, do hoard their money and prevent others from using that resource, even though they can't use it all up. Keeping something to yourself, when you can't even use it, and someone else needs it, is greedy and selfish and hoarding, and it's no different whether we're talking about vaccines or Snickers Fudges or dollars.

Kimberly finishes by saying that she's "not part of the problem," that she's a clear-thinker. Presumably, that means that Kimberly has thought through everything I've just written, and that having thought it through, Kimberly still disagrees with me. I'll take her at her word, and just explain why she's wrong.

Kimberly's big issue with me, really, is the gall I have in telling people how much money they should earn, and forcing people to share and take care of others. She doesn't call it that -- she calls it socialism, a word that gets bandied about a lot without people knowing what it really means.

Socialism in its purest sense means no ownership of private property. Kimberly thinks I'm a socialist, but I'm hardly advocating socialism. I'm fine with owning private property: I own my house and my car and my computer.

Socialism in the watered-down sense that most people mis-use it today means government control of various industries: In Canada, the government controls the health care industry. In the U.K., the government controls most of the health care system and runs a television station.

Anytime, in the U.S., the government starts to look at regulating or taking something over, people cry socialism, and fold their arms (metaphorically speaking) with a smug look, as if that rests their case. But those people have never stopped to consider first, how much socialism (by their definition) there already is -- and second, how good socialism can work, in certain instances.

Look first at how much good socialism there is already. Social Security and Medicare are wildly popular programs and show no signs of ending. They're popular even with young people who have decades before taking part in them -- as evidenced by the fact that a Republican (?) president, George "Worst President In History" W. Bush -- with a Republican Congress, couldn't even get private retirement savings off the ground, and by the fact that the same supposedly-conservative groups expanded Medicare by leaps and bounds.

But aside from those well-known programs, consider socialized highways. Drive much on the Interstate? They're socialist, as are all roads -- so if you're opposed to socialism, you'd better start cross-country hiking. (Make sure you get permission from landowners before crossing over their property.)

In the olden days, the U.S. had good, old-fashioned private turnpikes. At one point, as many as 3,200 different companies built roads for profit, and then charged people to drive on them. Toll roads and private toll bridges were big business, turning sometimes a greater than 10% profit per year. By 1830, 27% of all corporations then existing were companies which built roads and charged a fee to travel on them.

So if you're against socialism, you must want to regress to the days of the private road and private bridge -- paying whatever it is they want to charge you to get out of downtown, and hoping that there are enough bridges across the Milwaukee River to allow for healthy competition to keep the rates down, or you'll never be able to commute in from the suburbs.

That's just one of the many examples of socialism taking over private business, one that nobody on the right-hand side of the political aisle brings up when they talk about creeping socialism. I don't hear Glenn Beck advocating putting four roads through his neighborhood so that the builders can engage in free-market competition and he can pay to leave his house.

Socialism -- public ownership of enterprises and property -- also works a lot better than the free market and competition, at times. Like if you're trying to build a rocket and go to the Moon. NASA got their space program going in about 9 years; the "X-Prize" Foundation has been going for at least six years, if not longer, and has yet to orbit... anything.

So socialism isn't all bad -- in fact, it's pretty good, if you like getting places via roads (or if you like Tang.) But beyond that, what I was proposing in the article Kimberly took issue with, was not socialism, not in that sense.

What I was proposing was a limitation on what you can own and what you can earn. I was proposing that nobody should own a house worth more than $500,000, and no adult should be allowed to earn more than $200,000 per year (and universal health care.) Kimberly, and people who think like Kimberly, take issue with that and complain that I can't tell you how much you can earn, nobody can. That's the basic point of the anti-socialism crowd: you can't tell me how much to earn!

But I can -- and do, and everyone can, and does, and Kimberly and her ilk are okay with that, even though they're intellectually dishonest and pretend not to be.

See, Kimberly, and people who think like her, pretend that no limits on income exist, and specifically, that no government-imposed, societal limits on income exist -- or, if they acknowledge the truth, then they go on to pretend that they hate government-imposed societal limits, even though they don't. They're intellectually dishonest that way. (Or dumb, but I'm trying to give them some credit, and so I'm assuming they're smart, but lying.)

The government, which is society, which is me and you and even people like Kimberly and Sarah Palin, already limits your income by taxing it. You can never ever ever earn your "full" income.

The top marginal tax rate for 2009 was 35% on any income over about $372,000. That means that if you are super-wealthy -- and $372,000 per year is superwealthy in every single community in the U.S. -- you earn at most 65% of your income above $372,000.

That is to say: Society limits you to keeping 65% of what you earn. We do that : society. Us. Me. You. Kimberly. Sarah Palin. We all say You can only keep 65% of what you earn. When Kimberly and her cohort say you can't tell me how much to earn, they're lying. They, we, you, already do that. We already impose income limits on you, via taxes.

Kimberly and her kind, though, then pretend that they don't like societally-imposed income limits, which is to say, taxes. They argue that taxes are wrong and punitive and unjust: listen to Kimberly again:

By the way, are you happy now that you're being taxed so that complete strangers can have medical coverage on your dime, in the same way that welfare recipients and people under every other government-failure program have done?

I am, in fact, happy, Kimberly. As the originator of the One Percent movement, I understand that small amounts of my money can make a large impact on someone else's life. And I'm happy that I also don't make disingenuous, dishonest arguments against taxes, like you and your kind do.

Kimberly says that health care is like "every other government-failure program" (I'm not sure what programs she's saying have failed) and uses that to (implicitly) argue against taxes -- societal limits on income, or societal wealth-redistribution -- even though Kimberly is emphatically in favor of taxing in general. Kimberly is saying that taxes are wrong if the governmental program is a failure or going to fail -- but that's an argument against a program, not against an income limitation or taxation. And when it comes to taxes, Kimberly is wholeheartedly for them. She loves taxes. Loves them like they're her own kids.

I can say that because I know for certain that Kimberly enjoys having a military to protect her country. She enjoys having those politicians whom she likes get paid for being in office. She enjoys having paved roads. She loves having clean water and non-irradiated meat. She is enthralled with having flu vaccines. Whoever Kimberly is, and wherever her $500,000+ house is located, Kimberly enjoys the fruits of government labor and the fruits of government labor are paid for by taxes.

Kimberly is not against socialism, not against societal limits on wealth, and not against government. The Kimberlies of the world are all for taxing, and all for government control... they're just for it when it benefits them. When they like what the government does, whether that be paving a public road or monitoring imports to make sure pet food doesn't kill their pet, the Kimberlies of the world think socialism and taxes and government are A-OK. They don't think that taxing me to pay for a National Highway Transportation Safety Board to investigate Kimberly's expensive Toyota's failure -- let alone to pay for a judge to hear her case when she sues -- they don't think that is socialism. They think that's just good public policy.

Kind of puts a different spin on the socialist argument, doesn't it? Since they're for socialism when it benefits them, that puts a different spin on their arguments, right? They're lying, cloaking their arguments in socialist this and how-dare-you that because they don't want to say the truth, the truth being I don't want to use my money to help you.

Conservatives are not alone in opportunistically forgetting what they supposedly believe in -- their TARP bailouts and resorts-to-the-courts to stop health care reform are not the only, but are the latest, in a string of hypocritical moves by government officials who are willing to espouse whatever side of the issue will support their own self-interest. But conservatives, like Kimberly, deserve special scorn for their dishonesty and flipflopping. They deserve extra shame for the terrible way they frame their argument and dishonest way they push it forward.

When a liberal flip-flops and becomes more conservative, when Bill Clinton moved to the center to get re-elected and helped enact welfare reform, the net result is an equilibrium: liberals tend to push the envelope on government power, perhaps a bit too far at times, and retrenchment can help keep a healthy balance.

Also, liberals are less-often deceitful and less-often have the inherent disconnect between what they say they believe and how they live their actual lives. A liberal proponent of big government is free to drive on the highways without a guilty conscience, and, if he or she then re-thinks and tries to rein in governmental (societal) power, that's not the worst thing in the world. It's not inherently dishonest to say, sometimes, maybe we are going a bit too far.

But when a conservative flip-flops, the same cannot be said. George "Worst President Ever" W. Bush theoretically espoused, as a conservative, a limited governmental power, stocking his cabinet with other small-governmental types like former Wisconsin Governor Tommy "G." Thompson. Then, throughout their tenure, those small-governmental types engage in deceitful, undermining actions that grow government, increasing its power: The Tommy "G" Thompson Health Department used federal money to urge people to take the stairs. (How's that for an individual mandate?) That is dishonest: telling people that you're for small government and then expanding governmental power is a lie. (Right, Paul Ryan?)

When a conservative then changes that thinking, however momentarily and/or opportunistically, the results are even more dramatic, and worse for the country in many cases: the governmental intervention spawned in the last few months of the Worst Presidential Administration Ever was far more massive an interruption in the private economy than the Health Care Reform bill is. Ronald Reagan made a career out of arguing that the government should step out of the way of business, and claimed that Reaganomics turned the 1980s economy around... but he also expanded defense spending to a peak of 43% more than had been spent at the high point of the Vietnam war. In the name of a "smaller government" that wouldn't interfere with business, Reagan authorized the government to spend hundreds of billions per year on defense.

Under Reagn, almost $500 billion per year in government money went to private businesses.

You can argue that's a good, or bad, thing -- you can say the government should, or should not, spend $500 billion a year in a given industry and argue about what industry that should be. And there's no right or wrong answer to that; it's a matter of societal priorities: do you want kids to die of cancer but soldiers to have high-tech tanks?

But you can't say, honestly, that a government spending $500 billion per year to pay private industries to build tanks or bail out GM is okay, but that a government spending $500 billion per year to make sure Mom gets chemotherapy is socialism, and that's why conservatives deserve special scorn, for the dishonesty they display when they make stupid arguments like that.

I live in a country so rich that it can produce billions of Snickers Fudge bars on spec, stocking them six-deep in hopes that someone, somewhere, will buy them, and knowing that someone, somewhere, will. In that country, we already have made the societal decision that it's okay to tell people how much they can earn, and have already made the societal decision that when something is important enough to society, we're all going to have to pitch in and pay for it. Society decided that when we all got together and made the interstate highways, and the Apollo program, and World Wars I and II, and now society has decided that we're going to pay for almost everyone to have health care, too, and I'm okay with that.

I'm okay with that, even if it means I might not have quite as much ability to just buy a Snickers Fudge, willy-nilly, the next time the opportunity presents itself. Because I understand, first, that if I'm not using it, if I don't need it, someone else might -- and I'm willing to share, unlike some people.

And I'm okay with that, second, because I understand that it's up to me, and other good people, to make up for those other people, the Kimberlies and Sapersteins of the world, hoarding resources and trying to hold others down. But I'm only okay with it to an extent, because there's only so long society should let people make selfish choices that hurt others, especially when those selfish choices hurt others while presenting no benefit to the person making the choice.

I could have bought that Snickers Fudge yesterday; I could have, in fact, have bought all the Snickers Fudge bars that were there on the rack, and then I could have kept them -- even though I'd never be able to eat them all and even though eating them all would be a terrible, unhealthy idea. And if I were Kimberly, or someone like her, like the Sapersteins, I might have done just that.

Instead, I left them there: I didn't need a Snickers Fudge bar at the moment (or ever, in my case). And today, the money that I would have spent on that candy I donated to a local charity.

That made me more proud than my original pride about thinking what a great country we live in, vis a vis candy bars... and there was none of that guilty, dismaying feeling mixed in.

Publicus Proventus now has its own site! Click here!