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Saturday, May 27, 2006

I Might Need That Someday!

My wife married me for my charm, patience and my soulful brown eyes. It was not for my organizational skills or general tidiness. My office looks like I’ve been receiving love letters from the Unabomber. There are things in the trunk of my car that have become antiques since I put them there. The wife on the other hand (God bless her), is the terror of tidy. She’s a one woman war on filth and disorder. She’s always felt Mr. Clean could have used a little bleach on that t-shirt. Marine drill sergeants could not pass her inspections. She dusts places I didn’t know you could dust. Her idea of a satisfying Sunday is to scrub the baseboards, disassemble and dust all the light fixtures and send everyone out to eat so she can get all the vacuum cleaner lines on the carpet straight at the same time.

When we were dating, she broke up with me the day she first visited my home! Had not God intervened and told her she had to marry me, that would have been that. The apostle Paul once wrote that each of us has a cross to bear. My poor wife’s personal cross is me!
You see, my wife believes that there are only two kinds of people in the world. She doesn’t buy the whole Phlegmatic/Melancholic/Choleric/Sanguine thing. She totally rejects Erickson’s stages of life theories. Freud’s id, ego and superego and Jung’s thinking, feeling, sensing and intuitive personality types are unadulterated balderdash. Instead, my beloved, based upon her lifetime of observing human nature, believes there are just two basic personality types in the world: the "Adders" and "Subtracters".

Here’s how the theory works. When people are under stress they react in one of two ways. They either hoard or they throw things away. She knows this from the years of anthropological studies she’s done on our two families and how they respond to crisis. The data she’s collected, confirms her hypothesis perfectly. I am an "Adder", She is a "Subtracter", and God will have his little jokes.

I can see how she got the idea for her new psychology of human behavior. Just look at the subjects of her study. First there’s my people. I come from a long line of pack rats. The basic lesson my poor dirt farmer ancestors drew from the depressions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was "You might need that some day!" We hover over garbage cans, dangling big bags of trash, reluctant to commit ourselves to actually dropping it into the hopper. The thought that something might have gotten in there accidentally tortures us. What if we need that some day? What if the roads are blocked by rising flood waters and we’re cut off and there’s just a little duct tape on that roll - not much but just enough to patch the leaky life raft we’ve got shoved in a box somewhere in the attic! Then, we could blow up the raft and use it to escape and that would show them! "Yeah, what if I hadn’t had that duct tape," I would smirk. "Then where would we be?" We’d be drowned like rats! Now, aren’t you glad I kept that duct tape? I told you it would come in handy some day!"

Have you ever carefully slit open the side of a trash sack to retrieve something you noticed that your spouse had pitched without your knowledge? Have you ever used clear strapping tape to cover the hole so it wouldn’t show?. Have you ever had to make sure that you were the one who took out the trash on trash day so you could make sure and turn the taped up sack to the inside of the pile so certain persons wouldn’t notice that you’d been "digging in the trash" again? Has your wife ever thrown something of yours away as a form of retaliation? Have you and all your stuff been shoved into a corner, closet or shed and told not to step outside the designated area on pain of being flung into the nearest sanitary landfill? If you live alone, is your house so full of cats, old clothes, "antiques", vintage magazines or empty banana boxes that you have to periodically clean out little walking paths in order to get to the bathroom? Does the idea of moving make you hyperventilate? Do you still have a complete collection of your sixth grade essays on famous explorers? Can you find it?

Then, according to my wife’s personality inventory profile, you, my friend, are an "Adder" and you are part of what’s wrong with the world. "She", if you haven’t already guessed, is a subtracter. She’s not happy with a house cleaning job unless the resulting trash pile is high enough to develop a snow cap before morning. She loves the finality of a garbage disposal. I can’t trust her with a paper shredder. My wife’s rule for making purchases from the store is, "One sack of trash out for every sack of stuff we bring in." She even tried to extend the "One in/one out" rule to my book collection arguing that I’d "already read the old ones, so I didn’t need them any more!" When she's depressed, she rents a dumpster.

Her family formed the basis for her theories about the "Subtracter" personality type. Her dad was a prodigious subtracter. His shed was a brutally tidy collection of baby food jars screwed to shelves, each one holding one variety each of fasteners, screws or nuts. He kept the shed’s dirt floor carefully raked so that the lines were exactly parallel. Footprints were raked out each time he locked the shed door. Her grandmother couldn’t bear sick or damaged animals and had them shot or drowned as quickly as possible. During the depression, members of her family coped by doing massive spring cleaning and by butchering the weakest of the cattle, pigs and sheep. They make me nervous. I try to avoid limping, wheezing or dozing off at her family reunions. There are some family members who’ve gone missing recently and nobody will talk much about it. I’ve heard them refer to the dead as "...useful right up to the end."

My wife considers being an "Adder" something of a sickness like schizophrenia or serial killing. Someone once wrote an article on organizing yourself in one those women’s magazines - Better Homes and Hospital Wards or something like that. She left it lying open on the stool in the bathroom with passages highlighted in neon yellow. One statement that was triple underlined said, "If you haven’t used it in six months, you don’t need it!" She marked out "six" and wrote "three". Her philosophy is, "If it’s damaged or not in use, it’s headed for the dumpster." And she’s serious about it. I’ve trained the kids and the dog to get up from the TV once in a while and make a few passes in front of her just to let her know they’re still breathing. I go out to the tool shed and move things around every two and a half months so everything looks recently used. I have a storage building in another city that she doesn’t know about or have a key to.
When she used to have PMS, I could tell where she was in the cycle by the size of the trash pile at the curb. She threw away my sixth grade essays on Napoleonic era naval battles. My first (unpublished) novel is rotting in a landfill on the outskirts of Alexandria Louisiana. My collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys is gone. Three collections of rusty screws have mysteriously disappeared along with the mildewed box they came in as well as 25 pounds of leftover clips, tags, spare parts, nuts and bolts left over from years of late Christmas Eve toy assembly projects.

And she thinks I’m crazy! I mean, we might have grandkids some day and I might just be assembling one of their toys late some Christmas Eve and I might just need that part and I won’t have it and whose fault will it be? Who will be responsible for the tears in the eyes of our favorite grandchild when her toy is not completely assembled on that tragic Christmas morning?
"SOMEONE" who didn’t think we’d need that some day, that’s who!

Just one man's opinion....


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Double Standard Where Offending the Faithful is Concerned

I will say this for the Germans. They did learn their lesson from their experience with the Nazis. This week they ruled in favor of allowing a cartoon series that lampoons the Pope and all things Catholic when German bishops tried to get the series legally banned. This was consistent with their 'freedom of speech' stand in support of neighbor Denmark for allowing the infamous Mohammed cartoons. Not everyone has been consistent, however.

The Mohammed cartoons spawned many copycat cartoons and tributes (all in tremendously poor taste as is to be expected from those who deliberately torment people over their religion) and a whole lot of worldwide media hand-wringing. Predictably, the twinkie-munchers in the blog community got into the act. One blog proclaimed it "Draw Mohammed Week!" and posted lots of new pictures of the prophet in a less than flattering light. The blog got a tremendous number of hits from web-surfers who live in the Middle East - the faithful looking for something to be offended about no doubt. It's interesting that most of the blogger's readers were people who had googled the site looking for Mohammed cartoons. Then, of course, they promptly got offended.

I checked Wikipedia for international reaction to the Mohammed cartoons. They listed official responses from 36 nations, the United Nations, the European Union and The Organization of Islamic Conference. Most condemned the cartoons roundly, although about a third managed to mumble something about free speech in there somewhere.

Now along comes "Popetown" which is not just a couple of cartoons in an obscure Danish magazine, but an MTV animated series that features Jesus sitting in a Lazyboy in front of the TV and the pope bouncing through 'Popetown' on a pogo stick. The series offends Catholics six ways to Sunday and does so deliberately.

So, I checked out the international reaction to Popetown on Wikipedia - statements by governments in reaction to the arguably anti-Christian cartoons as I had done with the arguably anti-Islamic cartoons before. Want to guess how many countries got officially upset?

Two! Germany and New Zealand and then they took aim at the Catholic Bishops who sued to have the series taken off the air. The freedom of speech angle was not mumbled about, but spoken about rather clearly - in essence telling the bishops "Too bad you're offended. We have that pesky free speech thing going..." Great Britain, which paid for Popetown in the first place, never allowed it to run on the BBC and hasn't had much to say about it since. I didn't find the round condemnation that the Mohammed cartoons got. Nobody suggested any studies of potential anti-christianism or decried the rise of anti-christian sentiment in the EU or compared it to Nazi led anti-semitism as dozens of countries did over the Mohammed cartoons. The whole reaction to Popetown has been a distinct "Who cares?"

Hey, in the U.S., we've got the "Simpson's" and "Southpark". We're used to seeing Jesus in the wrestling wring with Satan or drunk and soliciting hookers in a back alley. Popetown is pretty tame compared to that and this stuff goes pretty much lawsuit free over here. I guess the German and New Zealand bishops thought that after all the hoopla over the Mohammed cartoons, they might get some traction if they were to get offended too.

Sorry guys, but Catholic bishops aren't likely to blow anyone up over this and we're not afraid of lawsuits. So, their efforts to stop the show have largely fizzled and since they shut down the Inquisition several hundred years back, the Catholic church has been pretty much left without an enforcement arm unless they want to start stuffing the novice nuns' habits with explosives.

Now, I believe strongly in freedom of speech since free speech tends to protect freedom of religion. I also believe in the Golden Rule, which, unfortunately, if enforced by other than the free will of believers who practice it, soon becomes a device to enslave and control people. The Golden rule only works if everybody obeys it because they want to, not because the law says you have to. I, personally, would not do anything to deliberately offend someone over their religion - unless, of course, they stop me on the street or come to my house on Saturday morning and seem to want to participate in an open theological debate, and then I may say something controversial, though not deliberately hurtful.

What protects our freedom in this sinful world are laws about free speech and religion. That protection means some folks with less than pure hearts will say hurtful things about your religion and do it deliberately. We are only guaranteed freedom to speak, not freedom from speech. I think it's a pretty good system. Apparently, some countries do not.

Also what is blindingly apparent is that unless you express your displeasure at having your religion made fun of by blowing up things, beheading innocent bystanders and knocking down skyscrapers, nobody really cares if you get your feelings hurt...

Now, class, what lesson have we just taught to terrorists about how successful their methods are? The recent book "The Lessons of Terror" by Caleb Carr makes a brilliant case that terrorism doesn't work very well as a tool to accomplish a national purpose. In all of history, terror never works well as a tool of societal evolution. If terrorists were really interested in accomplishing what their stated goals are, they might pay attention to that lesson and resort to other tactics. The problem with terrorists is that they aren't in this for the greater good of Islam, Communism solidarity or a United Ireland.

I think they're all in it for the girls!!

Okay, maybe not directly, but think about it. It's about power. It's about who's in control after the revolution. And.... whoever has the power gets the best women. It's pretty simple. So, what about women terrorists. Well, if you believe the movies, terrorist gals are only impressed by males with a great deal of perceived power (like a license to kill - which accounts for 007). Women terrorists in movies are either attractive, loose women whose taste in fashion runs toward spandex or they are sweaty, pistol-packin' man-killers or they are totally dominated by their male counterparts (don't hit me again, I promise I'll trigger the detonator this time!). Suicide bombers are promised 70 virgins in the Islamic terrorist version of heaven. Case closed, I think!

I have a hard time believing that terrorists really are thinking about societal change when they try to make people more respectful of their religion by blowing up women and children or beheading some electrical engineer who came over to get their lights running again for them.

Does anyone think, "Hey, he blew himself all to bits and took out the old lady and the baby carriage at the same time. How cool is that! Sign me up for that religion! I am so in!"

Maybe they'll blow up enough of their followers to make themselves ineffective. We can only hope.

Just one man's opinion...


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why would we want to boycott Exxon?

Well, I got the e-mail proposing a gas boycott of Exxon/Mobil today. It's kin to the one day "gas boycott" that went round last year. On the surface it makes some kind of sense, but there are a couple of flaws in the plan I'd like to point out.

1. Why hit Exxon/Mobil? Exxon is an American company run by Americans and employing tens of thousands of Americans. Sort of like going to war and having the sargeant tell you to shoot your own guys first!

2. How many people can really work up a lot of anger at Exxon? Why would I want to inconvenience myself to hurt this one company when so many are raising their prices too. It's not just Exxon after all.

So my proposed solution would be as follows:

Why not hit the oil companies that are owned by foreign oil interests - someone we can all get really mad at?

How about let’s go after Citgo, for example?

Instead of damaging an American company, how about we get the attention of one whose primary stockholder doesn’t even like America – Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez?

This in USA today:
But in fact there's nothing ordinary about Citgo. One of the USA's largest refiners, Citgo is a subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA). As such, it ultimately belongs to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, an avowedly anti-American leader who counts Fidel Castro among his closest friends and mocks President Bush as a "genocidal murderer." – USA Today

The rest of the article can be found at

The article further says…
"The only difference between Citgo and other companies is that Citgo has only one shareholder," he (Felix Rodriguez, the company president) said, referring to the Venezuelan president. – USA Today

Chavez’s company owns 6% of the US refinery capacity, but what is scary is that...

Thousands of veteran executives and petroleum engineers were recently cashiered, replaced by those politically loyal to the president's revolutionary aims (including company president, Rodriguez). – USA Today

Then there is this telling statement:

As Hurricanes Katrina and Rita demonstrated, any disruption to the nation's refining industry instantly increases gas prices. What if Chávez, who periodically threatens to curtail oil shipments to the USA, closed Citgo's refineries?

"He'd only have to do that for 90 days, and he'd destroy our economy," worries Matthew Simmons, a prominent energy investment banker. "He actually has our livelihood in his hands."
Others note that imported oil from elsewhere eventually could compensate for any interruption in Citgo supplies. And, because Chávez depends on the company's specialized refineries to process Venezuela's sulfur-rich crude oil, a shutdown would cost him and his country dearly.

"His capacity to make life difficult for George Bush would be at the cost of burying himself," says Claudio Loser, a former International Monetary Fund official. – USA Today

I don’t know about you, but I kind of like George Bush’s doctrine of preemptive action. Let’s take Chavez at his word and consider him a threat. If the US Government won’t make war, I sure as heck can wage my own personal war as an American citizen by boycotting Chavez’s gas.

Will Americans be hurt?

For a time maybe, because some American’s do still work for these bozos. But do you know how fast you can change gas suppliers down at the Kwik-E-Mart? Just try and find a Diamond Shamrock station, for instance – they were there yesterday weren’t they? If business goes to other oil companies, so will the jobs.

Or maybe the Venezuelans (who do belong to OPEC) will come to their senses and boot Chavez out like they did once before.

Who knows? But it does make more sense than hurting an American owned company like Exxon/Mobil, Valero, or Chevron. If you get this e-mail, why not send this blog entry back to whoever sent it to you and see if it makes sense to them? If we’re going to get the attention of the oil industry, lets slap the hands of companies whose owners have every reason to jack up oil prices – ones that hate us and are using the money they make off us to finance anti-American activities.

Tom King

"Speak softly and carry a big stick."
--Theodore Roosevelt