Pounding Moonbeams ...
When self-righteous people—in government and business—make self-righteous statements that have a total disregard for the truth, my teeth itch.
These last two weeks have been a field day for folks who have what Hemingway called a “built-in, shockproof s**t detector.”
An example is President Bush’s lecture and scold to the World Economic Forum on the Middle East at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, four days ago. He said:
Too often in the Middle East, politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail. America is deeply concerned about the plight of political prisoners in this region, as well as democratic activists who are intimidated or repressed, newspapers and civil society organizations that are shut down, and dissidents whose voices are stifled. The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices, and treat their people with the dignity and respect they deserve. I call on all nations in this region to release their prisoners of conscience, open up their political debate, and trust their people to chart their future.
I urge every reader to read the lead editorial in today’s New York Times on the Justice Department’s report on FBI agent accounts of grotesque prisoner abuse by U.S. authorities in American prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba that directly violates American law and the Geneva Conventions.
The lead of that editorial can be found under In the News at right.
When people in business and government say stupid things that are patently self-serving, I call it pounding moonbeams.
Many years ago I worked with a guy named Smith, and one day we were swapping stories about our days in the Army. He came up with a phrase that has been etched in my memory for nearly 50 years. I have not heard it elsewhere.
It seems he did something stupid, and his sergeant called him on it. Instead of admitting his goof, he made up some lame excuse. The sergeant wrinkled his brow and thought for a moment.
“Smith,” he said at length, “quit pounding moonbeams up my ass.”
Some Recent Moonbeams From ...
* Laura Bush
The response to the cyclone is just the most recent example of the junta’s failure to meet its people’s basic needs.
—Remarks at the White House, May 5, 2008
Send Brownie over to Burma to take charge. He’d do a heck of a job! Just as he met the needs of the people of New Orleans following Katrina.
* Hillary Clinton
I believe that, with your help, we will send a message to this country. Because right now more people have voted for me than have voted for my opponent. More people have voted for me than for anybody ever running for president before. So we have a very close contest for votes, for delegates, and this is nowhere near over. None of us is going to have the number of delegates we’re going to need to get to the nomination, although I understand my opponent and his supporters are going to claim that. The fact is we have to include Michigan and Florida …
—Speech in Kentucky, May 19, 2008
The Democratic primary process from the beginning has been about winning delegates, not popular vote. Long before anybody voted or caucused, Florida and Michigan were taken out of the mix, because in their greed to influence the election, they violated Democratic Party rules and all the candidates agreed not to campaign in those two states—including Hillary Clinton. If this were the last quarter of a high-scoring football game, the Clintons would claim that six points for a touchdown is too many. Four points is fair.
* David Shipula
(president of the Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania, owns Beer Super in Wilkes-Barre. Pa.)
As a guy who’s spent his entire working life running a beer distributorship, I often ask my customers, “What’s good about selling beer in convenience stores?” The answer runs something like this: “It’s convenient. You can stop for gas, and get beer and cigarettes at the same time.” Now, I can’t be the only person who sees a problem with making it easy to buy beer and gasoline in one convenient location. And even though I live in Luzerne County, I know that people in Philadelphia’s neighborhoods already are troubled by “convenience stores” that are more than a little careless about checking IDs for underage drinking and that all too often become nuisances in otherwise peaceful residential neighborhoods.
—The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 20, 2008
Pennsylvania’s blue laws are left over from Prohibition. Residents and restaurateurs are mandated to buy wine and liquor only at state stores, which have obscenely high prices and lousy selections. If I get caught bringing purchases home from Total Wine in Delaware or Canals in New Jersey—where prices are right and selections HUGE—I can be arrested, my purchases confiscated along with my car, and I will be fined. The beer distributors have the same lock on beer sales. This is government looking after its own rather than acting for the convenience and benefit of the taxpayers who pay their salaries.
* The Army Corps of Engineers
Critical New Orleans levee leaks again
The Army Corps of Engineers says it’s not a big deal.
—Cain Burdeau, Associated Press, May 22, 2008, headline and subhead in The Philadelphia Inquirer
6. If it’s free, how does Google make money off Google Health?
Much like other Google products we offer, Google Health is free to anyone who uses it. There are no ads in Google Health. Our primary focus is providing a good user experience and meeting our users’ needs.
7. How does Google Health protect the privacy of my health information?
You should know two main things up front:
* We will never sell your personal health information or data
We make it a point to let you know what information we collect when you use Google Health, how we use it, and how we keep it safe.
—FAQs on Google’s new proposal to store consumers’ personal health records, May 19, 2008
The plan was announced this past Monday, along with these FAQs. Call me silly, but my understanding is that “FAQs” means “Frequently Asked Questions.” How can there be frequently asked questions on the day it is announced? “Answers to your questions,” yes. But “Frequently Asked Questions” ... ?
* Emily Oster
Economist Scraps Hepatitis Theory On China’s ‘Missing Women’
For her economics Ph.D. at Harvard University, Emily Oster found that the ratio of men to women was unusually high in China not only because of a pronounced parental preference for sons, but also because of the effects of the hepatitis B virus. When her explanation of what is known as the “missing women” problem came out in 2005, it created a stir and cemented her reputation as a rising star ...
—Justin Lahart, The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2008
Oster’s paper was published in the Journal of Political Economy and she landed a job at the University of Chicago, “where her reputation for creative research, on topics ranging from television’s effect on women’s status in India to the links between long-haul trucking and HIV in Africa, has grown.” Oops. It turns out she misread the data on missing Chinese women. China’s one-child rule results in state-sponsored gendercide, the abandonment of newborn girls in landfills, aborting female fetuses and sending out newborn girls for international adoption.
* John Hobbs
Furniture Restorer’s Allegations of Deception Shake Antiques Trade
Michael Smith, a prominent decorator in Los Angeles, was staggered when a friend called from London in early April with the news: John Hobbs, a London antiques dealer known for superb English and Continental furniture, stratospheric prices and wealthy American clients, had been accused by his longtime restorer of selling fakes.
—Christopher Mason and Christopher Owen, The New York Times, May 22, 2008
I adore stories of counterfeit works of art and the suckers who buy them. In this case, John Hobbs’ ace restorer, Dennis Buggins, allegedly peeled off layers of wood from old armoires and created extraordinary veneer surfaces that he applied to second-rate furniture and conned dealers and buyers into believing it to be worth millions, rather than tens of thousands. “Mr. Hobbs insisted that he used Mr. Buggins only for restoration and making authorized copies of antiques,” the Times reported. “He made replicas occasionally, once every two years where maybe there was a set of 10 chairs and a client wanted 14, he said. But it would be at the client’s request. They wouldn’t be fakes, they’d simply be replicas.”