Selected exerpts from the Doctor's notebooks
One of Forte's better-known and more disconcerting speculations was that we might be property. But it could be worse we might be beer.
Advertisements are lies (the truth is not in them) and, since advertisers are ipso facto professional liars, traditional moral distinctions should certainly obtain as, for example, we tend to regard one who commits murder in a fit of passion as less reprehensible than a hired assassin.
According to data released by the U.S. Census, states spend an average of $9,600.00 per year per child on public education; and, in most states, school funding amounts to almost half the annual budget. This being the case, why do governments allow tax deductions for children?
Dean Swift undoubtedly had a moment of cogent inspiration when he wrote his well-known “Modest Proposal.” Although more broadly relevant today than at the time of its composition, as social policy it simply cannot be implemented: there is just something about cannibalism that sticks in the craw. People won't stand for it; and, in most Christian countries there are laws against it laws that are passed by decent, God-fearing men and women, who go to church on Sunday and take Holy Communion at Easter.
A great deal is said about lobbyist money influencing Washington, usually without any figures attached; so, for the record, the industry spent 3.3 billion last year  advocating on behalf of their clients, including by way of the American League of Lobbyists themselves. Of course that only takes into account expenditures by legally registered lobbyists who at least according to most experts account for only a small minority of those engaged in the profession.
I suspect that the world-wide economic crisis really began when we stopped being citizens and became consumers .[†]
We need air, water and food (in that order); our secondary needs are clothing and a place to live (also in that order). Everything else is "want " and wants are either tools, hooks or indulgences.
Tools are things necessary to accomplish a given task (in addition, tools require training and practice to use effectively: tools are needful but not much fun); indulgences are toys; and everything else is a hook. When you think you "need" something that isn't absolutely necessary to sustain physical life, it's a hook; and, since most hooks are set by advertisers, the more ads you block, the more control over your own spending you'll have.
The issue of gay marriage has been arousing a certain amount of contention, at least among those who consider themselves interested parties. Amidst all the hollering and hair-pulling, the economy is an important factor that has been largely ignored — specifically, the Dinks (Dual income, no kids). Quite aside from debates about equal treatment under law (allowing gays the social advantages of divorce, alimony, separate maintenance, child support, etc.), gay couples generally represent one of the few economic groups who still have disposable income to spend. It may well be that — after spokesmen for all the various gods, prophets, demons, ifrits, djinn, Forces and Powers have had their say — the last word will come from the Almighty Dollar. In the meantime, since over half of all marriages end in divorce, advocates may console themselves with the thought that the procedure doesn't seem to be working all that well for their heterosexual brethren either.[†]
As overpopulation and suburban sprawl have encroached on their native habitat, there has been an alarming decline in the number of misanthropes. Once commonly found on the outskirts of small towns and villages, these reclusive creatures are now rarely encountered, although their distant cousins, the social misfits, have successfully adapted to commensal life. [Note: the True Misanthrope is often mistaken for the Atypical Eccentric (or Common Dingbat); but, despite a superficial resemblance, the species are not related.]
THE CONTEMPORARY POLITICAL DICTIONARY
(a handy compendium of common phrases translated from Politics to English)
|WORD OR PHRASE||MEANING||USAGE|
|we need...||I want...||In advocating legislation; usually (but not always) requiring funding or tax increases|
|our children||my children||In advocating legislation; usually (but not always) requiring funding or tax increases|
|elitist||(1) containing ideas beyond the grasp of 7-year olds; hence,
||As a generic rhetorical pejorative|
|alt: (1) emotionally mature; hence,
||As a generic critical pejorative|
|family values||The moral code espoused by my local/personal religious leader||In advocating legislation or running for office; by implication, deploring the moral code espoused by someone else — and never supported with statistical evidence|
|to protect||[meaningless]||An expression of fear; usually (but not always) employed with "our children" or "family values" (above) in advocating legislation|
A sort of verbal wild card: it may be used as an expression of hope (this should keep us safe ), an expression of fear (we are no longer safe ), an expression of aspiration (we all want to be safe ), an expression of remorse (I knew we weren't safe ), in advocating legislation (this bill will insure our safety ), in running for office (if my opponent is elected, we will not be safe ), etc.
|Health Care Reform
(offered as a public service)
|We don't want government bureaucrats making decisions about health care.||We're accustomed to insurance adjustors making decisions about health care.|
|We don't want the government rationing our health care.||We're accustomed to health care rationing based on ability to pay.|
|We don't want government interference in the traditional doctor–patient relationship.||We're accustomed to health insurers' interference in the traditional doctor–patient relationship.|
|We can't afford to reform the health care system — especially now.||Somebody's ox will be gored — probably mine.|
|We have the best health care system in the world.||I have insurance.|
|“The pharmaceutical industry has joined in the effort to reform health care.”||You're not going to be able to buy drugs from Canada.|
|“Insurance companies have signed onto health care reform and promised to reduce costs by billions of dollars.”
||You're not going to get a single-payer system, either.|
|(For the benefit of the ideologically nervous:) The United States already has government-sponsored health care. In fact, it has two systems of government-sponsored care: MediCare for seniors and the disabled, and the veterans health care system for members of the armed services.
|(For the benefit of confused voters:) The debate can be reduced to two basic questions —
| [In 2008 health care costs amounted to 17% of U.S. GDP.]
Discussions of health care policy issues made possible by a generous grant from the Skoal Foundation, To your health!
Despite the number of highly articulate people involved in its creation, the 'Net has not been an unmitigated boon to the fine art of letters: it has spawned some horribly deformed terminology, including (but alas, not limited to)
newbies : a ghastly neologism that sounds like the name of a fast-food franchise.
(Get a WhopperBurger, fries, and the soft drink of your choice for just $2.99! This week only, at your local Newbies.)
twitter : birds twitter; and, the word is also related to the British slang term twit.
(The conclusions are inescapable.)
unfriend : a truly sad failure of both vocabulary and imagination — especially considering the number of more pungently descriptive synonyms (e.g. blackball, blacklist, blue-pencil, delete, cancel, revoke, and the always-serviceable, straightforward remove).
(It also confuses the useful social distinction between friends, unfriends, and enemies.)
blogisphere : a bizarre hybrid primarily perpetrated by media commentators, some of whom, at least, should know better.
(In memoriam, Samuel Pepys)
netizens : another unnatural result of the miscegenation between two otherwise respectable words.
(Memo to self-declared netizens: it has never been historically possible to be a citizen anywhere without paying taxes.)
On the other hand (or if you must OTOH), there are those who understand that a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver as, for example
from (or if you really must BWOF ) the BBC :
casino bank : (no definition necessary)
bankster : (ditto)
The wonderful thing about chronic illness is that it's good for a lifetime, and so few things are these days.
Google announced they will be collating user profile information from all their platforms and services for use in selling targeted ads, and Facebook's IPO (the largest in U.S. history) means they will have a legal obligation to generate enough ad revenue to provide shareholders a maximized return on over five billion dollars in stock.
When the lion and the tiger dispute a kill, it doesn't matter who wins either way the jackals feed. (Or, as one cash cow remarked to another, Sometimes I feel milked.)
The theologically inclined should take heart that there is incontrovertible evidence for the existence of Someone who, though knowing your all-too-human flaws, still loves you.
It's your dog.
A Post-Halloween Special (to help you be more efficiently scared all year long ) ®And, from our Bad-Hollywood-Disaster-Flick-as-Reality-Department:
A CHILD'S GARDEN OF RECESSION ECONOMICS
Dedicated to the kiddies who, after all, will have to pay for it.
The Doctor provides a brief examination of some basic economic terms, concepts, and common statistics.
|WORD OR PHRASE||DEFINITION||EXAMPLE / DISCUSSION|
|The law of supply and demand||Often called "the invisible hand," this term goes back to Adam Smith. The idea is quite straightforward: when more people want to buy something than there are somethings to buy, the price goes up; and, if fewer people want to buy something when there a lot more somethings available, the price goes down.||The first digital television sets were expensive, usually triple the price of a comparable unit. Since consumers in droves declined to buy them, Congress passed a law requiring all television signals change from analog to digital on a specific date, so the prices remained unchanged (see also free markets ).
(Your tax dollars at work building a better tomorrow.)
|free markets||Markets that are free from regulation in the public interest (see also deregulation ).||This flexible term is used both in advocating deregulation and in advocating regulatory legislation beneficial to specific market sectors or individual business entities (e.g., oil-depletion allowances, the DMCA, and the Price-Anderson Act).
(Like communism in the 1950's, the phrase has acquired force as an expression of faith, and is no longer used in an economic sense.)
|deregulation||Removing restrictive government regulations, allowing the law of supply and demand to function freely. This encourages market competition leading to greater efficiency, and delivers goods and services at the lowest prices.
(At least, in theory.)
|The Federal government deregulated the savings and loan industry, leading to its collapse (and Federal bailout). The Federal government also deregulated the airlines, leading to a tripling of fares, the collapse of the airline industry (twice), and a Federal bailout (twice). Deregulation of electrical utilities led to the Enron scandal, power blackouts, and a doubling of the average person's electrical bill. And, most recently, deregulation of the banks led to the collapse of several major banking and brokerage houses in the U.S., a global crisis in Capitalism, and ongoing worldwide government bailouts.(†)
(I'm not sure this is working correctly.)
|inflation||The change, expressed as a percentage, in what one dollar will buy. This statistic is usually expressed as the core rate of inflation.
[ See also (1) ]
|When the price of goods or services goes up, a dollar will buy less. For example, when the price of diesel tripled, it cost more to deliver food to markets, and the price of food also went up. Since gasoline and food went up sharply, the average consumer had effectively less money to spend;(†) so, markets responded by advertising heavily and raising prices.[†]
(See Dr. DB's consumer tips.)
|core rate of inflation||The rate of inflation excluding “the volatile food and energy sectors.”
[ See also (1) ]
|Since this measures the rate of inflation affecting those living off-grid who don't drive or eat, its utility escapes me.
(This useful statistic received one of Dr. DB's awards in 2004.)
|unfunded mandate(s)||A legislative body passes a law binding on subordinate parties, but declines to provide funding to pay for expenses incurred in compliance.†||The best example of this is mandatory automobile insurance; and, at this time, mandatory health insurance is also under discussion.[†]
(So we'll all have an insurance policy, no matter how much it costs us.)
|cost-shifting||Part of the price of goods or services is transferred from the immediate recipient to someone else, who can (presumably) better afford it.||Another, more sophisticated way of end-running the law of supply and demand. The traditional example is health care, where doctors and hospitals charge private insurers more to compensate for lower payments by MediCare and MedicAid, but other examples abound.(1)|
|level playing field||A metaphor drawn from sport: if the playing field is not level, one competitor has an advantage.||This phrase is typically used in a negative sense, often when advocating deregulation; however, since one team always has the advantage — if only in skill — the metaphor is somewhat misleading.
(Basically, it means someone is successfully competing with ME. )
|leverage||debt (at compound interest)||Many corporations are highly leveraged, whereas many consumers are deeply in debt.(2)
(A thin, fine line employed in quarterly reports.)
|A mortgage is a piece of paper whose value is secured by real property; and, a derivative is a piece of paper whose value is secured by a bunch of mortgages, i.e. by other pieces of paper.(3)
(Used paper is not a widely traded market commodity.)
|durable goods||"Big ticket" items that are intended to last at least
[More . . .]
Expensive items like cars and refrigerators are now designed to last at least three years.
|Dow-Jones average||A group of 30 stocks representing various economic sectors, whose value is considered indicative of overall market performance.||Dow stocks are selected on the basis of performance,(4) and 30 is not a statistically valid sample.
(This is another number I have trouble with.†)
|LIBOR (rate)||(Officially:) London Inter-Bank Offered Rate
(In practice:) Lying International Banker's Organized Ripoff
|A statistical metric used to fix interest rates on over 300 trillion dollars worth of financial "instruments," including pension fund investments, adjustable rate mortgages, credit cards, savings accounts, and consumer loans.[†]
(The key word here is fix.)
|bubble||An unsupported, very rapid increase in stock prices; usually justified as caused by a change in fundamental market conditions.(5, 6)
(See also troubled assets and leverage.)
|The dotCom Bubble is a classic example: investors initially bought stock in companies that had no real assets, had never made a profit, and were losing money because, if the company lost less money in a given quarter, the price of its stock would go up. Fortunes were made — temporarily.
(An example of what may best be termed faith-based market value. )
|recession||A severe, extended economic downturn; not to be confused with a Depression, Crash, or Panic (except, of course, by those most affected).
[More . . .]
|The "bust" side of the regular boom-and-bust cycle of unregulated capital markets.(6)
(The Doctor generally uses the more precise technical description The economy is in the toilet. )
|If not worthy of comment, it should at least be noted that — over four years into the Great Recession, with tragically high rates of worldwide unemployment and entire first-world national economies destabilized — none of the primary instigators have gone to jail or even been charged with a crime in a court of law.(†)|
Context is everything: if it's important, learn the details.
Theology does not thrive in the world of action and reaction, change: it grows on calm, like the scum on a stagnant pool. And it flourishes, it prospers, on decline. Only in a world where everything is patently being lost can a priest stir men's hearts as poet would by maintaining that nothing is in vain.
The best thing about pessimism is that one is sometimes pleasantly surprised.
Most of what you think you know is arbitrary.
People with a gift for synthesis are called “geniuses” and usually revered after they are safely dead.
People with a gift for analysis are called “heretics” and frequently persecuted until they are safely dead.
We do as we can or as we must, and only rarely as we will.
Like dry wine, black coffee and straight whiskey, truth is an acquired taste.
Cop out now and avoid the rush
You can't idiot-proof the universe
The grass is always greener where the septic tank leaks
Congress a farce to be reckoned with
Warning: this vehicle brakes for intersections
I know my turn signal is on it's keeping me awake
Maniac on board. . .(driving)
Anyone who thinks that old-fashioned, cut-throat Capitalism is dead should study the Emerald Triangle pot market.
Tofu obviously exists as God's punishment for the sin of vegetarianism: in its natural state it lacks both the pleasing texture and intriguing taste of library paste. I am, by nature, uninclined to suffer gustatory penance, and have never been convinced that a philosophically contrived diet will prolong one's stay in this vale of tears; but for those inclined to such exercises, it may well seem so.
Who controls your personal information matters : the difference between targeted marketing and targeted persecution is merely a matter of chosen end use — and the choice is not yours. , 
[The following is not my idea, but it wound up in my notebooks because I find it a splendid example of creative thinking.]
Restarting the Palestinian/Israeli 'Peace Process'
Both the Palestinians and Israelis would receive equal amounts of world support (i.e., administered by the U.N.): currently, this amounts to an aggregate of nearly 8 billion dollars annually coming from various donor countries. For each new Jewish settler in disputed regions (Gaza, the West Bank, or East Jerusalem) there would be a $50 million dollar deduction from Israeli aid; and, likewise, for each rocket landing on the territory of Israel, there would be a $50 million dollar deduction from the aid given to the Palestinians.
It's not too hard to make an argument for NASA funding. ®
You are getting older if you remember when
A man with a dirty mind is never bored.
The Doctor's prediction for the new millennium: people who know how to spell will be getting a lot of laughs.
More . . .
The Doctor discusses the news