The Old Curmudgeon's Commentary

Self Portrait Red Line


2nd Amendment

5-7-13 The Constitution, and the 2nd amendment thereto in particular, are subject to interpretation just as the Bible is; there is an interpretation of the Bible for every Christian denomination, sect, and cult there is. The 2nd amendment was hastily re-written from an earlier version, and it shows. Most agree that when it says “… the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed” it gives citizens an uninfringed right to keep and bear arms.

But what about the “well-regulated Militia” part? (“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,”) That could be interpreted as placing a condition on the right to keep and bear arms. That condition would be the keeping and bearing of arms in support of the militia. When the constitution was written, the southern states had militias to keep the slaves from revolting and didn’t want anything to infringe upon their right to do so.

The 2nd amendment only applied to the Federal government (at least until the end of the Civil War); state and local governments have placed many infringements on our right to keep and bear arms.

Cold, Dead Fingers

1-11-13 A Facebook friend is concerned that the government may attempt to confiscate all guns in private hands. She needn't worry; her fingers will be cold and dead before the government takes her gun. The results of Ruby Ridge and Waco prove this. A semi-automatic long gun is no more defense against tanks, black helicopters, and drones than a B-B gun is against a hornets nest. In fact, it isn't even a good idea to shoot a hornets nest with a B-B gun unless you are far, far away and can run very fast.

Deadly Analogies

12-21-12 Killing people with semi-automatic weapons is like ...
Killing people with knives
Killing people with cars
Killing people with hands
Klilling people with word processors?

Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients?

11-14-12 No, we don't need that. Instead, we need to offer welfare recipients free contraceptives; in fact, maybe we should require them to accept the implantation of long-term contraceptives!

We, the People, Have Spoken

11-12-12 Barack Obama is still president of the United States.

Republican Party Beware

11-9-12 (From Dan McDermott's review of one of President Bush's speech writers, David Frum's, book Why Romney Lost (And What The GOP Can Do About It)): "Frum presents a strong note of caution: 'To be a patriot is to love your country as it is. Those who seem to despise half of America will never be trusted to govern any of it. Those who cherish only the country's past will not be entrusted with its future.'"

The Popular Vote

David Frum in his recent eBook argued that Romney's loss was just a symptom of a larger problem, citing the fact that Republican candidates lost the popular vote in the past six presidential elections.

Popular vote 2000George Bush - 50,456,002 Al Gore - 50,999,897
Percentage 47.9% 48.4%
Popular vote 2012Mitt Romney - 58,193,213 Barack Obama - 61,206,301
Percentage 48% 50.5%

Free Speech

10-18-12 Local governments and lower courts are trampling the religious freedom and free speech rights of the Westboro Baptist Church. If the Westboro Baptist Church believes that God is punishing the United States on its stand for homosexual rights, they should be able to make those beliefs public.

The Fear of Patriots Act

10-18-12 "One of these days... POW!!! Right in the kisser!" That would be a terroristic threat in today's hunt for terror under every bed. But this same definition of "terror" applied in the second presidential debate. The moderator, Candy Crowley, corrected Governor Romney by telling him that President Obama did say that the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was an "act of terror" on the day after the attack meaning that he reported that terrorists were responsible for the attack. However, President Obama only said, "No act of terror will go unpunished." and that could have referred just as easily to a demonstrator smacking a consulate guard "POW!!! Right in the kisser!" Ms. Crowley did go on to say that it was a couple of weeks later that the president confirmed organzied terrorists were behind the attack.

To Whom Do We Owe Our National Debt?

10-17-12 I'm still interested in trying to understand whom we owe that $16 trillion national debt to. Some probably think that we owe most of it to China. However, I searched the web and found a list of the top 15 holders of the U.S. debt and China isn't even number one. Of those top 15, the 10 at the bottom of the list held less than $1 trillion each with number 15 holding only about $0.25 trillion. So who holds the highest amount?

No. 1 is the Social Security Trust fund at $2.67 trillion.

No. 2 is the Federal Reserve at $1.66 trillion.

No. 3 is China at about $1.17 trillion, although today (10-16-12) Japan passed China.

No. 4 is investors in U.S. bonds and other private investors at about $1.1 trillion.

No. 5 is Japan at $1.08 trillion although that has gone up and China's has come down.

Nos. 6 through 15 are pension funds, mutual funds, state and local government investments, the Medicare Trust Fund, depository institutions, oil exporters (includes about 15 foreign countries who sell us oil on credit), insurance companies, Brazil, Caribbean banking centers, and Tiawan. (Another list includes the United Kingdom.)

Who Is a Real Christian?

10-16-12 I'm reminded that years ago it was popular in Christian circles to ask rhetorically, “If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” I thought about that and came to the conclusion that it would depend on who the judges were. While many people I know would speak up in support of my Christianity, many Christians would probably express doubts. Although most Christians believe that we are not to judge (lest we be judged), they are proud “fruit inspectors.” I think you'll find many Christian “fruit inspectors” at work in our society today. Some of them have decided that President Obama is producing "rotten fruit" and is thus not up to their standards for Christians, but Governor Romney, based on his "fruit," is Christian in everything but religion.

National ID

9-14-12 It's time for a national ID card to solve the voter ID situation. With today's internet and 'smart' card technologies, the card would contain all pertinant information about a person and could even be used for the census. The national ID card would be issued to every person born in the United States and its territories for free at birth. The card would be updated periodically as the person's situation changed. It would be the Social Security card, a driver's license, and means of voter registration. Each of these qualifications would be added when the person qualified. The card would be required for establishing credit, purchasing or renting a home, getting a job and other contractual transactions. Each time a person moved to a new residence, the card would automatically register the person for that voting precinct and provide authorities with the person's new location. The card would even be used at death! When a person died the card would have to be surrendered to obtain any death benefits such as insurance and an inheritance. Once the card was surrendered, the person would be removed from voter lists, social security, etc.

Political Parties


8-31-12 "Away in France during this reform convention, Thomas Jefferson objected to the lack of any formal provision for a two-party system. "Men are naturally divided into two parties,'' he wrote, "those who fear and distrust the people and wish to draw all power from them into the hands of the higher classes [and] those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise, depository of the public interests.''

"It was obvious to the first president, George Washington, that unless he drew Jefferson into his government, Jefferson would organize anti-federal opposition into a political party. The uneasy honeymoon of the first American political system lasted less than two years. Inside Washington's cabinet lurked the seeds of two quite opposite political parties. Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton spoke for the prosperous seaport towns of the North, the banking and commercial interests, the creditors. Jefferson, the perennially debt-ridden man from Monticello, spoke for the South and the West, the farmers, the workers, other debtors. To Jefferson, the Federalists were intolerably aristocratic "monocrats.'' To Hamilton, Jeffersonians were French-style incendiaries who must be kept in check.

"For awhile, James Madison, putative father of the Constitution and major author of the Federalist Papers, upheld Hamilton. But Hamilton's pro-business, pro-banking policies, his coziness with land speculators who were swindling veterans out of their bounty lands, quickly drove Madison into Jefferson's camp. At the end of the First Congress in the spring of 1791, ostensibly on a vacation tour of the Adirondacks and Vermont, Jefferson and Madison decided to launch a political party to oppose Hamilton's, ergo President Washington's, fiscal policies."

Time to Privatize

8/22/12 It's time to privatize the FAA and the TSA. Why should "we, the people" pay for flight control and security checks for the people, many of them very rich, who use the airports? Let those who use the system pay for the use of the system! I suspect that, if there wasn't a taxpayer subsidy supporting air traffic control and airport safety, there would be no passenger air traffic because passengers could not afford to fly.

And while we're at it why not privatize "school boy" football?


You Built Your Own Business? “We, the People” Helped!

A simple example: Just let "[us], the people," close the street in front of your business for major re-construction. After a few months I think you'll realize how important it is for "[us], the people," to work together to provide for all what none can do alone. Your taxes paid for the road? All by yourself? Every time “we, the people” buy a gallon of gas we help build and maintain the streets that brings goods and customers in.

So you have an online business and don't need a street? Who designed and built the internet? Scientists and engineers working for "[us], the people," with contracts and grants from our tax dollars. Do you ship and receive supplies or products for your online business? You're back on our streets again!

You can't escape your debt to "[us], the people." Can you fill in your business forms, operate a computer? Thank a teacher! Were you fed by someone when you were a child? Thank your parents or those who stood in for them! Were you a scout? Did you attend VBS? I think you owe a big debt to society and should be glad that our great country provided you the opportunity to use your skills and intelligence to create a successful business.

Trickle Down

7-18-2012, It sounds so familiar: "There are those who believe that, if you will legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea, however, has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up through every class which rests upon them." -- Democrat William Jennings Bryan, 1896

I Take the Pledge

(From 2006) As I wrote on my Grandfather Maxwell's biography page, the pledge of allegiance to the flag was written and published the month he was born in 1892. President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed that it be recited in the public schools on October 12, 1892, in observance of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America. The origninal wording of the pledge was "I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the republic for which it stands; one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." The author, Francis Bellamy, a socialist editor and northern Baptist pastor, wanted to unclude "equality" with "liberty" and "justice," but even starry-eyed liberal socialists knew at that time that our country was far from proclaiming equality for all its citizens. The pledge was intended to be a universal pledge that all the citizens of the world's republics could recite. The pledge was first published in The Youth's Companion; somehow that sounds strangely communistic to me.

On Flag Day, 1924, the pledge was re-worded to "the flag of the United States of America" from "my flag" and that's the way I learned it when I began school in 1947. Grandpa Maxwell was 32 in 1924 and was still teaching school. He eventually quit because of his loss of hearing.

In 1954, when Grandpa Maxwell was 62 there was a push by the Knights of Columbus and some religious leaders to add the phrase "under God" to the pledge. This was intended to distinguish our pledge from whatever pledges the "godless communists" were making. President Eisenhower recommended it to Congress and Congress passed a bill making the pledge 'official' with the words. "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It was an effort, but we school children eventually learned to add the phrase "under God" to our pledging. Even by 1954 our country was not interested in pledging "equality" for all.

On Flag Day this year, 112 years after it was written and 50 years after the phrase "under God" was added, the Supreme Court decided not to tackle the issue of the appropriateness of exposing school children to the daily repitition of the words "under God" in a classroom setting.

It makes me feel very patriotic to recite the pledge to the flag and to sing the National Anthem with my fellow citizens, but I would feel just as patriotic if the pledge was still recited the way it was originally published even with the addition of "equality."

(Base on an Associated Press piece in today's Houston Chronicle and other sources that I used for my grandfather's biography.)

Be Very Afraid!

6-11-2012, Coming to a city street near you "... equipment such as machine guns, tanks, helicopters, grenade launchers, bazookas and armored personnel carriers ...." This is from a article which reports that the Pentagon is actually suspending this program to transfer military equipment to local police forces across the country. There is no longer any way for the private citizen to match arms with the government. Back when the constitution and the first ten amendments to it were adopted, the citizens WERE the armed forces of the country. So when the second amendment says: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed," it probably was intended to allow citizens to maintain a capability of controlling the government by military force if necessary.

There were practical reasons to maintain arms as well; people often survived by killing wild game, so a firearm was a tool for those living in the country. This is were the infringement part would have come in back in that day. The government could have limited the types of weapons that private citizens could bear then, even as it does today. Firearms could have been limited to only those suitable for game.

Of course, private citizens didn't have access to cannon and larger weapons even then. However, a cannon battery could often be overrun by citizens with rifles. That is not so today; imagine try to take out an armored personnel carrier defended by police carrying bazookas and grenade launchers!

The "well regulated militia" as a purpose for an armed citizenry is not longer applicable.

Kill Them All!

5-31-12, I remember when it was conservatives who said, "Kill them all and let God sort them out!" Now it's Obama: If you're killed in a drone attack, you'll be considered to be a terrorist unless identified posthumously as a non-combatant.

While I quote the version popular during the Viet Nam war era, my son pointed out that that thought was originally expressed by a Cistercian church leader, Arnaud Amalric, who allegedly advised a soldier, who wasn't sure how to distinguish Catholic friends from the Cather enemies, to "Kill them all. For the Lord knows them that are His."

Dixiecrat Republicans and the One-party System

5-25-12, From the days of reconstruction until the middle of the 20th century, politics in Arkansas and most southern states was dominated by the Democratic Party. I grew up during the "red scare" era and wondered how a one-party system in Arkansas differed from a one-party system in the U.S.S.R.

Candidates for political office vie for their party's nomination in primary elections. These elections can be pretty heated as can be seen in the Texas Republican primary this year. When the dust settles the primary election winner becomes the party's candidate for office and is placed on the ballot under that party's banner for the fall general election. When one party dominates politics, that party's candidate has weak or no opposition in the general election and thus is elected by default.

The practical result is that citizens who want to have a voice in who is elected must make their choice known in the one-party's primary election, in effect becoming a member of that one-party. (That's the way it was as I was growing up in Arkansas.) Of course, that's good if you're a member of the dominate party.

After Arkansas elected Winthrop Rockefeller governor in 1967, Arkansas' nascent Republican party began to grow, but it doesn't dominate politics yet. However, in many other southern states, including Texas, the prominent conservative Democrats abandoned their party for the Republican party causing the state's political system to flip. Now, for all practical purposes, Texas state and national officers are elected in the Republican primary, not the general election. That has been a thirty-year process, and now Texas is almost a one-party state.

It has always been odd to me that so many clamor for a third party. A third party would just create more confusion, but a strong enough alternate political movement would just take over an existing party, and that seems to have happened with the Republican Party. Now there may be a strong enough political movement to take over the other party, and who knows what the result of that might be.

Why did the southern politicians flip parties? My opinion is that the conservative southern Democrats (such as the Dixiecrats) did not approve of the direction the national party had taken after the Civil Rights Act was passed in the mid-sixties. (President Johnson had observed then that he was destroying the Democratic Party.) They knew that a third party was not the answer and also realized that the weak Republican Party in the south was ripe for a takeover, so that's what they did. However, even though Arkansas was a border state and had been reluctant to secede from the union and should have welcomed the Republican Party, its citizens have long memories. The Republican Party was still tainted by its part in reconstruction, so it still has not been able to dominate Arkansas.

Added 8-31-12 from this source. "Stripped of the façade of party colors, the game of division, nullification, and obstruction practiced by southern reactionaries today is the same as the fathomlessly fraudulent politics that split the country in 1861 and in significant ways has kept it apart ever since. "The problem is that today's southern-fried Republican Party hasn't simply abdicated its most important leadership positions to Dixie pols, it has adopted its rebel culture of suspicion and hostility toward any Washington D.C. government."


6-1-2012, In the 1950s, according to an editorial in the Chronicle quoting information tweeted by Slate writer, Matt Yglesias, it took an average of four GM workers for every 28 cars produced per year. Now it only takes one worker per 28 cars per year. This was made possible by automation and other efficiencies. The same thing probably happened throughout the U.S. economy.

In the 1950s utopian futurists could foresee a time when this would happen and promised that the result would be a reduced work week at the same level of pay allowing more leisure time and more jobs for other employees. The assumption was that GM, for example, would pay two workers working 20 hours a week to produce the 28 cars per year while making the same profit on the 28 cars (less the pay and benefits for the extra worker) thus spreading the benefits of automation and increased efficiency. Instead, GM, in this example, either kept all the profits or reduced the selling price to the benefit of consumers.


PRONOUN CASE - Is It Me, Myself, or I?

"Well, it ain't me!" "It's not myself!" "So it must be I."

Yes, it is I. I am it.

When I was in the second or third grade in the 1950s, our teacher had a game to teach us to say, "It is I." One student would be chosen to sit in a chair at the front of the room. The other students would stand in a line behind the chair and in turn would knock on the back of the chair. The student in the chair would ask, "Who is it?" and the one who knocked would have to reply "It is I." If the student answered "It's me." instead, that student had to sit in the chair until someone else made a mistake. We all soon learned to say "It is I."

The story of the Little Red Hen taught a similar lesson. When the hen asked, "Who will help me bake my bread?" "Not I!" said the cat, "Not I!" said the dog, and the other animals made the same reply. This same pattern of question and response was repeated over and over as each step in the process of making bread was identified. Of course, when the Little Red Hen asked, "Who will help me eat my bread?" The responses changed to "I will!" I haven't read all of William Bennett's Book of Virtues but someone gave me an audio version that included the story of the Little Red Hen. In that audio version the animals replied, when asked to help, "Not me!" "Not Me!" No wonder our nation's educational system is in a mess!

However, the British now consider, "It is me." to be correct, although they would probably ask "Is it she?" And now the National Geographic says, "Is it really her?" in the Afghan refugee's story in the April 2002 issue. Recently the Houston Chronicle for Friday, June 13, 2003 there is a big, bold headline "It's her ... isn't it?" on page 3A.

Here is an example of another pronoun problem that children have: "Can me and Johnny go to the store?" Our mothers and teachers taught us to say 'May I' not 'Can I'" "May Johnny and I go to the store?" This was so thoroughly drummed into our heads that many of us created a false mental rule that the conjunction and requires a pronoun in the nominative case. This was especially true among athletes, sports reporters, police officers, preachers, and engineers. I have heard a preacher say something like this: "Be sure to thank he and his wife for their generous gift." I think I've heard this one, too, "This award is presented to he and she for their special achievement." I have heard engineering managers say, "Give copies of the report to Bill and I for review before releasing it." "Mrs. Smith only made reservations for you and I."

Well meaning friends tried to correct them, of course, but it left them confused. If me was wrong some of the time and I was wrong some of the time, perhaps a completely different pronoun would work. Thus the truly terrible error, "Bob and myself will take care of it." Or "When you're a leader of a team like myself, . . ." Our county assistant district attorney made a similar mistake yesterday during a jury voir dire. The reflexive, or self/selves, pronouns are used to intensify or repeat an antecedent noun or pronoun. "Mother, I'd rather do it myself!" is a correct example from a commercial. "I hurt myself." is an example from Barron's Essentials of English. "I, myself, am responsible for this mess." is my example. The reflexive pronouns will always have a noun or another pronoun to refer to. And remember there is no theirself or theirselves in Standard English.

Another pronoun error that I often hear now (even in television news shows) has to do with pronouns that introduce gerund phrases. (I don't know a gerund from a participle, but I have a reference book that explains them.) Possessives are usually used to introduce gerund phrases. "My being chosen leader was a source of consternation to the group." "The members of the carpool were upset at his being late each morning." Many people would incorrectly use me rather than my and him rather than his.

There are sentence contructions to which this rule doesn't apply. Barron's provides two examples in which possessive pronouns are not used. It is correct to say "He slipped away without anybody in the room noticing him." because the pronoun anybody is separated from the gerund phrase by in the room. "He slipped away without anybody's noticing him." is correct because the pronoun is near the phrase noticing him. The second example is illustrated by "Luis saw him leaving the parking lot." This sentence correctly follows the rule that the objective case is not used with verbs like see, hear, and watch. On the other hand, "His leaving the parking lot was a source of surprise to Luis." is also correct for the previously stated reasons.

A related error is seldom heard because the sentence form it appears in is seldom used. The incorrect version: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The objective case pronoun, him, should be used. If you just ignore the modifying adjective clause, it should be obvious that him is correct. "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." (John 8:7b RSV) Those who make this error apparently feel that adjacent pronouns should be in the same case. This was the headline over a humor column in a major newspaper: "Let He Who Is without Laughs Tell the First Joke." The column writer blamed the newspaper editors for writing the ungrammatical headline.

VERBS - A Very Irregular Verb

This verb is so irregular that it is seldom spoken. Its present tense form is the same as the present tense of a verb meaning to make a false statement. Its past tense is the same as the present tense of a verb meaning to place (as on a surface) . Its past participle is a homophone of a noun meaning a narrow roadway or a part of a larger roadway. You probably have guessed that the verb is to lie meaning to recline. The other lie means to make a false statement. The past tense forms of these two verbs are, respectively, lay and lied. The verb to lay means to place. Its past tense is laid and its past participle is also laid. The past participle of lie (to recline) is lain pronounced the way lane is pronounced.

I once told a paint and body shop manager, "I left the bumper lying on the ground in front of the car." He said, "You mean 'laying on the ground' don't you? Inanimate objects can't lie!"

It's true that inanimate objects can't lie, but they can lie! He had the rule backward. It should be: "Inanimate objects can't lay." Even some animate objects can't lay. Dogs can't lay. Cows and pigs can't lay. But hens and bricklayers can.

The book Sleeping Dogs Don't Lay* (*and that's no lie) by Richard Lederer & Richard Dowis gives "Practical Advice For The Grammatically Challenged." It discusses this grammatical problem and many others in a humorous way. It's a fun read and I recommend it as a help for everyday problems with grammar.

Do you remember the song lyric that really should have been "Lie, lady, lie. Lie across my big brass bed?" Poets and songwriters should be allowed some poetic license, but I think that "Lay, lady, lay. Lay across my big brass bed." was a little too much. Perhaps Bob Dylan assumed that an object of lay, such as "your coat" or "your body," would be understood in this instance.

I have learned that I am just a recent addition to the 200-year-old chorus protesting the use of lay when lie is meant. The 10th Addition of Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary says this about this grammatical error:

"Usage LAY has been used intransitively in the sense of "lie" since the 14th century. The practice was unremarked until around 1770; attempts to correct it have been a fixture of schoolbooks ever since. Generations of teachers and critics have succeeded in taming most literary and learned writing, but intransitive lay persists in familiar speech and is a bit more common in general prose than one might suspect. Much of the problem lies in the confusing similarity of the principal parts of the two words. Another influence may be a folk belief that lie is for people and lay is for things. Some commentators are ready to abandon the distinction, suggesting that lay is on the rise socially. But if it does rise to respectability, it is sure to do so slowly: many people have invested effort in learning to keep lie and lay distinct. Remember that even though many people do use lay for lie, others will judge you unfavorably if you do."

Never write: "I'm going to lay down now." Speak that way if you want to be part of the crowd, but don't put it in writing.

DRUG PROBLEM - In commenting on the 'drug problem' of today, some speakers and writers use a play on a 'hill billy' problem with the tenses of the verb to drag. The speaker or writer will say, "Yes, I had a drug problem back in my day. I was drug to church, I was drug to the kitchen to have my mouth washed out with soap, etc." They usually get a laugh and the story is often repeatedly posted in emails or on the web. It may be funny, but it doesn't follow the rules of standard English. Unfortunately, many of those who hear the joke will believe that drug may actually be the past tense of drag. Just for the record: the past tense of drag is dragged. Some also have a difficulty with to drug, a verb meaning to give someone medication, usually without their consent. Its past tense is drugged.


Original Page Date: 6/11/12

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