Monday, December 28, 2009

Favorite Limericks

Limericks are a few of my favorite things.  Most limericks by nature are traditionally racy, antomical or scatalogical.  This is how Wikipedia describes them:

The limerick packs laughs anatomical
In space that is quite economical,
But the good ones I've seen
So seldom are clean,
And the clean ones so seldom are comical.

However, I find that not so true as generally believed.  I've discovered limericks may be used in other contexts too, particularly for political humor - if there is such a thing.  A limerick may be clean, and contain political humor.  And of course, combined with the racy, doubly funny - at least to me.
Ogden Nash in the 1930's, 40's and 50's was the absolute master of the genre - and if you have never read him, I urge you to sample his witticisms. Here is a few typical Ogden Nash limerick from years ago.
An elderly bride of Port Jervis
Was quite understandably nervis
Since her apple-cheeked groom
With three wives in the tomb
Kept insuring her during the servis

There was a young girl from old Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez
When she was asked why
She was wont to reply
'Cause whenever Ah itchez - Ah scratchez..

A novelist of the absurd
Has a voice that will shortly be heard
I learn from my spies
He's about to devise
An unprintable three letter word

There once was a girl from Madras,
Who had a most magnificent ass,
Not rounded and pink,
As you probably think,
But, was grey, had long ears and ate grass!

Over the years I've created limericks of my own, a few of which I will share here:

Once a young marine from Jacksonville
Tried seducing a girl with all his skill.
She turned him away with a sexy grin,
Saying, ‘I’ve no time for you my friend,
And, while I won’t do it my billy goat will.”

Of the US Congress, who can say?
Why they plot, sellout, stall or delay?
All we absolutely know for sure,
Their results resemble horse manure,
And the public always the ones who pay.

An old Republican queer named Pete,
Minced as he walked down the street,
Wearing a shirt of bright red,
He smirked as he said,
I may not be thtrong, but I’m thweet!

A Democrat out driving a Toyota,
Ran over a Republican Voter.
‘Thank goodness!’ he cried,
“He was on the wrong side,”
“And I don’t blame myself one iota!”

Alaskans giggled all a-tittering,
While Don Young sputtered, eyes a-glittering,
"Someone's pretending, who is he?"
"No one's a bigger twit than me!"
"What bastard is doing all my twittering?"

*Composed after Alaska Congressman Don Young discovered someone was 'Twittering' in his name.

There once was an old man from Maine,
Who down south one summer exclaimed,
"It's so Goddamned hot here,
I swear to be not here,
Ever in my life again!"

And, here is one by an unknown author, and with several versions. It is one of my all-time favorites:

 There was an old whore in Khartoum,
Who took a queer up to her room,
They spent the entire damned night,
In one HELL of a fight,
About who should do what and to whom.
Oh yes, maybe limericks are sophomoric, but they sure are fun!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Got Snow?

Schools in Valdez, Alaska have never been closed because of snow.  Schools there have been closed only three times due to weather - high wind.   Valdez lies in a narrow valley surrounded by steep, high mountains, near the head of Prince William Sound.  Sometimes the way the wind funnels in there must be felt to be believed.  I’ll always remember flying out of Valdez one April day in a small twin engine turbo-prop airplane - the most bumpy and terrifying airplane landing or departure I have ever endured anywhere, anytime - and I’ve suffered quite a few of those flying around in Alaska.

This week, between Monday and Wednesday morning 68 inches fell in Valdez.  That’s almost 6 feet.  By Friday, 6-1/2 feet fell for the week, but still 6” short of the 5-day record set in 1996.

When told about a city paralyzed by 20” of snow, Valdez resident Tom McAlister said, "My God, our people don't even get out of bed for that . . . “

Valdez averages 330 inches of snow per year - that’s 27.5 feet for the mathematically inclined. The record so far is 581 inches in the winter of 1989-90 - but records have only been kept since the early 1970’s.

Valdez is very popular with ‘extreme skiers’ because of its deep snow and steep mountains.   There is no ski area there, so skiers must hike up the slopes, or resort to ‘heli-skiing’ which is taking a helicopter ride to the top of the mountain and then skiing down the breath-taking slopes.

So, try to keeping things in perspective when you feel put upon by a few inches of snow . . .

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Over the past several months, we in our 'capitalist' nation have saddled ourselves with a huge problem.   When any bank or company is officially deemed ‘Too Big to Fail’, that is the base acknowledgement the entity has the power to put our entire nation in jeopardy.  What else could it be?

The situation may be compared to a lollipop so big it will choke its user.  Or, to a check so big it overdraws the account it is written upon, or to a load too heavy for its boat.  Whatever, it is simply,  TOO BIG.  And dangerous.  And, out of balance. And, it needs to be corrected.

How did this happen?  I believe the source of our problem is pretty simple when boiled down to it’s essential cause:  GREED.  And, it has happened before.  Many times in fact.  Whenever the fetters are removed and greed is unbridled, it inevitably results in economic disaster in the end.  The most recent example is the 1929 depression.  Unbridled and uncontrolled capitalism created an enormous economic bubble which burst.  All bubbles must burst, or at least ‘deflate’ in the end.  Politicians of the time, recognizing the basic causes, established controls through regulatory measures to prevent such an occurrence again.  Wish that we still had their wisdom, acquired through experience.

But, our legislators, of tragically short memories and imagination under Reagan, and later Bush I, then Clinton, and finally Bush II, removed almost all of the regulatory controls.  ‘Greed’ in the form of unfettered capitalism  ‘reared its ugly head’ in Sarah Palin’s immortal words.   The dire consequences of allowing the ‘free market’ to have its way, unrestrained by regulation is now familiar to all.  Trillions of dollars of wealth world-wide disappeared into thin air, and people lost homes, businesses, savings, pensions and their social safety net.  It is a crime of monstrous proportions, putting Bernie Madoff's scams to shame.

And greed in conjunction with the ability to buy legislation through campaign contributions has resulted in 'capitalism' morphing into what can only be called a ‘Corpocracy’  - a social welfare system for big business.  The ridiculous extremes to which this has gone is evident to everyone who witnessed the multimillion dollar ‘bonuses’ given to the very people who created the problems in the first place.  Bernie Madoff must be looking on from his cell in bitter envy - cooling his heels in federal prison while the architects of the biggest Ponzi scam in the history of the world are happily sailing merrily around the playgrounds for the rich in their megayachts.

The corporate giants in the finance industries over the past decade went on an uncontrolled rampage which ran the international economy in the ditch.  The fix?  The common man, in the form of the taxpaying public is now saddled with the enormous costs of restoring stability to our economy - including ‘bailouts’ to the very businesses who created the problems in the first place.  Our descendants, down to our grandchildren are now mortgaged on the alter of big finance.  It amounts to economic enslavement of the majority of our public.

I see only two ways to correct this imbalance.  One is to enact legislation to control the excesses which created our current problems.  There is some movement in this direction, but far too little, and very obviously, far too late.  I fear because of the death grip financial industries and big business have on our legislation we will never be able to enact real and meaningful reform.  Especially needed is Campaign Finance Reform.  There IS NO LOGICAL REASON an industry,  company or corporation should ever be permitted to be considered a ‘person’ and have the same first amendment rights of an actual person as now is the case.  None.  No non-person entity should ever have the right to donate money to a political candidate or PAC.  Never, no time.  Corporations’ rights as ‘persons’ should be limited to their contracts and activities in commercial business.

Giving corporations rights as persons is a form of ‘double representation’ wherein both the corporate owners individually, and the corporations themselves are counted as persons.

The other possible way to correct the current enormous imbalance is a popular revolution of some kind, which I fear is what we will actually see at some point unless things change appreciably.  People can only be subordinated for so long before they rise up to throw off their yokes and hang their perceived masters from lamp posts.  We have seen this many other times in history too.  I am surprised the perpetrators of the current frauds upon the public don’t perceive this danger.  I hope I am wrong.  Revolutions are so messy, disruptive, and so, well, revolting.

When the possible failure of a bank or insurance company, or combination, or any other entity can cause intolerable damage to the nation’s economic structure that entity has then become, ipso facto, “Too Big to Exist”.  That should be self-evident on the face of it to any reasonable person not blinded by ideological dogma.

And, that entity must be broken up into component parts, less dangerous to the public at large!

If you are interested in educating yourself on this subject, I highly recommend the current, and very topical book "BAD MONEY" by Kevin Phillips.  It is eye-opening in the extreme.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Homeless In Juneau, Alaska

“Get down off there!” - the shout came loud and emphatic.

*Startled, the homeless guy looked around.  A large policeman stood a few yards downhill with one hand on the butt of his Glock pistol and the other on his nightstick and with a seriously stern look on his face.

“What for?  What did I do?”  asked the frightened guy.

“You’re trespassing.  That’s what.  Now get your ass down here!” bellowed the stern cop.

Ralph, was shaken and visibly nervous, but nodded quickly and stumbled the ten yards or so down the steep slope to the level ground the cop stood on.

“What are you doing up there?” demanded the cop.

“Nothing.” said Ralph.

“You living up there?  Got a camp or something?” asked the rather large and intimidating policeman staring right at Ralph.

Ralph looked at his feet and said nothing.

“What about it?” demanded the policeman.  “I’ll run your ass in for trespass if you don’t speak up.”

“Yeah, I guess.” Ralph said.  “I got a sort of campsite up on the slope up there in the trees.  Until I can find a place to stay or something that is.”

“Well, you ain’t any more.” said the cop.  “All you guys camped out up there are on private property, and you’re trespassing.  We got complaints from the property owner and you’re outta there.  Right now.  Now, get gone while I’m still in a good mood!”

Ralph looked at the cop for a moment.  “Can I get my stuff?” he asked.  “I still got all my stuff up there.”

“Read my lips!” said the cop.  “I said, ‘Get gone!’ and I damned well mean it, before I run your ass over to detention.  And I mean right damned now!”

Ralph  turned and walked quickly away, before the cop had a chance to change his mind.  He’d had runs in with cops before.  Several times.  Maybe he’d try to sneak back and get his stuff after dark.  Before it got too cold.  He needed that sleeping bag.  He wondered where he could hang out until it got dark.

The homeless grey bearded man with the sad look in his eyes had been around some in his sixty years or so.  Now, he was in Juneau, Alaska in December, with no place to stay and no money.  No place to get out of the cold and it was sure to be colder tonight.  Ralph came to Juneau fifteen years ago to work on a fishing boat.  At first it was great.  He loved the work, and being on the water was wonderful.  So clean and elemental.  The work was hard but paid well when there was plenty of fish.  He got paid a share of the boat’s catch, and the guys were great.  Donny, the boat’s owner and business manager seemed to care a lot about the guys who did most of the work, two others besides Ralph.  It was almost like a family.  A family Ralph never had since leaving home at sixteen.

With no father at home and with his mother struggling to put food on the table, and three more younger kids to feed,  Ralph thought the best thing was to move on along to find some work and send money back as he could.  He lied about his age and got some minimum wage jobs to get by.  He couldn’t give much to his mom, but he tried.  He survived.  When he turned seventeen he’d joined the army - and was able to get an allotment to help support his mom and the other three kids.  Six months after joining up Ralph found himself slogging through the jungles of Vietnam as an infantry grunt on patrol in the boonies.

He hated the army and was scared to death every day in Vietnam - but the money was actually pretty good, especially with the combat pay thrown in.  And, when his year in Vietnam was up he asked his first sergeant to sign him up for another year ‘in country’, and then a year later, a third even.  The third was the bugaboo.  Halfway through was when Ralph got his ass shot off.  Or more correctly, blown off.  That was when somebody on his patrol set off a mine which killed two other men and loaded Ralph’s ass and back up with a ton of shrapnel.  But, it was his ticket home.

Two months in the hospital and some stateside time and then Ralph got his release from the army.  He hung around his mom’s for a week or so but soon headed out.  At first he seemed to do pretty well.  He got some pretty good work in construction, and then got a job with the power line folks as a lineman.  Hard work, but good money.  He got married even, but that didn’t last.  His wife said he was ’too into himself’ and left with a used car salesman.  After that Ralph just didn’t care much any more.  He quit the power company and banged around doing whatever work he could find.  Then he got in trouble with the law.

It was silly and stupid, really.  Ralph was hanging around with a guy from work who invited him over for a wiener roast and a few beers.  But it was more than a few beers.  This guy, who weighed about 300 pounds, hung out with a woman who was a deaf mute - and both of them drank like fishes.  Before long they were drunk as skunks, except for Ralph, who only had three or four beers himself.  But, Ralph was fascinated by the deaf mute woman and her strange sounding vocalizations, and somehow his interest got misconstrued by his fat friend who knocked him down.  What made it bad was the fat guy then just laid on top of Ralph and rolled around.  He wouldn’t get off and Ralph couldn’t get out from under.  He panicked, but managed to get his tiny pen knife hanging on his belt opened.  Pinching about a quarter inch of the blade exposed in his hand, he jabbed his huge friend in the side and belly until the guy finally screamed and rolled away.  But, then the deaf mute woman viciously attacked Ralph with the barbecue spatula.  He had no choice but to cut and run.

That might have been that, but Ralph worried about the the knife.  He thought it would be considered a ‘deadly weapon’, so he pitched it in the first trash bin he came to.  As it turned out, that was the very worst thing he could have done.

The fat guy swore out a complaint and Ralph’s arrest soon followed.  He was appointed a public defender since he had no money, and his lawyer said it was a legitimate self-defense, except for that discarded pen knife.  That made things into obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence.  Ralph got eighteen months in the slammer.  And, he did every day of it.  They said he had a bad attitude.  They were right.  He was pissed at the world and got in countless fights in jail.  After his release he did another two year’s probation, and reported to a court appointed probation officer once a week.  It was thoroughly humiliating and a real pisser.

After that Ralph couldn’t keep his mind on anything.  He had nightmares about Vietnam almost every night, often waking up in terror, reliving the wet heat and the jungle patrols, and the day he got his ass shot off.  He went to the Veterans Administration for treatment and was told he had an obvious case of PTSD - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  They gave him pills and advice, but the bureaucracy bothered him, so he quit going.

He only occasionally had contact with the rest of his family, maybe once in every two years or so.  His mom died and his siblings went God knows where.  Ralph was depressed most of the time feeling himself a failure and a loser.  The fishing job in Alaska became his salvation.  With that, for several years Ralph was pretty happy.  He got a little apartment with another guy and things were cool.

Then Donny, the boat’s owner died.  It was sudden.  The guy just keeled over at the supper table one night having liver and onions with his wife.  That was that.  The job ended, and the boat got sold.  Ralph was too old to get another fishing job, so he just took whatever pickup jobs he could find.  It wasn’t enough.  He gave up the apartment and became just another homeless guy in Juneau, Alaska.

The problem with Juneau, is, if you don’t have any money you can’t leave.  It’s not like other places where you can just walk away or hitchhike maybe.  The only way in and out of Juneau is by air or by water - ferry.  Both cost money.  Lot’s of money in fact.  Ralph didn’t want to leave anyway.  Juneau was the only home he knew - even if he didn’t have an actual home.

Even without a place to live a person can get by in Juneau.  A  fair number of people had semi-permanent camps in the woods overlooking downtown.  Many were bums and just plain drunks, but quite a few were like Ralph - just unfortunate, down-on-their-luck guys who couldn’t make enough money to live in a house or apartment, but could make enough to eat and live in a camp in the woods.  If they were let alone that is.  If asked, they all said that’s the way they wanted to live.  “Just leave us alone.” was the motto.

But, like almost every other place in America, the powers-that-are in Juneau would not abide the homeless in their city.  It just ‘looked bad’ they said.  “They drive away business” was another frequently heard complaint, and, “they’re all just a bunch of alcoholics and thieves” was often heard.  All that was true, to one degree or another.  But, instead of applying some imagination and a bit of money and effort to fix the problem, the powers that be chose instead to attack it with a full frontal assault by law and fiat.  Simply put, it became illegal to be down-on-your-luck and homeless and exist in Juneau, Alaska.

If you've never been there,  Juneau, Alaska is a beautiful place, summer or winter.  A salt-water channel crowds the narrow strip of level land the city sits upon smack dab against an almost vertical wall of 4000 foot mountains virtually overhanging the city’s downtown area.  Tall Hemlock and Sitka Spruce evergreens almost stick their limbs into the downtown office buildings and shops.  Yards away from the city center, bears, mountain goat and deer play.  The bears enter town at night and become problems raiding unsecured garbage cans.  In fact, there is a city ordinance against bears too - that is, against persons leaving unsecured garbage for them to raid.  A very sensible ordinance it is too.

Juneau began as a mining town, based on gold.  Huge gold mines once existed virtually downtown, and their hundreds of miles of tunnels still lace the mountains nearby.  Mines require vast amounts of electricity to operate, and these built their own dams and hydro-electric plants.  Some of the electricity was also sold to the residents and businesses of Juneau.  In the early 1900’s a private company was formed to buy electricity from the combined mine dams and resell it.  That was the birth of “AEL&P” - Alaska 
Electric Light and Power company.  In 1972, AEL&P purchased all the dams and associated electrical generating properties from what remained of the mining companies, the last of which had ceased production early in WWII.

However, since 1973 most of AEL&P’s power has come from the Snettisham project,  built at US government expense, and later purchased by the State of Alaska.  The state made a contract with AEL&P allowing the company to sell electricity generated at Snettisham. In exchange, AEL&P must maintain the plant and pay off 35-year bonds issued by the state when it bought Snettisham from the federal government. That includes the 44 miles of towers and transmission lines used to deliver the power.   AEL&P has an option to purchase the Snettisham project but has declined to do so.  Why should this privately owned company so so, when it was virtually given to them with no investment on their part?

Yet, this is the very same company which failed to provide recommended avalanche protection for the transmission towers.   Seven towers were wrecked by an avalanche in early 2008.  AEL&P simply raised electrical rates almost 500% to cover their costs of repairs - and then some I would guess.  One of the repaired towers was damaged AGAIN in early 2009 by yet another avalanche - still not provided with protection.

Why am I giving you this information about a privately owned power company in far off Juneau, Alaska, and how is that pertinent to the homeless Ralph’s predicament?  Very simple really, this private company owns the land where the homeless, Ralph among them, made their camps in Juneau.  And, this is the same privately owned company which demanded the police evict all homeless persons from their camps.  That was the extent of their ‘homeless solution’.

When Ralph sneaked back to the campsite after dark, he discovered all his possessions, along with everyone else’s, had been gathered up and destroyed by the Juneau Police Department, enforcers for the powers that be.  Ralph did not sleep that night.  He was too cold and he was too busy walking around trying to stay warm.   But I’ll bet Joe Corbus, the majority stockholder of AEL&P didn’t have a problem.  I imagine he slept warm, comfortable and unbothered in his million dollar mansion down on the shore of Gastineau Channel, in Juneau, Alaska.  And, I’ll bet too, he dropped at least a dollar bill in the collection plate at his church the following Sunday as well.

 *’Ralph’ is a fictitious character, based on several different characters I know in Juneau, Alaska.  But, AEL&P and Joe Corbus are all too real.