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Surviving the Fourth of July

Last night I demonstrated to the kids how to light a firecracker, and for some reason it exploded right in my hand before I could fling it. A quick reconnaissance of my hand and fingers revealed that all body parts remained intact, nothing missing, no need to invoke the classic analogy to "hamburger." It was yet another reminder that they don't make fireworks the way they used to.

Back when I was growing up, a firecracker could take your arm off all the way to the elbow. You could buy stuff that, today, is only in the possession of certain elite units of the U.S. military, such as the Navy Seals. Your average 9-year-old had access to the kind of fireworks that Saddam always dreamed of obtaining. That's why so many of the kids in my hood had nicknames like "Three-Finger Richie" or "Stumpy" or "Lefty" or "Claw."

Earlier in the day I survived the parade through the Palisades. It's the signature event of the neighborhood: a quaint small-town parade, except that small towns don't usually have 200-something politicians trolling for votes. Everyone in Washington is currently running for something. If you're not on a ballot, check your pulse. The parade is great, you see all your friends, you get to clap for the public librarian and the elementary school kids and the Safeway truck, but methinks we need some more floats with big paper-mache dragons that breathe crepe-paper fire. The best parade performance, once again, was that of the Bolivians, dancing up a storm, wearing heavy, jingle-belled costumes, apparently impervious to such mortal concerns as heat stroke. So to the parade organizers, my suggestions: More floats, fewer politicians, more Bolivians.

Watched soccer. The women rooted for the Italians on grounds that they were "hot." Nothing happened for 119 minutes, then there were two goals in, like, 20 seconds, and Italy won, and the Germans were so upset and out of sorts they invaded Poland.

Made spaghetti in honor of the Italians.

As always, made the mad dash to the mall to catch the fireworks. The key to finding a parking space is to go at the last minute and imagine that you live in a world in which all spaces are legal.

When the first rocket burst in the air, we were still trucking toward Constitution Avenue, and saw it explode above the State Department. Naturally I hit the ground and screamed "North Koreans!" Perhaps an overreaction. No doubt it speaks well of the American spirit that we still have explosion-based celebrations in our nation's capital.

My one gripe about the fireworks is that they always start in a fairly leisurely, deliberate fashion, and end frenetically, with that popcorn-machine finale, and it should be the other way around. They should start with the finale, and then slowly taper off, until finally people think, "Is it over?", and then another rocket goes off, catching them by surprise -- and so on, all through the night and even the next day. Drag it out big time. Message: It's never over. And that way the Fourth of July can still be happening on the Fifth, or for days and weeks to come.

By Joel Achenbach  |  July 5, 2006; 7:41 AM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: "You are a gob of bat poop"
Next: Wolfe's antonomasia, etc.


When I was 11 years old and we had to move, I had a large collection of plastic airplane models that were too large, delicate, and/or crappily built to pack and move. Instead some friends and I took the entire collection to the driveway and stuffed the fuselages with firecrackers from South Of The Border (God bless Pedro) and poured modeling glue all over the planes.

Good times, good times.

We proceded to have a firestorm that would put the special effects department of major Hollywood studios to shame. I'm not sure if the new owners of the house were ever able to remove the piles of melted polystrene from the concrete.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

I sat through the Fairfax City Parade just to see my son playing the saxophone while fighting heat stroke. I have to agree that such parades need fewer politicians and more vehicles covered with colorfully festooned chickenwire.

Back in my youth we had the annual Puyallup Daffodil parade. Now that was a party. Huge decorated floats often topped with winsome young teenaged women who waved with studied elegance (elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wrist.)

Of course, as mostlylurking points out, we could also get killer fireworks from the Indian reservations. (I am using "killer" figuratively. Well, mostly.)

My brothers and I would create ingenious firework combinations that could be seen from space. Sort of what Rube Goldberg would have created if he had tendencies towards pyromania.

The firecracker-propelled tin can trick was also memorable. But of this no more, for legal reasons, shall be said.

Managed to get the hot-dogs grilled, cold beverages consumed, and baseball game watched (How about that Zimmerman guy?) just in time before the storm hit.

Then it was boom boom, out go the lights..

Posted by: RD Padouk - take 2 | July 5, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Oh, come on, people; it's not that early!

Fireworks were later last night than last year. Perhaps the rescheduling was out of concern for wildlife. I know the mallard ducks that nest in the riprap by the marina are terrorized annually with overflights by huge military aircraft not to mention the evening display.

... but this morning everything is back to normal ~ including my wren who is singing the same short, spritely refrain over and over.

I always speak of "the wren" as "my wren" and feel entitled to do so, so long as he is nesting on my premises. Also, I always speak of the wren in masculine singular even though I know there are a pair involved.

I believe where I grew up in Indiana wrens could manage two broods per season. I don't know if that applies in Wisconsin. If so, the wren(s) are mine for only half the summer because they move to a new, clean site at halftime and I probably don't provide a suitable alternate. Meanwhile, I am enjoying their presence.

Posted by: Entenpfuhl | July 5, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

SCC: polystyrene

And while I never deliberately abused modeling glue as an hallucinogenic, I'm sure the fumes had some effect on my thinking that building model planes and tanks was in any way cool under any circumstances.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Boy are you making me glad that all my kids could ever get their hands on was those little rolls of capgun caps, minus the guns. You lay the cap strip on the ground and then you toss your bazooka bomber thing, or a stone and blow off the cap. At least they were not something that mothers had to worry about a whole lot.

My mom used to do a fireworks show for the grandkids every July 1. If the kids could not be there on July 1, then it was whenever we could all be there. One year the fireworks were delayed to Christmas, a very very cold Christmas. It was so cold that the block heater cord snapped in 2 when they tried to plug the car in. Mom gave the box of fireworks to her son-in-laws, and told them, set them out along the driveway. It was the longest slowest show of fireworks in the world, because the guys kept having to come in to warm up before they could light the next one. Beverages were consumed in the course of the show, candy and multitudes of cookies fell by the way side. It was one of those times where a good time was had by all, even the poor fellows who had to set off the fireworks in that freezing cold.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Robin in fuschia update.

The birds were all gone by the time I got home last night. I am sure Mrs. Robin moved them to a much quieter site. With the launching of the robins, I can also say that the fuschia is a confirmed death, but it was the best sacrifice of a fushcia ever.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Last year we had the same dilemma as this year: If we don't do anything to make it feel like the Fourth of July, it won't be the Fourth of July. But if we somehow commemorate the Fourth in San Antonio, that will mean braving the elements.

Last year, we came about two whoops and a holler away from moseyin' down to the Alamo to hear the employees there read the Declaration of Independence. But, in '05, it was too dangblasted hot. At around one o'clock yesterday we checked the temperature in the shade--98 degrees. No 2 p.m. reading of the Declaration of Independence at the front of the Alamo for us in '06, either.

We had had our morning swim at the community pool very early, before anyone else showed up. I was more than content midday to continue to curl up with Ron Suskind (I diasagree with Nelson--hardly your Bush administration book-of-the week), while my husband watched several hours of the History Channel--programs about George Washington.

In the afternoon, we decided to put into the ground, around our new outdoor dining patio, the shepard's hooks we had bought and painted, so that we can hang lanterns or some type of lights from them. No, no, no--it wasn't as easy as just gently pushing them into sod. We've had so little rain that we could easily have used a jackhammer to drill the holes for the two prongs at the base of each hook. As it was, two of the hooks' prongs probably hit small limestone boulders just below the dirt's surface. We bent the bottoms of two hooks all to hell with a mallet just getting them into the ground.

The only real feast of the day was when the mosquitoes (We had less than half an inch of rain on Sunday, enough moisture to induce the females to breed like crazy.) decided to take huge portions of blood out of my arms (what is it they like--my carbon dioxide, the steroids on my skin, the smell of uric acid?) and ankles. Each bug bite is like the prick of a needle for me, so I came into the house--massively bumped, and soaked and dripping with perspiration all across the back of my shirt, let alone the waistband of my pants.

Around 5 p.m., clouds gathered threateningly and billowed to incredible dark heights, the sky blackened like night, the wind picked up, tossing branches and swaying trees. Thunder and lightning! No barbecue plans for us--leftovers!

Six places in town offered fireworks--the city-sponsored affair at a large, inner-city park; the two commercial enterprises--Sea World and Fiesta Texas; and three military bases--Fort Sam Houston and Randolph and Lackland AFBs. According to this morning's paper, Randolph cancelled and the city shindig set off its fireworks early. Rain here is about as scarce as snowcones in he11, but last night, the heavens dropped a deluge at certain spots around town.

The best Fourth of July in these parts? Anything to do with ceiling fans and air conditioning! Any kicking up of our heels was in response to ants, and the rain shot out the lights. Let locals hallelujah the Fourth all over town--not us!

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

When I was a kid, us boys would get a can of spray paint, light the spray on fire and burn the ants with our portable flamethrowers as they crawled across the sidewalk. Wen we were done, the cement looked pretty colorful. Then we continued to decorate the cement with black sunbursts left by those firesnakes.

RD, did anybody at the office notice that you got dressed in the dark this morning?

Posted by: Pat | July 5, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

Joel writes:
When the first rocket burst in the air, we were still trucking toward Constitution Avenue, and saw it explode above the State Department. Naturally I hit the ground and screamed "North Koreans!" Perhaps an overreaction.

Sorry, Joel, but that's what they were scraming in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle!

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

In the previous kit, mostlurking rememebered (correctly) that Pennsylvania was a fireworks-free state way back when (may still be; I don't know). When I was a kid, you could buy sparklers in a few local stores, but that was it. There were tales about people who drove to South Carolina or someplace to buy them, which I thought was a little excessive. After all, we tennagers managed to make perfectly good and potentially lethal munitions all on our own in our basements with our chemistry sets. I was one of millions of kids who lusted after one of those "proper" chemistry sets that you got for Christmas, and one year I finally got the doozey of my dreams: the big, red, metal-cased, four-panel swing-open job that include an alcohol buntsen burner, a rack with test tubes, a couple of those cool "official"-looking beakers (no more Mason jars, for me, no sir!), and several dozen bottles of real, honest-to-good chemicals that were, alas, perfectly safe. The big thrill, supposedly, was adding a few drops (in one's official eye-dropper) of chemical X into a test tube of chemical Y, which looked like water, and after 15 seconds or whatever, it suddenly turned flamingo pink. Yawn.

Within hours, I had set up my own little laboratory in the basement which contained stuff that today, would get me busted by the bomb squad instantaneously. Not only I, but half my friends, would be featured in waneted posters in the Post Office by the following weekend, no doubt about it. This was in the days long before the Anarchist's Cookbook, when what we were doing was just good, clean fun: blowing stuff up. Sometimes way up. I don't know if you can still do it, but in those days any kid could walk into any drugstore and buy a 1-pound box of potassium nitrate, a.k.a. saltpeter, which I think was sold as some kind of diuretic. Why a 14-year-old would want a pound of diuretic escapes me, and why a pharmacist would sell it to him ("uh, it's for my grandfather") is beyond me, but they did.

Back home in "the lab," we mixed the saltpeter with powdered sulfur and powdered characoal from our chemistry sets, and bingo, gunpowder. Not fake gunpowder or weak-ass gunpowder, but the real stuff. (Plan "B" in acquiring gunpowder was to buy rolls and rolls of caps, the red strips kids put into cap guns. Then you used an Xacto knife to gently slice open the little blisters of gunpowder in the caps, and brush it out and collect a pile of it. Very tedious.)

There were kids who specialized in using razor blades or Xacto knives to peel away the tops of wooden matches (this was before safety matches), but that was dangerous work because that stuff was really sensitive, and not a few kids I knew had their little ceramic chemistry-set-supplied mortar-and-pestle bowls flame up in their faces. (Scene at dinner: Leave-It-To-Beaver-type family seated around the dining room table, where 13-year-old boy sits silently with no eyebrows, singed hair, etc., eating triple dose of brussel sorouts as partial punishment, along with writing 500 times, "I will not play with....")

I had chemistry (proper) in 10th grade, and the summer after took an advanced summer school "enrichment" class" taught by our chem. teacher. He was a really cool guy, and the school's JV basketball coach as well, named Mr. Alden. There were maybe 18 or 20 of us in the class, which was comprised of about 4 girls (the straight-A nerdy types), 4 of the the straight-A nerdy boy types, and 12 of us non-straight-A, non-nerdy incipient pyromaniacs and bombmakers. Mr. Laden taught us how to make nitrogen tri-iodide, which is a wet, putty-like substance. You put a little dab of it on a window sill, and after it dries it becomes so sensitive that if a fly lands on it, it'll explode. Which it did. Great stuff. He also taught us how to make guncotton, and use it to make little rockets using paperclips as the launching device, wood matches as the "rocket," and guncotton wrapped in little pieces of aluminum foil as the major propellant. All this was properly supervised, of course.

I'd just love to see any American high school anywhere in this country try to do anything remotely like that today. Hah!

I once had a job where I came into contact with several professional chemists who worked for the government on developing rocket fuels. Both were cool guys, but I won't use their names or where they worked. Suffice it to say, one of them, X, is/was a bench chemist who got his start as a 15-year-old basement bombmaker just like my friends and me, brewing up stuff in our little basement chemistry sets. X told a hilarious story about how he had once accidentally set on fire the entire side of his house while testing a homemade napalm. The other fellow, Y, was instrumental in developing a specific solid propellant rocket fuel for the Navy. He, too, was once a 14-year-old mad scientist.

Fortunately, both guys channeled their interests in productive ways. But the fact remains, no matter how we disguise it, inside the heart of every man there is a 13-year-old bombmaker. Let us not kid ourselves.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 9:58 AM | Report abuse

SCC: kicking up response to mosquitoes, not ants (but we have fire ants, too).

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

Pat - I always look like I get dressed in the dark, so that was not an issue.

It was shaving by candlelight that caused the problem.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Somebody just told me Kenneth Lay died, in Aspen, Colorado. Not posted yet. Which is a shame, because he was one of those guys I wanted to see really suffer for a long, long time. Now the bas---- has robbed us of even that.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 10:13 AM | Report abuse

But RDP, just think of how easy it is to cauterize that way.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 5, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Mudge - Where I went to college there were many brilliant students with a profound fascination with making things go boom. I was immersed in an environment that produced such occurances as the blue-jean bomb, Hindenburg II, and the Great Sodium Incident. I agree that there is something primal in the male fascination with explosions.

A fascination that is probably best left unexamined.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Confirmed, 'Mudge...

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 5, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Now Mudge...

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

[That's why so many kids in your hood HAD nicknames like . . .?]

Posted by: Tom fan | July 5, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

In my AP Chemistry class in high school, we were left unsupervised in the lab whenever the teacher was sick. One day we decided we were going generate and collect hydrogen gas. We dug some magnesium or something out of the storage locker and mixed up a week solution of hydrochloric acid.

We then inverted a 2 liter beaker of water into the basin and slid the metal under the beaker. When the beaker was about half full of hydrogen we lifted it out at lit a lighter underneath the opening. The hydrogen exploded with a bright blue flash and a loud high-pitched pop.

Unfortunately, nothing shattered or set anyone on fire. And if any details are chemically incorrect, that is a telling sign of the state of public education, not any failure on the part of my twenty year old memories.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I had just gotten my 3 year old to nap when the sirens of our neighborhood parade began to wail. I live on the ring road, so they were on the way to pass right in front of his bedroom. A fire truck, sheriff's car, and assorted rednecks on fourwheelers.

I could not resist.

I moved the sprinkler to the front, full auto, full power.

I enjoyed the screams when the trailer of kids passed by for a hydro-salute to Independence Day.

On my side of the street.

Very close.

I am a bad man.

Posted by: BadMan | July 5, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I prefer not to celebrate the death of a man, but rather the irony that he died of a heart attack. I didn't think he had one.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like fun was had by all, except perhaps you, RD. Sorry about the lights. Your kids sound like my grand kids. They have to have electricity for that junk they watch and hook-up, but sometimes they use batteries. Mudge, a scary thought about thirteen year-olds, but I suspect there is truth in that too.

Joel, as to North Korea, that's a mess, and I'm not sure about my facts here, but isn't that guy one whose elevator does not go all the way to the top? I mean is he someone that should have those kinds of toys?

We had the firework display at the local lake. I could see it from my apartment. There wasn't much to see, and it did not last very long. I always forget it, until they start, and then I remember, oh, it's the fireworks. Before I realized what it was, I thought someone was breaking into my apartment. Not good, people, not good.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 5, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

AUTOPSY REPORT: 1250 MDT 05/07/2006

Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Dr. Suess
Medical Examiner

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I'd bet that Mr. Lay as a kid, and thinking about what he wanted to do with his life, did not imagine this. It would be interesting to know just what the 10 year old inside himself did want to be.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 10:44 AM | Report abuse

When you see what slobs Americans are when out and about on the Fourth you wonder whether the Revolution was really worth the trouble.

Posted by: candide | July 5, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Very true, dr. One truism, in my world, at least, is that you are what you were when you were ten years old. He was poor. He wanted to be rich, at any price. And he lived a life of luxury to the end, dying in the land of moneyed elites, Aspen. He served not one day in jail. And the poor company employees he screwed will live on in poverty.

Any renditions of Kenny Boy (Danny Boy)?

Posted by: LaytoRest | July 5, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Dooley (from the last boodle): you get the Maple Syrup Award for the timely mentioning of lesser known Haute Maine icon Stan Rogers.

Mudge, too true re 13 year olds.

The strip inside Christmas crackers is made to order for sibling fun as well. Taping one end to a door and the other to the wall will make a satisfyingly loud "snap" when the sister comes along. Or so I've heard.

I missed your boat painting, so here's a late tribute. "Arse of Gold", with apologies to the many Commonwealth naval types for whom "Heart of Oak" is a favourite.

Come paint up my keel! O, your weekend I'll steal,
By the time you're at the bow the stern's paint will start to peel;
I'm most expensive purchase where the owners are the slaves,
But nothing is for free for the sons of the waves!

An arse of gold, I'm your boat, fill it up, then I'll float;
I'm always ready for a tune-up, boy, ready!
My barnacles you will scrape again and again.

You'll ne'er see your spouse on a maintenance day,
With a boat she often wonder if you've started to stray;
But if you don't give me my due, why I'll run you ashore,
The reason we're called "she", is 'cause your treasure; we want more.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 10:55 AM | Report abuse

dr - I think that the problem with Ken Lay may have been that he never grew beyond the level of a 10 year old. He wanted all the toys in the store. Just like I suspect Kim Jong has never moved beyond that 13 year old phase of wanting to blow stuff up.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse

The Independence Day party I attended included a homemade ice-cream competition. When faced with 18 flavors of pure decadence (we don't allow the no-fat, no-sugar, no-flavor category), how exactly can there be a loser? My personal favorites were the bourbon vanilla and the rum raisin. My entry was a peaches 'n cream with pecan pralines, but it wasn't quite on the mark. When at first you don't succeed, churn, churn again.

Another Western PA anecdote: My dad spent 28 or so years in the PA National Guard and each summer would manage to pilfer a large cylindrical "bomb simulator" while on exercises at Fort AP Hill or some other garden spot. On the 4th of July, he'd toss it over the hill in the general direction of the Ohio river, where it made an impressive ka-boom, echoed back and forth across the river, and set every single dog in the town to manic barking.

Nowadays, I expect he'd be shipped off to Guantanamo as a terrorist.

Mudge, bc, that is so cool that you got to do the radio spot! Wish it were available as an archive. I spent the weekend riding my bike- did a great "Tour de Shore" on Monday, riding 40 miles around Easton, Oxford, St. Michaels, MD. It was hot, but there were lovely fields of sunflowers, and at least it's flat there. We followed up the ride by eating crab cake sandwiches and washing them down with some excellent draft beer from Annapolis' award-winning Fordham Brewery (aka Ramshead.)

Posted by: Pixel | July 5, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Loomis -- I mangled my intention when I said I was no longer reading the book-a-week about Bush.

I read Suskind precisely because I knew it was more than the book-a-week. Many of those books are quite good -- but a diet of only outrage is bad for my health.

What I was trying to convey in my post; I was becoming consumed by anger when I was reading every book. The garden must be tended, I had to move away from my state of outrage. I was having trouble sleeping. Life has to be lived in balance, even in very bad times.

But Suskind was a must read for me.

He lays out so beautifully the nature of the beast: that Bush deliberately divorced their policy and actions from any evidenced-based rationale. Evidence was so pre-9/11.

Bush *wanted* to be uninformed, so he could be unbound, not beholden to mere facts. And if Bush are unbound, unconstrained by evidence, so is America.

Suskind makes reference more than once to the current situation being one of the rule of men rather than the rule of law.

The telling story of Bush's (p. 215) behavior in a basketball game while at Harvard -- physically roughing up, knocking down, twice in the game,the captain of the other team, gives the lie to the carefully crafted story about Mr. Hail-Fellow-Well-Met. It seems that Bush is quite the bully. Brother Jeb refers to him as a "hard case."

I have trouble reading a number of so-called MSM reporters and opinion writers because they are missing the mark by a mile.

Many still try interpret how this country was led into war with Iraq as the end-product of some off-base intelligence.

What has been clear for quite some time, thanks to articles like Paul Pillar's in Foreign Affairs, and other disclosures, is Iraq was a war looking for a reason.

Suskind exposes the fact that Bush would make announcements of some finding -- "we disrupted this or that plot" or he and Cheney would set policy -- and *then* go looking for whatever "facts" they could find to back up their position.

The toppling of Saddam was meant to be a lesson to other "tyrants" and regimes that may shelter terrorists (even though Iraq did not) -- topple Saddam and everyone else would quake in their boots.

I note that North Korea really took this lesson to heart.

After reading Nir Rosen's "In the Belly of the Green Bird," and watching various interviews with him, reading other materials, etc., I've learned that the U.S. forces in Iraq are now really just one of several militias.

I've read many blogs written by Iraqi citizens who are living in the hell that is now Iraq.

And I have to turn away, because it's all so absolutely tragic and obscene.

So I go into my garden and make another stab to get rid of the japanese beetles that are consuming my roses.

Tomorrow I drive to Virginia Beach to meet TBG and her family. The weather is supposed to break, so I can make the drive in my car without A/C.

Very much looking forward to this. RD, if you've read down this far (or read this post at all) TBG told me how much she enjoyed the breakfast of Egg McMuffins she had with you.

Posted by: nelson | July 5, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

Loomis -- I mangled my intention when I said I was no longer reading the book-a-week about Bush.

I read Suskind precisely because I knew it was more than the book-a-week. Many of those books are quite good -- but a diet of only outrage is bad for my health.

What I was trying to convey in my post; I was becoming consumed by anger when I was reading every book. The garden must be tended, I had to move away from my state of outrage. I was having trouble sleeping. Life has to be lived in balance, even in very bad times.

But Suskind was a must read for me.

He lays out so beautifully the nature of the beast: that Bush deliberately divorced their policy and actions from any evidenced-based rationale. Evidence was so pre-9/11.

Bush *wanted* to be uninformed, so he could be unbound, not beholden to mere facts. And if Bush are unbound, unconstrained by evidence, so is America.

Suskind makes reference more than once to the current situation being one of the rule of men rather than the rule of law.

The telling story of Bush's (p. 215) behavior in a basketball game while at Harvard -- physically roughing up, knocking down, twice in the game,the captain of the other team, gives the lie to the carefully crafted story about Mr. Hail-Fellow-Well-Met. It seems that Bush is quite the bully. Brother Jeb refers to him as a "hard case."

I have trouble reading a number of so-called MSM reporters and opinion writers because they are missing the mark by a mile.

Many still try interpret how this country was led into war with Iraq as the end-product of some off-base intelligence.

What has been clear for quite some time, thanks to articles like Paul Pillar's in Foreign Affairs, and other disclosures, is Iraq was a war looking for a reason.

Suskind exposes the fact that Bush would make announcements of some finding -- "we disrupted this or that plot" or he and Cheney would set policy -- and *then* go looking for whatever "facts" they could find to back up their position.

The toppling of Saddam was meant to be a lesson to other "tyrants" and regimes that may shelter terrorists (even though Iraq did not) -- topple Saddam and everyone else would quake in their boots.

I note that North Korea really took this lesson to heart.

After reading Nir Rosen's "In the Belly of the Green Bird," and watching various interviews with him, reading other materials, etc., I've learned that the U.S. forces in Iraq are now really just one of several militias.

I've read many blogs written by Iraqi citizens who are living in the hell that is now Iraq.

And I have to turn away, because it's all so absolutely tragic and obscene.

So I go into my garden and make another stab to get rid of the japanese beetles that are consuming my roses.

Tomorrow I drive to Virginia Beach to meet TBG and her family. The weather is supposed to break, so I can make the drive in my car without A/C.

Very much looking forward to this. RD, if you've read down this far (or read this post at all) TBG told me how much she enjoyed the breakfast of Egg McMuffins she had with you.

Posted by: nelson | July 5, 2006 11:01 AM | Report abuse

dr, I look into my 9 month old gg-boy's eyes and marvel at the innocence, the wonder and curiosity in them and think to myself, oh to keep him as pure as he is now, no fears, no inhibitions, no prejudice, no discontent nor envy. I'm sure Mrs. Lay looked at her infant son the same way. What in the world happened?

Mudge, just so long as your bottom doesn't clash with that red cummerbund. I've never painted my or anyone else's bottom, but did paint the underside of my wood kitchen table (using stencils of flowers and critters) so when the g-kids crawled under it and looked up, they'd see something cute.

Posted by: Nani | July 5, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

sorry about the double post. I kept being told I had to give a name and actually write a comment before I could submit my post.

Three times! :-)

Perhaps the political nature of my post caused a hiccup.

Posted by: nelson | July 5, 2006 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Once again, I am terribly jealous of Nani's g-kids.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 5, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

We were lazy and afraid of uncontrolled water from the sky, so we didn't go out to see fireworks last night. After our pool's Independence Day party (controlled water, doncha know) was terminated by thunder, we came home for dinner and some lazy TV. We cleaned up the living room, where I have neglected a pile of flooring materials for some months, and discovered that the cats have not been neglecting them, oh no. The tarpaulin received special attention. We cleaned, and cleaned, and then we had dinner. After dinner, we played a silly party game called Apples to Apples, which I highly recommend.

I won.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 5, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

As kids, my sister and I would diligently collect whatever aerosol cans we could find (hair spray, spray paint, etc.) and on the Fourth, my father would build a huge bonfire and we'd take turns tossing them in and running for cover before they blew....

Apparently, the concept of "sprapnel" was a bit vague to us.

Ah, good times....

Forza Azzurri.

Posted by: Nico | July 5, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

nelson - TBG is charming so I am sure you will have fun meeting her and her family. Just be sure to wear the shoulder bow.

Here's the dirty little truth about the government and the powerful people who run it. They are making it all up as they go along. Nobody really knows anything for sure. There are no reliable guidebooks, there is no way to turn to tha back of the book for the answers. Instead you have people who fall back upon biases and their uniquely personal view of the world.

This is how it has always been. Everybody is groping forward in the dark.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Oops, meant to say "shrapnel"

Posted by: Anonymous | July 5, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Science Tim: I rule at Apples to Apples. My interpretations are by far the most innovative and brilliant. I rock.

It isn't my fault that none of my dependants ever agree.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

SciTim, I second the Apples to Apples, my daughter (10) has it and loves it.

Nani, what a wonderful idea, reminds me of the drawings my sister and I did under our tables for our parents (well thats our story anyways :)).

Posted by: dmd | July 5, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Nani, your decency brings shame to many of us.

I do think that much of the corporate world has sold out. Long gone are the days of IBM, where the best were attracted and given secure jobs and pensions. In return, they gave their best to the company.

The global marketplace is reverting to the old standard, haves and have-nots. Lay was just emblematic of the greedy corporations.

The recent articles about money not buying happiness (assuming good health I would qualify) are so true. My 3-year old sitting down to paint and draw with me is an invaluable treasure. I hold him just to smell his hair, and get high off of it.

But for much of the higherups in some industries, they fail at personal relationships and are absentee fathers or childless. So, they "succeed" at making money. And they get addicted to it. And there is never enough. Sad lives.

Sign me up for have-not. I have four kids and a wonderful wife, and, BTW, I get to blow stuff up for a living. It don't get any better than this, as they say around heah. Mad Scientist/Bomb Tick (tech)

Posted by: LaydOff | July 5, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Whatever happened to Mrs. Lay's little boy and whatever happened to Mrs. Bush's little boy may very well have similiar roots. In a lot of ways, to get anywhere big, in any time, in any industry, you do have to have a little of the bully in you to have your will carry over everyone else's. Maybe its not so much of a bully thing as an absolute belief that you are right. You must be absolutely driven to succeed big. That drive and energy can do much good. The same drive and energy, the same belief in the rightness of what they do, the same absoluteness and lack of doubt in their direction really is just one step from great harm to others. I'd be very interested to know what was behind that first step, that first rationalisation that led them down the path to so much sorrow. Maybe I am just a little naive to believe in that first bad rationalisation, but then again, maybe its just a different kind of fundamentalism and fanaticism.

And then there are people like Kim Il Jong, more pathologically evil than anything else.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 11:32 AM | Report abuse

That silly Tom Sietsema. He writes an article about places to eat in San Francisco and only mentions restaurants in the Denver area.

At least he got it right in the print version on Sunday.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

The best show in the sky out here in The Faultlands was not the was the amazing sight of the International Space Station streaking across the sky from N to SE for a good two minutes.

Posted by: Oaktown | July 5, 2006 12:18 PM | Report abuse

RD, did you read the note on the side of the box about Table Talk and Lobbying? I found that a little suggestion did wonders for the accurate and humorous interpretation of my clever choices. The ScienceKids, particularly ScienceKid #2, were not pleased. I am working on improving the subtlety with which I sway the judges. It is not fair to crush their little spirits with my ginormous intellect. I need to get them to help a little in the accomplishment of that ignoble goal.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 5, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon wrote at 10:13:

"[Lay] was one of those guys I wanted to see suffer for a long, long time".

I guess we are circling the drain here.

Posted by: skippy | July 5, 2006 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The itinerary for my One Lap Of America is up on my blog and I am openly soliciting dining and tourism suggestions for anywhere along the route which includes:

Kansas City
Salt Lake City
San Jose/Palo Alto
Las Vegas
El Paso
San Antonio
Little Rock

Comments and suggestions are welcome here in the Boodle or on my blog.

Truly a full service blog you got here, Joel.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 12:41 PM | Report abuse

anyone consider the possiblity that Ken Lay staged his own demise?

Posted by: 1st_timer | July 5, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

"circling the drain", skippy?

This is a man that bilked billions from shareholders, employees, and both. Karma has not been nearly cruel enough to him. Please defend Lay in any way. I need the laugh.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 12:45 PM | Report abuse

attempted to post eloquent and charming response to RD, a wonderful ode to Nani, and a witty tale about my ongoing battle with devious japanese beetles:

My posts are being either held up or the browser refuses to post. Then when I go to the Achenblog site on WaPo website, I get an error message.

Anyway -- my engaging post having been "disappeared" I thought I'd try to at least get this one on the boodle.


Posted by: nelson | July 5, 2006 12:50 PM | Report abuse


You don't have the Grand Canyon listed in your request of dining suggestions, but if you are going to be at the South Rim, I would suggest the restaurant at the El Tovar Hotel. The food was wonderful. I had no luck getting a canyon-view table, but I still enjoyed the atmosphere.

Posted by: OK | July 5, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

>anyone consider the possiblity that Ken Lay staged his own demise?

Immediately, but I resisted the temptation to say so for fear of being sued, so... thanks. :-) I think it was even in the Sherlock Holmes story a week or two ago.

I also wonder how it will affect any paybacks scheduled from his estate.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 5, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Hey, it worked!

Not gonna reconstruct the disappeared post.

In short: RD -- what shoulder bow, pray tell? Also, agree in general on the secrecy of power -- but believe W and Co. have outdone the most egregious offenders in this country to date;

Nani -- how wonderful to stencil the underside of the table;

On Lay -- I also wondered if his massive coronary was self-induced -- but I think his ego was too great for him to consider exiting in this manner;

The japanese beetles are winning -- will order new product today to try and wipe them out at grub stage (grub-eating nematodes).

Posted by: nelson | July 5, 2006 12:54 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, I have been to several of the places on your last, but I haven't paid sufficient attention to names and locations of places I have visited. Here's what I got:

Kansas City -- Union Station has interactive science exhibits and good stuff like that. There's a Lewis and Clark Discovery Center that's pretty good (I did Family Science Night presentations in each place, that's the only reason that I know them). They've got a funky outdoor mall dealie with several good restaurants.

Denver - the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is excellent.

Salt Lake City -- The University of Utah Museum of Natural History is pretty good. We were up at Snowbird last year (about a two-hour drive away) and there is much fun to be had on their Alpine slide and zip line. There were people skiing there in late June, last year. Experts only. You absolutely have GOT to visit the garden near the Mormon Tabernacle and the Joseph Smith research center. It's really ... special. The Museum of Ancient Life at Thanksgiving Point is fun. The Public Library is worth a trip. Really. Oh, and how could I forget a trip to Antelope Island, in the Salt Lake itself? I question the sanity of anyone who would actually swim in that saline sewage, but the wading was good. You'll really want to use the beach showers afterwards.

San Jose/Palo Alto -- I went to the Exploratorium when I was in Palo Alto for a meeting. It was faaabulous. Ghirardelli Square, in San Francisco.

Pasadena -- JPL was a bit of a let-down when I visited. Just office-space really. For fun, see if you can hook up with a guy named Kevin Grazier, he's on the Cassini imaging team. Tell him Tim sent you, that will be enough. Kevin can show you some good stuff, if he has time. There are publicly-accessible areas at JPL, but he may be able to sneak you into something less-public.

Austin -- go to Antone's, any day of the week. Visit the bridge near the Hyatt at sunset, when the bats come out (I don't know, maybe it's not a Hyatt anymore; I was there once, 17 years ago. But I understand that the bats still are there). Also, go to Antone's. Did I mention Antone's? You've gotta go to Antone's.

Memphis -- umm, Graceland? There's a 1/3rd-scale model of the Parthenon in Memphis, I hear, finished in a reproduction of the original polychrome style. According to pictures, it's really eye-wateringly garish.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 5, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

Out of respect for gobs of bat poo everywhere, I recommend stopping at the Carlsbad Caverns on your way from El Paso to San Antonio. They are spectacular, guano notwithstanding.

Ha! According to this site,

"Bat Cave Entrance-
If you were visiting in the early 1900s you would have entered the cave via guano bucket, just like the guano miners."

Posted by: Pixel | July 5, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

The thought of possible prison time could have caused Ken Lay to vapor-lock, or stage his death and disappear. He has the financial means to make it happen and plenty of his cronies would help him make it happen.

Posted by: 1st_timer | July 5, 2006 1:56 PM | Report abuse

Happy Fifth, everyone! It rained buckets late yesterday afternoon for about an hour, and we all danced in glee. The boy fought off raindrops with wooden swords until just before the heavens really opened, then came to his senses. Everything cleared off in time for the municipal fireworks display. As Joel observed, it started off slowly but ended with a huge continuous burst of all kinds of explosives, I think including some kind of ordnance. I just laughed uncontrollably. When I was a kid we were not in city limits (the city moved) and had our own fireworks show every year, along with a barbecue. The whole extended family spent all day getting ready, we consumed copious amounts of food and sweet iced tea, the kids gave a patriotic presentation (speeches, a skit, something), then the dads and older teenagers set off explosives while we oohed and aahed. Now we just do the barbecue part. I keep trying to get the kids to do speeches but they are too cool. As a result of this background, I love the Fourth, and always try to make sure we're with a lot of people watching fireworks. My husband humors me.

Padouk, you just gave away the primary secret of government at all levels (that we're just making it up). What's next, the secret handshake?

I give up. What is Apples to Apples? May it be purchased or can someone post the rules?

Posted by: ivansmom | July 5, 2006 2:06 PM | Report abuse

News flash for more festive fun. The Okie Noodling Tournament, this Saturday, fish judged & winners announced at bob's Pig Shop, Paul's Valley, Oklahoma, starting at 5:30 p.m. Family activities all day.

Yellojkt, might want to add this to your list -- or even as a preview.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 5, 2006 2:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh boy, Conspiracy Theory Wednesday on the Boodle!

Many people who succeed in business are 'compensated' sociopaths. To answer the question: Great responsibility mandates a strong conscience. A doctor has an awful lot of responsibility.

And quite a few psychopaths do try to become doctors because of the access and the facility of covering their tracks. What wolf wouldn't want to impersonate a sheepdog to get access? (Michael Swango, Dr. Shipman)

For a chilling look:

On the other end, there are doctors who take the responsibility very seriously.

The difference? Empathy, ethics, morals, a healthy fear of consequences-- all that has to be instilled from childhood and up.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 2:12 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, here's the link for Apples to Apples.

Posted by: dmd | July 5, 2006 2:13 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt - The Pasedena area has the Huntington Library, an enormous estate filled with gardens of every variety (ever seen a bamboo forest?). The library has a fascinating collection of artworks and rare books (an original Audubon, for example). There's also the Arboretum and the Eaton Canyon Nature Center, if you're into hiking.

Posted by: CowTown | July 5, 2006 2:15 PM | Report abuse

yello -- lunch in Pasadena at Pie and Burger, 913 E. California. Great food from the 50's in a hole in the wall cafe. Have a patty melt! And then the waitress will be astounded and crushed if you don't order the pie for dessert.

This is two blocks from Cal Tech and very close to the Old Pasadena shopping area where there are probably 40 restaurants within four blocks, all equally good. You do not go hungry in Pasadena.

Posted by: nellie | July 5, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about the blog being on the fritz so much today.

Posted by: Achenbach | July 5, 2006 2:17 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, somewhere in your journeys, you will get close to Flagstaff AZ. Take the time to go east of Flagstaff a little and go to Walnut Canyon. Climb down and see how the cliff dwellers lived. The youngin should see this. In fact if you are taking hwy 64 east out of Grand Canyon Park, and turn south on hwy 89, make sure to watch for the signs for Wupatkit Nat'l Monument and Sunset Crater too. Its a little loop that is well worth you time.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I'd take umbrage about blog access but its too freaking hot!

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Aunt Dora and Uncle Claude had a Currier & Ives book of black/white illustrations that my sister and I would peruse on rainy days. All the illustrations were lovely (horse-drawn sleighs in winter, etc.) except one. I always hurried past that page because it was so frightening. It depicted "The Sinner at Death". That illustration immediately came to mind when Mudge first posted that Kenneth Lay had died.

Posted by: Nani | July 5, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

1st_timer and EF, I admit that the staged death thing crossed my mind, too, in the first nano-second or so. But I can understand the stress, not only of the Enron collapse and the trial, but even during the period before the colllapse, running a scam of that magnitude and wondering (or at least I hope he was wondering), "OK, when is the other shoe going to drop? When is this house of cards tumbling down around me." I'd imagine it is stressful enough running a huge business of that magnitude if you ran it decently and honestly; imagine how much worse it would have to be if you ran it as a criminal enterprise. No wonder he dropped dead.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I was in Oklahoma last Spring and the family blackballed it for this trip. Carlsbad Caverns would be very cool, especially if we can get there at dusk to see the bats, but it may be just too far out of the way.

The reason to go thru Pasedena is to see the CalTech campus. It has never been on the radar as a college choice because it outgeeks even MIT and Stanford, but my son has gotten multiple e-mails and postcards from their admissions office, so we feel obligated to give it a drive-by. We still have to make Vegas from there before they shut off the fountains at the Bellagio.

ScienceTim's ideas are all great, but I think we will be on the road during most museum hours. We really just have evenings in most places. My son did make it to the Exploratorium as part of a Physics Camp field trip. We went four years ago when we were in the Bay Area and loved it.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt --

He deserves to suffer? Sounds dangerously close to advocating torture to me. Lay was scum and did some horrible things, but I have difficulty supporting the idea of wishing suffering on anyone.

Posted by: bigdoglurker | July 5, 2006 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank you, DMD, for the game link. We will have to try this. The boy & I are big game players (better than big game hunters). We both like words & strategy, too. I draw the line at Risk, though -- I'm sorry, I indulge in all kinds of gender bias with that one. I'm always looking for family-type activities not involving electronic screens.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 5, 2006 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Attempting to repost:

I leave the Boodle after Padouk's 10:07 for a walk and come back to see I missed Mudge's 10:13 with early news of Lay's death. And SonofCarl's Dr. Seuss ditty, in mocking jest of Lay, quite appropriate, I might add.

Thanks for the clarification about how you felt about Suskind's book. My progress is slow, I'm now at page 150. Suskind fills in some many of the details of its action on the GWOT, gives the reader the incredible backstory and, every few pages or so, I find things that I didn't know that surprise me. Yesterday's time with the book was no exception.

I guess the First Amendment rights to a free press, guaranteed by our Constiution, apply only to our domestic press, even though that is in contention lately. And for all the recent criticism of the NYT, don't people know that the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal broke the SWIFT story the very same day as the NYT?

My surprise during my reading of Suskind yesterday was that the emir of Qatar wanted his small nation to be the Switzerland of the Arab Gulf region--wealthy, neutral, and stable. The emir had a hard-and-fast rule never to become involved in issues of coverage of his state-operated television station, al Jazeera.

Long story short, al Jazeera not only played footage of bin Laden, but reported intensively on the carnage caused by U.S. bombing runs in Afghanistan. Tenet asked Sheik al-Thani to pedal back on the coverage. The pictures of the destruction had enraged U.S. policy makers. The sheik said "No." The end result: we dropped a missile and blasted to he11, obliterated, in fact, the building in Kabul that housed al Jazeera's ofices there, compliments of the CIA. (pp. 135-8)

Now, nelson, you make me want to peek ahead to page 215. Suskind's is one of those books I can't put down for long. The story is all there under one cover--as opposed to daily newspapers, where the story and reporting comes out slowly in drips and drops. It's often difficult for one to assimilate a coherent picture of administration actions unless one pays strict attention to each day's stories (a Rumsfeldian way of saying it if ever there was one). A well-written and reported book makes it far easier to get the bigger picture, as well as the juicy, insider details.

As you pointed out today, nelson, as did Nick Kristof at the NYT yesterday, there are indeed problems with MSM, as well as a lapdog media.

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

And yello -- driving from Palo Alto to Pasadena, you will reach San Luis Obispo around lunch time. Take the first SLO exit (I think it says to Monterey Street.) Look for Apple Farm Inn, which is a motel with a restaurant. Enjoy your lunch. Suggest to your wife that she keep her eyes closed while walking thru the gift shop.

Apple Farm, 2015 Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo

Posted by: nellie | July 5, 2006 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I heartily second the stop at Carlsbad Caverns on your way home from 'Frisco. What kind of chow are you looking to eat along the way? Budget? If you need help with San Antonio cuisine, give me a holler. Continental? Barbecue? Mex? Tex-Mex? Tourist stop--such as Tower of the Americas? Rio Rio along the Riverwalk?

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 2:33 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom brings up a good point; yello should google 'what's on' for those locations, as there is quite often lots of great local stuff going on. One of our highlights in Europe were the concerts that we discovered same-day.

This was my two cents posted on yellojkt's website:

Yello, you don't seem to have a heck of a lot of time for touristy stuff or dining! Methinks there will be lots of road food and "whatever's open" at daily destination.

At the Grand Canyon, in summer it might be too much to go down and back in one day even if everyone is pretty fit. The trail down Bright Angel to Plateau Point is do-able (it only took me about four hours round trip incl lunch, but that was in Dec and I was very fit at the time).

Depending on your NM route, historic Santa Fe is nice. Los Alamos is neat, but a little out of the way even if you're going to Santa Fe.

In San Antonio, stay downtown if you can. The River Walk has a lot of great dining spots. Take the little cruise.

In Dallas, the Texas Book Depository (called the Sixth Floor Museum IIRC) has a neat JFK museum that doesn't take long.

Have you considered Houston and Space Center Houston instead of the Dallas route?

Poor Oklahoma and Kentucky. They look so lonely on your map.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

bigdoglurker, I think you need some reading comprehension lessons. Don't you think being sent to jail for 15 or 20 years, and living that period in disgrace, knowing you have masterminded the most expensive scam in U.S. history, and ruined the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands of poeople, warrants just a wee bit of discomfort? Get a grip, man. The guy deserved to be i jail for a long time, and that's all I suggested: I wanted to see him suffer (in the sense that spending a decade or two in lock-up would accomplish exactly that).

If it sounds like torture to you, you need to re-think things. What, you didn't want to see him go to jail for a reasonably long period? Bigdog, my butt.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Nobody deserves to suffer, vengeance is the Lord's, etc., but the schadenfruede lust is strong in everybody, and I am no exception. The desire for mercy and justice are often at cross-purposes.

People don't equate the white collar crimes of executives with mass murderers like Gacy or Bundy, but KLay managed to ruin a lot of lives directly and indirectly due solely to his own greed. How many heat deaths was he responsible for while the California power crisis was being manipulated by Enron and Duke?

The man has blood on his hands and now will never pay for his sins except in the afterlife.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

"They should start with the finale, and then slowly taper off, until finally people think, "Is it over?", and then another rocket goes off, catching them by surprise -- and so on, all through the night" Well, Joel, you should've gone to the Fairfax Fireworks. Apparently due to the moist conditions several banks didn't go off during the extended finale. Fairfax had several fireworks encores, I counted three just waiting for the shuttle bus, but rumor has it that they had more and may even still be going on. Though, it's raining now so they're probably taking a break to search out more "sleepers".

Posted by: Grrreg | July 5, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

nelson - the shoulder bow reference dates back to the dress Charlize Theron wore at the Academy Awards. The dress in question featured a bow on her lovely shoulder large enough to be mistaken for a second head. Anyway, those of us who were boodling real-time found it so striking that we decided it would make a perfect way for boodlers to identify each other. And so, when I met with TBG and TBG's daughter, I sat at the local McDonald's sipping coffee and reading the newspaper in a business suit accessorized with a largish purple bow. Fortunately no pictures were taken. I have issues with pictures. Especially when wearing a purple bow.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 2:38 PM | Report abuse

101 or I-5 through the San Joaquin Valley? If the latter, Harris Ranch mid-way for the freshest steaks you'll *ever* eat. You'll smell the area before you see it. Going south, the stock pens come first. The complex is built like a Spanish hacienda and immediately off the freeway. I've spent a birthday and wedding anniversary there--if only for the food and gigantic pool ringed by palms.

If 101, Buellton for Anderson's for fantistic split pea soup. Perhaps a better choice if the weather is cooler. 101 is longer but more scenic. Coastal 1 takes forever and ever, but stunning scenery. Clint's Hogsbreath for a beer if you're in Carmel.

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

bigdoglurker, I am in the camp that thinks that Lay deserved to suffer. Not in the physical sense, which is simply cruel and corrupts the torturer, but in the spiritual sense. It's conceivable that some day, Ken Lay might have developed a conscience. His spiritual suffering could be alleviated at any time by doing his best to reverse the evil that he did -- you know, searching out Enron employees and recompensing them from his personal fortune. Any suffereing that Lay would have experience would have been entirely self-inflicted and could be self-healed.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 5, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

But bigdoglurker, didn't God give us a conscience so that it would HURT when we intentionally hurt others? And that ache in our soul would be the clue that "Hey, maybe I shouldn't do this!" Perhaps in prison with nothing but time on his hands, Mr. Lay's conscience would have come to the surface and he would realize how much suffering he wrought on innocent parties.

Posted by: Nani | July 5, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt - if your son is thinking CalTech or MIT, you might want to check out an odd little place called Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

San Luis Osbispo? Don't forget the Madonna Inn (no, Madonna doesn't live there)!

Posted by: CowTown | July 5, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Gonna go down 5 for shear speed. Three years ago we took 101 to San Simeon and then took the PCH to Monterey and then back to San Francisco over three days. A much more leisurely pace. Carmel was a mind trip. We missed Hogsbreaths, though. Perhaps next time.

And ScienceTim expressed my thoughts much more eloquently vis a vis KLay.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, in addition to Harvey Mudd, has your son looked at Rice? This way you could go through Houston instead of the Dallas-FortWorth Metroplex (boo hiss). Not that I have anything against Dallas, other than its giant soulless sprawl. Downtown is okay. Houston, with all its smog and swamp, is much more interesting. If you do go (Rice!) look for Niko Niko's Greek restaurant, near Bissonet & the museum district. Yum.

We are Rice. Ain't that nice? Who are you? Do you know?
OR, in a more arrogant (but accurate) vein,
That's okay, we'll take the loss. In ten years we'll be your boss.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 5, 2006 3:00 PM | Report abuse

HMC sure looks interesting from its website. I will have to see if he's getting junk mail from them. Places we have never heard of tend to get roundfiled pretty quick.

The shear volume of mail can be staggering. Washington University in St. Louis (which is a fine school, I know some alumni) has to be the most aggressive. He got mail from them before he even had his PSAT results.

A lot of it is gamesmanship for colleges trying to look more competitive than they are by upping their applicants to acceptances ratio.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Ah, I remember those days of college spam.

I even got an solicition letter from West Point and the US Naval academy.

I was sorry that I was 4-F for a few seconds before I tossed the brochures in the trash. Sho' would have liked to learn the lingo as fluently as Mudge can do it.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 3:11 PM | Report abuse

If you want to see FLOATS, go to the annual Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore, put on by the American Museum of Visionary Art. All floats must be human-powered (usually pedaled), must complete a street- and a water-course. This year, there was an anteater with ants (didn't do well), a platypus (powered by 8 bicyclers!), Fifi the Pink Poodle (a returning fave), and lots else. Photos from this year's race at . The museum is worth a trip, too

Posted by: sue | July 5, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

When I read the news that Ken Lay was dead, I also thought perhaps he may have helped that situation. Not wanting to face a prison term for the hurt and harm he caused, I thought he might take the easy way out. I don't really know why people do the things that he did, but Scripture does tell us that such people exist, and that he was not the first of his kind. Sin is what man does because his heart is evil, and because man does not believe that God pays attention to those deeds. There is no fear of God, that is what the Bible states, as to why men do what they do. I'm sure when Ken Lay screamed in the world there was joy in someone's heart, and he was loved. His mother and father probably wanted good things for him, as we all want for our children. None of us see our children as monsters that will grow up to hurt and cause death or pain. Yet we know deep down in our hearts, though we may never admit to ourselves, that something could go very wrong somewhere, and in the end we may not even know that beautiful bundle of joy that we held and thanked God for in our hearts.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 5, 2006 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Back from a quick 4th of July campout at Deep Creek Lake in Western MD, so I haven't been Boodling for a few days.

Obviously, I took a quick break from the camping to attempt an on-air coup with Mudge in the Washington Post Radio studio at the WaPo's home office (rather than the main WaPo radio studio which is on Idaho Ave in the more northwestern part of NW DC).

The coup ended up more or less a draw, and since Mudge and I only had "cough" buttons that would shut our own mikes down, and the WaPo radio folks had all the rest of the buttons, I think I'm willing to conced the battle, but not the war. Oh, this war's a *long* way from over.

Joel, thanks for being a gracious host and making the InterRadioActive Experience so much fun.

Mudge, I'm not sure which of us is a worse influence on each other. Thanks, dude.

Len Downie deserves thanks for being such a good sport in the face of, well, *us*. I take encouragement from the fact that he stayed to the end and didn't throw his headphones off and run out the door at the first commercial break, calling for security.

Thanks to Bob, er, *Sam* Litzinger and the staff of WaPo radio for putting up with 15-odd minutes of chaos.

Now, onto the news and Observations of the day:
- Happy belated 4th of July, all!
- I'm happy that Discovery made it safely to orbit.
-Taepodong-2 is a silly name for a North Korean firework (speaking of folks who may well blow their own hands off).
- Ken Lay's passing is - curious. Would anyone be surprised if it was not an accident?
- Thunderstorms and camping don't mix. Nobody likes being in tents when thunder's booming, lightning's flashing, rain's pounding against the tent like the drum breaks in "Wipeout", and the wind's making the tent sway like the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Not the dogs, not the kids, and not the parents. Still, the rainstorms kept the coyotes quiet at least. I've had about 6 total hours of sleep since Sunday.

Yikes, this is too long.
Count me as one of those amateur rockteers who experimented with gasoline, gunpowder, phosphorus, magnesium, and believe it or not, steel wool. Steel wool made for some pretty fireworks displays,back in the days.

Tired now. Going to nap awhile.


Posted by: bc | July 5, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

You are not alone having problem with the boodle , my connection is quite squirrelly too.
Ah, boys and explosives. I work with explosives peoples on a regular basis nobody will be surprised to know this is a very male business. A lot of the guys are reformed "amateurs", a lot of those involved in development work still have a very boyish enthusiasm for blowing-up things. The guys grow more cautious as they gain experience though, pretty much everybody in the business has been involved in a mishap, a near miss or a downright tragedy. Them chemicals are pretty powerful, when the rock start flying you don't want to be too close. There use to be quite of bit of accidents in the fireworks manufacturing business because handling black powder and other pyrotechnics is actually more dangerous than playing with real "detonating" explosives. It's very easy to set off real black powder while commercial explosives need a so call "train" of detonation. Now we have exported these accidents to China, very little fireworks is made in America anymore. So when you hear about a fireworks factory blowing up in China with multiple deaths, please have a thought for these gals&guys, they are making our 1st or 4th of July fireworks...

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 5, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse

RD, your comment concerning those in charge fumbling in the dark does make sense, and is probably more than right. Our time here is uncertain and full of stumbling blocks, and so many times we're at a loss as to what and how to do. But we do have a resource, but we don't want to use that resource. It's called the Bible. It's an ancient book, but fits all times. Kingdom and empires have existed from the beginning of time, and the Bible has lived through them all, and is very much alive and well because it is God's word and that, my friend, is never out of season.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 5, 2006 3:23 PM | Report abuse

SCC: should have thanked yellojkt for calling in. He's gold with the heart of a wh0re.

Ugh, sleepy now.


Posted by: bc | July 5, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Had I been in half as much trouble as Lay was, I wouldn't have been surprised to have a heart attack out of despair. (Of course, in my case I'd be falsely accused. Totally.)

Depression is highly correlated with heart disease, and not just in folk sayings. His conduct of anger and hostility during the trial does support that he might have been having heart trouble.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 3:26 PM | Report abuse

wow -- suffering and Ken Lay.

I wrote in my post that was "disappeared" about the disparity between a guy who kills a clerk in a convenience store robbery and gets a death sentence -- and someone like Ken Lay, who no doubt is responsible for a death or two. Elderly folks succumbing in a California summer because Enron played with the utilities --maybe a suicide or two or three from folks who lost everything because of his dealings.

Lay was much more criminal than the convenience store killer.

Every society has consequences (at least in theory) for people who willfully break the law.

What Lay did was so egregious that the paradigm of how white collar crime is punished actually changed. It's hard time now for these people -- not country club prisons.

The damage he did is magnitudes of order beyond what a lone killer does.

Loomis -- I won't give away anymore of the book! BTW, there is a book out titled "The Lapdog Press." Can't remember who wrote it (Eric Boehlert I think). This is one of the books I chose not to read -- too depressing.

Suskind's book is a gem. We get to learn how much has actually been done right in the fight against al Qaeda -- and we get a seat inside the Administration, to see how the tension between CIA, FBI, DoD and Cheney/Bush all have played out.

Cheney is the one who theorizes, who at first ran the foreign policy shop. He pulls together the strategy. Bush gets to put the ideas into play.

"The Iraq War was launched, in large measure, from the left brain of the Vice President . . .'Making a case for war' fell under public relations, under marketing, no R&D . . ." pp 213-14 (sorry Loomis).

This is where Iraq came unbound from any need for hard evidence -- it was a war in search of evidence.

Enough about Iraq and Suskind.

RD -- that's a good story. Although I'm meeting TGB at the cottage her family rented (not in a public building) I may show up with a big purple bow on my shoulder!!! :-)

Posted by: nelson | July 5, 2006 3:29 PM | Report abuse

when blitzing through california, do what the natives do, look for the nearest in-n-out burger:

Posted by: L.A. lurker | July 5, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra is right about the way folks turn out. I have practiced criminal law (as a lawyer, not a felon, thank you) for some time now. It is my observation that lots of persons who commit crimes had perfectly good home lives, parents who love them, etc., and nobody can quite figure out what happened to them. Some clues: don't drop your kid on its head; if you live in Oklahoma, don't name him Dale (he'll wind up on Death Row).

That said, I just thought I'd throw out the suggestion that perhaps Ken Lay's sins, while enormous, weren't necessarily intentional. That is, he may have got caught up in this whole money scheme, thinking only of his own enrichment, without considering the terrible consequences to others if the thing went bad. Personally, I believe that sort of self-absorption may be worse. Also, people who do this sort of thing, no matter the scale, truly don't believe things will go bad. The smart ones, like Lay, just can't believe they'll ever be caught. After all, they're so far ahead of the rest of us.

In a way, I wasn't surprised to hear of his death. He fought the case hard, his company is gone, he has no respect, he's sold off quite a few assets and owes the worth of the rest (I bought a trinket from his wife's poor-me-sale store in Houston a few years back). He's facing serious prison time. Maybe on some level he just quit fighting and let his body give up.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 5, 2006 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Some DA annonced yesterday they were going after 125 millions of Mr. Lay's money, on the basis that his fortune was accumulated by fraudulent activities. Anybody think that could have triggered the massive coronary in that inordinately greedy man ?

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 5, 2006 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Hi, Nani, glad to hear from you. I agree with your post concerning Ken Lay, the first one, especially. What a neat idea to paint under the table.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 5, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

nelson - actually I think the true Theron look was a blue bow. But since purple didn't clash with my suit as much I went with that. I mean, I didn't want to look odd or anything.

Cassandra - your point is well taken. However, as you surely know, the devil is in the details.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

re. Ken Lay, I did note that last Friday prosecutors filed a motion to collect the family houses (incl. the one in Aspen) as part of the settlement. That could certainly have caused him some stress. But to a player like that it wouldn't surprise me if he would cause it himself somehow to both have the last laugh, avoid jail, and keep the property in the family.

There's a big difference between actively engaging in torture and the schadenfrude of seeing someone's karma catch up to them. I'll bet dollars to donuts he caused many heart attacks among his pension-less former employees, so I have no problem with hearing he went out that way himself.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 5, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Any John Cassavetes fans out there? Two of his films are on the Turner Classic Movies channel tonight, Faces and A Woman Under the Influence. In fact, this month, TCM is featuring independent films every Wednesday evening for those so inclined.

Posted by: Nani | July 5, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Ah HA! Another lawyer!

I don't do crim, but when I think of sentencing I think back (honestly!) to why the state is involved in criminal matters. In short, the sentence should be proportionate to the tearing of society's fabric. A murder in the olden days would set off a family feud if not contained.

Lay's "white collar" offences were so egregious and impacted so many lives that a long sentence was warranted.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

ivansmom, add "wayne" to names that practically come with a criminal record.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

In the story about Ken Lay today in the WaPo:
On Friday, federal prosecutors asked a judge to order Lay and former Enron executive Jeffrey K. Skilling to turn over $182.2 million in assets, arguing that their homes and other assets were acquired by fraud.

I imagine that may have added to Lay's stress. I feel like he got what he deserved. The county to the north of mine just won its battle against Enron, too.

I tried to post earlier, including a comment about the boodle being "on the fritz", but couldn't, because, well...Wonder where that expression comes from?

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 5, 2006 3:44 PM | Report abuse

EF (or the lawyers out there) -
I was wondering how Lay's death would affect the seizing of assets. Not that I'm vindictive...Where does that money go anyway, if the government does get it?

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 5, 2006 3:49 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who lost a female Lundehund in DC should be checking out the mislabelled "chihuahua mix" on the washington humane society website.

They're pretty good at eyeballing a dog's breed, but rarer breeds or dogs with unusual coloring for their breed often get mislabelled.

Just a PSA... I saw somebody who had a lundehund around my neighborhood but I don't think it's the same dog... but how many people OWN a lundehund outside Norway? There's not a big market for puffin huntin' dogs out there anymore.

Posted by: Wilbrode | July 5, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

belatedly continuing the bat theme - yellojkt - yes, the bats under Austin's Congress Avenue Bridge are a must-see. Before you go, call the bat hotline (512-416-5700 ext 3636) to find out what time they'll be coming out that evening. And you can park for free in the lot of the Austin American-Statesman (great name for a paper, huh?), just south of the bridge.

Posted by: bia | July 5, 2006 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon said:

"[Lay] was one of those guys I wanted to see suffer for a long, long time".

It is like holy scripture, there are now three different interpretations:

(1) The "Curmudgeon's butt" argument. All he meant was that a long prison term was appropriate, and any other reading gets his butt up, whatever that means.

(2) The "we're only human" reading: As Yellojkt says, "the schadenfreude lust is strong in all of us..."

(3) The spiritual interpretation: Tim says any suffering would have been spiritual and would have been curable if Lay repented, and worked at restitution.

All this is in defence of Curmudgeon's desire to see wicked people suffer, for a long, long time. The first two interpretations basically say "Hey, a little pleasure in their suffering is harmless, hopefully it isn't as though Curmudgeon watches people suffering on videos or anything like that." Tim's explanation is more interesting. The medieval church used to put people on the rack and give them the water torture, not to elicit information or to carry out any court judgment of any kind, but for their own spiritual good, in order to elicit a confession of theological Truth, for the good of the victim's soul. Tim: History has passed you by. Curmudgeon: Sadism is a disease.

Posted by: skippy | July 5, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

There's always a joker with a gallows sense of humor. Check out the Ken Lay Lives blog (via Wonkette)

Let's face it, the guy was 64, ddin't live a healthy lifestyle and was under a lot of stress. I find nothing surprising or conspiracy worthy in his manner of passing.

Philosophy and psychology are treacherous grounds to tread when trying to analyze the motives of people like Lay. I think there is a Raskolnikov level sense of delusional entitlement to most of these guys. Remember, they are "The Smartest Guys In The Room" and it's our fault for not catching them quicker and letting them sucker us. I bet many of the Enron biggies have no true sense of remorse, only regret at being caught by small minds that are their inferior.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 5, 2006 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Pre-judgment seizure in civil actions is very rare, unless you can show a likelihood or intent to move assets offshore or otherwise dispose of them.

The important finding is "fraud". With that in the conviction, many of the traditional offshore jurisdictions' [ie Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos etc] creditor-protection laws don't apply.

State power to seize or freeze accounts as part of a prosecution is more powerful, but similar idea.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Apparently no one knows the origin of "on the fritz" -

I remember the Katzenjammer Kids from my youth, so I'll go with that.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 5, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

skippy ,

Thank you for a few more excellent reasons why I don't give a fig about how people interpret Scripture. I was every bit as happy when I read it as I was when they got al-Zarqawi.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 5, 2006 4:00 PM | Report abuse

Hold it right there skippy. You obviously haven't been reading the Achenblog long enough or you'd know that Curmudgeon is one of the kindest, most gentle, generous folks here. A boodler asks for help, and he's the first one there! Feeling blue? Mudge is right there with a parody. Need a history lesson? Need a good laugh? Mudge is the hardest worker here.

And ScienceTim aint no slouch neither!

ScienceTim and Curmudgeon, sorry if I'm embarrassing you with my inartful reply.

Posted by: Nani | July 5, 2006 4:16 PM | Report abuse

fyi, skippy you may be interested to go back and read the blog the the Masasoui verdict was announced. Cassandra shines. All of us understand what you are saying, and there are those who agree with her then, and with much of what you are saying now, but few people can truly live that belief every moment of our lives. If everyone could really live that kind of life, there would be no Enron, there would be no poor, there would be no disadvantaged, and there would be no one trying to be better than the guy standing next to him anywhere.

The dark heart of all humanity can overwhelm us. Its part of the human condition.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 4:18 PM | Report abuse

Skippy, look up what sadism really is.

It has nothing to do with a desire for vengance, which is in fact a normal male drive. It's part of the mindset that dislikes people mugging old ladies and might even swing a fist in the mugger's face to stop a crime in progress. It's part of the mindset that sets up laws and courts.

Since you seem superfically familiar with history, might I point you to classical literature for a more thorough analysis of the emotion of vengance and its role in society?
The Orestaia of Aeschylus (Agamemnon, Choephori, Eumenides) is a classic analysis of the transition from lawless anarchism in which vengance is the only tool for enforcing social conduct, to a more impersonal state-based form of vengance.

Now, on the other hand, sadism is in fact, delibrately causing pain in another living thing and watching the suffering for purposes of sexual pleasure. Woo woo.

It's not good to misuse psychological terms on the street as a slur.

As for Kenneth Lay, he's small fry on my list of people who I would like to see taken down a few BIG notches and made to understood the pain they have caused to others. I have no desire myself to actually wield any whips or anything like that.

I'm more of a taoist, in which I believe that Kenneth Lay created his own downfall by his greed and that his trial and death might have partially restored the balances.
Maybe a few lives will be saved later thanks to how society has reacted to Enron, with firmer oversight and emphasis on business finances. We had to rewrite corporate law.

However, human nature will always be there. Can't change people at their core, all we can do is motivate them to be their best and root out the worst of the worst.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Did I kill the boodle. Or is the access bug?

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Nah, you just seriously wounded it.

"'Twas I, with my little bow and arrow, that killed Cock Robin."

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Electrification has been restored to the Padouk Estate! All hail the oscillating waves of electromotive force! Blessed be Maxwell, Gauss, Ampere, Volta and Watt. All praise Edison, Tesla, and the entire pantheon of applied electromagnetic theory.

I must go now to prostrate myself before the sacred circuit box of ultimate glory.

The lights are back on. The children are entertained.

All is well once more.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 5:39 PM | Report abuse

RD, Don't forget to offer up a few circuit breakers in homage.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Yay, RD!

Isn't great to get power back? Maybe the boodle will be "off the fritz" now too. My not-so-clever comment that didn't make it wondered whether it got its power feed from Fairfax.

Wonder if Mexico has a Supreme Court?

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 5, 2006 5:47 PM | Report abuse

RD - I share in your rejoicing. Only because I found your post to be the funniest today (but then, I've just been skimming). Hail electrons.

Posted by: CowTown | July 5, 2006 5:53 PM | Report abuse

CowTown, I agree - RD got me laughing, as he often does.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 5, 2006 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Nah, the boodle's fritzed for good. At least it's not Frito-Layed any more.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 6:03 PM | Report abuse

I believe dictionaries will show, Willbrod, that sadism, in addition to its clinical meaning, means the taking of pleasure in the pain or suffering of others. On your other point, you say: "[Vengeance] is part of the mindset that sets up laws and courts". I guess you're sort of in the vanguard here, as far as legal thinking goes...

Posted by: skippy | July 5, 2006 6:20 PM | Report abuse

"'Twas I, with my little bow and arrow, that killed Cock Robin."

That gave me a very pleasant vision, Willbrod. The old Brittanica Book of Knowledge had pictures to go with it. Volume 4 IIRC. That poor volume is devoted to literature for kids, and is the most read, most loved of all. There were a lot of winter Saturday afternoons after the Roy Roger's show was over spent laying on the floor by dad's desk, reading it over and over and over again.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 6:31 PM | Report abuse


I'm not sure if I'm reading your 6:20 correctly, but I take it you disagree with Wilbrod on "[Vengeance] is part of the mindset that sets up laws and courts".

That's a short sentence, but as a summary it's not bad. It more or less parapraphes my 3:43: criminal law is in large part an attempt to remove the natural impulse of retribution (which has the potential of starting a cycle of violence) while at the same time responding to a crime as an assault on civil society generally. I think its fair to say that all other sentencing factors (deterrence, rehabilitation etc) are secondary to the retributionary aspect of sentencing (both vis-a-vis the offender and preventing further or other retribution).

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I just have to say how nice it is that no one's accusing skippy of being un-American or being a Key Lay lover or anything like that.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 5, 2006 6:38 PM | Report abuse

Excuse me, but skippy accused Mudge of being a sadist and equated Tim's suggestion of redemption with the Inquisition.

That's beyond the pale. I'd suggest medication but I don't think they have any for that kind of self-righteous judgemental attitude.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 5, 2006 6:46 PM | Report abuse

*removing tongue from cheek*

EF, I'm sure you know I have very little regard for people who judge anyone in here on the basis of a post or two, when there's so much backBoodle to refer to.

So I fell short of the mark in humorously pointing out we're still civil in the face of comments that other blogs might go nuclear over. I'm sorry.

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 5, 2006 6:50 PM | Report abuse

And yes, I'm still voting Error in '08.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 5, 2006 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Of course, there is the notion that we cannot escape the consequences of our actions, in the long term. What goes around eventually comes around. It was pleasant to see that happen to Ken Lay, although I think we can certainly say he didn't get back all the pain he caused others. I would love to see his assets seized and given to those who lost so much in the Enron bankruptcy.

Posted by: Slyness | July 5, 2006 6:57 PM | Report abuse

SofC, I just love it when you go all cute and lawyerly.

This is one of those things that really needs the clear cool definition that you provide.

Posted by: dr | July 5, 2006 7:00 PM | Report abuse

OK, so I guess "like nicknames like" wasn't a mistake after all.

I feel a severe crisis of confidence coming on. In the words of Ivan Ilyich, What if my whole life has been wrong?

(Sometimes I look at photos of myself as a baby and think, What the bleep happened?)

Posted by: Tom fan | July 5, 2006 7:36 PM | Report abuse

I swear it still said "like" when I last looked!
(Which means my prognosis is even worse: Crazy as opposed to simply a bad copy editor.)

Posted by: Tom fan | July 5, 2006 7:39 PM | Report abuse

Probably diagnosis, not prognosis.

Posted by: Tom fan | July 5, 2006 7:41 PM | Report abuse

I need to dig up some of the business literature that praised Enron and Mr. Lay to high heaven. I was living in Portland, Oregon when Enron took over the local electric utility, whose employees were promptly encouraged to invest their pension money in Enron stock. I never quite figured out why a bunch of hotshot traders/financial manipulators wanted to invest in such a dull business.

The Enron mess seems no weirder than the hospital industry, where doctors and assorted other biomeds seem to be in the hands of financial cowboys. This one, in Birmingham, Alabama, has done reasonably well in the courts:

Back on topic, Brevard County, just north of us (which contains Cape Canaveral) and some of the municipalities are getting tired of the custom that allows citizens to buy fireworks fit to entertain multitudes, or disarticulate the user, if they sign a piece of paper certifying that they are farmers using them to frighten birds away from their strawberry crops, or perhaps their tropical fish farm. The big fireworks stores are highly displeased. Pleasantly, there was no repeat of an incident a couple of years ago where two young men were driving through a neighborhood, throwing firecrackers from the car. One of them somehow landed in the back seat, setting off the entire stash and setting the car on fire. One fatality.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 5, 2006 7:47 PM | Report abuse

Dave, that is worthy of a Darwin award! But not a pleasant way to die. Am I right to assume that the survivor was also badly burned?

Posted by: Slyness | July 5, 2006 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for chiming in, SonofCarl. I'm having trouble with your last sentence, where you said, "I think its fair to say that all other sentencing factors (deterrence, rehabilitation, etc) are secondary to the retributionary aspect of sentencing (both vis-a-vis the offender and preventing further or other retribution". I would have thought that if retribution was a factor, there would have to be principles of retribution, such as "an eye for an eye", or modern versions of that. I thought we'd left that behind. In any event, if what you're saying is true, then I guess there would be case law or other literature spelling out this idea of "retribution...vis-a-vis the offender" ? Could you cite something? I would be educated.

Posted by: skippy | July 5, 2006 7:59 PM | Report abuse

The story of Ken Lay is one of cruelty and greed. And that story is all that he has left.

There's a lesson there somewhere.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 5, 2006 8:33 PM | Report abuse

And all he will ever be remembered for, RD, if remembered at all. Given the amount of money he stole, I guess I'm just wondering if in the end, he thought it worth it. I mean did he at any point feel sorrow or regret for what he done? Did he see the impact of what he done in the people that went through that nightmare, and are still going through it? His crime impacted a lot of people, not just those that lost money. Did he see that, did he know it?

There are some crimes committed by people that beg for some form of punishment, and I like anyone that reads Scripture, know that vengence is mine, saith the Lord. Yet there are some crimes so henious and shocking, that one just feels like there should be something done. Case in point, Susan Smith in South Carolina. That shocked me so that I still can hardly think about it without having some kind of feeling. And the mother in Texas, too. Those kinds of crimes hurt more than just those involved, they touch us all. Yet we know in our hearts that we like them, if left to our own devices, may very well do the same things. People don't just say, "I can't believe I did that" for lack of a reason.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 5, 2006 8:58 PM | Report abuse


This is the story of the hare who lost his spectacles!

Owl loved to rest quietly whilst no one was watching. Sitting on a
fence one day, he was surprised when suddenly a kangaroo ran close by.
Now this may not seem strange, but when Owl overheard Kangaroo whisper
to no one in particular, "The hare has lost his spectacles", well, he
began to wonder.
Presently, the moon appeared from behind a cloud, and there, lying on
the grass, was Hare. In the stream that flowed by the grass- a newt.
And sitting astride a twig of a bush- a bee.
Ostensibly motionless, the hare was trembling with excitement, for
without his spectacles he was completely helpless. Where were his
spectacles? Could someone have stolen them? Had he mislaid them? What
was he to do?
Bee wanted to help, and thinking he had the answer, began, "You
probably ate them thinking they were a carrot".
"No!" interrupted Owl, who was wise. "I have good eysight, insight,
and foresight. How could an intelligent hare make such a silly
mikstake?" But all this time, Owl had been sitting on the fence,
Kangaroo were hopping mad at this sort of talk. She thought herself
far superior in intelligence to the others. She was their leader,
their guru. She had the answer: "Hare, you must go in search of the
But then she realized that Hare were completely helpless without his
spectacles. And so, Kangaroo loudly proclaimed, "I can't send Hare in
search of anything!"
"You can, guru, you can!" shouted Newt. "You can send him with Owl."
But Owl had gone to sleep. Newt knew too much to be stopped by so
small a problem: "You can take him in your pouch." But alas, Hare was
much too big to fit into Kangaroo's pouch.
All this time, it had been quite plain to Hare that the others knew
nothing about spectacles.
As for all their tempting ideas, well Hare didn't care.
The lost spectacles were his own affair.
And after all, Hare did have a spare a-pair...

Posted by: jack | July 5, 2006 8:59 PM | Report abuse

Spent most of the afternoon in the doctor's office for a routine check-up and renewal of prescriptions, then home for dinner, and now I see I've inadvertently created a mini-Rovestorm, with the "suffer" thing. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that I'm a torturing sadist. Or a sadistic torturer. Nothing like a little hyperbole to goose an argument along.

As far as I'm concerned this is as much about semantics and proper use of common English as it is a debate on philosophic ideals. I think I would equate ANY form of punishment as, in part, the deliberate infliction of suffering on someone. Even something simple, such as sending a child to go stand in his "time-out" corner for 15 minutes, or making a 12-year-old write 500 times "I will not pull Dorothy's pigtail" NECESSARILY involves the infliction of a certain amount of suffering. If it DIDN'T involve some suffering, we wouldn't use it. I don't don't want to start a separate Rovestorm over corporal punishment, but if a nun smacks a kid on the wrist with a ruler or a parent spanks a child, a certain amount of suffering is being inflicted. Anybody who has grown up with an older sibling knows that the deliberate infliction of suffering is something the older does to the younger, as if by Divine Right. Yes, many times this infliction goes under a different name, be it "punishment," "correction," vengence, "justice," you name it. And yes, sometimes it is torture and sometimes sadism, and I suppose it can even be self-inflicted and masochistic. Whatever. That's not the point. The point is most of us --perhaps skippy and bigdoglurking excepted -- can fairly easily distinguish between the various kinds of suffering being inflicted, and we categorize them accordingly. We even have a very common term for it: we say, all the time, that if you don't do XYZ, "you'll suffer the consequences." What the hell is the word "suffer" doing there as a verb if not to connote that the consequence of an action is going to be very unpleasant, i.e., you are going to "suffer" for it. The "suffering" may be as limited and minimal as being sent to bed without dessert, or getting the electric chair. You do something wrong, we expect you to "pay" in some way, and that way is by its very nature some form of suffering.

Who here doesn't think Lay should have gone to jail (had he lived)? Do you mean you wanted him to go to jail, but that his jail sentence should be made as pleasant and comfortable as possible? That he should have a nice, roomy jail cell, maybe with a spa or hot tub, perhaps his own personal chef? Are you freaking nuts? No; when any of us says we think Lay (or anybody else) should go to jail, WE NECESSARILY IMPLY that we expect a certain amopunt of suffering to go along with it, that the prisoner NOT "enjoy" being there.

There has always been a long, unhappy, and in my view never resolved idea about what prison actually is there for. Some people say it is for "correction" of the prisoner, but IMHO, that's a very sad joke. It may once have been someone's idealistic goal, but if so, I doubt if any person on this boodle remotely thinks a stretch in jail has much "correctional" value for a majority of inmates. For a select handful, perhaps. For most, no freaking way.

Other's simply think prison is "punishment," and never mind "correction." The idea is, prison is so UNpleasant that the person who's been there will be good so they don't ever have to go back. So it theoretically has a deterrant value. What is the detterrant? THAT YOU SUFFER WHILE YOU'RE IN THERE. I'm not suggesting that anyone needs to be brutalized, or repeatedly sodomized by some giant village idiot named Bubba. All I'm say is that prison is pretty damned unpleasant all on its own, and that it therefore constitutes some deliberate suffering.

Anybody here think Hitler should have suffered more than he did? Stalin? Pot Pol? John Wayne Gacy? Jack the Ripper? Ted Bundy? "No," someone might say, "I just want them to be punished." C'mon. If you believe in heaven and Hell but don't want any of these particular people in the lowest circle of Hell, there's something wrong with you, not me. If you are religious and believe in this concept of Hell, then just who DO you want sent there? And if you aren't religious--or at least, your religion doesn't include this concept of Hell--what is the point of some naive, wimpy statement to the effect that you don't want to see "anyone" "suffer." Perhaps you are indeed so saintly that it's OK by you if the Boston Strangler, Sirhan Sirhan, Charles Manson, and the guy who shot Martin Luther King all get a pass, that's your prerogative. I confess to no such saintliness.

So yeah, call it shadenfreude (I have no problem admitting to it) with regard to Ken Lay. I don't think he deserved a death sentence, by any means, but there's no question in my mind he "owed society" (which, by the way, includes me) a good 15 or 20 years of prison time, and we didn't get what he "owed" us. Whether you think he "caught a break" by dying quickly instead of doing a hard 20 in San Quentin is your call.

But please, let us not hide behind euphemisms and santimonious fluff. Punishment equals the deliberate infliction of suffering, of some sort, whether as a primary or a secondary factor being immaterial for the purpose of this discussion. Whether I "want" you to write 300 sentences, go to bed without your choclate chip cookies, or wax my car as "retribution" for leaving a mess in the kitchen, or want you to spend 15 years making license plates, it all comes to the same thing: I believe you did something wrong, and you should suffer for it (hopefully in a measured and appropriate way). But let's face facts: we all want certain people to suffer in certain ways, under some circumstances. It is only when the infliction of suffering is in one way or another disproportionate to the crime, or--as suggested--sadistic, pointless, cruel, etc., that this becomes a problem.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 9:02 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, I know I'm repeating myself, but I feel it needs repeating, your writing is so good, and you explain everything so clearly. Hey, I get it. You said it so much better than me. I still wonder did he (Ken Lay) feel any sorrow for what he done? At some point, did he say to himself, if to no one else, that what he did was wrong? And I'm not asking that to say that punishment was not due, I just wonder if the man's heart soften enough for him to ask those kinds of questions while he was still breathing. While he still had a chance to ask for forgiveness?

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 5, 2006 9:20 PM | Report abuse

Skippy, sure. If you're going to stay around, though, you're going to have to dial down on the responses, and I think you owe Curmudgeon and ScienceTim an apology. Name of the game here is respectful dissent (sounds strange in the blogosphere, I know).

The U.S. and Canada share a common law past, so I will use Canadian examples.

In Canada, the criminal code includes the following section:

718. The fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute, along with crime prevention initiatives, to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by imposing just sanctions that have one or more of the following objectives:
(a) to denounce unlawful conduct;
(b) to deter the offender and other persons from committing offences;
(c) to separate offenders from society, where necessary;
(d) to assist in rehabilitating offenders;
(e) to provide reparations for harm done to victims or to the community; and
(f) to promote a sense of responsibility in offenders, and acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community.

Now, in my glib summary I used the word "retribution". This word implies several elements, all of which are somehow "getting back" at the offender. My dictionary defines it as "punishment inflicted in the spirit of moral outrage or personal vengeance."

With the exception of rehabilitation, every one of the principles cited above involves either the societal and victim's response to the offender in terms of varying degrees of subsequent loss of liberty or money by the offender; or "specific deterrence" aimed at both punishing the offender and at the same time protecting society by removal of the offender from society.

In direct response to your question, the modern version of "an eye for an eye" is translated as varying degrees of loss of liberty, which in our society is highly valued.

In many states in the U.S., no such modern translation is necessary as capital punishment is still available, and that, of course, is the ultimate "eye for an eye" retribution.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 5, 2006 9:29 PM | Report abuse

BTW, there, Skippy, you set up two consecutive "straw man" arguments in row, viz.:

"I would have thought that if retribution was a factor, there would have to be principles of retribution..." But SofC didn't say that; you said that. SofC said, quite clearly that it was "a natural impulse." Agree or disagree as you will, but don't then get all snarky and imply that their must be "principles" attached the absence of which you disparage. You set up the straw man, and you knockled him down. Personal foul, 15 yards from the spot of the foul.

And then: "if what you're saying is true, then I guess there would be case law or other literature spelling out this idea of "retribution...vis-a-vis the offender." Well, if you "guess" there'd be case law, I'm guessing you'd be wrong. So you set up the false "case law" thing, and knocked that down, too. This time it's bed for you and no ice cream. Suffer, dude, suffer.

(P.S. skip, SofC is a lawyer, although admittedly a Canuckistani lawyer. I wouldn't mess with him, if I were you, tortiously speaking. Got a real good hunch he'd clean your clock, which I'd like to watch. Prob'ly lay some old Haute Maine writ of mandamus on yer Baha Manitoba habeus corpus. Oh crap. My sadistic sense of shadenfreude seems to have kicked in again. My bad. No cookies for me, either.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 9:37 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I doubt if Ken Lay felt any regret or repentance. He did what he did for years, everyone praised him for making money and "growing" Enron. He was proud of his skill. I don't think he saw anything he was doing as bad, after doing it for so long. If he judged himself at all, I would guess he called himself "clever." I would bet he was moving private accounts around up until the day he died.

Posted by: nellie | July 5, 2006 9:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'll be...I clearly BOOO'ed, 'cuz by the time I finished my post ol' SofC had already done his Haute Maine certiorari thang.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 9:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm afraid only the Lord knows for sure on that question, Cassandra. That's why I feel it is dangerous to encourage people to think and act as though they will get a free pass for their sins from God.

Catholicism threw out Purgatory, but I want to believe in that. I don't want to think that eternal suffering rests on the actions of a few years.

Mudge, you are correct. A punishment is intended to prevent a behavior from occurring ever again. However, to be effective, a punishment be consistent, and be clearly connected with the behavior it is intended to squelch.

For instance, children who have a teacher alternatively ignore misbehavior and then crack down hard on misbehavior out of the blue-- those children will 1) misbehave more and 2) feel much more unfairly treated by the punishment.

We call it a problem setting boundaries, but the key is consistency. Ken Lay got away with a lot, and became increasingly arrogant. I'm sure he found his day in court very painful.

But the matter of the fact is--the laws were always there. It was his duty to know and abide by the laws if he didn't want the punishment. It was also his responsibility to have a modicum of ethics about ripping off the world for his own pocket.

Although I have the feeling that a corporation, by its very design, is focused on profit and that even a honest CEO of the same is going to be under pressure to get profit all the time.

Stockholders, after all, only have names, pieces of papers, and numbers as their bond to the company they partially own. And they demand increasing profit. It's their lives and pockets they care about.

We can certainly say Lay deserved the punishment because, he knew the rules and what he was doing was grossly wrong.

I want, vs what is right. It's a challenge all of us face.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 9:52 PM | Report abuse

nelson writes at 3:29:
Suskind's book is a gem. We get to learn how much has actually been done right in the fight against al Qaeda -- and we get a seat inside the Administration, to see how the tension between CIA, FBI, DoD and Cheney/Bush all have played out.

Agree, Suskind's book is a gem and he certainly lays out the friction between various individuals and factions or organizations within our government, specifically, the current administration.

But, nelson, I must politely, and under the strongest possible terms, disagree with your statement that Suskind's book, "The One Percent Doctrine" illustrates for readers how much has actually been done right by the administration--its bureaus and agencies and military in the fight against al Qaeda. Suskind's text does just the opposite--clearly, patiently, with example after example.

Posted by: Loomis | July 5, 2006 9:54 PM | Report abuse

I think you're right about Ken Lay. He didn't express any remorse publicly, or during his trial. But then, he was trying to get acquitted, and of course he was appealing the conviction. So he could hardly express remorse without admitting he had done something wrong. At his trial, he was said to be angry and defiant, which apparently didn't help him with the jury. But who knows what he felt privately. I'm glad he was convicted - hope at least some people are able to be repaid with his assets.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 5, 2006 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Let's sort this out. Curmudgeon says jail equals suffering. Some people we put in jail, which necessarily means we want them to suffer. So when Curmudgeon refers to someone as "one of those guys I wanted to see really suffer for a long, long time," he was merely assenting to the idea of a jail term as a fitting penalty.

Of course in sentencing there is the idea of "fitting" or "just", which sometimes goes by the name of "retribution", but when it does, it always (supposedly) has some sort of meaning involving "paying back" or "just deserts", and is set off in contradistinction to the idea of revenge, vengeance, getting even. Which is it here? Was Curmudgeon saying: "Ah, the intellectual pleasure of seeing a just sentence with its concomitant and inevitable suffering?" Didn't sound like it, to me or to Willbrod either. Willbrod said it wasn't sadism it was vengeance, which Wilbrod thinks of as a legitimate part of our system.

Is it ? That was my point.

Posted by: skippy | July 5, 2006 10:08 PM | Report abuse

I'm Protestant, Wilbrod, and I want to believe in Purgatory too. In a very real sense, our actions consign us to hell on earth. We have the choice to behave ethically or not, and the consequences of that behavior can be said to be hell. That's where Ken Lay was. Mostly is right that he couldn't express remorse publicly, but I hope he felt it. If not, he is in the hell of his own making.

Posted by: Slyness | July 5, 2006 10:11 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, your 9:37 is sending me to bed laughing. Thanks.

SoC excellent post.

Posted by: dmd | July 5, 2006 10:23 PM | Report abuse

I still think Skippy needs not to skip the Orestiad in his reading. It in fact illustrates how law replaced anarchy and why it was needed.

The law MUST extract some kind of retribution or vengance or the victims and their families or families will not be satisfied by the rule of law and extract their own vengance instead.

Lay was also ostracized after the Enron scandal broke... another Greek concept.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Skippy, what Curmudgeon meant was, you're a maroon. And he's going to bed. G'night to the rest of you.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 5, 2006 10:27 PM | Report abuse

G'night. Greek tragedies will have to wait another day. There's a good tragedy in the story of Lay... although a heart attack is not as dramatic as a duel to the death with the son of a man he had killed.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 5, 2006 10:34 PM | Report abuse

>So I fell short of the mark in humorously pointing out we're still civil in the face of comments that other blogs might go nuclear over.

Hey scottynuke, no worries mate. I wasn't responding to your post, I was just seriously cheesed off by this meathead.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 5, 2006 11:03 PM | Report abuse

>This is the story of the hare who lost his spectacles!

jack, thanks for the blast from the past. I saw Jethro Tull perform "The Passion Play" at Madison Square Garden back in the day, replete with large lagomorph running about the stage.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 5, 2006 11:28 PM | Report abuse

EF: I saw Passion Play at the Onondaga War Memorial on the occaision of the album's roll out. I think it was my second concert, the first being a gig at Blossom Music Center with Laura Nyro and the Fifth Dimension as the headliner. We lived in Hudson at the time. The thing I remember about the Tull show was a ringing telephone that would compel the band to stop playing to no avail; nobody was on the other end. Finally, at the end of the show after the encore, the phone started ringing again. The crowd fell curiously silent as Ian Anderson strode across the stage to answer it. He held the reciever out toward the crowd to say "It's for you", and the evening's show was over. BTW, skippy, everything's fair under this tent except nefarious comments about the boodlers. Mr. Lay did some pretty henious financial stuff that wrecked many lives. Pity he succumbed to heart disease; he must live an afterlife haunted by his deeds on Earth. It must suck to be him.

Posted by: jack | July 5, 2006 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, once again, you're right on. What's hell for if not for making sinners suffer? What's prison for if not for punishing scofflaws? To me, punish=suffer. Perhaps Lay was no mass murderer, but he still deserved some big discomfort in this life.

Then again, I was the *only* person in my Lit class who thought that Faust should not be able to repent on his deathbed and gain redemption. You make a deal with the devil, as Lay did, pay up.

Furthermore, if I somehow end up in Heaven only to run into Mao, Hitler and Stalin because they had some deathbed change of heart, I am going to be seriously pi**ed off.

Posted by: Pixel | July 5, 2006 11:56 PM | Report abuse

jack, that's cool, I think it was my first big venue concert. Same deal with the phone. Better flashbacks than the War Child show too. :-) I just jumped over to Amazon, seems I never got the CD version.

I wish I'd seen Laura Nyro and the Fifth Dimension! We lost her too early for sure. I still have the 5th's "Aquarious" in one of my favorite playlists.

pixel, you go girl.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 6, 2006 12:03 AM | Report abuse

pix: If we meet any of the individuals you mentioned in Heaven, assuming we all get there, I'd be sorely tempted to engage them in conversation regarding a the orientation of their moral compass. Speaking of which, our President makes no qualms about the orientation of his moral compass yet stories keep surfacing, like flatus bubbles in the bath, that contradict the very things he communicates publicly. YAGOBP wants to roll off of my fingers, yikes!

EF: When I staarted listening to FM radio it was WMMS out of Cleveland. The DJ's often played complete albums. I don't recall that there were any commercials. Regardless, one day Laura Nyro's "It's Gonna take A Miracle" was the featured album. Patti LaBelle and others were the back up singers; the rendition of an acapella "I Met Im on a Monday" followed by whatever song it was still gives me goosebumps. It's beautiful.

Posted by: jack | July 6, 2006 12:16 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "I Met Him On a Monday"...ooooh...ooh...ooh...oooohoooohoooh...and I kissed him on Tuesday...ooooh...ooh...ooh...ooohoooohooooh...and I married him Wednesday...great tune

Posted by: jack | July 6, 2006 12:30 AM | Report abuse

ken lay definitely deserved to do some serious time, and i'm all for a nice long stint in purgatory if that's still an option.


Posted by: L.A. lurker | July 6, 2006 12:32 AM | Report abuse

From a Buddhist perspective, the attainment of Heaven -- or Nirvana, or Enlightenment, or Eternal Bliss, etc., -- is incredibly difficult. A person could spend his whole life preparing for the moment of death and still miss the boat. Not only is it unlikely that a Hitler or a Stalin could suddenly become enlightened; it is also unlikely that any of us could. What if we're not so far apart in the grander scheme of things? So maybe we're a couple of lifetimes closer to Nirvana than the Hitlers and the Stalins of this world are, but maybe we still have thousands of lifetimes to go -- thousands of opportunities to maybe do things a little better next time.

Nevertheless, it has been said that when enlightenment *does* happen, it can happen in an instant. And that Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory all exist right here, right now, not at some future time or in some other place.


And I'll be swimming until I can find those waters
That one unbounded ocean of bliss
That's flowing through your parents, sons and daughters
But still an easy thing for us to miss

-- from "Pisces Fish," by George Harrison

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 4:15 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, friends. Mudge, you end the conversation with Skippy by calling him a name? And announcing your departure to bed. I forgot to say that I hope your doctor's appointment went well. It's suppose to rain here all day. We need the rain, and the cooler weather that's coming along with the rain. I got so hot yesterday, I was sick on the stomach.

So many times we can see the sins of others, but fail to see our own. Scripture says that we're all on the same slippery slope, and that we all need the same thing, God through Christ. The remedy is the same. Christ died for all because all sin. Sure we get hung up on degrees, but sin is sin. It is offensive to God no matter the degree; therefore, one sacrifice, Christ, for all. A stumbling block for the Jews, and nonsense to the Greek. Not much has changed.

I hope I can do the walk this morning. Don't look forward to doing it in the rain. When I take a day off, it's so hard the next day. I really hate to miss a day.

Ken Lay probably did see himself as clever, and beyond the encumberances of the law or just plain decency. There certainly could not have been a fear of God, because that fear would have called for a different action. He more than likely saw himself as everything, and when that failed, so did he. While we still have a chance, let us come to know that God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Posted by: Cassandra S | July 6, 2006 4:59 AM | Report abuse

Heard a news story last night about KLay. If I understand it correctly, KLay's conviction is not complete until he is sentenced. Since he didn't stick around for the sentencing, the Justice Dept may end up dropping the charges. Any of the legal-eagles onboard know if this is true?

Posted by: 1st_timer | July 6, 2006 7:03 AM | Report abuse

You're right, Cassandra, I shouldn't have done that. I was tired, and fed up with him, but those aren't good excuses. But he's a deliberate "twister," and those kinda people get to me. I can handle most types of maroons, but the ones who are sneaky and think they're clever like that just cheese me off right away. (BTW, I think we need to define a "maroon"; how about someone who is a macaroon without the shredded coconut?)

But you are right. Mea culpa.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 6, 2006 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Must attend an all-day meeting.


In accordance with the Boodle Continuity of Operations protocol, I hereby hand over my assistant deputy shop steward brassard to SonOfCarl.

Not that anything'll happen to 'Mudge or bc or anybody, but semper paratus and all that.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 6, 2006 7:38 AM | Report abuse

My goodness Mr Curmudgeon, we certainly do get the wind up of an evening, do we not. I'm a "maroon" (baby-talk for moron); SonofCarl is a "Canuckistani lawyer" ready to "clean my clock" if I should "mess with him"(?)...A few other vaguely insulting remarks. Quite the bizarre performance.

Meantime one of the other regulars calls me a "meathead".

That's all fine. If that's your fun, go for it. Sticks and stones may break my bones... I'll withstand anything for the sake of a coherent discussion of my point, which was that the ideas and visceral feelings of vengeance and "getting even" are taking hold in American culture in ways that we should be worrying about. Judging from last night's performance, I guess it was kind of stupid to try and involve Curmudgeon in anything like that. I guess I'm a moron after all... Just not on this blog any more.

Heckuva job, Mudgie

Posted by: skippy | July 6, 2006 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Did we run Skippy off? I guess it is possible to enforce standards, provided the community hangs together.

Posted by: slyness | July 6, 2006 8:20 AM | Report abuse

That Skippy is a bad kangaroo. Note the veiled insults again while trying to sound "above the fray". Good riddins.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 6, 2006 8:39 AM | Report abuse

The alert is over. Return to normal life, citizens.

Posted by: jack | July 6, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse

apropos of KLay and not much else, where is Henry Allen going with this essay?

It goes over a lot of the schadenfreude/vengeance/mercy territory we have covered and includes (at least the way I read it) oblique references to prison sexual assault. Then it ends by rehashing the "roo-roo" joke except it calls it "chi-chi". Allen should have checked with Weingarten first about the official WaPo style manual on the roo-roo joke. A joke, by the way, that Weingarten frequently insists is unfit for publication in a family newspaper but now seems perfectly suitable as a epitaph for a former major Republican campaign contributer.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 6, 2006 8:49 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry, but if you're telling people they have a diseased "sadist" mind and likening others to the the guys who ran the Inquisition then you have no business griping about being called a name.

Frankly "meathead" is the nicest printable thing I can say, and I stand by it.

Posted by: Error Flynn | July 6, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Cassandra! Sometimes I just walk back and forth through the house when it's too hot for a walk. Sometimes I dance! We need rain here too. Hope you get some.

skippy, you pulled some chains yesterday, which, I suspect is what you really wanted to accomplish rather than a meaningful dialogue on man's inhumanity to man, suffering, the purpose of a conscience.

Entenpfuhl, I call the two pidgeons that visit each day, the "Coo-coo Pidgeon Sisters" after those two zany characters in The Odd Couple. They come each evening, strolling up the driveway at 7:30, dine at my bird feeder, then perch on a fence post to watch the sunset. Then there are the wrens, redbirds (Cardinals), bluejays, mockingbirds, titmouse and most recently, doves. They love bathing/frolicking in the sprinkler.

Posted by: Nani | July 6, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm. Interesting stuff since I went to bed yesterday.

Ok, wrongdoing deserves punishment in just about every culture (and I'm including religious culture here).

Aside from deathbed confessions and absolution, Extreme Unction and the like, what constitutes *real* redemption?

We're all human, we've all done wrong (by whatever ethical standards have been imprinted upon us) somewhere along the line. We've lied, we've cheated, we've stolen, etc. and deep in our hearts and minds we *know* it.

The term "redemption" is laden with religious implications of confession, forgiveness, and salvation. It might have been one thing if Lay Confessed to a priest, or received Last Rites, or confessed his sins publicly and asked for forgiveness (from Jesus and everyone else), or observed Yom Kippur, or Sharia, or served a sentence in a Federal prison, or I-don't-know-what.

Would any of the above been good enough for everybody?

Much of religion and spirituality seems to be about seeking peace of mind for the wrongs we commit by acknowledging them, and either paying some sort of price for it or accepting that God already has. For the individual, or in a specific community where those tenets and rules apply, that appears to work.

But there does not seem to be a consensus of exactly what constitutes contrition and redemption. Rule of Law is more or less what we've settled on (I hate to say we settled on a lowest common denominator, and a sophisticated one at that, but there it is), and we humans don't see eye to eye on *that*.


Posted by: bc | July 6, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Check out this breaking news alert from CNN:

"There are no signs that North Korea is preparing to launch a second long-range Taepodong missile, U.S. officials with access to untelligence reports tell CNN."

Note the new word "untelligence". Somebody call Webster... I think we have a perfect word to describe the current administration.

Posted by: martooni | July 6, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

Any birdwatcher out there ? We have the Toledo Mudhens visiting the local triple-A baseball team a few times a season. What the dickens is a mudhen ?

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 6, 2006 9:41 AM | Report abuse

skippy was a troll, pure and simple. A well-spoken, clever troll, but a troll none the less.

From Wikipedia:

"a troll is someone who comes into an established community such as an online discussion forum, and posts inflammatory, rude, repetitive or offensive messages designed intentionally to annoy and antagonize the existing members or disrupt the flow of discussion."

The best response to a troll is to not feed it. And skippy will be back. They always return.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 6, 2006 9:44 AM | Report abuse

"If I do this, I'm going to get punished by God. If I do the other thing, I'm going to get rewarded. This is a really poor description that tries to map out a path in life for us to follow, but with deplorable results. Because there really is no such thing as good or bad. We're judging things far too superficially that way. Does that mean you're in favor of sin and licentiousness and depravity? No. It simply means that you need to improve your expression and understanding of what you're dealing with here. There are things that I do, and I know they'll evolve me. There are other things that will not evolve me. But it's not good or bad. There's no God waiting to punish you because you did one or the other."

-- Miceal Ledwith, in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Long time no boodle. How are things in exotic Hong Kong?

Posted by: yellojkt | July 6, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse


That is quite an aviary you have there. My folks in Florida have a heron and an egret they feed at regular intervals. The birds know when to come and there is no sight like a four foot tall great heron with its pterodactyl claws perched on a deck railing just outside the sliding glass door.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 6, 2006 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Dreamer, I remember a professor telling me (and he was probably quoting someone else), "As the creator of the universe, God is neither good nor bad. If God were only "good", then He could not be God."

I'm probably botching that quote from 25 years ago, but that's the essence of it.


Posted by: bc | July 6, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Hello, yello -- thanks for asking.
I'm lovin' it here -- although it sure is hot (and possibly even more humid than D.C. in summer, if that's possible).

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Loomis -- My writing skills have obviously become dull with lack of use:

Again -- I need to clarify what I meant: I give the Administration no credit:

Suskind does show that the one agency most maligned by Bush/Cheney, the CIA, actually did quite a good job in catching many al Qaeda people, and even infiltrating a financial operation in Pakistan.

Suskind details the work of the so-called invisibles, the behind-the-scenes people, some of whom have been on bin Laden's trail for years. It was to these folks I was giving credit.

I don't want to give the book away -- let's just say CIA and some people in it got badly worked over publicly by Bush -- and they ate it. There have been successes -- quiet, legal successes that didn't involve torture, extra-legal wiretapping, etc.

I give the Administration -- as in Bush/Cheney and their circle of minions --credit for nothing. Negative credit; for the catastrophe that is Iraq and all concomitant fall out.

Did you catch the piece yesterday on WaPo op-ed page by an Army Captain currently serving in Iraq? About how the only Americans who are "sacfrificing" are those in the military and their families.

The rest of us are urged to go shopping.

And now Kim Jong Il, no fool he, is having a splendid time watching the world splutter and fumble in a futile attempt to respond to his slightly delayed Fourth of July fireworks.

I believe Linda, that you and I are on the same page. I just have a hard time with the written word. I am no Curmudgeon! (although I am pretty contrarian!)

I was in a doctor's office yesterday -- caught some CNN show about Lay (I don't have cable). Incredibly, there was a business reporter rhapsodizing about what a sweet, affable and humble (yes, she actually said humble) man Ken Lay was.

After gushing praise for the newly deceased, she mentioned almost as an afterthought that he had recently been convicted in the Enron debacle.

Whoa -- lapdog press? Adoring press? Nutso press?

RD Padouk -- I'll stick with purple, since you wore purple. Am glad you were concerned about the shoulder bow matching your business attire -- how awful if it had clashed! :-)

Purple, the color of royalty -- I like the idea. Will stop by a Hallmark shop on my way to the Beach today and buy a big purple bow.

Skippy -- what was that all about? Does the guy (and I presume it was a guy -- could be wrong) not believe in punishment for crimes? It wasn't the worst Rovestorm the boodle has seen -- but it was one of the strangest, IMHO.

Every once in a while, after reading Arkin's blog, I'll delicately tiptoe into the comment section. Holy Rovestorm! What a bunch of explosive characters! Many blogs I wander into attract the same cast of angry, bomb-throwing characters. I don't get it . . . . the kind of "interactivity" that gives us great phrases like "great gobs of bat poop."

Is the boodle the Last Great Place for reasoned discourse in this country?

That Cassandra could gently take Mudge to task for throwing out one harsh word at Skippy, and Mudge dutifully apologizes -- speaks volumes about the character of both.

The inherent decency of the boodlers is a priceless refuge from the raging howl that now passes for dialog in much of this country.

Thanks guys and gals.

Posted by: nelson | July 6, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

bc, that brings to mind the Gnostic notion that the physical Universe was not created by "the" God, but by a lesser -- some would say evil -- deity who has trapped us here. The true, "good" God exists in a higher realm that is not of this world.

Indeed, a God who is all good could not have created a world such as the one in which we live.

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 10:16 AM | Report abuse

To answer my own question,
Mudhen: American coot i/Fulica americana/i.
Rarely seen around here but I did saw one last year. Nani, we have lots of Cardinals around the house. We feed them a mixture of sunflower seed and safflower. The Cardinals are pretty much the only birds eating safflower seed, so it keeps the number of blackbirds to a minimum. When we moved in 10 years ago they were pretty shy, very easy to spook. Now they feed with us having dinner on the picnic table 5 ft away. They were probably raised around our house. Same with the goldfinch, they eat Niger seed off my hat.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 6, 2006 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Dreamer, I really like the buddhist things you write about. There is a calmness about buddhism that is so very a attractive. The idea of heaven, purgatory and hell being right here and right now fits my thinking.

Catholicism was wrong to give up purgatory. Purgatory was held over our heads if we didn't go to confession, if we didn't say the rosary. The nuns could come up with a thousand reasons you'd go to purgatory for. There is part of me that still is looking for a middle ground, for purgatory, to go to if I die with dirty dishes in the sink. If I were buddhist, I have to accept that dirty dishes are my purgatory.

Maybe skippy is related to the Lone Mule?

Posted by: dr | July 6, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

[And of course, there's always the possibility that the evil -- or partially evil -- deity who created this world is none other than ourselves.]

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 10:21 AM | Report abuse

I don't know Dreamer to blame the shape of the world on God doesn't seem right. It is the people on the planet that create the governments, commit the crimes.

The planet is not perfect, still volcanoes, hurricanes, floods - it would seem to me we should be smart enough to learn to live in a way that takes the risks of the physical planet into consideration. If you live in a flood plane it is reasonable to assume at some point you will have damage from a flood - that is not God inflicting judgement but common sense.

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

I guess to a Buddhist, dirty dishes would be neither good nor bad. Rather, they would be a direct result of karma, or cause and effect. If you don't wash the dishes, you end up with dirty dishes in your sink. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. It is what it is, and a person could be just as happy with unwashed dishes as with washed ones.

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Dreamer, you know I'm chuckling when I write this:

"Thou art God."


Posted by: bc | July 6, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Indeed, bc -- I grok.

Posted by: Dreamer | July 6, 2006 10:32 AM | Report abuse

I am going to have to use that next time someone catches me with the dishes hanging round. And I am definitely going to tell it to my mother!

Posted by: dr | July 6, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Loomis -- just reread my original post about giving Administration credit: boy, sometimes I just can't write what I'm thinking!

My bad.

It's been a few years since I've done any writing (most of which was for archaeological purposes). I tend to type quickly when preparing a post for the boodle -- and sometimes don't review what I've written.

My parents actually think I'm a fabulous writer (parents are wonderful beings!).

I started sending them sloppy, hastily written "blogs" about Bush/Cheney and related topics.

They were so proud, Mother started encouraging me to set up my own blog -- (ouch!). My sister, at Mother's behest, gave me a how-to book on setting up a blog Website for Christmas. I politely thanked her, winked at Mother, and when I got home, threw the book away (I already have too many books in a very small apartment).

Also, I need to post a belated thank you to Joel and Hal for yesterday's help and Joel's confessed inability to get into the Achenblog himself. All problems seemed to have been worked out -- except if one was boodling from Padouk's house!

Posted by: nelson | July 6, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if Henry was inspired by the Boodle yesterday.

Years ago -- 1991 -- Time magazine did a cover story on Evil. I then attempted, in rather laborious fashion, to write a parody, to wit:

The Concepts Editor was in a vein-throbbing rage. Nothing raised his hackles like getting beat by the competition. The writers for the Concepts section knew something ugly was going down. "Did you see his hackles?" the Love reporter said to the Apocalypse reporter. "I think they're rising."

"No, it's his gorge that's rising. His hackles are always raised," came the reply.

Soon the entire staff was ordered into the small, smoky conference room. There was the Deputy Concepts Editor, the Ideas Editor, the Notions Editor (who aspired to be promoted to Ideas Editor), the Inspiration Critic, all 14 beat reporters and the young intern who was filling in on the Lust beat while the regular reporter is on maternity leave. The Concepts Editor stalked back and forth with a copy of the latest issue of Time magazine. It was the one with "EVIL" on the cover in huge, spooky, nearly unreadable black-on-black letters, with the subtitle "Does it exist -- or do bad things just happen?"

"I'd ... like ... an ... explanation," he said, with those frightening ellipses between his words. "HOW'D WE GET BEAT ON THIS?"

A pregnant silence ensued. Some stole glances at the Fear-n-Hatred reporter. The early rumor was that he'd take the fall, that Evil was his turf.

The boss continued: "This thing was right under our noses and we missed it. Evil! They got everything in here, they got Hitler, they got Saddam Hussein, they got AIDS, they got a picture of a baby's walker with blood on it. They put one of their big guns on the story, Lance Morrow, he's got that literary style. Listen to this, from Page 50: " 'Evil means, first of all, a mystery, the mysterium iniquitatis. We cannot know evil systematically or scientifically. It is brutal or elusive, by turns vivid and vague, horrible and subtle. We can know it poetically, symbolically, historically, emotionally. We can know it by its works. But evil is sly and bizarre. Hitler was a vegetarian. The Marquis de Sade opposed capital punishment.' "

The boss let the words sink in.

"Now that's writing," he said. "If that doesn't sound smart, I don't know what does. I won't kid you, I haven't a clue what the hell he's trying to say, but the important thing is, it sounds deep."


Posted by: Achenbach | July 6, 2006 10:41 AM | Report abuse

There was more, but it didn't get any better.

Posted by: Achenbach | July 6, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

nelson, dare I mention that someone might think your purple bow was maroon?

Maroon's about the mildest jab a person can do, I think. Very Bugs Bunny, like "nincompoop".

I was surprised later in childhood (having only heard the term in Bugs Bunny) to read that Montreal had a NHL hockey team called the Maroons(winners of the Stanley Cup in 1926 and 1935).

Apparently a "Maroon" was a fearsome title at some point. The runaway slaves in the Caribbean was called Maroons. IIRC, Drake (as in Sir Francis) teamed up with the Maroons to make life miserable for the Spanish in Panama.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 6, 2006 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I know you regular boodlers know that when I referred to SofC as a "Canuckistani lawyer," that was just our long-running teasing; I'm sure SofC understood it that way even though Skippy didn't.

But speaking of Canuckistani lawyers, I think we may need one. This morning on NPR some caller had the idea of Canada buying New England and incorporating it into the Dominion. Well, that sounded like a pretty good idea to me and I thought about expanding on it. So what do you think, SofC: think you can get Ottawa interested in a deal? Canada can buy ALL the Blue States (say, New England and the Mid Atlantic down to Maryland, Pa., Ohio if it wants to come, Washington and Oregon for sure, and maybe California (or at least, most of California except Orange County). I guess Michigan and Wisconsin, if they want to come, but you've already got a lot of tundra already, so that's up to you guys.

I understand that we'd probably have to apologize to the Queen, and all, but as Richard used to say on Allie McBeal, "Bygones!", right? For my part, I'm willing to give up Rolling Rock for Molson's (which is actually cheating, 'cuz I'm a Molson's fan anyway). I may even be willing to learn the rules of curling (I realize I may have to make personal sacrifices here if this thing is going to work).

So...what do you think? Talk it over with dr and dmd and Miss Toronto (did I mention she's a dish? OK, I'm brown-nosing) and see what you guys think.

(If it sweetens the deal, we'll throw in Delaware, cheap. I know it's small and flat, but it has some choice waterfront.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 6, 2006 11:03 AM | Report abuse

Here is a safety notice for all parents, boaters, cottagers etc.

The link is for the dangers of tube kiting.

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The Montreal Maroons were named for the color of their uniform. I wonder if maroon is from the French "marron", i.e. chestnut as the color is indeed chestnut. The Maroons were the Anglos' team while the French had the Canadien a.k.a. the Habitants.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 6, 2006 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I'm more concerned about Henry not getting the roo-roo joke right. It should read "But first, a LITTLE roo-roo." Or chi-chi. Whatever.

Henry did manage to make Wonkette:

How come Joel never makes Wonkette like Dana Milbank? He doesn't even win any Pulitzers like Givhan or Priest.

While I'm at it, tell somebody in charge that the official list of Pulitzer winners hasn't been updated in a few years.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 6, 2006 11:07 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, our Prime Minister is in DC today - go to the top man, you have a great proposal!

What do we give in return?

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Reviewing the discussion, it is clear to me that the Boodle was talking about two separate but related areas regarding Ken Lay. The first led to religious or spiritual points regarding repentance, redemption, etc; whether a person can admit and repent of wrongdoing, and be redeemed (get into Heaven, spend time in Purgatory). The second was about sentencing and whether or how Lay should have been punished. Lay may well have admitted his errors to himself, or at least felt bad about it, before he died. This may or may not have had some effect from a religious standpoint, but it would have had none from a legal point of view. While there may be some overlap in beginnings, the criminal justice system, the concept of laws and punishment for crimes, really is different from the philosophical/religious realm. I know this is obvious. Often, defendants truly have jailhouse conversions (usually to Christianity) before sentencing or before imposition of the death penalty. This makes absolutely no difference to their sentence.

Had Lay been sentenced, his conviction would have been final. As it is, the whole thing just goes away. No need to drop charges or anything else. Someone may formally dismiss the case before sentencing, just to get it off the court calendar. Die and your civil case will continue (so Lay's assets may still be distributed to former employees, who knows). Your criminal case ends.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 6, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, does repentance play any part in sentencing? Would it depend on the crime or the state?

There are differences in the way sentences are done between the two countries.

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, no umbrage of course. I've actually taken quite a liking to Haute Maine.

Sounds good on a purchase. Ummm...will you take a cheque? Strike that.. check.

To be fair, since our immigration system isn't quite up to processing 100 million new citizens, we'll just have to come up with a new name for the new country.

The new flag will be a mixture of Canadian red and American blue. Hmmm. What colour should we call it?

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 6, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, he would be the one with a safari vest, and maybe mismatched socks. The guy is a walking fashion faux-pas.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | July 6, 2006 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Shrieking to goes way beyond just fashion faux-pas, of course just my personal opinion.

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse


If all the blue states become provinces, do we have to learn French? That would seem to give John Kerry an unfair advantage in the parliamentary elections.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 6, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Dirty dishes and karma -- a great topic for the Lay saga.

Dreamer, don't know if you're familiar with Pema Chodron's writings -- she's very good at distilling sometimes dense Buddhist concepts into simple English.

Dirty dishes simply are. They are neither good nor bad. Cleaning them would be a nice thing; accepting them as dirty would be OK too. The clincher is about perception. It's easier to cultivate a calm mind if one doesn't attach perceptions such as "good" or "bad" to everyday reality.

Happiness is about perception. I can perceive my fibromyalgia to be a very bad thing (which I did, and still do), or I can try to accept it, and to let it teach me about patience and compassion. To understand one's own suffering (on all levels) is to understand the suffering of all.

The dishes need to be washed, not labeled.

Karma really means cause and effect. Every single action a being takes in its life has an karmic effect. That effect doesn't necessarily play out in this lifetime.

Buddhists would see Ken Lay as someone who was shaped by lifetimes of karmic cause and effect. His strong attachment to wealth, his ethical and moral weakness, even his death, would all have been set up by actions taken in his previous life as well as the one that just ended.

He will carry the effects of his behavior in this life into the next one. What goes around comes around. He may be born into extremely unfortunate circumstances, he may be born into the animal, preta (hungry ghost), or hell realms. It may take him thousands of lifetimes to clean up his karma -- he would have to engage in virtuous actions, the 6 Perfections of generosity, compassion, wisdom, morality, joyful living, and meditation. For a long, long time.

Bad karma can ripen, and when it does so, a being is free of it. My illness has been explained to me as the effect of some bad karma ripening. I go through this life in pain, but I am rid of whatever karma ripened. I can use my pain to gain true compassion, to gain insight into the true nature of existence, which is suffering (sorry skippy).

Tibetan Buddhism (I am unfamiliar with Theravedan and Zen) cosmology lays out karma as *the* creative force in the universe. Indeed, since beginingless time, karma has shaped the physical attributes of the universe, as well as the type of lives each sentient being is born into.

The Dalai Lama is an ardent supporter of Western science. He started the Mind/Life Institute, to begin a dialog between science (mostly physics and life sciences) and spirituality.

He has mandated the teaching of Western science and logic in Tibetan monasteries, the traditional educational engine of Tibetan culture. He just wrote a book, which I've bought, but not yet read, "The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality."

He has stated time and again that if science proves and specific tenet of Buddhism wrong, science wins the day.

He manages to synthesize the Big Bang and the theory of evolution with karma still being the creative force behind it all.

I don't pretend to understand the idea of karma except at the most basic level.

It's yet another way to try and understand why the world is one of such tremendous suffering and lopsidedness between the haves and have-nots. It's NOT an excuse to dismiss the suffering in the world. It is the responsibility of all to try to alleviate the poverty of so much of the world, to bring justice and compassion, without judgment, as best we can.

Posted by: nelson | July 6, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, I think that the Quebecois are *not* going to go for that purchase plan.

They wanted to secede from the English-speaking parts of Canada, I can only imagine how they'd react to being lumped together with Americans. And outnumbered by them, too, IIRC.


Posted by: bc | July 6, 2006 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Dmd, the simple answer is that repentance plays no formal part in sentencing. That is, in the U.S.Code and each individual state criminal code, statutes fix ranges of sentences or particular sentences for crimes, and a defendant will receive a sentence within that range.

That said, acceptance of responsibility or guilt may be a factor in the time a defendant actually serves. The federal sentencing guidelines provide for some downward departures from the recommended sentence, which may include admission of guilt. In most states, judges have the ability to suspend portions of many sentences, or defer sentences for particular crimes, and expressions of guilt and remorse may play a part in those decisions. In some states, where the crime involves monetary damages, a defendant may agree to admit guilt, pay restitution, and avoid incarceration. And of course, admission of guilt, remorse or repentance may be large factors in negotiating a sentence on a plea of guilty (the process by which the vast majority of state criminal cases are resolved).

Sorry. Too much information, and it is still only an overview.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 6, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Ivansmom, not too much information at all - thank you. One of the things I like about law is that things are always black and white - except for the grey areas :)

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

SofC -- maroon is more of a dark red than purple. I'm hoping that TBG would see the purple and not think that nelson is being "maroon." Or implying that TBG is "maroon." Wow -- what a way to meet someone!

Maybe I'll go with the original blue that Charlize Theron wore. I have more clothes that match blue than purple anyway.

Wouldn't want to make a fashion faux paz!! (did I spell that correctly? Where's Givhan to help me out with my choice of clothes?)

BTW, I'm actually the Granddaughter of Carl. Maybe I should change my boodle hand to GDoC. G-doc.

That would probably get me confused with Dooley, who really is a doc of geology -- g-doc.


gotta go and get ready for my date with the TBG clan!

Posted by: nelson | July 6, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

ivansmom, that's an interesting law school question. The criminal action does "end" in that sentencing is not continued. As a civil lawyer I would be jumping up and down making sure that the criminal case is not actually "dismissed", since the conviction, not the sentence, is the res judicata (decided matter) that carries forward into a civil action (eliminating the need to prove the civil action and allowing one to pass Go and collect damages [likely more than $200]).

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 6, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Am I the only one here watching the Tour de France?

This race is such an eloquent metaphor for life: The beauty of the French countryside, the suffering of the competitors, the interconnectedness of the teammates battling amongst the larger swarm of the peloton. When one rider errs, he can bring the whole pack down with him, or open up an opportunity for someone in the back to break free for an unexpected sprint to the finish. And sadly, one rider's mistake can cause the crash and burn of another, robbing him of his dream to finish the race.

The drama is embroidered with the festive colors of the team uniforms- colors that aren't found in American sports. The fuschia of T-Mobile, the bright soda-pop orange of Rabobank and Euskatel, and the neon green of LiquiGas, not to mention all the yellow worn by the fans, the polka-dot jersey for the King of the Mountains, all give the entire event a circus-like atmosphere.

Each stage ends with a nail-biting sprint, and finally with the presentation of the jerseys- beautiful women giving kisses and flowers to the day's champions.

And we who are watching have the satisfaction of knowing that we get to do it all again tomorrow, for three whole weeks. Ah, the suspense!

Posted by: Pixel | July 6, 2006 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Dmd, Right on both counts. We occasionally interview people and ask whether they'd be able to work on a particular case with facts about which they (like most of us) have strong feelings. They usually say something like that would be no problem because they'd just do what the law requires. And we all laugh gaily, to their great confusion. Legal principles are black and white. Application to particular facts, not always so much.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 6, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

SonofCarl writes:
To be fair, since our immigration system isn't quite up to processing 100 million new citizens, we'll just have to come up with a new name for the new country.

The new flag will be a mixture of Canadian red and American blue. Hmmm. What colour should we call it?

Answer to question 2: A mixture?...Purple!
(Notice in the 2004 Presidential Votes Cast map [you've probably seen it before] that the reddest states are Utah, followed very closely by Wyoming and Idaho.)

Any suggestions for the answer to question 1?

Posted by: Loomis | July 6, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

Pixel, Rabobank and Euskatel must have got that soda-pop orange from the old Astros uniforms. Now THAT was a color you had to be a fan to wear.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 6, 2006 11:39 AM | Report abuse

You might be right about the Quebecois, bc; I hadn't thought about them.

OK, is there a compromise here somewhere? The Quebecois can become independent and form their own little, landlocked, French-speaking boutique republique, while the remainder of Canada gets the Blue States as compensation. Will that work? Sounds like win-win-win to me.

SofC, I noticed you spelled it "colour." If this deal goes through, does it mean we'll have to start putting all those u's back into words? I'm not necessarily objecting, just pointing out it'll play havoc with our SpellCheck functions until we get your IT dept. to re-program it.

I'm cool with "cheque" and that kinda spelling, though. Veddy upscale and tony. I like it.

I like the Canadian flag just the way it is; no need to change it on my account. But that's up to you guys. But if you want, you could sprinkle some stars on it. Or maybe a bunch of Smiley-Faces. No, on second thought, I guess that'd be a deal-breaker.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 6, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

ivansmom, thanks for the information. It's not too much -- after all, it's only the WaPo's servers that have to contain it all. The rest of us can skim or read, as we please (I read).

I feel compelled to make a definitive statement for the benefit of skippy, in case he/she/it/they is/are still lurking about: "maroon" most definitely is a reference to the heyday of Bugs Bunny, as voiced by Mel Blanc, and is not to be confused with the pathetic and shallow imitations that flowed from the mid-60's and onward. As such, the designation of "maroon" is a connection drawn between yourself and the greatest of the animators' art. It's an honor, dorkface (sorry, I couldn't resist a little caustic irony). Anyway, the point in calling someone a "maroon" is not baby-talk, it is intentionally undercutting the harshness of a genuine insult by exhibiting a purported inability to say the word correctly. In the mouth of a less-exalted personage than Bugs Bunny (and aren't we all less exalted than Bugs?), it lightens the sting of the insult by partially directing it back to the insulter. You see? The point is that Curmudgeon wanted to express that he was steamed with your incapcacity to get the danged message, but also acknowledged that he was transgressing the boundaries of polite boodle behavior and therefore earned some opprobrium for himself.

"Meathead," incidentally, is to be read as a reference to All in the Family, in which "meathead" often is applied to the philosophical idealist who may or may not be correct in a Platonic sense, but who is incapable of effectively communicating his notions and transforming them into genuine action. On the other hand, All in the Family comes nowhere near the pure classical beauty of Bugs Bunny and thus, a meathead may sometimes be just a meathead. You must determine for yourself which definition applies.

This concludes today's lecture in the interminable series "Humor Dissection for the Humor-Impaired," subtitled "Is it funnier now?"

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 6, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Mudge writes:
SofC, I noticed you spelled it "colour." If this deal goes through, does it mean we'll have to start putting all those u's back into words? I'm not necessarily objecting, just pointing out it'll play havoc with our SpellCheck functions until we get your IT dept. to re-program it.

Mudge, I believe there is some humour in your labours.

Posted by: Loomis | July 6, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Re Quebec: less talk of separation currently, but who knows.

Re Spellcheckers, I use a Canadian spellchecker but have also used an American one. Did not realize for a long time that my spelling authorize was different than I believe British authorise, apparently both are correct. So I think there is room for both our/or spellings.

Re Flag - how about blue stripes added to the red bars on either side of our flag. One of the original design in fact had blue not red bars on the flag with a red maple leaf - the blue signifying the oceans on either side of the country.

Personally a smiley face in the middle of the maple leaf would be great.

If we did this do you think WaPo would notice when our Prime Minister comes to the US?

Posted by: dmd | July 6, 2006 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I, too, am OK with those Queen's English-y spellings.

We'll have to have Hal reprogram the Durty Wurd Filter to accept the Canadaian spelling of the F-bomb though.

It *is* "fucque", isn't it?


Posted by: bc | July 6, 2006 11:53 AM | Report abuse

I hate to admit it, Pixel, but I know very little about the Tour de France. Do the rules allow hitting? Can they stop and have canapes and tulipstems of Montrechat '84 every now and then? Can you tackle an opponent? When they crash, does anything burst into flame? Are there scantily-clad cheerleaders? Are you allowed to use your hands (unlike, say, that weenie soccer rule)? Can they put lots of sponsor decals all over their bikes? Can you find a nice shady spot under a tree and watch the whole race, or do you, like, have to move around a lot? Do they go to Deauville? Are any of the racers married to former Spice Girls?

Sorry to burden you with so many questions. I just thing the Tour de France might be more interesting if, say, they match-raced Julia Child against Jacques Pepin, or Bobby Flay against David Beckham on a Formula One version of "Iron Chef Mille Miglia."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 6, 2006 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Pixel, nice post on the Tour. I might put that in the next kit, which is kind of a roundup of stuff. I'm going to France in a week and I guess I need to learn to appreciate the Tour. They're on motorcycles, right? Isn't it awfully noisy? I just don't know much about the sport. Do they ever run out of gas??

New kit coming in a few mints.

Posted by: Achenbach | July 6, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Quebec is about one referendum away from the rest of us voting THEM off the island.

I'd be willing to part with the "u"'s [incidentally, I think Loomis' boat sonnet used practically every word that has the alternate spelling]. Using "cheques" is a nice happy medium. It's a bit stodgy to call the Minister of Finance the Chancellor of the Exchequer like the Brits, but "checks" has always seemed a little plain. I could go either way with the words like defence/defense. I'd like to keep the barristers' gown. I don't know what a "grit" is - is this a problem?

Loomis, silly. The new national colour -strike that- color will be maroon.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 6, 2006 11:58 AM | Report abuse

I find all this talk of "maroons" quite unsettling, considering I'm only a lower case "t" away from being a "marooni".

As for Mudge's suggestion that we allow the blue states to be annexed by the Haute Mainers, I'm not too sure -- their cigarette taxes are even worse than NYC and I don't know if I could be retrained to end every sentence with "eh" or pronounce "soorry" correctly.

However, if we're going to consider a sale/annexation, why stop at Canada? We could just as easily apologise (notice the "s" -- I'm getting ready) to the Queen about that tea party incident and just give ourselves back to England.

Posted by: martooni | July 6, 2006 12:00 PM | Report abuse

bc, ha!

martooni, oh, did we forget to mention that? We come with an inbred foreign snaggle-toothed dysfunctional family as official head of state.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 6, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Well it's nice to get back in. Yesterday I tried to post a little comment on Lay and got a blank page. When I tried to re-post a few minutes later I got blasted with a FORBIDDEN. Not even allowed to read the achenblog. Thought sheesh, the wapo sure is sensitive. Now I see it wasn't personal.

Posted by: bh | July 6, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Continuing my spirit of tediousness: I'm still trying to figure out in what way it is sadistic (with or without sexual connotations) to desire that Mr. Lay should have had many years in which to experience the pangs of conscience and, maybe, to choose a course of action to alleviate his own pain. I don't recall any suggestions on my part that he should suffer physical mortification for his own spiritual good, that was skippy's own personal imagination that supplied that one. Was skippy/bigdoglurker's suggestion that we are hypocrites and that Mr. Lay should be sent off scot-free, as a proud scion of libertarian/libertine capitalism? If that were the suggestion, that would at least be intellectually coherent and explain why he equated any conception of retribution with the primitive and barbaric. But, it's still a recipe for societal disaster.

Posted by: ScienceTim | July 6, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

new kit, ya bunch of maroons.

Posted by: SonofCarl | July 6, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

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