Wednesday, June 29, 2011


If you want to know what's on the TV around here, it's usually Tater. As a television, ours is a really good cat heater. Tater likes to watch videos on the computer screen, preferably while sitting on the nice nubbly keyboard, but even she won't watch our TV. It might well be the crappiest TV in America. It's old. If you come over to watch football on our TV, the game will always be between the dark green uniforms and the even darker green uniforms. The players will be wearing leather helmets.

There must have been a time this TV was new. For a while there we had new TVs all the time, due to our frequent contributions to the street-drug and window-glass trades. I do remember Dave coming home with this one. Neither of us likes shopping. We're liable to snap up the one closest to the front door in the store; there will have been no consumer research involved. We grab and go, knowing our purchase will instantaneously lower the price of the same item in stores all over town. So Dave went out to fetch us a new TV with the same attitude he might replace butter, and whichever salesman was closest to the front door was in luck, unless he screwed up. This one screwed up.

Dave was standing between two televisions, a thoughtful expression on his face ("eeny-meeny-miney-mo"), and the salesman came up to offer assistance. "Well," Dave started, and the guy said "you don't want this one." He pointed.

"I don't?" Dave said. He didn't, actually. The other one looked a little better.

"No. This one still has rounded corners on the screen. They've gone over to square corners now, like this one."

Dave gave him the drilling stare, to which he was immune. "So you think I'll be missing a lot up there in the corners?"

"You don't want the round corners. That's old. None of them will have round corners soon."

Actual unretouched photo
Dave is old. Unwittingly the salesman had just provided Dave with a reason to buy the old-style TV. Dave distrusts newness on principle. Dave also dislikes doing something just because that's what everyone else is doing. That's why he stayed registered a Republican forty years after he voted for his last one. If you want him to quit wearing something, tell him it's fashionable. Dave took his business elsewhere. He came home with a new TV. It had square corners, but nobody at that store pointed it out.

When I was little, our family was several years tardy picking up our first TV, but when it came, it thudded into the house and squatted heavily in the corner. It was a massive piece of furniture with a screen embedded in the center like a navel jewel in a plump belly dancer. When you turned it on, you could hear the electrons swarming. A star would appear and then nova into Donna Reed. We didn't watch it much. Back then TVs didn't run that many hours or on that many channels, and ours got fewer hours and channels than most, because Daddy was our never-remote control. Mickey Mouse never squeaked in our living room, because Daddy thought Walt Disney was a fascist. Later, Mission: Impossible was banished after one viewing, because Daddy didn't approve of cheering for a CIA-facsimile to infiltrate foreign countries and conduct secret operations. Hogan's Heroes were out because Nazis weren't funny. It's a wonder I didn't rebel my way into the right wing.

TVs got better. Some families that were not ours got remote controls, and then they started coming out with color sets. "Do you want your children to grow up thinking baseball is played on gray grass?" went one advertisement. Already, the notion of punting the kids outside to roll on their own lawn was getting quaint.

When I was in college, someone brought a significantly better TV back to his apartment. It was amazingly clear. It was a Sony Trinitron. Soon, all TVs were that good. Now, they're all so amazing they can even refill your chip bowl. The actors can pitch Chex Mix into your slackened jaw. Soon, they'll be able to check your insulin level and speed-dial the ER.

Our TV does have a remote control, and sometimes it will change the channel for you if you're really precise with your thumbnail, but you can't turn it on or off with it, or mute or adjust the volume. We had a TiVo once but the TV slit its throat in the middle of the night. The whole screen is dark, and if you're watching one of those dramas that takes place in the alleyways at night, it's more of a radio.

But it's not dead yet, and we're keeping it. There is a neat diagonal striping down the entire face of the TV at all times, like a Mad Men tie. Call me fancy, but I'm hoping to achieve argyle.


Late-breaking news: mere days after this post was written, nephew Michael came over with his old TV because he bought a better one. Dave accepted it with gratitude and regret. He is a faithful guy, and he had hoped to be watching the old one when it blew up, but even he admits the new one is a big improvement. I discovered that some of my favorite shows are not deliberately edgy and dim, and Dr. House's gang does indeed do surgery with the lights on. I like it. At least it's not a flat-screen.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Holy Crap

A recent study of the priest-pedophilia scandal, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has concluded that the priests involved were mainly victims of the Sixties and bad training. I'm not buying it, but not because the Sixties was not an unusual time. All sorts of odd ideas became mainstream, and although people learned to be reflexively skeptical of pronouncements from the government ("looks like rain! Bullshit!") they lost all skepticism with regard to pronouncements from their peers. Smoke this. It will make you hack bits of your lungs out--no, hold it in! hold it in!--and eventually curl up into a fetal ball in terror. If you can hold it in long enough, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida will sound profound. It's harmless! And all sorts of things began making sense: Let's do some shrooms and then a twirly dance and then let's blow up something for peace. Heck, in the Sixties we even thought free love was a great idea, even though people used to pay perfectly good money for that, and you could only get 35 cents an hour for babysitting.

And I don't think it was a matter of poor training, either. Did they really need to remind them that altar boys should be instructed to pop back up after genuflecting? I suspect not.

My suspicion is that whatever causes certain priests to develop their own special sacraments was not a phenomenon confined to the Sixties. The only thing that has changed is the willingness of the victims to tell. My suspicion is that although these sorts of things go on in every stratum of society, it's possible that there were aspects to the priesthood that were appealing to certain people who were unlikely to fit in anywhere else.

My parents' generation played things close to the vest. Both my parents lived through two world wars, a flu epidemic, Prohibition, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and Pat Boone singing Tutti Frutti, but about all you could get out of them was "if you can't pay for it in cash, you can't afford it." As far as I know, neither of them had any undue contact with a priest. (They were Lutherans. I don't even know how they reproduced.) But if they had, nobody would have heard about it. Some things are not spoken of. One is expected to go on conducting one's life in modesty and dignity, right up until the day one starts taking potshots from the bell tower.

So no, I don't believe the Sixties were to blame for the wayward priests. Carob chips, a fug of Patchouli and Fat Elvis, but nothing worse than that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

To Have And To Hold Up Progress

Pride Day, Portland, Oregon
The effort to legalize gay marriage in New York is stalled. The Republican majority has been meeting in a closet to discuss the matter and has gotten no closer to a resolution. There's a delicate balance to strike. On the one hand we have the right of adult humans to marry whom they want. On the other hand we have the duty to protect the right of dozens of citizens to be free of the willies.

The Catholic Church, according to New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, is not softening its position. It's still rock-hard. Dolan says that gay marriage is a violation of the natural law embedded in every man and woman. I, for one, am glad for the clarification. I thought I felt something, but I just put it down to a tipped uterus.

Dolan is worried that allowing gays to marry would be like marrying your mother, which probably explains why he hasn't sprung for the ring yet. Nothing against his mom, who, I imagine, has manufactured a holy sufficiency of little Dolans and earned her rest.

Cloudy, mild, no thunderbolts observed.
New York state senators, of course, are politically obliged to take a more nuanced approach than the Archbishop. Although the body appears to be no closer to a vote, progress has been made behind closed doors in the construction of a straw man, who was taken out for a test run the other day. Critical senators have delayed proceedings until they are assured that there are adequate protections for churches and other groups so that they will not be in violation of the law if they decline to perform marriages they find morally objectionable. This is a righteous concern of the lawmakers, who correctly anticipate a stampede of irritable lesbians whose primary motivation to marry is to really piss off the church. It would be a terrible thing to have officers of the law present in church ceremonies to assure compliance, monitoring events so that the wedding vows are not administered with crossed fingers or a tone. They won't stand for that, sir; they won't have it.

Many churches have presided over gay weddings for decades, if not longer, of course. The rights in play here are civil ones. Still, it pays to be careful lest the ministers of New York be strapped to their altars and mandated to bark out a state-issued diversity script before succumbing to the heebie-jeebies. Additional legislation is contemplated that would protect the churches against forced sacrifice of goats. It's a slippery slope. Even Lutherans, not known for agitation, are looking into defining a covered-dish as something involving green beans or tuna, lest a cannelloni contingent gain the upper hand.

Call me nostalgic, but straw men just ain't what they used to be in the glory days of the push for an Equal Rights Amendment. That amendment was a pretty simple proposition on its face, but somehow it boiled down to a threat that women would be required to learn how to use a urinal in public, and sign a guest-book indicating the number of penises they had observed personally, with maybe room for a comment section.

In other creative endeavors, legislators are looking into the possibility of declaring gay Americans to be three-fifths human, for which there is at least some historical precedent. Some sort of compromise might be reached. Gay marriage may be conditionally granted conferring three-fifths of the rights of Reg'lar citizens (hospital visitation, jewelry, joint dog ownership, up to but not including Social Security survival benefits and the holding of hands in public); the ceremony can proceed through "for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health," and so on for three-fifths the customary length, but stopping well before the kiss, which coincides with the onset of the jim-jams in susceptible people.

Failing that, we'll just have to wait a few more years until the actuarial asteroid of youthful ascendancy kills off the dinosaurs.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A String Theory

Whoa. I found a piece of string the other day. Just lying there on the carpet. About a yard long, too. I picked it up and ran it through my fingers. String! I hadn't seen any in years. It was like an artifact. I drifted in time. Arthur Godfrey murmured from the melamine radio; bottles of milk were at the back door, and a Fuller Brush man was at the front. I don't know where this string came from. It may have originated somewhere else in the house, and was relocated courtesy our cat Tater, who was responding to her Rodent Tail Facsimile Identification chromosome.

When I was a kid there was more string around. You could buy it in balls. People used to use it to tie up packages to be mailed, after first wrapping them in brown paper. Dave picked up a giant roll of kraft paper--seriously, we could Christo the house in it, twice--around 1980, right about when the post office began discouraging people from using paper and string. It would have been two lifetime supplies if you were born in 1900, but now it should last into the second coming. When I started with the post office in 1977, the guys used twine to bundle up their mail. I'd watch the old geezers slam together a perfectly straightened bunch of mail and take the twine and whip it around, once, twice, and twice more widthwise, then snap it off using the twine itself as a cutter. The whole bundle was secured in three seconds flat. It was a beauty to behold. "I'll be able to do that someday," I said to myself, keeping to my life strategy of small ambitions, but in fact I never did learn to do that. I dented up my fingers trying to snap it off for a few months and then we went over entirely to rubber bands, except for the old farts, who guarded their twine stash as though it were their very youth and glory.

The thing about string is that it's almost impossible to throw away. That's a staple of obsessive-compulsive comedy: the string hoarder. You develop a character that lives with nineteen cats and saves string, that's all you really need to know about that person. Mom saved string, although I don't believe she'd save it if it were under two feet in length. She was Depression-thrifty but she wasn't nuts. Unless you think maintaining a linen closet packed floor to ceiling with toilet paper is nuts. But toilet paper was among the things strictly rationed during World War II, and the entire experience brought her lots of clarity about the important things in life. (Sacrificing during wartime is another one of those artifacts, like string and bottled milk at the back door. Back in the day, they didn't even think about putting the whole war on the credit card. They were backward that way.)

Mom used string for packaging and odd jobs and keeping the roast beef from getting away. I couldn't think of anything I would need a yard of string for. Roast beef must not be as unruly as it used to be. And Dave has this thing about clutter. He is not a knick-knack guy. He would like to have a house he could clean with a fire hose, although if he actually had a house like that he'd just have to find something else to be obsessive about. At any rate he is unlikely to be enthused about a string collection. So I coiled the string around my fingers to throw it away, but then I set it down. It's on the windowsill. In case we need it. You can't throw away string. We've probably got a chromosome for that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Drink Up Your Beer: Solar Flare's Comin'

The sun got into a snit the other day with the potential to knock out satellites and threaten the power grid here on Earth. People depending on GPS wouldn't even know which way to go. Recent sunspot activity culminated on June 7th in a "coronal mass ejection," which means a tremendous burst of solar wind. Been there. I got into some suspect falafel the same night and I wasn't sure which way to go, myself.

The danger to our systems is real. Solar flares erupt in cycles, like herpes, and can speed towards us at the rate of 560 miles per hour. A similar event in 1989 took out the power grid in Quebec before anyone had a chance to calculate the speed in kilometers. Even without a power boost, the sun's rays take a little over eight minutes to reach the surface of the earth, except in Oregon, where they can take upwards of nine months.

There's nothing new about this, and this time it's nothing we did. The sun has had massive gaseous outbursts for a long time. There was a doozy in 1921 and also in 1859. The only reason we'd be screweder now is that technology has evolved us out of our common sense. Our ability to fend for ourselves is now entirely vestigial, like wings on a dodo, or the League of Lobbyists' Code of Ethics. If a sunfart takes out our grid tomorrow, half of America would starve to death clutching boxes of uncooked Mac 'N' Cheese. If we were abruptly deprived of the air conditioning we've only had for about fifty years, we would all flop on the pavement in our office sweaters like landed fish.

I'm sometimes smug about not using GPS or a cell phone, but I have learned that technology has insinuated itself into our lives in ways we rarely expect; for all I know my spleen could quit working, or chipped dogs could explode in the streets.

It all reminds me of the old Y2K scare, wherein computers and computerized parts of everything were anticipated to suffer terminal confusion due to their programmers failing to plan for the year 2000, leaving them vulnerable to thinking it's 1900 instead and cease to exist, or turn into abacuses. All kinds of chaos was predicted. Planes were expected to fall out of the sky, uninvented.

We've made great progress in our understanding since Copernicus made the nearly fatal observation that the sun does not revolve around the pope. We know that we're flying around the sun and the sun is flying around the galaxy and the galaxy is hurtling towards the constellation Hydra so really, it's no wonder we could use a nap. "Hurtling" is a relative term, of course. We don't notice the hurtling any more than a pebble in the belly of a slingshot notices it, until the sling snaps back. And relative to other stars headed in the same general direction, the sun could be said to mosey. At any rate it seems to be able to take almost anything in stride (or amble or sprint, as the case may be). So whatever havoc is wreaked here on our marble, the sun itself is probably not unduly disturbed by solar flares. I don't have them anymore, but they used to keep me up at night. Nothing keeps the sun up at night.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


"Oh shame, oh ignominy, oh shit." These are the words of frequent commenter Lo, who is a kick in the pants, on the eve of her 84th birthday. It isn't the birthday that bothers her. It's that she has to take a driver's license exam again. Several things come to mind. One, 84 isn't what it used to be. For much of my life, 84 was old. I knew 84-year-olds. They said "oh dear," and "oh my," and if they ever said "oh shit" it would trigger a fatal epizootic. My mother wouldn't have said "oh shit" if she were on fire, but she never made it to 84, so maybe she had it in her, after all, but it hadn't had a chance to ripen.

So I realized that Lo is not, in fact, of the same generation as the 84-year-olds of my youth. She is virtually my contemporary. Put another way, I'm old. There are differences. Lo is worried she might disgrace herself by failing the written exam, wherein you are expected to know things like how many feet before an intersection you need to put your blinker on. I used to know how many when I was sixteen, but it never meant anything to me. I could write "100 feet" like nobody's business, but I didn't have much of a feel for how far that really was. And now I just fling on the blinker to let people behind me know I'm pondering a move, and might slow down or speed up or slam on the brakes and crank it to the right at any time. Then I leave it blinking in case I might want to crank it again later.

They like to test old people for driver's licenses more often because they tend to take a more ecumenical view of the driving terrain, making fewer distinctions between, for instance, the brake, the accelerator, the correct lane, the oncoming lane, the sidewalk, and the path to rapture. One's just as good as another; some are louder.

Lo isn't worried about her actual driving. That's another difference. I am one shitty driver. I don't know if my shitty driving is a sign of age, because it's nothing new, but on the other hand I seem to be getting shittier. One of my problems is that while I'm driving somewhere, my mind is on an entirely different road trip. This leads me to spring out of my car with my hiking boots and binoculars only to discover I'm in the parking lot at Costco. I like to think that my problem is I have a more developed right-brain than most, and other people like to suggest that my problem might have a pharmaceutical solution. I've got a good sense of direction, modified by a bad sense of attention, so I've had to learn coping skills. I can locate any address, but I can't do it until I turn the radio down. Similarly, I can't drive in the dark without Valium.

The fact is, the highways are filled with honeybees doing the waggle-dance and arrowing to their destinations; while I drive with a moth's sensibility, my imagination providing the porchlights, adrift on a night-jasmine scent of confusion. If it's true that what's important is the journey and not the destination, I'm golden. I never get anywhere.

My reaction times are not a sign of age. They were always shitty. My strategy of being in poor shape at age twenty has served me well in that I rarely have cause to mourn my own deterioration. I don't drive much worse, either, although it used to take more alcohol to achieve the same degree of crappitude.

Beyond these limitations, there is the matter of my vision. It was never good, and when I was sixteen I got contact lenses that put galloping haloes on all oncoming headlights, so that it looked like Glinda the Good Witch was barreling down on me with her entire book group. Since then I have abandoned the contacts for glasses, but something has happened that has removed all objects from sight after sundown. Probably global warming. If it's raining, the world disappears even earlier. Dave once followed me back from picking up my car at the dealer, at night during a terrific downpour, and he straddled as many protective lanes as possible in my wake, with flashers, flares, klaxons and a case of panic diarrhea, as I slalomed over the road. He was attempting to communicate "CAUTION: STUDENT MONKEY DRIVER AHEAD." It was a major highway but as far as I could tell it had no stripes, no shoulders, and evidently no police presence. It takes a special kind of fearlessness to hurtle into the void at 55 miles per hour; mine is the terrified kind. At this point, if you invite me to dinner, you're best off making it an early one, unless you want to feed me breakfast too.

On some of the better roads, they've installed bumps on the shoulders to let you know how close you are to dead. They're there for folks who might have fallen asleep at the wheel, but I've found them helpful while I'm wide-eyed awake, to funnel me back into my lane. It might be time to hang up my license. Coping strategies for driving deficits are all fine and good, but Braille really shouldn't be one of them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Do Too Cook

Shortly after we met, Dave was standing slack-jawed in my kitchen, watching me cook my dinner. I had stripped the label off a can of peas, cracked the lid, and was holding it on the burner with a pair of pliers. When it was heated through, I strained the peas through the lid, opened it up the rest of the way, stirred in some mayonnaise and dug in. My can was ready to recycle and I'd only dirtied one spoon. I figured the look on his face was one of admiration.

Dave has been responsible for virtually every meal we've had since, and it's been thirty-four years. He's gifted. When he goes away for a few days, I peer into the refrigerator and come up with nothing. I eat peanut butter and when he returns, I tell him there's nothing to eat. He starts pulling out this and that, and in no time at all he has assembled a delicious and attractive meal, and if all the neighbors happen to drop by at once, he'll feed them too. Jesus never did any better.

Once Dave fell ill and lay moaning on the sofa for days. I polished off the peanut butter and then asked him if I could make him a little something. He allowed as how he might be able to get down a piece of dry toast and a poached egg. I looked up "poached egg" in the Joy Of Cooking--most people don't bother--and it said to bring five quarts of water to a rollicking boil and stir it into a "mad vortex," at which point you drop your egg into the center. Well, it takes a while to get that much water boiling, don't think it doesn't. And when you drop your egg in, the whites go flying off at a tangent to the mad vortex and settle out as shrapnel on the bottom of the pot. I served Dave his by-now cold piece of toast with an egg like a golf ball on top, and said, "there, I hope you like it--it took me forty-five minutes to poach that egg." Well, it was almost a miracle. He was up and cooking again in no time.

But I still contribute. I like to put a little of myself in all my efforts. The Pot Roast with Diced Root Vegetables and Fingertips in Plasma Sauce was splendid. The Lemon Custard With Knuckle Zest turned out pretty well; hardly anyone can guess the secret chewy ingredient in the oatmeal cookies (shredded rubber spatula. It's never raisins. If you see raisins in my cookies, they flew in on their own.) Crunchy Mousse is even good for you: eggshells are loaded with calcium.

I've learned along the way. If something calls for being beaten "until soft peaks form," that means just a little after the point when pigs are observed to fly. If you have a liquid on the stove and are instructed to cook "until reduced by half, about one minute," figure on a half hour. In the case of custard, which you are to cook over low-medium heat until thickened, you can go ahead and do that all day if you want to but then you have to crank the bastard up to high and swear like a sailor. If you then pitch in a cup or two of cornstarch, you can get that puppy to stand right up and bark.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

He Wouldn't. Would He?

I got out of the habit of paying attention to the news every minute during the previous administration because it ruined my health. So it was a few days before I discovered that the top story now is the allegation that Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-New York) has tweeted his penis to a college girl in Seattle. I don't know all the ins and outs of this development, but the congressman claims someone hacked into his Twitter account and inserted a penis. That caused half the press corps to black out, hearing a sentence with "hacked" and "penis" in it, but the other half has kept this ball in the air for days. I find it equally plausible that he might have tweeted his penis or that he might have been hacked. It would be stupid to tweet your penis and try to run for mayor, but penises, on the whole, are notably lacking in political astuteness. On the other hand, hacking is just the sort of thing that deep pockets in the health insurance industry might come up with when threatened. "Someone is trying to stand between us and making all the money in the world," the health insurance industry would reason. "So let's hack a penis into his Twitter feed." It's the same old story. It's been going on since Lancelot told everyone that King Arthur's sword slipped out of the stone.

If this really was a hacking, it was brilliant. The penis in question is by all accounts a splendid one, and Mr. Weiner is hard pressed to state forcefully that it is not his. Some worry that this will derail his mayoral aspirations, but I think the photo might have gotten him some votes. He may yet get the job.

Others decry the fact that this matter is getting too many inches on the front page day after day. We have more important matters to discuss, they say. Can we still afford to provide a measure of medical security to our elderly citizens, or will we be better off funneling the old dears into the marketplace with some scrip and our best wishes? We need to study these things to come to a consensus. Is our debt unsustainable? Does Medicare foster overuse of medical services? What do we know about the penises of the major players in this debate? And is there any other way to rein in health care costs?

The debt is at fourteen trillion and rising; economists disagree on the significance of this; we've got hold of some solid evidence on Congressman Weiner's penis; and tort reform has been suggested as part of the solution.

Excellent! Let's see what you've got on Weiner.


This is just a picture of a penis. In underwear. Are you serious?

It may or may not have been tweeted to a woman he doesn't know but is not married to.

Come on, man! This is health care reform we're talking about! I need the debt-to-GDP ratio, the position of the A.M.A., a verifiable inappropriate liaison including evidence of fluids, and the numbers on insurance premium growth.


It was a gang-tweet.

Oh, well, then. Let's gut Medicare.

We have a lot of serious issues before us in this day and age, and we need reliable information about those we entrust to work them out. We have way too little to go on. I say we get all the penises out there; let's let the majority Whip earn his title. Let's get them all out on the table and start banging some gavels until we have everyone's attention, and then maybe we can get some work done.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Thud Thud Thud

There was this ominous thudding sound. It was rhythmic; it shook the house. I wondered if we were finally gearing up for our 9.0 earthquake. Then I figured it was pile-driving somewhere nearby. Finally I realized it had to be Godzilla. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I was right the third time. Says here in the paper that Walmart wants to jam in seventeen new stores near here and wipe out all the other grocery stores. No, I'm not making that up--they admit it right up front. It's the kind of thing you can do when you're city-stompin' size.

As a liberal, I protest. That's what liberals do: we protest. We'd be so much better off if we just started packing like everyone else, made up shit and blasted it through the internet. Not us. We mass together politely like large outdoor book groups and we yell "What do we want?" Fair trade clothing, a living wage for all, sustainable agriculture and universal health care! "When do we want it?" We'd like it now if it's not too much trouble! We're pathetic.

Why do liberals hate Walmart? No matter what you've heard, it has nothing to do with arugula. That's the line: liberals are such snobs that they only want to patronize stores with arugula and wouldn't be caught dead in a Walmart. We think we're better than everyone else. We're elite.

By "elite" they mean "effete." The subtext is that arugula is an effeminate form of iceberg lettuce. And that drives us liberals nuts, because then we have to counter that it has nothing to do with arugula, and even if it did, we don't think there's anything wrong with being effeminate, if that's the way we roll, and now you've got us talking about that, and before you know it they've got us so worked up we end up calling someone a Philistine, and that's it, game over, Walmart wins. Thud. Thud. Thud.

So that's the narrative. Liberals hate Walmart because they're snobby arugula-eaters and they don't really give a damn about poor people who might appreciate always low prices, always. It's a deliberate smear and there's plenty of money behind thinking it up. It's propaganda, and it works, as propaganda is meant to do. But it isn't any more truthful than the Democrats' idea that there is a Republican War On Women. That is total hyperbole. Plenty of Republicans like women just fine, either one at a time or several on the side, and the ones who don't are willing to maintain one as a spousal avatar. War On Women, indeed. At worst they might be getting a little woody, thinking about bunching up the attractive ones in an internment camp, but war? No.

Liberals hate Walmart because it got way too big and powerful, big enough to re-write the rules in their favor, bigger than entire countries, and they had most of the economic marbles. And instead of trading them, they set them rolling until they'd all reached the lowest point on the planet. They found a bunch of people who would work for practically nothing and didn't need insurance and scoffed at environmental controls and bingo, that's where they got things made cheap. Then they brought all that back to America and sold it real cheap to this huge market of people who weren't doing as well as they used to because their jobs, directly or indirectly, went to China. It's a genius move, really. You shear the sheep and then you sell them cheap wool sweaters. If they're cold enough, they'll even be grateful.

A good liberal pays attention to the true cost of things, and adds up the environmental cost, and the social cost, and the cost of war, and spends his money accordingly even if it means he doesn't get as much stuff; and the rest of us at least aspire to doing that much of the time. And we won't pay Godzilla to stomp our town. Not even if he starts selling cheap arugula.