Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crazy about Guns

When television news announced the recent shooting near the Empire State Building in New York I was waiting for a mechanic to change the oil in beautiful wife Sandy’s car. Several others were in the car dealer’s lounge.

A young man wearing a Notre Dame sweatshirt briefly glanced at the TV, and then continued working at his laptop computer. A 30-something woman and a man in the same age bracket, who had been watching TV intently before the announcement, continued to do so.  No one spoke. I went back to reading my book.

A man in his 60s or early 70s wearing overalls, a flannel shirt, and boots entered as the news flash was ending.  “Another shooting?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said. “An unhappy former employee of a New York firm opened fire (we learned later that the shooter killed his target and the other damage was done by police bullets) near the Empire State Building. A half-dozen or so were wounded. The gunman’s target and the shooter were killed.”

“The liberals are behind these shootings,” the new arrival said. “They’re trying to whip people up so they can take our guns away.”

“Do you really believe that?” I asked. 

“Yes, of course I do,” he said.

The small group in the waiting room lapsed back into silence.

Who is crazier, the shooters or deluded people who believe ridiculous conspiracy theories?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grannies Salute Congressman Akin

This YouTube video is just too entertaining not to be passed along.

Watch the Renegade Raging Grannies let Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) know just what they think of his concepts about how women's bodies work.

Alas! Multiple Tragedies Hit News

The geezer learned of three crushing blows to things he holds sacred in a span of just six days recently.

The Green Bay Packers released photos of the latest addition to Lambeau Field, where the geezer attended the first game ever played in that venerable stadium.  The new seating section actually has SEATS instead of benches to make things comfortable for the fans.  What next? A DOME to shield us from the weather? Never.

Gonzo Gonzalez goofed when he down graded the best-known institution in Plainwell, Michigan
John “Gonzo” Gonzalez, entertainment reporter for the Kalamazoo Gazette announced the winners in a contest he personally conducted to determine the top ten ice cream parlors in Michigan.  He rated the Plainwell Ice Cream Company Number Six.  My god, this man has no taste buds. Doesn’t he know Plainwell quality has not varied one iota since the product was named one of the “Seven Wonders of Michigan” just a couple of years ago?

I was so shocked by the frozen treat miscarriage of justice I drove past Plainwell Ice Cream yesterday before I thought to stop for a serving of blueberry swirl in a waffle cone.  That’s pure ice cream heaven, Gonzalez. You must have been smoking the wrong stuff before you did your sampling.

Then came the annual announcement by the Princeton Review of the top party schools in the U.S. My alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was relegated to the No. 13 spot.  Good grief.  We were numero uno for years.  Obviously, those hoity toity Princeton people never visited Langdon or State Streets.

Alumni need to rally and make a return to campus complete with kegs and watermelons full of gin to show the current crop of Badgers how it’s done.  This insult must be corrected.

I stopped reading the news for two days.  I didn’t want to find out about any more desecrations of important institutions in my life.   

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Mitt Money Mystery

Issues in the November election are well-defined.  Differences in approaches to solving our problems between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are large. Voters have a clear choice in this election. I understand the choice. Just one thing about the campaign has me baffled.

Why won’t Romney release his last ten, or even five, years of federal income tax returns?

Why the secrecy?
His father started the practice when he ran for president 45 years ago, and every candidate since has released many years of tax records and been quite willing to discuss them.  We already know Romney is a multimillionaire, so that’s not the issue, and it should not be an election issue in any case.  He did release his 2010 return and has promised to release 2011, so why not just go back a few more years as previous candidates have done?

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid speculated that Romney might have paid no taxes in one or more of the years in question.  He based that on an anonymous “someone” telling him so.  That’s pretty flimsy, and Romney flatly denies it. I don’t buy what Reid is selling in this case.

Neither Reid’s assertion nor any other reasons for Romney’s reluctance made sense to me until just a few days ago when a friend proposed one in a letter to the Detroit Free Press.

Romney may have been among hundreds of Americans who took advantage of a tax amnesty offer, officially the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative, made to those who evaded taxes by not reporting income from foreign bank accounts. In return for disclosing the income and paying some pretty hefty IRS penalties, those who were granted amnesty had their records cleansed and became exempt from criminal prosecution.

Admitting criminal conduct to evade taxes would, of course, be a serious negative for a presidential candidate, whether or not he was granted amnesty.

It’s public knowledge that Romney had a Swiss bank account, which he closed in 2010. He also is known to have had accounts in the Cayman Islands. If his earlier tax records would reveal an amnesty settlement that would be a plausible reason for his refusal to release them.

It also is strange that Romney still has not released his 2011 return, although he said some time ago he would.  It’s possible, although not likely because the penalties were lighter for those who declared earlier, that he waited until 2011 to seek amnesty. This could explain the failure to release the 2011 tax report in a timely manner.

The plan might be to delay releasing the return until just before Election Day. Then news of forgiveness for a criminal act probably would be too late to affect the election in a major way. Romney must have a filing extension to have held off this long. The extension deadline is October 15, just three weeks before the election.

One way or another, could the amnesty situation be the reason for Romney’s tax secrecy?  If not, what logical explanation is there? Can you think of one?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Grateful Memory

Petty Officer 2nd Class David J. Warsen (U.S. Navy), 27, Kentwood, Michigan. Died in a helicopter crash northwest of Kandahar, Afghanistan, August 16, 2012.


Unfortunately, the Geezer doesn’t have the time or resources to honor all Americans and  NATO allies who are dying daily in Afghanistan, so memorials are limited to service members from my home state of Michigan. You can find a record of all American deaths at

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Postman Goeth

I know that’s not politically correct. But, “the letter carrier goeth,” just didn’t work. I am well-aware that women have been delivering the goods for the U.S. Postal Service for a long time now. The regular on our route and the occasional substitute both are women who do good work.

Unfortunately for the men and women of the postal service they are working for a dying outfit.  The latest pleas to Congress for financial relief cite a $5 billion dollar budget deficit and more of the same in the future if major changes are not made.

Perhaps “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” could stop postal workers from performing their duties, but e-mail, Facebook posts, tweets, twitters, and electronic transfers are doing them in.  Recently, our rural mailbox has been empty on one or more delivery days a week.  That has never happened before.

Going . . . going . . .
No matter what Congress does, the trend to less snail mail will continue.  We now do most of our banking and some purchasing electronically. We rarely write a personal letter to anyone; it’s so much easier and faster to dispatch an e-mail to friends and family. That’s been a monumental switch for some, including me.  My mother and I exchanged hand-written letters almost every week from the time I left home at age 17 until she died at 86.

Although Mom and I pasted three-cent stamps on our letters when we started corresponding, and the cost increased only to a dime or so during the many years we exchanged letters, we were desirable customers for the postal service.  First class mail was the big money maker—easy to sort and deliver in big volumes. It and parcel delivery subsidized other services.

Now, even the junk mailers who get reduced rates have cut down on their postal business as they increase their advertising on web pages.  For many years, my hometown newspaper arrived by mail for a cut-rate second class charge.  A few months ago, I converted the subscription to electronic delivery. My cost was considerably lower, and of course the news arrived more promptly.

Congress delivered a hard blow to the postal service years ago when they deregulated parcel delivery.  As a result, UPS and Fed Ex have skimmed off a lucrative part of the business. That is nice for them, but it helped drive the postal service to the wall.

The postal service recently once again asked Congress to allow it to discontinue Saturday deliveries to save a bundle of money.  The proposal has come up before, only to be met by deaf Congressional ears.  Ditto the idea of closing unneeded post offices in small towns.  The latter refusal is hard to understand, because mail services to urban areas have subsidized rural deliveries since the U.S. Postal Service began, and that was long before every rural resident had a car or truck. 

Some say the postal service needs to be more creative by finding new ways it can serve.  They cite examples such as France, where post offices service small savings accounts.  Fat chance of something like that happening in the U.S., where branch banks and credit unions abound.

Actually, the trend here has been in the opposite direction.  A small post office issued my social security card when a proud father took me there years before I started my first job. Post offices don’t issue social security cards anymore.  In fact, you can apply for one online, in a process said to take about 15 minutes. 

Merely shutting down the postal service won’t do.  Many of our rural areas, including some close to our home, can’t get computer services.  The nation needs big expansions of broadband coverage before the letter carrier becomes extinct.

Letting the postal service bleed to death over the next few years also is not a good solution.  It should be phased out in an orderly manner over a long time.  For starters, eliminating Saturday deliveries would cause no problem for us, and I doubt it would have much impact on others.

We must drive five miles to the nearest post office, but two miles farther down the same road is another one.  One would do nicely for two cities whose combined population is less than 8,000.

Listen up Congress.  Do what the postal service people are asking you to do.  They are in the midst of a lethal decline that is not going to reverse or stop.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

In Grateful Memory

lst. Lt. Todd W. Lambka (U.S. Army), 25, Fraser, Michigan. Killed by an improvised bomb in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, August 1, 2012.

               * * * * *  

Unfortunately, the Geezer doesn’t have the time or resources to honor all Americans and  NATO allies who are dying daily in Afghanistan. You can find a record of all American deaths at

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Isn't It Grand?

Were I in charge of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, I would be irate and demanding change in the way the name of my city is routinely butchered by the Michigan Department of Transportation. MDOT consistently replaces Grand with Gd.

Yes, they could sneak "ran" in
Grand Rapids deserves a full ID.  It is known for several, admittedly not overly important, things.  Grand Rapids is Michigan’s second largest city.  Grand Rapids is the birthplace of former President Gerald Ford. Grand Rapids is a leading producer of office furniture.  More important to me, the city has two really good Mexican restaurants. 

How demeaning is a contrived Grand abbreviation? Can you imagine a sign saying: Gd Canyon--27 miles? 

Could MDOT put the “ran” back in Grand as a practical matter? Of course it could.  Possibilities include compressing the type, enlarging signs a bit, moving arrows, and changing the shape of arrows.

Because I am not the head honcho at the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the strange signage is of no personal concern. Anyway, it is starting to pop up all over, so Gd may be making a move toward supplanting Grand in common usage. A recent Google travel search yielded this instruction: Turn right to merge onto US-131 N toward Gd Rapids.”

Gd provides me with a moment of amusement every time I see it.

Years ago when I started working for the U.S. Forest Service at the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wisconsin, Gordon D. Logan was the Assistant Director in charge of Administration. 

Logan was a good man with a lot of responsibilities.  His subordinates had to say no to questionable personnel practices, budget manipulation, publication of poorly conceived manuscripts, and a host of other attempts to circumvent quality controls built into the system.

Researchers are notorious for considering administrative rules dastardly plots serving only to hinder their important work. Some viewed Logan as the Laboratory’s chief traffic cop. Cops aren’t popular when they’re writing you a ticket.

One day, contemplating his status in the organization, Gordon D. Logan was heard to say: “Well, I’ve got the right initials for it, but I don’t enjoy being known as God Damn Logan.”

I think about that every time the signs point us toward "God damn Rapids."                              

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Where Are They?

Although I enjoyed several of his books, I never was a big fan of noted author and speaker Gore Vidal, who died this week.  However, one of his sayings puts me in LOL land everytime I hear or see it:

"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country — and we haven't seen them since."

(Thanks for the reminder by Ronni Bennett at

In Grateful Memory

Gunnery Sgt. Daniel J. Price (U.S. Marine Corps), 27, Holland, Michigan.  Killed during combat operations in Badghis  Province, Afghanistan, July 29, 2012. 

            * * * * * *

Sgt. Kyle B. McClain (Army National Guard), 25, Rochester Hills, Michigan. Killed by a bomb while on patrol in Salim Aka, Afghanistan, Aug. 1, 2012. Sgt. McClain was born in Korea and adopted by an American family as a baby.

                             * * * * * * 

Unfortunately, the Geezer doesn’t have the time or resources to honor all Americans and our NATO allies who are dying daily in Afghanistan, so I show only those from my home state of Michigan. You can find a record of American deaths at

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Back to Olympus

Funny how perspectives change over time.  During several years as a sports reporter and many as a sports fan, the Geezer followed Olympic action closely and rooted hard for Americans to win medals.

This time around, Olympic excitement failed to materialize to the extent I recorded the opening ceremonies and attended a Dixieland jazz concert instead of watching the grand beginning “live.” 

The Dixieland concert, presented with enthusiasm by a group of seven locals donating their time, was free. The Olympic extravaganza, featuring a cast of thousands and high-priced tickets, is going to cost a fortune.

Three of the seven Dixie musicians were top-shelf; the others, frankly, were mediocre.  That’s just about the way I assessed the Olympic opening once I got around to watching it. 

Athens in 2016 and Forevermore
Fashioning the burning rings, some of the fireworks displays, and an emotional ending (even though Sir Paul went on a bit long) appealed to me. A fake parachute entrance by the queen, a horribly boring comic, and other strange events unfortunately occupied a little more time than the good stuff.

Negatives aside, I give all the Dixie musicians and all who obviously worked hard to put together an excellent show in London much credit for their efforts.  Dixie musicians by definition are creative. The Olympic show planners showed plenty of artistry as well, and they deserve accolades for that.

If I heard correctly, the announcers said the Olympic Games this time around are expected to cost $15 billion or more.  The observers frequently talked about depressed conditions in London’s East End, where the stadium was built, and how the Olympics would have a positive affect on the area.

I would think for $15 billion just about all East End real estate needing rejuvenation could be reconstructed with broad avenues and marvelous homes and shops of all kinds, perhaps even a couple of light industrial sections. Of course, some of the $15 billion will be recouped. However, the facts are that most recent Olympics have lost huge amounts of money. 

Because it seems impossible now to return the Olympics to the wholesome amateur competition it once represented, why don’t we try something creative to at least stop the economic blood-lettings?  Let’s give the summer Olympics a permanent home in Greece where the whole thing began.  The International Olympic Committee could coordinate financing, and bankers interested in propping up the Euro probably would lend a hand.

Once the virtues of a permanent summer home are demonstrated, we can get to work providing a home in Switzerland, that most neutral of nations, for the winter games. The Swiss aren’t begging for money, but maybe if we strew enough Olympic gold around their landscapes they’ll stop conniving to cheat fellow governments out of tax dollars with devious banking practices.

A return to Greece forever makes sense in several ways.  It’s no secret the Greeks could use a major infusion of cash.  Absent any large amount of natural resources, the nation must rely on tourism to sustain itself. A periodic dose of Olympic frenzy would be a great advertisement of the glories of the ancient land.

The natives probably could dream up some attractive uses for the Olympic facilities in off-years.  Much wonderful history is available to convert into interesting opening ceremonies. It doesn’t seem many people are gunning for the Greeks, so providing excellent security should be relatively inexpensive.

Security looms large in my changed attitude about the Olympics. I really don’t care if the American contingent comes home with a truckload or a handful of medals, or any at all. My fervent hope these days is that the whole Olympic affair crosses the finish line without a single terrorist attack or other act of violence.