Archive for June, 2010

Instant, Dehydrated Albuquerque

June 26, 2010

In his fine book, Coming into the Country, John McPhee called Anchorage instant, dehydrated Albuquerque. Well, if Anchorage is instant, dehydrated Albuquerque, then Albuquerque is instant, dehydrated Phoenix which, in turn, is instant, dehydrated Los Angeles disproving the adage that some substances only flow down hill.

I just finished reading a book by Douglas Preston called Cities of Gold. Preston, in the late 1980s, rode horseback along as much of Coronado’s route as possible. Here he is describing the scene from the West Mesa of Albuquerque, looking east down on the city:

The city began abruptly: here was desert and there was city. There were no suburbs, no outlying farms, no thinning of houses at the edges. Where the city’s water system ended was where dense human habitation stopped. Between us and the beginning of the city lay a warren of crisscrossing dirt roads amidst a sea of garbage . . . It was as if the city were some great nest from which the insects periodically removed their excrement and their dead, dumping them at the periphery.

Never in my life had I been so repelled by the ugliness, the bizarre grotesqueness of the city. It wasn’t Albuquerque itself . . . .

There was something profoundly anti-human about the modern city: and that anti-humanness was generated almost entirely by the totalitarian exigencies of the car. I could hardly believe, looking down on Albuquerque, how much the car had dictated the shape and character of the city; how much it filled the city with loud mechanical sound, poison gas, and mephitic stink; how much hot shining vulgarity was generated by asphalt, traffic, gas stations,parking lots, and the like. In one great moment of clarity I realized that this invention, the car, more than anything else across history, has forced humankind to remake itself in a new, ugly, machine-like image.



Hondo 2004-2010

June 20, 2010

In a just universe, bacon would be good for you, trains would have cabooses, and dogs would live as long as humans.

But the universe is not in the business of justice and bacon is bad for you. Cabooses have disappeared from freight trains. And, let’s face it, a train without a caboose is like a sentence without a period

And our pets don’t live long enough.

It’s just not fair.

So it wasn’t fair last week when our Border Collie, Hondo, suddenly and without any warning at all began wobbling on his feet. By the time we got him to the vet half-an-hour later he was slipping away. Nothing the vet tried helped and our six-year old beautiful Hondo was gone.

Hondo was fairly certain that I am incapable of taking care of the chickens without him and, for a while anyway, he was right.

Hondo was a special needs dog. We had to cook his food for him from scratch every ten days or so, the result of an injury during his puppyhood. But, lulled into a false sense of security by his healthy diet, I thought he would probably outlive all the other dogs.

I was wrong.

Border Collies understand the universe. Accordingly, they die as they live: at high speed and without hesitation.

We should emulate them.

That'll do, Hondo. That'll do.

Humor and the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

June 10, 2010

It is difficult, if not impossible, to find anything humorous about this NASA photo of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Eleven humans and thousands of other sentient beings have lost their lives and millions of other lives have been disrupted and permanently damaged. Millions of gallons of raw crude oil foul the Gulf and its shorelines, notwithstanding Mississippi Governor Barbour’s claim that only a few tar balls have shown up on the state’s shores. Perhaps that is his idea of humor?

Nonetheless, some humorists are making the effort and we report on two here.

First, here is Robert Mankoff, the New Yorker cartoonist, comparing BP to King Canute.

And here we present Bryan Clarke and John Dawe, the Australian humorists who appear on Australia’s ABC news at 7:30 Thursdays nights in Australia. (Because people in Australia are upside down, does that mean the news show is on at 7:30 A.M.? And what is Thursday upside down?)

A comment about this piece. Humor can’t be analyzed too closely. As E.B. White once wrote, ““Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process and the innards are discouraging. . .”

So we won’t dissect this piece beyond telling you that Brian Clarke pretends to be an interviewer and John Dawe pretends he is a clueless BP executive being interviewed about the oil spill in the Gulf. The piece is humor at its best, showing us our own foibles. Here is a conversation humanity is having with itself about our addiction to oil.

Is the Air Force Legal?

June 6, 2010

Thoroughgood v. United States Air Force
District Judge Strychnus issued this ruling from the bench today.


Once more Marjorie Thoroughgood comes to this court.  This time, it seems, she has been reading her copy of the Constitution of the United States. This case is an example of the mischief that happens when ordinary citizens read the Constitution.  Such reading is better left to trained lawyers and judges.  This court feels like the Catholic Church must have felt after the invention of the printing press and ordinary people started reading the Bible on their own instead of listening to their priests tell them about it.  All kinds of deviltry resulted.

Nevertheless, here she is with a real case and it is the job of this court to decide it.  I do not sit here to avoid difficult decisions.  The People pay me to make decisions and I do.  And since I was just speaking of the Bible, I remind the public that I am not like many judges: I know the point of that story in the Bible about King Solomon and the baby:  Solomon did not cut the baby in half.  Cases come to me; I input the facts, mechanically apply  the law and out comes a legal decision.  I don’t cut babies in half.   What is more, my personal beliefs play no role at all.  I am an unfeeling but purely rational thinking machine.  I am completely unemotional, lack all bias, feel no prejudice, always use the “Oxford” comma,  and never render a decision based upon my own upbringing, background, and experiences.

I am a robot of the law.

Which is why this is such a perplexing case.  Mrs. Thoroughgood wants me to issue a court order outlawing the United States Air Force.  Yes, you read that correctly.  She wants me to shut down the entire United States Air Force. Even the Thunderbirds!

The Thunderbirds

She bases this astounding suggestion on actual words she finds in the Constitution; put there by our sainted Founding Fathers.  So there is no mistake, I quote those words exactly as they appear in the Constitution:

Congress shall have the power . . .
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

Those are the actual words.  You can look them up.  They are found in the Constitution at Article I, Section 8.  The careful reader will note at once that no mention is made of an Air Force.  Only a Navy and an Army are noted.  Worse, the words “Air Force” appear no where else in the document either.  I know: I read the entire Constitution word for word last night and it is completely silent on the subject of an Air Force.  Not one word anywhere in the entire thing, including all the Amendments, about an “Air Force”. Not even in Article 2, Section 2, where we are told:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States . . . .

Not a word about an “air force.” Those are the words of the Constitution and I can’t change them less I be accused of being one of those liberal activist judges who are always trying to usurp power by “interpreting” the Constitution.  Unless I depart from the Original Intent of the Fathers, I have to apply the words they wrote, consequences be damned.

Thus it appears that neither Congress nor the President is authorized to establish or pay for an Air Force. Congress attempted to do it in the National Security Act of 1947, creating the Air Force as a separate branch of the military and ending the U.S. Army Air Corps, which served nobly and well in World War II. The modern Air Force provides the Nation with its aerial, space, and cyber warfare capabilities. But even an Act of Congress cannot stand if it contravenes express language of the Constitution. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137 (1803).  It is for the Judicial Branch to make such decisions and I am the Judicial Branch for this case. See generally, Posner, “What am I, a Potted Plant?” Overcoming Law (1995)

I can imagine the consternation this court’s ruling will create, but I can’t help that. The injunction will issue. Costs to Ms. Thoroughgood.



A new blog category exists now entitled “It Is So Ordered.” Into that category will be dumped all these faux judicial opinions which will issue from time to time from officious, dim-witted fake judges, many of whom – coincidentally – will come from the “originalist” or “fair meaning” school of judging so admired by Justice Scalia.


The two photos of the USAF Thunderbirds were taken by USAF TSgt.Sean M. White and are in the public domain.