Saturday, May 2, 2015

jimjustselling . . .

(Actually, I'm not, but the good folks at HenschelHAUS are. And they're now offering FREE SHIPPING IN THE CONTINENTAL U.S.


What they're saying about Jim's provocative blog:
--"Jim is obviously making a name for himself--Mr. Irrelevant!"--Don Rickles
--"Almost too entertaining!  (Well, sort of.)"--David Letterman
--"Blogaschizzle!"--Calvin Cordozar Broadus, Jr. (aka Snoop Dogg)
--"The one thing I DO read!"--Sarah Palin
--"About what you'd expect from a dopey, sniveling piece of execrable skunk vomit from Wisconsin!"--Don Imus
--"The most fun you can have with your clothes on (but DO take a shower afterwards)."--Dick Cavett


By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life  
  • Based on what I've seen in the stands in recent baseball seasons, beer sales should be cut off after batting practice!
  • The road less traveled probably has fewer potholes, detours or tailgaters.
  • Transgender musings:  Do more men want to become women . . . or do more women want to become men?   What if you don't want to be either?
  • jimjustsaying's Social Tip of the Week:  "You should always leave a party 10 minutes before you actually do."--Cartoonist Gary Larson
  • What is your favorite memory of the Mike Huckabee candidacy?
  • Dumb Jock Quote of the Week: "How do you say 'adios' in Spanish?"--former major-league pitcher Clay Carroll.
  • If you haven't seen at least five stories about "mindfulness" this week, I hope you're out of your coma and the ICU very soon.  There's actually a book titled "Mindful Eating," which, when you think about it, is probably better than mindless eating, which is probably behind much if not all of the obesity epidemic.
  • Is it just me, or is Mitt Romney ( a guy I did NOT vote for in 2012) beginning to look better and better?  (Or as the great Frank Rich of New York magazine recently wrote:  "If it comes down to Hillary and Jeb, just shoot me now!")  A ticket of Romney and Rubio might be hard to beat.  I'm just sayin'.  (As long as Mitt keeps the dog off the roof of the car, I might be interested.)
  • Speaking of candidates, judging by the content of his program, Chris Mathews of MSNBC's "Hardball" must be under the impression that the election is next week when in reality the two political conventions are more than a year off.   But then again, he's just reacting to the political theater and posturing under way.  Way too prematurely under way.  It's like going to the carnival while they're still unloading the ride components from the trucks.  (Chris:  The fat lady isn't even dressed yet!)
  • I series-record "Hardball" and have to laugh when Mathews calls the program "The Place for Politics."  Since there's hardly anything dirtier than politics, I guess "The Place for Politics" sounds better than "The Sewer," which would be shorter, punchier and just as accurate.  It's almost old home week when I watch as I see former colleagues of mine such as Clarence Page (whose desk I inherited at the Chicago Tribune when he was drafted into the Army in 1969), David Axelrod, and James Warren to name some.
  • XIIDIGITATION:  The practice of trying to determine the year a movie was made by deciphering the roman numerals at the end of the credits. --"Sniglets," Rich Hall and Friends
  • Conventional wisdom from the punditocracy: “Air strikes? They would set Iran back by a few years. But even in a best-case scenario, the Iranians would be back at it before long, and they’d keep trying until they got a bomb or we got regime change."  (That's what they're all saying.)
  • Unconventional wisdom:  How soon would they be back at it if they got bombed every year?  (I'm uncharacteristically hawkishly just sayin'.)
  • "There are no such things as guilty pleasures, only pleasures."--filmmaker Quentin Tarantino
  • What a screwed-up world.  People show up at the Vatican in cargo shorts,  tank tops and flip-flops, and the guys doing ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball telecast are dressed like Wall St. bankers in three-piece suits.  
  • Overheard:  "There’s more time spent installing Adobe updates than actually using Adobe."
  • There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar--not that that ever happens anymore.
  • Did you know that there has never been a U.S. President who was an only child? Another barrier ready to be broken!
  • Fact:  Albert Einstein never learned how to drive a car.  (Hey, everyone has his or her limitations!)
  • "Most people don't grow up; most people age"--Maya Angelou
  •  Newspaper Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  Steamer.  As in, James J. "Steamer" Walker, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, April 29, 2015.  R.I.P., Mr. Walker.
  •  Sixtieth Wisconsin Town I Didn't Know Existed Until I Saw It Mentioned in a Green Bay Press-Gazette Obituary: Lakewood, Wis.  (R.I.P., Robert P. Landwehr, Green Bay Press-Gazette obituary, April 7, 2015).  Previous entries: Athelstane, Walhain, Duck Creek, Breed, Anston, Sobieski, Amberg, Osseo, Angelica, Brazeau, Waukechon, Sugar Camp, Kossuth, Lessor, Kunesh, Pulcifer, Cato, Florence, Greenleaf, Eaton, Poygan, Hofa Park, Hilbert, Hollandtown, Beaufort, Glennie, Harshaw, Bessemer, Crooked Lake, Tigerton, Goodman, Readstown, Dousman, Butternut, Montpelier, Cecil, Red River, Gillet, King, Laona, Kelly Lake, Glenmore, Tonet, Stiles, Morrison, Dunbar, Askeaton, Wild Rose. Neopit, Ellisville, Pickett, Flintville,  Forest Junction, Thiry Daems, Black Creek,  Mountain, Ledgeview,  Lunds and Suring.
  • It seems to me there are entirely too many "halls of fame," as I encounter a new one virtually every week.  Fairly soon we'll be advised that someone has been inducted into the Underwear Wearers Hall of Fame.  (Or something similarly silly and meaningless.)
  • "Don’t ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up."--G.K. Chesterton
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Scisco vestri medicus si Xarelto est vox vobis.  ("Ask your doctor if Xarelto is right for you.")


Drone warfare: Does the U.S. . . . 
You would think it would rank among the most serious (and legitimate) scandals of his presidency.  President Obama admitted last week that a CIA drone strike in Pakistan accidentally killed two kidnapped aid workers, proving the supposed safeguards against killing civilians are a sham.  But the reaction to the two men’s deaths in Washington, even from Obama’s Republican foes, was a collective "Oh, well."   Warren Weinstein, an American, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, died when a missile fired from a U.S. drone struck the al Qaida compound where they were being held hostage.   Under CIA rules, drone operators supposedly fire only when there is "near certainty" of the identities of the targets, and "near certainty" that non-combatants will not be injured or killed.   In reality, U.S. officials simply fired a missile at a compound in Pakistan’s tribal regions that they believed terrorists were using, discovering only later they’d killed two al Qaida militants as well as Weinstein and Lo Porto.
-- Jim Newell,

. . . really know  . . . 
Sorry folks,  but that’s war.   The deaths of Weinstein and Lo Porto are obviously regrettable, but we cannot halt all counterterrorism efforts because al Qaida takes hostages.  U.S. intelligence officials report that drone strikes have taken out 40 al Qaida leaders in Pakistan in just the past six months, and have left the decimated core of that group incapable of meeting to plot terrorist attacks.   Let’s not forget that these jihadists  would gladly nuke our cities if they had the chance.
--Ralph Peters, New York Post

. . . who it’s killing?
But for every terrorist we eliminate, how many do we create?   Yes, drone strikes have devastated al Qaida Central, but since those attacks began in 2008, al Qaida’s Yemeni branch has grown to some 1,000 members, and Yemen’s government was toppled by Houthi tribesmen angry that the U.S. had been given free rein to attack their country.  The perception that the U.S. callously kills Muslim civilians has also helped the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria recruit thousands of young men.  In the big picture, the evidence that drone strikes diminish terrorism is less than clear.
--Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

'Citizens United' hurting the GOP
When the Supreme Court invited the rich to pour unlimited sums into political campaigns with its Citizens United ruling, Republican leaders were ecstatic.  But that ruling is now backfiring on the GOP.  Billionaire donors who adopt candidates the way the Medicis adopted artists are now pouring so much money into primary campaigns that it’s washing away the Darwinian system of natural selection.   In the past, if candidates polled poorly or got badly beaten in early primaries, their money would dry up and they’d have to drop out.  But now unelectable candidates can be sustained by massive influxes of their patrons’ cash--prolonging the primary process and watering down the collective wisdom of voters.   In 2012, billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s money kept the unelectable Newt Gingrich in the race far too long, forcing Mitt Romney to the right and perhaps costing him the general election.  Something similar could easily happen this time around, with Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz all amassing huge war chests.   In a world of unlimited contributions, the sacred concept of one man, one vote no longer has much meaning.
--Dana Milbank, Washington Post

Why should we be concerned about Libya?
The effects of the conflict are already being felt across the region. Arms from Libya are turning up in Syria and in sub-Saharan Africa, and the steady stream of tens of thousands of illegal immigrants through Libyan ports has Europe in an uproar.  In the longer term, the chaos will likely deter the U.N. and NATO from embarking on similar interventions to protect civilian populations or topple dictators.

President Obama said last year the West had underestimated how much assistance would be needed once Qaddafi was forced out.  "If you’re gonna do this," Obama said, "there has to be a much more aggressive effort to rebuild societies."

In recent months, a constitutional assembly led by economics professor Ali Tarhouni has tried to write a new constitution that would unite the country by giving each faction a share of power--a plan backed by the U.N.  But militia leaders seem more interested in settling their differences on the battlefield.  "The only moderates in this country are the ones who are forced to be," says Tarhouni.  "The military situation has to mature more before the conditions are ripe for a dialogue."
--The Week

Tragedy in the Mediterranean
A better solution is to rescue and then deport these boat people.   That may seem cruel, but recession-​battered Europe can’t possibly welcome all the world’s needy, and fewer people would attempt this deadly journey if all that awaited them was a prompt return home.  Failing that, Europe may as well abandon all pretense of having immigration limits, for it will in effect have adopted open borders.
--Tom Wilson,

Why Iran’s dissidents want a deal
What’s the best way to empower Iran’s democratic reformers?   America’s hawks insist that even more crippling sanctions, threats of war, and perhaps real war will bring the dictators in Tehran to their knees, thereby liberating the Iranian people.   But Iranian dissidents such as Akbar Ganji adamantly disagree.   Ganji, the country’s preeminent anti-government activist, last week called the framework nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran a great victory for average Iranians and pleaded with the West to drop sanctions and threats of war.

Why?  A cold or real war with the West doesn’t weaken the mullahs; it gives them a propaganda tool with which to discredit reformers and enforce a crackdown on all dissent.  It also impoverishes  the very middle class best able to create and sustain democratic change. When 22 prominent Iranian human-rights activists were surveyed last year,  every one endorsed the negotiations.   Who do you think knows more about Iran’s internal dynamics: the people who put their lives on the line to fight theocratic rule or U.S. hawks for whom bombing is always the best option?
--Peter Beinart,

Why Swiss are so independent
Swiss nationalists are trying to claim our traditional neutrality as their own political property.   Switzerland has never joined the European Union, and the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) likes to say that’s because we are at heart "a people of hardworking mountain farmers."   The SVP has heroically kept us out of the EU, it claims, ensuring a political independence in keeping with our stubborn self-reliant spirit.

But the idea that independence is the provenance of one party is a fantasy.   In fact, almost every flavor of political leaning in Switzerland supports neutrality.  The radical leftists, for example, who gained influence after the 1968 student protests, adopted a radical critique of European and international organizations,  seeing them as imperialist and colonialist.  The Greens, for their part, have always had a "small is beautiful" ethos, arguing that sustainable living is easiest on a small scale. And libertarian-leaning private enterprise supports neutrality as a way of maintaining autonomy in business deals.

So, yes, we Swiss do have the skepticism toward European bureaucracy attributed to mountain folk, but all of us have it, including intellectual, urban, and cosmopolitan circles.   We’re not isolationist--far from it. We’re merely self-reliant.
--Andrea Franc, Neue Zürcher Zeitung

Hillary's 'new' populism . . . 
 . . .[is] a pose.   Would CEOs and hedge-fund managers be showering Clinton with donations if they thought for a second she was serious about closing their tax loopholes and redistributing their income? Clinton’s anti-elitist rhetoric  is purely strategic. Once in office, her fellow plutocrats know, she’ll  revert to being the shamelessly bought-off creature of billionaire interests.
--Matt Taibbi,

Asian education pitfalls
Americans should be careful before they try to mimic Asian educational systems, which are oriented around memorization and test taking. I went through that kind of system.  It has its strengths, but it’s not conducive to thinking, problem solving, or creativity.  Since 1964, when the first [international] exam was administered to 13-year-olds in 12 countries, America has lagged behind its peers, rarely rising above the middle of the pack and doing particularly poorly in science and math.  And yet over these past five decades, that same laggard country has dominated the world of science, technology, research, and innovation. America overcomes its disadvantage--a less technically trained workforce--with other advantages such as creativity, critical thinking, and an optimistic outlook."
--Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post

'Foodies' reach new level of absurdity
Food writers have gone completely off the tracks, said Phoebe Maltz Bovy. The high priests of the foodie movement used to pretend that they were offering useful dietary guidance for "anyone with ordinary, or even better-than-ordinary, grocery options."  But whereas the advice used to be to adopt a healthy diet rich in fruit and vegetables, food writers now insist that all produce also has to be both locally sourced and seasonal.  Proud "locavores" like New York Times writer Mark Bittman haughtily denounce the consumption of out-of-season greens, insisting that in winter months we should all rely on "long-keeping foods like grains, beans, and root vegetables."  You’re not "entitled" to eat Peruvian asparagus and Mexican broccoli! Bittman lectures, while jetting to Spain to explore local fare with Mario Batali or to Berkeley, Calif., to sample 40 kinds of lettuce.  He and the foodie elite now insist that we all take the time to research where every item we buy comes from, and shun supermarkets altogether.  This kind of dietary advice is not only useless to people in the middle and working classes, it’s useless to all of us "who aren’t elite food writers"
--Phoebe Maltz Bovy,


Our police union problem
A case study in the warping influence of self-dealing and interest-group politics 

An honest socialist
Could Bernie Sanders show Elizabeth Warren how to beat Hillary?

Christie's tilt at Social Security 
New Jersey governor lays out fiscally sound plan for shoring up program

Nine reasons to reject Hillary . . .
Why electing Mrs. Clinton would be a mistake

. . . and a Clinton scandal manual
Will the stock Clinton response be enough to weather this storm?

Stumbling into a wider war
Congress shouldn't be afraid to apply the brakes

Election musings
The choice in 2016 represents a generational crossroads

What's wrong (a lot!) about the 'Nerd Prom'
White House Correspondents Dinner is a shame and a sham

Let's get rid of all the lawns
They're  arguably the most foolish, destructive, annoying entities on Earth

Every effort is made to ensure that all links are still available.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • How come the astrologers never say that the day is unfavorable for reading about astrology?
  • Isn't it time to retire "kumbaya" as a code reference word for warm, fuzzy and wholesome?  (Or, more often, as Wikipedia puts it, as  an allusion to satirical or cynical ways that suggest false moralizing, hypocrisy, or naively optimistic views of the world and human nature?) As in, "Let's just all have a kumbaya moment and pretend everything's alright."
  • Am I the only one getting a lot of junk e-mail these days about Toenail Fungus Laser?  (The heartbreak of toenail fungus . . . .)
  • Ready for a taste of Iraqi TV?  You didn't hear it from me, but I understand "Saddam's Wackiest Public Execution Bloopers" is coming out soon on DVD.    
  • Oxymoron of the week: Political science.
  • Speaking of politics, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is being assailed for his "lack of foreign policy credentials."  
  • Right.  Because the highly credentialed foreign-policy experts already in place are doing so well!  Just look at what they've done so far:  Brought peace to the Middle East; forced  ISIS terrorists to surrender, apologize and report to Guantanamo Bay; and persuaded Vladimir Putin to give everything back to the Ukrainians.  How could a neophyte like Walker match any of that!  
  • I feel sorry for any woman married to a man who would say, "We're pregnant."
  • Faded Word of the Week: "Sore," in the sense of being angry or mad.  (You know you're watching an old movie when someone says, "Hey, you're not sore at me, are ya?")
  • Love this report about "medical" marijuana (the biggest oxymoron going?):  Laboratory testing found that legal weed sold in Colorado is often contaminated with fungus and the chemical butane and has little or no cannabidiol, or CBD--the compound that makes medical marijuana "medical."
  • People ask me how I spend my time, and I usually tell them by reading Homer in the original Greek.  (Jethro?  I usually depend on the English translation.)
  • The number:  12 tons.  The meaning:  The amount of feces are left on Mt. Everest each year, according to a recent report by Grinnell College.   Not to mention, The Week reports, an estimated 50 tons of garbage—from broken tent frames to used oxygen canisters to food wrappers—that are strewn along the route up the mountain, along with many of the frozen, half-buried corpses of the more than 200 climbers who have perished attempting the ascent. Little wonder the mountain has earned the nickname "World’s Highest Garbage Dump."
  • Overheard:  "You don't have to floss all your teeth, just the ones you're planning to keep."
  • Get yourself some polyester, some wax, some carbon black, some fumed silica, some Yellow 18, some Red 322, some Blue 15:3 and throw in some Charge Control Agents, and what do you have?  Laser printer toner, that's what (and I'm taking Wired magazine's word for it, as the jimjustsaying Testing Lab is temporarily off line).
  • Corporate logic:  A fast-food chain I know of switched all their TVs from CNN to another channel because of complaints about a steady diet of depressing news stories. Yes, The Weather Channel is a much better choice, with all those pleasant hurricane, blizzard, wild fire and tsunami stories that are their constant fare.
  • You know you're in a small town if the bank has a TV in the lobby tuned to RFD-TV.
  • Next time you're in a restaurant, ask to be seated in the No Cellphone Converations Allowed Section.
  • jimjustsaying's Pique of the Week:  Not Really-a-Gift Gifts.  Like those tote bags and such your insurance man or financial advisor sends you on your birthday that has their firm's name emblazoned on them, as if to say:  "Here's sort of a gift, now go and advertise our company wherever you go."  
  • Have you ever met anyone who will admit to watching a shopping channel?
  • Nothing brings out the hypocrisy in people like property taxes.  They'll sit on a bar stool and brag,  "We bought our house for $59,900 in '64 . . . and now it's appraised at $184,500, yukyukyuk . . .!"  
  • But mention a possible $200 increase in their annual property tax (for frivolities such as schools or infrastructure improvement), and they start sputtering and spitting nails.  
  • "He who does not enjoy his own company is usually right."--Coco Chanel
  • Wondracide: The act  of murdering a piece of white bread with a knife and cold butter.--"Sniglets," Rich Hall &Friends
  • Newspaper Obituary Nickname of the Month:  "Turtle."  As in, Dennis R. "Turtle" Voss, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obituary, Feb. 5, 2015.  R.I.P. Mr. Voss.
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Nusquam video vidi visum hic , populus , iustus eo.  ("Nothing to see here, folks, just move along.")

Monday, March 2, 2015


By Jim Szantor

Rhetorical questions, questionable rhetoric, and whimsical observations about the absurdities of contemporary life
  • I had a dream that I was playing golf behind a foursome of Brian Williams, Bill Cosby, Lance Armstrong  and A-Rod.
  • I think I'd vote for a politician who'd say:  "I'm gonna lie--all politicians do it.  But I promise, if elected, that I'm gonna hold it to a minimum.  I'm not going to lie as much as that other guy!"
  • Whatever happened to "Beavis and Butt-head"?
  • Sometimes I feel like a Polaroid in the Instagram of life!
  • As if the Wisconsin winter isn't bad enough just enduring the elements, one most also endure a dozen or so people (store clerks, passersby, et al.) admonishing you to "Stay warm!" about 15 times a day.  
  • Really?  What, exactly, are my options?  ("Gee, I've never tried LSD, so, what the hell, I think I'll give hypothermia a whirl.")  
  • Then there are the numbskulls on TV reminding us to "Bundle up!"  As if we're mere infants who just parachuted into the cold climes, not adults who have weathered this weather for decades.
  • Speaking of winter weather: Why this universal one-upmanship tendency with snowstorm (or rainfall) totals:  "We got 22 inches!" "Oh, yeah, WE got 23!"   People act as if they were personally responsible for the numbers . . . that they're taking credit for them, in a way.  Or that they are supposedly made of sterner stuff for having "survived" that extra inch (assuming the totals are accurate, which they may not be). Weird.
  • Overheard: "People who live in trailers are like actors who never get called to the set."
  • Wish I had better news, but there is absolutely nothing that can prevent the periodic outbreaks of jihad-related violence.   Trying to stop it is like asking the Pentagon to cure the common cold or asking the wind not to blow up to hurricane force.   
  • Wise words:  "It’s undeniable that we treat our presidents as larger than life, simplifying the stories we tell. They’re not always mighty frigates parting the waters. They’re just as much buoys on the tides of history, rising and falling with the swells."--Frank Bruni, New York Times
  • Product Choice Explosion Tip:  After you find a toothbrush (or similar item) you really like, buy a few more soon because if you wait, the packaging will have changed and you'll never be able to find it again.  Or if you can, the "new and improved" version will be new but not improved.  In fact, it may not be half as good.
  • "When we talk about race relations in America or racial progress, it's all nonsense. There are no race relations.  White people were crazy.  Now they're not as crazy.  To say that black people have made progress would be to say they deserved what happened to them before."--Comedian/actor/filmmaker Chris Rock in New York magazine.
  • Another in jimjustsaying's List of Foreign Words With No English Equivalent:   fremdschämen (German); myötähäpeä (Finnish)--the kinder, gentler cousins of schadenfreude, both these words mean something akin to "vicarious embarrassment." Or, in other words, that feeling you get when you watch "Meet the Parents."
  • Next time you sit down to a square meal, tell your friends that the term comes from 18th Century England, where food was served on square wooden plates.
  • Bumper Sticker of the Week:  "Experience  is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted."
  • "No two persons have read the same book."--Edmund Wilson
  • Parsleyvania:  The place where of all the fancy restaurant garnish that is never eaten comes from.--"Unexplained Sniglets of the Universe," Rich Hall & Friends
  • jimjustsaying's Jargon Word of the Week:  Loopome, a map of the roughly 10,000 three-dimensional loops in human DNA.  Because looping controls gene activation, Wired magazine reports, identifying abnormalities in the loopome may help diagnose cancer and other diseases.  (Kind of hard to work into a conversation, but there you have it.)
  • Memo to NFL:  Roman numerals don't make the Super Bowl any more important or make the league look more intelligent. Pretentious?  Yes.  Intelligent, no?  I notice we're never told in Roman numerals how many NFL players are under indictment for various felonies.
  • Consumer Confession: I was going to get one of those nifty George Foreman Grills you see being pitched all the time  on TV, but when I got to the store and saw the price tag, I got cold feet.  So I got the Leon Spinks Grill instead!
  • Obituary Headline Nickname of the Month:  Skid.  As in, Robert "Skid" Marks, Kenosha (Wis.) News obituary,Feb. 18, 2015.
  • It was such a slow news day that Donald Trump called a press conference to announce that he's lactose intolerant!
  • What do Russia, India, Mongolia, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Vietnam, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Bhutan, Laos, Tajikistan and Afghanistan have in common?  (All 14 of those countries border China.)
  • Memo to all corporate executives:  If you want to give us a "free gift" (classic redundancy!),make it a real gift instead of one that turns us into walking billboards. Otherwise, don't bother!  I don't need another T-shirt or ballcap, much less ones with your brand name on it.
  • Today's Latin Lesson:  Quisnam permissum cattus ex pera?  ("Who let the cat out of the bag?")