Wednesday, April 1, 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
  • 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.")


What war with Iran would look like
If the U.S.  does not reach a nuclear agreement with Iran, said Hans Binnendijk, war may be inevitable.  But Americans should be "clear-eyed about what that would mean." Before the U.S.  could launch any air strikes on Iran’s multiple nuclear complexes, it would first have to take out the country’s air force and sophisticated air defense systems.  "Such an operation could require hundreds of sorties over several days." Tehran would respond by attacking oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, potentially triggering a global oil crisis, and by launching terrorist attacks on American interests around the world.  These attacks would fuel outrage in America and demands for regime change.  Ousting Iran’s leaders would require yet another ground war in the Middle East--this time, with a nation of 80 million people.  Thousands of Americans could die in fighting that would go on for years.  None of this means we should rule out war with Iran if negotiations fail and Tehran does attempt to build nuclear weapons.  "But war must be a last resort.  Sugar-coating its consequences does no one any favors."
--Hans Binnendijk, Washington Post

Is America's democracy doomed?  Three views:
1.  Not to alarm anyone,  but our democracy is going to collapse.   That may sound like a typical overreaction to the gridlock and partisanship of the Obama era, but the present dysfunction in Washington is actually a known defect of presidential democracies--and often an omen of looming catastrophe.   In nations with parliamentary systems, citizens vote for local representatives, who then consent to be led by a prime minister.   But in the U.S., both president and Congress are elected directly, giving both a valid  claim to speak for the people.    The Constitution provides no real mechanism for resolving disputes between the two, so it’s usually only the unwritten norms of civility and protocol that keep chaos at bay.   If those norms stop being observed and both sides play constitutional hardball--the president repeatedly uses executive orders to bypass Congress, for instance, and Congress interferes with the president’s foreign policy--the whole system can quickly disintegrate.  One can only hope that  it won’t be violent.
--Matthew Yglesias,

2.  The defects in our system are real, , and could  push us deeper into a true presidential democracy" in which every president wields the expansive powers that Obama’s now claiming.  But that wouldn’t necessarily be a disaster.    So long as the presidency’s powers seem within reach to both coalitions   every four years, it’s a system both parties could probably live with.
--Ross Douthat, New York Times

 3.  I’m guessing our democracy will muddle through.    Our leaders will occasionally unite to pass legislation, but many complex problems-like our bloated tax code and crumbling infrastructure--will go unaddressed.  The cost of our democratic dysfunction won’t be a spectacular collapse.  It will be the slow divergence between what our living standards could be and what they are.
--Ezra Klein, Vox​.com

What are America’s ties to ISIS?
Does anyone believe the U.S.  when it claims to be shocked by the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria?  The Americans were able to blockade Iraq thoroughly ahead of the first Gulf War, and for years afterward,  not even a bird was allowed in without permission.   And that was long before the U.S.  developed its fleet of drones, which now crisscross the Middle East’s skies, watching everything.

So why doesn’t the U.S.  know how the Islamic State and other groups are funded?  Are their drones for some reason uniquely incapable of monitoring ISIS members?  We know that some U.S.  aid and weaponry intended for the Kurds have ended up in ISIS hands.   The U.S.  must have some role, overt or covert,  in supplying these bloody organizations with human resources, money, and weapons.

Do I sound paranoid?  Recall that under President Reagan, the U.S.  armed, trained, and funded the mujahedeen in Afghanistan, who later became the Taliban and al Qaida.   Even now, the U.S.  seems content with verbal condemnation of ISIS atrocities, doing little militarily to stop the group.   The U.S.  knows how ISIS developed,  who funded it, who supported it, and who opened borders to it.    America is hiding the truth--why?
--Jihad Al Mansi, Al Ghad

The English were once as depraved as ISIS
The English were once as evil as ISIS.  The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria slaughters women and children by the hundreds, beheads people in public to terrify their families, and smashes priceless artifacts to dust.  Under Queen Elizabeth I, we did all those things in Ireland.  We, too, drank of "the poisonous cocktail of religious self-righteousness and nascent nationalism that so intoxicates ISIS."

In a 1569 campaign, for example, Protestant English troops massacred every Irish Catholic they found, beheaded the corpses, and laid the heads in a path to the British commander’s tent.  Five years later, the Earl of Essex "hunted down and butchered 400 women and children." A few years after that, Lord Grey had 600 Spanish troops who surrendered in Ireland executed, along with all the Irish they were protecting.  An approving Elizabeth told Grey, "You have been chosen the instrument of God’s glory." Throughout the colonization of Ireland, Catholic churches and ancient Irish sites were demolished, and all of this was done in the name of God.  As we condemn ISIS and fight against it, we must remember that "the human talent for depravity does not belong to one people or one faith or one era."
--Mathew Lyons, New Statesman

Not all sex crimes are equal
At the risk of being labeled a rape apologist, I’m going to say what many reasonable people have been thinking for a while.   Not all sexual assaults are equal.

Violent rape is not the same as psychologically coercive sex, which is not the same as regrettable sex, which is not the same as fielding an unwanted touch or kiss at a party.   All these experiences are bad, but they lie on a spectrum  ranging from truly horrific to merely annoying.  In today’s grievance culture, though, we’re taught to believe that a drunk college student who has sex she neither exactly consented to nor exactly resisted  is as much of a victim as  he clearly brutalized woman.

Campus activists argue that it’s wrong to "privilege" one kind of trauma over another.   But it’s insulting and dangerous to liken the fight against rape culture--a phenomenon that is "terrifyingly and appallingly real"--to the petty complaints of grievance culture.   By shaking so many individual trees, its adherents create distractions from the perils of the big, terrifying forest.  And we can’t afford such distractions any longer.
--Meghan Daum, Los Angeles Times

Hillary a feminist?
Who is Clinton trying to fool? asked .  We’re talking about a former First Lady who spent "years defending husband Bill from accusations that he raped, sexually assaulted, or groped women," in one of the most "vicious victim-blaming campaigns against women in recent history." Her platitudes about equality jar with the fact that her family’s foundation has accepted multimillion-dollar donations from Gulf states with horrendous records on women’s rights--like Saudi Arabia, where women aren’t even allowed to drive.  To top it off, Clinton is now denouncing the gender wage gap, even though women who worked in her office while she was a U.S.  senator were paid 72 cents for every dollar paid to men.  Does that really sound like the behavior of a "feminist champion"?
--Ashe Schow,

The union mirage
 If unions are such a boon for workers, why must they force people to join? Many skilled workers justifiably believe they’re hamstrung by a  one-size-fits-all union contract.   Others don’t want to bankroll the bloated salaries of union bosses or pay for their left-wing  partisan political activities.    So let’s hope other states follow Wisconsin’s example and  give American workers what liberals used to say they were in favor of: the right to choose.
--Stephen Moore, Washington Times

Where fire rained down from the sky
Americans learn about the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but do they know what else their military did here?  Five months before the Enola Gay made its fateful flight, the U.S.  Air Force firebombed residential Tokyo, dropping 1,700 tons of incendiary bombs and killing some 100,000 civilians.  The March winds whipped up "fire tornadoes" that burned thousands alive.  Many others suffocated to death.  Tokyo’s rivers were clogged with corpses.

The commander who ordered the raid, Curtis LeMay justified the indiscriminate bombing by arguing that people in private homes were producing small parts for use in weapons, and therefore the entire city was a weapons factory.  Seventy years later, victims of the Great Tokyo Air Raid have never been compensated.  In 2007, more than 100 survivors tried to sue the Japanese government, arguing that if Japan hadn’t bombed Pearl Harbor, the air raid would not have happened.  The Supreme Court rejected the suit, though, and the survivors got nothing.  Now that Japan’s government is trying to change the constitution to allow our military to fight overseas, we should all remember that in war civilians pay the highest price in suffering and death."
--Japan Times editorial

Sushi and white wine, please
During their historic ascent of Everest, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay survived on sardines, dates, and tinned apricots.  Today’s climbers can pay to enjoy a much higher degree of luxury while conquering nature.  At base camp, 17,598 feet up the mountain, high-end expeditions offer yoga classes, sushi, and bars fully stocked with wine, beer, and liquor.   On the peak, there is even enough cell reception for climbers to send a celebratory tweet.

When last year’s tragic Khumbu Icefall avalanche left a section of the mountain all but impassable, a wealthy Chinese businesswoman provoked uproar by paying for a helicopter to ferry her and her team of Sherpas above the accident site.  Before his death in 2008, Hillary himself lamented the commercialization of Everest.   "Having people pay $65,000 and then be led up the mountain by a couple of experienced guides, isn’t really mountaineering at all."
--The Week

The enduring power of business cards
There is much about business that is timeless.  For proof, look no further than the thriving trade in business cards.  Plenty of people predicted that exchanging paper cards would fall out of fashion as our daily lives migrated online.  Instead, swapping cards remains as close to a universal ritual as you can find in the corporate world.  Even at the trendiest Silicon Valley gatherings, people still greet each other by handing out little rectangles made from dead trees rather than tapping their phones together.  Why? Because even as technology takes over more and more formerly human functions, machines cannot transform acquaintanceships into relationships.  Building social bonds remains an essential part of business, and cards still fill an important role in establishing connections and reinforcing bonds.  In a world dominated by both globalization and virtualization, they serve as a powerful, physical reminder that you have actually met someone rather than just Googled them.   Just as having dinner is a better way to get to know someone than Skypeing, exchanging paper cards is still an excellent way to initiate a lasting relationship. They may be old-fashioned, but business cards are here to stay.
--The Economist


Psychiatry couldn't have prevented Germanwings disaster
Our mental lives are determined by forces that amplify and distort one another and make accurate predictions very difficult

The unsung war-zone journalists
Reporters stay in their hotels, relying on ‘bang bang’ footage provided by agencies

High voltage?
Battery science has barely changed since 1859

Early onset of Clinton fatigue
The e-mail crisis brings back memories of the sleazy underside of the Clinton years

For richer or poorer
In a substantially poorer past, lower-income Americans found a way to cultivate monogamy, fidelity, sobriety and thrift 

Why health-care tech is still ailing
Electronic records will transform medicine, eventually 

How drugs get their names
Weird brand spellings reflect host of concerns

The sportswriting machine .  .  .
 .  .  .   may herald the recap’s demise as a particularly interesting genre of writing

Roadies rule!
Support crew members often outearn the musicians

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

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?")


A Dozen Doozies:
The 2014 Baseball Season's Most Improbable Oddities

April 24:  Brett Gardner of the Yankees goes 0-for-3 against the Red Sox but scores four runs.

May 4:  The Giants sweep a series against the Braves without managing one hit with runners in scoring position.

May 18:  The Rockies turn a "retroactive" triple play when a runner is called out for interference.

June 6:  Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays hits a home run, throws out a runner at the plate, gets a putout on a fan interference call and lines into a triple play.

June 16:  On the day Tony Gwynn Sr. dies, Dee Gordon becomes the first Dodgers leadoff hitter to reach base five times since it was done three years earlier by Tony Gwynn Jr.

July 24:  The Padres score nine runs in the sixth inning against the Cubs without  an extra-base hit.

Aug. 10:  The Angels fail to record an assist, something that has happened just four other times in a nine-inning game in the modern era.

Aug. 15:  The Tigers give away Miguel Cabrera bobbleheads that read "Most Valuable Player, National League."

Aug. 27:  Scott Van Slyke of the Dodgers hits his 10th home run of the year--and the fifth off Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks.

Sept. 1:  Adam Dunn homers in his first game with a new team for the third time in his career (Nationals, White Sox, A's).

Sept. 7:  Adrian Beltre of the Rangers drives in the only run of the game in the first managerial victory for Tim Bogar--his teammate of 13 years ago.

Sept. 28:  Henderson Alvarez of the Marlins, who in 2013 threw the first no-hitter in a season finale in 29 years, is the victim of the Nationals' Jordan Zimmerman's season-finale no-hitter.  Both were 1-0 games.

 MVP (Most Valuable Publication: AthlonSports for supplying these fun facts.)

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Betcha when A-Rod and Madonna dine out, neither looks at the prices on the menu . . . Mark my words, if anyone can break The Rocket's record of seven Cy Youngs, it's Ricky Nolasco . . . Wore my football helmet to cut the lawn to see what training camp is like . . . If Yao and Yi were on the same team, would they have to share a translator? . . . Worst thing about global warming?  The Winter X Games will seem like the Fall X Games . . . Betcha dollars to dougnuts that when Roger Federer was a kid, he had a friend with a tennis court in his backyard . . . Goose Gossage is now my favorite Hall of Famer named Goose other than Goose Goslin . . . Anyone who blocks a field goal should get a free pizza . . . If Floyd Mayweather is mad at you, it's gotta cost you some sleep . . . How come when NCAA hockey teams win tourney games they don't cut off a piece of the net? . . . If I took the Bucks GM job, it would have come with a reserved parking spot and a decent health package . . . Question:  If you're in the Olympic torch relay and you need to use the john, what do you do with the torch? . . . Write it down: Jeff Suppan is going to make the good people of Milwaukee forget about Warren Spahn . . . Sometimes when I see Nicky Saban screaming at someone on TV, I think he's yelling at me!