Cool! An end to internal combustion engines!

I, for one, am totally in favor of Biden’s announcement about cutting our carbon emissions in half by 2030. Imagine the benefits!

The sound of a motorcycles, like Harleys, revving up next to you at a stop sign – gone.

The sound of two Harleys crackling and spitting down a bucolic country road – gone.

The sound of hundreds of Harley’s threatening the eardrums of beachside vacationers – gone.

And because the Harley growl will be gone, all those bearded, bandanna-headed, pot-bellied, leather-wearing men will have lost their threatening, get-out-of-my-space persona. Instead they will just be overweight, out-of-shape has-beens trying to look macho. Instead of tough guys, they will be called arti-farts.

Thanks to Biden, that earsplitting Harley roar will disappear, replaced by the sound of birds, wind, water and other natural sounds that most people can only read about. 

The same thing can be said of 18 wheelers and Corvettes, Mustangs and motorboats, all lawn mowers, leaf blowers or snowplows.

Imagine airports whose only sounds are “whoosh!!”

Imagine a weekend morning in which you can sleep late without the neighbor’s gasoline powered something rattling your brain…well, those of you without little kids or puppies. 

Biden is excited about reduced carbon emissions; I’m excited by reduced noise emissions.

While you’re at it, imagine walking down a street in New York – or any major city – without inhaling gas and diesel fumes. 

Imagine motorcycles, motor scooters, taxis, cars, and trucks and trains whizzing by and leaving nothing in their wake except breathable air.

Hey, as long as we’re in the city, imagine no more soot! Imagine the Empire State in New York, the Tribune Tower in Chicago, or any classic building in any city in the country looking as pristine as they did when they first went up in the 1920’s or 30’s. In the last few years, the city of Philadelphia spent a fortune cleaning the exterior of City Hall. Imagine that money going to, I don’t know, improving the schools, instead. 

On the other hand, without engine noise, who would know when that line of Hell’s Angel was about to plow you under? Who would know why Corvettes were so cool? Who would know when it was time to get up on a Saturday? 

Plus, without loud diesel or gas-powered engines, what would drown out rap or rock music?

Oh yeah. And then there’s Climate Change and survival of mankind, not to mention the Earth itself.

Two steps forward and one step back, right?

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Russia and China To End Cold War With U.S.

In a joint announcement today, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin announced an end to their conflicts with the US.

“Da. We were heading toward another ‘Cold War’”, said Putin, “but fortunately never got there due to actions by the US.”

“Most assuredly!”, said Xi. “their recent activities have made this a safer world.”

“We no longer have to plot secret ways to kill Americans,” said a stern Putin, shirtless astride a white horse in the snow-covered tundra. “They are killing themselves.”

“Most sincerely!”, said Xi, in a crisp black suit with matching tie and matching hair. “America is up to one mass killing a week, now. And that doesn’t include all those onesies and twosies in cities and towns across that great land – every day now!”

“Of course, they did take advantage of our technology with AK-47’s”, said Putin.

“And the availability of our cheap AK-47 and other knockoffs”, said Xi with a smile.”America has 400 million guns now, more than it has people!”

“We do not even have to cyber attack their electric grid any more,” offered Putin. “They did it all themselves this winter. I’ve always loved Texans. Yippy Kayoo!” 

He slapped his thigh, causing the horse to rear up and snort. Two body guards quickly pulled XI aside. Neither his hair nor his smile were affected.

“And”, said Xi, “our spies don’t even have to divide and conquer. The Donald has done that for us!”

“Nyet!”, said Putin. “What about our work on Facebook and other social media! Look at all those Americans who won’t wear masks or take the vaccine! ”

“Most assuredly. Please accept apology… And there are 500,000 fewer Americans now than there were 18 months ago, due to a certain—

“—Wait a minute. So that was your virus?!”

“Most assuredly not!” says Xi quickly. “I’ve told you that over and over! I was going to say – due to a certain leader who denied the virus until it was too late and then blamed everyone else. Let’s not China-bash now, Vlad. We’re getting along so well.”

Putin dismounted and put an arm around Xi’s shoulder.

“You’re so right, Xi. Let’s go try that new drink now, Tea and Vodka.”

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

Does your “give-a-$#!tter” work?

I am on the phone listening to a female robot’s soothing reassurances: ”Thank you for holding. We value your call. Someone will be with you as soon as possible”. Which she repeats between phrases of soothing music.  

I am sure she means well. She probably has a family, maybe even kids of her own. I wonder if she gets a coffee break. Does she go out with her robot friends for lunch? Is she really as nice as her tone indicates? Is she that way with everyone? Hey! Maybe she likes me! 

Nah.  She doesn’t even know me.  Who am I kidding?

Or maybe she does! Maybe she’s at the end of a computer owned by Amazon or Google that knows everything about me, including my good looks, charm, and personality…!

Then I wake up. It’s 7AM and time to greet the loneliness of a crowded pandemic. 

A friend of mine once asked her husband why he didn’t seem to “give a $#!t” anymore. 

“My ‘give-a-$#!tter’ is broken.” he said.  

Which eventually broke her “give-a-$#!tter”. Now they’re divorced. Fortunately, their “give-a-$#!tters” still work for their kids.

A “give-a-$#!tter”, for those of you who still believe in Superman,  is basically a meter for caring. He didn’t care, so his “give-a-$#!tter” was broken.  

Which pretty much describes this country now. Republicans don’t care about Democrats and vice versa. Rural folks don’t care about city folks. The rich don’t care about the poor. Big companies don’t care about their customers, (although they do “give-a-HUGE-$#!t” about their customers’ data).

It was not always this way. Despite the constant lauding of American individualism today, the early Americans focussed more on community than lore would have it. They had to to survive. Wagon trains were communities. If your “give-a-$#!tter” broke, you were kicked out. And bad things happened to you. Like death.  

Through the years, projects too big for individuals became community efforts, from small towns all the way up to the Federal government. “United we stand; divided we fall” was the idea.

Our “give-a-$#!tters” all worked.

Vestiges of that culture remain here and there: public schools, public water, our highway system.

But as the country grew more successful, western writers and later Hollywood ignored the culture of community and glorified rugged individualism: If you work hard, you succeed; if you don’t, you die… and good riddance. 

Now nearly half of the country considers the notion of a safety net to be socialism, which is just another word for communism. 

Our recent leader, who personifies a broken “give-a-$#!tter,” identified that divide instinctively. And, under his leadership what had been a weak seam joining the two sides, became a huge gap.  Immigrants were denigrated. The pandemic was ignored, killing hundreds of thousands. White Supremacists, once furtive,  came out of their sewers and attacked the Capitol. 

“Now is not the time to debate gun control” says the NRA after Atlanta and Denver and every other mass shooting, followed by genuflecting to the Second Amendment. Imagine the number of lives that would have been saved had the words “muskets” or “cannon” been used in it instead of “arms”. 

Or if the NRA’s “give-a-$#!tter” worked.

Broken “give-a-$#!tters ” are way more common now than, say, during the last national crisis, WWII. Today, even though it takes no effort to wear a mask or stay a few feet apart as a sign of caring about others, many Americans, including government leaders, vehemently refuse.   

Valuing community hasn’t completely disappeared. There isn’t a religion in the world that isn’t based on functioning “give-a-$#!tters”. Sports teams have it. So do families. Even neighborhoods.

But broken “give-a-$#!tters” are trending now. Political leaders used to care about people. Now they care about polls. Businesses used to be “relationship driven”; now they’re “data driven”. You and I don’t matter, data does. Artificial Intelligence does. 

Which can get discouraging. Well, except in my case. Because I know there’s a robot out there, somewhere in my dreams, who really does “give-a-$#tt”.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

How To Make America Rich Again

“Sacré Bleu! How could you do that!” says Buddy, my standard French poodle the other day. He speaks French, English and Bark! I only speak English, so I am always at a disadvantage.

“Do what?” I ask, although I have an idea.

“Tell me those things were treats?”

“Those ‘things’ were heart worm pills, which you always refuse to take.”

“You lied.”

“If I hadn’t wrapped them in cookies, you could get heart worm and die. I had to lie.”

He waters a nearly dead bush, nearly dead because he waters it a lot.  

“That’s what’s wrong with humans. You lie”, he says dismissively.

I recall a conversation with a Penn sociologist who said everyone lies multiple times a day, mostly “good” lies, to be sure, but lies just the same.

I hate it when he’s right.

“Dogs don’t lie. Another reason we are superior to humans. It’s a très sad part of nature.” 

I can’t argue. It is sad. We walk along in silence. I think about all the lying, and for what? Then, I get an idea, an unbelievably great idea! 

“I have an idea! “ I say. “An unbelievably great idea!”  

He ignores me, busy leaving a personal souvenir on a neighbor’s lawn.  

“The country is in trillions of dollars in debt, right?” I say, picking up the souvenir with a plastic bag (I am ever the good neighbor).

“Is that your news of the day?”

“Nope. This is. I know where to get the money to pay the debt. And how to make America rich again!”

He stops and looks at me. “I can smell stupid, you know.” 

“A new tax!” I say proudly. “The Liars Tax. Anytime you lie, you have to pay a tax. Simple, huh.”

“Is that a joke? It is. It’s a joke, right?”  

I am undaunted. “So, say you’re a politician and you want to get elected and you promise to, I dunno… be honest”.


“You know that’s a lie, because all politicians lie. It’s part of their DNA. We all know that.”

“Bien sur. Of course.”

“Enter the Liars Tax. The bigger the lie, the bigger the tax! Can you imagine the money that tax will produce just from politicians!”

“One problem,—“

“—It’s not just politicians. It’s everyone.  And I’m not just talking about obvious lies. I’m talking about legal lies, too, you know the ones that lawyers write for companies—”

“A big problem —”

“—like Comcast or Verizon – in fact all advertisers! And think about the Pharmaceutical Industry. The Liars Taxes they will pay boggles the mind! ” I’m on a roll. “Car dealers will have to pay in advance. ”

We’re walking briskly now. “So will the media”, I say. “Can you imagine how much money the government will get from Fox News alone!!”

“Yes…”, he says. “It will be zero!”

“Zero!  Are you—?”

He looks at me with a cross between disdain and pity. If you’ve ever had a French poodle, you know what I mean.

“Who’s going to decide?” he asks.

“Decide what?”

“Which is the lie and which is the truth?”

“OK…Oh!  How about Donald Trump! He told 30,000 lies in just four years. Takes one to know one, right!”

The look becomes a bit sadder. If I didn’t know better, I’d say pity was creeping in.

“OK, OK…”, I say,  “How about the clergy?”

“They believe everyone.”

“OK, OK…Athletes?”

“Deflategate, Houston Astros…”


“You’re kidding, right?”


“Which party, yours or mine?”

“Um… teachers?”

“Of evolution or religion, and whose version of history?”


“So I can be accused of eating homework…”

“Oh…” I’m starting to run out of steam. “OK…Just let me think about this a minute… or three…”  

“Yes, Henry. You do that”, he says in a soothing voice. “And when you have an answer, tell just me, OK? Meanwhile, let’s just keep this between you and me. Don’t even tell your kids, your family…the neighbors…strangers, especially strangers.”

We’re back at our front door. I open it and he lets me go in first. “Meantime, why don’t you relax on the couch, turn on “Leave it to Beaver” or “Superman” or “Disney Channel” and relax? OK?…Good boy!…That’s a good boy!…”

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)

What Texas is teaching the rest of us

Half the state without drinking water. Electric bills of thousands, one for $16,752. Gas lines and wind turbines frozen and inoperable. Millions without power. Ted Cruz shamed for escaping to Cancun because he could, while his constituents were dying inside their houses.

That Texas swagger got pretty stilted this week. The storied Lone Star state, bastion of rugged male individualism, self-sufficiency, and humble bragging, got blown away by an old lady: Mother Nature. 

At first Governor Greg Abbott and the coal-oil-gas cabal blamed the renewable energy sector – wind and solar – an easy target. But then the word got out that wind and solar provide only 20% of the state’s energy on a sunny, windy day, and a mere 7% on a cold, snowy day.

Dang it!

So now, he’s blaming the state energy sector, a little closer to the truth, but also a pile of horse puckey. The Texas energy sector was designed built and modified by Texans, and no-one else.

In the 1930’s the Federal government started regulating interstate transmission of electric power. Texas, by that time, the muy grande hombre of energy and anti-regulation, immediately refused to send or receive power across state lines. 

Texas didn’t need energy or regulation from anyone, pardner!

With no regulation, energy competition in Texas became the wild, wild west.

In the 1970’s, in an effort to calm that wildness, the state formed the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT. But the people who ran ERCOT were still oil-coal-gas good ol’ boys, so little really changed.  

Natural gas machinery, housed inside buildings in the rest of the country, were left outside in Texas. It was cheaper. Wind farms and solar farms, had no anti-icing features. It was cheaper. Gas lines and pipelines were not winterized. It was cheaper. 

Lower costs meant bigger profits. Yahoo!

In 1999, Governor George W. Bush went even farther. He deregulated the Texas energy sector, leaving it a purely market-driven, supply and demand system.

Yippy kai yay!

But when Arctic weather hit the fan in 2011, Texas did nothing. So it happened again this year, only far more catastrophically. Supply dropped, demand grew, prices skyrocketed. And, because Texas had refused to join either of the two main power grids serving the rest of the country, Texans were left out in the cold – literally – and facing utility bills of thousands of dollars.  

The Lone Star state felt pretty helpless and lonely last week.

Compare that to New Jersey. When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, New Jersey residents lost power for weeks. New Jersey utilities, following regulations, billed them only $15 that month vs a normal bill of around $150. No-one was charged thousands of dollars.  

“As ye sow, so shall ye reap”, some wise old guy (I think his name was Jerry) said eons ago.

But before we non-Texans laugh up our sleeves at anyone with a twang, we might look at ourselves, too.  

Take the Covid19 crisis. Some states sent doctors and nurses to New York in the beginning. New Yorkers returned the favor later. Even though it has the fifth largest economy in the world, California couldn’t deal with the last two years’ fires by themselves; they needed and got help from other states. New York and its surrounding states are incredibly dependent on each other, economically and culturally.

That is why we call ourselves the “united states”. We help each other out in dealing with things as large as a pandemic or as small as winter storms.

That concept translates equally to international situations. Nationalism is a nice idea in terms of culture and history, but not when it alienates other countries who could help us. We can’t fight off Russia’s or China’s or Iran’s attacks without the help of our allies. We can’t take on the next pandemic without our allies along with other countries. We might get to zero carbon emission by ourselves in 30 years, but we can never survive climate change itself without the help of the entire world.

As Lincoln might have said: we need each other, maybe not all the time, maybe not most of the time, but absolutely some of the time.  

Just ask Texas.

(If you like this, pass it on. If you don't, pass it on anyway. Why should you suffer alone?)