Thursday, March 16, 2017

Another $3 Million Golf Weekend

In what is turning out to be a typical week for J. Lord Dampnut, he: said stupid stuff, lied about some other stuff, took stuff away from poor people, picked a pointless fight with an ally, tweeted about Snoop Dogg, broke a dozen campaign promises, possibly leaked his 2005 tax form to the press, sent troops to a war zone, and will take a long golfing weekend. * * * * * * * * * * * * * Speaker of the House Paul Ryan responded this week to the CBO projection that 24 million Americans would lose their health insurance under the Republican Health Care plan: "This is encouraging. If we can get that number up to 30 million or even higher, we will be able to give even larger tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires. It's a win-win scenario; poor Americans will have the freedom to have no health insurance and rich people will receive huge tax cuts."* * * * * * * * * * In a short statement today in light of the CBO determining that 24 million Americans would lose their health insurance under the current Republican plan, and premiums for those still covered might rise as much as 750%, the White House and Congressional Republicans clarified their position on health insurance and health care reform: "We really don't give a shit whether poor people have health care or insurance or not. Get real."* * * * * * * * * * In other clarifying statements this week J. Lord Dampnut said: "When I said we WOULD NOT cut Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security, what I meant was WE WILL cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security." * * * * * * * * *"When I said everyone would have insurance and it would be great and cost less, what I meant was 24 million people would lose their health insurance, it would be crappy, and it would cost a lot more." * * * * * * * * *** * J. Lord Dampnut's press secretary Sean Spicer said today: "When the President said Barack Obama tapped his phones at Trump Tower, he didn't actually mean Obama or tap or phones, he meant the microwaves ovens were taking pictures of him." * * * * * * * * * * * * * After avoiding the issue for decades, Congress is finally ready to make gun deaths quieter. "Nothing is quite as disturbing as hearing gunshots in the neighbor's house or on the street." The legislation would make it legal for anyone to purchase a silencer for their guns. * * * * * * * * * * Here is a quick summary of the President's statements about his executive order on immigration: J. Lord Dampnut - June - We must ban Muslims. July - We must ban Muslims. Aug. - We must ban Muslims. Sept. We must ban Muslims. Oct. - We must ban Muslims. Nov and Dec. - We must ban Muslims. Jan. to a Hawaiian judge - Our ban has nothing to do with religion. * * * * * * * * * In a flurry of activity before heading down to Mara Lago Golf Resort in Air Force One for a $3 million weekend of golf, Dampnut demanded to see the birth certificate of the Hawaiian Federal judge who put a hold on the Executive Order to ban Muslims. The President also proposed eliminating all money for the arts and for Meals on Wheels for the elderly: "We cannot make America great again until we stop feeding old people," he said.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Poor Care

Low income and sick? Don't worry. You too can get the new Republican health plan: Poor Care. We will guarantee that every low income American will receive Poor Care at a doctor's office or Poor Care at a hospital emergency room. Pregnant? Don't worry. You can get Poor Care anywhere but Planned Parenthood. Already have kids? Don't worry. They will also receive Poor Care. Poor Care for everyone who is not rich is our motto! Poor Care will available in every rural area in America, urban centers, suburbs. Under the Republican plan, Poor Care will be the new normal. "Believe me," said J. Lord Dampnut, "if you are of lower income under my Administration, you will receive Poor Care, very Poor Care." * * * * * * * * * * * Speaker of the House Republican Paul Ryan, discussing health insurance in a power point presentation before Congress, doesn't think it is right that people in good health help pay for people in not so good health. Dude. That's what health insurance is. * * ** * * * * * * * * So far everybody likes the Republican plan to replace the ACA (the plan takes health insurance away from 10 million Americans increases costs to almost everyone covered to give $600 billion in tax cuts to people earning over $250,000 a year) except the AARP, the AMA, the association of hospitals, nurses, conservative Republicans, moderate Republicans, all Democrats, and 20 million Americans who now have health insurance who would not otherwise have it. * * * * * * * * * * A full 10% of the Republican no health care bill has to do with lottery winners who receive medicaid. And strangely enough, I have no problem with someone who wins $10 million being disqualified from medicaid. Nevertheless, it can't be that large a problem. Republicans seem to regularly use the "outlier" situation as the common denominator. So because someone somewhere won a bundle and used a technicality to get medicaid, 10 to 20 million Americans must therefore have their health insurance taken away? Seems like a bad idea to me.* * * * * * * * * * * The removal of the word "Affordable" from the bill's title pretty much covers it. * * * * * * * * * After seeing parts of Ben Carson's speech to employees of HUD, the only job I can see Ben Carson actually doing well is creepy televangelist. * * * * * * * * * * People who don't understand health insurance are writing the ACA replacement bill, people who don't see a connection between carbon dioxide and global temperature are in charge of environmental protection, people who don't understand education are in charge of the Dept. of Education, oil industry executives connected to Russia are in charge of the State Department, religious ideologues in charge of scientific research, Rick Perry is in charge of our nuclear arsenal.....and so on.......people who undermined democracy are in charge of our government. Ask yourself: What could possibly go wrong?"

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Spellcheck, Spell-check, and Spell check

It was a late night. I was working on some Jim Beam over ice. The TV series Bones was on, but I wasn’t really watching. I was writing. Earlier, wind had been howling like a hungry coyote at the window. But now it was quiet. A quiet had set over the neighborhood like the quiet that sets over a neighbourhood at this time of night -- a quiet neighborhood that at this time of night is quiet when the quiet sets in. Not like noisy neighbourhoods at this time of the night that are noisy, but like quiet neighborhoods and this time of night that are quiet. Like I said, I was writing. I was writing this. I had a dream last night. The dream was about spell checking programs. I have Microsoft Word 2016 and if I misspell a word I get that red squiggly line under the misspelled word. But this one time it was a problem. This time, and this time only, I was right. Microsoft Word 2016 was wrong. I don’t remember the word, but I was strangely optimistic that I would. In the dream, I dreamed/dreamt the line: After a terrifying encounter with Microsoft Word 2016 spell-checker, I was strangely optimistic for the future. The dream was about a man having a bad experience with the spell check feature in Word 2016. There was a word. I don’t remember the word. But it was a word. It had letters. It had sounds. It was a word. But I don’t remember the word. What that experience was was lost shortly after waking up……something to do with the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, or so I read. Peptides or enzymes or something. Nevertheless, spell check can be a handy aspect of writing. I advise my students to be sure their spell check program is turned on. You know, whisper sweet nothings. Spell check will not, however, detect an incorrectly used word if spelled correctly: many homonyms will pass as correct spelled even though they are not the right word. Right/write. Wrung/rung. Taut/taught. Not/naught. And think about advisor/adviser, or British English and American English. I mean, we do speak English do we not? There are about 175 words spelled differently in English English: for example, Color/Colour. Many spelling variations occurred when the first moveable type printers, those English fellows hunched over their moveable type presses dimly lit by oil lamps, printing their preferred spelling of words. Nedley Smythington spelled it one way. Basil Hickenlooper in the next village spelled it another way. Snodgrass Oyston in the next. And so on. Some spellings caught on, some didn’t. Sometimes both or several caught on. Near to my heart (and palate) is whiskey/whisky. According to an online (on-line) encyclopedia: Much is made of the word's two spellings: whisky and whiskey.[3][4] There are two schools of thought on the issue. One is that the spelling difference is simply a matter of regional language convention for the spelling of a word, indicating that the spelling varies depending on the intended audience or the background or personal preferences of the writer (like the difference between color and colour; or recognize and recognise),[3][4] and the other is that the spelling should depend on the style or origin of the spirit being described. There is general agreement that when quoting the proper name printed on a label, the spelling on the label should not be altered.[3][4] Some writers[who?] refer to "whisk(e)y" or "whisky/whiskey" to acknowledge the variation. The spelling whiskey is common in Ireland and the United States, while whisky is used in all other whisky producing countries.[5] In the US, the usage has not always been consistent. From the late eighteenth century to the mid twentieth century, American writers used both spellings interchangeably until the introduction of newspaper style guides.[6] Since the 1960s, American writers have increasingly used whiskey as the accepted spelling for aged grain spirits made in the US and whisky for aged grain spirits made outside the US.[7] However, some prominent American brands, such as George Dickel, Maker's Mark, and Old Forester (all made by different companies), use the whisky spelling on their labels, and the Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, the legal regulations for spirit in the US, also use the whisky spelling throughout.[8] "Scotch" is the internationally recognized term for "Scotch whisky". (Wikipedia) Ghoti deserves special mention- also from Wikipedia: The first confirmed use of the word is in a letter from Charles Ollier to Leigh Hunt. On the third page of that letter, dated 11 December 1855, Ollier explains, "My Son William has hit upon a new method of spelling 'Fish'." Ollier then demonstrates that "Ghoti is Fish." An early known published reference dates to 1874, citing the above letter. The letter credits ghoti to William Ollier Jr. (born 1824). Ghoti is often cited to support the English spelling reform, and is often attributed to George Bernard Shaw,[4] a supporter of this cause. However, the word does not appear in Shaw's writings,[3] and a biography of Shaw attributes it instead to an anonymous spelling reformer.[5] Similar constructed words exist that demonstrate English idiosyncrasies,[1] but ghoti is the most widely recognized. Notable usage: In Finnegans Wake, James Joyce alludes to ghoti: "Gee each owe tea eye smells fish." In the constructed language of Klingon, 'ghoti' is the proper word for "fish". And while I'm the subject of phonetic spelling --- why isn't phonetic spelled with an 'f'? Dictionaries eventually attempted to standardize spelling with some success although there were some issues: the first strictly English dictionary was titled "A Table Alphabeticall" by Cawdrey 1604. Samuel Johnson's dictionary gave way several hundreds years later to The American Heritage dictionary. Cawdrey begat Johnson begat Webster begat American Heritage and centrifugal and centripetal forces continued to work as prescriptivists engaged and gained temporary advantage back and forth with descriptivists to this very day. Now here’s the thing. Spell check is a modern word and can be spelled spellcheck, spell-check, or spell check.........that is so f***** up. I mean why even bother? Layers of irony live in this spell checking world in which spell check can be spelled three different ways. It's the centrifugal force of the internet v. the centripetal force of print mediums. It’s a metaphor for the variety and spice of English spelling. It’s the beauty of anarchy and chaos, individuality and freedom. Here’s one for you: “I spelt ‘learnt’ right.” Or “I learnt that ‘spelt’ was a correct spelling of the past tense of spell.” We have no problem saying, “She dealt the cards.” Or “I felt sorry for him.” It does get pretty random. One explanation of alternate past tense endings is the older original English words had those “irregular” endings, while newer words adopted a more “regular” -ed past tense indicator. Young children even apply this principle to new words they learn: the past tense of run becomes “runned.” Or I “drinked” my milk. One internet study analyzed randomly selected documents and found the same words spelled in different ways in the same documents in the following frequencies: 1 organise / organize 12.4% 2 centre / center 6.5% 3 focussed / focused 3.0% 4 recognise / recognize 3.0% 5 analyse / analyze 1.7% 6 advisor / adviser 1.5% 7 learnt / learned 1.4% 8 finalise / finalize 1.2% 9 emphasise / emphasize 1.1% 10 labour / labor 1.0% Modern English spelling is largely based on Middle English spelling but pronunciation has changed. Linquists call this The Great Vowel Shift.
In general, the tongue moved higher in the mouth over about 250 years. It’s hard to say quite why this occurred. Tighter pants perhaps? Rancid food? Prominent citizens with speech impediments? Colder weather? Bad oysters? But then came the printing presses. From Wikipedia: “The printing press was introduced to England in the 1470s by William Caxton and later Richard Pynson. The adoption and use of the printing press accelerated the process of standardization of English spelling, which continued into the 16th century. The standard spellings were those of Middle English pronunciation, and spelling conventions continued from Old English. However, the Middle English spellings were retained into Modern English while the Great Vowel Shift was taking place, which caused some of the peculiarities of Modern English spelling in relation to vowels.” Of course, you need to know the International Phonetic Alphabet to interpret the above chart. So here:
Of course, there was a far earlier “consonant shift” which occurred in Proto-Indo-European which predates written language entirely and analyses/analyzes relationships among cognate language and sounds shifts where d’s become t’s and p’s become f’s and so on…… Pater and father. Fader and father. And thousands of inter-language correspondences. Jacob Grimm of the fairy tale Grimm brothers researched this phenomenon.
English is at the tip end of one of those Germanic/West Germanic strings sandwiched between Danish and Frisian. One of my favorite courses in college was Dr. Richard Lane’s History of the English Language. Another was Dr. Gordon Mundell’s Linguistics. But I digress from my I had a dream essay. So now you know. So be sure to cheque your spelling……….. And, sweet dreams.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

I liked that 1966 movie in which a Russian submarine runs aground off New England causing panic among the local villagers. A hodge podge group of locals dressed in their WW II uniforms armed with muskets and swords is ready to defend their village and go to war. Alan Arkin, Carl Reiner, and Eva Marie Saint starred in this movie and by sheer luck, human kindness prevails over cold war mentality, and a major international confrontation is avoided. * * * * * * * * * So the thing is in this politics of the absurd playing out in front of us is J. Lord Dampnut and his campaign cronies conspired with Russia and the FBI to influence the US Presidential election and then tried to cover it up. This cover up is unraveling at an increasing pace this week. * * * * * * * * * It turns out that Attorney General Jeff Sessions used campaign funds to travel to a city to meet with the Russian Ambassador- "I did not have sexual relations with that man, the Russian Ambassador." * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Here's a simple guide to understanding the Russia controversies: Trump and his campaign conspired with the FBI and Russia to influence the election in Trump's favor. Why would he do this? He's hundreds of million in debt to the Russian mob and cut a $500 billion deal with Putin, owner of Russia's largest oil company, and Exxon Oil to lift sanctions, enrich Putin, himself, and Tillerson, former Exxon CEO and the new Secretary of State, protect himself from the Russian mob, and continue his Russian money laundering operation. Crimea doesn't matter; Ukraine doesn't matter. His entire campaign staff met with Russians regularly, every day, all the time, 24/7. Russian diplomats, by the way, are dropping dead all over the globe over the last month. Probably just a coincidence. Another thing to keep in mind is that J. Lord Dampnut lies about everything, all the time, everywhere, no matter how trivial or important the thing is. * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut today accused former President of performing an illegal brain scan on him at Trump Tower. "They found nothing," J. Lord said. "They found nothing in Melania or my children either." * * * * * * * * *
Dumbest thing said by J. Lord Dampnut this week: "Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Dude - we all knew it, you ridiculous bagwumple fart.* * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut says 94,000,000 Americans are out of the work force. He has a plan to put about half of them back to work: cut their Social Security and Medicare. "Deporting 12 million illegal Mexicans will open up a lot of fruit/vegetable picking jobs, fast food jobs, landscape work, and day labor which our senior citizens can do," he said. "Most grandmothers know how to cook." * * * * * * * * * * * I'm reading J. Lord Dampnut's litany of the horrors he inherited from the former President: ISIS on the decline, record stock market, 4.8% unemployment, 20 million new Americans with health insurance, zero net immigration, budget deficits on the decline. Compared to what President Obama inherited from George W. Bush, J. Lord Dampnut inherited a fortune. Oh wait, he did -- from his dad. * * * * * * * * * New Republican slogan being market tested: "Republicans - Making Billionaires Rich Again." Apparently, it tests well with the top one/tenth of one percent.* * * * * * * * * * * The image of Trump supporters waving Russian flags at a pro-Trump rally was in the news this week. Apparently, the audience was tricked by anti-Trump operatives who handed out the flags. Oops. * * * * * * * * In other strange technology news this week: My computer notified me the other night that there were no new notifications. Go figure.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Desperately Seeking Humor

It gets harder and harder to find anything humorous to write about in the events of the day. Irony, on the other hand, is ubiquitous. For example, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who has worked for years to increase the numbers of guns in the hands of everyone including the mentally ill and terror suspects on FBI no-fly lists, in schools, in shopping malls and movie theaters, in churches, now refuses to hold town hall meetings with his constituents for fear of being shot. The layers of irony are deep. * * * * * * * * * *Another example of irony I saw was that J. Lord Dampnut, who campaigned on rebuilding infrastructure cancelled federal grant money for a high speed train project in California. * * * * * * * * * There is irony in "fake news." The term itself is subversive and destabilizing. Undermining the "not fake news" media is the strategy of authoritarianism. Engendering distrust of "news" bolsters the propagandist's goal of promulgating helpful "fake news." One result is a population more afraid of fake threats than real threats. Anti-muslim, anti-semitic sentiments are being promoted and inflamed and stochastic terrorism is occuring on a regular basis. The murder of Indian-Americans in Kansas City this week is an example. Threats directed towards Jewish Community Centers and Muslim mosques are on the increase. The president's executive order on banning Muslim immigration targeted seven countries who never sponsored or launched a terrorist attack on America. A citizen in the United States is more likely to be shot by a toddler than a terrorist. * * * * * * * * * ** The issue of "fake news" is of such magnitude that colleges and universities are including the issue in teaching circle discussions and developing resources for teachers. My own school, Metropolitan Community College in Omaha, recently sponsored such a teaching circle discussion. The use of social media for promulgating "fake news" is now ubiquitous. J. Lord Dampnut's use of Twitter to dispatch his mendacity is well noted. From the size of his rallies to the size of his hands (and other anatomical features), J. Lord tweets prolifically, and faster than fact-checkers can respond. And most of his supporters ignore the fact-checking. * * * * * * * * * My use of the anagram, J. Lord Dampnut, is subversive, in a small way. I do not recognize him as the legitimate president of the United States. He conspired with Russia and the FBI to interfere in the election, spreading misinformation, suppressing facts, on a magnitude heretofore unseen, and won the election with a minority of the popular vote, after which he proclaimed a huge victory and a mandate to deconstruct the US government. The Orwellian, Hellerian, Vonnegut-esque, Kafkaesque world of current truth-denial is breathtaking. President Obama was a good-hearted, self deprecating man with a sense of humor. J. Lord Dampnut is mean-spirited, arrogant, prick whose idea of a joke is mocking a handicapped reporter at a campaign rally. * * * * * * * * * * * I like to watch VEEP reruns on my netflix account at the end of the day. It is an Emmy winning HBO comedy that's been around since 2012. Set in the Vice-presidential offices, it combines wacky, bumbling characters doing wacky, bumbling stuff day after day, and is usually worth a good-for-the-soul belly laugh or two at the end of the day. * * * * * * * * But back to my mundane, circumscribed world. Yesterday, I went for a walk just as the weather was changing. From a light rain at the start, it turned to large frozen wind-driven pellets one of which struck the top of my right ear. My ears were quite cold and had that extreme sensitivity that comes from being that cold. Not yet cold enough to be numb, but rather that sweet-spot of pain sensitivity. That stung for several minutes. * * * * * * * * We had thunder and lightning last night in Papillion, Ne ---- in February. That's pretty rare. The cold front has finally moved a bit south and now we are having snow, much to the relief, I imagine, to all the Omaha area public school officials who cancelled classes today.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Too Many Frogs and The Politics of the Absurd

So J. Lord Dampnut conspired with Russia and the FBI to smear Hillary Clinton and get his sorry ass elected as President of the United States. J. Lord Dampnut owes perhaps billions to the Russian mob and the entire administration is vulnerable to Russian blackmail. Other than that, things are looking up. Back in the good old days, a foreign country and the FBI conspiring with a presidential candidate to steal an election was a bad the current Republican Congress, not so much now. * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut vowed this week to ferret out White House staffers who are leaking evidence of Russian influence in the administration. * * * * * * * * * Trying to make sense of absurdity was a growth industry in the 20th century. That literature has warned us of J. Lord Dampnut: Ionesco's "Rhinoceros," Heller's "Catch-22," Kafka's "The Trial," Orwell's "1984," Kesey's "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," the works of Vonnegut, Camus, Beckett, Ginsberg.........The literature of the absurd now has become the politics of the absurd with "fake news" being generated by a president who claims it is others who are creating fake news. My rule of thumb is if this president accuses someone of something, he is doing it ten times over himself...... This rule has stood the test of time. * * * * * * * * * * The Russian connection continues to manifest itself: both oil pipelines profit Russian steel, the Secretary of Exxon State has a several $ billion dollar oil drilling deal with Russia once the sanctions are lifted. Michael Flynn, National Security Advisor for several weeks before getting fired, is heavily invested in removing the sanctions of said oil deal.* * * * * * * * * A Russian naval cruiser is moving up and down the Atlantic Coast just outside US waters -- my theory is that they are preparing to evacuate the White House just in case. * * * * * * * *It is worth noting that Vice-Admiral Robert Harward, J. Lord Dampnut's choice to replace fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn turned down the job offer and said something about a "shit sandwich." * * * * * * * * * In a cost-savings move today, J. Lord Dampnut proposed eliminating the entire US Intelligence apparatus. "I already get most of my information from Russian Secret Police anyway, so why all the duplication? We can save tremendously if we outsource. We'll save billions," Dampnut said. * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * In other news this week: Saying there are just too damn many species, J. Lord Dampnut wants to change the name of the Endangered Species Act to The Elimination of Redundant Species Act. "There are thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of species we haven't even discovered yet, so what's the big deal? Nobody will miss some frog somewhere -- there are like 5,000 species of frogs. We're going to do the same thing I'm doing with government regulations: for every new species discovered, we are going to eliminate two. It's like government -- some downsizing is in order." * * * * * * * * * *As a rule, the person who tells you they are the least racist person you will ever meet, isn't. * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut claimed he "inherited a mess" from President Obama at yesterday's press conference of the absurd. As Colbert pointed out, the only thing J. Lord Dampnut "inherited" was a $100,000,000 fortune. J. Lord Dampnut releases statement regarding his third weekend in a row at his Florida golf resort: "It's party time!"

Friday, February 10, 2017

Yes We Toucan

I like sitting in my living room surrounded by my books and my art and my various knick knacks. Feels like home....... Wait, I am home............. I did a small painting of a toucan yesterday (you can see it in the upper left of the photo). They are such colorful birds and a remarkable destination point for evolution and adaptation. Although the beak is the largest feature of the bird, it is very light and made up of bony struts filled with soft tissue and keratin and serves a thermoregulation function as well as enabling the bird to reach into holes in trees to find food. My five minutes of research did not find an explanation of the coloration of the beaks, but I'm guessing it might be related to diet, or mating behavior, or camouflage adaptations. Toucans "are members of the family Ramphastidae of near passerine birds from the Neotropics. The Ramphastidae family is most closely related to the American barbets. They are brightly marked and have large, often-colorful bills. The family includes five genera and over forty different species," according to an on-line encyclopedia. Toucans inhabit tropical and sub-tropical areas and are also the official mascot of the Brazilian Social Democrat Party. I'm telling you all this because, well, I have to write about something when I send out these blogs. * * * * * * * * * * * On the political front, J. Lord Dampnut lost another court battle over the Ban Muslims executive order when the 9th Circuit Federal Court upheld an injunction against the ban. Showing his extreme displeasure with that ruling, J. Lord Dampnut tweeted in ALL CAPS. * * * * * * * Canada threatened to go to war with the United States if J. Lord Dampnut appoints Sarah Palin as Ambassador to Canada. "We would consider that an act of war," said a member of Quebec's parliament. "We have tanks. Not that many, but we have tanks. Vive Canada," said Canada's Prime Minister. * * * * * * * Kellyanne Conway, White House Propaganda Minister, got a slap on the wrist for pushing Invanka Trump's clothing line on Fox News. I can't help but point out that her father, J. Lord Dampnut, has not put his businesses in a blind trust, is profiting from his world wide empire, and is in constant and direct violation of the Constitution's emolument clause. * * * * * * * * * * J. Lord Dampnut apparently left a national security briefing early in order to tweet against Nordstrum for dropping the clothing line of Ivanka Trump. * * * * * * * * *Turns out J. Lord Dampnut accidentally appointed Steve Bannon, apocalyptist, to his National Security Council.* * * * * * * * * During a call in which Putin from Russia offered to extend the 2010 Start Treaty in which the two countries agree to limit nuclear weapons, J. Lord had to interrup the call and ask his aides just what that was. Maybe a little prep before phone calls would be a good idea. * * * * * * ** * Betsy DeVos, the new Secretary of Education who knows nothing about education, started her tenure with a tweet in which she joked about not being able to find the pencils. Tweeterdom responded with stories from all over the country about teachers having to purchase pencils, paper, and other supplies for their classrooms. * * * * * * * *Republicans holding town halls meetings in their districts are being shocked to discover that people who finally have affordable health insurance are not so crazy about having it taken away. * * * * * * * * And from France came one of the most bizarre and frightening headlines I've seen lately: Investigators Say French Police Who Sodomized Black Man With A Baton Did So By Accident. * * * * * * * * * By the way, the Toucan painting is for sale. $50.