Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rush Limbaugh is a Democrat

Mack Hall

Last week Jack Lawrence of the American Civil Liberties Union invited y’r ‘umble scrivener to participate in a debate on, well, civil liberties at Lamar’s fine new John Gray Auditorium across the street from Vincent Beck Stadium in Beaumont.

I was deputed to help represent the Republican point-of-view, which might not sit well with real Republicans, along with a sharp young Lamar undergraduate and real Republican, Andrew Greenberg.

The Democrat panelists were Dr. Bruce Drury and Stuart Wright, and the ACLU panelists (Democrats and ACLU – aren’t those pretty much synonymous?) were Jack Lawrence and Judy Whose-Last-Name-I-Didn’t-Get.

The topics were terrorism, torture, and privacy, and we debated before a packed house, said packing consisting mostly of air space since the American people stayed away by the thousands.

The evening was quite a merry one, with no screaming, yelling, or ear-biting, but perhaps that’s because no one among us was in favor of terrorism, torture, or violations of privacy. My proposal that our general disapproval of the death penalty might be modified with regard to internet service providers was met with approval by the assembly.

After the meeting broke up with handshakes all ‘round, a few of us stayed to continue talking late into the night. This was the sort of informal occasion when the ACLU, and, indeed, most people are at their best, since no one is trying to score points off anyone else.

During this time I was at last able to present my thesis – there was no logical opening for it earlier – that Rush Limbaugh is in fact a Democrat, based on his threat to move to a foreign country, Costa Rica, if Congress didn’t do things his way (

Another argument that Rush Limbaugh is a Democrat is that he is an education expert who in many states cannot legally visit a grade-school campus because of his drug issues with illegally doctor-shopping for OxyContin and for his possession of Viagra without a prescription.

Rush Limbaugh is a college dropout who bills himself as the Doctor of Democracy. There’s nothing shameful about busting out of college; some of us have accomplished this academic indistinction many times (ahem!), but you just don’t call yourself a doctor unless you’ve earned it.

Rush Limbaugh is a union-basher who, by his own admission on the radio, belongs to a union. His union is good; all others are bad.

Rush Limbaugh is an all-too-common American because he is a political junky who never even registered to vote until he was 35 (

A counter-argument can be made that Rush Limbaugh is a true inner-circle Republican because he is a military hawk and drawing-room generalissimo who responded to his draft notice with a note from his own doctor stating that he suffered the agonies of a pilonidal cyst (translation: butt-pimple), which the U.S. Army took at face (so to speak) value, and so bothered his leisure no further.

But let’s be fair: Rush Limbaugh is not Nancy Pelosi or John Edwards, he hasn’t been married as many times as Larry King, he is generous in numerous charities, and he does have a birth certificate.

Editor’s note: Next week Mack will be writing from an undisclosed location.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Nation of Beggars

Mack Hall

Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
Once I built a tower, up to the sun, brick, and rivet, and lime;
Once I built a tower, now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?

- E. Y. Harburg, 1931

One pities the dozens of beggars in decaying third-world countries who line the roads with their cans out and who importune the traveler in parking lots. I’m speaking of the USA, of course.

Last Saturday in Beaumont a large pickup truck pulled up next to me and the driver grinned at me with her remaining teeth and assured me she wasn’t going to hurt me. When the first words from a stranger are that she’s not going to hurt you, you know you’ve made a friend.

My new friend said her husband had abused her, and showed me a band-aid on her arm to prove it. He was now in jail, she said, and assured me that she was a country girl, and I said no and rolled up my window; she still had some teeth, and they looked dangerous when bared. I didn’t catch the rest of her monologue, but I don’t think it was a blessing. She then drove around the parking lot trying to make new friends, but with little success.

In most countries the beggars don’t drive newer and bigger cars than the beggees, but, hey, we’re a shining parking lot on a hill.

More beggars lined the road at many intersections on the way home, asking for money for a catalogue of good causes. In one small town a number of young people begged for money so that they might enjoy a safe graduation night. I, for one, am unclear on the concept of teens standing in the middle of a four-lane highway in traffic so that they might be safe on some other occasion.

“Hey, kid, here’s…oops! Watch out for that 18-wheeler! Here’s a dollar. Be safe.”

Instead of money perhaps we could give them advice: “Hey, kid, don’t get drunk and drive after you graduate, okay? There might be some other kid standing in the road begging for money.”

Recently I looked up on a charity that had suddenly become fashionable, and, hey, who wouldn’t want to help a harp seal / abandoned piranha / little human? I made no friends when I pointed out that the president and CEO of the charity takes an annual rake-off of over $300,000 and that another fellow, listed as the former president and CEO, helps himself to another $300,000 every year.

The line between generosity and cynicism is a thick one. If a child is hungry, feed the child. If a man asks you for money for a hungry child and the man’s keeping $300,000 for himself, don’t give it to him.

Give it to me.

A Few Kind Words about the United States Postal Service

Mack Hall

Bashing our practically perfect postal people is a recent innovation; until the United States Postal Service, nee’ Post Office, was dragged down by politics in the 1960s it was the world’s best, and on a local level it still is. The leader class in D.C. and the connected masters of the monster regional centers are not interested in your mail or the postal employees who actually work, but the nice man or woman who sells you stamps or delivers the bills to your door still follows the finest tradition of neither rain nor snow nor water moccasins.

For mail delivery from the United States Postal Service you do not have to telephone 1-800-BOMBAY and find yourself referred from operator to operative to obfuscation and back again. There’s a post office in the nearest town. You can within minutes rent an inside box for a small annual fee or arrange for rural delivery. You do not have to stay home and wait for someone to come out and bolt chunks of metal to your roof. The United States Postal Service has no interest in your roof.

The United States Postal Service does not lie to you. Can you say the same thing of your internet or television service provider?

When you walk to your official United States mail box you are not blocked by pop-up-in-your-face attack ads for fungicides for delicate parts of your anatomy. You might be blocked by the wide-load lady who bends over and spreads out over a block of twenty or so mail boxes while she slowly examines, one at a time, each item from her own box, but that’s not the postal service’s fault.

If you receive lots of letters occasionally, say at Christmas, the United States Postal Service does not charge you extra for them because you’ve exceeded some sort of quota.

When you buy a stamp, that stamp will send your letter anywhere in the USA or to an APO. The postal service will not suddenly tell you that you have sent too many letters this month and charge you extra for the next stamp.

Unlike your ISP or satellite, the postal service does not shut down whenever there’s a little wind or a few drops of rain.

Opening your mail box does not require some twenty mechanical steps, the entry of two different codes, and waiting and waiting and waiting while a connection is sloooooooooooooooooooooooooooooowly accomplished.

Your mail box does not disappear just as you reach for the letters inside, with a disembodied message floating in the air telling you that you must restart your mail box.

Postal service billing makes sense. First of all, there is actually no billing – you give the nice person at the counter a package or a letter and some money, and off goes the letter or cookies or First Communion card. The postage costs an agreed amount, and there is no vague, coded list of inexplicable fees added.

Anything you have entered into any keyboard anywhere exists now and will exist long after that really bad day is centuries past; any myopic busybody in the world can recover it and use it against you when you run for mayor or are vetted for a better job. The postal service, a good American institution, doesn’t care about some dumb thing you wrote in a letter during a hissy-fit long ago.

Your local postmaster does not spy on you while you’re on the keyboard. Do you think that someone else isn’t looking at you through the little camera on your ‘puter? Really? Don’t you read the news?

And the stamps are pretty!

Going postal – that’s really a good thing.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Sort-of Disneyland, only with Firing Squads

Mack Hall

Dubai is a no-kissing zone.

The United Arab Emirates is just another middle-eastern thugocracy of sand, rocks, oil, and semi-retired pirates. The capital, Dubai, features the world’s tallest skyscraper, but with the downturn in the local economy there doesn’t seem to be anyone in it. Dubai is quite the party town, according to the Dubai website, featuring “bars, pubs, discos and nightclubs.”

Nightclubs and such have been known to lead to, well, kissing, but in Dubai, a sort of Disneyland, only with slavery and firing squads, you’d better sip your well-regulated liquor and forego osculation.

A British man and woman, Ayman Najafi and Charlotte Adams, have been sentenced to a fine and a month, but not a fine month, in jail for kissing in a restaurant. They were fingered by an outraged citizen who didn’t actually see the kiss but was told about it by her two-year-old daughter.

Rules of evidence in the U.A.E. apparently bridge the cultural gap between P. G. Wodehouse and Lavrentia Beria.

Last year the Dubai justice (cough) system sentenced a British couple to jail for sex-on-the-beach (not the drink), but on appeal commuted the sentences. Last month the Dubai courts less mercifully incarcerated an Indian couple in jail for three months for sending spicy text-messages to each other, and last week sentenced some 17 or so Indians to the firing squad for beating a Pakistani gentleman to death over a wholesale liquor deal in which the party of the first part and the parties of the 1st-17th parts could not come to an amicable agreement.

Okay, that last crime was a little over the top, but in the USA a murderous mob would probably be given community service and then jobs with A.C.O.R.N.

Of course in the U.A.E. one never knows whether or not a crime really happened. Given that third-hand testimony attributed to a two-year-old can lead to a conviction, the Indians may have been guilty of nothing but playing a sitar.

Come to think of it, playing a sitar should result in the death penalty anyway.

I suggest that Dubai could use some help from American law enforcement. Perhaps the Los Angeles Police Department could send Officers Pete Malloy and Jim Reed to help the United Arab Emirates update and inculturate:

“Say, Jim, we’ve been on duty for four hours. Let’s stop for a sandwich. SANDwich, get it? We’re in the U.A.E. Ha, ha. SANDwich.”

“That’s not funny, Pete.”

Radio, with appropriate static and crackling: “One-Adam-Twelve, One-Adam-Twelve, see the woman, 2332 Glorious and Enlightened Sheik Alli-Bubba Drive. Assault in progress.”

Pete and Jim speed past casinos and bars, and quickly arrive.

“Yes, ma’am, what seems to be the problem?”

“Oh, officers, praise the religion of peace and mercy; some young punks pushed me down and stole my purse! They ran thataway!”

“Ma’am, you’re under arrest. Cuff her, Reed.”

“But officer, why? I’m the victim!”

“Yes, ma’am, but you’re a woman, so you tempted those poor, impressionable lads. Sorry, but you’ll go to prison for this, if not the peace-loving firing squad. Read this lady her rights, Reed…oh, well, never mind.”

Later, over Turkish coffee and pita bread, Reed asks “I don’t get it, Pete. That woman’s purse was stolen. Why should she go to jail?”

“We don’t make the laws, Jim, we just enforce them. Our country has sent us to the U.A.E. for sensitivity training. We’re here to learn new ways of doing things, and we must respect the local culture.”

“Pete, the local culture seems to be about tourism, slavery, money-laundering, and funding terrorists, all under a government that makes the Chicago mob look classy.”

“Jim, if I’ve told you once I’ve told you a million times, it’s not slavery, it’s a guest-worker program. Didn’t they teach you anything at the academy?”

“They didn’t have to teach me the difference between employment and slavery.”

“Cool it, partner. We’re guest workers too.”

“One-Adam-Twelve, One-Adam-Twelve, reports of unauthorized kissing at a Denny’s. Repeat, unauthorized kissing at a Denny’s.”

“Let’s roll, partner.”

“Um, Pete…”


“The United Arab Emirates…they’re our friends, right?”