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Mad In the Middle:A Political Blog

A more current commentary on what's going on.

A Needmore Fish Story

©1999 Harrison Information Systems
September 13, 2000

NEEDMORE---It’s another fish story.

After I left the chiropractor yesterday afternoon, feeling spry and two inches taller, and noting, of course, the fish dancing on my watch face and feeling the full moon pulling from above, I sallied forth unto the Little Tennessee river to indulge in an afternoon of paper grading and worm drowning.

Arriving at my favorite hole near the unthriving village of Needmore, NC, I discovered the river down to a mere rivulet, a trickle of gin clear water in comparison to the raging torrent when last I tread upon its hallowed shores.

"Fishing is gonna suck," I said to a scattering of dog-pecker gnats flitting about the newly exposed foul-smelling mud. Presently, I settled into my chair, and with two lines tossed far, far into the still current I began an investigation into spelling errors and comma splices.

The sun beamed down and nary a creature was stirring within the shallow waters. "Water’s too low. Fish are spooky," I said to my red pen. So I graded. Little beads of sweats steal down my brow; the afternoon becomes deathly still.

And after a time, I hear, "Glub, slurp, glub slurp." Bifocaled eyes snapped right and sure enough, there in the shallows, a great wake was wallowing back and forth next to the bank.

Being keenly aware of the wariness of larger fish in such circumstances, I initiated the military creep forward on hands and knees across the rocky shoal, much to the consternation of several passing motorists, who responded with much neck twisting and two near collisions.

As close as I dared, I spied upon the fish. I could discern only two things about its condition, due to murkiness of the water and the pain shooting through my knees: it was big and it was feeding on what looked like dried-up blackberries. I retreated and managed to snag a couple of the soggy looking berries for inspection.

"No way am I gonna get a hook in that stuff," I huffed as I scrambled across the shoal back to my truck and my tackle.

The next thirty minutes consisted me of me trying one floating plug after another on Big Fish, and after I had exhausted my collection of floating artificials, and, of course, having neither fly rod, fly, nor popper with me, I looked for other alternatives.

Then I spied it—the perfect alternative to the berries—same size, nearly the same color, and I knew it would float! Yes, Gentle Reader, you are right—a dog-bone shaped nugget of something like Kennel Ration canine gourmetecy! Ah, but the next step. How do you get a hook in a piece of hard-as-Hell dog food? As I have often said to students, I said unto the dog food, "Sounds like a critical thinking problem to me."

Ok. Duct (quack, quack) tape? Line wrap? Hmmm, may work but it wouldn’t float as well. Wait. Ah-ha! Glue! (One of buds once said I carried a lot of stuff with me when I went fishing [well, obviously not enough this time] and I told him I was simply ready for nuclear war.) But then a yellow tube of an idea struck me. I dug my glue out of my tackle bag and with a flourish glued a #10 True Turn hook onto the teeny dog bone.

Then, like the dawn on the ridges under azure sky, a question seared my excited mind. How are you gonna cast this thing? After considering the situation, there was only one answer: an ultralight crappie rig. With all the backbone of deviagraed eunuch, I knew if I managed to hook the fish—well, it wouldn’t be pretty.

After rigging hook and dog food to the four pound line, I crept forward. The fish was still slurping the berries (or whatever they were). I flicked the dog food forward. It landed with a slight ripple and then KERBLOOM! It was on!

I won’t bore you with the gory details of the fight except to say that it went on for 15 minutes with me running all over the place with the fish screeching my drag and me hanging on for dear life until, as I had worked it close enough to almost see, the line went slack.

I reeled in, and there, with a dull glint, I could see my little hook had finally given out; it was nearly straight.

I sighed and went over and sat down in my chair, a big, stupid grin on my face. I wish I had at least seen the fish, but I felt rather swell-headed that I had even managed to hook it.
I set my rod into the holder and leaned back. The rod slipped out and fell into the water. I leaned forward to pull the rod back out of the water and…

There is always a time like this in every fish story when the plot twists again, and seeing as how this one is true, truth is stranger than fiction, and if anyone had made this up editors all over the world would scream in outrage that no one would believe anything like this.

Nope. No fish.


Wrapped around my rod tip was about a foot long snake. I realized that the yellow belly and greenish black back would belie anything of the poisonous variety, but still, it was a snake.
I stood and lifted my rod. The little rod sagged under the weight of the scaly serpent. The snake clamped around my rod tip like a boa constrictor on crack. Body snaking (pun!pun!) around the rod, the snake snaked down the rod. I shook the rod; the snake squeezed tighter.

Ok. Another critical thinking problem. My pistol! Oh, yeah, I am surely a good enough shot to pop Mr. Snake’s evil little head off without blowing up my $20 rod. As the snake inched closer, I was reminded of another old tale about draining swamps and alligators, and concluded that sometimes some situations do not call for in-depth investigations or careful, thoughtful analysises, or ad hoc committee meetings.

With hardly a thought about attendant consequences, I said, "Ok, Mr. Snake, let’s see you ride Space Mountain." I whipped the rod back, sidearm, of course, and then snapped it forward. The snake sailed through the air, looking for all the world like a boomerang, out and over the river, arcing high then dipping toward the water.

The prolog to a movie called The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean says something to the effect of "If this wasn’t the way the West was, then this is the way the West should have been."
In the perfectly told fish story, there is always a snappy ending that wraps up the tale.
So what is the perfect ending for this true story?

---your humble servant

Hick of Hillbillies Hullabaloo

©1999 Harrison Information Systems
March 1, 1999

A high school near my digs has recently become the center of unwanted attention over the school mascots: Warriors and Squaws. Many trees have given their all on this subject so I'll leave it alone and touch on something else in the politically correct arena: Hillbillies.

I'm really frosted at the treatment we've been receiving in the media so I'm forming the Sons and Daughters of Appalachia Miffed About Discrimination (SADAMAD), not to be confused with the League of Itinerant and Belligerent Mountaineers (LIBM). As the original high-tech redneck, I am spreading this warning throughout cyberspace. We're mad as hell and we're not gonna take it anymore.

Every time I turn on the tube there's some pitiful Southern accent trying to play hillbilly, and nearly every role shown is that of psychosexualpervertslasherdude. Geez, if we were as sexually weird as the media portrays us, then we'd never be able to breed and Hollywood wouldn't have us to kick around. A prime example of bias occurred a few years back on a t.v. miniseries as the camera followed this really bad guy as he killed, raped, and rampaged. When he talked, he sounded just like my second cousin Jethro. When those witty, null-accented cops finally ran him to ground, we learned who and from whence the dastardly dude hailed. Nope. No. Not there either. Would you believe San Francisco? Having left neither heart nor skin cell in the City by the Bay, I can only assume that there is not a nest of hillbillies somewhere in those hills. (Or would it be a hick of hillbillies?)

Being Politically Correct might have some virtue in some circumstances but I think that being polite is more important. The first five thousand times someone called me fat I was hurt, but then I got over it. Now, I don't care if I'm fat or horizontally enhanced. Words might hurt, but in and of themselves, words don't kill. ( Uh-oh, cliché coming on— "That which does kill us…") We can't legislate "Thou Shalt Not Hurt" anymore than "Don't Do That; It's Bad." The Brothers of the Right maintain that all politically correct speech is linked directly to victimpsychosis; that is, everyone is trying to figure out how to become a victim. They might just be on to something.

Anyway, I'm worried about the negative image being portrayed of hillbillies. Some people think all we do is dance around bare-footed drinking high-quality fuel from little brown jugs while fiddling and fantasizing about Ned Beatty. I can assure you that only a few of us actually shoot hog rifles into the air for amusement (and most of them live right close by me). Maybe what we need to do is what the rednecks did.

Heck, I remember when being a redneck was an insult. (Note: to a professional football team— think of the possibilities— only a few minor uniform changes, a happy Jesse Helms.) So what'd the rednecks do? Rather than sitting around taking it, they turned out music celebrating beer and fast cars, sold it, convinced people Hee Haw was funny, hired Jeff Foxworthy, went smokeless before everyone else, put two bubbas in the White House (no, not her), and boosted Monday night wrestlings' ratings enough to chew into the prize cash cow of the NFL. Now, redneck is chic. (Well, I guess 'backker dribbles are still somewhat gauché.)

So, beware. Hillbillies everywhere are going to think positive, hire consultants, file lawsuits (if we can figger-out the difference 'tween a hillbilly and a redneck), and give everyone three years to straighten-out. And if that doesn't work… Suuuuuueeeeeeyyy.

Another Take on Florida

©1999 Harrison Information Systems
November 11, 2000

FLANDERS FIELD--The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month—an appropriate time to write about politics methinks, and considering the on-going mess in Florida I think it is time to call for some serious changes to the "American System," such as the creation of new Federal offices, voting reform, and mental health.

Let me be the first to call for the appointment of special prosecutor to investigate W’s driving record, which ought to be at least as important as Bill’s sexual record. After all, the only things Bill ever endangered were innocent cigars. I think Anita Hill would be a primo choice for a special prosecutor in this instance and I’m sure with 20 or 30 million dollars and four years of time she could produce as much as Ken Starr did, and we would all be wiser about beer stains on the back seat and whether or not steering a moving vehicle was the same as driving, and we could all be titillated with tales of gear shift levers.

Let me also be the first to ask a burning question about the Liberal Media: Where the Hell have you been? Hmmm. Could it be that the Liberal Media has been giving W a free ride on driving and draft dodging? Naw. After all, all those rich people who own the media are liberals. Right?

While we’re at it—why not call for the creation of a new Federal office of special prosecutor? Let’s just get it over with and make it official. As long as we’re creating new positions, I propose that we create another new position: Court Jester. We could have the new president appoint the position. W might consider the inestimable Ralph Nader or perhaps even Pat Buchanan. Gore probably has a relative out of work so I’m sure he could come up with someone. Maybe Bill himself. The Bush contenders would be legion, and Gore would have no shortage of candidates from the Loony Left. Of course, we’d have to dress-up the job title a little bit. How about Secretary of Inane Commentary? Well, come to think of it there would considerable competition for the position from both Houses and the Talking Heads of Medialand.

Republicans often call for a "return to traditional values," which is okay with me, and while we’re at it, we can roll the clock back beyond white bread to the original intent of the Electoral College, which wasn’t called a College because it had Deans, but it was a collection of well-educated, erudite persons who actually elected the President. Therefore, the Electoral College ought to be composed of only college faculty. Right? One thing for sure about that proposal, the vine of public discourse would never wither for wont of opinion. Ask any college president.

Meanwhile, since Solomon is apparently not on the bench in West Palm Beach, could I humbly offer a suggestion about the 19,000 confused voters? Let’s take all the double-punched ballots and give half of a vote to each punchee. Then, neither party could complain since no one is being disenfranchised and it still kinda meets the standard of one man, half a vote.

Come to think of it, wouldn’t the election be more fun if you could split your single votes into fractional parts? The mind boggles at the unique opportunities for fraud and confusion offered up by having to do fractions in a voting booth. Hah! You only say you’re in favor of math and science education—how ‘bout a math test instead of a literacy test for voting? We would then find out for sure just who is ignorant about what and which generation learned the most whilst walking uphill in all directions through waist deep snow to attend the little one room school where the wisdom of the Universe poured untainted into clean, clear attentive minds that were praying and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while eating apple pie and rattling sabers and sending someone else’s children off to fight in distant Asian wars.

GOP Blowing Titanic's Whistle

©1999 Harrison Information Systems
February 23, 1999

The Republican Party has aimed another shot at its foot. While the CNN Internet poll about the most influential U.S. President of the 20th Century may not seem like much of an event, Republican faithful were notified by the Republican National Committee that Reagan was trailing Roosevelt and, sure enough, here comes the deluge of E-mail that placed Reagan in first by far.

Somewhere, out there, are gnomes hunkered over keyboards waiting for commands to send forth letters of ire to the Internet, the local newspaper, and the windshields of America. Without dwelling on Liberty magazine’s telephone poll too much, everyone should bear in mind that the average American first of all doesn’t have Internet access and second of all doesn’t care. So why try to rig an Internet poll? Are there too many liberals out that gawking in cybergeekdom? I don’t think so, but what this little incident illustrates is the GOP’s problem with mainstream America.

I’ve tried hard to be a Republican since the Democrats stomped on my toes and poured hot coffee on me. But, the Republicans keep slapping me upthesideofthehead with rich-man-first policies and, worse of all, just plain meaness. Why do so many Americans side with Lewd Bill and against Righteous Starr? It’s simple, GOP. Pay attention.

I thought the world had ended when Reagan was elected President. It didn’t. I got over it. I was moderately pleased when Clinton was elected, though I truly did like George Bush. The difference between this latest incarnation of the two parties is this: the Democrats got over Reagan; the Republicans did not. Probably cannot. In fact, the Republicans still haven’t gotten over Lincoln, though they’ve certainly convinced the South that they are the party of choice. But where the bullet hits the bone is the relationship between Nixon and Reagan. Various GOP politicians and, certainly, some Democrats, have engaged in enough negative campaigning to ground a lightning bolt. Reagan was the master at letting others do his dirty work. It worked and kept the GOP in power for a decade.

But now they’ve run into a politician who has a better Teflon coating than even Reagan. And, brother, are they mad. And that’s where they lose. The more the Republicans pile-on Clinton, the more sympathy he gets. The more stunts like the CNN poll that they pull, the more the public moves away from them toward… something.

GOP! Give me a chance to like you again. As a popular T-shirt says, "Get Over It! The Boat Sank!" Remember those annoying relatives who keep nagging-on about Uncle Joe’s drinking even though he’s been dead for 20 years? Let Starr set. Worry about Social Security. Worry about taxes. Become the party of grand visions, not the party of dirty tricks. Otherwise, instead of guiding the Enterprise to the stars, the GOP will be steering the Titanic with Tricky Dick at the helm.

Another Colorado Column

©1999 Harrison Information Systems
May 1, 1999

No matter how horrific the crime, every crime has three fundamentals: means, motive, and opportunity. The Colorado murders are no exception, and, of course, everyone is reacting, trying to find a way to stop school violence. As a society we have focused on two elements of school crime and basically ignored the third.

Gun control, naturally, is the first reaction, but, like so many other rights, privileges, and traditions, that "cure" has remained elusive, and it is questionable whether rigid gun control would, in fact, succeed in lowering violent deaths. Weapons can be found everywhere, though logic must bow to the argument that the death toll in the Colorado rampage would have been much less if the attacks were carried with fists and knives. Keep in mind that the Oklahoma bombings resulted from diesel fuel and fertilizer.

Schools across the nation have instituted all sorts of security precautions at various levels. From metal detectors to armed guards, some schools now resemble prisons more than houses of democracy and learning. School officials have likewise reacted with a variety of "get tough" school policies. It seems that every time state legislatures get together someone is cooking-up some new idea that restricts the freedom of both students and employees. Just as you can get tough with criminals to the point that half of the population is locked-up and the other half is guarding the criminals, society can pose stifling rules and regulations on schools to the point that education just doesn't occur and teachers become only guards.

More adult abuse and domineering of innocent school children is not the answer.

Well, that leaves motive to deal with. Again, the knee-jerk reaction is not answer. Trying to abridge First Amendment freedoms for the 90% plus part of the American population that is not dangerous is not the answer. Too much sex and violence on TV? That caused the murders? (I remember when comic books caught the blame for society's ills.)

Certainly unstable people can be made more unstable by the media, but, again, most people do not watch television, see violence, then go out and kill people. If that were the case, then the news from Europe would have be discontinued, too. No, we've been down that road and that doesn't solve the problem either. Another solution exists, but it is neither quick nor cheap, which probably rules it out of consideration from the power-elite.

The solution is intervention. Like any other special needs group, children with violent tendencies can be identified. Children who are alone and alienated can be identified. Children who are the object of ridicule and abuse by classmates can be identified. If a problem can be spotted, then it is possible to either solve the problem or at least lessen the consequences. No, I'm not talking about a "special class" labeled "future criminals." Nor am I talking about a 30-minute once-a-month session with a school counselor. I'll leave the "treatment" angles to the professionals. Again, not cheap, but can we afford not to?

If that idea is too far-fetched, like a lunar landing, perhaps, there is something else each and every one of us can do: oppose school consolidation. Two troubled kids in a 500-student school can be included; they stand a good chance of finding some positive school involvement: sports, band, clubs, etc. Two kids being tormented in a small school quickly draws the attention of teachers and administrators. Two kids in a 3000 student school stand little chance of even being noticed or becoming involved in an "official" school activity. The competition is too intense to avoid athletic cuts, the cliques too large and powerful to allow the "uncool" entrance. The truly dark side of large schools emerges when two troubled kids are multiplied by 10 or 20 or 30 and they gravitate to each other. Now, instead of two, twenty or thirty troubled kids hang together, feeding off each other’s pain, and eventually, serious trouble emerges. The psychology of the group takes hold. Small schools can solve some of the problems if for no other reason than offering more opportunity to be noticed. What if the two Colorado students had been in the school play? Would they have still gone forward with their deadly plans? Would they even have considered such a plan?

Maybe it is time to quit worrying about cutting taxes and schools to the bone. Yes, it is more tax efficient to have large schools with every room crammed to the ceiling with students. Yes, the large schools can offer more diverse programs. But how many lives must be sacrificed for efficiency? Maybe it is time to quit warehousing children in huge industrial complexes. Let’s make the schools communities, not industries, and not businesses. Maybe it is time to stop bussing children for hours all over creation to these monolithic institutions. Maybe it is time for the smalling of America. Make the schools small. Make the rewards large.