Mort Mather Author Writer Organic Farmer Philosopher Thinker Restauranteur

How to improve your life and save the world.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Bad Words

When my grandson accused me of using a bad word I learned my son-in-law had told his son that “stupid” is a bad word. I quoted George Carlin to my son-in-law: “no such thing as bad words, bad thoughts, but no bad words.” He disagreed and we left it there though I have been thinking that the so called “bad word” could be an opening for discussion of why it was used; what was meant; might it be hurtful, etc.
I hadn’t seen Mike for a dozen years though we had been corresponding since college—first mail and phone and now mostly email. We were heading for his house from the airport when I, for some reason, said something like, “Birthers” are stupid. When I concluded my mini-rant there was silence from Mike and then he said, “My son and I have a word we use when a discussion should be stopped. We say “football”. Pause. “Football”.
I said no more at the time. Mike keeps his thoughts pretty close. Over the years I have asked for his political opinion and it has usually differed from mine though thoughtfully and not radically different which is why I had barged into the birther issue, I really hadn’t imagined he would believe someone could become President of the US without unquestionably having been born in the US. Before my visit ended I learned that he thought Obama was part of a conspiracy. That thought hadn’t occurred to me so I put my mind to it.
I’ve read enough Robert Ludlum to be able to imagine someone getting into the birth certificate files in Hawaii and inserting a forged document. It would probably be even easier to insert a birth announcement in the newspapers and to change the records in the hospital. I’m sure there are modern day G. Gordon  Liddys around but who hired the person or persons to carry out the conspiracy and when was it initiated and why?
Why, I suppose is a quest for power. Someone or some group like Americans for an Americaner Way or My Way or the Highway wants to own a president. They see the speech Obama makes at the Democratic Convention in 2004 and think, this is a guy we could probably control and we could probably get him elected so they go to work...damn, that doesn’t work because Obama had already written his memoir loaded with information about his life that could be checked; unless the memoir was not quite true. In that case the power-seeking group does some fact checking and finds that he lied about his birthplace. They go to work to fix the problem.
It’s actually more difficult to figure out how Obama could have been born outside the United States since his mother was never out of the country until he was six years old. 
Unlike my grandson I don’t have a father to sit me down and discuss my use of the word “stupid” so I’ve had to give it some thought on my own:
Thought one) assumptions are always dangerous. Tread softly.
Thought two) “Stupid” is not a word that should be applied to an individual or even a group of individuals. If done directly, it is sure to raise hackles. If done indirectly (behind the back), it is dishonest.
Thought three) I’ll try but there are times…

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Porcupines and gardens

I thought it was groundhogs eating my broccoli until the day I saw a porcupine up on hind legs munching happily. In my opinion the only good thing about porcupines is that they don’t run away relying on their quills for protection. The fisher is their only predator; fishers have learned to grab the porcupine’s nose, flip it over and attack its unquilled belly. Few porcupines have learned that Homo sapiens have learned how to shot a gun. The porcupine was still munching away when I returned. One down but I soon learned that was just the tip of the problem.
            Porcupines are generally nocturnal. Trying to protect my crops I pitched a tent next to the garden. Sure enough the animals woke me; I shot two in the Brussels sprouts and one in the apple tree that night. It took two years and about a dozen porcupines shot before I found an electric mesh fence that worked well for a couple of years. I thought the problem was solved. Since it is a bother (not much of one but nonetheless) and who wants to do something that isn’t necessary, I decided to wait until I had a problem before putting it up. At the first sign of damage I put up the fence but this time the animal managed to get through the fence.
            The porcupines won time after time. All they had to do was find a place they could get their nose under the fence and the quills would insulate them the rest of the way. I pegged the fence down where they got through and they found another way in. I pegged all the places they might be able to get through and they dug down far enough to make it. I got a motion detector camera thinking if I knew when they visited I could be waiting for them. There was no pattern to visitations. I got a motion detector that would turn on a light. That didn’t work.
            If you have a problem with porcupines, I think I can help. Things you need to know: 1) they like to eat corn, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, apples, pears and the bark on trees, 2) they mostly eat at night but can sometimes be seen in the garden or eating grass at sunset 3) I’m convinced they can communicate something as complex as how to get under an electric fence 4) they are excellent climbers and if you are looking for them during the day, your best bet is to look up.
            Solution: 1) The electric fence is great. I have 20 inch VersaNet from  Put it up before the animals get a taste of your garden because once they find such delicacies they will be persistent in getting through. If they get through the fence, put it outside the garden on mowed sod as it is harder for the animals to dig under.
            Solution  2.) If the garden is close to the house and you have a gun, get a motion detector and set it up to pick up motion in the area they will be interested in. Set it up so the motion detector turns on a radio in your bedroom. You also need to have the motion detector turn on a light as it will not work with a radio alone.
            I hope you don’t have a problem as great as mine. I am still killing 6 to 10 porcupines a year.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Benghazi flap

From my conservative friend in Ohio:
I’m very angry over the Benghazi fiasco, but I am absolutely astounded that the liberals around the country (yourself included) are not.

The Benghazi flap (not the incident but the flap that you support and are angry liberals are not) is primarily political; an attack on the Democratic President and on a potential future Democratic President. Before you throw up your hands or throw up please consider your reaction to previous terrorist attacks.

April 18, 1983 a suicide bomber drove a truck load of explosives into the US embassy in Beirut killing 63, 17 of them were Americans. Of the Americans killed, eight worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, including the CIA's top Middle East analyst and Near East director, Robert Ames, Station Chief Kenneth Haas and most of the Beirut staff of the CIA. President Regan said that the attack “will not deter us from our goals of peace in the region.” Senator Goldwater said, "I think it's high time we bring the boys home."

Did you feel similarly after the October 23, 1983 terrorist attack in Beirut that killed 241 American servicemen? U.S. President Ronald Regan called the attack a "despicable act” and pledged to keep a military force in Lebanon. Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, who had privately advised the administration against stationing U.S. Marines in Lebanon, said there would be no change in the U.S.'s Lebanon policy. Did this make you very angry?

December 12, that same year, a suicide truck bomber drove through the gates of the US embassy in Kuwait City killing 63. It would have been more if the bomb hadn’t misfired. Three terrorist attacks in one year! Were you outraged that nothing had been done to protect our embassies in dangerous places after the first attack? I don’t recall liberals attacking Republican President Reagan either.

Feb 26, 1993 World Trade Center bombing, first terrorist attack on US soil killed six and injured over 1,000. Were you angry at the Democratic President Clinton?

August 7, 1998 two US embassies in East African were bombed by al Qaeda killing 223; 12 were Americans. President Clinton ordered missile attacks in retaliation one of which knocked out a pharmaceutical factory. The administration said there was ample evidence the factory was producing chemical weapons, but a thorough investigation after the missile strikes revealed the intelligence to be false. I don’t recall an uproar from the right or left.

October 12, 2000 seventeen American sailors were killed in the terrorist attack on the USS Cole.

Did you feel the same about any of these as you feel about Benghazi?  My feeling about all of them is pretty much the same, sadness over the loss of life and hope for a better future.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

How Congress can cut spending

Line item expense reduction
Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton both asked for line item veto power in State of the Union addresses but the Supreme Court has ruled it unconstitutional because it circumvents a power vested in Congress. I suggest the concept should be used by Congress to decrease federal spending. Here’s how it might work:
Wire the House Chamber with “voting” buttons that will record each congress person’s vote. When a button is pushed by the congress person their vote is recorded and available to anyone to see so that a voter or a newspaper can easily find out how any individual has voted. The total is displayed in the Chamber at the time of the vote.
Both Houses of Congress meet together as for the State of the Union. They are informed beforehand on what will be voted on that day giving lobbyists and voters time to fill their ears with biased information or, less cynically, to inform themselves more fully on the issue. There will be no discussion or debate during the meeting. A question will be projected on a screen for all including the television cameras to see and then the vote will be taken. The results of the vote, totals, will be projected for all to see. Television pundits can comment to their audience.
An Example: Congress and the media are told the farm bill will be up for spending cut review in a week. On the fateful day Representative and Senators take their seats and log into the network that they are present. The issue flashes on the screen:
Crop Insurance
Over the past decade taxpayers have paid $59.5 billion
Your vote”
A.     no change
B.     eliminate for wealthiest farmers
C.     reduce premium subsidy
D.     eliminate federal subsidy of crop insurance

If the vote for A or D is 60% or more that vote carries. If B receives 41% or more another vote screen is displayed:
            Define “wealthiest farmers.
A.     grossing over $5 million annually
B.     grossing over $2.5 million annually
C.     grossing over $1 million annually
D.     grossing over $500,000 annually
If C receives 41% or more:
            Reduce premium from current 62% to:
A.     50 %
B.     40%
C.     25%
D.     10%
The congressional delegation from Rhode Island might vote to eliminate the subsidy while the delegation from Nebraska will most likely vote for no change. This system is far from perfect since lobbyists might well tell the Rhode Island folks that they will make a significant contribution to their campaigns if they vote no change. Perhaps we should allow them to vote for a secret vote. If the substantive vote was one their constituents, we the people, didn’t like, someone running against them would have them on record as voting for a secret vote.
This is a rough proposal with room for refinement but the basic idea is the best shot we have at making serious budget cuts. Both Republicans and Democrats have refused to get specific about budget cuts because any specific cuts will stir up a hive of reaction and no elected person wants to stick their hand in the hive.
I do think that corporate welfare could be cut without loosing votes--gross contributions from the corporations that now unduly influence our congresspeople but not votes. I would sure like to know if my congressional delegation voted to keep subsidizing Exxon just to name one of the very profitable companies our tax dollars subsidize.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Genetically Modified Salmon

FDA poised to approve genetically engineered salmon despite unknown risks to human health. Inevitable accidental release of transgenic fish into the wild could devastate native fish populations and ecosystems!

I used the following link to submit my comments to the FDA

One must wonder what the point of the FDA is if it allows something so potentially dangerous to our health as genetically modified food without extensive testing. Your past record is bad enough. It should be clear that a) many people don’t want to eat genetically modified food that you haven’t tested (The industry should be urging you to test the safety of these foods. That they aren’t should be a red flag for you.) b) The industry fights every effort to label GM food; another indication they know there are problems. c) Most importantly GM crops have already escaped into the wild. You must know that genetically modified salmon will. If you allow it, ultimately, salmon will be contaminated world-wide.

Please, please, please don’t do this.

For more information:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Strap on your weapons

       I chided my friend for getting a concealed weapons permit “as a deterrent”, he said, and I suggested a better deterrent would be if he strapped it on his hip. Right here in Portland, Maine someone apparently thought my idea was a good one and wandered around the city carrying a loaded AR-15. The police received 65 calls but, since he was doing nothing illegal, they could not even get his name. Imagine the Wild West with assault weapons—Wyatt Earp, Jessie James, Tombstone, OK Coral. Imagine the good old days with today’s weapons. Surely one of the three cowboys Wyatt shot in 30 second at the OK Coral would have gotten him first.
          The NRA got all upset because a newspaper printed the addresses of all those with gun permits in its reading area. Hey, NRA, we keep hearing that owning a gun was a good idea for protection and that it would be less likely nutcases would open fire in a school if there were armed people there. If you believe that you ought to believe that letting people know you were armed and dangerous would be a pretty good deterrent. Wouldn’t criminals take a list like that and decide those were the houses to avoid?
        Instead the reaction has been that publishing the list has made it dangerous for the gun owners. What?! The neighbors without guns are going to attack with baseball bats? Or will those with guns start attacking others with guns, you know, like a feud.
        Assault weapons should not only be banned, they should be confiscated. That would do little to reduce the nearly 30 deaths by guns that occur daily in our great country but it would slow down the insane.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Eric Weiner, an author I highly recommend

Eric Weiner has given me great pleasure in two books, The Geography of Bliss and Man Seeks God. There is nothing better than learning good stuff from a thoughtful person with a good sense of humor.
Toward the end of his quest it dawns on him: “God is to religion as food is to a menu. Both the menu and the religion suggest a variety of options, and while the waiter can make recommendations, ultimately the choice is ours. To say you know God because you are religious is like saying you have dined well because you read the menu.”
I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying Mr. Weiner’s books.