Hasty Ruminations

Speaking out, to remove all doubt. http://hastyruminations.blogspot.com

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Monday, July 31, 2006

News Updates

Monday, July 31st

Israel's bombing of Qana, Lebanon killed over 50 people, 30 or more of them children. Collateral damage? Not likely. When the number of children killed reaches a certain level, we think that the U.S. may actually call for a cease fire. Eventually.

Israel suspended air operations for 48 hours. Well, for three hours, actually. Condi declares victory, returns home.

The U.N. may sanction Iran for uranium enrichment. When the Arab world gets the bomb, how do you think that they will respond to future Qanas?

Mel Gibson is in deep trouble following his remarks about Jews and war while getting booked for drunk driving. That's too bad. I know that hitting bottom is necessary for a drunk to become sober. We cannot tell, of course, how close Mel is to the bottom; it varies from person to person. Either way, the end is near.

The Lake County Fair was wonderful this weekend. Hot, but great. Watch this space for a report.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Whacko Update


Cindy Sheehan just bought some land near President Bush's ranch in Crawford, TX.

Didn't her buddy Hugo Chavez of Venezuela tell her that W is going to retire in a couple of years?

Oh, and here's my theory: her son Casey actually escaped that fight in Iraq. He is alive and well, but hiding.

If Wacko were related to me, I'd hide, too.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

County Fair



My trip to the new client every day takes me past the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, IL. And, it opened this week.

I went past the motocross track last night, and I was amazed that these guys get their bikes 40 feet high in the air! There will be a truck and tractor pull in that dirt area this weekend.

I plan to go on Saturday, to see the livestock, the cooking and the crafts. There's also monster trucks, demolition derbies and a youth horse show. And a rodeo demo. This isn't a state fair, so there is no big name entertainment; but it will still be fun. There's a professional (contest) rodeo Friday and Saturday nights.

I will have to disguise Lacy as a seeing eye dog; or as a heifer, one. And wear my Stetson cowboy hat.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006



An ancient book of Psalms has
just been found in a bog in Ireland. It's a 20 page book, unearthed by an excavator.

It quotes
Psalm 83:

See how your enemies are astir, how your foes rear their heads.
"Come," they say, "let us destroy them as a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more."
With one mind they plot together; they form an alliance against you
... with the people of Tyre.

Tyre is presently on Israel's target list.

Some thoughtful people have posted on this blog about Armageddon, and one asked if the current fighting in the Middle East is really World War III?


A coincidence that the book would be found this week, after 1,100 or 1,200 years? Turned to Psalm 83?

There are no coincidences, and I don't believe in that kind of odds.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hezbollah and Israel

The kidnapping of two soldiers led to all this?

You Israelis and you Hezbollah-ers, your Mothers should have taught you better. Now, it's overkill, with rockets, tanks and planes attacking 15 year-old-girls, little kids, and old ladies.

Hezbollah fired as many rockets against Israel yesterday as they did at the beginning of this debacle. All of Israel's bombs, rockets, missiles and artillery have not changed that a bit.

And Hezbollah is hiding behind the skirts of the Lebanese civilians, who are dying by the score.

All that is bad enough. But President Bush goes along with Israel, and will not call for an immediate cease fire. Condi Rice has not pushed for a cease fire, and she was in no hurry to get over there, either. They want to make sure that Hezbollah gets really beaten up this time, before the shooting stops.

But, it's not Hezbollah who is doing the dying, folks!

The Keystone Kops had better strategic plans than this.

Who planned this thing? Rumsfeld?!

... And I'm Not Going To Take It Anymore!

Wouldn't it be great to turn on the tv and hear any u.s. president, from either party, give the following speech?

My Fellow Americans: As you all know, the Iraq regime change has been completed.

Since Congress does not want to spend any more money on this war, our mission in Iraq is complete.

This morning I gave the order for a complete removal of all American forces from Iraq. This action will be complete within 30 days. It is now time to begin the reckoning.

Before me, I have two lists. One list contains the names of countries which have stood by our side during the Iraq conflict. This list is short. England, Spain, Bulgaria, Australia, and Poland are some of the countries listed there.

The other list contains everyone not on the first list. Most of the world's nations are on that list. My press secretary will be distributing copies of both lists later this evening.

Let me start by saying that effective immediately, foreign aid to those nations on List 2 ceases immediately and indefinitely. The money saved during the first year alone will pretty much pay for the costs of the Iraqi war.

The American people are no longer going to pour money into third world hell-holes and watch those government leaders grow fat on corruption.

Need help with a famine? Wrestling with an epidemic? Call France.

In the future, together with Congress, I will work to redirect this money toward solving the vexing social problems we still have at home. On that note, a word to terrorist organizations. Screw with us and we will hunt you down and eliminate you and all your friends from the face of the earth.

Thirsting for a gutsy country to terrorize? Try France, or maybe China.

I am ordering the immediate severing of diplomatic relations with France, Germany, and Russia. We are retiring from NATO as well. Bon chance, mes amis.

A special note to our neighbors. Canada is on List 2. Since we are likely to be seeing a lot more of each other, you folks might want to try not pissing us off for a change.

Second-rate thinkers shouldn't run countries. I'm thinking of North Korea, Venezuela, and the countries in the Middle East who cannot stop shooting each other. Just two words for you guys: regime change.

If Venezeula even thinks about cutting off U.S. oil, kiss your refineries and assets in the U.S. goodbye, and start looking for your hidey hole. "You just became #1 on the hit parade."

Mexico is also on List 2. President Fox and his entire corrupt government really need an attitude adjustment. I will have a couple extra tank and infantry divisions sitting around. Guess where I am going to put 'em? Yep, border security. So start doing something with your oil.

Oh, by the way, the United States is cancelling NAFTA - starting now.

We are tired of the one-way highway. Immediately, we'll be drilling for oil in Alaska - which will take care of this country's oil needs for decades to come. If you're an environmentalist who opposes this decision, I refer you to List 2 above: pick a country and move there. They care.

It is time for America to focus on its own welfare and its own citizens. Some will accuse us of isolationism. I answer them by saying, "darn tootin."

Nearly a century of trying to help folks live a decent life around the world has only earned us the undying enmity of just about everyone on the planet. It is time to eliminate hunger in America. It is time to eliminate homelessness in America. It is time to eliminate World Cup Soccer from America. To the nations on List 1, a final thought. Thanks guys. We owe you and we won't forget.

To the nations on List 2, a final thought: You might want to learn to speak Arabic.

God bless America. Thank you and good night.

If you can read this, thank a teacher. If you are reading it in English, thank a soldier.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Official Language

OK, time to stand up and be counted.

English should not be the official language of the United States.

The Brits wince when they hear us speak American. Their little poofta sensibilities, I guess. Since it's named after their postage-sized country, let 'em have it.

They haven't done anything for us to admire, except to make sure that France always has a clean white surrender flag. They treated the Irish as badly as they treated us, but longer. Frankly, they don't deserve having their speak sanitized by the only Superpower around. They have been a rotten example to a young democratic USA, and their Royals behave very badly.

We should pick a new language soon. One that everyone can learn easily (like Basic) or that most everyone knows.

No, not French (merde!). And not gangsta rap neither.

Se habla Taco Bell.

Well, why does it have to be an existing language? We are the people who invent things - moon landers, cobol, the internet, supermax prisons, icy slurpees. How long would it take to invent a language? It would have 1/3 the rules of English, and 1/100th the exceptions and special cases. It would be easy to pronounce (unlike French), and precise without the arrogance of German. Better yet, it wouldn't depend on some second-rate Euro-trash or Middle Eastern or Oriental dialect with all the attendant garbage.

Let's have some real people do it, too. If we give it to Microsoft, no one will ever read the manuals.

Axis of Evil



Beijing (SatireWire.com) — Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil," Libya, China, and Syria today announced they had formed the "Axis of Just as Evil," which they said would be way eviler than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North Korea axis.

Axis of Evil members, however, immediately dismissed the new axis as having, for starters, a really dumb name. "Right. They are Just as Evil... in their dreams!" declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "Everybody knows we're the best evils... best at being evil... we're the best."

Diplomats from Syria denied they were jealous over being excluded, although they conceded they did ask if they could join the Axis of Evil.

"They told us it was full," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"An Axis can't have more than three countries," explained Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. "This is not my rule, it's tradition. In World War II you had Germany, Italy, and Japan in the evil Axis. So you can only have three. And a secret handshake. Ours is wicked cool."

International reaction to the Axis of Evil declaration was swift: within minutes, France surrendered.

Elsewhere, peer-conscious nations rushed to gain status. Cuba, Sudan, and Serbia said they had formed the Axis of Somewhat Evil, forcing Somalia to join with Uganda and Myanmar in the Axis of Occasionally Evil, while Bulgaria, Indonesia and Russia established the Axis of Not So Much Evil Really As Just Generally Disagreeable.

With the criteria suddenly expanded and all the desirable clubs filling up, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Rwanda applied to be called the Axis of Countries That Aren't the Worst But Certainly Won't Be Asked to Host the Olympics; Canada, Mexico, and Australia formed the Axis of Nations That Are Actually Quite Nice But Secretly Have Nasty Thoughts About America, while Spain, Scotland, and New Zealand established the Axis of Countries That Sometimes Ask Sheep to Wear Lipstick.

"That's not a threat, really, just something we like to do," said Scottish Executive First Minister Jack McConnell.

Israel, meanwhile, insisted it didn't want to join any Axis, but privately, world leaders said that's only because no one asked them.


Author's note: Strangely enow, this SatireWire story lately has been zipping around the 'Net attributed to John Cleese. That's flattering and funny and all, but now I'm getting so many emails asking who "really" wrote it that it will make my life easier to nip it here. I apologize for any disappoinment, but the story was written by Andrew Marlatt. It first appeared on SatireWire on Feb. 1, 2002, and was subsequently published in several major newspapers, including this version still available at The Washington Post. So that's the deal. All the best -- Andrew.

Drug Fraud

. Jack Lemmon in "Glengarry, Glen Ross"

The police recently busted a man selling 'secret formula' tablets he claimed gave eternal youth.

When going through their files they noticed it was the fifth time he was caught for committing this same criminal medical fraud.

He had earlier been arrested in 1983, 1928, 1856 and 1794.
Thanks to Crosswalk.com

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Family History, Part 2


My Dad’s Side

The “Finnegan” (remember, that’s my pen name) family history in America is varied and fun to trace. I will try to tell it as a story, rather than burden you with dates, lists and dry facts.

I grew up near my Dad’s family, in Chicago, so I am much more familiar with them than with my Mom's family. The Roneys of my mother lived in and near Washington, DC, and we saw them only occasionally.

Before we tackle the scholarly aspects of the tale, please understand that I raised the subject of family history – “Where did you come from, Grandma?” – many, many times in my youth. My questions were humored, but not answered. “Why do you want to know?” was the usual response, and I now understand why. The roles of kids and adults were very precisely defined in the 1950’s. The adult was the teacher, and the enforcer. The child was the student, and the one who obeyed. Entertaining a kid’s questions exposed the adult to (1) the work of remembering, (2) potential – nay, certain – contradiction by other nearby relatives who saw the truth by their own lights, and (3) having to say, “I don’t know” at certain points. Since any such outcome would transfer power from adult to child, and since there was no obvious way to win (important to Finnegan family discussions, which always devolved into arguments), it was safer to refuse to answer. Thus, my ignorance.

I have gleaned some facts, and I have discovered others through research over the years. So, here is the story.

My great grandfather on my father’s side was John. He was born in 1856 in Tipperary County, Ireland. Many, many families with our last name lived in Tipperary, and many Tipperary “Finnegans” emigrated to Chicago from 1850 to 1900. Family tradition that he came from Cork is partially accurate: while it was not his home, many Irish emigrants passed through Cork on the way to its port, Cobh (pronounced “cove”), where the ship to America waited for them. He emigrated in 1888, at age 32.

The facts of his move from Ireland to the United States are curious. He was older than average. He was single. He was born after the Potato Famine (1845-1850), and he grew up during the greatest Irish migration in history, so none of those factors alone propelled him to America.

Since he arrived just before Ellis Island got into processing immigrants (1892-1924), we cannot easily find his records of birth, parents and so forth. A person might stay behind in Ireland while his friends and family went to Chicago if, for example, he had to care for an elderly parent until he or she died. He might be single because he found no fiancé, or because his betrothed went on ahead to America. In his time waiting in Ireland, he learned a trade as a butcher.

John's (or “Jack’s”) exact Irish history and specific motivation to come to America are not yet known. But the fact of severe Irish poverty at the hands of the English occupiers, the fact that the English prevented Irish Catholics from owning land in their own country, the fact that the English rented Irish land and homes to Protestants from England and Scotland, and the fact that 2,000,000 Irish had left for America with good results – these facts had the same effect on John as they had on his predecessors. In 1888, he got on a ship, and sailed for America.

He did not spend any time in New York. The Irish in America had finally gained acceptance by hard work in building railroads, by taking jobs as policemen, teamsters and manual laborers of all types, and particularly by the way they fought on both sides of the Civil War. John was welcomed, and he went directly to Chicago where his people waited for him.

Chicago’s population in 1890 was 1,700,000, including 600,000 people who were foreign born. Of these, 74,000 were born in Ireland.

Chicago, 1900

When John got to Chicago, he settled on the southwest side of the city, in a district of skilled immigrants known as “Back of the Yards”. The neighborhood extended from 39th to 55th Streets between Halsted and Leavitt Street, just south and west of the Union Stock Yard and meat packing plants. It was a giant sprawl that was the largest livestock and meatpacking center in the country until the 1950s.

Adams Street, East of Clark, 1888

The concentration of railroads in the 1850’s, the establishment of the Union Stock Yard in 1865, and the perfection of the refrigerated boxcar by 1880 led to a giant expansion of meatpacking in the neighborhood. It was settled by skilled Irish and German butchers. Here in 1889, developer Samuel Gross built one of his earliest subdivisions of cheap workingmen's cottages. By the turn of the century the area was transformed into a series of Slavic enclaves dominated by Poles, Lithuanians, Slovaks, and Czechs, with most communities organized around ethnic parishes serving as social and cultural as well as spiritual focal points for residents' lives.

Chicago, 1900

Immortalized for its pollution, squalor, and poverty in Upton Sinclair's novel The Jungle (1906), Back of the Yards was actually a collection of very vibrant and cohesive working-class communities. Wages were low for unskilled workers, but butchers were at the top of the scale.

John took his time leaving Ireland, for one reason or another, until he was known as middle aged. In Chicago, he picked up the pace. In the 12 years between his arrival in 1888 and the census of 1900, John found and married his wife, got a home, got a job, and fathered six children. John’s and Kate’s accomplishments are impressive.

John got together with Catherine just as soon as he got to Chicago. She was ten years younger than he, born in 1865 in Ireland. She arrived in the United States in 1883, and we know her from the census as Catherine M. I think that John and Kate (as she was known) knew each other in Ireland, because they married almost as soon as John unpacked his suitcase. Their oldest child, Mary, was 12 years old in 1900.

Mary was born in 1889, Edward in 1890, Martin in 1892, Patrick in 1894, Richard in 1896 and James in 1899. James was christened James Martin, and he became my Grandfather. Not right away; later.

Chicago, Dearborn & Randolph, 1909

Chicago in 1900 was a booming city. The downtown was virtually new, after rebuilding from the 1871 Chicago fire. It had a 2,300 man police force. The police department fed and housed over 170,000 homeless people inside its stations in that year. There were 62 licensed hospitals in 1896, and most were new and modern.

Chicago Police, 1902

The health of Chicagoans was good in 1900. Infant mortality was decreasing, and people were living longer. For the first time, deaths were caused more frequently by degenerative diseases such as cancer and old age than by epidemics, accidents and infection. Sanitation was improving, with the Sanitary and Barge Canal taking wastes to the Mississippi and water treatment plants installed in Lake Michigan for drinking water. Indoor toilets and baths were the current rage, though John and Catherine’s family were not rich enough for those conveniences. Public baths were plentiful for a fee, and there was always the large galvanized wash tub for Saturday night.

In 1900, the family lived at 5238 May Street, on Chicago’s south side. It was likely a tenement building, and with a large young family, they may have had the first or second floor. Thirty years before, the Great Fire had started only 30 blocks north, sweeping north and east.

Not My Family, But It Could Have Been

The address is half a mile south of the Union Stockyards. For comparison, Disneyland in California now occupies about 300 acres, including hotels; the Union Stockyards was a 475 acre complex, a city within the city. The poet Carl Sandburg called Chicago “Hog Butcher to the World” because of the stockyards.

About 50,000 people worked in the area, in the meat business. The headquarters offices of the big packing companies, like Armour and Swift, with hundreds of white collar jobs, were next door to the slaughter and processing buildings. The plants themselves were connected in a pattern in which the hogs, cattle and sheep were slaughtered and sorted by grades and cuts of meat. They had assembly lines which Henry Ford later copied for his automobiles. One would more accurately call them "disassembly lines". Hundreds of by products like animal feeds, tennis racquet strings and pharmaceuticals were made on the spot.

My great-grandfather John worked in the stockyard as a butcher. His job meant that during the desperate times of the Depression in the 1920’s, John was still able to put fresh meat on the table for his family.

Chicago Saloon, 1900

The records of the Chicago Historical Society report that the unpleasant smell of the stockyards permeated the adjoining neighborhoods, spread by the humid breezes for many miles. But, the working people said that the smell meant work. There were as yet no buses, trains or cars. Electric Trolleys were limited to the downtown area. Commuting to work was mostly by foot, so workers had to live near their work. For these reasons, the family tolerated the unpleasant environment and lived near the stockyard because that’s where John worked. And perhaps some of his kids, too.

In the 1920 census, we learn that the family has moved a couple of blocks away, to 5427 Racine Avenue. By today’s map, the new place is one block west and two blocks south of the May Street home. Then, and now, Racine is a wider street with more shopping and better homes and apartment buildings. It is also further away from the stockyards. Directly across the street is Sherman Park.

John and Kate Move Up In The World

Sherman Park was one of ten remarkable Chicago parks which opened to the public in 1905. The city's population had grown from 300,000 in 1870 to 2 million by 1905. The noisy, overcrowded immigrant neighborhoods were far away from the existing parks. South Park Commission Superintendent J. Frank Foster envisioned a new type of park that would provide social services such as public baths as well as breathing spaces to these areas.

Sherman Park Field House, 1905

At 60 acres, Sherman Park (named for the founder of the Union Stock Yards) was one of the largest of the parks. The architects transformed the low, wet site into a beautiful landscape. A meandering waterway surrounded an island of ballfields. The classically-designed architecture, located at the north end of the park, includes the fieldhouse, the gym and locker buildings united by trellis-like structures called pergolas.

Sherman Park became John and Kate’s new front yard.

The move shows that John and Kate are prospering. By 1920, Mary, 32, and Patrick, 26, have moved out, and there are two new people in the household: Eugene J. born in 1902, and Catherine M., a granddaughter, born in 1914. John is now 63, Kate is 56, and they own an apartment house. From immigrants 32 years before, they are now landlords.

State Street, 1905 – One Year After My Grandmother Was Born
(Disregard that whirling, twirling sound you hear coming from her grave…)

James enlisted in the Navy just as World War I ended and he turned 17. He was a Yeoman, a clerk in the office of the Captain of a battleship. His battle station was on the bridge, as a messenger for the Captain and as an assistant helmsman. By 1921 he had left the Navy, and met, courted and married my grandmother, Evelyn Letourneau. I was told that they lived for a time with Jim’s parents, and then moved to their first apartment on Vincennes Street.

When one searches for the origins of Chicagoans named Letourneau, Quebec dominates the results. That may be the ancestral home for Evelyn and her brothers and sisters: Al (and wife Jeanette, and son Steve who became a California MD), Helen (aka Dolly, and husband Frank Aerts of Pasadena CA), Cele (perhaps a contraction for Celia, and husband Jim Berry, also of California), Bernice (Sullivan and daughter Patsy), and the youngest, Phillip (who added a precocious “x” to the end of Letourneau, wife Helen O’Leary of Boston and son Steve). We do not think that there is a connection between Phil’s wife and the famous lady whose cow started the Great Fire of 1871. But, Helen also did not advertise her ancestry to Chicagoans.

None of my Letourneau relatives spoke French, talked about Canada, or even visited up north. If they were French Canadian, their ancestors came to America generations before. To me, they were our well-to-do Chicago relatives, some of whom had defected to California in the 1940’s.

As their parents had before them, James and Evelyn set to raising a family. Their first born, James Thomas, became my father; he was born in 1921. Next was Helen Jean, 1924; and Richard, 1927. The last was Therese, 1934. In those years, they moved first from Vincennes to 72nd and Wentworth (2 miles). When my parents were married in 1947, they moved in to the Wentworth apartment with my grandparents and Helen, Richard and Therese. I was born first, then my sister Christine. From Wentworth my grandparents, parents and all moved to 69th and Indiana (half a mile), a large house where they had the first floor. It was down the street from the firehouse. I have memories of that house, including the fire engines (“fufagenjines”), and the old men playing cards on the back porch and feeding hot mustard to a little boy (bastards, I called ‘em), and the corner store. Then, in 1951, my mother became pregnant with my brother Jim, so my parents moved to a duplex house, at 9813 South Yates, and my grandparents, Helen and Therese moved to the first floor of 524 West 103rd Place – about 8 miles south of 69th and Indiana. Richard soon married Gloria.

That brings us to the 1950’s – one hundred years of the “Finnegans” in America. I’ll continue the story at that point, soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Double Take



I think not.

Global Warming

Open note to the former VP:
Re: Inconvenient Truth.
Yes, global warming.
Caused by hot air.
So just stop it.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Natural Selection, and Selection by Mouse


A 35 year old woman was removed unconscious this morning, 7/11/06, from Disney World's Mission: Space ride in Orlando. That's the ride which has already killed a 49 year old woman and a four-year-old boy.

Some have defended the 15 deaths which have happened on Disney rides by saying that many who died had high blood pressure, clogged arteries, or other chronic diseases. One said, "That dead person shouldn't have been on the ride to begin with."

So, now it is in context: A person can get a Darwin award by doing something so stupid that it removes him or her from the human gene pool, improving humanity's lot.

Disney's rides are kind of performing the same service, for those too sick to ride aggressive thrill rides but who insist on doing so anyway.

That'll teach 'em.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Patience, dear reader. I am making steady progress on the Family History, Part Two, concerning my Dad's family.

Meanwhile, if you are chafing at the bit, might I suggest a short trip to Paramount's King's Island near Cincinnatti? Their mega roller coaster, Son of Beast, has much shorter waiting lines now, since 27 people were injured on it over the weekend. Witnesses saw the roller coaster make "an abrupt stop", injuring the riders' necks and chests.

When an airliner makes "an abrupt stop", we call it a crash.