Some Assembly Required — A Guest Post By Pam Uphoff

*I first met Pam years ago in Baen’s bar where she was a ware slush-reader.  That is, she was a slush reader for Baen and she sometimes came into my conference — the diner, natch — in her human form, to… I guess to realize some of us were worse off than her.  I have also been reading Pam for… a long time.  I don’t remember the first time she handed me one of her stories to read, and I don’t remember what the story was — chiluns, while prepping the Musketeers for going up, I realized I don’t remember a lick of what’s in those books — but I do remember I thought it as promising BUT suffering from contamination from her day job.  The last story of hers I read is much better, and I’m glad to see her making great strides and starting to sell her work on line.  Give her stories a try!  And give a warm ATH welcome — that means NO bad puns.  I know better than to ban ALL puns — to Pam Uphoff, now in her human form!*

Some Assembly Required

Pam Uphoff


I write both science fiction and fantasy, so I get to do a lot of world building.

It’s the most fun part of writing.

I like to start small. A single building. A house with a teenager playing a video game while his mom fixes dinner. A tavern, my characters chitchatting over desert. The kitchen of an abbey, with a young man chopping up vegetables. An office, the occupant sitting down with his first cup of coffee for the day.

Then I build the world outward, from there.

The city—or village, or countryside, or underground in Cheyenne Mountain—whatever I need for the story my subconscious is feeding me hints of. Counties, states, shires? Countries, kingdoms, planets?

And government.

Who has power over my characters?

A local government? Regional? National?

How does the President, King, or Conte collect taxes? Very important thing, those taxes, no world is complete without them.

Maybe we should analyze the real world as if it were fictional.

Because I think we all need to start small, and then build our understanding of the world outward.

Oh sure, I read about Syria, and Egypt and all the other trouble spots. I flinch from the pictures of the Boston Marathon, grind my teeth over Benghazi, hang my head in shame at the leadership of my nation. But the main impact of the Federal Government on my world is those checks I make out to the US Treasury.

In the real world, the next biggest tax bites are property and probably sales. My property taxes are collected as one, then split among school, sheriff, drainage district and the precinct. Oh, yes. My imaginary world needs schools, some sort of organized anti-crime organization, water, sewer, and street maintenance and repair. And if the population is growing, all new facilities, roads, and schools.

Creating an imaginary world can give one appreciation for the sheer amount of underpinnings our society has built as it grew and developed. And studying the real workings can enrich and complicate your imaginary worlds. It can make them seem very real. This is how the water system works. Here’s the city workers digging down to the broken sewer pipe and finding the skeleton of a man murdered twenty years ago! Oops. Ahem. Sorry. I’m a writer. These ideas just invade my mind.

When you get your nose out of the newspaper and put aside the considerations of foreign affairs and never ending economic stimulus, the local scene is astonishing.

And if Armageddon ever comes, keeping those local foundations up and running will prevent a lot of the collapse of society.

But in a crisis, everyone pulls together.

This slow sucking decline we’re in, the stress everyone is feeling . . .  That when tempers flare. When houses are lost and people move away. When the widow is reduced to penury, and the youngsters can’t find jobs, people get ugly.

As a writer, I have to show that in my imaginary world. As a member of this real life community, I have to jump in and help, here and there. Defuse a situation, hire a young man to do a job I could do myself, drop off a bag of groceries where it’s needed.

And _then_ go back and read the newspapers. Understand that Syria means that the neighbor’s son is going to be back in danger. That the nephew who’s out of the Army could be recalled. To understand that MegaCorp buying OtherCorp probably means several hundred people right here suddenly without a job. That this or that county or state government funding this program means that program will face cuts. That the Federal Government mandating something means more paperwork for teachers. That the Federal Government sternly promising more oversight so who-know-what won’t happen again means it’ll take two extra hours to get a permit, and no doubt it’ll cost more.

The larger scale governments have started to seriously impact the smaller. Or maybe I’m just finally aware of that. I’m beginning to see that to save the underpinnings of society, we need to protect not just ourselves from the federal government. We need to protect our local government from the federal government.

Each layer has a proper field of endeavor, a proper scope to their oversight and control. The drainage district doesn’t have input into the school curricula. The Federal government ought not be able to tell someone they can’t fill in a low spot in their yard that’s breeding mosquitoes because it looks like wetlands to them. Their business ought to be looking outward at the rest of the world, and inward only to things that cannot be handled at the state level. Like maintaining a monetary system. The military. Protecting civil rights, the rule of law. The interstate highway system. And yes, some environmental issues as well, as little air and water pollution will stay put in the state where it is generated. Patent and copyright issues are important to encourage creativity in both the arts and the sciences. There’s a ton of stuff that could easily be argued as being properly under Federal control.

It’s much more comfortable in my imaginary worlds. I can make the local, regional and national and planetary governments stick to their own stuff. Or whip up popular pressure or an actual rebellion, according to my stories’ needs.

How do we do it in the real world?

We talk. We vote. We see the alternate news on the ‘net, and we don’t blindly accept the mainstream media. And it changes very little, very slowly, if at all.

So we’d better all learn the local system, and figure out how to best maintain it. How to make it ours. Because at the Federal level, everything is looking grim. They seem determined to destroy jobs, the medical system we’ve got, however flawed, the currency and the economy.

I think we need to save America by each saving our own town, city or county. Maybe we can save whole states, once the Feds collapse.

And maybe we can then rebuild a small, limited, federal government that will stick to its own job. My only suggestion is, keep the Constitution. And make the Feds keep to it.

Why do I think the Federal Government is headed for a crash and make over?

It’s because, in my fictional world actions have consequences.

The real world is complex enough that consequences often aren’t obvious. Many times they take a long time to arrive. But they are there. And they’re on the way.

This is the real world, and we can’t write it off.

94 thoughts on “Some Assembly Required — A Guest Post By Pam Uphoff

  1. We have a federal government who thinks it has the power of that mythical king, who sat on the beach and willed the tide not to come in. Guess what happened.

    One of the big things we forget in any crisis, is that the tide keeps coming in, the sun keeps rising, things keep going on.

    The big thing you are reminding us is that as libertarians we say to take care of ourselves, our communities and leave others alone. Well, we need to do a better part of the taking care of ourselves, and near us, because that is the way to come through what is coming better than before.

    1. King Canute knew he didn’t command the oceans. His effort to do so was his way of showing his suck-up advisers that there were some things even beyond his power.

      Pity President Canute isn’t as self-aware.

        1. Breitbart is a real news site, and probably more to be trusted than any of the Main Stream Media sites.

          From all I can tell the story is real and widely reported.

          1. So, is it true that Putin said that “Negotiating with Obama is like playing chess with a pigeon?”

  2. It’s been fascinating over the past ten years, and especially the last five, to see how the Great Plains and High Plains towns have pretty much given up on the Feds when trouble hits. “Yeah, thanks, we’ve got it under control” seems to be the general attitude. The local towns and rural residents start moving within hours, collecting funds and supplies, relocating equipment so it is close once it’s safe to get in and start the clean-up and rebuilding. Ditto if a house burns down, or a family needs a hand through no fault of their own.

    I’ve also noticed more and more people taking part in local and county government, both the help and to hinder (depending on what the government is trying to do). Not sure if it’s a reaction to things going on elsewhere (“we won’t let outsiders and loons take over”) or just a sense that if things need to be done and paid for, folks want to see and know exactly what’s involved.

      1. More than they do now, I get the sense. There’s certainly far less expectation of federal assistance, especially among farmers and ranchers. I think FEMA denying livestock compensation assistance (loans) after the ’06 fires in Texas because “we don’t pay for pets” may have, shall we say, reduced the remaining confidence in the expertise of federal agencies. Subsidies and grants are one thing, but when the fertilizer hits the impeller, people look elsewhere.

        1. Compounded by the difficulty in getting fed level disaster declarations, as in the wildfires and more recently in the West, TX plant explosion (that did eventually get a declaration). The importance of these is not necessarily in direct monies, but that the declaration triggers favorable actions by private actors (emergency loans, favorable interest rates, deferments, like that). Particularly when compared to the relative speed in acting in other areas that could be seen as more politically favorable or aligned. Maybe I’m a cynic, though.

      2. Perhaps not, but there was a time where there was some (limited, as appropriate) respect for the fed’s role. And appreciation for the assistance. Largely eroded now.

          1. Yep. Harder to hide your culpability in rural communities than in urban.

            “What’d’ya mean it’s not your fault? I* watched you do it, ya maroon!”

            *(often the collective ‘I’ being me, my father, grandfather, great-grandfather…)

          2. There’s a great story in the guy that makes urban infrastructure as accountable as rural. Why can’t people watch and see the irresponsibility in urban settings? We’re in the information age. Complexity isn’t a real issue anymore.

            1. To some extent complexity still applies, if only in that in the urban environment so much is done outside of the individual’s day to day activities and without immediately perceivable impact. Wherein in the rural environment it is likely that a given activity will have an immediate/obvious impact on what someone is doing today.

              People have to search out the information, and that takes a greater familiarity with the details, etc.

              But it would be a great story, the fellow who manages to bring light to the activities going on and what their real effects are…

  3. Red;

    Up here in SW Ohio, which is,like, Tea Party Central, there is a concerted effort to take over political machinery from the grassroots in order to return it to constitutional principles. The understanding is that the Left has gone through this gramscian long march through the institutions over the last century-and-a-half and that, if liberty is to regain a footing, there will have to be a counter-action to that. I can’t believe that something similar isn’t happening down there in Texas.

    And it does engender some comic … um … reactions from the Left. Just this week, I got an election circular, the freight of whose message was, “Higher taxes are bad; say, ‘No’ to the Tea Party.” Which made ME react, “If taxes are your problem, it’s not with the Tea Party. Of course, it’s from a Democrat front, which types seem incapable of apprehending fundamental truth, but that’s a different thead.

    The first paragraph above reminds me of a story by local author, Ansen Dibble, called Circle Crescent Star, in which a vague, artistic type gets roped into designing a local government at the behest of a criminal strongman. [/oversimplification]. Excellent world building, to bring us back to Pam’s topic.


    1. Mark, there’s a new group that emerged, oh, ten or eleven months ago that has started protesting odd things, and petitioning for repeal of certain ordinances that no one else seems to have a problem with. Because their arguments are not “these are unnecessary government overreach” or “these interfere with our right to privacy” but “these violate State Law {number} public meeting requirement” or “this is a violation of police power” (a drainage fee. Although that complaint got dropped after the major street and business flooding three weeks ago), and because these are people who seem to be new to the area, a lot of folks are wondering if this is a Democrat/ OFA feeler that is starting with small causes and setting up an organization to do something larger. The usual Old-school Democrat party folks don’t seem to have anything to do with the new activists, which has raised eyebrows. So the local TEA Party types, and Usual Odd Suspects, have been getting more people involved on their side.

      1. It would not surprise me. The flyer I was referring to has several earmarks. 1) It’s union printed. Has the bug. You have to LOOK for union shops these days. They’re scarce as hen’s teeth. And they cost more, generally. But leftists insist on union solidarity, even when it flies in the face of economic reality. 2) there’s no web site and no email contact, just the name and address of the committee chairwoman. Which means, of course, the thing is virtually invisible (read: under the radar) to the social networking set. (Although I intend to call it to the attention of the local libertarian talk radio host.)

        False flag operations being a major arrow in the collectivist/progressivist quiver. Which makes things messy for the low-information types.

        And, from the perspective of the world-building writer, pose a pretty problem: if your narrator or perspective character is low-information or otherwise unreliable, how do you convey the true state of affairs to the reader without a massive info dump?


        1. During Political Season (during which, regrettably, shooting politicians is discouraged) it has become a favourite game in our household to play “Guess the Agenda” with the various political pamphlets, brochures and solicitations sent by our would-be representatives. The game involves three components: Who are they pretending to be, Who are they really, and Who do they think WE are?

        2. … if your narrator or perspective character is low-information or otherwise unreliable, how do you convey the true state of affairs to the reader without a massive info dump?

          Heinlein demonstrated this pretty well with Manny (and Mike) in Moon, employed it sequentially in Citizen of the Galaxy and uses it in a “long zoom” in Have Spacesuit.

          Many other authors have as well: start with a character who has been going along smoothly and whose life forces him to look behind the scenery. Hitchcock loved this technique, using it memorably in North By Northwest. Heck, in its own way it is the basis of Galaxy Quest.

  4. Popular pressure ought to be the goal in the short term, I think. It’s harder in RL than in our stories, but it can be achieved in much the same ways. The problem with building popular pressure in the U.S. is our own success. We are a society insulated from some political/governmental realities by our traditions and our wealth. Which is not to say they aren’t nibbling their way in, but we don’t have enough people who recognize them. Tied in with the size and heterogeneity of the society and a lot of the precursor signals are lost in the noise.

    People (frogs) just do not recognize how hot the water is getting. And that’s an impediment to building pressure.

    So how would we write the story to bring resolution?

    1. Personally, I’m in favor of dropping a meteor on DC . . .

      But we’ve got to start at the bottom and work up. And the first thing to target is the elections process. At the very bottom we have to have as close to an honest vote count as is humanly possible. It’ll never be perfect. But without that, we’re screwed.

      1. Agreed on the vote. As I’m sure most around here are aware, some organizations looking to address voter fraud have come under particular scrutiny from the .gov lately. Which underscores the need to clean up the process, I think.

        But my bigger question is, how do we reach people through the insulation? Most folk don’t really have any perspective on what other parts of the world are like, or what this part of the world could become. How do we reach them?

        1. I have a notion about one approach.

          Do a lot of it the same way they did — through popular culture. But never come out and proselytise. Lay it, in the words of the Peter Paul and Mary song, between the lines.

          Your good guy is a libertarian. A little rough around the edges, but a lovable type, and always reliable when it comes to helping his neighbors when they really need it, but fierce in the defense of their liberty and self-ownership.

          The townsfolk gather together to do something the town council couldn’t pull its thumb out to do to save their lives. And it’s a raging success.

          That kind of thing.

          You never mention Buckley or Bastiat, rand or Rothbard. You don’t use the dog whistle code words. You fly under the radar to drop your idea bombs and fly off into the night. Then, weeks, months, YEARS later, you have convert or converts. The way, the truth, and the light of liberty becomes every bit an “of course” amopng the apolitical then as government-forced charity or taxpayer-funded abortion are today.


          1. This is the path I like and looking at the WIPs and ideas this is what I do, for the most part. I guess I’m just concerned (fearful) that it’s too subtle and my assumptions are coloring my assessment of character motivation. That’s probably based on what’s going on in the current crop of prog SF/F drivel. When the club for which to whack you is bigger than the story with which to entertain you it’s hard to imagine subtlety being equivalent opposition. Or, you know, just honesty. They’re using a pretty big club.

            Confidence in the voice, Eamon, just gotta have confidence in the voice. And quit talking to yourself, it’s distracting.

            1. Well, the bigger the club they use, the more noticeable, the more people resent being preached to, the more they become AWARE of the philosophy (please assume “” scorn quotes when applying the term “philosophy” to the Left), the more they resist. Until you get to the point where an agitprop “community organizer” takes the gloves off and gets smacked in the face with an Honro Flight’s-worth of WWII vets knocking down the barriers to their memorial. With lots of press. And ugly things said by Democrats coming back to haunt them.

              As — I believe it was the Sage of Butler — said, “Softly, softly catchee monkey.”


              1. We should note that the admin doubled down on stupid, reinstalling the barriers around the WWII Memorial and wiring them together to prevent their being pushed aside. The first impulse of authoritarian rulers is always to assert their authority, and the second impulse is to re-assert their authority (especially when they lack any authority to be doing what they are.)

                  1. Chasing people away from the Vietnam Wall isn’t especially brilliant, either. Someone moved a bit of the fence yesterday AM and others streamed in, and after a while the police appeared and started shooing everyone right back out.

                    Oh, and closing a lane on the highway so drivers can’t pull over and look at Mt. Rushmore? Brilliant move. Truly inspired. [/sarc]

                    1. Don’t know about Rushmore, but did read about closings of turnouts/overlooks in the Smokies. They couldn’t close the road, so…

                      Pretty sure that was on Instapundit.

              1. Never let it come to a vote. They outnumber you, it’s essential that you maintain a dictatorship, an absolute monarchy, full tyranny, never let ’em see you sweat…

                I’m the boss. I am. Really. *stampy foot*

                They’s my fingers and they’s gonna do what I say no’s matter what’chou other folks babble on about. You there, in the back, quit that jumping around! Hey! Where’d you get that?! Put it back! I might need that…

                Pardon me, seems I need a moment.

                1. That’s funny — there’s some clown back east trying that same approach; *might* be a good idea to suggest a different options in these parts. 🙂

              2. What’s wrong with talking to yourself? Half the time it’s the only way I can get an intelligent conversation.

                1. I find talking to myself unsatisfactory as I know myself to be a liar and full of [REDACTED]. I also know myself to possess a low humour and to be prone to practical jokes and bad advice, compounded of wishful thinking, specious logic and careless judgement. Frankly, anyone listening to myself is asking for trouble — trust me, I wouldn’t lie about a thing like that.

                    1. Why yes, i am* a Gemini. How did you figure it out?

                      *Not an endorsement of astrology, about which I am of two minds — one of which says it is rubbish, the other of which says that in a simultaneous reality it is not necessarily invalid.

            2. It is actually pretty easy to do through the popular culture. Look at what J.K. Rowling did to the MSM and government bureaucracy in the Potter books — and she’s Liberal!

              I suspect it is actually harder to write liberal books — the required suspension of disbelief must clear a higher bar. Whereas conservative depictions of society need merely reflect human nature as we daily experience.

            3. Subtle is good. With subtle you tell a story first, and the implications are just part of the background.

              When I watch TV these days, I notice that the background implications all lean a certain direction. If I weren’t watching out for that, I might not take conscious note, and it would all just sink into my brain and start re-wiring the circuitry. And I watch shows about superheroes.

              I just finished reading Sharper Security (which was a lot of fun), and realized at the end what felt so novel about it (no pun intended). The main character was extremely competent, honest and honorable. He had hard choices, but a moral compass. It was quite refreshing. And, it matters.

          1. “Well, naturally we dropped a neutron bomb. Haven’t you been paying attention. Logical progression is logical.”

            I used naturally, does that count? 😐

      2. How’s this for a subversive idea — agitate to change the awarding of electoral votes in your state *proportional* to the vote. Not winner-take-all. Maine has this currently. It would be very hard for the liberals to argue against, given their fondness for “proportional” representation in everything else…

        1. They feel no need for consistency — or rather, their consistency occurs at a deeper level. As expressed by Jonah Goldberg:

          … The key issue for progressives has never been the form power takes, but power itself. You want my five-second lesson in progressive history? No? Sucks for you, because I’m going to tell you anyway: They always go where the field is open.

          That’s it.

          When the public was on their side the progressives relied on the public. That’s why we have the direct election of senators. That’s why women got the franchise. Etc. In his early years as an academic Woodrow Wilson wanted Congress to run the country — the way parliament runs England — and relegate the president to a glorified clerk. When the public became unreliable and Congress was no longer a viable vehicle, progressives suddenly fell in love with a Caesarian presidency. Indeed, Wilson himself, the former champion of Congress, became an unapologetic voluptuary of presidential power the moment it suited him — and nary a progressive complained (save poor Randolph Bourne, of course). The progressives rode the presidency like it was a horse they never expected to return to a stable. And when that started to hit the point of diminishing returns, they moved on to the courts (even as they bleated and caterwauled about Nixon’s “abuses” of powers that were created and exploited by Wilson, FDR, and Johnson). After the courts, they relied on the bureaucracy. Like water seeking the shortest path, progressives have always championed the shortest route to social-justice victories.

          … the elected king scenario is just one of many they’d be perfectly happy with. If they could have a politburo instead of a unitary executive, they’d probably prefer that. But the point is that the instruments are, uh, instrumental. The core imperative is power. We see this in miniature when liberals don’t control the presidency but do control Congress. Suddenly, it’s vital that the “people’s house” exert its constitutional prerogatives! When the president is a Democrat he needs to rule unimpaired. When he’s a Republican, his dictatorial tendencies must be held in check. When liberals want to reinterpret the Constitution by judicial whim or fiat, it’s proof that the Constitution is living up to its nature as a “living, breathing, document.” When conservatives actually want to amend the Constitution — the only legitimate and constitutional means to change the meaning of the Constitution, I might add – it is a horrible affront to the vision of the Founders!

          Once you realize this it helps explain so many of the Left’s hypocrisies and alleged double standards. I say alleged, because they aren’t really double standards. You can only have a double standard when you actually believe something should be a standard. Ultimately, for progressives these procedural debates about how power is used in America are just that: procedural debates. The alleged standards at stake are evanescent and petty –for liberals. The only true standard is whatever advances the progressives’ ball downfield. That is the very heart of “social justice” — doing whatever “good” you can, when you can, however you can. As they say, behind every confessed double standard there is an unconfessed single standard. And for progressives, the single enduring standard is “whatever works for us.”

          1. Ah! Jonah (said in the way Indy said “An, Venice!” in …and the Last Crusade).

            Still, it’s nice to have that notion so neatly said. It is true. Progressives are like a phototropic flower, or — perversely — a hydroscopic alcohol. There really is a power tropism in progressivism that overrules even good sense.

            I’ve long thought that a singular point of failure in our system is that there is a power vacuum at the top. The government is SO circumscribed that there’s this power just lying around that nobody is allowed to exercise. It’s also the singular source of our strength — that restraint — when it’s working right, but, fools aborning minutely, it so seldom does.

            It tears me sometimes that people don’t get how much GREATER we could be if they just wouldn’t f*ck with the system the way it was designed. But, NOOOooooooo!


            1. WE would be greater, but they wouldn’t. And who are we to stand in the way of their greatness? Really, we should be ashamed of ourselves.

            2. But… we’ve spent so many years studying, and pontificating, and hanging out with “really smart people”, we MUST be smarter than the people who built the legacy systems that don’t work perfectly. (I think a lot of progressivism is intellectual insecurity leading to terminal NIH-ism.)

        2. Maine (and Nebraska) don’t award electors based on vote proportion. They award 2 electors to whoever wins the state as a whole, plus one elector to the winner of each Congressional district. In practice neither state splits their electors very often.

          I think either one would be an improvement. It would narrow the margins, in 2012 a proportional allocation in all states would have left Barry with 271 EC votes. Enough to win, but not enough to claim a mandate (who am I kidding, liberals get a mandate just by winning, while conservatives never have a mandate, even in landslides). That would encourage candidates to campaign and address issues even in today’s “safe” states. Somewhat paradoxically, I think it would reduce the incentive for voter fraud, since running up the tally would probably only get you one or two more EC votes, not much to warrant the risk (assuming the necessary reforms to make voter fraud risky, or at least expensive.

          I’m not sure how allocating by Congressional district would have fared, but if Obama had only won districts Dems won, and carried all the states he did, he wouldn’t be President, winning only 255 EC votes. Of course that plan would drastically raise the value of gerrymandering districts, which is bad enough. It would drastically increase the number of times the winner of the popular vote lost the election. And the apparent plan of the Democratic Party to eschew white male candidates for the foreseeable future would make the blatantly racist minority-majority district particularly pernicious.

        3. I’m always leery* of suggestions to award electoral votes proportionally, because I’m afraid it would lead to candidates campaigning only in large-population states like California and Texas (and a few others), and avoiding (say) Wyoming, Montana…

          Now, a well-designed proportional-representation system might be able to avoid that danger. But so far, none of the proposals I’ve seen for proportional representation have addressed the danger at all, which makes me doubly leery.

          * And I’d much rather be Leary.

      3. “Personally I’m in favor of droppping a meteor on DC…

        But we’ve got to start at the bottom and work up.”

        So, what we do is, we find out ‘zactly who is mucking with the local elections. Or just lying about them. We find out where they sleep. And we drop pebbles on their heads.

        Tell them, speak the truth, do right even if it doesn’t portray your party in the best light. Or there will be more rocks, bigger, and dropped from a greater height. Proportional to the offense.

        Just *how* difficult would it be to snag an appropriately sized meteor and direct it towards D.C. again? It might take a bit to get spacecraft up to the Oort cloud to get the right height, too…

        1. “…start at the bottom and work up.” – so, are you also thinking artificially-created sinkhole technology? I like the visuals…

  5. Interesting that you wrote this, Pam, because right now I’m struggling with “Novel 2:The Sequel” because one major theme is the question of what duties an individual has to his society, if any. The protagonist just wants to be left alone, but the Pack has other ideas. Meanwhile, on a colony world, a reactionary Imperial governor is about to collide with a “moderate” (the character’s term, not necessarily everyone else’s) who wants people to be given the option to choose their own local, and regional, and planetary government.

  6. Pam, this is very thought-provoking stuff. Thanks for writing it. I’m going to go away and think about it, rather than comment ‘off the cuff’.

        1. In fairness, I think we’re all a little irregular here. Not enough grey goo in our diets, too much moral fibre.

        2. I know, I’ve seen him around. I was making a crack about his reluctance to comment off the cuff.

                1. I come up with solutions to problems. I make no guarantee that they are the best available, or even necessarily any good.

                  1. Many common problems are soluble with the employment of an acid bath or through addition of common agricultural lime. The particular nature and urgency of your problem should dictate what solution you employ.

    1. There’s a whole staircase of . . . can I call it “impact levels?” . . . between the federal government and the individual. Below the state level there’s a spider web of smaller organizations, and it’s there that we’ll find the things that we can affect, and that are worth supporting if things get really nasty. And if things get really, really bloody, being on the inside and ensuring that those organizations are part of the solution, not part of the problem, is going to be important.

  7. This slow sucking decline we’re in, the stress everyone is feeling . . . That when tempers flare.

    Whilst brushing teeth last night (an activity highly conducive to thinking) it occurred to me that the current DC contretemps is fairly analogous to a dysfunctional family. Somebody has “invested” the kids’ college fund in a risky scheme without really discussing it with the other adult members of the family, and rather than alleviate concerns by discussing the situation and exploring steps (such as slowing down and making sure the books are right) that can be taken to reduce the risk of catastrophe is insisting the matter is “settled law.” On top of that, in response to learning we’re about to max out the credit cards — again — we are being told we’re betraying the family by not living up to our obligations and that if we just take out another credit card or get the debt limit o the current one raised, everything will be fine — and if we don’t shut up and go along it is because we want bad things to happen to the family.

    I am (happily) not particularly familiar with the dynamics of abusive relationships, but it seems the metaphor is there to be used. “Cook my dinner and iron my shirts and then we’ll discuss matters” is a poor way to run a family and a worse way to run a government.

  8. “And give a warm ATH welcome — that means NO bad puns. I know better than to ban ALL puns — to Pam Uphoff”

    The only good pun is a dead pun.

          1. Go Blue Devils! (basketball) Go Horn Frogs! (Football)

            Oh, oops, that’s arguing religion, right? Sorry, sorry.

  9. “And give a warm ATH welcome — that means NO bad puns. I know better than to ban ALL puns — to Pam Uphoff.”

    So, you’re saying…

    [long, slow, lingering pause, with Evil Smirk appended]

    Don’t Hassle the [Up]hoff?


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