Quora question: For 2017, what is the cost to mail a letter from the US to the Philippines?

November 14, 2017

My response:

Let’s see… There’s the cost of:

  • Bottled water, heated to produce enough steam for The Philippines’ Office of Nosey Parkers to open the envelope;
  • A grammarist to reduce each paragraph to four words or less;
  • Additional postage to send a copy of the amended letter to President Trump;
  • Bus fare to send members of The Philippine military to surround the house of the addressee;
  • Catering the arrest of the addressee;
  • Bus fare to send journalists to cover members of The Philippine military injured in the arrest of the addressee;
  • Bus fare for select national lottery winners to The Philippines’ “Pit Of The Unknown Reporter,” the final resting place for journalists mistaken for the addressee and inadvertently assassinated;
  • Man hours amassed by all seven of Rodrigo Duterte’s intelligence agencies devoted to resealing the envelope;
  • The stamp.

Quora question: Is the book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ a satire of the current world? How?

November 14, 2017

My response:

With all due respect to the respondent Michael Masiello, I disagree with his contention that George Orwell’s 1984 was not a satire and solely a prophecy. 1984 was, in fact, both.

In a letter Orwell penned to critics of the book, he stated, “I do not believe that the kind of society I describe necessarily will arrive, but I believe (allowing of course for the fact that the book is a satire) that something resembling it could arrive.”[1]

1984 extends the theme of centralized control—as seen in Britain of the late 1940s, as well as in Stalinist Russia—to its extreme in order to shed light upon the body politic as an unassailable aggregate. This plays well today with an obtuse American president who bemoans the fact that he cannot influence the judicial and legislative branches of government, except through implicit tweets of retribution.

Orwell did see the rubric of state policy as a conflation of rigid politics and the degradation of language—this was emblematic of the state of post-War Britain and is certainly the extant theme in the United States in 2017. Today’s sanctimonious overseers of public speak had their Orwellian antecedents in his “Thought Police.”

The overarching themes of fascism and communism have become less prominent on the world stage with the dissolution of the Soviet empire and China’s cross-pollination of communism with Western capitalism. But their underlying principles still exist, having morphed into an elected demagogue who stands atop a totem of political illiteracy and rabid xenophobia.


The First Dialectic

August 28, 2017

While sitting in a booth at The Deli Llama, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels developed Dialectical Materialism, a philosophical construct derived from one of their failed comedy routines. Let’s listen in on their conversation that fateful night…

Karl Marx:  Ach! What was up with that audience?

Friedrich Engels:  What was with you tonight?

KM: What?

FE: You had to have audience participation. Did I tell you to ask for audience participation? No. You had to have audience participation. It was your brilliant idea.

KM:  How was I to know they’d throw things?

FE:  And that stupid song of yours – who ever heard of a word that rhymes with “heuristics?” What kind of an idiot asks the audience for a word that rhymes with heuristics?

KM:  It sounded good at the time.

FE:  Moron. And what the hell is the “materialist conception of history?” Where do you get that stuff?

KM:  I was waiting for Sasha to finish her gruel so I could take her to kindergarten. I saw it on the side of her lunch box. I thought it might get a laugh.

FE:  Oh, by the way, genius—it’s “materialist dialectic,” not “dialectical materialism.”

KM:  Since when?

FE:  Since we started. It’s always been materialist dialectic.

KM:  Yeah, and no one laughed. Ever. Look what happened tonight—they were rolling on the floor.

FE:  That was the cheese. Roquefort isn’t supposed to be green.

KM:  You should talk. First it’s “geist”, then it’s “zeitgeist.” Make up your mind.

FE:  I wanted to get some concept of time in there, so I used zeitgeist. What’s the big deal?

KM:  You threw off my timing is what!

FE:  Like you know timing. You were supposed to pause after “thought is a reflection of the material world in the drain.”

KM:  It’s “brain,” you idiot—not drain!

FE:  Well, if you’re going to start quoting me on stage, you nitwit, it’s “ceaseless,” as in “All nature is a ceaseless state of movement and change.”

KM:  What did I say?

FE:  Creaseless.

KM:  It got a laugh.

FE:  We sounded like idiots up there tonight.

KM:  What if we focused more on materialism?  I heard this kid Lenin do a real funny bit on it at the Rathskeller. It was murder!

Chairman Mao — The Lost Interview

December 13, 2015

In late August of 1975, Mao Zedong, leader of China’s Cultural Revolution and fashion icon, sat down with this reporter at the Imperial Palace — one of his favorite restaurants — for an impromptu interview.

tony garcia:  I really appreciate this opportunity, sir.

Mao Zedong (through his interpreter): You should. So, what do you think of the suit?

tg:  Pardon me?

MZ: My suit. You like it? I designed it myself.

tg:  Oh, it’s very original.

MZ: How about the collar? I call it the Mao Collar.

tg:  Reminds me of a jacket from the sixties called the Nehru Jacket.

MZ: Don’t mention that running dog Nehru! Guy calls me up and reverses the charges. Says he’s dying to play mah-jongg. So I invite him over and what does he do? Steals my design and eats me out of house and home! I should have invited Gandi over; he eats a little popcorn and he’s full.

tg:  Um, to get back to the jacket, I thought it was created in India in the 1940s.

MZ: Hey, it’s has a mandarin collar, doesn’t it?

tg:  Yes…

MZ: So there!

tg:  Right. So how does one address you? As Chairman Mao? Mr. Chairman?

MZ: Either one is fine. Just don’t call me Bunkie.

tg:  Bunkie?

MZ: I told you not to call me that, you sycophantic toady who suckles at the teats of the bourgeoisie! Zhou EnLai used to call me that back in school. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.

tg:  I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to offend you.

MZ: Yeah, yeah. So tell me, when was the last time you were in Belgium?

tg:  Last year.

MZ: I understand that in some towns there the women can become pregnant by staring at their shadows.

tg: That’s news to me.

MZ: Never happened, huh?

tg:  I don’t think so.

MZ: I knew it. Damn People Magazine.

tg:  Can we talk about your formative years.

MZ: Which ones were those?

tg:  At Peking University.

MZ: Okay, if you say so. It’s all a blur to me.

tg:  I understand in 1917 you moved to Beijing where you worked at the university library. And it was there that you were first introduced to the sociopolitical theory of Marxism.

MZ: Huh? Sorry, my mind was on lunch. You see the waiter around here anywhere?

tg:  No, I haven’t. Getting back to your introduction to Marxism…

MZ: Oh, good grief, not that nonsense.

tg:  Excuse me?

MZ: Come on — a communist society, free from central government, and based on voluntary associations between the workers? Please…

tg:  I’m stunned; I really am. I mean, you’re the architect of the Great Leap Forward, land reform, the Campaign to Suppress Counter-revolutionaries, the Chinese diaspora–

MZ: What was that last one?

tg:   The Chinese diaspora?

MZ: You’ve got a way with words, you know that?

tg:  Mr. Chairman, I’m asounded that you’re calling Marxist-communist ideology nonsense.

MZ: Hey, I’m 82; I get confused. So sue me already.

tg:  Fine. So how were you able to implement such sweeping reform throughout China?

MZ: One night I had this dream: China as the cultural and financial mecca of the world, with the U.S. as a bedroom community. So I initiated a series of open-air forums, brought my vision directly to our Great Mass of People, and they bought into it.

tg:  That’s amazing — winning over their hearts and minds.

MZ: Well, it didn’t hurt that I also had more guns than our Great Mass of People.

tg:  I’m sure it didn’t.

MZ: So tell me, you purveyor of creeping capitalism, what do you think of Barbra Streisand?

tg:  What?

MZ: Barbra Streisand. You know, “People… People who need people… ARE THE LUCKIEST–”

tg:  I got it; I got it.

MZ: Well I don’t get it. How could she have married that putz Elliott Gould? As an actor, the guy stinks.

tg:  He starred in MASH.

MZ: Well, stop the presses! Elliott Gould was in MASH!

tg:  Not one of your favorite movies, I take it.

MZ: You watch that movie you think the Korean War was all about golf and football, big nose.

tg:  I think Robert Altman, the director, might have been trying to illustrate the absurdity of war.

MZ: Absurdity? You want absurdity? I’ll give you absurdity: Peter Gunn, a great TV show and they take it off the air after 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Mr. Ed, a show about a talking horse — a talking horse! — runs for 8 years.

tg:  It was the kind of escapist entertainment popular back in the 50’s and 60’s.

MZ: Ah, bullshit!

tg:  Okay, let’s move on.

MZ: Hey, before we do, I gotta ask you a question. Is it true some Caucasians still tie themselves together to keep from being snatched away by eagles?

tg:  Not where I live.

MZ: Live in a restricted neighborhood, do you?

tg:  Something like that. Now, during China’s civil war, your forces defeated Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists who then retreated to Taiwan. Shortly thereafter, you founded the People’s Republic of China.

MZ: What are you — writing your history term paper? Get to the present, for chrissake!

tg:  Okay then, let’s talk about President Richard Nixon.

MZ: That guy had the worst Chinese accent I’ve ever heard. Bar none.

tg:  I didn’t know that. It’s my understanding that when Nixon told his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger that he wanted to open relations with China, Kissinger told the National Security Council that Nixon had lost his mind, primarily because you yourself had referred to Nixon as a gangster.

MZ: No! I never called him a gangster! I was very sympathetic to Mr. Nixon’s travails. I called him a psychopathic thug. But you know how these things get lost in translation.

tg:  Of course. But it must have come as a shock to you when Mr. Nixon, this staunch anticommunist, sought to normalize relations between the two countries.

MZ: I just thought he needed a fourth for bridge. I heard the guy loved to play cards.

tg:  I see. As I understand it, the subject of detente was first broached at a fashion show in Warsaw, Poland where delegations from the U.S. and China were in attendance.

MZ: Now, that’s true. After the show the American ambassador came running after us shouting in Polish: “I’m from the American Embassy! I saw President Nixon in Washington! He wants to establish relations with China!”

tg:  And how did your people respond?

MZ: They ran.

tg:  They ran?

MZ: Who knew what the hell the guy was saying? We don’t speak Polish.

tg:  Oh. So what did your people do?

MZ: They grabbed this guy who was urinating on a building and asked him to translate. Luckily for them he happened to be the Polish Ambassador to China.

tg:  Okay, okay… In 1969 you declared that the Cultural Revolution was over.

MZ: Yeah. With the Beatles breaking up, I figured it was time.

tg:  Wait — are you serious?

MZ: You trying to start a fight?

tg:   No, it’s just that… The breakup of the Beatles?

MZ: Come on, you couldn’t see that coming? Yoko hanging out at the studio all the time like some nitwit groupie. You hear that album she put out — what was it called, Fly? Sounded like someone strangling a chicken. Speaking of which, here comes lunch! You don’t mind Bird’s Nest Soup, do you?

tg: No, not at all.

MZ: Good. I hope you don’t slurp your soup. I hate that sound. Hate it. Zhou Enlai used to slurp his soup. He came this close to getting his ass kicked.

Desperately Seeking Osama

January 2, 2009

Osama bin Laden has proved to be more elusive than the butterfly of love. More than 7 years after September 11th, 2001, and 12 years since the CIA placed him on the back of their milk cartons, Mr. bin Laden continues to roam the Afghan mountainside, or the hills of Pakistan, or…

And while it appears to be easier to track the whereabouts of nonagenarian ex-Nazis in Paraguay, the futile search for Osama bin Laden has not been for lack of trying.

§ According to London’s Daily Mail, in 2002 Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) recruited psychics to locate Mr. bin Laden. The MoD conducted an experiment to see if volunteers could ‘see’ objects hidden inside an envelope. They initially tried to recruit 12 professional psychics who advertised their abilities on the Internet, but when they all refused – perhaps they foresaw the results? – MoD were forced to use ‘novice’ volunteers.

The study involved blindfolding test subjects and asking them to see the contents of sealed brown envelopes containing pictures of objects and public figures. Twenty-eight per cent of those tested managed to guess the contents of the envelopes, which included pictures of a knife, Mother Teresa and an “Asian individual.” But most subjects, who were holed up in a secret location for the study, were hopelessly off the mark. One even fell asleep as he tried to focus on the envelope’s content.

After spending £18,000 of taxpayers’ money, MoD concluded there was “little value” in using psychic powers in the defense of the nation and the research was halted.

§ In 2005, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) disbanded its Alec Station, a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, according to a story in The New York Times.

Agency officials said that tracking Mr. bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, but the decision to disband Alec Station, named after the son of Michael Scheuer, the first head of the unit, reflected a re-focus of CIA resources on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals.

Apparently, the closing of Alec Station had very much to do with the individuals assigned there. Agency insiders referred to the members of Alec Station as a cult, saying they had became so obsessed with al-Qaeda that they referred to themselves as “the Manson Family.” These two dozen or so “Family” members regularly issued cables to Agency heads about Mr. bin Laden’s growing capabilities and his desire to strike American targets throughout the world.

One can only wonder how many times senior Agency officials, after receiving the latest batch of admonitory cables from “the Manson Family ” at Alec Station, sighed resignedly, “Not again.”

§ President George Bush enlisted British Special Forces in an attempt to capture Osama Bin Laden before Mr. Bush’s term in office expired, according to London’s Sunday Times.

The U.K.’s Special Boat Service and Special Reconnaissance Regiment have been taking part in U.S.-led operations to capture Mr. bin Laden in the wilds of northern Pakistan. This effort was, according to British and American sources, “completely sanctioned” by the Pakistani government, despite a published statement from Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam warning that her country would not accept “indiscriminate action” on its territory by U.S. forces without first being informed that there was an al-Qaeda or terrorist target there.

In fact, the CIA and U.S military had already carried out special operations on Pakistani soil – and perhaps twenty more countries – pursuant to a 2004 confidential order, “Al Qaeda Network Exord,” signed by Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush. According to The New York Times, “Al Qaeda Network Exord” gave the military open orders to enter and operate wherever the U.S. felt al-Qaeda was hiding.

A U.S. intelligence source compared the “growing number of clandestine reconnaissance missions” inside Pakistan with those conducted in Laos and Cambodia at the height of the Vietnam War. One can only hope these operations will end more favorably for the U.S. than did that conflict.

§ Perhaps the strangest bit of news on Osama bin Laden came when then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced that Osama bin Laden had “at long last been found.”

“For more than two years, we combed the Middle East looking for bin Laden,” Rumsfeld said. “Frankly, it was starting to be an embarrassment. You can imagine our surprise when we finally found him hiding deep inside the darkest recesses of each and every one of our souls.” What? Was Mr. Rumsfeld suggesting that since toppling the Taliban regime in 2001, and with U.S. forces ranging along the rugged Afghan-Pakistani border in search of Mr. bin Laden, all we really needed to do was to take some transcendental look inward?

“We were so busy tracking the remaining members of the Taliban regime and freezing al-Qaeda assets that we missed what was right in front of us all along,” Rumsfeld said. “Osama bin Laden wasn’t hidden in a cave in the mountainous Pakistani province of Waziristan or huddled in the back of a Chitral meat market stall. He was lurking in the blackness within us all, right there with the laziness and the jealousy.”

Apparently, in addition to FBI intelligence reports, heat-sensing equipment to search in underground tunnels, aerial photography, eight Ultra-High Frequency Follow-On communications satellites, submarines, aircraft, ground units and global ground stations, all we needed to do to find Osama bin Laden was a little soul-searching; all we needed was love. (Queue the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love.)

“It just goes to show,” Rumsfeld continued, “that sometimes it’s easier to look for the man in the FBI dossier than it is to look at the man in the mirror.”

Man in the mirror – wasn’t that a song from that self-styled king of pop and alleged child molester, Michael Jackson?

§ In a press conference on the seventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino about the Bush administration’s ongoing efforts to find Osama bin Laden, calling him the mastermind of 9/11. Ms. Perino interrupted the reporter, claiming Mr. bin Laden was not the true mastermind of the attacks:

Q: But Osama bin Laden is the one that — you keep talking about his lieutenants, and, yes, they are very important, but Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11–

PERINO: No, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11, and he’s sitting in jail right now.

Ms. Perino, apparently, was attempting to justify the Bush administration’s failure to catch Mr. bin Laden by suggesting he was not the mastermind. But in September 2006, former press secretary Tony Snow stated, “Osama bin Laden, mastermind of September 11th, the person that many people talk about and still have concerns about, calls this fight, the fight in Iraq, ‘the third world war.’”

It would seem that “mastermind” is a rather fluid term.

Ms. Perino suggested that it would take “superpowers” to catch Mr. bin Laden. “So there are human limitations to any — this is not the movies, we don’t have superpowers,” she said. It did not, however, take superpowers to corner Mr. bin Laden at Tora Bora in late 2001, where he escaped in part because of a lack of troops.


The failure of the exigencies of modern warfare notwithstanding, I suggest that what is needed here is a fresh approach towards Osama bin Laden’s capture or kill – whichever comes first. To that end might I suggest the following as means to find Mr. bin Laden:

• Hire a bounty hunter.
• Lower the limit on his Mastercard.
• Have his college alumni association track him down for a donation.
• Follow his groupies.
• Offer free fluff-and-fold service to any woman who has recently slept with him.
• Place an ad on al-Jazeera television offering free samples of “Just for Men – for Moustaches and Beards.”
• Publish a current photo of Charles Manson and announce that we’ve already caught bin Laden.
• Offer him a major role in an upcoming Martin Scorcese film.
• Ask someone who owes him money.
• Leave 2 tickets to the revival of “Guys And Dolls” in bin Laden’s name at the Will-Call window.
• Publish photos showing bin Laden and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover auditioning for “A Chorus Line.”
• Offer him 0% financing on a Toyota Prius.
• Check overnight surveillance video from all local 7-11’s.
• Go into every cave in eastern Afghanistan and yell, “Shave and a haircut…” and wait for someone to respond, “Two bits!”

Ten Things I’ll Remember About The Year 2008…

December 31, 2008

The New York Times revealed that the Manhattan Project – the Allies’ effort during World War II to develop the first atomic bomb – apparently had enough foreign spies to field a baseball team.

Vice President Dick Cheney admitted during an interview with ABC News that he was directly involved in approving severe interrogation methods – such as waterboarding – used by the CIA on terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, despite both the Pentagon and the CIA internally prohibiting waterboarding, and testimony from Stephen Jackson, acting head of the Dept. of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, to the House Judiciary Committee that there is no legal sanction for these tactics.

During a live broadcast interview, actor William Shatner – a k a Captain James T. Kirk of Star Trek fame – revealed that he had inside information confirming that there is, in fact, life on the planet Mars.

Researchers at the Department of Biology at Binghamton University in Australia who were studying yawning among parrots discovered that the birds do not generally engage in contagious yawning, as humans do, and that yawning is the body’s way of cooling off an overheated brain.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin announced that five FCC Commissioners and other Commission staff would fan out across the country and hold town hall meetings, workshops and roundtables, all in an effort to raise awareness and educate consumers on the upcoming transition from analog to digital television.

The U.S. Gross National Debt – the amount of money borrowed by the General Fund – reached a record $10 trillion.

A recently discovered script written in the 1970’s by the BBC and the British government, and to be broadcast in the event of nuclear attack, instructed the public to “stay calm and remain in your own homes,” and to “turn off fuel supplies, ration food to last 14 days, and conserve water” – with a warning not to waste it by flushing the lavatory.

During a radio interview with The Daily Telegraph of London, former NASA astronaut and moonwalker Dr. Edgar Mitchell – a veteran of the Apollo 14 moon mission – claimed that aliens do exist, that the space agency had had contact with these aliens, described as “little people who look strange to us,” and that the extraterrestrials have visited Earth on several occasions, but that alien contact has been repeatedly covered up by governments for six decades.

George W. Bush became the first U.S. President to revoke a pardon, one he had granted only a day before to real estate developer Isaac Robert Toussie of Brooklyn, N.Y., who had been convicted of making false statements to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and of mail fraud, after learning of political contributions totaling more than $40,000 to Republicans by the man’s father before Toussie’s clemency petition was filed with the White House.

Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected President of the United States.

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