If Dogs Could Vote

If dogs could vote, I would be king.

I visit people’s homes as a candidate for the state legislature.

After three or four dogs have smudged my pant legs with their wet noses, I become a cocktail of smells. Then the next dog goes into a frenzy of delight. And the next dog. I’m so popular with them. They can mentally trace my steps.

“This candidate came from the west. He’s up to five dogs today. He visited that cute little beagle down four doors. Oh, what I’d give if she’d look my way! There’s the smell of that passive Newf. What a clutz.”

I’m a walking dog-Facebook.

Eating and Buying Local: Northern Exposure

The message from environmentalists and food planners for government schools and food planners that would foist their vision on all of us is to buy locally grown foods. Restaurants do it trying to look holy.

In Montana, it’s tougher. If you want to buy local, you can have beef. In Bozeman, you will have a hard time finding anything fresh and local in the winter except milk, cheese and steak. Bread, too.

Personally, I like avocados and thrill to see them coming from Chile or Mexico when the earth tilts and the seasons shift from northern to southern hemisphere. Ther are no locally grown grapes. Or citrus, or commercially grown apples. I eat 8 large leaves of lettuce daily. I think the wholesome greens come from Yuma. I know I’m killing the earth, but I’m saving myself.

I apologize, but when I examine my diet, 99% of what I eat cannot be provided locally. I bad.

Tuna, salmon, yougurt, stevia, beets, olives, squash, broccoli, shrimp, fake crab, peanut butter, blackberries, blueberries, pecans, walnuts,, almonds, pickles, rice, spaghetti, oats, quinoa, teff, amaranth, Nabisco crackers; our pantry is the epicenter of buy-local perfidy.

Exercise or Blame

The Hidden Benefits of Exercise: An Article to Make You Feel Bad

Beach exercise

Beach exercise

The Wall Street Journal published a mean-spirited article this morning. It claims that people who exercise gain hidden benefits. They have fewer symptoms and less-severe illnesses compared to “low-fitness subjects.”

Do they realize how hurtful these statements are? Do they think low-fitness subjects want to be low-fitness?

Studies show that exercise lowers:

  • The risk of stroke 70%
  • The incidence of diabetes 50%
  • The incidence of high blood pressure 40%
  • The risk of breast cancer 50%
  • The risk of colon cancer 50%
  • The risk of developing Alzheimer’s 40%
  • The risk of depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy.

That’s easy for Laura Landro, the writer, to say.

People who shun exercise are not irresponsible. They are simply not responsible. It is in their genes. They are not disposed to exercise. They do not want to exercise because their genes don’t want them to. Do you, Laura, think they want to be diabetic and depressed, to have strokes, breast and colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease?

Publishing these studies shows an incredible insensitivity. People need help, not blame. A more helpful prescription would be to fund biotech companies to create genetic solutions for the 70% of people who forego exercise not because they dislike it, or because they lack willpower, but because their DNA is handicapped. Fix DNA and people will exercise.

People like Laura Landro and newspapers like the Wall Street Journal should stop blaming the American people for not having strength of will. They are making us feel bad.

Obama’s Part-time Job

Barack Obama writes home……………….

Dear Mother,

How are you? I am fine. I hope our little puppy is happy.

The reason I haven’t written is because of my new job. You might have heard that I have been elected President of the United States of America. It’s a big job. I command the army that repels people like Iranians who shout “Death to America!” It’s pretty serious stuff.

You always wanted me to have a part-time job. Now I have one! I bought General Motors. It’s a tough job for someone with no previous business experience. I now wish I had at least started a lemonade stand or had a mowed lawns.  I’m learning as I go. I recently fired the CEO. Then I anointed a successor. We are cutting wages for all the top employees. The employees below them can’t make more than them, so I and a few members of congress are changing the whole wage structure, including for the union employees. We are planning a new rebate program to get vehicle sales moving again. We are also in charge of engineering, planning a fleet of eco-friendly cars. It keeps us very busy.

Don’t worry. We’ll figure it all out. Advertising, athletic field sponsorships, finance, we have to do it all. You can’t trust those employees. They all act out of self-interest. We can do a better job, me, Barny, Nancy, Ted, and a few czars we hired.

Well, gotta go. I have a press conference where I will berate bank executives on camera.

Oh, by the way, I bought the world’s largest insurance company, and some of the world’s largest banks. I’m having fun running them, too. Pray for me.

Your loving son,


Favorite websites

IOUSA: A 33 minute video about the US debt http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_TjBNjc9Bo
Heritage Foundation http://www.heritage.org/
The Independent Institute www.independent.org
The Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity http://www.cbhd.org/
The Foundation for Economics Education fee.org
Alex’s Paper Airplanes http://www.paperairplanes.co.uk/
The Onion: Humorous, satirical news http://www.theonion.com
TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. Talks, speakers http://www.ted.com/index.php/

My Audit of OSHA

nuclear inspector in north korea

nuclear inspector in north korea

My Audit of OSHA


OSHA Has No Sense of Humor

Ever since OSHA came to Marathon Seat Covers to look into a list of eight complaints*, I’ve wanted to inspect OSHA. Could they take the same scrutiny? Do they follow all the safety regulations? Do they carry out the required training? Do they keep their files of safety meetings perfectly?

A brief history of what happened in 2006 is in order. I’m sitting at the athletic club in my Toyota after my workout. Julie calls from the shop.

“An OSHA representative is here and she would like to know when you plan to return.”

“Tell her to make herself comfortable and I will return in a little while,” I said in a disdainful tone that Julie couldn’t miss. She chuckled and said she would tell the lady.

When I walked in, the woman introduced herself, showed her badge, explained how the inspection would proceed and asked if I had any questions. I decided not to grovel.

“How long have you worked for OSHA?” I asked. “What is your training? Does this have to occur now- can’t you schedule an appointment? What are the possible fines and penalties that could result? How often do your inspections result in fines and penalties?”

She had tried to seem un-threatening by wearing businesslike, but casual clothing. I tried to cow her with my litany. She seemed subdued, chagrined and surprised. I was having a good time, though I knew I would not win.

She did her walk-around, requiring me to accompany. She dismissed six of the eight complaints immediately. She would have to return with a noise meter and a formaldehyde meter at a later date, driving the round trip from Billings to Bozeman each time.

The day she made her second visit, she heeled me, waiting across the street in her car until she saw me pull up to the shop, then followed me in, trapping me. It felt a little like East Germany in the 1950’s.

Both measurements turned up negative. No violation. But, our safety training and paper documents in filing cabinets were inadequate. She left. The Billings office mailed the fine: $2,000 reduced to $500. I called the Area Director in Billings.

I asked, “Why $2,000? Why not $10,000? Why reduce it to $500? What’s the logic here? Is it totally arbitrary, set at your discretion?”

He said, “That’s what we’ve been charging others.”

I said, “Sounds pretty arbitrary to me. I suppose you could nail just about any one of Montana’s 35,000 small businesses with this fine, right?”

“Yes, that’s probably true.”

My big sigh over the phone lines oozed incredulity.

He asked, “Do you have a company truck?”


“That’s a good thing because most people with a company vehicle fail to train employees how to safely re-fuel. And that’s a violation we can fine them for.”

I said, “You’ve got to be kidding. At a retail gas station, a corner convenience store? Any sixteen year-old in America knows how to put gas in a car. You’re saying a company has to train how to do that, and keep records of the training?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

I thought, “You are proud to admit it? What gall!” I also thought, “You charge $500 because you have found that is an amount businesses will pay without going to the expense of hiring a lawyer and appealing to a higher level. It gives you coup to show your chiefs in D.C. Though it cannot be defended, it is perfectly logical considering the incentives in your perverse, bureaucratic, Orwellian world.” I paid the stupid fine.

Then I made my employees suffer through inane meetings, made them sign forms certifying that they were notified of the time and place of the training meeting and then a form that they had attended the training meeting. Printed name, signed name. Inane.

So I made my unannounced visit to the Area Office of OSHA in Billings today, to corner the director, to see how he would respond to the secret police, pin-them-in-their-business treatment they had used on me. He had no stomach for it.

The office building where OSHA is located houses a number of other agencies such as BIA, SSA, and Railroad Retirement. You walk in and are handled by two security guards.

“Good day. Who are you here to visit? Put your keys, cell phone, anything metal in this tray and walk through the metal detector.” Then on to officer #2 where you show your driver’s license. He writes name, address, phone and license number on a spreadsheet. Exciting job. Are they afraid of terrorists or citizens?

I went to the 3rd floor, walked into the anteroom and pressed the intercom button. A secretary opened the door. I said I wanted to perform a citizen audit, a safety inspection. It weirded her out. The door closed; I waited. The director came out and sat down with me in the miniature anteroom.

He asked, “What would you like?”

I said, “I’m here to do a safety inspection, like your agency did of my business two years ago.”

He said, “What’s the name of your business?”

I felt safe; they could not heckle me now. “I sold it. I’m retired. I’d just like to ask you these five questions** I jotted down on the way here, and to inspect your safety training meeting files, and inspect the premises for safety hazards.”

His breath got tight. His brow puckered.

“Who are you?”

“I’m running for state legislature. I’m retired. I occasionally write a magazine article, kind of a free-lancer. Can I ask you these questions?”

He said, “We have our own safety inspections, and the fire department comes around to make sure the fire alarms are working.”

“So OSHA inspects OSHA. Internal audits are not real audits,” I said.

“I’m not willing to answer your questions,” he said.

I said, “I can’t ask you the same questions you asked me two years ago?”

His blood vessels swelled. He flushed.

“Look, you’re taking notes. I don’t even know who you’re representing. You’ll have to leave. I’m going to go back inside the office and you need to remove yourself.” He was angry, emphasizing “back”, “office” and drawing out the syllables of the word “remove”. “If you don’t, I will have to call security.”

He stood, punched the buttons on his security lock, and retreated into his offices. I straightened my books and left.

He couldn’t take it. Now maybe he knows how it feels. It was a tiny scalp, but I really enjoyed the raid. The encounter fulfilled my expectation fully. Now all I have to do is to write up the fine, mitigate is some because it was a first violation, mail it and wait for my money.


*An electrical circuit keep blowing, occasionally overloaded. The auditor said that’s not big deal; that’s why you have circuit brakers. Our cutting table vacuum was noisy, perhaps too noisy. Test: Half the legal limit. Rolls of fabric came with a label that said there might be formaldehyde residues on them. The tag was overkill. The rolls were processed in a plant that sometimes uses formaldehyde. So it was a whiff of a potential problem that might exist on a rare occasion. In some tort lawyer’s fertile imagination. Sometimes. Never. Test: Zero. The five other complaints were dismissed by the auditor as being baseless, almost ridiculous.

**What are you doing to correct for the dangers of a sedentary work style?

Has the building been tested for vapors of toxic releases of building materials? Radon?

I’d like to see your records for incidence of death, computer monitor induced eye fatigue, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

I’d like to see records of your safety training meetings.

I’d like to see evidence of training employees how to safely fill up at gas stations.

What is your biggest health and safety problem?

Can I see records of fines levied against you in the past five years?

(That’s seven questions. I improperly told him I planned on asking five.)

Returning to MSU at Fifty-four

Returning to MSU at Fifty-four

Things to do:

Buy low-hanging denim trousers.

Buy strap to suspend trousers.

Reminder: Do not try to run while wearing trousers.

Knit a Seven Dwarfs Dopey hat. Wear.

Attempt to endure a two-hour lab while wearing hat.

Attempt facial hair. No, forget that.

Practice one-hand texting.

Buy tennis shoes with wide laces.

Don’t tie laces

Learn to use the palm reader at the gym entrance.

Buy black and white backpack. Lots of straps.

Strap a skateboard to backpack.

Mirth Day 2007

Mirth Day


Tomorrow is Mirth Day. Every spring myriads of do-gooders around the embattled globe gather, some to celebrate the wonder and complexity of Mirth, some to lament its decline. Old-timers dig out videocassettes of Woody Allen movies, some watch I Love Lucy re-runs. Young mirthmentalists share MPC files of Eddy Murphy.

A candlelight vigil will be held in Central Park in honor of species of Mirth that have gone extinct in the hellish, corporate greed-filled decade just past. Harvard plans a symposium: Endangered Species of Mirth- The Growing List. A gaggle of laffies plans to picket the White House and the offices of Monsanto and the World Bank wearing T-shirts that read “Save Mother Mirth- Laugh Today.” Bills before Congress attempt to appropriate funds for the teaching of mirth awareness in schools.

Go to mirthday.org to read the history of the movement, the dire state of Mirth and what you can do to save Mirth. Think globally, but laugh locally. Make your plans now to attend the Mirth day Summit in Kyoto, Japan in 2008, to be held, that is, if mirth is not entirely destroyed by then. Until then, adopt a pun and contribute to the Free Silly Campaign.

Close to Nature

Close to Nature

Gardiner is place where you are close to nature; rockslides, boulder fields, raging rivers. Friendly, beautiful nature. Elk, buffalo, deer and Bighorn Sheep roam in town.

Someone had propped the front door of the church open to create a draft through the building. This morning, halfway through Sunday services, while singing Sweet Hour of Prayer, a medium-sized buffalo ambled to the door. He was attracted by the tuna casserole warming in the Food Serving Area. A luncheon was to be held. His eye was glassy, big as a light bulb. His step was slow. The singing stopped. All two dozen members fled their chairs and coalesced in the far corner of the octagonal chapel. The buffalo, property of nearby Yellowstone National Park, clomped down the short hallway, into the room, unphased by the screaming. In the far corner was a window. Its lower panel had been lifted up to allow air.

The Branch President heaved the pane to its utmost. He clawed at the screen. Then he kicked it with his wingtips. Little kids spurted out. The buffalo was now in the middle of the room, headed for the food, sniffing like a dog, his enormous, black, glistening snout twitching. Some of the clot of adults broke off from the main waiting group to speed their exit through a matching window in another corner.

The fragrance of salad greens and boiled beans tempted the brute. The kitchen door was closed, but it was not going to be closed for long. The brown head lowered. The buffalo lunged forward, ripping the door off its steel hinges. It clattered to the floor of the room holding casseroles, sweet breads and ambrosia. Now the flood of smells caused a stampede among formerly contented buffalo that had been grazing on the lawn just outside the entry; another dozen heavy monsters jostled in, knocking over the podium and scrambling the chairs. The Branch president was the last one out. His ankle was crushed by one of the border buffalo that was pushing on the scrum trying to get into the kitchen.

Three buffalo crammed into the kitchen. They downed the green salad first. They butted over the pan of noodle stroganoff. The floor became slippery and they slipped onto their sides, getting noodles tangled in their manes. It was mud wrestling, buffalo-style. Lasagna and French Bread mashed into a stew. An uproar was in progress among the ten that hadn’t gotten any greens.

The members sneaked around the building to the parking lot in front, got in their cars and went home, without even waiting for closing hymn and prayer. The Branch President lurked behind the building. He gathered dried buffalo chips, arranged them in a tower just inside the open window the members had crawled through. He ripped sprigs off a sagebrush and placed them on top of the pile. He lit the pile. The smoke, especially the acrid sage, forced the mob of beasts out. They went searching for dry grass.

The Branch President went inside, put out the fire, straightened the chairs and podium, and slopped the foods from the floor of the Serving Area. He limped to his car where his wife was waiting, drove home and poured a bowl of Cheerios. It was just another day “close to nature” in the Gardiner Branch of the Church.

My Living Will: Take Medicare Down, FOR ME!

My Living Will

I set forth the following as instructions to my family and caregivers, and the taxpayers of the United States of America, to be followed in the event that I should become unable to express my own wishes on the subject of medical treatment.

Should I be afflicted with Alzheimer’s, stroke, brain damage, or other debility, I direct Medicare, doctors and hospitals to keep me alive by mechanical devices, pharmaceuticals or treatments, regardless of the cost. No expense is to be spared. No matter how many years I have been comatose, provide me with the best and latest. Allow no infection, influenza or pneumonia to cause my demise. I want every possible action to be undertaken. Do not “not resuscitate”. If my organs or joints weaken, replace them. For example, even if I show no interest in walking, I insist on hip and knee replacements.

Provide me with advanced lenses and hearing aids even if my body has long since lost sensory perception. Feed me, oxygenate me. Whatever can be done must be done.

My children are not to be burdened by the cost. I expect them to mask my fortune so that it may not be sacrificed for the expense. The kids are to have their inheritances.

If the executors named in my trust documents resign and no one can be found to carry out the dictates of this will, I name Nancy Pelosi, or the successor to her current post, from her political party.

I demand this. I expect the full force of the budget of the United Sates of America to be brought to bear on my behalf. Even if the costs seem too high, pursue whatever measures can be conceived. Such measures could extend to repealing the Emancipation Proclamation, nationalizing the income of all rock stars and sport heroes, or selling the fighter jets of the United States Air Force to Osama Bin Laden.

This is my living will. The people are bound to it, by my demand.

Signed, Sealed, and Witnessed:

Thomas L. Burnett