New Orleans Mensa

La Plume de NOM for May/June, 2004

The Magazine of New Orleans Mensa Information and Entertainment


by Anne Osteen Stringer

Thanks to NOMs for helping to make Proxy Quest a success–94 NOMs sent in their proxies and as of now, National has more than enough to amend the bylaws. If you haven’t sent in your proxy, you can still do so. National would like to have some extras in case some of the members who submitted proxies fail to renew.

Rene reports that we need NOM Night hosts. NOM Night is usually held on the second Saturday of each month. It’s easy, fun, and hosts are reimbursed for their expenses. If you can volunteer, call Rene.

If you’re a relatively new member, or have been a member for a while and haven’t yet attended a NOM function, here’s your chance. Loretta Levene will host an informal reception for new members at her home in Metairie on Sunday, May 16, from 2 to 4.

This month, Smitty sends a report on Marta’s troubles with the law and Patti reports on the Science fair. We have two book reviews. Richard reviews a book that is recommended by both Republican and Democratic web sites, and Neville reviews one of his favorite computer tomes and makes an offer that is hard to refuse. Don’t you love Helga’s picture of laundry flapping on the line? Yes, some people still hang out laundry! Helga and Pat seem to be a bottomless well of talent and creativity in supplying cover art. Thanks to everyone who helps with La Plume.

Science Fair

by Patti Armatis

The New Orleans Science and Engineering Fair for greater New Orleans schools was held in the first week of March at the UNO arena. Our local group participated, and gave first and second place awards in both the senior (grades 10 - 12) and the junior (7 - 9) divisions.

The award criteria were: projects exhibiting intellectual achievement defined as the ability to learn and reason. The experiment must also exhibit good scientific methodology. This year’s winners were:



Each prizewinner received a plaque documenting the award.

The NOMensa judges, George Kutzgar, Bart Geraci, Phil Wilking and Patti Armatis also had a good time.

AG Update

by Heather Miller

Wonderful things are happening with the 2005 AG. Here's a very brief list:

1. The next site visit/working meeting will be Saturday, May 8, at the Sheraton. Please attend! The priorities for this meeting are space planning, hospitality planning, and programming. Someone from the New Orleans Convention and Visitors' Bureau may join us as well (this is still in the works). If this happens, we can also work on some of the registration logistics.

2. The next committee meeting will be held at L's home on May 13 (that's a Thursday night). See the newsletter for more details, directions, etc. And please join us!

3. Ric Rogers of Mississippi Mensa approached me in March with an offer of help from his local group. I took him up on it, as you might imagine! Ric's a travel agent and has got a great idea in store for us. He's working with the Delta Queen to set up a pre-AG cruise for us to promote at the Las Vegas AG this summer. I found out about Ric's idea just before I attended an RG/AMC meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I got a list of about 35 names just by mentioning the cruise during the AMC meeting. Ric and I think we can probably sell the cruise out during the Las Vegas AG alone. He's continuing to work with the Delta Queen on more details.

4. Fun things are being planned to kick off pre-registration for our AG during the Las Vegas AG this July. The main event will be a dance on Friday night, and we'll have a registration table, giveaways, and announcements all through the convention. I'm looking for people to join me in Vegas and promote our AG, so let me know if you're going. If you need persuading, I can do that too!

5. The major slots for the AG committee are almost filled, but we still need people for the following positions:

a. Marketplace coordinator: This person will arrange the Mensa Marketplace, which is where Mensans can buy table space and promote their wares and businesses. It's not a particularly work-intensive position, and will require the most time right before the AG begins.

b. Goodie bags: This person will be responsible for getting goodie bags to give our registrants, and for getting businesses and organizations to donate fun and interesting items for the goodie bags. Recruiting others to help is the key to making this position work, and it doesn't require a huge group. NB: This is different from the Goodie Beggar, aka Bart Geraci, who is going to get significant donations of items for areas such as the hospitality room.

c. Signage: All AGs need signs for things like programming and activity areas. This person coordinates and makes ready (whether by his/her own hand or that of others) all the signs we'll need.

d. Transportation: This is a position we may or may not fill, depending on how we plan to handle some of the events. If we decide to have, for example, a cost-per-plate dinner away from the main AG site, we'll need to arrange buses. That's what this person will do. It does NOT mean being responsible for getting people to and from the airport, the bus station, the bail bondsman, or other such places. It's for group events only.

e. Coordinators for the following programming tracks:

Haven't had enough? I've got more. Email me or call me if you want to talk, have suggestions, and especially if you want to pitch in.

NomComm Wants You!

by Stormie Kullman

The National Nominating Committee is finally operational. We have a committee of over 60 people and hopefully, we will be able to add some more members from local groups very soon.

We are looking for qualified candidates to run for all the positions of the American Mensa Committee. This includes The Chair, The 1st Vice Chair, the 2nd Vice Chair, the Secretary, and the Treasurer. Also, there are 10 Regional Vice Chairs. Our goal is to try to have at least two candidates that have gone through the NomComm process for each position on the ballot. That means we are looking for 30 people to run in the election.

Could you be one of the select few? Have you ever thought about taking a more active role in the management of Mensa? This could be the time for you to fulfill that thought. All you have to do is decide to put your name in for consideration to the NomComm.

First, you should read the American Mensa Bylaws, sections 3-6. These parts of our bylaws describe in detail exactly what qualifications are required in order to be an officer of Mensa. And it?s not very hard to meet these qualifications.

Next, you should contact someone on the NomComm and talk with them about how to sign up. Your Local Secretary has probably appointed someone within your local group to be a representative on the NomComm. [Ed. Note: Sharon Kirkpatrick is our NomComm representative.] Then contact that person, ask for a Candidate Information Form. If your local group does not have a representative, you can contact me. Believe me, I will be more than glad to send you the CIF. Of course, if a NomComm representative approaches you and asks you to run, you should be very complimented. It means a lot of people think very highly of you and feel you would do a great job as an officer of Mensa.

Fill out the CIF, use more paper if you run out of space. I expect most people in Mensa can write a lot about themselves, their accomplishments both inside and outside of Mensa. Of course, you can always get the CIF online at the Mensa website. Download it, fill it in, and e-mail it to me.

Now, isn't that simple? I know you have questions. I probably have some of the answers. So here goes!

Where do I find the CIF? Go to the Mensa website. You can access the CIF in the Officer Resources section of the Web site ( resources). It's the first file in Other Forms and Documents when you *List All* files. Can’t get to that section of the website? Send me an e-mail and I’ll send you a copy.

All CIFs need to postmarked no later than midnight, July 31, 2004. That means snail mail and e-mail. Anything received after that will be discarded.

How do you get in touch with me? Send me an e-mail at You can possibly find me at an RG. I will be attending the AG in Las Vegas. Just look for the somewhat blonde lady wearing a purple hat and having a look on her face that says “What the &*)#$^# have I done?” By the way, the assistant chair to the NomComm is Mr. Steve Burnham. He has been a very valuable resource and help in these first couple of months. Steve can also be reached pretty much the same way I can and he can answer all the same questions and probably a whole lot more. His e-mail is

Okay, now keep us busy! Start contacting those NomComm reps, listen to them when they contact you. Fill out the forms and send them in! We want to hear from you!

Stormie Kullman
Nominating Committee Chair


by Smitty

It is hard to believe what happened to Marta yesterday. She and Norma got up at five o’clock to leave before six for Eagle Pass to see about her speeding ticket. I had gotten the address from the Justice of the Peace and printed a map of the exact location. I had offered to go with her if she would come right back but she wanted to go to the casino.

They stopped at the outskirts of Eagle Pass and asked a man if he knew how to get there and he turned out to be a policeman. (Marta is not good at reading maps). He drove them directly there. The judge told her he didn’t expect to see her, since he had granted her a stay the day before. She told him she hadn’t been feeling well but she was better.

When the judge asked if she pleaded guilty or not guilty she replied “Guilty and not guilty.”

“What do you mean, guilty and not guilty?”

“Well, I was guilty of speeding 76 but not guilty of speeding 89 (in a 70MPH zone).” She described the circumstances, trying to show that would have been impossible to drive that fast in the area described.

Finally the judge told her he would not assess her the more than three hundred dollars for going 89 but it would cost her $200 plus $50.45, court costs, for going 76.

“Oh Judge, that is an awful lot of money?” She pleaded. “My insurance will go up too.”

He asked her if she had gotten another ticket recently. She told him she had, on the same highway but she really hadn’t been guilty that time. She explained all the circumstances of that ticket too.

They talked for half an hour more. The upshot of it all was, he charged her a total of ten dollars and told her that this ticket would be expunged from her record.

She thanked the judge, paid the ten dollars and went on to the casino.

What makes it even harder to believe is that, a week or so ago, she spoke to a businessman in Eagle Pass about the ticket and he advised her to pay the fine and forget about it. He had gotten a ticket and gone to court. When the judge asked him if he wanted to plead guilty or not guilty, he said “Not guilty”. The next thing he knew, they threw him into jail.

The thing that gets me is that Marta has had several tickets but she never deserved any of them. The police just were against her.

I have had several tickets but I never got one which I didn’t fully deserve. If anything, the police officers erred on the side of leniency.


by Neville Mayfield

Guide to what? Why, to computers, of course! What part of contemporary life do we need more help with than computers?

The Secret Guide to Computers really is the best, ultra-basic guide you can get - I promise!. I was introduced to it by Phil Wilking, and quite a few of our members got one when I placed the first order, several years ago. The book is updated every year to keep pace with the speedy changes in the computer world, and I get each new edition. This book covers (in ordinary English!) literally everything you want desperately to know but is left out of the other "for dummies" types of books. It covers all types of computers and software from how to buy to how to fix to how to (even) program in several languages(for the adventurous). If you're interested in size, it's about 640 pages, 8"X11".

The most amazing and unique thing about it is that the author gives his 24/7/365 phone number, and encourages you to call him any time you have a problem not explained by the book! I've called dozens of times, and he almost always answers and has helped tremendously. Any part of the book may be copied and redistributed, as well!

If you'd like some opinions on it, call Patty Armatis, Phil Wilking, Ann & Richard Garret, or Buddy & Betty Madison, or me. (There were many more very happy recipients, but I can't remember the names.)

I'm getting ready to order the 2004 edition. If you'd like a copy or lots of copies - they're great presents, please let me know in the next week or so, and I'll get one for you (and all your friends and relatives who are frustrated by computers.) You can email me at

The book price varies according to quantity ordered: $9.90 each, if we order four, for example. S&H is free. You don't need to pay until they arrive, and I know the exact price. You can pick them up at a meeting, at my house, or I can re-mail them to you.

How's that for a deal? This is a non-profit project - I do it just because I've been so antagonized by computers and this really is a life-saver of a book! Lots of fun to just read, also.

Bon apetit, everyone!

Neville Mayfield


by Richard Stringer

Bob Woodward's new Plan of Attack, an account of the planning of the Iraq war, is highly unusual in that it appears on the “recommended reading” lists not only of numerous anti-Bush and anti-war organizations, but also on the official website of the Bush-Cheney campaign (, not to be confused with the satiric site One would surmise that a book about a highly controversial person and a highly controversial war which is being touted by both pro- and anti- forces would be a very interesting read. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about this book. Interesting, yes. Very interesting, probably not.

Numerous recent books by people both inside and outside of what is already regarded in the rest of the world as the most troubling and problematic administration in US history give a somewhat clearer picture of the murky, secretive inner workings of this White House. Mr Woodward's tome is, on the other hand, both hagiography and minor expose'--a curious combination. From personal interiews with Messrs Bush, Cheney, Powell, Rumsfeld and Gen. Franks, among others, Woodward has concocted what might be called the “official history” of planning for the Iraq war. Unfortunately for the reader, Woodward long ago gave up the persona of investigative reporter for the far more lucrative position of celebrity reporter. So we are spared any digging for substantiation or background. In journalistic terms, Woodward gives us a somewhat circumscribed (by reason of self-reporting of the participants) who, what, when, where and how, and no why whatsoever.

Thanks to the work of some of the remaining investigative reporters, mostly employed by foreign press organizations nowadays, the rest of the world, and that segment of the American public who have, like the Soviet citizens of old, learned the necessity of reading the foreign press and the internet samizdat of the domestic alternative press, knows a number of disturbing facts about the lead-up to the Iraq war. None of these are covered by Woodward.

There is no mention, for example, of what has become the neocon version of the Roman Curia, the Project for a New American Century “think tank,” of which Cheney, Rumsfeld, and their deputies are members. Nor is mentioned the Project’s strategic plan, Rebuilding America's Defenses, published in July, 2000, which has now become, with minor revisions, our official national security policy and which recommended a “regime change” in Iraq and noted that, in the absence of a Pearl Harbor- style provocation, some excuse would have to be found for invading. Likewise there is no inquiry into whether or not Mr Cheney, in his secret meetings with the energy industry to draft the national energy policy, did any dividing up of Iraqi oilfields among his clients in the Spring of 2001, as some documents suggest. There is no mention of the US Agency for International Development’s report Moving the Iraqi Economy from Recovery to Sustainable Growth, published in February,2003, which planned the wholesale “privatizing” of the Iraqi economy by selling the nation's assets and infrastructure, as well as its oilfield rights, to favored corporations, and which is apparently now being enacted in Iraq, reportedly with restrictions forbidding the new Iraqi government from rescinding any of the sales.

With all that said, what does the book actually cover? Bearing in mind that Woodward is reporting events that he did not witness, but were told to him by the principals, the outline of the book follows an excruciatingly detailed chronology of the development of the war plan by Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Tommy Franks. There are details of the meetings of all the principals, and some indications of personality traits and clashes of the participants. In reporting this chronology, Woodward does not stray from the official line: the idea of invading Iraq arose as a necessary response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With only a brief mention of several pre- 9/11 meetings of a general nature to review the policy of containment, the action officially starts in the Fall of 2001, and proceeds apace until the invasion in March, 2003. Very little is said about planning for the aftermath and occupation. The only doubts explored are those of Colin Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage. The picture painted is of an entire administration which faithfully believed the exhaustive intelligence on Iraq's vast stockpile of weapons of mass destruction provided it by CIA Director George Tenet, and accepted without question the need for a “preemptive” war. The neocon-controlled private intelligence operation set up in the Defense Department by Messrs Wolfowitz and Feith, which many close observers believe was the real engine of trumped-up information, is mentioned only briefly. Colin Powell refers to it as a “Gestapo,” but, Woodward reports, the other principals dismiss it as irrelevant.

Through it all, Mr Bush remains the stalwart and steadfast leader, mindful of the terrible responsibility he is carrying but convinced of the rightness and necessity of his cause. Mr Rumsfeld's brilliant and relentless planning and bullying of recalcitrant generals in order to accomplish the goals with a minimum of troops and time, and Mr Cheney's steady, quiet support in the background, round out this cozy family portrait of the War Council.

Into this nauseatingly shallow paean, however, Woodward does inject some discordant insights. The most notable are the portrait of Colin Powell. Powell, Woodward suggests, was viewed as a potential rival by Bush, who kept aloof from him. Indeed, Woodward's sympathetic portrayal of Powell as both a diplomat genuinely interested in avoiding war, and as a general realizing the inadequacy of the planned force and the inadequacy of occupation and postwar planning only reinforces the question in the minds of thoughtful people everywhere as to why Powell sacrificed his credibility, his reputation, and his future career by finally doing an about-face and signing on to the war party. Another interesting note, repeatedly stated by Woodward, was that Powell viewed Cheney as having a “fever” to go to war, and a serious fear that circumstances might intervene to prevent war. This image fits well with Paul O'Neill's characterization, in Ron Susskind’s The Price of Loyalty, of Cheney bullying a wavering Bush into line on the second round of tax cuts by proclaiming “it's our right.” One can almost picture Cheney sweating feverishly at the prospect of getting his hands on the second largest oil reserves in the world to divide up among his friends, getting an entire nation's infrastructure to sell off to other friends, and billions of dollars of no-bid contracts for his own employer. It is a powerful image.

Another discordant portait that emerges is that of Condoleeza Rice as a highly-paid administrative assistant, rather than a policymaker and planner. This image lends further credence to the thought of many that her performance before the 9/11 Commission indicated the same thing: a secretary waiting to be told what the policy was going to be. It provides fuel to the speculation that national security policy is determined by the neocon Cardinals in the New American Century curia, and Dr Rice is academic window dressing.

While not departing from his narrative of the principals’ version of events, and in spite of including quotes from both Bush and Cheney regarding Bush's being the ultimate decision maker, Woodward does slide in a few references to Cheney's influence that we can use to speculate on what the reality might be. On one occasion, detailing a Bush conversation with Saudi Prince Bandar, Woodward notes that Bandar believed “it was exactly what Cheney had told him [Bush] to say.” On another occasion, Woodward says “Powell noted silently that things didn't really get decided until the president had met with Cheney alone.” Coupled with the eyewitness reports of Mr O'Neill, and the Administration's recent refusal to allow Mr Bush to speak to the 9/11 Commission without Mr Cheney in tow, this would seem to raise serious questions about who's really in charge.

Fittingly for our brave new Through the Looking-glass world, this book, like Alice in Wonderland, can be read on two levels. If you wish to read it as an expose', the pickings are fairly slim for the effort involved, and the online magazine has excerpted all the good parts and posted them on their website. The book works better as a true hagiography, detailing the path of a saintly, steadfast, prayerful and infallible Pope as he prepares to send our sons and daughters as Crusaders to liberate the holiest fossil-fuel shrines of free market Christendom from the clutches of an evil infidel, and bring the fundamental Christian benefits of supply-side economics and privatization (also called “freedom” and “democracy”) to the infidel's subjects. Which is doubtless why the Bush-Cheney campaign recommends it to its believers.

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