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October 31, 2005

halloween costumes for our leaders

Hillary Clinton as the Werewolf: Watch in amazement as she transforms herself from a health-care-nationalizing liberal into a war-mongering neo-con at the mere site of a full moon (or growing conservative national electorate).

Karl Rove as Superman: Faster than a speeding grand jury, more powerful than a special prosecutor, able to leap tall indictments in a single bound…

Senator Harry Reid as The Mummy: A couple of strips of gauze is all you need.

Supreme Court Justice John Roberts as The Invisible Man: His views on abortion cannot be detected by the naked human eye. You know them only by the footprints he leaves tip-toeing around Roe vs. Wade.

Howard Dean as The Incredible Hulk: Don’t make him angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry.

Scooter Libby as a ghost: While his physical presence is no longer with us, his spirit continues to haunt the halls of the West Wing, jangling his leg irons and terrorizing the Vice President with the mysterious two word message: “Plea bargain. Plea bargain. Plea bargain.”

Senator John Kerry as The Riddler: With brain teasers such as, “I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it,” The Riddler confounds his dim-witted foes incapable as they are of deciphering the product of his elevated intellect.

President Bush as The Incredible Shrinking Man: Accidentally saturated by a combination of radiation and chemicals from WMDs that don’t exist, The Incredible Shrinking Man continues to diminish in size and stature at a pace with seemingly no end!

J.

October 31, 2005 at 11:59 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 29, 2005

political indictment primer

An event such as the indictment of Vice President Cheney’s Chief of Staff Scooter LIbby will often be colored by a person’s political leanings. With this in mind, we offer the following as a primer on what to expect from the chattering classes this weekend: 

The importance of Scooter Libby:
Democrats:
Scooter Libby is possibly the most powerful man in the White House if not the world. He has influence that spans continents and stretches across generations. He also has the power to move objects using only his mind.
Republicans: Scooter? Can’t say that rings a bell. Oh, yeah, some staffer to the VP. He’s really just a paper shuffler, files some stuff for the secretary. Really, no big deal, we’ll put a listing in Monster.com, replace him in no time. 

The relative merits of the case:
Democrats:
This is nothing like Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal. That involved the President of the United States lying about cheating on his wife and having sex in the oval office.
Republicans: This is nothing like Clinton’s Lewinsky scandal. That involved the President of the United States lying about cheating on his wife and having sex in the oval office.

The conclusions that can be drawn:
Democrats:
While it is important that we ensure that Libby retains the presumption of innocence that is a cornerstone of our judicial system and indeed our very way of life, the one conclusion we can most certainly draw from this week’s events is that Bush is a lying incompetent chimp-man who rigged the past two elections and went to Iraq only to line the pockets of his fat cat oil friends.
Republicans: Look, so an overpaid file clerk gets busted for technically obstructing justice and technically lying under oath technicallyspeaking. What’s next, the cleaning lady gets a parking ticket and the administration is imperiled?

The overall importance of the indictment:
Democrats:
This is surely the most important development in the history of the country, possibly the most important development since Jesus himself came to earth (if we actually believed that). No greater violation of the public trust has ever been committed by any man including Hitler, Stalin, and a number of fictional movie villains.
Republicans: Nothing to see here, move along, it’s all over, move along…

J.

October 29, 2005 at 10:30 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 28, 2005

iraq’s oil-for-palaces program

An alarming report from a UN investigative panel headed by former Federal Reserve chief Paul Volcker found that as many as two, and possibly even three, companies failed to participate in bribery, kickbacks or other illicit payments as part Iraq’s “Oil for Food” program.

“It really surprised us,” noted one UN mid-level staffer as he stepped out of his Lamborghini. “These companies were just completely out of the loop. They sure have a lot of explaining to do.”

In its defense, a spokesperson for one US company noted that they were all out that day at an Outward Bound “team-building” exercise or otherwise, “yeah, sure we’d have taken some of that action.”

The Oil-for-Food program had originally been set up as a humanitarian gesture to ensure that despite the sanctions levied against the government of Saddam Hussein, the most vulnerable would not go without, and by “most vulnerable” we mean UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s son, Kojo.

The other companies caught up in the scandal included a small cheese shop in Chavenay, France that didn't have a phone, and an unidentified street merchant specializing in counterfeit Pradas operating out of a Chicago station wagon who simply “had ethical issues with the whole thing.”

The report is serving as a real wake-up call for the UN compelling Kofi Annan to pledge, “we will find the person responsible for this whole debacle, we will find the person who failed to live up to his sacred commitment to serve the people.

“Yes, we will find the person who forgot to bribe Paul Volcker.”

J.

October 28, 2005 at 09:53 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 27, 2005

innocence is in the eye of the prosecutor

Virginia is known for having “maverick” judges, colorful characters who often take unconventional approaches to the law. Judge Ian M. O'Flaherty is one such judge who has suggested that defendants in DWI cases should retain the same presumption of innocence as, say, serial murderers, rapists, and White House Deputy Chiefs of Staff.

Under Virginia law, if you blow .08 or higher on a breath test you are presumed guilty unless you can prove you’re innocent. Judge O’Flaherty believes this is unconstitutional and has astonished prosecutors by suggesting that they provide other things such as “proof.” This has sent them scrambling for their law dictionaries.

The advocacy group, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), takes a slightly different view as they support random police checkpoints on public highways which operate under the presumption that everyone is guilty until they can prove to a police officer that they are not. (The probable cause justifying these searches rests on the bedrock constitutional principle of “because we can.”)

Pat O’Connor, president of the local chapter of MADD notes that “This is a safety issue,” understanding that in modern America, playing the “safety card” typically trumps all other considerations. If someone could find a way to tie the leaking of Valerie Plame’s name to safety, and better yet, the safety of children, then Scooter and Karl would already be in jail being traded from inmate to inmate for packs of cigarettes and cafeteria privileges.

Of course, everyone wants drunks off the road and back in Congress where they belong, but the issue is a difficult and complex one where a careful balance between public order and individual liberty must be sought. Perhaps O’Flaherty and O’Connor can settle this in the civilized manner of their forbears:

Over a pint of Guinness, a fifth of Jameson’s, and game of darts.

J.

October 27, 2005 at 10:25 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2005

mcdonald’s. i’m lovin’ it because i don’t know any better.

Responding to demands from people who don’t visit their restaurants or purchase their food, McDonald’s will include additional nutritional information for its customers who never asked for it and don’t care.

Call it, “the free-ish market” at work.

For years McDonald’s customers have had to go through a fair amount of trouble to ignore nutritional information. Either they had to ignore the posters and fliers in the restaurants or wait until they got home to ignore it on the web. But with McDonald’s new plan to print this information right on the packaging itself, consumers can now ignore it quickly and conveniently.

Call that progress.

Advocacy groups such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) have long assumed that the only reason people go to McDonald’s was out of ignorance. Customers are simply unaware that the average McDonald’s cheeseburger contains not only large amounts of burger but also exposes the consumer to elevated levels of cheese.

Sure, some may argue that consumers do weigh the relative merits of convenience, cost, nutrition and consistency in making their dietary decisions but that assumption flies in the face of clear evidence that the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a different opinion. And they probably went to better schools than you anyway.

In fact, unsatisfied with McDonald’s latest move, the CSPI is continuing to push for the posting of calorie counts on menu boards. This way, they say, “consumers would have that one critical piece of information before they placed their order.”

Otherwise how else are we supposed to know that a Big Mac is, well, you know, “big.”

J.

October 26, 2005 at 11:41 AM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 25, 2005

always subsidized prices. always.

Condoleeza Rice has been to 40 countries since becoming Secretary of State in April. Among those countries have been such strategic partners as Latvia, famous worldwide for being the home of Latvians.

Canada, however, did not make the top 40. (Secretary Rice actually thought she’d been to Canada but it turned out she had merely attended a John Candy film retrospective: “Wagons East: Allegorical Pilgrimage or Metaphorical Journey?”) The oversight will be remedied this week when she meets with Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, who turns out to be pretty steamed over a trade dispute.

America has been accusing the Canadian government of heavily subsidizing softwood allowing Canadian producers to sell softwood for low prices to Americans. Think of it as a kind of double-coupon day on Canadian wood products.

This of course is a terrible thing in that American consumers do not take congressmen on important fact finding/golfing missions as US softwood producers do. America remedies this untenable situation by levying duties on the wood products coming in from Canada thereby ensuring that rather than going to American consumers, the savings go directly to the federal government where they belong.

Both governments had taken their cases to the relevant international trade organizations and got a split decision, with NAFTA siding with Canada and the WTO with America.

Early attempts to break the tie fell apart when the Americans rejected an offer to settle the score with a hockey game and Canadians rejected an offer to go with whoever has the best tasting bacon.

What can patriotic Americans do? Refuse to purchase unfairly subsidized Canadian softwood products! (Note to self: Google softwood.)

In the meantime, we have to run. Wal-Mart is having a sale on Chinese-prisoner-made polo shirts. In all the new fall colors!

J.

October 25, 2005 at 11:30 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 24, 2005

why is it always the ivy league professors who get hurt?

Yale declined to renew the contract of anthropology professor David Graeber after some suggestions that he was often late to class and missed grading deadlines. What options do you have as an educated middle-aged white man? You cry “politics!”

Graeber is a professed anarchist which is why he is going through Yale’s formal anarchic appeal process to protest the decision. As any anarchist will tell you, “anything goes,” except firing anthropology professors.

He did make some enemies when he supported an effort to form a union for graduate students. As it is widely known, there is no more oppressed social class than ivy league students pursuing advanced degrees, required as they are to not only study but turn in papers as well, all in the service of a soulless capitalist system that rewards their servitude with the empty trinkets of a materialist society. These would include six-figure salaries and BMWs.

Graeber believes jealousy played a part as well. He was one of those zany professors who wore cargo pants to class (no wonder the kids loved him!) and noted how he publishes “like crazy” and is “all over the place” which may or may not include the classroom.

If his appeal does not work, Graeber can always turn his full attention to writing, perhaps publishing a sequel to “Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value: The False Coin of Our Own Dreams.”

Look out John Grisham, there’s a new kid in town!

J.

October 24, 2005 at 10:56 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 21, 2005

i suppose if you want to get all constitutionalizing about it…

Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers’ answers to a Senate questionnaire came under heavy criticism yesterday with Senator Patrick Leahy characterizing them as ranging “from incomplete to insulting.”

There are a number of possible explanations for this reaction:

  • She got mixed up and inadvertently submitted the transcript of Joe Biden’s opening remarks from the John Roberts hearings.
  • In retrospect, answering in the form of a pop-up book was probably ill-advised.
  • All her answers started with, “You are the absolute bestest Senators ever. Ever, ever! I am just the luckiest girl in the world to get to answer these brilliant questions!"
  • She had absent mindedly doodled images of Senators Specter and Leahy dressed in scrubs and holding coat hangers.
  • Too many of the precedents she cited in supporting her positions were out of the Old Testament.
  • Those pens they give away at the constitutional law cram courses are difficult to write with.
  • Some of her answers seemed defensive: “I may not have gone to an Ivory League school like Harvard or Yale or Arizona State but that doesn’t mean I can’t do a good job examining the Bill of Rights, particularly for overcharges.”
  • She answered the part about Roe vs. Wade by pointing out that it depends on how deep the water is.

We tried to reach administration officials for comment but visiting hours were over.

J.

October 21, 2005 at 11:23 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 20, 2005

this time we’re prepared. no, really. seriously.

With Hurricane Wilma bearing down on the Florida coast, officials are busy making final preparations:

  • FEMA is carefully laying out a chain of command that spells out ahead of time precisely who will be blamed for which failures.
  • CNN is pre-positioning supplies of Kleenex for Anderson Cooper.
  • The White House is telling Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald that there is some “really compelling evidence” that he “should probably look into” in Key West. At the end of Sunset Pier.  You have to lean WAYYY over to see it. And he really needs to hurry.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers is preparing a number of pre-fab Superdomes to inadequately house people displaced by the hurricane.
  • Nancy Pelosi is pushing to schedule hearings on “this administration’s colossal failure to adequately provide for the needs of the people of Key West. Or Naples. Or possibly St. Petersburg. We’re not sure yet.”
  • Following government guidelines, Lindsay Lohan is stocking up on two weeks worth of provisions by purchasing a box of Tic-Tacs, an apple , and a paperback copy of “Purging Your Way to a Slimmer You!”
  • Residents of Tampa Bay are engaging in some “pre-looting” noting the inherent dangers of being outside during a Cat 4 hurricane.
  • Sean Penn has placed his media people on standby so as not to again risk the “tragic delay” that resulted when it took literally days before he was able to have photographs taken of himself in New Orleans.

In other news, prosecutors continue to try to untangle the greatest mystery surrounding the leaking of Valerie Plame’s CIA identity: What the heck kind of a name is Scooter?

J.

October 20, 2005 at 12:26 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 19, 2005

the intelligent design of thunder

Professor Michael J. Behe argued yesterday in a Pennsylvania courtroom that the phenomenon of thunder is far too complex to be explained away by unsubstantiated theories involving low pressure areas and ionic discharges and as such strongly suggests that other explanations, perhaps involving a “thunder god” of some kind, should be made part of the curricula in our public schools.

Biologist Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University had argued in earlier court testimony that such systems are easily explainable using the scientific method and that the circumstances giving rise to thunder are really quite ordinary. He had planned to continue his testimony later this week but was stoned to death for being “witchbreed” while catching a quick lunch at Applebee’s.

The issue arose when the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania issued a requirement that science teachers begin presenting material regarding intelligent design that casts doubt on the theory of thunder as it has been taught in classrooms for generations.

“If they can’t fully explain the origin of the leader pre-discharge or the resulting implosion of the plasma column,” lamented one Dover parent, “then they have a responsibility to let the kids know that.

“They call it the ‘theory’ of thunder for a reason you know.”

Opponents of intelligent design see ulterior motives. Noted one sociologist who wished to remain anonymous as he was still cleaning lamb’s blood off his door, “It’s a backdoor attempt to get the teaching of Norse mythology into our public schools.”

Adherents reject such criticism. “All we want to do is see to it that our children are getting the whole story and not just the secular Odin-rejecting humanist side,” said one Dover PTA member.  “Sure, maybe thunder is a byproduct of the rapid ionization and expansion of air, or maybe it’s the result of mystical emanations from Thor’s mighty hammer, Mjolnir. Who’s really to say?”

Meanwhile, similar efforts are underway in Kansas to bring into question whether proton-proton fusion is capable of overcoming the Coulomb force in the interior of the sun without the intervention of an intelligent agent of some kind.

“Where do people think the permeability of a vacuum and the electrostatic force vector come from?” said one oracle mystic/political activist.

“We just think it’s time to bring Apollo back in the classroom where he belongs.”

J.

October 19, 2005 at 11:22 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack