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May 31, 2006

all good things must come to an end. just not necessarily right now.

We’re running out of oil! How do we know? Because Washington Post automotive columnist Warren Brown says so. Five times.

In an article entitled, “News Flash: We’re Running Out of Oil” (okay, six times), Warren Brown employs the highly persuasive rhetorical technique of repeating himself over and over again so as to better convince the listener that his argument is of sound reasoning. (Either that or it’s Tourette’s.)

Mr. Brown does point out that “It probably will not disappear before many baby boomers and their immediate progeny run out of life.” (And maybe not even then.)

In related news, scientists rocked the solar power industry and caused a near riot at the offices of the Sierra Club when they revealed that we are “runing out of sun.” Probably not before many baby boomers and their progeny’s descendents become beings comprised of pure energy who colonize the galaxy using only the power of thought but still, something to keep in the back of your mind before you get too smug about installing those roof panels, Mr. I’m-Going-To-Live-Off-The-Grid.

Other things we are going to run out of eventually include dirt, wind, pop-up ads, CIA leaks and public interest in the Brangelina baby. In that order.

Fortunately, Warren Brown’s credentials to address the complex fields of resource depletion and petroleum extraction technology are impeccable as he has dedicated the last quarter century of his life to driving really cool cars and then telling everyone about it.

Unafraid of controversy, it was Warren Brown’s investigative zeal that “blew the lid off” the scandal involving the uncomfortable passenger seats in the Mazda CX-7. He was also the one who had the courage to point out what everyone else was thinking but were just too timid to say out loud: The Audis’ new “horse-collar grille” styling is just not all that attractive. There, it’s out now. Some things once said, can never be unsaid.

Applying these sharp journalistic instincts to geological reserve analysis and global economic forces is a natural fit and certainly lends gravity to Mr. Brown’s grave warnings of (eventual) calamity and (future) hardship.

In fact, we can only imagine how the world might have been a different place had we level-headed automotive journalists like Warren Brown around years ago to “tell it like it is…”

“We’re running out of hay! The farmers know it. President Buchanan knows it. The wagon makers know it. The growing popularity of large horse-drawn carriages is pushing our hay supplies to the limit. Two cents a bundle? Get used to it! The days of ‘easy hay’ are over.  We want a national energy policy that deals firmly, fairly, sensibly with the reality that hay is running out.…”

J.

May 31, 2006 at 04:20 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

health, shmealth, we’ve got hardee’s monster thickburgers!

A Harvard study found that Canadians are on the whole healthier than Americans. There are a number of explanations for these findings:

  • It was only a phone survey and Canadians are filthy, filthy liars.  Well, except for Martin Short. Martin Short is just too genuine to lie.
  • All that standing in line waiting to see a doctor under the Canadian national health care system builds stamina. 
  • Unhealthy Canadians are routinely rounded up and processed into food thus improving the overall statistics for those who remain. (Molson Golden is people!)
  • By categorizing diabetics as automatically unhealthy the researchers engaged in an outrageous cultural stereotyping of the insulin-challenged.
  • You’d be sedentary too if you could get all your physical labor performed by undocumented immigrants.
  • By calling a slab of ham “bacon” Canadian populace is tricked into eating less fat.
  • Soft rock stylings of Sarah McLachlan helps to reduce blood pressure. (Megadeath does not.)
  • Canadians' generally good health masks a desperate shortage of lawyers.
  • Two words: Sketch Comedy.

J.

May 30, 2006 at 11:22 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 29, 2006

kicking off summer

For many, Memorial Day weekend marks the official beginning of summer, or as we like to call it around here, “Gin & Tonic Season.”

To start things off right, I took a friend up on his offer to visit him at his condo in Dewey Beach, Delaware despite the fact that I told him he was nuts a few years back when he purchased the place for a ridiculous amount of money and that he “would never make it back.”

It has since doubled in value. Me, I’m sticking with my investments in limited edition Xena collectibles and the equity stake I purchased in an Internet company looking to “own the space” in online condiment delivery. They’re seeking additional capital to expand beyond ketchup and into mustard if anyone is interested. (It's a synergies play.)

There’s nothing quite like sitting on a beautiful sandy beach to make you contemplate the powerful natural forces at play that over many eons would slowly work to create humans who would then dredge up sand miles off shore and pile it up in front of condos so that people would have someplace to put their beach chairs.

In fact it was a perfect day to sit on the beach. So, after about fifteen minutes of that we headed out for some drinks. Starting at Northbeach for “lunch” we ended up at the Starboard which turns to be one of the few places in town not owned by a former trial lawyer.

Which explains why the place is crawling with people from Washington, DC. It’s like moths to a flame, cats to catnip, or Denny Hastert to Congressional privilege.

The Bottle & Cork is on the same strip and is considered the premier concert venue in the area and by “premier” we mean “Vanilla Ice.”

We didn’t go to the Bottle & Cork.

However we did hit the nightlife in Rehoboth Beach taking the “Jolly Trolley” which is a kind of wheeled barge towed behind a van and is similar to the Congressional Subway except that it travels above ground and doesn’t transport as many drunks.

Rehoboth Beach is more civilized than Dewey in that people are dressed more nicely when they pass out into their vodka. The last place we went was the Summer House which had the one redeeming feature of being one of the few bars where I actually bring the average age of the patrons down rather than up.

Unfortunately I had to head back to Washington DC the next day.  However I discovered a fun little road game you can play to help pass the time: See who can find the greatest number of cars in a row that aren’t obeying the posted requirement on the two-lane portions of Route 404 that you turn on your headlights. I got up to seven! (Extra points if a state trooper passes by without caring.)

Incidentally, while it is not widely known, Memorial Day was not originally set aside to mark the beginning of summer. Its original purpose was to honor those who fell in the line of duty during the Civil War and later, to honor all those who fell in battle regardless of the conflict so that we would all retain the precious freedom to mark the beginning of summer, at least without having to speak German or Russian. (Spanish optional.)

Mem_06_004 So please take a moment to put down the spatula and consider the sacrifices they made so that government of the people, by the people, for the people would not perish from the earth.

Which given the whole people part, really is quite an accomplishment.

J.

May 29, 2006 at 02:32 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

friday news bites

Gen. Michael V. Hayden was confirmed by the Senate to head the CIA.
Upside:
The CIA has a new leader.
Downside: The fact that he already knew he had been confirmed ahead of time made some lawmakers “uneasy.”

The Senate passed a comprehensive bill on immigration.
Upside: Section 114 of the bill specifically stipulates increases in border security.
Downside: The border they’re talking about is between Mexico and Belize.

Scott Peterson and one of the jurors who sent him to death row write each other frequently.
Upside: Pen pals are fun!
Downside: The thought is so creepy you are in danger of having your skin literally crawl off your body.

Extensive search of Rayburn Office building found no gun shots had been fired, rather noises from ongoing construction had been misinterpreted.
Upside: No one was hurt.
Downside: Representative James Sensenbrenner overreacted and immediately scheduled hearings: “Reckless Drywall: Did the Friday Afternoon Raid on Air Tools Trample the Constitution?"

David Lee Roth might lead a Van Halen Reunion.
Upside: Roth and Van Halen together again!
Downside: Roth and Van Halen together again.

Pentagon research close to developing actual invisibility cloak.
Upside: Girls locker room fantasy finally within reach.
Downside: Initial deployment in the war against terror will limit availability to Muslim girls locker rooms.

Michael Jackson plans to return to public life.
Upside: He’ll be returning to public life in Japan.
Downside:
Invisibility cloak.

J.

May 26, 2006 at 11:05 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2006

denny and nancy sitting in a tree…

In these highly partisan times it takes a lot to bring House Speaker Denny Hastert and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi together, but the issues surrounding the FBI raid on Representative William Jefferson’s Congressional offices struck a nerve by undermining two vitally important Constitutional principles:

  1. The separation of powers among the various branches of government.
  2. The separation of Congressmen from the various branches of the federal prison system.

And so you have bipartisan support condemning the FBI’s actions as a violation of The Speech and Debate Clause that clearly states:

“Senators and Representatives . . . shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony, and Breach of Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the session of their respective Houses, an in going to and returning from same; and for any other Speech and Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Congress has long considered this provision to be a blanket “get out of jail free” card. Maybe not as good as being a Kennedy, but close.

However, there are those who question this interpretation of the provision, basing their narrow view on a highly technical reading of the clause in which they focus purely on tangential details such as “words.” While some may claim these so-called words have meaning, it is clear from recent Supreme Court decisions that that is simply not the case.

The Attorney General’s office also vigorously defended the actions of the FBI. “We went and got a search warrant and everything,” an aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales protested. “It is true we didn’t have much experience in that area but we went the extra mile and did a LexisNexis search so we’d know what the procedure was. Did you know you have to go before a judge with evidence of probable cause and convince him to sign the thing? Wild, wild stuff. Anyway, we went through the whole tedious process, but you should have heard Dick Cheney screaming, haha. That one is going to make the office Christmas tape for sure.”

The search followed the discovery last year of $90,000 in cash in Jefferson's freezer in his home in Washington. The Congressman’s supporters point out that there is a completely innocent explanation for this find:

Paper route.

Regardless of the guilt or innocence of Jefferson, the important Constitutional questions that have been raised must be explored in a responsible and open-minded manner.  That is why we are fortunate to have a statesman like Representative F. James Sensenbrenner who has already scheduled hearings on the matter for next Tuesday called, “Reckless Justice: Did the Saturday Night Raid of Congress Trample the Constitution?”

Or is that meant to be rhetorical?

UPDATE: President Bush has since ordered that the documents collected in the search be sealed for 45 days.

Hastert and Pelosi, obviously still in that early stage of their relationship where they just have to, have to, do everything together, issued a joint statement they wrote while sharing a rootbeer float: “Today, we are directing the House counsel to begin negotiations with the Department of Justice regarding the protocols and procedures to be followed in connection with evidence of criminal conduct that might exist in the offices of members.”

Here’s a thought, and we’re just throwing this out purely for argument’s sake:  Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that when a member of Congress is videotaped accepting a $100,000 bribe, has $90,000 of it discovered in his freezer, and then refuses to comply with lawful subpoenas for eight months then, and only then, may the FBI consider securing a search warrant for his congressional offices.

Just trying to strike "the right balance" here.

J.

May 25, 2006 at 04:36 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 24, 2006

but did he have a work visa?

Mexican President Vicente Fox began a three-day visit to the United States early this morning after crossing the Rio Grande under the cover of darkness and making his way across the desert with the help of Catholic volunteers. He expects to meet up with his minister of trade who arrived in Utah days earlier under an assumed name and using forged travel documents.

Members of the Utah Minutemen Project protested Fox’s planned speaking engagement before 700 civic and business leaders in Salt Lake City. “These Mexican Presidents come over here and take good-paying speaking jobs from Americans,” one demonstrator complained. “All they have to give him is a free lunch. These people, they really will just work for food.”

President Bush responded swiftly noting that Vicente Fox was merely trying to build a better life for himself and his family and should be given the opportunity to stay in the country if he paid a fine, stayed out of trouble, and helped him with his Spanish verb conjugation.

Republican conservatives reacted angrily to the proposal. “That’s just another form of amnesty,” observed Representative Tom Tancredo, “all you are going to do is encourage presidents from other countries to illegally cross our borders. Do you have any idea what that would do to the speaking circuit? You get Tony Blair over here and Jimmy Carter wouldn’t be able to get arrested at an insurance convention.”

Sensing an opportunity to make inroads into the “presidents from other countries” vote, some Democrats denounced Tancredo’s remarks as “racist.” Also, homophobic, anti-choice, and pro tax-cuts-for-the-rich, just to cover all the bases.

However, both parties have been receiving subtle pressure behind the scenes from business interests. “Look, say I have a regional sales meeting arranged for some medical equipment reps and I’ve reserved one of the conference rooms at the Hilton,” explained one lobbyist with the hospitality industry. “I can’t touch Bill Clinton for under six figures, okay? But, let’s say I can get Montenegro President Filip Vujanovic for the price of a stuffed sole and side of green beans with those little slivered almonds. These are speaking engagements American presidents just aren’t willing to do. So who gets hurt?

To help answer that question, we turned to veteran CNN news anchor and outspoken opponent of illegal immigration, Lou Dobbs. Unfortunately, Mr. Dobbs became so enraged he was only able to spit out something about “so-called free trade” and “working people” before his entire head spontaneously burst into flames setting off the building’s sprinkler system.

It is unclear exactly what the outcome of this controversy will be, but just for the record, should you ever want someone from Planet Moron to speak at your backwater gathering you only need to know two words:

Open. Bar.

J.

May 24, 2006 at 05:13 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006

they ain’t just whistling dixie, although that might have made for a better album

There are those who say courage is when you stand up for your convictions no matter what the consequences, such as openly criticizing your nation’s leader despite his general popularity.

Others believe a truer measure of courage is the willingness to admit that you had made a mistake and apologize.

Still others believe the greatest measure of courage is waiting three years until the approval rating of your nation’s leader drops to historic lows, and then noting that you were right in the first place and take back your apology.

And hence we have The Dixie Chicks, demonstrating their convictions by bravely aligning themselves with two-thirds of the American public. Sometimes when you take a stand, you stand alone. Or with 150 million people. Whichever.

Of course, it is the music that speaks the loudest.

The lead off track, “The Long Way Around” is a celebration of the human spirit by which we mean, a celebration of all the ways in which the Dixie Chicks are better than you. The second song, “Easy Silence” shakes things up by noting that the Dixie Chicks are not only better than you in general, but better in the face of adversity. Putting a twist on the theme in “Not Ready to Make Nice,” the Dixie Chicks are really mad. Also, better than you.

In “Everybody Knows,” a broader theme begins to emerge. The Dixie Chicks are angry, although it isn’t clear if they are angry at Bush, angry that they changed their mind, angry that they changed back, angry that people hold opinions different from theirs or just angry that being better than you makes living among you a chore.

The endless string of downbeat songs kind of put me to sleep so I really can’t speak to the middle part of the album. However I did stir when “I Like It” came on which is relatively up tempo if by “up tempo” you mean, “presents the possibility that there are alternatives to slitting your wrists.”

But then, the Dixie Chicks aren’t trying to be popular. As band member Martie Maguire put it, "I'd rather have a small following of really cool people who get it, who will grow with us as we grow and are fans for life, than people that have us in their five-disc changer with Reba McEntire and Toby Keith. We don't want those kinds of fans. They limit what you can do."

So you see, they’re artists now. Just check out the poetry in “I Like It:”

Driving down the highway
The wind is in my hair
And if I hit a traffic jam
I swear that I won't care

Why, it’s like Emily Dickinson speaking to us from the grave.

A cynical person might suggest that this reversal on Bush (the second one, not the first one) is merely a promotional ploy to create some buzz for the new album launch with the fall-back excuse that if it doesn’t sell well, it was because it was "too edgy" rather than because it was just a self-absorbed exercise in frustration producing a collection of tedious sound-alike songs.

But like we said, that would be cynical.

J.

May 23, 2006 at 04:22 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 22, 2006

"give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to work off the books for not a lot of money…”

Probably one of the most controversial provisions contained in the immigration bill now making its way through the United States Senate is the one involving amnesty.

We speak of course, of the tens of thousands of corporations and small businesses that have knowingly hired illegal aliens and might otherwise face harsh penalties but for the relief offered in the Senate bill.

Those preaching amnesty for employers believe it is a matter of compassion. “The only thing these businesses wanted to do,” noted one Senate staffer, tears welling up in his eyes “was to secure a better life for their shareholders and their families. These are companies so desperate to meet their earnings targets that they’re willing to hire illegal aliens for a fraction of what they’d have to pay properly documented workers. Are we really prepared to say to these owners, ‘sorry, but you’ll have to pay the fines already on the books merely for your repeated and flagrant violations of the law?’ Is that really what we want to do?”

“And what of those kind hearts out there who are only trying to help the employers secure forged identity documents and work visas. Are we suddenly going to label those people ‘criminals’ too?”

Senator Arlen Specter bristled at the characterization that the bill provided amnesty of any kind saying “The legislation we are considering today is not amnesty. That is a pejorative term, really a smear term used to denigrate the efforts at comprehensive immigration reform. This is not amnesty because amnesty means a pardon of those who have broken the law."

He has a point, since the bill states in Section 704 that employers “shall not be subject to civil and criminal liability under section 274A of such Act for employing such unauthorized aliens.” Contrast that to the standard definition of amnesty as “the act of an authority (as a government) by which pardon is granted to a large group of individuals.”

As a mere common citizen you are probably too engaged in the consumption of a malted beverage of one kind or another and taking in a televised athletic event involving a ball or possibly automobiles and so cannot possibly be expected to understand such subtle differences.  It is only after many years of legal study can you appreciate this kind of nuanced language and come to realize how very important it is not to tick off the folks who typically show up $1000-a-plate fundraising dinners. 

Nevertheless, while they’re at it, maybe the Senate could toss a little of that non-amnesty action over this way for, shall we say, infractions involving driving at speeds that may or may not have been technically legal at the time.

After all, we were just striving to provide ourselves and our families with a better arrival time.

J.

May 22, 2006 at 05:34 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

maybe an appearance on "what not to wear" is in order

When you think “counterterrorism interdiction,” what is the first thing that comes to mind?

If you said “dress shoes,” you just may have a career as a director of the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS).  Only a “disgruntled amateur” would think otherwise according to former FAMS director Thomas Quinn.

Still, a House Judiciary Committee report prepared by what must have been a large number of disgruntled amateurs, raised some questions regarding the administration of the FAMS, among these, the requirement that Air Marshals all stay at the same hotel.

Before you start jumping to all kinds of conclusions you’ll only regret later, keep in mind that there is sound reasoning behind this policy. Yes, there is the risk of Air Marshals being easily identified and targeted thus threatening the integrity of the security of our air transport system and possibly jeopardizing the lives of hundred if not thousands of innocent civilians. But you have to carefully weigh that against the benefits. What are those benefits? Two words:

"Double Starpoints!"

You see, by requiring Air Marshals to all stay in the same hotel, they build up valuable rewards that they can use for future stays where their strict adherence to the dress code banning jeans and sneakers allows them to effectively “blend in” with all the other Federal Air Marshals.

And that doesn’t even include the many “intangible” benefits that come with being named “company of the month!”

Sheraton_fams_2

As The Sheraton said, “Please feel free to spread the word!”

You don’t see Al Qaeda operatives getting that kind of treatment. We’re talking 27” televisions with remotes and individual climate control, okay? The terrorists are probably slumming it at a Comfort Inn or something. Suckers.

Naturally, the Transportation Security Administration swiftly issued a scathing rebuttal to these ridiculous criticisms in which they note, in short, “Air Marshals rock!” We’re paraphrasing here. (But only a little.) 

So the next time you travel by air, be sure to let the Federal Air Marshals know how much you support the professional manner in which they are required to dress and conspicuously identify themselves in the plain view of passengers.

Oh, don’t worry they’ll be easy to spot. 

J.

May 20, 2006 at 11:12 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

putting up a fence is just so… home depot.

The Senate’s proposal for 370 miles of fencing along a 2000-mile border is the “one-sided fish tank” approach to immigration control and betrays a serious lack of imagination among our elected leaders.

It is clearly time that we start “thinking outside of the box” and so we present the following suggestions to deal with America’s illegal immigration problem. These are the result of tireless hours of research by our crack team of expert analysts by which I mean I tossed the dogs out back and broke open that last case of Guinness draft cans.

Alter zoning laws so that celebrities must live on the border with Mexico.
Upside: The explosion of gated communities and private security forces should by itself put a near halt to illegal border crossings.
Downside: Those who do cross will find ready work building gates and manning the private security forces.

Have the Army Corps of Engineers create a series of “Illegal Immigration Facilitation Centers” designed specifically to service the needs of illegal immigrants seeking to enter the country.
Upside: The resulting disastrous execution and widespread chaos will have Mexicans running for the border… with Guatemala.
Downside: Knowingly afflicting poor Mexicans who are only searching for a better life for themselves and their families with the Army Corps of Engineers may violate several provisions of the Geneva Convention.

Give them a taste of their own medicine. For the school year starting this fall, declare every week “Spring Break Week” and provide college students with 2-for-1 drink coupons.
Upside: Mexican vacation resorts will become so overrun with drunk co-eds they will be building their own fence before Halloween.
Downside: The 24-hour Greta Van Susteren Missing Person Cable Network.

Build a multi-lane highway for the specific use of illegal immigrants but with only one exit: Saskatchewan.
Upside: Canadians will end up with some great looking lawns.
Downside: Millions of American upper middle class parents will be left with no choice but to leave their children home alone with an open bag of kibble and a dish of milk.

Instead of bringing in the National Guard, hire bouncers from New York’s hottest clubs.
Upside: Only the really cool illegal immigrants will get in.
Downside: Effort will require 2000 miles of velvet rope creating the possibility of spot shortages in LA, Miami, and London.

J.

May 19, 2006 at 11:15 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack