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July 31, 2006

better sorry than safe!

With North Korea testing intercontinental ballistic missiles, Pakistan working on increasing the quantity and quality of its nuclear arsenal, and Russia slipping back into its old Soviet-era ways, the Pentagon’s path was clear:

Abandon a nearly impregnable command and control center buried deep within the Cheyenne Mountains and transfer critical air defense and early-warning operations to an office building instead.

Naturally, vacating an underground facility protected by 30-ton steel doors raises some important national security questions but those had to be carefully weighed against two competing interests:

  1. Mountain views are way cooler than looking at dirt.
  2. Daily happy hour specials at Applebee’s!

There were also cost considerations resulting from the competing demands for scarce funds coming from the Department of Homeland Security which has struggled since its creation with desperate shortages of fine art work and woefully limited access to suitably equipped fitness centers. (You want to talk national security? Then you’re talking the Precor EFX 5.33, okay?)

Despite the closure, the Pentagon plans to keep the facility in “warm standby” so that it can be reactivated within mere hours should conditions merit.

You can apply the very same advanced methods of risk assessment the Pentagon uses in your own everyday life as well:

Seatbelts? That money could be better spent on a skull shifter knob. Or you can leave the belts right there at your side. Once you determine that you are in the midst of an imminent accident scenario, you can always buckle up then.

The same goes for smoke detectors. One is plenty, just keep it nearby in “warm standby.” That way if a fire breaks out, you can simply deploy it in the room with the most smoke. (And don’t forget to check those batteries!)

And why lock your doors every night when you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble and only lock them on those nights when your house is being broken into.

For those of you who find it unsettling that such a critical operation will be moved from a secure facility to a far more vulnerable office building, be comforted by the words of Admiral Tim Keating, commander of NORAD and the U.S. Northern Command, who points out that the government’s best intelligence “leads us to believe a missile attack from China or Russia is very unlikely.”

Even more comforting, top intelligence experts also assure us that Japan’s designs on dominating Asia have largely abated, there is little chance of the southern states striking the north and the peace between the US and Great Britain "seems to be holding."

In fact, based on the Pentagon's most recent threat assesments, our only real need for NORAD comes from the continuing threat posed by the Indians, who, based on recent satellite imagery, appear to have have somehow become mixed up in the gambling racket.

Updates as they develop.

J.

July 31, 2006 at 02:14 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 29, 2006

but we can keep the carpets

Concerned with the growing westernization of the Persian language, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has decreed that government institutions must in the future use Persian versions of these foreign words. For instance, “pizza” will officially be called “elastic loaves” and “chat” is to be called “short talk.”

Outraged by this clearly unwarranted act of rhetorical aggression, the United States government wasted no time in retaliating against the many words of Persian origin that have crept into daily American English usage mandating the following changes:

Bazaar” is to be replaced with “Wal-Mart” (or in Chicago, “vacant lot”).

Carafe” is to be replaced with “TPFKAC.” (The Pitcher Formerly Known As Carafe.)

Demitasse” will become “I am entirely too pompous to just say small cup.”

Gherkin” will disappear from government cafeteria menus to be replaced with “freedom pickles.”

Tan-colored clothing will no longer be called “Khaki” but rather, the “white man’s black.”

Musk” will be replaced with “laundry hamper.”

The word “Pajamas” will be eliminated in its entirety. (If you don’t get dressed up to go to the bathroom you don’t have to to go to sleep either.)

Paradise” will become “martini.”

Sugar” is to be replaced with “cinnabon.”

Turban” will change to “heavily insulated do-wrap.”

Zirconia” will be replaced with “mom was right, the cheap-ass bastard wouldn’t spring for a diamond.”

The adjustment shouldn’t be too difficult and well worth the trouble to demonstrate to the Iranians that we mean business.

Now you’ll have to excuse me, I’m going to grab a quick I am entirely too pompous to just say small cup and run down to Wal-Mart. There’s this set of mom was right, the cheap-ass bastard wouldn’t spring for a diamond earrings that I just KNOW my wife is going to love.

J.

July 29, 2006 at 11:52 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 28, 2006

“modern dictionary” friday

Bringing tired old definitions up to date:

Gratitude: Pointing out to weary out-of-state firefighters waiting to return home after days spent battling blazes that they had done a “poor job” while risking their lives for $10 an hour.

Respect: Using your fallen son’s name and money to promote a cause for which he never gave any indication he would support.

Fortitude: Standing firm on deeply held principle no matter the cost unless it happens to become politically inconvenient.

Desperate: Getting high on moth balls.

Really Desperate: Sending more troops into Baghdad.

Really Really Desperate: Believing that the key to boosting your standing among the American people is to appear with Taylor Hicks.

J.

July 28, 2006 at 11:04 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 26, 2006

sure it’s too much, just not enough too much.

When a giant retailer opens a new store in a depressed area and offers jobs where the lowest starting pay is higher than the national minimum wage of $5.15 an hour, higher than the state minimum wage of $6.50 an hour, higher than the $6.55 an hour union-contracted workers receive at a local competitor and high enough to attract over twenty times the number of applicants than there are available openings what do you do?

  1. Throw a parade.
  2. Send the CEO a nice fruit basket.
  3. Work to pass an ordinance to force the company to raise wages even higher thereby either driving them out of the community or drastically reducing their growth plans.

If you said “3,” you just might have a career working on the Chicago City Council which is poised to pass a “living wage” ordinance that would set $13-an-hour wage and benefit requirements for retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target both of which have been faced with widespread charges of being successful.

Who would support such a move? Why, people like Toni Foulkes who wants everyone to have to pay more than they have to for cakes. In fact, she says she will fight for the ordinance “until our knuckles bleed.” (Note to self: Don’t buy cakes from Toni.)

There are also the labor unions which have for years tried to organize workers at the “big box” retailers. Why? Let’s just say “fighting for the working man” doesn’t come cheap if you know what we mean.

What are some of the upsides of forcing successful companies to pay far more in wages than natural economic forces require?

  • Instead of having only twenty times the number of applicants you need, you get forty!
  • Higher prices on items “benefits everyone.”
  • In today’s competitive global economy nothing is more important than laws that help prop up inefficiently run firms with poor business models.
  • Reduce those bothersome incentives for self improvement and education.
  • Empty buildings make great spots for community centers!

Naturally there are critics of the proposal. But when it comes to fully appreciating the realities and hardships people face living in economically depressed areas, who are you going to believe? Local African-American community and church leaders?

Or the totally impartial President of the United Food & Commercial Workers Union?

Yeah, that’s what we thought.

J.

July 26, 2006 at 02:55 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 25, 2006

we must protest this outrageous corporate boycott of… um, what’s-her-name, you know, used to be real big…

Madonna fans, dissatisfied with the limited success the Material Girl’s latest album is experiencing in the United States, have started a petition accusing radio behemoth Clear Channel of boycotting the aging pop diva because her anti-Bush statements have irritated the company’s Republican friends.

If you are like us, you are no doubt asking yourself, “Madonna released an album? Really? Didn’t she and Demi Moore die in some tragic accident involving a red string, an empowered stone and a too-deep pool of soul-cleansing water?”

“Wait, Demi Moore is still alive?”

Suspicions of a boycott make sense as it is well known in the pop music business that unless you slavishly toe the Republican Party line, you can pretty much kiss your career goodbye. Just check out Nelly Furtado leading the Billboard Top 100:

Promiscuous boy
You already know
That I’m all yours
What you waiting for?

Wait, what is that? A song, or Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist making a floor speech? It’s hard to tell.

Or how about John Mayer at #28:

Now if we had the power
To bring our neighbors home from war
They would have never missed a Christmas
No more ribbons on their door

Hey, since when did Karl Rove start writing music?

The petition writer notes that, “the evidence that there is a boycott from American Radio is too obvious for words as Madonna is currently the leading artist in the world.”

This is a serious charge and suggests an even larger and far more insidious conspiracy on the part of powerful right-wing conservative Republicans:

Did someone say, “Soccer?”

J.

July 25, 2006 at 02:07 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 20, 2006

first things first

There is nothing quite like a period of quiet contemplation on the beach to alter your perspective. Just last week I looked upon the fighting in the Middle East as merely a continuation of a seemingly endless cycle of violence. Now, I look upon it as merely a continuation of a seemingly endless cycle of violence AND I have a great tan.

But perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned to focus on what’s really important. Sure, a widening conflict taking growing numbers of lives and threatening to destabilize a region critical to the long-term security of the nation’s energy supplies is worthy of some review but I am now humbled by the strength and wisdom of our elected leaders who refuse to allow themselves to be distracted from attending to the most pressing needs of the American people: Protecting the Pledge of Allegiance from the ravages of minor editing.

Boldy taking the crisis head on, the US House of Representatives passed a bill this week that would prevent federal judges from blocking the recitation of the pledge by public school children because it includes the phrase “under God.”

Rep. Zach Wamp of Tennessee spoke for many of the bill’s supporters when he said, "We should not and cannot rewrite history to ignore our spiritual heritage."

While it is not widely known, the country’s spiritual heritage as it relates to the Pledge stretches all the way back to 1954 when the phrase “under God” was inserted by Dwight Eisenhower. Or possibly Thomas Jefferson. One of those history book guys. What little we know of that long-ago time comes from fossil records, pottery fragments and Happy Days reruns. Also, asking our parents. While those who inhabited the 1950s were largely a barbarous sort, communicating by smearing dyes on paper (thus creating some of the earliest fonts) they did have a kind of raw, visceral feel for language which is why their editing of the Pledge is still revered today

Republican Whip Roy Blunt probably put it best when he said, “This is an issue that clearly resonates to what we are about as a country.”

Except we’d substitute “Congress” for “country.”

J.

July 20, 2006 at 11:54 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 16, 2006

it’s tough to contemplate your target market when your market is a target

Remember that time you went to the beach for a week and the A/C in your car conked out on the very first day? “Boy, that sure was bad timing,” you probably said to yourself.

Well, that’s a lot like being Joseph Sarkis, the head of the Ministry of Tourism for Lebanon, and launching your newly revamped web site the very same week a militant terrorist wing of your own government launches an armed assault on Israeli soldiers resulting in widespread armed conflict.

Only there were way fewer deaths and explosions with your A/C issue.

And Secretary Rice probably didn’t give you a call urging restraint.

Still, it’s important that Lebanon carefully consider the pros and cons of such a development:

Pros:

  • Lebanon has great “mindspace” now.
  • The existing slogan, “Lebanon, still as vibrant as ever!” is in no real need of updating.
  • “Going out of business” sales always draw the crowds in.

Cons:

  • Ever-present specter of death can put a damper on even the most festive mood.
  • Looking at those marketing shots of hotels in southern Lebanon and you've got to think, "needs more craters."
  • Sales of “My Parents Went to Lebanon and all I got Was This Lousy T-shirt and Notification of their Untimely Demise” merchandise is expected to be “slow.”

Sure, Mr. Sarkis faces some challenges in enticing visitors to come explore the many wonders of a place that everyone else is fleeing in panic (kind of like trying to encourage business investment in Camden) but there is a solution:

Convince Britney Spears to visit and give birth to her child there.

We’re thinking “Katyusha” might make for a timely name.

J.

July 16, 2006 at 12:02 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 13, 2006

the only thing that saved us at pearl harbor? they missed the petting zoo.

In a report prepared by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, serious questions were raised regarding the usefulness of the department’s “National Asset Database,” the purpose of which is to identify critical facilities and important national symbols considered potential terrorist targets.

Included on the department’s list was a petting zoo, a bourbon festival, and a kangaroo conservation center.

No doubt, like us you are outraged at learning this. Why on earth would anyone call into question the importance of a bourbon festival? Consider the facts:

  1. It’s a festival
  2. With bourbon!

Many outside observers were critical of the fact that while the bourbon festival made it, such putative icons as the Brooklyn Bridge somehow missed making the cut. This is easily explainable:

No bourbon.

This new criteria for what constitutes a critical national asset strongly suggests an updated list is also needed for the items the department recommends we keep on hand in case of an emergency:

Out:

  1. Water
  2. Food
  3. Flashlight

In:

  1. Bourbon
  2. Baby llama
  3. Skippy DVD Vol. I

The report also makes this important observation:

“DHS’ Office of infrastructure Protection (IP) is still identifying and collecting CI/KR data, simultaneously populating the first-generation NADB, and building the next-generation NADB.”

Naturally, this begs the question as to what the ETA would be for IP to complete the CI/KR for NADB while AAA and NCAA is MIA.

LMNOP?

The report further notes that the Department of Homeland Security includes on its list, 4,055 malls, shopping centers, and retail outlets; 224 racetracks; 539 theme or amusement parks and 163 water parks; 4,164 educational facilities; 1,305 casinos; 234 retail stores; 127 gas stations; 130 libraries; 335 petroleum pipelines and 217 railroad bridges.

Perhaps it would be easier to just list those facilities that are NOT considered likely terrorist targets:

  1. John Bolton’s mustache.
  2. Those 14 parking spaces all the way in the back at Wal-Mart that nobody ever uses because they’re too damn far away.
  3. The Washington Nationals clubhouse, souvenir stand, stadium, players, coaches and owners.
  4. You know that lady down the street with the fourteen cats? The fourteen cats.
  5. Kevin Federline.

Please feel free to add your own suggestions.

Your country needs you.

J.

July 13, 2006 at 11:39 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 11, 2006

does anyone know the vegas line on this bill getting through the senate?

A bill passed by the House today would once and for all end the sinful act of Americans wantonly engaging in games of chance from the comfort of their homes and put the final nail in the coffin of Internet gambling.

Except of course for betting on the horses. That would still be okay to do online.

But beyond that, Satan will just have to take a back seat to virtue and… well, wait. The numbers rackets run by state lottery commissions would also still be allowed on the Internet. After all, unlike poker, blackjack, and other casino games offered by the greedy online merchants of false hopes and broken dreams, state lotteries not only offer far worse odds to players but also require absolutely no skill whatsoever. (In Washington, this is what we call “drawing a moral distinction.”)

But other than those two exceptions, both of which coincidentally are represented by powerful domestic interests and funnel large amounts of cash to state and local governments, we will once and for all vanquish from the Internet this…

Okay, vanquish might be too strong a word. Apparently some of the more strict enforcement provisions requiring banks to deny the use of credit cards for Internet gambling didn’t make it into the final draft.

But aside from those minor caveats, many consider the bill a needed step to stem the rising tide of Internet gambling.  University of  Illinois Business Professor John Kindt, who has spent years carefully researching the phenomenon and is widely considered an authority on the subject, persuasively argues that Internet gambling is uniquely destructive in that, “You just click your mouse and lose your house.”

While that logic may seem unassailable at first, other scholars have introduced equally compelling theses including, “Click a lot, win the pot,” and “You can win the cash, if your computer don’t crash.”

Clearly, this will remain a controversy within academic circles for some time to come.

Regardless, it was a real victory for co-sponsor Bob Goodlatte, who said of Internet gambling, "This is a scourge on our society. It causes innumerable problems,” every one of which is apparently assuaged in the presence of horses and numbered ping pong balls.

Perhaps most importantly of all though, the bill could finally get gambling out of the brightly lit arena of regulated, licensed and publicly traded companies and back into the dark alleys and seedy back rooms of organized crime.

Where it belongs.

J.

July 11, 2006 at 10:29 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2006

chryslers at carlisle

Things I learned attending this year’s “All-Chrysler Nationals” in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a mammoth celebration of automobiles, old and new, and all things Mopar:

Carlislemop06_008_1 When it’s 5:30 in the morning and you’re running out of the house half asleep to go to a car show in the middle of Pennsylvania and you absent-mindedly grab that aloha shirt you’d worn the day before, you probably shouldn't count on “blending in” that day.

You can always tell right away that you’ve got a cup of “special dark roast European style” coffee from a roadside convenience store by the dark, rich lettering on the sign that says it is special dark roast European style coffee.

Carlislemop06_019 You know those pre-production cars they trot around the country for photo-ops months before they appear on dealers' showroom floors? Yeah, they really don’t like it when you pop the hood on one of those “just to take a look.”

Despite initial evidence to the contrary, when you first enter one of these shows you should not be alarmed if it appears to be the “All-Hot Sausage Sandwich Nationals.” All these shows have a lot of hot sausage sandwich stands.  (And God bless them for that.)

Carlislemop06_002 To the untrained eye, this is merely a pile of rusty junk. However, to an expert in such matters, this is in fact a pile of rusty junk that you can’t afford.

It always engenders a warm comfortable feeling to surround yourself with like-minded enthusiasts who share your love for an endeavor often derided by the public at large, kind of like how a Halliburton executive must feel when visiting the White House (or Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold when visiting Cuba.)

Carlislemop06_016_1 The Good News: Jeep has really added a lot of new models lately!  The Bad News: No one cares.

Most of the cars people brought to display in the show field area were vintage specimens from twenty or more years ago, from Dodge Polaras to Plymouth Furys to Chrysler Imperials,  however plenty of space was set aside for such models as the Chrysler PT Cruiser. Walking up and down those rows, I swear it was like stepping into a time machine and being transported right back to 2002. "Friends" was still on the air, Coldplay was still depressing teens everywhere and it could take literally minutes to download half-decent adult material off the Internet.  Crazy times back then. Crazy times.

Carlislemop06_012_1 This is a purely gratuitous shot of Chargers. I really like Chargers. If it were not for my wife’s insistence on indulging herself in such material luxuries as regular meals and staying on speaking terms with the mortgage company I would have a Charger. Okay, fine, more Chargers than I already have. (A man has needs you know.)

There are only two things more frustrating than test driving a Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6 and only being allowed to go 10 MPH:  1) Dating Adriana Lima.  2) Working and sacrificing for years to win the honor of your party's nomination for President of the United States only to discover that you've somehow managed to hire Bob Shrum as your political strategist.   

Carlislemop06_003 You know the expression, “they sure don’t make them like that anymore?” This is where that expression came from.

And you know what?  They really don't.  Okay, maybe for good reason, but still...

J.

July 10, 2006 at 10:38 PM in Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack