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August 31, 2006

maybe he was just speechening

In an outrageous display of opinion-mongering, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recklessly put forth a series of viewpoints yesterday, many of which are not held by others, in a speech before the 2006 American Legion National Convention in Salt Lake City.

In the address, Secretary Rumsfeld discussed the “moral and intellectual confusion” of some in the West during the early rise of the Nazis suggesting comparisons with today’s opponents of administration policy.

Democrats were outraged with this blatant expression of an idea with Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri taking particular umbrage noting that, "It is a dangerous business to accuse those who disagree with you of moral and intellectual confusion."

What isn’t dangerous business? Calling someone a liar like Eric Massa, a New York Democratic House candidate, did in a statement he made about Rumsfeld following the address.

But suggesting that someone is confused? That’s a line you just do not cross, not if want to engage in civil discourse.

Skelton went on to say, "Debate in our democracy is based upon respect, not vilification."

Such respect is clearly evident in Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi’s non-vilifying comments regarding the Secretary’s address saying only that, "Secretary Rumsfeld's efforts to smear critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy are a pathetic attempt to shift the public's attention from his repeated failure to manage the conduct of the war competently."

See, she's just trying to open a dialogue.

Democratic Senator Jack Reed also weighed in on the debate saying that Rumsfeld is merely "substituting sloganing for strategy." This strongly suggests that the Senator is of the opinion that “sloganing” is an actual word. (Although unlikely, there has been some suggestion that he’s the one who brought the SAT scores down.)

Probably the most controversial part of Rumsfeld's address was his assertion that there are historical parallels to be drawn between Nazi fascism and modern-day Islamic fascism.

Naturally, this is an absurd comparison and wholly deserving of denunciation. Let’s take a quick look at the facts: 

  • Islamic fundamentalists do not, and never have, spoken German.
  • The mustaches are completely different.
  • Poland has yet to be invaded, and let’s face it, if you’re a fascist, and you’re not invading Poland, you’re just not trying. Okay, if you’re anybody with a rifle, three rounds of ammunition, and a set of old boots and you’re not invading Poland you’re just not trying.

So what are we to learn from this most recent exchange between the two major political parties in the greatest democracy on the face of the earth as they address grave matters of life and death?

  1. We have a new entry for our “Word-A-Day” calendar: “sloganing.”
  2. You want to start a bar fight? Call someone confused. ("You think the Patriots are coming back? What are you, confused both morally and intellecutally?")
  3. It is vital to engage in immediate name calling so as to avoid any possibility that a debate on the merits of an issue might accidentally break out. It’s just not worth the risk.

J.

August 31, 2006 at 05:53 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 29, 2006

flooding is one thing, forty-five full-grown adults doing the chicken dance, quite another

Today we mark the anniversary of one of the greatest calamities to ever hit the nation, an ordeal the far reaching consequences of which have yet to be fully understood.

We speak of course of my wedding.

Also, something about “a little wind and a little rain.”

In fact, last year at this time while I was busy not remembering my anniversary, the Gulf coast was being ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans was about to be overrun by a devastating flood of emoting cable news anchors. Unable to withstand the torrent of relentless coverage, millions of cable subscribers across the nation were forced to seek refuge from the deluge. Some went as far as the Food Network while those without the means to sign up for premium packages could only get as far as TNT. (It’s always the poor that suffer the most.)

These refugees found themselves having to get by on such meager offerings as specials about braising chicken and Law & Order reruns all in the vain hope that relief would come if only a young attractive white woman would go missing. Maybe then would it be safe to return to the comforting familiarity of the 24-hour news channels.

While many individuals were responsible for the calamity that followed Hurricane Katrina, a few appeared to be unfairly singled out for harsh punishment.

Ray Nagin in particular was sentenced to serve no fewer than four years as mayor of New Orleans. Was he really that big a monster? Does any man deserve such a fate?

Michael Chertoff did not come out unscathed either and is expected to put in thousands of hours of community service mostly as head of the Department of Homeland Security (one of the many jobs that “no American is willing to take” that proponents of immigration speak of such as ditch digger and Wal-Mart Goodwill Ambassador).

What lessons have we learned from this national tragedy?

  • Braising a chicken can be fun and easy.
  • They really need to run the shows with Michael Moriarty more. Nothing against Sam Waterston but Michael Moriarty was the man.
  • “But how can we possibly exchange gifts on a day of such grave remembrance” does NOT get you out of getting your wife something for your wedding anniversary.

J.

August 29, 2006 at 02:32 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 26, 2006

oh sure, it seems obvious now

A stick of dynamite was discovered in college student Howard McFarland Fish’s checked baggage yesterday on a Continental Airlines flight from Argentina.

Given today’s heightened sensitivities to once seemingly innocuous items such as shampoo, nail clippers and sticks of dynamite, security officials detained Mr. Fish for questioning. We suspect the conversation went something like this: 

Customs Agent: We found a stick of dynamite in your checked baggage.
Fish: Uh, huh.
Customs Agent: Why do you have a stick of dynamite in your baggage?
Fish: I didn’t think you’d let me take it in my carry on. 

The young man’s father defended his son saying, "It's a 21-year-old kid not paying careful attention to the press and thinking it would be cool to have a piece of dynamite." Indeed, years of social conditioning by our mass media culture has created the false impression that in order to be cool, you have to have a stick of dynamite. When will the entertainment industry start demonstrating some responsibility and stop glorifying sticks of dynamite in movies, TV shows and popular music. 

Hey, listen up kids, sticks of dynamite will not make you look cool. You know what will? Staying in school, volunteering at a homeless shelter, and taking up smoking.

There was some concern that the stick of dynamite was found only after the flight had landed in the United States suggesting that security in overseas airports might be lacking.  This is particularly troubling as Argentina is believed to have quite possibly the second-best bomb-screening program of any country in the southern tip of South America.

In light of these events and to help our readers better ensure their own safety and that of their fellow passengers, we have prepared this handy FAQ:

Q: Can I carry a can of Cheez Whiz on board?
A: Of course not.
Q: Because its gel-like consistency and pressurized container could easily be used to disguise an explosive agent?
A: No.
Q: Then why not?
A: It’s just really gross.

Q: Can I carry on a black jack?
A: No.
Q: A billy club?
A: No.
Q: How about a kubaton?
A: No.
Q: Do you even know what a kubaton is?
A: No, do you?
Q: Touche.

Q: Can I check a hand grenade?
A: No.
Q: Plastic explosives?
A: Nope.
Q: Blasting caps?
A: Okay, we really need to talk.

Q: I have a screwdriver that’s 7 1/4 inches in length. Can I take that on board?
A: Absolutely not, such a tool could easily be turned into a deadly weapon and could jeopardize the lives of all aboard.
Q: I have one that’s 7 inches long, would that be okay?
A: Oh, well, that’s completely harmless so yes of course you can.

Happy travels!

J.

August 26, 2006 at 06:38 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 24, 2006

the styrofoam ball industry is expected to take the biggest hit

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided to vote Pluto off the solar system today, demoting the small rocky sphere with the eccentric orbit from “planet” to mere “dwarf” status.

Remember high school? The really cool kid throwing the party Saturday night was the Sun. Of course his posse, Mercury, Venus, Earth, were all invited. Jupiter was invited too because he was on the football team. Uranus was constantly cracking everyone up with his crude jokes so he’d also be there. Pluto?

Pluto was you.

Attempts by those who had a soft spot for the quirky guy tried to keep Pluto as a planet but were shot down after it was realized that once you let Pluto in, you’d have to let in all the others like it such as Charon, Ceres, and UB313. Let’s face it, these guys are the A/V Club of the solar system.

Even an attempt to classify these near-planets as perhaps just a different kind of planet (a form of astronomical mainstreaming) by calling them all “plutons” led to disaster when the astronomers who made the suggestion were ridiculed by geologists who had been using that term for years. I mean, come on, what idiot doesn’t know that a pluton is actually a body of igneous rock formed beneath the surface of the earth by the consolidation of magma? Did these guys just crawl out from under a metamorphic formation or something?

And don’t think things didn’t get heated as simmering resentments between astronomers and geologists boiled over and harsh words were exchanged (language warning, may not be safe for work): “It's like if we came up with the word asteroid as if we had invented it,” complained Allen F. Glazner, a geologist at the University of North Carolina. “We're hoping to get their attention so they can come up with their own darn word.”

Our suggestion if we were astronomers?  “Geologistscanbiteme.”

Of course, had the astronomers really been thinking, they would have just named the group after the cute waitress at the hotel bar. What could possibly be a more sure-fire way of getting some action than saying, “Hi, I just named half the solar system after you?” Well, other than, “Hi, I’m Orlando Bloom.”

The downside? Explaining to your wife why schoolchildren around the world are now studying the orbits and characteristics of “Heather Stoblaniks.”

Most embarrassing of all is NASA’s “New Horizons” space probe, launched with much fanfare earlier this year on its heralded mission to explore what is now basically a washed up has been of a celestial body (kind of like making big plans to follow the Dixie Chicks around the country on their summer tour).

However, the upside of having an eight-planet solar system is that all those old science textbooks from 1929 are accurate again.

Even more so if you go to school in Kansas.

J.

August 24, 2006 at 01:38 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 23, 2006

they must give themselves amnesty

Renowned human rights group Amnesty International (AI) issued a press release today accusing Israel of violating international law and committing war crimes in its conflict with Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

AI notes that Israel purposely targeted civilian infrastructure with “no apparent strategic importance” such as bridges standing between Hezbollah and large piles of military supplies headed for Hezbollah not to mention fuel storage plants which as any military veteran will tell you are really more of a nuisance than anything else.

This is in stark contrast to the surgical-like precision of Hezbollah’s strikes using sophisticated Katyusha rockets (believed by intelligence analysts to be capable of hitting a target as small as a country from a distance of several miles). The rockets’ advanced navigation systems allow operators to choose from a number of pre-programmed trajectories including “that-a-way” and “over there somewhere.”

Amnesty International was also critical of civilian casualties inflicted by Israeli air strikes unlike Hezbollah’s attacks which were painstakingly carried out so as to minimize the deaths of those innocents who were in no way involved in being Jewish.

But then, AI has long been an objective voice for peace in the area, calling on countries to cease supplying weapons to Israel, asking that concern be expressed for civilians who are not Israelis and that letters be written in opposition to discriminatory laws that exist in Israel.

Regarding Hezbollah’s role in the fighting, AI assures us that they will be dealing with that in a separate report. It’s just not clear yet how they plan to address civilian deaths which are known in Israel as “collateral damage.”

For Hezbollah, that’s “mission accomplished.”

J.

August 23, 2006 at 02:19 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 21, 2006

it would be like naming a death camp after emeril

A heated controversy over a new eatery has erupted in Mumbai, India, which for years was known as “Bombay” but changed its name in 1995 as part of an ongoing campaign to make everything I learned before 1980 completely obsolete, such as the best way to clean a vinyl record (cleaning solution and a brush) and how to properly accessorize a leisure suit (kerosene and a pack of matches).

The trouble started when a new restaurant opened up called “Hitler’s Cross” with a giant poster of the German Fuehrer at the entrance and the display of numerous swastikas.

Some point out that the swastika is actually a sacred Hindu symbol long predating the rise of Nazi Germany.

Others point out that THEY NAMED THE RESTAURANT “HITLER’S CROSS” AND HAVE A GIANT POSTER OF THE GERMAN FUEHRER AT THE ENTRANCE.

So, you know, it’s basically a toss up.

No doubt you are asking yourself why an Indian restaurant would turn to a German fascist of all sources for inspiration. Not when there are so many other perfectly good options in murderous genocidal lunatics available. They could have gone Cambodian for instance (Try our Chicken Pol Pot Pie!), or looked towards the Soviet Union’s rich history. (Hungary? Then quit yer Stalin’! And don’t forget to ask about our daily lack-of-grain specials.)

But then the connection becomes obvious. What are our Germanic friends known for besides world wars, overpriced automobiles and bad music? That’s right, fine cuisine.

Restaurant owner Punit Shablok points out that he is not promoting Hitler, but only wanted “to tell people we are different in the way he was different.” However it is important to note that there is “bad different,” and “good different.” Good different is a gimlet. Bad different is a Jacobo’s melon bomb.

Good different is Sam Kinison. Bad different is Carrot Top. Hitler? On the plus side: Excellent posture, dope ‘stache, autobahns. Minuses: World War II, the Holocaust, and the American Bauhaus movement.

So, yes, “bad different.”

Indian actor Murli Sharma, asked at the grand opening if he found the name of the restaurant disturbing said, "I am not really agitated as I have not read much about the man. However, from what I know about Hitler, I find this name rather amusing," thus demonstrating that if there is one thing that ties all humanity together no matter what our racial, ethnic, or religious differences might be, it’s that if you are a big movie star, chances are really good that you are a complete idiot.

Hey, it’s a start.

J.

August 21, 2006 at 09:51 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 18, 2006

shopping carts: innocent grocery conveyances or one-way tickets to tragedy?

A report in the August issue of Pediatrics (the official publication of the American Academy of Pediatrics) put forth an urgent call to update the US shopping cart standard (ASTM F2372-04) to incorporate greater safety features for children.

If you are like us, you are probably asking yourself, “There are already national standards for shopping carts? No, seriously. For shopping carts? I think I’m going to have to call shens on this one.”

No, it’s true, not only do we have national standards for shopping carts but they are inadequate and need updating. (Personally we’d start with that right front wheel that spins round and round.)

The report noted a number of mechanisms by which children injure themselves with shopping carts including falling off the cart, tipping the cart, and becoming entrapped in the cart. Left unaddressed is the mechanism of rolling down a hill in the USS Shopping Cart to fend off the fiendish incursions of a Klingon Battle Bicycle and a Romulan Wheelbarrow of Prey but maybe that was just us.

Alert readers will note that children routinely fall off things, tip over things and become entrapped in things. In fact, most childhood accidents really aren’t accidents so much as errors in judgment. “I can probably jump from this tree branch to that deck.” (For some, this pattern of behavior can be expected to extend well into adulthood, “I can probably do twenty kamikaze shots,” and “I can probably establish a democracy in a country ruled for years under a brutal dictatorship in an area rife with sectarian conflict.”)

The authors of the report make ten recommendations even though they really have only two:

  1. Develop new standards for shopping carts.
  2. Scare the hell out of everyone.

The latter recommendation calls for various public education programs to alert parents to the many hazards of shopping carts. We envision patterning the program after the highly successful campaign against drugs:

This is your child.
This is your child in a shopping cart (crack, sizzle).
Any questions?

The last major initiative the government launched regarding the shopping cart menace came in 1997 when the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) spearheaded a program to have safety straps installed on all shopping carts (with generous help from the Safe-Strap Company which, and this is one of those one-in-a-million chances, makes safety straps). The result was encouraging. If you were a pediatrics emergency physician looking to pick up some extra coin working overtime that is, since shopping cart related emergency room visits by children five and under nearly doubled in the intervening years. The problem then (and now according to this most recent report) is that most injuries involve kids standing in the cart when they aren’t supposed to and generally horsing around, which demonstrates once again that there is only one impediment to the successful implementation of elaborate regulatory schemes designed to help people:

Those damn people.

J.

August 18, 2006 at 12:22 PM in Health & Fitness | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 17, 2006

because we cair

Inspired by CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), the largest Islamic civil liberties group in the United States, we propose the formation of CAPR, the Council on Airline Passenger Relations.

Like CAIR, which actively opposes calls by security personnel to in any way pay special attention to, or “profile” Islamic men, CAPR opposes the kind of special attention currently being paid to airline passengers most of whom are doing nothing more sinister than boarding a commercial airliner. We’ve all seen it, after every attack or foiled plot allegedly perpetrated by some extremist group of airline passengers, there is an immediate crackdown on all airline passengers regardless of guilt or innocence. They are then subject to cruel forms of harassment including being forced to take off their shoes in full public view and to open their carryon luggage for “inspection.”

Proponents of this outrageous profiling point out that every single terrorist incident involving an airline in recent years has been committed by airline passengers. But we must endeavor to look beyond our own prejudices and realize that while every terrorist may have been a passenger, not every passenger is necessarily a terrorist.

Therefore CAPR demands a fairer and more inclusive process. For example, resources could be redirected towards individuals walking down city streets many of whom could easily be heading for the airport. Kiosks could be set up in assisted living facilities where residents’ orthopedic shoes could be X-rayed. Special task forces could also be launched to infiltrate the Amish and Quaker communities. Only in this manner can we be sure that no group or individual is singled out or stigmatized simply because a few extremists subvert the true meaning of commercial aviation: “The Mass Transportation of Peace.”

We encourage you to become active not only in CAPR but also its sister group, CARE (Council on Americans Running from Explosions) which, like CAIR’s “Muslim Community Safety Kit” (containing legal contacts and local CAIR phone numbers) is promoting an “American Mass Transit User Safety Kit” which will include a list of local critical care facilities and guidelines in treating lacerations and blunt force trauma. In this manner, Americans can help protect themselves against the many pernicious and subtle forms of discrimination that are practiced today in our society such as ill treatment, dirty looks and being blown up.

And please don’t forget CAIR either as they find they must spring into action to safeguard the rights of their members after every terrorist attack and arrest.

And let’s just say this is their busy season.

J.

August 17, 2006 at 12:00 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 15, 2006

tuesday headline shockers

Judge Rules That if You Didn’t Purchase Flood Insurance, You Don’t Have Flood insurance

Approached by Armed Terrorists, Israeli Soldiers Open Fire

93-Year Old Former President Might Possibly Have Medical Problems

Something Blew Up in Iraq

Prostitution and Drugs Still in Existence.

American Muslims Issue Several Strong Statements Condemning Terrorism. By Israel.

Illegal Immigrants Express Outrage Over Attempts to Enforce Law

Jesse Jackson Gets Cameras to Point in His Direction

J.

August 15, 2006 at 11:30 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 14, 2006

breaking the cycle of no violence

Iran today unveiled an exhibition of Holocaust cartoons, the result of a contest that had been launched earlier this year in direct retaliation for the publishing of cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed in a Danish newspaper last fall.

The reactions around the world were as swift as they were expected:

  • In Israel, citizens in large numbers expressed their outrage by going to work with many adding to the mounting tension by going out to eat lunch.
  • In Washington DC, many thousands of both Jewish and non-Jewish residents alike gathered together in RFK Stadium to watch a Nationals game.
  • The Israeli News Agency called on its many devout Jewish readers to rise up and take a look at the cartoons and consider the Agency’s editorial commentary.
  • In many major European cities this evening the unmistakable aroma of dinner hung ominously in the air, serving as evidence of the many meals prepared a short time before.
  • Adding to the unease in New York were unconfirmed reports that several motorists who had inadvertently wandered into predominantly Jewish neighborhoods had to stop and ask for directions from helpful residents and then proceeded on peacefully.

While moderate Jewish leaders continued to urge restraint, more radical elements seemed to rule the day with continued calls to the faithful to participate in a Search Engine Optimization marketing contest that could very well result in the loss of dozens of legitimate Google search returns.

When the madness will end is anyone’s guess but we can only hope that one day our Jewish brothers will find ways other than going about their usual business and writing editorials whenever confronted with objectionable illustrations.

J.

August 14, 2006 at 11:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack