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November 17, 2006

march of the penguins… to massachusetts

The book, “And Tango Makes Three,” is causing a controversy in the Shiloh Elementary School District in Illinois. Based on a true story about two male penguins forming a family and raising a baby penguin in New York City’s Central Park Zoo, the tale is a kind of Pixar-like take on alternative lifestyles. (Think Toy Story where Woody and Buzz are gay. Well, where Woody and Buzz finally come to terms with being gay.)

Now, as far as we’re concerned, what two consenting penguins do in the privacy of their own zoo is between them and the guy with the bucket of fish, but the controversy is understandable when dealing with young children and parents of diverse religious and social backgrounds.

In fact, the trouble only started when a five-year-old student brought the book home to her mother who started feeling uncomfortable when she got to the part about a zookeeper’s observation that the two male penguins “must be in love.”

This was just before the part where they start watching TLC’s “What Not To Wear” and try to download MP3s from Yentl. 

Okay, we made up that last part. 

Schools superintendent Jennifer Filyaw appointed a panel that was to form a consensus solution regarding whether the book should be made readily available to grade-school students without restriction. Unfortunately, the panel was unable to come to a conclusion. That is, a conclusion Ms. Filyaw agreed with, since she simply ignored their suggestion that the book be let out only with parental permission and instead left it where it was, believing that to do less would leave the school open to charges of censorship. After all, this country was founded on the fundamental principle that all six-year-olds are created equal and are imbued by their creator (whether metaphysical construct or product of randomly ordered natural phenomena) with certain inalienable rights, among them the right to make literary choices without the interference of their parents, most of whom are not professionally credentialed educators.

"My feeling is that a library is to serve an entire population," Filyaw said. And by “entire population” she means the part of the entire population that shares her view. The other entire part of the population? Not so much. 

In the meantime, we’ve been inspired by this hands-off approach to grade-school reading curricula and have begun work on a whole line of books that delicately explore different aspects of human sexuality in a wholly age-appropriate manner using adorable, cuddly members of the animal kingdom to gently introduce the topics:

Now if only we could find a species into auto-erotic asphyxia.

J.

November 17, 2006 at 10:57 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 15, 2006

meet the new boss…

It appears that Republican Party leaders have heard the message voters were sending them November 7 loud and clear:

  1. We need more pork barrel spending.
  2. The corruption thing will probably blow over.

And so the GOP moved swiftly, electing Trent Lott as their new Minority Whip in the Senate, and eyeing up Roy Blunt to remain the Whip in the House. This is part of the GOP’s strategy to ensure that they stay in the minority for a long time to come. Why wouldn’t they want to consider ways to reinvigorate their base, renew their appeal to independent voters, and in so doing position themselves to topple the Democrats and regain power in 2008?

Because that’s just what they'd expect them to do…

However, the Democrats have learned not to be complacent and are not about to stand still while Republicans solidify their pro-pork and pro-corruption positions in the minds of voters. 

Already, incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working hard to replace Steny Hoyer in the number two position with Jack Murtha, whose long history of self dealing and years of experience in personal corruption will be invaluable to the new Speaker as she tries to outmaneuver House Republicans.

On the Senate side, Democrats have secured Harry Reid in his position as incoming Senate Majority leader, an important move as Senator Reid’s deft ability to combine both pork AND self-dealing all within the same act, make him a two-fer of sorts and a sure bet to give Senate Republicans a run for their money.

Literally.

Now, there are some who will claim that we must take care not to assume that the election results provide both parties with a clear mandate to recklessly spend taxpayer money on useless pet projects or to trade political favors in order to enrich themselves as no doubt there were other issues motivating the voters as well.

Like we don’t have nearly enough illegal immigration!

J.

November 15, 2006 at 04:21 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2006

it’s a matter of free speech. well, plus twenty bucks.

If there is one message that can be taken away from this week’s elections it is the clear repudiation by the citizenry of political leaders who would seek to impose their own personal moral values on the rest of us.

We speak of course, of the Seattle City Council.

Rejected Tuesday by voters was an ordinance passed by the city council designed to regulate strip clubs and would, among other things, have required that the clubs keep strippers at least four feet away from the customers and ensure that the interior of the clubs be as brightly lit as any other commercial establishment. Attractive young women keeping their distance in a brightly lit commercial setting? I can get that going to Target.

The ordinance was somewhat surprising given that the Seattle government is not generally known as a hotbed for conservative thinking having as it does members who believe that there is a need for government to prime the pump for private investment with public money lest private investment end up chaotically going to projects that merely make economic sense. There are also those who strongly support such initiatives as the Seattle Monorail Project (presumably based on the fear that Shelbyville would get one instead.) In fairness, it is widely considered a general rule of thumb among urban planners that when addressing difficult mass transit issues, your best source of inspiration is almost always going to be an amusement park. 

“Honey, do you need a lift to work?”
“No, that’s okay, I think I can still catch the 8:15 Tilt-a-Wheel.” 

In defending the proposal, Mayor Greg Nickels said strip clubs are associated with organized crime, citing a single incident in 2003 in which some club owners had been accused of engaging in an illegal attempt to brazenly engage in the building of a parking lot. (It's like something right out of the Sopranos!) And even those charges were dismissed. Heck, more laws are broken in my house, strongly suggesting that expensive gin, piles of week-old newspapers, and yelling at the TV whenever Chris Matthews is on is even more closely associated with organized crime.

There is also the fiscal drain to be considered as Seattle is forced to allocate scarce law enforcement personnel and commit tens of thousands of dollars to not finding evidence of prostitution or other wrongdoing. If the strip clubs were to be run out of business, those resources could be redirected to other problem areas where crime is not taking place.

This emphasis on crime is understandable as Seattle this year found that it was ranked merely as the number one safest large city in America. You think being number one is good enough?

Maybe you need to lay off the tea a bit and have some more coffee.

J.

November 9, 2006 at 03:04 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 08, 2006

the biggest winners? washington dc real estate agents and moving companies.

Republicans are puzzling this morning over their electoral losses despite a sure-fire “path to victory” which consisted of going after moderates with a poorly run war while firing up their conservative Christian base by harboring pedophiles. How bad was it? Let’s just say that when you not only start seeing your incumbents defeated, but defeated by someone who is not, technically speaking, alive, well, let’s just say the electorate is probably trying to send you a message.

We now all look forward with anticipation to what Democrats have in store for us. A quick review: 

Multi-Phased Plan for Success in Iraq:

Measures to Help the Poor:

In the meantime, the White House moved swiftly today accepting Donald Rumsfeld's resignation now that it can't possibly do them any good. 

Maybe someone forgot to set their clocks back.

J.

November 8, 2006 at 02:10 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 07, 2006

be sure today to exercise your constitutional right to get a free "I voted!" sticker

Election_2006_1 Election day! You can feel the excitement in the air.  The giddy anticipation that we are only hours away from being able to sit down and eat dinner without being bombarded with campaign commercials about phone sex lines and Playboy Bunny parties and instead return to wholesome family-oriented commercials about penile erectile dysfunction and genital warts.

Here in Virginia, you have to show an ID in order to vote, a process that some believe is designed to create barriers to voting and suppress turnout. And I have to admit, having to first make sure I had an ID, bring it with me, then reach all the way into my pocket, pull out my wallet, find it, and then take it out of my wallet, well, let'€™s just say I was about ready to hang it up, becoming weak from the crushing burden of so onerous a demand. But then I remembered all those sacrifices made by generations of campaign attack ad producers, and decided to push through. Besides, it's not as if voter fraud is so large a problem that people are getting indicted for turning in tens of thousands of questionable voter registration forms or anything like that.

Ballot_choices But who to vote for? In the Virginia Senate race we had to carefully choose between the bigot and the sexist. There was also a Green Party candidate but her platform had to do mostly with replacing cars by building massive amounts of light rail which is actually clever as it pretty much locks up the "€œhigher taxes, less convenience" vote.

As I had mentioned last week, we also had one of those gay marriage constitutional bans on the ballot apparently addressing a widespread gay marriage crisis enveloping the commonwealth and threatening our very way of life that we somehow missed. But then, for gay marriage to threaten our way of life, gay married couples would have to feel suddenly compelled to bust down our door and start pouring all our gin and beer down the sink. Since that hasn'€™t happened yet, we voted "€œno." (However, just to be clear on this, if you gay activist marriage types do start busting down our door and pouring all our beer and gin down the sink, the gloves are coming off, okay?)

As for the local Arlington County contests, I live in a deeply blue area so it really doesn't matter who I vote for, Republicans, Libertarians, Independents, Beloved Cartoon Characters, they'€™ve all got about the same chance of beating the Democratic candidate. On the upside, it really is quite the time saver. We also had a number of bond issues to vote on that were dedicated to financing various capital projects none of which involved installing a Kegerator in my basement. Those also got "no" votes.

Lines If you haven'€™t gone to the polls yet, be sure to get out there and make your voice heard. After all, "€œevery vote counts."€

And when we say "every" we mean "€some."€

J.

November 7, 2006 at 01:16 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 06, 2006

merely having to choose between “the lesser of two evils” is starting to seem like the good old days

While the elections are upon us, many of you are probably still undecided as to whom to vote for and remain confused about where the parties really stand on the issues. In order to help you cut through all the hype, spin, and innuendo, we have carefully examined this year’s contests mainly by watching dozens of negative campaign attack commercials.

And so, we present to you, our 2006 mid-term election guide:
 

Taxes:

Democrats want to raise your taxes.
Republicans want to raise your kids' taxes.
 

The War in Iraq:

Democrats want to surrender.
Republicans prefer to lose.
 

Embryonic Stem Cell Research:

Democrats don’t understand why anyone would value embryos so much.
Republicans don’t understand why anyone would value Michael J. Fox so much.
 

Campaign Rhetoric:

Democrats say they don’t mean what you thought they said.
Republicans say they didn’t say what you thought they meant.
 

The Environment:

Democrats believe it is the proper role of the government to see to it that the environment is ruined.
Republicans believe ruining the environment is best left to the private sector.
 

Corruption:

Democrats feel strongly that the very fabric of our democracy is being threatened by Republican corruption.
Republicans feel strongly that the very fabric of our democracy is being threatened by Democratic corruption.


So be sure to get out there and vote! After all, it's of vital importance that you fulfill this sacred public obligation and in so doing, ensure that you and future generations will retain that most precious of rights:

The right to spend the next two years complaining about the guy who won.

J.

November 6, 2006 at 07:01 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 05, 2006

with emphasis on the “con”

Remember how your buddy talked you into buying your wife a 60-inch plasma TV for your tenth wedding anniversary? Remember how that went kind of “poorly?” You probably blamed your friend for coming up with an idea that was clearly troubled from the start and rife with difficulty. But that was terribly unfair since, as it turns out, the real problem was your “incompetent” execution of the purchase due to your own “enormous flaws.”

At least, that’s the lesson to be taken away from an article appearing in this week’s Vanity Fair in which the chief proponents of going to war in Iraq, the neoconservatives or “neocons” point out that they are in fact completely blameless for how things have turned out.

Kenneth Adelman, for example, had written in 2002, "I believe demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Who is responsible for it it being anything but?

People who are not Kenneth Adelman.

"[The Bush national security team] turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the post-war era," says Adelman, "Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."

And neocon Richard Perle now points out, "Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad.” 

In other words, if only they had been allowed to train their massive intellect on the actual execution of their enlightened plan, things would have gone differently. 

And so, in honor of the neocons, we present the song, “If I’d Only Been in Charge” sung to the tune of the Wizard of Oz’s “If I Only Had a Brain:” 

If I’d Only Been in Charge

They’d be throwing the rose petals
And giving me the medals
By the boat and by the barge
I’d be sayin', “hey you ladies”
Having cocktails on the Euphrates
If I’d only been in charge 

The Shiites and the Sunnis
Wouldn’t be as near as looney
They’d be peaceful, by and large
And the oil would be pumpin
Boy, wouldn’t that be sumpin’?
If I’d only been in charge 

Oh, I would have found
WMDs galore
Because I know for sure that they were there before
And well if not, he’d just make more

I would not be just a nuffin'
My rep in need of puffin'
My ego not as large
I would dance and be merry
I could stick it to John Kerry
If I’d only been in charge.

J.

November 5, 2006 at 11:05 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 02, 2006

maybe we just need to exercise better sense in our automotive reading preferences…

It was revealed this week by renowned automotive journalist Alex Taylor III that American consumers appear to be ADJUSTING THEIR BUYING HABITS BASED ON CHANGING CIRCUMSTANCES!

Is that freaky or what?

Alex Taylor III concludes this based on October vehicle sales reports in which record gains were recorded by large trucks and SUVS apparently reflecting plunging gasoline prices. 

“Does anyone seriously believe that having once spiked up to $3 with very little provocation, gasoline prices won't do it again?” he asks.

Indeed, it’s as if we’re reliving the gasoline price spike of 1980 all over again. Sure, Americans purchased smaller, more economical cars such as the beloved Chevy Chevette and AMC Pacer for a little while, but went right back to their profligate ways once the crisis passed. But the joke was on them and their foolish shortsightedness when just a scant 26 years later, BOOM! prices shot right back up to those levels. Why, that’s barely enough time to pay off a shiny new gas guzzler. Five or six times over.

Alex Taylor III further laments American consumers’ penchant for “thinking with their wallets” when it is well know that the morally superior position is to think with other people’s wallets.

Who are these fools? Buyers of GM products and their “hulking Chevy Tahoes and Suburbans.” Was there any “common sense” to be found at all? Why yes, among “self-selected Blue Staters… who are attracted to import brands because of their lighter weight and more fuel efficient engines,” Alex Taylor III writes.

Like the Blue-State favorite (and Alex Taylor III-approved) seven passenger Mercedes-Benz GL 450! Yes, at 18 mpg highway, it is actually less fuel efficient than the “hulking” Chevy Tahoe which comes in at 21 mpg, and yes, you can quibble that the Chevy is equipped to run on 85% home-grown all-American (heavily subsidized) ethanol but you’re missing two important points: 

  1. It’s a Mercedes. 
  2. The buyers have the good sense to feel guilty about it.

The real problem, as Alex Taylor III puts it, is that Americans are “buying more vehicle than they need.”

Who is best qualified to determine how much vehicle you “need” given your wholly unique mix of personal circumstances? Well, were you selected one of the 100 Notable Business Journalists Of The 20th Century?

No?

Okay, then, might we interest you in this lovely Chevy Aveo? Seats four common-sensed adults, and can handle even the biggest loads of social consciousness with ease.

J.

November 2, 2006 at 04:10 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 01, 2006

enforcing the law could cause “irreparable harm” if actually enforced

District Court Judge James Munley issued a temporary restraining order against a pair of tough anti-illegal immigration ordinances enacted by the Hazleton, Pennsylvania city council.

The Hazleton law makes it illegal for immigrants to be illegal by putting in place penalties for businesses who hire them and landlords who rent to them. 

The judge found that allowing the ordinance to go forward would result in “irreparable harm” to immigrants if they were evicted thus establishing the inalienable right of people in the country illegally to be in the country illegally.

Further, Judge Munley noted that he was not convinced by the city council's argument that illegal immigration increases crime and overburdens social services. And after all, who is in a better position to make that call? A judge (he graduated from Temple!), or the elected representatives of a community who are directly responsible for overseeing law enforcement and budget expenditures?  

"Defendant offers only vague generalizations about the crime allegedly caused by illegal immigrants but has nothing concrete to back up these claims,” the judge wrote in his order.

He does have a point here. After all, there is absolutely no evidence that the illegal immigrant from the Dominican Republic who shot two people a couple weeks before in Hazleton might not have still shot them, were he not actually in Hazleton.

His victims? Two Hispanics. This apparently did not hit Judge Munley’s radar screen. Now, had they fallen into an above-ground pool left negligiently uncovered, had incurred a welding injury, been bitten by a dog, or had been the victims of a heavily insured health care professional, well now you’re talking something the Munley family understands. (Although those 32 shellcasings left behind may have created a slip-and-fall claim, hmmm...)

This is not to suggest in any way that Judge Munley is not a caring, compassionate individual. After all, he does serve on the board of directors of an organization dedicated to addressing the problems of substance abuse and addiction among the most exposed and disenfranchised of our citizens: 

Highly paid legal professionals. (Hey, where else are they supposed to go? The Vail timeshare won’t be ready for WEEKS!)

In issuing the restraining order, Judge Munley noted the likelihood that the ordnances will be declared unconstitutional (and one of the two does have a certain “may ve see your papers please” feel to it sure to raise the hackle of even the most casual civil libertarian) but in so doing, he left unaddressed perhaps the most important constitutional question of all:

Do illegal immigrant gay lovers still retain the constitutional right to marry? 

J.

November 1, 2006 at 02:03 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack