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March 30, 2011

Wednesday News Shorts – March 30, 2011

They’ve Been Trying to Warn Us

Radiation in the seawater surrounding the stricken Japanese nuclear power plant in Fukushima has spiked to 1200 times allowable limits despite the desperate efforts of plant workers to stop the damaged nuclear fuel rods from contaminating the environment and endangering Tokyo.

This is not just a national tragedy. This is not just the age-old struggle of man attempting to tame his own creation before it destroys him.

This is the first ten minutes of a Godzilla movie.

And yes, we know we just blew any chance we had at getting that new Aflac duck gig.


They Also Believe Strongly in Collective Bargaining

Desperate to secure military aid and increased air strikes from NATO, Libyan rebels’ “Interim National Council” released a manifesto yesterday that is coincidentally written to be very appealing to western sensibilities including calls for democracy, women’s rights, and an end to discrimination.  If they lose any more towns to Gaddafi’s forces, we understand that the Council is prepared to issue calls that gays be accepted into their rebel army under a policy of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Stone,” that they will ban the brutal practice of requiring co-pays for well-child visits up to the age of 21, and that they will compensate rebels for their workman's comp claims from repetitive motion syndrome brought on by repeatedly running in the same direction.


“Mommy, Why Is The Angry Lady Yelling At Me?”

The White House will be hosting its traditional Easter Egg Roll on April 25th.  The Obama administration’s first Easter Egg Roll featured the theme, “Let’s Go Play!” and was tied to the First Lady’s “Let’s Move” initiative designed to battle childhood obesity. Last year, with childhood obesity still a pressing issue, the theme dropped the notion of play, and was upgraded to a more urgent “Ready, Set, Go!” This year, perhaps increasingly intent on making some progress in the battle against childhood obesity, the theme dropped any pretense that it’s a suggestion and instead commands the participating children to “Get Up and Go!”

Given the unlikelihood that childhood obesity will abate any time soon, don’t be surprised as future Easter Egg Rolls grow increasingly desperate:

2012: “Get Going and Go!”

2013:  “All of You! Now! Go! Go! Go!”

2014: “Do You Know What ‘Go’ Means? It’s The Opposite of What You’ve Obviously Been Doing All Year! Now, Go!”

2015: “You Fat Little SOBs, Get Going Right Now!”

2016: “Fine, Die of Diabetes and Coronary Artery Disease, See If I Care You Ungrateful Bastards.”


Hopefully They Didn’t Pay In Advance

March 29:

Libyan opposition announces plans to export oil

Tarhouni’s remarks came as rebels forces advanced from Ajdabiya through Brega, Ras Lanuf, and As Sidr. These towns, together with rebel-held Tobruk and Zouiatina, give the opposition control over five of Libya's six oil terminals.

March 30:

Rebels continue retreat in eastern Libya

After having been driven back from the town of Bin Jawwad on Tuesday, the rebels retreated through the oil hubs of Ras Lanuf and Brega on Wednesday en route to the strategic city of Ajdabiya


Would You Want The Job?

The Politico/NBC Republican Primary Presidential Debate has been postponed from this May to September due to a lack of interest.  Not among viewers, among potential Republican candidates.  A better idea: A debate among candidates who have decided NOT to run.


March 30, 2011 at 03:57 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2011

President Obama’s Libya Speech - Explained

The reason the President gave his Libya speech last night from the National Defense University and not the Oval Office was because the speech was more about “policy” as opposed to “action.” This makes sense, since the President already took action, and is just now getting around to explaining the policy.

However, it seems to have only added to the confusion regarding what we’re doing in Libya, and so we provide below what we hope will be some useful explanations:

“Tonight, I’d like to update the American people on the international effort that we have led in Libya –- what we’ve done, what we plan to do, and why this matters to us.”

And to assure a nervous and anxious public of my pledge that I would never do anything that would put in danger, this week’s episode of Dancing With The Stars.

“As Commander-in-Chief,..”

He says that a lot because he can hardly believe it himself!

“…I’m grateful to our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, and to their families.”

And the many sacrifices they are making in service to France.

“The Libyan opposition and the Arab League appealed to the world to save lives in Libya.  And so at my direction, America led an effort with our allies at the United Nations Security Council to pass a historic resolution.”

He made sure he got permission from the necessary international organizations to bomb Libya.

“And so nine days ago, after consulting the bipartisan leadership of Congress, I authorized military action.”

And purely as an act of courtesy, informed Congress of his decision.

“It’s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs [but] We had a unique ability to stop that violence…  We also had the ability to stop Qaddafi’s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground.”

We choose to bomb Libya and do the other things, not because they are hard, but because they are easy.  (Truly a Kennedyesque moment.)

“Moreover, America has an important strategic interest in preventing Qaddafi from overrunning those who oppose him… The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power."

Instead, it’s better that repressive leaders conclude that the best strategy to cling to power is to, never, ever, agree to give up your weapons of mass destruction!

“In this effort, the United States has not acted alone. Instead, we have been joined by a strong and growing coalition… And it includes Arab partners like Qatar…”

Which has generously agreed to commit an entire brigade of contract lawyers, the better to sign lucrative oil deals with the rebels as we help them seize petroleum facilities.

“And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Qaddafi’s deadly advance.”

Today?  Not so much.

“Our most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and the no-fly zone.”

This is kind of like Bill Belichick transferring the play calling to his offensive coach. He’s still in charge, and Tom Brady is still on the field.

“So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear:  The United States of America has done what we said we would do. That’s not to say that our work is complete.”

Mission Accomplished-ish!

“…there are others who have suggested that we broaden our military mission.., and do whatever it takes to bring down Qaddafi… But broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.”

That is saying we’re broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake. Actually broadening our military mission to include regime change while claiming we’re not is an excellent idea.

“Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will go to London, where she will meet with the Libyan opposition.”

Just as soon as we figure out who they are.

“With the time and space that we have provided for the Libyan people, they will be able to determine their own destiny, and that is how it should be."

In fact, it’s already happening, with citizens in the town of Sitre taking up arms to determine their own destiny… by shooting at the rebels in support of Qaddafi.

“I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back, and that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms:  our opposition to violence directed at one’s own people…”

As opposed to violence directed at some other people. Like people who support Qaddafi, for example.


March 29, 2011 at 05:13 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 28, 2011

It Wasn’t The Reporter Who Was Kidnapped

There were some wild rumors over the weekend about Joe Biden’s staff kidnapping a reporter and locking him in a closet so he couldn’t cover a fundraising event attended by the Vice President.

This is, of course, a gross exaggeration as patiently explained late yesterday by Orlando Sentinel reporter Scott Powers, the alleged victim.  Using Powers’ first-person account of the incident, allow us to dispel a few myths about this incident:

Myth: Powers was kept in a closet.
Fact: No one would ever put a reporter in a closet. That’s just ridiculous. It was actually a storage room! It had a light, a table, a chair, and “a window somewhere in the back behind the shelves full of boxes.” (A closet? People will believe anything they read on the Internet these days.)

Myth: The door was locked.
Fact: The door was not locked, and Powers was free to open it. In fact, he did so several times and was greeted by a helpful staffer who “told me I couldn’t come out yet.”  (Come on, you can’t just lock a reporter in a storage room. That should have been a tip off right there. You can, however, place guards outside his door.)

Myth: He wasn’t allowed food.
Fact: He was offered food, but refused it, taking a bottle of water instead.  We don’t know if this was part of a hunger strike or not.

Myth: Powers was not allowed to cover the Biden event.
Fact: He was allowed out of the storage room during the Vice President’s formal remarks so that he could properly do his job as a stenographer reporter. After the speech he was courteously escorted back to his storage room until the guests had left after which he was taken to his car.

As you can see, there’s really no story here.  A pool reporter assigned to cover an event under a prior agreement with the Vice President’s staff is simply held in a storage room and only let out briefly to record Biden’s formal remarks.  That’s not some conspiracy by politicians to muzzle an all-too compliant press desperate to retain access.

That’s “standard policy.”


March 28, 2011 at 05:31 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2011

Weeks 8 & 9 – Our 21st-Century Regulatory System

We continue to monitor the progress being made on President Obama’s “21st-Century Regulatory System” initiative intended to not only promote “economic growth, innovation, competitiveness, and job creation," but also to “root out regulations that are not worth the cost, or that are just plain dumb,” and yet at the same time “won't shy away from addressing obvious gaps.” 

Monday, March 14


Agricultural Marketing Service

SUMMARY: Notice is hereby given of a public hearing to receive evidence on proposed amendments to Marketing Agreement and Order No. 930 (order), which regulate the handling of tart cherries grown in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin. Three amendments are proposed by the Cherry Industry Administrative Board (Board), which is responsible for local administration of the order.

The only reason the government is involved with micromanaging the production, distribution, and selling of tart cherries is because of the vital strategic role tart cherries play in our national security infrastructure, falling somewhere in between rare earth elements and Limoncello. 

Tuesday, March 15


National Institute of Justice

Office of Justice Programs

ACTION: 60-Day Notice of Information Collection Under Review: Teen Dating Relationships: Opportunities for Youth To Define What's Healthy and Unhealthy.

We believe the only reason the Department of Justice is involved in examining teen dating relationships is because the Department of Oprah Winfrey moved to a different cable channel.

Wednesday, March 16


Agricultural Marketing Service

Regulations Issued Under the Export Grape and Plum Act; Revision to the Minimum Requirements.

SUMMARY: This rule revises the requirements under the Export Grape and Plum Act. This rule changes the minimum bunch weight requirement for grapes exported to Japan, Europe, and Greenland from one-half pound to one-quarter pound.

Why does the government mandate how big a “bunch” must be for exported grapes and plums?  Because if you left something like that up to the people who are selling and buying the grapes and plums you know what you’d have?

Odd-sized bunches of grapes and plums being sold to Japan, Europe, and Greenland. In other words:


Monday, March 21


Food and Nutrition Service

Incorporating the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans Into the Proposed School Meal Patterns

The 2010 DGAs include a new Red-Orange vegetable subgroup, while the proposed meal patterns include an Orange vegetable subgroup and group the Red vegetables under the category of Other vegetables (consistent with the 2005 DGAs). The 2010 DGAs also advise consuming protein from a variety of sources, and recommend weekly amounts from three Protein foods (formerly Lean meat and beans) subgroups.

Back when we here at Planet Moron were still children, school lunch programs included the Tan-Beige Chicken Croquette group, the Gray-Light Gray Gravy subgroup, and the Unidentified Bits of Yellow Fruit Floating in Lime Jell-O group.  This was back before there was an “obesity epidemic” strongly suggesting that the best way to get kids to lose weight is to serve them food that sucks.

Wednesday, March 23


Agricultural Marketing Service

Irish Potatoes Grown in Washington; Continuance Referendum

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to Marketing Order No. 946 (7 CFR part 946),… it is hereby directed that a referendum be conducted to ascertain whether continuance of the order is favored by growers.

Is continuance of the order favored by the consumers?  That never really came up.

Thursday, March 23


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Petition for Exemption From the Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard; Ford Motor Company.

Can you imagine if we lived in a world where consumers could decide what kind of vehicle theft prevention they preferred and automakers tried to innovate and compete to meet that demand?  Why, then you wouldn’t have people employed by the government whose job it is to decided whether a company can sell a vehicle to willing buyers absent a theft prevention standard they may not desire.

We’re talking jobs here people!


March 27, 2011 at 09:15 PM in Current Affairs, Our 21st-Century Regulatory System | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 26, 2011

WEEKEND PICTORIAL – Nissan Leaf Swag Edition – 3/26/2011

An acquaintance of Planet Moron came into town last weekend to take a test drive of the all-electric Nissan Leaf.

Okay, it was a distant family member.

Fine, fine, it was my brother. As they say, you can’t choose your relatives, and it’s a lot harder to hide from them than you think.

The test drive was part of a marketing campaign sponsored by the automaker and my “brother” (just saying we’ve never conducted actual genetic testing) thoughtfully brought home one of the promotional items they were handing out.

Nissan Leaf Recycled Bracelet

“Oh, a bracelet,” you’re probably saying.

This is not a bracelet.

This is not a bracelet

“It’s a statement”

A statement of what?  That you are the kind of person who likes to wear old car tires on your wrist.

Also, that you support a zero-emissions future in which everything is made of recycled stuff that has already been made.  This is also known as a “zero-growth” future.

Welcome to the revolution! Innovation for the planet.  Innovation for all!

Welcome to the Revolution
Innovation for All

What?  Too Soviet?

Upon close examination, I noticed that one side of the bracelet points out that the Nissan Leaf has zero emissions. 

Zero Emission

And if that wasn’t clear enough, the other side said it was “100% electric.”

100% Electric

And just in case potential customers were still puzzling over the true implications of being zero emissions and 100% electric, their brains starved for nutrients as a result of their zero-emissions diet, yet another side attempted to drive the point home: “no gas.”

No gas

I can only imagine the conversations the marketing department had with focus groups that resulted in this approach:

Marketing Rep.: The Nissan Leaf is a zero emissions vehicle.

Potential Customer: How can that be?

Marketing Rep.: It’s 100% electric!

Potential Customer: But what about the gas?

Marketing Rep.: It doesn’t use gas, it’s a zero emissions vehicle.

Potential Customer: But doesn’t gas produce emissions?

Marketing Rep.: It doesn’t use gas.

Potential Customer: Then what kind of fuel does it use?

Marketing Rep.: It’s 100% electric.

Potential Customer: What about the other 100%?  Is that gas?

Marketing Rep.: There is no "other" 100%.

Potential Customer: But then it can't be 100% electric if it uses gas.

Marketing Rep.: It doesn't use gas, okay?!  No gas! No gas! No gas!

Potential Customer: Wait, are you saying it doesn’t use gas?

Marketing Rep.: Someone get those bracelet guys on the phone, we need to talk.

So, what did my brother (if that's his real relation) think of the car? “It was pretty nice,” he said, proving that after years of hard work, Nissan has finally perfected the process by which they can manufacture a Nissan Versa with one-third the range for only three times the price.

Think of all the jobs that’s going to create!


March 26, 2011 at 08:23 PM in Current Affairs, Weekend Leisure | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 25, 2011

Instead of a Tiger in Your Tank, It’s Big Brother Under Your Hood

If you have long pined for the day when technology would advance to the point that it would be cost effective for the government to not only closely monitor your behavior, but tax you depending on what you’re doing, your dreams may have been answered. We bring you:

The VMT.

Otherwise known as the “Vehicle Mileage Tax,” the VMT was examined as a potential alternative to the current federal gasoline tax at the request of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad.

It is essential that such an alternative be found, as the funds generated by the gas tax are failing to keep up with government highway expenditures as people switch to higher mileage vehicles and electric cars.  Of course, the main reason people are switching to higher mileage vehicles and electric cars is because of laws the government passed, but why address a problem by eliminating laws when you can just pass some new ones?

The report on the VMT, “Alternative Approaches to Funding Highways” was prepared by the CBO, and contemplated a system in which monitoring devices capable of wirelessly transmitting a vast array of data would be installed on every motor vehicle in the nation.  By recording where you are driving, when, how far, and in what kind of vehicle, taxes could be:

“…assessed more to travel on crowded urban roads during peak hours than in off-peak hours or to travel on less congested roads at any time. The rates charged for peak-hour travel would be set in keeping with specific local or regional conditions, including the duration and severity of daily congestion.”

You’re probably thinking, “I know how important is to the government to protect people’s privacy, that’s why they pass laws demanding private companies institute an ‘opt-in’ system when collecting people’s personal data. Surely the same kind of protection will be available here.”

Now, now, you know very well that you can’t expect the government to be held to the same standards that it demands of everyone else, however the plan contemplated by the CBO could allow Americans to “opt out” of allowing the collection of this data and instead opt-in to paying gasoline taxes:

“The optional fuel taxes would be set at rates high enough to appeal only to users with the greatest privacy concerns.”

We’re sorry, did we say “Americans?” We meant “rich Americans.” 

Included in the CBO’s comparative analyses is a ten-cents-per-gallon charge to recognize “the external cost of greenhouse gas emissions.”  Given that greenhouse gases are the kind of gases you find in greenhouses and greenhouses are used to grow things, we can only assume this cost relates to extra lawn are expenditures for weed removal.

How likely is such a program to be implemented?  Clearly there are obstacles, but one possible approach suggested by the CBO:

Having the private sector facilitate the introduction of a VMT system could minimize public resistance by focusing initially on the voluntary participation of users who wanted to take advantage of other travel services provided through the in-vehicle equipment.”

That’s probably how the Borg got their start. One day a few people are volunteering for a mind-blowing collective consciousness experience and some cool prosthetics and the next thing you know...


March 25, 2011 at 02:48 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 24, 2011

Barack of Arabia

Barack of Arabia

The time limited, scope limited kinetic military action blockbuster of the season! No need to rush, really. It could be here for a while.


March 24, 2011 at 10:38 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2011

Libya Mission Q&A

There is some understandable confusion surrounding our mission in Iraq, so we thought we we’d provide a simple Q&A to help our readers make sense of what is clearly a complex situation:

Q: Why are we bombing Libya?

A: To save lives.  In fact, we have already saved lives.

Q: By killing large numbers of Libyan soldiers?

A: Not those lives.  Other lives.

Q: What is the ultimate goal of our mission in Libya?

A: To get rid of Qaddafi.

Q: We’re going into Libya to get rid of Qaddafi?

A: What? No! Where did you hear that?

Q: You just said it.

A: No, our mission there is very explicit. There’s nothing in the UN resolution about getting rid of anybody.

Q: So we’re not getting rid of Gadhafi then.

A: Of course we're getting rid of him, he has to go.

Q: But you just said…

A: Look, this is a focused mission. 

Q: Focused on what?

A: Focused purely on preventing attacks on civilians.

Q: Okay, well that’s pretty cle…

A: And level the playing field for the rebels.

Q: Okay, but that’s dif…

A: And Gadhafi has to go.

Q: Wait, that’s…

A: Or he could stay.

Q: Is there anyone else I can talk to?  Who’s in charge of this mission?


Q: Great, who can I talk to at NATO?

A: Why would you want to talk to anyone at NATO?

Q: You just said they were in charge.

A: No, they aren’t in charge. The French are.

Q: I don’t speak French.

A: That’s okay, no one is actually in charge, so it doesn’t really matter.

Q: How long do you think we’ll be there?

A: Just a short time

Q: Well, at least…

A: Okay, we have no idea.

Q: Well then, what’s the next step?

A: Next step?

Q: Yes, what do we do next?

A: Now that is a brain teaser.

Q: That’s it, I’m out of here.

A: Wait, aren’t you curious about how to spell the Libyan leader’s name?

Q: You know, that has been puzzling. You’ve got three different versions right here. What is the right way?

A: No idea.

Q: Bye.

A: You're welcome.


March 23, 2011 at 09:21 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 22, 2011

The War On Dogs – 03/22/2011

The first of an ongoing series chronicling the tireless efforts of the nation’s law enforcement officers to rid our society of the scourge of dogs.

Atlanta, Georgia, December 21, 2010: While walking through the yard of an Atlanta residence unannounced, a police officer found himself facing a barking Golden Retriever, a breed notorious for barking a lot.  Falling back on training as much as instinct, the police officer shot the dog dead. A police spokesperson noted that the dog had “ignored commands to stop.”

Raceland, Louisiana, February 10, 2011: While responding to an unrelated complaint from a neighbor, Deputy Brody Thibodeaux came across a dog owned by Dwain Matherne.  The dog, which was on a leash attached to a cable in the yard, was said to be acting like a dog who was being approached by a total stranger, giving the deputy little choice but to shoot him.  The Sherriff’s office noted that “There were no signs indicating a dog’s presence,” other than the presence of the dog. The dog lived. There was no word on whether the deputy will be reprimanded.

Phoenix, Arizona, February 11, 2011: Police Officer Richard Chrisman, responding to a routine domestic violence call, observed that the suspect had inadvertently left a dog out in plain view.  Upon ascertaining that the dog was sitting in a corner barking, Officer Chrisman proved all that time at the shooting range had paid off, hitting the large motionless target just a few feet a way.

Memphis, Tennessee, February 23, 2011: While on a drug raid (which resulted in what was easily a full marijuana joint being found) police officers, suspicious that this might also be a dog den of some kind, asked who was there. One of the miscreants immediately confessed that he was in possession of a dog, asleep in a back room behind a closed door. The police wasted no time in finding the alleged dog, and shot him.

February 24, 2011, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: While raiding the wrong house, police officers came across a dog that acted the way a dog would, if you were to raid its house resulting in the officers shooting the dog four times. So at least the raid wasn’t a complete waste.

March 2, 2011, The Bronx, New York: Responding to a domestic disturbance call, a dog standing in the doorway of the house where he lived greeted the officers by barking.  Big mistake, dog, big mistake.

March 21, 2011, Ripley, Missippi: In a sign of the increasing fury of the war on dogs, two police officers opened fire on a Chow, the ricochet injuring a young boy nearby. Just more collateral damage resulting from our seeming intractable dog problem.

Sometimes, it must seem like no matter how many dogs they shoot, there are always more to shoot the next day. And yet, despite the Sisyphean nature of their work, our men and women in blue soldier on whether it’s pulling over completely innocent people and killing their family pet with a shotgun, or engaging in risky undercover work with a decoy dog, and shooting a dog who comes up to play, they never seem to grow discouraged or tired with the task at hand.

And for you kids out there, remember, when it comes to dogs, “just say no.” Or “stay.” Or maybe “sit.”


March 22, 2011 at 09:44 PM in Current Affairs, The War on Dogs | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 21, 2011

It’s Hard to Turn The Other Cheek When No One Slapped You in The First Place

For weeks, Libya had brazenly not attacked the United States of America.  As each day passed, artillery shells rained down on people who were not Americans destroying buildings that were not owned or occupied by Americans in a country that was not America.

That last one might have been the breaking point.

But the United States was not the only country not being attacked by Libya.  France had endured weeks of its national interests being unthreatened in any obvious manner while in the United Kingdom woman and children alike went about their daily business which is completely understandable given they were not in any danger.

Clearly, the world had no choice but to embark on an urgent humanitarian mission.  You could tell it was urgent as the aid was being delivered via Tomahawk cruise missiles and fighter jets.

It can be a tricky endeavor when you intercede in a civil war in a country that was not attacking you, and the world is full of brutal governments oppressing their people.  But, we have to remember that we don’t purchase large amounts of inexpensive electronic goods from Libya creating the obvious moral imperative that we back the rebels challenging Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.

And just who are these young Libyan rebels we are supporting by killing other Libyans? We’re glad you asked.

We don’t know.

And former Gaddafi loyalists

Oh, and members of al Qaeda.

But then, as is often said, we can’t limit our intervention just because the rebel forces fall short of the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy, not when the whole world is behind us.

Doubts Mount on Libya

Okay, the Arabs are behind us.

Arab League Condemns Bombing

Okay, fine, sometimes you have to buck world opinion when you are interceding in a civil war in a country that poses no threat to you, as long as you have a game plan.

We Don't Know What The Outcome Will Be

Hey, how about that Sweet 16!


March 21, 2011 at 05:37 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack