Saturday, June 29, 2002

Retreat! Albert Armand Gore is holding a "retreat" this weekend with donors and supporters in a hotel in Memphis. I can't think of anything more weird and scary except possibly being locked in closet with a den of weasels on crack. However, it seems to be the thing to do - Smilin' John Edwards of North Carolina is doing the same thing at Sea Island, GA.

But back to Albert. So far the hot news from the hotel has included:
  • Tipper sharing with us that she supports Albert running again. Apparently she was really, really depressed after Albert lost, but now she is raring to go, if still somewhat "eccentric".
  • Albert promising a "more spontaneous, less restrained campaign if he runs for president in 2004". Uh Oh! Sounds like more steroids for the alpha male.


In related news, Albert and Tipper have spent part of the nest egg they acquired on their meager government salary to buy a $2.3 million house outside Nashville. When Albert's father was first elected to Congress in 1938, he was a poor school teacher. The family must have made some "good investments" since then. Armand Hammer being one of them.
Tin foil propellor beanie alert! Cringely sees a vast conspiracy in Microsoft's Palladium. What's a day without a new Microsoft conspiracy? Boring, fer sure, for the tech pundits. I guess we needed a new Microsoft conspiracy after Passport went down the hydroflush.
Gotcher Freethought right here! In Birmingham, PA the local atheist brigade have gotten a judgement that the Ten Commandments plaque should be removed from the County Courthouse where it has been since 1920. Now the local citizens are putting Ten Commandments signs in their front yards and the "free thinkers" have their knickers in a twist (natch). They have filed a lawsuit because "the signs are a deliberate agitation by residents who put up the signs on their own property."

Hint to the free thinkers: "deliberate agitation" is when you see them cleaning the family 12 gauge on the front porch and sighting in on your picture window.

Friday, June 28, 2002

It must be Friday. In Washington State, some sleazoids whose hobby is taking pictures up women's skirts are hoping to get their convictions overturned by the State Supreme Court by contending that since the women were in public, they had no expectation of privacy.

In Portugal, a female phone pervert convinced women to bare their breasts and stand in windows so they could get satellite mammograms.

In Wisconsin, a clueless fellow tried to rob a gun store at knifepoint. He is now deceased.

In New Mexico, an escaped inmate with an imperfect grasp of topology lost his arm after trying to use a locomotive's wheel to cut off a pair of handcuffs.

In Florida, they're air conditioning the garbage and having photos of duct taped infants developed at Wal-Mart.
Only Government Employees Can Start Forest Fires. The Almagordo Daily News has the latest government employee caught playing with matches:
MESCALERO, N.M. (AP) — A Mexican spotted owl survey taker employed by the Mescalero Apache Tribes natural resources agency was arrested Wednesday for arson.

Paul James Valdez, 27, was charged with intentionally starting a fire on the southern New Mexico reservation on or about June 2. He was also charged with furnishing false information to a federal agent.

Valdez appeared before U.S. Magistrate Kee Riggs in Roswell after his arrest. He is scheduled for another court appearance Friday in Albuquerque.
...

Valdez is employed by the Mescalero Department of Resource Management and Protection as a Mexican spotted owl surveyor, Beldon said. The spotted owl is listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
No mention of how the Mexican Spotted Owl deals with dancing flames.
Danger! Tax Dollars at Work! Los Angeles and San Francisco have dueling "cute" ad campaigns to reduce syphilis among gay men. Michelle Malkin provides the details, but not the graphics. I'll spare you SF's "Healthy Penis", but get a load of the LA "Sores":


Why don't they just show some of those old Army films?
3rd World Whine: Bill Quick (the Daily Pundit) tackles the Guardian report that African "aid agencies" have their panties in a wad over the G8 summit:
The three biggest problems facing Africa are AIDS, famine, and tribal violence. The West might find itself in a more charitable mood if African leaders like Mugabe weren't using deliberate famine as a political weapon, Mbeki wasn't treating AIDS as an imaginary disease to be mitigated by the rape of prepubescent girls, and various central African potentates weren't slaughtering each other's people with gleeful abandon.
African Mercedes dealers are likely also as upset as the "aid agencies".
The Friendly Skies: An admirable Bleat today by James Lileks. I won't spoil the real punchline, but I also liked:
Off to the airport! Got my e-ticket, which is like a Popular Science prediction from 1967. In the future you’ll slide your Ident-O-Card into the slot, select your seat with the touch of a screen, and receive a freshly printed, personalized travel ticket. Then you’ll be wanded by scowling Somalis! They didn’t get that last part, but who could.
Unfortunately, I am of an age that remembers "dressing up" for airplane flights and the modern version of air travel makes me feel like my memories must be of the Pan Am Clipper or a Zeppelin flight. On the other hand, air time to our destinations was no different than today and total time probably rather less since there were more direct flights and no security and less traffic outside the airport too. I also think there was more room in the seats, but it could just be that my seat takes up more room.

It seems to me that air travel is stuck in a high (pretense of) security cattle car phase that won't change anytime soon, unless ubiquitous bandwidth peels off enough business travellers with "teleconferencing". Of course, without the business travellers air travel may come to more closely resemble a 3rd world bus trip than it already does.
News you can use. If you've become bored by the constant deluge of medical "news" implicating common food items as the cause of terminal ailments (Macaroons cause cancer! Film at 11!), you'll be happy to know that medical researchers are branching out. Ananova reports that a study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine warns that
...anoraks (parkas in the USA) are a possible health hazard.

A study carried out at Birmingham (UK) City Hospital found the hooded coats reduce the field of vision by up to half.

The professor behind the research says this can be potentially dangerous when crossing a road.

He said: "Our researchers measured the binocular visual field of volunteers wearing four different styles of anorak.

"Most wearers pull the hood over their heads and we found that with the hood up the field of vision is more than halved."

The Daily Mirror quotes him as saying: "People need to be far more careful in their choice of head gear. And apart from that they look ridiculous."
Thanks Doc! Next time I go out to the back forty in a blizzard, I'll wear a bowler and carry a brolly.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Bad News and Good News. The bad news is that US postage rates are going up on June 30th. The good news is that on July 3 you can buy an Irving Berlin stamp for the new 1st class rate which says "God Bless America" at the top and features a picture of Berlin superimposed on his hand written score for the song. No word yet from the 9th Circuit Court.
United Nations Alert: I have stolen the following outright from Occam's Toothbrush via a link from InstaPundit:
The corruption of the U.N. is so accepted, that when Israel asks them, in their role as administrators of the refugee camps, to help stop the suicide attacks, it is seen as a "clear bid to embarrass an institution Israel has long seen as biased"
It was bad enough when the United Nations was just a collection of well meaning doofs in suits who got together to swap palaver occasionally. Now they are intrusive bureaucrats with a political agenda all their own which is financed by the benighted US taxpayer. It's time to discard them in the outhouse of history.
Didn't we just have a full moon? The AP entices us with:
Lesbians lure sperm donors
Brit Web site overwhelmed by response

LONDON -- The founder of an Internet site to provide sperm donors for lesbian couples wanting to have children said yesterday the site was overwhelmed with 8,000 registrations in the first 48 hours of operation.

ManNotIncluded.com, launched in Britain on Monday, was set up to provide lesbian couples with sperm for "home insemination."

Founder John Gonzalez said 3,000 lesbian couples had already signed up, while 5,000 men had registered to be donors.
I often wonder if headline writers are members of secret conspiracy? Of course it could have been: Kids! Don't Try This at Home!
Predictable: Playboy has started the PR drumbeat for the "Women of Enron" issue. Can "Women of Global Crossing" and "Woman of Worldcom" be far behind?

To paraphrase the old joke, "we know what they are and we just determined the price".
South of the Border Down Mexico Way. Steve Miller at the Washington Times reports on the convention of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) which is hosting a number of government officials. David V. Aguilar, chief patrol agent for 281 miles of the Arizona-Mexico border, told the crowd that that the "government has a responsibility to protect Mexican citizens who are illegally crossing into the United States. ... 'We have had 350 rescues since March,' Mr. Aguilar said. 'We now have [emergency rescue] crews in each sector who are trained to deploy in these areas.'

Aside from the usual hand wringing about the illegal immigrants who choose to trek through the Arizona desert, we are told "the Mexican government is building observation towers that will allow the Mexican military, which has posts on the border, to observe illegal immigrants crossing into the United States."

Sounds kind of like bird watching. Of course, if the "undocumented" want a real desert trip, they could try the African route.

Seeing all this reminds me that another reference to "The Camp of the Saints" is in order.
You can't make this stuff up! According to Mark Angeles at philly.com:
Fan from hell creates a stir at Cher concert
Woman adds unexpected mayhem to show

"I've Got You, Babe" took on new meaning at Monday night's Cher concert when a 400-pound, intoxicated, foul-mouthed female fan refused to vacate a seat and had to be forcibly removed.

The unidentified woman, who witnesses said was dressed in a cowboy hat, tank top and jeans, caused another fan to be injured after female security guards from the First Union Center ejected the corpulent cowgirl.

The drama began soon after the end of the opening act, which featured singer Cyndi Lauper.

"She kept on yelling 'I love you Cyndi' and was drinking out of a flask," said one concertgoer who requested anonymity.

...

"In the meantime, Cher is singing 'I've Got You Babe,' the noise is incredible, it's dark, they're shining a flashlight at her and she looks to be cursing pretty good," said another concertgoer.
See the article for the rest of the wierdness, but the subtitle makes me wonder: what mayhem did they expect?

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

Countdown to the ICC: Pete du Pont disposes of the International Criminal Court (sic) in the WSJ OpinionJournal.
Terrorism via the Internet? Barton Gellman has a long article in the Washington Post describing how persons unknown are using the Internet to probe various control facilities for public utilities, like dams and the electric grid, with the likely intention of terrorist sabotage that could be extremely destructive. While there is a lot of convincing detail, it raises the question: Why are these types of control systems accessible on the Internet in the first place? And why does this much detailed information need to be published? It would be of use to any saboteur.
A whole lot more than I wanted to know: Court TV in its neverending quest to fill our screens with trash news vaguely related to the law, has an interview on legalized prostitution "Live from the Moonlight Bunny Ranch", with brothel owner Dennis Hof and prostitutes Mila, the "Queen of Nasty," and Trixi Starr. Besides a variety of detail on the "ins and outs" of the brothel business from Dennis and the whores, Dennis informs us that "If you want to protect your individual rights, you'd better vote Democratic."

Dennis has an excuse. He's a pimp. What's Court TV's excuse?
Pond Scum: Brainiac Martina Navratilova enlightens us:
"The most absurd part of my escape from the unjust system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses free opinion for another," said Navratilova, 45, who fled Czechoslovakia at the age of 18 to go to the United States.

The nine-time women's Wimbledon champion, who still plays in some doubles tournaments and last week played in a singles tournament at the Eastbourne International Championships in England, singled out President Bush's Republican Party for unusually harsh criticism.

"The Republicans in the United States manipulate public opinion and sweep any controversial issues under the table," Navratilova said.

"It's depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of 'how much money will come out of it' and not on the questions of how much health, morals or the environment suffer as a result."
Hopefully, she won't let the door hit her skanky butt on the way out as she continues her quest for freedom elsewhere. And before she leaves, she can drop all the cash she got from US sources - after all, it's not about money.
Old Rogue Alert: The Cincinnati Post has an interesting editorial that explains the latest hijinks in Havana.
Fidel Castro is running scared.

His rubber-stamp National Assembly has convened a special two-day session to rewrite the Cuban constitution to make Castro's brand of socialism "untouchable." The assembly was to perform this chore at a regular session July 25, but the assembly president reckoned the rewrite was so pressingly urgent that he asked Castro for permission to hold the special session.

Castro graciously agreed, and, in a gesture that can't be good for the island's rickety economy, gave Cubans Monday and Tuesday off so they can follow the proceedings.

Why anybody would want to watch is doubtful because the outcome isn't in doubt. It's the anticlimax to a desperate charade to show widespread support for Castro and the bleak way of life he has imposed on his people.

The instant cause of Castro's discomfort seems to be the Varela Project, a courageous, grass-roots movement that collected 11,000 signatures on a petition, delivered to the assembly in May, asking for a national referendum on restoring freedom of speech and association and free enterprise.
What's interesting is that the old rogue felt threatened enough that he went through a bunch of preliminary flummery to even get to this point. Maybe he's afraid the war on terror will find this hemisphere's leading terrorist, Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz. Dude! You're getting a hollow point! Couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.
Mighty damn diverse, aren't we? An appeals court in San Francisco (natch) has ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allgeiance in schools is unconstitutional.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

You are from around here! Christie Blatchford tells us in the National Post that she has become an effete urban knob, but likes it, in an article titled "The town Starbucks forgot".
City of Evil Alert! The Ithaca Journal doesn't spare us a detail in reporting on the "truly alternative graduation" at the local fruits and nuts high school in Ithaca, NY.
They sang, they danced, they played cello and the bongos in a true alternative graduation ceremony.

But the multi-talented seniors at the Alternative Community School also celebrated their commitment to justice, equity and compassion at commencement Monday night.

The evening began with a message from radio journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been on death row in Pennsylvania for 20 years for the killing of a police officer. According to defenders, he was framed because of on-air comments the Philadelphia establishment didn't like.

The author of "Life from Death Row," "Death Blossoms" and "All Things Censored" recommended that students read Jonathan Kozol's "Savage Inequalities" about the inequalities in American schools. He said the system is badly in need of alternatives.

"ACS is an important beginning," he said." Perhaps it can light the way for others to follow."

The presentation was the senior project of Sally Heron.

One of the requirements for graduation from the Alternative Community School is to "understand bias and take action to eliminate it." Though all 29 graduates met the requirement, none were as visible Monday as Heron's.


Then there are the interviews with students whose projects seem to mostly consist of teaching dancing to the retarded and lead to great insights like
"It's rude to look down on them and help them all the time. You just treat them like any other 18-year-olds, was the conclusion I drew."

Graduating senior Tracy Talmadge had a similar experience teaching swing dancing to special-needs 6-and 7-year-olds. Even more amazing, she said, was working with a mentally-challenged 32-year-old woman with the City Health Club.

"She was incredible," Talmadge said. "When she was lifting weights, we'd up the pounds every time. She'd say, 'I want to challenge myself,' and we'd go up as high as 62 pounds. That's such a great mentality for anyone to have."


But the closer was
... ACS Principal David Lehman's parting message to the graduates.

He spoke of reading Spencer Johnson's "Who Moved My Cheese?" about mice and "little people" in a maze and their reactions as they found their beloved cheese moved one day. All acted out of instinct or self-interest in solving the problem.

"Why have a maze?" Lehman asked. "Where is the collaborative democratic community sharing the decision-making?" he asked to roars of laughter.

"I see you not fitting into a maze," he told the students. "I see you making changes for democratic justice and self-determination. And I don't see you as 'little people.' I see you ACS graduates as giants."
Well, some of the kids did help out in an old folks home. But why isn't Mumia a Crispy Critter yet?

Monday, June 24, 2002

Pond Scum: Susan Goldsmith has a lengthy puff piece in New Times L.A. profiling red diaper baby, Peter Schey (member of the National Lawyers Guild, natch), who has lead the legal charge for unrestricted immigration into the United States. Perhaps unintentionally, the subtitle is Critics say L.A. lawyer Peter Schey is ruining America by helping hordes of illegal immigrants stay here. Schey says his work's far from done.

When asked "about who does not deserve to be here, Schey is quiet. He has to think for a few moments. 'I think there are some people we should keep out, like the shah of Iran and the Marcoses of the Philippines.' ...'The reasons people come to the United States are more powerful than the laws intended to stop them.' ... And American taxpayers will probably end up paying Schey's legal bills in the process."

Sounds like good work if you can find it. And are pond scum.
Really? In Mother Jones, Todd Gitlin discovers anti-Semitism on the left. To his credit, he is ashamed.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

Great White North Alert! The (Canadian) National Post reports that
Denis Coderre, the Immigration Minister, is proposing a strict immigration policy with the intent of putting a million newcomers in the country's less populated regions by 2011.

It would be the most dramatic effort to channel immigrants since the settlement of Western Canada at the dawn of the 20th century.

Mr. Coderre said he wants prospective immigrants to sign a social contract under which they would promise to reside in the Atlantic provinces, the Prairie provinces or rural areas of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia for three to five years before moving.
Apparently 50% of all Canadian immigrants settle in Toronto, 15% in Vancouver, and 11% in Montreal. Minister Coderre would like to use immigration as a development tool for the more sparsely populated areas.
The federal government had a similar program after the Second World War, but Mr. Coderre's policy is more far-reaching in seeking to repopulate regions that urbanization has left behind.

The plan is similar in scope to the settlement program for Western Canada that began in 1896 under Clifford Sifton, minister of the interior in the Liberal government of Wilfrid Laurier. The Sifton plan offered newcomers 65 hectares of virtually free land for a $10 registration fee. It was judged a huge success, with the population jumping from 5.3 million in 1901 to 8.8 million by 1920.

The Prairie provinces received 49% of the new immigrants, lured by the promise of cheap land.
Needless to say, the proposal was greeted by whines from the usual sources.
Dale Carnegie Dropout: The AP reports that:
Authorities in Loxley, Ala., are investigating the alleged beating of a preacher by funeral mourners who didn't like his blunt eulogy.

Glynis Bethel told The Associated Press that her husband -- the Rev. Orlando Bethel -- was attacked during a June 14 funeral and dragged out of the church.

That's because Bethel told mourners the deceased was in Hell and that they were headed the same way.

The dead man was Glynis Bethel's uncle.

Orlando Bethel referred to him as a "drunkard and a fornicator."

Glynis Bethel, who's also a preacher, says "the fornicators didn't like what he said so they got up and beat him."
Hen Parties? The UK Telegraph reports that working class hen parties are striking fear into Manchester's gay community. "The popularity of Manchester's "gay village" as a venue for hen nights is upsetting the locals, according to researchers. Members of the gay community say they feel threatened by the behaviour of visiting working class women from the Wythenshawe and Salford areas. Levels of drunkenness and rowdiness have become so high in the heart of the village, around Canal Street - which is the setting for Queer As Folk, the Channel 4 gay drama - that gay people want to see extra police officers on patrol."

There is undoubtedly some context here that I don't fully appreciate.
It's Howdy Dowdy Time! Well kids, the burr under Maureen's saddle today is the fact that the President appeared on television extolling the virtues of exercise and is apparently capable of same, unlike the prior occupant of the White House whose jogging was merely an excuse to move his meaty thighs to McDonald's or a hook-up with a hottie.

Maureen seems to have submitted her high school graduation picture to the Pulitzer committee, but a more recent snap suggests she has been spending way too much time with Mr. Krispy Kreme, or as she admits in her article: Pirate's Booty and caramel macchiato. Maybe her increasing amplitude is due to depression after being dumped by Michael Douglas for his new wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Or maybe it's because she still thinks all the guys are avoiding her because she is a successful woman (instead of the grim reality that she is an obnoxious shrew).

Whatever the reason, what does Bush's good physical condition or Dowd's decrepitude have to do with anything substantive? Nothing, of course. But we're talking Maureen Dowd here, the queen of the irrelevant personal attack. Payback's a bitch, Maureen.
Investment Tip. David Kaplan at the Houston Chronicle reports that
In New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the No. 1 network for nightly news among adults ages 18 to 34 is not ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox or CNN.

It is the Spanish-language network Univision.

In Houston, Univision, Channel 45, has been ranked No. 1 throughout the day among adults ages 18 to 49 for almost a year, according to Nielsen ratings.

A population explosion among U.S. Hispanics is changing the television and radio landscape and creating a bright future for Univision and other Hispanic broadcast networks.
There are lots more interesting details on the whole Hispanic media market, but the bottom line seems to be that Univision is the 400 pound gorilla according to the Wall Street analysts. No one seems to be worried that the profits are built on a foundation of illegal immigration. Happy days are apparently here again.
Down New Mexico Way: The Washington Post's Dale Russakoff tells us about this year's contest for governor in New Mexico which features two candidates of Hispanic origin. Beyond the usual political details, the interesting part was that 42% of New Mexico's citizens are of Hispanic origin, but most were born in the USA.
In New Mexico, much more so than in Texas and California, relatively few Hispanics are new immigrants. Sanchez (the Republicam candidate) is a fifth-generation New Mexican who traces his ancestry to Spain and, like many Hispanics his age, is not fluent in Spanish.

When Republican National Committee Chairman Marc Racicot came here last month to announce a Spanish-language GOP television program "to communicate directly with the Hispanic community" in Albuquerque and five other cities, Albuquerque Tribune writer Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez fired off a column headlined, "Hola! GOP, we don't speak Spanish." She called the GOP show "the latest example of widespread confusion about the diverse group of people plopped together under the mythical 'Hispanic' umbrella."

Even if many Hispanics here resent outsiders who assume they speak only Spanish, the language carries powerful symbolism. Richardson
(the Democrat, Hispanic on his mother's side), who is fluent, is airing advertisements that feature him speaking Spanish. And the University of NM president, F. Chris Garcia, opines that Hispanics are learning Spanish as adults, and cultivating it in their own children. "It's the one thing every Hispanic takes pride in, wants to protect and promote"
It's a little hard to see how Garcia's opinion squares with the rest of the story, but it's nice to have a hobby, I guess. I like bluegrass music and it's surely part of my ethnic heritage; but since I can't play a lick, I'm not doing much cultivating. However, to stay in step with the latest trends: all candidates who want my vote must demonstrate proficiency with the banjo!
I'm a tribe of one! Ellen Nakashima reports in the Washington Post on the incredibly convoluted story of the California battle
for control of the Buena Vista Rancheria tribe of Me-Wuk Indians. One faction has three members. The other has one.

The Buena Vista Rancheria is a tribe so tiny that the federal government once almost knocked it off the tribal register, but the struggle has attracted high-powered lawyers and lobbyists, allegations of influence-peddling, an FBI investigation and an inspector general's probe. Last month, the No. 2 official at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, who had been drawn into the controversy, was fired.

At issue is a 67-acre plot of land that belongs to the rancheria, a California Indian term denoting a tribal entity. Right now, the land is occupied by cattle, a double-wide trailer and a forlorn cemetery.

One faction wants to keep it the way it is. The other has signed an agreement to build a $150 million, 200,000-square-foot casino. Now the Interior Department has to determine who has the right to organize a tribal government on the land.
If I used Grecian Formula, I would look more like an Indian. And I sure could use the revenue from a casino on the back 40! Lawyers and lobbyists, please contact me immediately. And bring a signing bonus.
Hook 'em Horns! The Austin American-Statesman reports that
The eggroll carts on The Drag near the University of Texas have been an Austin institution since the 1970s. Police say that for at least the last three years, they've also been a front for a major fencing operation.

According to police, members of the Pham and Dao families would buy anything from stolen fishing rods to DVD players to T-shirts. They stored the items in the eggroll carts before moving them along. The family also peddled prescription pills, such as Valium, police said.

Working off several tips, undercover officers, posing as shoplifters and thieves, sold VCRs and other items to the vendors.

When they searched their home, officers found $200,000 worth of stolen items, as well as $62,000 in cash
We don't get to big cities much, but this "Drag" must be a heck of a place, if it is a clever plan to receive stolen merchandise in the middle of it.