Saturday, July 20, 2002

Brainiac Alert!
Reuters relates that:
Former Baywatch star and Playboy model Traci Bingham stopped traffic in Berlin by wearing a lettuce bikini to promote vegetarianism.

Bingham, who played the life-guard Jordan in the hit U.S. television series, spent more than half an hour Thursday posing for the cameras wiggling between a famous steak restaurant and Berlin's Kurfuerstendamm shopping street.

The protest was organized by the animal rights group PETA. Bingham's bikini of fake lettuce leaves carried a sign reading "Go Vegetarian!"

"I love to wear lettuce because I don't like to wear fur," said 34-year-old Bingham.
The space program's loss is lap dancing's gain.

Friday, July 19, 2002

I'll Be Gobsmacked!
Europe Daily reports a minor miracle: "Europe Excludes Cuba From Aid Funds"!
NADI, Fiji (AP) — The European Union has excluded Cuba from a multibillion-dollar pool of aid because of its poor human rights record and lack of democracy, a spokesman for a group of former European colonies said Friday.


EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, who is attending the summit, on Friday rejected overtures from ACP leaders to give Cuba quick access to the agreement, said ACP spokesman Hegel Goutier.


The head of Cuba's delegation, Ricardo Cabrisas, called the EU decision ``a humiliation and slap in the face for Cuba,'' Goutier said.
Since Lamy could win an award for personal embodiment of the term Euroweenie, I can only conclude that there was something in the drinking water in Fiji where this clambake was held.
GI Janet with the Kung Fu Grip
The AP breathlessly informs us that "Janet Reno Is Ready to Boogie".

Better break out the flak jackets.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Fred Scuttle Alert!
The Telegraph reports that the British government is blaming Benny Hill for teenage pregnancies.
Every German Needs a Hobby
First the German police busted a man "who relieved his stress by repeatedly entering a forest to scream." Now they say that while investigating "reports of screams coming from an apartment ... they found a 76-year-old woman practicing for a yodeling diploma."
The 2nd Law Repealed!
The BBC reports that
One of the most important principles of physics, that disorder, or entropy, always increases, has been shown to be untrue.


The law of entropy, or the Second Law of Thermodynamics, is one of the bedrocks on which modern theoretical physics is based. It is one of a handful of laws about which physicists feel most certain.


The Second Law states that the entropy - or disorder - of a closed system always increases. Put simply, it says that things fall apart, disorder overcomes everything - eventually. But when this principle is applied to small systems such as collections of molecules there is a paradox.
I guess Congress isn't a small system.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Friday Will Be Here Soon!
They say every time the lights flicker, another squirrel gets its wings.

Eight-member tribe set to open casino in Coachella (California)

Police in Manchester (UK) have appealed for information after a gang of clowns mounted an armed raid on a wine bar.

And saving the best for last: Gaddafi show baffles the starving
THROWING fistfuls of cash from his open-top limousine to puzzled villagers lining the route, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his flamboyant roadshow rumbled into drought-stricken Malawi yesterday. It is the Libyan leader’s latest stop on his charm offensive across southern Africa.

Police were brushed aside by Colonel Gaddafi’s fearsome female bodyguards in their figure-hugging green uniforms as he made his triumphal appearance at the head of a cavalcade of 70 armoured vehicles.

There was little danger of him running out of money to hurl at bystanders on his 218-mile drive from Lilongwe, the government capital, to the commercial centre at Blantyre, because one of the cars in his entourage was reported to be stuffed with $6 million (£3,800,000) in cash.

His hosts knew better than to question why Colonel Gaddafi also needed to bring his own mobile hospital, 600 security personnel and a vehicle carrying a jamming device, which played havoc with Malawi’s telephone system.
But wait, there's more!
Colonel Gaddafi never travels light. He showed up at the start of his African adventure with two Boeing 707s, his own personal jet and two transport aircraft, including a giant Antonov, as well as a ship full of goat carcasses.

He insisted on making his own security arrangements, although some of his hosts balked when they discovered that this meant two 46-seat buses containing crateloads of sub-machineguns, AK47 assault rifles and rocket-launchers.
Sounds like the Colonel's a real party animal. It's a shame he only gets one vote in the UN. Just like the USA.
Training Camps
The Ithaca Journal regales us with a story about the city summer youth program financed by Cornell (i.e. the taxpayers), which teaches kids to be "social activists". Sounds like Camp Kinderland, where all the New York City Communists used to (and still do) send their kids to get indoctrinated.

At least they pay their own way at Camp Kinderland. But I am probably being naive. I'm sure even unreconstructed old Stalinists can find their way to the public trough.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Salon Again
Amongst the techies, rumors are rife that Salon is going Blog via Userland! What's next for Salon: auctions or porn?

Must be auctions, they already tried porn.
Crème Brulé Alert!
Broken Newz reports that French Army will not be outdone by the USA and has produced its own Army computer game:
In the game we follow the exploits of Lucky Pierre, an apprentice garlic salesman from Marseilles, as he joins the French Army and begins a rigorous course of combat training. The First Level of the game is called "Survival School," and the players have to help Lucky Pierre survive 24 hours without red wine or crème brulé. The Second Level is "Capitulation," and the goal here is to see which player can have Lucky Pierre surrender the fastest without firing a shot or getting his uniform dirty. Level Three is ...
On a similar note, Daniel Pipes asks: Europeans: From Venus? The punchline:
Americans should look increasingly to countries outside Europe - Turkey, Israel and India come first to mind - for meaningful military alliances.
Look for the Union Label
At Cornell, graduate students are going to vote on whether they want to join the United Auto Workers. Walter Reuther would be proud of the Comparative Literature doctoral candidates manning the barricades. Joseph Sabia opines: If the UAW gets its teeth into our lives, there is no guarantee that graduate student wages will rise. The only certainty is that union dues will rise.

Meanwhile Steven, the Dell Dude, has been punished. No, not for violations of good taste, but by the Screen Actors Guild for making a Dell commercial while the union was on strike 2 years ago.

Dude! You're getting a union goon!
Call Me Nostradamus!
Back on June 27, I sagely predicted that Playboy would try "Women of Global Crossing" and "Woman of Worldcom" isues. Now Reuters reports Playboy Seeks 'Women of WorldCom and Andersen'.

Dang! Now that Miss Cleo is in the slammer, all I need is a toll free number!
Country Folk
The Arizona Republic tells the story of the Clay Springs Renegades:
CLAY SPRINGS - This is a story about a town that felt it had to break the law to save itself.

At the height of the "Rodeo-Chediski" fire, when the destruction of the town seemed imminent, local members of the Pinedale-Clay Springs Volunteer Fire Department disobeyed federal fire commanders and made a stand in their back yard.

They slipped past Department of Public Safety roadblocks and fought the fire with bulldozers, chainsaws and hoses, in direct defiance of an order to retreat.

The 26 "Clay Springs Renegades," as they came to be known, plowed seven miles of unauthorized firebreaks through National Forest land, deputizing anybody in town who knew how to use heavy equipment. Several heated arguments and near-fistfights with federal officials failed to change their minds.

By the fire's end, only three houses had been lost in Clay Springs. Nobody was injured.

For many in this high plateau town, it was more than a firefight, it was a classic rural Western story writ large. The successful wildcat effort seemed to highlight the strength and ingenuity of the American commoner against the forces of nature and bureaucracy.

The Clay Springs rebellion also emerged out of an Arizona frontier culture that prizes local initiative and has long viewed federal land management policies with suspicion.
It makes you wonder how the folks in Clay Springs are going to react to Rural Cleansing.

Monday, July 15, 2002

You Can't Tell the Players Without a Scorecard
The San Francisco Chronicle reveals the "Ex-election chief's intensely personal reason for job fight".
It's been played out in the press as a battle over race and power, but Tammy Haygood's fight to be reinstated as San Francisco's elections chief is also about something much more personal -- regaining city health coverage for Haygood's husband, who happened to be in the midst of having a sex change when Haygood was fired.

More specifically, the issue is getting Haygood's husband access to some of the landmark sex change benefits that the Board of Supervisors approved for city workers last year.
For those worried about the potential for marital discord in the Haygood family, apparently the "husband" was female and wants to be male.

Offered without comment - it was too hot at the Country Store today to puzzle over the ins and outs of this. The thought of ballot boxes bobbing in the Bay was refreshing however.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

Clinton's Wall Street
James Higgins in the NY Post observes that it was Bubba who encouraged and profited from the corporate excesses of the 90's.
In the '90s, this became a get-rich-quick scheme for investment banks (who marketed wildly overpriced shares of infant companies that were barely more than concepts), the venture capitalists who owned these firms and the insiders and their friends who were allocated shares at artificially low prices before trading opened.

This game went on far longer and got much further out of hand than one would expect in a regulated market. The principals in a very reputable investment management firm told me of their disgust as they found their IPO allocations reduced and then eliminated when they balked at ever more explicit demands for kickbacks in the form of excessive commissions on other trades. "We kept asking ourselves," they told me, " 'Where are the regulators?' "

WHERE, indeed? The regulators came in only after and because the party ended. It wasn't until December 2001, nearly two years after the peak in the equity markets and with a new administration in office, that the SEC and the National Association of Securities Dealers finally secured a $100 million penalty from Credit Suisse First Boston, whose IPO guru Frank Quattrone was widely believed to be the most flagrant corrupter of the process.
And then there was Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin:
WHAT Rubin asked for, by all accounts, was for Fisher to call the debt rating agencies and ask them to find an "alternative" to a downgrade of Enron's securities. This was an astounding request. The rating agencies are meant to be neutral arbiters of the financial strength of the entities they rate. Rubin's request was akin to the owner of a team faced with playoff elimination asking the league commissioner to get the referees to call the next game so that the owner's team doesn't lose.
But nothing could stand in the way of Bubba's campaign war chest:
Republican campaign committees are already encountering a predictable challenge with potential corporate donors. The donors want to know why they should contribute to the GOP when Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) is hauling them before the House Energy and Commerce Committee for public scrutiny of their conduct. This tension is a natural outgrowth of a system in which elected officials both oversee industries and raise funds. In Tauzin's case, the hearings have gone on as scheduled.

The Clinton administration had a simple way to resolve this tension: law enforcement had to yield to fund-raising. It must have been difficult enough to persuade a CEO to come to the White House for coffee at $50,000 a cup. With pending securities-law investigations in the background, it would have been impossible. So the dogs had to be called off.
ONE of the anomalous and confusing aspects of the Merrill Lynch investigation, which lately led the firm to agree to a $100 million penalty over analyst conflicts of interest, is that the investigation was initiated by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The New York attorney general is not the natural or primary enforcement agent against serious wrongdoing. That role is normally assumed by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, in whose jurisdiction most of the securities industry is located.

Ronald Reagan, whom Clinton accused of "denial" of ethical problems arising from greed, installed in that post Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani went at his job with a vengeance, indicting so many Wall Streeters for wrongdoing that he still faced bitterness from the financial community when he first ran for mayor in 1989.

In the same job, Bill Clinton gave us Mary Jo White. This was the same Mary Jo White who could not find any senior official to indict when Ron Carey turned the Teamsters' union treasury into a mutual money-laundering facility for his re-election campaign and for the Democratic National Committee.

White is the person who should have taken the lead in Wall Street prosecutions. But over at the White House, the money, to quote Evita, "kept rolling in from every side." White's boss was Janet Reno, whose name has become a synonym for a certain approach to law enforcement.
Bubba, aside from his predation on women, had only one objective: power. Since power meant campaign contributions he became the acknowledged expert at extracting funds from any and all sources. Foreign grifters want a photo shaking hands with the Prez: sure, if they pay. Hollywood ditzs want to jump up and down on beds in the Lincoln bedroom: sure, if they pay. Foreign governments want favorable treatment: sure, if they pay. Investment bankers want to run the world's largest Ponzi scheme: sure, if they pay.
Smoke Signals
More on cigarette smuggling from the Washington Times. What's new here is more info on the role of the Internet and Indian tribes:
The Internet thus far accounts for only a small fraction of cigarette sales, but it may pose a bigger long-term threat to tax collectors than smuggling. The hefty tax increases may prompt more smokers to order in bulk from online merchants, who in turn may resist state efforts to collect taxes.

Under federal law, online cigarette vendors are required to report the names and addresses of out-of-state customers, but the law is widely flouted.

"Most vendors aren't turning over their customer list, so the Internet is becoming a hotbed of tax evasion," said Kurt Ribisl, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health.

Mr. Ribisl oversaw a study this year that identified 195 Internet cigarette vendors, up from 88 a year earlier. He said most advertise low-tax cigarettes and indicate they won't report to any authorities.

"We're definitely unprepared right now. We don't have the tools to get the states their proper revenue," he said. "You need federal legislation, because a patchwork approach from individual states is going to bog down."

In Congress, Rep. Martin T. Meehan, Massachusetts Democrat, is leading an effort to tighten regulation of Internet cigarette sales. Mr. Meehan's chief of staff, Bill McCann, predicted bipartisan legislation would be drafted this year aimed at enforcing existing requirements that Internet merchants block sales to minors and report out-of-state buyers.

Some states already are sending tax bills to smokers who patronized the Internet.

"They've thumbed their noses at us," said Gene Gavin, Connecticut's tax commissioner, "and they're right, because we don't do anything."

One legal complication is that many of the Internet sites are run by American Indians. Sales of cigarettes on Indian reservations are exempt from state and local taxes, and some Indian merchants contend their Internet sales also should be tax-exempt.
It should be fun to watch the PC types sort out the rights of Indians versus the evil weed. Or how about a new religion where tobacco is a sacrament?