Friday, December 24, 2004

Merry Christmas To All!

From all the folks at the Country Store:

(Hat tip: Moo Amp)

Biscuits and Gravy - Dec. 24, 2004

A last round of mocking the usual idiots before the Christmas spirit softens my judgment.

Terrorists! Call early to schedule your photo-op with the Associated Press!

More Shocking Photo-Op News from Lloyd Grove! (Via Henry Hanks)
Even a gossip columnist has limits.

Paris Hilton has finally abused mine.

Over the past five years - without any discernible talent, education, scruples, manners, modesty or underpants - the pretty blond great-granddaughter of hotel magnate Conrad Hilton has waged a terrifying campaign for world domination.
I admit that Paris and I have been snared in an ugly web of mutual addiction: She to all the lurid ink, me to all the pointless drama.

But on the "Today" show this morning, I'm planning to announce my New Year's resolution: going cold turkey. No more Paris Hilton.
Three U.N. officials leave world body
The United Nations says the departures of three of its top officials — Secretary-General Kofi Annan's chief of staff, the undersecretary-general for management and the U.N. controller — is coincidental.
But it looks like some of the United Nations folks have a second career ready - making child porn.
The expert was a Frenchman who worked at Goma airport as part of the UN’s $700 million-a-year effort to rebuild the war-shattered country. When police raided his home they discovered that he had turned his bedroom into a studio for videotaping and photographing sex sessions with young girls.

The bed was surrounded by large mirrors on three sides, according to a senior Congolese police officer. On the fourth side was a camera that he could operate from the bed with a remote control.

When the police arrived the man was allegedly about to rape a 12-year-old girl sent to him in a sting operation. Three home-made porn videos and more than 50 photographs were found.

The case has highlighted the apparently rampant sexual exploitation of Congolese girls and women by the UN’s 11,000 peacekeepers and 1,000 civilians at a time when the UN is facing many problems, including the Iraqi “oil-for-food” scandal and accusations of sexual harassment by senior UN staff in Geneva and New York.

The prospect of the pornographic videos and photographs — now on sale in Congo — becoming public worries senior UN officials, who fear a UN version of the scandal at the American-run Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq. “It would be a pretty big problem for the UN if these pictures come out,” one senior official said.
Aside from the asininity of comparing terrorists wearing panties on their heads to child rape, how come some enterprising reporter hasn't just bought one of the tapes. Hmmm, maybe they failed to schedule their photo-op!

In the old days they used to be called REMF's
Can you imagine if an al Qaeda bureaucrat had ordered the 19 Sept. 11 terrorists to wear "I heart Osama" T-shirts when they embarked on their murderous flights?

No idiot would send his men on a covert mission wearing clothes that would so blatantly give them away, right?

Wrong. Meet Federal Air Marshal Service Director Thomas Quinn. The man in charge of our in-flight cops, who are supposed to be spying secretly on would-be terrorist hijackers, refuses to allow his employees to dress undercover. Quinn insists that air marshals abide by military-style grooming standards and a rigid business dress policy regardless of weather, time of year or seating arrangement. He wants them to look PROFESSIONAL.

That means collared shirts and sports coats -- even if a pair of marshals is traveling in coach from Los Angeles to Orlando.
I'm of sufficient age to recall the halcyon days when folks dressed up for airline flights and I wouldn't mind seeing it again if the planes weren't so much like cattle cars. But my preferences are irrelevant to the objective of having air marshals blend in with the flying public.
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents over 22,000 federal agents including air marshals, notes that civilian passengers have publicly outed marshals on countless flights since the Sept. 11 attacks. Air marshals have recounted receiving thumbs-ups and thanks from travelers nationwide. No doubt al Qaeda's operatives who are surveilling flights are mumbling thanks under their breath, too.

Indeed, on an infamous American Airlines Flight 1438 from Chicago to Miami, two air marshals, dressed conspicuously in their professionally mandated suits, received the following greeting from a passenger walking down the aisle: "Oh, I see we have air marshals on board!"
Marshals refer darkly to Quinn's dress requirements as the "kill-me-first dress-code policy."
Updates here and here.

Congressman Mocks Parrot Arrests
Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-CO) issued a statement on Tuesday contrasting the government's zeal in preventing parrots from Mexico from illegally entering the country with their efforts to stop illegal immigration in general.

Under the headline "Apparently There Are No Jobs Available That American Parrots Won't Do," Tancredo said he was surprised to learn of the "incredible success that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers enjoyed in apprehending smugglers attempting to illegally smuggle 150 Lilac Crowned and Mexican Redhead Amazon Parrots into the United States."

The statement points out that ICE, however, has not had the same luck in preventing an estimated 3 million illegal alien human beings from swarming into the U.S. annually unchecked.

"It's nice to see that ICE has their priorities in order," quipped Tancredo, head of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus. "Now that we appear able to successfully identify and apprehend parrots attempting to enter the U.S. illegally, perhaps doing the same with people is just around the corner."
Ding Dong, the Witch is Gone
Maybe I've been too much of a pessimist lately. Since the disastrous Supreme Court decisions in the University of Michigan cases, I had convinced myself that no good news would ever come out of Washington on civil rights issues. I was wrong.

An important event happened earlier this month: The long reign of Mary Frances Berry as Chairman of the United States Civil Rights Commission finally came to an end. After twenty four years, the Commission will no longer be the personal fiefdom of one very, very strange and combative woman.
PC on earth for Santa: Boy Claus booted out of N.H. school dance
A 12-year-old New Hampshire boy who wanted to jolly up his junior high dance by dressing in a Santa suit instead got a lesson in political correctness when his Scroogelike principal turned the student away, fearing he might offend his classmates.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Yuletide Spirit

James Lileks:
Maybe it's just me. Perhaps I'm overly sensitive. But when I wish a store clerk "Merry Christmas!" they often appear stunned and flummoxed for a moment, as if I've just blabbed the plans for the underground's sabotage of the train tracks in front of the secret police.
I've been conducting a similar campaign. Around here it's kind of a slamdunk, but even on the phone with folks who are effectively strangers scattered around the country, the reaction is surprise and pleasure.
This isn't about shoving Christmas down the maws of the unwilling -- it's simply about admitting that the vast majority are celebrating, well, CHRISTMAS, and there's nothing injurious to the public sphere in celebrating that fact. At this rate we will have to rename July 4th The Holiday of Perceiving Nocturnal Airborne Explosives, lest we offend the few who regard the American Experiment as a grievous stain on human history.

Yes, "Merry Christmas" means different things to different people. To those disinclined to follow the creed it represents, it speaks to the cultural traditions of America; to those who take spiritual succor from the season, it means something else. Bottom line in either case: Be happy. And if you're about to throw down the paper and fire off an angry letter to the editor, stop: Think. I wish you a Merry Christmas. I really do. That's all there is to it.
Mark Steyn:
The seasonally litigious rest their fanatical devotion to the deChristification of Christmas on the separation of church and state. America's founders were opposed to the "establishment" of religion, whose meaning is clear enough to any Englishman: the new republic did not want President Washington serving simultaneously as Supreme Governor of the Church of America, or the Bishop of Virginia sitting in the US Senate. Two centuries on, these possibilities are so remote that the "separation" of church and state has dwindled down to threats of legal action over red-and-green party napkins.

But every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month's election results. Forty years of effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicised Christianity in America. By "politicised", I don't mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing Silent Night if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: what's more important? Winning a victory over the kindergarten teacher's holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?
The elevation of the right not to be offended into the bedrock principle of democratic society will, in the end, tear it apart. That goes for atheists threatening suits against New Jersey schools and for Muslim lobby groups threatening fatwas against The Telegraph. On which cheery note, Merry Christmas to all.
Charles Krauthammer
It is Christmastime, and what would Christmas be without the usual platoon of annoying pettifoggers rising annually to strip Christmas of any Christian content?
The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.
America transcended the idea of mere toleration in 1790 in Washington's letter to the Newport synagogue, one of the lesser known glories of the Founding: "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights."

More than two centuries later, it is time that members of religious (and anti-religious) minorities, as full citizens of this miraculous republic, transcend something too: petty defensiveness.

Merry Christmas. To all.

Wouldn't work on me

Wives, if you want your men to do all the housework in 2005, buy them plasma TVs for Christmas.

A new survey by plasma-maker Panasonic found that 36 percent of married men would do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry and other chores around the house for a year if their wives bought them the coveted TVs.

"I'd do it for two years!" said Jerry Longo of Danbury, Conn., as he surveyed the plasma screens at a Best Buy on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea yesterday.

Other possible benefits for women who give the gift of plasma:

* Half of married men would let in-laws visit whenever they want.

* Fifty-seven percent would let their wives pick their vacation spots.
This must be serious!

My difficulty with the whole premise is that there has to be something worth watching on these multi-thousand dollar beauties to make them worth the investment and I'm stumped as to what that might be. It sure as heck can't be Dan Rather.

Olde Countrie Insanity

Orrin Judd commenting on the sad state of affairs in the UK revealed in Joyce Lee Malcolm's Where I come from, our homes are still our castles:
Happily for us Americans, English common law prevails in the US; our homes are still our castles. Californians, for example, are entitled to use force to protect themselves and their property. Legislation in Oklahoma which allowed the home-owner to use force no matter how slight the threat has reduced burglary by nearly half since it was passed 15 years ago. What British police condemn as "vigilante" behaviour has produced an American burglary rate less than half the English rate. And, while 53 per cent of English burglaries occur when someone is at home, only 13 per cent do in America, where burglars admit to fearing armed home-owners more than the police. Violent crime in the US is at a 30-year low. Whatever became of the Englishman's castle?
He traded it for National Health.
My favorite part of Malcolm's column:
Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer jailed for killing one burglar and wounding another, was denied parole because he posed a danger to other burglars. "It cannot possibly be suggested," the government lawyers argued, "that members of the public cease to be so whilst committing criminal offences" adding, "society can not possibly condone their (unlawful) murder or injury".
Er, why not? Sheesh, I'm surprised they aren't obligated by law to make 'em a sandwich and get 'em a beer!
Meanwhile, much of rural Britain is without a police presence. And the statutes meant to protect the people have been vigorously enforced against them. Among the articles people have been convicted of carrying for self defence are a sandbag, a pickaxe handle, a stone, and a drum of pepper.
The innocent citizens are easier to catch too.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

You better watch out!

Leave Cookies for Santa Claus Without Fear of Obesity Lawsuit
Washington, DC – Millions of Americans will soon renew the time-honored tradition of leaving a plate of cookies for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. In today’s era of frivolous lawsuits, serving the already obese Saint Nick baked goods could put you on the receiving end of a devastating lawsuit if he has a trial lawyer elf on retainer. For legal protection, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) suggests leaving Kris Kringle a "Christmas Cookie Liability and Indemnification Agreement."

With this waiver, kids can keep the food police like the Center for Science in the Public Interest away from their stockings. They can also protect themselves from lawsuits filed at the encouragement of attorneys like John “Sue the Bastards” Banzhaf, who is threatening to sue restaurants, food companies, school boards, doctors and even parents for the nation’s extra pounds.
Hey, maybe you can even leave Santa some fudge!

Biscuits and Gravy - Dec. 22, 2004

Unseasonal strife in Santa's little sweatshops
It is the week before Christmas, and Santa's helpers are restless. In fact, they have been demonstrating their discontent by striking, smashing their factories, and not turning up for work.

As most adults know, Santa has outsourced production from Lapland to China, in particular the sweatshop grottoes of Guangdong province, near Hong Kong. The plain between Shenzhen and Dongguan makes 70 per cent of the world's toys, assembles its Playstations, stitches its shoes and produces a host of other Christmas gifts.

But after years of compliance, the worker-elves have begun defying their bosses and even the Communist Party. There has been a series of strikes and protests for better pay in recent months, and the delta is also facing a new phenomenon for China: a labour shortage.
But pharmaceuticals are a natural for demagoguery!
Create a company. Raise money from investors. Spend billions of dollars. Develop life-saving products. Suffer the vagaries of the marketplace. Be vilified.

That seems to be the lot in life of pharmaceutical firms.
They aren't getting any smarter, are they?
"We are calling on Californians to observe 'Dark Mondays,' not to buy gasoline as an expression of support for [illegal] immigrants and to demand driver’s licenses for [illegal] immigrants," said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican American Political Association.
Don't anyone spoil the fun by telling Nativo how a real boycott works!

Other bizarre news from California - exploding groins in San Francisco
A rare and potentially serious sexually transmitted disease has turned up in a few patients in San Francisco, prompting health officials to issue a public warning.

The disease is called lymphogranuloma venereum, or LGV. It's a form of chlamydia, a common sexually transmitted infection, but LGV can cause scarring of the genitals and colon and cause lymph glands near the groin to swell or burst.
Wait! It gets better! First Islamic Satellite to Go Into Orbit:
The first Islamic satellite to be used in crescent sighting will go into orbit in 15 months’ time, an Arab ad hoc committee said Tuesday, December 21.
Crescent sighting?
“The satellite will fly at a low altitude and beam crescent images to ground stations,” President of Cairo University Ali Abdul Rahman told reporters at a press conference on Sunday, December 19, which was also attended by Egyptian Mufti Ali Gomaa and committee members.
Gomaa said Muslim countries will not be obliged to follow the new satellites in moon or crescent sighting, particularly the start of the holy fasting month of Ramada.

The satellite is the brainchild of the Egyptian Darul Ifta, dating back to 1997. It was then given the go-ahead by a majority of Arab and Muslim countries save Tunisia, which argued that astronomical calculations were enough.
They want to launch this satellite to keep track of phases of the moon. Sheesh, get 'em a calendar.
“The satellite will overall cost $8 million collected through public subscription by the Egyptian Darul Ifta (religious edicts authority) on the form of shares held by willing Muslim countries,” Abdul Rahman added.

Abdul Rahman further stressed that the satellite could also be used in locating places of space pollution, clouds congregation, locust swarms as well as studying natural phenomena.
Not that pesky space pollution!
“This unique experience is a bid to keep abreast with state-of-the-art technology,” he said.
Everyone needs a hobby, I guess, but it sure makes it hard to remember that 1,000 years ago there were preeminent Arab astronomers.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Vacation time in a warmer clime!

Only in Germany:
BRAND, Germany — Europe's largest leisure resort opened over the weekend, offering winter-weary Germans the chance to bask in 70-degree temperatures amid palm trees and sandy beaches.
In Germany?
At dawn Saturday, thousands of people began flocking to the bulbous converted aircraft hangar designed by a British engineering company in Brand, an hour's drive south of Berlin.

As the wind howled outside and snow settled on the ground, they pitched their tents and watched a golden sunrise projected on to a 450-foot-long screen.

Tropical Islands resort is the latest lifestyle experience, according to its Malaysian creator, Colin Au, 55, who made his money in luxury cruises and Asian resorts. He has invested more than $90 million in his latest project.

"I've done my research and I know how the Germans tick," Mr. Au said. "My resort means they hardly have to leave home, yet when they're here it's like being on a tropical cruise."

The project is based in a hall of 175 million cubic feet, the world's largest free-standing building. It is taller than the Statue of Liberty and could fit six football stadiums on two layers.

It will be open around the clock with 850 lounge chairs on its two beaches.

Behind the beach, speakers designed as rocks will broadcast bird songs appropriate to the time of year and day in the orchid-thick rain forest and Asian village.

When the sun is shining outside, visitors are promised they will be able to work on their natural tans, thanks to the effect of the rays shining through the textile membrane roof. Visitors, incongruously clad in sheepskin coats while clutching buckets and spades, tumble out of shuttle buses and into the dome.
The retired couple got up at 4:30 a.m. to travel to the resort, where they paid $25 each for a four-hour stay.
Why not just turn the heat up at home and watch a Dorothy Lamour sarong movie?
And in Tropical Islands, gloomy thoughts are frowned upon. The brochure says workers have been trained to "use their smiles to enthuse stressed and winter-wearied Europeans."
Hmmm, maybe they have the real thing!

Captain Hook Hijinks!

Ole Captain Hook wants a raise to his already hefty "salary" - Radical cleric Abu Hamza sues for more British benefits:
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, who is in a British jail on incitement to murder charges, is to sue welfare officials for thousands of pounds in extra state benefits.

Hamza, who is due in court next month on incitement to murder charges, claims he has been denied benefits worth 200 pounds a week for nearly three years, The Sun newspaper said Tuesday.

His family are already taking in benefits worth over 1,000 pounds a week, it said.
Let's see - that's 52,000 pounds a year and he wants a raise to 62,400 pounds per year. The current conversion rate is roughly 1.94 dollars per pound, so in US dollars the amounts are $100,880 and $121,056 respectively. Woohoo! Who says crime doesn't pay?

The Sun has more including his rent-free house worth 500,000 pounds and the taxpayers funding his 2 million pound legal expenses to avoid deportation. If Hillary gets elected in 2008, I'm applying for political asylum in the UK! They certainly have the welcome mat out.

Monday, December 20, 2004

I'm so upset!

Is Kyoto Kaput?
Even before it officially takes effect on Feb. 16, the Kyoto agreement to curb greenhouse gases is leaking air.
Hot air (and I don't mean "global warming.")
Fixing it won't be easy.
Presuming one cares to. I know! Let's jet off somewhere and pad our expense accounts!
Last week, most of the world's nations met in Argentina to assess what the treaty might be able to achieve by its expiration in 2012. Many nations are faltering in their commitment to rein in industrial carbon-dioxide pollution since it's possible such steps will limit economic growth.

Some, such as Italy and Canada, are raising doubts about the sacrifices required. Britain admits it may not reach its target, while Japan flat-out says it can't reduce emissions by the expected amount, which is 6 percent below the 1990 levels.
Actually it's not just "many," it's most, but I digress.
If only the US, as the world's biggest CO2 polluter, had been in the treaty, the other developed nations might feel better about imposing restraints on their industries.
You mean if we had jumped off a cliff, they would have joined us?
That's why the other purpose of last week's meeting was so important. European diplomats bent over backward to find a new consensus for a post-Kyoto effort that would include the US.

But not much happened.
More dog-bites-man news.
The meeting ended with a weak proposal for an international "seminar" in May for nations to "exchange information" on their ideas about the unusual weather many are experiencing.
How neat is that? More expense account padding plus the promise of some virgin sacrifices in the offing to appease the angry weather gods. It's real cold here today after being nice and warm on Saturday - maybe I can attend and swap yarns exchange information with the kleptocrats. Hmmm, I wonder if it is BYOV (Bring Your Own Virgins)?

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I always enjoy a nice friendly invitation

CAIR's Dreams of American Sharia
“Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith but to become dominant. The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”

This was the sentiment of Omar M. Ahmad, the Chairman of the Board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations or CAIR, as told at an Islamic conference held in Freemont, California, in July of 1998.
I hope Omar won't get tetchy if I skip the party.

That explains it!

(Via GeekPress) I long ago wrote off Wired as a coffee table magazine (and web site) for those among the terminally trendy with pretensions to technocool. That's why I was blissfully unaware of their weekly online column called Sex Drive which is penned by one Regina Lynn who recently delivered Keeping Love Connections Open:
There's a scene in Dead Poets Society where Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) declares that "language was developed for one endeavor." In the significant pause that follows, he lets his gaze roam from boy to boy, waiting. Finally, one of the boys asks in an uncertain voice, "To communicate?" Mr. Keating shakes his head. "No!" he cries. "To woo women!"

I don't care what they tell us about defense departments and universities sharing data. If the sole purpose of language is to woo women, the internet was invented to woo more women more often.
That must be why I keep getting all that spam for "male health" supplements and "male attribute" enlargement!

More blather by following the link, the point of which seems to be:
I'm not the only one who expects (dare I say, demands) internet interaction with a mate.
And this is after, er, a "physical manifestation" of the relationship has been realized. Sheesh, what happened to the near universal demand for "long walks on the beach?"