Nutrasweet. It was supposed to be the savior of those who wanted to cut their caloric intake without using saccharine. You could drink your soda and have your weight loss too. Unfortunately, it may not be all that it's made out to be. I had heard of reports which tie aspartame to vertigo as well as other unpleasant and/or dangerous symptoms. I've heard that aspartame increases cravings for sugar and carbs. I can't judge the veracity of these reports. I know there are conflicting research reports that say aspartame does not cause any problems and that it actually decreases cravings for sugar and carbs. All I know is what I have experienced since drastically cutting down on my aspartame intake.
What finally lead me to that point was one bad day of feeling terribly dizzy and lightheaded after imbibing several diet sodas throughout the day. This wasn't the first time I had felt that way either. It finally got to the point that I decided enough was enough. I would try reducing my aspartame intake with the goal of eliminating it completely (I'm practically at that point now). Since then I haven't had problems with dizziness and lightheadedness. I have also noticed that my cravings for carbs have been significantly reduced as well. I really don't care how medically sound any of the research is, either pro- or anti-aspartame. I just know that I feel better since reducing it. Take that for what you will.
A less than avid reader of this blog finally got around to talking to me about the Christo story I blogged about earlier. He came up with another idea that I liked so much that I have almost forgiven him for not reading my blog regularly. His idea was that we should have Christo wrap Mayor Mike in 23 miles of orange fabric. Now that's something I can definitely get behind!
By now we all know that Joe Millionaire is keeping a secret from the women trying to land him - he's not a millionaire at all. Apparently though one of his potential paramours has been keeping a secret of her own - she starred in dozens of bondage and fetish films under the pseudonym Cindy Schubert. Isn't that kind of boring? Shouldn't her pseudonym have been something more titillating, like Tymi Upp or Lacey Chaynes?
(Hat tip to Justin)
Shoe-bomber Richard Reid had to be wrestled out of court today, after he was sentenced to life in prison. As he was dragged, he yelled out the following:
"I'm at war with your country not for personal reasons but because you have killed so many innocents, so many children. ... My fate is in Allah's hands. ... I leave you to judge."
Hey, if your fate is in Allah's hands and you're leaving him to judge, why the hell didn't you just go quietly? But, really, I'm not dissing you for personal reasons, but because you wanted to kill so many innocents, so many children. Buh-bye.
The Eurocrats deny ordering farmers to provide their pigs with toys for environmental enrichment. The only legal requirement is to provide them with straw, hay, wood, sawdust, compost, or peat. Note, though, that the legal requirement to provide pigs with environmental enrichment still exists. Apparently claiming that the rule requires toys to be provided is "utter eurosceptic rubbish," but it is better to claim simply that they require environmental enrichment. Right.
Based upon the 25,347 people who have arrived here today through web searches for the National Geographic Swimsuit Issue, it's bound to be a hit. (Oh, okay, it's only about 100.) For those of you who want to see a picture of the cover, here's a link: Yahoo! article with picture of swimsuit issue cover. Live it up.
Thanks to the "meddling eurocrats," British farmers are now required by law to put a football, metal chains, straw, or hay in their pigsties to provide their livestock with "environmental enrichment." Farmers breaking the rules will face fines of up to 2,500 pounds. Thank G_d that in this world where children are starving, someone is thinking about the environmental enrichment of pigs!
"What you wish you heard in the analysis of the president's speech."
Well okay, I didn't listen to most of the ordinary presidential B.S., since they all say the same thing, and it never happens. I did listen to the ten minutes on Iran, and thought it was interesting, if not informative.
And I certainly didn't listen to any analysis. But Christopher Buckley does give us some humor on our Euroweasel so-called allies:
Moderator: Fiercely Partisan Panelist, what did you think of the speech?
FPP: With all due respect to my fellow thoughtful panelists, I thought it was the greatest oration since Alcibiades's "Jeremiad Against the Spartans" during the Second Peloponnesian War. There were a number of statements that I think will resonate very strongly in European capitals. To say nothing of Baghdad.
Moderator: Such as?
FPP: Well, for one, when he said, "I'm going to open a can of whup-ass on Saddam Hussein." I suspect that may well become a defining line of Mr. Bush's presidency. Also, when he said that "The French can stay home and make cheese for all I care." A very strong statement. I think that will resonate with any American who thinks the French are frankly impossible.
Moderator: What about his remark that Germany is a nation of "sour krauts"?
FPP: Very strong. I suspect that it will occasion a good deal of soul-searching among our so-called freunden in Berlin.
Moderator: Was the president saying, in effect, "Ich nicht bin ein Berliner"?
FPP: If you will, yes.
Well, I'm one of those Americans who think the French should stuff themselves with their cheese [I won't say where.] So I wish Bush had really said that kind of stuff.
Duckboy has found a new home, and he's no longer calling himself Duckboy. You can find him at Phillip Coons, and he's now just going by the name of Phillip. So go pay him a visit or two or three or many. Same great content, new name.
1. It's pronounced noo-klee-er, dammit! Somebody hire the man a speech coach! It's not like he can't afford it.
3. Biggest laugh of the address was when he said we had gotten tough on corporate crooks. No, really. I literally laughed out loud. We have? Since when? Ken Lay has had no criminal charges filed against him. Bernie Ebbers is still a free man. As per our usual policy, we have gone after the lower-level crooks, but the top men escape criminal charges.
4. He made reference to some interesting intelligence we have on Iraq. I look forward to next week when Colin Powell shares it with us.
5. I'm scared. Okay, that's not really a result of the State of the Union address, but hearing him talk about attacking Iraq brought it to the surface again. I live in New York City. If we attack Iraq, I think we all know that this country will be the target of more terrorist attacks. Yes, I realize that we will be even if we don't, but I do think this will hasten it. The terrorists aren't going to attack Duluth or Des Moines or even Detroit. They have a hard-on for New York City and Washington D.C. and, yes, I'm scared. Sue me.
I'm not sure who's dumber - the people who bought real estate on the moon from this Dutch guy or the Dutch guy for believing that he would be getting tens of thousands of orders per month. In a heartwarming (or stomach-turning) ending, Veenema said that once he gets out of jail, he intends to repay all those he swindled. Given his apparent lack of skills, he will likely have to do this by running a new con. I do know of this bridge he could buy...
Yes, the nation under U.N. investigation for violating U.N. disarmament resolutions is set to chair the U.N. Conference on Disarmament later this year. According to the rules, the conference presidency is based on a alphabetical rotating schedule of the U.N. member nations. While it may seem counterproductive to have Iraq chair such a conference, not so according to U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq.
Haq insisted that Iraq's upcoming position with the conference is not an issue because the group has not managed to establish an agenda.
"I think the main public relations concern is, What does it do substantively?" Haq said. "Since it's not exactly a body that has been meeting to deal with issues substantively for several years, the main worry is not about a procedural issue such as who is the chair; it's about what it can do."
Since that's the case, why even bother with the conference? Use the money for something productive. Oh wait, we're talking about the U.N. My bad.
My brother, who does not have his own blog, decided to create a little comic strip using the fabby stripcreator. His submission, for your baseball viewing pleasure:
In the face of lackluster domestic support and active international opposition, the Bush administration seems ready to declassify intelligence to show that Iraq has been concealing weapons from U.N. inspectors. I, for one, will be glad to hear it.
No wonder the Post Office loses mail. They can't even hold on to their own property. Two years ago, the Post Office had 20 million of the plastic mail-storage tubs they use for sorting, processing, and delivering mail. They are now down to 20,000. Yes, that's right, over a two-year period they lost 99.9% of their mail-storage tubs. They're offering an amnesty for people to return the missing tubs, but somehow I think it won't be successful. They'll wind up having to replace them at a cost of $3.25 each.
At $3.25 a pop, they lost $64.9 million worth of tubs. (Is it obvious I'm in finance or what?) Other things the Post Office could do with $64.9 million:
Hire A-Rod to work for them for 2.5 years. Hey, at least he's fast, more than you can say for some of the mail carriers in my neighborhood.
Buy the entire population of Canada 4 bottles of Blue each and still have money left over to buy some chips and dip.
Buy each of their employees 81 lottery tickets.
Buy 737,898 of their employees a one month supply of Prozac.
Buy me 158,378 pairs of Jimmy Choos and Manolo Blahniks. Being the kind soul that I am, I'm willing to share.
So write to the Post Office and tell them that rather than buying new tubs they are likely to lose, they should buy me and my friends some fabby new shoes. Except, of course, that they'll probably lose your letter.
Check out the picture which Meryl has posted permanently on her blog.
Then she comments:
Oh. How anti-peace of me. How's this? I hope the two people in this picture are part of the human shield movement, and I really hope they wind up "shielding" a strategic location.
Damn right, Meryl!
Being a lifelong New York Yankees fan, I'm used to hearing the jibes from sports fans of other teams - New York fans are rude, obnoxious, and downright mean. Okay, sure, if a fan comes into Yankees stadium wearing Red Sox paraphernalia, they're gonna get razzed. We're gonna trash talk, jeer, and be nasty. And we'll love every minute of it.
But when push comes to shove, we're just not that bad. When our teams win, we honk our horns and cheer on the streets. We throw tickertape parades and give the players keys to the city. When our teams lose we curse. We have bar fights. What we don't do is riot, loot, and set cars on fire. So until we start doing that, you non-New York fans can STFU. But I mean that in the nicest possible way.
Sister Jean Kenny's prediction record drops to 15 out of 18 with Tampa Bay routing Oakland 48-21. The first half of that game had to be the most boring Super Bowl I've ever seen. It seemed in the 3rd that Oakland was at least going to save themselves from embarrassment, but with 2 minutes left in the 4th they simply fell apart. The Bucs almost completely shut down Gannon's passing game. The Raider's defense had some good moments, but overall was unable to stop the Bucs. I never thought this game would be such a rout. Not that I'm all that upset, mind you.
Apparently Chicago's own Sister Jean Kenny has had remarkable success in predicting Super Bowl winners (15 out of 17). In bad news for those of us rooting for the Bucs, Sister Jean has this to say about Super Bowl XXXVII:
OK, the title of this year's poem is "The Raging Raiders Rule in California":
Oakland's fine wine of a team gets better with age.
Several oldies but goodies players take center stage.
MVP Gannon leads the offensive rampage.
The Bucs stop here and fall off the stage.
Romanowski and Woodson enjoy a good fight.
Sizzling Jerry Rice is an offensive delight.
The vociferous black hole fans provide additional fright,
As the Lombardi trophy goes to rookie coach Callahan tonight.
I predict the final score of Super Bowl XXXVII will be the Oakland Raiders 27 and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 24.
I suppose it could be worse. It could be the Eagles.
Dave Barry has started his own blog. Most of you have probably already read this on other sites, since I'm hardly original in posting about this. I post it primarily for my Mom, who is a huge Dave Barry fan. His blog is on the blogroll under Dave's Blog. One question, though. Why Blogger?
Time for a Plum Crazy pool: How long before Dave Barry moves his blog off Blogger? I'm in for 1 month. Times to be calculated from the date of his first entry (1/24/2003). Put your entries in the comments. Whoever is closest gets a free item of choice from the soon-to-be-live VCWC merchandise collection. Well, except for me, since someone has to pay Cafepress for the merchandise, but the sacrifices we make for our conspiracies.
Over at another forum I participate in, someone asked a question about how you could be an American citizen and vote in Israeli elections. A respondent stated that it was due to the wonders of dual citizenship and that Israel was the only country for which the U.S. allowed dual citizenship. I would like to clarify one thing. That is just not true. In fact, it has never been true.
Once upon a time a U.S. citizen who applied for citizenship in another country was presumed to have voluntarily relinquished his/her U.S. citizenship unless he/she provided a written statement to the contrary. In 1990, the State Department reversed its policy on that. Since that time, a U.S. citizen who applies for citizenship in another country is presumed to not voluntarily relinquish his/her U.S. citizenship unless he/she issues a written statement to the contrary.
Furthermore if a citizen of a foreign country becomes a naturalized U.S. citizen, he/she does not automatically lose his/her citizenship in his/her country of origin unless the local laws of that country stipulate that. A French citizen who becomes a U.S. citizen does not automatically lose his/her French citizenship. A Belgian citizen does.
Now that this has been clarified, I pose a question to you: What are your thoughts on dual citizenship? A couple of people in the other forum seemed to think it was a bad policy and should be done away with. Personally, although I don't understand why the reversal in State Department policy, I don't have a big issue with dual citizenship in friendly countries, although I could be persuaded otherwise by some good arguments. I also see times when dual citizenship is undoubtedly appropriate. If, for example, a U.S. citizen wishes to take a non-policy-level position in a friendly foreign government for a limited period of time, I do not believe we ought to require him/her to relinquish his/her U.S. citizenship only to have to request it back later. Should the government be a hostile one, then, yes, I do believe the individual ought to relinquish his/her U.S. citizenship. We ought not to be making it easier for people to seek positions in hostile governments.
What are your thoughts?
Powell on Saturday: U.S. Has 12 Allies on Iraq.
Powell on Sunday: U.S. Prepared to Act Alone on Iraq.
Sorry, Colin, it doesn't count if the 12 allies are your 11 other personalities. If we have 12 allies, then we don't have to act alone. If we have to act alone, then we don't have 12 allies. The offer for the syrup still stands, though.
Perhaps the Bush administration would like some syrup with its waffles. First it's all tough talk about Iraq. Then it's let's wait for a U.N. resolution. Then we're mobilizing our troops up and sending them over. Now it's we'll wait for the U.N. report, with the unspoken proviso that we'll also wait until we can convince someone other than the Brits and Aussies to back us up. Well, there was also the results of this poll indicating that 81% of Americans want us to get the support of our major allies and the U.N. too. But Bush isn't governing by polls. Oh noooo.
BTW, I've heard it all before. It's a "brilliant strategy" to force Saddam to resign without a shot being fired. I'll buy that when Saddam actually resigns. So far, no hints of it. The stock market, on the other hand, is showing signs of upset over all of this. Although I am with the 81% in spirit, at this point, I'd like the administration to make a decision. The uncertainty is getting to me. If we're going in, then let's do it. Otherwise STFU.
(Here's today's entry in the Amish Tech Support Blog A Day Tour...)
A long time ago, I used to be plum crazy myself. You see, at the corner of Appletree Lane and Central Avenue in Deerfield, Illinois there was a plum tree. I know it's odd that there was a plum tree on Appletree Lane, but there was an apple tree on Appletree Lane, too. There were as many apple trees as plum trees, to tell you the truth.
Lots of streets out there with tree names in them don't have that kind of tree along them. There's lots of Elm and Maple and Redwood Streets out there which probably have never had one of those trees along them in the time there's been a street there, let alone the eons before there was a street to begin with. But this Appletree Lane had an apple tree and it had a plum tree.
Both thrived. They were well taken care of. It gave plums every year, and the apple tree, well, the apples were good for throwing.
Bert of Sesame Street liked plums. I did everything they did on Sesame Street. I was more of an Ernie-type of a kid, but I followed Bert's lead. So I liked plums.
There was also a strawberry patch that had many strawberry runners, a grapevine that had excellent grapes, an asparagus and herb garden, and all sorts of other interesting things growing. And the last Willow tree of the area stood tall, too, even though Willow Street was a long ways away.
I was told a while back that the plum tree is no more. Somebody took a turn wide or something, and wiped it completely out.
I hope there's some sort of tree there again, despite the corner. If people can't keep on the road, then it's their problem if there's a tree there, not the tree's.
A plum tree would be nice.
U.N. security men at the Baghdad compound turned over a man screaming "Save me, save me" and carrying a notebook to Iraqi police.
Earlier there were unexplained incidents at the U.N.'s Baghdad compound when two men -- one carrying three knives, the other a notebook and shouting "Save me!" -- tried to enter the base.
Both men were apprehended and turned over to Iraqi authorities, U.N. officials reported. It was unclear whether the two incidents were related.
On the two incidents, U.N. officials said that one man approached the hotel's security gate with a metal instrument, before Iraqi guards wrestled him to the ground. He was later found to have three knives, the U.N. said.
About 40 minutes later, another Iraqi man stopped a U.N. vehicle outside the headquarters pleading "Save me! Save me!" in Arabic, according to the U.N. The man, apparently unarmed, forced his way into the driver's seat of the stopped vehicle, as an Iraqi guard struggled to pull him out, while an unfazed U.N. inspector watched from the passenger seat.
Appearing agitated and frightened, the young man, with a closely trimmed beard and mustache, sat inside the white U.N.-marked utility vehicle for 10 minutes, AP reported. At first, an inspection team leader sought help from nearby Iraqi soldiers, but the man refused to leave the vehicle as the uniformed men pulled on his sleeve and collar.
"I am unjustly treated!" he shouted.
Then U.N. security men arrived, and they and Iraqi police carried the man by his feet and arms into the fenced compound, journalists said. The man was turned over to Iraqi authorities at a government office adjacent to the compound, U.N. officials said.
Iraqi officials said they had no information on the incidents.
What were the U.N. guards thinking? Oh, my bad. They weren't. Even worse, maybe they were. Note to self - never try to defect to U.N. representatives. I wonder how many Iraqi scientists are making that same note to themselves now.
That can be the only explanation for the fact that it has finally stated outright that it has doubts about the Palestinian Authority's recognition of the right of Israel to exist. Despite evidence that the PA's recognition of the right of Israel to exist was suspect for years now, the State Department has previously ignored that. Their awakening to this in the face of opposition from their Saudi "friends" can only be the result of them running a group fever. Surely they will soon revert back to form.
More British legal lunacy. These guys are on a roll. The latest involves an experimental program in which the Wiltshire Police will send letters to repeat offenders suggesting that they "cease forthwith" their "criminal activities." Bwahahahaha!
Oh Behave! comic blog.
Ready for football? The Rant is hosting a Super Bowl Bonanza! I'm going to enter, even though I don't understand half the questions. But why let that stop me? So for your chance to win $37 in honor of Super Bowl XXXVII, go join up.
UPDATE: The form over at The Rant isn't working properly. Click here instead to find out the new way to enter.
Harry Potter books may cause ecstasy in children, but I don't think this is what J.K. Rowling had in mind. Other images stamped on the face of ecstasy tablets include the Smurfs and the Flintstones. Fortunately the DEA has charged 14 people allegedly involved in this crime. I'm for legalizing drugs, but not for kids.
Governor Bill Richardson wants to renumber New Mexico's own Highway to Hell.
"I am proud to announce my wholehearted support for the renovation of Highway 666 -- a name we are working to change," Richardson told the New Mexico legislature on Tuesday
I guess soon this will be a thing of the past:
But is it just me, or does that sign look faked? The highway received its designation in 1942 since it was the sixth major highway that branched off the famous Route 66. I guess the devil made them do it.
Yes it's true. National Geographic is going to publish a swimsuit issue. But before you gentlemen of a certain age get too excited, remembering those halcyon days of yore, eagerly thumbing through the pages to catch glimpses of nearly nekkid women, this swimsuit issue is a little different. This will be a history of the swimsuit, featuring 100 years of swimsuits. It will have pictures of the swimsuits people used to wear which covered more of them than today's every day fashions do. But fear not. it will be brought into the modern day. So there will still be some titillation.
In his speeches and writings on his Web site and elsewhere, Thacker has described homosexuality as a “deathstyle” rather than a lifestyle and asserted that “Christ can rescue the homosexual.” After word of his selection spread among gays in recent days, some material disappeared from the Web site. Earlier versions located by The Washington Post that referred to the “gay plague,” for instance, were changed as of yesterday to “plague.”
Sounds like a bad pick to me. The spin on him from the administration is that he "has a very powerful and tragic personal story and an ability to reach out to an audience we couldn’t reach in the process.” In the process of doing, so, however, he will almost certainly alienate a larger audience. While AIDS is definitely an issue for the heterosexual community as well, does it make sense to have your heterosexual AIDS-suffering representative be a man who calls AIDS a "gay plague?" Surely there are other heterosexual AIDS sufferers who could have been appointed to the Commission. This appointment will only mire it in controversy and distraction.
Mad Mike Bloomberg strikes again. He has agreed to allow artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude to put up a 23-mile fluttering orange sculpture in New York City's Central Park.
"I predict, whether they love this temporary work of art or not, New Yorkers will certainly make 'The Gates' a very popular topic of conversation," Bloomberg said at a news conference.
Mad Mike also predicts that the work will generate $72 million to $136 million in economic activity through attracting tourists. I know we need the tax revenue. New York State is currently facing a $12 billion budget gap. But Christo? Fluttering orange fabric sculptures? Sigh.
Total Information Awareness. Senate Democrats are now seeking to block all funding to it. One Republican Senator is trying to limit funding to foreign intelligence purposes. If only they hadn't voted it into place to begin with. But that would have been too easy...
If the Democrats do manage to pass a funding block, although I consider it unlikely, it will certainly go a long ways toward convincing this libertarian to vote for them in 2004. Just Say No to Total Information Awareness!
Just when you thought that the British justice system couldn't live down the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor recommending no prison sentences for first- and second-time burglars. Now it seems the Norfolk probation service may have recommended that a man be denied parole for being a "danger to burglars."
Tony Martin is serving a five-year sentence for manslaughter after shooting and killing a teenage burglar who had broken into his home. Martin was recently denied parole. Although the parole board didn't give any reason for turning him down, there is speculation that the board rejected him after receiving a Probation Services report criticizing Martin for "being a danger to burglars." Other speculation is that Martin has not expressed remorse for his act and that Probation Services felt he was not "up to speed with the 21st century" and felt that "things were better 40 years ago."
Has England passed a Preferential Treatment for Burglars Act? Inquiring minds want to know.
..but the skin? The father of Australian miner Carl Whittaker had an odd dying request - he wanted the tattoos from his back and arms removed and preserved. His son obliged him and mounted them on his wall.
A Swedish court ruled that a stripper can't deduct the cost of her breast implants from her taxes as a business expense. Although the woman claimed that the size and shape of her breasts were important to her income from stripping, the court seemed to feel that she received other dividends from the surgery. Now, perhaps under President Bush's new plan...
Perhaps we can use this in our membership drive. "The Vast Center Wing Conspiracy - Making Breast Enlargement Tax Deductible Because We Care."
All right, I think it's time to take the VCWC on the road! I'll be setting up the store to sell VCWC shirts and mugs, so let's try to increase the membership. I'm counting on all current members to get out there and spread the word. People can join by posting comments here, sending me an e-mail, or whatever.
It'll take a little time to get the store set up, because I need to get an uncompressed version of the logo over to one of the on-line storefronts (e.g., Cafe Press or Cafe Shops) so they can take it from there. The prices won't be prohibitive even at a low volume, since they make their money out of doing this type of small volume fulfillment across many little storefronts. But even so, let's get out there and increase our membership. Woo hoo! We're taking over even faster now.
Well, this is not from Plum Crazy, but it's funny.
And here's one from me. Misting Lesley's boss.
Snowman, that is. Students and faculty of the engineering department of Bluefield State College have determined the optimal way to build a snowman. Thank G_d someone has finally worked this out. Millions of children will now promptly ignore it.
I got an e-mail from a reader who wonders if I'll be putting the VCWC logo on t-shirts, etc. Hey, I'm amenable to it, but is there a market? Let me know what you all think. If there's enough demand, it's a done deal.
An Israeli couple sought the judgment of a rabbinical court to settle their marital dispute. The issue? The wife was planning to vote for the Labor Party in the upcoming general election. The husband, who plans to vote Likud, said that he wouldn't accept his wife "voting against his will." The rabbinical court ruled that the woman should not vote in the upcoming election. I see.
I learned a couple of weeks ago that my rather small one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan is now worth between 4 and 5 times what I paid for seven years ago. So I decided that now was the time to sell, especially since I believe that the real estate market has now topped out. I have spent the last couple of days going through the detritus of every day life, the things you put aside, figuring you'll deal with them one day. That day has arrived, and I dealt with the vast majority of it by throwing it out. It's amazing how much junk you can fit in a small space. Just think how much more junk I'll be able to collect when I move into a bigger space with the hefty down payment I'll have.
So between doing that and the hideous hours I've been working the past couple of weeks, I have had little time to blog. I still have more things to do today, but hopefully blogging will resume normally tomorrow.
In the meantime, wish me luck!
In a bit of legal lunacy, Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice of england, has issued a burglarly sentencing guideline that calls for no prison sentences for first- and second-time offenders. Not surprisingly, this has lead to some objections being raised, notably from the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Victims of Crime Trust. Lord Woolf has now issued clarification of his recommendations - the objections, he clarifies, are wrong. These guidelines will not provide incentive for people to burgle but will, in fact, act as a deterrent and protect the public. Nothing, from what I can tell, as to how he expects that to happen.
One might think that the government would be up in arms about this, although there is little they can effectively do (what with that pesky little "independent judiciary" thing). However, not so. Derry Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, has wholeheartedly endorsed these guidelines. He goes even further to say that "most people" were not disturbed at "first-time or even second-time burglars - where there are no aggravated elements in the burglary - not going to prison". Oh, certainly, most people are not at all disturbed by the thought of criminals wandering about hither and thither. At least not on the strange planet that Woolf and Irvine appear to inhabit. Back here on planet Earth, most of us aren't too fond of that concept.
The police have come out against these recommendations, but are offering up their own bit of lunacy. The police in London will only investigate burglaries where there is a strong possibility of conviction. This, they are proud to say, will vastly improve their clear-up figures. Hmm, I wonder if I could use that logic at work. I'll tell my boss that from now on I'm only willing to accept assignments that I have a strong possibility of completing early, which will, of course, improve my performance. On second thought, I like my job. Don't want to get fired.
The root of all of this seems to be the rising level of violent crime in Britain. The thought is that with limited resources they should focus on the major crimes and ignore the little ones. Apparently they derived this from a thoroughly mistaken understanding of New York City's success in lowering crime rates. In fact, NYC did just the opposite. They aggressively went after perpetrators of the small crimes on the theory that they were more likely to be the perpetrators of the major crimes as well. This would then lower the case load of major investigations. This theory was borne out in practice. By ignoring the small crimes, the London police are likely to find their case load of major crimes growing, not shrinking. Perhaps Rudy Giuliani should hop over to England and consult with them on their growing crime problem.
Scrap the latest WTC replacement designs. Build this instead:
Nobody would dare mess with the bad karma that would come from destroying a massive lava lamp. Peace, man, peace.
Do you suppose I could get the government to fund a study that says that working hideous hours is bad for your health?
The folks over at Tapped post this tidbit in a recent entry:
Blame the person, not the gun, is a favored libertarian argument against gun control, but it's silly. Muhammad and Malvo's killing spree simply would not have been possible had they not been able to illegally acquire a high-powered rifle.
That statement is just wrong on so many levels. Yes, it's true, if people didn't do anything illegal, crimes wouldn't be committed. I know that's not exactly what they were saying, as they were specifically talking about a killing spree not being possible without a gun, but nevertheless. The rifle was illegally acquired. There were already laws against them having it. What more do people want? Granted, I do not think there should be laws against someone owning a gun unless they are a felon or mentally unstable, but the fact is that there are. This is not a case where someone had a legal gun and used it in commission of a crime. How do they plan on stopping someone from illegally acquiring a gun? Even an all-out gun ban would not prevent someome from getting one illegally. There is an all-out ban on first-degree murder, yet people still commit it.
Further, it is a truism that you can't commit a gun-related crime without having a gun, but what does that prove in and of itself? You can't stab someone without having a pointy object either.
They also did have to want to illegally acquire the high-powered rifle, so it doesn't negate the "blame the person, not the gun" argument. It's not as if the high-powered rifle suddenly illegally popped up in their possession. I'm certain most of us could, if we wanted to, illegally acquire a high-powered rifle. The key difference is that most of us don't want to, so we don't.
They further had to want to use the high-powered rifle on a killing spree. The simple act of having a rifle does not lead to a killing spree. It makes it easier to go on one, but it doesn't cause one to do so. That still doesn't negate the "blame the person, not the gun" argument.
All right, everyone's doing it. Yes, it's comic blogging. So rather than write a post about Lieberman's "surprise" announcement that he's going to run for President, I decided to comic blog my thoughts instead.
Inspiration for comic blogging via Michele.
Apparently my site appears as #7 in a Google search for destroy shoes with fire fetish. Who are these cretins?
What's the only thing worse than watching a bunch of whiny 20-something-year-olds sharing a house together? Watching a bunch of whiny ex-celebrities sharing a house together. Yet this is the premise of the new WB program "The Surreal Life." I saw the last 10 minutes of it last night while waiting for "Charmed" to start. Oh.My.G_d. What were they thinking?
I have no idea why WB calls these people B-list celebs. Even a B-list celeb wouldn't be caught dead on this dog of a show. The cast list:
Corey Feldman (could he have been more obnoxious?)
Vince Neil (I don't even know who he is, but by definition he was the man I didn't recognize)
Emmanuel Lewis (he was pretty quiet, probably wondering why he agreed to it)
M.C. Hammer (he was pretending to be the wise old man of the group)
Brande Roderick (who?)
Gabrielle Carteris (she looked faintly disgusted with everyone else)
Jerri Manthey (she was loud, but I had never heard of her before)
These are people who don't even have careers anymore, so they do not qualify for even the C-list, let alone the B-list. The supposed big drama of the show - Will Corey marry his girlfriend on the last episode or not. Yawn. The real big drama, IMO, is how the others are going to stop themselves from killing him. All I know is I won't be tuning in to find out.
Remember how your mom used to tell you "Everything in moderation?" Some players of the computer game Diablo II apparently need to learn this lesson. Perhaps governments will now start requiring warnings on computer game packages. "Warning: Playing this game all night long can be hazardous to your health."
Link via duckboy & company
Signalling the final death knell of AOL's skewed influence over the combined company, AOL Time Warner Chairman Steve Case has resigned. He was prompted to this decision by criticism of the combined company's performance, which has not lived up to expectations.
This move symbolizes better than almost anything else the victory of old media over new, of bricks over clicks. The AOL internet unit has been faltering over the last few years, while the Time Warner entertainment unit has been growing. This does not mean that there is no room for new media. Just that old media will have the greatest influence and will drive most of the decisions for the foreseeable future, with new media supplementing those moves. Many observers had anticipated the opposite.
That expectation, however, displayed a lack of understanding of how business fundamentally works. The key to a successful business is its product, not its delivery mechanism. The internet provides a great delivery mechanism, but it cannot stand alone without content and product. Old media companies specialize in providing content. Manufacturers specialize in providing product. Those who provide the delivery mechanism can exist as stand-alone companies, because there is a value to the delivery mechanism. Nonetheless, their companies still ultimately rely upon the success of the providers of goods.
Even in its heyday, AOL was dependent upon content providers. It provided an easier way to access the internet, a way for the non-technically savvy to get online and find what they wanted. The reason they were online to begin with, however, was for the content, not the delivery mechanism. It is only fitting, therefore, that the content provider drives the combined company forward.
There's been lots of talk about different kinds of blogging lately. There's cat blogging, puppet blogging, vblogging, diet blogging, and comics blogging. But until now, that lure for women/bane of men has been ignored. Yes, I'm talking 'bout shoe blogging. It's time to correct this grave oversight.
My favorite pair of shoes:
Some day, some day... And on that day, I will require a bigger apartment just to house my shoes. A girl's gotta dream.
Tip to Tricia for the Manolo story. But I must disagree with Madonna. I don't care how fabby his shoes are. They are not better than sex. Well, maybe some sex, but not sex in general.
There is a get-together the weekend of March 14th for East Coast bloggers (although it's not limited to just us East Coasters). It's being held in the Poconos, land of my parents, so I'm going to have to get my butt on up there. Details can be found here.
Link via Michele.
Folks in Pittsburgh who wanted to pass a law to ban smoking in restaurants and bars are blocked from doing so by a previous law restricting smoking. The previous law forbids the passing of new bans on smoking, except in Philadelphia. Perhaps those Pittsburgh smoking ban proponents might come to appreciate the wisdom of W.C. Fields' words.
This is a really great invention - A smoke alarm that plays a recording of a parent's voice telling a child what to do in case of a fire.
Traveling in overcrowded train cars is bad for you. This requires an official investigation?
In what we can only hope is not a harbinger of things to come, the Accounting Oversight Board had its first meeting last week. During this inaugural meeting, they voted on such important topics as paying themselves $452,000 annual salaries and ratifying a lease to move their Washington headquarters into collapsed accounting firm Arthur Andersen's old space. They also voted down a proposal to rotate their own auditors every 5 years, saying the issue required further study. Yes, these are the people who are supposed to restore investor confidence. I don't know about you, but I'm feeling somewhat confident now - that this board will be meaningless.
If anyone is in the Houston area and would like a cat, get in touch with Laurence Simon of Amish Tech Support. Seems one of Laurence's neighbors has ditched his cat, and Laurence already has four others who don't like Rufus. I hate people who get pets and then discard them like yesterday's paper. Pardon me, while I go play with Emma and Jane now.
In the never-ending attempt to find what is too expensive for even New Yorkers to shell out for, the Old Homestead Steakhouse recently debuted a $41 hamburger made from Kobe beef. The news from the front is that we haven't found that price level yet. Having read about the burger extraordinaire this morning, I had to tell my friend, who is a hamburger aficionado. Much to my lack of surprise, he wanted to run right out and have one. So we ventured over to the Old Homestead for lunch. While we were there, at least 3 other people ordered the Kobe burger, out of a crowd of roughly 10 other people, so I imagine this burger will fare well.
The burger was definitely tasty. The meat was tender and moist. It tasted more like a finely ground steak than the typical burger. The homemade ketchup was quite nice. The horseradish sauce, not so much. I didn't try the mustard, as I only like mustard on pastrami. However, the burger was not worth $41. I wouldn't order it again at that price. It was worth it the one time, to have the experience. But we were definitely paying for the experience. Wollensky's Grill has way better burgers at the more ordinary New York nice restaurant price of $15. (Shut up, I know that's expensive too.)
Sorry for the light blogging lately. Work is keeping me very busy. Film at 11.
Eight Australian spiders are heading to space to help NASA test the effects of zero g. No word yet on whether or not Ziggy will play guitar.
U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector, Hans Blix, is unsatisfied with the Iraqi weapons declaration.
"The declaration didn't provide us any new evidence," Blix said after appearing before the Security Council. "So we are not satisfied."
Mohamed ElBaradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, says that although there are still question marks, the inspections have yet to turn up a "smoking gun." Meanwhile, the U.S., U.K., and France are mobilizing troops and/or calling up their reserves. With the U.S. declaring that the Iraqi declaration constitutes a material breach of the U.N. resolution, how much longer before definitive action is taken?
Confused Brits, not having seen snow for quite some time, apparently require a user's guide to snow, which The Guardian has happily provided. I can attest to the truth of this need. When, in my college days back in 1985, I spent a trimester at Cambridge University, it was the first time it had snowed in England for about 10 years. Now, when I say snow, I mean they had some frost on the ground. Nevertheless, the country was bemused by this strange, sparkly stuff and it was causing problems. As a New Yorker, I was highly amused. My then boyfriend, a Canadian, was even more so.
My favorite part of the Guardian guide?
4) I've always wondered - what happens to a dry ski slope when it gets snow on it? Do they have to close it? Apparently not. According to Lockerbie, "it just goes quicker. It's better for skiing. We are open."
Yes, Great Britain, you do need snow for skiing.
A Canadian man who went to Iraq to act as a human shield died, but was unable to fulfill his ambition because he was killed in a traffic accident. How sad for him, to die in such a fashion. He could have just stayed in Canada to do that.
We all have our New Year's Resolutions. Apparently one of President Bush's is to recycle more. Although most of us think of recycling papers and cans to help the environment, President Bush's idea is to recycle 31 judicial nominees who weren't confirmed in 2002. This does complement his previous pattern of recycling old Iran/Contra figures.
I question how environmentally friendly this is, though. It just produces more hot air. Just imagine the controversy once they arrive at the full Senate for a vote. The mind boggles.
Apple answers the question, what do people who are addicted to the internet have - an iLife.
I do love the Apple marketers. They really know how to target their market. They assuage the fears of the freaky Mac cultists (one of which I am now destined to become after seeing this). See, now when people tell them "Get a life," they can respond with "I already have one (even if Steve Jobs gave it to me)."
The much anticipated dividend tax cut, while sound long-term policy, will not be a quick fix to boost the stock market (WSJ article, registration required). The article echoes much of what was previously said in this post and its comments and adds to it.
The abolition of the dividend tax will provide a further premium to dividend-paying stocks, as investors will be willing to pay more for the higher return. Companies who pay dividends tend to be those that are more mature, not the high-growth companies. However, if a greater premium is paid for dividends, then some of those high-growth companies will alter their current strategies and offer dividends to their shareholders.
While this may seem, on the face of it, to be a good thing in the short-term, it is not necessarily. By paying out dividends, these firms will have less money to pursue growth strategies, such as acquisitions and capital expenditures. Much of what fueled the last bull market was a long, continuous period of corporate M&A and capital purchases. Companies who are issuing dividends will also not be able to buy back as many shares of their stock, which will depress earnings per share and, in turn, market gains. This is no short-term stimulus.
In the long-term, however, this will reward companies who, while not having superstar growth rates, have sustainability of earnings. The importance of that was lost during the dot.com bubble. People, suckered in by the lure of fast money, lost sight of the fact that the fundamentals had not changed. Multiples cannot be maintained on revenues. That point was driven home to us with a bang, or really a crash. Stock prices are driven by long-term profits. So while this move does not provide a quick fix for the market, it does offer the promise of a more stable market in the long-term. The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.
Thanks to the fine folks over at randomWalks, from this point forward we can offer you all a convenient and easy choice. For those of you, like me, who prefer to have links open in new windows, you can do that by checking the little box over to your right. For those who prefer to have links open in the same window, leave the little box unchecked. Ain't choice grand?
I found this code via Alas, A Blog.
I was reading some comments on a post about the Giants
debacle game over at The Empire of Man (overall an interesting blog which I found today when Joshua left a comment on my WWJS post) earlier when I came across this:
So the refs didn't call a penalty on a clear pass interference ? ? ? ? It happens every game. New Yorkers have had all the luck in recent memory--huge amounts of federal dollars flooded that city in 2001 and 2002; the Yankees made the series in 2001 on a clearly erroneous call at the plate; and who can forget Scott Norwood's missed field goal back in the day. It's about time some other city gets some of the luck usually reserved for New York.
Okay, now I have no problem with someone talking about sports calls as luck. But the huge amounts of federal dollars that we received in 2001 and 2002 was luck? Yeah, I guess it was lucky that those terrorists flew a couple of planes into our tallest buildings and killed 2,800 people. What the fuck was wrong with me for not understanding that before? It wasn't a tragedy at all. It was damn good fortune, because without that, we'd have never gotten the huge amounts of federal dollars! Thanks, AC, for turning my life around.
What I actually said in response was this:
Hold on a sec. I have no problem with you're referring to sports calls as luck. But you're calling this luck - "huge amounts of federal dollars flooded that city in 2001 and 2002." Hey, dipstick, I worked at the WTC. 100 people I knew were killed that day, and I only avoided being killed because I was still 10 minutes away on a bus. Give us back the towers and the people who were killed, and you can have all the money back. None of us would give a damn. Some other city can have that "luck."
I think I was way too nice.
I do not believe Elvis is still alive. I do not now and have never owned an Elvis recording. I have no idea what I did when I heard the news that Elvis had died, because it had such little impact on me that I can't even remember hearing about it, let alone what I did afterwards.
The Danish anti-terrorism squad (which is what, 10 fishermen armed with Lego guns?) raided the home of a Danish family after neighbors reported that the family had been taken hostage. Seems the family's answering machine had a joke message saying "We have been taken hostage by two children. Hurry. Help us after the beep. Now!" Neighbors hearing the message thought it said "We have been taken hostage WITH two children." Because, of course, hostage takers allow people to change their answering machine greetings to leave warnings or if a hostage was able to sneak a cell phone call the first thing he/she would do is call their answering machine.
One hundred wounded in Tel Aviv yesterday.... Before I didn’t care what happened to the people in the organizations that arrange these attacks. Now I don’t care about what happens to the culture that permits it. Approves of it. Defends it, sanctions it, shelters it, sings it praises, names streets after the men who do it. I’m done. I don’t want to hear the word “but” in any sentence uttered by a PLO / Fatah / Al Aqsa / Hamaz / Hezbollah apologist. I don’t want to hear the phrase “cycle of violence” used outside the context of a gang fight at the Tour De France.
I never want to see Arafat asking for anything anywhere any more. I don’t want to see people on the West Bank cheering as clumsy Scuds lumber over their heads in February, because I know they’ll head to Israeli hospitals when the germs hit them, and I know they’ll be admitted for treatment.
Unfortunately, I'm in the same state of mind -- all sympathied out.
We've heard the questions What Would Jesus Do and What Would Jesus Drive. But now a paper asks the question, What Would Jesus Smoke?
Okay, not quite. However it does suggest that the anointing oil used by Jesus contained a potent cannabis extract. Teaching me something I did not know, apparently marijuana, when in an oil-based carrier, can be absorbed through the skin. "Hey, officer, I don't have any pot, man. This is just some body oil. Got any potato chips?" The Body Shop could make a killing selling stuff like that, if only it were legal.
Which leads me to question whether this would be a good way to convince recalcitrants to legalize pot. Somehow I think not. People are very protective of their religious beliefs, and I don't think many will buy that Jesus wants them to use pot. I suspect it would actually backfire. Ah well. We'll have to fight the fight with other tactics.
Despite some high-profile ratings missteps, shares of debt rating agency Moody's are still doing very well. However, some analysts are beginning to wonder if the stock might be overvalued (sorry, it's WSJ, registration required). A few factors playing into this:
1. Earnings have grown 30% annually for the last two years. It is unlikely this will continue, with the company forecasting 15% growth for 2003.
2. If the equity market starts to pick up again, which is being forecast by many industry watchers, the bond market will be less attractive to investors. This will lead to a decrease in the amount of corporate debt issuance, which will lower the revenue generated by the rating agencies.
3. There are currently three large ratings agencies in the United States. S&P controls around 41% of the market, Moody's around 38%, and Fitch 14%. There are significant regulatory barriers to entry into this market, so their combined market share has been well protected. The SEC is considering changing that, however. It said a decision will be forthcoming by the end of this month.
Interesting to see what will happen. I think the government should remove some of its imposed regulatory entry barriers to allow for increased competition in this market. There will still be significant natural barriers to entry, and the SEC does need to oversee the ratings agencies and make sure the analysts are qualified. However some competition might shake the agencies out of their comfort zone, causing them to react more quickly with ratings changes. They are notoriously slow to upgrade or downgrade debt.
Please note, this is not a recommendation to trade Moody's stock. I do not make investment recommendations. I am not an equities analyst by trade.
Make sure to click the MORE... link at the bottom of the "The Return of the King Protest" entry and read the whole thing.
23 killed in double suicide bombing at Tel Aviv's old central bus station. 100 wounded, 7 critically; Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades claims responsibility for attack.
I can't even talk about this. Just follow the link.
I was reading Laurence Simon's Amish Tech Support, when I caught sight of this website: The Return of the King Protest. They are protesting the third installment of the LOTR trilogy being named "The Return of the King."
The Return of the King Protest Organization ( www.theofficersclub.com/rotkpo ) is made up of a group of like minded individuals who were greatly affected by the death of Elvis Presley, The King. The owner of this website considers himself to be a facilitator for the sentiments which have already been expressed by people all over the world who were so deeply affected by the loss of ol' swivel hips.
I don't typically get into this, because I don't believe that the great impact Elvis Presley’s death had on me gives me any more standing to comment on it than anyone else. We were all affected by it. However, as this group has used it presumably as giving them greater authority to speak on the issue of sensitivity, I believe it is fair of me to use it in critique.
I loved Elvis Presley. As a child, I cried when my mother told me that when Elvis crooned “Oh let me be your teddy bear,” he wasn’t making the offer to me and that I was too young to understand what he really meant anyway. I used to listen to his records over and over. I slept with a framed picture of him near my pillow. When, on that fateful day in August 1977, the news reported that Elvis had died I was devastated. I refused to eat or sleep for days, staring in mute shock at my framed picture, putting flowers around it, lighting candles to it, all the while playing Elvis’ Greatest Hits until my father confiscated my record. I think it’s fair to say that I was “deeply affected by the loss of ol’ swivel hips.”
Nevertheless, I cannot agree with them that "The Return of the King" should be renamed. I cannot agree with them when they say "We believe that Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema's actions are in fact hate speech. … The movie is intentionally being named The Return of the King in order to capitalize on the death of Elvis Presley. Clearly, you cannot deny the fact that this falls under hate speech." In fact, that accusation is demonstrably false. You see, I figured something out after coming out of the shock I felt upon hearing reports of Elvis’ death which proves this untrue. This movie cannot be capitalizing on the death of Elvis, because Elvis is not dead! He is merely in hiding, waiting for the right time to resurface publicly. He’s been tantalizing us by letting a lucky few catch glimpses of him in malls in Ohio, preparing us for his imminent return. Don’t they get it? The movie is named “The Return of the King” because it heralds his triumphant reappearance. That’s right. The King shall, indeed, return!
NOTE: For those who may be confused, this is a parody. The Return of the King Protest is a parody of The Two Towers Protest (which may itself be a joke; no one's sure), and this entry is a parody of myself. In fact, I do not believe that Elvis is still alive, and was not and am not a big Elvis fan. I have never bought any of his recordings and don't own any now. I did go to Graceland once, but that was because I was in Memphis in business and, well, how can you be in Memphis and not visit Graceland?
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) -- An Arkansas man was arrested after police followed a trail of evidence from a bungled bank heist -- discarded wrappers from candy he allegedly stole and ate as he made his getaway, police said on Saturday.
First - Do not leave a trail for the police to follow. Besides, didn't your mother ever teach you not to litter? It's not polite.
"It's a classic," said Patrolman Jerry Lung of the Marked Tree police department, who arrested Michael Brown, 33. Marked Tree is a small community about 135 miles northeast of Little Rock.
Brown allegedly smashed the glass door of a bank in the community, and then looked directly at the bank's security cameras, Lung said. He also triggered an alarm.
Second - Do not look directly into a security camera without wearing a mask. People can recognize you.
Third - Figure out where the alarms are before you break in and do not trigger them. Big sound make people curious, call police.
When Brown found that all the money had been stashed away because the bank was closed, he allegedly stole a clock radio and fistfuls of candy, police said.
As he left the facility, he ate the candy and left a trail of wrappers that led to his home in a nearby trailer park.
Brown was arraigned on Friday on robbery and other charges and remains in jail pending trial. Bail was set at $25,000.
"It was almost like he wanted to be caught," Lung said Saturday.
The candy allegedly stolen from the bank was "Dum Dums," the police officer said.
For a variety of personal reasons, I tend not to talk much about being Jewish, about the Israeli/Palestinian situation, or anything related to that. Sometimes, though, things boil to a point where I feel the need to verbalize them. Today is one of those sometimes.
It’s been building for a while. It started with the reports of the British boycott of Israeli academics. It grew when I very recently read about an incident in Amsterdam that had happened back in April. It boiled over with the reports that the French rabbi who was stabbed on Friday had received a threatening letter just prior to the attack. It’s about the objectification of Jews. That it does not seem to matter to a not insignificant number of people what we individually think, believe, want, do. Only that we are J-E-W-S.
The British boycott of Israeli academics is intended, they say, to be similar to a prior boycott of South African academics. Forgetting, for the moment, dissimilarities between Israel and South Africa, as that is not what I’m writing about, there was one specific incident that stuck out in the report I read. A respected British magazine rejected an article that a left-wing Israeli academic, Dr. Oren Yiftachel, had co-authored with a Palestinian solely because it came from Israel. They returned the submission to him unopened. They had no idea what it said. It did not matter what he personally believed. He supports withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories. But it was irrelevant. All that mattered was that he was Israeli. Dr. Yiftachel contacted them and tried to negotiate inclusion of this article in their publication. As of December 19, the negotiations were still ongoing, but the magazine was requiring Dr. Yiftachel to include in the article a comparison of Israel to South Africa.
In Amsterdam, in April of 2002, there was a demonstration of 15,000 people against Israel. The protest turned violent when it reached a central square in Amsterdam and protestors got sight of an observant Jew. “ A Jew, there's a Jew,” they cried, ran toward the man and started beating him. Placards at the march included those saying “"Jews into the sea", "Jews are dogs", "Juden raus", "Sharon terrorist, down with the Jews" and "I will become an anti-Semite, how about you?" This was not a protest against Israel. This was a protest against Jews under the guise of being against Israel. By the way, how many of us read this in the mainstream American media? You know, the one that many seem to think controlled by J-E-W-S? It surely didn’t get big play.
The rabbi who was stabbed, it turns out, runs the Paris office of the Jewish Liberal Movement of France, which campaigns for a peaceful solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He, himself, was reaching out to establish closer ties between Judaism and other religions, including Islam. Yet the morning of the attack, he received an anonymous letter reading “We will have Rabbi Gabriel Farhi's skin and avenge the blood of our Palestinian brothers. We will give him the Jihad (holy war) punishment reserved for enemies of our cause." Rabbi Farhi, an enemy of their cause? Hardly. But this did not matter. They did not care about what he believed. All they cared about was that he was Jewish.
After the attacks of 9/11, many people warned the world, rightfully, not to blame all Muslims for the acts of some. I call upon those same people to speak out and warn the world not to blame all Jews for the acts of some. We, too, are individuals. We, too, deserve to be judged by our own actions, not by the group to which we belong. Unfortunately, I hold out little hope that this will happen.
Somehow I am one of the nominees for Best News Blog in the 2003 BlogBoard Awards. I am at a loss as to how that happened or who nominated me, but I greatly appreciate it whoever you are! If you want me to thank you personally, either leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I promise not to publish your name if you send me an e-mail.
Incidentally, I'm not stumping for votes here. I do think there really are much better news blogs that aren't on the list of nominees. But I am still appreciative of the thought. And I'm still, like other bloggers, a traffic and links slut.
Normally we think of people who have to live in their cars as unfortunate. But what if you had to live in a Cadillac that was "[o]utfitted with silk carpets, a crystal Bulgari clock, smoked-glass roof and a chilled-champagne compartment"? Got a spare $250,000?
Two Florida inmates face life in prison for hate crimes against a third prisoner. Seems the victim had stolen the pet spider of one of the alleged attackers and named it Pinky. No word on whether it was the kidnapping or the granting of the name which caused the most anger. Really, what spider could hold its head up high after being named "Pinky?"
While beating the victim so severely that they fractured his skull, the alleged attackers, both black, referred to the white victim as a "cracker." It was that racial slur that caused the State to charge the inmates with a hate crime, upgrading it to a life felony. Yes, beating someone so badly that they are hospitalized with a fractured skull will only get you a few years, but uttering a racial slur while doing so means life in prison. At least this puts the lie to the sometimes claim that blacks are never charged with hate crimes against whites.
The spider has not been located.
This weekend, I was participating in a couple of discussions in a politics forum I belong to. One was with a conservative on the issue of the symbolism of the Confederate flag. The other was with a liberal on the subject of the Clinton trial. These two seemingly very different conversations had one thing in common – In both my opponents effectively questioned the standing of others to render criticism on the subject at hand.
In the Confederate flag debate, the conservative, a nice, sincere guy from Texas, essentially said that northerners couldn’t critique racism in the South without being hypocrites because racism also exists in the North. I find that the equivalent of saying that somebody who lives near an abortion clinic would be hypocritical to oppose abortion rights due solely to their proximity to an abortion provider. Not because they themselves had encouraged their unwed teenage to seek an abortion two weeks ago, but just because of where they happen to live.
In the discussion about Clinton, I had asked the liberal, a nice, sincere woman from Louisiana, if she had no problem with the fact that the President, the man sworn to uphold our laws, had committed perjury. Let me backtrack and tell you that the topic of Clinton had arisen out of speculation that Bush might nominate Kenneth Starr to the Supreme Court. She ended her response to me with “And no president has ever lied? Nixon never lied? Reagan never lied? Bush sr (sic) never lied?” Please know that I did not and have not in the past made such a preposterous claim, nor did I breathe a word about any of them in my original question. Why would I? The topic was Clinton.
This brings me to a trend I have noticed – It is becoming increasingly difficult to have any legitimate debate on a topic without first having to demonstrate your impartiality to the satisfaction of all other participants. I find this a worrisome trend for several reasons.
It is troubling because we are now assumed guilty until proven innocent. It has also become incumbent upon us to demonstrate our innocence, rather than upon the “prosecution” to demonstrate our guilt. This is directly contrary to certain principles long revered in this country and upheld as a standard for others. Any person should be assumed to have standing to discuss any subject of public significance simply because they are. We can certainly question their knowledge of the topic and/or the sincerity of their position. Should we, however, choose to question their sincerity, we should have good reason to do so and offer that reason up. For instance, “I question your commitment to affirmative action because you are a member of the KKK,” works well. “I question your commitment to affirmative action because you live in Georgia,” does not.
The trend is also concerning because it implies that there is something wrong with partisanship and opposing viewpoints. A partisan is somebody who is committed to the principles of their party. That is a good thing, within broad, generally accepted social norms. It shows that someone is capable of commitment to a cause greater than themselves and is willing to work to advance it. It is not the same thing as blind zealotry, which can be dangerous. Although I, personally, am not a political partisan, as I choose to disavow our political parties, that does not imply that there are not principles to which I am committed, or that I find partisanship to be a bad thing. Partisans can admit that there are flaws in their ideology and understand that sometimes compromise is good and necessary. Zealots cannot. We should protect ourselves from zealots, but not from partisans. Opposing viewpoints are useful as well. If there are no opposing viewpoints, it is because the pendulum has stopped swinging. Opposition keeps us moving. Hopefully we move forward.
Lastly, this trend is disturbing because it stifles discussion. If, in the course of debate on a given topic, we are expected to mention every other instance of anything remotely similar, we will never be able to discuss anything. It is, firstly, an attempt to deflect the conversation off topic. It is also completely unworkable as a social construct. The net effect of it is to prevent resolution or consensus being reached on the subject. Multiply that by the number of major issues we need to address, and society will stagnate. We will be in a perpetual state of deadlock, groaning under the weight of this elusive, or perhaps illusive, balance. Balance is good in moderation, but on a societal scale it is only achieved when the pendulum stops dead center. Once that happens, we will be overtaken by a society that is still moving. You cannot advance if you do not move.
I did have one somewhat sarcastic solution. We should come up with a set of disclaimers for use in any discussion. For example, “The fact that I have criticized President Clinton does not imply that I believe other politicians, including, but not limited to, Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and Bush, have not committed acts worthy of criticism.” Or “The fact that I have criticized racism in the South does not imply that I believe racism does not exist in other regions or that I condone this other-regional racism.” If you have suggestions for other disclaimers, please let me know.
All right, co-conspirators, give a big shout out to Byoi!, a new recruit in our fast-growing army. Byoi!, your decoder ring and brainwashing tips manual are in the mail. We don't know who they're going to, but after waiting for 45 minutes to retrieve a small package at the local post office today, we're fairly sure that they won't be picked up anyway.
The Democrats have announced that they will propose an alternate stimulus plan on Monday, one day before the Bush administration formally proposes its plan. The announcement of the impending announcement is, however, light on details. House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, said of the plan, "It will be fair. It will be fiscally sound. It will create jobs ... and it will grow the economy." Great! But what will it encompass?
Now I realize that they are going to be announcing that on Monday, but the Bush administration did release some details of its plan prior to the formal announcement. I wish the Democrats had done the same thing. Instead, most of the pre-announcement is centered around criticism of those details of the Bush plan that were released.
"The speculation that I see doesn't indicate that there's much stimulus in the package," Pelosi said, commenting on accounts of the president's plan.
I agree. I'd just like a little more meat to digest before Monday than this tiny morsel offered by Tom Daschle:
"Democrats know the key to restarting economic growth: tax relief for middle class families; business incentives to create new jobs, and investments in human talent," Daschle said, according to a transcript of his comments released by his office.
Ah well. I suppose patience is a virtue, and the President spoiled me by releasing some details of his plan before the official announcement. Look for this to be the first big political fight of the new year, though.
Thursday, President Bush lamented what he described as "class warfare," responding to Democratic criticism that his tax breaks disproportionately benefit wealthier Americans.
Countered by this.
[Pelosi] dismissed the plan as a "Trojan horse to wheel in some tax breaks for the high end that they're so fond of."
Ladies and gentlemen, start your rhetoric.
One extremely funny parody of "The Two Towers". An excerpt:
EN ROUTE TO HELM'S DEEP
LEGOLAS and other warriors start slinging arrows and jumping onto horses.
GIMLI: What was that God-awful noise?
LEGOLAS: I'm guessing...wargs dying.
ARAGORN: Actually, it was Legolas's fangirl contingent, shrieking in delight at his horseback-riding tricks.
GIMLI: Ugh, that's sickening. Ooh, Aragorn, watch out! Cliff!
ARAGORN falls off cliff.
LEGOLAS: No! This is unbearable! I almost had ANOTHER facial expression!
You must read the whole thing. Very funny. Link via Asymmetrical Information.
The Bush administration is expected to propose an economic stimulus plan that would exempt 50% of an individual's dividend receipts from taxation. Other facets of the plan include a targeted tax credit for corporate capital expenditures, an acceleration of income tax cuts currently scheduled for 2004, and an extension of federal unemployment benefits. What is conspicuously absent is a Democratic suggestion to reduce payroll taxes for lower-income workers. Aides are concerned that the President is vulnerable to charges from Democrats that he is focusing on higher-income taxpayers, and had encouraged him to drop the plan to accelerate the 2004 cuts.
“If you pay taxes, you’re due tax relief, and the time that it’s needed most is now, as opposed to later,” the official said. “The president is concerned about helping those who are shouldering the burden of this recovery.”
Nearly everyone pays taxes in one form or another. Yet not everyone is going to get the tax relief they are apparently due under this plan. Any meaningful tax reform cannot look at income taxes in a vacuum, as though they are the only taxes that matter. Furthermore it is not only the higher-income taxpayers that are shouldering the burden of the recovery. Lower-income taxpayers consume goods as well, and they spend a higher percentage of their income to do so. They deserve tax relief, and the best way the federal government can provide it to them is to reduce payroll taxes. The President says he does not want to, because it would endanger Social Security. I submit that he should acquiesce to the Democrats on this, and then turn it around and use it as a spur towards Social Security reform.
I also object strenuously to the characterization of rate cuts for higher-income taxpayers as the primary means of economic stimulus. The consumption rates of lower-income taxpayers are much higher, since there is a certain level of consumption that one almost needs to do in order to survive (generally referred to as fixed consumption). In uncertain times, it is not a given that higher income taxpayers will use the additional disposable income for consumption, since their fixed consumption is already well covered. They may, in fact, choose to put it in safe investments, such as government bonds rather than even equities. Lower income taxpayers have a higher probability of using the additional disposable income for consumption.
If the idea is that the higher income taxpayers create wealth by creating jobs, than the tax cuts should be targeted at companies, not individuals. This is why I favor the targeted tax credit for capital expenditures. Such a credit will incent businesses to purchase capital equipment, driving up the revenues of the manufacturers and resellers, which could lead to new jobs. However, reports say that the acceleration of rate cuts is likely to be dropped as part of a compromise anyway.
Nor do I see how a tax cut on dividends provides much economic stimulus. The logic appears to be that it will improve investor confidence and encourage people to invest in profitable companies. I don't see how dividend tax cuts improve investor confidence. Investor confidence has been shaken by a series of accounting scandals and concerns over analyst independence, not by taxation of dividends. I further don't see how this encourages people to invest in profitable companies. Many highly profitable companies do not pay dividends (see also Microsoft). Indeed, profitable companies in aggressive growth industries rarely pay dividends, preferring to reinvest all corporate profits in growth strategies. It is usually the more mature companies that pay dividends. While I do think it is sound long-term policy, and in fact would prefer to see 100% of individual dividend receipts be tax-exempt (as it ends double taxation), I simply do not see it as much economic stimulus.
All in all, the only facets of this plan I see providing economic stimulus are the targeted tax credit for capital expenditures and the extension of unemployment benefits (as it will almost certainly be used for consumption). In fact, I wouldn't even say the extension of unemployment benefits will lead to stimulus as much as it will prevent decline. I have to say I'm disappointed in the reported plan.
My site traffic is around 2.5X its usual average as of right now. Not that I mind. Like most bloggers, I am a traffic and links slut (although I have the bonus of also being a gum slut). There are 3 reasons for this influx of traffic:
1. The Washington Post linked to me today. Seems somebody (go on, see if you can guess who) wrote to them telling them I was their favorite blogger.
Thanks to all of you! I hope I have some stickiness.
Senator Rick Santorum (R, Pennsylvania) has offered to step down as chairman of the powerful Rules and Administration Committee, offering the post to Trent Lott. Lott accepted. I have little doubt this was a "wink, wink, nudge, nudge, step down, Trent, for the good of the party, but we'll take care of you" kind of deal.
Senate Republicans still have to vote to confirm this, so I imagine that they'll be paying careful attention to public reaction over the weekend. If the outcry is large enough, look for them to vote against it. If people ignore it, look for him to be confirmed. This would give the Democrats something to point to in 2004, though. "The Republicans weren't really serious about rooting out racists in their midst." Must be nice to be part of the old boy network.
UPDATE: I really should have mentioned that the following is part of a blogburst, a simultaneous, cross-linked posting of many blogs on a single theme. This blogburst concerns J.R.R. Tolkien. For a guide to other Tolkien articles, go to The Tolkien BlogBurst Index at Yourish.com.
"So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." - Gandalf the Grey in "The Fellowship of the Ring"
When I first saw the movie, "The Fellowship of the Ring", it was three months after 9/11. Three months after nearly 100 people I knew were killed and my office destroyed. Three months after my life was irrevocably altered and I no longer felt safe.
Perhaps that is why the movie got to me on such a visceral level. From the moment Galadriel told the story of the rings of power, I felt tears well up. I rarely cry, although I do so more now then I did before. Yet throughout the film, tears were welling up in my eyes. The power of the story overwhelmed me.
Looking back, I realize I was still in shock at the time. The story reached beyond the emotionally protective walls I had built to my core. It represented to me how I was feeling, in some ways transforming itself within my psyche to the life I now led. Sauron became Osama bin Laden - omnipresent in my mind, yet shadowy and surreal, invested with a tremendous power for evil. The One Ring was the twin demons, Melancholy and Fear, that engulfed me, twisting me into someone different. I longed to be like Frodo - carrying my burden with acceptance and fortitude - but it was a struggle to simply get through the day.
Yet the story was incomplete, because nowhere in it was a wise and protective Gandalf, a calming and healing Elrond, an insightful and powerful Galadriel. Ultimately I played those roles myself, with the help of family, friends, and a professional. At that time, though, it seemed as though there was no one to take them on and help me fight the demons.
"How can men fight against such reckless hatred?" - Theoden, King of Rohan in "The Two Towers"
When I went to see "The Two Towers", it was 15 months after that Day. I sat in the theater waiting for the film to start, wondering how I would react to this one. Surely it would not be as powerful, because I was more removed in time from the raw emotions, from the depths of Melancholy and Fear. It was, yet it was not.
As the music started, the tears welled up again. I felt myself once more overwhelmed by the larger-than-lifeness of the story. Gandalf falling deep into Shadow. The sense of impending doom, as the massive Uruk-Hai troops stormed Helms' Deep. As with all mythology, the fight between good and evil resonates inside us. In times of peace, it reminds us of our own internal battle with those forces. In times of peril, it focuses our thoughts on the external world, on the people and things that threaten us.
I still reacted to this film in that latter manner, amazed at how the tale being played out on the screen so well represented my innermost thoughts and fears living in a post-9/11 world. Sauron was still Osama bin Laden. The Uruk-Hai were those who wish to destroy and kill us, nameless, faceless, not caring for our lives, in numbers great enough to instill fear of loss and wonder at how anyone can hate so much.
But this time I did not long to be Frodo. Frodo has taken a different journey; the Ring he carries twisting him, at times nearly overpowering him. He desperately wants to believe that he can return, to be the hobbit he was before embarking on his quest. My Ring has grown lighter, less burdensome. The song has ended, but the melody lingers on. Its tendrils wrap around my soul, but without the grief that used to accompany them. They are comforting now, because they carry the memories without the terrible, raw anguish. Although at times I do yearn to be the person I was before, I know and have accepted that will never be.
Laurence Simon suggested a little "Let's Pretend" scenario regarding the news story about Senator Frist stopping to aid accident victims in Florida. The game was to rewrite the story as though a different Senator were involved. I thought it would be fun to lampoon one of my two least favorite Senators, New York's own Chuck Schumer.1
An Isuzu Rodeo with six people aboard was heading west on Alligator Alley when it rolled over 3 to 4 miles west of the toll plaza in Broward County at 3:51 p.m., Broward Fire-Rescue Assistant Chief Todd Leduc said.
All six, including three children, were thrown out as the vehicle rolled. A 10-year-old boy died on the scene; another passenger died later at a hospital.
Authorities working to save lives at the scene were shocked when a man suddenly appeared, trailed by dozens of news cameras, and started lecturing on the dangers of SUVs in a thick New York accent. “It is a known fact that SUVs cause deadly harm to others. Their kill rate, with five lives taken for every one saved, makes them dangerous weapons that should be restricted. I plan to introduce a bill calling for SUV control this session. Highway patrol officers support this concept and consider it a very important life-saving tool.”
At first no one seemed to recognize the man, which appeared to upset him greatly. Once someone pointed out that the only lawmaker who was that much of a publicity hog was New York Senator Chuck Schumer, he calmed down, muttering to himself “I hope the lighting won’t make me look bad on television.”
1My other least favorite Senator is the carpetbagger herself, but Laurence already took a crack at her.
CNN reports that South Korea and China have agreed to settle the North Korean crisis through diplomacy. I wonder if anyone happened to mention that to the North Koreans.
Following the talks between the two officials, Shin Chung-seung, Director General of the Asia Pacific office of the South Korean Foreign Ministry, said: "At today's conference South Korea and China reaffirmed the principle of resolving North Korea's nuclear problem peacefully through dialog."
But he offered no details on how the two nations planned to go about that effort.
Probably because the North Koreans will need to be involved before they can work out the details. I think the crisis is solvable through diplomacy; I'm just amused that the South Koreans and Chinese seem to have decided this will happen on their own.
I also think, as stated previously, that the United States will need to be involved in this as well. It is clear that the North Korean brinksmanship is directed in large part at us, so any solution will have to involve us. It is not surprising, therefore, that we are hosting a meeting with South Korea and Japan next week to discuss this. Given the current news, China should be invited as well.
My brother sent me an e-mail and promised to buy me a pack of gum if I'd post the following. Hey, what can I say, I'm a gum slut. Although since he made me build all the story links, I'm holding out for two packs.
I became a New England Patriots fan and a New York Jets fan when ex-Giants savior Bill Parcells took the helm of both teams. Alas, as a Giants fan first and last, there is no way that I’m rooting for the Cowboys now that Tuna appears to be riding into Dallas for the rescue.
The Knicks have slumped (is that the right word?) to the 9th worst record in the league after languishing with the league’s lowlights earlier this year. They’ve won 3 of 4 and I’m getting an ominous feeling. Not only are they climbing towards respectability with an 11 and 17 record but I sense the playoffs on the horizon. They’re a mere 1 ½ games out of the last playoff spot in their conference. There goes the good draft pick.
My thoughts: I hate Bill Parcells. Can't he stay retired? As for the Knicks, yeah, the playoff spot they're aiming for is going to help them so much more than a good draft pick. The idiots are going for the wrong goal. There's no way they'll win a championship, so why not go for the good draft pick?
Incidentally, I have a bet with my brother about who will win the NBA championship this year. He says it's the Lakers, showing a misguided faith in
Shaq and Kobe Shaq, Kobe, and Phil Jackson to carry the rest of the lousy team. I say no way, and it'll be Sacramento or Dallas. The great thing is I don't even have to be right about it being Sacramento or Dallas, because the bet is only about the Lakers. All the Lakers have to do is continue their abysmal performance, and I get a free dinner. Go me.
A family in Canada will soon be sporting a jewel made from a dead relative. The family had Grandma's cremated remains made into a synthetic diamond through a process using intense heat. The diamond will be placed in a gold ring. "Hey, you got to wear Grandma yesterday! It's my turn today."
In other bizarre Canadian death rituals, a Toronto company will create a painting including the cremated remains of your loved one. If only Andy Warhol had been cremated, one could literally fulfill the words of the David Bowie song "Andy Warhol looks a scream. Hang him on my wall." In a way, I imagine Warhol might have actually appreciated that. He would have been truly immortalized by art.
A man who legally changed his name to "Jack Ass" is suing Viacom for defamation of character over the MTV program, "Jackass". The former Bob Craft changed his name in 1997 to draw attention to the dangers of drunk driving. I know that when I think of the word "jackass" I immediately think about drunk driving.
He is suing Viacom because he claims it is "liable for injury to my reputation that I have built and defamation of my character which I have worked so hard to create." Hands up, all of us who have heard of this guy and the character he has "worked so hard to create" before. Nobody? I don't think he worked hard enough.
And what of this "reputation" he has built? He changed his name to "Jack Ass." Most people don't associate positive things with that term. When people refer to others by it, they are not being complimentary and nice. I'm sorry for the guy, who did this after his brother and friend were killed when their car crashed, but he changed his name to a common insult. The rest of us better watch out and not insult people using that phrase again. We might get sued.
Lake Superior State University, a small private college in Michigan, has compiled the 2003 list of banned words. The list is put together from entries received throughout the year and represents those words that the selection committee considered highly over-used.
Among the words on this year's list are "weapons of mass destruction" and "homeland security." How sweet. If only it were really so easy to ban those things. "Well, we can't use the words 'weapons of mass destruction' anymore, so no one can possibly have them!" Quick, somebody tell Hans Blix. Or, "Sorry, Mr. Ridge, but your department can't exist, because some two-bit college in Michigan says we're not allowed to use the words 'homeland security' ever again."
I do have some sympathy with the concept, however, as other banned words include "must-see TV" and the use of the word "challenge" instead of "problem." I would also submit that "opportunity" should have been included along with "challenge." "We don't have a problem. We have an opportunity!" Oh, fuck that, a budget shortfall is a problem, and no idiotic cheerleading will change that. It will, however, make me want to slap the person saying it. The good news, though, is to that person, my wanting to slap them could not be a problem, but an opportunity. Indeed, it is, an opportunity for me to exorcise my frustrations on a simpering, saccharine moron. Too bad common sense prevents me from seizing that opportunity. Well, common sense and the mortgage I have to pay.
You can see the full list of words here.