Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: April 2005 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Have Towel, Will Travel

Well, this blogging stuff is finally beginning to pay off. I managed to score passes to the pre-release screening of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a press kit, and some cool swag.

Arriving at the theatre early, I was met by a sight that could only be describes as a hybrid of a Dead/Phish concert, the line for Stones tickets the night before they go on sale, and the registration cue for an engineering conference. Douglas Adams has apparently touched a lot more lives than I had suspected.

I’ve been a huge Hitchhiker fan since reading the first book as a teenager. I’ve since passed the torch along to the next generation of Cards, both of whom have read and reread the “trilogy” (there are five books and a short story. You figure it out) with equal enthusiasm and abandon.

I took the youngest Card with me to the screening. He had gotten hold of my press kit, and littered the showing with production details, like “did you know that the actor playing Marvin weighs 85 pounds, and the suit he’s wearing weighs 55 pounds, mostly because of the head? I’m waiting for him to fall over”.

Like all literary fans, I’m usually skeptical when movies are made from my favorite books, because Hollywood tends to “formulize” stories beyond recognition (recent case in point - “Sahara”). The only recent film adaptation I’ve been satisfied with lately is the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although not literarily pure, it captured the essence of the author’s original work. The same can be said of Hitchhiker, although, being somewhat of a niche film, it probably won’t get the critical acclaim, merchandising opportunities or gazillions of dollars that Rings got.

Another similarity that Hitchhiker has with Rings is that the cast seems cohesive. The Rings cast, having spent several years together, created bonds between them that are evident in the film. Likewise Hitchhiker. The cast fuses well, probably due somewhat to them all having been Hitchhiker fans prior to production. It’s also apparent that those behind the scenes were committed to put out a product that not only would represent the fruition of Adams’ dream, but would also do him proud.

This film adaptation is the long awaited culmination of Adams’ decade spanning dream. Those involved in the film claim that the film took so long to become reality because it was waiting for technology to catch up with Adams’ imagination.

From the opening credits, which feature dolphins in a Broadway Musical-style aquatic dance number singing “So long, and thanks for all the fish”, to the closing credits, which includes an old-school educational film vignette on the dangers of misunderstandings, as evidenced by the war between the G'gugvunts and the Vl'hurgs (Don’t leave the theatre as soon as the ending credits begin. The vignette is well worth the wait, but doesn’t start until the first closing credit song is over), this film accomplishes just that. It captures the look, feel and flavor of the book that first drew me into this strange universe and still hasn’t let me loose.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Strike two. One out, man on Frist. Sa-wing batter!

Frist Urges an End to Nominee Filibusters
Analysis: Unexpectedly, Democrats Stand Firm

"unaccountable and arrogant and imperious and determined to redesign the culture according to their own biases and values, and they're out of control."

This sounds a lot like me when I'm describing Tom DeLay and his cohorts as they try to reshape the american political landscape into what they think it should be.

But this is actually a quote from James Dobson, chairman of Focus on the Family, talking about the Supreme Court, 78% of whom were appointed by Republican Presidents.

But the big news is that Senator Bill Frist spoke at this event, dubbed "Justice Sunday: Stopping the Filibuster Against People of Faith". Although he avoided specific references to Bible verses, he aligned himself against the majority of Americans who are not Fundamentaloids.

"Senator Frist's words today were less important than his giving the imprimatur to this conference, which clearly argues that people of one viewpoint have God on their side and all others are faithless," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "This will only make his job as Senate leader more difficult."

Strike one: Being instrumental in the push to politicize the Terry Schiavo debacle for political gain.

Strike two: Speaking out at a blatantly religious forum, possibly alienating the majority of his constituents in his attempt at political opportunism.

The count is 2-0. Batter up!

some days it's just better to stay home

take a stroke, or play it where it lies?

The Golden Rule

Details on DeLay trip add to woes, experts say

Plane fare to Great Britain: $6,938.70.
Hotel room for four nights: $3,160.
Golf at St. Andrews: $5,000 per player
Having Tom DeLay pass legislation
makes money for you and your clients: Priceless

Remind me not to donate money to the National Center for Public Policy Research. Even if I gave the maximum tax deductible amount, it would barely cover tips on Tom DeLay’s “research” trip to Great Britain back in May 2000.

His little junket rang up over $120,000 in expenses (that we know of so far), and was supposedly paid for by the NCPPR, even though some of the expenses were paid for with credit cards carried by lobbyists who accompanied him. Other expenses include a $302 ride from the airport to the hotel, and $434 for tickets to the theatre that DeLay doesn’t recall attending.

DeLay’s fellow Republicans say he didn’t do anything wrong; that what he’s doing is common practice. That, in itself, demonstrates our lawmakers’ mindset. It’s okay to take favors and expensive gifts in exchange for consideration of one’s issues. As long as they’re not passing cash to guarantee votes. That’s a mighty thin line, though, and leaves a lot of leeway for back-room dealing.

When a registered lobbyist who is actively lobbying a legislator and the wife of that legislator both work for the same “non profit” organization, and the lobbyist’s clients make a huge donation to the non-profit at the same time the non-profit pays for a luxury vacation for the legislator, then the legislator (known as the most powerful member of his legislative branch) pushes through legislation favoring the lobbyist’s clients, how exactly does that help our society?

It’s just another example of the Golden Rule. He who has the gold, rules.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Police finger culprit

Finger-in-chili case a hoax, police say

Police put the finger on Anna Ayala for planting the fingertip in her chili in order to extort money from Wendy's Restaraunts. Although we still don't know who the finger belongs to, it apparently didn't get there by falling into the ingredients or by someone serving the chili.

Wendy's claims that the digitmania has taken a $2.5 million bite out of their sales, leading to the felony charges against Ayala. I suggest that their loss (or, in actuality, lack of gain in market share) is due in part to the economy, their business practices, and the fact that they've taken the Texas Double off of their value menu.

Don't get me wrong - I'm one of the reasons Wendy's has been doing so well. I'm a Cheeseburgerholic in pre-denial stage. I like mine with lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and french fried potatoes. And Wendy's Texas Double Cheeseburger is the only fast food cheeseburger I can order in this town without conditions.

My local Wendy's still makes my Texas Doubles for me at a slightly higher price, so I still frequent them more often than their competitors. But the general public may not do this, and that could have something to do with the loss of market share.

It's all about the market. Not the finger. Not the chili. What does Wendy's, headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, know about chili anyway? They put noodles in their chili in Ohio.

It's all about the market. If they want bean sprouts in their chili in California, give it to 'em! Put noodles in your chili in Ohio, I don't care! Just give me mustard and onions on my cheeseburger, and you can have gay sex on the counter in Indiana and it won't bother me.

I seem to have gotten off track here. Yes, Anna Ayala attempted to screw the big guys, and the big guys fought back. Anna lost because she was a dirt bag, looking for an easy scam. It's good that she got blasted. Let's just hope that people with legitimate gripes don't suffer from being compared to her when they try to get the big guys to own up to their responsibilities.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Big Business wins again

House approves energy bill
Guzzle away — Uncle Sam's buying

The Republican majority in the legislative branch is beginning to pay off for major party contributors.

The House approved a broad energy bill today aimed at boosting domestic production, including provisions to allow oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge and to shield makers of a gasoline additive from water contamination lawsuits.

Although the bill does little to ease the high cost of fuel or our reliance on foreign oil, it's a big break for oil companies who want to turn one of our last remaining wildernesses into an oilfield, and eliminates the risk of lawsuits against MTBE manufacturers for polluting our water supplies.

It also includes $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for energy companies, and leaves communities with a potential $29 billion in cleanup costs due to the gasoline additive's contamination of water supplies in 29 states.

What the bill doesn't include are requirements for automobile manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency in their product, or elimination of tax breaks for business that use gas guzzling vehicles in the course of their business.

The MTBE provision has been a top priority of Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, who argue that Congress endorsed the widespread use of the additive when it required gasoline contain an oxygenate to help clean up the air.

Both are from Texas where major MTBE manufacturers are located.

The energy bill would shield these companies from lawsuits claiming that MTBE is a defective product and that the companies knew all along it would cause water contamination problems. At least 80 lawsuits involving MTBE have been filed.

This is just the beginning, folks. Get used to the idea that the GOP will push it's agenda as far as it can until the taxpayers are finally fed up and revolt against the policies that benefit big business but cost states and communities big bucks to clean up their mess.

I only hope the public wakes up to the danger before there's irreversible "eco" damage - economical, ecological, and ecospiritual.

Quote of the Day

Parents these days are like Democrats -
weak, spineless, ineffective,
and not holding up their end of the equation.

Kids are like Republicans -
drunk with power, and out of control.

-- Bill Maher

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Hey, I'm all about the 2nd Amendment

I just think that if someone needs an automatic weapon to hunt,
he should consider a new pastime...

Back in the 70s, I didn't approve of Elton John's lifestyle, but I still bought his records.

These days, I don't approve of Arnold Swarzenegger's politics, but I still like his movies.

I always thought Ted Nugent was a little wacko, but that didn't stop me from listening to his music. I knew it was kinda degrading to women, but I was a forgiving soul in those days. A little degradation never hurt anyone, right? You have to remember that this was the 70s and I was a teenager, and not averse to a little self-degradation myself. You hadda be there.

After his "performance" this past weekend, though, I can't bring myself to put his CD in the player. His radio interviews, opening night spectacle and Saturday night speech opened my eyes to just how deranged he is. With his "kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" mentality, I can't believe he called those who think like me "ree-tards".

Now I'm sorry I spent money on his albums and CDs. I don't mind supporting Elton's lifestyle - at least he puts a good portion of his income towards AIDS research. I don't even mind helping Jimmy Buffett buy his latest boat or plane. I don't think I own any Swartzenegger DVDs, but even if I did, I don't get the feeling of revulsion when I see him as I do, now, when I even look at a Nugent album cover.

Ironically, Demolition Man is playing in the background as I'm writing this. That bit about the Swartzenegger Presidential Library is strangely prophetic, don't you think? Say, Stallone hasn't gone wacko on us too, has he? Probably not, with the message behind the Rambo movies.

But I digress. I'm not against self-defense weapons, although I'm a bladed and blunt instrument man myself. I haven't heard of any school massacres or home invasions involving bows and arrows lately. Or airline hijackings using nail clippers or lighters, for that matter. But if Nugent, DeLay, LaPierre (of "jack-booted thug" fame), and the rest of those wackos have their way (which they probably will), automatic weapons available without any restrictions, registration or background checks will be the norm in our society, and available to anyone who disagrees with anyone else.

I feel safer. Don't you?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Gonna party like it's 1899!

"woo hoo, your holiness!"

The funny thing is, they don't even know who the new pope is yet. They're just cheering for the white smoke...

"To honor the events in Rome, my friends and I have bought a load of hash-smoking paraphernalia and we will lock ourselves in a room until we decide which one is the best.

When you see white smoke coming from the chimney you will know for sure that a new Pipe has been chosen!"

JL Pagano

again from Blonde Sense

and the winner is...

After a closed-cage grudge match in the Sistine Chapel, Joseph Ratzinger, or as he's known in the 'family', "Joey Rats", emerged the clear winner. His new moniker will be Benedict XVI, which is Middle Age Gallic for "old pucker puss".

The selection of Ratzinger indicates that the church will ignore the 21st century and insist on living in the Middle Ages. Ratzinger has been a hard-liner against reforms and modernization, and his first official act will be to issue the edict that, effective immediately, the Gregorian calendar will begin to count backwards.

Ratzinger served John Paul II since 1981 as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In that position, he has disciplined church dissidents and upheld church policy against attempts by liberals for reforms.

Many blame Ratzinger for decrees from Rome barring Catholic priests from counseling pregnant teens on their options and blocking German Catholics from sharing communion with their Lutheran brethren at a joint gathering in 2003.

Ratzinger has clashed with prominent theologians at home, most notably the liberal Hans Kueng, who helped him get a teaching post at the University of Tuebingen in the 1960s. The cardinal later publicly criticized Kueng, whose license to teach theology was revoked by the Vatican in 1979.

He has also sparred openly in articles with fellow German Cardinal Walter Kasper, a moderate who has urged less centralized church governance and is considered a dark horse papal candidate.

"He has hurt many people and far overstepped his boundaries in Germany," said Christian Wiesner, spokesman for the pro-reform Wir Sind Kirche, or We Are Church movement.

On the brighter side, he's 78 years old, the second oldest cardinal ever elected pope, so the damage he can do should be minimal. Unless he's scored a good source of spiritual viagra, in which case we're all screwed.

The Grasshopper and the Ants

how Social Security solvency can be achieved without private accounts, using the new Food Pyramid

Now that the 'private accounts' method of Social Security solvency plan is dead in the water, the administration has taken a new tack towards solving the future deficit problems.

The new Food Pyramid turns the current thinking on its head, giving us vertical choices rather than horizontal. For those of you who are perpendicularly challenged, that means up and down, rather than side to side. Efforts to turn black to white are already being tested, as evidenced by the pope election smoke experiment.

The new nutrition guidelines include changing units of measurement from "servings" (aw c'mon, Dad! That is one serving! It fits in the bowl, doesn't it?), to "cups" and "ounces", which are not easily measured by modern containers. Can you see ordering a double latte mocha frappiccino in ounces?

Where this new nutrition plan really rocks is how it solves Social Security solvency without the need for private accounts. By offering different recommendations for different lifestyles and activity levels, it makes it easier for Americans to comply with the guidelines, and at the same time help the economy.

For example, if you're poor or a Democrat, and hopefully both, the guidelines call for a high cholesterol, high carbohydrate, low exercise program that is easy to maintain. In the long run, it will result in a reduced lifespan, thereby freeing up Social Security dollars for those who really deserve it - namely Republicans who have worked hard but spent all their money on boats and guns and things, so they haven't bothered to save for retirement.

It's a win-win situation. The lazy, gluttonous libruls (grasshoppers) get what they want - an easy life. The industrious, right-thinking lemmings (ants) get what they want - government subsidies when they don't feel like workin' no more.

Unless there are extenuating factors, like Progressives who work hard for a living, yet still have compassion for those who don't have the leverage to lift themselves up out of poverty in order to make changes in the way society treats them.

In that case, you'd better have donuts. Progressives like donuts. And I don't recall seeing donuts anywhere in the Food Pyramid. I think these guys need to rethink their strategy.

Stuff and BlondeSense

Found some good stuff on BlondeSense this morning. In a comment thread, Willie E. Davis waxes theoretical in an essay on life in the year 2021 in America (or what’s left of it). Read
If Only We Knew Then What I Know Now.
It’s an interesting read, and an all too possible future history lesson.

So much for the "freedom" the Chinese claim they are bringing to us. We know that they just want our land and resources. I would guess that the Chinese civilians back in China probably do believe their government is trying to bring Democracy back to the United States. Surely they must believe in their government the same way I believed in mine back in the beginning of the second Iraq war.

Also, from Peter of Lone Tree, the not-so-shocking news: George W. Bush Elected Pope ... Cardinals Stunned!

A sample taste:

"We in the conclave are all shocked. We cast our votes using these new electronic voting machines. The results overwhelmingly favored George W. Bush over all the Catholic candidates. The last Pope, John Paul, was a superb linguist, fluently speaking 11 languages, this one can't speak fluently in one language. We just don't know what to say."

Other tasty bits include:

George W. Bush had this to say moments ago as he spoke from the Rose Garden:"I am honoured to be the spiritual lighthouse, and the first War Pope. I promise Evangelical Catho-licks and Prostates alike that I will be embodied in salvation and fair in the performance of my duties.

I am a Unitifier, not a Divide-a-cater. I am obliged to try to save as many lost souls as I can, at least the Devout Wealthy Elite Souls, as it is well known that Heaven is a very select place, indeed, it is more exclusive than even the best of country clubs. It is a members only Heaven. I may have to put a fence around it.

And I may be behind the curve here, but it also appears by their new header that they’ll be migrating away from Blogger soon. Good luck in your new home, y’all!

Monday, April 18, 2005

Blog the Revolution!

(The Pulse of Freedom editorial board, from left to right:
Jad Ghostine, Nabil Abu-Charraf, and Joumanna Nasr.)

Pulse of Freedom '05
The Revolution Will Be Blogged

What's better than a revolution? One that includes babes!

These guys will be blogging from Beirut as they countdown to Syria's withdrawal and democratic elections.

People must be aware of their rights as citizens and as voters, ultimately embodied by the Constitution - a text that defends and secures all citizens’ rights and ensures the protection of the weak in a way that neither religion nor political affiliation can. If politicians do not defend the Constitution, the people must guard their rights themselves. Our actions will crescendo over the next couple of weeks until our demands are met. We will refuse any delay of the deadline for the elections, and view it as a violation of our basic rights as they are protected by the Constitution. Our goal is to familiarize everyone with the importance of this right. Over the next couple of weeks we will visit villages all over Lebanon to create awareness. This will be accompanied by a set of daily events organized at Martyrs’ Square, including performances by artists and singers. We will keep going until our fundamental voting rights are respected and enforced…

As there are only eleven days left on the countdown, I'll be following this to see how this blog thing can affect the outcome of a region's struggles. No matter which way the ball drops, the world will be watching (or reading, as the case may be).

Place your bets!

the brackets are in!

Are these guys in control of Washington, or what?

Coincidence? I think not!
(image courtesy of Carnival of Cordite)

The NRA's annual convention wrapped up this weekend with harsh rhetoric aimed at the Democratic Party and the "liberal media".

"The Second Amendment is not a loophole. Quit trying to fix it," Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry told thousands of cheering people during the opening ceremony for the NRA's 134th convention.

Rocker and gun-rights activist Ted Nugent took the convention center stage and played the national anthem on a guitar painted like the American flag. Organizers also paraded former members of Congress who have helped the NRA.

"Let those who oppose us hear our words loud and clear. We did not struggle for 25 years to give back one bit," said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president.

The NRA is riding a wave of success. Its membership is at an all-time high. And it has helped elect Republicans who support their agenda, including efforts to limit lawsuits seeking damages against gun manufacturers and distributors, and blocking a new ban on assault weapons.

And, of course, entertainers, whom the GOP has always accused of being out of touch with reality when they speak out against right wing agendas, joined the attack as well.

Country music singer Charlie Daniels, who hosted the opening ceremony, also targeted the political left, describing it as "silly and unrealistic" and only wanting to banish the Second Amendment.

As expected, everyone's favorite Rock & Roll gun nut let loose with both barrels.

With an assault weapon in each hand, rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent urged National Rifle Association members to be "hard-core, radical extremists demanding the right to self-defence." Speaking at the NRA's annual convention Saturday, Nugent said each NRA member should try to enrol 10 new members over the next year and associate only with other members.

"Let's next year sit here and say, `Holy smokes, the NRA has 40 million members now,' " he said. "No one is allowed at our barbecues unless they are an NRA member. Do that in your life."

I don't think I'd want to go to an NRA barbecue anyway. I've been to plenty of barbecues, and it's hazardous enough when a bunch of drunks are around fire. I wouldn't want to be there if there were firearms also.

And, suprise, suprise, Tom DeLay was the keynote speaker Saturday night, clinging to the last vestiges of support available to him - his core base of God & Guns loyalists.

"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good," he said.

All of the cheerleading was basically preaching to the choir, though, as it appears everyone left of the same opinion with which they came.

Ronnie Schneider, who attended the convention with his 13-year-old son, Tate, said he has carried a concealed handgun in Texas since the state allowed it in 1995.

"It's a good healthy thing, I think, for people to like guns," said Schneider, 54, from Willis. "The attitude of the (liberals) is they want to keep us from bearing arms, keep us from our freedoms. Liberals have no brains."

And reports differ when the media addressed protesters. I seems anywhere from "a handful" to "a hundred" were on site, mostly protesting DeLay.

No matter who you listen to, though, the NRA has become a force to be reckoned with, with approximately 4 million members. They've been dictating to Congress and the White House for 25 years, have had their advocates elected, and had their opponents thrown out of office.

They control Washington all right, and seeing the similarities in the images above may seem too "tinfoil hat" to you - but whether it's a convenient coincidence or an intentionally arrogant nose-thumbing by the NRA, it's a telling commentary on their status in today's political environment.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Finger this one out

It started with a claim that Anna Ayala found a piece of a human finger in the chili she bought from a Wendy's restaurant in San Jose, California.
Anna Ayala showing us what a finger looks like.

Wendy's claims that none of its employees lost any fingers, and no reports of hand injuries were reported amongst its suppliers. They've offered a $50,000 reward to anyone who has information leading to the origin of the finger. You've got to "hand" it to them, they're thorough.

The local coroner's office ran a search on a partial fingerprint, but came up "empty handed".

Criminal investigators, based on a "tip", have discovered that Anna has a history of filing this kind of lawsuit, including a sexual harrassment charge against her employer, and a food poisoning claim against another fast food chain.

The investigators "knuckled" down on Anna and searched her home, attempting to "nail" her with evidence that she knows where the finger came from.

Since then, Ayala has dropped her claim, saying it's caused her "great emotional stress".

digitizes digits - the evidence

Recent developments have an exotic animal rescuer reporting that a leopard bit the finger off of a caretaker in Nevada, Ayala's home state. The feline manicure resulted in the inability to reattach the digit, and it remained in the cat's cage as a toy.

Photos were taken of the amputated finger, and they are being compared to the chili's extra ingredient.

If it proves to be one and the same digit, does this qualify as a feline-y?

Stay tuned for updates. Same cat time, same cat channel.

Obligatory Friday cat blogging

I've determined that one of the reasons I don't get no respect in the blogging community is that I don't cat blog.

So I went out and rented a cat. Just kidding, I really stole him. So I actually do own a cat, although I'm sure he sees the ownership position being the other way around.

This is Jester. And the box from my $15 shoes. That's right, I'm cheap. I haven't owned a pair of Nike's since they passed the $40 threshold. I don't run enough to justify pawning my cat just so my feet can look spiffy.

Anyway, it looks like I need to either get bigger feet, or find him another kind of box. I'll bet a case of Corona would be about the right size.

Would that be considered killing two birds with one stoned? Sorry. Besides, Jester's the one that does the bird killin' round here.

Happy Friday, y'all!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Every sperm is sacred

Legislators take a look at stem cell research

There are six pieces of legislation before the 79th Texas legislature regarding stem cell research. For anyone who has slept for the past year and hasn’t heard of it, it’s research geared toward collecting embryonic stem cells before they become a fetus. These cells can be used to create a wide variety of specialized cells, and could lead to cures for cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and heart disease.

But because it requires creating, and then destroying, an embryo, the fundamentaloids are playing the “sanctity of life” (SOL) card, and are thus opposed to it.

A bill filed by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, would prohibit the therapeutic work. Such research raises ethical concerns because it could lead to cloning babies, King said.

Well, yeah, but selling automatic weapons could lead to someone being shot, but I don’t see a big push to outlaw guns. I guess gun control doesn’t qualify as an SOL issue, even though legal handguns end more lives every year than stem cell research ever will.

"Extracting the stem cell destroys the embryo, and that's where our ethical dilemma begins," King told the House State Affairs Committee. "There is no difference in the process used to produce cloned human embryos."

Well, maybe a little difference, since therapeutic cloning doesn’t use sperm or a uterus. Okay, a big difference, since I consider those two components some of my favorite parts of the reproduction process.

Rep. Beverly Woolley, R-Houston, filed a bill that would allow for most kinds of stem cell research, including therapeutic cloning. Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, filed a bill and a joint resolution that establishes a Texas Institute for Regenerative Medicine for stem cell research.. And Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, has a bill that establishes a stem cell research program to make grants and loans for the work.

These representatives believe that research will be done, and those doing the research will set up shop in states that not only allow the research, but encourage it. If Texas isn’t one of those states, money will go elsewhere, like California, which is on the cutting edge of this type of research.

On the side of “no” is Rep. Ken Paxton, R-McKinney, who filed a bill that would prohibit the use of state money for research involving embryonic stem cell research.

So far, no actions have been taken by the legislature. Whichever way we go, however, will determine whether Texas stays in the forefront of the medical research community, or lets other states attract the best medical minds and funding dollars.

But we don’t need better medical care, cures for untreatable diseases, or more money infused into our economy. Not if it offends our sensibilities. And why does it offend our sensibilities? Because the conservatoons told us it’s supposed to, that’s why. The same people who told us Iraq had WMDs, and that Haliburton was the only company that could handle the task of support for the war over those non-existent WMDs. So you know they wouldn’t lie to us to further their own agenda. Would they?

DeLay'd reaction

DeLay under siege

Poor Tommy. It seems that the public just doesn't understand him. He's been lambasted relentlessly lately, and he's been strangely silent in his defense of these charges of corruption, influence peddling, and illegal campaign finance practices.

Now he wants to come clean. Not with his constituents, but with the Republican leadership. In a closed door session, he laid out his defense plan. Unfortunately, it's not available to the general public. Does this sound like the actions of an innocent man?

He claims to be the victim of a left-wing smear campaign. Well, yeah, when a right-wing fundamentaloid makes it his mission to impose his will on the public in general and the legislature specifically, the opposition is going to try to find inconsistencies in his modus operandi. And find inconsistencies they did, exposing illegal pandering and influence peddling on a wide spread basis.

He's managed to get rid of the head Republican on the House Ethics Committee who had the gall to question his ethics, and now the Ethics Committee is in a stalemate on how to handle the situation.

So now we're waiting for Tommy to defend himself. He asked his fellow Republicans to be patient while he figures out how to spin his tale. We'll have to monitor this situation, since his brethren aren't talking at the moment.

But I think Trent Lott said it best when he advised DeLay:

“strap it on, baby, because you are fixing to get it."

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Don we now our anti-gay apparel

House panel OKs ban on same-sex marriage

In one fell swoop, the Texas GOP has managed to propose to turn the state constitution into a prohibiition document and insure the defeat of State Representative Martha Wong, R-Houston.

A proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage was passed Monday by a House committee that rejected a broader proposal that could have banned civil unions.

The proposed constitutional amendment could be taken up by the full House as early as next week. The author, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, said he has the two-thirds majority vote required to send the measure to the Senate.

Despite more than 200 witnesses who spoke against House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR 6), the State Affairs Committee voted in favor of the resolution, including Rep. Martha Wong, who represents the Montrose, long considered the center of Houston's Gay community.

Despite the committees expectation that deliberation would take place in the debate, the vote was proposed just minutes into the process.

The vote took Farrar by surprise, coming just minutes into the early-morning meeting.
"I was disappointed that we weren't more deliberate in this. It was just political," said Farrar, D-Houston.

Farrar said she had hoped to hear testimony from the Texas attorney general's office about whether a court challenge of the constitutional amendment is expected and how much the state might have to spend to fight such a lawsuit.

"I believe that no matter how you feel about the homosexuals or the 'practices,' as Chisum says, I think it writes discrimination into the constitution," Farrar said.

There are those who say this is a "Family Values" issue, and that this issue is at the heart of the "moral values" that determined the outcome of the last presidential race. Others say that the Fundamentaloids are capitalizing on the momentum from this movement.

The author of the bill, Warren Chisum, R - Pampa, suggests otherwise.

Chisum said during the committee hearing that his proposal does not discriminate against anyone. "It discriminates against a practice, not people," he said. "Marriage between one man and one woman is essential to the future of this state."


How is the marriage between one man and one woman essential to the future of this state? Our recent Governor (current President), disavowed his first marriage between one man and one woman when he changed his mind and married Laura.

We're all doomed!

Bureaucracy at its finest

I drove downtown today.

The good news: traffic light synchronization works great! I drove from one side of downtown to the other and only stopped three times! Green light, green light, green light, red. Green light, green light, green light, red. Cool!

The bad news? one and a half left turn lanes, one and a half forward lane, and two High Occupany Vehicle (HOV) lanes, or "diamond lanes", as we call them. Except these HOV lanes, which are supposed to be reserved for buses and vehicles with more than one passengers, are the only lanes where you can turn right.


It seems that the lanes are designated as HOV lanes in order to get federal funding for road repairs for downtown Houston. This funding is normally reserved for mass transit, such as rail lines, but since rail is so unpopular, and uneconomical, in metropolitan areas as spread out as Houston (and, incidently, L.A.), creative financing is the scheme du jour.

Bottom line - the diamond lanes downtown are not being enforced. I have no problem with this, as potholes plague us all and should be eradicated in order to further the cause of mankind in general. But I'm concerned that those that regularly abuse HOV lanes city-wide can use this non-enforcement to justify their abuse of legitimate HOV lanes - those that control the major arteries into the city - to avoid traffic backups that are a normal part of the daily commute into the city.

I'm not a frequent visitor to downtown Houston. When, by necessity or desire, I attempt to approach the nether region that is the center of our metropolitan area, I dutifully plan ahead and expect to sit in traffic for far longer that the speed limit suggests.

Those that feel that normal rules don't apply to them can expect no sympathy from me. This applies not only to those who feel HOV standards don't apply, but also to those that attempt to merge after lanes are closed.

Okay, before I get on a rant here, let it be said that I'm all in favor of dowtown improvements. Especially here, where it seems like we've been under construction forever. And I'm not in favor of enforcing the "diamond lanes" downtown, especially if I want to make a right turn.

I'm just saying, if you want consistency, you can't expect to enforce the rules in some parts of town, and not enforce them in others, and expect the citizens to accept it unconditionally.

Especially from those who tend to lean to the left more often that they turn to the right...

Livin' and dyin' in 3/4 time

Those who lack health insurance need ingenuity

Still not convinced we have a health care crisis in this country? Some people have discovered that its so much cheaper to get medical services in other countries, airfare included, that they're combining their vacations with preventive and elective medical care and still saving piles of money. Take the case of Arnaud Durieux:

Because he has no health or dental insurance, he figured this was his best option to get good care at a good price, even factoring in the cost to fly. The French dentist charged about $500 for the crown, compared with the $2,000 he says it would have cost in New York.

Durieux's is one of many unusual strategies that the 45 million uninsured people in the United States employ in an attempt to keep themselves healthy without going broke, as medical and health insurance costs have soared in recent years.

Escalating costs of health insurance, particularly for those whose employers don't provide economical health care coverage, have driven many to seek alternatives for health care. Most of them are young people for whom health care is not a big priority. But as these folks get older, this strategy catches up with them, saddling them with medical care costs that far exceed their available budget.

For Nancy Twigg, a 38-year-old author and newsletter publisher in Knoxville, Tenn., being uninsured means looking up her symptoms on the Internet when she gets sick, peppering friends who are nurses and pharmacists with questions, and treating whatever she can with over-the-counter medicines.

If disaster strikes, she has faith she'll be covered by a service called Samaritan Ministries, a group of Christians who send money each month to members of the network with high medical bills.

"We are happy to know that it goes to a family in need, rather than a large insurance corporation," she said.

When doctor's visits become unavoidable, she has found a doctor who offers a discount to self-pay patients and recently gave her $1,000 worth of drug samples to treat a shingles case.

"Had she not done this, I would have just had to tough it out," she says.

Which brings up another point. The drug companies can shell out $1000 worth of samples because they expect doctors to prescribe these drugs, thereby profiting tenfold on the initial outlay. So who's covering the cost of these freebies? I'll give you a two-letter hint - "U" and "I".

Because of this, those of us who do have medical insurance are paying more each year for coverage.

Premiums for family coverage in employer-sponsored plans rose 59 percent between 2001 and 2004, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, compared with a 9.7 percent growth in consumer prices.

At these rates, many of the self employed and small business employees who want health insurance can't afford it. It's estimated that by 2013, 56 million people - more than one fourth of Americans - will not have health insurance, leaving them at risk of a catastrophic illness or injury that will either be covered by our taxes or insurance premiums.

At the risk of pissing off the conservatoons, I'd like to point out that during the Clinton administration, the people without medical insurance dropped to its lowest levels since before Reagan, and began climbing again as soon as Little Bush took over. Something to think about.

Meanwhile, this administration forces cuts in medical care to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, and the overall health of our nation is being left up to chance. Hey, that's what capitalism is all about anyway, right? Taking risks that could lead to a larger payoff in the end? Only in this case, the people who stand to lose the most are those that have no choice and nothing to gain by taking the risk.

But all the risk takers will have to do to minimize their own risk, if the plan fails, is to pass legislation that cuts the losers off from medical care completely. After all, if it cuts into their own pocketbook, it's not good for the economy. They'll just blame the "tax and spend libruls" to justify benefit cuts.

But, wait a minute. If they do that, then there'll be no "Social Security Crisis", because a good portion of the recipients won't be around to receive benefits. See that, crisis solved. Of course, those that survive will still need to invest in Private Accounts so the investment bankers can be subsidized. After all, that is the American Way.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program

Sorry about that, y'all. I got Blogger-clobbered this weekend (those of you on know what I'm talking about), so I never got to tell you I was going out of town. Now I'm back, and I'll attempt to make up for lost time.

So much injustice in the world. So much B.S. I tell ya, I leave for a couple of days and everything falls apart. Stay tuned, and we'll attempt to straighten it all out together.

Friday, April 08, 2005

A Milestone around my neck

With great power comes great responsibility

It's a good thing I don't have great power, because I don't want responsibility. As I pass a milestone, four digits worth of visitors, responsibility begins to rear it's ugly head. No, I say! I'm full of debris, and anyone who agrees with me is full of debris also!

Not to worry, I say. Most of the people who visit this site are those who don't agree with my point of view, and therefore don't count towards the roster of Warriors Of The Realm in the battle of Good vs. Evil.

If you really want to make a difference in the battle of Good vs. Evil, make a donation to The All Spin Zone. Your monetary donation there will make a lot more difference to the cause of good than to subsidize advertisement for specific Democratic candidates.

The All Spin Zone has been a proponent of Democratic principles for the past decade. They need to modernize by upgrading their computers and software so they can promote progressive ideals into the 21st century. Any way that you can help them will be appreciated.

That said, thank you to those who have visited this site at least a thousand times. There are other sites who claim ten times the visitors, but I am proud to say that our visitor numbers have not been embellished in any way.

Keep on comin', ya'll! Hopefully, this site has been thought-provoking and enlightening, or at the very least, entertaining.

If judicial systems were outlawed
only outlaws would have judicial systems

DeLay says judges have 'overstepped' authority

Tom DeLay's at it again. It's against my nature to keep harping on the same subject, but this one just keeps setting the tee for a drive that could lead to a hole in one. In keeping with the metaphor, I don't play golf, but I'm always open to a bad golf joke. And this guy is a bad joke waiting to happen.

In the shadow of John Cornyn's comments this week that Judges are asking for it when their decisions provoke violence, and DeLay's own comments that Judges will be held accountable for their rulings, he went even further by demanding impeachment for those who don't toe the conservative line.

"Our next step, whatever it is, must be more than rhetoric," DeLay said in fiery remarks to the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration's meeting titled "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith."

When Tom DeLay threatens more than rhetoric, it's pretty serious, since rhetoric is his stock in trade. Before you know it, he'll have Minutemen staking out the courts monitoring every decision. Laugh if you will, but it could happen. He'll call it something else, but when a Judge makes a ruling he doesn't agree with - bang! - it's abortion clinic shootings all over again. His mindless followers will bend to his will as they did when they elected the current administration despite common sense.

It's all part of the master plan. Once the Judicial branch of the government is powerless, all that will be left is the Executive and Legislative branches. Since both of those are already in the hands of the religious right, its only a matter of time until we are a theocracy, with the established religion in charge of all aspects of government. Not since the Crusades have we had an environment as conducive to torture, extortion, coercion, compulsion and pressure to comply with the staus quo.

Let's face it. DeLay is pissed that his efforts at grandstanding in the Terri Shiavo case were ignored by the Judicial system. Because of that, he's calling for their abolishment. How dare they stand in the way of his posturing!

But today these judges, most of whom have been put in place by Republican Presidents and confirmed by the Senate, are all that stand between the politics of "no" pushed by the Republican led legislative branch and the constitutional rights of the general public.

To remove the judicial branch would leave it open for legislators, many of whom are incumbents so entrenched in the political system that it is virtually impossible to remove them, to legislate their way to removing all of our rights in the name of whatever political expediency happens to interest them at the moment.

The Shiavo case is an excellent example. Whether or not you agree with the judiciary decision in favor of her husband, if the legislation were able to nullify their decision, where does that leave you on other issues?

What if they decided that the second ammendment didn't matter, and they decided to outlaw any type of gun ownership? Sure, it's not likely to happen, given NRA lobbying efforts, but stay with me here.

If it were deemed illegal by Congress to own a firearm unless you were part of an official government militia, don't you think the judicial system would rule otherwise, based on the constitution?

It wouldn't if the judicial system were outlawed.

And if you're interested, here's an interesting diarama of DeLay's positions and connections, courtesy of Jack and Drop the Hammer.

Cheers and Jeers

Senate passes bill to expand family planning
SB 747—Medicaid Waiver for Women’s Health

The good news is, the 79th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 747. With passage of the bill in the House (HB 2663), an estimated 500,000 women covered by Medicaid will be eligible for regular screenings for diabetes, anemia, cervical and breast cancers, STDs, hypertension, cholesterol and tuberculosis. They’ll also be eligible for contraception.

Currently in Texas, women who are covered by Medicaid are only eligible for the services if they are living at or below 17 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $3,300 annually for a family of four. The bill would expand eligibility to women living at or below 185 percent of the poverty level, or about $34,000 for a family of four.

The bad news is, smaller minds have prevailed because of the perception that this bill supports abortion. Although the bill specifically prevents tax dollars from being used for abortions, Senator Robert Deuell, R-Greenville, had to go further. He added an amendment that prohibits the state from contracting with organizations that promote or perform abortions, or their affiliates.

In essence, this is the state saying to health care providers, “either you agree with my opinion, or I will punish you financially”. So much for diversity of opinion, freedom of choice, or even having the best interests of citizens in mind. This amendment is designed solely to placate the uber-conservatives who only support “big government” when it intrudes into someone else’s business.

It’s estimated that 25% of Texans do not have health insurance. This bill allows a portion of them better access to health care, and is estimated to save the state almost $140 million in five years because of the preventive nature of the services. But the amendment limits where women can go to receive those services, and solely because a self-righteous zealot wants to hurt organizations that believe an individual should have a choice when it comes to her own life and health.

Last month, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas can withhold federal money from clinics that provide abortions, as long as the clinics are allowed to create independent affiliates that continue receiving money to provide other health services.

Deuell's amendment would prevent the state from contracting with such affiliates. If it passes the House in its present form, it likely would be challenged in court.

Let’s hope so. Lawmakers should not be able to financially punish legitimate businesses, particularly those that are providing services that better the lives of our citizens, because of differences in philosophy.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Your tax dollars at work

Halliburton, Army end dispute over meal bills

Halliburton and the U.S. Army have come to an agreement on their two year long dispute of $200 million in invoices resulting from the invasion of Iraq. If you recall, Halliburton was awarded a no-bid contract by the Bush Administration because they were the only company in the world capable of handling the huge task of logistical support of the war in Iraq (according to the party line).

This $200 million is only a small fraction of the $1.2 billion Halliburton was paid to run the dining halls during the first nine months of the war. At those prices, you'd think they were running the concession at a sports arena.

In dispute was the fact that Halliburton's subcontractors only provided 14,053 meals per day to soldiers, while their contract called for them to be prepared to serve at least 42,042 meals per day. The contractor billed the 42,042 as a minimum. I just hope they served all of the remaining food to hungry Iraqis, and didn't just use it for the next day's 14,053, thereby pocketing millions ($200 million, if you're counting) at the expense of the American taxpayer.

Anyway, the settlement they reached has the U.S. Army paying $145 million of those disputed bills, and Halliburton eating $55 million. Well actually, their contractors will eat the loss, since Halliburton hasn't paid those contractors yet, and Halliburton will only be out their 15% mark-up. So they're getting $8.25 million less than the $30 million profit they would have made on the bogus charges had no one bothered to check on them.

And this is just for "chow hall" services. There's still the grand jury investigation of the $1 million kickback paid to a Halliburton procurement manager in exchange for awarding services to a subcontractor, and the audit that showed that Halliburton charged the Pentagon $27.5 million for $82,100 worth of fuel.

After all this, if you still think that Halliburton was chosen for this contract because they were the only company that could perform this service, and that it had nothing to do with the fact that Dick Cheney used to run the company, then you, my friend, have been succesfully conditioned by the Bush Administration's spin machine.

If, however, you can think on your own, can see that we taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners by the FOB (Friends of Bush), then welcome to the Monkey House. There's hope for you yet.

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

A 3rd DeLay Trip Under Scrutiny
1997 Russia Visit Reportedly Backed by Business Interests

Tom DeLay's transgressions - or if you're a Republican, errors in judgement - keep piling up. Now it has come to light that he took a trip to Russia at the expense of lobbyists, met with those lobbyists while in Russia, and voted in favor of those lobbyists, yet claims that he thought it was a legal fact-finding mission at the time.

This is the mindset we're working with here. A vacation that cost $57,238 would deter most Americans, yet he had no qualms about taking it. I know, it didn't cost him anything, and he had our best interests in mind. Yeah, right.

"One of the functions of the lobbying effort was to encourage U.S. policymakers to visit Russia and to learn more about Russia,"

At the time of his visit, the Soviet Union was heavily dependent on western aid and international banking institutions, such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). And, suprise, suprise, after DeLay's visit he voted to replenish billions of dollars in IMF funds used to bail out Russia's economy, much to the chagrin of his conservative peers in Congress.

The lobbyists, who were tax sheltered off the British Isles and in the Caymans, paid at least $440,000 before DeLay's junket for consideration of the Soviet issue, yet paid less than $20,000 in the years following for the same consideration.

In other developments, The New York Times reported that DeLay's wife and daughter have received more that $500,000 in wages and fees from his PAC and campaign funds since 2001. I wish I could get my kin this kind of gig. I'm lucky if I can get a discount on video rentals where my kid works. The same can be said for most of the folks who voted for DeLay based on "values".

Still think these guys are representing our values?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Freedom Alert!

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez urged Congress to renew the expiring components of the Patriot Act today. That in itself should raise warning flags among those who are concerned with civil rights for American citizens. He justified his position by stressing that we haven't abused these powers yet, so they should be extended.

The reason these components of the Patriot Act - including the ability to obtain search warrants without a Judge's order, to notify citizens after their property has been searched, and to obtain records of citizens reading habits without authorization - had a shelf life is that, in the aftermath of 9/11, there was concern that citizens' rights might be trampled due to the outpouring of righteous indignation because of the attacks on our homeland. Now that we've had a chance to view them with cooler heads, it seems irresponsible to continue to subject our population to the unconstitutional tactics that these components permit.

In a post 9/11 world, every effort should be made to protect us from terrorism. But the denial of rights spelled out in the Patriot Act as it was written can lead to overt government intrusion into innocent aspects of every American's daily life.

The government hasn't used the provisions in the Patriot Act as much as they'd hoped because they were temporary provisions, and knew that if they were abused, they wouldn't be renewed. Now that they're up for permanent inclusion, the government won't be held to the same constraints.

The potential for abuse here is tremendous, and if renewed, these provisions could leave all Americans at risk of government intrusion in their private lives. More and more, it seems like the party of "less government" is seeking to infuse the federal government into our private affairs in the name of national security.

I hope this scares you as much as it does me. Although I have nothing to hide, I don't cherish the idea of being investigated because I check out a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" from my local library and find my house trashed in a search for terrorist paraphernalia because of it.

Don't think it'll happen? Just wait. If these provisions get renewed, you'll see a lot more citizens' rights get trampled than have happened in the past.

In the meantime, I think I'll head to the bookstore and stock up on what may be considered "subversive" literature before it's outlawed.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Mourning has broken

Are they mourning the Pope or Michael Jackson?
Only their plastic surgeon knows for sure.

Do you realize that without a pope,
the world is being run by human beings?
Are you aware of their track record?

-- Steven Colbert

On the Border

parody of the Eagles' "On the Border", by Wyld Card

Goin' to Arizona, gonna walk the beat
See if I can hunt me up some dark meat
Mindin' my business along with my brothers
They say "let's see if we can find us some 'others'".

Oooh, I'm out on the border
Oooh, I'm walkin' the line
Don't you tell me 'bout no law and order
I'm just tryin' to save this country of mine

After a hard day, I'm campin' out
Drinkin' with my buddies, we commence to shout
Out of nowhere, somebody comes in, and says
"You in trouble, boy, we know where you been"

Oooh, I'm out on the border
Oooh, I'm walkin' the line
Don't you tell me 'bout no law and order
All I shot was some immigrant swine

Never mind your name, what's your social security number
Never mind your face, just show us your green card
We want to know what you're plannin' to plunder
You better just sit down, or we can make it hard

Oooh, I'm out on the border
All I wanted was some peace of mind
Don't you tell me 'bout no law and order
All I shot was some immigrant swine

Purple is the new red

Some parents raising a stink over teachers' red ink

So that’s what’s been wrong all along. I thought it was just that we put too much emphasis on teaching tests, and not enough on teaching children. Turns out it’s the red ink that teachers use to grade papers that causes poor performance. It causes stress in the students. So they’re being encouraged to use other colors to tell kids they’re stupid.

I thought students were supposed to feel stress. It encourages problem solving, and keeps them awake. Besides, purple causes me to feel stress, especially when it’s on a big purple dinosaur nattering away at some inane song or another.

It’s all part of the No Excuse Left Behind education plan. At least it doesn’t involve goats. ‘Cause then the terrorists will have won.

State of the economy - private accounts edition

Almost all mutual funds show negative returns

Gee, this has got to be good news for those pushing social security private accounts. Mutual funds, the type of investment most commonly made by people saving for retirement, took a dive in the first quarter of 2005.

U.S. diversity equity funds posted an average 2.53% negative return – meaning loss – for the quarter. Small cap growth funds lost 5.4%, and large cap growth funds lost 4.56%.

Well, that pretty much describes my 401(k) retirement investment portfolio. It’s a good thing I don’t have a SS private account, or it would most likely be invested in similar fashion, and I’d be SOL in my old age. Maybe I’ll start investing in dog food stock – that’s something that’s sure to go up.

And despite the billions being spent on handhelds, cell phones and, surprisingly, ringtones, technology funds were even bigger losers. Science and Technology funds posted a 9.01% negative return, and Telecommunications funds lost 6.98%.

About the only gains in funds came because of skyrocketing oil prices. Natural resources funds posted a positive return of 12.52%. That’s the law of supply and demand for ya – as supplies run short, prices go up.

Note to self: invest in oil and dog food. Now that’s a balanced portfolio.

Death of an Icon - part deaux

Pope John Paul II
1920 - 2005

When the Pope's heart stopped beating at 1:37 p.m. Houston time on Saturday, it brought to an end one of the most controversial papacies in recent history.

Arguably one of the instigators of the fall of Communism, he visited his native Poland eight months into his papacy and sparked the cause of Polish solidarity, the first independent labor movement in the Soviet bloc.

He lobbied for recognition of a Palestinian State, and apologized to Israel for past crimes committed by Christians against Jews. Yet he defended the (non) actions of Pope Pius IX, who remained silent while Nazi Germany systematically exterminated these Jews.

Although he helped foster good will among other faiths by paying tribute to synagogues and mosques, he remained unswerving in his resistance to modern culture. Along with harsh condemnation of abortion and euthanasia, he was also very vocal in his opposition to birth control, gay marriage and the use of fetuses in stem cell research, issues that American fundamentalists have embraced with open arms and legs. Of course, he also denounced the death penalty, divorce and both wars in Iraq, but the fundamentalist conveniently overlooked this part of his doctrine.

Firmly believing that sex was created solely for the purpose of reproduction, his encyclicals turned almost a billion Catholics into hypocrites and hedonists. By declaring sex for any other reason a sin - even among married couples - he took one of man’s basic species survival instincts and outlawed it. Forget about coveting your neighbor’s wife, you’re not even supposed to covet your own.

We’ve all seen what celibacy does to priests, imagine what it would do the general population. You think those red-staters are anal-retentive now, just wait until they haven’t had any for a couple of months.

But I digress. Now that John Paul II is gone, there remains the task of electing a new Pope. And no, Giblets isn’t in the running, but these guys are.

Discussion on this subject is moot, however, as the College of Cardinals meets in secret to select the next Pope. Unlike democratic elections, the people have no say in the process. The CoC will make their decision based on what they perceive is best for the Church, not what’s best for the people.

When Karol Wojtyla was elected and became John Paul II (John Paul I being the bassist for Led Zeppelin) in 1978, what the Church perceived as the biggest threat to itself was the spread of Communism. Today there are myriad other issues – faith-based terrorism, biomedical ethics, and the rise of Evangelical non-Catholic spiritual leaders in many Catholic strongholds.

Of course there are always the real issues - poverty, hunger, and corruption among world leaders. But unless they elect one of the potential candidates from Africa or Latin America, those issues will only be of secondary concern to the Church.

And there are the introspective issues, such as females in the priesthood, priest marriage, sex scandals, and perception that the Church is archaic and not keeping up with the 21st century.

All in all, it promises to be an emotional time if you’re a Catholic, and an entertaining one if you are not. One thing is certain. Whoever becomes God’s second-in-command will have his hands full as he attempts to lead the world’s largest congregation either into the 21st century or back into the 19th.

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fools Day dates back to 1564, when France changed from the traditional Roman calendar, which celebrated New Year's Day on April 1st, to a new calendar which shifted the new year to January 1st. In those days, news didn't travel very fast, so the metrosexuals teased the country bumpkins by inviting them to nonexistent parties, sending them on "fool's errands", and playing practical jokes on them on April 1st.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XXIII adopted this calendar, named it after himself, and made it the standard by which all others would be measured. As it took root throughout Europe (Scotland in 1660, Germany, Denmark, and Norway in 1700; and England in 1752), the tradition of playing jokes on the yokels followed it.

Today its history is all but forgotten, but after it hopped across the ocean to America, it grew to such proportions that not only were jokes played on uninformed peasants, but on everyone who was gullible enough to fall for them, as is the American way and the basis for our electoral process.

Dude, I knew it!

I knew it. I knew that the creature being tried for child molestation in California could not be the Michael that produced such pop hits as "Rockin' Robin" and "A,B,C, Easy as 1,2,3".

The Michael we know wouldn't have involved himself in this Neverland, Elephant Man, Sensory Deprivation, isolation crap that's been reported in the media.

The Creature That Is Now Michael is the one responsible for all of the cosmetic surgery, so much so that all DNA has been removed in order to prevent positive identification. How else to explain the caricature of the man that remains?

I, for one, will sleep better knowing that it is not really Michael standing trial in California, but a cheap imitation of him who probably will get what he deserves, rather than the pop idol himself.

I can now fully focus my attention on the last remaining mystery. David Hasselhoff.