Tuesday, April 08, 2008

We're Moving!

I have decided that I will be posting new stuff more on my blog's new location, over at Wordpress.

Please come visit me there at http://pickwaynesbrain.wordpress.com/

Just substitute "wordpress" for "blogspot".

And thanks for visiting me here. Please come visit me there!

P.S. There's a really funny video I posted there that I'm sure you'll enjoy, especially if you remember The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.


Saturday, April 05, 2008

Joke Time: Classic Hollywood Squares

These are actual questions and answers from the old, original days of Hollywood Squares. Some of you out there remember. If you do, I guarantee you'll get a good laugh out of these. And, of course, Peter Mashall asked the questions. Enjoy.

Q. Do female frogs croak?
A. Paul Lynde: If you hold their little heads under water long enough.

Q.If you're going to make a parachute jump, at least how high should you be?
A. Charley Weaver: Three days of steady drinking should do it.

Q. True or False, a pea can last as long as 5,000 years.
A. George Gobel: Boy, it sure seems that way sometimes.

Q. You've been having trouble going to sleep. Are you probably a man or a woman?
A. Don Knotts: That's what's been keeping me awake.

Q. According to Cosmopolitan, if you meet a stranger at a party and you think that he is attractive, is it okay to come out and ask him if he's married?
A. Rose Marie: No; wait until morning.

Q. Which of your five senses tends to diminish as you get older?
A. Charley Weaver: My sense of decency.

Q. In Hawaiian, does it take more than three words to say 'I Love You'?
A. Vincent Price: No, you can say it with a pineapple and a twenty.

Q. What are 'Do It,' 'I Can Help,' and 'I Can't Get Enough'?
A. George Gobel: I don't know, but it's coming from the next apartment.

Q. As you grow older, do you tend to gesture more or less with your hands while talking?
A. Rose Marie: You ask me one more growing old question Peter, and I'll give you a gesture you'll never forget.

Q. Paul, why do Hell's Angels wear leather?
A. Paul Lynde: Because chiffon wrinkles too easily.

Q. Charley, you've just decided to grow strawberries. Are you going to get any during the first year?
A. Charley Weaver: Of course not, I'm too busy growing strawberries.

Q. In bowling, what's a perfect score?
A. Rose Marie: Ralph, the pin boy.

Q. It is considered in bad taste to discuss two subjects at nudist camps. One is politics, what is the other?
A. Paul Lynde: Tape measures.

Q. During a tornado, are you safer in the bedroom or in the closet?
A. Rose Marie: Unfortunately Peter, I'm always safe in the bedroom.

Q. Can boys join the Camp Fire Girls?
A. Marty Allen: Only after lights out.

Q. When you pat a dog on its head he will wag his tail. What will a goose do?
A. Paul Lynde: Make him bark?

Q. If you were pregnant for two years, what would you give birth to?
A. Paul Lynde: Whatever it is, it would never be afraid of the dark.

Q. According to Ann Landers, is there anything wrong with getting into the habit of kissing a lot of people?
A.. Charley Weaver: It got me out of the army.

Q. It is the most abused and neglected part of your body, what is it?
A. Paul Lynde: Mine may be abused, but it certainly isn't neglected.

Q.Back in the old days, when Great Grandpa put horseradish on his head, what was he trying to do?
A. George Gobel: Get it in his mouth.

Q. Who stays pregnant for a longer period of time, your wife or your elephant?
A. Paul Lynde: Who told you about my elephant?

Q.When a couple have a baby, who is responsible for its sex?
A. Charley Weaver: I'll lend him the car, the rest is up to him.

Q. Jackie Gleason recently revealed that he firmly believes in them and has actually seen them on at least two occasions. What are they?
A. Charley Weaver: His feet.

Q. According to Ann Landers, what are two things you should never do in bed?
A. Paul Lynde: Point and laugh

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Wal-Mart. Always Low Values. Always.

UPDATE: WAL-MART CAPITULATES! (See link below initial post.)

Wal-Mart. Either you love 'em or you hate 'em. Some people love 'em because of the low prices. What many people do not understand is that low prices can come at a high cost. I know you folks aren't dumb, but let me start at the beginning. A corporation takes in money (from customer sales, investors, etc.) and pays out money (in payroll, vendor payments, taxes, etc.) The profit, at the end of the year, is what's left when all the money that has to go out goes out, and all the money that's going to come in comes in. A corporation increases its profits each year by either taking in more money, by spending less money, or a combination of both. Now, you can't make people go to Wal-Mart and spend money, but you can lower your expenses in various ways. One of those ways is by keeping payroll expenses down. This is one of Wal-Mart's key business strategies.

Wal-Mart likes to call its employees "Associates", possibly because "Government-Aid-Eligible-Hourly-Wage-Peon" was having a negative impact on employee recruitment and retention. Many Wal-Mart Associates are on Medicaid. And because many cannot afford the company's health insurance plan (they have to buy it, it's not a "free benefit"), many go without insurance for themselves or their children. And Wal-Mart knows this. They also understand that because their employees cannot afford the health plan, a large strain is placed on taxpayers to pay for Associates' emergency room visits. And they know they have an image problem when it comes to benefits.

Did you know that some employer-provided health insurance plans come with a stipulation that if you are ever injured, and you receive a settlement or judgment award from a court, your employer can sue you to recover what they paid out for your medical expenses? I didn't either. I know that some very large companies are "self-insured", meaning they pay out claims themselves, and not through some outside insurance company. I guess it makes sense if you're large enough to have the capital to pay for it. And if you were going to hire another company to do it, they would charge you enough to cover their expenses and make a profit. So just cut out the guy making the profit, and you save money. And you can save even more if what you charge your employees for their insurance also brings back a profit, but I do not know if Wal-Mart does that. But I do know that they don't like to lose money from paying out medical claims.

Debbie Shank had worked for Wal-Mart for eight years. She signed up for the company's health plan and, not long after she started working there, she was in a terrible car accident that left her brain-damaged, wheechair-bound, and in a nursing home. She sued the trucking company whose vehicle caused the accident and won nearly a million dollars in the settlement. After the lawyers took their slice, she was left with $417,000, which would be needed to give her the lifelong, full-time medical care she would be needing.

But Wal-mart wasn't happy with this. Prior to her settlement, Wal-mart had paid out $470,000, and they wanted it back. For some reason, they felt it was necessary to do this, because it would not have been fair to the other employees if they didn't. Wal-Mart spokesman John Simley said in a statement: "Wal-Mart's plan is bound by very specific rules. ... We wish it could be more flexible in Mrs. Shank's case since her circumstances are clearly extraordinary, but this is done out of fairness to all associates who contribute to, and benefit from, the plan." It's only out of fairness because you must do this to all of the other associates who win money in settlements - you sue them for it in court. I guess if you let Debbie Shank keep her money, you wouldn't be able to justify suing the other associates for theirs, would you? I guess you feel you can't start making exceptions to the rules, no matter how humane it makes you look to do so. Tell me something, Mr. Simley. If you were to ask all of the other Wal-Mart Associates if Wal-mart should have pursued Debbie Shank's case as hard as they did, do you think that they would have agreed that Wal-Mart acted "properly"? And what if Debbie Shank was your wife? Would the statement you released have been the same?

On Sep 6, 2007, one week after Wal-Mart won the appeal, Debbie's 18-year-old son, Jeremy, was killed in Iraq. Even though Debbie attended the funeral, her brain damage causes her to forget that he is dead. So when she asks family members how he's doing, and they tell her that he was killed, it's like she's hearing it for the first time, and she breaks down in tears all over again. So now she's not only brain-damaged, wheelchair-bound, and in need of constant medical attention for the rest of her life, she has to continuously be told that her son is dead, because she can't remember.

As despicable as all this is, there may be a way for Wal-mart to salvage their image. They may not make people forget entirely, but at least they can make it look like they're taking a step back, realizing how bad this makes them look, and investing some money in order to stave off a customer relations disaster. Here is what Wal-mart must do:

They should send a very high-level Wal-Mart representative (possibly one or more of the Walton Children) to apologize to Debbie Shank in person. They should also bring a hand-written letter of apology, so she'll have some evidence that they apologized to her. Because she will forget.

Give her back the money, every penny of it, you won from her in court. That money was supposed to be for the long-term care she'll need for the rest of her life.

Give her a check for the difference between what she won in her settlement, and what she actually ended up getting. Her lawyers are to get none of this. They didn't come up with this settlement idea, I did, and Debbie can keep my fee for this service.

Pay for her son's funeral expenses, even if she got money from the military. Not that losing her son was in any way Wal-Mart's fault, but it would demonstrate a level of empathy by Wal-Mart unheard of by most people.

Pay for a memorial to her son, one that honors his sacrifice and at least makes her proud each time she learns that he is dead. Pay to have it placed wherever she wants, be it on her own lawn or in the town square.

Make sure that the IRS can't get their grubby paws on any of the money you are giving her. If necessary, cover the taxes she might owe on it, or structure it in a way so that it's tax-free to her. Your own tax liability on this should not be an issue.

And last, don't ever do something like this to another employee again.

In 2007, Wal-Mart earned $11,284,000,000 in profits. That's about $357 per second. The amount of money Wal-Mart was looking to recoup from Ms. Shanks represented the amount of profit earned by Wal-Mart in about 29.1 minutes. That's less than a lunch break.

nwmuse at The Zoo has more.


Wal-mart has issued the following statement:

Wal-Mart Statement Regarding Shank Case
April 1, 2008

Occasionally others help us step back and look at a situation in a different way. This is one of those times. We have all been moved by Ms. Shank's extraordinary situation. Our current plan doesn't give us much flexibility, so we began reviewing the guidelines for the trust that pays medical costs for our associates and their family members.

We wanted to understand the ongoing impact of any potential changes to the trust, and ensure that any action we take is in the best interests of our associates and their family members who participate in and contribute to our plan. We have decided to modify our plan to allow us more discretion for individual cases, and are in the final stages of working out the details.

Wal-Mart will not seek any reimbursement for the money already spent on Ms. Shank's care, and we will work with the family to ensure the remaining amounts in the trust can be used for her ongoing care.

We are sorry for any additional stress this has put on the Shank family.

As well they should be sorry, but I am not satisfied that they have done enough. Wal-Mart demands loyalty and enthusiasm from its "associates", and Debbie Shank gave them that while she worked there. I have listed above what Wal-Mart can do to remedy this situation, and theyhave taken the first step. For that, I congratulate them, but I await the rest of the recompense the Shank family is due.

Come on, Wal-Mart. Just one half-hour's profits is all we're asking here. You mean to tell me that you can't demonstrate the kind of magnamity only a corporate giant of your size can pull off without breaking a sweat, and you won't do it, even if it's to save your sorry corporate image's ass?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Joke Time: The Gorilla and The Redneck

A small zoo in West Virginia obtained a very rare species of gorilla.

Within a few weeks the gorilla, a female, became very difficult to handle. Upon examination, the veterinarian determined the problem. The gorilla was in heat. To make matters worse, there was no male gorilla available.

Thinking about their problem, the Zoo Keeper thought of Bobby Lee Walton, a redneck part-time worker responsible for cleaning the animal cages. Bobby Lee, like most rednecks, had little sense but possessed ample ability to satisfy a female of any species.

The Zoo Keeper thought they might have a solution. Bobby Lee was approached with a proposition. Would he be willing to mate with the gorilla for $500?

Bobby Lee showed some interest, but said he would have to think the matter over carefully. The following day, he announced that he would accept their offer, but only under five conditions:

"First", Bobby Lee said, "I ain't gonna kiss her on the lips." The Keeper quickly agreed to this condition.

"Second", he said, "She must wear a 'Dale Earnhardt Forever' T-Shirt." The keeper again readily agreed to this condition.

"Third", he said, "you can't never tell no one about this." The keeper obviously agreed to this condition.

"Fourth", Bobby Lee said, "I want all the children raised Southern Baptist." Once again it was agreed.

"And last," Bobby Lee said, "I'll need another week to come up with the $500."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Assassination of Eliot Spitzer

It's no secret that former NYS Governor Eliot Spitzer, while Attorney General of our state, made a lot of enemies on Wall Street. But just how far did that animosity go? And how did a former attorney general known for cracking down on the kind of white collar crime most Americans enjoy seeing enforced, get brought down by his connection to a prostitution ring? (The best explanation of the link that I heard was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Host Stewart asked Daily Show Legal Analyst Rob Riggle to explain exactly how was Eliot Spitzer linked to a prostitution ring. Riggle answered, "Through his penis." Isn't that how it always goes?)

It was clearly a busy week for the governor back in February. On Feb 12 he made an appearance on The Colbert Report. On Feb 13 he hooked up with now-famous call girl known as Kristen (pictured, left). And on Feb 14, he had a column published in the Washington Post in which he scathingly pronounced that the Bush Administration was taking the sides of the banks in the mortgage and sub-prime loan crisis, and calling them "partners in crime" with "predatory lenders".

Was this the point when Eliot Spitzer's political assassination was ordered? Was this the final straw? Was this why Roger J Stone was involved? Officially, Stone isn't anything in the Republican Party, except maybe their unofficial "go-to" guy when you want to do something extra sleazy, like threaten the elderly father of one of your political opponents. So how is it, exactly, then Stone knew that the story on Spitzer was about to come down? He doesn't work for the government, nor does he appear to be a legitimate journalist, so how could he have advance knowledge that they were about announce? Very suspicious. And, of course, Spitzer is not only forced to resign in disgrace, but it appears he must look for a new set of dentures. I guess Mrs. Spitzer wasn't too pleased.

The media spent a lot of time on this story. One could almost forgive them knowing of their addiction to stories about sex and politicians. But why couldn't any of them see even the remote possibility that this was a retaliatory move on the part of the Bush Adminsitration? I mean, is anybody going to claim that this is not how they operate? It's exactly how they operate! When someone comes forward and exposes them for the lying, scum-suckers they are, that someone is immediately attacked in a very personal way, a way that has nothing to do with the merits of what the person is saying about them. Throughout all of this, I have never heard anyone give a serious refutation of anything that Spitzer said about the Bush Administration's willingness to turn a blind eye to the shameful, greedy, profit-taking ways of the banking industry. Why isn't the media talking about how right Spitzer was?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What's All This Then?

I've added a few new things to the sidebar. A Bush Countdown Clock (with a link to where you can download one to your blog); an Iraq War Cost running clock, updated several times a second (you can get one of these for your blog, too); and an Iraq Body Count. Gen Tommy Franks said, "We don't do body counts." So these people do. I've also put up the most recent electoral-vote.com polls. The old ones were getting a littel stale. As poll results start cming in thsi summer, there will be updated projections. They should change automatically. Lastly, for about the next week, I would like visitors to please answer the poll question - candidly and honestly. Even if you've never, ever left a comment in your life on this blog, if you've read any of the song parodies, please answer the poll. Thank you, and I hope you enjoy some of the latest posts.

And, yes, I did reset the template to its original sizing. I hope people are no longer having problems with having to scroll so much, now. It was a learning experience, from which I at least learned a little. One thing I learned was not to screw around with the template too much.

And if I don't come back before then, I want to wish everyone a Happy Easter. May the holiday bring to you all that you hope it will. Peace on Earth.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Someone At KBR Must Go To Prison For This

For ordinary Americans, living in a harsh desert climate is tough enough, though, remarkably resilient creatures that we are, we adapt. Somehow. For military personnel (and, I will state up front, I have never served in a desert clime; I worked very hard to keep it that way), many of whom must carry dozens of pounds worth of equipment (sometimes over 100 pounds), it's in no way easier. Add to that, the fact that they are in a war zone, where it's hard to figure out which people want to kill them and which want to help them. (For many of them, there is the added sorrow that they know full well that the entire premise for the invasion of Iraq was a series of lies, and it does not lesson their burden one iota.) Anything they can do that would remind them of home is always welcome to strangers in a strange land.

Knowing that your needs are being served by fellow countrymen can be a comfort, though many of them are not military personnel, as they would have been in days gone by, the days before Donald H. Rumsfeld's "leaner, meaner, fighting machine" - the "H" stands for "Headcase" - when the guy cooking your food was one of your fellow soldiers, not some civilian getting paid hundreds of dollars a day, if not thousands, to do what someone in your own unit could have been doing for far less money and with far more empathy. Having local civilians in any foreign land serving your food would rightly be cause for concern to any soldier. It's not bigotry or racism, it's the simple fact that when operating in a war zone, the use of local citizens, no matter how outwardly friendly or innocuous, is a security risk because any spy or enemy combatant (who would likely look like any other local citizen) would be trained to act the very same way in order to gain trust. And with people like that, the damage is done before the danger is avoided, and the well-trained ones (who weren't committing suicide as part of their mission) would know how to get away clean. The ones committing suicide as part fo their mission will go to as crowded a place as they can - say, a mess hall during lunch - and detonating their vests, or opening up with a machine gun, or some other gruesome method of carnage. Carnage intended to frighten anyone who learns of it, or who witnesses it and lives.

Anyway, the point is that, as a servicemember serving overseas, you like to think that the only people who don't give a shit if you live or die is the enemy. Not the people your government is paying, with your tax dollars (soldiers pay income taxes on their salaries, even while fighting a war, but KBR avoids paying into the Medicare and Social Security programs by listing its 10,000+ employees and subcontractors as being from a Cayman Islands shell company), to make sure your water isn't tainted and undrinkable and causing disease and skin infections, your food isn't outdated or spoiled, your female co-workers aren't being gang-raped by other co-workers (when they aren't victims of sexual harrassment and discrimination), and your shower isn't turned into a suicide booth. Yes, I said, "suicide booth". At least twelve times!

At least a dozen soldiers and Marines have been electrocuted in Iraq over the five years of the war, and investigators now are trying to learn what role improper grounding of electrical wires played in those deaths.

And Houston-based KBR — which builds bases and maintains housing for U.S. troops in Iraq — is at the center of the probe, with questions being raised about its responsibility to repair known wiring problems.

They will try to evade responsibility by claiming that when they took over the building, the safety difficiencies were noted. But the contract did not require them to actually fix the fucking things, just note them for future reference. Including, apparently, potentially lethal safety concerns. They were only required to fix plumbing and electrical problems "as they broke". I find it hard to believe that they were not required to immediately address the life-threatening issues, like the fact that the water pumps had a tendency to short out. The soldier would step into the shower, turn on the water, and an electrical current would pass through the pipes and to a metal shower hose in the shower. When it happens once, it's clearly a tragic accident. Normally, as I used to understand them, an incident like this would prompt a review of all shower facilities to ensure that it doesn't happen a second time, not when it was so "easily preventable". Normally. That did not happen this time, apparently, because it did happen a second time. And a third. And a fourth. And another eight times! But, please, do not comfort yourself in the knowledge that it could not be worse. It is.

When Army Staff Sgt Ryan Masath, 24, of Pennsylvania, was killed after stepping into an electrified shower, his mother, Cheryl Harris, was told by the Army that her son had taken a small electrical appliance into the shower with him. They lied to her, and three weeks after his Jan 2 death, she sought help from her Congressman, Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa. And now, it's come to this. "On the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, California Democrat Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter today to Defense Secretary Robert Gates seeking details about electrocutions of military and contract workers in Iraq and about KBR's role in making electrical repairs." The Pentagon said that they are taking this very seriously and the Inspector General's office will be investigating. But I have to wonder how much authority they would have over the Iraqis who KBR hired to refurbish the building. They would likely be the ones who installed the wire unsafely. If it turns out that one of them is culpable, will he ever be brought to trial? Will he ever face some kind of punishment?

And what about the people at KBR? As I understand it, the contract actually went to Dick Cheney's old buddies, Halliburton ("Bringing you the worst of humanity, each morning!"), and they sub-contracted it to KBR, on account of KBR is, technically, on paper, "headquartered" in the Cayman Islands. So they are not required to follow the same set of rules (the more stringent ones) that an American-based company would. In fact, in some cases, they are not bound by any rules whatsoever. And did I mention that this contract to Halliburton was no-bid and cost-plus? Not that anything like that matters to Dick "So?" Cheney. And if you've got a few minutes, why not drop KBR a message on their contact form? Ask them if after all of this, are we still supposed to believe that they aren't the ones trying to hurt our soldiers?

Somebody at KBR must go to prison for this. For a very, very long time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Who Are They Working For?

MSNBC is reporting that Sen Barack Obama's (D-IL) passport file at the State Department had been improperly accessed not once, not twice, but three times since early January this year. In the first two instances, the employees were fired as per State Dept guidelines. They, like the third employee to illegally access the now-Democratic presidential nominee front-runner's file, were outside contractors, hired to do low-level work. A State Dept spokesperson, Sean McCormack, said that the reason for all three breaches was "imprudent curiosity". The third incident happened Mar 14 (the others were Jan 9 and Feb 21) and that employee is currently under administrative disciplinary action, but that case is said to still be pending, leaving open the possibility of a firing there, too.

The Senator himself was notified of all three breaches only just today. A spokesman for his campaign, Bill Burton, had released a statement:

"This is a serious matter that merits a complete investigation, and we demand to know who looked at Senator Obama's passport file, for what purpose, and why it took so long for them to reveal this security breach."

I have other questions, too. Who were these people? (McCormack refuses to release the names of the three individuals fired and disciplined.) I want to know if they were ever employees of the Republican National Committee. Did they work for the RNC before they "improperly" looked at Sen Obama's file, and do they work for the RNC now? I would hope that they are aware that under no circumstances are they allowed to reveal any of the data that they learned from viewing the file. To do so would be a violation of the Privacy Act, and could land them in prison.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Use Your Ass (A Song Parody)

It's the future. Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton has won the nomination of the Democratic Party. Well, she walked away with it, let's say. But her problem is the people she has running her campaign. They're the same-old-same-old, and they will lose this election for her if she doesn't watch out. She needs to find a team that doesn't resort to the kind of campaign tricks you see from the Republicans. Otherwise, her story could end up like this.

It's set to the tune of Eminem's "Lose Yourself". (Great song, by the way.) To help you follow the song, here is a link to a YouTube video in which someone has captioned the song juxtaposed with a series of sometimes comical pictures. Much hilarity ensues. (No, seriously, it's actually pretty cool and if you're not familiar with the song - it did win an Academy Award (tm) - then this video really helps to follow it. As a suggestion, open a second browser for the video, and resize the two windows so that you can watch the video and follow the lyrics. If you don't know how to do all that, then please enjoy the lyrics and put on a CD.)

And, as usual, I have to thank Jane for her help with this.

"Lose Yourself", by Marshall Mathers. (link to a video)

Use Your Ass
Original Music and Lyrics, "Lose Yourself", by Marshall Mathers
Additional Lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider

If you had
One shot
Or one opportunity
To be president of the U.S.
One moment
Would you capture it,
Or just let it slip?

Yo, her plans are ready,
Themes tweaked, coffers heavy
There's paper on her sweater already, more confetti,
She's laughing, but to the staffing
She looks cool and steady
To stomp John, but she keep's on forgetting
What they wrote down, with this crowd's not allowed
She opens her mouth but the truth don't come out
She's groping, how everybody's moping now,
The craps' come out, game's up, over! PLOW!
Snap back with depravity, Oh,
There goes sanity, Oh,
There goes Hillary, stoked
She's so mad but she won't
Give up that easy, no
She won't have it, she knows
There's no facts to these quotes
It don't matter she notes
She knows that but it's broke
It's so flagrant that she knows
When she goes back to this moment
Blown that's when it's back
To the lab again, yo
This whole strategy
She better go capture this moment and hope it don't collapse on her

They're gonna use your ass 'til you lose it, this moment,
They own it, you bet they'll never let it go
They're gonna use cheap shots and plots, make a fancy show
The insincerity grows once in the limelight

They're gonna use your ass 'til you lose it, this moment,
They own it, you bet they'll never let it go
They're gonna use cheap shots and plots, make a fancy show
The insincerity grows once in the limelight

The truth's escaping, through this run that I'm shaping
This job is mine for the taking
Make me queen, as we move toward a free trade border
An honest life is boring, but Super Wal-mart's close to no honor
It's only more fodder, it only grows hotter
She knows it's all out there, the pros are all on her
Post-debate shows she's known as the Hope Stopper
Lonely roads, God only knows,
She goes farther from home, she's no plodder
She goes cold and barely knows what they taught her
But hold your nose cause here goes, she's Goldwater
Her pros don't want her no mo, she's cold product
They moved on to the old schmoe who flows
His nose glowed, he told nada
So the soap opera is told and unfolds
I suppose it's old partner, but the beat goes on
Da da dum da dum da da

They're gonna use your ass 'til you lose it, this moment,
They own it, you bet they'll never let it go
They're gonna use cheap shots and plots, make a fancy show
The insincerity grows once in the limelight

They're gonna use your ass 'til you lose it, this moment,
They own it, you bet they'll never let it go
They're gonna use cheap shots and plots, make a fancy show
The insincerity grows once in the limelight

No more games, I'ma change what you call strange
Tear this motherfucking staff up like two dogs caged
I was winning in the beginning but the vote all changed
I've been called out, spun up, and booed on-stage
But I kept chiming and check-writin the next cypher
Best believe Bubba's been paying the pied piper
All the pain inside amplified by the fact
That I can't get by with my jive
And hide that I can't provide
The right type of life
Or identity, 'cause man,
These goddam new pants don't hide diapers
And it's no movie, I'm no Michelle Pfeiffer
This is my life and these times are so hard
And it's getting even harder trying to keep
And work on my speed, plus teach
A daughter caught up between seeing a father
And his prima donna baby mama drama's screaming on
And too much for me
To wanna stay in one job,
Another day of lobotomy has gotten
Me to the point, I'm on the trail I've got
To instigate a plot
Or end up in jail or shot
Winning is my only motherfucking option, losing's not
Bill, I love you, but this Senate's got
To go I cannot grow old in Chappaqua
So here I go with my shot.
Words fail me not
This maybe the only opportunity that I got

They're gonna use your ass 'til you lose it, this moment,
They own it, you bet they'll never let it go
They're gonna use cheap shots and plots, make a fancy show
The insincerity grows once in the limelight

They're gonna use your ass 'til you lose it, this moment,
They own it, you bet they'll never let it go
They're gonna use cheap shots and plots, make a fancy show
The insincerity grows once in the limelight

You can do anything you set your mind to, man

Monday, March 17, 2008

I Cross The Line (A Song Parody)

Well, we all know Rush Limbaugh can be a real slimeball sometimes. I mean, what with the lying, and the distorting, and the racism stuff. And it's not new with him. Early in his career, he went by the radio DJ name Jeff Christie. (Real "macho" name, eh?) And he was known to say controversial things, one of which I allude to in this song parody. (The link in the line is to a Snopes.com article confirming its veracity.) So, without further ado, another tribute to Rush Limbaugh, courtesy of Johnny Cash's "I Walk The Line", 1959.

I Cross The Line
Original Words and Music "I Walk The Line", by Johnny Cash, 1959
Additional Lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider, 2008

I keep a close watch on this hate of mine
I keep my mouth wide open all the time
I keep the mike on for the lie that shines
Because I'm slime, I cross the line

I find it very, very easy to fool you
I find myself alone when each day is through
Yes, I'll admit the things I say aren't true
Because I'm slime, I cross the line

Well late one night a black man called my line
I could not tell just what was on his mind
"Take out that bone, and call me back some time"
Because I'm slime, I cross the line

They've gone a ways to keep me on their side
They gave me cause for hate that I can't hide
For them I know I'd even try to turn the tide
Because I'm slime, I cross the line

I keep a close watch on this hate of mine
I keep my mouth wide open all the time
I keep the mike on for the lie that shines
Because I'm slime, I cross the line

Friday, March 14, 2008

Iowa Should Be Last, Not First

For some reason, understood only by them, I suppose, the people of the state of Iowa feel that they are entitled to hold the first caucuses of the presidential race, even if it means holding them in the year before (which nearly happened). Why? I've heard it explained by one of the pundits (probably, though not certainly, Chuck Todd, Political Director of NBC News; I watch MSNBC a lot) that Iowans feel that they are well-informed on the issues. (That's not exactly what they say.) John McCain defended Iowa's First-in-the-Nation status among caucuses because to do otherwise would ruin Christmas. Well, I have to publicly question the idea that Iowans know what they're doing. And I base it on the fact that Iowans in the 5th Congressional District have been sending Steve King, R-Mars, to Congress since 2002, when everyone shit their pants and elected the nutcases to Congress.

The Honorable Representative Steve King is an imbecile, and possibly a deranged one at that. I will give the man credit for one thing. He can sure dig a deep hole in a short amount of time. (Maybe Eliot Spitzer is faster. Who knows?) But the things he has said recently have really made me question the politcal acumen of the people in his district. (And, because I am a New York Liberal, I have to automatically assume that the people in his district are no different than the people in the rest of the state of Iowa, so I blame the whole state of Iowa for his continued re-election to Congress.) Let's review some of the things he has said in just the past few weeks, courtesy of my friends at ThinkProgress. (ThinkProgress, where thinking is encouraged, unlike RedState.com, and the Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage audiences.)

Working backwards, the House of Representatives passed a bill today "to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to establish a procedure for authorizing certain acquisitions of foreign intelligence, and for other purposes." Unfortunately for them, President Bush has already declared that those "other purposes" must include granting immunity to the telecom giants who "may have cooperated" in the illegal warrantless wiretapping program which, until recently, the Bush administration refused to acknowledge existed (even though sworn depositions revealed the mechanics of how the wiretaps were carried out, by the guy who did the hook-ups) or he will veto the bill. Somehow, he is under the belief that if they are not granted immunity, they won't cooperate in the future when the government asks them illegally to tap into someone's communications, because they'll be afraid of being sued by one of those evil trial lawyers (like John Edwards). This is patently absurd. Qwest refused to cooperate. (They did so on the advice of their lawyers, who apparently were better law students than the lawyers in the other telecom companies.) But the other telecoms were more than happy to cooperate. And they knew they were violating their customers' privacy rights. They only began to have doubts about participating in the program when the FBI fell behind in their phone bill payments! The Fourth Amendment
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
doesn't stop them, but a delinquent account does. Shows you where their priorities are. Sell your stock in them, they are un-American capitalists. Besides, if they are presented with a warrant, signed by a judge (not the Attorney General or one of his appointees), they are immune from being sued under the grounds that they would then have a legal obligation to cooperate. And if they believe that they were within their legal rights to cooperate with the FBI, despite the lack of valid warrants issued by a judge, secret or otherwise, then they should make their case in court, before a judge, and find out if their legal footing is as solid as they claim. I strongly suspect it isn't, and I even more strongly suspect that they know this, too. And that is why they are fighting so hard to make sure these lawsuits never see the inside of a courtroom.

Here's what Steve King had to say about immunity for the telecom companies that helped the Bush administration violate the law and the constitution, so they could do something they were legally and constitutionally prohibited from doing:

You know we’re here not really talking about the issues of rights. I haven’t found anyone yet that has had their rights trampled on. Their rights to reasonable search and seizure as the chairman announced from the beginning. As I look at whats going on here in policy, there’s a situation going on right now in New York in that area where you have contractors that answered the call in the crisis of 9/11 and they’re under lawsuits by the thousands. I think we’re in pretty much unanimous agreement that we shouldn’t indemnify them for answering the call to protect America.

I don’t understand the difference between why we would not want to identify an information company that answered the call to protect America. To me I think those are the closest two comparisons that we can get. We protect contractors when they went to that smoking hole in that war zone. Why wouldn’t we protect telecommunications companies when they stepped up in good faith and believed that they were legally operating under the law. This is — where is this first citizen that has had their privacy violated? I haven’t found anyone yet. None have been brought forward. I sat in hours of classified briefings no one even uttered the name of a person who has had their rights violated.

Let me begin by saying something about this "answering the call" nonsense. It's meaningless. It's nothing more than a jingoistic attempt to appeal to your patriotism. Samuel Johnson is said to have observed, "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Others, like Rep Ron Paul disagree. Nevertheless, it's a cheap way to win support when you can't justify it otherwise. We are supposed to be a nation of laws. If that's supposed to mean anything, it means we can't just abandon our principles just because it makes it little harder to "go after the bad guys" when you have to respect innocent people's privacy. The "call" that these telecoms "answered" was an obscene one. They were being asked to ignore the constitution and the right of privacy that, not just their own customers, but every American has because the Bush Administration claimed it couldn't go to court to get the warrants.

King claims that because no one has been able to produce the name of a single individual whose rights were violated, it must not have happened. This is because the government won't admit that they're doing it, and they have classified the program under which they're doing it, so no one outside the Justice Department is allowed to know what's really going on. It was designed this way so that no one could easily show that they had standing to sue. So it's a disingenuous argument. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. And the evidence isn't absent here, it is deliberately and illegally being withheld. The Bush Administration is doing everything in their power to keep anyone from having to testify under oath about what they are doing. And yet they insist that we should trust them. Blindly. Oh, and go shopping.

But it's not as if King had been sitting in the background since 2002 not opening his mouth. He actually went on a radio station and said that al Qaida would be dancing in the streets if Sen barack Obama were to be elected president. Yes. He actually said it. He not only said it, he defended his remarks on Fox News Channel. (No, I didn't actually see it myself. I would rather pour shampoo in my eyes than watch Fox News Channel. It would be healthier for them.) He also pulled the commonly-used stunt of using the word "Democrat" as a pejorative. But does he really believe all that nonsense about Sen Obama? And if he does, why do his constituents keep sending back to Congress, every two years since 2002?

It seems to me that if Steve King is the result of your judgment on who should be writing the laws of our country (The United States of America), then maybe you shouldn't have much of a say in who gets to run for president. You're not, you're not, you're, you're not good. You're not good. Let one of the other small states have first crack at the whole field of candidates from each party. Maybe when you come to your senses in the 5th District and vote Steve King out (replace him with an ear of corn for all I care), then we'll consider letting you move your way back up to the head of the pack. Not all at once. Have to make sure you don't send him to the Senate or something.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Spitzer? Don't Even Know Her!

H/T to Keith Olbermann, who used this post's title in his broadcast tonight.

Well, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has gone and done it. He's gotten himself involved with a sex scandal. Personally, I'm surprised. Not as surprised as I would have been if it were his predecessor, George Elmer Pataki. (We're supposed to use middle names, right?) But I am surprised that he would do it. He should have known better. It was a terrible lapse in judgment and, because of not just this but the other scandals he's brought about, he should step down as Governor of New York. It does sadden me to say that because I do like him, I like what he did as Attorney General, and I voted for him, both for Governor and Attorney General. I was proud of the "drive-a-stake-through-him"-work he did as our AG. But I do not believe that he can effectively serve as our governor any more. Not in this term. Maybe he can run again later, after all this dies down.

I am curious, however, not just how they found out about this, but also why they pursued it. The authorities were investigating a money-laundering ring and had focused on a particular escort service. Wiretaps had picked up on a client going by the name Client 9 who had arranged to escort one of the "escortees" from NYC to DC. (No word yet on the identities of Clients 1 through 8.) At what point did their interest in the money-laundering they were investigating turn to the details of Client 9's itinerary? And why did they pursue this conviction, or that of any of the other defendents? Yes, if you read the Mann Act and its interpretations, it is technically true that what Spitzer did violated this law. But you know what? So what? Sure, there are some who feel that prostitution of any kind, even among consenting adults who truly enjoy what they're doing, however perverted it may appear to others, should be a crime punishable my a minimum of prison time. I would agree with that if we were talking about forced prostitution, or any kind of sex slave trade. Those people are scum. But to apply this rationale to your basic run-of-the-mill boy-meets-expensive-call-girl, boy-pays-expensive-call-girl, boy-fucks-expensive-call-girl, boy-goes-home-to-his-free-wife scenario is, in my opinion, a misapplication of the law. And not only that, the law, by all the interpretations I've seen, was an attempt to control immorality. And you know what the dead-and-buried hero of the Republican Party, Ronald Wilson Reagan (count the letters; 6-6-6!) said, "You can't legislate morality."

But you can legislate slavery and slavery for purposes of prostitution. Not only that, you can also legislate it in the Territories of the United States, such as the Marianas Islands. If they want to enforce the Mann Act the way it ought to be enforced (for you can't legislate morality, remember?, so you can't enforce its original intent), then perhaps they should look into the kind of people who aided and abetted the transportation of people for the purposes of illicit sex as it happened there. People like Thomas Dale DeLay, better known as Tom DeLay.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Brent Bozell - Typical Clueless Conservative

I wonder why they continue to do it, other than the obvious reason that they can make a lot of money doing it. But why do conservatives bother trying to convince people that they are right about what's wrong with the world? Or rather, why do they bother pretending to try to convince people that they are right and we liberals are wrong, about everything? I mean, they know they're wrong. At least, the smarter ones do. The smarter conservatives out there (usually the "leaders" of the movement, many of whom have their own TV or radio shows) know that they are using misinformation, distortions, exaggerations, and sometimes even outright lies in the arguments they present to their loyal audiences. What they also know is what John Stuart Mill famously said:

"Although it is not true that all conservatives are stupid people, it is true that most stupid people are conservative."

So there's an audience for these people (or "market", as they like to say in the business world, where everything is easier to do to people if you dehumanize them), and, as far as they're concerned, they're just providing a product to a group of consumers who want it. They won't tell you truthfully what it is that they are selling, they'll just describe it in terms that their audience wants to hear. "Fair and balanced news coverage" and "exposure of the liberal media bias". That always cracks me up because it shows that they have no idea what journalism is about. They intentionally blur the line between news and commentary, often by having the same person doing both and not really differentiating between roles. On Fox News Channel, Brit Hume will deliver the news, and then he'll join a panel of other commentators and talk about the story. They like to give the impression that they are "interviewing" some "expert" on the subject for the sake of "in-depth analysis", when in reality they are inviting some die-hard conservative to spout off his or her personal, incorrect, ill-informed opinions on the matter. They rarely quote any numbers and when they do, there is often something wrong with the numbers they use. Sometimes they'll even quote statistics or a source that proves them wrong!

But what do they care? They know that the people the words are intended to reach will never check up on them. They can say whatever they want, and they know that their target audience (stupid people, because stupid people tend to be conservative) will believe everything they say, even when they flat out deny saying something that they said from that very studio the day before! For all their talk of a liberal bias in the media, did you know that the highest rated cable news program is "The O'Reilly Factor" (and don't believe Bill-O for a minute when he tries to tell you he's not conservative)? And did you know that the three highest rated talk radio hosts are Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage, not one of whom could be mistaken for a liberal?

As for the network news shows (ABC, CBS, and NBC), this is where people need to understand what conservatives refuse to admit: If there's a "liberal bias" in the media, it's because of the overlap in types of personalities. Liberals tend to be people who want to seek out the truth. Journalists are people whose job it is to seek out and report the truth. If it seems like there are a lot of liberals in the media, it's because the nature of the job attracts people who tend to be liberal. Conservatives do not place a high value on the truth. (This is a fact.) So conservative people would be less likely to seek out a job in which digging for the truth is the entire purpose. Conservatives in the media today, if they aren't in charge, are generally doing what they do to promote an ideology. That ideology, Conservatism, is largely anchored in false beliefs. Did you know, for example, that "most conservatives" believe that all humans are afflicted with "Original Sin" and are, therefore, not inherently good from birth? So right from the beginning they're starting out with bad, negative feelings about people. Is it any surprise that most of the racists, bigots, xenophobes and homophobes you personally know are conservative?

Despite what the conservatives tell you, journalism is not about presenting both sides of a dispute and letting you, the viewer, listener, or reader, decide who's telling the truth. That approach takes the flawed assumption that both sides' views are equally valid and that "the truth" must lie somewhere in the middle. Simply put, this is as wrong as wrong can be. Journalism is about objectivity, not balance. It is about seeking out the truth, however bad that truth may make someone look. If you hear Person A say something that Person B flatly contradicts, they can't both be telling the truth, can they? Yet conservatives feel that you should hear what both sides say and decide for yourself what the truth really is. You should even use your own criteria for determining when you think someone is lying. So, who're you gonna believe? A scrawny little trainer, or a multiple-Cy Young Award winner? It doesn't matter to them that the trainer has evidence and corroborating testimony given under oath to back up what he's saying. The other guy denies it so it must be a lie. If a conservative is reporting this story, he'll stop with the he said-he said part. If a liberal is reporting the story, he'll give you the reasons why you shouldn't believe one side in this dispute. But conservatives can't use this approach, because it is often easy to quickly find proof that the side they support is not being truthful (or is basing their opinion on false information or beliefs.)

L. Brent Bozell is the founder and head of Media Research Center, an organization that claims to expose "liberal bias" in the media. Among other distortions of reality, he tried to make the claim in a recent Washington Post column, that if elected president, McCain "needs to call on the United States to rebuild its military infrastructure, so devastated by the Clinton administration." Bill Clinton did not destroy our military. This is a lie and always has been ever since the conservatives started trotting it out several years ago. What they fail to remember is that the Soviet Union had collapsed under President George H.W. Bush and that the entire country was behind the "peace dividend" that we would incur from not having to spend so much money fighting the Cold War. (We won, with help from Liberals like me. I was in the US Air Force and was stationed at Ramstein AB (1986-88), on the front lines in West Germany.) If anyone is "devastating" our military, it's our current president George W. Bush. But will you ever hear any conservatives come out and say that? No, of course not. And they won't say it because it's true and it tends to make the other things they say look stupid.

But Bozell's idiocy didn't end there. He also suggested that it was "good" that McCain had "embraced making the Bush tax cuts permanent." But then he went on to say that "he should pledge to end the estate tax and lower the corporate tax rate to 25 percent." As for the corporate tax rate, why? They don't pay enough in taxes as it is, especially the larger ones. And the estate tax only affects a small percentage of people. Despite what they would have you believe, this money is often not being taxed twice. The reason that an estate tax exists is because many wealthy people put their money in places where they won't have to pay any taxes until they withdraw the money. And since they have an obscenely huge amount of money, they won't ever have to touch it and can leave it to their children and grandchildren. Once they die and pass that money along to their heirs, it may never have been taxed at all. That's why the estate tax is there, to catch up with the taxes owed. In all seriousness, I have absolutely no sympathy for rich people who whine about having to pay taxes. They acquired their wealth because of the liberal policies of this country. They should try to show a little gratitude to the country that helped make them wealthy. And Brent Bozell's heirs are, I'm sure, among the people who will be affected by the Estate Tax. No wonder he thinks it should be eliminated. He must not want his children to have to work hard for a living.

What you and I and all the other people with IQs in the three-digit range and a knowledge of the constitution know is that what Bozell refers to as the "congressional obstructionism of...nominations to the federal judiciary," is actually known by its more widely-used name, "Senate Confirmation Hearings." Conservatives just don't like that part of the constitution that gives the US Senate the responsibility and obligation to give their approval to many people whom the president (this one in particular) wants doing the work of the people. Maybe they feel that the government shouldn't be doing the work of the people, but the work of corporations, instead? (They tried that in Italy some seventy years ago. Didn't work.) Conservatives do have a tendency to favor the corporation over the individual. And it's not like the Republicans didn't hold up many of Clinton's nominees. Besides all that, the main problem isn't that the Democrats are holding up nominations, it's that the president isn't sending them nominees to reject. He's holding out because he wants certain die-hard ideologues to get the jobs he wants to give them, and the Senate is saying no to them. In retaliation, because he can't have his way, he's acting like a child and refusing to carry out his own responsibilities (which include submitting the names of nominees for confirmation to the Senate.) Senate Republicans, who believe that winning is more important than being right, are helping the president by not outright rejecting the bad nominees. (The usual problem with Bush's nominees is one of conflict-of-interest. And since conservatives believe that the role of government should be to help businesses, they see nothing wrong with having the chief lobbyist on behalf of certain industries be put in charge of regulating those industries. Perhaps this is because they view regulation of their industries as one of their biggest problems.)

He then goes on to say that McCain "should call on the entertainment industry to stop polluting America's youth with its videos and its music and on the Internet." I notice he seems more concerned about music rather than movies. If he was really concerned about "the entertainment industry"'s influence on children, then why doesn't he decry the kind of high-body-count violence found in the films of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, yeah. They're all well-known Republican white men, and they're just giving the people what they want to see. But if it's violent lyrics coming from a black artist, that's somehow worse.

He wraps up his message to McCain by saying "We wait to hear him call for the United States to honor the sanctity of life, the sanctity of marriage and family, and to return God to the public square." I don't believe that any man that would support war could seriously be expected to "honor the sanctity of life," especially if that person supports the use of capital punishment. When you use the word "sanctity", you are ascribing a religious overtone to your argument. If you're going to claim that all life is sacred, then you can't also be putting people to death. That would be trying to have it both ways. And, in the end, who decides who lives and who dies? In this scenario you have set up, who gets to play God? As for "the sanctity of marriage and family", I'd like to know exactly what the hell he's talking about? Not everyone is as religious as he claims to be, so not everyone's marriage was, necessarily, a "sacred one." Mine isn't. Jane and I were married in a restaurant by a Justice of the Peace. Nothing "sacred" about it. Does that mean that our marriage doesn't deserve protection? Jane and I also made the conscious choice not to bring more children into the world. Does that also make our marriage less deserving of protection? And, finally, Mr. Bozell needs to understand that it is not our government's place, nor the place of the elected officials who serve us from within it, "to return God to the public square." Our government is, by constitution, a secular one. If private citizens, acting on their own and without government direction, wish "to return God to the public square," I suppose that would be their ill-advised choice. But keep my government out of it.

Litmus Tests

Evangelical Republicans are proud of the fact that they give their prospective candidates a litmus test - do you, or do you not, support the overturning of Roe v. Wade? Nothing else seems to matter to them but this one issue of personal privacy that should be between a woman and any Gods in which she believes, and not the government (of any state, either.)

So, why don’t we come up with our own litmus tests? We don’t have to limit it to one issue. Candidates for president should declare their feelings about the following:

1) How seriously will you take your oath of office?

2) Do you believe in the Unitary Executive Theory as practiced by Co-Presidents Bush and Cheney?

3) If the Congress wishes to exercise its constitutional role of oversight, and they subpoena you or any member of your administration, will you attempt to block anyone, including yourself, from testifying under oath and on the record?

4) Do you agree that we should put a stop to the awarding of no-bid, cost-plus contracts and re-negotiate the ones currently in place?

5) If a contractor violates the terms of one of its contracts, will you cancel that contract with that vendor and award the contract to another company on a non-cost-plus, competitive basis?

6) Will you lift the gag order on Sibel Edmonds and let her tell her story under oath?

These are important issues because they go to the heart of what made the George W. Bush presidency one of, if not the, worst administration in American history. (And, yes, you Reagan-loving conservatives, worse than Jimmy Carter. For all his faults, unlike Reagan and both Bushes, Carter at least cared about people.) I'm sure we could come up with more questions to ask presidential candidates. The important thing, too, is to make sure that they are not lying when they answer. (Like Bush 43 did.)

Here are the Correct Answers:

1. “It will be the most important statement I make to the American people. And I will honor that oath throughout my entire term of office.”

2. “No, I don’t, and they acted criminally and unconstitutionally at times.”

3. “No, I won’t, because that would be wrong.”

4. “Absolutely, positively, Yes.”

5. “You bet I will, in a heartbeat.”

6. “You bet I will, in a heartbeat.” [Yes, questions 5 and 6 have the same answer.]

Score one point for each correct answer. Passing score is six points. And while some people would think that getting five out of six questions correct would be a good thing, in this case it's not, because it means that the candidate feels they should be allowed to do something wrong or allow others to do something wrong in their names. This cannot be allowed.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

I Know

I know I may never see
The world in perfect harmony
With people living peacefully
And sharing love so hopefully
I know
I know

I know there will always be
The ones who use mendacity
To put a wall 'tween you and me
And hide the truth we both should see
I know
I know

Life is hard
This is known
But it's easier
When you're not alone

I know there are those who care
About the people ev'rywhere,
About their drink, about their air,
And whether they are treated fair
I know
I know

I know we should be aware
Of those who terrorize and scare
And violate the oaths they swear
To look out for those in their care
I know
I know

Life is hard
This is known
But it's easier
When you're not alone

I know there are others who
Believe the same things that I do
There's something to look forward to
If to our hearts we all stay true
I know
I know

Life is hard
This is known
But it's easier
When you're not alone
You're not alone
You're not alone

Driving Me Crazy - The Pokey and The Gapper

I have to talk about these two together, because in combination, they often create one of the biggest headaches commuters face each and every morning - the Complete Stop For No Apparent Reason. "The Pokey" is, as you may have guessed, a slowpoke. Now, I would cringe at the accusation that I am a "Leadfoot" (or "Zippy", as I'll talk about at a later date), but I do like to drive fast. Safely, yes, for I do not believe in that bullshit that "speed kills", but a little fast. (Speed doesn't kill, bad driving does. Race car drivers survive fast driving all the time.) I feel that the 55 MPH Speed Limit for interstate highways, which were built when the national speed limit was 75 MPH, is too oppressive. I even think that 65 MPH is too low, but at least it's a lot closer to the speed at which I like to drive. I'm not going to set myself up for a conviction for speeding by saying anything more specific than that. [Now, for purposes of this post, unless I specifically say otherwise, I am talking about driving in ideal conditions - the roads are dry, there is no precipitation, and it is light enough outside to see. In other words, no excuses. None of this "Well, what if it's raining or snowing out? Shouldn't you drive slower and leave a gap in front of you then?" In that case, yes, you would, but we're not talking about that here. Got it? Good.] But the Pokey is the guy who does things like drive 55 MPH in the left-hand lane of a highway on which you are allowed to do 65 MPH. (It's even worse when he's a Pacer, too.) I especially hate the assholes who drive at the Universal Speed Limit of 45 MPH because they're too dumb to read the speed limit signs and know that they can go faster. I know they're deliberately driving at 45 because they don't know they can go faster because there was a stretch of road near my home on which the speed limit was a rarely-posted 55 MPH. People would drive along at 45 MPH until they reached the county line where a 45-MPH Speed Limit is posted, and they would speed up to 50-54 MPH. If they were willing to speed up to 5-9 miles over the speed limit at that point, then what did they think the speed limit was when they were tooling along at only 45? They must have thought it was lower, or they would have sped up. Maybe they're just too afraid to drive. My feeling is that if you're too afraid to drive, then don't. Or do it when there's no one around, like three in the morning or during a blizzard. Then you won't bother me.

And then there's the Gapper. Poor Misunderstood Gapper. Nobody appreciates the good he thinks he's trying to do. And with good reason. He's only making things worse. "The Gapper" is the name I give to the guy who likes to keep and maintain at all costs an unnecessarily large gap between himself and the car in front of him. I have no problem with the idea of leaving a little distance between you and the guy in front of you, but it doesn't have to be enough distance to play football in. About two or three car lengths is reasonable enough if you're the type who pays attention to what's going on around him. If you think the countryside or the person talking next to you is more interesting than the guy hitting his brakes in front of you, then maybe you should leave yourself a little more room than that. The point is, leave a gap that you can use to slow down safely within, but don't maintain that distance even when you do come to a complete stop! When I see the guy ahead of me leaving a huge gap in front of him, I'm going to assume that as the cars in front of him slow down, he will utilize that distance to gradually slow down, as opposed to suddenly slamming on the brakes and keeping a good hundred and fifty feet of empty space in front of him. This, in turn, causes me to have to brake suddenly because I'm slowing myself down to come to a stop at a point further up the road. I'm not expecting that the Gapper is only going to use half of all that beautiful space to stop safely. Where the Gapper does more harm than he thinks is when, after coming to a complete stop because of a Pokey way up ahead, he decides to leave a gap in front of him when traffic starts moving again. He might think that traffic will just start moving along at the same 30 or 40 MPH that he's planning on doing, and that everyone will be able to just move along, but at a slower pace and without having to come to a stop. He is not helping at all. In fact, he is going to cause the exact same thing to happen somewhere behind him in that lane. Here's why.

Let's imagine a thought experiment. You can try to actually do this if you think the results will be different than predicted, but I think you'll agree with what I'm about to propose. Let's imagine that you have a large jar, but it doesn't have to be bigger than a gallon, and would probably be better if it were smaller. Then get a funnel with an opening on the bottom that you would be able to plug something in to make it allow less fluid to flow through. Maybe a piece of cork cut to fill half the hole. Lastly, you will need a source of water to pour into the funnel, like a bucket or a garden hose, but something you can control somehow.

Now, if you place the funnel in the mouth of the jar and begin pouring water into it, you will find that the funnel will fill up to a certain point where there is a kind of equilibrium. The water flows down into the jar through the funnel at about the same rate the water gets poured into it. It make back up into the funnel a bit, but it would still flow out at about the same rate that it flows in. Imagine what happens now if you were to plug up the funnel with the cork and begin pouring water into it at the same rate as you did before. Obviously, the flow out the bottom would not be the same as it was before, and the water would begin to back up into the funnel faster than it did before. In fact, depending on how clogged up the hole is, it might even be necessary to stop pouring water into the funnel in order to avoid spilling it onto the counter. Why does this happen? Simply put, more water is flowing in to the funnel than is able to get past the cork and flow into the jar. Does that make sense?

Well, instead of a jar we have an interstate highway (like I-684, the one near my home.) And instead of water, we have cars. And instead of a cork in the funnel, we have one guy going slower than everyone else around him. He may be a Pokey at the head of the line, but he may also be a Gapper. Because the line of cars flowing onto the highway behind him in that lane is going faster than he is, the traffic starts to bunch up, not unlike the water in the funnel when the bottom of it gets corked. Eventually that traffic has to slow down and not pour in so fast. It may even have to come to a complete stop. This is the reason, believe it or not, why you sometimes come to a complete stop on the highway without any visible reason for needing to do so. It's because someone up ahead of you is going slower than you and most of the people behind you want to go. As I said, it may be a Pokey at the front of the line, but it could also be a Gapper somewhere in the middle. Remember that at the time the Gapper had to come to a stop, there were still cars coming onto the highway, many miles behind him, who were picking up speed and traveling along at 65-75 MPH. They may not even see the backup up ahead but, like the water that continues to pour into the plugged funnel, they're going to just keep on coming. Sooner or later they're going to come up on the guy who's gapping and going at a slower pace, no less. They will have to start to slow down and a bunch up will occur behind them. So instead of "smoothing things out" by leaving a large gap, he's just causing the same thing to happen behind him. He has become the second cork in the funnel. And that's why I don't like Pokeys and Gappers. As far as I'm concerned, they can go cork themselves.

What's In a Name?

There have been quite a few right-wing talk show hosts, many of them on radio but by no means obscure, who have been making a big deal out of the fact that Senator Barack Obama's middle name is Hussein. And it is a fact, a fact that Sen Obama does not, nor would ever, deny. But what's the big deal? Why does it matter? Of course the smarter readers of this blog will know that his middle name has absolutely nothing to do with Saddam Hussein, the notorious "Butcher of Baghdad". The ones who think it does will never read this. And since they are out of the room, I need to ask you something. What do we do about them? What do we do with those idiotic people who think that because Obama's middle name is Hussein, that he must secretly be a Muslim. Worse than that, he must be a, God help us, Terrorist Sympathizer.

Sen John McCain's campaign gets well-known, racist radio host Bill Cunningham to do the candidate's introduction, and the campaign tells him (according to Cunningham) to give them some "red meat". So he does his shtick on the stage mentioning Obama's middle name at least three times. And then, after all the hullabaloo about whether or not McCain himself knew this was going to happen, along comes Rush Limbaugh to defend Cunningham. Except, he did it in his usual off-handed racist way. He was even a little confused about who wanted what.
Even Karl Rove has come out today and said, "Don't do this. It's not -- it's not productive. It's not going to accomplish anything."

It's -- you know, my reaction is, we're getting dangerously close here to where the liberals are telling us what we can and can't say.
Frankly, I was quite surprised to learn that the far right considers Karl Rove to be a liberal.

And for once, I have to say I agree with Karl Rove. They don't want to get into a game of what everyone's middle name means. Because then you have to get into whether or not the person in question was named after the evil person with the same name, or someone else, perhaps a family relative. Perhaps that particular relative was an evil person. If you were John Wilkes Booth's brother, and you had a son after the Lincoln assassination, would you name him John Wilkes Booth II? (Of course, you're not his brother, so anything you say would be correct, I guess.) Well, what if you had a relative who helped fund the Nazi war machine? Even if you were already named after him, would you name your son after him, too? President George Walker Bush is named after his father and George Herbert Walker, and it is true that Walker helped fund the Nazis.

And as much as it pains me to say it, the president's grandmother, Dorothy, had a brother, George Herbert Walker, Jr, who help found the New York Mets, my favorite baseball team. What does that say about me and all the other Mets fans? Are we guilty by association? The Name Game has to stop. The Right Wing Attack Machine must stop dropping the "Ultimate Fear Bomb", as the senator's wife, Michelle Obama, so perfectly described it. It's wrong not because it's factually incorrect. It's wrong because the intent is to link Obama in the minds of voters with evil people, people with whom he has nothing to do. Nobody wins at these games.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Driving Me Crazy - This Isn't Any Signal

"This isn't any signal. It's a direct statement. If it's a signal, fine." - George H. W. Bush, as reported in New York Times, Mar 10, 1980, p B10

On most cars that I have been in, there is a stick coming out of the left-hand side of your car's steering column which I'm certain is gathering dust in some people's cars. It's the lever that operates the turn signals, otherwise more cleverly - and properly - known as "directional indicators", on account of they're for indicating which direction you intend to take your car next. And that's the whole key right there. Until you use your turn signals (I'll use turn signals if it makes everyone happier, until I have a point to make), people are going to expect that you're going to continue what you're doing, especially if what you're doing is just driving along at a steady speed in the lane you're currently in. [And unless otherwise indicated, and as will be the usual standard for this series, it is assumed that the roads are clear and dry and the weather conditions are favorable for driving. So none of these, "What if it's raining?" retorts. We'll cover that another time.]

And that brings us to a good tip about using turn signals. There's a right way to indicate to the driver behind you (let's call him "Me") that you're about to turn into your driveway, and there's the way too many people who live near me do it. The trick is to remember what the purpose of the turn is signal is. (I'll give you hint: It has to do with "indicating" a "direction".) Here comes the next rule:

Wayne's Driving Rule #2
The proper sequence for making a turn off the main road is:

1. Engage the turn signal (the correct turn signal) about ten to fifteen seconds before you make the turn, but at least five seconds before you hit the brakes.

2. After a pause of about five seconds, begin applying the brakes.

3. Then slow down sufficiently (it's okay if you have to come to a complete stop because of those discourteous people having the audacity to be coming from the opposite direction) to safely make the turn without turning it into the slowest possible maneuver ever made by man and machine.

You see, it really doesn't do anybody any good if you wait until you've already hit the brakes and started turning your wheel to flip on the turn signal telling Me (the driver behind you) that you're about to make a turn, when the fact that you are in the process of making that turn already gave it away. How much help do you think flipping on the signal last is going to do?

And by all means, do use that signal if you're doing anything that would come across as "unexpected" to the non-psychic behind you. (Me, again.) That includes pulling over to the side of the road. That would be one of those excellent occasions where some way of telling the guy behind you (Me) that he can swing around you and get on with his life would be appreciated. It's just like you're turning into a driveway, except you're not actually turning into a driveway. But you still have to put on the signal (I'm guessing it's going to be to the right), then put on the brakes, then slide off to the side of the road, preferably far enough off so that your car won't be sticking out into the lane.

But you know, turn signals aren't just for indicating a complete change in direction (such as perpendicular to the one you were going). They're also good for letting the cars around you driving at speeds in excess of 65 MPH (and the legal speed limit) that you're considering cutting over in front of the car moving up swiftly in the lane to your left. (Me again.) Now, in these cases, it isn't always necessary to hit the brakes, but you still want to turn on that signal a few seconds before you make the actual maneuver. Again, once your car has already swung over in front of mine, causing me to either brake fiercely, swear loudly, crap pungently, or perhaps some combination of all three, what's the goddamn point in putting on your turn signal then? It's not like you're preparing me for something. The best thing is to glance in your sideview (and rearview) mirrors, turn your head to check your blind spot, hit the signal, then wait a beat or two before making your move. And for crying out loud, if you're going to move over into a lane of traffic that's going faster than you were, do remember to hit the gas and speed up. (Remember Wayne's Driving Rule #1.) Otherwise there was no point in moving over in front of the impatient asshole coming up hard on your ass. (Me.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nothing Funny About It At All, Karl

Well, if there's one thing about Karl Rove that we know for certain is sick, it's his sense of humor. During a speech at the University of Pennsylvania, Rove said, "History has a funny way of deciding things," he said. "Sometimes history sends you things, and 9/11 came our way." Really, now, Karl? You actually think there was something "funny" about the 9/11 attacks?

This has nothing to do with whether or not you believe the government's version of what happened that day (I don't), it has to do with the fact that Karl Rove must be one sick motherfucker to suggest that there was anything "funny", in any sense of the word, about the most horrific attacks on our shores since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Why would he say that if he felt even the slightest bit of empathy toward the victims of that tragedy? Is it wrong to suggest that perhaps he lacks empathy? I don't think so.

It's time conservatives in this country, of any stripe, wake up to the fact that Karl Rove may or may not be a "political genius" (he sure nailed down those 2006 elections, didn't he?), but he certainly is one of the most inhumane creatures to ever rise to the top of politics. He cannot possibly be thought of as "normal" in any sense of the word. He has no clue what the average American thinks, nor does he give a flying fuck. His whole mindset is about winning power and maintaining power. He does not have the best interests of the American people at heart, only what he believes to be the best interests of the person he works for at heart. He believes that the president is above the law and has full authority to interpret the Constitution of the United States any way he sees fit, including the exact opposite of the plain text and meaning. Why on Earth does anyone listen to this man?

AND ANOTHER THING... "History" doesn't "send" you things, you idiot. "History" is the written record of the past, not the events of the present, or the potential events of the future. Only "Fate" (or, for some, "Destiny") can "send" you things. And I wouldn't speak of 9/11 and what you did with it too much, Karl. It's hard to come across as human when you do.

Bill-O and the Sword of Damocles

His mouth was bound to get him in serious trouble one of these days, and we can only hope it happens this time. Bill O'Reilly has done it again. This time, the thread on which his career hangs, the one holding the Sword of Damocles, ought to be cut. If only his bosses at Westwood One and Fox News Channel had the decency to realize that O'Reilly has stepped further over the line that even Don Imus did. Just because he's back on the air is no reason not to punish O'Reilly for his profane and despicable comments. (And for all you "First Amendment" defenders of his, I'll have something to explain to you later.) In case you missed it, on his Feb 19th radio broadcast, Bill O'Reilly said the following:

You know, I have a lot of sympathy for Michelle Obama, for Bill Clinton, for all of these people. Bill Clinton, I have sympathy for him, because they're thrown into a hopper where everybody is waiting for them to make a mistake, so that they can just go and bludgeon them. And, you know, Bill Clinton and I don't agree on a lot of things, and I think I've made that clear over the years, but he's trying to stick up for his wife, and every time the guy turns around, there's another demagogue or another ideologue in his face trying to humiliate him because they're rooting for Obama.

That's wrong. And I don't want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there's evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that's how she really feels -- that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever -- then that's legit. We'll track it down.

He then tried to apologize for his remarks with the non-apology apology, "I'm sorry if my statement offended anybody. That, of course, was not the intention. Context is everything." That's right, Bill. You said that you wouldn't join any "lynching party unless" (and you did put a lot of emphasis on the word "unless") "there's evidence". So, to put what you said in another, equivalent way, if there's evidence that she feels "that America is a bad country or a flawed nation", you would feel it "legit" to "to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama". And you don't understand why this is offensive? At all? Setting aside, for the moment, the fact that Mrs. Obama is black, it is a horrible thing to say about anyone. That she is black makes it inexcusably worse.

No one, myself included, who is not black and who did not live through that shameful period in our nation's history can know what it was like to live in fear of having it happen to you or a loved one. No doubt there are many alive today who are parents, children, descendents or siblings of lynching victims, and they know the pain and fear that I never could. To have a black person lynched, even in the public square, sent a powerful and frightening message of domination to the black man. "Do not even think of forgetting your place." (And that's putting it politely.) It was a message of intimidation to everyone. It was terrorism. And what made it all the worse was that it was often condoned by local, white-controlled law enforcement. Sometimes, they participated in the lynchings and help stall ot thwart the investigations. There are many outstanding cases today for which there has been no justice, and may never be. To suggest, even in a joking or flippant manner, that you would have anything whatsoever to do with something called a "lynching party", even in the figurative sense, is one of the most insensitive and racist things one could say. Especially when the person in question is black. And a woman, no less. And the wife of the man who may very well be the next president of the United States. And Bill O'Reilly is not being fired? Or suspended? Or even admonished about his poor choice of words? Nothing? You mean his bosses at Westwood One and Fox News Channel are perfectly okay with this? Perhaps we should let them know how we feel. (Those last two links take you to their respective "Contact Us" pages.)

Now, for all you O'Reilly defenders who want to say that I am depriving O'Reilly of his First Amendment right of free speech, let me explain something to you, and I will try to use go slowly so you'll understand. The First Amendment says that the Congress (not private citizens) shall pass no law "abridging freedom of speech." It means that, with a limited number of exceptions, you can't be put in jail for anything you say. That does not mean that as a condition of employment, your boss can require that you not say certain things in public or as part of your job (such as the fact that your bosses are soulless capitalists who are only interested in making a buck, like Rupert Murdoch). No one, myself especially, is suggesting that O'Reilly be imprisoned for what he said. We just want some kind of sign from his bosses that they do not approve of comments like that, nor would they want to be associated with them and thought of as the purveyors of racism. I know I wouldn't.