Tuesday, July 31, 2007
When I flew to Boston last week a flight attendant announced that a person with a severe nut allergy was aboard, and that said person had requested that no one consume any nuts or nut products during the flight.
I’m not callous, but I wonder if it’s fair for 99.5% of people to be inconvenienced for the other 0.5% in any given situation. I mean, doesn’t it make sense that the concerned individual inconvenience themselves rather than anyone else? Yes, these freakish allergics are selfish!
So, what’s my plan for the allergic? Just deal with the nuts? Don’t fly on airplanes? Neither is feasible. But I think an allergy-resistant suit is in order. Kind of like the boy in the plastic bubble wearing the bubble around in public. He’d look a bit like a hazmat worker or an astronaut, but he’d be safe from that evil Mr. Peanut. Call me crazy, but while this would be inconvenient (for the wearer), it would be completely fair. Hey, if they want, the suits could come in designer styles and colors.
I don’t know where all these food allergies are coming from of late. When I was young the neighborhood mothers would give kids peanut butter sandwiches and milk without a second thought, and nobody ever dropped dead or blew up like Violet Beauregarde. There’s something going on here. And I bet the Chinese are behind it.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
For Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, the fame and fortune he acquired from the game wasn’t enough. Vick is facing federal charges for allegedly running a dogfighting operation at his home. This "sport" involves training dogs to be vicious, then putting them in a ring with other dogs and letting them fight (usually) to the death. Spectators enjoy the thrill of seeing two animals rip each other apart, and if they’re lucky, win a nice sum of money, too. Much like cockfighting, this bloodsport involves illegal betting over the winner. “Sick Vick’s” lucrative contract with shoemaker Nike is now on hold, as the company has announced its cancellation of this summer’s planned release of the Air Zoom Vick V. At least for now.
And speaking of hurting dogs, the recent story on cardboard-filled meat buns from China is now said to have been a hoax, the story’s reporter allegedly having staged his shocking camera footage. Yet the Chinese have such faith in the integrity of their own products that many of them don’t believe the story was a hoax. They’re keeping their hands off the buns for now.
Ok, so the Chinese aren't the only ones putting out shitty products. Augusta, Georgia-based (my birthplace) Castleberry’s Food Co. has recalled cans of hot dog chili and other meats after several people were hospitalized with botulism. What is this, the Middle Ages? If you have any cans of that chili you are strongly advised to throw them away, lest you be botulized. While you’re at it, toss the hot dogs you intended to put them on; it's all nasty shit, folks.
Homemakers-in-training have been impacted by a recall of nearly one million Easy Bake ovens. It seems some kids were getting their fingers caught and/or burned in the things. Toy ovens. Hmm. Perhaps these kids can stand over the ovens puffing on those bubble gum cigarettes while they wait for their cakes to bake? Next up: A recall of the “Easy Shot” semiautomatic BB gun with long-range night-vision scope and silencer.
Well, be safe in your consuming habits, consumers. I’m off to Boston tomorrow to plan a new war of aggression with some Northern liberals, and this is my last post until next week sometime.
PS: Who says there's never any good news? Those six foreign medics who were accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV, spent eight years in a Libyan jail, were tortured and faced execution, have all been freed and sent home. Hurray!
Friday, July 20, 2007
You axed for it...
Things I’m always forgetting to do:
Turn off the oven after using it… empty the dishwasher… empty the dryer… stop and smell the rosebushes… get in contact with old friends… start reading a new book... archive my computer files...
People I wouldn’t stop to help if their life depended on it:
Meter maids, repo men, university police, residents’ association board members, process servers (one once came to my door, and I ate his liver with some soybeans and a nice Guinness stout… f-f-f-f-f-f…), most of the Bush administration, my boss from 1996-1998, my high school administration, radical religious people...
Impressions I’ve been known to do:
Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb, Boz Scagg, Droopy Dog, Comic Book Guy, Roger Rabbit, Karl Haas, Towelie, Mr. Hanky, Dr. Strangelove, Bob Dylan, Fat Bastard…
"Foods" I won’t touch:
Egg salad or anything made from a boiled egg, grape jelly, dead things…
What I wanted to be when I grew up:
As a kid I wanted to work for an airline – not as a pilot, but on the ground crew… I could be around planes, which I thought were really neato, without being in the air all the time… oh, and I’d get to drive those cool flat trucks around…
I don’t see the attraction:
Coffee, olives of any color (yet I love olive oil), mushrooms, cell phones, Angelina Jolie, reality shows, sushi, golf, tattoos, motorcycles, light beer, body piercings, Mrs. Beckham…
Things that annoy me more than they probably should:
Bono’s (and Geddy Lee's, Jeff Lynne's, Ringo's) omnipresent tinted glasses… school uniforms… insufficient parking… late, unreliable, obnoxious, aggressive or otherwise inconsiderate people…
5, 10, 15, 20, 30:
(Not in sequence) Age at which I lost my virginity… number of intimate partners I’ve had… age at which I first traveled overseas… age I was when my parents divorced… number of cars I’ve owned…
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
To protest the Kremlin’s obstinacy, Britain has expelled four Russian diplomats. In the big playground that is international relations, offenses are often returned in kind. Russia will surely be retaliating for Britain’s “provocative” act soon.
Embassies are considered a territory of their occupant’s country, even though they may be smack-dab in the middle of another country 6,000 miles away. The United Nations building is considered international territory, as if it were located in the open ocean, even though it’s in New York City.
I understand the reasons for respecting a country’s embassy as private property. But this “foreign soil” thing just seems like a game of “let’s pretend” to me. And these expulsions point to why.
If a Russian diplomat is in his embassy (aka sovereign territory) in the UK, how can the UK kick him out of their country? Is an embassy foreign soil or not? Make up your minds and get back to me.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Rep. Robert Allen (R-FL) was recently arrested for soliciting an undercover cop in a Titusville park restroom. Earlier this year Allen cosponsored a bill increasing the penalties for “unnatural and lascivious” acts committed in or around public places such as parks. Lucky for him, that bill did not pass. (Allen’s attorneys of course insist the arrest was the result of a “misunderstanding.” I think the only way to misunderstand “$20 for a blowjob” is to be unsure who’s giving and who’s receiving. Perhaps Allen will claim he was doing “research” for the bill he was sponsoring?)
A vocal critic of President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair with Monica Lewinsky, Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) is yet another public official whose telephone number has shown up, five times, in the records of a notorious DC madam. Despite this fact, Vitter inexplicably denies his past involvement with prostitution (kind of hard to at this point), yet says he’s asked forgiveness from his family and God for his "serious sin." Huh? And I could swear Clinton said something like that after his affair was revealed, but that didn’t satisfy people like Vitter. And Livingston. And Hyde and Barr and Gingrich. You know, all those other hypocrite fornicators from the post-1994 Republicant Congress.
I have to at least rub in the fact that Clinton got his action for free.
Of course, ongoing Republicant obstructionism is way too broad a topic for one post. But those who have long criticized Dems for “obstructionism” are reinventing that notion in this Congress. They don’t believe in letting anything pass, and after having their candidates now installed on the Supreme Court, don’t seem terribly interested in this “up or down vote” business any longer. Strange. (Don’t think I haven’t figured out the plan: Block everything and then try and hold Dems responsible at the polls in ’08. A perfectly Rovian plan.)
Looking ahead, I can't wait until Clinton-haters have to choose between Rudy "Libidinousness And Crooked Friends" Giuliani and someone else. Maybe it will be Mitt "Draft Dodger" Romney. Either way, it will be a hypocrite's vote. I have my bumper stickers all ready: "Impeach the draft-dodging yadda yadda yadda..." Should be a fun time for hypocrisy haters.
Friday, July 13, 2007
Over in France, the mayor of Paris is trying to get his city to be more polite to tourists in an effort to protect that important revenue stream. I guess that “freedom fries” thing really hit them hard, eh? (I saw that item on a menu at lunch yesterday; time to get some new menus printed up, I’d say.) The popular destination is notorious as being tough on those who don’t speak the language or who aren’t versed in other local customs. Well, if Rudy “Lil’ Bill Clinton” Giuliani could make New York City denizens “nice,” I suppose this could work, too. But I have just one question: Does this new Parisian politeness include improved personal hygiene?
China’s war on quality goods continues. A popular snack item over there has been found to be made up, in large part, of cardboard. This is not the kind of fiber anyone needs! Whatever happened to the good old days of having to worry about MSG or household pets?
In Vatican City, the Pope has made it known that the Catholic church is the only real church. Above all, you’ve got to love Benedict XVI for his humility. Since the Vatican is a sovereign country, I think the outraged Christians of the world ought to declare war on it. Launch a crusade, if you will. But instead of converting them to Protestantism, force them all to become Unitarians just out of spite.
Brazil is going nuke-u-ler. Yes, that country’s president has announced that he intends to spend a boatload of money on the development of a nuclear submarine and uranium enrichment facilities. Personally, I think the country should stick to what it does best, fighting its eponymous war on pubic hair. And speaking of (B)ush, I hope to God that our president doesn’t have any comment on Brazil’s plans, lest we be forced to hear that word out of his mouth.
Libya has upheld the death sentences of six foreign health workers who have been charged with infecting Libyan children with AIDS. Medical experts agree that the cases were likely caused by the unsanitary conditions present in the kids’ hospital before the medicos arrived, but no matter: Libyans want vengeance! This ongoing travesty (the convicted have been held in prison since 1999) didn’t stop President Bush from announcing that he's sending the first US diplomat to that country in three and a half decades to begin normalizing relations. Nor did the fact that Libya still hasn’t atoned for its involvement in the Pan Am Flight 103 Lockerbie disaster. It’s pretty obvious that a country led by a man who can’t decide how to spell his name is not to be trusted.
In Spain, some unfortunate bulls had their horns stained with the blood of idiotic locals and tourists desperate to compensate for their tiny genitals through foolish acts of machismo during the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see another angry bull hop over the wall into a stunned crowd (como en Mexico) during the subsequent bullfights. Kind of like NASCAR for the Euro set, but more like that scene in Spartacus when the gladiator tries to kill his vile spectators instead of his opponent. Got to love that fighting spirit! ¡Soy Spartacus! (That was a "Dennis Miller extended obscure reference" moment, in case you didn't catch it.)
And the news from Down Under is that a wanted Aussie p(a)edophile has been sworn in as attorney general of the neighboring Solomon Islands. Maybe American officials are not so bad after all? Nah, they're crap, too. Bad eggs.
I'm Pete Bogs, and this has been the News of the World. Have a safe Friday the 13th.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Gas-guzzling SUVs are not a basic need; they are most often bought as a status symbol, not to transport families to soccer games. (People buy minivans for that purpose.) As long as petroleum companies own our government, though, we won’t see clean alternative fuels used to any great extent very soon.
There are some habit changes that are out of the question as far as I’m concerned, even though they may help the environment, because they touch on basic needs. One is the use of air conditioning. People die from excessive heat in the South the way people die from extreme cold in the North during winter. (A prejudice exists that heat is a necessity, while air conditioning is luxury. This simply isn’t true.) It isn't possible to function normally around here (Florida) much of the time without that artificially cooled air.
Another habit change that's off the table is buying bottled water.
Cities like Salt Lake City and San Francisco are banning bottled water use by city employees because of all the plastic that’s ending up in landfills. It’s just a matter of time before they extend the band to their respective citizens.
Bottled water has been maligned for other reasons before now. It’s trendy. It’s not really cleaner than tap water. Why would you buy water when it comes out of the tap “for free?”
I’ll address these: Tap water in many places tastes like shit, or chemicals or the tap itself. You actually can drink bottled water down without holding your nose. When it comes to things you ingest, taste goes a long way to determining your choices, my friends. (And if it isn’t cleaner than tap water, they sure as hell do a good job of making it seem cleaner.)
Tap water is, of course, not free. You pay a monthly water bill, if you're like most people. And trendiness, well, that's an unfortunate result of putting out a really great product.
The convenience of bottled water – grab a bottle and hit the road – is also appealing, but certainly not essential.
In Florida, we're actually encouraged to stock up on bottled water for a large portion of the year. We have these hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters, you see. Water mains break and taps go out. Electricity goes out, and you can’t trust that tap water is safe to drink, nor can you boil it before consuming it. In these situations, bottled water becomes the single most important commodity – more so than food or fuel. (Need I bring up the fact some people died from dehydration after Hurricane Katrina in a city that was more or less under water?)
So, when another quake hits San Francisco (sorry, Bird) and breaks water pipes, I wonder if residents will be licking moisture from under rocks like a toad and cursing their environmentally sound ways? I hope it doesn't come to that. But between quakes and fires and mudslides, California has its share of natural disasters. Something to think about.
Concerned about bottled water’s impact on the environment? Develop biodegradable containers, ones that dissolve after a certain period of disuse. While the container may be problematic, the liquid held within is an absolute necessity.
If bottled water is banned I will stockpile it. And when Gonzo sends the ATF, er, EPA to my compound to take me away, they’ll get what they have coming to them: Water balloons filled with the good stuff! Take that, coppaz!!!
When I think of bottled water, I think about what a man once said: "Can’t touch this!"
Monday, July 09, 2007
I have been "gifted" from an early age.
(This post is presented Fragmentia 13 style, with all the stories and tidbits not worthy of individual posts.)
Think Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind was fiction? Apparently some memory-erasing drugs are being developed. Get ready to start complaining, Scientologist Tom Cruise.
The US Army is sponsoring an ultraviolent video game tournament in an effort to lure new young recruits. Participants can win large cash prizes; the only stipulation is that they must agree to be contacted by an Army recruiter. The tournament features Gears of War, one of the most violent games currently on the market. Players fight an incessant battle with alien creatures, splattering their heads and bodies all over the screen. The coup de grace is executing a curb stomp on another character. Funny, the establishment, of which the military is a major part, has long railed against violent video games and movies (the line between the two media is blurring more each day). Now the man is happy to use them when it helps him. Next up: A free carton of Marlboro 100s when you visit the recruiter's table in your high school cafeteria.
Reagan-loving, Hollywood-hating consternatives take note: Hollywood did a lot more for Dutch than just make him a star. It helped save his ass by buying his worthless land when he was just starting his political career. Land deals... politicians... corporations buying influence... some things never change!
I'm not sure what the penalty for transsexuality (sic) is among Muslim extremists, but I imagine it's severe. But that didn't stop a Pakistani cleric from trying to escape a mosque siege dressed in a burqa. Be on the lookout for his headless body in the near future.
An 11-year-old girl has been arrested for drunk driving in Alabama. I have nothing more to add to this.
And finally, while I have previously stated that I feel a job interview has much in common with a first date, there is one major difference: On an interview you dress for success, and on a date you dress for some sex. (You have to say it aloud to get the full humorous effect.)
Thursday, July 05, 2007
The United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit today rejected Lewis Libby's request to remain free on bail while pursuing his appeals for the serious convictions (Ya think?) of perjury and obstruction of justice. (It happens all the time. Other than the fact that Libby is your friend, what’s special about this case? YOU seem to be obstructing justice now, Mr. President.) As a result, Mr. Libby will be required to turn himself over to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving his prison sentence. (Indeed, as many, many convicted Americans have had to do. That’s how the systems works, when it works.)
I have said throughout this process that it would not be appropriate to comment or intervene in this case until Mr. Libby's appeals have been exhausted. (They have not yet been exhausted; his appeal would continue while he was incarcerated.) But with the denial of bail being upheld and incarceration imminent, I believe it is now important to react to that decision. (In a stunning show of arrogance, Bush basically admits that he was never going to allow his friend to do any jail time.)
From the very beginning of the investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, I made it clear to the White House staff and anyone serving in my administration that I expected full cooperation with the Justice Department. Dozens of White House staff and administration officials dutifully cooperated. (Actually, it was revealed in Congressional hearings in March that the branch of the White House that is tasked with investigating internal leaks, the Office of Security, never began an investigation, despite the fact Bush promised one. When asked to explain this, office director James Knodell basically shrugged his shoulders. Libby couldn't "recall" anything and Rove revisited the grand jury several times to "clarify" his statements. Sounds like a White House committed to getting some real answers, eh?)
After the investigation was underway, the Justice Department appointed United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald as a special counsel in charge of the case. Mr. Fitzgerald is a highly qualified, professional prosecutor who carried out his responsibilities as charged. (Please save your halfhearted praise. Fitzgerald is the antichrist to most Republicants, and Rove and Gonzo probably would’ve had him fired had they been able to do so.)
This case has generated significant commentary and debate. (And it ain't over yet!) Critics of the investigation have argued that a special counsel should not have been appointed, nor should the investigation have been pursued after the Justice Department learned who leaked Ms. Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak. (I’m still waiting for my tax money back from Special Counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation of President Clinton, which cost millions and yielded nothing.) Furthermore, the critics point out that neither Mr. Libby nor anyone else has been charged with violating the Intelligence Identities Protection Act or the Espionage Act, which were the original subjects of the investigation. (Clinton was never charged with Whitewater, and the Paula Jones case was thrown out. He was charged with lying about an extramarital affair. Which isn’t excusable, but pales in comparison to the leak of potentially damaging national security information. So much for Cheney’s refusal to release documents out of concern for national security; his staff were already compromising it.) Finally, critics say the punishment does not fit the crime: Mr. Libby was a first-time offender with years of exceptional public service (I am a lowly copywriter with no priors; would you commute my sentence, were I convicted of a similar crime? Clearly one's chosen career impacts their ability to receive presidential clemency.) and was handed a harsh ("Harsh" is such a harsh word!) sentence based in part on allegations never presented to the jury. (Mr. Bush, who are these unnamed “critics” to whom you keep referring? I’m inclined to think they are your influential friends and colleagues. But should what the critics say even matter when justice is at issue? Do the courts take a public poll before passing sentence?)
Others point out that a jury of citizens weighed all the evidence and listened to all the testimony and found Mr. Libby guilty of perjury and obstructing justice. (Who are these others? Everyone knows this happened. It’s not up for debate.) They argue, correctly, that our entire system of justice relies on people telling the truth. And if a person does not tell the truth, particularly if he serves in government and holds the public trust, he must be held accountable. (Careful, Mr. President. You may be shooting yourself in the foot.) They say that had Mr. Libby only told the truth, he would have never been indicted in the first place. (Now we’re getting somewhere. Love the old devil’s advocate tact Bush is taking here, with discussing both sides before shitting all over one of them.)
Both critics and defenders of this investigation have made important points. (“But when all is said and done, loyalty matters to me above all else. That, and protecting my own ass. Libby just knows too much about the inner workings of the White House to go to prison.”) I have made my own evaluation. (“Truth be told, I made it months ago.”) In preparing for the decision I am announcing today, I have carefully weighed these arguments and the circumstances surrounding this case. (“But more important, I have weighed my desire to keep the status quo in the White House.”)
Mr. Libby was sentenced to 30 months of prison, two years of probation and a $250,000 fine. In making the sentencing decision, the district court rejected the advice of the probation office, which recommended a lesser sentence and the consideration of factors that could have led to a sentence of home confinement or probation. (It is within the court’s discretion to give the convicted a slap on the wrist or to throw the book at them. While they actually did the former, you appear to think they’ve done the latter. Way to second-guess our fair and impartial justice system! Home confinement must suck, too, when you live in a large home and already have people doing everything for you.)
I respect the jury's verdict. (Apparently you don’t.) But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. (Two and a half years for treason, likely with time off for good behavior? And if it is "excessive," why not reduce it rather than remove it altogether?) Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend 30 months in prison. (Basically, the only part of the sentence with any teeth in it.)
My decision to commute his prison sentence leaves in place a harsh punishment for Mr. Libby. (Actually, it removes the harshest part of the sentence.) The reputation he gained through his years of public service and professional work in the legal community is forever damaged. (He has only himself to blame.) His wife and young children have also suffered immensely. (Fuck his family. I’m thinking the trite “He [Hubby/Daddy Libby] should have thought of that before…” is fitting here.) He will remain on probation. The significant fines imposed by the judge will remain in effect. The consequences of his felony conviction on his former life as a lawyer, public servant and private citizen will be long-lasting. (Not to worry, folks. One of his many high-powered friends will give him a job in a think tank somewhere.)
The Constitution gives the president the power of clemency to be used when he deems it to be warranted. (“In other words, I am the decider. And I’ve decided to give my friend a free ride.”) It is my judgment that a commutation of the prison term in Mr. Libby's case is an appropriate exercise of this power. (Considering the source here – a man who authorizes torture, throws out habeas corpus and goes around legal procedures to spy on average Americans – his view about what is an appropriate abuse, er, exercise of power is highly suspect.)
Monday, July 02, 2007
Bush considered the 2.5 years Libby was facing for lying (aka the old “I do not recall” defense) and obstructing justice “excessive,” and commuted the sentence. Considering the generous percentage of time the law will take off one’s sentence for good behavior in prison, was it really excessive? This is one of many questions which immediately come to mind.
Another is, since Bush has repeatedly said he wanted to “let the legal process play out” on so many things over the past few years (this was often said in lieu of a real answer to any uncomfortable question from the press, like those about Karl Rove's continued employment in the White House), why did he suddenly reverse this strict policy? Keep in mind, Libby was set to go to jail, but the appeals process had not yet been exhausted. In other words, the legal process had not yet played out. Libby could have been exonerated by the justice system yet.
Another is (I ask coyly), why did this particular case catch the president’s attention? Aren’t there any number of other miscarriages of justice in this country that the president could turn his attention and influence to, rather than a small, warranted sentence for a wealthy friend? Say, like an incarcerated black kid of modest means who didn't really do anything wrong?
And another: What is to stop any high-office official from breaking the law? Between the funds to hire “dream team” legal representation and the knowledge that, should the dream team fail, the president has your back, what incentive is there for you not to commit any crime, up to and including treason or murder? This is not a rhetorical question!
Libby's commutation means that his conviction will stand, and that probation and fines are still in order. But when you’re a wealthy person to start, and have some of the most influential people in the country raising funds for your defense, you’re going to do ok financially even if you are facing large fines. And when you're looking at being locked up in a cage for 30 months, probation must surely feel like a reassuring slap on the wrist. Is that paying for a crime?
I actually think the rules should be changed so presidents cannot pardon (which this commutation, since it eliminates any real punishment, is as good as) anyone they know personally. It’s a clear conflict of interest and an abuse of power. Then we’d have no more Marc Richs, Scooter Libbys or Oliver Norths. This is a view I’ve held since before Libby, by the way.
I also have some other unconventional ideas about the law which apply here. I’ve long believed in a kind of unofficial “banishment” for people who escape justice. That means making (Libby’s) life as shitty as possible without getting in trouble yourself. Don’t help him. Don’t talk to him. Don’t smile at him. If he enters your place of business, tell him that he’s making the other customers “uncomfortable” and ask him to leave. Persona non grata, on a nationwide scale. OJ, without the knife. I’m sincere in this, though I don’t expect anyone will heed it.
This issue is too big for a single post. For part two, I will offer a point-by-point analysis of the president’s statement announcing this commutation. This should be fun!
As we head into our Independence Day celebrations, I lament that we have not yet freed ourselves from the present-day tyranny that is the reign of King/Czar George II of the USA. Somebody get me a drink... STAT!