Friday, September 1, 2006

Random Thoughts on Friday

"I'm going to hold my breath until you say you believe me!"

WASHINGTON - Speaking before an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, the White House is bringing representatives from countries that have suffered terrorist attacks to populate the audience at President Bush's next war-on terror speech, to emphasize the global nature of the enemy.

My question to the blog: Why do we need to know - constantly - that the government is fighting a war on terror? Not the one in the Middle East - the one over here - the one with the scare tactics. Other than frightening us (which I suppose is their aim) there is really no need to know the lengths to which the government is going to keep terrorists away from our country. Like the war on drugs (which is also wasted money) it will go on without any input from us. So, include me out and handle it on your own. When you continue to mention the "good work" you're doing, it only serves to convince me that you are trying to convince yourself.

"Golf courses and cemetaries - the biggest wastes of prime real estate!" declared Al Czervik [Rodney Dangerfield] in Caddyshack. Now, it seems, Al's dreams are becoming reality as golf courses around the country are being converted into retail space and housing developments. In the last 5 years, course closings soared from 23 to a record 93.5 last year.
Point-five? Somebody lost 9 holes! Golfers still have plenty of places to play: 16,052 courses nationwide, and each course is about 150 acres. It's the first time since 1945 that there has been a yearly reduction in the number of golf courses - so, there's some good news.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Tiny-little Khagendra Thapa Magar, 14, is waiting for the Guinness Book of Records people to reach a final decision as to whether he is indeed the shortest person in the world. The little shrimp is 20 inches tall and weighs 10 pounds, but he's only 14. Maybe they should wait, because I think he could shoot-up to at least 22 inches by the time he's 18.

But, look on the bright side ... he could hang with Coco (Mrs. Ice-T), and when it rains, he wouldn't get wet ...
Wow. There's a real caboose on that train, eh Khagendra?
Meanwhile, it's raining really hard here in the Garden State, prompting our local newscasts to devote the first 8 minutes of the six-o'clock news to the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto. The fact that it isn't a hurricane, or even a tropical storm, anymore didn't stop them from putting up giant ERNESTO graphics, with the accompanying storm cloud.

They sent reporters out in the field to show us that it was raining in such far-away outposts as Cape May, NJ and Chester, PA. The only other way I would have known is if I had looked out the window - which, given the nonsense on the news, was a viable entertainment option.

But, thank the God that made her, Cecily Tynan was dry and warm in the studio, pointing at isobars and looking as cute as ever, while poor Cathy Gandolfo and Dann Cuellar were outside like drowned rats.
I mention Cecily only to pick up another couple of Google searches. Two in the last week. I feel good about making someone in Mt. Laurel read my whole blog post just to get to -- nothing.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Easiest Target

WASHINGTON, DC August 17 (AP) - A federal judge ruled Thursday that the nation's top cigarette makers violated racketeering laws, deceiving the public for years about the health hazards of smoking, but said she couldn't order them to pay the billions of dollars the government had sought.
U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler did order the companies to publish in newspapers and on their Web sites “corrective statements” on the adverse health effects and addictiveness of smoking and nicotine.
She also ordered tobacco companies to stop labeling cigarettes as “low tar,” “light,” “ultra light” or “mild,” since such cigarettes have been found to be no safer than others because of how people smoke them.

BOSTON August 30 (CBS/AP) - The level of nicotine that smokers typically consume per cigarette has risen about 10 percent in the past six years, making it harder to quit and easier to get hooked, according to a new report released by the Massachusetts Department of Health.
The study shows a steady climb in the amount of nicotine delivered to the lungs of smokers regardless of brand, with overall nicotine yields increasing by about 10 percent.

They lied to us about the health effects (on more than one occasion), violated racketeering laws and are increasing the level of the addictive substance while telling us in advertising not to smoke. Do you think that they're smart enough to know that no matter how much they tell people to stop, the cigarette companies are smart enough to know that we can't? I think so.

What other company produces ads to tell consumers not to use its product?

If any other consumer product demonstrated the negative health effects that cigarettes do, they would be banned by the Food and Drug Administration. They had a harder time selling Pop Rocks and Jolt Cola than they do cigarettes.

Here's the answer: Starting tomorrow, ban the sale of cigarettes in all 50 states. Force people to stop smoking. They know its bad and we know it, so let's stop teh advertising, the new laws, the wasted money on medical research and the wasted money in health care.
Gradually, it is becoming more difficult to smoke in public. They can't smoke inside, they can't smoke at work - there have even been half-hearted attempts to ban smoking in automobiles. Soon, smokers will have to carry around a little plastic helmet so that they can inhale their own second-hand smoke. Soon, the only place smokers will be allowed to smoke is in their home - just like sodomy.

If it is killing us, and everyone knows it is killing us, why are we still allowed to consume them? What makes the cigarette companies different than the drug companies, who would have to take a deadly drug off the market - and the drugs they ban actually help some people. All cigarettes do is kill the user and annoy the people around the user. A perfectly useless product to everyone but the manufacturer.

It just bothers me, is all.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Slow Mind

I just got it...


The story of Vince Papale.

...boy, do I feel like a dope.

Suri You Can't Be Serious

This photo released by the Capla Kesting Gallery(CKG) shows a sculpture purportedly cast from 19-week old Suri Cruise's first bowel movement. The work by controversial artist Daniel Edwards, is to be auctioned off for charity on eBay next month.(AFP/CKG-HO)

Boy, am I mad at my parents for not saving my first poop. Not that it would sell on eBay, but a guy would sure like to have his first poop for the old mantle. It beats the Hell out of those bronzed baby shoes.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

An Ill Wind That Blows No Good

I'm following-up yesterday's rant with some pointed moments from President Bush's visit to New Orleans on Monday. The following news article appeared on Yahoo News today.
And, while you're feeling non-represented, Pam has a neat anecdote that demonstrates how wealthy people complain.

This is supposed to be funny, but I don't see the humor:

NEW ORLEANS - The president began a national day of remembrance for Hurricane Katrina victims by meeting with Mayor Ray Nagin in a neighborhood where homes are still stained with high-water marks. As Bush walked into the packed Betsy's Pancake House in New Orleans, waitress Joyce Labruzzo jokingly asked: "Mr. President, are you going to turn your back on me?"

"No ma'am, not again," he replied to laughter.

It was a lighthearted moment. But it could have been a metaphor for the Bush administration's poor response to the storm and the president's work since to make amends.

"Money is beginning to go out the door so people can rebuild their lives," Bush said Monday in Biloxi, Miss. "In Louisiana, it's been a little slower."

Money's going out the door, alright - you idiot - and nobody's slower than you.

Then, the First Lady asked and answered her own questions. I often wonder about people who do that:

Laura Bush appeared Tuesday on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"Was the federal government slow? Sure, probably. Was every government slow, state and local? Sure. But have they responded in a very, very helpful way? I think they have."

"I think we'll look back on it and we'll see it for what it was: the largest disaster that our country has ever faced and a huge disaster," she said. "Could we have done better? Sure, but are we doing what we can now? Absolutely."

She could run her own talk show. "The Laura Bush Show" starring Laura Bush.
Tonight's guest - me.

And now, a healthy epilogue to our little National tragedy:

The death toll in Louisiana from Katrina is close to 1,600, including nearly 300 who died in other states after fleeing from the hurricane. In Jackson Square last year, Bush offered three proposals to help fight poverty. One idea carried out, the Gulf Opportunity Zone, is giving $8.7 billion in tax breaks to developers of low-income housing, small businesses and individuals.

But worker recovery accounts, meant to help victims find work by paying for school, job training and child care, didn't materialize. Neither did the Urban Homesteading Act that would have given poor people sites to build homes they would finance themselves or get through programs like Habitat for Humanity.

Only half of New Orleans has electricity. Half its hospitals are closed. Violent crime is up. Less than half the population has returned. Tens of thousands of families still live in trailers and mobile homes with no real timetable for moving to more permanent housing. Insurance settlements are mired in red tape. The city still has no master rebuilding plan. And while much debris has been cleared, some remains as if the clock stopped when the storm struck.

So far, Congress has approved $110 billion in hurricane aid. The Bush administration has released $77 billion to the states, reserving the rest for future needs, but $33 billion of that has not yet been spent.

But whatever will poor Trent Lott do?

Meanwhile, Hurricane Ernesto is headed toward Florida. No worries, folks - another Bush is on the job! I'm sure the people of Florida feel better knowing that the Governor has an "in" at the White House. It's a shame that Governor Nagin does not.

Katrina and the Wave

August 29 marks the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina making landfall in New Orleans, and the most devastating natural disaster since Paris Hilton got a TV show.
According to a new poll, most Americans are wary of another such event – (the hurricane, not Paris):

Their confidence shaken by Katrina, most Americans don't believe the nation is ready for another major disaster, a new AP-Ipsos poll finds. Poor people are more likely to fear becoming victims of the next disaster.

The survey, conducted one year after the devastating hurricane and with much of New Orleans still in shambles, found diminishing faith in the government's ability to deal with emergencies.

While it may seem otherwise, I don’t think too many people in the White House are all that concerned about it, for a few reasons.

First, disasters give Americans something to take their minds off how screwed up the rest of the country is.
It focuses media att
ention on the affected area, with the appropriate front page or top of the network news headlines that allow us to think of little else.
The government would prefer that we
stop thinking about the daily goings-on and focus on the sensational.
It’s good for business and even better for the people in government.

Second, I’m not all that sure that it is in the government’s best interests to care about people killed or displaced by such things, especially if they are poor. They have no interest in helping the poor, since generally; they don’t vote and in fact have no ability to influence policy or do anything that would be detrimental to the people in power.

This is crass, but I don’t think that this administration views people as a valuable commodity worthy of saving.

Whether it is war, poverty, fire, flood or terrorist attack, people are disposable resources.

Use us, send us overseas to fight your battles, kill us, cripple us or whatever … we don’t matter.

The president can do what he wants insofar as memorial services, sappy speeches or dedications are concerned, but I don’t believe that big government (big business) has any regard for the health and welfare of people – especially the ones on welfare.

There are acceptable casualties when it comes to running a country.

Hurricanes, wars, terrorism and natural disasters fall under the category of inevitable death, and while it may seem cold-hearted, a government cannot allow itself to get too wrapped up in the preservation of those lives or the glorification of them after they have been used.

The memorial services and windy speeches are done as a show for the survivors, not out of genuine feeling by the people involved.

The sooner you can realize that your government views you as a utensil and not a feeling human being, the sooner you can rationalize the things they do.

Don’t put too much feeling into an unrequited love affair. They don’t care about you as much as you do about them.

That is about as cynical as I can get.

House Democrats on Monday toured devastated areas of New Orleans and decried the slow pace of recovery. "I think the American public is going to be very, very surprised to know this recovery is way, way behind what their expectations would have been," Rep. James Clyburn, D-SC, said after a tour that took more than a dozen Democratic members of Congress through the heavily hit Ninth Ward.

"It's hard to believe this is the United States," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md.

House of Representatives Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the storm exposed a "tragedy" of mismanagement and that the government was not fulfilling its pledges.
"Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens still await the help in rebuilding their hospitals, schools, businesses, and homes that was promised last fall," Pelosi said.

The horrors experienced at the Superdome and elsewhere in New Orleans stoked concern about racial and economic divisions because blacks and the poor bore the brunt of the suffering. Asked if he believed race was a factor in the slow federal response to Katrina, Nagin said: "If it would have been a bunch of rich people in New Orleans, I think there would have been a different response. I really do."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Bless Their Pointed Little Heads

I love good irony, and today's news is full of it.

First, this story from Brattleboro, Vermont, where kids are running the streets naked, apparently for no reason other than boredom. It will get cold in Vermont soon, so have your fun now, kids. Shrinkage. Apparently, it isn't illegal to appear nude in public there if your intent is not to arouse someone sexually. That sounds like a good, healthy attitude. Although I wouldn't do it myself, I applaud their bravery.

Then, we're off to Warsaw, Poland, where Warsaw's symbol, a half naked mermaid (pictured above), will have her chest covered on a poster promoting the Miss World competition, after the original version was judged too erotic. They re-drew the poster with a sash over the formerly naked breast. Maybe they should hold the contest in Vermont.

While strolling our local shopping mall over the weekend, I noticed a new Victoria's Secret store opening soon. The innards were still in disarray, and they had a "Hiring" sign out front. In the window, were several mannequins, who while still undressed, had black plastic trash bags draped over them, lest innocent shoppers see the naked mannequins.

News flash: They are plastic dummies, not real people. Who decided that they needed to have plastic bags draped over them? What kind of psychological harm would befall a youngster (or old man, for that matter) who happened to glimpse one of the girls in their artificial nudity? Two weeks from now, they'll be draped in lingerie and scanty panties. Is that any worse?

So let's recap:
We have naked kids running the streets in Vermont,
A drawing of a fictional character, advertising a beauty pageant is being altered,
Plastic dummies are being covered with trash bags.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Cure for Writer's Block

I just returned from my weekly sojourn to the supermarket, which you may know, is one of my (least) favorite cultural experiences. But, it is necessary, so I persevere. Suffix: severe.

My local supermarket has installed the sanitizing towelettes outside, so that we can wipe off the snotty residue of our fellow shoppers, for a safe and clean shopping experience. Pick your nose, sneeze, cough and scratch yourself. It's OK, we'll clean up after you.
Of course, since I didn't shave today and left the house in gym shorts and a football jersey - looking kinda ratty, I ran into a woman I know. I had to do a quick "hello", since I was not prepared for a stop-and-chat. Then, of course, for the remainder of the trip it was essential that I avoid her - peering around every aisle to see if I was going to run into her again. Sometimes, it's required to skip a lane to get out of the shopping rhythm. Mission accomplished on that one.
I think it's interesting that laundry detergents are all one-syllable names: Bold, Tide, Surf, Gain, Fab, Cheer, Biz, Yes, Wisk and All. Someone should contact Arm & Hammer's marketing department. They should change the name to Arm, like Sears did with Roebuck.

I had a hankering for some nuts. Nothing looked better than Planter's Deluxe Mixed Nuts. They were next to the regular mixed nuts, and a dollar more a can. But, they were Deluxe. I can't pass up a deluxe nut. I guess they were raised in a better quality of dirt? I think Mr. Peanut was giving me the finger and laughing at me, but I don't know.
I picked up a container of pre-cooked chicken parts to mix with some rice for lunches this week. The 10-ounce container told me in big, bold lettering that it contained 66% More! ... and in smaller lettering ... than the 6-ounce size. Thanks, Butterball. I knew I would use that high school math later in life.
For some reason, when I line up the junk on the little conveyor, the courtesy-bagger-kid that the store employs to help us disappears for some reason. Just because I look like a homeless football player is no reason to desert me in my hour of need.
Anyway, I'm home in time for the Emmy Awards - where television pats itself on the back. Aside from wanting Jaime Pressly to win, I couldn't care less. I'm going to wash my hands and find out exactly what is so "Deluxe" about those nuts other than the price.
This just in: Jaime lost out to the woman in Will and Grace. There truly is no accounting for tastes.