Friday, April 28, 2006

No Politics Today: This is on the list of things that never fail to crack me up. If you're at work, go to your nearest fire extinguisher. Pick it up, and look for a green warning sticker. There, in bold letters, you'll see that the contents of your fire extinguisher are Non-Flammable.

Gee, that's a relief.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Gasaholic: Gas prices are going up, so consumers are getting creative.

CNN has a story about how Los Angeles motorists are deliberately running out of gas on the freeway. The city has a service where trucks drive up and give provide free gas to those who go empty. So now more and more drivers are stalling and waiting for the rescue. (Hat tip: The Moderate Voice)

You can't do anything nice anymore without some jackass ripping off the system.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What's In a Naymme? Some parents like to give their kids typical names. Many of these are often from the Bible: John, Daniel, Peter, Mary, etc.

Other parents like to give their children less-common names. Nothing too exotic, but something that sets their kids apart: Alexis, Mason, Ashton, etc.

Then there are those parents who give their kids typical names, but with some bastardized spelling. Instead of Amy, it's Aimee. I just talked to a woman who told me her name was Melissa. Then when she e-mailed me, her name was spelled Myllisa.

These poor souls. They get the worst of both worlds -- boring names that nobody will know how to spell. They have common names, but they will never be able to find one of those license-plate key chains with the right spelling on it.

Leap of Faith: Fox News Anchor Tony Snow has taken some criticism for considering a job as White House press secretary for President Bush. That doesn't bother me, though. Snow was a speechwriter for the former President Bush and now bloviates the Republican agenda on his opinionated talk show. Unlike the general news portion of Fox, Snow doesn't even try to be fair and balanced. He is already up front about his opinions, and joining the White House now won't make much of a difference.

What bothers me is when political hacks go back and forth from politics to journalism as supposedly objective news reporters. Many partisans have made the Fosbury Flop over the line between politics and news. George Stephanopoulos went from senior advisor and press secretary for President Clinton to ABC newsman. Tim Russert, of NBC's Meet the Press, was chief of staff for Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

If someone spends a good part of his professional career shilling for a political party, I'd rather see that person enter the news business as an opinion columnist of some sort, not as an objective news reporter.

Granted, all of us journalists have opinions on many of the issues that we cover. There's no denying that. But when a reporter's opinions are well known, that person loses credibility. Even if the ex partisan is presenting the news objectively, people will doubt the reporter's sincerity.

I'm surprised news organizations hire these former politicos as anything but pundits. If journalists routinely jump between politics and news, then there is no reason for any of us to withhold our opinions to begin with. But we need a group of people to report facts as objectively as possible. Granted, there's always going to be some opinion injected in any news report. But I'd rather my readers have to guess about my true beliefs than to undercut my own creditability with everyone knowing ahead of time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Evil Doers: Osama Bin Laden wants to expand his jihad to include Sudan, asking for Muslims to attack U.N. troops -- if, of course, U.N. troops ever show up to do something about the genocide in Darfur.

Bin Laden argues that the U.S. and the U.N. are in a war against Islam. But the U.N. is only proposing to send troops to Sudan to protect black Muslims from Arab Muslims, who are slaughtering their Muslim brothers. Bin Laden, of course, wants the slaughter to continue.

Possibly hundreds of thousands of people have died in Darfur. If that's not humanitarian enough reason to intervene, try this. Osama Bin Laden used to have his headquarters in Sudan. Al Qaeda still has a strong presence there. If the current situation is allowed to deteriorate, we'll be there fighting Al Qaeda again after we find out that they are coordinating global terrorist attacks from that location, as they did after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.

The United States military can't be everywhere at once. But if there is a time for the United Nations to step up in the War on Terrorism as well as fulfill its humanitarian mission, this is it. The U.N. shouldn't back down just because the enemy promises to fight back. There's a war going on, and we need to fight it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What Are You Smoking? Stupid people have decided to file a $5-billion class-action lawsuit against DuPont for the dangers that Teflon pans create.

Nobody has gotten sick or died because of Teflon. But the potential is there, say the stupid people, and DuPont should have warned everybody.

The evidence the stupid people present includes a study from the 1950s that says if you put Teflon particles in a cigarette and smoke it, then you could get sick. Also, if you heat up a Teflon pan without putting any food in it, it will begin to smoke and the handle will melt. After all that happens, toxic fumes could be released that may make you sick or kill your pet bird.

This has not actually happen yet, but it could, say the stupid people. NPR dutifully reported this, giving me a reason to more forcefully hit the snooze button this morning.

Perhaps it's the nature of 24-hour news cycles, but the antics and concerns of the inane seem to get more and more press coverage. It reminds me of that dumb guy who filmed the movie Super Size Me, showing what happens if you eat nothing but McDonald's three meals a day for 30 days. Lo and behold, you can get sick.

Sorry, but that has nothing to do with people who normally eat at McDonald's. If you eat nothing but cucumbers and carrot juice three times a day for 30 days, bad things are going to happen to your body. That's not an indictment against cucumbers, but it does say an awful lot about the person who engages in such activities.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Big Problem: Is The Onion satirical? Or is it just ahead of its time?

In the year 2000, The Onion parodied the Big Tobacco settlements with an article on lawsuits against Big Chocolate. It seems candy causes obesity, lo and behold, and chocoholics sued the industry for cash, according to the article.

Fast forward to today, and now we have a concerted effort to sue and regulate the fast-food and junk-food industries.

Tobacco may kill, but everyone already knows that. Suing the tobacco industry sets a dangerous precedent for other lawsuits. Already we've had suits filed against industries that create junk food and guns. That's the problem with the nanny-state. Once money becomes available, people give up personal responsibility for lawsuits.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Freedom Isn't Free: Inspirational words.

Freedom of speech is at stake here, don't you all see? If anything, we should all make cartoons of Mohammed and show the terrorists and the extremists that we are all united in the belief that every person has a right to say what they want. Look people, it's been really easy for us to stand up for free speech lately. For the past few decades, we haven't had to risk anything to defend it. One of those times is right now. And if we aren't willing to risk what we have now, then we just believe in free speech, but won't defend it.
How the hell does South Park become the voice of reason in controversy after controversy?

That quote was from the recent two-part episode of South Park, lampooning both the recent Mohammed cartoon controversy and the TV show Family Guy. The show even skewered the news media. For all its cheerleading about the First Amendment, news outlets were the first to back down and refuse to show the Danish cartoons that were causing so much strife in the Muslim community.

The media didn't withhold those images out of respect -- they enthusiastically show any other images that offend any other group or religion if the controversy has news value. The media censored themselves out of fear.

This is why we're fighting the global War on Terrorism. The Muslim terrorists are offended by our freedoms, which they see as blasphemous, and they wish to kill us in retaliation. While our government is taking the military battle to them overseas, we need to wage our own battles against terrorists here at home.

But the media keeps chickening out. Comedy Central apparently refused to show an image of Mohammed on the last South Park episode. But network executives were fine with depicting an image of Jesus crapping on the American flag during the same episode. What's ridiculous about this whole controversy is that South Park already showed an image of Mohammed years ago. It wasn't controversial then, so nobody noticed.

The only difference now is that we are at war with terrorists. And too many people are buckling under the pressure.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tax and Spin: Yesterday, Drudge linked to this chart of state taxes, showing that, per capita, Vermont taxed its citizens more than any other state. What I found interesting is that neighboring New Hampshire was third from last in taxes levied.

Although geographically the two New England states look damn near like twins, culturally they are very different. In simple political terms, New Hampshire is more Red and Vermont is more Blue.

I just wonder though, what do Vermonters get for their higher taxes? And are the folks in New Hampshire missing out on any valuable services? From what I can tell, there is no significant difference. Crime, education, and poverty are about the same.

In fact, tax rates don't seem to correlate to anything of any quality. I grew up in Texas, then I moved to Washington, DC -- which, although isn't on this list, probably would rival Vermont for top spot. I have since moved to neighboring Virginia, where I get fewer taxes and fewer problems. I also spend a lot of time in Maryland, which is higher on the tax list. Yet, there's no real difference between any of those places -- except for the District of Columbia's own unique problems, but that has nothing to do with its taxes.

On average, each person in Massachusetts pays nearly twice as much as someone in Texas. And for what? I don't think anyone has a really good answer.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Thousand Words: I'm fascinated with political cartoons. If I could draw worth a damn, this blog would be full of my doodles.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Mission Statement: Abu Musab Zarqawi has apparently been replaced as the head Al Qaeda guy in Iraq in favor of a new terrorist who is actually from that country. Jordanian-born Zarqawi, who hasn't made a public statement in months, has ruffled the feathers of a few Al Qaeda officials with his high-profile kidnappings and beheadings. Because of these "political" mistakes, he is now only in charge of some military actions.

But this is not a demotion, Zarqawi maintains. It's merely a reallocation of resources, or some bureaucratic shuffle.

Elsewhere, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed describes Osama Bin Laden as a meddling, micromanaging boss. He's one of those managers who doesn't know what he's doing, but won't stop telling you how to do your job.

Looks like Al Qaeda suffers from the same political-sniping, office-drudgery, mundane personality conflicts that the rest of us go through. With any luck, Al Qaeda will soon have an Enron-style collapse, God willing.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Broken News: There's the most ridiculous argument going on now regarding Tom DeLay. Both Chris Matthews of MSNBC and Mike Allen of Time Magazine claim they got the scoop about DeLay resigning from Congress. I haven't looked up the time stamp to figure out which one beat the other, because I don't care. I found out about the news on NPR the next morning.

Journalists seemed to have lost sight on what a true "scoop" is. DeLay was going to announce his resignation with or without the media's help. If you happen to beat his announcement, that's not so much a scoop as an exclusive. You've essentially scooped a press release.

There's nothing wrong with getting something first. Such competition among journalists generally improves news gathering and gets information out quickly. But that also leads to irresponsible reporting of rumors, many of which have to be corrected or retracted later. Being right today doesn't mean anything if the information is wrong tomorrow.

If you do get an accurate story first, there's plenty of reason to be proud. But don't brag incessantly about it like Chris Matthews. Nobody cares.

A true scoop is something that nobody would have covered if it weren't for your journalistic digging. A perfect example of that is The New York Times story on the NSA wiretaps. The Bush administration surely wasn't going to announce it. And The Times spent a year reporting the story -- confirming that the information is true, that this is a big deal, and that reporting it wouldn't jeopardize national security before printing the story. That's a true service of journalism.

Of course, there is some controversy about whether The Times was right to run the story. But they found enough whistleblowers who had strong enough concerns that the wiretapping crosses privacy, and possibly legal, lines that the program needed to be made public.

That beats your typical "scoop" pertaining to whether Politician X is or is not really running for president. All such speculation stories just feed publicity to the potential candidate, and do little to inform the public about what's really going on. And all that digging and schmoozing would be better spent finding real news instead of beating routine announcements.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Kiss of Death: It's disheartening when our political system runs more efficiently than our criminal justice system. It looks like Zacarias Moussaui is on his way to receiving the death penalty, but that trial is sure taking a long, windy road to get there.

For instance, Moussaui has already been found guilty. Then the jury determined that he is eligible for the death penalty. Now they have to decide whether he will actually be put to death.

I'm just wondering, why couldn't the jury just decide whether or not to kill Moussaui while they were deliberating about whether he was eligible for such a punishment? I'm sure it came up at some point in the conversation.

I know, legal procedure is convoluted like that. But this trial has been a circus from the get go. I'm not going to join the chorus that says it is impossible to bring due process to terrorist suspects, but I think this case shows it has limited effect. Nihilistic barbarians with nothing to lose will play the system every step of the way.

The other issue I hear everyone talking about is whether he should be put to death. He's an evil scumbag, we all know. But some people say we shouldn't kill him because that's what he wants. It would only make him a martyr.

Call my cynical, but I find it a little disingenuous when the same people who oppose the death penalty because they believe it's cruel and unusual are now opposed to it because it would be too nice. All the logical twists and turns in an argument aren't very persuasive when you end up in the same place you were before.

Besides, we really don't know what Moussaui wants. He's on the record saying he wants the death penalty, and also saying he doesn't. A terrorist flip-flopper. Is he seeking martyrdom but denying it to antagonize the jury? Or does he want to save his own neck and is talking about martyrdom as some sort of reverse psychology? Sounds to me like he's a nut job who believes he's supposed to die but is still trying to pick a fight.

Even if he wants to die, that shouldn't be a reason for us not to kill him. If he conspired to kill Americans, then by law he deserves the death penalty. Besides, Al Qaeda has plenty of martyrs to worship. One more won't make a difference.

Honestly, I don't care what happens to him at this point. If he dies by lethal injection, he's a martyr. If he is locked in jail for the rest of his life, he's still a martyr, via symbolic political prisoner or some such.

The 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, has already revealed that Moussaui was an Al Qaeda member who was to be tapped to kill Americans. Whether Moussaui was telling the truth about his role to fly a plane into the White House or whether he was supposed to be part of a different attack, that's all irrelevant. He is a dangerous terrorist, and now he's behind bars. Mission accomplished. On to the next one.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Hammer of Justice Crushes You: Tom DeLay is resigning from Congress. Apparently he knew that he was going to lose the upcoming election anyways, what with all his legal troubles, so he chose to do the "honorable" thing and fall on his own sword. Call it legally assisted political suicide.

If anything, this is a reminder that the system still works. Sure, there is a stinky smell of corruption throughout the entire political process. But anytime serious allegations are levied, then the media, public, and political spotlights shine bright enough to burn.

I don't know if DeLay is guilty of anything more than being the World's Biggest Asshole. Ronnie Earle, the Travis County district attorney who brought charges against DeLay, may have finally caught a big fish. And of course DeLay's ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff are extremely damaging. Luckily all of this will be settled in the courts and in the media and outside the halls of Congress.

One funny thing I noticed. We all know that many politicians, especially big ones like DeLay, are power hungry and self centered. But when they step down because they know they're about to lose, they usually talk about doing what's best for the country. DeLay, on the other hand, talked about doing what's best for the GOP, claiming he wanted to make sure that his district stays Republican. So here is Tom DeLay's order of priorities: Self, Party, God, Country, Other People.

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