Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Botox Treatments Lead to Botulism (Is Anyone Really Surprised?)

From today's New York Post
Two couples are hospitalized in critical condition with botulism poisoning after undergoing Botox wrinkle-removing injections at a Florida clinic, health officials said yesterday.

All four people are on ventilators and being fed intravenously -- one couple in Florida and the other in New Jersey, where they had gone to visit relatives for Thanksgiving, said Palm Beach County Health Department spokesman Tim O'Connor.

Test results are expected on Thursday from the federal Centers for Disease Control, which is leading the investigation of the four cases in conjunction with the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Botox manufacturer Allergan said it is cooperating with health officials.

Botulism is a rare and potentially fatal paralytic illness caused by the botulinium toxin, which is found in contaminated food. Botox is a purified derivative of the botulinium toxin that is used as a muscle relaxant and an anti-wrinkle drug.

Write Your Own Caption

A photo of Dubya from this past week, submitted for your review - I look forward to reading any suggested captions. (You know, something like "The Cheese Stands Alone", or "World Leaders Line Up Behind Bush's Plans...NOT". Use the "comments" link below to contribute.)

[Thanks, BAGnewsNotes!]

It’s the Oil and Revenge, Stupid

Revenge is a kind of wild justice; which the more man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out.
Francis Bacon (1561 - 1626), English philosopher

Supporters of the Iraq war to stop the country’s production of its weapons of mass destruction have continually discounted oil as a reason for going to war. The Misanthrope strongly believes the reasons were oil and revenge. In Monday, Nov. 29, 2004 Los Angeles Times, buried in the inside column on page four was the article “Iraq to Increase Its Oil Output.” The article points out that Iraq is the fifth-largest oil producer in the Middle East. Now why would the U.S. want Iraq’s oil? For starters, how about a daily consumption of more than 25 percent of the world’s oil that is consumed by a country that is only five percent of the world’s population. Let’s not forget China’s growing appetite for oil.

The Bush Administration does not want to control the oil; it just wants it on the free market. According to the LA Times article, some of the world’s largest oil companies, including Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch/Shell Group and ChevronTexaco Corp., are very interested in bidding to develop Iraq’s oil resources. Especially eager are Shell and Chevron offering free consulting services to help build stronger relationships that may lead to contracts

But, they can’t do it until the country’s elections are held and the official administration allows it. We certainly have a stake in who is elected. Even as the United States. invaded the country, according to the book by Rick Atkinson “In the Company of Soldiers,” the military named its air refueling points after major oil companies:

Exxon would be located near Nasariyah, in southern Iraq; Shell was to go southwest of Najaf. Conoco…would be built three hundred miles in to Iraq.

The U.S. could not possibly want the oil, right? Wrong. Let’s not forget that Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld’s previous dealings with Saddam Hussein. And, certainly one must not forget the threat to this president’s father. If there is no revenge involved, why does Bush have Hussein’s gun in the Oval office?

On The Mark -- Reporting from Russia I

St. Petersburg. In the Venice of the North, except the canals ice over here. One thing I have found throughout my travels in the world, currently in Russia, is that people are the same everywhere. Whether it's a rich or poor country. They want to have a job. They want peace. They want a family. And they want to be able to put food on the table. It's the respective governments and politics that force the people to be different. But we're seeing the people stand up now, probably not in a way that we've seen for many decades. In neighboring Ukraine, it's nearly a civil war, and the nationwide strike may bring the country to its knees. The people understand this; indeed, they are the ones who hold the power to do this. But they understand that the suffering they experience now will, in their hopes, bring peace and prosperity to generations ahead. At the same time, the consensus here in Russia, among the people that I enjoy vodka with, is that they are selecting in their next president between bad and worse.

It's a very interesting time here. Certainly people are nervous for what the future holds economically, and if the government will truly move the pendulum back to Soviet ways. But there's also a very low ebb of hope and promise. You can feel it very slightly in the people. However, I've only been to the two major cities thus far, here and Moscow. In a few days I go into the heart of Russia, to small cities and towns, where I've been told universally that "you will see the hardship of our country where the millions of our people struggle every day to survive."

Monday, November 29, 2004

Five Apes

Put five apes in a room. Hang a banana from the ceiling and place a ladder underneath the banana. The banana can only be reached by climbing the ladder. Have it set up such that any time an ape starts to climb the ladder, the whole room is sprayed with ice cold water. In a short time, all the apes will learn not to climb the ladder.

Now take one ape out and replace him with another one, number six, and disable the sprayer. The new ape will start to climb the ladder and will be attacked unmercifully by the other four apes. He will have no idea why he was attacked.

Replace another old ape with new one. The same thing will happen, with ape number six doing the most hitting. Continue this pattern until all the old apes have been replaced. Now all of the apes will stay off of the ladder, attack any ape that attempts to, and have absolutely no idea why they are doing it.

This is how a company policy is formed.

[Thanks, Rohit.]


Remember two weeks ago when we wrote about special disclaimer stickers in Atlanta textbooks, advising students that evolution is just a theory?

We're pleased to report that an industrious do-gooder has created some alternate textbook stickers that may be of more practical use.

Click here to see the whole selection.

Wisconsin Shooting Spree - Shooter's Statement

Here are some excerpts from the official statement of Chai Soua Vang, the man who [allegedly] shot and killed six other hunters last week (from TwinCities.com). If you want to read the whole police report, including conflicting reports of the incident, go here. Why bother reading it? It includes such wonderfully-crafted sentences as "Vang stated that Vang observed the subject with the rifle point the rifle at Vang." [All bolding is mine, for emphasis.]


On November 22, 2004 at approximately 10:15 a.m. investigator Gary Gillis and FBI agent Ken Mammoser interviewed Chai Vang at the Sawyer County Jail.

Vang stated that Vang had been hunting on public land and got lost. Vang stated that Vang located a tree stand next to a swamp. Nobody was in the stand so Vang climbed into it. Vang stated that after approximately 15 minutes another hunter approached Vang. the hunter asked Vang "Why are you in the stand, you're on private property," Vang stated that Vang told the subject that Vang did not know that the land was private and that Vang did not see any "no trespassing" signs. Vang stated that Vang climbed down and started to walk away. Vang stated that while walking away Vang heard the other male subject call on a walkie talkie. Vang did not hear what was said.

Vang stated that a few moments later 2 ATVs approached his location with 5 or 6 guys on them. Vana stated that Vang was confronted by this group also. Vang stated that one of the subjects that Vang believed to be the owner of the property stated "why were you in my son's stand"? Vang stated that Vang told the man that Vang did not know it was private land. And that Vang did not see any signs indicating that land was private. Vang stated that this man stated "you just trespassed through 400 acres of private land." Vang stated that the others in the group surrounded Vang. Vang stated that the man that Vang thought to be the owner then started calling Vang names like "gook, chink, fucking asian." Vang stated that at this point the only one that Vang saw with a gun was the first subject that kicked Vang out of the stand.

Vang stated that Vang was told to get off the fucking property and never come back. Vang stated that at one point they wrote down his license number and stated that they were going to call the law enforcement. Vang stated that some of the others in the group started calling Vang names (gook, chink) and were also swearing at Vang, Vang stated that Vang started walking away and got approximately 20 yards a way and turned around and observed the man that had the rifle walking towards the rest of the group, Vang also observed the man take the rifle off his shoulder and took the rifle into his hands. Vang stated that Vang was approximately 100 feet away and looked back again, Vang stated that Vang observed the subject with the rifle point the rifle at Vang. Vang stated that Vang immediately dropped to a crouch position and the subject shot at Vang and the bullet hit the ground 30 to 40 feet behind Vang.

Vang stated that Vang removed the scope from his rifle. Vang stated that Vang shot 2 times at the man with the rifle and the man dropped to the ground. Vang saw all the others run towards the ATV's and Vang continued to shoot. Vang stated that 2 or 3 more men fell to the ground. Vang stated that a couple of the men started to run. Vang stated that Vang chased after one of the men that ran towards the cabin. Vang stated that the man was yelling "help me, help me". Vang stated that Vang shot at the man several time while chasing him. Vang stated that Vang stated that he got to about 15 to 20 feet of the man who was still running away and Vang shot him in the back. Vang stated that the man dropped to the ground. Vang stated that the man did not have a gun. Vang stated that Vang walked up to the man and heard the man groan and then Vang walked away.

Vang stated that at this point Vang heard one of the other men call on the walkie talkie and state "we've been shot and need help." Vang stated that Vang observed 3 other subjects coming on an ATV. Vang stated that Vang then turned his reversible coat from orange to camo. Vang stated that he also reloaded his magazine with 5 or 6 bullets. Vang stated that Vang did not shoot at these men because they had guns with them. Vang stated that the men were in by the other injured men for less then a minute and then left. Vang did not know if the men took any of the wounded out with them.

Vang stated that Vang then observed another ATV coming with 2 more people on it. Vang stated that the driver of this ATV had a gun on his shoulder. Vang stated that Vang began to run and Vang stated that they saw Vang running and were going too fast to stop and drove past Vang. Vang stated that they stopped approximately 10 to 15 feet past Vang at a 45 degree angle. Vang stated that the man removed the gun from his shoulder with one hand while the other hand was on the handle bars of the ATV. Vang stated that Vang shot 3 or 4 times and both people fell off the ATV and onto the ground.

Vang stated that Vang then started to run back towards where the original shooting started. Vang stated that Vang looked up the trail and saw that one of the men were standing. Vang stated that Vang yelled "you're not dead yet?" Vang stated that Vang shot one more time in the direction of this man but doesn't know if he hit the man or not. Vang stated that he continued to run away and did not return. Vang stated that at one point while running Vang decided that he did not want to shoot anybody else, so Vang threw his remaining ammunition into a swamp.

Yang stated that approximately an hour after throwing the ammunition away Vang heard the airplane overhead. Vang stated that Vang was thinking that they were looking for Vang so Vang was thinking about turning himself in. Vang stated that Vang came upon a hunter with an ATV and asked the hunter for a ride to the road. Vang stated that the hunter drove Vang to the hunter's cabin. Vang stated that the wardens were at the cabin waiting for him.

All of the victims were dressed in blaze orange clothing.

It’s Money that Matters

The salary of the chief executive of the large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.
John Kenneth Galbraith, economist

This is a group The Misanthrope feels extreme sorrow for – the executives of Wall Street firms, who according to the New York Times, complain about the time spent on compensating their highly paid employees.

Tis the time of year to help the rich get richer. Last year, the president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs made $20.1 million; but only $600,000 of that was salary. Similarly, the chief executive of Merrill Lynch, made $500,000 in salary, but received a bonus of $13.5 million and restricted stock worth $11.2 million more. The Misanthrope cannot contain the tears for these over worked executives.

Even the newly minted investment-banking analyst right out of college, can expect a $65,000 salary and a $35,000 bonus. An associate just out of business school, might have made $85,000 in salary and a $115,000 bonus.

Pass another tissue, this year, bonuses for investment bankers are expected to rise 10 percent to 15 percent from last year, Wall Street executives and compensation experts report.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

In university they don't tell you that the greater part of the law is learning to tolerate fools.
Doris Lessing, British novelist

The Ignorance of Youth. The Misanthrope was shocked when a few peers at the day job were not familiar with the reporting duo known as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. The Misanthrope’s college-attending daughter was just as appalled. She then surveyed her three roommates who not only had not heard of them, one asked, “what song do they sing?” During the previews of the new movie about Howard Hughes, a twenty-something, young woman was heard whispering, who is Howard Hughes? Jay Leno’s segment titled “Jay Walking” where he asks encyclopedic questions of young people such as “How many states make up the United States?” the numbers were all over the map. The Misanthrope should not be surprised that George Bush was elected.

Movie Going. Netflix, which rents DVDs on line, is a relative treat for escaping the rude behavior of people who today attend movies, talk throughout the show, and chomp nachos as if they are at home. To some extent, it’s understandable considering all the commercials shown at the theater. Movies theater prices are completely ridiculous. Starting at $9 for an evening show and $7.50 for the matinee only to be bombarded with commercials and previews that eliminate all suspense for the coming picture. A relatively new movie multiplex, the ArcLight on Sunset Blvd. charges $15 for reserved seats and $11 for off-peak times. The Misanthrope planned never to set foot inside, but in order to treat the hard-working, college-attending daughter, better judgment was set aside. The Misanthrope prepared for the worse, but instead became the converted. There were wide seats, ushers, fairly priced concessions (fair considering it’s a movie theater), reserved seating, no commercials, and best of all the clearest most crisp picture The Misanthrope has ever seen. It’s too far and too expensive for a regular routine, but for that special movie it’s highly recommended.

It's not my fault. I'm mentally ill. No that is not the excuse Bush voters used. It is the justification of 40-year-old Antoinette Millard, who is suing American Express for two million dollars after she ran up nearly one million dollars in charges and couldn't pay the bill.

She is now suing America Express saying she was mentally incompetent when she opened her account and the company should have known it. Millard's lawsuit says American Express gave her a prestigious Centurion “Black” card at a time when she was suffering from anorexia, depression, panic attacks, head tumors and by reason of such illnesses was mentally incompetent. The card is for people who charge more than $150,000 a year, and it carries a $2,500 annual fee.

If some jury decides this excuse has any merit, The Misanthrope believes physicals and psychological testing may be required before opening a charge card.

Now that we think about it, it’s not a bad idea.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Evolution Thwarted in New Jersey

The AP is reporting that 41 year-old Tirso Furcal of the Dominican Republic has had a few extra digits successfully removed in New Jersey this week.

I'm not one to go all neo-Darwinian here, but I am curious as to what this could have meant to the world's gene pool if he had not acted so rashly. Maybe this could have been beneficial to the world's population, especially in the uppcoming uncertainty of global warming... but now we will never know, I suppose. And the stigma of surgery will surely lessen his chances of spreading the love - and consequently, his genes - around the village.

But seriously - we haven't reached the really scary part of this story yet. The journalist refers to Mr. Furcal's village, Brisas de los Palemeras, as "a region where several other residents, mainly children, also have extra fingers and toes."

Why is no one investigating this village of superfluous fingers? The town of extra toes? I can't recall anyone I've ever met having an extra finger, but this town has several?!? Is it something in the water, or what?

Maybe we'll have a chance to find out if those extra fingers and toes are of any use after all.

Nothing is Free, Especially Charity and Religion

Religion, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.
Ambrose Bierce, satirist and journalist

Nothing is free and rarely is anything truly done with altruist motives. Charities flourish because corporations and business individuals see networking opportunities for new business. Charitable leaders may enjoy running their non-profits, but it’s their way of avoiding the pretentious phoniness of business life. It is all rationalized away by saying that the means all justify the ends, so no one complains too loudly.

However, the most insidious of the selfish charity shams are pious preachers with piles of money keeping the poor down by milking them of the opportunity to save or get ahead. They spew propaganda from the pulpit to the sheep they are looking to shear.

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham is jockeying for position to lead the lemmings. The elder Graham’s free Crusades at the Rose Bowl, Nov. 18 -21, had only one purpose – to pass the throne to an outspoken son who wants to dictate how people live. And while it should no longer be surprising, people continue to want to be told how to live. More than 300,000 were herded into the Rose Bowl.

The human race continually perplexes The Misanthrope.

Getting Rich in Jail

For de little stealin' dey gits you in jail soon or late. For de big stealin' dey makes you emperor and put you in de Hall o' Fame when you croaks.
Eugene O'Neill, playwright, “The Emperor Jones”

The Misanthrope thought there was a law that stopped convicts from profiting from their crimes. Martha Stewart made almost $33 million this week while behind bars. The Sears-Kmart merger means that Stewart’s goods receive additional shelf space in more than 2,300 Sears stores, and her company stock price jumped 6 percent on the news.

It is hard to forget how Stewart lorded over that fact that she was entitled to insider information because of who she was. Her greed and her haughty attitude caused her problems. This mean queen of clean could have received a misdemeanor violation if she had pleaded guilty before going to trial, but she believed no one would convict her. The Misanthrope has no sympathy. Yet, the media is already talking about forgiveness and Stewart’s second act. Act II should require a demonstration of the ability to be humble – and honest.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Take My Kids, Please

The latest reality TV throws parental responsibility out the window. Here’s the official description of "Take My Kids, Please", a new show from WE: Women’s Entertainment.
Get set to watch the madness that ensues when singles attempt parenthood on the all-new WE original series Take My Kids, Please! In each episode, beleaguered parents are whisked away on a well-deserved romantic retreat while an inexperienced single friend or relative is left behind to care for the little darlings -- experiencing a frantic and often hilarious crash course in Kid Care 101 in the process.

As a father of three, I am stupefied. "An inexperienced single friend or relative"? That’s not "hilarious" – it’s frightening. It took my wife and I more than a little time to learn what we know about parenting (and we do not claim to be done with such learning) – to even imagine leaving our 5 year-old, 3 year-old and 1 year-old with a single friend or relative with no experience in child protection would be nothing more than stupidity.

The reason that having kids is so exhausting is because every day a kid gets something stuck in her throat, or is about to bonk their head on something sharp, or would run into traffic... but parents are there saving their childrens’ lives over and over again every day. Is my single friend who still has a beer-themed mirror over his pool table the right person with whom to leave my kids for the weekend? Or my sister-in-law and her hubbie, who have no children but breed poisonous snakes in their house?

That’s not entertainment – it’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

2000 Campaign Redux

“Our consideration is limited to the present circumstances, for the problem of equal protection I the election processes generally presents many complexities.”
Unsigned majority opinion, United States Supreme Court, Bush v. Gore

The political action taking place in Kiev, Ukraine is following uncomfortably in the foot steps of the 2000 campaign of George W. Bush v. Albert Gore, Jr. The current President Leonid D. Kuchma completed his term. Vying to be elected are Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and Viktor Yushchenko. Voter fraud has reared it ugly head, which is of course legendary in Florida, and in 2004 Ohio, and is now a big deal in Kiev (did Diebold supply the election machines?). Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich is assuming the role of elected leader. Russian President Vladimir Putin even called to congratulate, as yet unofficial winner Yanukovich. This is something Bush’s team did well before the winner was decided, acting as though they had won the election. Viktor Yushchenko, a pro-western candidate, has also learned from the 2000 election. He will not go quietly into the good night.

The mistake Gore’s team made, according the book "Too Close to Call" by Jeffery Toobin, was not recognizing that the election was continuing after the ballots were cast. Both Viktors are very much aware that the positioning must continue. Yushchenko is calling for a national strike. Based on what The Misanthrope has read, the election was marred by voter scandal. Yushchenko has won the majority vote according to exit polls funded in part by the U.S. Embassy and other Western diplomatic missions. The challenger was ahead by 54% to 43%. The Misanthrope is not so sure after the United States recent election that exit polls can be trusted; otherwise, John Kerry would be president.

Kiev’s election is heading to their Supreme Court regarding Yushchenko’s challenge of the results. The Misanthrope hopes their Supreme Court will be more fair than the U.S. Supreme Court was.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Basketbrawl as Art

"If I was going to get beat up, I wanted to be indoors where it was warm."
Tom Heinsohn, NBA Hall of Famer

In 1937 Pablo Picasso created Guernica to shed light on the bombing in the small town of Guernica, Spain. The attacked killed an estimated 900 civilians and reduced the area to rumble. B2 of Toner Mishap discovered an outstanding parody of the famous painting at Wizznutzz. [Thanks again, BoingBoing.]

SIOUX 23, a master artist, has created one of the best depictions of the melee of the Pacers and Pistons riot in Auburn Hills, Detroit titled "Aubernica." He draws his inspiration from Picasso’s Guernica. The illustration by SIOUX 23 is most apropos as Picasso’s original, was intended to shed light on the 1937 bombing.

Not that any light needed to be shed on the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons riot in Palace at Auburn Hills, the suburban arena where the defending NBA champion Pistons play, since the media continues to show highlights (see Unrest Growing 11/22/04). By now most everyone is familiar with the brawl that involved players and fans, a flying chair and enough spilling of beer to extinguish one of California’s many brush fires.

Picasso’s composition with the truncated bodies and superimposed images in the Cubist style took the art world by storm. The famous painting shows a fleeing woman who is desperately trying to flee the bombing, her body twisted and arms hanging uselessly. The parody replaces the fleeing woman with fleeing fan. A flying chair replaces Picasso’s light; a wounded horse is now wearing an Indiana Pacers jersey; a figure with a lamp is transformed into a fist slugging the horse in the jersey.

The Misanthrope believes this work of art should be hanging in the National Basketball Association’s Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

U.S. Investigating Claims of Election Fraud

Yahoo! is reporting that "Secretary of State Colin Powell said... the United States does not consider legitimate the results of elections in Ukraine, which the opposition says was marred by fraud." Hmm. Yeah, I suppose if you want a country to look into voting fraud or peculiarities, it's the United States.

In related news, Congress' investigative agency (the Government Accountability Office), responding to complaints from around the country, has begun to look into the recent presidential election here in the U.S., including the handling of provisional ballots and malfunctions of voting machines. Here's the link. What kind of complaints? Read on:

Election officials in two Ohio counties have discovered possible cases of people voting twice in the presidential election, and a third county found about 2,600 ballots were double-counted.

In Columbus, Ohio, an electronic voting system gave President Bush nearly 4,000 extra votes.

An electronic count of a South Florida gambling ballot initiative failed to record thousands of votes.

In Guilford County, North Carolina, vote totals were so large that the tabulation computer didn't count some votes, and a recount awarded an additional 22,000 votes to Democrat John Kerry.

In San Francisco, a glitch in voting machine software left votes uncounted.

In Youngstown, Ohio, voters who tried to cast ballots for Kerry on electronic machines saw their votes recorded for President Bush instead.

In Sarpy County, Nebraska, a computer problem added thousands of votes to the county total. It was not clear which presidential candidate benefited from the error in the overwhelmingly Republican state.

Some employees of Arizona-based Sproul and Associates (hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in Nevada) said they were told to register only Republicans and accused the group of tearing up Democratic registration forms. In Washoe County, the group failed to turn in some registration forms, leaving people who thought they were eligible to vote off the registration rolls. Link

And lest we forget that we can barely get local elections right, the San Diego mayoral elections featured disqualified ballots for a write-in candidate; apparently just writing in the candidate's name was not considered a vote unless the accompanying oval was also filled in; these are votes that were obviously destined for the write-in candidate, but will not be counted, thus awarding the election to the incumbent. We covered it last week.
So we know what we're talking about when it comes to election problems.

Finally - lasers that do something useful!

So far, lasers haven't been much use to the world.

Oh, sure, they helped turn desktop publishing into a reality, thereby freeing print media and the press from being under the thumb of huge media conglomerates.

Yes, they provide intense heat to enable controlled fusion experiments. Yes, the larger industrial diode lasers are used for cutting and welding where traditional methods are impractical. Sure, they serve as very precise light sources in supermarket checkout lines and CD/DVD players, and they transmit most telephone signals.

Oh yeah... they are used in medical procedures to reshape corneas and improve vision, remove tattoos and scars, resurface joints, remove rot from teeth, vaporize cancers, and pulverize kidney and gall stones, and to make surgery in general safer and easier. And don't even get me started on the practical applications of lasers in urology!

But really, what good are they? Now, finally, someone has put lasers to work for the betterment of humanity - lasers are now being used to treat bad breath.
"Now there's a laser treatment for one of the worst forms of halitosis, a rarely diagnosed version wafting relentlessly from the tonsils," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
Ooh... "wafting relentlessly." I guess it was a choice between solving that or figuring out a way to cure cancer once and for all. Good choice.

Bring Los Angeles Dodger Announcer Ross Porter Back

Baseball has stood for loyalty to the verities, memories of innocence, patience with ritual; surely, no one who cared about baseball could be an opportunist at heart.
Edward Hoagland, U.S. novelist

For Toner Mishap readers who are out of state, you will have to trust The Misanthrope on this one. There has never been a more eloquent announcer in the game of baseball than the Vin Scully, who has been broadcasting Dodger games since the team was in Brooklyn. He apprenticed with the legendary Red Barber and came into his own when Barber did not go west with the team. But, this piece is not about Scully, it’s about the way the current Dodger owners and management callously released the number two announcer Ross Porter last month after 28 years of dedicated service. Frank McCourt will never get The Misanthrope’s loyalty. (The Misanthrope will provide more commentary throughout the year on the unfortunate ownership of the once proud Los Angeles Dodger organization.)

Porter brought a depth to the game and insight. Rick Monday, a former player, is the number three announcer. Problem is he is a distant third. His deep droning voice is better suited to the midnight shift on a jazz station. Monday’s voice, cadence, and stories put The Misanthrope to sleep.

Scully’s style served to place the radio listening fan in the box seats right behind the plate. Porter’s approach put the listener in the press box, watching the game with all the stats that the press have at hand. Monday allows the listener to find out the score at the top of bottom of each inning.

Talking to the listener one on one is a style that Scully perfected and Ross worked well in. The listeners benefited because the announcer talked directly to them, not to his partner, there were no inside jokes and no idiotic banter -- just baseball, what a concept.

The Dodgers have hired Charley Steiner, who The Misanthrope suspects is a fine capable broadcaster. The problem is they are going to team him with Monday. So, now the new Dodger owners will try to mimic Fox football’s intelligence insulting and distracting buddy chat. The good news is the games are broadcast on a weak-signal radio station, so we won’t have to hear them, and Scully will continue to broadcast the television games.

Let’s hope the Angels have the good sense to hire Porter.

Bring Ross Porter back

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kids and Guns *Do* Mix

Noted without comment, from a children's coloring book guide to gun ownership:

Here's the whole document. And here's where we found out about it.

Toy Safety Warning From the Grassy Knoll

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, in its 19th annual toy safety survey released Tuesday, again warned that the greatest danger to children still comes in the form of small balls, uninflated or pieces of balloons and toys with parts small enough to choke on.

No news on whether those balloons are more or less dangerous to society than the latest in a string of tasteless, bloody video "games" that cater to the worst in our children. Of course, games advocating simulation of gang activity, theft, and murder are one thing - this latest offering is another:

The company that makes this game (which we will not mention here, because they do not deserve the free advertising) is positioning it as an educational game that lets players fire the fatal shots from the Texas Book Depository over and over again (presumably one could learn marksmanship?). The company says the game would help disprove conspiracy theories about Kennedy's death and would "stimulate a younger generation of players to take an interest in this fascinating episode of American history."

Presidential historian G. Calvin MacKenzie of Colby College said, "Aside from being in incredibly bad taste, the idea of marketing it as an educational tool seems to stretch the notion of education beyond belief.'' For more on this, see the Boston Herald. We are intentionally not linking to the game manufacturer's site.

Build an Escalator to Mars

Thank heavens for BoingBoing - without it, would we be able to find and then share pictures like this with you?

The photo is from a posting detailing an anti-Lyndon LaRouche rally (LL, you may know, is the perennial nutjob political candidate [to give you an idea of how crazy: LaRouche makes Nader look presidential]).

Check out the posting at Boing Boing.

Credit Card Cudgel

Dreading that climax of all human ills,
The inflammation of his weekly bills

Lord Byron, British poet

Is there any concern for the struggling middle class anymore? The Misanthrope is afraid there is little to none. Gas companies, drug companies, cable companies, amusement parks, politicians, and police all pick the workers’ pockets. The list is nearly endless. Unfortunately, the assaulted don’t even notice, except in one-off instances of frustration.

Credit card companies are the latest in the conga line of conglomerates to bludgeon consumers. Late on a bill payment to any business that reports to one of the credit scoring organizations, one had better keep a watchful eye on their credit card interest rate. The New York Times reported that lenders monitor payment history, not only to them, but also to any other company or utility one makes payments to. This tardiness will allow a credit card company to raise interest rates on a revolving card from nine percent up to 28 percent without notice.

It is an egregious abuse of power and an invasion of privacy. Similar to guards at an Iraqi prison, preparing to inflict humiliation on top of the pain and suffering is a bill snaking its way through Congress pushed by major financial lobbyists to tighten the bankruptcy laws. Donald Trump is aware of this and filed his petition for bankruptcy well before any change can be enacted. Once such a law is sanctioned, The Misanthrope believes that a form of debtors’ prison will return. Instead of an actual prison such as during Charles Dickens’ time, this would be closer to servitude in the form of community service.

How much more before the backs and spirits of the sinking middle class are broken? Does anyone care?

Monday, November 22, 2004

On The Mark -- A X B ≠Bi-partisan

Trying to figure out what went wrong with the intelligence bill reminds me of trying to figure out algebra problems in high school. President Bush and VP Cheney make personal calls to their republican teammates to ensure the bill gets passed. Then two republican powerbrokers vote against the bill, thus defeating it. OK, that’s odd enough to begin with. Then you have Democratic party leaders state that republicans have let the country down by shooting down this bill. Let’s see, A x B over C does not equal, E. Or does it? I can’t remember. Does this equate to Nancy Pelosi, George Bush and Dick Cheney standing stand side by side, only to be negated by a republican? Why do I get the feeling we don’t know the whole story here yet? I guess that even when they try to be bi-partisan, they can’t.

Last week, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, On the Mark asked if there had been any studies done on who (and where) is buying all those billions of dollars of pornography, hinting that there are only so many blue states. Obviously, there is a high level of moral selectivity we’re seeing in this country (just ask O’Reilly, Bennett, Limbaugh and a few others about this). Today’s New York Times scratches the surface with its front-page article, “Many Who Voted for ‘Values’ Still Like their Television Sin.” I urge the publication to take it a step further to determine if they like their Internet and DVD sin as much, or more.

The basketbrawl (with apologies to The Misanthrope) has been well reported and blogged. Certainly some fans think they get to say and do what they want with the price of their ticket, which is wrong. But what I find fascinating is that some reporters and former athletes say “you would do the same thing if you were attacked.” These are the types of comments that demonstrate the breakdown of common sense in our society. Sensible people with common sense don’t start slugging wildly at anybody who happens to be in the vicinity of someone who threw a cup of beer at them. They don’t pile on elderly people to insanely reach their prey. Wild animals will do this. But not people with common sense.

G-Men Know Where You Live, and Where You Print

Yahoo! is reporting that "several printer companies quietly encode the serial number and the manufacturing code of their color laser printers and color copiers on every document those machines produce." Oof! This means that anything you print can be tracked back to you, making anonymous printing an impossibility.

Nothing to be concerned about, unless you are printing counterfeit money, right? That's what Uncle Sam says. I, however, am not sure I like the end of anonymous printing; sometimes there are things that need to be said that are dangerous and provocative, and sometimes there are people who don't wnat those things to be said, and who will do anything to prevent such communications. And maybe I'm just paranoid.

You're fired!

When did bankruptcy become not merely the refuge of the scoundrel, but his succor?

Growing up, my impression of bankruptcy was that it was a bad thing - to be avoided like the plague. It signaled a failure - the opposite of success. (Not to say that there are not occasions when it can not be avoided, due to no fault of one's own...) To me bankruptcy meant "you've run out of money, and now you have less than nothing." In recent years, this has ceased to be the case.

It seems that filing for bankruptcy is now a clever dodge by which to avoid paying back creditors, or to similarly avoid one's debt to Uncle Sam's trick-or-treaters, the IRS. The Donald, for instance, is now faced with the fact that his casino empire is facing bankruptcy - no, strike that; they are "seeking bankruptcy protection." What does Trump say about this? Yahoo! reports that "Trump denied the bankruptcy was a setback." Here's what Trump said:
"I don't think it's a failure, it's a success... We [will] have one of the most powerful gaming companies the day it comes out [of bankruptcy]. There's no way we could have done that without the 'B' word... the future looks very good."
I, for one, am repulsed by the thought that bankruptcy is seen now as a mark of progress, or just a roadbump on the way to greater success. When you are unable to pay your debts and own up to your responsiblities, it is a clear sign that things are not going well. And yet Trump maintains his standing as a man to be imitated and idolized, as seen on his NBC sitcom, "The Apprentice."

Seriously - let's have a little judgement, OK?

Here's the quote I want you to analyze:
Personally, I detest blood-drinking and energy-draining, but because I am a Christian, I cannot hate the people who engage in it.
I guess you need the link now, right? Apparently it's a website for Christians who are werewolves, vampires, etc. Here you go.

(Thanks to Cory at BoingBoing for the tip.)

A Real Morals Story in a Red State

Virtue is its own reward.
Matthew Prior, poet

At first glance, it seems like a heart-warming story of honesty and integrity when two college students returned a purse containing $43,000 in Casper, Wyoming. Until one reads further in the article that the good Samaritans did not see that there was the envelope containing the woman’s life savings in unmarked bills.

The Misanthrope would like to think that these honest students Derek Hepner and Adam Simanton were respectful enough not to rummage through her handbag and would have returned it all to the woman either way. Let’s hope the man that corrupted Hadleyburg* does not visit Casper.

*A Mark Twain short story, "The Man That Corrupted HadleyBurg," tests the honesty of the people of the town.

Unrest Growing

A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.
Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. civil rights leader

Why are U.S. sports looking like European and South American soccer matches? Within the past two months, there have been riots or near riots in the baseball playoffs, the basketball game Friday night between the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons and the college football game Saturday between Clemson and South Carolina. The Misanthrope just viewed the basketbrawl game between the Pacers and the Pistons and make no mistake it was ugly. Most frightening about this episode of sports is that The Misanthrope believes it is the tip of the iceberg of society as a whole as more unrest from fans who take out their frustrations about jobs, health care, politics, finances, and other areas of discontent come to the surface. As one sees now, the slightest provocation will set off sports fans, eventually this exasperation will spread to other areas. Look at the freeways, road rage is common, destruction of property occurs regularly, but not yet, routinely outside sports finales Boston celebrating the World Series and major political meetings, recall Seattle during the World Trade meetings a few years back.

The Misanthrope believes this dissatisfaction is just an early symptom of more challenges as the gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen.

Holy Terror

God is the immemorial refuge of the incompetent, the helpless, the miserable. They find not only sanctuary in His arms, but also a kind of superiority, soothing to their macerated egos; He will set them above their betters.
H. L. Mencken, U.S. journalist, critic, and editor

Someone please explain the following to The Misanthrope. The politically active Rev. Jerry Falwell is opening a law school in hopes of training Christian activists, according to the Sunday Los Angeles Times. He also says in the article that the Bible is the infallible word of God and that the American Constitution is a sacred document and that the Christian worldview is their matrix of service.

Let’s see, the American Constitution is sacred, but they want to add an amendment prohibiting gay marriage. Does the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery need to be revoked since God approves of slavery? The word of God is infallible? how do they explain Leviticus 20:13 and the New Testament book of Romans that God doesn’t merely disapprove of homosexuality, but says they should be killed. God also calls for the murder of people who work on the Sabbath, along with adulterers and children who curse their parents.

The Misanthrope believes the Christians and all religions have done more than their share of instigating wars, deaths, and overall misery in the world, there is no need to add to this despicable curriculum vitae.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The Misanthrope – Sunday’s Lighter Side

It is a stupidity second to none, to busy oneself with the correction of the world.
Molière, French playwright from Le Misanthrope

Backyard Chorus. Fall and winter are wonderful times of the year. Every morning neighbors, from one or all five of the houses surrounding The Misanthrope’s backyard, let out their Alaskan Huskies, Labradors, hound dogs and floor-mop dogs with their variety of barks, howls and high-pitched yelps to serenade The Misanthrope in a syncopated cacophony that only paid kennel personnel should have to endure. The good news for the time being is mornings are relatively cold these days, so the domesticate beasts are heard only sotto voce through barely cracked open windows. Spring and summer are another story altogether.

Passive-Aggressive Shop Lifters. Library scofflaws who don’t return books nor comprehend the honor system may serve jail time in Bay County, Michigan. Don’t return a book – go to jail. The Misanthrope holds books in high regard and heartily endorses Bay County’s proposed penalty of criminal charges and up to 90 days in jail. Frankly, The Misanthrope believes the penalty should be even more severe, possibly required listening of Dr. Phil’s book on tape on continuous loop for the duration of jail time. Quaint human rights and Geneva Convention rules be damned.

Book Review. The Misanthrope highly recommends George Carlin’s new book “When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops”. Carlin points out the hypocrisy of social standards similar to how Jon Stewart’s “America, The Book” skewers the political system. Carlin reduces the Ten Commandments to Two. He also tackles embarrassing societal clichés such as the trite saying, the cost of saving one life may be worth it, but not if one looks at it the way governments and corporations do. When one thinks about the time, cost and inconvenience, saving just one life may be too expensive.

What’s in a Name? The Anaheim Angels want to change their name from the Anaheim Angels to the Los Angeles Angels to increase their attendance and advertising revenue. The Misanthrope wants to know who the hell are they kidding? Anyone who lives in southern California north of Los Angeles and is familiar with the 24/7 freeway congestion is not going to drive to Anaheim because the name has changed. If they want to increase attendance and advertising, the number one tourist stop in all of California is Disneyland. Everyone knows where Disneyland is located, it has good name recognition and remains to everyone in the red states, family friendly and morally sound, so why not change the name to the Disneyland Angels?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

The Party of Morals

I distrust an immediate morality, it involves too much bad faith, all the tepidness of ignorance.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 - 1980), French philosopher

Another egregious example of hypocrisy from the GOP of morals. Wednesday, Republican House Representatives banded together to allow the Majority Leader Tom DeLay to remain as leader even if indicted in an investigation of campaign finance violations. This is what a perceived mandate will get you.

According to the magazine Mother Jones, DeLay became majority whip and then majority leader by raising massive sums of money -- a total of $12.6 million between 2000 and 2002 alone -- and by strategically spending it on Republican candidates, in effect buying the loyalty of his colleagues. He has frightened K Street, demanding loyalty and contributions from lobbyists in return for favorable treatment.

One report said that he threaten any lobbyist firms that hired former staff from defeated Democratic Senate Leader Tom Daschle. And that is not an empty threat, according to the Mother Jones article DeLay has derailed legislation to punish a lobbyist firm. The Misanthrope views this not simply as power-grab tactics, but more like mobsters fighting over trash pick-up territories.

Unfortunately, for DeLay, the Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle, 62, has been serving the public for 27 years, and before going after DeLay, he went after misbehaving Democrats. Earle is busy investigating the case and if the evidence warrants it DeLay will be indicted, and most likely rightly so. Despite what Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas) charged as a “partisan crackpot district attorney" who might want to force a House GOP leader to give up a leadership position. Of course, it was Bonilla who instigated the change. He won his district with less than 52 percent of the vote two years ago and 69 percent this year after his district boundaries were changed in a DeLay-engineered Texas redistricting plan. No bias there, huh.

The Misanthrope believes even without absolute power, money and a little power corrupts absolutely.

Riot in Detroit

If there were any doubts about the character of certain NBA athletes, they should now be laid to rest.

The Pistons/Pacers game yesterday, which ended prematurely due to violence breaking out, was a travesty. Player against player and player against fan, fists flying, objects being thrown... this is not what sports should be about.

Good sportsmanship is not separate from sportsmanship. Athletes are not exempt from the decencies of proper human behavior, and neither are their fans. I trust that fines and expulsions will follow, and rightly so - this kind of behavior is unacceptable, and impressionable young viewers (and older viewers, as well) need to see that this will not be tolerated.

More on this to come, I imagine. (And weren't we just talking about this a few weeks ago?)

Friday, November 19, 2004

Nine tenths?

Gasoline is the only thing you can purchase these days (and, perhaps, the only thing in the history of time) for which you can be charged in tenths of a penny (that’s what that 9/10 after the price-per-gallon numbers means - nine-tenths of a penny).

I know why products often are $19.95 or some such price – because it sounds cheaper than twenty bucks, and only costs the seller five cents to have a low-sounding price. But how does “$2.47 and nine-tenths” really benefit anyone? You’re not expected to pay in fractions of a penny; the price is rounded up to the next even cent. So why bother? Is it just to annoy us? I think so. And it’s working.

But rather than just rant here, I am offering a solution to the problem, and I ask nothing in return – no recompense, no gratitude, no nothing.
Dear Oil Company Executives,

I, a humble supplicant of the petroleum-based faith, implore you to please just charge us a real price per gallon of gas. Round up to the nearest cent, and let us get on with our days.

Thank you, O Mighty Ones.

Geek Gear

I can’t believe I’m plugging someone’s else shirts, when I have such great Shin Happens stuff for Hannukah. (And 10% of the profits go to Mazon, A Jewish Response to Hunger.)

Nonetheless, there are some great shirts for geeks out there, and I thought I’d share a few links here.

Han Shot First

The rest you'll have to click to check out...
I’m Blogging This
Binary Dad
No, I Will Not Fix Your Computer


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Your Rights, Eroded

Another "scariness update" from the folks at the Federation of American Scientists. They report on a woman pulled aside at an airport for additional screening. She asked to know what regulations allowed them to perform such additional searches, and she was told she doesn't have the right to know:

In a qualitatively new development in U.S. governance, Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know.

These guys know what they're talking about, and they've got a regular "Secrecy Newsletter" which contains more information on this heinous erosion of our rights and others; check it out.

NBA Fines Blogger For Criticism

I read this on Boing Boing this morning and felt like throwing up. Apparently Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas mavericks, mentioned in his blog that scheduling NBA's opening night on Election Day was a bad idea. And the NBA levied a fine against him. That's right - for criticism in his blog. Here's what he wrote:
"Tuesday is when it gets real. I won't say what i really think about the genius that started the season on election day since it's probably the same person that started the season on Halloween in previous years. There's only a presidential election 1x every 4 years. We start on that day..Genius. Let's see, which are going to get more highlights and press coverage Nov 3rd. The kickoff of the NBA season or the election."

He doesn't even go one step further to suggest that the coincidence would keep people distracted from elections, or that it was an intentional gambit to keep people away from the polls (that would be crazy, right?). All he did was use a little sarcasm to make a point.

What is happening to our country?

Hang ‘em High

Here they hang a man first and then they try him.
Molière (1622 - 1673), French playwright

There will be one less hangin’ in The Lone Star State of Texas, where the official motto is friendship. That is a big deal for the home state of our president, where more prison inmates are executed than in any other state. And, ‘Amen brother’ is heard in chorus from the pious evangelists.

A Dallas County man was ordered off Texas' death row this week because the jury that convicted him had no chance to fully consider whether mental retardation played a part in his murder of a Taco Bell night manager in 1991. In an unsigned 7-2 opinion by the U.S. Supreme Court, which essentially rebuked the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for failing to follow the court's instructions in earlier Texas cases.

Would you like to guess, which two justices had no issues with electrocutin’ the mentally disabled, and dissented from the majority? If you said, Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, you’re right. Let’s not forget Bush’s consigliere and nominated Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, whom Bush calls Fredo, god only knows why, is also known for his cavalier treatment of clemency petitions in Texas death penalty cases while advising the former Governor Bush.

And for bonus points, guess which of the two our cowboy president, who’s all hat and no cattle, wants to appoint as the chief justice? Right again, Thomas. What a legal trifecta that will be on the Supreme Court some day – Thomas, Scalia and Gonzales.

The Misanthrope surmises it must be against the pale for Bush to nominate someone who is good and not just a crony. Would Gonzales be in this position today, if he had not saved Bush from an embarrassing moment when he got the then Governor excused from jury duty in a drunken-driving case by arguing that Bush might someday be in a position to pardon the defendant? This was before Bush's own DUI record became public.

Going Dotty in San Diego

An old doting fool, with one foot already in the grave.
Plutarch, Greek philosopher

“The Dot and the Line,” a 1965 animated film about a love triangle between a dot, a line, and a squiggle. This Academy Award-winning film was directed by Chuck Jones and Maurice Noble. The story is of the nice but boring Line, whose romantic yearnings for the Dot are thwarted by the wild, hippie-like Squiggle. The Line decides to reform its ways, learns to bend a bit, and eventually wins the interest of the fickle Dot by forming various organized patterns such as squares, circles, parallelograms, assorted polyhedrons, and other symmetrical designs.

Stay with The Misanthrope here a moment.

Jump to 2004, the boring line is no longer nice, but mean and petty. The hippie-like surf-shop San Diego mayoral candidate and Councilwoman Donna Frye lost her lead in a still undecided race. The mean-minded straight-line Republican election workers declared many of the write-it ballots invalid because in addition to writing in Frye’s name, one must also color in the darling dot for the vote to count.

The Misanthrope believes the line should be drawn on this, another Republican flim flam. However, if the citizens of San Diego raise their voices, possibly the lines will straighten up toward more ethical behavior and graciously accept the outcome. A high probability exists that Frye may prevail through legal means by contesting the arbitrary and petty rules the county registrar is using. November 30 is another hearing to determine whether the dot is needed or if squiggly lines that spell out Donna Frey will count.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

On The Mark -- Just Curious

I’ve been reading all the hoopla lately (and ABC’s apology) regarding Nicollette Sheridan showing off her (very attractive) upper back while flirting with a black NFL player in a locker room during a promotion for the television program “Desperate Housewives” (reported on the front page of the sports section in the L.A. Times – my goodness). Then I think about all those red states in the South and Midwest and I can’t help but conclude that this isn’t about Nicollette showing a little skin. It’s about black and white.

Which makes me curious…has a study ever been done to determine who (and where geographically) is buying all these billions of dollars of pornography?

Still curious…I wonder if President Bush will kiss Dick Cheney on the cheek at their next press conference like he kissed Condoleezza Rice yesterday?

Let’s see if I’ve got this right…The GOP has a rule that states that a member of the House who is in a position of power must step down if he/she comes under indictment, like it looks like Tom Delay will be soon. What to do…well let’s just change the rules, because we can’t have that happen to Tom after all he’s done for our party. This is another way that the republicans set good examples for our kids, which seems to be so important to them.

I keep reading and hearing stories about the exodus occurring at the White House and CIA. Purge would be a more appropriate word.

And while we’re talking about how the media report news, the headline “Iran Blinks” for an editorial in the New York Times today is a bit naïve. Nobody blinks anymore. They bluff. And our media fall for it. Our media would not last very long in a Texas Hold ‘em tournament.

Hyperlinks Can Get You in Trouble

The Walt Disney Company's legal zombies are demanding that one of my favorite music blogs kill links to some mp3s hosted on some other guy's server (Disney owns the rights to the music being sampled in the new tunes by the Kleptones).

Libraries let people borrow, read, copy and share books, but this has not destroyed the book publishing industry. People write parodies of books and essays and do not destroy the worth of the original work ("Shamela", anyone?). Why should music be different?

And here's the real funny thing: Waxy.org is not even hosting the mp3s that Disney doesn't like; they just link to the files - is linking illegal? Does it violate copyright? Can Disney demand that Waxy fold? Should they be able to get away with this?

The answer to these questions has to be a resounding "no". As for the underlying issue of music copyright and free information, check out Mash the Planet for someone else's bright ideas.

The Little Hand and The Little Clock

Most of the day, I’m either the little hand or the little clock.

If I’m the little hand, things are good. I’m focused on the present, getting my work done, really involved. That clock, though... when I’m the clock my attention wanders, my eyes glaze over, and I start looking around for things to distract me. I should really figure out a way to get rid of that little clock, so that I could always be the hand. But if that were possible, someone would have already done it, right? I suppose the little clock is inevitable.

Today, me-the-hand is getting a lot done. I haven't seen the clock in a while, except for split-second corner-of-the-eye glances. Me-the-hand is surfing hard and heavy, looking around for... trying to... searching for... hmm. Maybe the hand isn’t that productive after all.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

When I Was 21

When I was 21 I got married to my high school sweetheart. I was working at a real estate company in a swanky part of L.A., and my wife was finishing her last year of undergrad studies. We were soon to leave for a year abroad, the first in a non-stop series of better and better years in our life together.

We grew up, we learned, we vacationed, we moved a few times, we had children.

When Jeremiah Baro was 21, he died in enemy action in the Al Anbar province of Iraq. With his 22 year-old friend, Jared P. Hubbard.

The Defense Department last week also identified the following American military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq:

Jeremy Bow, 20.
John Byrd, 23.
Kelley Courtney, 28.
Maurice Fortune, 25.
Travis Fox, 25.
James Kearney, 22.
Christopher Lapka, 22.
Charles Webb, 22.
Cody Wentz, 21.

And John Lukac and Andrew Riedel, both only 19 years old.

That was just last week, and that's a far-from-complete listing. Not to mention the other deaths that are less "tragic", to the media - those in their 30s, or 40s, or those killed in "friendly fire."

I don't like that we're in Iraq, and I don't know how we can get out of there. But I will not get used to the feeling I get in my stomach when I see another casualty listed in the paper, and I will not consider these "acceptable losses."

Throwing Caution to the Winds

What makes the majority of cigarette smokers so thoughtless? Really – if anyone has any insight into this topic, please let me know what I’m missing.

How many times must I see a carefree (not, I stress, careless) smoker toss a still-burning cigarette out a car window to the fast-moving street below? How often will I have to step aside to dodge a discarded, smoking butt left behind by some unthinking smoker about to leave the street for a cigarette-free zone? Is this not littering? Is this not throwing trash into the street? Is this just to be accepted as a by-product of our disposable and thoughtless society?

This is burning waste matter – paper, on fire, smoldering and waiting for the chance to spark a massive conflagaration. It’s unattractive, and it’s dangerous. Period.

On The Mark -- Until Death Do Us Part

Imagine for a minute that you're a 47-year-old new father, it's your first child. You served admirably in the U.S. military for 10 years, departing in 1997. Comparatively, you've been a couch potato ever since. Today you open your mailbox expecting the usual -- bills, junk mail and magazines. You toss the stack on the kitchen table and as it spreads out you see something that looks official from the U.S. Government. Another tax cut, you think joyously. Wrong. You've been called back to active duty, and it's time to report for another stint. You see, when you signed that contract with the military, you, like most kids (and most adults), didn't read the fine print. "This is absurd," you say. "I'm old. I can't even get off the couch without feeling the stiffness of old age. I haven't flown a helicopter or fired a gun for 7 years. I have a new family. This is just a mistake."

Wrong. You didn't know it, or maybe you did but didn't pay much attention to it, but you're a proud member of the 110,000-strong Individual Ready Reserve (or, put in other words that most of us can relate to, the Until Death Do Us Part Ready Reserve). We're not talking about the weekend soldiers here, we're talking about people who have done their time and have moved on with their lives (don't get me wrong, not that there's anything wrong with being a part-time soldier).

A few months before 9/11 I remember that a young acqaintance of mine, still in high school, had signed up for the Army as part of the buddy program. They had been heavily recruited. I was horrified. I gave him books on what it was like to be in boot camp. I gave him books on first-person experiences in battle. I wanted to make sure he really knew what he was doing. Then he went to buddy boot camp for two weeks, came home and told his mother he'd made a big mistake. They thought it was too late, but remember this was before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq. His mother jumped on it and finally reached a recruiting sergeant and told him that her son wanted out. She thought it was hopeless, but she can be persuasive. After several discussions, the sergeant finally told her, "we don't want anyone in our army who doesn't want to be here," and that was that. What a difference a few years and an unwarranted war can make...

Oh, and by the way, how do you spell back-door draft?

I say Yes, You say No, I say Good-bye

I say high, you say low.
You say why? And I say I don't know, ask Dick Cheney
With apologies to Lennon & McCartney’s Hello Good-bye

Stepford-Wife administrator Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser and long a confidante of the Bush/Corleone family has apparently been rewarded by replacing Secretary of the State Collin Powell.

President George W. Bush wants only to be surrounded by people who will tell him yes. When Paul O’Neill, Bush’s first Secretary of the Treasury, told him no, your tax cuts are ill conceived because you will place the country in such a deficit it will take three generations to dig out. John Snow, chairman of CSX, the country’s largest railroad, soon replaced the fired O’Neill.

Powell had a brain and a logical mindset that realized people will follow easier through persuasion rather than being ordered and forced. Bush picked him before the U.S. Supreme Court appointed Bush president. This move made Bush look like a moderate and help win the public relations war during the 2000 election debacle.

Powell was often the lone voice in the Bush administration cautioning restraint and the pursuit of diplomacy. In the summer of 2002, Powell personally cautioned Bush that he would be "the proud owner of 25 million people" if he invaded Iraq and would be responsible for "all their hopes, aspirations and problems," Bob Woodward wrote in his book "Plan of Attack."

Powell privately called this the Pottery Barn rule, meaning that if you break it, you own it. And, the way The Misanthrope sees it, the hawks want nothing more than to own Iraq and all its oil. Powell's position put him at odds with other top administration officials, notably Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Monday, November 15, 2004

On The Mark --We Are In the Presence of the Past

For months I've been struggling to describe what is happening to our country culturally and intellectually. I've said things like, "we're regressing to the 1950s," or "the only difference between now and the beginning of time is technology, nothing else has changed." There are a gazillion examples. Take the movie "Private Ryan," for example. Two different years in this short decade the television networks showed the intense World War II drama with the disclaimer about violence and language. This year, all of a sudden, the language and violence are too graphic for some affiliates to air. Huh? Dr. Kinsey's books on human sexually probably would be banned from mainstream bookstores today or, at the least, wrapped in brown paper. Recently, William Safire, the conservative columnist for the New York Times, said the turning point was when Janet Jackson bared her breast on national television. I find it somewhat ironic that I was in Paris when that happened. And don't even get me started about civil rights and liberties.

So, anyway, it was a struggle to summarize all my frustrations. But Sam Harris, the author of the new book, "The End of Faith -- Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason" (I wouldn't be surprised if the religious right tried to ban this book), put it succinctly when he wrote, "we are in the presence of the past." Take, for example, stem-cell research. As Harris states in his book, "Those opposed to therapeutic stem-cell research on religious grounds constitute the biological and ethical equivalent of a flat-earth society." Harris reminds us in a different section of the book that the Catholic church didn't absolve Galileo of heresy until 1992!

"We are in the presence of the past" wasn't the name of a chapter, or even a subhead within a chapter. It was a simple sentence buried in the book. In my opinion, it would have made a good title for the book.

My! People Come and Go So Quickly Here!

What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–62), U.S. philosopher

There are expected and unexpected departures from President George W. Bush’s cabinet as he begins his second term. It was anticipated that Secretary of State Colin Powell was going to leave, but lately the thought was he might stay. The only problem The Misanthrope sees is that it is the wrong people who are leaving, with the exception of Attorney General John Ashcroft. In addition to Powell’s announcement, three other cabinet resignations came to light today, Ann M. Veneman, the secretary of agriculture; Rod Paige, the education secretary, and Spencer Abraham, the energy secretary.

The people who need to resign are Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who were the architects behind the Abu Ghurayb prison scandal and deserve credit for the lack of an exit plan in Iraq. The most important resignation that we probably won’t see is that of Vice President Dick Cheney, the prince of darkness, who pressured everyone into using faulty information to attack Iraq.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Misanthropic Observations

And make each day a critic on the last.
Alexander Pope (1688 - 1744), English poet

What goes up…It seems that third-world and the Middle-East countries have not heard of Newton’s Theory of Gravitation. The Misanthrope would like to know where all those bullets blasted into the air during Arafat’s funeral ended up. They have to come down somewhere, it’s just a guess, but as they soar down to earth, a few of those slugs have surely come to rest in innocent bystanders. Is that accepted as an occupational risk of any public gathering in those distance lands?

There is no winning. The Misanthrope opted to go underground and take the subway to the day job in order to save time, money and aggravation. And after one week, none the three has been achieved. Parking spots at the subway are roughly two or three blocks away from the big hole in the ground. No problem, we’ll be positive and view it as good exercise. After more than 100 steep steps down, the ticket machines appear and require $1.25 for a one way ticket or $3.00 for an all day ticket. The Misanthrope elects the one way ticket each time to continue the savings. Practically giddy with the idea of saving $75 a month in parking and at least $40 a week in gas, it’s time to contemplate a trip to Hawaii next year.

But, a policeman with a radar gun wipes all the projected savings and the vision of a vacation away. At 6:30 in the morning, when the men in blue should be out protecting and serving, they are instead aggravating and annoying. The Misanthrope stopped, ticketed and surely to be sentenced with a fine that will require at least two additional months of the daily trek with hundreds of others all traveling in lines like ants to a picnic, to achieve his illusory savings. It is tough to get ahead.

The tuba player. It’s Saturday morning, reading the newspapers, and finding no shortage of stories to comment on, a loud discordant note is heard, followed by a prolonged howling coming from the neighbors behind The Misanthrope’s dwelling. Opening the backyard sliding door, the neighbor boy is purposely blowing the single sour note on his tuba to provoke the dog into wailing as if it were singing to a lonesome moon. Three choruses of this were enough for The Misanthrope to walk out back and swing into gracious neighborly action. “Shut up godd#*&it.” So far, it has been quiet for a week.

A heart two sizes too small. Don’t we all wish we had the health care coverage that Vice President Dick Cheney has? He underwent three hours of tests and in the end determined, he had a cold. Cautionary reasons for the tests were Cheney has had four heart attacks, a quadruple-bypass and a pacemaker inserted. The Misanthrope believes that Cheney who lives in an undisclosed location similar to the Grinch who has lived in a cave on the side of a mountain, looming above the Whos in Whoville, needs to stop living such a paranoid life needlessly scaring people across the land about nuclear attack if a democrat is elected, and realize this is a multicultural world we now live in. It will allow his heart to grow 10 sizes.

Filing for Adoption. It was reported that the unflagging sailor Popeye is preparing to adopt swee’pea, who was abandoned and left at his doorstep in 1933. Let’s assume that Popeye was 20, in the year the baby was left by his windowed mother, that would make the navy man 91. Swee’pea would be in his early 70s. The Misanthrope wants to know why now? And, what happened to Wimpy? Did all those hamburgers cause him heart problems, if only he had Dick Cheney's health care coverage.

Friday, November 12, 2004

On The Mark -- A Crisis of Imagination

I was having lunch with a friend recently who was agitated because she had heard someone in the government state that our intelligence experts were surprised by 9/11 because "we're experiencing a crisis of imagination." My friend, who co-founded a non-profit afterschool program that uses the arts to work with at-risk middle-school kids, was flabbergasted by this statement.

"Where do they think imagination comes from?" she bellowed. "From theater class in school; from playing an instrument in the band; from...oh, I give up," she said, dejectedly. But she really hadn't, or should I say hasn't, she just wanted to take another bite of her salad. "With all of the afterschool programs being cut, these kids have no opportunity to explore their imaginations, to create and solve problems using creativity."

I hadn't thought about it in these terms, but she's absolutely right. Let's face it, video games can only accomplish so much (so little, actually).

Unhappy Meals

I’m not really a big fan of McDonald’s. It’s nothing personal; I just prefer a double-double for a quickie burger. My kids, on the other hand... well, you know how kids love McDonald’s. So I normally wouldn’t bother casting stones against this venerable institution, but this just gets my goat (sadly, no goat/McDonald’s jokes are forthcoming).

Went through the drive-in at McDonald’s the other day with my girls to get them Happy Meals and ordered two Happy Meals. Once we got past the niceties of “burger or nuggets” and “what kind of drink do you want” I was asked the infuriating question that sparks this column: “boys or girls?”

We’re in the car, so obviously the cashier can’t see my kids – but she’s not asking me about the kids; she’s asking me about the toys. The Hot Wheels car is called the “boy’s toy” and the Barbie doll is the “Girl’s toy.”

I pointed this out to the cashier, and asked her if it wouldn’t be better to ask if I wanted a car or a doll, instead of specifying boy or girl. Needless to say, she didn’t respond. (Important note to readers: if your daughter wants a toy car with her meal, you have to ask for the “boy’s toy” or she’s getting a doll.)

Am I the only one living in the 21st century here? It is reprehensible that McDonald’s does not refer to the toys as cars and dolls (or whatever the current toy is) and phrase your choice in that way; pigeonholing a car as a boy’s toy or a doll as a girl’s toy just continues the unnecessary predetermination of likes and dislikes that we foist on kids, preventing them from exploring the possibilities that are really open to them. Now it’s what kind of toy you get at McDonald’s, but in a few years it’s what sort of job you should want to have or what you can do with your life.

My wife understands my frustration, but points out that it’s just a toy at McDonald’s and, after all, my daughters always want the dolls anyway.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

On The Mark -- Theocracy

Some people scoff at the idea that we are close to living in a theocracy. Read what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had to say about the death penalty at the University of Chicago Divinity School. You decide.

This is not the Old Testament, I emphasize, but St. Paul...[T]he core of his message is that government -- however you want to limit that concept -- derives its moral authority from God...Indeed, it seems to me that the more Christian a country is the less likely it is to regard the death penalty as immoral...I attribute that to the fact that, for the believing Christian, death is no big deal. Intentionally killing an innocent person is a big deal: it is a grave sin, which causes one to lose his soul. But losing this life, in exchange for the next?...For the nonbeliever, on the other hand, to deprive a man of his life is to end his existence. What a horrible act!...

The reaction of people of faith to this tendency of democracy to obscure the divine authority behind government should not be resignation to it, but the resolution to combat it as effectively as possible. We have done that in this country (and continental Europe has not) by preserving in our public life many visible reminders that -- in the words of a Supreme Court opinion from the 1940s -- "we are a religious people, whose institutions pre-suppose a Supreme Being."...All this, as I say, is most un-European, and helps explain why our people are more inclined to understand, as St. Paul did, that government carries the sword as "the minister of God," to "execute wrath" upon the evildoer.

Florida in San Diego

"I order you to hold a free election, but forbid you to elect anyone but Richard my clerk."
Henry II (1133 - 1189)

Surf’s up and so is the blood pressure of Republicans in San Diego, who are attempting to disqualify 142,157 votes for leading mayoral contender Donna Frey. Frey, a City Council member whose husband is an accomplished surfer, decided to run for mayor five weeks prior to the election as a write-in candidate, with a platform of taking action on a porous sewer system.

A lawsuit filed by a San Diego litigator seeks to stop the county Registrar of voters from validating write-in votes because the city charter does not allow them, but municipal code permits them. Wednesday the entire 124 San Diego County Superior Court bench was barred from hearing a lawsuit attempting to dismiss votes for her. Instead, a retired jurist from Imperial Country will hear the case.

The Misanthrope advises San Diego Republicans to install Diebold Touch-screen voting machines, this way election winners can be determined in advance with no recounting capabilities and no messy democratic write-in votes.

Presidential Ignorance

From ignorance our comfort flows,
The only wretched are the wise.
Matthew Prior (1664 - 1721), English diplomat and poet

President Bush has once again demonstrated his limited understanding of international affairs. The tentatively scheduled January elections in Iraq are to select a national assembly of 275 members, which will than choose from its members a president and two deputies and write a constitution.

Bush said Wednesday, “I’m confident when people realized that there’s a chance to vote on a president, they will participate.”

The Misanthrope believes this lack of depth in world knowledge is inexcusable at best and dangerous at worse. How can the U.S. Commander in Chief not know what our soldiers are fighting to achieve? Yet, 59 million people allowed this ignorance to continue.


The privileged man, whether politically or economically, is a man depraved in mind and heart. That is a social law which admits of no exception, and it is applicable to entire nations as to classes, corporations, and individuals.”
Mikhail Bakunin (1814 - 1876), Russian-born anarchist.

The Wall Street Journal’s front page article on Wednesday, Nov. 10, showed just how reprehensible and low corporations will go to rob from the workers to further enrich those at the top. Corporations are not all bad, but when a few heartless companies start suing their retirees to reduce benefits, it wipes out years of the goodwill businesses promote through charitable works.

Specific examples the WSJ highlighted are ACF Industries Inc. a railroad-car maker, which is suing its more than 600 of its retirees to alter their lifetime contract for health benefits. Company lawyers claim lifetime meant the duration of the contract, not the lifetime of the employee. General Motors, the auto maker, cut benefits to 50,000 salaried employees they induced to retire early. Asarco Inc., a copper company, sent summonses to its retirees telling them they were defendants in a suit it was filing against them to limit benefits.

This is where government needs to play an active protective role to ensure that good faith negotiations are upheld and the rights of the employee are preserved. It’s proven the people need protection from greedy executives and shareholders. Democratic Society is the loser here if the powerful corporations and its privileged management sustain their stock options and lucrative bonuses on the backs of its workers.

The Misanthrope abhors the legal chicanery, which the Bush Administration condones as free enterprise by sitting idly while retired senior citizens are used as pawns in the growing corporate aristocracy.

Corporation, n. An ingenious device for securing individual profit without individual responsibility.
Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914)

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

On The Mark

>>>>> I read yet another story describing how Bush won the presidency because people could relate to him and felt he was someone they could have a beer with. I was flummoxed, but then I remembered that the average adult reads at the fifth grade level.

>>>>> Imagine for a minute that you’re an 82-year-old man in failing health. Your next-door neighbor is a relatively attractive 26-year-old single mom who pays attention to you. She makes you feel good, especially on days that you think might be your last. So one day you tell this young lady that you’ve put her in your will. She’s so appreciative, she makes you homemade apple strudel. You take a bite…a little too crunchy for apple strudel, you think. You move your fork around what’s remaining on the plate and see what look like pills. Later you find out that they are pills; indeed pain pills that probably would have killed you. And people don’t understand why I say the word “trust” is becoming extinct and will one day no longer be in the dictionary.

>>>>> The day after the election I was watching an advertisement on television that depicted a number of individuals in the military along with some family members. I thought to myself, “wow, the government didn’t waste any time getting its recruitment ads out.” Then the ad concluded with the kicker…it was a message from Boeing. The same Boeing that is under investigation by the Pentagon for a series of improprieties concerning military contracts with the government. Talk about trying to soften up the jury pool.

And Take Your Patriot Act, Too

"Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind."
Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

Attorney General John Ashcroft submitted his resignation letter to President Bush yesterday. The Misanthrope says good riddance. The duties of the attorney general include initiating and supervising legal proceedings that affect the welfare of the nation.

Under Ashcroft, civil liberties were poised to collapse like the Twin Towers. He gave us the U.S. Patriot Act that was anything but. Among his hall of fame achievements are:

  • Suspending due process for non-citizens suspected of terrorism
  • Ordering federal agencies to hold back on public-information requests
  • Letting industry slide on antitrust issues (specifically the Microsoft’s antitrust case)
  • Presiding over the first federal executions in four decades
  • Holding daily Bible study and prayer meetings in the office
  • Spending $8,000 of taxpayer money to cover the bare-breasted statue of Lady Justice

The Misanthrope suspects that Bush felt sorry for the defeated Senator. Bush appointed the attorney general after he lost his Missouri Senate seat to a candidate who had died weeks before the election. In 1998, Ashcroft a favorite of the religious right with a voting record that had put him in second place on the John Birch Society’s legislative scorecard, in a tie with North Carolina’s Jesse Helms.

The Misanthrope waves a hearty good-bye and good riddance.

Working Class Heroes – Again on the Wrong End

"The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963), Irish-born British novelist.

Once again, the innocent and hard working employees suffer for the sins of greed by executives at the top. Insurance brokerage Marsh & McLennan Companies Inc. plans to lay off 3,000 employees, or about 5 percent of its work force, as it struggles to deal with the fallout from a bid-rigging probe by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

According to the New York Times, Spitzer, in his civil suit, accused the company of bid rigging, price fixing and collecting large incentive fees from insurance companies in exchange for steering business their way. This forced business customers to pay more than necessary for property and casualty insurance coverage, Spitzer alleged.

The excess fees most likely allowed management to receive lucrative bonuses and myriad stock options in order to bloat their bank accounts, while the rank and file loyally work to pay their modest mortgages, put kids through college, or just enjoy the fruits of their labor. The Misanthrope believes a better penalty would be to force executives to take a pay cut, eliminate bonuses for two years, and not allow layoffs that only serve to enrich those at the top.

Making the Sick Sicker

"One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one."
Henry Miller (1891–1980), U.S. author.

Only the second time in two years has President Bush publicly acknowledged the wounded soldiers from Iraq. Now that the election is over and Bush has nothing to lose, he visited the wounded at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

On a similar visit in March, the president awarded Purple Hearts to eight soldiers. The Misanthrope would advise them not to run for president, otherwise they will be declared unpatriotic and cowardly.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Accepting our Grief

No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.
C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), British author.

Having to accept Bush’s presidency for a second time is a difficult proposition to swallow. A friend mentioned the other night that having to suffer a Kerry loss and acknowledge four more years of a hard-right agenda is akin to going through the five stages of dying as Elisabeth Kübler-Ross described them:

  • Denial and isolation: "This is not happening to me."
  • Anger: "How dare God do this to me."
  • Bargaining: "Just let me live to see my son graduate."
  • Depression: "I can't bear to face going through this, putting my family through this."
  • Acceptance: "I'm ready, I don't want to struggle anymore."

The Misanthrope has decided to amend these stages as we prepare for the January inauguration of George W. Bush:

  • Denial and isolation: “How can 59 million people be so stupid”
  • Anger: How dare God do this to me and 55 million others
  • Bargaining: Make the U.S. Democratic Senators strong enough to filibuster hard-right legislation
  • Depression: I can’t bear to watch or listen to this knucklehead offer an insincere hand to the opposition while letting thousands of soldiers die for a war we did not need
  • Acceptance: I’m fed up with politics; there are more stupid people than smart people

Monday, November 08, 2004

One Hand Washes the Other

A career politician finally smelling the White House is not much different from a bull elk in the rut. He will stop at nothing, trashing anything that gets in his way; and anything he can't handle personally he will hire out—or, failing that, make a deal.
Hunter S. Thompson (1939 - ), U.S. writer and journalist

To the victors go the spoils. However, the victors in political elections pay for their spoils with millions of dollars in donations. Now industry and religious groups are lining up to collect their goods from President Bush:

  • Drug companies -- limit exportation of medical drugs from Canada
  • Investment firms – social security reform and health savings accounts
  • Bankers -- legislative and executive action that allows them to move into real estate, and make it harder for over burden and out of work to file for bankruptcy
  • Coal and Utility companies – an energy bill and a market-based plan to control mercury and other pollutants
  • Oil and gas companies – will continue unabated to rake in millions from gouging consumers, and they will most likely get oil wells in the wilderness of Alaska, Colorado and New Mexico
  • Trade Associations – the ability to offer group health insurance, which will make them the new HMOs
  • Manufacturers – tax reform and tort reform
  • Evangelists – a marriage amendment to the U.S. Constitution
  • U.S. Citizens – a mountain of national debt, no health insurance, and their jobs outsourced