Monday, August 31, 2009

So Bizarre It Must Be True

According to the British "Sun" tabloid newspaper today, actor Macaulay Culkin, once the child star of the "Home Alone" films of the 1990s, is rumored to have donated sperm that resulted in the birth of Michael Jackson's seven-year-old son "Blanket" (real name "Prince Michael II") with an unknown surrogate mother.

In Search Of... The Loch Ness Monster

That's the famous "Surgeon's Photo" of the Loch Ness Monster. It was supposedly taken by a London gynaecologist named Robert Kenneth Wilson, and was first published in London's "Daily Mail" newspaper on 21 April 1934.

In 1994, a death bed confession by a man named Christian Spurling revealed that it had been a hoax all along: merely a toy submarine with a sculpted plastic head attached. Spurling was the son-in-law of Marmaduke Wetherell, a big game hunter who had been publicly ridiculed in the "Daily Mail." Spurling claimed that, to get revenge against that newspaper, Wetherell committed the hoax, with the help of Spurling and a few others. One of the co-conspirators asked a friend, doctor Robert Kenneth Wilson (who was otherwise uninvolved), to offer the picture to the "Daily Mail," his esteemed profession presumably giving the photo more credibility.
I was a firm believer in the existence of the Loch Ness Monster as a child in the 1970s. So I was more than a little deflated by this highly publicized 1994 confession. But all I had invested in it was a few hours watching various television documentaries over the years. That photo really was, quite literally, the face that launched a thousand ships, however. Imagine how all of those wealthy industrialists, academic institutions and esteemed scientists felt who had financed, or lent their good names and professional credibility to, the thousands and thousands of hours of sonar scans that had been conducted on the loch over the subsequent decades?
Perhaps they might have wished that they could go back in time, to a less cynical age. Perhaps to July 1977 when Leonard Nimoy went "In Search of...." the Loch Ness Monster. ("Few of the mysteries we will examine in this series are as compelling as the accounts of an unknown beast which lives in a picturesque Scottish lake.") The first part of this episode is embedded below. Interestingly, the last few minutes of this episode focusses on a National Geographic investigation conducted in 1976, which was being led by a young Bob Ballard, the pioneering deep sea oceanographer who, nine years later, became world famous for finding the wreck of the Titanic.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Greys' Agenda

Do you know who the "Greys" are? Or what their "agenda" is? If not, you may want to watch the clip embedded below, which is 10 minutes (part 3 of 5) of a one-hour episode of the television show "UFO Files," which aired on the History Channel from 2004-2007.

"The Greys" refers to those generic-looking space aliens with the big heads, wide almond eyes and spindly humanoid bodies. (The sort made famous by "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and "The X-Files," for example.) Among UFO believers, the Greys are widely believed to have first made contact with Earth at the time of the Roswell Incident in 1947. This first UFO crash was subsequently covered up by the US government, believers assert, because "top government officals" allegedly entered into a secret Faustian bargain with these aliens. For over 60 years now, the Greys have continued to give the US military access to secret alien technology in return for the right to furtively abduct a limited number of random Americans for scientific analysis, especially genetic and reproductive experimentation. ("They're using us for breeding, because they have fertility problems.")

Some conspiracy theorists go further, believing that this is actually a double bluff, with the Greys using the knowledge they gain from these abductions to prepare for a full-scale invasion of Earth, with some US government officials traitorously working with them while others race to develop this alien technology to prepare to repulse the Greys' impending armada.
Forewarned is forearmed....

Saturday, August 29, 2009

DJ AM Found Dead At Home Yesterday

DJ AM, the 36 year old celebrity DJ who survived a highly publicized plane crash just a year ago, was found dead in his $2 million New York City apartment yesterday. Reporedly, drug paraphernalia was found near his body.

That revelation has surprised many because, while he was outspoken about his former addictions to crack and other drugs, he had proudly boasted that he had been sober for 11 years. He had reportedly been working on a new reality television show for MTV where he did interventions with teenage drug addicts. During the 1:45 second promotional clip embedded below, filmed just 1 month ago, he talks about this new show and about the dangers to his own recovery posed by being around drugs and the drug lifestyle. Eerily, it also hows him buying a crack pipe off the street.

The "Poo Trap"

Have you seen the TV advertisement for the "Poo Trap"? It's a pull-away plastic bag that is designed to be strapped over a dog's rear end. ("The amazing new innovation that eliminates the need of picking up after your dog!")

At one point the narrator explains, "it can get very messy when your dog goes in the house, or on the sidewalk, or even your neighbor's lawn..." Does that mean the makers intend dogs to wear this contraption perpetually, not just during walks (like a baby's diaper)? Well, their website has some FAQs which answer that very question. "When a dog is having diarrhea, or if the owner just doesn't feel like taking the 'PooTrap' off the dog, feel free to keep the 'PooTrap' on the dog." Ah, Poo Trap: for the loving dog owner whose dog either has perpetual diarrhea (perhaps from too much loving attention?), or who just can't be bothered to take it off....

The ad further proclaims, "Your dog will love it, too!" Unless you named your dog "David Carradine," I somehow doubt that. (Also from the FAQs: "Will my dog get used to 'Poo Trap' easily? Of course, they might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, however after 5 to 10 minutes when they are used to it, usually they will start to run happily again.")

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bitter Lessons About Open Sores

This advertisement at left from the local newspaper caught my eye. Just imagine the past experiences that had taught them to qualify their patient needs by adding the bullet point, "With three or fewer leg wounds."

I guess you really can have too much of a good thing.

KFC's New "Double Down" Sandwich

That's a photo above of Kentucky Fried Chicken's newest sandwich, the "Double Down." And yes, your eyes are correct: the bun is indeed made from two pieces of fried chicken. That's right: fried chicken as bread.

I am the last one to advocate stifling innovation or free enterprise, but the phrase "there ought to be a law..." does spring to mind. (As does, "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.")
It's really too bad this sandwich wasn't around before Michael Jackson died. If he really was skeletal and really was having terrible trouble sleeping in the weeks leading to his death, as has been reported, he probably could have had a couple of these "Double Downs" every night instead, rather than the cocktail of sedatives and sleep aids he was allegedly taking. (Though as he did when being administered the Propofol intravenously, it would probably have been prudent for him to have gone ahead and slept on a surgical incontinence pad after eating the Double Downs as well.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Senator Kennedy Will Now Get A Second Chance To Explain Chappaquiddick

Embedded below is a 4 minute selection from then-youthful Senator Ted Kennedy's 1969 televised explanation of the Chappaquiddick incident to the people of Massachusetts. In the wake of this event, he was in deep political trouble at home and this was his "Checkers" speech.

This video begins with a real gem, "there is no truth whatever to the widely circulated suspicions of immoral conduct that have been levelled at my behavior." He makes this assertion despite the fact that he was then a 37 year old US Senator and Mary Jo Kopechne was a 28 year-old former campaign aide to his brother, and that they were in a car together at 11:30 PM after a party, driving along a deserted, unlit road for reasons never explained.

He then goes on to add at the 0:18 second mark that, "there has never been any private relationship between us at any time," phraseology that sounds eerily Clintonian to the modern ear. "Nor was I driving under the influence of liquor," he asserts at the 0:34 second mark, despite having told the police that he had had "two" beers.

At the 1:42 mark he impliedly blames a "cerebral concussion" for why he did not call the police for over 10 hours after the accident. (He instead swam back to his hotel room in Edgartown, changed out of his wet clothes and went to bed. Back at his hotel, Kennedy complained at 2:55 am to the hotel owner that he had been awoken by a noisy party. By 7:30 am the next morning he was reportedly talking "casually" to the winner of the previous day's sailing race, with no indication that anything was amiss.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chris Brown Gets Orange Vest As Punishment

Pop singer Chris Brown was sentenced this afternoon to serve five years probation and more than 1,400 hours in "labor-oriented service" for assaulting his pop star girlfriend, Rihanna.

According to a sworn statement by a Los Angeles Police detective, Brown punched Rihanna numerous times and put her in a head lock, restricting her breathing and causing her to start to lose consciousness. Between bites at her ears and fingers, he apparently also threatened to kill her. And yet despite the visciousness of that attack, he gets to pick up trash on the freeway as a punishment. For reference, that's a photo above of another pop singer, Boy George, picking up trash as part of his punishment for a 2006 criminal conviction in New York.

I wonder what Michael Vick, who just served 18 months in prison for running a dog fighting ring, and Plaxico Burress, who received a two-year sentence yesterday for accidentally shooting himself in the leg, think about that. And what does that say about our society's values...

Michael Did Not Die From Propofol

The Los Angeles coroner has concluded that Michael Jackson died of an overdose of propofol, according to documents released yesterday.
But what "The King of Pop" really died from, like so many kings before him, was that no one ever told him "no." That's the real root cause of why, at 50 years old, he ended up catatonic in his bedroom with an IV of surgical sedative hooked to his arm, a 6 foot plastic Godzilla staring back at him from across the room, and a jewelry box of fake noses stashed in his closet.
Do you really think that Tudor King Henry VIII died from "over eating" or even morbid obesity? If you knew that he had had two of his own wives beheaded, would you have told him to put down the meat pie and go for a jog?

The Numbers: Federal Budget Sobers Drunken Sailors In Ports Nationwide

Both the White House Office of Management and Budget and the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office predicted today that the federal budget deficit for this upcoming fiscal year would swell to nearly $1.6 trillion, a record, and far above the then-record 2008 budget deficit of $455 billion. The White House further predicted today that the federal government would incur a cumulative $9 trillion in annual budget deficits from 2010 through 2019, according to the Associated Press.

To put those numbers in context, the entire US federal budget for the fiscal year about to end on September 30, 2009, was $3.1 trillion, as compared with receipts (i.e income taxes, Social Security contributions and other) of $2.7 trillion. So for the fiscal year set to start on October 1, the federal government is already planning to spend over 50% more than it will take in.

Keep in mind that the President has said repeatedly that he can raise $600 billion over ten years through increased income taxes on the highest-earning Americans (the top 4%) as a way to pay in part for proposed health care reforms. But that $600 billion is well less than 10% of the $9 trillion cumulative budget deficit that the White House now foresees over that time period, even without health care reform. I wonder where that remaining $8.4 trillion is going to come from.......

These are the nation's biggest budget deficits since World War II. I suppose that makes President Obama the drunken sailor in the photo above, and me (or any of us), the nurse. My guess is that right before that famous photo was taken the sailor boasted loudly, "Don't worry doll, I've got this rich friend who's going to buy us all a swell dinner!"

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Surprise Change of Heart By The "Lion of the Senate"

Did you catch the news yesterday that Senator Ted Kennedy, who is severely ill with brain cancer, has written a letter to Deval Patrick, the current governor of Massachusetts, urging that state law be revised to allow the governor himself to appoint the senator's successor directly should his seat become vacant?

Current state law provides that any vacant senate seat be filled after a state-wide special election. This could take months to arrange and, if Senator Kennedy were to pass away in the near future, this rule may mean that his senate seat could be vacant during any vote on health care reform, a single vote that could prove crucial. Since the current governor of Massachusetts is a Democrat, he could presumably be relied upon to appoint a like-minded replacement.

All of the above has been widely publicized in the news media in recent days. As has the fact that the abscence of Senator Kennedy (the so-called "Lion of the Senate") from Washington, D.C. in recent months due to illness is widely believed to have contributed to the inability of the Senate to reach a consensus to date on health care reform legislation.
But considerably less ink has been spilled in the press to add the further context that it was Senator Kennedy himself who spearheaded the change in 2004 (just 5 years ago) to have any vacant senate seats from Massachusetts filled by popular vote rather than by a vote of the governor, as had previously been state law. It's true. (But "way back" in 2004, fellow Senator John Kerry looked like he might win the White House, and at the time the governor of Masachusetts was a Republican, Mitt Romney.)

The role of "Dorothy" will tonight be played by Mary Jo Kopechne....

Cthulhu Legos

Do you know who H.P. Lovecraft was? He was a Jazz-age author of horror stories that, when they were published at all in his lifetime, were published in throw-away pulp magazines. He died poor (living for much of his life with his mother) and largely unknown. But his work has become much more "famous" after his death. Today he's widely regarded to be among the most influential authors of horror fiction in the 20th century, alongside the better-known Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King.

In the 1980s, a highly-successful "Dungeons & Dragons"-type game was published based on his work called "Call of Cthulhu," which is also the title of perhaps his most famous story. Since the 1970s, a number of "B-movies" have also been made based on some of his stories. Most are terrible, though 1985's "Re-Animator" and 2001's "Dagon" are better than most. A video game called "Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth" was also released in 2005.

Anyway, his birthday was last week, August 20th. So it's in his honor that I have emebedded below a 30 second parody commercial for a "Cthulhu"-themed Lego set that has been posted on You Tube. If you've never heard of "Cthulhu" or H.P. Lovecraft, I wouldn't bother watching it. But if you have, and especially if you liked "Legos" as a kid as well, I think that you'll enjoy it, especially the last line at the very end...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Informercial Rorschach Test

Have you ever seen the tv commercial for a product called "Loud 'N Clear"? It's basically a bulky $15 hearing aid that's designed to look like a bluetooth earpiece. In the extended 2-minute advertisement embedded below, it's makers visualize a number of creative uses for this magical device. As a result, the commercial can act as a sort of Rorschach test, allowing you to get penetrating insight into your own character. As you watch it, just ask yourself: are you like the lady at the beginning who uses it to hear birds more clearly during her nature hikes? Or are you really more like "The Tool" at the 1 minute mark?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Wisdom Of Crowds

Despite President Obama's repeated assurances that only taxpayers earning more than $250,000 a year will be made to pay higher taxes to support his health care reforms, a striking 68% of Americans recently surveyed by the Gallup Poll said that they expect to pay higher income taxes by the final year of President Obama's term (in two years). According to the Los Angeles Times yesterday, this could help explain widespread uncertainty about the President's plans for overhauling the nation's health care and health insurance industries.

And yet so much of the mainstream news media continues to attribute this public ambivalence about these proposed reforms to allegedly broad-based "misunderstandings" about fringe issues like "death panels." In addition to being questionable journalism, that's also insultingly patronizing.

This poll indicates that the public clearly understands what the President refuses to admit and what the media is apparently unwilling to publicize: that we simply cannot extend health insurance coverage to another 47 million Americans, while explicitly not cutting anyone's Medicare benefits in any way or submitting ourselves to rationing of any sort, and expect to pay for that solely by "cutting waste" and by imposing a small income tax increase on the top 4% of earners in the United States (i.e. somebody else).

You simply can't get something for nothing. The people know that and are clearly voicing their concerns. But neither the President nor the media seem to be listening.

Nancy Pelosi On "The Public Option"

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said legislation to revamp the U.S. health-care system won’t get through her chamber unless it creates a government-run insurance program to compete with the private industry, according to Bloomberg.

“There’s no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option,” the California Democrat said at a press conference in San Francisco yesterday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Penn & Teller On Alien Abductions

The comedy/magic team of Penn & Teller have for several years hosted a half-hour tv show on "Showtime" wherein they debunk various urban legends, challenge conventional wisdom, and shine a spotlight on extremists and their views, frequently betraying strong libertarian sensibilities, all to hilarious and illuminating effect. They have taken on everything from the bottled water and organic food industries to September 11th conspiracy theories, gun control and recycling.

The best episode to date is the one where they meet people who claim to have been abducted by aliens, and then examine the cottage industry of hypnotherapists, book publishers and trinket peddlers that has sprung up around them to cash in on their "beliefs." Embedded below is part 1 (of 3) of this episode, which is 10 minutes long. It starts a little slowly, but gets steadily better as it goes.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Obama & Louise

"The record of the government administering health care is actually pretty good."

That's a quote from President Obama during an interview today with talk radio host Michael Smerconish. The President then went on to assert that Medicare's overheads and administrative costs were lower than those of private health insurers.

Yet even the President agrees that Medicare will be insolvent in less than 8 years. So that's like Thelma noting that Louise's driving record "is actually pretty good," even as their car hurdles toward the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Higher Power Imposes Death Penalty On Lockerbie Bomber

Minutes ago Scotland freed convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds. He has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and is expected to live for less than three months. This decision allows him to die in Libya, despite protests that mercy should not be shown to the man responsible for the deaths of 270 people in connection with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988. He had served only eight years of his life sentence.
Victims' families are decrying his release this morning on cable tv news. But while there has been some persistent uncertainty about whether he was "the right man," this can be viewed in another way: as a higher power having passed judgement on the sufficiency of the life sentence imposed on him in a country that does not have the death penalty.
That's Megrahi above, when Libya first handed him over at the start of the decade. Nothing says "contrition" like tinted glasses. And maybe that extra splash of Sex Panther cologne.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

John Edwards "Does The Right Thing"

John Edwards is moving his former misteress, Rielle Hunter, and their baby Frances into his North Carolina neighborhood and will help raise their baby, a decision that caused his wife Elizabeth to "explode in a rage," the National Enquirer is reporting. He's said to have admitted to his family and close friends that he's the father, and reportedly wants to be a part of her life and help raise her.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

Did you see the news headline yesterday that, according to a recent study by the American Chemical Society, nine out of ten pieces of paper currency they sampled around the United States contained traces of cocaine? That's 90%, a pretty shocking figure. "Is everyone in the country doing drugs!?!" was the intended hysterical inference, obviously.

But that shock lasts only until you read beneath the screaming headline and learn that these were mostly minute traces being detected, and that even bills not involved in drug deals can become minutely contaminated during the automated bill-counting process in banks. So this was really a story about testing technology and about how frequently our currency circulates through the banking system.

Paula Abdul May Return To American Idol

Paula Abdul is reportedly again in talks to return to "American Idol," despite the fact that taping for the current season began two weeks ago.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cable News Viewers (And the Women Who Love Them)

Have you ever wondered who watches cable TV news during the day? Well, have you noticed that CNN, Fox News and MSNBC all run many of the same commericals during the day? They also run many of the same ads over and over again, frequently even repeating the same ones during a single commercial break. Collectively, these repeated ads paint a clear, if unflattering, picture of the typical viewer.

He's chronically obese, perhaps morbidly so. (You can tell from the incessant ads for Nutrisystem and Jenny Craig.) As a result, he has trouble getting around and probably uses a motorized wheelchair, as evidenced by the repeated commercials for The Scooter Store. ("Medicare May Cover Your Power Chair!") Nonetheless, he must still drive a car, and yet be getting badly ripped off by his current auto insurer. (At least according to the Geico gecko and the "sassy" young lady in those Progressive commercials.) And I use the pronoun "he" because the endless ads for Levitra, Cyalis and Viagra tell us that he suffers from persistent erectile dysfunction ("or ED," as these commercials all encouragingly chirp).

My question is, who are the women who apparently want these morbidly obese news junkies with ED to turn off the CNN, pop a Cyalis and purposefully thrust their Power Chairs on over to bed?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Overheard In A Stadium Bathroom

I went to a pre-season NFL football game last night. At one point I ducked into a men's bathroom at the stadium and, while I was standing second-in-line in front of a string of occupied urinals, I overheard the following conversation between a huge guy wearing an official team jersey who was hovering right behind me in line (and who sprayed beer as he talked), and a much smaller man in a baseball cap and goatee who was at one of the urinals.

Huge Guy: "Hey 'Tiny'! Shake that thing....that rascal........'Tiny'!.......Shake it!"

Small Guy (over his shoulder): "Are you talkin' to me?"

Huge Guy: "Yeah! Come on 'Tiny,' get that 'little dangler' movin'. Let's get a move-on 'Little Dangler.' Come on...."

Small Guy: "You're looking at my thing: why are you looking at my thing?"

(long pause)

Huge Guy: "Aren't you a season ticket holder?"

Small guy: "No."

(shorter pause)

Fist fight begins.....

Friday, August 14, 2009

"Ron Mexico" Lands in Philadelphia

The NFL's Philadelphia Eagles announced last night that they had signed Michael Vick, who had become a national paraiah following his conviction two years ago for running a dog fighting ring.

But did you know that this was not Michael Vick's first "dirty" court case? When he was a superstar with the Atlanta Falcons he was sued by a woman who accused Vick of having knowingly given her a sexually transmitted disease. One of the allagations in the lawsuit was that Michael Vick repeatedly visted various clinics for treatment of venereal diseases under the alias "Ron Mexico." This "Ron Mexico" scandal became so notorious that the NFL's own website banned the sale of customized Atlanta Falcons jerseys if the purchaser requested the name "Mexico" be emblazoned on the shoulders.

Pres. Obama Details His Shaky Plans For How to Pay For Health Care Reform

I watched the President's town hall meeting in Montana today. In his opening remarks he referenced the imminent insolvency of Medicare (as I mentioned in my prior post), saying that Medicare "will be in the red in less than ten years."

In response to a question from the audience he also explained that he plans to pay for his proposed health care reforms as follows:

1. He indicated that the total cost over 10 years would be $800 billion to $900 billion. That estimate is interesting because it is $100 billion to $200 billion less than the widely publicized $1 trillion figure that has been estimated by the non-partisan CBO. So he apparently plans to pay for part of the cost by simply hoping the plan actually costs 20% less than current best estimates. And that's in a historical context where similar government programs have proven to be much more costly than their original estimates. The most notable recent example being the prescription drug bill passed during the recent Bush administration, the actual cost of which has been more than double the original estimates presented when the bill was passed in 2003. A similar result in health care reform now would see the projected costs balloon to $2 trillion, or even $2.5 trillion over 10 years, a crippling sum given our current budget deficits and accumulated national debt.

2. The President then asserted that two thirds of this cost (or about $600 billion) would be paid for via cost savings derived from new "efficiencies" and by "eliminating waste." Good old "eliminating government waste." Has that old chestnut ever worked in reality? (Despite being promised by seemingly every elected official in the history of the country.) The next time will be the first.

3. As a result of the $600 billion to be saved by eliminating waste and inefficiency, and by consciously underestimating the projected 10-year cost by $100-$200 billion, the President was able to then make the math work so as to assert that the remaining $200-$300 billion could be funded by higher income taxes levied only on those Americans earning over $250,000 a year. But if the President's rosy assumptions prove over-optimistic (as seems certain), the only choice will be to tax the middle class much harder to make up the difference, as it will be politically impossible to revoke these benefits, once granted. That's why people are worried about the cost, despite the President's assertions that he will not raise taxes on the middle class.

4. Lastly, he asserted that any government-sponsored health insurance plan would have to be self-funding (so that it would not cost the government anything and so that it would not unfairly compete with private health insurance). But Medicare was designed to be self-funding as well. And as the President noted in his opening remarks today, it seems likely to be insolvent before the end of the Presiden't second term in January 2017.

Whither "Death Panels"?

In 2008, Medicare expenses represented 13.3% of the Federal budget, and rising. Of those costs, 27% were spent on care in the final year of life. Because baby boomers are now hitting retirement age, more and more Americans become Medicare-eligible every day, even without any health care reform. It is widely agreed that, if current trends continue, Medicare will be bankrupt in 8 years, in 2017. Eight years!

With or without President Obama's proposed health care reform, this situation is obviously not sustainable. Medicare costs simply cannot be allowed to continue to increase as they have in the recent past. But when more people become eligible for Medicare coverage every day (because of decades-old demographics), cost control will be impossible without some form of rationing of care. Spending 27% of Medicare dollars on expensive treatments in the final year of life is an obvious target for that.

So how can the President say honestly that he wants health care reform which, in part, cuts costs, but yet he doesn't favor any plan that would "pull the plug on grandma." And how can some of those who oppose health care reform, like Sarah Palin, allude to the spectre of "Death Panels" as a rationale for their opposition, as if opposing reform now will somehow successfully avoid the inevitable rationing of health care in the future. That's either dishonest political pandering by both sides, or unforgiveable ignorance about the looming financial realities.

John Edwards To Admit Paternity

Following a recent paternity test, John Edwards is reportedly preparing to admit publicly in coming days that he is indeed the father of his former mistress' daughter, something he has denied to date.

Why is that a big deal? After all, it's already been the conventional wisdom for months. Well, among other things, counting back 9 months from the date of this baby's birth, it's evidence that their affair was continuing well beyond the time previously admitted by Edwards, which is highly relevant to the ongoing federal probe into campaign finance irregularities during his presidential bid last year. It is also conclusive evidence that he continued this affair after the recurrence of his wife's cancer, something he had previously denied (for obvious reasons) repeatedly, publicly, and vehemently.

VJ Day Anniversary Today (64th)

Why is it seemingly less socially acceptable today to celebrate the anniversary of the end of WWII in the Pacific than it is to celebrate the defeat of Nazi Germany in Europe?

Is it because Imperial Japan is viewed by Americans today as somehow less evil than the Nazis? (People throughout Asia Pacific would certainly dispute that.) Or is it because the war against Japan was ended with nucelar bombs? (But that's "bombs" plural only because the Japanese government still refused to surrender after the first one was dropped on Hiroshima.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sheila Jackson-Lee On Her Cel Phone During Town Hall Meeting

Have you seen the video taken the other day during a town hall meeting held by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee to discuss health care reform? It has become a You Tube sensation because it shows the congresswoman answering her cel phone (and engaging in a lengthy conversation) while a cancer survivor from the audience is asking her a question. Rude, dismissive, and maybe even a little imperious.

Embedded below is a 7 minute interview about this incident which she did today on CNN. She repeatedly evades the CNN anchor's dogged, direct questions about this matter, and even starts suggesting that the You Tube video may be doctored. To his extreme credit, the CNN anchor persists, despite her repeated attempts to change the subject.

Near the end, she even begins to refer to herself in the third person. That's such a window on the soul.....

"Kerry" Is So Very

While I was sitting in my car at a mall parking lot waiting for a store to open for the day, I watched as a 20-something year old woman hobbled out of another store on crutches. She had an elaborate metal knee brace on her right leg, which I guess explained her heavy reliance on the crutches. She was also a little "beefy" and was wearing running shorts and a t-shirt, all of which made me think that she was, maybe, an injured college athlete.

She took one step off the sidewalk into an empty parking space, but then, curiously, turned back around to face the store front again. Then she maneuvered her crutches so that they rested back up on the sidewalk, all the while keeping her feet firmly in the parking space. Then she leanedway over into her cruches, effectively making a "teepee." (She was really leaning.) "What in the world is she doing?" I thought, as I stared at the tatoo of a gothic cross on her left ankle within which was written the name "Kerry."

Then she pulled out a plastic lighter and a pack of cigarettes and lit up. And it hit me. She had expertly maneuvered herself into this very odd gymnast-like inverted "V" position so that she could smoke without the inconvenience of having to exert herself by standing up. This way, the bulk of her weight was placed on those crutches, and she could just enjoy.....

And sure enough, as soon as the cigarette had burned down to the filter, she flicked the butt beside her, pulled herself upright again, and hobbled back into the store from which she'd come.

Is this what we've become as a country? Lazy, yet oddly ingenious in the service of sloth. Rapacious consumers of health care services, while consciously making terrible lifestyle choices?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Restaurants Are For Eating

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported yesterday that Louisville men's basketball coach Rick Pitino, a married father of five, has admitted to police that in August 2003 he had consensual sex in a restaurant with a woman he met there for the first time that night, after she approached his table while he was dining there. He later paid for her to have an abortion.

Alas, those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it. In February 2001, tennis great Boris Becker acknowledged paternity of a baby daughter who was the result of a brief sexual encounter in 1999 that he had had with a complete stranger in a broom closet at Nobu, a sushi restaurant in London, when they met on the way to the bathrooms there.

That's Boris above, who looks like he's about to play "Nobu Hi There" again.....

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

You Want Me To Tell You What My Husband Thinks?

Did you see the video of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton briefly losing her composure in the Congo yesterday during a press conference? Due a translation error, she mistakenly thought that she was being asked a question about what her husband, former President Clinton, thought about a foreign policy matter.

A 1 minute clip about this incident from the NBC Nightly News last night is embedded below. Numerous expanations for her uncharacteristically emotional behavior have been offered this morning by various cable news commentators, including that she was probably tired and jet lagged after a long flight to Africa.

But could it be pure coincidence that yesterday former President Bill Clinton also happened to be celebrating his 63rd birthday a week early "with friends" in (no joke) Las Vegas while she was away in central Africa?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Details Emerge About "Journalists" Released By North Korea

"Laura Ling, 32, describes herself as a ‘Chinese American’, but a friend said: ‘She was brought up as a true Valley girl. She’s about as Chinese as the cuisine at Chin Chin.’ Laura is said to be the duo’s ‘driving force’. Euna Lee, 36, who had little journalism experience and counted making a yoga video as a career highlight, was her devoted lackey, who reportedly held the video camera as Laura ‘danced around’ on the North Korean side of the border. For Euna, it was her first overseas assignment. The trip was Laura’s second ‘dangerous’ foreign job for Current TV.
"The Mail on Sunday has spoken to a long-time Democratic Party insider, who is a confidant of Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary. ‘Laura is sweet but not very street-smart,’ said the insider. ‘She was sent to China to make a routine programme about refugees crossing the border from North Korea but, according to Kim Jong Il’s people, she was walking across the border and leaping about. ‘From everything I have heard about Laura, she is a Valley girl who wanted to play in the big league. I think she did this as a stunt to compete with her sister. Lisa Ling works with people like Oprah. Laura earns peanuts at a network no one has heard of. This was her big chance. "

-From London's Mail On Sunday

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Is Paula Abdul Doing A Latrell Sprewell?

Paula Abdul has reportedly demanded a raise to $10 million per year to remain on "American Idol" in coming seasons, including the next one (for which auditions began this past Thursday). The show's producers had offered her a raise to $4 million per year (from her prior $3 million per), an amount she has rejected out-of-hand, apparently.

This reminds me of the time in 2004 when aging NBA star Latrell Sprewell turned down a three year contract offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves worth a guaranteed $21 million. Apparently insulted by the offer, which was a pay cut compared to what he was paid under his prior, expiring contract, he dismissively brushed aside the offer with the memorable phrase,"I have a family to feed."

He never played in the NBA again. Last year his yacht was reposessed and his mansion in Milwaukee was foreclosed upon.

Comic Books' Anemic Sales These Days

You may be surprised to learn how few copies of super-hero comic books are sold each month.

The news has been peppered for over a year with stories of periodic newspaper closures, media consolidations and famous magazines like "Newsweek" going exclusively online. But with this summer's "Transformers" movie about to break $400 million in ticket sales in the United States alone this summer, and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" having grossed $350 million worldwide to date, you'd be forgiven for thinking that comic books must be bucking this insidious trend of decreasing circulation figures.

Not so, unfortunately. Sales figures for June 2009 were just released by Diamond Comics Distributors, and the "Transformers" movie adaptation sold a mere 10,400 copies. "Amazing Spider-Man" sold only 61,000 copies. "Wolverine" sold 66,000 and the X-Men's flagship comic book, "Uncanny X-Men" sold 76,000 copies. The top selling comic book in June was "Batman and Robin," which sold 168,500 copies, one of only two comics to break 100,000 in sales.

By comparison, as recently as the mid-1990s, the top selling comic books, including X-Men and Spider-Man, would regularly sell over 1 million copies each month.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Sen Mel Martinez Announces Resignation Today

Senator Mel Martinez, a 62 year old Republican from Florida, announced abruptly today that he will resign his Senate seat as soon as a replacement can be appointed by Florida governor Charlie Christ (who may just look in the mirror).

Martinez said during a press conference this morning that he is resigning his seat 18 months early, "of my own free will. There is no impending reason; it's only my desire to move on and to get on with the rest of my life." Martinez added that he has no current plans for his future as a private citizen.

If I were Peter Parker, my spider senses would be tingling....

G.I. Joe: The Movie That Should Have Been

Did you know that the new "G.I. Joe" movie released today is based on a cartoon series from the mid-1980s called "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero," which itself was based on a line of 4 inch action figures from Hasbro, which, in turn, was based on a comic book from Marvel Comics? That's right: the comic book came before the action figures. How did that happen?

Well, "G.I. Joe" was first created in the 1960s by the toy company Hasbro as a boy's version of Mattel's "Barbie" doll. But by 1977, high petroleum prices (which drove up the cost of plastics), among other things, signalled the end of the line for 12" G.I. Joe dolls. But the phenomenal success of smaller, 4" Star Wars action figures in subsequent years convinced Hasbro that the time was right to revive G.I. Joe in 4 inch form in the early 1980s, after a five year hiatus.

But Hasbro apparently believed that the military theme of the old "G.I. Joe" dolls would not be popular with kids in the 1980s. So the company went to Marvel Comics and suggested that they work cooperatively to create a new "G.I. Joe" comic book and toy line. And it was Marvel writer Larry Hamma primarily who changed "G.I. Joe" from the name of a doll to the name of a team, a team whose members in many ways were more super heroes than special forces.

This was not the "G.I. Joe" of my childhood. Mine were the ones from the 1970s with fuzzy beards and "kung fu grip" and an inverted peace symbol as a team logo. That version never spawned a comic book or a cartoon or a movie. But someone did recently make a 90 second animated film based on this older version, just to show what might have been. Here it is:

Thursday, August 6, 2009

John Edwards' Mistress A Backdoor Woman

Rielle Hunter, John Edwards' former mistress, went inside the federal courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, Thursday morning, where a grand jury has been convened. Hunter was escorted in through a back entrance shortly after 8:30 a.m. by her lawyer, an FBI agent and an IRS agent. She was carrying her young daughter, Frances.

Senator Edwards has publicly acknowledged that he is under federal investigation in connection with payments to Hunter's production company, though he has denied wrongdoing.

The Beast: "Crying Beauty To Bewitch Men"

A previous drunken-driving conviction that had resulted in a suspension of his driver's license did not stop 49-year old Dennis Cretton of Belleville, Illinois, from going on a drunken beer run yesterday — on his yellow riding lawnmower. When deputies tried to stop him, Bretton drove the mower into his home's front yard, his 12-pack of Milwaukee's Best spilling onto the ground along the way, according to the Associated Press.

Ah, the siren's call of "The Beast," Milwaukee's Best, alluringly ice cold in a refrigerator at a convenience store just up the road. So close and yet so far. So beautiful....

He should have crammed bees' wax in his ears and lashed himself to his sofa...... So few people read "The Classics" anymore.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why No Ban On Texting-While-Driving?

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced plans yesterday to convene a national summit to study texting-while-driving. "If it were up to me, I would ban drivers from texting," LaHood said. According to a recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who were texting while driving were 23 times more likely to have an accident than were non-distracted drivers. By comparison, those driving at the legal "drunk driving" limit increased their risk of an accident by about 7 times. Despite this, only 16 states currently ban texting-while-driving, and some of those bans extend only to teenagers or are limited in other ways.

Is texting-while-driving treated so much less harshly under the law in the United States: (i) because the law is slow to catch up with the rapid technological advances of recent years, (ii) because the perceived societal benefits of texting dramatically exceed those of drinking alcohol, or (iii) because of the lingering influence of the country's puritan heritage on our laws. Or perhaps all three?

Paula Abdul Off American Idol

"With sadness in my heart, I’ve decided not to return," Paula Abdul wrote late last night via Twitter. Can she really be said to have decided not to return, though, if she has not been offered a contract renewal, as her manager previously claimed? The core of the dispute seems to be that she insists on being paid more money, while the producers are ambivalent (at best) about her continuing on American Idol at all.

She's like the Daffy Duck of that show. By turns: over-emotional, angrily jealous, greedy, scheming, and attention grabbing. And it's clear from the press releases and tweets from her camp in recent months that she's trying desperately to prevent the curtains from coming down on her.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A Good Rule of Thumb

An axiom that's served me well over the years is always to be wary of men over 50 who make a habit of parading around in public shirtless. Nothing good ever comes of that, in the end.

That's a photo at left of Rusian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 57, which was released today. Remember his photos from prior years of shirtless fly fishing and shirtless bear hunting?
And does he also shave his chest? If so, I hope for all our sakes that he's mulling a career change to Olympic swimming, or porn.....

Bill Clinton in N. Korea To Free Two Journalists

I wonder whether the reckless stupidity of the three "seasoned travellers/activists" who were arrested by Iranian troops along the Iraq/Iran border a few days ago will force the former President to pose for another, similarly distasteful photo op in Tehran in a few weeks' time?

When I look at Kim Jong Il's gloating smile in that photo at left, what I think of first is the righteousness and careerism that drove Euna Lee and Laura Ling to film in that dry creek bed that forms the border between China and North Korea in the first place.

If they are released now, I wonder how they propose to re-pay President Clinton (and us all) for having to endure that photo on their behalf?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Is This Your America?

As I stood in a long line at the grocery store this Saturday afternoon, I was surprised to see the guy in front of me, a middle-aged man wearing a green t-shirt who was about 5' 5" and 250 lbs, chomping his way through a very greasy piece of fried chicken as he stood there.

Fried chicken? That caught my eye. Occasionally I see people rip open a candy bar while in line, or maybe even bust into a bag of Dorritos. But fried chicken?

He had clearly ordered the fried chicken at the deli counter, and was eating a piece with his right hand, while in his left hand he held an anaheim chili by the stem. He chomped on that between each bite of fried chicken.

When he finished the chili, he carefully put the stem back in the clear plastic bag from the produce aisle. (Why? Could it assuage his conscience about shoplifting that chili in some way to at least pay for the stem by weight? Or would it be too "rude" under those circumstances to just toss the stem on the floor. What's the etiquette there? )

Do you recognize this as the America of your childhood? Fat and shoplifting, all while snacking betwen meals at 4 PM. A garden gnome sucking on his greasy fingers in front of you in line.....