Undesignated Driver

chrysler The other day the President decided to bypass the limitations placed upon his office by virtue of the Constitution, and to funnel taxpayers dollars into private concerns General Motors and Chrysler.  Even more (or perhaps, less) surprising, Congress has permitted this to happen without even so much as an indignant  whimper.  I believe that this action portends poorly for the separation of powers that we hold so dear, and that a challenge to to this usurpation of authority by the Executive is not only warranted, but imperative. 

 As Article I, Section 9, subsection 17, of the Constitution of the United States makes abundantly clear:  “No money shall be withdrawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by law….”  You should look it up. 

George Bush decided to steer funds that Congress had allocated to bail out financial institutions to replenish the coffers of General Motors and Chrysler, stating: “Allowing the auto companies to collapse is not a responsible course of action.” Bankruptcy, he said, would deal “an unacceptably painful blow to hardworking Americans” across the economy. ” 

That may well be the case, but it was not Mr. Bush’s decision to make. Congress, for good or ill, had decided not to fund a rescue of the automobile manufacturers with taxpayer money, and the Executive Branch had no authority to contravene the express wishes of the the people’s representatives.  Left unchallenged, Mr. Bush’s decision will further diminish the ability of Congress to act as a check on Executive power.  It does not take a fevered imagination to conjure up circumstances where a future president might choose to re-allocate funds authorized by Congress to pay Peter in order that his own favorite Paul might benefit as well.  If you don’t think it could happen, then explain to me why the line-item veto is still unconstitutional.

Frankly, my dear, this whole bailout deal is complete and utter bullshit, and it may represent the last straw between me and Mr. Bush. But I am just as shocked that our dearly beloved Congress, those same individuals that will lay down their very lives and reputations over such judge-made rights as personal privacy and affirmative action, would just roll over when  their all of their incessant deliberations finally mattered.  Don’t tell me that I simply do not understand the severity of the situation.  I do.  And I also understand that it is YOUR job, Mr. and Ms. Representative,  to convince us, your constituents, that your plan for action will provide a worthwhile benefit for the nation as a whole.  Not only have you failed to do so, but you ran away from your responsibility and permitted a short-lived executive to make your decision for you.

That’s a 1948 Chrysler above.  Congratulations, America. You own it now, and forever.

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Shoe Jihadism

shoes

**UPDATE**

Well.  It appears that our immoderate loafer-hurling free Iraqi journalist has recognized the idiocy of his embarrasing display of juvenile impotence and is seeking reconciliation.

According to the New York Times, “He asked the prime minister to pardon him as a son asks his father for forgiveness.”  

I say go ahead and forgive him, Mr. Prime Minister.  But considering the tumult that his little outburst has caused, I think it appropriate that he first apologize to President Bush and to the Iraqi people for acting like such a jackass, and that he should lose his video games for a month for being disrespectful to his elders.  Punk.

***** 

An Iraqi journalist threw a shoe at George Bush the other day, and, of course, missed.

In typical fashion, however, the “Arab Street” is exultant over this bit of boorish behavior, calling it “heroic.”

A few examples (all at the same BBC link):

Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi’s shoes have made history. The shoe he threw at Bush will always haunt [the president] even after he leaves the White House, and will upset him whenever he remembers the incident. This is the end of all tyrants who shed the people’s blood and despise human rights in order to achieve their arrogant aspirations.

The overwhelming Arab solidarity with the journalist and the fact that he was turned into a hero overnight have proved the extent of the misleading advertising carried out by the US media and the Iraqi officials, who have always been presenting a false picture of the “New Iraq”.

This is a farewell suitable for a war criminal and terrorist who led the world towards moral degeneration, terrorism and violence for eight years. The scene of the shoe being thrown is the only one that is suitable for US President George Bush. This is a free Iraqi expressing the feelings of the Iraqi people.

I  find this last screed particularly delicious.  George Bush is responsible, not only for terrorism and violence – which was virtually unheard of in the Middle East prior to January 20, 2001, but also “moral degradation. ”  If the indiscrimate slaughter of civilians and the stoning of rape victims is the pinnacle of cultural morality, then I’m all for a little more degredation, Mustafa.

But even more startling is how the writer failed to grasp the significance of his own admission: “This is a free Iraqi….” How about that?  A “free” Iraqi expressing his journalististic talents.  How many such free Iraqi journalists were there before the Americans came?  Not too many I suppose, as under Saddam Hussein reporters and editors had to be licensed, and even typewriters had to be registered with the government.  In fact, journalists in Iraq seem to be doing quite a bit better than their peers living under Hamas in Gaza.

A correspondent for Al-Quds Radio was assaulted, humiliated and repeatedly asked details about “Fatah’s collaborator radio station,” after being kidnapped by the internal security of the Hamas government in Gaza.

Salama was instructed not to talk about the incident, but he told his captives that he would. The officer replied, “No, nothing happened to you, otherwise I will put a shoe in your mouth.” Salama was taken back to the jeep, blindfolded, and driven back to the place where he was abducted two hours earlier.

What’s with these guys and shoes anyway?

Still, reports that the shoe hurling journalist was “beaten” in custody are, if true, disturbing.  Let him go.  He’s more trouble behind bars than he could ever be as a journalist. As one thoughtful Arab commentator so aptly put it it:

The Iraqi journalist should have asked tough or embarrassing questions to US President Bush while he was standing near Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. However, the journalist opted for shoes instead of questions. He forgot that media attention requires neither violence nor obscenity.

That’s the spirit, right Joe?.

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Howdy

Been away for a while.

I guess I’m back now.

Did I miss anything?

*click*

Sondra Fortunato went to Giants Stadium last week wearing a Santa Claus outfit, a tiara, fishnet stockings, a bathing suit bottom and high-heeled boots.

*click*

“If this is about morality, our president-elect has admitted to doing crack, and he’s our president. Does that make him a bad person?” Tuck said in November, referring to one of Barack Obama’s books, in which he admits trying cocaine. “Bill Clinton smoked pot. Does that make him a bad person?”

*click*

French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is suing a fashion chain for selling bags emblazoned with nude images of her in the latest legal action over the presidential couple’s image.

 *click*

A US motorist’s attempt to lie about his name to a police officer failed – because it was tattooed on his neck.

*click*

TWO Northern Territory police officers caught in compromising positions with scantily-clad women while they were meant to be on duty patrolling the streets have been stood down from operational duties.

*click*

AC/DC tickets to go on sale on Thursday

*CLICK *

Nope. Looks like I didn’t miss much at all.

See ya all again soon, maybe.

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Little Disappointments – Dick Cavett

Dick Cavett is a very smart guy.  Witty. Urbane. And as an interviewer, affable to the point of being disarming.  Cavett does not display the intellectual heft (or chooses to surpress it) to be Bill Buckley’s true doppleganger, but he’s a reasonable facsimile, and is a vast improvement over the infantile ravings of Frank Rich or Maureen Dowd. Although I may disagree with him frequently, I have always enjoyed his stuff.

So what, then, am I to make of this recent effort by Cavettt?  It masquerades as a skewering of General Petraus and Abassador Crocker, or at least their manner of speaking, and for that part Cavett plays it well.  He racks the pins: “Never in this breathing world have I seen a person clog up and erode his speaking -as distinct from his reading- with more ‘uhs,’ ‘ers’ and ‘ums’ than poor Crocker.”  – and knocks them down: “If Crocker’s collection of these broken shards of verbal crockery were eliminated from his testimony, everyone there would get home at least an hour earlier.”  Cavett even trots out the tired old horse about cop-speak, doing a riff on their use of “the perpatrator” when a simpler term would suffice. Not new material, perhaps, but delivered smiling.

What disappoints me about this piece though, is despite all of Cavett’s smart-ass banter about language, the piece is nothing more than an unbridled display of contempt. “I guess a guy bearing up under such a chestload of hardware – and pretty ribbons in a variety of decorator colors – can’t be expected to speak like ordinary mortals, for example you and me.” I suppose not, Dick. Perhaps because Petraeus is not just some ordinary guy, or someone who makes his living talking on TV about cocktail parties. His “pretty ribbons” aren’t some trendy lapel adornment, and when he must give orders something more vital happens than a servant appearing with another round of Campari and soda. 

You can disagree with the Bush administration and their representatives about the waging of the Iraq war, it’s well within your rights to do so, and many join in your concerns.  But comparing the “tinpot Ghen Khan of Crawford” to General Custer? That, Dick, is just plain lame.

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A Random Walk – Sydney

From today’s (tomorrow’s?) Sydney Morning Herald comes this bit of information:

I can iron two weeks’ worth of my washing in an hour.

Greg Smith Balcatta

 

Very impressive, Greg. Thanks for sharing that with us.

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Happy Birthday, American Adults

Twenty-four hours in a day, twenty-four beers in a case. Coincidence?

– Steven Wright

I think that this would be a good time for a beer.

– Franklin D. Roosevelt April 7, 1933

At the stroke of midnight, seventy-five years ago today, April 7, 1933, America grew up. 

 Actually, America tapped a keg and behaved like dorm full of college kids on their 21st birthday (minus, one supposes, the Beer Pong table). But there was good reason to celebrate.  After more than 13 years of constitutionally mandated “sobriety,” President Franklin Roosevelt let America crack open a cold one.  You see the Volstead Act  had prohibited the manufacture, sale and consumption of “intoxicating liquors” containing more than 0.5% alcohol.  To put that figure in perspective, one would have to consume ten bottles of Volstead Act beer to equal the alcohol in a single can of today’s Budweiser.  Whoo-pee, America. Party in the john. 

Anyway, it seems that America was getting pretty fed up with Auntie Sam telling them what they could and couldn’t drink. Between the Eighteenth Amendment (ratified, January 16, 1919, effective January 16, 1920) and the Volstead Act (passed October 18, 1919), law-abiding citizens were getting parched from sea to shining sea.  The rest were getting drunk on Al Capone’s liquor.

The chumps in Washington, comfortable in their own supply of good single malt scotch, started getting the word that there was a storm brewing back home to do away with Prohibition altogether.  But the pols were also aware of the sting of the anti-saloon crowd. Demagogues being as predictable then as they are now, no one wanted to be the guy to stand up in public and yell “More beer for the Working Man!” unless their political life depended on it.  And it was becoming quickly obvious that it did.

Enter the the Cullen-Harrison Act, the amendment that FDR signed in March of 1933, and which be came law 75 years ago today. What the Act did was to amend Volstead Act and permit the sale and consumption of 3.2 beer “near beer” in those states that wanted to have it. The pols hope it would sufficiently satisfy the working chumps so that they wouldn’t demand access to the hard stuff.  It didn’t.  Sure, distilled spirits and heavier alcohol wines were still verbotten until the Eighteen Amendment finally got axed in December of 1933, but at least on April 7th a bloke no longer had to drink a gallon of suds just to get a one-bottle buzz.  On that day one and one-half MILLION gallons of beer went down the throats of a thirsty America. Happy days indeed.

It’s hard for us today to imagine a United States with government-banned beer.  But it wasn’t the government that one day woke up in a hangover and swore never to touch the stuff again.  It was the people.  Almost as much ink as beer has been spilled examining the root causes of Prohibition, and I won’t waste your time recounting them here.  Better just to shotgun-it: Drinking was a HUGE problem, and the women of America got sick of their husbands drinking away the family rent. 

Things have changed. Oh sure, there are still those who drink themselves (and others) into an early grave. But when was the last time you saw a three-martini lunch?  How about even a glass of wine before 5 p.m.? The New Prohibition stems not from Constitutional dictates, but from the emergence of a more conservative business environment in recent years, which reflects the changing demographics of the workplace. In other words, (here it comes!) the presence of women in ever increasing numbers in the office has lessened the ability of boys to be boys.  Hey.  It happens to be true.  So get over it.

But there is a certain neo-Prohibitionist sentiment that is gaining steam in this country. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is certainly the most visible manifestation of this social phenomena, but there are others.   And like their Anti-Saloon League forebearers, these neo-prohibitionists are tough for a politician to say “no” to.  Think about it: What sane office seeker would question the authority of a group that claims to have saved the lives of over 300,000 people over 25 years, as MADD does?  Can you imagine the consequences?  

Don’t get me wrong, too many people are killed each year by drunks in cars.  But while the number of total miles driven has increased exponentially since the feds coerced the states into raising the minimum legal drinking age to 21 twenty-eight years ago, and the number of overall fatalities has dropped significantly, the number of alcohol related fatalities has remained relatively unchanged.  

So, the thinking is that if whatever it is we’re doing isn’t working, then we need to do more of it.  Right?

Apparently so. How else is one to explain that up in Vermont they are seriously discussing lowering the blood alcohol level for drunklen driving to .05 percent . Here’s what that bit of regulation means: A 140 pound woman (or man) who drinks 3 glasses of wine over 3 hours has a blood alcohol count of .05 percent.  Three glasses over three hours? Seems a bit drastic, doesn’t it? But, as the legislation’s sponsor stated with logic that is damned-near blinding in its brilliance:

“We’ve already seen the legal limit change several times in our lifetime,” said Rep. William Lippert, D-Hinesburg. “If we changed it to .05, it would send a very serious message that impaired driving is not tolerated on Vermont roads.”
 

No, Representative Lippert. It would send a serious message that says “Don’t go to Vermont.”

Massachusetts, meanwhile, is trying to make Vermont look like Animal House all the while proving that the time-honored tradition of legislating while drunk is alive and well.  A legislator recently introduce a measure that would lower the criminal blood alcohol count from .08 percent to .02 percent. That’s right, one-fifth of what was considered impaired in 1987. Should this bit of idiocy be enacted and that 140 pound date of yours has one glass of wine over a two-hour dinner, then you’d better grab her car keys because she’s over the limit. 

Sorry, but this is just not sober thinking on the part of our elected representatives. (Insert Ted Kennedy joke here).  Laws like these may ensnare Aunt Fanny on her way home from book club, but they apparently don’t make much of an impression on the bad actors, otherwise the number of traffice deaths associated with alcohol would have dropped each time the BAC dropped.  Perversely, lowering the BAC would allow MORE traffic accidents to be chalked-up to alcohol, thus raising the alarm that even MORE needs to be done, until its finally reached a level acceptable to your mother: Zero. 

Whereupon the New Prohibitionists will take up the ban on drinking in bars.

So, citizens, even seventy-five years after the “Noble Experiment” collapsed like a fallen angel, we’ve still got that old bipolar American attitude towards the demon alcohol: Any of it is too much, but none of it doesn’t seem to work out too well, either.  

Eh…<shrugs>  What are you gonna do?  

But if it suits you, hoist a frosty cold one tonight to celebrate the day the beer flowed in America again.  Just please do it responsibly.  Like the adults you are.  Or Auntie Sam might have to take it away.

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Little Disappointments – Absinthe

Absinthe is the aphrodisiac of the self. The green fairy who lives in the absinthe wants your soul. But you are safe with me.
Dracula (1992)

absinthe.jpgYou’ve heard about absinthe. It is the stuff of legend. A luminous green liquor that has long captured the souls of artists and would be artists, and a lot of old fashioned drunks as well.  It’s a potent concoction of herbs and distilled wormwood that fueled the muses of Van Gogh, Picasso and Manet.  Its mysterious propensities have unlimbered the inner spirits of  Wilde, Poe and Hemingway. Even Marylyn Manson has succumbed to its charms, so you know it’s got to be good.  Indeed, so seductive is the emerald sauce that for many years governments banned its sale in a vainglorious attempt to save society from its less than salubrious effects.

Now, freed from the shackles of intrusive regulation, the glittering green devil is making a comeback – albeit without the chemical ingredient thjone that purportedly releases the precocious and psychotic imp slumbering in us all.  Do not despair, however, my friends. Because even without that special spiritual oomph, absinthe still tastes like….like… well, like flaming bitter licorice-flavored crap.

Look. You can arrange your special spoons and your special glasses in the manner of the cafes of Montmartre, and sprinkle your special sugar while summoning the spirit of old Doctor Ordinaire, you can light it on fire if you so desire, but the fact remains that the green goddess is nothing more than a 140 proof fireball mixed with herbs.  There ain’t no genie in that lamp, brothers and sisters, just a whopping big load of torpedo juice.  No wonder the good doctor concocted the stuff as “medicine”  in 1805.  A couple of belts of this stuff and off with his leg!

Oscar Wilde purportedly once remarked about absinthe:  “After the first glass, you see things as you wish they were.  After the second, you see things as they are not. Finally you see things as they really are, which is the most horrible thing in the world.” Why bother then? I can get that on TV.

Rightly then,  absinthe deserves first honors in spd’s Big Book of Little Disappointments. There’s nothing in this awful stuff that will release some arivista within you yearning to breathe dreams.  More likely you’ll puke on your date’s shoes. If it’s the thujone that you really want, head on down to your local GNC and pick up a bottle of wormwood.  Then wash it down with some decent bourbon.  At least you won’t smell like anti-freeze.

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