Slug Tales' Archive Page

Obama: "If this thing fails... I'm cashing in my 401(k) for Pepsi points..."
Bailout Measure Fails:

McCain Announces Plan to
Suspend the US Economy


(Washington, NNS) Stating he had "foreseen the crisis to come, before anyone else caused it," John McCain announced today that, "As a take-charge leader, I have determined that for the good of the nation I must suspend the suspendering of my campaign and instead, my friends, I must today suspend the entire US economy."  This move was just the latest of several dramatic declarations and ineffective efforts, ostensibly to show himself as the take-charge leader, able broker Republican support for the bi-partisan economic bailout plan.  After a long weekend of negotiations and arm-twisting following McCain's declarations of support for the Bailout, the bill failed in the US House, with 2/3's of Republicans voting against it. 

Shortly after the vote, the stock market tanked with a record 777 point drop in the Dow Jones average.  By the end of the day, with prospects bleak for any new vote in the House for at least 3 days, foreign exchange were also beginning to tank, perhaps presaging continuing problems for American markets in the short term.  

Putting a new twist on his long reputation for 'straight talk', McCain remained as quotable as ever.  "My friends, the House Republicans have sent a strong message today that no matter how serious the problems facing the American economy....  aw, damn it to hell!  I call a 'Do Over'!  Man, I was tryin' so hard, what the hell more could I do?  Can you believe these guys? Makin' phone calls, meeting with Curious George himself at the White House... keepin' a straight face while getting lectured about deregulation for frackin' days at a time....  Screw it!  Close the banks and stock exchanges, give 'em some time to think about it.... let the house wingnuts try and get elected when no one can donate on their websites.  I'm done: good day, gentleman." 

Approximately fifteen minutes later, a McCain campaign spokesperson announced that, "due to Barrack Obama and Nancy Pelosi's partisan rhetoric and lack of leadership, the Republicans in the House had no choice in how to cast their votes.  If there is hell to pay for this lack of a bailout, it lies firmly at the feet of the Democrat leadership and the 60% of Democrats whose "Yea's" on the bailout compelled 67% of House Republicans to "Nay."  Douglas Holtz-Eakin III, McCain spokesperson, intoned, "For years these Democrats knew how to silently go along with Republican legislation, funding a war they didn't like and supporting domestic spying, I gotta ask: is this the right time for them to grow a damn backbone?  I personally blame them for the bloodbath which is about to ensue on Wall Street."

For his part, Democratic candidate Barrack Obama noted that McCain, as a candidate and not an elected President, had no power to suspend the economy.  "It's a technical detail, I know, but I think it's the kind of thing that deeply concerns Americans who feel that John McCain has been wrong on Iraq, wrong on deregulation, and -- can I get real here for a moment: what the heck was that Sarah Palin choice?" Obama urged American investors to stay calm, reiterated both his support for, "a responsible bailout plan" and faith in the long term prospects for the American economy under an Obama Administration, "But if it's McCain-Palin, I'm cashing in my 401(k) for Pepsi Points."

Within the McCain campaign, however, focus was split between responding to the Wall Street crisis and preparing for the Thursday night Vice Presidential debate.  After a two highly-structured interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric went South, initially enthusiastic conservatives were sounding alarms over Sarah Palin's prospects. 

While on the surface supportive of Palin, reports have circulated of behind the scenes efforts by the campaign reportedly soliciting seven-figure donations from Republican 527 committees in a last-ditch effort to have Tina Fey appear instead of Sarah Palin in the Thursday night debate. 

Earlier in the week, the McCain campaign successfully negotiated a change in format to eliminate follow-up questions in the VP debate, regarded as quite a coup in reducing the potential for debate gaffes.  At last report, they were pressing the Commission on Presidential Debates for two "tech-friendly innovations": specifically having the debate tape-delayed, "to allow for a director's cut and commentary track", and for the event to be a text-only debate on the Second Life website with animated "avatars."  According to the McCain campaign, "Sarah's been working on a really cool avatar, I think it's nailed her fashion sense and message; she'll be disappointed, and America's gonna be bummed if they're denied this by the Dems."


The Veep-Stakes:
Obama Selects Nic Cage for "Buddy Presidency"

(Washington, NNS)  In a move that strongly reinforces his desire to not do "politics as usual", Barack Obama has reached beyond the standard talent pool and has selected actor Nic Cage as his running mate.  "I've long admired Nic, he's a different kind of actor, and for sure he's not your grandad's movie star -- just ask John McCain." 


Obama, McCain, Clinton, Romney, Edwards & Huckabee:
Will They Make the Unthinkable (Bush Nostalgia) Thinkable?

(New Hampshire, NNS) The rapid-fire pace of the 2008 Presidential race has left us all asking a lot of questions.  Will we have the first African-American or female president -- or the first rich white guy to beat both an African-American and a female for the Presidency?  The first Mormon Stepford-CEO?  The first bass-playing fundamentalist minister? What the hell happened to Giuliani? Has anyone waked Fred Thompson up to let him know he's out of the race? 

Was the John Edwards campaign dragged down by the voters confused whether he's the guy who used to talk to dead people on the Sci-Fi channel?

At least one thing we can say for sure is that Edwards didn't help himself when he lamented his 3rd place finish in his home state by saying,

"Sunshine go away today
I don't feel much like dancing
Some man's gone he's trying to run my life
He don't know what he's asking
He tells me I better get in line
Can't hear what he's saying
When I grow up I'm gonna make it mine
These ain't dues I been paying
How much does it cost
I'll buy it
The time is all we've  lost
I'll try it
He can't even run his own life
I'll be  damned if he'll run mine Sunshine."

On the Democratic side, the departure of Edwards means it's now done to a contest between Clinton and Obama.  Heading into Super Tuesday with a big win in North Carolina and the endorsement of Teddy and Caroline Kennedy, Obama is on a roll.  Obama has a vibe of youth, good looks, and energy going for him.   Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has to fall back on the crutches of experience and maturity.  Meanwhile, Obama has to fight dueling perceptions that he's an unknown quantity with too little experience. and is either not black enough or only getting the attention because he's African-American.  Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has to fight the uphill battle that she's, well, Hillary Clinton. 

As Rudy Giuliani crashes and burns in Florida and Edwards drops out just one week before Super Tuesday, the five most intense days of the primary campaign are upon us.  Of course, Super Tuesday will have to compete with the two other big pop culture phenomenon of the week, the Super Bowl and the return of "Lost".  Compete?  Sounds like a theme week to me...


Capitol Chatter:
Bush: Iraq is...
"Freakin' Awesome... Freedomlicious!"

President Bush outlines his enthusiasm for "All the freedom in Iraq" during an appearance on the "Oprah" show.


  (Washington, NNS)  With his poll numbers in a slump and the recent PR push on Iraq approximately as effective as last year's effort for privatizing Social Security, President Bush has decided to take a new tact.  Instead of just proclaiming his intent to stay the course, Bush embarked on a media tour to show   just how committed he is to the War.

  With a new Chief of Staff in place, the White House is forcefully pushing a new strategy.  "Playing defense, doing nothing more than reacting to criticism is a losing game.... a death by a thousand cuts," according to Joshua Bolten, the new Chief of Staff.  "Whatever they think of the war or how things are going, this country is comfortable with George W. Bush and they love his idealism and enthusiasm.  We have gotten off-track a bit, but we're going to get the focus back on the positive.  We're going to show them the folksy guy you'd like to have a beer with, if, of course, he still drank beer, which he doesn't.  You know, we used to talk about the President as a 'compassionate conservative'" and there was kind of a bum rap about that with the late night comedians jokes and all.... but we think it's time to bring some of that back, sort of a compassionate Commander in Chief."

  An obviously well-briefed President started his media tour with an appearance on the "Oprah" show, starting off with some of his patented self-deprecating humor.  "Josh Bolten told me I was coming on the show and when I got here I asked the director guy when I'd get to meet Ron Howard -- you see, I thought he said the 'Opie' show!  I always liked that show, too bad about that Barney Fife guy passin' on recently.  Yeah, that was pretty special, they don't make them like that any more.  Pretty funny I thought that, eh?  Guess your nickname's gonna be 'Opie' from here on out, heh, heh.  Opie, Opie Winfrey."  The usually glib and in control host watched, silent and nearly gape-mouthed as the President rambled on.

  Regaining her composure, Oprah asked the President about his low poll ratings and the public's concern about the course of the war in Iraq and rising gas prices.  The President responded, "Opie, Opie, Opie.  Here's the problem,. You don't understand the history of Iraq policy. You know Iraq has some of the largest oil reserves in the world --- there's there now and they were there when that madman dictator Saddam was in charge.  More oil than they could ever need, and it was cheap.  But all that oil in Iraq didn't make the people happy -- because what they really had was a FREEDOM SHORTAGE!" 

At this point, the President began to get excited, first standing up and gesticulating wildly, and finally leaping on the couch, as he continued. 

"They had plenty of oil, but no freedom... and freedom was hated by Saddam like it was hated by the 9/11 terrorists.  And after 9/11, we knew it was a different world and after we got the terrorist in Afghanistan, we had to ask, 'what next?'  And what I saw was that Saddam was like the freedom-hating terrorists and he probably liked that stuff they did.  So I said, 'terrorists can hate freedom and fool me once, which is shame on them....but if Saddam hates freedom and we attack him then we won't get fooled again.  So I said, 'Let's roll!'  And we were finished with all the combat stuff so quick that we didn't have the normal amount of time to think about what was next.  And we found out that Saddam wasn't the only freedom hater in Iraq, and you know we just couldn't pack up and leave then."

Oprah gamely followed up, "Well, there's certainly been a lot of debate about how and why we got into Iraq and son on,  but after 3 years, what about the situation today?  We hear a lot of criticism about how slowly the war's going and, in particular, about your Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld -- how do you respond to all this?" 

Still on the couch, the President almost barked his response, jumping up and down to emphasize every point,  "Opie, you're so glib.  Sure there are challenges, generals make mistakes, after all.  But the Freedom, Opie!  Don't you care about the Freedom?  Opie what we're doing in Iraq is for Freedom, and it's, well, it's just freakin' awesome!  There's like a lot of ingredients to the recipe for a free Iraq -- we're not talking about some fast-food solution to these huge problems.  It will take time and sacrifices, and it won't always look good.  But like that recipe, Opie, after all the sweat and blood, it's the final product that matters.  And with this recipe, Opie, let me tell you, we're making something in Iraq that will be Freedomlicious!"









Special Guest Editorial:
Enough with the Politics of
Personal Destruction Already!
by Barney Bush

And so, once again. the cynical and bitter are slapping each other's backs and purring with delight, having derailed the nomination of White House Counsel Harriett Miers to the Supreme Court. 

And what were her supposed crimes and shortcomings?  That she wasn't as cute as John Roberts?  That she had no relevant experience for the job she was to fill?  That she was a crony, only getting the nod for the nomination as Teacher's Pet?

Well, let me lay my cards on the table.  I'm not some supposedly disinterested, "objective" observer.  Yes, I've known the President almost my entire life and I think it's fair to say I'm a member of the "inner circle."  Yes, I have been mentioned as a possible Supreme Court nominee, despite my lack of judicial experience.  And, yes, I know Harriet Miers -- and in the interest of full disclosure, yes, I have humped her leg.  More than once.

And, yes, I wrote the damn BOOK on cute.

But while some people may think this disqualifies me not only from serving as a Justice, but also from even offering my opinion, the truth is precisely the opposite.  I know all of those involved -- frankly, being a dog in the room kicks ass on being a fly on the wall.  And while my kind is known for its stereotypic loyalty, I firmly believe that loyalty is morally superior to biting the hand that feeds you.  And, yes, I've done that, too.

In the end, the Miers nomination fell apart because the Senators were going to demand to see privileged White House papers.  As White House Counsel, the very essence of Harriett's relationship with the President was one of lawyer-client and executive privilege. Let me tell you, the President was utterly correct in withholding those papers, even if it left Harriett no choice but to withdraw from consideration.  And if you want the poop on private White House papers, let's just say that I'm your dog. 

But if the Paradox of the Papers was the instrument of death for the Miers nomination, let's be totally frank that the motive and means were the most conservative members of George's old coalition.  Usually a whispering campaign is behind things in Washington, but in this case it was whispering, whining, and wails from the very religious conservatives who owe more to George Bush than even I do. So much for the virtue of loyalty.

I'll even stick my paw out a bit further.  Even the most "loyal" Republicans treated Miers in a manner that isn't exactly setting the bar too damn high for us dogs to be considered Man's Best Friend.  Judging by what I've seen, the Dobson's and Trent Lott's of the world are the very reason that the phrase "herding cats" was coined.  You can quote me on that.

What of the charge that Miers was unqualified?  Well, duh!  This is America, land of the Peter Principle.  If you're applying only for the job you're qualified for, it's usually because you're too incompetent to actually do anything more.  Was Miers any less qualified than George Bush was when he was elected in 2000?  And -- don't tell ANYONE I said this -- but did Uncle George's four years of first term experience make for an especially awesome second term so far?  Say whatever you want about Miers, but don't go pulling my tail on this "experience" thing.

Look, at some point we've all got to listen to that noted folk philosopher and answer the question, "Why can't we all just get along?"  All this trashing of Miers is going to get you a new nominee, all right.  You're going to get a safe, solidly qualified and quietly wacko new Supreme Court nominee.  And, for all the qualifications, you'll get Roe v. Wade overturned and a bow on every Cheney whim and fantasy, from the Patriot Act, to secret detention and torture.  Hope you're proud of your new oh-so-qualified Supreme Court !

And, no, I am NOT selfishly bitter that I won't make history as the first Canine on the Court.  It's just that I would have killed with the cute calendar and Christmas card Dog in Black Robes pictures!   Ann Geddes ain't got nothing on me.

So, enjoy your Clarence Thomas 2006 Supreme Court calendar.  I'm gonna go curl up and lick myself.  You can sure hope you don't see that on Clarence's Calendar -- Long Dong Silver not withstanding.  Woof.


Inside the White House:
Bush Ponders Future Supreme Court Appointment
(Washington, NNS) Insiders report that President Bush recently told a staffer, "I think I got this Supreme Court thing down pretty good." 

In his first opportunity, Bush appointed John Roberts, a lawyer with little experience on the bench, and therefore few written opinions to be picked apart by potential critics.  Indeed, Roberts public service was within Republican administrations, providing some cover that he was simply representing his "employers" view in opposing the right to sue for harassment or in belittling the "so-called right to privacy."

Of course, the nightmare of many a President has been appointing a judge apparently in harmony with the President's politics, only to discover those politics changed when finally on the Court.
So in his second appointment, Bush extended on the "stealth" elements of the Robert's nomination with the nomination of the White House Counsel, Harriet Miers.  By all accounts from colleagues, Miers has been tight-lipped through her career on politics.  And while she has extensive legal experience, she has never served on the bench.

Miers: "I'd answer your question, but even I don't know what I think."

But while that may be true, Miers has been involved with George W. Bush since his days as Texas governor, and in a previous job before becoming White House Counsel, Miers was the person who reviewed and assembled all paperwork that went to President Bush.  In other words, he probably has a pretty good idea of her style. 

With the Miers nomination made, the talk within the White House is gradually turning to the possibility of a third Supreme Court appointment before Bush ends his second term.  This isn't just Pat Robertson's wish fulfillment: the fact is that all of the sitting Justices except Thomas and Roberts are in their late sixties or seventies, and John Paul Stevens turns 85 this year.

Miers, Continued

According to unnamed White House sources (initials K.R., hint, hint)  Bush has already decided to follow the formula to its next logical extension.  Building on the low profile, no-paper-trail coattails of Roberts and Miers, Bush will also get the chance that he's repeatedly said that he wants, to appoint a "first" to the Supreme Court. 

Bush had expected that he would achieve the first Hispanic appointment with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, but that has been torpedoed by concerns from the Right that Gonzales might not be hard core enough on the abortion issue.  This, of course, upset the famously loyal Bush, but he's found what he believes an appropriate twist: the perfect Stealth Candidate.  The next nominee won't have any "paper trail" at all, and the appointment of Barney, the Presidential pooch, will certainly be a "first."


"He's never said anything anyone can object to, and he'll be so darn cute at the Confirmation Hearing."  - George Bush on his expected appointment of his dog Barney if a third Supreme Court appoinment arises.

      Slug Tales Poll:












Inside the Court:
Scalia & Thomas
Melt Down Following
Renquist Death

With the flag before the Court building at half-mast to mark the death of Chief Justice Renquist, it can now be revealed that there was another crisis in the Court in the days following Requist's death.  Slug Tales has learned that following the Chief's death, Justices Scalia and Thomas were extemely disraught. 

The resignation of Sandra Day O'Conner was widely seen as an opportunity for the more conservative members of the Court.  It was expected that Bush's appointment of the solidly conservative John Roberts would tilt the balance, which had so often been maintained by O'Conner's moderating swing vote.

With Renquist's death and President Bush's subsequent shift of Roberts to the Chief Justice position, the hopes for the quick conservative revolution by O'Conner's replacement were dashed.  This, more than their own desires to be Chief Justice, upset Scalia and Thomas.

Slug Tales has obtained copies of correspondence between Scalia and Thomas in which Scalia complains that, "The loss of Bill Renquist is just one too many blows too soon.  Roberts as Chief seals it for me.  I just lost all passion for this, I don't think I can write anything more for the group.  It will not be the same with Roberts in Bill's place -- regardless of who comes in for O'Conner.  I seriously think that the best thing for us to do at this time would be to break up.  If they don't like the way we run the Court, let's let them do checks and balances with TWO branches of government.  This is just friggin' incredible."


Bush: Mother Nature "Enemy Combatant";
Vows: "This, too, shall not stand!"

(Gulfport, Mississippi, NNS) Having apparently lost the "no finger pointing" moral high ground and facing yet another threatening hurricane on the Gulf Coast, the President has shifted to, "I'm responsible whenever anything goes wrong, and things went wrong at every level of government." 

Of course, no one was quite sure what the "I'm responsible" meant to begin with, and the President didn't seem to think it was necessary to fill in the details.  He did, however, vaguely refer to the fact that the U, S. military was the organization most capable of dealing with this type of a large scale catastrophe, albeit without describing why or what they would do.  (I guess we're to infer that if things were, well, done wrong -- then the military would be the one to, well, do things right!

Subsequently Bush commented that the hundreds of billions in federal aid would be paid for by reductions in "unnecessary government programs.  (One assumes he didn't mean spending a few hundred billion to capture non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq -- hey, that money's spent already.) 

Exactly what the President had in mind became clear later the next day, when the White House issued a press release stating that the President had declared Mother Nature an enemy combatant guilty of using weapons of mass destruction of an unprecedented scale on a major American city.  "Some people may try to gloss over or 'explain' what happened with benign-sounding theories like, 'Oh, it was all due to Global Warming,"  the President is quoted in the press statement.  "Like 'Global Warming' is some kind of explanation or excuse for what was clearly Nature's cruel and destructive acts." 


Candid Camera

Kim Jong Il wants you to know that he won't be pushed around by Condi or George W.

Ebert & Roeper Special:
New Pope: Two Thumbs Down!
(Buena Vista, FL, NNS)

Ebert: Despite a promising backstory (Hitler Youth member grows up to become Pope) the whole drama left me cold.  It's difficult to be too involved or sympathetic when the whole thing is over quickly, with the hard-line favorite emerging victorious -- about the only suspense was the old, "What color was that smoke?" thing. 

Roeper: Well, you ought to remember there's a whole tradition around this.  I agree the characters weren't particularly sympathetic or well-developed, but it was all about choosing a Pope.  What did you expect they'd do: choose Bono?

Ebert: Now THAT would have been interesting....

Roeper: Oh, come on now..

Ebert: Well, sure... and not just for the music and the sunglasses, either.  I mean, you've got this perfect scenario set up, an unsympathetic front-runner, following on the heels of a long papacy.  This whole thing needed SOMETHING to shake it up, and maybe it wasn't going to be Bono, but the way it played out was...

Roeper: ... a yawn.  Yeah, I got you.  But, Bono?  As Pope?  Roger, this is NON-fiction, right?  You could have done a lot of things with this, but let's keep the Lord in heaven and this story on Planet Earth...

Ebert: Yeah, but Ratzinger?  The favorite, a quick selection process.  And what have you got?  The Dean Wormer of the Catholic Church...  This has all the drama and excitement of setting "Jaws 2" in a taxidermy shop.

Roeper: Well, ok then.  You're right about the drama, and I did wish there was something approaching dramatic tension here.  Yeah, sure, let Ratzinger win in the end -- but give me a bit of Pacino, heck, even give me a bit of Christian Slater to make the whole process interesting.  It doesn't have to be "A Man for All Seasons," but even real life has got to have a bit of drama.

Ebert: Well, we can always wait for the sequel.  That's one thing you can always count on with this process.  Still, a big thumb down from me.

Roeper: I guess you'd have to say I'm a bit more understanding about the material they had to work with here, so my thumb's down, reluctantly. exclusive:
Bush's Secret Re-Election Plan: Outsourcing the VP
(Washington, DC, NNS)  It's often been observed that George Bush the son has crafted his Presidency in part around vindicating his father's one term Administration.  This superficial piece of pop psychology has been the Prime Directive for TV Pundits. 

So, it seems inevitable (if not exactly profound or even particularly relevant) how these experiences will guide the Son as he seeks the that denied Dad: a second term. Slug Tales has managed to get a peak at the official G W Bush spiral bound Strategy Notebook (wide ruled, labelled clearly: "Top Secret!  Do Not Read!  This Means You!), and can offer these exclusive excerpts laying out the Top 3 priorities for the Bush re-election effort::

1) Avoid 9/11 - 7/11 Confusion: This is a big one! Focus!   9/11 = terrorism.  7-11 = Slurpee.  No room for error here!

2) Win the War, Lose the Election:  Dad kicked butt in Gulf War I   90% popularity after GW1 and a couple years later couldn't  squeak past Bill Clinton.  Why?  In a word: no Saddam (ok, two words, but you know...)  That's why when we had that terror thing, I thought: we've got to do this right and get Saddam.  Been there now, done that.  Cheney tells me that was then, this is, well, now.  Gotta get Osama.  Can't figure it: rich guy, doesn't live in a palace.  Talk about inconvenient --  the bastard!  Gotta find Osama.. 

3) Cheney, he's like the Ultimate Telecommuter in our Administration.  Never on site -- always out of the office at an undisclosed location.  People knew that Dick was, well, pulling the strings, but they still got used to never seeing him.  Which is a good thing, since his heart wasn't that great to begin with.  So the last thing Dick needs is Tim Russert asking the same question fifteen times just because you preferred not to answer the first fourteen times he asked.  Dick proved you could get the job done, even if you never showed up. 


Republicans "Nascar Dad" Front Opens with "Racing to Victory" Campaign

Replacing Soccer Mom's as the "In Demographic", the Republican National Committee has fired up a semi named "Reggie the Registration Rig" and are really putting the "pedal to the metal" on their efforts. 

"We did a lot of research, well, some anyway.  And it seemed like racing fans were a perfect fit," according to one RNC insider.  "They're not put off by oil companies, they're actually thrilled by flags, noise and explosions." 

So: second term we're going to put my that MBA mind of mind to work and do what all the best corporations are doing: out-source! 

That's right, outsource the VP... we've actually got a line on a provincial legislator in Bengal who -- get this -- is willing to do Cheney job AND attend the second-tier state funerals for, literally, pennies on the dollar!  So, it all works out brilliantly... nobody's seen Cheney for years, so no one will miss him.  I'll be able to brag about shaving a few bucks off the federal deficit! 

Ashcroft / DOJ Sue for Naughty / Nice List

(Washington, DC, NNS) Despite very cordial relations between the Bush Administration and Christian groups, a new lawsuit undertaken by Attorney General John Ashcroft has brought a sour note to the carols of the holiday season.  Using provisions of the Patriot Act, the Department of Justice is subpoenaing the records of a most unlikely foe, Santa Claus. 

Specifically, the DOJ is interested in the well-known Naughty/Nice list, "...(W)hich could contain evidence of evil deeds, potentially up to and including the actions of potential terrorists," according Justice Department Under-Secretary for Evil Deed Do-ers, Judith Schlafly.   "If we find what we think we might, then they'll have more than coal in the stockings Christmas morning, and your dreams will continue to be of sugarplums and not WMD's at the Mall."

A clearly disappointed Jerry Falwell took on the DOJ action, "I'm sure these people in government mean well, but you know that old joke about, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help...'  As far as I know, non-Christians don't even get coal in their stockings.  Their fate is already sealed, so why would Santa even bother with them on the Naughty/Nice list?  The Patriot Act is an important piece of legislation to protect us from terrorists and other NCB's.*   It's not like I'm some kind of whiner about this -- you didn't hear a peep out of me when they used the Patriot Act to bust a Nevada Strip Club. 

Virtually the entire field of Democratic Presidential candidates offered no bold insight or leadership in response to the Bush Administration actions against Santa.   Leading Dem Howard Dean had little more than a whimper, "This is a joke, right?  You're with The Daily Show, aren't you?  Do you really expect me to respond to a report that Bush is anti-Santa?" 

John Kerry, seeking to contrast himself with front-runner Dean,  offered a bit more passion, "Howard Dean wants us to believe that he's a decisive leader and a real Democrat.  Well, I'm a war hero and I challenge him to speak frankly and directly, and this is no exception!" 

Carol Mosley Braun offered a more direct response, "This is the most ridiculous action in an Administration that can only break its own records for ridiculous actions -- fifteen years ago these same people probably believed that Rudolph's nose was red because he was a communist." 

Back at the Justice Department, Under-Secretary Schlafly tried to place this action in context.  "Look, this wasn't an easy decision for us.  We had to think about it a lot and that's the way we approached this whole thing.  But we think it's a very important source of intelligence and we don't want the American people's safety at unnecessary risk."  

A New York Times reporter pressed Schlafly, "There are so many problems here... assuming for a minute that Santa does exist,  from what I read as a child, he doesn't even live in the US -- who do you sue at the North Pole?"

"I guess the New York Times doesn't believe in Santa Claus -- which is maybe why it's not appropriate reading for children to begin with!   But, despite that, you are right that there are a lot of logistical issues in implementation here.   As far as we've been able to ascertain, there really isn't much a government per se at the North Pole -- it's a lot like the Pakistan / Afghanistan border region which has been such an effective hiding place for Al Qaeda and their ilk.  So, we're sending a small group of troops up there to serve the papers and retrieve the records.  We're trying to protect the American people, not looking for trouble.  Bottom like: we're going to do this right, don't expect to see a long line of elves marching into Guatanamo Bay." 

                                                                              *Non-Christian Believers

Roger L. Amherst Exclusive:
(On a recent November afternoon, the Democratic Presidential Candidates travelled to Bothell, Washington for an informal roundtable discussion.  The roundtable was hosted by Senior Political Editor Roger L. Amherst. )

RLA: It's about a year until the Presidential election when one of you will face President Bush.  But over the next few months you'll be facing off against each other in the primaries, how do all feel at this point in the process?

Dean:  Don't know about these other guys, but I feel like a million bucks.  Hell, I feel like $200 million bucks.... but these guys wouldn't know anything about that.

Edwards: I resent the idea that before a single vote is cast that the media can anoint a front-runner based on fund raising before a single vote is cast.  That's not what this should be about.

Kuccinich: A vote?  In the primaries?  You're kidding, right?  No, really? I thought it was a drawing.  Damn!  Now I'll never be President.

 Mosely-Braun: A drawing?  Boy, you really are a moron.  I'll tell you one thing, the other candidates are going to vote you off the Primaries in the first week of the show!

Gephardt: Don't call Dennis a moron -- he's an old friend of mine from Congress.  Besides, I don't want to be known as the guy who came in next-to-last after a moron.

Sharpton: Listen, I don't think you need to worry about THAT slot.... 

RLA: So, Mr. Edwards brings up an interesting point.  A few months ago Mr. Kerry was seen at the head of the pack and the suddenly Howard Dean became regarded as the front runner.  We've heard about Mr. Dean's prowess in Internet organizing and fund raising.  Is Dean's status a function of his techniques or his message?

Dean: It's the whole package, man.  This doctor is in the house and has just the medicine the country needs.

Kuccinich: You were kidding about voting, right? 

Clark: You know what?  People went for Dean because of his clear opposition to the disastrous war in Iraq -- end of story.  A lot of us tried to give the President the benefit of the doubt, thinking he'd behave responsibly after 9/11 and he didn't.  But Dean here, never, never did.  So he's got the mantle of the anti-war candidate -- even though a lot of us who hoped Bush would behavior responsibly now have more righteous indignation and bitter betrayal than any smartie-pants "I was right all along" candidate can ever have.  But, you know what?  Dean isn't the most anti-war candidate any more.  I am a general and I think this was a mistake and I've been betrayed along with my military comrades.  So I'm so anti-war as a general that I want to take over the govern...  uh, wait, let me phrase that a little differently.

Edwards: Looks like Wes dropped another bomb...  at least that something he's got experience at...  The thing about Dean is that he's not as handsome as me, so people feel more at ease around him.  Me, I look like a President and a lot of people find that a bit intimidating at this point in the game, but they'll warm up, believe me.



Fighting the Misheard,
Misreported and Misrepresented

(Editor's Note: The cacophony of cable, talk radio, the Internet and tabloids have exponentially increased rumor and misinformation.  To fight this,  TruthBusters sets the record straight...)

Dear TruthBusters:

My friend Sheila says she read in "The Enquirer" that so many people are so upset over all the crap Rush Limbaugh says that there have been dramatic increases in the abuse of prescription drugs and so they're having to take Rush off the air?  Sure enough, I tuned in the other day and Rush was not on the air.  What's up with this?
     - Scott, via the Internet

Sorry, Scott: You've Got It Wrong!™

Rule #2 in evaluating any story is to stop, take a breath, and consider the source.   Everyone knows that the tabloids run all sorts of crazy stories, but the problem in this case isn't The Enquirer, it's your friend Sheila, who may have been trying to rationalize her own obviously-addled state with this mixed up retelling of this latest scandal.

Rush is off the air right now because, like Elvis before him, he has offered to help the government to fight the scourge of illegal drugs.  He's currently undercover at an unidentified location (NOT the same one where Dick Cheney lives...)  Our sources say that this isn't Rush's first under-cover assignment in the battle against drugs. 

You should also remember to ask yourself whether your friend's story makes sense before lending it belief.  After all, if Rush's bellicose blabbering would drive anyone to drugs -- who listens to Rush more than Rush himself?  By your friend's reasoning, you might as well say that Rush was suspect #1 in the Rush-drove-me-to-drugs crowd.  Even without TruthBusters, the absurdity of THAT should have clued you in that Sheila was just blowing smoke....

             - Truthbusters


(Washington, NNS)  Tom Ridge, Sec. of the Department of Homeland Security, announced today that the Gay Marriage Threat Level has been increased from Yellow (Elevated) to Salmon (High).  "We take this action on the basis of specific and credible information.  We believe that recent events in Canada and the Episcopal Church have dramatically increased the specter of Gay Marriage that threatens America." 

The questioning by the press of the announcement paralleled that of President Bush when he announced the new Gay Marriage Advisory System at a White House press conference last week.

Asked by a skeptical press corps to explain why a ban on gay marriage should be a priority with bin Laden and Saddam on the loose, unemployment high and the economy wheezing, the President turned the question around, "All those things you mentioned are important, so this must be like, well, super-important for us to be so concer, concerted..,er.. for us to make this such a priority, right?  Bob, next question."

Sec. Ridge also announced that henceforth the Administration would no longer use the word "gay" to refer to homosexuals.  "We just think that it's not the right word, that it implies a certain complacency and resignation about homosexuality, a "What the heck, let's make the best of it" attitude which we think is wholly inappropriate.  From now on, we'll be using the term "heterosexually challenged," a term which puts things in a more appropriate light.  

Asked whether the newly named Gay Marriage Advisory System would have its name changed to reflect the new preferred terminology, Sec. Ridge responded, "Uh, gee, we didn't really think about that,  and since you mentioned it, I don't think it would exactly fit the space in the graphic.   I'll get back to you on that.

Following up the questioning of the President about the priority being assigned to battling gay marriage, Ridge stated the threat was real.  "I was watching this documentary on TV the other night, about an underground cell of gay men out to reshape heterosexual America,  Let anyone who thinks that this gay marriage threat is over-blown or some kind of thing like political rhetoric watch this documentary, and they'll know all the truth about the gay agenda.  Mark my words, if more people who see "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," we wouldn't even be having this debate."

Fighting the Misheard,
Misreported and Misrepresented

(Editor's Note: The rise of the Internet and the cacophony of cable, talk radio, and tabloids have dramatically increased the amount of rumor and misinformation circulating in society.  To fight this, we're introducing TruthBusters, an occasional column to set the record straight...)

Dear TruthBusters:

As I was rushing out to work the other day I heard on the radio something about Saddam Hussein's bodyguard being captured in Iraq and Bob Hope dying.  I was shocked, but none of the subsequent stories about Bob Hope's life have included information about this shocking element.  Was Bob Hope really Saddam Hussein's bodyguard, and how much of a bodyguard can a 100 year old man be?  When I heard this, I texted like 50 of my friends and a couple of them were really mean about it, "Brit: RU readN D papers or smking em?

     - Britney, via the Internet

Sorry, Brit: You've Got It Wrong!™

Rule #1 in evaluating any story is to stop, take a breath, and ask whether it makes sense.  If it doesn't: it's probably not true and you should check it out before repeating it to others.  Would Saddam really have a 100 year old bodyguard who entertained America's troops for 40 years -- including during the first Gulf War, for heaven's sake! 

Clearly what happened here was that you heard two stories about separate events and mixed together the details.   That much is obvious.  Why you wouldn't stop for two seconds to think before sending text messages to  your fifty closest friends about this "amazing, amazing news," is a bit harder to figure out.   Of course, it is charming that your friends actually think you READ a newspaper, as unlikely as that seems to me.  On the other hand, it's a bit scary that only two out of fifty apparently questioned your "news."

So, to set the record straight so there's no possible misunderstanding:  Bob Hope was not Saddam's bodyguard.  Bob Hope was, in fact, killed by an al Qaeda assassin sent to stop Arnold Schwarzenegger from being elected as Governor of California.  Bob Hope was 100 years old at the time of his death.

Beyond Baghdad:
Rumsfeld / DOD Plan Next Move:
Syria, Iran, N. Korea, or...
Roger L. Amherst, III
Slug Tales Senior Foreign Correspondent

(Washington, DC; NNS)  With the war in Iraq apparently winding down, the Bush Administration is considering how best to leverage success in Iraq.  According to one Bush aide, speaking on background, "The question isn't whether we'll do something, it's just a matter of who's next.  You know, there's a lot of people around here who've been feeling their oats, and they feel pretty damn good." 

Given recent events, speculation has focused on action against Syria, North Korea, or even Iran.  Others in the Administration argue for a renewed focus on the terror war and tracking down Osama bin Laden.  However, a group believed to have the ear of both President Bush and Vice President Cheney are arguing for a very different target.

Responding to a reporter's request,
Sec. Rumsfeld signals US
intentions via Charades.


"It's Really Got Their Goat...."

Around the White House there certainly is no love lost for the Syrians, who reportedly allowed goods such as night vision glasses to flow into Iraq during the war.  Similarly, the nuclear saber-rattling of North Korea's Kim Jong Ill in the weeks before the war in Iraq according to the President was, "a first class pain in the ass."  And recent news of the unexpectedly advanced state of Iran's nuclear program raised more than a few eyebrows.  And as for Osama bin Laden, "If we could whack that mole, if it took a nuke, if necessary," according to one DOD insider. 

But the most likely unlikely next target?  ANWAR: the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, where the Bush Administration's efforts to drill for oil have been repeatedly frustrated by the Democrats and environmentalists.

"For over 20 years, we've listened to the Democrats and environmentalists whine about some god awful energy shortage, telling everyone it'll be the end of the US economy and way of life -- and never doing a damn thing about it," according to Sec. Rumsfeld.  "They can gripe all they want about gas guzzling SUV's, if they were in charge, we'd probably have given up the Hummers for sub-compacts in Iraq -- Saddam might have had a chance with them in charge.  They're risking irrelevance, and if I could push them away from their quiche and chardonnay, I'd tell them that the time to back up words with actions is long overdue." 

Meanwhile, White House Press Press Secretary Ari Fleischer noted, "The Democrats must understand that words have consequences, and that the oil in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge is the property of the Alaskan people.  If the Democrat elite continue to be unwilling to act, then the Coalition of the Willing will show the world what doing something about an Energy Crisis really looks like."

Special Forces Already on the Ground 


Field Report by R.L. Amherst:
Embedded in ANWAR

(Undisclosed Location, ANWAR, Alaska - NNS)  For several days now, the unit I've been embedded with has been engaged in the familiar tasks of psi-ops and "preparing the battlefield". 

The psychological operations are always a combination of art and science, and never more than when the target at hand is a barren Alaskan wildlife refuge.  This presents quite a different problem that the urban environments of Iraq.  For example, the simple project of reaching the native populations with flyers explaining the Bush Administration's intentions is anything but simple when there are only a few thousand residents spread out over millions of acres of wildlife refuge.  According to Capt. Randy Johnson, "You kind of have to envy those guys in Iraq who could drop a couple hundred thousand pamphlets and expect to reach most of the people in the area.  By our estimates, in the last week, we've dropped over 4.6 million pamphlets in air drops over ANWAR and our statistical models say that even this will reach only a small fraction of the dispersed population in ANWAR."

But Capt. Johnson tells me that letting the natives know that their mission is to protect the natural resources of Alaska for responsilble use is so important that, "(I)if we have to dump 15 million pamphlets on ANWAR to let them know of our commitment, you can be certain we'll do it."


While some Democrats immediately came out in opposition to an invasion of ANWAR, others said that while they preferred a legislative approach, they would not stand in the way of the President should he choose to act.  "Once our boys boots hit the tundra in Alaska, we're all Americans, and we will support the troops," said one Democrat Senator who asked not to be identified.  And according to the UK newspaper The Guardian, US Special Forces are already on the ground in ANWAR, setting the stage for the ultimate confrontation.

But would the Bush Administration's Operation ANWAR Freedom to liberate ANWAR's oil riches begin in Alaska -- or closer to the Democrats on Capitol Hill?  Sec. Rumsfeld was evasive on this point, saying only that, "There are some of you in the media who think you know how to run a military campaign, which is as ridiculous as Sam Donaldson's rug, if you ask me.  The battle plan for ANWAR may begin in Alaska -- or maybe not.  The last time I checked, a key part of military strategy is to keep the enemy guessing... the one thing I will tell you is that you won't be seeing that Geraldo fellow in Washington DC any time in the near future." 

We Interrupt Our Regularly Scheduled Humor to Ask: Are We There Yet?

(Kuwait City, Kuwait, NNS)  With the war in Iraq reaching the one week mark, anxious Americans wonder just how much Iraqi geography they'll have to learn and how many hours of "embeds" they'll have to watch on cable news networks.  Early expectations that the Iraqis soldiers would lay down their arms and the Iraqi public would throw wild welcoming parties for American soldiers have not been realized.  Overall, there is quite a bit of disappointment that the war is lasting longer than an Academy Awards acceptance speech, much less the whole damn show.   

However, early fears that the war would interrupt regular programming and interfere with daily life here in the U.S. have also largely have not been born out.  The Oscars went off as usual -- except for a strong negative reaction to Michael Moore's rude attempt to allow reality to intrude on the Hollywood fantasy.  "American Idol," "Survivor", and most of the rest of prime time's sitcoms and cop dramas have aired.  On the other hand, with the war coverage relegated to the upper range of cable news channels, CBS inflicted on viewer their Celine Dion in Las Vegas special -- a clear sign that the protections against inhumane treatment in the Geneva Conventions are entirely toothless in a modern media world.

After a few days the news coverage tended toward a deceptive routine of former military officers offering comments and countdown to the Big Battle of Baghdad.  Each day a few more US casualties and a POW taken here and there.  At the same time there is a pseudo-technical disengaged jargon attached to the deadly business at hand  -- a loss of US soldiers is referred to as "having a bad day" while Iraqi soldiers with the temerity to fight are "no longer on the planet."   Somebody's wife, parent, or child may see this a little less dispassionately. 

The electronic environment for this war often runs from the bizarre to the downright weird.  Where in earlier wars reporters we kept far from the battlefield less disturbing pictures fill American living rooms, this time literally hundreds of journalists with herky-jerky videophones are filing stories from Bradley fighting vehicles speeding across the desert.  At the same time, the waters in the captured Iraqi harbors in the south are being patrolled by mine-hunting military dolphins with cameras attached to their fins.  And seemingly 24 x 7, CNN's Aaron Brown drones on about how amazing the technology is and reflecting on at air length about his personal feelings while covering such a dramatic story -- CNN is trying to bore the audience to death.

All of which, as you may have noticed, is not particularly funny.   Sorry about that, it's all I have right now.  And I refuse to watch sitcoms.  Hopefully Bush's budget for a 30 day war with a $74 billion budget won't be too far off.  Hell, I wouldn't hold it against him if they only spent a third that much and had it all over with the day after tomorrow. 

Just don't call me the Aaron Brown of satire...

Iraq Poll :
Americans Alarmed That Regular
Programming Will Be Interrupted

Powell holding "My Other Car is a Bio-weapons Lab" bumpesticker
U. S. Secretary of State Colin Powell displays to the United Nations Security Council evidence
that Iraq is flouting UN prohibitions against weapons of mass destruction and lying when it
says it has destroyed weapons stocks it previously developed.  (NNS Wirephoto)

(New York, NY, NNS) A skeptical UN had to admit that US Sec. of State Colin Powell presented a compelling picture of the dangers poses by Iraq in his masterful presentation featuring intercepted phone conversations, satellite photos, and artifacts.  "Cool, I thought the whole thing was, like, 'uh-oh: buuusted', like especially that phone conversation about the 'nerve agents' -- and those sat photo's, good stuff!" according to the UN rep. from Libya. 

UN Weapons inspectors were less charitible in their assessments, perhaps exhibiting a certain amount of professional jealousy.  Chief Inspector Hans Blix demurring, "Well, duh, I guess you can do that with like the CIA and a zillion spy satellites and stuff -- he ought to try and do that stuff with a dozen of land rovers and five laptops.  And, for cripe's sake, the best they can come up with is a Powerpoint with a red writing on a blue background?  No animations, not even those things where it fades to black between slides and makes 'swoop' sounds.  At least that kind of PowerPoint doesn't make you suspect they might have doctored the pictures  -- by the look of the PowerPoint, they probably couldn't win a game of Freecell, much less do a decent job fabricating evidence with Photoshop.  So, I guess that's a good thing."

Meanwhile Back in Washington....

Meanwhile, back in Washington, the Dept. of Homeland Security was announcing that the Terror-o-meter had been increased from yellow to orange, signaling that the nation is at a heightened state of, "Don't say we didn't warn you."   

And while some may find the short-term warnings disquieting, over at the Justice Department Attorney General John Ashcroft was putting the finishing touches on a new set of legislation dubbed, "Patriot Act II".  The new law would put into place technical and legal measures to permit increased monitoring of virtually all aspects of Americans' life. 

While the proposal was met with immediate opposition by civil liberties organizations, Mr. Ashcroft was unapologetic.  "The President has told the American people that the evil ones oppose us because they hate freedom.  Some have called this an oversimplification, but it's not.  They hate us because they hate freedom.  Therefore, if we take away a little bit of freedom, they'll hate us a bit less.  Take away a lot of freedom -- heck, we'll have that Terror Alert down to beige by the time I get done with the Bill of Rights."  (story continues below....)

 A Commercial Message

They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano!

A Message About Kitalin™

Does this sound familiar?  Unfortunately, it's an all too common reaction when a cat sits down at the piano.  And even when they do, it's often taken as a source of ridicule, the stuff of which "America's Funniest Pet Videos" is made.  Well: it's literally time for you to "Get over it!" 

Cats all over America are finding new depth and value to their lives, thanks to Kitalin™ from Welloutcomme Pharmaceuticals.

No matter what you may have heard or thought, Feline Attention Deficit Disorder (FADD) is a real, medical condition.  With Kitalin™, many cats are making it a thing of the past, breaking down the barriers of their own achievement AND society's pre-conceptions about what cats are capable of doing.

Are you finding that lying around all day licking yourself and crapping in a sandy box leaves you feeling unfulfilled?  Do you dream of greater things?  

We can't promise you that you'll be able to achieve all your dreams if you take Kitalin™ -- but you'll never know if you could, unless you do! 

Kitalin™, A Product of Welloutcomme Pharmaceuticals, where our motto is:

"Welloutcome Pharmaceuticals: Because there's still some change in your pockets after Microsoft, the cable company and the IRS are done with you."

Americans Concerned (continued)

The question on most Americans' minds at this point is, of course: "Is war inevitable?"  Politicians and pundits alike offer opinions on this issue every day, with no solid answer but a growing sentiment that, like it or not, the nation is heading toward a point of return.  The most grim signs of impending conflict include massive troop deployments in the region and the development of background graphics and scary theme music by the cable news channels.  But even at the cable news channels, you can sense subtle differences of approach, with CNN's "Showdown Iraq" contrasting starkly with Foxs News' "Woo Hoo, Watch Your Ass, Saddam" graphics.





More Bad Stuff Happens

(Washington, DC - NNS) The loss of the space shuttle Columbia caps two of the worst years in memory.  The parade of the bad and the bizarre includes 9/11, anthrax mailings, Enron, Arthur Andersen, WorldComm,, the Washington sniper shootings, the shoe-bomber, the economy scraping bottom, endless terrorist attack warnings, nuclear threats from North Korea, and the nation at the brink of war with Iraq.

Concerned over the effects of this chronic stress on the American people, the National Science Foundation established a research team last October to look at the manifestations and effects of cumulative calamity.  Ironically, this group of government scientists has come to a surprising, shocking conclusion. 

"We started our work at the apex of anxiety over the sniper shootings in the Washington area," stated Dr. Stacey M. Rockford, the lead researcher on the NSF team.  "Being in the DC area during the sniper shootings, one had the feeling there was an overload which simply couldn't get worse." 

But get worse it would.  "Over the last four months," accord Dr. Rockford, "several members of our team have become  increasingly alarmed at the regularity of these events during the last couple of years.  Basically, it's  since the, er, election of President Bush.  This is a, well, sensitive area for a federal employee -- but we ARE scientists first and foremost. And, as scientists, after carefully looking at all the data, we're convinced that President Bush is jinxed.  That may not sound scientific -- and I could make up some fancy scientific acronym like CFSBJP (Country's Fate Sealed by Jinxed President), but basically it comes down to the fact that any objective thinking person wouldn't hope in the car for a trip to McDonald's with this President, much less declare war in a region that's been a tinderbox for fifty years." 

And, in North Korea....

Stung by the "Axis of Evil" rhetoric and fearing that the US might be working its way down a list of Evil Doers, North Korean President Kim Jong Ill has been rattling nukes.  While Iraqi's been accused of trying to deceiving UN inspectors and hiding weapons of mass destruction, North Korea has a slightly different approach. 

North Korea has booted the weapons inspectors out, withdrawn from the non-proliferation treaty, developed nukes and missiles capable of reaching Japan, and issued daily threats to immolate Seoul (30 miles from the border) and start World War III. 

The Bush Administration finds these actions troubling, but "not a crisis."  President Kim Jong Ill is further frustrated by this cold shoulder from the Bush Administration.  "Hey, Georgie: I got yer 'Axis of Evil' right here -- c'mon, come and get it!  Who the hell do I have to bomb in order to get some respect around here?"  

On being told of President Ill's remarks, a clearly resolute President Bush replied, "That's easy: Iraq.  At least I hope so."

*** Updated: Citizen's Transit Plan Pages! ***

An NNS BizTickerWire Special:
Heroes of the Wounded Economy
Reported by Roger L. Amerherst III

(Wall Street, NNS) With the Dow at a 5 year low of 7285, America -- and indeed the entire free world -- needs to buck up, take stock of itself (pun intended), and do what it takes to get the old economic gears humming.  There's no room here at the First Church of Just Get on With It for doomsday scenario-dreaming, weepy rearview-mirror-nostalgia paralyzed, better-days-have-come-and-gone pessimism.  No way!  What makes us great is what has always made us great and will always make us greater: the energy and committed will and resources of the greatest business minds in the world.

So amidst all this moaning and groaning over lost 401(k)'s and retirements-that-could-have-been, the BizTickerWire wants to point out the innovators, the movers and shakers, the makers of what will certainly be a brighter day for us all.  Viewed singly, it may not appear so, but mark our words, these ideas, this initiative and innovation, are the nuts and bolts makings of the next great economic revolution.  So here are our List of Four Heroes of the Wounded Economy!

4) Expanding Into New Markets: Starbucks

With a Starbucks on every corner -- and a second Starbucks just added to the International Space Station -- it would be easy to imagine that the market for upscale caffeinated beverages is saturated.  The answer: seek new customers, not just new locations.  With as many pets as people in the U.S. and a vast market of over-priced pet accessories, Starbucks will soon be peddling liver lattes to Spike and Snoopy.  Starting with locations near existing PetSmart stores, Starbucks will open the stores before the holiday shopping season.  And don't worry about those yippy little hyperactive pooches, de-caf  pet-chai will also be on the menu.

3) Rewarding Loyal Customers: Safeway

Always a cut-throat industry with razor-thin margins, grocery chains have turned to "loyalty card" programs to offer shoppers "special deals", while at the same time creating a massive database of all their customers and all their customers' purchases.  But the cards have met with some objections from consumers, raising questions about whether the discounts are real and protesting the loss of privacy.  Confronting these concerns head-on, Safeway decided the problem really wasn't that administering the huge program was so costly that they couldn't offer real discounts, or even that customers' privacy.  Safeway research showed that consumers' annoyance with the program was re-energized each time they had to fish through the wallet or purse for the discount card.   The solution?  Offer customers a one-time Safeway Club Card computer chip implant.   Safeway will kick off the new program offering in the next month, offering a free flu shot with every implant.

2) Building Your Brand: Gartner

The burst of the Internet Balloon and tighter Information Technology spending, couldn't be good news for consultant group Gartner.  But if computers and technology services aren't selling, what does Gartner do that could make money?  The answer: clever names, diagrams and a boatful of acronyms.  Indeed, in just a few hours of discussion, Gartner was able to sell the rights to its "Magic Quadrant" term for analysis to Parker Brothers, which will develop an unrelated board game based on the name.  Other Information Technology pundits were quick to jump on Gartner for the move, speculating that the sale was a "stunt" and could dilute Gartner's focus.  Gartner dismisses this criticism, but pundits point to Gartner's newly announced "Chutes and Ladders Analysis" as evidence to the contrary.

1) Protecting Intellectual Property: Simon and Schuster

Napster and its kin may have brought the concerns about music piracy to the fore, but long before there were MP3 music files or even the Internet, similar "peer to peer" schemes were undermining the profits and intellectual property rights of traditional publishers.  Emboldened by success in the courts against the music sharing services, a group of publishers lead by Simon & Schuster will soon take a new class of pirates to court: public libraries.  While some of are skeptical of their legal prospects, it is worth noting that beginning in November, all major publishers will begin shrinking-wrapping books and including a shrink-wrapped End User License Agreement, similar to that used by computer software, on all books.  "We know this move will be misunderstood by many, but like the damage to the sales of CD's from freely available MP3 copies, we can't be complacent about the damage to the economy caused by public libraries just because they're more 'established' and widely used."


SlugTales BizTickerWire Special Report:

For better -- and often for worse -- the CEO has been the center of attention for American business in 2002.  The CEO as culturral icon of has shifted from the dynamic entrepreneur or Internet golden geek to that of a ruthless criminal over-class.  How quickly we've gone from the insane giggle of Amazon's Jeff Bezos as Time's Man of the Year to Adelphia's CEO Dennis Kozlowski lavishing $1,000,000 of the company's money on a birthday party for his wife.  But if we've gone from GE's Jack Welsh to Enron's Ken Lay as the archtypal CEO -- what's next?

Increasingly the answer for many companies is to tap unconventional CEO's from further down in the organization.  Often, way further down in the organization.  After the recent departure of troubled telecomm giant Qwest's CEO, the company made the unprecedented decision to appoint Ron Thompson, a Denver-area high school junior as CEO.  Even more remarkably, before announcing a different final decision, the front-runner for the CEO spot at United Airlines was Shannon Lee, a 14 year old Deleware junior high school student.

A variety of factors are conspiring to bring a new look to the CEO Class of 2002.  The economic downturn and the now long-burst Internet Bubble has cast the casual Friday arrogance of the ubergeek CEO into oblivion, with remaining examples like Michael Dell and Steve Jobs moving more or less gracefully through middle age.  At the same time, questions about past business ethics -- not to mention current criminal investigations -- have put a premium on CEO's without any skeletons in the closet.  And, finally, the ascendancy of the media culture means that a CEO today is more than a corporate officer: he or she is a visible symbol of the company,  a telegenic Frankenstein-combo MBA-spokesmodel.

Industry observers point to these and another factor in explaining why the Fortune 500 are robbing the cradle for CEO's.  "Well, first, you've got to understand that the old CEO's came with a lot of baggage and universally with hidden agendas,"  according to the Dallas Times Herald's Bidness Editor James "Jimmy" Johnson.  "The other thing you've got to understand are the new realities of SEC requirements of CEO's signing off on financial reports and increased federal penalties, some Boards of Directors are looking for CEO's which, well, there's no other way to put this,  who might take a dive as a juvenile and beat a long federal rap."   "There's also a belief that you can turn a negative into a positive by giving taking the ruthless CEO image, giving it a younger spin, maybe even a hip hop vibe, and there you go -- the new cultural hero, the Gangsta CEO."

Microsoft Unveils .Net Acronym Integration Services

MS CEO Steve Ballmer told an assembled group of software developers in Seattle today that the major technical challenge for the next decade will be Acronym Transparency.  "Now, I know there are people who are gonna say this is tech geekspeak among techgeeks, but stay with me here a minute," Ballmer implored.  "The pace of life has changed -- remember Pearl Harbor, how everyone referred to it as 'December 7th, 1941, a day that lives in infamy'?  Well, fast forward 60 years and that's truncated to '9-11'.  It's a different world and a lot of the complexity is centered around acronyms, whether you're in technology, law, medicine, or whatever.  We took a close look at this and have decided to integrate acronyms DIRECTLY into our .Net framework.  No more acronyms as after-thoughts or unnecessarily descriptive NAMES for things -- with .Net AIS, in goes the English and out comes the acronym.  IAEAT -- it's as easy as that!"

Critics, including Scott McNealy, quickly pointed out that, "(C)reating acronyms by simply taking the first letters of every word in sight is hardly original or technically impressive -- but what would you expect from Microsoft? "  

Ballmer countered, "Well, that's about what I'd expect from them -- you did hear them talk about the Recursive Acronym Technology (RAT), which is unique to our product!"  According to MS, RAT allows a second compression of meaning where the acronym itself is shortened from several letters to a single letter and then combined with other compressed acronyms to form RAT "memes".  According to the same spokesperson, MS researchers using this technology were able to compress the entire works of William Shakespeare into a series of RAT memes filling less than 3 pages.

Previous Weeks' Writings.....


Bush "Determined" to
Threaten to Invade Iraq

George W. Bush gives
his rhetoric a workout.

(Washington, NNS)  While rumors of a policy rift in the Bush White House keep the pundits buzzing, President Bush is said to possess a single-minded certainty about the ongoing brinksmanship with Iraq.  Colin Powell not on board with the rest of the Cabinet?  Not an issue.  George the First's advisors on the Sunday morning news shows urging caution?  Yeah, right.  European and Middle Eastern allies queasy at the unilateral threats and the possibility of a broader war in the Middle East?   The Russians and Chinese on edge that the next time around it might be their governments that somehow manage to draw the ire of the U.S. Prez?  If you're not doing anything wrong, what ya' worried about? 

The emerging G. W. Bush Doctrine involves detering Saddam Hussein from suicidal use of weapons of mass destruction by providing virtually constant tirades and ominous statements that he "hasn't yet" decided to go to war with Iraq.  This, according to Bush Administration officials speaking off the record, is, "a lot cheaper and less messy than actually that troops and cruise missile stuff." 


CNN Announces Saddam Hussein Reality Series

(New York, NNS)  Faced with ratings eroding with competition from Fox News and other cable news channels, CNN announced a bold move reclaim its momentum.  Building on the success of the recent cache of terrorist home videos, CNN unveiled an exclusive agreement with the government of Iraq to feature leader Saddam Hussein in a reality series a la MTV's "The Osbournes". 

Concerned at the less than favorable image of Saddam in the West, the network revealed that the new series will be a co-production with the E! network and will co-star the preternaturally vapid Anna Nicole Smith.  The two, however, declined to appear together at the press conference announcing the series.

CNN announced the pairing as, "the ULTIMATE Odd Couple", adding that "CNN has been doing 'reality television' longer than anyone -- we know that beat."  The first episode of the series won't air until after next January's Super Bowl.  But leaks from what is rumored to be a troubled set say that an early episode will revolve around Saddam's "accidental" nerve gassing of Anna Nicole's beloved dog.

CNN also announced that a key element of promotion for the series will be that anchor Aaron Brown will complain about the series endlessly on every broadcast for the next five months.  "Some of you might think that the News, journalism, our esteemed profession, might be called 'Reality TV', but apparently it means something else in this day and age," opined Brown,  "Excuse me while I just go find somewhere to barf."

McDonald's: Oil Change for High Mileage Arteries

McDonald's, which holds U.S. Patent #1033423 for the "junk" in junk food, has announced that it will change to a newly formulated oil in its fryers.  The new fries cooked in this oil will reportedly contain less saturated fat linked to heart disease, it will still have as the same number of calories per serving.  A McDonalds' spokesman said the new fries will be "healthylicious" and "increase the average lifetime window for the purchase of fries by 12%,"   Nay-saying consumer advocates, spoiling the festive spirit of the McDonald's announcement, alleged that the new fries would merely be "less heartattacky".     


"We think it's not only possible, but inevitable.  
Remember: we've long known that, year after year, most accidents involving injury or death happen at home, and we're afraid this trend could 
spread to terror attacks."
- Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge,  

Tom Ridge

Tom Ridge: "This year, spring cleaning could save your life."

(Washington, DC, NNS) Citing "an abundance of caution," Federal Homeland Security Czar Tom Ridge announced the latest in a round of terror alerts, this one hitting closer to home than any other alert.  "We have uncorroborated reports from a single source, that America's hallway closets could be the next focus of terrorist attacks," according to Ridge.  "We do not believe that this source is necessarily credible, yet given the ubiquity and proximity of the hallway closets to bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms and other areas in residences where people congregate, we decided to pass this alert along.

The alert is the latest in a week which has seen terror warnings for apartments, nuclear power plants, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, and small planes.  The warnings also coincide with revelations about the failure of the Administration to "connect the dots" from various warnings prior to the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center towers.  The Administration has brushed aside speculation that it is attempting to sideline stories of "who knew what when" with vague terror alerts.

Reached for comment, Doug Reynolds, a Yakima, WA homeowner with a hallway closet, was cautious, if somewhat skeptical.  "Well, you know, one of the jokes around here has always been that the damn closet is so full of junk that who knows what you might find in there?" " But, a terrorist -- I don't think so....not unless they've changed their weapon of choice to those little bottle-shaped party poppers -- I know there's a couple dozen of those in there from last New Year's."

Confronted with criticism that this was just the latest in a long line of vague, meaningless alerts, the Administration had its popular spokesmen, Sec. of Defense Donald "Rummy" Rumsfeld, ready to respond and on the attack.  "Well, that's kinda stupid," responded a feisty Rumsfeld, 

"Look, we hear all kinds of things, all the time.  If you had ANY IDEA of the kind of warnings we check out and then pass up, you and your Mom would both be embarrassed.  Hey, I'm not trying to be condescending or anything, it's just sort of the way things work out with guys like you sometimes."   

Rumsfeld was then challenged by a report to give an example of a type of tip that the Administration had decided did not warrant warning the public about.  

"I think I can do that -- although I won't be able to answer any questions about this that might endanger any intelligence sources or methods."  Rumsfeld then described a tip from one of the detainees at Camp X-Ray in Cuba, a vague and mysterious warning that there, "might be a monster under the bed."  

Photo: Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld

Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld: 
"Just don't get too worked up about the monster under the bed, because he's not there ... for now."

"We did some research on this one -- didn't take that guy at his word.  We produced a statistically valid sampling of bedrooms, but I can't go into what or how.  We then sent in some Navy Seals.  And we're pretty certain at this point there is no monster under the bed, so on that one, we chose not to warn the American public.   Of course, we're not saying that there never will be a monster under the bed, CIA analysts in fact tell us that as we root terrorists out of their hiding places around the globe, they're going to have to go somewhere.  Some monsters could eventually end up under the bed -- some of our analysts feel that's, well, inevitable.  But for now: no warning on that one!  The hallway closet, on the other hand, we haven't gotten to the bottom of that one yet and given the number of hallway closets we felt it an important issue for Americans to be aware of and in a state of heightened alert, while they still go on with their lives in their homes.


April 2002:



In this photo from his 20th High School Reunion, Osama looks healthy, if a tad intense

This photo, taken last year, shows the toll of stress from running an international terrorist conspiracy.

A detail shot from the most recent video aired by Al Jazeera television, shows even more dramatic evidence of stress in recent months. 


(Washington, NNS) Military forensic experts point to the latest videos of Osama bin Laden as continuing to show signs of stress and failing health.  While the two latest videos featured a variety of video segments inter-cut -- including a video suicide note by one of the September 11th highjackers -- experts believe the segments of bin Laden may have been videotaped last December.

While recent bin Laden videos have aired on the Al Jazeera new channel, the latest video was aired by rival Middle East Broadcasting Corporation.  Experts speculate that the bin Laden video was shipped to MEBC instead of Al Jazeera as part of larger turbulence in the region's broadcasting industry, resulting from Oprah's decision to end her Oprah's Book Club feature.

Word on the Arab street is that bin Laden has long avoided interviewers, carefully reserving himself for a future gig plugging a tell-all bio on Oprah.  "The whole media strategy," according to one Al Queda insider now in captivity at Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, "started falling apart when we saw Oprah totally stiffing David Letterman in his months' long campaign to be invited on Oprah."  "Osama thought that if Dave couldn't get on 'Oprah', then what chance would an international terrorist leader have?  Osama told me, 'Man, that Oprah is cold, stone cold."  

Although contacted by Slug Tales, neither Oprah or her production company would comment on the story.   

But this was only the beginning of the revelations of bin Laden's pop culture preferences during his life cowering in the caves of Afghanistan.  "We were, like, sitting around the caves in Tora Bora, and we had this satellite dish and with no terrorist network to direct on a daily basis, we spent a lot of time tweaking the dish and watching Dave and Oprah, among many others.  When we got finished our prayers and got tired of watching "Cosby" re-runs on Nick at Nite, Osama used amuse the whole with a 'dead on' impression of Oprah's "Dr. Phil". "He did this one bit about a guy who was really angry that he'd been sent an anthrax letter, and like, we were rolling on the cave floor laughing at how funny the whole thing was.  It seems a bit silly talking about it now, but I guess you had to be there."  



Sergio Argonies Spins in Grave:
U. S. Spy Plane, Chinese Jet Collide;
Bush Said to Mull Closing Chinese Restaurants

(Washington DC, NNS) Tension escalated all day Monday as the Chinese government refused access by U. S. officials  to a spyplane and its crew which made an emergency landing after a collision with a Chinese military jet shadowing it.  Both the U. S. and Chinese government set blame on the other country for causing the collision.  

The U. S. position, outlined by a State Department spokesperson, was that the U. S. plane was, "Absolutely, 110% not at fault -- those Chinese guys really ought to look where they're going.  You give some people a jet plane and they're like, 'Hey, I have a jet plane, I can, like, fly circles around you -- so don't try to spy on me, man."  Another State Department spokesperson chimed in, "For sure, they're like mega-immature." 

White House insiders report that President Bush is reportedly beside himself with worry over the incident.  According to an unnamed source, "Bush was ranting and raving around the place, shouting about how no one there seems to appreciate what one or two incidents like this can do to the insurance rates on a $25 million dollar spy plane?  You think Cheney's gonna pay for this?  Do you?  Do you?  Well, I'll tell you, this is going to come right out of the food stamps for those little poor kids.  I'll see to that!  And I hope that makes you all SOOOO proud!"

Meanwhile, the Chinese were reportedly not allowing access to the plane or its crew by U. S. diplomats who traveled to the site of the emergency landing.  "Oh, yeah, like we're going to let them come in here, poke around the thing, maybe clean out a few beer cans or some joints hid under the pilot's seat.  Oh, yeah, right."   A Chinese government spokeperson said that the crew was in custody and, "Dude, they were like really messed up, our guys got on the plane and it was like, 'oh no, that big American pilot guy is going to hurl,"  and then he reportedly did just that.  "We're gonna give back the plane, of course, once we get it all cleaned up.  I guess they all brought along a ice chest full of Bartles and James' wine coolers and were watching the VH1 "40 Greatest Hair Bands of the 80's Countdown" when they were suppposed to on the job.... and to think they call themselves spies!"

VH1 Hair Band Countdown host and former Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider, reached for comment said, "Yeah... a real bunch of clowns... during the show they called in like a half-dozen times for Men at Work songs.  Regular goddam Top Guns, served 'em right if you ask me."


Supreme Court To Gore:
"Bummer, Dude."

(Washington, NNS) With a minority of the popular vote, questionable results in Florida, and a muddled Supreme Court decision, George W. Bush has finally secured the Presidency.  To quote one of those Florida Good Ole Boys, "Well, whoop-de-doo!"  

What's under the tree for George the Lesser and America this year?  The gift of being permanently PO'd.  Merry Christmas, George: hope you like gridlock!

Amazing Parallels?
And ... A Fistful of Alternatives!

(Bothell, NNS)  It's hard to follow George Bush, the Lesser, without being struck by a strange sense of deja vu -- and I'm not just referring to all the familiar cast of Daddy's grown ups chaperoning him onto the national stage.  It's a little deeper than that.  

George Bush Sr. rode on the coattails of a popular President and managed to sweep into office just as several years of an economic bubble (the Reagan Deficitpolooza) were ready to burst.  And despite a rather flashy beginning, his ultra-scary 90% Gulf War approval rating couldn't get him re-elected.  

So, here we are eight years later.  The economy has been cruising along pretty good.  And it sure looks like George the Lesser will sneak into office just as the "New Economy" is ready to self-destruct like one of Jim Phelps' tapes on "Mission Impossible".   

Never before in our memory has there been a President so very evidently a one-term chairwarmer.  

But You're Tired of It All...

And so am I.  So, here are some alternatives to the Political Blues....   

1) Harry Shearer's radio program, Le Show, isn't on public radio in Seattle and his own website ( ) hasn't been updated regularly for months.  But if you go here at, you can listen to Harry's ramblings online.  The emphasis here is rambling, but there's always a few gems here, too.  

2) NPR's This American Life for the next two weeks has great programs!  Both shows feature stories by David Sidaris -- and the Christmas weekend show has the first full airing in several years of the most popular NPR story ever: Sidaris'  "Santaland Diaries".   If you've never heard this: shame on you!  By the way, the following weekend, TAL will be doing their fifth anniversary show, which includes 3 great stories, including a new one by Sarah Vowell (these shows were recorded live, and I saw the Boston taping.) 

3) KCRW also airs Ian Shoale's radio commentaries... but you won't find them in the archive on the website.  You CAN get a small dose of Ian from   I've told you this before -- so why haven't you gone there.

4) Who's the Real Grinch?  Jim Carrey -- not hardly!  My favorite Grinch is Tom Shales, the movie critic, who shows no sentimentality or mercy when crossed by a bad film.  Case in point?  Why, The Grinch -- of course.  Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to hear his dismembering of the Grinch, and don't give up before hearing his rhyming conclusion! (And, hey, you could do worse than to listen to the story above it -- about the music of Nick Drake.)   


Kyiv bus ticket picture at bottom of page.

Happy Birthday Cindy!
Click on the Cake 
For a Surprise!!!


October 29, 2000

Coming November 4th:


The ONLY Party That Matters!

Happy Birthday, Dad!


Steve's Ukraine 2K Diary!

Pan Ananas 
(Mr. Pineapple), 
Ukrainian candy symbol... 
and Man About Town.

We're back... in the USA, that is.  

After a few days in New York City and three weeks in Ukraine, we're back home.  

This trip I was able to take with me my Windows CE handheld computer and keep an  extensive (although ultimately probably boring) diary.  Still, if it's combined with my pictures, it might not be as bad as your usual post-vacation slide show.... maybe.  

I'll post new pictures and diary excerpts as I get things scanned.

Taras Shevchenko Monument, 
Lviv, Ukraine
August 24, 2000

Thursday was the 9th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, and we were given vague expectations that there would be ceremonies and concerts, although nothing specific about the program of events.  Omelan's family met us at the hotel at 10 AM and we eventually were ready to head through the park to the center of the city about 11:30 AM.  

As we crossed the edge of the park, we could see people streaming off of buses in front of Ivan Franko University and through the streets to the center of town.  Many were dressed in formal or traditional Ukrainian attire.  Traffic on the one way street heading from the University to Prospect Svoboda was at a standstill.

 At we approached the center of town, we could see a parade in progress and could hear marching band music.  The streets were blocked and the entire center of the city was flooded we people. 

As we reached the edge of Prospect Svoboda, we encountered the rest of the family, as well as some friends from Florida who had skipped the leg of the tour to Kyiv.  

It appeared that we had missed both most of the speeches and also most of the parade.  But what a sight!  

As the parade ended, the barriers were taken down and the people swarmed out onto the streets and across to the Shevchenko monument.  The front of the monument was covered with flowers.  We stood and talked for a while and then Mikosh (the seventeen year old son from Omelan's family) offered to take us on the climb to the top of the 18 story tower at the center of the city hall.  We got our tickets (which, paradoxically, you have to go to the basement of the city hall to purchase) and began our climb. 

 The city hall was built in the 1850's and the first four floors of stairs are relatively wide and mildly sloped.  Next you exit the building stairwell, walk down a couple hallways, and then enter the stairwell for the tower.  This is a tighter wooden windowless staircase.  And it would be less than accurate not to mention that it is also steeper.  Your climb approximately 10 stories of stairs to get to an intermediate viewpoint, where Irene and I stopped to take a look (and a break).  The kids continued immediately to the top, of course. 

 The final five stories are a narrow circular staircase which finally dumps you on the top where a tin roof is connected to a 3 foot wide walkway around the tower.  The view is fabulous.  It's easy to see the defensive value that it would have had: you can see for miles in three directions (to the east is a hillside with a castle on it which presumably provided a view further east.)

 There is, of course, the joy of being able to peak down on the roofs and courtyards of the buildings surround the square.  The center of Lviv is one of the few metropolitan areas of Ukraine which was spared significant destruction during the second world war, and the entire city center has been designated by UNESCO as a World Architectural Treasure.  Even the Soviets didn't do too much damage, preferring instead to build a seemingly endless ring of 10 story cookie cutter apartment complexes of astounding dismalness.  But even these dim against the beautiful green countryside surrounding the city.

 The tower used to be open for viewing only on holidays, but now is open every Saturday and Sunday during the summer months.

 Back down the stairs and out onto the streets and we rejoined the family and took in some more of the street celebrations.  The "real" celebration we were told would come later in the evening, so we returned to the hotel and resolved to come back after dinner.

We returned at 6 PM and while the crowds were still large, there wasn't much going on.  We decided, on something of a whim, to make yet another trip at 9:15 PM (actually, there wasn't much else to do)  This time there was a concert of pop music on a stage formed on top of the Shevchenko monument.

 Maria asked to head down toward the opera house and it was there that we first saw what looked like flaming windmills and clowns on stilts.  We had seen some paraphernalia earlier that had suggested "circus" to me and "pyrotechnics" to Maria; in fact, we had both been correct. 

 But not really.  What was going on was a sort of performance art piece, involving music, contemporary dance, and, yes, fireworks.  There were 10 foot tall stork puppets on stilts, a young woman on a platform covered with a long flowing dress, and periodically fireworks would be launched from within the stage up 50 to 75 feet into the air and explode directly over our heads.  It was all very unusual and the fireworks were, if anything, a bit unnerving being so close to the crowd. 

 As that performance ended, we walked around the square and eventually walked back to the hotel, quite satisfied that we'd made our second trip out that evening.


Getting There is Half the Battle:

August 17th, 2000
Warsaw, Poland

While waiting for the doors to open to gates 4-6, we wandered around a bit looking at magazines, etc.  Near the restrooms in the center of the terminal hanging on the wall was a 2.5  by 3 foot bright yellow plastic coated rectangular item about 18 inches deep.  The red writing and illustration on it announced that this was intended to throw on top of suspected bombs.  No doubt a very practical item, but all the more intimidating since I'd never seen anything like this hanging on that wall of any other air terminal.  But it was, if anything, an omen.

 During our trip to Ukraine in 1996, we stopped in Frankfurt and transferred from Lufthansa to Air Ukraine.  This was not only a transfer from an ultramodern aircraft to an old Boeing 727, but it also proved to be a royal pain in the rear.  The boarding process was long and disorganized.  And once on the plane, we had to wait for over an hour in 90 degree misery -- because the food for the flight hadn't arrived!  (Keep in mind, the flight from Frankfurt to Lviv we were taking was little more than an hour's duration to begin with...)

 So the efficiency we'd seen on our trans-Atlantic flight with LOT and their partner American Airlines really sounded like a winner this time.  We were expecting to be on the plane and in Kyiv per plan at 2:15 PM. But, little did we know that our flight would put to shame the little one hour wait in Frankfurt in 1996.

 In Warsaw, the airport didn't have perimeter security on the terminal, so your carry-on bags were x-rayed as you entered the gates.  After we passed through the checkpoint, I again remarked to Irene how surprised I was that my bag once again breezed through without notice or question.  I questioned whether they were really even looking at the bags at all, or just moving people through the motions.

 Part of my skepticism about this is that at no point in our trip -- Seattle, New York or Warsaw -- was I ever asked to as much as explain what was in my bag, much less open it.  And in my view, I probably had a carry on in the top 5% of weird, semi-suspicious stuff.

 What was in Steve's bag?  I was carrying my trade paperback book-sized handheld computer, two 6 inch long cylindrical spare batteries,  an AC Adapter, telephone cables, 2 dozen AA batteries, a portable CD player, head phones, and a variety of other weird objects such as small metal tins of Starbucks after coffee mints.  But none of this, apparently, looked in the least suspicious to airport security.

 Of course I am glad that I was not inconvenienced at the airport, but sometimes things like asking for your ID when cashing a check give you the feeling that someone is watching things and that the little inconvenience is there to protect you from fraud... or perhaps worse at an airport.

 We boarded the flight, and after a time the crew discovered that 5 passengers who had checked in for the flight and checked baggage had not boarded the plane.  This clearly carries the possibility that someone put something onto the plane which could be a bomb or something similarly unpleasant.  The crew tried to work this out for a while, as we sat on the tarmac for about 45 minutes past the scheduled departure time.  Or maybe they were just waiting and hoping that the mystery passengers would show up, delayed by some mishap or just confused by time zone changes.

 About an hour after the scheduled departure time, the crew gave up.  In this situation, there really is one choice.  You have to take all the luggage off the plane and match it up with the passengers who showed up for the flight.  Sure, you can then decide to put them back on the same plane or a different plane entirely: but you have to match up baggage and passengers.  The announcement was made, all the luggage taken off, we were all stepped off the plane and onto the 90 degree tarmac.  All the baggage except two pieces was claimed, and then passengers and luggage were reloaded onto the plane. 

 The flight actually took off about the time it was supposed to land in Kyiv.  LOT still managed to serve a meal and beverages during a 70 minute flight.  And after our ordeal, it seemed like the flight to Kyiv went very quickly.   

August 10, 2000:

Bush, Gore, and Buchanan Prove That in America
Anyone Really CAN Grow Up to Be President!

Rejected Logo for Bush/Cheney's Youth Outreach Campaign:


Belaboring the Obvious:
Boat Boy Elian and Bill Gates Head to Cuba;
Gates Heard Crying, "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?"

(NNS, Redmond, WA) In a follow up to its surprise pre-Easter raid on the relatives of Elian Gonzales, the Justice Department today raided the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington.  The raid resulted in the seizure of co-founder Bill Gates, "and several hundred thousand copies of Microsoft Bob," according to Attorney General Janet Reno.

Following the announcement of the government's decision to break up Microsoft, the raid was intended to ensure Microsoft's cooperation.  According to Justice Department sources, Mr. Gates will be relocated, along with Elian Gonzales and the Windows development team, to a compound outside of Havana.  "We believe that this is the only sure way to accomplish the separation between the Microsoft operating units necessary to achieve our goals," Reno stated.

While Gates was reportedly fuming,  Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was considerably more philosophical: "Look, we think this sucks, but if that's the way it's gonna be, that's the way we'll do it."  Ballmer even compared Cuba's communist system to an unsuccessful Internet start-up, "We understand Cuba, it's like a pre-IPO company gone seriously wrong.... everybody owns a part of it, but the stock options are dead in the water."   Ballmer said, "I think we can deal with these people."

At press time, rumors abounded that the relatively mild Microsoft response was because the Justice Department had not actually seized Gates, but rather an audio-animatronic ringer.  "The damn thing chatters and shouts non-stop and just rocks back and forth, back and forth -- this is some piece of crap robot, if you ask me," said one federal Marshall who who asked to remain unidentified.

While Gates was certainly protesting his relocation, other sources tell us that secret negotiations with the Cuban government are already underway to grease the skids for making the island a major base of Microsoft development.  While it would seem that the brash capitalists would be anathema to Castro, some interesting talks are apparently under way.  Having given up on the idea of global revolution, an aging Castro is interested in other legacies.  Among the possibilities under discussion include having a cartoon Fidel replace the Mr. Paperclip character so beloved by MS Office users.  

Meanwhile, in Miami, Cuban refugees, frustrated that their protests had once again been upstaged by Justice Department tactics, protested in the streets, waving the Cuban flag and burning an American flag.   Now that's something they couldn't do in Cuba... 

Link of the Week: 

Remember Ian Shoales -- the fast-talking, acerbic commentator of the Duck's Breath Mystery Theatre.  His comments were a highlight of NPR in the early 90's, and were even a regular feature for a while on ABC's "Nightline." 

So, what's a cynic to do when those gigs run out at the end of the Millennium? Why, become a .comic of course.  I must be pretty much the last techie on earth to know this, but Shoales' commentary has been a regular feature of the venerable magazine-cum-website Byte for the last year.   Both print and Real Audio versions are available... click the logo below to go there... 


Dash to Super Tuesday:
Bradley & McCain Trounce Keyes 

(Washington, NNS):  Solidifying their positions as the leading candidates with virtually no chance of being elected President, John McCain and Bill Bradley savored incredible Order of Magnitude victories over the remaining loser in the pack, the hyperactive Alan Keyes.  While Keyes scored only in the lower single digits in this week's contests in West Virginia and Washington state, McCain and Bradley blazed into the low double digits.

Bradley and McCain, who have each enjoyed positive media coverage of their "insurgent" campaigns, have recently gone to extreme measures to define themselves.  Indeed, both candidates have done the seemingly impossible this week, firmly placing "Kick Me" signs on their own backs without any sign they know they've done it.  

Bradley, whose campaign has essentially gone nowhere since December, decided to invest a full week of campaigning in Washington state.  Bradley did this knowing that even if he scored 95% of the primary vote, it would translate to exactly zero convention delegates as the Washington primary is non-binding.  The result of Bradley's efforts?  He lost big against Gore in a state with a higher than typical union membership where Gore's union endorsements actually account for something.   

McCain decided to spend the day before the West Virginia primary in Pat Robertson's home town, calling Robertson and Jerry Falwell essentially all the same things that the President of Bob Jones University says about the Pope.   And, for good measure, McCain declined to participate in a California debate with Bush.  Subsequently McCain decided to keep two more hours of CNN coverage off his West Virginia errors by participating in the debate after all -- by satellite.

And that's the kind of week it's been for the Un-Front-Runners.  It was a week where they may have quoted Reagan and Kennedy in public, but you can be damn sure they were quoting Homer Simpson in private.

Quick Link:  is a new site that focuses on the story behind the story -- which is not exactly a new concept.  But it is a well-done site which offers information about the agendas, hidden or explicit, in media coverage.  You may have bored of "media watchdogs", but with giant mergers like AOL/Time/Warner/CNN, keeping up with the media beat will increasingly become a survival skill. 

Interesting Aside:

"AOL" and "interesting software" are words not often in the same sentence.  But there are a couple of interesting pieces of beta software on the AOL website.  First, there's the beta of the AOL Instant Messenger, the popular free chat software.  The current beta includes voice chat capability, something which has been available through smaller services, but with AOL's large user base, this is going to bring free Internet long distance to literally tens of millions of AIM users.  Also on the site is an AIM client for Windows CE, allowing those of us with Windows CE devices to chat while on the road.  While the CE platform hasn't done much better again Palm Pilots than Bradley or McCain, it is a nice addition to the CE user's  software library.

100% Velveeta:
Who Wants to Watch an Idiot Marry A Complete Stranger Who Happens to Be a Multi-Millionaire?

Who Wants to Marry A Multi-Millionaire Abuser?
Always good for an insight or two, has the goods on the Multi-Millionaire groom.  Seems an earlier fiancée sought legal protection from his abusive ways...  take a look by clicking on the link to  

As Fox TV and you know by now, the answer is something like 22 million people.  And, yes, I will confess that my remote control finger flicked across channel 13 in Seattle and found myself watching about a half-hour of this junk.  

Which isn't to say that I am entirely opposed to this type of television.  According to news stories, the ratings were high enough that this may be repeated, and one can only hope that it will become enough of a regular fixture that the rest of us can figure out who the people are who are willing to sink this low and get them matched up with one another and out of our lives.

A lot of the coverage of the show has focused on the women.   After all, they agreed to marry a man, sight unseen, reportedly only with the knowledge that he was a multi-millionaire and NOT a computer executive.  (No, I'm not kidding about this, this fact was mentioned in a New York Times story about the show the next day.)   So it appears that a few social commentators extrapolated that perhaps these women were, well, gold-diggers.  To which I can only reply: DUH!

If you're looking for the biggest curd in this cheesy spectacle, look at the guy.  He's willing to sit and listen to a group of, well, gold-diggers and then take his pick and marry on the spot.    And you thought renting sex through prostitution was morally troublesome?   We're now into the wife as property to be bought and sold.

OK, so I've got a problem with it.  But my real problem is that while it's sensational, they're really just spending too damn much on these shows.   First it was "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" -- risk public embarrassment if you miss that question about which Darren was which on "Bewitched".   This really was just an elaboration on MTV's "Real Life", the long-form public humiliation of a group of young adults who'd do anything to live in a cool apartment and look like an ass on MTV. Now we've doling out MULTI-millionaires so that we can all bask in the public embarrassment of people shallow enough to marry on a game show.  

Does America really have enough millionaires for us to be wasting them on this kind of TV?  (And don't tell me that Regis is running a millionaire nursery so we'll have a renewable resource.)   Can't we just cut to the chase, and get all the public spectacle and sleaze on a WalMart budget?  

We'll just have to leave it up to UPN or the WB to follow up wrestling spectaculars with new game shows like "Who Wants Get Butthead Tatooed on Their Forehead for 12 shots of Jack Daniels and $100?" or  "Who Wants to Commit Sex Acts on Camera for $1,000?"   

Of course, I'm sure the networks will come up with something a lot worse than this: after all, they're Professionals

NH Primary: 

McCain Gores Bush; Bill Fails to Pass
; Keyes Says, "You Will Elect Me or God Will Strike You Down."

  (Bothell, WA  - NNS) The NY Times called it "stunning": John McCain nuked George W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary with a 49% to 30% drubbing.  

Exit polls showed McCain ahead among virtually all groups -- women, men, Republicans, independents -- and especially noted support for McCain based on his perceived honesty and character.  On election night, Bush attempted to differentiate himself from McCain by characterizing McCain as "turning out a lot of independents," and that his campaign was "not at all dispirited" about the margin of the McCain victory.     

Bush notwithstanding, the candidate with the roughest wakeup call from NH is Gary Bauer, the hardcore Christian conservative.  Bauer finished behind "Other" in the CNN results, with less than 1% of the vote.  Put another way, Bauer received fewer votes than Adam Sadler's "Big Daddy" will get in this year's Best Picture Oscar balloting. 

Meanwhile, the contest among the Democrats was much closer, with Al Gore the winner.  Bill Bradley didn't win in New Hampshire, but his more aggressive stance following his defeat in Iowa clearly closed the gap with Gore. 

Having said that, one has to wonder what Bradley will do next, having fairly explicitly labeled Gore as a liar.  But this is the 21st century, so with a little time, a PC and Photoshop, we may yet see that photo of Al Gore propping up the gunbarrel for Bill Clinton on the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, 1963.

Quick Link: 

Here's a short article I wrote for the ClubWin website about CD Recorders and CD recording software.  Click here.

The Inevitable Misery...
Millennium Blues

Quadruple  witching hour: the "Best of..."  lists aren't just for the year, decade, or even the century this year.  We got the Millennium lists from The A&E Channel (their man: Gutenberg), The New York Times (best ergonomic design: the piano keyboard), NPR (the 100 most significant pieces of music in politically correct alphabetical order) and even MTV (yeah, Michael Jackson's "Thriller" -- but you knew that without being told, right?)

What's got me down is that no matter how much you try to ignore these lists, they end up getting thrust in your face (a trend I am, of course, simultaneously complaining about and perpetuating.)

So, here's my list of the Worst Lists of the Current Crop of Millennium Lists:

2), BMI's list of the songs most played on radio during the century.   What's more frustrating about this supposedly objective list: the self-evidently wrong entries or juxtapositions of songs that remind what a living hell radio has made of much of our lives.  Is there anyone alive who believes that #17 "Something" by George Harrison has been played more times than #42 "Michelle" or even #96 "Imagine"?  And in your heart of hearts you may be able to admit that it was played more, but it really, really hurts to see #90 "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" edge out #91 "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction."  

1) Mr. Showbiz's 100 Best Movies Ever  -  A half million readers sent in their lists of the best movies ever and what do you get?  I'll give you a hint: "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" is the top rated show on TV this season.  That's right: the world's blandest best of list.  "Star Wars" aces out "Casablanca" -- and both "Raiders of the Lost Ark" AND "Silence of the Lambs" are on top of "Citizen Kane".  This list is just unbelieveably funny: "Braveheart" is #24 and "Lawrence of Arabia" #86.  And if you think that it's the old case of the newer movies ratings being inflated, quit fooling yourself: #72 "Chinatown" was made in 1974, while the 1973 flick "The Exorcist" beats it out at #66. It just goes to show the wisdom in that old saying, "People are idiots."  Too harsh?  You explain BOTH Terminator movies (#56 and #61) cleaning the clock of "On the Watefront" and "West Side Story".  

December 7, 1999                                                      
50 Million Web Pages 
and Nothing On...

OK, I could write a couple cute paragraphs to support the headline, but do you really want me to sink that low?  In your heart of hearts you know I'm right, even without further explanation.  The corporatization of the web is now so complete that it resembles nothing so much as basic cable, even if the shopping channels are a lot more varied.  It's all pretty much the same, except that ABC is the Go Network, NBC is, and CBS is, well, trying to figure out just what the hell it's all about.  

And while the quirky, largely self-published joys of the original Web are still there, they get about as much attention as the programming on my local cable system's public access channel  (which is to say, unless you're naked or exceedingly bizarre in presenting your religious beliefs -- who cares?)  After all, you could be visiting the official Pokemon The First Movie web site: a website promoting a movie promoting a children's mass marketed toy and "collectors" phenomenon.  

Four years ago, during the excitement with Netscape and the explosion of the web itself, I probably visited a couple hundred web sites a month.  And while there were favorites, part of the joy of it was finding the new, cool,  and off-beat.  Today?  Don't ask.

So, maybe it's time to adjust my expectations and just take what the web has to provide.  It's entirely possible that with Liddy out of the Presidential race that soon we'll learn of a variety of other embarrassing personal healt problems Bob Dole wants to bring out to the public.   

Those Wacky Republicans:

Well, now there's another whispering campaign, as hjis own party members spread the word that John McCain has an evil temper and just might not have the emotional stability to be President.  Whether it's the Bush operatives or just fellow Senators upset with McCain's annoying advocacy of campaign finance reform -- they're missing the point and it's doomed.

It doesn't take much to figure out that if the country can get by with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton (not to mention Dan Quayle a heartbeat away from the "nuk-u-lar" trigger) -- what the hell could McCain do?  

They said Reagan had a Teflon Presidency. But if you look at the last half-dozen Presidents, it's pretty clear the whole enterprise is probably more properly the Fisher-Price Presidency.   It seems like about the worst you can do is ruin the economy for a few years and get tossed out ala Carter and Bush.

So, what are we afraid of?  I say: bring on the Ventura - Trump ticket.  Hell, at least the scandals will be a lot more interesting.   

November 1999

November 21, 1999

WTO's Thanksgiving Gift...

The week after Thanksgiving brings the World Trade Organization meeting to Seattle.  Along with the officials from 150 governments and an army of press,  50,000+ protesters are expected on the streets of downtown Seattle.  

The local media is saturated with pro- and anti- WTO advertising.  Billboards on my way to work have gruesome pictures of animals mangled in traps -- World Torture Organization?  The Sunday Seattle Times featured a full page ad with a picture of a current Port of Seattle Port Commissioner -- at about 8 years old in a cowgirl outfit.  Trade, you see, is the adventure we all wanted to grow up to have!

And, just to show that they aren't humorless anarchists, the good folks at The Stranger have put together baseball caps with the simple slogan "I Am A Dangerous Terrorist" on sale for $5 at various Seattle locations.  

Come the Monday and Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Seattle will have something to be really thankful for -- that traffic, usually among the worst in the nation, is never this bad.  Theatres and even schools have already announced closures during the WTO.

Job Hunting Tip of the Week!

When I was just out college, a roommate of mine was interviewing for a temporary job as a laborer helping to move the City Hall for Bellingham, Washington.  Tom found himself in a room with a half-dozen city employees (a panel interview for a temp mover!) and the first question was, "Tom, maybe you could tell us all why you want this job?"   Not missing a beat, Tom replied, "Because I'm unemployed."  Fortunately, a few people in the room laughed and Tom got the job.

The next time you're stumped in a job interview, try this one: "That's a good question, but to honest with you, I work a lot better with the multiple choice format, would you mind rephrasing it?"  Then smile and wait quietly.

Tip of the Week:

Copernic is a free program that integrates with your web browser to allow you to search multiple search engines simultaneously.  It also searches newsgroups, and even looks for books and software.  The full software is free, with premium versions available (not free) which add more shopping categories.  While their have been some web sites which have offered this kind of multiple-search capability before, Copernic updates itself and provides a single, consistent interface and even a results page which nicely ranks and formats the fruits of your search.  Available for both PC and Mac.  You can find the more information and the software by clicking on the link at the beginning of this paragraph

WHAT?  Not old enough for you?  Try HERE