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Saturday, December 31, 2005

It's Not Times Square, Revisited 

Remember what I wrote last December 31? Well, I received the following comment from Lois Lane on January 4, 2005:

I must say I was very upset with the lack of Dick this New Year! I've started every year for all of my adult life with A good dose of Dick. This year was not nearly as good. Regis VS. Dick... no comparing the two!

Little did Lois know that a year later, she could have Regis AND Dick.

Sort of:

Dick Clark was back on television after a stroke in 2004 forced him to miss his first New Year's Eve celebration in 32 years, though with speech slightly slurred and speaking from a studio. Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, joined by city workers who helped with the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, officially started the ball's descent and counted down the final 10 seconds....

Dick Clark, now 76, returned briefly to ABC-TV's "New Year's Rockin' Eve" for a worldwide broadcast audience estimated at 1 billion people, though his voice was slow and slurred and his appearance was short.

"It's real good to be back with you again this year," Clark said. "You and I have been a part of each other's lives for so many New Year's Eves that I wouldn't have missed this for the world."

[OE 1/6/2006: Did God strike Dick Clark down for promoting dancing? Perhaps.]

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Ontario Vineyard Village Association Proposes Lowering the Minimum Wage 

Pity the fools at the Ontario Mountain Village Association. They merely oppose a Wal Mart in northwest Ontario, California. The Ontario Vineyard Village Association opposes everything about Wal Mart.

Why? Because it's the trendy thing to do.

It stands to reason that because Wal Mart is evil, anything that Wal Mart likes should be opposed by progressive, reasonable people.

Take a gander at this news from a couple of months back:

Wal-Mart calls for minimum wage hike
CEO Lee Scott tells executives he's urging congressional action in a bid to help 'working families.'
October 25, 2005: 12:47 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott said he's urging Congress to consider raising the minimum wage so that Wal-Mart customers don't have to struggle paycheck to paycheck.

Scott told Wal-Mart directors and executives in a speech Monday that he believes "it is time for Congress to take a look at the minimum wage and other legislation that can help working families."

"The U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade and we believe it is out of date with the times," Scott said. "We can see first-hand at Wal-Mart how many of our customers are struggling to get by. Our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between pay checks."

Given increasing gas prices and other economic pressures on Wal-Mart customers, Scott went on to say that Wal-Mart shoppers will further be challenged to "support themselves and their families."

"While it is unusual for us to take a public position on a public policy issue of this kind, we simply believe it is time for Congress to take a responsible look at the minimum wage and other legislation that may help working families," he said....

Wal-Mart maintains that it pays above the current $5.15 an hour minimum wage to its employees....

At the Ontario Vineyard Village Association, it's highly obvious why Wal Mart would propose such a thing. Such a move would be a final nail in the coffin for the mom and pop owned businesses that are the backbone of this nation.

For this reason, the Ontario Vineyard Village Association opposes Wal Mart's proposal to raise the minimum wage. In fact, we believe that it should be lowered...to four dollars and fifty six cents.

A day.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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The Solution to Illegal Immigration, But It Will Take Communist Action Over Baby Seal Clubbers 

Remember Adam Smith? George Bush doesn't.

[A] temporary worker program would take pressure off our border. When you match willing worker with willing employer on a job Americans won't do....

So one of the ways to make sure we have a rational border control policy is to make work legal - not amnesty, but work legal - on a temporary basis. People ought to be given a tamper-proof work card, come here and do jobs Americans won't do, and then after a set period of time, go home....

Oh yeah, there's just some jobs out there that Americans just plain will not do. Well, not exactly. Bush's statements ignore what he and his father and his grandfather presumably learned in school - if you cannot get workers at a particular wage, you CAN get workers if you RAISE the wage. Naturally, Bush corporate supporters don't want to do that. They'd prefer the cheap labor.

But why does the cheap labor come here in the first place? One of the recent studies showed that many of the Mexicans who come here already had jobs in Mexico, so why would they come here? Simple - even the illegal jobs here pay more than the jobs in Mexico.

Therein lies the solution to the illegal immigration issue. For years, activists within the United States have campaigned for various municipalities (such as San Francisco) to enact minimum wage laws that are closer to a "living wage," which is why you see proposals for $10/hour and $15/hour minimum wages in various places.

Well, why don't those activists go down to Mexico and agitate for a $15.00 per hour minimum wage in Mexico? If such a wage were enacted, very few Mexicans would illegally immigrate to the U.S. Or are Mexicans not good enough to get the same minimum wage that the fascist American government gives to its own people?

Actually, some activists have been working on changing conditions in Mexico - sort of:

June 28, 2001 -- Workers in foreign-owned export assembly plants in Mexico are not able to meet a family's basic needs on sweatshop wages, according to a comprehensive study conducted in fifteen Mexican cities....

"The wages paid maquiladora workers for a full workweek do not enable them to meet basic human needs of their family for nutrition, housing, clothing and non-consumables," declared Dr. Ruth Rosenbaum, executive director of the Center for Reflection, Education and Action (CREA), who conducted the research. "In the 15 cities surveyed, it would take between four and five minimum wage salaries to meet the basic needs of a family of four. This study documents the huge gap between what maquiladora workers are paid and what they need."...

This is a violation of Mexican workers' human rights and of the Mexican Constitution that guarantees a living wage. The foreign-based corporations that benefit from free trade have a moral obligation to pay their workers a sustainable living wage....

"We found both that workers are paid low wages and the cost of living is high," explained Dr. Rosenbaum. "The study refutes the commonly-stated rationale of officials of U.S.-based companies that workers are paid less in Mexico because the standard of living is lower and products and services are cheaper." In Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, a family of four needs 193.86 pesos a day to reach a sustainable living wage. Based on pay slips collected from a number of maquiladora workers, a majority takes home less than 55.55 pesos a day, which is 28.6% of what a family of four needs. One minimum wage salary in Matamoros provides only 19.6% of what a family of four needs.

"Companies tell us that they are paying above the minimum wage," said Rev. David Schilling, director of ICCR's Global Corporate Accountability Program, "but our data shows they are nowhere near paying a sustainable living wage. We call on all companies to publicly report what they pay their maquiladora workers and to close the gap between what they pay and what workers need." For twelve years, religious institutional investors, members of ICCR, have been pressing corporations to pay their Mexican employees a sustainable living wage.

All right and fine, but this only affects the maquiladora workers - kind of like if the U.S. demanded that Honda factories pay very high wages, but ignored the wages paid at the U.S.-owned firms.

Blue Sheet doesn't target the maquiladoras, but it does target one U.S. company. Guess which one.

The key for Mexico is its domestic consumption. Well-paid Mexicans with good jobs in Mexico , spending their money in Mexico are good for the Mexican economy and the U.S. Border Patrol. Win-win. Heck, they may even start buying some of our goods someday.

So how do we get there? How does the Mexican economy become more like the American one?

Focus on the worst Mexican businesses, the businesses with the worst labor record, the lowest wages and the most employees. It’s businesses like these that which, when bettered by unionization, will have the greatest positive effect on Mexican per capita income.

And—funny story, this—hundreds of thousands of workers in Mexico toil away for one behemoth employer, one that’s trounced upon the right to organize, one that treats its workers like dirt, and one so large that, in Mexico like in the U.S., its sales are taken by government as a leading economic indicator.

¡Bienvenidos, Wal-Mart!

Wal-Mart de Mexico SA, a.k.a. Walmex, is every bit the company the Yankee parent is. And though junior gives Mexican consumers nice cheap things, it pays its Mexican workers, like its American ones, rock-bottom wages. When a company's low-wage profile is accredited by the Mexican government for keeping down inflation, you know it's got economic clout.

But a big, economic-indicator-size company like Wal-Mart, employing millions internationally, should pay better wages. That puts upward pressure on wages across the economy, meaning the then-better-paid employees of businesses all around the economy (blue collar, white collar and professional employees) could afford to buy more Wal-Mart products.

It’s called Fordism, and it's how America became a first world consumer economy in the first place.

Desert Buddhist expresses a similar idea:

I am not opposed to US companies sending work overseas. In some ways it is accomplishing one of the things that we can’t seem to do any other way. The plant in Mexico that my friend referred to is helping to add more people to the middle class of Mexico. Those folks are happy to have the income (tiny as it is by our standards) because it’s more than they would receive from Mexican companies. If the US companies would start paying $20,000 or more, I wonder if the Mexican companies would have to raise their salaries to compete in the labor market. Then the gap between rich and poor in that country just might shrink a bit. The middle class would surely grow, that would have a positive impact on their politics and we might start seeing fewer people trying to slip across the border.
Likewise, if there were fewer opportunities to exploit the people of another country, perhaps those American companies might just keep more of those jobs here at home.

Instead of campaigning for the maquiladoras or Wal Mart or whoever to pay more, why not campaign for the Mexican government to raise the minimum wage for everyone?

Well, Mexico is raising its minimum wage by a whopping four percent:

Mexico's National Minimum Wage Commission said last week that Mexico will raise the minimum wage by 4 percent on Jan. 1 [2006], higher than record-low annual inflation of 2.91 percent in November. The minimum wage in Juárez will increase to 48.67 pesos ($4.56) a day from 46.8 pesos ($4.39) a day....

In Juárez maquilas, the average pay for line workers is already about twice the minimum wage at $1.25 an hour to $10 a day ($20 if you count benefits), Garcia said....

Mexico's miners and steelworkers union said in an e-mailed statement it rejected the 4 percent increase because the union considers it "unworthy for the working class of the country and an embarrassment for the nation's unions." The union was the only organization that refused to sign the commission's minimum-wage document, the statement said.

Let's review. Assuming some type of consistency between 2001 and 2006 figures, maquiladora workers are only paid 25% of a true living wage. So, if maquiladora workers are paid about $10 a day, they should really be paid $40 a day. And, since what's good for the goose is also good for the gander, the Mexican government should impose a $40 per day minimum wage (or, something roughly equivalent to the hourly minimum wage in the U.S.).

It's for the children.

And, as I noted above, it will take the Left to campaign for this change in Mexican law. The Right is not interested in foreigners making more money, because it hurts U.S. corporate ability to get low paid workers.

Needless to say, someone disagrees with me. Emphasis mine.

In December 1941, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises was invited by Luis Montes de Oca, a former director of the Mexican central bank, to deliver a series of lectures in Mexico during January and February 1942.

The Mexico visited by Mises was dominated by a socialist ideology that had resulted in the nationalization of industry and land, with heavy-handed regulation of private enterprise and high protectionist trade barriers. In response, Mises attempted to present an understanding of sound free-market economics in the lectures he gave during his two-month stay in Mexico.

At the request of a Mexican association of market-oriented businessmen, he prepared, in English, a monograph on "Mexico's Economic Problems" in June 1943....

Mises argued that the trading opportunities Mexico was enjoying with the United States due to the Second World War were likely to end with the cessation of the conflict. Mexico, therefore, needed an agenda of postwar market-oriented reforms for further economic improvement. A policy of free trade was essential to the country's future....

Anticipating one of the major schemes proposed by postwar development planners, he strongly criticized what he labeled the "closed door method of industrialization," but which became more widely known and popular in third-world countries after 1945 as the "import-substitution" method for development. Under the import-substitution approach, industrialization was to be forced through trade restrictions and high tariff barriers behind which domestic industries would be stimulated at artificially high prices far above those in the general global market. Mises pointed out that countries implementing such policies inevitably make their own people poorer and less productive....

Equally disastrous for Mexican development was any attempt to raise Mexican wages to comparable U.S. levels through either government legislation or trade union pressure. Mexico was a capital-poor country with a relatively large supply of labor. That necessarily meant that labor productivity was far lower than that of American workers. The only way that Mexican labor could compete on the global market was to take advantage of those opportunities in which it could be a lower-cost producer in labor-intensive lines of production. The standard of living in Mexico could permanently rise only through the normal processes of market-directed capital formation over time and through emigration of a part of the labor force to other countries where wages and the marginal productivity of labor was higher. Since the latter method was generally closed off owing to immigration barriers in the United States and other countries, only the former method was available to Mexico under prevailing international conditions. Raising wages above market-determined levels could only condemn a part of the Mexican labor force to permanent unemployment or more primitive lines of employment.

But I do have the support of the Seoul Times:

A rich country bordering on a poor one will inevitably attract workers. To end illegal immigration, the U.S. might consider massive investments in Mexico. It will raise Mexican wages to the point where Hector Dimas and others like him will not make a journey north. It will also mean that Mexicans could become customers for American products. Everyone would gain under that scenario....

Domenico Maceri, Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara, teaches foreign languages at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria, CA. His articles have appeared in many newspapers including Los Angeles Times, Washington Times, Japan Times, and The Seoul Times. Some of his stories won awards from the National Association of Hispanic Publications.


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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The State of Massachusetts and Open Standards 

I was reading some technical junk, but it soon became apparent that this story is primarily political:

The man responsible for bringing OpenDocument to Massachusetts has resigned following controversy and personal attacks over the initiative.

Peter Quinn has resigned from his post as chief information officer for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to avoid further mudslinging over the state's controversial move to OpenDocument....

Eric Kriss, the former Massachusetts Secretary of Administration and Finance who was Quinn's boss during most of the ODF evaluation process, said that Quinn found it difficult to handle the personal attacks that followed the state's high profile move....

Quinn was particularly affected by last month's report in the Boston Globe, which claimed he had taken unauthorised trips to conferences, according to Kriss. These allegations were investigated, and Quinn was later cleared of any wrongdoing.

"He found the last few months to be very distasteful, especially the Boston Globe article that seemed to imply some sort of improper influence related to his conference travel," Kriss told Groklaw.

The Boston Globe's report attracted a flood of criticism from the technical and legal community. Groklaw described it as a "character assassination in an attempt to discredit OpenDocument."

Andy Oram, an editor for O'Reilly Media, said the article showed that anyone trying to introduce open standards in governments "has to be ready for every kind of backlash."

Here's what Groklaw said after Quinn was exonerated, but before he resigned:

The attack was front page "news" in the Boston Globe. The exoneration of Peter Quinn, whose only "sin" was wanting to use OpenDocument Format instead of Microsoft's solution, is now complete. The bogus investigation is over, and they couldn't find any dirt. All trips were, in fact, authorized by his supervisor, Eric Kriss, Kriss has confirmed. Further, Kriss told Quinn he didn't have to do the paperwork, because he thought that requirement no longer applied. Quinn is innocent.

Of course, the Boston Globe doesn't put the correction on page one. So I will. And they run it on a Saturday, which I expect means the lowest readership of the week. So this story on Groklaw will stay at the top of all other stories through Tuesday, to make sure everyone sees that this decent and honorable man was dragged through the mud for nothing.

How do you give a man back his good name?

Can you imagine if bloggers had done what the Boston Globe did to Peter Quinn? There'd be editorials and news stories and editorials pretending to be news stories all over the place. After all, the Globe printed the accusations without reaching Kriss. It was Thanksgiving, and he wasn't immediately reachable. Had they waited, they'd have known that what Quinn told the Globe was true: Kriss approved the trips. Then they'd have known there was no story, and Quinn's reputation would have remained unsullied. Attack of the Journos. With a Special Interest Group overtone....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Governor Trump Would Heartily Approve - Victoria Osteen's Views Are Unknown 

Check this story:

A troublesome air passenger has been castaway more than 1,000 miles from home....

He became so abusive the pilot abandoned the four-hour flight from Manchester to Tenerife to radio ahead and make an unscheduled stop on Porto Santo island off West Africa in the Atlantic.

[T]he traveller was then frog-marched off the plane by local police and his luggage dumped on the tarmac....

The Atlantic island, just 10 miles long by three-miles wide, is a two-hour ferry journey to Madeira.

To get home the passenger will now have to get the ferry then catch a flight back to the UK from Madeira. There are no direct flights from Porto Santo.

I'm sure that the tourist's presence was appreciated:

Tourists seek to Porto Santo to enjoy a relaxing holiday of tranquility. The isolation permits the island to keep some of the old traditions of the first settlers.

So what did the first settlers do with drunken boors?

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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The cause of all blogsophere problems! 

Got this when I went to annika.mu.nu:

Bandwidth Limit Exceeded
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to the site owner reaching his/her bandwidth limit. Please try again later.

It must have happened when Never Yet Melted covered the C.O.W.A.R.D. proposal. Or perhaps something happened when Dennis the Peasant joined the new Nose in the Air Media.

Odd that both Annika and Blogrolling seem to be having problems simultaneously. (Not to mention my PDA. So I won't.)

Could these events have a single cause? Yes.

ALBANY, N.Y. - Donald Trump is considering running for governor, a leading Republican said Friday.


From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Where's my blogroll? 

Some problem with Blogrolling, at least at present.

[OE UPDATE: Governor Trump must have fixed it.]

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wet and Wild, Part Four - Victoria Osteen, The Movie 

I've done what I can about my PDA problem, so I can turn to less important matters, such as the ongoing discussion of Victoria Osteen not riding Continental one day (see the previous posts in my Wet and Wild series: 1 2 and 3).

From Reformissionary, as cited by Blake W:

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Graz Braces for Tourism Surge 

As I done said:

I don't see why...tourism adviser [Hermann Schuetzenhoefer] is so upset. If [the citizens of Graz] rename the stadium after Doctor Oba Saint Stanley Tookie Williams, they will attract huge new crowds of tourists. Specifically, the city will be a magnet for the 150,000 people who were saved from gang life by the Doctor Oba Saint.

So what do you do in Graz? One of the popular attractions is, of all things, a mausoleum:

Mausoleum and Cathedral - Tourist Attraction

The nearest station is at Hauptplatz and together these are one of the towns main attractions. The Mausoleum is dedicated to the Emperor Ferdinand II, to the north lies St Catherine's Church and his wife Marie Anna and mother, Maria is buried in the southern of the 2 sections. Herzgruftl is another section where the hearts of some Hapsburg family members are buried.

The cathedral was built in the 15th century and although much has been damaged it still retains much of it's charm and is well worth investigating.

And if the ex-gang members want to engage in sport, they have to be trendy (or alternatively they can be Manilow):

Copacabana - Sporting Activity

This is like a sports club that centres around a large lake and attracts the trendy set of the town and families.Not as large as the similar Schwarzlteiche and more for the young and singles to meet, so if you like playing hard and partying harder this is the venue for you. Swimming, Tennis, Volleyball and beach parties can be enjoyed and the place buzzes at night.

And if you plan to drink gin and juice while listening to Snoop, you're kinda sorta outta luck:

Landhaushof - Cutural Attraction

antastic venue for open-air summer concerts and films in the romantic setting of Landhaushof. Imagine listening to Strauss in the land of his birth or any of the classics, with a picnic and some good wine. Regular soirees are held here.

Well, after some searching, I found something that may be of interest to the Snoop fanz:

Sackstrasse - Tourist Attraction
You will find this interesting street in the town centre. Sniff around for a good bargain as there are lots of antique shops in the area and some grand buildings. On the corner of the Schlossbergplatz is the ornate Palais Atterns which is a find for the lover of baroque archetechture. It now is home to the offices of the Styriate music festival. Schlossbergstiege is opposite and leads to the herb garden and clock tower.

Ah, a herb garden. Snoop will feel at home. (Come to think of it, "Graz" does sound like "grass." Go figure.)

And if enough Tookie-loving tourists come to Graz, the hip hop meetup may finally take off. The African barber shop is already there. As is an African football player who fled religious persecution in Nigeria:

Angus [Okanume] comes from the Nigerian city, Onisha, and fled from his home country because of religious reasons. As a Christian his life was threatened because of rising tension between Muslim Sharia movements and Christians in Nigeria.

Angus was born in 1985 and arrived in Austria in 2002 as a 17 year boy via people trafficking and applied for asylum in Graz. He was looked after by CARITAS and still lives in a CARITAS asylum shelter. His asylum case is still proceeding, which is not unusual in Austria, where decisions might take up to 10 years....

After the HWC [Homeless World Cup] 2003 Angus started to attend German language courses and is studying for a diploma at high school. He was signed by a semi professional football club in the regional league of Styria (SC Murfeld) and now plays for FC Graz. This season he finished top scorer and many experts predict a bright future for him....

What were your first impressions of Austria?

"My first impressions were that I have arrived in a safe country where I do not need to fear for my life. My situation in Nigeria had become life threatening because of religious reasons. In Nigeria life can change very quickly and become dangerous. Austria was very peaceful and people were nice to me."

What were the hardest...moments for you in Austria?

"I had to deal with many new things I did not know before. First the food was not easy for an African. It was hard to realise that some people have a negative attitude towards Africans. They do not see you as a person but only that you are black or they might suspect that you are dealing with drugs, which is a common prejudice towards asylum seekers. Sometimes it was hard to be patient, to wait for a decision in your asylum case, to wait for a possibility to do something. Learn, work, become better in life."

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

What? You expected a Kwanzaa quote? 

Quote of the day, from DadTalk:

[M]ost of you know that a Dreidel is a spinning top used to celebrate Hanukkah....It’s a nice gateway toy for teaching your kids how to gamble.

Takahiro delves into this aspect of the celebration, ignoring everything else about Hanukkah:

now since i used to be a super jew, i prob know more about the dreidel than most....There are four letters on each side of the dreidel, which form an acronym in hebrew that stands for 'a great miracle happened there' or if you are in israel, 'a great miracle happened HERE' that miracle? well, the jews (macabes) defeated the greeks or something, its not important. there was also some oil that lasted for 8 days, also not so important. now that we know the history, let's get to the gambling.

Or let's not. Incidentally, I found this hilarious parody of the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" story:

“I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there was no Judah Maccabee and that Chanukah is a load of crap. Papa says, ‘If you see it in Blog d’Elisson, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth, was there a Judah Maccabee?” - Patty O’Furniture

Patty, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All they care about is that fat red-suited guy who schleps presents to Yenemvelt and back. All minds, Patty, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, man is a mere insect, an ant, goornisht, in his intellect as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Patty, there was a Judah Maccabee.

He existed as certainly as dedication and courage and devotion exist. He kicked some serious ass back in the day, Judah did, throwing the Greco-Syrians out of Judea and reclaiming the holy Temple. His struggle was a struggle against assimilation, against those who would be seduced by the pop culture of the day. He fought his battles so that we Jews would retain our cultural identity and not be swallowed up in the prevailing pagan mainstream. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there had been no Judah Maccabee! It would be as dreary as if there were no Pattys. (Or furniture.) There would be no candle-lighting then, no singing Ma-oz Tzur (or even those stupid dreidel songs), no commemoration of the miraculous rededication of the Temple. No Judah? We would even today be schmearing ourselves with olive oil and burning pig hearts as sacrifices to Zeus. And our Christian friends would have no Christmas - for the culture that gave rise to Jesus would have been wiped out. The eternal light - the ner tamid - with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished....[continued]

From another source, here's a bit more on Antiochus IV (the ruler against whom the Maccabeans rebelled):

According to the account of 1 Maccabees, the High Priests at Jerusalem appointed by Antiochus were involved in systematically changing the traditions of the Jews that were based on the laws of Moses, to make them conform to Greek beliefs. A gymnasium was constructed in Jerusalem, and instead of learning their ancient law, the priests engaged in wrestling contests in the Greek fashion, which meant they were naked. Those who were circumcised endeavoured to conceal it....

And here's more:

When he came to power, Antiochus IV soon proved himself to be no friend of the Jews. He mounted an effort to destroy them and all worship of the true God. He had any Jew who would not worship the Greek idols put to death. Praying to God, or observing the Sabbath according to The Fourth of The Ten Commandments were also capital offenses. Mothers found with circumcised infants, according to Jewish law, were killed along with the child. He had many scrolls of the Holy Scriptures burned, although many were very likely saved by being hidden out in the wilderness in a manner similar to the Dead Sea Scrolls.

The greatest outrage committed by Antiochus IV occurred in 167 B.C. when he entered the Temple...in Jerusalem, erected an altar to the pagan god Zeus, and sacrificed a pig on it. That desecration, dated as the 25th of Kislev according to the Bible Calendar, triggered the Maccabean Revolt by the Hasmoneans....Their eventual victory and cleansing of the Temple is still commemorated by Jews today by the annual Festival of Hanukkah.

According to Jewish tradition, at the time of that rededication there was not enough undefiled oil available for the Menorah in the Temple, which was supposed to burn continuously each night. Nevertheless, the single day's supply of oil that remained burned miraculously for eight days, until a fresh supply became available. The eight-day festival was begun in commemoration of the miracle, and has continued right to the present time.

So where did the dreidel originate? Ironically, it was known in ancient Greece (_sn't _t _r_n_c, d_n't y__ th_nk?):

Both dreidel and grogger are traditional European toys, although the names they go by in non-Jewish cultures are quite different from the ones we use.

The English (and Latin) name for the dreidel is teetotum -- and you can look up its history in the Oxford English Dictionary. It turns out to be an ancient gambling toy, known in ancient Greece, and with national variations on the letters on the faces of the toy....

Although the fact that the Dreidel goes back to Greek times makes it possible that it was known in the Hashemonean kingdom, the fact that the Hebrew letters on the sides make a mnemonic that fits the pattern described above when used as initial letters of Yiddish words suggests that the dreidel entered Jewish culture through the Yiddish speaking Ashkenazi and is not of ancient origin....

In the Jewish world, according to Schauss's guide to Jewish Holy Days, the playing card fad of the middle ages led the rabbis issuing a series of edicts condemning excessive gambling. They didn't ban the dreidel, though, perhaps because the "A great miracle happened there" interpretation of the letters allowed the dreidel to escape their wrath....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wet and Wild, Part Three 

I just commented:

Now that I've thought about this a bit more, I guess the part that is disturbing is that Osteen believed that her ministry would be harmed if she were not perfect. A comparison with Swaggart is in order.

Here's how rotten.com summarized the Swaggart incident:

[Swaggart] took great joy in 1986 for defrocking fellow Assemblies of God minister Marvin Gorman. Gorman had conducted an extramarital affair with one of his parishioners. And then the next year, when the PTL Ministry collapsed in around Jim Bakker, Swaggart was ecstatic. It was almost too good to believe. He went on CNN and told Larry King that Bakker was a "cancer in the body of Christ."...

Ironically, it was Marvin Gorman who nailed [Swaggart].

In a manner of speaking.

In 1987 Marvin paid a private detective to take photos of Swaggart with his Louisiana hooker. It didn't take long. Reportedly Marvin tried blackmailing him, but Jimmy didn't follow through on the payments. So Marvin turned to the same church elders who had disgraced him two years prior.

When confronted by the Assemblies of God leadership, Jimmy had no choice but to confess. He told them that he suffered a lifelong addiction to pornography....

The AOG had no choice but to reprimand him somehow. So they defrocked him for one year. The next week, Swaggart wound up crying his ass off on TV. In front of cameras and congregation, Jimmy seemed contrite: "I have sinned against you, my Lord, and I would ask that your precious blood would wash and cleanse every stain until it is in the seas of God's forgetfulness, never to be remembered against me." But he made no specific mention of the nature of his transgressions, referring only to some vague "moral failure."...

His empire foundered and never recovered. Three years later, more than 80% of their faithful viewers had stopped watching the telecast. Donations were way, way down and the ministry had racked up $4.5 million in debts....

In March 89, some woman named Catherine Campen gave an interview to Penthouse magazine, in which she claimed to have had an extramarital affair with the preacher. Between July 87 and January 88, they had met up on ten separate occasions. She mentioned beating him with a riding crop, but only after Swaggart convinced her to do it....

Finally, during a preaching tour of California, Swaggart drove his white Jaguar into the town of Indio. There he propositioned 31-year-old Rosemary Garcia, who promptly got in the car. Then they were pulled over by the cops for driving on the wrong side of the road.

Garcia told a Palm Springs TV news crew that Swaggart had picked her up, then inquired where they could find a motel with in-room porn. When the reporter asked why Swaggart had approached her, Garcia said: "He asked me for sex. I mean, that's why he stopped me. That's what I do. I'm a prostitute."

If anybody had still needed proof that Swaggart really loved hookers and porn, no further convincing was necessary....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Wet and Wild, Part Two 

I previously quoted from various reports (AP, Liberty's Blog, KTRK, more KTRK) regarding the incident with Victoria Osteen and Continental Airlines, including Osteen's own statement on the incident.

...[I]t was truly a minor misunderstanding and did not escalate into what you saw or read in the news. Contrary to those reports it was my choice to remove myself from the situation. Nonetheless, it was a most unfortunate event and I truly regret that it happened.

The last thing I would ever want to do is let any of you down. And I promise you that I did not act in any way that would cast a bad light on you, my family, Lakewood Church or our Lord Jesus Christ....

Today I looked at recent blogs on the incident, which still continues to be discussed. John Luke observes:

As with any incident, there are (at least) two sides to the story. But my point is not whether Mrs. Osteen was at fault or not. It is that the mainstream media seems to think it rich when what I'll call a "public Christian" is involved in any conflict.

The sense I get is that the MSM, and, perhaps secular society at large, expects much, much better behavior from Christians. Well, it is true that many, many "Christians" do violate our Lord's warning in Matthew 6:1

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

This must especially be applied to some televangelists and their wives. Who can forget the scandalous Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker?

Can you spell hypocrisy, boys and girls? Because this is what preachers get nailed with as soon as they stray from some model of perfection. The Bakkers earned the sobriquet, to be sure. It's far from clear the Osteens have, even if I don't especially approve of how they put forth God's message. They don't need my approval, after all.

But are we not all fallen in our natures? Even the best among us is less than he or she should be. The Osteens no less, nor more, than I. Or you. We'd all like for public Christians like the Osteens to be blameless; it's less embarrassing for the rest of us. Well, some of us would...others just love to wallow in that good ol' schadenfreude....

In some cases, the incident allows people to talk about the Osteens' ministry in general:

But this family has always struck me as a little odd. Where does a Pastor get 90 million dollars to redesign a former sports center for a worship auditorium? And then, WHY? Doesn't this seem a little over done, and a little self-focused and maybe not so God-Focused?

If its scriptural (and it is, check out 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in the Bible) that women aren't supposed to preach, then why does Victoria Osteen continue do so? There are quite a few things that rub my spirit the wrong way about how this family functions, call me an overly conservative Baptist but say la vie. I've never felt that these people really communicated what God wanted so much as what they wanted.

On the other hand:

Joel Osteen has had his share of criticism recently especially his wife Victoria. But I do like the positive message he presents. Willowcreek and Saddleback have changed church as we know it today. I guess anytime you become successful people come after you a criticize your practices. I for one am grateful for the great things that these leaders have shared with the world. I may not agree with everything that they are doing, but as Paul said as long as Christ is preached, I rejoice!

Dave Burchett obviously had fun titling his post Victoria's Nearly Secret Apology. (Although frankly I think "Wet and Wild" is more catchy.) Burchett was troubled by Osteen's letter:

I pray that the Osteens will handle this in a way that demonstrates the humility and grace of Jesus. We all make mistakes. It is how we respond to them that can make a difference. Repenting and repairing by asking forgiveness is a very good way to practice damage control.

I felt that was a fair handling of the incident and I really hoped that the Osteens would act promptly and humbly. Tuesday went by with no response. On Wednesday a letter to the congregation at Lakewood Community Church gave Mrs.Osteen’s take on the event. I was disappointed by the response....

Perhaps the Osteens made an effort to apologize to the passengers that were inconvenienced and delayed. I hope so and will assume they have. But I have a hard time with the term “minor misunderstanding.”...

[S]he somehow acted in a way that cast a bad light on her, her family, the church, and the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, while I likely have a large plank in my own eye that should be removed, I think that if Mrs.Osteen had acted in love the plane would have taken off on time. The Proverbs instructs that a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

I had hoped her statement would have begun with the admission “I am not perfect” and followed with a humble confession and seeking of forgiveness. I don’t know the percentage of culpability for Victoria Osteen in this dispute. But I do know that the bar is raised significantly higher for her than for the FBI, Continental Airlines, or any other party. And that is because she is a visible representative of Jesus. Any of us who claim the title have a greater responsibility and fewer rights. Jesus gave up His rights in order to be a servant. And I hold myself accountable to this same standard....

[E]xactly what was the adversity here? A spill in first class that was not cleaned up properly on the way to a ski trip? On the scale of adversity that is pretty benign. The rest seems self-inflicted. I believe that God causes all things to work together for good. But I also believe that much is expected from those to whom much is given. The Osteens are richly blessed. It appears they made a mess of things this time. Would it be too much to humbly admit that?

And Osteen was a topic at other churches:

We had five people come to church this morning; we didn't do church, we just made coffee, ate kolaches and gossiped about Victoria Osteen. At noon, we quickly moved the television and stereo equipment around, and it's MUCH better.

Uh, yeah...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Monday, December 26, 2005

Madame Curie Raked The Lawn 

A few days ago I was writing a lot about Kraftwerk, and I mentioned an album called Computer Welt.

What I didn't say at the time was that this album (Computer Welt, not Computer World) was on my Christmas list, but that I didn't hold out much hope of actually getting it.

Surprisingly, I got it. Although new copies could not be found in the U.S., or even in Germany, Santa brought me a CD which contained both Computer Welt and Radio Activität.

I had never heard of the latter. Despite my love of Kraftwerk, the only two albums with which I am familiar are Autobahn and Computer Welt/World. And Tour de France came later. Here are excerpts from the(English) discography from Connolly Co:

1973 November RALF AND FLORIAN
1974 November AUTOBAHN
1975 November RADIO-ACTIVITY
1986 November ELECTRIC CAFE

Here's a portion of the Kraftwerk biography from All Music Guide:

Kraftwerk's first album to be issued in the U.S., 1974's Autobahn was an international smash; an edited single version of the epic title track was a major hit at home and abroad, and in America the previously unknown group reached the upper rungs of the pop albums chart....

Kraftwerk resurfaced in 1975 with Radio-Activity, a concept album exploring the theme of radio communication; indicative of the group's new global popularity, it was released in both German and English-language editions, the latter appearing early the following year. Train travel emerged as the subject of 1977's Trans-Europe Express...the line became even further blurred with the follow-up, 1978's aptly titled The Man Machine....Having reached the peak of their influence, however, the group disappeared from view, the first of many extended absences to follow; they did not return to action prior to 1981's Computer World, a meditation on the new global dominance of technology — a society their music long ago predicted and pre-dated. After topping the British charts with the single "Computer Love," Kraftwerk again vanished, enjoying a five-year layoff culminating in the release of 1986's Electric Cafe....

So you can see that Radio Aktivität is closer in chronology to Autobahn than to Computer Welt. And I'm sure that not everyone is as enthralled as I am by the lyrics:

Is in the air for you and me

Discovered by Madame Curie

Tune in to the melody

Musically, the feel is closer to Autobahn for obvious reasons. By the time of Computer Welt, Kraftwerk had learned from their imitators and become a rocking dance band (kinda like what happened to Devo by the Total Devo days). Radio Aktivität is not all that danceable.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Nano Mega, Mega Nano, Yowza 

I was reading Souls Road and ran into this:

I haven't written any fiction in a very long time....I signed up for Nano in November....

Me being the ignorant and forgetful one, I asked myself, "What is this Nano"?

After several false starts, I ended up here:

National Novel Writing Month is now over. If you played along, the goal was to create a first draft of at least 50,000 words in a month. And even if you didn't, I know your little secret~you have a Really Shitty First Draft of something lying around somewhere. Perhaps it's your NaNo novel; perhaps it's something you've just boxed up for awhile....

And then I ended up here:

What is NaNoWriMo?

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

Make no mistake: You will be writing a lot of crap. And that's a good thing. By forcing yourself to write so intensely, you are giving yourself permission to make mistakes. To forgo the endless tweaking and editing and just create. To build without tearing down.

As you spend November writing, you can draw comfort from the fact that, all around the world, other National Novel Writing Month participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and -- when the thing is done -- the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2004, we had over 42,000 participants. Nearly 6000 of them crossed the 50k finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.

It sounds intriguing. Instead of writing bad short stuff, I could write bad long stuff.

Remind me next October.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Whatever happened to... 

Eric Bijeau? Bennett Landreneau? Joe Theismann?

Eric Bijeau has disappeared from media reports. Here's a recent request sent to Landreneau:

December 9, 2005

Major General Bennett C. Landreneau
Louisiana Army National Guard
Jackson Barracks Office
New Orleans, LA

Dear Major Landreneau:

As New Orleans City Councilmember for District “A”, I ask for your consideration and attention to this very important matter. It would be in the best interest of the community to increase Army National Guard patrols in the Lake area neighborhoods that are: Lakeview, Lakeshore, Lake Vista, Lake Terrace, Lakewood North and South, as well as the Country Club Gardens neighborhood.

These areas have been plagued by burglaries and I believe that the increased presence of the Army National Guard is not only an added safety measure to help protect residents and their property, but it also gives people a piece of mind that is greatly needed as the city works to bring residents back.

If you need more specific details on the boundaries of the abovementioned neighborhoods, please feel free to contact me or my legislative aide Nicole Webre.

Thank you for your consideration and attention to this matter.


John A. Batt, Jr.

Apparently Batt doesn't realize that George Bush is to blame for all the problems of New Orleans. Perhaps Annika's bill should be amended to provide for the deployment of 150,000 troops in the New Orleans area.

And as for Theismann, here's part of what I said on October 7, 2004:

I'm really gonna regret this

Someone got to my website using the search "Joe Theismann's injury in pictures."

Why? Well, I found this post from October 3:

Political Donations of the Rich, Famous, and Powerful
In my last post, I included a link to Gloria Allred's political campaign contributions, as reported by the FEC and newsmeat.com.

It turns out that newsmeat.com includes links to campaign contribution information for a number of celebrities....

Joe Theismann's only listed political contribution was to fellow quarterback Jack Kemp.

But people keep on wanting to hear about the gruesome injury, not the political contributions. Is anyone surprised that Joe Theismann's leg elicits more interest than Joe Theismann's mouth? Anyway, give the people what they want:

Nov. 18, 1985

New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor has been on many highlight films, but this is one he wishes he didn't appear on. Washington Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann wishes it even more.

On a flea-flicker, the 36-year-old Theismann squirms away from linebacker Harry Carson, but the 243-pound Taylor, the Giants' most feared athlete, leaps and tackles the 198-pound quarterback from the rear. Theismann's right leg twists sideways beneath him as he goes down.

"Joe screamed and we got off as fast as we could," says Giants noseguard Jim Burt, who was on top of the pile, after the Redskins' 23-21 victory.

Theismann is taken to Arlington Hospital, where doctors operate on a compound multiple fracture of the right leg. He will never play again.

As I type this, the Giants are playing the Redskins again. Current stats:

6:02 1st Qtr Fox
New York Giants (10-4, 3-3 away) 0 - - - 0
Washington (8-6, 5-2 home) 7 - - - 7

Passing: Brunell (WAS) 38 yds
Rushing: Portis (WAS) 16 yds
Receiving: Moss (WAS) 25 yds

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Why Annika is a Fascist - Her C.O.W.A.R.D. Act Encourages Dangerous Military Intervention 

As you know, and as everyone reminds you, the United States of America is a Fascist nation devoted to the suppression of free peoples throughout the world. Annika has proposed a solution to this problem, but it doesn't go far enough. First, let's look at Annika's proposed solution:

Why don't we just propose a new law next year to quiet all the critics? The Unconditional Surrender Act of 2006. It might look like this:


To restore the United States of America to the safety of its pre September 11, 2001 status. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


Section 101 FINDINGS

Congress makes the following findings:

(a) Life in the United States of America was easier when we didn't realize that there were people out there trying to kill us.

(b) Protecting the citizens of the United States from future terrorist attacks necessarily requires that difficult choices be made.

(c) Certain interest groups, including the news media, are very quick to criticize any every action taken by a Republican president, no matter how sensible such action may be.

(d) The elected members of the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America lack the collective guts to do the right thing in the face of media criticism or opposition by various nut-jobs such as Michael Moore or Cindy Sheehan and their ilk.

(e) By returning to a strategy of doing nothing and ignoring its enemies, Congress can invite a future attack on the territory and citizens of the United States of America.

(f) Such a future attack can be blamed on the President of the United States of America, thus allowing the Senate and House of Representatives to escape blame and responsibility therefor, and making it more likely that a change of political party control will occur in the executive and legislative branches of the government of the United States.


It is the sense of Congress that:

(a) People who have nothing to hide, generally do not complain about surveillance as much as those who do.

(b) People who oppose the use of the United States military are generally louder than those who support the United States military.

(c) Critics in the media, academia, and the entertainment industry will be satisfied only when the government of the United States gets out of the way of the people who want to kill us.



(a) Effective immediately, all operations by all personnel of the United States Department of Defense shall cease.

(b) All personnel and equipment under the authority and control of the United States Department of Defense, and located outside of the territory of the United States of America, shall be returned to locations within the United States of America as soon as practicable, and in no event later than thirty days from the date of enactment of this law.

(c) Hereafter, the use of any personnel, equipment or assets under the authority and control of the United States Department of Defense shall be limited to either of the following:

(1) The distribution of food, medicine and currency to the heads of state, or their representatives, of the following countries only: Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Brunei, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, Gambia, Guinea, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Malaysia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. For purposes of this subsection, the phrase "heads of state or their representatives" shall include warlords and/or members of the executive branch of the United Nations General Assembly.

(2) The evacuation of American citizens under violent attack or after release from hostage captivity in the above listed countries.


(a) Effective immediately, all diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the state of Israel shall be severed and all diplomatic officers withdrawn and returned to their respective states.

(b) The 1949 Recognition of the State of Israel by the United States, is hereby rescinded, revoked and withdrawn.


Effective immediately,

(a) The United States Department of Customs and Border Protection shall be renamed the United States Department of Welcome and Transit.

(b) Every person located within the United States of America, or within any of its territories or possessions, either now or at any time in the future, who is not already a citizen of the United States, shall be deemed a citizen of the United States with all the rights pertaining thereto. Citizenship conferred to any person under this section shall:

(1) automatically extend to all members of said person's family, whether located within or outside the territory of the United States, and

(2) shall remain irrevocable in perpetuity, regardless of any criminal acts, including treason.

(c) No person travelling on a commercial airliner within the United States of America shall be searched or in any way impeded or delayed from entry into any airport terminal or airplane, unless he or she:
(1) is over the age of 70 years, or under the age of 10 years, and

(2) cannot claim ancestry from any of the countries listed in Title II of this Act, Section 201, subsection (c)(1), and

(3) is not carrying any weapon, explosive device or apparatus for remote detonation of an explosive device.

(d) No interception of any electronic communications by anyone shall ever be conducted upon anyone, ever, for any reason whatsoever.

(e) No person shall ever be arrested, investigated, kept under surveillance, watched or glanced at in a sideways manner if that person:

(1) is an immigrant from, can claim ancestry from, or ever spent time in a terrorist training camp in any of the countries listed in Title II of this Act, Section 201, subsection (c)(1),

(2) advocates or encourages any act of terrorism against citizens of the United States, or contributes money to any terrorist organization or enemy of the United States.


(a) No person shall ever be taken prisoner by any member of the United States Military, or any agent of a United States intelligence service, or any officer of any law enforcement agency operating within the United States if such person has committed, planned or conspired to commit a terrorist act, or in any way taken up arms against the military forces of the United States or those of any ally of the United States.

(b) All persons currently in custody for the above listed acts shall be immediately and permanently released, without interrogation, and after a full meal.

(c) All persons so released shall be provided legal counsel, at government expense, for the purpose of pursuing civil recovery for torts committed upon them while in government custody.

Yes, I agree that most of the bill adequately addresses the concerns of many people, both within and outside of the United States, about the errors of the United States. However, I have huge concerns with the implications behind one of the clauses. Let's look at Section 201, clause (c)(2) again:


(c) Hereafter, the use of any personnel, equipment or assets under the authority and control of the United States Department of Defense shall be limited to either of the following...

(2) The evacuation of American citizens under violent attack or after release from hostage captivity in the above listed countries.

So, Annika proposes to send U.S. military troops into foreign countries for THAT? I expressed my objections immediately:

Annika, you fascist. I completely object to your proposal to provide Department of Defense personnel for the following activity:

"The evacuation of American citizens under violent attack or after release from hostage captivity in the above listed countries."

We absolutely, positively should NOT send violent military personnel into foreign countries under such pretenses.

You're making the unwarranted assumption that the American citizens in the foreign country were peaceful people. Don't you realize that Americans in foreign countries are often threatening fascists, imposing Christianity and other Zionist movements on foreign nations? And you want to glamorize them by resucing these so-called "poor innocent" people?

The governments of these countries are fully prepared to deal with problems within their own countries, and don't need Big Brother running in on some false pretense. And if the foreign government can't protect the American citizens, then...they were probably doing something bad anyway.

With this one modification, I am fully prepared to support your bill, and hope it can be enacted soon after Kwanzaa.

All praise to Doctor Oba Saint Stanley Tookie Williams,
Ontario Emperor

P.S. See Coddled. C.O.W.A.R.D., by the way, stands for "Control of Warlike and Republican Disfunctions" (see Annika's subsequent comment to her post).

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Part Two - Doctor Oba Saint Stanley Tookie Williams Stadium, Here We Come 

The saga continues:

The mayor of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Austrian hometown on Tuesday begged the California governor to reconsider his decision to cut ties to the city after locals assailed him for his death penalty stance.

Siegfried Nagl, mayor of the southern city of Graz, said he wrote Schwarzenegger pleading with him not to return a ring of honor bestowed on him by officials in his birthplace in 1999 and reassuring him that most residents still admire him.

"I hope that very soon we'll hear you say, 'I'll be back,'" Nagl told the actor-turned-politician, one of Austria's most famous sons.

On Monday, Schwarzenegger caused a stir by turning the tables on Austrians who criticized the governor's refusal to block the executions of convicted killers. He sent Graz officials a letter asking them to remove his name from a soccer stadium and stop using it to promote the city, and said he was giving back the ring because it "has lost its meaning and value to me."...

Nagl told Austrian television he hoped to persuade Schwarzenegger. At a minimum, he said, he hoped to persuade Schwarzenegger to keep the ring - though he conceded he did not expect to succeed....

Kurt Flecker, a local official with the opposition Social Democrats, said Schwarzenegger damaged his own image - not Graz's - by refusing to spare Williams' life. There is no point, he said, in "glorifying anyone who supports the death penalty."

Walter Ferk, the deputy mayor of Graz, said Schwarzenegger's decision to allow executions to go forward makes him "an unsuitable godfather for a public building."

But Hermann Schuetzenhoefer, a tourism adviser in the province of Styria where Graz is located, said Tuesday he also wrote a letter to Schwarzenegger expressing regret "that some politicians who proudly bore your name a few years ago are dragging it through the dirt now."

I don't see why the tourism adviser is so upset. If they rename the stadium after Doctor Oba Saint Stanley Tookie Williams, they will attract huge new crowds of tourists. Specifically, the city will be a magnet for the 150,000 people who were saved from gang life by the Doctor Oba Saint.

I'm not sure what type of welcome they'll receive, however:

Graz, its politicians proclaimed proudly, is the “first human rights city in Europe”. It is not quite clear what that means. According to the Frankfurter Rundschau, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal Europe, the local discos and bars routinely reject dark-skinned customers....

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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More on Quakers and Those Sinister Potlucks 

Thorn Pricks quotes a letter to the editor of the Saugerties Times, written by Erica Freudenberger (who was immediately placed on a watch list). Here's an excerpt:

Now, it turns out, the government has been spying on and monitoring its citizens willy-nilly. The president says it’s to help fight terrorism, but look at some of the groups they’ve been monitoring.

Quakers. The F.B.I. had a group of five Quakers and one grandmother in Lake Worth, Florida under surveillance. Perhaps I take such umbrage because I am a Quaker. I can’t imagine how Quakers could possibly be construed as a terrorist threat. Quakers are pacifists, based on Jesus’s teaching to turn the other cheek and the belief that there is the “Light” in every person. Unless the government fears an outbreak of silent vigils or potluck suppers, I’m hard pressed to think of why Quakers need monitoring. Perhaps it’s to send a message to the Amish and Mennonites....

Watergate Summer wrote the following in letter form:

Dear Mr.Bush,
In the past month we have learned that American Citizens have been spied on by their Own Government....You have been spying on Citizens, secretly, under false pretenses and utilizing multiple agencies to carry out your demands. We learned two weeks ago that Pentagon has been keeping files and investigating Peace Activists and Anti-War Protestors, and others of" Concern". That means that you and Mr.Rumsfeld are afraid of Quaker Grandmothers that Bake cookies and hold "meetings" ? What makes them terrorists?...

Here are my views on the topic - the Federal Government has the right to investigate activities which could reasonably lead to the commission of a crime. The key word is reasonably. When looking at the Quaker group, you can reach one of two conclusions:
  • The group really is a Quaker group, and as such would be pacifist and therefore by definition not dangerous.

  • The group is a terrorist group masquerading as a Quaker group.

Now the latter is theoretically a possibility, but based upon the Al Qaeda operatives that we've seen so far, highly unlikely. Listen to how well this Al Qaeda operative covered his tracks:

Zacarias Moussaoui was later arrested after he raised suspicions at a Minnesota flight school by telling instructors he wanted to learn to fly a jetliner, but did not want to learn to land. He also asked about opening cabin doors while planes were in flight.

Even though most of us didn't realize that a plane could serve as the ultimate suicide bomb, you have to admit that Moussaoui's actions were bizarre. So I have significant doubts that Al Qaeda operatives masquerading as Quakers could pull it off. It would probably sound something like this:

Yes, we are members of the Quaker group that will be protesting at the Federal Building. We are not Muslims, in the Name of Allah. We are not warped Muslim terrorists, in the Name of Allah the Vengeful[1]. Yes, we believe Quaker things. We believe in the inner light. We lived in Philadelphia a long time. We are going to go to the Federal Building in a very large truck, then we will go inside the back of the truck so we can pray towards Mec- I mean Philadelphia.

[1] The actual phrase used by normal Muslims is "In the Name of Allah, the Merciful, the Munificent." Somehow I can't picture an Al Qaeda member speaking of mercy. But apparently they do, according to this translated text:

In The Name Of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

O Allah! Make our shots hit their intended targets and fasten our feet firmly to the ground. All praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Peace and prayer be upon our prophet, Muhammad, his family, and his companions.

Your brothers in Al-Qaeda organization in the Land of the Two Rivers fired on and hit two American choppers and downed a third one today, Saturday 2 Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1426, by the Grace of Allah.

Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar! Glory is to Allah, His messenger, and to the Mujahideen.

Military Division
Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers
2 Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1426
December 3, 2005
In The Name Of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

O Allah! Make our shots hit their intended targets and fasten our feet firmly to the ground. All praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Peace and prayer be upon our prophet, Muhammad, his family, and his companions.

Your brothers in Al-Qaeda organization in the Land of the Two Rivers have successfully attacked an American convoy in Al-Muthannah neighborhood using an explosive device. An armored vehicle was destroyed and an unknown number of American soldiers were killed.

Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar. Glory is to Allah, His messenger, and to the Mujahideen.

Military Division
Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers
3 Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1426
December 4, 2005
In The Name Of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

O Allah! Make our shots hit their intended targets and fasten our feet firmly to the ground. All praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Peace and prayer be upon our prophet, Muhammad, his family, and his companions.

Your Mujahideen brothers in Al-Qaeda organization in the land of the Two Rivers have detonated an explosive device as an armored vehicle went by in the “Girl’s Grave” area, the right side of Mosul. The vehicle was completely destroyed and all those on board were killed, by the Grace of Allah.

Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar. Glory is to Allah, His messenger, and to the Mujahideen.

Military Division
Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers
3 Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1426
December 4, 2005
In The Name Of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful

O Allah! Make our shots hit their intended targets and fasten our feet firmly to the ground. All praise be to Allah, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds. Peace and prayer be upon our prophet, Muhammad, his family, and his companions.

Your Mujahideen brothers in the Al-Qaeda organization in the Land of the Two Rivers carried out an attack on an armored vehicle belonging to the cross worshipers in Tal Al-Rumman area in the south eastern part of the city of Mosul. Their vehicle was destroyed and all of the American cross worshipper’s on board were killed, by the Grace of Allah.

Your brothers in Al-Qaeda organization will continue battling the cross worshipers until the religion becomes Allah’s in its entirety.

Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar…Allahu Akbar! Glory is to Allah, His messenger, and to the Mujahideen.

Military Division
Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Two Rivers
3 Dhu’l-Qa’dah 1426
December 4, 2005

Sick. And it gets sicker, as shown here and here and here:

The leader of Egypt's main Islamic opposition group said the Holocaust was a myth, and he slammed Western governments for criticizing those who deny that the mass extinction of Jews occurred.

Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Mahdi Akef's comments echoed recent remarks by Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which sparked international outrage.
In his article, Akef lashed out at the United States and other Western powers for what he described as a campaign against Islam.

«These words are meant to expose the false American rule which has become a nightmare of a new world order,» Akef said.

«I am making these comments to all free people in the world, aiming to wake up the conscience in humanity,» he wrote. «The sword of democracy is only unsheathed against those who raise the flag of Islam.»

Similar comments by Ahmadinejad earlier this month sparked an international outcry. The Iranian president called the Holocaust _ in which an estimated 6 million Jews were killed _ a «myth» and said Europeans have used it to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world.

Arab governments and media did not condemn Ahmadinejad's remarks.
Ahmad Thomson, deputy chairman of Britain's Association of Muslim Lawyers and occasional adviser to the prime minister, recently claimed that Blair had been pressured into entering the Iraq war by a sinister conspiracy of Jews and Freemasons. In his 1994 book, ''The Next World Order," Thomson (a convert to Islam) claimed that the Holocaust is a ''big lie" and that the presence of US soldiers in Saudi Arabia is especially outrageous because many of them are Jewish.

These two stories illustrate an uncomfortable truth: The infection of anti-Jewish bigotry is alarmingly widespread in the Muslim community today, not only in predominantly Muslim and Arab countries -- where the media routinely circulate anti-Semitic libels and conspiracy theories while preachers and editorialists compare Jews to pigs and monkeys -- but in Western democracies as well. Some apologists on the left blame this virulent hatred on the Israeli occupation of the territories. But is it plausible to believe that a state of Israel within its 1948 borders would be less hated by those who believe all of its land rightfully belongs to Muslims?

This is not to tar all or most Muslims with the same brush, or to deny that anti-Muslim bias and paranoia exists, too....Nor is it to say that Islam is inherently intolerant: All religions and ethnic groups have their bigots and haters. For a variety of reasons, the bigotry and hate in Islam are perilously close to the mainstream.

Bringing it all back home (that Wallflowers stuff again), what do Quakers say about Muslims?

The first Quaker contact with Muslims occurred during the 17th century when Quaker missionaries went out over the whole world, including Islamic nations, to share their vision of the Inward Light and Universal Truth. Some of the these valiant missionaries were women like Mary Fisher who voyaged to Turkey to tell the Sultan and his Court about "the Truth." When she was asked what she thought of Mohammed, she replied "that she knew him not, but Christ enlightened every man who came into the world. Him she knew...And concerning Mahomet,' she said, 'they might judge him false or true according to the words and prophecies he spoke."8 The Turks acknowledged this to be a reasonable response, and she was well treated. In fact, she was treated far better in Turkey than she would have been treated in New England during this same period, where being a Quaker was punishable by imprisonment, flogging, or death.

Throughout the 17th century, Muslims and Christians engaged what today would be called "low intensity warfare." They sometimes captured each other's ships and made slaves of their captives, subjecting them to cruel treatment. It therefore seems remarkable-indeed almost miraculous-that a Quaker named Thomas Lurting successfully used non-violent means to avoid being sold into slavery when he and his crew were captured by Turks in the year 1663. Since this extraordinary story is not widely known, even among Quakers, it is worth retelling in some detail.9

Instead of resisting his Turkish captors, Lurting responded with friendliness and cooperation. He was so courteous, and so fearless, that the Turks were lulled into a false sense of security. When an opportunity presented itself, Lurting's men wanted to attack and kill the Turks, but Lurting replied, "If I knew any one of them that offered to touch a Turk, I would tell the Turk myself." A convinced Quaker, Lurting resolved to overcome the Turks without shedding one drop of blood.

On the second night, after the Turkish captain had retired, it began to rain. Lurting persuaded each of the Turkish guards to go to sleep. When they were all asleep, he took their weapons. At this point, the Christian crew again wanted to butcher the Turks, but Lurting insisted that no blood be spilled. They then sailed to Majorca in Spain. When the Turks realized what had happened, they were afraid that they would be sold into slavery and begged for mercy. Lurting assured the Turks that he would hide them so they would not be found by the Spaniards.

When the Turks realized that these peculiar English Christians would not hurt or enslave them, they became willing to help. Lurting gave them free run of the ship, which caused some of the English sailors to grumble. The Quaker replied, "They are strangers. I must treat them well."

When the ship reached a place near a Muslim town about fifty miles from Algiers, Lurting let the Turks loose on shore and even provided them with bread and other necessities. On shore, Lurting wrote, "the Turks all embraced me very kindly."

This story was published and became widely known in England. Perhaps this is what the William Penn (Quaker leader and son of a well-known English admiral) had in mind when he wrote: "Let us try what love can do, for if people see that we do love, they would not harm us." This non-violent approach is one that Quakers have used-and have tried to teach-for the past three hundred years in various situations of conflict.

And of course the Quakers would have been smart enough not to serve pork at the on-ship potlucks.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

What Would John Sculley Say? 

How to Surf, by O. Emperor. Not a doctor, not an oba, and certainly not a saint.

Starting at a Buzzmachine post entitled "There's a reason models look bored," I left a comment and read another one, ending up at Mamutong, then at anina.net, which offers proof that there are models that are techno-savvy. Let me tell you about Anina:

height 1,76
bust 83
waist 61
hips 89
shoe 39
dress 36

This tells me nothing, because I'm a dumb American. First impressions are that this is one of them Lane Bryant models. 61 waist? 89 hips? Dove Campaign for Massive Beauty? But of course, I'm not that dumb of an American, although I'll need to engage in huge calculations if I ever buy clothes in foreign countries.

Back to Anina. Her site has a collection of videos, including one entitled "Milan Italy Test Commercial." Her description:

I got to play a softdrink pusher-- i ran for 16 hours straight from the "police".

The video shows a Coca Cola-dominated world in which Anina and a man are running from the authorities. After they are caught and arrested, the words "Pepsi Resistance" appear on the screen, along with the web URL www.pepsiresistance.com, which is inactive and not even registered.

The song, by the way, is Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's "Whatever Happened to My Rock N Roll," which can be heard (in part) at this Newsweek site. The song (from 2002) is reviewed at BBC Manchester:

In simple terms, and you don't get much simpler than two guitars and a set of drums, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are one of the most exciting bands around at the moment.

Not only are the epitome of American cool with their black leathers and sunglasses, they make an awesome sound, of which there is no better example than Rock 'N' Roll.

This might be a reissue but it still sounds as fresh and action packed as ever, surging across a non-stop assault of sound, filling ever space with feedback, aggression, riffs, bass and above all one of the best songs you'll hear all year.

If you've somehow avoided BRMC so far, then take this as lesson number one. You will not be disappointed.

The Wikipedia article indicates that the band originated in San Francisco, and that one of the members originally used a pseudonym for Wallflowers-like reasons.

A far cry from the Pepsi Generation, but Anina's video has some parallels with 1984.

So what does Wikipedia say about the ex-Pepsi, ex-Apple man John Sculley?

The neutrality of this article is disputed.

Please see discussion on the talk page.

I'll say. The article doesn't mention his successes at Pepsi, his early successes at Apple (marketing and otherwise), or his championing of hypertext technologies. But it does devote some time to Sculley's endorsement of The Wine Clip:

Andy Blue (Famous Wine Critic), Mary Ewing Mulligan (Master of Wine), Leslie Sbracco (Author: "Wine for Women"), and John Sculley (Former CEO of Apple and Pepsi) all agree that The Wine Clip improves the taste of wine.
John Sculley
Former CEO of Pepsi and Apple
Investor in The Wine Clip

"I was asked to take a wine tasting to determine if there was a difference when using The Wine Clip. I could sense a considerable difference. So much so that I invested in the company."
The Wine Clip uses principles of magnetics to improve the taste of wine as it is being poured out of the bottle. The effect is instantaneous, and has been found by many wine professionals to result in a genuine improvement in flavor and mouthfeel, especially when used on red wines.
Using magnets to treat fluids – water, fuel, wine, etc. - is not a new idea, and the technology has been applied successfully in many industries. What causes the effect has been the subject of some debate, but it is generally thought that passing a conductive fluid through a properly designed magnetic field has an effect on the polar molecules in the fluid.

In wine, it is believed that the large, polymerized tannins in wine that normally result in a high degree of astringency are broken up or otherwise affected, resulting in a less astringent, “softer” flavor.

The Wine Clip may also accelerate aeration, by drawing higher concentrations of oxygen to the wine as it is being poured. In contrast with most gases, oxygen is highly magnetically susceptible, and is attracted to a magnetic field. This would explain testimony from wine experts that The Wine Clip instantly produces the benefits of time consuming aeration.

Ah, a twenty-first century version of the Pepsi taste test. But not everyone gets the same result:

The testees were primed by the very nature of the test to expect differences between the wines; they commented afterwards that they were trying to find them. So it's not surprising that they did.

When people actually had "different" samples - one Clipped, one not - they perceived a difference between them 83% of the time (10 times out of the 12 non-fake sample pairs). However, exactly half of those results preferred the Clipped wine, and half preferred the un-Clipped wine. This is exactly what you'd expect if the Clip did nothing and they were only imagining a difference.

In the four cases, one for each taster, when they had "identical" samples - both Clipped, or both not - they still perceived a difference 50% of the time.

Someone else performed a test:

I gathered a crack team of tasters - a food scientist with extensive experience in flavour evaluation, a wine judge and an ex-science teacher - and we blind-tested the clip out on three wines: an under-$10 shiraz cabernet, a $30 pinot noir, and a $70 (very tannic) cabernet. A fourth person poured each wine in three glasses: two without the clip, the third through the magnets. The tasters were asked to see whether they could pick which wine was different - if at all. It was like being on Sesame Street (sing with me: "One of these things is not like the other ...").

So, does The Wine Clip, as one of its satisfied customers tells us on the web site, "make the most modestly priced bottle of wine taste like it's a smooth vintage classic."? The short answer is no. Only one of us - the food scientist - reckoned she tasted a slight but discernible difference in what turned out to be the magnetised example of two out of the three wines; the rest of us either saw no difference at all, or, if we did, found it in one of the un-magnetised glasses (go figure). Certainly no agreement, no dramatic changes, no conclusive proof.

Apparently The Wine Clip people need to get a hard-driving rock song in the background video.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

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