Saturday, June 30, 2007

No Exit

Congestion fee to be collected as exit fee - why is this a headline? I remember living in Manhattan, I never made it out of the city without running into a squeegeeman. Fear not for New Yorkers, anyone living below 86th can afford this toll. What of the unsuspecting traveler, roach motel like, Manhattan says you can come in but you won't get out. What's a family from Ohio to do - abandon car and become Broadway gypsies? We knew those tap lessons would come in handy some day.

London car bombs suggest the new, fragmented Al Qaeda is poorly managed. Godfather would know to keep the Mercedes and leave the bombs in the Yugos. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.

Why did Supremes change their minds on Guantanamo review? An unusual move, especially since the Court could duck, let W close Guantanamo on his own. Spate of recent opinions shows some evidence of harmony in conservative block and somebody wants to decide this case right now for a reason. Maybe you can hurry love. Conservative court or not, the W administration should be very afraid. J. Scalia not all that worried about rights of suspected terrorists but he can be prickly when fundamental prerogatives of Supreme Court are in issue. Use of foreign prisons to avoid jurisdiction of the real judiciary (the Article III kind), might be one area where the conservatives will continue Court's decisions to rein in the W regime on Guantanamo.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Supremes grab headlines

Supremes dominate headlines and tune changes with Roberts singing lead.

The biggest news is limit on use of race in school integration plans. Some highlights:
- Scalia manages to let Roberts write a constitutional opinion without calling him a wimp;
- Roberts takes quotes from Brown v Board of Ed briefs and turns them upside down with out of context use;
- Kennedy's separate opinion (and his vote was needed to make a majority) gives school systems room to tinker rather than give up on integration or start from scratch. School assignments that distribute disadvantaged students rather than minority students might not be such a bad thing.
- Assignment to preferred school within a public K-12 school system not the same as admission to a public college or a private college that receives public funds, but watch out. If race alone not a permitted admissions factor are other accidents of birth used to justify diversity admissions also vulnerable? I want the job as lead counsel for parents from NY, NJ and CT challenging Ivy admissions - why is that kid from Nebraska with 1300 SATs (now 1950) getting my daughter's spot at Harvard - claim has a lot of problems but what a fee base.

Case barring execution of Texas lunatic a no-brainer. Sure, W has made some serious mistakes, but execution? Way harsh. Real issue here is why does Texas remain part of USA. Texans would be happier on their own, 49 other states would breathe easier. Why didn't we think of this before W ran in 2000? Note aside by J. Thomas in dissent, calling the majority "half-baked". Strong language indeed, Justice T, but Scalia is calling the guys on his own team wimps for not going far enough, you need to work on your act if you want role as majority whip.

A third decision permits vertical price maintenance - a manufacturer and distributor may agree that the distributor will not resell below a minimum price set by the manufacturer. Warning - if you thought earlier post on taxation of working interests was a snooze - do not read the rest of this paragraph. Not clear why a court, rather than a legislature, created this prohibition in the first place, it was never based on a real analysis of the economic impact and it extended the Sherman Act to bar a previously accepted practice. I remember the class clown in my advanced antitrust seminar (moi?) asking why this made sense in a world of Crazy Eddies (a prehistoric Best Buy). Manufacturers claim keeping discounts in line allows the dealers to invest in advertising, repair service etc, activities that build the brand and provide a real service to consumers. Not a big concern for consumers if, and only if, there is vigorous interbrand competition. Sony keeping its laptop prices high - OK, I will buy a Dell. Not clear where J. Breyer's dissenting estimate of consumer impact came from or how it took interbrand competition into account.

Comics everywhere mourn the passing (actually failure to pass) of the immigration bill, killed by an odd coalition of xenophobes who could not accept a whiff of amnesty in exchange for beefed up border security and pro-immigrant purists who could not live with compromise. This bill had serious issues, but made a real effort to deal with real problems. Most oddly, W did a lot right, on substance and on Congressional outreach. If you think intrabrand price maintenance has an impact on consumers, wait until you see what labor shortages at both unskilled and highly skilled end of the market do to the economy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

To Do List? This was supposed to be political humor - see special close

Nothing funny in today's headlines so - with unshakeable certainty that the world will be fascinated with the minutia of my monotonous retiree existence, I join the universe of diary blogging and publish my to do list.

1. Check toothpaste for "made in china" label. Chinese officials defend use of antifreeze as low cost ingredient, probably tasty as well as cheap and teeth will look exceptionally white if you elect open casket. Any chance the Chinese officials defending this practice own the toothpaste factory? Just yesterday Chinese President Hu Jintao was quoted as saying:
“Insist on the party’s leadership...and ruling the nation by laws” . Can an authoritarian one party state ever be a government of laws? Chinese antifreeze producers now looking to shift excess capacity resulting from toothpaste fiasco into toy train market, for an extra $2.95 Thomas the Tank will come with lead paint and a freight car of slick, green goop.

2. Write congratulatory note to Pope Benedict XVI. Sure he got off to a rocky start - PR gaffes followed by apologies to Islam and Latin America - but now the man is on a roll. Revival of Latin Mass sure to be a hit with the all important ancient Roman demographic, run-off election system insures health of future popes (see yesterday's post here at As Good As News) and premier of pope's new network prime time TV show, National Bingo Night, a summer ratings smash. PR blitz to continue next week with roll-out of Strudel and Becks alternative to bread and wine for communion.

3. Sign renewal contract for next summer's lawn service ......before immigration bill passes.

4. Finish plea to Lorne Michaels - never be another Gilda but we can still bring Emily Litella back. Just too many opportunites to pass up. Tuesday we had the virtual/invisible fence, today it's "desertification" -
"I just don't see the problem here Chevy, I mean I may be a little chunky but if I want a hot fudge sundae as an appetizer, cheesecake for my entree and chocolate oblivion for my after dinner drink I think it's horrible that the NY Times would write a story complaining about desertification."
No Emily, desertification, not dessertification, were talking about fields and forrests turning into sand dunes.

5. Think of something that is actually funny for tomorrow's post.

As Good As News -Special Item
Follow- Up Report:

The photo that inspired my Top Ten Reasons to Visit Iran was too good to be true. The NY Times pulled the picture and the caption from the Times on-line with an announcement that the "victim" may have been a real criminal, not just a teen wearing the wrong T shirt. Even a thug should probably not have to eat an implement used to wipe the policeman's derriere, at least not before a trial. Times can back off, but my Top Ten stays.

Post on Taxes are Death to Comics etc. was sent to NY Times as a serious letter to the editor, the reporting in the original NY Times story on "hedge fund" tax was genuinely abysmal. Although there were no new developments on the tax story, the Times ran a follow-up piece the next day which did a better job - if only they had included my example featuring Benny at the Jersey shore.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Jewels- yawn- what's up with Paris?

Headlines on CIA "Family Jewels" were so enticing I spent hours looking for fun in all the wrong places. Not much humor, or much news, in the Jewels, although some of the details are intriguing for people who were around in the 60's and early 70's and there's a nice photo of the young Darth Cheney, still only partially converted to the dark side. This story will erupt only when we learn that Cheney has the leading man role in redacted sections. The moral of the story is ancient history: fund and operate a resourceful agency in a way that immunizes it from scrutiny by both the media and the opposition party and sooner or later even the most law abiding President (Richard Nixon?) will be unable to resist using that agency as a short-cut means to any ends, legal or not, moral or not, that the President (or his deniability enabling staff) can't achieve openly. Media scrutiny possibly not the ideal way to go for a spy agency, Congressional oversight already improved, let's cross our fingers and move on to an alternative form of government.

Pope Benedict XVI switches papal election system to call for run-off between the two leading candidates if no candidate gets 2/3 majority by 13th day of conclave. Run-off definitely the way to go, leading candidates usually at least 70 and sometimes in frail health. Not sure if run- off is a sprint or more of a middle distance, but at least we will get a pope who can lace up his sneakers and go for it without collapsing at starting line. Ripple effect starts now, as leading papal contenders go into training and College of Cardinals looks to capture NCAA cross country crown.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Show Tonight

Today' s post will be brief as I'm getting ready for tonight's appearance at Carolines.

NY Time's item on a virtual fence under construction along the Mexican border reminds me of the old Emily Litella routine Gilda Radner did on Saturday Night Live.

This fence is horrible, how can they put collars on all the Mexicans or how will they know which Mexicans or is it just the ones they deport so they aren't catching the same ones over and over.
----No Emily that's an invisible fence, ICE (fka INS) is building a virtual fence.

Science Times devotes entire section to developments in our understanding of evolution, achieved by applying genetics, embryology etc. As the story on paradigm shift points out, evolutionary theory still evolving. Hope for creationists? Always room to see hand of God in the workings of nature, but no real theoretical comfort here for anyone who needs to believe in the biblical story of creation as a literal. scientific fact. However, multidisciplinary efforts produce practical benefits for creationists as Creation Science keeps up with the times. Oral Roberts and Liberty U now posting for Creationist geneticists, embryologists, etc.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Wake up Red Cross - Time to Wag the Dog

Charitable donations rose by only 1% in 2006 and would have been almost flat but for the first instalment of Warren Buffet's gift to the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. Multi billionaires can't back-up media buzz on new age of philanthropy without more help from the merely rich. What the charitable world really needs is a good disaster. 2006 certainly had its share of bad news, but nothing triggered a donations surge like Katrina or the Southeast Asian tsunami. Drought, disease and brutal intrastate conflicts produce tremendous need in Africa, but lack of a single, defining event to generate the necessary flood tide of publicity is holding donations down.

Isn't the solution here obvious? Sudan and Congo need to declare war on each other. No new hostilities necessary. Existing internal problems are more than adequate to generate necessary footage of unprovoked massacres, starving refugees plodding along dusty roads in near hopeless pursuit of safe haven. Declared war will create the big bang - the universal gasp of silence which war producer/director Dustin Hoffman will fill with a tapestry of violence and suffering to produce avalanche of private donations, even emergency services from UN, EU.

Are French fries back on the menu? Always sad to lose punching bag that guaranteed a quick laugh, but there is a new France in the news. Socialist candidate Royale generates buzz which can only get juicier if split with domestic partner Hollande leads to nasty battle for control of party. New President Sarkozy brokers EU compromise with force of personality - hyperactivity now considered asset rather than basis for classification and treatment - and... maybe French had a point on Iraq?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Top Ten Reasons to See Iran Now

Today's post deals with a page one NY Times story on Iran's crack down on human rights, including a remarkable photo. Ski mask clad Irani policeman humiliates Irani teen with toilet implement as pre-arrest punishment for wearing T shirt too tight. Kudos on the report and the photo, NY Times, but you should have put this where it belonged - remember Sunday has its very own Travel section.

Top ten reasons to visit Iran now-

10. Shaking hands with airport greeter is only a misdemeanor.

9. Quality accommodations -top local prisons always willing to find a room for Americans, even on short notice, even if you so much as mention that you have a second cousin who once visited America.

8. Helpful local police always easy to locate thanks to fashionable ski masks.

7. Routine pre-arrest oral humiliation (torture?, very very very bad sanitary practices?) with bathroom cleaning implement shows Abu Ghraib how the experts do it, and the real fun begins when the cameras are off.

6. Tehran a must shop destination - prices high but every outfit you packed is grounds for life imprisonment - see previous item on local torture expertise.

5. Perfect for the whole family, Dads, if your wife or daughter isn't showing you the proper respect a vacation in Iran will give them a whole new perspective.

4. Better than Rome - more infallible leaders. Rome has only one Pope, Tehran has both Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad and we know they are infallible because every single person we were able to interview told us so....repeatedly...while begging to be shown on tape affirming infallibility.

3. See Iran now before exciting crackdown on human rights ends - extinction of last human right imminent - the elephants will still be in Kenya next year.

2. Summer bargains right now (summer would be off-season due to desert heat except Iran has no on-season) or wait for fall specials on sand wear, January Ski Iran package to Shemshak and Dizin resorts - skiers - remember you are from Switzerland, you are from Switzerland, you are from Switzerland.

1. Be there for massive, country-wide gala celebration when Iran beats out North Korea and becomes first Axis of Evil member to go nuclear.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Long Line Every Time

Whole Foods introduced a new line system in NYC. A single line forms for all the registers and as a register opens it takes the next person from the big line, just like an airline check-in or a bank. I am the guy who always picks the wrong line and waits behind the shopper with the million coupons, the car attempting to pay a toll in pennies, the movie ticket buyer who needs a plot synopsis on each of ten shows at a multiplex, the rookie who doesn't quite get the self-checkout at Home Depot. I might even be the guy in the shouting match with the person who tries to cut the line. Bravo Whole Foods, Encore (in your suburban stores). The single line is faster, it's fairer and it promotes peace of mind, you just can't make a bad choice.

Although I applaud Whole Foods feverishly, I don't think we can give radical innovation credit. The Department of Motor Vehicles and INS - not generally lightning rods for change - were doing this a decade ago. Why can't we just use the single line with every line, everywhere.

If the major reason for delay in closing the US detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay is finding a place for all the prisoners, then just put them all in a single line. Whenever a space opens at a maximum security prison in the US, keep saying "next" until that long line is all gone.

Cheney Quiz

First, I promise a long break before I post anything that has anything to do with taxes again. I had to do research and then I kept thinking of edits all day long, it was too much like work.

I know my legions of reader thirst for a post on South America, but once again a thorough review of the NY Times shows no coverage. But for the occasional eruption of Mount Hugo one might think the entire continent was submerged, the onset of the global warming apocalypse.

So, we will settle for a short quiz suggested by page 1 headlines. We now know that an eldest child has an IQ three points higher, on average, than younger siblings but the eldest may be less adventurous, less prone to radical innovation. We also know that Dick Cheney's handling of official records led to questions from the cognizant oversight office - as we all know that would be.....the National Archives, Security Oversight Office (NASOO). My guess is that NASOO officials (Nassooers) were willing to look the other way when the Vice President classified every single document (witness Freedom of Information Act releases with 98% of text redacted) but they finally tried to draw the line when Cheney demanded Top Secret classification for his toe nail clippings. Enraged, Cheney's office resisted any further oversight. The courageous Nassooers objected and Dick went outside the box with a bold move to eliminate NASOO and exile the brave Nassooers to the darkness outside the beltway.

The quiz? Is Cheney the eldest - he was admitted to Yale (albeit as the only applicant from Wyoming and one who dropped out after a year) and met with much success as a conventional legislator and staffer early in his career - or is he a younger sibling - massive counterattack on unsuspecting Nassooers suggests potential for radical innovation. Imaginative none of the above answers (triplet son of Darth Vader born simultaneously with Luke and Leia) will be accepted.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Taxes Are Death - To Comics and Journalists

I watched a young comic die a horrible death at an open mic night last week. He took the stage with a good premise, a Richie Rich family schemes to ensure the death of its ailing patriarch in 2010 - not before and not after - because 2010 is the one year in which there will be no estate tax due to some odd Congressional machinations. The idea was to use the estate tax as a springboard into a very extended weekend at Bernie's. The crowd went into stunned silence at the first mention of estate tax and never recovered. If you need to explain a joke, it's not funny.

Today's NY Times runs a page 1 story on an end to tax breaks for hedge funds. Like most tax stories in general periodicals, it repeats buzzwords like tax break, hedge fund, wealthy financier, but never attempts to explain the fundamental question. This is not a story I have followed, but I hope a short example captures the basics. Ace, an expert investment manager, and Benny, a retiree who wants to spend all his time on the beach at the Jersey shore, start a partnership. Ace invests only one cent, but he will do all the work. Benny invests $100. If the partnership has profits, Ace will get 20% (known as a carried interest), Benny 80%. After much research, including tasting, Ace buys a barrel of single malt scotch whiskey for the partnership. The partnership holds it for ten years and sells at a big profit. Is Ace's share earned income, because it's compensation he received for managing the partnership, or is it long-term capital gain, because the whiskey was a capital asset the partnership held for a long time?

If you don't like the answer capital gain you can call it a tax break, but this is not some new loophole, it has been the law for decades. Most hedge funds will have short-term gains so the answer won't matter much to them, the impact is greater on private equity firms. Like many tax issues, it will effect wealthy financiers, but even some Mom & Pop partnerships have carried interests for a working partner. Loaded terminology with no real explanation avoids the question. Which answer, earned income or capital gain, best serves the competing interests in any tax question: raise revenue; strive for simplicity, consistency and stability; and don't disrupt the incentives needed to make a capitalist economy work? Is this too complicated for the reader...or for the reporter? If you need to explain a story, find a way to do so.

In a related story, love the lede on "reclusive and authoritarian Turkmenistan" - is President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov really reclusive? Maybe he can't get any coverage because media fears misspelling, mispronouncing that incredible name.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's My Party and I'll Cry If I Want To

Mayor Bloomberg announced that he is no longer a Republican. From the GOP standpoint this was a trial run for the guest worker program, Bloomberg came, did the job and left. NYC thrives, the local party avoided a Democratic mayor for a couple of terms and Bloomberg actually helped GOP on national level. For Bloomberg it's an interesting statement from a guy who does not need GOP money to run for President. For old fashioned Republicans, it's a sad moment. Candidate who wants efficient government, balanced budget and civil liberties no longer welcome guest at this party. GOP now defined by religious right: anti-stem cell research, anti-evolution, anti-sex education, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion. If Democrats could convince middle class voters they were serious about low taxes, the Republican party might be cancelled for lack of interest - unless they had a really good band.

Independent President an interesting possibility - no partisan bickering sounds nice, but can you get anything done with no party behind you in a system that's built around two parties? Sidebar on General Accounting Office inquiry into signing statements shows why people might give independent a chance. L'il Bush is presented with a newly passed bill and a simple choice - A) sign it into law and enforce it as CEO in constitutional scheme; or B) veto and find out if Congress will override. L'il Bush goes for none of the above, with blowhard signing statements that take ten pages to say "gotcha last". A President needs to deal with legitimate constitutional concerns, but if you are going to sign the bill then deal with the concerns quietly on a case- by-case basis. Out of control signing statements just one more round in grade school tit for tat - investigation should be run by qualified child psychologist, not General Accounting Office.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Failed States Recount

Sudan led this year's list of failed states, followed closely by Iraq. This was a fearsome competition, many states fail to deliver any services, several offer no semblance of stability or security, but only the select few go the extra mile and exterminate their own citizens on a wholesale basis. States to watch for next year - 1) The Peoples Republic of China - failed state watchers - do not be discouraged by years of stability, PRC still very much a government of men not laws. Consider production of medicines with intentional use of poison as a low cost ingredient, no problem in the PRC. PRC now captures market share in toys with low cost specials featuring lead paint and kerosene. For Christmas 2007 look for Suicide Bomber Barbie featuring a chest with real silicon implants and a back pack with real plastic explosive. If leaders are threatened look for PRC to revisit cultural revolution, move quickly into failed state contention 2) in a sleeper pick - New Jersey - Tony Soprano no longer around to keep peace in organized ....waste management.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Muscular Christianity?

Today's NY Times Caracas Journal describes Marxist militias forming in support of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Much is frightening here, including thought that militias will make Chavez President for life even after his disfunctional policies lead to disaster and disillusion, but what really catches the eye is the paragraph 1 reference to a mural of Jesus Christ armed with an assault rifle. Muscular Christianity on steroids? Perhaps German pope has revised some of the beatitudes - AK 47 not previously known for meekness. Just kidding - absolutely no established connection between Pope, mural and militia - but surely Mr. Romero will let us know if the militia starts wearing brown shirts.

Story on disappearing night life of politicians in Albany seems confused. Presumes Albany once had night life, also flies in the face of party-time reception Albanians just gave to President Bush.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dr. Taffoff, I presume

Today's NY Time's feature on a model's visit to a tattoo removal chain named Dr. Tattoff sparked thoughts of a more primitive treatment, one that might be more effective, certainly more fun, in the proper case - tattoo modification. Spurned boyfriend of Jane - do not visit Dr. Tattoff until you locate new love - Janet. The tat is the thing here, sexual reorientation may be required - when Judy dumps you, settle for Rudy. Genre switches encouraged, the model in our feature story doesn't need to erase Patrick, just become a hockey fan and show it with Hat trick. Terrorists going mainstream, tat removal need not hurt - switch Osama to Obama and forget the long sleeved shirt.

Comments, particularly additional tattoo modification suggestions, welcome.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I'm not an Exterminator - I'm a Trapper

Today's NY Times runs page 1 feature on snake charmers for the new millenium, experts who will remove unwanted reptiles from suburbia and release them safely in the wild. This reminds me of an experience with squirrels trapped inside a wall of my suburban home. We could smell them, we could hear them - these party animals were always active from 2AM to 4AM - but we could not find them. Two exterminators failed with peanut butter laced traps in our attic, and then we found Marty. Marty did not hesitate to correct me in an exploratory phone call, "I'm a trapper, not an exterminator" and I knew we had our man. In one day Marty found the nest in an isolated section of wall that had no attic access, cut through the wallboard and removed a nest of squirrels to a park a few miles away.

Duke lacrosse prosecutor Michael Nifong, testifying before a disciplinary panel wearing a gag hat with the ever popular arrow through skull effect, announced, "Well excuuuuuse me, I resign." Sometimes you need an exterminator, not a trapper.

Banks are victimized by borrowers using web sites with fake pay stubs, credit lines and "rented" bank balances. OK, so this is criminal fraud if you take out a loan, but suppose a geek just wants to meet a nice girl? And banks, second graders know not to believe everything they read in Wikipedia - maybe if you actually met the customer?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tuxedo Crested Scooter Libby -Dwindling Species?

The National Audobon society reports population of twenty bird species is dwindling due to changing environmental conditions. Most prominent is the Tuxedo Crested Scooter Libby, which thrived inside the beltway in heady post 9/11 period and then did not fare well on encountering an invasive species of special prosecutor and a hawklike judge maintaining position atop avian food chain. If mating call for pardon goes unrequited, the Scooter Libby may establish interim nesting arrangements with the Long-throated Paris Hilton. The Scooter Libby belongs to the genus Adaptable Washington Insider, will not be surprising if this cagey veteran emerges from temporary captivity with renewed vigor - may use solitude to perfect singing voice, then expand habitat with tell-all guide to the nesting habits of the Bush administration.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

post script post doc

A in Science and Honorary PhD+ to Mr. Wizard who appears in today's obits. Inspired classic Bob and Ray routine, never received the screenwriting credit he deserved from MacGyver.

School's Out

School ends and the joyful expectation of Summer is muted only by - report cards.
NYC Schools get a monster A in Math. This operation had "needs improvement " checked for decades before Bloomberg came along.

Iraqi politicians earn an F - - (the first "-" is part of the grade, the second is punctuation) no progress toward any legislative benchmark, and "does not play well with others" marked in indelible ink. Three groups at war with one another could not agree on new laws that a foreign country, us, expects to see. Surprise. Either stop propping these guys up and find out if anyone in Iraq really wants Iraq to be one country, or see if NYC will loan them Bloomberg.

Some New Jersey banks, including mine, get an Incomplete for "no hats" policy imposed in wake of a string of successful robberies by the Mad Hatter. So far the policy is just a request, one linked to a clear and specific security threat. Mad Hatter rumored to be wig shopping as banks ponder loss of business in the all important bald guy demographic.

An ARRRRR to Canvasback Missions, a Christian mission that provides medical services to South Pacific Islands. The Mission received two retired Coast Guard cutters - use was limited to the supply of medical supplies and services to South Pacific Islanders and the boats were to be available for reclamation by the Coast Guard. Canvasback never got the boats out of California, sold them when it needed funds and used the monies as general revenues supporting its evangelical as well as its medical mission. What's an ARRRR? - the grade you get when you interpret "Thou shalt not steal" the same way Captain Jack Sparrow interprets Pirate law - it's more like a guideline really. Canvasback provides valuable services, it needed the money. The big F here goes to Congress for using earmark grants to avoid the limited supervision we normally have on use of government grants by faith based groups.

Announcements - please stand for a moment of silent prayer or meditation. This blog and my myspace page will be undergoing revision and migration. Posts will be sporadic to nonexistent over the next few days. Contrary to initial appearances this blog is not a shill for Bloomberg - I go where the headlines take me and he is on a hot streak. I will become a Bloomberg shill if he keeps it up for an extended period.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Fatwa- At Home and Abroad

The Fatwa - an interpretation of the Koran and the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed by Islamic authorities offering guidance on real life FAQs. Most Fatwas featured in Western news stories are bloody, an approval to assassinate Salman Rushdie, an exception to the laws of hospitality so that Iraqis may kill visiting Americans without permission from their host -but today we see the domestic side of Islam. One recent Fatwa from Egypt permits an unmarried man to work with a woman if the woman has breast fed the man five times - establishing the appropriate familial relationship. Reports that the Mullah issuing this Fatwa was advertising for a receptionist remain unconfirmed. A second recent Fatwa advises that drinking the urine of the Prophet is a blessing, The question here is really - Who wants to know? In what universe is this an FAQ? Was there a diner in Cairo offering a special?

Turning to home, a resolution to bring a no confidence vote on Attorney General Gonzales to the Senate floor received only 53 of the 60 votes needed. Retaining a sitting cabinet officer is an executive decision, any action by the Senate would have been non-binding, but maybe it is more than a public relations stunt. Consider the Fatwa, a group of officials (senators, mullahs - is there really any difference) advises on a current application of a revered document (OK the Constitution and the Koran have some differences - hang in there). The advice is not really that Gonzales is stupid or disloyal - He's guilty of implementing the policies of the Rove-Bush administration too vigorously. The hiring and firing of US attorneys has a long tradition of emphasizing competence - Gonzales just followed the new game plan - hire only Republican loyalists, preferably with degrees from Jerry Falwell U. Fire anyone who wants to investigate Republicans or drop a dead end investigation of a Democrat. Always advise that there are no Constitutional limits on Executive power - no limits on eavesdropping (and if you are questioned maybe you can slip it by Ashcroft on his sickbed), no limits on detention of civilians without judicial review. The fatwa is this - Mr. President - the Constitution matters, get an Attorney General who will tell you this even when you don't want to hear it and make exceptions only on those days when you drink the urine of the Prophet for breakfast.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Albania, Mitt & Tony - Don't Stop Believing

George W. Bush is greeted as a hero in Albania, leading immediately to calls for a complete overhaul of the Albanian educational system. Republican National Committee officials report Karl Rove is developing a plan to annex Albania as the 51st state before 2008 while the House majority leadership met unofficially with the Albanian Ambassador to explore an indefinite extension of the President's visit. All kidding aside, it is great that a place which sufferred for years under a Maoist dictatorship still appreciates what freedom and democracy are all about - If only the other state capitals would be as loyal as the Albanians.

Mormon's express concern over scrutiny resulting from Romney candidacy - "we just want to be accepted" - as Romney campaign reshoots all television advertising following determination that wife #2 is more telegenic.

Soparano's writing team turns to Iraq exit strategy after final episode demonstrates that no matter how ominous the setting, you can always find some way to end it without a bloodbath.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

NYC 25 year plan - does it go far enough?

Mayor Bloomberg finds support from Gov. Spitzer, Federal EPA for plan featuring congestion fees on cars entering Manhattan below 86th Street and a campaign to plant a million trees.
Fears on congestion fee collection eased as NYC begins to advertise for specialized collection consultants - squeegeeman experience a must.

Trees ever popular, one once rumored to grow in Brooklyn, but NYC needs more - plant each tree with high tech potting soil that safely and instantly neutralizes dog waste - no New Yorker would ever scoop a poop again. What a legacy. Bloomberg coasts to Presidential victory running on American Kennel Club line.

Goldman Sachs reported buying tree farms up and down the Eastern Seaboard and every parking lot between 86th and 90th.