Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Catching Up: Best of 2005: April

Here's another installment in the continuing effort to distill the best postings from my personal mailing list. These are from April 2005. * * * * * Late-Night Political News from About.com "If it wasn't bad enough that it was tax day, President Bush says he's anxious to sign the new bankruptcy reform bill, which makes it a lot tougher for people in financial trouble to get help. He says that we Americans need to learn fiscal discipline. He says that as a young man he only carried one credit card and that was just to chop up the coke." --Bill Maher "Stocks plunged again Friday, suffering their worst day since 2005 and third-straight triple-digit loss for the Dow Jones Industrial average. On the bright side, your Social Security money isn't in there yet." --Amy Poehler "President Bush's approval rating has now dropped 10 points to a record low of 45 percent. Do you realize if the presidential election were held today, John Kerry would have to work twice as hard to lose?" --Jay Leno "President Bush said this week he will ask Congress to further loosen the immigration laws. Apparently he found out there are still some people in Mexico." --Jay Leno "The nation's second-largest oil company, Chevron Texaco, announced it was buying rival Unocal Corp. A spokesman for Chevron Texaco, which made a $13 billion profit last year, says the new company will be called 'Bend Over, America.'" --Dennis Miller "You know the difference between Jane Fonda, President Clinton and President Bush? Jane Fonda's the only one that actually went to Vietnam." --Jay Leno "Between the praying that people are doing for the Pope and the praying for Terri Schiavo, the switchboard is backed up. Christians are furious, they realize a lot of people are just talking to some guy in Bombay." --Bill Maher "They say this time there will be repercussions. The officers who told Bush the lies he wanted to hear will either be fired, suspended, or transferred to work on Social Security." --Bill Maher, on the latest report on Iraq intelligence failures "One in four returning Iraqi veterans have been diagnosed with a mental disorder. I know that sounds high, but it includes everybody who says, 'Am I crazy, or were we sent there under false pretenses?'" --Bill Maher "Anti-war protesters have now showed up at the Michael Jackson trial because they realize, hey, cameras and free publicity. One embarrassing moment, a protesters had a sign the other day that said, 'Bring our boys home.'" --Bill Maher "The College of Cardinals has set the date of April 18th for the secret vote. What they do is an elite group of robed figures meet behind closed doors and they choose the new leader. Today Bush said 'Yeah, that's how I got elected the first time.'" --Jay Leno "Executives at the Fox News Channel announced they're going start a Fox News financial channel. Yeah, the Fox News financial channel will be different because whenever the stock market goes down, they'll blame it on Hillary Clinton." -- Conan O'Brien "It was the biggest funeral ever in the 2000-year history of the Catholic church. People were waiting in line to get a glimpse of the pope's body for 24 hours. By the time they got to the head of the line, they smelled worse than him...Well, they didn't embalm him. He was laying out all week. And he still looked better than Michael Jackson." --Bill Maher "Forty members of Congress also went to the funeral. They said it was great to be out of Washington and to get a break from all that prayer and Bible quoting." --Bill Maher "When President Bush was shown on the giant TV screens, during the Pope's funeral today, the crowd at the Vatican booed. When president Bush heard this he said 'what does boo mean in Eye-talian?'" --Conan O'Brien "Dick Cheney was saying a couple of things to the press, he said he fully expected to see a woman president in his lifetime. And I was thinking, well, hell, he'll be lucky if he sees Thursday in his lifetime. ... Say what you will about the vice president, he is an optimist. He also said he fully expects to see a Hollywood celebrity convicted in his lifetime." --David Letterman "Federal authorities are investigating whether or not Martha Stewart violated rules of her house arrest when she attended a Time magazine gala last week. Meanwhile, there is no news yet on the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden." -- Jay Leno "Before Social Security, Americans had to keep working long after they were past retirement age -- kinda like the way Cher has to now." --Jay Leno "In honor of Earth Day, Congress passed the Bush energy bill, which gives billions of dollars in tax breaks to the coal and oil companies and opens up Alaska for drilling. It's hard to hide the glee in the White House. Today President Bush appeared in front of one of those backdrops that just said 'F--- You.'" --Bill Maher * * * * * Clippings WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. penal system, the world's largest, maintained its steady growth in 2004, the Department of Justice reported Sunday. . . . The United States has incarcerated 726 people per 100,000 of its population, seven to 10 times as many as most other democracies. . . . Criminologists attribute the growth in the prison population to "get tough on crime" policies that have subjected hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug and property offenders to long mandatory sentences. . . . It costs around $22,000 to lock up one person for a year. . . . In addition, the United States jails around 283,000 people with serious mental illnesses . . . . Mice forced to breathe hydrogen sulphide — known best for its rotten egg smell — go into a kind of suspended animation . . . . Finding a safe way to do this in humans could lead to new ways to treat cancer and prevent injury or death from blood loss, or help people undergo and recover from surgery better . . . . "We think this may be a latent ability that all mammals have . . . ." Many cases have been documented of small children, and the occasional adult, reviving from near drowning in icy water after their body temperatures had dropped, their metabolism rate lowered and they had stopped breathing for more than an hour. . . . After years of telling athletes to drink as much liquid as possible to avoid dehydration, some doctors are now saying that drinking too much during intense exercise poses a far greater health risk. . . . [Runners in the 2002 Boston Marathon] gave blood samples before and after the race. While most were fine, 13 percent of them - or 62 - drank so much that they had hyponatremia, or abnormally low blood sodium levels. Three had levels so low that they were in danger of dying. Budget Living magazine, April/May 2005, p. 81, advises that you can save a lot of money on dental work by getting it done in Mexico. "Right now, the most popular dental destinations appear to be India, the Philippines, and Hungary -- all countries with a surplus of well-trained professionals. Hungary is especially rich in tourist- friendly dental school grads, and getting treated there costs around a third of what it does here -- a crown will run you about $135 in Budapest; $600 in the U.S." * * * * * Unitarian Jihad (Appreciating this item requires a general awareness of Unitarian tendencies.) The following is the first communique from a group calling itself Unitarian Jihad. It was sent to me at The Chronicle via an anonymous spam remailer. I have no idea whether other news organizations have received this communique, and, if so, why they have not chosen to print it. Perhaps they fear starting a panic. I feel strongly that the truth, no matter how alarming, trivial or disgusting, must always be told. I am pleased to report that the words below are at least not disgusting: Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States. We are Unitarian Jihad. There is only God, unless there is more than one God. The vote of our God subcommittee is 10-8 in favor of one God, with two abstentions. Brother Flaming Sword of Moderation noted the possibility of there being no God at all, and his objection was noted with love by the secretary. Greetings to the Imprisoned Citizens of the United States! Too long has your attention been waylaid by the bright baubles of extremist thought. Too long have fundamentalist yahoos of all religions (except Buddhism -- 14-5 vote, no abstentions, fundamentalism subcommittee) made your head hurt. Too long have you been buffeted by angry people who think that God talks to them. You have a right to your moderation! You have the power to be calm! We will use the IED of truth to explode the SUV of dogmatic expression! People of the United States, why is everyone yelling at you??? Whatever happened to ... you know, everything? Why is the news dominated by nutballs saying that the Ten Commandments have to be tattooed inside the eyelids of every American, or that Allah has told them to kill Americans in order to rid the world of Satan, or that Yahweh has instructed them to go live wherever they feel like, or that Shiva thinks bombing mosques is a great idea? Sister Immaculate Dagger of Peace notes for the record that we mean no disrespect to Jews, Muslims, Christians or Hindus. Referred back to the committee of the whole for further discussion. We are Unitarian Jihad. We are everywhere. We have not been born again, nor have we sworn a blood oath. We do not think that God cares what we read, what we eat or whom we sleep with. Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity notes for the record that he does not have a moral code but is nevertheless a good person, and Unexalted Leader Garrote of Forgiveness stipulates that Brother Neutron Bomb of Serenity is a good person, and this is to be reflected in the minutes. Beware! Unless you people shut up and begin acting like grown-ups with brains enough to understand the difference between political belief and personal faith, the Unitarian Jihad will begin a series of terrorist-like actions. We will take over television studios, kidnap so-called commentators and broadcast calm, well-reasoned discussions of the issues of the day. We will not try for "balance" by hiring fruitcakes; we will try for balance by hiring non-ideologues who have carefully thought through the issues. We are Unitarian Jihad. We will appear in public places and require people to shake hands with each other. (Sister Hand Grenade of Love suggested that we institute a terror regime of mandatory hugging, but her motion was not formally introduced because of lack of a quorum.) We will require all lobbyists, spokesmen and campaign managers to dress like trout in public. Televangelists will be forced to take jobs as Xerox repair specialists. Demagogues of all stripes will be required to read Proust out loud in prisons. We are Unitarian Jihad, and our motto is: "Sincerity is not enough." We have heard from enough sincere people to last a lifetime already. Just because you believe it's true doesn't make it true. Just because your motives are pure doesn't mean you are not doing harm. Get a dog, or comfort someone in a nursing home, or just feed the birds in the park. Play basketball. Lighten up. The world is not out to get you, except in the sense that the world is out to get everyone. Brother Gatling Gun of Patience notes that he's pretty sure the world is out to get him because everyone laughs when he says he is a Unitarian. There were murmurs of assent around the room, and someone suggested that we buy some Congress members and really stick it to the Baptists. But this was deemed against Revolutionary Principles, and Brother Gatling Gun of Patience was remanded to the Sunday Flowers and Banners committee. People of the United States! We are Unitarian Jihad! We can strike without warning. Pockets of reasonableness and harmony will appear as if from nowhere! Nice people will run the government again! There will be coffee and cookies in the Gandhi Room after the revolution. Startling new underground group spreads lack of panic! Citizens declare themselves "relatively unafraid" of threats of undeclared rationality. People can still go to France, terrorist leader says.