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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Translating Democracy

The city of Boston has a problem. According to a 2005 ruling by the US Department of Justice’s Voting Rights Division, Boston must translate all of its election ballots into Chinese in areas with prominent Chinese-speaking populations. The ruling came after it was discovered that in previous elections, poll workers who were assigned with the task of helping Asian Americans to vote, had actually mismarked ballots for these citizens. The translation necessity wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that the candidates names don’t translate very well.

Since there are no exact translations from English to Chinese for names like “Mitt” and “Romney”, translators are working to sound out the names an pick out Chinese characters that sound most like the name in English. This is where the confusion begins. To translate a name to Chinese using characters that merely “sound” like the name, ends up giving you some rather hilarious translations when read in Chinese. To complicate matters further, there are wide variations on what the names can be translated to mean (some translations make one candidate appear less favorable than another) and because there are multiple dialects of Chinese spoken in Boston, the city is anticipating having to translate the candidate’s names to both Mandarin and Cantonese. The city is fighting the ruling in court, saying that they are happy to translate the ballots, but the candidates names must be written in roman letters.

Here are some of the best ways that candidates could appear on the 2008 Chinese Translated Boston Ballots:

Mitt Romney – Sticky Rice or Uncooked Rice
red Thompson (of Law & Order, and possible 2008 Presidential Candidate) – Virtue Soup
Tom Menino (Mayor of Boston) – Imbecile, Sun Moon Rainbow Farmer, or Barbarian Mud No Mind of His Own (that’s probably the worst of the bunch)
Barack Obama - Oh Bus Horse

2008 will be incredibly exciting in Uncooked Rice runs against Oh Bus Horse. I cannot wait!


Friday, June 22, 2007

Dick Cheney Does Whatever the &*$! He Wants

Dick Cheney has decided he just doesn’t have to follow an executive order that requires reporting on how classified information is handled in any "entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information".

In theory, Cheney’s office should have been reporting what it does with classified information to the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO), whose sole purpose is to ensure that the Executive Branch takes care in maintaining the integrity and secrecy of said classified information.

Since 2003 (same year that Cheney was given the authority to classify and declassify information...see below), Cheney’s office has refused to comply. They haven’t filed an annual report and they stonewalled attempts for an office visit. In fact, this past year, when the ISOO really started to put the hard press on Cheney’s office to file their missing reports, Cheney’s staff suggested that the ISOO be abolished all together (who really needs checks and balances these days anyway!). Cheney argues that since he is not only the Vice President, but also the President of the Senate, he is not governed by rules that apply to the Executive Branch, or seemingly any rules or laws at all for that matter.

The really funny thing is that the order that established the ISOO and requires this kind of reporting, is also the order that gave the Vice President the authority to classify and declassify information in the first place. In 2003, President Bush changed and re-issued an Executive Order first issued in 1995 by Bill Clinton to specifically include the Vice President in the very short list of individuals charged with the authority to classify and declassify information at will. And the VERY BEST part is that the exact line that gives the Vice President the power to determine the classification status of information, also identifies that he can do this ONLY when acting the capacity of a member of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH:

The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by, (1) the President and, in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President.

Let me break this down for you, Cheney is part of the Executive Branch when he classifies or declassifies information, but apparently he is not part of the Executive Branch when he actually has to answer to somebody about what he has done with that power.

I would love to go visit Cheney’s office one day. I bet he uses classified documents as scratch paper. The report would be easy enough to write. Here, I'll do it for him:

Classified Information: Hid it from Congress or Leaked it.

Done and done.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

New Zealand: Not as Cool as Everybody Thinks

I bet you think New Zealand is so cool, but I bet this will make you think differently. A New Zealand couple has been denied their request to name their new son "4Real". The New Zealand Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages told the couple that starting their new baby's name with a number was against the rules.

The couple decided upon the name after seeing their son on an ultrasound and realizing that the baby would soon be a reality. The New Zealand government says they will consider "unusual" baby names on a case-by-case basis. If a decision isn't reached on the legitimacy of the name in the next 30 days, the baby's birth certificate will list his name as "Real".

If a couple wants to ruin their kids life by naming it something crazy, I say let 'em. I mean, doesn't the New Zealand government have a wallaby problem to deal with or something?


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Thou Shall Not Drive Recklessly

In acknowledgement of the shift of the world’s main form of transportation from horses to cars, the Vatican has released a document called the “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road”.

The Vatican's Office for Migrants and Itinerant People compiled the document in light of the ever-increasing volume of vehicles on the road worldwide and the correlated increase in incidents of road rage and automobile related deaths. Cardinal Renato Martino who heads the office said in a news conference held for the document’s release, “We know that as a consequence of transgressions and negligence, 1.2 million people die each year on the roads. That's a sad reality, and at the same time, a great challenge for society and the church."

So for all you drivers out there, here they are, the “10 Commandments of Driving” straight from the Vatican:
  1. You shall not kill.
  2. The road shall be for you a means of communion between people and not of mortal harm.
  3. Courtesy, uprightness and prudence will help you deal with unforeseen events.
  4. Be charitable and help your neighbor in need, especially victims of accidents.
  5. Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.
  6. Charitably convince the young and not so young not to drive when they are not in a fitting condition to do so.
  7. Support the families of accident victims.
  8. Bring guilty motorists and their victims together, at the appropriate time, so that they can undergo the liberating experience of forgiveness.
  9. On the road, protect the more vulnerable party.
  10. Feel responsible toward others.
The document also suggests you pray for a safe journey before you even begin driving and recite the rosary with your passengers to keep your mind free from other distractions.

I have to give the Vatican props for recognizing a current and enormous problem and doing what they can to help. Now if they could just acknowledge that condoms CAN help to stem the spread of HIV, maybe there are another 3 million lives a year that they could help save!

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Monday, June 18, 2007

Boozin' Good in the Neighborhood

A 2-year-old California boy is recovering today after he was accidentally served a margarita while dining out with his family at Applebees. The boy's mother had sent his sippy cup to the bar to be filled with apple juice. When the boy started to make faces and push the cup away, the woman opened the cup to inhale the sweet delicious scent of tequila. The boy later became ill and was taken to the hospital. Applebees has claimed that it was an honest mistake and the result of keeping their margaritas and apple juice in near identical containers behind the bar. Lesson Learned!


Thursday, June 14, 2007

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Arm 'Em

This past week it was confirmed that part of the U.S.'s new war plan for Iraq is to arm the Sunni insurgents and allow them the opportunity to help fight al-Qaeda and other radical insurgent groups that have been terrorizing the region. The move is a rather significant admission that the U.S. is now realizing that, after investing more then $15 billion to build them up, it cannot depend on the unreliable Iraqi military or police.

There are so many things wrong with this I don't even know where to begin so I guess I'll go with a question and answer format. Get excited because today we will all get a little history lesson with our Good Times and hopefully I will answer some questions for those of you who are scratching your heads in confusion.

1.) Aren't the Sunni insurgents "bad"?
Well, technically, yes, they are. Well, were and are. Initially, they were pretty upset about the invasion of their country (more about why they are pissed in a minute), but the U.S. is banking on them being MORE angry about the fact that other radical insurgent groups are blowing up a lot of Iraqis.

2.) But weren't the Sunni insurgents friends with the other radical insurgent groups (a lot of whom are also Sunnis)?
You have a good memory! Yes! They were. Initially, most of the identified insurgent groups in Iraq considered each other allies with a common cause. Now the Sunni insurgents believe that the other insurgent groups are killing far too many Iraqis.

3.) Why were the Sunnis so mad in the first place? Shouldn't ALL Iraqis be mad about the invasion of their country?
Why yes they should, but the Shi'ites are less mad because of L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer.

4.) But who is L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer?
Oh how quickly you forget! In May 2003, Paul Bremer took over as Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq (you can laugh here because I bet you didn't even know that was a job, given the state of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance in Iraq). In this capacity, Bremer was in charge of all things civilian. During the year he was in charge, he issued 100 Orders. These orders were "binding instructions or directives to the Iraqi people that create penal consequences or have a direct bearing on the way Iraqis are regulated, including changes to Iraqi law."

Order #1 was the "DE-BA`ATHIFICATION OF IRAQI SOCIETY" which banned all members of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party from working in government, education, etc. The Ba'ath party was pretty much all Sunnis and had been in charge for over 20 years meaning that they were also the people who had any knowledge about how to run the country.

Order #2 was the "DISSOLUTION OF ENTITIES WITH ANNEX A" which dissolved the Iraqi military, leaving about 350,000 young Iraqis with military training UNEMPLOYED and ANGRY.

I don't have the room or the energy to subject you to a listing of Paul Bremer's 98 other bad ideas. I do recommend you read them here.

4.) So he ostracized the Ba'ath Party (Sunnis) AND he disbanded the Iraqi Military? Where are you going with this?
Simple. One of the major reasons the new Iraqi Military and Iraqi Police forces are having such a hard time getting on their feet is the lack of experienced officers. There is a lack of experience in the Iraqi government, military, and police because the U.S. either banned the experienced people from participating or fired them all together.

5.) Hmmmm...So the Sunni insurgents have a lot to be angry at the U.S. about. Should we really be giving them guns just because the pinky swear to not use them on us?
No. We shouldn't. They could use them on the al-Qaeda related insurgent groups in Iraq. That could happen. Or they could use them to kill Shiites...or Americans...or other Sunnis. In general with this kind of thing, experience tells us you don't just "throw more guns in the mix".

6.) Experience? Surely we haven't done anything like this before.
Flashback, 1979. It was the year I was born, it was also the year that the Soviets invaded Afghanistan (coincidentally, it was also the year that Saddam Hussein took over in Iraq). After the Soviet invasion of Iraq, the U.S. financed, armed, and trained the mujahideen (in this case, Afghanistani Muslims that comprised the groups that opposed the Soviet occupation; Ronald Reagan called them "freedom fighters"). The mujahideen helped bring about an end to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, but the various factions that had united to defeat the Soviets quickly turned on each other. The country descended into civil war and out of that civil war rose the Taliban.

The U.S. proves time and time again that it doesn't learn from its mistakes. Arming one faction in a civil war that we don't understand, in a country that we don't understand, is the worst idea I have heard in a very long time. It might be a worse idea than the gay bomb.

*Thanks to Jenny for the tip!

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Who Said There Was No Such Thing as a Bad Idea?

I would have given this the Tara-ble Idea Award, but I don't think it qualifies since it (unfortunately) never came to fruition.

The Sunshine Project, a military watchdog group based out of Austin, Texas, recently released information it had gathered regarding a U.S. Military proposal from 1994 that suggested one option for a non-lethal weapon that the U.S. could use against its enemies might be a "Gay Bomb". A "Gay Bomb", as it was theorized, would expose the enemy to a chemical/hormone that would make them so full of homosexual lust that they would be incapable of fighting. The proposal originated in a military lab in Ohio and requested $7.5 million to investigate the project. Ultimately the proposal was denied, but not before it made its way to the highest scientific review panel for the U.S. Military.

I don't think we need to spend a dime on this project. All you've gotta do is put some Ecstasy in the water supply, dole out the glow sticks and wine coolers, wait and watch. Everybody knows it is just that easy to "catch Gay".

*Thanks to Dr. Bombay AND Bucket for the tip.


Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm One Step Closer to Not Going to Gitmo

After years of worrying that someday I'll be sitting at my house, watching Lifetime movies when out of the blue the NSA will show up, handcuff me, haul me off to Gitmo and leave me there to rot without ever telling me what I am charged with, an announcement from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will make it easier to sleep tonight.

In a case stemming from the imprisonment of alleged terrorist Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, who has been jailed at a military facility for 5 years without ever being charged with a crime, the court ruled that the U.S. Government cannot subject citizens or legal residents to indefinite military detention, even if those persons are labeled as enemy combatants.The panel summarized that "the Constitution does not allow the President to order the military to seize civilians residing within the United States and detain them indefinitely without criminal process, and this is so even if he calls them 'enemy combatants.'"

Keep in mind, this doesn't mean that the U.S. can't arrest "enemy combatants" who are U.S. Citizens or Legal residents. They can still do that. They just have to arrest them and guarantee they have the same rights as anyone accused of committing a crime. There has to be "evidence" and "charges" and "lawyers" and "their day in court" and all that good stuff. This is a step in the right direction.

The fact that this ruling took 6 years and will still be appealed is a little sad. If we throw out the Constitution to protect our freedoms from terrorists, what is there left to protect? Yeah, pretty deep I know.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

'Jericho' Has Better Fan Base than Scooter Libby

Fans of the CBS apocalyptic drama 'Jericho' have proven once again that Americans care more about TV than their government.

Our favorite fall guy Scooter Libby was sentenced this week to 30 months in prison for perjury and obstructing justice in a grand jury investigation, taking the brunt of the blame for the Bush Administration’s terrible plan to seek revenge on Joe Wilson (who you may remember from such government reports as “Iraq NOT Seeking to Obtain Yellowcake Uranium from Niger”) by outing his wife Valerie Plame as a CIA Operative.

In a parallel story, 'Jericho' was cancelled by CBS, taking the fall for the network's terrible decision to take great shows and stick months and months of re-runs in the middle of their seasons.

Before the judge handed down sentencing in the Libby case, 150 letters of support were entered into record on Scooter’s behalf. In the meantime, 114,107 people signed an online petition to keep ‘Jericho’ on the air. They then bombarded the CBS offices with thousands of phone calls, letters, and e-mails and sent the studio 50,000 lbs. of peanuts (in reference to some line from the show…don’t know, I don’t watch it. I only read the article because my mom LOVES it). ‘Jericho’ is coming back mid-season next year and the peanuts will be donated to charity. Scooter's fans seemed to only make the judge angry, he will not be returning mid-season or any season coming up anytime soon.

It is sort of sad to see Scooter head off to the slammer. While I think he made some bad decisions, I don’t think he is a terrible guy. I think that this comment from a letter submitted to the court AGAINST Mr. Libby says it all “Due to the crimes for which he was convicted, we may never know of the more substantial criminal activities for which he served as a firewall.”

And since we are here, this is the best quote I’ve read from the “We Puffy Heart Scooter” letters “Sadly I believe that Mr. Libby's premature departure from the Administration has been a major reason for the downward spiral of the situation in Iraq and the consuming mess in which we find ourselves today regarding that country” - Robert D. Blackwill, White House Aide. So THAT’S what went wrong in Iraq! My bad.

*Interesting side note, Dick Cheney did NOT send a letter of support for his good pal Scooter Libby. I guess it is 30 months where Cheney can sleep a little easier knowing that Scooter will be too busy "not getting shived" to call up Nancy Pelosi/Congress/the FBI and start chattin'!

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

You WILL ENJOY This Festival!

China is a country that prides itself on the popularity of state sponsored events. He County is no exception. For their upcoming Agricultural fair, the Third Vegetable Exposition, the He County Government ordered "all town and village work units" to issue tickets to their workers in hopes of filling the 30,000 seat venue booked for the fair's opening ceremonies. They also noted that "All items on the program must be warmly welcomed and applauded" by the attendees.

If you want to have a successful state sponsored program, one thing you could choose to do is "strongly encourage" all of your state sponsored workers to come and applaud. It is a logical and obvious solution!

China is going to own us soon. Sigh.


Monday, June 04, 2007

Who's Been Visitin' The Big Bad Wolf?

A 2006 letter that the Vice President's attorney sent to the U.S. Secret Service surfaced last week. Turns out that Mr. Cheney informed the Secret Service that he and he alone would have "exclusive control" of the log books that track who has visited the him or his staff at either the White House or the Vice Presidential compound. Why would the Vice President be so concerned about everybody knowing who has been swingin' by to chat with him? Well, his attorneys say that the declaration of "exclusive control" serves to "protect the effective functioning of the vice presidency under the Constitution. [Releasing the visitor logs would] impinge on the ability of the OVP to gather information in confidence."

Well and here I was thinking that Dick Cheney didn't care about the rights afforded under the constitution! Silly me. Makes you wonder who's been stoppin' by Dick's place! Leave your guesses in the comments section. Best guess wins a prize!*

*There is no prize. Sorry.

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