Thursday, March 31, 2005
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul's condition was "very grave" on Friday, the Vatican said in a statement, adding that the Pontiff had suffered shock and cardio-circulatory collapse.Emphasis added. Now, how soon are we going to see the religious loonies demanding that the Pope be stuck in a hospital and put on life support?
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Pope had been given the Holy Viaticum -- communion reserved for those close to death -- and had decided himself not to go to hospital for treatment.
The statement said the Pope had received cardio-respiratory assistance on Thursday and on Friday morning was still "conscious, lucid and tranquil."
Remember, last time this happened, it was about the blow job, it was about the lying.
You know. That thing that the current administration does to the American people and the world on a daily basis...
Can a bombshell in the Michael Jackson case be far behind? Either that, or Tom DeLay's indictment...
"Dawn Kozsey, 47, a musician who was among those outside Schiavo's hospice, wept. 'Words cannot express the rage I feel,' she said. 'Is my heart broken for this? Yes.'"Sometimes, the urge to bitch-slap a complete stranger is overwhelming. Yo, Dawn -- did you feel such rage over the deaths of over 1500 American soldiers? Have you been taking part in anti-war protests since day one? Or did you just let some fire and brimstone pastor pull your string and point you in the right direction?
I don't know the answers. Maybe Dawn is a sincere war-protestor as well, but I doubt it. I doubt any of those people out there are concerned when our soldiers (or foreign brown people) die in war because, well, "Gott mit uns."
Fortunately, this is probably the last thing I'll have to say about l'Affair Schiavo, seeing as how she finally died this morning, leaving the lunatics nothing tangible to fight for. Long story short, the Terri Schiavo death watch was never about saving her life. The people behind it couldn't have given two warm shits about Terri Schiavo the person. Now that she's gone, lets hope they leave the rest of the people at the hospice alone and just crawl back into their dank holes.
Of course, I'm betting that we'll soon be hearing about the court battle between Ms. Schiavo's parents and her husband over whatever was left of her estate. Someone should explain to the parents now that it all goes to the surviving spouse.
What we won't be seeing though -- ever -- are the same lunatics who were protesting outside the hospice doing the same thing outside a prison before the next execution. Remember, they're into capital punishment. It's how their god allegedly became famous, after all...
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
In case you've been living under a rock, the short version of the bill is that it will all but eliminate people's ability to erase credit card debt or medical bills by filing bankruptcy. Note two tiny little details. A majority of bankruptcies are due to unforeseen (and uninsured) major medical calamities, and the insurance and credit card industries are major, major political donors.
Yes, that's right -- you're all about to be sold to these trillion dollar, fat-cat industries. Congress is in the process of protecting them from you.
I long ago found a simple solution to the problem and, thanks to banks turning ATM cards into debit cards, it's not as difficult as it once was. Basically, about ten years ago, I got rid of all the credit cards. Stopped using them, paid cash. The only exceptions during that time were specific -- one medical only credit card for which I applied when my dog was very ill, the other for a major electronics chain when a bit of major electronics needed sudden replacement. The former card was long ago paid off and the latter is close to it. Then again, I've made it a policy to pay at least ten percent of the outstanding balance every time. Funny how fast the outstanding amount drops in that case -- and not at all funny how slowly it would have declined had I just sent in the minimum monthly payment, something like fifteen dollars.
But... too many people, especially those just starting out, fall into the trap of credit. As long as they pay the paltry minimum every month, they think they'll be okay. But there's a built-in, nasty trap to it. The minimum is never enough to actually pay of the balance plus interest, and the interest rates are, to be charitable about it, blatantly usurious. If it weren't for the monetary influence of the credit card industry, the typical 18-20% rates would probably be illegal.
If I were writing the law, I'd make a few changes, starting with the interest rate thing. For banks issuing credit cards, their credit interest rate would be tied to whatever percentage rate they're paying out on their most basic checking account. Paying that whopping 1.5% on Joe Blow's $221 balance? Then the most you can charge on credit card balanes is 3.5%. Period. For non-bank or non-lending issuers, the maximum interest rate is prime plus two.
The part I like about it is the wonderful dilemma it would cause for the banks. "Hm. We'd love to charge more on our credit cards, but then we'd have to pay people more for the right to borrow their money." (Make no mistake there; that's exactly what banks do. They borrow your money and use it to make money for themselves. The key for them is volume, and you can be damn sure they're siphoning off more than enough of what should be yours before they give you that "generous" percent and a half. Sigh. I remember the days when a typical bank interest rate was 7%. Not that I had any money in the bank then...)
But I do digress...
Let's look at a typical minimum credit card scenario -- a $600 credit line, 18% annual interest and a 3% of balance or $10 minimum monthly payment. Paying just the minimum, it will take seven years to pay off the balance and cost nearly a thousand dollars to do so. That may not seem like such a big deal, but factor in "late fees", which credit card companies slap on faster than you can say "Charge it," and you can wind up in a real hole. Typical late fees are $29 a shot. Compare that to the minimum payment, and you can see that one of these puppies can put you back three months. Forget to mail that check on time just once a year, and suddenly it'll take you ten years to pay off and cost you over $1,500. And god forbid you should actually miss a payment here or there.
Now, a typical American family's current credit card debt is $8,400. Brace yourselves for this one -- plug that amount into the scenario above, 18% APR, pay the minimum every month without ever being late. Begin on April 1, 2005, and you won't be done paying until December 2026, at a total cost of $16,598.88.
Miss a few payments, incur a few late fees, it's easy to see how these amounts can add up to bankrupting levels. In the scenario above, the beginning minimum payment is $250.00, which is in car loan land. The difference is the interest rate, which is much lower, which allows you to pay off $15-20,000 at a fixed interest rate over a few years.
And Congress has it entirely backwards, once again forgetting that they work for us, the People, and not the gigantic mindless corporations that engage in the pasttime of raping us, the People. If they really wanted to solve the bankruptcy problem, they'd castrate the Credit Card companies and limit the interest rates they could charge; they'd figure out how to get universal health care for all Americans.
Instead though, and as always, they're kissing up to their real masters and trying to treat the symptom instead of the cause.
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
I'm not going to spew any bullshit about people deserving compassion or any of that crap. The sooner this motherfucker keels over, the better for the world. Too bad I don't believe in hell because, if I did, I know that Falwell would find his ass in one of the hottest corners or, better yet, would have an eternal career as Satan's buttplug. Headfirst.
His hatred, lies, greed, hypocrisy, ad infinitum, have done a lot of harm in the last twenty some-odd years.
So, in honor of every single time Falwell showed no compassion or tact or humanity, I'm returning the favor. Rot and die as quickly as you can, scumbag. Most intelligent human beings will celebrate your passing.
PS: Could you arrange to take Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps with you, you sanctimonious prick?
I am so waiting for the spectacle of protestors outside the Vatican once the tube is removed. Maybe Jeb Bush can make a deal with Interpol then and take custody of the Pope's quivering shell.
Pope may require feeding tube
VATICAN CITY — Pope John Paul II may have to return to the hospital to have a feeding tube inserted, an Italian news agency reported today. It stressed that no decision
had been made.
Unless, of course, Mr. Wojtyla has a living will. Which brings to mind the question: why are religious extremists so afraid of death? Don't they believe that the second Terri Schiavo dies, her little soul is getting FedEx'd to heaven, where she gets to live with God and Jesus and Mary and all the Saints and her dead great-aunt Martha?
Why do religious conservatives hate Terri Schiavo and want to see her suffer?
Maybe JP II will graciously donate his feeding tube to her instead, and kill two birds with one stone.
Monday, March 28, 2005
That nightmare is the belief, in some companies, that they have the right to own you 24/7 -- evenings, weekends, whenever, they think they have the right to call you up and say, "Come to the office now." Never mind the killing all the fun factor. There are 40 hours in a work week, but 168 hours in a calendar week. By having you on-call 24/7 but only paying you based on the 40, they're effectively paying you less than 25% of what you really get per hour. They say they're paying you $25 an hour? They're really paying you only $5.95 or so an hour that way.
So, a modest proposal, a law Congress would actually pass if they had any balls or compassion. Full overtime laws are restored, and if an employee has to be on-call or if their behavior away from the office can affect their professional careers, then they are considered to be working 168 hours a week. 24 hours a day. At full overtime...
Which means... eight hours a day regular time, four hours a day at time and a half and twelve at triple time -- eight plus six plus thirty-six, for a grand total of fifty hours a day, three hundred and fifty hours a week. Even if they wanted to pay you the lousy $5.95 an hour, you'd still gross $ 2,082.50 a week, and at your former rate of $25 an hour, you'd be pulling in $ 8,750 a week, or just shy of half a million a year.
That's more of a CEO salary, but isn't it only fair if you're putting as much of your life into their crappy company as they are?
Oh yeah -- if we apply real union rules to it, after your twenty-first day without a day off, you go into permanent triple time as a penalty -- seventy-two hours a day, times seven -- or a nifty $12,600 per week until you go on vacation or call in sick.
Now there's a job I'd possibly consider giving up my real life for. For a couple of months, anyway...
BRIDGEPORT, Connecticut (AP) -- A judge has awarded the former wife of a multimillionaire businessman a divorce settlement worth more than $40 million even though she admitted having affairs with her rock-climbing guide and a man she met on a flight to China.
Is the phrase "gold-digging whore" appropriate here?
Saturday, March 26, 2005
Theresa Schiavo could get better.
Yes, theoretically, in a parallel universe, two hundred years in the future where Star Trek is actually real, Dr. McCoy could travel back in time and stumble across Mrs. Schiavo and give her a pill (which she couldn't swallow, since swallowing is a conscious action) and she would regrow her cerebral cortex. Mr. Spock would then find the keeper of her katra and restore her personality via a Vulcan Mind Meld™.
But, short of that, no, she won't get better.
Now go read the rest here.
BTW, does it bug any other Italian speakers out there that they keep pronouncing the name "shy-vo", instead of "skee-ah-vo"?
Thursday, March 24, 2005
And though I'm sure others have had this realizaion, I just have to help spawn the meme myself. Whenever I see these "pro-lifers" holding vigil outside Terri's hospice, praying with "Life" taped over their mouths, I have to ask myself, "Okay, so where were you when W. was trying to start an unjust war in Iraq?"
Where were you, pro-lifers, as American soldiers were sent off to kill and die? Where have you been as the American corpses have come home, in secret? Where were you when tales of torture and sexual abuse in Abu Ghraib surfaced? Where were you when W. signed a law in Texas all but condemning those would couldn't afford health care to the same fate as Ms. Schiavo?
But, most of all and to repeat, where are you as thousands of America's young are being slaughtered for no reason better than to pump more money into Buscheneyburton's deep, deep pockets?
Your failure to act in the past destroys your credibility now. If you're really pro-life, politics wouldn't matter. In reality, you're all a bunch of pro-white, pro-Christian, pro-conservative life nutjobs, and you've proven to the rest of us that, well, the rest of us don't matter to you. So shut up, go away. Game over, you lose.
Or, as you all were so fond of putting it back in 2000...
GET OVER IT!
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
That said, though, this Administration and Republican Congress seem determined to do everything possible to achieve exactly the opposite of their Conservative goals. Other than cutting taxes, every other action taken by W., every law passed by Congress since 2001, has been aimed at expanding government and increasing its intrusion into everyone's personal lives.
The Federal Government has exploded since W. took office. (And "took" has never been a more fitting word for it.) It is the largest now it has ever been, with a bureaucracy expanding like unchecked kudzu. A large part of that bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, is involved with snooping into the personal lives of regular citizens. We have seen people arrested and held, incommunicado, without being charged with a crime or allowed access to an attorney -- both of which are highly Unconstitutional actions.
Now, in its latest round of the "we really, really like big government" game, the assclowns in charge have gone so far as to pass a special law in a special session just because they were unhappy with various court decisions made over the past seven years or more. Yes, I'm talking about Terri Schiavo. And if it doesn't disturb you that Congress passed a law specifically allowing "any of Terri Schiavo's parents" to bring a suit to Federal Court in order to force re-insertion of her feeding tube, then you haven't been paying attention to the Fourteenth Amendment.
They didn't give that right to you, me or anyone else. Ergo Terri's parents, the Schindlers, have special rights that none of the rest of us do. It sets a bad, dangerous precedent. And for those on the right who think Congress was correct, here's some news for you: it means that, in future, should a Democratic-controlled Congress deem it appropriate, they could easily pass a law allowing a specific gay couple to marry, or allowing Hilary Clinton to be proclaimed president-for-life. It's Congress stepping beyond the bounds of their powers.
Civics 101: The three branches of the government are the Legislative (House and Senate), Executive (President), and Judicial (The Supreme and Federal Courts). The Legislative branch writes the law, the Executive arranges for it to be enacted and enforced, and the Judicial interprets it when there are questions or issues. The Legislative and Executive branches have just pulled an end-run around the Judicial, the former by writing this special law and the latter by signing it. Luckily, the case immediately landed in the courtroom of a Federal judge who interpreted the law correctly and told the Schindlers that, basically, they're still shit out of luck.
Beyond the specifics, though, what's the bigger issue here? It's this: two branches of government have decided they don't like the actions of a third, and have deeply, terribly intruded upon the private lives of one husband and one wife. So much for the sanctity of marriage. And all this with the involvement of a man (Dubya) who, as Texas governor, signed a law allowing hospitals (not family) to decide whether to kick out non-braindead but terminal patients (thereby sentencing them to death) because the insurance was running out.
It's a sad, sad state of affairs. Hopefully, Congress and Chimpie will get bitch-slapped all the way to the Supreme Court on this one and Terri Schiavo, who has been braindead for fifteen years, will finally be released from the mindless, drooling state she's been trapped in.
What Congress did is unforgiveable, and every member who voted for this law should be run out of office (if not arrested) immediately. It's another big step toward fascism, but there is a bright side to it. Though it all, polls have shown overwhelming public sentiment against Congress getting involved, on the order of 80/20%. With any luck, this might be the incident that tips the scales and turns the stomachs of true Conservatives out there.
Maybe the moderate right wing will finally see that the government they have has never been the government they really wanted. Maybe, finally, they'll resent the snooping into bedrooms and finances and private lives and hospital rooms, and they'll say "enough."
Maybe. I've said "maybe" a lot since the election debacle of 2000. But maybe this time, the assclowns in power have gone too far.
Thursday, March 17, 2005
This is in regards the Schiavo case, the "right to death" issue in Florida. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal, meaning that Michael Schiavo can finally remove a feeding tube that's been keeping his wife alive since 1990. What's so blazingly hypocritical about W's comments in the matter is this: whenever a death penalty appeal came across his desk while he was governor of Texas, he never spent more than fifteen minutes (most likely) ignoring the information and declaring, "Death."
Or, in other words, if he wasn't a hypocrit, he would have refused to presume in favor of death on such matters, and automatically commuted every death sentence to life in prison.
Funny how the Republicans are so pick and chose when it comes to life and death...
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Go read the whole thing, but here's a taste:
• The United States is 49th in the world in literacy (the New York • The United States ranked 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy (NYT, Dec. 12, 2004).Scary stuff, but if you've ever watched Jay Leno's "Jay Walking," you know that the stupid bit isn't exagerrated. Unfortunately, stupid is the least of the problems. When it comes to just about everything -- health care, infant mortality, agricultural production, wage increases -- the US is far, far, far from number one.
• Twenty percent of Americans think the sun orbits the earth. Seventeen percent believe the earth revolves around the sun once a day (The Week, Jan. 7, 2005).
• "The International Adult Literacy Survey...found that Americans with less than nine years of education 'score worse than virtually all of the other countries'" (Jeremy Rifkin's superbly documented book The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future Is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream, p.78).
Wednesday, March 02, 2005
Anyway... apparently, Ms. Pinkett Smith's comments offended the group because they were (wait for it) "heteronormative." Or, in other words, as a heterosexual, married woman, I guess she spoke from her own experience and viewpoint. Never mind that heteronormative is a word that should be strangled in its cradle. I just don't see the source of the outrage here.
Hey, y'know what, kids? You want someone who's going to give you nothing but gayness in their speech, you know the list of qualifying celebs. Invite them. But don't expect a straight woman to automatically switch her pronouns. Or, to put it another way, if you think there's no difference between gay, bi and straight relationships (and there is no difference beyond hardware) then do the math in your own head, appreciate that what's she saying is universal and then get the fuck over yourselves.
The topper, of course, is the fatal flaw of all mainstream journalism, Ivy League college papers included. While going on at length about the reaction to Ms. Pinkett Smith's comments, nowhere at all does the reporter bother to, gosh, I don't know... tell us what the fuck she actually said. Yeah, minor omission, that. But I suppose, were the Harvard Crimson to actually quote the comments at length, it would just make the whole brouhaha seem silly. (Yes, I've seen the flipside of this coming from the right wing -- q.v. the recent Ward Churchill case. Much controversy over his comments about 9/11, but I had to hunt to find out what he had actually said.)
By the way, how would the Harvard BGLTSA react if, say, one of the Queer Eye guys spoke before a midwestern contractors group, then got slammed for being "homormative" in his comments?
Yes, I think they'd call it homophobic. In this case, the Harvard kids are being heterophobic, entirely too thin-skinned and just plain silly. As one student quoted in the article put it aptly, “You can never appeal to every single group,” [Ofole U. 'Fofie' Mgbako ’08] said. “You’ll always in some way be exclusive. I thought her message was clear. I thought it was sincere.”
Not that we know what her message was from the article.
Note, too, that Mgbako is currently a freshman. Guess he hasn't had time for the PC taint of academic hysteria to seep into his head.