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Friday, October 21, 2005

Oddities and Follies Galore

Polite Robbery

A buddy of mine had his truck stolen the other day. He went to a concert, and afterwards found to his dismay that the truck was gone, along with a ton of CD's and a bunch of PA equipment for the band. "We'll probably find it on the other side of town," the police told him. "But it'll be torched, most likely."

A few days later my friend got a phone call - they'd found his truck. Not only did they find it intact, but it was in the exact same parking spot from which it disappeared, nothing was missing, and the thieves had actually filled the gas tank before they returned it! Only in Iowa...


Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Our rude neighbors are still at it. Screaming and yelling in the middle of the night, people coming and going at all hours... Now the kid has a new puppy. I like puppies. I like kids. But I really wish this particular kid would take care of his puppy! The poor pooch sits outside, tied to the car with the flat tire (hasn't moved in months), whining and yipping half the day, wanting attention while the kid rides his bike in our yard.

I've quit mowing. Every time I go outside to mow or trim, the neighbors gather around and start playing basketball in my driveway. I wouldn't mind that so much, but while they're playing basketball in MY driveway, they still get all huffy if I break up the game by mowing nearby. So now I don't mow.

Last night I peeked out the window to see what the latest ruckus was about. People were running up and down the street, screaming obscenities at each other, and a car was parked sideways in the street, one tire over the curb in my yard. We turned the TV up and ignored the whole scene. (I kinda wanted to go out and take pictures, but Dagmar wouldn't let me.)


What's Morality Got To Do With It?

For a man who based his political campaign on morals and values, President George Walker Bush certainly has surrounded himself with questionable characters. Republican Representative Tom DeLay was released on bail after being arrested on charges of conspiracy and money laundering. A fine role model in this administration! As Mr. DeLay was being fingerprinted, Mr. Bush was giving a press conference in his garden, defending his nomination of Harriet Miers to the United States Supreme Court. It seems that the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected Ms. Miers' written responses to their queries, saying her answers were "inadequate, insufficient, and insulting." source

Meanwhile, Republican Senator Bill Frist is being investigated for insider trading.

Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top advisor, is facing indictment for leaking secrets to the press, as is Vice President Richard "Dick" Bruce Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Osama bin Laden (remember him?) is still on the loose, and now there are allegations that U.S. soldiers have been burning the bodies of Taliban fighters - which is sacrilegious to Muslims source. This, following the abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq and the woes in Guantanamo Bay, suggests that our leaders are creating an environment where such abuses can flourish. There has been legislation put forward to curb things like this, but President Bush has indicated that if the legislation crosses his desk, he'll veto it. It makes me sad.

Very sad.


The Daily Whine

I think I have my contacts in the wrong eyes again today. Everything seems all out of focus...

Some unexpected bills came through yesterday and today; Dagmar and I have twenty bucks in savings to get us through until next week, and I just gave the last ten bucks in my pocket to a bum yesterday. So I have three dollars and Dagmar has a buck and a half... Good thing we have food at home! I suppose we'd have more money if we didn't give it away all the time, but I don't think we'd be as happy, either. So, I'll quit complaining.


Drug Running

I just heard something interesting on the Al Franken Show. I guess the big drug companies in the United States spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion on researching new drugs. But two-thirds of that is spent trying to develop "copycat" drugs - one company develops Viagra, so all the other companies have to have their own versions of the drug. (This has something to do with the patent laws - and the US is the ONLY nation in the world where this is true.) Many companies actually spend more money on marketing than they do on research. The kicker is this: the US government spends $30 billion researching new drugs, but the government shares its research with all the drug companies.

So, a wise strategy for a drug company would be to let the government do 98% of the work, then step in at the last minute, finish the research, and get a patent on the drug, thus ensuring that for very little research money the company will have a patented drug for which they can charge anything they like. So, our tax money goes into researching a drug that a drug company effectively steals (legally) from the government and sells to us for exorbinant prices.

I wonder how many lobbyists the drug companies have on Capitol Hill, and how much they get paid.

Avian flu is looming on the horizon. Our government has done little to get ready - we have nowhere near the amount of vaccine we need (thanks in part to Mr. Simonson - click here for more details on him). A Swiss company makes the best vaccine for avian flu, but they have the drug patented and won't share. They'll make all the vaccine they can in their small factory and sell it for as much money as they can get.


The Tribulations of Trials

Back to Mr. Tom DeLay, Republican, for a minute. I just read in the New York Times online that Mr. DeLay's lawyer asked the judge of DeLay's trial to remove himself from the case. I guess the judge, Bob Perkins, has supported Democratic organizations. The judge that will rule on whether Perkins will remain involved with the trial is Republican B.B. Schraub, who was appointed to the bench by Republican Governor Rick Perry. source

No wonder Mr. DeLay was smiling when they took his mug shot.

"Membership in a political party does not determine the quality of justice in this country," said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earl. source I hope he's right!

Where else but Texas would the main characters in an important trial be named Bob, B.B., and Ronnie? It seems a little, well, informal.

Speaking of trials - Saddam Hussein has made his appearance in court. And, guess what? The next morning they found his lawyer, dead. (Apparently it's bad for your health to get shot in the head.) This brings up two questions. The first is: Why aren't they treating this as a war crimes trial, with bullet-proof glass and stuff? The second is: Why isn't this a war crimes trial anyway - why is the trial in Iraq and not at The Hague? In any case, the authorities are now providing security for all lawyers, not just the prosecutors.


A Few Quite Nifty Quotes...

"Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what's right."

"Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent."
- Isaac Asimov

"I'm not a member of any organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

"What this country needs dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds."

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