July 2003 Archives

Hamilton Conquers France!

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OK, so he actually only finished fourth. But he did it with a broken collarbone he suffered on the first day! And he finished over six minutes ahead of the best Frenchman.

All is not 'huzzah' and 'bully for you!', though. The French, who are still trying to cope with an American repeatedly winning their crown jewel sporting event, now have to endure their best cyclists getting punked by a one-winged man! They're not taking it too well. Career Tour second fiddle Raymond Poulidor said that Hamilton should have given up after his injury:

"'In my opinion it's useless what he's trying to do," Poulidor told AFP. 'It's a brave attempt but, if he really does have a double fracture then it would be better for him to give up the race. Once he really needs to start pulling on the handlebars it's going to be very painful.'"
Of course, being French, he should know about giving up. The 1987 Tour winner, Irishman Stephen Roche, was also less than enthusiastic about Hamilton's performance:
"'It's definitely been blown out of proportion. It's totally ridiculous,' Roche told AFP prior to the start of the 11th stage from Narbonne to Toulouse. 'If the doctor says it's broken or fractured then he shouldn't be racing. It's as simple as that.'"
To Roche's credit, though, he did predict a top-five finish for Hamilton before Stage 11, but even that was a left-handed compliment:
"'A top five finish? I think it's still possible. He got through the Alps okay and so the Pyrenees shouldn't be any problem. 'We'll be passing nearby Lourdes soon, so maybe he should light a candle.'"

Denial is but the first stage in learning to cope, so it's pretty clear that's where the French are with regards to Hamilton; they think that he overstated the extent of his injury or even faked it altogether (disclaimer: secondhand info, with another secondhand reference here)!

"Last week Didier Rous declared that Hamilton could not possibly have a broken collarbone and said outright that Hamilton was faking. French sophistication and class in your face. Hamilton's team manager Bjarne Riis provided X-rays this weekend which were shown on French State TV in order to dispel any doubts. This guy Rous has some fucking big mouth, especially considering that any French rider with so much as a broken fingernail will obtain a doctors' certificate and load up on prescription drugs before leaving the race. "

Count on Merde In France to pull no punches.

Stop Or My Wife Will Bust Out The Checkbook!

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Last Sunday in Parade, a letter in Walter Scott's Personality Parade asked if Teresa Heinz Kerry planned to use her fortune to help her husband, Democratic Senator John Kerry, in his Presidential campaign. What makes the question interesting is the source of her wealth--she inherited half a billion when her first husband, Republican Senator John Heinz, died in a 1991 plane crash. Her response:

"I would never spend family money on any campaign unless the honor of John's name was attacked. If a political rival launched a personal attack on my husband, would I take it lying down? My hunch is I would not."

In other words, look for the family money to show up the next time an opponent questions Kerry's war record (which, by the way, could be any day now).

None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See

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Arab News is known for commentary articles that are just out there, but Lessons From the Killing of Uday and Qusay by Amr Mohammed Al-Faisal is so completely wrong in everything from its premise to its supporting 'evidence' to its conclusion that it stands as a textbook example of the dangerous stupidity I'm here to fight. Without further ado, on with the Fisking:

"I have never been a supporter of Saddam Hussein or his regime. Nor do I wish them well today. However, the way that Uday and Qusay were killed needs to be examined carefully so as to derive useful lessons. "
The disclaimer is now standard issue with those who oppose what we did and are doing in Iraq, as indeed it has to be--the alternative is the implicit presumption that the writer actually preferred Hussein & Sons in charge there (not that there's any shortage of those half-wits).

There are lessons to be learned, yes. Why don't you draw your own conclusions and them compare them to Mr. Al-Faisal's when we get to the end?

"US forces, based on a tip-off from a friend of the Hussein family (in return for a $30 million reward), surrounded a house in Mosul in which Uday, Qusay, his 14-year-old son Mustafa, and one of their supporters had hidden. Some 200 US soldiers backed by helicopter gunships, missiles and mortar shells, attacked the house. After a battle, which lasted six hours, the three men and boy were dead. "
What Al-Faisal doesn't say in this summary tells us a lot about which way he's headed, but we'll give him more rope anyway. There'll be plenty of time to smack that horse in the ass later.
"I was appalled."
I was mostly disappointed, half because the intel would have been invaluable and half because parading them around Iraq in a cage would have given Iraqis a sense of closure. Their deaths, however, were an acceptable consolation prize. But let's move on to this real screamer:
"I have said it before (not in this publication) and I say it again: Western, and especially US, military doctrine is incapable of achieving victory."

In Training For The Darwin Awards


This is what I mean by 'Dangerous Stupidity:' I was just finishing fueling up the car yesterday when this guy pulls up to the pump kitty-corner from me, sticks the nozzle in, and lights a cigarette! For the next couple of minutes he stands there holding the cigarette at waist level maybe three feet from the opening--I can clearly see the fumes coming out of the gas tank. Fortunately, I finish up right about then and haul ass into the station, because I want to be inside a cinder-block building when this Einstein does his impression of Thich Quang Duc. I mean, if you're gunning for a Darwin Award, that's one thing--the gene pool could use just a little bit of chlorine anyway. But to take innocent bystanders with you when you do--that ain't hardly fair.

What may have been stupider than that: I see the guy finish up and come into the station. He puts his half-done cigarette out before he enters because there's no smoking in stores in Indiana!

What may have been stupider than that: I didn't say a word to him about it.

Head-Scratching Ads

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From this week's local 'free ad' paper, the Peddlers' Post, we see a couple of examples of people who should not be allowed unsupervised access to a fax machine. First:

"Brand new, Elliptical Cross Trainer, must go, fully assembled, $300 firm . . .."
If the item "must go," why is the price "firm?" Seems like you really only want one or the other. Next:
"Typing tape for Atari 400, 800, & 1200 computers $20."
For starters, this tape probably didn't retail for $20 when it originally came out... in 1987 or so. What makes this ad even more mind-boggling is that it has run in every issue I have read for the past seven years! How many cluetrains blew through this guy's station in that time?

Victor Davis Hanson's NRO column this week offers a much different way of looking at the events of the last twenty months:

"These are still perilous times. But if anyone on September 12, 2001, had predicted that 22 months later there would still be no repeat of 9/11; that bin Laden would be either quiet, dead, or in hiding; that al Qaeda would be dispersed, the Taliban gone, and the likes of a Mr. Karzai in Kabul; that Saddam Hussein would be out of power, his sons dead, and an Iraqi national council emerging in his place; that troops would be leaving Saudi Arabia, Arafat ostracized, and Sharon seeking negotiations; that new Middle East agreements under discussion — and all at a cost of fewer than 300 American lives — then he would surely have been written off as a madman."

Well, I didn't predict it on September 12th, or in that much detail, but I did say this a month later:

"[I]f the terrorists' goal was to get the US to end its support for Israel, what they should have done is kept on doing what they were doing--attack American interests overseas. Eventually, we may have tired of being nickel-and-dimed over something most people see--or at least saw--as irrelevant (I mean, how many people knew who Osama bin Laden or the Taliban were before September 11?), and just rolled over and said 'The hell with it. Israel, you're on your own.' Instead, by taking the fight to our homeland, the terrorists have made exactly the same mistake the Japanese did in 1941. And we all know how that one ended."

And speaking of predictions, I'd like to point out that I called The Amazing Race's final four before the season started.

Finally pried the vacation pictures out of the digital camera I borrowed for this vacation (for those of you scoring at home: an HP315 camera, a 64MB CompactFlash card, and Windows XP do not play well together). Most of them aren't anything special, just standard vacation shots. There is one, however, that serves as another reminder (like this one) that only a few miles away from our tourist trap island is rural North Carolina: Blades R Us: Knives Swords Blowguns Incense

And speaking of our tourist trap island, I do have a word of advice: if you ever rent a beach house, make sure you get one with an outside shower, preferably enclosed. It's just the thing after a beachy afternoon to rid yourself of "Oak Island Dry Rub" - sea salt and beach sand, beer marinade optional (credit to Chumley for the expression).

And speaking of beach, here's a description of one of the hazards inherent in driving on an island that is mostly sand (from Oak Island/Southport's local paper, the State Port Pilot):

A 2001 Dodge ran into the rear of a 1994 Cadillac slowing down for a traffic light on East Oak Island Drive Sunday. The driver of the Dodge told officers her flip-flop shoe became caught between the brake pedal and the gas pedal as she moved toward the Cadillac.
--State Port Pilot, June 25, 2003, p. 7A

They Only Lack a Brit for the Trifecta

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A rare double entry today--Bill Hobbs scores a Remark Of The Day for summing up the situation in the Tour de France after today's stage (where Armstrong won despite crashing, leaving him and Jan Ullrich as the only riders with a real chance to win):

"Hmm. An American and a German are the only two people with a chance to win in France. Yeah. That's normal! :-)"

I never considered myself morally uptight, but I've got to wonder if I'm the only person who is slightly discomfited by Las Vegas' new ad slogan, "What Happens Here, Stays Here?" The point seems to be that you can do stuff you wouldn't even consider at home:

"'I think it pretty well captures the pervasive feeling people have about Las Vegas,' said Erika Brandvik, manager of public relations for the LVCVA. 'We wanted ads that say you can come to Las Vegas and be a different person than you are back home.'"

I'm just waiting for the first nut job to drift out there, kill a prostitute, then use that as a defense in court.

Now these same people who are telling us "What Happens Here, Stays Here" have their panties all in a bunch about "Hunting For Bambi" (unless, of course, it's all a hoax):

"'As soon as I found out about this, I called for an investigation," Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said. "Las Vegas is a place where anything goes, but this crosses the line if this is real.'"

That statement is an oxymoron, yerhonner--either 'anything goes' or something crosses the line. It can't be both.

Maybe what he meant to say is "Anything goes as long as you dump your wallet into our bucket before you leave and don't do anything to tarnish our new family-friendly image."

Update 15 AUG 2003: Snopes thinks it's a hoax designed to sell... wait for it... videos of naked women being hunted by paintballers! (hat tip: W.V.O. Quine (which is either a pseudonym or a visit from Beyond)

Good Press For AFATDS

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The day job continues to get positive press for how well the system worked in Iraq; the latest is this article in Federal Computer Week. I'm really heartened by this mention:

"Friendly, or blue, force tracking is one area where the system needs no improvement. By using the system to control and clear fire areas, "there were no reported incidents of artillery friendly fire incidents" during Operation Iraqi Freedom, [commanding general of the Army Field Artillery Training Center] Maples said."

Stupid People From My Hometown, Part I

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Administrivia Item #1: I'll be transitioning to MovableType over the next several days, so if things go temporarily weird, that's probably why.

Administrivia Item #2: I need to add something I forgot to mention yesterday: credit goes to one of my favorite comedians, Paul Gilmartin (co-host of Dinner And A Movie and frequent Bob & Tom guest) for the phrase "Undignified Ways To Die."

Moving right along...

I have a friend who was once arrested for DUI (his BAC at the time was .08, which is exactly the legal limit in Indiana, so there's something not quite right there, but that's only incidental to my story). First DUI offense, no priors of any kind. They essentially maxed him out for a first offense with no exacerbating circumstances--overnight in jail, six months suspended license, two years probation, mandatory Driver Re-education, stiff fine. He figures it ended up costing him over $4,000. The point I'm trying to make here is that the system, though somewhat heavy-handed, worked: he was genuinely remorseful about what happened, accepted full responsibility, and to this day won't drive after even just seeing a beer bottle.

Contrast that with the tale of this mental defective, who, I am ashamed to admit, lives in my hometown. Nine hours after being sentenced for his THIRD DUI (five years probation and 30 days in jail with work release; the county prosecutor said there wasn't enough room at the county jail to incarcerate him immediately after sentencing), Numbnuts wraps his car around a tree. Police find--surprise!--four empty beer cans in his car. Mr. Waste-Of-DNA is in critical condition at a Kalamazoo Hospital.

Some people you just can't reach.

Undignified Ways To Die, #38:

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Undignified Ways To Die, #38: How Not To Behave In Your Final Moments

In the latest installment in our series, we examine a good way to ensure a nice warm Final Destination with lots of personal attention at the highest levels. From spankysplace (with a hat tip to His Imperial Majesty), here's Or I'll Sue You!. It's the story of a rather unpleasant lawyer working his last case, so to speak. A taste:

The patient, between howls of pain and moans of agony, had produced a paper from his briefcase and handed it to me. His shaky diaphoretic hand held a fist-full of these documents. Some of them fell from his grasp and flitted harmlessly to the floor. He strained against an agony I hope I never experience and repeated to me, "I’ll SUE You." I didn’t understand. He had come to us for help but the first words out of his mouth in triage were "You have to see me right now, or I’ll SUE you."

Now go read the rest of it. I'll wait.

A Quick Peek Down Under

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According to this story from Fox Sports Australia, a professional soccer team is activing wooing gay fans:

CARLTON has launched a bid to lure more gay supporters.

The Blues want to recruit gay men, lesbians, transgenders and bisexuals in a new membership drive.

Art dealer Lauraine Diggins, the only woman on the new-look Blues board, is driving the push as part of a "new and expansive vision for the club".

It is front-page news in this week's edition of gay newspaper, the Melbourne Star. The newspaper reports the club will contact many of the state's "queer" community groups in its search for new members.

Diggins revealed one aspect of the plan was to attract a lesbian with a professional career and a passion for the Blues to join a new women's networking group.

We have no information on whether the Blues will rename themselves the Pinks.

This News Interactive story describes a Melbourne couple being the first in Australia to be charged with sexual slavery:

The charges are the first of their kind laid under 1995 sexual servitude laws and carry a maximum of 25 years in jail.

The arrests came after raids by Australian Federal Police in Melbourne and Sydney as part of Operation Tennessee, a joint operation with the Immigration Department.

Federal police allege the women, aged 25 to 36, came to Australia legally after being lured to work in the sex industry.

But instead they were forced into slavery under the guise of paying off debts, it is alleged.

The women were allegedly kept locked up in "safe houses" when they were not working.

Police claim they were only allowed out to work at Club 417, a legal brothel run by Ms Tang and Mr Davies in Brunswick St, Fitzroy.

So, was sex slavery legal in Australia before 1995? And I think it's pretty odd that they called it Operation Tennessee. 'Regular' brothels (whatever that means) are legal, so why didn't they call it Operation Nevada?

Stupid Lawyer Tricks

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I've been bashing the French since long before it became popular, so I was all ready to label this story 'Stupid French Tricks.' However, the stupidity here appears not to be of French origin. After reading the story on This Is True, I did a little more digging around and found the original story in the Miami Herald.

"In what appears to be a bizarre case of mistaken identity, French and U.S. authorities were convinced that [Nona] Cason, 39, was Nadine Tretiakoff, a Frenchwoman charged with kidnapping her own two kids from ex-husband Pierre Fourcade."
It seems that Ms. Tretiakoff absconded with her and Fourcade's two children in August of 1997. By some means still not fully known (i.e., those who do know aren't talking), Cason, who bears a resemblance to Tretiakoff, was fingered as the fugitive mom. She was arrested in May, and her two children, who coincidentally are each one year older than the missing children, were placed in foster care. Fourcade was notified and returned from France, where he positively identified Cason as his ex-wife and her children as their children. I was all ready to jump his shit for that, but it's been six years, and he's probably pretty desperate, so I'll cut him some slack there. No, the stupid behavior here is from lawyers for the international arm of the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children, which, if you think about it, is kind of an oxymoron (certainly appropriate, given the behavior I'm about to describe). This group, which assists Interpol with international kidnapping cases, had a picture of Tretiakoff and claimed that Cason bears a strong resemblance to her. They were unwilling to share this photo with the Herald. I find this very odd; typically, if you have a picture of a fugitive you seek, you'd be inclined to circulate that picture as widely as possible.

Stupid Lawyer Trick Of The Month Nominee #1: Kathleen Ruckman, supervising attorney for the NCMEC, "noted that Cason 'looked like a foreign person'" and that she "also heard that the kids weren't going to school and that the family had moved suddenly." Well, holy crap! Call in the friggin' Delta Force (incidentally, from the story, that's not too far off--they blocked off a whole street to trap her for arrest)!

Stupid Lawyer Trick Of The Month Nominee #2: After Cason's identity had been verified and DNA testing had proven that the two children were not Fourcade's, Tim Arcaro, Fourcade's lawyer, was still skeptical, saying "When you think about it -- the length people will go to disguise themselves with plastic surgery. . .".

And the winner for Stupid Lawyer Trick Of The Month: Ruckman, for this little beauty: "Tretiakoff could have been unfaithful during their marriage, resulting in the children having DNA that didn't match the husband." Um, even if that were true, THEY WOULDN'T BE FOURCADE'S CHILDREN AND HE WOULD HAVE NO CASE!

And lawyers wonder why most people loathe them.

UPDATE:Larry's Log scooped me (and This Is True) by almost a month on this. He has a similarly low opinion of Ms. Ruckman, but he missed the angle about the kids not being Fourcade's if the kids weren't Fourcade's. Still, it's good enough to get him blogrolled.

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part IV

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You get into kind of a rhythm when you rent a house at the beach (technically, across the street from the beach--the term is 'second row'). Wake up late, eat breakfast (early lunch, really), pack a cooler full of beer, hit the beach. When the cooler's empty, come back, eat lunch, reload the cooler, and return to the beach. When the cooler's empty again, you've pretty much had enough beach for the day, so you come back, rinse off in the shower underneath the house, then drip try in the breeze on the deck with more beer until dinner. After a seafood dinner that would have cost $40 per person back in Indiana, the serious drinking begins.

The amount of beer six determined adults can consume in this fashion is truly mind-boggling.

Of course, it's not just drinking beer. The surf on Oak Island was good enough for some decent bodyboarding; indeed, most days the hardest part was fighting your way out past the waves breaking right on the beach to get to the ones you want to ride. I claim no special skills here: mostly, I just jump out right in front of a wave and let it push me in to the beach. Occasionally, I hit one Just Right and actually get a good hard ride out of it. A couple of those in a row and I start thinking Dangerous Thoughts. F'rinstance: one time, I saw a benign-looking big wave, and I got cute and tried to ride across it instead of straight ahead. The ocean was having none of it. To punish me for my impudence, it rolled me, then flipped me, then, in a final indignity, cracked me in the head with my own board. I swallowed enough seawater to salt meals I'd crapped out three days ago, and I had an entire gravel pit in my swimsuit. And all I could think about was how fast I could get back out and catch another wave.

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part III

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Whenever I travel, I like to pick up a copy of the local paper to get a feel for what kind of news the area residents are getting. Sometimes it's a daily, like the Lawton (OK) Constitution with its frequent attention to nearby Fort Sill. Other areas have a weekly paper, like my hometown Allegan (MI) County News. Anyway, it's easy to forget that even though I spent the last two weeks on a tourist trap island, only a few miles inland is rural North Carolina, where you get stories like this (courtesy of Oak Island/Southport's local paper, the State Port Pilot):

A resident of the 300 block of Liberty Road said she returned home from work Friday evening to find that her home had been entered. Officer C. Ledbetter said the woman reported a $100 radio, four cans of beer, and a roll of generic toilet paper were stolen. Police found no evidence.
--State Port Pilot, June 25, 2003, p. 7A

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part II

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One day on vacation, I was sitting on the front porch of the house, which overlooks Beach Drive, and the oceanfront houses, and the ocean, when I heard a stereo coming down the road. A long time later, the car that was the transport system for said stereo came into view. The car was a Mazda Protege5 four-door hatchback; the driver was a sullen twentyish male with the requisite baseball cap, Oakley shades, and B-pillar lean (you know what I'm talking about: the driver's seat is reclined nearly all the way back and the driver's head is leaning against the door pillar so it looks like there isn't actually anyone in the driver's seat at all). The only thing I could think of as he went by: "Dude, it doesn't matter how loud your stereo is or how cool you think you are--you're still driving a station wagon!"

Hulk Shag!

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Ya gotta love those Spainards. According to the London Sun, Spanish toymaker Play By Play created a 12-inch stuffed Hulk doll that's not only anatomically correct, but anatomically proportional as well! The story features this picture:

which of course made me think of this (probably fictional) exchange between the photographer and the little girl: "OK Leah, now look at the doll... no, I need you to look up at its head... no, the OTHER head..." [CLICK!] "Finally!"

Money quote:

"And last night [mother] Kim called for a ban on the saucy toy. She said: 'A hulk with a bulk like this just shouldn’t be allowed.'"

Random Vacation Thoughts, Part I

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I'm back from vacation, tanned (more or less), rested (definitely), and ready to run. I'll be emptying out the notebook over the next few days as I transcribe what I thought about while on Oak Island (not this one, this one). So let's get started.

I never understood the fascination with 'Southern' culture, usually manifested by the Confederate flag. I've always considered it a code word for redneck racism, but I could never quite quantify why until now. I was at a souvenir shop on Oak Island when I saw a t-shirt that said 'celebrating a rebirth of southern culture' or some stupid shit like that. On the back was a map of the US with the 'usual suspect' states highlighted, as well as one that surprised me--Missouri. I lived in Missouri for two years, and I know that the only people who fly the Confederate flag there are the same kind of shit-for-brains rednecks that fly the Confederate flag in other Northern states. Then it hit me--what all those states have in common. Before the Civil War, they were slave states. Thus, my conclusion: "Southern 'culture'" = "slavery."

I welcome any rational attempt to explain exactly where I got it wrong (hint: if your response contains the word 'Yankee,' it probably fails the rationality test and you submit it at your own risk. Especially egregious responses will be vigorously fisked).


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