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Mike's Soapbox - Best 2003 Rants

1/12 - World:  Why we shouldn't attack Iraq - Here are my reasons for why we should not attack Iraq:

1. Saddam doesn't threaten me. Saddam may or may not have weapons of mass destruction. And he may want to use them against me. But, he has no means to deliver them. So, that means that he can use them against his neighbors. But are any of them feeling threatened? Not really. If they did, you would think that Saudi Arabia and Turkey would be begging us to kick ass instead of fighting us at every chance they get. And yes, maybe Israel feels threatened by Iraq (I think Israel feels threatened by EVERYONE in the region), but Israel is not afraid of Iraq. Nor are they afraid of kicking ass when they feel threatened (anyone remember the Osirik attack?). Besides, I feel more threatened by North Korea than I do from Iraq... And by portraying Saddam as a threat legitimizes Saddam's power - and further emboldens him - in the view of Middle Eastern extremists.

2. An attack will "make" Saddam. Remember September 10th? The economy was going down the tubes, and the biggest issue was human stem-cell research. Then, the next day, Osama bin Laden attacks the US - and the entire nation rallies around President Bush. The economy continues to go down the crapper, yet NONE of that matters, because Bush has been "made" by Osama. Osama made Bush larger than life. No Osama, and no GOP sweep of the last election. Yet, having Bush go after Saddam might "make" Saddam - portraying him as the victim of American aggression and allowing him to appeal to the exact people that we hope to stop in the war on terrorism.

3. I don't believe the "Saddam-Osama" link. Try as they might, there is no link between Saddam and Osama. Besides the obvious differences (Osama is a fundamentalist, while Saddam is a secular), there is one major difference - neither wants to share the spotlight. Why didn't Saddam start sabre-rattling during the Kosovo crisis, when Congress said that they didn't feel the US could fight two simultaneous regional wars? Because Saddam didn't want to share the spotlight with Milosevic. And he doesn't want to share the spotlight with Osama.

4. Show me the proof! Where's the proof? Anyone remember the Cuban missile crisis, when President Kennedy showed spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba? There was no way they could deny it. Where is President Bush showing us the satellite photos of the scuds armed with mass destructive warheads? Where is the proof? Now, do I think Saddam is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction? Damn right, I think he is, but do I know for absolutely sure? No. Do I want to risk the lives of millions of people on both sides because of something I think? No, and neither does the rest of the world. The Europeans I talked all said show them the proof, and they are on board, but without proof, how can we attack based on nothing but what we think Saddam might have?

5. Terrorists getting their hands on WMD. Right now, if Saddam has any weapons of mass destruction, he likely can't get his hands on them easily, as they are all hidden from the inspectors. But likely they are under serious guard, as he doesn't want any of his internal opposition to get a hold of them to use against him. Now, let's suppose that they are at some base in a bunker somewhere. Now, we come in and bomb the crap out of the base, killing all the guards. Who is there to stop a terrorist from going in and getting a hold of those weapons? Isn't it more dangerous to leave weapons of mass destruction sitting there in a country made chaotic by war? After all, the Taliban could never have come to power if the Soviets hadn't invaded Afghanistan first.

6. Why shouldn't the North Koreans and Iranians feel threatened? Iran and North Korea are the other parts of the so-called "axis of evil." This week, the Bush administration has been working hard to make North Korea not feel threatened, as they don't want to go to war with North Korea right now. But, if we succeed in winning a war with Iraq, how can we possibly convince North Korea and Iran that we won't be coming after them? By the way, North Korea has a million man army, weapons of mass destruction, and might have the capability to lob those weapons against Alaska, Hawaii, and the western US. Even if they can't reach the US, it is known that they can definitely hit South Korea and Japan with WMD. Can you imagine the global economy after a North Korean attack upon Japan?

7. Khadafi. Or Ghadafi, or Qaddafi, or however they choose to spell his name this week. In 1988, there was a CIA report that Khadafi was building a chemical weapons plant in southern Libya, and that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. In December 1988, President Reagan was threatening to attack the plant. Later in March 1990, President Bush threatened to attack the plant. Yet, in the 14 years since the first news of the plant, what happened to Khadafi? Isn't he still a threat? Can't he produce chemical weapons? How did he get out of being a member of the "axis of evil?" Why don't we still feel threatened by Libya any more?

8. We don't need more people pissed of at America. There are many fundamentalist Muslims pissed at America - there is no doubt about this. What we don't need is to piss off the rest of the world. There was a feeling in Europe that the US was trying to manipulate the European Union to admit Turkey in return for the US using Turkey's bases in a war with Iraq; Turkey didn't get admitted, and Europeans were that much more pissed at America. It further drove a wedge between US and Europe. An attack on Iraq without seeking UN approval will not play well in Europe. Do we really want a united Europe as our enemy? It could happen...

9. Gas prices. Gas prices are climbing because of the unrest in Venezuela. Do you think an attack will help lower them? What about a potential embargo by the other Middle Eastern oil-producing nations? Again, I don't think Iran will sit by and wait for us to attack them next, especially when we can do so from bases in an American-occupied Iraq...

10. What will it achieve? Seriously, what will it achieve? Terrorists will still be out there. They will still want to get their hands on WMD. They will still want to attack America (and likely will have one more reason to do so). Yes, Iraq will no longer be a source of weapons for them, but where is the proof that Iraq is currently a source of weapons for them? In fact, didn't the terrorists who attacked us get most of their funding from Saudi Arabia? So, again, what will an attack - an attack at the expense of pissing off the rest of the world - really get us?

2/5 - World:  More reasons why we shouldn't attack Iraq - Here are some more reasons for why we should not attack Iraq:

11. The cost. I heard somewhere that a new Gulf War will cost around $60 billion. Don't forget that the last Gulf War happened at the same time as the end of the Cold War, so we had a HUGE surplus of weapons. Now, we have had to replenish our arsenal of Tomahawks as well as fund all new weapons, like bunker-buster bombs, etc. Plus, this one is going to involve a LOT more ground troops. And they will be there longer as an occupying force.

And, one thing everyone keeps forgetting is the impact on employers of reservists who have been called up. For example, I know a company who pays their employees their full annual salary even when they are called up on active duty. Yet, that employee is unavailable to work their regular job, so the company also have to 1) hire temporary help to suck up the manning shortage or 2) pay overtime to the rest of the employees to cover the manning shortfall. Either way, it costs the company, so that means less profits and less incentive for investors.

12. Secure America, THEN go attack. The Department of Homeland Security is barely two weeks old. Have all the agencies been transferred yet? Was there a seamless transfer of responsibility? Is America suddenly secure? Doubtful. Perhaps we should wait a few weeks (or better yet, months) for the Department of Homeland Security to get organized so that we can feel safer knowing that if Saddam DOES decide to use terrorism, our security is ready.

13. The inevitable backlash against Arab-Americans. I have some good friends who are Arab-Americans. You know as well as I do that either after the start of Desert Storm II or after an Iraqi counterattack, some redneck is going to get all worked up and decide to take out his aggression on his closest Middle Eastern grocer. Hell, we saw it after September 11th. People got all pissed off and decided to take out their aggression by throwing rocks through Arab businesses' windows. I would like to know how the Department of Homeland Security plans to protect us from THAT form of terrorism...

2/18 - World:  Yet more reasons why we shouldn't attack Iraq - Here are some more reasons for why we should not attack Iraq:

14. The end of NATO and the UN? The United States has said they would act alone if need be. Recent polls said many Americans favored going against the UN in a war with Iraq. In interviews with average citizens many have said that the UN's time has come, and if they don't support us, then we should pull out of the UN. But that is exactly why the UN was created in the first place: it's not a "yes" organization to support American policy, but a forum where any country - even those small impoverished countries without powerful militaries - can have a say along side the world's superpowers. And if those countries say no, then it should mean something to us.

And then France and Germany blocked our attempt to get NATO agreement to the defense of Turkey. And the response of many Americans? "Screw NATO; the Cold War is over." Indeed, the Cold War is over, and NATO still has a powerful purpose. Not to stand against Russia, but to help protect it. And how does NATO do that? By keeping Germany in check. With Germany surrounded by mutually defensive countries, there is no need to rearm itself with a powerful military. Yet, if NATO were gone, what would prevent Europe from turning back to its historical rivalries?

People may think that the UN and NATO have served their purposes and things will be better if they are gone; however, I think the fact that there hasn't been a major world war in almost 60 years shows the benefit of these organizations. We should not take warnings of their demise lightly.

2/27 - World:  What I would do in Iraq - Someone on another forum asked what I would do to stop Saddam without going to war. This is what I came up with:

First of all, this war is about one thing. It's not about oil. It's not about the liberation of the Iraqi people (honestly, how much sleep have we lost over the Iraqi people? I know I don't take a moment of each day to think about the starving people under the torturous tyrant. And if Osama never attacked the US, there would be no "liberation of the Afghan people.") Likewise, this war isn't about preventing terrorists from getting their hands on WMD; they can much more easily obtain them from Libya or North Korea.

This war is about one thing: "regime change." Does anyone remember February 16, 2001? We attacked a command and control facility just outside Baghdad after our planes came under attack in the No Fly Zone. Almost immediately after that, the Bush Administration's policy towards Iraq was concentrated on "regime change." For good reason, too, as I will get to.

So here is what I would do:

1. Give the UN inspectors satellite phones. This way, as we gather all this real-time intelligence from Predators, Global Hawk, satellites, U-2s, and our other vast arsenals of eavesdropping, we can call the inspectors and show them the way to the smoking gun. Was I the only one who saw Secretary Powell hold us the picture of the Iraqis driving off with the chemical weapons at the same moment the inspectors arrive and wonder why no one called the UN and told them not to bother inspecting the bunker but check out that truck instead? And this is where the foreign mistrust of President Bush comes in: successful inspections will not lead to regime change. So the question I hear all the time from the foreign media is whether or not the US is trying to make the inspections fail, so that we have no choice but to pursue regime change. So, we call the inspectors when we see an opportunity like this, they find a smoking gun, and no one can deny that Saddam is trying to rearm.

2. Break it down for the UN. Let's assume (bear with me here) that the inspections are 100% effective in removing weapons of mass destruction and the capability to produce them. (I don't know, maybe they develop x-ray vision or something.) So, the UN certifies that Iraq is fully disarmed. Then what? They leave, lift the sanctions, and now Saddam is free to again pump oil, and this time, he can simply buy a nuke (AND the capability to launch it) from North Korea, so he doesn't have to worry about all that cumbersome research to do it domestically.

So, I would explain it to the UN in these terms: Saddam has invaded his neighbor and committed war crimes. We are now left to simply trust that he won't do it again. It's simply not good enough; in this day and age of WMD, we can't trust anyone like that. I would remind them of Napoleon. He was exiled to Elba, and then later, he came back, started a war again, and they had to defeat him a second time and send him further away. What if Napoleon had WMD after he left Elba; Waterloo might have been a lot different. So, like it or not, we can't afford to leave Saddam in power. It's as simple as that.

3. Break it down for the Iraqi people. Explain to them that we really don't care what they do as long as they don't threaten their neighbors. Want to ban Western television and cover your women from head to toe? We don't care. We want Saddam; after that, you can live however you want. Explain that we are going to start a war, and the end goal is to remove Saddam from power. If we can drop a single bomb and get Saddam, then we will pick up our forces, leave Iraq, and let UN inspectors finish up making sure there are no more WMD laying around, and then, a few months later, they're on their own. The Iraqi people can elect a new leader, who can come to Washington and do a photo op with President Bush, and then go home. They will be our friends if they want to, and as long as they don't build WMD or attack their neighbors, we'll simply leave them alone. Oh, and if they get attacked by Iran or Syria, we'll be in there to protect them like we did with Kuwait; therefore, they don't need a huge defense. And I would tell the Iraqis (and all their friends in that region) that if they simply hand over Saddam or kill him for us, we won't have to deal with a bloody war. Make it clear that we won't be planning to use Iraq as a base of operations nor plan to occupy their country. Tell them they can be like Romania or Yugoslavia; you overthrow your dictator, and we'll leave you alone. And in the case of the Romanians, you can even be our friends.

4. Put the pressure on North Korea. I'd then pull the ground forces from Saudi Arabia, send them home for a brief rest, and get them ready to deploy to South Korea. Meanwhile I would impose an embargo on North Korea with the Navy. Similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis, this time we would be stopping any outgoing ships to make sure they aren't carrying nukes, missiles, or other WMD to terrorists. No weapons? You can pass. Oh, and North Korea could make it very easy by shutting down their reactor and allowing inspectors back in. But North Korea has a history of selling missiles to whoever is willing to pay - Pakistani, Iranian, Yemeni, Peruvian - so if there was ever a concern about terrorists getting WMD, it's the threat from North Korea.

That's what I would do. Let's just all be honest. It's not about oil, it's not about liberation, it's not about stopping terrorism; it's about getting rid of Saddam Hussein - plain and simple.

3/17 - World:  A message to the future - As we stand here on the eve of war, I want to send a message to the future.

Even if in the next 48 hours Saddam does the unthinkable and goes into exile, the damage has already been done. The United Nations has lost its effectiveness at keeping peace in the world. There are those who say that Saddam was the one who weakened the UN, and if President Bush did not respect the UN, he would not have worked for a resolution.

However, the fact that the President could not get the votes needed to carry his resolution will also be remembered in history. The UN did speak: it did NOT give the majority of the votes needed to go to war now. And as for President Bush: he asked the question, but didn't agree with the answer, so he chose not to hear it. The UN clearly showed the world is not ready to go to war with Iraq.

The United States Constitution was written so that Congress, not the President, has the power to declare war. It was so that unlike the European monarchies, the people and NOT a single leader decided when the nation went to war. However, several weeks ago I heard a Congressman say about the war: "We will go to war when the President decides it is time to go to war." Funny, Congressman, I thought it was YOU, and not the President, who decides when we go to war... If we are going to defy the UN, at least let's make this official and get a declaration of war.

France has been vilified; Americans are changing the names of "French fires" to "freedom fries." Anyone and anything French is hated almost as much as Saddam himself. Yet the Saudis, our alleged trusted allies, will not allow us the use of their bases in this attack. And yet no one will stand against the Saudis. In my book, the Saudis are worse than the French. We are, after all, going there to help protect them; they reward us by continuing to support terrorism and not supporting us as we try to rid Saddam. If you are pro-war, how can you not hold the Saudis as accountable as the French?

This war will highlight American hypocrisy. We will use the "save the children" line when it serves our ends, but then turn a blind eye when it doesn't help us out. (Just look at what we did in Rwanda - err, rather what we didn't do in Rwanda...) We claim to want to liberate the people of Iraq from human rights abuses while turning a blind eye to similar human rights abuses in Africa. We claim to want to help the children of Iraq while ignoring the children of the Africa, where the infant mortality rate is almost double that of Iraq. We claim to want to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, while turning a blind eye to Libya and North Korea, who churn out far more chemical weapons than Iraq - and has no qualms about sharing those with our enemies. The US fights when the US has something to gain from it; we can claim the moral high ground all we want, but the fact is that unless we are prepared to save the entire world, we shouldn't try to claim high ideals of humanity as our justification for beating the crap out of some other country - especially when the most clearest motive is revenge.

I support our troops. In fact, it is because I support the troops, I don't want to see us go to war. I supported the troops in 1991 during Desert Storm; and I still support those same troops when we call on the government to increase funding for research into Gulf War Syndrome. And while there is no cure (nor even a complete understanding of Gulf War Syndrome), we are now going to send troops into that same mess again. Only this time, if the media and government are correct, Saddam will use chemical weapons on our troops. No matter what protection the troops have, it will never be 100%. And when our troops come home, whether victorious or not, I will be there to cheer them home and I will remember them, even as the rest of world goes back to their busy day-to-day life. It is at that point, when this war is over, when we will really see who does and who does not support the troops.

And now I am in a dilemma. If Saddam uses chemical weapons and kills hundreds of Iraqi civilians and our troops, he will have justified our war. Yet, if he does NOT use chemical weapons, the future will be full of debates about whether or not the US was justified in attacking Iraq. In fact, it is a no win situation.

If history records that the United States acted as the aggressor in this war, let it also record that there are some of us who stood opposed to this war. If history records that the United States was justified in attacking Iraq, let it likewise record that I was wrong.

Unlike many others - and dare I say our President - I am not afraid of how history remembers me at this moment.

God bless America - because win or lose, we are going to need His help to get us out of this mess...

3/27 - Entertainment:  Ain't nothin on - Every time I turn on the TV recently, there isn't ever anything on.

For example:

I can count on the war being on most of the major networks. Well, not quite the war, but some ex-general who retired 30 years ago speculating about the war is being fought. And there was a reason this guy was a general and not a TV star...

Except for CBS. They are busy showing basketball. Oh, how I miss seeing Dan Rather from the front lines in his safari jacket...

Flip past Lifetime where there is yet another "woman in distress" TV movie featuring Meredith Baxter Birney or Nancy McKeon...

Flip past MTV. Still no music, but some reality show...

Flip past VH1. "Behind the Music." How about some music, any music?

Flip past TNT. Law and Order. Don't know which variant it is, but it is hard to tell L&O from CNN, because so many of the recent seasons of L&O have been "Ripped from the headlines!"

Flip past Comedy Central. The 40th airing today of "Mannequin 3."

Flip past Discovery. Some show about mummies. Guaranteed.

Flip past TLC. Home repair, makeovers, weddings, babies - crap.

Flip past PBS. Ah, who the hell cares about PBS...

Flip past ESPN. Well, since CBS is showing basketball, ESPN and ESPN2 have to show some "sports entertainment" like bass fishing or poker...

Flip past CNN, MSNBC, and FoxNews. Still all-war coverage, but this time they've got those tickers going, which are likely to give me epileptic seizures...

Flip past BBC America. What the hell is this? Need to turn on my captions so I can understand what they are saying. Almost like they're speaking American, but it sounds a little funny...

Flip past the religious channels. God loves me, God hates me, God wants my money...

Flip past - hey, wait a minute. There was a boob! Oh, it's an independent arthouse film. Yeah, I am not going to sit through another 45 minutes of boring crap for the hope of glimpsing another shot of a boob...

Flip past USA and TNN. At any given time on one of these two networks you will see either wrestling or a Jean-Claude Van Damme film...

Flip past the History Channel. What? A documentary on World War II? Seen it...

Flip past Game Show Network. Press Your Luck? And Match Game 1974? "Name the top selling record from 1968." What's a record? Moving on...

Flip past infomercials. Wow, how can I lose weight, make a lot of money, increase my penis-size, and increase my strength through this special offer? Well, I don't need to watch this show; I can just read the spam in my inbox...

Flip past TV Land. A rerun of Maude followed by Square Pegs...

Flip past Food Network. Some stuff that looks really good on TV, but will come out looking like a lump of coal and taste like dirty socks if I cook it...

Ahh, community access. There is usually something good on here, like our local cop who tells us about the latest statistics on crime in our city. It's a great show to fall asleep to, but I am not tired yet, so I think I will move on.

And we are back to the major networks and war coverage...

Perhaps I will read a book instead...

4/30 - World:  Why they need Israel to exist - So, the other day I was thinking: what if, in an alternate universe, Israel did not exist. How would our world be different?

First, there are those who believe that there would be peace in the Middle East. But if you think about it, there have been many wars over the years that did not involve Israel - Iran-Iraq, Iraq-Kuwait, Cyprus-Greece-Turkey, Libya-Chad, the Yemen civil war, USSR-Afghanistan. No, if Israel did not exist, there would still be war and conflict in the Middle East.

So, if there was no Israel, there would be prosperity for the Palestinians? Well, probably not. Palestine would likely be as impoverished as other Middle East nations. Palestine would have almost no exports, would likely receive little foreign aid, and would be very dependent upon tourism dollars for what little economy they could eek out. The land in that area is not conducive to agriculture, requires the import of raw materials for most manufacturing, and leaves the service industry as the only real economy driver, which would be almost exclusively focused on tourism. Also, one of the only ways that Israel survives in the region is due to large amounts of foreign aid.

The Middle East is a very interesting place. There are wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, who are very rich from their oil profits. Then, there are countries like Afghanistan or Pakistan that are significantly poorer. Interesting, though, that there are hundreds (or possibly thousands) of would-be terrorists in these countries eagerly signing on with organizations that seek to cause terror in Israel and the United States. Now, if there were no Israel, conceivably there would be no terrorism in the Middle East; well, perhaps not to the scale that we know it today. And likely with different targets.

Let me explain: Saudis and other wealthy Arab states contribute millions of dollars to terrorist groups bent on the destruction of Israel. In Saudi Arabia, there are telethons to raise money for the families of suicide bombers. So, throughout the Middle East, it appears that the wealthy states are contributing financially to the cause of destroying Israel.

But, in the alternate universe, where there is no Israel, you would have a large group of haves (the wealthy Arab states) and a larger groups of have-nots (all the rest of the poor countries). Only this time, there is no Israel to rally everyone behind. In the alternate universe, you have a group of have-nots living in poverty while the rest of the region lives in great wealth. With no Israel to focus your anger towards, where would you focus your anger? This - this is why they need Israel to exist.

One of the key features of Islam is its idea of charity. Almsgiving and distribution of wealth are key teachings of the Koran. I believe that to some, the contributions to terrorist groups are considered donations to charity. However, if in this alternate universe there were no Israel, and thus, no terrorist groups seeking its destruction, there would likely be many thousands of impoverished Muslims calling for a greater distribution of wealth to the poorer nations. However, in this universe, all of the attention is focused on Israel; I never hear outcries for the wealthy Saudis to help pay to rebuild Afghanistan or Iraq. Could it be that in an alternate universe without an Israel that some of these impoverished would form terrorist groups that would attack the wealthier Arab nations for attention, like they did to us on September 11th? It could happen. If I were a poor Afghani herdsman, I would be pretty pissed if my Muslim brethren were driving Cadillacs in Saudi Arabia while I struggled to feed my family while herding goats trying to avoid ex-Soviet landmines... and I wouldn't have someone saying pointing to Israel explaining that they are the ones I should be pissed at.

So, the point of this rant is this: if the Palestinians would not be better off today if Israel ceased to exist, what is served by seeking its destruction? Will it lead to peace? Doubtful. Will it lead to prosperity? Highly doubtful. Granted, Israel has its share of problems (would they still be receiving the necessary billions of dollars in foreign aid if they weren't on the verge of being obliterated?), but what really will be achieved if the ultra-radical on either side ultimately were to achieve its goal of wiping out the other side?

5/5 - World:  Why they need the Palestinians to exist - So, since I thought about what if Israel didn't exist, what about the other possibility - that instead of fighting Israel, all their Arab neighbors and the Palestinians welcomed them with open arms?

First, Israel would probably be a lot poorer. Each year, the United States sends approximately $3 billion in aid to Israel. Over half of this aid is military aid. If they didn't have to fight, they wouldn't need as much foreign aid. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid - over 30% of the total foreign aid budget - and would likely be nowhere near as prosperous without it. Without this aid, the immigration of thousands of Russian Jews in the 1990s would easily have overwhelmed the Israeli economy...

Second, Israel would not have the blind eye of the US turned toward it. Israel does a lot of stuff that we condemn other nations for - torturing prisoners, developing weapons of mass destruction, disproportionate responses to violence. Yet, this is often justified by American politicians by reminding people that "Israel is fighting for their very survival." If Israel didn't have to fight with their neighbors, they wouldn't be as powerful politically as they currently are.

Third, they wouldn't have all the support of Americans. Pat Robertson has been pretty vocal in recent years about his support for Israel in the struggle for peace in the Middle East. But, I am pretty sure that if Israel wasn't fighting Muslims, Pat would be over there trying to convert as many of them as he could. Pat has called Islam a "violent religion;" is his support for Israel based on true friendship, or embracing our enemy's enemy as our friend?

My point with this is that Israel has as much to gain from keeping the violence going as it does to lose. If they were to make peace, I suspect a lot of that foreign aid would dry up. They also wouldn't likely be able to use the "fighting for our survival" card as a blank check to do whatever they feel like in the world. And just as how our own government constantly reminds us of the threat of terrorism to keep people from questioning the crappy economy, I am sure there are those in Israel who want the constant threat to keep their position of power.

I really hope that both sides can come to an agreement. However, based on what I see, both sides will lose a lot of their economic, political, and military support if they make peace. It's going to have to take someone to show the people on both sides that the violence they are waging against one another is not working to either side's advantage.

Ideally, imagine if a united Israel-Palestine could get foreign aid from both Washington AND Riyadh! They could not only rebuild their country into the most beautiful country in the Middle East, it could probably easily stand on its own without the need for ANY foreign aid. People would likely visit from all over the world once the region was safe from terror, bringing with them billions of dollars in tourism! Israelis and Palestinians would both go from living in fear or poverty to living in security and prosperity.

It just seems so obvious to me, I don't know why either side wouldn't embrace a peace movement. But then again, both sides would have to give up a lot if they wish to live in peace. Perhaps it's just easier to think about wiping out the other side instead of trying to find ways to live with them...

5/13 - Entertainment:  Why Enterprise Sucks Ass - I am a huge fan of science fiction on TV. And with the cancellation of Farscape and Firefly, I now have to rely on Enterprise to fulfill my TV sci-fi hunger. And I am starving.

Why does Enterprise suck the big one?

Well, originally, the prequel premise sounded cool. Then, I found out that the enemy was going to be the Taliban, err, the "Suliban." Oh, and "temporal cold war." Temporal cold war? Cold wars are boring. Time travel stuff works like once a series, not once a week.

And then the worst part: the writers have never actually SEEN any Star Trek episodes. Obviously. Spock was the first Vulcan in Starfleet. Err, well, after T'Pol. No one saw a Ferengi until the 24th Century. Err, well, Captain Archer did about 200 years earlier, but they didn't take any pictures, bother to get their names, or put it in a database. Must have been an oversight.

In fact, it is the lack of attention to detail that even cheapens the other series. For example, in last week's episode with *SIGH* the Borg, it was discovered that Starfleet encountered the Borg a long time ago. So now when you at the series linearly, it appears that Picard was a dumbass for not bothering to check the Starfleet database when he first encountered the Borg. Otherwise, he would have discovered that yes, the Borg existed, and all he had to do was douse his crew with Omicron radiation or some crap and stop the Borg...

And now, Rick Berman thinks he is going to save Star Trek with a daring new plan. As he tells TV Guide, "What we are about to do is a first for Star Trek... there has never been a Trek series built around a specific mission and specific stakes - in this case, the very future of mankind." Hmm. Rick Berman must have forgotten Deep Space 9 seasons 5-7, where the Federation fought a war with the Dominion to save earth - and the VERY FUTURE OF MANKIND! Of course, perhaps Rick Berman wasn't around much during that time, which would explain the superior quality of DS9 over anything since then!

And then I read further to TV Guide for more about the upcoming season finale for Enterprise: "[Berman and Braga] penned a daring script... thwart the Xindi [who launch a terrorist attack against Earth]... To prevent the aliens from developing more weapons of mass destruction..." You know, Law and Order jumped the shark when they started showing episodes that were all "ripped from the headlines." (If I wanted to watch "ripped from the headlines," I'd watch Dateline...) Now, Enterprise is going to save itself by ripping stories from the headlines.

Enterprise has the same plots over and over. The crew encounters a group of aliens. They seem harmless enough, but they are hiding a secret - a secret that could be deadly for the crew! (I could write their promos...) Then, the crew discovers their secret and saves the day! Yeah, the good guys always win! But they also then spend the final episode pontificating about morals. These aren't sci-fi stories; they're morality plays set in space. And they don't keep any sort of consistency with any of the other Star Trek episodes. (Seriously, the Borg? Are you SO out of ORIGINAL ideas that you have to destroy everything that was great about the other series? Didn't you do enough damage with that abomination known as "Voyager"?)

The thing that was great about Farscape was that it was just good sci-fi. No "deep moral themes", no "good guys always win" - I mean, hell, the main character was freaking nuts most of the time, as I think we all would be if we were shot across the galaxy and stuck in an alien universe...

Please, Rick Berman, PLEASE give Star Trek a rest. You've done enough damage...

Okay, that's it - I have spouted what has to be one of my longest rants about Star Trek, thus assuring my place in the Pantheon on uber-geeks...

5/30 - Religion:  God, Noah, and the Ark - I was just thinking about Noah and the Ark:

Why didn't God just snap his fingers and flood the earth while leaving a protective bubble around Noah and the animals?

Imagine God telling Noah, "Good news and bad news. Well, mostly bad news. I am going to flood the earth, killing everyone and everything. But the good news I am saving you, sort of. You see, the other bad news is I am going to make you work your ass off for the next few weeks making you build a big ass ship. Then, I am going to make you go and get two of every kind of animal. Oh, and even though you aren't a zoologist, you are on your own for trying to figure out that you got a male and female of each kind. And good luck down there in Australia."

Then Noah would say something like, "Yeah, God, that kinda sucks. Couldn't you just like, I don't know, go poof - and create me a boat? I mean, you did make the universe and everyone and everything in it?"

And God then will hath said to him, "Oh, but thou hath not heard the worst part. No, I am going to make you sit on this cramped, rickety home-built boat for 40 days and 40 nights with all these animals."

And then Noah will hath replied, "Err, God, maybe you could leave me like a couple of extra people to help clean out the ark? You know, there's going to be a lot of crap after that all that time at sea."

And then God will hath replied, "Oh, yeah, maybe it gets worse still. Oh, well, it'll be fun. Think of it like a Caribbean cruise. Don't you remember a few months ago when you were considering it? You prayed about it for days! And now, in fact, I gave you a good excuse to actually go on a cruise. I mean, after all, how else are you going to get the species of coqui frog that only lives in the Caribbean? And while you are building your ark, set up a shuffleboard, and then for those 40 days and 40 nights, just imagine that the animals are like tourists, and you'll see how quickly this little trip will seem like a cruise."

Noah then would reply, "Yeah, well God, maybe you could see fit to give me one of those 'all you can eat' buffets, especially when it comes to feeding the animals? I mean, I have to make room for me, my family, the animals, and food for the animals. And then considering that a lot of them are carnivores, that means I am going to need a lot of extra animals..."

And then God said, "Whoa, will ye look at the time? You better get started on that construction."

"Hey, God, word is that your son is a carpenter... Any way I can get his help on this one?" Noah asked. "You know, this is a big project, and I hear he's a real miracle worker."

"Nah, I think he'll sit this one out. I might send him in, oh, I don't know maybe 5000 years or so. But for now, better get to work. Good luck!"

Noah would think about it, and then say, "I hope this is all worth it."

And God would say, "Yeah, well, it's not going to be. In about 8000 years, I'm going to destroy the world again. Although that time, I think I might use fire..." God thinks about it a moment and then laughs. "Ha! If you think you got it bad, just think of that poor schmuck! Just remember that when you think of invoking my name in vain while you are getting seasick on Day 23... You know, there ought to be a law against that. Well, Noah, you get to work on building that boat; I am going to go write some laws. What do you think - maybe ten or so?"

6/11 - World:  New Saudi ads - So, I am sitting here watching Jeopardy this evening, and I see this commercial for Saudi Arabia that says something like, "We are separated by three oceans, one language, but we share the same desires..."

Hmm. We don't desire to keep our women under heavy robes, but we DO desire that you keep your extremists from hijacking our planes and flying them into our buildings, killing thousands of civilians. Oh, and we DO desire that you stop having telethons to raise money for terrorists, and also DO desire that you start cracking down on terrorists within your own borders or who receive support from YOUR wealthy citizens. And we do desire that you start supporting us by letting use your bases to crack down on terrorism, rather than just running commercials telling us how great of friends you are.

"... the same dreams, the same joy, and the same pain..."

So, not counting the Saudi hijackers, how many Saudis died in the September 11th attacks? How many Saudis died liberating Iraq? Yeah, that's what I thought. Not quite the same pain...

Oh, and keeping your women from driving and keeping them without rights isn't really the same dream we have...

"... and the same hope that we can make our world a safer place - together..."

Okay, you start by cracking down on the terrorists within your borders. Then, maybe support us as we try to get Iraq, Syria, and Iran to stop trying to produce weapons of mass destruction, so we don't have to eventually go kick their asses and piss off even more of the world at us. If you supported our foreign policy initiatives there, our President wouldn't be able to start a war there! (and I mean real support, not just this lip service...)

The funny thing is that you see all these scenes of Saudi Arabia looking like Orlando. Yes, there are scenes of a mall, scenes of a girl sitting on her father's lap and picking flowers (without a burka), scenes of a father walking with his two sons, scenes of two girls playing at the ocean (without burkas), scenes of Saudi men at a food stand, scenes of two small boys with their arms around each other, and scenes of Saudi men walking out of an office building.

Where were the women? Well, if you look closely at the scenes at the mall, down at the bottom of your screen very small are some women walking in their burkas. And that is it.

Put up or shut up is what I say.
Don't insult me with these commercials saying you are our allies and we share the same desires, while you DENIED US THE USE OF YOUR BASES DURING OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM!
Don't tell me that we share the same desire to make the world safer AND THEN DENY US THE USE OF YOUR BASES IN STOPPING SADDAM HUSSEIN!

You want to show us how we are friends? Bring us Osama bin Laden, stop funding terrorists, and let us use your bases to protect our country. Until then, don't insult my intelligence with your propaganda...

6/28 - Nation:  The National Do Not Call List - I hope this one works, and I'll sign up for it, but I am a little skeptical after the one passed by the Minnesota legislature last year.

You see, telemarketers get around it by 1) claiming they aren't selling you anything, but rather attempting to arrange to set up a sales appointment with you, which their lawyers tell them is different from the "no sales calls" in the law or 2) claiming to be oblivious to the law.

Here is one of the examples:

Telemarketer: Hello, do you have a mortgage?
Me: Uh, are you aware of the Minnesota Do Not Call law?
TM: Yes, but this isn't a sales call.
Me: Well, you are calling me at 8 AM on a Saturday morning asking me if I have a mortgage.
TM: Yes, well there is no law against that.
Me: But why are you asking if I have a mortgage?
TM: So I can tell you about our great rates and see if you want to take advantage of our offers.
Me: So, you want to sell me something. That's a violation of the law.
TM: No, I haven't tried to sell you anything yet. I am just trying to find out if you have a mortgage. There IS NO LAW that says I can't call you up and ask if you have a mortgage.
Me: Oh, so in your mind, it's okay, because you are just calling me up to shoot the shit.
TM: Sir, there is no need for that language.
Me: Well, there is no law against that. After all, we're just two guys shooting the shit about mortgages, right?
TM: Yes, sir, so about that mortgage...
Me: How about those Twins?
TM: What? Sir, if I could-
Me: No, we're shooting the shit, so I want to know how you feel about the Twins. They haven't been doing that well lately.
Me: Look, you called ME to shoot the shit, so I am shooting the shit. But you keep wanting to talk about mortgages, and I want to talk baseball. (click) Hello? Hello?

Or this one:

Me: Hello.
TM: Yes, I am calling from Great Expectations, and we wanted to see if you were interested in taking advantage of our exclusive dating services.
Me: Are you aware of Minnesota's "Do Not Call" law?
TM: No, sir, I was not aware of that law. I am not in Minnesota.
Me: So, you are trying to offer me dating service OUT of the state?
TM: Sir?
Me: Why would anyone want a dating service outside the state? It's like 5 hours to anywhere worth dating someone.
TM: No, sir, you see, I am not calling from Minnesota, but our company does have offices in Minnesota.
Me: Oh, so you DO have business in Minnesota. And your office there did NOT tell you about the Do Not Call law? Well, that is inexcusable on their part. You see, you just violated the law.
TM: Ummm, no, I am just calling people at random.
Me: No, you broke the law. So, can I have the name and number of your manager at the Minnesota office?

Sad thing is, the calls haven't gone away like they are supposed to. Especially from construction contractors.

TM: I would like to schedule an appointment to talk to you about replacing the siding on your house.
Me: You are breaking Minnesota's Do Not Call list.
TM: No I am not. I haven't tried to sell you anything yet, only try to make an appointment with you. My lawyers tell me I am well within my rights to do that, as long as I don't sell you anything.
Me: But what will you do at the appointment? You aren't going to try to sell me anything then?
TM: The law says I can't sell you anything over the phone, and I am not selling you anything over the phone. I am setting up an appointment to then sell you something in person, against which there is no law.
Me: Well, yes, technically that is the law, but you know and I know that you are calling me to ultimately make a sale.
Me: But, I don't get why you have to set an appointment? I'm very busy, so why don't you just tell me now what you were going to tell me at the appointment.
TM: BUT, SIR, I cannot do that. I can't sell you anything over the phone.
Me: Then why are you calling me?
TM: Because, I want to know if you want to make an appointment.
Me: An appointment to sell me something?
TM: Maybe.
Me: Ah-ha! So THIS IS a call to sell me something.
TM: (Confused silence.) No, no, only to make an appointment. That's all.
Me: But you are calling to make an appointment to sell me something, so it's still a sales call.
TM: The law-
Me: I don't care about the law, I signed up to not be disturbed, and you are disturbing me!

And some days, I just don't feel like playing, but they want to try anyway. There is a last name that telemarketers call me sometimes which let's me know they don't ACTUALLY know me:

TM: Hello, Mr. [fake-last-name-used-to-screen-telemarketers].
Me: I'm not interested.
TM: I haven't tried to sell you anything yet.
Me: Look, I know you are a telemarketer. I am not interested. Please remove me from your calling list.
TM: You are not interested in our AMAZING offers?
Me: Are you aware of Minnesota's Do Not Call list?
TM: No, but I am aware of these amazing offers on frozen meat! Do you like meat?
Me: Okay, give me the name and number of your supervisor...

So, for the first few weeks, the number of telemarketer calls actually went up, making some Minnesotans wonder if some companies bought the "Do Not Call" lists as per the law and then turned around and used them in their "it's-not-a-sales-call" calls. The state doesn't think that happened, as obviously people who do not want sales calls are not likely to buy something from someone selling things over the phone. Rather, they think the increase was due to a last minute push in the grace period before the law became legally enforceable.

I still occasionally get calls from telemarketers, and they can play dumb about the Minnesota law, but now with a new National law, it will be harder for them to do it. I hate getting calls from them, but it is fun to torment them.

Now, if we could only have a National (or better yet, International) "Do-Not-Spam" list!

7/10 - Nation:  Using the same logic - Bear with me, this is going to be a long one, but I haven't worked this hard on a rant in a long time.

There was one topic that I have not addressed in any of my rants, but the time has come to go there. It will be clear in a minute, but I have to explain. When Bill Clinton ran for office and used the "I didn't inhale" excuse, I rolled my eyes; come on, Bill, just admit you toked up. But perhaps it should have been a forewarning of what was to come - namely, the "oral sex isn't sex" excuse and the "depends on what the definition of is is" defense.

But I have always thought addressing a President's personal behavior was a cheap thing. After all, we should judge people on the job they do, right? So, when the question came up about George Bush's alleged drug use, I chose not to address it. I'd rather say, "George Bush is wrong for America, because of his policies of restricting freedom, etc." rather than simply saying "George Bush is a cokehead." I didn't want to dwell on his past; I wanted to focus on his - and thus OUR - future.

But now, the time has come, and I'll tell you why: it's this whole "we were wrong but we won't admit we are wrong and hey, you need to PROVE we were wrong" attitude that is coming from the White House.

I was sitting there reading the news today, when I came across some quotes from Presidential Toadie Ari Fleischer:

"It's important to understand whether one specific sentence based on yellowcake was wrong, that does not change the fundamental case from being right."

Translation: Just because we were wrong once doesn't mean the rest is wrong. It was just a fluke. The rest of the case is correct. You HAVE to trust us on the rest.

But wait - it gets better.

Toadie Ari speaks again: "Just because they haven't yet been found doesn't mean they didn't exist... The burden is on the critics to explain where the weapons of mass destruction are."

Translation: Bah - you tell us where they went. Just because there is no evidence now doesn't mean it wasn't true then. You tell us where they went, instead of us telling you why they aren't there.

But, Ari, I wasn't the one hyping the impending doom to America threatened by the huge stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! You said they were there, there were a lot of them, and they were seemingly minutes away from destroying us. So, why can't we find a single one?

Yes, President Bush said in his State of the Union address that Iraq had: "biological weapons materials sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax... materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin... materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent... upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents." And yet, we can't find a single example of ANY of this?

And the logic was that Saddam had chemical weapons in the past and used them against his own people, so clearly, he would do it again. And this time, he could use biological and/or nuclear weapons.

BUT WAIT - I promised you I would get to the drug thing. So here it is.

The press alleged that George Bush had used cocaine years ago. His response? ''When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible.'' But when pressed, he said he could pass a seven-year security background check. When further pressed, he replied "Would I pass the challenge of a background check? My answer is absolutely... Not only could I pass the background check and the standards applied to today's White House, but I could have passed the background check and the standards applied on the most stringent conditions when my dad was President -- 15-year period." But then, he never really denied ever using cocaine. And then it just kind of went away...

When it was disclosed just before the election that he had a DUI on his record that was not disclosed, his communications director explained: "He has always been very forthcoming in acknowledging that he drank too much in the past, before he quit drinking 14 years ago."

But by using Ari Fleischer's logic, President Bush must present proof that he does NOT possess cocaine or alcohol. The burden is on the President to explain where the cocaine and alcohol is and to present evidence that it is not there. He must explain where it went.

We could paraphrase Ari: "It's important to understand that whether one DUI case was disclosed during the election, that does not change the fundamental case that the President's record is tainted and hidden."

And then we can add: "Just because proof of prior drug use hasn't yet been found doesn't mean they didn't exist... The burden is on the Administration to explain where the drugs are."

But how dare I accuse the President of possessing cocaine?! The President admitted that he abused alcohol. If he had a problem with alcohol in the past, couldn't it be just as likely that he could abuse cocaine or other substances? I mean, it could be just as likely that there is huge pile of cocaine in the White House as there is a huge stockpile of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

But then again, the Administration doesn't have to show any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq; the critics just have to prove the absence of weapons of mass destruction. Instead of them presenting proof in the form of a single liter, ounce, or missile of the many TENS OF THOUSANDS of these weapons alleged only 5 months ago as being in Iraq, we have to provide proof that ALL of Iraq is indeed free of these weapons of mass destruction. And not only prove that they are gone, but show where they went.

So, George and Ari, where's the proof of that alleged absence of alcohol and cocaine?

9/18 - Nation:  Come on, it's a station wagon! - I was at the mall yesterday, and they were showcasing this new vehicle called a "Chrysler Pacifica".

The vehicle is referred to as a "multi-purpose vehicle" claiming it has the roominess of a minivan, the seating of an SUV, and the feel of a car.

Hmmm. In my day, we called those "station wagons." But, I guess that was in the era of "used cars" instead of "pre-owned vehicles."

But, if you don't believe me that this is a station wagon, go slap some fake wood siding on it and park it next to an 80s Ford LTD Wagon or a 70s Pontiac Grand Safari Station Wagon, and the resemblance will become much clearer...

9/24 - Nation:  The Official RIYP Endorsement for CA Governor - Since the California recall election is back on again, it is time for me to come out and officially endorse a candidate for governor of California.

I have reviewed all the candidates. I like Mary Carey's "Guns for Porn" program, as well as her plan to tax breast implants. I also like Vikramjit Bajwa, because I would like to try to see the news media try to pronounce (his? her?) name. Then there is Jon Zellhoefer with his plan for replacing textbooks with laptop computers; but isn't that a "books for porn" plan?

Anyway, after looking at all the candidates, I decided to endorse a candidate who has not announced his official candidacy, but who has the charisma and appeal to really get people motivated in this recall election.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce that the candidate officially endorsed by Rants in Your Pants is... Tubbs!

Tubbs for Gov

That's right, Philip Michael Thomas himself, star of the hit 80s TV show "Miami Vice."

So the guy has the same basic credentials as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Gary Coleman, but he brings one other thing to the table that no other candidate offers so far - his psychic friends.

Yes, before Miss Cleo, Philip Michael Thomas was the face of the Psychic Readers Network.

All of the various positions on the issues are great, but wouldn't you rather have a governor who knows how things will turn out and can make decisions appropriately? Of course you do! There'll be no guessing for Tubbs; he knows about the future now!

And as far as charisma, everyone knows that it was really Philip Michael Thomas who carried the show. Don Johnson played a good second banana to Thomas' smooth portrayal as Rico Tubbs; perhaps Nash Bridges himself would be interested in a role as Lieutenant Governor?

So, join me in your support for the smoothest candidate for California governor, Philip Michael "Tubbs" Thomas - the officially endorsed candidate of Rants in Your Pants!

9/30 - Nation:  How the National Do Not Call List might be Constitutional... - The thing about the controversy over the do not call list is that the judges are saying it violates the First Amendment rights to free speech, and therefore, a National Do Not Call List is unconstitutional.

Well, then make it a Constitutional amendment. Problem solved. And hey, it makes more sense than an amendment banning the burning of the flag.

But, one of the guys on TV was saying, "I don't think that the framers of the Constitution had telemarketers in mind when they wrote the Constitution."

Ah, yes, but I do imagine something like this:

James Madison is sitting there working on the Bill of Rights, and he is trying hard to concentrate, because, after all, it will secure our liberties as part of the Constitution for our nation.

He has just finished working on the First Amendment, when, all of a sudden, he hears this yelling outside the window.


Just then, he has an idea. He hurries back to his table and starts writing:

"The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. "

Anyway, that's my theory. Didn't have to worry about telemarketers back then. You either shot them, or challenged them to a duel and THEN shot them...

10/9 - Nation:  The Double Standard of the Patriot Act - So, there were two big stories today that make me question if there is a double standard with the Patriot Act. Well, they were big stories, but they weren't reported as big stories by the media; apparently, the days-old stories of Governor-elect Schwarzenegger and Roy Horn having a tracheotomy performed by a tiger rated higher in the press.

You see, in the Patriot Act, there is a section TITLE VIII--SEC. 801 that amends Chapter 97 of title 18, United States Code, Sec. 1993-8 to say that anyone who threatens a terrorist act can be imprisoned for up to 20 years.

Jose Padilla has been imprisoned as an enemy combatant for being a "dirty bomber." Well, he didn't actually detonate a dirty bomb, nor did he make a deliberate threat to use one. As much as anyone can tell, Jose Padilla was interested in how to construct a dirty bomb. Since the Patriot Act doesn't outlaw interest in weapons of mass destruction, we can only assume that his continued imprisonment against his Constitutional liberties is because Herr Ashcroft can't find a law under which he can prosecute Jose Padilla.

But, there is a law under which Herr Ashcroft CAN prosecute two of his fellow Republicans.

Maryland's First Lady - Kendel Ehrlich, wife of the state's Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich - said: "Really, if I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would." That's right; the wife of a Republican governor said she advocated the assassination of an American icon. (Okay, so I use the word 'icon' very loosely, but still, Herr Ashcroft takes a very loose interpretation of the 14th Amendment...)

Okay, maybe that's not too bad. Hell, people say stupid shit like that all the time. She is in a position of power, through which she does carry some influence, but she is just the wife of a governor and NOT a politician herself.

Unlike Ms. Ehrlich, though, the next idiot IS a politician.

Yes, good old Pat Robertson - yes, the same Pat Robertson who called Islam evil and who joined Jerry Falwell in blaming September 11th on feminists, lawyers, and the ACLU - has done it again.

Pat Robertson was discussing a book by Joel Mowbray called "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's Security." In the course of the interview with Mr. Mowbray, Pat said: "I read your book. When you get through, you say (to yourself): 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom (the State Department's main building), I think that's the answer' and you say: 'We've got to blow that thing up.' I mean, is it as bad as you say?" Then, Mowbray responded with "It is."

That's right: Pat Robertson made a terrorist threat against America by suggesting we destroy the State Department with a weapon of mass destruction.

Oh, but maybe what Pat said wasn't that bad. Then again, it wasn't Osama bin Laden who actually piloted the planes into the buildings on September 11th, but it was Osama who used his religious influence to get others to do just that. From where I sit, the biggest difference I can see between Pat and Osama is that Osama doesn't have a TV show...

Still, somehow neither Pat nor Kendel are currently on their way to a brig in South Carolina or Gitmo.

So, I have to ask - is there a double standard in the Patriot Act? It's okay to use the Patriot Act against Muslims and Black mayors, but it's NOT okay to use it against white televangelists and first ladies?

11/18 - Nation:  Low Cost Airlines? - So, let me begin by saying a few things:

1. I am not a pilot.
2. I know NOTHING about business or economics.
3. This is probably the WRONG forum in which to publish this, but what the hell...

There is this new trend out now called "Low Cost Carriers" in which the major airlines - Delta, United, Air Canada (I know, calling them a major is a stretch, but hey - they are the NATIONAL airline for the second largest nation) - form cheaper airline subsidiaries that compete with cheaper airlines like Southwest and JetBlue. Anyway, that's what I gather before I fall asleep reading the long business articles...

Anyway, the way it works is that the major airlines create a second cheaper airline with a stupid name, like "Song" for Delta or "Jazz" for Air Canada or "Ted" for United. (Yes, I am not sure why they all chose names that have to do with music; perhaps someone can explain that mystery to me...) I do not know why they didn't choose from the large number of existing airline names - TWA, Pan Am, Braniff, Eastern, People Express...

Anyway, my question is this: why don't the airlines just LOWER their costs? After all, the major carriers have already done a number of things to make themselves appear more like a low-cost carrier: no more in flight meals (not even those cold bags with a roll and a ball of tuna), no more in flight entertainment (no even that rerun of Cheers you saw 15 years ago), no more leg room ("hey, you can't lean your seat back; my knees can't take it!"), no more carry-ons ("your bag must fit into this shoebox or you'll have to check it in"), and giving you a cup of ice and a shot of Coke so that they can make a six-pack of soda stretch across an entire 747...

Yeah, I am thinking today, "If 'TED' is the low-cost version of United, how bad is it? Do you have to bring your own crash helmet?" I figure the only way they can cram MORE people into their planes - which would be the only way they could cut their costs and still make money - would be to simply remove all seats. And then they could remove those little fasten seatbelt signs; after all, if you are all crammed into a small space, you don't need to fasten or unfasten your seat belt! And you'd have to have a SEAT in order to have a SEAT BELT! Hell, they can probably save like $1 million on removing those little lights if the airlines are anything like the military...

And they can cut frills, like those little oxygen masks. They can market it as "Hey, if we lose pressurization, you'll just black out a little; just think of it like a Vegas bender without the cost of all that alcohol or permanent damage to your liver!" Oh, and those seat cushions that double as life preservers? All they have to do is say, "Hey, frankly, when was the last time you heard of these being used? Chances are if you end up in the water, you'll have gotten there by free-falling from 25 thousand feet, and then you'd be hoping you had a seat cushion that doubled as a parachute!" (BTW, I hear rumors that Virgin Atlantic has those; well, at least in first class...)

So, I don't understand all these low cost carrier things. Whatever happened to the glamorous days of the "jet-set" when you could fly across the country and possibly be seated next to Frank Sinatra? You could light your cigar, a stewardess would refill your whiskey (FOR FREE!), and they served you a porterhouse steak for your in-flight meal (complete with a real, actual KNIFE). And then there was FIRST-CLASS!

Yes, things have changed, but instead of inventing these NEW stupid airlines, why don't they instead just FIX the airlines we have now? Don't give me Song; give me the Delta of the 1950s! Free drinks, free cigars, hot stewardesses, and a steak knife? Screw Southwest; I'd pay the full fare for that!

Okay, so maybe that isn't a possibility, but if I am going to pay for a non-Low Cost Carrier, can I at least have a full can of Coke, at least 2 inches between my knees and the reclined seat back in front of me, and my carry-on actually carried-on with me?

11/25 - Entertainment:  Tinky Winky is NOT gay - So, now that we have Alex, we are finding ourselves watching Teletubbies. Now, I know what you are thinking, but I have to say - the plots in Teletubbies are much deeper than the ones on Enterprise. And I must also say that after watching the Teletubbies, I don't feel that my intelligence is as insulted as after watching some reality drivel like Big Brother.

As I watched with Alex last night, I quickly realized that Tinky Winky is NOT gay. (In case you don't know what I am referring to, a couple of years ago, the Reverend Jerry Falwell, self-proclaimed moralist for the USA, announced that Tinky Winky was gay.)

Now, Alex's favorite Teletubbie is the green one with a phallus coming out its head whose name is "Dipshit." But last night, while Alex was focused on Dipshit, I watched Tinky Winky to determine once and for all if Jerry Falwell's conclusions were sound.

And, amazingly enough, I found that they were not. And here I offer the proof that I discovered:

1. Tinky Winky has a big ass. My gay friends work out meticulously; there is no way they would ever dare going out in public with an ass that large. Tinky Winky knows that he has a couple strikes against him - big ears, purple body, and a triangle growing out of his head - so there is no way he would add injury to insult and NOT work out.

2. Tinky Winky can't dance. That's right; the teletubbies all gathered around and danced, but who was always out of sync? That's right; Tinky Winky. And any woman will tell you that if there is a well-dressed white boy who is in shape and can dance with the rhythm, chances are he is gay. And since Tinky Winky clearly has no rhythm and is not in sync with the rest of the teletubbies, he is not gay. (BTW, this argument may also be used to help bolster the "N Sync is gay" argument...)

And the biggest piece of evidence:

3. Tinky Winky has no fashion sense. Tinky Winky is purple. His purse, err, I mean "magic bag" is bright red. EVERYONE knows that bright red just clashes with purple. He has NO fashion sense. If Tinky Winky were really gay, he would have selected a nice periwinkle or cornflower blue bag, since it would accentuate his purple body without calling attention to his fat ass.

Editor's Note:
Whoa, after reading that, I think I need to start watching less Teletubbies and more late night Skinemax porn... Still, I stand by my assessment that Jerry Falwell is clearly full of crap.

12/31 - Politics:  Some things to consider at the end of 2003 - So, we sit here at the end of 2003 happy and with much to be thankful for.

Saddam is in custody, we are in control of Iraq, and we are winning the war on terrorism. I know, because I saw the President in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier and tell us it was so in front of a giant "Mission Accomplished" banner.

So, why are we celebrating this New Year's under the glow of a "Code Orange" terrorism threat?

And as we congratulate ourselves on defeating Iraq and capturing Saddam, here are a few things to remember:

1. If Saddam had not invaded Kuwait in 1991, he'd still be in power right now. That's right; if Saddam hadn't invaded Kuwait, thus causing us to rally against him, we would have no cause to invade Iraq and capture him. There are many other countries that are building weapons of mass destruction and who have much stronger ties to terrorists - Iran, Syria, Libya, North Korea come to mind - and we have not invaded nor conquered them. And we continue to ally ourselves with undemocratic regimes - such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The latter has actually been in the news recently, as it was reported that many of the scientists working on Iran's nuclear weapons program were the same ones who developed Pakistan's nuclear weapons capability.

2. If the Iran-Iraq War were still on-going today, Saddam would be receiving military and economic aid from us. That's right; during the 80s, we provided all sorts of aid to Saddam while he was fighting Iran, who we perceived as the bigger threat. In fact, in March 1987, an Iraqi jet attacked the USS Stark in the Persian Gulf and killed 37 American sailors. Did we bomb Baghdad? No. We continued to focus our attention on Iran and do nothing against Iraq. I believe that if there had NOT been a truce in the Iran-Iraq War and the subsequent invasion of Kuwait, not only would Saddam still be in power, he'd still be on our payroll. We continued to support Saddam militarily and economically, even after the March 1988 gassing of the Kurds by Saddam Hussein. There is no reason why we wouldn't be supporting him today if it weren't for the Kuwait invasion.

3. Osama - NOT Saddam - attacked us on September 11, 2001. No matter what kind of spin they put on it, it was Osama bin Laden - NOT Saddam Hussein, NOT Kim Jong-Il, NOT Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei - who attacked this country on September 11. Do I wish that we were rid of our enemies, especially those I just listed? Damn right. But just because we don't agree with a country doesn't give us the right to invade them. And if we do, we ought to invade them for the simple reason that we don't like them and want to be rid of them; to try to use September 11th as a blank check for our desire to rid the world of those who dislike us belittles the tragedy of September 11th. Those people didn't die so we can invade Iran, Cuba, or North Korea; they died because Osama bin Laden is a major league asshole. And speaking of Osama, where is he? Why isn't HE is our custody?

4. Al Qaeda is NOT insignificant. President Bush once said he didn't care where Osama was, because Al Qaeda was on the run and we were dismantling their terror network. He also said that Iraq was a major victory in the war on terror. Well, if we are winning, why does Times Square look like Fortress America, and why are we at a Code Orange alert? Yes, we can continue to say that Al Qaeda doesn't matter, but as long as we act like they do, they do.

I truly do hope that in 2004, more countries will go the way of Libya and find that they can accomplish more working with us than against us. I also hope that countries like Saudi Arabia will truly be our friends and not just be convenient allies - that is, when it is convenient for them. I also hope that we completely try diplomacy before war, and not let our desire to defeat our enemies (like Iraq) turn our closest allies (like France and Germany) into something that's not quite an enemy yet not quite a friend; the United States can certainly go at things alone, but the question is: do we really want to? I certainly prefer drinking a nice French wine to putting Iraqi oil into my car; I just wish my government recognized that.

I do know that in 2004, we'll have another election, and hopefully this time, the PEOPLE will have their say: no hanging chads, no Supreme Court decisions, no popular versus electoral debate. I also hope that people don't cast their votes out of fear for Osama, but rather out of hope for the future of this country.

Here's to 2004; may the future be bright.