Thursday, 31 December 2009

Final thoughts for 2009... Limbaugh laid low

Rumours are reaching me that Rush Blahblaugh has been Limboed into hospital with a inflated bile duct - although doctors maintain that it's a common condition with Blahblaugh, and he's expected to make full re-entry in the new year.

Expect to see the full story in an interview in the Wall Street Jingo soon...



Wednesday, 23 December 2009

They just don't release albums like this any more...

Crimes against sartorial elegance aside - in a word: unsavoury


Please help me kill my son - for 'tis written!

Gotta love the Chaser's War on Everything:


Monday, 21 December 2009

US Healthcare Bill passed in the Senate

Barack Obama healthcare bill passes vital US Senate vote

About time too! Let's get this show on the road!

The Senate finally looks like it has put this on track to a bill being signed before the end of the year - in spite of all the slave-to-the-Insurance-Lobbyists Republicans trying their best to be partisan heels and use the filibuster.

Looks like the US might finally now join the rest of the industrialised Western democracies in assuming its societal responsibilities where national healthcare is concerned.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dr Samuel Johnson's review of 2009

If you're not following this guy on Twitter, I recommend you do so: he's very funny!

You can follow him at @DrSamuelJohnson or at

Either way, here's his review of 2009, lifted lock, stock and barrel from today's Guardian newspaper.

Dr Samuel Johnson Photograph: Corbis

Pop culture 2009: The year in lists

The Guide's review of the past 12 months starts here, as legendary man of letters Dr Samuel Johnson sharpens his virtual quill pen to look back

@drsamueljohnson The Guardian Saturday 19 December 2009

✒ The Americkan Populace now coronate Mister OBAMA, for he has solemnly promis'd not to be Mister BUSH

✒ Tis the Fashion for the Dandy to stride around dress'd as a Hudson Bay Lumber-Jack, wielding a Man-Bag in place of an AXE

✒ Bedlamite Harlequin Lady GAGA is oft dress'd as Mister Thos. TELFORD'S Iron-Bridge

✒ Celebrated Trollop Miss JORDAN and unremarkable Hellenic Troubadour Mister ANDRE separate in Publick, just as they met, lived and FORNICAT'D

✒ The League of Champions is 'pon us: has Almighty GOD carv'd Mister Wayne ROONEY's Face from a POTATO?

✒ After the Appt. of Sir Alan SUGAR as Govt. Emissary, I beseech that militaristick Actor Ross KEMP should be Secretary for WAR

✒ Glastonbury (n.) Farmer's Field wherein OAFS enact the Battle of Marston Moor accompany'd by Musick & OPIATES

✒Mister Andy MURRAY scampers round a cover'd Green-House for five Hours and is declar'd a national HERO

✒ Whiggish-mind'd People do flock unto the electronick-Theatre to see Mister BARON COHEN play affeckted Hapsburg Molly BRÜNO

✒ Great Alarmum greets the Govt's Swinish-Flu Hotline, whereby Hystericks can procure Patent-Medicine thro' BESEECHING & LYING

✒ Footpad & Highwayman Mister Ronnie BIGGS escapes the Gibbet & is Free to ROB other disabl'd Octagenerians

✒ Froz'n Costermongers ICELAND dismiss Portly Slattern Miss Kerry KATONA; she will find Employ in Mister HOGARTH'S Gin Lane

✒ Pugilistick Cave-man Mister Noel GALLAGHER abandons the OASIS minstrel-Troupe after sixteen Years & one SONG

✒ Great Hordes of Saxon Gold found in Stafford-Shire; as if pagan Warriors once dress'd as Fool-Pitier Mister BARACUS

✒ Pie-fac'd Rag Doll Mister Dominic MOHAN supports the Tories, as direct'd by Boy King MURDOCH & th'opinion Polls

✒ X Factor: another Saturday ruin'd by Tear-stain'd Orphan-Protector Mister Louis WALSH & his Retinue of singing URCHINS

✒ Hateful Crone Miss Jan MOIR uses her Quill not to write but to pin all Manner of CALUMNY 'pon the Body of poor Master GATELY

✒ At Autumntide, the mawkish Revel of Children-In-Need does tend to Infants in Want of Care & Adults in Want of ATTENTION

✒ England to play the Americkan Colonie in the World-Cup: I shall take Mister Benj FRANKLIN with Mister STANLEY'S Knife: "Who Art Thou?, Who Art Thou?"

✒ Copenhagen (n.) Parlour-Game wherein Ambassadors do ask their Neighbour to place less Coal 'pon the Fire, oft in VAIN


Friday, 18 December 2009

A Pictorial Guide to Avoiding Camera Loss

Ingenious! Click the link below.

A Pictorial Guide to Avoiding Camera Loss - by Andrew McDonald

Not intended for homes with children...

Ah, well that's OK then... make sure you get two - one for each side of the bed!

Thanks to Geoff Berg for this clip.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Review (Part 1 of 7)

This is essential viewing!

After three superb Star Wars films, George Lucas then goes and dilutes his stock completely by farting out three more fucking awful cash-ins.

You can find the other six episodes of this satirical and immensely enjoyable review on YouTube.

Watch this and enjoy!


Thursday, 17 December 2009

America's running out of 'Reality TV' - so Fox fills the gap...

Thanks to Media Matters for putting this montage together - it clearly illustrates the sea of bovine crassness which tries to pass for 'news' in the US. What follows is what you believe when you've ceased to think. What it doesn't explain is the damage to its reputation abroad which America is doing by embracing this nonsense.


Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Why are virtually all climate 'sceptics' men?

Click to enlarge image

Richard Black, the BBC's on-line environment correspondent, posed this question in his on-line piece on their website today: COP15: Climate 'scepticism' and questions about sex.

I'm happy to report that my good friend, Don, who has a gift for these measured responses, rendered this typically self-depreciatory rationale by way of a reply:

"Men tend not to believe in Global Warming for the simple fact that we find it hard to face the reality that we might not be able to 'write our names in the snow' if the Earth warms too much..."

 And I have to admit, I can't see how anyone might counter that with an alternative rationale.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Is this Teak or Oak?

Is this in any way inappropriate, or purely natural?

Picture courtesy of my good friend Brian Hutton - scene-setter par excellence.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Happy Hanukkah

To all our Jewish readers out there - Happy Hanukkah


Thursday, 10 December 2009

The changing face of words

Just culled this from a collection of TV comic memorabilia, dating back to 1951, which is going under the hammer in the UK - estimates place the collection raising in excess of £1,000.00 - although the comedy factor of some of the thoroughly non-PC pieces is priceless.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Fox News: Flat Earthers-R-Us

Our regular readers will be aware of Fox News' comical inability to be accurate, when reporting anything other than its entirely right wing agenda. The tragedy is, Fox still maintains it's doing a "good job" - although precisely whose definition of 'good' is being used here is still open to healthy debate - alas, the latter also being in scarce supply at Fox.

Recently, they've deliberately contrived to falsify news footage, in a transparent attempt to promote one of their own pet causes. In fact they did this twice in one week - until Fox executives threatened to fire anyone else caught doing it again, as the feeling was that it might be making them "look bad".

This was followed rapidly by former White House Press Secretary, under President Gump Bush, Dana Perino, appearing on the Hannity show and claiming to all and sundry that "there was no terrorist attack on the US whilst president Bush was in power..." Oops!

Then, in an almost Kamikaze-like attempt at self-ridicule, they go and prove that, as a "news" entity, they don't actually employ anyone who is capable of doing junior school mathematics in the form of percentages.

And now, two new instances of Fox fuckwittage have come to light: one involving ineptly rearranging the geopolitical map of the Middle East on a whim; the other having the temerity to call into question the veracity of climate change figures - when (again) they can't even get their own percentage figures to add up to 100%

Firstly, let's see that map.

Now, Palin's claim to be able to see Russia from her house notwithstanding, in the pantheon of egregious schoolboy errors, even for Fox, this rates as a gem. I'm sure the Egyptians - to say nothing of the Jordanians, Syrians, Saudis and Iranians - might be forgiven for lodging a complaint with the UN at being mistaken for Iraq!

I think it only polite not to ask what Fox have done with the Pyramids.

[cough] Moving swiftly on....

Now, unless you've been living in a cave without cable for the last 10 years, you'll know that one of the things which confirms Fox as one of the leading flat-earth-minded broadcasters is its point-blank refusal to accept that there is any link or relationship between Man, the burning of fossil fuels, and how an otherwise increasing rise in the level of overall 'greenhouse gases' is having an adverse effect on the Earth's climate.

Indeed, so confident of this view are they that they've just released another of their polls which shows... which shows that yet again Fox can't even do basic arithmetic.

Anyone care to add up these percentages to see if they come to anywhere near 100%?

Anyone like to suggest how an organisation so atrocious at the basics in maths can have the crass audacity to question the data coming from the world's leading experts in the field?

Anyone care to explain how Fox News can still claim to be a 'news' organisation? Perhaps we could get them to point on a map to where they think global warming is coming from?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The ultimate SEO headline?

Had to love this: How Will Copenhagen Affect the World Amanda Knox Sees When She Comes Home?


Saturday, 5 December 2009

Amanda Knox and Sollecito guilty of Kercher murder

The trial's taken nigh-on a year and the verdict's finally in: and thank God it's over - Amanda Knox and Sollecito guilty of Kercher murder.

We can sit here all day and debate whether justice has been done or how attractive Knox is, but frankly the important thing is that it looks like we've thankfully been spared yet another round of, *cough*,  'penetrating interview'-wrapped-in-sympathy-fest on Oprah and Larry fucking King.

Thank you Italy! Berlusconi may be a global joke, but today you did the world a service!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Twat of the Week oblivious to own Irony


NB: For the benefit of our US readers, in the UK, what you call 'chips', we call 'crisps'.

On spotting the headline to what could have been just another shaggy-dog tale, I nearly had a coffee-meets-screen moment; and perhaps understood why he did what he did, on reading the guy's name: Crisp lover changes name to Mr Monster Munch

Alas, and apart from the guy being a complete tool, the report doesn't say whether C. Hunt has any brothers named 'Mike'.

UK 'X Files' now closed

UFOs no longer investigated in the UK.

Now if I'm being completely honest, I can't say that this news troubles me unduly - in fact I always considered the species of UFO-devotees to be far more of a national threat to the country's sanity and security than I ever did aliens.

And the bonus is, even though the files are now closed, the hunters are still there (and very much real), and so still available for parody.

"Klaatu barada nikto!"

This week's Twitter gags

My carpenter is so fastidious, he manicures his nails.
Peter Serafinowicz

I know my celeb status has dwindled but after 15 yrs to be dropped from switching on the Xmas lights in my own home...
 David Schneider

I'm not a real mathematician; I'm just pi-curious
Michael McKean

Monopoly rules updated to allow banker to pay themselves £20,000 bonus each turn
David Schneider

New FIFA rulling means in International matches, all players must have a translator playing alongside them.
Armando Iannucci

"I just want silence. Jesus, it doesn't mean I don't like you. It just means right now, I like silence more."

Thursday, 3 December 2009

What is the Internet? A definitive answer


Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Was Tiger Woods 'playing the back nine'...?

I love the way this has already been spun to appear as though his wife was only "helping him out of the car by smashing the rear window with a golf club"... a golf club she just happened to be carrying, [cough], at the time... So the introduction of golf-club-to-car-door was in no way the result of an other-woman-fuelled 'domestic' then...?

Err... OK...

That's rather like a jewel thief explaining to the arresting officer that the rock he's just thrown through the jewellery shop window was only done in order to "alleviate the boredom of the diamond necklaces on display".

This photo taken Nov. 27, 2009 and provided by the celebrity Web site shows a Cadillac Escalade that Tiger Woods crashed into a tree outside his home in Windermere.(AP PHOTO/TMZ / November 26, 2009)

Monday, 30 November 2009

America & Great Britain: "Two nations separated by a common language..."

Where to begin?

The aphorism, "two nations separated by a common language", has been attributed to various notables: the toss usually being between George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill; although Oscar Wilde, Bertrand Russell and even Dylan Thomas also get a look in on its provenance. The common literary consent, although it can be found nowhere in his written works, is that the nod goes to Shaw. And whilst some of the perennial old chestnuts (fanny-pack/bum-bag, cigarette/fag etc.) are widely known, to say nothing of still smirked at, there has, of late, been a fresh batch to add to the canon.

In either case, as to appropriate usage, it is still very much the advised rule of thumb of 'when in Rome'; it's all very well waltzing into an American hairdresser's and asking for 'a shag' (to them a hair style), however the response from its UK equivalent may well see you leaving the salon with the fat lip or uncut hair - or probably both.

In the US, a 'Town Hall' is now a meeting (although, for some reason not immediately apparent, the 'meeting' qualifier has become redundant and superfluous to requirements - a 'town hall' in the UK still being, well, a town hall) - worth noting, too, that in the UK, to make a 'town halls' of something is rhyming slang for making a 'balls' of it.

In fact one of the things which has lent English (be it Am.Eng. or Brit.Eng.) such longevity, apart from its magpie ability to loot, pilfer and steal from whichever language it chooses, is its unrelenting practice of adapting to accommodate new words, uses and constructions; a comparatively recent case in point - and, to some, a somewhat hastily thrown-together hyphenation - being the new American verb, 'to man-up': meaning to be in possession of sufficient quantities of testosterone as to enable one to face up to, and accept, one's responsibilities (cf. 'have the balls to do'), as in "Sarah Palin has yet to man-up and announce her candidacy for the 2012 presidential election".

And, whilst we're on the topic of testicles and places of civic meeting, habitués of US 'Town Halls' may also be referred to as "Teabaggers" - to some, an otherwise perfectly respectable act of gross indecency, requiring a chap to dangle his undercarriage in the mouth and across the face and forehead of his beloved (or at least one for which he may have paid for the privilege of being allowed to do same).

Any way, given the apparent duality of the language, perhaps it's fitting that cross-dressing stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard have the last word on the subject. Enjoy!


Sunday, 29 November 2009

'Gitmo North': the cash-for-inmates scramble

And so, after years of "extraordinary rendition", false imprisonment, 3rd-party "interrogation" (i.e. mistreatment and torture) by people in countries with no recognisable history or appreciation of Habeas Corpus; and after president Gump Bush spent his entire period in office, and every trick in the book, denying Guantánamo Bay inmates any and all due process, incarcerating them without charge in an off-shore legal limbo, doesn't this news, about how towns with 'empty prisons' on the US mainland are now fighting to "win" the right to house those same Gitmo inmates strike you as ironic?

Before, under Bush, no expense was spared in keeping these inmates out of the clutches of any reasonable legal observation or purview - be that US or international.

Now, although it appears only out of a desire to attract the much needed revenues they will bring in a time of economic recession (sadly not any sense of wanting to do the right thing), the inmates will now end up being housed on US soil proper and, it is to be hoped, accorded all due legal process - no doubt a more straightforward proposition now that the morally bereft and politically dubious Bush-Cheney administration has been put out to grass. Full marks to Obama for wanting to close this outpost of cowboy law and mentality - a place which will forever symbolise the crassness, ineptitude, social autism and functionally illiterate 'two-wrongs-make-a-right' nature which so defined the Bush administration.

And of course, no story about Gitmo's guests would be complete without the comedy of its attendant irrational claims by Republicans, about how this move is a "threat to national security" - although, like most of their utterances since losing to Obama, they don't really amount to much other than their usual incessant partisan whingeing.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Thanksgiving: Has Obama pardoned the Turkey yet, or is Sarah Palin still under lock and key?

To all our US friends and readers - have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Much a bow about bowing

After his recent Asia trip, there's been a lot made and much brouhaha (at least in the US) about this display of Obama simply following international protocol and offering a formal bow to Japan's Emperor Akihito. Critics claimed the sign of deference went against US State Department protocol, which decrees, somewhat arrogantly, that presidents bow to no one.

I just see it as Obama acknowledging a man wearing a superiorly tailored suit - no doubt Saville Row of London.


Can't anyone at Fox News do percentages?!

Given their recent run of factual faux pas, it would appear that Fox News is collapsing under its inability to deal in anything resembling impartiality or actual facts; either that, or they've finally come clean and just given up trying to present anything which takes effort or non-partisan thought.

But this latest example places them firmly in the unintended self-parody bucket.

The above screen capture comes from a piece they did on Tuesday, 24th November 2009, regarding the 2012 Republican Party presidential candidature - and as you can see, they're struggling with simple maths - specifically percentages.

And so whilst Fox may be "4,000% behind Palin!" for the nomination, someone will simply have to break the news to them (pun intended) that, in total, you can only every have a maximum of 100% of anything - but as Fox report it above, they managed to poll six thirds of Republicans!

Impressive - that's a 100% margin of error! Way to go Faux!!

Of course none of this can help in their current battle for credibility after being shown, by Jon Stewart on 'The Daily Show', and others, to be fabricating news reportage, and taking a somewhat whimsical approach to using 'actual' film footage of the events they were purportedly covering. Embarrassingly, they managed to do the same thing twice in one week - to the point where the brass at Faux threatened anyone found guilty of any further 'breaches of accuracy' with being fired. Oops...

But, there is an upside here! At least we now know who conducts their polling and then collates Faux's poll statistics for them: Opinions Dynamic - the same guys who provide Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck et al with their teabagging figures...

Sometimes the comedy just writes itself.

The Darvaza natural gas crater

The Darvaza natural gas crater is located in the centre of the Karakum Desert in the central Asian country of Turkmenistan. The crater resulted after a Soviet natural gas exploration accident in the 1950s and has been burning ever since. The crater is approximately 60 meters in diameter and its depth is approximately 20 meters. (Photo and caption by Natalja Silver) Taken from National Geographic’s International Photography Contest 2009


Wednesday, 25 November 2009

"We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term"

You know, given that this this woman, Perino, was White House Press Secretary, under President Gump Bush, you'd perhaps have hoped that she'd at least remembered the one attack on the US which sent Gump Bush into his flat-spin and prompted the worst of his administration's excesses, right? Alas, she appears to have a bad case of selective amnesia, or the attention-span of an absent-minded gnat.

But hey, this is Hannity on Faux Noise - so the people watching will believe it anyway...

A Brief History of Socialist Plots to End the American Way of Life


A shout out to the New York Posse!

OK, tonight I'm a wee bit tired, so I just want to pass on three sites to you; one written and virtual, the other two very real; all worth a good look!

All hail from within the five boroughs which make up one of my wife's and my favourite places - New York! What? The picture of Chrysler gave it away, right?

The first is a blog site I came across only in the last four days or so, but it's a great read, with some amazing photographs of a bygone, almost mystical era in New York's history; written by a guy, Harry Delf, who obviously has a deeply modulated passion for his subject - perhaps not surprisingly, as it covers his family's history working and living in this great city. Some of the obvious treasure trove of personal, family, and other artefacts Harry's uncovered are stunning - I hope you enjoy them as much as I have been doing! Here it is: Harry Delf's "Family Archive".  And don't miss Harry's links on this same site to his other projects: see them under 'Vaudeville Redux'.

OK, next for shaving is the The Montauk Club, in Brooklyn. One of my mates, Bill Webber's, a member there - and, so I'm told, they have a menu and wine cellar to match anything to be found in NYC! By the looks, the architecture and history behind the place is worth an afternoon's promenade-n-perusal in itself. Bill's a man of his word, so I'm inclined to accept this view without much debate.

And to round off, here's the band whom Bill's club has booked for their New Year's Eve celebrations: Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra - play the videos on the link to get a feel for the period they cover (wonderfully Jazz-era radio-decadent!) - I can see Bill in his charleston tutu now...


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

A great place to booty dance...?

In the pantheon of places you might choose to booty dance, with what appears to be a half-squadron of your mates, I'm not convinced a graveyard, and on top off the graves of the deceased, was your best choice...

Monday, 23 November 2009

Voodoo, Quackery, and a bad case of the CT's

'Conspiracy theorists have a grandiose view of themselves as heroes “manning the barricades of civilization” at an urgent “turning point” in history... Grandiosity is often a defense against underlying feelings of powerlessness.'

DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University, Richard Hofstadter, in his book, The Paranoid Style in American Politics.

Well that explains Bill O'Reilly.

Any one who's used the Web, on an even semi-regular basis (and even those who haven't), can't have avoided the utter deluge of quackery, voodoo and cant which pours forth from the space between the ears of the dedicated Conspiracy Theorist (CT) - otherwise known as a 'Tin Foil Hat Merchant'.

Incidentally, in case you weren't aware, this headgear of choice allegedly 'protects' its wearer from the sea of electromagnetic rays directed at them, and the predatory attempts of potential mind-readers; all of whom, so the theory goes, are seeking to make us all more complaint, for the day that 'They' arrive - although theories differ as to precisely who 'They' are, and when 'They' might come... Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is even a theory as to whether this is a conspiracy or not.

And so, like worker bees doing drudging duty to their queen, the sheer industry shown by the CT drones is impressive. Indeed, they put so much time and effort into trying to prove their reality wrong that, sometimes, it seems that the entire Internet, and all its resources, was created solely for their nothing-too-insane ideas to be 'researched' and then propagated 'for the benefit of Mankind'. Gee. Thanks guys.

If you've ever come across the species at close quarters, then you'll know that they'll not be persuaded that they are wrong, misguided or just plain mad in their beliefs, either: received wisdom and common-sense are for fools, apparently, whilst actual proof is either to be shunned, like daylight to a vampire, or treated with the 'What Aboutery?' clause - see below. Remarkably, it is their insistence that it is the very absence of any evidence (over and above a mixture of the outright circumstantial and the downright contrived) which just goes to prove that the conspiracy is indeed working! How is one supposed to argue with that logic? Heads you lose, tails you don't win?

Unremarkably, this double-headed coin logic is designed deliberately to be a zero-sum game. And they know it. So regardless of how irretrievably asinine the question might be (e.g. White House press conference: "Can I ask whether the President had sex with any alien life-forms at Roswell this week?"), they rely on the old "I'm sorry, we/the CIA/the NSA doesn't comment on matters of the President's or national security..." Ah, righty then. So the very fact that they refuse to comment means there is, by default, some form of on-going cover-up? Just add two sugars and stir. Instant conspiracy.

In fact, the recipe is slightly more complicated than that - but not much: just add a pinch of meagre plausibility; a willingness to believe even the most tangential of coincidence; toss in a dash of neatly-packed speculation, and there you have it. Don't wrap it, I'll wear it - conspiracy to go!

And even when you think you've nailed their 'arguments', and proved their fallacy and absurdity, they go and switch-hit and change the goalposts on you. Just when you've exploded every myth they take to be a sacred truth, they introduce the "What Aboutery?" clause - their other chief fail safe mechanism, and one which means that their world, and all its wonderful silliness, need never end - perpetual conspiracy theory; or PCT, which kinda sounds the likes meds they need to be on to control the incurability of their condition. 

And, in large part, it's the Web what's to blame; as it's the canvass on which they are allowed unfettered finger-painting time. The moment it came into being, this role of Web-trolling nutter was bequeathed to the CT - although, on the topic of the Web's 'Big Bang', they'll give you at least 20 different arguments as to when that was... and why... who wanted it kept dark - and why... etc...

Markedly, nothing is ever easy or regular in the minds of the CT; simply being straightforward is to be avoided at all cost, as they seem hell-bent on finding the most contrived explanation, the most outrageously nonsensical abstraction, and the most tinfoil-hatted method of connecting the imaginary dots they can find. You feel like you've stumbled across a race of people who've had their gullibility gene enhanced.

And to what end? How do they benefit from donning this mantle of absurdity? To be praised at the end with a universal congratulatory slap on the back for revealing some previously hidden great 'truth'? By ignoring ideas which all other evidence has utterly refuted in the past? By not painting an "I'm a Nutter" target on their backs?

Sadly, a resounding 'No' to all the above. Which brings us to cause and effect.

An inescapable side-effect of attending conventions of the similarly challenged, and the hours spent poring over obscure texts and other sources of highly questionable (to all but them) provenance, cannot make for anything like a fulsome domestic, or love life. Which probably accounts for the high percentage of being single amongst the CT brethren. How could any woman possibly measure up to their fist love and overriding passion? No doubt if she could, then she'd be considered to have something suspect about her. Precisely who put her up to being so good?! And why?! What are we not being told?!

And so it goes...

So, putting aside any immediate desire to give these people some concerted 'wall-to-wall counselling', and whilst you and I toil through the blithely mundane everyday, utterly blind to the series of 'Grassy Knoll' events in life we seem to be missing; and whilst AIDS was created in a laboratory with the deliberate intention of targeting only specific ethnicities, and those with a given sexual preference; and whilst NASA patently faked the Moon landings, and  9/11 was clearly an inside job, with the Gump Bush administration's either tacit or, for the more hardcore, active blessing - fear not: the CT are on the case for us, and will publish their findings... some day... [*cough*]

So while we wait, what's next? What fresh unleavened lunacy might we expect in future from the conspiracy theory industry?

Perhaps Michael Jackson just made 'Thriller' as a diversion in order to kidnap young boys and take them back to his Neverland Ranch? Perhaps he kept having all that plastic surgery in an effort not to be recognised whilst out doing his weekly shop at Wal-Mart? Don't tell me George W Bush is straight? Maybe Elvis, Princess Di and JFK are not dead: they're all merely enjoying a well-earnt rest, a few polite medium-sweet Sherries, and their respective haemorrhoid treatments at a secluded rehab facility in Colorado? Amy Whinehouse isn't really Pete Doherty in drag?

Hey, they could be onto something here! Not everything in that list is implausible.

And it's not too much to call it an "industry", either. As you can see here, there is now 'mediation' available for those suffering from CT - although, as we can read in the blurb there, it does inform us of one very salient fact: those who suffer from the condition have, to some deep degree or another, lost some form of control over a range of aspects of their life. It's not too big a leap, nor do I think I'm being unreasonable, to see these as self-esteem issues. And I think it's perhaps polite if we ignore the reason why a CT-sufferer had to bring his attorney to a mediation session about his condition... (although, speaking of paranoia and self-esteem issues, I'd love to see figures related to what percentage of CTs are Republicans and/or Fox News Borg?)

Anyway, what's the collective noun for conspiracy theorists? Perhaps it should be just that: a conspiracy of theorists? Why not? It's just as deliciously lunatic as a murder of crows, or a flange of baboons, or a functional illiterate of Bush (or maybe that should be a 'hanging chad' of Bush? A 'Florida' of Bush?)

But then again, and to be fair, who can blame them? Are they really so bad for wanting to steer us down dimly-lit corridors to their own corrupted Twilight Zone and demand that we believe them? After all, President GW Gump Bush was responsible for some of the most elaborate deceit-based conspiracies ever exacted on a people by its leader; as he milked the fear, panic and paranoia over 9/11 for all it was worth. And it was he who lead the US in a series of laughably buttressed conspiracies about Iraq's having WMD; and not only having them, but WMD which could hit the US in 45 minutes from being launched (the fact that it's subsequently been found that Iraq didn't even have so much as a working cappuccino machine notwithstanding...)

But, and just like the poor, and the piss-poor politicians, the CT will always be with us: they share that same frailty which is common to all - the human condition. Only theirs is perhaps more pronounced than others... that, and they try and hide it under a tin foil hat.

Further Reading:

The Quackometer: On Bullshit and Mindfucking

Putin loves Palin


More Motivational Posters

Click on any picture to enlarge.


Saturday, 21 November 2009

The Demands of a Ditzy Diva

Now even bearing in mind that the Heath & Safety Exective (HSE) is an organisation who'll happily provide you with an eight thousand-page report on the potential dangers of opening a can of tuna, and back it up with nanny legislation banning you from doing same, it won't come as a shock to you to learn that 'celebs' can make a consummate arse of themselves with some of the preposterous demands they make of the mere mortals who surround them; and bay-frontaged Mariah Carey doesn't disappoint here, either: Mariah Carey's demands for 20 white kittens blocked by health and safety.

OK, I understand that 'celebs' can be simply unrealistic; that they can be simply unreasonable; but then there's being full-batshit Diva! Demanding a bigger limo - I get. Demanding red-carpet treatment - I get. But on which part of her developmental stage did Miss Carey miss out? Why on earth, short of desires of being some Blofeld-esque-Bond-villain, would even the most vacant mind want 20 white kittens on hand... just to switch on some Christmas lights? Did she need one for each octave she can sing? No, coz that'd be four.

I call it the 'Michael Jackson Syndrome' (MJS): utterly pointless, fatuous and self-indulgent actions taken, and decisions made, by the rich of money, but not of mind - those who've forgotten the qualifier of "could I or should I do this?"; those to whom their usual coterie of lackeys, hairdressers and green-room sycophants have long since ceased to say "No! That's not appropriate, you'll just look stupid and vacuous!"

Mind you, I guess asking for nigh-on two dozen white kittens isn't as bad as a grown man taking a procession of prepubescent boys to his bedroom on a regular basis. Or paying them hush-money to keep their mouth shut afterwards.

Like that was ever gonna end in anything but tears...?

Gotta love local newspapers!

This, from the Kentish Express (UK)

For anyone not au fait with the term, here's an explanation of "cottaging".

Mussolini's brain 'for sale on eBay'

With this news Mussolini's brain 'for sale on eBay', I pondered just what other rare and unseen possessions, from the Great and the Good, might have been purloined over the years and punted out secretly into the market for a quick profit...?

Now bear in mind that not all of these would have necessarily been missed if stolen, but here's how the list might look:

  • Gandhi's knuckle-dusters
  • The lifeboats from Noah's Ark
  • The restraining order, not to come within a 5 mile radius, filed by George W Bush's shadow
  • The view of Russia from Sarah Palin's back door
  • Mother Teresa's porn stash
  • Any factual or unbiased reportage from Fox News
  • Gordon Brown's sense of direction
  • Iraqi WMD
  • Hitler's "lost" testicle
  • Anna Nicole Smith's talent
  • The plot to 'Lost'
What would you add to the list?


    The Etiquette of Tipping

    A pal of mine in the US, Chuck, has just fired this across the ether to me; and I have to confess to a sense of pique after reading this news Couple arrested after refusing to pay tip at Pennsylvania pub.

    The irony? America: the only country where gratuities can be gratuitously demanded.

    [affects tone of unbridled indignation] The damned cheek of it!  A pox o'their house, Sir! In civilised countries, tipping is a social custom, not a requirement!

    One of the things I love about travelling is the presented range of different experiences on offer in the far-flung. And if your levels of expectation are reasonably flexible and not pre-set, then you're more likely than not to survive (if not enjoy) most of these differences.

    Having lived, worked and travelled extensively in the US, I can say that you become accustomed to their custom of the all-but-mandatory tip, when paying for most meals (regardless of how light the repast may be) - and mandatory in the sense that waiters and waitresses, there, allegedly get paid so poorly that the only way they can 'make-ends-meet' is to receive tips and gratuities from willing patrons - even if the service is utterly below par, and sometimes so flagrantly unacceptable that you wouldn't consider kennelling your dog there.

    So whilst 'tips' are expected, good service can be an utter lottery. And whereas poorly prepared food may be sent back, in the reasonably safe knowledge of a corrective and freshly prepared dish replacing it, serving staff with bad manners, and an attitude towards customers of which the Gestapo might have been envious, is another matter entirely. Alas, these people have yet to understand that customers are not merely an embuggerance - and notwithstanding that the withholding of tips can result in a little more that just an awkward silence, as the above article points out. Nevertheless, poor service is one of my pet-hates, and I have, before now, on being kept waiting for nearly an hour after placing an order, informed the house "Hey! My money's good anywhere!" before walking out the door, followed in hotfoot apologetic persuit by the manager. However, I digress...

    But what of elsewhere? With just under 20% of Americans owning a passport (and fewer still having travelled outside the US), what might they expect to see and experience in terms of the habits and tipping etiquette of other nations?

    Well, by contrast, here in the UK, the tables are turned and the reverse is true: the working norm here is that we only tip if we feel that the food and service has been worthy of us being generous with our cash - if not, then we don't. Simple as that. There are no laurels for simply taking food from a kitchen where it's prepared and then placing it on a customer's table. After all, it's hardly a Herculean task, is it?

    And there is one set of circumstances to which I will always take umbrage: the like-it-or-not "service charge".

    As a working rule, any eatery, anywhere, which on the menu stipulates that a mandatory "service charge" is payable, regardless of how small the portion and underwhelming your Lobster Kebab might have been, gets no tip, as they've already shown temerity and fleeced me of it with this additional charge. The staff can then sort out who gets paid what with the owner. Harsh, but fair I feel.

    Mind you, the tipping etiquette in Iceland and Norway border on zero-tolerance!

    A couple of years ago my wife and I were eating with friends at one of the finest restaurants in Reykjavik, Iceland, The Pearl, where, on getting out my wallet to pay the bill, I was informed by our friends, in a mock-brusque manner, that tipping simply isn't done in Iceland - full stop! Same thing in Norway. Come to think of it, I have garnered one or two feigned-polite ah,-you're-a-foreigner-,aren't-you? looks from waiters in Oslo, when unthinkingly trying to pay a bill there.

    Australia's more of a mix between the UK and its adopted habits of the US, as is South Africa - where the preference (of the waiting staff) is that, more often than not, you leave a tip; but you're not obliged to do so. In France, Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands, you just toss some change on the table with your bill, and no one seems to care what percentage you've coughed-up as a gratuity.

    But come on!? Getting pinched by the law for refusing to pay a tip after having received woeful service? Talk about a disproportionate response and a gross overreaction!

    What next: being sent to Guantánamo Bay for jaywalking?

    Actually, if Bush and Cheney were still in power...?

    Salus populi suprema lex esto

    Salus populi suprema lex esto - "Let the good of the people be the supreme law" or "The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law".

    At one time or another, everyone from Cicero to John Locke has waxed poetic about this phrase, and its intended reach and meaning; and you can perhaps see, prima facie, as a mandate, why it made it on to the state seal of Missouri and a clutch of other US states - and is the motto which appears on the coat of arms of The City of Salford - the reluctantly conjoined twin of The City of Manchester - but it leaves one question dangling rather precariously: who decides the definition of 'the good of the people'?

    If ever a term was left open to abuse, it is this.

    Thursday, 19 November 2009

    Mac vs PC: and the winner is...?


    Mickey Mouse now wears a Sarah Palin watch!

    Apparently, thick-as-a-whale-steak Sarah Palin is now bitching about the cover used by Newsweek (left), a picture for which she was clearly happy to pose: allegedly the picture is both "sexist" and "degrading" (although not so, seemingly, when she originally posed for it for some running magazine...).

    The double-standards on display here remind me of that great Grouch Marx aphorism: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others."

    Let's face it, Palin complaining about this Newsweek cover picture is like a guy complaining that a hooker took money off him to have sex. Disingenuous doesn't even begin to cover it (no pun intended) .

    I don't normally do this, but the following article, below, (nothing to do with the Newsweek cover or its corresponding article) is so good, that it's worth posting in its entirety. The author, David Greenberg, provides an excellent historical comparative study between Palin's chances and those of how her (actual) VP predecessors fared in the role. This article remains the © and property of David Greenberg at Slate.

    Sarah Palin = Dan Quayle

    There's no way she will be president.

    By David Greenberg - Updated Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2009, at 3:41 PM ET

    John F. Kennedy believed that being passed over for vice president by the Democratic convention in 1956 saved his political career. That year, Adlai Stevenson, the presidential nominee, had left the selection of his running mate to the convention delegates—the last time a nominee did so. The choice came down to Kennedy and his Senate colleague Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, who had lined up too much early support even for the attractive young war hero to overcome. In the end, Kennedy had it both ways. He benefited from the television exposure and was spared the blame—which as a Catholic, he would have shared—for Stevenson's walloping by President Eisenhower that November. As for Estes, except for crossword puzzlers, nobody much remembers him.

    Running and losing for vice president has never been a promising route to the Oval Office. Yet Sarah Palin, even before this week's book tour mediathon, has been touted by some as the heir apparent of the Republican Party, if not its de facto leader. Right-wing devotees cheer her on, liberals writhe in fear lest she come within 3,000 miles of the White House, and the news media lavish her with attention that's out of proportion to her actual chances of a political future. In fact, only one defeated vice presidential candidate ever achieved the feat that Palin would like to duplicate, and to date she shows no signs of resembling Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

    FDR, as a young assistant secretary of the Navy, ran in 1920 as running mate to Ohio Gov. James Cox, in large part on the strength of his family name. But his was a fluke choice, a harbinger of the oncoming age of celebrity. (Moreover, he would conquer polio and serve as governor of New York before running in 1932.) Prior to that, the vice presidency itself—to say nothing of the running mate slot for the losing side—was a backwater. Before the passage of the 12th Amendment in 1804, a different system had helped Vice Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson become president, but the fate of understudies since then has been bleak. Only Martin Van Buren went from the No. 2 slot to winning election as president, and until Theodore Roosevelt broke the mold, even vice presidents who inherited the top office and logged time as chief executive didn't get their parties' nomination.

    If the vanquished vice presidential running mates who preceded FDR were largely anonymous, those who followed him were scarcely more august. A few achieved distinction, in particular, California Gov. Earl Warren, Thomas Dewey's partner in 1948. But neither Charles Bryan (1924) nor Joe Robinson (1928) nor Charles Curtis (1932) nor Frank Knox (1936) nor Charles McNary (1940) nor John Bricker (1944) nor John Sparkman (1952) nor Kefauver (1956) nor Henry Cabot Lodge (1960) was a presidential contender during the next cycle. Barry Goldwater's 1964 running mate, William Miller, cut one of the early American Express "Do you know me?" ads featuring pitchmen whose 15 minutes of fame had expired.

    Starting with Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's vice president for eight years, the veep took on additional responsibilities, as the sheer number of tasks assumed by the White House proliferated. Television began turning politicians into celebrities, and the sitting vice president gained in stature. The 22nd Amendment limiting the president to two terms also helped make the veep the default choice for his party's presidential nomination the next time around.

    But while sitting vice presidents have often secured their parties' nominations in modern times—Nixon (1960), Hubert Humphrey (1968), Walter Mondale (1984), George Bush Sr. (1988), Al Gore (2000)—of defeated vice presidential nominees, only Bob Dole did so (in 1996), and it took him 20 years. Joe Lieberman, Jack Kemp, Lloyd Bentsen, Geraldine Ferraro, Sargent Shriver—though not lightweights, these politicians weren't presidential timber in most people's eyes. Edmund Muskie in 1972 and John Edwards in 2008 did emerge from their failed vice presidential bids as plausible candidates, but even they couldn't go the distance.

    At any rate, Palin is self-evidently not of the caliber of a Muskie (who stepped into the role of secretary of state in 1979) or a Dole. According to an ABC News poll, only 38 percent of Americans consider her to be qualified to serve as president, and 60 percent consider her unqualified. (A CNN poll puts the qualified figure at 28 percent.) While many in the media made the mistake of underestimating her in the immediate aftermath of her selection as John McCain's running mate—she proved to have good political instincts and talent as a political performer—they are now overestimating her.

    Indeed, the losing vice presidential candidate Palin most resembles is none other than Dan Quayle. Handsome, young, popular with the right-wing base, self-styled champion of family values, scourge of the "liberal media" and embodiment of Heartland America, Quayle likewise confounded observers in 1988 when Bush Sr. tapped him as his No. 2. (Only after Americans' prolonged exposure to George W. Bush did it become clear what Poppy Bush saw in Quayle.) Moreover, both Palin and Quayle, perhaps not coincidentally, enjoyed critical support from the journalist-operative Bill Kristol, whom Jacob Weisberg dubbed "Quayle's Brain" when he served as the vice president's chief of staff, and who helped push Palin onto the McCain team's radar screen. Quayle, too, we should recall, hit the best-seller list with his 1994 memoir, Standing Firm. And like Quayle, Palin seems destined—if she even seeks the presidency in 2012—to bow out early on, perhaps after the 2011 Iowa straw poll.

    Losing in a vice presidential run can hamper aspirants for the top office in several ways. In the first place, running mates are usually chosen in calculations that are at least partly expedient—shoring up the lead candidates' weaknesses or otherwise enhancing their images. Those same calculations probably won't be relevant four years later. Up-and-coming politicians thrust into the spotlight also get subjected to intense media scrutiny that can expose unseen flaws. At the same time, as Kennedy appreciated, they might get saddled unfairly with the blame for losing. Worst of all, their vice presidential bids use up all the excitement associated with their novelty—a vital source of political capital in our day.

    All of which suggests to me that if we are really concerned with whom the Republicans will nominate in 2012, we are focusing on the wrong vice presidential nominee. Unlike Palin, Dick Cheney speaks with confidence and knowledge about national and international affairs, even as he also commands a loyal following among the Republican base. And while his appeal doesn't extend much beyond that base, it has been rising since he left office. Cheney himself, of course, has forsworn any presidential aspirations. But his daughter Liz—who has emerged in the last year as a leading conservative talking head, defender of the Bush-Cheney record, and "red state rock star"—has done no such thing. It was, after all, the scion of another former vice president who put an end to Quayle's career.
    Sarah Palin, watch your back.

    David Greenberg, a professor of history and media studies at Rutgers and author of three books of political history, has written the "History Lesson" column since 1998.

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    Wednesday, 18 November 2009

    The Week's Best Twitter Gags

    A "Palindrome" is a stadium that looks the same both ways... completely empty.

    Peter Serafinowicz

    Listening to my favorite Neil Young album, "You Make Me Neil So Young".

    Michael McKean

    I never liked Macaulay Culkin's early films, but that doesn't make me a homealonaphobe.

    Peter Serafinowicz

    I have never opened a Can of Whupass. I have however enjoyed a fine bottle of '82 Fell Down the Stairs.

    Michael McKean

    Am in LA. Passed a sign saying "Museum of Tolerance Next Exit."

    Armando Iannucci

    @AIannucci Go in. Test the receptionist. Try and make them take Euros. Test them. It's the Museum of Fucking Tolerance. Test them.

    David Schneider

    Recent ourbreaks of unintentional comedy

    And in one of his now bi-annual trips abroad, where he's permitted to wear long pants, mingle with proper adults, and those who practise actual forms of democracy, Robert Mugabe, president of the now bankrupt and benighted state of Zimbabwe, today attended The UN World Food Summit in Rome.

    Although snoring quite loudly, as he slept through the keynote speeches of the delegates from the UK, US, France and Germany,  in his own opening harangue to the assembly of world leaders and other UN dignitaries (or, "you bastards", as he phrased it), Mr Mugabe insisted that there was no link, whatsoever, between his policy of forcibly evicting all white farmers from their formerly profitable and economically-viable farmland, and it going to seed as a result of handing it over to teams of marauding machete-wielding 14 year old drunks - all of whom he alleges are "worthy war veterans from the battle for independence", which ended in 1980... Mr Mugabe further declined to answer questions as to the latter's suitability and qualification as farmers; and denied that there was any correlation between Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) once being acknowledged as being 'The Bread Basket of Africa', to nowadays being viewed as merely a basket-case in Africa.

    Blaming everyone in the room, including the somewhat bemused catering staff, for the now ruinous state into which Zimbabwe has been allowed to slide, in the 29 years since independence (during which he's been the country's sole dictator leader), Mr Mugabe demanded that the world "owed him a living" and, further, that he would not leave Rome without a signed promissory note for $900,000,000,000,000,000.00

    At this point, the other nations' delegates duly convened for a quick confab; before asking for a short adjournment, over lunch, to allow them a chance to discuss the matter in more depth, and to decide how best to proceed.

    On returning to the summit after lunch, the delegates were happy to announce that they had indeed reached an agreement; and on the precise figure which Mr Mugabe had demanded requested; and that they would be happy to see him leave the summit with the promissory note in his possession.

    And so, on hearing that Mr Mugabe's Ryanair flight had safely departed for home, the sum of $900,000,000,000,000,000.00 Zimbabwean dollars was duly transferred into his personal bank account.

    At time of going to press, Mr Mugabe's spokesman had yet to respond to media requests as to how he intends to spend the $6.98.


    Tuesday, 17 November 2009

    Scenes from the US healthcare debate

    Hands across the Herring Pond - a reply to Hoosierboy

    If you read my earlier piece, from November 03rd, on US Senator Orrin Hatch (Rep. Utah)'s nonsensical claims that any introduction of healthcare reforms  there would lead to the inevitable downfall of the two-party system of democracy in America, then you'll know that in the comments in response to it, one of the replies came from Hoosierboy; someone with whom I've exchanged on a number of blogs (including his own) in the past.

    To recap, 'Hoose' was good enough to offer the following points below (those in courier font) - and I promised him a fuller reply in the form of its own piece: so here goes; everyone please feel free to comment, for or against!

    Hoose, if it's OK with you, I'll quote each of your points in order before replying to them.
    I challenge you to find one person who is denied health care in this country. If you are poor and cannot afford treatment it will be provided free in any public hospital.
    A challenge, eh? Well OK, if you insist. 

    In reality, millions of people are denied healthcare every year in the US, when their HMOs & Insurers refuse, for whatever reason, to authorise/sanction/pay for the medical treatment they need, as this Reuters article makes crystal clear California's Insurers Deny 21% of Claims - here's the rub: 
    "From 2002 through June 30, 2009, the six largest insurers operating in California rejected 31.2 million claims for care - 21 percent of all claims."
    I think you'll agree that this Reuters piece makes for some pretty grim reading - and yet that's just California - so if we, as we must, extrapolate that across the entire US, then you can see just how many Americans are "denied health care..."

    And further to your assertion that "If you are poor and cannot afford treatment it will be provided free in any public hospital. " - I think it's fare to say that for the US to be basing its national healthcare policy upon mere charity is just a tad too Dickensian for the 21st century. What d'ya reckon?

    Lastly on your point about how "poor people" are treated under the current system, another thing I found pretty unsettling is this recent Harvard Study, reported on the AP wires within the last 24 hours, which illustrates that uninsured patients with traumatic injuries, such as car crashes, falls and gunshot wounds, were almost twice as likely to die in the hospital as similarly injured patients with health insurance. 

    With respect, Hoose, the "no one gets refused healthcare" line is just a popular myth in the US; and one, if we're being honest, usually punted by those on the more conservative Right (i.e. Republican) side of the political spectrum, and a myth which insists that everyone in the US, regardless of salary, can have free healthcare, simply by turning up at any hospital and asking for it. But what those punting this line choose to ignore (or omit) is the simple truth that not being able to afford healthcare insurance, or, worse, being declined its cover on the grounds of some "previous condition", is precisely the same as being "denied healthcare".

    Whilst opinions on the exact number of uninsured in the US may differ - and by that I mean uninsured through either being unable to afford it, or being refused cover, for whatever reason -   we're still talking in the region of between 40 and 45 million people in the US either without or denied medical insurance cover. And that figure is nothing short of a national disgrace for the US: doubly so when we consider that any discrepancy in these figures is down to nothing more substantial than political partisanship, ideology and a desire to suit their respective prejudices.

    So, where US medical healthcare (prior to any reform) is concerned, the message is clear: you cannot have what you can't afford - and if you can't afford (or are refused) it, then tough! And that's not a national healthcare system: instead, it's merely a pay-to-lay lottery.

    And there is one other aspect which you've not addressed in your reply; but I think it's worth raising, for completeness, if nothing else; and it involves that other rote-learned deflection, err... sorry, 'caveat': that there is a federal mandate in the US which states that "no one can be refused treatment in a hospital..."

    Sounds perfect, doesn't it? Even all-inclusive. But it fails in one chief criterion: its accuracy - in that it gives both an incomplete and (usually deliberately) misleading picture. 

    Yes, no one can be refused medical treatment in the US, but, conversely, they will also receive a bill for any treatment they do receive, whether they can afford to pay it or not; and then have the privilege of being continually harangued and harassed by HMOs and Insurers when they can't pay it - just adding to their overall stress - and as if adding insult to injury (no pun intended) weren't bad enough, that's when hospitals aren't checking patients' personal credit ratings, to boot. When insurers and HMOs are placed in charge of saying ye or nay to whether a patient may receive medical treatment or not, instead of doctors, then it's not a system of national healthcare: it's a country held hostage to finance companies and one which puts profits before people.

    And of course it's perhaps worth noting that, as this Harvard study shows, the paying of medical bills is behind over 60 percent of all U.S. personal bankruptcies. So you don't need me to tell you that the US has the most expensive healthcare - i.e. expensive to the end-user, the patient who needs it - in the Western industrialised world; and yet you still can't ensure that everyone - no questions asked - can receive the benefit of its coverage and treatment at point-of-need.

    This isn't medicine as recognised or practised anywhere else in the civilised and developed  world; as in the US, the provision of healthcare is held as being, first and foremost, a business, and not a social service or societal necessity, as it is in UK/Europe and the Antipodes.

    Is health care too expensive? Yes. Does it need reform? Yes. Can we get there without Universal Government provided health care? Yes.

    Is US healthcare too expensive? Yes, we're in broad agreement on that point, so no argument.

    Is it also, prior to any reform, and as currently run by the HMO's and Insurance companies, outrageously inefficient and wasteful (a charge usually levelled at "Big Gov't" run bodies by US conservatives), which in turn only drives up its user costs further for everyone - to the tune of $800bn a year, as Maggie Fox, the Science and Health Editor for Reuters reported only last week. So another rote objection of the Right holed beneath the waterline.

    Which just leaves us with one point which you've perhaps missed in your assertion above: "Can we get there without Universal Government provided health care? Yes" -  I think we can agree that there's a huge divergence in imperative between 'can we do so?' and 'will we do so (i.e. left to our own devices, and our reliance on, and in most cases subservience to, the stockholders of the HMOs, Big Medicine Lobbyists and the vagaries of a free-market which strains with every fibre of its being to prevent universal healthcare coverage being delivered in the US)?'


    Now, if anyone's reading this and still finding themselves in the "we can do this off our own bat with no prompting or obligation" school of quandary, let's have a quick look at where we have a  working 'would we-could we-should we?' parallel in US History.

    On what grounds were Ford forced into an urgent redesign of its Pinto range of cars, which had the nasty habit of simply exploding into flames when hit by another car, due to poor design and manufacture, killing thousands of Americans in the process?

    Does anyone still honestly believe that Ford made the necessary changes and redesigns off their own bat, based on nothing more than some good will initiative, or out of some desire to adhere to a moral code of "doing the right thing"? Or was it being obliged to do so, due to the repeated court battles and the gazillions of dollars in fines it had to keep paying out, to the families of its victims, in damages and lost legal cases?

    The record clearly shows that it was not merely Ford's beneficence and altruism which played a part in their decision to make corrective design changes to their vehicles to prevent further people being burnt alive in their cars. Their motive was having to explain to their stockholders why their profits were being made to look sick.

    So ask yourself: will the current HMO-run healthcare model self-rectify or get its house in order, if left purely to its own devices? No. It won't. Because the profit incentive is too strong to want to make any changes to the how things are today - hence the much needed, and soon to be introduced, reforms.
    To your point, whether we like it or not the Founders envisioned and designed a Nation with a limited Federal Government. That is not the case in the rest of the world, and frankly if Europe jumped off a clifff we are under no obligation to follow. Didn't your Mom teach you that?
    Actually, no, she didn't: but then again, neither did she need to.

    However, what she did teach me is that 300+ year old, Georgian-era concepts need not be religiously and blindly adhered to, or never refreshed or updated to suit the times in which we live, in order to meet the needs of the modern era. This insistence, by some in the US, of sticking to old ways and outdated thinking is what's got America into the healthcare mess it's in today - or, put another way, allow me to quote John Maynard Keynes:
    “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”
    Time moves on and thinking becomes more enlightened, and medical needs and practices are meant to keep-step and improve with them - and, as to your point about the US Founding Fathers, just as you now allow women and black people the vote in America (provision for neither of which appeared in either the US Constitution or The Bill of Rights; both were achieved - wait for it - by amendments!), the time has surely come to recognise that the medical and healthcare needs of all US citizens are just as important as clean drinking water and the right to laugh at Vanilla Ice.

    And when all is said and done, the Founding Fathers made no provision for any number of things: the Space Shuttle, automobiles & Interstates, the portable TV, Presidents sleeping (and having children) with their plantation slaves...

    Things change. Lord knows if we in the UK demanded to adhere to some of our oldest tenets and sacred cows, we'd still be allowed to kill a Welshman on sight!
    Strictly speaking, Congress has no authority to force anyone to buy health insurance. If you can find otherwise in the Constitution, I will be glad to listen and learn. In fact the 9th and 10th Amendments give that authority to the States. If Massachusetts wants universal healthcare they can have it (they do). If Utah does not, so be it. The powers of Congress are few and disntly spelled out in Atricle 1, Section 8.
    'Forcing' people to buy health insurance was one of Senator Hatch's lamentable ramblings, not one I suggested; but I think, for which suggested healthcare reforms make provision, if no one can be refused health insurance due to some previous condition, or be priced-out from affording it, then no one will be placed in a position where they are 'forced' into being unable to access health insurance, which can only be a good thing.
    BTW, I should also point out that NO WHERE in the Constitution can you find the phrase "Seperation of Church and State".
    Believe me Hoose, on this point, you are preaching to the converted (pun intended): I've been having this same debate with American friends for years: the actual wording used is so vague you can you can drive a coach and six through the gaps in it.

    Anywyay, I look forward to reading your (and anyone else's) reply mate.

    Take it easy and hopefully speak soon!


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