Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rome Versus Spartacus

In the words of Monty Python: “And now for something different.”

Rome versus Spartacus: Blood and sand

Not the historical Rome versus Spartacus duel, ultimately won by Rome, but of Spartacus we know little.

HBO had a hit a few years ago with their two year series Rome, centered in history.

Starz is currently showing the series, Spartacus, based on Hollywood fiction. It claims a hit, based on a viewership of 1.1 million, roughly equal to Fox News, and greater than MSNBC or CNN. Spartacus versus Glenn Beck would be a smack-down worth watching.

Rome was a solid, well acted, carefully plotted script with character development. Nudity and Sex were present, but played a peripheral role in the episodes. Sex was often an element of statecraft. The acting though was by sallow British actors with British accents, the low-lives with Cockney accents. Dark complexioned Italians were scarce in the series.

One exception was the British-Indian actress, Indira Varma, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, who played Niobe, a peasant princess from a Roman clan. Her first major role was that of the confused, libidinous servant Maya in The Kama Sutra. Go figure!

Rome gave us historical figures: Julius Caesar, Octavian, Mark Anthony, Cleopatra, Brutus, Pompey, Cato, Cicero, Lepidus. Spartacus gives us Spartacus.

Spartacus though has no plot or character development. Historical accuracy cannot be assured because history tells us little about Spartacus, except that he was probably a Thracian, owned by Batiatus, and though he died in his final battle, his body was never found.

Most of what we know about him comes from Kirk Douglas’ 1960 portrayal in the movie Spartacus.

This series starts with the statement that Spartacus is a “Historical Portrayal of Ancient Roman Society.” It says nothing about the accuracy of Spartacus.

The acting in this production consists of beefcake gladiators in loincloths fighting with wooden swords, full frontal nudity, copious sex (but below the standards of Cinemax), sallow New Zealand actors with British derived accents, and a plethora of blondes. The gladiators could come from Muscle Beach or the Chippendales, New Zealand branch.

The gladiators in the arena fight to the death, illustrated by computer animated decapitations. Rome needed no special effects. Realism in Spartacus comes through choreography and the Foley Stage.

One of the stars is Lucy Lawless, formerly of Xena: Warrior Princess. Her husband is a producer of this series set in the Roman colony of New Zealand. Rome conquered much of Britain, but certainly never colonized New Zealand. The Brits did though.

Great actors and actresses can assume any role. Thus, we have Xena uttering these immortal words:

“Return to his cell now.
I expect his cock in you
Or a sword tomorrow.”

Lucy, who was embarrassed by a nipple showing during a singing of the National Anthem at an Anaheim Mighty Ducks - Detroit Red Wings hockey match in 1997, has no similar embarrassment showing a lot more and screwing a gladiator, while watching slaves service her husband. Beefcake attracts the patricians in Spartacus while cougars seek young boys, perhaps anticipating the depravity of Caligula a half century later.

Kirk Douglas, the real Spartacus, never resorted to total skin in his movies.

Neither did his contemporaries, Charlton Heston, or Victor Mature, although Burt Lancaster sometimes did. Their success was based on skill.

Both Rome and Spartacus are similar in that wives and mistresses often have short life expectancies.

Rome was canceled after two years because of the high cost of production. Spartacus may outlast Rome because of the meager $2 million per episode cost of filming in New Zealand.

Rome might not get to defeat Spartacus this time. Andy Whitfield, who plays Spartacus has been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma; production is in hiatus, not to be confused with Hades.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The State of Political Discourse: 2010 Health Care Reform Bill

Representative Al Grayson:

The Republican Health Care Plan
1. Don’t get sick
2. If you do get sick
3. Die quickly

Senator Al Franken
“Shut up and listen to me”

Speaker Nancy Pelosi
“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it”

Representative Alcee Hastings
“There ain’t no rules here, we’re trying to accomplish something … ...All this talk about rules … When the deal goes down … we make‘em up as we go along.”

Congressman Hastings was a federal judge for 10 years until he was impeached and removed from office in 1989 for corruption and perjury, becoming the first impeached judge to serve in Congress.

Representative John Conyers
“I love these members, they get up and say, ‘Read the bill’ … What good is reading the bill if it’s a thousand pages and you don’t have two days and two lawyers to find out what it means after you read the bill?”

Q: What part of the Constitution do you think gives Congress the authority mandate individuals to purchase health insurance?

A: “Under several clauses, the good and welfare clause and a couple of others….”

Congressman Conyers is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, a lawyer, and the husband of Monica Conyers, the former President of the Detroit City Council who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

Representative Bart Stupack
“All the phones are unplugged at our house” because “of the obscene calls and threats. His wife stopped watching TV news so she wouldn’t see “People saying they’re going to spit on you and all this… That’s just not fun.”

That was before his vote switch

"It is absurd to think I would change my vote for a tow truck and a fence to keep deer from walking onto the runway of an airport in my district."

Representative Jerrold Nadler to Speaker Pelosi: "We said we need to deal with this now or you're going to have real problems."

Representative Tom Pierrielo
"If you don't tie our hands, we'll keep stealing."

Senator Ben Nelson
“My vote is not for sale period.”

Senator Mary Landrieu
“The fact of the matter is, and I know people don’t believe this, but I can’t be bought.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
“If they don’t have something in it important to them, then it doesn’t speak well of them.”

Representative Joe Wilson
“You lie”

Representative Randy Neugebauer
“(It’s a) Baby Killer.”

Dan Rather on President Obama and Health Care Reform
"Listen, he's a nice person, he's very articulate" this is what's being used against him, "but he couldn't sell watermelons if it, you gave him the state troopers to flag down the traffic."

Vice President Joe Biden
“It’s a big fucking deal”

Monday, March 22, 2010

Congressman Bart Stupak Caved, or Did He?


Poor Bart Stupak

He caved

He held out almost to the end, but he caved

He had no choice but to cave

He led 12 pro-life Democrats in opposition to the Health Reform Bill.

The Stupak Gang of 12 was instrumental in the passage of health reform, but who are the other 11?

By being the public face of the Stupak 12, he had a target, normally a red target but in this case a blue target, placed on his chest, back, and his family. He had to cave. That’s too much pressure on anyone who loves his family.

I understand, but his erstwhile Pro-Life supporters are not so forgiving.

The problem is that he caved. He stated barely 24 hours before the vote that he could not accept the Senate Bill or Reconciliation unless it contained the Stupak Amendment.

He didn’t get it.

He caved.

He got a fig leaf instead. The most pro-choice President in American history issued an Executive Order reaffirming the Hyde Amendment.

He got a transparent fig leaf, one that carries no legal weight.

But that’s not his cardinal sin.

Instead, in his opposition to the Republican Motion for Recommital, a motion with no chance of passage, he referred to the Republican Pro-Life proponents as “disingenuous” and betrayed all the pro-lifers he purported to represent.

He had the look of the Stalin Show trial defendants who had to denounce their friends and allies.

We expect politicians to be disingenuous, to lie, to change course upon election, to tack with the prevailing winds. We’re shocked when Presidents like Reagan, George W. Bush, and Obama stick to their beliefs, or guns.

But we don’t expect politicians to betray their followers, their base.

Don’t be surprised in November if Congressman Bert Stupak is the number one target of the Pro-Life Movement.

Don’t be surprised if parish priests speak out against him.

Perhaps the Congressman was really trying to convince himself.

Or he caved because he suddenly received funding for three small airports in his large district.

Or did he cave because the SEIU threatened to cut him off in the primary and general election?

He may well go into the November elections with a Scarlett A painted on his chest.

Politically he’s dead meat. He may squeeze out reelection, but no one, not Republicans nor Democrats, neither Pro-Lifers or Pro-Choicers, will ever trust him again. President Carter caved early in his Administration on pork barrel water projects, stranding a number of members of Congress who agreed to support his proposed veto even if it would cost them in Congress. He never regained their trust.

Principle put him in a lose-lose situation. Discretion, being the better part of valor, made him the Big Political Loser Sunday Night.


Congressman Bert Stupak knew all along he was going to cave. He told an audience back home in November that if he otherwise liked the other provisions in the Health Care Reform Bill, he would not let abortion stop him from voting for the bill.

He was simply enjoying his 15 minutes of fame.

Just another pol gaming the people!

The Upper Peninsula gets very cold during winter.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lessons From the Health Care Battle

Elections have consequences.

Landslides have greater consequences.

Political power is power.

Overwhelming control of both Houses of Congress and the Presidency is power.

Never underestimate the power of your base, nor turn them off, especially the large contributors.

Profiles in Courage awards should go to those who vote against their President, political leaders, and their base when their vote makes a difference.

Both parties give passes to members whose votes are no longer necessary.

One who wins office by 3,000 votes, or 200 votes, has the same vote in the House or Senate as one who wins by 50,000 votes or 500,000.

A win is a win.

The ends justify the means in politics.

An immediate political victory trumps an election 8, 38, or 58 months in the future. Eight months is an eternity in politics. Anything, including miracles, can happen in the interim.

Primary campaigns have more urgency than general elections.

Politicians often live in a cocoon.

To coop or neutralize potential opponents early in the process is basic politics.

Bipartisanship is greatly overrated.

Legislators are not guided by economics, history, legal or constitutional questions, but love fig leaves and cover.

Members of Congress usually don’t read the bills they vote on, much less a 2,700 page bill with 72 hours notice.

A Congress cannot always overturn an enactment.

These precepts apply to both parties.

Why the Health Care Bill Cannot and Will Not Work

Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are running out of money; i.e. going broke

Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and disability fraud in the hundreds of billions

The FBI has spent billions trying to update its computer system

The FAA has spent billions trying to update its computer system

The Stimulus Bill

Post Office

Walter Reed Hospital

VA health care

Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

Public housing



Flood insurance


The virtual fence

Swine flu and H1N1 vaccines

The War Against Drugs

Canada, England and France

Friday, March 19, 2010

How Does a $940 Billion Cost Become a $138 Billion Deficit Reduction?

I never understood the new math, but this is byzantine. It’s Congressional math by a Congress with no sense of economics or even Aesop’s Fables. Once upon a time, Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen said: “A million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money.” A billion here, and a billion there, and we have trillion dollar deficits.

The reality here is that the $940 billion is based on false assumptions, creative accounting, false accounting, material omissions, and the budgetary tricks that are bankrupting California.

The CBO had to score the bill on the assumptions presented to it by Congress. Note though that to the credit of the CBO, it stated the figures were only preliminary and final figures could not be provided without knowing what was in the final Bill.

To begin with, the health reform act only looks solvent because most of the expenditures do not begin until 2014, but the tax increases begin immediately. In other words, ten years of crippling taxes are needed to fund four years of underestimated expenditures.

Second, the CBO has long engaged in static analysis. If tax rates are raised 5%, the CBO assumes that revenues will rise 5%. They do not account for human behavior. People, especially businesses, adjust their income, behavior, and their expenditures to minimize taxes. The CBO should have looked at the experiences of Tennessee and now Massachusetts to realistically score the Bill.

For example, experience tells us that the best way for government to increase capital gains tax revenues is to lower capital gain tax rates. President Obama has expressly rejected that reality by proposing to raise the tax rate as a matter of “fairness.” Fairness will include a tax rate of 42.8% on dividends. Watch the rich hunker down, and reduce their capital gains, dividends, and taxable interest income.

Further, one of the critical lessons from the Great Depression was that raising taxes during an economic recession, much less depression, further depresses the economy.

The new tax increases include taxing and raising taxes on capital, which will have a crippling effect on economic activity. The result will be Eurosclerosis. Liberals view capital gains, dividends, interest, annuities, rents and royalties as “unearned income.” These are the funds for investment. Taxing them reduces investment. Even more jobs will be exported.

The only employment gains will be in 16,500 new IRS agents to enforce the law, especially the compulsory insurance mandate, other federal bureaucrats, and the construction industry in the Washington, D.C. area.

Caterpillar announced that the new bill will cost it $100 million in the first year. The company competes in the global marketplace. To remain competitive it will force its employees to shoulder more of the cost, cut its retirees, or move more production offshore.

Every major manufacturer will face that quandary. The solution, employer by employer, will be a drag on our fragile economy.

Third, the $940 billion is purportedly funded through tax increases and programmatic cuts. The tax increases will not materialize as projected, and the cost savings will vaporize. For example, over $540 billion is scheduled to be cut from Medicare, including a 21% cut in physician reimbursements. That will not happen. Indeed, a bill is drafted to restore the physician reimbursements to preclude more doctors from bailing out of the program. The CBO estimated that the $200 billion “doctor fix” will add $39 billion to the deficit.

It also includes projected savings from nationalizing federally guaranteed student loans. That too won’t happen as Congress spends these sums elsewhere. these "savings" have already been cut from $87 billion to $61 billion.

Fourth, history tells us that Congress also expand entitlement programs after initial enactment. Speaker Pelosi has already promised that with the health care bill.

Fifth, perhaps the greatest cost increase isn’t even in the bill, but may be the next great Congressional battle. Undocumented immigrants are excluded from the bill’s coverage.

President Obama has promised the Hispanic Caucus that he will now move on Immigration Reform. If the undocumented immigrants are provided legal residency status, then they and their extended families will be eligible for benefits under the view. Regardless of your views on the 15-30 million undocumented immigrants in America, legalization will result in a budget buster.

Finally, everything is subject to change after the November elections.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Nationalization of Student Loans is Part of Health Reform

The nationalization of student loans joins the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback, Gatorade, Bismarck bank, Central Valley water, immigration reform, and judgeships as part of the nation’s health reform act.

One of President Obama’s ongoing goals is the nationalization of student loans. As a Populist/socialist, he has been appalled by the profits bankers make on these loans.

The Democratic Congress has tried for three years to kick the bankers out of the Perkins, Stafford and Plus loan programs. The House backed the nationalization by voting to end support of federally guaranteed student loans by banks and other private lenders, but the Democrats lacked 60 votes in the Senate to do so.

In reality, President Obama hates the bankers. Even prior to his election, he lashed out at the obscene profits made by bankers, not to mention insurance companies. President Obama on September 21, 2009 criticized the large U.S. banks for opposing the changes in the student loan program. The President asserted the banks, receiving Tarp funds, wanted to maintain the status quo because they get an “unwarranted subsidy.” He accused them of enjoying “a free ride from taxpayers for too long.” Populism to the core!

The goal is to go to a single payer system, the federal government. The conversion, coupled with the elimination of federal subsidies, will in theory result in savings of $87 billion over the next decade. I have a bridge in Brooklyn for you, if you believe these figures.

Congress plans to allocate these savings to the Pell Grant Program, early-childhood education, and community colleges. Until then, the House is counting these “savings” as half of the deficit reducing effect of the Health Reform Legislation. Double counting is rampant in the proposed legislation.

In any event, we now have the stealth student loan reform bill concealed in the “Deem and Pass” and Reconciliation Bill.

The Act will remove private lenders from the guaranteed student loan program, with the sole exception of the Bismarck bank.

The computed savings will not, of course, materialize. First, they will be eaten up by a burgeoning federal bureaucracy. Second, business will be lost to the private lenders, who may be charging more, but provide an attractive service to borrowers. Third, some universities are already engaged in direct lending.

One of the competitive advantages of the private loans is the efficiency of their process, the ease of borrowing. A phone call or a few clicks on the computer can result in a quick approval.

Compare that to the tortuous federal FAFSA with 110 questions. Congress has mandated a shortening of FAFSA, but we’ll see. The General Accounting Office (GAO) published a study in October, “Federal Student Aid; Highlights of a Study Group on Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” The 26 page report is exceedingly non-illuminating.

Members of Congress, especially Democrats, have a very short memory.

One of their first priorities upon achieving control of Congress three years ago was to strike out against private lenders. Congress enacted the 2007 College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which cut the federal subsidies by $20 billion, and cut the interest rate in half from 6.8 to 3.4% by 2012.

Congress proves every day that it lacks an understanding of even basic economics. Major banks, including the Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, SunTrust, and Wachovia, as well as other private lenders, 106 lenders in all, quickly pulled out of the market. Students at schools with high default rates were especially at risk. State lending agencies in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania were financially unable to fill the gap in their states.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of college students faced a lack of college financing. An educational, and political, apocalypse was in the making.
Congress responded by bailing out the student loan program and the lenders at a higher cost than it expected to save.

So far, it’s déjà vu all over again.

However, the private lenders have prospered, even with their costlier and riskier loans, in the non-federally guaranteed student loan market. Their market share was only 6% in 1998, but tripled to 24% in 2008. One competitive advantage they possess is their efficiency in the lending process. Perhaps more significant are the escalating costs of college, which often exceeds the limits on federally guaranteed loans. Students must turn to private lenders for their loans. Think of law students who often graduate over $100,000 in debt.

Congress could offset this reality by sharply increasing the lending limits on their loans. To do so though would be to expose taxpayers to billions in losses, reminiscent of Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae. Student default rates have doubled and tripled in this economy. Guaranteed student loans are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy, but that doesn’t make them any easier to collect from an unemployed graduate.

President Obama calls his plan a “no-brainer.”

Monday, March 15, 2010

Caution: Deodorants are hazardous to Your Health in Detroit City Hall

Caution: Deodorants Are hazardous to Your Health in Detroit City Hall

At least that is the report of a recent Detroit law suit. And that’s what I thought until I read deeper into the case.

I thought of writing lines like “Detroit’s City Hall will now smell like a sweaty locker room,” or “Detroit stinks in more ways than one” taking into account the recent corruption involving Mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick and Council members, or the epitome of the Nanny State, or how one poor sport can make life intolerable for all.

Susan McBride in the Detroit Planning Department complained of severe allergic reactions to the perfumes and oils wore by a co-worker. As an asthmatic, I certainly understand adverse reactions to perfumes, scents, oils, and the like.

The city did not make a reasonable accommodation. It failed to adopt a “scents” policy, which is becoming common in the workplace, or to relocate Susan or her co-worker.

Susan’s response in 2007 was to file a lawsuit under the American with Disabilities Act, alleging a failure to provide her with a reasonable accommodation.

Federal District Court Judge Lawrence Zatkoff denied Detroit’s motion to dismiss on November 25, 2008. He upheld the disability claim “based on the major life activity of breathing.”

At that point Detroit had to worry about a recent jury verdict for $10 million in favor of a DJ who acquired chemical sensitivities on the job due to a chemical spill, followed by an inability to handle the perfume worn by a co-worker. The judge reduced the verdict to $814,000.

The failure to make a reasonable accommodation, a decision by the HR Department, was inexcusable and hard to justify legally.

Detroit entered into a $100,000 settlement on February 10, 2010. It is now posting placards in the workplace pursuant to the settlement, and will change its employee handbook.

Herein lies the confusion and misinterpretations. The City adopted a “scents” policy. The story is that even deodorants are banned in the workplace. If true, Detroit would deserve additional derision, not that it needs any more during its economic collapse.

What the placards say is different. The actual interpretation may mean something else in practice, but it states “The City requests.” A request may be strong, but it is not the same as a requirement or mandate.

Detroit requests its employees to “refrain from wearing scented products, including … colognes, after shave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions … [and] the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, sprays or solid air fresheners, room deodorizers, plug-in wall air fresheners, cleaning compounds or similar products.”

By way of comparison, the announced policy of the Michigan Department of Information is that “mild scents may be worn in moderation, but strong or offensive scents that become detrimental to the work unit will not be tolerated.”

Note carefully that the requested refrain in Detroit is on “scented” items, not unscented products, which do not thereby present a health risk to others. My lungs can certainly tell the difference.

The worse that can be said about the new Detroit policy is that it is a slight overreaction that follows an under reaction.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Global Warming/Cooling, Air Traffic Control, and the FAA Are Not a Good Combination

Global warming/cooling has struck again. Delta cancelled hundreds of flights a week ago Tuesday because of predicted snowfalls at Atlanta Airport.

We’re talking Atlanta – not Anchorage, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit, Elmira, Fargo, Green Bay, Hartford, Ithaca, Jackson Hole, Kalamazoo, Laramie, Minneapolis, New Haven, Omaha, Pittsburgh, Quebec, Rochester, Syracuse, Toledo, Utica, Vermillion, or Zanesville. It’s not even Washington, D.C., which shuts down during 1-2 inches.

Rather than having passengers, planes, and crews stuck at the airport during a major storm, the airlines preemptively cancel flights. Unfortunately, I was one this go-around.

My wife asked a while back “Do the airlines ever phone anymore?”

The answer is definitely yes. Delta phoned at 11:00pm and 4:00am with the notifications. They also emailed.

Technology is great, but it doesn’t control the weather. Nor does it de-ice hundreds of airplanes at a warm weather airport like Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.

I don’t miss the days of flying out of the Frost Belt during winter, cancelled flights, delays to de-ice, or clear the runways, and then shoveling your car out at the airport parking lot.

Heavy snows raked the Deep South just a few weeks ago. Philadelphia (90 inches) and other east coast cities have reached all time levels of winter snowfall, and the winter’s not yet over. D.C. and the rest of the east coast have experienced three monster storms this winter, beginning at Christmas Time. Winter crops have been wiped out in Florida.

NASA just reported that this has been a warm winter, one of the warmest on record. This winter in the Northern Hemisphere is not global warning. As Chico Marx once said in a famous skit “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” The Marx Brothers are a parable for the current global climate change debate.

It’s not just the United States. Europe, even Moscow, has posted record snows and temperature lows. New Delhi, India was at record lows a few weeks ago.

Airline travel is about to get more adventuresome because of the Law of Unintended Consequences even without winter.

Thousands of passengers have been stranded on the tarmac for hours because airlines refused to return to the terminal. Some airlines have acted really stupid in these situations.

Congress has been deliberating a Passenger Bill of Rights.

The Department of Transportation jumped Congress by promulgating its own Passenger Bill of Rights. Airlines must deplane passengers if they are on the tarmac for 3 hours or more, which seems reasonable.

The proposed penalty is $27,500 per passenger, not per plane, for failure to meet this requirement. That amounts to about $3.5 million for a fully loaded medium-sized jet. That’s one way to put a dent in the budget deficit.

Won’t happen! The revenue load for these flights will usually be well under $100,000, often approaching $50,000. The airlines understand economics.

They have threatened to respond by cancelling flights in advance if it seems that delays might ensue. The decision is basic economics.

The national, and international, consequences of widespread cancellations will be devastating to hundreds of thousands of passengers. Vacations, marriages, honeymoons, family emergencies will be disrupted.

The underlying problem is the primitive equipment used by the FAA in guiding air traffic. The agency has unsuccessfully invested billions in attempting to upgrade its old, deteriorating computer system. The passengers and airlines are paying for the FAA’s failures.

The situation is especially acute in the New York City area. LaGuardia and Kennedy are plagued with chronic delays.

The two biggest carriers at Kennedy are Delta and Jet Blue. The major runway at Kennedy will be shut down for months for maintenance and repairs. The efforts on air traffic nationally and internationally will be cascading.

Delta and Jet Blue have filed for waivers. If they don’t get them, expect more midnight calls from the airlines.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

They're Serving Up the Easter Bunny for Easter

The New York Times had a big article on Wednesday, March 3, 2010 featuring the new red meat; lean, mean, trim, green menu of cheap rabbit.

Yes, the Easter Bunny, Bunnykins, Peter Rabbit, Peter Cottontail, Br’er Rabbit, the Brown Bunny and the White Rabbit, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Flopsy and Mopsy, Thumper, the Velveteen Rabbit are on the menu. Miffy and Uncle Wiggily are fair game, but not the Playboy bunny. We can have the March Hare in April for Easter.

No big deal; we’ve always eaten our chocolate bunnies.

Americans have joined the French in discovering the delicacy. We too can have a meal of escargot, frog legs, and hare.

We now ask: “Who fried Roger Rabbit?” Was it Jessica?

Remember Bugs Bunny’s famous line “What’s up Doc?” Now we know. It’s Bugs. Join Elmer Fudd in hunting the wabbit in Toon Town, guided by the Energizer Bunny.

Rabbits are good enough for coyotes, wolves, leopards, cheetahs, lynx, and birds of prey. Why not humans?

The tortoise or the hare? Doesn’t matter, they both end up in the soup.

No need to stew over rabbit stew. You can order rabbit any way you want, except “rare,” because rabbits are too prolific to be rare.

Pate of rabbit sounds much classier than butchering Flopsy and Mopsy.

Other possibilities include rabbit pot pie, rabbit legs, rabbit burgers, boiled, broiled and roasted rabbit, crispy rabbit, hot bunny dogs, rabbit bone soup, stir fried and freeze dried bunny, marinated hare, minced Miffy, rabbit kabob, rabbit sticks, skewered and stewed rabbit, fricasseed rabbit, tureen of rabbit, a footlong Subway hare sandwich for $5.00 and Campbell’s Instant Rabbit Noodle Soup. Bunnykins are for dessert.

Discriminating tastes go for the arctic and snowshoe hares.

Those of us bored by the rubber chicken circuit can now traverse the rubber bunny circuit.

Rabbit food is inexpensive, a major selling feature during a time of food inflation. Just throw a pair of rabbits in the back yard on a bed of grass, and watch them breed like rats. Feed them natural grass, and you have organic rabbit. Hare today and gone to market.

Now that we have banned fatty sodas from our schools, we can replace them with non-fatty rabbits.

As children, we always carried our lucky rabbit foot, but never worried about the unlucky Oswald who parted with it.

We wear leather jackets, alligator boots, leopard skin pill box hats, mink coats, and hang up sheepskin diplomas.

We eat cows, deers, goats, moose, mules, pigs, sheep,chicken, ducks, geese and turkey. Some societies view dog as a delicacy, others eat chimpanzees and gorillas, and some Shakespeare's strange flesh. In short, the menu includes Mrs. O'Leary's cow, Fernando the Bull and perhaps Bevo, Bambi, BillyGoat, Bullwinkle, Porky Pig, Mary's little lamb, Chicken Little, Daffy Duck, Mother Goose, Tom the Turkey, Goofy, Cheeta and Bonzo, but not Thumper.

Our diet can include Bison Burgers, cow's brain, fowl (that says it all), haagis, insects, Leg of lamb, liver(a veritable reservoir of toxins), mutton, pork tenderloin, rack of lamb, rattlesnake, raw eggs, shark fin soup, spare ribs, tongue, Sushi, veal, whale meat, and worms. Don't ask what's in hot dogs, sausage, and anything named wurst, but the White Rabbit is off limits.

We bake clams, boil crabs, luau pigs, potluck meals, tailgate beer and ?, spike punch, stuff turkeys while giving thanks, and swallow goldfish, but we simply will not go down the rabbit hole.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Armenian Two Step

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 23-22 last Thursday to approve a non-binding resolution condemning the Armenian Genocide of 1913-1916 by Turkey almost a century ago. The Turkish Government quickly responded by recalling the Turkish ambassador to the United States, as it did with a similar proposal in 2007.

The Armenian Genocide is a documented historical fact, as are the slightly less known Greek and Assyrian Genocides. Estimates for the Armenian Genocide range from 300,000-1,500,000 deaths; the Greek Genocide claimed several hundred thousands, as did the Assyrian Genocide. Precise counts are unavailable. Unlike the methodical Germans during the Holocaust, the Turks did not keep detailed records.

Turkey also refuses to open its archives.

Executions, mass murders, deportations, and rapes brutalized the Genocides, the first major genocides of the 20th Century.

The Greek Genocide was followed by the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922, and then the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. A recorded 1,104,216 Ottoman Greeks in Asia Minor reached safety in Greece. The repatriation of the Greeks foreshadowed the even bloodier partition of India and Pakistan four decades later.

Turkey pioneered ethnic cleansing in the 20th Century.

So horrific was the Armenian Genocide that Armenia was the only Republic to voluntarily join the USSR after World War I. The Armenians knew Mother Russia would be a bear, but safety outweighed the risks.

Domestic politics are clashing today with international politics. The domestic will yield to Realpolitik, that practiced by Henry Kissinger.

Representative Howard Berman chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee. California has a large Armenian community; 80,000 live in adjoining Glendale. Turks are quiet in American politics; few speak for them. The Armenian-American residents will no more forgive or forget the Turks than the even larger and more active Greeks.

Generations of hatred seethe.

Turkey is too critical an ally to offend. It was a steadfast member of NATO during the Cold War, remains an unofficial relationship with Israel, and provides a land of stability in the volatile Mideast. It forms a counter balance to Iran. Perhaps most of all, it remains a secular Muslin nation, eventhough Islamists currently run the government, and given a chance, might turn it into another Islamic Republic.

In his capacity as a Senator eying the White House, Barack Obama in January 2008 promised “as President I will recognize the Armenian Genocide.”

In her capacity as a Senator eyeing the White House, Hillary Rodham Clinton also supported the resolution.

President Obama and Secretary Clinton now vigorously oppose the Resolution. The ostensible argument is that it would interfere with a rapprochement currently underway between Armenia and Turkey.

It’s geo-political.

The Congressional leadership has signaled the Resolution will not make it to the floor of the House.

Sadly, Turkey has been unwilling to acknowledge its role in the genocides, eventhough the crimes were committed by a government which was only in power a century ago for a few years.

Japan has also been unwilling to fully admit its fault in World War II, its war crimes, naked aggression, the Rape of Nanking, its use of Korean comfort women, and similar acts.

Conversely, Germany has accepted fault for the Holocaust, and other atrocities committed by the Nazi regime, and has been able to move on.

Turkey though has early added Kurds to its list of enemies, eventhough the Kurds committed some of the atrocities with the Turks. President Wilson had promised the Kurds an independent Kurdistan at the war, but did not deliver. Secretary Kissinger abandoned the Kurds 3 ½ decades ago. They’re still looking, although they may have the beginnings in northern Iraq.

Turkey needs to face its genocidal nightmares and enter the 21st Century.