Friday, December 30, 2005


One good thing about 2005: No longer shackled by an election, the Bush Administration dropped all pretenses -- and terror alerts -- for 2005.

There was one "heightened state" in 2005 -- in October. Remember? New York officials said there was a bomb threat to the subway system. The info later proved false, but it came out on Oct. 6, just after news that Karl Rove was being hauled back before a grand jury in Traitorgate. Since then, all quiet on the Eastern Front.

Where did all the terror alerts go? Are the scaremongers tuckered out?


Who needs the mainstream media? America, for starters. Dana Priest's lengthy-but-worth-it piece in Friday's Washington Post introduces a new and still secret acronym:
The broad-based [CIA] effort, known within the agency by the initials GST, is compartmentalized into dozens of highly classified individual programs, details of which are known mainly to those directly involved.

GST includes programs allowing the CIA to capture al Qaeda suspects with help from foreign intelligence services, to maintain secret prisons abroad, to use interrogation techniques that some lawyers say violate international treaties, and to maintain a fleet of aircraft to move detainees around the globe. Other compartments within GST give the CIA enhanced ability to mine international financial records and eavesdrop on suspects anywhere in the world.
President Bush is reportedly elbows-deep in the details. GST could make GWB SOL.
This evening's repeat of "The Simpsons" has Homer running for mayor, popping open a brew and uttering the greatest political line of modern times:
"I'll find out what a mayor does! Expand my brain, learning juice."
Mmm ... learning juice.
We continue our struggle to understand why Bon Jovi is considered one of the 10 best rock acts of all time. We are also enjoying the back-and-forth comments sparked by our recent post, as we listen to:

•"King Without a Crown" from Matisyahu
•"Hell Yes" by Beck
•"The Queen & The Soldier" by Suzanne Vega
•"It Must Be Love" from Madness, and not just because it's on that commercial for Levi's 527s
•"It's A Dream" by Neil Young
•Some Fixx, some Gin Blossoms, some Kanye, some Bob Seger, some Bobby Brown.

And ABBA. A lot of ABBA.
Shortly it will be New Year's Eve and we can say goodbye to 2005. Plenty of good things to remember, but also the year of losing our triumvirate -- Lou Ziegler, Joe Whall, Robert Davis. We enjoyed the sweet of 2005. The bitter lingers still.

A toast, then: To the old year of memories and a new year of change. Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.


A guy in Colorado dies in a decidedly "Fargo"-like way. The Coloradoan gives us a new phrase to use:
The man who died Wednesday after getting pulled into a wood chipper was the owner of the tree service company working at the west Loveland residence where the incident occurred.

Brian Morse, 54, was declared dead at the scene, at a home in the 2300 block of Fountain Drive, after his glove became stuck in the wood chipper and pulled him in.

The Larimer County Coroner's Office identified Morse, owner of Brian's Tree Trimming & Removal Service, using fingerprints. The cause of death was listed as "total morselization." The gloves protected Morse's hands, leaving the fingerprints intact.

The man's co-worker, who was cutting branches on a hydraulic lift, witnessed the accident and ran into the residence for help. A woman living there called 911.

The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.

Thirty-one people have died on the job from injuries associated with mobile wood chippers from 1992 to 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At least it was quick. Or so we all hope.


But not for lack of trying, police say. Follow the bouncing bullets; WFTV has this bizarro shoot-'em-up from Port Orange, Fla.:
Police said Glen Betterly was shot in the head at his home on Orange Avenue. He woke up and saw the blood, but didn't know it was from a gunshot.

Betterly went to work and then to the hospital, where they discovered a bullet lodged in his brain.

When police went to tell his wife, they found her dead of an apparent suicide.

Neighbors said, like the wounded husband, they didn't know what was going on.

"He just asked me if i heard any strange sounds," said resident Dennis Kucera.

Betterly had the bullet removed and is in stable condition at the Halifax Medical Center.
Glen Betterly, 2005's luckiest sleeper. Or owner of a really thick skull.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Like another high-school student with a similar first name, Farris Hassan decided to do something goofy.

He traveled to Iraq. From Florida. Without telling his parents.

He calls it "immersion journalism." We call it a good read from The Associated Press. Some grafs:
As a junior this year at a Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, Hassan studied writers like John McPhee in the book "The New Journalism," an introduction to immersion journalism -- a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it.

Diving headfirst into an assignment, Hassan, whose parents were born in Iraq but have lived in the United States for about 35 years, hung out at a local mosque. The teen, who says he has no religious affiliation, added that he even spent an entire night until 6 a.m. talking politics with a group of Muslim men, a level of "immersion" his teacher characterized as dangerous and irresponsible.

The next trimester his class was assigned to choose an international topic and write editorials about it, Hassan said. He chose the Iraq war and decided to practice immersion journalism there, too, though he knows his school in no way endorses his travels.

"I thought I'd go the extra mile for that, or rather, a few thousand miles," he told The Associated Press.

Using money his parents had given him at one point, he bought a $900 plane ticket and took off from school a week before Christmas vacation started, skipping classes and leaving the country on December 11.

His goal: Baghdad. Those privy to his plans: two high school buddies.
Alas, no parade for Farris. No "Twist & Shout" atop a float. But he did get to Baghdad, though his lack of language skills quickly became an impediment. He finally found The AP office, where he spilled his story to amazed staffers.

Farris' mom? Pissed, of course. She told The AP: "I don't think I will ever leave him in the house alone again. He showed a lack of judgment." Grounded for life. Dude.


Straight outta Gary, Ind., courtesy of The Associated Press:
The officer, Tracey Berry, will be required to be retrained on firearms, Deputy Chief Jeff Kumorek said Wednesday. Berry's police powers have been temporarily suspended in the meantime, he said.

"Witness accounts support her statement that the dog was attacking her," Kumorek said.

Berry was scheduled to work security for a basketball tournament Monday at Gary West High School and was walking toward the south entrance when a pit bull began running toward her, police said. The closest door was locked, keeping her from seeking shelter inside, and another auxiliary officer's effort to use his car to block the dog was unsuccessful.

At that point, Kumorek said Berry shot at the dog and hit her fiance, 40-year-old Andre Senter, who was nearby. Senter, who was hit in the leg, was treated at The Methodist Hospitals in Gary and released.

"Based on the investigation we believe it's an accidental shooting. But if there is a deficiency in her firearms training, then we need to address that," Kumorek said. "We want to retrain her with her weapon before we put her back on the street."
Mm-hmm. Wonder if the Senter-Berry ceremony is still on?


Thursday. Ugh. Much like being a sophomore in high school, Thursday feels hopelessly unnecessary. So we sort through iTunes. Pick and play and sample through 3,716 songs and wonder why in hell we don't stick to a genre we like.

Our Wednesday post about the Top 10 rock acts of all time sparked our iTunes digging/soul searching. We claimed bands like Tool, Weezer and Rage Against the Machine deserved consideration as great rock acts; some of you thought we'd been smoking crack or shooting smack, though we hope you know we'd never smoke crack.

We went through the CHATTER 50, the playlist for our wake/memorial service/kegger (that last part is quite the bummer, given our disdain for beer. Then again, we won't be drinking, so no big).

The playlist seems alarmingly unfocused, bouncing from the Beach Boys and the Stones to the Polyphonic Spree and Blind Willie Johnson. Not enough R&B, though "Daydreaming" by Aretha Franklin is mighty fine. Not enough country, despite Waylon's "Wurlitzer Prize." Too little Liz Phair. Too little Sublime. And maybe too many current tunes on a list that's supposed to reflect a lifetime of listening.

Christ, you know it ain't easy. Time to self-dose and listen to some Mott the Hoople.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Yeah, we know: where?

Be that as it may, the incursion of more than 200 Chinese soldiers into Bhutan -- the CIA refers to the country as having a "strategic location between China and India; controls several key Himalayan mountain passes" -- is troubling news for people who like to keep looksee over these sorts of things. Chinese soldiers are reportedly building roads and bridges in Bhutan, a country that has a "special relationship" with India. Translation: Screw with Bhutan, you're messing with India.

The Hindustan Times reports:
Bhutan, which has a 470-km unfenced border with China, considers the unasked-for presence of the Red Army in its territory as a violation of the 1998 Sino-Bhutanese border treaty of peace and tranquillity. Rattled by the developments, the tiny kingdom, which shares a special relationship and a 605-km border with India, has also informed the Indian home ministry.

The matter also came up before Bhutan's National Assembly and foreign minister Khandu Wangchuk promised the House that the matter would soon be taken up with the Chinese authorities.

On November 13, the Chinese soldiers entered the country’s northern districts, including Paro, and marched 20 km inland, claiming that they had been forced by melting glaciers and heavy snowfall in Tibet to breach the border. But they also went on to infiltrate remote places like Haa, Boomtang and Wangdi Phudrang, which have no human habitation. The Chinese have built pucca bridges in Paro and Haa districts, prompting concern among the people’s representatives from Paro, Haa, Laya, Lunana, Zhemgang and Thimphu.

When secretary of international boundaries Dasho Pema Wangchuk took up the issue with the Chinese delegation led by deputy director-general of the Asian department in the China’s ministry of foreign affairs, China just brushed off the apprehensions.

“They told the Bhutanese that they were over-reacting and that the roads were being built as part of the economic development programmes for western China,” an Indian intelligence officer said. “India and Bhutan enjoy a special relationship, and the current developments have come as a matter of serious concern for India,” the official added.
China watchers speculate that China is miffed over Bhutan's refusal to allow a Chinese embassy to open in Thimphu. As if an invasion is the way to work things out.


The aging tyrant from Chile, Augusto Pinochet, was "fingerprinted and photographed for the first time" this week, as officials dig deeper into Pinochet's death squads from the mid-1970s. From Australia's World News:
Officers went to General Pinochet's home in the elegant La Dehesa neighborhood of the Chilean capital Santiago where has been under house arrest for five weeks.

General Pinochet was fingerprinted and photographed with police taking both a head shot and profile.

Judge Victor Montiglio, who ordered the procedure, granted a A$63,000 bail to the former strongman. The bail must be ratified by a court of appeals.

It was the first time ever that the former Chilean president has been officially booked.
Finally. But will Pinochet survive to face justice? He just turned 90.


Not that we disagree with the sentiment, but the poll by Planet Rock radio station is suspect. It lists Bon Jovi in the Top 10.

Listeners of the UK station said the 1970s were the "golden decade of rock," followed by the '60s, the '80s and the '90s. The Top 10 rock acts, according to the poll:
1. Pink Floyd

2. Led Zeppelin

3. The Rolling Stones

4. The Who

5. AC/DC

6. U2

7. Guns N Roses

8. Nirvana

9. Bon Jovi

10. Jimi Hendrix
No Beatles, no R.E.M., no Neil Young, no Police, no Rush, no Springsteen, no Foo Fighters, no Weezer, no Rage Against the Machine, no Tool. No cred.


The Springfield Cardinals are looking for people who are, in their words, "fun and energetic." People who enjoy "interacting with kids and baseball fans of all ages." People who don't mind standing up in front of several thousand people and letting loose.

From a Cardinals news release:
Spirit Team and Mascot tryouts will be held on Saturday, January 21st at 10am at Hammons Field. Spirit Team members will be evaluated on a brief interview as well as a short choreographed dance, which they will learn at the tryout. Mascots will also participate in a brief interview process.
An employment app can be downloaded from this here link; it's a .pdf file. Or use the old-fashioned, non-digital method and apply by mail to 955 E. Trafficway, 65802. Got a query? Call (417) 863-2143.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005


How did the aging popster avoid rape charges in Vietnam involving two girls, ages 11 and 12?

He paid off their parents.

The Bangkok Post -- a daily must-read -- has the breaking news:
Glitter has paid $2,000 (about 82,000 baht) each to the families of two Vietnamese girls who had accused him of coercing them into sex, police and his lawyer said. The lawyer said authorities will not charge Glitter with rape, meaning he will not face the death penalty.

The families have since written to police asking for a reduced sentence for Glitter on current charges of "lewd acts with a minor," not the child rape charge, according to lawyer Le Thanh Kinh.

Police and prosecutors said this week they had finished their investigations and would not file child rape charges, though Glitter still will be prosecuted for the lesser lewd acts charge.

As a result, the 61-year-old former singer, who was convicted of child pornography in his native Britain, would likely get as little as six months in prison instead of the death penalty he might have faced on child rape charges, the lawyer said.

"Gary Glitter told me to do anything to reduce the sentence and said he will pay money to do that," Kinh told Deutsche Presse-Agentur by telephone Tuesday. "Two weeks ago, I gave the families of the two girls 2,000 dollars each."

The former singer will plead innocent to the molestation charge when he goes to trial, the lawyer said.

"The compensation doesn't mean that he will plead guilty," Kinh said. "Gary said that he has not done anything so he won't plead guilty."

In Vietnam, any sex with a child under age 16 is considered child rape. Initial medical tests indicated neither the 11-year-old nor that 12-year-old was a virgin. At the time, police told reporters that both girls said it was Glitter who had had intercourse with them.

However, police said this week that they have completed their investigations and would recommend that no child rape charges be pursued because there is no evidence proving that it was Glitter who had sex with the girls.

"Our investigation found out that [Glitter] just kissed, fondled and licked the girls without having sexual intercourse and that he paid them for each time he did that," said Nguyen Duc Trinh, deputy chief of the Vung Tau police investigation unit.
Two grand to avoid a firing squad. Sounds like a deal to us.

Monday, December 26, 2005


The world's biggest loser is 37 years old and his name is Mark McGowan.

AFP reports:
A British man is giving a whole new meaning to begging to be loved as he set off on a 55-mile crawl on his hands and knees to find a partner.

With a sign saying "Could you Love Me?" strapped to his back and 18 boxes of chocolates trailing behind him on string tied to his wrists and ankles, Mark McGowan began his unusual quest to find a girlfriend.

His route will take him from the site of the Tabard Inn, in Southwark, south London, to Canterbury Cathedral, following the pilgrims' trail made famous in 14th century author Geoffrey Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales".

The 37-year-old performance artist, who said he is also hoping to raise awareness of people left lonely and isolated during the festive period, is hoping to complete the back-breaking task within 30 days.

"I can remember one Christmas I wasn't in a relationship and didn't want to spend it with my family. I ended up cooking two fish fingers. I'm sure a lot of people have had that experience," he said during a well-earned break en-route.

"Some people can spend Christmas in utter desperation and misery and find it difficult to cope with. I hope this encourages people to maybe invite someone over."
As Barney Fife would say, "Pitiful. Pi-ti-ful."


Another call-out to those readers who, for whatever reason, feel more comfortable getting CHATTER e-mailed to them. A free subscription to CHATTER via Feed Blitz makes a great Hanukkah gift or New Year's Eve offering.

How to do it? Instead of looking back and to the left, look to the upper-right part of this page, just below the annoying profile. Put yer e-dress in the hole, click the "Subscribe to CHATTER" button and BLAMMO -- you get the blog entries sent to your in-box. No salesmen will call. No saleswomen, either. Privacy guaranteed, meaning we won't spill on who's subscribing.

What do you win? Our continued big thanks for reading. Hey hey!


Almost ready, according to Crown Prince Sultan, minister of defense and aviation. According to media reports:
Crown Prince Sultan emphasized the government's readiness to open the way for women driving once they get consent from their families. "When fathers, husbands and brothers ask us for women to drive we will look into it, but if they ask us the opposite we can't force them (to let women drive)," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the crown prince as saying.
Some Saudis say road rage is a definite danger; highways clogged with only men behind the wheels are unsafe for women, they say. They ought to meet some of the women we know.


Harold G. Hart of Neillsville, Wis., may be 63, but he still likes his sex. So much, in fact, that when he found himself without female companionship this year, he turned to cows for sexual gratification.

OK, they were calves.

Hart was caught because he was greedy. He'd been to the barn "at least 50 times," according to police. The farm's owners reasonably installed a motion detector. When Hart tripped the alarm and was caught last January 22. He said he was there to use the bathroom.

Late last week, Hart got two years probation -- and was ordered to have a little psychological counseling -- after pleading no contest to charges of disorderly conduct and sex with an animal.

In some circles he is already infamous. Pet has a profile of Hart. It includes this fascinating tidbit:
Hart allegedly told police that he routinely stopped at a Greenwood farm, usually after bar closing or on trips to strip clubs near Marshfield or Neillsville.
Wonder how those strippers feel?

Saturday, December 24, 2005


She teaches in Lickdale. At least she did until last week. Now she might want to think about hiding in her basement.

Theresa Farrisi is the Grinch. The Lebanon Daily News has proof:
One of Farrisi's assignments was to read Clement C. Moore’s famous poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” to a first-grade class at Lickdale Elementary School.

“The poem has great literary value, but it goes against my conscience to teach something which I know to be false to children, who are impressionable,” said Farrisi, 43. “It’s a story. I taught it as a story. There’s no real person called Santa Claus living at the North Pole.”

Farrisi doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, and she doesn’t think anyone else should, either. She made her feelings clear to the classroom full of 6- and 7-year-olds, some of whom went home crying.

Schaeffer got off the school bus later that day, dragging her backpack in the mud, tears in her angry little eyes.

“She yelled at me, ‘Why did you lie?’” recalled Jamey’s mother, Elizabeth. “‘Why didn’t you tell me Santa Claus died?’”
Farrisi -- a substitute music teacher -- lamely told the newspaper that she "did not tell the students Santa Claus was dead. I said there was a man named Nickolas of Myrna who died in 343 A.D., upon whom the Santa Claus myth (is based).”

Well, glad she settled that confusion.

Friday, December 23, 2005


Victor Willis is on the lam. The kids at KTVU are in sore need of a lesson in firearms. Here's part of their report on the disgraced Village People singer:
Willis, 54, was pulled over around 11 p.m. on July 11 in Daly City for an unspecified traffic violation in the area of Bayshore Boulevard and Geneva Avenue, according to police reports.

After being stopped, Willis was found to be in possession of 3.23 grams of cocaine and a loaded .45-gauge, semi-automatic handgun, according to the district attorney's office.

When questioned by officers, Willis reportedly gave a false name -- his brother's -- and had a fake license, the district attorney's office reported.

On Oct. 19 Willis reportedly left a phone message with his attorney Kenneth Quigley informing him he would not be present at his Oct. 20 sentencing because of some needed dental work, Wagstaffe reported.

San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Mark Forcum issued a $200,000 bench warrant for Willis, who was out of custody on his own recognizance.

Willis previously accepted a plea bargain with a maximum 16-month term in state prison, and enrollment in a drug and alcohol treatment program, according to Wagstaffe.
A .45-gauge handgun? Wonder if he also had a .12-caliber shotgun.

Thursday, December 22, 2005


Tiny stem cells, the singer says. An update to our earlier report, courtesy of The Associated Press:
"I'm feeling terrific, 100 percent better," Ho told The Associated Press in one of his first interviews since surgery Dec. 6. "I'm ready to go, but I've got to listen to the doctors.

"When they say my heart is strong enough to get excited, I'm on."

The 75-year-old singer underwent a new treatment that hasn't been approved in the United States. It involves multiplying stem cells taken from his blood and injecting them into his heart in hopes of strengthening it.

"It was my last hope," said Ho, who suffers from nonischemic cardiomyopathy -- a weakened heart muscle not due to blockages in the coronary arteries.

The experimental procedure he underwent was developed by TheraVitae Co., which has offices in Thailand and laboratories in Israel, where Ho's stem cells were sent to be multiplied. The therapy was supervised by Dr. Amit Patel, a heart surgeon from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Ho found out about it on the Internet.

"I knew that if I didn't take things into my own hand, I would've been a goner," he said.
Go, Don Ho, go.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


For reasons known only to Benedict (and, one would presume, God), the pope failed to proclaim John Stone as the Patron Saint of CHATTER. Perhaps next year.

The Herald Sun account goes thisaway:
The list named two future saints, a Polish priest from the 15th century and an Italian nun from the 16th century. The number of blesseds included nine Italians, three Germans, three Spaniards, a Dutchman and an Indian. The Indian priest, Agostino Thevarparampil, who died in 1973, was the most recent person to be named a blessed. Thirteen others were also from the 20th century.

The process of recognising the saints and blesseds, either for their heroic actions or martyrdom or intercession in a miracle, was begun by the late John Paul II, who died on April 2.

During his papacy, John Paul II canonised 482 saints and beatified 1338.

Benedict has confirmed all the sainthoods and beatifications begun by the late pope, with one exception. Earlier this year, he cancelled the expected beatification of a Frenchman, Leon Dehon (1843-1925), a Catholic social thinker whose anti-Semitic writings had initially escaped the notice of the review commission.
Nine Italians, three Germans, three Spaniards, a Dutchman and an Indian walk into a bar ...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Judge John E. Jones III ruled that so-called "intelligent design" is nothing but creationism wrapped in fancy tin foil. Students in Dover, Pa., are spared the ridicule now heaped on Kansas.

Jones' decision -- here's a link to the .pdf file -- did not deter ID addicts. According to the York Daily Record:
The pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute issued a statement that called Jones "an activist federal judge" who is trying "to stop the spread of a scientific idea and even to prevent criticism of Darwinian evolution through government-imposed censorship rather than open debate, and it won't work."

Dr. John West, the institute's associate director of the Center for Science and Culture, said Jones improperly combined Dover's actions with the position of the Discovery Institute, "and he totally misrepresents intelligent design and the motivations of the scientists who research it."

"Judge Jones found that the Dover board violated the Establishment Clause because it acted from religious motives. That should have been the end to the case," said West. "Instead, Judge Jones got on his soapbox to offer his own views of science, religion, and evolution. He makes it clear that he wants his place in history as the judge who issued a definitive decision about intelligent design. This is an activist judge who has delusions of grandeur."

West also vowed to continue to press the theory of intelligent design.

"Anyone who thinks a court ruling is going to kill off interest in intelligent design is living in another world," West said. "Americans don't like to be told there is some idea that they aren't permitted to learn about. It used to be said that banning a book in Boston guaranteed it would be a bestseller. Banning intelligent design in Dover will likely only fan interest in the theory."
Shame on you, John West. Laying claim to the phrase "banned in Boston," coined because H.L. Mencken's writings were forbidden in 1926; he made fun of fundamentalists. The year before he had famously covered the Scopes Trial in Tennessee and wrote about the anti-Darwin creationists -- words that still need heeding, 80 years later:
Neanderthal man is organizing in these forlorn backwaters of the land, led by a fanatic, rid of sense and devoid of conscience. Tennessee, challenging him too timorously and too late, now sees its courts converted into camp meetings and its Bill of Rights made a mock of by its sworn officers of the law. There are other States that had better look to their arsenals before the Hun is at their gates.
The Hun may not be intelligent, but he has designs on you.


Joel Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church, a megahouse of worship in Houston. His wife, Victoria, has a prominent place in the ministry. She also seems to have a problem with authority.

Continental's authority, to focus the issue. According to media reports from Texas and Colorado, the Osteen family was headed for a ski vacation in Colorado this week when things went awry. According to KTRK in Houston:
According to passenger accounts, the Osteens were sitting in first class. Soon after the plane's door was closed, the FBI says Victoria Osteen was removed following what Continental would call only a disturbance. The Osteens' spokesman confirms it involved a flight attendant, but that's all. However, one passenger tells Eyewitness News she was alerted to the front of the plane when she heard a commotion.

"She violently ran towards the cockpit, scaring everyone around her," said passenger Knicky Van Slyke. "Everyone was terrified about what was going on. And a bunch of flight attendants ran up and had to restrain her. She was banging on the door."

"Of the cockpit?" we asked.


Passengers say Victoria was removed first. Joel and the children followed. Meantime, everyone waited.

"They unloaded all the luggage to get their luggage and deplaned her, Joel, and the kids," said passenger Dawn Dixon.

Their trip was delayed and so was the entire flight by almost two hours. Fellow passengers blame the popular Osteens, specifically Joel's wife, Victoria.
The Vail Daily's report spills a little more light on why Victoria Osteen went off:
A couple of first-class passengers saw at least part of what happened.

"As I understand it, she had some drink spill. That started a series of issues with the crew," passenger Herbert Towning said.

"Mr. Osteen was very calm, very professional," passenger Barbara Griffith said. "It's sad."

Another passenger, who didn't want to give her name, agreed with Griffith's account.

"She just had attitude," the unnamed passenger said of Victoria Osteen. "They took her off, and she never came back. Her husband went out, then he came back and got their stuff. An hour-and-a-half later, we were leaving."
This time, no one was shot to death by federal air marshals. In fact, the Transportation Security Administration says air marshals never got involved. And the Osteens? They took a later flight to Colorado.


Or aunt. What you won't be is surprised when Judge John E. Jones III issues his ruling in the Dover, Pa., evolution case.

Jones is expected to issue his findings on Tuesday. Anyone who followed the trial can see that Jones will likely rule against the school board that wanted to teach so-called "intelligent design" in the classroom.

Finally, sanity from the bench.

Monday, December 19, 2005


President Bush says last week's election shows Iraq "will serve as a beacon for what is possible; a beacon of freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom and liberty ... I'm very optimistic about the way forward for the Iraqi people."

He is optimistic, even though:

•Ayad Allawi, leader of a secular Shiite coalition (and consequently, Our Guy In Iraq), is being creamed by a group of religious Shiites.

•That religious group -- the United Iraqi Alliance -- is backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a Shiite cleric who is supposed to be Our Guy In Iraq because Bush says Islam is a religion of peace. Except in Iran, a country run by Shiite clerics.

•Alas, Ayad Allawi isn't even in second place; he's also sucking hind teat to the Iraqi Consensus Front, a religious Sunni Arab group. What's better to U.S. interests than an Iraq run by Shiite clerics? Of course: An Iraq run by Shiite and Sunni clerics.

On the upside, Ahmad Chalabi -- formerly Our Guy In Iraq, until he got too close to Iran -- drew less than a half of 1 percent of the Baghdad vote. He may not even get a seat in government. Most of them will be taken by people who want a religious Shiite government.

It's 500 years since the Safavids took over Iraq. Past, meet future.


Vincent Gigante was better known to those in the loop as "The Chin," and for good reason. His friends might have also tagged him with the nickname "The Nutcase," given Gigante's propensity for acting like a loon, but that would have been rude.

Now the mobster is dead, on ice, kaput. He was 77 when he died at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield. The time was 5:15 a.m. Monday.

Fox News reports:
Dubbed the "Oddfather" for his bizarre behavior, the former Genovese crime family head, an ex-boxer whose lengthy string of victories over prosecutors ended with a July 1997 racketeering conviction, finally admitted his insanity ruse at an April 2003 court hearing.

After nearly a quarter-century of public craziness, Gigante calmly pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for his deception. He then chatted amiably with his son, shook hands with defense lawyers and even laughed at one point.
Until Monday's unexpected early release, Gigante was due to be paroled in June 2010.


The president's unusual Monday morning news conference lasted a little less than an hour and covered the usual suspects: Iraq, domestic spying, the Patriot Act.

Bush said senators who last week refused to authorize the Patriot Act were acting in "inexcusable" fashion. He also said the Senate "must" re-up the Patriot Act.

Bush stumbled in a couple places -- once when he said "democracies don't war; democracies are peaceful countries" (this one certainly does) and another time when he insisted that domestic spying by the National Security Agency was legal and the only way to help disrupt terrorist attacks. He glossed over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978; it already gives the government the right to surveil and search terrorist suspects, without a warrant, without disclosure to the public.

Why the need for the extraordinary spying by the NSA? Bush relied on circular logic: I swore to uphold the laws, therefore, what I do is legal.

Now where have we heard that one before?


Enjoy looking up song lyrics on the Internet? Those wacky days may be coming to an end. The BBC reports that the Music Publishers' Association plans to sue websites with "unlicensed song scores and lyrics." From the story:
MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed.

He said unlicensed guitar tabs and song scores were widely available on the internet but were "completely illegal".

Mr Keiser said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".

The move comes after several years of bitter legal battles against unauthorised services allowing users to download recordings for free.

Publishing companies have taken action against websites in the past, but this will be the first co-ordinated legal campaign by the MPA.

The MPA would target "very big sites that people would think are legitimate and very, very popular", Mr Keiser said.

"The Xerox machine was the big usurper of our potential income," he said. "But now the internet is taking more of a bite out of sheet music and printed music sales so we're taking a more proactive stance."
Get those lyrics and tabs while you can.


Remember Saddam's evil henchmen (and women)? So dastardly that we dropped bombs on them? So dangerous we put their images on a deck of playing cards? Yeah, those peeps.

You probably missed the announcement, but those baddies are no longer bad. Breaking News in Ireland has a Monday-morning moaner:
Notorious Saddam-Hussein-era officials have been released from jail in Iraq and some have already left the country, an Iraqi lawyer said today.

A legal official in Baghdad said between 24 and 25 top former officials in Saddam Hussein’s government have been freed, including Rihab Taha, known as Dr Germ, and Huda Salih Ammash, known as as Mrs Anthrax.

The Iraqi lawyer, Badee Izzat Aref, said some of those released were his clients.

“The release was an American-Iraqi decision and in line with an Iraqi government ruling made in December 2004, but hasn’t been enforced until after the elections in an attempt to ease the political pressure in Iraq,” Aref said.

Iraqi officials and the US military did not immediately confirm that information.

Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson, the spokesman for the US-led Multinational Force, did say that US officials on Saturday released eight people formerly designated as high-value detainees, after a board process found they were no longer a security threat.
Guess Saddam is no longer Hitler. Otherwise we just let Goering and Hess go free.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


President Bush's Oval Office speech was odd in some respects -- the 'prompter placement made Bush look slightly to the camera's side -- and decidedly presidential in others. The power of the presidency can do that to a fella.

Best graf was aimed at detractors:
I also want to speak to those of you who did not support my decision to send troops to Iraq: I have heard your disagreement, and I know how deeply it is felt. Yet now there are only two options before our country - victory or defeat. And the need for victory is larger than any president or political party, because the security of our people is in the balance. I do not expect you to support everything I do, but tonight I have a request: Do not give in to despair, and do not give up on this fight for freedom.
We have our own request of the president: Do not claim that your detractors are against a "fight for freedom." We simply seek freedom for a different tyranny -- yours.


Robert Leger, the editorial-page editor at the News-Leader, has the best read in Sunday's paper. His column about the patriots who voted down the continuation of much of the Patriot Act is solid; check these grafs:
The administration too often has told congressional and other critics to just trust it, that of course it values civil liberties. But hours before the Senate vote, the New York Times reported that Bush had secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and foreigners — without getting a warrant.

So much for "trust us."

[Larry] Craig, [Russ] Feingold and the other senators who stopped the Patriot Act reauthorization want to defeat terrorists just as much as Bush does. But they also understand there is no victory if we radically redefine freedom as something we treasure only when it is convenient. Theirs is a profound patriotism. It should be applauded.
Those who care nothing about the liberties of Americans will find fault with Leger. Everyone else should applaud.

Saturday, December 17, 2005


A hero to many journalists, Anderson died Saturday from Parkinson's disease, according to the New York Times:
Mr. Anderson was a flamboyant bridge between the muckrakers of the early decades of the 20th century and the battalions of investigative reporters unleashed by news organizations after Watergate. He relished being called "the Paul Revere of journalism" for his knack for uncovering major stories first almost as much as he enjoyed being at the top of President Richard M. Nixon's enemies list.

His journalistic reach extended to radio, television and magazines, and his scoops were legion. They included the United States' tilt away from India toward Pakistan during Bangladesh's war for independence, which won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 1972.
G. Gordon Liddy plotted his murder. J. Edgar Hoover called Anderson "lower than the regurgitated filth of vultures." A fine epitaph for a muckraker.


Forty of them, most of them drunk, all of them ripping through Wellington like kids through a pile of presents. The Associated Press says:
The rampage, dubbed "Santarchy" by local newspapers, began early Saturday afternoon when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an Auckland overpass, said Auckland Central Police spokeswoman Noreen Hegarty.

She said the men then rushed through a central city park, overturning garbage containers, throwing bottles at passing cars and spraying graffiti on buildings.

One man climbed the mooring line of a cruise ship before being ordered down by the captain. Other Santas, objecting when the man was arrested, attacked security staff, Hegarty said.

The remaining Santas entered a downtown convenience store and carried off beer and soft drinks.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," store owner Changa Manakynda said.
"Santarchy" is supposed to be a protest against the commercialization of Christmas. Sounds more like a party to us.


A London-based Santa Claus is scaring the womenfolk with a twist on the old saw, "Santa Claus is coming." Reuters reports:
Officers in Swanage said the flasher had struck a number of times since December 6, and a week later exposed himself whilst wearing a Santa Claus outfit.

"I would be very interested to hear from anyone who may have seen someone acting suspiciously while dressed as Father Christmas in the Gilbert Road or surrounding areas of Swanage town centre," Police Constable Jonathan Maunder said.

"These incidents of indecent exposure have caused a great deal of upset to the women that the man has approached."
He's naughty. How nice.

Friday, December 16, 2005


Gov. Matt Blunt's campaign finance records from 2000 are in the hands of Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor going after Rep. Tom DeLay, former House majority leader and mentor of the governor's father, Rep. Roy Blunt.

We heard a rumor on Thursday that this story was about the bust in the mainstream media. Now it's done broke in the Kansas City Star:
Missouri Democrats said the development is significant.

“It’s not often that you see the culture of corruption that’s going on in Washington reach down to the state level,” said Democratic spokesman Jack Cardetti.

A spokesman for Blunt, however, pointed out that Blunt’s 2000 campaign records for his successful campaign for secretary of state have been public for five years. Spokesman Spence Jackson said he had no idea what information Earle’s office was seeking.

“All the contributions that Governor Blunt has received have been lawful and have been diligently reported and are open for any citizen to review,” Jackson said.

Earle’s actions in his case have been criticized by DeLay’s attorneys, who accuse Earle of a vendetta.
Roy Temple's Fired Up Missouri blog broke the story. We suspect he's also up to speed on other nastiness in Jefferson City, including:

•Lobbyists being pressured to fork over "campaign contributions" just to get an appointment with legislative leaders.

•Senior Republicans being told by Gov. Blunt's people that their advice isn't wanted or needed.

•Partisan micromanaging by the governor's office of state agencies and employees.

Not to mention an intoxicated state senator using his loud, croaky voice to mangle songs at a piano bar while hitting on the ladies. Where's our video cell phone when we need it?


Woman sues a masseur, claims her gave her more than a massage. She claims assault; he claims she wanted it and left a tip.

You tell us who's telling the truth. From the New York Post:
Thomas Locascio, 57, is on trial for allegedly performing oral sex on his 54-year-old accuser during her massage and inserting his fingers into her private parts.

Locascio, whose wife has stood by him through the trial, admitted performing sexual acts on the woman, a human-resources executive, at the Estee Lauder spa in a Manhasset shopping plaza.

His accuser says she went in to experience what Estée Lauder promised to be an "amazing" tension-relieving, one-hour rubdown for $90 and ended up the victim of a sex attack.

The jury weighs two pieces of key evidence to decide who's telling the truth.

One of them is a security videotape in which the alleged victim is seen handing over an envelope that is purported to contain the tip for Locascio. She says it was an empty envelope to show her disgust; he says it contained the $20 to show her gratitude. It is unclear on the tape whether she slipped a $20 bill into the envelope.

There's also a phone conversation between the woman and the masseur, which she taped at the suggestion of cops to try to get him to confess to an assault. But he remains adamant that she wanted the hanky-panky. "I remember moans and groans and twisting hips," Locascio says on the tape recording.
Twenty bucks? What a cheap-o.


If you're a U.S. citizen who has called or e-mailed someone overseas in the past three years, you've probably been spied on by your own government.

From the New York Times:
Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
The foolish will bray about the need to "protect" us. To them, the Constitution is toilet paper.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


In Marseilles, France, Daniel Anceneaux flirted with a chick on the Internet. Finally, they agreed to meet. On a beach. After dark.

He showed. She showed. She turned around. And then:
"I walked out on that dark beach thinking I was going to hook up with the girl of my dreams," the rattled bachelor later admitted. "And there she was, wearing white shorts and a pink tank top, just like she'd said she would.

"But when I got close, she turned around -- and we both got the shock of our lives. I mean, I didn't know what to say. All I could think was, 'Oh my God! it's Mama!'"

But the worst was yet to come. Just as the mortified mother and son realized the error of their ways, a patrolman passed by and cited them for visiting a restricted beach after dark.

"Danny and I were so flustered, we blurted out the whole story to the cop," recalled matronly mom Nicole, 52. "The policeman wrote a report, a local TV station got hold of it -- and the next thing we knew, our picture and our story was all over the 6 o'clock news. "People started pointing and laughing at us on the street -- and they haven't stopped laughing since."
Further adding to the problem was dear old Dad, who didn't know his wife was flirting on the net. With their son. Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase, "Who's your Daddy?"


Here's Thursday's update from Springfield police on the case of the alleged perv videotaping naked women in his tanning salon, courtesy of SPD's Matt Brown, the public information officer:
Our front desk continues to take phone calls regarding the tanning salon. We are still in the process of trying to identify victims and to contact them so they can confirm they have been filmed. We have no idea how long this process will take as the detective working the case has to filter through every phone call and determine if, based on descriptions, that person was on video. Once that portion of the investigation is complete, we will submit a case report to prosecutors. We are still investigating to see if any video was sent over the internet - no conclusion has been made there either.

If any new releasable information is brought forth, I'll make sure to let you know.
Brett Patrick Kent, 33, is charged in the case. Cops say he secretly videotaped up to 20 women between Nov. 30 and Dec. 9.


In what may be the dumbest pro-Christmas move ever made, a Virginia congresswoman has introduced a resolution putting Congress on record as supporting "symbols and traditions of Christmas."

Rep. Jo Ann Davis sucked up to the right and pissed off the left with her meaningless resolution, according to the Daily Press in Hampton Roads:
The largely symbolic resolution triggered a partisan culture clash in the House chamber. Conservative Republicans applauded the measure, but many Democrats criticized it as religiously insensitive.

Davis, an outspoken Christian conservative from Gloucester, said she was spurred to act after seeing news reports of retailers telling their employees to wish customers a "happy holiday," instead of "Merry Christmas," and schools forbidding everything from Christmas plays to Santa Claus.

"Christmas has been declared politically incorrect," Davis told colleagues on the House floor. "Any sign or even mention of Christmas in public can lead to complaints, litigation, protests and threats. America's favorite holiday is being twisted beyond recognition."
We concur. Christmas is being twisted beyond recognition. And it's Republicans who are doing most of the twisting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Last Friday night, Springfield police served a warrant at a southside tanning salon, announced said warrant and then -- nothing. Police on Wednesday finally spilled at an afternoon news conference. From KYTV:
The owner of a tanning salon is charged with making secret videotapes of people who were naked in his salon’s tanning beds. The charges on Wednesday came after police served a search warrant on 360 Degrees Tan last Friday night.

Brett Kent is charged with two counts of second-degree invasion of privacy. He could face up to an eight-year prison sentence if he is convicted.

Kent bought the business at 1607 W. Republic Road in October and hasn’t changed the outside signs, which still say Paradise Sun Tanning Salon. Investigators say he used hidden cameras to videotape customers, some of whom are minors. Police say they’ve found about 40 videos of 19 women.

Police Chief Lynn Rowe says a detective, Cpl. Stacy Parton, wants to talk to anyone who used the business since Nov. 30, when police say Kent bought a new video camera. However, detectives think they've talked to most or all of the women in the videos. The police department's number is (417) 864-1810.
Three great words in that lede: secret, videotapes and naked.


And there's a picture! From everyone's favorite mid-week read, the Yemen Times:
Doctors and nurses at Al-Jomhouri Hospital were surprised on Monday morning while delivering a newborn who was shaped as a frog. The mother, 18, who requested not to be identified, attributed the strange shape to the consumption of drugs during her pregnancy without consulting the physician.

According to her, the medicines she used to take were indisposed analgesics under the term of Vulturine and others without visiting doctors because there isn't any health unit in her locality or close to her residence. The lady was compelled by her relatives to buy analgesics from grocers in the neighborhood.

Nevertheless, the lady had visited the hospital one month prior to her delivery as she has been suffering from severe pains in the left side of her abdomen, the pain was severe to the extent that she was unable to sit down, and made her relatives take her to the hospital with the belief that she had kidney-related problems. After diagnosing her, physicians discovered that the fetus was dead and has congenital deformity and the mother was in a condition of parturition.
Sure, blame it on the grocer's analgesics.


Docs get it back. From the Telegraph:
A boy of 11 whose nose was bitten off by a dog has had it sewn back on after it was retrieved from the animal's stomach.

The remarkable operation in the Czech Republic is the first of its kind and was hailed by surgeons yesterday as a "great success".

The child was mauled by an alsatian in the village of Lipova. His father rushed him to hospital where quick-thinking surgeons telephoned the vet charged with destroying the dog. They ordered him to open up the animal's stomach and search for the boy's nose.

It was still in one piece, although doctors were concerned about infection. But the nose was thoroughly sterilised and after the 11-hour operation the boy's sense of smell is not affected and he can breathe normally.

Prof Jiri Vesely, chief plastic surgeon at St Anna Hospital, Brno, said: "We thought it was worth checking inside the dog in case it hadn't chewed it. It was a great discovery to find he had swallowed it whole. It was intact."
Intact, sure, but we wouldn't want that thing on our face.


How huge? Try $2.60 a pack. Talk about incentive to quit. The Sacramento Bee reports:
If it qualifies for the November ballot and passes, the new initiative would provide an estimated $2.27 billion annually for universal children's health insurance, emergency-room care, smoking prevention, disease research, and other health-related programs. It would raise the average price of a pack of cigarettes, now selling for close to $4, to more than $6.50.

Almost half of states have enacted tobacco surcharges higher than California's, currently 87 cents per pack of cigarettes. If the proposed increase were to go into effect, California would have the nation's highest tobacco tax, advocates said Tuesday.

Before Tuesday's announcement, the California Hospital Association had collected enough voter signatures to place a $1.50 tobacco tax on the June 2006 ballot, with the proceeds largely to fund emergency rooms.
Smoke 'em if you can afford 'em.


Christopher Lemay, 18, reportedly paid a 16-year-old girl to perform fellatio on another boy at Sandalwood High School in Jacksonville, Fla. Now Lemay and two other students face some crime time.

Yes, the words "wood" and "jack" appear in this story. From WJXX:
Sandalwood administrators say the act happened under a table in a large class full of students, so the teacher had limited visibility.

The news is catching even veteran educators by surprise.

"It is not indicative of any school in Duval County," said Acting Principal Jack Shanklin.

"I've been in education a long time and I have never seen a situation like this in any educational setting," he said.

All three students have been assigned to alternative schools.
And the acting principal's name is Jack Shanklin? Wonder if he knows the woman who authored a report about sexual misconduct among educators in American schools? Mr. Shanklin, meet Ms. Shakeshaft.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Dennis Prager spends his time talking on the radio and otherwise promoting Dennis Prager. Monday night he managed to put in an appearance on CNN's "Larry King Live" and crow about the execution of Stanley Williams.

We saw no spit fly from Prager's lips. But the unhealthy heat coming from behind his eyes was all we needed to experience -- that, and the eagerness in his voice as he discussed the rightness of the death penalty.

He said it would be "cosmic injustice" for someone to take a life and then be allowed to live. But then he said he didn't want all murderers put to death because there are times when "mercy is more important than justice."

It's all in the transcript. It's all disgusting.

Monday, December 12, 2005


Stanley "Tookie" Williams will be executed by lethal injection early Tuesday. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office just announced a denial of clemency. "I could find no justification for granting clemency," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Mercy. No mercy.


Stanley "Tookie" Williams, one of the founders of the Crips street gang, will probably not draw any mercy from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has just rejected a last-ditch appeal; this follows a simiar rejection from the California Supreme Court.

Williams is scheduled to die at 2:01 a.m. Central time Tuesday. Had either appeals decision come with a dissenting voice, Williams might have a chance of survival. Now it looks extremely doubtful. Those with a taste for blood will be happy.


Or maybe it's just a case of premature anticipation. Late Friday, Springfield police announced a raid at a southside tanning salon.

Monday, police spokesman Matt Brown issued a scant "update" on the story:
The SPD continues the investigation into 360 Degree Tanning - currently no arrests have been made and no further information can be released at this time as Detectives continue working on the case.

If any further information presents itself that can be released, I'll be sure to let you know.
Yep, that's it. When we hear, you'll hear.


In O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A? Maybe. State officials are keeping watch on several geysers that have popped up in Kingfischer County. According to the Oklahoman:
The geysers have appeared throughout the countryside, with stretches of up to 12 miles between spots, and some as short as a quarter of a mile, Kingfisher Fire Chief John Crawford said.

The threat of the gas igniting is "unlikely," Crawford said, but a bigger concern is the gas could begin coming up through water-well lines.
Maybe there's a gas line gone bad -- though a 12-mile stretch of bad line sounds unbelievable. Oklahoma has a volcanic past; no surprise there. Read all about it here.


Monday. Hope your weekend was marvy. You did have a weekend, didn't you?

It ain't a proper Monday unless there's a foolish letter to the editor in the local paper, and Barb Pullan of Marshfield does not disappoint:
Each February we pay honor, respect or simply acknowledge that two of our presidents were born and they had an affect on our country. Their pictures are everywhere.

We do the same for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Christopher Columbus, among others. I don't understand why acknowledging the birth of Jesus is so controversial. No one will dispute that he was born and did affect our country and world as the other men have. Some of us will celebrate his birth more than others, but shouldn't he be allowed in the same buildings as the other people we honor?
We honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln by having Presidents Day sales. In Springfield, we honor King by renaming a viaduct after him. Perhaps we should name a new coal-fired energy plant after Jesus.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Joshua Bradford didn't get to play video games because the arcade was closed that day -- Nov. 9 -- in Sauk City, Wisconsin. The 7-year-old boy wound up outside, looking around the Wisconsin River bottom.

The Capital Times in Madison picks up the tale:
Josh was on an outing with Bob Weiss, 63, a Prairie du Sac insurance man who was paired with Josh as part of the Kids Companion program, which is run by the Optimists in the Sauk Prairie school district area. The program is a local version of the better known Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Bob and Josh were still new to the program when they went for what was to be an afternoon that included playing games at a Sauk City arcade on Nov. 9, as Bob tells the story. "They were closed," Bob recalled Friday. So the pair was driving down Water Street when Bob took a look at the Wisconsin River.

"It was as low as I'd ever seen it," Bob said, "I've never seen such a large area of exposed sand."

So the pair went exploring. Josh was picking up clam shells and other oddities, and Bob, who likes to fish, was finding lots of fishing lures. Josh was running a good 20 to 30 feet ahead of Bob, "so he could be the first to find things," says Bob.

Josh suddenly yelled, "Bob, what's that?" Weiss recalled. "I said, 'It looks like driftwood to me.'"

"No, it's horns," Josh replied.

The low water had left about three-fourths of the head exposed, said Bob, and with a little digging and tugging, the two were able to free the large horns and part of a skull. Bob at first thought it was an ox. An exciting find, but not an especially rare one. Bob hauled the find back to his car, which was a half mile away. "Holy cow, was it heavy," Bob said. "It was water-logged and must have weighed 50 pounds, but I made it."

Bob then made what was a very good decision. About a week after the discovery he took what would turn out to be a bison head to Verlyn Mueller, the archivist at the Prairie du Sac Historical Society. Mueller suggested they call the State Historical Society and that's when Broihahn, whose post is within the society, got into the act.

After taking measurements, he and fellow archeologist Steve Kuehn decided, based on the shape and orientation of the horn cores and the overall size, that they had a Bison Occidentalis. Although they have not precisely dated the beast, Broihahn said the species, a forerunner to the more modern American bison, has been extinct for the last 5,000 years.
A state archeologist says it's one of the best finds of the year -- Bison Occidentalis, now known as "Bradford Bison," in honor of the kid who found it.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


We say "alleged" because it's yet to be proven that the forces making so much noise about Christ being banned from Christmas are actually trying to live the teachings of Jesus.

World Net Daily crows about Target and Sears buckling to pressure from the American Family Association and Concerned Women for America. AFA had boycotted Target for the retail chain's use of "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." From WND:
"We are pleased to learn that Target has heard our concerns and decided to use Christmas in their advertising and marketing efforts," said AFA Chairman Donald E. Wildmon. "Since the company has responded positively, we see no need to continue the boycott."

AFA also called off a boycott on Sears after the chain decided to include Christmas in its stores this season. Sears notified AFA that "Merry Christmas" signs have been shipped and are now on display in all of its stores. The Sears website now includes a Christmas greeting.

A Target boycott petition at was signed by nearly 700,000 people, noted Wildmon, who said many companies have dropped bans on the term Christmas.

Target said, in its official statement: "Over the course of the next few weeks, our advertising, marketing and merchandising will become more specific to the holiday that is approaching – referring directly to holidays like Christmas and Hanukkah. For example, you will see reference to Christmas in select television commercials, circulars and in-store signage.

"We do not have a policy or intention of excluding the word 'Christmas' from our holiday advertising or marketing. Christmas images and themes have been used in our advertising and marketing in the past and you will continue to see these images and themes in the future."
Read it with clear eyes. Target isn't buckling; it's doing target marketing. Target ads aimed at Hispanic audiences will no doubt more prominently feature Christmas. Cities with prominent Jewish communities will see more Hanukkah ads. Pretty obvious.

But Wildmon and his fellow travelers refuse to acknowledge the obvious and instead claim false victory for a fake controversy. Better that than facing the hate in their own small hearts. We didn't realize their Christ was such a bully.

Friday, December 09, 2005


A cryptic Friday night news release from the Springfield Police Department:
The Springfield Police Department is investigating allegations of Invasion of Privacy at 360 Degree Tanning LLC, formerly known as Paradise Sun Tanning Salon located at 1607 W. Republic Road, Springfield.

On 12-9-2005 Detectives of the Springfield Police Department executed a search warrant at the business in response to a tip received earlier in the day and the investigation is ongoing.
Whatever's going on is moving fast, from daytime tip to 10:43 p.m. news release.


The Florida teacher-babe accused of having sex with a middle-school boy, was supposed to get house arrest. But a judge this week ruled that the plea bargain was too much of a bargain. He ordered trial to begin on April 10.

The Ocala Star-Banner has the winner of this week's Missing The Obvious Award -- a story that says LaFave might be getting some slack because she's a woman:
Lafave's alleged victim of sexual assault was a 14-year-old boy.

That makes a difference in the coverage, said Bob Steele, the Nelson Poynter Scholar for Journalism Values at St. Petersburg's Poynter Institute. The nonprofit institute, which owns the St. Petersburg Times, trains journalists.

"If all the details were the same . . . I doubt that we would generally see the same thing if the gender roles were reversed," Steele said.

The consequences likely would be greater for a man, said psychologist Thomas Plante, chair of the psychology department of Santa Clara University in California.

"If you switched the genders around in this case . . . we would be all over it. People would be terribly upset," he said. Instead, he added, "there's an attitude of 'boy, he got lucky.'"
Hello? Debra LaFave's physical attractiveness is the biggest key to any leniency here. Sex between LaFave and the teen boy might be viewed with much more disgust if she wasn't a babe. A babe with crazy eyes.


David Burton's Southwest Region News Service is, as he puts it, "a weekly educational news service for University of Missouri Extension programs in southwest Missouri." He helpfully adds that the stories "may be reprinted and reused," and so we take him up on his generous offer by alerting you to the dangers of holiday eating.

No, not from consuming too much in the stressful company of family and friends, colleagues and bosses. Tammy Roberts, a nutrition and health education specialist in Barton County, says it's always ugly when eggnog goes bad. When turkey falls to the dark side. Leave food out at room temperature for more than two hours and -- WHAM! -- bacterial growth could ruin your day. Unless your room is 350 degrees.

Sez Roberts: “One very important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot smell or taste the bacteria that causes food poisoning." She then proceeds to list the yummy ways your food could make you sick:
The safest way to handle leftover turkey is to remove the meat from the bone and place it in shallow containers in the refrigerator.

Shallow containers allow the food to cool quickly and minimize bacterial growth.

“This same method applies to any food that may harbor bacteria. Stuffing, custard pies and cheesecake are examples. Leftovers should be refrigerated immediately and used within a few days,” said Roberts.

Another risk of foodborne illness occurs when uncooked cookie dough is eaten.

“Children love to eat raw cookie dough but keep in mind that children are one of the most vulnerable populations to foodborne illness,” said Roberts.

Raw eggs can harbor salmonella, which can cause illness. It is destroyed during the cooking process.

Eggnog is a tradition for many families during the holidays. Just as it does in the cookie dough, raw egg can harbor salmonella.

Pasteurized eggnog can be purchased at the grocery store as a safe alternative to the homemade version with raw eggs.

“If you love your recipe and prefer to make your own, you can cook the eggs to assure the safety of your recipe,” said Roberts.

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the eggs and either sugar, water or other liquid from the recipe (at least one-quarter cup of sugar, liquid or a combination per egg). Cook over low heat stirring constantly until the egg mixture coats a metal spoon with a thin film or reaches 160 degrees. Immediately place the pan in ice water and stir until cool and then proceed with your recipe.
Kids, do not leave raw cookie dough and room-temp eggnog for Santa, unless you mean to kill him.

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The artists among us apparently have more romantic success than the rest of us. Reason? They may be schizo. Reuters reports on a new British study:
In a survey of 425 British adults, researchers found that serious poets and visual artists generally had more sexual partners than those who were either not artistic or only dabbled in the arts.

Further analysis showed that one personality dimension -- a tendency toward "unusual" thoughts and perceptions -- was related to both creativity and sexual success.

That tendency is also seen in people with schizophrenia. And the findings, according to the study authors, may help explain why schizophrenia -- a mental disorder that often runs in families -- has not been extinguished from the gene pool.

Certain schizophrenia-related personality traits, they speculate, may confer benefits when they are not part of a mental illness. When they instead spur creativity, for example, they may offer a mating advantage, according to the researchers, led by Daniel Nettle, a psychologist at the University of Newcastle.

He and colleague Helen Keenoo report their findings in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society.
Many of the artsy Lotharios tended to have "unusual experiences," meaning atypical thoughts, or "magical thinking." Or it could be that people simply dig artists. This would explain how Ric Ocasek landed Paulina Porizkova.


The typist and talker couldn't finish a Wednesday night speech at the University of Connecticut. The jeering was too loud, so after 15 minutes she quit giving a speech and engaged in a Q&A because, as Coulter said, "I love to engage in repartee with people who are stupider than I am."

Nothing like a home-state girl getting ripped a new one. The Associated Press shares the latest Coulter nonsense:
In her speech at UConn, Coulter called Bill Clinton an "executive buffoon" who won the presidency only because Ross Perot took 19 percent of the vote. She called California Sen. Barbara Boxer a good candidate for the Democrats because "she is a woman and she's learning disabled."
One day soon Ann Coulter will discover boos and jeers are the least of her problems.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


A report issued Wednesday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute puts blame on the current emphasis on reading and math -- part of No Child Left Behind.

States will be required in 2007 to start testing on science. The Fordham report indicates that the U.S. isn't ready for that step. Students aren't prepared.

The New York Times reports:
The report also appears to support concerns raised by a growing number of university officials and corporate executives, who say that the failure to produce students well-prepared in science is undermining the country's production of scientists and engineers and putting the nation's economic future in jeopardy.

Dozens of academic, corporate and Congressional leaders emerged from a meeting on competitiveness here on Tuesday to warn that the nation needs to expand its talent pool in science to stay ahead of countries like China and India that put vast resources into science education.

"Many states are not yet serious about teaching science," said Michael Petrilli, vice president for national programs and policy of the institute, a group that supports education reform. "The first step is to set higher expectations, and too many states have low or a lack of expectations to respond to the new global competitiveness."

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, a strong proponent of more testing to measure how effectively schools are teaching, said she was not surprised by the findings.

"I'm a what-gets-measured-gets-done kind of gal," she said in an interview. She cited the reluctance of many districts to teach algebra before high school as an illustration of the nation's problem with science and math, adding, "If children are not taking it until the ninth grade or ever, we are in a world of hurt."
We're also in a world of hurt if the secretary of education answers a question about science woes with an example about math. Especially when an emphasis on math is partly to blame for the paucity of science education. Then again, is it asking too much for excellence on science and math and reading and writing? Might come in handy when the next few generations have to deal with China.

By the way, in the Fordham report, Missouri scores 66 out of 100 -- a generous C.


Samuel Alito is a committed judicial conservative. Two reporters for Knight Ridder, the damned fine newspaper chain, came to that conclusion in an analysis piece, after poring over 311 Alito-penned opinions from the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

The obvious answer: Well, no duh. Is anyone surprised that the nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is conservative?

But the Bush Administration doesn't want Alito cast in such a, um, truthful light. Knight Ridder now reports that the administration is "mounting an aggressive effort to counter" to counter the story:
Administration officials said the story unfairly cast the Supreme Court nominee as a conservative ideologue.

"His 15-year record on the 3rd Circuit shows him to be a mainstream, fair, thorough judge," Assistant Attorney General Rachel Brand said in a C-SPAN interview devoted to her critique of the Knight Ridder analysis.

Brand, whose duties include shepherding judicial nominations through the Senate, rejected the conservative label for Alito.

"The term conservative means different things to different people. A judge is supposed to apply the law, not make it," she said.

John Nowacki, senior counsel in the Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs, also objected to the Knight Ridder analysis. In an e-mail to Henderson, Nowacki criticized attempts to discern a judicial philosophy by looking for trends in a judge's record.

"This outcome-based analysis is inapplicable and unfair to judges ... A judge's work cannot be divorced from the facts of particular cases," Nowacki wrote.
Quite the shame that Knight Ridder is apparently on the sales block, and Gannett is taking a "hard look" at the chain. Good for Gannett stockholders, bad for American newspapering.


What were they supposed to do -- break it up? It wasn't a fight.

The kids are from Lincoln, Neb. She's 17; he's 19. KETV says they got into a restricted hallway and got it on while "at least a dozen students watched through the gate."

From the report:
A school administrator found the couple and called a school resource officer.

"I don't want the message to families (to be that) this is happening indiscriminately all over the halls," said Becky Wild, with Lincoln Public Schools.

Wild said she remembers only one other incident like this in the last 10 years. She said LPS takes it very seriously, and administrators are asking themselves some tough questions.

"Are there some areas in our schools that are not as visible to the adults that supervise? We need to figure out how we cover those. Do we need to be talking with students about appropriate behavior?" Wild said.
Disapproving students are quoted. One said that "it probably does happen" at their school. "People just don't know about it."

Well, actually, people know all about it. That's why there are kids doing it today.


Don Ho, the singer from Hawaii, is in Thailand, recovering from stem-cell therapy on his heart. The Associated Press says:
Ho, 75, known for his signature tune "Tiny Bubbles," underwent a new treatment that has not been approved in the United States. It involves multiplying stem cells taken from his blood and injecting them into his heart in hopes of strengthening the organ, according to Ed Brown, a close friend.

After the treatment, Ho's vital signs were excellent, but he remained seriously ill and was in the hospital's intensive care unit, Brown said in a telephone interview from his home in Malibu, Calif.
Ho should return from Bangkok in a couple weeks, just in time for Ho-Ho-Ho.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


As we mentioned last month, some local gadflies are calling for a state audit of the City of Springfield. Today the city issued its indirect response via news release:
The Springfield City Council received its 2005 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report at its weekly lunch meeting today.

The Annual Financial Report included the Independent Auditor’s Report from the Kansas City accounting firm of KPMG LLP.

KPMG Independent Auditors’ Report said the Financial Report issued an “unqualified opinion” that the financial statements fairly represent the financial position of the city. Their opinion means that the firm found no discrepancies with internal controls, no reportable conditions and no disagreements with management on the City’s financial reporting.
POW! And here comes the three-bullet backhand:
• The City’s total net assets increased more than $34.7 million to $502 million for both government-type activities and business-type activities. Examples of the City’s net assets from government-type activities include: city-owned land; construction in progress; buildings; improvements; machinery and equipment; and infrastructure. Examples of business-type activities are the Enterprise Funds such as the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport, the sewer system and the Springfield-Greene County Municipal Golf Courses.

• The City’s General Fund Balance increased by about $163,000 to $9.2 million at the end of fiscal year 2005. The City’s budget policy calls for maintaining an operating reserve of 8 percent to 10 percent of expenditures and the current General Fund balance puts the operating reserve at 10 percent.

• The City of Springfield’s commitment to its financial accountability is exemplified by the Government Finance Officers Association honoring the City with a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the 26th year. Auditors for KPMG said very few cities have ever received the Certificate of Achievement that many times.

The Financial Report noted that Springfield’s economy is experiencing moderate growth of 2.2 percent and the city’s economic diversification is contributing to an average unemployment rate of 4.7 percent for 2005, which is below the state average of 5.7 percent.
Possible fallback position for the pro-audit pests: Lookey, the city's got plenty of money to pay for a state audit! Sure, but the $60,000 estimated cost seems like a waste of money, 'cause we don't see any Boss Tweeds at City Hall. Or in the Busch Building.


Oh sure, the archaeologists say it's the earliest known Maya portrait of a woman. All we can see is the "have a happy day" head, kinda squished but still recognizable as the Smiley Face.

A news release from the University of Calgary notes:
The discovery was made earlier this year in Guatemala at the site of Naachtun, a Maya city located some 90 kilometres through dense jungle north of the more famous Maya city of Tikal. The woman's face, carved on a stone monument called a stela [STEE-la] – and in an artistic style never before seen – suggests women played significant roles in early Maya politics.

"I've worked in the Maya area a long time and I've never seen anything like it," says Dr. Kathryn Reese-Taylor, the director of the U of C-led Naachtun project. "We have images of queens, who ruled both singly and with their husbands or sons, depicted on stelae later in Maya history beginning in the early 6th century AD. But this stela is completely unique in style and likely dates to the 4th century AD."
To see a close-up of the Smiley stela, click here. A high-res version of the entire stela can be found here.



Michael Washington, 32, let people store crack cocaine in his house. He got caught, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the misdeed.

But he doesn't want to go to prison. He says he's too fat, according to The Associated Press:
Washington, who weighs 574 pounds, argued during sentencing that he was too obese and in too poor of health to be adequately cared for in prison, and requested home confinement. However, the court said the agency was capable of addressing his medical needs.
He should've hidden the crack in his fat folds.


From the International Herald Tribune:
Russia has struck a deal to provide Iran with short-range, surface-to-air missiles, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday. He defended the deal, saying that the weapons system was purely defensive.

Russian media reported Friday that Russian and Iranian officials had signed various weapons contracts in November worth a billion dollars that would send up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems to Iran over the next two years.

"A contract for the delivery of air defense Tor missile systems to Iran has indeed been signed," Ivanov said in comments broadcast by the state channel Rossiya, without giving further details.
Defensive, yes -- as in Iran using them to defend against Israeli or American fighters, intent on wiping out Iran's nuclear capabilities. Four nuclear powers, going hot in the skies over Iran.

A world singing in perfect harmony? It was all a daydream.


Yeppers. Green. Dog's name is Wasabi. Damned if we can think of any dog with a normally green coat, but we don't get out much.

The Daily Bulletin in Ontario, Calif., offers this:
Wasabi was born in the Alhambra home of Peter Tseng on Nov 3. The puppy is the daughter of AKC (American Kennel Club) registered golden retrievers Goldie (mom) and Coco (dad) but, unlike her shiny blond siblings, her fur has an pale olive green sheen.

The green pup was a big surprise to Tseng and his wife, Janet Chen, reported their daughter, Amy Cosylion of South Pasadena.

But Goldie doesn’t mind at all.

“Goldie doesn’t care. She looks at everything as the same thing,” Tseng said.

Will Wasabi stay green? Tseng doesn’t know.

“I called the doctor at the animal hospital and he said to wait three or four weeks to see what happens,” Tseng said.

Little Wasabi, named after the green Japanese mustard commonly served with sushi, has had a lot of notice on TV. She also is the talk of the neighborhood.

“All the neighbors are coming over to see her,” Tseng said. “It’s too much.”
The dog's owners have already turned down a $2,000 offer for the pup. Karma now demands that the green tint quickly fade.

Monday, December 05, 2005


Good for Rep. Roy Blunt, that is, and bad for Rep. Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader currently sidelined -- but only temporarily, wink wink, nudge nudge -- while he fights money laundering charges.

A Texas judge dinged a conspiracy charge on Monday but let stand the more serious moolah-Maytag accusations. DeLay had hoped to be cleared on Monday so he could take back his power.

No dice. We hear Blunt is pretty comfortable in his Leader role -- but only temporarily, wink wink, nudge nudge -- and isn't keen on letting go of what he's got. Tuesday's Washingon Post seems to confirm that the long knives are out for the nicked DeLay:
DeLay's leadership position has been temporarily assumed by Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), and no new vote is planned. But a former GOP leadership aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of crossing DeLay, said that among House Republicans "the overwhelming feeling is if things are not squared away by the time they come back in January, there will be a petition dropped on the speaker's desk for an election" to permanently replace him.
DeLay was Blunt's mentor in Congress. This must be the part where the student turns on his master.


Our blogriffic friend, The Snarling Marmot, has arrived in the 'burg with hub Mike to set up shop in the Midwest.

Odd when you "know" someone via the world o' blogs, and then meet them in person. We are pleased to report that the Marmots are splendid peeps, and will be a welcome addition to Springfield. Local hamburger joint Taylor's should be mightily pleased.

Sunday, December 04, 2005


The Democrat who lost the 2004 race to George W. Bush was on "Face The Nation" on Sunday, fielding queries from Bob Schieffer.

Smitty alerted us to the appearance, saying the good senator from Massachusetts put his foot in his mouth -- again -- while answering a question about Iraq.

Let's go to the transcript, Batman!
"[T]here is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- the historical customs, religious customs. Whether you like it or not ... Iraqis should be doing that."
You bet, John. Whatever you say.


It should surprise no one when kids write crap in their journals. Online or on real paper, journals are supposed to be the place where you can write anything you want. Unless you're actually plotting to carry out your nefarious plans, in which case the adults get all hinky and start looking at you like you've grown a third nipple on your nose, just before they bring out the tranks.

In Santa Ana, Calif., two high-school boys have been suspended and face expulsion for violent journal entries. Scott McKnight and Sam Smith wrote in detail about how they would kill their English teacher at Tesoro High School.

On Friday a judge unsealed the journals and returned them "to the parties involved," according to the Orange County Register. The school district says it won't release the writings; the boys and their families maintain the journals are private and shouldn't be made public. After all, the boys argue, the teacher promised that the journals would never be read. They existed as a class exercise, a way to impose daily writing discipline on students.

But McKnight and Smith are still suspended from the football team, pending an expulsion hearing.

The English teacher, Alyssa Di Somma, reported the students to the district on Oct. 20, alarmed after reading some wicked words about her. According to The Associated Press:
The entries refer to gluing the teacher naked to a wall and cutting off her feet, and killing her family while she watches, according to court documents that quote partial excerpts. The teens' family members have said the two wrote the entries as a prank and egged each other on.

"I am planning on coming in your room late one night while you're still working," reads one partial entry. "I will smother you in gasoline and light your head on fire."
Before Friday's ruling, another judge had ruled the journal entries weren't private because "private thoughts lose their identity as such when they are reduced to writing as part of a class assignment and turned into the teacher for grading."

Lookit, the kids are idiots for a) believing the teacher when she said the journals wouldn't be read, and 2) writing such incendiary thoughts about the person most likely to read the journals. But why should they be expelled from school, absent any concrete evidence of a plan to strip the teacher naked, glue her to a wall and cut off her feet? We're talking a lot of glue, plus a sharp saw.