Friday, August 26, 2005

Constitution writing, 1787

PHILADELPHIA -- Once again, delegates from 13 former British colonies failed to reach agreement on a constitution for the proposed new United States of America.
"They'll never get it settled," said Benedict Arnold, a former New York military official who now lives in England. "They're trying to do something that hasn't been done anywhere in the civilised world since Athens."
There are a number of unsettled issues, according to sources close to the delegates. They have divided into two camps. One, which calls itself the Federalists, is led by Alexander Hamilton of New York. The other, known as the Democratic Republicans, is led by Virginian Thomas Jefferson, who is best known as the primary author of the colonies' declaration of independence in 1776.
"They've got to do a lot of deals to get every colony on board," said Lord Snooty of Evilhampton, a colonial historian at Oxford University. "Some of them have slavery, some don't; some have emerging industries, others don't; some have a wealth of resources, others not as much."
"There's also the religious factor to consider," said Sir Wolfen von Blitzer, an expert on religious matters at the University of Koln in Germany. "Some colonies have limits on Catholics, for example. Some colonies require membership in a particular church for selection to local offices. And there are many faiths represented in the delegates. Every nation has a state church, yet it appears the Americans cannot do this without alienating large segments of the public."
Those inside the constitutional convention, however, say they're still optimistic despite all the dire predictions.
"We're making progress every day," said Jedediah J. Helms, an observer representing North Carolina. "I don't think anyone expected us to get anywhere nearly as far as we have. We believe in what we're doing. We believe doing it right is worth taking the time."
Still, others expressed concerns about possible military invasion by rival powers, including Spain and France, both of which have territory adjacent to the colonies.
"If they're not settled, it might be easy to invade and claim some of the prime territory," said Juan Morfordarode, a military historian at the University of Barcelona in Germany. "The longer matters remain unsettled, the more likely an invasion becomes."
The delegates will continue meeting, even though they have already missed five deadlines for having a draft ready for the 13 former colonies represented at the convention.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Miss America: Outta A.C.?

The Miss America Pageant has been an Atlantic City institution since its inception back in the Roaring 20s.
That tradition is apparently about to end, according to Earthlink News:
In a surprise announcement, the organizers of the Miss America pageant said Thursday they want to move the 84-year-old contest from the only home it has ever known.
Officials with the pageant asked the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority to release the Miss America Organization from its contract to hold the pageant in Boardwalk Hall, a Depression-era landmark that has hosted the event since 1940.

Where will it go, if it leaves A.C.?
Let's look at the candidates that come to mind:
Nashville. The home of country music and an NHL team and approximately 250,000 starving singers looking for that one break. It's a primary candidate because CMT (Country Music Television) now has the contract to carry the pageant. Upside: They like beauty pageants down South. Downside: Would you want to look at 50-plus Dolly Parton lookalikes? (Down, boys, down.) Also, there are no large bodies of water around. Would the new Miss America take her first dip in the water in the Tennessee River?
Las Vegas. Also known as Atlantic City West. Gambling, gambling and more gambling, along with approximately 250,000 starving showgirls looking for that one break. Upside: Lots of people go to Vegas. Downside: By the time they're done gambling, they won't have any money to go to the pageant. Also, would you want the new Miss America to take her traditional first dip in some casino-hotel pool?
San Francisco. Eliminated as unfriendly to heterosexuality.
Panama City, Fla. Similar in size to Atlantic City, but has no casinos. It does have the requisite water, though, in the Gulf of Mexico. Upside: Home of Girls Gone Wild. Downside: Home of Girls Gone Wild.
Where will the pageant go?
For some unknown reason, I don't care.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Saddam gets life (or, the Days of our Lives)

UPDATE: The 153rd Carnival of the Vanities is now up at The Big Picture. If you've come from there, welcome.
UPDATE 2: JimmyB, the remarkable Conservative UAW Guy, is hosting the 17th Carnival of Comedy. If you've come from there, welcome.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 20, 2006 -- Saddam Hussein was sentenced today to 6,485 consecutive life sentences by an Iraqi court for the extermination of thousands of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s... and will serve his time in Canada.
The Iraqi government declared that it had agreed to send Saddam to Hans Island, the small rock in the North Atlantic that has been the centre of a disagreement between Denmark and Canada.
"We welcome such a distinguished leader as Saddam to our shores," declared Canada's governor-general, Michaelle Jean. "We will ensure that he receives the best health care Canada has to offer."
Danish officials would not comment on the record about Saddam's move to the Island, but several officials said the move was being taken as an affront to Copenhagen.
"Ya, but Saddam will get very lonely up dere with da seals," said one very high government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Danish officials said that Hans Island would not have cell phone or Internet service, because its telecommunications agency has not allowed for it. Canada's technology, the Danes claimed, could not reach the island safely.
According to Injustice Minister Irwin Cotler, Saddam will be given a TV set and a DVD player. “The only satellite signals available there are from Fox, so we won’t give him a dish,” Cotler said. “Instead, we’ll give him a full Michael Moore collection.”
That announcement brought catcalls from the American Civil Liberties Union, which helped to broker the life sentence.
“Hans Island’s isolation is one thing,” said ACLU spokesman Lucifer Satanovich. “But all Michael Moore all the time qualifies as a blatant example of cruel and unusual punishment.”

BAGHDAD, Jan. 21, 2006 – Canada has withdrawn its offer to house convicted former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein during his 6,485 consecutive life sentences, but it appears that Saddam will still spend the rest of his life on Hans Island.
Within hours of the announcement yesterday, Canada backtracked on its offer to house Saddam on the tiny isolated island that has been the centre of a dispute between Denmark and Canada.
“We regret that we cannot be responsible for him,” said Prime Minister Paul Martin Jr. “We just can’t guarantee his safety there.”
Sources in Denmark, however, confirmed that Martin’s abrupt turnaround coincided with the announcement that Saddam has agreed to testify against a multitude of international figures involved in the Oil-for-Food scandal that propped up his regime. Reports have linked several prominent Canadians to a bank implicated in the controversy.
“Ya, we’ll take care of him there,” a Danish official said. “It’s not official yet. The king and queen have to sign off on it, but we’ll put him up there. We can take care of it, even as the Canucks can’t.”
Saddam was sentenced to 6,485 consecutive life terms this week for the slaughter of thousands of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
There will be no cell phone or Internet service for Saddam, but he will be given a complete collection of Danish erotic art and videos for his perusal.
“That’s the least we can do,” the official said.
ACLU spokesman Lucifer Satanovich said he felt the Danish offer was “a fair proposal,” especially with the upgrading of the video collection. Canada had offered only the complete works of Michael Moore, which Satanovich had called “a blatant example of cruel and unusual punishment.”
“We also intend to offer him a chance to be fixed up with Cindy Sheehan [the anti-war U.S. woman], if the Danes agree,” theACLU representative added.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 22, 2006 – Saddam Hussein said today he would rather spend the rest of his life at Club Gitmo, rather than on Hans Island.
“Yeah, I saw that on Rush’s [Limbaugh] Web site and it looks pretty nice,” the former Iraqi dictator said of the U.S. prison camp. “It sure beats a damn island in the ice.”
Saddam was sentenced to 6,485 consecutive life terms this week for the slaughter of thousands of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
At first, Canada offered to house Saddam on Hans Island, which is little more than a rock in the North Atlantic, but it is claimed by both Canada and Denmark. However, Canada withdrew the offer yesterday, only to see Denmark offer to use the island as his prison.
Today, Saddam made it clear that he wanted no part of the island.
“I grew up in very hot country,” he said from his holding cell in an undisclosed location. “I can’t take the cold.”
U.S. President George W. Bush was non-committal. “We’ll have to see,” he said.
Anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan was livid when she heard Saddam’s declaration.
“Why would he want to come here? Does he want me to kill him for killing my son?” Sheehan shrieked. “Oh, that was Bush. Never mind.”
ACLU spokesman Lucifer Satanovich promised to monitor Club Gitmo carefully, should the U.S. accept Saddam.
“We have to treat our prisoners better than we treat our hard-working U.S. citizens, that’s for sure,” Satanovich said.
Several U.S. senators have signed up to serve as guards at Club Gitmo in the wake of Saddam’s announcement, including Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dick “Turban” Durbin (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
“See,” said Limbaugh, the popular radio personality, “I told you Club Gitmo was a high-class place. Even Durbin and Hillary want to be there.”

BAGHDAD, Jan. 23, 2006 – The leader of insurgent forces in Iraq has declared a fatwa on the head of former Iraq president Saddam Hussein.
“He has defiled Islam by saying he preferred to be in a prison held by the devils of the United States,” said Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, in a statement presented on the al-Jazeera and Daily Kos Web sites. “He must be punished.”
Saddam was sentenced to 6,485 consecutive life terms this week for the slaughter of thousands of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
He was originally set to be incarcerated on Hans Island in the custody of Canada, then Denmark, but indicated his preference for Club Gitmo, the U.S. facility, in interviews yesterday.
U.S. President George W. Bush remained noncommittal about his country’s intent in the matter. “We’ll have to see,” he said.
Saddam is currently being held in an undisclosed location.
ACLU spokesman Lucifer Satanovich declined comment, calling the fatwa “an internal matter” for the Islamists and Saddam to work out.

BAGHDAD, Jan. 24, 2006 –President George W. Bush announced today that the U.S. would not accept Saddam Hussein at its Club Gitmo facility.
“It’s too nice for the Butcher of Baghdad,” Bush said at a news conference at his ranch near Crawford, Texas. “We believe that the Hans Island site is the ideal place for a man with his background.”
Saddam was sentenced to 6,485 consecutive life terms this week for the slaughter of thousands of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s. He is currently being held in an undisclosed location.
First Canada, then Denmark offered Hans Island, a rock in the North Atlantic that is the centre of a dispute between the two Western nations, as a site for Saddam’s incarceration. However, citing information he received on radio commentator Rush Limbaugh’s Web site, Saddam expressed a preference for Club Gitmo.
His lawyer, Ramsey Clark, expressed disappointment at Bush’s announcement.
“We would have rather had him in U.S. custody so we could drive Bush nuts with all kinds of frivolous lawsuits,” Clark said. “We had the ACLU ready to go in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. They would not have had a moment’s peace.”
Danish officials said they would have Saddam’s final living place prepared by the end of next week.
“He’ll have all the porn videos he can handle,” said one Danish government functionary. “We won’t have the VCR ready until December, though.”
The announcement also spelled trouble for the fatwa declared yesterday by insurgency leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi.
“We’ll never get anyone to go someplace that cold,” Al-Zarqawi said as he called off the fatwa, “even for 72 virgins.”
ACLU spokesman Lucifer Satanovich declined comment.

HANS ISLAND, Denmark, Jan. 31, 2006 – Saddam Hussein arrived at this rock in the North Atlantic today to begin serving his 6,485 consecutive life terms for the massacre of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
The former president of Iraq was greeted by a group of Canadian seals protesting his arrival on the island, over which Denmark and Canada are feuding.
“Go home, butcher!” said the seal leader, identified as Screeching Cindy.
“This will not be so horrible,” Saddam said. “They got the VCR here and there’s a ton of tapes to watch. I am tough. I will be fine.”

HANS ISLAND, Denmark, Feb. 2, 2006 – Prisoner Saddam Hussein lodged a complaint today with his jailers, his first in three days of custody on this island in the North Atlantic.
Saddam, who is serving 6,485 consecutive life terms for the massacre of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s, said the water on the island lacks a certain taste.
“Could someone send up some whisky to purify this water?” he wrote in a message in a bottle received by a Danish icecutter about five miles away.
The Canadian government agreed to forward six bottles of fine Canadian whisky. It will be parachuted onto the island later this week.
"We believe that if it is in the best interests of his health, we should provide what he needs," said Michaelle Jean, Canada's governor-general.

HANS ISLAND, Denmark, Feb. 8, 2006 – Saddam Hussein is dead.
The former president of Iraq was found dead this morning by a group of Canadian seals who had wandered onto Danish territory.
He was serving 6,485 consecutive life terms for the massacre of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
“Eeek!” screamed Screeching Cindy, the leader of the seal group.
Saddam had received a drop of some whisky yesterday at his request, courtesy of the Canadian government.
“The world is a safer place today with Saddam Hussein no longer in it,” declared U.S. president George W. Bush.
Lucifer Satanovich of the ACLU called for a full investigation.
“This looks suspicious to me,” he said. “I intend to subpoena Karl Rove immediately to get to the bottom of this.”

PITTSBURGH, Pa., Feb. 9, 2006 – Saddam Hussein died of anthrax, a pathologist said tonight.
Celebrity coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht said heavy traces of anthrax were found in Hussein’s corpse.
“I don’t know how it could have gotten there,” Wecht said. “Anthrax normally doesn’t flourish in such a cold climate.”
He was serving 6,485 consecutive life terms for the massacre of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
Lucifer Satanovich, an ACLU spokesman, said his group would file suit demanding full access to Wecht’s report.

SOMEWHERE HIDING IN IRAQ, Feb. 10, 2006 -- Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the leader of the insurgency in Iraq, today took credit for the death of Saddam Hussein.
The former president of Iraq was found dead two days ago while serving 6,485 consecutive life terms for the massacre of Kurdish opponents in the 1990s.
“We never took off the fatwa. We fooled you infidels,” Al-Zarqawi said in a statement released on his favorite Web sites, Al-Jazeera and the Daily Kos. “We got to the whisky.”
Investigators are looking for members of Canada’s Al Qaeda family, the Khadrs, for questioning. But a source in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police told the CBC that the Khadrs left the country yesterday.
“They bought one-way tickets to Paradise,” RCMP spokesman Eddie Money said.
Also, 288 virgins mysteriously disappeared from San Francisco yesterday.
“That was almost all we had,” said San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom.
ACLU spokesman Lucifer Satanovich said he would still press to have Karl Rove, a key aide to U.S. president George W. Bush, subpoenaed concerning Saddam's sudden demise.
"This is evil enough to have emerged from his brain," Satanovich declared.

Lip synching banned

To Ashlee Simpson: Stay out of Turkmenistan.
Lip synching is not allowed there, as Earthlink News reports:
ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan - He has outlawed opera and ballet and railed against long hair and gold teeth, but now Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov is determined to wipe out another perceived scourge: lip synching.
Niyazov has ordered a ban on lip synching performances across the tightly controlled Central Asian nation, citing "a negative effect on the development of singing and musical art," the president's office said Tuesday.
"Unfortunately, one can see on television old voiceless singers lip-synching their old songs," Niyazov told a Cabinet meeting in comments broadcast on state TV on Tuesday. "Don't kill talents by using lip synching... Create our new culture."
Under Niyazov's order, lip synching is now prohibited at all cultural events, concerts, on television - and at private celebrations such as weddings.
Niyazov has led the former Soviet republic for 20 years, creating a vast personality cult around himself and issuing decrees regulating behavior in all walks of life.
In 2001, Niyazov banned opera and ballet as not corresponding with the national mentality. Last year, he called for young people not to get gold tooth caps and urged authorities to crack down on young men wearing beards or long hair.

Too bad this guy came along too late for Milli Vanilli, eh?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What the puck, part 2

Last time, your humble scribe dissected the National Hockey League's Eastern Conference.
This time, the West gets the scrutiny...


Detroit - division favorite -- The Wings are still far above the rest of the Central pack, even though age has taken its toll. Re-signing Chris Osgood to play goal doesn't bode especially well for the Wings' long-term hopes, and the loss of Darren McCarty takes a key element out of the team. Still, there's too much talent for this relatively weak division.
Nashville - contender -- The Predators are a team on the serious rise. Paul Kariya will help the offence, Danny Markov will help the defence. And Tomas Vokoun gave the Wings trouble in the playoffs in '04. Not quite ready to play at the Wings' level, but close.
St. Louis - on the bubble -- The Blues are a team on the way down. Unstable in goal, without a hammer on defence, not deep on offence... but still talented enough to vie for a playoff spot. Trading Chris Pronger for 3 younger defencemen may pay off in the future, but not this year.
Chicago - on the outside -- Not even Nik Khabibulin can pull this mismanaged franchise out of the doldrums.
Columbus - on the outside -- Better, but a year away from being a playoff contender. Signing Adam Foote is a real plus, though.


Vancouver - division favorite -- The Canucks have a lot going for them: Depth and talent up front, a sound defence, and should win the division. However, if they're still relying on Dan Cloutier, the poor man's Roman Cechmanek, their playoff hopes are tentative at best. Still, there's a lot of talent up there.
Calgary - contender -- The Flames won't be able to sneak up on people as they did in their run to the Cup final in '04. They're better equipped this time around. Jarome Iginla is the real MVP of the league; Mikka Kiprusoff is the real deal in goal; good free-agent additions in Darren McCarty, Tony Amonte and Roman Hamrlik; and the defense may be the best in the West, with budding superstar Robyn Regehr and prize rookie Dion Phaneuf. If Phaneuf plays to expectations, this team will be a force for years to come. Not quite enough balance for a regular-season title, though.
Colorado - contender -- The Avs' long streak of division titles will end this time. No Forsberg, no Foote. There's still plenty of talent up front with Sakic, Hejduk and Tanguay, but after Rob Blake, the defence is thin, and the jury is still out on David Aebischer in goal. A playoff team, but not a lot more.
Edmonton - on the bubble -- This is a tough call. The Oilcans' acquisitions of Chris Pronger and Michael Peca are real pluses, but they're going to need Ty Conklin to be very good in goal and a no-name defence is going to have to play well all season. I see the Oilers in the playoffs, but being stuck in the best division in the West isn't going to help them.
Minnesota - on the outside -- In another division, the Wild might well be a playoff team. This year, I suspect they're a year away from being a real playoff contender, because the rules changes are going to nullify Jacques Lemaire's trap.


San Jose - division favorite -- The Sharks did lose some of their grit in the Mikes, Ricci and Rathje. But their talent is the best in the division, and Nabokov is a very good goalie. Not the conference's best team, but it could wind up as the top seed in the West.
Phoenix - on the bubble -- Don't expect miracles on the bench from Wayne Gretzky. But he's quietly built a team that has a good chance to make the playoffs out of a pretty average division. I suspect at some point that Brian Boucher's days are numbered in Phoenix, since the Coyotes signed both Curtis Joseph and decent backup Steve Passmore. Boucher could probably get a decent scorer or defenceman in return.
Anaheim - on the bubble -- The Ducks signed the best defenceman available (and, for my money, the league's best defenceman) in Scott Niedermayer. They've got a quality goalie in J-S Giguere. But who's gonna score goals? That's the big question for a new coach to solve.
Dallas - on the bubble -- The system still makes the Stars tough defensively (so does the slush at their home rink) and Marty Turco is a good netminder. But Mike Modano is on the down side, and there aren't many other scorers on this club.
Los Angeles - on the bubble -- The Kings need a goalie. Badly. That's why I put 'em at the bottom of the list here. They'll be able to score some goals, with J.R. Roenick coming to town. The defence isn't an embarrassment, either. And the Kings are due for some luck after their last two seasons were destroyed by injuries.

Next time, I'll proffer some preseason views on how the whole league ranks.