Friday, January 04, 2008

December 20-January 3 2008

Pearls For Swine?

There's this newspaper clipping that's been sitting among the flotsam of my desktop for the last week or so. I tore it out of the December 20 Wall Street Journal because it struck me. Struck me how? Well, that's pretty much what I've been trying to figure out since then.

Having lived through the last seven years of you-know-what, I figured I'd been rendered immune further from shock or awe. And I was sure I'd exceeded my lifetime supply of irony-spotting.

Then I saw the story in question. It couldn't have been considered very important by WSJ editors, because it was buried on an inside page. But it sure jumped out to me. The headline asked:

Who Bought the Magna Carta?

The story answered it's own question:

"Talk about your historic takeovers. David Rubenstein, co-founder of the private-equity firm Carlyle Group, bought a 710-year-old copy of the Magna Carta for $21.3 million on Tuesday. "(Full Story)

If you've put up with my rants for any time at all, you know I'm no lover of conspiracy theories. And so that's not where I;m going with this. The Carlyle Group has replaced the Trilateral Commission as the conspiracy-minded's invisible hand of all things devious and evil. I don't see it that way at all. Instead I see the Carlyle Group for what it is -- America's preeminent conduit of the fruits of crony capitalism.

Founded in 1987 with $5 million, the Washington-based merchant bank controls nearly $14 billion in investments, making it the largest private equity manager in the world. Carlyle doesn't dabble in investments. It buys and sells entire companies the way most other investment firms trade shares of stock.

I'm not saying that the Magna Carta's new owner, David Rubenstein, is a bad man. I did some research and he gives a lot of (tax deductible) money to worthy charities. But then, why not? If members of this exclusive group have anything in excess, it's money.  At any point in time, Carlyle and it's investors have vested interests virtually any thing important that's going down in the world. 

Wars are bullish for Carlyle. Which is why Carlyle's board of directors and advisor's has read like a Who's Who of all things that go BANG -- and KA-CHING.

Oh, and all things Bush too.

Former president George H.W. Bush is a Carlyle adviser, as is former British prime minister John Major who heads its European arm. Former secretary of state James Baker is senior counselor, former White House budget chief Richard Darman is a partner, former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt is senior adviser -- the list goes on.

Carlyle has, from time to time, played the role of power-legacy incubator, as it did when asked to find a no-work job for George H. Bush's good-for-nothing son, George W. George and Barbara Bush are close to the Rubensteins. David, his wife and three children tagged along on an African safari with Barbara Bush.

Four years before George W. Bush's first run for Texas Governor, Rubenstein was asked to find a soft spot for Georgie to cool his heels and earn some easy money. Carlyle had just purchase Caterair, a company that provided food service to the airlines. A Bush family confident came to Rubenstein and pitched young George.

"...we were putting the board together, somebody [Fred Malek] came to me and said, look there is a guy who would like to be on the board. He's kind of down on his luck a bit. Needs a job. Needs a board position. Needs some board positions. Could you put him on the board? Pay him a salary and he'll be a good board member and be a loyal vote for the management and so forth...We put him on the board and [he] spent three years. Came to all the meetings. Told a lot of jokes. Not that many clean ones. " (David Rubenstein)

(Irony alert: Fred Malek received his 15 minutes of fame in the 1970s as deputy director of CREEP (Committee to Re-elect the President), the Nixon White House operation behind Watergate.)

Did Carlyle's managers laugh at George's jokes? Hard to say. More likely they just grinned and bore it, which paid off a decade and half later:

April 2003: Directors of one of the world’s largest armament companies are planning on meeting in Lisbon in three weeks time. The American based Carlyle Group is heavily involved in supplying arms to the Coalition forces fighting in the Iraqi war.

It also holds a majority of shares in the Seven Up company and Federal Data Corporation, supplier of air traffic control surveillance systems to the US Federal Aviation Authority. The 12 billion dollar company has recently signed contracts with United Defense Industries to equip the Turkish and Saudi Arabian armies with aviation Defense systems.

Top of the meeting’s agenda is expected to be the company’s involvement in the rebuilding of Baghdad’s infrastructure after the cessation of current hostilities. Along with several other US companies, the Carlyle Group is expected to be awarded a billion dollar contract by the US Government to help in the redevelopment of airfields and urban areas destroyed by Coalition aerial bombardments. (Full Story)

And, talk about being in on the ground floor of the "War on Terror:" On September 11, 2001, the day two planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Carlyle Group was hosting an investors conference at the nearby Ritz-Carlton, a conference attended by none other than Osama bin Laden's brother. George H. Bush attended the conference the day before and had met personally with the bin Laden kin.

No, I'm not siding with the 9/11 conspiracy folks. I still think they're nuts. I am simply making the point that when it, if it's big, or promises to be big, the Carlyle Group makes sure it has an arm lock on good hunk of the action. 

Former Secretary of State James Baker is (of course) a member of Carlyle's inner circle and he bristles at the notion that the company somehow manipulates world events.

"I say that's bullshit, and you can print it!" Baker snapped at a reporter. "Somebody would say, 'well, you had one of the bin Laden brothers as an investor.' Well, that's exactly right," he says, adding that the bin Ladens are one of the wealthiest families in the Middle East and have disowned Osama.

(Duh Alert: After 9/11 Rubenstein announced he had returned the bin Ladens' $2 million investment.)

Rubenstein has stopped trying to deny the benefits of his company's toady hyper-connectedness:

"We've actually replaced the Trilateral Commission" as the darling of conspiracy theorists,"  Rubenstein jokes.

 (Irony alert:  Rubenstein is also a member of  said  Trilateral Commission.)

So there we are. The new owner of one of the most important documents in mankind's march towards democracy has been purchased by Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein. His new acquisition will be housed and conserved, at taxpayer expense, at the National Archives. 

The value of Rubensteins copy of the Magna Carta is sure to continue to rise, even as the paradigm-shattering rights it was the first to enshrine into law slip, one by one, from our lives today.

Which brings me to the next story that caught my interest:

From: Privacy International

Each year since 1997, the US-based Electronic Privacy Information Center and the UK-based Privacy International have undertaken what has now become the most comprehensive survey of global privacy ever published. The Privacy & Human Rights Report surveys developments in 70 countries, assessing the state of surveillance and privacy protection.

The most recent report published in 2007, available at, is probably the most comprehensive single volume report published in the human rights field. The report runs over 1,100 pages and includes 6,000 footnotes. More than 200 experts from around the world have provided materials and commentary. The participants range from eminent privacy scholars to high-level officials charged with safeguarding constitutional freedoms in their countries. Academics, human rights advocates, journalists and researchers provided reports, insight, documents and advice. In 2006 Privacy International took the decision to use this annual report as the basis for a ranking assessment of the state of privacy in all EU countries together with eleven non-EU benchmark countries. Funding for the project was provided by the Open Society Institute (OSI) and the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. Follow this link for more details of last year's results.

The intention behind this project is two-fold. First, we hope to recognize countries in which privacy protection and respect for privacy is nurtured. This is done in the hope that others can learn from their example. Second we intend to identify countries in which governments and privacy regulators have failed to create a healthy privacy environment. The aim is not to humiliate the worst ranking nations, but to demonstrate that it is possible to maintain a healthy respect for privacy within a secure and fully functional democracy.

This study and the accompanying ranking chart measure the extent of surveillance and privacy. They do not intend to comprehensively reflect the state of democracy or the full extent of legal or parliamentary health or dysfunction in these countries (though the two conditions are frequently linked). The aim of this study is to present an assessment of the extent of information disclosure, surveillance, data exploitation and the general state of information privacy.

Invasion of Privacy -- At a Glance

What Now?

Benazir Bhutto was a dead-woman walking the day she set foot back on Pakistani soil. It was only a matter of time, and that time came today.

While I'd like to lay at least some blame for Bhutto's assassination on Bush administration meddling in Middle East politics, I can't. Instead the blame for this latest regional bloodletting lands squarely and exclusively in the lap of what I have come to think of as "Muslimocracy" -- the primacy of Islamic law, or Sharia, which is still deeply rooted in the souls and minds of the people of that ever-troubled region.

Muslimocracies view the non-Muslim world as their an enemy, and anyone within a Muslim nation who does not share that view,  is viewed as a friend of their enemy.  That is what got Bhutto killed today.

I rarely agree with George W. Bush on anything, but he was right once. It was when he was running for President the first time. Back then he warned against wasting US lives and resources on "nation building" efforts abroad.

Then he got elected and embarked on the most audacious, aggressive and illogical nation building effort in modern history. As a result the world got to see the wisdom of Bush's original position and the folly of his current one.

Today, when someone criticizes Bush for trying to bring democracy to the backward Muslim nations in the Middle East, he scolds them for displaying "the soft bigotry of low expectations."

Well, sometimes low expectations are not the product of bigotry, but data. As a self-described country boy Bush surely must have heard some crusty old farmer remark, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink."

Which brings me back to Pakistan -- et al. You can lead them towards democracy but you can't make them democratic.  And, in the rare instances where they apparently relent, they use democracy to enshrine Sharia law, which is to democracy a lynching is to justice. (Remember how the Palestinians  embrace of democratic elections resulted in the elevation of Hamas. And, if free and open elections were held today in Egypt the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood would be swept in to power.)

As I've noted in more than one previous post, Pakistan is not our ally in the war on terror. Neither is Iraq. Nor is Egypt. And most certainly not Saudi Arabia. Those countries are our allies the same way a cobra is an ally of its snake charmer.

Unreconstructed Islam has been and remains Muslim country's kryptonite against super-power strength. The Soviets learned that the hard way when they tried to occupy Afghanistan. The US is now locked in the same futile exercise of imperial hubris in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and possibly soon in Iran and Pakistan. It was a lesson learned a century earlier by the British, as immortalized by Kipling:

Now, it is not good for the Christian's health

 to hustle the Aryan brown,

For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles

and he weareth the Christian down;

And the end of the fight is a tombstone white

with the name of the late deceased,

And the epitaph clear: "A Fool lies here,

who tried to hustle the East."

Of course somethings have changed over a century. In particular, nuclear weapons, of which Pakistan possesses as many as 100 air and missile-mounted nukes.  If one or more of those active nuclear weapons falls into the hands of al Qaida we can be assured they will used it to demonstration just how much Allah hates non-Muslims. You don't have to be a Neo-con to believe that.

Which begs the question -- in light of the latest democracy-farce being played out in Pakistan, how should we treat the kind real threats posed by a radicalized Muslim Middle East?

In a word: containment.

We won the Cold War largely by containing the Soviet Union's expansionist ambitions. And we won that long war without the level of bloodshed we've already experienced in Iraq, or the amount of bloodshed we will incur if we continue trying to force these people to drink from the democratic pond.  Instead we told the nations of the Soviet bloc that, if they wanted communism, fine, it was all theirs. But, we made clear, don't look for any financial, political or military help from us. In essence we let them stew to death in their own dysfunctional communist pots.

The Muslim Middle East is currently addicted to its own dysfunctional social/religious philosophical code, unreconstructed Islam. And that will continue to poison almost any relationships they try to form with the non-Muslim modern world. Christianity had to re-calibrate hundreds of years ago in order to survive and coexist with scientific and social progress. Islam has yet to do so and is therefore hopelessly out of step with modernity.

In the Muslim Middle East today, half-educated Mullahs have more influence over what their people know and believe than anyone inside or outside their countries. And much of what they believe is the very reason their countries are backward, violent places. For example, half their population  -- women -- are barred from contributing to their society's governance, commercial or even social development -- a shocking waste of human capital for countries that need all the human capital they can get. But it was exactly that kind of misogynistic ignorance that played a role in Bhutto's death today.

There is only one cure for addiction, be it addiction to a substance or a crippling ideology, and that's to let the addicted hit rock bottom. The addicted must be ready to shake their addiction. Until then they are nothing but blackholes for charity, advice or other efforts to save them from their themselves. Western military and financial aid to nations like Pakistan and Iraq are like financing a saloon for alcoholics.

Instead the west should treat the nations of the nations of Muslim Middle East the same way we treated the nations of the Soviet Bloc. Those nations in the Middle East that refuse to disengage their governments, military, security forces, schools and financial institutions from the yoke of unreconstructed Islam should be held at arms length by the rest of the word. In other words, they should be contained and isolated.

Bush keeps saying that we need to believe terrorist when they say they want to destroy us. Fine, so we also need to believe them when they say they want Sharia law. Well fine, so get the hell out of the way and let them have it -- let them have Sharia law in spades.

But what about those nukes in Pakistan, and maybe someday in Iran? The west has to get this one  right -- and the first time. The west should be ready to use its military assets, but with a kind of care and  precision that's been woefully lacking of late. The only national interest the US has in that region should be defined as containment and doing whatever needs doing to insure that those nukes in Pakistan can never be used, by anyone, against anyone.

No one can say exactly what that means in what the military likes to refer to as "kinetic action." But blunt force bombing -- the first choice among Bush administration hawks -- must be reserved should the day ever arrive when everything else has failed. Instead the Pentagon and CIA should use some to the $60 billion a year we give them for intelligence activities to get their hands on those nukes and get their hands on the key individuals in those countries who produced and/or proliferated them. And frankly I don't give fig how they go about getting that done - just that it gets done. Because when it comes to nuclear weapons it only takes one to ruin your day, and the day of a few hundred thousand close friends and relatives.

Finally, what about oil? If we contain the nations of the Muslim Middle East we can kiss our oil supply from there goodbye.  What about that? Well the day was coming when the US would have to get off Middle East oil one way or another. We could have -- should have -- done so slowly, methodically and in ways that did not cause widespread hardship. But we didn't, so now we will just have to bite the bullet, declare a national energy emergency and do what we have to do to get by for a while. Sorry. But sometimes there are no sacrifice-free options in the world of realpoliks.

If we haven't learned these lessons yet we surely will.  The only question is how many more US troops and treasure will have to be wasted beating our heads against that Islamic wall before we figure it out. They don't want democracy, at least not yet. And they won't want it until they get an industrial dose of what they keep telling us they want, Sharia (Islamic) law.

Which is why I say to them, "bon appetite." Give us a ring when you've had a belly full.

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A clean and well-lighted place to blow off steam


December 19, 2007

What an Annoying Year!

Whew, has this been an annoying year, or what! I figure 2007 has been the most annoying year of my 62. I even did up a list of just the top 20 things I became sick and tired of during the past year.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1) I'm sick and tired of being bombarded by TV ads with American Indians telling me that their casinos are making life better for everyone, not just the ten members of their tribe. Have you ever been in one of those casinos? Just how are casinos making life better for the bus loads of gray-haired codgers who upload their meager Social Security checks into Chief Wampum's slots? And what about all those already over-extended, mortgage-poor, credit card maxed out working stiffs so desperate their last remaining hope to hit a progressive-slot jackpot? How is the spreading plague of Indian casinos helping those folks?

So knock it off with those phony feel-good ads and replace them with something that at least approximates the truth. Something like this would be more tolerable:

"We had a sweet thing going before Europeans showed up, uninvited, and mugged the living crap out of Indian tribes from coast to shinning coast. Well that hunk of Karma has come home to roost at our Indian Casinos where we are now happily, and profitably, doing the same thing to you. We even have a name for you... The White Buffalo."

Now, that's at least true, and defensible. I can live with that. But even white-guilt has its limits and those spoken-with-forketh-tongue, Indian-casinos-are-good-for-us TV ads have pushed that limit well beyond the breaking point.

2) I'm sick and tired of all things bimbo. Paris, Britney, Lohan...and all those like them. The only time such appaulingly stupid people should appear on my evening news is if they should stumble in front of the Presidential limo, get run over but survived and, once out of a coma, scribble out the solution to Einstein's unified field theory. Otherwise I never want to hear their names or see their vacant faces on the news again. They are nature's most useless and annoying creatures. CNN and MSNBC -- don't waste another electron reporting on these people because electrons have more important things to do -- and so do you.

3) I'm sick and tired of having to pretend that Christian fundamentalists are entirely sane when they announce with straight faces that the earth was created in six days, and is not billions of years old but actually just 6000 years old. And that dinosaurs and humans coexisted because, "In fact, at Answers in Genesis, we call dinosaurs 'missionary lizards.' No sane literate person would -- could -- hold such utter nonsense to be true. Such pronouncements should be treated for what they are -- evidence of ignornace, mental illness or both.

Because they are provably false. They are NOT a equally valid scientific theory. They are the product of mass-hysterical-crazy thinking -- viral nonsense. People who believe such things, and try to get others to believe them, should be treated the exactly how we treat people who walk city streets shouting at things only they can see. And when one of these zombies shows up at a school board meeting demanding religious mythology be taught in science class, they should be politely asked to either shut up or leave. If they refuse then someone needs to call the cops to remove them to the nearest psychiatric facility and placed on a 36-hour hold. (Except in Texas, which we all know is a lost cause.)

4) I'm sick and tired of every politician running for election or re-election testifying that they, too, "believe." Believe what? Well, they keep that kinda of fuzzy. Politicians understand that, when you're seeking the votes of people who believe crazy things, you've gotta stay vague. That's because metaphysical-crazy comes in more flavors than Baskin-Robbins. No two crazies are the same, but they do all have one thing in common; they believe crazies of a different flavor are ... well, crazy. Which is why politicians play their "crazy belief cards" close to the vest. Instead of risking losing crazy votes by getting specific about precisely what kind of metaphysical things they may or may not believe in, they vaguely reasure them with a wink, wink, nudge, nudge -- "Just trust me folks. I'm at least as crazy as you."

5) I'm sick and tired of my country listing among our "friends and allies" creepy, unsavory, smarmy, self-indulgent, utterly despicable regimes -- to wit -- Saudi Arabia and the Saudi "royal" family. John Gotti's family had more royal blood in it than the 7000-odd dictatorial, misogynistic sheiks that run Saudi Arabia. If they weren't squatting atop lakes of oil the only kingdom they'd be lording over would have horns and require milking twice a day. If there's a more despicable bunch of mobsters masquerading as leaders today, I can't think of it. And I'm sick of seeing our moron of a President walking hand in hand with these cross-dressing, lying, cheating, terrorist-financing, rape-victim-lashing Arab home-boys, at the same time we continue embargoing Cuba and shaking a threatening fist at Iran.

6) I'm sick and tired of hearing about how Pakistan is a "valuable ally in the war on terror." No they're not. Hell, they're not even a real democracy anymore. Also everyone knows that the Pakistan army and intelligence services are lousy with al Qaida and Taliban sympathizers. Calling Pakistan an ally is like declaring George W. Bush one of America's most accomplished Presidents. The day Pervez Musharraf fired the whole Supreme Court and replaced them with handpicked Clarence Thomas' and Anthony Scalia's, we should have given NATO troops in Afghanistan the green light go into Pakistan's tribal regions and do whatever needed doing there. The other thing we should have done a long time ago is to dispatch a team of Navy Seals to snatch A.Q. Khan -- the guy who spread nuclear bomb technology from North Korea, to Lybia and Iran. Khan is currently under "house arrest" in Pakistan. Snatching him and bringing him to justice would send a message to anyone thinking of peddling nukes that they'll never live to spend the money.

7) I'm sick and tired of "Billery." Bill and Hillary Clinton have worn out their welcome in my head. I appreciate Bill's accomplishments as President. But fine, can we move on now? I didn't appreciate the Bill and Hillary soap operas the first time around. But now the nation and world are too much in crisis to restart that kind of unhelpful diversions. Hillary is a smart and viciously accomplished pol. But rather than president, her skills could be put to better use as Senate Majority Leader. Ditch the nearly comatose Harry Reid and put Hillary in that important post. Because, unlike Reid, Hillary knows how to jerk leashes -- and actually likes it.

8) I'm sick and tired of the global warming deniers. They should be treated with the same sense of anger and disgust as Holocaust deniers... just more so. Denying the Holocaust only denies the murder of six million humans. Denying global warming and it's causes threatens to sentence hundreds of millions, maybe billions, of humans to slow, painful untimely deaths. I can't punch global warming deniers, though I'd like to. But if they persist they and their families should all be required to relocate to the lowest laying atoll in the Pacific.

9) I'm sick and tired of Wall Street and government "economists" blowing smoke up my ass about the state of the economy. I cut my journalistic teeth on financial crisis, so I know one when I see one coming. And one is coming. In fact, it's just now arriving. Don't tell me the "underlying strength of the US economy is strong." Bullshit. Consumer spending accounts for 70% of the US economy, and those consumers are tapped out. They can't even mug another dime of equity out of their now over encumbered homes. Even those usurious credit card companies won't lend them anymore until they pay off their overdue balances. Hello.....

The truth is we are heading into the worst case of stagflation in a quarter century. So, economists, spare me the happy talk. That crap might buy you some time by creating sucker rallies on Wall Street, but you are about to run out of suckers. Do you have a plan for that? If so, that's what what I want to hear from you... and quickly please.

10) I'm sick and tired of defense contractors, like Lockheed, running TV ads trying to convince me that everything they do is "for our troops in harms way." Gag me with a rocket launcher! Everything defense contractors do is in pursuit of billions of defense tax dollars. That's why they do it --- the ONLY reason they do it. They never seem to mention in their ads that every year... without exception...every year, they are each one caught red handed lying, cheating and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars more. And that, even when caught, not one of them has spent a day in the slammer for it. So, shut up with the "we do it all for our troops," crap, will ya? It makes me wanna reach through the TV and Blackwater your asses.

11) I'm sick and tired of teachers absolving themselves of any responsibility for the dismal state of American education. When I sat on a school board I suggested we grant teachers even more in pay raises than they were requesting. I only had one condition; that we be allowed to bypass teacher union roadblocks when we wanted to reward exceptional teachers and could promptly fire the well known loser teachers on our staff. Their response -- "No way Jose." You would have thought I'd asked them to undress or something. No personal accountability for teachers, not even if we paid them for it. If private industry had those kind of rules America would look like Somalia today -- which is why our education system nearly does.

12) I'm sick and tired of hearing that the US has "the best health care in the world." First of all my wife is a health care professional, which means I hear the real scoop every day she returns from work. Tales that curl the blood. We don't have the best health care in the world, we just have the most expensive health care in the world. It's a system run by a bunch of blood sucking private insurance companies that cherry pick the actuarial pool. They insure only those unlikely to need medical care, and reject anyone who just might. Those they refuse to insure eventually end up getting medical care on the public nickel. Wouldn't you love a business deal like that, one where you get to shove your risks off on the government allowing you to pocket all that low/no risk gravy? I sure would. I'm sick of it... pun intended.

13) I'm sick of paying a higher percentage of my adjusted gross income than Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. The Bush tax cuts have been a bonanza for the already super rich, and a big lump of coal for everyone else. For our national infrastructure the Bush tax cuts were a "who needs public infrastructure anyway!" The truth is that the rich got rich largely thanks to Americas generous, reliable and efficient taxpayer funded infrastructure -- roads, bridges, airports, ports and such. Therefore they should pay taxes that adequately reflect and reimburse the nation for that. At the end of the day, every road is a toll road, and the rich are nolonger paying their fair share of tolls.

14) On the same subject, I'm also sick and tired of hearing Republicans spout the nonsense that if you cut a rich person or corporation's taxes they will use that extra money to "create jobs for working Americans." No they won't. And no, they haven't.

What they have done with their Bush's tax cut bonanza is sock it away in tax-protected family trusts and then lobby Congress to eliminate the estate tax so their heirs can keep every dime of it. If any of that extra money does end up getting invested in a job-creating enterprise you can bet your low-wage bippy those jobs end up in China or someplace like China. So, spare the "trickle down" crapola fellas.

15) I'm sick and tired of spending $60 billion a year on intelligence services that aren't.

16) I'm sick and tired of Neo-con, lap-dog Republicans who have defended and aided administration officials who openly champion views of governance so un-American they border on neo-fascism.

17) I'm sick and tired of conniving, weaselly, cowardly Democrats who could have obstructed our nations slide toward totalitarianism -- but didn't -- and still haven't.

18) I'm sick and tired of hearing American auto makers whine about how they can't possibly meet higher fuel economy standards while the Japanese clean up doing just that. The last time this happened, back in the 1970s, the Japanese whipped Detroit's sorry ass by making higher mileage small cars while Detroit keep spitting out 8-cylinder behemoths. Then Uncle Sam ended up having to bail out Chrysler and put import quotas on Japanese cars so we didn't have to bailout the out GM and Ford as well. The Big Three dinosaurs are at it again, addicted to selling Hummers and gas-guzzling SUVs and fighting every effort to get them to switch to higher millage and alternative fuel vehicles. Maybe if we hadn't bailed them out of their last self-inflicted wounds they'd have come out with a Prisus before the Japanese this time. If GM had an ounce of sense it would change it's name from General Motors to Green Machines and get with the frigging program. I'm sick and tired of rewarding and enabling such stubborn, corporate stupidity and public and social malfeasance.

19) I'm sick and tired of soap-opera news stories that have runs longer than most Broadway plays. The next time some guy's wife goes missing, and authorities suspect he killed her and dumped her body someplace, don't tell me about -- at least until they solve the crime and actually know what happened. Even then such stories are for local news, so why are they on the national news in the first place? I'm sick and tired of these long, drawn out tales of dysfunctional relationships turned deadly. Nothing about these tales matters to anyone except the poor people directly involved, their families and immediate neighbors. There's absolutely no national news value to running these stories night after night, except a sick "entertainment" value. So, unless these sad cases are being caused by some communicable virus that's spreading at an alarming rate and heading my way, I don't want to hear about them -- it's not "news I need" -- or even want.

20) I'm sick and tired of these new "Christians are being persecuted" TV ads. You know, the ones where some Chinese kid narrates how she was forced to walk barefoot through the snow to a detention center because she wrote stuff about Jesus ... blah, blah, blah. The truth is the overly religious thrive on claims of persecution, real or Madison Avenue-imagined. Nothing stirs up the religiously enthralled like a ripping, tear-jerking tale of persecution. More importantly, nothing opens up the wallets of the herd faster either. One might suggest to them that maybe if fundamentalist Christians tried to be a little less "up everyone's nose," every time we turn around these days they might face less persecution. That assumes, of course, they really are being "persecuted" every time they make the claim -- which I doubt. Often what they view as persecution is simple, non-violent, rhetorical push-back from those of us who've heard quite enough about their supernatural pretend friend(s) of choice. They consider such push back "persecution." We call it self-defense.

So there, my top 20 list of things I got sick and tired of in 2007. Send me your list and I'll add it in the best ones in days ahead. Listing them probably won't change anything, but it's very cathartic.

Readers "Sick Of's"

Posted on our new News For Real Wiki page: HERE

(And don't be shy about posting your own list there as well. It's easy. Just click the "Easy Edit" button and go to town.)