Bad Joke of the Week

The bad joke of the week was inspired by an actual event. Here I will just reprint the news item in its entirety.

By Mark Potter Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/14/2005 7:27:30 PM ET

MIAMI — The trail begins at the Federal Reserve building in East Rutherford, N.J..  In mid-December, a large tractor-trailer is loaded up and heads south, bound for the Fed in New Orleans. Sealed in back of the truck is $180,000 worth of newly minted U.S. nickels. They are in 900 bags and weigh nearly 23 tons.

That’s 3.6 million nickels — and soon they would just disappear.

“Somebody actually went out and stole 3.6 million nickels,” says FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela. “I mean, who would ever think that would happen?”

FBI agents and police are baffled over how it happened. The driver, Angel Ricardo Mendoza, a private trucker from Miami, has also disappeared.

“He’s either a victim or a suspect,” says Sgt. Richard Mestre of the Miami-Dade Police Cargo Theft Task Force. “We’re not really sure.”

Mestre is used to dealing with stolen cars and appliances, but he’s never seen a case involving nickels.

There are very few clues. Investigators do know that after leaving New Jersey, Mendoza gassed up at a North Florida station on Dec. 19. They have the credit receipts. On Dec. 20, Mendoza called his boss, saying he was in Tallahassee and would soon arrive in New Orleans. He never made it and hasn’t been heard from since.

When I read this a few years back I got to thinking, “Just how do you spot the man who stole 3.6 million nickels? Here are the top ten ways:

10. For some reason he likes to drive 55 miles per hour.

9. Parking meters: No problem.

8. Airport security: Big problem.

7. Buddy, can you spare 3.6 million nickels?

6. He will give you 3.6 million nickels for your thoughts.

5. Only shops at the five and dime store.

4. For God’s sake, don’t ask him to change a $100 bill.

3. If he wants he really can nickel and dime you to death.

2. It’s not just his spurs that go jingle jingle jangle.

1. And the number one way to spot the guy who stole 3.6 million nickels: Ask him “Are you glad to see me, or is that a roll of nickels in your pocket?”


John Mather at UT San Antonio

The San Antonio Skeptics hosted an outing at the University of Texas at San Antonio Friday night. The UTSA faculty sponsored the talk by physicist John Mather, who six years ago was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his work measuring the cosmic background radiation. The talk was titled “A History of the Universe, from Beginning to End.” Mather’s current project is the James Webb Space Telescope, and I present to you below a link to a video I made of his video. It shows the JWST assembling itself after being cleared of its launch vehicle at some date in the future to be named.

Preventing Voter Fraud

Hey! Birthday coming up. Send congrats, presents. The State of Texas did. They sent me a driver’s license renewal notice.

As you know, our state government is working hard to prevent voter fraud. Since voting by illegal aliens is rampant (possibly once or twice each election), the State of Texas has enacted stringent measures to identify people qualified to vote. In order to vote, as I understand the law, I will need to show some kind of photo identification this coming November. One acceptable form of photo ID is a Texas driver’s license.

That’s why, for your protection and mine, the State of Texas requires, when you renew your license, you clearly identify your citizenship status on the application. Presumably this information will show up on your new license and will prevent you from voting if you are not a citizen. The State of Texas goes to great lengths to determine your citizenship when you apply for your license renewal. They require you to state your citizenship status on your application. See below:

Of course, I carefully checked the YES box. I did not want to lose my right to vote and to cast these idiots into the abyss. I did not elect to register for the draft.

The Rape of the Lock

I could not help remarking on this. The parallel is impossible to ignore.

Amish Bishop Found Guilty of Beard-Shaving Attacks

The leader of an Amish splinter sect and his followers were found guilty today of violating federal hate crime laws for conducting a series of bizarre attacks in which they shaved the hair and beards of other Amish whose religious beliefs they disagreed with.

A jury found Samuel Mullet Sr. and 15 members of his church guilty of the attacks that rocked the picturesque Amish communities of eastern Ohio.

As I understand it, these people, who out-Quaker the Quakers, cannot suppress their militancy when matters of intolerable religious insult assault their sensitivities. Extreme action was mandated, and a courageous band of righteous warriors did shoulder the burden of correcting the heinous insult. Specifically, groups of men accosted the miscreants at their door stoops, laid hands upon them, and meted out the appropriate punishment. They took scissors in hand and whacked off the sacred hair and beards of the offenders.

Well, that was that. The matter wound up in criminal court, appropriately tagged as a hate crime (religious section), and the bishop who directed the actions faces up to ten years in prison. An example is being made.

So, how come I keep thinking of Alexander Pope’s The Rape of the Lock. Surely, good people, high-standing officials of a major religious movement should have been able to find better use for their time and industry, not to mention the next ten years of their lives. That way, our over-priced criminal justice system could find a much better use for our tax money than to process and incarcerate people who commit felonies with scissors.

On another thought, as long as I am getting literary, maybe a better parallel would be Much Ado About Nothing.

Motorcycle Challenge

A few years ago.. OK, many many years ago, when I lived in Austin I was writing this column for a local TV listings flier. It was called Motorcycling Excitement, because each column was supposed to feature something about motorcycles. Anyhow, here is a scan from one of the copies I kept. In fact, this article is what this posting is all about.

Motorcycling Excietment

Anyhow, my friend Lou told me that he was taking a business course at the University, and somebody had brought up this business venture that was being shopped around. The idea was to build a new American motorcycle, and to build it here in Austin. The name for the project was Challenge, and I understood the bike would be called the Challenger.

Anyhow, this guy Art headed up the project, and he lived in Boerne, Texas, so I went there with local artist Tony Bell, who would eventually be producing some publicity art work for the project.

At the facility in Boerne we got to see a massive prototype machine with a revolutionary engine type. It was a horizontally-opposed two-stroke that made use of components produced by a company in Kyle, Texas, that manufactured water pumps. The photo shows Al and Art plus another person plus Hedly Cox. Cox was from Great Britain, and he had previously raced in the Isle of Man TT and had developed a constant wheel base front suspension for motorcycles.

At the facility in Boerne

So, we had a good look, and it was a great outing, and we came back, and I wrote up this item about the project, and Tony produced some excellent renditions of the finished product as it would appear dressed up for police patrol work.

But nothing ever came of the project. No motorcycles were ever produced or sold. It seemed that the development team poured the majority of their efforts into raising capital. I knew some people who were approached to invest in the company, but none of them ever felt comfortable enough to do so. I have wondered since whether there was ever a serious effort to build and sell motorcycles. And I have long wondered at how many people eventually invested in the company and how much.

So, that’s the story, but there is an epilogue. Years later I was participating in an Internet discussion group, and some topic related to church-state separation came up, and it centered on Boerne, Texas. I swear these people are crazy, because very shortly the conversation got off the topic of church and state and onto The Boerne Identity, the spy novel and the subsequent movie. Some people in the discussion were software types, and they drifted off onto the Boerne Shell versus BASH (the born again shell), and I realized that I was the only person in this world-wide discussion group that had ever been to Boerne, Texas and knew how to pronounce the name. So I was glad to inform this worldly cadre that the closest pronunciation to the town’s name is Bernie.

Now I live much closer to Boerne, and have plans to regularly visit the town to take in their local Octoberfest. It’s interesting how things sometimes come around full circle.

Bad Joke of the Week

Is it Saturday again already? Time for the Bad Joke of the Week.

I was visiting my friend, Warren, and he seemed down in the dumps, so I asked him how things were going.
“Not so good,” he told me. I lost my job, and when I couldn’t make the payments the mortgage company repossessed the house. Then Angela divorced me and ran off with the mortgage broker. Last week I was driving to my mother’s funeral, and some drunk ran a stop sign and hit my car and wrecked it. Of course he didn’t have insurance, and my insurance had lapsed. I wound up with four broken ribs.
I was feeling sorry for my friend Warren, and I said, “Gee, that must be painful.”
“Oh,” he said. “It only hurts when I laugh.”

The Toxic Video

What a quaint thing this is, this video featuring presidential candidate Mitt Romney and some wealthy contributors. It shows something, but not necessarily what you see on the surface. The conversation over the past few days has centered on thoughts that the candidate expressed as though they demonstrate his true agenda. I find myself looking a bit deeper.

I look at the other people in the room. They are surely wealthy, but more than that they are conservative and wealthy. Their view of the world is what has brought them to Romney. Their wealth is what has brought Romney to them. They may not need Romney, but Romney needs them. A presidential campaign requires large sums of cash, and these wealthy conservatives are the ones who can bring it to the party.

So I am going to concentrate on these wealthy contributors. What else besides money have they brought to the gathering featured in this toxic video? They have brought a  mind set that is well known to the candidate, and it is through the candidate’s words and the candidate’s responses that we get a glimpse of this conservative mind set.

What we see is that, public posturing aside, these people do not view this country as a unity of spirit and purpose. They view it and the world as their own circle plus everything outside. Cautions about class warfare are just a smoke screen. There already is a class warfare, and they have already chosen sides and declared a war. Only this is not a war for public consumption. It is a war waged with a wink and a nod and a corporate handshake. And cash delivered in large amounts in return for political favors.

And this is what conservatism has come to mean. Bemoan the demise of a once noble premise.

Ride, Congressman, Ride

Francisco Canseco of the Texas 23rd District is my favorite congressman. In fact he is my only congressman, and it feels good to know he is looking out for me. Not you, maybe.

I signed up for Congressman Canseco’s occasional newsletter, and I was so glad to receive the following news from him:

As a devout Catholic and father of three children, I have a great appreciation for the role that traditional values of faith and family play in our lives and communities.  As the representative for the 23rd District of Texas, I’ve been fighting to defend these traditional values from a hostile federal government.

Our Founding Fathers recognized the importance of faith in American life, which is why freedom of religion was enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution.  Sadly, our religious freedom has come under attack in recent months.  Earlier this year, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a rule using authority granted in Obamacare that would require all health insurance plans to provide coverage for contraceptives, sterilizations and abortion-inducing drugs.  This rule would force anyone providing health insurance, whether it is a Catholic hospital or a pro-life small business owner, to pay for services that directly violate their religious beliefs.  This was nothing more than an aggressive intrusion upon religious liberties.  While I have fought vigorously to overturn this ruling, the Current Administration has refused to back down and the rule went into effect on August 1st.

In the preceding text I added emphasis to the part I want you to think about.

I just love it when politicians inject religion into our governmental priorities. How else would we know if our own faith were right and proper unless we received informed guidance from the federal government? I am glad I can count on my congressman to properly instruct me in my religious life.

I mean, how would we know that enforcement of our laws were contrary to our principles if we did not have our politicians to keep us daily informed? Take me, for example. I was absolutely clueless that including contraceptive medication in an insurance program prescribed by the government would injure the religious sensitivities of somebody who had been told by a higher and unseen authority that this is sinful. Now I know. Congressman Canseco has set me straight.

To keep his message brief, Congressman Canseco left out the part that prescribed blood transfusions are injurious to people’s religious beliefs, as is the act of administering immunization vaccines. Please protect our rights, Congressman.

Also, I am glad Congressman Canseco reminded us of his Catholic faith. It’s good to know what side our government representative is on, so that others of a different faith can take a seat during his congressional term. Protestants can remain respectful. Jews can just keep quiet. Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists can take a hike. And don’t let that door hit you on the way out.

Don’t you just love it when our government gets this involved in our private lives? If you don’t love it now, you will in time. Or else.

Is this the ball game?

Sometimes you’re watching a game, and there are professional teams on the field, and the action is a wonder to behold. And there is this team, and they may not be your team, but you are in awe of their control of the ball, and you have to say to yourself, “Wow, how do they do that.”

Your admiration grows as the game progresses, and you are moved by the way they manage the ball, and, even though this is not your team, you wait in anticipation at what they are going to do next.

Then something happens. From all appearances this team still has amazing control, but you don’t see the movement you should be seeing. The movement you have been watching in wonder for some time is less than you have grown to expect. Then sometimes the movement falters, and something dawns on you as you sit watching. This wonderful team is no longer pulling from its reserve, and the truth becomes apparent. There is no depth. You may have seen all you are going to see. It’s at this point the question hits you. “Is this the ball game?”

I have been watching the Romney team since last year, and it was long apparent he was the only candidate the Republican Party could put in the field in any sense of sanity. Save Jon Huntsman, the remainder of the pack would be hard pressed to carry water for a serious campaign. Now it is possible we are seeing that even Mitt Romney cannot build up the momentum required to unseat a popular and capable president. There were warnings early on, and the worry is now beginning to become apparent.

In the beginning all Mitt Romney had to do to get the job was to stand up straight and keep his mouth shut. The remaining Republican candidates one by one talked themselves out of the lead. Whenever Romney did speak, his talk was muted and presidential. He avoided sounding silly. The problem was, Romney maintained this stance by not saying anything of any importance. That was supposed to come later.

It is now later.

Of late Romney has had more to say, unfortunately for his candidacy. On foreign policy he has been quick to respond to movement or non-movement by the real president, but the response was always in a reactive mode. If the president was trying to back Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into a corner, Romney was quick to accuse him of being timid. When the president declined to threaten Iran with military action, Romney accused him of abandoning Israel. The point being, that all this time Mitt Romney was not offering any realistic course of action. The run for the nomination was now over, and the candidate has stopped acting presidential.

More recently Islamic radicals leveraged a toxic, anti-Muslim video into a lethal attack on our embassy in Libya, and Romney exploited our Egyptian embassy’s attempts to diffuse the situation as an example of the administration’s coddling of the Islamists. As an Air Force plane brought home the bodies of our ambassadors, even members of Romney’s own party were urging him to cool it and to get with a positive message. All this good advice may have come too late.

A recent slight shift in the tone of the daily news reflects a growing unease about the Romney candidacy. Here is a bit of that:

Amid rumors of discord, Romney seeks to shift strategy

LOS ANGELES—Amid rumors of staff infighting and a slide in the polls, Mitt Romney is looking to reset his campaign starting with a speech here Monday before Hispanic voters. He’s shaking up his relentless focus on the economy and offering more specifics about a broader range of policies and a clearer argument about why he would be a better president than Barack Obama.

Two senior aides privately dismissed reports of discord over the strategy implemented by Stuart Stevens, the Republican presidential nominee’s chief strategist—insisting his job is not in danger and that internal staff grumbling cited in a Politico report published Sunday wasn’t as dramatic as described.

But looking to regain control of the message, the campaign offered up Ed Gillespie, a senior Romney adviser, who dismissed the idea that Romney is instituting a major change in strategy, arguing instead that Romney is putting forward “a renewed emphasis” on policies he’s previously proposed.

A recent poll gives the president a five-point advantage over Romney. This is not a good place for a challenger to be seven weeks prior to the election. Other developments do not make the scene any better.

Leaked videos show Romney dismissing Obama supporters as entitled ‘victims’

LOS ANGELES — Mitt Romney was dealt a new distraction when a video surfaced Monday that shows him dismissing President Obama’s supporters as “victims” who take no responsibility for their livelihoods and who think they are entitled to government handouts.

In the video, published by Mother Jones magazine, the Republican presidential nominee tells a private audience of campaign donors that the backers will vote for Obama “no matter what” and that he does not “worry about those people.”

Forty years ago, maybe even 32 years ago, this attitude may have swung some weight with the voting republic. Now it only sounds Nixonian or at best Reaganesque. More and more “those people” are people you need to appeal to in order to get yourself elected. These are votes that Mitt Romney is going to need in 49 days.

I have seen people, and I even know some who, when they do not like a candidate, will outdo themselves coming up with bad things to say about the person. He is stupid, he is deceitful, he is dishonest, he is evil, he is criminal. I find this approach does not work the best toward making your argument.  It shows the accuser as being partisan and biased with an agenda of his own. Painting yourself this way is not the best approach to selling your point. I prefer to remember Mitt Romney as somebody who aspired to great heights and was almost good enough.