Talk To The (Wooden) Hand & Teeth

Today's theme, as you might have guessed, is wooden prostheses. First up in the wood parts category is George Washington, who according to my sources had wooden teeth. He was sworn in today in 1789 as the first President of the United States. I take it the historical import is not lost on anyone.

Our second wooden man is Captain Jean Danjou. Captain Danjou lost his hand while a young Lieutenant in Algeria. His replacement hand was, unsurprisingly for the time, made of wood. Today in 1863 the formidable Captain and 64 other soldiers of the French Foreign Legion made history by telling 2,000 Mexican soldiers that, no, we won't be surrendering, thankyouverymuch. This probably would have gone down as yet another example of doomed bravado were it not for the fact the frogs spent the rest of the day fighting off the incursions of the Mexican Army, with most of them dying in the process. What forever cemented the reputation of the Legion as hard-asses was the actions of the final troops. Instead of surrendering when out of ammunition, they fixed bayonets and charged. This worked out about as well as you might expect, but the last two standing were given safe passage and allowed to care for their wounded by the Mexican commander. The Legion still celebrates Camerone every year. If you read French, here's the schedule.



Loserpalooza '08

If you, like me, can't stomach the thought of voting for any of the unattractive donkelphant candidates for President this year there are other options. Here's the rundown on the possibilities for the Libertarian Party nomination this year. Whoever gets the nod won't win, but they'll be a damn sight more palatable than McCain or the eventual winner of Donk Death Match '08.



Semi-Public Service Announcement

Once again, I feel compelled to make an announcement for the good of some clueless members of society.

Tammy, do you mind if I call you Aunt Tammy? I know you're not my aunt and all, and truthfully, you don't even know who the hell I am. However, I feel I know you and your somewhat dimwitted niece, Kylie. I think I know a little bit about you because Kylie keeps sending me email intended for you. Man, she ships out some glurge, too. You ought to be glad you don't get some of these things. They're so saccharine they make one wanna puke. Anyhow, since we're almost virtually related or something, kindly remind Kylie to include the all-important '5' in the address when sending you emails. Otherwise, I get them and delete them, depriving you of the vitally important forwarded crap you would otherwise receive. Although in this case, it appears you sent this out and Kylie sent it back with no commentary. I'm not sure what that's about. Maybe you could speak to her about it when you remind her of the whole '5' thing. Have her update her Yahoo address book, since the wrong address is in there as well.

Moving right along, Tony, you don't get anything from NetFlix because it goes straight into my spam folder and has ever since customer service at NetFlix was unable to help me resolve the fact that you're an idiot. Although, in retrospect, my suggestion of setting you on fire until you got your email address correct is probably not something customer service at NetFlix is prepared to handle, nor should they be.

Finally, for the sake of your grade point averages, I beseech all you who are students of this fine gentleman to get his email address correct. Do not email me about what squid you dissected in lab or any other questions about marine science. I will answer you, and my knowledge of marine science is close to non-existent. Plus, you will look like a complete jackass when you try to rejoin with "But... but... you said in your email!" and show an email from an engineer in Texas. It also makes you look like a bit of a moron since he puts the correct email on his class handouts and web page.

Finally, for anyone who thinks I'm being unduly harsh in posting this gentle reminder to my blog, I'll just remind you it can get much, much worse.



Tinfoil Hat No Longer Enough

Reading an article about geomagnetism and the effect on the brain has clued me in to the whole tinfoil hat thing. 15% of the population, as determined by some Russian guy, is abnormally sensitive to fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic fields. I’m thinking that wrapping your head in a Faraday cage might be an attempt to self-treat. However, there’s still that pesky neck problem, so you should really think about a tinfoil suit. It’s hard to see out, I know, but an effective Faraday cage can use mesh instead of a solid material. Just make sure the holes are the right size for the wavelength you’re trying to block. As I have no idea what wavelengths we’re dealing with, you’re on your own with figuring out how big the holes should be to prevent you killing yourself because of the Earth’s magnetic activity. The details of government mind control rays are classified, for obvious reasons, but I would, if I were you, worry about wavelengths in the 7.125 to 8.45 GHz range.

Of course, if the government mind control rays are what worries you, you may not be in this 15% of the population. There’s another 9% category that probably fits you better.


Waiting on the T-Shirt

And I still don't intend on voting for the guy...

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So, yesterday was what, the 14th final last ditch effort of the Clinton campaign to try to wrest the nomination from Obamarama's clutches? If she didn't score a decisive victory, she can't win the nomination! Did it work? How the hell should I know? I'm not a donk. I haven't figured out the donk primary in my state, much less any other. Read an eyewitness account of Pennsylvania's excitement for yourself and draw your own conclusion.


Beating Out Strawhenge And Woodhenge As Well

So Stonehenge was apparently the work of late-coming Neolithic wanna-bes. The original circle was built in Turkey 7,000 years earlier. Even more entertaining, it was built by people who were apparently not agricultural. For the latecomers to the discussion, agriculture was presumed to be necessary for large projects because it ensured a steady food supply for the workers while the construction was ongoing. A whole bunch of conventional thinking just got bitch slapped. Expect much yammering about how this is an isolated case and doesn't disprove the general validity of the ag hypothesis. Anyhow, it's still pretty damned cool.

I think I swiped the Woodhenge and Strawhenge joke from Terry Pratchett, although I can't quite remember.


Surreal Suburban Shopping

I live in a tiny little refinery town east of Houston. For daily shopping, we drive to the slightly larger town between us and Houston. In terms of tourism, where I live is literally a gaping void. There is almost nothing to see or do here except watch suburbanites live their daily lives.

Which is why it was so strange to go shopping last night for some groceries and sundries and run into 7 van-loads of Japanese tourists wandering through the SuperTarget. Umm, what? You flew all the way to America to go shopping in a SuperTarget in suburban Texas? I guess if you're after the authentic American experience, this is one of them. Still, kind of odd given the lack of proximity to anything interesting.

What makes it ever stranger is the discussion we were having while walking into the store was about the historical antecedents of Japanese tentacle pr0n. So imagine having a conversation about 19th century erotic netsuke involving octopi only to walk into Target and find it full of Japanese tourists. Synchronicity, indeed.

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Fuck Green, Go Red

Why red, you say? Simple. It’s diametrically opposed to green on the color wheel. It is also the color of blood, which I am growing ever closer to spilling. I have been getting increasingly annoyed with advertisements chanting “Go Green” like some kind of deranged meditation aid. It is automatically assumed that I should go green because every douchebag hippie this side of Al Gore has suddenly managed to get a job in an ad agency and is trying to push environmentalism down my throat. My final straw tonight was when one of my credit card companies, trying to pretend they give a damn about the planet, humanity, or anything other than generating user fees and interest payments, informed me that if I would go green by opting for electronic statements I could win some underpowered bastard offspring of a weedwhacker and a rechargeable power tool masquerading as an automobile.

Well, if ConglomCoBank of Delaware thinks I need to receive less paper to save the planet, maybe they need to quit sending me special offers, balance transfer checks, and additional offers of prescreened credit. A simple step on their part would cut out about half the junk mail I receive on a weekly basis. Instead, they would like me to quit receiving the paper trail that lets me know if they’ve managed to fuck my account up. In return, I might win a hybrid automobile that would be much less useful to me than my current full-sized pickup truck and which I’d have to pay taxes on. I guess since I already subsidize their piss-poor behavior by using their products, asking me to continue to do so by making further ridiculous demands seems only natural from their standpoint. Pointing out that they, with no help on my part, could save a few boxes of paper a year by voluntarily cutting down on their direct mail marketing probably makes me some kind of ingrate.

How about all these fucking people quit trying to tell me to go green because all the little environmentalists imagined themselves a secular religion that equates pollution with sin? Come up with a reason for me to care beyond the endlessly inaccurate doommongering the hippies and their retarded greenie offspring have been spewing my entire life. Want me to go green? Explain to me how it’s going to make my life better today. I don’t care about preventing some hypothetical disaster in 50 years. I don’t care about how it’s going to make Ngomo, Urdlich, and Chang have a better life in which ever portion of the third world they inhabit. I don’t care that somebody’s grandkids will be able to drink the pure water flowing through the Houston Ship Channel. I want to know what it’s going to do for me, right fucking now. Until you can do that, have a nice cup of STFU.

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Colt Is Expensive

So, somebody in the Senate finally figured out what the rest of the world figured out a long time ago: Colt is pricey for what you get. The dancing pony adds a couple hundred bucks on for no more functionality.

The rest of the article is the same debate that has gone on since literally before I was born. Gas piston systems are cleaner and less prone to fouling issues than Papa Stoner's wayward child. Or at least, that's what everybody unhappy with the M-16 family has said for the past 40 odd years. Never having owned or carried a gas piston rifle, I have no opinion on their merits. From a design perspective, it makes a certain amount of sense. I can also see gas piston designs failing for the same reasons. Too much crap in your piston housing will eventually cause it to quit moving. I have neither the time nor the resources to do a comprehensive test program, so I'll have to trust DOD. I will note that any of the replacement weapons have not been adopted by any other armed force, so field data as to reliability is in short supply at this point. Once SOCOM runs the SCAR for a while, we may have some hard data to judge.

Until that happens, I can speak to the military procurement issues. Short answer: DOD ain't giving up on the M16 series any time soon. Yes, there may be better rifles out there. The transition costs are not insignificant and aren't going to happen in the middle of the current wars. Too bad, so sad, but them's the breaks.

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Fleshy Poundage

Before I begin, let me just say the the post title would work as a title for a pr0n site featuring large women. I'm just sayin'. Domain name still available, too.

Anyhow, it's that day when millions of procrastinating Americans mail off their taxes. I, being better at this than most, will not mail mine off until later this week. (I meant better at procrastinating, in case you were wondering.) I am getting a refund from my benevolent overlords incompetent spendthrift employees this year, so I can wait. I have one more month of data entry to complete. I can sum up the numbers and see how much more of my money they took than was necessary. Oh, wait, that would be almost all of it given that very little of what the feds do is necessary, constitutionally authorized, or even a good idea.

Too bad we're all gonna pay for it anyway.



A Cornucopia of Strange

Be enthralled with the gentle turn of phrase as Tam ponders the phrase "anal bleaching" and follows the internet to its usually disturbing conclusion.

Me? I know better. There are things I can contemplate and it will never confront me that I don't type the phrase into a search engine. I have learned the hard way that whatever I can imagine, somebody has done and posted copious amounts of pictures, video, or text so that the world can be amazed. Rule 34 is not a joke.

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Yahoo Slash

So, I go to login into my Yahoo! mail and what do I see?
See how Frodo and Gandalf connect in brand-new, fun ways.
My immediate thought was "Why the hell is Yahoo pushing LotR slash at me? WTF?" Upon closer reading, it's just another crappy ad campaign riding on Tolkien's bones. Still, I was a bit startled at first.

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Punch a Tree Hugger

I'm not usually inclined to resort to violence to solve domestic political disputes. Well, not yet, anyway. However, if the same thing happens here that's happening in Germany, I might be persuaded otherwise. I can overlook a lot of things, but fucking around with the price of beer is going to get me mad, especially when the price goes up so dumbasses can feel good about chasing a fantasy.

Look, ethanol from corn and other foodstuffs is a stupid idea for any number of reasons. Let's start with the most basic and intuitively obvious: it's dumb to burn food. You find inedible things to burn, and eat food. The energy balance numbers also don't work out very well. You're only getting a marginal amount of energy back over what you out going by the most generous estimates. The net reduction in emissions is negligible, either. All things considered, it's just a bad idea.

It was a bad idea before, and now the market distortions are starting to come home to roost. I hope somebody has the political capital to start fixing the problem, because my beer's expensive enough.

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Your Tax Dollars at Work

This is a direct communication from someone who works for NPR. Yes, it is credible, and the guy is apparently their stealth affirmative action hire (he's a conservative).

From: Communications
Sent: Tuesday, April 08, 2008 6:01 PM

From: NPR Executive Committee
Jim Elder, Dennis Haarsager, Bob Holstein, Mitch Praver, Dana Davis Rehm, Suzanne Shwetz, Andi Sporkin, Ellen Weiss, Maria Thomas

To: NPR DC Staff
Re: Food Vendor Update and Quick Survey
Date: April 8, 2008

As promised, we wanted to update you on the food vendor selection and ask final input.

First, we want to thank the nine staff members of the Food Service Committee for countless hours of personal time on behalf of us all – sourcing vendors, researching them, visiting their facilities and interviewing their representatives. We had 19 vendors to start, eight quarter-finalists, four semi-finalists and now two finalists. Joining the Committee were 50 other NPR staff who participated in blind taste tests and completed evaluation forms. This was a smart, thorough, objective and thoughtful process by everyone involved.

The Food Service Committee presented their results and recommendations to us and their top two finalists were Cuisine by Bleu, which ranked #1 overall, and MW Catering, which ranked #2 overall.

These two vendors are very different in their scope of offering and service strengths and weaknesses. What follows is information on each provided by them or researched by NPR staff, with click-throughs to more detail on menus, staff feedback, ratings comparisons and other aspects that were investigated. Pricing on menus in the links is proposed only and final prices will be subject to negotiation, as is our overall contract with the vendor.

We want to be inclusive so we are asking all DC staff to read the following and take 10 seconds to cast one confidential vote. If there is significant survey response (at minimum, 3/4 of the DC staff), the majority preference will determine our final decision-making.

Deadline for response to the survey below is Thursday, April 10, 5PM.

Vendor #1: Cuisine by Bleu
* Owned and managed by Indebleu restaurant, 707 G Street NW (opened 2003) and Cuisine de Bleu Catering (since 2007) http://www.indebleu.net/main.html They are seeking to expand their business to in-house food operations and this would be their first location. The base kitchen will be at Indebleu restaurant.
* Ranked #1 in four of the five NPR evaluation categories and #2 in the other category.
* Offering up to six hot food options daily; also espresso and smoothies
* Vendor statement: "The scope of our menu ranges from traditional fare to specialized vegetarian dishes - healthy, locally sourced and fresh. The ingredients we use are made from scratch. Nothing comes from a tub or can."
* Proposed NPR Menu <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/Cuisine%20y%20by%20Bleu.2.pdf> – breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages
* Catering Menu <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/Cuisine%20y%20by%20Bleu.3.pdf> (Vendor reports prices listed will be discounted 15-20% for NPR orders.)
Key strengths:
* Managed by professional organization with experience and good local reputation for restaurant and full-service catering business
* Broad selection of tasty food that meets all NPR requirements; significant base kitchen facility
* Wide-ranging catering menu for all purposes; guaranteed discount pricing on catering
* Proximity: kitchen is three blocks away; helpful in inclement weather, for reordering and last-minute catering
* Every Indebleu employee is provided with full health benefits and workers comp
Key weaknesses:
* Although they have successful local food operations, this is a new venture for them
* Price could be an issue although they are committed to working within our established price points
Additional Documents
* Vendor History/Overview/Kitchen Description <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/Cuisine%20y%20by%20Bleu.1.pdf>
* Comments from Blind Taste Test in which 50+ Staff Participated <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/Cuisine%20y%20by%20Bleu.pdf>

Vendor #2: MW Catering
* New food service company formed by longtime Port of Piraeus/NPR on-site staff Matina Kourkoutas, Wilmer Reyes and Oscar Amador
* They are planning to provide menu, selections, food quality comparable to Port of Piraeus. Base kitchen will be Bazzano Restaurant, Springfield VA. Cooked foods will be delivered by Wilmer; food will be received and served by Matina and Oscar. Matina will handle cash register and all financial duties
* Ranked #1 in one NPR evaluation category and #2 in the four other categories.
* Vendor statement: "MW Catering is a start-up company. The owners have an extensive history in food management services. The two owners have over 25 years’ combined experience."
* Proposed NPR Menu <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/MW%20Catering.2.pdf> – breakfast, lunch, snacks beverages
* Catering Menu <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/MW%20Catering.3.pdf>
Key strengths:
* Established customer service relationship with NPR for more than a decade; now, they would have opportunity to demonstrate their food talents and skills
* Low pricing on large portions, lots of vegetarian items
* Staff may have opportunity to run a tab
* They may be able to provide morning coffee/pastry service to 7th Street
* They will accommodate catering
Key weaknesses:
* A first-time venture for them; they have no previous experience running a company
* Proximity: transportation from Springfield during rush hour or bad weather could cause problems; questions were raised about freshness of prepared food traveling that distance
Additional Documents
* Vendor History/Overview/Kitchen Description <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/MW%20Catering.1.pdf>
* Comments from Blind Taste Test in which 50+ Staff Participated <http://intranet.npr.org/newintranet/departments/communications/About_NPR/Vendors/MW%20Catering.pdf>

Please cast your vote through the link below, considering the five criteria for a new vendor cited as "of greatest importance" by NPR staff:
* quality food
* variety of selections - including heart-healthy and vegetarian items
* efficient and professional operation
* affordable pricing
* good customer service

Click here to go to the voting page:
Deadline for response to the survey is Thursday, April 10, 5PM.

It apparently takes 59 employees, on the payroll, to pick the cart to sell basically a freaking bagel and a cup of coffee. Yes, read that again, 59 people. You had 9 people on the "Food Service Committee" and another 50 who sat around getting paid by the American taxpayer to eat a lot of free food. And don't forget they started with 19 vendors, narrowed to 8, 4, then 2. This is A LOT of free freaking food. And who in the hell knew NPR had 59 employees?

We should all call our congresscritters, or better yet, flood their survey.

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Rock Is Dead

You can't possibly think you're any kind of a rock star when the AARP is sponsoring your concert tour. You define old and busted at that point.


Take Your Stinking Paws Off Me

Well, Charlton Heston shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday. Insert your own joke about prying the gun from his cold, dead hands here. While he did a fine job at the NRA, I'd like to take a moment and remember his performances in some iconic science fiction movies:
Soylent Green
The Omega Man
Planet of the Apes
You may not like them, and they may be cheesy, but by god, everybody knows them. Well, maybe not Omega Man. But certainly the other two. Even if you've never seen the movie, you probably know what they use to make Soylent Green. Likewise, the image of the Statue of Liberty sticking out of the ground is unforgettable. Surely we all know who should get their stinking paws off George Taylor, right? If not, you're probably reading the wrong website.

Anyhow, another piece of our shred cultural history is no more. At least we have the films, conveniently available on DVD, to remember him by.

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A Frank Friday Fuck You

I'd like to take this Friday to throw up the one-finger salute at Rep. Barney Frank (D-Moran) and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Confused). I find, via the Wall Street Journal, both economically ignorant lowlifes are more than willing to pander to banks and idiots by helping bail out all the morons in the sub-prime meltdown. How much will it all cost you, lucky taxpayer?
In sum, Mr. Frank is volunteering U.S. taxpayers to insure $300 billion in mortgages with underwriting standards to be named later. Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd thinks $400 billion is more like it.
Are you fucking kidding me? Codicil number eleventy-billion to the Law of Unintended Consequences: if you subsidize behavior, you get more of that behavior. So let's subsidize piss-poor behavior on the part of banks and borrowers, and our problems will magically go away!

Not so much, actually. But hey, it'll get Frank and Dodd reelected! Isn't their continued leeching of the taxpayer the important thing? Even if it means creating a whole new class of taxpayer leech?

I've been sitting on this since yesterday and still can't control my rage enough to be terribly articulate about the problem. I just want to smack congresscritters on the nose with a rolled up newspaper and say "No! No! Bad, bad, economically illiterate congresscritter! No reelection for you until you pull your head out of your ass!"

I'm sure the 64 million homeowners who aren't defaulting on their mortgages appreciate knowing we're bailing out the stupid, feckless, and financially irresponsible. All those renters who didn't believe the hype and sign up for an ARM are probably real happy knowing they're going to bail out the greedy schmucks who underwrote all the shit mortgages.

Yeah, it's a good scene all the way around. I'm so glad I have elected representatives who understand the scope and nature of Congress's enumerated powers in addition to economics. Oh, wait! I don't! No wonder the mess is only going to get worse.

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Rocking the Irony

Piracy is bad, mmkay? Unless you’re Sony BMG, in which case it’s apparently okay.

Personally, I find it hard to credit the music industry’s assertions about how piracy is the destruction of the music industry as we know it when they’re going around pirating software.



Extortion Isn’t Extortion When Congress Does It

So, the heads of 5 major oil companies got to were forced to go up to Capital Hill yesterday and explain how economics works to a bunch of clueless gits headed up by Rep. Edward Markey (D-mAsshole). I’m going to go off on a slight tangent for a moment and discuss something that irks the living pee out of me, to wit:

to keep billions in federal tax subsidies
There is no such thing as a “tax subsidy”. It’s a weasel phrase designed by socialists to make it appear that any reduction in your taxes is a subsidy from the government. I can’t think of a more pernicious lie at the moment, since it propagates the idea the government is really entitled to all your money, and anything they let you keep is “subsidizing” you. Fuck that. A subsidy is when the government strokes you a check. When you don’t pay as much in taxes as some unspeakably moronic jackanapes thinks you should, it is simply a tax reduction. Are we all clear on this? Good.

Now, let’s move on to some substantive points. If the government wants to reduce the price of gasoline at the pump, it can do so unilaterally in every state in the land simply by lowering gasoline taxes. Somehow, the government’s complicity in keeping gasoline prices up doesn’t occur to people like Rep. Markey. It’s all a plot by evil oil companies, even when ExxonMobil’s VP points out they’ve paid more in US taxes over the past five years then they’ve made in profit. XOM has an effective tax rate of 44%, and somehow, that’s just not enough. We'll take more with a windfall profits tax, because that'll make gas cheaper! Wait, what? Imposing additional costs makes things cheaper? WTF?

I guess the question to ask is who benefits from all this money the oil industry makes? Obviously, your federal government does pretty well from it. Most state government have a pretty large finger in the pie, and Texas is no exception. In the end, however, the profits are supposed to go to shareholders. The largest 10 shareholders of ExxonMobil:

Barclays Global Investors UK Holdings Ltd
State Street Corporation
Vanguard Group, Inc.
Bank of New York Mellon Corporation
Bank of America Corporation
JP Morgan Chase & Company
Northern Trust Corporation
Wellington Management Company, LLP

If you’ll notice, most of the top 10 are asset management firms, banks, and mutual fund companies. I know for a fact at least three of the mutual funds in our 401k accounts have XOM as a holding. When they make money, I make money. I’m willing to bet most people with balanced 401k plans have some oil and gas industry stocks. But that’s cool, let Congress sock it to the oil companies because it won’t affect anyone but those greedy bastards in oil, right? If you wanted to retire soon and your 401k takes a beating because energy stocks tank, well, too bad for you, dammit. Work a few more years. Congress had to show those companies they should invest in worthless non-commercial technologies instead of giving dividends.

I’ve never made any secret of the fact my entire post-military career has been in the oil industry. Part of what irritates the hell out of me is the beating we take from fucktards on the left and in Congress. When the industry is booming, ignuts start whining about excessive profits and throwing around terms like windfall profits tax. Yet when the industry tanks, like it did in ’99, nobody could give a shit. Dumbasses who loaned money to people who filled out loan applications in crayon and had negative total assets are going to get bailed out by the Fed. Farmers get subsidies, actual checks, year after year because they’re special. The oil industry makes the modern world function. You may disagree from a philosophical standpoint about whether that’s good, but the fact is inarguable. We are essential to everything anybody does, yet the oil industry goes through one of our periodic busts and crickets chirp. If you’re not going to help us during the bust, don’t screw with us during the boom. We’ll manage just fine.

In the meantime, Rep. Markey and the rest of the ignuts in Congress need to focus on what they can do to lower gas prices instead of browbeating actual productive companies. Aren't there some baseball players they can harass or something?

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April Fools

I understand it's traditional today to play practical jokes on people by making wild assertions that are factually implausible. I'm okay at doing so, but today I bow to the acknowledged masters. More rampant foolishness exist at those two links than I could conjure up in a lifetime.

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