Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Archive for May 2013

Inside George W. Bush’s Presidential Library

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Written by Thag

May 30, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Bloomberg Administration to Regulate Birthday Party Goody Bag Contents

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lootNew York, NY (AP) – Continuing his efforts to employ mayoral authority to stem the rising tide of obesity, New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg launched another initiative today aimed at curtailing children’s consumption of fatty, sugary foods, this time as part of the treats traditionally distributed by the birthday celebrant to his or her departing guests.

The goody bag, or loot bag, as it is known in some quarters, traditionally contains several sweets and greasy or salty snacks, and sometimes cake or cookies. Some versions also include a small game or toy, but the focus of the new initiative – and of the kids who receive the bags – remains on the food portion of the contents.

Pending approval by the City Council, the measure would limit such bags to a single “fun size” sweet or salty treat, with the remainder of the contents comprising unprocessed fruits or vegetables and no more than 2 ounces of starchy, unsweetened material such as crackers or pretzels. Non-food items are not subject to the new legislation, and no limits would be placed on the quantity or type.

Earlier versions of the measure had a proposed mandatory inclusion of information on the importance of healthful eating habits, but according mayoral aides, Mr. Bloomberg quickly realized that such a requirement would be cumbersome and would necessitate further bureaucratic involvement to produce or approve such material and provide for its adequate distribution throughout the five boroughs.

The mayor’s previous anti-obesity initiative sought to ban the sale of large-size soft drinks. Though that measure passed the City Council, a subsequent lawsuit and opposition by the soft drink industry resulted in its cancellation. The goody bag industry does not enjoy the same financial and political clout as the soft drink companies, and experts expect the measure to remain on the books if it passes.

“Odds are this one will do well,” said N. Annie State, a political analyst for the journal Welfare Mom’s Day. “The snack food industry is too fragmented to put up much of a fight, and parents everywhere are getting more and more health-conscious.”

Other experts disagreed. “The demographic that actually puts together goody bags is not the demographic that suffers most from childhood obesity,” noted Ray Syst, who writes about diet and class issues for Time Magazine. “The people who buy the junk food in quantity are the ones who don’t have time to prepare a wholesome birthday party to begin with – they’ll just take the kid out to Burger King or some pizza place. This legislation misses the point entirely, and inconveniences people without accomplishing its goal.”

Syst said a better initiative would be to institute a minimum age for fast food items such as most states already have for tobacco products and alcoholic beverages, but acknowledges that would be an uphill fight even in regulation-friendly sates such as New York. Alternatively, he suggested, bag manufacturers could be required to print warnings regarding the dangers of overconsumption of unhealthy foods, much in the way cigarette packages must feature such a prominent label.

At press time, a crowd of several hundred parents from Park Slope, Brooklyn, were protesting the overuse of Dora the Explorer themes at birthday parties.

Written by Thag

May 29, 2013 at 9:12 pm

US Boldly Almost Considering Maybe Weighing Possibility of Mulling Syria Involvement

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Secretary of State John Kerry, demonstrating the weightiness of the question of whether to consider forming a committee to explore alternatives regarding the possibility of discussing heretofore unexploited methods of avoiding an actual decision.

Secretary of State John Kerry, demonstrating the weightiness of the question of whether to consider forming a committee to explore alternatives regarding the possibility of discussing heretofore unexploited methods of avoiding an actual decision.

Washington, DC (AP) – Fresh from a trip to the Middle East and eager to showcase American decisiveness and will, US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters today that the Obama administration is seriously considering leaning in the direction of talking seriously about examining the ways in which the US might convey its possible intent to get involved in the Syrian conflict.

The conflict, a civil war now more than two years old, has claimed in excess of 70,000 lives, according to UN figures, in addition to millions of refugees driven to neighboring countries and millions more displaced within Syria. Conflicts among world powers and among the various rebel groups have stymied efforts to bring the fighting to a close, or even to get the warring sides to the negotiating table. In the meantime, sporadic military assistance continues to flow to both sides, with Russia and Iran primarily supporting the Assad regime and other Arab states and Turkey siding with the rebels.

To date, however, active military assistance to the rebels by outside nations has not materialized, as western countries are loath to get involved in yet another overseas intervention with an unclear outcome and no exit strategy. The Kerry announcement has injected a note of almost-on-the-way-toward-the-neighborhood-of-decisiveness into the mix. It implies that the US, which has provided what it calls non-lethal material support to the rebels in the form of medical supplies and other off-the-battlefield assistance, will now lean more toward an active role in pondering whether any further discussion of extending help might be in the offing.

The announcement may also serve as a rebuttal to President Obama’s Republican critics in Congress, who have long agitated for a more muscular foreign policy and a more robust defense of Israel’s regional interests. Instability in Syria, now spilling over into Lebanon, has left Israel with no clear course of action that would increase its sense of security.

Some Republicans welcomed the announcement, but cautioned that it was too early to draw conclusion on the President’s initiative. “We will form a fact-checking committee to gather information on whether to debate the President’s possible change of approach, if and when such a development seems to be happening,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner.

Other Republicans were less thrilled. “Some of us had hoped to see something more definitive,” said a disappointed Ralph Reed, a conservative lobbyist. “Mr. Kerry could at least have told us that the possibility of actually militarily asserting our interests has moved beyond the declarative stage and into the substantive phase of imagining what scenarios might be feasible if certain unlikely circumstances play out exactly as we would like it.”

At press time, a spokesman for the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an umbrella group representing some of the rebel factions, was deliberating whether to consult his colleagues about formulating a response that might acknowledge the announcement.

Written by Thag

May 26, 2013 at 8:57 pm

The Teenage Boy Hierarchy of Activities

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May 24, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Classic Thag, June 2011: Memoirs of a Schlemiel

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klutzBill, Elaine, I’m sorry about the damage to your apartment. I’ll do what I can to fix or replace whatever got damaged. I was trying to keep the place well while you were gone, and did OK for the first couple of weeks, but then circumstances conspired against me.

I’ll try to give all the details in this message so you don’t get completely shocked when you see what went wrong, but I do understand that beholding it all with your own eyes upon your return will nevertheless give you pause. I apologize again for causing you that.

It all started when I went to check on the plants on my way out of using the bathroom. I knew they hadn’t been watered in at least a week, so I found a glass in the kitchen and brought some water over. I didn’t want to overdo it, so of course I didn’t empty the glass completely. But I accidentally whacked the glass against the side of the ceramic planter. Not only did the glass go flying, but I gave myself a nasty cut on the webbing between my thumb and forefinger. I tend to faint at the sight of my own blood, so I knew I had to do something about the bleeding right away.  I ran to the bathroom – and slipped on the spilled water.

I sprawled on the living room floor and cut myself all over my hands breaking the fall. The blood got all over the rug, but I couldn’t do anything about it at the time, since I needed to administer first aid. So I got myself to the bathroom as quickly as I could and sat on the toilet. But I didn’t notice I’d left the seat up when I was there before, and fell in.

I couldn’t get myself out so easily because my hands were all cut up, but I had no choice. I tried to grab the hand towels to give myself a grip, but only lifted myself an inch or two when the towel rack came off the wall and hit me in the ribs. I was knocked back down into the toilet. I was finally able to wiggle into a position where my elbows could support my weight as I slowly unstuck myself from the toilet bowl. Now I was soaked as well as bloodied, but I managed to stand up and move toward the sink. I wanted to brace myself on the vanity, because I already felt faint from the pain and bleeding. But I didn’t make it, and collapsed into the bathtub.

The shower curtain broke my fall a little bit, but only because it was torn completely from the curtain rod. On the way down my head hit the soap dish and knocked it off the wall, and my arm hit the faucet lever and turned on the hot water. It took me a minute to realize what was happening, but by then, scalding water was coming out of the spigot all over my midsection. I jumped up, screaming, and leaped out of the tub, hitting my head again on the now-bare curtain rod and knocking it down.

I leaned over as fast as I could to turn off the water, but the curtain rod had come to rest just so, and it poked me hard in the crotch. I doubled over and fell into the tub again, splashing bloody water all over the bathroom. I did manage to turn off the water and slouch against the outside wall of the bathtub, wondering what I should do, but I blacked out again.

When I came to, my bleeding had stopped, but I hurt all over from the cuts, the burns and the bruises. The Schillers from downstairs heard the commotion and came up to check. Poor Mrs. Schiller. She slipped on the little puddle of water as I did and banged into the planter. She hit it with her head, knocking it onto the floor, where it smashed and dumped soil everywhere. Mrs Schiller was knocked unconscious, but Mr. Schiller came in right after her and called an ambulance, but it took him a while to hear my groans as he fussed over his wife. He carefully made his way to the bathroom and saw me amid the wreckage, whereupon he had a heart attack and collapsed, knocking over an end table and causing the lamp to smash on the floor. The exposed filament was now touching the fringed edges of the blood-stained rug, and the rug began to smolder. It took me a minute to realize that I smelled something burning, but I gathered my remaining strength and hobbled out to the living room. I kicked the lamp away from the rug and stamped out the burning part, but didn’t notice that the still-exposed lamp filament had come to rest against the front flap of the sofa.

last aidThe sofa burst into flames. I hobbled over to the kitchen and filled a pitcher with water, which I then threw over the flames, repeating the process a couple of times just to make sure. The second time, some of the water landed on Mrs. Schiller, who came to and sat up; the third time, I must have missed the couch and got her full in the face. She lunged at me and began pummeling me, and as you can imagine, I was in no condition to defend myself. But very quickly she looked over and saw her husband. She, too, gasped and clutched her chest, and soon collapsed. The paramedics arrived a few minutes later.

Again, I’m sorry for the trouble, and I’ll do what I can to make things better. Please relay my good wishes to the Schillers when they are released from the hospital, which I understand could be any day now.

Oh, and I think my wallet fell out of my pocket somewhere in the bathroom. Possibly into the toilet. Please check and let me know.


Written by Thag

May 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

FYI, Ladies

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Written by Thag

May 21, 2013 at 2:08 pm

Watchdog: Obstructionist Israel Plans to Continue Existing

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The organization hopes to make its Hebrew logo irrelevant as soon as there are no Hebrew speakers left between the River and the Sea.

The organization hopes to make its Hebrew logo irrelevant as soon as there are no Hebrew speakers left between the River and the Sea.

Tel Aviv (AP) – In its latest report on what it calls Israeli intransigence, Peace Now calls attention to the Jewish State’s declared intent of maintaining itself despite opposition from hundreds of millions of opponents. Peace Now called the news “disappointing” and “yet another example of the Netanyahu administration’s willful political and demographic blindness.”

In advance of a visit to the area by US Secretary of State John Kerry, the Peace Now report covers numerous areas of Israeli activity as it affects the question of the dormant Israeli-Palestinian peace process. It characterizes the Israeli assertion of the country’s right to exist as a way to establish certain facts on the ground that would make accommodation of any good-faith proposals by the secretary unlikely.

“Once again the radical right-wing government of Netanyahu and his ideological allies have demonstrated their complete unwillingness to consider dismantling the entire Zionist enterprise, which we have long maintained is the only just way to resolve the issues surrounding the Occupation of Palestinian territory,” the report’s conclusion reads. “Only by subjecting Jewish Israelis to expulsion, genocide and oppression at the hands of Palestinian hordes can this administration satisfactorily demonstrate its commitment to a negotiated peace.”

Former Peace Now director Yariv Oppenheimer said his organization focuses on Israeli settlement activity in the Occupied Territories, referring to all areas acquired by Israel in war. Since Israel secured its initial existence by defeating several invading as well as local armed groups, that definition applies to all areas currently under Israeli civilian or military rule.

“International Law does not distinguish between territories acquired in a defensive war and those captured in an offensive war,” explained Oppenhemier. “In which case all of the areas that the nascent Israeli armed forces secured in 1948 and 1949 are to be considered illegally occupied. The question of 1967, ” meaning the additional territories captured by Israel from Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in a pre-emptive series of operations against amassing enemy forces, “is merely an extension of the same illegality inherent in Israel since the beginning.”

The report calls on Netanyahu to negotiate the complete relinquishing of all Israeli territory in good faith.

As its practice has always been the Netanyahu government ignored the Peace Now report, but others welcomed it. “We have been claiming the very same thing for generations now,” said Haled Mash’al, the now-retired head of Hamas, the Islamic militant movement that runs the Gaza Strip. “We are not wedded to the sword. If the Zionist entity would agree to destroy itself, we would let it do so unmolested.”


Written by Thag

May 16, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Four Moderately Annoying Things WordPress Doesn’t Tell You

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mehYou’ve been pouring out what passes for your soul into your blog and are wondering why, despite your, uh, creative efforts, your material has somehow not fired the public imagination and made you famous, rich, and an object of near-religious veneration. Or perhaps you have yet to experience the crushing disappointment of a masterpiece ignored, but wish to prepare yourself for the inevitability.

We’re good for the latter bit. In no particular order, here are some of the frustrating features of the WordPress blogging platform:

Useless Referrer Stats

SubmarinesIf you’re really into SEO and the search engine referrals help you, you’re probably not reading this right now. And you probably should get a life. For the rest of humanity, even if the stats worked properly they would be of limited use, if any. Do I really need to know that someone reached my blog by searching for some random phrase that happens to occur on a post I wrote back in 2011?

Compounding the annoyance is the near certainty that no actual humans are performing 99% of these searches. And that if I perform the same search, my blog doesn’t even show up in the results. This one is not just annoying, it’s mystifying, because there seems to be no earthly reason for a bot to manufacture search terms in order to leave a nonexistent trail.

WordPress Doesn’t Count Views Through Their Site In Your Stats

invisibleLet’s say your content is good enough that another WordPress blogger – we’ll call her Stacy – decides to subscribe to your blog. Stacy will be informed every time you make a new post, and if the news moves her to do so, will click through to it. Great! But you have no idea that’s happened unless Stacy comments or Likes your post (more on that below). WordPress doesn’t care to let you know that the people who care about your content the most, the ones who have actually registered interest in what you have to say, have visited.

This blog has almost 350 subscribers. That’s almost as many people whose gaze you avoid on a typical walk from one New York City avenue to the next. Or the number of times a professional baseball team performs manual crotch adjustment in a typical nine-inning game. And while we harbor no illusions that anywhere near every single one of those lovely subscribers – and they are a lovely bunch, if a bit reticent – sees all the posts we make, WordPress does not alert yours truly to the fact that these folks – have we mentioned they’re lovely? – have done so. Makes audience management a bit pointless.

Ah, but if your content is good enough they should be expressing that in visible ways, right? Not exactly. Which brings us to:

llama carcassWordPress “Likes” Are About As Useful As A Rotting Llama Carcass

If all you want is to feel good that someone has found your content worthy, the WordPress Like can provide those warm fuzzies. So maybe a taun-taun carcass. If you’re like most people, however, warm fuzzies don’t cut it. You want attention. Credit. You want it known that others have liked it. There’s got to be a way of making a Like visible to the subscribers of those other subscribers. You know, the way a Like on Facebook becomes visible to the friends of the one who did the liking.

There’s No Alert When A Post Has Been Shared On Social Media

like sadnessYou can keep track of which of your posts have been shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the other online substitutes for an actual existence, but you have to track down on your own whether that’s happened, and it’s not very illuminating. We, for one, would love to receive an alert of some sort when a share happens, since we are, just as you, an attention whore. Just as WordPress can alert you instantaneously that MarmiteGlutton33 has liked your post about your guinea pig’s ingrown toenail, it should be able to alert you when someone has gone one better and actually shared that content with an even larger circle of readers.

It might also be nice to know who did the sharing, if their privacy settings allow that information to be conveyed. We’re not holding our breath on that one. Especially if it’s MarmiteGlutton33. Good grief.


That’s what we find annoying about this platform. At least they got rid of the yodeling with every page load.

Written by Thag

May 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm

Repenthouse: the Magazine for Porn-Again Christians

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Condé-Nasty's other recent success.

Condé-Nasty’s other recent success.

New York, New York, May 12 (AP) Condé-Nasty Publications announced today that starting next month it will begin selling a magazine aimed at the growing demographic of Porn-Again Christians, called Repenthouse. The magazine will come monthly to its subscribers and be available at nudesstands across the country.

With the release, Condé-Nasty thus hopes to penetrate the coveted demographic that worships Jizzus. A pokesman for the organization, Li Bido, said that Condé-Nasty had been probing the Porn Again market for some time, and biding its time until the moment was ripe to thrust itself onto the scene. “There’s a tremendous amount of exposure we can expect with this venture,” said Bido. “It’s not often that a mainstream publishing outfit seeks to establish itself as a presence in such a niche market, I’ll admit, but with our industry already strapped for cash, finding the sweet spot for our product can spread doors open wide for us in other arenas.”

Repenthouse represents a formidable risk for Condé-Nasty, however. If the magazine fails to penetrate the market to a significant degree, and does not stimulate sufficient subscriptions or sales to warrant its continued issue, the venture could showcase the publisher’s impotence or give it the stigmata of an outfit already on its knees.

“It’s an ambitious idea, I’ll give them that,” allowed Larry Flynt, an industry veteran with significant experience. “But they can’t exactly expect to be wearing divine protection. While I don’t yet see the Four Whoresmen of the Apocalypse breathing down their necks, but if sales are flaccid the whole enterprise will be blown to Kingdom Come,” he warned.

“But if they pull it off, I’ll be the first one to give them a hand; jobs are scarce enough, and anyone who can stimulate growth in this business will be snatching up profits,” he added.

At Condé-Nasty the mood is decidedly optimistic. “Things are definitely looking up for us – we have a few tricks left up our sleeves,” said President Lou Brickant. “Our religious values really come through with Repenthouse: our thrust in God and our fleshes of divine inspiration will be evident to any Porn Again reader. We have plenty of material over which our subscribers will want to linger – we don’t veneriate the saints the way Catholics do, but there’s a decided reverence for foreplague and the Sin-optic Gospels.”

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Written by Thag

May 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm

8:00-9:30: Existential Shame

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Written by Thag

May 10, 2013 at 2:03 pm

GOP Changes Stance on Abortion: Fetus Might Be Gay

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RNCWashington, DC (AP) – In a dramatic shift pregnant with implications for the debate over the legality and morality of abortion, the Republican National Committee announced today that it intends to alter its attitude toward the issue: the rising number of homosexuals in American society means a greater proportion of fetuses are homosexual, and the GOP will therefore no longer oppose abortion.

“The problematic morality of aborting a fetus remains,” said Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, at a press conference, “but on balance we give priority to the greater good of ridding our society of the evil of homosexuality; if it means aborting many fetuses to do so, we are willing to pay that price.” He cited other cases in which conservatives have supported sacrificing human life for higher goals, such as the 2003 Iraq invasion, which produced the societal benefit of enriched defense contractors and, at least temporarily, American control over oil-producing areas.

To some observers, the GOP shift was to be expected. “It was never really about abortion per se,” said Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator. “We conservatives talk about the sanctity of life quite a bit, but that’s just a simplification. If we cared about life so much we’d be all for expanding welfare and health care.” In fact, says Coulter, homosexuality is a greater threat to societal morality than abortion, since the most likely and numerous cases of abortion involve populations that the GOP wrote off long ago as irredeemably immoral: African-Americans, Latino immigrants, and anyone with an annual Adjusted Gross Income of less than $180,000.

While echoing Coulter’s assessment, other analysts cast the GOP’s change of position in starker demographic terms. “The Republican Party suffered an unexpected backlash this past November when their campaign strategy clearly indicated they view women, African-Americans, and Latinos as threats to society’s fiber, moral or economic,” explained  Immie Grant, who writes about politics for The Los Angeles Times. “The election results gave the GOP a wake-up call about the future of America’s population: browner, poorer and in favor of greater government involvement in social affairs.”

Grant noted that some of the less scrupulous Republican rhetoric during and after election time accused the Democrats of registering illegal immigrants and others to vote. Although voter fraud accounted for an insignificant fraction of voter turnout, the demographic menace implied by that accusation made the Republicans realize they must act either to embrace those growing demographics with more a more solicitous platform, or combat the very growth of those populations. Since the number of unwanted pregnancies is high in those population sectors, the new GOP strategy will also have the effect of limiting the number of registered voters hostile to Republicans, to the tune of thousands per year.

In keeping with its confrontational stance of late, the party decided to stand up directly for the values it espouses, and elected to oppose the growth of those undesirable populations instead of appealing to them. The availability of abortions is but one prong in their strategy: others include maintaining the ban on narcotics and other controlled substances, which helps foster gang violence and reduce the number of inner-city residents available to compete with whites for coveted jobs and influence; and keeping firearms freely and easily available to increase the chances that those minorities will   fall victim to the use of those weapons.

Coulter did note that the shift might bring the GOP on a collision course with more traditionally minded voters, especially in conservative Christian circles, and with the Catholic Church. She declined to speculate how the party will navigate the new set of considerations, but did mention that ideological integrity has never been a strong point with Republicans.

“Remember, this is the party that gave us a ‘fiscally conservative’ Reagan who increased government spending like no one before him,” she said.

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Written by Thag

May 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm