Friday, May 12, 2006


Crime shortage in SW Florida leads to arrest of johns and one jane

"Priest arrested in prostitution sting" goes the headline. The arrest occurred in Ft. Myers, an outpost in southwest Florida known for its rectitude.1 I was surprised to read that a priest had gotten mixed up with female police prostitutes until I learned he was Greek Orthodox. Unlike the Roman Catholics the Orthodox frequently allow bisexuals into the clergy.

The police arrested 14 people in all and helpfully provided the names and birthdates of the accused to the media, which local TV station NBC2 put online. They omitted only the name and age of a 17-year-old.

I don't know why NBC2 singled out the priest for the headline. At the bottom of the list of arrestees is someone named Theresa. Is "Theresa" a unisex name or are women just getting out more?


1Well, it was until Wednesday night's airing of "To Catch a Predator" from Dateline NBC. NBC-2 asks "Sex predator sting: Good or bad for SWFL's image?" Let me think.

Over 175,000 residents of Southwest Florida tuned in to watch as unsuspecting men arrived at a Fort Myers home, expecting sex from children. Did the nationally televised sting have a positive or negative effect on Southwest Florida's image?

First they saw the sunshine, then millions of American viewers got to see the darker side of Fort Myers.

Dateline's To Catch a Predator program showcased men coming to paradise in search of sex with children.

It makes many wonder if the sting being shown on national television did more harm than good by portraying the area in bad light.

Fort Myers Police Chief Hilton Daniels says it didn't. The men would have gone where ever they were told.

Even the Chamber of Commerce is looking at the Dateline program as a boost to the area.

Who could have guessed?

Accusation of the Day

They try to make crime fun but are politically motivated. —Bodo Franz, police spokesman

You thought I was going to write about the Republicans, didn't you? But today's accusation is leveled at a gang of superhero-clad thieves operating in Germany. Allan Hall reports from Berlin—

A gang of anarchist Robin Hood-style thieves, who dress as superheroes and steal expensive food from exclusive restaurants and delicatessens to give to the poor, are being hunted by police in the German city of Hamburg.

The gang members seemingly take delight in injecting humour into their raids, which rely on sheer numbers and the confusion caused by their presence. After they plundered Kobe beef fillets, champagne and smoked salmon from a gourmet store on the exclusive Elbastrasse, they presented the cashier with a bouquet of flowers before making their getaway.

The latest robbery is part of a pattern over the past several months, suggesting that the thieves deliberately set out to highlight what they perceive as the inequality inherent in German society.

Carsten Sievers, the manager of a luxury supermarket in the wealthy Blankenese area of Hamburg, recently watched the robbers run off with trolleys full of expensive foodstuffs, including Kobe beef which, at more than £100 [$190] a pound, is always on their illicit shopping list.

In another recent swoop, the gang emptied a groaning buffet table in a top restaurant into sacks, while one of their number held up a sign saying. "The fat years are over" - the title of a hit film currently doing the rounds in Germany.

In internet statements, the gang have made a point of saying their booty is distributed to Hartz IV recipients1 - the poorest of Germany's long-term unemployed. The benefit is named after the disgraced Volkswagen personnel director Peter Hartz who, before he lost his job with the car-maker in a prostitutes-and-bribes scandal, devised the new means-testing....2

When the gang robbed the gourmet store in April - triggering a massive police investigation that cost £20,000 in taxpayers' money without an arrest being made - they left a note behind saying: "Without the abilities of the superheroes to help them, it would be impossible for ordinary people to survive in the city of the millionaires."

The police are rounding up the usual suspects: anarchists and malcontents—

Police say they are concentrating their investigation on a loose collective of anarchists and malcontents called "Hamburg in Vain", to which they believe the superheroes belong. But they admit there is a certain panache and skill about their robberies.

The gang are also behind black market cinema tickets which they distribute free to the poor, and they have printed leaflets telling passengers how to dodge ticket inspectors on the city's underground and buses.

Stealing and giving to the poor? No, they're definitely not Republicans.


1According to Mathieu Denis of the Canadian Universities Centre, Berlin,

Hartz IV – the fourth set of laws inspired by the conclusions of the commission chaired by Volkswagen human resources manager Peter Hartz -, this reform was implemented by January 2005. It brought about a drastic drop in the unemployed persons' rights and standard of living in Germany

Denis gives a detailed summary of the rules. [back]

2In July of 2005 Mark in Mexico had this to say, and since he's a right-winger himself, I see no reason to doubt it—

VW is up to its neck in crime and corruption again. This time, VW's head of personnel, board member Dr. Peter Hartz, has resigned in a sex and kickback scandal that has Gerhard Schroeder's government in more trouble than it already was. Hartz is a close advisor to the Schroeder government and was the architect of Schroeder's labor policy. Hartz is accused of authorizing more than $30,000 for prostitutes to entertain various VW executives and union officials.


Thursday, May 11, 2006


Thigh Slapper of the Day

The noble pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)—

There could hardly be a more noble purpose in business than that pursued by GSK, which is to develop medications that save and prolong life. —Business columnist Jeremy Warner writing in "Time for action on animal rights activists"


Right-Wing Epiphany of the Day

It was the wrong course. All of it was wrong. We are not on the road to victory. We’re about to slink home with our tail between our legs, leaving civil war in Iraq and a nuclear armed Iran in our wake. Bali was bombed. Madrid was bombed. London was bombed. And Bin Laden is still making tapes. It’s unspeakable. The liberal media didn’t create this reality, bad policy did. —Doug McIntyre, host of McIntyre in the Morning Talk Radio in "An Apology from a Bush Voter"

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Women's Lib Republican style

Florida's Katherine Harris, who did her part to throw the election to George Bush in the 2000 election, has been left dangling in the wind by the Bushes as she tries to get her feet on the ground to run for Senate in 2006. But Republican women are proving they can be just as corrupt as the men in the party and deserve a spot at the trough.

AP photo: Schrenko before and after
Today Linda Schrenko, former Georgia state school superintendent, interrupted her trial to plead guilty to one count each of money laundering and fraud. The $600,000 she embezzled went partly to cosmetic surgery, which should serve her well. She agreed to an 8-year prison term.

Greg Bluestein of the AP writes that—

Prosecutors said Schrenko stole federal education money to underwrite her 2002 campaign for governor, cosmetic surgery and other extras, including a television, computer and a down payment on a car.

Schrenko became school superintendent in 1994, making history as the first woman elected to a statewide, nonjudicial post in Georgia, and one of the highest-ranking Republicans in a state that had been dominated by Democrats since Reconstruction.

She was re-elected in 1998, then decided against re-election in favor of a bid to unseat Democrat Gov. Roy Barnes. She lost the GOP primary to Sonny Perdue, who went on to beat Barnes.

Republicans can be proud of the steps they've taken to bring women to full equality.


Bovine Observation of the Day

On April 25 the UN Security Council imposed sanctions on four Sudanese leaders accused of war crimes. The Security Council forbade them to travel and froze their assets outside Sudan. The four were selected from an original list of 51 individuals proposed for sanctions the previous year.

These were the first penalties imposed by the UN for the ongoing Sudanese genocide. U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton was in peak bluster. He called the sanctions "an important first step" and a "'down payment' with more to come."

This month the Security Council is headed by Congolese Ambassador Basile Ikouebe.

Ambassador Ikouebe expressed some skepticism about the Security Council's recent Darfur sanctions. You can say they can't travel and that you can seize their assets, he said. But what if their assets consist of cows? 'You can't put cows in Citibank,' Ambassador Ikouebe concluded. —Matthew Russell Lee in "Press Freedom? Editor Arrested by Congo-Brazzaville, As It Presides Over Security Council"

Related posts
The magic word: Genocide (9/13/04)
Powell's follow-up on Sudanese genocide (9/15/04)
Powell's cynical genocide declaration (7/2/05)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Lead of the Day

It's an old story: archaeologist unearths Egyptian mummy, mummy's penis goes missing, new technology arrives and locates the errant organ, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities sits back with a satisfied smile on its face. —Lucy Mangan writing in "Tutankhamun re-membered"

Monday, May 08, 2006


Fake Statistic of the Day

Around 75% of homosexuals admit they put their tongue into their partner's anus which means they eat lots of faeces. —booklet by the Polish Piotr Skarga Catholic Association, as quoted by Nicholas Watt in "Prejudice forms a new line between east and west"

Perhaps the Poles have been addled by praying for the intercession of St. Goncalo. In 2003 Bernard Katz reported in the American Rationalist that
... the Catholic Church has assigned certain curative powers to yet another saint, this time assigning the power to cure hemorrhoids to Saint Goncalo. Yes, that's right, piles. People are flocking to a church in Murtosa, Portugal, the Saint' birthplace. For maximum efficacy, people are exposing their behinds to a statute [sic] of the saint. The statute is also considered a cure for pimples. One badly afflicted woman wanted to pray naked in the church, but the local priest stopped it.

Sufferers might want to have those hemorrhoids licked. Saliva has all sorts of soothing powers.


Dismantling public education at home and abroad

I really don't know the depths of what's going on and don't have the time to find out, but it's clear that the effort to destroy public education is transatlantic. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's efforts toward creating "trust schools" in England mirror the American right's movement for charter schools and vouchers.

Blair is trying to push through an awful education bill by gaining the support of British Conservatives (Tories). The Press Assn. reports that members of his own party are rebelling—

Mr Blair's education and inspections bill, which gives private companies, faith groups and parents the freedom to set up and run "trust" schools within the state system, gained its second reading only with the support of Tory votes after a rebellion of 50 Labour backbenchers.

But even that doesn't satisfy the Conservatives—

The government's controversial education reforms have been labelled "timid" by right-wing Conservative MPs pushing for the break-up of the entire schools system.

Last month the retiring director of education in Blair's own constituency wrote eloquently—

"We are about to witness the beginning of the end of our public education system"....

"In education, when choice is only available to some, it will be seized by the better off who have the resources, the knowledge and the confidence to work the system in their favour."

Mr Mitchell also criticised the government for allowing the creation of more faith schools.

"Cohesion is New Labour's great hypocrisy," he wrote.

"Every utterance from government - from justifying 90-day detention to invading other countries [and] to curtailing civil liberties - is about the dangers of religious division and fundamentalism. Yet New Labour is approving new faith schools hand over fist.

"We have had the grotesque spectacle of a British prime minister, on the floor of the House of Commons, defending - like some medieval crusader - the teaching of creationism in the science curriculum at a sponsor-run school whose running costs are wholly met from the public purse.

"There is no widespread support for this bill, which is the product of a tiny crony coterie in Downing Street."

"Everything is to be done to keep middle England happy, to give them their choice of school - so they don't have to pay for private schools - to guarantee them the places that other children ought to have and, worst of all, to give their schools the powers to keep out those other children they don't want their own to mix with."

School choice

A word about "school choice"—also known as "parental choice."1 The other day I heard some politician ask rhetorically whether allowing parents to decide where their children should go to school was a good idea. In our "family values" society he knew everyone would be shaking their heads in the affirmative. But this was a coded message. The real question was "Don't you think parents should decide what is taught—and not taught—to their children?"

If we lived in a highly educated society, where parents could point to Iraq on a map or at least indicate the general direction of Canada, I might be inclined to agree. But in fact we live in a benighted, superstition-obsessed culture that resembles nothing so much as the Middle Ages electrified. What the God-swoggled parent wants taught is the Bible and what he/she doesn't want taught is evolution, paleontology, history, archeology, biology and astronomy, to name but a few. Blair and Bush would convert the bulk of the public schools into Christian madrasahs, with special provision made for Torah study.

This society has decided to require teachers to hold a 4-year college degree to teach first-graders. How is it, then, that the parent is viewed as an expert on education when the parent is not an expert on any other discernible topic?

Shouldn't we abandon the degree requirement for teachers? It's obviously not required to make profound decisions about the education of children.

But that is a rhetorical quibble. The struggle over education is ultimately a struggle over political direction and control. Conservatives, by and large, do not fare well among the educated classes. To obtain majorities they require a mass of people who may be led to vote against their own interests.

In the U.S. racism, sexism and religion have been the Three Keys to Success for Republicans. And conservatives need to maintain a body of voters motivated by these "values." Conservatives correctly perceive that a broad public education is not in their interests. Unfortunately the Left has been slow to recognize how essential public education is to the maintenance of any pretense of democracy.

Related posts
Encouraging wassatiya in the schools (6/10/04)
Just when you thought it was safe to go back to church... (8/18/04)
Dumb your child down the Republican way (8/18/04)
Bush's education legacy in Texas: More cheating and lying (12/21/04)
Addicting students to fascism (1/10/05)
More charter school failure—this time on Jeb's watch (3/10/05)
Scottish bishop, Australian school marm acting up (3/21/05)
Department of Defense teaches creationism in DoD highschools (4/15/05)
Lower education in Iraq (5/9/05)
The 15 most harmful people? (6/2/05)
No college graduate left behind (12/17/05)
Slippery Slope of the Day (4/18/06)


1Parental choice, properly understood, is a notion I support. Letting children choose their parents could lead to real educational reform. [back]

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