Monday, February 12, 2007


Pac up your troubles in your old kit-bag

The 110th Congress has reformed, some say revolutionized, the business of lobbying. The new rules prohibit lobbyists from paying for everything from meals and trips to rides on private aircraft for congresspersons. These new rules are designed to appear to limit the influence of lobbyists, and to eliminate some of the recent abuses that really looked bad. Well and good, but many feared the rules would disrupt business as usual, depriving the lawmakers of the wise counsel of the representatives of special interests, and the major recreational aspects of representing the public. Not.

Lobbyists continue of course to be the main conduit of campaign contributions. The process of gathering checks from client PACs and presenting them in one impressive bundle, called, understandably, “bundling”, is not affected by the new rules, and Congresspersons continue to be duly appreciative for this vital service. But what good is all that warm feeling if the lobbyist can’t mingle with the lawmaker? Mingling in pleasant surroundings is where all the important issues are discussed. And you can't really mingle without the surroundings. So who is going to pay for the surroundings?

If you guessed “political action committee” but didn’t specify whose, zero credit. It is not the PAC of the lobbyist, or the PAC of his client. If you said “the lawmaker’s PAC”, you may have a future in the field. You see, the lobbyist cannot legally pay for the surroundings, nor can the lawmaker use campaign funds for it. But there are no restrictions on the lawmaker’s PAC. Nor are there restrictions on donations to that PAC by the PACs of the lobbyist or his clients. How are you doing with 2 plus 2 so far?

Right. The lawmaker picks the trip or event, and specifies a corporate PAC donation sufficient to cover the cost. And of course it wouldn’t be much of a fund raiser if the lawmaker didn’t agree to go along. This time of year hunting and skiing trips are in vogue, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal. Representative Mary Bono of California has invited lobbyists to join her at a Who concert in D.C., and for a $2500 contribution you can join Representative Eric Cantor at the Starbucks near his office for a Tazo Chai Crème Frappuccino, courtesy his PAC.

Also important is transportation. Lawmakers can no longer fly on corporate private jets at a discounted rate, but the corporation can donate to the lawmaker’s PAC, which can then reimburse the corporation for the full cost of the flight.

Senator Lindsey Graham, R South Carolina, invites lobbyists to join him on fundraising hunting trips, which he considers an “innocuous fact of life”. “If you are not going to have publicly financed elections and you are getting your support from private individuals … I don’t see any problem with having events where private individuals who give you money can talk to you.”

One often overlooked benefit of the new system is that now, after covering the pleasures of the lawmaker, there is usually enough left of the contribution for his campaign fund to wet its beak a little.

Oh, and you remembered the second line to the title, "and smile, smile, smile". But did you remember the first verse of this WWI classic?

Private Perks is a funny little codger
With a smile a funny smile.
Five feet none, he’s an artful little dodger
With a smile a funny smile.
Flush or broke he’ll have his little joke,
He can’t be suppress’d.
All the other fellows have to grin
When he gets this off his chest, Hi!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Damn Straight!

Right on the tail of the frustrating saga of the gay sheep comes the heartening revelation that Pastor Ted is now “completely heterosexual”. The Rev. Ted Haggard, who was ousted when he was outed when he pissed off a gay prostitute by being hypocritical, was completely cured in three weeks of intense religious counseling. The Rev. Tim Ralph, an official of the New Life Church that Pastor Ted founded, revealed the conversion and noted that, anyway, PT’s homosexual activity (the three year affair with the professional Mike Jones) was an "acting out" that had not been “a constant thing”.

An expert noted that those of PT’s flock believe that homosexuality is sinful behavior and that if you control the behavior enough, heterosexual attractions will return. Still, the megachurch oversight board recommended to Pastor Ted that he take up secular work.
[Editor's note: It is not known whether Pastor Ted continues to talk to President Bush or his advisors every Monday, or whether he is still feels his quote in the award winning documentary film Jesus Camp, “If the Evangelicals vote, they determine the election.” should not have been outed. He explains how to have a great marriage here in a YouTube segment. See also The Presidential Prayer Team.]


Hey Mohammed, Got Change for a C Note?

You load sixteen tons and what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt.

At that rate it would take 23 days to load 363 tons of $100 bills. How do you expect anybody to keep track of that? L. Paul Bremer III abolished the Iraqi government and disbanded the army, and found that the banks had closed when Saddam left town. “We had to pay Iraqis in cash” L.Paul told a House committee Tuesday. “Delay would have been demoralizing and unfair to millions of Iraqi families.”

Rep. Waxman now wants to know what happened to that $12 billion in cash after the Bush administration flew pallets of the shrink wrapped $100 bills into Iraq on C-130 cargo planes. Rep. Davis, the ranking Republican on Waxman’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee noted that it was just an oversight and that “self-righteous finger-wagging” isn’t helping, noting that L. Paul took charge of a “country with, basically, no government.”

And no way to make change, either. You wonder what would have happened if we put L. Paul in charge of New Orleans, and Brownie in Bagdad.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Genographic Project Recalls General Custer

The National Geographic Society figures it can map the migrations of early man by analyzing DNA samples from indigenous groups around the world. The multi-million dollar effort is called the Genographic Project. The mapping works because most genes get shuffled when the parents combine their DNA, but not the Y chromosome (females don’t have one, technically “Y envy”), and not the mitochondrial DNA, which comes only from the mother. Nobody cares about that, since the mitochondria have their own little DNA, and aren’t even part of the nucleus, where the real chromosomes are. Mitochondria are basically little heat generators, which, when you think about it, explains a lot. But we digress.

The parts of the Y chromosome that are universal evolved while everybody stayed, and shuffled, if you will, in the same geographic area. After a group moved off, it became isolated, so that when a mutation occurred thereafter, it became a distinct marker for that group. Basically, if you find a marker, say, in a North American indigenous group (“Indians”) that is the same as a group across the Bering Strait in Asia, you figure that’s where they came from. That’s because you can walk from Africa to Asia, but if you head west instead of east when you hit Asia, you are going to be lucky if you even get to England. Go east, of course, and you hit the land bridge. The idea is to trace the redskins back to yellow, and then on to black (for some reason having to do with vitamin D, the ones that turned west turned white).

However, nearly every tribe in North America is refusing to give DNA for study, not wanting anyone to prove that “native Americans” really came from somewhere else. There are a number of reasons for this, some dating back to an earlier study with the Havasupai Tribe, which believes that the Grand Canyon is humanity’s birthplace. Researchers got the DNA for a diabetes study, which was OK, but then used it to assert that the tribe’s ancestors came from Asia. These attacks on religious fact never go down very well, even if they are only theories.

There is also the fear that such studies will jeopardize land rights and benefits based upon the idea that their people have lived there since the beginning of time. Dr. David Barrett of the Alaska Area Institutional Review Board, sponsored by the federal Indian Health Service, says their health service might be lost if they turn out to really be Siberian. And there is also the implied put down. Maurice Foxx, a Mashpee Wampanoag, and chairman of the Massachusetts Commission on Indian Affairs, says “What the scientists are trying to prove is that we’re the same as the Pilgrims except we came over several thousand years before.

Currently the gathering of DNA in North America is halted, pending agreement by Dr. Barrett’s Alaska board that the consent form that all volunteers must sign fully advises of the risks, such as the possible loss of health services and privacy, and, presumably, of hurt feelings.


PETA Attempts to Queer Gay Sheep Experiments

About 8% of rams seek sex exclusively with other rams. Dr. Roselli, a researcher in Oregon Health and Science University, is studying what makes these guys gay. A University press release quoted him that the research “has broader implications for understanding the development and control of sexual motivation … across mammalian species, including humans.”

There are a lot of complaints, some over the killing of the gay sheep to examine their brains, and some for fear the doctor is working on a cure. PETA outed the researchers in an open letter to set the record straight: "To put it simply, these experimenters are cutting open and killing sheep simply because they are gay. These experiments carry the insidious implication that homosexuality in humans can be cured". Marina Navratilova, the gay tennis star allied with PETA doesn’t like either aspect, and writes that the research “can only be surmised as an attempt to develop a prenatal treatment” for sexual preference. Shalin Gala, the PETA representative organizing the sheep campaign, claimed that altering sexual orientation was the “natural implication” of the research.

They may be on to something. The Seattle Times reported that the researchers have zeroed in on differences in the brain at birth, and hope to engineer the birth of gay rams by altering conditions in the womb. The New Scientist reported that “the difference was in a particular region of the hypothalamus - the preoptic nucleus. The region is generally almost twice as large in rams as in ewes. But in gay rams its size was almost identical to that in "straight" females” and further that the differences are almost identical to those identified by the neuroscientist Simon LeVay in his studies of the brains of gay men.

The researchers have a $2.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop a test which can determine the likelihood of a ram being female-oriented before it is sold as a stud, thereby avoiding an abomination.

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