Friday, February 27, 2004

Cholesterol Lowering Drug-Makers Gear Up for Increased Demand from China; Atkins, Weight Watchers and Slim-Fast Also Eye Expanding Asian Market. 

McDonald's plans to nearly double its outlets in China before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Unhinged at Any Speed 


DETROIT, MI (Ant Farmer's Almanac Newswire) — General Motors is resurrecting the Chevrolet Corvair, made infamous by Ralph Nader's 1965 book "Unsafe at Any Speed."

It was Nader's exposé of the auto industry's willful and callous disregard for passenger safety, and the design and engineering flaws of the Corvair in particular, that made him a household name and Chevy's rear-engine compact a thing of the past.

The announcement that Nader will again run for the presidency is believed to have sparked the plan.

"If Ralph Nader can be so clueless and irresponsible as to make another pointless, Quixotic run at the presidency," said a spokesman for GM, "Then, we contend that it's probable he's been wrong about pretty much everything else he's ever done, including his harsh — and, we believe, terribly unfair — criticism of the Corvair."

Sporting an air-cooled, rear-mounted engine and styled to evoke the original — in hopes of competing with the retro look Volkswagen Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Ford Thunderbird — the New Corvair will go other nostalgia-mobiles one better.

"In the interest of period authenticity, we're dispensing with air bags, shoulder and seat belts, ABS brakes, safety glass, padded dash and steering wheel, crumple zones and reinforced passenger compartment as well as power steering, power brakes, power windows — pretty much power anything, really." said GM's spokesman. "All of this will enhance the retro driving experience," he continued, "Also, we're considering leaving off several nuts and bolts and over-inflating the tires."

The introductory limited edition New Corvair's standard features will include an 8-track tape player, a metal dashboard with sharp, pointy chrome knobs, asbestos brake pads, and be offered in six "metal-flake" colors — in lead paint — not available since the late sixties.

GM also announced that it will roll back the safety features of all its 2006 vehicles to 1965 standards.

A spokesman for his campaign dismissed any link between Nader's presidential run and the New Corvair, saying, "This is a cynical grab for free publicity by a desperate car maker scraping the bottom of the Baby Boomer nostalgia barrel."

GM's spokesman retorted, "If Nader was really all that concerned with the American public's well-being, would he be screwing up another presidential election? We don't think so."

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

CBS Apologizes for Becker, Yes Dear. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Ant Farmer's Almanac Newswire) — In the wake of its recent apology for OutKast's American Indian-themed performance at the Grammy Awards, and numerous mea culpas for the Janet Jackson "Wardrobe Malfunction" at the Super Bowl halftime show, the CBS Television Network officially apologized for everything in its Monday night prime time lineup except "Everybody Loves Raymond."

"We feel just awful," said CBS, once known as the "Tiffany Network," although no one remembers exactly why. "We just want to acknowledge and apologize for the fact that "Becker," Yes, Dear," "Two and a Half Men" and "Still Standing" totally suck before anyone has a chance to complain. We thought if we clustered them all around "Raymond" that no one would care. We were wrong. These programs were just terrible mistakes. We can see that now." The network promised that "Becker" will be gone soon, anyway, and since nobody's watching the other shows now, they probably won't be around long enough for anyone to notice how bad they are. "I mean, c'mon," said the network, "Becker" was on for, what, six years before anybody realized it was just awful."

Just to be on the safe side, CBS also took the opportunity to express its regrets for having ever aired "Alice," "Diagnosis Murder," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Muppet Babies," "One Day at a Time" and "Touched by an Angel" as well as for not renewing "WKRP in Cincinnati" for a fifth season.

"We just hope that the American television viewing public can find it in their hearts to forgive us" continued CBS, "And to be sure to watch "The Handler," starring Joe Pantoliono, Friday nights at 10 p.m. (9 Central)."

Friday, February 13, 2004

Dubya's Lost Weekends 

George W. Bush Was Never AWOL from the Texas Air National Guard — He was on a Top-Secret Special Assignment, Touring with the Rolling Stones!

Using the latest in conspiracy theory technology, Ant Farmer's Almanac has pieced together this compelling and totally plausible scenario explaining George W. Bush's absence from his scheduled National Guard duty weekends (Note to Oliver Stone: The film rights to this conspiracy theory are attractively priced):

The "gap" in George W. Bush's military service — May, 1972 to July, 1973 — closely coincides with the Rolling Stones' North American and Pacific/Australia tour that ran from June, 1972 to February, 1973.

Our proposition: During George W. Bush's "absence" he was the co-pilot of the Rolling Stones' fabled tour plane (with the legendary "Sticky Fingers" lips logo emblazoned on its tail), having been planted there by high ranking U.S. Government officials to keep an eye on the British rock band and possibly even as an agent-provocateur, encouraging behavior that might cause the band to be arrested, thereby aiding the re-election bid of President Richard Nixon.

Given the number of creative, cloak-and-dagger-loving dirty tricksters working for Nixon, it's no stretch to imagine that some especially clever CREEPer (Committee to RE-Elect the President) connected the dots between the following disparate facts and came up with a plan convoluted and outlandish enough to make Ian Fleming envious:

1) J. Edgar Hoover routinely sent FBI agents undercover to infiltrate organizations he deemed subversive. These undercover operatives would frequently incite the organization to perform illegal activities intended to lead to members' arrests, and to discredit or neutralize it. By the early 1970s, hippie peacenik agitators topped Hoover's list of the dangers facing America.

2) Nixon's need to stroke Hoover — who loathed him — in order to gain access to the FBI files on his political "enemies" thereby gathering enough ammunition to undermine any serious competition in the upcoming election. Major points with his hardcore supporters could also be scored if he could come up with a way to deport some noisey, foreign-born troublemakers.

3) It was on this tour that the Stones first used their own private jet, a McDonnell-Douglass DC-9, rather than regularly scheduled commercial flights, and they needed a flight crew that would pass FAA muster.

4) The Chairman of the Republican National Committee, George Herbert Walker Bush, had a son, George W., with solid bona fides as both a pilot and a party animal.

5) It was well known that the Stones' tour would be filmed, and it wasn't all that much of a leap to believe that filmmaker Robert Frank might record — however unintentionally — ample enough evidence of the Stones' drug use and debauchery to allow the U.S. Government to deport them.

This would explain why there's no record of George W's service in "Alabama," except for pay-stubs (a bonus extra for CREEP that W was already being paid by the Texas Air National Guard), and the forms requesting a transfer. It would also explain why no one in Texas or Alabama saw him the whole time. They couldn't have. He was partying down with the "Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World", while simultaneously spying on them so deeply undercover for the U.S. Government that no file of his daring mission could be allowed to exist.

But what of the infamous, incriminating film, you ask? The documentary made of the tour, "Cocksucker Blues," is virtually banned owing to decades-long lawsuits, court orders and government red tape. Why? According to those who've viewed bootleg copies, the Stones' flight crew frequently partakes in the mile-high debauchery and would have been subject to any prosecution aimed at the band.

So, why did this brillant plot fail? Clearly, the flight crew's misbehavior didn't help, but that could have been got around. The bigger question is why there isn't even a rumor about a trace of a record of such an intriguing and audacious act of political skullduggery? Hoover died in May, 1972 just as the mission was getting underway. Nixon was soon caught up in Watergate, and whatever files there were got fed to the nearest paper shredder and any conversations about it became gaps in White House tapes. Bush Sr. went to the CIA and learned how to stonewall so well even he doesn't know what he knows. The documentary film has been kept under wraps owing to the incriminating footage of W, and possibly other ops, "keeping up with the Stones".

As for what W knew and what he remembers of it, well, he spent nearly two decades after his bacchanalia with the band on a howlin' hell-raise, so you can't really blame him for not remembering his whereabouts for a few months — Mick and Keith sure don't — and Robert Frank isn't talking.

And did Hoover and Nixon's nefarious plan to ruin the Rolling Stones really fail, after all? I mean, have you heard what they've recorded since Exile on Main Street?

Monday, February 09, 2004

YOUR AD HERE: A Modest Proposal 

Truth in Advertising and Vice Versa

Corporate sponsors routinely splash their names all over whatever event or stadium they've ponied up the money to rename after themselves. It's as American as Mom's Apple Pie®. Yet, when it comes to sponsoring politicians corporations get all modest and bashful and hush-hush about which elected official is on their payroll.

It doesn't make any sense.

You'd think they would insist that the elected officials they've bought and paid for wear their brand. Athletes wear the gear of whatever shoe and equipment company pays them to. Right up until they get arrested for having done something unseemly, after which they're dropped faster than, well, an athlete endorser arrested for having done something unseemly.

Shouldn't politicians be held to the same standard of corporate sponsorship ethics as professional athletes? We here at the ant farmer's almanac think so.

We propose the following: Anyone running for elected office should have to wear a NASCAR-style jump suit, emblazoned with patches displaying the names, logos, trademarks, etc., of all their contributors. Not individuals who back them but the companies and political action committees who've given them money.

These patches would be sized and placed proportionately to the amount of the contribution. The biggest contributors' names would be larger and placed prominently enough — chest level, say — to always be visible above any lectern or other object(s) that the candidate might be standing behind. This would also give cameramen the option of shooting the backsides of candidates just for the fun of seeing the smaller contributors' names on the guy's butt.

Once elected, the officeholder would have to wear the jump suit during business hours and to any and all public functions and appearances, at any speaking engagement anywhere, any time and especially at sessions of whatever legislative body he is a part of.

The advantages are obvious. First, everyone would know who paid to get this guy in office and, therefore, who's holding his leash. He can deny that there's any connection between that pharmaceutical company's $100,000 campaign "contribution" and his vote against a bill allowing manufacture of a generic version of that company's biggest seller, and maybe there isn't one, but the public will have some valuable insight into his thinking process. Many of the athletes who wear-for-pay don't appear in any traditional advertisments for the brand or even claim it makes them peform better; it's implied and fans are left to draw their own conclusions.

It doesn't have to be all negative, either. Who wouldn't tend to like a politician sporting, say, the Coca-Cola logo, front and center. Everybody likes Coke. Have a congressman and smile! Rival companies could play out their competition on the floor of the Senate: "Mr. Chairman, point of order! As the senator from PepsiCo I take exception to the preceding statement that 'Things go better with Coke!' and move to strike that remark from the record. . ."

It might even make C-Span almost watchable.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Shows and Tells 

From the CBS and CNN websites' TV Listings, respectively, for Wednesday, February 4:

8 p.m. CBS. 60 Minutes II. Larry King reveals to Mike Wallace why he thinks Michael Jackson would be a better guest on his CNN show, "Larry King Live," than Saddam Hussein.

9 p.m. CNN. Larry King Live. Ed Bradley of "60 Minutes" joins Larry in his first interview since his controversial chat with Michael Jackson.



10 p.m. CBS. 48 Hours. For the first time since his interview with Larry King, Ed Bradley talks to Leslie Stahl about talking to Larry King about talking to Michael Jackson.


8 p.m. FOX. The O'Reilly Factor. Guest host Ann Coulter explains why anyone wanting to interview Michael Jackson or Saddam Hussein is a liberal traitor whose on-air execution would provide a valuable lesson about patriotism.

9 p.m. CNBC. Dennis Miller. In a competition over who is the show's alpha male, Miller and his co-host, ""Muggsy" the monkey, fling feces at each other while Miller wisecracks, "I'd rather be neck deep in night soil from Martha Stewart's prison yard vegetable garden than interview either Michael Jackson or Saddam Hussein."

10 p.m. CBS. Primetime Thursday. Leslie Stahl reveals to Diane Sawyer that during her interview with Ed Bradley, she was fantasizing about interviewing Larry King the whole time.


8 p.m. NBC. Dateline NBC. While grinning impishly through Diane Sawyer's endless retelling of what it was like talking to Leslie Stahl about talking to Ed Bradley, Katie Couric blurts out that she, for one, would rather interview Saddam Hussein than Michael Jackson.

9 p.m. MSNBC. Deborah Norville Tonight Unable to secure a guest, Ms. Norville reminisces about the time she saw the Jackson Five perform on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in 1972.

10 p.m. ABC. 20/20. In the first of several valedictory broadcasts, Barbara Walters, gulping a martini and smoking an unfiltered Chesterfield, brags "I made 'em all cry — Hussein, Jackson, Bradley, Stahl — Let's see Larry King do THAT!" before slipping to the floor from her anchor chair.


10 p.m. FOX. At Large With Geraldo Rivera. While having his ego surgically stapled on camera, Geraldo discusses why only he, not Larry King, is man enough to interview both Michael Jackson and Saddam Hussein, and how he and Barbara Walters had a quickie in the back seat of a stretch limo at the Emmy Awards in 1978.


7 p.m. CBS. 60 Minutes. Mike Wallace spills his guts to Ed Bradley about his interview with Larry King, and tears up remembering the time he cried during an interview with Barbara Walters. Without explanation, file footage of Michael Jackson and Saddam Hussein is seen periodically during the broadcast.

Monday, February 02, 2004

No Tree Left Behind 

"What Isn't There Can't Burn" is New Forest Service Program's Premise

SAN FRANCISCO, California (Ant Farmer's Almanac Newswire) — Citing the fire risk that trees present to America's forests, the Bush administration unveiled its "No Tree Left Behind" program that will quadruple the acreage of timberland in California's Sierra Nevadas available for commercial logging, thereby, it is claimed, greatly reducing the danger of forest fires.

"Just look at your average forest," said Paul Bunyan (no relation), the US Forest Service's newly appointed NTLB Commissioner, announcing the program at a press event held in the redwood grove at the Transamerica Pyramid building in San Francisco. "They're chock full of trees — and trees are made of wood and wood can burn. These places are just fires waiting to happen," he continued, "No trees, no fires. It's just that simple,"

Bunyan, who was hand-picked by president Bush to oversee the program's implementation, continued, "We've brought back an old friend to help get the word out," he said, pulling back a curtain to reveal a larger-than-life poster of long-time fire fighting icon Smokey the Bear. The updated spokesbear still sports his trademark ranger hat but now also wears a lumberjack-style plaid shirt, safety goggles, work gloves and is pictured holding a chain saw. Smokey's new catch-phrase is "Remember — Only Logging Can Prevent Forest Fires."

Asked by a reporter whether a "Destroy the forest in order to save it from fire" approach isn't kind of, well, crazy, Bunyan turned to different reporter and asked, "You, there, didn't you have a question about how this will impact on snowmobilers?" That reporter, surprised by the question, responded, "Snowmobilers? What?"

"Good question," said Bunyan, "Snowmobilers and ATV riders will now face fewer obstacles while enjoying their constitutionally protected right to pursue fossil-fuel propelled recreational activities. Without those dangerous — and highly flammable — trees in their way, we expect the incidents of accident and injury to the nation's snowmobilers to drop significantly, no matter how drunk they get. This will save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in medical treatment and snowmobile repair."

Asked if the safety of skiers, snowboarders and hikers had also been taken into account, Bunyan replied, "Uh, yeah, sure, them, too," adding after a short pause, "And hikers won't get lost because they, eh, they'll be able to see farther without trees blocking their view . . . or is it further? Either way, not being able to see the forest for the trees is a non-issue. From now on, they'll be able to see the forest just fine."

When president Bush was queried about the initiative, he also focused on the program's collateral benefits, namely that it would clear up once and for all the zen riddle about a whether a tree falling in the forest makes any sound. "This one's bothered me for years," admitted a pensive Mr. Bush, "But now, ya see, without any trees there definitely won't be any sound. We've gone right to the root of the problem . . . hey, I made kind of a joke, right there, heh, heh. 'Root', get it? I was trying to come up with one about 'bark' earlier and this one about the root just sorta popped up," the president chuckled, then continued, "I gotta tell Rummy that one. He likes jokes."

"Obviously," said a White House official, afterward, speaking on condition of anonymity, "The Clinton administration's permissive, liberal, hands-off policy of just letting trees grow unchecked created vast tracts of thick, lush woodlands — absolute firetraps — and that approach is squarely to blame for the terrible fires California experienced last summer," he continued, "We think it was Hillary's idea, actually. She must really hate California."

When told about the program and the logic behind it, Nguyen Ky, 57, owner of a convenience store near the Sierra Nevada ski resort town of Mammoth, and a survivor of the South Vietnamese village that the U.S. Army had "destroyed in order to save," back in 1968, said, "Oh, shit, not again," and began packing.

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