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Shortly after Bernal resumed his post as look-out over the sandy dunes of the camp, he spotted five native men walking on the beach. With smiles and bows they approached, and their gestures made it clear they wanted to be taken into the camp. Bernal sent a messenger to bring Do񡠍arina and Aguilar to the tent of Captain Cortez, while Bernal took the five men to the Captain himself. Bernal had never seen such men. While they cut their hair and wore their loincloths differently than the Mesheeka, it was their lip plugs that distinguished them. They all had a large hole in their lower lips, filled with heavy stone disks of turquoise or covered with thin sheets of gold ? so heavy that they pulled the lip down over the chin exposing the teeth and lower gums. Their ears lobes were also pierced with large holes also filled with turquoise or gold-covered stone disks ? but it was the hideous lip plugs that repelled Bernal. "Lope Luzio, Lope Luzio!" they cried out as they bowed deeply to Cortez while rubbing dirt on their foreheads as a sign of supplication and respect.



OK, now that I’ve gotten the outrageousness of the Miers nomination off my chest, let me tell you a story about a wonderful guy named Howard Papush. In 1980, Howard had one of the all-time coolest jobs in Hollywood. As the “talent coordinator” for the Tonight Show, Howard was a primary gatekeeper deciding who got to be a guest and sit in that chair talking to Johnny Carson on national television. Let me tell you how Howard reminds me of Harriet Miers.



Harriet Miers tears it for me with George Bush. It’s the last straw. John Roberts was no straw at all. Clearly a conservative constitutionalist, overwhelmingly brilliant and qualified, he was an inspired choice. Objections to him by certain conservatives were paranoid. But we are going from the sublime to the ridiculous with Miss Miers. This ludicrous nomination is the bottom of Bush’s barrel. It is as ludicrous for Bush to claim that she is more qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice than J. Harvie Wilkinson, Janice Rogers Brown, or any of a score of distinguished conservative candidates, as it is unbelievable for him to claim that he “knows her heart” but has never discussed abortion with her. Yet there is good to come of it: in the form of a conservative Congressional rebellion. The good that is coming out of Bush’s inept Katrina performance is an end to profligate spending, and deep (hopefully real deep) cuts in both discretionary and mandated programs.In his press conference today (the 4th), Bush predicted Miers will do well in her Senate hearings. She may never get to them. The outcry from Republicans on Capitol Hill may get so loud so quick that Bush may be forced to withdraw her nomination. That will provide the chance to rebuild the Bush Presidency.



If you bought a home 10 years ago for $100,000 and just sold it for $300,000, have you engaged in price gouging? Most people would say "no," provided there were willing buyers and sellers of both sides of the transaction merely responding to the market at the time. As a result of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, some politicians have demanded prosecution of "price gougers." In many states, like Florida, "price gouging" is illegal. The Florida statutes say, "It is illegal to charge unconscionable prices for goods or services following a declared state of emergency." Hmmm, I know what the law means when says burglary or murder are illegal, but an "unconscionable price"?


Chapter Ten: VERA CRUZ

Malinali and Bernal returned to the camp to find all the Spaniards assembled in front of Cortez’s tent, talking loudly and arguing amongst themselves. In response to Malinali’s questioning glance, Bernal smiled. “Ah, the Captain’s trap is being sprung.”Taking her aside, he explained. “Remember that I told you my cousin, Don Diego Velasquez, was governor of Cuba? The truth is that he is a greedy fat man who has many friends and many enemies - and our soldiers here are made up of both. Those who are friends of Velasquez want to return to their haciendas in Cuba. They think that Velasquez will share most of the gold Montezuma has given us with them. The enemies of Velasquez want to stay and found a colony with lands and haciendas of their own. They will get nothing from Velasquez if they return to Cuba.”“And which side is Captain Cortez on?” Malinali wanted to know.Bernal laughed long and hard. “Ah, Doña Marina, the stories of Cortez and Don Diego are already legendary in Cuba! I must tell them to you someday, then you will laugh as well. No, Cortez made such a fool of Don Diego that he has no thought of returning to Cuba. That is why a few days ago he asked for my help, which I was happy to give.



Two years ago, in Afghan Poppies: What The Bush White House Should Really Be Afraid Of, I told you about CIA collusion and incompetence regarding opium production in Afghanistan. That was in 2003. Since then, Afghanistan’s poppy crop has exploded. According to Robert Charles, in his capacity as chief counternarcotics official at the State Department, the poppy crop went from 152,000 acres in 2003 to 515,000 acres in 2004 - producing $7 billion in opium and heroin money. This money is financing Al Qaeda, Abu Musab al Zarqawi in Iraq, and international Moslem terrorism - yet the CIA is too impossibly incompetent to stop it, and the Pentagon simply refuses to.



Jean Buridan (1300-1358) was a 14th century medieval French philosopher famous for his paradox known as Buridan’s Ass. If a perfectly rational ass or donkey were placed exactly equidistant between two bales of hay exactly the same, there would be no reason to choose one over the other - and given no reason to choose, the ass would be unable to do so and starve to death.Buridan meant for his thought experiment to demonstrate the irrational barrenness of pure reason and the superiority of emotion to rationality. How medieval.Yet it is just the position of Buridan’s Ass that the German electorate has placed itself in, exactly equidistant between the free market solutions required for their economic survival and the government subsidies to which they have become addicted.



“Jack, what's wrong with W? It seems he has a serious deficit of energy and strength. Maybe it's just me, but he doesn't seem right, and hasn't for some months. I’m worried.”This inquiry by TTPer Paul Rosenberg is typical of many I’ve been receiving. It’s obvious to Paul and lots of others that the Bush Presidency is running out of steam. The deficit in question is not, however, physical - as anyone who tries to keep up with W on a mountain bike at the Crawford Ranch can attest - it’s mental.Which means neurochemical.



Many of you have read of VOIP - Voice Over Internet Protocol. That’s what this column is about. This week we’ll discuss the originator and largest company in the field. If the people you talk to on a regular basis have computers, you can talk to them for free, through your computer’s microphone. If you want to be ‘fancy’ or ‘stylish’, you can use a telephone that hooks into your PC’s USB port. The program that made this mode of phone chatting a must have for computer users is the free basic version of Skype.



It was to be expected that in response to NASA releasing satellite photos this week showing that the ice caps on Mars have been retreating several feet per year for some time now, former vice-president Al Gore claimed this was “the inevitable result of George Bush’s disastrous environmental policies and his unconscionable failure to sign the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty.” At a joint press conference held with Mr. Gore, Democrat Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY) denounced the warming of Mars as “demonstrating once again George Bush’s racism - Mr. Bush cares as little for the well-being of Martians as he does about African-Americans.” Democrats and enviro-loonies on space patrol aside, serious people here on earth know the NASA announcement dealt a major blow to the theory of Man-Made Global Warming (MMGW). Here’s another: Axel Heiberg fossil