the show: 09-15-06

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(A brunette woman in a green jacket, "habile b" from the forums [1]): Good morning. Good morning Sports Racers from Madison, Wisconsin.

Knowledge isn't just for guys.

(Holding a long-haired white cat.) It's for kitties too. (Cat paws woman's face.) Ow!

(She coughs and indicates the air around her.) I don't know if you can see this... hair.

(Ze giggles.)


I don't see the hair.

(Ze blows air through his lips; the sound is momentarily slowed down to bass-heavy weirdness.)

It's September 15th, and that means it's Riding the Fire Eagle Danger Day!

(Riding the Fire Eagle Danger Day logo! With Super Ze! And lots of BIG ORANGE FLAMES! Awesome.)

Riding the Fire Eagle #1: Pope pisses a billion people off!

Pope Benedict the 16th, seen here riding a bicycle, has been criticized by Muslim leaders for making "derogatory comments" in a recent speech.

In a speech about the concept of holy war, the Pope, seen here getting good at it, quoted a Byzantine emperor, saying, "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman."

The Vatican, seen here saying "You the man!", said that the Pope had made it clear that those weren't his words, continuing, "It is clear that the Holy Father's intention is to cultivate a position of respect and dialogue towards other religions and cultures."

(Closeup of priest making "You the man!" gesture.) RESPECT!

It was a quote!

Ted Turner has been quoted as saying "The Pope is an idiot." You're not going to get pissed at me now, are you?

It was a quote!

Ride the Fire Eagle #2: Pump that area. Prosecutors in Chicago have dropped charges against a man who they thought referred to a small device in his backpack as a bomb.

Instead, he had actually said that it was a penis pump.

Something something something... going to blow.

All's well that ends... swell? No.

Ride the Fire Eagle #3, ethicslicious!

Ohio Representative Bob Ney becomes the first member of Congress to plead guilty to criminal charges related to dealings with the corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Ney, who's best known for his introduction of "freedom fries," faces charges of making false statements related to gifts he received from Abramoff. For example, Ney claimed that a golf trip to Scotland that Abramoff bought him cost 3200 bucks. It turned out, however, that the conservative advocacy group Capital Athletic Foundation had paid more than $150,000 for the trip.

That's a lotta haggis!

The Ney guilty plea comes at a time of concern about corruption and kickbacks in Congress. So what are they gonna do about it?

So when you're worried about bribes and corruption, there's two things that you can do.

One is to cut off the money that's used as a bribe, and two is to cut off the actions that reward the bribe.

Both the House and the Senate have been reluctant to cut off the money supply. I mean, why else would you run for Congress?

They argue that they can accept the plane rides and the food and the contributions to the Congressional campaigns without really being swayed on the policy side.

Plus, the best kind of hookers are free hookers.

So that's out. And that just leaves the mechanism by which they can kick back.

The best way to reward a lobbyist that (Note Ze's subtle editorializing here. It's grammatically correct to use "whom" when referring to a person; by using "that" Ze is cleverly insinuating that these lobbyists are beneath contempt and no longer deserve to be recognized as people) got you laid is to spend money specifically on the thing that the lobbyist was lobbying for. One way that Congress can spend money that you were pissed off sending them is in something called an appropriations bill.

In these bills, agencies are given money to spend at their discretion. "At your discretion" usually means you decide what to do.

But in Congress, "discretionary" often means "you do what I want you to."

Congresspeople that (See? Subtle but effective. Nice work, Ze) wanna dole out a little bit o' sugah can add something called "earmarks" to the funds specified in the bill.

An earmark says that part of the fund is to be spent on a specific project determined by the Congressperson. Like building a highway that goes near your lobbyist's casino. Or building a $220,000,000 bridge that goes to an island with fifty people on it.

Earmark don't even have to appear in the legislation itself, often making it hard to track down who wanted that gold-plated testicle statue.

So in order to deal with the earmark problems, there's two things that you could do.

One is to disallow earmarks and make the funds truly discretionary, as they were intended. For some reason, that idea's not getting a lot of traction in Congress.

Instead they've decided to make the process more "transparent." (Ze makes a stage magician gesture at the camera.)

One bill that's likely to pass is the Federal Funds Accountability and Transparency Act. That'll create a website where the public can see how federal funds are being misspent.

The other rule that passed this week requires that Congresspeople put their name next to any earmark they designate. TRANSPARENCY!

Sweet, so the source of the money for corruption is still in place. And the mechanism by which bribes can be rewarded is still in place...

But now it's the public's job to sift through a whole bunch of crap to keep them in line!

Now that is ethics reform.

Have a great weekend, this is Ze Frank, thinking so you don't have to.

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