Monthly Archives: January 2010

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Haiti T-Minus 1 Day: Follow my trip daily

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I’ll be leaving for Haiti in the morning. Not knowing all the specifics as to Internet availability (my friend’s Blackberry does not even work in PaP), the decision to leave my life’s blood (also known as my MacBook) behind was default. It appears I may not be able to write full length articles from the clinic.

The rumor is, though, that texting is still available over some networks; if this article is accurate, then some kind of service should be accessible. If set up my Twitter account to forward text messages and set up this site to receive my Twitter feed. The widget at the top of the left column is receiving those “tweets” regularly. For the latest information in my part of the Internet, you can check back several times a day. If you would like to follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook, use the links in the “Social and Online” widget in the right column.

I do not know if I will always be able to update my FB status, so your best bet will be to check here if you are not on Twitter. If I am able to post stories, you will get a Twitter alert like always. For direct alerts, please subscribe via RSS feed or email subscriptions.

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Loretta Napoleoni and the global economics of terrorism

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Categories: Blog, Book Reviews, Non-fiction, Tags: , , ,

Economist Loretta Napoleoni

Loretta Napoleoni gave the following talk at TED last summer. Napoleoni, a macroeconomist whose introduction to terrorism and money came through interviewing the Italian Red Brigades, demonstrates the intricate linkage of world finance and terrorist moneymaking. She also suggests the primary activity of terror networks is not politics or violence, but the raising of capital, which, in turn, funds the violence to further political ends.

Loretta Napoleoni is an Italian born economist, author, journalist and political analyst. “She is an expert on the financing of terrorism and is well known internationally for having calculated the size of the terror economy” (Wikipedia).

Among other books, Napoleoni has authored Terror Incorporated and Rouge Economics, both available below the video. Note: Her English is good, but her accent is still heavy and she has the cadence of a holiness preacher. She’s tough to understand at times. Subtitles are available.



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Haiti awaits

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Helping Hands clinic outside Port-au-Prince

People awaiting care at the Helping Hands Clinic on January 27, 2010. Photo: Aaron Reigner

Sunday morning will see a team of five leaving Atlanta for Port-au-Prince to assist with medical care to Haitian earthquake survivors and logistics related to the Helping Hands Clinic outside the city. The team, part of Helping Hands Foreign Missions, has been assembled from different states and anticipates two days of traveling–including a 156 mile, 13 hour bus ride–just to arrive in the stricken area. Minuscule amounts of supplies will be taken in air travel-most will be purchased in the Dominican Republic. The goal of Helping Hands Missions is to sustain the ministry of the clinic through a continuous flow of teams into the country, at least until regular supply channels are re-opened. The teams will stay in tents they must pack in and pack out, as there are no hotels available, and, really, who would want to stay in one? There are still daily aftershocks.

A HHFM team member already in the country, Damon Whitlow, posted Monday on the Helping Hands Haiti blog,

This morning we awoke and began building our medical clinic. Within an hour we had 100 plus patients lined up waiting to see the doctors. People were patient. We moved thru 45 patients before lunch.

Awake in the morning with no clinic, build clinic, see 45 patients before lunch. Not a bad day’s work.

Helping Hands is an example of a number of small organizations who are able to respond quickly to massive needs not having a large, cumbersome bureaucracy through which it must work. While governments are able to move equipment to effect clean-up of rubble and burial of the deceased, flexible organizations like Helping Hands minister to the physical and spiritual needs of survivors. Already having working relationships with organizations in areas like Haiti and the Dominican Republic have expedited Helping Hands’ ability to put together a meaningful response. These are not a bunch of crazed Americans running around willy-nilly giving away flags and spreading good cheer, but laser focused followers of Jesus Christ who are taking his love to a desperate place.

I will be on this trip and I hope to post some updates while I’m gone, but there are no guarantees of internet availability for me or time to do updating. If you have not yet friended me on Facebook or would like to follow me on Twitter you may do both at the “Social and Online” widget in the right sidebar.

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Republican response to the SOTU

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The Republican response to the State of the Union address will be given by Bob McDonald, the 11-day on the job governor of VA.

[Trust me, there will be no Independent Response apart from what you find online.]

Weak joke about his kids giving him 10 minutes to finish so they can go watch Sportscenter.

“One in ten Americans is unemployed and that is unacceptable.” So far, he sounds just like the President.

“The federal government is trying to do to much.”

“The federal debt is now over $100k per household.”

Apparently freezing spending for three years, something Bush never did nor attempted, is not “not enough.” What a goober.

The American people want its leaders to listen. [Like all of them listened while we were screaming "NO" to TARP.]

[I'm curious: Is there a reason why insurance companies cannot sell across state lines? That does seem like a reasonable move.]

All Americans agree that kids need a good education to compete in a global economy.

We must maintain strength. [His daughter was a platoon leader in Iraq.]

We applaud President Obama’s decision to support the troop increase in Afghanistan. Invocation of Scott Brown, the savior of all Republicans, “We should be spending money to defeat terrorists, not protect them.”

“Government closest to the people governs best.” [If they all believe this, then why are so many governors quick to run for president?]

[From where I sit, this is an awful speech. It's just a promotion of a candidate; nothing new here at all.]

WOW! He mentioned “independents.”

That’s it.




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January 27, 2010-Live blogging the State of the Union address

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Categories: Blog, News, Politics, Tags: , , ,

Presidential Seal

The United States Presidential Seal

Tonight President Barack Obama gives his first State of the Union address. Live blogging begins here with the beginning of the speech and the comment section is open. If you want to watch online, cut and paste this url into a new window:

http://www.martyduren.com/2010/01/27/no-tv-watch-the-state-of-the-union-address-online-here/

or click here.

You’ll be able to watch the live stream on one window while keeping up with the live blogging and making comments on the other. This page will be updated every five minutes or so for the blogging, so refresh frequently for updates and new comments.

Due to the nature of live blogging, please overlook typos, sentence fragments, etc.

Comments are moderated and sometimes blacklisted for profanity or obscenity, so stick with substance. Comments free of profanity (and links) are not moderated.

SOTU begins in 8 minutes.

Well, Hulu’s live stream is almost live. Bob McDonald, Republican governor of VA is said to have the response. Shepherd Smith is hosting the Fox broadcast which is being fed through Hulu.

The speech is to run about 1hr 15 minutes with applause time built in.

9:06- The announcement of the President’s entrance.

9:09- Chris Wallace (not Brit Hume) restates what almost everyone knows: The Democrats sit on the left side of the center aisle, the Republicans sit on the right. This is about as close as we get to the much more entertaining House of Commons debates in England.

9:13- Interesting that we have an African American, a senior citizen and a white woman in this picture for the first time.

9:15- I inherited two wars, a bad economy, etc. [Subtle blaming of Bush here.] 1 in 10 Americans still cannot find work. For those who already knew poverty experienced that much worse. These struggles are why I ran for office.

9:18- People don’t understand why bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street is not. We face big and difficult challenges.

The President mentions that people want Washington to move beyond partisanship, etc. His introduction sounds a lot like his campaign stump speech.

9:18- The big deal is the economy. Everyone hated the bank bailout? Then why did everyone vote for it? “Too big to fail” without using the term.

9:20- Now he’s pitting himself opposite the very banks he voted to bailout. And most of the people applauding are guilty of the same behavior.

9:21- Apparently, I fall into NONE of the tax cut categories. Applause joke was nice!

Income tax has not been raised on a single person, not a single dime. If this is true, it hasn’t been for the lack of planning to do so.

9:23- Economists on the left and right approve of the Recovery Act.

I don’t know where all the money is going, but what he just described isn’t taking place in Georgia; not, at least, where I live.

I’m not sure a few success stories means the recovery act is working.

A jobs bill? Can the government create jobs? What money does it use to pay wages?

“Government can create the conditions for business to flourish.” I agree. Kind of like Cap and Trade? That kills business.

9:30- $30B of the Wall Street repayment money be given to small business in the form of credit. A new small business tax credit. The hiring of new workers and raises are going to come from the tax payer. Again, where does all this money come from?

Put Americans to work today, building the infrastructure of tomorrow. Our nation was built to compete. Why should Europe or China have the fastest train? Heck, why shouldn’t they?

Protectionist policies for job creation: tax breaks for companies that do not send jobs overseas.

The President wants “a jobs bill on my desk without delay.” The only way to move to full employment is to move forward. We can afford another economic expansion like the last decade.

9:35- Apparently other nations are rebuilding their infrastructure and funding clean energy. China and India? I thought the climate issues were partially because of their expanding economies and lack of clean manufacturing and too many cars hitting the road.

The President is not against banks, he says. Protections need to be in place to financial institutions to take risks that affect the full economy. The House has already passed legislation to this affect. Any legislation must pass the test of real reform or it will be sent back.

[So much for a bill being passed.]

Last year was the largest investment in basic research in history. Much in clean energy. More companies putting more people to work on tax dollars taken from all Americans and borrowed dollars from future Americans.

9:40- “There are some who disagree with the overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change” (much laughter here). American must be the nation that leads in the clean global economy.

We need more exports. We will double our exports over the next five years. That’s the goal; how will it happen? A national export initiative. Reform export controls consistent with national security. Huh?

This has the ring of increased tariffs to it, but I could be wrong. Any trade agreement has to be enforce, he notes. Panama and Columbia are in Asia?

Must invest in skills and education of Americans. Only successful schools are rewarded. [So much for the kids in sorry schools.]

9:45- Passing the community college bill. A $10,000 tax credit for college families and an increase in Pell Grants? [Can we get that going on while I have a kid in college???]

No one should go broke because they chose to go to college.

[Working to lift the value of homes? Last month was one of the lowest rates of existing home resales since they started keeping records.]

Still need health insurance reform. “Let’s clear a few things up.” [Couple of good laugh lines here. I can't help it but every time he starts this I can only think of Al Gore in that SNL debate.]

9:50- Healthcare reform would bring down the deficit $1T over the next two decades. [We're still going to have a deficit that large 20 years from now??]

Millions of people will lose their health insurance this year. The people in “this chamber” should not walk away from these Americans.

President Obama is asking for another look as the approach he has suggested. If anyone from either party has a plan that can cover the seven or so items that he wants addressed, then he will look at it. It’s all for the American people. “Let’s get it done; let’s get it done.”

We are in a massive fiscal hole that healthcare reform alone will not get us out of.

Government spending, Year 2000 saw a budget surplus of $200B dollars. By 2009, there was a $1T deficit with projected $8T over many more years. “All this was before I walked in the door.”

[Apparently, the Republicans don't think so.]

9:55- [The Republicans finally found their feet.] Proposing a 3 years freeze on all discretionary spending beginning 2011. [Now we're talking.] National security, SS, medicare, medicaid will not be affected.

[$250,000 is the magic number for tax increases as it has been.]

The National Fiscal Commission.

[Very typical Obama. When Congress does not act fast enough, he issues an executive order. This is not supposed to be the way of the republic, but many presidents have abused it.]

“Let’s invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt.”

10:00- Deal with lobbyists.

The Supreme Court has opened the floodgates with allowing businesses to spend as much money as they want during elections.

[I think he's right to be concerned about this. Each president is elected by a country in which the number one rated entertainment show on TV is WWE Raw. How smart can we be?]

Calling for earmark reform. Have congress post all earmark requests online.

[Nice joke about his election not bringing "peace and harmony."]

10:05- He’s speaking about the “permanent campaign,” and to the Republican threats to filibuster–now that they actually can.

“The people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.” No, Mr. President, the people expect to be heard and have their desires followed. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid need to listen to their boss; he’s really talking to them.

Calling for monthly meetings with Democrat and Republican leadership. “I know you can’t wait,” he says to the Republicans [another very nice joke].

“Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and defending our values.” [Probably the best line of the night.] Moving now into issues about homeland security and, it appears, the wars.

10:10- Troops begin to come home in July 2011. Protect the rights of Afghans, men and women alike.

“As we take the fight to Al-qeda, we are leaving Iraq.” This war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home. [General Petraus looks none to happy about that.]

“Our troops have to know they have our respect and gratitude…when they come home.” Largest increase in veterans benefits in decades. [Well, he have more new veterans that we have in decades, for one thing.]

The vision of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan in reducing nuclear weapons. [If nuclear weapons are outlawed, only outlaws will have nuclear weapons.] Heck, at least the man can pronounce the word “nuclear,” and not say “nu-cu-lar.”

Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated. They will face more consequences “that is a promise.”

10:15- New measures to protect from bioterrorism or the spread of disease. We do these things because it is right.

More than 10k Americans helping the nation of Haiti rebuild (along with other from around the world).

[Moving into an encouragement sounding section.]

Strengthened “hate crimes” laws. [None of the military leaders are happy with the President on his repeal of bans on gay people in service. They are sitting as still and stone-like as can be; all six or seven of them, right in front.]

10:20- The government and media are full of honorable men and women who want to see the country prosper.

Cynicism because of arguing on Capitol Hill?

[Perhaps the difficulty is because some believe certain policies are simply wrong or that they are bad government, rather than they are "partisan."]

“We are here because generations of Americans decided to do what was hard.” “Some of our political setbacks are deserved.”

[I'm thinking that he's getting less applause that any recent SOTU. There are extended sections with complete silence in the gallery.]

Ended at about 10:20.

Click here to read a summary and comments on the Republican response.





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No TV? Watch the State of the Union address online here

Categories: News, Tags: ,

If you are one of the many who might be away from a TV this evening at 9:00 pm EDT, take heart, it can be viewed at martyduren.com and other sites online. The expected 45 minute speech from President Barack Obama can be seen on the White House website, on YouTube or on C-span which will also provide transcripts based on closed-captioning.

Apple’s iTunes will also carry a live stream. (Link opens in iTunes.)

Or you can simply watch the January 27, 2010, State of the Union address below if Hulu’s stream is working for its embedded player.

Additionally, I will be live blogging the speech at martyduren.com with the comment section open for observations, commentary, approvals and critiques during and after the speech. Open two tabs or windows, watch the speech on one and participate in the comments in the other.





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Radiation oncologist claims proof of the afterlife

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Categories: Book Reviews, Non-fiction, Tags: , , ,

Evidence of the Afterlife January 25, 2010—Near-death experiences have long been a fascinating phenomenon, prompting more questions than answers. According to a Gallup poll, between 8 to 12 million Americans—around five percent—say they have had a near-death experience. Despite these substantial numbers, most scientists are at a loss to explain these events. Dr. Jeffrey Long, a radiation oncologist, has spent the last twelve years studying over a thousand cases of near-death experience. In his groundbreaking new book, EVIDENCE OF THE AFTERLIFE: The Science of Near-Death Experiences (HarperOne, January 2010, $25.99), Dr. Long provides scientific evidence that powerfully supports what many have long suspected: near-death experiences provide proof that life continues after we die.

A nationally recognized expert who has been quoted in Newsweek, ABC News, and The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Long presents the largest scientific study of near-death experiences ever reported. Through his work at the Near Death Experience Research Foundation (NDERF), Dr. Long has gathered over 1,300 accounts of near-death experiences (NDEs) from all over the world—the largest database of its kind. The people whose stories are captured in the this database span all age groups, races, and religious affiliations and come from all over the world, yet the similarities in their accounts are as awe-inspiring as they are revealing. Dr. Long chronicles these firsthand stories in his book, and draws compelling evidence for life beyond death from them.

Many skeptics have argued that near death experiences are hallucinations brought on by illness, strong medications, or the stress of a dying brain. Others have pointed out that near-death experiences could be the result of cultural conditioning: by now, they argue, everyone has heard of the key familiar elements (out of body sensation, a bright light, a tunnel, etc). But Dr. Long says the evidence from his study refutes all of these arguments. He details nine lines of evidence, extensively corroborated by prior scholarly NDE research, that send “a consistent message of the afterlife,” including:

1) Children’s experiences. The near-death experiences of children, including very young children who are too young to have developed concepts of death, religion, or near-death experiences, are essentially identical to those of older children and adults. This refutes the possibility that these near-death experiences are shaped by preexisting beliefs or cultural conditioning.

2) Worldwide consistency. Near death experiences appear remarkably consistent around the world, and across many different religions and cultures. NDEs from non-western countries are incredibly similar to those that occur in people in Western countries, again disproving that religious beliefs and cultural norms are responsible for creating these experiences.

3) Realistic—and accurate—out-of-body experiences Out-of-body experiences are one of the most common elements of near-death experiences. Remarkably, what NDErs report seeing and hearing during these experiences of earthly events while they are unconscious or clinically dead is almost always realistic. Over 60 people who had a near-death experience in Dr. Long’s study later sought to confirm the accuracy of their out-of-body observations following their experience. All of them confirmed the complete accuracy of their observations, including observations far from their physical body and beyond any possible sensory awareness.

4) Consciousness During Anesthesia—Many near-death experiences occur while under general anesthesia—a time when any conscious experience should be impossible. The content of near-death experiences that occur under general anesthesia is essentially indistinguishable from near-death experiences that did not occur under anesthesia. Dr. Long asserts this is strong evidence that near-death experiences are occurring completely independently from the functioning of the physical brain.

Further consistent elements of near-death experiences include crystal-clear recollections, heightened senses, reunions with deceased family members and long-lasting positive effects after the person is brought back to life. “No physiological or psychological explanation of NDEs can account for what is observed in NDEs,” Dr. Long points out. Dr. Long’s conclusions are consistent with what NDErs themselves almost always believe about their own near-death experiences: that they have glimpsed an afterlife.

Belief in life after death is quite common—a recent poll revealed that 82% of Americans believe in some form of afterlife—but until now, scientific evidence was rare. With his new book, Dr. Long provides strong, science-based proof to support those beliefs.

Jeffrey Long, M.D. is a physician practicing the specialty of radiation oncology in Houma, Louisiana. Dr. Long has served on the Board of Directors of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies), and is actively involved in NDE research.

Evidence of the Afterlife can be purchased through the link below to Amazon.com. You pay the same price and I get a commission. Thanks for supporting martduren.com.




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Live blogging the State of the Union address

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Ronald Reagan State of the Union Address

President Ronald Reagan delivers the 1983 State of the Union address. Image: utexas.edu

Tomorrow night martyduren.com will be live blogging President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address. The address will be carried on all channels except for Spike TV which will doubtless have reruns of C.S.I., a girly show appealing to adolescent males overflowing with testosterone or UFC, a male show appeals to adult males overflowing with testosterone.

The president’s address will likely have undergone major revisions as a result of Scott Brown’s recent win in Massachusetts, the stumbling of the president’s legislative goals regarding healthcare reform and the continuing through-a-sodden-bog-like progress of the economy. Likely to be interesting. There is already talk of his desire to redefine the presidency, though little details have been given to that end. CNN is among those reporting that President Obama will call for a spending freeze on every item not related to national security. It will be very interesting to observe just how long it takes congress to realize that bovine methane output is directly proportional to chatter on terrorist communications networks and, therefore, necessitates federally funded studies.

To catch the live blogging, check back here on Wednesday, January 27, at the beginning of the speech. Updates will be about every five minutes.

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Brian Regan in concert, a review

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Brian Regan

Brian Regan

Sunday night, January 17, my wife and I “cashed in” on a Christmas gift when we saw Brian Regan’s comedy concert at the Tivoli Theater in Chattanooga, TN. Regan, whose self-deprecating humor is a hit with fans of all ages, did not disappoint. From his opening riff about the Chattanooga “International” Airport to the encore, including his repeated lampooning of his own joke that fell flat, listeners were in a state of near ab-spasm inducing laughter. Regan’s act included bits made wildly popular on YouTube like Flipper and Fig Newtons with some newer riffs about his kids (my favorite: “We have two wonderful kids…and another kid”).

The night opened with a 25 minute routine by Tom Ryan who did exactly what the opening act is supposed to do: he primed the audience. Ryan’s humor is much like Regan’s without the facial expressions and physicality. In fact, Ryan is dangerously deadpan in delivery. His closing tale, about a car accident which ensued after a lit cigarette blew down his shirt collar, was priceless.

From February until June, Regan is performing from the eastern seaboard to Utah and back. He has five consecutive nights at Abravanel Hall in Salt Lake City alone. His complete tour schedule and link to purchase tickets is here.

Below is a Regan account of going to the doctor (one swear word):




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What were those stars at the Hope for Haiti phone bank really saying?

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Categories: Blog, Humor, Tags: , ,

George Clooney Hope for Haiti

Telethon host George Clooney

Quite unknown to the participants in last evening’s ‘Hope for Haiti’ all star telethon, martyduren.com has been able to speak with a listener willing to share what was overheard at the phone bank. The Hope for Haiti telethon aired on every major network, some minor networks and, reportedly, the CIA satellite surveillance system from 8:00-10:00pm, Friday, January 22.

Alternating between stars making special appeals (Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts), Haitian survivors and musicians both in the U.S. and London, the show struck a good balance between entertainment and information. On several occasions, viewers were allowed to listen in on live conversations with Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift and Steven Spielburg.

Unfortunately, not all of the conversations were broadcast leaving much good insight on the floor of the stage. As a result of our contact, martyduren.com is glad to bring you as many as can be covered in this brief post. Interestingly, the stars seem to bear a close resemblance to characters they have portrayed either in film, on TV or news reports.

The Jonas Brothers (in a high pitched squeal): “Well, we’re not sure what we’re doing there either.”

George Clooney: “Thanks for your donation to the Democratic National Committee.”

Steven Spielburg: “Oh, yes, I won an Oscar for ‘Schindler’s List.’ You think it took long enough? Tell me about it.”

Mel Gibson (to Steven Spielburg): “Geez…that tightwad only gave $5.00. Must’ve been Jewish.”

John Krasinski: “Wow. That credit card isn’t good either, Mr. Schrute. Imagine that.”

Dijmon Honsou: “No, Ma’am. I’m not from Haiti, I’m from France.”

Clint Eastwood: “You gonna make a donation punk? Well, are ya?”

Jennifer Aniston: “No, I haven’t spoken to Brad. Yes, I know he’s on stage.”

Daniel Day-Lewis: “I DRINK YOUR DONATION!!”

Robin Williams: “Thank you for your [bleep] donation. That [bleep] earthquake was a [bleep] wasn’t it? [Bleep] yeah!”

Brad Pitt: “So, did you like my beard beads?”

Rainn Wilson: “IS THIS JIM??”

Ellen DeGeneres: “I’m Dori. I’m sorry, why are you calling? Oh, yeah, telethon. Whose telethon? Haiti? Well, hey-tee to you to. Who is this? Oh, yeah. Why are you calling?”

Randy Jackson: “Hey dog, thanks for the donation, dog. A million percent yes, dog. Dog, that’s the bomb dog.” Next caller, “$1.00? Dude, I’m just not feeling it, dog.”

Chevy Chase: “Thanks for the donation, no I won’t bend over and sing ‘Moon River.'”

Jack Nicholson: “Want to make a donation? You think you’re entitled? You can’t handle a donation!!

Son, we live in a world that has disasters, and those disasters have to be helped by stars with phones. Whose gonna do it? You? Your momma? I have a greater responsibility than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Haiti and you curse Pat Robertson. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Haiti’s earthquake, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my working the phone bank, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don’t want to donate because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on this phone, you need me on this phone. We use words like botox, courtside, and surgery. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent spending fortunes. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor inclination to take a donation from a man who calls the toll free number I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said, ‘Thank you,’ and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a credit card and read a number.”

While this post is tagged ‘humor’ and ‘satire’ opportunities to give are real. If you are so inclined, you may use either of the buttons near the top of the page to make a donation.

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy Dear Pat Robertson, SHUT YOUR FREAKING MOUTH!!. Thanks to my son, Timothy, for help with this post.

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