Monthly Archives: April 2007

Party like its 1984!


There are times when someone finds a nail, has a big hammer and just drives the sucker a good one.  Cheryl, who is one of the regular readers of the blog, posts comments from time to time.  She found the 10 inch rafter spike and was packing a 20-pound sledge,  Cheryl hit it so hard, I can’t find that nail anywhere in our known dimensions.  Here’s the quote:

"We no longer think for ourselves and just watch the tube to do our thinkking for us.  1984 Orwell is upon us…."

By way of disclosure, I have no idea who Cheryl is, except she lives in Houston, is involved in the mental health industry and is a pretty good photographer. Check her comments on some of my ramblings and you can get to her site.

1984, George Orwell’s seminal 1948 work of fiction painted a hideous future of DoubleThink, continuous warfare and constant monitoring of all aspects of life by the authorities.  Her comment got me to thinking, which is not always a good thing, but it got me thinking nonetheless.

DoubleThink:  America is the Shining Beacon of Liberty to the World:  Our People are Free.  Homeland Security is protecting us.  Kidnapping and torture are illegal, unless you are the CIA.  We’re so free that we’re holding people in cages without charge or warrant for extended periods of time in Camp Delta and Camp X-Ray.  The War in Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi people from the yoke of Saddam Hussein and help them become a model of Democracy in the Middle East.  Iraq has Weapons of Mass Destruction. 

The Five Minute Hate:  We don’t have to meet in a public hall to express our hatred of Goldstein.  We have FOXNews doing it for us.  For a while it was Osama Bin Laden, then Saddam Hussein, now Iran, with a side of Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Il or Democrats in general.  This week it is Hilary Clinton, last week, Don Imus, next week it will be those with mental illnesses and guns.  There is always the fallback position of the "Unidentified Black Male" to scare us silly.

Surveillance:  A rich area here.  The Patriot Act, Echelon, DCS-1000 and The Department of Homeland Security don’t require warrants or judicial oversight.  Britain has 4.2 million known Closed Circuit TV cameras run by the police watching your every move, in case you are a terrorist, or a litter bug.  Britain has just under 61 million people.  That would be one camera per fifteen citizens in round numbers.

China might well be just as bad, but nobody can talk about it.  However, we do have historical exhibits, like the Terror Haza in Budapest, or the Stasi Museum in Berlin.  Everyone was being monitored, around the clock, in the fun days of the Soviet Union.  We simply call ours Homeland Security or Public Safety.     

Food:  Melamine in pet food, E.Coli in salads and hamburger, Fire retardant in mother’s milk.  PTFE in just about everything else.  Tomatoes that don’t taste like tomatoes, but ship really well.  Oranges with a half-life and trans-fat in toothpaste are probably next.  Taste, quality, safety and nutrition doesn’t matter.  We have industrialized everything we eat because someone can make a profit on it.  Evian Water is $6.40 per US Gallon.  Gasoline is $3.05 per US Gallon. 

Sex:  Well, we still do that.  Except we videotape it and post it on the web as "Girls Gone Wild" or "Latina Black DP Vol. 4"  Erotica is dead, replaced with an unimaginative, poorly shot, poorly edited, visual documentation of mechanical actions.  Doesn’t anyone have fun while fucking anymore?  Obviously not. 

Social Stratification:  We have poor folks.  We have rich folks.  The middle class is on the Endangered Species list and one paycheque away from being on the street.  Sympathy consists of "It’s their own damn fault!"  The social safety net is one strand of dental floss and you had better apply now to get the instructions as to where to find it.   

NewSpeak:  The undocumented, The Economically Disadvantaged, Rendition, Non-succumbing insurgents, air sanitization, and the rest of our nanny-society politically-correctspeak.  We have huge legal warning labels on step ladders, computer keyboards and take-out coffee, but none on handguns or rifles? 

Perhaps the most indicative piece of NewSpeak is "If it can save just one (state name of group, species or thing) then we’ve succeeded in this difficult job." 

I call that setting very low standards.  Why not "We’re going to make sure that every citizen has good, effective, free healthcare."  Or, "We’re going to stop treating the planet like our personal toilet to save all of us, including the spotted owls, whales and humans"

Room 101:  Not yet, unless you count waterboarding, rendition flights, CIA interrogation safe houses, Guantanamo Bay and the Amnesty International list.  The Number One country for the state execution of children under the age of 18 is:  Iran with 22. 

The Number Two?  The United States of America, with 19.     

Deviation from the norm is suspicious.  You must wear your smile, but not your turban, or hijab, unless you’re also wearing a crucifix, as that’s ok.  

Put another magnetic ribbon on your SUV. 

Be a team player, especially when the employer relocates your job to Mexico, to "realign the global supply chain." 

Be sure to cry if the TV cameras focus on you at a disaster scene.  Then sell your cellphone photos or video of the carnage to a media outlet and post it to the web.

Conversely, wear a rainbow fright wig, paint your face in team colours, while screaming We’re Number One! and not wearing a shirt.  Well, 49% of the population can do that.  Drunken Man Tits are OK at a sporting event.  Janet Jackson’s covered nipple for less than 10 frames is a scandal of global proportions.

Learn these sound bites:  "He was just a quiet neighbour who kept to himself until the shooting started" and "If it saves one (state name of thing or group) then we’ve succeeded in this difficult job."  Plus "Why isn’t the government doing something about (issue)?"

Cheryl is right in many ways.  1984 is here and has been for a while.

 

 

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Virginia Tech and the Media


The Virginia Tech tragedy is playing itself out in a way that is showing us exactly what kind of media we have at our putative service.  All the cable news networks have been wall-to-wall covering the killings.  Newspapers and radio are giving the story feature status with long-winded explainers as to why and how the shooter did what he did.

Yes, it is the biggest shooting in American history.  Yes, the victims were almost all young people in the prime of their lives.  Yes, it looks like the shooter went nuts after a love affair went sour, combined with some very serious pre-existing issues.  Yes, we do not have the full story or the results of a comprehensive investigation and yes, the media are speculating like mad.

Those are all things we knew in the first four hours.  Nothing new has been added except some ‘stories of individual bravery and sacrifice’ along with photos of as many of dead as the media can find, preferably from Facebook, or LimeWire.  Naturally, President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy showed up for the press conference to help console the various families and students and he should have, so I’m not going to nail him for it.

Let us have some perspective here.  Thirty-two people killed in a violent, bloody way.  This sounds like, well, Baghdad on a busy day.  Or Darfur during a shift change.  For those killings, of the same or worse scale, the media limits itself of a line or two. 

The rationale for marginalizing the same kind of tragedies elsewhere is what?  That the victims elsewhere are less valued?  It is ‘away from here’ so it doesn’t really count?  It’s just a bunch of crazy tribal folks settling scores?  We got no pictures and no uplink?

If the importance of the story is predicated on good satellite truck bandwidth, then Virginia Tech is this weeks’ circus.  Next week?  A newborn racoon in Newark is being nursed by a Rotweiller in the backyard of a Convent.  Plus, Knut the polar bear cub is having his first live salmon for lunch.  

Family and friends of victims cry the same tears worldwide, not just in Virginia.  I’m turning off the TV for a couple more days.

 

 

Belinda Bows Out


Belinda Stronach, the Member of Parliament for Newmarket-Aurora is hanging up her Parliamentary ID card and going back to the family business.  The family business, Magna International is quite possibly going to buy all of Chrysler from Daimler, so the business is going to be busy and as a former CEO of Magna, she’s needed back to live over the store, so to speak.

Stronach’s political arc has been interesting.  Originally a member of the neo-con Canadian Reform Alliance Party under Preston Manning, she ran for office and was elected as a Conservative federal MP for Newmarket-Aurora, a suburb of Toronto. 

About a year later, the Liberals under Paulie ‘Walnuts’ Martin, got her to change party affiliation and cross the floor.  In exchange for selling her political convictions, she was made Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development, then minister responsible for Democratic Renewal.

Unfortunately for Belinda Stronach, the Liberals were tossed out of government in 2006 and Stronach became a regular MP.  There was a change of focus from wielding insane amounts of power and authority as a Cabinet minister, to the mundane committee and constituency office plodding that faces the other 280 or so regular members of parliament who are not in cabinet.  All reports indicated she was a fair to good Minister and a fair to good MP.  Competent and skilled, but nothing stellar or cellar, which is fine.

Where things got stupid was in the media coverage of Stronach.  I wrote in a previous article that if Belinda had been a man, the crossing the floor furore would have been consigned to a Page 23, below the fold five-line story.  But no, Belinda Stronach is a woman, therefore subject to all kinds of bullshite scrutiny. 

She changed her hair color a couple of times and it was front-page news across the country, as well as her wardrobe choices.  Then there were the boyfriend things.  One liaison was with a fellow Conservative, Peter MacKay.  When Stronach crossed the floor, she kicked MacKay out to the curb on blue box day and in a moment of candor, MacKay remarked that he was upset and hurt by it.

Later, there were whispered suspicions that she was involved with a married hockey player, Tie Domi and was the ‘other woman’ in his marital woes.  True or not, who cares, but the media was all over it like a dope smoker on a bag of Doritos.

I actually found her a touch refreshing, as she is intelligent and has serious business acumen, as well as being easy on the eyes.  Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being good looking. 

The part that I liked most of all, was the disquiet she brought out in the media as a bunch of sexist boors in the Old Boys Press Club.  Here was an accomplished person, in the prime of life, in the public eye, who was not staying at home on Friday nights working on needlepoint anti-macassars.  If the boys can go out and chase some, why can’t the girls?  This bothered the media to no end.

With a very good potential that Magna will bid for Chrysler and quite possibly win, she can now go from back-bench opposition MP, to head of one of the Big Three car makers.  

Paper-pushing vote drone, or Captain of Industry?  The phrase ‘tough call’ does not come to mind.

 

 

 

Lame Duck Quacks


Funny how we haven’t heard that much from President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy and the rest of the Homeland Paranoia Duo of Kousin Karl and Shotgun Dick.  The reason is the Idiot Boy Administration is disintegrating faster than your $9 umbrella in a monsoon.

Rove is embroiled in a controversy right now regarding emails that have magically disappeared from the computers of the Republican National Committee.  This ties back to Kyle Sampson, Alberto Gonzales’ former Chief of Staff.  The story is that Kousin Karl sent some email to Kyle identifying Bush-friendly replacements for the eight US Attorneys fired in 2006 for not being as Bushy as Kousin Karl would like. 

This is not the first time email is from Kousin Karl has gone AWOL.  There are others, regarding the Valerie Plame mud job that have also found the bit-bucket.  It would seem, at least according to AP that Kousin Karl thought everything was being saved in accordance with the law and, well, oh my, it seems the email wasn’t being archived. 

Shotgun Dick Cheney is making sure he only appears on FOXNews, the last safe harbor where his bomb-them-back-to-the-stoneage demagoguery will get a pass.  Yesterday, his official aircraft ate a bird coming into Chicago and had to land carefully.  If you remember on his Asian travels a few months ago, his aircraft had to divert for another mechanical anomaly.  Shotgun Dick has to stop doing his own maintenance please.  Either that, or he has to stop trying to open the door on the aircraft to go hunting from Air Force Two.  Dick, it isn’t like jacklighting deer from the back of the pickup truck.

Meanwhile President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy is on autopilot, bumping into the furniture like a Presidential Roomba vacuum.  He droningly reads from the script and gets the Stepford Audience to stand and applaud.  I suspect the Secret Service flies the same audience in for all his appearances.  The audience is not human, but seven hundred very expensive animatronics from a defense contractor who also makes some of the Predator drone components.  A traveling troupe of technicians unloads the pallets, dresses them in the appropriate garb and props them up in the chairs for the $1,000 a plate Republican Dinners.

US A-G Alberto Gonzales has as much influence on the law these days, as I do on Czech Republic monetary policy.  He seems intent on waiting for the 40-ton weight to drop from the ceiling, or the duck hunting invitation from Shotgun Dick.

Tony Snow, unfortunately, is fighting a recurrence of his cancer and that is not good, nor the subject of jocularity, so I won’t. 

As for the rest of the Idiot Boy Administration?  I defy you to name more than four cabinet level members.  There’s Chertoff and, um.  Chertoff and.  Well, there are others, I’m certain.

Paul Wolfowitz, one time Bush acolyte and Iraq War mechanic, who is now President of the World Bank, is up to his armpits in his own scandal.  It would seem that he obtained a large pay raise and promotion for a World Bank official whom he was ‘ romantically involved’ with. 

If you want to see the definition of a Republican losing his mind consider this.  Wolfowitz is described by others as a conservative hawk Republican Jew.  His romantic connection is with someone described as an Arab feminist Muslim.  We will overlook the fact that Wolfowitz, while separated from his wife since 2001, is not divorced from his wife.  Wasn’t Family Values a core Republican tenet from the Right Hand of God to President Jo Jo The Idiot Boy?

As for Condi Rice?  She was racking up the frequent flyer miles in the Middle East for a while, but that seems to have tapered off.  She’s smart enough to know when the party is over.  The last time she was seen, was at a Falls Church, VA, FedEx/Kinko’s lugging out a box of photocopied resumes.

Meanwhile Don Rumsfeld is where?  As best anyone can tell, he’s at home, watching Dr. Phil and tuning into the Ultimate Fighting Championships on Spike-TV while dining on Easy Mac and quaffing a Diet Dr. Pepper.  

Under the heading of hyper-trivia, this entry in wikipedia,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agathidium_rumsfeldi lists several species of slime mold beetles, Agathidium of the family Leiodidae,  named after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld.  You are cordially invited to make up your own jokes now.

Can someone please get this collection of lame ducks out of the pond?  If we can juggle Daylight Savings Time, why can’t we just move the calendar ahead to 2008 and be done with it.

 

 

Imus Followup


Don Imus got the gate from Les Moonves, prez of CBS today.  Don’s comments on the Rutgers’ Women’s Basketball team, as well reported and not worthy of repeating anymore, did not go over well, so Imus is gone.

Good, bad, indifferent, Imus’s firing is more of a caution to anyone to not cross the line into something that is nasty.  But the argument still remains, what is nasty, or spiteful to me, is not necessarily nasty or spiteful to someone else. 

Personally, I’m offended that a person who spoke of America as being "The Great Satan" was being spiteful and trying to demonize the US.  It was a hateful comment designed to demean, hurt and affect the self-image of all Americans in a negative way, as well as their reputation in the world at large.

The author of that quote (Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini, currently dead), was not an employee of CBS and as such, could not be sanctioned, fired, or suspended by Les Moonves. 

Sometimes you just have to shrug your shoulders and move on.

 

 

Imus in the Morning


Don Imus is going to be sleeping in for the next two weeks, thanks to an ignorant comment regarding the Rutgers Women’s Basketball Team.  Referring to the Rutgers squad as ‘nappy-headed ho’s’, Imus opened his mouth to change hand-tooled cowboy boots, hopefully fresh from the stables at the ranch.

Imus’ words are spiteful, no matter how you slice it.  Even going on Al Sharpton’s radio show to do a mea culpa won’t make it better and his employers have benched him for two.  Is it an appropriate punishment?  Well, yes and no.  You can argue fair comment, irony, comedy, sarcasm and all the other excuses, but the terms he used are across the line.  The problem is, the line is situational, especially in radio. 

I worked in private radio, as a DJ-host, in the 70’s.  If one were to say ‘damn’ on the air, the length of your career would be measured in the time it took for the Program Director to run down the hall from his office to the control room.  Needless to say, if you were to use other words of a harsher nature, the last thing you would hear would be another round being pumped into the shotgun.  Consider it the Mossberg Outplacement Procedure.

There were ‘saucy’ jocks in the day.  Scruff Connors comes to mind, on either CHUM-FM or Q107 with his "Morning Squirt"  Meaning, call in while you’re taking that delightful first of the day piss and be heard all over the city.  There was the Weather Fairy with (going by memory here) Mike Cooper at 680CFTR.  

Before Ottawa had an FM rock station (CHEZ-FM), CKBY-FM played hard rock on Saturday night instead of the country tunes they played the rest of the time.  One jock, who shall remain nameless, but was Brian Murphy, could be heard inhaling very deeply of what we all assumed was illicit smoking substances, on the air.  This made sense while playing Led Zepplin or Black Sabbath and was perfectly in keeping with the general attitude of the times.      

The Shock Jock revolution started, at least on my radar, January 13, 1982.  On that date Air Florida flight 90 took off from DC’s National Airport under severe winter icing conditions and crashed into the 14th street bridge, killing 78.  The next day, a jock called Air Florida asking for their fare from National Airport to the 14th street bridge.  To me, that was where the line was crossed from ‘saucy’ or ‘naughty’ or ‘suggestive’ to nasty. 

Notice that qualifier in there:  Nasty to me.  I am not the arbiter of taste for anyone else but me.

Don Imus calling the team a bunch of ‘nappy-headed ho’s’ is nasty to me.  Which leads us to what to do about it?

Here’s how we can make our feelings heard, if we so choose:  Private radio stations live on advertising revenue.  They charge more per commercial for larger audiences.  Nielsen is one of the biggest audience survey companies out there.  They send a diary and/or telephone people in every area of the US and Canada to ask them to list their listening habits in 15-minute increments. 

From the sample of returned diaries and phone interviews, Nielsen and other companies, like Arbitron, or BBM in Canada, statistically project how many listeners are tuned to various radio stations in each 15 minute daypart.  To the radio stations, those ratings mean money.

If you get an audience measurement diary, or get a phone call from a survey company, you can wreak havoc with a broadcaster who has carried a program you find inappropriate.  What you do is not list their call letters for the specific daypart you found, or find objectionable.  Don’t listen, or instead list the call letters of your local NPR or CBC station.  Heck, if there’s a private station in your community that exclusively plays Icelandic folk tunes, list them instead. 

Radio stations are notorious for changing programming based on miniscule changes in percentages of listeners, as there is a lot of money on the line.  If you so choose, you can make the personally objectionable go away by hitting the owners in the wallets. 

Who knows, perhaps that Icelandic Folk Tunes station (Noregur sjúga!109.9 FM) will become wildly popular and make a ton of money.

 

 

Easter Eggs


From the Dave Barry blog, is a great example of American Tax dollars at work.  The White House 2007 State Easter Egg Collection. 

http://www.whitehouse.gov/easter/2007/eggsbystate/# is the link.  Since it is technically a day off for many of us to reflect on the crucifixion of Jesus and load up on as much chocolate as we can tolerate until we drop into a sugar-induced coma, (He would have wanted it that way, I know it) I’ve looked this site up and toured the offerings. 

All fifty states have submitted colored Easter Eggs, some highly decorated in the tradition of the Ukrainian psyanky with shell cutouts and examples of the highest decorative arts.  The American Egg Board is kindly managing the collection for the White House.  Awfully nice of them.  The level of craft is very high, with a few exceptions, and each submission is earnest and done with a pure heart.  For that, the craftspersons should be thanked for their time. 

Of the dozen or so images of each State Egg that I viewed, perhaps the most joyous is Rhode Island.  Imagine a David Lee Roth hairstyle, with a gilded proscenium, featuring a red rooster mounted in the niche to call to mind the Rhode Island Red rooster, the Official Poultry of Rhode Island. 

California presented a hinged egg in the Faberge style, featuring a miniature glittered redwood with what looks suspiciously like a spotted owl in one of the trees.  Illinois offered a stirring portrait of Abraham Lincoln rendered in beige, while Vermont offered a blue, beige and black tribal motif.  If your tribe is the LSD-Eating Ken Kesey tribe, this tribal coloration recalls the fondest days of hallucinating at the the aquarium store.

The same tribal motif holds true for Indiana, part Gwi’chan Coast Indian, interbred with an Amish quilt-maker, while swapping big hits off the bong.  Wyoming, home state of Shotgun Dick Cheney, offered something that was done on the bus ride to the While House with a blue Sharpie marker, some green crayon and a line drawing of a potato with skis.

New Jersey, the home state of Tony Soprano, offered a wonderfully illuminated Easter Egg of pumpkins and garden motifs, with an illustration of Tony shooting Big Pussy within the elaborately carved niche. 

Neighboring state New York, offered a gilt Lady Liberty emerging Botticelli-like from an egg covered in either real pearls and 24 karat gold leaf, or silver cake decorations (the ubiquitous ‘jimmies’) and gold cigarette foil burnished on by someone with hooks for hands and late stage Parkinson’s.

Louisiana presented a diorama of Emeril Lagasse, with miniature red fish, a Tabasco bottle and Zatarains Creole Seasoning, outlined with gold mountings and amber and turquoise stones.  I suspect the whole thing was funded by FEMA who overruled the original design of a family of nine living in a trailer in a muddy field.

Tennessee wins however, with a Faberge style egg, crowned and limned with gold and rhinestones, featuring a portrait of Elvis, circa 1965.  No Tennessee Walking Horses, or circular references to being the Volunteer State, just a glammed out Young Elvis.

We looked so you don’t have to.  Have a reasonable Easter.