Archive for May, 2005

Wow, What An Idea! Let’s Call It “Capitalism”

Saturday, May 28th, 2005

Wow, What An Idea! Let’s Call It “Capitalism”

A few days ago I was carping away about how everything good in life, particularly the Tomb Raider Lady’s rack, was disappearing. Well now we have something that makes life fun that is actually getting bigger, or anyway, at least thinking about it. What an oasis of hope for the future in a vast all-present desert of oppression, suffocation and despair.

Hooters Airline Has Lofty Plans
At a time when the whole airline industry is struggling, Hooters Air has had so much success that they are expanding to new businesses and new cities.

This is substantiated by a few other pieces, including a press release on the official site. The service area map that is posted there, effective June 11, is included below.

Hooters Air Takes Over Service from Lehigh Valley Air in Allentown, Pennsylvania and Adds Additional Service to Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach, SC – Hooters Air will expand its flight service from Allentown, Pennsylvania when it begins service on routes formerly served by Lehigh Valley Air effective May 8th. In addition to the current service to St. Petersburg and Ft. Lauderdale, Hooters Air will add flights to Myrtle Beach beginning June 11th.

“Allentown opens up another great market for us,” stated Hooters Air President Mark Peterson. “We are taking over a program started by Lehigh Valley Air and will make some small adjustments to the schedule in order to improve the program and add more great destinations.”

Let’s put some thought into defining the very least significance this could possibly have for us. You’d have to be a moron, or brain-damaged, to look at this and not conclude there was a capitalist lesson for somebody somewhere. An industry in which huge money changes hands everyday, is getting absolutely hammered. One interest within the industry is having a dandy time and expanding. Hello? HELLO?

This is so much bigger than gawking at college girls in their skimpy outfits. SO much bigger. For one thing, in addition to being fun, Hooter’s has a lot of practical purposes most people don’t realize. Hooter’s and business travel go together like potatoes & gravy. Milk & chocolate. Beer & shots. While I haven’t flown Hooters Air before, I have travelled on business more than the average bear and I’ve learned a few things about how to get good service when you really need to depend on it. Good service saves you from missing connecting flights. Good service makes the difference between getting done what you flew out to do, or not. Every businessman catching that 5 a.m. shuttle to the airport, the thought you know is going through his mind, is whether or not he will deal with service people at the rental car desk, or at the flight check-in desk, or at the hotel desk, who hate customers. Let’s face it: You have to like dealing with people to succeed at those jobs, but you don’t have to like it to have those jobs.

Just flying in one day, you are depending on the people you meet who have been tasked to provide you with services. Some of those people will hold your life in their hands. You can receive bad service and still succeed, but the handicap factor is not to be underestimated.

What do tank tops and orange shorts have to do with good service, you ask?

To answer that, I have to rely not so much on logic but on my own experience. I can definitely see there’s a connection. There are Hooter’s girls who mumble, frown and sulk, but they are very very few and very far between — searching for frowners and culkers, I’m far better off looking for them at a Denny’s, or a Chucky Cheese, or some kind of data center. I think what sets this establishment apart, is the tips. I know, nobody tips a cute girl in short-shorts double or triple what they would tip a middle-age matronly toothless waitress, but here’s a wake-up call: This is a delusive concept of “nobody”. It’s the same nobody that never buys National Enquirer, since everybody is just glancing at the cover in the grocery check-out line — “nobody” ever actually ponies up some cash on it.

I’ll fess up right here and now, I tip more at Hooter’s. Generally, 15% is a good tip from me, but I wouldn’t dream of running up a $25 tab at Hooter’s, tipping $3.75 & calling it good. It’s unthinkable.

And then there is the matter of attrition. Maybe you are one of these exceptional anti-help-anybody people who happen to work at Hooter’s. Quite possible. But if that’s the case wouldn’t you take your crappy attitude and leave it at home with your long pants? You’re getting tipped forty percent. If you MUST come to work and constantly roll your eyes & sigh at people to remind them what a pain in the ass it is to be listening to them, you’d get tipped zero percent while your co-workers were getting tipped something sky-high. Wouldn’t that be an unmistakable clue that you should try something else?

So by natural attrition, and by attracting a friendly demographic of potential applicants in the first place, it would appear Hooter’s has ways of ensuring it is staffed by positive, upbeat professionals overall. Upbeat service means upbeat customers, which means upbeat tips or tipping potential. That leads to more upbeat service. It’s called “getting started on the right foot.” This isn’t Katy-Couric “perky perky perky” service; this is common-sense service, that can figure out you need to get something done and will get out of your way. When you want them out of the way. Which, of course, ends up being not very often.

Now here’s something else to think about. We’re talking about flying here. Now think back on your experiences with flight attendants. All the indignant looks you got if you dared ask for a second bag of peanuts or another four ounces of Pepsi. Wouldn’t you just love to fly on an airline where quality of service to the customer, was just as important to the flight attendants as it is to the average Hooter’s girl?

It’s a no-brainer. Even disregarding the nice-looking busts & hips & thighs, I am SO down with this. If the trend about expanding the business holds for long, I’ll take it as a given that I’m not alone on that. And it will be interesting to see if the competing airlines are quick to take a lesson from it.

Here’s My Whole Deal on Filibusters

Wednesday, May 25th, 2005

Here’s My Whole Deal on Filibusters

Here is the link to the Wikipedia page on filibusters. It’s probably worth bookmarking, since Wiki can be updated by the community-at-large, and the subject is a procedure that is enjoying a rapidly evolving history at the moment.

There are four things I’d like to highlight from a high-level history of the filibuster. This just has to do with how we got the filibuster and what it’s all about — these highlights are not Republican-friendly or Democrat-hostile, they’re simply facts.

  • In 1789, by following Senate rules, you could shut a fellow Senator up and “move to the previous question”;
  • This was changed in 1806, so that you had to let the Senator talk as long as he wanted, and the filibuster was born;
  • In 1917, the motion of cloture was born — with a two-thirds super-majority (of those voting), you could end the filibuster;
  • Since 1917, a number of changes have been adopted adjusting the super-majority — it goes down when Senators think it’s too hard to reach, it goes up when they think it’s too easy.

This clashes head-on with what people have been “educated” about this procedure. Ever single water-cooler or pool-hall debate I’ve seen on filibusters, someone will casually refer to the filibuster as a time-honored tradition that has been with our nation since the very beginning. It’s not so. When our nation got started, debate was brought to an end and attention was moved to action, or other issues, just like in any other deliberative body. After the filibuster arrived, another century came & went before we got to this idea of using it to force a super-majority.

And since then, we’ve been quibbling about what the super-majority is.

This is simply not a part of what you would call “tradition” and it certainly isn’t part of the spirit of the Constitution.

Here is the link to the much-discussed Washington Post poll indicating that “most” Americans are opposed to the rules change that would end filibustering of judicial nominees. The Washington Post got into a little bit of hot water over this. The story surfaces in chat rooms and around water coolers, as evidence that Americans want to keep “the filibuster”. This is an accurate reflection of the issue but it’s not an accurate reflection of the Post’s story. The Post’s summary is “a strong majority of Americans oppose changing the rules to make it easier for Republican leaders to win confirmation of President Bush’s court nominees, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll”. It does not use the word “filibuster”.

The question that was asked of the 1,007 respondents, also, does not use the word “filibuster.” As the story has been repeated, reprinted and regurgitated, the word “filibuster” sneaks in — two-thirds of us are “opposed to ending the filibuster”. This goes back to the headline that was used internally by The Post itself, so The Post is guilty of producing more confusion than clarity here. Ombudsman Michael Getler addressed the issue here.

For those who are not familiar with ombudsmens’ columns, they can be pretty unsatisfying, especially when you think something’s amiss and the ombudsman agrees with you. The ombudsman recites the facts, then he goes into reader reactions, then usually he will partially exonerate the newspaper before diving into what he thinks ought to have been done differently. End of column. And you’re left asking, “and…?” It’s human nature to hope that somewhere, some reporter is being summoned into his editor’s office and called to account for making the ombudsman upset. Maybe having his paycheck docked. It’s not gonna happen. Ombudsmen usually don’t have “teeth”, and cannot have teeth. They write their opinion that “shuckee darn, yup, that sure isn’t a good thing” and that has to be the end of it.

My take on it is, while there is always a danger of a “false consensus,” there are some issues where a poll does more to invite confusion and abuse than it does to settle any uncertainties, and this is one of them. Americans distrust politicians. If this isn’t subject to serious dispute, why conduct a poll about it? You don’t have to. Okay, why do Americans distrust politicians? A lot of it has to do with this stereotype about collecting fat paychecks, sitting around debating endlessly, doing nothing. Is that subject to disagreement? I don’t think so. So what exactly is a filibuster?

So we’re keeping this “time-honored tradition” of the filibuster as a mechanism to prevent majority rule in a popularly-elected legislative body. Here is your link to the Memorandum of Understanding text that represents the agreement reached by Democrats and Republicans in the Senate. What it means, is a matter of opinion. The binding effect of the Memorandum, also, is a matter of opinion, and since the consequences of breaking it are going to be purely political, my opinion is it doesn’t mean much.

Are filibusters of judicial nominees unconstitutional? Absolutely! The Constitution comments only on “Advice and Consent” in Article II. The relevant passage says the President “…shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law”. This means (in just my uneducated opinion) such Advice and Consent is a right, and an obligation, conferred upon the Senate.

Now you can take what follows for what it’s worth; it might have some relevance to the discussion.

When the words, above, were written, we did not yet have a Seventeenth Amendment which makes the Senators subject to popular election. Back then, the States had representation in our nation’s capitol. If we had a President who did just a dandy job of representing the Will of the People, but was overly hostile to the interests of State legislatures, and manifested that hostility in his nominees, it was the job of the Senate to shoot his nominees down. To shoot them down. Not to use procedural rules to sit on the nominations. Senate Rules are just fine, but the Constitution trumps them.

And the Constitution requires the Senate, which was designed to be the representation of State legislatures, to give a vote. Advice and Consent. The nomineee gets in, or he doesn’t. But give your answer. The President can’t do anything without the Senate, that’s the “Consent” part; the Senate gives its answer, that’s the Advice part.

Nowadays, the Senate represents the people, effectively functioning as a second House of Representatives. As a separate chamber, it has its own rules, and we have some loudmouths running around — most of them Democrats — inferring that these separate rules are a traditional way of forcing more calm, cool, deliberative debate in the upper chamber. This is just so much nonsense.

Look At Me, I Can’t Park For Shit III

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Look At Me, I Can’t Park For Shit III

Danbury, CT. This ought to take care of the “they park that way so that their oh so very nice expensive cars don’t get dinged” crowd. Now take a good look. What a slob. If you’re on a moped, congratulations, you get to squeeze into that itty-bitty space this dickhead left. Everyone else can hoof it from wherever-way-out-there they finally find a place to park.

Destroy Those Stickers

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

Destroy Those Stickers

A court has upheld separation of church and state.

Hooray!

The court ordered that stickers affixed to school textbooks, violating the separation of church and state, be removed and destroyed.

Hooray!

The stickers promoted a fundamentalist Christian view of creationism over evolution, on textbooks paid for by taxpayers, and the court ordered the stickers gone.

Hooray!

Well…actually, the stickers didn’t promote a particular viewpoint, they just attacked the universally-accepted theory of evolution. They’re gone!

Hooray!

Well…actually, the stickers didn’t really attack much of anything. They ARE gone, but what they said was this.

This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.

The stickers have been removed according to the court order.

Hoo– …uh, hmmm.

Yeah…you got it. The First Amendment has been interpreted to prohibit you from thinking for yourself. Saying anything, anything at all, against whatever theory the scientific community has determined to be fashionable, is to be stricken down the very second the striking-down can be justified by any connection, whatsoever, however unsubstantial it may be, to the expenditure of taxpayer funds.

I’m not going to get all frothy-at-the-mouth about this. If you think what happened is correct and my categorization of it is unfair, nothing I can say will change your mind. If you recognize what is amiss here, you don’t need me to embellish it any further.

I’m Thirty!

Tuesday, May 24th, 2005

I’m Thirty!

Thirty states, that is. In the interest of full disclosure, one of them is DC.

It is abundantly clear what needs to be done about this. I’ve got to get ahold of a motorcycle, and swing through the bayou.

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Lara Croft Is A C Cup Now

Saturday, May 21st, 2005

Lara Croft Is A C Cup Now

It’s gotten spooky. It’s gotten to the point that, when you see something that makes living life a little bit more fun, you just know it’s a matter of time before it will be gone. Continuing the diabolical campaign to get rid of everything good in life, the “Tomb Raider” girl’s tits are the next two things to go.


In an attempt to appeal to more female players the creators of computer game icon Lara Croft have re-vamped her image to remove one of her most prominent and remarked-upon features — her generous bust.

For years, Croft’s gravity-defying chest, waspish waist and long legs have delighted teenage boys playing the various editions of “Tomb Raider,” the computer game in which she stars.

According to Saturday’s edition of The Times newspaper, British computer game firm Eidos, which created Croft, has changed her physique to one less likely to put off female players.

In the soon-to-be-released “Tomb Raider: Legend,” the eighth title to feature Croft, her DD-size bust has been reduced to a more modest C-cup and some of her more revealing outfits have been ditched, the report said.

My opinion? It’s the same opinion I’d have about pairing the “Murder She Wrote” lady up with a goofy sidekick played by Rob Schneider or Joe Pesci. The same opinion I’d have about lacing “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’ with lots of exploding cars.

Guy stuff for guys, gal stuff for gals. Making things androgenous or all-gender-friendly *never* seems to yield greater profits, or to help mitigate losses. Still, if Eidos thinks a chubby waist, tiny knockers, cottage-cheese thighs and a modest round-neck sweater will pull in some female video-game purse money, they are free to try.

Let me just say this on whether or not such a scheme has the potential to actually work though.

I do know women who don’t like Tomb Raider.

I do know women who don’t like Tomb Raider because they are put off by the fact that Lara Croft is, let us say, just better-looking in general than these women.

These women would not — would not — not, not, not — buy Tomb Raider if the Tomb Raider girl’s tits were shrunk. I guarantee it. They would not. Not a single one. Not one. Never, never, not ever.

The tits aren’t costing you any sales, guys. I got a feeling a flat chest on Lara Croft is more likely to meet approval with some of your female marketing executives, than with any of your female potential customers who you think aren’t shelling out like they should.

Stand Up For Medicare

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

Stand Up For Medicare

Medicare can be, is, and will continue to be, used to provide drugs to address male impotence, to the tune of $2 billion over the next decade.

I love to highlight how, based on the way you present a story, you can partially dictate what the public reaction is going to be. If I were King of Newspaper Editors for a day, I might promote that story under this headline:

Women are being taxed to pay for men’s erections.

Hey. Under the harsh glare of the Spotlight of Truth, it checks out, right? That’s better than Newsweek can say.

A Style Of Thought

Tuesday, May 17th, 2005

A Style Of Thought

Mexican President Vicente Fox has apologized for his “race remarks” as The Chicago Tribune calls them. Speaking Friday in Peuto Vallarta, Fox extolled the virtues of his country’s #1 export product which is illegal aliens.

“There’s no doubt that the Mexican men and women � full of dignity, willpower and a capacity for work � are doing the work that not even blacks want to do in the United States,” Fox told a meeting of the Texas-Mexico Frozen Food Council in the western city of Puerto Vallarta on Friday.

Oops, that’s pretty far from what passes for politically-correct in the USA these days.

And that’s exactly the point some of the Fox sympathizers tried to make yesterday.

Victor Hugo Flores, a 30-year-old bond salesman, cringed when asked what he thought of Fox’s Friday comment, but said it isn’t too different from popular sayings celebrating what Mexicans see as a strong work ethic among blacks.

“It was bad, but it really isn’t racist,” he said. “Maybe the president shouldn’t have said it. But here we say things like, `He works like a black person,’ and it’s normal.”

You know why a defensive argument like that devastates President Fox and his comments, like no assaulting argument possibly could: It makes sense. As Americans we tend to forget that when we have imposed cultural pressure on people’s individual thoughts, coercing them to comply with what is considered acceptable by our prevailing culture, the rest of the world isn’t doing the same thing. So from time to time it’s natural we have a rude awakening with how other people think.

But doesn’t that make Fox’s comments all the more telling. This whole thing the United States has gone through — that it’s wrong to say “Mexicans steal things” or “Jews haggle over prices way too much” or “white people always lie” — it turns out, that whole taboo makes sense.

A guy steals stuff. Some guy is known for working his ass off. Some guy builds a rep for lying all the time. You don’t paint an entire race of people that way, unless you enjoy being wrong, often.

That’s the American style of thought — individual attributes for individuals, group attributes for groups. Vicente Fox showed on Friday he has a different style of thought, and if he wants to hide behind apologies like this, he’s still showing it.

How is this relevant? Because Vicente Fox is in a shouting match lately with right-thinking Americans like myself, about what it is his chief export product does to the American economy. It’s been going on and on because it’s so hard to prove one side right or the other side right — but it’s critical to President Fox’s argument, to demonstrate that he has his finger on the pulse of what is really going on. That when he says his people who are immigrating to my country, illegally, are working their butts off and not committing any crimes, he knows what he’s talking about.

Well, it is unlikely he has his finger on the pulse of what’s going on if this is the way he thinks. You can’t point to tens of thousands of people running across a river, and make an unfounded blanket generalization like “they are working their butts off and obeying all the laws” unless you don’t really have a stake in the veracity of what you’re saying. But that is exactly what President Fox has been doing for years now.

Now, his sympathizers are in an intellectually untenable position. They must maintain it is correct to say “undocumented immigrants from Mexico work harder than American citizens” but at the same time excoriate the idea that “blacks have a different work ethic from whites” (better, or worse). Essentially, they have to champion one unfounded blanket statement while rightfully repudiating another, solely on the basis that it is an unfounded blanket statement.

If Captain Kirk were having this argument with an ancient computer, this is just about the time the smoke would start coming out of the vents and circuits would start popping.

Fortunately for President Fox, his audience is not people who think logically. That is a blanket statement that finds reasonable foundation in the content of his messages: He has been maintaining “I am encouraging these people to cross the border and get the hell out of my country but that doesn’t mean they’re people you don’t want around, you should accept them with open arms even though I don’t want them where I am.” There is a certain strain of people who buy into this. Out of logical necessity, they must be the kind of people who never ask “If it’s such a great deal, why do you need me?”

They get e-mail about exciting ways to make money at home, and they nibble at the bait instead of asking the obvious question “why is this guy who wrote the e-mail, not quietly taking advantage of this without my participation, if it’s such a great deal?” This audience is not exactly filled with rocket scientists. If they possessed even average intelligence, the message wouldn’t work.

Because that’s exactly the offer Fox is making: Hey, these are wonderful people — that’s why I want to get rid of them.

Let’s Abolish Freedom of the Press

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Let’s Abolish Freedom of the Press

Oh, there’s going to be panic over that headline I’m sure. But let me explain. Among those polled, 22% say the government should be allowed to censor the press, in a major poll to be released Monday, conducted by the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy. The poll also revealed significant gaps in opinion on news, and its place in society, between members of the press and the general public.

In one finding, 43% of the public say they believe the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. Just 14% of the public can name �freedom of the press� as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution…

I think I can help explain this. The press has abused its position of trust by not doing its job. They do not tell people what people need to know anymore; they mold and shape our society in ways they think will protect the classes of people they want to protect. Let’s just take the example of an editorial that pissed me off, just yesterday morning. Worrying About The Right Things, which was published a week ago (link requires registration) explores the idea that gee, maybe liberals haven’t given Janice Rogers Brown a fair shake and she could be a decent judge after all.

What would make Janice Rogers Brown a decent judge? In People v. Conrad Richard McKay, Brown dissented from the majority opinion that Richard McKay’s Fourth-amendment rights were not violated when a policeman patted him down and found a baggie of methamphetamine in his sock.

Brown was the lone dissenter in this opinion. Let’s sum it up. Guy gets pulled over on a bicycle. He’s a black guy, which is important to Ginger Rutland, author of the editorial. He has no driver’s license. The cop pats him down and finds the substance. Guy gets 32 months for illegal possession. Knowning that, if there was a Fourth-Amendment violation here, it would mean the druggie has to be sprung from jail, would you say such a violation took place? Janice Rogers Brown says yes, everyone else on the court says no.

Like most “ordinary” people, I’m going to have to shock the shit out of Ginger Rutland by confessing that, actually, I am far to the right of even Janice Rogers Brown. Furthermore, it is crap like this — even in an editorial column — that erodes our faith not only in the press, but the justice system. The bicycle guy committed a crime. Yes, it is a victimless crime, at least, so far as anyone can determine from the facts available, but a crime nonetheless. Furthermore, he is guilty and his guilt has been proven. It is undisputed.

For the past forty years we’ve been playing this game where, hey, if the guy is guilty but the way you found out he’s guilty, is unconstitutional, then the guy isn’t guilty. That is bullshit. And I say that being a big, passionate advocate of the axiom that the Constitution must be upheld — but — get this — it doesn’t necessarily follow that, to enforce the Constitution, we have to pretend that false things are true and that true things are false.

Today’s journalists take it as a given that enforcement of the Constitution trumps truth; they make their living according to it. If the Constitution has been violated, we have to pretend people with baggies in their socks don’t have baggies in their socks. And, by extension, we have to pretend that guys who rape and kill little girls, don’t rape and kill little girls.

Rutland spends much of her column weeping for the economic plight, and the unfortunate skin color, of the guy with meth in his sock. Apparently, if he was middle-class and white, his Fourth-Amendment rights would not have been violated. Did you catch that? The Fourth Amendment is only for poor black people. If you don’t agree with my interpretation, read her treatise from beginning to end. She says “Judges who ‘gnaw through ropes’ to protect people being hassled by cops represent the kind of judicial activism I can support.”

This is the kind of bullshit that arouses suspicion and mistrust. For one thing, I could take out a subscription to the Sacramento Bee for ten solid years, read every page, and the information I would gather about why we have a Fourth Amendment, and what it was intended to do, I could fit on a postage stamp. That newspaper just doesn’t give a damn about it, nor do any newspapers. The press, like the justice system, thinks of it as a game. You collar the bad guy, bring him in, he gets sentenced, he appeals, maybe his rights were violated and maybe not. We all argue about it and newspapers get sold. In the course of the game, lies become facts and facts become lies, guys with meth in their socks suddenly don’t have meth in their socks.

But what’s ironic — to me — is if you are this poor guy with his desperate circumstances riding his bicycle around, and you’re at the mercy of the police because you are so poor and put-upon — you are also at the mercy of something else: Truth. As a general rule in life, people who are in the trenches, who work dirty jobs, who are poor, or who are closest to the action about which other people make life-and-death decisions…they live and die according to facts. When you pretend things that are true are false, or things that are false are true, you are engaging in a luxurious pastime that is not available to people who are closer to the exigencies of life than you are.

For example, if the guy who lives next door to you is a drug dealer, that is a fact and it affects how you live.

And that, in turn, means that to take part in a mental-contortionist argument like the following…

He has meth in his sock but the way the meth was found, was by a search which the court determined was violation of his Fourth Amendment rights, therefore the search was illegal, therefore he does not have any meth in his sock.

…is a luxury which you simply cannot afford. It is truly ironic that for one poor guy, like Conrad Richard McKay, whose rights are being championed by columnists like Rutland — there are maybe a hundred more poor people whose right to live a safe everyday life, is being trampled upon by her impassioned ramblings, and Rutland is probably completely freakin’ oblivious to this.

And that is the real gap between the press and “normal” people.

Look At Me, I Can’t Park For Shit II

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Look At Me, I Can’t Park For Shit II

Hotel parking lot in Albany, NY. An utterly, completely empty hotel parking lot. No, the driver was not just dashing into a room to get a forgotten wallet or comb, to run right back out again. Nothing like that at all.

I can’t prove it, but I’ve got an unsettling feeling that people are basically slapping their cars into the parking lot, lines be damned, because their cars are getting bigger. In other words, you have a little car, you must do a good job parking, but if it’s a big car, you can let it all go to shit. Now, think about that for a second. How disturbing is that.

Really Bad News

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Really Bad News

Today’s kids don’t have to walk to school sixteen miles in snow up to their bellybuttons, uphill both ways, they don’t have to spend all their free time doing household chores and odd jobs like I did, and now they don’t eaven halv two wurry abowt speling.

Examiners marking an English test taken by 600,000 14-year-olds have been told not to deduct marks for incorrect spelling on the main writing paper, worth nearly a third of the overall marks.

The rule, issued by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, means that pupils could spell every word wrongly in the most significant piece of writing that they are required to do and yet still receive full marks.

There are two really obvious things to point out here.

One, I can’t say a single word about this without sounding like a really old man. To everyone, save for those who already realize what’s wrong with this without me mentioning a single word. It’s a case of tyranny-of-majority, and dumbing-down; the “Let’s Ignore Bad Spelling” ruling was handed down after too many of the kids taking the test, failed to get the spelling right. They got the content right, I assume, because the administrators figured something out. Quotas are not being met, but if we discount spelling, we can meet the quotas. So the kids have some brains. Trying to use those brains to get words spelled right, has yielded substandard results, so hey, let’s take spelling off the table then we can meet our quotas.

It all comes down to, the God damn kids don’t have to do what I had to do when I was a kid. And get off my damn lawn.

Two: To those of you who, on another subject, will argue that school is all about developing social skills, the FACT that this is a huge mistake should be beyond any dissent. Just think about the social aspect in terms of situations where you have to convince the other person of your intellect.

You want to sell me your motorcycle. It’s a chain drive motorcycle and I’ve got a real thing about shaft drive motorcycles so I’m not willing to buy. You send me an e-mail saying “Hay, their ain’t nuthing rong with a chayn driyv, it’s wurked for me!!!” You think I’m going to stop and read beyond the first sentence of your thesis, let alone change my mind about shaft drive motorcycles? You don’t have as much of a chance as you would have if you spelled things right.

Or let’s say I’m a liberal and you’re a conservative and you drop me an e-mail saying “Yoo liberalz shuld stop ragging on George W. Bush about wepunz of mas dystrucshun, yoo no our troups did find a hole bunch of them owt their in Iruq.” This is a case of trying to convince me of something that, due to my biases, I’m not initially willing to believe. You think you’ll get far by misspelling things? Nonsense. The mind of the liberal looks for any excuse it can to stop listening to an opposing argument. Throw in a few misspelled words, and you’re wasting your time.

Not that conservatives are any better. One of the things liberals have tried repeatedly to throw our way, is that our current president was selected, not elected. How do you think it would go down if a liberal wrote to a conservative and said “It may suprise you to gno that their wuz a lots of balot boxes hidan in floruda that were votz for algore.” It would just be further evidence that these conspiracy theories are aimed at, and consumed by, people who aren’t that bright and therefore the theories are not in need of any serious attention. I’d skim through just enough to get a little bit of a laugh for the day.

As a society, we do not write things down as much as we used to. A few of us have to correspond through e-mail in order to do our jobs; there are phone numbers, e-mail addresses, maybe a shopping list or two. The rest of the writing we do, I’d say, is stuff aimed at other people who do not initially agree with us about something, meant to change the mind of the audience. That’s probably a good eighty or ninety percent of everything we write, if you count word for word. E-mail, blog entries like this one, posts in rapidly lengthening and incendiary threads.

So three-quarters of everything we write is written to change the mind of a hostile audience. And when you try to change the mind of a hostile audience, your efforts fail a hundred percent of the time if you don’t spell everything right. We learn to spell correctly when we are held accountable when we go to school, and our schools are going to stop holding children accountable. Therefore: The medium of the written word will soon cease to be a viable and worthy forum.

You know, a few years ago this wouldn’t even be necessary. The little shits can’t spell, you just go ahead and flunk ‘em. If NONE of the little shits can spell, then you start flunking EVERYBODY until they learn how to get the job done. But now we have all these learning disabilities and with that, we have lost our ability to hold the children accountable for the work they do. So this has actually been inevitable for years now.

As far as that goes, are you ready for another rude surprise? Try looking at some blogs and reading some of the threads posted under the hottest news stories out there. This problem with spelling is nothing new. What we have been losing, and continue to lose, is craftsmanship, which ultimately is the notion that the quality of work says something indelible, good or bad, about the person who made it. With that, we are losing our ability to communicate.

Wow, They DO Work For Us After All

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

Wow, They DO Work For Us After All

We can send messages to these people. The Senate agreed on something they couldn’t agree on a year ago. I feel like Sally Field right now. You’re listening to us, you’re really, really listening.

Congress has approved an additional $82 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan and to combat terrorism worldwide, boosting the cost of the global effort since 2001 to more than $300 billion.

Yipeee. But it boosts the price. Gosh, when you spend money on a project that isn’t done yet, it boosts the price. I guess we and the Senate are on one side of this thing, and the Associated Press is on the other.

The Senate approved the measure Tuesday on a 100-0 vote.

All right.

The measure also requires states to start issuing more uniform driver’s licenses and verify the citizenship or legal status of people getting them. It also toughens asylum laws, authorizes the completion of a fence spanning the California-Mexican border and provides money to hire more Border Patrol agents.

Boom chucka lucka lucka.

Thank you, troops. And thank you, Minutemen.

Not Our Finest Hour

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

Not Our Finest Hour

Pat Buchanan scored a hole-in-one with his critique over the weekend of President Bush’s visit to Moscow. It should be required reading for anyone who tries to keep up with important historical events as well as current events, since the era & related events receiving Pat’s attention, tend to get covered up or at least tend to get viewed with a blurry lens. It’s hard to learn this stuff with a Google search, with a printed encyclopedia, and even with an old-fashioned trip to the local library:

May 8, 2005
What Exactly Is Bush Celebrating in Moscow?

By Pat Buchanan

To Americans, World War II ended with the Japanese surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, following detonation of atom bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and Aug. 9.

But for Russians, who did not enter the war on Japan until Aug. 8, 1945, “The Great Patriotic War” ended on May 9, with the surrender of Nazi Germany. Which raises a question:
What exactly is President Bush celebrating in Moscow?

The destruction of Bolshevism was always the great goal of Hitler. And the Red Army eventually bore the brunt of battle, losing 10 times as many soldiers as America and Britain together.

But were we and the Soviets ever fighting for the same things, as FDR believed? Or was Stalin’s war against Hitler but another phase of Bolshevism’s war to eradicate Christianity and the West?

Vladimir Putin, a patriot and nationalist who retains a nostalgia for the empire he served as a KGB agent, refuses to renounce the Hitler-Stalin Pact of Aug. 23, 1939. Under the secret protocols of that pact, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and the Romanian provinces of Bessarabia and Northern Bukovina were ceded to Stalin, as was eastern Poland.

Hitler’s attack on Poland, the success of which was guaranteed by that pact, came on Sept. 1, 1939. On Sept. 17, Stalin, who had hidden in the weeds to see how Britain and France would react to Hitler’s invasion, stormed into Poland from the east and claimed his share of the martyred nation. Six years of terror for Poles began, ending in 44 years of captivity in the bowels of what Ronald Reagan bravely called an “evil empire.”

As a result of this war, Hitler’s 1,000-Year Reich lasted 12 years and Germany was destroyed as no other nation save Japan. Hamburg, Cologne, Dresden and Berlin were reduced to rubble.

Between 13 million and 15 million Germans were ethnically cleansed from the Baltic region, Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two million, mostly women and children, perished in an orgy of murder, rape and massacre that attended that greatest forced exodus in European history.

As a result of the Great Patriotic War, Finland had its Karelian Peninsula torn away by Stalin and 10 Christian countries — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Yugoslavia — endured Stalinist persecution and tyranny for half a century.

Again, what, exactly, is Bush celebrating in Moscow?

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a soldier of the Red Army in the Great Patriotic War. Let us hear from him about what a wonderful cause it was. As for Putin, into whose soul Bush has looked, his position is understandable. From the vantage point of Russian vital interests, the Hitler-Stalin pact was a brilliant coup.

Hitler was on the path to war. The war he wanted was one with the Soviet Union: to kill it, carve it up and put every Bolshevik to the sword. His war was also to be a racist war. Hitler wanted to impose Germanic rule over Slavic peoples.

Stalin, with his pact, redirected Hitler’s Panzers to the west and bought the Red Army two more precious years to prepare for Hitler’s onslaught — years Stalin used well.

How did Stalin succeed?

On March 31, 1939, the British and French — in panic after Hitler drove into Prague without resistance — handed Poland an unsolicited war guarantee they could not honor and did not intend to honor. It was a bluff. But believing in that guarantee, the brave Poles defied Hitler over Danzig, stood and fought, and were crushed, as the British and French hid inside the Maginot Line.

But because they had declared war on him, though they had no plan to attack him, Hitler, in April 1940, invaded Denmark and Norway, and in May, the Low Countries and France. In three weeks, he threw the British army off the continent at Dunkirk, and, in six weeks, crushed France.

Meanwhile, Stalin provided Hitler all the food and fuel he had requested and declared Britain and France to be the aggressors against his Nazi partner.

When Stalin’s turn came and Hitler invaded on June 22, 1941, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov, who had negotiated the Hitler-Stalin — or Molotov-Ribbentrop — pact, said plaintively to the German ambassador, “What have we done to deserve this?”

Churchill and FDR rushed to embrace Stalin, gave him everything he demanded and more, and at Tehran and Yalta, ceded to him custody of all the peoples of Eastern Europe and of Poland, for which Britain had gone to war.

What Putin is celebrating is easy to see. But, tell me again: What exactly is our president celebrating in Moscow?

This is something I don’t understand about the way George W. Bush manages political situations, and I only understand a little tiny bit about the way America manages political situations. Bush, and his family dynasty as well, appears to place a great deal of importance on this concept of “political capital”. Like any successful politician, he believes in a “balance” of capital that must be “checked” frequently and accurately, just like the checking account balance of someone who doesn’t wish to be overdrawn. However, when the time comes to spend the political capital, it must be spent big time. Come the end of the “year”, whenever that is, the account balance will be zero no matter what; so you might as well spend as much as you can, or the difference between what was spent and what could have been spent, will be wasted.

George Bush, his father, and close friends of the family have made several comments that help support these viewpoints.

Apparently, someone in the administration feels there is sufficient political capital available to spend on celebrating V.E. Day in Russia, and if this capital is not spent it will be wasted. As I’ve said before: The lowliest Bush has held higher office, has more in the bank, and comes up in Google search results more often, than the most prestigious Freeberg — so who in the hell am I to argue. But I can certainly question, because there is an abundance of things here I do not understand.

Like: Why not simply celebrate Hitler’s removal from power?

And: What in the hell is it with FDR? Let’s re-examine my favorite pet peeve for a second.

Franklin Roosevelt locked up Japanese-Americans and stole their land, because they had Japanese blood. If Roosevelt were a Republican, we would look back on this and say “Ooh, Franklin Roosevelt did a bad thing.” it would be impossible to get a grade school education without being told about this. Any time the name “Roosevelt” was articulated on the news, there would be an obligatory closing-line about Japanese Internment (just as you can’t say “Reagan” without mentioning “Iran-Contra”, or “Nixon” without “Watergate”).

But when we look back on Japanese Internment, that was a bad thing we did. America is ashamed. This doesn’t make too much sense, because at the time our country seems to have been far from united politically on locking these people up. Roosevelt, and those closest to him, were pretty gung-ho about it, but even in his inner circles there was dissention about this move.

And we come to the infamous Yalta conference, wherein accords were reached that would result in 20 million people being exterminated in Soviet gulags. Thanks to President Bush, America is sorry about this even though Franklin Roosevelt is the guy right in the frigging picture.

America stands behind what its leaders do, doesn’t it?

Of course we do.

But it seems the answer to that question varies with the letter that goes in back of that leader’s last name. To those who think we should somehow apologize for removing Saddam Hussein from power, America didn’t do the job, George W. Bush did it, and it was, as the saying goes, “Not In Our Name”. Yet at the same time, we all seem to agree Yalta was a bad move, as was Japanese Internment — and nobody is ready, willing or able to recall that Roosevelt did these things, pretty much on his own, with lackluster-at-best grassroots support.

Which concerns me a lot. The more I read about what happened then versus what is happening now, it appears there were a lot more people opposed to Roosevelt’s policies back then, than toward Bush’s policies today.

We continue to pressure ourselves to apologize for things Roosevelt did. But an apology to the rest of the world is meaningless if our country is not determined to avoid previous mistakes. And the fact of the matter is, if a young, energetic, Democrat with a head chock full of ideas came along, just like Roosevelt did in 1932, we’d elect him in just as big a landslide, and we’d be just as negligent today in checking the new leader’s more questionable decisions, as we were back then.

I can’t stand Roosevelt. You know that old rule about not going shopping for groceries on an empty stomach? Roosevelt is a lesson that we shouldn’t annoint our heroes on an empty stomach. It’s human nature — if you’re starving and your family is starving, and someone comes along and feeds them, you’ll stand behind that guy no matter what he does. In the days to come he can screw things up royally, and you’ll still support him — after he’s dead, you’ll take the fall for everything, after the apologists have run out of things to say, still not blaming your rescuer directly for any of his various gaffes. That’s the mistake we made.

In the final analysis it all comes down to this: You can’t think straight on an empty stomach.

Look At Me, I Can’t Park For Shit

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

Look At Me, I Can’t Park For Shit

This car retails for close to a hundred grand. The coolness of the car is not really the topic of conversation here, but just for the record, I do consider this to be a very cool car. Yes, I do admire the car. Yes, I do admire people who own the car — until they park like dipshits and then I don’t. No, I am not jealous of the car. I am jealous of having to walk fifty paces to get to the storefront as opposed to a hundred and fifty paces, as I had to do, because this douchebag chose to double-park.

I say chose. That should be proven just from the photograph, but there are some additional factors you don’t see here.

  • The parking lot was not empty. It was quite full.
  • The owner/driver and his girlfriend were right friggin’ there and decided to climb in and get ready to depart as I approached — they were clearly aware that people like me had been inconvenienced, and I was about to do or say something.

You can barely see the top of the owner’s head. He’s watching me in the rear view mirror, wondering what I’m doing. I loved this part. He couldn’t quite start up & pull out, because I was standing slightly in the way. The look on his face was priceless. What’s this guy in back of me doing? He seems to be taking a picture with his cell phone. Is he going to report me? Is it illegal to park like this? Gee I don’t know, maybe it is, oh shit.

I didn’t confront anybody. The few seconds of squirming around was revenge enough for a piddly hundred unnecessary paces on my part. Your car costs ninety grand, my phone costs four hundred dollars. Your cool car can’t take a picture of my cool phone, but guess what…+click+

Oh and one other thing douchebag. You want your precious Viper to not get scratched when you go to the mall? VERY reasonable concern. Here’s a tip, asshole. TAKE A 1983 DATSUN!!! Leave the Viper in the garage. You MORON.

Oh, and uh…nice car.

Shut Up And Bring Him A Cold One

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

Shut Up And Bring Him A Cold One

This is actually a wonderful story. A swiss couple has just completed a five-year marathon around the world for charity. But all you guys who think marathon-running women are hot, are in for a big disappointment. According to the article, the hubby ran, the wife rode a scooter.

The Swiss husband-and-wife team of Serge and Nicole Roetheli have completed a five-year marathon around the world to collect funds for charity.

They arrived back in their hometown of Saillon in canton Valais on Saturday, after Serge had run over 40,000 kilometres, and raising SFr300,000 ($250,000) in the process.

The couple set off on their round-the-world trip on February 13, 2000. Five years later, they are back where it all began after travelling across five continents.

“We wanted to be free, have an adventure as a couple and help children in need,” said Serge shortly before arriving home. “Now it�s time to share our experiences with other people.”

While the runner slogged his way along the planet�s roads, his wife was right beside him, riding on a scooter or a motorbike with a trailer containing all their gear.

“There�s no way I would have started this without Nicole,” Serge told swissinfo. “It�s something we began together and we will finish it together.”

The hardest thing was simply running, said Serge, who was covering marathon distances six days a week.

If I’m that husband, there are a few rules for resuming “normal” life again. If it’s Friday night and we’re having the classic argument about going out dancing versus staying home, and I’m the one who wants to stay home, we’re staying. And when I say “while you’re in there can you get me a beer?” the question-mark on the end is only a courtesy. Bring it and pop it open for me. If we’re out, go buy some.

Twenty-seven thousand MILES, five years, me on foot, her in a scooter. Normally I think with the right woman, I’m pretty good at avoiding arguments. But by the morning of day three, I’d be looking at her kind of funny. This guy must be a Saint.

Now he’s got the ultimate trump card, too. Pick up some milk on the way home from work? I don’t think so, cupcake. Use your scooter.

I Am…Rabies

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

I Am…Rabies

I am Rabies. Grrrrrrrr!
Which Horrible Affliction are you?
A Rum and Monkey disease.

Humor That’s Not Funny

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

Humor That’s Not Funny

I was listening to Michael Savage take a call defending Laura Bush’s roasting of her own husband, President Bush. The caller chose to use what I guess is the only thing you could possibly say for the First Lady, the tried-and-true “aw gee whiz, can’t ya take a joke” defense, and it occurred to me we collectively have a serious problem today that goes far beyond the jocular realm of joking and roasting.

See, from the transcripts I’ve read, Laura Bush’s jokes were not only abusive, but they simply weren’t funny — at least, not to anyone who wasn’t already bearing hostile passions toward the President at the moment Laura Bush seized the stage. Particularly bothersome was the caller’s cavalier comment, “I don’t know of any wives who don’t make fun of their husbands once in awhile.” There is no middle ground on this. If you accept that ridiculing a husband is an indispensible part of marriage, Laura Bush only did what was natural, vital to a happy marriage, and indeed, what was long overdue. On the other hand, if you accept that some wives do *not* do this, then Laura’s behavior has been stripped of not only any defense it had, but any defense it possibly *could* have. Other married women respect their husbands; why can’t she?

And that illustrates why, although humor is ordinarily a private matter, this brand of it must be everybody’s business. If most people are in agreement with this caller, or if most people are merely sympathetic to what the caller said, I’m pretty sure I’ve been married for the last time. Marriage is a state of existence where ignoring what other people think, and *how* other people think, is a luxury you’ve given up forever. Your sense of humor is everybody else’s business, and their is yours. Jokes about being a “Desperate Housewife,” at the expense of your husband, are not harmless fun and they’re certainly not normal. I don’t care what anybody says, if this is an integral part of matrimony these days, count me out.

To those who would then accuse me of being humorless, I guess my response would have to be, at least in this one facet of comedy under discussion, you’re right.

I would then have to ask, are there any other ways to make people laugh? If not, then who exactly is it who lacks a sense of humor?

Humor is at its best when, if it is being used as a political weapon, this hostile purpose is relegated to a distant second-place status; the primary motive for the humor should be to entertain. Comedians ignore this rule at the expense of comedic value. To illustrate this, let’s take an example with a target I’d personally find delicious, Bill Clinton.

I say “You know why Hillary is so mad at Bill all the time? He makes her wear flat shoes in public so she doesn’t tower over him.” That was a classic joke about Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman when they were splitting up. A little on the mean side, not really knee-slapper material, but with Cruise/Kidman it has some humor in it because it connects to something widely understood about the targets. While his ex-wife is known for her regal, statuesque form (imdb biography lists her at 5′ 10�”), Tom Cruise is vertically compromised. Bill Clinton, at 6’2″, is not. With Cruise the joke is funny, with Clinton it isn’t. The Clinton joke, used in front of an audience of people who can’t stand Bill Clinton, like me, remains unfunny.

Suppose for the sake of argument, Hillary were to vouch for the anecdote that Bill makes her wear flats. This would make my hypothetical more similar to the unfortunate roasting event; Intellectually, you’d then have to accept it. She’s still his wife; who the hell would *you* be to contradict her? But here’s the kicker: Even then, the joke wouldn’t be funny. To worry about women towering over him, especially his own wife, is not Bill’s rep. To be told what kind of footwear to put on, by some guy, certainly is not Hillary’s.

So if such an expose came about, it would be heavy on the “oh my gosh” and extremely light on the “ha, ha”. It would not be humorous, and the only reason to laugh at such a thing would be out of petty meanness. It is human nature that to all of us at some time, and perhaps to some of us all the time, petty meanness can feel pretty good. By all accounts, this becomes a part of life inside the beltway. But all things that feel good, are not necessarily humor.

That’s the trouble I have with Laura’s “jokes”. Sure they drew laughter, but the material failed to connect with anything in the President’s “rep” save for this tidbit about going to bed early. Compare that to the howlers involving things the President actually did, for example, talking about putting food on your family, or injuring himself while eating pretzels. Out of necessity, then, any laughter rewarding Laura Bush had to be one part titter-titter and about eight to ten parts just-plain-mean.

Perhaps the time has come to admit something. The business activity — that is precisely what it is — of drawing political blood from political opponents in public, political settings, has been looking for shelter after shelter lately, like an ugly, vicious, venemous spider looking for a dark place. It has found a particularly suitable refuge in humor, where, when meanness is accused of being meanness, meanness can then lash back with the almost foolproof “can’t you take a joke” defense.

I say, for the sake of our collective intellectual health, if a joke passes the “being mean” test and fails the “being funny” test, let’s call it what it is. Surely that’s not an extreme position to take.

One other thing; I take it as a given, until it’s proven to me otherwise, that the woman who called Michael Savage is far, far in the majority with her idiotic ideas about how wives should treat their husbands. If you conduct a poll, especially among women, she is right and I am wrong. Any of you single, lusty women who are smarter than I am in this way, do me a favor. I’m big and fat and ugly and I never smile and I thoroughly lack what you think is “humor”. To ensure the happiness of all of us, let’s play a game where I’m Michael Corleone and you’re Fredo. You go someplace where you think I might be, let me know a day in advance so I won’t be there. And for God’s sake, stop hitting on me.

Hot Elephant Sex!

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Hot Elephant Sex!

More Republicans are happy or extremely happy with their sex lives, they’re more likely to wear something sexy to enhance the experience, more likely to be enjoying a committed relationship with a significant other, and they’re less likely than Democrats to fake an orgasm.

Explanation? Democrats are bad people. Good explanation I’d actually bet something on? Well… honestly, I’d have to suppose some better-quality thinking is in order.

I notice in the realm of economics, the thinking of Republicans and Democrats is significantly different. Over the years I have noticed when I discuss economic issues with Democrats, often they will ask what I make every year, add ten thousand to that number, and promise me I will never, ever, ever, ever make more than that number in my entire life. I have yet to meet a Republican who will do anything remotely like this — Republicans, if they promise me anything, make assurances I will make a fortune, lose it all, make it back again, lose it again, etc. Or if I won’t, then they will.

This simplifies things grossly, but still, I believe, summarizes the situation usefully: Democrats think circumstances are inseparably welded to people, whereas Republicans think circumstances are inseparably welded to the things people do — which the people can change any split second, just by deciding to do so. What this has to do with the improvement of your sex life over time, especially with a particular partner, should be obvious. Great lovers are made more than they are born.

And as I’m often fond of pointing out in my more childish and crude moments, for reasons that escape me, Democrats overall seem to have some prurient fascination with sexual positions and activities that do not result in the woman having a climax. They like to have Surgeons General who push masturbation on school children, they worship male Presidents who receive oral sex from female interns and then lie about it, they like men who are uncertain about their sexual identities to jump over the fence and beef up the statistics of the homosexual population. They shower celebrity status upon certain families whose surname rhymes with “Pxlfefennedy”, in which husbands knock up wives eight times or more in rapid succession, and then take off for a long string of sweet young things in spiked heels that don’t smell like baby vomit or fabric softener.

For a party that is supposed to be concerned with womens’ liberation, they don’t strike me as overly preoccupied with the woman actually having a good time.

Anyway, it makes sense. If something’s wrong in your bedroom, and money-wise you actually believe people are born with letters branded on their foreheads like “R” for rich and “P” for poor and are going to their graves in whatever economic circumstances they’re in…AND you don’t think that highly of giving women fun to begin with…how likely are you, really, to fix what’s busted in the bedroom?

I know there are some silly spots in what’s written above…but I just can’t think of anything that would be more “accepted” (in other words, dry) and still explain these patterns. Maybe someone else can.

People Stacker vs. Greyhound Hopper

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

People Stacker vs. Greyhound Hopper

Continuing the theme about how we’re “all” getting sick and tired of hearing about runaway bride Jennifer Wilbanks, appropriately enough perhaps, but at the wrong time — just when it is becoming really newsworthy:

How many people really, truly, in their heart of hearts, actually want to know more about Abu Ghraib and the ongoing legal workings of Lynndie England’s trial?

I’d like to know more about Wilbanks and a lot less about Abu Ghraib. But I recognize that I’m not a representative sample. “Most” people, I suppose, are more or less equally curious about & equally saturated with both stories. And yet, the coverage of both stories has not been equal. The notion that we should “move on” from the Wilbanks affair, now that the bride has been exposed as a liar, seems to me to be kind of…pressured. Artificial. Thank goodness Jennifer is okay, but Lord knows, if she just stayed missing and nothing else happened here, we were set to hear about this day in day out, month in and month out. Now a “just another missing person” story has been transformed into a fascinating expose of a shameless sociopath, which could benefit us all. Whoops, we’re tired, nothing to see here.

The story does have a limited lifespan, but that’s because people understand the key players here are strange, superficial, probably of limited intellect and probably not the kind of people you want to study for too long. This is why there’s not much demand for a three-hour special episode of “Jerry Springer”. Strange people are like ice cream; fun to consume for, maybe, a few minutes and then after that you want to stop.

And yet, what exactly would you call Abu Ghraib?

The coverage goes on and on and on, about every little detail…save the one that is most important. The one thing that is under-reported in Abu Ghraib, that I would like to know more about, is the notion that privates and specialists were ordered to do things that may have violated international treaties, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and then plausible deniability was preserved so that the people who dirtied their hands could be blamed for everything.

So a story that makes America look bad, is overplayed, except for the part about lying.

Another story about a missing bride, was all set to be overplayed, until the story became all about lying. Now the satellite trucks are packed up & moved out.

But based on my face-to-face discussions with people…”real” people, who are much more tuned-in to what “most” people think than I can ever be…I don’t see much correlation between what people want to know about, and the decisions that these editors are making about what readers will read and what television viewers will see.

It doesn’t look like marketing research at all. Nothing grassroots about it. It looks so from-the-top-down. So forced. So phony.

In fact, the last time the elites lectured to us commoners so shamelessly about what it was we wanted to know, and what it was we didn’t want to know…the first thing I can recall is this thing about not having sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky. Private matter, move on, nothing to see here. Every story is fascinating until it morphs into a story about lying.

You know what I think is happening here?

I think this country is about to become a place where the practice of lying, in any shape, form, size, intention or motive…is shunned. Where there is thought to be no acceptable excuse for telling a lie, especially to large numbers of people. Where once a person, especially a public figure, is exposed as a liar, people never, ever listen to what that person has to say, ever again.

Where, Republican or Democrat, a person caught deliberately telling a lie, is greeted with about as much widespread sympathy as…someone burning a cross on a neighbor’s lawn.

We’re teetering on the brink of “falling” into that “abyss”. What a wonderful thing that would be, to at least have some universal agreement that truth is good and lying is bad. That lies can be dangerous things, at least as dangerous as…let’s say…tobacco.

And that prospect absolutely terrifies people who are responsible for reporting the news.

How much news have we experienced in the last quarter century — especially the bad kind of news, which makes the most money for those who deliver it — resulting directly from liars being believed?

No, if you do anything at all with reporting the news, you can’t afford to work in a culture where people recognize the danger of a lie and act accordingly. News people are paid on commission. No bad news, the paychecks get smaller. People-at-large make rational, adult decisions based on trusting the trustworthy and doubting the known liars, and before you know it, there is less bad news. Anything that might possibly lead to a national dialog on the high expense of lies, and the danger to human life that results from lying, must be avoided.

Ergo. Jennifer is missing and may be dead, the masses must be “instructed” that they are fascinated with this story, even after the prospect of additional “news” within the story becomes remote. Jennifer is found and revealed to have fabricated the whole thing, you “instruct” the masses that they are fed up, exhausted, and ready to move on.

You doubt me?

How many times last year did you hear “Bush lied, people died”? A lot, right?

How many times did you hear an explanation of what, exactly, the lie was?

Whoa…crickets are chirping.

Why Pay Attention

Wednesday, May 4th, 2005

Why Pay Attention

Here’s an interesting thing about the Jennifer Wilbanks affair. While she was missing, there was a national consensus that we should find out what’s going on with this desperate situation, and now that she’s found, there is a national consensus that it’s time to tune out. Why pay attention to old news?

Well, I would argue the direct opposite thing. While Jennifer Wilbanks was missing, she was another missing person, and I have to challenge the notion we had any reason to pay attention at all from Day One. People go missing all the time. Now that she is found, there is an abundance of reasons to follow along. I’ll list them here.

For starters: She lied in such a way, that put a great number of people into terrible situations, apparently with no second-thoughts or remorse from her, forcing them to spend vast sums of money, effort, emotional turmoil…attention. There are valuable lessons here. I’m pretty sure by the time I’m a hundred and fifty, I will not quite have figured out all the ways people can lie to me; I sure as hell don’t have a handle on it all now. Speaking for myself, I’m finding the prospect of a post-mortem pretty useful.

Secondly: Once one is done studying liars, it is useful paying attention to the behavior of those who have been lied to. The most important lesson, by far, is that when you don’t know everything you need to know, it is critically important to keep a running inventory of what exactly it is that you do not know. This really isn’t news to anyone. But keeping it in mind, and acting upon it, poses a stiff challenge.

Take a look at this monster-size, twenty-four page thread from a site called “websleuths”. The timeline involved in these posts deals mostly with the time when Jennifer’s whereabouts were unknown (someone announces Jennifer has been found near the bottom of page twenty.) The thread is chock full of people who “know” what happened to Jennifer Wilbanks. It’s very heavy on emotion, very light on thought, and in hindsight we can see most of these comments were a hundred and eighty degrees off course. I would expect that anyone who was looking at the prospective groom in a funny way during the actual disappearance, would find this glance in the rear-view mirror to be awkward, even painful. It’s a good pain.

Some notable exerpts:

I don’t want to pass judgement too quickly, but I was just watching her fiance on Greta…you’d think they were talking to someone who didn’t know her well. Not much emotion…just chatting about her routine, etc. It was just weird to me….to my husband too. He just didn’t seem upset….and as far as some of his earlier comments they are eerily similar to Mark Hackings. I hope I am wrong….just an observation.
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…the wedding is right around the corner and all of a sudden it hits him and BANG he loses it! he isnt going to be single anymore and is going to have responsibilities! what kind of a man is this fiance? (Age, profession, been married before, that type of thing?) i havent seen him yet….
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Hi guys just jumping in late here and I don’t really have to much to offer except that I have a real uneasy feeling about John Mason. He is just too nonchalant for me. I know that some folks like the secret honeymoon thing but dang, I would want to know what the climate was, did I need a passport etc. Personally I am beginning to think that there were no honeymoon plans. This whole case is giving me a sinking feeling.
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Hmmm, interesting. What else do we know about Mr. Mason? Have the police checked the house? What’s his family situation? This huge expensive wedding leads me to think it has something to do with jealousy, money, something like this. Friends in high places can also bring enemies in high places.

And I’m not trying to put anyone down with this — we’re all susceptible to this. We’re conditioned, when no action whatsoever is required of us, to think as if action is indeed required of us. And when we are committed to action, our brains are already programmed to fill in the information that is missing…with…well, oftentimes, with crap.

Third: While Jennifer has turned out to be an irresponsible nutcase, and therefore, one of a large crowd and probably not very much worth watching, her fiancee John Mason is become a subject that you’ve just gotta watch. His dismissive comment on Fox News, �Haven�t we all made mistakes?� sums up what is wrong with so much around us. The idea has been advanced that perhaps, Mason can think straight after all — he gave the “correct” answer for public-relations purposes, to appease the feel-before-thought crowd which must always be appeased, and the next step for him is to run like hell.

Perhaps. But it does not appear so.

I think the guy is committing suicide and he doesn’t know it. Sure, if and when he marries Jennifer Wilbanks, he’s got another half century on the planet, maybe more. It’s even a possibility, perhaps even a likelihood, that he’ll be able to accomplish something on par with what he would have achieved if he were a life-long bachelor. Guys with ditzy wives can do things, too. Slavery in this country, after all, was ended by the husband of a nutcase.

But having a crazy wife is one hell of a pebble in your shoe. Sure, there are a lot of people who insist such a thing is tolerable, maybe even pleasant. These people all seem very sure of themselves. Only problem is, they’re all women and single men.

The bottom line, is this:

The story has just started to affect those of us who aren’t directly involved in it. When a woman goes missing, and there’s a lot of emotion because she was about to get married — sad as it may be for those directly involved — such a story has only a minimal potential for affecting our lives. But when a man resolves to marry a woman he already knows to be a dipstick, this has an effect on everybody. It lowers the expectation of what a woman should bring to such a union; it raises the expectation of what a man should be willing to tolerate.

Additionally, it raises some questions that appear to be unanswerable. John Mason is committed to marrying somebody. Who or what would he be marrying? Marriage isn’t just “Fornication Under Consent of the King”, it is a series of mutual commitments. To simply function day-to-day in a marriage, you have to be able to do things…have certain attitudes. You have to make obligations and live up to them.

You can’t marry an irresponsible person anymore than you can make a mortgage loan to a dog. Dogs may be wonderful creatures, loyal in every way; but they don’t have mortgage loans, they don’t have bank accounts, they can’t subscribe to Netflix. You have to be a certain age to be married. That’s one of the reasons why. Your legal ability to make commitments, and accept commitments from other people, is one of the requirements for a marriage.

Fourth: We’re learning something important about ourselves — chiefly, what poor decisions most of us make in determining when we should pay attention and when we should butt out. A broad, all-encompassing syndicate of “cluck-cluckers” has emerged, intoning that what happens from here-on-out is solely the business of John Mason and Jennifer Wilbanks. The rest of us should move on to other things because “there may be something in that relationship the rest of us don’t understand.”

No shit, Sherlock.

I’d like to know where you “we don’t understand what’s going on” people were when Jennifer was missing? With an attitude like that, you might have been among the few who nailed down exactly what was happening, or at least, what was not happening. You could’ve even made some decent money.

She Speaks Her Mind

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

She Speaks Her Mind

Whatever passions I had inflamed against liberal Hollywood celebrities was mostly spent last year, and these things really don’t get too much of a rise out of me. But I get apoplectic when television personalities and talking heads promote cheap things as being valuable, like Geraldo Rivera and Rosie O’Donnell apparently did in this transcribed love-fest.

“You know, this President invaded a sovereign nation in defiance of the UN. He is basically a war criminal. Honestly. He should be tried at The Hague. This man lied to the American public about the reasons for invading a nation that had nothing to do with 9-11. And as a Democrat, as a member of this democracy, as somebody who is a mother who cares very much about the fact that our sons and daughters are being asked to give their lives daily, I feel I have a responsibility to speak out, as does every other person who disagrees with this administration. And it’s scary in a country that you can say something against the President and then worry about your career. That Dan Rather gets taken off CBS News for writing, for saying a report that essentially was true, that George Bush did not show up-”

Rivera jumped in to cut her off: “Okay, okay, we get it, we get it!”

O’Donnell: “Okay. There you go. But anyway. It infuriates me.”

Rivera: “Riding the Bus with My Sister is going to be a great film. Andie McDowell. Directed by Angelica Huston.”

O’Donnell: “See my publicist, she starts screaming, ‘stop talking about politics.’ It’s a good movie. It’s on CBS. But you know what, Geraldo, you always speak your mind. So when I’m with somebody like you, it encourages me.”

Rivera: “I throw you a kiss, I throw you a kiss. Good luck. One and only Rosie O’Donnell. You may not agree with her, probably don’t, but she speaks her mind.”

Yeah, she speaks her mind. And?

We have some kind of shortage of that lately?

Hey, I’m the first to sign up to the idea that when we all stop speaking our minds, democracy is as good as gone. I hope that day never comes.

But there’s a big difference between saying that, and saying we need more Hollywood celebrities to voice their opinions. Their poorly-informed, half-baked opinions. A game of ping-pong involving opinions, which in turn rest on nothing, doth not a discourse make. That is how I would summarize the exchange above, if Geraldo challenged Rosie. But alas, he did not. Read it again. Rosie reacts to the news, Geraldo applauds her for using her mouth. Rinse, repeat.

To really get the hang of how silly this is, substitute the word “opinion” with “fart”.

“Ooh, Rosie, that last one was silent but deadly. Well done!”

“Nice one! Did you have chili and cabbage last night?”

“Oh my! That actually smelled nice! Like chocolate or strawberries!”

Ludicrous, isn’t it? But that’s exactly the point. An opinion that rests on nothing, delivered with a temperament that is unprepared for, and will not tolerate, a dissenting response, does democracy no good. It is as much an underpinning for the freedoms we enjoy…as a left-cheek sneak. No more, no less.

He Has A Speaker Problem…And A Mouth Problem

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

He Has A Speaker Problem…And A Mouth Problem

We need more judges like this. Why? Because many among us are concerned about keeping their “rights” but aren’t willing to find ways to live among the rest of us as they exercise those rights. Those people in particular, every time they open their mouths, like the subject of this article does with the very last line therein — they are the ones curtailing their own rights.

Think about it. If they would simply keep their mouths shut, and put a little bit of mental-elbow-grease into “how do I enjoy my rights without interfering with other people” then they would be able to do pretty much anything they want. Anything, so long as, they didn’t disturb anybody else. Right?

ALEXANDRIA, La. – A judge has ordered a teenager who blasted his pickup truck stereo to remove all non-factory installed sound equipment for violating a noise ordinance.

Calvin Bennett Jr., 18, got the loud-music ticket in 2004 but missed his initial court appearance. Last Monday, he was arrested for contempt of court and spent the night in jail. He appeared Tuesday before district Judge Thomas Yeager on the loud-music citation.

The teen pleaded guilty, got a 90-day sentence suspended and was given probation. As a condition of probation, he had to turn in his drivers license for 30 days and remove his stereo equipment.

Yeager said he ordered the sentence to try to deter young adults from disturbing their communities with loud music. “It is a big problem but one that has a solution,” he said.

The Pineville and Alexandria police departments stay busy fielding loud-music complaints. Both cities have ordinances addressing loud noise, including drivers playing their radios too loudly.

“The sentence isn’t going to stop me playing music,” Bennett said. “I love my music.”

Over on FARK, the opinions seem to be split 50/50 between “Hooray!” and “This judge is a dick.” No, I didn’t go through and count them.

that judge is a dick. if old people don’t like it they should stfu and take out their hearing aid.
F*** old people who never had hos. They don’t know how i gets my hos in my truck. I am young and no all abouts my hos an my music

Hillary ’08
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90 days suspended, and 30 day loss of license? for having a loud system? the “justice” system can suck my bawls.
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You think that judge is being a big enough dick? this kid needs to get his buddies together for a drive-by bassing of the Judge’s house.
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What I find hilarious is when I see an old clunker with a ridiculously expensive sound system in it. The owner could have MAYBE just bought a better car.

For just a second though, let’s hover a notch or two above this science of gathering hard facts and confining opinions strictly to those facts…and use a little bit of common sense.

It really isn’t about enjoying the music, is it? It’s all about being seen & heard listening to the music.

There’s a huge difference. I think we all would agree that if someone is concerned about just listening to his music, why, we all should be interested in finding a way for him to enjoy unlimited freedom in listening to it…and if we can’t find such a way, then he ought to be able to enjoy as much of this freedom as is possible without interfering in the lives of other people.

But we would also agree…if the motive is to be seen and heard listening to the music, as if it’s some kind of gang calling card, or mating ritual — why, you do NOT have unlimited freedom to do THAT. And yet, who would really stick his neck out and infer this guy just wants to listen to the music he loves so much?

Bet your bottom dollar? Your left testicle?

Bullshit. He is an exhibitionist. And nobody’s really got a good strong argument to defend your unlimited freedom as an exhibitionist. Cursory, introductory, paper-thin freedom, yes. But somewhere, that expression stops being “speech” and the freedom dissipates. Probably before a fat man wears a thong. Definitely before some punk jackass wants to listen to his music so loudly that he has to add more equipment to hear it the way he wants it.

You have a right to speak. You do not have a right to be heard.

I Don’t

Monday, May 2nd, 2005

I Don’t

Pay attention, single available men: Think of the unborn children that will be yours someday. Let us say there is a woman who would like to steal $150,000 from those innocent kids. Take it from their college savings, before they are born. Pilfer it from the fund set aside to pay their medical expenses as they grow up. Suck it down from the grocery budget, purloin it from underneath the Christmas trees. A hundred and fifty grand. Some woman wants it.

Would you give it to her?

Supposing she knew where the money came from and still wanted to come after it, would you make love to her? Several times?

Give her a ring? Suffer through an endless parade of rented Julia Roberts movies you can’t stand, for her? No?

Why on EARTH would you marry her then?

According to this Money Magazine article, which I stumbled across by reading about this awful Jennifer Wilbanks affair, that’s exactly what’s going on every time a wedding adds up to the average $26,327 in cake, dress, catering, jewelry, and gift registries. In 30 years, that compounds to nearly 150 large at six pertcent.

Yeah, sure, money isn’t everything. But let’s face it, gentlemen: A household that has $150k in the bank is better off than a household that doesn’t, and a household with no debt is better off than a household $150k in the hole. Come ON, fellas. This is just common sense.

When it comes time to buy a five thousand dollar cake, tell her no. Even you pussified men who love to listen to Michael Bolton and think it’s a woman’s job to make the decisions for the household. If you honestly believe that, and she’s the Captain of the ship…you are the first mate. If your bride wants to take on debt for an extravagant wedding you can’t afford, then the Captain is crazy and is going to sink the ship. You have to take command.

Now, then. The above is the situation if and when your fiancee does not run away, fake her own abduction, and turn you into Scott Peterson for a week. If this is what she does, things are changed…your next move should be obvious.

If you are a man, unmarried, not wanted in several states, with four functioning limbs and a working set of baby-makers & pipes, you have an abundance of God-given gifts. The job that has been entrusted to you by your Maker, boils down to this: Do not look back on yourself several years down the road and say to yourself “Eeh, masturbation would have been so much cheaper!”

It’s your life. Your choices. The biggest mistake you can make is to compare loneliness as it is, with marriage as marriage has the potential to be. Loneliness has potential too…and marriage can have a dark reality to it, too.

Yes I know, nobody will ever read that and if anybody does, if they’re in the position where they need to see it, it won’t affect anything they do one tiny bit.

But once upon a time, in generations past, every once in awhile, a woman got told no. Nowadays it doesn’t seem possible for this to be the case. Women make demands on men, and the manliness of the man is automatically correlated to his readiness, willingness and ability to grant the wish — as judged by the woman, who may or may not have the maturity to make heavy decisions for the not-yet-born household. The Jennifer Wilbanks saga is just the latest symptom of this nationwide epidemic. This is nuts. Men aren’t fairy godmothers, they’re men. They are trustees of the livelihood of their future unborn children. And the world would be a lot better off if the men who failed to realize this, and failed to act upon it, somehow also failed to reproduce.

Other than that, I really don’t have too much opinion about it.