vrijdag, januari 31, 2003

New Telephone Call Algorithms in NYC

"It is possible that the telephone has been responsible for more business inefficiency than any other agency except laudanum.... In the old days when you wanted to get in touch with a man you wrote a note, sprinkled it with sand, and gave it to a man on horseback. It probably was delivered within half an hour, depending on how big a lunch the horse had had. But in these busy days of rush-rush-rush, it is sometimes a week before you can catch your man on the telephone." - Peter Benchley

As if the new ban on smoking in public places due to take effect March 30th wasn't enough of a hardship on New Yorkers, beginning tomorrow, we're all going to have to start dialing "1" plus the area code before making any local phone calls. That's right sports fans. 11 digits instead of the usual 7 to call across the street to order a pizza or some chinese food.

Admittedly, this may not sound like much of an added burden until you put it in the proper perspective: this is a 57 PERCENT INCREASE in the number of digits to use to make a simple local phone call! Lest you think, bah, 57 percent, that's nothing, think of 57% in this vein:

According to 2000 census information, there were 83,286 people per square mile in Manhattan. Increased by 57% would mean there would be about 130,759 people per square mile in Manhattan, more than one and half times the amount of people currently squeezing themselves together in Manhattan. You think it's crowded now? Imagine almost twice as many people squeezing into the same number of apartments, standing in front of you in lines, crowding the sidewalks, talking loudly into their cellphones, taking up twice as much space in subway cars, making garbage, coughing, spitting and pissing in public places, killing each other and taking up available cabs. Think Calcutta.

The act of nearly doubling the amount of daily dialing New Yorkers will have to perform will likely result in a new wave of repetitive strain disorders like digital flexor stenosing tenosynovitis, flooding the offices of orthopaedic surgeons throughout New York. This doesn't even consider the type of mental and emotional strain and perhaps even tidal wave of new forms of clinical insanity brought on by the type of matrix theory required for figuring out the new system; reprogramming speed dialing lists, dial-up modems and call forwarding programs, etc.

If you thought the Y2K hysteria created problems, just wait until tomorrow. It was bad enough trying to disseminate the glut of long distance carriers and media personalities, the Terry Bradshaws, Emmitt Smith, Mike Piazza and Alf commercials for 10-10-220 predials for long distance savings and the 1-800 COLLECT AT&T and 800 CALL ATT commercials featuring people like that unyieldingly painful red-headed human pez dispenser, Carrot Top and the distractingly provocative traffic-stopper, Eva Savealot.

Now try to figure out, once you've dailed the prerequisite 1-212 or 1-646 or 1-347 or 1-800 or 10-10-220 prefix, just who the hell it is you were trying to call to begin with. Was it a local call? A long distance call? A prank call? In the end, I'm afraid I'll have so many numbers and possible combinations in my head, just picking up the phone to begin with is going to turn into some sort of horrific LSD trip nightmare with the demons of celebrities and algorithm mathematicians and AT&T operators and incalculable number strings all shouting inside my head for attention.

The etymology of the word "telephone" is that it is a combination of the Greek "tele" ("distant") and "phone" ("sound"). Sure, an instrument that converts voice and other sound signals into a form that can be transmitted to remote locations and that receives and reconverts waves into sound signals sounded like a good idea once. But if I have to dial millions of combinations of numbers to enjoy this technology, I'm just not interested. From now on, I'll just stay within shouting distance of everyone I want to talk to.

Favorite Quote of the last 10 years

"Whenever I watch TV and see those poor starving kids all over the world, I can't help but cry. I mean I'd love to be skinny like that, but not with all those flies and death and stuff," --Mariah Carey, true, or not.

donderdag, januari 30, 2003

"New" Europe's First Words: Give Me Liberty or Give Me Bush

Last week, in a metaphorical slap across the nonconformist, anti-war faces of France and Germany with his dueling glove, Donald Rumsfeld advised reporters, in response to criticism of the US position, "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe." "Old" Europe thus became, in essence, any European ally incapable of blind support for US military action against Iraq.

Never fear however for today, the members of the "New" Europe were knocking themselves over in a race to reveal themselves in the form of a declaration that was published in 12 European newspapers and urges Europeans to unite with Americans to force Saddam Hussein, Iraqi president, to give up his weapons of mass destruction. The declaration was signed by the prime ministers of Spain, Portugal, Italy, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Denmark. Conspicuously absent of course, were the signatures of Chirac and Schroeder, the leaders of France and Germany.

The declaration urges Europeans to stand by the US at a time of great danger to international peace. It says Europe and the US have common values of democracy and freedom. The prime ministers urge the UN Security Council to ensure that its resolutions are upheld or risk losing its credibility. They warn Mr Hussein that this is his last chance to disarm peacefully. It does not authorize the use of military force against Iraq or give a preemptive standing ovation for any course the Bush Administration chooses to take against Iraq.

Rumsfeld, while disingenuously depicting America's alliance as "shifting more to the East than the West," meant of course, the most recently enlisted new members of NATO (Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary), all of whom signed the document, as well as those seven Eastern European nations invited last fall to join NATO; Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Slovenia, and Bulgaria, when he said "Look at vast numbers of other countries in Europe. They're not with France and Germany on this. They're with the United States."

Oddly enough, none of the seven NATO invitees of Eastern Europe signed the document. Neither did Holland. Most, like France, Germany and Greece, were neither consulted nor contacted by the document's authors. Lithuania and Latvia expressed that they hadn't been contacted but would have signed had they been contacted, while other countries have passed on supporting Bush at least until February 10th, the next session of the UN council. In an even odder twist, according to Bulgarian newspapers, "24 Chassa" quotes relatives of Bulgarian emigrants to the US as saying that the US authorities want their relatives to join the US army if a military operation is launched against Iraq. If they refuse, they will be sent back to Sofia. The same story is reported in "Standard News."

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that according to a new poll, four out of five Europeans are opposed to participation in a United States-led war on Iraq without explicit United Nations backing.

The survey by EOS Gallup Europe found that 82 percent of European citizens would not support their countries participating in a military intervention without UN support.

I wonder which part of that 82% constitutes "old" Europe and which part constitutes "new" Europe.

Let's face it, no matter how hard Administration officials want to play off this new joint declaration of solidarity as a loud voice of support for war, only 8 of 15 EU prime ministers signed it. Greece - which currently holds the EU presidency - said the letter did not reflect an official EU position. In Brussels, the European Parliament passed a resolution today calling on the United States not to take unilateral military action and urged the United Nations to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Le Monde considered that "the parade of vassals" had begun, implying of course, that those who signed were nothing more than servants to the will of Bush. In fact, an unnamed diplomat is quoted as saying that it seemed "the hand of the United States" was behind the declaration. He noted it was ironic that the only three signatories of the declaration from Eastern European countries who were the only three countries who were members of NATO and applicants for EU memberships. Nothing like the old carrot and the stick routine.

In fact, the more you consider it, the more this does seem to bear the mark of cynical political gamesmanship typical of the Bush Administration, going behind the back of any members of the EU who had not enthusiastically and satisfactorily aped the desires of the Bush Administration. The declaration, a petty and backstabbing sucker punch with the goal of driving a wedge between EU members simply to satisfy the insatiable invasion-twitch of Bush, is a ploy which should be recognized for what it is: meaningless and counterproductive.

woensdag, januari 29, 2003

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

One thing I learned watching television last night: Congressmen and Senators are praetorian little cheerleaders, capable of derailing and stalling even a long awaited speech by the President with unnecessary and frequent interruptions for applause. These overzealous idiots turned a 42 minute speech into a 59 minute long groupie handclapping exhibition and would have put me to sleep prematurely were it not for the fact I'd already endured the painful experience of yet another overly-hyped yet equally uninformative experience on Sunday with the advent of the Stupor Bowl and was well-prepped.

For the purposes of intelligibility and economy, I've translated and broken down some of the key elements of the State of the Union speech President Bush delivered last night into three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

1. When Bush said Secretary of State Colin Powell "will present information and intelligence about Iraq's illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.", he gave a splinter of hope to the rest of the civilized world that the final decision of war on Iraq will not necessarily be based on the "because I said so" principle.

2. The rated "R" section of the speech which was the gruesome catalog of Iraqi torture methods: ["Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained: by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape.]. Is this really supposed to shock a nation of viewers already inundated with the violent images of television and movies? Next time, photographs or illustrations would be more effective. Or, in consideration of the general tone of the speech that addressed its viewers in simplistic, rhetorical imagery, perhaps Dubya should have taken a little chalkboard to draw stick figures on.

3. Reminding Europeans of their own sordid histories of unilateral imperialism by promising that the United States, if forced to go to war, would "exercise power without conquest", implying that unlike European imperialist powers of the 16th through 19th centuries before it, the US will not occupy and ruthlessly exploit lands it invades.

4. Addressing an Iraqi people without access to CNN or uncensored television coverage by saying: "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country,". It may well be true but did he really think the Iraqi people were going to hear him?

The Bad

5. "We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people, and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.". In other words, speak only when you're spoken to and if you don't agree with me, then keep your opinions to yourself and if you don't agree with me then to hell with you. It doesn't really strike me as the sort of diplomacy that lends itself to legitimizing the UN. Why doesn't he just come right out and admit the UN, if not a vehicle of American goals, is a charred and demolished wreck on the Highway of Death.

6. "I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean." THIS is a brutally cynical piece of political Manicheism. What we are told in essence is: America is going to invade Iraq whether anyone likes it or not. As a token gesture, here is a few hypothetical billion dollars so I can make a nice segway into my sad tale of poor Africans being turned away at hospitals, told: We can't help you. Go home and die."' Of course, Bush says that "The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth and to show some spending discipline in Washington, D.C." $15 billion to pay off a few thousand people in Africa doesn't sound like spending discipline to me.

7. "Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans, this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known.". The biggest problem here is the question: WHAT has one got to do with the other? Simply linking IraQ and Al Qaeda because they share a few Qs in their names and showing no substantive proof otherwise just doesn't cut it. The issue of linking Iraq and Al Qaeda is supposed to be settled next week by Colin Powell. Of course, the Bush Administration has been promising these breathtaking samples of Saddam's direct duplicity in 9/11 ever since the war grumbling first started. Unless they move to overtly doctoring photographs and falsifying documents, I expect the usual flowery language itself will be the summation of Bush's case against Saddam and will have to suffice.

The Ugly

8. "Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world; it is God's gift to humanity." God's gift to humanity?! The liberty we prize? I thought God's gift to humanity was CREATION. (Assuming of course, you, like me, are willing to take that wild leap of imagination and pretend there really IS a God, winkwink). This is a frightening attempt by Bush to lend his mission to invade Iraq the credibility of a religious mission of mercy for all the rest of the duplicitous anti-war mongrels populating the Earth who don't believe in him.

9. "We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving god behind all of life and all of history. May he guide us now, and may God continue to bless the United States of America." I don't know about you, but if GOD has ALL this power to guide us and bless us and give us the gift of liberty and creation then I guess everyone should vote for GOD in the next presidential elections since Bush appears only to be God's spokesmodel.

10. The president also alluded to the sacrifices the military may have to make. "The technologies of war have changed; the risks and suffering of war have not. For the brave Americans who bear the risk, no victory is free from sorrow," he said. I have one word in particular for this cynical attempt to link himself with other military men in the past who have actually FOUGHT in a war and know what a REAL WAR is like: Chickenhawk. A chickenhawk is a person who is enthused about one's country engaging in WAR ( hence "hawk"), but makes sure that his or her own butt isn't anywhere near the fighting (hence "CHICKEN) or, a cowardly hypocrite. The Bush Administration, in particular, seems riddled with them. Those within the Administration calling hardest for war: Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz have, uh, surprise! NOOOO combat experience. So what business does someone like Bush, who never fought in a war, have in telling the REAL soldiers about the "suffering" of war? Perhaps the ole Texas Air National Guard is alot tougher than we were ever led to believe.

dinsdag, januari 28, 2003

State of the Union: Anticlimactic Disappointment Ahead?

A week ago, in what one thought might be a hint of tonight's Big Speech, the White House released a document it called an Apparatus of Lies, Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990-2003. This report takes a broad look at Iraqi deception, illustrating Saddam's commitment to deception and his contempt for the truth. It provides facts and contexts that should be applied to the statements and images forthcoming from the Iraqi regime.

One might have believed that with the nation on the brink of war, Bush has an onerous task of convincing Americans why they should go to war with Iraq. Apparently not. Apparently, listening to quixotic polls that show Americans want him to focus more on the economy, this speech will instead try to focus more on fringe issues which, considering the potential $45 billion to $200 billion price tag of an invasion of Iraq, are essentially likely to be irrelevant within a short period of time.

"Most of the State of the Union will not be about Iraq," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. "Most of the State of the Union will be about improving America's economy and providing greater access to health care for millions of American people, including senior citizens."

To counter concerns about Iraq, Bush intends to reiterate his assertion that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and is linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, officials said. But new evidence of those charges will not be revealed until next week by Secretary of State Colin Powell, perhaps at the United Nations, officials said.

Mark Davis, who wrote President George Bush's speech to a joint session of Congress in September 1990 that laid out the case for what became the Gulf War indicated that the balance for the president "is to find some way to get people sufficiently alarmed about the emerging threats to this country, but not so alarmed that they lose confidence in the future. That's a very delicate task."

"I think that's a false dichotomy, because the stock market and investments are on hold until he resolves this anyway," said David Gergen, a former speechwriter for Richard Nixon who also worked in the Ford, Reagan and Clinton White Houses. "And if he successfully resolves the Iraq crisis, there will be overwhelming support for him in the Congress, and that will smooth the way for passage of most of his economic programs. In my judgment, his Iraq policy is his economic policy."

Of course it's a false dichotomy. First of all, where are these phantasmal polls anyway and why are they given such high importance? Polls are misleading, inaccurate and using them as a guideline for domestic and foreign policy is further indication that beyond the parrot-like repetition of the "Time is Running Out" mantra, the Bush Administration is essentially a rudderless war machine looking for a fight. Gallup, one of the world's largest management consulting firms notes that prior to the Super Bowl, 51% of Americans picked the Raiders to collect a fourth Vince Lombardi Trophy, while just 32% choose the Buccaneers. That should give you an indication of the wisdom of allowing poll results of random Americans to influence your decisions. There has never been any confusion about the fact that most of the population of America appears handicapped by some sort of congenital stupidity. What else would explain a repeat of another failed Bush Administration kicking off a war against Iraq?

[The war in Iraq is] a rare opportunity to move toward an historic period of cooperation. Out of these troubled times...a NEW WORLD ORDER can emerge. --Bush the Elder, before Congress on September 11, 1990.

More than twelve years later the only New World Order that has emerged is the Order of Chaos, a hidden fractal order underlying all seemingly chaotic events which repeat basic patterns but with an infinity of variations and forms.

Or, if you prefer, you could just consider that these are still troubled times. The looming war in Iraq is "not the center of the peril, merely a symptom of it", as David M. Shribman notes.

Bush shouldn't give more than a cursory wave at the economy because regardless of polls, Americans are going to be ALOT more affected by a war with Iraq than they are a handful of tax breaks to the rich or the frivolity of senior citizen health care. A State of the Union speech that ignores what seems like the inevitability of war with Iraq will be more like a State of Evasion speech.

zondag, januari 26, 2003

On Any Given Sunday

"Tampa Bay has about as much chance of making it to the Super Bowl as there is Saddam Hussein calling in live on the Larry King Show and making a teary confessional that he does indeed have hidden weapons of mass destruction and would someone please come and remove them for him" -- Desultory Turgescence, mocking Condoleeza Rice's prediction of a Tampa Bay-Oakland Super Bowl last week prior to the AFC and NFC Championship games.

Having proven the ultimate futility and fruitlessness of any attempt to outguess the Condoleeza Rice NFL Clairvoyance Conspiracy, Desultory Turgescence now officially reconsiders its opinions on the old, "time is running out" flim-flam, and Rice's special relationship with Paul Tagliabue. In fact, it now appears certain, when reading between the lines, that Rice has brokered a deal allowing Tagliabue to remain in power as the NFL commisioner in return for a special psychic vision which applies to the results of NFL post season championship games.

This "vision" has something to do with the results of the NFL post season championship games being decided in advance, passed on to Rice so that she can appear on Meet the Press, dazzle us all with her uncanny telepathic abilities thereby lending credibility to her other prediction: the "Time is Running Out" incantation that coyly hints around at the demise of Saddam without coming right out and saying: Saddam is as good as dead.

BBspot would have us believe that the invasion of Iraq will begin and conclude during the half hour, halftime intermission of the Super Bowl. Champion mouthpiece Colin Powell, in his best Donald Rumsfelt imitation said early today that the United States is ready to dance this tango solo if necessary. The problem with that belief is that few of the Super Bowl Ads would be applicable to a halftime invasion of Iraq.

Instead, the White House plans on occupying themselves with unleashing yet another series of harsh anti-marijuana propaganda. For those interested in seeking a silver lining in this black cloud of hypocricy, you can be comforted by the fact that at least they've toned down the "smoking pot is equal to flying commercial jet airliners into American financial and military facilities" brand of hysterical rhetoric typical of last year's ads.

In one of the other new Super Bowl spots, from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York, a man riding on a subway car sees the ghosts of victims of drug crimes who tell him the dealers were fighting about his money. "Drug money supports terrible things," the ad says. So does government money for that matter. In fact, ALL money, at least in part, supports terrible things. It's a typical sort of hocus-pocus, the kind of fact-twisting and puerile deductive reasoning popular in political campaigns.

In another "America Good, Marijuana Evil" -type ad, a little girl who could be from Latin America appears as a ghost to a female office worker to tell the woman that "you killed me." The child then goes on to explain that she was a victim of a drug dealer whose product the office worker purchased.

I'm getting the impression that the REAL message of the The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is that smoking marijuana induces hallucinations of ghosts suffering some unresolved trauma or psychological conflict and haunting YOU for smoking that bong hit last week because that bong hit just cost us the war!

Frankly, I'm not buying it.

The way Desultory Turgescence sees it, if anything goes wrong with the War, the primary people to blame will be Celine Dion, who will be croaking her way through "God Bless America" and the Dixie Chicks, who will be harmonizing on the National Anthem.

First of all, what are they trying to tell us by having that Canadian-style Pop Holocaust spector of Celine Dion whining her way through a song about America? Weren't there any AMERICANS available? If we're going to use foreigners to extravasate "God Bless America" I'd rather see Uday Hussein, with the fate of his father's regime tied to his castrati falsetto, twitter his way through his song with an AIM-9 Sidewinder Missile tied to his back. Celine Dion should be singing songs about birth control and why French Canadians should be kept in iron cages in some remote Canadian wilderness, not "God Bless America". Listening to her is going to make everyone so sick to their stomachs they won't be in the mood for war for many days later.

And the Dixie Chicks doing the National Anthem? Do we really want a bunch of Hee Haw harlots turning our national anthem into a jug band revival? Better if they save their energy for a bikini-clad Miller Light "Tastes Great-Less Filling" cat fight.

Hopefully, the Super Bowl will be a classic. Between the marijuana induced ghost hallucinations, the French-Canadian dry-heave rendition of "God Bless America" and the hillybilly hoedown, not to mention the calls to war, the incessant commercials for beer so bad you wouldn't wash your car with it and the John Madden spasmotic outpourings, if the GAME itself doesn't distract us, we are all likely to lose our minds, run mad into the Super Bowl night, tearing out our eyes to rid us of the image of Celine Dion.

Condoleeza Rice is going with the Oakland Raiders again this week. If they win, Tagliabue probably gets another 5 years as NFL commisioner. If they lose, well, Tagliabue may find himself declared a pot-smoking French Canadian terrorist for singing subliminal messages of comfort to the enemy.

Prediction: Oakland 31 Tampa Bay 16.

vrijdag, januari 24, 2003


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donderdag, januari 23, 2003

Holland 101: Welcome Back To The Status Quo

With all the whining and complaining about what crappy allies the French and the Germans are simply for being a little reticent about jumping on a War As Fast As Possible bandwagon, it might have gotten lost that the Dutch held their second national elections in the last 8 months yesterday.

The results of the previous election, held last May, just a little over a week after the assasination of its primary opposition leader, Pim Fortuyn, were overturned in October with the collapse of the coalition government which consisted of Fortuyn's old party the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, in a shaky alliance with the Christian Democrats (CDA) and the VVD (Liberal party). The collapse of the government was brought about, in large part, because the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, sans Pim Fortuyn, wasn't much more than a list of fatuous, squabbling second-raters with a penchant for childish theatrics.

It would seem to the casual observer that perhaps resentful of having to vote a second time within a year due to the inner turmoil of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch turned their distemper to the LPF with a vengeance. The Lijst, which won 26 seats in the 150-seat lower house of parliament the last time around, won only 8 this time around. In truth, the LPF had already cashed in most of their credibility the last time around and frankly, Pim himself has been dead for almost nine months. Memory fades.

So, without the memory of their assassinated, charismatic leader, the LPF floundered and in their wake, the votes, perhaps out of a lack of creative inspiration, went back to the stale, insipid duo of the past, the Christian Democrats and the Labor Party who for the last 30 years, have traded places as ruling members of the coalition government giving the population an illusion of stability.

The national elections are only the beginning of the fun however. The real fighting and bickering is on the horizon. Because no one party received a majority of votes, a coalition government still has to be formed and a pugnacious battle is eagerly awaited. While the Christian Democrats, led by the Harry Potteresque, bland Jan Peter Balkenende won the most votes, they didn't win the majority. The previous coalition, which failed like a martini that had been stirred rather than shaken, had consisted of the Christian Democrats, the Liberal Party and the Lijst Pim Fortuyn and is still a possibility for forming a current coalition since by themselves, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal Party don't have enough seats to construct a majority. But given the past history of the Lijst Pim Fortuyn, it doesn't seem likely that the Christian Democrats are going to ask them to jump in bed with them again any time soon.

The "logical" coalition choice, counting seats alone, would of course be the number two seat winner, the Labor Party. Such a coalition ruled Holland from 1989 to 1994 under Christian Democrat Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers. The Labor Party leader Wouter Bos understandably noted that "negotiations should start as soon as possible," while Balkendende himself, the future Prime Minister, indicated a long period of horse-trading may be ahead, saying that there were "many risks" in going into a coalition with Labor.

One of the primary points of contention could be foreign policy. Although it had not been a campaign issue, Labor Party leader Wouter Bos said in a post-election speech he would "work to head off a war with Iraq." Balkenende's previous government had pledged to offer the United States logistical support in the event of war.

However, regardless of their stance, the Dutch shouldn't have to be worried about being relegated to being part of the Old Europe coalition that Donald "If We Wanted To, We Could Kick God's Ass In A War" Rumsfeld coined for an unenthusiastic France and Germany yesterday. They should be more worried about how to expand the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague to accomodate the future residences for people like Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and their proselytic flunkies in the White House after the reconstruction of the New World dust settles.

woensdag, januari 22, 2003

What Would Jesus Eat?

U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet threw out a widely watched lawsuit that blamed Big Macs, fries and Chicken McNuggets for obesity in children.

The plaintiffs, Jazlyn Bradley, 19, and Ashley Pelman, 14, of New York City, sued McDonald's because they are fat. Perlman submitted an affidavit saying she weighs 170 pounds at 4 feet, 10 inches and has been eating at the chain three to four times a week since she was five. Bradley, 4'6 and weighing in at 270, claims that during a four-year-period she ate twice a day at McDonald's.

Well, not just because they're fat but because, they claim, McDonalds never explicitly TOLD them eating fast food meals every day for many years would make them fat pigs The parents of these children say they never saw posters in the restaurant explaining the nutritional content of the food. Bradley's father went as far as to claim in his affidavit that he "always thought McDonald's was healthy for [his] children."

One can only imagine how confusing it can be. Yes, their People Promise; that they're "not just a hamburger company serving people; but people company serving hamburgers", is misleading. It gives us the idea that serving mass-produced hamburger product is a perfectly benign form of free enterprise. C'mon in kids! We're all happy here, shoving expurgated flesh of questionable origin down our throats, stuffing our orafices with oil-saturated french fry product and other cheap forms of undigestible toxins! That's why they're called Happy Meals!

After all, a company using a clown half-breed as a pied piper mascot leading children to the Land of Obesity and Death isn't about coming clean with the truth. If you read over their Social Responsibility Report, you might actually get the impression that McDonalds cares about the junk food zombies they've created.

One need only look at the fine print found in their nutrition breakdown. I can just see the parent who, in the face of an incessant barrage of smiling children "Happy Land-C'mon, Everybody's Doin' It" McDonalds commercials invoking Brave New World bromides of cheerful eating and lifestyles, tells his kid, "You can't eat at McDonalds because it has the nutritional value of eating your own feces." Kids don't want to hear that. They don't want to know about nutrition or becoming fat pigs or eating unhealthy foods. Not American kids anyway.

The level of deceit in McDonalds' commercials reminds me of that movie Motel Hell, a charming classic about a farmer who is famous in his area for making the best smoked meat ever to tickle the tongue. Only thing is, the smoked meat in question is human flesh and the faithful customers have become cannibals.

This recent suit had claimed that addiction to McDonald's led to obesity. The core of the case was that the company did not provide the necessary information on the health risks associated with its food. This is the first such case against a food company to find its way into a courtroom. But for some time fast food firms have been dreading the moment when their liability for the crisis of obesity is called to account. The suits dovetails into a sharp rise in obesity in America. More than half of US adults were judged overweight by recent research; serious obesity now accounts for 280,000 deaths a year; 11 per cent of children are obese. The low price of junk food means the disease is generally entwined with poverty.

There is a parallel precedent in tobacco litigation where plaintiffs sued because they were "misled" as to, or "unaware" of, the contents of cigarettes and their deleterious health effects. Big American companies have become wary of such cases: the multi-billion dollar settlement by tobacco companies began with a simple writ by a lawyer whose friend died of lung cancer.

But Judge Sweet, despite throwing out the claim, did not let McDonald's off the hook completely. Referring to Chicken McNuggets as a "McFrankenstein creation" of elements not used by home cooks, he said the plaintiffs could refile their case with information backing their claim that diners have no idea what is really in their food or that the products have allegedly become more harmful because of processing.

As someone who has witnessed those idiotically jubilant depictions of the joy of eating McDonalds questionable food product, someone who has looked into the power-drunk eyes of that infanticidical clown and has heard the demogogic theme songs propagandizing the wonder world of junk food, I would say there wasn't much the parents of Jazlyn Bradley and Ashley Pelman could have done to save them from the adiposity of such a tempting and misleading world.

In the end, the parents of those children should follow the same ecumenical logic applied not so long ago to the purchase of automobiles and ask themselves honestly: Would Jesus eat this shit?

dinsdag, januari 21, 2003

Time Killing Miscellany

Probably foolish, but I decided to look further into Google and check out their "NEW" Google tour. In and of itself, the Google tour proved far less fascinating than I was hoping. Certainly not worth the price of admission. Perhaps the only thing that remotely piqued my interest was Froogle, the new product search service from Google, which you're supposed to use to find the best deal on exactly the model of whatever you want to buy.

So I tried five different product searches and here's what I found out about the world and its products:

Search #1: Frog's legs...fully expecting a wide array of imported, smoked frog legs or gourmand's frog leg recipe books, imagine my surprise to find not only the Suzanne Somers Simulated Emerald/Clear Frog Ring but that it was SOLD OUT. What?! Next stop, the Surreal World. Because it was sold out, I couldn't even get much of a product description so I had to revert to a regular old Google search to find out more. And yes, it's true, Suzanne Somers has fallen hard from the unparalleled summits of Three's Company to the basements of Bargain Junction, some sort of online bargain warehouse. I wasn't able to find the damned emerald frog leg ring anywhere but did find out that there isn't much as far as crappy costume jewelry that Suzanne Somers won't put her name on to hawk. The other thing I noticed right away was that all the reviewers/buyers were from the South as if the internet had suddenly made it to the trailor parks of America. Makes sense though. Who else would go online to buy an inflated $18 Suzanne Somers faux-emerald frog ring?

Search#2: Human Flesh...figuring of course, on exacting a pound of flesh or perhaps a few lost items from an embalmer's table. Instead what I get is the enigmatic Force Fed On Human Flesh, an album by a band called Gorelord. Gorelord plays something called "Gore Metal" which I at once realized had nothing to do with Al and Tipper's kinky sex lives and instead is a paen to insane, hideous & blood-soaked death metal with groove-based elements incorporated in the musical nightmare. I'm wondering how come the Live with Regis and Kelly show hasn't booked Gorelord as a musical guest yet. Maybe Gorelord could do the soundtrack for a President Bush Press Conference someday...I guess what I like best about Gorelord is their original Top 40 title tracks like "Crushed Skull On Christian Shoulders", "Dismembered Virgin Limbs" and "Necrophilic Orgy In Entrails & Cum". Hmmm. And they say MTV has ruined music. Tsk. Tsk.

Search #3: Saddam Hussein. Of course, no online merchandise purchase inquiry is complete without a search for Saddam Hussein. In fact, I think no official of the White House Inner Circle is allowed to go more than 34 seconds at one time without uttering Saddam's name in yet another in a long line of "final" warnings so, in a way, this was my token patriotic search. You'll be happy to note that the free market gurus at a company called, originally enough, "America" are offering Saddam Hussein Toilet paper for a mere $7.95 per roll with "wipe out Saddam" printed below each photograph of Saddam on each square. Ingenious.

Search #4: Weapons of Mass Destruction. The way I figure it, Saddam has plenty of weapons of mass destruction and just doesn't want the UN inspectors to find them because then he can't resell them on the global online WMD superstore at an inflated price. Instead, what I found was the G.I. Joe Mopp Marine. Now, if you're like me and haven't been assiduously updating your G.I. Joe doll collection, you probably wonder what the G.I. Joe Mopp Marine has to do with weapons of mass destruction or what the G.I. Joe Mopp Marine is for that matter. Well, first of all, M.O.P.P. is an acronym for Mission Oriented Protective Posture. Apparently, over the years, G.I. Joe dolls have come under fire from new and more powerful weapons of mass destruction which pose an even greater threat to them than before. As such, given the natural predilection doll owners have for preserving their dolls, the demand grew for dolls with protective gear that could be donned with incredible swiftness and which did not hinder their combat abilities too greatly. That was reason for the birth of the M.O.P.P. doll. The beauty of course, is in the disclaimer noted by the manufacturer, just so we know the lads at Entertainment Earth are not overt racists or anything: "Please note: the ethnic variation is randomly packed; consequently the item received may be Caucasian or African American." It's a comfort I couldn't have slept without.

Search #5: Terrorists. Seemed like a logic follow-up since everyone is combing the earth to find them...believe me, there were plenty of books and videos available about terrorists. Even terrorist action figures but since I didn't want to take the chance they'd be shipped to me in a box full of anthrax, I decided against it. In the end, I settled for the Maniac Nurses Find Ecstasy video. What do maniac nurses have to do with terrorism? Plenty, you'd be surprised. You see, in this video, Ilsa and Sabrina are a mother/daughter team of lesbian nurses with sadomasochistic tendencies who, with their compatriot Greta, enjoy luring unsuspecting strangers back to their remote clinic and subjecting them to various homegrown tortures. Could it be considered terrorism? I dunno but with a price of less than ten bucks, I can't wait to find out.
Burger Wars
"You understand this is not a hamburger; it's a Kobe beef burger. You can't make a burger for $41 with chopped beef. It's Kobe beef; it's night and day what we're talkin' about." Marc Sherry, owner of the Old Homestead Steak House

While the troops are being shipped out en masse in the preparation for war, another war of a different sort has erupted between NYC and Texas. The Hamburger War.

Just when you thought puerility and edacity had reached their lowest standards, along comes a transcontinental contest to outdo one another over the price of a hamburger.

A week ago, firing the opening salvo, NYT writer Ed Levine announced he'd eaten hamburgers every day for two months in all five buroughs of NYC in order to write a great NYT burger article which, up to the point of his apotheosis, which sadly turned out to be a Blue 9, "California-style" burger, was a fascinating article for flesh eaters everywhere. A great job if you can get it, traveling the diners, chuck wagons, mess halls, saloons, burger joints and swank burger parlors in search of the sublime burger.

Levine wrote about a $41 monster burger that had recently appeared on the menu at the Old Homestead on Ninth Avenue, built of beer-fed Kobe beef, with lobster mushrooms and microgreens, on a Parmesan twist roll.

And we all know by now that anything anyone can make or do, Texas can do bigger and better. It must have been a profane cataclysm down in Texas to hear the "city folk" up here in NYC were able to concoct the Most Expensive Hamburger. But the shock wore off quickly and soon enough along came John Randall to build a 24.2-pound cheeseburger bigger around than your standard garbage can lid at the Texas Chili Parlor on the appropriately named "Lavaca" Street in Austin, Texas. In a demonstration of Texan ingenuity and perspicacity of a hamburger situation that could get out of control, Randall got out his calculator (or asked his 15 closest relatives and neighbors to help him count fingers and toes) and figured out how large a burger he could build for $41 with the $1.69-a-pound burger meat he uses at the Texas Chili Parlor. And he came up with 24.26 pounds.

But you know those barbaric, bromidic Texas: they just used plain ole "burger" meat instead of Kobe beef to make their burger, those unremitting bĂȘtes sauvages! As we all know by now, Kobe Beef is not some everyday chunk of cow flesh. No sir. Kobe Beef cows get massaged with sake and have diets based on beer. They are chauffeured from cattle call to cattle call, they drink Krug Clos du Menil by the case and date super models.

In the end, it doesn't matter anyway, they've both been outdone already by superchef Daniel Boulud who is introducing a new and improved DB Burger which ads layers of fresh shaved black truffles to the successful formula of ground sirloin and chuck stuffed with fois gras and braised short ribs, and topped with horseradish mayonnaise and tomato on a fresh-baked parmesan bun. It will be served not with fries but with pommes souffles, or crispy potato puffs and will be served for the special, black truffles-fluxtuating price beginning at $50. FOR A HAMBURGER.

I've been thinking about joining the Hamburger War. I've got the perfect thing in mind to top them all: The Desultory Turgescence SUV Burger: just a regular old Big Mac served with a side of Cadillac Escalade ESV SUV, the most powerful luxury SUV available. I figure with a MSRP of $56,162.00, this SUV Burger will be the most expensive burger around, at least until the Texans start cipherin' and figure how many pounds of ground chuck they can buy for $60,000.

zondag, januari 19, 2003

Sunday On The Tube
"Mustard Gas Is Not Marmelade"
- Condoleeza Rice, quoting Hans Blix regarding Iraqi hidden chemical weapons

Condoleeza Rice performed her "Time Is Running Out" talking points speech for Tim Russert and the rest of America on Meet The Press this morning with a well-mannered salience and gap-toothed rectitude. She repeated the phrase "time is running out" so often, she needed additional glasses of water to assuage the resultant wearing away of her vocal chords. "Time is running out. Time is running out, you are getting very sleepy" she cooed to the cameras, inducing a swinging pocket watch for the cameras.

The repetition or restatement of an idea at intervals not only promotes clarity, but encourages the acceptance of an idea. When you repeat and emphasize one idea, competing ideas are subordinated and sometimes are driven completely out of the audience's mind.

Fortunately, I snapped out of it when I heard her characterize the UN inspectors as "hecking and pecking" all over the country of Iraq searching for weapons violations. All I could see were giant chickens in a chemical weapons barn yard waiting to be rescued by Pasado's Safe Haven and whisked out just in time to escape the conscientious bombing campaign hailstorm of Paveway II laser-guided bombs and chaos eagerly anticipated by Administration officials sometime in February.

"What is the message we convey to the world if we are eager to apply a doctrine of pre-emption on those countries with limited ability to defend or counterattack, and yet waffle over a pre-emptive response to dangerous regimes with firepower to hit back? The unanticipated result of this doctrine may be to unleash a global scramble to acquire the means to deter the U.S. from unprovoked attacks,"

The old buzzard Senator Byrd was at it again this past Friday, stirring up trouble on the double-edged sword The Administration is using in the use of preemptive force in dealing with North Korea and Iraq. What's this? Is this America's latest hit release: New Bullies On The Block? The dancing Bushmasters, Choreographing with the Cheneys, Pussyfootin' Powell and SheMale Sensation Condoleeza Rice? Old Man Byrd should probablity tone down the senility aria a little bit. He's hopping up and down on the Senate floor like a chicken hecking and pecking for chemical weapons in Iraq.

No worries Byrdbrain. Pyongyang is next on the gravy train. They're already hard at work on a contingency plan for whenever Kim Jong Il finally snaps like a twig and goes running through down the dirt roads of the Chagang Province looking far ahead, with his left hand akimbo and his right raised to indicate the road for the people to advance.

I'm still trying to figure out how someone who spells their first name in Ebonics gets to speak on Meet the Press as a key member of the White House inner circle.

Sure, Condoleeza Rice is not just another pock-marked, gender-based face that repeats foxy Hip Hop Hypocrisy for the White House Cheerleader Coaching Staff. Other than "Time Is Running Out", she has also mastered the term "robust military presence" as if it were in her own language. I believe Condoleeza Rice can be taught even more jingoisms and soundbites quite easily. She's got alot of potential. All it takes to teach her to master other terms is patience and perseverance. The principle behind a parrot "talking" is mainly imitation, aided by reward reinforcement. A parrot's squawks, even without being taught, can sound quite human. Sure, Condoleeza hasn't learned to hack out her lies in coughing spasms like the master, Dick Cheney, but it wouldn't take much to get her to extend her capabilities a little more.

The thing I like about Condoleeza Rice is she can show she's wacky enough and can step outside the lines when she wants to. Take her selection of a Tampa Bay - Oakland Super Bowl next weekend. An unteachable comedic talent. As everyone already knows, Desultory Turgescence has already predicted a Tennessee - Philadelphia Super Bowl. The John Gruden coming back to coach against his old team is like some pathetic Disney Films tear-jerker that no one is buying. Tampa Bay has about as much chance of making it to the Super Bowl as there is Saddam Hussein calling in live on the Larry King Show and making a teary confessional that he does indeed have hidden weapons of mass destruction and would someone please come and remove them for him.

Today pans out like this:

Philadelphia 23 Tampa Bay 6. Tennessee 37 Oakland 31.

Let's hope by the time the Super Bowl kicks off, Condoleeza Rice has mastered a few more mantras to chant for us. Time is running out was a hit at the Comedy Cellar and the Go Bananas Comedy Club but for a BIG national event like the Super Bowl, she'd better come up with something new and original. Really Condoleeza, time is running out.

donderdag, januari 16, 2003

AIDS Muppets: Next Up, Sesame Street Turns Into Crack Ghetto

A muppet is defined as a creature that is manipulated by a puppeteer with at least one hand inside the muppet itself. Most of us have heard about, at one time or another, "famous" Muppets like Kermit the Frog, a green fleece frog who made it big as a Utopian, benevolent television hero and movie star, or Miss Piggy, an overweight, porcine pig who fancied herself a leading lady but in reality was little more than a bloated, self-important bimbo. But until now, few had heard of Kami, the HIV-positive muppet.

"We are living in a society that is very stigmatising and discriminatory," said Musa Njoko, a South African AIDS activist. The introduction of Kami "is going to create a culture of acceptance."

The culture Kami was created in is South Africa which has one of the world's fastest growing HIV/AIDs populations and with a total of 4.2 million infected people, South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Already, 1 in 4 South African women between ages 20 and 29 are infected with the virus and nearly 20% of its population.

While Kami is designed to serve in a cultural fight against the stigmatization of and discrimination against those diagnosed as HIV-positive, it/he/she doesn't do much to explain to anyone how she became infected in the first place.

An AIDS dispute came to wider international attention two years ago, with a South African government reluctance to use AZT to prevent transmission of HIV from pregnant women to their children. The reasons are unclear, but many treatment activists in South Africa and elsewhere think the government fears that providing antiretrovirals to prevent transmission would lead to demands for antiretroviral treatment for everyone who needed it, demands which the government could not fulfill, given current prices and international trade rules. Whatever the reason, South African President Thabo Mbeki raised concerns by citing reports of AZT toxicity, which many believe came to his attention through AIDS dissident sites on the Internet--despite the worldwide consensus that the benefit of using AZT or other antiretroviral treatment to reduce mother-to-infant HIV transmission greatly outweighs the risk.

The widespread belief in South Africa that having sex with a virgin will cure or prevent the disease has led in the past to an increasing number of infant rape.

Now, a muppet is supposed to do a better job of educating them.

And what a job it's doing, combined with another muppet, Neno, singing catchy songs like: "I have hair and you have hair, la dee dum, we are the same," croons the red Muppet Neno. "I have AIDS and you don't, tra la la, we are different," hums his mustard-colored friend. The two burst into a song and dance routine: "Oooo, we love one another. Same and different, yeah."

Yeah, right. Next thing you know, they'll be having Israeli and Palestinian muppets singing together under a hail of muppet IDF semi-automatic fire and rocks hurled from intifada teenage muppets...oh, wait a minute. They already have that with the Puppets of Peace, the Hebrew Rehov Sumsum and the Arabic Shara'a Simsim show that creates two interconnected Sesame Streets, one Israeli, one Palestinian, whose residents live in proximity to each other but somehow DON'T KILL EACH OTHER. How's that for a fantasy land?

I'm now convinced they'll make muppet shows and characters out of any serious world problem that can be trivialized, write a few catchy lyrics, promote a peace, love and understanding agenda and continue to brainwash kids against the evils of thinking for themselves. In light of that, here are a few ideas:

Animosity Strasse where a Neo-Nazi skinhead muppet dates a Turkish immigrant muppet in a German elementary school. Together they sing Das Deutschlandlied and drink beer from large muppet steins, arm in arm.
Pyongyang Street where an emaciated, malnourished North Korean muppet willing to trade nuclear weapons in exchange for food with a wealthy, imperialist American muppet sings songs like Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction.
Blood for Oil Street where the Iraqi despot muppet is sold that otherwise innocent American children buy en masse just so they can tear them apart in the streets, rip the stuffing out of the Iraqi despot muppet, stomp it into the ground all the while chanting "war criminal!" "blood for oil!" and "kill the evil dictator!" over and over. (Hey, I've SEEN it in the streets of Des Moines!)

These are of course, just a few ideas. I'm sure the wonderful folks at The Children's Television Sweatshop will be happy to come up with some more. Just as soon as they finish eating their happy meals and brainwash candy.

Gratuitous Posting of Uruguayan Poem Following Conversation With Argentine Cabbie

This Mario Benedetti poem came up the other night in conversation while riding home in a cab from Mehanata 416 BC. The cabbie was an ingratiating, polished intellectual expatrioted to NYC from Argentina. As I stuttered with my recollection of the poem which I couldn't remember in its entirety, (just a few lines in fact), the cabbie recited it to me from the top of his head, in its entirety, with commentary and I scribbled it down as fast as I could. If you haven't heard of him before, Mario Benedetti is a substantial Uruguayan poet and political essayist/critic who writes metaphors of the Uruguayan reality. This poem, uniting love with political protest, has always been a favorite:

Te quiero:

Tus manos son mi caricia
mis acordes cotidianos
te quiero porque tus manos
trabajan por la justicia

si te quiero es porque sos
mi amor, mi complice y todo
y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho mas que dos

tus ojos son mi conjuro
contra la mala jornada
te quiero por tu mirada
que mira y siembra futuro

tu boca es tuya y mia
tu boca no se equivoca
te quiero porque tu boca
sabe gritar rebeldia

si te quiero porque sos
mi amor, mi complice y todo
y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho mas que dos

y por tu rostro sincero
y tu paso vagabundo
y tu llanto por el mundo
porque sos pueblo te quiero

y porque amor no es aureola
ni candida moraleja
y porque somos pareja
que sabe que no esta sola

te quiero en mi paraiso
es decir que en mi pais
la gente viva feliz
aunque no tenga permiso

si te quiero es porque sos
mi amor, mi complice y todo
y en la calle codo a codo
somos mucho mas que dos

woensdag, januari 15, 2003

Sanctity of Life Day

It appears that previously, I only thought I was losing my mind. Confirmation that I actually have lost my mind came this evening while reading that someone named President Bush has declared a National Sanctity of Human Life Day and pledging his administration's commitment to ``build a culture that respects life.''

He proclaimed this Sunday National Sanctity of Human Life Day, urging Americans to mark the occasion at home or in places of worship, to help others in need and to ``reaffirm our commitment to respecting the life and dignity of every human being.'' Good one.

What a noble man, what a noble thought, but I believe some translations are in order.

When President Bush, with the fervent devotion of the intransigent Chimaerae at the National Right to Life clamoring at his side, mutters something unintelligible like the "sanctity of life", what he really means is the sanctity of lives that "don't get in the way" of our beloved billion dollar bombing.

When President Bush says he wants to "build a culture that respects life", what he really means is build cultures that help us "maintain global US pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests".

I'm not even sure I think we should be celebrating the sanctity of life anyway. First of all, according to World Population Awareness, "there are One billion teenagers just entering their reproductive years - The largest "youthquake" ever. The world is growing by more than 76 million people a year. At the current rate of growth, even accounting for a continual decrease in the growth rate, the world population is headed for double digits within 50 years." Life's nice, but this is a bit overdoing it, isn't it? We barely have enough space to breath here as it is.

Secondly, according to those wacky Raelians, humans are already being cloned. Ok. The Raelians are scam artists and fakirs who want to use space aliens as concubines, but the ability to clone humans is well on its way to fruition. What that means is that in addition to the uncountable masses already reproducing practically out of the womb, mad scientists will be running around making clones of these uncountable masses for years to come.

That's just too many damned people for me. The "sanctity" of life has diminishing returns in my book when there aren't enough Big Macs in the world to feed all those lives, no matter how holy or sacred they are deemed to be.

So if they really want to run around like Henny Pennys screaching and preaching themselves hoarse about the "sanctity of life" and other similarly catchy, though gratuitous slogans, they should start thinking about the rest of us already here. The one's who don't have their little human "dignity and respect" Daisy Cutter bull's eyes painted on their heads yet, that is.

dinsdag, januari 14, 2003

Kill Your SUVs And Grow Your Own Weed

A campaign known as the Detroit Project is airing television commercials connecting SUV drivers to terrorism.

"This is George," a girl's voice says of an oblivious man at a gas station in the first ad. "This is the gas that George bought for his SUV." The screen then shows a map of the Middle East. "These are the countries where the executives bought the oil that made the gas that George bought for his SUV." The picture switches to a scene of armed terrorists in a desert. "And these are the terrorists who get money from those countries every time George fills up his SUV."

Wait a minute. Didn't the President's Insane Drug Posse just tell us, only one Super Bowl ago that buying drugs was helping to fund terrorism? Didn't they spend $3.5 million to drill this into our zonked and hopped-up, drug addled brains?

Yes, I seem to recall vaguely, through an admittedly unhinged, groggy haze that President Bush hit the same theme when he signed the Drug-Free Communities Act: “If you quit drugs, you join the fight against terror in America.”

Well, don't let anyone ever say I wasn't willing to join the fight against terrorism in America. In fact, in my great rush to join the fight against terror in America, I threw away my bongs and hash pipes that evening following the Super Bowl. Flushed my big stash of weed down the toilet along with all the pills, the dance drugs, charred foil paper wraps, the anabolic steroids, coca leaves and of course, the opium poppies. I certainly was not going to contribute to terrorism.

Once I'd stopped taking drugs, I became a successful, productive citizen. Instead of sitting around on the sofa all day, unemployed and shoving Ding Dongs and potato chips into my mouth while watching commercials for truck driver academies and Oprah's battleship weight fluctuate weeky, I decided to find work. And it wasn't hard, because this is America and anyone who wants a job in America can have one provided he isn't a lazy, terrorist-loving pot smoker. Without drugs fogging my head, it was only a matter of time before I became compulsively masculine, a venture capitalist, prosperous and blood thirsty in the boardroom like a good American, kicking people in the teeth on my way to the top and within weeks, was making my first millions.

Proud of my immediate success, I looked for different ways to show the rest of the world how rich and successful and important I was. So I watched more commercials because frankly, commercials tell every successful person what they need to know about being successful and staying successful. Through commercials I learned which credit cards to use, which investment bankers to consult, which beverages to drink to get all the hot beach bunnies, and most importantly, what kind of car to drive.

It wasn't an easy decision. There seemed to be so many automobiles out there that screamed "prestige" and "power" and "babes" that it was almost too confusing to make a choice. But there was only one vehicle out there that really fit the the protype of the athletic, powerful, sportsman-like, thrilling, staggering consumerist person I'd become and that was of course, the Sports Utility Vehicle. When I saw these commercials depicting happy, gas-guzzling Americans decked out in hipster hiking gear tearing around in the dirt, up mountains, or through snow, driving like Sherman tanks over any terrain, I fell in love. I just knew for certain that this was the vehicle for me because not ONLY does an SUV tell the world "hey, I've got enough money to buy a big, expensive car," it also says, "I, unlike those other drug-abused human carrion terrorist supports, can afford to spend thousands of dollars on something silly and frivolous like gasoline every time I want to drive up to the 7-11 for some more bottles of Mountain Dew to keep that great beach party in my back yard going strong."

So imagine my shock and horror when I turned my television on this weekend to watch more ads and found one depicting a series of ordinary SUV-Americans saying things like: "I helped hijack an airplane"; "I gave money to a terrorist training camp in a foreign country"; "What if I need to go off-road?", before closing ominously, as the screen is filled with the words: "What is your SUV doing to our national security?"

I don't know about the rest of you but I'm terror-stricken about where all this is going to end up. First it was drug users supporting terrorism, now it's SUV owners. Whose next? Catholic priests? Liberals? The NFL? How long before drinking Mountain Dew supports terrorism or Dr. Pepper becomes Dr. Osama, or Miller Light might have great taste or be less filling but pssst it also helps the terrorists run faster.

I don't want to support terrorists so I've decided to stop consuming altogether. After all, if I don't buy anything, my money won't support anything, not terrorists, not terrorism, not the roots of terrorism nor the guns and bombs of terrorism. So if I'm not going to buy anything, I guess I don't need money any more and if I don't need money anymore, there's certainly no point in working anymore. And if there's no point in working any more, I guess I'm free to go back to smoking pot and sitting around on my sofa all day long. Only THIS time, I've figured a way around supporting those pesky terrorists. This time around, I'm growing my OWN weed.

zaterdag, januari 11, 2003


I. "If a young writer can refrain from writing, he shouldn't hesitate to do so."
- André Gide

I've been in help, knee-deep
theory of facing fury
whittled down to whining
run away dim lamps as they run away.

The cards run their mouths like those
shitty little people pretending
they know how to keep a tiny little
from bursting.

When I look fat, pregnant
giving birth on postcard
tickets punched horizon,

I look for hunger in theory
and in practice you seemed a dream
they railed about in texts
and drooling essays dreaming
of Democracy.

II. "An artist is his own fault."
- John O'Hara

How we rely upon degrees:
How much the lies
love the fuck and the
lies that fuck the love,
one by one,
love the lies.

Didn't you see? So they control
themselves for a little more saliency...
They run the show into the ground,
and love us for watching without comment.

Another for the road. Paydirt is still on the agenda.

III. "I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy."
- Tom Waits

When I said I'd had enought, I was only kidding.
They knew it by my television:
I wasn't taking myself seriously.
So they learned me.

Love My Country Love Me Not.

So when I look crooked,
it's probably how they beat me with pipes
and kicked me into love.
Piece by piece.

And so a smile is sewn.

IV. "Hard work is damn near as overrated as monogamy."
-Huey Long

When I love, I ask how much flash powder
in the pyrotechnics,
So America hands me her bra and painties
just to trust her,
I know I'm not armed for moving

So I stare at how America
fucks her image in the mirror,
humps the people skin rug against her pussy
and screams out orgasmic names
that neither she nor the camera remembers.

V. The earth belongs to the living, not the dead.
--Thomas Jefferson

Maybe they'll come for her.
It'll be some cartoon street sweepers
with big moustaches
who grap her up in dwarfish arms
and kiss her Africa and her
closest foreigners.

And while her teeth giggle
and her hair tosses greenbacks
into fancy gloves and salads,

It might strike her:

I'm drooping old cement years
getting harder by the hour,
trying to look the American stronger
than a tiny woman tired
of neighbors.

vrijdag, januari 10, 2003

Oops, Not A Terrorist, Just A Simple Muslim

For those of you who didn't notice, or don't remember, it was reported about two weeks ago that French police had arrested Abdelrazak Besseghir, a Frenchman of "Algerian descent" after they'd found more than 2 pounds of plastic explosives in the trunk of his car, along with two detonators, a pair of loaded pistols, and "religious material". Police had acted on a tip from a vengeful prankster by the name of Marcel Hir who claimed he'd spotted Besseghir standing at the trunk of his car with one of the guns that Saturday morning. Because the French police were on high alert for possible holiday terrorist attacks, Besseghir was nabbed and had been held since that time.

Well, the UPI now confirms that Mr. Besseghir is not a vicious, Mephistophelian little terrorist after all. Just a Frenchman of Algerian descent with a heretofore exemplary work record and no police background or known terrorist links, who happened to piss off the wrong former French legionnaire, Marcel Hir. Mr. Hir claims, with a flair for distorted, psychotic logic, that he framed Mr. Besseghir in an attempt to avenge his belle famille or "beautiful family" who happened to be Mr. Besseghir's in-laws. Mr. Besseghir's wife died in a fire last year and the family still evidently, blamed him.

So in this modern paranoiac's world, we learn a valuable lesson: If you don't like someone, denounce them as a terrorist. And if you really don't like someone, denounce them as a terrorist AND plant incriminating evidence around them. If the someone you happen not to like also happens to be of Arab descent, why, you've pretty much sewn up the ending for this poor sap's life story so long as you don't, like Mr. Hir, breakdown in a fit of additional cowardice, and confess to a sad tale of calumny instead.

Of course, helping this warped premise along in America was the recent federal court of appeals ruling that in essence, affirmed for the first time in modern American legal history that a citizen can be detained without being charged and without being given access to a lawyer. While some might point out that this false arrest in France has nothing to do with America, it should be noted that had the commiserable little Mr. Besseghir been an American of Algerian descent instead of a Frenchman of Algerian descent, we'd probably never have heard from him again. In fact, he may have been buried so deeply in the sacrificial lust of the American government's war on terrorism, no one would have ever known the charges were illegitimate to begin with.

When under broad powers, a government can detain someone without charges and deny them access to a lawyer, that person has effectively disappeared from the system. As our friends in places like Chile and Argentina can attest to, it isn't hard to make people disappear. It's just difficult to find them again later on.

So next time your neighbor pisses you off, or some crazed motorist cuts you off on the highway or someone says something you don't like, remember to denounce them as a terrorist whether they are or not because in today's climate, lurking in the hierarchy of evil, only a smoker is lower on the food chain.

And as for Mr. Besseghir, well, he should just be happy for today, that he's not an American.

donderdag, januari 09, 2003

CNN's Gettin Jiggy

From the almost-too-stupid-to-be-true department, the Daily News' Phyllis Furman reports that according to an internal Headline News memo obtained by the Daily News, CNN Headline News is encouraging its onscreen personas to consult with a hip hop slang dictionary and begin peppering their newscasts with such slang in order to rope in younger viewers.

If fully implemented, in the future we might be listening to the World Bombing And War News broadcast in Stuart Scott's, unintelligible, patois pidgin English street vernacular. Perhaps this is a premeditated effort to make the repetitious cycle of the same news repeated a thousand times over and over a little more interesting. Or, perhaps it is an effort to make the news so incomprehensible we wont have any information to protest against when we don't like it.

In any case, I like the idea but I don't think they should stop there. I think that in addition to using hip hop slang to report the news, the broadcasters themselves should be replaced with crack whores reading cartoonish gangstah rap while shooting up the studio with their AK47s to give the broadcast a little "urban credibility". Why not have the unique chance to see Wolf Blitzer break dance a report from Baghdad or Sachi Koto spray paint the news on the windshields of automobiles parked in the CNN headquarters parking lot, or even the insatiable Robin Meade cuttin' and scratchin' her way through stories on starvation in Ethiopia?

Hell, why bother with the news at all? If CNN really wants to grab the ratings they can just turn the entire network into Hip Hop Central, hire A.W.O.L. to perform their unique futuristic Detroit player style for us 24 hours a day instead of the news and turn world news into a great house party.

Now, the funny thing to me is that at the same time CNN plans on broadcasting in indecipherable hip hop slang, The Guardian reports that the Arabic satellite television station al-Jazeera, has begun experimental broadcasts using English subtitles in the US to try to expand its influence and revenues.

In what may be a related news item and perhaps a sign of the future, the Christian Science Monitor reports that the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) said it was considering replacing CNN with Al Jazeera, the idea being, according to Ihron Rensburg, a spokesman for SABC, that "We owe it to the public of South Africa to provide the widest range of views and opinions as events unfold." Frankly, a Hip Hop CNN would be about as wide a range of views and opinions as hooking up the brain of Jerry Falwell to a teleprompter.

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported mounting evidence of Al Qaeda's presence in South Africa, and quoted Gideon Jones, the FBI-trained former head of the Criminal Intelligence Unit of the South African Police Force, as saying South Africa is "a perfect place to cool off, regroup, and plan your finances. The communications and infrastructure are excellent ... and our law enforcement is overstretched." There was no mention of it being the perfect place for mackin' and doing a megablast of crack.

Clearly, CNN has really got it all wrong about this hip hop slang and how to speak to their younger viewers. Maybe they should take a page from Al-Jazeera and begin to broadcast with English subtitles. After all, even in a great vernacular like hip hop, there just isn't enough hate-mongering Jihadist slang to hold our attention any more.

dinsdag, januari 07, 2003

Economic Stimulus Program Speech Impediment
"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to." - Dorothy Parker

President Bush is expected to unveil a $600 billion recovery package today extending unemployment benefits, accelerating 2001 tax reductions, ending taxes on stock dividends and creating new incentives for business investment. If you're anything like me, the details of this economic stimulus plan are about as easy to understand as a Feynman Diagram.

Predictably, the spin on this package goes the same two polar opposite ways most every other debatable idea and topic goes in this country; to the left or to the right, neither of which, as usual, helps any of the rest of us decipher whatever last remaining crumb of truth there is to be harvested.

The moment this plan was unveiled it was denounced by Democrats as a windfall for the rich designed to boost stocks and Bush's re-election chances. The pro-Democrat AFL-CIO on Monday said, in typically hyperbolic fashion, that the plan to eliminate the tax on dividends showed that Bush and "the rich" have "declared war on the working people and the poor of this country." A main bone of contention seems to be the plan to wipe out all federal taxes on stock dividends. Stock dividends?? Who the hell is making stock dividends these days? Even the popular 401(k) retirement savings plan are losing money these days.

However, according to estimates, some 70% of Americans own stock and more than 35 million Americans have dividend income. If this indeed the case, I wonder, logically, how an elimination of the tax on dividends that would benefit roughly 70% of Americans can be a "declared war" on the working people and the poor. Conservative tax activist Grover Norquist, questions "Are Democrats going to say 70 percent of voters are too rich to get tax cuts? That's a hell of a way to organize yourself if you plan to get power through democratic elections."

But as always, there is more to this than meets the eye. Tax filers with incomes of more than $100,000 or more would receive the bulk of the benefit of dividend tax elimination, according to Internal Revenue Service statistics. The wealthiest stratum of Americans - an estimated 200,000 people earning more than $1million a year - accounts for barely 1% of US taxpayers, according to figures from the internal revenue service. However, together they earned about $25.4 billion in dividends last year, or about a quarter of the overall total of dividends for US taxpayers. Referring to data generated by the Tax Policy Center, senator Tom Daschle noted in a radio address that a person making more than $1 million a year would save $24,000 in taxes under the Bush plan while a person earning from $40,000 to $50,000 a year would save only $76.

As usual, the truth is fed to us in tiny bites but we never get the full meal.

The Democrats, by the way, have their own plan and characterized it as "significant, fast-acting, and fiscally responsible." They say it stimulates the job market while Bush's plan stimulates the stock market.

President Bush says: "The critics haven't seen the plan. This is a plan that provides tax relief to the working citizens. It is a plan that is a very fair plan. It is a plan that recognizes when somebody has more of their own money, they are likely to spend it, which creates more jobs."

And my favorite waterboy, presidential spokesmodel Ari Fleischer rejected charges Mr. Bush's proposal favors the rich. "The people who suffer from the biggest deficits in our society are the people who don't have a job, and he wants to put a plan in place to help give a boost to the economy, to give a boost to business investment, to give a boost to American taxpayers so that more jobs are created so that people can go about earning income and feeding their families," he said.

So the race is on already to prove one way or the other that the stimulus plan will or won't stimulate the economy and the tax cuts are or aren't designed to help the rich and screw the poor. Nothing new there.

But perhaps in a concession for the tax cut the Bush team probably knew in advance would be construed as another gouging of the poor for the benefit of the rich, they've added an interesting wrinkle:

A senior administration official Monday night said Bush will propose grants of as much as $3,000 to the unemployed as part of a new program to encourage people to find new jobs quickly. The personal employment accounts will be aimed at those most likely to exhaust their unemployment benefits as well as those who may already have done so.

The $3.6 billion, two-year program is designed to cover 1.2 million Americans. "The way the re-employment bonus works, if you become re-employed within 13 weeks, you can keep the remaining balance," the same senior official said. "It may be the full $3,000 ... or it may be some portion of the $3,000." The money also can be used for training, child care and relocation. The official said this program would be in addition to any extension of unemployment benefits passed by Congress. Well, this is wonderful news if you're unemployed but doesn't amount to a hill of untaxable beans if you happen to work for a living but are still somehow too stoooopid to be rich.

Amid all the screeching and whining, it would seem, viewing only the most surface and rudimentary scorecards that the winners will be the rich and the unemployed. A nice, equitable and balanced combination we should all be delirious with joy about. Question is, in the end, does this economic stimulus plan do what it is supposed to do, stimulate the economy?

UPI reports that "a wide range of economists doubt the president's plan, even beyond the dividend issue, will be of much immediate help to the economy. "It is a tax reduction package, not a stimulus package," argued Stan Collender, the managing director of the Fleishman-Hillard's Federal Budget Consulting Group. He said that though 70 million people hold stock, vast numbers of them hold it in tax-deferred programs and will be unaffected by the dividend measure. "Most of the people who receive significant dividends from stock are likely to be what the critics say: rich," he said.

Even the Wall Street Journal is skeptical, noting "And while praising Mr. Bush's far-reaching aim, even some business analysts worried that his plan risked doing too little to boost the economy now, while damaging long-term finances of states and the federal government. Some industries also fretted that the new plan could undermine their position with investors."

My own personal guess is that the economic stimulation of the job market or the stock market is a rather moot point. The only market stimulation one can seem certain of these days is the stimulation of the war market which unlike the economy, seems pretty damned healthy these days.

zaterdag, januari 04, 2003

Jaap's Four Part Poem On The Slow Death Of Birth And Love



Hey, it's fast at the edge of this bed.
They gave us coupons out of customs
and set copious whores in front of us
just to test our powers of self-employment.

We zipped through like the world was wet paper,
a vegetable to boil, a sad flesh to erase.

They called us in for being cheap:
Love costs. Ante up.

So we gave what we didn't know, artifacts
lost in socks and all those secret places
never poked,

and gave love because we read a USA Today poll
that confirmed what we thought.

Taken home, to the home owners,
through the corridors of the home offices,
back to the home away from home before stopping
at the "hey, homey!" holy ghost and Sunset,

We ratted them out, in succession,
for a Tom Waits twist and a mojo session.

We didn't wait to be tortured
in a comparative transgression.

We just went down
On them, to a death they remember
in mid-orgasm:
Oh, The Money!, Oh, The Plowing Brahmans!
in order,
and then left,
a little less than sated.


In Mexico, they drink
until the world stills. That's right, silent.
The dogs in the garbage cans who know they're dead:
A Verdi cancellation underneath the puddle of a moon.

By now, it's been minced
into the drinking water and sung
on popular radio stations.

They fed us our love in sushi portions,
tv dinner infatuations,
one moment to the next,
Max Planck sperm knocking down the quantum walls
into egg and then to zygote.

But we didn't dare believe them.
They made us hungry like Tolstoy winters
And ate our flesh to manifest themselves.

In our unattended lectures, they went on
as kindled captains dying checkmate hopes
on gratis skewers:
Here They Come! Here They Come!

And then in Mexico we out Fox'd them,
with canon hearts exploding rules
that plastered walls with boredom.

And then again, because we weren't sure ourselves.


When we creep between two worlds,
the ligaments and the livid,
we whine an incarceration of lifetimes
like the deaf relying on floor vibrations
to hear the music.

When they come for us with totebags,
dressed in suits of information to collect
our wandering lusts,
to burn our lonesome effigies,
into obligatory dust
we must

take the Highway Drunk,
like prisoners off chain gangs after freedom's
gushy feast:
ignore the placards drooling in our wanted faces,
the isolated moments jitter
their own handicaps,
their own dilemmas.

And when they want love,
give them unlimited space to hang themselves.


Ishmael warned us it was better
to sleep with a sober cannibal
than a drunken Christian
and then he fell asleep with Queequeg.

Our moments of perfection lie in
lucid mommies milking
flawless childhoods to fruition.

We've learned to love what
we've learned to shave
to a mere transluscence;
a garlic razor sliver second
when we are transfixed.

So give up the sexy breasts,
the milking tit,
the nights in irrefutable transition:

Here it is, the dawn chafing,
a child howling,
a simple miscommunication.

The world forgives only
what you choose to feed it.