Wednesday, December 28, 2005

For Auld Lang Syne

Here it is, the end of the year, bringing me end-of-the-year memories. Unfortunately, being as old as I am, and as scattered, I can’t focus my memories on one year, so don’t expect an end-of-the-year roundup like you’ll get from a convergent person.

Instead, my thoughts race back and forth across the last 56 and a half years, and I recall who did what to me, and I calculate how much they need to pay. New Year’s Resolution: Round up bastards, chastise, repeat.

There was the campus security officer who forced hour-long conversations on me whenever he caught me sleeping in my car on campus. Such sleeping was legal at the time. But he wanted to let me know that he, personally, did not approve of the law having such a loophole, because it took advantage of working people like him. I told him I had a job. He said, oh, well then, get a better one. I said, how about yours, you’re not doing it…

On nights when that one wasn’t “working” there was another campus cop who didn’t, personally, mind me sleeping on campus. But he took great umbrage when he caught me using a public bathroom after hours.

I said, “It was left unlocked, it’s a public rest room. I’m a member of the public. What’s the problem?”

He said, “Don’t you know that people have to clean these bathrooms? They don’t just clean themselves.”

I said, “When I finish, I’ll clean up after myself, unlike any of the thousands of other people who use it during the day, who don’t get to meet you.”

He said, “But you’re homeless. How do you think those people would feel if they knew someone like you was using their bathroom?”

“Vicariously relieved?”

A certain deli downtown used to be open all night and welcomed the homeless if they at least paid for coffee. I was grateful and repaid them by patronizing them and steering other business their way. Then I moved out of downtown for a few years.

When I moved back downtown, I returned to the old haunt to find it very different. Not only was the store not open all night, it had been remodeled and rearranged. I saw people chased away just for appearing homeless. But what earns them a special place on my little list is what happened after I used one of their two unisex bathrooms while waiting for a sandwich to be made. I had accidentally used the wrong one, because I was used to the old arrangement. So they reported me to the police. I had been in a bathroom labeled “Women” on the door, by myself, for a whole minute. And oh, yes, I was obviously homeless again. So I was clearly a danger to society.

Here’s the one who goes at the top of my list. I had gotten on welfare at one time, but wanted to get a job and get off welfare as soon as possible. To help things along I got into a work shelter program through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Having a work shelter job meant being paid less than minimum wage. The state made up for that partially by providing bus passes.

Every day until I got my bus pass I’d take the same bus to the job. The driver would smile and nod. There’d be fewer than five passengers on the trip. No one ever complained.

The day I flashed my newly obtained state authorized bus pass, the same driver who had always smiled at me before said he was going to stop letting me use his bus if I didn’t start taking showers. When I told him I just had one, he answered that he was sick of people like me abusing the system.

As soon as I figure out what that system was he was talking about, it goes on my list, too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Suspected Drug Use

George Bush has just admitted that he’s authorized eavesdropping of Americans without search warrants at least thirty times since September 11, 2001, each time for 45 days. Now Democrats want an investigation.

OK, let’s see if this makes a stitch of sense!

Let’s say once upon a time there was a country, we’ll call it Democratia, where it was against the law for people to eavesdrop on citizens but the country’s leaders wanted to know what the people were saying all the time anyway. So what they did was something very very clever. It was so clever that if Stalin were alive to see it, he would say, in Russian, “Damn, these guys are good!”

First, they arranged for the wiretapping of all their citizens’ phone calls, or at least all of their phones that in any way involved international transmissions. Those included not only phone calls meant to be received in other countries, but also phone calls that use satellites, because “space is international territory.” How did they arrange to do this, since routine wiretapping was illegal in Democratia? Easy! They asked their friends to do it for them, in return for them doing it for their friends. By “friends” I mean “other allied countries.” “We aren’t wiretapping our own citizens,” they said. “Our friends are!” “We’re just wiretapping our friends’ citizens. What’s wrong with that?”

To be even safer from criticism the leaders of Democratia made sure their friends didn’t actually listen in to their own citizens’ conversations – that would be wrong. Instead they had their friends use super computers to do the listening.

The super computers had voice recognition capabilities far in advance of anything you can get for a PC, and they could record all the millions of calls being made at any instant and transcribe them to computer text-files in real-time, 24/7. Then the computers could scan the texts for keywords that would indicate whether or not people were saying things that the Democratian leaders might want to know about, and all those calls could be flagged for later listening.

Computers would do the transcriptions and scanning, not people. So the Democratia leaders could honestly say that “no one,” “not anybody,” was eavesdropping on their citizens, not even their foreign friends.

Of course, if the computers flagged a call as having suspicious content, like say, if it was made by a member of Greenpeace, or mentioned the president of Democratia, or if the words “drug” and “buy” were used in the same sentence, as in “I have to go out to the DRUGstore to BUY deodorant for my smelly Dad, so I’ll call you back later,” then the proper authorities could be notified. And then actual legal warrants could be obtained from on-call, easy, slutty, judges. Often this could be done within minutes, even before the calls in question had ended.

It’s like this. Suppose the police come to your door and say, “We’d like to search your house, but we don’t have a search warrant.” So you, fearing they’d find your stash of politically incorrect midget-on-stuffed-animal porn, say, “No.” So they say, “OK, then, step aside while this robot here rolls through your front door and through your entire house, and transmits images of everything in digitized form to a remote super computer which could spot the real Spock at a Star Trek convention. Then if the computer reports back that any white powder is visible anywhere in your house, like flour, or talcum, we can have a warrant faxed by satellite to our van waiting at the curb over here, and THEN we will search you.”

Would that seem like a fair way to sidestep your Constitutional rights? Well, that’s essentially what the ECHELON system, set up by Democratia (these United States, duh!) has done routinely with your phone calls at least since the Clinton administration, and the Democrats knew it at the time.

We should impeach everybody in both parties, simultaneously.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

This Is Sheer Torture

“Homelessness is bad. War hurts people. Starvation is wrong. Poverty sucks. Pollution ruins the Earth.” These are just some of the messages that we here at Adventures in Irony detest bringing you week after week. It isn’t that we don’t agree with these messages, it’s just that we get tired of repeating ourselves.

Recently we have been forced to repeat, over and over again, “Torture is cruel and inhumane, and information obtained from torture is unreliable.” Please don’t make us say it again! We’ll tell you anything else you want to hear!

So we were ready to eat our own brains from the inside out when we read some news that offered an end to our agony. An AP-Ipsos poll determined that 61% of Americans along with a majority of people in Britain, France, and South Korea, think it’s OK to torture terrorist suspects under some circumstances. However the British, French, and South Koreans, are hypocrites: even though they’re for torture, they say they don’t want it in their own countries. Whereas the Americans, by a sizeable majority, don’t have a problem with it happening right here in the good old U. S. of A.

We have been protesting torture here unnecessarily. If the majority of Americans want to be able to be tortured just because someone suspects them of being a terrorist, who are we to stand in the way of democracy? And if the rest of the world is for torture but doesn’t want it in their own backyards, and Americans do, then excellent opportunities open up for American enterprise.

We hadn’t been thinking creatively about torture. We need to think outside of the box, about the box. It isn’t simply that, “if torture is outlawed, only outlaws will torture.” It’s that outlawing torture is bad for business, for the economy, and costs us a valuable tax base. If we legalize it, we can regulate it. We can tax it. It can help pay for our prisons, our jails, our schools, and our other centers of indoctrination and discipline.

We can stem the tide of out-sourcing of American jobs overseas. We can make this country a leader in torture throughout the world. Let the British, the French, the South Koreans beat a path to our door. We can’t provide technical assistance over the phone as well or as cheaply as Indians or Malaysians, but we can water-board better than anyone else, and we’re willing to do the dirty jobs that those others think they’re too good for.

Let’s let Americans do what Americans do best: innovate for the sake of progress and financial reward! Why should torturing be limited to the CIA, the military, and Iraqi intelligence officers? We need to license ordinary American businesses to do the business of torturing.

When we have permitted the franchising of torture to creative American corporations, the rest of the world will gladly send us their business. As an international leader in a newly invigorated industry, our businesses will be able to define and dominate the world market. Just as, centuries ago, the word “China” came to mean dishes, just as the word “India” came to mean ink, so the word “America” will come to mean torture.

Torture can reverse our trade deficit, and tax revenues from torturing the suspects of other countries can help us pay off the national debt. At a time when we owe 2 out of every 5 of our United States to Germans, Arabs, and Koreans, we can, ironically, regain full ownership of our own land by letting Germans, Arabs, and Koreans pay us to torture other Germans, Arabs, and Koreans.

Then, twenty or thirty years from now, when those of us who haven’t been tortured are all fat from torture money and our government coffers are over-flowing with torture revenues, then we can ban torture from public places, and 25 feet from their doors and windows.

While still keeping it legal, of course.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Rose isn’t a Rose isn’t a Rose...

Either William Shakespeare or someone calling himself that put the following words into the mouth of what had probably been a real teenage girl of Verona, Italy, who had died in a dual suicide with her lover in 1303: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet.”

What a crock!

First, as someone would have said if anyone had heard it, “If a rose grows in the forest and there’s no one there to smell it, does it smell?” More to the point, if we all were to start referring to roses as “fertilizer,” people might stop smelling them altogether, so roses wouldn’t smell. Ergo, roses wouldn’t smell sweet. Therefore the statement was a crock.

Second, Juliet is talking to Romeo Montague and her whole point is that the name “Montague” means nothing, so far as she’s concerned. Well, so far as the rest of us are concerned, “Montague,” in the play, means unusually wealthy Jerry Springer-fodder. All money, no class. And, what do you know, but Romeo goes and proves he’s a genuine Montague, deserving of a Darwin Award by killing himself because he supposes his 14 year old wife did, after not bothering to get a medical opinion.

Recently a Real Change Board Member said she didn’t like to use the word “activist.” Instead, she preferred “advocate.” Would an activist by any other name be as activating? No! But if you call them “advocates,” from the Latin for “speaker-outers,” then, before you know it, they stop activating, they even stop being active. They become couch potatoes who now and then speak out. Don’t ask me how I know that. Note that I’m not saying that being a couch potato is a bad thing.

Words and names do matter. Otherwise we wouldn’t have these squabbles over the choice between “liberal” and “progressive.” If you’re progressive you’re going somewhere. But if you’re liberal you’re headed along a particular path that people set forth upon long ago, to let knowledge liberate. So the word “liberal” provides a compass heading for your progression. Like the man said, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. You need a wet finger and a compass.

Here’s another example. Rev. Jerry Falwell has started a campaign to use a range of tactics, including boycotts and legal action, to force governments and major retail chains to use the word “Christmas,” rather than losing the Christ connection by talking about the Holidays, or the Holiday Season. For example, Falwell would have folks boycott Wal-Mart unless Wal-Mart forces its Jewish employees to greet you with “Merry Christmas.”

From what I have said here and elsewhere you will know that I heartily sympathize with Rev. Falwell and his fellow practitioners of the heavily oppressed religion of 95% of Americans, because whether the name “Christmas” is used really does matter.

It’s mattered ever since the beginning, back to the 4th century After Christ, when Pope Julius called December 25 Jesus’ Birthday even though everyone knew Jesus wasn’t born in December, just so it would no longer be called “Hooray the Sun is Returning to Us Day,” as it had been.

But in the late 1800s Christmas was forced to change away from simply being Christ’s Pretend Birthday. This began precisely when Congress said Christmas would be a federal holiday, granting most federal employees the day off.

Naming a holiday a “federal holiday” changes it. Congress can’t establish any religion, not even the oppressed religion Christianity to which almost all congressmen, who write all our laws, profess to belong and practice devotedly. Therefore when Congress names Christmas a “federal holiday,” it also begins to take the Christ and the Mass out of the meaning of it.

So until Congress reverses itself, Season’s Greetings to all and remember there’s less than 18 shopping days to Last Federal Day Off of the Year Day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Every Cloud Is Lined

Have you ever wondered how often Albert Einstein thought, “Gee, who am I kidding? I’m no Einstein.” Or how often any of his kids thought it? I wonder about things like that all the time.

The other day I saw a report that said, according to a study commissioned by some charity in England, the life expectancy of homeless people in London is lower than for people in the Victorian era.

Now, Einstein was born in the Victorian era, and he truly was an Einstein, so I’ll bet he would have known what all that meant right away, but I had to look it up.

One of the things I found out was that the life expectancy of a British guy during the “Victorian era” (a British way of saying “the years 1837 to 1901”) was around 50. Whereas the average age of homeless Londoners at death these days is around 42.

Such factoids present interesting possibilities for political interpretation, or spin, or whatever you choose to call it. A former acquaintance once told me that she hated living in the present and wished she could travel back to simpler times, when scientists weren’t screwing life up. She said she thought that the 14th century would be “idyllic.” I think she picked the 14th century because the number 14 is big in the Kabala. It couldn’t be because of the actual 14th century, what with the Black Death and the Hundred Years War lowering life expectancy to 25 or less (in all the countries where she could speak the language.)

Here’s one way we could spin the news: Homelessness isn’t so bad. No, really. It’s better to be homeless than to live through the Black Death and the Hundred Years War. It’s almost as good as living during such an enlightened time as had telegraphs and trains and Florence Nightingale.

Now that every community in the land has to have a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness (Philip Mangano, Bush administration “Homelessness Czar,” isn’t into the Kabala, he’s into the number of fingers on his hands) I look forward to the new creative ways that people will assess progress on this front when the homelessness that was supposed to have ended hasn’t. “Being homeless was always better than living in the 14th century, but worse than living during the Victorian era. But it’s now as good as life under Edward VII. Give us another ten years and being homeless could get as good as living through the Great Depression.”

Unfortunately, it turns out that being homeless is a lot worse than that British news report would indicate. There’s a problem with the conclusion of the study it mentions, having to do with averages.

Recently I said I love averages. This is one of those times when the appearance of averages makes me all tingly and excited.

It turns out that when folks work out the life expectancy of people in the Victorian era, or the 14th century, or any other period in history, the number they crank out refers to the life expectancy of anyone born. That means high rates of childhood deaths drive the average life expectancy way down.

It turns out that if you survived childhood during the Victorian era you could actually expect to live well past 60. In fact, even during the dreaded 14th century, if you were a member of the British aristocracy and you made it to 21 by around 1340 you could expect to live an additional 24 years to age 45, beating out our present day London homeless by 3 years, in spite of the Black Death!

“So what are you trying to say, Wes?” What I’m trying to say is, looking at things on the bright side gets harder every day. What I’m trying to say is, maybe the Black Death wasn’t so bad.

What I’m trying to say is, when you see everything in perspective, you really begin to appreciate modern anesthetics.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Plymouth Crock

I hate Thanksgiving. In fact, I give thanks that I am one of the few people around who sees through this holiday for what it really is, namely the systematic diversion of thanks from those who truly deserve it to anything or anybody else.

Take the original Thanksgiving Dinner. Who deserves thanks for that? Who has always deserved thanks for it, ever since it happened? We all know the story. It was the prior residents of Plymouth Rock who generously provided food from their own storage to the starving Pilgrims, right? But do they get the thanks? No!

Think about it. How would you feel if you gave, say, your lazy good-for-nothing brother $15 so he could eat pizza for a change, as opposed to the dead bugs he finds in the couch he never gets his butt off, and instead of saying “Thank You” to you for the pizza money, he turns his eyes to the sky and thanks God for the “miracle” of having turned your cold heart warm? And there are still people today who wonder what set off the so-called Indian Wars. Those weren’t Indian Wars; they were Ingrate Wars. At the very least, they should now be called the White People Wars. That would show some overdue perspective.

It isn’t just Native Americans who don’t get the thanks they deserve. There are millions upon millions of innocent people who suffer silently through this dreadful holiday, and don’t ever get the thanks they deserve for not turning it into an occasion for mass murder.

I will illustrate my last point with the case of Pekingese Woman.

I call her Pekingese Woman because whenever she spoke to me I could imagine her yapping like a Pekingese Dog. After warming up to any new topic, after the first couple of sentences, she would stop taking breaks, not even to take breaths. So conversations with her would degenerate into interminable yapping sessions.

Pekingese Woman never thanked me for letting her yap. Not only that, but, knowing that I was poor and starving at the time, the horrible ungracious windbag invited me to join her and her friends at her house for a big Thanksgiving Dinner.

I knew Pekingese Woman had an ulterior motive. She wanted my everlasting soul. I told her I would go on these three conditions: 1) she can collect her damned friends’ souls, but not mine, as I was sick and tired of always having my soul saved from me wherever I went, 2) she would not subject me to her cult (some obscure abominable sect with a name like “First Church of Christ, Overlord”) except for the unavoidable “grace,” and 3) the grace would have to be mercifully short. I said if she could not promise those conditions I would stay away and willingly starve. She promised them!

So I entered her lair at the appointed time. And what do you suppose I got? First, I got A TWO HOUR SLIDE SHOW OF HER RECENT EXTENDED TRIP TO THE HOLY LAND NARRATED NONSTOP BY HER INFERNAL YAPPING. I am not lying when I tell you that she had to change the slides a thousand times, and that she didn’t stop yapping about her tedious trip EVEN WHEN SHE WAS RELOADING THE PROJECTOR. She had a different slide for every single rock and bush along the Sea of Galilee.

Then, rather than one quick, sharp, grace that would only hurt for a second, she made everyone around the table say a separate, individual grace. Out loud.

When it was my turn I said, “Thank You God for not making me think that You put all this food here because we love You so much, because then I would have to think that the people in the world who are starving are going without because You are punishing them, and I know that’s wrong.”

Pekingese Woman never thanked me for not just screaming and running out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A Heavy Cross to SHARE

I hate talking about SHARE. There are many good reasons for this. Their name is Anitra “Legion” Freeman, on whose kitchen floor I have sometimes slept.

If it weren’t for Ms. Freeman I probably wouldn’t know that SHARE was an acronym, or where to look up what the letters stand for. It’s the Seattle Housing And Resource Effort, according to one of Anitra’s 35 or so websites.

If I talk about SHARE I will surely get some detail about it wrong and Anitra will tell me about it, and then she will never stop telling me about it, because once she starts doing anything she can’t stop. She has no brakes.

Unfortunately the city of Seattle has given me no choice. It has denied funding to SHARE because SHARE would not agree to comply with “Safe Harbors,” AKA Tag n’ Trak, AKA Seattle’s version of HMIS (Homeless Management Information Strategies.)

You know a plan is a bad idea the minute someone calls it a strategy. “Strategy” is related to the word “stratosphere.” Both come to us from the ancient Greek for “cloud.” In the case of “strategy,” the idea is that the use of one can cloud people’s minds so they can’t see how stupid you’re being, so you can get away with being stupider than usual.

In this instance the city of Seattle is being so stupid, it might as well be shooting itself in the groinal area. This can be demonstrated mathematically, as follows.

Seattle currently funds 1275 shelter beds. About a quarter of those are administered by SHARE. The total funding costs a total of about 5 million dollars annually. SHARE’s share of the city’s funding, which is the money they will be losing as of next March when the funding year ends, is around a quarter of a million dollars.

That means that 75% of the city’s shelter beds (the non-SHARE portion) suck up 95% of the city’s funding, while 25% of the shelter beds (the SHARE portion) only suck up 5% of the funding.

If the city has to replace the 300 beds now provided by self-managed SHARE shelters with conventional shelters the cost will be more than six times what SHARE has needed.

You can be sure that much money is never going to materialize. Last month Mayor Nickels said he’d work with the City Council to increase shelter funding by as much as $500,000 in order to maintain the same number of shelter beds in the city. That’s not counting the $500,000 per year it’s expected to cost us for the extra paper, paper clips, and the super-duper unhackable computer system Safe Harbors is going to require. But the facts show that without SHARE the city will need $1,500,000 to have the same number of shelter beds it has had with SHARE.

Since that money won’t happen, we can expect to lose at least 200 shelter beds after March. SHARE proposes to make those up by setting up new tent cities. Those would violate SHARE’s agreement with the city regarding tent cities. But I don’t care, since by demanding that SHARE accept Safe Harbors I feel that the city has already in effect reneged on its agreements with SHARE on its own side, big time. I want everyone, and especially Anitra Freeman, to note my careful use of “I” statements here.

Oh wait, who says the city can’t provide beds as cheaply as SHARE? Why, they would just have to imitate the SHARE model without the help of SHARE! Why didn’t I think of that before?

Here’s how it will work. They’ll set up 13 or 14 self-managed shelters all around the city. Only, because they’ll be city shelters instead of SHARE shelters, they’ll be able to make sure that the people who run these self-managed shelters comply with Safe Harbors. The city will be able to do that by managing its own self-managed shelters!

There’s a perfect strategy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Breaking the Code

So you all know why George Bush called it “No Child Left Behind,” don’t you? It’s code. It tells those rapture-obsessed members of his constituency that he savvies their Left Behind books; it’s like, we’re going to make sure all your kids get teleported into Heaven while the evolutionists and abortionists and liberals have to stay behind and eventually queue up for Hell. He also says “savvy” to remind himself to say “sabe,” which is in turn to remind all of us that he speaks Spanish. That’s code too. He doesn’t speak in sentences, just code words and phrases. 9-11. Iraqi Freedom. Axis of Evil. “I speak your language.”

Given that Bush relies so much on Millennialist support and given that so many of them are aching for an opportunity to say “we told you so” if only while looking down from on high just before passing through the Pearly Gates, when theoretically the rest of us won’t be able to hear them anyway, I am creeped out by any mention of Armageddon in the news.

OK, it wasn’t really Armageddon that was mentioned; it was Megiddo, which I believe is Hebrew for Geddon Flats, but it’s pretty much the same place. Some archaeologists think they’ve found the mosaic floor of a third century Christian church there. The Israeli Tourist Bureau or Israeli Bureau of Tourism or whatever is really excited about this because it makes Israel look like a nice place for Christians to come visit, as of 18 centuries ago.

But actually what it does is pump up the Millennialists’ dream of living to see the day when the unsaved among us can experience the End of Times as nukes fly from one end of the Middle East to the other and the whole of Existence unravels from there. That is, from Armageddon, ‘cause the Good Book says so.

What else pumps the dream up? The new president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, saying that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”

Since first saying so as part of celebrating the end of Ramadan, Mahmoud has turned the volume down a little, but the damage has already been done: he’s totally creeped me out. I didn’t mind it so much when it was 1980 and Ayatollah Khomeini said it, because back then Iran wasn’t close to putting a nuclear weapons program together. We could all laugh then, because Iran couldn’t very well march its army through Iraq to attack Israel, because our valued ally Saddam Hussein would stop them for us.

Mahmoud says Israel is a “fabricated” entity. This is a lame excuse to destroy every nation on the planet. All modern nations are fabrications.

Secretly, Mahmoud idolizes George Bush. “Axis of Evil,” “Must destroy the evildoers,” “We cannot afford to wait until they attack us,” “Then it will be too late,” “Pre-emptive strike,” “We know they have weapons of mass destruction” – snippets of future speeches by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about Israel. George and friends have already assembled all the code; Mahmoud just has to get it translated into Farsi.

The same day that Mahmoud said Israel should be destroyed he also said that anybody that recognizes Israel “will burn in the fire of the Islamic nation's fury.” He got that from George, too: anybody who is not with us is against us. Good thing for the folks of little Bahrain that we’re so protective of their oil and land for military bases, now that they’ve resumed trading with Israel.

If you didn’t see the similarity between Mahmoud and George before, you must have seen it when Kofi Annan expressed his displeasure with Mahmoud. Annan and I are together on this, along with all the other sane people around who would like to see the human species continue to exist for an indefinite period of time: George and Mahmoud, knock it off. We don’t want what you offer. Keep your death and destruction to yourselves and off our planet.

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

Hey, Man, Smell my FingerTM

While the rest of you have been contemplating Harriet Miers’ excellent career decision and Scooter Libby’s pending trial, I’ve been mulling over a little news story that CNN carried in its “offbeat” news category. A court in the European Union had denied someone the right to trademark the smell of strawberries.

What caught my attention about the story was that the court did not say that you can’t trademark smells. What the court said is that there is no one smell of strawberries. The court implied that the petitioner might later trademark one particular smell arising from strawberries.

Just so you don’t think it’s never going to happen, the story goes on to say that some Dutch perfume company has registered the “fresh cut grass” smell, and uses it to make tennis balls smell good.

What the EU court actually said was, "The olfactory memory is probably the most reliable memory that humans posses. Consequently, economic operators have a clear interest in using olfactory signs to identify their goods." So the Dutch company was really olfactorily signing, sort of like what dogs do when they pee on trees, only they’re doing it on tennis balls, and they get exclusive use of their sign.

Of course if companies can do it because they have a clear interest to identify their goods, who’s to say a dog-owner can’t do it, having a clear interest to protect the clear interest of their charge? So someday a dog owner may, acting as a guardian, trademark his dog’s sign.

What I’m focusing in on here is this clear interest business. Hey, maybe I have a clear interest to buy tennis balls that haven’t been marked by some perfume company. Who’s going to protect my clear interest when the day comes that every tennis ball has to stink of some corporation or other?

And don’t think it will only be tennis balls. Sure, not everyone plays tennis. I don’t. But I wear T-shirts. We’ve already lived through an age in which all T-shirts had to have a message and/or a brand. Well, brace yourself, in the future all your T-shirts will also smell of a brand.

Oh, you’ll have choices. You won’t have to choose between “fresh cut grass” and “grass gone to seed.” There will also probably be smells like strawberry A, strawberry B, strawberry C, Old Spice, refried pinto beans, roasted garlic, Chanel No. 5, horse sweat, Tabasco, and white chocolate, depending on the company that’s sucking up your money.

It’s all a natural progression. It’s the clear interest of businesses to sell you what you thought you already had. And the courts give businesses all the rights that are in their clear interest, because they never consider that the rest of us may have legitimate competing interests, like an interest in being able to play tennis or get dressed without having our nostrils assaulted by inappropriate smells that we could whiff any other time, thank you.

It happens all the time. When was the last time you were about to purchase a snack or sweet beverage, and you checked the ingredients to be sure that the product contained corn syrup, because you just had to have corn syrup at that moment? I’ll bet never. You have never had a jones for corn syrup. So why is it in everything? Because somebody had a clear interest in putting it there and you weren’t consulted.

Somebody had a clear interest in branding the baseball stadium in this town. It happens that somebody was Safeco and they had the money to make their interest coincide with the city’s. So we have Safeco Field.

In the future we can look forward to a local sausage company using money to make their interest coincide with the interest of our Seattle Public Utilities. Then we will all be able to enjoy pepperoni-smelling water, straight from the tap.

The free market marches on! Smell its boots!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

They Want You Stupid

Let’s discuss paranoia as an artistic gift.

I’m not talking about that narrow kind of personal paranoia where you think everybody is out to get you. Of course they are, that’s just good common sense. What I’m talking about here is something that requires genuine genius, like what Luis Buñuel had in mind when he said, “A paranoiac, like a poet, is born, not made.” When you really have the gift of paranoia, you can see clearly how everybody is out to get everybody. I want to say I embody that gift. (I really wanted to say “embody.”)

What brought this on was reading that at least ten major brands of color laser jet copiers now automatically embed barely visible coded messages on copies, enabling the government to figure out when and on what machine a copy is made. The companies are sharing their codes only with the government, and hadn’t planned to tell the rest of us about this. A privacy watchdog group caught them. Am I paranoid enough to believe it? Absolutely!

Remember how heroic we all thought Soviet dissidents were when they published anti-Soviet missives on their mimeograph machines? Those old mimeograph machines may come back in fashion!

Now that’s good pedestrian paranoia, I thought, but I can do better. I can talk about the vast canned albacore conspiracy.

I first became aware of the canned albacore conspiracy a year ago, when I noticed that a store I shop at was stocking more canned albacore than chunk light. My immediate suspicion was that the storeowner figured he could get a higher profit margin from selling the more expensive variety of tuna. Nothing really sinister, just the usual “capitalism screws the poor” scenario. “We don’t sell poor-people feed; you’re mistaking us for a grocery store. Our motto: Soak the rich; leave the poor out in the rain!”

But then I developed a taste for raw fish so I had to look up health information on that practice, and one thing led to another, and I found out that CANNED ALBACORE HAS AS MUCH AS THREE TIMES THE METHYLMERCURY AS CANNED CHUNK LIGHT. The Washington State Department of Health says so!

OK, maybe the storeowner didn’t know that, I thought. So I told him. Last year. So now he stocks almost nothing but albacore! He’s fine with the methylmercury. Bring it on!

I’d tell you which store it is I’m talking about, and out the storeowner, but it doesn’t matter. Unbelievably, the market share of albacore is rising everywhere, in spite of the fact that everyone agrees it’s bland compared to chunk light and costs too much. The only thing it has going for it is it’s whiter. Could racism be behind this?

No! It’s worse than that!

Consider the following quote from Dr. Clark Carrington of the Food and Drug Administration: “In order to keep the market share at a reasonable level, we felt like we had to keep light tuna in the low-mercury group” – said at a 2003 FDA Food Advisory Committee meeting.

First of all, that alone tells you that our government bases its food warnings on market shares. Be afraid right there. But more than that, it tells you they (the FDA, the government, EVERYBODY) want EVERYBODY to consume methylmercury. Why?

My answer is my contribution to the art of paranoia: they’re afraid of smart people. If people were ever smart they’d figure out that George Bush’s scrapping of clean air goals designed to benefit industry would also ruin their health.

George Bush and everybody could just wait for the 34 tons of annual mercury emissions that they think are acceptable to take their toll, but unless they accelerate our consumption of methylmercury in fish at the same time we might not get stupid fast enough to keep the Republicans in power through 2012.

So eat lots of pretty lily-white albacore, everybody, it’s time for you all to hurry up and get brain damaged.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Everyone Thinks YOU'RE Rude

The headline in the Times last Saturday said, “Land of the rude: Poll finds Americans behaving badly,” so I thought I was going to read about Americans telling pollsters they could take their poll and “shove it,” or inquiring about the availability of the pollsters’ sisters, or insinuating that the pollsters had canine ancestry.

Then, as I continued reading, I found out that America itself had been asked how rude it is in the poll and had answered “very.” That is, we are supposed to take America’s word for how rude it is. It turns out 70% of us think that everybody else lacks manners. My first reaction is, this is the America that can’t find Iraq on the map, and doesn’t think it needs to, but considers itself competent enough to decide whether Iraq deserves to be invaded or not. We’re asking this country to critique itself?

“Now, now,” I tell myself, “calm down; maybe some good will come from it. Maybe everybody will have arrived at some great new collective insight, like when we all agreed as a nation that Jar Jar Binks deserved a premature death.”

But it was not to be. Reading further I discovered that the rudeness people were talking about had little to do with Star Wars. The big concern was men not opening doors for women, members of some women’s lacrosse team wearing flip-flops in the White House, and crude behavior on TV shows. “It’s not like the old show, Father Knows Best,” says some overwrought couch potato who can’t distinguish TV from reality.

And who gets the blame? Me! That’s who! I’m a nasty baby boomer and it was I and my other nasty boomer co-conspirators who ruined this country. We dragged “Father Knows Best” into the dirt, exposing its cast as the alcoholics, wife-beaters, and heroin addicts they were. We raised all the rest of you to knock down little old ladies and use them as doorstops and paperweights. We made George Lucas create Jar Jar for us, precisely to torture the rest of you. We had all the sex and smoked all the cigarettes and ate all the carbohydrates, so now they’re all used up, and you. can’t. have. any.

That’s right. We baby boomers are responsible for turning this great country into a nation of rude, disgusting, flip-flop wearers. Before we boomers came of age in the late sixties all Americans were polite and well behaved.

Just how polite and well-behaved was America back then?

Americans were SO polite in those days that no conversation among white people was complete until there was at least one use of the N-word AND at least one additional gratuitous ethnic slur applied to one other minority. An entire conversation devoted solely to putting down Negroes was considered an opportunity lost. How rude!

Americans were SO polite in those days that they made sure their police had attack dogs to politely teach manners to anyone who asked for too many rights. If that didn’t work, they would break out the flip-flops. Ha, ha, that was a joke. No, they would break out the ax handles. In a polite society, minorities know their place!

Americans were SO polite that we never let women and children talk about sex. Only men were allowed the power to do that, in private. As a result, when American children were raped by people they trusted and the children tried to report it to other adults, they were accused of being vulgar and had their mouths washed out with soap and water. In a polite society rape victims shut up!

In 1964 some Concerned Citizen would’ve stepped up to that flip-flop wearing lacrosse playing commie tomboy-if-she’s-not-a-lesbian freak in the White House and given her the sucker punch in the gut she had coming to her. In a polite society, women toe the line!

That’s how polite America was, before we baby boomers ruined everything.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

111 Cardboard Alley, Kissmahoochee, FL

Let’s talk about how stupid people can be!

I’ll start. I can be so stupid, that I could suppose the First Amendment would entitle a teenager to make an anti-Bush poster.

The Progressive reports that the Secret Service swooped down on a highschooler and his school, seized an anti-Bush poster the kid made, and interrogated him and the teacher who gave the Bill of Rights assignment the poster was created for.

The poster showed a photo of George Bush affixed to a wall by a threatening red thumbtack through the forehead area. Red! It also showed the kid making a thumb’s down sign. As we all know the thumb’s down sign today still means “slay the vanquished gladiator” just exactly as it did more than one and a half millennia ago. So Ebert and Roeper have killed hundreds of directors, and both collect “trophy ears” to show off at parties.

Thank you, Selective Service, for straightening me out on that!

Next, how about those Lynnwood police officers that say they were just doing their jobs when they let prostitutes go ahead and service them before arresting them.

I don’t recall the last time a police officer anywhere let a criminal shoot him so as to strengthen a case against him. But maybe the Lynnwood police should also consider that approach.

While I’m at it, I can’t help but note that the Seattle Times story by Jennifer Sullivan and Christopher Schwarzen had this to say: “The Seattle Times is not naming the officers because they work undercover.” Ha!

Let’s move right along and across the country. Not that there isn’t plenty of stupidity around here. Just to stretch our legs.

The Florida State Department of Corrections, or the FSDC, as I’ll call them, had a bad man in their custody, who had been convicted of attempted rape. As bad as he was, he had served seven years and he was due to be released on probation. Before that, neither he nor the FSDC could get him housing, because nobody in Florida wants to house a convicted sex-offender. Since, by law, while the offender is on probation he must report his address, and since he wouldn’t have a regular address to report, the FSDC figured they could just save some trouble and re-arrest the man for probation violation before even releasing him.

Here is how stupid the Florida State Department of Corrections is: not only did they need a judge to tell them they can’t arrest people for being homeless even before they are, they also may need another judge to tell them that, because they’re planning an appeal!

As the judge pointed out, the guy could report his address as being under a specific piece of cardboard, if that’s all the housing Florida can make available for him.

Finally we leave this country altogether to note the story that really got me started on this batch of rants. This is the Mother of All Stupidity Stories, in which the Israeli Supreme Court had to inform the Israeli Army that it was not OK to use Palestinians as human shields.

How stupid has the Israeli Army been? Well, the Israeli Army was already in 2002 told by the Israeli Supreme Court not to force people to be human shields. So it instituted a policy whereby only “volunteer” human shields will be used.

It took another trip to the Israeli Supreme Court for the Israeli Army to be introduced to the difficult concept that when a civilian member of a hated group is “asked” by angry shouting men carrying automatic weapons, hand grenades, and pistols, to willingly “volunteer” to pick objects up to see if they are booby-trapped, nothing that civilian does or says can be considered voluntary.

One member of the Knesset said the court had ruled, "an army in a democratic state cannot act like terror gangs.” To learn this they need a court?

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

A Pit Bull in Size 6 Shoes

Sometimes I just don’t know what I’d do without George Bush.

This morning as I prepared to write this column I had no idea what I would write about. As usual I microwaved yesterday’s leftover coffee to jumpstart my neurons while the new coffee was brewing. Then I sat down and checked my email, because I’ve come to believe that if ever the Apocalypse began overnight someone would email me to let me know I missed it. Besides, I subscribe to a host of email news alert services. I call these “trumpets.”

So today, a CNN trumpet, at 5:14 AM, tells me that George W. Bush has picked Harriet Ellan “Wormtongue” Miers, current White House counsel, to replace Sandra Day O’Connor on the Supreme Court. Thank you, George!

George refers to Miers as a “pit bull in size 6 shoes.” I’m not going to dwell on her feet. I’m going to talk about the fact that she’s never been a judge; she’s the White House Counsel; she’s been Bush’s staff secretary; before that she was George Bush’s personal lawyer. This raises two questions that have come up before but that I have mostly avoided addressing until now: 1) How stupid does George Bush think we are? And: 2) He really is stupid, himself, isn’t he?

OK, in the past there have been Supreme Court justices who were never judges. Miers was a clerk for a judge, so she could know as much about judging as, say, William Rehnquist did, before he became a Supreme Court justice. Oh boy, she could be another Rehnquist.

Does George Bush even understand that he isn’t president of Bushland? The Supreme Court is a US court for the people of the US. The people want their own judge, not George Bush’s judge.

Please note that I’m not saying Harriet Miers can’t be a great Supreme Court justice. How should I know? All I or anyone else is going to have to go on, unless she screws up in the Senate, are these kinds of reassuring quotes from White House chief of staff Andrew Card: Harriet Miers is “one of the favorite people in the White House,” Harriet Miers, by being invited to join Bush at Camp David regularly enjoys “a privilege that is not enjoyed by a lot of staff,” and Miers is “a quiet, highly respected force and someone who is seen as not having any agenda other than the president's.”

Terrific. Let’s firm that up. She’s a George Bush pet. She has no other agenda EXCEPT THAT OF THE PRESIDENT. She doesn’t have my agenda, she doesn’t have your agenda, she doesn’t have the nation’s agenda, she has George’s agenda. She’s a quiet pit bull with tiny feet, who will sneak up behind you in her size 6s, bite you in the butt and never let go, all for her love of George. Whoopty.

Wormtongue. She’s been the lawyer whispering in George Bush’s ear for longer than he’s been president. Her most recent assignment was to advise George Bush in his selection of a replacement for Sandra Day O’Connor. Again, allow me to firm that up. My head is spinning, maybe it’s the stale coffee. Her most recent job as White House counsel was, apparently, to advise George Bush on her own promotion to the Supreme Court. And he said yes, because she’s a favorite!

Here’s an interesting bit of history. Rehnquist’s last job before being nominated for the Supreme Court was to help screen nominees for the Supreme Court. That seems to be good career direction for aspiring lawyers.

I like to call actions and ideas stupid. Not people. But I hear “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” How can that not represent stupidity incarnate?

Bush thinks the schools should teach Intelligent Design. I think the schools should teach the theory of Stupid Design: that a Creator as dumb as George Bush designed the world. It would explain everything.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

One Big Happy Family

Here’s a shock: the LAPD are reporting police abuses!

Not their own, of course. That’ll happen the same day pigs fly out my butt, put on a military air show over the city, and nobody watches.

But I’m still impressed. The LAPD are saying that police from at least four suburban cities have been spotted dropping homeless people in downtown Los Angeles. This annoys the LAPD, because not only is it a human rights violation, but it also makes more work for everybody. Heck, now they have to shove them all in a wagon and drive them back. What a pain.

Meanwhile, I don’t know of any claims that suburban police are dumping their homeless here in Emerald City. We have it so good. We don’t have any problems, our own police are wonderful and so are their colleagues in our neighboring cities. We are all one big happy family, we and our cops. I’ve always said, there’s nobody I like having be my friend more than a Seattle cop. Always said that.

That’s why I’m not happy to mention a little something that’s been going on outside my window once or twice a week every week for the last, oh I don’t know, maybe eight or nine weeks. It hasn’t been too long, no, I’m not complaining, really, I don’t need the sleep, really I don’t. A little something involving Seattle cops. Did I mention that I love cops? Everyone who’s ever been homeless loves cops. Please don’t hurt me.

So. There’ve been rumors for some time now that a homeless woman was found in a Seattle alley almost decapitated. I haven’t been able to confirm this rumor. But I am absolutely positive that the police care about the safety of all of Seattle’s homeless and relate to their fears.

So anyway, there were these rumors, and subsequently large numbers of homeless people started sleeping together, evidently for self-protection, out on the sidewalk, under my window, every night.

So, then, our beloved Seattle police, please don’t hurt me for saying this, started driving by in their big-ass cruisers and announcing over their bullhorns that those people had to disperse, because residents of my building (that would be me and people like me) didn’t want them there -- even though they weren’t bothering me, and I understood why they were there, and I hadn’t complained. Even though it’s legal to sleep on Seattle sidewalks after nine o’clock at night, and this was happening after midnight.

OK, I guess the cops heard a different drummer, as they say. I don’t know if it’s allowed for cops to listen to that different a drummer, but, like I say, we love our cops, and they always do us up right. Yay. Please don’t hurt me for saying the thing about the drummers.

But then a week ago last Saturday I was woken up by the bullhorns I didn’t ask for and I heard, apparently in answer to the question, “Where are we supposed to sleep?” the words “I’m not concerned about that, I’m concerned about the sidewalk.”

The sidewalk? They’re concerned about the sidewalk? Nobody’s decapitated a sidewalk. That was very confusing for me. Please don’t hurt me for being confused.

Finally, a few days later, I was woken up at 1:30 AM by this piece of advice by bullhorn: “If you people WANT to sleep outdoors, go to one of the parks [he suggested one here] and sleep there.”

At that I was really confused, because it IS illegal to sleep in the parks at night. Were our police trying to entrap people by ordering them to commit an illegal act so that they could then arrest them and deny having given the order? That would be wrong. But what else would induce police officers, WHO CARE ABOUT THE LAW, to order people to break it?

Well? Any answers? I’d appreciate hearing from Kerlikowske, the minute he can think of one.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Cut-sies!

People are seeing silver linings in the Katrina disaster.

This is NOT ME saying this, this is Archbishop Paul Cordes, the Pope’s envoy bringing Vatican aid to Katrina victims: “… this event [brings with it] the hope, for many citizens, of seeing that the world is greater than the United States.” Alright! The world is Number One!

President Mugabe of Zimbabwe likewise finds hope in the disaster, in comparing his country’s circumstances to ours.

Actually, the number of people now homeless in Zimbabwe and living in squalid camps as a result of Mugabe’s interestingly named Operation Murambatsvina (Drive Out Trash) is on the order of the number of Americans made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. That, in a country less than one twenty-fifth the population of the US, makes the impact on Zimbabwe life of Murambatsvina equivalent to 25 Katrinas for us.

Still, after Katrina, Mugabe says his people are “very happy”, and all is well in the state of Zimbabwe, and he barred the UN homeless agency from helping his people, telling them instead to go to America and teach us Americans not to neglect ours.

By the way, Mugabe has repeatedly justified tearing down poor people’s shanties by pointing to American and European governments’ similar habit of bulldozing tent cities. If we can do it once, why can’t he do it a thousand times?

Meanwhile our own government has used the Katrina disaster to make our pre-existing homelessness vanish from the policy map. HUD has required local housing authorities everywhere to house Katrina victims in all available open housing, rather than people who were already homeless and on long frozen waiting lists, without saying “please.”

How about that? The homeless people who didn’t lose their homes to a 2005 hurricane starting with the letter K don’t count anymore! We don’t care how long you’ve been on a waiting list! What pre-existing homelessness?

Some have explained this by saying that the recently homeless Katrina victims can get on their feet faster than the “long-term” homeless, because they haven’t been homeless long enough to have become “difficult to house.” This is one of the finest crocks I have seen. It is proved to be a crock by the fact that HUD’s mandate doesn’t only apply to those homeless in the long-term, but also to people made homeless all across the country YESTERDAY, including victims of yesterday’s apartment fires.

I wouldn’t mind if we were talking about necessary triage here. If there were truly limited resources to solve homelessness than why not give priority on some arbitrary basis, like they did with the draft lottery? Instead of “all Katrina victims go to the front of the line,” how about “all homeless people born on a Saturday go to the front of the line,” or “age before beauty,” or “paper, rocks, scissors,” or “let’s make that two out of three?”

But it isn’t like that. The resources are there and they have been there for decades. No one needs to be homeless. We only have homelessness because this country has chosen to turn its back on it, for the sheer sake of esthetics.

For example, in Ocala, Florida, there were people living in a housing subdivision who offered to put up evacuees in their homes. HUD wouldn’t have to find housing for them! But when the housing association heard about it they enforced a rule against housing the homeless in the subdivision.

It would spoil the subdivision’s culture, you see. Why, next they’ll want to paint their houses purple.

Likewise the reason George Bush doesn’t want us to raise taxes to pay for either the Iraq War or hurricane cleanup boils down to esthetics: If the rich had to pay higher taxes, it would make this land a cesspit where most rich people could only afford one mansion apiece, and where their children might be forced to baby-sit to buy Nintendos.

That’s just plain ugly!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

An Embarrassment of Riches

Let’s say “embarras de richesses” too many times!

I’m going to talk about freedom of speech. But, who am I to make a fuss about freedom of speech, when I am so full of it? Look, I’m speaking right now, with printed words! Can you say “embarras de richesses?” I can’t! I don’t know how!

Nevertheless I know what it means. I exemplify it! For example this appears to be my 201st column. That means I have let my speech out to run freely 200 times just in this rag alone. Embarras de duck-licking! That doesn’t begin to count speaking incidents at bars, nightclubs, carnivals, and poultry farms.

No way though do I epitomize this sort of thing. For that look at the generic Washington State politician running for office.

In case you missed it, it’s again legal in this state for political candidates to lie about their opponents. For five or six years before last week it was against the law for candidates to lie about each other (they could lie about themselves all they wanted.) But now that law has been struck down because it violated the candidates’ freedom of speech to have their speech constrained by the truth.

When it comes to politicians, “it’s not that the truth shall set you free, but that the truth shall handcuff you to the bed and shall make you watch it model leather pants for hours, which is just plain naughty,” said the court, in effect.

So this state’s highest “embarras de richesses” award, in the Too Much Free Speech Category, goes to our hard-working politicians. Congratulations, guys and gals!

Now lets talk about people who can look forward to less freedom of speech in the near future. Gosh, let’s see, who might we be talking about? We can’t be talking about the politicians; we just said they can babble about anything. Could it be the rich? No, rich people can just buy full-page ads in the Seattle Weekly when they want to say something unpopular that needs to be protected by the First Amendment.

It would be poor people! Of course! Poor people living in buildings run by Seattle Housing Authority!

As reported in our last issue by Cydney Gillis, SHA was planning to prohibit residents of 28 buildings from putting signs (including flags!) in their windows. This was justified on the grounds that A) it would make the buildings prettier, and B) other apartment owners (commercial ones) prohibit the same.

YES, SHA, AND IF OTHER APARTMENT OWNERS JUMPED OFF A BRIDGE, WOULD YOU ALSO JUMP OFF A BRIDGE? Now, with that outburst out of the way, I am ready to delve deeper into this issue and calmly analyze one by one the validity of the two reasons offered for this rule.

In connection with reason A, Virginia Felton, SHA spokesperson, was quoted saying that “we’d like our public housing buildings not to look like college dorms.” Well, tough. The First Amendment is not preceded by a One-Halvesies Amendment that states, “SHA’s sense of esthetics shall not be violated.”

Reason B is trickier. Yes, commercial apartment owners insist that renters sign an agreement to accept such rules before allowing occupancy. And I notice that SHA plans to appear to act just as a commercial apartment owner would, by letting residents choose to either sign an agreement to comply or be evicted.

But that’s just a sham. Commercial apartment owners get away with such threats because the courts accept the myth, in their case, that the renters are free to negotiate or go elsewhere.

No such myth is functioning on SHA’s behalf. SHA knows, and the courts know, that their residents have no place else to go. The threat of an eviction that would result in homelessness to preserve a trite middle-class boneheaded esthetic standard is unjustifiable. So SHA needs to chill, go back to art college, and broaden its taste in the decorative arts.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

When Foresight Was 20/20

George Bush on CNN about New Orleans: "They're facing problems that nobody could foresee: breaking of the levees and the whole dome thing over in New Orleans coming apart. People couldn't foresee that."

I’ve been trying to figure out that whole not-foreseeing thing. Please follow me as I attempt to unravel this one.

Naturally, when the Philadelphia Inquirer had an article last year about the danger to New Orleans of taking a hurricane hit head-on, George Bush ignored it. You can’t read newspapers that put the word “Inquirer” in their name. You do that with one, pretty soon you’re sliding down that slippery slope and the next thing you know you’re reading on a regular basis.

Could George have watched the in-depth report on the problem presented by the PBS show NOW with Bill Moyers in 2002? Daniel Zwerdling talked to scientists and community leaders about how New Orleans could be devastated in any year by a hurricane. Surely our President can have his people watch TV when something comes on that might be important?

No! He could not, not if Bill Moyers is involved. Besides, Zwerdling sounds like Nerdling. You know how sensitive our President is to being perceived as an intellectual. George “best tee-totaler to have a beer with” Bush can’t be seen as having even heard of PBS.

The same argument applies to the long 2001 article that appeared on the subject in Scientific American. Scientific American? What’s that? Some magazine for global-warming evolutionist stem-cell murdering crazies? Probable reaction: “Not my constituency.”

But then I found out that USA Today had warned of the danger even before that, in 2000! Help me! I cannot imagine how President Bush can say that something is unforeseeable when even USA Today could and did foresee it, five years ago!

Sure, Bush doesn’t read. He prefers to listen only to the single lone voice of God in his head, never to the billions of voices of God outside his head, the voices that his head and ears were presumably designed to listen to. But of all the thousands of people working in the executive branch directly under Bush, there isn’t one person he listens to that reads USA Today? What do they all read, cereal boxes?

Here are some more confusing comments about the New Orleans disaster. When it was suggested, as I have just done, that the administration had not done all it could do to prepare for this disaster, Bush press secretary Scott McClellan said, “This is not a time for finger-pointing or playing politics.” But, after changing channels, the very next thing I hear is Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a part of the executive branch of government (Bush’s branch), saying victims of Katrina were to blame for their own problems, for not heeding mandatory evacuation notices.

Excuse me, are we finger-pointing or aren’t we? We can point at victims but we can’t point at Bush? How about I point at this: the people who stayed behind were all the poorest people in the area and they received little to no assistance from FEMA to comply with those evacuation notices. Were they all supposed to have taken their private doctors along with them in Lear jets to Lanai to stay there until New Orleans is reassembled?

Well before Katrina hit, interstate buses leaving New Orleans were locked down.

Now I want to talk about the fact that Senator Trent Lott is homeless, too. As reported in the Seattle Times, Katrina leveled Lott’s 154 year-old Pascagoula home. The fact was mentioned by Bill Frist the next day as the Senate approved $10.5 billion in aid for areas affected by the hurricane.

Such aid may help rebuild Trent Lott’s house. I hope so, because, as I have always said, “If there’s just one homeless person in America, that’s one too many.”

Provided he takes responsibility for himself and goes out and gets a real job.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

You're Thinking Too much

Remember Ian Spiers? He was the Scots-African-American who last year chose to take photographs of the beautiful Hiram Chittenden Locks in his neighborhood just like he’d seen all the tourists do for the decade or so since he’d been living nearby. Only Mr. Spiers wasn’t made to feel welcome. Instead he was greeted by police who demanded to see ID, not once but repeatedly. In one case federal agents even showed up at his home to lecture Mr. Spiers about 9-11 and to make him feel like a criminal.

Well, just when we thought all that was behind us, the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a new warning last week that "it is crucial that police, fire and emergency medical personnel take notice of their surroundings, and be aware of 'vagrants' who seem out of place or unfamiliar." This warning was in part prompted by the discovery in Somerville, Massachusetts, of a homeless man with an expired Yemen passport, who was doing nothing illegal and who was not a terrorist.

Let me explain that again. I’m sure most of you out there have working neurons taking up valuable space in your heads, so that what I’ve said here so far may not have sunk in for you the way it would have done if your brain was made of chocolate pudding.

Pay close attention now. A MAN was found in OUR country guilty of NOT being a terrorist and of being ACTUALLY homeless and from Yemen, another country. This led OUR government to conclude that there might be other non-terrorists who are homeless and from Yemen, RIGHT?

NO! From that they concluded that we have to be more afraid of terrorists POSING as terrorists. We’ve already seen one person NOT DO THAT, in Somerville, so we must be more vigilant than ever.

You know, by concentrating really hard, and by taking lots of illegal pills and funny mushrooms, and drinking a whole bottle of Jack Daniels, I bet I could work for Homeland Security, too. Let me crank up my natural paranoia and see how that would work.

Seriously, I think I speak for everyone in the homeless community when I say the U.S. Attorney’s Office hasn’t gone far enough. We need to really be on the safe side and think of how else terrorists might effectively disguise themselves. Gee, if I were a terrorist I would want to be able to go anywhere I want and rarely be suspected of any wrongdoing, or, if suspected, be able to easily brush the suspicions aside.

I could pose as police, fire, or emergency medical personnel, couldn’t I? Yes! Our police should be on the alert for our other police! Our firemen should be suspicious of each other! We should run away from ambulance drivers; they may have bombs!

I know, a lot of you are probably saying, “Wes, you’re being silly. No ambulance driver has ever been found with a bomb in this country.” Precisely! The terrorists knew that’s what you were going to think and they’re using that! THEY’RE USING YOUR NEURONS, MAN.

It’s because you have a brain that they can get you. The terrorists do the opposite of everything that makes sense, and they use the sense that you make against you! (I want Dennis Hopper to play me in the movie version of this column.)

All the homeless people in this country are under suspicion all the time! That’s precisely why the terrorists will pretend to be homeless, because you won’t suspect the people you already suspected! Our government is full of geniuses. I know it because they came up with this.

What you’ve got to do is stop thinking. If you stop thinking the terrorists can’t get you. Our government destroys reason to protect us. We are better off when we do what they say and be stupid, because that’s the last thing the terrorists will expect from us.

Remember, 2+2=5. Non-thinking is Safe-thinking. Take your pills.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Embrace the Putrid Legislative Roadkill

One month since Bellevue approved its new regulations regarding organized homeless people’s encampments, my regular readers might wonder why I have taken so long to bring it up. The answer is, I don’t really like to write in a rage. I like to have been in a rage, and then have calmed down enough so I can pretend I’m writing in a rage, but actually in my mind be on a tropical beach at Bora Bora contemplating sunbathers, and what is a Bora Bora, anyway?

Where was I? Oh yes, back in Puget Sound, Bellevue has passed an asinine new law. Either the whole law, or substantial parts of it should be struck down by the courts, and the ruling judge or judges should tell the majority of the Bellevue City Council that voted for this travesty the whole truth about their mamas.

But I am not going to attack the Bellevue City Council or their feeble unconstitutional attempt at lawmaking. Instead I am going to embrace their puny law, and, out of my joy from the sands of the Bora Bora of my head, I am even going to celebrate this piece of putrid rotting legislative roadkill.

I’m going to offer some suggestions as to how Bellevue can beat the courts and not have their pathetic law struck down, by making it even more stringent and draconian than it is.

For example there is a provision in the law that was passed that said that only “entities with a religious purpose” may host a tent city encampment. What a wonderful idea. Let’s strengthen this provision by making sure the underlying principle is applied to everyone in Bellevue, not just homeless people.

To get away in the courts with requiring that homeless people can only live in groups on established church lands, Bellevue needs to carry that to the people as a whole. All high-rise apartment buildings should be turned over to established churches, or they should be vacated and demolished. Any building or property where two or more unrelated people live must be under the control of a government recognized church. It won’t hurt anyone (aside from stepping on the rights of secular landowners, but screw them, this is government), it will just make all our lives safer, because only churches have what it takes to keep our cities safe from… people.

Speaking of being safe from people, another provision of the law says that either the managers or the host of any tent city in Bellevue is required to report to Seattle and King County public health officials any resident who has a communicable disease. Now, I like this provision of the law, but in the interest of Equal Protection and Due Process and Constitutional Crank Term This and Constitutional Crank Term That, I think it doesn’t go far enough.

The fear is that all those people being so close together in those separate tents will pass diseases one to another and trigger the next Black Plague. I totally have this fear. I get it from looking in the window at the Safeco building and seeing acres of insurance slaves working in tiny cubicles. I get it from seeing hundreds of people shoulder to shoulder for hours at a time in the stands at Little League games. I get it from seeing Bellevue City Council members sitting next to each other at hearings. Those people could have germs too! We must be vigilant! Do you want to die from “the B’vue City Council Plague of ’07”? The time to prevent it is now!

So let’s just expand the law like this: if you see people closer than six feet to one another (the typical distance between unrelated tent city dwellers) and you think one of them has a cold, you have to report them, or you go to jail.

By the way, all but one of the Bellevue City Council members’ mamas got cooties.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Pimp and Circumstance

My goal this week is to wade into a pool of homeless activists and see what bites me. I want to discuss certain deep questions, such as “What is a poverty pimp?” “Who’s calling whom a poverty pimp?” “I’m not a poverty pimp, you are,” and “Whatever I am, you’re double that,” inspired by a couple of minor controversies which have swirled recently.

One has to do with charges out there that Real Change exploits the poor and homeless to keep our director and a few privileged others in the lower middle-class lifestyle that they were born into. I don’t have the space here to get into the details, but I’d like to offer some thoughts of mine regarding those charges.

Our director Tim “Perfess’r” Harris, stands accused of being a greedy, privileged, white, middle-aged, middle-class, Classics-loving, kitsch-collecting, testosterone-driven, quiche-eating, carbs-forsaking, couscous-hating, male. OK, I can live with that. He even has a car, and kids. How dare he afford kids! But when someone says the remaining ten or eleven of us are greedy, privileged, white, middle-aged, middle-class, males, they are wrong in every single case. That’s not the kind of sweatshop we operate around here.

I for one have been homeless four times, and am dirt poor now. Yet even though I am on the board and a white male I’ve never been paid one single potato for the writing I do here. Some greed.

There’s also been a charge that we DO pay some of our writers. These people can’t make up their minds: so is paying good or bad? In the case of our two staff writers, paying is supposedly bad because they are *privileged*, more than, say, the whiner who came up with these charges. I guess so; they can write, if that’s a privilege. I thought it was a talent. But other than that, the charge is a crock.

Truth is, we pay staff when they have to do more than what a volunteer can bear. For the long workweeks we get out of our director we should pay him $52,000 per year. We don’t actually pay him quite that much. Please don’t anyone tell him.

The other controversy concerns “bumvertising” and one of my favorite activists, Michael Stoops of the National Coalition of the Homeless.

Mr. Stoops, like Tim Harris, has his share of detractors. It doesn’t help that at street paper conferences the two of them invariably leave us peons to go party all night at some catered penthouse somewhere, or whatever they do. They could be playing mumbly-peg for all the rest of us know. But I’m kidding; Michael isn’t a poverty pimp.

On the other hand, Ben Rogovy is proof that poverty pimping is alive and well. Mr. Rogovy has recently started an on-line poker service and begun using what he calls “bumvertising” to call attention to it. He pays panhandlers cash, food, and other goods, to advertise Rogovy’s business while they panhandle.

So homeless activists everywhere are outraged, charging Mr. Rogovy with exploiting the homeless. Michael Stoops mainly objects to the term “bumvertising” which perpetuates stereotypes, and I can agree with that, but he goes too far when he also says, "Homeless people are desperate, but they're not so desperate that they are going to be exploited by some avant-garde company that wants to sell their product."

If that were true that would mean homeless people were less desperate than all the other people who work for avant-garde companies that want to sell their products.

No, I would rather Rogovy stopped calling people bums and derelicts, especially now that he has them working, and I’d like to see him stick to paying cash, in order to empower his contractors to choose the goods they want, rather than have their goods chosen for them by the Man. But he’s not exploiting panhandlers any more than Starbucks exploits baristas.

Capitalism exploits, period. Don’t select homeless people out for this special stigma of victimhood.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Notes from the Underground

Occasionally yours truly speaks at people about having been homeless. (I usually wait to be invited.) Last Sunday I was asked to participate in a panel discussion about parks and park benches, and say why homeless people need parks. So this led to some six minutes of me expressing the concept “duh” different ways.

However, I also mentioned that I’ve personally never needed parks, per se. I’ve always felt a need for catacombs, which I regard as park-equivalents. I couldn’t elaborate on that at the event, so I thought why not squander 550 words doing so now?

I guess the first time I felt I needed catacombs was at age 9, on the Day the Music Died, Feb. 3, 1959, when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper died in a plane crash together. I began to believe I needed to live below ground. I don’t know if there’s a connection, but I know people don’t fall up.

Two years later I got my first pimple. Again, I don’t know if there was a connection, but I began to have compulsive fantasies about digging a cave out of the side of a hill, and installing a camouflage door. I could figure out how to have camouflage skylights, a garden, fountains, and a working oven. I could eat roots, blanched grubs, and ant-paste. But how to get TV? I could tap into power lines, but that would be illegal, and, sadly, I was addicted to the law.

Then in high school I answered the call of Bill Speidel, who wanted to excavate the Seattle Underground, make it a tourist attraction, and promote the cleanup of Pioneer Square. Between hours spent underground shoveling dust without a helmet or mask for my new slave master Mr. Bill, he entertained us high schoolers with stories about how the Underground came into being, and how after it was closed up bums lived there! Since Bill wrote non-fiction, and it was around 1965, I believed him.

There was hope. Perhaps there were outlets down there and I could estimate the bills and send checks. But on closer inspection, there were no outlets. Besides, having an address Underground, I would not be able to maintain checking.

Years later I realized, only just in time to get married and live in a house with a Seattle City Light connection, that I would not solve the TV problem until the Future arrived and with it, the invention of low-power sets that would make the pedal-driven generator a practical power source. But I still felt the Call of the Catacombs in my heart and soul.

Perhaps I could have gotten help with my TV addiction, or my law addiction. There should be a patch for the first and a Twelve Step Program for the second. But no matter how hard I try to remember that the power company just stole the power from the river and the fish or made it by burning coal from out of the Earth that no one rightfully owns, still, it’s “theirs,” somehow. They bought that Earth from someone, who bought it from someone, who… stole it. It’s all stolen property, ultimately.

Not everyone is so conflicted. James David Hodge, who lived 12 years beneath the UW Music Department, didn’t care if he paid for his electricity. An unknown number of residents of the New York City subway tunnels in the nineties had TVs with VCRs, washing machines and dryers, using so much power it must have slowed the trains each day by a second or two. I just couldn’t let myself be the cause of so much tragedy.

So I’ll have to wait until I’m dead to live down there. Then, in a million or so years, mutated descendants of the rats or the squirrels or the cockroaches who survive us will fight over the power released from burning me, in order to get high and laugh at Twilight Zone tapes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Blah Blah Na

This may shock some of you. When I first read newspaper columnists, back in the fifties, my favorite was conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. It wasn’t because I agreed with him. By age five I was already well on my way to becoming the pinko commie sympathizer I am accused of being today. It was because the liberals were much less fun. Where’s the fun in reading what you expect to read?

Now that Buckley has left us I have to find others to entertain me. Recent favorites are Charles Krauthammer, John Leo, and Seattle’s own, but not for long, James Na.

Mr. Na recently wrote telling us all why he was leaving Seattle. It seemed to boil down to our insularity and our Blueness. He says we should be Purple, instead. Purpleness provides better balance, like eating your vegetables with your meat and getting plenty of roughage, I guess.

The evidence for our insularity was that Seattleites think Seattle is the world’s most beautiful city even if they’ve been nowhere else. How true. It’s a phenomenon I have discovered in every other town I have lived.

Years ago a woman in New Brunswick, New Jersey, told me no other place was as beautiful. She was subsequently forced to admit she had never been more than ten miles away. But then she reasserted her original claim, because it was still “obviously true.” Whatever you do, Mr. Na, don’t go live in New Brunswick NJ and risk meeting that woman. You would run away screaming. Besides, New Brunswick is as ugly as my grandmother’s knees.

John Leo is often whinging on about the evils of Liberal Political Correctness, which turns me off because I totally agree with him on that. Liberal Political Correctness is the worst thing the Left has ever done to itself. I agree so much it bores me to tears to read about it in every other Leo column. But when he gets away from the mostly campus news from the PC War front, Leo can be delightfully refreshing.

A great example is his recent column that, among other things, attacked homeless advocates for inflating homeless numbers. This was a joy to read. Every sentence boosted my circulation. The piece stirred my soul, like an elephant in a hot tub.

Particularly delightful about his July 27 column is the way he knocks homeless advocates in general for pushing faulty statistics that, in fact, homeless advocates in general don’t push. John is the master of the Straw Dog argument. First, the straw: “One report a few months ago reported that nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night.” While fashioning your Dog, don’t bother to cite the source, because you don’t want people to know it’s straw. You want them to think this really comes from the actual enemy, so when you knock down your Dog we can be impressed.

It happens the “one report a few months ago” referred to a report by the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans which in turn quoted Veterans Administration statistics.

So what’s the puff of wind that’s going to knock down this Dog? A blogger (Megan McArdle) says the 300,000 figure, if accepted, would mean that all homeless people are veterans, because 300,000 is about the total number of all homeless people. And that number comes from … the US Census Bureau!

So we have a discrepancy between VA and US Census figures, not a problem with homeless advocates at all. In fact the National Coalition for the Homeless warns against accepting any such statistics, and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans echoes the NCH warning.

So when Leo finally says “The lesson? Don't trust advocacy numbers,” he’s actually agreeing with the advocacy agencies he’s quoting, so he’s agreeing with me (because I agree with them that the numbers are untrustworthy), but he’s says it like he’s proved we’re all wrong, which he hasn’t! What a great ride! Thanks, John!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Heads Up, incoming

As an American I can’t help but be thrilled, as I am sure you are, by Lance Armstrong’s incredible win, for the seventh straight time, of some French contest or game or something, in their Frenchy country. But, I wonder, is that news I can use? Or not?

What the heck is news we can use, anyway? This is supposed to be a community newspaper. But what is community news, anyway? Is it just news that happens around here, in the local community? Is it news that makes our community feel good, like the Lance thing? Or is it news that tells us something that we can really use, such as an announcement of “heads up, incoming?”

I say it’s the “heads up, incoming” thing. Let’s take an example. About two weeks ago some terrorists set off three bombs in London, a city in another one of those unpatriotic countries where they don’t recite our Pledge of Allegiance. In fact it’s just above France on the map. Anyway, a week later, on account of those bombings, you had New York police randomly searching the bags of subway users.

Now, I don’t know much about geography. I don’t know the price of tea in China, now that their currency is no longer pegged to the dollar. I don’t know how much wool they mine in Australia, or whether or not they use modern synthetics instead. I’m a good American, so I prefer to mind my own business. But I can look at page 5 of my Funk & Wagnall’s Hammond World Atlas, as I’m doing right now, and I can tell you that Seattle is only an inch from New York, while New York is a whole inch and a half, about, from London!

What that tells us is this: the effects of three London bombings were able to travel, uh, three-fifths of the way here in just one week. So: Heads up! Incoming! You’re only two London bombs away from random searches of your own! Run and hide!

Let’s take a related example. Since the bombings the London police have taken to wearing all black, going around like ninjas, carrying guns, and shooting foreign looking guys who run away from guys that look like ninjas with guns. I would like to say it can’t happen here, but, HOLY-MOLY, our cops ALREADY carry guns, so ANYTHING could push them over the edge! Heads up! Incoming!

If you don’t believe me you should watch your local TV news, like Channel Nine and a Half News at Nine and a Half or whatever. Some guy named Greg or Steve will be talking to some woman named Nancy, say, and he’ll say, “So, Nancy, say, is there something the viewers here in Seattle can do to avoid being shot by men who look like ninjas with guns?” And Nancy, who plays the smart one, will say, “Yes there is, Greg or Steve. Experts around the world all agree that if you are confronted by men who look like ninjas and if they appear to have guns, you should NOT look foreign to them, and whatever you do, do NOT run away.” “That’s good to know, Nancy!” “It sure is, Greg or Steve!”

In fact the House of Representatives, a legislative body that often meets 3000 or so miles from here, has just decided it wants to renew the PATRIOT Act for another ten years. That could help pay for those cool all-black ensembles for our local police, not to mention more guns. I’m betting this is important to my homeless or formerly-homeless, mostly foreign looking, poor to middling-poor, already kicked-down & beaten-around community.

And for those of you who don’t look foreign, I want you to look around you at the foreign-looking people and say, out loud, so loud they can hear you, “There but for the Grace of God go I,” because I’m an incorrigible trouble-maker.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Profiles In Irresponsiblity

Let’s NOT talk about horses in Enumclaw!

When my readers speak, I listen. I did a quick reader survey this week and two out of three readers agree that I should never in any column whatsoever discuss non-veterinary procedures involving horses on Enumclaw farms, as to do so may offend. The third reader was a sick bastard. Therefore I’m going to talk about something sure not to offend, namely infant death, imprisonment, and professional misconduct.

What I want to talk about is Sir Roy Meadows and his troubles. This is a story with a moral, having to do with the idea that everyone is entitled to his or her opinions and everyone has a right to be wrong sometimes. Well, sometimes, maybe, but not always! As Sir Roy has recently learned.

Roy Meadows is a British pediatrician whose testimony in British courts has sent several mothers to jail for murdering their infants, based on the idea, known as Meadow’s Law, that “one sudden infant death is a tragedy, two is suspicious and three is murder until proved otherwise.” That was in turn justified by his calculation that the odds of SIDS occurring twice in an affluent family were around 73 million to one.

Here’s a law of my own, I call it Browning’s Supposition: any statistic that’s more accurate than the raw data it could be or is supposed to be based upon is bogus on its face. My law tells me for example, that in Star Trek’s “Errand of Mercy,” when Spock says that his and Kirk’s odds of surviving are approximately 7824.7 to one, and I know the Vulcan smart-ass can’t even see around the next corner, I can safely conclude Spock is up to his pointed ears in BS.

Meadow’s calculation is even worse than that. He started with the odds of one case of SIDS occuring in a family and simply squared it to get the odds that it happens twice in the same family. In doing so he tacitly assumed that each non-homicidal instance of sudden infant death was independent of every other such instance.

In fact though, there may be genetic factors, or environmental factors, or innocent childcare practices that could result in SIDS. Meadow’s disregarded all those possibilities.

You’ve probably seen the signs that say, “Back to Sleep.” It’s been shown that putting babies to bed on their backs dramatically reduces incidents of SIDS. That one discovery alone proves that SIDS isn’t wholly random and that there are causes that can run in a family.

Which wouldn’t matter if Meadows’ opinion were just the opinion of a crank doctor who also believed, say, that cows could fly provided only that the air they stepped on could be made hard enough. We would call that quaint, and we’d knight him, and we’d expect him to live like one of those old codgers in every episode of The Avengers, walking around in their mansions in the country sipping tea out of a hose attached to a robot filled periodically by a loving maid, who turns out to be the real villain, so we can see her and Mrs. Peel fight it out at the end.

Meadows ‘expert’ testimony in courtrooms, and his popularized Law, and his bogus calculation of odds were all used to convince juries to convict at least hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parents for the murder of their own children over the last decade. But a lawsuit in Britain that began in 2003, charging him with professional misconduct, has finally concluded that his testimony was false, that he abused his position as a doctor, and he has been banned from practicing medicine in Britain.

Hmm. Reckless expert opinions by crank experts only seeking power and influence, leading to tragic consequences – who might I be really talking about, I wonder? And can I work in an ancient TV reference? We’ll have to find out some other time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Hold Still, I'm Aiming

This week’s column is dedicated to the cliché “Low-Hanging Fruit” on account of my having heard it used in sentences no less than five times last week, and, since I can’t chew out my own ear drums, I have been driven mad.

When I think of low-hanging fruit I don’t think of easy things I can do to save money for a corporation. We had apple trees in the back yard when I was eight years old, and stupid kids next door, and so when I think of “low-hanging fruit” I think of stupidity and flinging apples at people’s heads. Not that I would do such a thing, but it feels good to think it.

The biggest stupidity of today, one that can’t go unmentioned, is the stupidity of Al Qaeda in Britain. Let’s reflect on this a minute. These guys have attacked Britain by bombing London. They bombed London! Gee, let me think, now, hasn’t someone tried that before, I’m sure I’ve heard of it, maybe I can find it in, I don’t know, a BOOK somewhere. Oh, yes, here’s this book that says if you bomb London, the first time they say, “Pardon?” It says the second time you bomb them they tell a cutting joke about you that you can’t get because you’re not smart enough. Then the third time you bomb them it makes them angry. So my first apple is for the Al Qaeda cells in Britain who claimed responsibility for last Thursday’s bombings. Stupids!

My second apple is for the members of the city council of Atlanta, Georgia, who are giving serious consideration to a plan to rid downtown Atlanta of panhandlers with a law that states that their presence “contributes to negative perceptions” of Atlanta. That’s right, I’m supposed to think badly of Atlanta if they have panhandlers, like every other city in America or the world, but if they chase their panhandlers down, lock them up, beat them, or send them to someone else’s city I’m supposed to think Atlanta is heaven on Earth.

I can hear the tourists now. “Why look, Martha, this city’s got no poor people! I wonder how they do that?” “Probably it’s because everybody who lives here gets a big cash Christmas present from Ted Turner himself, every year! I’ll bet it’s as much as a thousand dollars!” “You’re probably right, Martha! Hey, let’s sell the farm and move here so we can enjoy the fabulous wealth that oozes up out of the streets in Atlanta!” “Let’s!”

The rest of my apples, for this week, are mushy rotten apples up-side the head for every single local government out there that has instituted or is planning to institute a massive plan to house homeless people without taking the shortage of housing that causes homelessness into account as part of the plan.

It always happens like this: a city official says “Our city can solve homelessness. We will first put the homeless into housing, paying their rent for them to start with. Then we will treat any addictions they have, give them needed training, and they will get jobs, and they will be able to start paying their own way.”

And every time it goes wrong exactly the same way: the affordable housing (what the government is able to bear the cost of) doesn’t exist. One stupid government after another installs these liberal sounding compassionate programs, and one stupid government after another finds out that even a city government can’t find the cheap housing that the homeless people couldn’t find. Because it isn’t there to be found! That’s why so many were homeless, stupids! Have an apple!

Disclaimer: no actual apples were thrown during the writing of this column. The author has in fact never smacked anyone at all with a rotten apple, even including Johnny No Brain and his sister, What’s-Her-Name No Brain, and his half-brother, Big Lips Little Brain, 48 years ago, no matter what they say. Besides, they started it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Talk Is Free

Gee, I don’t mention a certain Supreme Court justice once for almost ten years here. Then when I finally bring her name up and make one little paragraph of cracks about her, she resigns. Maybe I should have made fun of Scalia or Thomas instead.

The good news: her resignation is only effective upon the nomination and confirmation of her replacement, so we won’t have to make do with just eight justices for the duration of the filibusters. If all goes as expected, the filibusters should end in time for Jeb’s swearing in as the new Caesar.

Speaking of Jeb Bush’s future, I am one so-called liberal who is ready to back the repeal of the 22nd Amendment and end term limits for presidents. It just makes good democratic sense. We won’t be able to pass and ratify the repeal (which by the way was initially proposed by a Democrat, Steny Hoyer, the House Minority Whip) in time to keep George president another four years. But we’ll have it ready for Jeb.

Here’s my thinking on this. What sense does it make to pervert the American will by, every eight years, forcing the people to find a new Bush family member to elect, when all they want is the one they have at the moment? Why make America go to all the trouble of getting used to a new style of sneering and winking, when we have a perfectly serviceable Bush already in place, with all the sycophants he requires, and a fashion of arrogance a majority of us can already get behind? What with the resignation of Sandra Day O’Connor we’re screwed anyway. Why not stick to the one assailant you know? Why ask for a serial gangbang?

While I’m on a roll taking up conservative-looking positions, allow me to offer reasons to support the proposed Anti-Flag-Burning Amendment.

First of all, freedom of speech is vastly overrated. I distinctly remember, for example, using my own freedom of speech to point out that a war on Iraq would be illegal, immoral, and ill advised. Maybe I wasn’t as clear about it as I could have been, but I wasn’t the only one saying it at the time, and some of the others were clear as a bell. But the American people went right ahead and supported the invasion anyway.

Be honest. When was the last time you persuaded a conservative to renounce his convictions and convert to your Blue State ways, with your hippie flag-burning Liberal rhetoric? Have you ever burned a flag in front of a conservative and heard him say, “Well, now that you put it that way, I find myself opening up to the Marxist critique of capitalist power and its role in history, although I am not ready to accept all of his conclusions, leaning as I am to a more democratic approach, similar to that favored by modern European socialists for example?” It just doesn’t happen.

Also, some of you may recall that the whole notion of the flag being a sacred icon arose in the forties when the Jehovah’s Witnesses sued for the right not to be compelled to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, on the grounds that it amounted to making them worship the idol of a state religion. Well, they were right then, and they’re right now. And a state religion is just what we need now to make this country the world empire the majority of its voters dream of living in.

Again, why should the people be denied their dream? That’s not the American Way. The American Way is to let the majority of Americans coerce the rest of us to worship the little pieces of cloth and the little emperor who draws His Glorious Power from them.
In the future I plan to present arguments for criminalizing A) the granting of non-Christian names to newborns, B) consuming generic packaged foods, and C) humming in public without a license.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

High Court High

Now they’ve done it. They’ve gone and made me mad.

Nothing makes me madder than waking up in the middle of the day and finding out that I’m on the same side of a losing Supreme Court opinion as Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas. Oh yes, and Sandra Day. Oh joyous Day. I’m so consoled that Sandra agrees with us on this.

Having Sandra Day O’Connor be the most liberal Supreme Court Justice on your side is like catching yourself trying to be “hip” by knowing who Pauly Shore is. It’s like being told by the prettiest girl at the party, “You’re a lot like my Dad. He’s old too.” It’s like finding yourself so drunk you’re telling your buddies you’ve had sexual fantasies involving Annette Funicello recently.

I’m talking about the decision of the court last week to allow any local government to exchange one private owner of a property with another purely on the grounds that higher taxes may be gained, eventually. I’m talking about the fact that I am opposed to that decision the same way I am opposed to, say, a repeal of the Civil Rights Act, or eliminating Social Security, or eating babies, or bringing back death camps -- but look! My side loses to the liberals! What the… ?

If I’m going to be the conservative on this one, I’m at least going to have the fun I’m due for it. I’m going to do the conservative rant I never get to do.

Just what were John Paul Stevens, and his PINKO traveling companions, Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer shooting up their veins last Thursday when they decided to turn this country over to the communists at long last? Judge Stevens said that “appreciable benefits to the community” including “increased tax revenue” as determined by a locally elected government, justify throwing private citizens of this great country off their privately owned land. Who’s the Indian now, White Man?

That’s right, I said it. Those Latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, Yoga-doing, Embryo-killing, Affirmative-Action-loving-as-long-as-THEIR-kids-can-still-get-in-at-Harvard, Vegetarian, Commie-peace-nik, long-haired, PBS-funding stinking Liberals with a Capital L have infiltrated our sacred hall of justice and made it a home for the enemies of Freedom and the Great White American Way!

When I was a White Boy growing up in the fifties my Father promised this country to me. He said, “Look around you, Son. All this land used to belong to the Red Man, who held it communally for the good of wilderness itself and the good of all the people in their various tribes. But we came to America and taught the Red Man the new concept of Private Property, meaning every White Man is a Private, and every Red Man is in the wrong army, and White Men get the Property.”

Now with one Supreme Court decision all of that is gone! I can work all my life for Boeing or Microsoft or whoever, save all my money and buy prime Duwamish river-valley land, land my White predecessors stole fair and square, and I can even pay the mortgage off, and always pay my taxes. But if the Commissars on the Seattle City Council just decide they want a pay raise, they can condemn my property, force me to accept a fraction of what it’s worth to me in pay for it, and give it outright to anybody. The new owner doesn’t even have to be richer than me; they just have to look like they may, someday, down the road, pay higher taxes than me. If I refuse the money I’m offered, the government can just throw a box of beads at my feet and move the bulldozers in.

Stevens won’t see what an idiot he is until the day they tear down his own house and throw him out into the streets for the sake of some Operation Drive Out Trash. Welcome to Zimbabwe, By and By.