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.