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.