Do Not Eat Around the Brazil Nuts

Yeah you heard me.
When you’re invited to my house you will be my honored guest. I will do everything I reasonably can to ensure that you are well entertained, well fed, well boozed, in short — well loved. You wouldn’t be there if I intended otherwise.
But there’s just one thing you gotta promise me in return. When I put out a bowl of mixed nuts for your delectation, eat your share of the Brazil nuts. Don’t make me eat them all. I don’t really like them either. But we all have to pull together and do our share. So don’t rely on others to keep picking up the slack for you.
Thanks for your cooperation.

The Absurdity of Pro Forma Security

I work for an organization whose employees include people than some people would just love to assassinate, so we have security for serious reasons, not just for paranoia or for keeping the unwashed masses from wandering into the building. We employees have electronic swipe cards and photo IDs and all that good stuff. Whenever the Ministry of Fear in DC raises the Terror Level, we have what I call crackdowns, during which times the security people at the entrances have orders to do “100% ID checks.” That means you swipe your card and display your ID. But here’s the ridiculous part. The security dudes quickly get bored and stop really looking at your creds after you’ve successfully swiped in, especially when they’ve seen your face several hundred times. I carry a little leather cardholder thingy containing stuff like aMetroCard and a photo of my baby daughter, as well as my employee ID and swipe cards, which are obscured by the former items. So I wave my baby picture/MetroCard at the security dudes and they nod and say thank you. “It’s OK:  he’s got a MetroCard and a cute kid.”
However, if I forget my creds, then I have to go through the metal detector like an ordinary mortal — usually. In such cases I invariably think, yeah right, the day I come unglued and bring my firearm to work with homicidal intentions is the day I will also forget my creds and be thwarted by the metal detector. Knowing me, that’s probably exactly what I’d do:  forget my swipe card and ID. And with my last flicker of rationality I would think, ah fuck it, let’s come back tomorrow and kill everyone when we have both our gun and our ID .
I don’t mean any disrespect for the people whose job it is to watch our back. Most of them are decent people doing a necessary job honorably. But I can’t help but sneer every time I look out my office window at the garage entrance below me, and see the perfunctory pro forma trunk inspections the guys do on cars coming into the building. I don’t know about you, but whenever I install a car bomb, I mount it someplace discreet like under the car, instead of like, you know, leaving it hanging out in plain sight in the trunk? Cause it like so totally blows when the security dudes find your bomb?

coming not so soon: WMD Whitewash

To hear the punditry chatter about it, you could be forgiven for thinking that the WMD/intelligence investigation is a whitewash whose script is already written. They keep referring to investigation into intelligence “failures.” The premise, implicitly, is that intelligence “failures” are at fault for the US’ illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Excuse me, but what about the possibility — for which there is ample evidence — that our fearless leaders knew what time it was and lied about it to the public?
Remember last February and again in April when a hundred thousand of my closest friends and I demonstrated in the streets of New York (and elsewhere around the world) shouting at the top of our lungs that the adminstration’s justifications were bullshit? I guess that’s gone down the memory hole.
Didn’t Paul Wolfowitz acknowledge in an interview with Vanity Fair, essentially, that the administration adopted the WMD angle because they knew it would sell? “It was the one reason everyone could agree on.” That it was a lie is incidental.
Didn’t Paul O’Neill say publicly (in a CBS news interview, January 11, 2004) that the Bushites began planning the invasion in January of 2001? Why would he make that up?
Granted, it is hard to overestimate the incompetence of our intelligence services. But here’s the problem I’m having. When you assert a negative, and you turn out to be wrong, that’s one thing. Example: “We don’t think the dude has WMD because we have searched systematically for a long time and found no evidence that he does.” Then suppose you’re mistaken and he does have WMD. “Oops, my bad. Sorry.” But when you assert a positive and you’re wrong, you better explain yourself. Example: “we are certain the dude has WMD.” Why? “Because.” Because what? “Can’t tell ya. It’s a secret.” OK, now we fast forward to today: no WMD. What’s the story? “Well, ya see, intelligence is never 100% right or 100% wrong.” Yeah right. The director of the CIA will fall on his sword — sort of — and the “bilateral” panel chosen by dubya will take until after the election to complete its whitewash.
Get the fuck outa here.

tim & georgie

I almost got out of bed this morning to watch dubya talk with tim russert. But I thought better of it and went back to dreamland. I am very religious and every Sunday attend the church of Our Lady of the Holy Mattress. I saw excerpts of the interview on the news and as I figured, it just made me shout at the tube. After the bay of pigs debacle JFK simply said – sorry, my fault – and then made sure he didn’t do that again. Got rid of the advisors who had led him astray and picked people he could trust to be honest. Unfortunately, dubya doesn’t think for himself and therefore can’t follow that example. I am heartened by the recent polls but I still don’t think anybody can survive the massive corporate propaganda, donation driven machine of the dubya. I despair.
A great statesman of recent history said (I paraphrase, sorry) “It is the great fortune for government that the people don’t think” How true, how true. As it was then, it is now.
The people who wave the flag the hardest and cheer the tax cuts are the least able to survive. They are the lottery ticket buyers who routinely throw away $50 to a $100 dollars every week. Even more aggravating when they slow the line at the boozeteria. I’m all for gambling; the more casinos the better – put slot machines on street corners. Make all of it legal but let the government take charge! Can’t we all be indians?? I’m a member of the Slipskabonerupdepoopshute’s tribe. Here in CT they invent tribes all the time. It has become a cottage industry.
Then we can cut taxes to the bone and sit back and watch the anti-tax folks throw their money into the governments coffers. And they will do it without realizing what is happening. William Bennet can urge them on.
Back to the people interfering with my purchase of a nice Vernaccia from San Gimignano – I often want to ask them to give me the money if they don’t really want it but they just get all testy. OK, I can see the reaction coming about how manipulative this concept is – the lets get rid of gambling period folks who protest the exploitation of the masses. I agree. But when you consider that these masses are the same people who want to get rid of all taxation so they can spend their money as they choose?
So the great statesman, much admired in certain circles and considered one the most influential leaders of the 20th century that I quoted?? Adolph Hitler.

Open Letter to My Fox-Viewing Friends

I’ve got a couple of friends who watch a lot of Fox News. One person in particular, a good friend who lives across the street from me. When I go into his house more often than not he’s got good old Fair and Balanced oozing from his vegbox. Remarkably, this is a person of considerable intelligence and whose judgement and opinions I otherwise generally respect. This one goes out to youse all:

My Dear Friends,

Why do you watch that shit? Haven’t I told you time and again it’s full of lies, distortions and propaganda? Well here’s some more evidence for that proposition, quoted from
You can read the study itself here.

Based on several nationwide surveys it conducted with California-based Knowledge Networks since June, as well as the results of other polls, [University of Maryland’s Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA)] found that 48 percent of the public believe US troops found evidence of close pre-war links between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist group; 22 percent thought troops found weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq; and 25 percent believed that world public opinion favored Washington’s going to war with Iraq. All three are misperceptions[…]

[N]ews sources also accounted for major differences in misperceptions, according to PIPA, which asked more than 3,300 respondents since May where they “tended to get most of [their] news.” Eighty percent identified broadcast media, while 19 percent cited print media.

Among those who said broadcast media, 30 percent said two or more networks; 18 percent, Fox News; 16 percent, CNN; 24 percent, the three big networks — NBC (14 percent), ABC (11 percent), CBS (9 percent); and three percent, the two public networks, National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

For each of the three misperceptions, the study found enormous differences between the viewers of Fox, who held the most misperceptions, and NPR/PBS, who held the fewest by far. Eighty percent of Fox viewers were found to hold at least one misperception, compared to 23 percent of NPR/PBS consumers. All the other media fell in between.

Yeah I added the yellow highlighting and the italics. Fox viewers, don’t worry, you can wipe it off your monitor with a soft, clean, damp cloth.

blog bog

The blog is bogged down. Maybe more writers could be invited to blog?
Nobody knows what happens to us when we die. Nobody has died and come back to tell us about it. The Jesus story is myth and/or completely unprovable. For me the only reason I can see for religion is the fear of death. My question is: If we knew for sure what death is like and what happens, would religion still exist?
Blog on and yes,I can think of other reasons for religion but that is not what I am asking. Anyone out there have a “near death” experience?

It’s the nipple, stupid.

Janet Jackson’s breast – which I am ashamed to say I missed. Yes, I did watch the super bowl but skipped the intermission because I am an intellectual snob. Watching a bunch of huge steroid enhanced men slam into each other over and over again does have a certain charm, though.
So the media and everyone, it seems, are all in a tizzy about seeing a nipple. Women have nipples? The local news just referred to it as an X-rated show. I have heard “pornographic” also. It isn’t about her breast and I wish someone would point that out. You can see breasts exposed all the time on TV; sometimes completely, except for the nipple. TLC (my apologies to non-tv types – “The Learning Channel”) has a wonderful show about emergency rooms and what goes on. It is very graphic and very interesting if you aren’t bothered by lots of blood. Often the accident victim has his/her clothes cut off by the doctors and TLC fuzzes out 1. Nipples on women (the rest of the breast is exposed) and 2. Dicks, penises, schlongs, units, baby-makers, johnsons, peckers, etc. (Hey!! Lets see how many terms we can come up with). Interestingly though, men’s nipples are OK to show. They tend to look like women’s nipples, in case you haven’t noticed. It’s dangerous to show women’s nipples. X-rated and pornographic.
How silly. Nobody has said anything about the streaker. What’s with that? You know – if god had meant us to go around naked, we would have been born that way. Sometimes I think that it is all a joke or there is vast conspiracy and the entire US is pulling my leg. Bush. Bush. How many definitions can you come up with? See! you all have dirty filthy minds and he is our president.
I was in the National Gallery in London and a boy of about 6 or 7 was running from painting to painting and in a loud voice exclaiming “Ooh, mummy, look at the boobies on this one”! and the “mummy” said “Yes dear, they’re very nice but lets speak quietly”

Middle Class Classlessness

I wonder if the general lack of knowledge, culture and familiarity with the fine points of English could be partially attributable to the fact that, after all, we are still one of the nations with the largest middle class, speaking in socio-economic terms. In other countries that still retain clear divisions between the upper and lower classes marked by huge disparities in resources of all types, no one expects the lowly masses to know anything. Despite recent ecomomic hard times, the USA still offers the best shot at improving one’s financial circumstances. Education and culture don’t necessarily track that improvement, though. Of course, this doesn’t explain moronic college students, but as they say, “Garbage in, garbage out.”

language, ignorance, mindlessness

Let’s continue discussing some of the questions raised by my right honourable friend dark-eye in his last post.
I take it we agree, then, that there’s no point in being nasty to the checkout slave for using the harmless phaticism “have a good one.” I think it’s likewise anal-prescriptivist, and a waste of energy, to fulminate over people saying “where’s it at.” English varies by region and social class; different variations obey different systems of rules; so what?
It isn’t so much annoying that people use clich├ęs and buzzwords as it is distressing that they can’t do any better. Too many Americans can’t express themselves worth a shit or tell you in what century the Civil War took place. Why?
I think that’s a complex question with no definitive answer, just competing theories. Part of the cause must be that fools sit around staring at the veg box for too many hours of their lives — that’ll make you stupid, for sure. Part of it is undoubtedly due to failures in the public education system, which in turn are attributable in large measure to severe underfunding and our policymakers’ fucked up spending priorities. The way stuff like U.S. history is typically taught in school gives students little reason to remember it — a series of disconnected factoids, trivia. Who cares? Chomsky called it right when he said (don’t ask me exactly where) that school is a system of enforced ignorance. That’s no mere eccentricity — it’s literally true in too many cases.
For people like dark-eye and me it is nonetheless appalling how ignorant people are. We’re Old School. The fact that your history teacher sucked is no excuse. The fact that whenever you please, you could go onto the Web and find out when the Civil War was is no excuse. There are some things that people should know Just Because.