Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Urban Survival Quiz

Consider the following scenario:

You are a middle aged, white, professional business man. You somehow find yourself deep in the middle of a city public park at night. As you wander the dimly lit paths, you begin to notice that you are not alone. Furthermore, you realize that the rest of the park’s current populace is comprised almost entirely of stocky black men. Realizing that in a potentially unsafe environment, you decide that the best course of action is to:

a) Ignore the irrational racist fears buried deep within you, remind yourself that those of darker skin are human beings like yourself, and stroll purposefully out of the park with peace of mind.

b) Run frantically through the park, waving your arms frantically over your head while screaming “I have a wife and kids! Please don’t kill me!” until you run head on into either the edge of the park or a well-armed cop.

c) Squeeze the large canister of mace in your right hand pocket and stare straight ahead as you attempt to casually walk at twice your normal speed, whistling tunelessly as you quickly attempt to mentally train yourself in the Martial Arts by recalling every Jackie Chan film you’ve ever seen.

d) Promptly assume the stride and mannerisms of your typical black person, which you do your best to recreate by mimicking what you remember of Gene Wilder’s black costume from The Silver Streak and the Jive Talking Passengers from the Airplane movies.

e) Locate the nearest public park bathroom, and, in order to prevent the possibility of becoming yet another hate crime “statistic”, you do your best to diffuse the situation by offering the nearest black man in the bathroom $20 if he’ll allow you to blow him.

If you’re Bob Allen, Florida Republican State Representative and co-chairman of John McCain’s presidential campaign, the correct answer is E, offer someone money to perform oral sex on them. At least, that was the explanation he gave in a recorded statement he gave to police immediately after being arrested for soliciting sexual acts from an undercover police officer.

Sure, some people may scoff at such tactics, but when it comes to the fine art of urban survival, only the most inventive and creative will survive.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Hillary's Breasts and othe signs of the coming Apocalypse

Okay. Our country is caught up in a prolonged war that is slowly sucking us dry, both financially and emotionally. The Housing Bubble has burst like a greasy pus engorged zit, and is threatening to take the rest of our economy down the bathroom sink drain with it. Our Attorney General is so blatantly full of shit that he’s actually causing some to look back at Janet Reno’s reign with a fond, reminiscent yearning. Our Vice President is an evil puppet master. Our President is a puppet. The new switch in power has only assured us that the opposite sides of the House and Senate will waste even more trying to one=up each other. And to top it all off, we have over a dozen do-or-die politicians vying for position to be declared an official candidate in a presidential race that will probably be more explosively fierce than the last seven.

So, tell me again why I’m watching Hillary’s cleavage on the news?

It took me a couple of days to figure it out. I mean, it couldn’t actually be newsworthy, could it? Breaking News: Hillary Clinton has Breasts. I’m pretty sure we all knew she was a woman. Hell, her femininity (to an extent) is the only thing that both sides of the extreme political spectrum actually agree about. So why do we have panels discussing the political implications of her primary sex characteristics? If she had flashed the stadium during her speech to show off her new ruby-lined pasties, I could understand the infatuation. But why does the choice of a low-cut blouse for one of her political events suddenly warrant hours upon hours of pseudo-intellectual debate? Why are we talking about Hillary’s breasts (or, to be more accurate, the fleshy valley between them) to begin with? For that matter, why am I still hearing about John Edward’s haircut? Or Mitt Romney’s makeup? Or Obama’s middle name? Or Al Gore at all? Why are these endless news channels pumping endless streams of completely pointless trivia that signifies nothing?

When the answer finally hit me, it was obvious that I can’t believe I missed it in the first place.

They hate us.

They despise us. They don’t care about us or the events that affect our lives. All they see when they look down at us is an endless sea of potential ratings, and the news isn’t a tool for the dissemination of pertinent information as much as it is a huge trawling net meant to drag us in and convince us that the mindless crap they keep churning out to entertain us is actually helping us.

They are not helping us. They are slowly killing us.

I’m not even talking about the wall-to-wall tabloid story coverage that they spend half the time apologizing for, and the other half spoon feeding it to us like so much rancid jam. There will always be Anna Nicole Smiths and Paris Hiltons, and there will always be people who want to see as much of them as humanly possible. It may be an insidious evil sucking away at our eternal souls like blood gorged leaches attached to the human psyche’s testicles, but you aren’t going to beat that horse just because you can call it by name. Let it ride, it will eventually forget to eat and drown in its own bitter saliva.

My problem is that the rest of the news has become nothing more than a mirror of the times. You might think that’s what it’s supposed to do, but cast your back to a time when journalists actually uncovered stories, followed leads, asked hard questions, made deductive leaps in logic, and helped us to read between the lines. They exposed conspiracies, unearthed secrets, communicated desperately needed truths, and occasionally lifted up the rock to show us what was crawling underneath, whether we wanted to see or not. They toppled empires and destroyed legacies, for no other reason than that they were expected to do so.

What do they do now? Sit back and watch Tony Snow’s PowerPoint Presentation of how the facts aren’t facts until the White House confirms them as such. Oh sure, the occasional reporter may shake his head quietly at the blatant spectacle. But that just isn’t enough. Case in point: look at the bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

News Channels have been doing reports on substandard bridges and overpasses for decades. I remember seeing their cute little exposes back in High School, and they’re still doing them today. Of course, they were always somewhere between the cute photo-op and the weather, something to stretch the reporting minutes when there weren’t enough Hollywood Pseudo-News extravaganzas to fill the time before the Sports segment.

But then a major bridge collapses during rush hour, and the twenty-four hour news channels clog the airwaves with new exposes, in-depth segments, flashy graphics, useless reporters vainly attempting to avoid bumping into one another as they pace around “Live at the Scene” looking for sound bites, and the endless line of talking head experts ready to talk for hours and hours.

Since when does interviewing someone who has nothing to do with what happened so they can give their unneeded opinions about the hypothetical questions posed in regards to the unverified facts pouring in? I guess since twenty-four hour news channels realized that actual news just wasn’t going to draw in the Nielsen shares they need to draw the big advertising dollars.

You can fault the public for not paying attention to countless second-break stories about unsafe overpasses. You can blame the government for the same. But what were the news programs and channels doing when they could have been exposing the horrifying truth about just how unsafe our infrastructure is, when society had their face rubbed in the avoidable loss lives should have been like a bad puppy soiling its own habitat?

They were talking about Hillary Clinton’s breasts.

They hate us. They’re killing us slowly. And when we finally succumb, they’ll be sure to have a man on the scene to ask grieving family members how they feel, and there will be countless experts and analysts on hand to debate the possible causes of our demise.

And we’ll most likely watch.

The News Media as a whole need to make a decision. Are they the Watchdogs of Society? Or are they merely here to document our downfall while selling advertising space to pay the salaries of the models and actors posing as newscasters?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Robust Economy or Phantom Recession?

Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders took his turn to question Bush’s nominee for the White House Budgeting office Jim Nussle to voice his concerns over the current administration’s economic theories. He seems to have a problem with the White House’s continuing policy of help the rich get richer while the country slowly slips into a bizarre ghost recession that no seems to be able to actually see. Well, Senator Sanders can apparently see it, and while his question for Nussle had to do with the need to give the Wal-Mart family a $32,000,000,000 tax break, just look at the laundry list of red-flag statistics that he trotted out to underline his point.

Just to sum up his major talking points, since 2000:

*5,000,000 people have dropped below the poverty line

*7,000,000 people no longer have health insurance

*Median Household Incomes have dropped $1,300

*3,000,000 Manufacturing Jobs have disappeared

*3,000,000 American Workers have lost their pensions

*Home Foreclosures are now highest on record (so far up 63% over last year)

*Personal Savings is now in the negatives (first time since The Great Depression)

*College Graduate earnings have dropped 5% over the last few years

*Entry-Level Wages for High School Graduates is down 3%

*Wages and Salaries now hold the lowest share of the Gross Domestic Product since 1929.

It should also be important to note that Nussle, the guy up for the job of running the White House Budgeting office, did not even attempt to refute or contradict the numbers thrown at him by Sanders. The best he does is to say that there are statistics out there that show growth. He doesn’t elaborate, but I’d take a good guess that those numbers have a lot to do with corporate profits and the phantom specter of Consumer Confidence, the latter of which is always used to argue that if people are spending money, the economy MUST be doing well. Just like with the gasoline prices: Gas hits $3 a gallon because of supposed hardships felt by the oil companies, who rake in record profits because of it, and the best they can argue is “People aren’t buying less gas, so it can’t be that bad!”

That, of course, sums up the entire philosophy that our government is now running under. It isn’t broken until it blows up in your face. There’s no housing crisis until home foreclosures destroy the financial infrastructure. There’s no Medical Insurance crisis until insurance companies suddenly run out of people able to pay the exorbitant premiums and start folding up their tents. There’s nothing wrong with the bridges until the collapse during rush-hour traffic.

The disaster in Minneapolis underlines why everything is falling apart in this country. There were people that knew the bridge was unsafe, rapidly deteriorating, and in desperate need of maintenance. But the kept it to themselves and crossed their fingers, and told us all that the fact it didn’t collapse when we drove over it yesterday should be proof enough of its stability. And as long as its cheaper to pretend everything is holding up fine, nobody in charge is going to run the risk of snarling up traffic by closing it down for repairs.

The Economy is in desperate need of an overhaul, and the only thing keeping the powers that be from admitting is the fear that someone might ask them where all of that toll money has been going.