Monday, August 10, 2009

Ten Notes on a Summer's Day

Siiiigh. The post title is from a Crass album. I had that in the mid-'80s and sold it years ago. Too weird for me at the time, I'd probably like it now.

It's the hottest day of the year and I feel generally pretty well drained. Bar crowds have been light, business is slow in my other professional venture and I feel sluggish. It's not just the heat, it's the stupidity. Let's try and clear the air.

1) I am not good at small talk and have little interest in it. This blog reflects that and I make no apologies for that.

The quiz gig affords some autonomy beyond what you normally get in some office drone job. I take full advantage of that. I wouldn't be good at pretending to be some clown-monkey rent boy asking trivia questions and I wouldn't know where to begin trying to act that way. You won't find a whole lot of pure entertainment on the blog. At some point when things suck so hard for so many people, not mentioning it in non-political forums becomes advocating for the powers that be. I believe travelling Soviet performing artists were told to respond to uncomfy questions with a terse "I am not political."

When there's unjust or offensive behavior I have no problem calling people on that in a public forum. I think part of the few and far between blessings of growing up working class, particularly on the East Coast, is an intolerance for coded language and nuanced disapproval. The upside is that when I'm nice you know I really mean it.

I am fully aware that some people find the blog a bit much and there have been a few times that
different other forums have linked to this blog to make my earnest posts a figure of fun. There are almost never any links to this blog when I support someone or something. Interesting, that. Just as long as the links continue I'm pretty happy, maybe this will lead to someone being exposed to something new and coming to their own conclusions. We'll see who laughs last.

2) Are there any Obama voters left who don't feel like total suckers? If not, why not?

As I've said before, I voted for the honest, brilliant and capable Ralph Nader again in 2008 because it was painfully obvious that the Illinois junior senator was a Wall Street-owned warmongering jackass.

In less than 6 months Obama has made himself a war criminal, heavily committed the country to bankruptcy and put Goldman Sachs in charge of the nation's economy, transferred $13 trillion from hardworking taxpayers to criminal financial institutions, covered up and stiffled investigation into the Bush gang's crimes, sold labor downriver on card check (their only real request, a minimal one and by itself an indictment of union leadership), ignored the gay vote, plunged us into two unconstitutional wars in Asia, stood by a right wing coup in Honduras and war crimes in Gaza, expanded US military presence in South America, kicked single payer healthcare to the curb and managed to insult Special Olympians for dessert. Already his asshole Sec of State and fucknut VP are undercutting the administration's foreign policy statements and positioning themselves for the inevitable "it wasn't my fault" plausable deniability memoirs and future runs for the presidency.

It's like Nixon on meth, combined with a dollop of Herbert Hoover and a touch of Charlie Chaplin's Great Dictator. In half a year! YES WE CAN CAN CAN!

I'm not seeing too many Obama signs in people's windows anymore. There should be peace signs. There should be marches. There should be anger. There would be if there were a fair draft, but the typical Obamabot doesn't have a single person who served in the military in their iPhone. iPhoney, more like it... If so many innocent people weren't suffering, it'd be pretty fucking funny. Voting Democrat since 1980 or so is like getting KICK ME tattooed on your forehead. At least Republicans tell you they're going to stab you in the front, and always follow through. That much is at least perversely respectable. Another metaphor? The Democrat side of the gloryhole is the side with the rental kneepads. Republicans stand.

The Democratic Party leadership is Lucy Van Pelt holding the football and its voters are like Charlie Brown. Every two years we're told that this is the time that Lucy won't pull it away. Seriously, 60 senators, the presidency and a majority in the House, but single payer is off the table and $680,000,000,000 for war in three countries who can't attack us and that we never declared war against is approved without debate? Fuck that noise. Even banana slugs develop a primitive motor response memory when repeatedly shocked. Not so Democrats.

3) Would it have been too much trouble to play some song off of Abbey Road on the 40th anniversary of Abbey Road?

I'm a big Beatles fan as you can tell from the questions in many quizzes. I heard a lot of radio this weekend, and heard 6 or 7 Fab Four songs on the local oldies and classic rock stations. None of them were from Abbey Road. Three times a DJ played a Beatles song from a different album when noting the milestone, I think all three times the mention was made once the song ended. What th' heck?! How does this happen? I wonder if DJs on those stations do their own programming, or if those have also gone the way of Top 40 Central Monolithic Radio Corporation programming. For the record my favorite album by the band is Revolver, although anything from A Hard Day's Night on is pretty damn great.

4) It was also the 40th anniversary of the Manson murders. I am disturbed by the handling of the case.

There's been very interesting speculation that Manson and his followers had been expected to kill Black Panthers instead of rich famous white folk, and were therefore given unusual free reign by California authorities prior to the killings. It is true that there was a big "raid" on the ranch before the killings in which, bizarrely, a bunch of long hairs was let skate on multiple parole violations, drug and weapons charges. How often did that happen in 1969?! Much of this is detailed in Paul Krassner's autobiography, and he's written multiple columns on the matter which are easy enough to find on the web. He's interviewed some L.A. deputies who were assigned to aspects of the case and sound pretty credible.

Additionally I've read some interesting suggestion that the people bumped off during the Helter Skelter killings (also, I should note, not off of Abbey Road) knew the Manson group, er, um... socially (drugs'n'sex with some money involved) and that the killings weren't quite random. Maybe someone wasn't paying their coke bill? This makes a lot of sense to me, even disturbed people usually kill people they know. All food for thought.

Beyond all that, if the case weren't so high profile and if Manson weren't made out to be Satan himself, everyone involved in the case including Manson would have been paroled a long time ago. No one wants to be the person who lets Charles Manson walk. It's not justice when not wanting to do your job as a parole board official in a high profile case comes into play. It's something uglier, and it makes the justice system look worse than the Spahn Ranch. Unpopular as it is to say, I don't think Chuck in any way represents an actual threat to society in 2009. He's an old man who spent almost his entire life institutionalized, even before the murders. He should likely be in a halfway program, or a mental facility. He could be doing interviews on Springer here, a stint on The Surreal Life there. At the very least he should be Sean Hannity's new co-host. It's long past time Fox News went whole hog and hired someone with swastika on their forehead.

Who killed more people, Manson or Dick Cheney? Who is more dangerous? Who do we claim killed while sane? And who is free to walk the streets? Even Chuck never shot a friend in the face!

5) Single Payer Action

Sign up and get ready to rumble. Nothing short of congressional office occupation and large marches will win this one. HR 676, my friends, and nothing less. Health care is a human right and anyone who settles for less on behalf of We the People needs to be removed from office.

Americans shouldn't be third-class citizens. I want the deal you get in France, Norway and even destitute Cuba. In the 1940s Truman, an actual Democrat and not even a liberal, wanted health care for all Americans. 100% coverage, no exceptions. Congress beat him up on it. The Democrats haven't given it an honest try since.

Obamacare is a sham and a stillborn failure, mandating government gifts to the criminal private insurance industry and saving no money. We'd have to wait 5-10 years for millions to still be uninsured. Meanwhile Congress and the president have 100% government coverage that we pay for. Obama took $20 million from the industry in the election, and now comes our beatdown. The Democrats (not to mention Republicans) won't let single payer "a seat at the table." As a wise man once said, when they won't give you a seat at the table you need to knock the fucking legs out.

6) On elections

Hugo Chavez won re-election fair and square and so did Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That's not an endorsement of policy, but plain fact as regards democratic choice. Not so much a real winner? George W. Bush in 2000. Even The Daily Show and Colbert get this backasswards. Who lives where now? Democra-what-y?

Here in Pennsylvania you can get 55,000 signatures to appear on a ballot and still get thrown off by corrupt partisan judges who fine you for trying to run.

7) Quizmasters: Beware the question buyer!

I had a fairly legit-sounding unsolicited offer a week ago via email from someone to submit 2,000 multiple choice trivia questions for what he claimed was an ESL instructional game via the web. It sounded to me given the spreadsheet format requested that this would be for a Megatouch-type game and I doubted the ESL bit, but if the check cleared who cares, right?

The proposal was from someone whose English suggested being a non-native speaker and who identified himself only as Jay. The email address was a gmail account and the name on the account was simply "a b."

Now, there are any number of times I've done legit business with people which began using fairly anonymous means of communication on the web, so I thought this was worth checking into if possibly a bit shady.

After some fairly reasonable negotiation via email over price and delivery time, as well as sending a few samples, I asked how and when I would get paid. That's when things got very shady. I was told I'd get a bank transfer or a check 15 days after emailing 2,000 questions, answers and 3 wrong answer suggestions for each question to said anonymous address.

My reply was that that was a good way to rip me off, and I counterproposed a system in which chunks of work would get exchanged for chunks of money, with alternating risk. I also asked where this guy was located and if in the US what the tax ID number for his business was.

At this point he claimed that he found someone else to do the work cheaper and my services wouldn't be needed.

My assumption is that "Jay" makes some Megatouch-like game outside the country and wanted to screw me over after I sent him a lot of free content. That and/or he was trying to pull some bank account scam. I told him of my suspicion and that I would warn others. You have been warned. Caveat quizor.

8) I wrote one of the very first Megatouch trivia games, if not the first

The incident in #7 reminded me of something that I should have mentioned on the blog years ago.

Back in 1987 or '88 while I was a high school student (yeah, I'm that old) I answered an ad in The Northeast Times ("Now featuring transitive verbs!") for someone to write a few hundred trivia questions for 25 cents each. This was back when an American quarter bought 17 cents worth of goods, so not bad money considering. I sent a letter with a few samples and got the job via phone. I banged out something like 300 questions on an IBM Selectric, which was old tech even then, and got a check in the mail about a week later. That was one of my first paid gigs, my first paid writing gig and probably makes me, for whatever it's worth, the first local quiz host to write a professional question.

I recall I was told that this would be for the Megatouch (which had to be explained to me) and the company was in Trevose, Pennsylvania, which you'll recall is storied in beloved folk songs as the "Gateway to Bensalem." I have no idea how many were used nor how long they were used. For all I know some of mine might still be in circulation. If you're answering something about Q*Bert or Walter Mondale, that might be my work...

9) Feel free to slap Lynne Abraham around a little, just don't leave any marks

Attempting to check in to a Phillies game that is actually scheduled for tomorrow night, I had the misfortune to hear some of Dom Giordano's show on Philadelphia's fascist radio station 1210 AM "The Big Talker." I had forgotten what an idiot that man is.

Ol' Dom has a boner for Lynne Abraham, the Philadelphia District Attorney who appears to be unfamilar with the Bill of Rights. She was a guest on the show, taking the Philadelphia Inquirer to task for an unusually strong editorial in which they correctly pointed out that the recent grand jury "investigation" which found Philadelphia Police not to have broken the law in beating suspects -on camera -while already subdued was the type of citizen attitude you'd expect in Nazi Germany.

Ms. Abraham, and I shit you not here, argued that the beatings were fine and dandy because videotape of the entire goddamn thing tells "only part of the narrative." We don't have, she explained, for example, sound of the beatings, which you know that Giordano would likely want, if for no other reason than to play in the background while he jerks off to the lingerie catalog in which he taped Frank Rizzo faces on the models.

More astounding is her claim that what didn't make the beatings criminal was that the suspects needed less than an hour of hospital treatment each. Apparently if the ER docs can patch you up in 59 minutes or less, it's not a crime in Philadelphia to fuck someone up. So says the DA.

I will keep this in mind should I be threatened in any way by Ms. Abraham in the course of doing my work. In case you find yourself in a situation in which Ms. Abraham appears to be threatening you, I suggest the following methods of subduing her while making a citizen's arrest:

- Have you considered the "pimp slap"? You want to go open hand here; she's an old lady and a fist would likely break bones or knock out teeth, and even with a DA's health plan that's no 59 minute patch job. We want bruising and not breaking here, which is, like, some ice and a $46 ibuprofen at any ER. How long could that take?

- She's a small woman and easy to wrestle to the floor. Once trussed, consider some cigarette burns on her back. The skin is thick there and infection is less likely, as are complications. Any competent hospital can git 'er done on a cigarette burn in well under an hour.

- "Sweep the leg, Johnny!"

- Whipping the soles of the feet was an old Spanish Inquistion torture method called bastinado. You know that this would be added torture for her as the damn thing is named in Spanish. That's again some ice and a $46 ibuprofen. Let's roll!

- One word: tazer.

Have you ever been so proud to be a Philadelphian?

10) Christine Flowers: one cowardly columnist (or "Speaking of Big Talkers...")

A few years ago I got into a bit of a row with Christine Flowers via the letters section of one of Philadelphia's wretched weeklies. The paper did a puff piece praising a man who turned out to be her brother, who was prosecuting Iraqis for war crimes in kangaroo courts set up by the US.

Now, these Iraqis were likely guilty of war crimes, but this was beside the point. My point was that after finding no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, after starting a war of aggression on false pretenses (itself a war crime according to the Geneva Conventions), and after admitting that Iraq had bugger all to do with 9/11, the Bush gang, having slaughtered largely innocent people by the thousand, suddenly became interested in human rights. Interested at least so far as would see their old business partner Saddam Hussein hung on the end of a rope before he could squeal to an international court about the bad old days when Donny Rumsfeld sold him weapons to kill Iranians, and about the apparent green light Bush Sr. gave him to invade Kuwait. My problem with the brother, who was an obvious right wing true believer, is that he was doing Bush's dirty work under the guise of humanitarian work.

I typed up a letter that was, to the paper's credit, printed largely intact. The following issue Flowers - who I learned later worked for that paper (!) - wrote in that I was a coward, idiot and worse, and this letter was printed. At this point we had some major journalistic integrity problems, with a puff news piece written about an employee's brother without identifying him as such, and a letter "to the editor" attacking me from someone who gets checks endorsed by said editor. How often must this and worse happen?

My next email went unprinted, but it was forwarded to Flowers herself, who went to work attacking me personally via email. Long story short, I presented some of my work history and credentials and seriously suggested a public debate with her on the issue. She claimed at first she was very much up for this, but the more detail I added about making that a reality the more she backed off and finally failed to respond at all. I still have the incriminating emails.

The overarching lesson is that right wingers are always ultimately a bunch of pussies. But you knew that. The silver lining is that they know it too.

Imagine my horror in looking up something on today to find out that this same silly harpy has been given a regular column to spread her filth in the Philadelphia Daily News! And a TV show on Channel 6 on Sunday mornings. No treachery is left unrewarded and no good deed goes unpunished. If you're out there, Christine, you silly Ann Coulter wannabe, the offer still stands. You, me and your public humiliation. Let's sell tickets and raise money for Iraqi kids' prostheses. You owe them that much. Then, like now, I am dead fucking serious. And this, I assume, is what causes the cold feet.

This would be my second of three bad run-ins with excuses for local "journalists." Tales for other days, but after nasty, arguably libelous actions against me in public forums the other two ended up with jobs as an assistant editor at The Nation and as John Dougherty's campaign manager. No treachery is left unrewarded, no good deed goes unpunished.
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