Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why I Hate Chris From Broadview Security...

And I don't even know the guy.

I'm referring to the commercials that have been popping up with greater frequency on the television these days. I don't have a beef with a private security company advertising their alarm systems and other services, I just have a problem in the way they sell them.

The commercial invariably begins like this:

Lone woman, or worse, with child, alone in the house. They're typically going about their routine, cleaning, working out, cooking, tending to their kids. Cut to scene of rough-looking hooligan, lurking outside the house, peering between the branches of the shrubbery, through the window, watching, watching, watching...

Then, the window or door is broken violently, and the Stalker has invaded the poor woman's personal space, ready to do all sorts of god-awful things to her...except that the alarm she set just before entering the shower has now been activated, warbling like a humpback with hemorrhoids, alerting everyone in the neighborhood to her plight. The woman is taken by surprise; she stands there is silent horror, or screaming, or trying to retreat in a panic.

And happens. The phone rings.

It's Chris from Broadview Security, calling to see if our burglar-alarm version of Penelope Pitstop is being raped, or beaten unconscious, or perhaps flayed alive. Maybe all three at once.

Despite the fear, state of panic, adrenaline and the instant realization that someone dangerous has just gotten thisclose to possibly robbing and killing her, our heroine reaches for the phone. Exactly what I would be doing at exactly that particular moment, yes indeed! And it's Chris (or Roger, or Egbert or Vincenzo, the exact name doesn't matter) from Broadview Security. He wants to know if our heroine is alright, as in presumably un-raped, un-robbed, and un-flayed. And of course, she is. The alarm went off and chased the dude off, you dummy!

I wonder what happens when a burglar is undeterred by the alarm, and still decides to do whatever nastiness he has in heart. Does Chris still call, get no answer, and only then dispatch emergency services?

Anyways, here are the issues I have with the general thrust of these commercials;

1) The Stranger Lurking in the Bushes is always white. You don't see a black guy, a Puerto Rican. No Crips, no Bloods. He almost always follows a certain archetype, with minor differences from commercial to commercial; he's bald, dressed in military surplus, needs a shave, and is always over 6' tall and built like a linebacker, and you know the guy who portrays him was probably modeling underwear or managing a hedge fund before he got this gig. Because, you know, all home invaders actually look that way. Without the costume and the setting, he's not all that scary, truthfully. If you're going to get someone to play a criminal, get someone who looks like a goddamned criminal, at least.

2) The "Woman Home Alone" scenario is played out. And why is it that these women, who presumably know they live in a dangerous world (after all, they did have a burglar alarm installed, and activated it just before the scene was set) insist on bathing/working out in front of huge picture windows covered by just enough shrubbery to provide concealment to a stalker, but which still allows someone to peer in and invade their privacy so easily?

3) How come no one has a dog? A good dog would start barking long before the window or door got bashed in. Oh, right, forgot; some people are allergic. Those of you with pet allergies are especially in danger; Great Big-Unshaven-Bald-ex-Portfolio-Manager-in-Military-Surplus-Fake-Criminal-Man roams the neighborhood looking for people just like you!

4) The attempt to frighten people, especially women, into springing for an alarm system is transparent. I've also noticed that these commercials run in cycles; in good economic times, you see fewer of them, and the subject matter is not so much criminals as it is your grandmother falling and breaking her hip and needing assistance. When the economy tanks, we're suddenly all going to be fodder for violent criminals without the protection provided by a siren monitored by a guy who will at least call if it goes off. Hey ladies; unlike all the other men in your life, Chris will actually call you! I mean, that's his job, but still...

I know, I'm nitpicking. I'm bored.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Can Be a Civil Rights Hero...

Such sound of fury over a simple proposition: Rush Limbaugh wished to be part of a group that would buy the St. Louis Rams, an investment that seems from afar to be just as good as buying oceanfront property in Zimbabwe. Still, it's Rush's money, and he probably knows better than I how to spend and invest it, so I have no comments, really, on that account.

However, from the public outcry, you would have thought that Rush was planning to build a plantation.

Naturally, every black man with the ability to get his face on television (with the exception of Juan Williams, who has class) feigned outrage, amazed that anyone who could espouse the opinions that Rush Limbaugh does could ever be allowed to buy a professional sports franchise. Put aside the question of whether the words 'professional' ,'sports' and 'franchise' apply to the Rams for a second, and let's try a little thought experiment. I wonder what they would have said if the group who wanted to buy the team included Louis Farrakhan?

Next to complain were the NFL players, especially the black ones. They implied (when they didn't say it outright) that Rush Limbaugh is a racist. They could offer no proof of any racism, except a quote about Donovan McNabb which they construe to be racist. In today's world, any statement which questions the ability of a black man is considered racist on it's face, regardless of the validity of the question. For NFL players to cry racism when a great many of them have had their way into the NFL greased since they were teenagers, is appalling. This racist society allowed yo to play football. This racist society allowed you to go to a supposed institute of higher learning on scholarship, this racist society ensured that when you finished your four years of pretend education, you had the opportunity to enter a field that pays you millions of dollars to play a game for a living, and which then treats you as if you were some sort of superhero. They are a privileged caste in our supposedly racist society!

If I have to listen to one more interview of one more mediocre wide-receiver diva who uses "see what I'm sayin'", "you know" like punctuation, and pronouns like "we's" and "dey", I'm going to puke. That man can barely articulate, and had his freight paid by a greedy university; what makes you think I care what he has to say? I can promise you this; if Rush was his boss, all his objections would very quickly disappear if there were a few more zeros in his paycheck.

(Disclaimer: the above is not intended to imply that all black NFL players got scholarships they didn't deserve, or that all black NFL Players are little more than street punks with the ability to run and bigger paychecks. I do know there are some who actually had to work for what they have, and I can appreciate them and their sacrifices).

The word 'racist' no longer has any meaning, being that it has been flung around so carelessly in recent years.

Of course, the race hustlers rushed right in. Jesse and Al arrived just on cue, a battalion of lesser 'reverends' in tow, and began the usual song and dance;

"Racist, racist, racist, evil, mean Whitey...Write me a check, or I'll picket in front of your building..."

Yeah, Al and Jesse are orators on the same plane as Cicero and Cincinattus. Never a hint of racism in anything they've ever said. Never mind all that 'Hymietown' and 'White Interloper' stuff, right? It was all a big misunderstanding.

Sorry, but it's difficult to take you seriously anymore, Al and Jeese. We've been there, done that, and we all recognize the scam. If either of you had vowels at the end of your names, there would be a U.S. Attorney preparing the RICO case against you right now.

Naturally, the 'professional' journalists on sports and editorial pages all over the country, concerned by the spectre of a private citizen choosing to spend his money in a public manner, piled on. Particularly since it's Limbaugh, someone they despise. They continued the mantra of racism, and then went one further; they manufactured quotes which make Rush look like the worst racist since Hitler -- and then reported them as fact. That's when they weren't citing other people's poorly-based opinions lies as actual sources. I guess the word 'professional' doesn't apply to them, either? Last time in looked, that was slander with malice of forethought. At the very least, it's a laziness which is indicative of why most major newspapers in this country are circling the bowl.

I'm sure if it was Obama being lampooned in a TV skit, the fact-checkers would have been all over it...

The NFL, besieged by the manufactured bad publicity, and not really needing Limbaugh's money in the first place (the NFL is an $8 billion franchise, you know), feigned concern for it's players, it's fans and 'the best interests of the game', and decided Limbaugh wasn't welcome. Roger Goddell is a moral coward.

It seems to me that Rush is now in a unique position; He has been denied his right to engage in free enterprise. He has had his character questioned publicly. He has been slandered maliciously publicly. If he was black, this would be enough to make him President of the United States and worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize 11 days into his reign.

His civil rights have been violated. Publicly.

Sue them all Rush, sue them all, and put a stake through the heart of this phony racial spoils scam that punishes people on the one hand, and which poisons our public discourse on the other. Sue the NFL, sue the newspapers that lied, sue the Player's Union and the players who might deserve it. Sue Jesse and Al.

You'll be bigger than Rosa Parks ever was, Rush, if you just did it.

The Ugliest Building in The World?

From the BBC, via Ann Althouse, we learn of the hideous structure, a hotel rumored to be the 'worst building in the history of mankind', currently being built in North Korea. Ann Althouse asks "Will it ever be finished?"

Frankly, I could give a hoot in hell about an architectural nightmare right here in New York City.

Eight years after the attacks of September 11, there's still a great big crater at Ground Zero.

Yeah., there's some stuff in it; a new train station and subway lines, a memorial, a few other buildings and some new construction. But there's no building above it. There's no soaring monument to the spirit of America resting atop The Pit. The toxic ruin of the old Manufacturer's Hanover Building across the street still stands, too. Where is the much-vaunted "Freedom Tower"? What, if anything, has actually been accomplished at Ground Zero?

Thirteen thousand more Americans went to Afghanistan this week, part of a surge which may see Prezident Obambi (if he has any testicles) send another 40,000 in the coming months. There's lots of unfinished business when it comes to the World Trade Center, it seems: Bin Laden is still alive (we think), the Taliban and Al'Qaeda still exist, Afghanistan and Iraq are still inhabited by uncivilized, murderous, mentally-constipated excuses for people who cannot appreciate the benefits of liberty and so continue to engage in terrorism... and the World Trade Center is still gone.

Eight years on, we're still fighting, but we're not building. We're still searching, but there's very little recovery. To add a little more perspective to the whole thing, this coming week, the U.S.S. New York, a warship built with steel recovered from Ground Zero, will enter New York Harbor to great fanfare, open to the public. I intend to visit when she arrives.

But, excuse me if I don't find this tale of Korean construction comedy all that funny, or interesting, and can't help but wonder why Kim Jong-Il can build his Taj Mahal and we can't build a goddamned office building.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

E.J. Dionne Should NOT be Offering Free Psych Advice..

Read this crap from E.J. Dionne, the closest thing to an actual female at the Washington Post, and then find something to throw up into.

The idea that political movements arise from actual social issues is not new. It's probably at least as old as Socrates, and this is really just E.J.'s attempt to spin democrats away from the oft-repeated mantra about opposition to Obama being based on racial prejudice and into a new-and-improved dialectic involving sociology and psychology. It is extremely transparent, and hardly original.

Secondly, while writing a poorly-reasoned piece on why opposition to a black man by white males is not exactly quite the same thing as racism while still hinting that it is, Dionne manages to use the words racial, racism or racist five times in one run-on sentence disguised as a paragraph, and something like 20 times in the whole essay. Giving credit where it's due, Dionne has decried the absence of racism (which he still believes exists, anyway) by continually making reference to race in the piece.

Finally, by advancing the idea that if Prezident Obama simply 'reached out' to the Angry White Males he might actually do something which truly would merit a Nobel Peace Prize, Dionne is falling into the same mental trap all dippy liberals manage to find themselves in. They believe that if you just choose to see the world as all rainbows and unicorns, it will actually become all rainbows and unicorns -- and when reality intrudes and proves that it isn't all rainbows and unicorns, reality should be ignored...or legislated out of existence.

Worse, Dionne is forgetting his recent history; Obama doesn't do Angry White Male outreach.

He does Angry Muslims.

He also does Angry African-American College Professors.

Those are more his speed. Angry White Guys just get tagged as Angry White Guys, even when they aren't angry. Then he invites them over for a beer and a cheap photo op after the public outcry.

To give Dionne some credit, however, he's right in this regard; the problem is basically economic in nature, and it results from the loss of work being suffered by the blue collar guys who actually do everything that makes this country worthwhile. The cure to this problem is to be found in tried and tested economic policies which Obama will not touch for ideological reasons, and so, that rift will continue to exist, and will eventually widen as Obama redistributes wealth and manages to not include the white guys he's robbing in the redistributing.

Which means more keggers for Angry White Men on the White House lawn, I guess.

Waving the White Flag...

Okay, let's put some venom back in the blog...

Topic: Concerning Afghanistan, the Obama Administrations seeming reluctance to a) fight the war, b) win the war, c) explain why it will do neither.

The Prez makes a very fine distinction between the Taliban and Al'Qaeda which he uses to justify, for example, withholding the 40,000 troops that Gen. McChrystal wants for Afghanistan, on the one hand, and the use of Predator drone strikes in 'surgical' attacks against Al'Qaeda in Pakistan. It's also a rhetorical club he has used to beat his political enemies over the head. According to His Heinous, Afghanistan was supposed to be the 'good war' that we were 'distracted' from by the invasion of Iraq, but it doesn't look like this President wants anything to do with Afghanistan, period.

The President does not make clear why any of this makes any sense whatsoever. You can't separate the Taliban from Al'Qaeda, as one supports, protects and props up the other. When you do, it actually sounds as if you are tacitly saying that we have no truck with the Taliban, yet they are two sides of the same coin. If one reads between the lines of this distinction, it basically says "We want to get Bin Laden, and having achieved that, we might find us a way to live with the Taliban afterwards".

Now, if the intention is to get the Taliban to help us get Bin Laden, someone is smoking something funny. This is a disastrous policy for the reason that no regime like the Taliban should be allowed to survive, and worse, never be encouraged to think that it might have a chance to return to power...if it just plays ball. The fight against Al'Qaeda requires a fight against the Taliban, too...without fine distinctions.

As for winning the war in Afghanistan, the terms of victory were somewhat sketchy under GWB, and Obambi is not doing much better. If your goal is to leave a pluralistic, free-market-driven, democratic government, then good luck. Afghanistan is basically living in the Stick Age and it will take decades of foreign occupation to teach these people the benefits of indoor plumbing, eating with utensils, and wearing shoes. When GWB committed the US to Ashcanistan, he committed us to a very long-term program of stewardship which is based upon a ridiculous belief that inside every Afghan, there's an American dying to get out. Afghanistan has no history of freedom of conscience or expression, individual rights, equality under the law or constitutional government. The soil within which the seeds of modern democratic society are being planted (we think) may not take the seed at all.

If that is victory then it will not be achieved anytime soon. It will require work and sacrifice, neither of which liberals are good at or have any patience for. This means that if McChrystal needs those 40,000 men, Obama had better get them to him to prove he means business, or he should just pull up stakes and abandon the project with all the dire consequences that entails. Either would at least be a clear and honest expression of what the President thinks, a novel idea in this White House, apparently.

In truth, I don't think Barack Obama actually understands what is at stake here. He doesn't understand that the world is full of nasty men who actually do plot in caves to do terrible things out of spite and envy, just like in the movies. I don't think he cares much for the military, since he doesn't seem to be listening to them. I also believe this President wakes up in the morning, sticks a finger in his mouth, gauges the political winds, and then tries to formulate policies on the fly, accounting for much of the confusion and stupidity which seems to emanate from the White House.

It's why he can never seem to to explain the reasons behind why he does the things he does. It's why he hasn't explained why he's willing or not willing to raise the ante in Afghanistan with another 40,000 (unless he just wants to avoid the embarrassment he suffered when he pooh-poohed The Surge in Iraq?).

Leaders, Mr. Prezident, take action. They don't split hairs and make fine distinctions and make fifty-two speeches a day. Make this decision; either send the troops and make an effort to win the fight, or show your true colors and bring them all home. Leaving McChrystal and his brave men and women dangling like this is inexcusable, and gives the enemy some very dangerous ideas about you, and US.

Wow! Traffic has Quadrupled!

Thanks to everyone who has been visitng the Lunatic's Asylum recently! Hits and page views of this blog have quadrupled in the last month, and I'm actually pretty happy about that. It's good to see that all this howling at the moon doesn't go unnoticed (even if you don't agree with me).

I wish I could tell who you all are, so that I could thank you, personally. Unfortunately, Blogger has no gadget that I'm aware of that lets me track who is coming and going, and while people are reading what I have to say, they aren't commenting much, either. So, I'm going to do something I thought I'd never have to do...

Please become a Follower? It's easy to do, just click on that "Follow" thingy on the sidebar, and you'll join the exclusive and superlatively good-looking ranks of the Lunaphiles. There are no prizes for joining, but we do hand out virtual cupcakes. Hey, at least I don't ask for money, like some bloggers! Also, if you can leave a message on this thread giving me some feedback, I'd be interested in hearing what you all think of my word vomit.

We also cross-link blogs, so if you'd like a mention here, drop us a line and let's see if we can cross-pollinate on the internet, as it were.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Reflections on a Cold October Morning...

I had to give my nephew a hand yesterday, helping to deliver his Sunday newspapers. I know, the print media is going the way of the dinosaurs, but in a way, it's still nice to know that a quaint notion like 'the Paperboy' still exists, somewhere.

Anyways, the work itself is not terribly difficult, just time consuming (particularly the piecing together of the Sunday Staten Island Advance, a process which has not changed since I did it as a teenager). You get your news section and your color insert (the one with the coupons, the Parade magazine, and the special features section) and you have to manually combine the two into a full paper before you deliver them. A messy job, indeed. Especially to deliver something that people could get for free online. Still, the kid has a job, and it builds character and all that, so let's not burst the bubble.

Well, there we were, walking the streets of New Dorp just before sunrise, a crisp October chill in the air. My nephew hates delivering the papers on Sunday mornings because this area of Staten Island has large wooded sections, and these wooded areas hide all manner of ferocious beast like raccoon, possum and the occasional deer. In New York City, this represents the untamed jungle. My nephew is afraid of encountering possum and raccoons in the dark, and I don't blame him, as they can be nasty. Since his parents were not around this weekend (another nephew was playing in a baseball tournament in Maryland), it fell to me to escort the lad on his appointed rounds.

It was colder than a witch's tit in brass bra. Even with my fleece on, I was shivering. I didn't get a chance to take a travel mug with coffee with me, either. The ground was wet and a bit slippery from the frost, and if you weren't slipping on that, then you were sliding on all the wet leaves that have fallen. You could smell woodsmoke someplace. Someone in the neighborhood has a wood-burning stove or a fireplace, I gather.

The work is rather boring, in and of itself. I mean, how much is there to delivering newspapers? Still, it was fun; my nephew has a remarkable sense of humor for an 11-year old, and he's a great kid who is forever asking me questions (many of which are perhaps best left to his parents to answer, but I don't mind giving him the truth as I see it). He's a wonder; bright, inquisitive, funny. I love the hell out of him, and even if it is a pain in the ass to deliver a bundle of dead wood pulp in the cold darkness of a Sunday morning, I still had a great time.

In a way, it's sort of good that people still want a Sunday paper, something solid and tangible in their hands, even if they could get their news for free on the Internet. For many years now, I've been incapable of enjoying the simple pleasures in life, primarily because I have been focused on 'The Big Picture' (or what I thought was the big picture, anyway). But yesterday, shivering, laughing with an 11-year old, doing physical labor in the dark, I had a thought for a moment that there really is no Big Picture. That life is merely a continuous run of Smaller Pictures run end-to-end, and that the idea was to glean from them what you could before they passed by in rapid succession. Maybe now, in my dotage and declining years, I've finally learned how?

Anyways, anytime My Boys (three of my nephews share this paper route) ask for some help on a cold Sunday morning, I'll eagerly volunteer.

The Anti-Technologist...

Recently, I had occasion to have to explain myself to some complete strangers who thought I was some sort of three-headed monster. They appeared to regard me as some prehistoric beast, a creature from another time, as out of place in today's world as a brontosaurus would be.

Why? Because I refuse to carry a cell phone.

In fact, I refuse to carry any electronic gadgets at all. No phones, no pagers, no PDA's. You'll never see me Twitter a damned thing (and from what I've seen, the name is apropos: people who 'tweet' are often twits, unable and unwilling to stop living in the immediate. They'll send "I've just stepped in dogshit!" to their friends and then spend hours waiting for responses). You will find no 'productivity tools' or 'mobile communications' devices of much utility around my house, beyond a PC and a cordless phone.

Some think this is strange, but I have a set of specific reasons for living this way. For a start, it's liberating. I used to have a job that required that I never be more than a phone call or page away from someone who may have needed help in correcting a problem. The ability to be contacted at all hours of the day and night came with the job; along with the idea that holidays and weekends didn't exist, and that if you got one off, you were exceedingly fortunate. I carried my cell, my pager and a Blackberry on my belt, and the damned things never stopped ringing, buzzing, hooting, vibrating or otherwise depriving me of sleep and sanity. Sometimes it was a necessary call, but more often than not, it was someone who just wanted to see "what was up" or "what are you doing this weekend", etc, etc, and the idea of an impersonal e-mail or text message was somehow a more productive use of time than a phone call.

Quite frankly, these devices didn't make me "more productive", they simply handcuffed me to my desk, electronically, 24/7.

And that's another thing: these aren't productivity tools. They represent the ability of your employer and co-workers to reach into your private life, your down time, and cajole you to work from home, or worse, to come back to the office at the most inconvenient times. I hate these things mostly because of the sense of intrusion they represent. If I wanted to work at home, I would. If I wanted to commute to work at 11:30 p.m. on a weeknight, I'd have taken the night shift.

The second problem with these things is the ability of anyone, for any (usually stupid) reason to be able to contact you whether you wish to talk to them or not. I would rather avoid most people, until I'm ready to speak to them. Possession of the cell, the 'berry, however, only serves notice to people who will contact you for frivolous reasons to feel perfectly comfortable doing so.
Naturally, you can always turn these things off, and after a while, I did. But, when someone who is determined to annoy you with a blow-by-blow account of how they did nothing worthy of retelling all day is determined to assault your ears, they can be relentless. No answer on the cell? Send a mail. No response to multiple mails? Page him. No response to a page? Call him on the landline.

I can't tell you how many times I have been hailed in multiple formats, multiple times, by someone determined to talk my ear off. I can hear the progression now: ringtone, loud clang of arriving e-mail, Star Trek transporter sound effect for the text message, and finally, the sterile electronic warble of the landline. One after another, literally seconds apart. If you strung the sounds together, you might be able to use them to write some sort of symphony of aggravation.

And now, these phones and gadgets apparently come with a GPS locator in them? Yeah, if people being able to annoy me at whim wasn't bad enough, now I have to worry about people tracking my movements? Get real!

I'm quite happy being incommunicado, you know. I like the idea that I'm not a slave to my electronic accoutrements, and I don't care how strange an unusual you may find this, nor do I care about how this 'isolates' me from the greater society, and even if it means 'The Office' can't contact me to get status reports; it's how I have chosen to live. I rather like it.