Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Selective Application

"The apparent selective application of the law to these individuals undermines Russia's reputation as a country committed to deepening the rule of law."
                                                                          — Committed Deep, Hillary Clinton

"And obviously we're going to look at past practices. And I don't believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand, I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. "
                                                                          — Prez Barry Two Hands

Take a few minutes, consider just how stupid this image is
To pretend — or blindly assume — that our American legal system somehow is not selective (and I'm not even just talking about the universal "free pass" that is anything 9/11 related... no, I'm talking about our day-to-day police to prosecution to judgment activities).

Even if one argued that THE SYSTEM isn't systematically selective (which, of fucking course, it is), how could you get around the unavoidable truth that each individual within THE SYSTEM operates very differently. Take Barry Two Hands as example # 1, I mean... if you spoke with more than one police, prosecutor, or judge* this would be self-evident... and this isn't a "bad" thing, goddamn it. As Andrew Bird reminds: Just don't let the human factor fail to be a factor at all.

*Admittedly, I've never conversed with a judge

Monday, December 27, 2010

For my next trick, I'll make pornography wildly popular and readily available!

It could be a Zen koan: if everybody in the class gets an A, what does an A mean?
The answer: Not what it should, says Andrew Perrin, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “An A should mean outstanding work; it should not be the default grade,” Mr. Perrin said. “If everyone gets an A for adequate completion of tasks, it cripples our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship.”
Cripple our ability to recognize exemplary scholarship? Uh-huh. Allow me to indulge in a well-known maxim: One cannot do what is already done. 

The grade is — by design, mind you — bullshit. Keep in mind, the following conversation took place before the advent of the so-called Digital Age:

Tell me professor, how well did my boy grasp dem' Eco-nomic theories? 
Well, I'm thrilled whenever a parent takes an interest in their child's education. Have you read the syllabus and assignments?
Of course not.
Oh, uh, okay... well, let's start by reviewing his first assignment — to get some idea where he started. Next, we'll read his mid-term and final, tracing the evolution of his understanding...
Right, um... I'm not interested in the class, I just want to know how well my boy is doing.
Yes, but you'll need to understand the coursework in order to get some sense of the assessment.
(quietly mutters, "shit") Yeah, ahem...it's just that I, uh... I've a lunch, uh, meeting I need to get to — totally forgot, but I can't miss it — can you summarize it for me?
No, not really...
How about you just give it to me on a scale of 1-10, eh? Where does Junior rank?
Compared to what, how would this scale work?
Aw Hell, I don't know, whatever... you tell me
Um, I don't think a numerical scale will work? That would just simplify the matter, it wouldn't mean anything.
How about letters? "A" is first, so that would be the best, and —
Yeah, that's still, essentially, the same as your 1-10 idea...
Dammit, this is taking forever. Just say good or bad... how should I feel about my son's Progress?

It is never too late to not really give a shit

Headline asks:
How Cheap Is an Iraqi Life?
The thorny debate over compensation payments and why it matters to the U.S. war effort
You will, I'm sure, understand my confusion... hadn't these questions long since been asked (yes) and answered (very cheap)? Curious, I read Will Oremus' article (Don't follow that link, lazily, I'll be reprinting most of the content — which the good folks at SLATE index under the heading: Foreigners: Opinions about events beyond our borders) knowing fully that SLATE is a silly entertainment rag akin to every popular online periodical.

When the sub-headline contains "debate" we've been tipped: the writer is going to attempt to "report"... his opinion, ostensibly, will be withheld. Let's see what happens:
In 2007, an Iraqi civilian from Baghdad filed a claim for damages against the U.S. Army. In the paperwork he completed, he explained that his son Wa'ad had been driving a taxi one February morning and was on his way home to refuel when a passenger flagged him down. Moments later, a U.S. tank stationed half a mile away opened fire, hitting the taxi with two missiles. Wa'ad was found burned to death inside.
The Iraqi asked the United States for $10,000 in compensation: $5,000 for his son's death, and $5,000 for the ruined taxi. The claim was more or less typical of the thousands filed by Iraqis against the United States under the Foreign Claims Act since the war there began in 2003. Many were denied, often based on technicalities. But this man was among the luckier ones: The United States paid him $2,800 for son and taxi combined.
So far, the good stuff is jammed into a bag of vague (e.g. the claim was more or less typical; Many were denied, often based on technicalities), but that's okay, our headlines didn't prepare us to expect an analysis of the claims Iraqis filed or the process for which those claims were approved or denied — it can be taken for granted that "technicalities" are grounds for dismissal (which reminds me of the play I'm writing, America: King of the Pedants).
Military officials acknowledge that such "condolence payments" don't capture the full value of a lost civilian life. They are intended, according to a 2007 report to Congress by the Government Accountability Office, as "expressions of sympathy." They are by no means to be taken as an admission of legal liability or fault, the report notes.
The GAO report tells me that exactly what I expect the payments to be (an admission of liability or fault) is precisely what they are not... because there is another word wedged in there, isn't there? Legal. Not to be taken as a legal admission of liability of fault.
But in an era of counterinsurgency, in which civilian "hearts and minds" have become high-value targets, fair compensation has begun to matter more. That has raised an awkward question for U.S. military leaders: Just how much is an Iraqi or Afghan life worth?
Attaching a monetary value to human life might seem offensive to some. But it's routine in many nonmilitary contexts. Economists and actuaries have developed sophisticated metrics for assessing the price of a life. Some are based on an individual's projected lifetime earnings. Others extrapolate a figure based on a person's own financial valuation of the risk of death. For instance, if an employee requires $700 in hazard pay to assume a 1-in-10,000 risk of death on the job, she is valuing her own life at $7 million.
The move to explain-away concerns that "attaching a monetary value to human life might seem offensive" is a classic. Take something that seems undesirable, and lend it familiarity... this will help us see just how perfectly normal and natural it is... nothing to see here
In fact, $7 million is roughly the "statistical value of life" used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in formulating regulatory policy. Other U.S. agencies use similar numbers. Yet compensation payments for those who die tend to be much lower in the United States and elsewhere. Especially elsewhere. U.S. soldiers killed in battle merit a "death benefit" of $500,000. In contrast, most condolence payments to Iraqi and Afghan families are capped at $2,500. Still, if that seems like a stingy response to the combustion of one's son, it's actually pretty generous compared with pre-2003 practices by the United States and other countries. The fact that Washington is offering such payments at all represents a break with hundreds of years of military history.
How Oremus goes is beginning to get interesting. We've been told that the EPA (a good progressive institution), and other U.S. Agencies, count noses to a tune of 7 mil per (hilarious). Then, we are told a K.I.A. American soldier is compensated/rewarded 200 times more than the dead Afghan/Iraqi's maximum value. Clearly, our boy with the keyboard is going to continue his Cash-For-Corpses analysis without bothering to ask any (how did he phrase it?) awkward questions... nothing to see here.
Under international law, the killing of civilians is not a war crime, as long as they are not the object of the attack—and as long as the expected civilian death toll is not "excessive" compared with the value of the legitimate military target. So for decades, the families of civilian war victims got nothing at all. As novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote in Slaughterhouse-Five, (Tee Vee's note: the link is to Amazon, don't bother finding a free to read copy) a reflection on the Allied fire-bombings of Dresden in World War II, "So it goes."
Not only was such "collateral damage" considered permissible, it may have even been used for strategic purposes in some cases. In 1943, two years before the deadly Dresden bombings, Allied military leaders issued the Casablanca Directive, establishing as a major priority, "the undermining of the morale of the German people to a point where their capacity for armed resistance is fatally weakened."
More recently, the United States has treated civilian casualties as something ideally to be avoided, though not at the cost of major military objectives.
Goddamn I love me some international law! I mean, as long as the dead citoyen wasn't the object of the attack, we're all good. How THE LAW makes sense of intent and effect is a source of endless entertainment. For those of you who have been either indicted or convicted of Attempted Murder, you're well aware of the prison sentence that follows. But... actual murder (when good wholesome war murder is the determined intent), no problem, y'alls good.

As for our man Oremus... what is he up to? He references Vonnegut and SH-5 and the book's refrain, "So it goes." I paused, and reread. "So for decades," Oremus estimates, "the families of civilian war victims got nothing at all." And then he drops the Vonnegut quote. Huh.
Marc Garlasco was chief of "high-value targeting" in the Pentagon in the run-up to the Iraq War. He says his superiors would tolerate collateral damage up to a point: 30 deaths, to be exact. In analyzing which targets the United States could strike in its opening "shock and awe" campaign, Garlasco says he was instructed to authorize anything that could reasonably be expected to kill fewer than 30 civilians. Any more than that, and the attack would require a personal sign-off from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld or President George W. Bush. "I don't know why 30 was considered the high," Garlasco says. "I don't know why they picked 30 and not 20, or 40, or 100."
Garlasco's Wikipedia page is enjoyably lurid. A Der Spiegel story recounts:
Garlasco watched as the bombs landed, precisely on target, and exploded. He threw his arms up into the air and yelled: "I just blew up Chemical Ali!" Two weeks later, he stood corrected. Ali Hassan al-Majid has not been in the house, after all. Instead of killing Chemical Ali, the bombs took the lives of 17 innocent people.
Needless to say, since the 17 dead bodies were not the target (they were just standing on the bull's-eye), Garlasco wasn't bothered with prison, instead he took a job at Human Rights Watch (perfect... isn't it? Not perfect, you say? Did I mention he "left" Human Rights Watch because collecting Nazi memorabilia remains uncool?). As for the previous question: Why 30? Instead of another number? Because, when everything is quantitative, you gotta pick a number. You gotta have a standard. Something. Anything. To make it appear like you give a fuck and know what's up — WE HAVE A PLAN. Thirty didn't receive enough objections... that's why thirty.

A few more to peek at, then I'll wrap up:
Many experts believe that focus returned with the publication of a new Counterinsurgency Field Manual in 2006. One of its precepts was "first, do no harm"—a maxim more commonly associated with medical ethics than military operations. The goal of a counterinsurgency campaign, it noted, was not only to subdue the enemy but to secure the environment for local civilians. Garlasco was part of the team that reviewed the manual before its publication. And he wasn't the only one from outside the military establishment. "Guys like Petraeus hooked up with Sarah Sewell from the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard," he says. "The Red Cross was there, Human Rights Watch was there."
Alright, Oremus, now you're really pissing me off, you under-handed fuck. Garlasco is, quite obviously, not from "outside the military establishment." Must I replay the "I just blew up Chemical Ali!" Quote?
The new approach has increased pressure on militaries to attach a higher value to civilian lives. Exactly what that value should be remains in dispute.
There is a growing sentiment, however, that a $2,500 condolence payment is too low. A June report by CIVIC, the nonprofit Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, argued that the current system may insult more people than it mollifies. That's not just a money issue; it's also the result of opaque procedures and inconsistent implementation, the report found. Many people file under the Foreign Claims Act only to find that it doesn't cover combat-related damages. Those are handled under the more informal condolence payment system, in which unit commanders have broad discretion to grant or withhold compensation.
Will we bother to ask why the Foreign Claims Act doesn't cover combat-related damages? No? Why would the military "informally" (read: minimal acknowledgment/paper trail) render judgment and payment? Not going to ask that question... volumes spoken.

It likely doesn't help when Iraqis hear about things like the recent settlement between their government and American citizens who were abused by Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War. According to reports, Iraq agreed to pay $400 million to the several hundred Americans who had filed claims alleging torture and psychological trauma.
Huh? He doesn't exactly comment on this, ahem, discrepancy... but he does include it... which is notable. Oremus is getting warmer...
At first blush, any substantial increase in the payments to families of civilian casualties in Iraq and elsewhere might seem prohibitively expensive. The Defense Department reported spending more than $30 million on condolence payments in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2006. Raise the cap to $10,000, and it's conceivable the United States could have been on the hook for upward of $100 million. That's a large amount by most measures—though it pales next to the $1.12 trillion the United States has spent on the war effort as a whole.
COLDER! Fucking Oremus. His style is truly charming. If we drop 10k on each dead body, we'll be "on the hook for upward of $100 million"... and that doesn't even include future murders!
Yet even CIVIC isn't advocating spending that much. In a recent phone interview, Executive Director Sarah Holewinski said just standardizing and simplifying the claims process could make a big difference. She bases that on her experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan talking to residents who have lost loved ones to stray coalition fire. "Obviously they're incredibly upset, and if they don't receive any sort of apology as to why their family has been harmed, then they get angry, too," Holewinski says. "The best thing you can do is apologize, investigate what happened, give some sort of explanation"—and then offer compensation. It doesn't have to capture the person's full economic value, she adds. Often it's the thought that counts.
Even CIVIC? Well then. A few beautiful euphemisms. Stray coalition fire. Bullets fly pretty fucking straight, no? No mention of bad aim or gross negligence... just stray.
Not everyone in the military establishment is ready to concede that hearts and minds have become more important than blood and guts. In a Washington Post op-ed last month, retired Air Force Gen. Charles Dunlap wrote that reducing airstrikes in Afghanistan to spare civilians was counterproductive.
"[D]on't believe the claim that civilian deaths automatically generate more enemies," he wrote. "The Taliban itself has disproved that theory. Although insurgents caused almost 76 percent of civilian deaths, according to a U.N. report published in August, Taliban strength is reportedly nevertheless increasing."
Read that shit again for me. The Taliban theory of violence for power has an advocate, his name is Chucky Dunlap. Kills = Increased Strength
If he's right, then perhaps the United States wasted the $2,800 it awarded to Wa'ad's father. After all, this was a man who saw his son reduced to rubble by U.S. forces and responded by dutifully filling out some forms. Asked to list in detail what property damage he had suffered, he wrote: "I lost my son without any reason. He was my helper in these hard circumstances." It's possible he wouldn't have held a grudge even if the United States had paid him nothing. Then again, if Wa'ad's life isn't worth anything, some might question why American troops are still in Iraq at all.
This, is journalism, I suppose. At the end, remember to repeat two different points of view — without displaying clear preference for either — and voila: unbiased, respectable journalism.

But, Oremus' article doesn't do much to proliferate possibility. Rather, he leaves us with only one glaring question — and don't you fucking dare reshape the question. Does giving money to the families of the murdered help America's military machine? Fuck that question.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Where is this relationship going?

The deadliest group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan has not conducted a complex large-scale attack in the capital city of Kabul for seven months, its momentum stymied as elite American-led commandos have escalated raids against the militants’ bomb makers and logisticians. But in a testament to the resiliency of the fighters, the so-called Haqqani network, and a nod to the fragility of the allied gains, the White House is not trumpeting this assessment.
Jeebies... seven months? Without attacking? Looks like dem' dare boys are fucking with The Program. If they stop fighting back, things might get... you know... weird.
To help offset the withdrawal of some troops from isolated outposts in the east, NATO has increased surveillance drone flights and positioned 68 tethered balloons with cameras and other sensors along the border with Pakistan, a senior allied official said.
68 Balloons with cameras and other sensors... hmmm.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fun Game

There are holiday traditions in my life. One of them is to make up a stupid game (designed for the holiday minimalist). If you're like me, your mail is hilarious. This year's game —Mystery Mail, a simple game — offers a range of pleasures and surprises. Here's how it goes:

You Need:
a) Friends (3-5 ish in number)
b) Spirits (more on that in a moment)
c) Your mail (Your good stuff... whatever that might be. You must (I insist on this detail) black out all exterior info: addresses, logos, post mark)
d) Music (Four Tet is your best bet, but anything in the post-something electronic genre will suffice)

How Does it Work:
a) Throw mail in a bag (not plastic, you degenerate)
b) Reach into bag, extract one item, open it, read it (this is where much of your fun ensues, mailspeak is hilarious... preferably, your friends aren't stiff aloud readers, we're looking for some spunk here.).
c) Do not read who it is addressed to. After reading, everyone — except for the reader — guesses who the recipient is (you write this down, secretly, of course). Points are awarded. Keeping score is optional, go with it or without...

When to Play:
In the morning. Which allows us to return to an earlier component: cocktails. Simple champagne cocktails play well, coffee and bourbon for a well-oiled crew.

Where to Play: 
Like always, a well-lit room (wink and nudge to this guy... the dedication to his subscribers I'd like to second). Daytime darkness is unhealthy, evidently.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

The NCAA keeps indentured servitude alive and well regulated

Understated elegance
Perfectly timed for the Giftmas season, I have this amusing headline sports story:

Gene Smith, Athletic director of Ohio State, says, "we did not explicitly tell them they couldn't sell what we gave them"

That's a fun sentence. A few Ohio State University football players sold a few trinkets — trinkets that their school "gave" them. Suspensions ensued. The football players in question thought their BIG 10 championships rings were kinda cool, but — like most "may I buy you a drink?" women bar-goers — if given the choice, they'd rather have the cash.

Remember fellas, they ain't giving you shit... the strings are tightly fastened.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the name; Philip K. Dick helps; ceasing to be an asshole

A friend of mine told me, very mat-toe-uh-fackly, that I write this blog because (quote) I want people to think like me... (end). I disagree, that's what I tell myself. My most dependable explanation for the writings I collect in this digital place: I want to work with my thoughts, (you know, test them out, see how they roll — rather than blindly accepting them) and, when I find something that might by enjoyed by another Youman Being, I offer it — from there, I'm not really involved (it's not like I get a lot of follow up questions, most of the discussions about the posts happen before they're written).

The name, what the Tee Vee taught, might be worth an explanation. Philip K. Dick, years before I was birthed, said this:
TV viewing is a kind of sleeplearning. An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion. In addition, much of the information is graphic and therefore passes into the right hemisphere of the brain, rather than being processed by the left, where the conscious personality is located. Recent experiments indicate that much of what we see on the TV screen is received on a subliminal basis. We only imagine that we consciously see what is there. The bulk of the messages elude our attention; literally, after a few hours of TV watching, we do not know what we have seen. Our memories are spurious, like our memories of dreams; the blank spaces are filled in retrospectively. And falsified. We have participated unknowingly in the creation of of a spurious reality, and then we have obligingly fed it to ourselves. We have colluded in our own doom.
I freely admit that much of this — to me — is unknown or nonsense. An EEG? Huh? What the fuck is an alpha wave? Colluded in our own doom... What now? Yet, I'm totally with him, and I don't really know why... it just works for me (I suspect it's the part about spurious memories, filled in retrospectively, and falsified... I like that, that feels right, somehow). Read a little more, if you would:
It was always my hope, in writing novels and stories that asked the question "What is reality?" to someday get an answer. This was the hope of of most of my readers, too. Years passed... But the problem is a real one, not a mere intellectual game. Because today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups — and the electronic hardware exists by which to deliver these pseudoworlds right into the heads of the reader, the viewer, the listener. Sometimes when I watch my eleven-year-old daughter watch TV, I wonder what she is being taught. The problem of miscuing; consider that. A TV program produced for adults is viewed by a small child. Half of what is said and done in the TV drama is probably misunderstood by the child. Maybe it's all misunderstood. And the thing is, Just how authentic is the information anyhow, even if the child correctly understood it? What is the relationship between the average TV situation comedy and reality? What about the cop shows? Cars are continually swerving out of control, crashing, and catching fire. The police are always good and they always win. Do not ignore that one point: The police always win. What a lesson that is. You should not fight authority, and even if you do, you will lose. The message here is, Be passive. And — cooperate. If Officer Baretta asks you for information, give it to him, because Officer Baretta is a good man and to be trusted. He loves you and you should love him.
Bringing capital T Truth or "reality" into living rooms and offices is not my objective. No-no-no. Rather, I want to — eventually, no hurry — create my own reality. Nothing to be preached or promised. There will be no fanfare. I'm not creating a product. I'm creating a lens. For me. A way of seeing. And listening. Speaking, moving, and so forth. In many ways, I'm still consumed by my tee vee teachings, my sleeplearning. Here's an example (and the raison d'ĂȘtre of this post — so please, if you made it this far, perk yourself):

When I hear somebody reject a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe (specifically, rejecting it in favor of a religious/mythical explanation) my first reaction is to mock and laugh ("dumbass," my head voice scoffs). Now, this is a usable example of what the Tee Vee taught me*, because I have no fucking good reason for doing this. In fact, I too do not accept a scientific explanation for the creation of the universe (note: I don't reject it, I just don't accept it, because I don't understand). Look at that thing: the hilarity to your right is a visual helper, designed to help eager scientific minds comprehend a theory. I've spent some time (we're going all the way back to pre-dropped balls here) considering the creation of the universe. I love it. Great fun. Very challenging. I fail every fucking time. I simply don't understand. I can slowly wade into the info, build each idea, ask my college Physics professor lots of annoying questions... yet, I can't get there. If I have ever said, "I understand the basics of Big Bang cosmology," I was fucking lying. In the past, this is something I'm sure I have lied about, because I so badly wanted to understand, yet I fell short.

Despite this, to this day, if I hear someone take a crap on scientific explanations for "the big question", a snarky moan spurts through my head. I don't like this. Its facelessness is ugly (actually, it has a face... mine). So I have to hope that, somehow, I'll remember that I have no grounds for being so dismissive — such an asshole. That's what this blog is about, reducing the asshole who works the long, thoughtless hours of the auto-pilot shift.

* I don't literally mean "television taught me to think this way". Rather, I'm thinking of the things we learn less than consciously, behind our own backs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fairness: A fucked idea

I careen. This is me. My plans are pliable, my scripts faint — I ad lib, I wing it. And I do so because preparation walks us towards despair (how is that for a claim, eh? Preparation leads to despair. We're having fun today), if you will:

To prepare is to envision. And to envision is to make an ostensibly irresistible move: believing we are in control. Believing that, if done correctly, directed action can produce a desired effect. Of course, I don't dispute that "directed action can produce a desired effect"... of course it can, it does. Listen to a comedian; watch someone train their pet/child; bluff a poker hand — actions produce effects, and sometimes the effect you planned for. And this, I think, is where despair invites us in. If we believe in our ability to make — literally create — the circumstances in which we live... that is some seriously fucking ill-assorted thinking. If we look at the each moment as an equation waiting to be manipulated, we're fucked. I firmly believe in my own incompetence. Now, I know our human brains are renowned — and in many instances, I am genuinely impressed — but let's face it, our abilities are grossly overestimated. I suppose this is a result of being the hegemon: the dominant species struggles to see a difference between dominance and control. And isn't this where everything goes wrong? When we seek to control outcomes?

I'll take away my silly philosopher persona now (you're welcome), and give you an example.

Not a day passes when I am not subjected to a variant of this complaint/statement: This or that isn't fair. When the school kids unleash this howler, it is most often (so far as I can guess) a response to this perceived injustice: somebody else — a non-me — just received something good... and I did not. Or, conversely, I received something bad, and someone else didn't.

In response, I like this (in the most genuine tone I can muster): I do not understand fair and unfair. What would be fair, and how do you know? The answer usually doesn't address the question. Instead, the complaint gets repeated. And this is when I ascend my soapbox and (ex)pound away:

The official company policy, the rules you're asked to follow, lovely children, are constantly changing. The influence of customs wangle and wane — we notice much later. To determine what is "fair" is to determine the indeterminable — what is happening compared to what should be happening? I can't figure either. Who knows. Stop trying (at this point, the children have clear body language: that's enough, slightly-older-than-us Authority figure... I continue anyway). As a wise man once said, accept the mystery. Yet, please consider this:

Mind your own business. Reject the authority you don't choose. When you deal with people, be good to them. I cannot define good... even if I could, by the time I finish, something will have changed.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Would you like an important role? Of course you would

“I make no apologies for the how the F.B.I. agents handled their work in executing the operation that led to Mr. Mohamud’s arrest,” Mr. Holder said. “Their efforts helped to identify a person who repeatedly expressed his desire and intention to kill innocent Americans.” He added: “But you also have my word that the Justice Department will — just as vigorously — continue to pursue anyone who would target Muslims, or their houses of worship.”
Guffaw Guffaw.

Innocent? Wait, Holder is saying that Mr. Mohamud (teenage young men get called "Mr." once they're imprisoned) wanted to kill innocent people? It seems that Director Holder took the kid's alleged intent and then added his own adjective: innocent.

I mean, I have no doubt that Holder thinks the hypothetical victims of the FBI's faux terrorist plot would be innocent victims — but surely the kid that they coerced into faux action wouldn't define them as innocent... right? Could he have misspoke? That would make sense, I'm sure Holder meant to say infidel Americans, not innocent Americans. There we go, mystery solved.

As McLuhan said, the kids "these days" are looking for roles. Obviously, the wonderful folks at the F.B.I. are aware of this. To take a disaffected teenager, create a role that reeks of something momentous, support him at every turn, and then claim, "we caught the bad guy" sums up the hilarity pretty well. The FBI is approximate to a far less likable version of James Caan's character in Bottle Rocket: seduce the dumb kids on the front end, fuck em' on the back end. They're dumb kids, they were all but asking for it.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Give" him 100 million dollars... thoughts on Albert Haynesworth

Albert Haynesworth is a football player for the Washington Redskins (if you're terribly unaware of American football, I didn't make up that name, they are called the Red. Skins.) He grew in a small South Carolina town — population, 4 digits. He is twenty-nine years old, he is black, he went to the University of Tennessee for three years (the National Football League requires players be three years removed from high school to be eligible).

Albert once stepped on an opponent's un-helmeted head. He once signed a "7 year contract" for $100 million dollars (I put that in quotes because there is no such thing as a long-term contract in the NFL, every year is, essentially, a one year option for the team to exercise... almost every player who signs a long-term deal does not see all of the money, often substantially less, as is the case with Albert). He once failed a team administered conditioning test... it was a big deal. When the team makes practice "not mandatory", Albert is not coming. Just the other day, the Washington professional football team (aforementioned Redksins) suspended Haynesworth, without pay, for the remainder of the season.
Please, if you have 3 minutes, watch this. If you don't, I hear you (I've written two pretty fucking bland paragraphs thus far)

Every question is wonderfully loaded, let's go for a walk:
"When you signed that one hundred million dollar contract... what were your expectations?"
 Albert, I think rather obviously, gives a stock answer. Athletes always have the same goal. If they're exceptionally talented, they want to be "the best". If they're good — but not great — they want to be "the best they can be". So, he goes ahead and says what he is supposed to say: I want to be the best. The follow up question functions in this way, "Well, you're not performing like the BEST!" And, what does Albert do? He doesn't take the bait. Rather, he speaks, very calmly, about some of us his struggles and frustrations... a beautiful answer. Realizing she hasn't skewered her prey, she goes for the "let the athlete hang himself by saying something bad about the hometown fans" question:
What do you think the perception of you, in this town, is?
Now, let me say this clearly... the perception of Haynesworth is lazy. ungrateful. black. man. The national sports media have fallen over themselves making this clear. This is like asking Michael Vick what PETA thinks of him. And, yet again, Albert gives a beautiful, uncertain, answer, "I don't really know," he says. And then he lays out several potential opinions.

Foolishly, I'm saving the best for last. The ESPN hack asks Albert is he was considering not taking the twenty-one million dollar ($21,000,000) bonus that his contract provided for him... "Albert, did you consider not taking the money? You know, because management is disappointed?" His response — what else? — was to laugh. Boy, it was tough, on one hand... I could take the money that my contract provided for me... or, I could... wait, why wouldn't I take the money? Because I haven't "earned" it? Fucking. Hilarious.

I enjoy Albert Haynesworth for two reasons:

1) He is a worker. In America, the worker is the enemy. America loves management. Hates their (fellow) workers. I've heard this refrain many times, "Haynesworth needs to earn that contract." WRONG! He earned it when he wrote his name on the bottom. If the assholes who run the Washington Redskins (and trust me, although I don't have the time or interest to outline all that is loathsome about Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder — these guys are top notch dickheads), aren't happy with Albert, that's fine. They can suspend him (check), try to renege their contract (check), and generally fuck with their worker (check...it is the American way, after all), nobody will be surprised. Haynesworth goes as he goes, he is — so far as I can tell — neither compliant or despondent... he is quickly becoming a hero.

2) He knows how to take flight from aggressive questioning. Watch the video again, if you'd like. He eludes the bullshit. Doesn't engage on the interviewer's terms. Takes lateral steps... not forward or backward, he moves around.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Scribbler

Earlier today — and for only a few moments — a stranger shaped my persona (what a vigorous word, persona). I am a versatile bus rider, like to mix-it-up. But lately, I've enjoyed the physical act of writing. Now, I'm talking about old school writing (not chisel and tablet old, pen and paper), what I write might be called "stream of consciousness" — but that's not a terribly accurate label, of course. Stream of consciousness suggests, to me, "unfiltered" thinking, and also somewhat aimless. Writing can drift without a specific topic or focus, but it is not aimless — the aim is to write. So, I'm writing, very quickly, sloppy. And, I'm turning the paper as I write... to and fro. For someone who isn't me, I'd imagine it would be nearly impossible (and certainly not worth the effort) to decipher the lines and shapes as letters and words.

If you're a public transportee, you might have noticed the following observation: most people sit quietly, all movement tends to cease — other than the natural jostling that occurs when many tons of people and machine are propelled forward at impressive speeds, of course. Therefore, anybody who is moving draws some attention. My attention came in the form of a question: what are you writing? I don't remember what I said, but it wasn't the clean answer he was expecting, I suspect. His response to whatever it is I happened to say was curious, indeed. He said, "it looks like you're just scribbling. I'm going to call you the scribbler." To which (my memory is back!) I asked, "when?"

"Huh?" the now quizzical man responded.

"When are you going to call me the scribbler?"

At this point, the guy gets pissed. Based on what I heard, my tone was straight silly, not confrontational: I was just fucking with him, but I wasn't fucking with him... if you follow me. He saw it differently, calls me a wise-ass (he was a bit of an old-timer), and then — and this is clearly the best part — he loudly proclaims: "This is what you get for trying to be friendly."

Communication is fun because its success is guaranteed, if you look at it from a certain angle. Something will happen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chris Hitchens compares himself to Julian Assange... guess who wins?

We're pretty sure that every single thing that Christopher Hitchens does or says amounts to an exercise in hilarity (Oh, Hitchens is having a God debate with Tony Blair tonight? Damn, I can't. I have tickets to watch a mermaid and a hippo play tennis... let me know who wins though). I know this. However, this is just too fucking funny. 

They should be teaching this in our nation's fine institutions of institution. I mean, the headline is enough to get excited, but the second headline (what do you call that?).... oh, that second headline:

The Wikileaks founder is an unscrupulous megalomaniac with a political agenda.

Not since the American government called another country's government a "quasi-official racket", has anything more amusing been uttered.


Sunday, December 5, 2010


Ben Roethlisberger (quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers), with only two minutes and thirty-nine seconds off the clock in Sunday night's football game, had his beak smashed. There he was, an unlikeable champion, exhaling spurts of blood from his nose.

A staggeringly beautiful 350 pound Tongan, called Haloti Ngata, was the assailant/tackler. He rammed his immense arm into Ben's head, collapsing the helmet's facemask across the bridge of his nose... it just wouldn't stop. High definition is merciless. This is what high definition television promises: humanity in the raw.

Friday, December 3, 2010

World Cup Committee's Foresight Impresses

An American person said to me, "Qatar and Russia, I'm not going there!"

Uh... I know. Because, um, they got zee oil — and it won't be long before holding onto the stuff will be far wiser than selling it; the World Cup Committee is smart enough to realize this — good thinkin' fellas. Remember, it's 2008 folks. Time hasn't figured everything out yet, we're just not sure who is going to have what come 2018 and 2022. Yet, we can be pretty goddamned sure that some oil will be sloshing around in Russia and Qatar.

I read some unimaginative claims at the Telegraph, discussing how "dangerous" the Cup Committee's decision is. Uh, yeah, allow me to offer a thorough, calculated breakdown:

2018 Cup finalists:
Pay me for my OIL!... Ha, it is not for sale.
Belgium/Netherlands (No OIL!)
Portugal and Spain (No OIL!)
Russia (Lots of OIL!! Winners!)
England (Measly amount of OIL!)

2022 Cup finalists:
Australia (No OIL!)
Japan (No OIL!)
Qatar (Lots of OIL!! Winners!)
Untied States (Some OIL! Fond of hating soccer)
South Korea (No OIL!)