3 November 2002
Sometimes I could just screen

Canadian author Rohinton Mistry has cut short his book tour and gone home, complaining about racial profiling at American airports. Alfred A. Knopf, Mistry's publisher in the US, issued the following memorandum:

As a person of colour he was stopped repeatedly and rudely at each airport along the way — to the point where the humiliation of both he and his wife has become unbearable.

Cato the Youngest comments:

Obviously, we need to start hiring more literature majors as airport security guards, because the only way to have known Mr. Mistry was not a terrorist, without searching him, was for the guards to have recognized him. Yes, we need more literate airport security guards, that's the ticket.

Mr. Mistry was born in India and has no ties of any sort to Islam.

For some lit majors, working as an airport screener might mean a substantial boost in pay. And Cato's quite-reasonable bottom line is this:

[I]t is unfortunate that law-abiding people such as Mr. Mistry are subjected to extra scrutiny at airports. It is unfortunate that we need any security at airports. Unfortunately, we do, and I would rather see screeners offend ethnic Middle Easterners and Indians than waste their time on 80 year old French grandmothers and elderly US Congressmen.

There's simply no way to do this with any degree of effectiveness without offending someone, a situation that likely applies just as well to blogging as it does to airport security.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:07 PM)
13 December 2002
Tunnel vision

Quick, now, who causes crime? If you said "criminals," go to the head of the class. If your first thought was "corporate hegemony," you've been hanging around the likes of Kenneth Tunnel too long.

Mr Tunnel, seven years ago, churned out something called "Silence of the Left: Reflections on critical criminology and criminologists" for the Spring 1995 issue of Social Justice. (I must have missed that while I was adding to my Entertainment Weekly collection.) Susanna Cornett, who came upon this screed in her postgraduate studies, was, I suspect, tempted to give the fellow a brisk fisk, but she apparently decided that he was best hanged with his own words. A sample thereof:

The media, and thus most Americans, simply dismiss progressive criminologists even though they may be the academics best-equipped to explain various social phenomena and especially crime, since they depart from behavioral interpretations and focus instead on the political economy of crime and punishment, the physical, economic, and symbolic consequences of corporate violence, and governmental activities that are both criminal and non-criminal, yet socially harmful.

For myself, I'm more inclined to believe that most Americans dismiss progressive criminologists because they persist in believing that violence in the streets can be blamed on all of us for our failure to adopt some socialist utopia, rather than on the actual perpetrators. Somebody shot in a drive-by? You voted for lower taxes, contributing to economic distress in the inner city. A woman is sexually assaulted by a thug? The patriarchy exercising its prerogatives. The 7-Eleven up the avenue was robbed? Corporate malfeasance leading to massive unemployment.

Yesterday, the state of Oklahoma executed an individual who held up a bank in the town of Geronimo in 1984 and killed four people in the process. Mr Tunnel will have a difficult task explaining how this is all our fault.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
25 February 2003
We've had our Phil

It's official: Phil Donahue's MSNBC show is toast.

And stale toast, at that.

(Update, 7:40 pm: John Bono has posted the name of the winner in the Donahue Show Death Watch. No, 'twasn't I.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 PM)
25 March 2003
Origin of the term "dirtbag"

Kevin McGehee reports on the environmental anarchist/apparent mental case Craig Rosebraugh, who evidently relishes the thought of devoting his destructiveness, honed by years in the Earth Liberation Front, to a broader cause: ending the war in Iraq by fighting in the streets of America.

No, really. Rosebraugh actually said that.

With massive unrest and even state of emergencies declared in major cities across the country, the U.S. government will be forced to send U.S. troops into the domestic arena thereby taking resources and political focus away from the war.

If some of us get killed, well, hey, that's okay, huh?

McGehee describes Rosebraugh as "an honest-to-goodness dangerous lunatic," which is rather like describing the Mississippi River as "sort of damp." If nothing else, the distribution of Rosebraugh's little screed underscores the preposterous silliness of all those people (especially all those Hollywood people) whining about how their freedom of speech is somehow being trodden upon. Believe me, were there a tenth of the repression they claim, they'd have been duct-taped to a missile and fired into the desert by now.

(Update, 9:40 am, 26 March: Dodd is ahead of the curve on this; he calls Rosebraugh a "domestic terrorist".)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 PM)
31 March 2003
Say goodbye, Peter

Magazine lead time can be a genuine pain in the drain, but occasionally it accidentally generates something remarkable, and far be it from me to refrain from remarks.

J. Max Robins does a weekly piece for TV Guide called "The Robins Report", and in issue #2610 (dated 5-11 April), he has an interview with "the comeback kid in Iraq," none other than the recently-canned Peter Arnett.

And some of what Arnett said might bug you almost as much as it did me. After CNN did not renew his contract:

"I was furious with Ted Turner and Tom Johnson when they threw me to the wolves after I made them billions risking my life to cover the first Gulf War. I was resentful and wanted a way to redeem myself. Now [Turner and Johnson] are gone, the Iraqis have thrown the CNN crew out of Baghdad, and I'm still here. Any satisfaction in that? Ha, ha, ha, ha."

Why was Arnett allowed to remain? He explains:

"The Iraqis have let me stay because they see me as a fellow warrior. They know I might not agree with them, but I've got their respect."

You know, Pete, this might not have been the most useful admission right about now.

This particular edition of "The Robins Report" isn't up on the TV Guide Web site as of this writing, and given the events of the last couple of days, it may never be. All the more reason to preserve it here, I'd say. It's not like they're going to reprint it in the Mirror.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 PM)
25 September 2003
Out in the streets

The saga of former WSJ staffer turned free-lancer turned sort-of-homeless person Les Gapay has gotten some play in blogdom. I didn't pay much attention to it for reasons which can literally be summed up as "been there, done that": like many others, I moved to California in the late Eighties, and things went bust rather quickly, prompting me, after a period of living out of my car, to do a reverse Tom Joad, rationalizing that if I'm gonna be broke, it's less painful, or at least less expensive, to be broke in Oklahoma.

Meanwhile, Wylie is shedding no tears for Les:

[H]e seemed stuck on hanging around the California job market. Now, if you're fishing, you like to be where the fish are. When you're looking for work, it's good to be where the jobs are. Due to wildly profligate spending of the quasi-socialists in the California legislature, a mild recession has plunged the California economy straight into the crapper.

"Plunged" and "crapper" do seem to go together well, I must admit.

I didn't do especially well upon my return to Oklahoma — sporadic temp work at best, and it was many months before I got a regular roof over my head — but things did eventually become, if not wonderful, at least less heinous.

Gapay also didn't connect with faith-based institutions, which draws another Wylie swipe:

The church, especially the Catholic Church, has historically been very supportive of those who are temporarily "down on their luck", providing temporary food and shelter to help them get "back on their feet", but Mr. Gapay says he "never went to a shelter". I don't know exactly what he expected these "churches he attended" to do for him — give him money perhaps — but I know that at least in my experience you get out of anything about what you put into it.

I spent a few nights in shelters. Most of what I felt was gratitude, with traces of embarrassment here and there; certainly I didn't feel as though any of the sponsoring organizations owed me anything.

Wylie sums up Gapay's story this way:

"The terrible economy put me out of work, and the Nanny State didn't take good enough care of me."

And as Nanny States go, few of them are more intrusive — or more profligate — than California.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:26 AM)
20 November 2003
He's out of my life

I've been staying away from the Michael Jackson story — I mean, the man's sheer weirdness has overwhelmed what little merit could be found in his most recent music — but I do have to pass on this line from Michele which details his ultimate legacy:

[H]e will be but a faded memory, a legend of another time, a man who only comes to mind when an oldies station plays Weird Al's cover of "Beat It."

Were it not for the occasional headline, I'd believe he was already there.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:11 AM)
18 December 2003
A face that she keeps on a disk in the drawer

I never did look at the JenniCam; while I'm at least as much of a perv as the next guy, I have about 0.00005 percent more of a conscience, and I really couldn't bring myself to peeking at the poor girl, even if there was an off-chance of catching her in her birthday suit.

That said, though, I was one of the mourners when Jenni announced the closing of the site, if only because it had become an institution and, well, you don't just shrug when you lose an institution. At least I don't.

I wish, though, I'd have been able to mourn as eloquently as Norman Madden, who, with a little help from Sir Paul McCartney, put together this tribute to the First Woman of Cybervoyeurism.

Ah, look at all the lonely people Ah, look at all the lonely people

Jennifer Ringley shows off her life in the frame that a webcam can send.
Life is a stream.
Watches her webcam, opens her place with a lock like a knock on her door.
What is it for?

(Chorus)
All the lonely people
Why do they all click here
All the lonely people
Why do they all click here

Faraway crazies watching the words of a woman that no one will hear.
No one comes near.
Look at her working. Darning her socks in the light when there's nobody there.
What does she care?

(Repeat chorus)

Jennifer's webcam died on the net and was buried 'long side her domain.
PayPal's to blame.
Paypal and crazies digging up dirt on her cam just to save.
It was the cam's grave.

(Repeat chorus)

Say goodnight, Jenni.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:39 PM)
12 August 2004
Only in New Jersey

Let it be said, right up front, that not everyone in the Garden State is a fan of soon-to-be-ex-governor Jim McGreevey.

Still, I suspect he's going to come out of this scandal smelling, if not like a rose, certainly like some pricey Calvin Klein foo-foo juice: by coming out of his self-imposed closet, McGreevey, at least to some folks, is going to look like some sort of sexual martyr, sent to his political death because he had the temerity to express the love that dare not speak its name. "I am a gay American," indeed. Jeff Jarvis reports that over in Philly, the Inquirer newsroom actually cheered at that admission. Yep, he's an adulterer, and he's gone out of his way to find a wholly-inappropriate job for his presumed boyfriend, but dammit, he's a member of a Protected Minority now, and if we say anything bad about him, why, it's our homophobia showing through, nothing more.

Truth be told, I really don't think New Jersey gives a flying fish about McGreevey's sexual orientation; it's been muttered about in muffled tones for years. "It makes," as he said, "little difference." Here's what Jeff Jarvis thinks of the guy:

He was a rotten governor. I voted for him. I was wrong. He messed up the budget, robbing the "rich" to buy votes from the middle class. He messed up development issues, pissing off both sides. He made lots of hiring mistakes. He was a suburban mayor who did not have the experience to be governor.

And the worst is apparently yet to come.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:10 PM)
29 September 2004
From the Department of Gimme A Break

"American Taliban" John Walker Lindh has asked that his 20-year prison sentence be commuted. Counsel for Lindh pointed out that Yaser Esam Hamdi, also accused of aiding the Afghan "militant" group, is being released and exiled to Saudi Arabia without criminal charges being filed, and that "comparable conduct should be treated in comparable ways in terms of sentencing."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice noted that, unlike Hamdi, Lindh had actually entered a guilty plea.

In other news, Governor Schwarzenegger's office could not confirm a report that the Menendez brothers had petitioned him for clemency on the grounds that they are orphans.

(Update, 4 pm: John Ashcroft isn't buying it: "Lindh was fully adjudicated and had his opportunity in court to state his position, and the system operated to provide a punishment for his activities, which were clear and unmistakable.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:41 AM)
13 June 2005
Jackson pulls off one more moonwalk

Now do us all a favor and beat it, wouldja please?

(Details here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:20 PM)
22 June 2005
Blue on blue

Heartburn on heartburn.

I mean, a live-action Smurfs movie?

This wasn't a good idea even when it was a good idea. In 2006 — assuming they could get it finished by then — it's just another indication that Hollywood is circling the drain.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:14 PM)
25 August 2005
Pat Robertson's greatest hits

Available now from Aldahlia. Operators are standing by.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:53 PM)
Tom Coburn's greatest hits

Available now from Chase McInerney. Operators are standing by.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:54 PM)
29 December 2005
Paris Hilton: not a golddigger

A clamdigger, maybe.

(Bless you, Lawren.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:15 AM)
4 January 2006
Also, those sharp spikes have got to go

There was a time when I imagined haranguing Slaughterville, Oklahoma for its name was about as dumb a stunt as PETA could pull.

Evidently my imagination is sadly limited:

Dawn Carr, PETA's director of special projects, says the group asked the National Park Service in mid-November for permission to hang a 70-foot-long pleather belt, worn low in the style of the Olsen twins, around the waist of the Statue of Liberty. But by December, the Feds had nixed the request, responding in a letter that "while adding a 'pleather belt' might seem like a great idea to some," the statue's fans "expect to see this icon as it was originally created. Our policies do not permit an alteration of this kind, even on a temporary basis. [We] realize that this cause is very important to you and your organization and believe with your creative talents and imagination you will find other avenues to pursue."

"We knew it was a long shot, but we're dreamers," says Carr. "You never know how the spirit might take people during the holiday season."

Shucks, why not temporarily replace the torch with a Bud Light? At least Anheuser-Busch would pay for it.

(Via Lawren, who says: "I can see ole Lady Liberty in a Chanel suit, clutching a Fendi bag, or wearing a gorgeous strand of Mikimoto pearls, but pleather? Those folks at PETA must wear and smoke a lot of grass.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:17 PM)
6 January 2006
This is no time to stand Pat

It's a rhetorical question, says Andrea, but it's a question just the same:

Why do people still pay any attention to what Pat Robertson says?

The answer, of course, is that they don't; the massive expansion of Christian media in recent years, largely under the national radar, has relegated him to the status of one voice among many, and not the loudest or clearest voice either. The reason he gets play in Big Media is twofold:

  • They know very few individuals in that particular marketplace, and Robertson has been around long enough to make a name for himself;
  • They naturally gravitate toward a spokesman who happily regurgitates their most blatant stereotypes.

For that segment of society who considers religion — well, this religion, anyway — an oddity committed by and for odd people, Pat Robertson is their worst fear personified; it would never occur to them that he's basically just a Bizarro World transmogrification of Al Sharpton.

And no, the right wing doesn't embrace him either: Robertson was one of the original prototypes for the term "idiotarian". If Pat Robertson did not exist, it would not have been necessary to invent him, but the temptation to do so would probably have proven irresistible.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:06 AM)
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