Friday, August 11, 2006

Brought To You By The Letter F

There are too many assclowns in positions of authority in this country, and believe it or not this time I’m not even talking about the rat bastards in the Bush administration. This time I’m talking about two separate incidents involving the people in charge of personalized license plates, one here in Iowa, the other in Ohio.

Here in Iowa, the Department of Transportation is in the process of revoking a license plate it originally awarded in 2001 because one man found it offensive.

Even if you didn’t hear the rest of the story, you’d think that was absurd, right? A guy requests the vanity plates, IDOT awards them, the guy drives around for five years (presumably not just up and down his driveway), and then suddenly, magically, his vanity message becomes offensive enough to warrant revocation.

Not because hundreds of people deluged IDOT with complaints, mind you. Because one person took offense.

John Miller of Boone owns the car in question. He drives a 1966 Corvair, which was featured rather prominently in Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe at Any Speed. Miller’s license plate reads “F NADER.”

You can look at that a couple of ways. You can look at it as a playful swat at Nader: “Hey, Ralph, I’m still driving your ‘unsafe’ Corvair 40 years later.” You could also look at it as a not-so-playful message to the candidate who siphoned off enough votes from Al Gore in 2000 to throw the election into chaos. I don’t know John Miller’s politics, but since his hobby is restoring old Corvairs I suspect it’s the first reason.

Either way, Joel Paulson of Ames caught a glimpse of Miller’s car one day, and promptly complained to IDOT that the license plate was in poor taste. When this story first came out, Paulson reportedly said he shouldn’t have to explain to a child what F NADER means.

In the first place, if the kid’s old enough, he already knows what F NADER means. If he’s younger, there’s nothing about the license plate that would make him curious enough to ask. And if he asked anyway and Joel Paulson didn’t want to explain that F is sometimes used as an abbreviation for a word “you’re not old enough to hear,” then the proper answer—listen up, Joel—would have been “Why, I’ll bet that means Fred Nader. Or maybe Frank. How many F-names can you think of, sport?”

But no, that would have been too easy. You don’t get your name in the paper that way.

Paulson had this little gem of a quote in the Des Moines Register this week: “I wonder how he’d like it if someone drove around Boone with a license plate that said ‘F JOHN MILLER?”

Good question. Of course, it would mean that somebody at IDOT approved a license plate that’s five or six letters over the limit—which is feasible considering that so much of the department’s resources are devoted to making the world safe from the letter F.

John Miller plans to appeal the revocation, as he should, and will be represented by the American Civil Liberties Union. Randall Wilson of the ACLU told the Register “The license plate isn’t obscene or vulgar by any modern standard.” Bingo. A Joel Paulson would have to take the extra step in his imagination to make it obscene, which he obviously did. And when you have government agencies trying to protect us from our own imaginations, you’ve got government agencies with entirely too much power.

The Ohio case is similar. A 74-year-old woman named Pat Niple has had her personalized license plate for ten years (no, it doesn’t say NIPLE—jeez, don’t jump to conclusions), and now the state is saying it’s obscene.

Her plate reads NWTF, because she and her late husband owned Northwood Tree Farm.

But because a generation of IMers and text messagers use it to mean something else, Ohio says Ms Niple’s plates have to go.


I’ve never seen “NWTF” in an online conversation. I assume the N stands for “Now,” although I can’t be sure. In any event, once again, the reader has to take the extra step. If he already knows what it means, he can chuckle or be offended or whatever he wants—but he can’t blame someone else for his own interpretation.

I’m not sure civil servants should be put in a position of trying to determine what’s obscene, what’s acceptable, what won’t offend the self-righteous prigs of the world. But if they’re going to uphold people like Joel Paulson as the standard of sensitivity, maybe we should just go back to random numbers and letters.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Fighting Them In London

Apparently another terrorist plot has been foiled by British authorities. Today Scotland Yard diligently rooted out 21 suspects who were planning to use liquid explosives to bring down a number of planes flying from Great Britain to the US.

Good for them.

I'm not sure how our occupation of Iraq helped uncover this plot and save hundreds of lives, but I'm sure the rat bastards in the Bush administration will be able to explain it for us.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hey Joe, Where You Goin' With That Petition In Your Hand?

The people have spoken, and Joe Lieberman isn’t listening.

I’ve stayed away from this subject just because it’s been covered in depth all over the internet, and also because this is the blog that’s updated so infrequently it’s hardly like a blog at all. I’ve been tempted. I was tempted every time some Bush apologist opened his mouth and claimed that by not supporting Lieberman, the Democratic Party was trying to stifle dissent.

Let me get this straight. We have a Republican-controlled Congress that isn’t likely to propose ending the occupation of Iraq anytime soon. We have a grass roots movement to end the occupation, a movement made up primarily of the more progressive elements of the Democrats. We have Joe Lieberman distancing himself from the grass roots and cozying up to the party in power. He’s not dissenting—he’s assimilating! He’s supporting the people who the real dissenters are dissenting against!

That isn’t dissent. But of course, right-leaning writers know perfectly well that it isn’t.

Naturally, the right loves Joe Lieberman. He’s on their side for reasons I can’t fathom, especially when I think about what happened in 2000.

Let’s say you’re running for dog catcher (and by the way, where would comedy be without the time-honored dog catcher elections?). You’re running because you believe you can be a better dog catcher than your opponent. You’re running because you believe the people deserve the best dog catcher available.

So even if you’re personal friends with the opposing dog catcher candidate, you clearly think the people would not be well served if he wins. There’s an ideological divide between you.

But the other guy wins. And then the news comes out that he won by shady means. Under those circumstances, could you even imagine embracing your opponent and what he stands for?

I’m going to change metaphors before I end up with dogs fighting in Baghdad, but the point is, after the 2000 election, why didn’t Joe Lieberman swear eternal opposition to the Bush machine? Why didn’t he say “I opposed you before, but after the slippery way you landed in office, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure your stay is a short one”?

Instead he bought into the whole 9/11 panic attack, failed to call Bush out on his lies, and decided he’d look tough if he kept hammering on national security during his Senate campaign. I can only attribute this to Short Man Syndrome, but maybe that’s just me.

Lieberman lost the Connecticut primary because the people want real dissent. They want someone who will stand up to the liars and rat bastards that comprise the Bush administration. The fact that he’s planning to run as an independent makes it clear that he’s a Bush lapdog.

I wouldn’t vote for him if he were running for dog catcher. Unless, of course, I were a Republican.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hey, Look, It's $550,000

Does anyone else wonder what will become of the $550,000 fine that CBS paid for Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction”?

Seriously—where does that money go? Do they write a check to the FCC? And if so, what does the FCC do with it?

Does it go toward the national debt? Does it get placed into a fund that will be used to educate the public about the dangers of exposing one’s breasts on national television? Does it go toward the FCC operating budget or does it go to their year-end holiday party?

I sent an email to the FCC asking this very question, without the snarkiness. I simply said “I’m curious—where does that money go?”

I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m sure they’re busy up there, fielding complaints from people who can’t tear themselves away from the shows that offend them most. But I want to know where the money goes because I want to know who benefits from this fine.

More specifically, who has the right to benefit from this fine?

Let’s face it: In a live broadcast, anything can happen. CBS had no idea what Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson had cooked up for the grand finale of their lame-ass halftime extravaganza. CBS didn’t replay the wardrobe malfunction over and over, didn’t call undue attention to it, didn’t pat themselves on the back for finding a way to show a tit on TV. I don’t see how the broadcasters of a live event can possibly be held liable for the actions of people over whom they have no control.

And that’s why I wonder where the money goes. The FCC is saying “You owe us $550,000 for not preventing something you didn’t anticipate and couldn’t have prevented.” On the streets this is known as a shakedown. It’s theft. And even though CBS is a gigantic media conglomerate with deep pockets, I hate to see them or anyone else get hosed by a government agency flying the flag of “decency.”

Oh Wait, There's More

+ I have no idea why I was watching that particular Super Bowl halftime show. The remote must have been just out of reach or something, because history shows that if you try counting the number of entertaining Super Bowl halftime shows, you’ll be lucky to find IV of them. But yeah, I saw it happen, and though I’ll admit that the incident was indecent in the strictest sense of the word, that’s not the word that came to mind. I thought creepy described it better.