Thursday, May 31, 2007

Guns and Poetry

There’s a difference between gun owners and gun nuts. You can be a gun owner without being a gun nut, but I can’t imagine there being any gun nuts who aren’t gun owners. (Although I suppose it’s possible. There are a lot of people who are nuts about occupying Iraq but who can’t bring themselves to enlist and occupy it themselves.)

I think gun owners cross the line into gun nuttery when they (1) interpret even the slightest gun control effort as the first step in a massive national gun roundup, and (2) believe that more guns are the answer to all of life’s problems. After the Virginia Tech shooting, some of these people said the tragedy could have been averted if students were allowed to carry concealed weapons.

Because that’s what you want: A campus full of wanna-be heroes and bullets flying every which way. Joe Sophomore takes a shot at the crazy Korean kid, Tom Freshman hears the report and takes a shot at Joe Sophomore, and Bob Junior, who’s been holding a grudge ever since Tom spilled beer on him at the Phi Psi kegger, seizes the opportunity to save the college from the beer-spillin’, random-shootin’ freshman. Ker-pow.

But, in the words of Arlo Guthrie, that’s not what I came to talk to you about. I came to talk to you about the Burma Shave-style signs you’ll find on I-74 between Champaign, Illinois and the Indiana state line.

The signs are posted by the Champaign County Rifle Association, and they’re just like the old Burma Shave signs that appeared on American highways from 1929-1963. Each set of five signs has a bit of doggerel in the abab rhyme scheme, and the final sign points you to a website where you can learn more about how guns are your friends.

I have no issue with gun safety education or roadside poetry either one. I don’t begrudge anyone a spirited defense of the Second Amendment, at least until they start dipping into gun nuttery as described in the second paragraph. My problem with these verses is that they suggest utterly simplistic and unrealistic solutions to real problems.

Which makes them fair game here at the Runes.

Here’s a verse I saw recently:

Police don’t always
Arrive in time
What protects you
During the crime?

Now, what they want you to think is “Aha, a gun! A gun would protect me during the crime! If I only had a gun, I could avoid being robbed, raped, murdered, etc.” But unless you’re a quick-draw artist on a par with Billy the Kid, you’re no match for someone who’s got the drop on you. That’s the thing about bad guys. If they’re mugging you or robbing your house, they’ve got a plan. If you’ve been taken by surprise, you don’t.

If you’re being physically assaulted, it only makes sense to fight back. But if someone’s after your money, it seems to me that what protects you during the crime is keeping your damn mouth shut.

Here’s another one:

Terrorists love
Gun control
Unarmed victims
Are their goal

Wow, it’s really too bad there wasn’t an armed security guard in the World Trade Center that day. “You just turn that plane right around, Mister.”

I’m sure the guy who came up with that poem patted himself on the back for a long time, but honestly—is he even aware of the definition of terrorism? To borrow a phrase from Batman, terrorists are a cowardly lot. They operate on the sly, planting bombs and then getting the hell away from them (except for the suicide bombers, to whom a gun would be a laughable deterrent).

I suspect the “terrorists” poem was just an attempt to link terrorism and gun control, which in rural Illinois might well be code for “Democrats.” Either way, I don’t think terrorists particularly care whether their victims are armed or not.

(And by the way, when I say terrorists I’m talking about people trying to achieve a political advantage through the use of violence. I’m not using the George W. Bush definition, which is essentially “Anyone who gets in my way” or “Anyone I can fool my remaining supporters into believing is out to get them.”)

Next time I travel to Indiana I’ll write down some more of these gems. In the meantime, here’s one of my own:

Violets are blue
Roses are red
I woke up and found a burglar in my home and tried to be a hero by pulling a gun on him
Now I’m dead

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Man Was Nice Before He Was Religious

Did you know that Jerry Falwell once said Billy Graham was Satan’s servant on earth?

I don’t know what Graham’s reaction was (I hope he turned the other cheek, cause Falwell would have hated that), nor have I done enough Googling to find out the reason for the insult. Maybe they were fighting over a parking spot or something.

In any event, though he hasn’t been relevant in my life for several years, I’ve always thought Billy Graham was one of the more sincere and least offensive evangelical types. I respect the fact that he isn’t always getting his mug on TV to demonize the gays and the liberals, which is probably exactly why a Pharisee like Falwell didn’t care for him.

Anyway. Billy Graham has a syndicated column in which he dispenses advice to the sort of people who see some value in asking Billy Graham for advice, and in today’s column (discovered through a link at someone else’s blog), he answers a thought-provoking but profoundly sad question from a Mrs S.G.

The headline:

The letter:
DEAR DR. GRAHAM: My neighbor is the nicest person I know, and she’ll do anything for anyone who needs help. And yet she isn’t at all religious, and says she’s never found any need for God. How do you explain this? I thought only religious people were supposed to know what it means to love others. -- Mrs. S.G.

I don’t know how old this Mrs S.G. is, but it sounds to me like she’s been around a while—which makes her last line one of the saddest things I’ve ever read. How sad to be so sheltered, so insulated from the real world that you think only religious people are capable of love.

Doubly sad if that’s what she’s been indoctrinated to believe her whole life.

If Mrs S.G. had written to me, I’d have been surprised because I don’t have a syndicated advice column. But hypothetically speaking, my answer would have been something simple, something like “Mankind knew how to love long before religion was invented.”

A similar answer from Billy Graham, of course, would have been career suicide. So he went with the safe reply:

DEAR MRS. S.G.: Your neighbor's concern for others is commendable—but if she had Christ in her heart, I believe she'd be an even more loving and compassionate person.

No, Billy, you’re either loving and compassionate or you’re not, and as Mrs S.G. said, her neighbor is the nicest person she knows, one who will “do anything for anyone who needs help.” The neighbor has attained a state of loving compassion. She’s a 10 on the loving compassion scale, which doesn’t go to 11.

I think Billy Graham knows this. I think he knows that a world of loving compassionate people would be utopia, whether they were believers or not. He also knows which side his bread is buttered on, so he goes on to cast aspersions on the neighbor woman’s heart:

But something has happened to us—and that “something” is sin. Yes, we can love—but all too often our love becomes twisted and selfish. It may even become so dim that evil overtakes us. Like a deadly cancer, sin has dulled our ability to love the way we should.

Is he suggesting Christians have a monopoly on selfless love? Is he suggesting the neighbor’s behavior masks something twisted, selfish, and sinful?

Or is he just changing the subject?

His final advice to Mrs S.G. is to pray for her neighbor so that she’ll come to understand God’s love, etc etc. But whether Mrs S.G. takes that advice or not, I hope she’ll open her eyes and see for herself that people are good, and that it isn’t religion that makes them that way.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Tragedy Made Trivial

I was among the thousands of St Louis Cardinals fans—and baseball fans in general—saddened last April 29 by the death of relief pitcher Josh Hancock in an alcohol-related traffic accident. Hancock was legally drunk and talking on a cell phone when his SUV ran into the back of a tow truck that had stopped to help a motorist on US 40 in St Louis. He was killed instantly; the tow truck operator and the driver of the stalled car weren’t hurt.

The saddest part of the story for me was that the Cardinals won the World Series last October, and Hancock, a key member of the bullpen, only got to bask in that glory for a few short months. This kid—just 28 when he died—only had from October to April to tell people he was a member of the world championship team.

That was the saddest part of the story up until a couple of days ago, when the St Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Hancock’s father is filing a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages “over $25,000.” And here’s where it gets goofy: The defendants in the suit are the restaurant where Josh had been drinking, the owner and driver of the tow truck, and—get this—the driver of the stranded vehicle.

Mr Hancock’s suit alleges that “The intoxication of Joshua Morgan Hancock on said occasion was involuntary.” According to the Post-Dispatch, one of Hancock’s lawyers said “It's understood that for the entire three hours that Josh Hancock was there, that he was handed drinks. It's our understanding that from the moment Josh Hancock entered Mike Shannon's that night that he was never without a drink.”

Wow. Apparently when Josh Hancock walked into Mike Shannon’s restaurant that night, they jammed a funnel in his mouth and emptied several bottles into his protesting gullet. They couldn’t hear him saying “No, stop, two’s my limit,” because the funnel was in the way.

I’m just speculating, of course. I don’t know how else to explain the term “involuntary intoxication.”

It seems to me that a person has a number of choices when he’s handed drinks for three hours. He can say No at some point, or he can accept and enjoy them all. If he chooses the latter, he can find an alternate ride home or he can hop drunkenly his SUV and go barreling down US 40 while chatting on a cell phone.

Hancock made the wrong choice. But it was his.

Missouri’s dram shop law was repealed in 1934, but there are still statutes that allow someone to file a suit if an establishment knowingly serves “intoxicating liquor to a visibly intoxicated person.” I don’t know enough about law to speculate if there’s a case here. I do know that the manager of the restaurant offered to call a cab for Hancock, but he told her he was heading to a hotel three blocks away.

I can understand Mr Hancock’s pain. But I can’t understand the desperation, the grasping, the greed that would cause him to name the tow truck operator and the motorist in this lawsuit. “The guy should have known not to drive a car that might stall while my son was being forced at gunpoint to drink too much—and the tow truck operator should have known better than to stop and help.”

Hell, as long as you’re throwing defendants in right and left, why not include whoever makes the schedules for major league baseball? If the Cardinals hadn’t played in St Louis that night, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.

Josh Hancock made a bad mistake. But this lawsuit trivializes his memory, and I hope a judge dismisses it quickly.

* * *

This is a poem I wrote a few years back.

On the Old Mill Road

On the Old Mill Road the trees squeeze you in on both sides
And the curves surprise you with impossible angles
From a time when life didn’t move so recklessly fast

Deer and rabbits wander up and eat the memorial flowers
Freshened weekly by the survivors
Who write their congressmen and demand
A wider road running straight through the woods

The message being that the state is responsible
For providing safer roads
For our drunken children to drive on

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Death of Falwell

I guess I’m not all that broken up about the death of Jerry Falwell. I mean, I’m sure he was well loved by his family and friends, but for those of us who never bought into the idea that Christianity is the exclusive province of well-to-do warmongering Republicans, he was kind of a douche.

And here’s the thing. I wasn’t always a liberal, and I wasn’t always a non-believer. But Jerry Falwell came into prominence way back when I was a faithful churchgoin’ boy, and I remember thinking he was a creep then, too.

Not sure why, exactly. Maybe it was the smug look on his piggy little face. Maybe it was the arrogance of the term “Moral Majority,” which went against everything I believed about Christian humility. I was never much of a Bible scholar, but I had always taken to heart the verse “He who exalts himself will be humbled.” And Falwell loved exalting himself.

Falwell and people like him helped me decide which camp I wanted to be in, and it sure wasn’t the camp of the self-righteous, the camp of the arrogant, the camp of the people whose superstitions keep them from opening their eyes and seeing the real world.

By the time Falwell made his idiotic pronouncement that part of the blame for 9/11 belonged to “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for an American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America,” I’d long recognized him for what he was: a glutton for the spotlight and a hero of authority-loving Americans who won’t think for themselves.

And sadly, those folks will find someone else now to do their thinking for them.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hate Crime Bill Hatas

I’ve never been a big fan of the phrase “Don’t get your panties in a wad” (or its more assonant cousin “Don’t get your undies in a bunch”), but every once in a while I run across something that makes it obvious why the phrase was coined in the first place. Today it happens to be the people who oppose the Hate Crimes Bill.

These folks definitely need to unclench a little bit.

I refer you to a letter I found in the online version of the St Louis Post-Dispatch, a letter from a Mr Jim Hassinger of St Charles, Missouri, who says the Hate Crimes Bill is unfair and possibly unconstitutional. According to Jim, the bill “allows our federal government to punish perpetrators of crimes against some selected citizens more severely than perpetrators of crimes against unselected citizens.”

Technically, he’s not far off. The bill essentially adds “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability” to a list of categories that are already covered by federal hate crimes legislation—race, religion, color, and national origin. So if you commit a crime against a black person, a Muslim, or an Irishman because you hate black people, Muslims, or the Irish, then yes, the punishment will be more severe.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be punished otherwise. If the crime is assault and battery, you’re going to pay the price for assault and battery. If Jim Hassinger isn’t planning on committing any hate crimes, why is he so worried about a perpetrator getting a little extra punishment?

Jim goes on to completely miss the mark (and to misuse the word “explicitly”):

Citizens explicitly less protected under this law include: senior citizens, pregnant women, unborn children, military personnel and the homeless.

That just isn’t true. The existing laws are still in effect. It’s still illegal to hit a senior citizen in the head, to run over military personnel, and to embezzle from pregnant women. The Hate Crimes Bill doesn’t make anyone “explicitly” less protected, and in fact doesn’t make anyone less protected at all. Sure, the bill doesn’t mention senior citizens and pregnant women, but neither does it mention dentists, left-handers, first basemen, and people with googly eyes.

By and large, people don’t hate dentists for being dentists. But there sure are a lot who hate black people and gay people for being black and gay—and they’re willing to express it with chains and iron pipes.

But maybe Jim isn’t aware of such things. Maybe he’s never done a Google search for James Byrd Jr or Matthew Shepherd.

Of course, it’s too early to let Jim off the hook entirely. Because what really has his BVDs in a bundle is the concern that his church isn’t going to be allowed to preach against the gays anymore. In fact, says Jim:

…the greatest jeopardy is that under this law it is entirely conceivable that persons who read the Bible, you know, the parts pertaining to homosexuality…especially to another person, could be convicted of a hate crime. It has already happened in other countries.

Yeah, you read that correctly. Jim’s under the impression that reading the Bible is going to be classified as a hate crime—especially if one reads it to another person.

Of course, I suppose we could just cut those parts out of the Bible.

Gee, Jim, what you do in your spare time is no concern of ours. In any event, he’s not alone. According to a story on the CBN website, the director of a group called Repent America is urging Christians to contact their legislators and express their opposition to the bill. “Together,” he said, “as one loud voice, we must urge our lawmakers to vote against the legislation that seeks to silence us.” And the always quotable media whore James Dobson said “Pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution.”

Easy, fellas. Readjust your briefs. Stop pretending you’re being persecuted. There has to be a crime committed before it can be a hate crime, so try not to get all hysterical. Follow the example of Jason Rantz, a contributing editor at Family Security Matters, who takes a calmer, more reasoned approach:

But where I disagree is with the urgency of many on the Right when it comes to this bill. It is indeed possible that this bill may lead to restrictions on speech. If and when that happens, I will join the fight against the restrictions, as the First Amendment is easily the most important amendment of the Constitution. But is it
probable that this bill will lead to restrictions on protected speech? Not at this juncture.

I guess I’m suspicious of any pastor who’s so worried about losing his right to condemn alleged sinners that he values it more than the right of another human being to live without the fear of being beaten up.

Ah well. Let’s go back to Jim Hassinger of St Charles and see what bit of wisdom he’s going to leave us with:

I wish I felt bold enough to ask God’s blessing upon our country. But now, with great fear and trepidation, I humbly beg that God simply have mercy upon our nation.

Great fear and trepidation. Man, how can you pull yourself out of bed every morning?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Random Thoughts From the Hoosier State

I’m writing this from my folks’ house in rural Indiana, but I won’t get to post until I return to the Des Moines metro. My mom’s internet service provider is a guy named Merle, who comes to your house when you’re online and loads each pixel by hand. Mom’s still waiting for Merle to load the page with the 2004 election results, and I don’t have the heart to tell her.

* * *

There is no platitude so banal that pseudopatriotic Pharisees won’t put it on a bumper sticker. On the way here I was passed by a late-model car with one of those “Freedom Isn’t Free” stickers on the trunk. You know the one I mean: big bold font, eagle head, flag waving in the background. That sticker reminded me of a major difference between liberals and the sort of people who elected President Poor Dope: Liberals would be happy with a sticker that simply said “Freedom.” The people who sport “Freedom Isn’t Free” bumper stickers are really saying “I’ll define what freedom is for you.”

I think we’re all aware that eternal vigilance is included in the price of freedom, and that military service and sacrifice are certainly necessary when various forces conspire to take it away. But despite what the poor dope and these bumper sticker owners might want you to believe, the events of 9/11 were not an attack on freedom. They were cold-blooded murder by a number of religious fanatics, at least one of whom is still at large. Americans did not become less free when the World Trade Center went down; we became less free when Bush and Cheney decided to take a long pee on the Constitution.

So yes, I agree that freedom isn’t free. If we want to stay free, we have to be on constant guard against stupid people with stupid bumper stickers who keep voting for stupid warmongers.

* * *

I was reading one of my dad’s back issues of Sports Illustrated and found a little sidebar where various sports figures explained why they chose their uniform number. Some NBA player said he wore number 7 because it was “God’s number.” Asked to elaborate, he said seven was God’s number because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

Using that logic, I want to wear the number “umpteen billion” because that seems to be how many consecutive days this alleged world-creator has been resting ever since.

* * *

Actually, no one has ever asked, but I wear the number 56 in coed softball in honor of Jim Bouton.

* * *

I wish I’d waited a few more days before posting the goofy Nigerian scam post, mainly because the Leonard Peltier post was more indicative of what I want this blog to be. On the other hand, does anyone really care?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Casting Pearls Before Swine: Fun With Spam Scams

The rule of thumb for spam email is to delete each offending piece immediately, no matter how tempting it is to reply and ask to be taken off the spammers’ mailing list. Replying to spam, as we all know, confirms that there’s someone at your email address, which will then be sold to other spammers as “a live one.”

I have a Yahoo email account I never use, but since there’s a slim chance that someone might see me playing online Scrabble and want to contact me there, I go in and check it out every once in a while. Every time I do, I find that Yahoo has diverted about 10,000 spams into the junk drawer. Occasionally, though, a bit of spam flops into my regular inbox, where it promptly gets disposed of without a read.

Except that sometimes I can’t resist reading the Nigerian scam letters. They’re persistent, those Nigerians (or those pseudo-Nigerians—they might be from Kansas, for all I know). They’re persistent and creative, but the basic story is always the same: Somebody has died in a tragic accident, leaving upwards of $10 million in a Nigerian bank. If the sender can’t find someone to make a legitimate claim for it, the government will take it and use it for some sort of shady military operation. And if I make the claim, the sender will keep a certain percentage for himself as a finder’s fee.

By my estimate, I have right around a trillion dollars waiting for me in various Nigerian banks. Furthermore, there are only about 14 people left alive in Nigeria, as the entire rest of the population has been killed in a tragic car accident.

I have, at times, replied to the spammer and suggested he take my share of the money and invest it in Nigerian road improvements.

I only reply to the spam that comes to my Yahoo account, figuring that account is a lost cause anyway, and the only reason I do it then is to amuse myself. Last night I accidentally came up with a reply I’m happy to share with all twos of my readers, in case they’re ever in a similar mood.

The spam that got my attention was from a guy with the unlikely name of Goodness Egobiaram. The subject was “Hello Donovan” (which I couldn’t help reading in a snide Jerry Seinfeld voice) and here’s what Goodness had to say (verbatim):

Dear Donovan:

I am a senior Accountant in my Bank and Accounting officer to Mr. Arthur Donovan who was a contractor with the Federal government of Nigeria. On the 21st of April 2001, my customer, his wife and their two children were involved in auto-crash along the ever busy Sagumu-Ibadan Highway. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. Since then, the Board of Directors of my Bank have made several enquires to their embassy to locate any of my customer’s extended relations but to no avail. Hence the need to contact you since you share the same family name.

I have contacted you to assist in repatriating the money and Property left behind by my client before they get Confiscated or declared unserviceable by the bank where this Huge deposits of US$10M was lodged.

The Bank has published several Notice for the Next of Kin of the deceased to apply for collection of this Funds or have the account confiscated within a shot Period of time.

Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for over 2 years now I seek your consent to present you as the Next of kin of the deceased, so that the proceeds of this Account valued at US 10 million dollars can be paid to you and Then you and me can share the money, 60% to me and 40% to you.

I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to backup any claim we may make. All I require is your honest cooperation to enable this deal through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate Arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the Law. Please get in touch with my email and send to me your Telephone and fax numbers to enable us further about this Transaction.

Best regards,
Mr Goodness Egobiaram
Senior Accountant
Intercontinental Bank, PLC
Lagos, Nigeria

Now, as comforting as it to know that this arrangement will protect me from any breach of the law (if not from random capital letters), I decided to decline Mr Egobiaram’s kind offer. But because I was in the mood to have some fun, I wrote him back so he wouldn’t feel bad about my ingratitude.

Dear Goodness—

I have great news for you. Are you sitting down? Arthur Donovan is still alive!

Despite what the newspaper accounts said, Arthur survived the car crash and crawled to a nearby farmhouse for help. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that there were four bodies in the car, and you’re right. But the victim identified as Arthur was in reality his long-lost twin brother Albert!

That’s right. Everybody believes Albert was killed in that tragic plane crash in 1998 (the one that prompted his solicitor, a Mr Goodness Gracious, to offer me the cool $5 million in Albert’s secret bank account). The truth, however, is that Albert wasn’t actually aboard the plane! He paid a homeless man $25 to board that flight (for reasons I think we’re both well aware of), and then of course the pilot—actually Arthur’s trusted valet, Steven Mogumbo—ejected with his parachute right before the plane crashed into that mountain.

Anyway—Arthur survived the car wreck, but I should warn you that his face was badly burned. He’s had plastic surgery, but now instead of looking like the Arthur Donovan you loved so well, he now resembles a young Elton John. I’ve informed him about the money, so you can be expecting him to show up and claim it himself within the week. Please be discreet. If You-Know-Who and his minions find out Arthur is alive, they'll stop at nothing to get their hands on that cash. If only Arthur had resisted the temptation to get involved in the Johannesburg Affair--but of course, he always did have an eye for the long-legged diamond smugglers.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. It makes me happy to know that the money will soon be in the hands of its rightful owner!

Yours truly,

PS—If funds are available, I’m pretty sure Arthur would be amenable to renaming that fatal stretch of the Sagumu-Ibadan Highway after his late brother. If it causes just one of the few remaining Nigerians to drive a little safer on that road, it’ll be worth it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hoping Against Hope and the Dead Dog

Like if he stood there long enough that dog’d get up and run
--Bruce Springsteen, “Reason to Believe”

Leonard Peltier is serving back-to-back life sentences in Leavenworth for the murder of two FBI agents during the 1975 shootout at the Jumping Bull ranch on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. A leader of the American Indian Movement and a citizen of the Anishinabe and Lakota nations, Peltier continues to maintain his innocence.

Amnesty International considers Peltier a political prisoner. According to the website The Case of Leonard Peltier, he is nine years overdue for a parole hearing. There’s ample reason to believe that the government both withheld and falsified evidence in their case against Peltier, and there’s nothing that ties him to the murders beyond the fact that he was one of 30 people on the Jumping Bull ranch that day. Even the US prosecutor on the case has said “We can’t prove who shot those agents.”

The whole sad story is covered in Peter Mathiessen’s book In the Spirit of Crazy Horse, and in Michael Apted's documentary “Incident at Oglala.” But in surfing around the internet last night I ran across something that took the sadness to a whole new depth.

It was a simple thing, but heartbreakingly sad. It was an online petition asking George W. Bush to look into the case of Leonard Peltier.

The group behind the petition is called Kola, which happens to be the Lakota word for “friend.” Their website describes them as a grassroots human rights organization whose objectives include spreading “correct information on every issue concerning American, Canadian, and Australian indigenous peoples.”

I applaud their efforts. I wish them the best. I hope Leonard Peltier gets to experience freedom again someday.

But asking George W. Bush to look into something that will have no immediate political benefit for him and his sycophants is like taking a stick and poking the dead dog in that Springsteen song. The dog’s not going to run.

The petition assumes George W. Bush has a conscience. It assumes he has the mental capacity to understand the facts of the Peltier case. It assumes he’s a serious, thoughtful person who’s dedicated to justice.

Those are three assumptions for which no evidence exists.

Kola is trying to appeal to the humanity of a person whose response to Hurricane Katrina was to yuk it up and pretend to play a guitar. There’s nothing there, folks. There’s nothing to grab onto.

Can’t you imagine that petition crossing the poor dope’s desk? Can’t you just see the smirk? “Free who? Lenny Pelter, who’s that? An Indian? What is he, an outfielder?”

Even if Bush had the reading comprehension required to understand phrases like “falsified evidence” and “coerced affidavits,” and even if he were to make some statement about the Peltier case at all, I’d lay odds that his comment would be something like “Well, if the court found him guilty, he must be guilty.”

I’d love to be proven wrong about this. But Bush showed his true colors early on and hasn’t wavered once in the last six shameful years. Sad to say, but poking him with a stick at this late date isn’t going to accomplish anything.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Another Wacky Judge Named Roy

Not every post here at the Runes relates directly to exposing the self-righteousness, hypocrisy, and willful ignorance mentioned in the banner above. Sometimes the subject is just plain old batshit insanity.

I don’t know what it is about judges named Roy, but if you thought Judge Roy Moore of Alabama was a contemptible asshat you’re going to love Judge Roy Pearson of Washington DC. According to an AP story on, this paragon of justice is suing his dry cleaner for losing a pair of pants.

For $65 million.

Back in 2005, Pearson, an administrative hearings judge, stopped in at Custom Cleaners and dropped off a number of suits to be altered. When he returned a couple of days later, a pair of pants was missing. He asked the shop owners, Mr and Mrs Chung, for the full price of the suit: $1000.

The Chungs refused to pay the thousand bucks, and one week later, the original pair of pants turned up. But by then the good judge had decided to sue. He demanded $15,000 for the cost of renting a car and driving to a different dry cleaner every weekend for the next ten years. But $15,000 is small potatoes in the extortion game: Look what else he wants:

(From the AP story)
But the bulk of the $65 million comes from Pearson's strict interpretation of D.C.'s consumer protection law, which fines violators $1,500 per violation, per day. According to court papers, Pearson added up 12 violations over 1,200 days, and then multiplied that by three defendants.

Now, the thing I always want to know in stories like this is what the judge’s family thinks. Is he married? Isn’t his wife telling him to stop making an ass of himself? Aren’t his kids saying “Dad, you’re really, really embarrassing us.” How can they live with such a dickhead?

And how does this guy sleep at night? Does he climb into bed thinking “I am such a good fellow, suing those working-class Korean immigants for $65 million”?

(I would be very disheartened to learn that Pearson’s family is behind him all the way on this—“Gosh, Dad, all the other judges’ kids have 65 million dollars, so why don’t we?”—so I’m going to assume the best about them.)

The good news is that the president of the American Tort Association has written to the board that oversees Pearson’s court, asking them to reconsider his appointment at the end of his term. In addition, the former chief administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board is recommending Pearson be disbarred.

Sounds like a good idea to me. Maybe the Chungs could hire him to make deliveries.

You and Your Fancy-Schmancy Slogans

Local radio commercials tend to be fairly horrible, for a number of reasons. One is that when a radio sales rep sells a package of spots, copywriting is included free in the package. Why charge for a professional copywriter when you have a disk jockey on staff? Yes, sir, we’ll just have our morning guy write those spots for you.

Yeah, that’s the morning guy with the fart sound effects cued up at all times.

Another reason is that a lot of local radio talents have the notion you have to sound like an announcer, even when you’re playing a character. Of course, maybe that’s because the disk jockeys are writing spots in which the characters sound like radio announcers.

Another reason relating to talent is that just having a cousin who wants to voice radio spots doesn’t mean she should be allowed to.

I mention all this because I heard a spot this morning that summed up everything that’s bad about local radio commercials. (Yes, this means I switched from the local NPR station. Honestly, hearing President Poor Dope’s voice every morning was making me lose the will to live.) The spot was for a used car dealership and featured two guys who were either employees of the dealership or the worst actors in the Des Moines metro. The gist of the spot is that one guy is making some advertising suggestions and the other is saying that none of them are necessary. The first guy says that maybe they need a slogan, and the other replies “We don’t need a fancy slogan. All we need to do is sell good used cars.”

It was the “fancy slogan” line that got me. “We don’t need a fancy slogan.”

Think of all the advertising you see and hear in a given day. Think of all the taglines (or “slogans,” for you laymen). Did you ever think a company was being elite, or haughty, or worse, hoity-toity for employing a tagline?

TV Anncr: Sponsored by Michelin—because a lot’s riding on your tires.
Car Guy 1: Oh, did you hear that? “Because a lot’s riding on your tires.” La-de-freakin-da!
Car Guy 2: Oh, look at me! I’m Michelin! I have a fancy slogan that makes me better than you!
Car Guy 1: Elitist pigs!

You’ve got to be extremely distrustful of advertising to think that using one of its most common conventions might somehow give the impression that you’re putting on airs.

Either that, or you have the lowest self-esteem on the planet.

* * *

One More Thing

I know this post was better suited for The Rat Race Choir, but I suspect the Choir is on permanent hiatus. I wanted to keep what passes for momentum going here at the Runes, and I didn’t feel like commenting on the dumbass and his veto of the military funding/troop withdrawal bill. I mean, honestly, what more needs to be said? The poor dope’s attempt to go down in history as the big macho war president is entering its fifth year of failure, and as long as there are people like Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice massaging his prostate, he’s not going to change his little excuse for a mind.