The View of the Vox Populi on the Op-Ed Pages

Apparently, some guy in Arkansas wrote a letter that got printed in the local paper:


    You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century….

    This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would ave considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they?

    Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps the next time there should be serious tudies before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.

    CONNIE M. MESKIMEN
    Hot Springs

Ace of Ace of Spades HQ says:

    How could someone be this dumb, and how could a letters-page editor then be dumb enough on top of that to publish it? The hoax warning bells are sounding.

Are the letters page editors dumb? I don’t think so. However, if you read many of them, you’ll notice that they often contain poorly-reasoned flights of fancy that doesn’t elevate the discourse about the subject. As a matter of fact, some papers were apparently not satisfied with the depths of idiocy letter writers could produce and actually started publishing phoned-in comments to up the inanity.

I have to wonder why smaller local newspapers include these little tirades in their pages. After all, printing the paper is expensive and they are supposed to keep the gates to ensure quality or something. Instead, we’re treated to idiocy (and the occasional satire masked as idiocy, as this letter was).

Something in me whispers that papers publish this sort of thing because it reflects what the acolytes of the Fourth Estate Church believe of the unwashed masses who read instead of writing the paper. Because they can crack up about the simpletons who believe what they print when standing over the coffeepot in the kitchenette of the paper. Because journalists are different from and better than the common man whose voice they’ve made heard.

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Roadkill Hair Club for Men president
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Book Report: Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet (1983)

I bought this book at the Kirkwood Book Fair this year; I think all of these book club edition plays come from the same fellow’s library, but different ones are available each year. I wonder what’s up with that.

This play, originally from the early 1980s, was made into a movie in 1992, and I wonder how David Mamet could have stretched this into a 100 minute film; it took me less than that to read it. Perhaps the profanity took longer in the performances than in reading.

The story deals with a high pressure real estate group who sells lots in Florida. Some sales people are rising, some are falling, and a new office manager puts pressure on them to sell. One night, one of the men breaks into the office to steal the all-important leads that identify prospects; working in concert with another salesperson, the new burglar will take the leads and sell them to another office for a job there. Hokay. Not exactly Shakespeare here. A quick read, and it will give me something to compare the movie against if I ever see the movie.

Books mentioned in this review:


Layering and Order Marches On

Great moments in charge-layering, where prosecutors can add extra crimes for the same action:

  • A criminal in New York is charged with hate crimes because some of his victims were over 60 years old. That’s right, boys and girls, if you’re going to commit crimes, make sure you select a diverse set of victims, because if they’re of the same protected class, you must hate them.
  • Some former American Idol contestant is arrested, and she’s hit with an extra charge of introduction of contraband into a correctional facility. Because she was carrying some coke and the authorities uncovered it while searching her before they actually put her in jail.

Double jeopardy is against the law; however, making the same action or procedures for processing people who committed a crime into other crimes, our system gets to subvert the intent of the Constitution. For law and order and higher personal conviction rates or easier plea bargains.

Good Book Hunting: March 27, 2007

This weekend, the Friends of the Webster Groves Library are holding their annual book fair. This year, it’s in donated shop space near Crestwood Plaza. Last year, we hit the fair at the Masonic Temple on bag day, so we had better luck this year. By “better luck,” I mean, “had less temptation to buy.” The crowded space impeded browsing–we couldn’t get a stroller in, so we had to take turns, and the tables were cluttered, other patrons got in the way, and boxes full of books languished under the tables. So it wasn’t easy going, and when it’s not easy, I get going.

Still, I managed to find a number of books:

Webster Groves Book Fair haul

Amid my 12 new books, I got:

  • Several first edition Ed McBains, including Lightning and Lullaby to replace book club editions.
  • An 1882 illustrated collection of Tennyson’s works (the big book on the bottom) for only $12!. That’s like a dime a year.
  • An autographed collection of Sonnets of Eve written by a local author. Sonnets. Signed. Why not?

I would have gotten more had it not been crowded and sloppy. Who knows what harm I could do to the empty space on my to read shelves on bag day?

Book Report: The Murder Book by Jonathan Kellerman (2002)

I say lots of glowing things about Ed McBain and how his books are immortal, how he uses series business lightly to keep things moving along but never at the expense of pacing or plot, or how his passages are lyrical. His 87th Precinct series stands as an example of how to do things right. This book, on the other hand, shows what happens when you do everything wrong.

This book is part of the Alex Delaware series. I’ve never read any of the others, so I’m lost and don’t give a weevil’s willie about the two and a half chapters of series business that starts the book as Alex breaks up, almost, with his long time girlfriend. In the middle of chapter 3, the “action” begins when someone mails a book of crime scene photos to Delaware and he shares them with his police detective compatriot, who recognizes one photo among many as a case he never solved before a sudden transfer pulled him off of it. That’s the motivation, the driving factor. To solve a 20 year old cold case, with no threats of immediate repeats or contemporary peril.

Meanwhile, Kellerman writes like the Michael Douglas character in Wonder Boys; there’s no detail too miniscule to leave out, no scene worth cutting. When the main characters go to New Mexico to interview someone, we get pages covering the drive from the airport, including getting lost and asking for directions; when the main characters need food, we get paragraphs about what they eat; when one character has nothing better to do, he washes his car, and we get a long paragraph about his car. In lieu of investigation, we get lots of time with the characters talking out what might have happened.

What happened? Ultimately, a bunch of rich kids killed a stoned girl, and their parents covered it up; 20 years later, the rich kids are now rich adults, and they’re still covering up. The psychologist of the detective’s dead partner sent the book, and he kept Delaware and the detective pointed in the right direction. Except when the Chief of Police was pointing them in the right direction or trying to obstruct them. Finally, we get an absurd climax 360 pages into the novel and some denouement with nothing really gained. Someone, not the protagonists of the novel, kill the bad guys, and they read about the deaths.

Geez, once I started finding flaws with the book, I didn’t want to put it down because I wanted to see how bad it could be. Changing POV from first (Delaware) to third (the detective) for apparently no reason? Got it! Actually, it might have been to provide insight into the characters, but I didn’t care enough about either of them to want to know more. And hey, who the heck was logging into their computer and downloading Google in 2002. Downloading Google. Lord, love a duck.

Yes, that bad.

Do not buy this book or read it. I will go as far as to not read another Alex Delaware novel. I’m so down on it, if a good series with riveting characters and good pacing came out written by Ed McBain’s son Joe Hunt but the series featured Chris Connecticut, I’d stay away just because all characters named after states have been tainted.

But hey, if you don’t want to take my word for it, here’s the link to buy it on Amazon.

Books mentioned in this review:


AP Uncovers The Facts

A closed society that enslaves women deserves an AP investigation. If it can smear the American military.

    Japan’s abhorrent practice of enslaving women to provide sex for its troops in World War II has a little-known sequel: After its surrender — with tacit approval from the U.S. occupation authorities — Japan set up a similar “comfort women” system for American GIs.

    An Associated Press review of historical documents and records — some never before translated into English — shows American authorities permitted the official brothel system to operate despite internal reports that women were being coerced into prostitution. The Americans also had full knowledge by then of Japan’s atrocious treatment of women in countries across Asia that it conquered during the war.

    Tens of thousands of women were employed to provide cheap sex to U.S. troops until the spring of 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur shut the brothels down.

    The documents show the brothels were rushed into operation as American forces poured into Japan beginning in August 1945.

    “Sadly, we police had to set up sexual comfort stations for the occupation troops,” recounts the official history of the Ibaraki Prefectural Police Department, whose jurisdiction is just northeast of Tokyo. “The strategy was, through the special work of experienced women, to create a breakwater to protect regular women and girls.”

    The orders from the Ministry of the Interior came on August 18, 1945, one day before a Japanese delegation flew to the Philippines to negotiate the terms of their country’s surrender and occupation.

To make a short story long, the Japanese government set up these stations in August 1945 and the American military shut them down in Spring of 1946. They ran for under a year, a chaotic period wherein the occupation began. Some of the women were probably indentured or enslaved. But thanks to the AP for capturing it as:

AMERICAN MILITARY ENSLAVES FOREIGN WOMEN IN OCCUPIED COUNTRIES FOR SEX!

Twits.

Quick, Give Him Another Medal

George Tenet doesn’t go quietly into deserved obscurity:

    A former U.S. spy chief accused President Bush’s administration of ruining his reputation by misusing a “slam dunk” comment he made during a White House meeting ahead of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

    Former CIA Director George Tenet told CBS Television’s “60 Minutes” that the administration leaked his comment as opposition to the war grew when no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

    “You don’t do this. You don’t throw somebody overboard just because it’s a deflection. Is that honorable? It’s not honorable to me,” Tenet said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.

    Tenet said his comment did not refer to whether Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, but related to what information could be used to make a public case for the war.

    The “slam-dunk” comment first surfaced in journalist Bob Woodward’s 2004 book, “Plan of Attack,” which portrayed Tenet as assuring Bush that finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq would be a virtual certainty.

    “We can put a better case together for a public case. That’s what I meant,” Tenet told “60 Minutes.” [Emphasis added.]

So his comment wasn’t about facts, it was about spin. Come on, Tenet, you’re not exactly burnishing your what-you-would-call-honorable legacy by implying that your agency was all about building a case instead of uncovering the facts.

I Don’t Think That Economic Indicator Means What I Think It Means

Kudos to the AP reporter Madlen Read who spun this story according to her own pecadillos: Dow crosses 13,000 for first time ever:

    The Dow Jones industrial average shot past 13,000 for the first time Wednesday as stronger-than-expected earnings reports streamed in, suggesting to investors that corporate America is successfully weathering the cooling economy. [Emphasis added.]

The earnings rising, new homes sales and manufactured goods sales rising, job-creating, cooling economy.

Machine Guns Not Illegal For The More Equal Citizens

In a move certain to bolster respect for law and order amongst the civilian population, we discover that police are apparently allowed to personally own fully automatic weapons:

    Federal prosecutors dropped the criminal case against the last of three Illinois State Police officers accused of federal machine-gun law violations — and signaled Tuesday that charges against a fourth man may soon be addressed.

    Assistant U.S. Attorney James Crowe dismissed a charge of illegal possession of a machine gun against Special Agent John Yard of Collinsville.

Because, you know, they’re just better than civilians.

Someone let me know if I’m misreading this.

Fun With Borrowed Slang

I recently renewed my license plates, and to do so, one must have the vehicle’s emissions tested at a centralized facility contracted exclusively by the government (you can guess how I feel about centralization and exclusive franchises granted by the government, gentle reader). As the woman put the official sticker onto my windshield, she gave me the certificate I needed to take to the License Office to renew my plates. “Take this to the DMV,” she said.

As I stood in line at the License Office, I heard that guy, the one who talks loudly on his cell phone while in a queue, say that he was in line at the DMV. He also called it, on a separate call, the License Bureau.

Now I won’t split too many hairs about the fact that the License Fee Office is a franchised to a private company and is not an official bureau at all.

However, I will point out that it’s not the DMV, Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s an offshoot of the Department of Revenue and only exists to take money. Missouri does have a Department of Transportation, but it deals with highways, not cars.

These people call it the DMV because that’s what they call it on television. Somewhere else’s bureaucracy again becomes the national buzzword.

Small Setforward For Property Owners In Missouri

A Missouri appellate court has ruled that blight isn’t a magic word:

    An appellate court ruled this morning that Centene Plaza Redevelopment Corp. should be barred from using condemnation to acquire properties in the heart of Clayton for its $210-million twin towers, office and retail complex.

    In an unsigned opinion, Judges Clifford H. Ahrens, Mary K. Hoff and Nannette Baker of the Missouri Court of Appeals stopped short of pulling the economic plug on the project and overruling a lower court decision authorizing condemnation.

    Instead, the appeals judges sent the matter to the Missouri Supreme Court “because of the general interest and importance of the issues in this case.”

    . . . .

    The appellate court concluded, however, that a study by a planning firm, PGAV, suggesting the area was blighted was insufficient evidence for city aldermen to make the blighting determination. [Emphasis Added]

This case will make it to the Missouri Supreme Court, so the matter isn’t yet settled, but it’s good to see that someone in the system doesn’t think blight is a big bucket of paint with which you can coat anything.

More Evidence that MfBJN Paranoia Is Prophecy

Officials: Pet Food Poison May Have Been Intentional:

    For the first time, investigators are saying the chemical that has sickened and killed pets in the United States may have been intentionally added to pet food ingredients by Chinese producers.

    Food and Drug Administration investigators say the Chinese companies may have spiked products with the chemical melamine so that they would appear, in tests, to have more value as protein products.

As you know, gentle reader, your Shidoshi of Paranoia speculated it might have been intentional, but for more nefarious reasons.

(Link seen on Rocket Jones.)

UPDATE: So I’m not the only one: The pet food investigation turns to human food.

That’s The Difference A Couple Million Dollars Buys

Art foundation defends properties:
Is this Fox Point mansion a multimillion-dollar house or a museum? Some neighbors want it on the tax rolls.

    When is a museum a museum and not just a tax dodge? That’s the question raised by residents who want two Fox Point mansions worth at least $3 million restored to the tax rolls.

    The neighbors are calling on the Village Board to re-examine a nearly 20-year-old agreement with the Chipstone Foundation that declared its property overlooking Lake Michigan a museum, granting it tax-exempt status.

    Not many have set foot inside the Georgian-style mansion.

If that property belonged to you or me, gentler reader, the commmunity would have already stripped its blighted eyesore from us and turned it over to a responsible developer who probably has the proper financing for an elegant strip mall.

But with millions of dollars available for defense, the local government must observe some decorum.

Out of Our Bedrooms, Into Our Bathrooms

Great thinker Sheryl Crow proposes:

    “Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating.

    “I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.”

Obviously, further development would identify whether this limitation would be enforced by camera or an actual enforcement official in the bathroom with you.