MAY/JUN 2002


GLUTTON FOR PUNISHMENT...As if we Americans needed yet another reason to be ashamed of our culture, The Glutton Bowl debuted on - well, guess which network. It couldnít possibly be the same old clichť, tasteless network youíd expect....OK, yes - itís FOX. But The Glutton Bowl? Donít we already have that? Isnít it called The Super Bowl? [It is if you read the statistics on how much food is consumed nationally during the big game (with its viewers getting even bigger). Of course it helps that between the pre-game and post-game "analysis" - and the game itself - the entire gig only runs 8 hours.]...And whatís more charming than eating contests on satellite feed while millions upon millions starve around the world in desperate need? Perhaps knowing theyíll never see the waste - because in most of those places only the wealthy can afford a "dish" of any sort....So, as to the larger question of "Why do they hate us?" Well, I certainly know why I hate us.

A DARK BLAKEAN VISION...(with apologies to William Blake and Allen Ginsberg)...Just when you thought it was safe to watch COURT-TV, actor Robert Blake has been charged with the murder of his wife Bonny Lee Bakley. The weapon used was found in a dumpster near the murder scene outside a Los Angeles area restaurant. Remember his most famous roles: filmís In Cold Blood, and televisionís Baretta. So if Blake is guilty he obviously didnít learn anything from all those scripts....Knowing that the average American canít spell, marketers are kicking themselves that he didnít use a Beretta. (These people are serious. Did you know that if Senator Richard Luger ever decides to kill his wife heís already agreed to use a Lugar pistol? You see, itís all about positioning - body as well as product.)...Take it from Sammy, "Donít do the crime if you canít do the time." But if youíre 68 years old, that might take on a different meaning: "Go ahead and do the crime, you wonít live long enough to do the time."...For those still suffering from O.J. withdrawals, donít get your hopes up for another media circus. Recall that after 9/11 all the cable news channels vowed to only cover hard news. Of course theyíll spin that to include pseudo-celebrity rigor mortis.


PLYMOUTH ROCKS ("BUT NOT TOO HARD OR SOMEONE WILL CALL MY PARENTS")...The administration for the newly created Plymouth, Michigan high school decided to let students choose their new school mascot. That is, until they selected the name "Predators." It might have been accepted before all the recent problems with the Catholic church, but timing is everything and in such a climate the name was disallowed. [As a side note, the administration also rejected the nominated, "Plymouth Pedophiles," as unnecessarily inspiring the wrong type of fear in athletic opponents.]


FREEDOM AT ANY PRICE...Champagne, -er, campaign finance reform has been signed into law by President Bush in an incredibly muted non-ceremony ["And a tip of the hat to Senator John McCain for all his help in getting this legislation passed! Now go become a Democrat."] involving a leaky pen, a flashlight and witnessed by the White House janitor. But George W. took the legislation to heart. And heís proud. The presidentís very proud - so proud that afterwards Bush immediately left Washington on a fund-raising trip....While the law which bans soft money from federal elections brings the most far-reaching changes to fund-raising in 30 years, it wonít be long until new money strategies are deployed. Meanwhile, opponents of campaign finance reform fight on in the courts, testing its constitutionality on First and Fifth Amendment grounds. And who are these opponents? The NRA and ACLU for starters in the latest example of politics making strange bedfellows (and will they ever feel dirty when they wake up). What are they fighting for? Basically the right to shoot their mouths off (with money)....Conservative Sen. Mitch McConnell has also filed suit against the reform law. Not exactly a big free speech guy, how interesting that he chooses to defend the First Amendment when itís interpreted as protecting our political system of institutionalized bribery. Thatís not free speech, thatís free market....In the end, hard money, soft money; either way itís still all about the benjamins. Because if it doesnít really hurt the corruption or fix the problem, maybe itís sham-pain finance reform all along.

THE SUPREMESí LATEST HIT...In a surprise decision the Supreme Court struck down a federal law banning virtual (as opposed to real) child pornography, declaring it so broad as to violate free speech. How did they finally get one right? And does it have anything to do with what theyíre hiding under those robes?...If aggressively applied this law could restrict everything from Romeo and Juliet to American Beauty. After all, if it doesnít involve a real child, then it isnít real child pornography. And it wouldnít be fair to put someone in a very real prison over that.

UP AGAINST THE WAL-MART...Yes, the predatory discount retailer has taken over the top spot on the annual Fortune 500 list. Wal-Mart is the first service company to lead the Fortune 500 since 1995 when the restriction limiting the list to manufacturing concerns ended. So their strategy of targeting smalltown Mom & Pop businesses has paid off in gold (although sometimes it runs in crimson too)....Whatís their secret? Only part of the answer is in Wal-Martís fierce anti-union policies, ignoring EEOC disability discrimination regulations, violating workers compensation and child labor laws. The real answer is in Wal-Mart being the largest importer of Chinese sweatshop products in the entire world. So when I ask "how low will they go?" youíll realize Iím not talking about prices....You see, Wal-Mart may ban parental advisory CDs, but itís their business practices that are the real obscenity....Yet Wal-Mart does let RVs camp overnight in their parking lots (a probable zoning violation - but can you forget that for a minute? These people are trying to perform a community service here!) Still, what I want to know is where do they dump their sewage tanks? Down the storm drains? Because, as a community, that is exactly the kind of shit we donít need.

MADMAN AT THE HELMS...The notoriously conservative US Senator Jesse Helms has undergone open-heart surgery to replace an artificial valve that was installed 10 years ago. Surgeons said the procedure was a relatively easy one once the search party was able to locate his heart. Although the senator is recovering nicely, heís still not firing on all cylinders - but thatís more of a mental thing anyway...

ANOTHER FOR THE SHARPTON IMAGE CATALOG...Civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton has lost a lot of weight since his Puerto Rican bombing protest incarceration; so much so that everyoneís asking about his special weight-loss program. (Itís called a hunger strike, OK?) The Reverend says he only eats one meal a day and exercises for at least one hour every morning. And while that information may seem a little skimpy for an entire book, itís with little surprise that Rev. Al is doing just that: contemplating a book and exercise video deal with the working title of, "Sweatiní to the Whities." (It comes with two life-size posters. The first is of a group of Klansmen running directly at the camera - certainly motivation for rural residents. For city dwellers thereís another with photos of Giuliani, Rodney King "in action", and a squad of policemen brandishing plungers.)...After successfully co-opting Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al has now apparently decided to go after Dick Gregory.

HE LIKES POT A LOT...The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws has launched a major advertising campaign utilizing a 2001 pre-mayoral-election quote to a reporter by current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, acknowledging his use of marijuana. Asked whether he ever smoked marijuana, the full-page ad in The New York Times shows Bloomberg saying, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it." The ad advocates decriminalization of marijuana in New York City even as Bloomberg declared the city would continue to arrest users, no matter what he may have said in the past. Despite hizzonerís short term memory loss, Bloomberg admitted to being less than thrilled that the advocacy group used his name but recalled at the last minute, "I suppose thereís that First Amendment that gets in the way of me stopping it." (an actual quote)...And people wonder where those trendy fascists of tomorrow are coming from....But beware; even a millionaire mayor of the largest city in America canít admit to being NORML....While the mayor refused to disclose when he last smoked marijuana, Bloomberg conceded that the entire controversy "was a major buzz-kill."


THE SAME OLD SOLUTION TO THE MIDDLE-EAST PROBLEM/CLOSING NIGHT JITTERS..."Hey, letís put on a show!...You say martyr and we say murderer. We say murderer and you say martyr. Martyr, murderer; murderer, martyr. Letís blow the whole thing up!"...[cue the Loony Tunes theme] "Thatís all, folks!"

KOOKS AND NUKES...It wasnít very comforting to see recent headlines such as: U.S. PLANS FOR USE OF NUCLEAR ARMS. Thatís especially true when one considers that it was Donald Rumsfeld who thwarted the SALT II agreement back in the í70s and it was the same Rumsfeld who as Secretary of Defense played the chief advocate for forgetting about the ABM treaty in the í00s or Ďoughtsí. (Why do I have a creeping feeling that with this administration, by decadeís end there will be an over-abundance of Ďoughtsí?)...As to playing the nuke card, various scenarios have existed over the decades as to how, when and against which nation the US might use nuclear weapons. Only since 1997, during the Clinton administration, did the US first declare that it wouldnít wait for a nuclear strike; that weíd use nuclear weapons if attacked by biological or chemical warfare. Yet now we worry about a "dirty" nuclear device being detonated by terrorists and since they donít have missiles at their disposal, they might have to utilize our conveniently located nuclear energy plants. Convenient in that they are all situated near cities and waterways, thereby predictably resulting in greater casualties and damage. So now the Secretary of Energy wants to ship all the nuclear waste from 131 sites around the country to 800 feet beneath Yucca Mountain, Nevada. Thatís despite concerns about Yuccaís seismic activity and the possibility of contaminating an underground aquifer with high levels of radiation. Then there are the safety issues of transporting all this extremely hazardous material - which opponents have dubbed "Mobile Chernobyl." But the dirty secret is that even if all of this could be achieved by the expected timeline of 2010, in the meanwhile nuclear plants would have produced enough waste to require another Yucca Mountain site. It gets complicated because spent reactor fuel must cool for years in ponds of water located next to nuclear power plants before it can be moved. Which still makes for an attractive terrorist target - especially when The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reports that a fire at such a pool could release several times more radiation than the Chernobyl disaster (just celebrating its "sweet sixteen")....After Reno and Vegas, I guess the Bush administration figures itís no big deal for Nevada to gamble on one more hot spot that glows in the dark.

TO ROME WITH LOVE...American Catholic Bishops met with Pope John Paul II in an attempt to deal with the rampant pedophilia scandal in the church. But instead of a clear rule of Ďif you have sex with anyone who isnít an adult, youíre out of the church,í the Vatican created a sex code thatís about as clear as the US tax code. Which isnít surprising since an audit is the financial equivalent of a rectal probe....Submitting to the papal summit, as the bishops bent down to kiss his ring, these were the last people to appreciate the satirical symbolism of their act....But believers and non-believers all agree that the Catholic church has reached exactly what it needs: critical mass.

GIVING NEWS THE BUSINESS...Well, the first pillar to fall in the commercialization of the news division at any television network is the elimination of staff in the foreign news bureaus. Weíve all heard the tiresome canard that Americans donít care about whatís going on around the world - which has demonstrated to be an inaccurate assessment over-all, even as it continues to be proven in isolated instances....What donít I miss about the news coverage of the war in Afghanistan? Well, first thereís the bombing and killing, but a close second is the reporters on-screen using PC-streaming video. This was more annoying than the return of Max Headroom. And it shouldnít be OK to torture viewers if itís not OK to torture the Taliban. R

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