Just gotta disagree…in English

You Are Dumb.net is one of my favorite websites because the guy who writes it usually writes stuff that I either totally agree with, or can just laugh at.

He did a good job of this the other day…of making me laugh, that is.  But I almost totally disagree with what he wrote.

He was writing about some Hollywood hack complaining on some website that having to push a number or the pound sign for “English” when listening to an automated phone answering system was a violation of “freedom of speech.”  Well, that is stupid, but Bryan’s focus in commenting on this was a bit narrow.

In this blog I try very, very hard only to criticize people based on the sum total of their behavior, and not what may be isolated incidents.  Yes, some people may be terminally stupid (Sarah Palin comes to mind).  But since I know nothing about the Hollywood hack, I don’t feel qualified to tell you how stupid he actually is.  Yes, the statement was stupid, because our freedom of speech is no more endangered by having to press a digit on a dialing pad than our general freedom is enhanced by having our soldiers in Iraq.

But when it comes to having to press that extra digit for “English,” I actually agree with what the Hollywood hack was probably trying to say when he became incoherently right-wing: it is a pain in the ass, and it’s not something we had to deal with before the last 10 years or so, and there is no good excuse for it.

Why not?  Having automated answering systems available in only 2 languages is discriminatory, for starters.  It discriminates between non-English speakers who speak Spanish and those who speak other languages.  And there are a large number of other languages to choose from.  To keep from discriminating against everybody in the U.S. who does not speak English, not just the largest minority who do not speak English, the automated telephone answering messages would have to be about 20 minutes long (just a wild guess).  Now that’s a waste of time.

It’s actually less discriminatory toward the majority to have the computers answer the phones in English only.  Certainly it saves time, and probably money as well.

It may be even better to have an actual human being answer the phones, but that takes even more time…and even more money if you want a receptionist who speaks 6,800  languages* (and even then, s/he would probably run into a language that was foreign). *http://www.yourdictionary.com/languages.html

Come to think of it, we could have road signs in 6,800 different languages.  Sure, some of them might have to say, (in whatever language) “if you did not immediately see any language you could understand, then stop, back up, and read again.”

Or we could just draw stick people, which is what a lot of signs consist of now.  In the case of the “back up and read it again” sign, the symbol would probably be a big “R”.  But maybe “R” doesn’t stand for “Reverse” in someone’s language.  In that case, we’d need multi-lingual gear-shifts. 

The possibilities are endless.

Seriously — and this is coming from someone who works with the public — multilingualism is vastly overrated.  It does not enhance communication, it hampers it.  This is because you are not only speaking across language barriers, but cultural ones as well.  That is to say, you might be speaking Spanish in your Anglo way, but the person you’re talking to sees only an Anglo in front of him.  Or vice-versa.  It’s like of like playing 6,800 pick-up all day, every day.

A language is one thing that brings a society together.  It’s never worked out very well any other way, even if you feel it “should.”  Focusing on a right-wing factual fracture isn’t going to change it, or them, or anything at all.

To put it quite simply, English is not racist.  Having to choose between English and Spanish while leaving out several thousand other languages, may be.

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Gotcha

Having seen that it was a major news item that the cameras switched from Jennifer Aniston to a reaction shot of Angelina Jolie during some presentation Aniston was doing at the Oscars, I got to wondering why this was news at all.

So actually there’s no post here 🙂  Was just checking to see which tags/categories get the most attention.

Too warm or not too warm? (or: when a tornado is not a tornado)

(This will count as my global-warming/climate change rant.)

I love to look at videos of tornados, and have been doing so lately, which is what brought them to mind on this bleak February day in the Great Lakes area — a day during which there is as much chance of having a tornado as of wearing a bikini to the beach.  As long as there isn’t a tornado nearby, they fascinate me.  On the other hand, when I see a video of a storm chaser actually running up to a tornado to get a picture (actually it was probably a landspout* he was trotting toward; see this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpP96pnX00w), I tend to wonder what the hell is wrong with the guy.  Let’s just say that my idea of a great vacation does not involve going storm-chasing. 

Having said that, however, I add this: thank whatever deity you like for storm chasers, because they see what they see and even if the radar doesn’t see it, they have proof of what they saw.  And they teach us to see.  If you’re totally confused about what I just said, read on.  It may help, or it may not.

In September of 2006 I was caught in a tornado.  I do not care to have that happen again, although I have been peripherally involved in about 10 tornadic storms in my lifetime and have no doubt it will happen again.  This was a very, very weak tornado as these monsters go.  But even so, a tornadic storm is an event like no other.  Know the phrase “all hell broke loose”?  For those who have never experienced a tornado, that’s what a tornadic storm is like.  Suddenly, all control is lost.  You are instantly a victim scrambling for survival.  How fast does this happen?  Blink.  It’s faster than that.

This particular storm caused a flash downpour that left cars submerged in the midst of rush-hour traffic, and an abrupt, terrific acceleration of wind which turned into visible white streaks that first ripped in one direction, then abruptly switched to the complete opposite direction, shredding trees, roof shingles, and power lines as it went.  There was a white-out of tiny hailstones at one point.  All of this happened nearly simultaneously, and then, over the insistent screaming of the tornado sirens I heard the deep, eerie tornadic rumble that cannot be described by mere words and has rarely, if ever, been recorded adequately.

When I heard that, I headed for the basement.  There was no time to look up at the sky to see what it looked like — you couldn’t see anything, anyway; everything was a dark, murky green streaked with white tails of wind, and there was (to put it bluntly) too much crap flying around to spend much time looking up.  As I tried to run to the basement — our walkway to the basement is outside the building — I found I could barely move and had to hang onto the bricks as best I could to keep from being lifted away.  I was soaked through to the skin in a split second.  

 A relative of mine got a picture of the funnel cloud.

Earlier in the decade, I was involved in another tornadic event that tore entire roofs off houses and turned the wind around us into a whirling junkyard.  Our ears were popping, and there was that awful hollow, whistling rumble.  After the storm we found large trees laying on the ground, pointing in different directions.  A man was killed when a tree fell on the car he was driving. 

Someone got a picture of that funnel cloud, too.

The Weather Bureau later informed us that both events had been mere “straight line winds.”  Sorry, but “straight line wind,” or even “microburst” does not carry the impact of  “tornado.” And those of us who were right underneath these storms know what we saw; certainly there is nothing else that sounds like a tornado — and I know what I heard in both instances.   Those at the weather bureau only saw their radar, and later surveyed the damage.  Which will bring us to the point: who are you gonna trust?  You and your own camera, or some nerd sitting at a computer at a government bureau office?

Which brings us to the subject of global warming.

I don’t like the term “climate change,” because “climate change” is constant and normal on this planet.  So you won’t read it anymore after this paragraph.  Having been through a period of my life when we were all resigned to eventually wearing parkas in July because of “global cooling,” however, I also have some questions about “global warming.”  But do I believe in it?  Yes and no.

I tend to believe in it because it’s naive to an extreme to try to claim that 6 billion methane-producing humans with their 600,000,000 carbon-belching motorized vehicles* (as well as other things) aren’t having any impact at all on the planet.  (*Vehicle estimate can be found here: http://ididnotknowthatyesterday.blogspot.com/2006/10/how-many-cars-are-in-world.html)

On the other hand, didn’t I already mention that climate change…well I said I wouldn’t mention that term anymore.  Let’s just call it “natural cycles,” because that’s what they are.  In short, I think our present situation may be caused by overpopulation and industrialization (which helped to cause the overpopulation) mixed with natural cycles.  Now, I realize that since religion has once again taken over the world, it has become perilous to mention the word “overpopulation,” since most religions are all about creating more babies who will become members of the religion.  But I think it’s a good word.  So live with it: OVERPOPULATION.  I’ll say it again: OVERPOPULATION.  Don’t think so?  Well, what else do you call it when we’re running out of water and food, not to mention space?

To make the concept more real to you, next time when you’re stranded in a wall-to-wall traffic jam on the freeway, quite ready to believe that all of the 600,000,000 motorized vehicles on Earth are parked on the same freeway, think about why you do not believe there is such a thing as OVERPOPULATION.  Think very, very hard.

Back to the point, in the 1960’s, an annoying novelty-song squeaker called Tiny Tim squawked a ditty called “The Ice Caps are Melting.”  If I’m remembering my stats correctly, he was right: the 1960’s were abnormally warm.  They were also abnormally stormy.  Local statistics show that we had an unusually high number of tornadic storms in those years —  a record that apparently stands to this day.  (As an aside, the perception in my area is that there are more tornadoes now than there ever were; honestly, I believe that there are merely as many as there ever normally were, it’s just that we’ve only recently learned to recognize them — and they don’t all look like the one in “The Wizard of Oz”! —  because of the birth of the storm-chasing profession and its impressive array of video equipment.)

Then came the 1970’s and 1980’s, the era of “global cooling,” — better known in those times as “the new ice age” — during which we were freezing our butts off.  Sometimes literally.

And with the 1990’s, the temperatures rose again and so did the issue of global warming.  It was and is real; temperatures are rising.  Whether it is entirely a natural cycle or not is debatable; all that seems certain is that even if it is, it is being aggravated by the fact that we have more contributors than ever before.

I also believe that the term “global warming” may have arisen because it has become taboo to discuss OVERPOPULATION, and these days one can’t do it without someone else sniping “unfair!” “racism!” “discrimination!” “pro life!” “ethnic cleansing!” etc.  But I digress.

My attitude is that certainly, something is happening.  I’ve noticed that the seasons in my area seem to be shifting rather than disappearing (these days summer almost never starts before the first week of July, and lingers slightly into the fall; fall either lingers into January or gets cut short in November; winter lasts almost all the way through spring).  But there is no statistical data to back that up, just my own gut feelings.

Which brings us back to tornadoes…

*Landspouts are a type of tornado usually not associated with a horrific storm.  However, even without the storms they are still potentially quite dangerous — as in, I wouldn’t walk up to one.

Here and (maybe) gone: Roland Burris

Things are going from bad to worse for Illinois Senator Roland Burris faster than anyone expected.  In fact, it’s going so fast now that he’s almost catching up with the speed of Rod Blagojevich’s lickety-split pratfall. 

At first all the jabs were coming from the Illinois Republicans, which mean almost no one but the media really gave a damn.  But now the latest news is that Black pastors in Chicago are actually asking Burris to step aside.  Considering the united face this group usually shows the rest of us, that’s truly remarkable.

Of course, the revelations from Burris’s own affidavit are also truly remarkable.  It turns out that not only did he talk to members of Blagojevich’s camp on several occasions, but actually offered to raise money for Blag’s campaign fund.

On the short list of things that are not cool, that has to be near the top.  Burris has also chosen to mince and dissect words rather than speak in plain English.  That’s another thing that has irritated a lot of people.  He’s sounding more and more like Blagojevich; any day now I expect him to hit the late-night talk-show circuit.  David Letterman must be salivating.

I wondered in an earlier post how desperate Burris had to be to accept Blag’s nomination.  Now I know.  In the old days, one sold one’s soul to the devil to get what one wanted.  Nowadays in Illinois politics, it must be true that one sells one’s soul to Blagojevich — or at least, that was true until a few weeks ago.

Again, there’s nothing here that you could put the guy in jail for; it’s simply a matter of ethics.  In Illinois politics, it seems that the ethics well ran dry a long time ago.  In the politicians’ minds, doing what one has to do to survive is all that matters.

The rest of us still expect more than that, however.  And again, we have been disappointed.

And they want her dead because….

Before I say anything else, I have to mention that I don’t know who is making the death threats against the “octomom” Nadya Suleman.  I can make guesses that a lot of the threats are coming from bratty kids who think it’s funny.  The rest are probably coming from wingnuts who are vehemently “pro-life,” and probably male. 

Why am I making such an inflammatory guess?  It’s simple: male wingnuts get mad and they want to kill you (right-wing), or they get mad and they try to whine you to death (left-wing).  Female wingnuts are entirely different, but no better; that’s for another post.

Not that I think Ms. Suleman is an admirable person.  Having faced starvation myself fairly recently, I can’t see how a single woman with no income and 6 kids (one disabled) was ever able to even think of having more kids, let alone hire a P.R. firm to defend her poor decision — and probably to find a way to make money off of it as well.  Any mom can tell you that one kid is a 48-hour-a-day job.  Each additional kid adds another 48 hours to the schedule.  If there aren’t enough hours in a day for 1 kid, imagine how it will be for 1 person raising 14 kids who are currently all below the age of reason?  It’s impossible.  Period.

But, whatever.  It’s all beside the point.  What we have is a single woman with 14 kids, 9 of them in the “special needs” category, who are living off the California government, which is currently reeling toward bankruptcy.  So I can see why the California taxpayers might be more than a little upset.  After all, by some estimates it will take anywhere from 3 to 5 million dollars, or more conservatively about 2 million dollars, to raise the brood to maturity — and that’s probably not counting all the extra medical care the optuplets and their disabled sibling will need through the years; certainly the more conservative number does not consider the care the octuplets are receiving right now.  All in all, it was cowardice on her doctor’s part and a crazy decision on Nadya Suleman’s.  She took advantage of the system and now is taking advantage of the taxpayers of California.  That’s wrong.

But death threats?

Who ya gonna kill, Hoss?  Killing Mom doesn’t take all those kids away.  I don’t want to take that thought any further,   because it’s too unthinkable and disgusting.  The point is, there is no point to death threats.  “Pro-life” doesn’t stop at birth, and it also doesn’t stop because Mom did something you don’t agree with (and ultimately will end up paying for).

Is there a workable answer to this situation?  Yes, but probably only in taking Suleman’s kids away for some reason.  Poverty would be a thought, but that’s not a crime.  Bad judgement is not a crime, either, nor is extreme selfishness or being incredibly talented at working the system.  If the last three items were crimes, every banker on Wall Street would be in jail right now.

So the only reasonable answer turns out not to be reasonable.  Fine.  So now what do we do?  Hard to say.  How about hitting the dad up for some cash?  Or how about making the doctor cough up some money?  It’s not adequate, but when Mom’s judgement is impaired, it seems everyone’s is impaired.  Someone’s got to take control; someone’s got to pay.  But not with their life.

Maybe if there had been laws in place that would have overridden Suleman’s idiocy and her doctor’s cowardice, this may not have happened to begin with.  But there weren’t, and it happened.  And everyone has to deal with it, and in this country, we are ill prepared to deal with it.

And so all we have is rage and death threats.  Doesn’t say much for us, does it.

Black-Hole Blagojevich

Ah, so it turns out that Roland Burris did have contact with Rod Blagojevich’s brother prior to Blags appointing Burris to the Senate seat vacated by the President.

At the time, although I believed Burris to be qualified, I said the appointment was nothing more than a desperate and cynical play of the race card on the part of Blags. I was right about that, and Bobby Rush proved it by getting sucked into Blags’ scheme, screaming “racism” where the word simply did not apply. And then the U.S. Senate got sucked in, partially because of Rush’s yammering (he was right about one thing: there were at the time no Blacks in the Senate), and partially because no one seemed sure of what the rules actually were, either Constiutionally or socially.

In the end, Blags snookered everybody and got his way.  He got his revenge on Obama, who had the temerity to streak past Blags to the White House (the White House once was Blagojevich’s ultimate dream), by sullying his Senate seat with a question-mark placeholder.  Nice parting shot if you can pull it off, and he did.

And now it turns out that Burris may have perjured himself. It may be a minor matter; he’s claiming it was an oversight and nothing illegal transpired. But it may also be something  major because I seem remember him saying previously that he’d had no contact whatsoever with anyone in Blags’ circle regarding the appointment. Then again, this would seem to be mainly an ethical matter, not a legal one. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t know.

But I do know that the center of all this is ethics: Blags’ ethics in playing the race card with Burris, Burris apparently being so eager to go to the Senate that he was willing to go along with it, and now this revelation. Just because it may be legal doesn’t mean it isn’t wrong.

I’ve noticed this about Blags: it seems that his lack of ethics, coupled with his sly ruthlessness, seems to suck almost everyone around him into a sort of black hole. I’m not happy that the black hole is drawing in Burris, but blind ambition can sometimes do that to you.  That’s what Blagojevich preys on.  He seems to have a gift for finding out the one thing a person really wants or fears, and then using the information for his own advantage.

I guess there’s nothing left to do but watch and see what happens, and find out how many more people got sucked in. There’s reason to believe that the Pied Piper of Illinois lured many into the same black hole. 

The one thing that’s already clear is that whoever gets caught in the black hole, did something to get there.  I haven’t seen an innocent bystander yet.

Karma and Ann Coulter

The ol’ s/he must be real happy today.  A peripheral member of one of Coulter’s many classes of pretend villians, Beverly Eckert, has been killed in a plane crash. Oh the irony of it all.

I seldom say anything quite that nasty, but for God’s sake, Coulter deserves the sentiment. We’ve spent years turning logic, ethics, empathy, and plain old common sense upside down in this country. Creatures like Coulter are the chronic festering scab we have as a result.

Beverly Eckert did nothing wrong, no matter how you try to stretch it. The so-called “Jersey Girls” (a subgroup of 9/11 widows of which she was not a part) did nothing wrong, either.  But Coulter did stretch it, still found nothing wrong, and so made stuff up. True, all that really came across in Coulter’s anti-widow rantings was a sort of wounded, queeny jealousy. But it was ugly, cruel and needless nonetheless — and ultimately, in many people’s minds, the subgroup came to represent the entire group, either positively (after all, any group Coulter hates must be a wonderful bunch of people) or negatively (the Left…baaaad….Coulter….goooood).

The fact is that if you didn’t want to hear what people like Eckert had to say, you didn’t have to listen. Nor do we have to listen to Coulter, but there’s one difference: s/he’s all over the goddamned place, sucking up the attention the media, for some reason, continue to lavish on him/her/it. They absolutely loved it when s/he attacked the 9/11 widows, a group that ultimately included Eckert. Could be they just loved the spectacle of an ass like Coulter being an ass. But the whole affair was about as dignified as the Jerry Springer show, and made about as much sense.

And now, even I am guilty of paying attention to this media bloodsucker. Dang me — I should know by now that the worst thing you can do to a creature like Coulter is ignore it. But sometimes it just goes too far and goes on for too long, and you have to say something. That’s what this blog is about, after all.

So here it is: Beverly Eckert did nothing wrong, and look what happened. First 9/11/2001. Then Ann Coulter passing judgement on some 9/11 widows for DARING to have political opinions and being less than nice about George W. Bush — a judgement that ended up either sainting them all or demonizing them all, depending on your viewpoint. And now, this.

No, darlings, I am not saying Ann Coulter caused the plane crash.  What I am saying is that s/he painted a big red letter on an entire group of people for no good reason — or at least if there was a good reason, I have yet to hear it.  Then again, I have yet to hear a good reason for anything Coulter has written or said.  This person is, as previously mentioned, a P.R. chowhound and little else.

Karma owes Coulter a big one.  In fact, I heard its jaw was wired shut for a time.  Maybe there was a message in that.