Monday, April 20, 2009

Cruel but Not Unusual

The CIA and all Federal Law Enforcement agencies have been directed by the BHO administration to stop using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques (EIT) on detainees of all persuasions. O.K., but what is law enforcement to do when the "ticking time bomb" scenario eventually happens? Surely it will happen, won't it? It happens every week on "24" and life imitates art. If it didn't we would have no rational explanation for Paris Hilton.

I have some suggestions for Innovative Interrogation Techniques (IIT) to replace the discredited EITs. While none of my ideas have been vetted regarding legality, I have e-mailed these ideas to David Addington, John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Perry Mason for their expert legal opinions. Given their enthusiasm regarding EIT--with the possible exception of Mason, who I understand may be fictitious or possibly dead--I expect full approval for these new techniques.

INHUMANE CONFINEMENT. A suspected terrorist will be assigned to ride around in a four-year old Lexus 400 with a 45+ year-old real estate pro who frequently pops Tic-Tacs to ward off nicotine cravings, sports reading glasses (dangling handily from a beaded chain) and who applies great splashes of cologne each morning. The sole purpose of the activity will be to tour every foreclosed property taken back in the sub-prime mortgage meltdown. The real estate pro will refer to all foreclosed houses as either a "golden opportunity' or a "diamond in the rough" and remark that each would be "just marvelous for the suspect and all his wives". The constant search through the tiny MLS listings and treks through vacant McMansions will have no foreseeable end point nor goal; it will just be the shopping process including the relentlessly chirpy sales patter used to break down resistance. The confinement ends when valuable terrorist information is forthcoming or he agrees to buy one or more of the properties for cash, in which case the feds can then follow the money back to the terrorist's sleeper cell.

WAGNER BOARDING. The suspect will be placed, head down, on an incline board, wearing an After Six tuxedo--one size too small--with a terry towel placed comfortably across his eyes and mouth. Then, at reasonable decibels, the entire Richard "Dyck" Wagner catalog of operas will be played, from "Die Feen" through "Parsifal".The suspect will be allowed bathroom breaks but only between entire performances, the completions of which are signaled with an aria from a fat lady. As stated, the entire list of Wagner operas--most of which start with the words "Der", "Das" or "Die" as in "Die Hard", which, I'm advised, is not a Wagner product--will be presented and then repeated ad infinitum until sufficient information is forthcoming. There will be special emphasis on performances of "Das Liebesverbot" and "Die Valkure" as performed by the all volunteer Des Moines Civic Opera Company. Food will be provided by a Jewish deli but the suspect will have no choices from the menu and will dine on a constant parade of liverwurst, tongue and scrambled brain on rye sandwiches. This technique could prove to be the fastest method of information extraction as many suspects will likely break during the tux fitting.

FEAR OF FLYING. This particularly diabolic technique is also ironic, given terrorists' use of aircraft in their most deadly tactic. This technique requires (1) Three rows of five-across tourist class airline seats, all occupied. (2) The middle seat of the middle row is reserved for the suspect. (3) Two morbidly obese agents will occupy the seats on either side of the suspect and both will constantly nosh on highly seasoned sandwiches bought from airport vendors (the suspect will get airline food at odd times of the day and night, just as in actual air travel). (4) A 6'5" agent with chronic dandruff will occupy the seat directly in front of the suspect and the agent will keep his or her seat back fully reclined at all times. (5) In the seat directly behind the suspect, an agent will hold a squirmy three-year old on his or her lap; a child raised by the theory that any discipline will permanently scar the child's self esteem. The child will be allowed to scream incessantly, especially when the snippy flight attendants (once again, disguised agents) drop by to pacify the child with a nearly worthless plastic "Captain's Wings" pin. Repeated kicking of the back of the suspect's seat by the child will be discouraged, as suggested in the Geneva Conventions, but not prohibited. (6) Bathroom breaks will be allowed as needed but only when the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign is not illuminated and even then, there will always be a line. In keeping with routine airline policy, the "coach" suspect will not have access to the vacant Business Class lavatory. Estimates are that solid information will be obtained during the equivalent time it takes to fly from JFK to Heathrow.

These are three techniques that I have fully developed and should provide a solid platform for for effective interrogations. I am working on several others, still in their formative stages. These include: THE SENSELESS COMMUNICATION LOOP, involving customer service operators in Lahore and Mumbai, HOPE ABANDONMENT, simulating wait-times and staff interactions at the Department of Motor Vehicles and SOUL EROSION, a technique that creatively uses C-SPAN broadcasts.

Should you have a favorite Innovative Interrogation Technique, please send it and, if considered potentially effective, I will share it with my following of innocent readers and the appropriate authorities.


Observoid of the Day: Never do it just for the money unless, of course, you really need the money.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

On Being Brown Shoes

"Did ya ever feel like the world was a tuxedo and you were a pair of brown shoes?"
Lonesome George Goebel

I'm feeling very brown. And scuffed too. My heels are worn and my soles have worrisome thin spots.

The world of technology is dressed for the gala but I'm still searching for some new laces, not those flat, fat cloth ones, but the ones that are sleek, waxed and round. Even if I find them, however, I'm still brown shoes.

My Internet marketing advisor has almost given up on me. He keeps trying to pull me through the magic looking glass into the world of the future, a world, he insists, that is already here. I've looked into that mirror but all I can see is my own rapidly deteriorating face and strange words such as "monetize", "hyperlink", "twitter", "intranetworked corporate conversations" and "de-cloaking". Do you want that "HTML, ASCII or PDF?" Actually, I wanted fries.

Monday, a storm took down a nearby tree and I was without power for seven hours. My dependence on technology was abundantly clear. Can you blame me for being cautious about digging further into this hole? Lucky for you eager readers, the power is restored but my confidence that I can tame the technology beast and ride it to riches is not.

In 2007 I wrote and recorded a professionally produced music CD. Friends and family did the honorable thing and bought some. Some went so far as to say, "Hey, this is pretty good." Bless you. All the same, I have a storage room with 700 more. I started with 1,000. Now, when service technicians, repairmen, delivery goons, etc. show up at the house to do their thing, I give them a CD instead of a cash tip. They are polite but they aren't effusive.

I tried selling the music on the Internet, using all of the hyped "this is the future of music industry" methods but to no avail. I had imagined that honky-tonky/folky/rock-a-billy songs by a Type-A, aging, white guy from the Midwest would sell like Preparation H at Daytona Bike Week. After all, if Jimmy Dale Gilmore can make a living writing and singing this low-rent stuff, I figured that there was room for at least one more nasally troubadour.
Boy howdy-doody, was I mistaken.

(If you are thinking, "Hey, I should own some nasally and original Americana music by a guy who blogs," simply go to and carefully following the instructions on the "OnLine Store" page.) This has been a non-paid commercial announcement.

But wait, there's more.

In 2006 I wrote a book, Marriage Roulette, thinking that the American public was ready to hear--from a Type-A, aging, white guy from the Midwest--how to avoid marriages that end poorly, either in divorce, silent desperation or gun play. My only apparent credentials were to have experienced both types of marriages, one failed and one successful. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, marriage counselor, social worker, minister or self-ordained relationship expert from Marin County, California. Apparently, those are the only professionals who are suppose to write such books.

Instead, I was a concerned father and an experienced researcher who delved into the subject, I was also susceptible to the siren song of "You should write a book about it". The book has no psycho-babble because I'm not licensed to use it. It basically says, "Here are seven things that will make or break a relationship, try not to let the sex blind you to the other six." It's a very short book. Some of the handful of readers who bought the book have commented on its "common sense insights".

Word around the Internet was that publishing houses were so 20th century and that self-publishing was the new, new best way to go. Google word-search advertising would put my book in front of "millions of eyeballs" (that's a gruesome image, truth be told) and then several thousand of those eyeballs, apparently with heads, bodies and VISA cards attached, would flock to my title. What the flock? How come it didn't work? I can't 'splain it. Wish I could.

(If you are saying to yourself, "Hey now, I could use a primer on how to avoid another dirt bag," just visit and carefully follow the "Buy It Now" instructions to Amazon and throw one in the shopping cart.) This has been another non-paid commercial announcement.

With that experience in the rear-view mirror, I did what any slightly crazed person would do, I wrote another book. There's probably some medication that I should have been taking but the symptoms of madness are often confused with those of gastro-esophageal reflux.

This time, however, I was firm in my conviction to get an agent, who would find a publisher, who would secure Oprah and Dr. Phil appearances, which would secure my retirement and my place in the pantheon of successful writers. To date, I'm having problems with step one, finding an agent. The self-publishing promise is now playing faintly in the background as my Internet marketing advisor croons softly a tune of temptation. "No, no, I dassn't," I implore, but the flesh is weak, particularly that which is trapped inside my cranium.

The decision to self publish rests on the promise of technology, the same technology that has whopped me upside the head twice before; technology that is spiffy in its After Six tuxedo, chumming around with the likes of Mashable, Guy Kawasaki, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, BookSurge and Kindle. Here I am, a pair of brown shoes who actually uses words like "spiffy". I could hope that technology smiles on me, asks me to dance and turns me into patent leather opera slippers, but hope is not a strategy.


of the Day: That which hits the fan will not be evenly distributed.

Making a "Comment" Tip-o-the-Day

There is only one "Comment Box" and it is at the end of the first page of posts. Instead of scrolling through all of them to get to it, click on the icon at the end of any post (on which you wish to comment) that shows how many comments have been made about that post, even if it is "zero". The comment box should magically appear. If it doesn't, simply call our "We Care About You So Much That We Could Just Pinch Your Cheeks Helpline" and a friendly foreigner with a bizarre and manufactured Nebraska accent will be happy to confuse you further. Our helpline number is unlisted.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Seasonal Sports Dyslexia

Finally, the NBA basketball season is over. No wait, that was college basketball ending on April 6. March Madness morphed into April Anxiety! The NBA will continue to play into June. After that, the league takes a month off so that the players can get additional tattoos and make their brief but required appearances at paternity hearings. Then, it's back to the hardwoods, an apt name, given this particularly fertile and randy group.

Baseball season officially launched April 5, although they were playing in snow flurries in Cincinnati and Chicago. Shouldn't basketball season be over if baseball has started? Or maybe baseball starts too early.
The boys of summer begin in the snow and often end in the snow when the World Series is decided in late October. In the middle of the regular baseball season, late July, the NFL starts playing pre-season football games, shorty after the NBA finals are final and long before the World Series begins.

Hockey; when, exactly, does that season begin? Is it almost over, just getting underway or is it time for the Stanley Cup and who came up with the name "puck" anyway?
Probably the same dofus who decided to call it "hockey" instead of "ice boxing".

Then, thanks to college football, side by side with news stories of the Sweet 16, tight NBA play-off races (which will decide the four NBA teams that WON"T be in the play-offs) and baseball opening day festivities, the media are also reporting on collegiate spring intra-squad football practices. In the south, one would suppose that these events were as important as NASCAR.

Of course there is year-round golf coverage because the PGA tour follows the weather; January in Hawaii, February in Arizona, March in Florida, April at the Masters, etc. However, the stories are short and don't require much reporting skill. "There was a tournament, Tiger won." Next story.

Soccer, don't get me started. School kids have summer soccer, fall soccer and then spring soccer. Who, except for recent immigrants, really knows when the pro season begins and ends. And another thing, either you are hurt or you are not hurt, which is it, Miguel?

Bowling is limited to winter coverage in the media but for all I know there's professional kegling year round. Certainly one can kegle for the sheer joy of it year round, although there's not as much joy now that bowling alleys are smoke-free. There were few satisfactions like that of picking up a 5-10 baby split and smugly walking back to the scoring table for a long pull on an unfiltered Pall Mall followed by a deep, phlegmy cough. Pure pleasure; but I, as I so often do, digress.

Of all of the major professional sports, I regularly follow only baseball and golf, although Tiger has taken some of the suspense out of golf by eliminating competitive tension. One of the reasons that I prefer baseball over basketball, football or soccer is baseball's absence of "stylin". You don't see baseball players doing their favorite disco moves after a home run or a spectacular defensive play. They act as if they have done it before, which they have.

In the NFL, NBA and MLS, fans are regularly subjected to physically robust but emotionally stunted men doing boogie-woogie dances, pulling jerseys over their heads, leaping chest-to-chest and strutting like a barnyard rooster over a fallen opponent. These antics occur after a participant does whatever it is that he is paid to do. Baseball players do not showboat for a simple reason: in the next inning or three, each player will have to stand in the batters box and face a pitcher who throws a very hard object 96 m.p.h. It's far better if the pitcher is not irritated with you. This fact breeds better manners and sportsmanship among baseball players.

As a registered fogey, I grew up playing sports where any show of "stylin" would get one yanked from the playing field or court by the coach for being an idiot and poor sport. In this same vein, baseball pitchers have always been the unofficial regulators of self-aggrandizing show offs. Even Neon Deon left his boogie in the clubhouse when he made his brief appearance in the major leagues. Neon was fast but he wasn't 96 m.p.h. fast.

While there are occasional fights in baseball (poor sportsmanship) there are far fewer than in hockey and far less damage is inflicted. Pay close attention to the rare baseball dust-up and you will notice that few punches land and that the scuffle involves more wrestling and dodging and no one brings a bat. If this were not the case, baseball players would look like splay-noses, gaped-toothed hockey players. The primary reason for the lack of sucker punches and cheap shots in baseball, once again, is the presence of and the players' ultimate appearance in, the batters box.

Professional baseball players play a game that children play and generally play it with the same patina of good sportsmanship, even if it is enforced by the unspoken rule of the high, tight fastball.

Perhaps a batters box should be on the football and soccer sidelines and court side at basketball games. If a player is called for "stylin", the penalty would be to stand in the box against Brad Lidge for four pitches. 'Tis a sweet thought.


Observoid of the Day: Having a "Bad Hair Day" is a dream come true for a bald guy.