¿Who You Gonna Call?


In recent days, two television adverts, one for an insurance company and another for home security services, have drawn my attention for alleged customer testimonial that skipped over first responders. No, really:

• Crime, therefore call insurance company before callng police.

• Fire, therefore call home security company, who in turn called fire department for you.

In truth, I have no idea how to feel about this. And, you know, there was also something else that flitted by in those spots, but, honestly, the implications of spinning narrative would be entirely on my own conscience, and it’s not a pleasing prospect; even worse would be noticing something we are expected to notice—you know, a feature, not a bug. Never mind. It is enough to simply wonder at skipping out on first responders.

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Caption, Please?


To the one, there is such thing as a bad picture, and we all know it. Sometimes the camera just … you know, that’s the way it goes.

To the other, we usually worry about that when we are the subject of the picture, instead of merely a set piece.

Still, we sometimes find an unforgettable moment if only because it was captured in still life.

More the pity, I suppose. Something about that which we cannot unsee goes here.

Gov. Chris Christie addresses members of the Camden County police force, 2 November 2015. (Image credit: Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Image note: Gov. Chris Christie addresses members of the Camden County police force, 2 November 2015. (Image credit: Emma Lee/WHYY)

Ghosts in the Making


Summertime in Ferguson

When it was Trayvon Martin, I pitched a fit.

Michael Brown? Not so much.

It’s fair to ask why, and the answer is to simply look at what is going on in Ferguson, Missouri. The twenty-one thousand plus residents have seen their city torn to pieces, body and soul, as protesters and police battle over the murder of an unarmed black man by a city police officer whose record includes being fired as part of another small police department in Jennings, Missouri, that was disbanded by its city council for being so corrupt and generally awful. The town is in chaos; residents are intervening to slow the most vocal protesters, and are also reportedly attempting to prevent media from covering the events. Ferguson has become the latest incarnation of our nation’s sick heritage of deadly racism, emerged as a symbol of our dark slide toward militarized police, and found itself the butt of one of the worst jokes on the planet after a protester tweeted a comparison of the situation there to what is going on in Palestine, and instead of being indignant the Palestinians tweeted back with good-faith advice.

I first addressed the death of Trayvon Martin with friends on March 13, 2012, some weeks after the George Zimmerman stalked and pursued him for no good reason, shooting the seventeen year-old to death and then claiming self-defense. And when I first mentioned it, I did not expect what was coming. Certes, my gorge rose to learn the story, but like so many Americans the idea that an apparently murdered black man will die under the presumption that he needed to be shot just did not seem all that unusual. That is to say, like many I expected Trayvon Martin would become another forgotten lamb.

And, yes, I was wrong.

This time, the nation did not wait weeks. Before the name Michael Brown finished echoing after the first wave of press coverage the town was beseiged by chaos. Screaming and shouting from my evergreen corner of the country really doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.

And, yet, Justice still seems nearly destined for disappointing failure.

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I Learned Something Today


Stop saying that you want to motorboat my pasta!Do you really want to know? It’s just that seldom does one encounter such a new phrase. Quite honestly, I can’t say I ever heard this one before. And then I looked it up and really wished I hadn’t, but only because it brought to mind an old line from Stephen King―Pet Sematary, I think―having to do with “Bozo the Clown on a pogo stick”.

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What? It’s true, whenever I see an advert for a Vince Vaughn comedy, I know that’s a film I will only watch if I’m actually trapped in a room where it’s playing. And even then I’ll start looking for an electrical socket sufficient for a shocking rendezvous.

Image credit: Detail of Bug Martini, by Adam Huber, 18 June 2014.

How fal-awful?


Bill O'ReillyOne of the problems with the infotainment industry sector known as cable news is that it is, well, entertaining. Even when they’re not trying to be. To wit, during post-Irene coverage, a CNN anchor whose name escapes me, with a turd-under-the-nose blueblood sort of posture and delivery, was trying to cover first the people who were dumb enough to stay on outlying islands to the result that 2,500 of them are without road access to the mainland for perhaps two weeks. And then he tried to manage an interview with a woman who was among twenty-three stranded in a rural area of New York. The whole sequence was macabre.

But then there are the deliberate entertainers, the punditry hosts who raised FOX News to dominance or transformed the inept MSNBC into a GOP fundraising bogeyman. The persistent, even seemingly teflon Keith Olbermann has landed on his feet at Al Gore’s network, Current, with a version of Countdown that sounds much the same, and only looks any different as a matter of budget. And yes, we know Keith is politically active and wears his bias on his sleeve. Yes, we know how conservatives loathe him. But it’s so much more fun when he tells the latest story of FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly, himself a lightning rod of such comedic scale that you can’t write this kind of fiction. Mr. O’Reilly topped yesterday’s “Worst Persons in the World” list, and Olbermann clearly enjoyed the hell out of explaining the logic behind that:

You may recall years ago before he was fired from his syndicated radio show, that a caller mentioned my name to O’Reilly and he responded by saying that the caller’s name would then be turned over to Fox security, and soon he’d be receiving a little visit from the police. You may also recall there was a little problem with Bill and one of his producers, and his phone calls to her about three-ways and loofahs, and improbably about falafels.

Today, the two topics merged into one. This is going to be easier if I just read the first paragraph directly. Shall I?

“Last summer, Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly came to believe that his wife was romantically involved with another man. Not just any man, but a police detective in the Long Island community they call home. So, O’Reilly did what any concerned husband would do, he pulled strings to get the police department’s internal affairs unit to investigate one of their own for messing with the wrong man’s lady.”

Wait, Internal Affairs investigated Mrs. O’Reilly’s alleged internal affair?

Gawker has identified the Nassau County Internal Affairs Unit detective actually assigned to investigate Billo’s alleged cuckolder. “The source provided contemporaneous e-mail traffic to support his account. He told me, ‘You’ll never guess what happened to me the other day. Do you know Bill O’Reilly?’ I got called into my boss’ office saying they wanted me to meet with these two PIs”—that would be Private Investigators—”working for O’Reilly to go over some information because a detective was having an affair with O’Reilly’s wife.”

He’ll turn this over to Fox Security! He’ll be receiving a little visit from the local authorities!

“The investigation was highly sensitive for two reasons, the source said. One, it was ordered directly by then-police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey, and, two, O’Reilly was at the time considering making a major donation to the Nassau County Police Department Foundation, a private, not-for-profit foundation Mulvey helped found in 2009 to raise money for construction of a planned $48 million police training facility at Nassau Community College. These internal affairs cops were on the case at the behest of Mulvey in order to get O’Reilly’s funds,” the source said.

Oh, great. So now it’s not trying to get the cops to get a cop to stop an alleged affair with Mrs. O’Reilly. It’s trying to get the cops to stop a cop to stop an alleged affair with Mrs. O’Reilly, in exchange for donations to the policemen’s charity. So where’s the evidence?

Unfortunately Gawker not only has records of Mrs. Billo buying her own house down the street from the family home, and being removed as a director of the O’Reilly Family Foundation, but the Nassau Police Commissioner kind of confirmed the investigation when he told them, “I don’t know if the investigation is ongoing or concluded,” Mulvey said, “so I wouldn’t comment.” You just did.

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CBP: Protecting America against simple questions since 2003


Protecting America against simple questions since 2003Perhaps I might raise a stink about habeas corpus, or pop off about professionalism. But, no, I’ll take the high road (right!) and ask a simple question:

    Why are the folks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection so afraid of a simple question that they require armed backup?

No, really. I want to know. Of course, that’s just the sort of question that apparently frightens the hell out of them.

The story so far (and hopefully all there is to it): While entering Canada on a flight from England, I was required to pass through U.S. Customs.

Right. It actually does make sense. Really. It has to do with the “fight them over there instead of at home” idea. You know, if they screen me in Canada, before I get on the flight home to Seattle, it reduces the chances that I might find a pair of nail clippers in Vancouver International Airport with which to hijack a small twin turboprop and crash it into Hoquiam Castle, or something like that.

Anyway, yeah. There is a small complex inside the airport that is apparently sovereign American territory.

So after getting off the plane, we waited in line for twenty minutes so that we could wait in line for forty minutes. This was so that we could wait in line another five minutes so that our boarding passes could be checked no less than four times in the passing of fifteen feet as we passed through security. Having done so, we then had to line up to have our boarding passes checked again so that we could then wait another fifteen minutes to tell U.S. Customs and Border Protection that no, we weren’t smuggling any fruit into Canada from London. Apparently, I wasn’t convincing enough.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I must have done something to piss them off. Sure, whatever. Answering their questions without objection is just the kind of thing that will make a Border Protection agent suspicious, I guess. Really, after two weeks among exceptionally polite and wonderful people in England, Scotland, and Ireland, I just didn’t have it in me to be a prig about anything.

Instead of being waved through, I’m asked to divert to another room for a secondary inspection. This doesn’t bother me at all; I’m in too good of a mood after having gotten out of all those damn lines. Eventually, Officer Hill calls me over and asks me a bunch of silly questions about my life. Then he opts to inspect my bag and then fails to insert it properly into the x-ray machine. Then he types some lengthy notes into his computer and asks me if I have any questions at this time.

“Yes,” I said. “I’m curious as to the purpose of this detention.”

Wrong thing to say, apparently.

“You’re not being detained,” Officer Hill replied. Wow, had I known that at the outset, I would have passed on the invitation and just moved on past the, “Welcome to the United States”, sign and into Canada with my travel companions.

“I see,” I said. “Then what was the purpose of searching my bag?”

“I didn’t search your bag,” said Officer Hill.

Now, let me just be simple and specific, in case you happen to work for the Border Patrol, or know someone in that particular service. It’s not really that tough of a question. All he had to say was, “Random selection.”

Or expressed probable cause.

Or even, “This is the first time you’ve re-entered the country on this Passport; it’s a routine inquiry.”

Any of those would have sufficed.

Instead, he simply said, “It’s our right.”

I really, really don’t think it was that hard a question.

“So that’s how you’re going to be,” I observed.

Officer Hill advised me I could file a complaint if I felt I was treated unprofessionally. I asked him for his business card so that I might properly identify him in my complaint. He refused. His name was Hill. “That’s all you’re going to get,” he advised, smirking.

“I see how this goes,” I told him.

He asked if I wanted to talk to his supervisor. I told him yes. I also asked for my Passport back, but he refused. He told me to take a seat, which I did, smiling politely.

A white-haired man came out from his regal throne behind the desks. His name—I swear—was Officer Busto.

Really, I’m not making that up. His tag read, “Busto”.

“My name is Busto,” he told me.

“I don’t appreciate your officers lying to me,” I explained.

“How do you know you were lied to?”

I explained that Officer Hill said I wasn’t being detained, which was false, and that he said he hadn’t searched my bag, which was also false.

“I can see you’re visibly angry,” Busto said.

“Frustrated, yes,” I told him. “It’s a simple question. I mean, it’s either random selection or probable cause.”

“Seems like you already know the answer,” he said. By this time, as I sat there, speaking in an even voice, with my back to the wall, I found myself surrounded by three armed officers.

“Well,” I explained, “yes and no are answers, but sometimes you want to know which it is.”

“I can see your mind is already made up,” said Busto. His armed backup stood ready, glowering.

And, I can face it. I know when I’m defeated. I took my Passport back from Busto, told him he was disgusting, and walked out.

Welcome to the United States, indeed. The land of the free—you’re not being detained—and the home of the brave—where they need armed thugs to protect them from (gasp!) questions.

Ironically, I found out later that a couple days before, my father had a run-in with Homeland Security (the parent Department of U.S. Customs and Border Protection) that had them threatening to jail him over a small paperwork issue easily corrected.

But that’s another issue entirely, I suppose. I haven’t heard the details. Meanwhile, I stalked along, muttering about the irony of being detained by U.S. Border Protection so I could enter Canada. From London.

Welcome to the United States. It’s no wonder so many people around the world think we’re assholes.

But not the English, of course. They’re a delightful people with enviable beer, beautiful scenery, and more pomp than Officer Busto has shit between his ears.

Simple questions. Who ever guessed they could be so dangerous?

Ringing in the New Year


This is the whole of the article from NewsCore:

A police officer is facing termination after having noisy sex in a church tower above a packed congregation attending New Year’s Day morning mass.

Father Nikalaus Maier was preaching to early morning churchgoers when noises from the belltower interrupted him.

He telephoned the police when the lovers came down looking sheepish and scurried swiftly out the door, buttoning their clothes as they left.

A church official said: “My wife sat in the back near the vestry and called me to tell me about the grunts and groans that disturbed the sermon. It was scandalous.”

The police officer faces almost certain dismissal.

Write your own punch line.