Posts Tagged ‘Public Frenemy’

If You Thought Toxic Assets Were Bad, Just Wait Until Your Face Melts Off

June 4, 2009

Keeping in line with this week’s theme of California’s economic implosion, check out this clip from Jill Replogle’s California Progress Report article “Toxic Risk Assessment Could Be Thrown Out With the Budget Dust”:

“To the dismay of environmentalists, and health and consumer advocates, the one state office responsible for assessing the risk of toxins in the environment, consumer products and food could become a victim of California budget cuts. Scientists and public health workers are alarmed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to eliminate the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)…”

Here’s the kicker: Under Schwarzenegger’s proposal to disperse OEHHA’s duties among other state agencies, the taxpayers could expect to save the whopping sum of…“well under $150,000.” Just to put this in perspective, we’re facing a $24 billion budget gap.

OK, so maybe Arnold thinks that we all want to be orange-haired mutants like him, but the article makes a good point that there are a lot of industries that don’t really want there to be an effective government agency screening consumer products for toxins and maybe they had a little something to do with this seemingly idiotic proposal. After all, industries whose products contain dangerous chemicals don’t exactly have the best track record of looking out for the public’s safety.

This just seems destined to come back and bite us in the ass, and cost waaaay more money than it “saved.” After the toxins regulators are laid off, how long could it possibly take for some public health crisis to emerge as a direct result? It’s like back in February when Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was making fun of spending money on monitoring volcanoes and then a volcano blew up the following month and covered Alaska in ashes.

Maybe it would take a horrible accident to teach Schwarzenegger the dangers of not monitoring toxic chemicals, but it isn’t likely to happen before he terminates the OEHHA and, come to think of it, would we really be able to tell the difference…

"Now I am really the greenest governor... because I glow in the dark. Aaaargh."

"Now I am really the greenest governor... because I glow in the dark. Aaaaaargh."

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You’ll Never Need to Eat Your Words if Your Mouth is Already Full of Raw Baby Seal Heart

May 28, 2009
"I've never seen an unflattering photo of Michaëlle Jean. She's gorgeous even with seal blood dripping from her lips." -Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail

"I've never seen an unflattering photo of Michaëlle Jean. She's gorgeous even with seal blood dripping from her lips." -Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail

Remember last year when conservatives were giving Obama crap for admitting he eats arugula? This is the exact opposite of that:

From BBC News:

“Canada’s governor general, Michaelle Jean, has helped to butcher and eat a seal in an apparent act of solidarity with hunters. Ms Jean used a traditional Inuit knife to help gut the animal then ate a slice of raw heart. It came weeks after the EU voted to ban Canadian seal products, but Ms Jean did not say if her actions were in response to the EU proposals.”

I hadn’t heard of Michaelle Jean before she gobbled the seal heart, and I don’t even kow what a “governor general” does, other than represent the English monarchy  in Canada somehow, but I think there is a good lesson here that all politicians, all leaders, could learn from: Talk is cheap, prove yourself with actions.

We all know that politicians are masters of telling people what they want to hear. They all want to show you how much they “feel your pain” (In the words of Bill Clinton) by listening to your stories, nodding empathetically, and promising that they will stand up for you. Of course, reality has proven time and time again that virtually all politicians are hypocrites willing to sell out everything that was supposedly sacred to them in order to get re-elected or just cover their own asses when times get tough. Sometimes they hypocrisy isn’t even for political reasons, like the countless Republicans who have run on family values issues only to be revealed later as undercover crack-smoking queens.

What kind of a clueless Elmer Fudd really believes politicians about anything?

Here’s the point: If I’m a Canadian professional baby seal clubber, and everyone (even Morrissey) treats me like a piece of crap, but then a politician comes along, sits down next to me, slices open a fucking seal carcass, rips out a raw chunk of seal heart and down that shit like it was a Pop-Tart… I would feel like I had just met a politician that I could trust, or, at least give a chance.

On a side note, while I don’t support baby seal clubbing, if you’re one of those folks who gets all uppity about it,  sending around horrific videos to get people to sign your online petition or whatever and you’re NOT a vegetarian: then, like most politicians, you should also shut up and speak with your actions. Personally, I would much rather live the short, fanciful life of a seal pup and get bashed in the head than the inhumane, unnatural life of a cow or pig confined to a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) on a typical factory farm. However, if I really had my choice, I would be one of those Japanese cows that get pampered with beer and massages.

Based on a True Story

May 14, 2009
flyer_final

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War.

If you like to dance, come through a monthly party I do with the Motion Sickness crew at Vertigo tonight. This isn’t a music blog, so check out  Sneaky P’s blog or GrownKidsRadio if you want to keep up with that scene, but just to let y’all know — this flyer is based on a true story:

Armed and dangerous – Flipper the firing dolphin let loose by Katrina

“It may be the oddest tale to emerge from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Armed dolphins, trained by the US military to shoot terrorists and pinpoint spies underwater, may be missing in the Gulf of Mexico.

Experts who have studied the US navy’s cetacean training exercises claim the 36 mammals could be carrying ‘toxic dart’ guns. Divers and surfers risk attack, they claim, from a species considered to be among the planet’s smartest. The US navy admits it has been training dolphins for military purposes, but has refused to confirm that any are missing.

Dolphins have been trained in attack-and-kill missions since the Cold War. The US Atlantic bottlenose dolphins have apparently been taught to shoot terrorists attacking military vessels. Their coastal compound was breached during the storm, sweeping them out to sea. But those who have studied the controversial use of dolphins in the US defense program claim it is vital they are caught quickly.”

Read the rest here.

Fear and Gardening in the USA

April 24, 2009

survivalseeds1

Could the emerging trend of conservative survivalism provide fertile ground for dialogue?

Scanning The Savage Nation Web site, the online home of far right talk show host Michael Savage, I noticed a picture that seemed strangely out of place nestled amongst the Drudge-on-steroids headlines.  This cheery photo featured a smiling farmer, squatting proudly next to a wooden bushel overflowing with plump, red tomatoes. Upon noticing the text accompanying the photo, my confusion vanished. “New survival seed bank lets you plant a full-acre crisis garden,” the ad promised. “Provides enough seed to feed friends and family for years to come in the event of a crisis or meltdown…”

The unifying theme that anchors the many incoherent ramblings of Michael Savage – and most other conservative pundits, for that matter – is fear. The message of the Survival Seed Bank ad with the happy farmer and his bounty of tomatoes struck right to the core of this fear.

Clicking the link, I was misdirected to the site “foodshortageusa.com.”  This simple Web page is formatted to look like an urgent news dispatch, even featuring a headshot of the author, “Consumer Reporter” Mike Walters and the mysterious time stamp “Thursday, 8:37 a.m.” beneath the headline “Why almost everyone is wrong about how to survive any food shortage or crisis!”

When I took a job as a marketing assistant a few years back, my new boss told me on the very first day that “greed and fear are the two qualities that motivate people to action more than any other emotions – always remember that.” The marketing team behind “foodshortageusa.com,” clearly subscribes to this school of thought. Nobody in their right mind would spend $40 on what this site is actually selling: an instructional DVD two-pack on how to can and jar food. Just go to the library, a different Web site, or ask most grandmas if you want to get this information for free. However, promoting a “new food storage system” with DVDs that hold invaluable, possibly even life-saving, “Food Storage Secrets” necessary to survive the nation’s impending collapse to paranoid, right-wingers exemplifies a marketing campaign that understands its target customer base.

Beneath the first few fear-mongering paragraphs, an ominous photo of riot cops with the word “Policia” across their backs is accompanied by the caption “Will Canadian Troops be guarding U.S. food supplies this winter?” This bizarre query is neither contextualized nor elaborated upon within the main “article.” Who has time to worry about Spanish-speaking Canadian riot cops when we’re facing “the very real possibility of empty shelves during the first year of the new administration”?

Just in case you’re not sold by the promise of learning how to preserve 39(!) different kinds of meats, the site also links to several more “articles” underscoring the need for Food Storage Secrets by explaining that if you don’t have the inside tips on must-have skills like hiding your food stash from your neighbors, you’re practically begging for your family to die of starvation. Not wanting to offend the generous Christian sensibilities of their primary target audience, many of whom would likely be discomforted by the thought of letting their neighbors perish in the upcoming famine, Food Shortage Secrets offers the following anecdote to justify this troubling lapse into moral relativism: “In the depression some spoke of having a small dog that would go through culverts and flush out rabbits while the large dog at the other end dispatched the rabbit as it ran out. Sporting? Perhaps not…but if it comes to eating or not, how ethical will you be after not eating for 4 days?”

Impressed by the emotional imagery of sales pitch, I decided to track down my originally intended destination, “suvivalseedbank.com,” to see if the agrarian solution to the food crisis was being sold as vehemently as the canning DVDs. It may be hard to believe that an advertisement for seeds could make apocalyptic visions of rodent hunting seem tame in comparison, but the pitch for survival seeds is framed in such starkly dystopian terms that it made sharing rabbit meat with a large dog sound like a Sunday picnic.

“You don’t have to be an Old Testament prophet to see what’s going on all around us,” the site warns, with a knowing wink. “A belligerent lower class demanding handouts. A rapidly diminishing middle class crippled by police state bureaucracy. An aloof, ruling elite that has introduced us to an emerging totalitarianism which seeks control over every aspect of our lives.”  Soon, things will really start to go downhill, leading to the inevitable question: “Could you and your family get off the grid and survive in a panic?”

The solution is survival seeds, of course, but just like Jack and Beanstalk, these are no regular seeds. They have been “grown in remote plots, far from the prying eyes of the big hybrid seed companies… by small, fiercely independent farmers” and some of these seeds are even “up to five times as nutritious as hybrid varieties.” Once you harness the power of these explicitly non-GMO seeds “you’ll have confidence knowing that you and your family will be able to eat if the Insiders trigger some huge meltdown.” And, just in case this looming food system collapse/totalitarian coup has you feeling a bit paranoid, the site offers the comforting advice that your “Indestructible Survival Seed Bank Can Be Buried To Avoid Confiscation.”

As someone with politics of the far left persuasion, I initially found this apparently emerging trend of conservative survivalism sort of frightening, but mostly amusing. I don’t think the economy is suddenly going to go “back to normal” (nor would I want it to), but I don’t think supermarkets are months away from collapse either and I sure don’t consider spending $129 on a tube of seeds that could be found at any gardening supply store for a fraction of the cost to be a wise investment (“no discounts, even to FEMA or military personnel”).

However, as I reviewed the urgent, emotional messages being employed by the purveyors of Food Storage Secrets and Survival Seed Bank, I was struck by how many of these arguments, removed from their ideological setting, would resonate equally well with, well, people like me. The motivation to purchase these items is very intentionally driven by the fear of a bleak future and a deep skepticism that the government, mainstream media or big corporations would be our allies if the shit goes down, but the real promise here – the end goal – is empowerment. That premium on self-sustainability – it’s long been a core value of both extremes on the political spectrum. Is it a good thing that it seems to be raising its profile among more moderate citizens, as well? I haven’t done the research, but it seems safe to assume that we’ll see more and more people planting gardens and doing things like sewing old clothes back together instead of shopping for new ones and generally finding more creative and sustainable ways to be self-reliant.

Over the past few years, we’ve all seen how Hurricane Katrina illustrated the ineptitude of a government response to even a relatively minor crisis (and that was before the bubble popped).  The media failed miserably to warn us of the financial meltdown. It could go without saying that anger and cynicism towards the captains of industry is drastically more intense now than any other time in recent history. These are the facts where many on the right and left can find common ground. Could gardening provide another mutually agreeable topic? Is this fertile territory for breaking out of our comfort zones, at least temporarily, to discuss these issues instead of remaining firmly entrenched in our ideological bomb shelters? Perhaps. Just don’t ask those conservatives to share their food, especially if they’re eating rabbit.

[Note: The SuvivalSeedBank Web site has been updated since I wrote this a few days ago.]

Go Back to your Hole,You Crazy Ol’ Dick!

April 23, 2009

What a Dick!

In the last week or so, Dick Cheney has slithered out from the rock he ususally hides under to slam Obama repeately in the media. Cheney has criticized Obama’s economic strategy, his national defense policies and he even “told Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity that President Obama’s handshake with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ‘was not helpful’ and could lead ‘foes’ of the U.S. to ‘think they’re dealing with a weak president.'” (via Politico).

Gotta wonder what Cheney would have wanted Obama to do upon meeting Chavez… punch him in the face? Challenge him to a duel?

Anyway, these comments are pretty bold words from a guy who spent the last 8 years demolishing our economy, the constitution and his own party’s reputation. At this point, Cheney’s views on anything seem about as legit at financial tips from Bernie Madoff or dieting advice from Rush Limbaugh.

FAIL Brand

April 14, 2009

circuitcityfail

The goal of a successful brand is to have consumers associate a certain desired quality with that brand. BMW is luxury; Obama is hope; you get the idea. Depending on what or whom you’re trying to market, there is an endless spectrum of qualities that might be appropriate to associate your brand with, but the most successful brands focus on one quality and everything else feeds into that brand image.

Corporations spend huge chunks of their budgets building, launching and zealously protecting their brands. Sometimes these efforts are effective. A brand like Coke is so strong and popular that it has withstand decades of legitimate attacks attempting to sway the public from associating Coke with smiling polar bears and happy childhood memories to focusing on the Coca-Cola Corporation’s relationship with anti-union death squads in South America or water exploitation in India. Some brands, like Spam, AIG, or Blackwater end up so deep in the crapper that they can virtually never crawl out (In fact, Blackwater officially changed it’s name to Xe (pronounced “Zee”) and the CEO of AIG admitted to Congress a few weeks ago that that AIG name was now shredded beyond repair).

You would think that having a brand associated with bankruptcy would be bad thing, right? If you were to ask people what they think about “bankruptcy” they would probably say, “It sucks,” “Fuck that,” or “If that ever happens at my job, I’m gonna tell the boss to eat my shit on the last day of work.” Not exactly what you want people thinking about the plasma screen TV, bed sheets, or remote control can opener that you’re trying to sell them.

But the New York Times reports today that liquidators – or “asset recovery specialists,” as they prefer to be known – have actually found a booming market for brands of recently bankrupted companies, like Sharper Image, Circuit City and Linen n’ Things. The brands of these failed companies are pulling in big bucks – Systemax paid $30 million for the rights to use the CompUSA brand last year. The logic is apparently that people are more willing to trust a brand that they know (sucks) that an unknown brand and it’s cheaper to buy a failed brand than it is to build up a brand from scratch.

I just hope that someday FoxNews will go bankrupt, so I can buy their brand and use it to start marketing organic fertilizer with the tag line “FoxNews: Slightly less full of shit than before.”