Friday, April 21, 2006

Phone pranks for fun and profit

As Virgil Earp told the Clanton and McLowery boys just before the shooting started at the OK Corral: “This isn’t what I wanted!”

I have something about the Annual Act of American Extortion, otherwise known as taxes, on the way. As any real writer will tell you—and this amateur can confirm it—when one sits down and starts typing, what comes out is sometimes not congruent with the thoughts one had going in.

After recuperating from a minor back injury sufficiently to sit in front of HAL-9000 for more than five minutes, the first thing on my mind was:

It has long been contended that I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. I certainly don’t contest this assertion; if I had lived up to the potential of those childhood I.Q. tests, I’d have more money than Bill Gates. I wouldn’t be divorced in my 50s, rolling around in a wheelchair in an isolated shack atop a scorpion-infested hill in “Deliverance” country. Alas, my best thinking got me where I am today, so the revelation that landed on me recently came as no real surprise. What was mildly amazing was the length of time it took for me to figure out the right question to ask.

I have mentioned, in a long-past essay, the Hindu telemarketers who have plagued me for the past 2½ years. I have nothing against Hindus; for all I know, these people with Indian accents are Sikhs, or Moslems, or Christians. I find it somewhat bizarre that telemarketers from four different online drug companies seem to exclusively employ people of Indian extraction, but we’ll write that off to the dreaded outsourcing that is part of our modern, global economy.

In January of this year, I finally signed up on the National Do Not Call Registry [NDNCR]. I had tried every other ploy with the drug telemarketers: I was polite; I was sarcastic; I asked to speak to supervisors; I gave them Mrs. Trot’s telephone number; I asked the ex-wife to please tell her online drug dealers that my telephone number is no longer her telephone number. I started being cordial with the telemarketers, gradually wheedling the names of their companies, and some contact numbers, out of them. Now, when someone with an Indian accent calls and asks to speak to Mrs. Trot, I politely ask them “Is this ‘JMD Pharmacy’ from Jacksonville? Is it ‘RX Pharmacy’ from New York? Or is this the ‘U.S. Online Pharmacy’ who won’t tell me where you are located?” (These are their actual company names, for what it’s worth. I should be so lucky that they’d sue me for speaking poorly of them here. I’d love to get these folks into a courtroom!)

Once they have identified themselves, I thank the caller for providing me with the correct name to put on my next complaint to the Federal Trade Commission for their egregious violation of the Do Not Call Registry. I then go online, and fill out the complaint form at the NDNCR website. Since this program is administered by the same species of bureaucratic vermin who run FEMA and the Transportation Safety Administration, I do not expect much in the way of affirmative response to my complaints. However, as my lawyer friends would say, it’s perfecting the record for future reference.

One would expect that over a period of time, I might begin receiving fewer annoyance calls. Instead, the volume has actually doubled since January, escalating at times to as many as five calls per day. After one of these particularly frustrating days, when I had finished filling out my fifth complaint in 24 hours, I perused the NDNCR website carefully, looking for links where I might file further complaints. I re-read the FAQs and the regulations governing the Do Not Call Registry. That was when I had my epiphany.

Buried in the bureaucratic jargon is an advisement that the NDNCR does not apply to companies with whom I have done business in the past. I have never, do not now, or will I ever in the future do business with an online drugstore. In my angrier moments, I have screamed at their telemarketers that I’d rather die from cancer than trust my prescription needs to people who are too incompetent to get a telephone number right. As far as I know, before we were divorced, Mrs. Trot placed exactly one order with one online pharmacy, as a kind of trial balloon to see if it was efficient and cost-effective. Why, then, am I receiving constant calls from four different companies?

The next time one of these annoying calls came in, I politely asked if Mrs. Trot had given them this telephone number. “Why certainly!” came the reply. “That’s why we’re exempt from the regulations of this National Do Not Call Registry that you keep mentioning.”

I repeated this little Q&A with the other three companies, and got essentially the same reply. I had jokingly hit on the correct answer, in an offhand comment to a friend, before I knew to ask the question. I had sarcastically remarked that the increasing volume of calls suggests that Mrs. Trot is deliberately giving my unlisted, do-not-call-registered number to a plethora of online drugstores.

I was only kidding when I said it. The ex-Mrs. Trot is apparently not kidding.

I don’t consider changing my phone number to be a viable option. I’ve had it for a good number of years, and the hassle of trying to notify everyone who has it now would be incredible. As scrupulous as I might be, I’m sure someone would be forgotten, and left without a way of contacting me. Besides, like other little thoughtless acts of terrorism disguised as pranks, I shouldn’t have to change any aspect of my life to accommodate the whims of those committing such acts. I wrote at length on this in a March 1st post titled “Little Acts of Mindless Terror”.

I won’t speak ill of Mrs. Trot here, or anywhere else. I will point out that she is of Sicilian ancestry, and only one generation removed from the old country. Her parents were the first of both their families to be born in America, and her maternal grandmother never learned a word of English after immigrating here. Some stereotypes have a definite basis in fact, and when it comes to Sicilians and vendetta, those hackneyed archetypes are true. It’s a small shot that’s being taken, and certainly not a lethal one, but it echoes over the years since we went our separate ways. As I said at the beginning, I am not particularly surprised that she would do something like this. I am somewhat taken aback that it took me this long to figure it out.

I married Mrs. Trot twice, and we are now twice divorced. Shortly after the second divorce, our younger daughter and her new boyfriend paid me a visit. The young man was discreet enough to go examine my apple trees, giving me some private time with my kidlet. In the course of my asking after her mom, and her asking if there was any message I might need passed along to her, I said this, verbatim:

“I don’t want to get you all caught up in the middle this. It’s between your ma and me…I don’t know if you’ll understand what I’m going to tell you. I still love your mother. I just don’t like her very much any more.”

It made sense to her. I just wish I could understand it.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Last Word About Smoke in the Wind; an open letter to McKinney:

I am acquainted with an inordinate number of retired policemen. Those who remain on active duty, and still drive automobiles in the name of the law, scare the hell out of me. Your retired "bodyguard" doesn't intimidate me , nor do I think he scares the Capitol cops. I probably know the guy; he's he the first Black state trooper from whom Hosea Wlillams punched a tooth? (Hosey's gone now, so we shouldn't speak badly of the departed, but he did throw an aluminium clipboard into a state trooper's face during a traffic incident; the trooper was the first black man elected to the force. Hosey was a "civil rights leader", as you avow. Hosey broke the guy's tooth; what injuries have you inflicted, Cindy?)

Cynthia McKinney, you should give up the Jesse Jackson racist mud-slinging, now. You have violated Robert's First Rule of Order: "Don't wave at the cops, and don't shoot at The Army."

You didn't just wave; you slugged a cop, Cindy. I joked about you the other day, but those federal grand juries are vicious.

You are crossways with the law, and you are a stupid woman. If that makes me a politically incorrect racist, so be it. Play your victimization and racism cards; when the dust settles, you'll still be a stupid, defiant woman.

I thank God every day that you don't represent my congressional district. Surrender to the cops, and get back on your medication.

I am not cruel enough to compose this picture. It was a gift, from people outside our state who think you are the funniest thing since Bill McKinney's [Oh, the irony! Not one of your relatives!] line to Ned Beatty: "Can you squeal like a pig?" in that "Deliverance" movie.

I am so proud of you! People from around the world write to me, wanting to know what your problem is. I catch your heat, because I live in this state, too. You do not represent me in Congress, but you wallow in the misperception that you do so.

Thanks from all the little people...

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

An All Points Bulletin from UPI News

(Atlanta, Georgia—UPI) Capitol police in Washington, DC have issued a nationwide all-points bulletin for Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, charging her with assaulting an officer at a security checkpoint. Ms. McKinney is alleged to have struck the Capitol building police officer with a cell phone after he attempted to stop her from entering the Capitol building while not wearing her congressional identification badge.

In a press conference from an undisclosed location, Ms. McKinney refuted the charges, claiming she is a victim of racial profiling and “inappropriate touching” by the security officer. “I changed my hairstyle, and that dumb [deleted] doesn’t recognize me any more,” Ms. McKinney declared. “I’ve been in Congress for years, representing the good people of Georgia, and just because those dumb cops screen thirty thousand people a day in the Capitol, it doesn’t excuse them not recognizing me. It’s those Republicans, out to get me because I told the public about President Bush’s prior knowledge of the September eleventh attacks. I wouldn’t be surprised if this crude racial profiling is a parting shot from that unconvicted felon Tom Delay. The culture of corruption in Washington has reached the point that an innocent African-American woman can’t go to work without being grabbed by some cop.”

Following a brief appearance on “FOX & Friends” Wednesday morning, where she steadfastly refused to answer any direct questions about the alleged assault, Ms. McKinney dropped out of sight. She is rumored to have returned to the 4th congressional district of Georgia. Located in the People’s Republic of Atlanta, an autonomous black homeland in the southern United States, the 4th district is what Ms. McKinney’s father, Billy, refers to as “her roots”.

“This is an obvious extension of the white, Jewish racist conspiracy that voted Cindy out of office a few years ago,” former congressman Billy McKinney stated. “My baby girl wouldn’t have hit that pig without a good reason.”

At the close of her press conference, Ms. McKinney displayed a copy of Mao Tse-Tung’s Little Red Book, a discredited Chinese communist manifesto, and what appeared to be an IED constructed around a cellular telephone.

“The next time somebody tries to grab me, I’m going to go upside their head with one of these,” Ms. McKinney warned. “The book’s going to hurt, but this older model cell phone will put someone into a world of hurt.” The congresswoman then fled the press conference, saying she had an urgent meeting with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, and was therefore unable to answer questions.

Capitol police, fearing that Ms. McKinney’s fugitive status would keep her off of her medication for a period of time that might result in her becoming a threat to herself and others, issued urgent appeals for the congresswoman to return to the District of Columbia.

Congressional minority leader Nancy Pelosi and members of the Black Congressional Caucus were unavailable for comment. Late this afternoon, Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss issued a statement praising Ms. McKinney’s public service: “Cynthia McKinney has done for the image of Georgia politics what the movie ‘Deliverance’ did for tourism in our state. Her contributions to her party should not be underestimated.”
Law enforcement authorities describe Ms. McKinney as "a master of disguise". While thought to be an African-American female, Ms. McKinney is alleged to be able to assume the race or gender of other ethnic groups as she deems appropriate. She is described as armed and dangerous, and should be approached with caution. Civilians are urged to maintain a safe distance, and notify local authorities if they sight Ms. McKinney.

—© 2006—United Possums International—

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Fate Worse Than Death

I have a devil of a time spelling this guy’s name. I’ll go with the Reuters spelling: Zaccariah Moussaoui. Let's call him "Zach".

This is a mentally troubled individual who wants to die. He is disavowed by his terrorist cohorts, and described as someone possessed of significant intelligence. He is painted as an Al Qaeda wannabe, and his story constantly shifts regarding his role in the events of 9/11. Some people say he is a bright guy who knows exactly what he’s doing; others say he’s a sick puppy looking for approval in the worst possible way.

Having been declared eligible for the death penalty, he may be committing “suicide by cop.” In America, only the police, and the state, are authorized to exercise lethal force upon a malefactor.

There are those who argue that giving Zach the Really Big Shot will degrade his desire to be a martyr. Death by lethal injection, without taking a number of infidels down in some grand apocalypse, will not honor the bizarre tradition of Islamic martyrdom.

If you have some insane notion that life is no longer worth living, and you lack the intestinal fortitude to take and hold a mouthful of water, and put a bullet through your teeth, then the police will accommodate your desire. Cops are not a bloodthirsty assassin cult; they are devoted to saving lives. They are also front-line troops, and outside of the military armed forces, they are among the few who are legally authorized to exercise lethal force in the performance of their duty.

Suicide is a cowardly act. We may think our lives mean little to a very few, but opting out at an early stage causes immense emotional damage to those who care about us…and yes, they are there, no matter what we think in those dark moments. God gave you that kitchen; go take the heat. You’re a long time dead…these few moments of life are priceless.

“Suicide by cop” is relatively easy, and a double act of cowardice. Taking your own life is one thing; forcing a stranger to do it is another six-pack of possums. At the cutting edge, all you need to do is go into a public place, and start acting crazy, with a threat of lethal force against innocents. Take hostages, or start cutting people down. Someone will call the police, and they will approach cautiously. They’ll beg you to give up, and get some help for whatever ails you.

Draw down on them, charge them with an edged weapon, or threaten an innocent bystander, and those cops will exercise their option of lethal force. Congratulations! You have just committed suicide by cop. Since you’re a dead coward, you don’t have to think about the officer who will go home that night, and see your face for the rest of his life because you forced him to kill you.

Islamofascists think like space aliens. Death, for them, is glorious.

There is a higher form of “suicide by cop”. The state can execute you, if you behave badly enough. If you don’t go out like a gunfighter, and surrender to stand trial, the state can condemn you to the ultimate penalty. Even taking the needle can be a glorious martyrdom, if the penalty is administered by infidels.

As satisfying as it would be to put Zaccariah Moussaoui to death, I have a better idea.

The federal Bureau of Prisons [BOP] operates a super-max prison in Florence, Colorado. Inmates there literally have to have sunlight piped to them underground. It’s an expensive proposition, but I think we should bury Zach there for the rest of his natural life. It’s the ultimate punishment: he does not get to become a martyr. He is effectively isolated from any comments to his Al Qaeda brotherhood. He will spend the rest of his days contemplating his missed opportunity to become a glorious martyr for Allah. He will spend the rest of his naturally appointed life eating beans, walking in imported sunshine, and wishing he’d died for the cause. Suicide at that point becomes moot; if dying for “The Cause” is all, then denial of that means is the ultimate punishment. A noose of bedsheets is dishonorable, and there is no grand apocalypse available from John Gotti’s old prison cell thirty feet underground.

I am all for the termination of terrorists. It’s a simple solution to a complex problem, and it breaks terror with terror, which is the ultimate solution. Anyone caught in the act should be dropped on sight.

In the case of Mr. Zach, who had the misfortune to fall into our hands alive, I think the ugliest thing we can do to him is deny him the opportunity to die for his cause, and to also deny him any sort of media forum to exhort his fellow terrorists. That super-max federal prison in Colorado accomplishes both aims at once. Give Zach the Rudolph Hess treatment. To paraphrase The Bible, let him wallow in lamentation for the rest of his days. It’s a fate worse than death.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Worse than a root canal...

I held off on this post, because I didn’t want to distract from the previous one about immigration. I was going to say a few words about French fries redux, but why bother? In America, political negotiations are conducted via character assassination and yelling at each other. In Iraq, blowing things and people up is a form of negotiation. In France, it’s rioting in the streets. I guess they enjoyed the Muslim riots so much, the generic French young people decided to throw their own weenie roast.

Ah, but I digress, right off the bat. Who cares about the French? People who eat snails and frogs ain’t right. ‘Nuff said.

I had my first root canal the other day. This is a procedure that apparently involves sticking white-hot needles into the sockets of the eyeballs, while simultaneously running high-amperage 440 volt electricity through the jaws. And those sensations occurred before the anesthetic wore off. I have been seriously injured in my life, and they say the body has no memory of pain, but I am hard pressed to think of anything that ever caused such acute, sheer agony. The broken tooth that led to the root canal was relatively painless in comparison. And to think, I volunteered for this exercise in masochism, and even paid for it…

This was on a Thursday. I spent Friday in bed, eating soft toast so I could take aspirin without destroying my stomach. By Saturday, I was semi-ambulatory. I indulged my mania for cooking, which is always therapeutic. I experimented with variations on mush, so I could take in some nourishment without screaming and alarming the neighbors at the foot of Scorpion Hill.

Some hours after sunset that evening, I finally stopped whimpering and transitioned from my wheelchair into my easy chair. Click the TV remote, and we have: Henry Rollins and Larry the Cable Guy, back to back. Okay, comedy specials. I need comedy…I need a chuckle to make me forget that upholstery nail the dentist has driven into my upper mandible.

I have no idea who Henry Rollins is, or what he’s ever done. The name sounded vaguely familiar, like he might have played in a rock & roll band in the ‘60s, or something. Maybe he was the bass player for Canned Heat, or Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Nope. He’s too young for that. I guess I’m culturally deprived. This guy does a stand-up routine. I hesitate to call it comedy, although some folks in his live audience were laughing. What I saw was 90 minutes of an assault on conservative values, with a few mildly amusing anecdotes thrown in for leavening. At one point, I tuned away, when Mr. Rollins’s remarks about Laura Bush crossed the line.

“That smile…she’s done a half bottle of Stoli and two Prozacs…by eleven in the morning…the Prozac is to keep her ‘even’, and the Stoli is…[reference to oral sex that won’t see print here]…”

Okay, the Libertarian exercises his prerogative, and changes channels. My blood pressure was running high enough to make the belabored tooth start throbbing again. I watched a few minutes of Clint Eastwood as “Joe Kidd’, then had a passing thought: if I can sit through a root canal without screaming and assaulting the dentist, I can see what else this Rollins mook has to say. I hit the recall button, and braced myself.

Henry Rollins is the darling of the Independent Film Channel [IFC]. If you have cable, or a satellite dish, you probably know these folks. They think Michael Moore is God, and Quentin Tarantino is the Holy Ghost. Today, 1 April 2006, is an appropriate day to remark on Mr. Rollins. He has been given his own television show on IFC. It starts tonight.

I sat through an hour and a half of this guy’s rubbish, because I was stunned with the post-trauma of some intense oral surgery. The people in his live audience laughed and applauded, most loudly when he made some remark about FOX News or President Bush. Dogs lap up their vomit, and some people seem to love Henry Rollins. In the spirit of transcendence, I suppose we can write this off to diversity of opinion. He called the president a corrupt liar, and demanded documentation for anything Mr. Bush has ever said. At the same time, he offered absolutely no references of his own. It was The World According to Henry.

We are all egocentric. To deny one’s sense of self, and declare “I’m a selfless person who cares only for others” is to invite disillusionment and disaster. Okay, so we have the world according to Henry, and we have the world according to Possum. History will judge whose glasses were cleaner.

I suffered through boring, sleep-inducing classes in high school and college. I have suffered through massive, sudden traumas that would likely have killed other people. I have missed many other Very Bad Things by a thin, fine hair. Sitting through 90 minutes of some comedic darling of Those People should be an exercise in boredom, right?

It was worse than a root canal.

If you want to attack the president, have at it. The last time I checked, the First Lady doesn’t make policy, although the She-devil of The Usual Suspects tried awfully hard. And…if you’re going to call someone a corrupt liar, it’s best to have a documented comeback just in case they call you on it.

Just at the time Henry Rollins is wrapping his [taped] live performance, Larry the Cable Guy is showing up on the Comedy Channel. He was also in front of a live audience, and the Comedy Channel does bleep some of the saltier words, as opposed to IFC’s policy of “uncut…uncensored.” Fine by me; there are no children remaining in the Possum Den, and every decent American has that remote box on the TV tray, so they can exercise their First Amendment franchise.

Larry is—allegedly—a hog farmer from somewhere in the heartland of America. I’m thinking Missouri; he was on FOX, and gave his real name and everything, but I don’t take notes on the particulars. He was promoting something; a book, a tour, an album…I forget. He kept it clean for FOX; his onstage persona was definitely saltier. Can you say “bull…” without adding the second stand-alone word?

Larry used his terms sparingly, and got great response when he did call a spade a spade. He riffed about nude beaches, genital shaving, and trying on thongs at Victoria’s Secret, but he did it in a way that flew, most of the time. He got laughs from his audience—including me—without having to resort to personal attacks. His routine was just the antidote I needed for Henry Rollins.

I am not the first person to declare that Those People have no sense of humor. Nor will I be the last. They sit there and scowl, even when they’re doing what I’d kill to do: appearing on radio and TV. Everything is so damn serious to them. They don’t just sulk because they have lost power, and have no credibility with what’s left of mainstream America; they whimper because they see the whole world going to hell in a handbasket, and they’re disappointed that no one acknowledges that they alone have the only solution. They can’t tell a joke; they need one explained to them. They regard ironic, self-deprecating humor as a confession of sorts, while declaring themselves to be the Masters of Irony.

I thank God every day for my little bit of life in the post-Post-Modern world.

Maybe it’s a symptom of the dreaded mid-life crisis, but I have come to realize that the world has been going to hell since I was born in the 1950s, and it will still be devolving when I draw my last breath. No one can save the world; just when you think you’ve got ‘er done, to paraphrase Larry, the sun will flame out in about 23,000,000,000 years, and burn our progeny to cinders.

Larry the Cable Guy likes to say “Get ‘er done!” a lot in his live act. He also calls bovine fertilizer what it is, in no uncertain terms. He gets bleeped.

Henry Rollins is a scumbag. Scum grows on ponds, as algae, and bags are receptacles for various items. So, that ain’t cussin’, exactly. Larry TCG is funny, because he addresses human issues that really concern us, like shaving your girlfriend’s back. I don’t need some know-nothing to tell me what’s wrong with Iraq, gay marriage, FOX News, or the immigration amnesty. Like Al Franken laundering campaign money through Air America and the largesse of George Soros, Rollins is given a forum without definition or documentation. If it sounds funny, say it. Someone will laugh.

I’d rather have another root canal than listen to another Henry Rollins monologue.

Playing to the lowest common denominator is the surest way to get stuck on stupid, as the new cliché goes.

I held this little review back, so visitors could read the last post without distraction. I’m not through with this immigration nonsense. Every time I hear “guest workers” cross someone’s lips, I cringe. I heard some spinster mouthing the other day that it will take school buses lined up, bumper-to-bumper, from here to the moon to deport 11,000,000 illegal aliens.

Hey! Do it by increments! Those protests, where the army of the reconquista is waving those flags from a sovereign, foreign country, is a good place to start.