Get the straightjacket!

Corporations in the United States are legally considered persons. So some documentarians from our friendly neighbors to the north asked themselves what kind of people, psychologically speaking, these corporate “persons” would be.

Their conclusion? They’re psychopaths.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

(Hey Vinegar Hill: it’s called The Corporation. You know what to do. Wink wink, nudge nudge…)


So I was in Kroger (the grocery store) the other day and the cashier asked if I had a discount card. I don’t, and I told her so. Most of the time, people accept this, but every once in a while, I run across a cashier who takes the initiative to let me know how much money I could be “saving”. On this particular occasion, I apparently would’ve paid less on every item. The elderly woman who checked out ahead of me even joined in, and voluntarily offered me hers, which I reluctantly accepted.

Well, I don’t have any of those discount cards, and I do know how much less I would pay for my groceries if I did. I used to have them, and I cut them up. And you know what? You should too. They’re not discount cards. They’re a form of blackmail that supermarkets use to pressure us to give them our personal information. There’s little evidence to suggest that they provide any kind of discount at all. “Regular” prices for items almost universally rise after card programs are instituted, and the “discount” prices with the cards often aren’t discounts at all.

Kroger’s program is supposed to be a program to reward customer loyalty, as they say, but here’s the funny thing: I’m a very loyal Kroger customer. I probably shop there 8 or 9 times out of 10, and I would gladly tell them (1) how often I came in and (2) how much money I spent each time, if it would help them figure out whether I’m a “loyal customer” or not. Heck, they probably could figure that out from my debit card receipts. But, no! That doesn’t matter! I’m forced to pay more because I’m unwilling to give them my address and an exact list of items I buy each time.

At first, when cashiers would ask me why I didn’t have a card, I would want to argue about it and make a point about how evil they were. I was truly shocked by the response I got, how often I apparently struck nerves. I could practically see people wondering if I had something to hide. I quickly learned to drop the subject when it came up, to pretend that I had just lost my card.

Well, I don’t have something to hide, but that’s not the point. The crux of the “do you have something to hide” argument is that the party you’re “hiding” from is an honorable one with honorable motives. If you want to hide from them, clearly you’re up to something Very Bad[TM]. And many people apparently have that kind of faith in their supermarkets, their pharmacies, their governments… and this is where I part ways with them. What about Tyco, MCI, Value America, Enron?

Distressingly, privacy is like virginity. You can’t get it back once you lose it. We are being forced to give it up bit by bit, by economic and legal pressure, privacy agreements and bonus cards and RFID tags, each step eroding our privacy rights. It’s slow, sometimes even unperceptable, but if we don’t fight each step, sooner or later those rights will be gone.

Make sure to list all of your references

I’m apparently not the only one who has noted our President’s lack of rhetorical ability. NPR‘s White House correspondent Don Gonyea had a few interesting questions for Bush during the primetime press conference held back in April.

Q Following on both Judy’s and John’s questions, and it comes out of what you just said in some ways, with public support for your policies in Iraq falling off the way they have — quite significantly over the past couple of months — I guess I’d like to know if you feel in any way that you’ve failed as a communicator on this topic? Because —

THE PRESIDENT: Gosh, I don’t know. I mean —

Q Well, you deliver a lot of speeches and a lot of them contain similar phrases, and they vary very little from one to the next. And they often include a pretty upbeat assessment of how things are going — with the exception of tonight’s pretty somber assessment, this evening.

THE PRESIDENT: It’s a pretty somber assessment today, Don, yes.

Q I guess I just wonder if you feel that you have failed in any way? You don’t have many of these press conferences, where you engage in this kind of exchange. Have you failed in any way to really make the case to the American public?

THE PRESIDENT: I guess if you put it into a political context, that’s the kind of thing the voters will decide next November. That’s what elections are about. They’ll take a look at me and my opponent and say, let’s see, which one of them can better win the war on terror? Who best can see to it that Iraq emerges as a free society?

[Emphasis is mine.] Note carefully the multiple talking points in Bush’s initial response.

Also, here is some interesting research on what exactly Bush was doing on September 11th.

“Comes wisdom through the awful grace of God…”

There are so many things about the current presidential administration I can’t stand that I could rant for days and days about it. (I just might, eventually.) But it’s not the war-mongering or privacy invasion or disregard for human rights or squandering of diplomatic goodwill with the world. No, the worst part is very simple.

It’s George W. Bush.

I have seen him do nothing in the three years of his presidency that would convince me he can express a cogent thought of his own. How many debates did Bush and Gore have in 2000? Bush’s more than willing to go on television and read prepared statements, but how often does he actually answer questions from the press? In the few situations where the political climate has demanded that he respond, he just responds to hardball questions by grabbing a handful of talking points and throwing them out like he’s feeding birds at the park. (If I hear “Saddam Hussein was an evil man” one more time, I’m going to explode.)

But that’s not the worst thing. Consider filmmaker Michael Moore’s take on Bush’s response to 9/11:

Conventional wisdom has it that the president was reading to schoolchildren when he got the news and quickly left the room.

The Moore version: He was informed of the first attack, went into the room anyway, was informed of the second attack, and remained with the students until a staff member suggested that he leave.

“The teacher in that Sarasota classroom happened to tape the whole event,” Moore told me. “We’d seen other footage from the networks, but it was all edited. She just left the camera running. She said nobody had ever asked her for the film. Bush didn’t instinctively jump up and go into action, but just stayed on autopilot until someone told him what to do.”

Now I understand that Moore’s hardly a nonpartisan observer. He’s got a very big axe to grind, which he does in an often heavy-handed manner. But he has this on videotape, for chrissakes!

I keep thinking back to what Robert Kennedy said the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. Kennedy got up and informed the crowd of King’s death, than proceeded to say perhaps the most calming, the most moving, the most healing thing anyone could have said. I don’t know if Kennedy spoke extemporaneously, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t imagine George W. Bush quoting Aeschylus. (I’m pretty sure Bush’s never heard of Aeschylus.)

And I realize that rhetorical skills alone aren’t sufficient to make a good president, but why aren’t they a requirement? Why is it wrong of us to wish that our leaders be capable of bringing us together, to speak eloquently about our collective pain or joy? Think about some of the other people who have been president: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, John Kennedy… It is nothing less than an insult to these great, eloquent men that George W. Bush is included in their number.


These days, the network executives have decided that they don’t need to build audiences for shows anymore. Unless 10 million people start watching a show immediately after it premieres–oh, and it doesn’t need any publicity, does it?–and continue to watch it as it bounces from time slot to time slot, that show clearly needs to be canceled right away. It doesn’t matter how well the show is written or acted, or how clever or original the storyline– if it doesn’t have the numbers RIGHT AWAY, it goes into the trash. (Okay, I’m specifically thinking about Wonderfalls here, but it’s a story that’s repeated itself with disturbing regularity nowadays.)

And when the dust settles, all you have left are generic police dramas, a few carbon-copy sitcoms, and “reality shows” (which is certainly the most evil television genre ever invented, and quite possibly a sign of the apocalypse). So it feels good to support the few good shows that are left, in the only way that TV executives apparently understand.

What he said

I was going to write a big long rant about the “abuse” at Abu Ghraib and the adminstration’s response to it: about how our president says we’re “free and transparent” and yet refuses prisoners– oh, I’m sorry “enemy combatants”– in Cuba, Iraq, and Afghanistan the slightest modicum of due process or legal protection. I’d mention the administrations’ incredible arrogance, blaming everyone but themselves and refusing to even apologize until they are forced to by political pressure here in the U.S…

I was going to go on for a while about this, until I saw that David already said everything I wanted to say (very eloquently, I might add). So go read his post, and then just imagine me shouting “Me too! What he said!”