Wednesday, December 28, 2011

IF IT’S THE THOUGHT THAT COUNTS...


December 28, 2011

By the time you’ve joined the line at the returns counter, the guy who brought you the wrong sized slippers has already waddled off back to the North Pole with his overworked reindeer. Absolutely knackered.
But you’re tired too, weary of doing this every year with stuff that doesn’t fit or presents you just plain don’t like. So you’ll take the money instead. Isn’t that what Christmas gifting is all about these days?
And who hasn’t noticed that while there might be 20-odd store clerks at the checkouts there’s only one at the returns desk. Some folks see the long line and give up the wait. “Santa? I told that wooly-headed old chimney clown my size. These jeans are gargantuan. They’d fit him rather than me – and you could probably squeeze a few elves in there too.”
Returns is one game, re-gifting another. Many people do it and it’s entirely possible for that unwanted bottle of elder wine you offloaded to come back to you after one or two intermediate giveaways. And, if you’re lucky, maybe even unopened.
A year ago a friend made me a late Christmas present of a “Beuatful Green Stimware Set”, which is what it said on the box above the Chinese picture-writing. Trouble was the colored stems were attached to the bowls at odd angles, so that these wine glasses stood on the table looking like sad skinny leprechauns with their big, empty heads hung low. Why, thanks a lot, Maggot. Your good heal... oops! It tipped over. Luckily we had toasted her with appropriately cheap supermarket “champagne”, so no great loss. Looking inside the box later, we discover the original message: “To Maggie. Merry Christmas. Hank.”
There are many such brow-furrowing tales and there’s even an art to re-gifting, as set out by authoress Barbara Bitela. Some folks see Christmas as a time to clear out their closets. Old clothes. Fruit bowls. That Georgia Bulldogs Garden Gnome. One woman was given a meat grinder with bits of old meat in it. So if it’s the thought that counts – think twice.
That’s the trouble with late Christmas presents. Even if it looks new-ish, at the back of your mind is often the suspicion that here’s something the giver received a few days earlier and decided to dump on someone. And you’re the lucky victim.
It’s a feeling that there’s something odd, even with timely gifts, especially clothes that might fit but feel kind-of “wrong”. And here I should mention someone I used to know who’s the Dowager of Disgusting. She buys the latest fashions, wears them to the seasonal parties, taking care to keep all the tags tucked inside and tries to avoid “christening” them with food and wine.
Then she returns them to the store for a refund. Yeccchh. Not only is this mega-cheezy but it’s also unsanitary. How’d you like to buy a dress new, that, unbeknownst to you, had someone else’s sweat in it? Perhaps even lice.
There are those who see only the money. Among them the folks who bought up hundreds of celebrated chef Heston Blumenthal’s scrumptious Christmas puddings for $20 and sought to sell them on eBay for 25 times that amount. There were some buyers, but it would serve these opportunists right if they were stuck having Christmas Pud for breakfast, lunch and dinner until June.
Cakezilla was a multicolored 13-lb 16-inch confection topped with oodles of icing and fluorescent candies that could easily have passed for an alien spacecraft. The glistening behemoth touched down three times on its voyage along I-20 and wound up in Monroe.
This home-made torte spaceship was first presented at Thanksgiving, handed on, uneaten, as a Christmas gift, then forwarded, again untouched, as an New Year’s gateau to another lucky family. Cake Encounters Of The Third Kindness. And here we knew the person who actually baked the beast: mom had made it for her son.
As an after-Christmas gift, the ex-wife (Cruella, or whatever her name was)
gave me a brass “F” paperweight and I’m convinced it was a message that had nothing to do with my name. Apparently the new broomstick I got her was not appreciated.
One of the presents I received this time around was a $5 multitool. Which was nice. Except the giver felt he just had to spin me a tale about how he had really wanted to get me an $80 belt like his own but didn’t know my measurement. We’ve been good friends for the last five years and we’re the exact same size.
Do we give expensive presents to show we “care”? Then how about a car? We’ve all seen the commercials. But who gets a brand new vehicle for Christmas? And in this economy? Does anyone here in Walton County really shell out $20,000 or so for a present? I’d like to make that person my very best personal friend.
Which takes me back to my youth and the family who bought each other really extravagant items. Under the tree were cameras and hi-fi equipment and jewelry and all these goodies evoked gasps of glee as they were opened.
A month later, Christmas long forgotten, the recipients’ gasps were for another surprise – a bill in the mail. Only the down payment had been made on the glorious gift they received. So now there was a two-year responsibility to keep up the instalments or have that Christmas prezzie repossessed. You hated it? Too bad. Keep paying.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO MY DETRACTORS


December 21, 2011

First off, let’s sum up: I am a brave snake whom a local church elder wants the Arabs to kill. I’m ignorant. I need a history lesson and I observe a bankrupt culture. How much more worthless can one be?
What I’ve learned in writing this column is that it’s not okay to call for hatemongers to restrain themselves, for doctor-killers to lay down their arms or for folks to become more skeptical.
Constraint and moderation are dirty words. I never knew that. Reasonable Republicans are no better than Obama, I’m advised. When I call for peace on earth I’m an extremist.
It’s not kosher to wish non-Christians a Happy Christmas. This holiday is exclusive. Keep Jesus and Santa away from those ugly unbelievers.
How come I didn’t know the Nazis were lefties (was it because they weren’t?). And boy, was I wrong about those Sarah Palin rallies. I’m now instructed that the communists and socialists were behind all that anger, not the folks who showed up armed, calling for our president to be assassinated. And it’s perfectly fine to issue death threats against him or Democrats even though that would be a terror crime netting you five years in the pokey.
I‘m told that Palin fans who spat on black congressmen were not being violent regardless of Georgia law that classes it as battery. And a likely felony too, because it’s also a hate crime.
How do I know all these things? From the letters of certain readers of this newspaper.
Jim Burleson wants me to be “slaughtered” in Syria. I bear you no malice, Sir, and I forgive you for knew not what you wrote; when you penned that veiled threat you weren’t in control of your emotions. You’re a leader at your church, the Summit, so I assume that you’re normally a man of peace and piety. In this time of goodwill I will pray for you.
I bless them that curse me (Luke 6:27-31 KJV).
Local republican chairman Roy Roberts calls me a “looney” and a snake. He implies I’m a Godless heathen and then accuses me of the very thing he’s doing. I would read the rest of this gentleman’s undeserved obloquy but I can’t find my glasses.
I know you are but what am I? (apologies to Pee Wee Herman). No, no, I think I’ll leave the name-calling to the infants. However: “Lai shuo shi fei zhe - bian shi shi fei ren”. Ancient Chinese proverb: What Peter says about Paul tells more about Peter than Paul (I didn’t know there were ancient Chinese guys named Peter or Paul).
Mike Crone, local tea party secretary, calls me “brave” for writing this column while surrounded by conservatives. What, Sir, are you saying exactly?
In an astounding reversal, Fox News, the corporate propaganda channel, now supports our president and the lefties. I never knew that, but it’s what Mr Crone boldly declares in his letter. So the fierce Obama-bashing we see on Fox is just a ploy? Wow! That’s some artful dodge, pretending day-in-day-out that you loathe the guy when in fact you’re backing him. I’m not sure I could keep up such a masquerade for one minute.
Mr Crone, who is unaware the Nazis sent their enemies the Socialists to the death camps, wants to teach me history. If I might please politely decline...
Call me a nose-in-the-air head-in-the-sand know-it-all stick-in-the-mud fuddy-duddy or call me Brash Brit, but I still prefer the old ways: honesty, integrity, doing the right thing, and open, civilized discussion...
Instead, I’ve seen in this newspaper ad hominem attacks on my fellow journalists from some in the community who ought to act more like Southern gentlemen.
“Robbie Schwartz, your liberalism is showing.” What, like “your fly is open”? Worse than that? And anyway, so what! As though liberalism is something to be ashamed of, embarrassed about. Quite the opposite, Mr Bob Hunt. Liberalism is compassion, caring for others, loving thy neighbor. All the Christian things.
Loganville tea partygoer Donald Ashworth wants to see my lip buttoned; he’s written demanding this column be canceled because it’s “trash”. Hey, Wehner’s not saying what I’m saying so shut him up!
I don’t think that’s quite how it works, squire. And I wish folks wouldn’t distort my words and then attack me for something they themselves just fabricated.
This is America, so I hope our good folk will continue to write in. Because this newspaper is a perfect open forum for y’all’s ideas and counter-ideas that could improve our country and our county. Disagree, by all means. But it’s Christmas, so c’mon guys, easy on the name-calling, it’s so unproductive.
There are no snakes on the Walton Tribune. Just journalists who seek the truth and report and comment on developments as they see them for the benefit of the community.
Nothing is really that complicated, although it does require a bit of our time to unravel the web of confusion spun so deliberately and expertly by the forces that seek to rein in our freedoms.
So, friends and nay-sayers, do make your point as long as it’s based on straight facts and rational argument, not just slogans and insults. Simply parroting Fox News without checking isn’t good enough. People echo Limbaugh and O’Reilly. They quote Hannity, Boortz, Beck...
I wish they would just quote themselves.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

XING OUT THE CHRISTMAS X FACTOR


December 14, 2011

Tis the season of goodwill and yet I need to clear the air about something that continues to make me so very, very X. It’s a practice that’s become increasingly prevalent in our helter-skelter wannit-now society and you see it all over the place at this time of year.
It’s the use of an X for cross, as I did in the preceding paragraph to express my annoyance, but also, most disturbingly, an X for Christ. So we have Xmas. An absolutely abhorrent abbreviation; I never have used it and never will, not even when scribbling in the greatest haste. There’s just something irreverent about it, almost insulting – and it might be a good idea to be careful when taking a chance on offending God.
Xmastime is when Xians celebrate the birth of X? Not plain old ubiquitous Mr X but X the Savior, X the Redeemer. Yes, Jesus X, the son of God born in a manger to the Virgin Mary. That X.
And taking the next logical, albeit oh-so-ridiculous, step, Easter marks the time X died on the X for our sins? Puh-lease.
Who in tarnation came up with that contraction and how rushed must you be to avoid taking the time to write out “Christ” in full? Cutting it short might be far more excusable were His name to be similar in length to, say, Kaluannuunohonionio, god of human sacrifice, whom no Hawaiian would have dared call simply “K” lest he himself become the one having his head smashed in on the altar. But writing X to save just five letters? Can’t be bothered? I’m thinking come Judgment Day one of the Lord’s tests might be politeness. Perhaps even writing skills.
Can the X crowd not spell Jesus’ name? Somehow, I suspect that the people shrinking Christ down to a little-used letter near the end of the alphabet are the same holiday celebrants who illuminate their homes from chimney to basement with the most garish light displays...
But never set foot inside a church.
For these folks, Christmas is only about Santa and shopping and presents and reindeer and about outdoing their neighbors with incandescent, often incredibly tacky, opulence...
And among these we find the White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake, Texas putting on a splashy three-dimensional light display where regular operating costs can run $100,000 a week.
Christmas has been Disneyfied; front lawns adorned with inflatable oxen, lambs and roly-poly Santas ho-ho-ho-ing with their slightly Chinese electronic voices. My friend Paul Bannister’s nights are ruined by the folks across the street with their popping, flashing, chasing light display. In his half-sleep he probably thinks the police have finally tracked him down. The Chinese police.
X might find these displays wonderful, but I doubt Christ would. Midnight mass is more His style.
For many, Christmas means going to boozy parties and getting seriously sloshed. Celebrating the birth of Christ with a raucous “knees-up” - one of those wobbly pub dances - is some people’s way. But then absorbing a skinful of some potent neck oil makes Christmas no more special than whooping it up after your team’s big win.
There’s no religion involved, just letting your hair down, showing off, seeking to “be somebody” on the holiest day of the year that actually belongs to someone far more important.
Corporations using the X own our holidays. Mercifully, they haven’t yet invented the Happy Christmas Meal. Not yet. Come on kids, hurry up. Pin those McDonalds badges on and get in the car willyou. We booked this months ago for 10am and we only have half an hour before the next family gets our table.
Or the McChristmas takeaway. “Double beef McTurkey Wrap Combo heavy on the cran large X-cut fries and a medium Egg McNog. That’ll be $13.07. Second window. Please drive around.”
Here comes the man himself. Not the genial chimney chubby because he’s not all sooty, but what’s that under his white-trimmed red gown? You can clearly see ringed leggings. And big red boots. Hey, it’s Ronald McSanta. Hooray!
So whodunit? Who took the Christ out of Christmas and was it an attempt to secularize the festive day? Apparently not because there’s no record of Baby Jesus being born on December 25. Shepherds watched their flocks, as Luke wrote, but down Bethlehem way the herders never have slept out with their sheep during the c-c-cold winter months. However, if shepherds “washed their socks” by night, the way we sang the carol as mischievous tykes, then maybe...
Again, I don’t care that medieval monks used the X for Christ, or that Lord Byron wrote Xmas in 1811. Or that Oliver Wendell Holmes... Darn it, they should all have been more respectful.
And then I see the video that went viral of sailors longing for home who spelled out with their bodies on the deck of the British warship HMS Ocean the words ‘Merry Xmas’. It’s not right, lads, but it’s all right because you were homesick and maybe there wasn’t enough room on that cramped deck for Christ, just the X. So you’re excused - just this once and only by me. I can’t speak for the Lord.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

EATING OUR YOUNG. SHUNNING THE OLD


December 7, 2011

I don’t occupy Wall Street, I occupy my armchair with my tired behind and I’m ashamed of this because my head and my heart are out in the streets and in the squares with the people. I’m little more than a minuscule nanopercentage of the 99 percent but I am avowedly one of them. And I should be doing more than just cheering on these worried and bewildered Americans from the warmth of my home.
But they have youth and energy. I’ve enjoyed a life of opportunity that the young people are already aware will not be theirs because the runaway capitalist juggernaut that’s had its brakes disabled skedaddled with their future.
When every hope is gone, Gandhi wrote, prayer is real. Sure. But desperate people also act in a more earthly fashion. They protest.
Malicious politicians like Newt Gingrich tell the Occupy crowds to “take a bath”. You see the uninformed advising these folks to “just get a job”. Like what? Gravedigging, since people are always dying? Maybe a job competing with the children Gingrich has been saying he wants to put to work. That’s right, go wash dishes, clean toilets “until” something better comes along. There’s got to be a well-paid and satisfying position that utilizes your skills somewhere along the line, surely.
A lecture from the unknowledgeable who’re fortunate enough to actually be employed today. How convenient for folks still in work to look down on those who aren’t, to insult them with simple epithets. How snotty. I think I’ll ignore that kind of brainless advice. Let’s hear these low-information Einsteins repeat their mantra when they, too, fall through the cracks, and the cracks are opening up everywhere, earthquake-style. One person in every eleven is unemployed today against one in 20 just ten years ago. In Georgia it’s every tenth person: at least one of our immediate neighbors is jobless.
Our military coming home to rampant unemployment are among the most numerous and most disenchanted protesters because they fought for a different, purer, America, not the United States of Greed. Moreover, the Occupiers in general are all ages and from all ethnicities and income groups.
Jobs are a terrifying problem in this country and those affected are crying out, yet they’ve resisted attempts by politicians to co-opt their movement because it isn’t aligned with either party. They want to change the entire system. Get the money out of politics and have a government that’s truly representative of the people in place of our current, thoroughly corrupt, structure that makes a mockery of the word “democratic”.
What if all the work – not just in the factories but also in the engineering, executive and other fields – is no longer in this country? And anyone who doesn’t believe this is already happening should count the number of Chinese and Indian students at Georgia Tech where a class of 40 includes only a handful of Americans. Same at Georgia State, where the math, science and physics classes are overwhelmingly Asian. Their governments pay for them to learn here, then yank them back home to put their skills to good use.
Our society is different. It’s all to do with money. Who can afford $100,000 for four years of college? Plus living expenses. This is what’s bringing the young people out onto the streets because if they even get into college they leave heavily in debt with no job in sight.
Learning in America today is prohibitively costly for our sons and daughters, even if they use some of their study time doing menial jobs to pay for books, supplies, accommodation.
I know a 22-year-old in that category, doing manual labor with an aching back that might be sciatica because that was the diagnosis years ago at George Walton Academy, but the pain is far worse than that. What is it? How serious? He should find out for sure with an MRI but has to choose between the $500 deductible on his insurance or spending that money on tuition. So he suffers, hoping his spine will hold up until a decent job makes diagnosis and treatment affordable.
Not right you say? That’s what I say. And that’s what the scholars among the Occupy Wall Street contingents say. We have college grads saddled with enormous student loan debt being denigrated by the unenlightened. That and being brutalized by sycophantic authorities doing the bidding of the moneyed interests that own this country.
It isn’t just the young. Watching the various Occupy gatherings you’ll see ‘em all if your TV isn’t just locked on to Fox News. There are many old people voicing a similar quandary, only their choice is between buying food or medicine. One or the other.
Again not right? Well, that all depends on whether we’re human or not. Several animal species eat their young, many shun their sick, their old, even kill them off. Survival of the fittest. And that is what differentiates us from God’s other creatures, although, listening to the “me and mine” rhetoric that’s so common these days, I’m not so sure.
“Hey, I’m not sharing my stuff. I worked hard for it. Keep back. Go get your own. Can’t afford it? Tough. Begone with you. I’m keeping all of mine and you’re not getting any of it, so git!”
Whoa! Forgot to add the beastly word capping that little outburst. Here it is...
“Grrrrrr!”

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

MANGLED AT MACYS, KO’D AT K-MART


November 30, 2011

Black Friday is but a dark memory already, thankfully, because I’ve seen the light. What a relief to be able to hunt for good deals now without getting a sudden painful elbow in the gut or a handbag in the schnozz.
I’m giving the apres-Thanksgiving bloodbaths a miss after this year: no wish to spend a freezing night outside some store in order to emerge with nothing but high-heel-shaped indentations in my back. Or even engage in what one might call Intense Shoulder Jousting with other frenzied shoppers.
“You went to Macy’s? What’d you get?” Maced. Some police lieutenant pepper-sprayed me to clear himself a path to the doughnut counter. Can you imagine? And I was only on my way to Men’s Shoes!
I don’t need anything that badly. Or if I do it’s not worth battling the enraged bull grannies and being slapped around the face with that underarm female flab the British call bingo wings. We’ve all seen the news footage of bargain-hunters foaming at the mouth as they wrestle over garments and toys, and the videos of crowds actually breaking down the store doors, physically.
Onrushing hordes can kill. Rabid New York shoppers smashed a Walmart front door down and trampled a greeter, and at a California Toys R Us two guys whose wives were fighting shot each other to death. Women shoppers have been paralyzed, had miscarriages and other serious injuries.
Those crazy closeouts are tumultuous free-for-alls with women the most lethal. Normally demure ladies become fevered wolverines at the merest whiffette of a bargain. I’ve known quite a few like that; they crook their little pinky when they take tea in dainty flowered cups, but then... who’s that dragon at the big sale? It’s a transformation that Dr Jekyll would envy.
Even at the smaller clearance events you cannot let these femmes off the leash in a mall. Notwithstanding, it would be most rewarding to see teenaged thugs run for their lives before such an onslaught.
The physical danger is far less at the January sales with granny stampedes only rare these days. But the downside here is that you wind up buying more than you intended; you want to snap up all the goodies. And yet, are sale items worth the hassle? They’re often end-of-the-liners, about to be overtaken by the new model, but sure, there are bargains to be had.
Am I being age-ist? Perhaps sexist in singling out women as the most violent? Maybe, but Rudyard Kipling knew that in 1911 when he wrote: “The female of the species is more deadly than the male.” He wasn’t just talking about she-bears and I’m not singling out grandmothers: it’s just that that is the caricature.
The original Black Friday was on a previous week, November 18, 1910 and in England. It featured determined women too: these made up a 300-strong delegation of Suffragettes petitioning Parliament for voting rights who were met instead with police violence. Two women died and 200 were arrested.
I’m through with the annual struggle, though. In fact I’m never going to attend those kinds of sales ever again. In my diary Black Friday is blacklisted, even though many stores are now opening at midnight, or even late on Thanksgiving Day itself. And here’s my beef about that: what about the poor souls of low end retail who’re now forced to work on this, one of America’s most treasured holidays?
It’s our old friend Greed. One of the seven deadly sins and so prevalent in our present-day society. The merchants covet more money, so they “invite” their store clerks to work on a day they themselves share with their relatives.
Macys, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target and many others opened at midnight, their clerks required to come in at least an hour before. “Sorry, Mom, I know you got here yesterday and you need to go back tomorrow. Yes I’m aware it’s a 2,000 mile round trip just for Thanksgiving with me and the kids, but I have to go to work. I really need this job.”
Point made.
Let’s now look at whether it’s even worth a dirty, shivering night on the sidewalk to get a good deal and the answer is no and here’s why.
Advertised items are sometimes nowhere to be found, a tactic of the bait-and-switch variety. Among the cheap-and-nasties and the cheap-and-cheerfuls on offer are other items that have been reduced hardly at all in price, often TVs that those crafty retailers are trying to deceive you into buying. They also impose stricter rules on returns and therefore it’s vital to ask for an individual gift receipt for each item.
Doorbusters don’t mean freebies, as many will have discovered this year. Cyber Monday is to Black Friday what turkey sandwiches are to turkey – with higher prices. And Black Friday prices themselves are almost always beaten during the year. But the advice I follow is to go online, because it’s all available there. Year round.
So in future I think I’ll pass on this opportunity to be flattened a la Tom & Jerry by a trundling herd of baying belles.
However were someone to put out a $5 video of these skirmishes I’ll buy it. Hopefully with titles like Bargain Babes vs. Checkout Chicks, Dropkick Hotties Of Blood Mall and Clash of the Bingo Wings.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

GIVING THANKS TO OUR WARRIORS


November 23, 2011

So we sent 4,500 of our young people off to their deaths. We killed 100,000 citizens of a country that had done nothing to us except stick out its tongue and call us names. Our giant oil companies tried and failed to purloin that nation’s natural resources. In all, the Iraq war has been a total disaster. But Yay! We... showed... ‘em?
Did we really? Because now it’s over we’re worse off than when we started.
It’s our own fault for never questioning the lie from Mssrs Bush and Cheney that Iraq already had terror weapons and was about to go nuclear.
While we’re all paying now for their duplicity, those who pay the most are the people we sent to fight. We cheered them on, but only to the point where they epitomized all that was wrong with this war. And then we turned our backs on them: today 32,000 veterans are wounded and 30,000 homeless and there’s a backlog of a million disability claims..
You’d think this nation would reward its servicemen this time around but do we?. Not in 1975 either. Vietnam was another hopeless involvement in which 58,000 true Americans gave their lives. Those who returned? We spat in their faces
Today we slash benefits. That’s the reward our heroes get instead of a faceful of phlegm. Writing for this newspaper, retired Colonel Allan Shapiro spotlighted the latest insult. The government plans to claw back $27 billion by increasing military folks’ annual health deductibles tenfold to $3,000 and tacking on heavy co-pays and “enrollment fees”. Medical treatment and retirement pay also face cuts.
The country can’t afford it, is the excuse. Why wasn’t this mentioned before invading Iraq?
And demanding greater sacrifice from those who already give so much is a less than compelling recruitment tool; no wonder the rookies are staying home in droves.
Our warriors past and present champion an America where there’s hope. They crave a home and a job; instead we give them medals, yellow ribbons, empty words of praise, cuts...
And also scorn. Listen to the Republican debate audience in Orlando booing soldier Stephen Hill, stationed in Iraq, because he says he’s a homosexual. Silence from all nine candidates; only when pressed afterwards did two, Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman, give a tepid whisper, calling the booing “unfortunate”.
The guy – no matter his sexual preference – risks his life for America and this assemblage of overfed oinkers jeer him? He’s more man than any of them. Similar cowards found a way to disparage John Kerry for his Purple Hearts.
Our yellow-bellied patriots are now talking of making war on Iran. The very people who got us into the current conflicts, who themselves weaseled out of Vietnam duty. Dick Cheney, worth $100 million, with his five hardship deferments, saying he had “other priorities”, Karl Rove’s fancy footwork hiding behind school after school, and George W. Bush whose Air National Guard records – those that weren’t “inadvertently” destroyed – show major irregularities.
The draft dodgers should be named. They include Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Rudolph Giuliani, Phil Gramm, Tom DeLay, Trent Lott, Dennis Hastert and oily Tea Party agitator Dick Armey. John Boehner’s bad back got him out of the service after just weeks, as did Mitch McConnell’s blurry vision. Of the presidential hopefuls Newt Gingrich played the “flat feet” excuse and Mitt Romney slipped over to France as a Mormon missionary.
And there’s good ol’ Saxby Chambliss, whose professed “bum knee” was nimble enough to sidestep the draft and hasn’t harmed his golf game. He’s the guy who so despicably smeared as unpatriotic his rival and contemporary Max Cleland, a decorated hero who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam.
Other “Great Americans” include banks like JP Morgan Chase, that swindled 4,500 active service families, illegally foreclosing on some while the breadwinner was on the front lines. Chase’s response, in essence, was: “very sorry and we promise not to break the law again.” Apology accepted by a House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and a Congress full of folks who are firmly in the banks’ pocket. No penalty. Why do we give these loathsome people a pass?
Walton County’s new congressman, Paul Broun, tried to take away the soldiers’ girlie magazines. They could die tomorrow but his concern is their mental purity.
So we’re broke. Iraq, which was once the chief enemy of an increasingly crazy and dangerous Iran, is now that country’s best friend. What was achieved? And at what terrible cost to those who love our nation more than we do? But what country is that? Surely not the one of abject greed and callousness we’ve allowed it to become.
You lose an arm for America and your country then twists your remaining arm. If I were a one-legged veteran I’d use my other foot to kick out at a society that’s happy to have me absorb the pain both abroad and now also at home. We are the enemy of our own military. Absurdly, they would have a moral case to make war on us!
To my mind the men and women of our armed services stand head and shoulders above all the rest of us – and in particular the lowlifes at the top who use them so callously.
It’s Thanksgiving. We thank God for our bounty, those of us who still can. But the earthly people to whom we should be giving the greatest thanks are our long suffering military.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

OLD SWEETHEARTS AND GRANDPA’S IRON GRIP


November 16, 2011

You’ve got to hand it to Gramps. He might dodder and forget things, but when it comes to handshakes his is the firmest. It’s an ‘old man’ phenomenon and just trying to extract your paw from that geriatric’s grasp can leave you exhausted. It’s trapped until the old coot himself decides to relax his crushing hold.
Funny, that. Before they up and die, enfeebled old men develop this final burst of ferrous power in their metacarpus. Supergrip. It’s as though they’ve channeled all their earthly strength into that one extremity.
Every now and again you’ll shake a young guy’s hand and recoil instantly because it’s clammy. Fernando the milquetoast Mexican put a mackerel in my mitt. Could’ve been a herring. But the geezer whose right arm terminates in a vise? I’d rather have my hand mangled by him any day.
The firm handshake conveys a sense of sincerity, of trustworthiness, although compression as a strenuous attempt to turn the other guy’s hand to jelly is to be frowned on. Or winced at.
There are guys who stretch their arm out, palm facing down, in a different demonstration of power, one of domination, and that’s the signal to be on your guard. The right half of one’s clapping equipment should be proffered in an orderly fashion, fingers perpendicular to the floor.
Too often I see men extending their hand to a lady. Uh oh, not etiquette because it should be up to the damsel herself whether or not she wishes to initiate bodily contact. And about the only place I notice guys doing the gentlemanly thing in this regard is down here in Dixie, where, frankly my dear, some of the genteel old ways still apply.
Deals, some of them involving thousands, are still made here on a handshake; I’ve even known vendors to take offense when I’ve offered a cash deposit ahead of time.
My painter friend Mike clued me in on the Southern man’s greeting. Long before the handshake stage there’s a mild passing salute which is used to acknowledge a fellow occupant of these Southern states. It’s a swift and silent nod; no smile, not even the hint of anything more than registering the other person’s existence. Somehow, it’s reassuring, though. Comforting. And since then I’ve seen it done many times, had it done to me and now I’m a nodder myself. Call me Noddy.
Many are also interested in one’s wellbeing. As they nick their head, they’ll also inquire mumblingly: “Huzzagoan”, the correct response to which is: “Hey!” I have to warn our British visitors. Do not stop and tell the guy exactly how it’s going, especially if your wife just left you, your car blew up and your last dime turned out to be counterfeit. Just say “Hey!” Quietly.
And then there are the wavers; strangers who greet you as you drive by. You’re thundering along a dirt road, burnin’ rubber with the police in hot pursuit and, hearing the sirens, a guy pruning his roses gives you a friendly wave. Jes’ bein’ neighborly.
The handshake is said to have begun as a way for gentlemen to demonstrate that they don’t have a dagger at the ready. Nonsense! Watch out for the left-handed fellows.
Which brings me to the serial gladhanders: the politicians, with the insincere smiles. Oh, let’s not dignify them with inclusion in this article. There are others infinitely more genuine, more human. These are the Old Sweethearts, usually favorite uncles, although grandfathers also qualify. Not mine on my mother’s side, however. He was a dour and nasty German with a permanent tobacco stain down his beard who made the most revolting gurgling sounds through his pipe. Strange as a Mullah’s jockstrap and the antithesis of warm and fuzzy, he kept saying stupidity was a crime... that needed to be punished!
He wasn’t an Old Sweetheart because, apart from the draconian ideas and those liquid tobacco sounds, this testy old Teuton lacked the major distinguishing mark of the breed: the missing finger.
Oh yes, the real old honeys are mischievous guys deficient in either a digit or part of one. And when you’re seven or eight years old those crazy galoots take enormous delight in tormenting you with the stump: a handshake, a tickle under the chin...
Old Sweethearts also have one other characteristic: a twinkle in their eye. Operatic baritone Carl Colluccini and actors Chief Dan George and Pat Morita qualified with their industrial-strength eye twinkle even though their hands contained a full complement. But Three Finger Brown, aka Gaetano Lucchese, who headed one of New York’s five Mafia families, overdid it by losing a thumb as well as a forefinger when he was 15.
That’s about the age at which my own index finger was shortened when my brother mowed it off on the lawn. So: no fingertip, hefty age... I’m working on the sweetness.
I aim to be an Old Sweetheart with an iron grip when I grow up - if I ever do. No high fives or jiveshakes for me.
Incidentally, I’m not sure you can have female Old Sweethearts. Wifey thought she might just qualify after she broke her middle digit and the doctor set it back askew. Were she ever to be as unladylike as to shoot folks a bird with that crooked digit they’d get only a rough idea of what she’s telling them.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

PREOCCUPIED: A HISTORICAL DEJA-VU


November 9, 2011

They were out in the streets. They waved placards, hollered slogans. A clique of greedy people were hogging all the wealth and these folks were angry about it. They were our countrymen, ordinary Americans insisting they, too, should be permitted a chance at the American dream, one being denied them by those who controlled America’s riches.
A smug upper class was being challenged by a population The authorities first warned these poor people, then hit them hard. The victims included many who’d just been fighting for their country.
And so their numbers grew. Each time force was applied the protest swelled until it reached a pivotal moment.
There were those who shrugged them off. One of the country’s richest, John Dickinson, admonished the populace: “Behave like dutiful children who have received unmerited blows from a beloved parent.” In other words, like it or lump it, shut up and take it.
They didn’t. And the result was the United States of America.
Historical note here: The War of Independence was never a sudden spontaneous uprising against the mother country. It evolved gradually from dissatisfaction among the Out Of Doors People, as the jobless and homeless called themselves, largely on the Boston waterfront. Historian Russell Bourne explains that the ordinary folk “were going to strike back at those who held them down, be they British or Boston elite.” Eminent author Robert Harvey traces riots against the colonial rich back to 1750.
We can draw a parallel with today’s events.
Now, as then, those who were holding the Dream hostage fought to keep the hapless and hopeless “in their place”. Power and money belonged to the venal politicians, the monopolist merchants. In 1771 tycoon Samuel Cornell paid for a 1,000-strong militia to tackle an enormous crowd complaining of corruption: it culminated in the seminal Battle of Alamance.
Today’s marchers prefer civil disobedience, a peaceful tactic that has proved immensely effective ever since Gandhi’s India.
In his “tree of liberty” letter that the gunslingers like to quote at Tea Party rallies, Thomas Jefferson hinted at frequent rebellion as a means of giving government a remedial kick in the pants. He appears even to call for violence, although that is hardly what’s been in evidence with the Occupy crowds – except from a few infiltrated saboteurs, fifth columnists. And from the police. Can there be any justification for yanking back the head of a guy sitting on the ground and pepper spraying him point blank in the eyes? It happened in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on November 1 and the image is abhorrent.
True, demonstrators often goad cops in riot gear to abuse them physically. But words and disobedience do not constitute an assault, nor do they merit one from the authorities. Pepper spray is for use against individuals posing a clear and present threat, not passive protesters.
And so there is more violence. Masked anarchists and agents provocateurs infiltrate the crowd and smash windows. And this begets more viciousness. And so the movement grows with even greater public outrage as a second Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran now lies in intensive care thanks to a police beating.
Our military personnel fight in foreign lands championing the cherished American right of free speech only to have it brutally stifled back home. Can anyone see the irony in that? Or that some of our demonstrating military veterans are also policemen, so they could find themselves being painfully “protected and served” at the end of a fellow officer’s nightstick!
We’ve seen the weirdest Occupy characters paraded onto our TV screens and we’ve heard the epithets. How easy to dismiss these mostly sincere and educated middle class young people as “the great unwashed”, morons with bad breath and herpes. Similar derision met those at the start of the American Revolution whose complaints were so like today’s.
Naturally, the cunning mouthpieces of a certain network we might call vulpes vulpes, cherry-pick the most bizarre demonstrators to make viewers believe this is an entire rabble of misfits. It is not. They’re our neighbors.
The exceptions? How about the groanworthy appearance among the Wall Street demonstrators of integrity-challenged opportunist Jesse Jackson. Or disgraced congressman Charles Rangel. Or indeed any of Washington’s denizens: these people are as responsible for America’s mess as are the bankers.
And when I hear some Occupy extremists attacking “capitalism” my hackles go up. These twits have no idea. No way is America looking to become an egalitarian state, but taking the money out of politics is essential to give us our voices back. Lobbying should be outlawed. And then there’s that recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to pour unlimited funds into elections. Washington is bought and paid for.
In a democracy all the people have a say. This is clearly not the case today, nor was it before Jefferson included the immortal declaration that “all men are created equal”.
Until this becomes true again we have some soul searching to do. Prior to even tackling the most desperately urgent issue facing the country - that of jobs – we need to define just how much liberty we actually do have.
We must ask ourselves some simple questions. Here are three. Is the corporate voice the only one allowed to be heard in America today? Do local city ordinances override freedom of speech? The First Amendment guarantees us the right to assemble to air our grievances, but did the Framers say we could do this only during business hours?

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT AND EAT!


November 2, 2011

The State of Georgia thinks we’re all Victorian children who mustn’t talk at table: complain about your food and you’ll be punished. That’s exactly it. Think we have First Amendment rights? Think again..
It’s illegal for anyone to criticize a food product. If you get sick after that tasty-but-tainted taco or realize the fried chicken they’re selling you is nothing more than breaded bones just eat up and shut up.
Dare to warn your fellow Georgians and you stand to lose big time: you’ll pay restitution, punitive damages and everyone’s costs. A less than palatable outcome.
This is one of the most dishonest laws ever to be passed. It shields the food industry against censure, even when justified. It’s a perfect example of how the politicians we elect work against us and cozy up instead to the big corporations.
What is this, some kind of cockeyed capitalist communism? With his warped bill, Comrade Henry Reaves, Democrat from Quitman, Georgia decided it’s in our best interests to be gagged. That was in 1993, and since then not a single state politician has sought to reverse Henry’s subversive law.
Freedom of speech? Pah! Such an old-fashioned idea. Good for those guys in the wigs and the knee breeches but we sure don’t need it today – at least we the regular working American people aren’t deemed worthy of it. The only time we’re allowed to open our mouths is to insert their stuff they’re calling “food”. Once a disgruntled eater speaks out they’ll make him eat his words for dessert; better to quietly swallow your pride along with the junk you bought, then keep your pie-hole firmly shut.
And by junk I mean all the chemicals and other harmful or unhealthy substances they inject into what they’re selling us as sustenance. Puke city.
I’m confounded: how can our legislators pass a bill in the full knowledge that it so clearly contravenes the Constitution and takes away our most basic freedom, the most precious inalienable right? That of free speech.
I don’t know how but I suspect I might know why. Anything to do with golf vacations and backhanders and sumptuous dinners and political back-scratching perchance?
My wife got salmonella poisoning from fast food chicken bought locally. Now that I’ve written that sentence will I be dragged into court? If I name the outlet will I lose everything?
So:
Dear Chicken Cabin,
Yours was the tastiest salmonella my wife ever nearly died from. For the sake of our 14 children please don’t sue me.
Up yours sincerely,
Freddy.
Georgia’s Veggie Libel Law, officially 2-16-3 Disparagement Of Perishable Food Products Or Commodities is phrased in such a way as to stifle any denunciation, especially in the media. Who needs a free press anyway? The Commies never had one so why should we?
It talks about “willful or malicious dissemination to the public of false information” but it spells out the “false” as any that isn’t backed by scientific data. And a company can decide that any accusation about its product is willful or malicious, whether or not that’s really the case.
Now you’re in court. You’re no scientist. All you know is 14 family members suffered food poisoning after eating the same vittles you bought at the same supermarket on the same day and so you wrote that, perhaps in a published jeremiad. Goodbye life’s savings, maybe goodbye house and home. For daring to warn others the Food Nazis will gitcha!
Legally, you can’t say beans about bad food. However - and here’s why this law is so vile - the main purpose is not to see it litigated. A lawsuit would draw attention to the very problem Mr Ordinary Georgia Citizen might be describing, something the food people do not want widely known. It’s the threat of prosecution that silences those with legitimate complaints and that’s why Commissar Reaves and the Georgia corporate politburo passed that law and why they maintain it. The sword need not even be raised - just mentioned.
So now we’re afraid to speak up. How is this different from dictator states like Cuba with the population cowed into silence. I’ve seen that way of life first hand behind the Iron Curtain; why now here?
There’s an actual legal term to describe this abomination; it’s called “chilling effect” and it makes me shudder. Lawyers intimidate folks all the time. But now the food manufacturers have bought themselves a bunch of enforcers in the Georgia Legislature.
Among others, I blame the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the state’s most powerful newspaper that should be fighting for citizens’ rights. Why hasn’t this rag taken up the cudgels on our behalf? What is a newspaper’s purpose if not to serve the interests of the people?
It’s time to end this curse on our freedom. We need the media to be our watchdogs. Take off this muzzle.
I may be Brash Brit, as the Walton Tribune once dubbed me, but in reality I’m just a small voice against Big Food and its anti-American way of doing business.
Persecuted for telling it straight? The cast iron defense in any libel suit is that what you wrote was true. Truth trumps all. But not in Georgia.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

THE HALLOWE’EN HALLS OF HELL


October 30, 2011

Boo! Didn’t make anyone jump, did it?
Y’know, I will never understand how dressing up like a Muppet, a piece of M&Ms candy or Kim Kardashian complete with enormous foam bottom could frighten anybody. Nor as a nurse or fireman. A policeman? Yes, very scary if you’ve watched the way they’ve been attacking peaceful citizens lately.
But what’s really alarming for all of us Americans this Hallowe’en is the state of our sacred country. Something terrible has happened to it and it’s eating away our souls.
Desperately uncertain times are upon us and there’s this spooky feeling that it’s all going to get a whole lot worse with all manner of nasty surprises.
However, that’s nothing compared to the warm welcome awaiting the most despicable people on earth. Who are they and where’s this reception?
Down, of course, to Hell’s fiery halls with all the real “hotties”. Satan must be salivating in anticipation of their arrival and telling his demons: “Clear those ten pews nearest the furnace. We’ll make it extra toasty for these guys because they’ve been so-o-o good at being bad.”
So who are they?
1. The diabolical doctors who operate on us when it’s entirely not necessary, and do it for the money they can make off insurance companies and Medicare. Too many cases of hystorectomies, spinal and other major procedures, many of which leave patients disfigured and in agony. And all to buy these charlatans their BMWs.
2. The cosmetic industry fiends who torture laboratory animals. In particular those performing the Draize test, drip-feeding toxic substances into the eyes of rabbits that are restrained but conscious all the time. They do it to dogs, too, but bunnies, with their larger eyes and no tear ducts, are preferred. And this just to make shampoos less uncomfortable for us. John Henry Draize himself died in 1992 and I’m certain he’s been Lucifer’s guest since then.
3. The evil ones of the food industry who lace our sustenance with all manner of chemicals that make us fat and sick. They find ways to disguise what they’re doing by using alternative wording for the preservatives and extenders they produce, including a disgusting goo known as Pink Slime.
4. The poofy preachers who rail against homosexuality – except not their own. Televangelists Ted Haggard and Jim Bakker are here with Atlanta’s own Bishop Eddie ‘Daddy’ Long. Other anti-gay hypocrites like lobbyist and Baptist minister George Rekers, who drooled over a website titled Rentboy.com and selected a companion, “Lucien”, because of the dimensions and will-dos the guy posted. They traveled together and, when exposed, Rekers said Lucien’s task had been “to lift his luggage”.
5. The pet food monsters who poison our dogs and cats with revolting filth dressed up to look like actual food. Not simply the Chinese crap that killed thousands of our cherished companions recently but also the unsupervised rendering plants that throw in euthanized pets along with road kill. All this comes in cutesy packaging that disguises the contents with generalizations. And this vile industry is virtually unregulated
6. The fanatics who blow up pubs and trains and planes in the name of religion as well as those who preach hatred of other religions and justify their barbarous acts as being the will of God. Here I obviously mean Muslim extremists, but there are others, too... Let’s nominate one: The Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas, led by disbarred lawyer Fred Phelps, that gathers at funerals to thank God for dead US soldiers.
7. Heartless debate audiences. Like the unpatriotic mob who booed a soldier putting his life on the line in Iraq who said he was a homosexual. And the ghouls who applauded Rick Perry executing 243, even the innocents among them, and others who cheered the notion of a critically ill man lacking health insurance being left to die.
8. Religious charity crooks who use the name of the Lord to enrich themselves. Here’s embezzler Jim Bakker again. Are our local do-gooders, the Wingo family, among these devils? We’ll soon find out. These folks headed, and recently closed down, not just their Angel Food Ministries but also their 600-seat Emmanuel Praise Church as an FBI investigation probed deeper.
9. The “family values” champions who haughtily promote clean living for others although not themselves. Among these are the sanctimonious politicians from both parties in the secretive Christian sect The Fellowship, aka The Family, on Washington’s C Street. Republicans David Vitter, John Ensign, Mark Sanford and Chris Pickering are the latest hypocritical C Street adulterers to be exposed. But their most vile act has been to promote a law in Uganda making homosexuality a death penalty “offense”. For Africans, you understand, not for anyone in this country. Yet
10 The Communist Chinese who “harvest” the organs of political prisoners for transplants. No, no, this isn’t a scary joke on witching night, and China hasn’t denied it, while refusing to explain the unusually high numbers of transplant operations. It’s been exposed by an international team of doctors who were already appalled that the Chinese were killing prisoners. But now they reveal that the organs are removed - for freshness - while the victims are still alive...
Somebody hold a crucifix up to All these chthonian bastards and make them wither.
Who have I left out? Ummm...

ENDIT


© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

THESE HALLOWE’EN TREATS ARE TRICKY


October 26, 2011

No ma’am, you’re right to wonder if the chocolate poo you bought for your kids is really chocolate and here’s the answer: No it is not. But – whoa whoa whoa - it isn’t real poo either, just something that’s a bit less disgusting.
At $5 a lump, Number Two is number one on the list of most repulsive candies being offered this Hallowe’en, sharing the top spot with snot, the, er, edible kind. Other major contenders for the key to Barf City are two hospital-type products, a plastic specimen jar containing a sour lemony Urine Sample for $5 and, at a dollar more, an IV bag of blood, fruit punch flavored.
All Hallows Eve is becoming increasingly bloodthirsty; maybe it’s just a reflection of society as a whole, although tradition refuses to die completely.
There are still the usual candy cockroaches and bags of gummy worms and other insects. Also cute little assorted body parts in fake formaldehyde or in a chocolate-colored version, including plucked-out eyes, severed fingers and toes.
But about that toilet tidbit that’s top of the Yechhh Parade. Chocolate Fantasies of Washington call their indelicate delicacy Crapola and will tell you what’s in it if you ask them. At 3.5 ounces and 550 calories the edible excrement has more sugar and partially hydrogenated oils in it than other ingredients. So Crapola is likely well-named, but it’s not actual chocolate, just a fantasy. .
Let’s take a closer look at what we’re giving our youngsters. And Parents: please be seated because this can be quite frightening.
The Mayo Clinic heads those who’ve been warning for years about the ubiquitous villain that uses different aliases in order to confuse us. It’s trans fat, aka trans fatty acid and also partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. It raises the bad cholesterol and lowers the good. Heart disease and other serious ailments can result. Plus it depresses the thyroid and thereby makes you fat.
Palm oil is sometimes offered up as a substitute. The World Health Organization warns against this goo too, citing heart disease, while American medical scientists add that there’s a risk of stroke.
One point made by the celebrated Dr Andrew Weill is that palm kernel oil, extracted with a petroleum-type solvent, is worse than palm oil, and fractionated palm oil, as found in “healthy” power bars, is the worst. They’re all potential killers.
So we face a – forgive me – a grave situation.
Who’s to blame? Even on a moonless night we don’t have to look far for the culprits. Begin with our old favorite the PalmOil company, going under the name Palmer and makers of the trans fatty Easter bunny that’s 2,100 calories. These folks produce yuk-yuk candy for other jolly festive occasions, yucky Hallowe’en included. But it’s no joke.
A 9 ounce bag of their Googly Eyes costs $2 and contains six servings of 220 calories, half of which from fat. Your eight-year-old wolfs down – today I should say werewolfs down - the lot and she’s had way more than her entire daily caloric allowance just from that one sweet treat. Eat just three of Palmer’s other ocular outtakes, Creepy Peepers, and you’ve had 190 calories. Both versions are replete with sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and additives.
The eyes have it. Bee International is selling its Chinese-made Oozing Eyeballs, jelly-filled with corn syrup, sugar and chemicals.
Moving on from baby blues we come to the offal in the Chocolaty Body Parts bag containing fudge and rice and peanut butter. Munching just two 2½-inch ears or three of the smaller items like lips equals nearly 200 calories
But notice the wording: Chocolaty. Not chocolate, which, legally, they couldn’t say because even though it looks like the good stuff it isn’t really. Sugar and the awful trans fatty palm oil are the main ingredients with cocoa down the list at number five..
Oh woe. The supermarket shelves are groaning with the weight of these abominations.
Flix Candy are the makers of Box Of Boogers, 3.5-ounces of green gilberts that’ll set you back two greenbacks. “Tangy” nose pickings, it says, that, “look and feel real”. Huh? How would they know? Did they get a panel of street urchins to compare their product with the actual? Did they make the comparison themselves? Ewwww!
Skeleton Pops are artificially flavored. You get an arm and a leg but at $5 it clearly doesn’t cost you that. There are more chemical treats like a 600-calorie bag of SpongeBob Squarepants Gummy Crabby Patty Candy for a couple bucks. Frankford Candy that sells these Chinese concoctions should be called Frankenfood, and not because it’s Hallowe’en.
Toxic Waste Hazardously Sour Candy might sound deliciously inviting to mischievous little pixie ears, but each little drumfull contains sugar, more corn syrup and artificial fixin’s, thereby making its name not terribly far from the truth.
So it’s back to dung, and if we must give our tyke this for Hallowe’en, then at least let’s seek out one made of real chocolate, even though this seems to be endangered feces.
Guittard’s $10 DooDoo is 5.6 ounces of pure milk chocolate with no additives or preservatives, however they don’t broadcast the ingredients and calorie count. You’d have to buy one, which I’ll admit I didn’t do because by now I’m all poo’d out

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

INVASION OF THE NOBODY WATCHERS


October 23, 2011

Celebrities. Why “celebrities”? These people are entertainers, nothing more. I don’t celebrate them. Not even my favorites like Chuck Berry and the Monty Python squad. I never light candles to any of them. In my yard I never dance naked in their honor and just now I believe I heard an enormous communal sigh of relief coming from my neighbors on learning this.
Let’s see who these celebrities are. They’re people who pique our interest for the time they are “on” and then, instead of retiring gracefully, refuse to leave the stage. These are singers, actors, dancers, comedians. Perhaps also magicians, jugglers, animal trainers, contortionists and bearded ladies. They take up our leisure time. They eat up our other time if we let them.
In days of yore the chieftain or the sultan would clap his hands over his head. Then, between mouthfuls of sheep’s eyes or while picking bits of venison out of whatever teeth he might still have (depending on whether king or caliph) he’d roar: “Bring on my fool!”
Enter fool.
He’d command the jester: “Make me laugh”. Or the juggler to juggle, the ventriloquist to vent and the effeminate minstrel to mince. And when he’d had enough he’d order them gone. Perhaps have them beheaded in a glorious grand finale.
Today we can walk out of the theater, turn off the TV, even shoot it dead as Elvis Presley used to do. But none of that’s good enough: there’s still no escaping the neverending tsunami of information about these people. They dominate the news and it seems more and more of us are fascinated with them.
How many chins did Sarah Palin’s daughter have surgically removed? Does it matter? Is Lindsay Lohan back on the stuff she was on before or is she on some other stuff or no stuff at all? Groan.
Here’s Jennifer Aniston: “Best sex I ever had”. Really! And why would I be interested in that unless it was with me? But wait – she’s adopting a baby, isn’t that sweet. No, she’s actually pregnant, maybe from the “best sex”...
All manner of minutiae about the personal lives of entertainers who impact my life not in the least. Must we care if Demi Moore’s marriage is on the rocks? We could instead pay attention to our own. John Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston is coining in $11 million for a tell-all book. Bully for her.
And bully for us for knowing all this. Hey, it only cost $3.78 for that glossy supermarket gossipoid since we couldn’t wait the extra couple hours to see it on Tittletattle-TV.
I like celebrities who don’t like being celebrities. Apart from his sweet laid-back music I’d select J.J. Cale in this category; standing at the back of the stage behind his band, in his private life just unpretentious and dodging notoriety. Let your skill speak for you. That’s my kind of celebrity, not the ones who shout the loudest and have the least to offer.
Notwithstanding, the talentless continue to demand our attention, from Victoria Spice Beckham to the KKK bimbos, that trio of kurvy Kardashian kuties. And then there are the Survivors and the Big Brother brethren and more assorted nobodies.
We’re served up Snooki and the rest, the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Noo Joizy, the fake housewives of someplace else, the teenage mothers and their swains and all those other wallies who think they’re special. These people are stars? Surely thou jesteth!
Jon and Kate Gosselin whose “great talent” was that they spawned eight children. Mercifully, we’re being spared a threatened reality show starring the notorious Octomom Nadya Suleman, aka Big Birther.
The original no-talent talent was, of course, Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Hungarian husband-collector who couldn’t act, couldn’t sing, couldn’t dance – couldn’t even speak English without tacking “dahling” on the end of every garlic-laced sentence. But when she said she was “famous for being famous” she became famous. That’s all you need to do.
One spouse was Conrad Hilton, he of hotels, and his granddaughter carries on stepgranny’s tradition with a vengeance. Devoid of ability, she’s one of the monotonous young folk who’ll do anything to remain in the news, morally acceptable or not. Are you reading this, Paris Hilton?
If Teenage Mom II has another 50 illegitimate babies in the next five minutes she might be a bit sore but it doesn’t affect my life in the slightest. If Christina Aguilera steals Britney Spears’ boyfriend and then loses her to Avril Lavigne... ho hum. Why this national preoccupation with other people’s trivia?
The Bachelors, the Bachelorettes, Beauties & Geeks, Joe Millionaire, Penelope Pauper: why not end all this contrived romance in one grand syrupy TV finale with a mass wedding like those Cecil-B-DeMille-style Moonie ones. Give ‘em five bucks apiece, a push in the back and wish ‘em a nice life.
Or an extra ten each and chuck the lot of them into a bigol’ wire cage together with the Teen Moms and those Biggest Loser people, with Jennifer Lopez and her famous bottom for added oomph. Then, for a grand Fox-TV gladiator spectacular, have ‘em all battle it out.
Fists only please. This is a family show.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO DISTORT


October 19, 2011

For the last two weeks in September Wall Street was taken over by hundreds of folks, young and old. There were jeans and hoodies and also pin-striped suits, some beards, some ponytails and lots of gray hair. No mullets.
These Americans were demanding something be done about the greedy banks who razed our economy to the ground with shady deals, made millions jobless and homeless and pocketed billions of our tax dollars.
This was a major populist event unlike those corporate-funded tea party gatherings, so therefore what the right-wingers keep calling the “liberal media” went into full coverage mode with constant live updates, right?
Wrong. Not until some ten days had passed was there any mention at all, except in the British newspaper The Guardian.
If you watched Fox then you wouldn’t have known about Occupy Wall Street. Goes without saying because Fox is a shameless shill for Big Business. Yet the same is also true about virtually all of publishing and broadcasting. Here was a growing popular movement being summarily ignored.
So much for the liberal media those Republican and tea party types keep pretending exist. As we see here, corporate America and its media hirelings feed us only the information they want us to know while suppressing that which they don’t.
That’s censorship, pure and simple. Censorship as endured by the poor saps living under communism. Pravda, the Russian word for both “truth and “justice” was the name of the Soviet newspaper that gave the citizens neither of these things. Our media are acting the same way, filtering out uncomfortable information - all the news they don’t want you to know.
Large companies control America’s newspapers and cable stations. And every one of our TV networks is a subsidiary of a corporate behemoth. Here are the big six:
NBC is owned by General Electric, a $750 billion conglomerate. ABC’s parent is the $70 billion Walt Disney Company. The CBS Corporation is a $26 billion enterprise that’s linked to Viacom with revenues of $9 billion and both are dominated by mega-tycoon Sumner Redstone. Then there’s CNN, part of Time Warner with $67 billion in assets and finally Rupert Murdoch’s $54 billion News Corp that owns the rabid Fox.
All the above giants are quoted on the stock exchange. How sympathetic could they possibly be to the people’s call for Wall Street accountability? But how eager to have those voices silenced!
It took a rogue cop, Inspector Anthony Bologna - Tony Baloney to his “fans” - to bring Occupy Wall Street to world attention. Indiscriminately, and without provocation, he pepper sprayed some girls already contained behind a police barrier.
My point isn’t that this power-crazed little Hitler disgraced the uniform. It’s that only then, and after 700 peaceful folks were subsequently arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge, that this country’s news outlets, all corporate-owned, found themselves forced to report the event. Why? For fear their absolute right wing bias be laid bare. The so-called liberal media aren’t in the least bit liberal. We’ve all just been fed and re-fed the myth. Tell the lie often enough and it becomes “the truth”.
With demonstrations growing by the thousands, at least one news company’s’ warped approach was an attempt to trivialize it and lampoon the protesters. They’re a “small vocal minority.” A mob. They don’t brush their teeth They’re a bunch of dropout students. They’re communist agitators. Misfits. Pot-smoking hippies engaging in free love in public. The actual footage showed every one of these Fox News assertions to be a downright lie. The protesters are so ordinary they could be – they are - our neighbors.
TV selects its video clips to fit a particular viewpoint, even using scenes from a different event altogether, and Fox News (why always these guys?) has been caught out doing that exact underhanded thing.
My old newspaper, the Daily Mail, ran attacks by far right Americans Charlie Wolf and Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation. Two unabashed corporate stooges smeared the marchers with the very unsubstantiated and time-worn clich├ęs mentioned above - and triggered a huge backlash of outrage from readers on both sides of the Atlantic. And the Mail is a conservative publication.
When what we’re seeing doesn’t match what we’re being told, that’s a problem. Luckily for us, the Internet is making our traditional media increasingly irrelevant. Consequently, when the cops hustle the TV crews away before flailing at the crowd with batons there are always citizens on hand to make sure this ugliness is relayed to the world.
The only violence seen in all the miles of video has been by the police. Unprovoked. Brutal. Unwarranted. And each time it’s exposed the movement grows, as it has, because Americans - Britons too – react strongly to any attempt to stifle free speech. Indeed, we’re constitutionally guaranteed “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. Which is unmistakably what’s been happening in New York and now in 1,100 other American cities and 82 countries around the globe as this movement proliferates.
The First Amendment also underwrites the freedom of the press, although it fails to consider that a “free” press controlled by Wall Street corporations isn’t free. Or liberal.


ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I’M THINKIN’ THAT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH


October 12, 2011

Skreeeeeeee! Expletive deleted. The veins on the side of your head are sticking out because they’ve done it again and it’s enough to make you wanna kick someone’s... well, you know.
Driving a mile along Criswell Road you’ve suddenly had to slam on the brakes because right in front is that infuriating sign: ‘Road Closed’. Less than startling news, this, because their “advance notice” is planted right there in the pile of dirt they’ve been digging out.
Similar situation more recently on Pannell Road: the message just a few yards from the earthworks, causing Road Closed Rage again. Then on Monroe’s busiest streets two more exasperating holdups and never any warning signs until you’re sitting there. A needless headache, however Lady Luck has placed you slap bang outside the CVS pharmacy.
Pull into the lot to pick up some Tylenol. Past the big sign that says Drive Thru. Follow round to the service window and then there’s another notice: Drive Thru Closed For Scheduled Maintenance. The applicable word now is @$$#*/+$!. Screamed. Loudly.
As with the road works, a heads-up would have avoided the headache. But that requires some forethought and there aren’t too many folks doing that “thinking” thing these days. Anyhow, the sign says the maintenance was scheduled, which means they already knew about it ahead of time.
CVS is on the corner of Broad Street and Alcovy. Is it really Alcovy or Alcova? The Georgia Unemployment Office says it’s located at 226 Alcova Street, some yards up from B&B Small Engine on Alcovy. And the Walton Regional Medical Center is listed as being at both 330 Alcovy and Alcova.
The Parole office is also at 226 Alcova whereas the Department of Juvenile Justice is in the same building but at “Alcove Place”. Which is it? UBD judge.
The Mystery Of The Road That Doesn’t Know Its Name – quite a concept. It’s such a head-scratcher for strangers, too, because this thrice-named thoroughfare is also the Monroe-Jersey Road and on many maps it’s shown as James Odum Road.
Walton County’s proud little mountain is the last and least in the Appalachian chain, not counting the rock on my property under which I’m convinced Newt Gingrich lives. The local Creek indians named it Ulcofauchatchie. It’s Alcovy, while the Baptist church that lies sort-of in its short and stubby shadow is Alcova. So what’s the big deal: Alcove Schmalcove. Close enough, right?
Until recently you’d be heading for Bogart along 78 and see Locklin Road next right. Take it and you’d find yourself on another street altogether - Lockland Road, as the street sign proclaimed. They could have called it Lock-make-up-your-own-ending Road, but then some local wag would have offered up Lockupyourdaughters Road or somesuch. Lockstockandbarrel Road for the gun crowd.
A little further along there’s Clotfelter Road, but only at one end; at the other it was Clothfelter with an ‘h’ until eventually someone notified the local authority. Oh they rectified the problem, kinda. They swiped a lick of green paint over the ‘h’ to make it Clot Felter. Two words.
Hey, that fixed it. Finally they did get it right, but one has to wonder: is ‘that’s good enough’ really good enough?
“Speed Hump”. Hublupp! Hublupp! Owww! The sign was right at the boneshaking bump. You’ve just run over one of those enemies of the automobile known in Britain as “sleeping policemen” and cracked your noggin on the roof. Back for more headache pills.
Then there are those white stop lines at crossroads and T-junctions placed at least a bus-length back from where they should be, and therefore dangerous. Searching for the reason took me to Fairyland, where I found Jack’s beanstalk buddy, the giant, who admitted Walton County had hired him. “Through-oute ye shire,” they commanded, “ye shalle at eache intersection taketh one pace back and there maketh a whyte marke, forsooth.” They used Fairytale English to make sure he understood. They added “forsooth” because it sounded good.
The giant did a great job and painted the line one brobdingnagian stride back from each intersection.
We should never rely on those electronic signs on the interstate. They claim all is clear but oh-h-h no, not so fast. In fact not fast at all. Try maddeningly slow because down the road apiece all lanes but one are closed for resurfacing. The DOT’s electronic switch jockeys are sleeping on the job, is my guess, or playing cards, probably prattling on the phone with their friends about hairdos and boyfriends...
And, as at CVS, this wasn’t an unexpected circumstance. It was pre-planned work, so an early alert would have given some motorists the option of taking an alternate route.
If rage is too strong a word then maybe Road Displeasure. Road Irritation. You’d think they’d think. And some do take pains to try.
Speaking with a county official on the phone and there’s this terribly long pause. “You still there?” A few more moments’ silence and then he says: “I was thinkin’ in my head.” In his head! Good start. Far better than thinking out your... well you know.

ENDIT

© 2011 Fred Wehner is a journalist formerly with the Daily Mail in London, who then founded and ran the New York News Agency before settling in Monroe 21 years ago.