A ‘fiery sex scandal’ for a slow news day

On their way to a fire or a debauch?

On their way to a fire, or to a debauch?

Swamp Rabbit and I were arguing again. The primary goal of mainstream news organizations is to scare people, he said. Fear sells. Just look at the huge response to news coverage in PA, NJ and NY of the “monster snowstorm” that never hit those states.

“You’re wrong,” I said, showing him the front-page story in Wednesday’s Philadelphia Daily News:

A fiery sex scandal threatens to burn up multiple firefighters’ careers, including some top brass, according to former Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
Ayers told the Daily News today that the investigation into a young paramedic’s claims of sexual misconduct began shortly before he retired in June.
The paramedic filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging misconduct against another paramedic. Soon after, rumors surfaced that she had sexual encounters with numerous firefighters, paramedics and supervisors in firehouses while on- and off-duty all around the city.

“The goal is to is titillate,” I said, using one of my favorite words. “The story can be a monster storm, a sex scandal, a murder on Main Street. It doesn’t matter, so long as it titillates.”

“Use whatever fancy word you want, Odd Man. News stories is to scare people. Will I git snowed in? Is my husband screwin’ around? Will I get murdered on my way home from the SuperFridge?”

I told him we were both saying the same obvious thing. News outlets — tabloids, so-called broadsheets, TV news shows, whatever — exist to dish out infotainment, not news, especially now that they’re fighting Internet sites for people’s attention.

“The snow story scared me,” I said. “But it’s fun to read about firefighters having sex. What would you do with all that down time, hold Bible classes?”

The rabbit sniffed at my wood stove and said, “Wait till this here shack catches fire and all them firemen are off gettin’ laid. Have fun with that.”

I unlocked the cabinet near the stove and handed him a bottle of Wild Turkey. “Here,” I said. “You’re a real drag when you’re sober.”

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Apocalypse now, or just another dumb forecast?

It's the end of the world again!

What John Bolaris reads instead of tea leaves

“What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate,” I told Swamp Rabbit, quoting from an old movie but referring to Philly-based John Bolaris, one of the shiny happy people paid by the media machine to communicate weather forecasts.

Bolaris was on the radio, explaining why the “monster storm” predicted for us barely touched PA and NJ before rolling over New England, where big storms in the East usually end up. It seems he and his fellow weather swamis had to choose from a number of possible computer-generated storm “models,” meaning scenarios. He and they chose wrong, but better to be safe than sorry, blah blah.

“What a blowhard,” I said. “People in the real world get fired for being that wrong.”

The rabbit, sounding more savvy than he did last winter, said I was the one who was wrong. “His job ain’t to inform people, Odd Man. It’s to scare ‘em, like them horror movies do. People like being scared. The more scared they is, the more they watch the TV news show. Ain’t you learned that yet?”

I was still ranting. “I spent the whole night worrying that the roof of this shack might cave in from the snow that never fell.”

“Well there you go,” the rabbit replied. “The weatherman done his job, didn’t he?”

Footnote: Too bad the mainstream media would rather hype winter snowstorms — they’re so unusual! — than inform people about long-term climate change.

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New tickets to paradise from PA Lottery

Nothing says “lower-class desperation” more clearly than state-sponsored lotteries:

A new Pennsylvania Lottery game debuts Tuesday, while other longtime drawings are getting new names. The new game is called PICK 2, a twice-daily drawing that allows players to bet on any two-digit number. Other daily lottery drawings, in which players choose three to five digits, are being rebranded under the “PICK” name. The 38-year-old Daily Number, the lottery’s first daily draw game, will now be known as PICK 3.


And no one appreciates this desperation more than the hustlers who organize the lotteries and the politicians who use lotteries and casinos for back-door taxes, because they’re too crooked and cowardly to raise legitimate taxes on the well-to-do.

I thought of these guys today when I ran to a convenience store to steal NyQuil for my sick friend Swamp Rabbit. One employee was ringing up overpriced junk food and another was collecting money from the faithful after taking their numbers and printing their lottery tickets. A crusty chap in a Cowboys cap intoned his numbers, as if the right combination would open the treasure chest: “4-6-9. 6-9-4. 9-4-6. 6-9-5…”

Then I had to fax something, my machine at the shack is beyond repair. I ran to one of those squalid little bunkers — there are chains of them — where people who can’t afford bank accounts buy money orders or place bets, or both. The employees work from behind a sheet of glass, or plastic, thick enough to stop an RPG. On the wall next to their little bomb shelter are messages on flyers:

Please specify day or night numbers
Sorry, we cannot cancel Cash 5, Powerball, Super 7, Quinto

Back at the shack, I commiserated with the rabbit. I told him check-cash joints provide one-stop shopping for the doomed. The lottery, cigarettes, money orders that cost an arm and a leg, all under the same roof. And four-dollar faxes! It’s like crossing the border to the land of the lost. If you go there, don’t expect to find your way back.

The rabbit coughed then took a swig of NyQuil. “You done crossed the border, too, in case you ain’t noticed.”

Not for the first time, I wanted to grab him by his ears and toss him in the swamp. “I’m just going through a rough patch, you dumb rodent. Any day now I’m gonna sell my new novel and blow this dive.”

“Right,” he said. “The same day I win a million bucks playing PICK 2.”

Posted in casinos, economic collapse, humor, life in the big city, mainstream media, taxes, The New Depression, unemployment | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

If Comcast’s CEO had sucked up to Teddy Roosevelt

"Did I hear you right? You want Time-Warner? You're a funny guy, Roberts.

‘Did I hear you right? You want Time Warner, too? You’re a funny guy, Roberts.’

Swamp Rabbit had an interesting thought today. You’ve got to wonder, he said, how many media companies Comcast CEO Brian Roberts would have gobbled up if recent U.S. presidents hadn’t been stooges for big business.

Net neutrality is only one of Comcast’s big battles right now: the other is getting approval for its merger with Time Warner Cable. Here, too, Comcast’s lobbyists have close connections in Washington. In fact, the [Wall Street] Journal reports that Comcast actually invited a senior antitrust official with the Justice Department to a party a month before it announced the merger. The official declined. Comcast has also had a relationship with President Obama for some time now. The Journal reports that Comcast employees contributed $337,000 to his reelection campaign and that he’s gone golfing with Roberts.

Imagine Roberts sucking up to Teddy Roosevelt to acquire even more riches and power. The rabbit thinks the bull moose, speaking softly, would have called Roberts a malefactor of great wealth, then whacked him with a big stick, probably a 5-iron.

“You’re way off,” I said. “Golf is the sport of corrupt cornballs. Teddy Roosevelt didn’t play golf. He played real sports, the kind that get your heart rate up.”

“Whatever,’ the rabbit replied. “Point is, there wouldn’t be no so-called relationship with Roberts. There would be a law against him.”

Footnote: Being a monopoly means never having to say you’re sorry when thousands of customers say you suck.

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‘Deflategate’ a bigger story than state of union


I was on the porch at the shack with Swamp Rabbit, critiquing Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union address. Obama was the embodiment of magical thinking for American liberals, an icon of hope because he was an articulate outsider. He turned out to be the consummate insider, a good pal of Jamie Dimon and other elite fraudsters, but put him onstage and he still sounds like a crusader against income inequality:

It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come. Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?

I told the rabbit that the questions Obama posed have been answered many times since the Reagan years, when the income gap between the rich and poor already was widening. But our silver-tongued leader obviously enjoys re-asking it, especially now that both the Senate and House are in Republican hands and his opportunity to fight income inequality has come and gone.

“The man is a lame duck,” the rabbit said. “Don’t matter what he says or what you say. How ’bout you git down off that soapbox? There’s real news goin’ on out there.”

I pointed out to him that I was standing on his case of Wild Turkey, not on a soapbox. “What’s the real news?” I said.

It was “Deflategate.” Someone from the New England Patriots, prior to the team’s game against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, may have let some of the air out of the footballs the Patriots would use. Slightly deflated balls might be easier to throw and catch, so the balls may have been a factor in the Patriots’ lopsided victory. In other words, the Patriots have been accused of cheating. Stop the presses!

“That’s crazy talk,” I said. “Everybody knew the Patriots were going to win that game. You’re just mad because you didn’t have the money to bet on them, and because you lost money on them the week before. How come the Patriots are news but Obama isn’t?”

The rabbit twitched his nose and spat in the swamp. “Because nobody knows yet how the Patriots story is gonna turn out. That’s more than you can say for the Obama story.”

Posted in Congress, economic collapse, globalization, Great Recession, humor, mainstream media, Obama, plutocracy, unemployment | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pope Francis vs. Bill Maher, pope of snark

Pope Francis in the PH

Poor Pope Francis, cast into eternal darkness by comedian Bill Maher, host of Real Time and unofficial head of the Church of the Latter Day Snarks:

“I was starting to really like this pope,” Maher said during his monologue on Friday. “He’s dead to me now. Oh yeah, f*ck the Pope. Look, George Bush said it: you’re either with us or against us. Apparently the Pope is not with us.”

Maher was disappointed that the Pope said religion should be off-limits for insults at the same time that he condemned the attack against the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo that left 12 staff members killed.

I say, f*ck Bill Maher. He prides himself on being politically incorrect but his knee-jerk rejection of ideas that clash with his point of view is just the opposite — politically predictable. His snarky act has gotten old.

I don’t agree with Pope Francis on this one — no institution should be “off-limits for insults” — but most of his other social criticisms are on target. Bottom line, he always takes the side of the poor against the obscenely wealthy, the oppressed against the oppressors. Which is more than you can say for Maher and his fellow limousine liberals, who have more in common with hardcore Republicans than with progressives.

Credit where it’s due: Swamp Rabbit just reminded me that Maher’s golden moment as a social critic came soon after 9/11, when he told Middle America that people who crash airplanes into skyscrapers are anything but cowards — that we were the cowards for “lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away.” “Now that was politically incorrect,” the rabbit said.

Correction: When Francis became pope, I thought he’d turn out to be another corrupt figurehead who wore funny hats. I was wrong, except for the hats.

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Seeking disaster’s bright side in Atlantic City

Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian is like Voltaire’s Pangloss, or Eric Idle in Life of Brian. He always looks on the bright side of life, even life in Atlantic City, which has been in a downward spiral for years thanks to corrupt and incompetent public officials and casino executives.

In his State of the City speech this week, Guardian argued that A.C. could get back on the winning track by diversifying its economy instead of continuing to depend almost entirely on revenues from crumbling casino businesses. Fittingly, Guardian made his speech in the ballroom at Caesars, whose parent company had just filed for bankruptcy protection.

Smart people warned A.C. to diversify decades ago, to make it more “family-friendly” before casinos became legal in nearby states and drew away a large percentage of the gamblers. It didn’t happen. Four of 12 A.C. casinos went dark in 2014, throwing thousands of people out of work. Gaming revenues have shrunk to almost half of what they were eight years ago. You might say Guardian is planning radical surgery for a patient who has already been wheeled to the morgue — unless you look on the bright side.

Give the mayor credit for appreciating the absurd and for giving a good pep talk, even though he hit a sour note when he said, “At least we are not Detroit.” This was like saying we are not London during the plague years, or Dresden after the fire bombs.

Atlantic City is many times smaller than Detroit and should have been much easier to fix. It has a beach and a boardwalk and an ocean, and it once had legions of chumps journeying from far and wide to blow their money on games of chance. It was a test case for the argument that legalized gambling was a good way to jump-start depressed communities.

So much for that argument. Casinos care about casinos, not communities. When they can no longer plunder, they run.

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