March 2007


Apologies to anyone who came by to see the Troll of the Week today.  We had a slight technical getting it ready.  I’m sure we can resolve it by tomorrow (Sunday), and the Troll of the Week should be up first thing Sunday morning.

And you won’t want to miss it, this week’s Troll is unbelievable!  It’s such a perfect fit for the Angry Men Blog that it might as well have been designed with us in mind.

So check back tomorrow!

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With Chief Illiniwek dead and gone, though never forgotten by his loyal supporters, we now have a very clear and pressing issue both at the University of Illinois, and at all campuses impacted by the racist and selectively enforced policies of the NCAA. What should we choose to replace to dearly loved symbols which have been so heartlessly snatched away from us?

In honor of the people who launched the racist campaign against Native American mascots, I suggest The Straw man. Lately we have seen a number of individuals in the anti-Native American camp suggest that having a student dress up in Native American costume is the equivalent of wearing blackface. They then go on to suggest that we the loyal supporters have no arguments against their claims. They foolishly attempt to prove this assertion through the use of straw man arguments, such as this one presented pictorially by an artist for the Daily Illini in his comic dragon and goat. Evidently these individuals are unaware of the fact that a Straw Man argument is a logical fallacy, and so by resorting to it, they are in effect proving themselves wrong.

As a matter of fact, using Native American costume is not at all like blackface, and our argument is absolutely not that it is “tradition” which somehow makes everything all right. Instead of actually investigating our arguments, these individuals instead take the untenable position of a Straw Man, and after knocking down the fake argument they have set up, declare victory and go home. It is hard to blame them, however, as it is obvious from whom they have learned their questionable debating skills.

Fundamentally our arguments come from logic and reason. Let us look closely at the accusation. Blackface is, as we all know, a performance style that was popular in the early days of show business which involved a white individual painting their face black to appear as if they were another race. For the accusation against Native American mascots to hold water, we would have to see evidence of the individuals trying to make themselves look like they were racially a member of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Since we know that, as a race, these individuals did not have a specific costume that was universal to all members of their ethnic group we begin to punch holes in their argument. We must then surmize that perhaps if students were painting their skin red, or bronze, or otherwise trying to alter their apparent race, this comparison might be valid. However this has not happened, proving that at heart this isn’t an issue of disguising race, but instead of using a costume.

Wearing the costume of a Sioux Chieftain is not like Blackface, it is akin to dressing up like a knight in shining armor, wearing the wig and petticoat of a colonial gentleman, or putting on a kilt and tartan like a Scottish nobleman. This use of costume as a form of expression is a long honored tradition the world over. One need only go to a Civil War reenactment, a Colonial village, or a Renaissance Fair to see how much we as a society love to honor other cultures by dressing up as them. No one would even think of suggesting these were akin to blackface, because we all know there is no relation. One is trying to disguise one’s race, the other is simply honoring a culture by appreciating their ceremonial dress.

The opponents of Native American imagery need to grow up and drop their racist habits. Most of us learned how to play well with others and how to share back in pre-school. We also learned that for a policy to be fair it must be applied equally, and with no exceptions. No one who ever saw the Chief perform thought he was actually a Native American, there was no attempt to portray racial characteristics. They saw him for what he was, a man in a costume, celebrating a tradition and the beauty of the imagery held by a Chieftan. No one was oppressed by this, just as no Europeans are oppressed when an Asian plays World of Warcraft, using imagery derived from European ancestry. Sharing our costume, culture, and heritage is wonderful beautiful thing, not oppression.

But in the mean time, until logic and reason can win over their racist hearts, I suggest we take a play from their own book and make our new mascot something they obviously honor and love. The Straw man.

-Angry Midwesterner


Angry Midwesterner

“dem dry bones.
Oh the knee bone’s connected to the shin bone..”

One bone that’s going to be connected to the anal orifice of Illinois businessmen and farmers, is the Blago-bonehead 2% retail tax our Governor is attempting to get approved by the Illinois legislature. Otherwise known as a VAT or value-added tax, this little dip into our pockets is almost guaranteed to give Illinois the staggering economic growth of the Euro denominated economies. A more regressive tax on the economy is hard to imagine.

Farmers purchasing seed and fertilizer will pay a 0.2% tax on the total amount. Services like spraying get their own 1.8% retail tax. The farmers have to pay this tax, increasing their cost of goods. The elevators will collect it. Then, when the corn is sold back, another .2%. And when the elevators dry the corn – oh that is a service – 1.8%. And the trucking to haul the grain – 1.8%. So we have a 5.8% tax on a basic staple that goes into, say, the Fritos Corn Chips (.2% to the wholesaler, .2% to the retailer, .2% to the consumer, cumulative now is 6.4% on the corn), the beef feed lot supplies (another 2.2% here), and ethanol production. (Hmm I wonder whether the Federal Ethanol Subsidies get their .2% or maybe 1.8% if subsidizing a product is arguably a service). The current structure of the US economy makes use of a cascade of services. Very few operations are vertically integrated anymore. Whole new fields of study have been created to analyze suppy chain dymanics and optimization, and inflicting a VAT on each and every step has the ability to move the Illinois economy somehere south of Mississippi. And this doesn’t even address the hoards of IIRS agents that will be needed to value the commodity or product at each stage – corn pricing is a hugely dynamic market. At what value is the tax applied?

Any why is this tax necessary? To listen to the Democrats supporting Blagojevich, it is to fund Illinois pensions, curiously which were raided as a source of funds by these very same Democrats which are bemoaning the current underfunding; to support education, we presume public higher education, since K12 education in primarly funded through property taxes at the local level, and which wouldn’t need as much funding if the previous five years of maintenance funding hadn’t been diverted to social programs designed to get Blagojevich re-elected; and to fund universal healthcare for Illinois – a concept analyzed to death, and with the conclusion that government healthcare is the kiss of death for the consumer.

I can’t even be optimistic on this one. So bend over. Here com’ da Rod-bone.

The Democratic party has a really serious problem these days, and no it isn’t outright unelectability (as shown by the last election), it is a much more deep seated problem that threatens to destroy the party itself in a very short while. That problem, my friends, is one of a VERY ununified base. While it may be true that the support for any party is not truly unified, the Republicans have the conservative Christians, and the money grubbing Mammon worshippers (better known as neo-cons); the Libertarians have their nut jobs and their whack jobs; and the Greens have their tree huggers and meat is murder types. The fundamental difference is that unlike other ununified bases, the Democratic bases don’t get along at all, in fact they actively hate each other.

The Democratic party is divided into two distinct groups, the Pot-Smoking-Hippy (PSH) Democrats, and the Hard-Working-American (HWA) Democrats. PSH Democrats tend to live on the west coast, avoid honest work at all times, utilize recreational drugs, moan and whine about supposed “rights and principles” (while in fact just using this line of questionable reasoning to promote a hedonistic lifestyle), and claim to feel bad for the oppressed peoples of our world, all the while living the privileged life of the upper middle class at the expense of said oppressed peoples. On the other hand, HWA Democrats tend to live in the Mid-West, toil away in blue collar jobs, worry about health care for their children, and the state of public education, all the while practicing patriotism and trying their hardest to live the American dream.

Unsurprisingly the two sides often end up clashing, despite being from “the same political party”. While PSH Democrats love hedonism and eschew morals and ethics, HWA Democrats tend to be Christian and try to live their lives in the pursuit of a goal higher than their own personal pleasure. At the same time that PSH Democrats are futilely protesting unfair working conditions and layoffs (conveniently held on a pristine beach or park) while wearing designer clothing that was made in China (resulting in lost US jobs), HWA Democrats are organizing the community and having productive discussions with their employers. While the PSH Democrats are flaunting US laws and endangering our youth by smoking and snorting illegal drugs, contributing to the general sloth and lazyness of American society while mumbling in a drug induced haze about a better world, HWA Americans are working their butts off in low paying jobs so that they can send their children to college and ensure a better world for all of us.

It isn’t just a difference in ideals which creates the chasm in the modern democratic party, however, it also is the attitudes. Your average PSH Democrat is vaguely aware of the existance of HWA Democrats, but wouldn’t be caught dead in the same room with one. After all, exposure to poverty is only hip if done during manufactured circumstances, or during college as a ways of pretending that somehow your basic needs aren’t being met so one can feel oddly morally superior while toking with the hippies at a political rally. Fundamentally though, your average PSH Democrat has a downright condescending attitude towards HWA Democrats. They see them as being victims who must be lifted up by the noble PSH Democrats in a perverse parody of the “white man’s burden”. The truth is that HWA Democrats don’t want the pity of some smelly, filthy, crusty wannabe hippies, they are quite capable of pursuing their own goals without the stench of patchouli hovering in the air.

This growing divide is going to become an increasing problem as the two sides of the gap find it harder and harder to work together. Their goals are fundamentally incompatible, and neither side really respects the other. The solution is of course to purge the party and make it more unified. Luckily for us the PSH Democrats have clustered on the West Coast leaving us with a clear and simple solution. The best way to fix the party is to support global warming. By sinking the filthy hippy enclaves of Seattle and San Francisco beneath the Pacific, the Democratic party can unify its base and move forward to a better and brighter future.

-Angry Midwesterner


Angry Midwesterner

Thanks to a book by former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw (very nicely satirized by Harry Shearer on Le Show: Book Bag: Tom Brokaw’s newest Greatest Generation works), we’ve been stuck with the term “Greatest Generation” for the past several years.

A few weeks back, Angry Overeducated Catholic (The Lamest Generation) accused Boomers of being narcissistic. Sure, no argument there. All you have to do is watch the once mighty Dennis Hopper laid low doing “Gimme Some Lovin'”-soundtracked commercials for Ameriprise Financial that scratch Boomer narcissism’s back just… that… little… bit… lower—right THERE!!!—down to see what I mean. I’d note, though, there seems to be at least some evidence that narcissism has only grown worse subsequently. Whether this is something inherent to human nature or a not-so-nice part of our culture I am not entirely sure. My hunch is that as our society has become wealthier and more egalitarian—generally good trends if you ask me—personality aspects for which spoiled rich kids have been notorious from time out of mind have descended lower and lower into our class structure. (It’s also important not to mythologize the past. People have always been rotten, venal self-centered jerks: read the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Holy Bible or Homer for millenia-old examples, if you need them. Altruism, generosity and humility are virtuous because they are rare.) A fuller examination of these points will have to wait for another day, however.

Do not misunderstand me. I deeply respect the sacrifice of the people who fought World War II, but crediting victory to one generation is downright silly. Leaders like FDR, Truman, Ike, Patton, McArthur, and Nimitz, just to name a few, were not GGers. The forgotten field-grade officers (majors, colonels and lieutenant commanders) and senior NCOs (the gunnies, master sergeants and CPOs) responsible for turning a bunch of green kids into a fighting force of extraordinary magnitude able to stand up to and eventually kick the stuffing out of the Wehrmacht (with help, of course) and the Imperial Japanese Navy in a few short years were not GGers. It may have a “common man” appeal to believe leadership means little, but that is a naive over-reaction to the great man school of history. Leadership matters. A lot.

Still, the GG deserves praise for rising to the challenge of WWII, so let’s give it to them, and then turn to other parts of the GG’s postwar record, which should infuriate both conservatives and liberals in some mixture:

    (1) Who was in charge during the Vietnam War? Whatever your opinion of the Vietnam War is (good idea badly executed or a stupid, immoral act from day 1), you have to agree the management of it left much to be desired. Boomers were young adults or children, not the decision makers, but somehow they get the blame for it.
    (2) Who was in charge when Great Society programs were built, i.e., when welfare as we knew it was built?
    (3) Who presided over stagflation of the ’70s and the “Me Decade” of the ’80s? These eras did a lot to undermine the (idealized) 1950s modern liberals and conservatives like so much (admittedly for different reasons).
    (4) Who presided over a giant shifting of priorities from the young to the old over the course of that time, leading to the giant gaping hole of “unfunded entitlement programs”? Again, conservatives love to hate organizations like the AARP… but who are the members?
    (5) Who presided over the development of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) and later “Flexible Response,” holding the whole world hostage?
    (6) Who squandered America’s lead in technology and science, allowing our public school system to fall to third-world levels in many places?
    (7) Who left the inner cities to rot into squalid nests of grinding poverty and lead the building of Soviet-style high rises to replace what had been functioning neighborhoods?

Of course, they also presided over the end of the Cold War, which turned out pretty well. That just makes my point: things are a mixed bag with any generation. Characterizing an entire generation in a nutshell is doomed to failure. I’ve read stuff written by people like Strauss and Howe and went “yeah!” However, it’s the hollow, empty-calorie Twinkie-and-a-Coke-for-breakfast kind of “yeah” that comes with reading a horoscope: sufficiently vague to allow the reader to wrap his or her own interpretation into it no matter what it says. At least Strauss and Howe didn’t use the term “Greatest” (theirs is the GI Generation) and don’t get into hagiography like Mr. Brokaw. Pandering is pandering and we can do without Tom Brokaw’s belated generational reach-aro^H^H^H hagiography. Maybe he feels bad about giving his old man a hard time when he was a teenager? Or perhaps he feels he needs to share the narcissistic love his generation is known for, since I’m not really sure, based on the GGers I know, anyway, they believe the hype?

Game shows are microcosms of the American psyche: average person is faced with challenges, may need to compete against others, has potential to reap huge reward—all conveniently condensed into 30- or 60-minute blocks for consumption by the masses. For decades, this format has produced some successful, long-running shows . Some of these shows require actual brain power and knowledge, in others one only needs to make some lucky guesses.

Right around the dawn of the 21st century, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? came along and started the game show genre’s downward spiral. Fomenting what would eventually become the attractive element of so-called “reality” shows, Millionaire introduced a level of theater and drama typically reserved for CSI interrogations. The show became less about the individual player and more about the suspense. The other new annoyance feature of the nouveau game show is the contestant’s external internal monologue. For example:

REGIS: Ok, Mildred, for $3000, what color are oranges? Is it A) Blue, B) Green, C) Orange, or D) Purple?

MILDRED: Oh, geez, I know this one, I just had orange juice this morning with breakfast, but you know, OJ is kinda yellow and I don’t see yellow on there, so , oh man, I dunno, maybe, uh, ummm–

REGIS: Remember, you still have two lifelines; you can ask the audience or use the <Corporate Sponsor> Phone-a-Friend™. [Author’s note: Amazingly, Regis can verbalize the “™” symbol, it’s guttural, but distinct]

MILDRED: Hahaha, yeah, oh man, I know I should know this, I love orange juice, but I haven’t had an orange, like, you know, just an actual orange in a while…hmmm, lemme see, well, I don’t think it’s orange because that seems too obvious–[audience claps supportively]–maybe it’s green? Things that grow out of the ground are green, right? Are oranges the entire plant or are they like a berry on a bush? Oh, wow, this is such a stumper so early on…

[And so on]

I have to speculate–based on the difficulty of the questions–that the producers of Millionaire probably aren’t looking for the Ken Jenningses of the world. This lowest-common-denominator contestant casting is also apparent on shows like Deal or No Deal, and (not surprisingly) Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? A math whiz, or anyone with a background in probability and statistics could maximize his earnings on Deal or No Deal. The mouth-breathers on this show also get to bring along three friends who stand off to the side and shout conflicting information about which case to pick next or whether or not to take the deal offered (c’mon, we all know who the banker really is). Basically it amounts to an hour of rednecks-gone-wild hollering at attractive briefcase-wielding models who dramatically reveal numbers printed on posterboard. How is this entertaining? What does the viewer gain from watching this tripe?

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? takes the loyal Deal or No Deal viewer and actually makes him/her think. Of course, there are some 10- and 11-year olds on hand to help. This show makes me weep for humanity. It’s basically the same schtick as Millionaire, except Fox is unabashedly acknowledging the expertise of both the contestants and their “help.” Like Deal, this show also wastes takes up an hour of primetime that could be filled with more entertaining programming (like a sitcom about a group of white people living in an urban setting offering comedic commentary on the mundane things in life…what? that’s been done? oh). But no. Instead, Large Corporations™ pay for advertising time knowing that the people watching these shows can’t be any smarter than the shows’ contestants, and thus are probably not very discerning consumers. Ergo, bad beer, erectile dysfunction drugs, unnecessary hair products, bubble gum, soda pop, and fast food continue to intoxicate the masses and retard society’s progress.

We need to return to a simpler time, where game shows were truly American and focused on the cash money prizes! Where people won things for answering a question, or solving a puzzle, or wearing odd clothes. We’re individualistic and don’t care about the contestant’s thought process! Prizes now! Talk later!

This is a special section of the 12 Angry Men Blog where we celebrate the best Troll to be found anywhere that week. While there are many varieties of troll, ranging from the fuzzy-haired dashboard decorations to the waylayer of the Billy Goats Gruff, we enjoy a well-executed jabbing that leaves an adversary stammering for a response. Any moron can produce a flame—mere sewage dumped upon the city square—but to produce a good Troll is a work worthy of the celebration of men.

The Troll of the Week segment will be written frequently enough to be termed “periodic”, but the actual label “of the week” is merely idealistic ambition, and it is not to be taken seriously.

Our inaugural Troll of the Week, while deserving of every laud and honor, had one terrible flaw: it was too good. For long we searched for a troll worthy of following it, and came to despair. But now our despair has lifted and joyous happiness reigns once more, for our prayers/wishes/existential musings on the absurdity of life have been answered. Into our hands have been delivered not one, but two most excellent trolls.

Context and Execution of Trolls:

In 1984, Apple Computer, seeking a truly innovative way to launch their Macintosh line and promote its “Think Different” tagline, came up with a remarkable commercial. Wonderously unorthodox, it was brilliant—but then lost to the film vaults as the years passed it by, studied only by advertising students and other morally dubious types. Then came the 2008 Presidential campaign (beginning, as these things do, in late 2006).

Captured by the messianic fervor of Obamaism, and horrified at the rise of the Antichrist, Phil De Vellis (aka parkridge47), a card-carrying Democrat and wageslave at the left-of-center Internet stategy group Blue State Digital, received inspiration from on high, looked deep in the past, took a Sunday afternoon (and a Mac), and created the definitive political statement of our time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6h3G-lMZxjo

The truest sign of the awesome power of this fine troll is the swift response of the servants of the Witch Queen of Chappaqua. Though they have now forced this noble troll into the light of day, and ripped from him his very livelihood, they cannot deny the power and grandeur of the work he has wrought.

Truly, Mr. De Villis, a troll for the ages…

For this most excellent troll, Phil De Vellis is awarded a co-Troll of the Week, and will receive an honorary beer at the Man Lunch. If he still needs work, he may rest assured that there are many places in the nation’s heartland that can still take a joke. Perhaps he should seek his fortune in the land of the Blessed One himself…

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Yet, even as all this was unfolding, another mighty mind watched with growing rage and jealousy at another phenomena sweeping the nation. Seething with rage at this unjust depiction of an unfortunate incident which befell the armed forces of his nation a mere 2487 years ago, Javad Shamaqdari took up pen and issued forth his challenge:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/6446183.stm

While some might pause before launching into a tirade about a movie created from a comic book loosely interpreting an ancient battle, this brave Immortal strode forth to do verbal battle with the vicious Spartans of Hollywood. He was not deterred by their fierce array of publicists, nor by the terrible “cultural authorities” which guided their hand, nor by the inconvenient actions of his own government’s blood-drenched puppets.

Some may point to the hypocrisy of whining about plundering history while engaged in a project to rewrite history. Or of whining about a dramatic portrayal of Persian deaths while funding actual Jewish and American deaths. Or even that of protesting stereotyping while working for a government engaging in the crudest possible forms of the same. But a true troll lets none of these dissuade him.

And whatever else he might be, Mr. Shamaqdari is a troll without peer. So we salute you, Javad Shamaqdari, for refusing to allow logic, prudence, or restraint limit your right of free expression. We, unlike your own society, celebrate your right to offend us—especially when you do it which such absolute blindness to the irony of it all!

For this trollish response to a simple Hollywood movie, Javad Shamaqdari is awarded a co-Troll of the Week, and will receive an honorary beer at the Man Lunch. He will not drink it, we suppose, but we suggest he could extend his efforts to rewrite irritating history to eliminate those pesky prohibitions in the Quran.

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