A Library Chump Lives Here: Or How the Louisville Free Public Library Is Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

October 30, 2007

library-chump-jpeg.jpgThe Louisville Free Public Library had me.

But now they’ve lost me.

A week from now Louisville voters will face a ballot referendum asking them to vote yes or no to allot $40 million a year for library operations via a newly created library tax district.

And if this proposal had been presented honestly to the public, I would have endorsed it wholeheartedly.

But it has not been presented honestly.

And so I am voting ‘no.’

Does the library need more than the paltry $16.5 million operational budget it receives a year from the Metro Louisville government? Absolutely it does.

But after years of mounting lies by my government, I have had it with lies and deceptions and obfuscations and misrepresentations.

I am not looking at this as a Democratic vs. Republican thing, or a liberal vs. a conservative issue.

I consider myself on most points a liberal. And I am not opposed to a new tax for the library. I love the library. I use it a lot. I love what it stands for and represents. I see it as a bastion of knowledge against the ignorant barbrian hordes. I want our library to be better, to be better stocked and able to service the community.

I am just opposed to this particular tax. And particularly opposed to the way in which the propaganda campaign for it has proceeded.

I feel duped. And I don’t like that. Not anymore.

Instead of straight talk, we’ve gotten the kind of sleaze addressed in this lengthy article in the Leo Weekly. Or in this one at the Courier-Journal website.

Rather than honestly tell us how much this is really going to cost and how the “old” library budget line money will be used, we get soothing pablum such as “it’s only a two-tenths of 1 percent” increase in taxes.

That’s a whopping 9 percent occupational tax increase, and it’s on top of the existing occupational tax. As a result, the old $16.5 million library budget line will become a free-money windfall for the city government.

I would support the tax if this existing $16.5 million continued to be for library use. With that $16.5 million deducted from the $40 million the library says it needs, that would leave $23.5 million left to be raised. I would be more willing to support a tax increase of $23.5 million to make up the difference, instead of allowing the city to grab a $16.5 million windfall through deception–which is what will happen if this referendum passes.

In other words, we will be paying what we already pay ($16.5 million, scooped up for something else) in addition to the new $40 million.

Do the math. We were paying $16.5 million. Now, with the city money and the library money combined. We will be paying $56.5 million.

If the library only needs the difference of $23.5 million, as I’ve demonstrated, why aren’t we being offered the option to pay that in new taxes instead?

Because the pigs are at the trough. That’s why.

Oh, I know I sound like such a Republican here. And it pains me to sound so, because I really do detest them. But on this issue–for once–our GOP friends are correct. And for once I have to grudgingly admit that I agree with them.

I want a fair, directly targeted tax, not a windfall deceptively hidden within the convoluted context of a tortuously worded referendum.

And let’s face it, like most families, ours is living paycheck to paycheck, and this amount of money is going to cut into meat and bone. We’re talking food money here. This is no small consideration.

The other thing that has rubbed me wrongly about this campaign is the way children have been exploited in selling it.

As all propagandists know, Hitler kissed children, therefore Hitler must be a nice guy.

The library ain’t Hitler, so why are they choosing Goebbels-like tactics to exploit children in their pro-referendum campaign?

You know all those thousands of “A Library Champion Lives Here” signs you see in yards all over Louisville?

I was certain that those signs meant that that particular property owner was “championing” the upcoming library referendum and supported the library and its efforts.

That confounded me because I was certain there had to be regulations barring the library from spending any of its budget for self-serving political campaigns.

As it happens, there are such restrictions.

And the way the library got around that restriction was this:

Have a summer reading campaign involving thousands of children. Once the kids read the required number of books, “reward” them with a big sign in their yard recognizing that “A Library Champion Lives Here.”

Voila! Two birds with one stone killed. The kid gets “recognition” while the library gains mass billboard face-time with the public, using a cleverly crafted message just generic enough to mean more than one thing–timed just perfectly and “coincidentally” to appear just as the big vote approaches.

Ask anyone on the street if they know squat about the summer reading program, and then ask them if they know about the library tax initiative. Then ask them what they think those signs are about?

See what I mean?

Go to the library website at lfpl.org or into the foyer of any local branch and look at how the yard sign campaign has been pictorialized to further exploit the kids by featuring their guileless, innocent selves standing next to these signs.

Remember, these kids library-champ-kids-cropped.jpgdon’t know what they’re doing. They were told to stand next to a sign to have their pictures taken.

They were told this was an “honor.”

I find it sick. And unlike the library, I’ve cropped off the kids’ faces in this picture so as not to further exploit them.

Next time, if you want to “reward” kids, give them a nice plaque and the gift of reading and knowledge: a $5 certificate to Borders or to the zoo or to IMAX or something. I guarantee they’d like it better. And we wouldn’t have it all shoved in our faces for manipulative purposes.

So masters of slick propaganda at the library, forget the Madison Avenue tactics and get back to work. When the referendum goes down to surprise defeat next week, and you wonder what went wrong, read and think deeply about my message.

Go back to the drawing board, don’t let the city take a dime, and craft an honest tax, honestly presented.

-Evan G

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Seymour Hersh Does it Again

June 18, 2007

Another superb job from Seymour Hersh: The General’s Report exposes what Rummy knew, and when he knew it—or more precisely, what he chose not to know—about the Iraqi prisoner abuse/torture… And how one real patriot, General Antonio Taguba, became another casualty of Bush’s assault on our military, and on the Truth.

Read it, or be like Rummy and continue to be in denial…


This Here is a Louisville Blog; Let it Be Known

June 15, 2007

louisville-skline.jpgHaving been almost fully dependent on my bike for more than a year now, I’ve more clearly noticed the surroundings and all the good things I used to ignore as I tooled around in an auto in this here hometown metropolis of mine, Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

At some point during the process yesterday of adding lots of new links to my “Louisville, Ky. Stuff” blogroll over there at page right, it occurred to me that this is a damn fine city.

louisville-waterfront2.jpgI didn’t always think so.

I’ve been to a few other places: Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and so on, and been impressed by what some of those cities have done. San Francisco is the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen; Chicago is the most exciting (I’m probably the only person I know who still has never been to New York City, but I’m sure that would be even more exciting).

By contrast, Louisville to me seemed a backwater, a surrogate target of my own scorn, maybe even a reflection of self-loathing and an inferiority complex.

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Part of that notion might also be due to the influence of various well-meaning but misguided local businessmen and “leaders” who think we need things like professional sports teams and giant new stadiums so that we can be like Indianapolis or Atlanta. There’s a certain unseemly penis envy about this kind of manly inferiority between cities. Who the hell wants to be bigger, more congested and more polluted, anyway?

Louisville isn’t going to have a better quality of life or be better loved by locals or more admired by outsiders just because it has a pro basketball team. That’s dime-a-dozen shit, and pea-brained thinking to boot.

louisville-cherokee.jpgBy getting out and about more, I’m discovering what makes Louisville unique and different. And none if it has to do with, nor will it ever have to do with, having some tax-sucking sports franchise that costs the average family $200 a game.

But, getting out of the car and getting around on my own power has opened my eyes. I breathe the open air and feel the atmosphere around me better perhaps. I’m more curious to explore, and more fascinated by what I see.

Part of that has to do with aging, and part of that maturation has to do with seeing the positive in my own back yard.

I’ve come to realize that we’ve got it pretty damned good in good ole Louisville.

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Consequently, an almost embarrassingly maudlin sense of pride about my hometown has overtaken me of late. I might even be perfectly happy to spend the rest of my days here.

Why that is would take a lot of pages to explain, and would sound too much like I was a shill for the convention and visitor’s bureau. Anyway, this organization has named our River City/DerbyTown USA/Lou-a-vuhl one of America’s 30 Most Livable Communities.

louisvilleshakespeare.jpgAs far as culture and recreation go, we are really wanting for nothing in this town. We have nationally respected theatre (stuff has premiered here at Actors Theatre before becoming hits on Broadway), opera, ballet, a fine orchestra, dance groups, literary groups, chamber ensembles and a Bach Society, a bohemian strip along Bardstown Road where edgy indie bands play and great restaurants abound and every hot young thing wants to be seen, classy gentrified and beautifully restored and preserved 19th-century neighborhoods and downtown iron-cast storefronts, a good library and universities, a super art museum with a real Rembrandt, a recently developed recreational waterfront on the Ohio River, triple-A minor league baseball in a spiffy new riverfront park, and unique museums and other attractions all over the place, including a planetarium and an old steamboat.

louisvillepalace.jpgThe Louisville Place has to be one of the most stunning venues for live and film entertainment in the country.

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louisville-thunderover.jpgNot only do we have the Kentucky Derby, but we have a Derby kickoff event that has far surpassed it in scope and attendance, Thunder Over Louisville, the largest annual fireworks display on the continent.

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louisville-art-glass.jpgAnd there are lots of funky nooks and crannies that make a city a real city, not just a collection of big suburbs surrounded by a tiny core of pathetic buildings that lack cultural cohesion and breadth (I’m thinking, of course, of Kentucky’s second-largest “city,” Lexington).

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You’d be hard-pressed to find a hipper music store than Ear-X-Tacy anywhere else in the United States, or a better video store than the amazing Wild & Woolly Video, or a funkier bookstore than the rambling All Booked Up—all of them on Bardstown Road.

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In Louisville we can go to a jazz nightclub, or turn on our radio 24 hours a day and hear Beethoven or Mahler or Duke Ellington or Tom Waits or Stereolab. That’s because we have three topnotch public radio stations. Very few cities this size can boast that.

And if we want to get our rocks off we can go to Louisville’s vast, evil network of adult businesses, and there are lots of them all over louisville-at-night.jpgtown, from the Lion’s Den to Priscilla’s to Deja Vu to Frederick’s of Hollywood to message parlors and escort services and gay bars. You see, a lot of us ’round these parts figured out that sex is natural and necessary and a basic human need. In fact, Louisville just oozes and reeks with dirty, filthy sinful SEX. Ewwww, gross.
But if you want to go to church here, there are even far more of those around—for all denominations and faiths. And there’s country line dancing too at Coyote’s nightclub.

 

louisville-4thstreettrolley.jpg

So, we are weird, in a good way. We are diverse and eclectic and eccentric and stark raving mad in a joie de vivre sort of manner. In other words we are not bland or banal or predictable or stuck in a go-nowhere dusty vacuous stark and repressed past or satisfied with everyone’s else’s low-bar expectations.

Exhibit A: Hunter S. Thompson came from here. And if you’re really hip, you know about Slint.

louisvilleyorkstatue.jpgFor these things, of course, the rest of the state of Kentucky hates us. And that just makes me fall in line in loyalty to my city all the more. Louisville pays the bulk of taxes for this Commonwealth and gets far less back in investment in return. And the gratitude we get for this is concealed jealously and scorn and stupid laws aimed against our progressive, cosmopolitan ways by the legislators who prefer to answer to the retrograde Rev. Billy Bob Chickenplucker types from Hogshit, Ky.

Hate and ignorance aren’t good enough for Louisville.

A similar vibe struck me a few years back when some fundamentalist-type southern Kentucky relatives of my wife—nice and polite folks, I’ll grant you—visited us at our suburban Louisville home and we took them out to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom amusement part next to the fairgrounds. That’s all well and good, but that’s all they wanted to do. They didn’t want to go downtown and see other attractions with a true local flavor because they were “afraid” of crime. Never mind that Louisville’s crime rate is low—or that they’d be more likely to be struck by lightning on their rural spread than mugged on our city streets. Expanding their cultural horizons was really what they feared.

louisville-slugger-big-bat.jpgThrough political fashions, including the 30-year trend toward electing conservative Republicans in practically every office in this state, the mayoralty of Louisville has remained staunchly and solidly Democratic, as has our aldermanic board. That’s because people here like solid, competent, dependable leadership, and prefer not to trade good basic governance for irrelevant, divisive ideology. God doesn’t make government work, thinking and working people do.

Although he has enemies as all politicos do, long-time Mayor Jerry Abramson (or as one local radio DJ calls him, “mayor for life”) is probably the most liked politician in the country.

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Meanwhile, our Republican governor, Ernie Fletcher, can’t even get our downtown I-65 bridge painted properly without corruption and in a reasonable time…

louisville-waterfront3.jpgSo are we arrogant and elitist here in Louisville? Well, when you’re clearly superior, why the hell not be?

As in the past, I intend to post more stuff about Louisville in and among my other various ramblings. My intention is to keep the blog split about 50-50 between Louisville stuff and other various non-Louisville related topics.

louisville_sistercities.jpgAs I tool around on my bike with my digital camera, I’m snapping pix like a fool. What I hope to cover are people and things that the local media and others ignore or miss. Some of it will be ugly and some beautiful.

To me, even some of the ugliness is beautiful. Industrial ruins for instance; the despised and forgotten corners of Louisville’s past.

I hope to talk to poets and street people and people who ride the buses, and report what I find.

I recently interviewed Louisville’s number one atheist. I have some good snaps of this unique individual and his mission and hope to have an article on him soon.

I want to photograph the interiors of funky musty bookstores and other unique venues.

I will wax nostalgic about past people and places in this here town
louisville-belle-of.jpgI might even complain about some of the bad things that plague us here: the unpredictable weather and heinous summer humidity, smog and pollen and the shitty Keystone Kops way our police do traffic control during special events and so on.

Whatever the case, I hope you can take the journey with me.

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And in case I haven’t made it clear yet, Louisville is fuckin’ cool.

-EG

—photo credits/ All images were borrowed from publicly displayed and openly accessible websites/ if anyone has a problem with their images being displayed here, please tell me and we can either take it down or re-do the photo credit to suit your needs:

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Louisville Skyline at night found at Louisville Metro Guide.

Thunder Over Louisville by Gene Burch found at Gene Burch Photography


We Need the Crying Indian Again

May 1, 2007

crying-indian_fullhead80p.jpgLike every issue, global warming—or global climate change to be precise—has become an either-or, polarizing, divisive issue between the Left and the Right; between science and religion: Either you believe humans are causing it or you don’t. And if we are, then we need to change the way we live.

The crux of all this for the Righties, of course, is that anytime anyone is asked to change their habits then that must mean a Commie plot is afoot to take away their freedoms and steal away their Amurkin way o’ life.

So, that leaves us at an impasse in which the Rightie-Corporate-led government undermines science and does all it can to keep us from changing our ways.

For the record, I side with the scientific consensus and with Al Gore. I think that we have to dramatically decrease our greenhouse gas emissions. I do my part: riding the bus and biking every day, walking and no longer driving a car.

And guess what? I manage to get to work even though I live 20 miles away—and even manage to finish a book while in transit every few weeks. And I feel healthier, too.

People who say that cars are the only way are just lazy, whiny, wimpy bastards. I find it ironic that all the tough-talking SUV, Hummer, and 4×4 pickup types act like they’re the shit, when it’s “sissy liberals” like me who better exemplify the classic, pioneering, American can-do progressive spirit. I get out there on the road on a bike, and I manage to find a way to get it done. Most of these dependent fatsos know that they can’t bring their suckling, coddled cottage-cheese asses to do it, so they wimp out and sit their overweight carcasses right back into their plush rich corinthian leather and protect their timid little selves from the elements.

And furthermore, I’m installing those ice-cream-cone-style curly energy saving lightbulbs in my lamps. It will save me money, and that’s something that even polluters and energy wasters just might understand.

And there’s more I intend to do.

Even so, there’s one other thing that I think we possibly need to stop doing.

And that’s to stop arguing about global warming. In fact, I say let’s take global warming off the table, period.

crying-indian-silhouette75p.jpgAs long as the issue continues to be divisive, nothing useful is going to get done.

It’s time to look to the past and reframe the issue: This is about pollution.

Whether pollution causes global warming or not, nobody with any kind of sense can argue that pollution is good for anybody or anything.

Breathing toxic air and drinking toxic water is indisputably a bad thing.
No argument.

So let’s get the issue back to where it was in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
At that time the message was simple: Pollution is bad; let’s stop it.

As a result, the momentum swung against pollution, and polluters. Even a Republican president, Richard Nixon, was eager to put strong laws on the books.

And, like then, we need to find one strong, simple symbol that makes the issue easily, starkly understood. Something like the “Crying Indian.”

Anybody out there who’s over 35 knows what I’m talking about.

In 1971, one of the most dramatic and powerful public service ads ever made was first broadcast—and it was shown for years repeatedly throughout the 1970’s.crying-indian-tear65p.jpg

Rowing his canoe through sludge and silhouetted against a nasty pink smog-laden sky, the great crying Indian sets foot on Modern America—only to suffer the indignity of fast-food garbage thrown at his feet.

If you haven’t seen the ad before, then you can catch it here at good ole Youtube:

So I say again, let’s make the issue pollution; not global warming.

The rest will follow.

-EG


Anytime Annie Wants to Be Your Governor, But What Will She Do Without Bush & DeLay To Tell Her?

April 23, 2007

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher has never looked better.

Why?

Not because he’s tanned, well-tailored and impressive on the stump, which he is. And certainly not because of the arrogance, hypocrisy and scandal that have marked his administration.

No, he’s looking better because Anne Northup is saying bad things about him.
annie-creepy-smile.jpgThat’s right. Anne Northup—“Anytime Annie”—that stale, has-been, lazy-jowled leftover from the Bushie-DeLay rubber-stamp, do-nothing fiasco 109th Congress. Yes, that maverick leader who voted 91 percent of the time with the Bush-DeLay agenda.

Pulling out that dusty leather discredited old Republican smear playbook that worked so well for the GOP from 1994 to 2004, Anytime Annie proves she’s still ready anytime to go negative.

Of course, vulnerable Ernie has given her the ammo, but on matters that really count—including a morally bankrupt and administratively inept right-wing political philosophy that she and Ernie share 100 percent—Anytime Annie will never really truly criticize Ernie Fletcher.

Still, she wants us to believe, as her slogan goes, that “she’s the only Republican who can win in November.”

I doubt that my Bluegrass brethren out in Hogshit, Ky., believe that one any more than I do. I know very well that lots of folks out there continue to stand behind their governor, for good or ill, just like they do their president.

Rationality ain’t got nuthin’ to do with it.

I also know that discredited Anytime Annie calling Patronage Ernie bad things looks about as credible as Mussolini calling Franco a bad guy.

But, Annie wasn’t corrupt, you say? She didn’t dole out patronage. Or did she? Check out this example of Anytime Annie’s integrity.

So, I repeat, the more bad things she says about Ernie, the better he looks. Call it the “Anytime Annie Effect,” if you will. Go negative and angry, and make your opponent look better. If I was conspiratorially inclined, I might think she was working for Ernie’s campaign.

annie-on-the-tube.jpgBut more basically, and let’s just state it outright: We just don’t want to have to look at her exasperated leather face any more.

Or hear that whiny lazy slur as her tongue stumbles around in that mannish maw.

Or contemplate once again what a boring, uninspiring mediocrity she is.

Anytime Annie finds herself prisoner in an Escher-like conundrum: She’s more boring when positive; more interesting when negative. Sort of like how Anna Nichol Smith became more interesting when she killed herself.

Lest this smack of ad hominem, consider this:

Annie wants us to forget that it was just seven short months ago that we ran her outta town on a rail—along with the rest of her Congressional “yes-man” lot–for failing to check and balance a power-mad and ever-remotely arrogant chief executive hell bent on pursuit at all costs of an obsessive, increasingly irrational war, to the neglect of every other festering problem of the nation.

But Anytime Annie is ready and rarin’ to go again because, so she thinks, we owe it to her.

That’s right. She’s ready anytime to be a politician of some sort or another for Kentucky. Anything, anytime—Annie, by rights, should be elected to something big in Kaintuck. For someone who rails against entitlements, she sure comes off as somebody entitled.

In TV ads that mirror the excitement of her half-asleep slurred speech, Anytime Annie says she’s gonna do something about health care and education and the like.

I guess the opposite of the way she did nothing about those things for 9 years in Congress.

annie-serious.jpgWell, she did do something, voting yay on the $400 billion Medicare Bill that Bushie signed into law in 2003—an occasion celebrated with champagne corks popping in boardrooms across the country as the top 1 percent laughed at the rest of us 300 million suckers who were going to pay out the ass with our own taxes for a law written by—yes, the health-care CEOs themselves.

And what thanks did Anytime Annie get for voting the way she was told, anytime she was told to? The disrespect of half the state and Congress and President Bush, none of whom—even after 9 years—seemed capable of pronouncing her name right. You’d thought she was an heiress to the Northrup aviation empire, as many times as she was called that. It’s understandable in Bush’s case, of course; he can’t pronounce anything—plus his war brain dances with visions of military contractors such as Northrup.

Rather than list them here, I’ll let The GOP Auction House give you the record and loyalties of Anytime Annie as well as the disastrous legacy of the leadership of her and her fallen Congressional compadres.

Is that the kind of governance we have to look forward to, Anytime? More years of inertia and corporate welfare?

As a governor, Annie, you’ll have to do something called consensus building. There’ll be no Big Daddy DeLay to build consensus for you like before; none of that “vote like I say, or else” kind of consensus that the lockstep zombie Republican Congress-folk got used to. Nope, it ain’t that easy anymore, Anytime.

The one thing Congresswoman Annie had going for her, along with her fellow DeLay-ites, was doling out lots of taxpayer money on wasteful pork for their districts to help keep themselves in power.

In press release after press release, Anytime Annie, like her mentor Free $peech Mitch McConnell, boasted about how she was bringing home the bacon for homefolks, as if the bacon was hers (and his) to begin with.

Time and time again, Mitch and the Bitch forgot to mention the fact that me and the 3.5 million other Kentuckians funding the pork should have been the ones mentioned above the politicos in those press releases. If it’s my own goddamned money I’m getting back, then how is somebody giving me anything? They ain’t, that’s what.

Like Poke Salad Annie, Pork-Barrel Annie rustled up the dole-outs, including lotsa collards and hamhocks of the faith-based variety to curry favor with the Republican disinclined African-American wards.

She went black, and still she never went back—‘cause she got shitkicked out.

annie-nerd.jpgAnd you have to question the efficiency of any political campaign that would put me on Anytime Annie’s email list. They couldn’t have found a less sympathetic voter to spam. Is that the kind of efficiency we can expect from her as governor?

Like the first Anytime Annie—a morally loose gold-digging chorus girl in the classic 1933 film 42nd Street—our Anytime Annie pretends that she wants you, forcing a smile like a weary street whore. But her haggard eyes tell you the real story.

Like a political crack whore, she needs to get off the stuff and get a real job. Would somebody please give her one and get her out of our sight? I’m sure she can do something productive.

annie-headlights.jpgYet, Anytime Annie still wants us to believe that she can fix all the things as governor that she ignored or worsened while in Washington and mend all that has gone wrong under her fellow Republican Ernie.

Do you really want to give her that chance?

-Evan


Grey Alien Sez: We Beamed Up Ann Coulter and Cheney

March 8, 2007

Note: Gravy Bread has allowed the Grey Alien to use this blog as a forum to occasionally inform the people of Earth of developing news from an outsider’s perspective. Gravy Bread is not responsible for the content of the Grey Alien’s message nor do we necessarily agree with the statement given. However, in this case…

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Earth Humans,

We are among you. We could no longer remain silent in the present climate of danger that you have allowed to envelop yourselves and to threaten the very existence of you and your planet.

Recently, we abducted the United States’ vice president and an influential woman (we think) media personality known as Ann Coulter. coulter.jpg

Prior to returning them safely to Earth and wiping away the memory of their stay with us, we performed various experiments to try to better understand why they say and do things that sway large numbers of mischeneysmirk.jpegguided humans to spread messages and perform actions that endanger the welfare of humans and the planet Earth.

We thought it necessary to inform you of the danger of these people and to share with you the results of one of our experiments.

We were perplexed to find in the place of their hearts, the following:

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We will perform similar tests on Bill O’Reilly and others.

Beware, humans, of those who mislead.

Universal Peace,

The Grey Alien


When Weirdos Ask Good Questions

March 2, 2007

Against my better judgment, I’m becoming a fan of Coast to Coast with George Noory.

You know, whacko overnight radio.

Radio where people call in claiming to be psychics or have visions of Armageddon. People who have had sex with aliens. Lotcoast_to_coast.jpgs of conspiracies are forwarded, nearly all of which Noory seems to agree with.

It’s the old Art Bell show. (Semi-retired Bell only hosts the show on Sundays, typically).

The show is good from the get-go, from the moment the deep-voiced announcer gravely intones the various continental phone numbers: “West of the Rockies, George Noory can be reached at…”

A whole vast sweeping continent in the midnight dark ready to tell ghost stories. It just gives you a chill.

I find myself drawing the curtains, lest I be startled by a peeping grey alien.

Red Elk the shaman discusses his dreams of a coming cataclysm. Indian mythology, Jesus and aliens all get jumbled together in a tasty melange.

Breaking news.grey_alien.jpg Seven-foot-tall reptilian beings have been spotted in the French Quarter in New Orleans. No, it’s not Mardi Gras. The witnesses are credible, so verifies the guest UFOlogist.

Somehow, amid of all this Weekly World News fodder, a seemingly legit story manages to find its way into the mix.

Did you know that honeybees are disappearing, en masse?

That’s right. The honeybees that pollinate vast swaths of American agriculture land are flying off and simply not returning to their colonies. Absent massive numbers of bee corpses, where are the bees dropping dead?

This is not a bogus story. It has made CNN and the pages of the New York Times. Pesticides, genetic mutation, global warming? Nobody knows why it’s happening. But the effects on the honey industry and on agriculture in general could be devastating.

And I wouldn’t have known anything about it if I hadn’t listened to Coast to Coast.

My old reporter’s instincts told me to check and verify with other sources, and so I did.

But the danger of shows like Coast to Coast, of course, is that the ignorant and gullible don’t know when to distinguish the fantasies and the lunatic conspiracies from the legitimate stories.

But tabloid radio is little different from the mainstream media in that regard, as old-line TV networks sell out their hard-news reputations for celebrity gossip “specials,” pedophile-entrapment series’ and opinion shows masquerading as news.

It really takes an enquiring mind to sift the wheat from the chaffe.

Another good example is Alex Jones’ Infowars site.

Jones’ perspective/worldview is of the old right-wing (non-neocon), libertarian, isolationist sort. Which means among Jones’ loopy, looney labyrinthine coalex_jones-bw.jpgnspiracy theories about the evils of the New World Order and big government, he is nonetheless asking a lot of surprisingly good and hard-hitting questions. Questions which governments and the mainstream media have not satisfactorily answered.

Take a cursory glance at his site and you’ll see a lot of points on which to agree. It’s just his over-arching conspiracy construct that taints some otherwise good observations.

Jones is presently battling the BBC over a provocative 9/11 conspiracy incident that makes the British network look like an accessory to an evil plot.

Jones and other 9/11 conspiracy buffs allege that many minutes prior to the collapse of World Trade Center Building Number 7 (the Salomon Brothers building), a BBC reporter announced its collapse on the air. Somehow the BBC had been “tipped off” but then mis-timed the collapse announcement.

Yet at the same time the reporter announces the collapse, a time-stamped video shows the building still standing, directly behind her left shoulder. It’s on the web, you can see it for yourself.

What does it prove? Was it merely a mistake, or proof that the building was slated for demolition as part of the fear campaign that would sweep a fascist New World Order into power?

Instead of saying Jones’ allegations are hogwash and offering proof of same, the 9-11.jpgBBC counters with (to paraphrase), “it’s old news, and anyway, we’ve lost our 9/11 tapes.”

The latter statement has raised flags at rival news networks. The idea of a major news operation “losing” or misplacing its 9/11 footage stretches credulity.

Rather than making Jones and other conspiracists eat crow, the BBC has added fuel to the fire. The conspiracy, so it seems, is deeper than previously thought.

The end result: Now it looks like Alex Jones is really on to something.

The 9/11 conspiracy theories don’t persuade me, but they are understandably appealing because they allow people to assign evil to particular cabals. Evil men behind closed doors are methodically and consciously planning world domination.

It’s comforting, in a way, to blame the man behind the curtain. It’s more orderly and understandable than messy everyday reality.

But, in truth, bad things happen in the world for more banal reasons, mainly having to do with the attainment and hoarding of money. Everyday corporate machinations are too dull. Blaming a system is a nebulous prospect for the population. Finding a Darth Vader is much more graspable.

So when you engage the fringe media, enjoy the goofy parts, and think deeply when, occasionally, they hit upon some damned good questions.

-Evan