Chickens becoming threat to national security?

Two headlines from the always excellent Obscure Store & Reading Room:

Coincidence? I think not. Memo to self: Be more specific when ordering steak bomb at sandwich shop.

Image via mellow creme pets

Don’t they risk enough? Shuttle astronauts to be fed “Swedish delicacies” on next trip.

I’d risk my life to go into space … unless they were serving lutefisk. In that case I’d stay home. For those of you fortunate enough never to have had it: Lutefisk is an alleged food fed by Norse-people to unsuspecting strangers. (It’s the cold weather equivalent of poi and one of the few dishes to make haggis seem appealing.) It was created because the Norse needed to preserve fish when they went sailing. Because their countries are too far north to evaporate enough salt to use that as a preservative, those crazy Norseketeers instead dried the fish until you could use it as timber and then soaked it in lye. MMMMM, lye … Yep the stuff that will kill you, that lye. In order to eat it (although it is better used as a weapon or a method of discouraging foriegners from moving to Norseland) you soak it until all the lye is removed — you hope. The result is a product that tastes like soggy cardboard but without as much flavor. Sadly, I know whereof I speak.

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Jury duty shakes my faith in humanity

As even a casual observer can tell I am not all that impressed by humanity en masse. Singularly, we shows signs of brilliance. Collectively I’m not sure how we ever made out of the swamps, let alone down from the trees. So you can imagine my feelings of dread as I and 13 others chosen pretty much at random from the Boston-area gene pool sat down to come up with a verdict after 10 days of a trial on the scintilating topic of the rights to run a golf course. Simply put, the high-bidder for a contract to run a city course charged favoritism after he didn’t get said contract. The city of course denied this. Although very ably represented the city had the drawback of having to put on the stand several people who are among the veracity challenged, or so I thought. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought this and within an hour we had reached a verdict. I was deeply impressed at the insight of my fellow jurors who were about as much of a demographic cross-section as you could want. By the end of the entire process I would have to say it was cynical preconceptions 0, actual experience 1.

Fortunately, before this could sink in and change my outlook of the world I came across the following about the George Bush Desert Classic:

Half of US still believes Iraq had WMD

According to a Harris Poll taken last month, a full 50% of U.S. respondents said they believe Iraq did have the forbidden arms when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003. What makes this even better: That’s up 14% since last year. The interesting question that this raises for me is, oddly enough, not given this level of credibility how is it the nation is not awash in deeds to the Golden Gate Bridge (housing bubble? what housing bubble?). No, what I want to know is how it is that the president’s approval ratings are so low if half of us think that the invasion of Iraq actually made sense? Furthermore, what has happened in the last year to give this idea more — not less — plausibility? Y’know the White House keeps complaining that the press is only reporting the bad news out of Iraq. Well, if this is the result they ought to be cheering each time another bombing is reported.

Or, in the words of one of my beloved Texas aphorisims: “You keep giving them books and giving them books and they keep chewing on the covers.”

While this might lead some to despair, I choose to follow the advice of Mencken: “Life may not be exactly pleasant, but it is at least not dull. Heave yourself into Hell today, and you may miss, tomorrow or next day, another Scopes trial, or another War to End War, or perchance a rich and buxom widow with all her first husband’s clothes. There are always more Hardings hatching. I advocate hanging on as long as possible.”

Proof of the triumph of electronic currency & other game news

Zombies, Fish & the War on Terror

  1. The Japanese aren’t cutting bait in their effort to defeat terrorists. They are deploying the tiny Ricefish in water supplies to detect contamination. “If the water is contaminated, the fish show irregular behavior, such as swimming with their noses near the surface because of breathing problems, or simply die.” That explains it! For two years terrorists were striking at Collateral Damage HQ through the aquarium! That’s why all those fish died! On the plus side for the Japanese is that this also gives them a new source for sushi.
  2. Zombies were busted in Minneapolis carrying WMD. Participants in something called a “zombie dance party” were jailed Saturday night after ended up in jail after getting arrested in downtown Minneapolis. Police said the heavily made up zombie dancers were staggering along like the living dead and some carried backpacks with wires sticking out. “The ‘zombies’ were arrested on suspicion of having ‘simulated weapons of mass destruction.’ A friend of the group says the suspicious devices were homemade stereos.” Oddly, this is one of the few excuses not used by the Bush administration in the run up to our current quagmire (DIDDLY!).

Speaking of which…am currently reading Cobra II, Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainor’s book on the planning and early days of The George Bush Desert Classic. It’s like watching an incredibly well-planned out car wreck. Pretty much any assumption that could be mistaken was. On both sides.

The Iraq Civil War, or Operation Bull Run

Marketing has always been a high consideration in the US adventure in Iraq, see Chief of Staff Andrew Card’s comment on the invasion, “From a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” Needing to sell this particular product, the Administration ran out a staggering array of ante-bellum reasons for war: WMD, “Saddam is worse than Hitler,” Saddam is linked to 9-11, Saddam will destabilize the Mid-East (isn’t that like making water wet?), “We need to stand up for the UN.” All of these were underpinned by the argument that this has nothing to do with oil. One of the first things you learn in the news biz is that when someone says it’s not about money, then you can be sure it is about …

Current ex post facto rationalizations include spreading democracy in the Mid East (unless, of course, democracy gets the “wrong” people elected. Quoth Lehrer: For might makes right/And till they’ve seen the light/They’ve got to be protected/All their rights respected/ ‘Till somebody we like can be elected), creating a “flypaper” state that keeps all the terrorists in Iraq and I forget what all else.

Along with the ever-changing series of rationales, a key tactic of this marketing campaign has been to claim things aren’t happening that already are. There was the Administration saying the war hadn’t begun when we’d been bombing the Iraqis for weeks. Turns out they meant “ground war.” We had the Mission Accomplished/End Of Hostilities claim followed by more combat deaths than while “hostilities” were under way. And now there is the claim that “Civil War” is in danger of breaking out all over the place.

Last Sunday, Secretary of State Rice made the TV rounds and dismissed an “impending” civil war. And, technically, she’s right: It’s not impending if it’s already here. Her comments sound like Gen. Westmoreland’s December 1967 dismissal of the North Vietnamese’s ability to launch an offensive anywhere in South Vietnam. The following month the North launched the Tet offensive everywhere in South Vietnam.

If this ain’t Civil War, maybe it will do until the real thing comes along. What does it take to get the official imprimatur and make a war Civil? Is it when Iraqis spend more killing each other than they do trying to kill the US military? I think we can check that one off. Is it at some point when we can no longer claim all or even most of the violence is being conducted by outsiders? Now that’s actually tough to measure. Is it when Ken Burns makes a somnolent documentary of it? God forbid. The Iraqis have suffered enough already.

As usual, the Administration is being aided and abetted in its marketing by many in the media, and I’m not talking Fox TV. Last Sunday, the NYT’s Week In Review section lead with an article entitled “What A Civil War Could Look Like” which actually addressed everything but that. The article categorically refused to define “What a civil war does look like.” Instewad it fell back on some of the most hair-splitting linguistic efforts to not call an Antietam an Antietam since Bill Clinton’s famous “is.”

Like a near-death experience, the carnage seems to have shocked Sunni and Shiite leaders into a new realization of what civil war would cost, and new efforts to avoid it. But what happens if such efforts — and frantic ones by Americans — prove incapable of stopping an all-out war?

The greatest fear of leaders throughout the Middle East is that an unrestrained civil war …

If Iraq were to sink deeper into that kind of conflict,

In short, it said, we’ll know it’s a Civil War when the rest of the region falls to pieces. Or when it stops being so damned restrained. Or when someone has the nerve to call it that.

Any experienced marketer knows that you can sell pretty much anything once. Make a big enough claim for the product and someone – maybe a lot of someones – will buy it. The hard part is getting them to buy from you more than once. To do that the claims you make have to have some resemblance to the product you’re selling. When it comes to civil war, the consumer should now really be aware. And expect an official announcement of this product launch very, very soon.