August 18, 2003

Give Me Something To Bitch About

It's Monday, so I'm full of unfocused ire. Therefore, I need a focus for my ire. Let's see here. . .

Ah, I see that the morally bankrupt columnist Maureen Dowd (motto: Your quotes are as good as doctored) has a new item up at the New York Times about blackouts, and Enron, and sci-fi movies, and terrorists and. . . shit, this woman really needs to learn how to focus.

Batteries Not Included


Klaatu barada nikto. I couldn't help but flash on the 50's sci-fi classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still," watching New York and other cities plunged into sweaty darkness when the 50's equipment on the power grid gave out.

That's the movie where Michael Rennie, as the superior alien, and his silver robot, Gort, land their spaceship on the Washington Mall. Mr. Rennie ends up shutting down electricity on earth β€” suspending elevators midskyscraper, turning off TV midshow β€” to get skeptical earthlings to listen to his message. (Stop fighting among yourselves or we'll destroy your puny little planet.)

Yep. Every good column starts off with a TWO PARAGRAPH recitation of a 50s sci-fi classic. Other columnists would use that valuable lead paragraph time to, oh, I don't know, make a fucking point.

New York took on a retro tone Thursday, gamely going back to batteries, relying on ice blocks to cool food and transistor radios to hear news. Without a blow-dryer, the usually sleek CNN anchor Paula Zahn was relegated to bedhead waves.

This is the first of MANY jokes that fall flat. I swear, Dowd's frequent attempts at humor are often so bad, you'd think she was channeling the spirit of Milton Berle.

TV reporters offered New Yorkers tips. Be careful that your candles don't tip over. But unplugged Gothamites, busy using cigarette lighters to find their way out of subways, had no TV's on which to hear the tips. (Except the paranoid rich, who partied in Westchester with backup generators. Once, private jets were chic; now you must have private juice.)

So, apparently, Dowd has a problem with the rich. How dare they have money! She's particularly pissed at those rich people who have the forethought to *gasp* have generators. Did you also notice how she jabbed a finger in the side of pretty much every New Yorker, chastizing them for their reliance on electricity, as if a sprawling metropolis should somehow be able to function solely on campfires and handwarmers? Dowd just sounds cranky that she doesn't have as much money as she'd like to have. Here's a tip, Maureen, write something of quality for a change.

Residents of Iraq and India, interviewed on television, seemed shocked to learn that the most technologically advanced nation had an electrical support system so rickety it is "third world," as Bill Richardson put it. (Indians call their underperforming electricity "bijli," rhymes with "Gigli.") Steamed Iraqis offered us tips, including: Sleep on the roof and take showers. As in showdenfreude?

This is what I don't get. Critics of America, of which Dowd is clearly a member, seem genuinely giddy any time something doesn't work correctly in the United States. A bird poops on a transistor in Ohio, sending a cascade of electrical failure over the northeast, and critics worm their way out of the wordwork just to say "See? America sucks!" and then they duck back out of sight, awaiting the next perceived failure of American dominance. The power grid fails once (forgetting the fact that rioting didn't happen, and power was back up within days), and suddenly America shares parity with third world countries like Iraq and India. Whatever. What-the-fuck-ever.

Thursday reminded us of the tenuousness of our romance with technology; we spend our days using a thicket of high-tech equipment without a clue about how it actually works or what to do when it doesn't.

Oh, come on. Most people drive automobiles, too, without a clue how they operate. I somehow seriously doubt Maureen could tell you how a carburetor works, or if she even knows what a piston is for, yet she drives. Romance with technology my ass.

We have BlackBerrys that are also telephones and Palm Pilots that are also cameras and cellphones that also send text-message mash notes. We take it on faith that the power will come on when we switch on computers to send e-mail around the world instantaneously from our air-conditioned, well-lit, cable-TV-equipped, key-coded, A.T.M.-financed worlds, without ever knowing that our power might be originating in Canada β€” eh? β€” or looping eerily around Lake Erie.

I take back my barb on Milton Berle. After reading that, I'm pretty sure even Uncle Milty is rolling in his grave. But, you know, you gotta love how she's chastizing Americans for not knowing where our watts are coming from. Apparently, if you flip a switch, you should drop to your knees in prayer and sacrifice a chicken to the energy gods. Listen, Maureen, I may not ponder where the juice to my computer is coming from every time I log on, but that's not my job. That's somebody ELSE'S job, and I have enough faith in the workings of American industry that the folks responsible for providing energy will provide energy, and I'm also cognizant that, as human beings, they'll drop the ball on occasion.

Now comes news that our foamy lattes are steamed by the antiquated, overloaded system at Niagara Mohawk? I thought we'd already seen the Last of the Mohicans.

It's frightening, really, what passes as an attempt at humor nowadays. It really is frightening.

It was disturbing that the experts were having so much trouble figuring out what happened, resorting to mumbo jumbo about "forensic analyses" and "cascading outages" while lapsing into border bashing about which country's lightning or power surges were to blame.

You know, I've experience a few blown fuses in my lifetime. I flip a switch and, BAM, overload. So, I had to hunt down a flashlight to locate the fuse box and try and ascertain where the failure occured. And that's just one household. So, I'm a little more forgiving than Maureen when it comes to experts trying to troubleshoot where a failure occured in an international power grid.

Holy Enron! Who knew, until 21 plants shut down in three minutes, that they worked on the discredited domino theory? Who knew our grid was more stressed than we are?

Okay, now Dowd's rant is starting to take shape. After an Enron mention, a bash on the Bush administration can't be far behind. Because, you know, the federal government HAS to be somewhat responsible for a blackout. They simply HAVE to be.

When the blackout began, President Bush said he thought the grid needed to be modernized, "and have said so all along." The White House and Congress have been warned repeatedly by engineers that the tattered links needed to be fixed fast.

You would think that the first White House team from the energy bidness β€” the Houston Oilers, as they were dubbed during the campaign β€” would have jumped all over that.

It's all about the OOOOIIIILLLLLL.

But all Dick Cheney's secret meetings with unnamed energy officials were, sadly, not about saving us from this day. The White House has been too busy ensuring that Halliburton has no competitors for rebuilding Iraq to worry about rebuilding our own threadbare grid.

Tattered links? Threadbare grid? And here I thought the outage was fixed within days. To hear Dowd tell it, you'd think America has been plunged into perpetual darkness. But, I love how she maintains that Cheney and his cronies should have been working to head off the blackout. Dowd is so disgruntled, the power failure simply comes down to Cheney and Halliburton. Such pathetic myopia can only be rewarded with a roll of the eyes.

Tom Ridge would have been better off fixating on this weakness than playing with his color swatches.

Hey, I'm no fan of Ridge and his color coded alert system, either, but how, exactly, is her responsible for America's power grid and a surge that had nothing to do with terrorism? That's like blaming a highway patrol officer for an airplane crash.

Washington is a welter of blame. Democrats fingered the Republicans for catering to the oil industry; Republicans fingered the Democrats for being cowed by the environmental community. The only illumination in the blackout was this: Pols have been holding the energy bill hostage to their special interests.

Um, no, that's been pretty much common knowledge for, like, forever.

Just when we're feeling vulnerable to terrorists β€” does anybody believe our ports are secure? β€” we learn we're also vulnerable to the very system meant to protect us.

Got that? The energy grid is meant to protect us from terrorists. Who knew?

This has got to be giving terrorists ideas as they watch from their caves. Osama may be plotting on his laptop right now, tapping into the cascading effect of an army of new terrorists signing up every time we kill or arrest a terrorist.

Okay, what the fuck is up with that last paragraph? What does that have to do with anything? I imagine Dowd was writing this on a Friday, and it was really close to 5 p.m. She looked up at the clock, realized it was martini time, and hammered out some meaningless blurb about terrorists and Osama and slid the column in just under deadline.

No, Osama is doing no plotting from his laptap, what with him being dead and all. But, that's not the money quote. The money quote is that bizarre thing about terrorist recruitment BECAUSE we're killing and arresting terrorists. Oh, well then, I guess we should just leave them alone.

That's something that's been bothering me ever since we launched this war on terror. Critics keep shouting that waging a war on terror will only beget more terrorism. Puh-lease. The fact is, the critics are shit-assed terrified of terrorists. They don't want to wage war against terrorists because they're afraid of pissing them off even more than they already are. To them, appeasement is the only answer. Appease, appease, appease, and maybe then they won't attack us. Well, that's the type of mentality that culminated in 9/11.

Now, we're taking the war to the terrorists, and we're a better nation, a better world, because of it.

To wash out all that Maureen Dowd, here's some Priya Rai. fucking Priya Rai. Priya Rai is HOT. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai. Priya Rai.

UPDATE: It was inevitable, I guess. The terrorists did it. (found via A Small Victory)

Posted by Ryan at August 18, 2003 12:01 PM
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