Strange beliefs in the 21st century

According to people with overactive imagination and boundless gullibility the world is about to end next weekend. End-of-the-worlders never do learn, do they. Billboards, both static and rolling, have been unleashed to warn us about this armageddon supposedly “guaranteed” by the bible. I’ve even seen one of those around Montreal (in French) and must confess I was quite amused by it.

Well, if nothing else this cult group, Family Radio, has managed to pump some money into local economies. Still, if this movement’s adherents are true believers then they really have no use for money or properties after May 21st; to think otherwise would be to commit intellectual fraud. So I would like to have it known that I am available to take care of these doomsday cultists’ money and properties from May 22nd forward as long as they transfer said possessions to be on May 21st.

So if you honestly think that the world is going to end next Saturday, get in touch with me using the link on the “About me” page. That’s a sure-fire way to really stand up for your beliefs and clearly show that there is no doubt whatsoever in your mind.

The Bin Laden Farce

Unless you’ve been living in some cave in Afghanistan for the past 10 years (harharhar) you’ve no doubt heard the news that on Sunday night Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted fugitive(tm) was caught and killed by US forces secretly working in Pakistan. Without a doubt it’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in the sleepy hamlet of Abbotabad, about an hour north of Islamabad, and it’s more than likely that the place will now go back to the obscurity and quiet charm that used to make it the ideal location for a world supervillain seeking to escape the attention of the world police.

Now some people will say that they’ll always remember what they were doing when they heard that news, and I do as well. I was sitting in front of my computer doing something or other, which is terribly indistinct from what I regularly do for up to 14 hours a day TBH so for me that’s not much of a marker. And of course being in Canada I found the news to be of relatively little interest as we had a national election scheduled the first day (which turned out to be pretty fucking disappointing). So I didn’t really get into the whole “bin Laden dead” thing until Monday night after having ascertained that my country was indeed going down faster than a $5 whore, largely out of hope that the news would cheer me up a bit.

Now those of you who have known me for a while will know that I was living in Hoboken, NJ on September 11th 2001, and that’s a short skip across the Hudson river to Manhattan. You may probably know that the office I worked at in that time was located in the Pavonia section of Jersey City and had a great view of the WTC. We were pretty much as close as you could get on the Jersey side. I wasn’t at the office when the planes hit the towers, however; I’ve never been an early morning guy and I was probably heading for my bus when the second plane hit the south tower. To top it off, if I’d been more aggressive with my personal contacts while looking for a job in the previous year I could have stood a fair chance of being employed *in* the WTC north tower (a former boss’s former boss worked for Cantor Fitzgerald, fortunately he was out on business on that day).

So when I heard that Navy SEALs had killed the man I felt… oddly indifferent. Truth be told, the Osama bin Laden whose death Americans were shown celebrating on TV, the bogeyman from Saudi Arabia, had already ceased existing quite some time ago. Be honest, when was the last time people talked about the guy as being terribly important? His very survival was a subject of much speculation since 2001, and for many (including myself) the guy was almost as good as dead for some time. In fact I rather cynically thought that if the Americans had waited even just a couple more years to kill the guy they’d have to start reminding their people of who the guy was. There was a time at which he seemed very keen on getting a message out, but as time went on these messages became more infrequent and seemed to undergo somewhat of a regression technologically speaking, going from videos to audio tapes. The message itself seemed to step further and further away from that of a guy who could tell 20 of his followers to get into planes and crash those planes into buildings full of people, too. I think his last one started talking about the environment. Which is pretty ballsy for a guy whose most famous attributed act was so dependent on the aviation industry. However I digress, I certainly won’t be growing wistful of any “good old days” when the guy was at his peak preaching terror war against America. It’s certainly not something that one may seriously doubt he had done, though, and no amount of mellowing out in his old age can change that.

As this week went on, I must say that I grew increasingly annoyed at the story. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the guy deserved it, but frankly I can’t stand the way the Obama administration is handling the whole thing. I’ve never seen such sloppy work from a team that one must hope is made up of the best of the best. It’s practically like they’re encouraging people to cast doubts on the story and come up with conspiracy theories.

Frankly anyone with a moderately healthy sense of skepticism would be a bit troubled. First there was the story of what happened to bin Laden’s body after he was killed — it was taken to the USS Carl Vinson, washed, given Islamic burial rites and then buried at sea. So, there’s no body. You can kind of understand why they did it, but that all seems a bit… convenient.

Then on Tuesday came revelations that did indeed directly contravene parts of the story that we all had been given on Sunday. The first was that bin Laden died in a firefight against the SEALs — well, actually he did, but that firefight was pretty one-sided because as it turns out the guy wasn’t armed in the first place. The latest word out is that the SEALs feared that he would reach for a weapon. We also found out that the woman killed in the firefight was not in fact used by bin Laden as a human shield — when that seemed to be a “fact” strongly established enough for John Brennan, the chief US counter-terrorism advisor, to affirm “living in this million-dollar-plus compound, in an area that is far away from the front, hiding behind a woman: it really speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years.” Well, it goes some way to cast aspersions on what we hear from Mr. Brennan, who himself seemed to have heard only what he wanted to hear.

But then there is video of the raid and surely photos were taken of bin Laden’s body after his death?.. and making those public would in an instant erase any possible doubt that may have arisen from the White House’s previous mishandling of the situation. Well, in a 60 Minutes interview taped today Obama has made clear his decision not to release those photos.

So we have no body, a narrative which is known to have been “enhanced” in at least two substantial ways already, and now we’ve been told that there is absolute, incontrovertible truth but it’s not going to be shown to the public.

You’ve got to be kidding. What the fuck is going on at the White House? This is absolutely bizarre. Already people are trying to fill the void by combining images of other people who’ve been shot in the head with live photos of bin Laden using Photoshop. The one I’ve seen was a pretty obvious edit which anyone could spot easily, but I’m sure more forgeries will come forward if the real pictures aren’t released. And if Obama is going to stand by his opinion that the lack of official pictures will prevent “trophy pictures” from appearing, well that’s just silly. I’m sure Fark or some other site will make a photoshop contest out of it, if they haven’t done so already. You’ll get loads of “trophy pictures” out of that… and they’ll probably be thought to be real by many people, just like the old “Bert is evil” Osama pic.

Hopefully the President will come to his senses soon. At some point he’s got to put up some solid evidence of what went on, something to redeem a narrative which has been tarnished by the people on his staff who delivered it, because otherwise the GOP will soon start casting doubts that this raid killed the guy who’s said to have been killed. Frankly this reluctance to provide that solid evidence is all too reminescent of the sort of the stonewalling which I remember from Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush. And I never felt that I could trust what Bush was saying for so much as a second. I hope that President Obama is someone credible, but at this point I’m getting too old to take it on faith.

I want to believe, but I’ve been burnt too often to do so.

Bait & Switch?

Maybe it’s just me, but when I enter a discount code good for a web site (I received the “invitation” today) I kinda expect the discount code to go towards the cost of an order at the same site.  Especially when Barnes & Noble send out a “25% off anything” promo. However this doesn’t seem to apply to the new Nook Color, which apparently can’t be ordered at all from where I am.

So yes, I was drunk enough to attempt to order a new Nook Color, but B&N sees it fit to stop me from ordering it. Maybe they’re desperately trying to stop me from making a very stupid, drunken mistake.  Well cheers B&N, you’re pretty much right.  After panning the last incarnation of the Nook I really should know better than to spend money on such a flawed product. Thanks for saving me the money I guess. One could only hope all online merchants were so scrupulous.

For the new realities of flying

Concerned about the full-body scanner at the airport exposing your unmentionables? Just stick those Flying Pasties on and your modesty is protected, at least until they pull you into the side room for a strip search. As for myself, I feel that seeing me naked is its own punishment.

Li’l bundles of hate

What do Klan kids watch? Apparently it’s The Andrew Show, a show by white supremacists for white supremacists, broadcast on the web from a site called White Pride TV which bills itself as “a family friendly site”, although it’s distinctly less friendly to certain families than to others. For older kids there’s the equally not-colorful Youth Focus, which caters to racist teens, an often overlooked demographic. The article has a photo that might as well have been captioned “the family that burns crosses together stays together”. Note that the second and third links in the article go to the shows’ pages on the White Pride TV site, so you might want to not click on those.

Shockingly, would-be terrorists aren’t the sharpest knives in the drawer

Months after warning of violence against South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone for their depiction of Islam prophet Mohammed, Abu Tallah Al-Amrikee (né Zachary Adam Chesser of New York, a.k.a. “Revolution Muslim”) was arrested trying to board a plane that was due to take him to Uganda (via a bunch of other places) so that he could then join Somali terror aficionados al-Shabaab. Chesser added a touch of genuine class to the attempt by taking his newborn son with him “so he would look less suspicious”.

So, how did the Feds get onto him? Basically they developed an interest in his blog postings and Youtube activities, then put Chesser/Al-Amrikee under tighter surveillance, which led them to uncover the not-exactly-brilliant-in-the-first-place plot. His plan for entering Somalia from Kenya involved bribing border guards with a $20 bill — so essentially the Feds saved the moron from getting kidnapped and held for ransom.

Who could have known?

23-year old man attending a showing of the new Twilight movie dies suddenly during the film. The details are not yet in, but it does now seem plausible that perhaps he was bored to death.

Nothing is ever as it seems with North Korea

The DPRK made it to the world cup and beating expectations, but their fans are a little odd — but then they would be, as they’re not actually North Koreans, but rather Chinese volunteers paid by Pyongyang to attend the games and cheer loudly.

Death by kitty

I never thought about it much besides it being a plot element in Trainspotting, but apparently toxoplasmosis could be a bigger influence in human behavior than people think.

More delivery company fun

I’ve often mentioned the strangely difficult struggle that is trying to get something delivered here. But today I’m in the middle of a story that makes even less sense than most.

I’ve ordered an office chair because the one I have has certain bits that are falling apart. So I ordered one and it was due to be delivered Friday via Fedex Ground. I worked from home Friday, made sure that I wasn’t doing anything that would prevent me getting the door, signed up for delivery notification by email and made sure that the chair was marked as being out for delivery… and around 11:30 got a notification that the Fedex truck had come and gone. This was a little weird, I had been at home all this time and no one had come around. I called Fedex to complain, we fully confirmed my address (including the door code), and everything was correct. When I went downstairs there was a notice on the front door of the building. Next delivery date was today.

Today I again work from home and make sure that I’m able to answer the door when the Fedex people show up. Again I get the delivery exception notification, again I call to complain, again confirm the address. And then when I go downstairs I see a notification. Only now it’s actually in the building (!) on the door of a mailbox, but it’s on the door of the wrong mailbox. Despite the mailboxes being clearly identified and the apartment number for delivery being correctly written on the notification paper. So the Fedex guy actually entered the building without calling me to be let in for some reason, and then proceeded to leave a notice not on my clearly-identified mailbox but on that of a guy one floor below me.

It’s not just today. Clearly for two business days running this Fedex contractor has made it to the building and despite the information he has being 100% correct, and myself being at home waiting for him, has just plain failed to deliver.

Meanwhile the postman had something I needed to sign this morning, he rang up, he was let in, came up to the apartment, got his signature. Just a few minutes ago I got another call from the front door, it was the UPS guy, I let him in, he came upstairs to deliver the package. Yet somehow the exact same instructions just aren’t cutting it with the Fedex guy. I don’t get it. Is this some kind of courier humor? Will the chair end up getting delivered by Ashton Kutcher who will then inform me that I’ve been punk’d? Someone’s putting some effort in it, the only other thing I can think of is that the guy who’s supposed to get the chair to me doesn’t know how to read numbers or something equally ridiculous (how did he manage to find the address then?). It’s beyond comprehension really.