Archive for October 2012
Washington, DC, October 31 – The Federal Communications Commission has begun to crack down on ringtones that drive people crazy. It will also seek to reduce cringe-inducing and distasteful mobile phone usage.
The Silencing Harmful, Uncouth Telephone Users Program (SHUTUP), a new FCC initiative, will enforce an array of measures designed to cut down on ringtones that pervert otherwise decent tunes; that have no discernible aesthetic value; that grate on the ears of anyone with an ounce of good sense; or that attempt to reproduce a particular sound or association, only to succeed in producing in bystanders a desire to murder the phone user.
The first category is by far the broadest, said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski. “I don’t think there’s anyone out there who hasn’t heard some digital-sounding rendition of Mozart or Beethoven coming from a phone, and thought, ‘Oh, God, poor Wolfgang must be rolling in his grave, wherever that is.’ And most of us can’t walk down the street without our ears being assaulted by techno garbage,” he explained.
The FCC’s solution is straightforward: SHUTUP. SHUTUP has already formulated a set of guidelines for mobile device manufacturers and distributors that lay out the criteria for acceptable ringtones. Perhaps more importantly, the guidelines delineate what constitutes a violation of those criteria and what penalties apply to violators.
Both the customer and the retailer of the offending tone or tones will face fines. Those fines will follow a sliding scale, the severity of which will correspond to the magnitude of annoyance that type of violation produces. At the low end of the scale lies the misuse of famous tunes, for example a hold-music-worthy digital adaptation of the “Axel F” theme from the 1984 film Beverly Hills Cop. Such a minor violation, corrupting as it does a tune already primarily orchestrated electronically, would incur a $50 fine for the phone user and a $2,000 fine for the supplier of the tune.
Slightly higher on the scale, melodies massacred by techno or MIDI orchestration would incur fines of $350 for the user, with the creator or marketer of the ringtone liable for $5,000 per ringtone sale.
At the high end of the scale lies any tune by Barry Manilow, New Kids on the Block, Lady Gaga or William Shatner, among others. Those selections will incur a fine of $10,000 and confiscation of the mobile device that played the tune. The entity that provided the sound file would be fined $150,000, and the individuals responsible would face up to five years in prison. The internet provider that enabled the download would be similarly fined, and its Board of Directors forced to perform 100 hours of community service.
In terms of other heinous misuses of mobile phones, SHUTUP will target jerks, such as people who talk loudly in quiet environments such as commuter train cars and doctors’ waiting rooms; who let a phone ring until voice mail is activated or the caller hangs up, instead of actually answering or disconnecting the call; who neglect to turn off the ringer at venues such as movies or concerts; or who pretend to be on the phone or otherwise absorbed by its use so they can ignore panhandlers or avoid having to engage another human in actual face-to-face conversation.
That set of violations will incur fines of up to $300 and confiscation of the device. For pretending to use the device, the penalty will also include two hours in a closed room with the panhandler in question, or be forced to endure fifteen uncomfortable questions from the person ignored.
In a pilot conducted in the Virginia area during August and September, SHUTUP reduced breaches of mobile device etiquette by 85%, and cut annoying ringtones by 98%. The program ran into legal trouble when the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued the government on behalf of a violator, contending that SHUTUP constituted a breach of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression – which has long been taken to refer especially to unpopular content. The judge dismissed the suit when the counsel for the government played the offending ringtone – an electronic rendition of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” that repeated over and over – and ruled the plaintiff in contempt.
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Washington, DC (AP) – With the Republican governor of New Jersey praising President Barack Obama for his leadership and the scale of destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy, Mitt Romney and his campaign advisers find themselves shut out of the top headlines in the crucial days before Election Day – and they’re not taking that sitting down.
“Obama and his reelection machine cynically scheduled the hurricane when his campaign needed it most,” Romney said to a group of second-tier reporters, whose elite colleagues were concentrating on the storm cutting a swath through the Northeast. “With malice aforethought, he’s exploiting the flooding and tragedy of a hurricane for visibility. The American people know better than that. Barack Obama, call off the hurricane!”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a high-ranking Republican on the national stage, offered effusive praise for President Obama, specifically noting the latter’s confident, reassuring presence on the airwaves. The President, said Christie, projected the proper mix of solemn resolve and hope so critical in the face of Sandy’s dangers and damage.
The Romney campaign did not anticipate such words from a Republican, especially one so prominent as Christie, so close to Election Day. “When I’m elected I’ll make sure to move hurricane season to the winter, where it belongs,” said Romney. “In fact I’ve been saying for quite some time we need to reexamine this whole hurricane thing, but the current administration clearly has no regard for the effect that storms of this magnitude have on John Q. Taxpayer.”
“In fact,” added Romney spokesman John Sununu, “it was under a Democrat-controlled Congress that President Bush struggled to cope with Hurricane Katrina.” That 2005 storm became etched in the public perception as a case of Presidential mismanagement compounding state government incompetence, and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tasked with addressing the disaster, was forced to resign.
“Isn’t it convenient,” asked Sununu, “that with a Democrat in the White House the scheduled hurricane hits an area completely devoid of levees?” He referred to the dams that failed to contain torrents of rain and sea water during Katrina, which were built by the Army Corps of Engineers but could not handle the pressure or volume of water.
But Romney and his supporters have had a hard time getting their accusations to the public, which is engrossed in the drama of seeing the nation’s largest, wealthiest city get smacked by Mother Nature. The Republican candidate hopes the schadenfreude experienced by all non-New Yorkers will carry over to Election Day, when, he believes Americans will have the opportunity, as he put it, “to stick it to the elitist incumbent.”
“We all hate New York. Obama loves New York. You know what to do, America.”
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The CBS poll found that of the 15,281 Americans asked whether they know you, 15,280 said no. Fewer than one hundredth of a percent of Americans can claim any familiarity with you at all; the margin of error is two percent.
The survey results indicate little change since two years ago, when 9,665 Americans unanimously disclaimed any connection or knowledge of you, and that is not expected to change in the near future, says Losel Festeem, an unpopularity analyst with the public relations firm Brutish and Short.
“There’s nothing to indicate that Americans will have reason to find out more, certainly not in the next four to eight years,” she said in a telephone interview. “We’re not talking about even a D-list celebrity, or even anyone who might rub shoulders with people who rub shoulders with D-list celebrities.” You might stand a chance of garnering a few moments of notoriety if you set yourself on fire and dramatically threw yourself off a Manhattan skyscraper, noted Festeem, but all the numbers point to continued mediocrity at best.
Dram McQueen, also a PR consultant, disagrees. “Anyone can gain a decent level of attention and name recognition with a little bit of time and effort,” she stressed. “The question here is primarily one of will and resources – so right now there’s neither, but that can change.” She conceded, however, that no change in your unremarkable circumstances seems imminent, and that you will continue to be unrecognized from coast to coast at least through January of next year, barring some freak occurrence such as your getting caught in the door of a flying helicopter as your pants fall off into the East River.
Some specifics of your complete lack of fame have shifted in the two years since the previous survey. Whereas in 2010, 90% of respondents gave a direct “no” to the question of whether they knew you, this year’s poll recorded only 64% of respondents directly denying it. Accounting for the difference is the vast increase in respondents who said, “Huh? Who?” which stood at 25% this year, as compared with 4% two years ago. Holding steady at 3% was the group of people who reacted with nothing but blank stares before finally shaking their heads and giving the pollster a wary look. The remaining respondents also varied little from the 2010 sample, answering with variations on, “What are you talking about?”
Some analysts had expected at least a modest uptick in your prominence, as you have actually established a Facebook account and friended over four hundred people, in addition to diligently building up an utterly useless network of contacts on LinkedIn. The survey revealed that despite your online presence, which also includes contributions to forums and a photography blog, you remain essentially a non-entity for the overwhelming majority of Americans.
Especially telling was the datum that even those people who might have had online contact with you – including at least two documented cases of participating in the same thread on Facebook – disavowed any knowledge of your existence.
“That’s where the key is,” said Festeem. “This is clearly a case of someone who lacks not just friends in high places, but anything memorable about them at all.”
“Why are we talking about this nobody again?” she asked.
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Geneva, Switzerland (AP) – Arab nations have brought a resolution to the United Nations Security Council that denounces Israel for perpetrating stubbed toes and splinter injuries throughout the Middle East, in violation of international law.
With the Palestinian Authority seeking yet again to establish itself as a non-member observer state some time during the coming year, Draft Resolution 4761 adds tension to an already volatile Arab-Israeli dynamic, which saw accusations fly earlier this year over the origins of body odor and ingrown hairs. Those resolutions were defeated by vetoes in Security Council voting, as both China and Russia did not want to encourage other nations to look into the national origins of lice and pimples.
In the proposed resolution’s current language, the Council “condemns Israel for continued victimization of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and in neighboring countries through the nefarious use of splinters and stubbed toes. The United Nations calls upon Israel to meet its obligations under international law and previous UN resolutions, and to cease causing injury to the innocent toes and fingers of oppressed minorities.”
Although Russia and China are expected not to veto this resolution, the U.S. State Department has expressed unease about its language, and most experts believe an American veto is inevitable, given profligate use of splinter and stubbed toe technology by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Israeli officials have remained largely silent on the matter, but a Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the Jewish state would expend little effort in lobbying its few allies on the Council to defeat the resolution, explaining that the country does not wish to call even more attention to its minor-foot-injury weaponry. It is widely believed in the intelligence community that Israel possesses wart and corn generators, and unconfirmed reports have surfaced in the last six months that the country has also developed a potent paper-cut-and-lemon-juice arsenal.
Just last week a military facility in Sudan was destroyed by what appeared to be an air attack, and the Sudanese were quick to level accusations at Israel. In its aftermath, residents of the area began complaining of dandruff and itchy noses. Analysts believe the attack was intended to disrupt weapons supplies being smuggled into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The distance from Israel to Sudan is similar to that between Israel and Iran, and if the accusations are true, then in addition to its direct results in Gaza, the move could easily serve as a signal to the Islamic Republic that Israel has the capability to strike anywhere in Iran, deploying technology to cause mass tripping over cracks in the sidewalk and dropping heavy objects on toes.
An Iranian official canceled an interview via Skype chat, explaining that all of his delegation’s keyboards had a stuck letter “o”.
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Washington, DC (AP) – The Romney presidential campaign and other prominent Republican leaders have undertaken to insult or otherwise offend every woman in America by the end of next year.
The GOP initiative accelerated this past week when Richard Mourdock, an Indiana Republican running for the Senate, explained his opposition to abortion even in a case of incest or rape by saying that such a pregnancy “is something God intended to happen,” leading American women to wonder why Republicans support a strong U.S. military, as that flies in the face of what is clearly divinely ordained Chinese military ascendance.
Earlier, Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), campaigning for one of Missouri’s seats in the Senate, claimed it was virtually impossible for a woman to become pregnant if the rape was “legitimate.” That statement kicked off a Republican strategy aimed at making every woman in America feel revulsion at the party that produced landmark Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan, among others.
The abortion remarks are feeding an overall Republican strategy that puts such attractive issues as rape at the forefront of the election season discourse, which is sure to turn off a significant percentage of women, says Grace Underfier, a campaign analyst at Dunn-Diehl, a non-partisan think tank. “It’s clear from Republican statements throughout this campaign season that they intend to creep women out and drive them away from the GOP. It basically means that the Republican party feels confident enough to say how it really feels about women.”
The strategy has its pitfalls, warns Harry Nuckles of the Atlanta-based Research-Operations Task Force League (ROTFL). “The Republicans seem genuinely to believe their stated positions on abortion and rape,” he contends. “That means they expect others to believe those positions, as well, and women who also believe the GOP candidate’s radical assertions will be very hard to drive away – if rape can be legitimate, then there’s no reason to be offended.”
Nuckles surmises that the Republicans will address remaining women after it has successfully dissuaded the vast majority of American women from ever supporting the GOP, possibly by disenfranchising any women over the age of 18 who are not yet married.
“It’s tantalizing for the Republicans to envision a world in which women are primarily focused on the domestic sphere, instead of being out there in the world and making things so darn complicated,” concurs Hugh Wisch, a campaign strategist with Newt Gingrich’s abortive presidential bid. “Forget a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion – the Holy Grail for today’s GOP leadership is actually the repeal of the Nineteenth Amendment,” which in 1919 guaranteed the vote to women.
It remains unclear how the strategy to offend women dovetails with other Republican initiatives, such as the repeal of minimum wage laws, which would force women to work more and thus leave the kitchen. It seems likely, however, that any women incapable of overcoming the impossible odds of crushing poverty would be viewed by Republicans as deserving whatever misery comes their way, at home or in some unsafe, unsanitary sweatshop that probably employs only darkies or Spanish-speaking immigrants.
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You thought you could trust your little children, didn’t you? I’m here to tell you you’re a fool.
You’re a fool.
With that out of the way, let us examine what happens when one makes unwarranted assumptions about one’s child’s behavior. Especially when those assumptions make one’s life easier. But in fact are so untrue as to make one wonder what the hell one was thinking. If at all.
Here is Figure A, which lays out the typical morning ritual of attempting to prepare a sandwich for our dear daughter to take with her to kindergarten.
The figure does not show the histrionics that accompany each refusal, which no two-dimensional medium can adequately convey. It is left to the reader’s imagination. Considering the reader’s online habits, he or she should have no problem conjuring up vivid images, if you catch my drift. Sicko.
All well and good, or as well and good as could be expected. Until last week, when the complaints suddenly ceased. Thus Figure B:
Notice the complete absence of complaints or histrionics. This being our third child, we should immediately have listened to the powerful alarms sounding in our brains – much in the way the silence emanating from several children can only indicate something catastrophic in the works – but this being before seven o’clock in the morning, our brains much preferred to leave those alarms in abeyance. SO much more civilized at that hour.
In fact, a chance conversation with another parent at drop-off revealed that Figure C more closely represents reality:
Key line from one of the parents whose child had eaten the white bread: “Could you buy whole wheat instead?”
At the very least, we have now settled into the familiar, if less than ideal, status quo ante, with the added bonus of an almost daily whine: why don’t we send our kid with chocolate spread sandwiches?
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