We knew from the beginning that the marketing campaign was really going to make or break the whole project, so we had to choose our language very carefully. That meant “serf” and “indentured servant” were out immediately—too much historical baggage—and "licensee" and "lessee" were too legalistic, not enough implied fun. So we performed the Thunk Tank mind meld, and came up with the answer almost immediately: “Contestant!”
The word implied a sense of promise and great potential, but with no guarantees. Winners would succeed in a great meritocracy, while losers had no one to blame but themselves. “Citizen,” I mean, what a burden, what a dull stink of responsibility that has, but “contestant”… well, hot damn, a contestant gets a moment in the spotlight, the opportunity to vie for greatness. “Contestant” rhymes with “celebrity” and celebrities are sexy. “Congratulations! You’ve been selected to be a contestant on the town formerly known as Munising!” It was brilliant.
Rick Snyder has the name of a game show host and the face of a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman. He’s a businessman, a venture capitalist, and a self-described nerd. I actually don’t think he pushed through the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act as a salvo against Working Class America, or as a nefarious power grab for the oligarchy. I think he truly believes the gospel of corporate efficiency and—as nerds often do—confused a “rational” choice for a “good” choice, without really comprehending the inevitable consequences of his plan. Like many nerds, he’s also a sucker for flashy PowerPoint presentations, and like many corporate executives he’s a sucker for jargon-riddled, buzzword-referencing executive summaries, and this is where we saw our opening.
Michigan had budget problems, and thanks to the LGaSDFA Act, if the governor thought a town was almost broke, and local officials weren’t cooperating with the state to resolve the problems, good ol’ Rick could appoint a Financial Manager to step in and play Sim City with real people. Managers could default on bonds, ignore union demands, rearrange schools … hell, they could disincorporate and merge whole towns if they wanted! For obvious reasons, becoming Financial Managers seemed like a highly desirable position for us, and so we used some of Bronwyn’s connections to certain Olds to get an audience with the Rickster and explain how he was looking at a real crisitunity here.
I felt like Ernie Anastos after he told the weatherman to "Keep fucking that chicken" during a live broadcast. Externally I had to just keep smiling through, while inside my mind was screaming that whatever madness had just passed my lips had the potential to devastate all that I held dear. And all I had said was, “Yes, sir.”
Rather than further contemplate this horror, however, I snapped a salute to Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, spun on my heels, and exited his tent into the smothering Afghani heat. Until now, I had barely seen the general, let alone spoken with him. All orders passed from Caldwell to Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, my CO, and then down to me. But it seemed that the general and the colonel weren’t seeing eye to eye lately, so Caldwell had sought me out as a potential ally in his private campaign.
"Operation Four Star," Holmes had derisively nicknamed it. Caldwell wanted to use our psyops team against visiting Congress members to prop up flagging support for the war. There was no threat Congress would move to actually end the occupation, but attention would shift back to Iraq, the boys in Baghdad would start getting all the headlines and funding increases, and the next thing you know our $20 billion-a-year air-conditioning budget would be slashed.
It'd take three or four years before Iraq would start feeling hopeless again, the press would start screaming about the great Taliban threat, and we would get our AC back. Nope, that wouldn't do at all; the generals, with their promotions depending on AfPak s continued prominence, were not going to lose this pissing contest, even if it meant some Senators needed a little light brainwashing. And I'd just agreed to help with the scrubbing.
Many Listener Blog Readers are familiar with Bronwyn C.’s longstanding fascination with numismaticism, especially the Ron Paul Dollar—the second most popular currency in the United States! But many don’t realize that the number one most popular currency, Federal Reserve notes, aren’t the only option.
Briefly, the U.S. government does not issue money, the Federal Reserve Bank issues money, and the money is a “fiat currency,” which means it’s not backed by silver or gold, it’s backed by your delusional belief that it’s worth something. Section 411 of Title 12 of the United States Code provides that Federal Reserve notes “shall be redeemed in lawful money on demand at the Treasury Department of the United States, in the city of Washington, District of Columbia, or at any Federal Reserve bank”—but what is “lawful money”? Well, in this case, it’s debt.
But you don’t have to use Federal Reserve notes if you don’t want to! You can use any of a number of alternative currencies, all of which are perfectly legal. If you’re in the Berkshires in Massachusetts, you can use the widely accepted local currency called BerkShares. Just look up “alternative currency” and you’ll find a lot of them, all perfectly legal—except, ha ha, the Ron Paul dollar, which was backed with actual precious metals and so the FBI raided the issuers’ office and everyone got indicted and now there has to be trial.
NEVERTHELESS, in our quest to boldly violate the false dichotomy between jokes and serious shit, Thunk Tank is issuing Thunk Tank Notes just in time for the WFMU Marathon! Listeners will be able to exchange Federal Reserve notes for Thunk Tank notes 1:1. We intend to make the Bieb the second-most popular currency among WFMU Listeners, and we figure as long as we don’t issue coinage or claim to be legal tender, we probably won’t get indicted.
“We knew this day would come,” said Paul I, as he floated in his glass tank, methodically prying apart the halves of an oyster shell.
Putin smiled a bit as he looked over at his psychic cephalopod companion. “Perhaps you did, old friend, but I fear I’ve been distracted by business matters. I barely paid any mind to this growing menace until you brought it to my attention.”
The menace of which Mr. Putin was speaking, of course, was the enormous wolf pack, 400 beasts strong, that was terrorizing Siberia. Never before had such a terrifyingly large band of carnivores been seen. For months this massive pack had been roaming the countryside, devouring entire villages, leaving carnage in its wake on the scale of Kahn and his Mongol hoards. Russia had not known such destruction since the Tunguska event, that mysterious explosion that devastated almost a thousand square miles of Russian forest back in 1908.
Putin pinched his eyes shut, remembering that awful day. “Never again,” he whispered to himself, before looking back at Paul, who was deftly scooping the meat from another oyster and slipping it into his beak. “Scientists and experts say the pack’s massive size has been caused by this brutal winter. With less game available, the wolves have banded together in order to take down larger prey. But we know differently, don’t we, gadalka?”
I regret that I will be unable to co-host the show again this week, neglecting my duties and leaving Bronwyn and the ever-capable Tim to shoulder my responsibilities. The call of the foreskin is strong, however, and I know that if I can find this missing piece of Putin’s member, it will be not for my own glorification, but for the benefit of all WFMU-kind. In my stead, I leave these three humble tales, accounts of my recent adventures that will perchance entertain you until I return next week. —Cohost Jay
I was in a filthy, back-alley pirate saloon in Mogadishu, laying low after a smuggling run gone bad. To earn some extra cash to pay for my search for Putin’s foreskin, I'd cut a deal to sneak 1000 counterfeit Snuggies into Somalia. Unfortunately, a hundred miles off the coast, a Belgian naval patrol boat had sneaked up on my ship while the night watchman was engrossed in a game of Angry Birds. I was able to distract the officials long enough for my first mate to get below deck and dump the Snuggies before the inspectors got wise, but avoiding trouble with the law meant making trouble with the lawless.
On the last Thunk Tank show, we talked about Thanksgiving travel and the TSA. Listener Steve emailed us the following:
“You guys are having fun at the expense of new travel security measures. And they are a pain in the butt, no doubt. But there is a problem and you're not offering alternatives to a real problem. Why aren't you in any way critical of the reasons for the necessity of these things? Just wondering.”
Since we’re having a special guest (Rudy Delson!) on our next show, we thought we’d answer Listener Steve here on the Blog.
1: The TSA scanners are a virtual strip search. The Fourth Amendment says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ...” How is it reasonable to require every single traveler to submit to a strip search?
2. The TSA scanners are not safe. Jason Bell, a molecular biologist and biophysicist, has reviewed the TSA’s own safety reports, and has concluded that people should opt for the pat-down search rather than go through the scanners. Here are some (long) quotes:
“Essentially, it appears that an X-ray beam is rastered across the body, which highlights the importance of one of the specific concerns raised by the UCSF scientists... what happens if the machine fails, or gets stuck, during a raster. How much radiation would a person's eye, hand, testicle, stomach, etc be exposed to during such a failure. What is the failure rate of these machines? What is the failure rate in an operational environment? Who services the machine? What is the decay rate of the filter? What is the decay rate of the shielding material? …These questions have not been answered to any satisfaction …” And also: “… the statement that one scan is equivalent to 2-3 minutes of your flight is VERY misleading. …relating non-absorbing cosmic radiation to tissue absorbing man-made radiation is simply misleading and wrong. ... a total body dose is misleading, because there is differential absorption in some tissues. … Even more alarming is that because the radiation energy is the same for all adults, children, or infants, the relative absorbed dose is twice as high for small children and infants because they have a smaller body mass (both total and tissue specific) to distribute the dose. Alarmingly, the radiation dose to an infant's testes and skeleton is 60-fold higher than the absorbed dose to an adult brain!”
There is much more, including Bell’s call for the TSA agents to be equipped with radiation badges to monitor their own exposure. You can read Bell’s full posthere. (Thanks to BoingBoing for the link.)
3. BUT! You don’t have to go through the scanners, you can opt for the “pat down.” Still an unreasonable search, and guess what? The TSA agents don’t change their gloves for each one! That hand going down your pants carries the cooties of 1,000 junk-touchings. The TSA’s own bloghas a lot of posts about the problem they’ve had with spreading scabies at Boston’s Logan Airport. Scabies today, flesh-eating bacteria tomorrow, n’est-ce pas?
Finally, to address Listener Steve’s question about the “necessity” of strip searching all travelers: What is the reason for it, really? Does it really make traveling safer?Really?
Ask yourself: Are you safer today than you were on September 10, 2001?