Friday, January 27, 2006

Approve or Disapprove?

img1018I just read through the latest NY Times poll (.pdf here), and it occurred to me that rather than asking Americans whether they'd support wiretapping and surveillance programs in the abstract, the Times and other media outlets might serve the debate more clearly by asking Americans to consider other measures that might be proposed by the Bush administration to defend their lives and liberties. Since neither the Times nor any other media outlet seems interested in framing this crisis in terms of the Constitution, existing statutes, or even broader legal and philosophical questions about the nature of power and the conditions of executive authority, I'm assuming that pretty much everything is on the table.

And since 68% of Americans approve of government surveillance -- regardless of statutory or inherent limitations on executive power -- when conducted against Americans whom "the government is suspicious of," and 67% simultaneously believe that the government is rarely or never capable of acting in a trustworthy manner, I can only assume as well that we have fully entered a cloud-cuckoo land in which much of the public seems (a) willing to let the administration do whatever it wants in the name of fighting terrorism while (b) assuming that the various levels of government will fuck it all up in the end.

Here, in brief, are my suggested revisions to the Times poll for next week:
Question 67. As you may know, the president has enlisted a fleet of terrorist-fighting unicorns to assist in the war on terrorism. Do you approve or disapprove of Operation Horned Justice?

Question 68. Genetic scientists have proposed that a line of cloned unicorns might be developed in order to more quickly build up the reserve forces of unicorns the president claims are needed to fight terrorism. Would you support or not support the use of cloned unicorns in Iraq and elsewhere?

Question 69. In the original version of the King James Bible in 1611, the book of Job refers briefly to the existence of unicorns. And yet clearly, unicorns did not exist again until the president's decision to use them in the war on terror. Do you regard the sudden resurgence of unicorn populations to be evidence of evolution, creationism, "intelligent design," or none of the above?

Question 70. Some critics of Operation Horned Justice have suggested that the president is "playing God" by using a previously-extinct species to pursue the war against terrorism. Supporters of the president, however, insist that by virtue of the inherent powers of the presidency (under Article II of the US Constitution), the president is "already God" and therefore does not need to seek Congressional authorization to merely "play God." Do you believe that President Bush is merely "playing God," or do you believe that he actually "is God?"

Question 71. Some military experts have suggested that a fleet of terrorist-fighting unicorns would be less effective in combatting terrorism than a fleet of My Little Ponies. How much would you be willing to support the use of My Little Ponies instead of cloned unicorns -- a lot, a little, not much, or not at all?

Question 72. If it were determined that terrorists were using boats or submarines to carry out attacks against Americans, would you support or not support the development of terrorist-fighting narwhals to thwart these attacks?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rough Draft of 2006 Enemies List:
(1) Myself
(2) Google
(3) Puppet the Psycho Dwarf

I wish I had a good excuse for avoiding this blog for a month, but I don't. Part of my reclusiveness may or may not have something to do with a possible Ivan Tribble moment in my professional life; for reasons of personal and professional discretion, I will have nothing else to say about this, but if you happen to return to this blog one of these days to find nothing more than a smoldering crater in its place, you will perhaps know why. I suppose not everyone appreciates a bilious stream of profanity, blasphemy and righteous arrogance. Fair enough.

But at this point the damage -- if any (and I genuinely have no idea one way or the other) -- has already been done, and so I see no reason to fret any longer. Besides, if anything can yank me back to the blogosphere, it's midget brawling, which is evidently the sort of entertainment we're getting around here instead of Brokeback Mountain:
Puppet The Psycho Dwarf stands just 4 feet 4 inches tall, but nevertheless commands the spotlight when he walks into a room. He has a gravelly Chicago accent and weighs 178 pounds. Under his Chicago Bulls stocking cap, his forehead is pockmarked with dozens of dents - the result of what he calls "Staple Gun Death Matches."

At 37, Puppet, the owner and leader of the Half Pint Brawlers, an all-midget wrestling federation, is the sport's latest entrepreneur. The crew has sold thousands of copies of its first DVD, "Half Pint Brawlers Vol. 1," and just signed a deal with Pay-Per-View for their next four releases. There's also been talk about a reality show starring the group.

The Brawlers could be bound for superstardom.

Saturday night they made their first stop in Alaska with a three-hour performance at Marlintini's Lounge.

Chilkoot Charlie's in Anchorage has hosted some in-state midget wrestlers over the years, but this is believed to be the first time an out-of-state midget wrestling federation has come to Alaska.

"We love our jobs," Puppet said. "We get drunk, we go wrestle and we pick up chicks. What else is there in life? We have a lot of opportunities here."

Saturday's showplace was filled to capacity, and the appeal was obvious. They're midgets who wrestle.

But they also wrestle outside the ring. In the main event, Puppet and Justice The Midget Prosecutor (4 feet 4 inches tall) dragged each other through spectators for a spectacular series of piledrivers and suplexes off bar tables and chairs.

Eventually they ended back in the ring for the surreal death match. The crowd showered the ring with wadded-up dollar bills, while Puppet loomed over Justice with an industrial staple gun. He nailed a bill just over Justice's right eyebrow that appeared to open a nasty cut, much to the crowd's delight. Later, Justice miraculously recovered, taking down Puppet and stapling a dollar bill to his lower lip. It stuck there, until it was ripped away.

"I'd seen the video, so I knew they're unpredictable about what they do," said owner Ethan Billings. "I have confidence in them, because they've been doing it for a number of years. They're not like some fly-by-night group."


Midget wrestling has a long, sordid history, but for the most part it's always been cloaked in vaudeville or as an accessory to the main event. The Montreal-born Sky Low Low stood just 3-foot-6 and gained some notoriety in the 1940s and 1950s. A handful of other midget wrestlers are all in the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame.

In the United States, midget wrestling peaked in popularity in the 1970s. The Half Pint Brawlers seem to have brought it back.

They tour across the country virtually nonstop. They've performed with most of the major wrestling organizations in the world and have opened for bands such as Kid Rock and Powerhouse 5000. They've sold more than 6,000 copies of their first DVD, a combination of hardcore wrestling, stunts and Girls Gone Wild.

"In professional wrestling, the fans are 16 feet away," Puppet said. "We go outside the ring. You get to see midgets jumping off the bar in front of people. We're the only midget wrestling company in the world that does the hardcore stuff."

The Half Pint Brawlers have their detractors. The not-for-profit organization Little People of America has urged Puppet to use the politically-correct phrase "little people" instead of the word "midget."

"Nobody's going to come out and see 'little people,'" Puppet said. "I don't want to be called a little person. I'm a large person. I own the company, and that's what America is about. You use what you've got in the world. People say why are you using the word 'midget?' It's not a hateful word. I'm not ashamed of being a midget. I'm not ashamed of being a dwarf. I love who I am. We're going to be in the spotlight, because no matter what, everyone's going to look at us. So why not create something with it?"