Thursday, April 16, 2009

Out & About

STRANGE ARTICLE THE OTHER DAY in amNew York, one of the free daily papers here. You might even call it a little queer. Turns out a number of major tourist destinations are bending over backwards to appeal to "the gay dollar." I can hear dear old Mom now: Take that money out of your mouth, you don't know where it's been.

Anyway, the piece mentioned New York among some 10 cities courting gay travelers, targeting ad campaigns in a concerted effort to attract gay and lesbian tourists and their coveted disposable incomes:
Many in the industry say gays -- who often live in two-income households without children -- are less likely to cut back on travel. "The gay dollar has been shown to be more resilient (in a recession)," said Bob Witeck, a marketing consultant who works with the Gay and Lesbian Travel Association.
Warden's World was able to get hold of the list of proposed slogans for some of the destinations that are marketing themselves specifically to gay tourists.

Philadelphia, already known as the City of Brotherly Love, is thinking of going with "Yo, 'Mos!" in honor of Philly native Sly Stallone and the world-famous Rocky movies.

The Canadian city of Toronto is favoring a straightforward approach -- no pun intended -- in its campaign, hoping that "Be Gay Here, Eh!" catches on with the homosexual class the world over.

The tourism boards of England, Wales and Scotland have already launched a joint website specifically for gay visitors. Wales is billing itself as "Sodom by the Sea," England is going with the reliable "Bring Out Your Gay," while Scotland, known for its open-mindedness through the ages, has chosen "Trannyspotting" in honor of Trainspotting, the Oscar-nominated 1996 film set in Edinburgh and starring Ewan McGregor.

New York City is not taking its firmly entrenched position -- bad pun intended -- as the No. 1 fairy- , flit- and pansy-related vacation destination for granted. Its tourism agency is thinking of erecting -- pun pending -- a temporary statue of a drag queen going down on the Statue of Liberty, giving travelers entering New York Harbor a glimpse of what excitement awaits them in the Big Apple. The Big "Gay" Apple, that is!

And finally, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the highest-ranking openly gay official in NYC, announced that the Yankees and Mets will host a series of "Out a Gay at the Game" nights, with both home teams planning to wear colorful rainbow caps representing tolerance.

The city of San Francisco was said to be beside itself with rage, at press time threatening to scratch the eyes out of any city that comes near it.

SPEAKING OF ODD, what to make of those contrived so-called Tea Parties, those patently-faux grassroots rebellions sponsored by Fox News and other right-wing media outlets? The crowds gathered with their "Obama = Socialist" signs, parroting the same conservative talking points that are drilled into their soft, receptive craniums with the regularity of a dripping faucet.

All but ignoring the political referendum known as the national presidential election held just 5 months ago, speakers at these scripted rebellions tried to incite the crowd along the typical anti-taxation, anti-spending lines -- with some, like Texas Governor Rick Perry, even mentioning secession -- a bone, no doubt, to all the unreconstructed confederates who are "fightin' mad" over the direction of the country. Imagine if you dare a collection of Joe the Plumber types massing by the hundreds around the country and you get an idea of the level of dumbed-down nuance involved. Throw in appeals to all the hard-core racists who will never get past the idea of a black man in the White House, and you have a tried-and-true recipe for stirring up these simpletons. They don't want to pay taxes, but where do they think the money comes from to build all the bombs we drop all over the world -- the weapons that supposedly prevent another 9/11?

When the Bush crowd and their minions in the mainstream media were whipping up fear-based rhetoric with the endgame of cowed citizens surrendering their constitutional rights to a Patriot Act bill of goods, where was the outrage from this gang? When the billions of dollars poured into rigged government contracts for Republican crony companies like Halliburton and Blackwater, where were the Tea Parties? When Bush/Cheney continually invoked the sacred memory of 9/11 in election campaigns -- in the process fueling wars in two countries and a global war on terror -- where were the mass protests?
These idiots give tea drinking a bad name.

I mean, I'm all for protesting against the system. But I prefer doing my marching with well-informed fellow citizens who like me are outraged that over the last 25 years, the richest 1% of American households increased their net worth by over 75%. Where during the same period, the bottom 40% lost close to 60% of their net worth. Where more than 1 in 3 households now has less than $10,000 in net worth. And where over 5 million Americans have fallen below the poverty line since 2000, the year a bitterly partisan Bush-Cheney administration began forcing through Congress its now widely discredited supply-side economic agenda.

The reliably nutzoid New York Post covered the TEA (Taxed Enough Already) parties as if the swelling crowds paralyzed major thoroughfares of cities and jammed traffic across this once-great nation of ours. The page 7 headline declared Protests sweep nation & DC, and claimed "5,000 people jammed the streets around New York's City Hall, where conservative icon Newt Gingrich spoke." No mention in the article that these "spontaneous" protests were promoted hundreds of times this week on Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News stations, a sure barometer of non-partisanship.

There are three photos accompanying the Post article, and in the middle one my eagle eye spots a spelling error: some joker holding a sign reading: "Can we banrupt the country? Yes We Can!" Perhaps misspelling bankrupt is not quite as memorably clueless as the jackass holding the Get A BRAIN! Morans GO USA signs at a pro-Iraq war rally a few years back, but I feel a strong need to mock nonetheless. Next time, I'd like to stand near the same guy with a sign reading: "Can you sheeple spell? No, You Can't!" Just a little proofreading humor to lighten things up.

But in light of the just-released Homeland Security Department report on the growing right-wing domestic terror threat, maybe the organizers of the latest tea party know what they're doing. It's only a matter of time, and opportunity, before some laid-off gun nut gets whipped into a frenzy by someone like Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity and takes a shot at a politician.

WITH SOMALI PIRATES ramping up the harsh anti-American rhetoric in the wake of the successful rescue operation last weekend, it's also just a matter of time before the next hostage situation, or worse. On Wednesday, a U.S. cargo ship was shot at by pirates using grenade launchers, but the crew foiled the attack at the last minute.

And if that act didn't signal the pirates' intention to inflict harm on Americans, one pirate from the Somali port of Harardhere made it even clearer: "We will seek out the Americans, and if we capture them, we will slaughter them. Last night, an American-flagged ship escaped us by a whisker."

That's the downside of not paying the pirates' ransom and then shooting 3 of them dead while negotiating with a 4th: they're gonna start taking that kind of stuff personally. And that's what we've got on our hands here, and so it's all hands on deck, shiver me timbers and at last report some 15 men on a dead man's chest, and we all know how painful that can be.

But seriously folks, did you see some of the juvenile coverage on the pirate drama in the New York Post last week? Something about pirates really brings out the bad taste in the Post newsroom. One beaut of a cover had a photo of Johnny Depp in full Pirates of the Caribbean regalia channeling The Simpsons -- the giant headline blaring YO HO D'OH! US heroes foil pirates. Talk about your pop culture reference overload. Any wonder why the paper is considered a laughing stock?

Turning to more reliable news about the ongoing pirate menace, Somali's Prime Minister is pledging his government's help in curbing pirate activity. "We have information on who is behind this, who is involved," Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said from Kenya. "There is a lot of money flowing in ... we are following very closely how money is distributed here."

But in Somalia, the pirates have become so powerful that they not only seriously damage the already weakened state of the government, but threaten its very existence. That makes the PM's ambitious plan to "prevent (the pirates) from going into the waters" and to "establish at least ten or more observation posts on the coastline" grandiose at best and possibly foolhardy under a worst-case scenario.

As the Associated Press tactfully reports,

Still, it was not clear how this plan could cover the 1,900-mile Somali coastline, since his government controls only a few square blocks of the capital, Mogadishu, with the aid of African peacekeepers. Donors have also been reluctant to fund a government with little accountability but the recent spike in piracy attacks may change that.

The inevitable American casualty, which we came close to seeing a few days ago, would undoubtedly drive a wave of international retaliation against pirate strongholds in Africa, just like it sometimes takes a fair-haired murder victim to personally feed a city's tabloid frenzy when waves of darker-hued corpses washing up on the shore are chalked up as mere crime statistics.

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