How to Boil a Frog


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How to Boil A Frog The Movie

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Monday, November 26, 2007

The Price of Everything

This is how we value things in our society – with money.

This is US dollars! So they're practically free!

That works out to about $2.63 per frog leg. Of course, nobody ever asked the frogs how much those legs were worth to them. Trust me – it was a lot. Ever tried to do the breast stroke off a lily pad? But this problem isn’t restricted to frogs. Our whole system of valuing stuff is deeply flawed. Take the case of Melvin.

Buy the whole neighborhood! This subprime thing is like an after-Thanksgiving sale!

Melvin gets so excited by his killing in real estate that he crosses the divider and makes an actual killing in on-coming traffic, heading into the afterlife with a busload of gay Anglicans seeking a new life in Iqaluit, which they’ve heard is the Canadian San Francisco.

Log Cabin Republicans become Ice Igloo Democrats!

Unfortunately, the crash happens in Malibu, and sends out a single spark which ignites Jeffrey Katzenberg’s house and sets fire to the whole colony. Minutes later, the entire drought-stricken Southeastern US is aflame.

Can we blame this on the writers’ strike?

The Russians, who are still using Sputnik as a spy satellite (“Waste not, want not” being an old Russian proverb) get a blurry image of the smoke wafting across the US, and assume it’s a clever new missile defense shield developed by the crack scientists who have been keeping Dick Cheney’s brain alive in an old soup pot in an undisclosed location.

Oh, wait these belong to Colin Powell. Can someone return them and change the city to “Tehran”?

Following the Bush Doctrine of pre-emptive war, Putin pulls the plug on natural gas to Europe and launches the 5,000 MIRV’d missiles he bought at a garage sale in Kazakhstan last weekend at every major city in America. Fortunately, Washington D.C. has such a high poverty rate that it doesn’t qualify as a major city, and survives the attack. It’s several hours before Bush becomes aware of the vaporization of the free world, because he’s eating some really tasty soup he found in the basement. But this is a catastrophe! Let’s take a look at how it effects the GNP, which measures the growth of the US economy:

We are smokin’.

What’s going on here? Didn’t somebody get the news that all the stuff Melvin caused is bad? Just the opposite! After Melvin crashed, his cell phone stayed on, racking up lots of roaming minutes and creating bigger revenue for his phone service provider. Then there was the overtime for the EMT’s to bag all those dead Anglicans, and the coffins not only for the car crash victims but the 43,735 people who got roasted in the resulting fire. All three Dreamworks founders built even bigger houses, complete with invisible domes which protected them from the influx of Soviet nukes. And the contract China received to clean up the 8 trillion tons of irradiated American soil gave the country so much money that it actually moved back into US Treasury securities, providing the survivors with another tax cut to buy Oil of Olay Cancer Cleanser from the Sharper Image Catalogue! It was a bonanza for the economy!

Now I wear a different skin every night!

But somehow it doesn’t make sense. Where’s the deduction for the value of all those trees that burned up? The debit for the unhappiness of the people who lost their homes? Where do we subtract an amount for the peace of mind we’ve lost since we started living in the Nuclear Age? Are we all really just the sum total of what we buy and sell? Robert Kennedy didn’t think so. Here’s what he had to say:

“…the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials…it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

That was 40 years ago, but we still aren’t measuring the beauty of poetry, or a lot of other very important things. For instance, because we don’t count the value of educated women in the GNP, we don’t take much notice when the college-campus subsidy for birth control accidentally drops out of the law, causing all those randy university strumpets to go without, or resort to alternatives like the morning-after pill, or prayer.

Please Lord, have him pull out on time.

Because we don’t put a dollar value on dignity, we don’t mind that the working poor have to go to shelters to get a turkey for Thanksgiving. And because we don’t value the well-being of our citizens more than we value getting to work, we don’t mind that the corn the government used to buy and give to those shelters now goes into ethanol for our gas tanks.

Is this one regular or premium?

Even up here in Canada – the land of nearly-free health care – we forgot to put a dollar value on health, with the result that family doctors are paid on the assumption that they will take no more than 8 minutes to see any one patient, meaning that there is never time to talk about anything but the single most pressing symptom. Not only don’t doctors have the time to treat a whole human being, they can’t even treat a basket of symptoms. Just the one.

Sorry, I’ll have to put the heart back in next time.

By valuing the wrong things, we force co-eds and shelter workers and doctors and legless frogs into making the kinds of trade-offs that gradually eat away at our souls.

But we haven’t put a price on that either. Yet. May I suggest $2.63 per soul, to get the bidding started?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest We Forget

This is my great, great, great, great, great grandfrog Charlie.

Everybody was black and white in those days.

Charlie, who was Flemish, had a good life, raised many a pollywog, but died early when he was blown out of the pond by a stray bomb during the Battle of Passchendaele. Most of those who died there, of course, weren’t frogs but soldiers: Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks and South Africans all took on the soldiers of the German Imperial Army. 750,000 casualties later, the battle ended.

And I’m going to put the jacuzzi right over here.

Siegfried Sassoon wrote:

"I died in Hell
(they called it Passchendaele); my wound was slight
and I was hobbling back; and then a shell
burst slick upon the duckboards; so I fell
into the bottomless mud, and lost the light"

But he didn’t, really. Mad Jack, as he was called, survived the war, threw the ribbon from his Military Cross into the Mersey, came out of the closet, and went on to develop a line of fabulous hair products.

Also try his new "Eau de Trench Warfare"

Okay, that was actually Vidal Sassoon, but Siegfried did live to be 80, so we say he was one of the lucky ones. Lucky not to have died, or lost a limb, lucky to only have lost whatever it is you lose, and then write a poem like that. And on this day – Remembrance Day in Canada, Veterans Day in America – we mark the armistice that started on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and honor those who served.

We remember you.

And then we usually start talking about war and peace. Generally, we all agree peace is good, although some only like peace with honor, while others prefer it with carrots. War is tougher, though, and soon we’re talking about pacifism, and The Great War, and conscientious objection, and Rwanda, and just war, and Hitler.

After he started using Sassoon hair products. Note the sheen.

And talking about that stuff is important, because we want to believe we’re doing the right thing, whatever we think the right thing is. Certainly the soldiers who fought in the first two world wars thought they were doing the right thing, whatever side they were fighting on. The Korean War too, even though it was technically a police action. Then, with the Vietnam War, things got a little fuzzier, but everybody was stoned anyway. And then came Iraq 1, and the sequel, Iraq 2.

They had to make “Ocean’s 13” to make up for the second one, so look for a third installment in 2015.

This time, there was talk about democracy and patriotism and taking the war to the terrorists, but on the ground things were pretty clear. One of the few structures that American soldiers were ordered to protect from looting, after the invasion, was the Iraqi Oil Ministry. During the initial assault on Baghdad, soldiers set up forward bases called Camp Shell and Camp Exxon.

Hey, it was just a summer camp for kids with asthma. Lighten up.

But it wasn’t like this hadn’t been happening for a while. IBM made good money helping the Nazis solve their logistical problems with all those death camps, while Standard Oil was helping fuel the Luftwaffe, and Chase Manhattan Bank was assisting the Vichy government and providing a place to stash all that formerly-Jewish cash.

Keeping your money safe while you’re in Dachau!

And now the US Congress has passed a resolution that could pave the way to war with Iran, if anyone had the inclination. And I, for one, don’t want my little pollywog to end up in the Middle East celebrating her 21st birthday by sticking a candle in her MRE. So I think it’s time to put away talk of whether war can be just, and honor soldiers past and present with a new question: “Who profits?”

Here's a few:

David Lesar – CEO of Halliburton

David has reportedly been paid $42,000,000 since the Iraq war began. Ka-ching!

Erik Prince – CEO of Blackwater

Blackwater has been paid more than $320 million by the State Department since June 2004 - who says you can’t outsource democracy?

A. Anton Frederickson - Pres & COO of Titan Group

Despite paying a $28.5 million fine in 2005 after pleading guilty to three felony international bribery charges, Titan has a contract with the US Army worth over $1 billion.

Ray Hunt - Texas oilman and Friend O' Bush

Ray is currently making a deal with the Iraqi Kurds to drill for oil in Northern Iraq, despite the fact that the Iraqi government says that's, well, kinda illegal under Iraqi law.

Riley Bechtel – CEO of Toys ‘R’ Us

Just kidding – Riley's the CEO of Bechtel, which pulled out of Iraq in 2006 after being paid $2.3 billion by the US government, leaving behind an unfinished children’s hospital and the lives of 52 of its employees.

And if you own stock in any of these or other companies that have made money on wars past or present, or fill up your tank with a bit of the 500,000 barrels of oil that the US imports from Iraq every day, or earn interest from banks that have funded both sides of the world's wars, then you profit too, and so do I.

Forget about studying war no more. In remembrance of those who fought for what they believed in, let’s all sell our shares in war, and profit no more.