The Rant 

I've always heard that if you get pooped on by a bird, it's supposed to be good luck, but the day before New Year's, it looked like a scene from a Hitchcock movie at my house. Thousands of robins roosting in the trees bombed everything in sight, including the deck, the car, the dog, even the bird feeder. My father used to say, "It's a dirty bird that fouls its own nest," but if this is a portent of things to come, I should be having a shitload of good luck this year. I sure hope so, because the crappy year 2011 couldn't end soon enough for me. In this political climate of wasted opportunity and obdurate myopia, it wasn't the heat, it was the stupidity, and there was plenty of dumb to spread around. Between the reactionary Republicans and the docile Democrats, these annoyances plagued my existence, which is why, in this new year, I'd like to implore the perpetrators to "please, stop that." Beginning with:

Hand-held Devices: I don't "tweet" and I don't text. Since CNN has begun adding viewer "tweets" to their broadcasts, the full idiocy is on display for the world to see. I tuned in to see the news, not some hash-tag. For those permanently lost in their hand-held gadget worlds, walking the streets like zombies and altering what it means to be in a "community," please, stop that.

Local News: If all you watched was local TV news, you'd never leave the house. I've heard the old saying "If it bleeds, it leads," but local news broadcasts would have you believe that the streets of Memphis are running with blood. I blame the general managers and news directors that insist on following the "formula" that's the same in every major city in every state. It's not about news, it's about ratings, and crime does seem to pay after all. Only, don't say you're "on our side" when your bread and butter is scaring people. No wonder Memphis has lost population in the past decade. Please, stop that.

The Tea Party: I suppose the game's about over for the radical right until they form their third party and guarantee Barack Obama's reelection. What a strategy! Oppose every initiative the president proposes, then blame the Democrats for a lack of accomplishment. Unfortunately, the Tea Party still rules supreme in most state legislatures, including Tennessee, where they demonstrate their dedication to limited government by proposing to drug-test welfare recipients. I say, "You first, Senator." And prescription meds count. After the revolting Curry Todd episode, perhaps we should drug-test for gun ownership. A drunken legislator driving around with a loaded weapon in his car is a sufficient reason to say, please, stop that. Which brings me to ...

Gun Carry Permits: We have hotheads in jail who shot someone over parking disputes, yet the NRA has funded enough local politicians for them to continue their efforts to allow gun fanatics to carry their weapons anywhere at any time. This includes public parks, bars and restaurants, even church. Say what you will about the "Occupy" protesters, at least they're not armed, unlike that other "grassroots" movement. And the carry-permit crowd are always "law-abiding citizens," right up until the minute they blow someone's brains out. I don't know who I fear more: street thugs or the person driving in the lane next to me. As for the NRA-enriched "public servants" whose souls have been purchased, please, stop that.

Basketball Announcers: Okay, I'm into the Grizzlies, but every time the arena announcer opens his mouth, my silver fillings begin to rattle. Enthusiasm is one thing, but this guttural hysteria and forced glee is so annoying it detracts from the game. We already have cheerleaders, so could you take it down a notch? And if I have to hear "We Will Rock You" one more time, I'm going to stick railroad spikes in my ears. The Griz have the unique opportunity of playing music exclusive to Memphis at home games. If an opponent is called for traveling, Rufus Thomas could sing "Walking the Dog." I'd offer to help, but I'm not much of a company man. Meanwhile, your recorded musical selections suck, so please, stop that. And while we're on the subject ... 

Pro Sports: Lockouts in football and basketball, juicing in baseball, billionaires fighting millionaires over that last slice of the pie — and there's something unseemly about Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones building a billion-dollar gilded football palace in the middle of a depression. As for Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, have a seat, sonny, you ain't on the team. You own Dirk Nowitzki's contract, not Dirk. And in this era of the "foreclosure society," why are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim paying a 31-year-old man $250 million to play 10 years of baseball? I believe it was Curt Flood who once said, "A well-paid slave is still a slave." To arrogant owners and showboat athletes, I say, please, stop that.

Fox News: Fox News is like poison. It won't kill you all at once, just a little at a time. The unapologetic propaganda arm of the Republican Party is the electronic equivalent of the Hearst newspapers of the late 1880s, for which the term "yellow journalism" was invented. At least in the 19th century, you had to be able to read to be affected by a newspaper. Fox viewers soak it up like Brawny absorbent towels and repeat it as gospel. You hear it in their conversations and read it in online comments and letters to the editor. Unfortunately, it's the gospel according to Rupert Murdoch, the scandal-ridden, right-wing foreigner who fueled and funded the ridiculous "birther" nonsense about the president. Fox's disinformation campaign didn't keep them from firing Glenn Beck, the false messiah searching for a cult.

A recent poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University found that "Fox viewers know less than people who don't watch any news." Murdoch, like Hearst, is a provocateur who will print or broadcast anything that sells. Hearst came to regret his journalistic sins. As for Murdoch and Fox News, please, stop that. Better yet, go away, and take that sumbitch Limbaugh with you. Then we can all have a happy new year.

Randy Haspel writes the blog "Born-Again Hippies," where a version of this column first appeared.

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