Bumping Off Barbie

Dorian Dale’s accidental discovery of another Long Island beach body (a blonde doll disturbingly bound in electric tape) sparks troubling conversations about the “throwaway” girls who lost their way before losing their lives and how they don’t live up to our Barbie doll fantasy of what women should be.

Shaman and Barbie

Shaman the Springer Spaniel was on his morning walk down by the dock on the bay.  It was clear and crisp that first Tuesday of the New Year.  At one point, he disappeared into the bayberry bushes behind the bathroom facilities of yacht cub whose heading is at the south end of the Amityville cut on the barrier beach.  `

Usually, Shaman comes when called, but this time he was unresponsive.  Back in a clearing, he was sniffing and pawing the ground.  By his forepaw, lay an odd object.  I picked it up.  It was one of those long, lean Barbie-type dolls.  It had been methodically wrapped mummy-style from head to ankle in cloth electrical tape faded to coal ash.  A clump of peroxide blond hair sprouted from the doll’s tape-wrapped head.  Given the four female cadavers wrapped in burlap found three weeks earlier two miles due east, it was hair-raising.  I turned it over to the police.

Was mummified Barbie merely an off-handed sentiment caste off and blown two miles across the Great South Bay by a Nor’easter?  Could it have been a creation of some artiste under the influence of Dare Wright’s The Lonely Doll?  Or was it, in fact, a Voodoo Barbie left at the scene as a creepy symbol by the killer?  Most viewing the pictures thought it the latter

The grizzly discoveries on the barrier beach became instant grist for jokes and jibes at work.  One woman, who comports herself properly, as a rule, greeted me with, “Have you been cruising Craig’s List lately?”  Others chimed in with, “Hear you’re a suspect,” or “Have an alibi?”  One of the wisecrackers was certain mummified Barbie was my twisted idea of a joke.  Within hours he had Googled five images of Ken dolls including one in a leather biker outfit, stapled them together with a title page, “Suffolk County Police Department: Ocean Parkway Murder Suspects Mug Shot,” and left it on my desk.  It was the only chuckle any of this got out of me.

There would be no wisecracks had there been a home invasion of the caliber that savaged and brutally murdered all three females of Dr. Petit’s family in Connecticut.  With the perpetrators still at large, everyone would be too racked with fear.  That the first four victims were so-called “Craig’s List escorts” renders their fate more of an abstraction.  Poor, unfortunate creatures these, vulnerable to vermin as they ply the “world’s oldest profession.”  Some protest ‘they are people too,’ but most, as Shannon Gilbert’s mother put it, “look at them like they’re throwaway.”

It was Blue, the police dog that picked up where Gilbert’s frenzied flight from her Craig’s List client left off.  Some six months later, three miles to the west, he sniffed out the cadaver dump in narrow clumps of bayberry thickets just off Ocean Parkway.  “If it wasn’t for my daughter, these bodies never would have been found,” Gilbert’s mother observed. “Everyone has their destiny, maybe this was hers.”  Pictures of Shannon’s suggest she was destined for tragedy.  Mascara frames sad, tired eyes.  Pouting, Angela Jolie lips are caked with lipstick.  Her face is inanimate, the expression defeated.  She’s all dolled up with no place to go. 

Like so many girls growing up across America, Shannon surely played with any number of Barbie dolls.  Ten years ago in a DadsWorld.com article, “Gender Bender Barbie”, I reported that the average American girl has nine of them.  The iconic Barbie is the template for what little girls should want to look like when they grow up.  Barbie is how Hugh Hefner likes his babes – 36”/18”/33” if you take her to scale at 5’9”.  Barbie is the mold out of which Fox News Stepford foxes pop; Vanna White game show ornaments as well.  They’re all dolled up to get attention. 

You can tell the Mummified Barbie is a knock-off, someone pointed out, because her feet aren’t permanently arched to accommodate three-inch heels.  Barbie herself is a knock-off of Lilli Doll, a German ‘sex doll’ whose wardrobe made her “the star of every bar.”  “I could do without balding old men,” Lilli declared, “but my budget couldn’t!”  What else need we know about the aspiration of Barbie’s inspiration?  An innocent doll Barbie ain’t. 

Last fall teenage girls at a Texas high school made national news by going makeup-free on Tuesdays.  Not exactly  an echo of hairy-armed women liberationists from the 60s.  From the red glossed lips of the Fox News anchor, the coverage blushed with irony.  “Redefining Beautiful is all about self-confidence,” their web-site announces.  “Over 200 girls are doing this every Tuesday.  So join in the pack!”  Will joining the pack to bolster self-confidence lead to a middle-age spent painting their faces daily like scary clowns?

A few years back, the Barbie Liberation Organization (BLO) set about “to make a statement about the way toys can encourage negative behavior in children, particularly given rising acts of violence and sexism.”  BLO transplanted voice boxes from G.I. Joes into Barbies and placed them back on store shelves.  Might the Craig’s List girls – Maureen, Melissa, Megan, Amber and Shannon – been empowered survivors rather than victims had they grown up with G.I. Barbie roaring “Vengeance is mine,” or “Eat lead, Cobra” instead of “Let’s go shopping”?

Maybe the cosmic message of mummified Barbie is that it’s time to put this icon under wraps.


Have a Pair of Crystal Balls?

Contributor Dorian Dale takes a present day look at predicting the future. It’s Barack Obama vs. Dick Vitale and google vs. the government in this mashup of prognostication that might ultimately prove that groupthink and a precocious fourteen year-old know better than experts and even the President.

Do you have a pair of crystal balls?  IARPA would like to know.  The acronym that stands for U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity is out for a random walk.  The operative premise is that “a blindfolded monkey throwing darts at a newspaper’s financial pages could select a portfolio that would do just as well as one carefully selected by experts.”* If our expansive and well-equipped intelligence apparatus can be blindsided by the collapse of Evil Empires on life-support, what’s to say that the likes of Joe the Plumber could do any worse placing bets on the fate of North Korea’s quackocracy?

I was driving along several weeks back with my globally aware fourteen-year old son, Jed.  We were considering the Twitter revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.  I posed a challenge: which neighborhood tyrant would be the next to go down?  There was already some stirring in Yemen and Bahrain.  What other candidates for collapse might there be?  Oman?  Iran?  Jed went with Algeria, not a bad choice given the military suppression of an Islamic party election victory twenty years ago.  I chose the monkey in the middle of Egypt and Tunisia – Libya’s Qaddafi.  Can’t say precisely what it was in my caldron of knowledge of all things Qaddafi and Libyan.  Maybe it had something to do with Keeping Up with the Ghonims, Google’s young social media man next door in Egypt.  Qaddafi, being Qaddafi, hasn’t gone quietly into the night to join his Egyptian counterpart, Mubarek, so I haven’t collected my bet with Jed.

Qaddafi is every inch the devil-incarnate that we know.  But who are these rebels that we don’t know?  When asked to characterize the opposition, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “It’s pretty much a pick-up ballgame…with no command and control.”  The future government, Gates suggested would probably be worked out among Libya’s numerous powerful tribes.  It is sobering, given Gates’ compound authority as former Acting Director Central Intelligence and SecDef, that Jed could have expressed equal uncertainty. 

If Libya is a pick-up game played with tanks and RPGs, then it plays to a core skill of our President.  It is Obama’s half-court game and die-hard fan’s eye that got him on ESPNs panel of forecasters for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.  This year his bracket choices went 29-3 through the second round placing him in the 99th percentile on ESPN.com after three rounds.  His Final Four choices, number one seeds all, didn’t escape the Elite Eight, dropping Obama to a, nonetheless, respectable 83rd percentile when the net was cut down by the champions.  Snoop Dogg came panting in at the 43rd while Dick Vitale, the voluble former coach turned b-ball bloviator dogged it out at the 21st along with ESPN pundit Scott Van Pelt. 

These results line up with the findings of “Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It?” by Penn Professor Philip Tetlock.  The takeaway – acclaim of so-called experts is inversely proportional to the accuracy of claims they make about the future.  It is far better to go with the “wisdom of crowds,” perils of groupthink and the lowest common denominator of consensus, notwithstanding.  By Tetlock’s reckoning, the average of all five million March Madness predictions registered at ESPN will beat 80-90% of the individual predictions.  Faced with a world checkered with unknown unknowns, IARPA’s Aggregative Contingent Estimation (ACE) Program has retained the professor to lead one of five teams in capturing this oracular phenomenon algorithmically. 

ACE aims “to dramatically enhance the accuracy, precision, and timeliness of forecasts for a broad range of event types, through the development of advanced techniques that elicit, weight, and combine the judgments of many intelligence analysts.”  Tetlock’s Good Judgment Project (GJP) team, has been soliciting recruits with no specialized background to conjecture on 100 impending possibilities on the world stage.  “Will former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf return to high office?”  “Will Hamas recognize the state of Israel by the end of 2012?”  Researchers from the GJP will evaluate combinations of individual forecasts to optimize the yield of “collective wisdom.”

Dorian Dale seen here with his ghostwriter, Babbo

A decade ago IARPA’s cousin DARPA over in Defense sponsored “Futures Markets Applied to Prediction.”  FututreMAP was to harness collective intelligence through market-based trading mechanisms for predicting geopolitical instability and threats to national security.   After all, orange juice futures, as we saw in Trading Places, are better predictors of weather than the National Weather Service’s forecasts.  Detractors accused the Pentagon of wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on “terrorism betting parlors,” and “fantasy league terror games.”  Defenders pointed out that traders in the Iowa Electronic Markets have been betting since 1988 with remarkable accuracy on the likely winner of the US presidential elections.  As circumstances unfolded, it was left to Tradesports.com, a Dublin-based online trading exchange to take bets on the “survivability of Saddam.”  But now Google has legitimized this approach by using prediction markets to “forecast product launch dates, new office openings, and many other things of strategic importance.”

For the C-Spanners out there who have longed to have their very own version of ESPN bracketology, the call is out for wonks looking to improve their “forecasting ability as part of cutting-edge scientific research.”  Pay is a mere $150, but GJP will be providing an invaluable reality check.  So go to http://surveys.crowdcast.com/s3/ACERegistration and get in touch with your inner Nostradamus.    

*Random Walk Down Wall Street, Burton Malkiel

Divide and Conquer: Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act

Dorian Dale, inaugural contributor to JedMorey.com, takes on everyone from the Koch Brothers to Michelle Bachmann and offers “smash mouth” war advice – from Machiavelli to Clausewitz – to the clean energy freedom fighters.

Fukushima, mon amour, is in meltdown. In the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’, meanwhile, Americans are waging Bulb Wars.  How do you say ‘America Syndrome’ in Japanese?* The Japanese are fighting for their lives just as Americans are fake-fighting over “Freedom of Choice.”  Notorious B.I.G (Big Invasive Government) has set about to replace those good ol’ testicular, heat-reeking bulbs with the pigtailed, puny-power variety. 

Freedom of Choice is just another catch phrase for “You’re Being Had”.  Stall&bump…pocket picked.  Divert, subvert, ka-ching.  Bulb Wars is but the latest canard designed to distract, undermine and diminish you, fellow Americans. 

Among numerous provisions in the Energy independence and Security Act of 2007 was one setting standards for more efficient lighting.  Signed into law by President George W. Bush, the act also called for a gas mileage boost to 35mpg by 2020.  While Detroit couldn’t muster the muscle to blunt that upgrade, fossil fuelers in the Senate stripped out provisions that would have provided for renewable portfolio standards via elimination of $20+ billion in oil and gas subsidies.

Now the “Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act,” has been reintroduced by Rep. Michele “Minute Mom” Bachmann (R-MN) to strip incandescent provisos from the 2007 law.  What can we expect from the foxy, pitchbabe in response to Glenn Beck’s Bachmann fantasy “just you and me in the incandescent glow”? ‘Glenn, they’re gonna have to peel the incandescent bulb from my cold, dying fingers!’  

Never mind that section 321 of Public Law 110-140 does not, in fact, ban incandescent.  Ignore that the electronics industry has responded with a 30% more efficient incandescent in the meantime.  Facts get obfuscated by the fog-machines of these campaigns.  Refer all queries to the Rovian Rule: ‘Empires create their own reality.’

If playing lord and master doesn’t spin your world, what are you going to do?  Socratic reasoning falls largely on plugged ears in unreasonable times.  Maybe it’s time to equip yourself with more than moral outrage.  Consensus doesn’t cut it in a knife fight.  Wake up and smell the gunpowder.  If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  Long enough, that is, to get their playbook then beat them at their own game.  It’s a war game in which there is an enemy, an Achilles heel that succumbs to assault providing plunder for further assault.

Make no mistake about it.  War is being waged over the future of this country.  If you’re outgunned and outspent, you best outsmart.

As politics is warfare by other means, kick off with von Clausewitz.  Considering insurgency?  Recon with Kilcullen.  For mastering manipulation, Machiavelli’s your man.  To control the great unwashed, it’s    divide and conquer as practiced by the British Raj.  If you’re uneasy at the very thought of contemplating war, maybe the Zen of Sun-Tzu is for you.  

Then there is the Smash-Mouth Playbook which, in, a nutshell, is ‘three yards and a cloud of dust.’

Smash-Mouth is how the increasingly infamous and combative Koch Bros run it.  Charles and David Koch** are the twin-headed Monty Burns of the Dirty Economy.   Most recently, the Kochs bankrolled capture of the Wisconsin statehouse with and eye to killing collective bargaining and WalMarting more of middle-class America.  Plays were run to smash-mouth perfection.  

  • First, they targeted a vulnerable foil in publicly-employed teachers. 
  • Second, everyone was reminded of teacher privileges that draw double the benefits for half the work of hard-pressed taxpayers.  
  • Third, blame for all this largesse was hung on the socialistic credo of collective bargaining.  
  • In the dust-up, another union piggy bank got broken, exposing future targets to greater vulnerability. 

Hit, drive and desire. 

To review, here’s how Three Yards and a Cloud of Dust is run:

1)      Target vulnerability/ID threat. 

2)      Insert wedge/raise fear. 

3)      Hammer away/building momentum. 

Under dust-up, spread the field and grab collateral for more assault.

Even when smash-mouth does not chalk up a win, it does send an intimidating message.  Last fall, Koch strategy and money (drawn from their $45B fortune) were behind Proposition 23, designed to gut California’s iconic clean energy law.  This assault was the equivalent of the Sierra Club seeking closure of refineries in Texas.  And the Kochs don’t buy Peak Oil theory.  On the contrary, as Wikileaked Saudi cables revealed, oil&gas oligarchs are far more concerned about competitive threat to revenue streams posed by clean energy. 

Can the Kumbaya/consensus crowd countenance concepts of combat that are culturally counter-intuitive to them?  Hacktavists of Anonymous and Stuxnetting saboteurs pose stealthy, tactical promise, but who you gonna call?  Clearly, not all bad actors will succumb to Twitter revolutions.   God helps those who help themselves, fellow Americans.  For your first exercise in strategic smash-mouthing, Google “FHFA>Babylon”.  Break down FHFA, aka Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, into their constituent vulnerabilities, threat posed, means of assault and takeaway.  It you have what it takes to save our future, we’ll be in touch.

*Amerika shōkōgun

**In the spirit of full-disclosure, the reader should know that David Koch got Dale’s vote as the 1980 Libertarian candidate for vice president.

Guest Contributor Dorian Dale