Vol. 6 No. 9

April, 2007




Don't forget to check out the






Comic: Rapter Agent

Paper Cuts Business

iToon on Heaven's Gate

I, Robraut

Comic: Dr. Philistine

iToon on Installing Windows

Brain Splatter






The powers in their white ivory towers had a jaw dropping revelation last month. Politicians may have lost their own control on their campaigns. The internet has open the playing field for non-professional attack ads against them. One thing a politician cannot stand is someone telling them what to do. Another thing is having someone else define their ego-inflated image of themselves.

It is one thing to have a campaign worker pluck up an opponent's yard signs and replace them with another candidate. It is one thing to have campaign workers distribute leaflets on car windows and outside polling places. It is one thing to have supporters write letters to the editor of the local newspapers. But is another thing to have non-campaign sanctioned persons create their own little dirty trick bag.

Richard Nixon's fraternity boys gone amok brought down his paranoid presidency. The burglars, named the Plumbers, were a bunch of cronies who broke into the Democratic Campaign Headquarters at the Watergate complex to steal information and dirt on candidates so Nixon could squeeze any opponent with negative gossip or scandal. Hard ball politics in many circles is a blood sport. Unchecked power has a habit of corrupting those elected to serve the will of the people.

Now, most campaign election laws are written by legislators who like to keep their jobs. Incumbency is the hardest diamond to crack during an election cycle. Incumbents rarely lose. They only lose if they are tainted with a last minute scandal of epic sleaze or criminality. It is the road side bomb that most candidates fear to tread in the waning days of a campaign.

The usual suspects are drugs, sex, bribery, contract fixing or alcohol addiction.

But now that the mainstream media has diluted the concept of truth and fact checking to a bare minimum standard, campaign opponents are free to trial balloon explosive charges in the press through leaks or back door story ideas. Shortly after the story was circulating that candidate Barack Obama was educated in a foreign Muslim school, current buzzwords for recruiting terror cells, it was found out that the story originated in a Hillary Clinton research firm. So Obama wasted a week trying to correct the wrong impression originally spawned into Internet gossip. Recently, Hillary Clinton got her own whack across the tush. Someone had mashed up the infamous Apple 1984 Orwellian Super Bowl commercial by inserting Hillary's face and stump speech for the evil overlord scowling to his lemmings. Afterward, this video was traced to a worker at one of Obama's media relations firms. Denying any knowledge of the mash-up, that firm terminated the worker who created the attack ad.

These Internet hand grenades can go off anywhere at any time, and can spread like wildfire through email and blog RSS sites. The bigger the explosive allegations, the more the media attention. And considering that most Americans get their news from faux news parody shows like the Daily Show, there is no principled filter on what is true or false.

A person can create a negative ad about a candidate and post it on the web and there is little the candidate can do about it. An organization can spread a falsehood about a candidate through its membership with the simple click of a mouse. And such actions don't cost any real dollars. Candidates spend hundreds of million of dollars with media consultants and advertising firms polishing their image and message to gain electoral votes. It could all be blown away in one simple video posted to the net.

And it is not like politicians have no fodder to give this creative cyberbombers. If they have been in the game of politics long enough, they have made stupid remarks, half-baked statements, and pandered to every living organism on the planet to squeeze the last drop from the voting orange. One could ask an off-video question and splice in a different answer and make a candidate look like an idiot. Or you could just film them in their natural idiotic state, like John Dean campaign rally yelling like Tarzan after losing a caucus vote, and post it to news organizations to derail his candidacy before it gets any head of steam.

This season's political elite are troubled by the fact that any one of them can turn into this year's howling John Dean, and turn into an instant loser in the minds of the voting populous. Even if it is not on their own stupidity, but through unknown Internet cyberbombers planting attack ads all over the network.



Inspired by the world being on the verge of the wide world of professional video gamers,

there will be the same kind of professional sports weird craziness, like prima donna players and strange pro agents.

And the with the term, Rapter, we defer to the Japanese anime spelling just to be difficult/different.






For the past year, the Tribune Corporation has been in turmoil. There was a newspaper circulation scandal. That hurt creed with its advertisers who pay rates based upon verified circulation numbers. There was falling revenue from the print and broadcast divisions. Television and radio ratings are on a downward track. The traditional demographic for newspaper readers is literally dying off. Young adults do not read the paper regularly. They get their news principally from the Internet or electronic media. The new Silicon Valley type corporation wannabe is looking to be hip and is trying digital advertising as a way to attract business. The bread and butter newspaper ads, the classifieds and real estate listings, have been ported successfully on-line with new competitors like eBay and local realtors own websites. So over the past decade, a lot of paper cuts at the Tribune have been causing the corporation to hemorrhage red ink.

So the largest shareholder, the Chandlers, have been pushing for the Tribune board to sell the company so the Chandler family can cash out of the news business. The Tribune, a modern media conglomerate with interests in cable, television stations, radio and television, and electronic publishing ventures, would rather stay the course than break up what has been built up over time. But time is running out on the media dinosaurs. It is no longer considered by Wall Street as a growth business. Without a growth equation, a stock cannot be marketed and sold to average investors and institutions with the potential that the price of the shares going up. In fact, the Trib ticker has been flattening in a narrow trading range for years. Shareholders want returns, not excuses.

There have been plenty of excuses. When the Trib acquired the Chandlers' media empire, it also acquired a billion dollar federal tax bill. It also in retrospect overpaid for quickly depreciating assets like newspapers and printing operations. Then the FCC said the merger was in violation of certain cross ownership rules in major metro markets. The company would have to divest certain assets.

When the Tribune went up for sale, most Wall Street writers thought that there would be some strong action from three classes of players: other media conglomerates like Gannett, the Washington Post Group, or New York Times, which would look to cherry pick assets for their stable of media properties, or cable giants like Time-Warner or Liberty Media looking to cherry pick cable assets; investment bankers who look at buying conglomerates to break them up into smaller pieces in new stock corporations, thereby gaining control of many corporations and making multiple fees in the deals with quick flips of assets other buyers or groups; and the Tribune insiders who gather up a group of investors and take the corporation private.

A funny thing happened on the way to the bank. No one showed up. No checkbooks were eagerly extended. The media conglomerates looked at the Tribune books and balked. They walked away without even making a low ball bid for any of the properties. Next, the investment banks looked at the books, and they also passed on making any deal. Then the Tribune board looked at using its own line institutional investor, the McCormick Foundation, and debt borrowing to take the corporation private (thereby buying out the dissenting shareholders) but no commercial bank would lend them the type of money the dissenters wanted for their shares. Even the Chandlers made a weak bid for the corporation, but their valuation was off base. In the end, several billionaires proposed buying the company by not putting in any of their cash, but by creating debt borrowed by employee stock ownership plans. In other words, borrow on the credit of Tribune employees. If commercial banks and investment brokers refused to use their own money to buy the Trib, how would a newly formed employee ownership plan have the financial gold to buy the Tribune. And why would they if the first order of business for the new owner will be slash positions, wages and content in order to make mortgage payments.

Part of the problem is the culture, what it seems is important to the readership base. Instead of a traditional role of reporting facts on newsworthy subject matter (like the check and balance of investigating government activities), major media companies are more intent on pandering to the lowest common denominator. Instead of front sections filled with news reports, the papers are filled with fluff and wire stories about tabloid gossip.

So the Tribune stands in limbo after extending its sell deadline several times. It appears the only hope is another internal restructuring of its divisions and work force. But the tale that has been told is that old line media conglomerates heavily invested in newspapers, radio and television properties, have little value on Wall Street as compared to the high flying Internet darlings like Google.




I, Robraut OPINION

There used to be two types of workers: factory and office. Factory workers used their hands and brawn skills to make steel beams for skyscrapers to circuit assemblies for automobiles. Office workers used their minds and communication skills to synthesize information and sell products or services to their company's end users.

But today, there is a hybrid worker. Technology has created a merger of traditional work positions. Both factory workers and office workers are more likely fixated in front of a computer screen than doing their traditional job descriptions. Computers and robotics are handling much of the assembly and packaging in factories. Workers are watching computer screens to determine if the machinery is functioning at peak levels. Office workers are typing on computers entering data into corporate mainframes for information distribution to supervisors and clients. The work place is turning people into data re-entry drones.

There are a few areas where hand work is the acceptable norm. Construction. People are more comfortable with construction workers building stick construction homes than having huge modular pieces be bolted together at the home site. It is a traditional bias that homeowners still demand from home builders. But all the inner guts of a modern home (appliances, equipment, fixtures) are made at automatic factories. So in one sense, there is a strange disconnect.

The average homeowner is a technical person at his or her work place. The current service economy has integrated computerization into the basic facets of work flow. The most important tool a modern worker has is the computer mouse, the equivalent to the iron age worker's first hammer.

Just like in the book, The Jungle, where people don't want to know how their sausage is made, the point-click-cut-paste spell check print cycle in the cubical, the modern office is producing reams of circuited info-sausage. It is leading to a blank white board view of the world. Managers see workers in spread sheet form: columns of social security numbers, salaries, benefit costs, and the number of assignments.

A computer can think faster, make more automated phone solicitations in a hour than a worker could do in a week, calculate huge numbers in seconds, or distribute a letter world wide in seconds. The manager is looking for someone to program a computer to do these tasks than hiring humans to do the work. The human element is now secondary to a managerial formula for productivity.

The school yards of America are not filled with kids bragging that when they grow up they want to be doctors, lawyers or accountants. They want to be superstar athletes or bling rappers or tween television stars. The health care industry is out of whack because it is not run by doctors but by administrators who are more concerned about collecting huge sums for health care than treating the patient. The legal system is out of whack because it is not run by attorneys but by politicians who write bad laws, regulations and appoint cronie judges. The banking industry is out of whack because it is not run by accountants but by finance specialists who dream of new ways to disguise debt in institutionalized three card monte offerings. Why? Instead of concentrating on the human aspects of interacting with a client-patient-customer, those seeking services are treated like a commodity, a standard vessel of asset extraction. Of course there are exceptions to the general trend, but how we interact in the work place is becoming more and more impersonal.

Some day, you will file your tax return without even knowing it: a central government computer will access your payroll records, make the calculations, then deduct the money electronically from your account. You may never know if any mistake was made because that's the way it will be done. At that point, you are nothing more than an organic gear in the Big Machine of Life.


Inspired by the souls being lost in the sink holes of cyberspace, comic commentary cyberbarf style.







Brain Splatter

YO TUBE MONEY. Every time I look at the YouTube site, I still don't see anything remotely generating the type of cash-advertising to justify google's googly acquisition price. Most of the video uplinks are copyrighted television, cable and movie programs. The other amateur videos are painstaking cries to attention; this week's blog fad. People in search of their one, big, break.

WEB COMICS. If content is still to be King of the Internet, then refreshing content (not found elsewhere) must be high on the list of must-haves. Web only comics are growing for two reasons: the cost of distribution (printing and distribution via mail/trucking) is expensive in conventional circles, and new comic artists are drawn to the freedom of the Internet to hone their craft. Instead of rejection letters from syndicates, the artist is free to post to his or her own web page and build a fan base.

TWO PLUS TWO EQUALS ZERO. The web is great for fast breaking news links. But it still takes someone to connect the dots and raise the Big Picture at times. The perfect example last month was the orphaned polar bear Cub in a German zoo. The world was drawn to the cute animal being fed by trainers. PETA, the animal rights organization, demanded the bear to be killed rather than suffer the humiliation of being fed by humans. The other story was that PETA and organic farmers brow beat B.K. into changing its policy against purchasing caged animals (pigs or chickens) as a restaurant supplier. Why would B.K care what PETAites think? They are vegetarians!! They don't eat meat!! But the organization would rather kill a zoo cub than save it, and save a caged chicken being raised for food.

PRODUCTIVITY. Remember when that was a huge economist buzzword for the great strides technology had in the workplace. You don't hear about it much anymore; probably because people sitting in front of a computer screen all day have too many diversions at their finger tips: personal email, YouTube, flicker accounts, chat rooms, AIM, random web browsing, message boards, entertainment sites.



The Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden

The global on-line gaming experience has quietly exploded into a a bandwidth python of multi-hour, multi-kingdom game spheres. Whether it is the team combat arena, or the total simulated fantasy genre, more and more men and women are using their free time to escape to a virtual world. As a result of our tech guru's prodding suggestion, has created Sultanate of Clintonia-Rogstaden. Readers will have a running update of the status of this virtual country; get the backstories outside the game's program. For example, check out the images of the national currency. There will be inside jokes, satire, humor and pulse of a real bizarre country. New features will be added on a regular basis. So check out the cyber-soap opera of nation building here at

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