Corrections to Yesterday’s Post

One of the fun things about writing Blind Confidential is having the opportunity to enjoy a stream of consciousness writing style and, as I’ve said many times before, not worrying too much about the facts.  I try to be as truthful as memory serves me but, sometimes, get a name, date or important detail entirely wrong.  If I spent a lot of time checking references and fact checking articles, BC would become more of a job than a place to play with my writing, experiment with literary forms and rant and rave about whatever comes to mind.

Sometimes, however, I feel the need to post a correction to an article where something jumps out as blatantly incorrect or wildly overstated.  I did this with the article about the distinctions about discrimination against people with disabilities and the hatred felt by many other minorities and, today, I will provide a couple of corrections to things I overstated in yesterday’s post about 3D audio.

The first and easiest correction is that I said that Travis Roth worked for Apple, he doesn’t.  In fact, I don’t know where he works.  I had intended to say Travis Brown who does work with MBJ at Apple and who deserves some of the credit for VoiceOver.  I know Travis Roth from mailing lists and such and, for no good reason; my brain hiccupped when I wrote that sentence.

Yesterday, a person whom I assume is a woman named Mia posted a comment that said she had independently invented some of the same three dimensional audio concepts for screen readers that I claimed ownership of.  I will take her at her word and will apologize for overstating my contribution.  I am not the audio interface Messiah nor did I have all of the good ideas presented thus far.  I have, however, been what I believe to be the most vocal advocate of such user interface metaphors.  I hope Mia writes to me directly so we can exchange ideas and, perhaps, publish something together.  I also assume that others have had similar ideas and wish they would come forward so we can compare notes and take the best parts of all of our ideas in a collaborative manner.

During the meetings when I pounded the tables and whined the phrase, “rich contextual information…” into the minutes of more meetings than I would like to remember, I hoped dearly that others would pick up the ball and do this kind of work.  Peter Korn and the gnome API team certainly took it to heart and added cool context functions to the gnome API and our friends at Apple, according to rumor, have picked up the idea in the next version of VoiceOver.

So, I will humbly admit that I am not the soul originator of such ideas or the lone advocate, I’ve just shouted a bit louder and placed more written works into the public debate than most others.

Finally, Peter Meijer posted a comment asking for my software so he could compare my work to his very cool VOIC program.  Due to some copyright restraints, I cannot do so at this moment but expect to have something out there in a month or two.  I should have mentioned Peter’s work and VOIC as it is a major contributor to audio interfaces and sonafication of ambient settings.  I recommend that everyone who finds this stuff interesting get hold of a web camera and a copy of VOIC (a free download from their web site) and play around with it.  

One major difference between my work and Peter’s is that he uses stereo and I use SurroundSound-like effects.  VOIC requires the user be trained and my efforts try to represent objects in a manner that one can comprehend with no more than a few seconds of training.  Peter’s work provides far more details and is far more advanced than mine and VOIC handles far more than geometric primitives already and I’ve no idea if my work will be useful when applied to irregular objects.

There are certainly others out there doing interesting things that have flown beneath my radar and I encourage lots of others to experiment with these ideas.  I also encourage screen reader and others who sell audio products to we blinks try to commercialize some of these ideas.  I have not written a single patent application on any of my concepts and publish them with the intention that they find their way into useful programs without requiring that anyone pay me a royalty.  I believe in innovation, not litigation and that ideas should be free, as in freedom, with a lower case f.


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My Theory on Simulated Motion and Audio User Interfaces (Geeky)

The other day, I included an off-hand comment about Apple listening to my ideas on 3D audio as a way to improve efficiency in screen readers by adding dimensional information to the steady stream of text tokens that the uni-dimensional screen readers provide today.  A couple of people asked me why I chose to take credit for something Apple had decided to include in its new screen reader.  My answer is fairly simple, as VP/Software Engineering at Freedom Scientific, I attended a ton of industry meetings about the future of access technology and, quite vociferously, argued, pounded tables, shouted, begged, cajoled and, in off line, hallway conversations and in private sessions, discussed the ideas behind “rich contextual information” being a requirement for audio interfaces of the future.  Mary Beth Jaynes and Travis Roth of Apple were in attendance at many of these meetings and, if I remember correctly, I explained to them, as well as to people from Sun, Microsoft and lots of other companies why such techniques were important to the future of computer users with vision impairment.

In addition to speaking on the record about the need for rich contextual information and 3D audio in meetings of ATIA technical groups, Accessibility Forum, various RERC presentations and elsewhere, I have published a number of articles and a chapter in a book on this topic.  To my knowledge, which is pretty well informed as I have performed a ton of literature searches on this subject, I pretty well stand alone in describing the potential efficiency gains available through multi-dimensional, context rich audio information from a future generation of screen readers.  If the rumors about Apple adding 3D audio to VoiceOver are true, I will be ecstatic at actually seeing some of the ideas I have professed for many years now making it to the point of a shipping screen reader.  I hope JAWS, Window-Eyes, System Access, Narrator and others follow soon.

My ideas have grown over time and, as it has been since February 2006, when I published an article in Access World on what screen readers can learn from audio games, that I’ve addressed a non-academic audience about these concepts and since April 2006 when my last article was published at CHI 2006 in the Next Generation workshop, I thought I would write an egghead piece for BC readers to update you folks on where my thoughts have led in the past six months or so.

A few years ago, when I first started my campaign for greater contextual richness in screen reader information, I talked mostly about presenting things on a flat audio plane, something akin to the display sighted people view but described in audio.  I suggested ideas like taking a Visio diagram and, by using 3D audio techniques like those in audio and video games; provide the user with positional information using simulated spatial data by providing a sense of up, down, left and right to the information displayed on the screen.  I used a lot of examples involving Visio, VisualStudio and Excel as they provide problems for screen reader users in that their layout, designed for efficiency by a sighted user, does not conform well to a long stream of syllables and pauses as provided by a speech synthesizer based screen reader.

I remain confident that these techniques, when added to screen readers, will create the true next generation of usability for computer users with vision impairment.  If one reads up on the gnome accessibility API, discussed in various articles in BC but most extensively in articles on the Sun Microsystems web site, they can see how an API can expose contextual information.  I haven’t played much with either ORCA or the IBM gnome screen reader in Open Office or elsewhere so I can’t speak to how well this API works in a real world situation or if the accessibility hackers actually chose to provide said information to their users.

UIA, as I understand it, also provides a lot of ways a screen reader can provide useful contextual information and it now seems as though Apple will be using aspects of its own API to provide greater context and, as a result, greater efficiency to its users.  

I describe first generation screen readers as those that work in a text based environment like DOS or a console based GNU/Linux environment (whether they actually take data from a screen buffer or hack the kernel to gather the information is inconsequential).  Second generation screen readers, like virtually everything available for Windows, Macintosh or gnome today provide information from graphical interfaces but use a single stream of speech information, a seemingly endless stream of syllables and pauses, to provide information to users.  Now, if rumors are correct, Apple will become the first to break the barrier into G3 by adding additional dimensions.  I will state that JAWS, under my leadership, started in this direction by becoming the first screen reader to add a lot of supplemental information and to use sounds in a semantically interesting way through its speech and sounds manager.  If the people behind the Windows screen readers decide to do some cool things with Direct X, they can follow Apple and likely jump back into the innovation leadership position by extracting information from MS application object models and/or UIA in the coming year.

Thus, I continue applauding innovation (YAY Apple!) and encouraging it across the industry but what have I been thinking up lately?  When I spoke, argued and published about adding dimensional and contextual richness to screen readers, those ideas were brand new to me and to the biz.  Now, through my advocacy and that of Will Pearson and others, we’re starting to see the concepts show up in product.  Have I been sitting still?  Intellectually, no, I have taken my theoretical work a few steps further.  Thus, what follows is the result of my current research into multi-dimensional audio information.  This research has resulted in the creation of a few demonstration bits of software that describe three dimensional geometric primitives in audio.  The few blind people who have heard these sounds have been able to identify the shapes pretty quickly but the research has been informal so I cannot publish anything approaching empirical results yet.  I will, however, describe how the theory works and some of the supporting literature.

I read a lot about semantic transformations and the psychology of attention in the past year.  Also, for a chapter in Professor Helal’s book on Access Technology, I studied audio games fairly extensively.  Combining the work that David Greenwood did in Shades of Doom and his other really cool games with the linguistic and psychological theory I read about led me to one of those “eureka” moments.

When studying the psychology of attention, I learned that human eyes move constantly.  They move so constantly and so quickly, in fact, that people who can see don’t notice the motion.  This constant movement in the human eye continually refreshes short term memory, one of the most fickle components of the human system.  Like high speed RAM in computers, short term memory in humans needs to be powered and can be erased very quickly.

Humans have two kinds of attention: focal and peripheral.  Focal attention is that to which we pay attention.  If, for example, one is standing on a busy street corner, they are being pounded by tens of thousands of bits of information through virtually all of their senses.  We, as humans, can, however, carry on a conversation without being distracted by the constant sensory bombardment that surrounds us.  This is do to our focal attention, our area of focus.

Meanwhile, while standing on that same corner talking to the same friend, we might suddenly raise a hand to protect our face from a flying object.  We may have already batted away the flying object before we even discover what is or even realize that it had been flying toward us.  This is peripheral attention at work.  It keeps us safe from things to which we are not focusing on and, it also keeps us aware of the context in which we are immersed.  Without peripheral attention, we may forget we are standing on a street corner and fall entirely into the information in focus and, hence, constantly be lost.

Thus, motion keeps short term memory, where attention resides, refreshed and focal and peripheral attention let us inspect a single point of interest while remaining aware of our context.  But, how does this apply to an audio user interface?

The first problem we have with audio is that, unlike eyes, ears do not constantly move and, therefore, audio information is refreshed less often than visual.  Thus, short term memory forgets information taken in through the ear faster than it does through the eye.  Audio information certainly informs our peripheral attention as everyone who can hear can describe distractions that come from misplaced sounds.  Nonetheless, our short term memory loses track of audio information far more quickly than visual information.

How then can we improve understanding of semantic information through non-visual stimuli?

Obviously, we cannot move the inner ear as it wasn’t designed to perform such a function.  How then can we provide focal and peripheral information to let a listener inspect an item without losing context?

As I contemplated this problem, I started playing Shades of Doom.  I started asking myself, how can Greenwood provide 32 simultaneous audio streams and I can understand which is the monster, which is the good guy, which is the wind, which are the echoes of my foot steps against the wall but a screen reader could only provide a single syllable at a time?  The answer came as I learned more about attention and how the eye works.  The “eureka” moment came when it occurred to me that Greenwood uses virtually no “static” sounds but, rather, virtually everything sounds like it is moving.  By simulating motion, Greenwood can deliver profoundly more semantic information than can JAWS as the speech synthesizer sits still in audio space.

The answer to the three dimensional audio object question is to simulate motion in the source and it will have the same effect as the constant motion of the eye.  Thus, if an audio sphere can sound as if it contains motion, our ears will cause our peripheral attention to refresh and we can inspect a piece of the sphere while remembering that it is indeed a sphere we are inspecting.

In practical terms, imagine a wireframe sphere.  Imagine that the vertical circles each have a dot on them that spins around the circles in swooshing loops of sound.  Now, imagine the same kind of point on the horizontal lines making a swishing sound as it spins around the circle.  Finally, imagine an audio “twinkle” that represents the intersections of the lines.  As everything in our sphere is swirling, swooshing or twinkling, it is all moving and, typically, in a very short amount of time (seconds) the blind people who have listened to my audio wireframe image have identified it as a sphere.  Also, within seconds they identify cubes, pyramids, cones, cylinders and other three dimensional primitives.

Isn’t this a lot of sound to represent a fairly primitive object?

Yes.  In order to cut down on the auditory overload, I started cutting down on how many lines and points would sound at once and discovered that with a fairly small portion of the object sounding at random intervals comprehension remained fairly constant but “noise” dropped significantly.

My next step was to provide a manner in which an individual could inspect a single polygon made by the wireframe without losing context.  For this, I added words to certain polygons on the sphere, terms like “Florida, Georgia, etc.  The user could zoom in from “Earth,” which named the entire sphere, into a single polygon, named Florida for instance, and, as the volume reduced for the rest of the sphere, they could inspect details like “Tampa,” and St. Petersburg.”  This part of the experiment is in its very early stages and I expect we’ll find ways to tweak it to improve on efficiency without losing context.

So, in short, I have discovered that simulating motion can provide an incredible amount of semantically rich contextual information without overloading the user with noise.  Actually, all I did was provide a theoretical framework for the work David Greenwood and the other game hackers understood by instinct.  Nonetheless, the wireframe experiments and the theoretical framework is my own work which has been greatly informed by the game dudes.

I hope to write an entire book on human understanding of complex semantic information through non-visual stimuli in the recent future.  Unlike other theorists, though, I don’t like hoarding my ideas until they are perfected or disproven.  I want to hear other people playing with these concepts so, therefore, I write a sketch in my blog in the hope that other people will, like I did, download VisualStudio Express and start playing around with Direct X to see what they can do with three dimensional audio.  My work has shown that blind people can understand swirling, swooshing and twinkling audio images of geometric primitives (a subject on which I will publish formal results in some geeky academic rag in the future).  I would love to see if someone could take my wireframe concept and apply it to an irregular object.  What if one would take a laser range finding scanner and create a detailed wireframe model of Michelangelo’s David?  Could my swooshes, swirls and twinkles give a listener an idea of the statue’s form and beauty?  Using this technique, could the polygons that form the wireframe be filled with wireframes and deeper until a user could get down to a square millimeter while being reminded of the context at a lower volume but at a much larger scale?  What if someone adds a pair of Falcon haptic game controllers with its .5 mm resolution so one can feel the wireframe in detail while being reminded of the context in audio?

So, people, I will continue my experiments, articles and advocacy for innovation in the audio user interface paradigm.  I ask that you do the same as I am just one guy and will definitely not have all of the ideas.  In fact, I hope that I don’t have most of the ideas as I’m not really that smart and there are lots of other people who, if given the time and a little money, can come up with lots more really cool ideas and the world of audio and non-visual interfaces can explode.  Ask your screen reader vendor what they plan to invest in innovation and suggest cool ideas so, like Apple, they might risk a few development dollars on greatly advancing your productivity tools.


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Audible Strikes Again

Back on February 6, coincidentally my brother’s birthday, I wrote a fairly long piece about my love/hate relationship with  I wrote it in the typical BlindChristian voice as I hadn’t hired Gonz yet so, rather than a real “fear and loathing” pseudo-comical romp through one of my favorite and least favorite web site/ services, it came more as a rant.

I talked to Gonz last night and he told me he had started working on a piece about the closure of CBGB and its planned resurrection in Las Vegas so, rather than disturbing him with an assignment about, I felt I should write it myself.  

So, if you want to read about the long love hate relationship between me and, look back at the February 6, 2006 post which gives a fair amount of history.

In the 8 months that have passed since I wrote that item, a few things have come to pass.  On the good side, the JAWS scripts for the current Audible Manager/Player work great.  I don’t know if Ken Gould worked with Sasha directly on this project as he had in the past but FS did a terrific job with the desktop application support.  It also seems that did some fixes to its web site to make it a little more usable with a screen reader (or at least with JAWS, I haven’t tried it with Window-Eyes or anything else in many months) but, as usual, the proprietary software leaves one wondering if they have any testers on their staff.

Yesterday, after getting my iPAQ 6515 WM 2003 device back from HP who repaired it nicely, I installed Mobile Speak Pocket (MSP) 1.08 (those Europeans are super stingy with version numbers as this upgrade is really worthy of a 2.0) and tried to install the Audible Player for Windows Mobile devices.  Alas, everything gets weird again.

My desktop player thought the WM player must already be on my iPAQ as it had some items in its records that said it had sent files to it.  Meanwhile, my iPAQ, having had its memory entirely cleaned out, had no idea that it had ever had an Audible Player installed.  My desktop player, the audible web site and my iPAQ all started to quarrel terribly.  The desktop player said it couldn’t move files to my iPAQ because my Windows Mobile device had no available storage due to its 350 hours of unnamed audible content.  The web site told me that my Windows Mobile Player was up to date and my iPAQ just screamed for mercy.  Thus, I couldn’t read my new book because the entire system went a bit funky.

My question to the people at is why do they have to do everything in such non-standard but terribly “cool” ways?  If they let good old ActiveSync move files back and forth and install their program on a Windows Mobile device, it would probably work like a charm.  Instead, they need to create some super cool web services that, when working properly (a blue moon situation) works great but, more often than not, everything works very strangely.

I fixed my problems this morning by uninstalling the bits of the Windows Mobile player it put on yesterday, uninstalling the desktop player entirely and reinstalling everything from scratch.  I have other online subscriptions which never cause me any trouble.  The emusic site, from which I download about 90 songs per month, never causes me any hassles but, alas, is very, very cool and, therefore, unstable as all hell.

I hadn’t planned on writing this morning and, as I said in the opening paragraph, tried to pawn this job off onto Gonz but, alas, when I went to to download some content, I discovered that their “jump passed navigation” link – typically considered an accessibility feature, used a graphic without a alt-tag to describe it so JAWS, instead of saying something nice like, “Jump past navigation,” instead says, “this page link #skipnav.”  What nimrod is responsible for this?  Does he or she still have a job?  Didn’t the Target case do any good or are people in New Jersey to busy worrying about whether Tom Kean Jr. insulted the Italian American population with his Sopranos” attack ad in the senatorial campaign.

Most of follows the WAI rules for labels and such but it has its share of dings.  It uses headings poorly and does some pretty mysterious stuff now and then.  As I know dozens of blinks who enjoy the service, myself included, one would think that audible would consider us in their design decisions and do a little to make the site more than “accessible” but, rather, “usable” in a meaningful sense.  I love their content but their technology rates only a poor to fair in my book and I recommend that all of our blind readers send them a note asking them to make a reasonable attempt at usability.

— End

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Blind Lust via Phone

Having read an article titled, “Phone Sex Worker Says She Was Scammed” in Blind News the other day, I realized that I had now heard of two blind women who, of course, live in Florida and formerly worked in the phone sex business.  The first of the pair told me about her previous job in person and had a really good sense of humor about it.  The second, who I learned about in the Blind News article, seems incredibly naïve and kind of slow.  The woman described in the article above got stiffed by the phone sex service and I feel strongly that they should pay up and hope the Florida AG, currently the Republican candidate for governor, can get her back pay for her.  

Otherwise, though, I found a lot of the statements she makes in the article pretty funny and sort of wonder whether she can possibly have such a minimal intellect as to truly believe the things she said or if she is playing the “poor blind person” card to make people without disabilities feel sorry for her.  Again, I repeat that she deserves her back pay and I agree that getting stiffed must really suck.

The Florida woman identified in the article as Ms Janice Huge (a last name that works for the sex trade) said, “phone sex operators aren’t at all what people who call
them are lead to believe.”    She continues, “It’s all a fraud, the pictures online are of a model. The person you talk
to is not the real person,.”

This entirely destroys my opinion of the entire phone sex trade.  I’m shocked!  Shocked!  The incredibly beautiful women on phone sex advertisements are not really the people I spend $4 per minute talking to about putting on a habit and spanking me on 1-900-HOT NUNS.  I want my money back!

The article states, “After an online chat with friends, Janice Huge said she was recruited to do phone sex.”  You know, I’m starting to think I have the wrong kind of friends; our online chats tend to be about technology or other boring subjects.  None of my friends, male or female, ever make me think, “Hey, I’d bet you would be a great phone sex worker.”  Also, none of my friends are in a position to “recruit” any of us for such an endeavor.  I think Ms Huge should start hanging out with a better class of online chat people.

“At rates well over $1 a minute, Huge said she went through a lot to earn her cash.”  Only $1 per minute?  She not only got scammed by a phone sex operator, she got scammed by a cheap one.  As for “going through a lot,” Huge said, “A lot would talk about different sexual acts.”

Now, let me see if I can think this through, she answered calls advertised as offering low cost hot, explicit phone sex talk with a beautiful woman pictured on the web site.  She claims that she is not actually beautiful and found talking about sex acts with the callers to be a bit disturbing.  Did Ms Huge assume that members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir would call her to discuss Handel?  It’s a “phone sex” line so, what did she expect her callers to be willing to pay to talk about.

Huge also said, “Some just wanted to
Talk.”  Was this web site called  Who calls a phone sex line just to chat with some ugly woman who doesn’t really care to talk about sex anyway?  How lonely can a guy get that he’ll pay more than $1 per minute just to talk to some random person?  Do these guys live in towns without hookers or bars?  Are these men so hideous that they are afraid of talking about sex with a woman they are paying to do so?  What a bunch of sub-losers.

The article concludes, “Huge
Said she’ll never work in the phone sex industry again.”  Well, if she needs a job, I can help her find a set of Braille Tarot cards and she can talk to an entirely different set of loser.

On a serious note, though, in my rough and tumble past where I lived among junkies and used tons of the hardest drugs one can imagine, I knew quite a few women and men who turned to the hardcore sex trade to support their addictions.  In recovery, I’ve met many more people who had to take this career path out of desperation.  Talking dirty to some perverts using an assumed name differs from working the streets, the bars,, the massage parlors, escort services and the NJ Turnpike rest areas by a million miles.  The people I knew who found themselves in the sex trade didn’t have the luxury of taking phone calls in the comfort of their own home but, rather, often had guns pointed at their heads and were forced to perform sex acts that they didn’t list among their services.  Many of my old friends died or are dying from the virus, Hep C and other “risks of the trade.”

Thus, my heart doesn’t exactly bleed for some bimbo who felt a bit uncomfortable listening to Horney losers ask for some voice oral sex.


Yesterday, my friend Will Pearson posted a comment containing his opinion of JAWS 8.  As I said in BC last week, the new features I’ve seen demoed in the new JAWS release seem pretty cool and I’m looking forward to using it.  Will and I agree on many things but the preview I got showed a bit of innovation in areas in which I am especially interested.  I haven’t run it myself but I liked what I heard.


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Where Have All The Blind Guys Gone?

By Gonz Blinko

“Where have all the blind guys gone?” Sang the man on the stage, “Long time passing…”

I asked a person standing near me “Is that the real Pete Seeger or is that Springsteen?”

“Both,” replied the stranger.

I stood at the back of a reasonably large crowd assembled to protest Freeman Scientology’s treatment of blind employees, more aptly, Freeman’s dismissal of blind employees from its sales and other departments which they once dominated.  A Dr. Lawnmauer had called the rally and they brought out quite a bevy of liberal celebrities to celebrate the injustice.  Springsteen did a duet with Stevie (Wonder not Nicks) of “We are the blinks,” which about made me puke but then the speeches started.

Dr. Lawnmauer introduced BlindChristian.  He went on as if he had to escape Dachau to get to this rally.  I wish that upper middle class asshole would realize that he just ain’t that oppressed.  Hell, even if he felt as downtrodden as other minorities, I wish he’d get to the point and stop pontificating.

“Now, that’s a great idea,” said a rally attendant standing nearby.  Amazed that this person remained awake, I approached her to get some material for the story.

Hi, I’m…”

“Gonz Blinko!”  She stated with some excitement.  “I’m a big fan.  I recognized you by your voice and the smell of espresso.”

“Would you like to do an interview about these issues?”  I asked hoping she might be a groupie too.

“I would but I’ve been told that anyone who talks to you will lose their job and I don’t want to go back to phone sex.”

“How about some live sex?”  I thought but didn’t want to get slapped right then.

Michael Bald took the stage and started railing about how things used to be and I contemplated a taxi to the airport.

BlindChristian came out with Eminem to do a musical piece.  I started contemplating suicide as the temperature hit ninety degrees while BC and Eminem yelled “Remember ME?”  Followed by, “My name is BlindChristian, I’m back, and I’m back…”  First off, I didn’t notice BC missing and to be back, he needs to be somewhere and this rally, while well intended, ain’t anywhere.

Dick Springs and the Wrath of Mike told stories about losing their Freeman Scientology jobs and a tear came to many an eye.  A musician called HalfBaked played the piano and sang an original tune about moving to Oregon, it was no where near as good as the Zappa tune about moving to Montana.

The Freeman Scientology black helicopters started circling above and dropping Braille cards telling us how wonderful they really are.  I smelled some chronic burning and found my way to another former phone sex operator and shared a few hits with her.  After that, the event took on a whole different sensibility.

Moes Jonathonson opened his office window and yelled out about how we didn’t really understand but was then led away by a person wearing a white lab coat with a syringe that he had stuck in the Kiwi’s butt.  They were all smiles after that.

No one saw Sy T. Greenbacks and, when the audience started chanting, “Sy T., Sy T., Sy T.” the Freeman Scientology people just locked the doors.

I had hoped to visit with some old friends but the heat, the pot and the former phone sex operator were getting to me.  We found Samhara, who seemed listless as her favorite Freeman lesbians didn’t seem to be around.  She got the blind phone sex chick, my dog and I into her car and we were off to Tampa International for a flight back to New York.  I just couldn’t handle Florida and the paranoia, fear and loathing any longer.  I needed a dose of reality and the Sunshine State lacks it entirely.

— End.

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Fearing My Neighbors

Since moving into our bungalow in the Five Points neighborhood of St. Petersburg, Florida, I have felt safe and comfortable in my home and yard.  Last night, though, a woman who parked in front of my house verbally assaulted me for correcting my guide dog.

Other guide dog handlers, trainers and people knowledgeable about the topic all know that one needs a guide dog to obey commands precisely.  If I tell Xcelerator to find a curb and, instead, he continues down a wheel chair ramp and into traffic, both of us could die.  Yesterday, I gave the no noise command to the X-Dog as I prefer that he not bark when on his leash.  When he didn’t obey, I repeated the command using a stronger voice.  When he still refused to stopped barking, I used a leash correction and did so repeatedly until he did follow my instruction.  

Then, the woman at whom he barked, started yelling at me.  I don’t fear public criticism but this woman started with, “You don’t treat a dog that way!”

“Actually, I do.  He’s a guide dog and this is part of his training,” I replied without anger.  My calm surprised me more than anyone else as, typically, if some nitwit decides to accost me for some standard act of blindness, I really lay into them.  I didn’t want to get the dog excited.

“You don’t treat dogs or children that way,” she screamed.

“Actually, I have to, I’m blind and I rely on this dog following orders,” I said in a somewhat more testy voice.

Then, she approached the fence around our yard and yelled, “I’m going to call animal rescue!”  She added, “You are a cruel person.”

“I said, “Piss off,” and walked away.  Maybe I shouldn’t have added this as a farewell statement but at the moment, I felt both fear and anger.  I brought both of the dogs inside and suddenly entered one of my moments of intense fear, doubt and insecurity.

I wondered, “What if she comes back and ‘liberates’ the dogs?”  I started to panic.

October in Florida reminds us of why we live here.  The mornings are cool, the afternoons sunny and warm.  The Prohibitive heat and humidity of August go away and everyone, including our dogs enjoy spending long stretches outside.  Baby, our 20 pound Corgi/Yorkshire Terrier mix, enjoys going out into the yard alone and, I imagine, like Snoopy, plays jungle explorer under our fruit trees and in and out of our bushes.  Xcelerator enjoys running around off of his leash or harness, sniffing around, chasing and getting chased by Baby, grabbing his rope toy and, with his head, tossing it some distance, grabbing it and, with a friendly growl, swinging it around in his mouth.  

As these dog play sessions can last for hours, neither my wife nor I can always watch and supervise them.  I never felt, before last night, that some animal freak who hasn’t a clue about guide dog or obedience training in general, would threaten me.  This morning, when I took the boys outside to do their business, I have no full time job but, alas, my dogs have business to deal with, I thought of letting them remain outside and coming back in to check email and start my work for the day.  Then, I grew fearful, asking, “What if this nut comes back and, like the self righteous animal nuts I hear about on Pacifica and elsewhere, decides to liberate my dogs?”

We’ve had Baby for six years, since he had just turned 3 years old.  Baby would feel terror if someone took him from us.  Xcelerator, on the other hand, has become one of my great friends.  He helps me walk at twice the pace I did before he came home.  He weaves me through crowds and finds the barber shop and diner I enjoy.  Everywhere else I go, he attracts other people who talk to me which helps enormously with my agoraphobia problems.  I haven’t touched my cane in nearly four months and don’t expect to until I take a trip to Asia where bringing the X-Dude would not work well.  Feeling the unconditional love from this animal, enjoying his displays of play for the sake of play, splashing with him in the ocean or wrestling with him in the living room, enjoying the admiration he receives everywhere from my yoga class to shopping malls by children, adults, adulteresses, men and women, Republicans and Democrats and nearly any other person we encounter brings me a happiness I haven’t felt in years.  Both the dogs and I would be traumatized if someone separated us.

So, keep in mind, I have friends in biker gangs, feel comfortable walking through the PJs surrounded by heavily armed toughs and I’ve spent a lot of time in the company of serious thugs without fear.  I think there is a small probability that this screwball woman will return to my yard and try to dognap my animals; the fear of it in even the most remote possibility overwhelms me this morning.  How do other guide dog handlers deal with such situations?  I’m sure I could hit a person by sound at about 30 yards with a shot gun and about 20 yards with a pistol but I fear that I might hit one of my dogs.  Imagine the great Florida headline, “St. Petersburg Woman Shot by Blind Man in Animal Rights Incident.”


As a pacifist, I would use only non-lethal force in a gun pointed at a human.  Twelve gauge rock salt in the shotgun, maybe a paintball pistol for the handgun.  That way, I could call the police and report her saying that they could recognize her right off as she has a burning ass full of salt and is covered in lime green paint.


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Tropical Paradise, Afterward of Rumours

By Gonz Blinko

Standing under a grapefruit tree, my right foot pointing at the business end of an 80 pound Labrador who is dropping bombs in rapid succession.  His real name sounded like something out of a corporate branding firm; one of those words that would make Hemmingway scream from beyond the grave.  I just called him X, as in sex, and I intended to use this blonde beauty to get me some.

Teresa left after meeting a guy who worked as a model for Gucci and I dove into work on the book and movie.  I spent a lot of time smoking chronic and hanging out in Washington Square talking to the old Jewish men about “kids these days.”  I decided to check myself into The Southeastern Center for Dog Handling and Psychiatric Care for about a month and left with X.  I didn’t want to face the apartment on Joey Ramone Place quite yet, too many memories of my little Italiana, too many ghosts and too many stories.  Samhara moved alone onto a house boat on the western edge of the Everglades and, when I asked about her sexy Euro-lesbians, she only said she didn’t want to talk about it.  So, I came to BC’s place for a bit of R & R and I hoped to use X, the closest thing to a babe magnet that a guy like me can own to find a meaningless short term encounter.

Michael Bald came over for a visit and he, BC and I went down to South Beach to visit El Negro.

“Find the booty,” ordered Mike to his dog Jerkson.

“Find the what?” asked BC and me, wondering how Michael learned a command we didn’t know.

“Find the booty,” he said.

“I’ve got to see this,” added El Negro as we started down Washington, wading through the nation’s greatest collection of beautiful young people.  “Hell, even the boys are pretty here,” added our large black friend.

“Find the booty,” ordered BC and I, as we walked down this famous street.

“Gonz, I wish I could lend you my eyes right now, this street is better than a strip bar in heaven,” added the former marine.

“I can tell by the smell, the voice tones and the occasional bump, I don’t need to see these kids, my other senses have taken over.”

“Where’s Mike?” asked BC, as we realized we hadn’t heard his voice in a few hundred yards.

“Ho-lee shit!” Announced El Negro.

“What?” Asked BC.

“Jerkson brought him to a table at a sidewalk restaurant filled with about a half dozen international super model types.”


“No.  And they seem to be asking him to join them,” added our friend with the weapons.

We started back toward Senor Bald, a flabby, middle aged Cubano who, without a good looking dog in his left hand, would remain invisible to such young women but, with Jerkson leading the way, finding the bounty of booty beauty, he suddenly has the attractive abilities of a guy with male model looks and Giorgio Armani money.

Hey Mike, you coming for lunch?” yelled El Negro.

“No, I made some new friends,” he responded, patting Jerkson and repeating, “Good boy good boy good boy.”

We walked over to Lincoln and sat at an outdoor restaurant.  A waitress who smelled and sounded beautiful, who, according to El Negro, wore a thong, fishnet stockings, bikini top, chaps and riding boots came over and immediately started cooing at the dogs.” Find the booty,” I mumbled.  Momma Darlene, in her evening sessions had obviously given Michael some extra lessons.

After lunch, we returned to our hotel and found Mike in the courtyard hot tub with about four of these model types.  X, who, being a Labrador, loves water, yanked harness and leash from my hand and, to the joy of these young women, jumped straight in.  I had no choice but to remove my clothing and, wearing only my boxers, follow him and I could hear BC behind me doing the same.  As he leapt in, dog and all, the models laughed and splashed and Mike reminded us, “Find the booty!”

Thus, our trip to South Beach had some tremendous pleasures involved but it had to end.  Mike went back to the horrors of Disneyville and BC and I came back to his place in western Florida.  Samhara sounds depressed but has improved her fly casting quite a bit.  BC has been discussing taking on automotive safety and the hazards of drivers using cell phones and PDA devices while driving.  I stand in his yard, under his grapefruit tree, holding a half pound bag of Labrador poop and wonder what it all means.


I’ve been privy to a bunch of rumours lately and will share a few sneak peaks here:

Apple Computer is rumored to have listened to my ideas about the potential efficiency gains that a screen reader user can gain from three dimensional audio clues and, according to the Apple Insider, rumor based blog, will be delivering positional based information through the techniques I’ve been writing and publishing about for years, in the Leper OS version of VoiceOver for the Macintosh.  If this rumor is confirmed, I will most definitely start using and writing about a Macintosh more often.

A friend of mine who got hold of a beta copy of JAWS 8.0 did a short demo of the new features for me over the phone.  He is not an actual JAWS beta tester and I don’t know how he got the software but he’s got it.  Along with Eric’s Main Menu descriptions this week, I have a pretty good feel for the upcoming release.  I really like the new features I heard and feel confident that I will enjoy a number of cool new options and features that I know will make my user experience a lot more comfortable in some applications.

Mike Calvo, Serotek CEO, has shared a few insider tid bits with me.  As I promised in my paranoid Friday post, I don’t repeat anything from phone conversations in the blog.  So, all I can say is that people interested in products that blinks can use should look for what sound like some really exciting announcements from the boys in Orlando in the next few months.

A peculiar thing about the JAWS interface caused me to pause about 30 seconds ago.  I intended to hit CTRL+S to save this file but, instead, I accidentally hit CTRL+D which, in MS Word, brought up the font dialogue.  To ensure that I hadn’t accidentally changed a font, which makes this blog look funky for our sighted readers, I went to the “Edit” menu to check what it suggested my last undoable item was.  When I saw that it was typing, I hit ESCAPE and JAWS said “Edit menu,” ESCAPE again and JAWS said “Edit” and, finally, ESCAPE to bring me back to the document window, where JAWS once again said, “Edit.”  Thus, in rapid succession, I heard “Edit menu Edit Edit,” which, for a second or so, caused me to wonder.

Finally, please stop sending me emails describing your disappointment over my not having written some scathing bit of satire about Moes Jonathonson going to work for Freeman Scientology.  I’m sorry for disappointing some readers but I think that real life move that might have inspired such a story was good for FS, good for Jonathon and good for the industry.  Just think, if a sighted guy left Toyota to work for General Motors, perhaps a few readers of the Wall Street Journal and some obscure automotive magazines might have noticed.  Why doesn’t a blink have the same privilege to make personal decisions regarding his career?

Just because some of us speak and write about issues, products and people we find interesting doesn’t mean we owe anything to our readers and, in the case of audio blogs, listeners.  We are just people who make comments and we do not deserve to be saddled with a burden of responsibility to some kind of technological purity.  Access technology products are just tools that people can use for whatever purpose they like.  AT is not a religion anymore than operating systems or hardware.  For the same reasons that I tease my buddy Gabe for “praying at the altar of the Macintosh,” I wonder about people who worship their BrailleNote, PAC Mate, Window-Eyes, JAWS or, even, more strangely, people who make these products including Ray, Ted, Doug, Jonathon, etc.  These are all people whom I respect but, in a system ruled by free markets and the free flow of capital, we shouldn’t look to these people for some sort of religious purity but, rather, understand that they will work hard to build the best products they can.

AT products are not religious icons, they are tools and should be thought of as such.  Stop worshipping these graven images and use them to their best effect, get a job and get a life that doesn’t put any of us blinks on a pedestal higher than any of the others.

Knowing the number of emails of disappointment I received on this matter, I can only guess at the abuse that has been hurled on Jonathon.  Isn’t it possible that he, like sighted executives, deserves the right to change jobs, change his mind, move back to his home nation and live his life as he sees fit?  If Jonathon had written an article about me saying that I abandoned the JAWS user community by leaving FS, I would have felt hurt by the attack as my decision was purely personal and my reasons for moving on are not anyone’s business but my own.  So, put yourself in the position of people like Jonathon, Jeff Bishop, Darryl, Gabe Vega, Chairman Mal, me and other blinks who state our opinions publicly.  Would you be happy if the whole world had to hear criticism of you if you decided to change jobs?

Independence is a constant theme among advocates for us blinks, but, why don’t advocates deserve independence?  Humanware and Freedom Scientific are both for profit companies who, along with making products for blind users, carry a fiduciary responsibility of making a profit for their investors.  They both make and sell good products and neither is a religion, a church or worthy of some kind of non-skeptical worship.

  • End

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Anonymous Comments and Possible Lawsuits (Paranoid)

Prior to this morning, I had never censored a legitimate comment posted by a BC reader to this blog.  Today, I received an Anonymous post from an individual with a bone to pick with a specific corporation.  Immediately, I clicked the “publish” link and off it went for anyone and everyone to read.

About five minutes after I posted the comment, I started to fear for my own legal security as some companies will take measures to stifle their critics whether said criticism is actionable or not.  Even the least warranted lawsuit by a corporation against an individual could cost the individual a pile of cash which I do not have.

Because the commenter posted anonymously, I would take on any litigation myself and, frankly, I cannot afford to pay a lawyer let alone spend the time it would take to defend myself.

I don’t like the sleazy feeling I get from censoring comments.  The only others that I have not published came from bots or got caught up in the blogspot spam filter, which I didn’t know existed until this morning and I will go through the pile of spam posts up there and publish the false positives that I discovered earlier.  So, if you have posted a comment and didn’t see it on BC, I didn’t censor you, the blogger spam filter did and I will correct the mistake when I get the chance.

I have posted comments that directly insulted me, corrected my facts or position on a matter and, in some cases, made me look more foolish than I do on my own.  I can take it but some businesses employ more aggressive legal tactics than others.  I cannot, therefore, post comments from Anonymous sources that contain inflammatory statements about specific individuals, organizations or individuals other than me and a small handful of personal friends who I feel comfortable wouldn’t do anything other than laugh.

If Anonymous comes forward and lets me use his or her name, I’ll post the comment for all to see and read.  As, in that case, I will only be allowing a critic to state a position they hold in relation to the item I posted on Thursday, October 12.

A few times per week since January, I have taken the risks associated with writing blog posts that may entertain, cajole, flame, rant, rave and take on all kinds of businesses, organizations and even a few individuals.  I have written about my personal life in incredible detail, talking about issues that most people would hide from colleagues and some friends, let alone anyone who wants to come along and read a blog post.  I have celebrated here and I’ve express sadness, doubt and all kinds of opinions in a forum where most readers know who I am and can, if they choose, use the contents against me in some fashion or another.

I, therefore, cannot take responsibility for an anonymous post as I say enough things that can potentially get me into trouble.  Last week, in a situation where a friend was being threatened with litigation, I took it upon myself to challenge the absurd nature of the possible litigation, hence, inviting litigation against me.  I’m willing to take risks for people who don’t hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and will hang their bare asses out in public with mine and, to use the quote incorrectly attributed to Ben Franklin, “we can hang together or surely we will hang separately.”

I get a lot of private emails from readers who wish to comment to me personally, the emails outnumber the comments that get posted to the web site by a ten to one ratio.  These people and I enjoy correspondence and I may quote them in the public forum in the future.  As none of these people have ever put me in the uncomfortable position of either living with the fear of a lawsuit or living with the shitty feeling of having had to censor someone with a legitimate comment with which I may agree or not, I am not troubled by maintaining their anonymity.  The same goes for the people who call me at home or over Skype, I listen, talk and enjoy many of these conversations and never expose an individual who makes a statement I might use in a future published piece.  Skype and email are private forms of communication and I hold them as such.

Using a public forum to post anonymously is fine as long as you don’t put anyone else’s security at risk.  This morning, the statements, which may or may not have any real merit, definitely had an explosive potential and I simply cannot take such risks because, as I say above, lawyers are too damned expensive and I have too little time to waste dealing with settlements and such to risk my ass for some person unwilling to risk their butt as well.

So, Anonymous, whether you work for the company you criticize, one of its competitors or anyone else, please, if you want to provoke people into considering your opinion in this forum, come forward and we’ll hang together.


I just reread this piece and it sucks.  It’s far too long for what it is trying to say but I don’t have the time to edit so this is how it will stand.

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Differences Between Discrimination and Hatred

Yesterday afternoon, I talked to a blind friend and regular BlindConfidential reader.  He, in my opinion, tends to possess terrific insight and, in a manner unlike me, doesn’t wield a flame thrower when thinking of issues but, rather, prefers a better reasoned approach.  He also finds the politics of disability far less interesting than me and chooses not to be active in the discourse on such issues.

My friend took issue with my call for a general strike among people with disabilities to celebrate the anniversary of the approval of the language from the Convention on Human Rights and People with Disabilities.  More so, he described why he found my parallels between issues of prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities and the civil rights movement led primarily by African Americans.  He demonstrated some excellent points and, after spending night thinking about it, I think that the difference between the struggle to reach equality for people with disabilities is actually different in many substantive ways than the movement against racism over the past century and a half.  I also believe that there are similarities which I will also mention.

The differences, as my friend described to me, comes in the form of hatred or the lack thereof.  Excepting some incredibly eugenic Nazi types who would destroy us for having birth defects, no one seems to truly hate people with disabilities.  While we may receive the most condescending treatment from everyone from well meaning and well educated do gooders to ignorant people working in retail, I can’t ever remember people treating me differently out of actual hatred for blind people.  

Sighted people, at one point even old friends of mine, have asked me on job interviews if I could actually do a specific job with “your condition.”  I would say, “Yes,” but learn that they chose some lunkheaded sightie with a third my skills a quarter my experience but profoundly more vision.  One group, in the Santa Cruz area, had their VP of Engineering go so far as tell me that he couldn’t in good conscience hire me as their office had no hospital nearby and, even if I chose to live near enough to walk to work, if I strayed out into traffic, a car might hit me and the company and its leaders, then friends of mine, would feel horrible if I suffered badly waiting for a helicopter to take me to a hospital over the hill in San Jose.  I had done my homework and said that California, especially Santa Cruz County, had excellent Para transit and that I could live in the very accessible downtown and get a ride to work every day.  He claimed that the danger presented was still too great and they hired a sighted lunkhead instead.  The situation I describe about the gig in Scotts Valley hurt and suggested that I should question my friendship with these people and, today, nearly ten years later, I only remain in contact with one or two of those guys and none who held a position with the authority to make hiring decisions.

I hear about blind people struggling with discrimination issues on a daily basis.  On a similarly frequent basis, I hear about other minorities being attacked verbally or physically for nothing more than the color of their skin, their accent or their gender identity.  While the California company may have had other reasons for not hiring me and used blindness as their excuse, they didn’t do so out of hatred for blind people but, perhaps, because they thought I didn’t fit their model and, as friends, they felt that using my personal safety as an excuse would hurt less than we found someone smarter or we didn’t feel that your specific skills fit our model.  Meanwhile, blacks, gays, Latinos and other minorities who struggle against discrimination actually have people who hate them and will, when they get the chance, perpetrate violence against them.  I’ve never been attacked just because I cannot see.

As I thought about my friend’s statements about hatred and violence, I felt I needed to reevaluate some of my ideas on discrimination against people with disabilities.  We are the world’s largest and most disenfranchised minority (or so says the UN), in the US we have a 70% unemployment rate.  Inaccessible web sites are the “whites only” signs of the 21st century.  We are often treated as second class citizens and people will talk to our companions rather than to us.  There exists overwhelming ignorance of how to treat a person with a disability but I don’t think this is the same as having an organization like the KKK or the National Alliance or the various border patrol militias pointing guns at people out of simple hatred.  

I think some tactics from the civil rights movement can be used by people with disabilities in our quest for equity but others will probably not have an analogue.  While the discrimination we feel is pretty similar to that of our friends in other minority groups, we don’t feel the same kind of hatred nor are we subject to the same kind of violence.  I’ve never heard of a blind person being dragged around behind some redneck’s pick-up truck or tied to a fence and beaten until he died simply because of our minority status.  If anything, we need to deal with discriminatory, self righteous and ignorant people who feel that they should help us do something we can do ourselves.

Martin, Malcolm, Mandela and others are still my heroes but, if a group of blinks chose to peacefully stop traffic and march down the streets of Birmingham to protest Alabama’s refusal to have an ADA like law that applies to the state employees there, I doubt that the mayor or police chief would send out attack dogs or hit us with fire hoses.

So, I thank my old and trusted friend for explaining, from an entirely blind perspective why he believes that web sites should be treated as places of public accommodation and, therefore, fall under the ADA but the discrimination we, as people with disabilities, suffer is quite different from the hatred and violence that our black, gay, Latino, Moslem and other friends suffer daily.

I still believe strongly that discrimination against people with disabilities in technology, the workplace, in places of public accommodation, in transportation and in many other aspects of life in the modern world is deplorable and needs to be stopped.  Direct action should be considered as a tactic along with litigation and other manners of creating a more equitable world.  


The people at OccuPaws sent a letter to Dena and me promising to end their bizarre legal attacks.  They also agreed to follow more standard guide dog training techniques and seek more input for ways to operate their organization in a manner that is more safe and in line with generally accepted methods of guide dog training.  I thank them for responding so quickly and for being receptive to ideas from the outside.


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Intellectual Vacancy

I wonder how much money the Bush Administration spent on inventing the term Islamofascist.  It entered our language some time in 2006 and people who buy into the president’s form of intellectual vacancy use it frequently.  The complete lack of philosophic, historical or linguistic consistency in the design of this word simply boggles the mind of any thinking individual and everyone should question its use as it exists for the soul purpose of deriding people of a particular faith without resorting to ugly terms like camel jockey, sand nigger or towel head.

Let’s deconstruct the term Islamofascist.  The first half, Islamo, obviously takes a new spin on the words, Islam and Islamic.  Islamist, also a word invented in the past few years, did not catch on so, I would guess that the administration hired a corporate branding firm and, through focus groups learned that “Islamo” prior to a word people believe to be a synonym for “bad” would work.

The second part of the word demonstrates the intellectual vacancy on a grander scale.  While, in my opinion, fascism is a bad form of government and a discredited political philosophy, it is a poor term to describe what theocrats are, in fact, Fascism is a word for a very specific political philosophy which bases its foundation on the triumph of human will.  Islamic fundamentalists, like Christian fundamentalists and sincere believers of many religious faiths, believe in the triumph of God’s will.  Fascists, like the Nazi party in the first half of the twentieth century, shunned God’s will in favor of human will and believed that humans alone could control the destiny of both the species and the world.  Fascists strongly accept evolutionary science and, under Hitler, took human evolution so seriously that they chose to exterminate people who did not meet their ideal racial profile.  Islamic fundamentalists, like Osama Ben Laden, share the belief with Christian fundamentalists that humans were created in God’s image by God himself and that God, the intelligent designer, planned human development because that is what is written in the Bible and the Koran and both books, according to the subscribers to one of these fundamentalist beliefs, are infallible in the eyes of its readers.

Thus, the Bush people, trying to avoid associating Islamic fundamentalists with Christian fundamentalists chose to find a new word to describe an Islamic flavor of tyranny.  They didn’t want to use the word theocracy as Israel and other allies are such and many of the president’s followers believe in ending the separation of church and state in the United States and wish our nation to become a Christian theocracy.  So, they chose to call a philosophy which is undoubtedly not fascist, fascism as words like “dictator,” “tyrant,” or good old “thug,” didn’t quite sound right.  Thus, Hitler and Mussolini were not Cathlofascists but, rather, plain old fascists who, while nasty buggers, did not accept any form of theocracy.

William Safire, perhaps my all time favorite conservative writer, retired from the New York Times a year or two ago.  Every Sunday, from my junior high days until well into adulthood, I eagerly looked forward to and enjoyed reading his “On Language” column in the Times Magazine.  I wonder what such a brilliant social critic, with whom I rarely shared a political stance and tremendous observer of our language, would have to say about the word Islamofascist.  I doubt Bill Safire reads Blind Confidential but, if any of our readers know how to reach him, please send him this article and ask him to provide a comment on this peculiar combination of syllables.

Growing up (remember, I am and have always been a nerd and, even more strongly, I am a word nerd), I enjoyed the great debates between the good friends but political foes, William F. Buckley, a great conservative from Yale, and John Kenneth Galbraith, the Brilliant Harvard liberal.  Galbraith died last year but I wonder what Buckley, a man I typically disagreed with politically but always held in high intellectual regard, would say about a term as ridiculous as Islamofascist.

Today, we have come to accept lots of new words.  Some, like cyberspace, blog and webcast have grown organically out of new technology.  Others, however, come from corporate branding experts.  As far as I know, the first company name specifically chosen for the way it would sound to the American ear and carry no meaning in any known language was Kodak.  Eastman decided that his photography business should have a new name that did not derive from anything else.  When Philippe Kahn named Borland he chose the word because, “it sounds American.”  

Pharmaceutical companies tend to use non-words more liberally than most industries and have brought new words into our language like Prozac, Xanax, Wellbutrin and others.  While many people think Viagra was an invented non-word, it is not, in Sanskrit, Viagra means Tiger.  Which would mean that, if one were to try to sell a Macintosh into a Sanskrit speaking community, its operating system would need to be called Viagra, it certainly seems to give my buddy Gabe an erection and, if it lasts more than four hours, I recommend immediate medical attention.

Using a corporate branding strategy to invent a new word that means, “our current enemy” is a bold faced attempt to repackage and resell a war that grows increasingly unpopular.  It kind of feels like “New Coke” but in a more, let’s find a way to make the loss of human life, American, Iraqi, Lebanese , Islamic, Christian, Jew, black, white, brown, elder, adult and child more palatable to the American consumer.  Sadly, the steady deterioration of education in the United States, the sad decrease in our national vocabulary skills and the general lack of understanding of history and the meaning of a political philosophy like fascism allows the president and his cronies to invent a nonsense word that, if taken literally, means the opposite of Islamic Fundamentalist.

I suppose they tested other words which, sadly, Americans think are synonyms for “bad” but, in fact, have far broader definitions and learned they didn’t work well with the focus groups.  I’d assume IslamaTyrant, Moslotator, MosloNasty and IslamoBadGuys didn’t fly.  Clearly, we couldn’t equate Osama and his gang of theocratic Islamic terrorist thugs with communism as that might confuse the public as regards the good communist friends of ours in China and our evil communist enemies in Cuba.  Wal-Mart grows its organic canned beans in China so we can make our vegetarian chili at a bargain so how bad can the Chinese communist autocracy be?

Of course, we couldn’t use the term, “socialist” which, although it carries a bad connotation, most Americans have trouble distinguishing it from communism and the Bush people would have to explain the difference between our nice socialist friends in Norway, Sweden and Denmark and the mean socialist bad guys like Hugo Chavez and Bernie Sanders.  Of course, even if Senor Chavez calls us the great evil of North America (using language more sophisticated than that of President Bush but, oddly reminiscent of a recent State of the Union address where our president referred to an axis of evil) he would need to explain why the United States accepted his gift of one million barrels of oil to help sure up our national reserves after Katrina.  The administration would also need to explain to the poor people in New York, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Illinois why he is associating Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who sells discount heating oil to low income Americans, why he is just like Osama Ben Laden.

It must be hard trying to come up with appropriate words to describe our enemies.  I wouldn’t want the job of “head word inventor” for the GOP.  I would likely have come up with something boring like Islamic Theocrats and have angered our friends in Israel.

Other presidents have added new words and phrases to our vocabulary.  If I remember correctly, it was President Hoover, the only engineer to become president and, as head of the Army Corp of Engineers reached national fame by arriving in New Orleans less than 8 hours after the rain stopped to start the rescue operation in a nasty flood, who coined the word “normalcy” when said that “America needs to return to normalcy…”  President Eisenhower, one of a few genius caliber presidents, warned us of, “the military industrial complex,” then strong supporters of Vice President Elect President Johnson and the primary recipients of Bush the younger’s wild spending.  In fact, last night on Hanedy, G. Gordon Liddy, used the term, “military industrial complex” in a short rant about the failure of the Republican Congress and President to stop spending like, “a drunken sailor on a Saturday night.”  I really miss those whacko liberal Nixon people having power.

Thus, I conclude, that Islamofascist is a stupid word designed by clever people to fool an undereducated and gullible public.  I think I’ll play with my new Sanskrit Macintosh and write with a bigger grin later.


I know that Sanskrit is a dead language and that there are no Sanskrit speaking colonies nor is there a Sanskrit edition of the Macintosh Viagra OS.

I had expected to get some hate mail about the “Termination of Contract” piece I wrote earlier this week.  Instead, I received a single anonymously posted comment from a whack job that associated my satirical bit about intelligent design and the many really nasty behaviors humans demonstrate with the thought that I was speaking out against diversity.  If one reads Blind Confidential and its frequent celebration of diversity with any regularity, they will realize that this comment is entirely baseless.

As regards the intelligent design versus evolution debate, I obviously subscribe to the generally accepted scientific principles of the evolution side of the discussion.  At the same time, I have some very good friends who accept the intelligent design argument.  These are smart people for whom I have a very high level of respect.  We have our philosophic disagreements but we also find a huge amount of common ground in our personal friendships.


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