The Wrong Fight

It’s that time again. Every four years, we’re treated to the spectacle of very rich, white men explaining how elitist and out-of-touch is the Democratic nominee for President. This time, instead of the scion of an oil-rich family, we have the husband of a multi-millionare heiress telling us that the working-class black guy from Kansas is really a wanna-be celebrity. John McCain, the BBQ Maverick, of course, only owns several houses and has served as a senator for 20 years. This is exactly the same as you and me. He is truly a man of the people.

There is an argument, of course, that anyone running for President is an elitist, since only 43 men have ever held that position. 43 out of several hundreds of millions is certainly pretty elite. But that’s not the real argument this time. It’s not that Barrack Obama isn’t part of an elite group. He is. Everyone who runs for public office is. Obama graduated from Harvard. Everyone who graduates from Harvard is part of an elite group. He earns more than 95% of the people in this country. That, too, is going to put him in an elite group.

But there is something more threatening about Obama–something more exclusive; something only 13% of the country can claim to be. And McCain is doing everything in his power to make you get it without saying it. Remember, Obama threw a basketball into the hoop from behind the three-point line when he should have been visiting the troops. They want so desperately to make us hesitate in the voting booth. “Don’t you know?” they whisper conspiratorially, as we’re about to make our decision. “He’s one of them!”

I was driving home from Whole Foods, (yes, I’m an arugula-eating elitist, too), when I saw this bumper-sticker: nobama_sticker.jpg

It says: “NObama ’08: Just Say No To Socialism in 2008.” I’m guessing the socialism that the driver was concerned with had to do with health-care and not public roads or the military. In any case, I think this bumper sticker fails, since it pretty much looks like they’re supporting Obama. The way it’s designed, it forces the reader to put the “obama” in “nobama.” The n just kind of fades away when I say it out loud. I’m sure whoever designed it, and whoever puts it on his SUV, he’s proud of his cleverness. “Huh. Huh. Nobama, huh, huh,” says Beavis.

I was pretty furious with this car. Impotent, impotent rage, really. I’m sure this would please the driver to no end. But, socialism? What makes Obama any more socialist than anyone else in the government? Who was the party of ethanol subsidies, coal-mining subsidies, Fannie- and Freddie-Mac bailouts, and a thousand other bits and pieces of corporate welfare? I’ll admit it. I want my government to shore up the infrastructure of our nation, repair roads and bridges, regulate runaway markets and financial bubbles, and make sure things don’t get blown up.

And Bush couldn’t handle any of that. Why would I assume that McCain and his brain-trust–the same incompetent fools that gave us the last 8 years–why would I assume that he can do better?

Socialism? Christ! As if that’s our fucking problem!

I like Obama as a person. I like him as a politician, too, which doesn’t mean much, of course, but I like him as just a guy. He’s not regular folk, because no one is. But he’s inspiring and, so far, has been able to let his opponents say stupid things without mucking himself in their mud. He’s walking a fine line, because, as soon as he gets angry, he’s lost the race, if you’ll pardon the pun.

When he wins the election, though, I’m going to be very happy thinking of all the idiots whose head a splode.

My libertarian is itchy

I’m confused by this:

A New Jersey woman has been arrested for prostitution after police say she used the Web site Craigslist to find clients….

A 32-year-old Smithtown man accused of being her client also was arrested.

Suffolk County police say they set up surveillance at the hotel after they learned that the woman had allegedly set up shop there and was using Craigslist to advertise.

I understand the quality-of-life issues that make “street” prostitution illegal and meriting intervention by the police. But what about this situation that made it something law enforcement had to surveil? If this woman met this man online, met him at this hotel, had sex, and did not charge him, then it was all fine. If she was ambitious and did this act 20 times a day, and never made one cent, there would be no arrest.

Recalling the prostitute on the street corner, even if no money were exchanged, neighborhoods tend to frown on illicit sex in parked cars. There are still crimes taking place. Free or fee, it’s still illegal.

But this situation? Suffolk County wasted a lot of money to catch this woman. I genuinely don’t understand why. What makes it worse for the guy from Smithtown is, potentially, he can be charged with trafficking, under the White-Slave Traffic Act of 1910 (Mann Act), because she crossed state lines. That’s probably not going to happen, since the law is kind of dubious and is generally applied as a politically motivated act.

I understand that prostitution is a symptom of our patriarchal society. I understand that there are women who are abused, injured, and killed because they are, or are forced to be, prostitutes. I would hope that the young woman from New Jersey in this article is doing this by choice and not under duress, but, even if that were the case, the crime she is being charged with here is accepting money from a man. And I don’t see how that helps her or society.


John McCain is a rich, old white man, out of touch with US workers.

John McCain is a rich, old white man, who believes women shouldn’t have equal pay. (Ironic, since his second wife, an heiress, is the one who financed his political rise.)

Straight-talkin’ John McCain embraces the Confederate flag, Bush’s tax-cuts, and agents of intolerance when it becomes necessary to court the racist, rich Evangelicals that vote Republican.

John McCain wants to keep us in perpetual war with a group of people he knows nothing about. Anti-lobbyist maverick John “I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to” McCain’s campaign is run by a cadre of lobbyists.

Straight-talkin’ John McCain violated his own campaign finance law, gaming the system so he could pay for his campaign using public funds if he lost the primary.

Man-of-the-people John McCain missed almost 60% of the votes in the Senate since January 2007. He’s still missing a majority of the votes after clinching his parties nomination. In second place is Senator Tim Johnson who suffered a brain hemorrhage in December 2006.

McCain is not populist. He is wealthier than either Democratic candidate; a true 1%er who is not concerned with working conditions or the trials of everyday life. His base is Washington media types, who share his wealth and aristocratic tastes.

McCain is not a maverick. He votes with his party over 88% of the time, slightly less than Republican stalwart Trent Lott, but more than Republican stalwart Orrin Hatch.

McCain is not a straight-talker. He has flip-flopped on issues ranging from abortion choice (was for it, now against it) to campaign finance (was for it, now against it) to tax-cuts (was against them, now for them). These are not the changing opinions of a man who has learned from past mistakes. These are the pandering of man who feels he is owed the presidency, and he will say or do anything to get it.

John McCain is George W. Bush’s choice for president. John McCain is status-quo, failed policies, out-of-touch, elitist. Why would any American vote for him? Why would any American vote for 4 more years of failure?

Hippies for Obama

Machinists Union President Tom Buffenbarger, about Obama supporters:

Give me a break! I’ve got news for all the latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear him speak! This guy won’t last a round against the Republican attack machine. He’s a poet, not a fighter. (via TPM)

I wasn’t really an Obama supporter, but I did think he’d have a better chance against McCain than Clinton. But it’s this type of talk that makes me really, really despise Clinton and her campaign.

Okay, I drink the occasional latte, and, boy! would I love to own a Prius, but ’the hell about Birkenstocks? I mean, if you’re gonna make fun of my generation correctly, you should at least use something that we wore, like Doc Martens. I mean, maybe there are hippy-dippy kids wearing Birkenstocks, but they’re far more likely to vote for Kucinich or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Obama is my generation and younger, not hippies from the 60s, which is apparently what ol’ Tom there is fighting.

And trust funds? OMG. I’d like to take a look at the average salary of Clinton’s supporters versus Obama’s. Ever hear the thing about Bill Gates walking into a bar?

Reality TV

Tom Tomorrow crystalizes my vague thoughts on television:

Basically, the networks are training me not to watch their programs until after they’ve been cancelled and released on DVD. I’m no MBA, but it seems like a short-sighted business strategy to me. I mean, consider the case of Firefly. The Fox network was sitting on what, in retrospect, could clearly have been the next major sci-fi franchise, with years of syndication and spinoffs and action figures and all the rest. But someone thought it was a better idea to kill the show in its infancy, and what we’re left with is a DVD set of some of the finest episodic television ever produced, a cliche-ridden, so-so movie, and a lingering sense of promise unfulfilled.

I really don’t like teevee anymore. Even shows which I enjoy, I don’t like to watch first-run, because I’m anti-authoritarian and don’t like networks determining when I should watch something. Case in point, Monk on USA. I enjoy the show, but I do not appreciate in order to see a new episode, I have to carve out an hour on Friday night.

Yeah, yeah. TiVo. Whatever. Another monthly fee; another $300 to get the damned thing in the first place. All I know is it’s over for television networks in the same way it was over for record store chains in the late 90s. At some point before MP3, there was no compelling reason to buy CDs from record stores. They charged too much. There was nothing compelling about the physical space or the snotty teens they hired at minimum wage to help you. Amazon and CDNow charged a couple of bucks less and had a huge catalog. Most people didn’t know it, but stores that, uh, towered over the suburban landscape were dinosaurs waiting for the dust to settle. Television feels like that now. Networks broadcast a tremendous amount of filler and crap, and it’s work to seek out the 1% that’s actually watchable. I go online and find what I want almost instantly.

Instead of working for the viewer, they’re working for the shareholder, and so we get a writers’ strike that was never necessary. The networks and producers are so worried about saving a few cents per product, they let their shows rot on the vine.

Honestly, good riddance. In five years, we’ll see what replaces the network. I don’t think its out there yet. YouTube, iTunes, OnDemand. All close, but the way these things make money, or don’t make money, seems like outdated-thinking. What ever it is, if it destroys the way we get our news and entertainment, I’ll be all for it.

Karma Police, arrest this girl

So I have a funny blog about anti-mason programming on public access cable, but that’s going to have to wait a day or two. Let me talk today about terrorists. I call on authorities to arrest US Attorney Roslynn Mauskopf, who is terrorizing Americans by claiming that the looney and implausible plot to blow up a gas main leading into Kennedy Airport was “one of the most chilling plots imaginable,” and that “the devastation that would be caused had this plot succeeded is just unthinkable.” Just how unthinkable?

Richard Kuprewicz, a pipeline expert and president of Accufacts Inc., an energy consulting firm that focuses on pipelines and tank farms, said the force of explosion would depend on the amount of fuel under pressure, but it would not travel up and down the line.

“That doesn’t mean wackos out there can’t do damage and cause a fire, but those explosions and fires are going to be fairly restricted,” he said. (Quoted from AP/MSNBC) Chilling? Unthinkable? I believe that this is sufficient evidence that the US Attorney is guilty of terrorizing a nation. Because, otherwise, she’s simply too stupid to realize that setting fire to a gas main is what happens every time someone lights a burner on his stove. Yes, the criminals that were arrested believed that they would “cause greater destruction than in the Sept. 11 attacks,” but, of course, they would not. And luckily, they are under arrest. However, there are many other people who are just as dangerous and irresponsible as those that hatched this cockamamy plot. Uncritically, the AP reporter, Adam Goldman, writes: [P]ipeline and security experts agreed that such an attack would have crippled America’s economy, particularly the airline industry,… without mentioning the names of these experts or exactly how setting fire to the pipelines would cripple the economy. But I will take it on faith that he did get some experts on record to say such things, meaning that Adam Goldman should be interrogated until we get the names of these terrorist “experts,” who claimed such fantastic, awful results, all in the name of terrorizing the public. A more sober look a the plot comes from an Australian newspaper: But experts cast severe doubt on the practicalities of the plot. JFK airport, like other airports around the world, is fed by a series of pipelines that supply jet fuel and heating oil…. [S]abotaging part of the system would be highly unlikely to lead to a chain explosion. Also, jet fuel does not produce an explosive force unless it is under pressure or vapourised; and pipelines and tanks have safety valves to contain any mishap. Those that hype this plot are doing more damage to the economy, to society, and to our safety than the plotters ever could have done. Lesson for terrorists: Get a job that has access to the media, and you can terrorize us 24 hours-a-day.

Dropped by Traveler’s

I consider myself a good driver, but I do tend to drive fast (i.e. 10–20 miles over the speed limit), and I have an unhealthy contempt for bad traffic-flow control (i.e. no-turn-on-red signs at 1 in the morning; traffic lights that are set with a fixed timing and no sensors… at 1 in the morning). So in the past three years, I have gotten two tickets. The first was for speeding (80 in a 55 zone. Ouch. Too fast even for me). The second, just this past February, was for “Failing to Heed Traffic Control Device,” or somesuch, by which was meant I turned right-on-red at 1 in the morning on an empty stretch of road that just happened to have a no-turn-on-red sign. I could get into this more. There is nothing that animates me more than a discussion of stupid traffic laws. But I have a bigger fish to fry. Traveler’s Auto Insurance. Traveler’s is dropping my fiancée and myself because of these two tickets. Our insurance agent told us that Traveler’s was canceling our policy, which was an unfortunate wording, because by New York State law, Traveler’s cannot cancel the policy, not for these two tickets, anyway. But what they can do is not pick up the policy when we go to renew it, which is what they’re doing. What bothers me is that on January 1, 2008, the first ticket, speeding, will go off my record. And between the two of us, we don’t have any other marks on our licenses. Traveler’s told the insurance agent that it was specifically the speeding ticket that prompted them not to renew our policy, but that ticket is basically four-years old. Older, in fact, than our policy with Traveler’s. I went into the policy with that ticket. Bah! I say. Whatever! Traveler’s wasn’t cheap. The deductible was large. They would never allow us to get a year-long policy, only six-months. The only reason we went with them was because we had another insurance policy with them for something unrelated, and they gave us a break on that second policy. When the time comes, I think, we won’t be picking up that policy with Traveler’s. It seems they yielded when they should have come to a complete stop.

Less is more

Recently, we got a product notice in the kitchen telling us that the brand of tofu we order was being replaced by another. Both brands were organic, but the new brand was superior by way of packaging, apparently. The new brand, Woodstock Farms, highlighted their colorful packaging in the notice, and emphasized how there was no difference in the manufacturing or the quality of the product. Except, of course, there was. The new brands were an ounce less than the originals. When I found out about the change, I asked the kitchen manager, Tara, if the new packages were smaller. I had noticed previously at supermarkets that Nasoya, a popular brand, had just changed their packaging to look more gourmet, more classy, and took the opportunity to sell less of their product for a little more money. They went from $1.89 for 15 oz. to $2.19 for 14 oz. at my local supermarket. I stopped buying Nasoya, and learned that Trader Joe’s has a private label 15 oz. for $1.19. Anyway, at the kitchen, Tara said that nothing on the flyer indicated that the new packaging contained less. We had to look at the tiny images of the packages on the notice to see that the new ones, indeed, had less than the original. This has been going on for years, of course. Products like coffee and ice cream, which traditionally had been sold by the pound and half gallon, respectively, had been nudged down years ago, when the products prices shot up. Coffee is now 13 to 14 oz, and ice cream is 1.5 to 1.75 quarts. It’s fine that the manufacturers do this so they can keep the price down, but it often strikes me as tricky. I’m happy that they’re mandated to put the actual amount we’re getting in these things, but I wish consumers were more aware of this. In the past month I noticed a couple of other products shrinking in order to keep the price level the same: * Barilla tomato sauce. Was 26 oz. Changed the packaging to look more gourmet. Now 24 oz. Price $2.99. 8% less product or 8% cost increase, depending on your outlook. * Marcal 6 pack 1000-sheet toilet paper. Packaging changed to reflect 100% recycled paper. Price $3.99. This one was sneaky. Even though each roll is still 1000 sheet, the old package was 750 sq ft, and the new is 675 sq ft. 10% less product. I’ve noticed this trend in juices, too. If the package is cardboard, we’re still getting a full half gallon, but when these same products are in plastic containers, we’re getting around 54 to 56 oz. That’s 13 to 16% less product. Being a savvy consumer is difficult and time-consuming, and I’m sure manufacturers and retailers are expecting that we don’t notice these changes, but as I come across them, I’m going to post them. These things shouldn’t be hidden behind fancy packaging.

What was your tipping point?

Over at TMP, Josh Marshall asks this question:

November 2004 to November 2006 represented a remarkable turnabout for President Bush and the Republican party. Was there one key event responsible more than any other for the reversal of fortune: Katrina, Iraq, Social Security, Abramoff? What was the tipping point? We’re discussing this now at TPMCafe. And I think that as far as American public opinion goes, it was Katrina. Really, there’s no question about that to me. Suddenly, overnight, there were working men and women talking about the idiots in Washington. The idiots were always there of course, but Katrina ended the playtime fantasy that Bush was our daddy/savior. The press didn’t begin to turn around until the Foley scandal. Suddenly, overnight, the pretty people on our televisions started hinting at a Democratic take over of Congress. This was amazingly crass. Foley was embarrassing, sure, but did real people actually care about it? I don’t believe so. The press did, however, because they are part of Washington, and they hate things that embarrass the Washington establishment. I will offer the Hunt for Clinton’s Penis as Exhibit #1,634, proving that the press doesn’t care about America. Rather, it attempts to destroy those that scandalize the elite of Washington D.C. There were those in the press that saw Katrina for what it was, which was a complete fuck-up from the top to the bottom of our nation’s emergency services. (To be fair, the Coast Guard did exactly what it should, with the resources it had.) But the press didn’t move aggressively enough to highlight the deficiencies within the government that would lead to such mismanagement. Part of that, I believe, is that journalists and reporters themselves feel so detached from crises. They’re there to report on them, not interfere. So during Katrina, many of these reporters catalogued days of agony and suffering, and didn’t do anything themselves to help with it. That’s not a criticism of journalists. They report the story, not make it. The guys like Anderson Cooper, who did get involved, became part of the story, and lost some credibility in the process. But the disconnect between the suffering and the camera has to be hard on the psyche. I think many news companies began to soften their reporters stance on the Katrina rescue efforts, because those news companies realized that some of us may have begun to wonder why they don’t just send in the helicopters that shuffle their stars to and from the disaster sites. Why don’t they get involved? So, again, the press drops the ball, because it makes them feel uncomfortable. They are part of the establishment in Washington, along with politicians and lobbyists. Katrina was embarrassing to everyone. But Foley was just embarrassing to congressional Republicans, and the press had no problem making an example out of that idiot. Which only leaves Iraq; the elephant in the room, if you’ll pardon the pun. Why didn’t that affect Bush and the Republicans all along? Now, of course, it’s amazingly easy to criticize Bush for his ineptness regarding Iraq, but, to those people who think that Iraq has only recently become a mess, you’re delusional. Iraq was a mess the moment we invaded. Sure, statues fell and missions were accomplished, but that was all bullshit, and anyone, seriously anyone, with any bit of intelligence knew it. Iraq isn’t Bush’s fault. It’s all our faults. We let this happen.; we’re all complicit. And, so, now that Bush is so weak and ineffectual that he can’t hold a significant majority in the midterm elections, people might say that the reason they voted Democratic is Iraq, but, American Joe, you had your chance to hold that to him in 2004, and you didn’t. Iraq wasn’t a tipping point. Iraq is a nightmare that we’re not half-way through. But, if Iraq really is the reason that you suddenly can’t stand Republican rule, congratulations. You’ve become an adult again. You should check up on what they tried (and will try again) to do to Social Security. It’s not going bankrupt. Learn the name of Abramoff and be amazed at his long arms through the reach of our government, even though absolutely none of us elected him. I might also suggest taking a look at recent events pertaining to China, North Korea, Iran, and Lebanon to get a nice clear picture of how our crack team of officials, who handled Iraq so wonderfully, also get to play with other nations. And don’t forget to hold the Democrats responsible for the horrible bankruptcy bill that they helped pass while a minority. They’re going to do idiotic things, too. Don’t suddenly wake up and realize it years after the fact. Hold them responsible before they pass their stupid laws and bills that benefit no one, but play nicely on the evening news.

Linguistic Hell

On my usual Monday night delivery route, I passed a lit sign in front of a church somewhere out towards the north fork of Long Island. It said, “GOOD WITHOUT GOD IS JUST O,” and for a little bit, I didn’t catch what it was trying to convey. Good is just O? I thought. O? As in oh no? As is the big O? Good is an orgasm without God? What? I didn’t get it. But that’s because I’m a typesetter at heart. O is not 0. I never say “oh” in phone numbers when I mean zero. O is a letter, and 0 is a digit. Any typeface that is not trying to mimic a typewriter is going to have two different glyphs two represent two different characters. Anyone who finds it acceptable to replace a zero with the letter O should also have no problem replacing the number 1 with a lower-case l. “GOLD WITHOUT GOD IS JUST L” doesn’t make any sense. Let’s put that in proper case (all caps is a crime against typography and clarity anyway). “Gold without God is just l,” is still obviously idiotic. But on a typewriter that could mean “… just one.” It sounds more poetic, but has no meaning, which, all cleverness aside, is what I think of the original as well. Good without God isn’t nothing. Good without God is still good. Why do you need an absolute reference point to do good? Why does one need a specific brand of bearded cloud-father (Methodist, I think) to determine good or evil? Ethics exists without the assistance of religion to classify right from wrong. And, anyway, it was a poor pun, and it depended on the invention of typewriters and cheap signage to make it work.