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The Man Who Made His Accountant Cry

Saturday, March 29th, 2008

Larry Ellison Loves Himself

What has 23 acres, an 8000 sq. ft. house with two wings, a guest home, three cottages, a gym, a 5-acre lake, two waterfalls, two bridges, and hundreds of mature cherry and maple trees planted among 1000 redwoods pines and oaks?

The $200 million estate of Larry Ellison, the $25 billion, 12th-ranking member on the Fortune 500 list of world’s richest asswipes. The one that had his aptly-named Octopus Holding company buy it from him in 1995 for a deflated $12 million. The one that just “earned” him a $3 million property tax cut based on a professed 60% decline in the home’s value vs. the 6.3% for an average home. An average home - the ones not being foreclosed on anyway - that is being over-assessed because the neighbors can’t pay their mortgages down at Loan Shark Larry’s Savings and Loan.

And the rationale for the cut? It’s even richer than Larry (and apparently God) himself.

According to his tax appeal, the behemoth bungalow in his private redwood grove suffers from “significant functional obsolescence” because there apparently isn’t much of a market for $200 million pimp cribs. He also says the 16th century Japanese architecture, “over improvements”, and “excessive landscaping” are too costly for mere millionaire to maintains, so gee he’d appreciate it if just give him a break willya?

The Woodside White Elephant
In other words, Larry builds a Japanese-bred white elephant that no one can afford to buy, maintain, or want to live in so the taxpayers now owe him $3 million for his foresight in building such an opulent slum. Or as a consumer watchdog group puts into perspective, “Three million dollars to Larry Ellison is the equivalent of $300 to the average home owner.” Oh, and just so you know we aren’t picking on poor beleaguered Larry, Bill Gates did the same thing several years ago with his Redmond, WA-based monument to ostentation, avarice, and greed.

It makes you really admire modest billionaires like Warren Buffett, who actually pay taxes.

But Woodside, CA town manager Susan George says the deal is on the up and up. “It shouldn’t make any difference how much money he has if the process is fair. We’ll miss the money. We always have good things to do with it.”

True enough, but that’s relatively easy for George to say. Cash-flush Woodside is usually the top or near-top median income ZIP code in the country. The rest of relatively affluent - but still within human understandingly affluent - San Mateo County isn’t so lucky. They have people who can’t afford to claim their E. Palo Alto, cockroach-infested apartment is worthless because it’s “significantly functionally obsolete” with a leaking roof and broken plumbing. BTW, East Palo Alto is the other Palo Alto, the one that’s not home to multiple multi-millionaires and Stanford University. The folks in E. Palo Alto suffer from a crippling crime rate and crumbling housing over there on the wrong side of the freeway - the side that isn’t protected by sound fencing like the gracious folks across the road.

Rich Shouldn’t Matter
In principle I agree with the town manager. It shouldn’t matter how much money you have. So I suppose Larry wouldn’t mind if his revaluation was the going 6.3% - just to be fair and all. I’m sure he won’t mind, because he could just recoup the money by delaying the painting of his yacht, the world’s largest. Or perhaps he could stop routinely violating nighttime noise restrictions at San Jose International for landing after hours in his private Gulfstream jet. He was exempted from the noise restrictions too.

Larry is well-known as the infant-terrible of Silicon Valley. He runs his company Oracle based on the principles of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.

He regularly buys out any competitors, frequently in hostile takeovers - and grinds their successful products under his heel in order to buy new sails for his America’s Cup yacht or gas for his aerobatic team. At each hostile takeover, employees lose jobs to feed Larry’s Giant Maw of GreedTM. And it’s a hungry maw indeed. So hungry, that Larry’s accountants warned him several years ago to cut his fantastic spending lest he bankrupt himself.

It’s Tough Out There for a Billionaire Pimp
I guess $12 billion doesn’t go as far as it used to.

I’m a firm believer in capitalism, although I recognize its limitations if left totally unrestricted. I have nothing against people earning money. In fact, I don’t care if a person makes billions - more power to them. But if you make billions you also inherit some responsibilities.

One of those responsibilities is paying your taxes like any other good citizen of modest means without a buttload of full-time shysters to find boondoggle tax breaks. It also comes with a moral responsibility to not deprive others to feed your own hubris and greed. Don’t take money away from schools and hospitals simply because you can. It’s not a frickin’ game to see who dies with the most toys. Don’t lay off employees to get that quarterly bonus that’s just about equal to the money you “saved” by laying them off. I don’t require you to find the light and abandon your Marley-like stinginess like Bill Gates turned away from his once well-known anti-philanthropic ways. Hell, you can even illegally fly your jet late at night provided you pay buy soundproofing for the more modest home owners who will go to work exhausted tomorrow from a lost night of sleep courtesy of your (literally) money-burning flying hard on. In short, all I ask you to do is act like a normal human being instead of a shit stain in the crotch of humanity’s Jockey shorts.

In short Larry, stop being such an asshole.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

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The Big Dick Flips Off America

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Cheney Flipping Off the American PeopleThere’s no doubt the Bush administration has an awfully high opinion of itself. The president once famously said that he couldn’t think of a mistake he’d made in office. But The Big DickTM? He has mondo-hubris.

Listen to this exchange:

Reporter: “Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth fighting (the War of Error), and they’re looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.”

Cheney: “So?”

Reporter: “So - you don’t care what the American people think?”

Cheney: “No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. Think about what would have happened if Abraham Lincoln had paid attention to polls, if they had had polls during the Civil War. He never would have succeeded if he hadn’t had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there.”

Um, Dick? I’ve studied Abraham Lincoln and let me tell you, you’re no Abraham Lincoln. I’m suspicious that you’re not even human.

Using your logic, as long as a person “has a clear objective, a vision for where he wants to go” he can do as he damn well pleases. He can ignore advice. He can show contempt for his nation and the laws that govern it. He can play the iceberg to the Titanic. Heck, he can even just toddle off on his buddy’s boat for a day of fishing as people die in the place he just left behind.

Dick, the model for that sort of behavior isn’t Lincoln, it’s Saddam Hussein. You know, that guy you went over to kick out? The one who was a baaad, baaad man who needed to be dealt with? The one who so threatened you? Surely you remember him. He was the one with the WMD that only appears after you sprinkle lemon juice on them.

Dick, I’m going to engage in some of your logic. Here’s my “clear objective and vision”: you are a dangerously megalomaniacal imbecile. You are also a man who deserves to be tossed into the trash bin of loony politicians who became so full of themselves they forgot to adhere to the “polls” that really count - the elections - the elections that put their cholesterol filled, arrogance-fattened asses in office.

I’m sad to say that I respect Saddam Hussein more than you and your idiot savant friend, George DicklessTM. At least Saddam never pretended to be anything other than what he was - a bragging despotic tyrant.

More’s the pity I can’t say the same thing for you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

The Madness of King George

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

Our F*ck Up-in-Chief likes to portray himself as a bold leader who keeps his head while all around him lose theirs. That’s true enough as far as it goes. He’s certainly bold - although brazen might be a better word - and he does steadfastly keep his head. The only problem is that it’s empty.

More than once, people have wondered about the cranial pea he keeps rolling around. First he was criticized for living in a bubble and then conservative pundits like Joe Scarborough began to wonder aloud if he was stupid. Even Nelson Mandella posited that he “couldn’t think correctly” and several foreign ministers have remarked on their low esteem for the boob.

I’m currently reading Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President, by psychologist Justin Frank. In the book, Frank does a little forensic psychology to see if he can determine just why the president seems so bat-shit crazy. Frank definitely has an anti-Bush point of view so I take what he says with a grain of salt. However, many of the things he discusses in the book match up well with known events and continue to surface four years after Frank wrote the book.

The Psychotic Break Begins
Now five years along in Iraq, I used to think his reassurances that Iraq was going swimmingly were just the rants of a craven politician angling for better poll numbers. Now I wonder if those weren’t the first clear signs that he wasn’t just disingenuous, he was literally in the throes of a psychotic break.

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Cal State Quaking Over Quaker

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Modified Loyalty Oath

I’ve recited the Pledge of Allegiance more times than I can count. When I joined the military, I took an oath not unlike those taken by the President. The oaths don’t prevent anyone from dishonoring them, but they do remind those swearing them that more is at stake than simply winning an election or enlisting for military job training.

Our current President is a case in point. He swore oaths as a member of the Texas National Guard and as President and one could argue that he hasn’t exactly vigorously protected the Constitution or battled against all enemies foreign and domestic. However, every job doesn’t require a loyalty oath. We don’t require them of trash collectors or computer programmers, but some states require them of state employees.

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Incurious Clarence Thomas

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Why do some conservatives consider it a badge of honor to be as uninformed as your average tree stump? Preznit Poster Boy once bragged that he never reads newspapers - Crazy Clarence Thomasprobably because there was no second grader to help him read The Pet Goat as a warm up. The Big Dick consistently thinks it’s important to get only one side of any story - the one he’s already decided he’s on. You name the branch of the administration and chances are you’ll find someone who wouldn’t recognize a book if you slammed their fingers in one. Now, SCOTUS justice Clarence “Who Has Put Pubic Hair on My Coke” Thomas has come out foursquare in favor of vacuousness.

Stumping for his new autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son, Clancy brags that he hasn’t asked a question in two years and 142 cases. The last one came on Feb. 26, 2006 in a unanimous death penalty case.

“One thing I’ve demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question,” he told the Federalist Society. Instead of an intelligent interrogatory, he prefers to lean back in his comfy leather chair, stare at the ceiling, and occasionally share a laugh or two with Justice Stephen Breyer or Anthony Kennedy, his neighbors on the bench. Paraphrasing an old “know it all” Rumsfeld adage, Clancy seems to know all the knowns, unknowns, and potential knowns or unknowns without asking a single question. He’s a regular frickin’ Nostradumbass, he is.

Incurious Clarence says it’s not that he’s against questions, he just doesn’t ask them. “If I think a question will help me decide a case, then I’ll ask that question. Otherwise, it’s not worth asking because it detracts from my job,” he told CSPAN last year. Clarence, here’s a tip dude. If you went two years and 142 cases and didn’t think of a single question, you’re either dead, full of the milk of Bushonian hubris, or clueless.

I don’t expect much from Clarence, I really don’t. At the risk of being accused of conducting another high-tech lynching, I thought Clarence was dumb as a box of rocks when he wiggled onto the court and he’s only confirmed my suspicions since then. The fact that he happens to be African American has zero to do with it. I’d think a white person with as little intellectual curiosity as him would be just as useful a doorstop. Look at the whitest guys around, Daddy and Baby Doc Bush, for stunningly detailed proof.

Along with all the other actions that have eroded our democracy, attitudes like Clarence’s and Shrub’s are a big part of what put us there. To me, it’s one thing to be smart but ideologically opposed - like John Roberts. It’s another to be smart and dangerously evil - like the Big Dick. It’s quite another if you’re simply too stupid to know just how stupid you are - a category topped by Shrub and Clancy. This is one of those times I just want to scream in rage.

“HEY, YOU! STARING AT THE CEILING! Wake up, participate, and STOP CRIBBING FROM ANTONIN SCALIA’S NOTES!”

 


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The Seven Dirty Words Live On

Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Old LadyComedian George Carlin used to do a gag called, “Seven Dirty Words You Can’t Say on TV“. He used the words prolifically to make the point that they were simply words - not bombs nor bullets nor anything else that might cause lasting harm. In fact, I’d say that 99% of the adult US population has used at least one of those words at some point and the remaining 1% are liars.

So here we are, several decades down the road. We’ve weathered wars, natural disasters, terror attacks, and dozens of other momentous events, but we’re still apoplectic when poppa says a bad, bad thing. In fact, a bad word slipped just this morning. It was the word that begins with a “c” and ends in “unt”. It happens to be the title of one of the monologues in the Vagina (not “va-jay-jay“) Monologues and that is exactly how Jane Fonda used it when she let it slip on the Today Show.

And That Goes Double for F*ck
Fonda isn’t stupid. She knew what the reaction would be. It appears that she simply didn’t parse the word carefully before saying it and the NBC censors didn’t hit the 10-second delay button in time. NBC cut the offensive language in the west coast edition of Today and apologized to viewers for the slip up. There was a similar stink, and attendant apology, last month when Diane Keaton inadvisably said f*ck on the air. One would think those apologies would be sufficient, but of course, that would be much too simple.

Conservatives are p*ssed and jumped on the story like flies on sh*t - NewsBusters and right wing diva, Michelle Malkin to name two. Newsbusters put it this way, “Besides her left wing activism, famous North Vietnamese propagandist Jane Fonda spouts foul language on morning network television, when some children almost certainly saw it.”

Um, yeah. I wonder what word the commenter uses to describe Fonda in private?

Oh, Go F*ck Yourself
True, children could have seen it, but they also could have seen or read it on the NewsBusters and Michelle Malkin websites, both of which carried the monstrous offense to humanity verbatim. The kiddies could have also seen more traumatic fare, like death footage from Iraq, but I didn’t hear the moth*rf*ckers pis*ing and moaning about that.

I’ve toned the words down in this post out of respect to those who find them offensive, not because they offend me personally. But I have been known to say, co*cksu*ker when I’m aggressively cut off in traffic or the word t*ts in the throes of passion. I’m not perfect and neither are those who choose to make an issue of it, not even Dick Cheney. After all, he delivered a pithy message to Senator Patrick Leahy on the floor of Congress a few years back.

The Big Dick told Leahy to, “go f*ck yourself” (NSFW).

‘Nuff said.

 


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The World Has Changed Forever

Thursday, February 14th, 2008

On September 12, 2001, George Bush stood atop a pile of rubble in New York and announced the world had changed forever. For the most part, it’s changed in ways few foresaw and without many rational, presumptive changes ever quite taking root, but it has changed, just as he promised.

For most of us, the biggest change has been in how little Dear LeaderTM cares for the individual freedoms he swore to defend and protect. For others - most notably families that lost someone that day - the world changed in a more fundamental and visceral way. Now, these seemingly different types of loss have converged.

El Jefe and the congress are once again at loggerheads over FISA laws. Since Day 1, the flaccid republican and democratic congresses have repeatedly given in to the President’s whims and then some. Congress has proposed a measly 15 day delay in considering a FISA renewal, but the Defender of His FateTM has threatened a veto. And as usually happens when he doesn’t get his way, he launched another fear bomb to justify it, “Terrorists are planning new attacks on our country … that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison.” Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The Prez Who Cried Wolf
This terrorist threat is identical to dozens of other admonitions. Under that blanket excuse, he’s rolled back just about every civil liberty we once enjoyed, while the final word has never been validated by the courts. He admits he’s spied on US citizens in an apparent contravention of the Constitution. However, instead of an apology he simply demands more power, like Congress giving telecom companies protection from prosecution if they broke the law (which they already have).

His justification?

“If these companies are subjected to lawsuits that could cost them billions of dollars, they won’t participate. They won’t help us. They won’t help protect America.

Loyalty, At a Price
In other words, we must pay multinational phone companies to retain their loyalty, rather than being the upstanding, selfless citizens we expect ourselves to be. That sounds a lot like buying off an Afghan warlord to be our BFF (and likely with similar results). It’s the type of behavior we’ve come to expect from the administration and is directly linked to the dubious premise that prisoners can be held without trial and without adequate legal representation. That’s hardly a fairness exemplar for “emerging democracies” like Iraq.

As some of the Guantanamo “disappeared” start preparing for trial, it’s obvious that “trials” in Bushspeak mean something very different than what most of us expect under the law. In Dubya’s steely legal mind, “trial” means take away anything good for the defendant and allow the prosecution to do anything they damn well please. This seems curious behavior for an administration that claims to have mountains of evidence condemning the detainees, yet can’t allow the defense to see any of it, even under strict secrecy provisions. It suggests the World’s Sole Remaining SuperpowerTM” might have some intelligence that doesn’t stand up in a legitimate court of law - which brings us to the families victimized by September 11.

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666: The Earmarks of the Devil

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Lobbyists, my heart aches for thee.

The doyens of K Street fear an industry-wide crisis akin to the subprime mortgage meltdown. With Vito McVeto promising a 50% reduction in earmark spending, K Streeters face a future devoid of 12 martini lunches, strip poker games with hookers, and doling out a lil’ sumpin’, sumpin’ to their Congressional marks. Like many other things in Washington, the cesspool is so deep even the recipients of lobbyists’ largess understand someone has to go down for their corruption.

One of the last bipartisan fronts in this country is a firm belief that earmarks are all numbered 666 - the earmark of the devil. Everyone decries them while slipping down to the Government Printing Office to add a few before the printers go to work. The administration, despite their belated call for halving the number, has a long and storied history of taking lobbyists’ essential “counsel”, usually behind closed doors and with refusals to let the sun shine in. The Democrats are no better. In fact, I can’t recall a single politician ever saying, “They gave me a $35,000 campaign contribution, so I voted as they asked.” It’s always, “The $35K didn’t influence me in the least. Hey! I hear they’re handing out golf trips to the Bahamas over at the Congressional dining room!”

I’m pretty confident most of the lobbyists shouldn’t worry. I’m sure Shrub will sign off on all the Republican earmarks and sacrifice Democrats’ pork to the giant maw of politics. That’s 50% guaranteed right there. I’m equally sure Democrats and Republicans alike will find new ways to shoehorn the rest into bills as part of the funding for specific, and probably tangential, programs. It is, after all, what they do and since lobbyists actually write many laws for the lawmakers, I’m sure they’ll find a way.

There’ll certainly be a few sacrificial goats from carefully-chosen, and none too important lobbies. One must keep up appearances in the Kabuki of politics. Banking will go untouched. Ditto telcom. And, of course, how could we live without the oil companies’ “help”? It’s more likely those rabid advocates for public aquariums or independent booksellers will get the shaft. “No fishes for you,” says the Earmark Soup Nazi.

But as bad as the lobbyist situation is, you can’t blame it completely on them. It’s true we look askance at these shenanigans, but we also reward them with our support in return for a new Jello-wrestling complex in Minnesota or a bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Its just another variation of “NIMBY” - “NIMEM”, not in my earmark. Do anything you want to that other district, but hand me that rasher of bacon.

Are you listening Senator Byrd?

We’ve allowed lobbying to run away with itself. They have a defacto monopoly on power. The courts vested them with rights equal to individual citizens and they used that base to widen their footprint. At the same time, so did the politicians. Now we have a Rube Goldberg political money machine no one actually understands or can control. The problem is we desperately need reform, but it’ll have to be paid for with money printed by the lobbyists and stuffed into pols’ pockets.

Foxes guarding the hen house are never a good thing, but what are you going to do?

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

When Greed Isn’t Good

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

I’m not sure whether to be worried or not, but I found myself agreeing with Mike Huckabee this week. For a man who thinks the planet was created last week, he’s remarkably astute about the stimulus package both parties are currently flogging.

The Huckster hit the nail on the head when he said that we’ll go hat-in-hand to China and borrow the money to fund the tax rebates. The folks who qualify for the rebates will then spend it on something frivolous, like food or clothing. They’ll run down to the local Walmart and buy Chinese-made underwear or toxin-laced tomatoes.

Simply Stimulating
The plan has other “stimulating” facets too. While the bipartisan boneheads are throwing a sop to the lower income segment, they’re also making sure corporations get a big chunk of the pie. These would be the same corporations that loaned money to people using oxygen for collateral, or that have moved all their production to China, or both.

The mortgage meltdown was obvious to anyone who ever balanced a checkbook long before the astronomically paid investment bankers and their equally greased clientele woke up to it. Somehow they missed the Economics 101 lecture about the inadvisability of loaning money to people who can’t pay it back. And while the saga unfolded, the C-student from Yale stood by not only insisting that things were just fine, but refusing to regulate a market completely unwilling to regulate itself. At least Alan Greenspan, had the good manners to call the equally unregulated Clinton markets “irrationally exuberant”.

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The Orwellian Thermostat

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Orwellian ThermostatBack in the day, monopolistic utilities were benevolent dictators. In exchange for guaranteed profits, they provided reasonable service at reasonable prices. Also back in the day, citizens could expect minimal intrusion into their privacy in exchange for simply requiring government to follow the Constitution. We traded these reasonable and symbiotic relationships for deregulated utilities that pillage their customers at will and government that intrudes any time it damn well pleases as long as President Buttmunch signs off on it. A recent proposal by the California Energy Commission borrows the worst traits from both.

They plan to put remote-controlled thermostats in homes to cut power use during summertime electricity shortages. It’s not that controlling energy consumption is an unnecessary thing. It’s good for the environment, it saves money, and everyone gets a taste of precious wattage at a time when it’s scarce. But like many things that seem good on paper, this crapulent plan falls apart in the details.

A Big Comfy Quilt of Money
Previous experience shows that regulators and utilities already snuggle in a bed covered with a quilt of big money. It’s not a far-fetched notion that utilities would manufacture shortages to cut costs and regulators wouldn’t lift a finger to stop them. The late Ken Lay made a despicable art of this corporate rape.

The plan is also one more example of government dictating to its citizens instead of the other way around. We’re already listened to, filmed, monitored, and forced to disrobe to get on a frickin’ airplane. I’m in no mood for any more of this crap and judging from public reaction to this harebrained scheme, neither is the public. We’re not teetering on the edge of a slippery slope, we’ve slid to the bottom and shot off into shark-infested water like a watermelon seed being spit out at a redneck convention.

Electricity ala The Third World
Because of public reaction, regulators have scaled back the plan to make it optional. This is a tiny wiggle in the right direction, but highlights the stupidity of the plan. Currently, shortages are relatively rare. By and large, most people voluntarily honor the requests to conserve when needed and we avoid rolling blackouts like a war-torn, Third World country.

Personally, I don’t trust Big Business or Big Government. Unchecked, both institutions allow charlatans to take control and become menaces to society. I’m a big boy and don’t need the government to tell me when to turn my thermostat up. Pacific Gas & Electric also doesn’t need one more potential advantage over consumers - especially since they’re bumping jiggly bits with Big Government. If ever there was a domestic Axis of Evil, this unholy marriage of business and government is it.

To paraphrase Jerry Garcia, “Someone has to do something, it’s just incredibly sad it has to be us.”

To register your opposition, email the .


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