Author Archive

“Live Within Your Means!”

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Talk about mixed signals. This article is basically lecturing people about sticking to a budget. Of course it’s good advice, especially with the housing crisis, credit crisis, the tanking economy…

But a huge percentage of our economy is based on discretionary consumer spending. Where would we be without it?

Every year starting in late November, tens of millions of Americans go into a crazed, foaming-at-the-mouth shopping frenzy. They spend money they don’t have, to buy a bunch of expensive presents nobody needs, just so they can impress people they don’t even like.

And while this mad stampede is going on, millions of business owners are terrified — mortified. They’re scared shitless that this year’s shopping stampede might not be quite as frenzied as last year’s.

If everyone started living within a budget and buying only what they could afford, this country would go through cold turkey that no junkie ever imagined. It would’ve been better if this whole credit/debt concept had never been adopted. But now that we’re in this mess, what’s the best way to get out?

There was an excellent TV series a few years ago — American Dreams (2002-04). It was about an extended family in Philadelphia during the early 1960s. The father owned a TV store. One day another merchant was telling him about this revolutionary new phenomenon: credit cards. The TV store owner said “What, somebody’s gonna pay more for something just so he can have it now instead of waiting ‘til he can afford it? No way!”

[sigh] if only…

Now that more Americans are being forced to live within their means, maybe the government could try the same thing. Riiight. After all, credit and bankruptcy counselors have to lay out strict merciless budgets for their clients. If any item isn’t absolutely crucial — Ixnay! Imagine somebody telling our reckless president:

“I’m sorry George, you just can’t afford to invade any more countries. Look at this multi-trillion dollar debt you’ve run up. Look at this shit! What were you thinking??”

And while we’re at it, can we afford to keep spending billions of dollars on some asshole’s “Family Values” agenda?

“War on Drugs? Are you crazy? You’ve spent yourself into bankruptcy trying to enforce your “values” onto everybody else. Not one more cent for your Morality Industrial Complex. Nope, I don’t want to hear it.”

A People’s History of the United States

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

This book by Howard Zinn is packed with fascinating information. If you want to know what really happened — blemishes and all — this book offers an unabridged no-holds-barred history of our country, starting in 1492.

The only reason I even know about the book is because of a column by neocon spewbag Dennis Prager. He was ranting and foaming at the mouth about it in this column which appeared in our local paper. Anyone who reads this evil book will be “manipulated into believing that America is a bad country, certainly no better than others.” He describes the book as “essentially a proctologist’s view of American history.”

I assume the website doesn’t contain the entire book, but there are some huge excerpts here. Columbus’ first encounter with Native Americans (it wasn’t pretty); a chilling description of the first slave ship unloading its cargo at Jamestown in 1619; the “other civil war” in the early 1800s; new insights into our Vietnam invasion. There are 24 chapters in all.

If you don’t purchase the book, bookmarking the website is the next best thing.

I already knew a lot of this information from reading Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. This is an excellent world history book. It’s probably less detailed about American history than the Howard Zinn book since it’s more of a world overview. Both books are excellent antidotes to the whitewashed sanitized “history” we’ve all been taught.

I’ve never understood why it’s supposed to be “negative” or “anti-American” to teach history the way it really happened, warts and all. Every country — including this one — has a history of violence, war and unimaginable cruelty. What’s the purpose of suppressing this information? It seems pointless to take a vibrant living multi-layered history and condense it into a squeaky-clean feelgood Leave It To Beaver episode.

These two books are a big 180 from the condensed simplified “America to the rescue!” tripe we all studied in school. And we have the same contrast with today’s current news coverage. Listen to a scripted sanitized story on the evening news. Then check out the same story on one of the “alternative” news websites, or a foreign news source. Even in Canada and Europe, their coverage of American issues is much more complete and objective than anything you’ll get from our own mainstream “media.”

Generations from now when historians are writing about this era, what will they write? The bland sterile news we’re getting today from the mainstream media is probably what future generations will read in their “official” history textbooks. Hopefully there will also be a few authors like Howard Zinn and James Loewen who will tell what really happened.

The House That Wouldn’t Bend Over

Friday, March 14th, 2008

You Go Democrats! For the next two weeks at least, America’s telecom executives will be just as accountable to the law as the other 300 million of us. What a concept! Why should a few VIPs have a law that specifically prevents them from ever being sued? I don’t know anybody who has that kind of permanent protective cocoon wrapped around them. Do you? We’re a nation of laws; well, for two more weeks anyway.

It didn’t exactly take an act of blind courage for Congress to stand up to a cerebrally-challenged alcoholic president with single-digit approval ratings. But still, with all the bending and gyrating this Congress has been doing, it’s a huge relief that, for one fleeting moment, they actually stood up and said “No!”

Savor the moment. There’s no doubt, our petulant child king will be bringing this subject back for another vote, and another vote, again and again and again until he gets his way. You can’t say “No” to a scion of the Bush Crime Family. It’s just not done.

I forget where I read this, but somebody was making an excellent point: there’s something huge going on behind the scenes that’s making these Conservatards keep pushing and pushing and pushing and grandstanding and pleading and shouting for retroactive telecom immunity. Our bribery system doesn’t usually work like this. Generally, a congressperson gets a bribe from a certain industry, and he/she is instructed to vote accordingly. And that’s all.

Getting bribed isn’t supposed to require months and months of pleading and threatening and foaming at the mouth every time a TV camera appears. WTF is going on here? Probably a lot more than we’ll ever know.

This other story is sort of along those same lines — government secrecy, things we’re not supposed to know, etc. The Pentagon has completed a study which shows there was no connection whatsoever between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Uh, that was one of our main reasons for invading Iraq five years ago (along with those non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction). For a full year before the invasion we heard nothing but “Saddam al Qaeda Hussein bin Laden 9/11 Iraq Saddam bin Laden Iraq al Qaeda…”

And now that there’s a Pentagon report showing that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and the Reichstag Fire September 11th attacks, we the lowly peons — whose tax dollars paid for this invasion — are not entitled to know about it. The Pentagon has been instructed not to release this report, and the report is not available online.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

An Urgent New Drug Problem!

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

For those of us whose purpose in life is to guard America’s morals — our work is never done. We already have our hands full fighting off the Homosexual Agenda and the Devil’s Music. And now there’s a dangerous new drug from Mexico, just waiting to seduce our youth and sap their moral fiber.

Salvia Divinorum is a hallucinogenic plant that grows in Mexico. And now Americans are starting to use it. Don’t you understand what this means???

A Mexican drug coming into the United States — symbolically, this represents gangs of swarthy Meskins invading our decent Godfearing nation. These lazy hopheads will destroy everything America stands for.

Most of our politicians are unaware of this serious problem. They’re too busy whining about the war in Iraq and our crumbling economy. But fortunately, a Florida state representative is coming to our rescue. Mary Brandenburg has introduced a bill to make possession of Salvia a felony — five years for any dope fiend caught with this drug.

But this isn’t enough. Prison sentences need to be longer than that. And the American people need to be made aware of the hideous effects of this drug. This new menace will destroy anybody who uses it. An ordinary decent American who uses this drug will turn into a pervert; a monster!

We need to spread the word. Perhaps we could make a documentary: Salvia: Assassin of Youth.

We Don’t Need No Steenkeeng Record Companies

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

First Radiohead; now Nine Inch Nails. This makes two popular bands whose latest CDs were released online. They’ve completely bypassed the recording industry. There’s nowhere else for this trend to go but UP.

Another dinosaur is slooowly losing its grip. And it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of douchebags. The world is full of meanspirited amoral industries, but when it comes to taking a shit on the general public, the Recording Industry Association of America stands head and shoulders above the rest.

As you know, the RIAA has sued thousands of individuals. For the heinous crime of downloading music for free, they’re often sued for hundreds of thousands of dollars each. OK, so it’s wrong. But a $200,000 fine?

On top of that, the RIAA has virtually strangled Internet radio. Sky-high royalty fees — for which the RIAA is responsible — have forced a lot of webcasters to close down. Their new fees (retroactive to 2006) are proportionally much higher than those paid by large commercial broadcasters. It was nice while it lasted.

Record companies have also been catching it from Big Box retailers. Because CD sales have gone way down lately, Target and WalMart (among others) are setting aside less shelf space for CDs. And as fewer CDs are available in stores, the public will buy fewer CDs, stores will set aside even less space for CDs, and the cycle continues…

Personally, I probably won’t make use of these online CDs. I’ve never downloaded anything (but I listen to music on YouTube a lot). I’m one of those Luddites who has to have a solid physical record reel-to-reel tape eight-track cassette CD right in front of me, with a label that says “Name of Song” by “Performer.” (But I still tape music off the radio, which supposedly brought the recording industry to its knees in the 1970s.)

But as people buy fewer CDs and get more music online, the RIAA will ultimately go the way of the covered wagon repairman. It can’t happen soon enough.

“Let the Buyer Beware”

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

Predatory lenders have caused a record number of home mortgage foreclosures. Credit card firms are extorting millions of dollars in “penalties” from customers who have never made a late payment or gone over their credit limit. Insurance companies are weaseling out of billions of dollars’ worth of claims, using the zaniest excuses imaginable. And you’re paying hidden fees and surcharges every time you rent a car, stay in a hotel, go to the bank, sign up for a new phone service (or cable TV or Internet service), deposit money in your retirement account…

And yet Libertarians and rightwing Republicans keep insisting that there’s no problem here. This is capitalism, Buddy; the free market. Caveat Emptor. That stupid mouthbreathing retard should’ve read the fine print.

Riiight.

What the fuck are we devolving into? A company can hide a booby trap on page 37 of a contract — written in legalese in a size .01 font — and it’s up to the customer to spend several hours poring over the contract with a magnifying glass.

How far does this “logic” go? Is it legal to sell fake Rolexes on the street for $200 apiece? After all, if some dumbfuck is gullible enough to buy one — cool!

Auto repair shops should be allowed to use the cheapest shoddiest parts they can find and then tell you they used the highest quality components money can buy (and charge you accordingly). Hell, why even make them work on your car at all? They can just tell you they did it and then charge you $1,200 for the work they didn’t do. Hey, if you’re suspicious, just look under the hood and check it out for yourself. What, you want some big fluffy drooling Nanny State hovering over you??

And why is it against the law to assault or mug someone? When you’re walking down the street, it’s up to you to be aware of your surroundings and be ready and able to fend off any would-be attacker. If a person is oblivious or preoccupied, and/or too feeble to defend him/herself — hey, easy pickings!

People get thrown in jail when they try anything mentioned in the previous three paragraphs. And when slippery businesspeople mug their customers with deceptive practices and fine print, they belong in jail too. And throw the key away.

Attending a Wingtard Convention: Inside the Belly of the Beast

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

You’ve gotta check out this article. It’s long, but it’s an excellent read: appalling, hilarious, infuriating, absurd…

The author, Leonard Pierce, infiltrated the annual meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC). He got in by posing as a lobbyist for the American Milk Solids Council. We know that two percent of America has gotten rich beyond belief in the past 7 years, and that 19% still think George W. Bush is doing a heckuva job.

Knowing those statistics is one thing, but just imagine being surrounded by thousands of these people. As Pierce describes it, “Here’s a description of Hell: a huge room full of all the people you hate most, and they’re all having a wonderful time.”

There’s a speech by Dick Cheney (of course). During his speech, the crowd starts cheering and yelling “Four More Years!” Cheney gives the usual soundbites about 9/11, telecom immunity and the wonders of torture. But the most telling thing about Cheney’s speech was the observation that: “His defense of torture gets a standing ovation, but his praising of our fighting men in uniform does not. It takes a man to fight, but it takes a train to waterboard.”

Next comes Mitt Romney’s famous speech where he says he entered the race because he loves his country and now he’s leaving (the race, not the country) for the same reason.

And there has to be a speech by Dumbya. Before Boozo the Clown even begins his speech, the crowd starts chanting “Four More Years!”

Bush’s speech itself had the predictable Bushisms: “Dick Cheney is the greatest vice president in the history of the United States.” The Bush Administration “didn’t seek the approval of editorialists…and we darned sure didn’t seek permission from groups like Code Pink and MoveOn before taking action.”

But check out Pierce’s description of Bush:

“In person, he looks a little haggard and tired: no legacy to speak of, no friends overseas (whither Pooty-Poot? a nation turns its starving eyes to you), and another boatload of corpses to go and frown at later today. He won’t last as long as his old man once he’s out of office: With no one to stand in the way of, with no one to infuriate, with no press hanging over his shoulder for him to mutter ‘fuck off’ at, he’ll wither away and disappear, just another burnout boomer with prostate cancer and no hobbies.”

Ripped-Off Customers: Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

According to this Business Week article, 2007 might be remembered as the year angry customers started fighting back. We all heard about the 76-year-old woman who came storming into her local ComCast office with a hammer and started swinging. After damaging a keyboard and a phone, she yelled out “have I got your attention now?”

And last Spring a pissed-off Apple customer made a YouTube video of himself smashing his Macbook with a sledgehammer after Apple refused to honor a service warranty. So far over 340,000 people have seen the video. (And Apple has agreed to replace his defective computer.)

The author, Jena McGregor, says: “Consumers already pushed to the brink by evaporating home equity, job insecurity, and rising prices are more apt to snap when hit with long hold times and impenetrable phone trees.”

She uses the term Consumer Vigilante. Even if you don’t settle your grudge with a sledgehammer, more and more people are discovering that there are other options besides sitting there waiting on hold all afternoon because both operators are busy.

The e-mail carpet bomb is becoming more popular.

Last October a National Public Radio host created a website called ComCastMustDie.com. The article has a few other examples of pissed off customers who settled things their own way.

And occasionally the courts come through. A few days ago, one of those slippery HMOs got hit with a crushing left hook to the bank account. In 2004, Health Net canceled a woman’s medical insurance while she was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. She was left with $129,000 in unpaid medical bills. A judge has ordered Health Net to repay the $129,000 plus $750,000 for emotional distress and $8.4 million in punitive damages.

As conservatives are always saying, severe punishments are the only way to deter criminals.

Health Net is also being sued by the City of Los Angeles for illegally canceling the health insurance policies of 1,600 other patients. The company had an incentive program: administrators had to meet a certain cancellation quota, and if they exceeded their quota they’d get a bonus. (See, this isn’t just something Michael Moore dreamed up.)

Maybe these are just isolated incidents, or maybe there’s a positive trend. No matter who or what gets elected next November, maybe this 21st Century Gilded Age is starting to wane.

The Terrorists Have Won!

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Those F&%^$#!%$# Democrats If they hate America so much, why don’t they just leave???

We had such a nice cozy arrangement between the federal government and the telecommunications industry. The telecom companies were enabling our intelligence agencies to spy on Americans — anybody, any time they felt like it. And in return, we promised the telecom companies they wouldn’t be sued over civil liberties or the Bill of Rights or whatever it is those whiny liberals are always wailing about.

And now, the House of Representatives has shown us — once again — whose side they’re on. They’ve allowed the Protect America Act to expire. The telecom companies are no longer immune from lawsuits triggered by their spying activities. And because of this, they might be less willing to help the government spy on American citizens.

The spoiled drug-addled fratboy President of the United States has been begging, pleading and stamping his foot, trying to get Congress to provide retroactive immunity for the telecom companies so they can’t get sued by every whiner that comes along. These Congressional Democrats had better hurry up and bend over for Dumbya — and you know they will; they always do — before the terrorists attack.

If the telecom industry doesn’t have retroactive immunity from lawsuits, what dire circumstances can we expect? Well, for openers:

This means Osama bin Laden and Hillary Clinton can talk on the phone with no fear whatsoever. There’ll be nothing to deter them. They can talk about their plan to bring America to her knees, and we won’t even know about it until it’s too late. That smoking gun will turn out to be a giant mushroom cloud!

Barack Obama is probably sending a triumphant e-mail right now to Vladimir Putin and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (with a copy to Hugo Chavez). “Yes!!! It worked. Those stool pigeons in Congress fell for our propaganda, hook line and sinker. Now we can hatch our evil plans and get all of our codes and signals worked out. And then — BWAAAHAAHAAHAAHAA!!!!! Praise Allah!”

When Sleazy Companies Shortchange Their Workers, It Can Get Expen$ive

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Three cheers for the IRS! As hated as they are, sometimes they end up doing the jobs of our government “regulators,” using the term loosely.

The IRS has ruled that FedEx is no longer entitled to receive hundreds of millions of dollars worth of welfare payments. These handouts were being given by FedEx workers to their bosses.

Here’s how the scam worked: 13,000 FedEx employees were reclassified as “independent contractors.” The IRS ruled that this classification was incorrect, and that FedEx illegally “saved” $319 million in taxes in 2002. The IRS is still auditing FedEx for 2004 through 2006.

The Teamsters Union — who’s been pushing this case — thinks FedEx could ultimately owe the IRS a billion dollars.

Companies save a fortune when they redefine their employees as “independent contractors.” A company doesn’t have to pay workers’ compensation, unemployment or disability taxes, Social Security or Medicare taxes to an independent contractor. Independent contractors also aren’t subject to minimum wage laws and they have no government guarantee of a safe work environment.

It must have seemed like the best of both worlds for FedEx bosses: they could keep their workers straitjacketed with a million company regulations, and then wiggle out of paying their fair share of taxes by calling them “independent contractors.” Fun’s over, Assholes.

If you want to decide whether these FedEx workers are employees or independent contractors, take the “DUUHH” test: they use FedEx equipment, they wear FedEx uniforms and they work under strict FedEx rules. Independent contractors???


Fish.Travel