Archive for the ‘General’ Category

“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.”

Guess the Party!

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Hey, gang, let’s play a game. It’s called “Guess the Party!” Oh, come on! It’ll be fun! The rules are simple. You read the story of a politician in legal trouble and try to guess whether said politician is a “culture of corruption” Republican or of some other party that is not the “culture of corruption” Republican Party. Okay, let’s play!

The young mayor of Detroit has been trying hard to take out of the news the sexual pecadillos and subsequent difficulties of New York governors. Apparently, he’s had an affair and he’s been charged with perjury and obstruction of justice regarding it. I am no more concerned about mayor Kilpatrick’s alleged sexual conquests than I’ve been with those of the various governors of New York or past presidents of the United States. My interest here is this: Corey Williams of Associated Press has written a 300 plus word article chronicling the issue and not once mentioned the party affiliation of Mayor Kilpatrick. Has AP ever written a story about a Republican in legal trouble without identifying the party affiliation in the lead paragraph?

Why is it that, when a politician who is not a “culture of corruption” Republican get’s into legal trouble, reporters lose all interest in party affiliation but when “culture of corruption” Republicans do, it is the first and most vital piece of information about which the reader must be informed? I’m stumped.

By the way, mayor Kilpatrick is a member of one of the two major political parties but is not a “culture of corruption” Republican…but you’ll have to look somewhere other than this article to find that out.

Now wasn’t that fun?

Why Spitzer Had to Go?

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

Here’s another one sent to me by Chris – this time by my son Chris rather than my friend-since-ninth-grade Chris: http://www.brasschecktv.com/page/291.html As the link points out, the takedown of Elliott Spitzer for admittedly sleazy behavior, using what should have been confidential FBI information, took place shortly after he publicly pointed out the role of the Bush administration in creating the subprime mortgage mess by blocking the efforts of the state attorneys general to regulate lenders and investigate predatory lending. It sort of reminds me of the way Nixon used the IRS as his personal political hit team against people that made his enemies list.

Paint me Skeptical

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

15-famous-drunks.jpg
Reading over a fluff piece on CNN about preferences of beer vs. wine drinkers for political candidates, I came across this:

Overall, 28 percent of all Americans say they prefer beer to wine and 31 percent say they would rather have a glass of wine than a bottle of brew. (The rest claim that they never drink under any circumstances.) — CNN

41% teetotal???? Having spent time in the grocery store at least once a week for-freaking-ever, I have to say the beer and wine jiggling down the conveyors doesn’t lend itself to that conclusion, and I live in the south. So, tell me, do you think that 41% figure holds water in your neck of the woods?

Picture via Danny Hellman Illustration Blog
Famous Drunks, starting in the lower left corner, progressing from left to right, bottom to top: Charles Bukowski, Tallulah Bankhead, Oliver Reed, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jackie Gleason, Brendan Behan, The Pogues’ Shane McGowan, Ozzy Osborne, Winston Churchill, Kingsley Amis, Guided By Voices’ Robert Pollard, Red Sox pitcher David Wells, Modern Drunkard publisher Frank Kelly Rich, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner.

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.

Dear President Bush, Thanks For The STD!

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

One of George Bush’s educational mainstays beyond the nutty notion that bringing mediocrity to our schools via No Child Left Behind is good was “abstinence only” education. Of course, what does that get you? Apparently, uneducated kids with large amounts of STDs.

The first national study of four common sexually transmitted diseases among girls and young women has found that one in four are infected with at least one of the diseases, federal health officials reported Tuesday.

How much did it cost us to learn that abstinence education really is a flop (not unlike energy deregulation)?

“The national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure,” Ms. Richards said, “and teenage girls are paying the real price.”

I suggest all teens with STDs who were forced into abstinence only courses send a nice post card to the Whitehouse and to George Bush saying “Thanks for the STD, Mr. Bush.”

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.

What? Nothing yet on the Spitzer scandal? [Edit: I see I’m not the first]

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Very well then, allow me to be the first [Edit: I see someone beat me to posting on this.]. It is being reported that Eliot Spitzer, Democratic Governor of New York, has been ‘caucusing’ with some pretty high class and expensive prostitutes. When I say expensive, I mean in the $1,000 and $5,500 per hour, $50,000 per week-end range. He at least has the decency to avoid the “wide stance” style defense and is considering resigning. He’s made his apologies. Spitzer hasn’t been charged with a crime, yet, although, depending upon how he paid for the services, he could be charged with a crime worth up to five years in prison if he attempted to conceal the source and purpose for the payment, which I think it likely that he almost certainly would have done. The question is, what now?

Can he — should he — stay in office? Of course if he committed a crime, even if he’s not indicted for it, he probably will have to resign. After all, as chief executive for New York, he’s the guy at the head of setting policy for prosecutions and the administration of justice in the state. How would it look to have someone who committed a crime while in that position to stay in office. And, of course, if he’s convicted of a crime, he’ll be forced to resign or be impeached as I doubt he can run the state from his prison cell.

But what if he committed no crime? After all, presidents have engaged in sexual daliances while in office — Kennedy and Clinton spring immediately to mind but they certainly don’t exhaust the list — why should governors resign just because they’ve been caught in extra-curricular activities? Spitzer isn’t even splitting hairs over what the definition of ‘is’ is.

This also raises the question, peripherally, of whether prostitution should be illegal at all? The Libertarian in me says “No” but the Christian moralist in me says “Yes.” The ‘we mustn’t enact Christian morals into law in a secular nation’-ist in me says “I’m not sure that there aren’t sufficient societal harms involved in prostitution to keep it illegal even without questions of religious scruple but it’s possible that those societal harms aren’t mostly the result of its being illegal” so I just don’t know.

Anyway, what do you all think?

Irrational fear of foreign culture or accurate social commentary?

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

I report, you decide.

Mark Steyn recently authored the book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, a book which may appear to European multiculturalists and American liberals as the rantings of a hateful, zenophobic rube and to Muslim groups as the textual equivalent of a hate-crime, the mere publication of which constitutes a human rights violation (e. g., Steyn and Maclean’s magazine may have to face investigations by Canadian Human Rights commissions at the instigation of a group of Canadian Muslim law studens at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and the Canadian Islamic Congress; Steyn for having published the book and Maclean’s for having published an extract from the book) for suggesting, as I understand his thesis, that unassimilated Muslims, invited by European nation states to alleviate the problems presented by the demographic declines of their own native populations — populations that are growing older and are demanding to be kept by their bloated welfare states in the fashion in which they’ve become accustomed to demand — are posing a threat to the very democratic institutions and free culture that the Muslims were invited into and this precisely because many of those Muslims refuse to assimilate to their host culture and because their hosts refuse to demand that they do; that the diminishing fertility rate of Western Europeans in these states will eventually see the native Western Europeans be overtaken by the higher fertility rates of those Muslims in their midst; that violent overthrow of these cultures (though violence is already apparent in these countries) will ultimately be unnecessary since, once in the majority, Muslims in Europe will be able to exercise their vote to turn Europe into Eurostan. Indeed, some of these countries have been making said accomodations while Muslims are still minorities, perhaps to stave off violence.

But that’s not what I’m particularly interested in at the moment. What I’d like to focus on is this post by Steyn on The Corner, the group blog at National Review Online because, whatever the merits or demerits of the thesis of his book, I think he makes an interesting point. Quoting from and commenting on a column in the Boston Herald, Steyn writes:

‘A while back I mentioned Harvard’s decision to ban men from its pool and fitness center six times a week in the interests of “accommodating” Muslim women. Our pal Michael Graham picks up the theme:

In the old days, Harvard would have laughed if some Catholic or evangelical mother urged “girls-only” campus workouts in the name of modesty. Today, Harvard happily implements Sharia swim times in the name of Mohammed.

At Harvard, that’s called progress.

‘Well put. And thus “progress” comes full circle. In Minneapolis last year, the airport licensing authority, faced with a mainly Muslim crew of cab drivers refusing to carry the blind, persons with six-packs of Bud, slatternly women, etc, proposed instituting two types of taxis with differently colored lights, one of which would indicate the driver was prepared to carry members of identity groups that offend Islam. Forty years ago, advocating separate drinking fountains made you a racist. Today, advocating separate taxi cabs or separate swimming sessions makes you a multiculturalist.

‘Every society has culturally self-segregating groups - the Amish and whatnot. But they’re usually in small numbers somewhere out on the edge of the map. In Europe and Canada, the self-segregating group happens to be the principal source of population growth, which presents a profound challenge to societal cohesion. America does not face the same scale of problem, but nevertheless “sharia creep” ought to be resisted before it becomes remorseless. The rest of Michael’s column goes on to explain why that doesn’t happen: at Harvard and elsewhere, bigshot Saudi princes waving gazillion-dollar checks are in effect buying silence about one of the central questions of the day - Islam’s relationship with the west.’

Thus endeth Steyn. This is a good point. Suppose the Phelpses demanded that American universities institute separate exercise and swiming times for gays and straights because they can’t bear the thought of straight Americans sweating or appearing in revealing swimwear in the presence of gays? Oh how the howls would be heard from liberals around the country but how does that substantially differ from Muslims demanding separate exercise and swimming periods for Muslim women over religious and cultural concerns for modesty? Isn’t there a tinge of “separate but equal” here? Sure, granted that we’re not talking about seperate facilities here but merely times when the majority is excluded for the sake of the minority but how is separate for the sake of a minority discriminatory interest any more equal than separate for the sake of a majority discriminatory interest. Doesn’t the evil of discriminatory practices consist in the fact that they are discriminatory? And this is doubly discriminatory in that it tends to (a) perpetuate the Muslim discrimination against women — they’re weak, must be protected by men, cannot be trusted to participate fully in society with men without either drawing to themselves unwanted sexual advances from men or, worse, lasciviously inviting said sexual advances — and (b) it deliberately excludes men during those periods? Or is discrimination that perpetuates discriminatory stereotypes of Muslim women for the sake of a minority (Muslims in America) somehow ethically pure while discrimination that perpetuates discriminatory stereotypes of gays for the sake a majority (straights in America) or discriminatory stereotypes of women is evil? Or, more succinctly:

Forty years ago, advocating separate drinking fountains made you a racist. Today, advocating separate taxi cabs or separate swimming sessions makes you a multiculturalist.

I don’t call this progress. I call it capitulation to demands for special treatment based upon religious scruple. If the Phelpses can’t bear the thought of exercising or swiming in the presence of gays, they can damn well stay home or move somewhere where gays are hanged. If Muslims can’t bear the thought of their women showing skin in the presence of men, they can keep them covered head to toe, locked away at home or move somewhere where women are gang-raped for the crime of appearing in public insufficiently covered or imprisoned and beaten for the crime of appearing in public unaccompanied by a family member.

Or am I committing a hate crime for even suggesting this?

Institutions that would not dream of making exclusionary and discriminatory accomodations for the religious scruples of Christians should not be making such accomodations for Muslims.


Fish.Travel