Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ghetto Garden Produce On Sale...Only Free 99

A handful of carrots.

Non-salmonella tainted tomatoes.

Pod people, I mean, cucumbers starting to vine. (This one's Boston Pickling.)

A forest of exotic tomato plants.

A massive broccoli plant that won't produce any broccoli.

Lettuce go then, you and I
When the evening is spread out against the sky...

Angelina in the Grass

Complete with unfortunate baby mullet.

Right Wing Ideas....Vindicated

So the Arctic might be ice-free as early as this summer, but Al Gore is still a hypocrite and a liberal and Exxon-Mobil's profitability is still driving our current economic growth. A rising tide of gas prices lifts all boats. (Or is that household budgets?)

So North Korea destroyed their only nuclear reactor and agreed not to pursue a nuclear program. All without firing a single shot, creating a single refugee, or dividing a single neighborhood. Diplomacy obviously doesn't work. (And meanwhile, the only person tortured is President Bush as he signs the agreement.)

If you thought $4 a gallon is nothing, just wait till we bomb Iran.

Rising food prices getting you down? Don't worry. That salmonella infected tomato is going to double in price when we finally kick all the illegal immigrants out of this country. Maybe then it'll be more economical to grow your own.

Worried about gay people getting married? Don't be. Larry Craig, who likes to have sex with men in bathrooms, and David Vitter, who likes to visit prostitutes behind his wife's back, are going to make sure that the sanctity of marriage remains intact. Don't worry, though. The government doesn't want to tell you who to marry. They just want final approval.

Why I never registered Republican, I'll never know...

Markets Uber Alles!

You know, Megan McArdle makes me grit my teeth, which is kind of sad because I like her self-deprecating style and her ability to convey what she's talking about. But I find the everything-is-a-market undertone to her analysis annoying to the point of being nearly enraged by it.

Sometimes a market is a market. Sometimes a market is just a metaphor. I've found that many Ayn Rand-loving libertarians, like McArdle, can't tell the difference. To them, even non-economic functions (like interpersonal relationships) become subject to the rules and whims of the market.

I, for one, am glad that my parents chose parental love rather than some kind of cost-benefit ratio as the guiding force behind my upbringing. I can see my Mom saying, "Man, 30 some years later and I'm still not getting a return on my investment. I really should consider divesting my interest in my son and seeking more profitable opportunities."

Actually, no. I can't see my Mom, or any other mother who deserves the title, saying that.

Human behavior is governed by stronger forces than supply and demand. The human mind is motivated by more complicated impulses than self interest or the desire for profit. And while I recognize the power of markets, I also recognize the limits of metaphor.

Which is perhaps why I found this post so galling.

She writes:
Another reader asks for a post on the economics of keeping chickens, or a goat; and/or having a vegetable garden.

Hmm. Well, the most valuable concept you need here is that of opportunity cost. The opportunity cost is the next best alternative use of an asset--in this case, your time.

The correct answer is: Economically speaking, it's cheaper and easier to just buy your food at the store.

If you're looking for an economic reason to grow your own food, you're not going to find it. All this crap about "opportunity costs" and "time as an asset" is just that, crap, familiar economic buzzwords that comfort someone who has no clue what she's talking about.

I can only speak for myself, but I have a handful of motivations for my gardening fetish: The desire to be self-sufficient plays a small part, a very small part considering my growing capacity, which implies a conscious effort NOT to participate in the market. The desire to influence one's environment, to be creative, to be nurturing, all of this plays as a much bigger factor than anything economic.

None of these things come with a price tag attached. But that won't stop economists like McArdle from trying to squeeze them into some kind of market.

I guess that's a job hazard when you're an economic fundamentalist. You start believing that the world spins on market forces alone.

Statistically Irrelevent

I read this alarming column on the sad (and continuing) state of our economy and after reading it, I started to get a little scared. I live in a single income household, with a mortgage and an outstanding loan and all the other bills that come with it and sometimes I think I can barely keep it together, and that's without the shocks and stumbles of the larger economy.

But the truth is, my contribution to the economy is statistically irrelevant. What I make and spend in a year is literally pennies when compared to the multi-million dollar deals that truly fuel the world economy. In the big scheme of things, my contribution (and responsibility) to the economy is so small that you would need an electron microscope just to see it.

If the economy were a multi-celled organism, I would be one cell. No, not even a cell. I would be a single protein in the nucleus of a cell. A small piece of a small piece of a small piece, microscopic even by microscopic standards.

Chances are, you are in the same boat.*

I guess what I'm trying to say is that when John Edwards talked about the "two Americas," he was only half-right. There are two Americas, but it's not rich-versus-poor. It's the super-rich versus everyone else.

I mean, I'm not poor by any standard. I have a home that I own, a vehicle, clean water, food in the cupboard, perishables in the fridge, and even when I spend my way down to almost nothing, my next paycheck is never more than two weeks away. I made more money last year than I ever have in my life.

But I have no hope of accumulating enough wealth to compete with the kind of corporate interests that truly control the world. Almost no one does, no matter how hard you work, how virtuous you are, or what economic policies are in place. According to one number I found (taken with the proverbial grain of salt, as all Googled information should be) there are 793 billionaires in the world.

To put that in perspective, it's about .00001% of the world's population, an infinitesimally small portion. You are more likely to be born with a conjoined twin than you are to become a billionaire. That's how rare it is.

That's not to say I wish there were less billionaires in the world. I don't. I'm just saying that this this crappy's not my problem. It's theirs.

Too bad that if things really go south, you can bet that the people whose net worth is wiped out won't be the billionaires. That would only be fair, and anyone who survived childhood knows, the world isn't fair.

* Any millionaires reading this are encouraged to click the Donate button to the right. It's tax-deductible and a good cause.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Love in Baghdad

When I heard the words "Lara Logan" and "sex scandal" in the same breath, my ears pricked up and I leaned forward in my seat, mouth agape and salivating for more. I thought she was married, which probably doesn't account for much being embedded for years in a war zone, but I never thought she was such a mynx.

When one hears of a steamy love triangle involving an attractive woman, the first impulse is to blame the woman, the little slut. But that doesn't account for the predatory behavior of the male animal, who in all likelihood fluttered around her like moths around a light where ever she went. It's not weakness or a lack of virtue that accounts for Lara's affairs; it's sheer statistical probability.

But Michael Ware? He of the crooked nose and uncontrollable twitch? He's been in the thick of it probably as long as she has, so it's natural that they would gravitate toward one another. They have a lot in common. But he's not as easy on the eyes.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Verdict

The city attorney read the police complaint, furrowed his brow, and without prompting from me said, "I don't understand. They charged you with theft?" He read through it again, this time aloud, clarifying the facts, clearing up the inaccuracies. (No, I didn't say "Fuck off." I said, "No speakee ingles.")

I showed him the "Unlawful Dumping" section of the Municipal Code and said I should be charged with that. He agreed, dropped the theft charge, said that I shouldn't have to pay a fine for unlawful dumping (a minor code violation) because I had already paid to get my truck out of impound.

Also, he was waiving court costs.

I thanked him, signed my name, and went before the judge. He seemed surprised that no fine or court costs were levied, but he accepted my plea. (The City Attorney told me that he had never done that before and considered it his good deed of the day.)

So I walked right by the cashier's window and out the door, smug in the glory of justice served.

Take that, Aurora PD!

My Drive Thru

I love this song, even though I don't have many positive feelings about Julian Casablancas. I do like Pharrell though, and this Santogold dude chick has a cool little voice.

Anyway, I'm off to court to resolve that trash dumping situation. It's going to go one of two ways. The city attorney is going to drop the criminal charges and cite me for a code violation, or I'm taking this thing to trial and we'll see what a jury thinks about the city selective interpretation of their own laws.

Wish me luck.

Kill the Alligators Too!

I should say that I'm also against alligators. (Ouch.)

And sharks.

I realize that I'm singling out perfectly evolved killing machines, but hey...their time has passed. It's our time now, dammit!

Reliably Ridiculous

Some things just naturally follow each other. Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute will be followed by a splat. Approaching a cop with a knife will get you shot.

And when Don Imus says something stupid, CNN is going to call Al Sharpton to see what he thinks.

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

I don't have a personal relationship with the guy or anything, but from what I know about Jesus, I don't think he'd have very kind things to say about James Dobson.

Matthew 7:15-20

Cui Bono?

Note to Republicans:

If a terrorist attack is good for the Republican party, then the Republican party is bad for America.

I know you've spent the last few years convincing yourselves that you have a monopoly on toughness and that a vote for Democrats is a vote for the apocalypse, but you can barely conceal your zeal for another terrorist attack. Don't deny it. You want another 9-11. You need one.

The American sheeple, sleeping so soundly in their liberal delusions, must be roused to the threat!! And the Republicans must cynically cling to power!

Also...remember this shit?

I've got a lot of quibbles with the Republican party, their hostility to gays, trying to push their values on my family, their fealty to making the rich richer, their holier-than-thou religiosity, but if there's one thing that makes me yearn for an embarrassing Republican defeat, it's their attempts to capitalize on terrorism.

Terrorism is a bad thing and it should be confronted. It shouldn't be promoted as a reason to vote for the guy with an R next to his name.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Are Low Taxes a Bigger Incentive than Big Money?

Interesting article here, but there's one thing about it that gets me and it's this:
By raising rates on upper income payers, Obama is reducing their incentive to work and take risks.

I think that's a dubious claim that makes sense on a certain level (low taxes encourage, high taxes discourages) but on another, more meaningful level it makes no sense at all.

I don't think there's many well-off people saying, "Nah, I don't want to make more money because that means I'll have to pay more taxes." If anything I think that increased tax liability might encourage them to make more money to compensate.

What do you think?

A Few Things

A) George Carlin died. I'm sad.

Not because he died. Geniuses like Carlin live forever.

I'm sad because I doubt we'll have two weeks of reverent memorials, live coverage of his funeral procession, interviews with his friends and family, and all the other shenanigans we got when Tim Russert died.

aa) (When I was a kid, my Dad and step mom banned us from watching any stand-up comedians on TV after I repeated a George Carlin bit about a flying fuck.)

B) In my reading tonight, I saw a couple posts (here and here) referring to a Paul Krugman op-ed about the benefits of renting versus owning. Herb had a few things to say in the comments. James says, "Do yourself a favor. Buy a house."

C) One term I think we need to ban from our lexicon is "flip-flop." Sometimes a flip-flop is a flip-flop. Sometimes it's a shoe. Most of the time, though, it's just a change of tactics and I think that's something we should encourage our political leaders to do. If your tactics aren't working, change them!

Take Obama's decision not to take public financing. The McCain campaign (as well as some pro-Obama people) are trying to paint this as a "flip-flop" as he had previously promised not to opt out of public financing.

Of course, that promise was made before he got funding from over a million small donors and realized he'd do better on his own. Is that a flip-flop? Or is that just an intelligent decision?

Consider this:

Before the famous "Rumble in the Jungle," Muhammad Ali told everyone exactly how he expected to beat George Foreman. "I'm gonna dance!" he said.

Of course, once he got in the ring with Foreman, he realized that he couldn't just dance Foreman to victory. He had to change tactics.

So he played the rope-a-dope and let Foreman pound on him. As Foreman gradually wore himself out, that's when Ali struck. A few hard rights later, Foreman was beat.

I have no doubt that if the political pundits of today were the sports writers of yesterday, they would call Ali a flip-flopper.

I'd call him something else: Victorious.

D) If I was a conservative Republican, which obviously I'm not, I'd demand that we expel Bill Kristol from the tribe. The guy is an embarrassment to hacks worldwide. I'm not sure why more wingers aren't quoting Ricky Roma: "What you're hired for is to help us...not to fuck us up!"

E) Bumper sticker I'd put on my truck: "LOVE LIKE YOU'VE NEVER BEEN HURT, DANCE LIKE NO ONE'S WATCHING, AND DRIVE LIKE YOU GOT SOMEWHERE TO GO!" Yes, I still have road rage issues.

F) Bumper sticker for an illegal immigrant: "I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who fills his belly with the food that I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it!"

G) Boxer shorts suck.

Deathwish for Crocodiles

Would you be upset if crocodiles went extinct? I wouldn't. Crocodiles suck.

What are they good for anyway?

(Yes, I'm watching the National Geographic channel again.)

Another Night in Lodo, Another Dead Shooting Victim

A gunbattle in Lodo? Looks like it...

Add that to the list of things that keep me out of Lodo:

Lack of parking, long lines, lame-ass cover charges, music so loud you can't think, clubs so crowded you can't move without spilling your drink, and apparently a preponderance of gangsters.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lara Logan on the Daily Show

I love this woman.

Love her.

Stop the Presses!!

Real headline I saw on Huffington Post.
My question: Who gives a fuck?

Proud of My Gay Brothers and Sisters

I didn't realize that Pridefest was going on this weekend, and so sadly for the first time in years, I will not be in attendance. I hope I won't lose my membership as an honorary member of PFLAG.

I do have a good excuse though. I sleep in the daytime.

I'll be there in spirit, fist raised in solidarity, but keep my spirit away from the drag queens. A straight guy can only be exposed to so many hirsute renditions of "I Will Survive," after all.

Company Killers: Intentionally Bad Customer Service

Last week I called Dish Network to cancel my account. The first time I called, I quite obviously reached a call center in India, you know, the heavy accent, the obvious scripting, the inability to understand me, the eventual disconnection during a transfer.

At that point, it further enforced my decision to cancel. I don't condone the "outsourcing to India" crap, not because I'm an anti-globalization fanatic or anti-India. It's because the whole "outsourcing to India" idea sacrifices decent service in the name of cost-savings, which I wouldn't mind so much if my bill reflected the cost savings, but that's not how it works. In corporate America, shit rolls downhill, but cost savings...cost savings almost always goes to profit-taking.

Yes, yes, Mr. CEO man, I know. I'm glad your share price went up and you met your financial targets, smoothing the way for your million dollar bonus, but how about providing some decent fucking service here, huh?

(The) Love (Guru) Stinks!

Now I don't feel like such a humorless dweeb...

Mike Myers's The Love Guru is getting universally panned.

Apparently I'm not the only one who's a little tired of Mike Myers's shtick.

(Yeah, sorry, Mike, making that "Did I just make a funny?" face with your raised eyebrow just isn't that funny...Even the Rock gave up on the eyebrow thing.)

Skinheads are Dumb

I'm watching a show on white supremacists on the National Geographic Channel and I just heard some skinhead clown say, "White people built this country and white people can destroy it."

I have no doubt that white people can destroy this country, but that guff about how "white people built this country" is pure bullshit. White people certainly had a hand, but they don't deserve all the credit.

This country was built on the backs of black slaves, Chinese laborers, and Mexican field hands. They weren't compensated fairly for their efforts and to this day any respect they get is grudgingly given.

Sad, but true. That's how we do things in America. We exploit poor non-white labor and not only do we claim all the benefit, we claim all the credit. "Outsourcing" and Chinese factories have replaced slavery and sharecropping as the main method of doing this these days. These modern methods are more humane, true, but the underlying dynamic --exploiting poor foreigners for domestic gain-- is the same.