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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stuff

I think more restaurants should implement no-tipping policies or include a gratuity surcharge on every ticket.  The reason:  People are assholes.   They can't do basic math to get the percentage right.  Or they can do the math, but think 10% is plenty.  Or they take the opportunity to comment on everything but the service.  I don't care if you're religious, political, or just a jerk:  cough up your buck or cook your own damn meals.

The Fish and Wildlife Service crushed 6 tons of ivory not too far from my house the other day.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  I'm not particularly hostile to elephants or the ivory trade.  But looking at these photos, I can't help but feel saddened at the loss of all this art.  Many of these pieces look hand-carved and frankly, quite amazing.  Sure, let's not kill elephants, but do we really have to destroy the products of all this human effort and expression?  What's next?  We're going to start burning leather-bound books?

And seriously....they invited stars of True Blood, Sex and the City and Ellen's old show to come?  That kinda indicates just how much of a showy, ineffective, self-aggrandizing move this is.  I'm with Matt Yglesias on this one:
By destroying the ivory, you create even more ivory scarcity and increase the incentives for future poaching. It seems like the more reasonable approach would be to arrest and punish human beings who are committing crimes, and then sell the seized ivory and use the proceeds to finance more anti-poaching efforts. 
I'm sure we could get some famous people to go to the auction, don't you?

Also:

This commercial for Volvo is pretty cool....but it's also pretty obviously fake.

(Updated...and it seems I forgot to embed the vid.  So here it is.)


There's no way a production company could get this kind of shoot insured without a whole bunch of (invisible?) safety equipment.  And he would agree to something so obviously dangerous?

Curious to see how it was done, I watched a behind the scenes video.  This guy is describing the stunt to Jean-Claude right there on the road way.  (This wasn't discussed in an office beforehand?)  And then Jean-Claude, who has never been a great actor, says, "And we're going to be driving forward, of course?" If that wasn't in the script, that's a question no one would ask.

Nope, you're going to be on a green screen.  Sorry, JC.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

War On Christmas

Sarah Palin has written another book just in time for Christmas.  It's called Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas and of course, it's a polemic against "Happy Holidays" and moaning about nativity scenes. 

First thought was...."Wow, how frivolous." 

Here she is a half-term governor and former Vice Presidential candidate, moaning that some people are not celebrating Christmas "properly."  Even if I thought that was true, I'm not sure I could go on about the subject for 256 pages about it.

But then again, I have an actual job and zero desire to separate suckers from their money.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Utter Uselessness of Libertarian Philosophy

The FDA is about to ban trans fats, and of course the Libertarians are going nuts about it.  They say, "If people want to eat trans fats, well, by golly, then they should be able to eat trans fats."

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:
And, in the end, if people make what some expert thinks is the “wrong” choice, then that choice ought to be accepted. Because that’s what you do when you let adults in a free society decide things for themselves.
The problem with this is that very few people choose to consume trans fats.  They chose to consume french fries or coffee creamer or frozen pies or microwave popcorn, and they get trans fats with it, not by default, not because trans fats are a necessary ingredients in any of these foods, but as a bonus of a food manufacturer's choice to use trans fats in place of more natural (and healthy) fats.

Ironically enough, many of these manufacturers have chosen to give up on trans fat on their own, without the FDA's intervention.  (Even McDonald's!)  Being actual rational actors in the business world, as opposed to ideological computers, they recognized that A) there is no real market for foods loaded with trans fats and B) health concerns justify switching to the alternative.

Libertarians,  on the other hand, are so stuck in ideological mode that they're creating out of the ether a choice that does not exist (choosing to eat trans fats), obscuring the choice that's actually been made (that is, by the food manufacturers), and moaning on and on about the Nanny State, asking themselves (as Doug Mataconis did):
If the FDA can ban trans fats, what’s next? Sugar and salt content? Caffeine content?
I don't know, but if you pull your head out of your ass, you might come up with a better question, like "Why should I be mad about this?" But instead, they're saying, "You can take my partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil from my cold, dead hands."

Okay.  If you insist....

Ruining Thanksgiving

My Mom asked me what time would be a good time to celebrate Thanksgiving and there was at least some acknowledgement that there is no good time for me.  Unlike most of the country, I'll be working ten hour shifts the night before and the night of Thanksgiving. 

That's right.  From the time I get off Thursday morning, I have exactly 14 hours before I must return.  Account for my commute, and that's 12 hours of free time.  Account for sleep, it's only about 4, maybe 5, hours.  And that's on a normal day.

Throw a Thanksgiving dinner in there --almost always when I should be sleeping-- and it becomes rather, um, inconvenient for me personally.  My Mom offered to change the time we're supposed to eat, but it doesn't matter.  If it doesn't start at 8AM and end by noon, it's going to be a hardship on me no matter how you cut it.

I mention this because we approach not just Thanksgiving, but also Black Friday, that ignoble time of year when retailers hoard their deep discounts and inventory overstocks, and then unleash them upon a gullible public eager to snap up "once-in-a-year" deals.

Now I personally won't be doing any Black Friday shopping. I'll probably be spending the day making up for all the sleep I missed on Thanksgiving, blissfully indifferent to all the deals other people are getting.

So I'm sympathetic to the people howling in rage that Wal-Mart and a lot of other big retailers are starting their Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving.  But I have to ask....what did you expect?

We have spent my entire life worshiping at the altar of unfettered capitalism.  During that time, income inequality has expanded to absurd proportions, and often in absurd ways.  (Example:  How many profitable sports teams have gotten taxpayers to build their stadiums?) 

Gone are the days when labor unions forced the wealthy to hoard less and share more.  The only protection workers have now is to change jobs, which --let's be honest-- is a fine solution in an always-booming economy, but is drastically inadequate if your economy has, you know, a business cycle.

I've tried "changing jobs" at a time of high unemployment and very little net job creation, and let me tell you.....it's not just difficult.  It's not even possible.

I have very little faith this will change anytime soon, or even in my lifetime.  In a world where you can get a good deal on a TV any day of the year, no one would need to stampede the Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving Day.  We do not live in that world.