Category Archives: Commentary

Who you gonna call?

Celebrities are not like the rest of us.

How do we know?

Try this simple test.

You’re in a serious car accident. You’re injured. You might be bleeding. Other passengers definitely need medical attention.

You scramble for your cell phone.

You dial:

A. 9-1-1.
B. 9-1-1.
C. 9-1-1.
D. 9-1-1.
E. Jodie Foster

If you are a celebrity, the correct answer is “E.”

I mean seriously. Call 9-1-1? Why on earth would anyone do that? That just brings the police and EMT’s! Jodie’s buddy Mel Gibson would be the first person after Lindsay Lohan to tell you that’s the last thing you want to happen.

Which is why when celebrity yogurt spokesperson Jamie Lee Curtis was in an accident recently she did the right thing and called Jodie. Who rushed to the scene to help.

Possibly because even though she’s not a real doctor, she’s a good enough actor to play one if she wanted to.

And the question is:

Why is sex for money illegal when it’s called prostitution …

but legal when it’s called porn?

And the Answer is:

Rupert Murdoch

The Question: We have children going hungry, income inequality at historic levels, global warming, catastrophic weather, Republicans across the nation rolling back women’s rights on everything from equal pay to sexual harassment to reproductive choice, yet instead of meaningful, in-depth coverage of these or other vital issues we get mind-numbingly inane animal updates. Why?

Actual headlines I just copied off CNN:

Northeast

South

Midwest

West

What the hell is wrong with these people?

Okay. So maybe I’m feeling a little bent out of shape because I made cranberry sauce today and every time I turned my back on the burner, the sauce boiled over, creating a gooey, black, scorched mess which I’d clean up only to have it happen again. And again.

But, despite that, I really don’t think I’m overreacting to a story in which some anonymous, self-identified “experts” at “U.S. News Travel” name America’s Best Fries.

The question that always pops into my little head whenever I see a “best of” list is this: How can they know? Did they go to every single restaurant in every single state (and to be fair every territory as well because if you’re canvassing the nation then it really should be the whole empanada)?

I don’t think so.

So exactly HOW do they come up with the list?

I don’t even know who “they” are – or what makes them the deciders but I’m pretty sure it’s not anyone who has eaten his/her/their way from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters or from sea to shining sea. Unless, of course, they skipped almost everything in between. Because we’re talking fries here and by the time they traveled from Maine to New York they’d have gained 451 pounds and never made it further than New Jersey.

I’m also pretty sure they believe in the power of google. Or yelp. Or both.

But the strongest possibility is: they just make it up. A couple of drunk food elitists choosing random words out of a paper bag, putting together phrases like “Vietnamese pineapple mayo.”

That’s right. I’m betting they not only haven’t eaten at every single restaurant in every single state – I’m also betting they probably haven’t even eaten at every restaurant on their list. After all – what red-blooded American would order onion-flavored fries with chive crème fraîche? That’s right – they wouldn’t! Probably because they couldn’t pronounce it.

Let’s review. Fries are spuds, traditionally cut into long, thin, four-sided strips, deep fried until golden brown in some kind of fat that’s not good for you so you don’t ask too many questions about it (unless you’re allergic to peanuts in which case you definitely want to know if it’s peanut oil), sprinkled with salt then (if you’re a purist) shoved into your mouth while still too hot giving you that awful pizza burn feeling.

Or you may prefer a healthy dose of ketchup, not catsup, which should always be Heinz  which really is better even though I don’t know why. And which should always be served in a glass bottle, never in those wussy little paper cups that collapse when you empty them, splashing the contents all over your lap.

The only permissible ketchup options are 1) dumping half the bottle directly on top of the fries or 2) dumping half the bottle in a huge blob next to the fries. (Which, if it’s really Heinz and not catsup poured into a Heinz bottle you will not be able to dump anyway. But it could explode.)

I suspect a Canadian plot. After all, poutine made the list, the Canadian national comfort food involving fries, brown gravy, and cheese curds, which, when not being eaten, makes an excellent wallpaper paste.

But whatever you do, even if you are Canadian you are not going to “dip a homestyle purple fry in zesty chipotle aioli.” Or order “fries covered in cheese curd, house-made duck gravy, chives and a duck egg.” Or eat “boats of fries … smothered with onions, peanut satay, mayonnaise and honey sambaal.”

And no sober person would ever add “goat cheese fries coupled with a raspberry sauce” to the “best of” list.

Ever.

So it must have been some drunk Canadians, eh?

How Not to Save the Planet

I just did something that very likely no adult human being has ever done before: I got expelled from the YMCA.

That’s not the exact terminology they used, but that’s what they meant.

What really surprised me though is how unsurprised some people who know me were when they heard the news.

Wait – it’s not what it seems. It’s just that I’m living proof that “no good deed goes unpunished.” You’d think I’d know better by now.

It all started when I noticed cans and bottles in the trash at the Y. All the local branches of the Y. The Y being an organization which claims that “social responsibility” is one of its prime directives.

And I noticed that the large, wall mounted, flat screen TV’s were always on. Dozens of them. All the time. In all the local branches of the Y. Even when no one was in the room.

So one day I turned them off, not knowing I had just stepped onto the primrose path that would lead me straight to hell. Which turns out is a word I’m not supposed to use in front of little pip-squeaks who have Napoleonic complexes — but I digress.

A staffer immediately began following me, turning them all back on.

Because, it seems, it was the Y policy that all the TV’s be on all the time. So that members would know the Y was open. (Being unable to see the lights, the staff, the other members, or the “open” sign on the door under the posted hours of operation.)

This is when I took my second step down that path: I decided the policy seemed silly. I would save the planet.

So I asked a staff member who I should talk to about recycling options and saving energy and the staff member took my name and number and said someone would call. Six months later, when nobody ever did I tried again.

This comedy routine went on for 2 years.

Eventually I realized I might need a more direct approach so I emailed the Director of Administration my concerns and questions, foolishly assuming that person might know something about “Administration.” After three days with no response, I emailed again. Two days later, I received this answer to my detailed list of concerns and questions: “Thank you for being a YMCA member and for sharing your member experience.”

I tried again. And again. And again. (Yes, I’m stupid.) “Thank you again for your support of the YMCA.”

So I emailed the Director of Facility Operations my concerns and questions, foolishly assuming that person might know something about “Facility Operations.” The next day he wrote, “thank you for your concerns, they are noted.”

I tried again. And again. And again. (Yes, I’m stupid.)

Eventually the little pip-squeak with a Napoleonic complex Director of Membership Services contacted me (after the other two forwarded my emails to him instead of answering me).

We met. He wouldn’t answer questions. After telling me he didn’t recycle at home he refused to discuss recycling further. He changed the subject. He wanted to know if I was a Christian. And what kind of car I drove. And when I asked what the hell he blustered like the mini-flyweight poppycock he is and told me I couldn’t use that sort of language in front of him while I wondered if he’d ever been in the weight room when one of the guys dropped a weight on their foot.

But after I asked for the 25th time why the TV’s had to be on all the time, he told me that TV’s must be on because when he began working here, the person who trained him (who is no longer there) told him the Y’s “policy” (which is not in writing) is to leave all the televisions on all the time the Y’s are open.

He refused to discuss changing the policy or to allow members the choice to turn them on or off as they wished. He insisted he was the final authority on the subject and there was no one above him I could speak to about it.

This of course meant I had to find someone above him to talk to. This was a mistake.

I went to the “Annual Membership Meeting.” Which of course meant I was the only member there.

Did I mention I was the only member there?

And that this was the “Annual Membership Meeting.” Specifically for members?

And, earlier that day, the staff at the front desk told me the meeting never had an agenda, they never use one?

And when I walked into that meeting, sitting on the entrance table, next to a blank sign-in sheet, was a stack of the non-existent agendas that are never used?

Did I have enough sense to leave right then?

No.

Even though staff had told me the Board of Directors (25 of them) attended the “Annual Membership Meeting.” And only 3 of them bothered to show up?

No.

And did the chair of the board of directors (who chaired this meeting), when he saw that I was the only member present for the meeting, pitch the agenda (which they don’t use anyway) and talk to me?

No.

Instead, after he laboriously went through every item listed and came to the last item on the agenda, “member feedback,” I stood, handed him a summary of my concerns (both environmental – let’s recycle and save energy –  and the lack of responsiveness to and communication with members which might explain why I was the only member there) and went over them.

And did he say he’d take them to the Board as I asked?

Bwa-ha-ha-ha! No.

Instead, the CEO sitting next to him glared at me, announced he knew all about me, that all conversations with me had been documented and they had fully responded to me.

Flabbergasted, I asked how to cancel my (prepaid for the next year) membership and get a refund. The CEO told me the front desk could tell me. When I stopped on the way out, they told me they didn’t know how.

A few days later, I came home to find a message from the CEO. In a preemptive strike which would only make sense to Kim Jung Un, he announced he had suspended my membership effective immediately. No mention of a refund.

He explained that [unidentified] “they” had been watching me and several [unidentified] people had concerns about my [unidentified] conduct.

Nobody ever told me that saving the planet might make you paranoid.

Thought for the Day

At least concrete jungles don’t have ticks.

Now this is just nasty.

What do you want to bet he’s not talking about his back? From a real ad:

Middle aged man needs assistance with a shaving service. Please contact me for more details. Needs done every 4-6 weeks. $150.00

Dear Texas,

Even though you like yellow roses, you are (and seem determined to remain) a red state. You know who you are and that’s a bible-thumping, state-flag-waving, big-government hating, free-market-loving, regulation-slashing, secession-minded group of Republican cowboys.

I’m cool with that.

You believe in the second amendment but not the first, think prayers and guns should be let into schools but critical thinking skills kept out, and that businesses don’t need to be regulated because as conscientious citizens they will self-regulate.

Your elected officials believe victims of Hurricane Sandy should fend for themselves because that’s what states’ rights, local control, and personal responsibility are all about. Because real liberty means we all must live with the consequences of our choices and if you choose to live in a godless place like New York or New Jersey, when you get devastated by a hurricane of biblical proportions, that’s just the result of your choice (and possibly ordained by God who hates liberals and anybody who isn’t Texan but most especially the heretics who live in places that let gay people marry) and you should pull up your bootstraps and not expect a handout from honest, hard-working people who don’t believe in handouts.

Unless the victims are god-fearing Texans.

Which happened recently when one of those self-regulated businesses blew up, taking a large part of a small Texas town and its residents with it.

After which two Republicans who voted against federal aid for victims of Hurricane Sandy asked for federal aid for the victims in West, Texas.

A request also made by “Lone Star” state Governor Rick Perry who announced that Texas believes in independence in everything but receiving federal tax dollars.

“But we as a nation can’t turn our backs on such terrible suffering” you might say and you are probably right, even if part of the suffering might be because that same governor made so many “business friendly” decisions and, among other choices, reduced oversight and slashed funding to volunteer fire departments  – while giving hefty tax cuts to private corporations.

And that West Fertilizer Company (which owns the plant that exploded) is a private corporation.

Which had been storing 1,350 times the amount of explosive ammonium nitrate that would normally trigger safety oversight by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). But which did not report the potentially explosive fertilizer as it was required to do.

Perhaps because it had a “risk management plan” that said “the company did not believe it was storing or handling any flammable substances and didn’t list fire or an explosion as a danger.”

The same plan that listed the “worst-case scenario” as an “accidental release of [gaseous] anhydrous ammonia.”

The same plan that said “there was no risk of fire or explosion.”

The same plan that “did not cite a possible explosion of ammonium nitrate.”

In a plant that had “no sprinklers. No firewalls. No water deluge systems” or any other safety mechanisms installed.

In a plant that hadn’t been inspected by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration since 1985.

The plant that was storing 270 tons of highly volatile ammonium nitrate fertilizer that should have been reported to the Department of Homeland Security but was not.

So that the volunteer firefighters had no idea they were fighting a fire that could – and did – turn into a massive fireball capable of flattening buildings for blocks in every direction. While they were at the epicenter of that explosion instead of a safe distance away.

Which is why, Texas, I have to ask: shouldn’t this be something your fabled “free market” will resolve to everyone’s satisfaction? With the self-regulating company liable for all the damages and loss of life?

Because, in keeping with your dearly beloved GOP principles, when a private company blows up a town, shouldn’t the private company pay for it? And be held personally – maybe even criminally – responsible?

Isn’t that what a big-government hating, free-market-loving, regulation-slashing, secession-minded group of Republican cowboys would really want?

Thank you and I look forward to your prompt response.

Damn good letter

Sometimes I surprise myself by writing something which I think is actually decent. Other times I surprise myself by thinking that and actually being right. Other times I surprise myself by stumbling across an old letter in a stack of papers (those who criticize my filing system don’t understand it) and realizing I need to share it with the world. I may be wrong, but permit me the occasional delusion.

June 27, 2012

The Atlantic
600 New Hampshire Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037

Dear Sir or Madame,

I had never heard of “Elizabeth Wurtzel” before. Something which – in light of her self-absorbed, self-importance – she would probably consider an impossibility.

Little did I know that anyone other than George Will could earn a living merely by being sufficiently insufferable.

Then I read 1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible, which I at first mistook for an ill-advised, deeply flawed attempt at satire before realizing the author was, in fact, taking herself seriously as she made pronouncements on a subject about which she knows little and understands even less.

Here’s what she said (in fewer than fifty words): women only have value if they get paid. Being a mom is not a job. If women don’t have a job because they choose to be a stay-at-home mom, their husbands think all women are dumb. And THAT is the reason for the war on women.

And here are some of the gobsmackingly astounding things she wrote.

Who can possibly take feminism seriously when it allows everything, as long as women choose it? The whole point to begin with was that women were losing their minds pushing mops and strollers all day without a room or a salary of their own.

Wow. Just wow. I mean – the whole point of the feminist movement was allowing women the freedom of being able to choose because women were sick of having no choices, of being treated as inferior beings, denied equal opportunities and treated disparately because of their gender.

And no, it wasn’t that women “were losing their minds” – merely that being treated as property (or children) by a patriarchal society, limited to narrow roles in home, schools, and the workforce was intolerable in a society which pretended to offer liberty and justice for all.

Got pregnant? You’re fired. Got married? You’re fired. Won’t have sex with me? You’re fired. Want sports? Forget it. Want to be a lawyer, a pilot, a doctor, a dentist, a firefighter? Forget it. Want equal pay? Gee, you’re cute when you’re angry.

Let’s please be serious grown-ups: real feminists don’t depend on men. Real feminists earn a living, have money and means of their own.

Whoa! She doesn’t even realize that “real feminists” often are men. And that “real feminists” believe that opportunities and rights should not be denied or abridged on account of sex (which works for both genders – including Mr. Moms.)

This woman claims to be a lawyer – so she should be well acquainted with the established principle recognized by the courts that marriages are economic partnerships and each partner contributes value even if not a paycheck. And that, by law, it’s not “his” paycheck – it’s hers too.

All of which those same courts take into account when dividing assets in divorce proceedings. That male executive who worked his way up the corporate ladder to the multimillion dollar salary? He was able to do so because his worthless stay-at-home wife was his unpaid assistant, entertaining clients at dinner parties, organizing charitable fund-raising events, buying the gifts and sending the cards that resulted in profitable business deals, and taking care of their home so he could focus on business instead of the mundane details of life that drag people down – things like picking up the dry cleaning.

And it is those ladies – those stay-at-home wives in wealthy families (who, after all, don’t get a pay check) – who she uses to condemn all the fairer sex as failures unless they have a real job – you know, one with a real pay check. Without one you just aren’t equal. Because “there really is only one kind of equality … and it’s economic. If you can’t pay your own rent, you are not an adult. You are a dependent.”

[T]hese women are the reason their husbands think all women are dumb … As it happens, fewer than 5 percent of the CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies, 16 percent of corporate executives, and 17 percent of law partners are female. The men, the husbands of the 1 percent, are on trading floors or in office complexes with other men all day, and to the extent that they see anyone who isn’t male it’s pretty much just secretaries and assistants.

There you have it: the reason women earn less than men, the reason women hit a glass ceiling, the reason women are not 51% of CEO’s, corporate executives, law partners – or elected officials – is their own fault. It has nothing to do with discrimination, with centuries of being chattel, of having few to no rights, with living in a society where the power continues to remain vested primarily with white males.

It’s all “because feminism has misread its mission of equality” and “being a mother isn’t really work.”

In other words: being equal means you don’t have the right to choose.

Perhaps you feel controversy might help you sell magazines. At least let the controversy be based on well-informed and well-reasoned (if differing) opinions. Not pretentious, pompous poop like this.

Sincerely,
Wisconsinwit

Poor people using food stamps don’t look poor enough; Republicans propose new rules to address concerns

Continuing his party’s laser-like focus on jobs, (Republican) Wisconsin State Senator Glenn Grothman has decided it’s time to reform the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the Food Stamp program (called “FoodShare” in Wisconsin).

As he announced in his recently released public statement, “Time to Reform Food Stamps,” the primary reason behind reform is that the people receiving assistance just don’t look poor enough to be getting help.

“Observations of people who work in food stores indicate that many people who use food stamps do not act as if they are genuinely poor. Routinely top brand names are purchased instead of generics. Some people claiming to be ‘poor’ might even buy cigarettes – or worse – a beer.

One not-poor person even told me that her cousin’s next-door neighbor’s best friend’s husband can tell who is on food stamps and who is not by what’s in their shopping cart: the ‘poor’ people always buy steak and lobster.

I’ve interviewed people who check out people who pay with food stamps and all felt people on food stamps ate better – or at least more costly – than they did. Food stamp recipients must be getting unreported income, or living with someone with income who social services is unaware of, because it’s apparent that something is wrong. Obviously the average monthly benefit of 116.50 for one person – $26.88 a week! – is far in excess of the amount of assistance actually needed.

And then there’s the issue of appearance. These so-called ‘poor’ people redeem their food stamps with hair that’s been washed and combed and while wearing clothing like you or me instead of rags. While I’m not an anti-poor person fanatic, I’ve always felt that if you can spend money on shampoo and new underwear, you’re not poor.

Another big consideration is weight. Lots of people claiming to be ‘poor’ are fat. Just look at them! In America, unlike other countries, the poor are heavier than the population at large. Poor children are twice as likely to be obese as children who are not poor. Obviously if someone is overweight they get enough to eat – why would they need our financial help to buy more food?

The legislature is always under pressure to increase subsidies for dental care for the poor. It would be doing them a favor to reduce help in that area as well. If they have no teeth, they can’t chew. If they can’t chew, they’ll eat less and thus be able to lose some of those extra pounds – so we could cut back on food stamps and dental care, saving precious tax dollars paid by hardworking taxpayers who aren’t sitting around on their keisters all day feeding at the public trough.

Finally, any program conditioned on lack of income has a certain amount of moral hazard connected with it. Insofar as anything goes in these programs it discourages work. It also encourages cheating to get into the program. We all know that a lack of morals is the cause of a lack of money.

As structured, these programs encourage bad dietary choices, encourage sloth, and insult the hard working because we all know the poor don’t work hard. It’s time for a change.

The easiest way to help poor people to higher income levels is to encourage them to look for better-paying jobs by cutting off their assistance. They’ll be better off in the long run.

Please let me know what you think on this issue. Contact me here in Madison 1-888-534-0058, or in any of the following ways:

Madison Address: P.O. Box 8952, Madison, WI 53708-8952
Home Number: 262-338-8061
E-Mail: rep.grothman@legis.state.wi.us”