On August 14, 2008, President Bush signed into law the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA). Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said of the new law “[t]his landmark law will strengthen our ability to prevent unsafe toys from being sold, remove from the shelves more quickly products that are found to be harmful, and increase fines and penalties for violating product safety laws.”
Unfortunately, the law of unintended consequences is working overtime on the CPSIA. A law intended to protect children from harmful products will do so partly by driving literally tens of thousands of small businesses and craftspeople out of business, and those businesses that survive will be saddled with tens of millions of dollars of unsellable inventory on their shelves and in their warehouses. Just as the U.S. needs an economic stimulus to create jobs, the CPSIA will add tens of thousands of people to the rolls of the unemployed.
The CPSIA is yet another example of a good idea – protecting children from toxic materials – gone horribly wrong. Continue reading →
I know a man, a man of a conservative bent, who gets downright irate anytime you use some variation or another of “tax cuts for the rich” in conversation. He can’t be taking it personally, I don’t suppose, since he isn’t rich and, as far as I can tell, he has no prospects for getting that way unless he happens to trip over a winning PowerBall ticket. So I guess you’d say he’s like Joe the Plumber and many millions more Americans who have very little, but want to make damned sure that they look after the interests of those who have everything.
People like this man are the reason I always giggle when I encounter political and economic theories that hinge on things like “rationality” and “informed self-interest.” Continue reading →
If you’re Chris Matthews and you’re attempting to regain a reputation for being “fair and balanced” after famously exhibiting excitement about Barack Obama and his presidential campaign, what do you do? How about facilitating a discussion about Obama’s proposed stimulus plan with two lawmakers from the same party, the Republican Party?
That’s precisely what Matthews did during a segment on his January 27 edition of Hardball, inviting only Senator John Ensign (R-Nevada) and Representative Mike Pence, the House Republican Conference Chair, to discuss the plan.
Now I understand Obama’s weird moves: dinner with those creepy conservative columnists, earnest meetings at the White House with the Republican leaders, a dramatic begging foray into Senate offices. Just as the Republicans say, it was all a fraud. Obama was pure Chicago, Boss Daley in a slim skin, putting his arms around his enemies, pretending to listen and care and compromise, then slowly, quietly, slipping in the knife. All while the media praises Obama’s “post-partisanship.” Heh heh heh.
Wow. A guy as unrepentantly liberal as Palast is happy about Mr. Post-Partisan Pragmatic President? Continue reading →
Much of President Barack Obama’s pre-election stump speeches focused on the perceived need to reinvigorate America’s moral leadership around the world. Indeed, rhetoric on the White House website says, “President Obama and Vice President Biden will renew America’s security and standing in the world through a new era of American leadership.”
Critical first steps, many would argue, were his appointments of former rival and New York senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as secretary of State and adviser Susan Rice as ambassador to the United Nations. The president has sent former senator George Mitchell to the Mideast and Richard Holbrook to Afghanistan and Pakistan as special envoys. So far, so good.
Presidents appoint ambassadors to represent American interests abroad. Presumably presidents appoint seasoned, experienced foreign diplomats to such delicate tasks. So President Obama has dozens of ambassadors to appoint. And the first rumor is … Dan Rooney as ambassador to Ireland? The owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and president and co-founder of The American Ireland Funds? Continue reading →
Dirk Wittenborn’s exploration of the drug culture—not the flashy counter-culture of the 1960s but the mainstream medicate-every-problem culture that arose in the 1980s—is at once a biting indictment of social values and a touching portrait of an unfulfilled family.
Wittenborn’s Pharmakon manages to do all this and more.
The story begins at the crossroads where pharmacology first meets psychology amidst the crisp idealism of Eisenhower-era America. The nation, reveling in postwar peace and prosperity, promises potentiality—a potentiality that whitewashes the individual melancholy of the Friedrich family. Yale psychology professor William Friedrich, nagged by the fact that his personal potential hasn’t yet blossomed, suddenly, he finds himself fast-tracked toward success when he and his research partner discover a drug that can make everybody happy. Continue reading →
Today marks the breaking of the siege of Leningrad, and President Medvedev choose the moment to announce that Russia would attempt to finally calculate Soviet losses during World War II. It will be a large number, but it will just be a number. Such a scale is necessary to witness in some way or another. This is a story of stumbling upon the sort of thing that words and numbers will always fall short of describing.
It was three days after my arrival. I had been enjoying the respite of a classically Russian birch forest after my other walks through blocks of Kruschevnikis and industrial wastelands when i popped out onto a sidewalk. Ahead was the tricolor flying at half mast. I wondered what might have happened in the three days i’d been cut off from the outside world. Then i saw two suspiciously clean buildings. I approached, turning between them. Continue reading →
Clean coal does not exist, contrary to what coal giants Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and the coal-industry group American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (ACCCE) claim. The Reality campaign is trying to cut off the clean coal disinformation beast at the knees, and they deserve a great deal of credit for facing it head-on. But I was only luke-warm on their first TV ad, although their first print ad (same link) was better. They’ve recently released a comparison of the ACCCE’s lump of coal with sunglasses to the iconic cigarette-smoking Joe Camel that’s a little more pointed and, IMO, more effective.
But their (new?) ad at the Washington Post was a stroke of genius, because they put the ads up on every “Page does not exist” page that the WaPo puts up when you mistype a link or find one that’s out of date. Continue reading →
Are zero-interest T-bills actually the antidote to usury?
Last month, the U.S. Treasury began offering a four-week T-bill with a return of zero point zero percent. That’s growth we can all be proud of. Apparently, the money will be kept in a king size mattress in the Federal Reserve Bank basement. The only problem is, the mattress is due back Monday to the D.C. Rent-A-Center.
Finally, an investment option to go with the national savings rate. Uncle Sam is laundering money like a Colombian drug lord, except the Colombian drug lord is solvent. You’re better off investing your money in an Illinois Senate seat.
The Federal Reserve’s new motto is: “The Fed—more reliable than loaning money to your a-hole brother-in-law.” Continue reading →
If you pay attention to my music entries, you may have noticed a recurrent theme. It seems a lot of the bands I hear these days, many of which I really like, remind me of bands from the past. Like The Mary Onettes:
I recently tripped across one such example, Sweden’s The Mary Onettes. They can’t seem to make up their minds whether they want to be The Church, Echo & the Bunnymen, or maybe something along the Joy Division/New Order continuum.
Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, where bags of drugs are simply thrown over the border from Juarez to be retrieved from back yards on the US side, things almost took a turn for the worst. The City Council decided that the terrible violence of Juarez and its creep across the border needs to stop. But they didn’t call for helicopter gunships or paramilitary intervention; the failure of those sorts have tactics has become all to apparent. According to a recent Reuters report, the Mexican cartels have even infiltrated the DEA. They have the money and the arms to fight, and the profits are high enough to make it worthwhile. The violence in Juarez has reached epic proportions, so in a show of solidarity with their sister city, the El Paso City Council voted in favor of a resolution that included “an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics.”
Never mind that the resolution also called for clamping down on gun running and money laundering. It was the desire to debate, and perhaps focus less on incarceration for drug offenses that made the resolution go over like a lead Zeppelin. The Mayor vetoed it, and the council members started getting pressure from as high as the US Congress to shut the fuck up. Continue reading →
Stage and film star Claire Bloom and author Philip Roth took no prisoners when their 17-year relationship ended in a firestorm.
When one of the partners in a marriage is a man who’s been called “a gleeful misogynist” –- in a complimentary article, no less –- it comes as no surprise when their union is torn asunder.
Claire Bloom and Philip Roth became a couple in 1976. She was not only a classically trained actress, but her beauty rivaled that of fellow English-woman Elizabeth Taylor (who she actually beat to Richard Burton, with whom she had an affair). He, of course is the American novelist whose career ebbed and flowed, until, after bypass surgery in 1989, he devoted his whole being to writing and has been on a tear ever since. Continue reading →
Verily, we have arrived at the end of all culture. Perhaps predictably, the culprit is technology. Or, to be a bit more specific, the culprit is Microsoft, which has now infused the art of songwriting with the same kind of magic and warmth you’ve come to expect from Excel.
Microsoft is pitching software designed for you, no musical training required. You sing the words as best you can, and its Songsmith software supplies computer-matched musical accompaniment.
Writers who shaped the consciousnesses, and influenced the styles, of Scholars and Rogues.
Hermann Hesse, especially for Narcissus & Goldmund: His study of the tension between reason and emotion as told through the 14th century lives of these two protagonists has served as a backdrop for my enduring awareness of this often troubling juxtaposition — throughout culture and in my own life. I grew up as cool Narcissus — a means to cope with a childhood fraught by chaos — and have been wrestling ever since with how to handle my inner Goldmund. Continue reading →
God is not always far away. In some parts of the world, God is everywhere all the time. Not as in we are surrounded by God’s creation, but as in everything is God. Alan Watts characterized the world as God playing hide and seek with Itself. God is a masterful player of hide and seek, so good, in fact, that It manages to forget the game entirely and become wholly enveloped in the world. That would be you: God forgetting Itself. And so in India, the classic Hindu greeting is to place the hands together as in prayer and bow to the other. The bow is a recognition of God within the other person. Not, of course, the other person’s earthly ego but the Self (Atman).
Heady stuff. The bow is ritualized and Indians clearly do not all go around contemplating that they are the ultimate ground of being. It is metaphor pointing the way to the idea that the kingdom of heaven is within; recognizing God in others leads to seeing that the kingdom of heaven is also without. Continue reading →
After a short walk from the light rail I was greeted by an empty P.O. box. A couple blocks north, I was greeted by a copy of the Post/News Duopoly’s jobs page, dated October 2008. “‘The fuck is this?!” I asked myself audibly as I flung the page onto the ground and kept on. At the 7-11 on 3rd/Broadway I bought a Lotto quick pick and a Powerball reject that was laying on the machine. After an uneventful lunch a couple blocks from there, I made the decision to cross the following intersection, one of the most dangerous I’ve encountered in Denver:
Last week, actor Tom Hanks called Mormons who supported California’s Proposition 8 “un-American.” Today Hanks apologized.
He shouldn’t have, because he’s right.
Anyone who would support curtailing the civil rights of a minority group is un-American. Codifying discrimination in a state constitution or in the U.S. Constitution is un-American. And supporting people who aim to curtail civil rights and codify discrimination, as the LDS Church did with regard to Prop-8, is un-American.
And I’ll say this to anyone who supported Prop-8 – you acted un-American too.