Tag Archives: This So-Called American Life

Bad Advertising Idea, 9/11 Edition

Hawking mattresses with a 9/11 sale is tacky enough, but Miracle Mattress of San Antonio, Texas outdid itself by re-creating the collapse of New York City’s Twin Towers with stacks of mattresses representing the World Trade Center:

In the social media video ad that has since been pulled, Cherise Bonanno appears on screen with two men standing by two stacks of mattresses, one topped by a U.S. flag.

“What better way to remember 9/11 than with a Twin Tower sale?” Bonanno says. “Right now you can get any sized mattress for a twin price.”

The men knock over the towers of bedding. Bonanno then lets out a small scream and says: “We will never forget.”

Jesus. Was there nobody around to knock some sense into these folks?

I’m not the most sentimental person out there, and I’ve come to see some of our annual 9/11 commemorations as over the top. But even I am offended by this particular brand of tackiness.

6 Comments

Filed under advertising

TSA Lines: Is Feature Not Bug

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Republicans in Congress cut an agency’s budget, then point to the resulting chaos they’ve created and cry, “See! Government doesn’t work! We must privatize!”

Lather, rinse, repeat. Amiright?

The T.S.A.’s work force and budgets have in fact been shrinking. The agency’s rolls have declined to about 44,900 screeners today from 47,000 in 2013, even as passenger travel has increased by 15 percent. But it is also true that it has been plagued by mismanagement and other problems of its own making. An unloved stepchild of the Department of Homeland Security, the T.S.A. has suffered through continual turnover in leadership, repeated misconduct by senior managers, low staff morale and high rates of attrition among screeners.

[…]

Not all the T.S.A.’s troubles can be blamed on missteps by the agency. The dysfunction has been compounded by an earlier 2013 bipartisan budget deal negotiated between Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, and Representative Paul D. Ryan, the current House speaker, to avert a government shutdown.

The deal set the security fee assessed on each segment of a plane trip to $5.60, but called for 60 cents of that fee to be diverted from the T.S.A. to pay down the national debt. This year, $1.25 billion in fees is going into the Treasury instead of paying for screeners and new equipment.

Seriously, we’re diverting funds from TSA to pay down the national debt? That just screams Republican fiscal idiocy, doesn’t it? Republicans keep telling us that “debt is like slavery,” after all. Quit whining America and enjoy your three-hour TSA line. It’s just more freedom!

And gee, I can’t imagine why morale is low, what with folks like TN Rep. Marsha Blackburn constantly attacking TSA employees on everything from their uniforms and badges to alleging “pedophiles and child pornographers” are doing pat-downs.

I try to be nice to the TSA when I travel. They have a thankless job. And honestly, the last few times we’ve traveled, TSA has not been the problem. Our last three trips were to Seattle, New York City and San Francisco — all major international airports — and we changed in O’Hare, D.C., and Dallas. Again: TSA was not the problem. The problem was our airline. The last two times we traveled, there was a “mechanical malfunction” preventing our plane from even getting to the airport. The result was hours and hours and hours of waiting, eventual rebooking of flights, lots of angst and frustration, and a big chunk of our vacation time gone like a fart in the breeze.

TSA was not to blame. American Airlines was to blame. We were kept uninformed about the nature of the delays, instead given new departure updates every hour — only to see that departure time whoosh by just as it approached. Again. And again. Finally we were told our plane is still in Raleigh or wherever because of a mechanical failure (something they’d known from the get-go but hadn’t told us). And even though you’re at a fucking airport filled with planes, they can’t just pull a new one over to the gate. No, that would be too easy. They have to bring one in from somewhere else and that will happen in about three and a half hours and, oh, you’ve already been here for three hours? Sorry and thanks for flying American Airlines.

Seriously, fuck you people. The last time that happened (last month, actually, so yes, the anger is still very fresh) we were at LaGuardia airport, which is like a third world airport. There are literally no services in the American Airlines terminal once you get past TSA. You can’t score a beer or glass of wine, you can’t grab a sandwich. There’s an Au Bon Pain kiosk with cellophane-wrapped sandwiches and soft drinks and people that is it. You know, if you’re going to trap people in a gray linoleum hell for an entire day, at least give us some dang alcohol to soften the blow.

We were actually stuck there for five hours, when we could have been enjoying all that New York City has to offer, if only American Airlines had informed us that our flight was basically cancelled. But noooo. I eventually lost my cool, rebooked us on another flight that went through Washington D.C., whereupon we were ushered onto buses that took us to a different terminal. And helloooo paradise! This terminal was new, had bars, restaurants, air conditioning, there was even blue carpeting, people! I felt like a lost soul who had wandered into an oasis. I had no idea this wonderful place existed at LaGuardia airport. All my life, LaGuardia has been sterile gray linoleum, bags of Doritos, and not enough chairs.

Incidentally, a woman on our flight told us that the exact same “mechanical failure” thing had happened on her last four flights. Either the American Airlines fleet is in serious disrepair, or they’re just trotting out that excuse because they know passengers will accept a delay over a mechanical failure more easily than some other excuse.

Anyway, I’m done with air travel for now. The airlines need to get their shit together. We pay waaaay too much money for airline tickets to be dicked around because you can’t get the actual plane to the airport. I mean, I did my part: I showed up on time. I left enough time for security. I held up my end of the bargain. American Airlines, not so much.

Our next vacation is in August. We’re driving.

15 Comments

Filed under air travel, American Airlines, travel, TSA

Poor People Don’t Vote

Bernie is right, actually. Poor people don’t vote.

This is what makes me nuts about the whole “people voting against their economic interests” meme. Actually, no. As the New York Times explained last November in “Who Turned My Blue State Red?”, those people are not voting at all:

In eastern Kentucky and other former Democratic bastions that have swung Republican in the past several decades, the people who most rely on the safety-net programs secured by Democrats are, by and large, not voting against their own interests by electing Republicans. Rather, they are not voting, period. They have, as voting data, surveys and my own reporting suggest, become profoundly disconnected from the political process.

The people in these communities who are voting Republican in larger proportions are those who are a notch or two up the economic ladder — the sheriff’s deputy, the teacher, the highway worker, the motel clerk, the gas station owner and the coal miner. And their growing allegiance to the Republicans is, in part, a reaction against what they perceive, among those below them on the economic ladder, as a growing dependency on the safety net, the most visible manifestation of downward mobility in their declining towns.

Early in the campaign, Bernie Sanders talked about how he was all about bringing these “disillusioned and disengaged” voters back into the process. This was part of his “revolution” spiel. And then he did absolutely nothing to make that happen. Zero. Nada. He gave speeches about it but did nothing to make his vision happen. There was no organizing, there was no field game, there was nothing.

This simply reinforces my disparaging view of Bernie Sanders. It’s incredibly frustrating to see someone who clearly recognizes the problems but doesn’t seem interested in solving them. Complaining is not a solution.

His career has been one endless kvetch. He didn’t even think to tell his supporters to register to vote as Democrats in closed primary states? How lame is that?! Part of this may be due to the fact that he never thought he’d get this far, so back in the fall when those deadlines were looming he wasn’t focused on the actual mechanics of winning. But if you’re running for president, you’re running to win, or else you’re a fraud. If the only reason he was running in the first place was to have a bigger megaphone, then he just wasted everyone’s time. If all you want to do is kvetch louder and longer without following up with any tangible action then I have no use for you. All those thousands of eager kids at your rallies, did you have any organization to harness that energy? Get people registered to vote? Do some outreach to the disillusioned and disenfranchised? No. Bernie is supposed to be a man of the people, but it seems like his campaign has been all about the man, less about the people.

It is also far too simplistic to write off the country’s growing divide into merely Wall Street vs Main Street. As the New York Times piece illustrates, it’s more like Main Street vs trailer park or Main Street vs Skid Row. Any populist campaign that fails to speak to this issue is one focused too much on two-dimensional bogeymen, not reality.

19 Comments

Filed under 2016 Election, 2016 Presidential Election, poverty

Judge, Jury & Executioner

We’re a nation of laws, unless you have a CCW permit. Then you get to be cop, judge, jury and executioner:

Man with concealed weapon permit fatally shoots Waffle House robber

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Authorities say a man attempting to rob a South Carolina Waffle House was fatally shot by a customer who intervened.

North Charleston Police Lt. Angela Johnson told multiple media outlets that shortly before 5 a.m. Saturday the armed suspect tried to rob the Waffle House. Johnson said the customer interrupted the robbery attempt, wounding the suspect.

Officers who arrived on scene found the man injured. Authorities say the 19-year-old suspect later died at a hospital.

Plenty of yahoos are just fine with that. “Hang’em high, that’s what they get for robbing the Waffle House,” they say.

Oh, really?

This is called vigilanteism. And your CCW permit doesn’t give you the right to use deadly force unless there is threat of bodily harm. Waaay too many of these CCW yahoos don’t seem to know that. They must have slept through their CCW class, or else maybe these classes aren’t all they’re advertised to be.

We have the nice lady in suburban Detroit, who fired at shoplifters in the Home Depot parking lot. They got away, but she’s been charged. And then we have the guy in Elkhart, Indiana, who fired at a shoplifter in the parking lot of Big R Farm Supply. That shoplifter also got away.

This is astonishingly stupid. The fact that we’ve had three such incidents in the space of one week should alarm even the “responsible gun owners.” If you don’t know when to use your weapon you shouldn’t have a concealed-carry permit. End of discussion.

I expect we’ll be seeing a whole lot more of this stupidity as more people join the ranks of our Safest, Most Responsible Citizens Evah.

11 Comments

Filed under gun control, Guns

Maybe It’s Time To Try Something New

Hmmm…. Something ain’t adding up.

The number of concealed carry permits in the U.S. has skyrocketed. The United States is the most heavily armed nation in the world. States have liberalized where one can carry in the past few years — in Tennessee, we now have guns-in-cars, guns-in-restaurants, guns-in-bars, guns-in-parks. We’ve also seen guns-in-churches and guns-on-campus movements (Oregon being one of several U.S. states where CCW holders can, and do, legally carry.)

All of this because “I need to protect myself and my family.” Okie dokie, but then how come we’re having more mass shootings? Clearly more guns isn’t working.

Maybe it’s time to try something new?

19 Comments

Filed under gun control, gun violence, Guns

It’s A Wonderful Miserable Life

There’s been a lot of discussion about the New York Times’s expose on the miserable work life at Amazon.com’s corporate HQ. We’ve long known that working at one of Amazon’s warehouses sucks, but it appears their white collar workers are also overworked, driven to exhaustion, and subjected to sadistic “Hunger Games”-style culling exercises, all of which makes working for Amazon HQ a dehumanizing, demeaning experience:

At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

[….]

Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.

This is the kind of stuff that gives Libertarian types such massive hard-ons. It fulfills all of their narcissistic fantasies about success being the undeniable product of hard work and rugged individualism, that everyone gets where they are by these virtues, no one gets a handout from anyone, certainly not the government, yada yada. Except, of course, that this impossible standard a) isn’t true and b) makes for a miserable life.

“One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” said Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money, without asking for approval, to pay a freelancer in India to enter data so she could get more done. “These businesses were my babies, and I did whatever I could to make them successful.”

Umm, no, honey. These businesses weren’t your babies. They were Jeff Bezos’ babies, you fool. They were Amazon shareholders’ babies. If they were your babies you’d reap 100% of the reward for all of this effort. Instead you spent your personal money to hire someone in India, fer crissakes, to “get more done.” You, my friend, are a class A sucker.

There are numerous horror stories: an employee with thyroid cancer who got a low performance rating after returning from treatment because,

[…] her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”

A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.

Even worse is the modern-day “company store”-coercion Amazon has created to keep what employees do stay on:

Amazon retains new workers in part by requiring them to repay a part of their signing bonus if they leave within a year, and a portion of their hefty relocation fees if they leave within two years. Several fathers said they left or were considering quitting because of pressure from bosses or peers to spend less time with their families. (Many tech companies are racing to top one another’s family leave policies — Netflix just began offering up to a year of paid parental leave. Amazon, though, offers no paid paternity leave.)

This is not an attractive work environment for anyone who is not a masochist, and a stupid masochist, at that. Because while we Americans pride ourselves on our hard work, it’s hard to imagine anyone subjecting themselves to this kind of abuse for someone else’s company. And let’s be clear: nobody is curing cancer here. Or as the Times brutally noted,

For all of the employees who are edged out, many others flee, exhausted or unwilling to further endure the hardships for the cause of delivering swim goggles and rolls of Scotch tape to customers just a little quicker.

Ouch.

I like to compare this with the Danish work culture’s arbejdsglaede (literally, “happiness at work”), as detailed in Helen Russell’s fascinating book, The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. British journalist Russell relocated to rural Denmark when her husband got a job at toymaker Lego, based in Jutland. In Chapter 2, she tells of her surprise when her husband came home from work at 3:30 pm — and earlier on Fridays:

‘Most people with kids had cleared their desks to go and pick them up from school or daycare by 3pm.’
Three?
‘Uhuh.”
‘Everyone just leaves work really early? No one competes to be the last one at their desk? Or gets takeout to pull an all-nighter?’
He shrugs: ‘Not that I’ve seen.’

In fact, showy displays of an aggressive work ethic are actually frowned upon. Too many late-night or weekend emails and your boss might worry that things aren’t okay at home. Or you’ll be reprimanded for fostering an uncooperative work environment, focusing too much on your own ego and not thinking about the needs of the group. It’s a complete reverse of Amazon’s corporate culture, even if some of the outer trappings look the same (sustainable buildings, healthy cafeteria menu offerings, stand-up desks, etc.) But Danes are a family-oriented people: time spent with children and family is as valued in the Danish culture as time spent at work.

And there it is. The difference is in what you value. If your culture only values material things like profits and high salaries, then Amazon will seem like a great place to emulate. If your culture values things like time spent with family and balancing work with personal life, then Lego is a work culture worth copying.

I used to work in a high-stress corporate job. It wasn’t as cut-throat as Amazon but it was almost as bad. Vacations were seen as a personal weakness. Weekends were for wusses. I remember my boss yelling at me because I couldn’t make it to Clarksville during the February 1994 ice storm because I-24 was closed. I left that job a few months later.

As one gets older they realize that life’s too short for sadistic workplace bullshit. The hypercompetitive self-flagellation places like Amazon demand of their employees might be fine for a recent college grad, but anyone over a certain age has to wonder what’s the point of all these long hours and lack of a personal life. In the service of what — Jeff Bezos’ dream of getting the latest Elsa doll somewhere in 20 minutes? There’s definitely more to life than that.

15 Comments

Filed under corporations

Take Down That Racist Flag, South Carolina

Un-fucking-believable:

The Confederate flag flying at the Statehouse in Columbia became part of the Charleston church shooting story Thursday after the U.S. and South Carolina flags were lowered in mourning but the rebel banner was left flying at its full height.

[…]

Officials said the reason why the flag has not been touched is that its status is outlined, by law, as being under the protected purview of the full S.C. Legislature, which controls if and when it comes down.

Gov. Nikki Haley ordered that the state and American flags be lowered, but the Confederate flag flies at full staff over the state capitol. And that, in a nutshell, tells you everything you need to know about this symbol of racism and white supremacy.

Fuck you, South Carolina.

7 Comments

Filed under racism

NOW Is It Time To Have A Conversation About Gun Control?

Horrible news out of Charleston, S.C.:

CHARLESTON, S.C. — A white gunman opened fire Wednesday night at a historic black church in this city’s downtown, killing nine people before fleeing and setting off an overnight manhunt, the police said.

South Carolina has the most liberal gun laws in the country, thanks to “reform” recently passed by wingnut Gov. Nikki Haley. And this is the result. The Boston Globe’s Michael Cohen sums up the laws thusly:

globe gun

Gov. Haley and South Carolina politicians who endorse the NRA’s agenda have blood on their hands today. Yes, there is a causal relationship between easy access to firearms and gun violence.

The idea that simple gun control measures wouldn’t have prevented this and thousands of other tragedies across the country every year is ludicrous. The idea that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about this bloodbath is insane. The idea that we have to live with this violence in our communities because Freedom and the Constitution is pure bullshit.

Enough. We do not have to put up with this. This is not how a free people live. This is how free people die.

12 Comments

Filed under gun control, gun violence, Guns

What’s Freedom Got To Do With It

This story pretty much sums up what’s behind the ammosexual agenda, IMHO:

 

Officials said two men stopped in front of the school when the suspect got out of his car and asked the other driver if he “had a problem” while lifting his shirt to show his gun.

I’d say for a good 80% of the carry-everywhere gun loons out there — including this Georgia nutball who paraded around Atlanta’s international airport with a loaded AR-15, then complained about being “harassed” when law enforcement logically wondered what the fuck he was doing — the urge to be armed stems not from any love of the Constitution or Freedom but from a burning desire to just be obeyed for once. It’s Falling Down Syndrome, aka conservative ressentiment , the inability to cope with their cultural irrelevance. It’s losing your shit over America’s slow but enduring shift toward multi-culturism and tolerance while your worldview is stuck in an increasingly remote backwater. But by God you can flash your gun and get that asshole off your bumper, amiright fellas?

Every time one of these incidents happens I’m reminded of the eventual death of cultural conservatism. Because nothing screams “I lost the argument” like having to flash a gun to get your way.

5 Comments

Filed under gun control, Guns

How To Die In America

I am fascinated with this CDC study about “distinctive causes of death” around the country. It’s not the main cause of death, but rather the cause of death that stands out relative to the national average. In Tennessee, the most distinctive cause of death is gun accidents — no shocker there. But I have to wonder about some other states. Hey Utah Nevada, “legal intervention”? Really? Are we talking death by cop and capital punishment here? North Carolina’s is “nutritional deficiencies” and if you think it’s repugnant that anyone would die of malnutrition in modern America, especially a good “Christian” Southern state like North Carolina, then please raise your hand.

cause of death

9 Comments

Filed under weird stuff