Today, tobacco…

30 06 2009

…tomorrow, everything else?

Remember when I got all flustered about the government’s move on cigarettes?  It wasn’t that long ago, so you’d better.  Remember how I said fast food would be next?  Yeah, well, they’re laying the groundwork.

David Kessler, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has warned that snacks, cereals and ready meals devised by food scientists can act on the reward centres of the brain in the same way as tobacco.

Apparently that Whopper is carefully designed to stimulate your “bliss point.”

Poor guy just can't help it.

Poor guy just can't help it.

“It is time to stop blaming individuals for being overweight or obese,” said Kessler. “The real problem is we have created a world where food is always available and where that food is designed to make you want to eat more of it. For millions of people, modern food is simply impossible to resist.”

In non-nannystatese, that means that evil, diabolical food megafascistcorporations are guilty of making food taste good.  So good, in fact, that you want to, you know, eat it.

Now to unleash my superweapon upon the population—sodium!

Now to unleash my superweapon upon the population—salt!

This demonization of eeeeevil tasty burgers and the like follows the same path as that of tobacco.  As soon as some well-meaning bureaucrats decide that that the average American just can’t fend off the seductive advances of tobacco (and now, fast food), the government declares that it is its duty to regulate the offensive substance out of existence.  They will even invent stupid, pseudoscientific terms, like “bliss point,” in a desperate attempt to justify their idiotic “findings.”

It’s all for our own good, of course—because clearly, we are making bad decisions and need the power of the loving, caring state to set us back on an even keel.

It makes me sick to my stomach, literally.  I have a horrible feeling in the pit of my gut that booze is on the short list of demonic products that must be stopped. Again.

That social experiment worked.

Party foul!

Oh, I guess it is. Says Professor Ian Gilmore, who is probably one of the most boring people in the world to party with:

“We need an international framework convention for alcohol control, similar to that on tobacco, as soon as possible, to put into practice the evidence-based measures needed to reduce alcohol-related harm.

“These include increasing the price of alcohol, reducing its availability and banning advertising, and the action needs to start now.”

No, you jackass, we don’t.  People have been drinking alcohol since the dawn of civilization.  I’ve read that alcohol caused civilization—people wanted beer in vast quantities, which requires agriculture on a vast scale.  I’ll find that article and post it eventually.

Sure, neither David Kessler nor the aforementioned Buzz Killington are actually in positions of power, but the former was the head of the FDA, and the latter is supposedly a respected professor.  They aren’t fringe health-nut loonies who have no credibility.  That’s the scary part.

They can take our fries, but they CANNOT TAKE OUR FREEDOM!

They can take our fries, but they CANNOT TAKE OUR FREEDOM!

None of the things I’ve mentioned—tobacco, fast food, or alcohol—are good for you in large quantities.  Consumed responsibly, however, they are greatly enjoyable.  But how can you tell a group of people that they are not responsible for their self-destructive actions (smoking a pack while waiting in line at the drive through because your hangover is so bad you can’t cook a decent meal, for example) and expect them to behave responsibly?





DEMOCRACY IN ACTION

25 06 2009

I followed through for once and contacted my Representative today concerning the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill.

It pretty much felt like this.

It pretty much felt like this.

Uh, I actually only emailed her office.  But I’ll call tomorrow.   Here’s what I sent:

Good afternoon, and thank you for representing our district.

As we all know, Southeastern Michigan’s economy has been suffering longer and more severely than the rest of the country.  This concerns me greatly as a college student at the University of Michigan, as I love this state and would like to continue to make it my home after graduation…but the jobs and opportunities just aren’t here.  People are already losing their livelihoods and their homes.  Why add the additional burden of a carbon cap and trade scheme on top of all this?

Because of the dire economic situation in the Detroit area, Michigan as a whole, as well as the entire Midwest, I am urging you to vote NO on the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill as it reaches the floor tomorrow [note: I later learned it might not reach the floor for a few days].  If it passes, those fortunate enough to have not lost their homes to foreclosure will scarcely be able to afford to heat it in the winter; those who still have jobs will struggle to afford the gasoline to drive to work; and the price of consumer goods will rise across the board as the production and supply chain is taxed for carbon dioxide emissions on every level.

The bottom line is that, with the economy stalled nationwide, we cannot afford to implement this system.  We should be striving to compete with countries such as China and India to prevent overseas job loss, not willingly reducing our competitiveness and complaining when corporations do the economically sensible thing and move their enterprises to a friendlier business climate.

Please have the wisdom and courage not to toe your party’s line, and do not support this bill.  Voters are watching, and you will find that their concern for the environment ends when their financial stability is threatened.

Thank you for your time and service,

Graham Kozak

It was pretty close to that at least—they don’t let you see what you’ve sent after you send it.  I guess it just kind of goes down the Memory Hole unless some underpaid intern bothers reading it, so I’ve had to reconstruct it from my first draft and my memory.

I’m not really sure what you’re supposed to say when contacting an elected official, but they aren’t royalty (officially, at least) so it shouldn’t matter as long as it is respectful.  I also tried to emphasize the dramatic economic impact this bull bill would have on the average American family instead of arguing against it on scientific grounds.  Capping and trading carbon could set a family of four back $6,800 annually by 2035 once cost increases all along the supply chain are taken into account.

But $6,800 will be pocket change after massive inflation kicks in anyway, so it all comes full circle.

Usually "worth less than the paper it's printed on" is sort of a half-true figure of speech.  Not in Zimbabwe.

Usually "worth less than the paper it's printed on" is sort of a half-true figure of speech. Not for long.

Brilliant!





Uh, we should probably be paying a bit more attention to this…

24 06 2009

I know Mark Sanford’s affair and political implosion is the most important thing to have happened to the United States since the historic election of Barack Obama, but while we’re all distracted by the lurid tales of the South Carolina Governor and his Argentinian lover, the Waxman-Markey Climate Bill will be voted on by the House.  In the vein of not actually knowing what they’re voting for, most (if not all) Representatives have not bothered to actually read the 1200+ page bill.  Including Henry Waxman himself.

Klaatu barada nikto!

Klaatu barada nikto!

I guess some things are too important to actually carefully study, like a bill that would starve the sputtering American economic engine of even more fuel (almost literally) by working towards a carbon cap and trade scheme.

I’ve never contacted my Representative of Senator before, but I will on this.  You should too; perhaps yours will be more responsive than Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.  Get the information here.  It’s a few minutes of your time, and it couldn’t possibly hurt.

If you need any reason to oppose this bill or any cap and trade scheme, consider the effect it will have on energy costs:

If I didn't know better, I'd say Henry Waxman was from California...

If I didn't know better, I'd say Henry Waxman was from California...

Read more about the map above at the PowerLine blog.

As if Michigan and the rest of the Rust Belt, not to mention the rest of the country, needed any more economic obstacles to recovery.  People are having trouble staying in their homes—now they are going to have to struggle to heat or cool it on top of that?  Perhaps this is an argument that even Kilpatrick can understand, seeing as Michigan has been suffering more severely and for far longer than the rest of the country.

There’s a reason cap and trade is often referred to as “cap and tax.”  If this was about protecting the environment, it could be made a revenue neutral program; instead, it’s a huge fundraiser that also has the no-so-unintended consequence of placing our carbon-based economy in a government visegrip.

That may be true, but it sure as hell doesn't run on Hope and Change either.

That may be true, but it sure as hell doesn't run on Hope and Change either.

I think we’re beginning to see how we’ll be paying for that free healthcare.  But of course, if you’re not making over $250k, this won’t effect you or your wallet.  If you use candles to light your home.





What about Iran?

23 06 2009

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything, with Father’s Day, car shows, reading for fun and profit, and work around the house taking up most of my time.  But for a good part of the weekend, I was glued to my computer screen watching the videos and reading the bits of information coming out of Iran.  Yeah, the situation was building up for a few days, but the whole thing seemed to come to a head Saturday afternoon.

Despotic regimes come and go, and people die trying to uphold or overturn them.  But watching people your age stand up for freedom and then mowed down by armed government thugs or teargassed into submission is horrifying.  So are the reports that government agents waited in hospitals to take the names of the injured, presumably for further “investigation.”  It really makes you think.  Sure makes me think, at least.

Sure, Mousavi might not be much better than Ahmadinejad in the grand scheme of Iranian politics (I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject).  Maybe the protesters were fighting for a lie, confused by what their media and religious leaders told them to believe.  But the reports of rooftop chants of “death to Khomeini” would seem to indicate to me that this proto-revolution has grown into something more: a fight for liberty.  The relatively well-educated youth (a large part of the country’s population) seem to be yearning for the freedoms we’ve taken for granted here for generations.

This particular fight for freedom is all the more real to me because of the Twitter posts (Tweets?) ostensibly by actual Iranians in the middle of everything.  I hate the concept of Twitter, but it brings a major news event like this home to those of us who grew up with the internet in much the same way that color broadcasts from Vietnam brought that war into your living rooms.  You can view some of them here.  Many Facebook posts and videos that somehow managed to sneak out from the cone of silence surrounding the country, some showing protesters pelting goons with rocks, others of young people dying in the street.

If there’s one thing I noticed about the Twitter posts coming out of Iran, it was the multitude of references to the American Revolution.  That famous quote by Thomas Paine—”These are the times that try men’s souls”—seemed to be quite popular.  There were more chilling Tweets reminding us that we should never let our guard down lest this happen to us here at home.  One poster explained that “This is why you Americans must never give up your guns,” and another put it even more starkly: “GUN CONTROL=SLAUGHTER.”  You try facing down armed government thugs with rocks. It’s not pretty.  There’s a reason that the right to bear arms is usually one of the first rights abrogated by a despotic regime…

We are blessed to have the stable, relatively fair and transparent system that we do, and so long as we are vigilant, we’ll never end up like Iran.  So what touched me more than the message was the fact that these young Iranians, far from blindly hating Americans, were actually trying to reach out to us for moral support and to offer a word of warning.  The lack of stated support for the protesters was shocking to me, and must have been positively crushing for the protesters themselves.

The pitiful equivocation issued by the President in between ice cream runs on Saturday managed to say absolutely nothing—surely, he can’t still be planning on meeting these cretins without conditions after an election that even  Jimmy Carter would have trouble certifying as legitimate, can he?   While it would be easy enough to acidentally “lose” some of the guns ‘n ammo being used across the border in Iraq and to then allow those guns to be “found” by anti-regime Iranians, I can understand the wisdom in not allowing that to happen.

But come on, don’t wait a few days before taking a firm stance (which he hasn’t even really done now, despite some sly attempts at backpedalling).  Several western countries (Germany, Canada, Australia, and probably others) opened their embassies to treat the wounded after it became clear that the hospitals were not safe for anti-Ahmadinejad protestors.  We couldn’t even issue a clear statement of support?  I’m just not feeling that.

The most recent rationalization is that by supporting the protesters, we’d be delegitimizing them since it would seem like the U.S. was somehow behind it.  Seeing as the current Iranian regime has just demonstrated the extend of the illegitimacy, I’m not really sure what we  (or the Iranian people) would have to lose.  To be fair, the President was a bit more harsh today, but compared to the harshness of the Iranian government, I’d still say he needs to grow a spine.

Again, I’m not an expert on international politics or Iran by any means.  My second rate, non-Ivy League mind tells me that by allying ourselves, if only verbally, with the protesters, we’d be able to get future relations with a new, legitimate Iranian government off to a good start.  Instead, we’ve just shown them that we’re more interested in reserving a seat at the table with the despot that they fervently hate than upholding their fundamental right to self-determination.  And giving representatives of an illegitimate regime hot dogs (presumably Halal ones?) and baked beans, or something.

But backwards, irrational thinking like that is why I’ll never be President.





Wagoneer Follies

18 06 2009

The Wagoneer has seen great progress over the past few days.  It still leaks like a sieve—which is par for the course, really—but it now has a state-of-the-art stereo system.

So. Much. Woodgrain.

So. Much. Woodgrain.

Yeah, that’s right.  I can play CDs.  It also has an iPod hookup and HD Radio (which I can’t really figure out) and four new, non-rotted out speakers.  In case you’re wondering, no, I didn’t blow a bunch of money on audio equipment when the windshield needs to be replaced.  It was actually installed on the last Wagoneer, but wasn’t covered by the insurance.

I spent more time than I rightfully should have fixing the ornery tailgate, which was literally 1/16th of an inch away from fully closing.  A note on the tailgate design: the retractable window thing is really cool, but I completely understand why you don’t see it these days.  It needs constant lubrication to work smoothly, and you always have to worry about somehow breaking that rear window glass.  I’ve heard it costs more than a windshield. I think it would be cool if more SUV’s and vans had a fold-down gate though, because it’s a great place to sit.

Not to mention that the football season tailgate possibilities this opens up are limitless; I’m not sure when the last time that people actually had a tailgate on a real tailgate was.

In an effort to track down all the leaks on the roof, I had to pull down the headliner.  I think I’ll cover it with new foam while it’s down, since it’s got some unsightly tears and holes in it.  But it’s not bowed or sagging, indicating that the dry climate of Montana spared me some very unpleasant reconstructive work.

View from the rear window.  Thre's a lot of screws in that roof.

View from the rear window. Thre's a lot of screws in that roof.

The back of the headliner board had a little smilely face drawn on it:

: )

: )

I like to think that some UAW employee put that there because it was his last day on the job, or he just had a kid or something.  Maybe he just wanted to cheer whoever took the headliner down up.  If that’s the case, mission accomplished line worker dude, and thanks.

Of course, to take anything off, be it the floor carpeting or the headliner, you have to remove about six thousand Phillips screws from everything.  Yeah, they’re easier to replace than cheap plastic clips, and they give the vehicle a certain tough, rugged look, but any repairs lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

Plus, every hole is a potential source of the water leak that made me take down the headliner in the first place.  AMC/Chrysler must have had a pact with the devil who had a pact with a screw company or something.

But behind every wrist-breaking cloud of Phillips screws, there’s a rainbow or something.

Your hybrid may be green, but I've got the whole rainbow.

Your hybrid may be green, but I've got the whole rainbow.

I’m taking the rest of the night off to make some grilled pizzas, but tomorrow I’ll be back outside with a sprinkler (if it’s not raining again) and some silicone sealant, trying to track down that leak.  Wish me luck.

Oh—looks like I forgot to post this last night.  For the record, the pizzas were awesome.  Also, I haven’t been able to find the leak after sitting in the vehicle with the sprinkler on.  Pesky leaks.





You have to laugh…

16 06 2009

…to keep from crying about the upcoming ABC White House Broadcast Experience.  I’m not sure what’s more pathetic: the fact that ABC will still attempt to call itself an objective news outlet during and after this, or that this kind of behavior isn’t really surprising at this point.

Oh, and I saw the story before all the grown-up blogs and talk radio covered it, I’ve just been too busy doing manly things (fixing a tailgate and cleaning) to write anything about it.

I can scarcely believe this madness!

I can scarcely believe this madness!

Wherever grand ideas you have about the future of health care, you have to at least admit that a week of relentless  hawking of a deeply flawed government plan with an echo chamber town hall “discussion” on the issue as the climax cannot be called responsible journalism.  It can’t even really be called irresponsible journalism, either.  It’s not really journalism at all; it’s cheerleading.

Granted, any alternative that Republicans have to offer will probably suck only marginally less than the ill-begotten, utterly ineffective monstrosity currently on the platter, but for appearance’s sake, couldn’t we at least fake a debate?

Actually I noticed that this dropping of any pretense of media objectivity is frighteningly widespread these days.  Most of us probably don’t even notice it, or we tune it out if we do.  Late the other night, when every other channel was plagued by ExtenZe commercials, I was watching PBS.  It’s one of my guilty secrets, along with listening to NPR.  Anyhow, the show I was watching (on classical sculpture) ended, and my leg was asleep, so I decided to watch NOW on PBS, which I had never seen before.

The subject was the recent murder of abortionist George Tiller.  Abortion, especially late-term abortion, is one of those issues that raises feelings so strong that rational debate is almost impossible.  I don’t intend to justify what George Tiller did or attack abortion on principle at this point; the reality is that his brutal murder (at Church, of all places) is impossible to justify—like it or not, what he was doing was legal.  If you want to change that, do it with laws; otherwise, you’re no better than little Billy Ayers.

What I want to point out is that during the half hour of hard-hitting investigative reporting done by a painfully earnest Maria Hinojosa, there was plenty of time spent interviewing Tiller’s colleagues as well as other abortion providers.  Excerpts from radical anti-abortion websites were highlighted and read; Bill O’Reilly was accused of murder; Janet Napolitano’s ridiculous DHS report on Right Wing Extremism was vindicated, etc. etc.

I could almost taste the smugness through the TV screen.

I could almost taste the smugness through the TV screen.

No rational anti-abortion viewpoints were given any screen time.  There was no attempt at balancing the segment, which ended up being mostly a justification late-term abortion (were it purely about the murder of Tiller, I could understand why no pro-lifers were interviewed).  Even if you wanted to fake objectivity, you could have found a really dull pro-life supporter and interviewed them.  You know, set them up to trip over their own argument, or whatever.

Imagine how angry pro-choicers would be if a FOX segment on abortion focused entirely on pro-life arguments, portrayed all abortions as being as common and brutal as late-term abortions (which apparently represent only 1% of abortions performed annually), and showed a bunch of pictures of aborted fetuses to finish the program off.  There would be outrage and accusations of bias.  It would all be very predictable.

Then again, I realize that there’s probably very little outrage over the overt, shameless bias of NOW on PBS because I’m probably the only person who actually watches it.  But a lot of people still watch ABC, and those people deserve unbiased information about what our government is cooking up—not Pravda-style press releases.





Coins and Stuff

15 06 2009

Suck somewhere between the prodigious cushions of the front seat of the Packard was this:

Be impressed.

Be impressed.

That’s right, a 1957 Roosevelt Dime.  That means it’s real silver.  Maybe I’m way more fascinated by this find than I rightfully should be, but to me, little discoveries like this are just one more reason a classic car is worth the time and endless series of frustrations and setbacks that must be overcome to keep one on the road.

It's like a couch.  You can fit a lot of history between those cushions.

It's like a couch. You can fit a lot of history between those cushions.

I also pulled an old Stag beer bottle top from the floor near the gas/break pedals.  I’m not sure when open container laws came into effect, so maybe the reason it’s there is not as bad as it seems at first glance.  Apparently Stag is still brewed and consumed in the Southern Illinois/Missouri region, which is where the car was originally from.  So that makes sense.

It’s kind of a tangent, I know, but why are today’s coins so terrible compared with those of, say, fifty years ago?  No, this isn’t just because I’m obsessed with old things.  I think I make a legitimate point.  For example, compare this:

1921 Peace Dollar.  My favorite coin.

1921 Peace Dollar. My favorite coin.

And this:

1924 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle.  My other favorite coin.  I'll own one someday.

1924 Saint Gaudens Double Eagle. My other favorite coin. I'll own one someday.

To this:

Seriously?  This is the best we can do?

Seriously? This is the best we can do? Zombie Presidents?

Most modern United States coins are hit or miss.  The above picture is a good example; Van Buren doesn’t look too bad, but Jackson?  Really?  He was kind of a dick to the Cherokee, but I think he deserves a better representation that that.

The coins of the past were elegant and beautiful almost without exception.  Even the mundane Roosevelt dime I found, identical to the ones produced today, has more dignity than the Presidential $1 coins being produced today.  Surely we can find some good sculptors somewhere.  Our past Presidents deserve better, and I’d probably be inclined to use the coins if they were of the same caliber as the Peace Dollar.

So when I’m President, expect the Make America’s Coins Not Suck Act to be the first thing that crosses my desk.  Followed shortly thereafter by some swift, uh, extreme Income Tax “reforms…”