Oh for crying out loud. The thing is actually animated, with Santa periodically standing up and opening the door to parley with the nose-holding elf.
Oh for crying out loud. The thing is actually animated, with Santa periodically standing up and opening the door to parley with the nose-holding elf.
The ads inform me that a whole bunch of stores and malls plan to open their doors at midnight on November 25, i.e. about ten hours after people finish cramming themselves full of turkey.
As ludicrous as this sounds, the specimens you see on TV busting doors on the day after Thanksgiving are relatively disciplined people. They are able to get up at 4:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, and get themselves to the front of a Wal-Mart or wherever in the predawn cold. And people still get killed.
Do door busters bust doors for bargains, or do they do it mainly for the camaraderie and the thrill of it? Either way, this midnight-opening thing is going bring a lot of new busters to the doors. Formerly, you needed to be relatively disciplined (see above). Now, all you’ve got to do is sober up a bit from Thanksgiving dinner. Most people don’t find staying up until midnight all that hard.
Speaking of which: how many of these people won’t sober up? How many parties of shoppers will be made up of people who’ve been awake for eighteen hours, who’ve just eaten their largest meal of the year, and who’ve been drinking since noon?
This is going to be priceless.
Whenever NPR or PBS are in fund-drive mode, they go on and on and on about how they get almost no money from the government, and how they depend on viewers/listeners like me for all of their money, and so on and so forth.
The money from the government, it’s like the government buying them a coffee once in a while. Not like that, even, actually; it’s like the government bringing them a cup of coffee from home. Bad coffee that they were just going to throw out anyway.
But when there’s a proposal to cut government funding — when there’s a suggestion that no matter how awesome Cokie Roberts and/or Elmo are, the government is broke and should stop spending so god-damned much money, and that this includes the relatively small amount spent subsidizing TV and radio for affluent whites — suddenly this is a huge crisis, and the continued existence of such heavily-merchandised characters as Big Bird, Arthur, and Bert and Ernie is in question.
They can’t have it both ways.
A much-blogged story recently informs us that only 45% of people surveyed know that the U.S. has the ‘world’s largest economy’.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 45% of voters know the United States has the world’s largest economy. Another 34% say it’s not true, and 21% are not sure.
In case you’re one of the 55% who doesn’t know this, the United States does have the ‘world’s largest economy’, and not by a little bit. The world’s second-largest economy, that of the People’s Republic of China, is about 2/3 the size of the U.S. economy.
I expect that the size of the Chinese economy will eventually surpass the size of the U.S. economy — and O what hand-wringing we’ll be subjected to then! — if only because of the population imbalance. There are about four times as many Chinese people as there are Americans these days, so if the average Chinaman produced 25% of the value that the average American produces, the U.S. and Chinese economies would be the same size.
Remember, though, that today the Chinese economy is 2/3 the size of the U.S. economy despite having more than four times as many people contributing to it; this means that, economically speaking, each Chinese person produces as much as .15 of an American. Or, each American produces as much value as 6.3 Chinese people.
You’re probably scratching your head at this, because this certainly isn’t what you hear from the news media. The news never talks about the millions of Chinese who spend 100% of their time trying to wring a bare existence from the mud. The time and space they might use talking about them is instead used to make sure you’re up to speed on the plight of illiterate Americans who have no value to offer anyone, and so are reduced to driving a car without air conditioning, and watching only basic cable.
A recent story in Foreign Policy is a perfect example:
They even have to say ‘this time it’s for real’, because they know that the media have been telling us that the United States has been in terminal decline since at least Sputnik. Most magazines can simply ignore the fact that this hasn’t happened, but Foreign Policy is aimed at a decidedly brainier demographic, and they might be expected to start questioning whether this is just so much B.S.
‘Plus 10 Other ‘Unconventional Wisdoms’, they say: because the idea that the U.S. is in decline is some zany, fringe idea? It seems to be the perennial campaign theme of the Democratic party, and it’s an important sub-theme of most Republican campaigning.
So if you run an article about American Decline in your magazine, you have to point out in the headline that there’s something different here, because American news magazines might as well all be called American Decline Weekly.
Foreign Policy sees this, and it even gets in a preemptive reference to The Boy Who Cried Wolf, albeit with what I’m sure they consider a neat spin in an attempt to get it to bolster their argument:
But a frequently overlooked fact about that fable is that the boy was eventually proved right. The wolf did arrive — and China is the wolf.
Oh, oh how clever. You see? The near-constant assertions along the same lines that other people have been making for the last sixty years or so (at least) aren’t a reason to doubt Foreign Policy‘s stupid point here, but quite the opposite: they all but prove that now the U.S. is in decline, because after all the wolf does eventually come.
And that wolf, this time, is apparently China. Because they have an economy that is, on a per-capita basis, 15% of the size of the United States’, and because authoritarian communist governments have long been known to issue inaccurate statistics that show that everything under their purview is just awesome.
Why do western societies, and in particular the United States, doubt themselves so?
I can’t imagine why men might not be nice to this person.
Some of you might say that this kind of thing just evens the score for vulgar mudflaps; but that only works if you accept that the kind of university-educated women who sport these bumper stickers are on the same level, culturally, as the dumber sort of truck driver.
The Daily is lousy. I’m not talking about the technology (which is lousy, and which has been criticized elsewhere anyway); I’m not sure whether I should cut them a break there, but I will, because it’s early days. I’m talking, rather, about the journalism, the writing and editing: it’s bad. As near as I can tell, the whole thing is shallow fluff.
It’s a newspaper for people who aren’t particularly interested, which raises the question: who the hell is supposed to read this thing? If you’re not particularly interested in the news, you’re not going to pay $1 a week for this; and if you are particularly interested in the news, you’re really not going to pay $1 a week for this.
They do know one thing about all their readers: every one of them has an iPad. So there’s a whole bunch of things like ‘Judd Apatow: what’s on his iPad’ and ‘What I Love On My iPad’ with Nolan Gould, who is a child actor.
Mr. Gould likes, among other things, Angry Birds and Notebooks. About Notebooks, he says
I’ve got a writing app where you can write and make books and stuff on it. Maybe I’ll write a book — I like to write stories. A lot of the time when I’m traveling, I come up with a good idea and need to write it down.
The copy informs us that Mr. Gould is a member of Mensa. News you can use.
But that’s not all. The comments are lousy, there’s a full-page story about Groundhog Day that consisted of a giant photo of a groundhog, and seventy-three words, including the headline and byline. This paragraph is over half the length of the entire Groundhog Day ‘story’.
The ‘opinion’ section is small, which is probably wise given that opinions are not what you’d call in short supply on the Internet. But there is room in there for a column where Michael Maiello laments how shallow and ignorant the American public are — and while doing so, he manages to get in a swipe or two at Sarah Palin. How original and insightful.
In the end, though, these are all quibbles. The biggest problem with The Daily is that there’s just not much information there. One of the lead stories today is about the snowstorm that struck much of the country yesterday. This features a movie that includes a scene of what looks like a freeway filled with abandoned cars.
Nowhere in the story or in the movie do they say where this is. The story hints that it might be in Chicago — in which case: where in Chicago? The Daily doesn’t tell us. The USA Today iPad app works better, provides far more information, and doesn’t come with a subscription charge. The Professional Journalism Types working for Rupert Murdoch had exactly the same access to the USA Today app that I do, and yet they came up with this thing as their higher-priced competition.
Truly, the future of journalism.
A story in the Washington Post says that banks should follow a policy of redlining — that is, not making loans to minorities.
Of course, it doesn’t come right out and say that, but that appears to be the inescapable conclusion. It appears that members of minority groups don’t pay their mortgages back at the same rate as whites, regardless of income level.
Minority homeowners have been disproportionately affected by the foreclosure crisis and stand to lose homes at a faster pace than white borrowers in the future, according to a report released Friday by a nonprofit research group.
[...] High-income black borrowers, for example, were 80 percent more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure than their white counterparts, while Latino borrowers were 90 percent more likely.
Now, I’d expect minorities to default on their obligations more often than whites. On average, members of minority groups are poorer than whites. The very biggest problem with being poor is that a minor misfortune — say, a car breaking down — can turn into a major disaster pretty quickly. I’d be surprised if foreclosure rates for white and blacks of comparable financial means weren’t similar.
But here we’re told that even ‘high-income’ minority borrowers don’t pay back their loans at the same rate as white people.
Housing experts have pointed to a variety of factors to explain the disparity, including higher unemployment rates in minority communities and traditionally fewer financial resources for black and Latino borrowers to fall back on.
Meaning: they’re poorer. But remember, higher-income minorities are actually more likely to default than their poorer cousins from the same minority groups. So this can’t be it.
One possibility that’s not addressed in the story at all is that members of minority groups tend to buy property in bad neighborhoods at a greater rate than whites. When real-estate values fall, they fall first and fastest in the ghetto-adjacent areas, leaving a lot of the mortgagees there under water on their loans. People of all colors are far more likely to stop paying their notes when the outstanding balance exceeds any plausible value of the property.
There are some quotes in the article that explain the problem by means of the chicken and the egg:
“I think it reflects that minority borrowers were targeted by the sellers of these [risky] mortgages,” said Barry Zigas, director of housing and credit policy at the Consumer Federation of America.
Yeah, well, when you’re poor, it’s riskier to lend you money, so you get a riskier mortgage. And as there’s a headline in the Post here, atop this very story, saying ‘Minorities hit harder by foreclosure crisis’ — meaning ‘People who lent to minorities hit harder by deadbeats not making their payments’ — it would seem that the lenders offering risky mortgages to these people knew exactly what they were doing.
Research has shown that minority borrowers were more likely to receive subprime loans during the housing boom even if they had credit scores, incomes and loan sizes similar to those of whites. Some housing experts say that minority borrowers received higher rates on subprime loans compared with similarly situated white borrowers, resulting in higher monthly payments and quicker defaults.
Though, since nobody is forced to accept a certain loan, this paragraph really just says ‘Minorities are so stupid that they take worse loan terms than they could get’. That’s a rather shocking thing to read in a left-wing paper like the Washington Post, which is why they couch it in the passive voice and put the blame on the lenders.
Of course, had the lenders not made loans to the minorities, this would have been because of racism.
The caption on this photo from the June 3 Warren Sentinel reads:
On Friday, May 28, checkpoints were held on East Criser Road, West Strasburg Road and Commerce Avenue. The Commerce Avenue checkpoint was a part of the 522 Blitz for the 2010 Click it or Ticket campaign.
“We conducted three separate checkpions [sic] and screened a total of 1000 cars. We had three suspended drivers, three child restraint violations and two seat belt violations overall,” said Traffic Enforcement Officer Don Orye.
Now certainly some of the people approaching this mess weren’t wearing their seatbelts, and they put them on before being checkpointed. And some people saw this and used an alternate route all together.
But since this involves 1000 cars and finding a total of eight violations — .008 of the cars, that is, or .08% — you’d think the appropriate headline would be ‘Warren Countians and Front Royalty Are Exceptionally Law-Abiding’ or possibly ‘Tax Money Down The Tubes As Police Inconvenience Thousands To Detect Eight Minor Violations’.
Mind you, if you consider that the real point here was to detect seat-belt violations, the success rate was only .002. But if you believe that, you have to ask how they caught the ‘suspended drivers’. Obviously this ‘seat-belt checkpoint’ involved demanding to see at least some fraction of drivers’ licenses.
A proposal to replace shoeboxes. The story rubs me the wrong way almost immediately.
Product packaging is one of consumerism’s most toxic byproducts — transient, temporary, and lacking the vaguely utilitarian excuse for existence that the product it contains can claim.
Yes, I suppose that shoes are vaguely utilitarian. I mean, if you’re that kind of person. Sigh!
Christ, you can almost smell the contempt from here.
This is a variant, I think, of the activist’s credo (‘everyone is fucked but me’). The writer isn’t really saying that e.g. shoes are only ‘vaguely utilitarian’; she’s thinking of all those other things. Packaging for TVs, for instance, that are used to watch circus-freak reality shows rather than BBC Four. Packaging for things that the great unwashed not-me wants.
According to the story:
The innovative structure replaces both the shoe box and the shopping bag, and requires 65% less cardboard than a traditional box thanks to a carbon structure die-cut from a single flat piece of material that requires no additional printing, assembly, lamination, stapling or glueing. Rather than woven, the bag portion is stitched with heat, which means less work and waste.
Oh, joy, the carbon structure — which I think means ‘cardboard’; the word ‘carbon’ has a pretty definite meaning, but these days it’s standing in for all kinds of things — has no polymers and no glueing. And you are left with a ‘clever little bag’ that conveniently serves as an advertising medium.
Packaging should be reduced wherever possible; you’re not going to find too many people, of any political stripe, who think that anything should be over-packaged. But what’s on display here is a special kind of idiocy, because it entirely ignores the fact that a shoe box, as packaging goes, is almost perfectly recyclable. How do you recycle a shoe box? You put something else in it. There are whole chains of stores dedicated largely to selling what amount to shoe boxes without shoes in them because there are people who need more boxes than they need shoes.
Actual smart packaging redesign would approach the shoe box by trying to figure out how to make it even more reusable. Make it stronger than it strictly needs to be to hold shoes; make it better looking; make it easy to label the end of it. Boxes for kids’ should be able to be easily turned into little dollhouses, or Battle-Smurf fortresses, depending on taste.
At the cigar store, they sell empty cigar boxes to people who don’t like stogies but who do have some use for the boxes. Very few cigar boxes make it into the waste stream, because they’re so damned useful for other things. That is the way to improve packaging: by making it better for re-use.
A genuine attempt to reduce the amount of packaging that winds up in landfills would approach the problem from that perspective. Approaches that start off by moaning about ‘consumerism’, though, seem always to tend to be more about self-aggrandizement by way of Grands Projets than about actually making a difference.
A new bridge is being built across the Mississippi River in St. Louis. And some groups have a problem because, they say, there is not enough ‘minority participation’ in the construction.
Protesters gathered Monday at the ground breaking ceremony for the New Mississippi River Bridge project.
The group is concerned with the minority participation in building the bridge, said Troy Buchanan, task force chair for the United Congregations of the Metro-East.
“Shame on President Obama, and shame on Ray LaHood to build these projects in America without proper minority representation,” Buchanan said.
Buchanan said the Interstate 64 project had 27 percent minority participation, which he considers an ideal model. UCM is asking for 30 percent minority involvement in the New Mississippi River Bridge project.
Wait a minute, if 27 percent is ‘ideal’, then wouldn’t 30 percent be more than ideal, and therefore, you know, too much? Black people — the article keeps saying ‘minority’, but let’s be honest, this isn’t about Bosnians or Navajos or Mexicans — make up about 12% of the population of the United States, and about 18% of the population of the St. Louis metro area.
It seems to me that a project with 27% ‘minority participation’ means that African-Americans are already not just being included fairly, but in fact favored. The United Congregations guy apparently agrees with me, because he said this was ‘ideal’. But now it should be 30%?
“Investments in infrastructure should be shared by all Americans,” said Ron Trimmer, of UCM, in a press release.
With a slightly larger share, that is, going to Mr. Trimmer’s kind of Americans.
A couple paragraphs further down, there’s a clue:
East St. Louis is 95 percent to 100 percent minority, with an 18.4 percent unemployment rate, Buchanan said. He said UCM’s concern is creating opportunities for those that are unemployed in the communities surrounding the project.
Leaving aside the insanity of a place being ’100 percent minority’, there’s a problem of logic here. The Interstate 64 project, that of the ‘ideal’ 27% participation, was mostly in areas inhabited almost entirely by white people. If one end of a bridge being in a ’100% minority’ area means that there should be more ‘minority’ participation in the project, presumably the highway that was rebuilt through the richest part of town should have had a lot of Jewish and Ivy-League participation, no?
Apparently: no. Of course not.
I’m really of two minds about this kind of thing. On the one hand, it’s all ridiculous. If a black-owned or -staffed firm can do the work, and do it at competitive rates, they should not have any trouble attracting business. It’s in the government’s interest to spread this work around (if only because they are likely to net more in taxes from a lot of small companies than from one big company), and not to effectively annex a few big contractors (likely owned by white people) as arms of the government.
But in these articles, I only see people calling for ever-higher levels of ‘participation’ of people of a certain skin color, and never anything even on how much of a given area’s e.g. construction industry is represented by people with that skin color.