Why is lying on the OpEd page OK?

Today David Brook’s contributed one of the most dishonest Op-Ed’s I’ve ever seen. It’s a case study in why his writing is despised by so many.

Worse, more and more people are falling for the Grand Delusion — the notion that if we just leave the extremists alone, they will leave us alone. On the right, some believe that if we just stop this Wilsonian madness of trying to introduce democracy into the Arab world, we can return to an age of stability and balance. On the left, many people can’t seem to fathom an enemy the U.S. isn’t somehow responsible for. Others think the entire threat has been exaggerated by Karl Rove for the sake of political scaremongering.

This “Grand Delusion” would be a serious problem. If it actually existed. There is not one politician of any importance who believes we can just leave the extermists alone. Not one. This Grand Delusion is about as real as the idea that if you eat pop rocks and then drink a coke, you’ll die. The whole idea is a complete lie and Brooks knows it.

REI: That’s how they get you

Back in early 2004, I decided to start bike-riding again. My bike had seen better days, and I brought it to REI for a tuneup. Bought a few things for it also. Ended up with about $300 worth of stuff.

I noticed they had a membership card that got you 15% off. That sounded good to me, that’s a cool $45 in my pocket. You might think that would just ring it up at the register, and end up with a $255 bill to pay. That’s how it works at Home Depot for instance. No.

Let’s look at some of the barriers that REI put in the way of my getting that $45.

  • You have to get a membership card. They give you a temporary one at first.
  • You have to make the purchase with your membership card, it appears on your statement. This means you have to give them all kinds of information about who you are and where you live and such so they can bill you properly.
  • You don’t get your money off at the register. You don’t get it in a monthly statement once they confirm you’ve made the purchase. You wait until the end of the year to get it. Nice float they get on that.
  • Then, you don’t get it at the end of the year. Now what consumer is keeping track of that $45? At the end of the year who notices that there was an REI check due? And when is the end of the year… December? January? April 15th?
  • Incredibly, I had all the paperwork, and called them about it — you have to actually request the refund. Imagine that — I wonder what the attrition rate is of people never claiming their discount. So sometime in 2005 I called them.
  • I missed the window for 2005, I had to call again in 9 months.
  • I finally made the claim, I was informed that half the stuff I bought was not eligible for some reason or other. It’s been two years by now, I’m hardly in a position to throw facts around, but I’m sure there was no disclaimer or notice when I actually bought the stuff.

The other day, I recieved my check. Two years later, for $17. Whoopee.

I coveteth your frenched fries

Recently I went to lunch with a friend from work. We both got the same meal, your basic burger and fries. They were both good, but they didn’t give us nearly enough fries. I’m a quick eater, and my friend had a lot to vent about, so I was done well before him. I was eyeing his food a little — I was still hungry.

Now I’m not a fat man at all, but I do keep an eye on the scale, and do always have to battle myself to not eat too much at a time, and not to eat food just because it’s sitting there. That’s the worst, just the sight of certain foods triggers Pavlovian responses. It probably says something that one of my most popular posts is about proper pizza terminology.

Anyhow, he finished the burger, but left his whole plate of fries. They were just sitting there while he talked. I couldn’t stop looking at them. What do you do?

Option 1) Show some self-restraint, you bloated pig. You just ate a whole meal. You don’t need anymore french fries, you really don’t. You work with him, the last thing you want is a rep as a glutton. Get a hold of yourself. Grow up.

Option 2) Just take some fries. It’s no big deal. He’s not going to eat them, he doesn’t care, why waste them? Grow up.

I went with the self-restraint option. So for the next ten minutes, half my brain conversed, while the other half thought about the french fries, and tried to keep my eyes from constantly going to the plate, and laughing at my lack of willpower, and thinking how hard it was to just not eat someone else’s french fries. It was awful.

But at last the check was paid. I got up to go. And that’s when he said,

“Hold on a second, I want to finish my drink. We’re in no rush.”


Loverboy proves why looks matter

Back in my day, MTV ran great contests. “People really win on MTV”, which they did. One contest was to appear in a Loverboy video. This was back when Loverboy was a big deal, and videos were also. When Loverboy’s new video did come out, I was curious to see the winner. I didn’t. On the third or fourth viewing (I didn’t have much else to do in those days), I caught a glimpse of her. Check her out at 0:16 of the video.

I feel bad for her. Clearly, as soon as the director took one look at her, she got buried in a quick half-second cut and was never heard from again. You can bet if she was even half-way decent looking, they’d have figured out some way to feature her more.

Postnote 1: I’m not nearly as snarky about Loverboy as this guy (see entry #5). Sure, it was all cheesy 80s music, but they had some fine pop songs. Working for the Weekend is still on my playlist.

Postnote 2: On the other hand, I have distinct memories of a video at a gas station, and the drummer had to try and mime his drumming using those big gas nozzles. Priceless.

The Gossipy Grey Lady

Many bloggers have pointed out the New York Times often attributes motives to politicians, when it knows nothing about the actual motives. They do this to the point of obscuring facts in favor of spinning everything into a horse-race. Here are a couple of great examples.

In their news analysis yesterday, the New York Times shows why their critics are right. Here is the lead paragraph:

In calling for public war-crime trials at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush is calculating that with a critical election just nine weeks away, neither angry Democrats nor nervous Republicans will dare deny him the power to detain, interrogate and try suspects his way.

Well, maybe. Sure, it could be a cold calculation. Or maybe Bush feels that with the Hamdan decision going against him, he is in legal limbo, and needs to put his vision of the proposed law on the table to comply with the ruling. Maybe he actually, you know, wants to follow the law. There ain’t a lick of evidence either way. Yet, that was the first sentence of the article, and the tease blurb was virtually the same. News analysis should not be held to the same standard as more pure reporting pieces, but there is still some standard. And the meat of this article is not analysis, it’s fantasy.

Let’s dig into the first few paragraphs, shall we?
1) Bush is gonna manipulate everything to get his way
2) Why? He wants to challenge Congress’s authority. (Yes, he’s challenging them by asking them to pass his version of a bill… right!)
3) “..the gambit”
4) “…had more than one agenda at work..”
5) Such as revenge on the Supreme Court
6) Or trying to make people forget about Iraq

Guessing about motives — you know what happens when you assume, right?

(Actually, I have a different answer to that question, but I’ll save that for a “weird funny observation” post)

Hell Freezes Over, Pigs Fly, etc.

So, the president admitted we’ve been holding more prisoners in foreign countries purely to evade the law. First he admitted Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11, now this. This might start a trend! Next thing you know, he’ll be coming clean about his drug history and the National Guard. From there he’ll move up to talking about his relationship with Enron and Ken Lay, what went on in Cheney’s secret meetings, telling about the NSA program, admitting Iraq was a giant mistake and it was all his fault, that he messed up North Korea, that his tax cuts don’t really help anyone who needs it, and ooo I’d better stop, I do believe I’m getting the vapors.

The Saddam thing deserves a little more detail:

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?
THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?
Q The attack on the World Trade Center?
THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it’s part of — and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack.

Oh yes, no one has suggested it at all. Heaven forbid! Wherever would someone get the idea they were connected! Er, maybe from these non-stop justifications from your administration (and Lieberman of course)?

In semi-related news, the administration took back one of his trickiest moves.

At the same time, the Pentagon released a new Army Field Manual that requires humane treatment of all terrorism suspects and sets strict limits on interrogation techniques.

This one’s tricky unless you’ve been following it. Remember how Bush fought and fought to be able to torture anyone at anytime in whatever way he pleased? Then the Senate spoiled his party at the end of 2005, by passing McCain’s anti-torture bill by an overwhelming vote. First, Bush added the execrable signing statement which said he would follow the law unless he didn’t feel like it. Then something else happened.

The bill passed the buck on a definition of torture. It refers to the standard set by the Army Field Manual, and extends that standard to the rest of the government. Well, right about then, the Pentagon puts out a new version of the Army Field Manual. And what do you know, but suddenly a whole bunch of stuff that used to be bad is now good. Ha, ha, gotcha Mr. McCain, put that in your pipe and smoke it! Checkmate!

So the news that the Army Field Manual has been revised so a bunch of stuff that used to be bad is now good, is good news. It’s a major retreat for the Administration.


Looks like this is getting above the radar. It seems obvious that yesterday’s news was not a retreat by Bush, but a dispute. The Pentagon is reducing torture, Bush wants more of it.

That ain’t no chickenhawk

One of the most infuriating things about the right-wingers in power is that they relentlessly beat the drums of war, throw slime all over true war heroes, all the while refusing to join the military themselves. The hyprocrisy is overwhelming.

It’s a pleasure to see a counterexample. Jon Paton, a 2nd term representative from Arizona is heading to Iraq.

He decided that his full-throated support of the war would seem contradictory if he was not willing to serve. “I had to put my money where my mouth is” said Mr. Paton

Now that’s public service.