Monday, May 30, 2011

The Fallacy of Memorial Day

There's more than one reason why I don't buy into celebrating Memorial Day. First of all, I think the vast majority of people that celebrate (not necessarily the "three-day-weekender" celebration or the "50%-off-all-furniture-in-the-store" celebration) do so with false sincerity. Most of them seem to want to appear to be sincere in there appreciation, but don't think about it the other 364 days of the year.

Secondly, and more obnoxiously for me, is we artificially inflate the status of servicepeople in our nation compared to other professions. Before you get mad, let me begin by saying none of what's about to follow is designed to belittle or degrade the sacrifice of our armed services. They make incredible sacrifices and I would never want to marginalize that. What follows is, simply, an attempt to give perspective.

Although members of the armed services are given food, housing, college funding, and health care in addition to a paycheck, we act as if they are categorically under-appreciated. Really? In what other profession--except maybe as a Senator--would you get such benefits?

If you're still not following me, think about it this way: what are police and firefighters paid? About $49,000 a year for police and $41,000 for firefighters. While servicemembers may not bring home that much, it's hard to imagine their pay plus their additional benefits don't amount to more than police and firefighters, who don't get those same perks.

Still not with me? Okay, fine. People are quick to deride police that have "desk jobs" because they aren't on the streets. Well, what do you people think the majority of military jobs are? Desk jobs. There are more cooks, painters, and office jockeys than infantrymen, but they're all entitled to wear the uniform and get the praise. How is this double standard fair?

Answer: it isn't. The fact is that the average police officer and firefighter is in real danger every day they go to work, whether in a standoff or directing traffic, or fighting a fire. Thousands of police officers and firefighters die in the line of duty every year. Why do we not celebrate their sacrifices?

There are probably two reasons. First of all, it's become acceptable in our society to villainize police as bad guys and scumbags. There are bad apples in every profession, but allowing those people to typecast the entire profession is ludicrous. We don't villainize all military members after a few of them rape and murder innocent civilians, or go crazy and shoot their comrades. Police and firefighters should be no different.

Secondly, we are afraid to criticize members of the armed services. If a Marine rapes and kills a woman and her children in a war zone, we say, "What a shame, the pressure must've gotten to him," and that's the end of it. But if a cop pulls you over and gives you a ticket, all cops are scumbags. Just the same, there's a culture that it's unacceptable to not treat the military as demi-gods. They are human beings just like you and me. We need to stop pretending they are angels doing God's work with assault rifles and missiles.

So until we start celebrating our police and firefighters and stop pretending like every person with a military uniform is an infallible Captain America, I won't be satisfied. I know it's not a popular position to take, but I don't care. It's the right position to take.

Happy Memorial Day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Post Office Rant (possibly "Post Office Rant Redux")

I haven't written anything for good ol' Fear Goggles in months (thanks for nothing, law school, your steaming pile of time-wasting horseshit!), so in my non-triumphant return I'm going to discuss something I may have already railed against in the past. But given that no one reads this blog and even if they do, they probably aren't familiar with the full body of work herein, I'm going to cover the subject anyway. Also, if you didn't know that maybe (again, I'm still not sure) I've written about this previously and only found out about it because of the last sentence, here's a special instruction: ignore the previous sentence and start anew at the next paragraph.

I was in line in the post office a few days ago to mail a package. It was about noon, which is always a busy time at the post office. However, on this day only about 5 people were in line: 2 in front of me, and two in the back.

I'd been there about a minute perhaps when I hear the following statement from the person behind me in line:

"This is what's wrong with our government. They can't do anything. How hard is it to run the post office, really? They keep raising the cost to mail, they lose your mail, the service is slow in the office and in delivery, and they are all idiots. They like using what little power they have to give you the third degree when you mail a package. I'm so sick of this stupid government-owned crap, it's a joke."

I don't know where to begin, so I'm going to fire off my key points in list format. (It's a blog--there's no rule against that).

  • First of all, just because the USPS is a government organization doesn't mean that it's useless and defective. It just means it's a government organization. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
  • Secondly, it's really hard to manage billions of pieces of mail for 350+ million people in one of the largest geographical areas on the planet. It's sort of a miracle that anyone ever gets their mail on time, if at all.
  • What does it cost to send a letter first class from NY to LA? Like fifty cents? Are you such a miserable cheap bastard that you feel gouged when someone carries a piece of paper for you cross country in 3 days or less for less than a dollar? If you'd never seen mail prices and someone said "How much do you think it would cost if you gave a letter to this company and had them produce it 3,000 miles away in less than three days?" your guess would probably be at least $50. So what if they raised stamps 1-cent! It's still a fucking steal and one of the few true bargains in the world! If the USPS had raised prices in accordance with inflation and gas prices, it would cost about $5 to mail a letter. But, luckily, those scumbags are owned by our shitty government (remember that point you made earlier?) and they subsidize it to keep the mail affordable for everyone. What jerks!
  • When was the last time you actually had the USPS lose your mail? Or even damage it? You probably can't remember, can you? And even if you do remember, I bet it was an isolated incident, and not a pattern of reckless abandon as you suggested.
  • Service in the post office isn't that slow. Even if you were in line at McDonald's when it's busy, you're going to be in line 5 or 10 minutes. Why is it acceptable to stand in line for a shitty manufactured sleazeburger but you can't wait more than 10 seconds to send a letter? Be consistent!
  • And the "third degree" business. You may not recall 9/11 and the subsequent anthrax scare, or the pipe bombs of the 1990s, but that's why postal workers ask what's in the package when you mail it. It's not Big Brother. It's not to be nosy or go on a power trip. It's to help make sure the mail is safe. Admittedly, if you're sending a dirty bomb in the mail and Betty Postworker asks "Is there anything liquid, chemical, or potentially hazardous in the package?" you aren't going to say, "Damn, you got me, I totally put a bomb in there; good one, Betty." But it might catch someone acting weird and it'll tip them off to scan the box before they mail it to Washington, D.C.
  • Lastly, if that's how you feel about the post office, why are you here in the first place? Why aren't you down at Fedex or UPS getting stellar customer service, speedy delivery, and rock-bottom prices? The answer is "because it costs less than a fucking dollar to send a fucking letter from fucking Kentucky to fucking Timbuktu."
You aren't entitled to first-class service just because you pay taxes. I pay taxes too, and I don't expect to get V.I.P. treatment when I mail a letter. The fact is the post office is a huge public service to us all, and we pay shockingly little to enjoy its benefits.

So if you're the asshole standing in line 30 seconds at the post office and throw a hissy fit, here's my advice: Stop being such a jerkoff, because we're all waiting patiently and you should do the same. Your time is no more important than mine, and I'm willing to wait 5 minutes to ship a package for $3 when it would cost $10 to sent it through another provider.

And if you really don't like the post office and won't back down, have Fedex or UPS deliver all your mail. See how long you want to foot that bill before you complain about waiting 3 minutes at the post office, you leech.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Raw: O'Reilly vs. Stewart Over Common Controversy" from Fox News

"Republican Candidate" from Saturday Night Live

10u: Ed Helms / Paul Simon

Republican Candidate

Republican Candidate.....Ed Helms

[ open on stock footage of eagle soaring, majestic fields, etc. ]

Announcer: This election season, America will decide if we want four more years of politics as usual... or if we think, as a nation, we can do better.

[ dissolve to random Republican candidate seated on his desk ]

Republican CandidateI think we can do better. Hello, I'm either Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, or Gary Johnson. And I believe I'M the man that can get this country back on track.

[ cut to close-up shot ]

I understand that, with such a crowded field of candidates, it's hard to tell us apart. We all look the same, and our names are boring. But, whoever I am, there are some things I know to be true.

[ cut to wide shot ]

I know that free enterprise is the beating heart of any vibrant democracy. I know that I'm a white male between the ages of 45 and 60. I know that I'm not Donald Trump or Newt Gingrich, because you know what they look like. But I might be Joh Huntsman or John Thune. In conclusion: My dad, the military, dogs, church stuff.

I'm Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, John Thune, John Huntsman, Gary Johnson, Mitch Johnson, Tim Daniels, or Hunt Mitchman. And I approved this message.

[ cut to American flag graphic ]

Announcer: Paid for by Land's End.

[ fade ]


Doug Abeles

James Anderson

Alex Baze

Heather Anne Campbell

Jessica Conrad

Jim Downey

Tom Flanigan

Shelly Gossman

Steve Higgins

Colin Jost

Erik Kenward

Rob Klein

Jonathan Krisel

Seth Meyers

Lorne Michaels

John Mulaney

Christine Nangle

Michael Patrick O'Brien

Paula Pell

Simon Rich

Marika Sawyer

Akiva Schaffer

John Solomon

Kent Sublette

Bryan Tucker

SNL Transcripts

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Faxes today

The Bad Mutha Booboisie needed to file its annual property taxes for the first time, and we had the option to mail or fax it in. I typically use a free fax service online when I need to fax something like this, and I intended to do so this time. On Thrusday, I prepared my files into two 3-page PDFs and uploaded them to the service. I entered the required information, confirmed my request, and left them processing while I went to mow my front lawn.

When I got back from mowing, I found that the first 3 pages had gone through while the subsequent 3 pages had not gotten a response from the receiving fax machine. I tried to try again, but the limit of 2 faxes per 24-hours apparently includes failed faxes in the count. I tried 3 other free online services; none worked. On Friday, I took my file to my day job with me and tried 4 times to fax from there; no response each time. I ended up mailing my tax files, but I wonder: why do we still use the fax system?

Why don't we have automatic backup-to-email settings and fax-via-DSL or wifi? I don't understand how fax has survived without evolving. Please explain it to me.

Friday, May 6, 2011