Saturday, December 31, 2005

The RNC is watching...

Dan Froomkin is a popular Web columnist for the Washington Post. Every afternoon, he writes a lively digest of White House press coverage. A couple of weeks ago, there was some manufactured controversy, as Washington Post editors started to talk about how there could be “reader confusion” if people thought that he was part of their news division.

It turned out that readers had not complained; it was actually coming from Bush/GOP operatives. Specifically, from a guy named Patrick Ruffini who was the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign Webmaster. He currently works for the RNC, and he wanted to make sure the Bush administration wasn’t confused by the opinion column.

The interesting part comes when you look at Ruffini’s own site. He has created his own “2008 Presidential Wire” that digests pertinent stories for his multitude of fans. And one of his sources? This blog! Check it out – the RNC is watching my crazy, socialist ravings.

Thursday, December 29, 2005


Like the sea, a supermarket contains many secrets that it does not willingly give up. Sometimes it takes some squinting at the fine print to tell what's really going on. Unfortunately, the labels often pose deeper questions than they answer.

Let's ponder Mighty Dog Prime Cuts Chicken in Gravy Dinner. If you've ever used a Mighty Dog product, you know better than to buy any of the "in Gravy" variants, because it's a cup of water with some chunks in it. But Prime Cuts Chicken goes even further. The ingredient list starts out OK: Water, Chicken, Turkey, Animal Liver.... Wait a minute. ANIMAL liver? Note that they identify chicken as a meat. Turkey is a meat. They could've said "chicken liver" or "beef liver." But the fine folks at Mighty Dog didn't want to make that commitment. They could only go so far as to say "animal liver." Why couldn't they say "liver?" The word "liver" doesn't open up nearly as many questions as the phrase "animal liver." I thought that it might've been a misspelling of "animal lover" and that they'd been able to sneak a couple of PETA activists in the 2000 gallon grist vat that day, but no. Animal liver. ANIMAL liver, and you had just better walk backwards, slowly, out of the factory and stop asking questions.

Slim Jims used to list beef lips on their label, but they seem to stick to "mechanically separated chicken" now. If I'm not mistaken, that's what you get when, having picked all the meat off the bones, the factory shoots jets of boiling sludge at the carcass, removing all the rest of the little bits into a delicious, Slim Jimmable slurry. Other brands of beefy snap sticks, like Rolets chevies, still list beef lips. However, their ingredients are: beef, beef lips..... Why must they list these as two separate things? It doesn't help the reputation of the first "beef" to then toss in a second, lippier version.

But today, I was greeted with the worst product yet. I've said it for years - the end of human civilization as we know it will originate from somewhere in Washington State. Today, I found us one step closer, courtesy of the King Kullen produce aisle. I spied this misplaced set of four apples, shrink-wrapped, with the Grapple brand name. The label announced that they looked like an apple, but tasted like grapes! The ingredients? Washington State Fuji apples, artificial grape flavoring.

Why is this worse than animal liver and beef lips? When you buy Mighty Dog, you kind of expect the main ingredients to be floor sweepings and offal. When you buy Slim Jims, you're not looking for filet mignon in a convenient pocket pack. However, when you buy an apple, you want an apple. Not another piece of candy. (Except when you get caramel apples around Halloween. Mmmm mmmm good.) It's not even some weird hybrid that tastes like a grape. It's just some crappy old apples they had lying around and shot up with fake grape flavoring.

I wanted to find out more about this Grapple, so I tried to go to their site. It was down for servicing or something. So I checked out the Google cache page. "With childhood obesity increasing at alarming rates, Grāpple brand apples could go a long way to improving the eating habits of children and introducing them to more produce." Yessir. When everything tastes like candy, everyone will eat better! Their home page also features an animation of Chicken Little, dancing for his pathetic little life, looking as fake as, well, a Grapple.

Unsatisfied with this visit to a fake page about a fake apple that showed a fake chicken, I went back to try the "similar pages" list. I now know that the following are similar to Grapples: earthquake maps of North America, high-tech robot skin, Nestle Smarties, portable keyboards for the Palm, Texas Motor Speedway, and 80s music. Grapples: There's no making sense of them.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Aaaah, media bias

Today on channel 5 (Fox), they keep running a graphic while reporting on your commuting options:


While it's nice of them to try and shape people's opinions on the blame for what's happening, most people in New York are on the side of the transit workers. Despite the best efforts of the tabloids to shriek up to Bloomberg on this one.

Of course, they weren't running big graphics three years ago when the MTA was revealed to have two sets of books. They shifted money from one year forward to the next, then claimed that they had a huge deficit so they could raise fares systemwide. This led to their billion dollar surplus today (or more - since we have no idea what their surprise finances will be next week). Why wasn't the Post calling for the crooks at the MTA to be tossed in jail back then, the way they are with Toussaint now?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Peter, a message for you


Carry on.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Subway strike!

Took me 2 1/2 hours to get to work this morning. The train was 45 minutes late, and it took 15 minutes just to get out of Penn Station. The smokers and I, the only people normally walking up Seventh on days like this, were joined by hordes of commuters rediscovering their feet.

The morning news was full of warnings today: wear a hat, because you lose 40% of your heat through your head. All well and good, but I wish they'd told me where you lose another 35% of your warmth before I chose these assless chaps to wear to work. Southerly winds suck.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Transit strike looming

We've been going back and forth on this for days now. The MTA, the evil quasi-governmental monopoly who can't be buggered to report accurate financial results, is attempting to remove pesky benefits like pensions and four-minute bathroom breaks from transit workers. The union is about to strike, which would be financially devastating to them under the gigantic daily fines the city has been allowed to impose. Commuters are stuck in the middle of all of this.

So where are the negotiations now? I put on WCBS-880 for a couple of minutes tonight, and I was greeted by the news that Roger Toussaint, the head of the TWU, is a "highly intelligent man." Now think about that statement for a second. Toussaint also happens to be a black man of Haitian descent. Has anyone ever called Peter Kalikow a "highly intelligent man" during a report? Think about it - have you ever heard ANY white guy referred to as "highly intelligent" during any sort of report? The statement itself struck me as condescending, and made only because of the race of the subject. Are people sitting there saying "wow, that head of the union, who is negotiating an intricate contract with the city, isn't very intelligent?" I don't know - maybe they are. But if so, it's an example of unintentional racism.

Bush, the Worst President Ever. Now with 9/11 Blame!

OK, let’s start by putting cards on the table. President Bush should be impeached. Given the revelations of the past week – the fact that he repeatedly authorized illegal, unconstitutional spying on American citizens – there’s really no valid argument against impeachment at this point. This is even without the abandonment of a major city in September and an illegal war in Iraq.

But I realize that not everyone agrees. “Oh, boo hoo hoo. It’ll be too traumatic because we trumped up charges against Clinton a few years ago!” Well, tough crap. You don’t justify letting someone kick you in the ribs on the basis of his brother slugging you in the jaw a week ago, saying that you want to stop the violence.

There are two important things to note right now. The first is the whole “American way of life” argument. We are fighting because, as Bush says, “the terrorists hate our freedoms.” Bin Laden, responsible for the murder of 3000 innocent Americans on 9/11, “hates our freedoms.” Well, what did Bush and his administration do? They hated our Fourth Amendment freedoms and took them away. The Bush administration hates our freedoms.

Second, let’s look at what Bin Laden said after 9/11. His stated goal was to draw us into a wider West vs. Islam struggle. Well well well. What do we have in Iraq that we didn’t have in 2001? A wider West vs. Islam struggle. Bin Laden 2, Bush 0.

Finally, and yes – I have more than two points - we have members of the administration, from Gonzales to Cheney, telling us that if ONLY we had the powers to wiretap without a warrant prior to 9/11, maybe we could’ve stopped Mohammed Atta and even the entire plot. Well, guess what? Prior to 9/11 we had FISA. And the law said that the administration COULD run warrantless searches for 72 hours, then apply for the nearly guaranteed warrant from the secret court.

I have never been in the “Bush could’ve stopped 9/11” camp. It was, for the most part, unexpected. The daily briefing laid out some potential plans as part of a flood of information Bush ignored every day. Condoleeza Rice did her “Oh, thaaaaaaaaat memo!” schtick in front of Congress later on, after denying its existence. But I don’t think it’s necessarily realistic to say that dropping everything when they got the PDB would’ve led to the break-up of the 9/11 plot.

But now I’m starting to wonder. If Cheney is claiming that we might’ve done it with this illegal wiretap plan in place, I can’t see any reason why simply using existing statutes couldn’t have gotten us to the same place. Since I always take our elected leaders at their word, Cheney has made a convincing argument that the administration was, in fact, negligent in the deaths in the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania that day.

Feingold for President in 2008.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kasha varnishkes

We had a big office party for kids yesterday. It was nice, one of those "celebrate holiday diversity" things where everyone learns the story of Chanukah, then reads some stuff about Kwanzaa off slips of paper, and then as a reward, everyone gets to meet Santa.

The highlight was the multi-holiday lunch spread. There was turkey, and cornbread with jalapeno, and some brisket, and kasha varnishkes, and latkes. I had a bit of each.

You know how some foods just taste awful, and you say "oh man, I hate this," but a couple of years later you try it again because your taste memory has faded and you think "maybe it's better when someone else makes it" but you taste it and the cycle starts anew? There are at least four foods in this category for me:

- Mikee brand authentic Chinese rib sauce
- Suddenly Salad!
- Egg nog
- Kasha varnishkes

Kasha varnishkes, if you didn't know, is a Yiddish term meaning "bowties and varnish." Kasha varnishkes tastes like bowtie pasta mixed with little shavings of varnished furniture. You see a big tray of it and thing "hey, that looks pretty good!" Then you heap up on it, and it tastes like CRAP. No wonder all my ancestors died 100 years ago.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Brooklyn photo scams

Yikes! A guy named Don Wiss has created a popular site that shows the actual buildings at the addresses where Brooklyn camera stores claim to operate. The common wisdom in the world of cameras is that a Brooklyn address means a scam, and this site shows some of the more remarkable ones.

Due to some help he gave a recent poster who had problems with a particular vendor, the story was slashdotted, and Don started receiving death threats from someone involved in the store in question. He tells his story here.

Get your gas at CITGO!

I've decided that since I have to use gasoline to continue my decadent American way of life, I had better find a favorite gas company. I'm going with Citgo.

- Citgo is wholly owned by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of Venezuela.
- Venezuela's president is Hugo Chavez. He's kind of nuts, but he is a vehement enemy of President Bush - and he withstood a coup attempt that we winked at a few years ago.
- Chavez likes to embarrass Bush. His latest act is to undercut other oil companies by having Citgo sell heating oil to the poorest neighborhoods in Boston and NYC for steep discounts.

Bush won't help the poor buy heating oil. Another country's president, Hugo Chavez, wants to show his commitment to the disadvantaged in the United States. He's doing more than our government is, and that's pretty shameful. Citgo deserves praise and support for saving lives this winter with their cheap oil plan.

Thursday, December 8, 2005

Holiday Subway Haiku

The vagrant smoking
At the Bryant Park sub stop
Smells like rotting scrod

That Dora backpack
That little kid is holding
Likely stuffed with bombs


We've got a "major winter event" headed our way, so I just checked the government's official weather site for more information. I clicked through, got to the Upton forecast page, and discovered that we have a good chance of 50% extra snow. BECAUSE THEY'RE USING NINE-SIDED SNOWFLAKES AS ICONS. What the H? This crap just makes my gorge rise. Thanks for ruining winter for me for a 38th straight year.