Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What Is Wrong With The MSM? (part 1 of many)

The "gas tax holiday"* has been in the news again as gas prices have risen above $4 per gallon and Senator McCain has pushed a suspension of the gas tax. Press coverage has mostly focused on a few angles.*

*I have a reason for putting this in quotes, which I'll get to shortly. And while I'm at it, in case you're not familiar with the acronym, "MSM" = mainstream media.

*You may notice these asterics and italicized sections that are now peppering my blog posts. Think of them as footnotes. Joe Posnanski (sp?) is a sports writer whose blog I read, and who uses these italicized footnotes for long amusing digressions. I'll try to keep them short, but I think they're interesting and effective.

One type of story is about how the areas hardest hit by high gas prices are those in states that might be important in the general election. These stories focus on the politics of the "gas tax holiday." The conventional wisdom seems to be that Americans want their politicians to do something, and no one in their right mind would oppose the "gas tax holiday" because to do so would be to ignore the plight of the downtrodden driver. There's an enormous "but" that sometimes appears in the midst of these articles, but that sometimes doesn't.

The second kind of story is the one that explores the "but." For example... But, no one can find an economist who thinks the "gas tax holiday" would do anything to lower gas prices for consumers. These articles explain that the gas tax that would go on holiday* is really a tax on the production of gas paid by the oil companies.

*Is anyone else picturing a big dollar sign lying on the beach with sunglasses and a drink with a little umbrella in it?

Now here's where I start to get a little peeved to the point where it becomes necessary to write an angry indignant blog calling for the heads of media personalities. Where did the term "gas tax holiday" come from? McCain, and Clinton, and the media insist on calling this a "gas tax holiday," which implies that the holiday is for the consumer of gas, i.e. the driver, rather than for the producer of the gas, i.e. the giant wealthy corporate gas company. I can understand a proponent of the "Tax Break for Oil Companies" to want to name it something palatable, like "gas tax holiday," but for the media to acquiesce to such a loaded terminology in the absence of any real relationship between the term and its meaning is another sorry example of the media relinquishing any claim of independence.

You may notice that I gave the tax break a new name: "Tax Break for Oil Companies." This is what I'm going to call it from now on to anyone who mentions it. For example, if someone were to say, "Hey, how about that "gas tax holiday," I would reply, "I'm not familiar with this gas tax holiday of which you speak; wait, you must be referring to the Tax Beak for Oil Companies."

Hopefully this will catch on. There's really no reason I can think of for the media to continue to call this a "gas tax holiday." Not only is "Tax Break for Oil Companies" more accurate, it has the benefit of taking the political advantage away from McCain while cementing the fact that the "Tax Break for Oil Companies" won't help consumers. Perhaps, it will catch on and the MSM will start using it. I'm waiting for the day when Mr. McLoughliStephonapaMatthews asks Senator McCain: "You've called for a Summer Tax Break for Oil Companies. How does lower taxes for Oil Companies help drivers at the pump?" And maybe Obama could say something like: "Rather than give a Summer Tax Break to Oil Companies, I'd like to require that whenever gas prices rise by an $.10, Oil Companies disclose how much profit is made on the backs, or wheels, of the American consumer.

Refute the idea that the tax break helps? Done. Take away political advantage? Done. Do something that might actually lower prices? Done. I don't think this is such a crazy idea. And if its not crazy, why I am the only one I know who's mentioned it.

Really, MSM, what is wrong with you?

Monday, June 9, 2008

What Is Wrong With Bicyclists?

In theory, I don't have any problem with bicyclists. They get exercise, while getting to where they want to go, all without contributing to traffic congestion or global warming. I have several friends who ride bikes. I have several food delivery guys who ride bikes. All are essential to my general happiness.

However, despite my sunny predisposition and friendly attitude toward bicyclists in general, a small sub-group of the aforementioned bicyclists have rejected my goodwill. These bicyclists are a menace to pedestrians everywhere and must be stopped! Too dramatic? Ok, well, I'll concede that many bicyclists drive (ride?) safely and conscientiously. But there are lots of bikers (ugh, can I stop typing "bicyclists" already?) who have no respect for traffic regulations or pedestrians. The worst of these are bike messengers, but they're not the only ones. Many casual bikers are just as guilty. They go the wrong way on one way streets, they run red lights, they ... well, those are the two main problems they cause.

Why am I grousing about this today? Obviously, its because I was almost run over by a couple of bikers today. The first was going the wrong way on a one way street, so while I was looking in the direction of oncoming traffic to make sure no cars were coming when I crossed the street, this bike came from the other direction and nearly knocked me down. And not two minutes later, crossing another street, a bike ran a red light to make a turn in front of me and again, almost ran right into me. Both times, I caught my breath, and shook my fist in indignation, but what else could I do? Nothing. I fantasized about actually getting hit and then suing the bike messenger company, but really, unless the biker gets hurt in the crash, he's not going to stick around to tell me who he works for.

What I don't get though is why the bikers can't just follow the traffic rules. I mean, yeah, I guess that would slow them down and defeat part of the purpose of riding the bike instead of walking. And its not like cops are writing out tickets against reckless bikers. But every now and then someone gets hurt, and its occasionally the biker. That should at least be some deterrence, right?

So tell me bikers, if any of you are reading my blog, what is wrong with you?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

What Is Wrong With The Goo Goo Dolls?

There was a time, not so long ago, when three young musicians from Buffalo, NY set hearts (and ears) aflame in the world of Replacements-adoring power-pop fans. Those were simpler times, before American Idol, before INXS chose a replacement for the late good-but-not-great Michael Hutchens via a game show, before a whole lot of other distasteful stuff happened. Before all that, the Goo Goo Dolls were a really good band. I kid you not.

You may now be asking yourself: The Goo Goo Dolls? Really? This can't possibly be the WIWWY I've come to know and love. WIWWY must have been taken over by, um, someone who likes corporate alterna-crap. No, dear readers, not true. I still hate corporate alterna-crap. I just remember those times when the Goo Goo Dolls were still belonged to the cult of Paul Westerberg. When the short ugly guy still shreiked out semi-punk style. When they opened for good punk-pop bands like the Muffs. When they played in that parking lot that used to be on the South side of Astor Place when the East Village was still cool that's now some shiny glass condo tower. Man, if that's not a metaphor for something. I just don't know what.

Yes, there was a time when the Goo Goo Dolls were quite good. Their fifth album Superstar Carwash was one of the best power-pop albums of the 90s. Then suddenly, they weren't good. The next album had that song "Name" that hit big. So the album after that had a dozen songs that all sounded exactly like "Name". I guess they realized that teenage girls dug that shit and since it was so easy to do they'd just keep doing it. Memo to Goo Goo Dolls: stuff that sucks is always easy to do.

Why am I writing about this now? They put out a "best of" compilation that completely ignores the first half of their career, which just happens to contain all of their best songs. I guess they couldn't call it a "worst of".

So, I already know the answer to the question that you know will end this post. Answer: money = good to have; critical acclaim = having to have day jobs to pay for repairing the band's van.

Goo Goo Dolls, I know what's wrong with you, but I want to hear you say it. GGD, what's wrong with you?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

What is Wrong With the MTA? (Part 1 of many)

A couple of weeks ago, the MTA, everyone's favorite provider of mass transit that feels more like mass standing there being pissed, announced that it plans to suspend service at the Smith & 9th Street subway station in Brooklyn for in 2010 for over a year. Yes, you heard that right. Users of the Smith/9th station may be without service for a year.

For those of you unfamiliar with the neighborhood, Smith/9th serves the communities of Red Hook and Gowanus in south Brooklyn. The neighborhoods are known more for light industry than for residential uses, but there is a substantial residential population, including the residents of an enormous public housing complex. There's another station about 8 blocks away, and I suspect (hope) that the MTA will run a bus between the stations, but hey, this is the MTA we're talking about.

So, what do you think? Does the MTA hate poor people? Minorities? Brooklyn? Is there really no other way to do the repair and maintenance work than to close this station for a year? Are they dumb? Lazy? I can think of a lot of things that could be wrong with the MTA? I suspect the answer is a combination of (1) this is the easiest way for them to do it, and (2) they don't care that much about who is inconvenienced.

MTA, what the hell is wrong with you?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What Is Wrong With Bloggers? (Part 1 of many)

Before I started this blog, I had imagined that I would title it "What Is Wrong With You?" I could see the title edged in flame against a dark background, a beacon for all those dumbstruck by the idiocy of 99% of the rest of the world. Ok, not really. That would be cheesy. And also, my graphics skills are weak, so I settled for black against a white background. But the title, and the sentiment, remain the same.

I figured there were probably blogs with this name already, but I also figured they'd either relate to medical diagnosis (true) or be all together inferior to my blog (also true). And I welcomed the competition. And if called upon to render a medical diagnosis, sure, I'll step up and give it a shot. I watch House.

I also figured that the URL whatiswrongwithyou.blogspot.com would be taken. And I was right. As were lots of different configurations of that URL. What I didn't realize was that they were all taken by people who don't use them. I typed a few of the different variations of the URL into my web browser and with few exceptions got a screen that looked like someone had started a blog, but never posted anything.

Now, I have no problem at all with lack of follow-through. If I had a nickel for every time I had a good idea, spent a little bit of time on it, then abandoned it before really accomplishing anything, I'd have quite a bag of nickels. But I don't think any of my stopped short endeavors ever got in the way of anyone else's plans.

People who go to the trouble of registering a blog and titling it but who never post anything for several years, what is wrong with you?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What Is Wrong With You? or I Have A Blog Where I Tell People How Irritating They Are!

This morning Jen asked me if I had heard the controversy about Dumbledore. My first question: What's a dumbledore? This tells you how up-to-date I am on the popular culture. That's not exactly true. I was way ahead of the curve on Rock of Love. But really, how can anyone resist a show about skanky strippers who catfight for the affection of an over-the-hill skeezy former hair-band rock star? Exactly. It's impossible. But I digress...

Jen explained that Dumbledore is a character in the Harry Potter books, and, apparently, the author has announced that the character is gay. I also learned that this gayness is nowhere apparent in the text of the actual books. The controversy is that this wildly successful and popular book for children of all ages has a prominent gay character which may make children think that being gay is ok. This is a controversy?

First, lets skip past the whole "being gay is ok" issue. Being gay is ok. Ask any gay person. They'll all tell you they're ok with it. In addition to gay people, you can also ask rational human beings who aren't living in their own little version of the dark ages. They'll tell you its ok too. Yes, I have no patience at all with bigotry. This kind of backward thinking will probably be the subject of future blogs. But there's a smaller, but no less mind-boggling issue at play here.

The gayness isn't in the books! Right, so I haven't read the books. I have read recent articles about the books. Dumbledore discusses a man-crush he had on some dude who later turns out to be evil. But until the author revealed in a recent interview that Dumbledore is gay, no one else knew that he was gay. I'm sure some thought so. But when you read a book, and a character expresses love for another character, you generally figure it's just a strong bond. Like with Frodo and Sam in the Lord of the Rings, who people also sometimes think are gay. Maybe that's not a good analogy. Or maybe its the perfect analogy. The point here is that if there's no explicit gayness in the book, even if the character seems pretty gay, and even if you've got some medieval brain malfunction about gayness, there's still no gayness in the book. How do you get worked up about character in a book being gay, when the character is only gay in the mind of the author and not on the pages of the book.

Seriously, people who are bothered by Rowling saying that Dumbledore is gay, what's wrong with you?