Category Archives: Thoughts

A Committee of Our Peers

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Why does anyone think that a “Super Committee” of 12 members of Congress, six each from both parties, is going to solve anything?

By “anything,” I’m including what to order for lunch.

Well, some ideas are just too big to keep to myself – like I ever needed a really big idea as an excuse to write. Do you know what I think? (I certainly hope not.) What I think is that the “Super Committee” should consist of 12 Americans selected more or less at random, like a jury.

I’m not kidding. 12 Americans selected at random, subject only to the following constraints, in no particular order: (1) They must be American citizens. (2) They must be registered voters – four of them Democrats, four Republicans and four Independents. (3) They must be at least 18 years old.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, (4) They cannot have ever run for office, or currently be running for office, or be employed by any office holder or candidate, by any political party, action committee, lobby, whatever. We’re all political. I get and like that about us. I just want to make sure there are no actual politicians or political activists on the committee.

There. My money tells me these 12 we pick will figure out what to do, and that it will be a well rounded solution that makes good, common sense. (Congress can then ignore their suggestions and get back to doing what it does best, whatever that is.)

Six months from now, when I’ve proved my point, the next thing I’m going to suggest is that, every two, maybe four years, we use the same criteria to select 535 people at random to be our House and Senate. …You can’t seriously think they won’t do better than the current bunch of yahoos we we’ve elected.



The Multiplier Effect

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why do the President and Congress always talk about programs in terms of 10 year periods? Sometimes it’s because the changes they’re trying to accomplish are so huge, so momentous they’ll actually take 10 years to accomplish. Mostly, it’s because they want to exaggerate the beneficial impact of some new program or law while spreading out the negative effects on their corporate contributors and electorate supporters. They are, in other words, cheating. Spinning like a top.

Those of you who studied economics when you were in college are probably familiar with “the multiplier effect.” It’s the way buying one thing creates demand for other things that go into making the first thing, and so on. It may take only one stubble-faced guy, wiping his hands on an apron that had to have been dirty when he bought it, to slice that shwarma and make the gyro you’ve been thinking about all morning, but think how many other people were involved in making that giant lump of who knows what meat, the pita bread, the paper plates and 34 napkins you’ll need to eat it and the chewable antacids you’ll be popping later that afternoon – and the ingredients that went into making those things too.

The Wedgy

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Why do the airlines allow all the passengers on a given flight to carry on luggage, winter coats if it’s that time of the year, and other stuff, regardless of the overhead space available to hold those items?

Oh, wait. When you read the title, you probably thought I was talking about the well-known “playground wedgy,” aka the “locker room” or “hallway wedgy,” whereby someone picking on you grabs the elastic of your underwear in the back and pulls it up so your underpants get stuck in… in your you know what. ..So I’ve heard, but claim not to know from personal experience. That’s my story. Anyway, this “Wuf?” is about an entirely different class of wedgy, the “airplane wedgies” of which there are at least two kinds.

(I’m curious. When I was in high school, girls didn’t wear pants. Wedgies were strictly a guys thing. Now that times have changed, is there anything like a girl wedgy?)


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why, if cigarettes are so toxic, so bad for you – which they are – and so addictive, aren’t they illegal?

The FDA has just announced new images, scary, revolting images intended to further discourage people from smoking. The Surgeon General warnings were apparently insufficiently severe to get the job done. What a surprise. Does our FDA not understand the concept of addiction? Apparently not. Either that, or it’s not really serious about putting an end to smoking. If the FDA was serious, it would have halted the manufacture and sale of cigarettes a long time ago.

When it comes to tobacco, to what model of public health management does the FDA subscribe? Instead of protecting us from the hazard, they way they would by not approving or pulling a deadly medicine, they chose instead to issue warnings, and leave it up to us to stop consuming. Can you imagine them announcing that, I don’t know, a popular cough syrup for children is deadly, followed by a casual, “Good luck with that.”

I wonder what the costs have been to our society and to the individual families most directly affected by smoking-related illnesses, compared to, let’s say, heroine and other hard drugs which are illegal.

So why, given all we know about the dangers of smoking, can you still buy cigarettes at your local grocery store and gas station? Certainly there is nothing of a moral nature stopping the manufacturers from making and selling their product. I mean, ask yourself what kind of company, what person sells something he or she knows is killing its customers? Wow. It’s as unbelievable as it is disgusting. Would you do that? For any amount of money? Or is money what it’s all about, and we’re just quibbling over the price? Careful, that last question was the criterion that George Bernard Shaw once used to define being a whore.

The fact is, it is all about the money. About the money that’s made growing and selling tobacco and the political contributions and lobbyists all that money supports. Okay, so money talks, and the producers and facilitators – from farmers to Phillip Morris, to the advertising agencies and media, to our elected officials – are all a bunch of you know whats. The question is, what does that make us for letting it happen?


US (“Useless”) Airways, Part 2

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why would anyone fly US, aka “Useless” Airways if it weren’t absolutely the only way to get from A to B? This is the unexpected sequel to “Wuf?” #7: US Airways.

You know, I said a lot of harsh things about US Airways in a previous “Wuf?” series posting, and now I feel bad. I feel bad because I obviously left some stuff out of my last rant.

Earlier this morning, I flew from A to B on US Airways. Two out of three of the trays in my row were broken. (Let’s hope they take better care of the engines.) The lady sitting by the window used hers even though her stuff kept sliding from right to left in front of her. I couldn’t use mine because the left bracket was so broken it let that side of the tray hit my knee, so I just left it up.

And so I wondered, “Was there a ‘working tray fee’ I forgot to pay?” I reported the tray to one of the Flight Attendants on the way out the door – reflecting as I did on how close “Flight Attendant” sounds like “Lavatory Attendant.” I thought reporting the tray was the right thing to do, and that maybe I’ll get a credit, a tiny credit because I had to hold my cup of Coke in my lap for an hour. Come to think of it, US Airways management probably knew my tray was broken which is why they didn’t offer me anything to eat, or even a napkin to prevent my cup of Coke from sweating a ring on my khakis. How thoughtful.

Anyway, this tray experience got me thinking about what other new fees US Airways might concoct. Maybe a “seatbelt/no seatbelt fee”? (Overweight people who need “an extension” would pay double.) Maybe a “polite/not polite fee” or “smile/no smile fee”? (Have you noticed that some of the Flight Attendants on US Airways don’t look any happier to be on the plane than their passengers – and the Flight Attendants are getting paid. And then the ultimate “crash/no crash fee” which, I’m guessing, should be a huge moneymaker.

US Airways: “Because at 37,000 feet, no one, no matter how bad we treat them, is going to get up and leave.”


US Airways

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why would anyone fly US Airways if it weren’t the only way to get from A to B?

Maybe it’s their unattractive logo, a stupendously poor representation of an American flag? Or maybe it’s the way they nickel and dime you – more like $25 per bag, $100 to change your reservations, only $50 if you’ll fly standby? But then they have every right to make money, and many of the other airlines charge similar fees.

I know, it must be the clumsiness of their website. How endearing. No, no. It’s the captive advertising, the ads on the surface of every tray and the live USAirways credit card commercials so adroitly delivered by their flight attendants. ..Hm. Hard to choose, isn’t it?

How ‘bout the way they charge you $25 to ask a live customer service – Now there’s a misnomer if there ever was one. – a live customer service rep to help you reserve a flight over the phone? Could it be the thoughtful manner in which they extort “Choice Seat” fees from people who can afford to select their seats early, on-line, rather than gambling on where they might be stuck if they wait until they get to the airport to pick out a free one? (Apparently, the price of ticket in coach includes a seat, in coach, but not any seat.)

Wait, I’ve got it. It’s all of the above. It’s the arrogance with which they treat their customers, the flying public. It’s the, “Hey, do you want to fly or not?!” attitude that comes from knowing they have substantial control if not a virtual monopoly over many of the markets they serve. It’s the “We couldn’t give a crap,” “Screw you buddy” corporate culture that allows an airline to keep the routes it serves year in and year old without regard to value or customer satisfaction.

What’s not to love? Can you find US Airways in the list of airlines shown in this recently published industry survey?


Seedless Watermelon

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Why do farmers and grocery stores get away with calling seedless watermelon “seedless”? Where is truth in advertising? Shouldn’t the FDA being doing something?

I’ve eaten more than my fair share of watermelon and believe myself to be fully qualified to determine the presence (or absence) of seeds. In any case, it’s not like you need a doctorate in agriculture or melonology, whatever, to realize that so called “seedless” watermelons are anything but. Well, technically, they do have less, as in fewer, seeds, but that’s not what “seed-less” implies, is it? “Seedless” means zero seeds.

At best, seedless watermelons have none of the larger, I think more mature, more intelligent black seeds – the one’s you spit out into your yard or at the beach. (“What? You don’t spit out your watermelon seeds? …Let me guess, Mr. Trump, you eat your pizza with a knife and a fork?”) Maybe they should be called “Seeded Watermelon Light.” Maybe not.

The problem is, the smaller white seeds are harder to get out of the watermelon than the big black ones, making seedless watermelons more tedious to eat than the regular kind. Even worse, maybe it’s just my imagination, but I don’t think seedless watermelons, which tend to be smaller, taste as good as their adult counterparts.

Seeded or seedless watermelons? It’s just one more decision we can do without making. Life is too short – and real watermelon way to good on a hot day – to settle for any less than the real thing.