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Friday, April 22, 2011

Receiving Friendly Fire

As much as I look forward to the day that President Obama becomes former President Obama, I can’t help but feel a little sympathy. It’s not for him, precisely, it’s for anyone who occupies that seat and has to deal with the constant drone of noise coming from people absolutely demanding that their pet cause become the administration’s main priority. I’m sure it’s bad enough when it comes from the opposition party, but the truth is that much of the needling comes from supposedly friendly corners.

When I read some of this stuff, I can’t help but think we’ve become a nation of children who no longer understand what actually constitutes an important issue. For all of my complaints about the current administration, for example, their speed in dealing with the urgent 1915 Armenian genocide problem doesn’t really rank as one of the truly important bits.

Hundreds of protesters, mostly Hispanics demanding immigration reform, gathered to vent their disappointment with US President Barack Obama as he visited California.

Many of the activists said they were Obama supporters but felt let down by the slow pace of the change he promised in his 2008 White House run. The president is currently ramping up his campaign for another term.

Around 200 protesters waved signs and chanted: “Obama, keep your promise!” outside the Sony Pictures studio in Culver City, west of Los Angeles, where Obama attended a fundraising dinner.

“Where’s our change? We need money for housing, not for war! We need money for health care, not for war!” they chanted.

Some protesters reproached Obama for not doing enough to recognize the 1915 Armenian Genocide, while other activists demonstrated against scientific testing on animals and pacifists called for an end to war.

Just sayin’.

Read the rest.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Charlie Sheen Can’t Even Fail Well

According to Fox, some people weren’t impressed with the first show in Charlie Sheen’s “Torpedo of Dumb” tour. I just can’t figure out why.

What did they expect? Did they expect a better class of failure? A more fun kind of public self-destruction? Or perhaps they hoped for some life-changing wisdom from the colossal ego and his porn star/actress “goddesses.” I know that when I want guidance, the first place I look is a hack actor who probably should have been jailed a number of times over for assaulting and threatening the women in his life. Maybe we can all learn something from a man who has managed to skate through all of his most disastrously dumb decisions and increasingly crazy behavior without having to pay anything resembling a real cost. Except, apparently, in his dental hygiene.

If they are really lucky, maybe he will share his way through the mound of cocaine that just has to be part of his rider.

Fans who gathered outside the theater before the doors opened Saturday—some who had to fly in for the show—said they were hoping to see the increasingly eccentric actor deliver some of the colorful rants that have made him an Internet star since his ugly falling out with CBS and the producers of “Two and a Half Men.”

They got the ranting. It just wasn’t funny.

“I expected him to at least entertainment a little bit. It was just a bunch of ranting,” said Rodney Gagnon, 34, of Windsor, Ontario.

I’m sure that what they really want is just the big drama and unhinged rants that made him even more famous than the exquisitely bad excuse for a comedy whose only redeeming value is that I kind of have a soft spot in my heart for Ducky. They want the car crash and he just didn’t manage to deliver enough blood.

Suckers.

There’s something sad about a man who can’t even fail with enough panache to keep the mob happy.

Read the rest.

Friday, April 01, 2011

The iPad Gap: Pure Speculation

I find myself wondering how long it will be before someone starts complaining that the poor in America don’t have access to iPads and that iPads are somehow key to their future opportunities for success. How long will it be before some government agency is asking tablet manufacturers to make special programs for the poor and carriers are bullied into some kind of subsidized plan for 3G network access?

What I find most intriguing is that if the government can’t pay for something it deems desirable, it will search for opportunities to make companies pay for them. Those companies are often quite willing to acquiesce, but the cost of providing a good or service at below its actual value isn’t a cost that the company will pay. It’s a cost that we, who aren’t subsidized, will pay.

Of course, all of this is done in the name of helping. Which is why so many of us wish the government would, maybe, help less.

Consider credit card reform. The changes made to protect consumers from the card companies had what I would consider to be an entirely predictable set of results: prior to implementation, cardholders saw rate increases and credit lines lowered. People on the lower end of the spectrum will have a harder time getting any credit (even though these are the folks that most needed “protection” and it will probably end up benefiting the high-cost payday lending outfits) and more cards will charge you an annual fee. So your over limit fees are capped at what the government considers a reasonable amount, but you’ll pay the difference in some other fee or in those interest rate hikes that the card companies pushed out before the new protections went into effect.

I’m sure that there will be a few more rounds of government protection to card holders that are meant to deal with those nasty side-effects of the reform--and that there will be more surprises in store for consumers.

Which, again, is why so many of us wish the government would, maybe, help less.

Making it harder or more expensive for a company to do business isn’t always the best way to protect a consumer. Ultimately, if that company wants to stay in business, it will simply pass on new costs to consumers. When Comcast is forced to provide services below cost, it won’t just sit there dumbly wondering why the bottom line doesn’t look as good as it used to; it will raise rates where it can to compensate. Some small percentage of their customers will get a service below its real value and the rest of its customers will pay more than they should.

So, when will we first see the call for free or cheap tablet computers for the poor? It will probably come from an education advocacy group and it will probably provide yet another distortion on what I wish were a much freer market.

What’s my point? My point is that I am tired of a government that has such an overwhelming need to protect and help me. All those protections and all that help comes at yet another cost--and I’m already feeling overburdened.

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