LABELING

Posted in Rants on March 29th, 2015 by Ed

Those of us 40 and older no doubt remember Ronald Reagan's first summer in office (1981) coming to a crescendo on August 3 with his now-infamous ultimatum to the nation's striking air traffic controllers. Their union, PATCO (Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) was effectively broken in the process. When Reagan demanded that the 13,000 employees return to work within 48 hours or forfeit their jobs, it was no idle threat. Since public employee unions were forbidden by law to strike, he was able to use the authority of the Attorney General and Secretary of Labor to de-certify PATCO. With the possible exception of the auto sit-down strikes, the Norris-LaGuardia Act, or Youngstown v Sawyer, it was the most important moment in 20th Century labor history in the United States.

Recently I recalled doing some research years ago and coming across Reagan's press conference Q&A after making his announcement (transcript here). I was struck at the time, and reminded over the past few days, at how frank he was. Unions were still fairly popular in 1981 although their decline in power and popularity was already underway. And Reagan, for whom I think you all know I have no excess of admiration, said, "Here's what we're going to do" and then did it. While I disagree vehemently with the course of action he took, at least he had the decency to be honest about it. When shitting all over a group of people, in this case PATCO, an elected official should never be hesitant to say "The purpose of these actions is to shit all over PATCO." If he has the strength of convictions that he claims to have, there should be no hesitation to tell the situation exactly like it is.

This came to mind over the weekend watching and listening to Mike Pence nervously sputter into cameras in an attempt to explain that despite all appearances to the contrary, the recent law passed in Indiana totally isn't about legalizing discrimination against gays. It is a textbook case of the lady protesting too much, with every appeal to "religious freedom" making it sound less and less likely that religious freedom has anything at all to do with the motive. Throughout all of this – I've received a heavier than usual dose of this controversy since I lived in Indiana for 7 years and still have dozens of friends there – I find myself desperate for someone, anyone, to come out (phrasing) and admit that they just don't like The Gays much. Pence has promised to "clarify" the "intent" of the law, and I'm hoping that will consist of explaining that Indiana has a huge population of old, rural, white people who fear change and hate their shitty lives so they need to pretend it's 1950 and take it out on some social minority group. If we can make it sound noble by appealing to religion, all the better.

To many of you there may not be much of a difference in practice between "discriminatory" and "discriminatory and sanctimonious." It's true that the effect of the law is the same no matter how it is packaged and sold. I'd argue that in a way the rhetorical obfuscation makes it worse. The animosity is real no matter how we burnish it with florid words, so why kid ourselves?

(Oh, and fun fact: Ronald Reagan was the only president who was actually in a labor union – the SAG. Of which he was briefly president.)

WATERWORLD

Posted in Rants on March 24th, 2015 by Ed

Whenever someone mentions that the world will run out of oil and natural gas someday, I enjoy pointing out that there's no point in worrying about it. We'll run out of potable water before that can happen.

Regarding the geographic shifts in the American population (favoring the Sun Belt) over the past thirty years I say the same: Don't worry, they'll be back when they finally kill the Colorado River. And their groundwater. And their reservoirs. I mean, at the rate that Desert Metropolises like Phoenix, Vegas, and Los Angeles are pissing through the available resources, the Great Lakes region will start looking very good in the next decade or three. Not that Texas won't be a joy when the water's mostly gone and our summers have heated up even more.

Any discussion of depleting a natural resource sounds, by definition, at least a little alarmist. We have so little direct experience with and social context for running out of anything here in the land of eternal plenty that it makes sense for most people to be unable to wrap their minds around it. Logically, though, it would make less sense to believe that things that cannot be man-made (or can be only at great cost) won't be exhausted someday. I mean, compare oil depletion scenarios to the belief that the Earth makes oil in its crust and tell me which one is nuts.

The unprecedented drought in California is drawing more attention to the issue, with reliable estimates that the supply of stored water is down to about one year. This does not imply, as some news outlets concluded, that California will be "out of water" in a year. At some point it'll rain and alleviate the immediate crisis. It does indicate that a potential disaster is never more than a few years off under the present circumstances, though.

The US and other developed countries are positively drowning in water compared to the rest of the world though. Changing consumption patterns, population growth, and changing climate add up to demand for water outpacing supply by nearly half in 2030, according to the UN. If the world thinks it has seen wars over resources, wait until it sees two massively populated but impoverished countries fighting over the last of the available water. I kind of picture it like the Battle of Helms Deep, but more dehydrated.

People tend to have an unshakable faith in technology to solve these problems for us. It's not in fact the worst argument in the world. History has given us a number of examples of how we've been able as a species to overcome some of our limitations with science. I would believe, for example, that by the time the oil runs out a synthetic substitute or alternative might be available. There's not many candidates for "water substitute," though.

Places like Southern California, the UAE, and Western Australia are relying at present on desalination as their savior. But desalination is a remarkably expensive and energy-intensive process. In most uses it also does little more than supplement cheaper and more accessible sources of water to meet the needs of large populations. The number and scale of desalination plants that would be necessary to support California's 40,000,000 people (not to mention Phoenix and Vegas, who will probably need pipelines) is impractical veering toward impossible, even if we disregard the ecological impact of large scale desalination.

I don't think it's going to be tomorrow or even a decade from now, but at some point in my lifetime I expect to live in a world in which deserts once again resemble deserts and the illogic of having a sprawling metropolis in the middle of one cannot be ignored. The Southwest will resemble (as it once did) the Australian Outback when the capacity to support four or five million people in a place like Phoenix disappears for good. In places less wealthy than the US, it's neither bold nor prescient to predict that the situation is likely to get much uglier.

Don't worry though: the good news is that an ever-increasing share of the global potable water supply is being handed over to private corporations. That should help.

NON-NUTRITIVE HUMOR SUBSTITUTE

Posted in Rants on March 16th, 2015 by Ed

The fact that the Ferguson Police aren't smart enough to avoid using government email accounts to send one another racist jokes underscores the vast number of horrible (and horribly racist) being hurled through cyberspace like so many turds every day. Not too long ago, Scott Walker's ex-Chief of Staff was in hot water for sending the following joke. If you'll bear with me, I must quote it in full:

THE NIGHTMARE

In the nightmare I found myself nude in bed, and I was looking at a mirror on the ceiling, and I discovered that I am a Negro, and I’m circumcised!

Quickly I sat up, found my pants and looked in the pockets to find my driver’s license photo and it was that same color, black.

I felt myself being very depressed, downcast, sitting in a chair.

But it’s a wheelchair! That means, of course, besides being black and Jewish, I’m also disabled! I said to myself, aloud “This is impossible! It’s impossible that I should be black and Jewish and disabled!” “It's the pure and holy truth,” whispers someone from behind me. I turn around, and it’s my boyfriend.

Just what I needed!!! I am a homosexual, and on top of that, with a Mexican boyfriend.

Oh, my God …. Black, Jewish, disabled, gay with a Mexican boyfriend, drug addict, and HIV-positive!!!

Desperate, I begin to shout, cry, pull my hair, and Oh, nooooo…I’m bald!!!

The telephone rings. it’s my brother. He is saying, ‘Since mom and dad died, the only thing you do is hang out, take drugs, and laze around all day doing nothing. Get a job, you worthless piece of crap… Any job!’

Mom? Dad? Nooooo … Now I’m also an unemployed orphan! I try to explain to my brother how hard it is to find a job when you are black, Jewish, disabled, gay with a Mexican boyfriend, are a drug addict, HIV positive, bald, and an orphan, but he doesn’t get it.

Frustrated, I hang up. It’s then I realize I only have one hand!!! With tears in my eyes, I go to the window to look out. I see I live in a shanty-town full of cardboard and tin houses! There is trash everywhere.

Suddenly I feel a sharp pain near my pacemaker…. Pacemaker??

Besides being black, Jewish, disabled, a fairy with a Mexican boyfriend, a drug addict, HIV positive, bald, orphaned, unemployed, an invalid with one hand, and having a bad heart, I live in a crappy neighborhood.

At that very moment my boyfriend approaches and says to me, ‘Sweetie pie, my love, my little black heartthrob, have you decided what you are going to wear to Washington to see Obama?’

Say it isn’t so!!! I can handle being a black, disabled, one-armed, drug-addicted, Jewish homosexual on a pacemaker who is HIV positive, bald, orphaned, unemployed, lives in a slum, and has a Mexican boyfriend, but please, Oh dear God, please don’t tell me I'm a Democrat!

When my youngest nephew was about 3, I would tell jokes* to his older siblings and he would observe, not really understanding what a joke is or why the one I told was supposed to be funny. And every time he would laugh at exactly the right moment. He laughed because he understood that 1) what I was saying was a joke and 2) jokes end with a punchline and you're supposed to laugh at that point. It was the format he was responding to.

To me, the only thing interesting about this is marveling at what passes for humor among conservatives. You know my rule – if something is going to be offensive and racist, it better at least be funny. And that, to me, is the most offensive thing about this kind of "joke." It has all of the downsides of something racist, homophobic, and plain old mean with absolutely none of the upsides commonly associated with humor. Namely being funny or witty.

Until a few years ago when most of my family and friends who traffic in this sort of electronic detritus finally knew better, like most people I would receive emails of this type on occasion. And I reacted the same every time, not by saying "Hey this is really racist" (which would be denied flatly and produce an unproductive and overwrought exchange) but with "What about this is even slightly funny?" The email reproduced above looks like it was written by a 14 year old or someone with the mental skills and emotional maturity of a 14 year old. You know it's supposed to be a joke and it even shares many similarities in format with a joke, but it's devoid of everything that would make it even mildly amusing. It's stupid and sophomoric and unfunny to an extent that being racist and offensive isn't even the worst thing about it.

And so whoever writes this shit can rest assured that no actual humor needs to be involved because the intended audience is about as discriminating as my three year old nephew was. As long as they recognize the format and certain key concepts are invoked (farts, poop, black welfare queens, gays, etc.) they will laugh like trained seals and insist that it is Humor.

*Dog and a pony walk into a bar. Dog orders a beer. Pony orders *inaudible whisper*. Bartender says "I can't understand what your friend said" and the dog says "Don't mind him, he's just a little hoarse."

THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY TO YOU PEOPLE, PART 2

Posted in Rants on March 15th, 2015 by Ed

(Catch up on Part I here)

OK, so what? It's not like I'm breaking new ground here in explaining that Gilded Age-style capitalism is a race to the bottom in terms of employee compensation. The important questions are: How long can this continue? and What can be done about it? Veteran readers know that I hate the latter question but we will take a stab at it regardless.

As for how long this stagnation or even decline in wages can continue, the answer depends on how deeply you believe that the kind of people who support Scott Walker from their decrepit apartments in dying rural towns barely clinging to life on a SSI- and eCig-based economy have internalized the ration of shit sold to them by conservative bag men for the last three decades. It is a system of values that convinces a person to put hyper-jingoistic bumper stickers on their rusted out 1987 Plymouth Voyager and declare that America is #1, a viewpoint espoused with complete confidence despite never having ventured beyond a fifty-mile radius of the place he was born save for one high school trip to the Big City (Joplin). It is a system of values intended to convince a person you are paying $9 per hour that he doesn't want the myriad things he can't afford – vacations (What kind of lazy grifter takes time off of work?), decent schools (Homeschoolin's where it's at! Teach 'em some TRUTH for once!), decent food (What are you, queer or somethin?), higher education (buncha liberal bullshit), or any kind of cultural stimulation of a variety more refined than semi-pro wrestling. Once a person has settled into this mindset to enjoy the greatest country on Earth from the vantage point of Dogpatch, Alabama, it's hard to have much an impact using facts or logic. If people need nothing more to be happy than beer, church, shitty American cars, and a ranch house in some backwater, they're going to work for $10 or $11 per hour for a long, long time before they can be convinced to agitate. Hell, at $10 per hour in Cleveland, MS you might even have excess income if your expectations have been sufficiently lowered. If you do, don't worry. The State Legislature will build a casino to take care of it.

Conservatives are always telling us that no one can help us, rather we must help ourselves. Ironically, they're right in this instance. As long as people accept shit compensation and shittier treatment from their employers, they will continue to receive it. You can lead a horse to water, but if that horse watches Fox News eight hours per day it's going to be equal parts dumb, misinformed, and delusional. It will also probably hate black horses, and don't even get it started on donkeys. But I digress. This economic swamp we've been thrashing around in since 1980 will not be improved so long as millions of Americans fight to keep it as is.

That leaves us with the second question, what to do about it. Unfortunately I am not convinced that anything short of slow, steady progress by increments can have an effect. If the implosion of 2009 had no effect on attitudes toward taxation, wages, and government intervention in the economy then I can't imagine what kind of cataclysmic economic event would be required to change minds. We are witnessing the death throes of a group of people who are accustomed to living in "Their Country" and are sliding into demographic irrelevance. In a rare note of optimism, I will say that there is some hope to be found in increments in the last few years – a living wage law here, an extension of healthcare benefits there. These changes are being fought tooth-and-claw every step of the way, of course, but if you launch enough bombers you can guarantee that at least a few will make it to London. They're baby steps, but they're steps. Some people know what's up.

In the meantime, though, things will probably get worse before they get better as more states like Michigan and Wisconsin are depopulated and the electorate becomes one dominated by old, white, rural dead-enders with nowhere to go, like some economic Operation Gladio (and nearly as riddled with fascists). The iron law of globalized capitalism is that someone will always do it for less, and the only way right-wing elected officials will be able to compensate for promises of economic growth that never materialize no matter how many tax cuts are gifted to the Job Creators is to cut until they hit bone. Once that happens and their current gray-haired base of political support has gone to the great Denny's in the sky, we might have a chance. For people my age and younger, however, the changes won't come soon enough and we might as well get used to the fact that we are part of an economic lost generation.

THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY TO YOU PEOPLE, PART 1

Posted in Rants on March 9th, 2015 by Ed

I wish everyone up here in the Union states – especially the ones racing to emulate the political and economic policies that have made places like Mississippi and Alabama the gardens of Eden they are today – could be forced to read a little about what is happening to the components of the auto industry that have been fleeing southward for the last thirty years. The UAW is staking its future on being able to unionize southern manufacturing and parts facilities with little success so far and none appearing likely in the near future. That says more about Southern politics than about the contentedness of the people who were only recently so excited about all of them jorbs comin' down from the North. Some members of the new industrial workforce in Dixie aren't terribly happy now that they are starting to figure out that you can earn more at Taco Bell than in The Factory.

Cleveland, Mississippi is on the top ten list of shittiest places I've had the misfortune to see firsthand in this country. It's home to a parts factory making auto seats for Faurecia, a massive French company with 274 factories around the globe. You don't build a factory in Cleveland, MS because you want to take advantage of the skilled labor force or well-developed infrastructure. You build a factory in Cleveland, MS because some Governor named Buck or Sonny or Cooter told the State Legislature to give you $100 million in tax breaks and new highway construction and you want to pay your workers as little as the law will allow. Then you proceed to pay your workers as little as the law will allow while explaining to them that you're actually paying them quite a lot for the decrepit backwater in which they were unfortunate enough to be born and either unable or (unwisely) unwilling to leave.

Protesters say Faurecia employees make a top wage of $11.64 per hour, while contract workers make $7.73 an hour.

Company spokesman Tony Sapienza said that with overtime, the typical Faurecia employee makes more than the $27,000 a year that is the median wage around Cleveland. Wages are often low in the heavily impoverished Delta.

"We are very confident that we are offering a very competitive wage," Sapienza said.

In other words, $7.73 per hour ($16,000 per year at 40 hours) with no benefits is a lot of money for You People! And it should be noted that $8.03 is the estimated "living wage" in Cleveland. For one adult. With no dependents.

Much like handing a pedestrian in Mogadishu $100 would make him rich by the standards of his peers, the entire logic of moving industry southward is and always has been "We can pay these (hicks / colored people) next to nothing and they'll be thrilled with it!" And it has worked for a while. But even in Cleveland, MS people are starting to figure out that a factory job with a maximum hourly wage of $11 – with half the spots filled by contracted temp labor making a why-bother $7.73 per hour – isn't much of a step up from the $8 or $9 per hour that most fast food chains are paying these days. What did Mississippi really get for whatever ridiculous buffet of subsidies they slopped in a trough for Faurecia? A factory half-filled with people making under $30,000 per year and half-filled with temps making barely over the poverty line. Oh, and someone's nephew making $150,000 to run the place. Even Management salaries are subject to the local cost of living argument, otherwise he'd be making a half million.

Take a good, hard look, Wisconsin. This is your competition, and these are the "jobs" that people like Gov. Homonculus are promising to bring to (or retain in) your state. If only you'd stop being so greedy and agree to work for next to nothing, maybe Job Creators wouldn't be forced to take massive bribes from Southern governments to give your job to someone who will be thrilled to earn the Federal minimum wage.

At least for a while, anyway.

ADVOCACY

Posted in Rants on March 8th, 2015 by Ed

Last week the City of Cleveland announced that its official position is that 12 year old Tamir Rice, who was shot and killed by city police while holding a toy gun in a park, caused his own death through negligence by "failing to avoid injury." Since most of my friends feel the same way about law enforcement and institutionalized racism as I do, I've seen quite a bit of outrage over this response to lawsuits from the Rice family. There are some good reasons for it.

Rice was shot dead by a new Cleveland cop who didn't even wait for the car to stop before firing. It turned out that he had also been fired from a previous job on the suburban Independence, OH police force after some disturbing behavior on a firing range. Given how much a police officer has to do to get fired in this country, we might want to start asking why anyone would hire someone terminated previously for erratic behavior or poor performance (see also: Darren Wilson). But that's another post.

To their credit, the Cuyahoga County sheriff was brought in to do the investigation rather than allowing the Cleveland PD to do an internal whitewashing. And they appear to have done a creditable job. Notably they did not tell either officer involved that there was a video of the incident before taking their statements. Both officers reported that Rice was waving his fake gun around at a large group of people; on the video Rice is alone. So essentially the two CPD officers have already proven themselves to be liars, which kind of works against the city when it defends itself against the lawsuits.

Here is the thing about the outrage, though: it is premature at this point. The City has attorneys representing it and this is what lawyers get paid to do. They are an advocate for their client / employer, even when they are quite obviously balls guilty (legal term). People end up in courtrooms every day watching videos of themselves committing crimes and counting on a lawyer to defend them anyway. True, the city's lawyers probably could have come up with a better defense than "the kid we shot failed to avoid getting shot." Then again, if they were great lawyers I doubt they'd be working for the City of Cleveland.

Regardless of their legal strategy, the point is that the outrage is better reserved for the possibility that a judge and jury might actually buy that horseshit. The legal system is supposed to consider such arguments, use the judgment of all those involved to conclude something along the lines of "Well that's quite ridiculous," and reject them. Of course when the sacred word of the police is involved, juries composed of authoritarian-follower types tend to be, shall we say, less than skeptical.

I'm not saying that the justice system isn't going to screw this kid and his family six ways from Sunday while exonerating the guy that killed him. I am, however, certain that it hasn't happened yet and we might as well reserve our emotional energy for when it inevitably does. Right now all we have is a city that is flat broke (and thus probably has a strong incentive to avoid settling at any cost) mounting the best legal defense it could concoct, which in this case is not a very good one.

MARKET EFFICIENCY

Posted in Rants on March 3rd, 2015 by Ed

Hard to believe it has been more than a decade since Chechen rebels took hundreds of Russians hostage in a Moscow theater. Displaying their legendary penchant for tact and patience, Russian special forces pumped the theater full of a gas, the contents of which remain mysterious to this day, developed by the FSB as a "knockout gas." It allowed Russian police to storm the theater and, uh, eliminate the terrorists with traditional Russian ruthlessness, but it happened to kill more than 130 hostages as well. Whoops.

What nobody knew that day – because Russian officials refused to offer any description of the contents of the secret gas for years – was that a major ingredient was fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate. High inhaled doses of such a strong drug were fatal for about 15% of the hostages. This was important because if medics and doctors had been told that the hostages had been incapacitated by an opiate drug, they could have saved lives by injecting them with something called an opioid antagonist. When this was finally reported it was the first time I heard of Naloxone.

Apparently Naloxone has become considerably more well known in the intervening years because many states have passed laws recently to relax rules about its administration. This is a result of increased pressure from the public, police, activists, and medical professionals to make Naloxone available for response to opioid overdoses. Briefly leaving aside the inconvenient reality that nobody cared about heroin addicts but now that white kids (and their parents) in the suburbs are ODing on prescription painkillers, it's hard to argue that this is not a good idea.

The problem, as usual, stems from the many glories of the free market and its infinite justice. The sole company in the United States that makes Naloxone noticed around 2008 that demand, driven by government purchases, was starting to soar. So of course they…oh, come on. Do I even need to finish the sentence? Suffice it to say that the drug, the price of which hovered around $3 per dose, became more expensive. By several hundred dollars.

As a generic, technically any manufacturer can start producing it. The problem is that every other drug company knows that at the drug's true price – somewhere closer to $5 per dose – it isn't worth it to invest in starting production. And they are unwilling to take the risk based on the hope that the current attempt at price gouging is sustainable. So the current company, Amphaster Pharmaceuticals, has a de facto monopoly. And oh boy, do they intend to milk it.

The idea of a single payer sends the average American into paroxysms of stroke-inducing rage. The idea of a single supplier, oddly enough, doesn't do the same even when accompanied by a healthy dose of price gouging. With state and local governments essentially at the mercy of the demands of one company for a drug it could hardly give away ten years ago, you'd think someone would be pointing out that the free market is not working as intended. Then you realize that this is in fact exactly how it is intended to work and any confusion disappears.

SOPHISTRY

Posted in Rants on March 1st, 2015 by Ed

Beyond any doubt the most irritating type of person to have in a classroom – not only as a teacher but also as a fellow student – is the one who turns everything he is wrong about into a philosophical question about the nature of truth. This is one of the oldest and lamest rhetorical tactics in the book. "It may seem like I'm demonstrably wrong, but who can really know anything? What is truth?" That kind of crap. It is, to paraphrase my favorite description of Newt Gingrich, the kind of thing that really stupid people think sounds smart. And one of the reasons you hear this kind of thing in a classroom is that young people tend to be overconfident and think that they are more charming, intelligent, and persuasive than they are.

Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that most people grow out of that around the time they start to drive, it looks like this is going to be Scott Walker's go-to strategy for dealing with criticism throughout his kamikaze run at the White House that we are just now beginning to endure with no end in sight. Does Barack Obama love America? How can anyone really know? How can anyone really know anything? I couldn't possibly say one way or the other without having spoken to Barack Obama about this directly.

Scott Walker: epistemological skeptic.

This kind of logic has always been the backbone of lowest common denominator populism (What do scientists really know? Isn't everything just a theory? Can't I be right even if everything I say is wrong?) and it has quickly become integral to the grand GOP strategy. Having gone all-in on anti-intellectualism and willful disregard for facts in the early W Bush years, they're certainly not going to start telling the rube army that ideology may not always trump facts at this point. The Republican Party is a coalition of smart people trying to sound dumb and dumb people trying to sound smart; Walker is a tool of the former and the archetype of the latter.

Personally I'd love to see Walker win the nomination from a practical perspective – he'd do about as well in a general election as Rick Santorum, in all likelihood. But from the more important perspective of my own mental well-being, I don't know if I can listen to this guy for 617 more days. I'd gladly risk a more electable Republican winning the nomination for the easy to digest, pallid blandness of a Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush. If not, anyone who wondered what it would happen if a hack local politician got thrust into a presidential election is going to get the chance to find out. We will watch the putative greatest nation on Earth ask itself if a guy who looks like, sounds like, and has the intellectual capacity of a career liquor commissioner in Racine should become so-called the leader of the free world. I don't worry about him winning; I worry about having to live through it.

This must be what it felt like to live through the Harding-Coolidge years.

OH, I DIDN'T SEE YOU THERE

Posted in Rants on February 26th, 2015 by Ed

Well hello. I didn't mean to keep you waiting. Welcome back. For those that do not follow Gin and Tacos on the facebox, allow me to explain. No, the outage was not intentional.

The host of this domain name, Network Solutions, started bombarding me (and I presume other customers as well) with spam-like emails at the beginning of the year, making a concerted effort to sell various add-ons, "upgrades," and expensive marketing and promotion gimmicks. As any normal human being would do, I ignored it. Approximately two weeks ago they send an actual email along with the daily burst of spam and I had the random luck to notice and read it before it went to trash. This email stated that some part of WHOIS information was inaccurate (as is the case with approximately 99% of the registered domain names on the internet) and ICANN was going to enforce the shutdown of the domain name if I did not rectify the problem by Thursday, Feb. 19 by calling Web.com (Network Solutions' parent company) salespeople immediately.

I saw this for what it was – an effort to extort customers into calling so that we could have every superfluous marketing scheme and add-on service on Earth pitched to us. And they did this under the guise of the situation being beyond their control. It's not us! It's ICANN! We'd love to keep your site running but in order to make that possible you MUST update your WHOIS by calling Sean in the Web.com Sales Department immediately! Finding this tactic both insulting and silly, I simply went online and updated my WHOIS information. By Feb. 17 it was completely up to date and 100% accurate.

Well, they shut the domain name down on the evening of Feb. 19 anyway. I'm starting to suspect that despite their intense apparent concern, this really wasn't about ICANN or maintaining the integrity of WHOIS at all. It's almost as if they shut it down – and yes, I am completely paid up in advance for domain name registration with this company – because I didn't call to take their pitch about paying them to run sidebar ads on Facebook for me.

I called and navigated the most Byzantine web of automated menus to date before finally reaching a call center and being put on hold. Since this no doubt affected many other customers, I waited on hold for 53 minutes on Friday morning Feb. 20 before I had to give up due to, you know, having to do the job I get paid to do. Trying again on Friday night and wasting another ridiculous amount of my finite existence, I finally got through to a gentleman named Steve who, judging by his heavy to the point of obfuscation Bengali accent, might not really be named Steve.

Bengali Steve promised to "escalate" the problem and reactivate within 24 to 48 hours. When that did not happen, I called again on Sunday evening and went through the Sphinx's riddles again. This gentleman – Dylan or something equally implausible – regretted to inform me that Bengali Steve had meant 24 to 48 business hours. Meaning that this Time of Healing could not begin until Monday morning.

I got very busy as the week kicked into gear and when I checked in on Wednesday afternoon to realize that service had not been restored I did not have time to call immediately. But I did on Wednesday evening, spoke to yet another gentleman of the Subcontinent, and was told – go ahead and guess – 24 to 48 hours.

Beginning Thursday morning, however, I decided to go Full Retard on Network Solutions, emailing every email address I could find, sending Facebook messages to their account, posting repeatedly on their Facebook timeline, and calling as many numbers for Web.com's Atlanta-based office as I could find. I didn't care if I got a secretary, an IT professional, or the goddamn janitor. I spoke to several people, making various promises to wow them by demonstrating what could fit up their anal aperture with the application of sufficient force, and got transferred around like a furious potato. Finally some young man who clearly had to deal with hundreds of other angry customers over the past few days stayed on the phone with me until the problem was resolved. His explanation was that while I thought I had updated my WHOIS information, I had not included a fax number so ICANN forced Network Solutions to shut me down.

He said this in a tone that indicated that he he was under an obligation to pretend that he believed it. He was far too tired and irritated, though, to try to sell the farce. The upshot is that sometime Thursday afternoon, service returned.

I am going to rest and count my blessings tonight. Then tomorrow morning I will transfer my DNS to another company and begin the multi-day process of shitting repeatedly in a brown paper sack that ultimately will be mailed to Network Solutions. So, that is Gin and Tacos' tale of woe. Welcome back. If you use NS, please cancel your services with them immediately; swear at them creatively and profusely for good measure.

NEGATIONISM

Posted in Rants on February 19th, 2015 by Ed

Look, we all know that conservatives aren't funny. The question of why they aren't funny, however, is considered only rarely. Here is the shortest answer, which has the added benefit of also being the most correct: they are not funny because they don't understand irony. Irony, misdirection, and the unexpected injury (pratfalls, objects striking someone on the cranium, etc) are the three foundations of comedy. The inability to comprehend irony is the reason that all satire written by modern conservatives is beyond awful, reading like something written by a council of 12 year old boys. Irony does not come naturally to a mind that endorses principles like constitutional literalism, biblical fundamentalism, and a cornucopia of economic theories that are demonstrably untrue.

When we see news items like the Oklahoma Legislature banning AP History courses, we are horrified but we also think it is funny. It is not funny like a whoopee cushion or a pie to the face, of course. It is funny in the sense that right-wingers are too stupid to see the irony in their own actions or how much they resemble the groups and ideologies they identify as enemies. Evangelical Christian fundamentalists do not grasp how similar they are, for example, to Islamic extremists. And right-wing culture warriors and historical revisionists will never be able to see how closely their mission to create their own version of reality mimics Stalinist communism. In an effort to ward off the evils of things like socialism, these dipshits are reaching into the bag of tactics employed by the ultimate in socialist boogeymen.

Isn't that what we always accused the Soviet system of doing – and not without some justification? They censored their media, altered history to suit their ideological preferences, and generally created an alternate version of reality that fit their worldview. I've written before about the Soviet concept of "New Socialist Man," the creation of which required:

A total re-imagining of the world – its history, its culture, its religions, its conflicts, and its societies – was to take place in the framework of a radically ideological system of education with the goal of producing the New Socialist Man. He would understand politics, art, economics, and every other subject from the Correct (i.e. Socialist) perspective. As is the case with every revolution, the Soviets and Mao's China understood that a new culture can only be instituted by destroying the old, and destroying the old can only be accomplished through dictating a new historical reality through re-education.

It was the kind of system that would – to throw out a random hypothetical – ban history textbooks that contained any information contradictory to the official party line. It created "unpersons" who literally ceased to exist, erased from photos and the collective cultural consciousness. It relied on the valid belief that one's conception of reality outside of direct experience is limited by the information available.

Of course, the average Oklahoman is too ignorant of history and reality to understand any of this. To grasp the irony of a situation requires a basic level of awareness that is absent here.