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I have an etiquette question.

Dear Susie;

I live in a small town in Northern Wisconsin. Our hometown J.C. Penney’s is closing. This is a bad thing for a bunch of reasons, most of which you know.

So, the vultures are circling in for the sales. Daughter got a Penney’s gift card for her birthday. We wanted to use it quickly before everything was gone, so we went this afternoon. We parked across the street in the handicapped spot at the corner. When we came out, there was somebody pulled in tight behind me, partially in the handicapped spot, but mostly in the yellow zone, where the fire hydrant is.

I was stunned. I guess I grew up on another planet or something, where people weren’t assholes, so I don’t know how to deal with these things. We were walking slowly to my car (because that is how I walk these days) and I moved over to the edge of the sidewalk because the woman who came out of Penney’s behind me was in such a hurry, and she had her little girl by the hand, and the wind was bitter cold. She ran across the street and jumped into the car that was parked behind me. I stood there and stared at her, speechless.

Is it proper etiquette to tell a complete stranger that perhaps blocking a fire hydrant so you can go to a sale at Penney’s is remarkably self-centered, and maybe they should stop and consider that Oh, you know, fire trucks might need to get in there? Or that maybe next time somebody will call the cops on them? Is there some specific wording I should use? I didn’t want to unleash my customary I-used-to-work-in-a-factory language, mostly because she had her little girl with her. Is it effective to get the license plate number and call the police?

Thanks for your help.

Signed,

A Remarkably Gobsmacked Human

2012, and the frauds are still free

I wonder if the old Stones’ song “I’m Free” is on Lloyd Blankfein’s iPod? The song crossed my mind while reading about the media’s “lack of any real investigation of Wall Street crimes, and the indictments of wrongdoers.” More here.

50% pay cut

Speaking of Thatcher’s unemployment strategy:

The Wall Street Journal has the scoop on Caterpillar, Inc. locking out union workers in Ontario, and even the conservative rag admits that the company’s behavior toward the workforce comes “despite a big recovery in earnings over the past two years.”

Caterpillar Inc. said Sunday it had locked union workers out of a train locomotive plant in London, Ontario, in a sign that the world’s largest maker of construction and mining equipment is prepared to get tough with workers despite a big recovery in earnings over the past two years.

Caterpillar said in a statement that workers would be barred from the Electro-Motive Canada plant until “a ratified contract is in place” for the workers, represented by the Canadian Auto Workers union. The most recent contract expired at the end of 2011, and the two sides have been unable to come to terms.

Caterpillar’s Electro-Motive Canada plant was acquired in 2010 as part of the $820 million purchase of Electro-Motive Diesel Inc., based in LaGrange, Ill.

Union officials said Caterpillar’s latest proposal would halve wages and reduce benefits. Tim Carrie, president of the union’s local branch, said the cut would mean hourly pay of $16.50 for most workers, down from $34.

Distracted

I don’t do much writing lately, because being sick seems to take up most of my energy. I’m sure once I have surgery and I’m feeling better, the words will flow!

Shorter Newt Gingrich

Vote for me, and I will start another war.

Charlie Pierce:

In their annual list of the nation’s most overlooked stories, the editors of The New Republic shrewdly dug up a column by Walter Shapiro in which Shapiro pointed out that President Obama’s fireside chat on the economy back on July 25 marked a turning point in our national conversation about what was done to our economy over the previous decade. The speech was a dead-assed appeal for a “balanced” approach to reducing the deficit:

Now, I realize that a lot of the new members of Congress and I don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But we were each elected by some of the same Americans for some of the same reasons. Yes, many want government to start living within its means. And many are fed up with a system in which the deck seems stacked against middle-class Americans in favor of the wealthiest few. But do you know what people are fed up with most of all? They’re fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word. They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table. And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington. They see leaders who can’t seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans. They’re offended by that. And they should be. 

There is so much wrong with that. The tired “government should live within its means” trope, as though John Maynard Keynes had died as a child. The deflection of perfectly legitimate, class-based anger at the thieves and sharpers who stole the national wealth into a mushy criticism of generalized government dysfunction. What’s the takeaway here? That people can’t imagine government making their personal economies better, but are ready at all times to believe that it can make their personal economies worse? Ronald Reagan couldn’t have said it better. Walter Shapiro is right: This was a moment, and the president’s response to it was positively tone-deaf. Yes, I know, you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose. But there are all kinds of prose. A feed catalogue is prose, but so is Moby-Dick. Calvin Coolidge spoke in prose, but so did FDR. And, of course, we must never make the perfect the enemy of the good. But you know what else is the enemy of good? Timidity is the enemy of the good. Cruelty is the enemy of the good, and so are selfishness, bigotry, and ignorance. Why perfection is the only enemy of the good that ever seems worth fighting is a good question with which to launch the new year.

It is a dead-level time for us as a people. There are now 146 million Americans who are ranked as “low-income” or “poor.” Somebody really should do something about that. How we treat them in our politics is going to be the ultimate test of our moral credibility as a nation. Do we treat this situation as the national disgrace that it is, and commit ourselves as a nation to eliminating it? Or do we turn away from them, blame them for the malaise we feel in our lives, and drink deeply again from the supply-side, trickle-down snake oil? Do we look at the president — a Democratic president — and scream that this is no longer tolerable to us as a people? Or do we nod sagely and deplore the lack of civility and bipartisan cooperation in our government and hope that cooler heads will prevail, that the great national purpose of our age is to deprive ourselves further of what was supposed to be the promise of the country in the vague and futile hope that somehow, somewhere, things will get better down the line?

The wild west

How fortunate that no one was injured:

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Police in Wyoming say nobody was hurt when a small gun that was inside a girl’s purse fired while she was in a Cheyenne Starbucks.

The bullet went through a chair and into a wall and narrowly missed several customers.

Police say the mishap occurred while officers were at the coffee shop around 7 a.m. Monday. They found a gunshot hole in the purse and a small, Derringer-type, double-barrel .38 Special inside.

Authorities say the girl is under age 18 and didn’t release her name. She was cited for underage possession of a firearm.

The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported that the girl’s father had given her the gun and encouraged her to carry it for her protection. According to police records, she hasn’t had any formal firearms training.

Rick Santorum

Still not telling the truth about where he lives.

The end of an era

The death of John McNichol, Delaware County’s GOP boss.

It might have been 1995 when I was alone with him in Republican headquarters, waiting for election results on the historic night Democrats won the city of Chester. I could only hear his end of the conversation, but I did note that his skin was turning a remarkable shade of greenish-gray. When he was done, he hung up, looked at me and said, “What do you expect when you let a bunch of monkeys run things down there?”

Your Republican party, ladies and gentlemen.

Another trip to the ER

Diagnosis: Biliary colic. In other words, pain from gallstones. It was the worst yet, I was hoping they’d yank the sucker while I was in there, but no such luck. They referred me to their surgical clinic to set up the surgery.

And of course, I got no sleep, what with the beeping machines. I hate hospitals almost as much as I hate most doctors. Oh, they did give me a prescription for pain medication. When I’d asked the local doctor, he said the pain “couldn’t be treated at home.” Asshole. I suppose I’m just another oxycontin-seeking neighborhood junkie to him.

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