Pet Peeves

It’s the weekend.  I’m relaxing.  Doing some reading and bouncing around the TV channels for mindless entertainment.

One of the movies I turned on and immediately off was a post-apocalyptic “whatever” that took less than two seconds to see what it was.

How could I know in that short a time?

Easy — the universal nonsense symbol of post-civilization end-of-times — the 55 gallon drums with flames from “scrap” planks of wood being burned.

I really have to wonder why we accept this kind of symbol, along with others.

Have you ever tried to find a good 55 gallon drum and punch holes in it a few inches from the bottom for ventilation?  You need really sharp steel tools to do that.  Without the holes, of course, you’ll never get any wood to burn in it, especially if it’s a dark rainy night and the wood is wet, as it usually is in these movies.

That’s not even taking into account the actual situation with most 55-gallon drums.  The reason people store liquids in those heavy steel containers is because the liquid is usually pretty nasty.  Chances are that once you empty out whatever was in it, there will be enough residue coating the inside of the drum that you would gag, retch and run away if it had a fire burning in it.

And then there’s the matter of the wood being there burning, often in a number of barrels, with no one actively tending the fire.

News flash:  a good open flame from half inch planks of wood burns down to charcoal in about 20 minutes.  So how do these fires keep burning all night with no one to tend them?  And where is the four-foot high pile of fresh wood waiting to go into the barrel so it can keep burning all night?

News flash number 2:  In a post-apocalyptic world, planed and milled wood planks will be better than gold, because they’re so usable to make shelters, shelving, sleds, boats and any number of other things that can save your life or help organize what’s left of it.  That is, unless after the machines attack the humans, the plague kills most of us, the super-powers finally blow off their nukes or the continental plates complete 300 million years of movement in three days, the one part of the old world still working is the lumber supply chain.

Note to Hollywood:  find a new metaphor.  That one stinks, and it detracts from my ability to cheer on the lone hero bringing back all that is good about humanity against impossible odds.

Pet Peeve Number Two:

Presenting diametrically opposing views is not automatically good reporting.  This is especially true when it isn’t opinions being discussed, but facts.

A reporter should work to determine what the facts are, and give no airtime at all to those who would misrepresent them.

When NBC nightly news covered the Sherrod fiasco this week, they made a big deal out of the administration moving based on distorted video.

Then they featured the lead distorter – Andrew Breitbart, and allowed him to try to weasel out of what he did by claiming ex post facto that he wasn’t criticizing Shirley Sherrod or implying that she was practicing discrimination while on the US government payroll — both outright lies about his initial blast of publicity.

Then Breitbart claimed he was trying to show the racism of the NAACP, and once again lied about the facts, claiming it was a meeting restricted to blacks only and that they broke out in cheers when she described her initial reaction to withhold help from a poor white farmer.  NBC let his new lies stand by presenting them and not checking.

Guess what, NBC?  Facts only exist one way, and anyone presenting falsehoods should be called on it, whether it makes your reporting seem “unbalanced” or not.  Presenting lies is never good reporting, whether it allows you to present a “he said, but on the other hand” story or not.

My final pet peeve(s) are in response to the endless TV ads for the upcoming midterm election.

We’ve got several people running ads in our state claiming that “government spending kills jobs.”  What?  You may not think our high schools should have music programs or athletic departments, but the fact remains that federal spending did keep many of our local schools from firing those teachers that work in those departments.  It is an incontrovertible fact that propping up the state education and public safety budgets resulted in more cops, firemen and teachers being employed for the past two years.  At least be honest.

Another favorite whipping boy is the health insurance reform, which did nothing to socialize medical care delivery, no matter what they say.  In fact, it handed millions more suckers (oops, I mean customers) to the private companies.  So when I hear how the way to save our health care system is to cut out regulations and drastically limit lawsuits, my reaction is to ask

What’s wrong with the free market?  Why do you want to limit its ability to restrain bad behavior through lawsuits?  Our tort system is exactly the means by which an individual can seek redress, and our jury system ensures that it is the people, not bureaucrats, who determine the punishment.  The only other way to control bad behavior is to create a large body of restrictive regulations and cops to enforce them.

If you want those “death panels” to be a reality, I can think of no more efficient way to achieve that goal than to limit the role of government regulation and oversight, and to remove the teeth from the private litigation beast that teaches companies restraint.

The last is the so-called “jobs program” a very wealthy office seeker keeps touting, running ads every hour on every station.  She says we need to have a balanced budget Constitutional Amendment, that we need to strengthen our spending on security, that we need to “keep all the promises made to our elderly population,”  that we need to extend permanence to all the Bush tax cuts from the last decade, and cut corporate and inheritance taxes to zero.

In other words, she wants to claim it will produce jobs and balance the budget to cut revenues permanently without cutting spending in the four main (and only marginally productive) programs our government undertakes — Defense, Homeland Security, Social Security and Medicare.

I’ve got news that anyone with a pencil and paper can figure out…. if you don’t cut defense or security or elderly spending, you’re already spending more money than you plan to take in.

By eliminating funding completely for the Agriculture, Labor, Energy, Interior, Treasury, Housing, Transportation, Commerce and State Departments, you will increase unemployment.

You will almost certainly damage millions of Americans and eliminate much of our security by abdicating the legitimate need for government oversight on those parts of our economy.

We should vote for someone with such a tenuous grasp on reality?  And that’s the kindest interpretation.  More likely is that she is more dishonest than the crew we want to replace.  I wouldn’t hire a child molester as a babysitter for my children, and I don’t see why we should hire a loony anti-government nutjob that can’t even operate a calculator to help run the government.

Monday we return to normal programming.

Good luck to us all.



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