Because accusations of flip-floppery worked so well against John Kerry, "flip-flop" is this year's all-weather political accusation. I, personally, like politicians who can adjust their policies to changing conditions, but in the modern era of gotcha political commentary, even rhetorical changes are "flip-flops."
The recently beatified Tim Russert earned a reputation as tough interviewer not because he drilled-down to the real meaning of what was being said, but because he challenged his interviewees with apparent flip-flops in their public statements.
Now "flip-flop" is bleeding over into other endeavors, replacing more complicated, adult formulations like "contradict" or "reversed his policy" or "changed her mind."
New rule here at F/A: the only appropriate use of "flip-flop" is in describing a type of inexpensive summer footwear. Comments using "flip-flop" in other contexts will be spotlighted in a humiliating and insulting way yet to be determined.
"They actually enacted treaties, laws, proclamations and resolutions
as presidents of the United States," (Stanley L.) Klos says. It doesn't bother Klos
that historians say he's off base and dismiss his claims as silly. As
far as he's concerned, they have it all wrong, and he has the documents
to prove it.
"If you go into the national archive, the first thing that greets
you is the Treaty of Paris proclamation signed under the great seal of
the United States of America by our president, Thomas Mifflin," Klos
says. "It ended the war with Great Britain."
Actually, if you go to the National Archives the first thing that greets you is a metal detector, which also doesn't belong on a coin. And if we're going to plan our monetary system based on the "first thing that greets you" standard, our legal tender is going to feature mostly ill-tempered bouncers and maitre d's whose greatest joy is escorting you to the table right behind the kitchen door.
Klos' suit cites the "The Presidential Coin Act," a law Congress passed -- apparently while drunk -- that directs the Treasury secretary to issue $1 coins featuring the faces of all the Presidents. Klos believes that "all the Presidents" includes Presidents no one has ever heard of who served under a primitive legal document so weak that it barely existed at all.
However you may feel about Presidents like, say, Thomas McKean (who played Lenny on Laverne & Shirley, I think) the problem is that we already have too many coins. I, in particular, have too many coins. I keep my extra pennies in coffee cans next to the dresser in the bedroom and I'm about three dollars away from causing structural damage to my house. ("Honey, why is our bed in the basement?")
In my opinion, coins, like the magnetic fields of the Earth, are not something that's supposed to change. For most of my life, American money stayed dependably the same. Then they decided to start minting new coins.
The first time I got one of those bus token dollars in my change at the post office (post offices being the only place in the world that actually uses whatever new coin the mint comes up with) I threw it away because it freaked me out so much. So minting a bunch of new dollar coins with the faces of people like Cyrus Grffin or Elias Boudinot on them is not going to do my mental health a lot of good.
People who don't understand anything but their own discomfort have called for a gasoline boycott on May 15. The object of this boycott is to protest high gasoline prices and, according to the email that recently hit my box, "take $2,292,000,000 out of the rich oil company’s pockets for just one day."
In my mind, there is no better indicator of how far down the road to complete irrationality we Americans have gone than our reaction to high gasoline prices. There is a subset of us that simply can't understand that increased consumption of a scarce resource will raise that resource's price. Every price jump at the pump is proof of a grand conspiracy of oil companies, despite the fact that the United States has the lowest gas prices in the industrialized world. (I, personally, do not count Venezuela as industrialized.)
And now that self-indulgent subset is being wooed by another self-important subset: people who believe that complaint can change the laws of nature and economics. The result is a protest that will have exactly zero effect except that it will make the kind of people I don't like hanging around with anyway feel better about themselves.
The most direct way to reduce the cost of gasoline is to consume less of it. It does nothing to tank-up on the 14th
or 16th rather than the 15th if you drive the same amount you always
If one were to call for a gas price protest that required, for
example, travel on public transportation or riding bicycles or eating at
home instead of going out or purchasing a car that got more than 18 miles to the
gallon, that would reduce oil consumption by some small increment and have an effect on the market. But no one is calling
for that kind of protest, and no one in our utterly vacuous political
sphere is calling for the kind of sacrifice that might make a real
If there's a change in America that threatens the future of this country, it's not acceptance of gay marriage or the influx of people who speak Spanish or Britney Spears going without panties. It's our utter unwillingness to sacrifice. We're the only country in the history of the world that has tried to finance a war while cutting taxes; you don't think we're going to give up something as wonderful as our our huge, super-powered automobiles just because we can't afford the fuel that goes into them, do you?
Seriously: I worry about this country. I worry that our minds are so filled with crap journalism and Paris Hilton and a breathless desire for more stuff that we've lost our ability to confront the world as it really is. I worry that something -- an undetected virus, maybe, or television -- has stripped us of our ability to think in depth about anything more complicated than where our next bacon cheeseburger is coming from.
And so we are left with nothing to do but create conspiracy theories about situations that are entirely of our own making, and the only power we have is the power to attack those who indulge us. After putting our heads together, our mode of attack is to do something that is utterly and completely futile.
A while ago I went on a tear about "decimalizing" the American monetary system. For a while, people have been talking about eliminating pennies because they're more trouble than they're worth. I took things one step farther and said: Hey, let's get rid of nickels, too. My theory was that we could make the economy a lot more efficient by just rounding everything off at the nearest dime. It was a stupid idea and I got a s certain amount of comedic mileage out of it and then, much to my regular reader's relief, moved on.
So now Fox News quotes an economist with an idea that is even more stupid than the idea I had. I mean, seriously more stupid. The economist, Francois Velde, wants to increase the face value of pennies so that they're worth five cents each. This, Dr. Velde points out, will save the penny! Dr. Velde then points out that, historically, coins worth more than their face value disappear from circulation because people are melting them down and selling the metal.
The best solution, Velde said,
would be to "rebase" the penny by making it worth five cents rather
than one cent. Doing so would increase the amount of five-cent coins in
circulation and do away with the almost worthless one cent coin.
The point Dr. Velde misses is that there are too damned many pennies in the world to begin with. He is, by my shoddy research, the only person in the universe worried about a shortage of pennies. Everyone I know has more pennies than they want or need or can even figure out a way to dispose of. In this nation of 300 million people, there are approximately 140 billion pennies in circulation. That's nearly five rolls of pennies per person.
When silver prices in the 1970s skyrocketed, speculators trying to corner the market were shocked to discover that, the higher prices went, the more silver poured out onto the market. When silver rose from about $2 an ounce to more than $50, it was all the rage to sell unused Sterling tea sets and pickle forks to scrap metal dealers in exchange for ridiculous amounts of money. My own father, who had collected big bags of silver dimes and quarters back when they were made of real silver, made thousands of dollars dumping those coins into the inflated market. I remember him bragging that he had exchanged three rolls of silver quarters -- face value, $30 -- for a full set of Ben hogan irons worth over $500. Far from cornering the market, the speculators found themselves awash in silver.
Which says to me: Leave the face value of pennies alone! If the price of copper rises so high that it becomes worth trading in all those pennies, the penny will disappear and we'll all be better off for it. More likely, the price will rise and all those pennies will come back out of hiding and the price will fall again, and we'll all be exactly where we are now: Flush with coins we have no use for.
I got all the way through Talk Like a Pirate Day yesterday without talking like a pirate even once. I consider this a triumph. In conversation, I tend to slip into different voices without a lot of thought, and the b-movie pirate voice is one of my regulars. Not talking like a pirate took considerable thought and self-discipline.
I do not, as a matter of course, approve of institutionalized comedy like Talk Like a Pirate Day, which makes it possible for people who aren't the least bit funny to simulate humor in a way that doesn't generate actual laughter. I also don't approve of stuff that is harmless but somehow universally assumed to be edgy, that can be easily adopted as the running-bit-of-the-day fodder by every morning radio team in the world without so much as a tut-tut from Standard & Practices.
A key element of comedy is surprise; there's nothing surprising about people talking like a pirate on Talk Like a Pirate Day. So, yesterday, I talked like myself. It bored even me, but I think I made a statement.
A recent poll indicates that Hillary Clinton, with 40%, is the front runner for the Democratic Presidential Nomination and that First Brother Jeb Bush, with 10%, is moving up quickly int he Republican pack.
I'm serious: We've got to stop this. Having 20 years of Presidents out of two families is enough. It's time we broadened the field of candidates to include people who aren't related to previous Presidents. Isn't that basic to the American Dream, that anyone -- not just Bushes or Clintons -- can grow up to be President?
...has asked the Legislature to make topless sunbathing legal, saying the ban is the last criminal sanction that treats women differently than men.
The new movement has urgency: Because of a December court ruling, Johnsson and other attorneys contend, women convicted of indecent exposure could find themselves listed as sex offenders under Megan's Law, alongside rapists and child molesters.
Which is ridiculous. Women who expose their breasts in public should be treated as national heroes.
Johnsson's basic argument is that big fat guys can lounge around topless with gigustic man-boobs sagging all over the place and, except for an occaisional gag reflex, no one seems to mind. Women, on the other hand, get into legal trouble even if their naked breasts are attractive. Which the vast majority of them are, at least a little.
Click here to view a .pdf of the California Bar Association's assessment of Ms. Johnsson's proposed legislation. Sorry, no pictures.
Click here to send an encouraging email to Ms. Johnsson. Tell her I sent you.
Meet Blake Ashby. He's an entrepreneur and a conservative Republican from Missouri, and he just can't take it anymore. He's had enough of the Bush Administration and, to show how serious is his disenchantment, is attempting to wrest the Republican nomination for President away from George W. Bush.
He hasn't got a prayer, of course, but that's not the point.
Most of the time, just-regular-folks who run for President are either joking or they're insane. Mr. Ashby appears to be neither. Instead, he seems to be a committed Republican engaging in a kind of performance art. He's figured out that George W. Bush is neither conservative nor true to core Republican values. Oh, the President uses conservative rhetoric and is doing what he can to put into effect the kind of theocracy-lite that appeals to Christian fundamentalists in the Republican Party, but he's not really a conservative.
Dismayed by a growing national deficit, disheartened by the Party leadership’s apparent loss of faith in the free market and the right to compete, frustrated by it’s drift away from the traditional Republican values of fiscal prudence and limited government, Blake is committed to using this campaign to bring the party of Lincoln, of Teddy Roosevelt, and of Eisenhower back to its core values.
Ashby knows he's not going to get the nomination. In a section of his website where he asks people to notify his campaign if they read in newspapers that President Bush is running unopposed, he says this:
We might not be very threatening opposition, but we are opposition.
Blake's right. He's not very threatening, except that he's not alone. Out there are thousands and maybe even millions of mainstream Republicans who believe in smaller government, who are against what founders called "foreign adventures," and who grow nauseated as the President puts all his political pandering on our national credit card.
So Ashby has had enough, and when he puts words to his disenchantment, darned if he doesn't sound a lot like most of the Democrats I know.
More than any other Republican Administration in history, this Administration has very casually and recklessly abandoned the prudence and caution that were the hallmarks of the Republican Party's approach to national security, and our country is less safe as a result.
Ashby probably won't vote for Kerry, of course. He's a Republican. But with his Quixotic campaign, waged largely on the Internet and with no budget and no media attention, he's sincerely and admirably trying to pull his party back from an abyss.
Will you stand up to the President? Do you want this to be your legacy? That you stood by and did nothing while our government was bankrupted, and our principles trashed?
I suspect, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, that in their hearts, Republicans know what Ashby and people like him are saying is right. They're just not speaking up because they're good soldiers and they want to win.
Which is what's wrong with American politics; winning is more important than standing up for the good of your country.
Fly me to the moon and let me dance among the stars...
Decimalism takes off! My Quixotic and inevitably doomed attempt to reform American coinage is gaining support. I'd like to take this opportunity to introduce the future Treasurer of the United States, David, who yesterday unveiled a couple of proposed re-designs for American currency.
David has a little follow-up work to do, of course. He based his new bills on the old, symetrical currency instead of the big-face money that's been introduced to thwart counterfeiters. Also, he put Frank Sinatra on the $10 note, which is simply unacceptable. Frank belongs on the C-note, the perfect medium for tipping underlings and large-breasted hat-check girls, not on the ten-spot, which no gentleman would even bother to pick up off the bar. I'm guessing David missed that one because he didn't have a $100 bill to scan, since he lives in Montana where the primary medium of exchange remains palm-sized bags of gold nuggets. (And where, interestingly enough, old timers still use the phrase "by crackie!")
Decimalists across the land are awaiting David's design of the "fifth," the new 20-cent coin that will replace the Decimalist-unfriendly quarter. Get on it David. You've got a whole weekend ahead of you. Maybe we can see something Monday morning, first thing?