Sunday, August 30, 2009

A hearty F-U from the USPS

The United States Postal Service has taken to giving Durham the proverbial bird all summer long. Ostensibly a government service, the inefficient, inscrutable, opaque USPS has decided not to offer service in many of its Durham branches this summer. The bums are closing the main downtown post office at 2pm. The losers fail to offer an automatic teller machine that sells stamps or stickers packages in this, the main Durham branch. For fuck's sake, there are 217,000 people in this city, the Postal Service can't come up with one automated machine at the main downtown branch!!!

They need to fire a few of their lax, lazy-ass supervisors and they could afford quite a few more machines.

Maybe there are those of you who think, well, they are closing the main post office three hours early and not opening at all on Saturday, perhaps we could go to the 27705 branch off of La Salle Street. Ha! Nope! They are closed at 2pm also. However, at least La Salle Street does offer an automatic postal machine. Unfortunately, the USPS specializes in finding new ways to inconvenience their patrons; the machine does not accept cash!

Perhaps the 27704 post office is better. After all, the USPS just spent the money to relocate that branch across the street to a new location, from the horrible dump with atrocious nearly impassable parking lot, where they had it. Of course it is not better, it is perhaps even more infuriating than any of them. During peak hours (when most of the other post offices in town have knocked off early) this post office is manned by a mere one counter employee. There is no automatic postal machine.

These jerks found time and money to sponsor a bike team for eight years!?! If the Clarion Content had its way, the Post Office would be forbidden from advertising, and forced to redirect those expenditures into improving service and efficiency with a particular emphasis on automated service machines. (Including one's that accept cash, seriously, the grocery store has them.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Even the so-called countercyclical

The Clarion Content has heard repeatedly in the midst of this nasty economic storm that certain vice industries are countercyclical. Alcohol is the most often cited example. We also hear that the lottery and gambling, in general, do well. While we haven't had time to do an extensive survey, we did run across an article in the LA Times about one big vice industry that is not doing so well, porn.

That's right, its tough times in the porn business amidst this nasty recession. Talking to the ladies at Hustler's 35th anniversary party the Times reports that fees performers are receiving per scene are down 30%. The actors and actresses are getting less because there is less competition for their services, naturally. The Times says, "Industry insiders estimate that since 2007, revenue for most adult production and distribution companies has declined 30% to 50%." They also report a sharp decline in the number of new productions.

The porn biz is getting nailed in more ways than one, its not just the economy, but the technology. There is so much free porn on the internet that who needs to pay for it? The Times says, "Sites like Pornhub, YouPorn and RedTube attract more users than TMZ and the Huffington Post." And they go on to quote the president Vivid Entertainment, he says, "The death of the DVD business has been more accelerated in the adult business than mainstream." Unfortunately for the industry, porn on the internet generates lots of traffic, but very little revenue.

The porn industry at its peak has been estimated to be as big as $13 billion annually. While on one level it will be interesting to evaluate the way it comes through these turbulent times, on another level, it is a reminder of just how wide ranging the implications of a bad economy can be. Because, no doubt, as the Times notes, performers are being pressured to more for less (as always in the porn biz, particularly women).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Could be our Mayor

Don't know if you heard about this one dear reader, but after reading the Associated Press story, we have decided that we would take the Mayor of Milwaukee as our Mayor any time.

As it unfolded, the Mayor, Tom Barrett, was at the Wisconsin State Fair with his family. He had his wife, his kids and his niece with him. They were leaving the fair grounds, walking across one of the huge parking lots that surround it when they heard a woman confronting an assailant yelling for someone to call the police. Mayor Barrett stepped between the woman and her attacker who was brandishing a lead pipe. The mayor tried to restore calm to the situation, and though unarmed he was attacked when he attempted to call 911.

He sustained a fractured hand, and stitches to the head and mouth. The woman was not hurt and the perp fled on foot from the scene. The mayor's one regret according to his spokesman was that was his family had to witness the incident that left him hospitalized.

Not so welcome in Virgina

from South Hill to Richmond

The sign on the interstate reads, "Welcome to Virginia" as one heads across the state line, the reality is tangibly different. Virgina, like many states post the despotic reign of King George the II, is grappling with massive and debilitating state budget shortfalls. Various states are dealing with these budgetary crises in a manifest number of ways, one may recall reading in these pages that the state of California was issuing IOUs. Delaware is trying to legalize sports betting. Virginia has a plan of its own, in short, super expensive speeding tickets.

Any speeding ticket in Virginia for where the driver is clocked at over 80 miles per hour is a minimum $412 including fine and court costs. Holy mackerel! One ticket equals $412 is a punishment that stokes the fires of the Clarion Content's libertarian furnace. The fact that the punishment is pecuniary rather than custodial, that is, monetary rather than jail time, makes it uniquely anti-poor. A second speeding ticket over 80 miles per hour in Virginia within three years is a $1000 fine. The same penalties apply at lower speeds if the driver is more than 20 miles an hour over the speed limit. Not only is a lower income person likely to be more effected by a speeding ticket with a huge fine, they are less likely to be able to afford a lawyer to fight it.

Interesting side note, one of the legislative sponsors for the bill state Delegate David B. Albo (R-Springfield), is reportedly a partner in a traffic law firm.

The less than bemusing flip side of the budgetary coin in Virginia has frustrating ramifications for driver's too. Not content with soaking motorists wallets, Virginia has been cutting back on highway amenities, as well. Virginia has closed numerous state operated rest stops. Interstate 85 between the North Carolina border and the capital Richmond features a series of rest stops with sand barrels connected by chains blocking their entrances from the highway. Not such a pretty sight if one is hoping empty the bladder!

Drivers beware, the sign says, "Welcome to Virginia," the evidence says otherwise.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

If you don't report it

If you don't report it then we can deny it happened. So goes the thinking of the Afghan Foreign Ministry in the days before elections in the strife torn country. Huh. Can one sense this was a government installed by King George Bush the II, or what? Same attitude toward the media and the institution of the free press, "Hey can you muzzle yourself for the greater good? We got some things we need to take care of here and we don't want them too closely examined..."

According to the Associated Press
, fearing that violence could dampen turnout, the Afghan Foreign Ministry issued a statement Tuesday saying that news organizations should avoid "broadcasting any incidence of violence" between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on election day "to ensure the wide participation of the Afghan people."

"If we deny it, and the media doesn't report it, who's to say it ever happened?" Is there a more Dick Cheney-esque philospohy? And remember, these are ostensibly the good guys of Afghani politics. The Clarion Content (and Derrida) would tell you that any government that has to be imposed violently against the will of the people has already lost its legitimacy.

Of course, a unified Afghan nation only exists in the mind's eye of Western, external policymakers. Outside of the capital of Kabul, clan, tribe, and religion come first, there is no self-consciously recognized Afghani identity. One is a Pashtun, a Tajik, an Uzbek, or a Turkmen living in a state drawn on a map by Brit more than a 100 years ago. The map has not changed identities or loyalties on the ground.

Fortunately, what Afghani media there is, has stated that it is going to resist demands of the Kabul government for a news blackout, much as it would have resisted the same demands made by a Taliban government.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

War is no game

"The only way to win is not to play the game." These famous words were uttered by a computer in the 1983 movie War Games. In this movie the humans had to teach the computer that war, specifically global thermonuclear war, was futile via the children's game tic-tac-toe. The line above is the realization, when the computer, after running endless simulations, finally gets it, "the only way to win is not to play the game."

While the Clarion Content is not made up of dyed-in-the-wool pacifists, we are most disappointed with the pace at which the Obama administration is ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no narrative, no becoming, that is a United States win. And in the interim the real human cost is irretrievably high.

Take the painful story of Captain Kafele H. Sims, a thirty-two year from Los Angeles, California. Captain Sims, the fourth child of Jimmie and Michelle Sims, attended public schools in L.A. and graduated with honors from Birmingham High School in 1995. Two weeks short of wrapping up his second tour in Iraq Captain Sims, a physician's assistant, died June 16th in Mosul. Army officials have told his wife is that his death did not occur during combat and that the cause remains under investigation. They have ruled out suicide and homicide according to the Los Angeles Times.

The mystery is probably what brought this story to notice, most sadly the tragedy of the life that was lost is all too common place. Captain Sims left his wife, Masako and three young children who range from 21 months to 4 years old.