Archive for the Grinds My Gears Category

Why You Should NOT Boycott BP Oil

Posted in Grinds My Gears with tags , , , on June 18, 2010 by Verge

I know it seems like I’m crazy.  The most obvious thing to do is to boycott a company that has caused insurmountable harm to the lives of Americans and to our environments.  But, our gut reaction isn’t always the best one to choose.  It’s actually, very often, the worst one to choose.  Our “gut” reactions are usually the Fight part of “fight or flight,” and most often overcompensates  our overwhelming anger with ridiculously exaggerated (and not well thought out) reactions.

Let me explain.  BP is obviously negligent.  Even if the reports and eye witness testimonies that came out pointing to the facts and circumstances of their disgusting ignorance hadn’t arisen on their own, BP’s own actions tell the truth.  They are donating billions to victims, billions to clean-up efforts, and gushing public apologies at the rate of the oil leak itself!  If that’s not an admission of guilt, I don’t know what is.  They know they screwed up royally, and can only hope to stem the public, worldwide backlash as quickly as they can stop that underwater geyser of poison leaking in the Gulf.

Okay, now that we’ve got that part of blame out of the way, let’s clarify.  The local BP gas station that so many people would like to stop giving money to is not owned by BP.  It is a “BP branded” gas station.  That means, much the same as your local Dunkin’ Donuts, it is a franchise.  It is, most often, a locally owned gas station/quickie-mart/service-station that pays monthly for the privilege to sport a nice, big BP sign in the parking lot.

When you boycott your local business, you hurt local business people.  I understand that even local franchises can be owned by huge companies, so don’t even go there.  Yes, they can be.  But, I can assure you, BP Oil does not own, operate, or care in the least if you get your gas at the local BP gas station.  It doesn’t affect them at all. And, even if everyone in America stopped buying BP gas station gas, it wouldn’t matter anyway, even if they owned 100% of the stations.

Here’s why.  BP, and every other petroleum  company isn’t in the business of filling your car with gasoline.  They are in the business of harvesting crude oil.  That means that there a thousands of things that petroleum is used in the production of, and gasoline happens to account for a minority of it.  As far as alternative energy goes, last time I checked, you can’t make plastic out of solar energy or a windmill.  Don’t get me wrong, I’d like to find alternatives, too, but it’s going to take a lot more to lose dependency on oil than manufacturing electric cars.  But besides all of that, here’s where it really gets tricky.

Most people imagine that modern industry is just like it was hundreds of years ago.  An oil company harvest oil, sends it to its refineries, then ships it in their trucks to their own gas stations to dispense their own, company-branded gasoline into your vehicle.  That’s simple-minded insanity.  That’s the same thinking that would lead you to believe (and god help you if you do) that Starbucks has employees in Columbia that grow trees, harvest and roast beans, then has their own freighters to load crates of coffee beans to ship to ports in America, where more Starbucks employees bag and package their own beans to be sent to their locations all around the country, so that when you drink Starbucks coffee, it’s through and through a company manufactured product.

another happy Starbucks employee

I’ve got news for you.  Almost everything you purchase these days isn’t designed, manufactured, made or marketed by the person who sells it to you.  Brand names are just that…names.  Slap a recognizable logo on anything and it becomes that company’s product.  Do you really think McDonald’s is in the slaughterhouse business?  Do you really think Home Depot is in the lumbering business?  Do you really think Shop Rite is in the farming industry?  Then why on Earth would you assume your local gas station is in the petroleum mining business?

A bit of research will tell you that BP mined oil loses it’s “identity” as soon as it’s off loaded into the pipelines that crisscross our northern hemisphere.  Once crude oil is harvested, either from terrestrial or oceanic sources, it is directed by tankers  to local refineries via huge intake pipelines.  Once refined into a product, it is pumped into pipelines in “batches” where it flows around the country back to back with all kinds of other petroleum products.  When a “batch” of regular grade gasoline is pipe into a major pipeline vein, many different companies may contribute to that batch.

Once a company contributes a certain volume of refined product into a pipeline, it has a credit to withdraw the same amount of that product out of that pipeline at a later date in a different location.  However, it doesn’t necessarily have to withdraw it’s own product.  In fact, if it would like to immediately withdraw product on the other end of the pipeline, a company can do so by paying a slightly higher premium for immediate withdraw.  In addition, it’s product is no longer distinguishable from another company’s product because they’ve all been mixed in the batch.

The fact is that once petroleum products are refined into their many uses, it becomes a commodity to be traded, not a product to be sold by an individual.  There is no guarantee that the gasoline at a local BP station was ever mined and refined by BP themselves.  It’s likely a mixture of product that came from many different sources and refineries.

And, even if it was, you can’t boycott that company to any degree anyway.  If you stop buying their gasoline, they’ll just start refining jet fuel, diesel and petrochemicals for plastics.  If you want to truly boycott BP, you’ll need to stop buying almost every product in your life.  They’re all flown, driven and made using the oil that BP, Exxon, Shell, and all the others collectively harvest.

So, don’t boycott BP Oil.  It will make no difference.  If you want to feel all fuzzy inside like your somehow saving the environment, ride your bike to work and boycott every gas station.  Just don’t forget that BP had a hand in making those rubber bike tires and inner tubes, the grease on that chain, the paint on that frame, the rubber in those handle grips, the plastic on the brake lines, the plastic reflectors, the pedals, the rubber on the brakes…well, you get the idea.  Get used to riding that bike, too, cause shortly, you won’t be able to swim in the ocean any longer.

Have a great Summer!

Obama’s Gay Rights Policies

Posted in Grinds My Gears with tags , , on April 16, 2010 by Verge

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  That I’m going to be all over praising Obama and his initiatives on equal rights for gays.  I am a liberal, right?  Well, his recent demand that hospitals treat gay partners as family members is such a bunch of shit and I’ll tell you why.  If any of my gay friends out there have anything to add to this discussion, I highly encourage you to make comments as well.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea.  Obama now says that gay partners should have the same rights as married spouses and family members at the hospital when critical decisions need to be made.  This means that when someone is rushed to the emergency room, their partner can see them right away, or find out their status from a doctor, or even help make life or death decisions if their partner can’t make them for themselves.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/us/politics/16webhosp.html

These are the kinds of things immediate family and spouses already have the right to do.  What Obama has done is mere gesturing.  He’s put a band aid on the bleeding wound instead of treating the injury.  Gays don’t want special treatment at the hospitals or anywhere else.  What they want is equal treatment.  What that means it that they want the right to marry their spouses in the first place, thereby alleviating the special exception for them at the hospitals in the first place.

Some of you may not understand the difference.  Or, some people you debate with over gay rights may not fully grasp the major difference between “marriage” and “civil union.”  Let me explain, however simplified it may be.  Have you ever filled out an application for anything?  A doctors office form?  A census?  A credit card application?  A mortgage application?  A W-4 or I-9?  A 401K or pension beneficiary form?  If so, let me know how many times the option of “civilly unionized” was a choice when you listed your spouse.  Sure, you cane be “Married, Single, Divorced, Widowed…,” but never “Partnered!”

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of the bias against gays.  Obama mandates that hospitals observe gays as valid partners.  BUT, only ones that receive federal monies for Medicare and Medicaid.  Private hospitals are still free to make their own policies.  And on top of that, the mandates put the responsibility of actually following the policy on the shoulders of staff members.  More often than not, regardless of the Federal Policy, hospital workers, among others, are told immediate family are to be admitted only.  They do not, and will not, recognize a “partner” as immediate family.  They sure as shit won’t let a “significant other” decide whether or not to keep someone on life support, donate their organs, or amputate rather than operate.

Obama should have gone further and outlawed the prevention of gays from being married.  It is sickening that we must live in an era where gays are considered “not one of us.”  He has still to repeal the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military, and that even gets the support of the Republican Right!!  With his latest ruling in hospitals, he is merely “allowing” homo-sexuals what should be their god-given “right.”

Remembering Loved Ones

Posted in Grinds My Gears with tags on December 30, 2009 by Verge

I think most are stupid and cliche’ and stuck-on crooked and are often outdated political campaign slogans, but in the end, you can put on you bumper whatever kind of sticker you like.  I think if you want to support autism research, you shouldn’t have spent 2 bucks on a stupid magnet but instead make a donation to the charity.  Yes, I’m aware that some of the money goes to the charity, but very little of it.  I’ll admit “fuckin’ gonuts” in the fashion of Dunkin Donuts is kind of clever, but a Grateful Dead sticker is plain moronic.

In fact, it seems to me putting any words on the back of your vehicle is kind of dumb to begin with.  Yes, I do indeed have a single sticker on the back of each of my vehicles.  One is the very simple Sirius Radio dog, and the other is a Masonic square and compasses insignia.  I put these on so I can identify my car in a parking lot a little easier, and I don’t mind a bit of personalization.

However, one kind of bumper sticker really pisses me off.  It’s not on the bumper, but usually on the back or side windows.  It usually goes something like this:

“In loving memory of ‘Pop-Pop’, may he rest in peace, 1942-2006” or “In loving memory of Trish Cambell, beloved daughter, 1987-2002”

Having people read an eulogy on the side of your mini-van is tacky at best, and down-right disrespectful at worst.  First of all, the car is not in memory of anything except the fact that you realized walking to work or soccer practice everyday would be a bitch of a time.  Second, it shows just how god damned cheap you are that you opted for a 100 detail job at the local custom shop instead of a nice, traditional $1500 granite headstone.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one for cemeteries either.  I myself will be donated to science and hopefully my organs will go to someone who needs them.  But if I find out someone memorialized me on the side of their Honda Civic (with spinners and the word CIVIC sprawled across the windshield, no less), man will I be pissed.  Wake up people…everyone loses loved ones.  You’re not special just cause your daughter was killed by a drunk driver when she was only 15, you’re just damn unfortunate.  Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve every time you swing out to the store.  And I’ve got news for you…writing it in a fancy script font doesn’t make it more reverential, it makes it harder to read!

And another thing…stop leaving garbage on the side of the road pretending someone cares where your loved one died.  You don’t put flowers in the side of sharp bend in the road, you put them on a gravestone.  The only people who are entitled to have memorials at the exact spot that they died are martyrs and assassinated presidents.  That means your nephew, sister, or any other family member DOES NOT COUNT!

I understand the grieving process and I am sympathetic.  You can leave your flowers and candles and tacky pictures of Jesus on the side of the road…for one month.  Then, come back, clean up your mess, and get a respectable memorial somewhere else.  I cannot stand having to see a heap of rotten flowers on the side of the road week after week after week.  You should be fined for littering, and be ashamed of yourself for being cheapening the life of whomever you lost.  You’re only doing it so when other people that you know drive by, they think of you as a sentimental person for 20 seconds.

Don’t fool yourselves.  Remembering loved ones you’ve lost is something very private, and very special, and is something that should be cherished and shared with the loved ones you still have.  Publicly broadcasting your mourning cheapens the sentiment and shows your shallowness.  Find another, more meaningful way to express your emotional loss.  Donate time or money to a charity that will help others not have to go through what you went though.  Spend time with friends and family that can understand the gravity of your loss and help you cope.  Try to remember the positive memories you still have with that person.

Just… keep it to yourself.

Air Travel Safety

Posted in Grinds My Gears on December 28, 2009 by Verge

I just got back from Philadelphia International to pick up Sam from Ohio, and it reminded me of the pitiful excuse for convenience that the airline industry has become.  Oh, and maybe the fact that some POS almost killed 300 people this past weekend, even after his father told the US embassy in Nigeria that his son was crazy and was planning on killing some people very soon.  Awesome security.

This is the problem I have, and I’m pretty sure most people will agree.  First of all, I always travel with my laptop.  In fact, most people who own a laptop these days travel with it.  Every time I go through security, at every airport within the US (but rarely out of the country), I’m forced to boot the damn thing up and show them it’s a working laptop..  Now excuse me if I’m underestimating our security intelligence, but I’m pretty sure that if a terrorist knows how to build a bomb inside of a laptop, they sure as hell know how to ALSO conceal it within a laptop that can boot windows once or twice to pass security.

And another thing.  I wouldn’t mind so much if they told me about the three laptops a month that the TSA manages to screen that actually do contain laptop bombs.  To date, I’ve heard of no such story.  I’m not saying I’d like to hear them because I really do hope that people are not trying to do such things.  But, if smuggling bombs in laptops is such a high concern, you’d really think that by now we would’ve heard about it by now instead of bombs being smuggled in …shoes?…really?…that’s how high tech they’ve managed to get?

Your also not allowed to bring in more that 2 ounces of liquids in your carry-on luggage.  First of all, I know nothing about explosives, so perhaps I’m ignorant, but what difference does it make whether your tube of toothpaste holds 2 or 3 or 6 ounces of toothpaste.  If you can blow up a plane with four ounces of mouthwash, we’re all completely screwed anyway.  And, this rule only applies to your carry-on luggage??  So, let me get this straight…you can’t bring too much shampoo and conditioner into the cabin of the plane, but pack a 60 pound bag full of C4 and you’re golden?

Okay, I know it’s not exactly that bad, but it is pretty ridiculous.  The last time I traveled internationally, I was coming home from Mexico.  At the airport, they managed to to lure us in with scotch and perfume.  Duty free is hard to resist.  Now, in Mexico, to secure your duty-free packages, they seal them in a bag with zip ties.  In Philadelphia, they don’t even let you carry the stuff onto the plane.  The store personally delivers the goods to your plane.

In any case, when you land, like we did, at a connecting flight, you’ve got to check those items.  Somehow, security assumes that, after boarding a flight with completely double-sealed, never-before-opened liquid goods, I somehow miraculously replace scotch with explosives ON THE PLANE MID-FLIGHT.

After all that, some moron manages to sew explosives into his pants and light himself on fire on a plane.  They confiscated my tweezers in Mexico, but you can walk on board in Europe with explosives?  I really hope that the current administration overhauls the security procedures that currently inconvenience obviously benign risks and instead focus attention on meaningless threats.  I have to boot my laptop, but when the US Embassy is told of a potential threat, they think it’s not credible enough to at least look into?  It’s certainly time that our assessment of security in this country needs a good injection of good old common sense.  That’s always the safest bet.

More Scams and Ripoffs

Posted in Grinds My Gears, Reflections on December 15, 2009 by Verge

This one is kind of tricky in that this scam really seems like it’s okay.

Back in college I worked for for a “non-profit” organization called NJPIRG.  There’s a so-called PIRG in almost every state, and some are part of a national organization, and some are only state wide.  They bill themselves as “public interest research groups,” and claim to be grassroots organizations to be a public watchdog for the best interests of the common citizens.

And, in fact, they have a pretty good PR face, and manage to make it into the news pretty often.  Most times, they manage to find a product that’s dangerous, or a stream that’s polluted, or a business that rips customers off.  When they actually do find a golden egg, they don’t hesitate to contact the local media ready to claim that they are the heroes of the innocent public, ever defending the regular good-guy, and helping to destroy the evil corporations, polluters, and exploiters.

That’s very cute and all, but let me school you.  I truly am sorry if you’ve supported these groups in the past.  I don’t mean to demean your good intentions, or make you the fool.  In the end, these organization do indeed accomplish a marginal amount of good, but they are not the all-benevolent organizations they make themselves out to be.  While occasionally they actually do accomplish something that is indeed good for the public, most of the time, these are PR stunts to legitimize their full time bullshit ring.

So, this is how this one works.  Pick a hot topic.  Let’s say, global warming.  That sounds good.  People are a little sensitive to that subject right now, right?  Okay, in a PIRGs eyes, that’s opportunity.  People want to do good, and if we can convince them that they are helping the environment by giving us a few bucks in the name of progress instead of actually helping the environment, then we’re in business.

This is where door-to-door canvassing comes in.  Canvassing is the bullshitter’s name for door-to-door harassment in the form of first, begging, then arguing, then guilting, then demanding money from you.  The skill of canvassing is like the 101 class for Con Men.  Unfortunately for me, my ongoing degree in Philosophy at the time (read: the art or argument) made me all too apt at this lowly act.

So, to make it short and sweet, this is how this works.  PIRGs print up some facts about actual global warning.  They hire college kids, or hippies, or some combination of the two, and give them said flyers.  They then grab quick, legal permits to canvass in a certain town under the guise of public awareness.  A couple of idealistic kids knock on the doors of unsuspecting housewives who are told about the problems of global warming.  But, the problem can be helped, if only enough people know how to fight it by buying the correct light bulbs, installing programmable thermostats, and carpooling, to start.

Now, if enough people in the state are “properly informed” by having college kids give them fliers, then all humanity may just be saved in the nick of time.  But who will pay for all the fliers, the gas, and the time of the “informers?”  You guessed it:  the unsuspecting housewife.  But, the scam is this.  The more money canvassers collect, the more money they personally earn, and the bigger bonuses their bosses earn (the ones that actually graduated to printing the fliers instead of begging for money).

Now, do a lot of people actually get fliers telling them about global warming?  Yes.  But if anyone actually cared about global warming, they are already well aware of how to help the cause.  And everyone else is just being hassled.  Hassled to the point that most of the time it’s easier to give some college kid 10 bucks than to argue with some idealistic asshole with a stack of fliers.

The money that is donated pays people to go to another neighborhood, another day, and harass those people.  That money doesn’t clean up waterways, or install solar panels on the roof of the local library, or find corrupt politicians, or test toys for lead content.  It pays hard-up college kids to learn how to annoy homeowners to the point of giving up their money.

Like I said, once in a while, they actually do stumble upon something that actually does help the “public interest,” but I assure you, that is not their goal.  Fliers don’t clean up the environment or clean up waterways!  In fact, driving all over the state to distribute what will essentially be trash in a landfill, with toxic ink to boot, is quite the opposite of helping the cause of greening our planet.

As I said in my last post, for the most part, with very few exception, donating money is a scam.  Most organizations become so full of bureaucracy that they cannot possibly fulfill the goals that they once hoped to fulfill.  Donating clothes to Goodwill is direct.  Giving a sandwich to a homeless person on your way home from work one day is direct.  Spilling a pint of blood for a kid with leukemia is direct.  Volunteering for a local soup kitchen is direct.  Our friend Danielle even suggested helping out no-kill animal shelters for the Holidays (I suggest calling them and asking what they need most).  Dropping a check in the mail just because some crap organization says that 100% of donations go to a good cause IS NOT DIRECT.

There’s a lot of email chains that go around this time of year.  They ask that you send a gift to an orphan, or send a card to a serviceman, or forward an email to every0ne you know for a free donations to some fly-by-night organization.  These emails are fairly obviously scams.  I just wanted to point out that they’re not always so easily spotted.  Some of these organizations have been around a long time, and their occasional good deeds gives them some staying power.

In the end, time, more than money, is what people in need really, really can use.  Time to give blood, or serve soup, or clean out your closet.  Time to visit the sick in hospitals, or give some stray, unwanted dogs some exercise, or time to spread the sentiment that I’m trying to convey rather that hitting the forward button on some bullshit email.  I’ve done most of these things, at one time or another, and I assure you, the former is far more rewarding than the latter.

http://www.redcross.org/

http://www.goodwill.org/

http://www.hud.gov/local/nj/homeless/shelters/camden.cfm

http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/awa-voorhees.html

PS, I’m not saying we do more than everyone else, because that is FAR from the truth, but what I’m saying is that, if we all do just a little, then that will make a big difference.

Holiday Scams and Fundraisers

Posted in Grinds My Gears on December 10, 2009 by Verge

I know many of our hearts are huge during the holidays, and end of the year donations not only feel good, but are tax deductible.   Well, over the years, I’ve been employed by some pretty dirty businesses that specialize in basically ripping people off under the guise of good will, and I’d like to warn you about those scams.  Hopefully, in the wake of my tirade, you’ll think twice about forking over money to anyone who asks for it, no matter how harmless they seem, or how good the cause they claim to represent actually is.

First, I want to address the issue of telemarketers.  Now, I know that at least some of you still own a phone, but I’ll admit, we don’t even have one anymore.  Just cell phones these days.  But, this scam, it seems to me, will inevitably bleed into our emails and mobile phones as well, not to mention the already infiltrated Postal Service.

Most Associations do not have the resources, time or volunteers to raise their own funds.  This includes benevolent associations like the local Police, Fireman and Rescue Squads.  It also may include state agencies that benefit any of the aforementioned groups, or agencies that support the homeless, poor, or orphaned.

The police are in the business of protecting and serving the public.  The fireman of your state are in the business of protecting businesses and homes from complete destruction, not to mention, along with EMT’s, saving lives.  They are not in the business of fund raising.

Now, from time to time, you will see that the local associations will hold a “beef ‘n’ beer” or even a coin toss on the local roads.  This, my friends, are the only times that you are truly giving to the local organizations.  If you want to help them out in ways other than financially, bake some cookies on Christmas Eve or New Years Eve and drop them off at the local fire station of Rescue Squad.  Volunteer your time for some of their local efforts.  But, whatever you do, don’t get caught up in this scam.

Here’s how things really go down.  For profit companies approach these organizations.  They are telemarketers, or mail marketing, or even nowadays, email marketing companies.  They offer these benevolent organizations offers that are very hard to refuse.  They say, “We will give you $100,000 in donations, provided that you sign a contract that allows us to raise money for your organization for 12 months.”  There are no strings attached to this offer.  And, volunteers who already give their time fighting fires don’t have to take weekends away from time with their families to stand in the middle of the road like panhandlers begging for money.

Here’s the catch, if you haven’t already figured it out.  For 3 months, every person on the staff follows a well manicured, very cunning script to call people in that jurisdiction to raise money for the “local heroes.”  They raise said $100,000 and really do donate it to the cause.  But, since they are under/have a contract, they are “allowed” to raise money for that organization for a full year.  They KEEP the profits.  Where do they go??  They pay the people who call you and harass you to donate to the “local cause” under the pretense that you’ll get special treatment for having a sticker on your back windshield if pulled over, or a special sticker on your front door when the firefighters arrive.

So, maybe it takes them 6 months, or 9 months to raise the 100k they promised.  They still get three months of pure profit to prey upon you and your wallet.  They call it Black Friday, in the retail world, because most retail businesses are said to not actually turn a profit, fiscal year wise, until after that day.  Until then, they are paying overhead for space, personnel, and product.  Well, there is not product in telemarketing, only 100% bullshit!  Sure, they do technically contribute to a good cause, but they do so under the veil of benevolence, when in reality, they do so as a pretense to put money in their own pockets.

I want people to realize that I’m not a conspiracy theorist on this subject.  I worked this job, and, if I risk being humble, I was damn good at it, because I can manipulate people into believing that not donating is tantamount to not supporting.  It’s an easy argument to make, for me.  But I didn’t feel good about it, once I figured out the scam I was perpetuating, and I quit after two weeks.

If you want to help out the local volunteers, then volunteer.  Or call them, and ask what you can do for them.  Tell them that you would rather help them directly than risk having a third party skim from your donation.

I’m not nearly done with the subject of this blog, but I’ve got to go play a show now, so part 2 will come soon.

–~r

Veterans' Day

Posted in Grinds My Gears with tags , , on November 11, 2009 by Verge

Okay, so, I looked it up, and so don’t go and comment that both are acceptable ways of saying “Veteran,” because I already know that yes, technically, both ways are “acceptable.”  Well, I don’t accept it.  It is not Veh-trin.  If it was, then that is how it would be spelled.  It is Vet-er-in.  If you say it fast, you hardly notice it’s 3 syllables, but it is.  Yes, it’s THREE syllables.

For the record, there is no such word as “veh-trin-arian.”  Same deal, people.  It has SIX syllables, not five.

In similar god awful language bastardizing, it is NOT “out the window,” “down the shore,” or especially”aks.”  You go “out to dinner,” but throw something “out OF the window.”  Better yet, you “defenestrate” an object, but that’s a whole different subject.

I know the whole Jersey thing excludes a lot of people from ridicule when saying “down the shore,” but still, it is not the same thing as saying “down the street.”  If it was, then it would be perfectly acceptable to say “I’ve gotta get someting down the grocery store,” or “Let’s go out the movies tonight.”

And this whole “aks” thing is completely ridiculous.  When someone says “he aks me a question” I feel like responding with a fist.  Did you then respond with an “awsner?”

So, in “ca-kloo-shun (don’t get me started),” thank a veteran or the family of one, if you know someone who helps protect this county…they deserve it.

–~r

%d bloggers like this: