General: November 2004 Archives

I just learned that the donuts I love to hate are more distasteful than I had thought.

Krispy Kreme* contributed $90,260 to the Republican Party and only $1,842 to the Democratic Party during the 2003-2004 election cycle, according to data assembled by the creators of a new (and very interesting) website, Choose The Blue, designed to help consumers identify the politics of the corporations whose products and services they patronize.

So not only are these donuts bad for their patrons' health and bad for at least one of the communities in which a plant/store is located, but they subsidize the regime which threatens the nation and the world.

But maybe the relationship is about to come apart. Yesterday's donut star is also in trouble and even their Republican friends may not be able to bail them out.

The corporation's earnings are sharply down, the result, according to the NYTimes, of "slipping sales and underperforming franchise operations."

The disappointing news is the latest in a string of troubles for Krispy Kreme. It is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for the aggressive manner in which it accounted for franchises that it bought back and for the prices paid for some of these franchises. Last month, the investigation was upgraded to a formal inquiry.

This year, the company's stock, which once traded as high as $50, has been in free fall.

But what do I know about this financial esoterica? I admit that my relationship with the un-donut company is on a personal level, and it bagan just after they first opened a New York location. I tasted their incredibly-hyped product and found that I really hated it. For this kind of sugar and fat, if I'm going to support a chain store, I'd rather follow the example of the gentleman in the picture at the bottom of my previous post: He's licking a cone just purchased at the neat little Ben & Jerry's shop to the right of the Krispy Kreme. Now there's a politically-wholesome treat I could support!

* According to Choose The Blue, "Corporate totals are based on donations from PACs, employees, subsidiaries and affiliates for the 2003-2004 election cycle."

[thanks to Barry for the Choose The Blue site tip]

donut detritus

What is it they say about sausage making? Along lines of the same argument, I think Chelsea's Krispy Kreme fans should stay clear of their favorite donut haunt on the nights the raw materials are dumped on West 23rd Street. Tons of large bags of flour and sugar are stacked across the sidewalk until workers manage to drag into the machinery at the rear of the shop that which hasn't already spilled onto the pavement. The piles are scary and the residue isn't pretty - especially if it's raining.

I'm sensitive to the intrusiveness of this little manufactory/shop because of its large impact on myself and my neighbors, all of whom, regardless of our taste in donuts, prefer not to live in apartments which are permeated with the sweet smell of yeast and sugar. Many of these same neighbors labor in love for most of the year on a beautiful common garden where the overpowering smell of donuts has regularly displaced the scent of Phlox, Nicotiana and Roses.

But above all I am keenly aware that in a city where most of us travel on foot most of the time, ordinary inconveniences ignored by most pedestrians actually present huge, often dangerous, obstacles for many others. All of us should be able to expect uncluttered sidewalks whether or not we are personally free of any disabilities.

donut dough


"In Minnesota," this morning's NYTimes headline reads, "Flu Vaccines Go Waiting."

Setting aside the question of how we got into a situation where throughout the country this year there are only a fraction of the flu shots which should be available, how can we get a bigger supply of this kind of people?

In most places, people are clamoring for flu shots - waiting in lines, calling every clinic in town, even going to Canada. But in Minnesota, the opposite problem has emerged: even people considered most vulnerable are forgoing the shots so there will be enough left for others.

This puzzling reaction has left state health officials charmed, but also urging an estimated 1.6 million high-risk residents to be vaccinated.

Concerns about quality control at a vaccine plant in Britain led to a shortage of flu vaccine in the United States and led health officials to ask that shots be limited to those most susceptible to complications from the flu, including children younger than 2, adults older than 65 and the chronically ill.

But in Minnesota, officials said, more high-risk people are passing on the shots than in years past.

Ann Thiel, 88, of Inver Grove Heights, said she had gotten a flu shot every year for the past decade after a case of the flu caused her esophagus to rupture. But after hearing about the shortage, she decided not to get her annual shot.

"I think an awful lot of money is spent on people my age at the expense of younger people," Mrs. Thiel said. "I think I've had more than my share of good luck."

[image from Northwestern Health Sciences University]

I don't know what to say about this story, but it has moved me more than I thought possible.

November 6, 2004, 4:39 PM EST

A 25-year-old university worker from Georgia shot and killed himself at ground zero Saturday morning, authorities said.

The man, Andrew Veal, of Athens, Ga., was found atop the structure housing the 1 and 9 subway lines after a hotel worker spotted what he believed was somebody sleeping inside the site around 8 a.m., said Steve Coleman, a spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

A shotgun was found near the body, Coleman said. No suicide note was found, he said.

Police were investigating how Veal entered the former World Trade Center site, which is protected by high fences and owned by the Port Authority.

Veal worked in a computer lab and was planning to marry, friends said Saturday.

I used to live just blocks away from the Trade Center and for over six months even here on 23rd Street I lived with the acrid smell of the fires which destroyed it on September 11. I watched out the front windows and I heard hundreds of police motorcycle-escorted ambulances speed down the street to a temporary morgue on the East Side which is still there. For a dozen years I worked at the Trade Center, each day entering and leaving the 1/9 subway line through the concrete structure on top of which Veal took his life; it's the only part of the original complex remaining above ground today. I made repeated heartbreaking trips to the site beginning two days after its destruction. The neighborhood was my first home in New York.

I'm still in New York today and I've grown to love it even more than I did when its wonders first brought me here. This also means, strictly speaking, that I'm still in the country where I was born, but I no longer feel that I am. If this was true before the election on Tuesday, the results which were announced have confirmed my exile.

Andrew Veal felt that dispossession more deeply than most. His despair brought him to the site which is still cynically being used to feed the agony in which so many of us share, and there Veal at least was able to end it.

Why were the exit polls so completely "wrong" in Ohio, Florida and certain other states this year? Was it because of massive election fraud?

The administration didn't need an October surprise; they knew it was already wrapped up - by their own people strategically placed where they really counted. And we were all fools to imagine otherwise. We'll be even greater fools if we let them get away with it a second time, but we'll have to hurry if it's going to be resolved without civil war. The Electoral College meets on December 13, and Congress counts their votes out loud on January 6.

My own representative, Jerrold Nadler, is one of the three Congressmen who asked on Friday that the General Accounting Office immediately begin an investigation into irregularities with voting machines used in Tuesday’s elections. [Incidently, Nadler won re-election handily on Tuesday (80 points) against the stealth Republican, Peter Hort. Hort would presumably not have seen anything irregular about his leader's second "victory," and I expect that at some time in the near future his brethren will reward his sacrificial candidature with a juicy patronage appointment.]

Can you sucker yourself? Maybe, if you're an incurable optimist. For a few days I actually had convinced myself that this country would redeem itself, and yesterday evening I was bursting with such confidence that I posted this almost giddy secular Te Deum. I'm now cured, almost certainly for good (or evil).

NEWS FLASH: Kerry has just conceded* (Didn't he repeatedly say something about making sure all the votes are counted this time?)

Right now I'll only add a few words to the piles accumulating everywhere in reaction to yesterday's debacle.

Americans have destroyed their own country out of ignorance, superstition, bigotry and fear.

And we have absolutely no excuse. Unlike other nations which have resorted to autocracy, fascism, dictatorship (by party, cabal or leader) our majority decision to endorse this regime was done with eyes wide open, without threat of invasion, not prostrate in defeat, and even absent economic depression or civil war. In fact the U.S. stood on top of the world, the most admired, the richest and most powerful state of all time, and that's when we blew it, big time:

For four years the gang we have now installed legitimately (although by only a narrow majority), in full view of the rest of the world, has shown that it really believes in our balloting system of "winner-take-all." Since the beginning of 2000 the Republicans have operated as if there were no interests other than their own; Never before in American history have the welfare or the concerns of the "losers" been so totally eliminated from the agenda of the party in power, and it's now going to get worse.

From today we will be living in a nation whose Republican executive will have no restraints, whose Congressional Republican majorities will soon be larger and therefore more alarming than ever and whose courts, above all the Supreme Court, will be in the posession of a radical Republican Party for decades, regardless of the longevity of its dominance elsewhere.

And it gets still worse. The more alarming consequence of this election will be the real evil its winners do here and abroad, and attract, here and abroad. But the most depressing thought of all is that things will absolutely have to get much worst before they could get better, and there's no guarantee of that.

Although the blue sky I included in yesterday's post is still there (I cannot strike a line through it, like I did everything I wrote), and it is still above New York this afternoon, the heavens never did care what was happening down here. We're on our own.

Listening to: Gustav Mahler, Adagietto (Sehr Langsam), Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor (Haitink, Berlin Philharmonic)

*They used us, the Republicans did, to swing their cultists to the polls. So Bush's victory is ultimately my fault and the fault of every other faggot for choosing our "lifestyle," even if only some of us were bent on shredding into pieces the other 50 percent of the precious marriages they hadn't already destroyed themselves.


The skys are blue again, all over the world.

But the real work is only beginning.

It's not going to be easy rebuilding a nation and removing the curse which has rested so heavily on the planet [the cultists will remain to plague our wounded polity, and a hundred thousand lives have been wiped out in Iraq alone], but tonight Barry and I will be celebrating a new world with champagne. It will be French, of course, by definiton - and by choice.

Listening to: Gustav Mahler, Symphony No. 2 in C minor "Resurrection" (Klemperer, Philharmonia, Schwarzkopf, Hilde Rössel-Majdan)

[image taken on Sunday afternoon outside our windows, about the time I was first convinced that Bush would not survive this referendum, at least without overturning it]

Thomas Nast cartoon, featuring Boss Tweed ( referencing the 1876 disputed election)

The caption:

Boss. "You have the liberty of Voting for any one you please; but we have
the Liberty of Counting in any one we please."

"Do your Duty as Citizens, and leave the rest to take its course." - New York Times.

My overwhelmed friends in Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and elsewhere will find it difficult to believe, but I've barely seen a single political campaign ad, TV or print, all year long. (I'm not complaining, of course, especially since no real information is ever conveyed by this stuff.)

Yeah, so I don't even watch TV (except Jon Stewart and SNL) and somehow I've always been able to turn a blind eye to print advertising of any kind (except for those which include particularly sexy men). Actually however my relative isolation from the campaign (it's always war metaphors in America) has more to do with the perverse wonders of the Electoral College and the fact that everyone long ago agreed that New York belongs to the Democrats.

So where do I leave my teeny tiny vote for president tomorrow? Not for the Republican candidate of course, but I'm also not going to check the Democratic column. As I've said often before, both clubs are Rightwing parties and while only one of the two standard-bearers has a mind, he's used it to argue, among other things, that the Iraq war must be expanded, that Americans can't have single-payer universal health care, that he might nominate anti-choice candidates for federal courts, that the WTO is a good thing, that lesbians and gays should not be permitted to marry and that we need the Patriot Act.

But do I have an alternative? Like most of the United States, New York makes it very difficult for parties or candidates to get onto the ballot, the result being this abysmal selection (taken directly from the New York State Board of Elections site).

[REP] REPUBLICAN: George W. Bush







[LBT] LIBERTARIAN: Michael Badnarik

New Yorkers can choose among only five people (all men). There are probably twice as many kinds of premium brands of butter available at each of the two food stores a block away from where I'll be voting tomorrow!

The Democrats and the Republicans are clearly part of the problem and are both responsible for our current crisis, the Conservatives think the Republicans are too Lefty and the Libertarians would eliminate government from all regulation and welfare responsibilities.

I don't know whether to admire or ridicule the fact that the only socialist party on the ballot has advanced a candidate who, regardless of his merits, could not Constitutionally become President of the U.S. and who in fact is not even a U.S. citizen. I do think this tells us a lot about support in the U.S. for the kind of social contract other industrial societies take for granted, even the parties on the Right.

Aside from his own heroic history of social contributions which have benefitted the entire world, Ralph Nader once again represents an almost perfect platform, and I will not condemn his campaign for accepting funds from sources to whom he could never be beholden. The money is well-spent. Nader is one of the few true democrats in American politics.

There is still the possibility of pulling the lever for Kerry on the Working Families line, but while that excellent party is worthy of the attention and support of any progressive, that is still a vote for a seriously flawed candidate. Besides, it's totally unnecessary to keep every one of New York Electoral votes away from Bush.

Whoa, wait a minute. Where are the Greens? What does it say about our fake democracy that so important a party (okay, make that any party) is not permitted on the ballot? But I think we are still allowed a write-in candidate, so in very good conscience we could make it David Cobb, the Green Party candidate for President.

But back to the discussion of the least of many available evils, or at least a resolution of the current dilemma. Even now I can't say for sure if I'm going to vote for Nader on the Independent Party line, Kerry on the Working families Party line or Cobb as a write-in. Wow! I guess this means that technically I could be labelled as one of those reviled "Undecideds," even if my indecision does not relate to anything having to do with Bush or the Republicans. At least I don't have to agonize about deciding between someone who has already demonstrated he's a bungling idiot and someone without Bush's extraordinary record.

Anyone but Bush? I don't think so.

The only point I wanted to make with this post is the fact that in New York and a large number of other states voters with consciences and minds should be able to see that "anyone but Bush" could still mean that there is a choice, even on Election day itself. We don't have to feel totally powerless when we walk into a polling place. The anti-democratic system we have to work with allows at least some of us to balk at ratifying a slate or a platform not established democraticaly.

Many of us do have some choice tomorrow, and our numbers will be recorded. We have to think ahead - now.

[image from HarpWeek]

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