I decided to take a week off from the Republican primaries and other assorted nonsense in order to address the pressing matter of "five-fingered" footwear. The other naked-themed items leapt out at me around the same time. I don't have a problem with minimalist shoes or other back-to-basics products, but I do find them curious cultural artifacts. Simplicity has major authenticity in this cluttered world. (Somewhat-related strip here.)
While researching this strip, I learned that Naked juices are owned by PepsiCo and Odwalla by Coca-Cola. It's like a high-end fruit drink proxy war!
This week's cartoon is a "classic" due to freelance projects, early deadlines, and the fact that I always take a week off this time of year because I'm a practicing slowpoke who believes very strongly in vacation. Not that I'm getting one. (Dallas readers: check out my cover of this week's Observer, out tomorrow!) We'll return to our regularly-scheduled broadcast of political barbs and jests next week.
This year's installment was partly influenced by a recent trip I made to an upscale kitchenware store. Even though I'm not a 1% chef, I do enjoy ogling things like 15-pound cast-iron skillets and knives bearing vaguely-Teutonic insignias.
For those unfamiliar with the Carrier IQ controversy, a guy discovered an unremovable program on his smartphone that was sending his text messages and other data to a third party, the mysterious Carrier IQ. Al Franken has launched an inquiry; Carrier IQ claims the information was sent due to a bug. Of course, I'm following this story closely since I just got an Android phone so I can finally read those $@#! QR codes.
This cartoon, of course, references Grover Norquist's famous line about wanting to reduce government to the size where he could drown it in a tub, like some unfortunate critter. One concept anti-government types aren't too clear on is that waste is hardly unique to the public sector. I'm not saying government programs are necessarily more efficient than privately-run ones (although in the case of health care, public plans are massively more cost-effective). But money out of your pocket is money out of your pocket, whether it's going to the guv'mint or a corporation.
Of course, Republicans can't stand the thought of having someone ethical and intelligent trying to help consumers understand their credit card bills and mortgages. God forbid Americans actually be informed about how they're being screwed. (I feel like I've said that before; I probably have.) I highly recommend the documentary Maxed Out, which features Warren, if you want to learn more about the grotesque predatory lending practices that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is intended to curb.
The "projectile incontinence" bit was inspired by a segment in Infinite Jest I recently read about a junkie going through heroin withdrawal. I think the projectile part was mine, but I'm not sure, so I'm going to give David Foster Wallace some credit here.
I noticed while buying orange juice that the Fred Meyer store brand had a big notice on the carton saying "STILL 64 OUNCES!" I was like, Whoa! Are half-gallons of OJ no longer half-gallons? Sure enough, other brands had gone down to 59 oz. Apparently last winter's freeze damaged Florida orange crops, making juice more expensive. It will be interesting to see if OJ goes back to true half-gallons in the future, if we have a milder winter.
Yet it's not just juice -- I've seen all sorts of products shrink slightly over the past few years. This is a separate issue from super-sizing, which tends to occur with cheap, crappy non-food. Seems like a dollar buys you ever more junk food and ever less real nourishment. It's a market force in the wrong direction, and I don't see it going the other way anytime soon.
I saw a web ad not too long ago that read something like "Stop big government at the cash register! Tell Congress 'Hands off my wallet!'" (Alas, I can't find the actual ad online anymore.) These days, any campaign starting with "Hands off!" tends to mean "Stop laws preventing big business from getting its hands on something," so out of curiosity, I clicked.
It turns out part of the recent financial reform bill passed by the Senate included a provision protecting small merchants from price-gouging by credit card networks. From Sen. Dick Durbin himself:
An estimated $48 billion in swipe fees were charged by credit and debit card networks in 2008 – this money came out of the bottom line of small businesses and consumers across America, and 80% of this money went to just ten large banks... Currently Visa and MasterCard, which control nearly the entire debit card market, set unreasonably high debit interchange fee rates that bear no relation to costs.
You know those little signs at the cash register that say "Purchases under $10 cash only"? Technically, they're illegal -- even though merchants actually lose money when people use plastic for small items. This law would change that, and the big banks are pissed. So they've set up a front group called "Consumers Against Retail Discrimination" -- C.A.R.D., of course! -- to protest this unfair discrimination against poor li'l plastic. Among these oh-so-altruistic "consumer advocates" are Mastercard, Visa, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and many more!
For banks to pull this stunt in this crappy economy, after all the damage they've done so far, takes real wontons* -- and only a few people seem to be talking about it. So I felt compelled to address it in a cartoon, although I'm afraid the comic barely scratches the surface. Some things just require too much explanation. Oh well.
*Intended as a reference to male or female reproductive organs