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Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

Time Event
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Recently I've been doing some thinking about birthstone jewellery, mostly because my family are exactly the sort of drones who think that every woman should have at least one piece of birthstone jewellery, whether they like their birthstone or not (and most people don't), because that is The Done Thing. I keep getting rid of the ones they give me, because I don't like my birthstone (and I wear so little jewellery* as it is, I'm sure as hell not going to waste space by wearing something I don't even like), but they just keep buying me more, as though maybe this time I'll stop being so disagreeable and just give in already.

And then I started thinking about it. I realised that the whole birthstone thing reeks of fakelore -- it's supposedly a "tradition," but it's not attributable to any particular culture or location; it creates a demand for a consumer good (and turns that same consumer good, which would normally be durable, into a perishable good -- drill the birthstone thing into enough people, and you won't be able to sell a birthstone piece to someone else as easily, nor pass it along to a relative without having the stone or stones removed and another set in its place, and so on), and it creates an entire cottage industry of sub-products that can be marketed (like those "family rings" that have a band with the birthstones of mom or dad and kids). A new twist on the old scam is that asking people what their birthstone is (and, after 140 years of marketing propaganda most people know), allows you to collect birth month data on people, which you can then use to market to them.

In a book published in 1903, an author by the name of Oliver Cummins Farrington gives a compelling reason why jewellery sellers might come up with such a scheme: "In former times gems could be possessed only by rulers or the very wealthy, so that their general use in the above manner was not possible. But now that nearly every one can own a gem of some kind, the posession of 'birth-stones,' and the attachment of special sentiments to them, has become common." In other words, the price of gems had dropped enough that they became a general commodity item, not just for the very wealthy.

And what has Corporate America routinely done when it saw the opportunity to expand a market by selling people shit they don't need? Why, it created demand, of course.

According to the same author, "The par­ticular order and kind of stones ... is given in accordance with some verses quoted in a pamphlet first published by Tiffany & Company, of New York, in 1870. The author of the verses is not known, nor is it known by just what authority these gems were chosen."

Hm. A jewellery concern publishes a pamphlet containing a supposedly "traditional poem" written by an unknown author which just so happens to wildly increase demand for the specific newly-inexpensive consumer good that concern happens to sell.

Is anybody else's "'I just happened to find this old manuscript in a trunk...'" sense tingling? Because mine sure is. I studied English literature in school; I know that ruse entirely too well from The Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick and every single other fiction author who was embarrassed and worried that having been caught making shit up would surely damage his propriety and credibility.

Want to make a bet that Tiffany felt about the same at the prospect of being caught doing something so transparently greedy? Back in those days, at least, corporations still had some shame...


* This is another thing my mother in particular gets after me about; she wears much more jewellery than I do, and almost always says I "don't look dressed up" even when I'm dressed up, because I generally favour dark, solid colours and clean lines, and don't routinely wear six rings, two pairs of earrings, and a necklace, many of which contain gems, like my mother does. Frankly, I associate that sort of thing with first-generation professional class people who grew up working class, and I simply don't have that kind of a need to signify.
Quotes, Putting the Faux in Folkways Edition
It's staggering, the extent to which parents are now having to trade off their own values against the commercial interest of companies. Today's marketing assigns simple and very separate roles to boys and girls, and whips up peer pressure to police the difference. ... it's no exaggeration to talk of a gender apartheid.
-- Ed Mayo, quoted in The Guardian

The right has shown repeatedly that they'll gladly move the goalposts of what's considered "left" to just outside the gates John Birch Society.
-- darrelplant, First Draft, comments

Based on talking with right-wingers, I'm pretty sure they feel strongly that no one -- not the government, not the Gates Foundation, not tiny little local charities, not a donation jar at the corner coffee shop -- no one should make it easier for people to get health care. The reason why hasn't ever been clear, but it's been very clear that they feel people should somehow take care of these little heart bypasses and cancer ops and so on by themselves, somehow, and certainly without the help of principled conservatives. I've been trying to find the right adjectives. Bloodthirsty doesn't really work; uncaring is too weak; selfish is an understatement too. Vicious?
-- fleas correct the era, Hullabaloo, comments

We had a Unibomber; now we have the Undiesbomber.
-- Jennifer, Sadly, No!, comments

The GOP has become one of those movies where if you've seen the trailer, you've seen the whole thing.
-- Beltane, Balloon Juice, comments

Big Pharma hates vaccines. They've been leaving the vaccine manufacturing business. Why? Vaccines are cheap and make the companies little money compared to infectious diseases and their consequences. An aunt of mine contracted polio as a child. Growing up and throughout the remainder of her long life, she was a metaphorical license to print money for drug and medical supply companies. Ka-Ching. Ka-Ching. Ka-Ching. On the other hand, I was vaccinated against polio, will never get polio, and will never need the services that my aunt did. Big Pharma made a measly $15 dollars off me. Not much.
-- History Punk, Respectful Insolence, comments

Just because you don't understand the answer doesn't mean it's wrong.
-- Miki Z, Pharyngula, comments

Consumer culture is exploiting the disappearance and devaluation of feminism - actually, it even claims to replace it, by being a 'champion of girls' in some respects, all the while creating new and younger markets.
-- Angela McRobbie, quoted in The Guardian

...and what's this I keep hearing about sending AIDS to starving people in foreign countries? Don't they have enough problems already? ....Oh. Never mind.
-- Arno, Whiskey Fire, comments

For all the years we’ve been lecturing the south about racism (not undeserved), no major southern city has ever been abandoned and left to rot because of a high, or even majority, population of the coloreds. My dad, who grew up in Atlanta in the 30’s and 40’s and was a bigot (though not of the violent white supremacist variety) always said that the difference in race relations between north and south was in the south, you could get (or live) as close as you like, just don’t get too high (read: uppity), while in the north it was the reverse. I think there was something to that.
-- Jennifer, Sadly, No!, comments, on Detroit

Win an election, by hook or crook...and Republicans break all land-speed records to loot the place outright and tow the wreck of whatever is left the Impound Lot of History. Lose...and Republicans stand on the Overpass of History lobbing cinder blocks into traffic. And they can to this because they pay absolutely no penalty for; because their moral imbecile minions actual delight in it and rewards them for it. These millions of jerks -- the Pig People -- who giggle as the world melts. Who smirked as New Orleans drowned. Who reliably whine out the single biggest Big Lie in Modern American political history -- that "Liberals are just as bad" -- when they get cause red-handed gloating over the suffering of the poor and the weak in another fascist circle jerk of orgiastic sadism and misanthropy. These are the fruits of the 30 years Conservative Base Breeding program designed to produce a crop of berserker wingnuts who regard any Democratic Administration as de facto illegitimate, any Liberal as a dangerous internal enemy to be crushed, and even the most modest attempts to govern responsibly as something (and I am quoting now from a conversation I had recently with an otherwise-pleasant Conservative colleague) straight out "of some Marxist Central Planner's playbook!"
-- Driftglass, "Attack of the 50 Foot Mamzer," d r i f t g l a s s

Within a week after 9/11, some conservatives I know blamed it on Clinton. I assume it started on talk radio. Within a month, George Bush himself was blaming the attack on Clinton. Their aim is to alter the history books so that they say “Some Democrats say that the 9/11 attacks occurred under president Bush, while Republicans argue … ” I’m pretty sure they’re going to be successful.
-- ds, Balloon Juice, comments

[I]f George Bush had spent the money on retrofitting all American airports to the standards of the Tel Aviv airport instead of squandering it on tax breaks for his rich buddies and waging a vanity war, things would be a lot safer for travelers.
-- Karen Zipdrive, distributorcap NY, comments [I might pay what El Al charges people flying out of Israel for their agent to come to my house, pack and inspect my things the night before, and issue me my boarding pass, so that all I had to do was clear security the next day, if it were available here. -- ?!]

As soon as I heard Obama refer to these "Cadillac plans" I immediately flashed back to the 80s and Reagan's "Welfare Queens."
-- roseroby, Shakesville, comments

Phase One: Bomb Underpants
Phase Two: ???
Phase Three: Profit! Terror!
-- Underpants Bombing Gnome, Sadly, No!, comments

Al Queda doesn't even need to blow up anything at this point. All they have to do is put some sad sack on a plane and have him set something on fire--and the conservative babies start screaming about how we're all gonna die.
-- doggril, Hullabaloo, comments

The typical unholy trinity of woo is "ignorant, confused and hostile".
-- Dangerous Bacon, Respectful Insolence, comments [Ignorant, confused, and hostile is no way to go through life, son. --?!]

Average salaries for a Washington DC police detective is about $60k. That's before bonuses, kickbacks, payoffs, shakedowns, bribes and unreported confiscations.
-- Abby Normal, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, comments

Working in IT, I know the importance of reading the documentation - and only my job depends on that. If I believed the stakes included either eternal bliss or eternal punishment, I'd damn well spend a few days reading the manual.
-- Moggie, Pharyngula, comments

[T]his is the same Republican party who said that Social Security would turn the US into a fascist state, who demagogued against Medicare by invoking a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape where doctors can't practice medicine, etc. And yet they consistently get about half of the vote in every federal election. Nothing they say can discredit them - they learned that a long time ago.
-- Corey, Balloon Juice, comments

We don't get to hide under our beds and flagellate ourselves over what WE could have done better, for the very simple reason that ain't nobody on a progressive blog cashing fat checks from Aetna while demonizing poor women on national TV and then going home to prime rib. I realize that some hippie somewhere maybe said something dumb to Joey's wife, but I'm saying that it does in fact matter who is right and who is wrong on this.
-- Athenae, "It's Always the Left's Fault," First Draft

Dateline August 2014: TSA announced today all passengers will be anesthetized before their flights so please arrive an hour early and don’t bring a carry-on.
-- owlbear1, Sadly, No!, comments

One doesn't have to be "Progressive" or "Liberal" to oppose TORTURE, kidnapping & imprisonment without charges, or spying on all Americans.
-- Kathy W, Hullabaloo, comments

You aren't going to stop two horny, headstrong teenagers from banging each other. However, if you punish and ostracize them, they won't stop having sex -- they'll just keep quiet about it, and will likely NOT be getting comprehensive sex education, which means unwanted pregnancies and STDs. Stop punishing teens for being horny teens! Educate them, be there for them, tell them they should wait until they have grown a bit, but if they do decide to have sex, here's a pamphlet and here's a place you can get some condoms...
-- marilove, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, comments

I'm not sure how to articulate it, but it's a thread that binds together a lot of otherwise disparate issues -- if the government is going to build roads, they should be toll roads so you get to worry every morning as you locate enough quarters to pay to go to work; if we're going to have health reform, it has to be as expensive and ungenerous as possible, so you can now live in fear of both your insurer AND the IRS; if we're going to have unemployment insurance, the state has to contract some private firm to constantly hound you about applying for non-existent jobs. We are seemingly unwavering in our belief that we don't deserve happier, more civilized lives, and that saddens me deeply. But then, I don't believe that suffering is morally edifying. I'm in favor of more happiness and less suffering wherever possible, which is apparently a radical position.
-- KevinBaker, Shakesville, comments

There is nothing humble in believing one has an inside line to god. Sure, Christians talk about being "fallen" and "sinners", but what it's all about is false modesty: we're all fallen, but Christians get to be saved, and you don't.
-- PZ Myers, "I'm so sorry for you, Indiana," Pharyngula

Sadly, the neocon agenda is also alive and well up here in Canada. The current minority CONservative government is working as hard as possible to destoy our country from within, and most Canadians are simply standing back and watching them do it.
-- double nickel, d r i f t g l a s s, comments

Start a petition? Run for city council? Organize a boycott? None of those things can silence the voices in your head. Why did McVeigh bomb the Murrah building? What else could he do?
-- Notorious P.A.T., Balloon Juice, comments

Richard Dawkins has called pantheism “a sexed-up atheism.” (He means that as a compliment.)

I love that he feels he has to explain this to his readers. Why? Because if there’s anything worse than atheism in Douthat’s book, it’s sex. He can’t think of a single good thing about either sex or atheism, and assumes that you the reader would be equally baffled. What a strange world Dawkins must live in, where getting laid and sleeping in on Sundays could be considered anything but hell itself.
-- Ross Douthat and Amanda Marcotte, "Okay, Avatar sucked, but…," Pandagon

Me and Obama parted company on that shithead homophobe mailorder catalogue preacher that he had at the inauguration If the nitwits are his backers, good luck asshole.
-- Less is better, Hullabaloo, comments

The problem is voir dire. In most of the world, the idea of letting lawyers and the judge cherrypick a jury is flat out insane. On its face, voir dire cannot be expected to work. In the rare case that the two sides are equally matched, we'd expect no net result; in all other cases, we'd expect the better player to stack the jury in his favor. Thus voir dire is a method of systematically biasing the jury. And that's voir dire on its face. It is really a three-handed game with the prosecution, defense, and the bench working in concert against the citizenry to purge the jury of the wrong kind of people, to wit, people who have no faith in the police, the judicial system, lawyers of any kind, or judges. Slip up and let one of those people get on the jury and you can bet your bottom dollar you will never get a conviction, unless the judge bounces the troublemaker and replaces him with a ringer from the already-vetted alternates. This is why we get juries who want to convict. The jury pool itself is biased in favor of conviction, so even without voir dire, the jury is seriously biased. Voir dire is there to weed out the miscreants that don't want to side with the government against their fellow citizens. Good Germans only, please.
-- Rose Colored Glasses, Dispatches from the Culture Wars, comments

It's a sad day when the Evangelicals aren't keeping up. I'd have given high odds on an Antichrist meme, but it hasn't happened. I blame anti-depressant abuse.
-- srv, Balloon Juice, comments

If someone like Palin were truly "conservative", wouldn't she be furiously against trashing the environment of the beautiful state of Alaska? Wouldn't she be trying to sink every supertanker before it got there? Why don't conservatives want to conserve the environment? In practice, it seems like conservatives can't destroy it fast enough to be happy. They pretend to revere the 1950s, but push for development and sprawl that guarantee that small-town values are wiped out. And the "be fruitful and multiply" thing.
-- cat_named_zoe, Sadly, No!, comments [My dad is a conservative greenie, so I can tell you they do exist. -- ?!]

I had one grunch, but the eggplant over there.
-- Perception Management, Hullabaloo, comments

We heard this over and over during the run-up to the war, and in the aftermath of 9/11, after the 2004 election and gay marriage bans, and during every important fight of the past decade: If only the people who cared about the outcome of the debate most would shut the fuck up and calm down and not be so unforgivably and uncouthly invested in it, things would be fine. Stop giving right-wingers ammunition. Stop giving them excuses. Stop protesting. Stop running ads. Stop being loud. Stop embarrassing me the good little progressive who's doing it right.
-- Athenae, "It's Always the Left's Fault," First Draft

Don't tell me to make a compromise that, in the same situation, you would not make and, funny enough, were not asked to make because it's never The Man being told his vasectomy won't be covered or his Viagra won't be covered or his prostate surgery won't be covered. Is it. No, it's women...time after motherfucking time...who are told that our reproductive health care must be uniquely regulated, despite legality, by The Man...and that we, despite our needs and that same curiously overlooked egality, must take one for the team...again.
-- Shark-Fu, "There must be a line...a wall to hit...or the struggle for reproductive justice is merely a suggestion.", AngryBlackBitch

This is how you subjugate an entire population. You convince them that they will be punished even beyond death for disbelieving and disobeying, and you convince them to be happy about it.
-- RamblinDude, Pharyngula, comments

I'd probably hate christmas a bit less if I was any good at it.
-- tomble, chat, 21 December 2009, 12:18PM EST

For the past 30 years, "conservatism" has focused on telling people they can have whatever they want. That's not what "conservatism" meant before 1970 or 1980. My father was a conservative in the old mold. What it used to mean was "not being wasteful". Conservatives were people who didn't just automatically move to a bigger house or buy a fancy new car every year just because they had more money - they were people who were by nature frugal or conservative in the way they spent their money. One of the things I learned from my parents that really stuck was "don't be wasteful." That has stayed with me - to this day I buy a new car every 10 years - and drive it for 10 years. My recycle bin fills up faster than my garbage can. I generally don't buy things I don't need. Compare and contrast with today's "conservatives", to whom the word means, "drive a Hummer and burn as much gas as possible," "buy a McMansion in the suburbs," or, in case of national attack, "go shopping." It used to be "buy war bonds." But that was back before the GOP was in the business of telling people who will never have much of anything that "yes, you CAN have it all - the only reason you don't already is because of TAXES that go to minority leeches who won't work." They've turned it on its head - these days, support of "conservatives" is supposed to free you of actually behaving like one, as if being fiscally prudent and non-wasteful is some kind of punishment and voting for "conservatives" will free you of the drudgery of having to live within a budget.
-- Jennifer, Sadly, No!, comments

[D]id Ceiling Cat have a pet Jesus? As support for this position, who opened the cans for Ceiling Cat?
-- Martin, Balloon Juice, comments

If you put single payer out there tomorrow you'd have a solid majority in favor and you'd have every pundit and halfbright mummy's boy with an Ivy League degree opining that the 10 percent screaming with teabags are really the sensible ones in America.
-- Athenae, "What We Got," First Draft

Don't be churlish. Prophet Brownian predicts that God will begin to heal amputees precisely as soon as medical science develops the ability to regrow limbs.
-- Brownian, OM, Pharyngula, comments

[T]he surveys show that large numbers of people have effectively ceased to believe that man-made global warming is taking place, and this is profoundly ironic because at the same time the evidence has hardened up to a startling degree. And the science of man-made global warming is now as solid as the science linking smoking with lung cancer and HIV with AIDS. And it seems to me that the harder the science becomes, the more people fall into denial because they simply don't want to face the writing that's now on the wall.
-- George Monbiot, interview on Lateline, at abc.net.au

Any reality which would have Orly Taitz in it has clearly jumped the shark and is in desperate need of having its Etch-a-Sketch shaken upside down.
-- El Cid, Sadly, No!, comments

At the end of the film, every single girl was crying. One of the boys said, "What, are you gonna cry" and as he said so, his voice cracked, and he made a huffing sound to keep his own tears from leaking out. When it was over, a girl came up to me and said "Could I call my mother?" "What for?" "To tell her I love her." The students asked for the name of the movie. They wrote it down. They asked where they could buy it on dvd. They wrote it down. They loved "Grave of the Fireflies," just as I had at that age. They were unbelievably kind toward each other throughout the day. But had I commited a thoughtless, stupid error? When their teacher found out what I had done, she went straight to the principal, and banned me from her classroom.
-- Peter Fawthrop, Roger Ebert's Journal, comments, on showing Grave of the Fireflies to a class of middle school students

The lefty fringe is just aching, PINING for some lunatic who logged onto the Freeper website to start blowing people away.

Just out of curiosity, you are aware that that has already happened, not just once, but probably several times this year alone, right? You are aware of James Von Brunn, Jim David Adkisson, and Richard Poplawski? And i take it you're cognizant of the fact that most people on the left and center left weren't all that pleased about any of them? In fact, most of us regarded these incidences with a mixture of dread and loathing? I mean, it's kinda hard to accuse people of 'pining' for something that's already a reality. Unless, of course, you're pretending that something that is an objective truth doesn't exist because it wouldn't mesh with the 'sports team' narrative you've decided to arbitrarily squeeze reality into regardless of historical and political fact. The one where your team rules, regardless of what ever miscreants and deranged lunatics happen to be on it? And which completely disregards, as a matter of course, all the actual pain, suffering and lives lost you have to wave away as irrelevant in order to sustain your childish narrative?
-- Sanka and Uriel, Balloon Juice, comments

I was very struck, when I had my daughter - she's now nine - by the way girls seem to be expected from birth to live in this world of tutus. I was brought up in the late 60s and early 70s, with a mother interested in gender-neutral education, and I had just kind of assumed that things would have moved on from there. In fact, they've moved backwards. The view seems to be: 'Oh well, people tried, in the 60s and 70s, they tried all that non-sexist, anti-stereotyping stuff, and it didn't work. There's obviously nothing we can do about it, it's all laid down in our genes.' Whereas in fact that's not true: we never got the equality we set out to achieve. And now we all have to accede to the notion that little girls are naturally drawn to pink, and you're old-fashioned and over-serious and boring if you suggest otherwise.
-- Natasha Walter, quoted in The Guardian

Can we stop using the term "civil liberties"? Let's just say "liberty" instead. It makes it read more effectively, like substituting the term "lawlessness" for "deregulation".
-- dAVE, Hullabaloo, comments

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