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Bob Alexander's Commentary

Like the Map at the Mall Says … You Are Here

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In 2012, Bonnie Herzog, leading tobacco analyst for Wells Fargo, predicted electronic cigarettes will overtake tobacco cigarettes within ten years. In 2013 she confirmed that projection and said Big Tobacco will take over most of the market.

A competitive free market was not going to determine the winners or losers in the e-cig industry. With this kind of money at stake it was going to take the participation of one of the United States federal executive departments, the FDA, to guarantee the takeover.

On April 24th the FDA’s long awaited deeming regulations regarding electronic cigarettes were released. If these regulations go into effect as written, the number of legal e-cig manufacturers will go from about a thousand … to about five. The twenty thousand legal e-cig products will be cut to … around six. It will cost an e-cig manufacturer close to ten million dollars to file an application with the FDA for each e-cig product. Only Big Tobacco, who has already entered the e-cig market, can afford to jump through those hoops. There will always be e-cigs. Just not the ones I use. Just not the ones I buy from the vendors I like.

In short, the FDA’s 241 pages of provisions give the e-cigarette industry to Big Tobacco.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 April 2014 19:56 Read more...

Roy Orbison was Right

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On my 40th birthday my younger sister gave me a coffee mug with a picture on it of a mouse singing, “Hi Ho … Hi Ho … It’s over the hill I go.” It immediately became my favorite mug I was never going to use. I was going to keep it in pristine condition so I could give it back to her on her 40th birthday. But I almost didn’t get the chance. When I went to retrieve it after eight long years in storage I found the handle of the mug had snapped off. Now it was time to see if all those Crazy Glue commercials were telling the truth.

I repaired the mug, wrapped it up, and was able to re-gift as well as re-joke. But … if someone had taken a sledge hammer to the mug and reduced it to a fine white powder, no amount of Crazy Glue would help. There would be no doubt that it was irrevocably broken, smashed to bits, and it would take some sort of deranged magical thinking to think that it even could be fixed.

But what if I ignored the blatantly obvious and dedicated a little time every day to try and “repair” the mug? And even though my sister’s 40th birthday had come and gone, I still tried each day to force a mound of powder back into being a functioning coffee mug. You might say I was a little … um … strange … for even thinking about it, but as long as I kept my obsession a secret, and continued to function normally in my day-to-day life, no one would be the wiser. But as soon as you found out I’d spent almost 14 years at it, you’d definitely know I had blown my wheels. I do believe I’d fit the definition of suffering a psychotic break with reality.

A “psychotic break with reality” means hearing, seeing, tasting, smelling, or feeling something that does not exist. Or believing something to be true that is false, fixed, and fantastic. Simply put, the person loses contact with external reality.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 21:19 Read more...

Pareidolia

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The saying “There's a sucker born every minute.” has been kicking around since the late nineteenth century. The indomitable American “can do” attitude has made that adage an extremely lowball estimate. I watched a video clip on Crooks & Liars the other day excerpted from Cashin' In, a Fox News program hosted by Eric Bolling. It weirded me out so much I had to click on over to the Fox News website and watch the entire segment. I’ve never done that before. I don’t have the stomach lining for Fox. But this was so compelling I had to.

But first …

We’ve all received the scam email about helping a wealthy Nigerian move his millions out of the country into American banks. If you agree to help the guy out you get to keep a huge percentage of the money. The cost to victims of these advance-fee frauds like the Nigerian bank scam went from $100 million in the U.S. in 1997 to an estimated $6.3 billion in 2008 and $9.3 billion in 2009 worldwide.

Mano Singham writing about the scam in Freethought Blogs said, “I am pretty certain that all the readers of this blog have received similar appeals. I am also certain that all of us have been struck by the sheer crudeness of the messages that make them seem such obvious scams that only an idiot would fall for, and asked ourselves why they don’t try to make it at least a little more sophisticated so that they have a better chance at success? It turns out that a computer scientist at Microsoft … did a cost-benefit analysis and realized that this crudeness is a feature, not a bug.”

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 March 2014 21:57 Read more...

The 'Monster Rules'

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Y'know why I often refer to the Universal Studios monsters from the thirties and forties? Because those were the monsters I grew up with. In the fifties, the studio packed up its classic horror films and sold them to television. Every Saturday night I would be in front of our black and white Zenith from 10:30 pm until signoff watching channel 11s Nightmare. That's where I discovered Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Mummy, and The Wolf Man. Thats when I learned The Monster Rules. Everybody had to learn The Monster Rules because if you didn't there was no way in hell you could ever get to sleep after watching Nightmare.

The most important rule was Monsters Could Be Killed. It might take the whole movie to do it, but in the last few minutes of the final reel Dracula was staked, Frankenstein's monster was burned alive in a flaming windmill, the Egyptian goddess Isis reduced the mummy Imhotep to dust, and Larry Talbot, The Wolf Man, was beaten to death with a silver walking stick wielded by his own father. When all the monsters had been dispatched I could climb the darkened stairway up to my room without being too scared. Until I saw Dracula.

Last Updated on Thursday, 06 March 2014 23:26 Read more...

Lex Luthor INC.

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I had a strange version of the cold, flu, and plague recently that laid me low for a couple of weeks and turned me into a barely sentient pile of goo. All I was capable of was collapsing on the couch in the BigAssTV room until it was time to stumble off to bed just in time for the fever dreams to kick in. I couldnt follow any plot more complicated than a 3 Stooges short so for my viewing pleasure I decided to watch some episodes from the fifties TV show, Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves. Inertia through illness allowed me to sit back day after day while all 104 episodes washed over me.

When the last season wrapped up I watched the two Superman serials made in 1948 and 1950 starring Kirk Alyn as The Man of Steel.  Most sane people would have given up after slogging through Superman and the Mole Men but I kept going and watched the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies, the 2006 reboot, Superman Returns, and the latest entry of the franchise, Man of Steel. As my health improved I slowly regained a reasonable facsimile of sanity. I was once again capable of going outside and pretend I am a normal person. As Alex at the end of A Clockwork Orange said, I was cured all right!

Isaac Newtons third law states for every action there is always an equal reaction. Thats How Things Work. But little did I know, following the days of steeping in All Things Superman, what my reaction was going to be after delving into all that weirdness.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 22:07 Read more...

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