Free market hocum

As a native Tennessean, I’ve seen Kentucky go a little nuts over the years. How they could stomach Jim Bunning and Mitch McConnell is a mystery to me almost as difficult to understand as Corker and Alexander. So, when Rand Paul won the Republican primary to run for Bunning’s seat, I didn’t bat an eye.

Of course he did. They’re crazy up there.

But I like Kentucky. I fully expect them to be the southern state to lead the way to legalizing marijuana, prostitution and casino gambling.

Rand Paul would certainly be in favor of that. And while he says he wouldn’t actually patronize a business that discriminates, he’d be in favor of letting private businesses in Kentucky establish a whites-only casino. Or at least not have the government tell them they can’t.

So, on one level, I understand and can empathize with Paul. He went on Rachel Maddow’s show and said he didn’t think the government should tell private businesses how to do business. When Rachel brought up the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its prohibition against discrimination by private entities, Paul said he had a problem with that. He’s being philosophically consistent. It’s just not the sort of thing one expects from a senate candidate in the 21st century.

Now I read where a survey of Fox News viewers showed that 72 percent of them do not support the Civil Rights Act. Nearly three-quarters of the people who see Fox News as a legitimate source of information would prefer not to have the government tell a private business owner who he or she must do business with.

I’m as loony left as a carnivore can be and I’m here to tell you that it would restore my faith in humanity if I thought for a second that private businesses would do the right thing absent a law forcing them to. But we’ve seen it in the South in the ’50s and ’60s, we saw it with the oil companies in the ’70s, we saw it with the savings and loans in the ’80s and Wall Street in the ’90s and ’00s. Left without regulation, the free market does not police, correct or even put the brakes on itself.

Take the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Minerals Management Service, the government agency that (for some reason) is in charge both of collecting the royalties on off-shore drilling and inspecting the rigs for safety, was staffed with oil industry people who moved between the regulatory body and the industry with revolving door frequency. They were all buddies who worked together or regulated each other before working together again. Add in the inherent conflict of interest in which reporting safety problems leads to fewer royalties and you have documented cases in which oil rig employees filled out their own safety inspection forms in pencil to be later traced over in ink by an MMS inspector.

I don’t believe the free market is the answer to this or any other problem. It wasn’t until Reagan deregulated the banks that we got into the S&L problems. It was deregulation of Wall Street that lead to our current financial crisis. And it was bypassing regulations through cronyism and good-old-boy ass-slappery that has led to hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil spewing up into the Gulf.

And Rand Paul would have the government get out of the way and let BP handle the spill. Not only that, but he said criticizing the company would be un-American.

No. We need government regulation to make sure businesses are serving the public interest. We need the Civil Rights Act to ensure that whole races of people aren’t discriminated against because of narrow-mindedness and ignorance. So I disagree with Rand Paul and 72 percent of the people who get their news from Fox. I’m afraid thinking like that will lead down a dark road – one where 113 census workers are attacked in a single month.

I don’t understand the paranoia of the government when it is coupled in a blind faith in business and the so-called free market. Because when the chips are down and it is time for business to step up, they will often “take responsibility” but will drag out any recompense through the court system until pursuing justice becomes too costly. That’s why it took more than 20 years for residents of Prince William Sound to get anything from Exxon and even then it was a fraction of the original judgment.

Ever heard of professional tennis player Simona Halep? Going into the French Open she was ranked 114. Her reappearance on the court is notable not for your professional accomplishments or talent. It is because she had breast reduction surgery and this was her first match back.

For those who keep up with these things, Halep drew some attention when she announced she was going to have the surgery because her breasts were interfering with her performance. Pervs around the world let out a collective “Nooooooooooooooooo!”

To save you the Googling, here she is before:

And after:

She lost the match, by the way.

I really don’t worry all that much about Facebook privacy issues. I don’t mind advertisers targeting me with ads for products I might actually want or need. In fact, I find it refreshing. Facebook is free and everything posted there is voluntary.

Of course the nature of social media is that Facebook allows my friends to post things about me that I can’t control, but that’s an issue to take up with them, not Facebook. I’ll give you an example.

When I was a teenager, I spent two consecutive summers as a staffer at a boy scout camp. I was a scrawny little kid, but I could teach first aid, signaling, cooking and, if called upon, wilderness survival. I made lots of good friends, some of which are on Facebook. At the end of the first year, the staff gathered for a group photo. As a little scrawny kid, I was sat in the front row. On a whim (and to this day I cannot tell you exactly why the impulse struck me) during one (and only one) frame of the shoot, I extended my middle finger. It was subtle, but it was there.

A week or so later, the camp director came to me with the proofs from the shoot. He showed me the one where I was flipping the bird and told me I was very lucky that this was not going to be the one chosen to give to all the staffers to treasure forever and ever. The day before everyone went home, the photos arrived. It was the one with the bird.

Now I’m serious when I said this was subtle. I showed it to my family at the time and no one mentioned it. I stuck the photo in a drawer somewhere and could not tell you where it is now.

Then I joined Facebook. That photo recently resurfaced on a page dedicated to former staffers at the boy scout camp. It was tagged to my profile. The shameful thing I did when I was 13 now haunts me at 41. Maybe “haunts” isn’t the right word, but it is embarrassing and I never expected to see it again.

From what I can tell, the CEO of Facebook is a jackass, but Facebook is still free. It is a useful tool for marketing and advertising and any information you post is voluntary. I even have the option of removing the link that tags that photo to my profile. So, while there are plenty of movements afoot to come up with an alternative to Facebook, I’ll stick around a while longer. Eventually, it will go the way of Friendster and MySpace and we’ll move on to the next big thing that’s going to destroy our lives.

What bothers me most about Facebook is how easy it is. It’s easy to jump onto someone else’s discussion thread and turn what starts out as a mild comment into a flame war – a very public flame war. It’s easy to get in touch with some old friends whom you haven’t contacted in decades only to discover they’ve turned into wingnuts. It’s easy to find out that there were a lot of people in high school that you just don’t remember.

Silly Bandz. If you’re a parent of a young child, you know what they are and your eyes just rolled into the back of your head. If not, though, I’ll let you in on it. Silly Bandz are rubber bands shaped like dolphins or fairies or whatever. They are the latest thing, replacing whatever the last latest thing was. Kids wear them on their forearms, trade them, play with them and generally beg for them at the store.

They’ve been around Tennessee for a while and they’re catching on around the country. Rozzy got a set of ten, all of which she wore to school. By the end of the week she had one left and it broke. They’re mostly harmless, but that hasn’t stopped some school systems from banning them.

Is it redundant to call them silly?

Cold Stone Creamery’s Peanut Butter and Chocolate Milkshake has been named by Men’s Health magazine as the worst beverage in America. It has saturated fat equivalent to 68 pieces of bacon and 2,010 calories.

Personal media update: I’ve been watching “Burn Notice,” “Spartacus: Blood & Sand,” and “Trailer Park Boys.” Just finished reading “Nature Girl” by Carl Hiassen, and am working my way through one of the Flashman novels now. I’ve been listening to “A History of the World in 100 Objects,” “WTF with Marc Maron,” and “Comedy & Everything Else.”

I’m jonesing for the new Fall TV shows, the first of which “The Good Guys” premiered on Fox last week. It was okay. I’ll probably watch the next couple. “Memphis Beat,” a cop show set in Memphis staring Jason Lee is set to premier on TNT June 22. Again, I’ll watch the first couple. I’m between cop shows at the moment. It seems I’m between lawyer shows, too. How’d that happen?