10 Dumbest Consumer Goods

Some of the items on this year’s Sierra Club list of the 10 Dumbest Consumer Goods I had thought of, others I missed. Either way, I agree with them all. I hope this settles once and for all the controversy over what a total waste leaf blowers are. As I tell my friend Ray, who loves them, I think it’s a guy thing. Women reach for a broom. Men want something with some horsepower.

O.K., enough sexist stereotypes, here are the ones I would have put on the list myself:

…”Only ten?” OK, it was a tough choice. Some waste exorbitant amounts of energy, others turn precious natural resources into trivial junk, while still others encourage us to consume for the sake of consumption…

2. Leaf blowers. Using a leaf blower for half an hour is equivalent to driving a car 110 miles. And all it gets you is leaves on the other side of the driveway.

3. Disposable DVDs. Disney and Flexplay are marketing DVDs that become unplayable 48 hours after the seal is broken. They can be mailed in for recycling, but would people who couldn’t be bothered to mail in a rental really do so?

4. Lunchables. Processed meat, fatty cheese, and crackers in an unrecyclable plastic tray, wrapped in more plastic and then cardboard. Kids deserve better.

5. Disposable toilet cleaners. Instead of a brush that lasts for years, you can now spend a lot of money for flushable toilet brushes.

8. Swiffers. “You can just throw away the dust with the cloth!” exults the Web site for these rags-on-a-stick. Somehow it doesn’t sound like progress.

10. The Hummer. Ostentatious energy waste as a reason for being. A special lifetime achievement award.

Check out the rest of the list. Disposable underwear?

Theo-Conservatives Hate Sex

Over at Alternet, Lara Riscol describes 2004 as the year the rightwing showed the depth and depravity of its aversion to sex:

With a third of our HIV prevention billions promised to anti-abortion Christian-based groups, America is now exporting white weddings as social panacea from here to Africa. Masters of misinformation, theo-conservatives have spun abstinence successes into justification for their bulging billion-dollar entitlement. Abstinence works, they say, seizing upon 2004 data showing a big drop in teen pregnancy during the 90s — attributing 25 percent to abstinence and 75 percent to increased contraception use.

Duh. Abstinence from intercourse avoids pregnancy. And 30 years of peer-reviewed research says that comprehensive sexuality education delays first intercourse and reduces risky behavior once one’s sexually engaged. Not only does the data say nothing about the impact of abstinence programs, but President Clinton’s abstinence dollars under Welfare Reform didn’t reach states until 1998. Bush’s more restrictive abstinence didn’t hit the streets until 2001. Recent preliminary results actually show that abortion has increased since Bush has been pandering to its sex-obsessed base.

But it’s all about perception. Though almost no one does it — that is, sex only with one’s spouse until death do you part — the retro right has mainstreamed abstinence, which obscures its larger agenda to legislate a biblical worldview. Think The Handmaid’s Tale, or at least strict “man on top” gender roles and reinstituted enforcements of sexual morality.

But 2004 proves once again that purity politics works. In October, Bush spotlighted “real families” in Iowa when signing the Working Families Tax Relief Act. After Bush celebrated Mike and Sharla Hintz’ 13th wedding anniversary, Mike — a youth pastor and father of four — told reporters: “Where we are in this world, with not just the war on terror, but with the war with our culture that’s going on, I think we need a man that is going to be in the White House like President Bush, that’s going to stand by what he believes.”

Earlier this month, the First Assembly of God Church fired Mike Hintz for sexual exploiting a 17-year-old girl in his church youth group.

Still, conservatives perpetuate their perceived stand for moral absolutes as a salve from our sex saturated culture, and their opponents as promoters of moral relativism, or even perversion.

In the aftermath of 2004’s greatest smirch upon America, the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the conservative Heritage Foundation — source of strict abstinence-only language driving funding and intervention throughout the world � syndicated a column linking the Iraq prisoner torture to liberal rot:

“With the non-judgmental, sex-crazed, anything-goes culture that we have become at home, it seems that America has set herself up for international humiliation. Our country permits Hollywood to put almost anything in a movie and still call it PG-13. We permit television and computers to bring all manner of filth into our homes. We permit school children to be taught that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. We allow Christianity and the teaching of Judeo-Christian values to be scrubbed from the public square. We allow our children to be taught how to use condoms in school, rather than why to avoid sex.”

In one distorted swoop, conservatives discredit proponents of sexual health and justice with the sick, the bad, the ugly.

The Real Agenda

A long time ago, a former elected official explained to me Jeb Bush’s real purpose with his school voucher plan. The plan reduced funding to so-called “failing” schools and allowed parents to pull their children out and put them in private schools, at taxpayer expense. “He doesn’t want public schools to succeed,” my friend said. “He wants to dismantle the whole public school system.”

Little did we know that was just the beginning. Jeb has continued to pursue “privatization” of government services, but instead of awarding contracts to the lowest bidder, they have consistently gone to friends and cronies. The only feeding at the public trough in Florida is being done by the well-placed.

This editorial in the St. Petersburg Times points out a basic question, if we are to believe the Jeb version of the privatization case: that services can be delivered more efficiently and cheaper by the private sector. But what about when they are both worse and more expensive? What’s up with that, Bushie Boy?