Politics – Got the Jimmy Legs


Ready with a handshake and an open palm

Damn. I knew they'd catch up with us sooner or later. For years, New York State has tried to get us to pony up nonexistent sales tax for stuff we buy online. There's a line in the tax return that asks you to estimate the total amount of "unpaid" sales tax for anything and everything you've bought out of state that you have in your possession here. From the first year they put this in the tax form, I momentarily fretted over it, before chuckling and ignoring it, which I've done every year since. Chuckling to oneself is good for you!

So now comes the news that the State has passed a law forcing online retailers to charge sales tax on every NY-based purchase, even if they don't have a physical presence here. This totally defeats the purpose of buying stuff online, except for the fact that stuff gets delivered right to your house/office. The whole driving factor behind mail-order has always been getting the best possible price. At a certain price break, it's usually worth it to buy online, even if you pay for shipping.

Anyway, the Times says that only 2 of the most popular retailers have not already registered in New York to charge this "use tax" (WTF?) One is Amazon.com, as we all know they don't have any brick and mortar stores here. Duh. Although some of their Marketplace sellers probably do. Whatever, I guess it's back to the used book store for me.

More disturbing for me is the news that the only other unregistered retailer in the Top 10 is Newegg.com. This is a fine electronics vendor from which I have purchased pretty much every computer-related tool in the past few years. Part of their appeal is that they have very good customer reviews/ratings of every product. Also their prices were routinely the lowest around. Best of all, they're based in Jersey, so I would get stuff in like a day.

Now everything will suck. Buying from Amazon or Newegg will be like buying stuff in a regular store, but with shipping costs on top. Yay. Something about this whole thing strikes me as unjust. Why should New York state get to benefit from these sales? I don't know much about interstate commerce, but I'm not fully confident in New York's sovereignty in this arena. They can't even get the damn subways to run right fer chrissakes!

Oh well, I just hope the Calypso Discount Store down the street from me has a good price on USB flash drives.

Sucker for a pretty face

If you read The New Yorker, you may have seen this full-page ad with a cute kitten, drawing your attention to the hypocrisy of The Humane Society of the United States. It discusses how HSUS puts none of its money into animal shelters, nor does it run any kind of spay/neuter program or pet adoption programs. At first, I admit I was all like, "Son of a bitch, those thievin' bastards! " Then it occurred to me, the Humane Society has NEVER been an animal-shelter level organization. They focus mostly on industrial animal welfare, like cows going to slaughter or chinchillas being raised for fur. They work for broad, sweeping changes to animal cruelty laws in general; other groups handle things like shelters and adoptions. So why would the posters of this no-doubt expensive ad be trying to rile us up over a non-existent issue?

Turns out the people behind the ad, ActivistCash.com, is the "Center for Consumer Freedom," itself a front of the restaurant, tobacco and alcohol industries. Their web site is full of lurid allegations about other "anti-consumer" groups (like the fairly unimpeachable Center for Science in the Public Interest), very little of which is actually damning. ActivistCash divides its time making pointless accusations, such as those against the Humane Society's lack of animal shelters (which is sort of like attacking the American Lung Association for not combating skin cancer). The rest of the time they try to draw connections between these groups and their supposedly 'radical' ties, such as people who at one time were members of PETA who now work at HSUS. Oh, the conspiracy!

But they probably know that very few people will bother reading the fine print on their site. The majority of people will see the ad in a magazine, note it briefly and move on. The only message they will walk away with is "The Humane Society is bad." Maybe the HSUS isn't a perfect organization, but they're decidedly not the evil, two-faced liars they're made out to be by this site. This kind of thing really pisses me off, probably because I'm ready to believe anything that has a fuzzy kitten attached to it.

To be sure, I have nothing against, restaurants, tobacco or alcohol itself. But these lobbyists whose paycheck depends on the profits of these industries are pretty scummy for trying to build up their clients through specious attacks. Whatever the failings of the Humane Society, at least they're doing something to make the world a better place. The Center for Consumer Freedom (what a shitty name) is just hoping to continue this country's long tradition of political obfuscation, since people are too stupid to make up their own minds about pretty much anything. Don't believe the kitten, folks.