Friday, July 28, 2006

Bring Out the Hellman’s, and Bring out … Less?

By Nicholas Stix

It’s a dark day in the world of mayonnaise. Companies are faced all the time with the dilemma: Raise prices or cut content? Sometimes they choose one, and sometimes the other. But never both! Or so it was until now, with the folks at Hellman’s Mayonnaise.

A few days ago, I went shopping. We were out of mayonnaise, and as it was for my mom, and earlier for her mom, in my home, “mayonnaise” is synonymous with “Hellman’s.”

For years, excepting for sales, I’ve bought my Hellman’s one 32 oz. jar at a time at the local Waldbaum’s. And for a few years now, that 32 oz. bottle has sold for $3.33. Due to Waldbaum’s greed, I’ve never bought the 48 oz. jar. Whenever I checked the big jar, it would always sell for $4.99, the same per ounce price as the smaller jar, meaning that Waldbaum’s makes a bigger profit, while I’m left with mayonnaise in greater danger of spoiling, before I finish it. Waldbaum’s apparently banks on shoppers not doing the math.

The last time I’d bought Hellman’s, it was on sale, either “buy one, get one free,” or for $2 each, as a promotion for the new canola oil-based mayo, which also contains the oils “omega 6 and omega 3 ALA” lalala.

Granted, I didn’t notice then whether they’d switched the bottles. In any event, the difference between raising the price 26 cents on a 32 oz. jar and raising it the same amount, while cutting two ounces out of the jar, is the difference between a 7.8 percent, and a 15 percent price hike.

Some readers will doubtless say, “You’re complaining about a lousy 15 percent price hike, after all this time? You have too much free time on your hands.”

First of all, anyone who says that a blogger has too much time on his hands, is even more guilty of the same sin, for at least the blogger is doing what he thinks is important. But the blogger’s critic is wasting his time on what he claims is worthless. (Pre-emptive strikes are not only permitted in blogging, they are practically required.)

Besides, 15 percent is only the beginning. Sufficiently emboldened, the folks at Hellman’s parent company, Unilever, might next take a page from Coca-Cola’s playbook, and reduce the jar size yet again, to 24 ounces. If Unilever did that while maintaining the same price, it would constitute a 25 percent per ounce price increase (from 11.97 to 14.96 cents). But Unilever would be sorely tempted to again raise the price, as well. (Perhaps they’d re-run the sort of promotion for the first new bottles, that they did with the new canola mayo, before raising the price.) If Unilever raised the price to, say, $3.99 for a 24-ounce jar, that would constitute a 38.6 percent price hike. Let the cynics laugh that one off!

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Painful though they are, there’s even more at stake than price hikes. Until a couple of years ago, Hellman’s always came in a bottle, with a distinctive, blue-and-white steel lid. Then the company switched to all plastic. I could rationalize the plastic jar, since there was virtually no danger of it smashing, if you dropped it, but a dull, blue, plastic lid? And now, canola oil? If I were so concerned about my health, I wouldn’t use mayonnaise, in the first place!

Certain products not only give us pleasure – Hellman’s tastes so much better than any other mayo, there’s just no comparing them – but they also give our lives continuity. And that is especially true of those of us (i.e., most of us) who devote ourselves to the worship of the idols of a consumer culture.

The folks at Unilever had better take care, that they not fall into the Maxwell House trap, and decide that people don’t really appreciate differences in quality ingredients, as opposed to clever marketing campaigns.

For those of my readers too young to recall, Maxwell House was for several years America’s most popular brand of coffee. But then its executives got greedy, and decided to cheat on bean quality. Apparently, they figured, no one would know the difference. (In the world of expresso grind, aka “black” coffee, the folks at Rowland Coffee Roasters, in Miami, which owns Medaglia D’Oro, are currently going through one of their own periodic seizures of greed and contempt for their customers, and forsaking proper quality control. Thus, for the second time in 15 years, I have stopped buying their coffee.) An aggressive upstart named Folger’s came along to fill the void – with better beans and a great advertising jingle!

This is not your grandma’s Hellman’s.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Going ... Going ... Caught!

By Nicholas Stix

Minutes ago, in the top of the fourth inning at Shea Stadium, Astros’ outfielder Chris Burke got all of a pitch from the Mets’ young righthander, John Maine. At the crack of the bat, I said, “It’s gone.” And it was. But someone forgot to tell that to Mets’ left fielder Cliff Floyd.

The 6’4” Floyd drifted back to the wall, his eyes glued to the sure home run flying toward the fence. Just as the ball was about to clear the fence, he leaped, caught it just over the wall, and brought it back. Thus did a "home run" become just another out on the scorecard: "F7."

After five, the Mets lead 7-0, on the strength of a grand slam homer by second baseman Jose Valentin, and a two-run home run hit seconds ago by first baseman Carlos Delgado, both off Astros righthander Taylor Buchholz.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The American Conservative is Shutting Down

By Nicholas Stix
Updated 9:57 a.m., Monday, July 17, 2006.

On Saturday, I learned that The American Conservative magazine is shutting down. This is a shame, because:

1. It was the first conservative magazine since National Review almost fifty years earlier, that was founded not to curry favor with the powerful, but to criticize them, and seek to change their minds. NR had long since turned largely into a coven of neocon court propagandists. And though TAC’s demise may suggest otherwise, there is a healthy market for a semi-weekly magazine showcasing highbrow conservative intellectual writing and journalism.

2. I had a number of friends and acquaintances there, who are among America’s greatest intellectuals, and who must now seek elsewhere after work; and

3. I never got to sell an article there, and go through the cycle of freelancing for it, enthusiastically supporting it, getting stiffed by the editor, and becoming embittered towards the rag, that I have gone through with so many other media outlets where I lacked (or lost) a “rabbi,” and so was seen by the editor as “of use” for a time, before being tossed aside.

TAC (it calls itself “AMCONMAG,” but that sounds too much like “ECOMCON,” the clandestine military unit poised to take over the country in a coupe d’etat, in the movie Seven Days in May), could have become wildly successful, by the admittedly modest standards of political magazines. It had star-power (editor and writer Pat Buchanan), a few million bucks behind it (courtesy of editor/gossip columnist and Greek shipping and textiles heir, Taki Theodoracopulos), and a stable of brilliant writers.

Millions of Americans, almost all of them white, have been mad as hell for years about what passes for “conservative” journalism and political debate in this country. Their legions variously read, post, and sent letters to hundreds of Web sites such as Free Republic, VDARE, American Renaissance, Liberty Forum, Pipe Bomb News, ALIPAC, and hundreds more blogs.

But no matter how sophisticated paper-free media has become, there’s something special about a magazine. Once upon a time, National Review served this niche, but no more. Chronicles magazine could have served this niche, but it has long been run by classicist Thomas Fleming, who while a brilliant writer and thinker (at least he was prior to the lapse of my subscription in early 2000), is an incompetent and vindictive editor. Under Fleming’s leadership, while I wrote for Chronicles (1992-1999), its readership shrunk from over 20,000 to just over 5,000.

(And abusing editors and stiffing writers is also no way to go through life. In 1999, Ted Pappas left Chronicles after carrying Fleming for ten years. Rather than publicly thanking Ted for his yeoman-like efforts, Fleming coldly noted in a box that Ted had left Chronicles. No thanks, no nothing. By the way, Fleming still owes yours truly $150, for a 2,200-word, “Letter from New York” on Rudy Giuliani that he commissioned but never ran, never formally killed, and for which he never paid me a kill fee. I managed eventually to chop up the manuscript and sell the scraps, but that has no bearing on Fleming’s obligation to me. As best I could figure, Fleming’s stiffing of me just after Ted gave notice was some perverse form of revenge by proxy, sort of like stories I’ve heard of one tenured academic slugging a rival’s student. I guess Ted Pappas was my “rabbi” at Chronicles. You'd think an editor would realize just how vindictive writers can be.)

Middle American News, which is largely devoted to immigration reform but has published some work on race, has over 100,000 readers, but has never had the financial backing necessary to make a big splash.

American Renaissance has ably exploited the Internet, with a Web site that is read daily by tens of thousands of conservatives unhappy with the GOP. It is also read by conservative writers who would never admit to perusing it, and yet many of the articles they discuss or link to, clearly came from AR’s invaluable daily roundup. However, AR’s strength is also its weakness: It is about race, period. It is also not, to my knowledge, lavishly funded.

TAC would have prospered, had it given its readers straight talk about race, and laid out that “humbler” approach to foreign affairs that George W. Bush had promised the electorate in 2000, and which was characteristic of the Old Right, whose spirit TAC sought to evoke. An isolationist or neo-isolationist approach would have been respected, had it been intelligently argued.

Instead, TAC caved in on race, without even putting up a fight, and its foreign affairs position, rather than intelligent isolationism or neo-isolationism, often amounted to little more than “Die Juden, er, Neocons, sind unser Unglueck!”

The attacks on the, ahem, neocons, were to give the editors the illusion that they were fearless. Straight talk on race would have replaced such illusions with the reality of courage.

And what, then, is the legacy of the less than four-year run of TAC? That is impossible to say, at present. Its friends and enemies will seek to spin its demise this way and that, but the magazine’s true legacy will reside in what its most talented writers go on to do, including whether they manage to found another conservative magazine, and if so, whether they avoid repeating the mistakes they made this time around, or give in even more to paranoid obsessions with Jews, and cowardice on race.

I called TAC this morning, to get a comment. A staffer, Daniel McCarthy, said “O.k., one moment,” and went to confer with his bosses. He then came back and told me, “I’m sorry, there’s no one here who can help you at the moment."

I opined that I would think that his bosses would want to comment on such an important story. McCarthy replied, cooly, "Well, thanks for calling.”

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Beware of the Sophisticated New Visa Scam Flying Under the Radar

by Nicholas Stix
Updated below at 5:30 p.m.
Second update below at 9 p.m.

“Your Credit Card was cloned in Bulgaria” read the subject line in the e-mail I received today, that either went out, or came in at 1:42 p.m. ET. (See below.)

Information Regarding Your account:
Dear VISA Member!

Attention! Your VISA Credit Card has been violated!

Someone from Bulgaria tried to access your personal account from 2 different ATM's but with wrong pin! We were forced to freeze your Credit Card until you will confirm your identity online!

Please click the link below and enter your account information to confirm that you are not currently away. You have 3 days to confirm account information or your account will be locked.

Click on the "Confirm identity " link in the Activate Credit Card box and then enter this confirmation number: 1291-3821-1345-9233-3925

Thank you for using Visa!
Verified by Visa Team

Please do not reply to this e-mail. Mail sent to this address cannot be answered.

VISA Email ID VU294E22

Unlike so many e-mail credit card and bank scams today, the English is, well … English. And when I checked the internet details, I got the following return path.

Received: from ( []) by (v110.15) with ESMTP id MAILINXA13-4e44b3e2b41aa; Tue, 11 Jul 2006 13:42:12 -0400
Received: from MAIL.THINKINGCENTER.COM ( []) by (v110.15) with ESMTP id MAILRELAYINXA18-4e44b3e2b41aa; Tue, 11 Jul 2006 13:41:08 -0400
Received: from User
( [])
by MAIL.THINKINGCENTER.COM; Sun, 09 Jul 2006 05:10:37 -0400
From: "Verified by Visa"
Subject: Your Credit Card was cloned in Bulgaria
Date: Sun, 9 Jul 2006 02:12:52 -0700
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/html;
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2600.0000
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2600.0000
X-AOL-SCOLL-SCORE: 1:2:485312656:20401094

So far, so good, but Internet paths can be fooled by phony, “spoofed” eddresses. Usually, you can catch a phony eddress or URL by putting your cursor on the link, and seeing the true eddress or URL below.

I did that, and got … nothing! The same URL lay beneath the surface one. But for the following reason, I still didn’t buy it.

No reputable firm that wants to remain that way sends its customers e-mails telling them to hit links within those e-mails. Every firm – reputable or otherwise – knows that such e-mails are the m.o. of identity thieves in places like … Bulgaria. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this scam were the work of thieves in Bulgaria with a sense of humor.

When I got too aggressive with my cursor, I got a message from AOL, telling me that the link had “been disabled for your safety. To activate click ‘show images & enable links’ above,” but the same AOL message pops up anytime I hit a link in an e-mail, even when it’s in my daily “media cop” updates.

When AOL is aware of a scam, a different message pops up, saying that the link had been disabled after customer complaints.

But what if I’m wrong, and the e-mail really was from Visa. While it is possible that a Visa customer would be unable to make a purchase, businesses have direct telephone numbers for each major credit card, for whenever there is a problem. The store manager could call the number, and confirm whether you really are “Joe Schmo.”

But what if I’m right? Answering the e-mail will not only give away your Visa account (costing you thousands of dollars for at least a day or two), but permit the thieves to leverage that information to open up new credit accounts in your name, costing you thousands of dollars in the short and not-so-short run, and years of grief clearing your name.

Reputable companies that want to stay that way send letters. You know, the old-fashioned kind. Libertarians, s-f fans, and other idolators of the latest gizmo may refer derisively to mail delivered by human beings wearing blue- gray uniforms as “snail mail,” but you know what? As long as your mail box is secure, so-called snail mail is still the most reliable kind for important messages. And that’s what financial institutions use in times of trouble. When someone breached security at one of my banks a year or two ago, the bank froze all existing debit cards, and informed all customers (while supplying each with a new card) via U.S. mail. Speed isn’t everything.

There is one more obvious precaution to take: Ask Visa.

At their Web site, there is no mention of a problem, not even at their data security page, where there is a general discussion of “phishing,” and where Visa assures its customers that “facilitating the protection of cardholder data has long been a priority for Visa. Over the last several years, Visa has developed a multi-layered product and service strategy to help safeguard data and prevent fraud. This work continues today and Visa's data security efforts currently include the use of neural networks to detect fraud patterns, chip and PIN technology to authenticate transactions and Verified by Visa for the authorization of Internet purchases, among many other activities.”

Again, a lack of mention of a scam could simply mean that there is no scam.

I called their press office, out on the Left Coast, but only got a tape recording telling me to leave my name and number, and they’d get back to me. I left a message 90 minutes ago saying that I am a journalist, leaving my name and telephone number at the beginning and again at the end, and saying that I was responding to a new scam, which should have piqued their interest.

In case you’re still wondering whether I’m right or just paranoid, I have two pieces of strong evidence and one final piece of indisputable evidence.

1. There were no Visa graphics in the e-mail. Sophisticated phishers typically copy and paste the graphics, to make their e-mails look like the real McCoy. Thus, seeing a company’s graphics and logo are no guarantees that an e-mail is legit, but not seeing them is a strong indication that the e-mail in question is a scam.

2. There e-mail is anonymous. If Visa were responding to someone under the unique circumstances indicated in the e-mail, they wouldn’t be addressing me as “Dear VISA Member!”

And the zinger:

3. I am not, and never have been a Visa customer.

I’m sending notification to AOL, just as soon as I notify you.

Update, 5:30 p.m.: At 4:55 p.m., I got a call from a Visa press rep. While going over the e-mail with her, I noticed an additional giveaway: the "s" in "https." Visa's real URL starts with "http." Taking the exact URL of a legitimate company -- e.g., -- and adding an "s" to "http" is a classic phishing trick.

When I asked the press rep if I would get a response from a Visa executive she said, "I can't confirm that, but I will try my best to get you one."

Would Visa ever send an e-mail to a customer telling the customer to hit a link within that e-mail?

"I can't confirm, but that doesn't sound right to me. I will get get back to you with that as well."

I asked the press rep to read this blog, and call or e-mail me with any necessary corrections or additional information.

Second update: 9 p.m.: Just after 6 p.m., a second Visa flack called. He only would speak "on background," but did point out that a Visa cardholder would never hear from Visa directly, but rather from his personal financial institution (which issued him his Visa card), and that in the body of statements by Visa, "Visa" is never written in all caps ("VISA"). He also asked me to tell all my readers to forward any suspicious looking e-mails claiming to come from Visa to

Of course, you are welcome to forward a copy to me at the same time, at

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Mets Beat Marlins, 17-3; Pelfrey: "I Can Do This"

by Nicholas Stix

In the Mets' nightcap, Jose Valentin had seven RBI, including a grand slam home run and a bases-loaded triple; Cliff Floyd had 5 RBI, including a two-run homer; and 22-year-old rookie Mike Pelfrey won his major-league debut. The nervous Pelfrey, a tall drink of water who lists at 6'7" and 210 lbs., had trouble with his command, walking four, hitting one batter, and throwing 105 pitches. The lack of control led to an early exit, after only five innings. But he had good stuff.

Pelfrey, who threw at 94-97 mph, at times with excellent movement, benefited from ideal circumstances. In the first two innings, his teammates staked him to a seven-run lead, and in his last two innings, Marlins hitters laid off some 96-mph fastballs that had too much of the plate for comfort.

Manager Willie Randolph and GM Omar Minaya will be meeting tonight about Pelfrey's future, and will likely send him back down to the minor leagues for some more "seasoning," while keeping right-hander John Maine with the club. Pedro Martinez is currently on the DL with a freak hip injury, and fifth starter Alay Soler has been ineffective of late.

Maine, more of a breaking-ball and off-speed pitcher, does not have Pelfrey's overpowering stuff, but at 25-years old, and following a "couple of cups of coffee" with the Orioles and Mets, has more experience. Maine had pitched well for the Mets briefly earlier this season, before being sidelined with an inflammation in the middle finger of his right hand, which he uses to guide his breaking pitches. Maine was effective in today's first game but lost, 3-2.

Meeting with reporters after the game, Pelfrey was still all grins and nervous energy, but nonetheless managed to show the proper mix of humility and pride. Referring to manager Willie Randolph and general manager Omar Minaya, he acknowledged, "I'll go wherever they send me," but also recounted that after he got his first big-league pitch over for a strike, he said to himself, "I can do this."

Once Pelfrey makes it back to the big club to stay and establishes himself, the jitters -- and the lean frame -- will likely both become things of the past.

Mets Lead Marlins "by Two Touchdowns"

by Nicholas Stix

"We go to the bottom of the eighth, it's the Mets by two touchdowns," quipped Mets' announcer Gary Cohen. The Mets are leading 17-3 in the nightcap, after losing the first game of their doubleheader against Florida, 3-2.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Yet Another Proud Black She/He/It Tells Off Stix and Schuyler

By Nicholas Stix

George S. Schuyler (1895-1977) has been dead for almost thirty years, and yet he still manages to make every semi-literate black racist who hears of him froth at the mouth, and vent his rage in e-mails. That’s progress, for you.

Tonight brought the following e-mail. Since the writer took the trouble to actually sign his name (the rants and death threats are usually unsigned), I decided I’d have a little fun with him/shim/her. I have copied and pasted the writer’s letter, verbatim, with all of the typos intact. As for the writer's misspellings of whites' names, while that may be due to illiteracy or laziness, I suspect it is a Bogleism, after Donald Bogle, the racist black alleged film scholar who is scrupulously careful about correctly spelling the names of even the most obscure black movie figures, while deliberately misspelling the names (not to mention, diminishing the contributions) of white motion picture figures, including giants of the silver screen.

Re: A Note on George Schuler and his Apologists

In a message dated 7/3/2006 8:27:10 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time, PGBenjamin writes:


My Dear Mr. Stixx

While conducting research on George Schuyler I came across your panegyric. Although it's certainly true that Schuyler was a great journalist - I won't qualify his contribution by confining his achievement to comparison to other "black journalists"- he was, in so far as most black people who are familiar with his work are concerned, a colossal ass hole and Uncle Tom! For instance he opposed the Civil rights movement and disparaged Dr. King. Which makes him like the proverbial cow who gave a good bucket of milk then kicked it over in my book. I grew up in the apartheid south with it's Nazi ideology and use of state terror to deny human rights to my people. Hence I regard him as a traitor to his race - as did other members of my well educated family.

Since you made mention of the brilliant biography of his daughter, "Composition in black and White," why didn't you mention that his daughter disposed him for his Uncle Tomming and ass kissing with the worst racist in white America! I think the reason that you didn't mention this is because you are not accustomed to encountering people who have actually read this text. While I do not agree with the reduction of his often brilliant work as a reporter, or his equally brilliant satirical writings, in the end it is no exaggeration to say that he was a wounded man and an intellectual Quisling.

This is certainly my view of him from the perspective of a proud Afro-American who can't stand any semblance of ass kissing and Teeming for white folks. So I say George Schuyler was an ass hole in spite of his talents. And so are his apologists with the unmitigated gall to question my right to assess the man any way I choose. In other words fuck you too!

Yours Truly

P.G. Benjamin

PS: Ishmael Reed is not only the greatest "black" satirists, but as a major journal of opinion observed: "Reed is the greatest American Satirist since Mark Twain." Since you sound like a run of the mill snide know-it-all white chauvinist, I am not surprised that you dare not compare Schuyler with Twain, just as you do not find it odd that in spite of Schuyler's great gifts none of the major white publications would actually offer him a regular job. It is an ommission on par with your selective reading of "Composition in Black and White."

In this sense you are as guilty as the black writers whom you pompously flaggelate! Furthermore, Schuler was not the first black journalist to write freelance pieces for leading white publications. Dr. Dubois was publishing in the leading white publications when before Georgie Porgie was allowed to come out of the yaed by himself! And I wouldn't take a million poot butt Toms like Schuler for one W.E.B. Dubois. So There! Put that in your pipe and smoke it in place of whatever you are smoking now!

Incidently, my favorite Menchkin quote regarding Schuyler is :"George Schuyler is the only writer I know who enriches the English language everytime he picks up his pen." But perhaps this is a bit too much praise for you.

My response follows.

Dear P.G. Benjamin,

I don’t know if you are a “him, a shim, or a her,” but you claim to be black and to have conducted research on George “Schuler” (sic). Well, maybe you are black, though what you consider “research” is likely on a par with that of a tenured professor with an endowed chair in “African-American” studies.

That a giant like Schuyler had no degrees, while it has come to pass that the likes of Cornel West and Houston Baker are celebrated “scholars,” and the likes of you claim to “conduct research” on Schuyler, is a situation which only Schuyler could have done right by.

If you had read my work with any care, you would know that I have never questioned the right of semi-literate, black racist morons like yourself to assess Schuyler in “any way that [you] choose.”

You noted that Schuyler “opposed the Civil rights movement and disparaged Dr. King.” But, of course. So what's not to like?

By the way, I feel obliged to correct but one of your countless writing errors. You cited MLK without putting his doctoral title in scare quotes. Surely you know that King stole his doctorate through massive plagiaries of other men’s work. So, that’s “Dr.” King to you. No one who has any respect for the scholarly or intellectual life would fail to somehow note King’s intellectual fraud.

By the way, there’s something pathetic about people who obsessively refer to the dead as “Dr.” So-and-So. Max Weber and Jonas Salk and Niels Bohr all had doctorates, but you don’t hear white folks saying, since their deaths, “Dr. Weber” and “Dr. Salk” and Dr. Bohr.” And those guys didn’t steal their doctorates!

Racist blacks obsessively deride the legitimacy of white-run institutions, but just as obsessively cling to every title that any such institution has ever bestowed upon a black. Doesn’t that seem the least bit odd to you? Oops, I just remembered – unlike Schuyler, you don’t take your irony supplement.

Like the other black racists who write to me, you are incensed at people writing honestly. Had Schuyler lied about the likes of King and Malcolm X/Little, there’d be professorships named after him, and cretins like you would bow down to graven images of him. But since he was honest, you vilify him. And you rage because you have encountered one white intellectual who refuses to kiss your ass, or those of your fellow racists.

Fuck you very much for taking the time to, ahem, write.


Nicholas Stix

P.S. Who is “Menchkin”?

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Reason #13,493 Why I’m Not Crazy about National Baseball Announcers

By Nicholas Stix

“The Mets’ rookie shortstop, Jose Reyes, is apparently using the baseball bat as a microphone,” intoned ESPN announcer Jon Miller, during a rain delay before the Mets-Yankees game tonight.

I generally like Jon Miller, but Jose Reyes is in his fourth season with the Mets.

The game, which was supposed to begin at 8 p.m., got going at 9:15. The Mets jumped out to a 4-0 lead, but the Yankees came back with nine runs in the bottom of the third inning. The Yankees currently lead 9-4, in the bottom of the fourth inning.