Sunday, August 4, 2013

Oh...That's Just the Sound of George Orwell Rolling in His Grave

It was a bright mild day in June, and the clocks were striking thirteen...

I waited until age 30 to get my first tattoo because I am risk averse and the permanence of that decision made it a weighty one. I ended up opting for an homage to Orwell's 1984, one my favorite books, but not because I'm some tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist. I read that book by choice in high school as part of my "Fuck Authority - the man keeps harassing me" phase. It is one of the few books I've read more than once and I'm always surprised by Orwell's prescience. Yes, Huxley nailed modern 1st world life in Brave New World but Orwell predicted economic unions, government controlled media, state sponsored conditioning, and most frighteningly, the surveillance state, so modern life is more appropriately depicted by a combination of the two books.

If you don't believe the US has state controlled media, conditioning, or that it is a surveillance state you probably watch mainstream news and are misinformed. I'm not writing to argue that we live in some Orwellian dystopia. It's the the information age. Ignorance is now a choice people certainly have the right to make.

Now, the guy with the BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU tattoo has something to say about the Snowden/NSA case.

I'm not going to give the entire background. If you have been living under a rock you can read the scandal's timeline here and Snowden's profile here. In a nut shell, Snowden, a former NSA employee, leaked a bunch of information proving the US government is spying on its citizens, allies, and enemies by data-basing phone and internet communications. The US government responded by labeling him a traitor, suspending his passport (stranding him in a Russian airport for weeks), interfering with his right to seek political asylum, threatening and blustering, and putting heavy pressure on the Russian government for the extradition of Snowden to stand trial for treason. Despite this pressure, Russia recently approved Temporary Asylum for Edward Snowden. The US Government and its media have responded with more bluster, seething outrage, threats of sanctions, and threats of severing diplomatic ties. I just have one question: What's the big fucking deal bitch?

"In a time of Universal Deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act" - George Orwell, 1984

Telling the truth does not a traitor make. Sure, Snowden embarrassed the US government but the information he released was all in the sphere of public interest, putting nobody in danger but himself. The Obama administration seems to have a problem with whistle-blowers, prosecuting more than all previous presidents combined* to  fullest extent of the law under the Espionage Act, written in 1917, a year when whistle-blowers were called "Journalists".

The Espionage Act was passed in reaction to German espionage attempts on prior to the US's entry into World War I. It says anyone who gives a state declared secret document to a non-authorized person has committed a crime. Additionally, the person receiving the document  has conspired to help that person commit a crime. The Espionage Act has sparsely been used in the past 90 years because it has always been somewhat controversial and viewed with a laughable attitude (until 9/11). It was intended for use against legitimate spies but is now being used to prosecute truth-speakers. That's a problem.

The Espionage Act landed Bradley Manning a life sentence in prison for leaking documents about US foreign policy. Which is kind of fucked up - our foreign policy, not leaking it. He shined a spotlight on America making it look bad but he had nothing to do with US foreign policy. All he did was tell the truth and watch the world disapprove of US action.

The argument that whistle-blowers endanger American lives and national security both at home and abroad is laughable. Last time I checked, the US drone-bombs the shit out of random countries killing  civilians. We regularly meddle in other's political affairs. We use our economic superiority to exploit 3rd world countries and keep them poor. We preemptively invade, depose governments, and "install democracy". We pay little heed to international borders when carrying out military actions. Why? Because we're the greatest country in the world! We're #1 and you best remember that!

If this NSA surveillance program is truly protecting us, how did the Tsarnaev brothers successfully set off bombs at the Boston Marathon? How did both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security fail us?

"Employing the concept of doublethink, the Party gives ironic names to its branches as a way to euphemize what they actually are." - George Orwell, 1984

It doesn't matter why the government is spying on us. It's certainly not indicative of the freedom Americans so vehemently celebrate. By the time you've reached this sentence there is a very good chance the government has filed a record of your visit to this site, not because this blog is important or provacative, but because that's just what they are doing. We know this thanks to Snowden. We should be having a discourse on the implications of this program. Regardless of opinion, no one can really argue that we aren't better off knowing about it. I don't think Snowden is a traitor. If anything I feel betrayed by the government.

"If you want to keep a secret you must also hide it from yourself" - George Orwell, 1984

The diplomatic actions and rhetoric employed by the US government over Edward Snowden are embarrassing. This is a lot of bluster over one man and it comes off as spiteful and petty. The government acts like a spoiled child ratted out by a younger sibling and seeking vengeance. They are bending the definition of an old law to turn a truth-teller into a traitor. He did not sell weapons technology to our enemies. He did not give out battle plans or troop positions. He did not in any way endanger the American people. Sure terrorists now know they need to find a new way to communicate but that seems less important to me than the fact that I have no privacy. This isn't freedom.

Snowden simply said "Hey, Big Brother Is Watching You and that shit ain't cool." I think he acted in the interest of the public and my opinion will not be swayed by a government incessantly insinuating he is a traitor when it operates in secrecy against the people it serves.

"And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed - if all records told the same tale - then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past' ran the party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." George Orwell, 1984

*  It's worth noting that the Obama Administration has not prosecuted as single banker or CEO in relation to the      scandals that destroyed our economy. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

All Grown Up

When I was 6 or 7 years old, my mother and I were in line inside of Hardees. A man at the counter was upset because his wife, who was waiting on us, was supposed to be off work. I don't remember what he was saying, only that he was loudly yelling and cussing. An old man in the the front of the restaurant stood up and asked the guy to hold it down and watch his language because there were women and children present. The angry guy responded by walking over and beating the hell out of him. The woman screamed in horror. The old man bled profusely from the head an face. End memory. 

Now fast forward to the present day where anyone who knows me knows I have a lot of fucking kids. Raising a child is one of the greatest responsibilities anyone can take on, and I have 4 of them bastards (figuratively speaking). I seem to have a different philosophy than most parents on what is and is not appropriate. It's not superior. It's not right. It's just different.

I've noticed many parents shelter their children from language, violence, and sex. I get it but at what age should we let reality seep in?

Don't get me wrong. I didn't allow any of my kids to watch Rambo nor Rambone at the age of 4. I didn't put them to bed by reading Andrew Dice Clay nursery rhymes or anything. I just don't understand the extent to which people try to prevent their children from seeing or hearing adult content.


About two years ago, I found a copy of The Three Amigos on DVD for $3. I loved that movie as a kid and, like most parents, I like to shove my childhood down my kids throats (perhaps that's a poor choice of words but, again, I'm not making them watch Willy Wanker and the Hershey Highway). The Three Amigos is rated PG so I was surprised when Lucky Day said "Not so fast El Guapo! Or I'll fill you so full of lead you'll be using your dick as a pencil!" The movie features a few sexual jokes and questionable language and, in my mind, should be rated PG-13. I actually double-checked the case to make sure it wasn't. Faced with this rating vs. content conundrum, I did some research.

It turns out that the PG-13 rating was introduced by the Motion Picture Association in 1984 and The Three Amigos came out in 1986. So, why did it have a PG rating? Because the rating metrics were different at that point in time. From 1984 - 1986 a PG and PG-13 were defined as follows:

  • PG - Parental Guidance Strongly Suggested - Most material may not be suitable for children. 
  • PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned - Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13. Parents are strongly cautioned to give special guidance to attendance of children under 13.
That's how movies like The Goonies and Spaceballs (1987) were rated PG. PG-13 was reserved for more violent movies like Red Dawn and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, both of which would likely earn R ratings today. 

Those same ratings are now defined as follows:
  • PG - Parental Guidance SuggestedSome material may not be suitable for children. Parents are urged to give parental guidance as the motion picture contains some material that parents might not find suitable for younger children
  • PG-13 - Parents Strongly CautionedSome material may be inappropriate for children under 13 
This isn't about movie ratings though. I saw this movie when I was 8 years old. I saw it and plenty of other movies full of violence, nudity, and bad language before I was 13. I had seen people brutally killed by Jason and Freddy, full frontal nudity, on screen sex, sexual jokes (a la Spaceballs), and numerous creative uses of the word "fuck". My brother and I re-enacted scenes from Star Wars when I was 3. We watched the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings cartoon movies on laser disc before I started kindergarten. I was listening to George Carlin and Eddie Murphy by the age of 9. I was watching the Simpsons in sixth grade. Today there are plenty of 6th graders that aren't allowed to watch The Simpsons let alone The Running Man.

You can judge my parents if you want but I turned out just fine (albeit my opinion). I'm not a sexual deviant, I haven't killed anyone, and I don't cuss like I have tourette's syndrome. In other words, I'm not a fucking idiot. I may have different  or odd points of view, but I'm not a bad person. I'm responsible, productive, and, as far as I can tell, people respect me. 

This isn't one of those "when I was a kid things were better" speeches. I just don't understand what sheltering kids accomplishing. Yes, when I was a child games were not as violent. Yes, there was a big stink over the language and content of music and, yes, today the content of these mediums is even worse. However, if you check the statistics, violence and crime on all levels are lower today than when when we were kids. 

The red line is the Violent Crime Rate moving from 1986.

Long before movies, video games, and recorded music people were violent as hell. "Rape, pillage, and plunder" wasn't just an expression, it was either a real concern or an activity on your to-do list. People have always hurt and killed each other because people have always been violent evil assholes. Sex sells because it feels good and is fucking great (no pun intended). Our entertainment caters to our natural psyche. This is a case of art imitating life, not the other way around. Games, music, and movies are simply our modern day gladiators. The TV/movie screen and speakers are our Coliseum. Blaming society's ills on entertainment mediums ignores the larger problem - people just kind of suck. 

To those who like to cite recent mass shootings and random acts of violence as being attributable to movies, games, TV, and music, I would like to submit the following argument: that shit started long before the entertainment industry.

A sniper took out several people from the top of a water tower in the 70's and I'm pretty sure the only video games he had access to were Pinball and maaaayyyyyybeeee Pong. In the 1800's, without the aid of movies, mobs of people randomly lynched those they didn't like. In the Dark Ages people flocked to the town square to witness mass executions, many of which were ironically church ordered, even though gangsta rap wouldn't make its mark for centuries. The ancient Greeks, Japanese, and Indians painted and sculpted pornographic pictures without the inspiration of Ron Jeremy. It would seem we've always been violent and horny. There are even records of ancient Roman graffiti equivalent to that found in a modern bathroom stall. 

Ancient relief of two men tag teaming a pony(?) you do.

In my opinion, pretending the world is free of violence, hate, sex, and foul language is kind of misses the point of parenting. We are supposed to raise our children to be responsible, productive, well-behaved members of a society which is violent and full of bad words, sex, hate, and insensitivity. One day, perish the thought though we may, our kids will cuss (if they aren't already doing so). One day, they are going to see a bit of nudity or, even worse, have sex. One day, they are going to witness, be the victim of, or be party to some sort of violent act. It's all going to happen and there isn't shit we can do about it. 

Should we be sheltering our kids from this or ensuring they know how to act when faced with it? If they hear cuss words, they need to understand that some people find such words offensive and they should not be used in mixed company or certain settings. If they hear hate-speak, they need to understand that it is just the outdated talk of ignorant fearful people that is in no way relevant or realistic. When they see or hear something of a sexual nature, they need to understand that sex is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. When they see or hear about violence they need to understand the impact of that on victims and society. They need to understand that it is never acceptable to hurt people. They also need to understand that some people are crazy, some are sick, and some are just fucking stupid.

I don't recall what happened after that old man was assaulted in Hardees. I only remember that I felt terrible for him. It stuck with me because I found it disturbing, the violence was not endearing in any way, shape, or form. I can still hear the woman scream and see the old man's bloody face but I don't remember what Asshole looked like at all. Despite having witnessed this violence at such a young age, I have yet to beat the hell out of an elderly person. If anything, it struck be as being unnecessary, gross, and barbaric. It didn't desensitize me. 

My kids can tell the difference between the reality and fiction, they know what words they can and cannot say, they know what is appropriate and inappropriate because they are intelligent and fairly responsible, not any more or less intelligent and responsible than any other kid, but they can certainly hear the word "fuck", understand it is bad, and not repeat it. They can shoot someone in a video game and not even want to hurt anyone in reality. They can see or hear sexual jokes or references and ask questions to get real answers, not downplayed bullshit because the topic is uncomfortable. I would certainly prefer they see a pair titties over two people trying to kill each other but in America the two go hand in hand. 

Sure, sometimes subjects are uncomfortable. For example, last week I watched the 1998 remake of Psycho with my oldest son (which is a near frame-by-frame remake of the original so, while it may be unnecessary, it is still a good movie). In one of the few added scenes Norman Bates rubs one out while spying on Marion Crane as she changes. My son asked why he was "shaking and breathing funny". Was that an uncomfortable conversation? Yes. Did I disregard the question or make-up some bullshit answer? No. I simply explained that Norman Bates was touching himself because he is a creep. I also explained that spying like that is wrong, an invasion of privacy, and illegal.

I'm sure there are actually plenty of parents that have open conversations with their kids and let them watch some questionable material. They may even lie about it to friends and acquaintances for fear of being judged though I don't get the social stigma on it though. If you don't give your kids some freedom they won't know how to handle it when they do get it. 

We can't shelter our kids from society's woes forever. By the time they are 8 it is probably okay to let it start filtering in. In the end, we all want our children to be well adjusted and unharmed. Unfortunately the world is a shitty place. It's full of shitty people that don't give a rat's ass about anyone but themselves. Sheltering doesn't do any good as long as the world is also full of terrible parents. Not Parents that are too selfish to consider sheltering, talking to, monitoring, or raising their children in the slightest bit. Their the kids will carry the torch of ignorance for our grandchildren's generation. Yes, life is unsettling and scary but it is our job as parents to provide Parental Guidance that enables our children to deal with the shitty world in which we live.

Beelzebozo - Now Available for chilrens parties!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Hey, Guess Which Finger I'm Holding Up.

My only black collared shirt is fading and that is unacceptable because...goddamn I look sexy in a black collared shirt. Despite the heightened level of sexiness a black collared shirt brings me, I don't want to pay a lot for a replacement. It is with this mindset that I waltz into to my local Burlington Coat Factory so I can later "brag about it" as one is wan to do after shopping at a discount store. I ignore everyone's envious gazes as I simultaneously execute a perfect box step while perusing the men's business casual section*, find a suitable shirt at a reasonable price, and proceed to the register where the cashier begins the transaction by asking for my phone number. I know you're thinking "Of course she did you sexy motherfucker! You were dancing around the store all unbathed and shit! Every girl wants a guy that is both fashion and price conscious dressed in slightly imperfect clothing!" True, I am dashing and all, but they ask that of every customer at BCF. With that in mind, my answer to this question requires a preemptive explanation.

On the preceding night, two of my children brought a form home from school that I was required to fill out and return. It had to do with "school provided dental care" of which I've never heard in the six years my children have attended public school. The form gave me three options: (A) You have no insurance and you wish for your child to receive school provided dental care; (B) You have medicaid and wish for your child to receive school provided dental care; or (C) You have health insurance, your child has a dentist and therefore you DO NOT wish for your child to receive school provided dental care. My children have dental insurance so it's Option C all day long.

The thing that bothered me about this - apart from the school providing dental care when the quality of their primary service, education, is mediocre at best and the possibility that the school nurse will be pulling teeth with little to no dental training** - is that Option C required me to list my health insurance  information.

Much like Catholic School dentistry.

If I am declining service, why must I provide any further information? I simply wrote "I refuse to provide this information" and sent it back. I truly expect nothing will come of it but I was annoyed by the invasive and unnecessary attempt to get personal information.

I know it's a pretty pathetic way to stick it to the man. There was nothing on the form that stated exactly who was requesting the information or why. The form didn't look like a typical federal, state, or local government form and I didn't see the need to provide my personal information. I wonder how many parents listed the information simply because the form asked for it.  

The next day I had to run some errands. The first place I went was DSD Nutrition because I was nearly out of whey protein and they had a "Grand Opening" sale which made me feel really special because, unlike the rest of the surrounding population, I was there. It was like a celebration just for me. At the register the roided out clerk assumptively asked for my name and email address so he could enroll me in some "rewards" program where I can get a 5% discount for every $350 spent, or some gimmicky shit like that. Before I realized what I was doing, the information just fell out of my mouth. I'd been swindled, duped, bamboozled, hornswoggled even. They got personal information from me just by asking. I told myself it was just my name and email address but, in truth, I paid with my check card and who knows what information that gives them access to. 

Next, I went to Auto Zone where I was told they no longer sell wiper blade replacement inserts because an entire blade assembly, housing and all, "only costs a couple dollars more". This explanation was, in a word, retarded.

Yes, about that retarded.

Anyone that has ever purchased wiper blade replacement inserts knows that two blades come in a pack versus the single blade when purchasing the entire assembly. You may have noticed that all modern autos have two different sized wiper blades and wondered why. Because fuck you, that's why.

Let's dismantle the logic of the Auto Zone explanation. For a "couple of dollars" less I could have purchased two blade inserts for each wiper so when the first one wears out, I have a backup. I'm getting four blades for a lower price which means the replacement inserts are the smarter and more cost effective option. It costs more to purchase two separate single blade assemblies and, unfortunately, the assembly doesn't make the blade itself last any longer. Therefore, when that blade wears out, an entirely new, more expensive assembly must be purchased. It would seem that some young upstart with a degree figured out that failing to offer blade inserts strong-arms customers into buying the more expensive assemblies which, in turn, yields higher profits and repeat business. The CEO obviously fell in love with that idea. As a result, I left without purchasing anything.

Next stop was BJs Wholesale Club because I've got a lot of fucking kids and some shit is just cheaper by the pallet. The lines were horrendous so I opted for self checkout. It's not the first time I've done this, but it is the first time I felt indignant about it. Most of the time I use self checkout because it's faster, I hate waiting in line, and I don't have to talk to anyone. On this day, while scanning a 15 lb. package of chicken, I realized that I drove there, got my own cart, filled it myself, and was now ringing up my own items which would, of course, result in my paying BJs for doing fuck all. I don't work there. In fact, I paid them for doing their job for them. Some young upstart with a degree figured out that people like me will ring themselves up to avoid waiting in line and BJs can save money on cashier wages. When you extrapolate those savings across each store in the country, the corporation yields a higher profit. The only employee that "helped" me was the one by the door that looked at my receipt to make sure I wasn't stealing anything.

It was then that I proceeded to Burlington Coat Factory to get my freak on. By the time I reached the register I was a little aggravated with my overall consumer experience for the day. I know why they are asking for my phone number. It's for marketing information. They want demographics. They want price point information. They want to know what they can sell, where they can sell it, and how much they can sell it for. Ordinarily I would just give the cashier a fake phone number complete with a made up area code to do whatever damage I can to their data set. Why? Because I'm an asshole and I think the marketing industry is completely evil. On this day, I wanted to make my defiance obvious just to see what would happen. Here is the result:

Cashier: "Phone number please?"***
Me: "777-777-7777"

At this point the cashier has a choice. She can take the hint and enter the number as I gave it , enter any phone number real or not, or she can try to pry some trivial personal information from me. She holds no personal stake in whether or not I give the correct information, she is going to get paid regardless. She is only asking because the company makes her and she has probably never questioned why they require her to do so.  

Cashier: (smiling) "C'mon, we need a real phone number."
Me: (smiling) "That is my real phone number."
Cashier: "I know that isn't your real number. We don't use it for anything."
Me: "Great, then you don't need a number at all."
Cashier: "I can't ring you up without your phone number."
Me: "How about all fives?"
Cashier: (not amused) "I can't use a fake number."
Me: (chuckling) "Sure you can. I give a fake number every time I come here."
Cashier: "If you don't give me your number I can't ring you up."
Me: "You'd turn away my money over this?"
Cashier: (smacks mouth) "I can't ring you up without it."
Me: (smiling) "Okay, have a nice day."

Yes, I walked out without the shirt. I want to make it clear that I wasn't rude and I never once raised my voice. I know first-hand what it's like to deal with crazy asshole customers. Yes, she clearly got annoyed with me, but the overall exchange was light. I do not believe this was a battle of wills. I think she truly believed she could not enter a fake number. I, however, knew she could because I routinely give made up numbers in that very store. She has just never questioned her orders.

Marketing is the study of how to make you spend money you don't have on shit you don't need. Advertisements don't sell products, they sell a lifestyle you can't have. They are in the business of creating wants.

Now that they've mentioned it.... 

Companies get your information by asking for it at the register. They ask you to participate in a survey. They have "rewards" cards that track what you buy (think grocery stores). The information collected is used to market goods in your area. Your personal information tells them what sells, who buys it, and at what price. Surveys are used obtain customer opinion on goods, services, and preferences.You best believe they use all this information to their advantage, not yours. Some companies even sell your information to marketing research firms.

As a culture we are very conditioned to give out certain personal information without question. Despite my awareness of the practice I routinely fall victim to it and it's infuriating. These companies make enough money without my labor, without my information, and without my opinions. I know it's easier simply to give give in and get on with my life but I wish, as a culture, we would stop falling for this bullshit.  Here's a list of things I think we should do:

  • When a cashier asks you for personal information, ask them why it's needed and then give false information. If you don't want to harass the cashier, lie first and then ask for the manager and demand an explanation. 
  • Walk up to a self check out and immediately press the need assistance button. When the clerk comes over, tell them to ring you up. Any reason they give for not doing so will not be logical. If they refuse, ask for the manager and demand an explanation.
  • When McDonald's or any other restaurant hands you an empty cup, hand it back and say "Can you please fill this up for me?" If the only drink fountain is on your side of the counter say "Can you please come out here and fill this up for me?" If they refuse, ask for a manager and demand an explanation.
  • "Rewards" cards are often necessary to get deals. Lie on the application (it's not a job application after all). Use a fake name address, and phone number. Make sure the phone's area code doesn't match the zip code which doesn't match the city which doesn't match the state.  
  • Only participate in surveys to say batshit crazy things like "I like Romney because he wants to tattoo swastikas on the bottoms of every newborn's right foot." Or "Best Buy is awesome because the store manager always let's me know when it's a good time to buy or sell their stocks." 
  • Don't sign up for store issued credit cards. In fact, pay with cash whenever possible. When they ask you "debit or credit" look at them like you're confused and ask if they accept drachmas.
  • When a company stops carrying a specific item, don't fall victim to their more expensive substitute. Find it elsewhere. Go a step further and boycott these stores because they are trying to force you to spend more money. Go two steps further and get the corporate address and CEO's name from the internet; shit in a box and cover it with a note that says "Just giving you my opinion of your company's decision to stop selling ____"; and mail it to the attention of the CEO. Make sure you print the address label on a public computer; do not include a return address; apply correct postage; and only handle the box with gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints****.
It's my shit in a box!
  • Attempting to thwart government attempts to obtain your personal information is kind of pointless. They can get whatever information they need. Defy them simply to add to their expense and troubles. Here's an idea - fill out their forms but hand draw pictures of titty fucking in the left margin of each page in such a way that the stack of forms can be used as a pornographic flip book*****. 

You don't have to be rude to low level employees. Ask them why and then ask for a manager. Why should you do this? Because fuck these companies. They have too much influence over government. They have too much affect on your daily life. They are making a fortune off of us and hot carling on us in return. You shouldn't be asking why this matters. You should be asking them why they want so much information from you.

This message has been brought to you by the loving memory of Bill Hicks:

* In case it isn't obvious, I was not really dancing in Burlington Coat Factory.
** I don't know who actually provides the dental care.
*** I believe this was a question.
**** I'm pretty sure that this isn't legal and following these steps will not ensure that you escape legal trouble. This statement was intended as farcical comedy and I do not endorse such actions. Attempt them at your own risk.
***** I'm pretty sure that this isn't legal. This statement was intended as farcical comedy and I do not endorse such actions. Attempt them at your own risk.


Saturday, January 26, 2013

Act VI: In Which Wolf Blitzer Hot Carls All Over the Place

It's sad when people must consult foreign news sources to find out what is going on in the world and in their own country. Protests broke out in Egypt Friday, January 25, 2013, and CNN reports that the Egyptian people are protesting because the democratically elected regime is part of the Muslim Brotherhood and attempting a power grab. Unfortunately, in the past two years our media failed to report that we, the U.S., supported Egyptian rebel regime change leadership in 2011 and, therefore, the current regime.

So what?* 

The muslim world has been very successful in using social media to spread word about, and draw attention to, their causes and political movements. Friday's protests were no different. Egyptian citizens involved in the protests were actively commenting on Facebook about what was really going on there, unfiltered and without media spin. I'm not going to provide a screen shot of the thread because blurring all the photos and screen names is a headache. However, follow this link and find the status update from January 25, 2013 that says "This is happening in Egypt right now." Here are some quotes from Egyptians in the thread (minimal editing for clarity):

  • "Today clashes are everywhere in Egypt we want to step-down our system and the new constitution that allows the military trials for [civilians] and ignores women rights".
  • "csf are shooting demonstrators with Cartouche and tearbombs."
  • "our new system is part 2 of mubarak's system, nothing changed."
  • "do not believe whoever tell you that the demos are against the president because he belongs to religious party! it is not true"
  • "What's happening is, the new democratically elected president (this is why democracy is shit) gave himself sweeping powers and plans to enact a constitution that is sexist, sectarian, and despotic. This is the Egyptian people's response."
  • "back in time, 2011 ...we revolted against Mubarak's system because of poverty,repression and thefts: [We] lost our friends during ,during incidents happened nothing changed, nothing at all we want [is] retribution for the revolution martyrs we want a constitution that represents all the Egyptians our revolution slogan: freedom-dignity-social equality and bread"

I think my favorite part is when they say "this is why democracy is shit". While we were largely posting pictures of snow all day, they were busy posting pictures of the violence used on protesters because, again, they often use social media for something constructive.

Also, please remember that CNN reported Egyptians are upset because the current president is part of the "Muslim Brotherhood" while the Egyptians themselves say that the protests have nothing to do with the president's "religious party". Should we believe the actual protesters or Wolf Blitzer, Zionist/Corporate Journalist?

Why would they lie?*

Because it's better to say that the president belongs to an unpopular "religious party" than to say the regime is despotic and misogynous, especially when we helped put that regime in power. Granted, our role in that revolution has not been widely publicized despite the English media linking documented proof of our support. Lastly, the U.S. doesn't have a good track record in regime changes. Seriously, look it up.

Clearly our media doesn't give us the full story, if they give a story at all. It is widely known and understood that we are using Predator Drone strikes in countries with which we are not at war as part of our ongoing "War on Terror". I may be wrong here (because I can only stomach mainstream news for approximately 10 minutes at a time) but I don't believe our media gives these strikes too much attention, if any. Of course, we are going after Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and that is necessary**. However, A simple Google search will yield plenty of stories on drone strikes, most of which are the about the number of civilians killed with heavy focus on women and children. Independent news website PolicyMic reports that approximately 36 civilians are killed for every 1 terrorist in thse strikes. Whether we are going after militants or not, that number is ludicrously disproportional and unacceptable.

I get that this is a war but we need to put this in an unbiased perspective. What makes us so great? What makes us right? What gives us the right to do this? We all recognize the Newtown, CT shooting as a tragedy because it fucking is. There is nothing anyone can say to justify or logically explain what happened or why. Twenty-six people were killed, majority children. We all identify with the families, as Americans, and it scares the shit out of all parents.

Imagine if you were sitting around watching television and a missile or bomb suddenly decimates your house, family, and neighbors. That exact thing happens regularly in countries such as Pakistan thanks to our drone strikes. On January 6, 2013 we killed 16 Pakistani people, majority civilian (man, woman, and child). This begs the question, if innocent people are killed by a random act of violence, and they are not American, is it still a tragedy? Our media doesn't seem to think so.

The difference between the average drone strike and the Newtown massacre is not just the age of the victims. We repeatedly do this to people overseas without apology and our media doesn't really say shit about it. If they do, it is justified and the victims are "collateral damage", not people. Yes, we are going after militant leaders but we are killing innocent people in the process. It is tragic and it should not be acceptable to anyone with a pulse. If we can't take out specific targets without killing civilians we shouldn't do it. We need to lead by example. Let's not forget that we are setting the precedent for what is acceptable with drone warfare. Right now we have a lock on the market. How will we like it when someone sends one of those things into our territory or that of our allies? I bet it will be considered an act of war...because it is goddammit. Furthermore, our taxes pay for this shit. Do you like that the money you earn goes to killing innocent people in some way?

While I'm at it, I had a thought about President Obama's speech after the Newtown shooting, the one in which he cried. He has described the event as the worst in his presidency and in this speech he said that the victims had their future stolen from them. What about the foreign children that are dying as a result of the drone strikes he authorized? Do they not matter? Are they lesser people because they are not American? Drone warfare has been a consistent criticism of Obama's foreign policy. The fact that by June 2012 he had authorized 5 times as many Pakistani drone strikes as President Bush, killing around 3,000 people of which only 2% are reportedly militant leaders, makes his Newtown speech seem a little sanctimonious.

Our media so heavily spins stories on our foreign policy that we can't really understand what is going on. They'll show Palestinians throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers without showing or saying how Israel shelled a Palestinian neighborhood. They'll talk about rising anti-U.S. aggression against U.S. soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan without mentioning that it is in response to civilian casualties. Hell, they don't even acknowledge that the main reason for the tension between the U.S. and the Middle East is largely do to our foreign policy and influence on the region.

Well, that's over there. How does our media do with domestic issues?*

Piss poor.

Remember Occupy Wall Street (OWS)? I remember the news coverage on television was pretty much tents, hippies, squalor, interviews with extremely uninformed outliers, and an overall presentation that they were lazy and unorganized. Mostly I remember the backlash against the movement. Cops used unnecessary violence against protesters to detain, disperse, or humiliate them. People were pepper sprayed, hit in the head with gas canisters, and arrested for staging peaceful protests.

You may have missed this story because our media failed report it altogether and should be ashamed of themselves for not doing so. Fortunately, the British media still seems somewhat objective. The Guardian, a respected British newspaper, reported and linked documents proving that the OWS crackdown was planned and executed by a cabal of federal, state, and local law enforcement officials working in cahoots with private institutions, namely BANKS AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS.  Officially, this is known as the Domestic Security Alliance.

I feel like this also needs some perspective. The Occupy Movement put the terminology "99%" and "1%" in our everyday vernacular. The movement was born out of dissatisfaction with the influence that the wealthy and financial institutions hold over our government and the favoritism our government shows them. The very people OWS are protesting against - the ones that caused the recession; the ones that try to shirk paying taxes; the ones that lobby and obtain favors from politicians - are now working hand in hand with the federal government to take down the movement by providing law enforcement with private and financial information on protesters. The people benefiting from ruining the country are now working with the government to stop people from rallying against them.

For those of you that may not remember, the head of the intelligence community was recently taken down by the intelligence community itself. Do you feel comfortable expressing a dissenting opinion knowing that your bank may turn your financial records over to the government? Shit, they apparently even talked about assassinating OWS leaders. That shows how much big business cares about us common folk doesn't it?

Why should the media report this? Wouldn't it just spread dissent?*

The media should report this because we are taxpayers, not the enemy. We are citizens, not Al Qaeda and, fuck yeah, it would spread dissent. The protests exist because the system no longer works for the people. It now works for the affluent and big business. To the government I say this: Go after those motherfuckers. Throw their asses in jail when they conspire to fuck people over in the name of greed and you will find it restores integrity. Make them pay their fair share in taxes, business and individual alike, and you will find that there is plenty of money to kill children with drones or whatever other hegemonic activity gets your dick hard. If this Domestic Security Alliance doesn't convince you that the system is broken, I don't know what will.

Our media is an utter failure and public enemy number one. U.S. journalism died in the 1980's. We don't get objectivity, we get a very phosisticated*** form of propaganda. Prior to cable, there was approximately 60 minutes of national news on television per day and it was more efficient and of better quality than today's 24 hour format. The premise is the same in that there is still one act of journalism - the breaking of new information. In the 1970's the story would break and the known facts would be given. The next day, all the new facts would be given. Today, the story breaks and then people talk about it and speculate for a few hours until new information is available. Then they talk and speculate about that. Then they put a pundit on that presents their batshit crazy opinions as fact on a talk show that is designed to look like a news program. Punditry is entertainment disguised as journalism. Every topic is beaten into the ground and spun until the audience no longer can tell fact from bullshit. It's not a conspiracy, it's business and they are in the business of protecting the status quo. What we now call journalism in this country is a festering canker sore of marketing, opinion, sensationalism, fear mongering, celebrity worship, and bullshit. The revolution will certainly not be televised.

Today's topic has been brought to you by the letter "p":

      * For the record, for all of the hypothetical questions I imagine you are asking me, in my head your voice sounds lik Kermit the Frog with Cerebral Palsy.
   ** I guess.
*** That spelling is intentional.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Act V: In Which a Parade Continues Despite the 95% Chance of Golden Showers

Please watch this video if you haven't yet seen it:

Isn’t that great? If that doesn’t put a smile on your face then you are probably not human and you didn't see it because you were too busy licking your irises. Every time I log into Facebook I’m hit with a virtual money shot of positivity and this video is just one example of the “uplifting” things that I see there daily. Sure, it sprays into my eyes and ruins my shirt but that’s okay. This kind of stuff makes people feel good and it’s comforting to think altruism exists.

Of course that bit about altruism isn’t necessarily true. Experiments aimed at proving its existence have been, at best, inconclusive. The most thorough studies, the ones removing as many undesirable variables as possible, show that altruism, as we define it, exists only if a person feels they are being observed. The best argument against its existence is made in Chapter 3 of the book Super Freakonomics*. They analyze multiple experiments, the results of which would have Jesus questioning his decision. You’re probably thinking that the video above shows numerous examples of altruism, and you’re correct. If controlled experiments show that people are self-serving then what you see in the video is just anomalous behavior.

Now here is a fictional and slightly exaggerated example of a common Facebook thread I observe:
  • Status Update : “Standing out in the rain got me sick but it was so worth it to help all those kittens find a home!”
  • Comment 1: “I hate, hate, hate this! No one helping kittens should get sick!
  • Comment 2: “’If you haven’t got charity in your heart then you have the worst kind of heart trouble’ – Bob Hope”
  • Comment 3: “Hopefully this video will make you feel better. You're a beautiful person and if everyone had a heart like yours the whole world would be like this":

If studies show people to be altruistic only under observation, why the outpouring of love for humanity on Facebook? I don't necessarily observe this love of, and belief in, our fellow man outside of that website. People don't seem to maintain that worldview, including some of the ones posting this stuff. 

I truly don't care how optimistic and hopeful people are but it feels fake. In essence I don’t understand the need to constantly let everyone know how good of a person you are, or how much love you have in your heart. Is there an election I don’t know about? Are they merely trying to convince themselves they are good? If the altruism experiments imply the primary motivation for doing the right thing is based upon a concern of judgement on one's actions, then I can’t help but wonder if those oozing positivity on Facebook do so for the same reason. Some people are naturally cheery and maintain that demeanor in the face of all adversity. Most often, positive attitudes are negatively correlated with dislike and/or disagreement, meaning if you cross them a venemous non-Facebook persona will manifest itself.

My response to that security camera video shows a different and more commonly documented human behavior. In both cases, the people were not conscious of the cameras:

A herd of Ginormous Americanus altuistically trample two people to save $50 on a late model HDTV

Would you believe people say I’m a cynic? Oh, it’s true! It’s true! Some even go so far as to call me negative. Can you believe that? Of course I'm a cynic! You'd probably be more shocked to find out I'm divorced. That being said, I’m not negative and I don’t constantly piss on people’s parades. Yes, I think the worst of people, society, and the human condition, but I laugh at it. I acknowledge and choose to laugh at all the shitty aspects life rather than let them bring me down. I make jokes - some may be offensive - and I may challenge someone’s thoughts or beliefs in the process but I don’t do it because I’m negative. I do it because I honestly think everything can be funny and people need to laugh more. People need to stop being so goddamn defensive about their opinion. Do I offend people? A few I'm sure. The vast majority understand that I'm joking and laugh saying I have a "sardonic wit", which I take as a compliment. I think inciting laughter in anyone is a positive attribute regardless of topic. Laughter heals, after all.

I get frustrated when I see this outpouring of positivity on Facebook because I see it as cliche at this point. It is an extension of the 1960's hippy mentality that love will heal all. That mentality has been the cutting edge of social revolution for 50 years now and it hasn't gotten us anywhere. It's great if you love people and you believe people possess the ability to move mountains by working together. All I'm saying is that it hasn't really accomplished anything and while some groups are more socially accepted, the entire working class has suffered at the hands of big business, big finance, big banking, big marketing, big corrupt politicians, and a wealthy class that simply can't seem to get enough. 

As a father, I am very concerned with the world in which my children grow up and what type of world they will inherit. I don’t want them to become indebted wage slaves living paycheck to paycheck, lucky if they can eat and pay the bills because they are taxed so heavily to pay off debt incurred from perpetual warfare while billionaires continue to make billions  and corporations get billion dollar tax returns I would prefer they have a working atmosphere, access to health care, and, above all, freedom to do what they wish, when they wish, how they wish (within reason) without concern of money, concern of offending someone, or penalty of law. I hope that they will not have to filter fact from bullshit out of news content. I hope they don't have marketers enticing them to indebt themselves for unnecessary material goods. I get frustrated because society as a whole doesn’t seem to share my concerns and all of our kids are going to inherit a steaming pile of ill-formed peanutty shit. You ever notice there are no advertisements for ill-formed peanutty shit? That's because it's so awful that even people with marketing degrees cannot make it sound good. 

Recently I was stuck in traffic and I took notice of the number of cars around me. I was surrounded by hundreds of strangers on one patch of I-64, strangers just trying to get wherever it is they go to do whatever it is they do. Some of these people have stickers on their car espousing political beliefs, musical preferences, sports preferences, or showing stick figure families. There were truck nuts, car eyelashes, and various other forms of self-expression I loathe. Meanwhile, a song playing on my stereo sampled the following monologue from Network**:

It dawned on me. I’m that guy. I'm Howard Beale! Sure, that video is outdated but it is still relevant. Technology has made our world tiny and there is a global recession. Crime is down, but spree killings are up, which is terrifying. Yes, people seem outraged in some ways but they also seem fearful and content in others. At the very least they seem unwilling to break routine. 

Of course, in real life people would see that guy on TV and say "he's fucking nuts!" So, I guess I'm "fucking nuts" for being that guy. Being conscious of your proximity to hundreds of people on a 3 mile stretch of interstate really puts the U.S. population into perspective. I always knew the world didn't revolve around me or the sun that shines out of my ass, but I failed to realize how big America is, let alone the world. When you're surrounded by strangers as far as the eye can see and you can tell that most of them are content with their lives - inside their overpriced vehicles, listening to talk radio, buried in their smart phones, posting what a beautiful day it is to be in stuck in gridlock - it's infuriating to someone that thinks the world is going to shit. It is evident by the political bumper stickers that many people do not question what they are told by pundits or the media, let alone think for themselves. The entertainment stickers and car decorations give you an idea of their priorities, their interests, and show a pension to spend money on pointless pop-culture phenomena. No, not all of them can be lumped into a single category, but I got the idea that many of them are so wrapped up in everyday stress that they don't even realize everyday kind of sucks a little more than the last. 

I am Howard Beale's fear of impotency. The most unrealistic thing about the Howard Beale monologue is that he's actually saying that on TV. I am deeply dissatisfied with our culture, our government, and our future and I have no means of riling up the masses. 

Am I only one with this worldview? It often seems a majority of Americans are complacent and ignorant of exactly how screwed I think we are. They seem to think their life is great. Several polls  actually indicate many Americans are dissatisfied with government performance. Other  ones show people are dissatisfied and pessimistic about the economy***. While even more show people think we need to raise taxes on the wealthy. From Teabaggers to Occupiers to the "silent majority" there is divide on both problems and solutions. Problems and solutions don't matter if everyone continues with business as usual. People in general:
  • Distrust politicians and disapprove of their performance yet continuously vote for one of two parties that seem to differ on social issues which are never legislated while those that are legislated benefit the wealthy and big business, not the commoners.
  • Hate outsourcing yet continue to support companies that outsource or buy goods manufactured from outsourced plants
  • Despise a company’s business model but continue shopping there
  • Feel our education system is terrible but don't participate in local elections
  • Complain about traffic but refuse to carpool or use public transportation
  • Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera

Positive atitudes are great for small scale individual changes, lifestyle changes, and business models. A positive mindset has helped me quit smoking, lose weight, maintain an exercise regimen, raise 4 children, and, most importantly, not put a bullet in the head of my depression riddled void of a life. Unfortunately, great societal changes are always born out of anger, not complacency and positivism. The American Revolution, abolition, Civil Rights, universal suffrage, colonial independence, European austerity protests, and damn near every revolution you can name, including the non-violent ones, are born out of anger. Yes, revolutionaries and protestors often remain positive about their mission and its outcome, but movements would never happen if people just sat around exchanging niceties and hoping for the best.

How many times have you heard someone say that they are going to rid their lives of "negative" people. If someone is a human Eeyore, just a sad sorry sack that never has anything positive to say and serves only to depress everyone with endless nonconstructive commentary, solution-less criticism, and nothing worthwhile to contribute, by all means, kick them in the taint until the stuffing comes out. On the other hand, if they are well-informed and are merely challenging your perception of reality, you should probably have a conversation with them. Long before smart phones, internet, computers, television, and radio, people used to do this thing called talking. They exchanged ideas. They didn't regurgitate what some corporate media asshole told them. They read books and articles and then discussed them with friends, neighbors, and acquaintances. They didn't stop discussing things with people that had a different views because that is how you learn. You want to be positive? Try understanding opposing views instead of judging them. 

I understand the positive outlook view. I get it and I have it on certain topics. The optimism/pessimism debate is just so cliché. People put so much emphasis on how the glass should be viewed that they fail to acknowledge it isn’t full either way****.  

No, I don't have all the answers. Answers aren't necessary until enough people are fed up with the problem. Polls show people are getting there, but actions show complacency and Facebook shows fuck-all about shit about fuck-all about shit about fuck-all but a bunch of rainbows and kittens. Social media should be a catalyst of change, a springboard for new ideas, and a forum for discussion and spreading information. Instead, technology has only helped people to cipher out all ideas that oppose their worldview and, as a result, they isolate their mind and learn nothing.

I honestly think contented positivity is part of the problem. We can all hold hands, sit Indian-style, and sing Don’t Worry Be Happy, but it won’t change anything. Thinking the best of people and plugging your charitable open-mindedness on social media is not going to change anything. We cannot meditate our problems away. It isn't easy and it isn't supposed to be. Businesses notice when people stop shopping there. Politicians notice when you don't vote for them. Outsourcing companies notice when sales decline. Banks notice when accounts are closed and people stop borrowing. The individual can make a difference in numbers. It takes inconveniencing yourself. As George W. Bush would say "Ya gotta stay the course. Now where's my Spaghetti-O's?" Research the current protests in Europe that are not being covered by our media because they are already dealing with things that are coming soon to an America near you. Research how Iceland handled their economic crisis and how they're recovering in comparison to the U.S. and see if you you still think a belief in human altruism is getting us anywhere positive.

If you really want positive change, a positive society where humanity and love can flourish, where there's kittens and puppies in every household, and random acts of senseless hugging in the street, Godammit, you’ve first got to get mad! 

 * Great read and I highly recommend it.
** Great movie and I highly recommend it.
*** That's right I said they're pessimistic.
****It probably contains piss.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Act IV: In Which Congress Brings Out the Gimp*

For some reason our media labels US economic crises with cute names. We don't have market failures, we have "bubbles".  We don't have a fiscal crisis, we have a "debt ceiling". The latest economic crisis, the "Fiscal Cliff" - a  phrase which they've beaten into the ground - was recently "resolved". The resolution was accompanied by a barrage of bi-partisan Congressional self praise which is infuriating considering the fact that they responsible for the crisis in the first place.

The resolution of 2011's "Debt Ceiling Crisis" resulted in 2012's "Fiscal Cliff Crisis". In a nutshell, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was set to go into effect January 1, 2013 and, among other things, it was to repeal the Bush era tax cuts, end specific business tax breaks, and initiate several spending cuts. All of this was going to coincide with the beginning of Obamacare taxation. The overall effect of less expendable middle class income, business expense cuts (jobs anyone?), and a decrease in government services would have,at best, worsened the current recession. 2011's "Debt Ceiling Resolution" merely postponed the fiscal crisis until 2013 at which point it was relabeled a "Fiscal Cliff" to make it seem like a completely separate issue.

As usual, Republicans don't want to raise taxes, especially on the wealthy, and seek to solve the problem through spending cuts. Democrats want to solve the problem by raising taxes on those making more than $250,000 per year without any spending cuts. Neither way will work. Most every economist agrees, at a minimum, taxes need to increase on the wealthy, if not everyone, and that spending cannot continue undeterred if there is to ever be any semblance of a budget. Still, neither side will concede nor bring any new ideas to the table.

So what happened in this "resolution"? Democrats caved on the $250,000 target and agreed to increase taxes on individuals making more than $400,000 ($450k for couples). This is a marginal tax increase meaning that those affected will pay the normal tax rate on the first $399,999 of their income and the higher rate on only the amount that goes over $400,000. Seriously, that really isn't going to help too much. Don't worry, the middle class will ALSO get a tax increase because Congress failed to extend the "Social Security Tax Holiday" which forced employers to cover 2% of all their employees Social Security contributions. Now that 2% will, once again, come from employee income. As a result, people making around $50,000 can look to pay nearly $1,000 additional in taxes per year. Any reduction in middle class income can have a negative effect on our economy because they are the key consumers and spend larger portions of their incomes than the wealthy. All spending cut decisions were postponed a few weeks for a 2nd "Debt Ceiling Crisis". If past behavior is any indication how this year's debt ceiling crisis will be handled it will be the same childish partisan pissing contest we always see. Last time it affected our credit score. With any luck this time it can ruin the world economy (which is actually possible given US economic influence).

In truth our economy is screwed no matter what. The successes we've experienced are only due to stimulus money from the past two administrations. Economic stimulus packages the equivalent of treating gangrene with a band-aid: It ain't fixing shit and the infection is steadily spreading.

Here are three simple thoughts regarding taxing and spending that would be really beneficial but that no one talks about:

1) Why are we protecting the wealthy? How does that benefit us? Do we really need an upper class? Is it necessary they exist? I'm sick of the favoritism ALL politicians show them, from taxes to loopholes to special interest legislation. This isn't solely a Republican thing either. Republicans are just the more honest about who they serve.

If you say something stupid like "the wealthy create jobs" I'm going to kick you in the ding-ding**. Anyone that believes that should be stuffed into a box filled with AIDS tainted razor blades and rolled down a rocky slope into a vat of Phall curry. They don't start companies out of the goodness of their hearts or out of some  sense of civic duty. It's all about money. They exploit the working class - pay as few people as little as possible with as few benefits as possible - and hoard the profits. Even though the government looks out for them, the wealthy use loopholes to avoid paying taxes at all costs. They bite the hand that feeds them, employee and overseer alike.

I'm not a communist and I'm not saying we should seize all their money. I'm saying that if government insists on maintaining a progressive income based tax system, then we should progressively tax the shit out the wealthy because that's the way a progressive income tax system is supposed to work. They'll be okay. They're rich.

While I'm on the subject. I'm also sick of hearing millionaires argue that they aren't paying enough in taxes. If you truly feel you are not paying your fair share, give some of your money to the government willingly or shut up. It's bad enough that we pay more in taxes without having you rub it in our faces, asshole.

2) When it comes to spending cuts, why are we always looking to cut social programs? I've got a great idea. STOP FUCKING KILLING BROWN PEOPLE. It's simple. The bottom line is that we could place a 90% tax rate on everyone making more than $450,000 and it would maybe pay for a week of all our current military operations. Since 2011, apart from Iraq and Afghanistan, US forces have also been active in Libya, Jordan, Somalia, Uganda, Pakistan, and Yemen. In addition, the US contributes a majority of the soldiers and weapons to UN operations. We've seen what one day of war costs and it's insane.

We engage these wars for two reasons: Hegemony and Resources. If you look at this as an investment (money invested versus the return) it seems like an awful idea. Even a smart businessman would say "Can we kill these people more cheaply? No? Well then stop killing them". Why would we not even consider stopping our wars and/or closing our overseas military bases? It is a huge drain on the budget that helps only the rich, big business, and government power...oh, never mind. I forgot these things trump logic and the well being of the citizenry.

If you say we do this to "export democracy" or to "protect our freedom" you should be teabagged with ipecac coated balls. The best way to export democracy would be allowing countries to set up their own government without US coercion to attain influence. Also, none of these countries are a threat to America at all, end of story. I said "brown people" because most of our military action seems to occur in the "military powerhouses" of the Middle East and Africa.

Someone might say "these people hate our freedom". To that person I would say, "you, sir, did not have a good enough grasp on the English language to be President". If they hate freedom so much why aren't they attacking Holland, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Sweden, or any other country more free than our own.

3) Congress itself is a giant waste of Federal money. They don't really do anything, but when they do, it's really shitty (ethically, morally, qualitatively, and quantitatively shitty). We should institute term limits, require transparent campaign financial records, reduce Congressional salaries, and, most importantly, disband the House of Representatives. The last point is key. These fuckers are held responsible by too small of a constituency. As a result, they may believe and say crazy shit that is important only to the people of Beaufort County, MS (for example) but still have influence on legislation that affects everyone. Since they can speak their batshit crazy views without fear of losing their seat, they even have some sway on public opinion. The House of Representatives is essentially an institutional WWE-Barnum Brothers hybrid where the craziest shit is said, the most fighting occurs***, and most legislation is tainted. It is antiquated, no longer relevant, and was only created to make it seem like states matter. They don't. Ask Colorado and Washington how much money they are making off the legalization of marijuana.

I find Congressional incompetence infuriating. They are the main problem with our government. The 113th Congress has recently convened for the first time but the previous Congress had an average 18% approval rating in 2012. A recent report indicates their approval rating is as low as 5%. Congressional approval ratings have averaged 33% since 1974. You read that correctly. Despite continuous widespread disapproval, we tend to reelect incumbents approximately 85% of the time. Until people hold them accountable for their actions, nothing will change. If they had term limits and knew they would soon be part of the private sector they would have more incentive to act in the interest of everyone. As it stands now, private sector life really isn't a consideration for most of them. I wish I had a job where my boss had such low expectations that I could disregard my responsibilities to the point that the reputation of both myself and my profession suffered, all while having no threat of actually losing my job. That's a lower expectation than that of meteorologists. The reputation of a professional politician is rivaled only by that of Lawyers and Used Car Salesmen, all of which stay gainfully employed despite public perception that they are slimy, untrustworthy, douchebags.

A man can dream.

    *To clarify, we would be Marcellus Wallace in this scenario and fuck you if you don't get the reference. 
  **That goes for ladies too.
***Pelosi from the top turnbuckle! She misses! Boehner slaps her in the Figure 4 and she taps! She taps! $400,000 it is!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Intermission: Stretch the Ol' Legs and What Not

No ranting this week. I attended Tidewater Community College's (TCC) commencement ceremony on Thursday, December 20, 2012. All of the speakers were dull and uninspiring. My attention waxed and waned like porn star pubes. I managed to tune in to a few speeches and what follows are my thoughts on them.

Congressman Scott Rigell was booked as the Commencement Speaker but was unable to attend due to an "emergency Fiscal Cliff" vote (which never came to fruition). He was replaced at the last minute by a forgettable 
local sexagenarian businessman, TCC alumni, and obvious Caucasian whose name I escapes me because I didn't care. If white people had a James Brown - someone that exudes whiteness - it would be this guy. In spite of his appearance he repeatedly referred to himself as the "Last of the Mohicans", a metaphor to illustrate how both academics and business have changed since he attended TCC. I had never really thought about how much 18th century Indians* and 20th century businessmen had in common but I must say he was spot on. 

  1. I believe it was Powhatan who said "People are definitely a company's greatest asset. It doesn't make any difference whether the product is cars or cosmetics. A company is only as good as the people it keeps."
  2. The Narraganssett once intentionally misreported the amount pelts in supply and, as a result, several of its people froze to death during an early onset of winter. Fortunately, Chief Enron had an abundance of pelts to trade and thus made huge profits which he shared with no one. 
  3. Lastly, who can forget the great merger of the Seneca, Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, and Onondaga tribes? It created a monopoly that the British had to break up shortly after the French and Indian War. In their few years of existence they revolutionized workers' rights by inventing casual Fridays and boosted morale by creating and instituting an annual office Christmas party. It was said that what happened at an Iroquois office Christmas party...was mostly a lot of crying over litter.

They made certain to mention this honky was TCC alumni. I assumed they failed to mention the 4-year degree he also likely attained from another school. It turned out he did have additional education, a "Mini-MBA". I didn't even know such a thing existed. It is less than 100 hours of of class time focusing on business fundamentals that yields no college credit or certification. Essentially, it is a 5 weekend business seminar and at the end you get a something official sounding for a resume. TCC didn't dwell on the mini-MBA and, of course, focused on tooting their own horn.

His alumni status and wealth were the only reasons he was asked to speak. How do I know he is wealthy? If they put the average TCC graduate up there to regale the audience with tales of middle management it would make the graduates feel like they wasted their money. They have to spring for the anomal rich alum. He is the TCC equivalent of a Horatio Alger story.

The only other speech that I caught was that of the student speaker. I'm not going to make light of her accomplishment. She was graduating with a 4.0 GPA and that is a hell of a feat in any institution. That being said, I would compare her speech to an episode of MTV's Teen Mom, dull, uninsightful, and poorly read. She first made it clear that she had "made some mistakes in her past" and later informed us of her intent to pursue a Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a focus on Drug Counseling so she could "help other addicts". Telling a Convocation Center full of strangers you are a recovering drug addict is a hell of an N.A. meeting. In truth it wasn't even anonymous because her full name was listed in the program. Although I could be reading too much into her words, I'm not the only one that drew that conclusion. It seems like someone with a 4.0 GPA would have removed the word "other" when editing their speech so as not to label/mislabel themselves. If she is a recovering addict I seriously doubt she wanted everyone to know.

That's all.

P.S. Did you know TCC has an alma mater? I have two degrees from the school and was unaware. The phrase "TCC" (not Tidewater Community College, but TCC) is sung dramatically in verse. It was so moving I began laughing in the middle of the song. 

* I call them Indians because, as I understand it, they prefer that to "Native American" which uses a name white   
   people gave their land after conquering them.