Monday, January 31, 2011

Life inside the bubble

I'll admit it. I don't know a whole lot about what's going on in Egypt. But I'm learning more each day. If you had asked me 10 days ago who their president was, (it's Hosni Mubarak by the way, for the time being) I would have had no clue . And that's sad.

As Americans, we are incredibly isolated from the rest of the world. And for the most part, we view that as a good thing. We only share borders with 2 countries, one of whom is viewed as a big-ass 51st state by most of us. The other one is largely looked at as our supplier of cheap labor and a place to get drunk on spring break.

So when hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to protest their government in a land over 6,000 miles away, we barely bat an eyelash. Just another group of weird foreigners getting upset about some shit that doesn't affect me.

Except that it does.

Despite our geographically removed location, we are more involved in what happens around the world than any other nation. Our interests and our influence reach nearly ever country, on every continent.

US-built tanks and weapons are on the ground in Egypt. Our relationship with Israel, and by extension the rest of the middle east, has deep roots in our ties with Egypt. We rely on Egypt for intelligence assistance. And their control over the Suez canal makes them a big player on the global trade stage.

And that's just a very simplified look at things. The reality is much messier and more complex. Which explains why the US is currently taking a pretty moderate approach to the whole process.

But my guess is that most Americans don't even know about all that. Or care. The only concern they probably have is if it will increase the likelihood of terrorism here at home. The short answer to that question seems to be 'maybe'. Revolution is rarely pretty. And the emotions run high on all sides. You never really know how it's going to play out.

But we should be concerned with much more than terrorism. Not just now, but always. We've created a government (yes, we created it, we elected these people) that has put our nation in a position of tremendous influence. So we must accept the responsibility that goes along with that influence. That means we can't sit back and pretend the rest of the world doesn't matter.

At some point we need to turn off "The Biggest Loser" and read a newspaper. Maybe even crack open a book or two. I know that sounds soooooo boring but it's absolutely necessary.

Because, if the recent economic collapse has taught us anything, it's that all bubbles burst eventually.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Law and Order: Except for Corporations

It's funny. You'd think that the party that supports the death penalty for retarded criminals and thinks locking up pot dealers for 30 years is a wise idea would be okay with asking the corporate world to follow a few rules.

Apparently not.

At every turn, republicans cry about regulation. How can businesses compete with all these regulations! You're strangling the free market! It's just not fair!

How about being a fucking adult and following some rules like the rest of us?

We don't get to kill people, businesses don't get to create products that maim children. We don't get to punch people in the face, businesses don't get to screw over poor people with abusive loan practices. We don't get to piss in public, business don't get to dump poison into the water system.

Seems quite fair, really. And it seems like the kind of shit that conservatives would be all for, given how much they seem to love telling people what to do and how to live their lives.

But apparently the same rules don't apply to our corporate friends. They should be free to shit all over the damn country and fuck anyone they want. Otherwise they won't be able to create jobs for those same people they just fucked and shit on.

The solution seems simple. We should all establish ourselves as corporations. Then, we'd all be able to do whatever the hell we want, with no consequences.

We might even get a bailout too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guns don't kill people but they sure make it easy

So it's been a little over 2 weeks since the tragic shootings in Tuscon. It would seem the stage has been set for an honest debate on sensible gun laws.

And yet we are already hearing the same old bullshit line, 'guns don't kill people, people kill people' from the gun lobby and the politicians they have bought and paid for.

Apparently this 'argument' works on some people. "Yeah, they're right, that gun didn't walk out of the house and shoot itself at those people! It's not the poor gun's fault!"

You know what? It kinda is the poor gun's fault. Because it's a hell of a lot easier to take someone out with an AK-47 than it is using your bare hands or even a knife. Have you ever tried killing someone without a gun? It's fucking hard. When you get close to people they can fight back. And would-be murder victims are typically a feisty bunch.

Unless, of course, they've got a few lead slugs bouncing around their brain. That tends to mellow them out a bit.

So, to settle this debate once and for all, I've come up with the perfect solution.

I hereby challenge any gun supporter to a duel. My weapon? A Glock 19 with a 31-magazine clip. You, my opponent, will get your choice of a switchblade, a baseball bat or a crowbar.

Ready, killer?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Was Jesus a dick?

Jesus must've been a real asshole. How else can you explain all the ridiculous shit people do and say in his name? Killing gays, bombing abortion clinics, and now this.

A teacher in Ohio has decided that burning crosses into his students' skin was a great way to help them "understand science with the discerning eye of Christian doctrine."

Pardon the pun but Jesus Fucking Christ! Are you serious? This "I love Jesus so I have free reign to do whatever crazy ass shit I want" crap has got to stop.

I know you can find a bible passage that'll confirm just about any whacked out idea that pops into your tiny skull but would it kill these freaks to focus on some of the good shit?

All of the stuff that might actually do our country some good seems to get dismissed by most self-proclaimed Jesus lovers.

That whole turn the other cheek thing? What am I a pussy?

That whole give your money away thing? What am I a commie?

That whole 'he who is without sin shall cast the first stone' thing? Doesn't say anything about guns, so I'm cool with that one I guess.

That whole love your enemies thing? Gay.

That whole do unto others thing? Really gay.

And so we end up focusing on the shit that makes people fearful and angry. People use Jesus as a crutch for their own insecurities. It is not enough to state your argument. You must quote scripture to support your case and guilt people into agreeing with you.

Well guess what? It's time to turn the tables. Because for every 'God hates fags' quote you find, I can find 10 quotes that say you should love those very same fags with the whole of your blackened, withered soul. So I'm gonna start pushing scripture right back up your ass. And you're gonna like it.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Repeal and reveal

True to their word, the republicans in congress have voted to repeal "Obamacare".

True to their word, they have voted to deny coverage to people with pre-exisiting health conditions.

True to their word, they have voted to allow insurance companies to discontinue coverage at any time, for no reason.

True to their word, they have voted to keep parents from including their young adult children on their policies.

True to their word, they have voted to increase the deficit by $100 billion over the next ten years.

True to their word, they have voted to allow insurance companies to arbitrarily cap the amount of coverage you can get in a year.

True to their word, they have voted to allow insurance companies to arbitrarily cap the amount of coverage you can get in a lifetime.

True to their word, they have voted to deny you the ability to get preventative care like mammograms, immunizations and pre-natal care at no cost.

True to their word, they have voted to prevent you from having a guaranteed choice of primary care doctor.

True to their word, they have voted to deny you the right to the same type of health care coverage that members of congress already receive.

Now, of course, this vote really doesn't mean a damn thing because the bill will never make it through the Senate and would be vetoed by the president anyway.

But isn't it nice to finally have some people in office who keep their word?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Super-sized stupidity

Okay, so anyone who reads this blog knows I am generally pretty liberal. So it may come as a surprise that I am about to call out one of our most liberal cities for one of the most ridiculous abuses of government power I've seen in a long time.

Late last year, San Francisco banned the Happy Meal. In a world where stupidity has become the new normal, this turd-riddled piece of legislation still manages to amaze me.

You want to make sure people are aware that McDonald's food is unhealthy? Put out a pamphlet. You want to protect children from the evil temptations of marketers? Write an op-ed piece. You want to make sure that kids get the kind of food they need to grow into healthy adults? Instead of wasting tax dollars enforcing an absurd and draconian policy, how about subsidizing food that is actually good for children? Work on making nutritious shit more readily available to everyone.

And most importantly, ensure that the people who should be in charge of the food kids eat—their parents—take a little responsibility.

By eliminating happy meals, you have not done a single damn thing to make our kids healthier. You've simply given their parents an easy out. You've done their work for them. But do you really think they are going to stop feeding their kids crap? Don't think so. Next time they bypass the Mickey Dee's because Junior can't get his fix, they will probably swing by the local mini-mart and fuel up on ho-hos and twinkies, because they're tasty as hell and really fucking cheap.

Unless you've already outlawed those too.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Capitalism is not conservative

Take 300 million people. Mix in about 15 Trillion bucks. Now let those 300 million go after that 15 trillion like a pack of wild dogs to a truckload of brisket.

That's pretty much how our economy works. And generally, it works reasonably well. But the one thing it most certainly is not, is conservative.

History has shown that man's drive for another dollar is virtually without restraint. And why not? With that additional dollar comes the embedded promise of more sex, more travel, more fun and a generally more awesome life.

Not that that's always how things turn out, but that's definitely the way we like to spin things here in America.

So not surprisingly, we fight tooth and nail for every last penny. Only the strongest survive. If you're inherently smarter? You've got a leg up. Better looking? Another leg up. Well connected family? Two more legs up. And the reverse holds true as well. If you're a poor, not-so-intelligent, ugly person from an ordinary family? Sorry Quasimodo, but you're gonna have a pretty tough time of it.

Now, that's not to say you won't make it big if you face those obstacles, but wow, people will be shocked when you do. Just look at how the world reacted when they realized that Susan Boyle woman could actually sing. Do you really think she would've received the same reaction if she looked like Christina Aguilera? Not likely.

Point is, capitalism chews people up and spits them out every day. For all the winners you read about in People Magazine or Fast Company, there are an equal if not greater amount of losers.

Which is why, being the generally kind-spirited human beings that we are, we created a safety net to care for those who either fall through the cracks or quite simply don't have the necessary tools to succeed in our flawed system.

It's a pretty conservative approach, really. Allow people to work or run businesses, with a virtually limitless upward income potential. In return, we ask you to take some of that money you earn and put it into the kitty to care for those who haven't been so fortunate. Perhaps one day you'll need to dip into that rainy day fund. If you think you are above it, you're kidding yourself.

But despite the conservative nature of a well-funded safety net, it is political conservatives who cry the loudest for it's repeal. Unemployment benefits? Find a job you lazy shit! Health care? Stop getting sick fatso! Food stamps? You'll probably just use the money for crack!

Ironically, these same politicians and pundits who call poorer people lazy, fat, drug addicts are usually the laziest, fattest, drug riddled mother fuckers around. How many of these douches have ever had a real job? How many can even see their damn dicks without looking in a mirror and holding their guts up? And how many of these a-holes are caught partying with a pound of coke up their nose? Usually, with a 16-year-old intern stashed away in the closet as well.

If you're truly a conservative, then be one. Be in favor of a reasoned, careful approach to capitalism that rewards success sufficiently but also takes care of those who don't quite make it.

If you want to keep pushing your Randian philosophy, fine. Just accept the fact that you are not a conservative. You're just a selfish dick.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The belly vs. the brain

The political debate is no longer simply a matter of right vs. left. The larger battle is between those who think policy should be based on gut feelings and those who believe that reason should play a larger role.

To those of us on the left, it seems that the right these days is dominated by people from the belly camp. It wasn't always so. There was a time when intellect and education were points of pride for conservatives like William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman and others.

Now, it's a liability if you appear intelligent or god forbid, well-read. Potential presidential candidates  announce with glee their reading list of one, which is typically a book by another non-reading, non-intellectual right winger.

It doesn't leave much room for thoughtful policy. But it does explain why there seems to be such a wide divide between the two parties these days.

On immigration:

The belly sees 'others' are a threat. Therefore immigrants from other countries who bypass the cumbersome legal immigration process are immediately tagged with the 'criminal' badge. It's not surprising that this also leads to angry protests, bitter confrontations and reckless law making.

The brain applies reason and sees that the larger issue is the immigration process itself. We have a large need for people to do the work that most of our citizens won't do. And yet, a green card is almost impossible to come by. So while it may not be an ideal situation, illegal immigration is seen as a necessary response to a greatly flawed system. This leads to calls for a more open immigration system, including a way to absorb those who are already here illegally.

On defense:

The belly wants revenge. When we are attacked or our interests are attacked, we attack back, tenfold. You fuck with me you get fucked worse. It appeals to our base instincts, but it is not always the best policy.

The brain views things a bit more carefully. While this may not satisfy the blood lust we often feel when threatened, it can potentially save us from getting into situations that end up serving no one's interest and leaves thousands of innocent people dead.

On healthcare:

The belly viciously seeks to protect the status quo with the fervor of a mama bear protecting her cubs. I got mine, go get yours. Health care is not viewed as a right, but rather a privilege for those who work hard enough to earn it. Now to some, that may seem like a perfectly fair approach. But while it may satisfy our competitive nature, it greatly oversimplifies the reasons why people don't have coverage and results in policy that is both expensive and ineffective.

The brain sees healthcare as a right. This is a conclusion generally arrived at by recognizing that we are all sharing this planet for a limited time and it only makes sense that the more of us who can enjoy that experience, the better it will be for everyone. A sense of fairness, which typically comes from the brain vs the gut, is also at play here. If I have good health care, surely my neighbor deserves it as well. This brain-led approach leads to a more universal approach to policy.

On guns and crime:

The belly likes to see the world as an old Clint Eastwood movie, where justice is handed down swiftly and without time for questions.  Unimpeded by a trip through the brain, justice gets messy. And innocent people usually die. The belly sees guns as porn. One is fun but the more you bring to the party, the merrier. And the more you get, the more you need to satisfy your lust.

The brain sees the world as newer Eastwood flick. It may be violent and dangerous at times, but it is also beautiful and awe inspiring and worthy of reflection. Owning a gun may or may not be a good choice. But the choice is made after careful thought and consideration. Justice may come at a slower pace than the belly is begging for, but it is also usually delivered with a more measured hand.

Not surprisingly, it's a hell of a lot easier to sell 'belly' policy vs. 'brain' policy. It's like putting a broccoli stand next to a McDonald's. Sure, you know the broccoli is better for you, but who the hell doesn't want a Big Mac?

Which is why it's also not surprising the the right is currently in a strong belly-led policy phase. The recession has left people scared and looking for fast relief. When times get tough, the gut takes over. It was pretty shrewd thinking on the Republicans part to appeal to this side of our nature, which helped lead them to a rout in the last election.

But just like the guy who chooses the Big Mac over the broccoli, it will ultimately leave our country in worse shape. Sooner or later, you gottta eat your vegetables.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The definition of presidential

You saw it last night. President Obama delivered a pitch perfect speech to a shocked and saddened nation. He chose to use this moment to inspire and unite our country in the face of an ever increasing divide between citizens.

In contrast, his potential 2012 opponent chose this moment to deliver an incredibly self-serving, self-pitying and offensive address. That she chose to do so the same day that Obama was to speak is also quite telling.

Ideology aside, can anyone honestly say they would feel more comfortable with Ms. Palin at the helm during a national crisis after yesterday's performance? When the country needed comfort and reassurance, all she could muster was spite and political posturing.

It's okay for the media and the public to share their anger and frustration at they ways they believe our current system may have contributed to this tragedy.  But for one who aspires to the top elected position in the land? You need to be bigger than that. You need to seize the moment and make the country feel confident that there are better days ahead.

Obama did that last night. Palin? She blew it. And quite possibly (fingers crossed), may have blown her chances at the presidency as well.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You don't need a 30-shooter to defend yourself

So now that we know a little more about the situation in Arizona, many have turned their focus from the issue of inflamed political rhetoric to the issue of gun control.

I still believe that the hot-headed anti-government anger that we've witnessed over the last couple of years had to have had some influence on this young, deranged man. And as I said previously, I don't think that dialog should be silenced. But it should be denounced.

Now, some (like Arizona's John McCain) are saying that this event shouldn't force us to rethink our current, extremely lax gun laws.


What sort of danger are you envisioning where the need to fire off 30 bullets in less than five seconds is the only way to protect yourself? Are you just that bad of a shot that you need as many tries as possible?

I have no problem with someone buying a gun to protect their family, as long as they are prepared to handle the responsibility that goes along with it. But don't fucking tell me you need an arsenal to keep everyone safe. A nice six-shooter should do you just fine, Rambo.

Now, I understand the gun lobby is heavily invested in selling their firepower to every man, woman and child on the planet. Why wouldn't they be? The more guns and ammo they sell, the more money they make.

But it's time to strip them of that 2nd amendment cloak they've been wearing for years now. Stop pretending you give a shit about anyone's 'rights' and admit you're just trying to make a boatload of cash.

If you ever actually read the 2nd amendment, you'd realize it's a pretty bewildering set of words, open to quite a broad range of interpretations. But what it most certainly does not say is that everyone in America has a right to the most deadly type of firepower they can get their hands on.

Where does it stop? Is it okay to own a bazooka? How about a rocket launcher? Maybe a tank? How about a small nuclear missile? No? Too far?

Well, guess what? So is a semi-automatic pistol that can hold a 33-bullet clip. Nobody needs a weapon like that. The worst part? That gun was illegal up until 2004 when President Bush thought it was a good idea to let the semi-automatic weapons ban expire.

It's time to start attacking the gun lobby with same ferocity that has been directed at the tobacco lobby for the last 10 years or so. These people are pushing products whose sole intent is to cause the maximum amount of carnage as quickly as possible. It's fucking despicable and they need to be held accountable.

Will any of our politicians be brave enough to lead that fight? One can only hope.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Free speech does not mean zero accountability

A deranged man shot a congresswoman today. He also shot at least 9 others, killing at least 5 of them. He will hopefully be held accountable for his horrific crimes and pay the highest price.

He is responsible for his actions. But he is not alone.

Now, I am the first person to defend everyone's first amendment right to free speech. I am actually pretty radical on this one. I think you should be able to say just about anything, any time.

But be prepared for the consequences.

Words can incite. Words can influence. Words can push someone over the edge. Trust me on this—I work in advertising.

So when people like Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sara Palin spew their hate, day after day, don't be surprised when someone actually listens. Tell a reasonable person that our president is the devil and they will laugh at you. But tell someone who is already predisposed to violence and they will take it as a call to arms.

And that's what happened today.

So should we remove Beck and the others from the airways? No. But we should use the full force of our right to free speech to condemn them for the part they played in today's tragedy.

I'll go first.

Glen Beck, you are a deranged, sad man who is reckless with your words. When you compare democrats to Nazis and say that liberals hate America, you push the crazies closer to edge.

Rush Limbaugh, you are a calculating, hypocritical, heartless fuck who will say anything to get attention. When you belittle gay people and mock women who actually use their brains, you push the crazies closer to the edge.

And Sara Palin, you are a deceitful half-wit who thinks a wink and a folksy accent is the same thing as telling the truth. When you try to equate end-of-life care to 'death panels' or try to lump all Muslims with the ones who attacked us on 9/11, you push the crazies closer to the edge.

Don't take any of this as a call for censorship, as that would be a misguided response to this horrible crime. But to all of you people who have been pushing your hateful lies onto the public, I do ask you to do one thing.

Wash your hands. Because there is blood all over them today.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why we need more terror

Terrorism has been a boon to the defense industry. Prior to 9/11, military budgets had been in rapid decline and our country was flush with cash.

Now, we spend more money than the next 45 countries combined and hardly anyone complains. Why? Because we are scared shitless. What if that one dollar cut is the dollar that could have saved our lives?

Personally, I think our level of fear is way out of proportion to the level of risk but hey, that's how terrorism works. It's genius, really.

So why not leverage that success into other areas where the risks are actually greater to begin with?

Take healthcare. Your risk of dying from an undiagnosed disease or untreated injury are far greater than your risk of being killed by a terrorist. But yet people had to be dragged kicking and screaming towards a new, more comprehensive healthcare system.

Now, if Osama Bin Laden threatened to shut down our hospitals or cut off our pharmaceutical supply, things would start to happen. We would probably invade Canada and steal their healthcare system, rationing be damned.

And what about unemployment? Sure, people are pretty pissed off about the economy, but yet everyone seems to scream socialism when anyone suggests spending a little money to actually create a few jobs. Hell, they even get upset when you want to give people a little unemployment compensation.

Imagine if the Taliban came over here and started blocking office park entrances or shutting down construction sites. People would be pretty frustrated. We might even be forced to hop the border fence in the hopes of finding work in Mexico. But ultimately, the government would drop a few bombs, cover up the collateral damage and people would be back to work.

Fact is, a lack of adequate healthcare or a job pose a much greater risk to many more people than terrorism. How many thousands die each year because they don't get the medical attention they need? How many children get sick or die because their parents lost their job and have no money to pay for food or shelter?

These are very real threats to our national security. And yet, unlike terrorism, there is no sense of urgency to do anything about them.

Anyone know which cave Bin Laden is hiding in these days? I think we need him to make another tape.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Mega Morons

Okay, first let me come clean and admit that whenever the mega millions jackpot goes over 100 million, I buy tickets.

To put it another way, I am a complete and utter idiot.

How else can you explain the need to waste 5 bucks on tickets for something that will never, ever, ever provide me with any value?

Before you go and pull the old "but you gotta be in it to win it" nonsense, let's do a quick reality check. The odds of winning mega millions are about 1 in 176,000,000. Take a good look at all those zeroes, because that's the number that represents your real chance of winning.

As a point of comparison, your odds of being killed by falling airplane parts are 1 in 10,000,000. Yet, I don't see people rushing out to buy helmets. Your odds of dying from choking are about 1 in 370,000. But this doesn't seem to stop people from shoving McNuggets down their throats faster than Mickey Dee's can pump 'em out.

You actually have a better chance of just about anything happening to you than you do of winning the mega millions. Odds of becoming a saint? 1 in 20,000,000. Odds of winning an academy award? 1 in 11,000. Odds of dating a supermodel? 1 in 88,000.

Oddly enough, the one thing that is actually less likely than winning the mega millions? Dying from shark attack, which comes in at about 1 in 300,000,000. And yet people around the world can't get the theme song from Jaws out of their heads when they are within 5 miles of the ocean. Myself included.


Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A love/hate relationship with Uncle Sam

The following is a transcript of an interview I did over the holiday break with my imaginary tea-party member friend, Ned.

Tjack:  Hey Ned, thanks for agreeing to speak with me.

Ned:  Let's just get this over with. This place ain't bugged is it?

Tjack:  You're the one who insisted on meeting in a porta-potty.

Ned:  Yeah, you can't be too safe these days. Obama's got eyes everywhere.

Tjack:  Um, okay. so i wanted to ask you about your distaste for the federal government.

Ned:  Distaste? Stop using fancy words. I fucking hate the feds, got it?

Tjack:  Sure thing. So why do you fucking hate the feds so much?

Ned: 'Cause they're messin' with my life that's why. Stimulus, healthcare, bailouts. It's too dang much.

Tjack:  But didn't you work on that highway project last year?

Ned: Yeah, so?

Tjack:  Well, that was paid for with stimulus funds.

Ned:  The fuck it was, commie.

Tjack:  It's right there on the government website.

Ned:  Damn feds got a website? Fags. Listen, all those fuckers in Washington should be worried about is protecting our country.

Tjack:  What about social security and medicare?

Ned:  They should keep their filthy paws off both of those, you ask me.

Tjack:  Interesting. I also hear your wife got dropped from her health insurance last year because she got cancer. Aren't you glad the new health plan will allow her to get coverage?

Ned:  That's not what i heard. I read they're going to put her on a space shuttle with other cancer victims, force them all to get abortions and then blow the damn thing up.

Tjack:  I'm pretty sure that's not accurate. Besides, you're wife isn't even pregnant.

Ned:  Not yet, she ain't, heh heh.

Tjack:  Good point. Well, i think I've learned quite a bit about your views on the federal government. Any final thoughts?

Ned:  I only got one thought. And that's to make sure we restore the government to the people.

Tjack:  What about those people who don't agree with you?

Ned:  You mean like the gays and the immigrants? Fuck 'em.

Tjack:  So i have it on the record that you would like to fuck gay immigrants?

Ned:  What? This god-danged interview is over. Get outta my porta-potty!

Tjack:  i thought you'd never ask.