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The Lion’s Share

The Lion's Share

People around the world are revolted by the actions of Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer who while on a hunt in Zimbabwe, was involved in the killing of a lion. Not just any lion as it turned out, but Cecil, one of the most popular lions in the world and a tourist attraction for Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Cecil would have been safe had he remained on park grounds but he was allegedly lured out by Palmer’s guides, who tied an animal carcass to their jeep bringing the lion out onto the property of the ironically named Honest Ndlovu where Palmer shot the lion with a bow and arrow and 40 hours later finished off with a high powered rifle. Palmer then beheaded the lion and skinned him, taking them back to the United States as trophies.

Cecil, named after British businessman and imperialist Cecil Rhodes (for whom the British colony of Rhodesia, which later became Zimbabwe, was also named), was noted for his distinctive black-fringed mane. He often let tourists come within 10 meters of him to take photographs. Current estimates that the loss of the lion will cost Zimbabwe well over $10,000 a day in tourism revenue.

Cecil and another lion, Jericho, had GPS collars affixed to them by the Oxford University Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. It was they who were alerted that something was wrong when Cecil’s collar suddenly stopped sending signals on July 1. When the carcass was discovered, the GPS collar was missing and has as of this date not been found.

Comedian and late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel put my feelings succinctly when he said that he wasn’t against hunting; if you’re doing it to put food on the table, to thin out the herd when the population can’t be supported or for cultural reasons. However, to shoot an animal just to hang it’s head on your wall or drape it’s skin on your rug is abhorrent. Over the last couple of centuries we have hunted literally hundreds of species into extinction and many more to the brink, including the African lion of which less than 30,000 still roam in the wild.

Some might say and with some justification that nobody mourns for the animals that the lions kill, including Cecil, but Cecil nor any of the other lions killed anything for any other reason but to survive. They kill for food, or to defend their territory – that’s it. They don’t kill to display carcasses, or to compensate for small dicks. All of the people I’ve known who have gone hunting have gone hunting to get food – deer, elk, moose. Nobody I know hunt bears, or mountain lions, or anything else. They consume what they eat.

Killing for “sport” is wasteful and cruel. There’s other reason for it other than to satisfy some sort of egotistical urge. There have been far too many photos posted on Facebook pages of smug, happy white faces posing with the animals they have killed. Folks like Ted Nugent, who have come up in support of Palmer, have no conception of what they are inflicting on the environment. Perhaps in order to qualify for a hunting license, you should first be hunted – put in a forest without any weapons, and then allow the inhabitants to press a button which will napalm the whole mother flicking lot of them. It would be no great loss.

In any case, even Nugent would have to admit that Palmer’s guides used illegal methods to bag this lion. They have been arrested and charged in Zimbabwe already. Zimbabwe is already calling for Palmer’s extradition. Palmer himself has gone into hiding, having closed his dental practice and issuing statements of apology.

Sorry, no can do on accepting the apology, Walt. You need to be accountable for your actions. I think the only way he can redeem himself is to go to Zimbabwe and face the legal system there. Palmer claims that he wasn’t aware that anything illegal was going on; I find that hard to believe but he should be allowed to have his day in court and prove his innocence or have its lack thereof proven by the prosecution.

Of course, being a hunter used to taking down animals with weapons they don’t have any sort of defense against, the odds might not be to his liking. Maybe if we make sure that the prosecuting attorneys are either mute or only speak Aramaic and provide no interpreters than maybe the odds will be a little more like what he’s used to. Or do we have to nail them to their chairs as well?

In any case, even though the Internet has moved on to other things to get its panties in a bunch about, the Palmer-Cecil case remains disturbing on a lot of different levels. I’m not sure what sort of extradition treaty we have with Zimbabwe but I imagine that the United States government would be fairly reluctant to have a citizen, particularly a white professional citizen, delivered up to an African nation to face their justice system and, let’s face it here, the courts of Africa are not known for their fair and impartial proceedings. In fact, it might be more fair to say that the courts are Africa are more notorious for their corruption. Of course, American courts are far from perfect as well.

Besides that, the message that seems to be getting sent by those that agree with the Palmer supporters is that American hunters should be free to go to any sovereign nation anywhere in the world, hunt down their animals with impunity and by whatever means necessary without fear of consequences. That simply will not do. Did Palmer break any laws? I can’t say – I’m not an expert in international law or the laws of Zimbabwe specifically. He may well not have broken any laws over there, in which case he should be acquitted which I would expect to happen with the world watching. However, I do believe that there is an accountability issue here and many of those who are screaming that Palmer should be left alone are the ones who scream loudest about accountability when it comes to birth control and poverty. Dr. Palmer should go to Zimbabwe once more and be accountable for his actions, although I suspect he has no intention of doing so. I’m guessing his plan is to hide out in whatever rathole he is in and wait it out until the outcry dies down (it already has) and re-establish his practice once again, resuming his life where he left off. It’s a cowardly move if that is indeed his intention. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me; a man who would kill a living thing from a distance for no other reason than to hang its head on his wall as a trophy seems to have a deficiency of courage and morality.

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Bits and Pieces 4

Bits and Pieces 4

Just a few things that have been rattling around in my mind’s attic…

Oh thank you Supreme Court and Fox News for informing us that racism is dead in this country. I’m sure that all those unarmed African Americans who have been shot by white police officers can take comfort in that their deaths weren’t racially motivated at all. And I’m sure Native Americans were thrilled to discover that “Redskin” is actually a name of honor, meant to convey respect to their people and their culture. We sure don’t need those pesky protections from the Voter Rights Act.

So why is it that African American males are involved in police shootings at an inordinate rate? Me, I think they should exercise their Second Amendment rights and start open carrying. Might as well if they’re going to get shot anyway; at least they have a fighting chance to defend themselves. I’m sure though we won’t hear the NRA supporting their Second Amendment rights because, after all, they’re the criminals right?

And while we’re on the subject of open carry, what are these morons trying to prove? And yes, they ARE morons. There is no intelligence being displayed here; only some sort of primal male ego thing of showing what a badass we are. I found the one open carry guy who was robbed of his gun at gunpoint to be one of the most hysterical things I’ve heard recently. Talk about karma.

But I digress. Why do you need to have a weapon on display when you’re walking around? Are you that afraid to go to your local Wal-Mart? Maybe some homeless guy is going to drag you into an alley and rape you right in the tush? Puh-lease. You might as well drive to work in a tank and carry around a bazooka wherever you go. If you can’t make it from point A to point B without a loaded weapon in your belt you probably shouldn’t leave the house. Maybe you should just kill yourself before the criminal hordes come to get you.

Can we take a deep breath for a moment and try not to panic about Ebola? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very serious disease and it shouldn’t be taken lightly, but for one thing, it’s not coming into this country from Mexico, it’s not a plot from the President and you can’t catch it from breathing the same air as a victim of the disease. It can only be transmitted through things like blood, vomit or feces. If you don’t come into contact with any bodily excretions, secretions or waste, you’re not going to get it. It doesn’t work that way. If you’re still a little shook up, wash your hands regularly. Like more than once a day – I’m talking about after every meal or before and after you go out. Use soap and water or a good sanitizer. You’ll be okay. And don’t travel to West Africa if you’re really concerned. Plenty of people there don’t have the disease and Liberia is claiming it will be eradicated there by Christmas.

Many who know me will tell you that I am not a believer in organized religion. I find there to be too much hypocrisy in the leaderships of various churches. However, listening to Bill Maher’s diatribe against Muslims and then his debate with Ben Affleck made me a little bit uncomfortable. Certainly there are a lot of Muslims who believe in things like honor killings, execution for apostasy and female genital mutilation and those things are indeed barbaric. However, if you look closely at the numbers from the Pew poll where much of this information comes from, you’ll see that the people who believe this are mainly in the Middle East, in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen to name a few; Muslims from Europe and the Americas tend to be against these things. Honor killings predate Islam by the way; Arabs were engaging in that behavior even before Muhammad was even a twinkle in his daddy’s eye. It’s a cultural thing that should not be tolerated but an entire belief system shouldn’t be torn apart because of some regions where the religion is very strong subscribe to it.

Religious fanaticism is a bad thing regardless of what religion it is. Fanaticism is all about intolerance, a desire to feel superior to others. My religion is better than your religion and if you’re not a part of my religion then you deserve to die. It’s one of the reasons I prefer to have faith in a greater power rather than subscribing to any specific religion. That doesn’t mean religious organizations don’t do a lot of good around the world as they have done throughout history, or provide comfort to those who subscribe to them. That’s all well and good and I would never want to see a world without religion. However, they are also responsible for a lot of bad things, like jihads and crusades and inquisitions and wars. I have always believed that true faith is a subscription to peace and tolerance, allowing all to believe as they wish without penalty.

When you say that Islam is about death, intolerance and ignorance you then have to figure out a way to explain the golden years of Islam when the Middle East was a center for learning, architecture and peace. During the Middle Ages caliphs and imams were far more tolerant than their Christian counterparts and welcomed Jewish and Christian scholars to their universities. I can’t explain how things changed and grew so extreme over the centuries but you can’t say how barbaric the religion is without explaining what it has been.

Social media has become a kind of community in and of itself. It is a means of informing the world of who we are, and yet I think we’ve erected walls around ourselves that are even taller and more impenetrable than ever. We share everything about our lives – what we’re eating, what movie we’re seeing, which parties we’re attending – and yet we know less about each other than we ever have. How often do you really open up and post something about how you feel, and I’m not talking about politics here. I’m talking about YOU, who you ARE, what you’re all ABOUT. What makes you tick? What keeps you getting out of bed every morning? What do you dream about, wish for, hope for?

We’re a world of enigmas, everything on the surface is on display but nothing about what’s inside. We can scream and shout about Obama or abortion or whatever the topic of the day is, or get catty about what Beyonce is wearing or who’s playing Batman or what that bitch just said to you. We communicate in memes and soundbites. All style, no substance.

It takes courage to show the world who you are and what you stand for. Not many can. Most of us are too worried about what others think about us to be real. I’ve learned in my years that it’s okay to offend. It’s okay to take offense. Real maturity comes in understanding that we’re not going to agree on everything. Some things about you might rub me the wrong way. Some things about me might drive you nuts. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. There folks in my life who think very differently than I do. They are at the opposite end of the political spectrum, have different personal philosophies of life and/or a different way of doing things. That’s all good. It doesn’t make them bad people, nor does it make me a bad person.

We’re all unique and we should be proud of who we are. There’s no shame in supporting Israel, or in voting Democrat, or in wearing Crocs, or subscribing to Maxim, or following Big Brother. I can be friends with just about anyone as long as they respect who I am and what I stand for and allow me to be who I am. I’d much rather be friends though with someone who stands up and says “I believe differently than you” rather than someone who agrees with me just to avoid conflict. My friends Louis and John, both die-hard conservatives, disagree with just about everything that I believe in politically. We often have heated conversations about it, and while I occasionally will see their point and sometimes change my mind on certain matters, most of the time it’s just stating opposing positions. We don’t always talk politics; I appreciate Louis’ humor and his ongoing friendship and John’s faith and service to his students – he teaches and coaches at a Southern California high school. I’m proud to call them friends. They are who they are and I wouldn’t want them any other way and I respect that they have the courage to say who they are. That’s what friendship is about, isn’t it?

So while they’re tickled pink about the mid-term results, I’m obviously less happy about it. I see a country that has become a shadow of itself. It allows a small minority to dictate terms to the rest of us, while we sit back and play Call of Duty. Yet when that duty calls in our real lives, how do we answer? By not voting. About a third of this country’s eligible voters cast their ballots in the recent mid-terms. Many young voters and minority voters stayed away from the polls. I know some have an aversion to voting, feeling like they don’t understand the issues or know the candidates well enough to make intelligent choices. Others feel that no matter who they vote for, it isn’t going to make a difference. Still others just don’t want to take the time and effort to either fill out a ballot and mail it or go to a polling place. The other 364 days of the year they tend to be the loudest bitchers and moaners too.

I don’t agree that this Republican sweep was necessarily the will of the people, as the Republicans seem to think it is. It is the will of a bit more than half of 37% of the people. That’s about 20% of the eligible voters decided that we’re going to be bearing right for the next two years and that they’re perfectly happy with the worst Congress in the history of this country. However, since 63% of the country didn’t vote, the will of the people turns out to not give a crap. Which is essentially the message we send to those who are running the country.

We are responsible for caring. We owe it to ourselves, our family and our posterity. We take advantage of the freedoms that this country provides and yet we choose not to answer that call of duty when it comes in November. WE THE PEOPLE have to get out of the mindset that our vote doesn’t count for anything, that it doesn’t matter whether we vote or not. It matters. Because the government that makes our lives better, worse or indifferent is elected by those who do care. And if you feel “Well, I’m in a Gerrymandered district so there’s no point,” then make it a point to make your voice heard in other ways. Not just as anonymous posts on the Internet but in concrete, positive ways. If you’re satisfied with things the way they are then by all means, do what you’re doing. If you’re not though, take action. Fight for your country – if not in the military but here at home. It deserves your defense.

Free the Internet

Free the Internet

The Internet can be a pain in the ass. I tend to think of it as an adolescent, like a six year old who is still trying to figure things out. Making it profitable was one of the big things in the last decade when revenues were scarce and mainly came from advertisements which over the years have become more intrusive and more obnoxious. These days, we use the Internet for a significant amount of our purchasing, enough so that it has become a viable tool for most of us. In fact, a real argument can be made that the Internet is driving our economy these days.

We also use it for recreation and information gathering. We use it for socializing. We use it for expressing our opinion, and for posting selfies. We figure out what restaurants in town are getting the best reviews on Yelp, where the best hotel and airfares are on Kayak, what deadly diseases our symptoms best fit on WebMD. We look for discounts on Groupon, stream movies on Netflix, arrange get-togethers on Facebook. We figure out what our friends are up to on Pinterest, do our shoe shopping on Zappos, look up our family trees on Ancestry and check out what our favorite celebrities are saying on Twitter. All of these actions have varying degrees of importance. The most important thing when it comes to the Internet however is Net Neutrality.

You’ve probably heard the term bandied about and some may wonder what it means. The term originated in 2003 with Columbia University professor Tim Wu as an extension to the existing concept of a common carrier. Essentially it means that Internet Service Providers or governments treat all data equally without discriminating against user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment and/or modes of communication. It is considered a crucial component of an open internet in which all users have equal and unfettered access to all sites.

This past April 23, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a reversal of their previous position supporting net neutrality had been reported to be considering to allow new regulations that will allow content providers to use a faster track to send content which will in essence create a two-tiered system of access. What this would mean to users is that sites that use this faster track will only be available at an additional charge. That means that you will not only pay your ISP for Internet access, you’ll also pay additional charges if you want to use the more popular sites.

This will undoubtedly lead to tier pricing much like cable and satellite television services use, with a “basic Net” access but if you want to access to, say, news sites like The New York Times, Digg, MSNBC, Fox News and CNN, you pay an additional $5 a month, while if you want to use video-streaming sites like Hulu, Netflix, or HBO you’ll pay an additional $20 per month. Interested in social networking on Facebook, Twitter or Match.com? That’ll be $15 every month.

I have no objection to allowing ISPs to be profitable, nor do I think it’s necessarily a bad thing to allow the most popular content providers to allow their services to be directed at people most likely to use them. After all, there was no hue and cry when cable operators began the current pricing structure that is pretty much universal these days.

But cable and satellite systems are a different animal than the Internet. Giving the content providers who can afford it more speed and clearer pathways is preferential treatment. It creates a situation similar to that in the early 20th century when large companies who needed to transport their goods via railway managed to negotiate favorable rates, allowing them to charge much less for their product and price the competition out of the market. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was notorious for this; eventually his trust got broken up because of his tactics which didn’t allow for fair competition.

So why is this important? Other than raising prices and limiting access to certain sites, why should we care? Well, look at who is going to profit from this – the cable providers who these days control most of the access to the Internet. Folks like Time Warner, Cox Cable, Verizon and Bright House. While to this point they have claimed loudly that they have no intention of charging customers extra for these faster access sites, that doesn’t ring true. Why would any company deny itself an opportunity for additional profit? What makes this shadier is that the Chairman of the FCC is Tom Wheeler – who previously ran the lobby for the Cable Industry. Think he’s looking out for the consumer, or for those who used to pay his salary? Even those large companies who would have that faster access – folks like Netflix and Amazon – have objected to this scheme.

In that sense, the Internet is similar; what net neutrality proponents are fighting for is fair access.  As a content provider myself, I don’t want to see anyone charged for the right to access my blog and I wouldn’t accept money from such charges even if that were an option; after all, the whole point of expressing myself in this manner is that anyone can read it and then either agree or disagree. Blogs like this are the editorial columns of the global newspaper that the Internet is..

And the Internet does fulfill the function that the newspapers once did; we get most of our information from the Net. We find sales and print out coupons from the Net. We check out the classified ads (i.e. Craigslist) and read net comics. Sure, you couldn’t play video games in newspapers nor watch video clips of news events or of cute kittens. There are no selfies in newspapers nor have we ever done any chatting through our newspaper (although we did because of our newspaper – different era) but the basic comparison is sound.

How much freedom we have on the Net in the coming decades is going to be decided in the next couple of years. We have the responsibility to be vigilant and make sure that bureaucrats and corporate and political interests don’t muddy up the waters of the clean and cool stream of information that is the Internet. We don’t want a Net like China’s which is heavily censored, nor do we want one that is controlled strictly by money and political influence. This is OUR Internet and the fight to keep it ours is just beginning. The good news is that you can contribute your voice right now. The FCC is seeking public opinion about this issue and you can state yours here through June 27. However, be patient; a recent comedy sketch by John Oliver on his HBO show Last Night Tonight inviting people to troll the FCC comments site has resulted in a slow down in service. Nonetheless if you can get in, get in. It’s important that your voice be heard.

Petty Larceny

Petty Larceny

When the Supreme Court struck down provisions of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act), lost amid all the rejoicing was something else that the SCOTUS had struck down – the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The ability of the Justice Department to strike down state voting laws that were judged to be discriminatory was said to be unnecessary given current conditions.

Of course several Red States with Republican legislatures and governors went right out and proved that the Act was still necessary by enacting voter registration rules that tend to work against minorities but are really discriminatory against those who vote against Republicans. North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Florida were among states that quickly drove through legislation that required certain types of identification in order to vote, shortened the early voting period and made it difficult for college students to vote. In Texas, for example, the name on the picture ID has to match exactly the name on the voter rolls; this becomes an issue because the state requires that married women have their maiden name listed as a middle name on their drivers’ license; most women are not registered to vote with their maiden names. Thousands of Texas women under current law will be unable to vote or at least have an extremely difficult time in doing so.

North Carolina will only accept state issued identification to vote; college students for example cannot use student IDs as a valid picture ID. Sure, they can always go out and get one but they don’t always have time or transportation in order to get there. I think it’s pretty telling that the states that have enacted the most restrictive voter ID laws are primarily red states and primarily in the South where the most egregious voter discrimination took place prior to the enactment of the 1965 law.

We’re also seeing voter purges taking place – tens of thousands of voters being removed from the rolls for a variety of reasons; some for legitimate reasons but not all. In the most recent election cycle there were reports of people who have never had issues voting before being suddenly informed that they were no longer eligible to vote.

This is outrageous. The party that is so solicitous of 2nd Amendment rights seems to be less sanguine about the basic right of voters to vote. It is literally easier in some places to buy a gun than it is to vote – in Texas, for example, all you need is a photo ID to buy a gun at a gun show. As I mentioned previously, in order to vote there your photo ID name has to exactly match the name on the voter registration rolls. I guess we know which activity Texas politicians find more dangerous.

And honestly, they’re correct. Your vote is the most power that can be wielded in this Republic. Your vote determines who governs, and they determine which laws are passed, repealed or kicked to the curb. Your daily life is deeply determined by how you cast your vote. Think about it; if it weren’t so important, there wouldn’t be so much effort generated in trying to take that right away from people.

There are some politicians who have floated the idea of literacy and civics tests being administered in order for people to vote. Quite frankly, I’m not sure some of our politicians could pass those tests. It sounds good in theory – only let informed voters do the voting – but who determines what constitutes an informed voter? Can you imagine if a board of Tea Party activists devised a test that determined if you could vote or not? I suspect that if any state were foolish enough to pass such a law, the ACLU lawyers would have a field day.

There are those who proclaim that voting isn’t a right but a privilege. I disagree. Voting is a responsibility that each of us needs to take seriously. It is so important that some politicians who realize that they can’t win elections on their platforms are trying to keep enough of us out of the voting booth so that they can continue to remain in power. It is nothing short of petty larceny – and quite frankly those legislators who think that using these methods to keep members of the opposing party out of the voting booth are pathetic losers who don’t have enough confidence in their own message to let it stand on its merits.

The good news is that there are signs that people are getting fed up and angry with these kinds of tactics. These sorts of win-at-any-cost extremists who are hell-bent on pushing their agenda on us whether or not we want it are being seen for what they are and have begun to lose elections. 2014 will be a big determining factor on whether or not we can take back our government from those who have held it hostage. That they think it can happen is why you are seeing these desperation tactics of preventing large groups who would vote against them from exercising their right. See them for what they are and vote in your next election. It’s never been more important than it is now.

Bits and Pieces 3

BBits and Pieces 3

Here are a few things on my mind that I really didn’t feel the need to devote a full blog to…

I don’t understand the whole twerking thing. I mean, what’s the attraction? Simulating sex on the dance floor? I mean, haven’t we been doing that for a long while? So what if Miley Cyrus is out there twerking at the VMAs. What’s the big deal? I swear, I think there are more people fretting over her dance moves than they are over the prospect of sending troops to Syria. And you wonder why this country is in such big trouble? Okay, I think I’ve used up my quota for question marks in a single paragraph…

This country continues to wallow in obesity and yet when the First Lady suggests that it might be a better idea if our children exercised more and ate better, she gets outraged Fox News types excoriating her for telling people how to raise their kids. First of all you jerkwads, it’s a suggestion and as it so happens, a good one. Too many of our kids spend far more time playing videogames, texting their friends and surfing the net than they do getting out there playing. Play stimulates the imagination which is good for the brain but it also allows for physical exertion which is good for the body. And since obesity is at record levels among our kids, may I suggest that people who have an issue with anyone telling them how to raise their precious demonic spawn take the Big Mac out of their pieholes, get off their fat asses and have some fun with their kids. And shut the hell up while you’re at it.

For all of you Internet fanboys who had a coronary when it was announced that Ben Affleck would be the next Batman you can shut the hell up too. And isn’t your mom calling you to take out the trash? Jesus, the guy hasn’t even seen a script yet and you’re already demanding that he be fired. Everyone who’s ever done the role has gotten ripped a new one by pimply-faced keyboard jockeys who labor under the mistaken impression that anybody gives a crap what they think. Me, I’m looking forward to it. I may just buy fifty tickets to see it and pay people to come with me and give Affleck a standing ovation every time he comes onscreen. If you’re so knowledgeable about proper casting for a Batman movie, why don’t you see if you can get Warners to give you $200 million to make your version. Since that’s not going to happen, be quiet and let the adults enjoy the movie. Twerps.

I remember when Da Queen and I first got married. It seemed that every unexpected bill we got was for $60. We used to joke about it that we were being skinned alive, $60 worth of skin at a time. Then, when we bought our home, all those little expenses were $200.. That was just 12 years ago. Of late that number has increased to $900. By the time I hit retirement, I fully expect that number to hit $10,000. When it gets to that point, I advocate eating the rich. Not a new suggestion, I know but a timeless one nonetheless.

The execution of a convicted multiple murderer was postponed – so the Attorney General could attend a re-election fundraiser. And the governor approved it – after the execution had been stayed twice previously. I’m not a big believer in capital punishment but if you’re going to do it, get it done. And get this – the Attorney General ran on a platform pledging fewer delays in carrying out capital punishment. Apparently only when it’s convenient to her. Welcome to Flori-duh.

I see that John Alleman, the unofficial mascot of the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas, has passed away – of a heart attack. For those unfamiliar with the place, it’s a chain of hamburger joints that prides itself on its unhealthy cuisine – the quadruple bypass burger, which includes four 1/2 pound patties, eight slices of American cheese, bacon and a lard-coated bun, is close to 10,000 calories – five times what normal adults are supposed to consume in an entire day. It also allows customers over 350 pounds to eat free. There are those who are snickering that this is poetic justice although there is evidence that Alleman was genetically predisposed to cardiac issues – his parents both passed away of heart attacks in their 50s. Now, I don’t think anybody put a gun to Alleman’s head and said you MUST eat these hamburgers. That was his own choice. Personally, I think the hamburgers are a bit extreme – but if someone wants to sell them and someone want to buy them, that’s perfectly all right by me. On this subject I’m an utter capitalist – if nobody buys the burgers, they’ll stop selling them. As the Checkers hamburger chain says in their ads, You Gotta Eat.

In the last year or so I’ve kind of gotten fed up with the tenor of disagreements on the Internet. People are getting more shrill and nasty when responding to an opinion they disagree with. I’ve always tried to be as polite as possible when responding and tried to use logic and restraint when explaining my contrasting view. I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the people who are responding like they’re having some sort of seizure at the very thought of a conflicting opinion do not deserve my civility. So you’ll see me using terms like “dumbass” and “imbecile” more often. In other words, get the hell off my lawn.

Da Queen and I went to see a movie at our local multiplex on a Sunday morning not long ago and as is our wont, arrived half an hour early in order to get the seats we wanted – the kind with rails in front of them so we could stretch our legs. In the particular theater we were in, there are three sets of seats so arranged – one in the center and one on each side. The theater was empty when we arrived so we sat down with our enormous soft drinks and watched the pre-show (Da Queen playing games on her smart phone) when an older couple came in and sat down in the same row next to the seat where Da Queen had put her purse. We exchanged looks but said nothing  – until the guy stood up and asked if we were saving that seat. When we said no, he picked up her purse and put it in her lap, sitting down in the seat next to her. We of course, objected in the strongest terms possible. He said that he needed to put his feet up because of his bad knees. We pointed out that there were other seats where he could do that but of course none of them were in the center. I’m sure that the rude dumbass imbecile (see, I got ’em all in) in question isn’t reading this but I let him have it after Da Queen left the theater. People like that don’t fool me for a second and their age doesn’t excuse inexcusable behavior. It wasn’t like he didn’t have other options and you never EVER touch a woman’s purse without permission, nor do you just assume that if the theater is empty that you have permission to sit directly next to somebody. What I SHOULD have done was shove his bucket of popcorn up his sphincter one kernel at a time, and then use the entire gigantic bucket as a cardboard butt plug and if anyone ever does that to my wife ever again, that’s exactly what will happen. Either that or I’ll just call the cops and press charges of assault against the mother effers. Either one – take your pick.

Fortunately, there are a lot of good, decent people in the world and just when I’m losing my faith in the human race and figure a chance meteorite strike that wipes all life out on this miserable rock would do the universe a favor I run into one – or two- or many. I think it’s this shrinking pool of goodness that is keeping the meteors away because the bad juju is building up something fierce. Still, those who put themselves out there and send out love into the world, who sacrifice for their kids and put the needs of their families and friends ahead of their own and treat their friends like family – well, they’re the reason that the apocalypse has been staved off for now. So if you should see Mike Trippett, Amy Murray, Tara-Marie Buckley, Eric Lison, Jennifer Gorsuch Akers or Ruthanne Drew, shake their hands and thank them. Without their efforts, no doubt there would be rocks falling out of the sky. These are people who have been through some pretty tough times and have managed to do those things I mentioned despite things that would have turned me into an even worse curmudgeon than I already am. They are people I admire and respect and they are owed some good karma, the lot of them. Be kind and generous to them.  They deserve it.

Everyone Wears a Badge

Everyone Wears a Badge

Everyone wears a badge these days. There are some who’d like to make it literal – give everybody a gun and let them sort out their own problems without help from the cops. Also, I’ve been seeing more than a few Libertarians referring to our current state of affairs in America as a “police state.”

The ignorance of that proclamation aside, the people who make it have no clue what an actual police state looks like. In an actual police state, you could be taken away from your home and your family in the middle of the night just for saying something like that on the Internet. In an actual police state, you live in constant fear of what you say and do and who you say and do things in front of. Anyone can turn you in – including your own family. Including your own children. So if you think we’re living in a police state, you’re as dumb as a rock. Go live a few months in North Korea and come back and tell me what a police state we live in.

But that’s not really the point I want to be making, although it is important. People who complain about the police need a reality check. Like any occupation, there are people who are better at it than others and once in awhile there are clearly incompetent people who become police officers. Yes, there can also be corruption – but there can be corruption in any human endeavor. There is corruption at fast food companies and television networks and oil companies and convenience stores and software programmers. It may take different forms, but it’s there but it simply doesn’t get the same sort of media attention as it does when it is found in a police force.

For every corrupt cop however there are hundreds who are not. There are plenty of police officers who go to work every day with the understanding that they might not come home and still manage to be courteous and polite even to people who don’t deserve it. I’ve been fortunate to be friends with law enforcement officers and let me let you in on a little secret – they’re pretty much just like the rest of us. They have a sense of humor that can be pretty warped, while some of them have no sense of humor whatsoever. Some of them love sports while others prefer movies. Some of them listen to country music while others prefer rap. Pretty much the only thing most cops have in common is that they’re woefully underpaid for what they do.

Sure it can be annoying when you get pulled over but generally speaking if a cop pulls you over to the side of the road, you’ve likely done something to deserve it. Yeah, sometimes they make mistakes but by and large when I’ve been given a ticket I’ve pretty much earned it. I’m sure that’s true of most of us.

Cops get to see people at their very worst; the criminal element, the entitlement element, the angry and bitter element – all of that is part of their working day. Nobody likes getting a ticket, but it is a necessary part of our society. If there wasn’t a speed limit, there’d be absolute carnage on the roads. As a rule, Americans are piss-poor drivers. We’re horribly distracted, we don’t pay attention and we don’t put our primary focus on what we’re doing. It’s just another lovely side effect of our ADHD society. Autobahns wouldn’t work here for that reason.

So when you get pulled over, try not to give the officer attitude. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to be doing and let’s face it, you messed up. Own it. Be respectful and courteous to the person writing the ticket. Yeah, it’s a bitch but if you mess up, there are consequences. That’s what being an adult is all about. Giving a police officer your sullen rude behavior is the very worst thing you can do; they’re more likely to give you a hard time back if you’re a jerk. So don’t be a jerk.

The same goes for TSA agents at the airports. Like you, I can get frustrated at the long lines at airport security. Like you, I get pissed off that we have to leave our water bottles at the security line, or not bring any liquid into the boarding area larger than what you can pack in a shot glass. Don’t blame the TSA agents however – blame the dumbasses who go on planes with the express intention of blowing them up. Blame the guys who don’t have a problem killing innocent people to make a political point.

Sure, TSA agents can get testy – they are human beings as well. They have to listen to passengers gripe and bitch and moan all day long. They have to deal with dumbasses who try to go through the metal detectors with their shoes on after being told three times that everyone needs to get their shoes off. They deal with idiots who forget to take their keys out of their pockets, or pack their guns and knives in their carry-on bags. They have to deal with families with six screaming kids who can’t get their act together, and with older people who have difficulty getting through the metal detector unaided, or with would-be comedians making inappropriate jokes.

For my part, I don’t know how necessary these precautions are – something tells me that they’re not as important as they were in 2002. I think we should take a good, long look at whether we need to relax these security measures although I’m reasonably sure that they never will be. If that’s the case, we’ll just have to learn to live with them and at least give the TSA agents the respect that they’re just trying to make our travel a little bit safer than it might be otherwise.

In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need TSA agents or police officers. This world is far from perfect however. It is full of people who don’t give a damn about your rights and how hard you worked to earn what you have; they’re all about taking it from you. They’re all about taking shortcuts. Sure, our police and TSA aren’t perfect. Like any job, people perform to varying degrees of competence in law enforcement. You may not like what they do or like that we need to have them but when the chips are down you may one day be glad that they are there. I sincerely wish you never need them, but you know what? It wouldn’t kill you to thank them for their service even if you never do need them. Let them know they’re appreciated. Go ahead. Make their day.

Truth in Advertising

Truth in Advertising

As the saying goes, if something seems too good to be true it probably is. And yet the entire American advertising culture is built on making various products seem too good to be true and as a country we buy it hook, line and sinker. We question everything in this country but if we see something on television we almost give it a pass – “Well if it’s on TV it has to be true.”

Perhaps that is less true these days than it has ever been before. We’ve just become so used to being lied to that we accept as a matter of course that we’re being lied to constantly, even when we may not be. It’s hard to separate truth and fiction; white lies from half-truths. It’s too much work to figure it out, so we just either assume everything is true or everything is a lie. It depends on how optimistic a person you are I suppose. Some of us are more cynical than others.

I didn’t used to be this way. In fact, I hate being this way. I used to be one of those guys who believed that people are basically good. I’m not so sure about it these days. I have begun to believe that people basically suck, that they’re so focused on their own narrow self-interests that they’ve given up on the common good. Charles Dickens would be horrified.

It’s hard to believe in anything good these days when all you see are talking heads blaming poverty on the poor, screaming that we’re spending too much on deadbeats and that those hard-working Americans should keep their money rather than have to spend it on others.

When did we all turn into Ebeneezer Scrooge? When did our values become so distorted that money has become more important to us than the lives of our fellow humans – of our fellow citizens of this country? Why are profits for men who are billionaires many times over already more sacrosanct than providing for the basic needs of people – of children – in poverty? And why are those who claim to be Christians claiming that these are Christian values?

I’ve read the Bible, folks. In it I’ve read that Christ healed the sick and fed the hungry. He hung out with the poor and stated flat-out that it is harder for a rich man to go to heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. He railed against moneylenders setting up shop in temples that were supposed to be places of worship. It is the only place in the Bible where we see the Savior losing his temper. How do you reconcile these actions with those who seek to cut off funding for food stamps, who wish proper health care should only go to those who can afford it, and for whom those who can afford to pay more in taxes should not but those who can’t afford to pay more should bear more of a burden relatively speaking?

It’s completely hypocritical, but that’s how his country is these days. We no longer lead the world in innovation and quality of life but we sure do lead it in hypocrisy. We lie about everything; we lie about the privacy of our phone calls and correspondence. We lie about our government’s role in surveillance of citizens who are not accused or even suspected of crimes. We lie about who we are online. We lie about our education, our employment, our marital status. We post pictures that we find on the Internet and claim that it is us.

That is how our culture has evolved. Lying has not just become acceptable, it has almost become expected. This is not to say that we should be honest in everything we say – we need to use common sense and consider the feelings of other. Sometimes saying nothing is a better alternative than saying how you really feel or perceive things.

It’s easier to agree with people rather than disagree. It takes a lot of energy to state your position and stand up for it. Trust me, I know – I’m one of those sorts who used to hate rocking the boat so I’d just smile and agree, even if I didn’t. I didn’t want anybody to be upset with me and quite frankly, I felt that there were so few people who liked me that I couldn’t afford to piss off the people who did.

That’s utter garbage. I’ve since learned that people who genuinely like you and care about you won’t be put off by a difference of opinion. One of my closest friends – my college roommate – and I couldn’t be more diametrically opposed, politically speaking. He’s a proud Libertarian who often comments on my links and posts on Facebook and sometimes our dialogue can be quite contentious. Because I don’t agree with him politically doesn’t make him less of a friend. When we get together in person we crack each other up. We have far more common ground as people than can be sundered by spirited debate. I may disagree with him on nearly everything political but I will always consider him one of my closest friends. No matter what I post I have no doubt that he will think the same of me.

There are those who of course won’t like what I have to say. They might not agree with me at all. They may even think I’m an ignorant Liberal who understands nothing of the real world and seeks to undermine the American family values that made this country great. That may well cost me some friendships but I won’t be sorry for those who feel they can’t be friends with me for my beliefs. I’m at a point in my life where I feel it necessary to stand up for what I believe in. I will use my gifts as a writer to articulate those beliefs. I won’t back down or soften my rhetoric because of those who might disagree. To do so would be to betray my own beliefs and I won’t do that ever again. You may take me or leave me – that is entirely up to you. At least you’ll know where I stand.

That is truth in advertising. What you see is what you get. WYSIWYG, or “whissy-wig” as it’s pronounced is a tech term that we can translate to a more cultural role. How different our country would be if WYSIWYG were adopted as a national standard. If truth became a national priority. If politicians had to own up to their misdirection and inconsistencies between words and deeds.

In that kind of world, the bottom line would become less important than maintaining integrity. There was a time where that was so – when a person’s word was their bond and when honor was of greater import than personal gain. As values they seem archaic now and that really is a national tragedy – maybe even a national disgrace. Somewhere along the line, truth and honor became dinosaurs. To my way of thinking, that’s part of why we’re in the mess we’re in now and why things are going to continue to get worse. And maybe it is better that those of us who value these old-fashioned and perhaps ridiculous ideals should go extinct along with them.