Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Do You Know if a Fish is a Serial Killer?

Seems like a strange question, I’ll admit.  But, a couple weeks ago I got each of my girls a goldfish to go into a tank we made together.  My youngest named her fish Lucille.  And after three dead tank-mates, Lucille is still hale and strong.  Something seems fishy about this…

*Yes, I know it’s a bad pun.  But it’s the most terrible puns that I like the best*

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Bill Nails It

That said, I’m pretty sure the guy’s got a device in my brain to read my thoughts.

 

Black History Month 2014: So Much Accomplished, So Far to Go

I was going to do something for Black History Month, but when Michael is so much better at this kind of thing than I am, it’d be an injustice to you to ask you to read my thoughts on the subject.
Read and enjoy!

Social Justice For All

Black History Month_2014logo_0This is the fourth year that Social Justice For All (SJFA) has celebrated Black History Month. As we start the month I like to reflect on the progress made around issues of equity and equality and also reflect on how much work still has yet to be done.

Every year, SJFA looks to celebrate the substantial accomplishments of African Americans and the cultural and political history of the African-American experience. Here at SJFA we’ll take some time to celebrate  individuals who have made great contributions to social justice as pioneers, activists, and role models. Although it is wonderful to have many people to celebrate, our nation maintains  huge gaps; distressingly, many of these firsts have happened in just the past decade.

I am absolutely elated that President Obama has nominated more African-American judges and more LGBT judges than any previous president. I am particularly delighted that two weeks ago he nominated Staci Michelle Yandle…

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From Boomers to Bust

I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of Bill Maher, and his “New Rules” segment on Real Time.  Comedians, of course, even more than other artists, tend to have a knack for bringing uncomfortable truths to our attention, in a way that we can process.  Unfortunately, this time, what began as an excellent finale to the segment devolved into a bunch of dick jokes with little to no insight.

But the beginning of this particular New Rule made me think.

As Maher put it, “In the battle for government giveaways, we have to stop thinking in terms of rich versus poor, or black versus white, and admit it’s really a war between the young and the old.  And the old are winning.”

Maher highlighted that federal spending is roughly $3,822 per child, and $25,455 per senior citizen (a difference of $21,633).

Then he began the dick jokes.  And that’s ok, because Bill Maher is a comedian.  It’s his job to tell dick jokes, and he’s really good at it.

That said, I think it would have been nice if some other issues had been brought up.  Like, for instance, the fact that college tuition rates have increased over 1000% since I was born, while at the same time, earning potential has become more dependent on acquiring an advanced degree than ever before.

Medical expenses have also risen over 600%, and food is up over 240%.

And from January of 1975 to January 2005, housing costs increased a stunning 700%, from $39,500 to $283,000.

And all this time, the median household income has remained flat since 1965.

And all we hear is that it’s imperative we all go to college, so we can remain a competitive workforce with the rest of the world.

This brings me to another point in the Real Time episode, when Maher and author P.J. O’Rourke wax nostalgic about their Boomer youth, and make the claim that, though their generation is often called spoiled, they were far less spoiled than generations after.

Why were they less spoiled?  Apparently it’s because corporal punishment was more acceptable then and kids have more sophisticated entertainment available to them now.

But fewer spankings and more television channels does nothing to account for the fact that, as a generation, the Boomers had more advantages and opportunities than any other generation in history, before or since.  And, as is evidenced by the massive discrepancy in federal resources devoted to the young versus the old, that same Boomer generation is still reaping the lion’s share of benefits from our civilization.  And the programs that Boomers use most, Social Security and Medicare, are the only ones no one is willing to cut, while anything that helps out the under-50 crowd is immediately on the chopping block, because those same Boomers don’t want their taxes to be used for anyone but themselves.

Maher says “…let’s not kid ourselves where our tax dollar goes.  It goes to Grandma, because she votes, and young people don’t.”

What he leaves out, of course, is that people over 55 constitute about a third of all voters, and they vote more regularly because they can.  “They have the time to participate in politics… Most of them are retired, largely thanks to Social Security, and they have the disposable income to make campaign contributions…”

It’s a lot easier to get out and vote when someone else is paying your bills, and you don’t have to put in a twelve hour shift on election day.

Seniors vote at higher rates because they have the ability, and the people they are voting to screw are the ones giving them that ability.

Here’s what it comes down to, though.  My partner and I were discussing plans for the future this weekend.  Because we have children, and because both of us have found ourselves remarkably disadvantaged by the utterly ridiculous cost of college (and therefore the cost of opportunity), we have decided our priority is that none of our children will face this roadblock.  We will live meagerly our whole lives if necessary.  We will, if need be when those children are grown, take to a tiny one-room studio, and pour our combined income into making sure our children do not have to pay a thousand percent more, just for the opportunity to earn the same lifestyle that their grandparents had.

We will not sacrifice our children, in other words, for our own benefit.

Because that’s what the Boomers did.  That’s what they continue to do.

If you are a Boomer, know that your generation had every possible advantage.  You came of age when wages were the highest (in adjusted dollars) they have ever been.  Food, housing, everything was far less expensive then than it is now, or was before you.  College, the engine by which so many chose to improve themselves, was damn near free, by comparison.  Your parents’ generation sacrificed everything to make sure you had these opportunities.  It was their gift to you, so that you would never have to know the difficulties they knew.

You took these gifts, enjoyed them, grew fat from them, then turned around and demanded that every generation after did the same, for you.

For you and only for you.

I’m not going to go as far as former Colorado Governor Dick Lamm, and claim that you have a “Duty to Die,” but I will say this:

You will be gone, one day.  You can’t suck enough life from the rest of us to stick around forever. One day, your stranglehold over America’s electoral system will be gone, and perhaps those of us who came after you will finally have a chance to benefit all of us, instead of just you.

I do not wish you ill, and I do not wish you pain.  I just wish you would think of someone other than yourselves, or, barring that, at least get out of the way.

We will be better off without you.

*As always when speaking in broad generalities, I add this caveat:  If this post, and my comments on the Boomer generation don’t apply to you, then they don’t apply to you  You know who you are.*

Bill Belichick says Wes Welker deliberately took out Aqib Talib

Nothing warms my heart like sour grapes from Bill Belicheat. Because we all know that when you want someone to intentionally injure a guy, you send the smallest player on the field after him, right?

For The Win

In his postgame press conference on Sunday, Bill Belichick was his usual gruff self. The New England Patriots coach gave short answers to good questions, shorter answers to silly ones and didn’t talk much about the injury to his best cornerback, Aqib Talib, other than to say it was a “key” loss and that he’d have to review the game film before speaking more about it.

In the 13 hours since then, Belichick watched the tape and in a Monday morning press conference back in New England, Belichick said he believes Talib’s injury was because of a dirty pick by Wes Welker, the former Patriots wide receiver who signed with the Broncos last year. His statements are as barbed as any you’ll hear from an NFL coach calling out another player.

“One of the worst plays I’ve seen. It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib…

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Bo Burnham: From God’s Perspective

The perfect song for this time of year.  Especially the part about eating pork.

Bo released his latest album/special, what., for free on Netflix and YouTube this month.  Definitely worth watching.

On Sex, Porn, and Morality

I just read this post by Matt Walsh.  Wow.  Watching porn is adultery?!?  Guess I’m the horrible, letcherous prick my ex wives would like you to think I am.  Never mind the fact that I never engaged in any kind of relations with another woman before the (allegedly) monogamous relationship I was currently in was really over.  I am a serial adulterer, apparently, and the proof is in the Google search pudding.

Of course, in America, a defendant has the right to plead their case.

That said, allow me to plead my own, and that of almost every single human who has ever walked the earth.

Since Matt Walsh started with pornography, I’ll continue on his vein (and please disregard any double entendre which may apply to this; I hate puns with a passion, unless they are particularly awful).  Thing is, I can understand where Walsh might have a problem with various types of pornography found on the internet.  The very nature of the medium, and the worldwide reach of it, is conducive to exploitation of people who don’t want to be involved in the production of such content.  If you will, allow me to take the bold stance that I, too, abhor any kind of forced sexual trafficking, and wish to never support it in any conceivable way.

But beyond that, Let me state clearly that Walsh is wrong about porn as an industry (in most of the U.S. at least).

Look, what people do for a living (within the bounds of the law, of course) is what people do for a living.  Is it less degrading for the contestants on Survivor or Fear Factor to endure their travails than it is for Lisa Sparxxx to win the worldwide gangbang championship?  I submit that it is not.  What’s the difference?  Both are following the directions of a producer/director/whatever to crank up as much viewership as possible.  If one does so through sex, and the other does so through eating scorpions, who are we to determine which is moral and which is not?  What’s the criteria by which we make that judgement?  Is it only ok if the person being (allegedly) degraded doesn’t enjoy it?  Of course not, and deciding that degrading oneself for money is only acceptable in a non-sexual context is hypocritical at best, provably conceited and self serving at worst.

So, porn is as valid a career as anything we see on reality TV, at least.  But what about the viewer?  Isn’t that the one Matt Walsh points his finger toward?

Let me tell you this.  People who watch pornography are people who do what people have done since the dawn of time.  The art of creating images of folks in sexual congress has been around since the first neanderthal picked up some ocher and scribbled some tits on a cave wall.  We, as a species, are hard wired to crave sex, and nothing anyone has ever done or ever will do is going to cure us of that, because the survival of our species has depended on it for as long as there has been human life on the planet.  There is a reason 80% of the traffic on the internet is sex related.  It’s the God damned biological imperative, and you can no more get rid of that than our desire to breathe air.

But there’s more to this than simply watching porn.

See, there is never a shortage of people who feel the need, and the authority, to tell others what they should do with their private lives.  It’s the reason evangelicals scream and cry about marriage equality for gay folks.  It’s the reason everyone threw a fit over Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.”  It’s the reason there are people who will tell you, with a straight face, that wanting to watch others enjoy sex is a morally reprehensible act, one that makes you completely deserving of the worst of social consequences.

All this moral speechifying from others, though, compels me to do a little of it myself.  So, without further ado, may I present the only moral rule anyone need ever live by.

First, Do No Harm

Beyond this, no morality is needed.  Here’s an example.

Bob and Joe are a couple of 25 year old tech support workers in Redondo Beach, California.  One night, they go out together to pick up some chicks.  After all, it’s the weekend, and what else are a couple of young, reasonably successful single guys to do?  Unfortunately, though, the club is a chronic sausage fest, and they come away from the evening with nary a phone number, let alone a female participant in the night’s festivities.  But man, they’ve both had a lot to drink, and they’re both on a dry streak.  After a couple more shots at Bob’s house (they did the responsible thing and took a cab, being in no condition to drive), Joe says, “I’d take just about anything naked right now, even you.”

And the next morning, two very hung over men realize that they have relived a scene from Brokeback Mountain.

Was anyone harmed?  Unless you consider the fact that Bob is walking a little funny, no harm has come to anyone, and therefore nothing immoral has taken place.  Neither Bob or Joe might care to remember the events of the previous night, or maybe they decide (in true Brokeback Mountain form) that they just can’t quit one another.  But the important thing to remember is that no one came to any harm, and everyone involved was a consenting adult.

Another example.

Charles and Clara have been seeing one another for a while.  They met shortly after each of them had been divorced from a frigid, boring, unloving spouse.  Turns out Clara is bisexual (Charles is a very happy guy all of a sudden).  So, they create a personal ad for a woman to join them in some non-committal sexual adventures.  Soon, the personal ad comes to fruition, and the three of them have a wonderful evening of delights that leaves all involved exhausted, but truly satisfied.  Did Charles cheat?  Did Clara?  What about their unnamed third party?  Of course not, because they are all consenting adults, and no one was harmed.

Last example, I swear.

Tom is the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and profits are down for the quarter.  Tom knows that the reason for lower profits are due to lower employment numbers across the country, which of course lead to a reduction in the public’s ability to buy his company’s products.  Tom also knows (because he is familiar with boom-bust cycles in economics, and he should, in his position, understand basic math and management strategies), if he keeps his employees on hand at their current wages, the company will eventually turn around and those employees will be even more productive for having been treated well in a bad economy.  Moreover, Tom is aware of the effects of branding on profits, and knows that if he keeps his employees taken care of even at the expense of profits (and advertises such), it will improve his company’s public image and, in the long run, boost profits because shoppers feel more inclined to pay for things that benefit their neighbors.  But, Tom also knows that the shareholders of the company might not be patient enough to wait for such a return on their investment, and they would prefer to have a high dividend paid for the next quarter.  They will, in turn, reward Tom with a bonus of $3 million higher than the $1 million guaranteed in his contract.  So, to make an additional $3 million, Tom lays off the bulk of the rank and file employees of the company, and retires with the extra money he made on the deal.

Of the above three examples, who is the immoral one?  After all, two of these scenarios are grounds for a scandal, possibly ruinous litigation, or even criminal prosecution.  And the other is completely legal, and will result in zero negative consequences for the bad actor.  I’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is this.

We in America have a very skewed view of what is and is not moral.  Maybe it’s time to start living by Hippocrates’ oath, and consider that first, we should do no harm.  And that even more importantly, we should not negatively judge others, or treat them as anything less than equals, if their actions (regardless of whether or not we condone them) are not causing any harm.

Maybe we should get our priorities right, in other words.  Just a thought.