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The Lost Art of Civics

  • Should States have more or less power over their own affairs than they currently do?
  • Should we limit the power of government so that those who earn a living keep as much of it as possible?
  • How much do we owe to people who aren’t Americans?
  • How closely should our society regulate businesses in the tradeoff between free enterprise and protection for the communities such enterprise may affect?
  • What is the best method of managing the complex relationship that exists between authority figures, such as police, and the people they serve?

These are central questions, ones that divide liberals and conservatives. Liberals believe that equal opportunity for all people is essential to a healthy democracy. Conservatives believe that government should intervene only to the extent that an individual’s rights are not significantly hindered. Oh, what a time it was when these questions had reasonable answers! Compromise was to be had everywhere – a tax burden lifted here, a tax loophole closed there; accountability practices enacted to protect both businesses and ordinary communities; everyone gets along to ensure that gun owners in New Hampshire can still shoot deer while those in Chicago cannot shoot each other.

These questions no longer divide Democrats and Republicans, which is why this election season is so painful to watch. The questions that Republicans are asking are so extremely off-the-charts reactionary that Mussolini himself would flinch. I feel sorry for those conservatives with whom I would likely disagree respectfully about inheritance taxes and robust social protection systems, because their Grand Old Party has turned into a Great Ugly Awfulness. They have no one but the bigoted, bloviating pieces of human garbage who espouse views unfortunately in the general orbit of their own conservative beliefs. That is, I pity the Lincoln Republican smelling their shit in the form of Donald fucking Trump and Ted fucking Cruz.

Now, we have to listen to the majority of Republicans – who still call themselves conservatives by association – ask the uglier questions instead:

  • Should States have the right to deny basic rights and services to its citizens because they are gay, black, poor, unskilled, or have made past mistakes?
  • Should we abolish or merely limit the IRS, the agency responsible for funding the country with national defense, a judicial system, physical infrastructure, national parks, free/public/secular education, healthcare for the poor and elderly, and protection from worker exploitation, among virtually all other social benefits?
  • Should we carpet bomb civilians of other nations because of guilt-by-association, or cut off all foreign aid, or merely provide limited sums of money for causes that advance a limited strategic agenda?
  • Should we let companies poison water sources and pollute the air in the name of free enterprise, or should we trust that they will police themselves on such issues?
  • Are the police totally faultless now and forever, or are they just misrepresented by people who complain a lot?

I am ashamed of our country. There are very stupid people, racist people, bullies, assholes. I don’t expect them to vote with me. But I just didn’t expect stupid, racist, bully assholes to become the frontrunners in this campaign for the revered position of United States President.

Kate’s Law

Once again, reading the Facebook trends is a depressing reminder that people do not stop to think about an issue more deeply than the 30 seconds they read about it on social media or the 10 minutes that Bill O’Reilly will fume about it from the extreme far fringes of the right.

Never mind the fact that immigrants commit less crime than natives.

Never mind the fact that this law would have no foreseeable effect on preventing deported immigrants from re-entering the country.

Never mind the fact that mandatory minimums and harsher penalties are notoriously ineffective at actually deterring crime.

Never mind the fact that the language of the law completely contradicts what liberals, conservatives, and moderates everywhere have been saying since the 2014 elections because it’s the only thing everyone can agree on. Even extremists like Ted Cruz are admonishing the scourge of exploding incarceration rates as a result of unnecessarily harsh and recognizably unfair, not to mention disparately applied federal laws (the direct quote: “current draconian mandatory minimum sentences”).

Yet here he and other Republicans are, touting Kate’s Law, which would do the opposite of that one thing we all seemed to agree on a few minutes ago: we need to do something about the embarrassing fact that we deprive people of their freedom at far and away the highest rate in the world.

Kate’s Law would have a devastating effect on that progress by expanding mandatory minimum sentencing and the federal prison population by some 28%. That 300%-ish increase in term length amounts to $2 billion dollars per year. All that federal taxpayer money that could be used to deport immigrant criminals and let their own countries handle them (or, my goodness, feed starving children or support scientific research!) is now used to feed, house, and clothe them for at least 5 years, just so we can prevent the handful of the violent ones who come back in and commit more crimes. Some criminal justice reform, huh?

I am fully behind the intent of Kate’s Law, as I think most Democrats and liberals are: people who commit violent crimes should not be given the opportunity to immigrate, at least not any time in the near future, and protecting US citizens and residents from all enemies domestic and foreign should be top priority. Even disregarding my belief in compassion, kindness, and mercy towards all humans (yes — violent non-native felons included), I believe people like the man who killed Kate should be held accountable for their crimes and should not be allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship.

The problem is not the intent of Kate’s Law; it’s the letter of the law. This law, and people who have failed to think about its effects thoroughly, confuse a particular for a general. They apply “some” oughts to “all” oughts. This is the exact same fallacy that mandatory minimum sentencing commits. People look at Juan Francisco Lopez Sanchez and think that because HE should be put away for a very long time and never be allowed to assimilate into U.S. life, that ALL felons should be necessarily put away for a very long time and never be allowed to assimilate into U.S. life. Under such a law, a person who fled across the border to escape certain murder by gang violence and who keys two cars (165.10) or vandalizes a gravesite doing more than $250 in damage (145.23), is now subject to more prison time than a U.S. citizen who forcibly inserts a pool cue into the anus of an elderly quadriplegic. A disturbing image, I know. But I hope you can consider the irony and the horror of the latter getting a maximum of 4 years while the former gets a minimum of 5.

While everyone would like to see violent criminals who are not legally in the country to be punished and/or deported, this is not the way to do it, and THAT is what the Democrats are fighting for. Mandatory minimum sentencing robs judges of discretion and throws the baby out with the bathwater by incarcerating — AT THE VERY LEAST FOR FIVE WHOLE YEARS — those who pose a legitimate threat to the safety and security of Americans along with those who do not pose any threat. For the violent criminals, fine. For everyone else, this is an extravagant way to keep the threats at bay.

Read a couple of articles before you jump to a conclusion on Kate’s Law. The simian spittle that’s coming through the Facebook pipeline suggests most people have not. You. You investigate why Democrats are opposing a bill that you think should be passed unanimously. Chances are, you’ll see it’s not because Democrats are in the habit of promoting murderers’ rights to walk free. It’s because the language of the law contains something contemptible by everyone’s standards except its extremist authors.

An Open Letter I’ll Never Actually Send

Dear Congressperson,

I am writing to you about a problem you may already know exists, but that I feel compelled to bring to your attention anyway. I am writing to let you know about the deplorable working conditions at the Social Security Administration. I am a former employee of the [hum-de-dum] office and, like many former employees there, feel that it is an unbearable place to work because of substandard service, employee mismanagement, flagrant disrespect of public office, and activity that (I dare say) smacks of criminal activity.

I have a list, far from comprehensive, of all the ignominious things that go on in the office. To name a few:

1. Many employees are routinely truant, disrespectful, abusive, and unfathomably incompetent;
2. Management staff is by and large incompetent at managing and unskilled at basic office work such as computer use;
3. The bureaucracy prohibits creativity and business improvement;
4. Public disservice is practically an office policy; and
5. Misapplication of justice to save face is commonplace.

Approximately half of the employees are unfit to be working at ODAR or in any government employment. One performs so poorly that she completes less than one-tenth the work of her highly competent co-worker (same position, same responsibilities). These are not idle accusations; I charge you to demand the objective numbers of “case work-up” to compare. Others, when instructed to step up the game, completed work so shoddily and inconsistent with our Electronic Business Process standard that the work had to be redone later by another assistant, with no sanction for the slacker and no credit to the re-doer. When this situation was brought up to management by some staff members, nothing was done for fear of “union action”. In my opinion, the purpose of the union is to protect members from injustice by authorities, NOT to protect their extremely sub-par performance using fear tactics. Nevertheless, management refuses to take action on the horrendous performance of some employees by using the unions as an excuse.

Verbal arguments between staff and management have gone completely out of control. One woman cursed out a manager in several people’s presence, accusing him of being a liar and a racist. We expected sanctions, and indeed some of us were called to act as witnesses to this terrible act — that is, the management knows about this act — yet she continues working there. Another woman frequently spoke of her co-workers as “bitches”, “whores”, and “assholes” in front of attorneys, claimants, and independent experts. Others held birthday parties for hours with selected guests invited, held in the personal office of the Chief Administrative Law Judge. The Director disclosed my personal health information on a conference call, on speakerphone, with her office door open. I was shocked when my co-worker (fortunately, a friend), detailed the names of my doctors and my prescribed course of treatment for a tibial injury as well as what the Director thought of my orthopedist. The Director has also ignored legitimate complaints of personal safety and health, including a death threat on an Judge and heart palpitations felt by a case worker who was given triple her responsibility because of the irresponsibility of other workers.

A final measure of disservice that I find appalling is how we were instructed to deal with the allegedly disabled. For one, we had been instructed by our Director to leave unchecked (and automatically delete if the box was full) all incoming voicemails on the number at the reception desk. As a scheduler, I kept not hearing from clients and representatives I expected to. When I secretly obeyed my conscience (by disobeying the Director’s rules) and listened to dozens of voicemails from clients, representatives, and other SSA offices, I found exactly what I had expected: important messages marked for deletion. Some claimants’ had called in to say they couldn’t make it to the office for one reason or another; their cases were later dismissed, on Failure to Appear, by Judges who didn’t receive the message. Others were from representatives calling me back about their unavailability for a date I had called to suggest – resulting in delays of months or more (costing the government thousands of dollars in needless error). Another few messages were from a Payment Center in Baltimore, which kept asking for us to release the second of two decisions on a single case, as it was causing them not to be able to pay a claimant for a fully favorable decision. Trust in the government is at a trough, and this is exactly why.

I could go on for pages, but the truth of the matter can be found in my records at SSA. I worked exactly 40 hours per week, like everyone else; I scheduled for 3-4 (and sometimes 5-6) ALJs at a time while implementing special projects and having the highest case work-up record in the Office. I mean not to brag but to show that some employees accomplish less than half of what a competent person ought to.

I hope you can raise the issue with the Deputy Commissioner or some other figurehead to rectify the situation, or to address these problems in a better way.

Sincerely,

Never to be a whistleblower for fear of past whistleblower action

B.O. Stinks.

OK, Bill O’Reilly, here’s what it could be, on the scale of charitableness to prosecutorial:

1. You’re telling the truth about it all. You were in a war zone, life-and-death situation, almost died, were near another reporter who got injured, got chased by the Argentine army, and feel strongly enough about these experiences that text, video, and testimony will exonerate you.

2. Your words were taken out of context. Liberals and other media are not giving you the benefit of the doubt. When you said you were covering the Falkland Islands War and were in a dangerous combat zone, you were employing the literary device of metonymy. When you said you have “reported on the ground in active war zones from El Salvador to the Falklands,” your reference to the Falklands is metonymic. Like if you say you reported on the drug wars in Mexico, you don’t mean the resort at Acapulco and you don’t mean mediating the handshake between two gang members, but rather, you mean where the actual reporting about the drug wars in Mexico was going on.

3. You were slightly embellishing when you said those things, and it’s too late to back out now out of pride. (Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.)

4. You believe you are telling the truth, but your memory has deceived you (a legitimate scientific phenomenon. Some have used it to defend Brian Williams).

5. You lied about it all and continue to lie – you knew you were never in a war zone in the Falkland Islands, but in order to speak sagaciously with pundits, you deliberately overstated your involvement in order to up your street cred.

Well we now know that #1 isn’t true, so you had 4 more options. Why would you pick number 5, and continue to defend your claims that were obviously not nothing-but-the-truth?

Ugh.

#b.o.stinks

Vote for Common Sense

Tomorrow is Election Day, and I don’t understand. I can’t fathom how the extremist right-wing Party has any representatives in Congress, let alone be expected to take both houses. This is not the party of small government anymore. If it were, I’d be glad to have a chat. Instead, this is the party that believes that:

The poor should rot in their filthy slums (Cut food stamp benefits! People on welfare are lazy! The homeless brought it on themselves! Affordable housing is passé! SSI recipients are scum of the earth!);

The minimum wage should not be raised (the fact that even a single, childless 35 hour-per-week worker on minimum wage in New York State is going to be on FOOD STAMPS and other government benefits that Republicans so despise is irrelevant in light of the “burden” to business-owners);

Gaining access to higher education should be the duty of an individual, with no help from the government (thus closing every road for a poor person to get a better wage, windfalls and serendipity notwithstanding);

Obamacare is the biggest threat to society and the economy (when all evidence thus far shows it to be a boon in nearly every financial and social measure, not even taking into account the value of Human Capital);

Global warming is a hoax (Salem Witch persecution-esque reliance on anecdotes from disreputable sources is equal to peer-reviewed, internationally supported, sound, comprehensive research, and there is no distinction between “weather” and “climate”, since last year’s cold season and the buffoon journalist without a degree in climatology who created the Weather Channel saying so prove once and for all that it’s a hoax);

Voting rights only belong to the privileged class (Photo IDs required! Redistricting by the ruling party! Restrict access so that minorities and the poor who work long shifts have little opportunity to vote! Historically racist counties being subject to federal oversight is unconstitutional!);

Criminals deserve no forgiveness or rehabilitation, only punishment for the rest of their lives (as if 15 years in an environment of constant fear, threats, isolation, physical and psychological abuse, lawlessness, and corruption wouldn’t predict a high rate of recidivism);

Jobs are created by corporations, not by economic demand (a violation of every theory in economic science except the erroneous one lobbied for by wealthy businessmen who seek more financial benefit to themselves);

Abortion is murder, and therefore morally impermissible (failing to consider the other creature involved in abortion called a “woman”, failing to consider the scenario of illegal abortions being more dangerous to the health and safety of women than legal ones, and failing to consider the moral implications of being a frightened sixteen year-old in poverty rearing a child in a culture of judgment, stigma, malignance, phobia, general social abandonment, and/or outright hatred (usually by so-called non-judgmental “Christians”) for the aforementioned creature who dared to consent to premarital sexual intercourse like the other estimated 90-95% of Americans, and who may have done so even while using all adequate protections (which, by the way, Republicans also want to ban any mention of and funding for, lest it promote premarital sex, when there is zero evidence — and in fact heavy, heavy evidence to the contrary — that abstinence-only education works));

Gays, who are people, deserve fewer rights than straight people, who are also people (who in turn also deserve exactly the same rights as corporations, who are not people);

Blacks are condemned by their own culture (thou shalt not wear baggy jeans or do-rags or large earrings! Thou shalt not speak unlike Thurston Howell III! Thou shalt not profess support for Obama, because this proves you only care about skin color!);

Immigrants are vile creatures to be sent back to their homelands (despite producing more in economic output than native-born citizens) and illegal immigrants are even more vile than legal immigrants, because they (often as minor youth before having knowledge of their circumstances) dared to flee or be carried by their parents from a far-flung land where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stand outside their doors as mortality rates from Pestilence, War, and Famine skyrocket for their country and demographic (circumstance and family strength be damned, no amnesty or forgiveness for their neglect of the frontier laws of the Greener Grass country);

Ownership of guns, including multi-round assault weapons, is an inalienable right that may not be limited by any measure of rationality even with evidence of abuse and misuse; and

Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity are the Stalwarts of Truth and Saviors of Unbiased Media (even though independent sources — labeled “liberal-leaning” because Republicans happen to disagree with what critical thinkers know to be centrist — declare, with supporting data to prove it, a huge number of their absurd, incendiary, dog-whistle statements to be totally pants-on-fire unreliable).

My goal for 2014 was to find a rational, logical Republican with whom I could have a reasonable discussion about small and large government; the relationship between freedom and equality, and what to do when they conflict; the application of moral philosophy in a civil society where political policies inevitably benefit some and harm others; a society’s duty to its people as individuals and as a whole; the priorities of public benefits, national security, human rights, and the environment. I have been sorely disappointed in my efforts. I have presented above the most extreme circumstances I can, hoping that by going to the rightest of the right I would find, part of the way there, a decent alternative of which a Republican friend may also approve. Instead, I find that almost all of the above tenets belong to the base of the Party, tenets from which neither debate can be had nor compromise struck. I would like to be proven wrong.

What I believe in — and was hoping to find also in an interlocutor — is: kindness toward the gays (even if you do not approve of their lifestyle), reservation of judgment of minorities (even if you do not understand their culture), and compassion toward the plight of many immigrants (even if you believe they should return to their homeland). I believe in expanding opportunities for everyone, and embracement of equality; income tax is no more a violation of my rights than the existence of a law banning physical assault. When put to good use, public programs like Medicaid, SNAP, Child Care, Social Security, free, secular, integrated education, and other forms of assistance boost our country both socially and economically; they are not a government evil to be slashed financially and maligned at the podium. Providing an additional access point to affordable healthcare is fundamentally a good thing. Voting should be expanded to include all eligible citizens, not just the ones who can afford to get up at 5 am on a Tuesday morning and drive to a polling site and who had the time, money, and wherewithal to register far in advance. And I cannot for my life understand what, exactly, about these beliefs is ridiculous. I cannot understand why advocating for these rights is “anti-American”, “socialist”, “communist”, “imbecilic”, or “ultra-liberal”.

Can it really be the case that approximately half of this country supports this ultra-conservative Party so full of hate and disgust for people not as fortunate as themselves, a Party unwilling to engage in substantive discussion about the issues? Prove me wrong. Please vote tomorrow for common sense.

I can’t even.

obama midterms

All I want at this point is to talk to someone that makes any damn sense. I expect a little criticism for Obama. I expect a lot from Republicans. But THIS?? I can’t even.

First of all, let’s just talk about the title: Obama’s Policies. Yes, I’m sure that “Ebola Patient in U.S.” is a policy of the Commander in Chief, right up there with Immigration Reform and Access to Healthcare. “Hey Joe, whaddya say we attract some people with deadly contagious viruses here, just to endanger Americans’ lives… and hey, while we’re at it, we’ll lower my poll numbers!” Idiots.

I’m so perturbed by this post, and how mind-numbingly stupid you must be to be persuaded by these remarks, that I have to go through each one of them one by one. I never knew how large the population that’s dumb enough to believe these posts but has enough brain function to use social media (where I found this) was.

  • $17.8 trillion in debt
    • Fact. Another fact: The U.S. debt has been increasing every year since World War 2, IDIOT. We’ve also been holding debt since 1791, except for a year in 1835. What we should be citing on our debt problems is a little thing called deficit, which is the amount by which the rate of debt increases relative to our revenue. It’s okay to have debt — as any homeowner or college student can tell you — but it’s not okay to have a lot of debt and only a little present or future income. We should look at deficit and the increase or decrease over the President’s term. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT:
      Obama Deficits
      FY 2015: $564 bln
      FY 2014: $649 bln
      FY 2013: $680 bln
      FY 2012: $1,087 bln
      FY 2011: $1,300 bln
      FY 2010: $1,294 bln
      Bush Deficits
      FY 2009: $1,413 bln
      FY 2008: $458 bln
      FY 2007: $161 bln
      FY 2006: $248 bln
      FY 2005: $318 bln
  • Almost 1/2 of Americans jobless
    • They’re called children, the elderly, and disabled, IDIOT. If 1/2 of all able-bodied and able-minded people were jobless, that’s a story. But actually, the unemployment rate has gone down significantly over Obama’s term. Funny how that’s not on the propagandistic meme. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: “The nation’s unemployment rate fell below 6% in September for the first time in six years. The rate came in at 5.9%, while employers added 248,000 jobs last month.”
  • Electricity prices 20% higher
    • Uhh, how about a source, IDIOT? You can’t just claim things without substantiating. A 20% increase over what period of time? Year to year? Well, if you mean over the six years of Obama’s term, a 20% increase would be *tiddle the calculator* 1.2 root 6 is… 3% per year. Well, not ideal, given the recession, but still less than a standard year’s inflation! So if you’re talking about over six years, you lose — a 20% increase is less than the amount your groceries rose. If you mean PER year, then OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: it has only risen between 0 and 3% for the full calendar years Obama’s been in office.
  • Record poverty
    • “Poverty” increases with recessions, IDIOT. The Obama Administration is still too busy cleaning up the mess of the Bush Administration that the number of people in poverty has naturally gone up. Also, the ones trying to fight poverty with all those evil “government programs” are those bleeding-heart democrats: the stimulus, which Republicans fought tooth and nail against; SNAP (“food stamps”), which Republicans want to cut; Medicaid, which Republicans don’t want to expand eligibility for; taxing the wealthy to boost the poor and middle class, which Republicans believe would kill jobs. Psst… there’s no evidence of a causal relationship between jobs and how wealthy the wealthy get. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: Check the increases during recessions.
  • Insurance Premiums Double
    • Uh, you’re talking about over a period of time spanning more than a decade, IDIOT: “The average annual premiums in 2013 are $5,884 for single coverage and $16,351 for family coverage.  Average premiums increased 5% for single coverage and 4% for family coverage in the last year.  Family premiums have increased 80% since 2003 and have more than doubled since 2002“. Health insurance costs have been rising every year, but since Obama’s term began, especially since the passage of the ACA, they’ve increased at a MUCH slower rate. Like, from 13% per year to 4 or 5% per year “much slower”. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: The evil of Obamacare cannot be sold anymore, now that independent nonprofits keep singing its praises in statistical language as beautiful and as dry as Gregorian chants praise God.
  • Terrorists Seizing Middle East
    • Have you been paying attention for the last century or so, IDIOT? It’s the Middle-fucking-East.
  • NSA Spying
    • Policies began under the Bush Administration, IDIOT. It’s called the Patriot Act. That Obama has continued the policies is an error, in my estimation, but that doesn’t make Obama blameworthy for its occurrence, any more than the leaky faucet in the apartment you just moved to is your fault. It’s only your fault that you didn’t fix the faucet. And if you think Obama is to blame for all this “spying”? OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: A beautiful timeline.
  • Red Line in Syria
    • Yeah, I’ll give you that one. Assad’s a dick and Obama’s struggling not to get into another war. I wouldn’t know what to do, honestly, and you don’t either, IDIOT. Because every option is a bad one.
  • Iraq Implosion
    • Oh, you mean the Iraq War started and continued by your hero, George W. Bush… IDIOT? Please forgive Obama for withdrawing from an endless and highly unpopular war that was based on faulty intelligence, a feeble casus belli, and the pretense of liberation to preemptively strike. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: You forgot the warmongering of the Bush Doctrine.
  • Ukraine Crisis
    • Yes, Obama planned for Ukraine to blow up politically and Putin to be a corrupt, hegemonic despot. The sanctions levied against Russia by the rest of the world not being enough, we should probably start a nuclear war with Russia, or at least start another Space Race.
  • IRS Targeting Citizens
    • A “scandal” that has nothing to do with the President, IDIOT. As a former government employee, let me tell you: everyone is incompetent. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: The IRS targeting certain groups unfairly has nothing to do with the President, and a lot to do with how government employees are hired (inefficiently) and fired (never, even for egregious wrongdoing). Believe me, I’ve written my Senator, and so should you.
  • Veterans Dying
    • Uh, yes. People die, IDIOT. But if you’re talking about the VA scandal, it’s a result of — you guessed it! — REPUBLICANS not wanting to fund those nasty government programs called Veterans’ benefits. “Too much spending”, they say. “All you Democrats want to do is tax and spend, tax and spend,” they accuse, screaming over the wails of dying veterans. It’s not Obama’s fault, anyway (or Bush’s, or Clinton’s, or Reagan’s). It’s Congress’ job to create accountability for government agencies not doing their part, and to fund them adequately so that they can.
  • Ebola Patient in U.S.
    • Not the President’s fault, IDIOT. GOD, how dumb can you get?
  • Benghazi Terrorist Attack
    • Benghazi again, IDIOT? The nonsensical accusations, bogus conspiracy theories, repeatedly debunked claims don’t get tiring to you to repeat from your padded cell?
  • Iran Becoming Nuclear
    • This isn’t a thing, IDIOT. Unless the conspiracy theories are somehow proven true Any basic Google search can tell you, but I’ll lay it out for you. “Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is not known to currently possess weapons of mass destruction (WMD)”.
  • ISIS Beheads Americans
    • Not the President’s fault, IDIOT, nor is it anyone’s fault but ISIS’. Equally unrelated news headlines to put on an anti-Obama meme: “Zimmermann shoots Martin”, “Robin Williams found dead in LA home”, “Nobel Prize in Physics goes to scientists who invented the blue LED”.
  • Tens of Thousands Flood Our Border
    • Illegal immigration is a problem everyone wants to tackle, IDIOT. But as for tens of thousands flooding our borders, I’ll take “Things that Have Happened for Decades” for $200, Alex. What we need to address the problem is Immigration Reform. OH YEAH ABOUT THAT: it’s been blocked by Republicans.

“Like” if you’ll keep in mind that everything in the meme is nonsense. All this author wants to do is find a reasonable, sensible Republican before he dies.

 

If Stoops Had Eaves

“Like I was telling you before, alphas, to me..”

“…Stupid to me. It’s just… it’s dumb.”

“Hey, what’s goin’ on?”

“Ou bien, je ne sais pas.”

“They say he shake like me I say no he shake like he daddy. Look like him, shake like him.”

“I got Nex, I’m trying to get him to the door! I ain’t put you on hold!”

“You smoke?”
“I’m sorry?”
“…weed? If you want weed, I got it.”

“I may need your help with this.”

“…came to me and said, apart from you and Freddy… these things?”

“No, no, I hardly ever run into you guys. Hardly ever. What are you guys up to this summer?”
“Well, she’s going to camp…”

A Head Start

guillotine

It is a melancholy object to those who walk through this great town or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads, and cabin doors, crowded with unarmed people of every kind. I write this plea to the unarmed with a heavy heart, for the recent tragedies of the elementary school at Oldsville, CO and the theater in Northern Lights, CT weigh on my conscience greatly. One cannot, of course, mention any of these tragedies without referring to Aquilegia Central School, where these awful occurrences had their genesis in the contemporary discourse. It is my hope that we can put this chapter of history behind us in the face of a new solution.

I write, of course, about the decapitations ravaging our country. A mentally disturbed student chops off a dozen heads at his university. An angry outburst from a postal worker results in five heads on the ground. And thousands and thousands of decapitations in lovers’ disputes, drug-fueled gang hack-outs, and suicides occur in the United States each year, all because of the simple fact that our beloved decapitation tools are not plentiful enough. This situation has come to a head.

Over the 250 years since our country’s birth, the engineering of decapitators has developed significantly. From the humble beginnings of the guillotine (or perhaps, preceding this, the inauspicious pocket knife), we now have such inventions as the common head-lopper, neck-chopper, trap-shutter, gullet-mucker (or “shutter-upper”, in the vernacular), noggin exciser, and esophageal slicer. Higher-order decapitators include the Axe Me No Questions, the Hutu-Tutsi, the Danny Trejo, the Severus Snape, the blades of the Icabod Crane Series, and the most popular both by sales volume and by user satisfaction, the Machete Antoinette.

When so many decapitators are available in such a wide variety, it is quite a wonder that the common citizen not only chooses to forgo an Icabod in his sheath but to walk around with nothing more than the pen in his pocket! A well-maintained militia being essential to the free state, only the possession of a machete accomplishes in totality what our forefathers intended as the basis for this country’s greatness.

With that, I shall lay out my five-point argument for why every citizen should carry a machete, and why my opponents, the Machete Control activists, have no good arguments.

First, the primary purpose of a machete is self-defense. Defense and attack are two sides of the same coin, however, so the primary purpose of a machete might also be called “hostile aggression”. For the responsible of us, this hostile aggression upon our peers is only committed against assholes, and all assholes deserve to die. That is why it is dangerous for company executives to make sexist comments, deny promotions, and make employees work late, not to mention cause the heads to roll (metaphorically, of course) during an economic downturn, for they run the risk of being decapitated for such asshole-esque behavior. If you charge that only the assholes who try to physically harm you or your property deserve to die, I would counter that that is exactly why the penalty in most states for battery, burglary, stalking, and harassment is lethal injection. Our exemplary judicial system has dictated that the most egregious crime one can commit is annoying an innocent with the intent to steal.

Second, if self-preservation and protection from violence is essential to freedom in America, then it goes without saying that we should have weapons that allow us to self-preserve and protect to the maximum degree. Assault machetes and automatic or semi-automatic machetes are the most legitimate choice for a true patriot, since they afford the maximum amount of self-preservation. In the event of a nuclear holocaust or government takeover (which the America-hating “libbies” are trying to effectuate at every turn), your only hope against the masses trying to harm you and your property is that machete with the automatic 40-blade-changing gears. Machete control equals absolute despotism. No one trusts the higher-ups in government. Despite our democratic system and the fluctuations of the party majorities in our legislature, there are still subtle indications that everyone in government wants to take away our God-given right to chop people’s heads off when we see fit. After all, what was the purpose of the Binding of Isaac (Genesis 22) if not granting the right to decapitate when appropriate?

Tasers, mace, blunt objects, and the police are not nearly debilitating enough to a hardened criminal trying to hurt you; you might as well try hurting him with a wet noodle, since everyone knows that Tasers also function as sex toys, mace is prone to smelling really bad, that blunt object you grabbed could always turn out to be a pillow, and the police are funded by my taxes (and I’ll be damned if I pay another dime in taxes to a big bureaucracy just so everyone else can have the freedom I enjoy with my machete). It is essential that we preserve machetes as the only tool capable of defending against both the individual assailant and an overreaching government.

Third, the liberals’ accusation that the danger of the machete automatically demands its dormancy is woefully unsubstantiated by the facts. I will grant that instances in which a femoral artery is severed or a forearm is amputated accidentally do occur painfully often. But the nature of any tool is that it is subject to misuse and accidents. How many times have you crushed a dozen bones in your own hand with a hammer, severed a limb chopping onions, murdered a child playing touch football, or blown up your house in a gas explosion? All of us have done these at some point in our lives; accidents just happen.

I should add that in 2013, there was a minimum of 50,000 self-reported instances where a machete was used in self-defense to scare away a criminal, but only about 12,000 people died in machete-related violence. If it weren’t for machetes, those 50,000 self-defending people might have been six feet under, rather than living to tell the tale. Machete Control activists also tend to ignore the fact that you do not have to fully chop off the head to have an effect on a criminal; a piercing of the jugular or a swipe to the temple will do the trick to deter him. Even if the attacker has a machete, merely the presence of your machete at your side reduces the chances that any machete will be used. Therefore, the safety of the machete far outweighs its danger.

Fourth, not only can you protect yourself with a machete, you can also be a hero by protecting the rest of your community. When a maniac goes around chopping people’s heads off in Times Square, other people with machetes would easily be able to chop off the maniac’s head. It is true that without any machetes, far fewer people would lose their heads. But insane people will find a way to remove others’ heads at whatever cost. What about fringe groups like the Dental Floss Decapitators or the Sweeney Todd Alliance, whose names need no explanation? Should we then ban dental floss and safety razors? It would be ridiculous to regulate these products; it is similarly ridiculous to regulate machetes. Why take away a useful tool like the machete at the expense of our freedom?

Finally, criminalizing machetes at this point in our history makes absolutely no sense. There are already so many machetes here that to outlaw all but the safest of them would be ineffective. Machetes, as we all know, do not rust, break, or dull. Furthermore, no one who was alive during the time a law was passed actually follows that law, hence why no one born before 1973 ever got an abortion and no white person born before 1963 drinks water from the same fountain as a black person. So, therefore, the criminalization of machetes would only apply to those born after the law was passed, and that makes the law ineffective for as long as it would take for Republicans to get back in power and repeal such a senseless law.

Strict machete-control laws have not had success elsewhere, I might add. The United States is by far the most machete-heavy country, with Yemen, Switzerland, and Serbia behind. All of these countries enjoy relatively stable rates of decapitation. Even though dozens of countries with anti-machete laws have much lower rates of decapitation, it is also true that we can point to other countries with similar anti-machete laws, but that still have school decapitations and mass murder nonetheless. Germany is a perfect example; in spite of freedom-hating anti-machete laws, their decapitation rates have not been lowered significantly. It didn’t work. Anyway, do you want to be taking policy advice from the instigators of two World Wars?

The insanity of the liberals is that some of them want to do away with all machetes completely! Even if this were not antithetical to the Constitution, which it is, how else would we chop our grain and hunt our deer, let alone defend ourselves against violent perpetrators and the authoritarian genocide that would inevitably result from such a communist idea? After we ban machetes, what would be next? Some guy getting high on bath salts and eating another guy’s face? I find it hard to believe that anyone would want his wife or daughter to be beheaded by some savage, when he could easily protect them with his own perfectly legal beheader.

My reasons being sufficiently expounded upon, I would add one final note that the decap-and-trade policies should be absolutely done away with. If it is in my best interest to decapitate, then so be it; the government does not have any right to tell me how many property violators I can decapitate.

My friends, I write with particular exigency on this issue because the solution to this problem is simple. It is right in front of our noses. If everyone were allowed to have and use a machete at free will, the overall amount of freedom in this country would go up. That is never a bad thing. The tragedy of Oldsville will live on in our hearts and minds, but it has taught us one lesson, one which Rev. Ralph Wheelock, the first public school teacher in America, stated in 1680: “A crazy man with a blade on his hip is just called Don Quixote, but a sane man with the same is an insurmountable beacon of hope against the terrors of the filthy Irish.”

If I cannot convince you to carry a machete at all times for the purpose of decapitating the people who try to hurt you, then I cannot help you when you are accosted by a beggar and have to simply push him away and say “no” to his supplications instead of giving him a good swipe above the collarbone.  Your rape at machete-point could have been avoided had you carried your own machete, with only one person’s blood on your hands. The murder of that child at Oldsville might never have happened, if only we had equipped the schools with machetes as fully as we equip them with fire extinguishers. But if these are not reasons enough, let me have my own freedom to hack at the flesh of trespassers. Do not limit our Machete Antoinettes, and we will not permanently limit your air supply.

Metropolitan Transit

One year ago today, I rode the train for no reason at all. Just to people-watch, really. I didn’t bring a book or headphones, just an iPhone where I took notes. It must have looked like I was doing something totally normal for commuting. Here’s what I wrote down over the next two or three hours:

-snoring guy
-pretty girl, too much makeup
-put-together couple
-girl leaning on pole with a butt so big it surrounds the pole
-pack of Louisville Cardinals fans
-59th St. – full jazz band on platform
-crazy orange shoes
-really cute twins! Age 3-ish. Their jackets match their shoes!
-beautiful girl in blue get-up. Like from a magazine
-crazy PDA Hispanic young couple
-old guy flipping off the train conductor when he didn’t make it before the doors closed
-4 Americans in Irish garb. 3 guys are loud, the 1 girl is quiet and looks uncomfortable
-guy with an all-black bike
-travelers getting on at Lafayette St. and off at Nostrand
-switch to L at Broadway Junction; 2 girls eating pizza
-girl with a bandana who doesn’t look high but is tapping her feet frenetically like a cocaine addict
-girl absorbed completely in her book, The Outsiders; wearing leather boots ruined by water
-adorable girl (5? 6?) tries to smile for dad’s iPhone camera
-5 girls, going to dinner?
-another youngish group, 3 Asian girls, 1 Black guy who is super awkward in a Carrot-Top way
-group of really ugly people who stood very close to me even though it wasn’t a crowded train
-at 110th St (going uptown), the last of the white people got off

If I were to take random trips often and make these observations multiple times over a long period of time, I might be able to better distill what I notice about people, or notice trends that change over a year – more tourists, fewer tourists, more white people, fewer white people, etc. I didn’t write down everything, obviously, so I must have left out what I thought was “normal”. But I also noticed and wrote down some completely normal things – a guy with a bike, travelers, an ordered couple, people eating. I don’t remember what I was thinking at the time, why I wrote those things and not others.

A year later, I don’t remember much of what I actually saw. I definitely remember the big butt lady – she was wearing white pajama pants with a pattern of red hearts. And I remember the pack of Louisville Cardinals fans, or at least where I was sitting when I saw them. I also remember that I was standing by the door when I saw the twins as well as the beautiful girl in blue, but I can’t recall what the twins were wearing (or what gender or race they were), or what made the beautiful girl in blue so beautiful.

Of the things I remember about these instances, it’s usually where I was physically and from what angle I observed each thing that I remember the most. I don’t know whether this says something good about my spatial-temporal sense, or whether most people seem to remember location first and details second.

The items I remember in full detail, like the lady with the big butt, involve no faces. I remember the transfer at Broadway Junction, waiting for the train outside, on the upper level – it was my first time transferring there, and I got an e-mail about a business item, even though it was a Saturday. But I don’t remember where I saw the girls eating pizza, or how old they were. I remember nothing about girls and nothing about pizza. Of the groups of people, I remember their numbers and where they stood in relation to one another. The girls going to dinner wore a lot of makeup, and at least one was on the heavy side. There might have been 3 girls or 5. I can’t recall a single face or hair color. But I saw them from two different angles – sitting, when they stood to my left, and standing, when I stood against the door and they were directly in front of me.

Face recognition is strange. Computers have a much harder time of it than people do, but computers can multiply numbers much easier than we can. Presumably that’s because, in evolutionary terms, we don’t have a longstanding need for complex mathematics – recently invented, in geological terms – but we are more likely to survive if we can quickly identify members of our own kind. Thinking that “all [insert race] look the same” is a platitude, and racist if insisted upon, but is quite possibly grounded in biology. Certainly, face recognition and judgment is easy for humans, but the brain is unforgiving in memorizing those not often seen. After a first date I can barely remember what the girl looks like, even if I thought she was pretty; online profiles make the recollection harder, since no one actually looks the same in person as on a screen or piece of paper. After a second date, recollection becomes much easier; I think I could recognize a second date, or anyone else, even years later, provided I had seen them more than once in my life. I guess humans are pretty good at that.

So it’s striking that I can’t recall the faces of ANY of the people I saw on this train, but I remember a fair amount about the people with faces, and about the events that those face-ful people engaged in. Were these people to travel every March 16th, and I could do it again in 2014, I would bet that on the following March 16th in 2015 I would remember the faces alongside their shenanigans. That’s my (not-so-profound) hypothesis, anyway: the more you see a person, the better you recall them later on. But if you don’t see a person more than once, you might as well have never seen them.

Or so it is with me. It makes me second-guess the objectivity of trials with eyewitnesses, the effectiveness of milk-carton campaigns, or the fairness of identifying suspects in lineups. Though humans’ facial recognition powers are great, I’m not sure I could trust my instincts to identify the right guy out of five different guys who are about the same height and weight. Their faces in my recollection are likely just a blur, perhaps brought to “clarity” by the circumstances of external persuasion and a limited number of options.

So these are my observations about my observations. How meta. How vacant in utility. Don’t I have better things to do? Yeah, I do. I’m off to go meet up with friends, a.k.a. people whose faces I can recall.

Sanity Quiz

Inspired by real people who I think might possibly be insane.

1. In the Unites States, one’s political leanings correlate with one’s education. Those with low education tend to vote conservative, while those with higher education degrees tend to vote liberal. And the more advanced the degree, the more liberal they tend to vote. This is probably because:

a. Education is about exchanging ideas on a variety of topics; the broader a person’s experience, the more likely they are to embrace change, a characteristic of American liberalism.
b. Both higher education institutions and liberals encourage progress of knowledge and acceptance of social values, the former by training their students to think about both sides of an issue and to discuss these issues with their peers and superiors.
c. Correlation is not causation, so more research into this field is necessary to determine why exactly this trend exists.
d. Liberals dominate academia from the top down and brainwash unsuspecting youngsters because young people believe everything their professors tell them.

2. An explosion occurs in a U.S. government building on foreign territory. Its cause is not immediately known, though it is likely the result of a terrorist attack. It is probably not explained immediately because:

a. It is important to investigate the facts of the matter before drawing conjectures, and diplomacy is important in times of crisis.
b. There is much confusion and a lack of records immediately after a potential terrorist attack.
c. Caring for the injured, mourning the dead, consoling families, repairing structural damage, and returning to stability are the highest priorities.
d. The President’s Administration is covering up their corruption, mistakes, and/or involvement in the orchestration of the bombing itself.

3. Poor people often receive a lot of help from the government, including tax credits, TANF (welfare), SNAP (food stamps), and entitlement benefits such as Social Security and Medicaid. This is probably because:

a. It is difficult to raise a family without a stable or significant income; a full-time worker can still be in poverty, and may need government help supplementing their income in order to feed their families.
b. The poor often lack access to education, job training, language learning, and other assistance that would allow them to get a better-paying job.
c. Government safety nets are designed to insure everyone’s right to life and liberty; though fraudulent exceptions exist, those receiving benefits usually receive them because they need them to survive, rather than to live frivolously.
d. Poor people are lazy and lazy people deserve nothing; hard-working people are makers, not takers, and always advance in the world.

4. A government agency is embroiled in a scandal in which a conservative group was targeted and given an unfair disadvantage. Some probable explanations for this unfortunate event are:

a. A few zealous people, low- to mid-level employees who were probably liberals, engaged in corrupt practices.
b. There was not enough oversight by the management, who should have investigated why the conservative groups were waiting so long for a response from the agency.
c. Thousands of groups are applying for the tax status from this large government agency; the actions of any one person within the bureaucracy are difficult to track without creating even more internal bureaucracy.
d. The President who oversees the entire government was complicit in the targeting of these groups, because he is corrupt and malicious; the entire agency should be cut drastically, or even shut down, and the President impeached.

5. Gun violence is high across the United States; most fatal crimes are committed using handguns. To curb gun violence, the most logical course of action is to:

a. Restrict gun ownership within the limits of the Second Amendment, because people who live in places where guns are easily accessible use guns in a violent manner more often than people who live in places where guns are not easily accessible.
b. Restrict gun ownership within the limits of the Second Amendment, because 7 of the top 10 U.S. states with the strongest gun laws also have the lowest gun death rates, while many states with the weakest gun laws have the highest gun death rates.
c. Restrict gun ownership within the limits of the Second Amendment, because universal gun restriction has been shown to reduce gun violence overall; although cities like Chicago and Washington, D.C. have high gun violence rates despite the strong laws there, guns are easily accessible because states with very weak laws are close by.
d. Expand gun ownership, since gun owners can more readily protect themselves in case they are attacked, and armed guards in public places, including schools, churches, parks, and government buildings will increase public safety.

6. Once, there was a theory that the universe was created by God several thousand years ago. Since then, which of the following scientifically proven methods show that the Earth and the universe are much older than this?

a. Geology, archeology, and chemistry, which have shown us that primitive creatures lived on Earth a long time ago; radiometric dating has dated most of these creatures far older than 6,000 years.
b. Astronomy, cosmology and physics, which have estimated the age of the universe at around 13.8 billion years based on empirical observation.
c. Genetics and evolutionary biology, which confirm an evolution-based variation of species and a long history of non-human life on Earth.
d. The Bible is the ultimate authority, and any observations that gainsay the Bible’s account are human errors. All the answers are in the Bible, despite any proof to the contrary.

7. Millions of Americans lost their health insurance plan, in spite of the President’s glib assurances that under a new law, they would keep their plan. In addition, the new federal website allowing people to buy insurance was a disaster rolling out. The silver lining of these problems might be described as:

a. The millions of people who lost their health plan did so because their plan was not comprehensive enough according to the new law; those who lost their plan got better coverage in the end.
b. While the President was too certain of the ramifications of his law and misled the public on several occasions, it is also true that the heart of his speeches explained that even more millions of Americans would now be covered where they could not have been before.
c. Though premiums have gone up for some, the premiums of others are drastically less compared to the amount they had previously spent on healthcare; greed by insurance companies is curbed by the new law; healthcare spending is down in recent quarters; previously denied people are now covered.
d. There is no silver lining; the President is a lying lunatic, and he intentionally misled people so he could exert authoritarian rule over Congress.

8. The new healthcare law is complex and requires government spending in order to bring universal care to its citizens. The law was passed in both houses of Congress, signed by the President, and upheld by the Supreme Court, which currently holds a conservative majority. We should try to:

a. Continue executing the law, since the United States government spent way more on health care per person before the law than most countries with free, universal healthcare did.
b. Defend the philosophy of the law, since it clearly improves the quality of life for all, and nearly every developed country has implemented universal healthcare with positive results.
c. Keep but amend the law, so as to satisfy both major parties in America, without denying basic rights in the process.
d. Repeal the law, at whatever cost, even if it means a catastrophic government shutdown and vitriolic bipartisanship, because the disastrous law is the end of freedom in America as we know it since the government is telling hardworking Americans how to spend their money.

9. Gay people should:

a. Be allowed to marry because they should have the same rights as everyone else.
b. Be allowed to marry only in some states because they should have the same rights as everyone else only in some states.
c. Be allowed to marry even if an individual or group opposes it on religious grounds, since the U.S. is not a theocracy and should be guided by democratic principles instead of religious ones.
d. Not be allowed to marry, be discriminated against, and/or be cast out as social pariahs, because religious zealotry has created a movement to press their version of morality onto others.

10. Voter ID laws should:

a. Maximize the opportunity for all people to vote, such as giving more support to early voting and absentee balloting
b. Ban measures that try to disenfranchise voters typically associated with a political leaning, such as military members, who tend to vote Republican, or blacks, who tend to vote Democrat.
c. Ensure that citizens of all races, native languages, and religions do not feel discriminated against when taking to the polls.
d. Minimize opportunity for poor and rural voters, who have less access to poll sites, and require everyone to present a photo ID on Election Day, even though photo IDs are not required for citizenship and despite vanishingly small instances of voter fraud.