I Had A Thought…

The other day I was thinking. Trust me, it doesn’t happen very often and when it does it usually involves BBQ, adult beverages, and delusions of mountain biking greatness. So when an actual thought parachutes down, I pay attention. The last time I had a thought I ended up subscribing to a survivalist box of the month club and a monthly delivery of Japanese snacks. I never said my thoughts were good.

Anyway, I was watching a pretty interesting movie documentary called “Cartel Land” that describes how a Mexican autodefensas group fights back against a ruthless cartel. All the elements you’d think of pertaining to cartels were there -vicious, inhumane acts against the population. Threats to kill family members if you speak out against the cartel. Bribes and payments expected to keep your business from being burnt down. Acting with impunity due to a lack of law enforcement and government corruption from the most local official to the federal level.

Here’s where the thoughts drifted in. The first was that this doesn’t look anything like the Cabo where I enjoy vacationing and drinking fruity adult beverages with tiny umbrellas. Second was that fighting the cartels and the drug war is exactly like what the world faces with ISIS and general Islamic terrorism. How do you fight a threat like that? It’s not conventional. It’s not something an army can solve. Simply bombing drug dealers from the air won’t stop it. The population won’t resist when they’re afraid that aunt Martha and cousin Jo-Bob will be beheaded if you speak out. Without fixing the government corruption and having a basic rule of law and infrastructure that people respect, there’s virtually no way to root out the problem.

My point? I’m not sure. I rarely have one, but in this case I was thinking about the ridiculous statements most of the meat puppets running for office have made regarding terrorism. If your candidate of choice says anything resembling standard military actions against ISIS, ask yourself – would that work to solve the drug and cartel problem in Mexico or Columbia? If not, why would we expect it to work against an insurgency in the middle east?

If your candidate of choice espouses this, then he or she is a bloviating fuckwhistle who has no business in public office. (sorry for the expletive – that’s my new favorite term I stole from somewhere).

My approach is still the time honored, sternly worded letter. The UN has multiple templates you can use. Nothing like some good firm prose to set evil-doers to shaking in their boots. Combine that with the threat of sending in Justin Bieber to do non-stop concert appearances and boom – problem solved!

The Contrarian

Among my vast social circles, I’m often known for expressing an opinion that is alternate to the rest of the crowd. Most likely it’s because I was dropped on my head as a baby. Sometimes I really believe what I say. Sometimes I just like to be difficult. Needless to say, my social circle shrinks every year. I don’t know why it is, but the herd mentality of agreeing with things bothers me. Take lemmings. Everyone knows that lemmings are mindless creatures that will follow their fellow lemmings off a cliff. Except that it’s not true… that footage we all saw as a kid was faked. Boom – mind blown.

In todays age information flows incredibly fast and we consume it voraciously. The problem is, what are we consuming? We’ve become a society of soundbites and opinions. There is no real news or reporting anymore. The news consists of the same six stories everyday, repackaged as though it’s something new, and debated by panels of bloviating experts giving their opinion. What happened to simply being a journalist? A facebook meme pops up, two hours later twitter is exploding with people angrily blocking racist trolls, and that night Rachel Maddow and Megan Kelly are ready to do battle in a steel cage. Meanwhile, the networks are gobbling up advertiser dollars in the billions.

My point? I don’t know, I lost track. How bad has our herd mentality gotten? It now dominates science. Now I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but I have taken a couple of those science-type classes. I’ve even read a few of those fancy reports with all big words and citations and stuff (the ones with pictures are the best!). I do remember hearing something about the scientific method. That whole have an idea, do a bunch of fancy experiments, then turn it all over to your peers to see if they can replicate and/or disprove it. You know – like those couple ‘a guys who discovered that whole cold fusion thing. Oh wait, never mind.

Lets say you have a theory. You push it on the world. Movies are made, Oscars and Nobel prizes are won, and industries and government subsidies are created. Meanwhile, back in the Batcave a bunch of other folks say hmmm… let’s think about this for a second.

  • All the computer models that predicted gloom and doom have not only been wrong, but spectacularly wrong. By at least 3x.
  • A custom filter based upon questionable tree ring data produces a hockey stick graph that nobody else can replicate – and spawns hundreds of peer reviewed papers questioning the data and methodology.
  • Despite CO2 levels rising… we have seen no warming for 18+ years.
  • The motherf***ing polar bears are snacking on seals like Chex-mix and have significantly larger populations than a ten years ago.
  • We’ve had no strong cat 4 or 5 hurricanes here in a decade.
  • 97% of everyone agrees. Or, how to lie with statistics.
  • And point, after point, after point…

Now if you’re a Hollywood celebrity, I can see how you would fall to your knees and avow to host a gala dinner to fight this injustice. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to think you were some sort of luddite that dropped out of high school and waited tables for 10 years. But if you’ve had even a few science classes, when you read that computer models are wrong and that others can’t replicate your theories – you’d think that you might question things. Even just a little.

But when it’s a cult, you can’t. My god, what if I got voted out of the herd? Does this mean global warming isn’t true? Of course not and no climate scientist would claim so. The earth has warmed slightly in the last 100 years. The only question is, has man caused it?

My theory is yes. And the actual cause was when the real Dr. Evil Ryan Seacrest created the Kardashians. The heat produced by the combined processer power of millions of global iPhones frantically searching for the latest Photoshopped image has tipped the warming balance. It’s true. Thousands of cell phone repetitive stress injuries don’t lie.

We’ve gone too far to stop the Kardashian juggernaut. We just have to wait for the next massive solar eruption to disrupt all electronics and reset the balance. Meanwhile, I’m going to prep for the coming ice age. And check in on that wacky Lamar and Khloe. They’re such a cute couple!

Life As A Hipster.

I’m not entirely sure how it happened. I didn’t plan on it. We traveled to see family over Thanksgiving and I didn’t feel like shaving or conforming to the standard “please get a haircut before we go so you look nice in the photos”. We got home and there was a lot going on, so I didn’t bother shaving. It wasn’t until the end of the Christmas break that I looked up and realized there was the scraggly beginnings of a hipster beard.

OH. MY. GOD. What have I become? I quickly ran to WebMD to see if I could self diagnose my condition. Rides a bike everywhere. Check. Likes craft beer and small batch bourbon. Check. Trendy tattoo. Check. Oh no… could it be true? Wait – vegetarian, skinny jeans, and young? Whew, I’m not a hipster.

What else could it be? I briefly thought lumbersexual, then remembered the part about good looks, muscles and flannel. Don’t have any of that. Metrosexual? Nah, that involves grooming and tailored jackets. Dammit, there must be a category I fit into. Then it dawned on me… I’m either an eccentric millionaire or a hobo. After checking the bank balance, yup I’m a hobo. Except for the train part. I get nauseous on trains. Probably more like a VW van hippy hobo.

When it comes to beards there are two distinct camps. There’s the folks who just think about it real hard and they have a beard the next day. Then there’s the folks who just can’t grow one and know it. They don’t even try. I’m in the unfortunate middle. It looks bad and deep down I know it. Fuzzy with thin spots that just don’t come together. It needs to come off. But then I look in the mirror and convince myself that in just the right light and angle it kinda looks like a beard. If I just let it grow another month I’m sure it will fill in. It’s the same delusion women have with Spanx and yoga pants. I’m sorry but some of you just shouldn’t. Yes people of Walmart, I’m talking to you.

I’ve reached that point where it feels like its taken a commitment to get this far. Shaving now would feel like giving up. Quitting. And I’m not a quitter. Except for exercise, diet, learning a new language, eating sushi, early morning hikes, and mastering Fortran. Other than that, I’m a go-getter. A trendsetter with my finger on the pulse of society. I’m on the twitter. I signed up for Ello. I have approximately 5 G+ accounts (the emptiness there is so vast I keep forgetting I already have an account). I keep trying to get back to Vine, but six seconds isn’t even enough time to find the volume button.

At the end of the day, it’s all just an attempt to deny reality. I’m a middle aged dude who still wears cargo shorts and rides a bike. It’s easier to pretend that by sporting a scraggly beard and long hair, the true hipster set won’t notice they grey hair, paunchy middle, and bad taste in music. Besides, the true challenge is to see how long I can keep telling my wife that yes, I’ve made an appointment at the barber. At some point she’s going to get wise, grab me by the ear and drag me down there and insist on the Bob’s Big Boy cut.

It Just Ain’t That Simple

I’m horribly conflicted. The dog pants debate has me questioning the very core of my beliefs. No, wait that wasn’t it. It was the possibility that Jar Jar Binks may secretly be a Sith Lord. No, never mind – that’s a level of geekdom too frightening to contemplate. What has me questioning what I think are refugees. I’ll be spending the next few months doing some public health work with our local Somalian refugee population… and that has me wrestling with my thoughts.

The problem is that if you step away from the simplistic political statements, there are valid arguments on all sides of the refugee issue. At the very core is the humanitarian aspect. I wouldn’t be in health care if I didn’t want to help people. There’s such flux right now it’s hard to get an accurate figure, but the world refugee population is well north of 60 million people. That’s a whole bunch ‘o folks displaced simply because they had the unfortunate luck to be born in the wrong place.

When you hear of the conditions, the terror, hunger, and abject poverty these folks endure, as a compassionate human being you want to help. What we consider poverty in the US would be a massive step up for many of these people. Looking at much of the world it’s mind boggling how fortunate we are in the US. Of course I want every kid to have an iPhone 10, selfie stick, and iFetch so you don’t have to actually interact with your dog. Oh, and a pony. We all know immigrants don’t have ponies.

On the other side, this country is almost $19 trillion dollars in debt. The US already gives $50 billion a year in foreign aid and another $70+ billion in private aid each year. By far the United States is the most generous country on the planet. Meanwhile our schools and local infrastructure are suffering. The healthcare system has no capacity for preventative care. Most cities have extremely limited mental heath services, forcing the police to deal with it and incarceration as the only solution. Most schools simply don’t have the budget to keep up with the technological demands of the future. We’ve completely lost the median income, manufacturing base of jobs we once had. If you don’t have the education and skills to compete for a high income job, it’s minimum wage for you. There’s simply very little in-between anymore and the wage gap is a very real thing.

We’re bringing  in roughly 100,000 refugees a year. There are somewhere between 11 and 20 million illegal immigrants in the country (through some magic voodoo, the fed reported number has been 11 million for the last 10 years). The vast majority of these folks, through no fault of their own, have very limited education and job skills. No doubt a better deal than they had previously for sure, just not such a good deal for the rest of us taxpayers. The 2013 estimate for 5 year household costs for a middle eastern refugee is $257,000 (resettlement payments, welfare, food programs, Medicaid, public housing, etc…). Multiply that out and it’s a number with a truckload of zeros.

Ah, but they’ll become good tax paying, productive members of society you say. Uh, nope. The average wage after five years is about $10 an hour. That means they’re not paying state or federal income taxes. Not only that, they’ll be receiving the Earned Income Tax Credit and probably the Additional Child Tax Credit. They will be the biggest consumers of your local support infrastructure, the highest percentage of police/fire calls for service, and will use the local emergency room as their primary care physician. Bottom line, a net fiscal drain on the economy. None of this is their choice – they simply never started out with the advantages those of us who won the ovarian lottery did.

But, but… we’re a nation of immigrants. Give us your huddled masses and whatnot. That whole statue of liberty thing had nothing to do with immigration. It was intended to memorialize our independence. That quote came later and was from a poem written for a fundraiser (yes, really). Regardless, we’re no longer a nation with a vast, untamed west to exploit – requiring no skills other than a good work ethic and a can-do attitude. Things are a tad more complex now and this nation is arguably on the brink of losing serious economic ground in the global economy. Why would we want to continually take in massive numbers of folks who have a very limited ability to help us move forward?

I can convince myself of anything. I’m not sure what I think at this point. I like diversity. I lived the bulk of my life in one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. I truly enjoy helping people. Had I won the Powerball, I probably would have adopted every dog I see in those ASPCA commercials. At the same time I’m also tired of taxes and continually being asked to pay more just to maintain an infrastructure that’s barely supporting the folks here today. I don’t like being labeled as some sort of racist if I’m concerned about security and/or don’t fawn over the idea of open borders.

It is an unfortunate truth that we simply cannot solve the worlds woes and help everyone. That sucks and I’m glad I’m not the one who has to make the decision about where we draw the lines. I wish our political discourse didn’t have to be so black and white… because the issues just aren’t that simple. It makes my head hurt. I think I’ll just focus on what’s in front of me and helping some needy folks in the community.

Meanwhile, I’m going to go get me some ethnically diverse food. Taco Bell is authentic south of the border chow, right?

 

A Plea For Trump. And Airports.

We need a president Trump. Wait, wait, wait… hear me out. Recently I went back and read some of the stuff I’d previously written about politics. My god I’m brilliant. Not clear why I haven’t won a Pulitzer yet. Anyway, one of the posts was about last elections debates. I realized that A) nothing changes, and B) I just don’t care anymore about anything these politicians say or the phony outrage they stir up. funny

Firstly, you need to come to grips with the fact that everything your favorite politician says is not real. Fake. Fugazi, fugazi. It’s a wazy. A woozie. It’s fairy dust. (h/t to Mark Hanna)  A politician doesn’t utter a word that isn’t practiced, focused tested, written by speech writers, and paid for by someone. If you think any emotion, anything said or done by a politician resembles anything close to reality, then you’re a tool. Don’t be a tool! (damn, I really need to get those T-Shirts printed up)  Politics is a stage designed by PT Barnum to separate suckers from their money, freedoms, and rights. (holy crap, that was cynical. better check my meds)

Every single politician promises the same thing every election – better wages, more jobs, cut waste, free iPhones, bla, bla, bla. They’re promising stuff they have no possibility of delivering on and stirring the same recycled fears from last election. And folks on [thefacebook] keep getting whipped into a frenzy of meme posting, frantic likes, double-likes, double-secret likes, and defriending relatives who don’t share their views. People: it was the same last election, and the election before that… it isn’t going to change just because your favorite meat puppet got elected!

Enter Mr. Trump. The man is a Vegas show clown. A very, very smart clown, but a clown nevertheless. And Vegas is exactly what politics is to the majority of American voters. It’s bright and shiny. The allure of getting something for near nothing. Excess. Convincing us we need to spend the kids college fund on $5 slots and waiting in a 45 minute line for a $39 all you can eat buffet.

Trump understands Vegas. He’s the master showman. And he’s skillfully played the media for fools. “Wait, he said something about temporarily banning someone? And illegals? He must be a racist xenophobe… let’s give him free 24 hour news coverage. Oh, and complain about all the coverage he’s getting.”  Folks, the one dude who’s a gazillionaire has had to spend virtually nothing yet on his campaign. That’s some ironic, super genius level shit going on right there.

Politics and the media have become a manufactured cartoon that is quickly losing any grip on reality. Have you actually watched non-US news? Shocking, but there’s stuff going on in the world besides the Kardashians. It won’t be long before Anderson Cooper teams up with Kathy Griffin as a hard hitting, prime time, news dynamo. Who better to preside over this circus than Trump? It’s comedy gold Jerry, gold!

Besides, what other choices do we have? An elderly avowed socialist, a bunch of religious nutjobs, a scandal plagued serial liar, or a guy who’s a soft-talker with a really cool velvet painting of him and Jesus (with a very well manicured beard).

I personally don’t think we could go wrong. We’d have great late night comedy, an awesome Trump wall on our border, and all new gold fixtures in the White House. Best of all the media would shit kittens as they tried to figure out how he got elected, while simultaneously creating 24-7 Trump news channels dedicated to discussing the pros and cons of the architectural complexities of the Donald’s comb-over.

I’m voting Trump. It’ll drive people insane. John Oliver will become the rightful heir to The Daily Show. We’ll be making deals with everyone. Great deals. Frankly, the best deals. And our airports will become the envy of the world. That is, if I remember to vote. There might be a monster truck rally on the TV.