Ben Franklin Quotes

I’ve been terribly conflicted about Apple’s stance against the FBI order to unlock a phone. Initially I supported them. Government overreach, George Orwell, the $500 million Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), Snowden, and whatnot. However, the more I thought about it the more I think Apple is in the wrong this time.

What changed my mind is a safety deposit box. According to both political parties, if the other party wins life as we know it is over. Armageddon, dogs and cats sleeping together, America is lost. My first thought was that it’s time to bury my gold bars, toilet paper, and zombie apocalypse supplies in the backyard. Unfortunately I live in a designated historic district so that would take approximately 16 months for environmental permits and preservation committee approval. That’s when I realized a safety deposit box was just the ticket!

Every good spy has a safety deposit box stocked with the essential bug-out supplies. So I started reading up on the rules. Turns out, the government does have the right to open up your box. If you’ve committed a crime, or the box is suspected to contain material related to a crime they can obtain a warrant and seize the contents. Isn’t that exactly what has happened with this iPhone? A government agency owns a phone that was suspected to be connected to criminal activity. The FBI obtained an order for that device to be opened. Seems lawful to me. I think Apple is wrong in this instance.

I still agree with the principle of Apple’s argument. If Apple wants to open the phone and hand it back to the FBI, fine. However, the FBI should not be given a set of keys to everyone’s safety deposit box just in case they might need it someday. The government does overreach. Once you cede privacy and rights to them there’s no going back.

I’m not a Cliven Bundy conspiracy nutjob. I don’t think the government has a grand, evil plan to turn us into North Korea. A large percentage of government workers aren’t smart enough to find their way out of a wet paper bag, let alone hatch a vast KGB-like network without spilling the details to Whoopi Goldberg on the View.

However, technology is making data collection and eavesdropping easier than anyone could have imagined. Look at the Stingray and Dirtbox. Even local police are now intercepting cellular conversations. The amount of surveillance being done around Anaheim and Disneyland is disconcerting. Come on now – Mickey friggin Mouse? Wait, a giant mouse that walks around only in odd shorts is kinda weird. What’s the remouseal story behind his name change? Someone needs to keep an eye on that dude.

As Homer Simpson famously said, “A man who would give up a donut today for the promise of weight loss tomorrow, deserves neither the donut or beer.” It was something like that. It could have been Ben Franklin. But his often misquoted statement was related to his appointment by a family who resisted paying taxes to raise a defense against Indian attacks. But that’s a story for another day. I need to start digging that hole in the backyard.

 

 

On Cursing. And Revolutions.

“I never liked you. You know why? You don’t curse. I don’t trust a man who doesn’t curse. Not a “fuck” or a “shit” in all these years. Real men curse.” – Capt. Yardley

I admit, I have a bit of a problem with cursing. I manage to reign myself in most of the time, but there are certainly days when the expletives fly. I do my best on the rare occasions when I’m around kids… but hell, they’re going to have to grow up sometime. I used to worry about it until I read that researchers discovered that swearing is not only good for you, but a sign of higher intelligence. I figure with my R rated vocabulary I should be in Einstein or Sagan IQ range.

Maybe it’s getting older. Maybe it’s a diminishing tolerance for political correctness. Perhaps I’m just tired of morality lectures from scary nut-job politicians. Bottom line, the world is not going to end if an F-bomb drops from time to time. This country was built by hearty, rough and tumble folks. They were some bad ass risk takers crossing oceans, forging communities out of nothing, exploring the frontier to the west. If you don’t think these people used profanity, you don’t know history.

Needless to say, I’m pretty amused when Trump drops a well placed curse word. Watching the media reaction you’d think the sky was going to part and lightening was going to strike him down. Politicians just don’t do that. Little old evangelical ladies in Iowa must have been fainting in droves. Sigh… no I’m not a Trump supporter. He just provides endless entertainment. Besides, it’s fun to watch the talking heads be continually wrong about everything.

Trumps language reminds me of an incident back in another life when I worked for the evil empire (rhymes with  shmikrosoft). We were in a conference room arguing about some product feature and the F-bombs were flying. A new, and very young, female engineer actually started crying and ran out. There was stunned silence for a moment and then a fairly senior engineer said, “Welcome to shmikrosoft and the fucking big kids table.” I was a little surprised at his lack of political correctness and don’t necessarily support the behavior – but it was pretty damn funny at the time.

My point? I’m not sure. My mind wanders these days. I do know you cannot rewrite history. We are not a nation of holier than thou, bible thumping, Ted Cruz puritans. Our founders were some rough folks. They were drinkers. The sons of liberty formed over taxation on sugar and the economic impact on our rum production. John Hancock was a smuggler on a level that put the Kennedy family to shame. Oh, you thought it was all about tea? The colonists boycotted tea only because they weren’t stupid enough to impact their alcohol production. The ‘shot heard round the world’ probably happened because the minutemen gathered in taverns to wait for the British. Nothing like a little Dutch courage to develop some beer muscles and feel invincible!

So the next time you feel the urge to swear, go ahead and let ‘er rip. You’ll feel smarter. And if it’ll make you feel better, take Homer Simpson’s example and get yourself a swear jar. You can donate the proceeds to Ben Carson’s campaign.

 

 

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!

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.

 

On Apologizing. Or Not.

So the other day I had a conversation with a friend about the current ACA mess.  Convinced I was being brilliantly witty, I’d posted something about ‘when is someone going to get fired for this mess?’.  In a nutshell, what this friend had said/asked was – what was the point of firing someone now? What is it going to accomplish?  Now, this friend is ridiculously smart.  I, on the other hand, am never going to be a Jeopardy contestant with the box of rocks I’ve got in my head.  At the time I think the only answer I could come up with was something about carburetors and weather balloons.

Given some time to think about it I still believe people need to be handed their walking papers over this.  Why? Because these Dilbert-like, pointy haired management types with their frightening incompetence are still “managing” this mess.  Why in the world would we let the people who were not competent enough to get it done in the first place keep touching it?

Lets say a new restaurant opens up.  Day one a bunch of customers get sick.  Day two a bunch more customers get sick.  The health department steps in and discovers one of the cooks is pissing in the soup.  The owner says “nobody told me the soup was mostly urine.  I would never have opened had I known this”.  The chef says “if you want to blame someone, blame me.  What’s important now is that we work on eliminating the urine, not playing the blame game”.  The sous chef says “yes, we knew there was a possibility of urine in the soup but I was following orders to open on time”.  Meanwhile the cook with the overactive bladder may or may not still be flavoring the soup.  Jay Carney says this is all because the cook isn’t making a living wage.  Hannity does a three-hour special on liberal bias in the health department.  Jesse Jackson says management is blaming the cook because he’s black (he’s actually from Ecuador).  Wait, I lost my train of thought…

The point is that there’s a pointy-haired management layer in there somewhere that is probably left over from the pre-Blackberry era that needs to go.  Forget politics, why would you want them still there mucking this thing up?  I wholeheartedly agree with the premise of the ACA.  Unfortunately how it came to be and its implementation is so piss-poor it’s hard to fathom.  It’s why those of us with a more libertarian lean have such a distrust of government.  Generally speaking, the government can manage to screw up putting round pegs in round holes – and then spin it such that the other party gave them nothing but square holes therefore we need to rebuild all the pegs to be square.

Oh and the apology?  I was going to say something about the democrats needing to figure out how to spin/apologize to protect the next several rounds of elections… but then I remembered this was the republican party we’re talking about.  Right now they’re somewhat quiet.  I suspect that they’re mostly dumbfounded and speechless that such a gift has been given to them.  Never fear though – they’ll manage to screw it up shortly.  They’ll go off on some social issue tangent that will piss off the exact voting blocks they’ll need next time.

The moral of the story?  I’m not sure.  Community organizing and campaigning are not the same thing as leadership?  The republican party need to fire their marketing and communication people?  We all need more Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber in our lives?  All I know is don’t order the soup at a new restaurant.

Cliffs, On Driving Over

Today’s topic is the so-called (insert finger air-quotes) fiscal cliff.  It’s a fascinating discussion that warrants many hundreds of paragraphs of insightful commentary.  Or, I could take this salad fork and repeatedly stab myself in the head.  Important etiquette note – when choosing place settings to stab oneself with, always work from the outside in.  Thus, the salad fork becomes the first weapon.  But I digress…

Discussing politics today is like having a debate about the latest episode of Real Housewives.  Extremely strong political factions will have real, substantial disagreements on whether Sue-Ann had the right to not invite Alexis to the black-tie fundraiser because she was like totally mean to Sandy (with an i not a y) for leaving her baby with the maid for a week while she cheated on Benson with Tobin in the Caribbean.  There’s a lot of moving parts to this and you can’t expect to have an informed opinion unless you’re willing to invest time in watching the fifty-six hours of exclusive behind the scenes talk shows aired per week.

It’s easy to become completely absorbed by it all until you realize one minor little point.  It’s not real.  I mean the politics not the Housewives,   don’t panic.  Politicians don’t poop in the morning unless it’s been focus group tested, polls conducted, and K street lobbyists approve.  Every word, each nuanced statement, the appearances on the talk shows… all carefully manufactured.  This may surprise you but all politicians work from a standard book of phrases.  It’s called the APWW (American Politicians Weasel Words) Style Guide and has been updated yearly since Truman was president.  Here’s a brief sample of some of the entries that have been included the last few editions:

  • Taxes – This term is no longer approved for use.  Terms/phrases that are acceptable are:  Revenue; Contributions; ‘those who profited the most can afford to do a little more’;
  • Spending – This term is no longer approved for use.   Terms/phrases that are acceptable are: Investment; ‘improving our infrastructure’; ‘investing in our children’;
  • Liberal – This term is no longer approved for use.  Terms/phrases that are acceptable are: Progressive
  • ConservativeSee entry for hypocrite.
  • Sheep or lemmings – Acceptable for internal memos only. Public documents should use: ‘the American people’; ‘the electorate’; the voices of America’;
  • Austerity – No known definitions of this term can be found. Considered to be a ‘danger’ term. Advise against using.
  • Lobbyist – This term is no longer approved for use. Terms/phrases that are acceptable are: Advisor; ‘the business community’; ‘worker representatives’;
  • Cuts – This term can only be used when referring to projected revenue increases that don’t occur.

As you can see, politicians face a complex world.  This is why it’s vital they hire the best advisors other people’s money can buy.  Just as with reality television, behind the scenes there are thousands of people (hard-working AMERICANS) who spend countless hours crafting an image, a product, that’s sold to the public for one purpose. Money.  As Abraham Lincoln famously said at the Gettysburg address, “…Greed, for lack of a better word, works.”

The most disappointing aspect of the annual fiscal cliff negotiations is clearly a lack of respect for AMERICAN institutions. By that I of course mean Hostess Brands.  It’s a sad day when we’re willing to invest in the US Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel Review, but not a beloved creamy snack cake.  It shakes my confidence as a member of the AMERICAN PEOPLE.  It’s clearly time for the quintessential critical thinker of our time to tell me how to think.  Obviously I’m referring to the oracle of talk, the wizard of image, Oprah.  She alone can unite this great country again.  I urge you to contact your network affiliates and plead with them to allow her to work her magic – to heal the deep divide between the parties before it’s too late.

Latest Debate Summary

Last night there was a political debate.  The two presidential candidates gave a performance the likes of Webster, Lincoln, or Buckley would be proud of.  In the off chance you were otherwise occupied scraping lint out of the dryer screen, I thought I’d summarize the points made by the candidates for you.

  • I’d like to thank the viewers, the moderator, a god that’s non-offensive and inclusive of everyone, my opponent, the people of this great city, my wife, my family, veterans, heroes, and this great country for giving me the opportunity to be here tonight.
  • I will invest (spend) in one million new TV weathermen, ah I mean weatherpeople. I said forecasters, check the transcript.  I will invest (spend) on 21st century skills.  I will invest (spend) on our crumbling infrastructure – roads, bridges, robotic squirrels, Moroccan pottery classes, and the 2013 Alabama Watermelon Queen tour.  It is simply un-American to allow a watermelon queen and the fine watermelons of Alabama to wither on the vine.
  • My AMERICAN flag lapel pin is bigger than yours, bitch.
  • I promise to provide new iPhones to everyone in the country.  It is unacceptable that in the greatest country on earth there are people walking around, hard-working AMERICANS, who can’t play Angry Birds through no fault of their own.  My opponent is happy with half this country using phones that only make phone calls.  I’m sorry, I have a higher standard than that.
  • My opponent grinds up kittens and drinks them as smoothies every morning.  I’ve proposed legislation banning this despicable practice.
  • When I’m president I’ll create one trillion jobs; good paying jobs; the best jobs; you’ll want to quit your job to get one of these jobs they’ll be so good; they’ll be AMERICAN jobs; jobs of the future; high-tech jobs; jobs for heroes; jobs you can raise a family on; jobs you can take trips to Disneyland on and pose with motherf***ing Mickey Mouse and that creepy duck with no pants.
  • First off, I’d like to thank and honor the men and women who serve – they’re heroes… but there are other heroes.  The gargbagemen, the gal who makes my yummy pumpkin latte at Starbucks, the kid who retrieves shopping carts at the grocery store, the faceless folks who man the phone banks at my campaign headquarters preparing robo-calls – all heroes.  But you know who else is a hero?  A gal I met just the other day from Tulsa Oklahoma. An ordanry AMERICAN. She has six kids and holds down three jobs. She has only one leg due to a horrible meat grinder accident.  Her husband is on disability and the bank is foreclosing on their double-wide.  But you know what struck me? She’s not complaining. She’s not looking for a handout. She just wants a fair shot. She’s the true hero. I don’t think that in this great country of ours it’s too much to ask that she has an iPhone.  My opponent thinks otherwise.
  • My plan? Let me tell you about my plan. My opponent has a seven point plan. I have a twenty point plan. An AMERICAN plan that puts AMERICA first. I have thirteen more points in my plan than my opponent. Everyone on the internet has agreed that my opponents plan isn’t even a plan.  It’s not even a suggestion of a plan. His plan is so bad you look up bad plan in the dictionary and there it is.  Every economist on the planet agrees that my plan is the best.  I’m sorry, but I find it offensive that my opponent bad mouths my plan when the facts clearly lay out the brilliance of my plan.
  • In closing, I’d like to thank the academy, this university, the people of the planet, the people in this hemisphere and the great AMERICAN Americans of this great country.  Vote for me. I will cure cancer and put cute puppies on every doorstep.  Thank you and GOD BLESS THIS GREAT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! Unless you’re offended by that, in which case I apologize, I don’t want to offend anyone – the focus groups told me to say that.

And there you have it – a clear choice.  If this doesn’t convince you that the other guy is a devil worshiping, America hating, hater, who drips hot wax on babies to make them squeal… then perhaps you haven’t been listening.  Don’t despair – there’s 32,413 more political ads to watch in the next few weeks to help you make your decision.

Official Platform Of The Liberepublidemo Party

By now it should be clear to all that our major political parties are huge fans of Seinfeld. Why else would you spend such vast sums of money creating campaigns about nothing?  A googolplex of money spent on TV ads that don’t actually address anything but still manage to incite neighbors to declare fatwa’s on each other. I mean seriously, did you not see that ad/speech/article/political roundtable/web site/townhall/bus tour? If you still think the way you do, then you are way out of touch with the mainstream.  May a pox be placed upon your goats for the next thousand years!! (apologies to any of my friends who’s heritage may or may not be anyplace that remotely sounds Islamo-muslim-ish.  That was clearly insensitive on my part.)

Since my political party is obviously better than yours, I thought it only fair to lay out the non-party platform:

Voter Rights     Unless you’re a crankster/meth-head or a 95 year old living in a single-wide somewhere in the Appalachian mountains, you’ve had to show some form of Id virtually every day of your life.  Please child, I know you weren’t showing your electric bill to buy that malt-40 at the liquor store when you were younger.  It’s the 21st century (I think? That Mayan calender thing gets me confused).  In this day and age if you can’t figure out how to get an Id, then I don’t want you voting.

National Security     Our national debt is $16 and a truckload of zeros.  I often nod off when counting all those decimal places it’s such a large number.  Given that amount of debt, we have no business being anyplace that isn’t a clear threat to us.  We currently have troops in 150+ countries. Why?  There are a lot of bad people out there and quite a few that don’t like us (Yes, I’m looking at you France… better mind your P’s & Q’s).  I simply don’t care what they think.  There are about 196 countries in existence.  Let someone else deal with (and pay for) the rest of the worlds mess for a while.  Oh, but if you do decide to do something that directly impacts me… I’m gonna drop a crap-load of MOAB’s on your ass and continue that until you’re no longer an issue.  Then I’m going to get the hell out, go home and buy that new iPhone 10 with the my pretty pony ® protective case.

Education     Yup, gotta go get you some of that.  Or not.  We spend more than the gross national product of most countries on education, and yet virtually every impoverished immigrant who comes to this country kicks our ass academically. We rule in dodgeball however. USA! USA! USA!  Get the federal government and unions out of our schools and let states, counties, and teachers figure out how to teach.  Not everyone will be a valedictorian.  It doesn’t have to be equitable… everyone just has to have a fair shot.  Somehow we manged to have latin be a required high school class in the 1950’s – and we managed to do it without the iSchool custom media center (with Tacto-sensor learning!!).  Teach some facts.  Give a test on it.  Pass it and move on.  Fail and… would you like some fries with that?

Same Sex Marriage     Really?  This is an issue that somehow impacts you?  Marry whomever and however many you want, I could care less.  As long as it doesn’t affect my ability to go to Hooters for the really good hot wings or read Playboy for the excellent articles, it makes no difference to me what people do.

National Economy     Our government subscribes to the MC Hammer school of economics – as long as there are checks left in the checkbook, keep on spending baby!  We need to cut the budget of every federal department by 10% across the board.  And then do it again next year and the year after that…  Trust me, the meat puppets in Washington will find a way to “continue to invest in our future” no matter what we do.  Old people, puppies, and Gary Coleman will not be starving to death in gutters despite what the unions, I mean the “working men and women” of this country tell you.  I’m pretty sure we’re not going to turn into Uganda if we stop spending on the “Neon Boneyard Park and Museum” of Las Vegas.  Or we can just keep doing what we do.  It’s not real money anyway.  As long as my 401k keeps going up it’s all good by me.

Everything Else     Generally speaking, Americans have a fairly short attention span so I suspect detailing anything more than five things is more than we can pay attention to.  Especially if it impacts watching Dancing With the Stars.  Bottom-line, if we all just do as the Dude says and “Just take it easy man” most things will work themselves out without guidance from PAC-appointed meat puppets.  Life is too short to get worked up about politics.  If you think your parties politicians actually care about you, then you’re a tool.  Don’t be a tool!  Hey, that could be a t-shirt…

Goodbye, California

Been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. Tomorrow I pack up my stuff and leave California. I won’t say I’m leaving forever – I already left once and never thought I’d come back, but this time the odds are not in the formerly golden states favor. Why? Two reasons; cost of living and lifestyle. For 2011 the ACCRA cost of living index has my city, San Jose, as the 6th most expensive place to live in the country. A very average 30+ year old track home in a decent school district goes for north of $700k. Property tax is 1.25%, so it’s not unusual to be paying $8-10 thousand dollars a year just in tax. Sales tax is 8.25% and projected to increase in 2012. San Jose has experienced a decade of budget deficits with no real hope of turning that around. Analysts put the overall California budget deficit for 2012 at $13 billion. 17 of the top 25 most expensive cities for gas prices are in California (thank you special-blend gasoline!). It’s a grim picture that’s only going to get worse. The state and cities have only one real option to increase revenue – raise every possible tax and fee they can get away with.

Money is certainly not the only reason to leave. Basic quality of life plays a huge role… and more so the older I get. The irony of living in the bay area is that, on paper, it offers everything you could want. An hour to the beach or the culture of San Francisco. Four hours to the mountains and fantastic skiing or hiking in Tahoe. Marin is the birthplace of mountain biking. Beautiful weather. So what’s the problem? People. Lots and lots of people. My work commute was routinely an hour-plus of stop-and-go, bumper to bumper traffic to go less than 20 miles. Leave for Tahoe on a Friday any later than 3pm and your four-hour drive becomes an eight-hour traffic nightmare. Don’t even think of heading to the beach on a sunny weekend day unless you want to leave super early in the morning to have a chance at finding parking, etc… Enjoy camping? State park reservations sell out six months to a year in advance.

As for mountain biking, bureaucracy, lawsuits, and powerful hiking lobbies rule the roost. In my local area there are, count-em, five different park agencies that control the trails. Each with different rules, regulations, and parking fees. Many popular trails sport rangers with radar guns who give tickets for exceeding trail speed limits. California, land of legislation.

Even with all the negative, it’s still hard to go. It is a beautiful place. Leaving family and friends is hard. Social media makes it much easier to stay in touch these days, but it’s certainly not the same as popping in for a weekend barbecue or bike ride with friends. I was born here. My roots are here. I remember when much of the Santa Clara valley was still apricot orchards. I remember surfing at the ‘hook before they put the concrete access stairs in. I remember $21 lift tickets at Sierra Ski Ranch and Kirkwood. Sleeping in my car in the parking lot to get first tracks in the morning. I’ve lived in 10+ places in the valley and watched them all change. Change that’s neither good nor bad – just different. Let’s just say that in many of those places, english is no longer the primary language. It’s the nature of our world these days. My sister the teacher would probably argue that my garbled prose barely qualifies as english, so I guess it all works out.

I first left California eighteen years or so ago, positive we’d never come back. A couple of states and six years later we found our way back. Fast forward twelve years and it’s time to head for greener pastures and new adventures. I’ll save the where for future postings. Suffice it to say that I leave with mixed emotions. Sad and happy at the same time. Nervous about the new direction and adventure, but brimming with excitement as well.

One thing I do know – you only go around in this life once and I’m not going to wait around dreaming of what could be. There’s no guarantee of a tomorrow in our contracts!

Keyser Soze And Social Security

Verbal Kent, in describing Keyser Soze in the movie “The Usual Suspects“, used a quote from a French poet: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” I think it’s a pretty apt description of what our politicians (see Meat Puppet) have done to this country with the Social Security system. The Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund, created during the depression, is a pay-as-you-go system. Collect sufficient funding (taxes) from earnings each year to make the promised payments to eligible recipients. Seems simple enough, no?

This is the government we’re talking about – the folks who have $1 billion in dollar coins stashed in federal reserve vaults because nobody wants them… yet continue to mint them. Starting in 1937 the fund has collected more than it paid out virtually every year. Beginning in 1982 that surplus got big – Carl Sagan-ish, Billions and Billions big. Every year. The current overage collected stands at $2.54 Trillion. What prudent savers our politicians are! Open up an interest bearing checking account at Wells Fargo (free checks!) and we’re all good, right? As Albert Einstein famously didn’t say, “the most powerful force in the universe is compound interest”.

Here’s where sleight of hand that would make PT Barnum blush starts. By law the social security fund can’t keep excess money collected. Instead, they print out a bond / IOU and put it in a special lockbox. All that extra money is turned over to the general fund and the trust and care of our elected officials. What could possibly go wrong? As soon as we’re not collecting enough annually to pay social security benefits, we just go back to congress and cash in some of those IOU’s right?

Those of you with weak hearts or the vapors may want to collect yourself before reading further. Here goes – they spent it. All of it. Like drunken sailors on a three-day pass. Spent on exhibits for the Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids. Spent on mosquito trapping research in Gainesville, Florida. Spent on foreign aid to China (yes, China) and Russia. Spent on U.S. troops in 150 countries. Spent on a war in Afghanistan that has no end, for people who despise us, for no discernible goal or outcome.

6% of your paycheck, every paycheck, year after year, is taken from you. Employers kick in another 6%. All for a promised benefit upon retirement. Now that we need to start cashing in those IOU’s, the politicians are going to have to cut out spending on something else in order to pay that debt. They won’t do it. They are incapable of not spending. Too many promises to too many groups. You can’t get (re)elected by actually cutting spending. You’ll piss off someone who has their hand out. So what do you do?

Easy! Claim that we need to “strengthen” the social security fund. We need to “save” it. If debt ceilings aren’t raised, social security payments may not go out. Those who can most afford it can contribute more. We don’t want old people out in the streets. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria. (Peter Venkman)  Now that you’re sufficiently frightened that grandma will be down at the soup kitchen, we can raise taxes. Bump up the contribution percentage. Increase the retirement age. Decrease the benefit received. Make it a “means tested” benefit. Gnash my teeth, moan, tear my hair, and wave my hands enough over here that you won’t pay attention to all the spending I’m doing over there. We need to do something about this crisis! We can’t let all those evil rich people collect a benefit they don’t need or deserve. Bastards need to pay their fair share.

Mic check, mic check! We should occupy someplace about this. Can’t let those 1%er’s steal my social security. Occupy is the answer! Right after I find someplace to plug in my iPad. Battery running low.