Nobody Is On The Fence

Watching the chattering heads last night providing their “in depth analysis” of the RNC convention prompted a few thoughts. First, I’d like to gouge my eyeballs out with a spoon. Second, this notion that people are “on the fence” about a candidate is idiotic drivel and any pundit who says it should be banished to covering local school board meetings. Let me be clear – PEOPLE DON’T SWITCH PARTIES from election to election. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. People vote party line. Always have, always will. Sorry, but nobody is watching a speech and thinking “boy, my family has voted for the same party for four generations… but wow this guy from the other party is moving me to tears with his speech and he wears a really nice tie I think I’ll vote for him.” If such a shallow person actually exists they’re out playing Pokémon Go and won’t bother voting anyway.

There is only one valid discussion in a political campaign… voter turnout. All the verbal diarrhea spouted by both parties is not there to “welcome others into oublenderr tent” or to “broaden the base”. It’s to whip your followers into a frenzy so they’ll postpone stopping at the Fancy Freeze on the way home and vote instead. A politician has to convince his/her party that the other candidate grinds up small puppies and endangered koala bears in a blender and drinks them for morning smoothies and if you don’t vote, they’re coming for your little fluffy next.

The best gage of the probable outcome of this election isn’t polls or TV pundit lectures. It’s the MPM® factor. What is MPM? It’s the number of memes per minute created on social mememedia. Each speech, every rally, the daily news cycle spin, seems to produce a varying number of frantic meme and Facebook posting all showing some variation of the other candidate as a lying, evil, Chihuahua-smoothie drinking, troll. The ebb and flow of this is probably the most accurate measure of how motivated each parties faithful are. If the rabid followers of your particular meat puppet aren’t frantically creating clever posts showing that the other meat puppet did indeed fail to yield at a crosswalk in June of 1983, then they’re probably not going to turn out on election day.

I should write that app. Create and post the real-time meme posting trends. I could become the next Nate Silver. I could monetize it and make millions. But that would take motivation. And I’m a busy guy with actual real world adult stuff to do. I’ve got Pokémon to catch.

 

 

Tribes, Or I Just Wanna Surf

I’ve been following a story for a while now about a group of well-to-do, middle aged men in the Southern California town of Palos Verdes who’ve become a surf gang of sorts. Seriously, what 50 year-old belongs to a gang called the Lunada Bay Boys? It sounds like a skinny jean wearing boy band from the 80’s. Unfortunately they’re violent and preventkook anyone who’s not a local from surfing there. The conflict is heating up and now a federal class-action lawsuit has been filed against them. Way back in the day I spent more time surfing than I did going to high school (no, that didn’t work out so well for me kids) so I’m very familiar with the locals-only mentality. Back then you needed to know the rules of each break if you wanted to avoid your car getting keyed. Some places were short boards only. Some didn’t allow leashes. Others only allowed all black wetsuits. Pretty silly in retrospect, but violate the rules and something bad was sure to happen. You’d see some non-local kook come traipsing down the beach in a neon green wetsuit and just know it wasn’t going to end well.

Meanwhile, back in the batcave, I just watched a TED talk from one of my favorite writers, Anand Girdharadas. I’d highly encourage you to watch it when you have a moment. Powerful and motivating, it made me feel bad about myself and how judgmental and shallow I can be at times. He talks about inclusion and the American dream. And then he said something that really jumped out at me – that our tribal separations are the great moral challenge of our generation.

He’s right. But he’s also wrong. At the end of the day we are all tribes. We are not accepting of people who don’t fit into our tribe. I don’t think that’s right or wrong, it’s just human nature and has been from the beginning of time. A black kid with long dreads, saggy pants, and walking with the gangsta strut in a middle to upper class suburban neighborhood is going to get a very chilly reception at best, if he’s not first greeted by 5-0. But put some white dude wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase in the middle of Watts and he will be relieved of his Apple iWatch, Fitbit, and Starbucks rewards card in a jiffy. Two tribes, neither are tolerant of others that don’t fit in.

This will be true anywhere on this planet. It’s a myth that America is this great melting pot and somehow now we’re becoming less tolerant. We’ve always been tolerant – as long as you embrace the collective tribe that is the American culture AND you do your best to fit in with whatever local culture and tribe you’ve chosen to locate next to. If you continue to cling to your old tribe, the new tribe will remain a bit frosty. That doesn’t make it right and it certainly doesn’t justify some of the behaviors you’ll find in the news – but it is the human condition. We are all members of “our” tribe.

Intellectually, we’d like to think we can rise above our tribal loyalties. The reality is that it takes very little discomfort for us to revert back to our own groups. The solution is not for politicians to admonish us to “rise above” or “this is not who we are” at the slightest hint of opinion differences. It is who we are. We do not easily accept tribes that don’t look like us. It makes no difference if those tribes are political, religious, economic, racial, dress, or music. The dude will abide when it comes to the norms of my tribe. The answer is the economy. Generally the further down the economic ladder you are, the more you’ll cling to your tribe. A prosperous middle class will be tolerant of anything.  Want to get rid of tribal unrest in this country? Make sure you elect a political representative with a viable plan to spawn a new middle class economy. (hint, it’s probably none of the current meat puppets)

Meanwhile, I’m going to go figure out how to fit in with the mountain biking, climbing, fishing, craft beer drinking tribes. And stay away from that Taylor Swift tribe. They’re pretty damn scary.

 

 

This Porridge Is Too Hot

I’m probably wrong (I often am, but I don’t let that deter me) but I suspect I’m in the same political boat as many folks in this country. What do you do when there isn’t a party or politician who matches your views? Do you hold your nose and pick one that has the most positions you sort of agree with? Do you throw up your hands and just sit it out as I’ve done the last few elections?

After patiently listening to one of my long rambling tirades at the evening news the other night, Mrs. troutdog correctly pointed out that there will never be a perfect candidate that matches all of your views. She’s right. If you’re a single issue voter it’s easy for you. Find the meat puppet that supports your issue and vote early and often. Oh, and make sure you post at least three articles per week on the Facebook so we all know where you stand.

But what about those of us who don’t have that level of clarity or passion? I can find statements and positions from both parties and multiple politicians I agree with. I find an equal number (or more) that are abhorrent and frightening. What’s a jaded and cynical curmudgeon like myself supposed to do?

We really do need a new system. As I’ve proposed before, we need a randomized drawing to select our representatives. If it’s good enough for jury duty, it’s certainly good enough for politics. Require a varying amount of education and work experience for the different local, state, and federal positions. You serve one term and done. Lawyers, movie actors, and the Kardashians are not eligible. The outcome certainly wouldn’t be any worse than what we have now and would be whole lot cheaper. George Soros and the Koch brothers might actually have to focus their money on something other than politics.

Until my brilliant plan is enacted I guess I’ll have to continue to sit on the sidelines whining and complaining, yet not actually participating in the process. Which reminds of the quote by the great statesman Harry Callahan – “well, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one.” Which also reminds me of Goldilocks. After behaving like a total diva to find just the right fit, she ended up screaming for help and running away into the forest… never to be seen again. I don’t know what that means, but it sounded profound.

Problems. And Moore’s Law.

Way back in the age of flower power, Dylan, The Who, and The Beatles, some dude made a prediction about computer processing power. He said that it would double every year and he was kinda, sorta, almost right. When I was a wee lad walking uphill both ways in the snow to elementary school, we had this horrible thing called the library. If you wanted to know something you had to look it up in the card catalog, navigate this weird Dewey decimal system to find the book and either make Xerox copies of specific pages or check it out and hope you’d remember to return it.

Today the internet is seeing global IP traffic in the range of 1.3 Zettabytes per year, growing to about 112 Exabytes per month. (1 Exabyte would hold 3,000 times all the information in the library of congress) You have instant access to the entirety of human knowledge in a tiny little device you carry around in your pocket.

Why do I mention this? Because I’ve been watching the political debates. Watching these meat puppets bloviate has been a mistake for many reasons, but they did get me thinking. Why are we busy trying to solve the  problems of today using the same old school thinking of the past? Information and the world is changing too fast. Shouldn’t we be focusing on what we think tomorrows problems will be and try and solve those?

Take the disaster that is the VA and its ability to process and manage the healthcare claims of our veterans. The standard government approach is to study the data available today. Analyze the data. Hire flotillas of consultants to create fancy presentations about the data. Form a commission to inquire about the progress. And then, if we’re really lucky, some small incremental change might be made. Meanwhile the problem is now exponentially worse and advances in healthcare and informatics have made whatever we have obsolete. We’re busy solving a problem that will be vastly different tomorrow.

It’s time to start trying to solve what we think will be the problems of the future. The same tired old problems rehashed in every debate could have come from any election in the last two decades. How refreshing would it be to hear some thinking about what our actual future might hold? How are we going to feed a couple billion more people? Where’s our water going to come from? How are we going to generate enough cost effective power to run the new data centers coming online daily? I don’t care about ISIS, I care about what’s going to happen when Europe and China’s economy implodes. I don’t care about trying to revert the deindustrialization of the United States, I care about findingdarknet a new economic engine that will create middle wage jobs.

A wise man once asked, “do you take the red pill or the blue pill?” I’m starting to think I’ve been spending a little too much time on the darknet. It may be time to just take the blue pill, go back to being oblivious and go for a bike ride.

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.

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…

Politics And P.T. Barnum

Let me be clear – I am NOT a republican. Let me be clear – I am NOT a democrat. Yes, there are parts of both ideas (note I did not say “parties”) that I like. There are aspects of both that I abhor.  I got to thinking about politics while watching the first of this years political party conventions. (neither American Idol or Fear Factor were on) I was struck by how carefully manufactured the “message” is. Because I’m a dork of huge proportions, I found a replay (late night CSPAN, yay!) of Obama’s ’08 nomination acceptance speech. I was curious if that was as carefully crafted as this years. The answer is yes, but what really jumped out at me was a single statement he made in his speech.

What he said was “I’m going to hire a gazillion teachers and pay them a decent wage”. Note that “a gazillion” is an entirely made-up word and not a factual representation of his actual speech. Please don’t sue me. Ok, what he actually said was “I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries”. Either way, what stood out for me was that the president doesn’t have the constitutional power to hire, recruit, or pay teachers. Why would he say something that he couldn’t do even if he wanted to? Why? Because there was a tremendous roar from the crowd. When the camera panned into the cheering mass there were people with tears streaming down their face.

Tears, seriously? Is your life so shallow and lacking something that a completely manufactured meat puppet like this moves you to tears? Frightening. And as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. And for all you Obama-maniacs, don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m not picking on him exclusively – it just happened to be something that jumped out at me. All you birthers out there can stand down. You too Mr. Trump.

Back to the question – why would he say such a thing? Because it’s a manufactured statement designed specifically to energize the base. Why is this important? Politics and elections are NOT about convincing people to vote for you. Elections are about scaring your base enough to turn out more than the other guy’s base. Let me say that again – an election is all about convincing you that the other guy is going to pluck babies from the arms of single mothers and grind them into sausage and pay for it by borrowing a googolplex of dollars from Elbonia. Politicians need to motivate that last, small segment of their base who probably wouldn’t show up at the polls to put off going to Starbucks for an hour and go vote. You don’t do that by telling them you’ll cut down on misuse of office supplies in the west wing.

Now, don’t let the crushing cynicism and hopelessness of that statement ruin your day. I have the answer. It came to me as I was watching Judge Judy re-runs and eating Doritos. As a society we’re willing to let a randomly selected group of people decide our fate in the courtroom. If we’ll let some random guy off the street, regardless of education or experience, literally make life and death decisions about someone’s fate why not do the same for political positions?

Just like jury duty, we send out notices indicating you’ve been selected to serve as your districts next state representative. Set up requirements for each position. Anyone, including potted plants, lawyers, and hamsters can receive local and state notices. Governors and senators must have a certain amount of education and experience, bla, bla, bla. You get the picture. Instantly gone is the influence, money, empty promises, and scare tactics. The added bonus is that cable news might have to go back to reporting, well, news. Gone would be the babbling chimpanzees from both parties battling it out in 30 second “discussion panels”.

Seriously, it could work. You’re willing to trust a jury of random people to decide if you owe your life savings to someone who tripped on your sidewalk while walking and drunk-texting and is suing you for more money than they’d ever earn in their lifetime. How much worse could it be to have a random group of people serving for a few years in government? And yes, I have been to the Wal-Mart. I’m already convinced some of those creatures might actually be high level government officials, out in the wild, without make-up, teleprompters, or advisors. As Miller from Repo Man said, “think about it for a minute”.

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.

Thinking About Zombies

So, lately I’ve been thinking about zombies. No, not the political meat puppet types in congress but rather the walking-undead-face-eating type. I’m a big fan of the AMC series “The Walking Dead“. It’s evolved to the point that it’s now less about zombies and more about human survival and group dynamics. Seriously – will Rick really be able to forgive his wife? Is the baby really his? Will there be a showdown between Rick and Shane? Riveting stuff.

Which leads me to another show – Doomsday Preppers by the National Geographic channel. Truly awful TV. Unwatchable. Nat Geo needs to exit the reality show genre and go back to lions eating zebras. Finding a few serious nut jobs who are convinced the world is ending and rating their survival preparations is dumb. In the last episode they featured a guy who’s convinced the magnetic poles will flip and cause world-wide chaos and continents to move. I’m not a scientist, but I’ll hazard a guess that we’ll have adequate time to prepare for the North and South American continent breaking free and slamming into Africa.

If there’s going to be an apocalypse to prepare for, zombies are just as good a reason as any other. Pandemic, world economic collapse, the big earthquake, Yellowstone super volcano, Al Franken running for president, nuclear armageddon, they all share a few common preparedness steps you should be making:

Food and Water

Roughly speaking, your local grocery store is only stocked for three days to a week. Looking at what happens to store supplies every time there’s a hurricane warning in the gulf… it’s not hard to imagine that when something really bad happens you’ll be out of luck if your preparedness plan relies on running to Safeway for a few things. You need a one month supply for your family. Period. Don’t forget your pets! It’s not as much storage as you’d think. Remember we’re talking about sustenance, not gourmet meal preparation.

Word goes out that the local water supply is contaminated. Whatcha gonna do? One gallon, per person, per day. It may be weeks before a reliable source of fresh water is available. Remember the mob scenes during Katrina and attempts to provide water to people stuck on the overpasses? That was only a few days. Figure out where/how you’ll supply your family with water and do it now. No, you can’t substitute 100% with Red Bull’s.

Protection

During extreme events (tornado, small earthquakes, etc…) we often see the best of humanity. Communities and neighborhoods pulling together for the common good. I’d like to think the best of people, but history shows that’s not always the case. Eventually when people get hungry, thirsty, or desperate enough they are going to come take your shit and they will do it by force. Accept it and be prepared to defend yourself and your family. Up to you how you choose to do it, but realize that a stern talking to won’t stop someone who doesn’t share your morals and wants your stuff. In my opinion there’s not many problems that double ought buckshot won’t solve. You’re welcome to use eco-friendly pepper spray if you’d like – let me know how that works out for you.

Everything Else

What else would you want/need if you had to hunker down at the ‘ole homestead for a month waiting for the government to figure out what to do? Toilet paper? Medications? Do you have a way to boil water if the power is out? No electricity = no ATM’s. Do you have enough cash in the house? Can you take care of medical issues like cuts, fevers, a sprained ankle? Something worse? What if a family member fell and broke an arm? How about light at night? Heat if you live in a cold weather area could be an issue. Scotch. And red wine. May as well enjoy your time waiting for FEMA to spring into action.

Beyond a month? Hmmm… things have gone terribly wrong. I’m afraid that in the “civilized” world we’d be in trouble. I can deal with a few weeks without American Idol, but beyond that we’re stretching the limits of human endurance. Read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy and decide if survival is worth it (spoiler: be prepared to be depressed for a week).

Have I taken any of these survival preparation steps? Of course not! My plan is to loot the nearest Starbucks and drink as many peppermint white hot chocolates with whole milk and whipped cream, at 750 calories per, as I can force down. Then I’ll come knock on your door and beg for food. And to use the restroom.