Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Movies I might pay to see, but probably wouldn’t...

The Godfather 4: Fredo’s Revenge

Beijing: The Desolation of Smog

Reservoir Cats

Raging Bull: The Cliven Bundy Story

Citizen Kanye

The Funeral Crashers

Dye Hard: Fatal Fabric

The Muppets Meet The Passion of the Christ

High Noonish

True Grit: Lunch at the Beach

Saturday Night Fever, Sunday Morning Chills

Monday, April 28, 2014

The clueless, cruel caviar crowd

My question is this: Do you have to be a horrible, soulless individual to become a billionaire in America or does becoming a billionaire make you a horrible, soulless individual?

Okay, to be fair, the authenticity of the recent audio clip of billionaire L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling pleading with his girlfriend not to bring black people to Clipper games (irony alert: she is black and Latino) is still not clear, but after two days the man has not issued any statements saying that the tape was phony or altered.

Sterling is merely the latest in a long list of billionaires who have recently revealed their ignorance, arrogance and hubris by simply opening their mouths.

There was billionaire GOP supporter Harold Simmons calling President Obama a “socialist” and “…the most dangerous man alive because he would eliminate free enterprise in this country.”

And Tom Perkins, the Bay Area billionaire who equates critics of the wealthy with Nazis, who also believes you shouldn’t be able to vote unless you pay taxes, and that the more money you make the more votes you should get.

And Bud Konheim, the co-founder and CEO of the luxury clothing company Nicole Miller, who said that the 99 percent should shut their pie holes because if they lived in China they’d be rich. He thinks we’re a nation of whiners.

And who can forget Mitt Romney’s famous “47 percent” quote, where he virtually wrote off half of the country as government-dependent moochers who would vote for Obama no matter what Republicans did.

Finally, there’s the Obama-phobic Donald Trump, who reveals his ignorance and cluelessness with every word that leaves his mouth.

This rogues gallery of ugly ultra-wealthy Americans speaks volumes about the attitudes of those at the very top of the ladder, and demonstrates clearly why nothing serious is being done about income inequality in this country.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Last deathbed words of the not-quite-yet departed

“Is it hot in here or is it just me?”
Pat Robertson

“I smell bacon.”
Paula Deen

“They’re not taking me to the front of the line.”
Kim Kardashian

“I see a tunnel… No wait, that’s just yo mama.”
Damon Wayons

“This can’t be right. I have to spend eternity with Al Gore?”
Rush Limbaugh

“Contract? I don’t remember signing any contract.”
Dick Cheney

“We’re not doing five bloody shows a week. We’ll do three, tops. And here’s our standard rider.”
Mick Jagger

“No, it’s Adam Handler, with an “H.” I gotta be there somewhere.”
Adam Sandler

“What do you mean, I don’t have diplomatic immunity here?"
Henry Kissinger

Friday, April 25, 2014

Translating Cliven Bundy’s old school racism for today’s conservatives

I came across a headline yesterday that could have been from The Onion or CNN, who can tell? The gist of it was; “Republicans are upset that Cliven Bundy isn’t using the prescribed code words in his racist rants.” Bundy is truly and old school racist in the tradition of many of our grandparents who used phrases like “the negroes” and “those people” and then denied vehemently that they had a racist bone in their bodies. His isolation in the Nevada desert has put him a generation behind.

So I thought I would do Republicans a favor and translate Bundy’s coarse comments into more acceptable, modern conservative language. This is how Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich might tackle the same issue semantically. Here is a Bundy quote:

"And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?" he asked, referring to African-Americans. "They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I've often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn't get no more freedom. They got less freedom."

Here it is translated in contemporary conservative code:

“The American welfare state has its victims; these are the minority men and women who have been trapped in a cycle of dependency for generations, which has undermined their self-respect and denied them the satisfaction of an honest day’s work. Has creating a legacy of dependence benefitted anyone? No. This is modern day slavery that keeps people shackled to the government, dulls their hopes and dreams, and throws off their moral compass. With little motivation or preparation for work, young people turn to crime as an easy way to make money. Are the people living in this grim reality better off than they were generations ago? That, I believe, is debatable.”

RNC, you’re welcome.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cliven Bundy: The Ugliest American

So Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, the newest poster boy for FOX pundits and grouchy, gun-loving white men everywhere, has sent some of his highest profile supporters scurrying for cover after addressing “the Negro” problem in comments he recently made. In a quote that would bring sympathetic tears to the eyes of a KKK Grand Dragon, Bundy clearly revealed his astonishingly ignorant and racist beliefs.

“They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton,” Bundy was quoted as saying to a group of supporters last Saturday. “And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

This is the guy that hundreds of militiamen are willing to fight for. Stupid, angry and armed, Bundy symbolizes everything that is wrong with the far right in America. They’re angry as hell, but like a broken compass, never quite sure where to point that anger. They’re quick to resort to violence. Their rationales for believing what they believe have no intellectual underpinnings, but are based purely on folklore and fairy tales. And on top of everything else, they consistently vote for politicians who don’t really care about them and who will make their lives worse.

Bundy says he doesn’t recognize the federal government as legitimate and therefore he shouldn’t have to pay it rent for grazing land. What a crock of shit. The next time I get pulled over for speeding, I’ll tell the officer I don’t recognize the legitimacy of the federal government so I won’t accept his ticket. I’m sure he’ll understand. Bundy is no hero. He’s a racist freeloader who’s trying to skirt the law and get a handout from the government, all while trying to wrap it up in a pretty patriotic bow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tomorrow's Headlines Today

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has himself arrested after wife tells him he talks in his sleep

The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues in Lake Superior

Will Ferrell receives $12 million from fans to not make Anchorman 3

Supreme Court rules the year is actually 1682, don powdered wigs

Nevada Native Americans demand Cliven Bundy get off of their land

Green-clad soldiers with face masks and no insignias seen in Orlando, Tampa and Daytona Beach; Putin denies he is annexing Florida

Kansas suing Colorado over second-hand pot smoke and contact highs

Monday, April 21, 2014

Karen - A short story

I've posted a new short story titled "Karen" at They're Only Shadows." Here's a brief excerpt:

Hauling a full laundry basket as she passed the closed door to the guest room, Karen paused, argued with herself briefly, then set down the basket and cracked open the door. The blinds were pulled down, the bed was unmade and clothes lay in several piles. She inhaled noxious cigarette fumes as she opened the door wider and stepped across the threshold, immediately feeling in need of a shower. She glanced around and was about to leave when her eye landed on what looked like a leather-bound journal resting near the edge of the dresser. Picking it up and flipping through the pages, she stopped on a page and began reading.

May 23, 2012
Long, straight dark brown hair. Pretty, but wore too much eye makeup. Twenty-one according to ID. Lonely and unfulfilled like all the rest. Had to do it at her apartment, which I never like, but there was no other choice. She was still fun.

She turned to another entry.

August 5, 2012
Shoulder length sandy blond. Petite with nice breasts. Swore too much and had a tattoo of an old boyfriend’s name. Thought I wanted to hear her boring life story. A screamer.

A car door slammed shut somewhere outside. Heart fluttering, Karen put the diary back where it was and stepped out of the room closing the door quietly behind her. She could hear the men walking through the kitchen, and they all met at the bottom of the stairs.
“Hey, guys,” said Karen, trying to keep her voice from quivering. “Have a good time?”
She caught them exchanging a subtle glance. Ian smiled. “Yeah, it was fine.” They both had their hands in their coat pockets.
“You’ve got a nice downtown,” added Mike. “Clean and safe looking.”
Karen wasn’t sure how to take that comment, so she just smiled and made her way around the men and back to the laundry room. Ian and Mike went upstairs and into the spare bedroom.
Later that evening, as she and Ian lay in bed reading, Karen set down her iPad. “Ian, I need to talk to you about something.”
“Can it wait until tomorrow?”
“No. I went into the spare bedroom to see if I needed to pick up or throw anything out and I…I came across Mike’s journal. I know it’s uncool to check out someone’s diary, but well, I did it anyway.”
Ian looked at her. “You were messing around in his private stuff?”
“It’s our house and it was just the journal. That’s all. But Ian, it had page after page of women’s names, their physical descriptions and then, ick, stuff about the sex they had. But I got the feeling…I don’t know, there was something else going on there.”
“What are you talking about? So the guy has a little brown book. What does that prove?”
“But he didn’t have phone numbers or addresses or emails. Not even last names. That would have been more normal. These seemed more like…conquests. You know?”
“They sound more like things than people.”

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ronald Reagan, the Great Eliminator (of the middle class)

I’m not an economist, I don’t play one on TV and numbers scare me, but I think everyone should have a basic understanding of why we find ourselves with such gaping income inequality in America today and an economy that is stuck in neutral. There’s a very accessible article in Truthout that explains in language I can grasp how having a middle class in a capitalist society is a conscious choice and not something that naturally flows from a free market economy.

Our economic troubles really began when Ronald Reagan took office in 1980 and started drastically cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. Since then, the very wealthy have continued to accumulate money, their income has grown dramatically, while those once considered middle class realized stagnant or negative income growth, eventually plummeting to near poverty levels.

The article points out that the great economic growth and expansion of the middle class we experienced in the 1950s and 1960s was directly related to high taxes on the very rich, a tightly regulated economy and strong labor laws. That’s all gone by the wayside in the last 33 years, and the current Grand Canyon of income inequality is the result.

One point made in the article that I found very interesting was the idea that when you have a middle class, a large group of Americans who were relatively comfortable financially, people are able to focus their energy and attention on broader social issues (civil rights, the war in Vietnam, the environment) rather than the day-to-day struggle for survival. This, of course, scared the shit out of the conservative establishment, and their champion, Ronald Reagan, finally put a stop to all of that as president. Today, a large swath of America is right where conservatives want us to be, scraping to get by and beholden to our employers for letting us keep our jobs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The ballad of Cliven Bundy and the myopic militiamen

The recent drama involving Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management is a sad microcosm of our skewed priorities and unfocused anger as American citizens.

For the past twenty years, Bundy has been grazing his cattle on land that has a fee attached to it by the government. The fee was instituted to discourage ranchers from allowing cattle to graze on environmentally sensitive land. Bundy doesn’t like that, and chose not to pay the fee. He now owes the government about $1 million. Bundy has a handful of contorted and unconvincing claims that he feels justify his use of the land. The BLM decided to take action and started rounding up Bundy’s cattle to sell them off. Bundy put out a call, and hundreds of Clint Eastwood wannabes showed up at his ranch armed to the teeth and ready for a fight with the gubrment. The BLM has backed off for now, but everyone involved says that the fight isn’t over.

A rancher has land issues with the U.S. government. Within a day or two of this hitting the news, militia members from all over the West came running to lay down their lives for a guy who is basically deciding what laws he’s going to follow and what ones he’s not going to follow. The government is listening in on your calls, reading your emails and monitoring what websites you visit, all without a warrant. This, friends, is an actual constitutional crisis, but can we get 200 people, hell, twenty people, riled up enough to take to the streets in protest? Uh, no.

Income inequality, the criminal actions of Wall Street, the use of drones, Climate change, the fact that we’ve transitioned from a democracy to an oligarchy; these are real issues that demand our attention and energy as citizens, not some sun baked cowboy with a dubious land claim. While you’re playing High Noon in the Nevada desert, the elites are draining your savings and destroying your economy, killing innocent people in your name, polluting your air and water, and invading your privacy.

The great irony is that these misguided militiamen will go back home and undoubtedly vote for Republicans or Libertarians at the ballot box, thus aggravating every one of the major problems this country faces. The militia members claimed victory after the BLM backed down, but they won nothing and the fracas only served as a minor diversion from the real cancer that is growing and attacking democracy from within.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New short story - The Things Money Can't Buy

Posted a new short story at They're Only Shadows titled "The Things Money Can't Buy." Here's an excerpt:

“I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal.” That said, he drew out a long kitchen knife from his belt and advanced toward the woman. Having ample time to prepare, Suzanne cocked her right leg and then swung it forward with all the power she could tap into. The top of her foot landed squarely on Kevin’s testicles and he crumpled to the sidewalk like a marionette whose strings had been cut. Standing over the moaning man, she kicked the knife into a patch of ivy, then quickly surveyed the neighborhood for any prying eyes. Satisfied she hadn’t been seen, she grabbed Kevin by his collar and dragged him down the driveway into the garage, out of sight of her neighbors.
            The blinding pain began to subside, and Kevin looked around the garage through his tears. His eyes landed on Suzanne’s running shoes. He twisted his aching body to a sitting position and could now see that she was holding a hammer and angry as hell. “Sorry,” he said.
            “Sorry?” she yelled, then immediately brought the decibel level of her voice down. “You are the worst fucking assassin on the entire planet.”
            “I never killed anyone before.”
            “That’s obvious. My five-year old daughter could have done a better job than you. I cannot believe Jason would hire a bum off the streets to murder me and not a professional.”
            “We did discuss that—“
            “Shut up. I should call the cops right this minute, but…”
            “But what?” he asked hopefully. 
            “You’re mine now. I own you. Say it.”
            “Say I own you.”
            “I…you own me.”
“Good. Now I want you to kill Jason. I’ll pay you $60,000.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

Republicans and smaller government: The big lie.

Stop any Republican on the street and ask that person what his party stands for and I guarantee you one of the first things to come out of his mouth will be “smaller government.” Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government isn’t the solution. Government is the problem.” Sometimes stated openly, sometimes only implied, Republicans and libertarians want the government to be less involved in their lives. Okay, I can certainly appreciate that as a tenet of their party, but how does it square with their proposals, policies and platforms?

Here’s what small Republican state and federal government looks like. Some of these things have happened, some are happening now, and some are merely wishful thinking:
  • Outlaw abortion
  • Punish doctors who perform abortions and women who try to get them
  • Restrictions on contraceptives
  • Prayer in public schools
  • Replace science and history in public schools with Christian myths
  • Corporal punishment in schools
  • Guns in schools, and everywhere else
  • Continue the war on drugs and keep existing drug laws that favor punishment over rehabilitation. Build more prisons.
  • Stop no-fault divorce and require marriage counseling
  • Let insurance companies run healthcare in America
  • Roll back regulations that affect the safety of the food you eat, the air that you breath and the water that you drink
  • Continue rigging the economy to benefit the .01%
  • Allow open discrimination and demonization of all none-white, non-Christian, non-heterosexual citizens
  • Allow only the “right people” to immigrate to America
  • Implement an international political approach that favors war over diplomacy
  • Codify the unitary executive
  • Drill for oil anywhere and everywhere

Does this sound like a political party that wants a smaller, less intrusive government?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

America’s problems are obvious. Solutions, not so much.

A research article soon to be published in Perspectives on Politics comes to the conclusion that the sun is hot. Oh, sorry. The paper actually finds that the wealthy and special interest groups in America have a strong impact on government policies, while the average person has almost none. The authors of the study note that when placed against the interests of the rich, “it makes very little difference what the general public thinks.”

Surprising as it sounds, those of us who make less than seven figure yearly incomes had a hunch that was the case. And thanks to the unjustices on the Supreme Court, we’ve handed the elites even more opportunities to buy the politicians and policies they want. Aren’t you frustrated knowing what the problems are in American, but being powerless to do anything about them? I know I am. What good is writing your congressperson when you know that they really don’t care what you think?

It’s a gloomy, cold Minnesota Sunday, and I am in a mood to match.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Equal pay issue highlights the Republican’s war on women

The battle currently underway over equal pay for women reveals once again that conservatives are far more interested in pleasing their corporate overlords and defending their medieval ideology than finding solutions to real world problems. The arguments against equal pay are nonsensical at best and blatantly misogynistic at worst.

How can you genuinely argue that it’s okay to pay a woman less than a man for doing the same job? How do you force yourself to believe that? As with the abortion issue, conservatives have no problem with treating women as second-class citizens who don’t deserve the same rights as men. Republicans in congress call the wage gap issue a political stunt by Democrats. I doubt the majority of women in the workforce consider equal pay a partisan stunt.

Why would any woman vote for a Republican? Many of the programs that Congressional Republicans want to cut spending for, like Medicaid, food stamps and child-care assistance, are predominantly assisting women with children. Republicans deny they are waging a war on women, but if you judge them by their actions and their rhetoric, it’s clear they think of women as inferior beings.

It will always be the 15th century for conservatives.