Putting Away Childish Things

You might have noticed that I haven’t been around the lair all that much lately. It’s not for lack of desire, denizens. I’d love nothing more than to come hang out at with you all with the same frequency I used to. It’s for lack of other things…lack of time, mostly. But also lack of motivation. Lack of inspiration. Lack of give-a-damnedness.

There’s been a lot going on IRL: good things, great things, frustrating things, worrying things. It’s a Damoclean life, the professional one I lead, and presidential election years only make it that much worse. Plus, the state of things is so depressing that for a while I simply lost my will and way.

Mainly, it’s because I am so tired of and sickened and disheartened by the continuing devolution of the “of, by, and for” part of the equation: We The People.

Plainly put, We The PeopleTM kind of suck, and it’s time we started to fix that. It has to start with us because, if all those sacred and holy documents are to be believed anymore (if ever), we’re supposed to be the lynchpins of Mr. Toad’s Wild Government Ride. We’re supposed to be the ones steering this ship; the politicians are supposed to be the ones reporting to us. Yet, somewhere along the way, the politicians mutinied, started changing the rules when we weren’t paying attention. Wasn’t that difficult to do, really…for a “highly evolved species” or “greatest nation in the world” or whatever other self-awarded accolades we like to tout, we’re not exactly the brightest crayons in the box. We’re kind of like the Pakleds of the planet.

For you non-nerds, this is not a compliment.

Now here we sit, a divided, divisive muddle of easily distracted dolts, unable to see the forest because we have to stop and piss hate-filled comments onto every tree. Corruption continues to run amok while we stand in line to buy a fried chicken sandwich. Because that fried chicken sandwich represents the protection of our freedom of speech!

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya for a moment, “You keep using that phrase, but I do not think it means what you think it means.” Seriously, look up “Freedom of Speech” and learn what it really means. That’s a really good place to start.

Now, the title of this post is sort of a tip of the paw to a recent episode of Dan Carlin’s Common Sense, which he called “Put Up or Shut Up.” I used to love listening to Common Sense, mainly because Carlin’s viewpoints on so many things match my own viewpoints. Everyone likes to listen to people who
agree with them, right?

However, I stopped listening a while ago because, quite frankly, I was tired of listening to reinforcement of how I felt, but no suggestions for how to change things…how to make things better…how to reroute the abysmal direction of this country.

Seems like Carlin felt the same way. In “Put Up or Shut Up” he basically stated that even he was tired of listening to himself go on and on about these things without providing a plan for how to fix it. And he called on himself and listeners to…put up or shut up.

So this is me putting up. It’s time to start turning things around before we really do end up plummeting off into the abyss. Our government is corrupt and unresponsive, why? Because we let it become so. All of us. Not just the Republicans. Not just the Democrats. All of us. Somewhere along the way, we lost our ability to reason and debate and problemsolve and now we spend most of our time and energy attacking each other, either in person or via the vitriol of online comments where anonymity apparently bleeds us dry of any empathy or compassion.

What do I propose as part of the solution to this mess? It’s time to grow up, America. Time to start behaving like the “evolved intellects” we liken ourselves to be. Because whether you believe we’re 2,000 or 2 million years old or more, we’re old enough to know better.

First on the agenda? Stop playing the Blame Game. Blaming everyone else for your problems is what little kids do. Also? Doesn’t fix a damn thing, does it? No. So stop it. Stop pointing fingers and saying that it’s _______’s fault that things are the way they are. It’s lazy and ignorant. It’s also how the politicians keep us from ever coming together to fix the problems we have…because they know that part of the fix will mean stopping their free run of the place. Divide and conquer…who knew it worked, eh? George Orwell, actually. I always fall back on one particular passage of his book 1984, which once again speaks relevance to our current state of affairs:

Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer, and above all, gambling, filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult. A few agents of the Thought Police moved always among them, spreading false rumours and marking down and eliminating the few individuals who were judged capable of becoming dangerous; but no attempt was made to indoctrinate them with the ideology of the Party.

It was not desirable that the proles should have strong political feelings. All that was required of them was a primitive patriotism which could be appealed to whenever it was necessary to make them accept longer working-hours or shorter rations. And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.

Primitive patriotism. “You’re either with us or against us.” Sound familiar? Aren’t you tired of it all as well, denizens? Aren’t you tired of bloviators telling us who’s to blame and riling up this primitive patriotism as a means of blocking true progress, true change, true hope? We are capable of so much more, so much better.

So stop playing games. First, stop your own part in the Blame Game. I’m just as guilty of this game as anyone else. I’m in no way proud of how I have readily bought into various notions that it was X group’s fault that things were the way they were. I was negative, bitter, and resentful. It didn’t solve anything and it just served to make me feel even worse about everything and about myself. Even more? It wasn’t true and it wasn’t fair.

You cannot blame all the problems that ail us right now on one group of people. You also cannot broad-brush an entire sect of the population based on interactions you’ve had with limited members of that sect. In true scientific method of inquiry, it’s a matter of case-by-case analysis that will continuously test, form, and modify ideas and opinions. We’re “individuals” for a reason. Is it easy? HELL NO! Why do you think so few people do it? Is it what needs to be done?

Yes. Yes, it is. It’s called logic. Spock it to me.

Second, call people out for their part in the Blame Game. If you find yourself surrounded by people who just want to spew this kind of negative passive bullshit, call them on it.

Hold on. Don’t go out and start screaming at strangers. Start at home. Not with the screaming though. That doesn’t go over well at all. Be respectful, but point out that blame doesn’t solve anything. Also? Constant complaining is actually antithetical to problemsolving.

So, combat negativity and complaining and blaming with proactive responses. “Okay, what can we do to fix the problem? How can we improve things?” Start seeking solutions! And if you find that there are people who simply refuse to change…well, then leave them be. That’s right…leave them be. Some people would rather throw themselves the mother of all pity parties than try to come up with solutions. You don’t have to stick around and help them celebrate.

See, right now, the United States of America looks like a hard drive that hasn’t been defragmented since it was purchased…all the way back in 1776. And there has been a whole long line of fragmentation ever since. It’s time we activated the national defrag program and leave those “unmovable files” right where they are. They won’t be able to stop the rest of us from rejoining and working together efficiently, if we want to. They’ll just stay where they are, inevitably being as useless to the improvement of this country as all those groups they like to hate on so much. Karma, betches. Look into it.

We live in a country of extraordinary freedoms. It’s one of the many reasons I am, indeed, thankful that I live in America. But I am not proud of who we have let ourselves become as Americans. We have allowed the politicians to take total control, to divide us with incendiary wedges designed to blind us to the solving of true issues and the striving toward true progress. We bicker and blame like children, and we gain nothing by doing so. We simply harm ourselves while the politicians continue to drag us further downward toward a drop we might not survive.

It has to stop. I’m willing to try. Are you?

The Ablutions of Civility

Do you know what separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom?

A hot shower and a hairdryer.

I exaggerate, of course. But not really. I know that we like to think of ourselves as highly evolved (or children of God, if that’s how you like to swing), but it’s such a thin sheen, this civility we pride ourselves for possessing over the rest of the mammals.

Remove one of those tenuous threads that connect us to that higher plateau and watch how quickly it all unravels.

We lost our electricity on Friday night, thanks to a jaw-droppingly violent storm known as a “Derecho.” It swept through the area with winds strong enough to snap healthy trees into shards of kindling and rip power lines completely free from their poles. And the rain! The idiom “sheets of rain” would not be hyperbolic in this case. Rain poured down as if dumped from a giant basin, with no delineation of size or shape…just a solid wall of water through which we found ourselves driving. VERY SLOWLY.

It was stunning and frightening and utterly humbling.

And then we reached our neighborhood and the unsurprising though frustrating reality of complete darkness.

This was our reality for almost four days.

Several years ago, New York was hit by a blackout so severe that former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson described us as ” a superpower with a third world electricity grid.” This statement is perfectly applicable to the state of the electricity grid as operated by the Potomac Electric Power Company, known as PEPCO. Although, it’s not really “operated” by PEPCO anymore, which is probably a major part of the problem. PEPCO sold their energy generating assets in 2000. They said that it would benefit customers by giving us lower rates. It was also supposed to open up free-market competition.

Yeah, not so much.

What actually happened has been a decade-plus devolution in service and reliability from PEPCO to the point that if you sneeze too hard near a substation, thousands go without power for days. Granted, Friday night’s storm was fierce. However, PEPCO’s response was the same as every one of their responses to massive days-long power failures (which seem to occur at least biannually anymore): no human customer service; spotty updates to their automated response system that always lack any concrete commitment to timelines; slow decisions to reach out to nearby power companies for help in restoration efforts; and, when finally they do commit to a deadline, it’s offensively distant.

Case in point: We lost power on Friday, June 29. Sunday, July 1, PEPCO finally committed to the “promise” that 90 percent of the people without power would have full restoration by 11 p.m. on Friday, July 6.

This is customer service? Did I mention that temperatures have been in the mid-90s to low 100s since the power went out? And there’s no sign of relief all week?

This is how civility’s sheen sloughs away: Under the oppressive pressing persistence of heat and humidity that leave patience in shreds and tempers inflamed. Major intersections become free-for-alls as people abandon lawfulness and common courtesy. You think this area’s traffic sucks and blows as it is on a normal day? Try making it down a major roadway when every stoplight is dead and there are no police officers available to direct traffic. Mad Max would be left in tears by sweaty, enraged D.C. area commuters unfettered by the superfluity of traffic rules and simple human decency.

Then there were the lines at the gas stations that still had power. I wasn’t alive during the 1973 oil crisis, but I’ve seen photos of lines of cars snaking down roads, around blocks, waiting to get to a pump. Believe it or not, this was the scene this past weekend at the few stations that still had power. You’d have thought that we’d gone weeks without access to gas, the way people were behaving. Horns blaring, tempers flaring…I honestly question and fear what would happen in an actual gas shortage. Good thing I like to walk as much as I do.

By Sunday evening, our third-world power grid problems sparked a first-world worry regarding…our wine fridge. We’d just gotten back from a very prosperous adventure (about which I had planned on telling you all prior to PEPCO SUCKS 2012!!!11!!) that left our wine fridge fully stocked with some amazing new discoveries.

Discoveries that were now beginning to warm up.

Have you ever heard the phrase “like looking for a needle in a haystack”? That, denizens, might have been easier than looking for a bag of ice in a blackout. I drove around for almost an hour in search of ice. The closest I came were random shards and cubes abandoned at the bottoms of empty ice bins and one incredibly questionable offer from a gas station attendant who looked almost exactly like Borat’s producer Azamat Bagatov, for me to “come back in few hours and I will have for you two bags of ice.”

Uh. No.

Thankfully, I found a 7-Eleven with a full ice case, the wine was promptly cooled down, and I even got to enjoy a glass of non-tepid tap water that evening.

Monday morning brought with it another round of frustration: My office building had no power. No electricity at work, no electricity at home, I suddenly found myself in full nomadic form, netbook in tow, standing outside the local Barnes and Noble bookstore with two goals in mind: free wi-fi and a giant cup of coffee. Possibly two. At the same time.

Caffeine withdrawal is an ugly thing to witness, denizens.

Thankfully, the B&N staff understood the desperation that rolled off us all in waves (as well as a bit of funk, I’m sure; cold showers are great for cooling off but you cannot convince me that they are suitable for successful hygiene). The Starbucks cafe was ready with hot coffee and the promise of quiet tables and no pressure when we camped out well past the point when our cups were drained and nothing remained of our muffins beyond crumbs and blueberry-stained napkins. Actually, B&N was a lovely oasis of civility in an otherwise calamitous experience. The staff were kind, the store was quiet and cool, the wi-fi never faltered, and I ended up leaving with the complete works of H.P. Lovecraft for $20.

Win.

Now, I sit here in the cool comfort of our house, listening to the appeasing sounds of our mist-thin civility once more humming around me. I suppose I should be thankful to PEPCO for restoring our electricity well before their estimate. However, I can’t help but chafe at the thought that they set the bar so impossibly low that I can’t really find it in myself to thank them for anything. Yes, I appreciate the workers who are out there, busting their asses in this heat to fix what went wrong; but I can’t forgive the arrogance of the upper management who not only act as though they are above answering to their customers for remarkably poor service but actually have the audacity to want to discuss the possibility of imminent price increases.

Right. Perhaps I should approach such an increase with the same reliability and responsiveness that they approach these regular power failures…

AWTFY

To Whom It May Concern (You Will Soon Know Who You Are):

Thank you.

Thank you to all the politicians who have, for years been dedicated to the cause of digging us deeper and deeper into a national deficit of vulgar proportions through your uniform and bipartisan complacency in your roles as the supposed Watchmen of the “American WayTM.” Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? Apparently, no one.

Thank you for the years you have spent bending the American people over a barrel in deference to the demands of corporations that own you like the cheap dockside hookers you are. Oh, and a special thank you to the Supreme Court tools who last year ruled that corporations could be considered “people.” Who knew free speech was reserved for those with the most money to buy it?

Thank you to the slew of Republican presidents from Nixon to Bush II, all preaching the fairytale gospel of “fiscal conservatism,” who helped to increase the national debt by a combined total of nearly 62 percent, including golden boy Dubya. In his final term in office, he helped increase it by 20.7 percent with all his decidering and warmaking. Way to go, Georgie! Not only did you beat your dad’s one-term record of 13 percent, you beat in one term alone the two-term combined record of 20.6 percent racked up by that great GOP scion himself, Ronald Reagan. That was really awesome of you.

Thank you to the Democrats of the Bush II era who stood around with their heads shoved so far up their asses that they could lick their own ileums. It was AWESOME, the discordant, infighting mess you all were at the time. It made it that much easier for the GOP Machine to grind you up and spit you into little impotent messes as they and King Dub not only goose-stepped their way through the $236.2 billion budget surplus that Bill Clinton had left us, but then gifted us with a $412.7 billion deficit by the end of the Dubya reign. Guess now we know why red is the GOP color of choice.

Thank you to the TEA Baggers who helped elect/re-elect to Congress several GOP members who are even now stalling the progress of more willing, more rational (for them, at least) politicians to come to an agreement on raising the debt ceiling and tackling our deficit, with demands for indiscriminate budget cuts to those programs deemed “unnecessary” by you.

You know, I get it, TEA baggers. It’s not like you’re racist or the modern-day equivalent of the Klan or anything. You just don’t want to have to cover the costs of programs designed to help out all those lazy poor people. You work hard for your money while they just lay about, right? It’s not like anything has occurred in this country that has led to the decimation of job prospects in hundreds of areas all across the United States. You know, something catastrophic to the working class like, I don’t know, shipping off all the manufacturing jobs to places like China, where indentured servitude is still so very en vogue.

So, yeah, who needs social welfare programs anyway? It’s not like they have any kind of positive impact on society. They’re just more ways this country is wasting money it doesn’t have. So, thank you for your vigilance. And, from the thousands of government employees, contract workers, grant officers, project coordinators, organizers, and various other workers all across this country who will be losing their jobs because of your fiscal “vigilance,” again I say thank you. Thank you for cutting “worthless” programs that had been providing, among other things, job stability to thousands who will soon be getting in line to help raise the United States’ unemployment levels even higher.

Thank you for fighting so hard for the politicians who will fight for more reckless budget hacking rather than something horrible like tax increases. After all, you’re Taxed Enough Already! Am I right? Am I right?! It’s not like the United States has one of the lowest tax rates of any industrialized country or anything. That’s why Dubya gave us all those awesome tax cuts while he played Stratego: The Middle East Edition. And look what that got us! (See paragraph 4.) And, really, we need more people who are willing to fight for the protection of corporate loopholes and the assets of the filthy rich.

[Let me pause here briefly to extend a special and sincere thank you to the originators of the TEA Party Movement who first started calling themselves “TEA Baggers” before they realized that they were in no way as fun as an actual tea bagger. No, really, thank you. It’s the only thing from your existence that I find even remotely amusing.]

Oh, and thank you, TEA Baggers, for fighting to return this country to the moral, Christian ways of life that existed at the time of our Founding Fathers. I don’t know about the rest of you American women, but I sure can’t wait to have all my rights rescinded and my status reset to “Voiceless Breeding Stock.” Who needs things like voting rights or an education anyway. Hell, Michele Bachmann can’t even figure out where the Revolutionary War began and she’s a GOP presidential candidate*!

*This will, of course, be rescinded as well since we all know that the Founding Fathers would never approve of a filthy uterine bearer being in any position other than a horizontal one.

And finally, thank you to the American people themselves. Thank you for being so easily distracted by red herring topics like gay marriage or abortion rights that you helped vote into office the politicians who have gotten us into this hot mess in the first place. Turns out it wasn’t the queers or the baby killers who were going to fuck you after all, was it? I’d like to say you’ve brought this all onto yourselves, but the unfortunate truth is that you’ve brought this on to all of us. Cheers.

And to end this heart-felt thank you note, I leave you with the explanation of this post’s title: It’s an acronym for the traditional salute of one of my favorite ImagiFriendsTM: And With That, Fuck You.

Sincerely,
Loba B

Dis-Honor(s)

I’ve been trying to wrap my brain around the news pertaining to Captain Owen Honors and his special “morale-boosting” videos that he made for his crew back in 2006-07. The videos are quick little vignettes designed for maximum puerility and, I guess, maximum laughs. Scattered throughout are epithets, sexual overkill, profanity, and general lewd behavior.

I get that the military is not where you go if you have the delicate sensibilities of a nun or a monk. There’s a reason why we have sayings like “She curses like a drunken sailor.” Hell, I curse like a drunken sailor sometimes. I am the granddaughter of two Navy veterans after all. And I am immensely proud of this fact.

Would I be as proud if there was video of my grandfather eating something supposedly pulled from a toilet and fashioned to look like a piece of shit? Or if my grandmother was in a segment called “Chicks in Showers”? I’m going to have to say no, not so much. Of course, my grandparents served this country during World War II, which was long before the YouTube Generation took control. It was also long before it was acceptable to behave in the ways that Captain Honors and his crew behaved in these videos. I suspect there would have been little tolerance for this kind of behavior from soldiers back then.

I also know that crews need to blow off steam, especially in times of war. This is a reality of war. You cannot ask people to be under that kind of immense stress and fear and not expect them to need some sort of irreverent release. And, for the most part, that’s what is in these videos: a ridiculously puerile level of humor designed to cull the basest of laughter.

What, then, is the problem? I don’t know, fag SWO boy, what do you think?

See, that’s the problem. Owen Honors, who was the XO of the U.S.S. Enterprise at the time these videos were made, was the second highest ranking officer on board. As such, it was his duty to set standards and tone for the 6,000 crew on board the Enterprise. And the tone he set was one of anal probes, “chicks in showers,” men lathering each other up, and unrepentant use of epithets like “fag.”

True, lack of good taste (or, for that matter, higher brain function) is not a punishable offense. At the time these videos were made, being gay in the military was. I can’t help but question what Captain Honors’ actions would have been had he found any of his crew actually in any of the “humorous” sexual situations that he posed in his videos. If he’d walked in on two men or two women sharing a shower or a bunk, would he have walked away? Turned a blind eye? Maybe gone and “saluted his little XO” as he so humorously did in the videos? Or would he have brought them before a committee, had them discharged under the order of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”? I’d love it if Captain Honors would answer that question.

More importantly, were there any homosexuals serving among that crew of 6,000? What must have gone through their minds at watching those videos, performed by their commanding officer? Hearing him sling about the epithets he used, watching him make a mockery of what they were desperately guarding, for fear that its revelation could ruin their military careers? Did any of them wish to take issue with what Honors was doing, but perhaps feared that, in doing so, the questions would have been turned back onto them? Silence does not equal consent. Subsequently, being told to “hug yourself for 20 minutes” is also not a suitable response to complaints that may have actually been levied against Honors and his performances.

The bottom line is that this was not the type of tone that a commanding officer should have been setting aboard a military vessel. Yes, letting off steam is a reasonable “unspoken law” for these men and women. Levying crude and hurtful humor at a minority you know can’t speak up? That’s just cowardly. And not funny at all.

Restoring Sanity

There’s definitely something rotten in Denmark, denizens. But don’t say that to these TEA baggers. They’ll start lecturing you about how Denmark is one of those evil Socialist countries. And Socialism starts with an S…just like Satan. Who is obviously Obama, because he is trying to turn America into a Socialist country by wanting things like universal health care so that American families don’t go through the horrors like my family has gone through at the hands of Capitalist doctors who, when they no longer saw the profit in treating my mother, sent her home with the instructions to my father that he should “let nature take its course.”

Obviously, this is a touchy subject for me. But I think it should be a touchy subject for anyone possessing even a shred of reason. Think about what happened here in D.C., denizens. On the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, we witnessed what could quite possibly be considered a nail in the coffin of that dream. And I’m speaking about both rallies, which were each divisive in their own ways. Beck and his predominantly White followers versus Al Sharpton and his slightly more diverse but still predominantly Black opposing rally (and neither side seeming to get the sad irony of the situation at all). How could anyone look at these events and for an instant believe that King’s dream could be anything but close to DOA at the feet of Abraham Lincoln’s monument? His vision was for a blending of colors, a coming together of beliefs, opinions, ideas. Judge me on the content of my character, not the color of my skin.

Somewhere along the way, we became incredibly derailed.

Beyond the issues of race, however, is the offensiveness of the wording of Beck’s clarion call to his brainwashed masses. Restore America. Restore Honor. Turn America back toward God.

What does all of this mean? Making certain that you’re allowed to continue to make second-class citizens of fellow Americans for the “crime” of not conforming to the questionably translated beliefs of your unproven god? Or that you be allowed to deny something as basic and deserved as good health to those who cannot afford it…not because they’re not trying but because they can’t find the work they need to give them access to health care. And why is that? Because politicians have unilaterally, and in many instances bipartisanly, sold out the American blue-collar worker by allowing corporations to outsource jobs to the lowest bidder. Whatever it takes to make sure they win the most at playing this Capitalist game, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes. Damn the blue-collar workers as well.

So stand around like little sheep, spewing your Beck-prepared and Palin-approved jingo dingo lingo while wearing your Communist Chinese-made American flag shirts and hats and fanny packs, waving your Communist Chinese-made American flags, sitting in your Communist Chinese-made American flag folding chairs (but keep damning Cuba for its evil, evil Communist ways!). Wrap yourself in Old Glory and hide your true purpose behind the stacks of dead soldiers you conjure in your liturgy, never once mentioning the erroneous and debatably felonious war (started by your last president to hold office…you know, the same president that drop-kicked us into the middle of this ever-widening sea of debt with his “fiscal conservative” spending sprees and his unending wars) for which they were killed. Stand up and spout the Pledge of Allegiance when the lemming call comes for you to do so.

Never mind that the pledge was written by a self-acclaimed Christian Socialist. See? There’s that evil “S” word again. The pledge’s author, Francis Bellamy, believed that the tenets of Christianity and Socialism were interrelated philosophies. I wonder how long Bellamy could have stood on stage at yesterday’s rally before Dreck’s…sorry, I mean Beck’s bleating hordes booed him off.

I bet they would be more forgiving of Bellamy, however, if they were allowed to do his original salute for the pledge. The original salute wasn’t placing your hand over your heart. It was instead quite similar to what would soon enough become famous as the Nazi salute. Ironic, isn’t it? Okay, probably not. It’s all good, though, just as long as you slap in “under God” thanks to all that jingoistic McCarthy panic of the 1950s. And click your heels together while you say it. Then you’ll be back home in your Communist Chinese-made Republican utopia.

I wish I could give this more thought. Wait. No, I don’t. I still don’t quite understand what has happened to us as a country. But I must admit that I am losing a great deal of respect and hope for us all. And it has nothing to do with restoring honor, whatever on earth that is code for this time. It’s about my continued wish for restoring intelligence, reason, and integrity, traits that have become almost completely extinct on both sides of the fence, both among the politicians and the people.

It’s been a very long time since I felt anything more than apathetic disdain toward the downward spiral of stupidity being propagated in this country. I have to say, though, that this rally has sparked within me a great deal of anger and disgust. And fear. Fear that we are locked into goose-stepping toward utter brainless chaos, led to the slaughter by our emotions since it’s obvious that we sacrificed our intelligence a long, long time ago. Does anyone else feel the same as I do? Could there possibly be as many people as me, as equally upset and afraid at how easily we as a country can be manipulated by those who have motives far more sinister and ulterior than the patriotic pabulum that they spoon-feed their followers? What if we all got together and rallied in Washington? Could we make a difference?

The Face of Modern Sedition

SEDITION: Incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.

During a recent visit to see my father, we had an interesting conversation concerning politics (as we are wont to do; I don’t think I’ve ever had a prolonged conversation with him in which politics didn’t become part of the discussion). He pointed out something concerning recent attitudes within the Republican party, especially these darned TEA baggers, that he believes is cause for concern. It’s one of those “those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it” scenarios that he believes isn’t being taken as seriously as it should be taken, especially by the politicians in power right now.

He reminded me about my own country’s history (which I admittedly don’t pay as much attention to as I should) by pointing out that one of the leading instigators behind the American Civil War was Abraham Lincoln’s election as president. Before Lincoln was even sworn in, 11 Southern states declared they were seceding from the Union to form the Confederate States of America. Outgoing president James Buchanan and Lincoln both declared this secession to be a rebellion.

Sedition.

That moment in our history led to the pitting of American against American, and ended with more than 600,000 dead and more than 400,000 wounded. Hard to believe that fewer than 200 years ago, we were “refreshing the tree of liberty” with the blood of our own.

Ah, there’s a frightening quote being bantered about by Republicans. Back in 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter that “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

[Loba Tangent: I wonder how these “Moral Majority” Christian conservatives within the Republican party feel about Jefferson’s stance on religion. He is, after all, the same person who wrote things like, “Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear,” and “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.” Ooh, or how about this one: “If anything pass in a religious meeting seditiously and contrary to the public peace, let it be punished in the same manner and no otherwise than as if it had happened in a fair or market.”]

So we have people like William Kostric, the gentleman pictured to the right. In 2009, he attended a protest outside a town hall meeting on health care reform in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He carried a sign that read “It is time to water the tree of liberty.” In the center of this sign is visible the snake graphic from the Gadsden flag, which stated beneath the snake, “Don’t Tread On Me.” Kostric had a loaded 9mm gun visibly strapped to his leg. President Obama was in attendance at this meeting.

When interviewed by Chris Matthews, Kostric didn’t think it was “a relevant question” to be asked why he brought a loaded gun to a presidential meeting. I’m not going to post a link to this interview, because I honestly found Matthews’ combative interviewing style to be appalling, but I do find Kostric’s response disturbing. As a former student of literary analysis, I was taught to look for meaning in many forms, including symbolism. And I have to say, there is pretty clear meaning in the image of someone strapped with weaponry holding a sign about watering the tree of liberty (especially knowing how that quote ends in bloodshed), standing outside a location where the President of the United States is in attendance.

Regardless of what I think of Obama as President, I find this kind of behavior frightening. I find the feigned innocence, like Kostric’s comment that Matthews was asking irrelevant questions about his gun-toting antics, to be even more frightening.

Especially when similar sentiments surface in the speeches of people running for political positions. People like Sharron Angle. I’ve been keeping tabs on her for a while. She is a TEA Bagger currently trying to unseat Harry Reid as one of Nevada’s U.S. Senators. She’s said some pretty…interesting things throughout her run for Reid’s seat.

Things like she’d like to see the complete elimination of the U.S. Department of Education. Or that the separation of church and state is unconstitutional. Or that unemployment benefits have spoiled Americans from wanting to go and find real work (although she’s also on record as stating that it would not be her responsibility as a U.S. Senator to bring jobs to Nevada, which currently is the state with the highest unemployment rate, at more than 14 percent).

However, it’s her stance on the Second Amendment of the Constitution that worries me the most. During an interview with Lars Larson, Angle is quoted as saying the following:

Our Founding Fathers, they put that Second Amendment in there for a good reason, and that was for the people to protect themselves against a tyrannical government. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said it’s good for a country to have a revolution every 20 years. I hope that’s not where we’re going, but you know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.

Second Amendment remedies? It’s time to water the tree of liberty?

I don’t care how much Angle backpedals regarding her Second Amendment remedies. I don’t care how irrelevant Kostric thinks Matthews’ questions about him toting a loaded weapon outside a presidential town hall meeting might be. Both of these people have put forward imagery and ideas that translate to one thing: armed uprising against the government. Bloodshed.

Sedition.

Am I reading too much into these instances? I don’t think so. I think these things were said or performed in the hopes that people would analyze them and find meaning in the inferences. Do I think there are enough people in this country willing to answer the call for an uprising? I honestly don’t know anymore. I recently read a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center on a group that calls itself the “Sovereign Citizens.” Begun back in the 1970s, now more than 300,000 people claim to be members. According to the Anti-Defamation League, the Sovereign Citizens movement is:

…a loosely organized collection of groups and individuals who have adopted a right-wing anarchist ideology originating in the theories of a group called the Posse Comitatus in the 1970s. Its adherents believe that virtually all existing government in the United States is illegitimate and they seek to “restore” an idealized, minimalist government that never actually existed. To this end, sovereign citizens wage war against the government and other forms of authority using “paper terrorism” harassment and intimidation tactics, and occasionally resorting to violence.

“Occasionally resorting to violence.” Such as when father and son Sovereign Citizens killed two police officers during a traffic stop in May of this year.

Perhaps this is the ultimate way to destroy America. Terrorists need do nothing more than sit back and watch us destroy ourselves. Seems like we’re already on the way there. I can only hope that reason is still strong enough to prevail. Admittedly, though, I’m really beginning to wonder…

GenX-cessive: Millionaire Matchmaker

Pimpin' ain't easy, Dawg

Don’t you just hate it when you finally make your millions and you’re all set to settle down with a gorgeous gold digger but you simply haven’t got the time (or personality) to go out there and snag one for yourself?

Have no fear! For a hefty fee, you can hire Bravo’s latest reality star, Patti Stanger (and her bodacious and completely real ta-tas), otherwise known as the Millionaire Matchmaker. What does she do for that fee? Verbally abuses a bunch of rich douchebags who typically have nothing else going for them beyond the fact that they have a million+ in their bank accounts, finds out what they’re looking for, and then berates them for their tastes.

She then gathers together a bunch of girls looking to bag themselves a rich douchebag, tosses out any girl who fails to pass her physical appraisal (but not before berating them for being too fat, too frumpy, too tacky, too manly, too matronly, too stupid, too whatever it is that she can find wrong with them), keeps the ones who look “exotic” or “classy” (which are apparently Stanger’s code word for “silicone tits” or “Botox Barbie”), and verbally abuses them as well as a means of coaching them in how they need to look and dress if they want to snag the millionaire in question (because who cares what you’re like on the inside?).

Then Stanger and her staff hold a little soiree in which the millionaire gets to mingle with Stanger’s herd of call girls, picks a couple they find the most aesthetically schwinging, does “mini dates,” and then narrows the choice down to one. The rich douchebag then gets verbally abused by Stanger some more before taking their choice on the “big date” to find out if it’s really a match made in heaven Beverly Hills.

What this show should really be called is I Pimp for Rich Douchebags.

Could you imagine the uproar that this show would have caused if, instead of Stanger, the Millionaire Matchmaker was a guy? Yet, because it’s a woman doing the pimping, that somehow makes it better? I don’t know. I don’t really feel all that much better or particularly empowered watching a woman berate other women because of how they look as she selects millionaire-grade breeding stock. Should I? Should I be rooting for these women, hoping that they can bag the millionaire and secure a life of luxury (or at least secure a few awesome dates in which they fly off in his personal jet for a picnic in Maui)? Is this the ultimate victory of all that bra burning and marching done by our predecessors in the fight for women’s rights? The right to unabashedly pimp your own for a massive fee?

True, sometimes the millionaires are women. But they are few and far between. And it doesn’t really make me feel any better knowing that there are just as many men as there are women who will gladly line up for Stanger’s pimp call. This isn’t the equality I was hoping to see in my lifetime.

This show actually makes me root for the recession, if only to diminish the number of people who can join Stanger’s “Millionaire Club”…which, in turn, would diminish her clientele and get her off the television that much faster.

Sometimes Bad Is Better…

…but sometimes it’s simply bad.

What am I babbling on about this time? Well, have you ever set out to watch a movie because you know it’s going to be 100-percent undeniably awful? Sometimes these are the best movies in the world. They’re so horrifying that they somehow transcend their awfulness and become something wonderful, something to be treasured far above rubies. Or rubes. Whichever is your pleasure.

I sought out such a movie last night. I remembered all the hype and bashing of it when it hit the theaters. I knew there was no way in Sto-Vo-Kor that I was going to pay to see it then, but I logged it in my mental vault of things to watch out for on cable.

And then…there it was in the OnDemand Free Movies section: I Know Who Killed Me.

Oh. My. God.

I’m beginning to think that I have deeply ingrained sadomasochistic tendencies that choose to surface in my entertainment choices, because this movie should be listed as a viable torture option for Gitmo detainees.

Yes, before you ask, this is that “big girl” movie that Lindsay Lohan made 2 years ago, as a means of defining herself as being more than the little girl who used to star in all those Disney movies. Seems that somewhere along the line, someone in Lindsay’s confidence convinced her that undulating around a stripper pole somehow equaled gravitas and maturity on screen. From what I’ve read about Miley Cyrus’s latest performance at the Teen Choice Awards, this same person is now in Miley’s confidence. Billy Ray, you have been warned.

This movie is atrocious, and most definitely not in any sort of transcendent way. I’m amazed that any recognizable name would sign on to what should have been a direct-to-DVD flick starring the actress who played “Goth Girl in Crowd” in one of a slew of teen parody flicks that recently clogged Hollywood…or something like that.

What made it impossible for me to laugh at it is the fact that, beyond having severe torture porn moments, this seemed to be the line of delineation for when Lindsay Lohan wandered into the woods of her own very public personal meltdown. Actually, though, I think the meltdown had already begun, because the release of this movie seemed to be almost secondary to all the craziness that was going on IRL.

I can’t help but draw a comparison between Lindsay Lohan and another actress who started out as a Disney girl: Jodie Foster. The comparison is made even stronger by the fact that both played the precocious teenager in their respective versions of Disney’s Freaky Friday.

The same year that Jodie Foster made Freaky Friday, she also did a little movie called Taxi Driver. One could argue that this was the equivalent at the time of Lindsay’s role in I Know Who Killed Me. Only with a much better…everything. Jodie Foster was 12 years old when she played Iris, the runaway prostitute. I’ve heard Foster discuss how she had to meet with a psychiatrist to make sure that she was well-adjusted enough to play the role of Iris.

That might sound silly to us now, but think about the significance of that: Here were people involved in filmmaking who were concerned with how such a role would affect Foster’s well-being. And from what I’ve read of the role Foster’s mother played early in her career, Foster had no dearth of people around her, protecting her and making sure that she made right choices while still retaining as much of her privacy (and, subsequently, dignity) as she could. Looking at Foster now, you kind of have to agree that she grew up pretty well for someone who has spent practically her entire life in front of a camera.

Do you think there were any such people on the set of I Know Who Killed Me, looking out for Lohan’s well-being? No, Lohan wasn’t 12 when she was sliding down a pole in her stripper garb…but I kind of get the feeling that even when she was 12, there were more people in her life trying to figure out how to make a buck off her than there were people trying to help her realize that while there might not be such a thing as “bad” publicity in this celebreality we live in, there are such things as bad decisions that can have as damaging an effect on you as all those horrible chemicals in your Oompa Loompa spray-on tan.

I’m not even sure what I’m trying to say with this post. All I do know is that I’m so tired of watching celebrities self-destruct in the media. And I can’t help but notice that it’s mostly young women doing the destructing. I’m also tired of how we’ve become a culture addicted to lapping up the viscera of these meltdowns like kittens bogarting the milk bowl. I don’t understand how people can make a living highlighting (exacerbating?) other people’s flaws and stumbles. With all this instant global connectivity, shouldn’t we be striving to build each other up, to support each other, to find common grounds and ways to work and live together? Or is that simply too namby-pamby for what seems like a large swathe of the population who finds comfort in the celebration of famous people schadenfreude?

Wow. I’ve gone way down the rabbit hole on a post about I Know Who Killed Me. Let’s reel it back in, shall we?

One final thing. Lindsay, sweetie, I say this with all sincerity: I would love to see you succeed. I remember seeing your cute little Disney movies and thinking that you had something special that could be turned into something great. I wish that you had more people in your confidence who felt the same and said similar things to you. I wish there were more people in this world rooting for you to succeed as opposed to angling for how to make a buck off you when you stumble and fall.

Fall, not fail. I don’t think you’ve failed. You’ve just strayed away from the path that’s going to lead you out of your woods, that’s all. I hope you find your way back on track soon.

Dis-temper

Know what makes me tired? How so many recent events have proven that we are a society trapped in a downward spiral of uncontrolled rudeness and stupidity. What am I talking about? Why, what everyone else is talking about, of course: Joe, Kanye, and Serena, oh my!

We start out with Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst during Obama’s address to Congress. It was disrespectful, yes. Then again, so were the Democrats who booed George W. Bush during his State of the Union address in, I believe, 2005. Wilson, however, is also being labeled racist. (Those booing Democrats, in case you’re wondering, were never labeled moronists.)

I’ve gone over this one before, but apparently I’m screaming into the wind yet again. Now even former presidents are getting in on the racism tagging. To Obama’s credit, he refuses to take this tired, stale bait. Perhaps because he realizes that this is simply another smokescreen to detract our attention away from an honest debate about important issues. Kind of on the same level as death panels and tea baggers (yes, please giggle if you must at that one).

That’s what Republicans are guilty of at this juncture: not being blatantly racist. No, their specialty is fearmongering as a smokescreen to deflect attention from real issues. How do you think they convinced half the country to re-elect Dubya even though he didn’t have enough qualifications to be elected school crossing guard? Fear. “If you don’t vote for George W. Bush, the gay terrorists will invade and turn all your children into gym teachers and nancy boys! And they’ll do a FABULOUS job of it!”

Same difference now. “Obama’s health plan will mean Great Aunt Myrtle will have to be put to sleep because she’s too old! Obama’s going to personally euthanize her! Then he’s going to turn her into Soylent Green and serve her to the unemployed!”

Okay, that last part was a bit over the top…but so are the death panels. What purpose does this kind of panic serve beyond the obvious of detracting from intelligent discourse? Yeah, like we’re capable of such a thing in this country.

Actually, though, I’m derailing myself. I’m not here to talk more about the universal health care issue or all the other political piffle that’s been irritating me. It’s too early in the day to get my blood pressure that high. No, because now we move from Joe Wilson to Kanye West. I don’t want to say much about him, because he’s really not worth a lot of commentary. I’m simply acknowledging that he was a big douchewanger…yet again. But then there’s Serena Williams threatening to cram a “fucking ball” down someone’s “fucking throat.”

All righty then. Women, we still don’t make the same pay for doing the same work as a guy, but we’re now able to throw tantrums in the sports world, like the big boys do! Just like Mary Tyler Moore, looks like we’ve made it after all!

Now, of course, all three of these hotheads have apologized. It took Serena a little longer, but she finally came around (after much pushing from her agent and others within her financial inner circle, I’m sure; we mustn’t tarnish ourselves too much or the money won’t keep rolling in). And now all will be forgiven (well, at least for Kanye and Serena; Joe’s going to keep getting dragged through the racist ringer a bit longer).

But why should we accept their apologies? Better yet, why should we tolerate this kind of behavior at all? Why shouldn’t Joe Wilson be censured? Hell, why weren’t the booing Jackasses..er, Democrats from 2005 censured? It’s the State of the Union, not a pep rally! Why shouldn’t Serena Williams be told she’s out the rest of the tennis season? Yeah, she was fined. $10,000. Wow. That’s pretty much the equivalent of fining one of us mere mortals a dime.

(Why am I not trying to punish Kanye? I think he’s punishment enough, both to himself and to anyone who listens to his music.)

Why am I bothering to rant about this, as if what I say here is going to make any difference? Will Serena read this and realize the error of her ways? Will Kanye tweet me his apology for being a wanker yet again on national television? Will Joe Wilson care that a Democrat outside his jurisdiction is commenting on him? Why should he? He’s raised more than a million dollars thanks to his outburst. And Kanye got me to talk about him (because Lord knows I sure wasn’t talking about his music). And Serena? Hell, she earned $350,000 just for getting to that match where she had her little meltdown. She’s a winner no matter what the score, if you ask me.

Which, of course, no one did. But I shared anyway, because that’s the kind of wolf I am. Now it’s back to work. I promise I won’t try to shove my mouse down anyone’s throat, although if you’d like to pay me $350,000, I’ll see what I can do. I do have that infamous red-haired temper working in my favor…

GenX-cessive: Ghost Adventures

Never fear! My crotch flare and ripped physique will protect us from ghosts!
Never fear! My crotch flare and ripped physique will protect us from ghosts!

It’s been a while since I visited this particular topic…and since this is only the second entry and it’s about another Travel Channel show, it must seem like I’m focusing all my ire on one of the few channels that I still watch with any frequency. Don’t worry. There’s enough anger within this wolf’s warp core to break the Travel Channel barrier soon enough.

Right now, though, this is the show in my line of fire. First, let me point out that I love scary things. Scary books, scary movies, scary music, scary coworkers…love it all (well, maybe not the coworker part). I always have. Even before I was assimilated into the Star Trek Collective, I was a horror hound.

Additionally, within recent years I have become addicted to many of the “reality” ghost shows out there, starting with another Travel Channel offering, the British BS of Most Haunted, right down through Ghost Hunters, Paranormal State, The Scariest Places on Earth…hell, my obsession probably started with the scary episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. I know that most, if not all, of what is seen on these shows is either faked or edited to be more than what it really was, but I still find them fascinating.

As for what I believe in regard to the paranormal, supernatural, otherworldly, or whatever…I’m not really sure. I’ve experienced things that, I’m sure if I thought about them long enough, I could come up with a logical explanation for them. But would that be me just trying to rationalize something that really was irrational? Or me getting a grip on reality rather than letting myself be swept away by the fantastical? I’m not really sure.

I do know this, though: If the afterlife is real and I was somehow stuck in that netherworld and forced to walk this earth as a spirit, the last thing I would want is to have my sanctuary disturbed by these douchewangers from Ghost Adventures.

These three are the most insipid, ridiculous, posturing assclowns ever to enter the paranormal reality show genre (and that’s a huge feat since they share this genre with the likes of Derek Acorah). I suspected as much when I heard them being marketed as “Extreme Paranormal Investigators.” The word “extreme” makes me want to vomit. Why does everything for my generation have to be “extreme”? No, I’m sorry… EXTREME!!!!1!!1!!!

Whatever. I’ve actually watched several episodes of Ghost Adventures. Yes, I secretly am masochistic. The premise itself is quite intriguing: Three investigators are locked inside a location that is presumed to be haunted, with no camera crew, no additional staff, no nothing. Just them, their equipment, and the possibility of paranormal activity that they must find before sunrise. What could have been an amazing premise in the hands of actors able to inspire a sense of competency and intelligence is instead a clusterfuck of testosterone-induced strutting and screaming strung together by the ever-present bleat of curse words being censored out. It’s boring. It’s tedious. It’s predictable. It sucks.

Final analysis: If you like paranormal things like I do but have no patience for predictable Gen-X drivel, definitely skip Ghost Adventures. The Mystery Inc. gang is more professional in their ghost hunting than these piles of smegma. Check out A&E’s Paranormal State or Syfy’s Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International. Sure, they’ve all been edited down to meet viewer expectations, but at least these shows offer something a bit more intelligent than “Holy shit! Oh my god! I am fucking out of here, dude!”

Indeed.