Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Capitalist Barkeep's Response

Yesterday I ran a post by the propietor of Finnegan's Wake in Alexandria, LA. It was his "Nazi-Capitalist" Manifesto, which he wrote in response to some apparent tripe being spewed at him from across the bar. If you haven't read it yet, it's a fantastic read, and I'd encourage you to take a look.

Interestingly enough, a commentor calling himself merely "Greg," called bullshit on the story as follows:
I actually know this guy and would find this rant more believable if it were true. This guy's parents gave him the $$ to open the bar and after bleeding them dry to pay for huge amounts of debt he already had, they sold their family home and gave him a portion and then cut him off. This is the house he's taking about when he says "I sold my property, a house (which thanks to my labor, effort, and investment was worth double what I paid for it." I call bullshit.

Shannon's (the proprietor) friends leapt to his defense, assuring us of his integrity and commitment to honesty. And in a blatant effort on my part to stir the pot, because hey, that's what I do, I took the issue back to the man himself. I figured he seemed like my kind of guy, and knowing me, I sure as hell would want to respond. And indeed he did. And rather than burying it in comments for one or two other people, why not keep the pot stirring, and make it a new post? I'm sure some of you Freepers out there will appreciate the caveat on Nazi's and Capitalists that you were so quick to jump on over at FR. Enjoy!

Shannon's Response to Greg

If anybody wants, they can drive by my parent's house, and still find them living there. They never put a penny toward the bar's construction, because they're non-drinking Christians who never liked the idea of their son owning a tavern. Four years after the bar opened, they've now put it up for sale due to my father's deteriorating health. They plan on buying a smaller home which will be easier for them to keep up now that my dad's in his seventies. Ironically Greg, not only did they NOT sell their home, they bought another one a few year ago and restored it as an investment, so now they currently have two. Yet another example of hard work paying off.

I had a nice house in the Garden District, which many people know I worked on for several years. I don't know where you get your facts Greg (in fact I don't even know a Greg), but once again FACTS trump the rumors. I have proof that everything I said in the blog is true-- if you still want to call bullshit, come see me.

And no, I would never kick anyone out of the bar for a political or philosophical disagreement. That's ridiculous. However, I will argue like hell with anyone who drops half-formed baseless opinions in front of me. Calling yourself a liberal doesn't automatically buy you a plot of land on the moral high ground. If your opinion doesn't jive with historical precedent and fact, then expect to be challenged.

Everyone should understand that Nazis and Capitalists could not be further from one another in philosophy, and as a good Capitalist, I had to take issue with the inaccurate comparison. N.S.D.A.P. stands for the National SOCIALIST German Worker's Party, phonetically abbreviated during the war years to "Nazi". Nazis were socialists. They believed, like all Socialists, the state was supreme and should have a hand in most, if not all, business interests. That's a far cry from Capitalism folks, but it seems to be the direction that this rudderless boat of a country is drifting.

Sorry if it's too verbose. I really have no idea who this guy is, and none of it could be further from the truth. Weird. People have gone from calling me names to making stuff up.

Planned Economy or Planned Destruction?

This is a political cartoon that initially ran in the Chicago Tribune in 1934.

It depicts members of FDR's cabinet shoveling money out of the US Treasury as Stalin looks on from the background, stating "How Red the Sunrise is Getting."

Seventy-Five years later, I can only imagine Stalin would be smiling from ear to ear.

Click on the picture for the full sized image.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Nazi-Capitalist Manifesto

A friend of mine in Louisiana forwarded me a great little piece written by the owner of her local bar. Written by the proprietor of Finnegan's Wake in Alexandria, LA, the following is a bone-chilling tale of evil, profit-seeking Nazi-Capitalism. No doubt this bar, alongside me, is now on some sort of list. Needless to say, when I visit my friend in the coming months, I will be pleased to buy a beer (or ten) from this man, and shake his hand.

"Our Scary 'Nazi Capitalist' Manifesto"

When one stands behind a bar, or when one owns that thirty foot sliver of wood between the worlds of drink and drunk, one hears many, many things. Of course, I never expected all the praise to be good; in fact, I expected little of it to be good. But there are things removed from the personal that I never expected to hear. There are times when I actually would rather hear a personal attack– it would be less painful.

This is written for the little brain-dead children who dared called me a “Nazi Capitalist”. I do accept the “Capitalist” part of that moniker. I am proud, beyond proud, to be called a Capitalist. They say a man never really knows another man until he walks a mile in his shoes-- so before you name me and my shoe size, I want you to understand just where I and my other “Nazi Capitalist” in crime came from before we were big fat cat Capitalist jerks.

My grandfather on my father’s side was an uneducated oil worker, and on my mother’s side, a simple farmer. My mother, as a child, picked cotton for extra money, and wore to school patterned flour-sack dresses sewn by my grandmother. She and her five siblings lived with my grandparents in a small, three room frame house. My mother’s family didn’t have indoor plumbing until the mid-1960's. Both my father and mother were the first to go to college in their family’s history. They grew up poor and lived in a worse fashion than those now on government assistance, and yet still managed to grow up decent and straight and strong and true in a trying time (WITHOUT government assistance), and passed on those lessons about hard work to an unworthy son. I learned my lessons in my own time.

My business partner also comes from humble beginnings. His mother served you your food (perhaps a free lunch) during your elementary school education. His father built strong houses with steady roofs over the heads of your neighbors. He did a fair day’s labor for a fair day’s wage– he never asked for more or less, and nor did his son.

I was the first of my clan to have the honor of overseas travel (thanks to the money my father stashed away in a pipe in the barn for my education), which I was able to do fairly extensively. I graduated college with 257 hours, two bachelors degrees, with graduate degree credits at Oxford University (yes, the one in England), and years of travel broken down between most all of the countries in Europe. (Turns out I wasn’t a complete dummy.) Not a bad spot of work for someone who is the second generation college attendee in a line of oil workers and farmers. Not to mention my sister, who hails from the same humble upbringing, who is now a PhD.

So now that we’ve thrown our credentials around, maybe we can get down to business, the primary question being– what have YOU really done?

Myself, and my evil, Nazi Capitalist business partner, decided to open a pub. We opened a business in a location where all others had failed. We sowed our seed where all others had gone fallow. Why? Simple– we knew the seed we were planting was better than any others that had ever been laid on that soil. We knew our idea was worthwhile; we had the arrogance to know it would succeed. It is for those reasons that we risked what little we had to make something better. Here’s how it happened...

We worked. We worked like demons for nine months, with nothing else than what was in our pockets. At first we shopped around. We asked for money from government entities– from the state, from the city, etc. No one would loan us anything, because we didn’t fit their categories of race, gender, or “need”. No one would loan us anything because we wanted to make a “profit,”--like the idea of profit was something horrible and dirty.

Eventually, I sold my property, a house (which thanks to my labor, effort, and investment was worth double what I paid for it, but that’s another dirty “capitalist property improvement story”), and we worked double shifts to earn enough money to finish the pub. Galen worked full time almost the entire time we worked on the pub. It’s hard to believe that months of back-breaking labor and sixteen hour days can be summed up in such a short and flippant statement as “we worked hard,” but I guess it can. We opened Finnegans Wake with only $200 left to our name, just enough to turn into change for the register for the first night’s business. The rest you know– we made it.

It’s still hard to run the business. Anyone who thinks that we “business owners” have it easy is simply someone who has never owned a business. It’s a seven-day-a-week-job. When you don’t see us there, it’s because we’re operating behind the scenes, making sure your whiskey is stocked, your beer is cold, your bathroom is clean, and your chairs are holding your unappreciative ass up off the floor. I’m up early every day making sure that everything is being held together for you. I wipe down your bar. I fix what you break. I scrape up what you drop on the floor. I clean the puke off your toilets, the floor, and sometimes the wall. I take out your garbage. I sweep your cigs out of the gutter. I stock the coolers. I find your bands. I arrange the events. I am the blue collar worker you claim to champion, and I am the white collar Capitalist bastard you rail against. But when you have a hard time sorting out what to think of me, just remember this– you are sitting in a product of my making. You are sitting in my vision. You are sitting in something built and maintained by my mental capacity, by my business acumen, and the product of my hands. What you see is not just an idea, but also a manifestation of the skills I learned when I was a laborer. Not only did I envision the pub, I built it. I not only talk, I do. You academic bastards, you just talk. You champion labor, but you can’t work. You call yourself intellectuals, but you barely think. You call me close-minded. I’m not close-minded, I’m RESOLVED, and there is a great difference between the two, because I’ve read, I’ve walked, I’ve talked, and I’ve seen, and I’ve come to my conclusions after much thought and much study and great personal struggle. What do you think comes after school, little ones? Life, that’s what, and I can’t wait to watch it eat you, because it will. It will drag you from your ivory towers and eat out your tongues and tax the living shit out of the pittance you try to bring home to sustain yourself.

I hope that you will continue to enjoy the amenities of our labor for many years. But realize this-- when you sit at my table (that I bought and then refinished by hand), and drink my beer (which I bought at my risk), from my employees, (whom I pay from my pocket), in my building (which I pay rent on monthly)– and then rail against the very CAPITALISM that provides the aforementioned– you cannot honestly expect to have friends here.

You immerse yourself in the products of my labor, then call labor evil.

You partake of my property, and say I have no right to the profits.

You call me the Devil, while sitting in the Devil’s chair.

You are going to learn that A = A, and that ideas have consequences.

Monday, April 27, 2009

History in the Making: HR 1207

Since the day the likes of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson sat to forge our founding documents, ours has been a country built on the Capitalist ideal that every man is free to work at whatever he may so choose, to keep what he has earned, and to make of himself whatever he can. This has been bolstered by the value of Liberty, wherein every man is free from the shackles of government interference in his affairs, so long as he abides by the Rule of Law.

The beauty of Capitalism, when practiced by honorable people, within the Rule of Law, is that it rewards all parties involved equally. Two parties enter into an agreement to exchange goods or services for other goods or services, or more commonly, money. Both parties are driven into a relationship of mutual respect via the necessity to receive equal value for the value they have provided.

Things may not seem so much different to many people these days. We are still able to go to work, to pursue the work that suits our desires, and to make of ourselves what we can. We still believe that the money we receive in return for the services we provide, represents an equal value to those services. However, for nearly the past 100 years, our country has slowly been abandoning that one value, Capitalism, that allowed it to become the world's foremost superpower, and we now find ourselves standing at the precipice of a potential turning point in our history.

I refer, of course, to the practice of central banking, and the Federal Reserve System (the Fed). Established in 1913, the Fed is largely a conglomeration of private banking institutions, overseen by a Board of Governors, headed by the Chairman of the Federal Reserve, currently Ben Bernanke. The Board of Governors is a seven-member panel appointed by the President of the United States.

It is principally important to recognize that when the Fed was established in 1913, the United States Dollar was strictly tied to gold. One troy ounce of gold at the time was worth approximately $20.67. This is important because the intent of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 was to ensure that banks would retain enough reserves on hand to stem the tide of an economic downturn. This was not entirely a bad idea. The last thing an economy needs in a downturn is the sources of the money itself being unable to supply that money to the people who need it. In that the money itself was tied to real, physical gold reserves, the money always held a true value. Dollars could be exchanged as currency, as could physical gold coins.

In 1933, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Federal Reserve set in motion the process of untying the Dollar from a physical asset. Roosevelt confiscated the country's gold currency, and arbitrarily reset the value of a troy ounce of gold to $35. This had the real effect of immediately devaluing the dollar by 75%. Though this took place, the Dollar remained tied to gold, and was soon also tied to silver, in a bimetallic currency. One was able to exchange paper notes for physical gold or silver. This lasted until 1971, when Richard Nixon dropped the hammer that Roosevelt had initially raised, and terminated this convertibility, cancelling US participation in the Bretton Woods System, an international agreement where all countries involved were required to keep their currencies tied to gold. Since this happened, the US Dollar has, unconstitutionally, been a fiat currency. Its value is essentially arbitrary, based only on a combination of manipulation of interest rates by the Fed, and what it the Dollar is commonly viewed to be worth around the world.

When Nixon severed the Dollar's ties to tangible assets, it was essentially a panic reaction to the fact that the US was overleveraged as a country, against multiple foreign countries calling in our debts. Moving to a fiat currency was the only way out of the continuing devaluation of the dollar against other foreign currencies at the time, whether or not it was a good long term plan.

And given where we sit today, in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, with the Fed trapped between the rock of its own inflationary monetary policy, and the hard place of an irresponsibly overspending federal government, it has not been a good long term plan. This is outlined beautifully in a piece by Gary North:

The FED has increased the monetary base to such an extent that there is now way to turn back without risking not merely a recession, which we are in, but a depression, which the FED has inflated to avoid.

This is clear to anyone who understands the Austrian theory of the business cycle. The FED has moved into panic mode. Yet it has been unsuccessful so far in stemming the tide of recession.

The Federal deficit is now out of control. When Congress consents to a $1.8 trillion deficit, it no longer exercises the power of the purse.

The FED will have to fund whatever the private markets will not fund, which now appears to be whatever foreign investors refuse to fund. They sold a quarter of a trillion dollars in Treasury debt in February and March. These debt certificates constituted an increase in supply on the capital markets. These unexpected sales would have raised Treasury interest rates had the FED not intervened to buy more Treasury debt.

The question of questions now is this. When banks at last decide that this economy is safe enough to lend into, the excess reserves that they hold at the FED will flow into the economy. This will put the FED's balance sheet into play. The fractional reserve banking process will take over. M1 will increase by 100%. It will not be offset by a decline in the M1 money multiplier.

The fun will begin.

Bernanke understands this.

He knows what will happen to the money supply unless the FED increases reserve requirements to offset the increase in the monetary base. The FED can do this, of course. But then it is back to square 1: the recession that its increased spending will have overcome will return.

In short, the federal government and the Fed have overspent and inflated us into what appears to be a potentially permanent cycle of recession. North points out that Bernanke and the Fed have discussed some mythical "tools" with which they will be able to rescue the United States from this recession. But North sees through the smokescreen, providing us with the important translations of Bernanke's high level financial non-speak (emphasis mine):

Translation: "The money we have created to bail out the financial system will return to the FED and be mopped up. It will not be lent out again." The word "many" means "we aren't saying how much, and we will not tell you if you ask."

Translation: "The FED can adopt a policy of monetary deflation for as long as it takes to revert back to the monetary base that prevailed in . . . we aren't saying." The FED will deflate. We will enter the Twilight Zone.

Translation: "The Treasury, which will run a $1.8 trillion deficit in 2010, will somehow come up with enough money -- not from the FED -- to buy back these loans. I am not at liberty to say how the Treasury will accomplish this. Trust me."

So let us go back to the beginning. The Fed, a conglomeration of private banks, is controlled by a seven-member Board of Governors, appointed by the President. It operates with no other oversight, and no obligation to disclose its activities to the public. We now find ourselves in a state of complete economic calamity, due to a combination of the Dollar having no tangible physical value, and a federal government that has spent more recklessly than even the most egregiously overleveraged private citizen, and that continues to overspend. Ben Bernanke says the Fed knows how to get us out of this. But he won't say how.

Enter HR 1207, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.

The bill has been introduced by Ron Paul, and calls for the full audit of the Federal Reserve by the end of 2010. It seeks to bring transparency to what has been the most cloak-and-dagger setup around for nearly 100 years. It seeks to make the people manipulating our currency, and ultimately our very daily lives and our liberty, accountable again to the people.

HR 1207 has been referred to the House Committee on Financial Services, chaired by everybody's favorite, Barney Frank. As of Friday, April 24th, the bill has gathered wide bipartisan support, and enjoys 91 co-sponsors. There is a massive grassroots effort underway to push the bill through committee and onto the floor, of which I am proud to be a part. I would ask that anyone who has taken the time to read this, would please visit this site, and take but a few minutes to contact your representatives urging them to support and cosponsor this bill.

The Federal Reserve, it's mere seven member Board, and the President of the United States have, for 100 years, enjoyed the power to manipulate the economy as they so choose. The situation has become so dire as to recognize the complete collapse of the Dollar itself as an inherent possibility, something recognized even abroad, with multiple countries calling for a new, universal currency at the recent G20 conference. The basic tenents of our society: Capitalism, Liberty, and ultimately our Freedom depend on our ability to show each other a mutual respect through our transactions. As the Fed continues to manipulate our money, it continues to call into question the true value of our money. When we can no longer properly understand the value of a Dollar, we can no longer determine in what way we should trade with each other, in what way we should respect each other.

The time has come to bring the Fed out of the shadows and into the light. The time has come to bring the true free market back to the forefront of our economy. The time has come that We the People begin again to forge a new history.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Kenyatta Cheese: Rare Hope and Optimism

My favorite class of all-time was today, Online Journalism. We were fortunate enough to have Kenyatta Cheese, a founder of RocketBoom, speak with us via skype. On a sidenote, a class that uses skype for guest speakers on a regular basis is fucking awesome. But Kenyatta was there to speak with us about his site, the business model to run an ad-free site and the larger implications all this has for journalism.

He answered his computer, sat down in an off-white v-neck tee, sipped a Starbucks concoction and told Dan -- my teacher who will come up in another piece -- he was glad to see him again. The class then said "Hello!" in unison, much to Ken's surprise. He shook this moppy afro and put a big grin on his face.

Ken dove into the history of RocketBoom and explained how it all works. Take a peek at the site, it really is great, and completely ad-free. They run a model based around licensing. Currently they receive money from Sony, Nokia and a few other major companies. They produce five regular shows, pay labor, buy shows and other costs with a yearly tab of about $250 thousand. The site is bringing in more than that, but Ken didn't tell us that exact number. My God! A successful online media business model.

All of this is wonderful, but really not the meat of the message. Someone asked what he thought about the death of journalism. He laughed and said journalism is alive and well. "Paper is dying, paper needs to die." With the death of paper comes the death of newspapers as we know it. He talked about a publishing company having an annual operating cost of $5 billion. $3 billion of that is in paper, printing, distribution -- all things that are gone with online publication.

Yea, ok, that isn't a cure, just get rid of the paper, HA! Advertising money would be gone, sales of papers and magazines would be gone, whatever. Sixty percent of operating costs could possibly be cut away completely. Spend your resources figuring out how to make money and profit in the long run. And all these media giants are still fighting against the culture of the internet and are killing themselves in the process.

So what, all of this is old news, why is it special. Well, this may have been a far too personal piece considering I want to make a living as a writer. But Ken is the only journalist, aside from Dan, that has told me there is hope! Everyone else jokes about how we will be driving taxis or some other heavy shit. Hope though! I can still do what my desire is. Will I be rich, no, but will I be happy and making enough of a living to live, maybe. And that is more of a chance then anyone else is willing to give us.

Keep your head above the water, keep treading and fending off the sharks. There is a ship in the distance, there is hope.

Journalism is alive, the medium is dying, this is my revolution.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why it's officially the future #46: Cyborgs


There are cyborgs among us. Most do not look at all like cyborgs - hulking abominations of flesh and machine wrought into existence by a cackling madman in a white lab coat - indeed, you yourself may be a cyborg without even knowing it (But don't worry, I don't mean in a creepy amnesiatic manchurian candidate sleeper cell kind of way). A Cyborg is simply a living being who's body has been purposefully augmented by some technological means, often with some part of the body replaced with an artificial component

There are of course different levels, or 'classes' of cyborg based on the amount and intention of the modification, and a quick explanation of each follows.


For this argument to make more sense, think of yourself as a character in an RPG [role playing game]. Or pretend that your resume has a 'stats sheet' listing your strength, speed, agility, intelligence etc. as some value from 1 to 20, with the absolute peak of human perfection being someone with 20's across the board.

Class 1: A Class 1, or restorative cyborg is a person who's physical or mental capabilities are for one reason or another less than the human norm and has thus been modified in order to raise said capabilities back to normal human levels.

Good examples of Class1's are people who are without the use (or in some cases the presence) of their legs, and instead have artificial legs of one type or another. Anyone with an artificial heart valve or indeed an artificial heart is a Class1. I myself am a Class1, as a team of doctors installed a permanent metal staple into the bottom of my jaw after it was broken a few years ago - the idea being that the staple would help restore some of the structural integrity that was lost when the bones were first broken. Not to mention that I have fillings in at least a few of my teeth (as I imagine you, dear reader, do as well). Anyone who wears glasses or contacts, or who has had laser eye surgery is a Class1.

[EDIT: disregard the comment on glasses and contacts, as they are non-perminant and non-internal, and if they are counted as Class1, so would "that nifty 'augmentation': clothes." - Nate Smars]

When you think Class 1 cyborgs, think of the modification as restoring something that was lost. (Someone who had 12 speed but broke their leg and went down to 9, then used some form of tech to bump themselves back up to 12.)

Class 2: Upon reaching the definition of the Class2 we move officially into the realm of the nifty, and in many people's minds into the realm of science fiction. A Class2 Cyborg is again someone who's abilities were sub par, but have since been modified in such a way that they are left 'ahead of the game' so to speak. One of the most well known fictional examples of a Class2 in popular culture would have to be Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation. His character (for those of you who somehow don't already know) was born blind. However with the use of that spiffy visor of his he is able to see not only the usual EM spectrum that humans are sensitive to, but numerous other types of radiation as well as anything else the writers had need of.

For those of you more fond of pop culture fantasy rather than SciFi - think Mad-eye Moody from the Potter series. He replaced the normal eye he lost with a magical eyeball construct that could rotate and swivel more freely than a normal eye, as well as see through the back or sides of his own head (and probably any other matter if he really wanted). Mad-eye is therefore one of the few Class2 Cyborgs in the Harry Potter series.

A perfect example of a Class2 in real life is Oscar Pistorius, the so called 'fastest man on no legs.' Oscar is a double-amputee who's personal best of 46:25 in the 400 meter brought him juuuust short of the 45:55 qualifying time for the 2008 summer Olympics. But while there were certainly countless athletes who found themselves just that tiny bit short of qualifying, none of them but Oscar could ensure they made the qualifying run next time by calling a design firm and ordering a faster pair of legs.

In a nutshell, Class 2 cyborgs are still replacing something that was lost, but the replacement (either intentionally or not) ends up being better than what was being replaced. (instead of the tech restoring them to a 12, they end up at 14)

Class 3: And finally we reach the Class 3 cyborg, the 'true' cyborg. A class3 is someone who willingly modifies him or herself [or is modified on behalf of someone else's will] with the intent of becoming something more than they were before. There may be nothing wrong with a Class3 before they are modified, no physical or mental detriment that is being compensated for. Were I to replace my eyes with cybernetic implants just because I think it'd be cool as hell, I would be a Class3.

Back to Trek examples, the Borg are Class3s. While the individual may not be all too willing to be assimilated, the intention is still to improve on the existing biological system.

One real-life example of a Class3 is the UK's own Kevin Warwick. Warwick is not by any means one of the planet's most prominent Class3s, though. Any human female who has chosen to control her own reproductive cycle by modifying her own body's hormone balance[any chick on the pill] is a Class 3 Cyborg. She has significantly modified her own body for her own gain (ok, for her bumperbudy's gain as well).

Class 3 cyborgs are not making up for any prior loss or lack with their modifications, and are instead modifying themselves purely to become better than they were. (skipping the step of breaking their leg and going strait for the modifying tech to change their speed from 12 to 14 just so they can be faster.)

Class 4: The class 4 cyborg is not defined by intent or resulting abilities due to the modification the individual has undergone, but rather by end result and % of surviving original tissue. A Class4 is at least 51% artificial. Think Robocop here.

Once we pass the 51% mark the individual can be just a human brain in an artificial body (the most extreme 'upgrade' possible) and would still be a Class4. Only barely defined as human, Class4's are a long way off but still kinda spooky to think about.

So go now, and look with your newly educated eyes at this world filled with cyborgs. And be sure to call me as soon as you hear about anywhere that's looking into cyber-eye implants.

Good god I want robot eyes...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digital Crack: Video Games, Addictive?

Chicago Tribune has gone ahead and posted a piece online about video game addiction. It follows a study that shows 8.5 percent of kids show signs of addiction with video game play. Why is this considered breaking news? Ten years ago when Everquest launched I remember it picking up the nicknames Evercrack and The Widow Maker — after causing numerous couples to split — within a few months.

Before that I remember many people maxing out the timer on Final Fantasy VII on multiple saved games before long. I have logged at least 24 hours on every Final Fantasy game to come out. My record was nearly 400 played days on Final Fantasy XI.

When you hear of someone die from a speed overdose to play longer, or having their children taken away, that is addiction. Enjoying playing a game over sitting in class is not addiction. That means the class is either being taught by someone who teaches for a job rather than someone who wants to excite children, or geometry isn’t your thing. Does addiction exist? Yes, that is why addiction centers started recognizing it years ago. But these studies should really put it against other addictions — don’t see a lot about 8.5 percent of heroin users being addicted.

Reports like this create a stir for a while, parents will take a kid’s games away and they will get pissed and unhappy. Then the parents will assume it is because their kid is addicted and set rules to how much they can play. And the kid will do worse in school and the parent will think that only time will change it. Guess what, the kid is pissed because the parent took away his hobby, he is doing worse in school because he is unhappy, and time will fix it because he will move on eventually.

When did having a hobby you love turn to addiction because you are unhappy when you are kept from it? I know people who are like that when they can’t go for a jog. Last I checked, people aren’t publishing stories about “running addictions”.

Take a deep breath Jonathan, not all that bad, maybe the Trib is publishing anything to bring in the customers now. Cheers.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Power of Faith

Even though I don't believe in an Almighty God, I find myself continually both surprised and impressed by the power of faith. Most recently, this power was conveyed to me via a story from a high school teacher of mine, who's son is afflicted with autism. It is a story of struggle, family and strength through faith in God, and while I cannot personally understand or relate to the feeling conveyed to her through God, the story is nevertheless one of the most touching I've read, and I now have an endless respect for my former teacher's strength and dedication to her family. After receiving her permission, I would like to share it with you. Please enjoy.

What My Son With Autism Has Taught Me

Autism. What an awful word – kind of paralyzing, isn’t it? Kind of like Cancer, or Deformity, or White Sox (kidding, kind of…). When your child is born, you don’t want any of these words associated with your baby. After all, your baby is the total manifestation of all your hopes and dreams for the future. Those hopes and dreams don’t include concepts such as “different”, or “special needs”, or “life long condition”. I know I certainly didn’t expect my kids to be anything less than “perfectly normal”. After all, didn’t Erik and I already pay our dues with his cancer diagnosis all those years ago? Surely that was the only big trial we were expected to endure.

Life would be great from there on out, right? Seemed like it when Katy was born. She was “perfectly normal” – a little colicky, sure, but wonderful all the same. Smart, funny, well behaved, potty trained before 3, reading early – check, check, check. Surely we had this parenting thing figured out. Then came Jayson – a son! One boy and one girl – the perfect family. Katy was so good, now it was time to watch Jayson become a model little boy. Well, I certainly had life all figured out, didn’t I? I’m betting this is where God decided to teach me a few things.

Summer 2007, otherwise known as the “summer from hell”. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what I was doing wrong with my son. He had constant tantrums, some lasting for over an hour. He would wander aimlessly into the street no matter how many times we yelled, threatened, or spanked him. He never looked us in the eye and seemed to be in a trance half the time. He wouldn’t attend story time at the library or any other activity. He only wore certain shirts. Don’t even get me started on the potty training – he wasn’t even close. To make things even worse, he seemed to have no playmates. He was content to watch the same movie or TV show all the time and used lines from those shows to make up his speech. I had gotten to the point where I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I felt like I just wanted to crawl into a hole. I couldn’t stand the looks from other mothers, couldn’t stand going to the park and seeing kids Jayson’s age that behaved like normal 3 year olds. I was beginning to avoid my friends and family. The final straw was our trip to Disneyworld. He tantrumed every day and made the trip fairly unbearable at times. We got home on a Saturday and I called his pediatrician on Monday. She ordered an immediate evaluation through the school district.

I was in unfamiliar territory. What kind of evaluation? What would they do there? What the heck was WRONG with my son? Was it him? Was it my parenting? What? What? But there was a part of me that felt relieved. Maybe someone was finally going to get him and me the help we so desperately needed. I remember sitting in the evaluation room that day watching the staff test and interact with my son. They asked me questions about eye contact and scripted speech. They touched him to see if he shrank back. Tried to get him to engage in conversation with them. As I watched them evaluate Jayson, it hit me like a lightening bolt – my God, they were checking him for autism!! I remember a cold chill coming over me and all of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t breathe. How had I missed it?

I left the evaluation and went home to the computer. Google became my friend and my curse. I read everything I could get my hands on and what I read was grim. Words like, “lifelong impairment”, and “poor ability to make friends”, and “intensive therapy needed” sprang out at me. One website said that “some autistic individuals may have hope for a fairly normal life”. SOME??? SOME??? FAIRLY NORMAL?? I felt my hopes and dreams crumble around me. Would Jayson ever be happy? Would he go to college? Get married? Go to regular school? Would we ever be able to have a normal conversation with him? Would he ever look us in the eye? Erik could barely register the information and the only thing I could see in his eyes was utter despair. It felt like our lives had ended.

Wow, pretty depressing, huh? Not the most uplifting of stories, you say? You’re right! When I look back to that time 1 ½ years ago I can’t believe how bleak things looked. The effect of autism on a family are devastating – high rates of depression and divorce among parents, financial ruin paying for therapies that insurance doesn’t cover, bitterness from siblings who feel neglected – the list goes on and on. It became very clear to me that I had 2 choices – go down the road of despair, or try to begin climbing a mountain of hope.

Now, before this story begins a happier turn, I want to make something very clear. We are luckier than some families touched by autism. Autism is a spectrum. The symptoms and issues vary from kid to kid and the severity of each symptom varies as well. ALL kids with autism are different and have different needs. Some needs are readily apparent to anyone who meets the child. Other issues may not be apparent at first and many may think the child is just misbehaving or being difficult. Any kid on the spectrum deserves our patience and understanding. Jayson’s condition is mild compared to some and he doesn’t suffer from many of the physical ailments that other kids might (seizures, severe bowel problems, among MANY others). Jayson is also verbal, unlike some kids that are locked in a world of silence that takes tremendous effort to break through. If anyone reading this has a child on the severe end of the spectrum – believe me, I don’t pretend to know what it is like to walk in your shoes.

But things slowly began to turn around for our family. I have the most supportive husband in the world that would do anything to help his son. Believe me, this helps. He has patience and understanding and is my partner 100% He doesn’t bury his head in the sand and pretend that there is nothing wrong with Jayson or let his anger and disappointment overcome him. He is a rock of a father and handles Jayson beautifully, whether it’s by wrestling with him for 20 minutes (which helps “rev up” Jay’s system to make him more clear headed and attentive), or being INCREDIBLY patient with Jay when he is having trouble transitioning, or by heaping praise on him when he does something great. He includes Jayson in everything “manly” – working on the lawn, fixing things with tools, carrying firewood, going to the hardware store. Jayson loves every minute of it and always says that he is Daddy’s “partner”. Jayson is doing fine in school and plays on a soccer team. He fights with his sister like any normal kid and most people who meet him don’t even realize anything is different about him. His therapies have worked well and, as a result, he has come so far in 2 years! He will go to kindergarten in the fall in a regular classroom (with some outside help) and I have high hopes that he will do great. He will turn 5 this year and will have his first friend birthday party – and he will actually have some friends to invite!! He plays with the neighborhood kids and nothing is more music to my ears than to listen to him playing and laughing with other kids!

And now that the shock of the diagnosis has cleared, I am beginning to see some of the lessons that God is teaching me through my son. These lessons are life changing and they are such a gift. I never thought I would think of Jay’s autism as a blessing, but I beginning to see it as just that. These lessons are the main things I wanted to share in this note.

1. God is in control. This always used to sound so trite to me when other people said it. “Oh, don’t worry that your house just burned down, or that you have a terminal illness, because God is in control!” But after some careful reflection I have found great comfort in the idea that God knows what He is doing. Jayson has autism, yes, but God has chosen ME to be his mother and has equipped me with everything I need to do a good job. He has allowed me to stay at home and be a full time mother, He has given me a supportive husband and a great marriage, He has surrounded me with amazing friends, He has put me in touch with a support group, He has put me in a neighborhood with another adorable spectrum boy the same age as Jayson (what a joy it was to meet him and his mother!), He has put me in a church that is a constant source of comfort and inspiration. I could list a million more things here. He is constantly putting people in my life that help me on this autism journey. I can do this because God is looking out for me. However, another lesson I have learned is…

2. I cannot be super mom all the time. God has equipped me with what I need to be a good mother to Jayson and Katy, but I am still going to screw up. A lot. There is intense pressure to make the right decisions all the time for our kids. Am I giving him the right therapy? Enough therapy? Too much therapy? Is he in the right school? Should I home school? Should he eat differently? Should he be in more activities? Less activities? Should I vaccinate him? Never vaccinate him again? Should I let him watch TV? Play the Wii? Am I reading to him enough? UGH!! Enough is enough, I say. I have learned to do my very best and not beat myself up when my best isn’t always getting the job done. My kids will survive in spite of my parenting mistakes. At the same time, I know God wants me to admit my mistakes and always ask for forgiveness. I want my kids to be able to do that as well. I used to thing being a mother was so easy – after all, Katy was such a good toddler and preschooler. Well, I like to call Jayson “Mommy’s little humbler”. Nothing like a big heaping help of Jayson to knock me off that pedestal! Thanks, God – I really needed it!

3. Slow down!!! What is it about suburban life that makes us feel we have to be busy all the time? Good grief! There is such pressure to have our kids in every activity, play every instrument, learn 4 languages, etc. We wear our busyness like a badge of honor – and try to top each other by always saying just how busy we are! The busier we are the better the life we must be providing for our kids, right? Look at how much we are enriching them!! Camps, lessons, sports, you name it. Is it the weekend? No time to relax! There are practices, games, lawns to be mowed, shopping to do, landscaping to perfect, and the list goes on and on. In our family, we couldn’t keep this pace even if we wanted to – Jayson wouldn’t be able to handle it. Kids with autism have a harder time transitioning from one thing to another. To fill his day with too much activity and no down time would overload his brain and cause him to melt. As a result, our family has slowed down – A LOT! Sure the kids are involved in activities, but we are careful not to overload them. Each child has one activity at a time. We limit our shopping and errand running to the necessities, - and we let the rest go for another time. We try to keep a calm cadence in our family. If we get too crazy, trust me, Jayson lets us know. I know this makes us different from the norm, but I am grateful for it. God has taught us a valuable lesson about slowing down and enjoying the peace.

4. It’s OK to be different and to NOT be the best. Ok, this has been a hard lesson for me in a few ways. I am a born over achiever. I worked hard to be the best at everything I do, from my high school grades to my college work, to my teaching job, etc. Of course my children would be the best at everything they do, right? Oh ick. I am so over that. I went to a Christian women’s conference one year and a speaker said something that really resonated with me – “Delight in your ORDINARY child”. Her point was that we didn’t have to make our kids into the best at everything – the best in their class, on their team, among their friends. We are heaping way too much pressure on our children! I have taken this one step further – I am OK with my kid not being the best, and also OK with my kid being a little different. Jayson is quirky to be sure – he quotes Max and Ruby episodes verbatim and fixates on certain things (like star wars). He speaks in “scripts” when he gets nervous and is very unsure of how to have a conversation with another person. He doesn’t make friends easily and will probably seem a bit weird to other kids. You know what? It’s OK. The things that make him different also make him a really neat little kid. He has an encyclopedic brain and a memory that puts his mother’s to shame. He can complete a 100 piece puzzle in 5 minutes and there is no Wii game he can’t master in a day. I feel the same way about my daughter. I don’t want my kids to be like every other kid. I want them to be their own person and to know that it’s OK to not be like everyone else. Jayson is going to struggle – and he needs to know that it’s OK to struggle. We ALL need to know that it is OK to struggle!

5. Let it go!! Oh boy – I used to worry about everything (still do to a point). House isn’t cleaned? That fence isn’t painted? Haven’t found the perfect lamp for my living room? Those things used to drive me nuts. Now I could give a hoot. Through Jayson, God has taught me to let the small stuff go. When I start to worry and stress about dumb things, I take a deep breath and try to instead think of something to be grateful for. When autism affects your family, other things lose their priority. Sometimes I think many of these things should never have had priority in the first place.

6. Finally, I have learned to hold on to my marriage for dear life. God’s greatest gift has been my marriage. It gives me and the kids the stability and happiness we so dearly need. Autism is hard and it is exhausting – without a partner to help you through it, it becomes 100 times harder. Kids have the tendency to shift your focus away from your marriage. God has shown me again and again what a huge mistake this is. My husband comes first.

As a result, my kids are more secure and happier. Now, do I have it all figured out? Ha – No! I’m sure life will throw a lot more at me and I will struggle with it. Katy, by the way, tends to get very upset when she makes a mistake at school or anywhere else. I always tell her that only God is perfect and then I tell her about the Amish, who purposefully put a mistake in everything they do to underscore the point that only God can achieve perfection. I am a firm believer in this. I always tell Katy to “Remember the Amish!” when she makes a mistake. It’s a funny little thing we do but it’s a good thing to always remember. She will make more mistakes and I will continue to do the same. Our family will have to constantly adjust as the kids get older. Jayson is doing SO great right now, but elementary school and adolescence are right around the corner and I’m sure that time will bring more struggles. I can only know for sure that God will keep teaching me and supporting me on this whole journey.

And in the end, I think we will find that this autism will be a blessing for our family – that’s right, a blessing. Our kids will grow up more accepting and compassionate (I already see Katy defending her brother to other kids), and we will have more grace and understanding for people. We will know more about Star Wars than any living human being (that’s a joke, kind of…) We will slow down our pace of life and always enjoy the little pleasures. We will never take anything for granted and we will celebrate every little victory. We will keep our priorities in check. We will continue to follow God. Jayson is going to make us all better people – I just know it.

Inter-State Love Song

Rainy days are often an appropriate time to sit and reflect upon the circumstances of your life; brew up a cup of International Foods, French Vanilla (Jean Luc!), sit in front of a window and stare off into the grey, contemplating life as a Nick Drake album lulls in the background.

Today is just such a introspective day, as it is a lazy, rainy Sunday and not being able (or willing) to play outside, I choose to reflect upon my going on 5 year relationship with a partner who used to be fun and exciting, but has grown to be abrasive and cold, to the point where they are no longer tolerable. I loved this partner once, but with each day that passes my contempt and resentment course ever more strongly through my veins, to the point where no I fear total consumption. It isn't fair for either of us, so Chicago, I am breaking up with you.

When I first met you back in 2004, I was in love with how different you were from my other long term partner, San Diego. Sure, San Diego was hot, but fairly one dimensional and I felt that I needed more from a relationship than perfect looks and you seemed to marry both the physical and the intellectual. When I started telling friends about wanting to leave San Diego, they all thought I was insane: "But San Diego is PERFECT!" is often the exclaimed protest that I would hear, but though I could not deny the obvious, I rebutted that "Yes, San Diego is perfect, but I want more." And more is why I took up with Chicago, who represented everything I desired (cosmopolitan, chic, cerebral) and everything that San Diego was not.

San Diego didn't understand it, my need to leave. We had a life together, friends, memories! All I could say was that, this is the only time in my life that I can be selfish so I need to take advantage of the opportunity. I was 24 and we had been together for 15 years, I needed to try something new and with that, I said goodbye.

At first, Chicago was amazing; everything I was looking for and more. Chicago boasted the creme de la creme of culture and amusment, presenting me with exposure to experiences that San Diego never could have afforded. Sure, Chicago was prone to mood swings, oscillating between warm and comforting to harsh, abrasive and bitter. However, when you are in love, you are often willing to overlook your partners flaws in the beginning, hoping that they are only minor quirks and not red flags indicating the larger, looming ineivtable.

Chicago hooked me up with a group of cool people and who ere always up for a good time and so with our new friends, Chicago and I settled into a relatively comfortable life together. Then after about 2 years, things started to go wrong.

Looking back now, I should have seen the signs. Chicago's volitle switch between hot and cold, while at first engaging because of the challenge (San Diego was always very mellow and therefore, predictable) soon began to wear on me. Not being able to accurately predict and preare for the day, soon lost its spontaneous appeal. I also discovered that while Chicago introduced me to some cool people, we really did not have much in common. Feeling lonely and nostalgic, I often found myself thinking of San Diego, wondering how she was doing and if she thought about me. I wanted to call, but I couldn't swallow my pride enough to admit that I might have been wrong.

But I cannot blame Chicago, I played a large part in the demise of our relationship. I have always been a social person, and yes I have been know to tie one on on occassion. However, I began to hide my unhappiness with Chicago in excess; going out and staying out, sometimes no coming home at all and if I did I was in bad shape. I lashed out at others, simulatneusly alienating and drawing them into my growing vortex of resentment. Chicago had given my everything I wanted, but it was slowly becoming clear that what I wanted and what I needed were opposite points on the spectrum.

I tried to fix things with Chicago and we did enjoy some, albiet breif, periods of renconsiliation. But it was an effort akin to using a band-aid to cover a gunshot wound, quick fix efforts are not long term solutions and the inability to reconcile myself with my relationship forced me to leave. It was better for both of us.

I went back to San Diego. The euphoria of being reunited was wonderful; I felt in my heart that I had made the right choice. The comfort of San Diego soothed my wounds from Chicago and for a time, it was perfect. As the months went by, things slowly started to change. I was happy to be back, but something was missing, I felt that I had forgotten something or that I had some unfinished business. I eventually came to realize that what I was missing was closure. I was so caught up with Chicago that i neglected the main reason for moving which was school. It was clear that before I could fully re-commit to San Diego, I needed to officially end things with Chicago.

I came back to Chicago in September of last year. We know we do not want each other; that it is a relationship of convienience that is made tolerable by the knowledge that it is not permanent. I will graduate in June, officially severing ties in August. I see San Diego and her sister LA as often as my time and cash flow allow, with friends of both visting me in the mean time. The results of the long distance relationship are mixed.

I feel the need to add this coda because a lot of people love Chicago and have a great relationship, so I do not wish to offend when I write this account of my experience. Chicago is great and has given me many memories and lessons that I will never forget. That being said, we just can't work; I am and I guess always have been, in love with some place else.

Friday, April 17, 2009

George Will's Jeans

Ace has already been all over George Will's completely ridiculous "jihad on jeans."

While I don't doubt Ace's ability to fend for himself, little does he know that George Will is commanding his War on Denim from On A Boat with The Lonely Island.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Hello, World.

I was invited to help contribute to this blog and have jumped aboard. I am a Journalism major among other things. I have my own personal blog and working on launching another site based around the subcultures that exist in bars in Chicago. I have recently started to cover the idea of freedom of information, with a focus on torrents, for a class beat.

Enough with that though. I don't really have a lot to say right now, but felt that this needed to be added. This video from College Humor may be best summation of culture on the internet, and set to a catchy tune. Enjoy, mahalo.

EDIT: College Humor, like so many other sites, for whatever reason has gotten their new viral video taken off youtube in fear of free and mass distribution and advertising. The most amusing part of it all though is the fact it was taken down on the basis of copyright. The music video is a mash up essentially of all copyrighted material. Oh, College Humor, you really are funny. Anyway, in playing by the rules, here is the video on thier page. Be sure to click on all their ads so they continue to remove content from youtube!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why It's Officially the Future #01

This is the beginning of a series of posts that I hope will help illuminate for you, dear reader, our current state of scientific understanding and achievement in areas that have generally eluded common knowledge, but are now very quickly becoming part of our everyday lives, and are clinching proof that while we may lack flying cars, we none the less officially live in the future.

First, watch this video from Juan Enriquez's latest TED talk. It should give you a good idea of where we are in understanding life as a set of mechanical systems. Such understanding has eluded us for ages because as Douglas Adams put it years ago 'We have always preceded from the idea that to learn how something works, we take it apart. However as soon as you take apart a cat, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat. Life is an order of complexity so far above our understanding that we have classically assigned a mystical explination to account for its existence.'

This holds true to the idea that religion is just a standing explanation for things we don't fully understand yet. It's a placeholder, like the incomplete special effects on the leaked version of the new 'X-men Origins: Wolverine' movie ... or so I'm told. However our science has now progressed enough that while we don't understand conscious thought and all this sentience crap just yet, we do understand how cells and DNA interact and function like the hardware and software of a computer (respectively). We can, and indeed have manufactured life at the cellular level, as well as what amounts to 'replacement parts' for our own bodies. Such advancements have only been possible because of our understanding of how life functions at the most basic level.

This understanding began with Darwin and On the Origin of Species, and really got going with Watson and Crick's (slightly stolen) discovery of DNA. But our approach was still governed by the idea of an intelligent and deliberate creator. A 'top-down' system of complexity.

[there is a famous explanation of the universe that has turtles 'all the way down' but logically, a universe created by a god of some kind raises the question of the god's creation, and leads one to the conclusion that in such a system there are 'gods all the way up']

But with the advent of modern computing and the way in which software works, we began to see that all the marvelous complexity and beauty around us could be explained from a perspective of 'bottom up' design. No matter how complex the computer program, it all begins with adding 1 and 1 and testing the result. And then doing it again. 'Ones and zeros' as my father says whenever I try to explain a complex technological concept. With an observable model like software, we can see that very very simple actions, iterated many times over, can lead to very very complex results.

This ideological bombshell has not quite created the stir that it rightfully should, but it has changed the way that I look at the world, as well as the way any fervent fans of Douglas Adams surely have. (if this whole things smacks of his speech to the Cambridge Scientific Society it's because its completely riped off from it) So the 'miracle' of life has lost its mystic explination. As its put in the above video, 'life happens.' Software and Hardware, just following a set of rules and acting as they always have.

We are just beginning to be able to understand and modify life at not only its most basic level (cells) but also at the tissue, and almost organ levels. Just how we decide to modify or even replace these particular aspects of ourselves and other living organisms, I'll cover in another post. For now just let this information stew in your mind for a little while.

We no longer need to rebuild him. We have the technology. We can regrow him. Make him better, if he wants, faster, if he so chooses, stronger, if he sees the need. Or we can bring him back to just how he was before.


Ron Paul discusses the economic crisis that he felt was impending due to the Federal Reserve and our fiat monetary system.

In 1988.

No doubt he was dismissed as a marginal doomsayer back then. Perhaps given the timeframe he was projecting for a depression made him so, but he could only speculate, after all.

The prediction hardly makes him a Nostradamus-type mystical soothsayer, however. Basing his projections on the solid ground of Austrian Economics, he was merely predicting what had to happen.

Pretty poignant stuff in retrospect. Hindsight is 20/20 after all.


Hat Tip: Below the Beltway

"I don't drink PBR to be ironic, it is all I can afford!": The reluctant hipster's lament

My name is Christine and I am a reluctant hipster. I maintain that my hipster status was not willingly adopted, but determined for me, as I was forced into vintage clothes and cheap booze via government enforced poverty. However, many people (including the organizer of this blog) maintain that I "listen to The Smiths, Therefore I am." Now according to the definition provided by Urban Dictionary of Hipster,I would qualify as a full blown, Parliment smoking, PBR drinking, English majoring pustule of irony. But what condemns me to subculture exile is my continuous and irreverent denial that I am a card carrying member of this generally loathsome faction of society. In the process of writing this blog, which was originally intended to disprove any and all allegations that I find it hip to be square, I have been confronted with certain inalienable "Coincidences" that make my disposition towards being a victim of social profiling feasible: I happen to prefer a style aesthetic that makes me look like an extra from a Wes Anderson film, I belong to a Beat book club, I watch foreign films because they are "avant garde" but really because I like the intellectual implications of embracing the general alienating nature of subtitles, I pretentiously judge others for being "pretentious" as I talk about obscure subjects that I specifically read up on just to so that I can highlight their obscurity and ipso facto my coolness...the list goes on.

In light of what I just wrote, I still maintain that my alignment with the hipster culture is largely incidental; I don't aspire to achieve irony (though I do enjoy it when it manages to make an appearance in normally mundane situations and locations, such as in line at a coffee shop or the used record store) I am almost 30 and have become a victim of circumstance because things that I appreciate (because I was alive for their original incarnations) have become symbolic of the college freshman bid for acceptance through perceived alienation. Despite all of the aforementioned, I am capable of recognizing that all signs point to Hipsterville, but how does the desire for individuality, which I believe to be at the root of any popular cultural trend: prep, emo, goth or hipster, make you an outcast amongst your own people? E Tu American Apparel guy? Ok I don't want to highlight my existential crisis of the week, so I will move on...

In Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk writes " you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake." This statement rings true for all of us; the one thing we all share is the desire to forge an individual claim on the rest of the world. Hipsters just do this while standing together and apart from the rest of the gen pop while sipping on PBR. This is why, despite my own protest, I cannot hate on the Hipster fraternity; the more we all want to be different, the more we are the same. But, for the record, I drink High Life.

Glenn Beck and the "Extreme Radical Right"

Everyone on the Left is laughing at Glenn Beck. They are posing him as the figurehead of how the American Right is going completely off the rails. Nearly everyone on the Right is burying their heads in their hands in embarrassment over Glenn Beck, even as, more than likely, they are peering between two fingers with one eye to watch his every move.

Allow me to set the record straight right off the bat. Glenn Beck is, at times, absolutely nuts. The segment with the eyes, the segment about the FEMA camps with the Nazi video backdrops, the crying. Those were completely crazy. But damnit if they weren't entertaining. Glenn Beck in general is just flat-out entertaining. And given that his ratings are challenging entrenched Fox News stars like O'Reilly and Hannity, I'm not the only one who thinks so. I don't actually even watch his show that much, but it's popular enough that I'm familiar with his segments via online postings of Youtube clips almost every day, and I catch it every now and then. I've even posted a couple times around his clips myself, including what I consider to be a fantastic video about the inflationary tactics of the Federal Reserve, and another great discussion that Beck had with Ron Paul about where the G20 was going to go from a monetary standpoint. The latter was over a month in advance of multiple major countries pitching a worldwide fiat currency, just as they had discussed.

Unfortunately, Beck's aforementioned crazier segments are what are garnering all the attention. The Left is setting him up as the poster child for the insane, militant Right, by focusing on his comparison of the FEMA camps to what happened in Nazi Germany, not to mention his discussion with Chuck Norris about joining him in Texas should Texas choose to secede from the country. These are easy pickings for the likes of, well, just about anyone. What I find disturbing, however, is not so much the Left's attacking and ridiculing of Beck. Beck, essentially, is the Right's answer to Keith Olbermann, after all. The Right has had years now to ridicule Olbermann and his inane buffoonery, all the while scratching its collective head as to how in the hell anyone on the Left could possible find him even remotely watchable. Now the Right has Beck, and the Left has the opportunity to revel in the same kind of finger pointing and ridicule. What I find disturbing, then, is that so many key members of the Right, reporters and bloggers alike, seem to be horrified by the turn that is taking place with Beck seemingly at the helm.

Both Rick Moran, and Charles at Little Green Footballs cite an article by Michael Cohen at Politico entitled "Extremist Rhetoric Wont' Rebuild GOP" in their respective lamentings over the populist surge of support for Glenn Beck that is currently taking place. Moran, in his usually fantastic style, wonders where he stands in the conservative movement as he recognizes the reality of the fact that the Left's populist outrage over the past eight years has infected the Right as well:
By listening or watching Beck, people know that like minded patriots are experiencing the same fears and frustrations that they are, making those who tune in part of a community. We saw this exact same phenomena during the Bush years with the left and the widespread belief in a draft; in “another 9/11″ in order to cancel the election of both 2006 and 2008; in the almost weekly “We’re going to invade Iran” rumors; and, of course, the usual black helicopter and FEMA camp nonsense. Hofstadter was right. The “First Party System” - where the party out of power believes the other party will destroy the country - is alive and well in America.
Interestingly, Moran also finds himself out of sorts with the populism surrounding other high level spokepeople for the Right, with whom he lumps Beck:

I am losing contact with those conservatives who find Beck anything more than a clown - and an irrational one at that. Same goes for those who worship at the altar of Rush, Hannity, Coulter, and the whole cotton candy conservative crowd. I can’t take those people seriously. The fact that they are popular mystifies me. Our heroes 20 years ago were Reagan, Buckley, Fitzpatrick, Kirk, Goldwater, Anderson, and others who didn’t see conservatism as a meal ticket but as something to think about, to write about and contemplate man’s place in the world and his relationship to government and God.
Stuff like this is why Rick Moran is one of the best. But I find it strange that he would find himself unable to take Beck, Rush, Hannity or Coulter seriously. Beck has been a little crazy at times, to be sure, and Coulter is as antagonistic as it gets. But they are both people that are cogent in their arguments, and intelligent in debating the issues at hand, even if they are showpeople about it. I'll admit I don't much enjoy Hannity as there's too much stringent religion in him for my liking. I wonder if perhaps Moran has listened to Rush lately, though, as I think he's been fantastic in attempting to re-clarify what Conservatism is supposed to be, while dodging the notion that he should be considered the "leader of the Republican Party." I think Rush, in particular, has been trying to guide people back to recognizing Conservatism as exactly what Moran envisioned it to be when looking up to the likes of Reagan and Goldwater.

But the topic here isn't Rush, it's Beck, or, more importantly, the perception that there is a swelling of crazy people on the Right that are following him. Charles at LGF summed up his feelings about Beck fairly succinctly:
This turn toward the extreme right on the part of Fox News is troubling, and will achieve nothing in the long run except further marginalization of the GOP—unless people start behaving like adults instead of angry kids throwing tantrums and ranting about conspiracies and revolution.
The problem with this viewpoint, however is that it is a man burying his head in his hands in embarrassment over the mocking, pointed finger of ridicule of the Left. This viewpoint assumes that Beck is the leader of a populist swell of people searching for a voice promoting Liberty, Freedom, Small Government and the values of our Founding Fathers. Glenn Beck, however, is no more the leader of a populist movement on the Right, than Keith Olbermann was the leader of a populist movement on the Left over the past eight years.

Glenn Beck is a television star. He may throw some things out there that many people consider crazy or stupid from time to time, but that's his job. He needs to get ratings, and he gets them. To assume that people are latching on to some of his more outlandish segments as gospel is to insult the intelligence of the general populace of the Right overall. Conservatives and Libertarians love Freedom. Conservatives and Libertarians love Liberty. Conservatives and Libertarians want Small Government. Glenn Beck is delivering a message of all three in an easily accessbile format, and therefore he is popular.

Michael Cohen's article, which both Charles and Rick Moran leaned on, provides the important message:
Republicans need to make a decision: Are they going to cater to the paranoid fears of self-styled “truth tellers” like Beck, or are they going to present a substantive policy alternative to Democratic rule? For the good of the party, and the country, let’s hope it’s the latter.
Because Beck is popular, does not mean that he is popular as a crank, or as a paranoid "truth teller." Those of us that are of a Right leaning need to recognize this, and need to explain this to the mockers on the Left. We understand he's way out there from time to time, but it's the core message that's important. And that core message, for the good of the country, and for the good of the Republican Party, is very simple:

Freedom is Popular.

Liberty is Popular.

These ideas are neither Extreme, or Radical.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Beer Bottle Dominoes

The longest setup to bong a beer ever. I guess you'd say these guys did a good job re-using, if not recyclying.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Lesson in Protecting Your Personal Liberty

This happened about a week or so ago at this point, and since, as I begin writing this, there are about 200,000 views of the segment on Youtube, I am going to find it doubtful that I'm presenting you with any new information here. However, the situation certainly demands commentary. I speak here of Campaign for Liberty's Steve Bierfeldt, and his warrantless detainment at the hands of the ever-meddlesome TSA.

I hope everyone will immediately notice that this detainment took place in St. Louis, Missouri. This is important following the February issuance of what has come to be known the MIAC Document.

Word-for-word from the document, officers are instructed to identify Americans as "Militia" via the following:
It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material. These members are usually supporters of former Presidential Candidate Ron Paul, Chuck Baldwin, and Bob Barr.

Likewise, people are classified as extremist militants if they question the Federal Reserve, or if they perhaps have bumper stickers that are anti-abortion. The document is extremely disjointed, and in my opinion, purposefully so. It is written in such a manner that the reader is led to believe anyone who might have these characteristics is merely a step away from being the next Timothy McVeigh.

There was a massive grassroots response to this information's becoming public via its leaking to Alex Jones. Since then, the coverage grew quickly and the document was purported to have been retracted by the Governor of Missouri on March 26th.

It's important to note here that MIAC, the Missouri Information Analysis Center, is a subset of the Department of Homeland Security, and as such, that its agenda is a federal one. It essentially is a communications hub in Missouri, utilizing local information gathered via local resources, such as the Highway Patrol, to report back to the federal level.

As such, it would seem to me that it essentially makes absolutely no difference to anyone with Homeland, or associated with MIAC in any way, whether the Governor of the state retracted the document. The controlling interest in MIAC's activity is Homeland, and is therefore federal.

This is reflected fairly clearly in the actions of the TSA and local airport authorities and their dealings with Steve Bierfeldt. They detained him simply for the fact that he happened to have a medium sized amount of cash on him, around $4,700, which he had collected during activities at Campaign for Liberty's national conference. Wary of the recent directives in the MIAC report, Bierfeldt calmly continued to ask merely what it was he was being detained for, and whether he was required under the law to answer the questions being posed to him.

I have written on several other occasions about the surreal Orwellian state we are stumbling forward into, and this recent chain of events only adds to the list. Pay attention to the recording played, and you will notice that the men interrogating Bierfeldt never accuse him of anything, and never once explain why they are asking him the questions they are asking. Even though he repeatedly asks only to know why it is they are interested in him and the money in his possession, the men resond only with intimidation and threats. After nearly thirty minutes of being berated by obviously overzealous officers, threatened with potential persecution by local police, the FBI and even the DEA, a man apparently with the FBI gave word that he be released.

Steve Bierfeldt has provided us all with a now very public lesson in protecting our own personal liberties. Remain calm in the face of those who are not. Remain rational in the face of the irrational. Above all else, offer no more information than the law requires of you. Now, more than ever, it seems, anything you say can and will be used against you, whether in a court of law, or just in a back room with no windows.