Dumb Dream

capgun

This dumb dream
With little room to breathe

From the chest
Doomed to die I confess

Chorus says
Tragedy is senseless

Results show
No desire to end this

Chaotic
News breaks and our hearts freeze

No relief
Our hopes are upended

Uprooted
Youths gone this instance

Despondent
No succor, safe distance

Please now please
Desperate admittance

Run up, shout
Second guess this amendment

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The Burden of Taking Action

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This week has been draining. I don’t even live in the states these days and the news cycle has all but crushed my will to live. It’s hard to imagine what living in the U.S. on a daily basis is like and I can understand why many have already retreated back into their happiness hidey-holes after taking to the streets only months ago. My social media accounts were rife with friends and family sharing pictures of themselves at a march or sharing articles about the current state of affairs. But that has almost dried up and people are back to talking about sports and Netflix.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. You don’t have to be like that.

Whether it’s the mass shooting in Las Vegas, the devastation in Puerto Rico, birth control, transgender protections, the FBI’s targeting of so-called black identity extremists, the standoff with North Korea or whatever particular controversy appeared just as I was writing this, it can be too much for any one person to stomach.

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But let’s be real for a second if we can. Imagine you’re seeing all of these headlines and in addition to that you are a person of color. Imagine you are a woman. Imagine you are transgendered. If you really do want to make America and the world a better, safer, kinder and gentler place for all people, you have to remember that you are not the only one and you are not the only person with struggles in their life. And that if you’re more like me than you’re not (that is, a straight, white male) then please try and put yourself in someone else’s shoes before you give up on activism or donating to charities. No one has to be alone.

Which brings me to my next point: What can you do? You perhaps have a job and bills to pay so taking off to Washington D.C. every weekend that there’s a march for a cause you believe in is probably not a logistical or economic possibility. And maybe you don’t have an enormous largesse that enables you to write big checks to charities and organizations that exist to help level the playing field or provide disaster relief.

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But there is stuff happening locally and only five dollars can make a difference. If a hundred people read this and agree and they all send five bucks to a charity suddenly there’s an extra five hundred dollars that they didn’t have before. If you attend a local political action you may find yourself feeling more confident and emboldened to create change after rubbing elbows with like-minded citizens. Think globally, act locally as they say. I could have thrown out something hokey but this piece is a bit too sunshine, rainbows and unicorn farts already.

It occurred to me that for many perhaps they’re paralyzed by choice. With all of the various causes and emergencies withdrawing from reality can be a lot easier than putting one’s pride or hopes on the line to bring about social good. Maybe just pick one thing? Choose one lane. If you don’t think you feel like you can help everybody, at least help somebody.

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But kudos abound to you if you show up for every fight. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, don’t pass up an opportunity to bring about change. We have a long way to go and there are people who need help from someone like you. I even left some suggestions below. Get going!

Alex Biscarner is a freelance writer living and teaching English in the Czech Republic. Connect with him on Twitter.

Wednesday Whackness

Every week I plan on throwing some stuff on here that appears dubious and will try my best to disentangle the fact from the fiction. So, let’s tackle this whackness, shall we?


First off, saw this gem on Facebook and began to doubt it immediately:

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And sure enough, it only took twenty seconds to find this. It reads:

This quote is partially accurate as the beginning section is taken from Washington’s First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union. However, the quote is then manipulated into a differing context and the remaining text is inaccurate. Here is the actual text from Washington’s speech:

“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”

I think it’s fair to say that the modern re-writing changes the meaning and tenor somewhat, he said, soft-pedalling. 


Why is it that all the best of the worst come from Facebook? Give this one a gander:

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This makes little to no sense. First of all, the North Pole is not in America and if that’s a penguin in the foreground I’m liable to flip the hell out. And most importantly, the military is not comprised solely of Christians. So, let’s just nip this one in the bud, m’kay?


I’ve seen this one in a couple of different spots, and while it’s perhaps good for a chuckle if you thought that Red from That 70’s Show was the greatest television character of all-time, it’s just inflating a false sense of generational superiority:

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You know what we did have in your day? Cars without seat belts, lead paint, and asbestos-lined pajamas. My generation will probably fall prey to the same sort of fallacious thinking about the generations coming up behind us, that they are somehow “less-than” for no real demonstrable reason. This self-serving pitfall won’t be going away any time soon, however. People believe what they want to, whether it’s true or not. Hence the purpose behind this entire post.


And finally, PBS’ news reporting is the only source I completely trust to be totally objective, full stop. So here’s their recent GOP debate fact-check. (TL;DR version: Ted Cruz said he could fit one hundred and fifty jelly beans in his mouth and Rand Paul still has weird hair.)

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(Source: AP)


 

Okay, so long for now. Let’s cap today’s entry with something decidedly un-whack:

Dr. Strangehair (Or How I Learned to Start Caring and Feel the Bern)

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They say politicians are in the back pocket of corporations. But, come on, that’s not fair to corporations. Politicians are more or less employees of corporations at any rate. Let us give corporations credit where credit is due, they know how to game the system into serving their interests over the interests of the people. This creates an environment where the American people feel powerless or that when they cast a vote, they’re simply choosing between the perceived lesser of two evils. Which in turn leads to apathy and disengagement from political discourse.

Maybe I’m anti-corporate, I don’t know. I don’t consider myself anti-corporate and I don’t think I’m anti-capitalist. But I’m certainly not pro-corporation. If there’s a corporation out there that doesn’t kill small businesses, underpay their workers, poison the environment, or lube politicians with greenbacks in order to persuade them to act contrary to the interests of their constituents, then please, tell me. Until then, maybe I am anti-corporate after all.

Annual shareholders meeting.

Annual shareholders meeting.

Politicians who are not beholden to corporations or fringe special interest groups appear to be in short supply these days. Especially at the federal level. However, there is a slightly ogre-ish malcontent stirring up some trouble as of late though, and he might be just what we need. He’s a socialist but he prefers the nomenclature “democratic socialist” or “progressive” when asked. Even though Socialism is a big bad scary thing in American politics, I seriously doubt that most Americans even know what it is.  I recently heard an educated, well-traveled American confuse Socialism for Communism which could suggest that perhaps, like this person, many do not know the difference.

It’s been posited (pretty much only in America and almost no where else) that Socialism is an evil, no good, very bad shitty way to do things. Socialism already exists in America (par example: social security, unions, Medicare, Medicaid, Affordable Care Act, food stamps, unemployment, workman’s compensation) so we can just go ahead and dispel the notion that democracy and socialism cannot coexist. The vast majority of Europe is also a reasonably good example, but whatever. Europe talks funny, it shouldn’t count.

If you haven’t realized it by now, the mad scientist-ish politician I’m talking about is Vermont Senator and victim of continual static electricity, Bernie Sanders. The only thing people can hang on him is that he’s unpolished and *GASP FAINT PISS PANTS* a socialist. Recent journalistic hit jobs on him would suggest that his being president would bankrupt America because his fantasy overhauls would carry a hefty price tag. That is completely true but only half of the story; the net cost of his proposals would come to benefit Americans and actually be cheaper than current healthcare cost projections. The Wall Street Journal estimated Sander’s “plan” would cost $18 trillion over the next decade, but neglected to mention that Sanders has not released his actual proposal and that their estimate is based on legislation proposed by Rep. John Conyers. And here’s the kicker, actual healthcare cost projections for the next decade in the system that now exists would total around $42 trillion.

Bernie on the campaign trail.

Bernie on the campaign trail.

Bernie Sanders has conservatives salivating because they feel if he were to win the Democratic nomination that Republicans could put a red tie on a mop and win the general election. Avowed Sanders supporter though I am, if I am to make an inference based on the most current campaign finance figures, every candidate should be afraid of Sanders.

Bernie has surpassed one million donations already. Not bad for a guy who declared less than five months ago. It’s a record-setting pace, beating both of Obama’s presidential campaigns which set records of their own. And with average contributions $30 or so, his supporters represent a well that can be returned to over and over again. He raised just a little less than Hillary Clinton this past fiscal quarter, and she has a donor list that is topped by Wall Street firms and corporations that read like a who’s who of assholishness. Both raised more than any Republican, but that’s not necessarily a fair comparison when the Republican field is crowded like some milquetoast country club fundraiser for reseeding the greens.

When you look at those figures and the sizes of the crowds who come to hear him speak, it’s clear that although he prefers to be referred to as a democratic socialist or a progressive, his supporters view him as a true populist. If you were to assign designations to politicians based solely on the way the populace responds to them, Bernie can’t be anything less than a legit populist. Clinton would be a Borg cube. Jeb Bush would a flavorless milkshake. Bobby Jindal would be an elf that makes cookies in hollow trees. And Donald Trump would be a dustbunny riding the jet stream of a fart.

The Cash Money Records crew. (not pictured: Bernie Sanders)

The Cash Money Records crew. (not pictured: Bernie Sanders)

Alright, my Sander’s stiffy aside, let us circle back to the original jumping-off point. Corporations may or may not be a work of the devil blah blah blah doo doo-doo. Corporations are not democratic entities. At their best, they are meritocracies, at their worst they fuel themselves on kitten blood and baby tears. They have a lot of clout in Congress, but how bad is it really?

Look, another group of innocent people at a school just got blown away for no good reason. And it seems likely that little will change in the aftermath. Politicians who aim to move against the gun lobby receive not-so-subtle notices that Remington or Winchester or whoever will relocate the factory in their district. So, unless they want a bunch of upset, newly unemployed voters to deal with, then they better step off. It’s an entirely tangential undertaking to unravel the myriad reasons why this works on politicians but shouldn’t. But I’ll leave that for another day.

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Each shooting is one too many.

This is just the most recent example of why we maybe sort of kinda need a person to run the country who isn’t at the yoke of big money. There’s also issues like the Keystone XL pipeline. It seems a safe bet that any Republican, if elected, would approve it because, duh, oil money is the best money. Instead of focusing on nature and people-friendly renewable resources they’ll opt for the pipe because their short and curlies are firmly in the grip of corporations. They need that money for re-election. And if they don’t take that money and choose a different route, that money could potentially end up in the wallet of their opponent.

Over-dramatic?

Am I being needlessly melodramatic?

I want Sanders as president because he can’t be pinned down or penned in by CEOs and lobbyists. I think the rest of the country wants that too, whether Sanders represents their ideal candidate or not. Let’s be real, you’re not likely to find many gun-loving bible thumpers preaching the gospel of conglomerates. Just like you’re not going to find a single mom working two jobs praying for a boardroom full of neckties to come and save her.

Cynicism is not an attractive trait. But my cynicism, and the collective negativity that the American electorate feels towards politicians is merely a reflection of our ever-diminishing hope that they will achieve something, anything that will make us feel safer, live healthier, or prosper. We feel this because their means and methods are so plainly obvious. Bernie’s are obvious as well, but we know with him that he’s on our side, not the side of money.

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends or annoy your relatives.

Are you sure you didn’t mean Florida?

I clicked the link containing the following because the headline was utterly confounding and I must say, the article itself did not disappoint. This story has Florida written all over it even though it actually happened in Utah. It’s probably the most ludicrous true story I’ve read in a minute. Enjoy:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former TV pitchman in Utah accused of kicking an owl as he rode a motorized paraglider said Tuesday he will allow authorities to search his home for guns.

During a court hearing, Dell “Super Dell” Schanze called the inspection unconstitutional and said he feels exposed without weapons his lawyer said have now been removed from his home.

Federal Judge Brooke Wells told Schanze the routine search is legal, and he could be arrested if he doesn’t allow agents into his home as scheduled Wednesday.

Schanze agreed to give up the weapons during a court appearance earlier this month, but authorities said he hasn’t returned phone calls from agents trying to make sure he doesn’t have guns at his house.

The 45-year-old Schanze is known in Utah for his over-the-top personal style and the shrill, hyperactive TV commercials that advertised his now-shuttered Totally Awesome Computers retail chain.

Schanze arrived about five minutes late to the hearing on Tuesday and wore a pair of black sunglasses throughout the proceedings.

Schanze adamantly denied ignoring calls to schedule the search.

“Call me and see if my phone rings,” he said. “I called back every single time.”

Judge Wells reminded him of his first appearance in the case earlier this month, when he was handcuffed after interrupting a hearing in a separate case and loudly saying it was unconstitutional to bar the defendant from having guns.

Schanze was eventually released after he agreed to several conditions, including a prohibition on possessing weapons, a common requirement in such matters.

“You remember what happened last time when you wouldn’t be quiet? It could happen again,” Wells told him Tuesday. She ordered Schanze to appear in court again on Jan. 8 if he doesn’t allow the search.

Defense attorney Kent Hart said guns have been removed, even though Schanze said in court Tuesday he needs the weapons because a human head had once been thrown through a window at his home. Schanze declined to elaborate after the hearing.

Police near his home in Utah County said they had no report of such an incident.

Schanze has pleaded not guilty to charges involving harassing wildlife and pursuing a migratory bird.

The charges came after a federal investigation into an online video that surfaced last year and appeared to show a paraglider kicking a soaring owl and boasting about it. Schanze has said the video was a fake.

Owl kicking, paragliding, a washed-up TV pitchman, guns, and a severed head? I sure do miss America sometimes.