#36: a brief sentence

Here’s the crux: the anti-Trumpers expect the pro-Trumpers to realize their folly, either now or later, to admit they were wrong, but the pro-Trumpers either don’t believe they are wrong or cannot actually admit they’re wrong because to do so is too humbling, just like pro-Bernie people cannot admit that Bernie would not have won the Presidency, and, thus, they must still yell about the DNC; admitting wrong-ness, or fault, would indicate a breach of responsibility, and, thus, we have elected a man (and his minions) who will do everything he can, with the backing of an entire political party, to dismantle government as we know it and to accelerate the destruction of our climate, because it is easier to make a traditional dollar now than it is to make the world better for a future generation; people don’t have to realize their folly because they will be dead before it truly matters, and, so, we are too scared to admit we’re wrong and we’re too selfish to care beyond right now.

#35: on clouds

[a brief explanation, which acts as throat clearing for me: my youngest sister has requested I write more. In turn, I told her to give me topics. She suggested the previous post. Then this conversation happened:
me: What’s the next topic?
her: Clouds.
me: what the hell kind of topic is that?
And, thus: scene]

You could, of course, attempt something dramatic and Romantic, in the ‘Keats and Byron and Wordsworth’ version of the word, with sweeping gestures to dreams.

You could, instead, look at it as a giant research project, looking into types of clouds and making links to your own life.

Or, you could never reference clouds at all. Make people believe you are, in some wildly subtle way, using the very idea of clouds to underwrite a personal story.

Really, and most obviously, what you want is to basically do all of the above, something lovely and researched that connects dots and lives and random cultural references, but to do so in a way that doesn’t feel forced or I Am Writing Something Epic Here. And you realize, right at that moment, that this is what you always want to do, and it is why you don’t write often.

Instead, you remember the time you sat on the steps of the school down the street from your grandparents’ house, the one you stood in front of waiting for the bus to your own school, and you realized how much you enjoyed removing small rocks from the soles of your shoes.

Because that makes sense.

According the the UCAR Center for Science Education website, there are 8 types of clouds, based on shape and altitude height: cirrocumulus, cirrus, cumulonimbus, altocumulus, altostatus, stratocumulus, cumulus, and stratus. The notion that we have 8 versions of the word ‘cloud’ probably means the bureaucracy has grown too large.

The most popular, or at least most recognizable, are cumulus clouds–they of the puffy white dollop against blue in which we see shapes and where Peter Pan sits.

Is it weird for there to be a ‘most popular’ cloud? It is weird for there to be a most popular cloud. Is it weird to enjoy removing small stones from the soles of your shoes? It is weird to enjoy removing small stones from the soles of your shoes.

For a significant part of my life, I have had a Westerner’s inappropriate obsession with ‘Zen,’ as though it is a thing and not a belief. I have read about it; I have pretended to understand it on a superficial level; I have, most of all, believed that understanding it would mean I’d be a happier person. I have looked at miniature ‘zen gardens’ online, told myself I should order one, and then, after much debate, finally admitted to myself I would never be able to actually handle maintaining one. Which, out of all of this, probably indicates that I could use true study of zen.

It’s easy, then, for the rocks-in-soles and cloud-staring to be adapted into this revelatory moment of Zen. Behold how I focus on this simple task and derive enjoyment of it! I am at one with myself! But here’s the real question, and it is, I think, the most important question of all: who the fuck is ‘myself’?

Here’s the rub: you will never answer that question. The idea of ‘self’ evolves daily; you are not, in any fashion, the same as 10 years ago, 3 months ago, or yesterday. The idea of being ‘one with yourself’ would mean waking up every day with a complete understanding of yourself, having the same thing happen at lunch, at dinner, and then before bed. Forever.

Maybe that’s a possibility. Maybe you need to believe it’s possible. Maybe you need to admit it’s possible to have an understanding of yourself without ever fully understanding yourself. The ‘of’ matters.

Let’s say you start a list. This list will be without much thought, rhyme, or reason. You call this list, ‘An Unabridged and Unthought List of Things I Like.’ It goes something like this:

The smell of cooking onions
Free Energy’s albums
Cassette tapes
College football
Hot dogs
Peanut butter milkshakes
The desert
Vineyard Vines clothes

What would this list look like five years ago, without adding things?
The smell of cooking onions
Cassette tapes
College football
Hot dogs
Peanut butter milkshakes
The desert (in abstraction)

What would this list look like 15 years ago, without adding things?
College football
Hot dogs
Peanut butter milkshakes
The desert (in abstraction)

Imagine you could write a complete list for yourself today. And then write a complete list from 5 years ago, from 15 years ago. And imagine how you would fail to recognize yourself if you were confronted with your younger self. Most of all, imagine your younger self would be capable of knowing how s/he would change to become you. Would it still be possible to be you?

So, what matters to me? What understanding do I have of myself? Based on that short list, it would appear my ideal situation would be tailgating at an Arizona State home football game.

But, is that who the fuck I am? Obviously not. It’s a short list, made shorter; its inherent flawed design means it’s merely a snapshot of myself; it’s not even possible to produce an ‘Unabridged and Unthought List of Things I like’ because the list would never end.

Therefore, I make decisions; I elect to frame myself according to some internal picture, and champion certain things I like at specific times. This is why the self is so goddamn frustrating: we are a millions of different selves with overlapping likes and dislikes; wants and wishes; attitudes and beliefs, etc., etc., etc. Your projection of self is entirely based on an internal compass of what’s necessary to project. You can’t be one with a million selves. You can only accept that your self adjusts.

When I was little, I used to think I could sit on clouds. They did so on cartoons; angels supposedly lived there. I relished fog because I thought if it got thick enough, I could sit on top of it. I couldn’t comprehend that planes could fly through one; I thought they had to avoid all clouds. When you start driving, you realize how much fog can disrupt your life. It’s a weird factor of adulthood, like discovering that snow days aren’t fun or that your basement getting water in it after a thunderstorm isn’t ‘an indoor pool.’

I started taking pictures of clouds once cell phones started having decent cameras. I would (and will), dangerously, attempt to snap photos from my car as I’m driving. I know this is stupid. I berate myself as I do this. But I am always a happier person later when I get to see the pictures I took. I have said to my wife, ‘This is a good cloud day.’ I used to think, like a young child would, that only I truly appreciated clouds in this way. Then I stumbled across ‘clouds’ on Pintrest. Turns out my snowflakeness is an incredibly popular internet / photo hobby.

I sometimes think about taking my camera and driving around for a while on a good cloud day, snapping photos as I go. But to do so would mean taking time away from other things and chores and dogs. I may bask in clouds, but life does not.

It’s hard, in a way, to be alive. I don’t mean that in some depressive way. I just mean, being alive means having a self, whatever or whoever that self may be. And having a self means having to make decisions, both simple and complex. Being alive means dealing with life. That sounds like one of those desperate attempts at being profound; what I really mean is, the only way to know you are dealing with something is to know that you are alive. It’s actually a way of simplifying all of your decisions: the decision process, as obvious as it is, demands you to be alive.

Understanding yourself, then, is actually meaningless. Understanding that you’re alive, however, is essential. Clouds, as far as I can tell, just float.

#34: in which I am tasked with defining ‘happy’

I’ve started this roughly 10 times. Typically, as I’m falling asleep, I figure out how I would like to approach this. Then I fall asleep. And by the morning, I remember none of it. The key stipulation here, as dictated by my youngest sister, is that I cannot reference family or friends.

I am, either by nature or by creation or, perhaps, by both, a cynic. However, it is, to coin a phrase, a dynamic cynicism, in that, I represent the following dichotomy: I excel at righteous anger, and righteous anger needs negative things to even exist; and, yet, I am a dreamer, a fount of ideas and aspirations that have no grounding whatsoever in reality. This means happiness, in any form, must overcome two fronts: the search for negativity to fulfill my daily quote of indignation, as well as my failure to live up to the dreams concocted in my head.

Happiness is a complex emotion; to find happiness is to celebrate something without regard for how others view it. It is impossible to examine happiness without, to some capacity, examining lack of self-awareness, which is an inherent oxymoron. This means, at its core, happiness is an expression of unsolicited self-ignorance created entirely by a true and real feeling about something. Which, granted, sounds somewhat terrible and definitely sounds like nonsense. But perhaps that is because the idea of any unsolicited emotion runs counter to a cynic’s belief. As a cynic, you are reacting to the world around you by questioning it; happiness, while a reaction to something, does not question  what prompted it.

I have often ignored the idea of happiness in exchange for the pursuit of contentment; it seems like a much more attainable goal. The difference exists in its lack of upward mobility: I am content, therefore this is okay. As a sentence it seems dismal; as a life goal, it feels shockingly simple, a way to say to oneself that while not everything is going well–a job, a relationship, a whatever–it is still possible to say things are all right.

Contentment, you see, is denial–a denial of self in order to satisfy the cynic’s belief that things could, and probably should, and most definitely will, be worse.

Ignore for the moment the impossibility of attaining contentment when you feel the world always on the precipice of disappointing you, and consider: in what way is John Lennon’s “Imagine” a good song?

“Imagine” exists solely as the last gasp breath of the hippies. You may want to believe in the possibility of the song, but no one actually does without being made fun of by other people. The idea of imagining a supposedly better world where everyone gets along is incomprehensible because dissonance between people is natural. The idea that happiness or world peace or brotherly love or whatever can exist simply if we imagine it, if we try hard enough to stay positive, does not match the civilization that humanity has created for itself. It’s not that it’s wrong or that it’s right; it’s that such belief imagines a humanity that has never existed.

The question that “Imagine” then forces is: Are we fools for not believing in it or are we idiots for doing so?

And no matter how you approach that question, it is impossible for “Imagine” to be anything other than overwrought dynamic cynicism. It is not a good song. It’s a big dream that Lennon had no intention of attaining; it is Lennon in his Working Class Hero t-shirt–a model of want, not will or real.

This does not mean it’s impossible to make the world a better place; it means that making the world a better place isn’t a dream or a pop song; it is, instead, a fight against both cynicism and contentment, which means, making the world a better place is the fight for happiness–a better world is a world in which people have unguarded celebratory reactions to the world around them.

As Donald Trump spoke last night in what people continue to call “presidential” tones, I sat on my couch screaming rather incoherently at the television while my wife probably debated if a dog muzzle would fit on me.

1) There is nothing presidential about not sounding unhinged for once.
2) Trump still managed to be racist as ever (like, VOICE. Because only immigrants commit crimes).
3) Trump still has no idea about any actual policy plan, and that appears to be his governing plan.
4) Trump is proof that contentment has a ceiling.

Rage / Anger is by far the easiest expressed emotion. It requires no actual thought. To be controlled by anger is to be controlled by nothing; you are hampered by anger only after the fact, if at all, if you bother with self-reflection. Anger is the base human emotion, and it drives most of civilization.

Trump’s ascendance to the White House has been exhaustively covered by the media. Everyone wants to talk about the forgotten white people in forgotten industrial towns. It’s a chance for the media to celebrate whiteness without having to justify it; it allows the angry white man to be celebrated for his determination to challenge the status quo or whatever other bullshit drivel the media keeps pumping out. Black Lives Matter, a group fighting for the mere recognition that an entire population of people, based on genetics which determine skin tone, have been forgotten, are labeled as terrorists; white people whose class status has changed because, in large part, of policies crafted by the very people they keep voting for, are part of a ‘revolution,’ according to our president.

But what all of this really is a group of enraged people wailed enough to get what they think they want, and, in turn, we get a seismic shift in the international order.

It’s easy to be angry because it’s easy to feel like all that emotional rush amounts to change. But, in reality, anger soothes only for the moment, and after the moment, the consequences must be reckoned with. And, far too often, we have no idea how to deal with the consequences because to do so requires we actually stop and think. And anger requires no thought. Thought requires time; it requires patience; it requires self-awareness; it requires an awareness of the world around you; it, most of all, requires you recognize the impact decisions you make have on multiple levels: yourself, those around you, and those who you will never meet.

The hard part is this: screaming incoherently at Trump made me feel better about myself in that moment. But it did nothing to improve the world for my soon-to-be-born child. And if I do want an improved world for my child, then I cannot believe in contentment; I must believe in happiness.

If I exclude family and friends as drivers of my happiness, as I’m supposed to for this piece, then I think the happiest I have ever been was sitting on a ledge at the Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, AZ. I had never been to Arizona before, but I had long believed for whatever reason that it was a place I belonged. I struggle with the Winter Blues (immensely) and the idea of place filled with sunshine seemed like a logical landing point for me.

However, I did not expect to be overwhelmed to such a degree. As I sat on that ledge with G., I stared at the red rocks and green shrubbery and insane blue sky and realized that for the first time in my life, I understood the phrase, ‘this is home.’ It was an immense feeling, matched only by marrying G. (sorry, Hannah, I’m going to cheat a little here). And I realized that happiness, for me, is the creation of ‘home,’ by way of finding the pieces of the world that fit accordingly with myself: the desert sky; a day spent golfing; a Saturday filled with college football; a really good hamburger; a Coca-Cola after swearing I would stop drinking it.

The strength of anger is that no matter how destructive, you can always justify it by saying it’s ‘how you feel.’ You ‘feel’ that immigrants are stealing jobs–even though the large percentage of them accept jobs no American actually wants–so you’re justified in feeling angry about them and demand a wall be built and demand they be deported. You ignore the economic ramifications; you ignore the increased cost of goods caused by your anger; you ignore the way you have been fooled into blaming The Others for choices made by the wealthy to continue to enrich themselves. But it’s cathartic to yell and to blame; it’s a release because to look at ourselves would be too revealing.

I screamed at Donald Trump, but when I woke up this morning, he was still President. The only way to change that is to stop screaming and to start making a difference. Dynamic cynicism here means only that I dream of a better United States and expect the worst for Trump’s presidency. Tell me, what exactly does that accomplish?

#33: a Dystopian Conspiracy Theory

  1. Russia uses its military in Syria, under the guise of fighting terrorism, to greatly increase refugee movement into Europe and the United States.
  2. Saudi Arabia, in a show of force against Iran, continues to bomb Yemen.
  3. Iran, with Russia’s implicit backing, continues to use Yemen as a proxy against Saudi Arabia, knowing that doing so increases the refugee pressure on the West.
  4. This refugee pressure, combined with the continued economic regression, starts to fray the social contract of the United Nations / NATO / European Union.
  5. Emboldened by the success of discreetly supporting Brexit, Putin moves to affect other elections / decisions.
  6. Using the leverage he has on Donald Trump because of the massive amount of debt Trump owes Russian banks / oligarchs / government combined with the successful false information campaign against the Democrats during the election, Putin secures the United States will look away as he takes over the Ukraine.
  7. The domino elections of right-wing populists in major European countries dooms Eastern Europe to the new Soviet Union.
  8. China, realizing a) there is a giant power vacuum on the world stage and b) suddenly concerned about Russia moving into it, breaks off relations with Russia.
  9. Russia consolidates power with Eastern Europe and Iran-favored Middle Eastern Countries.
  10. China, on the other hand, consolidates power with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and other such-leaning Middle East countries as well as a significant number of African countries.
  11. As England attempts to re-orient itself in the post-Brexit market, its power is further diminished with the collapse of the western Europe trade block.
  12. Dubai becomes the new London, as most financial power brokers relocate out of Europe.
  13. China spends hundreds of billions of dollars on infrastructure projects in Africa in exchange for getting to exploit countries’ natural resources. The African Union morphs into a China-esque capitalist communism.
  14. Western European countries are forced to agree to a trade plan with the new Russian Union.
  15. The United States, following an extensive protectionist program, continues to suffer a dramatic recession, with its number one trading partner, Canada, electing to agree to a Pacific Rim trade agreement written by China.
  16. After gutting the EPA, the United States can not keep up with the constant contamination of drinking water, thus creating water wars between states; after multiple oil pipeline leaks destroy drinking water aquifers, the United States is unable to provide sufficient drinking water to its population.
  17. South America, unsure of its economic role in this changing landscape as exports of natural resources to China have been greatly reduced now that China has increased its exports from Africa, starts to compete with south Asian countries (Vietnam, Philippines) for low wage production companies.
  18. The United States, in a desperate attempt to change course, try to put together a trade agreement with Central / South America, Japan, and South Korea.
  19. With no NATO and no United Nations, Putin’s Russia successfully neuters any opposition to the new Russia Union oligarchy, and is able to secure natural gas and oil deals with most of western Europe.
  20. China and Russia begin a new Cold War.
  21. The United States is forced to sign a trade agreement with China because of China’s massive U.S. debt holdings, and, thus, is required to back China in the Cold War against Russia.
  22. With so much infighting between countries, no international cooperation through the U.N. or NATO, and all attempts to create economic success a race to the bottom in regards to taxes, safety and health regulations, and worker rights, climate change accelerates at twice the predicted pace, with a significant portion of the world’s population seeing a steep decline in health and life span.
  23. Nobody apologizes and, instead, puts the blame anywhere they can.
  24. Hate crimes aren’t listed as hate crimes any more because they are too common.
  25. Somebody writes an updated novel called 2084. It’s also sold in the non-fiction section.

#32: A Manifesto, of sorts (part one?)

It seems impossible to believe that the United States has descended into an argument over the meaning of ‘fact’ and ‘lie;’ it seems even more impossible that a man who celebrates his bankruptcies as smart business maneuvering is president because people think he will successfully businessfy the government and somehow make us great again; and, yet, these same people will tell you that America is the greatest country in the world; and yet, to point out this illogical leap is to invite lectures on how our country has nearly descended into the chaos of Venezuelan dictatorship cloaked under the guise of socialism because we don’t seem to understand 1) the definition of ‘socialism;’ 2) logical fallacies; and, probably most damning, 3) how government works. A government is not a business; it does not have shareholders, and its goals should not be to create wealth for itself. Instead, it should maximize its ability to create opportunities for its people to create wealth and to protect those people. Efficiency does not mean small-government. And, most of all, success should never be measured solely on a short-term horizon; that’s called greed.

The hard part of constructive dialogue after Trump’s election is this: hypocrisy. Republicans spent 8 years trying to delegitimize President Obama, by openly or subtly accepting birthirism; openly saying they were going to refuse to work with him or the Democrats in the hope he would not be re-elected; breaking standards of congressional conduct–shutting down the government, refusing to even entertain his Supreme Court nominee, etc. They did this because it was convenient for them; they did this because partisanship keeps them in office, country be damned. But now, they want to complain about protests; they want to say we need to move past the possible outside influence on our election process. 8 states want to ban protesting, including North Dakota who wants to make it okay to run over protestors with your car, and, yet, they howled that the government would dare intervene when a group of people took over government property, with guns, and refused to leave. That’s an okay protest, apparently.

They say they believe in the Constitution, and then ignore it when it suits them–torture, due process, voting rights, these things are only important when it involves the appropriate citizen: white. male. Hypocrisy is saying they defend the working class and then: Right to Work laws; refusal to expand Medicaid; taking away health care; giving more rights to employers than employees; tax cuts for the wealthy; the demonization of government programs that help the poor and needy; the demonization of education and teachers; the demonization of government programs that protect the environment, and, thus, citizens health; the demonization of The Other; the rank hypocrisy of demanding the federal government stay out of state rights, but states having no such problem taking rights away from cities.

The United States does not just suffer from systemic racism; it suffers from systemic classism; we have, purposefully, created an unacknowledged caste system, which is ignored through the proliferation of the idealized ‘American Dream.’ We float the American Dream in the same way we sell lottery tickets: a sucker’s chance that has periodically worked out for someone so we all can point at it and exclaim, ‘that could be me!’ as long as we ignore the growing data that shows it’s increasingly harder to move up in economic class; millennials are significantly behind their parents when it comes to economic opportunity, and, no, this has nothing to do with laziness; and that, essentially, your economic success in life is determined at birth. That’s a caste system. And it’s built into our society because it suits the people who are at the top. Which is how a caste system has to function.

It is also inevitable that machines will overtake a significant number of jobs. This is essential to the caste system, but, yet, ironically, it also means the end of capitalism. Capitalism’s existence depends entirely on a population’s ability to spend money. Technological advancements that remove even more jobs means even less money at the lower tier, which is, coincidentally, the tier upon which capitalism depends the most as it is the tier that churns through money, creating the quick purchase turnover necessary for businesses to succeed.

As such, I believe the following is not just a good idea, but a necessity: universal income. The government should eliminate Social Security, welfare, and Medicaid. In its place should be Medicare-for-all, with an 80/20 split and a guaranteed income for all citizens who have graduated high school. Private insurers can offer Medicare supplement plans to cover the 20%. While this creates a chasm between those who can afford the MSPs and those who can’t, that chasm already exists, and this gives everyone coverage at that 80%. Employers can also offer MSPs as part of a benefits package, and, as the rates will be lower, it will save money for businesses. The guaranteed income will be $2,000/month and $3,000/month for those who have retired, chained to the Republicans favorite tool, CPI to limit increases. This amount has nothing to do with annual income, and will be doled out to everyone who qualifies. In exchange, there will be no minimum wage, and there will be no paid parental leave; however, parental leave will be required to be guaranteed for a set amount of weeks.

Should you elect to waste all of your money and not work, I hope you know some good charities.

This does multiple things:
1) It acts as a defacto union. It presents a buffer that allows employees to negotiate pay and benefits, while at the same time creating the financial room for people to pursue jobs in typically underpaid arenas, like social work. Even without a minimum wage, employers will have to find ways to make their jobs attractive. Also, the $2,000 threshold does not de-incentivize work because it covers necessities, but does not in any way put people into a comfortable middle-class on its own.
2) It gives people who need it cash protection; it gives people who are a step below middle-class a push into middle-class and incentivizes capitalistic spending.
3) It can help better fund 401(k) accounts, so retirement is not just dependent on the G.I., especially as pensions continue to disappear and 401(k) accounts continue to be overwhelmingly underfunded.
4) It allows for more entrepreneurship, as people can better assume the risk of starting a new business knowing that they have guaranteed income. It also allows money to go directly into neighborhoods, gives people spending power, and facilitates growth in underserved areas.
5) Lowering the retirement age to 60 will encourage retirement without the downside of reduced benefits, thus opening up more jobs for recent graduates.

The left gets something they want: a poverty-attacking plan and health care coverage; the right gets some things they want: no minimum wage, no social security, no welfare, and no Medicaid. And it gives money to people to spend on goods and services necessary to maintain capitalism, while working to minimize the inherent caste system.

Efficiency of government, in turn, can come from streamlining the tax process, identifying wasteful spending, and holding government-backed projects accountable. Creating appropriate tax levels that somewhat lower than now could be possible if loopholes and deductions are eliminated. Essentially, working backward from 30% tax on all income, regardless of passive, etc., or something along those lines.

Instead of spending money on military equipment like planes and tanks that end up sitting in the desert rusting just because representatives want that pork for their region, spend the money to send those workers back to school to adapt their skills to infrastructure rebuilding: roads and bridges; outfitting buildings for earthquakes; updating our entire utility system which is woefully unprepared to endure an attack or a solar flare; and expanding renewable energy sources. These are all jobs that can’t be outsourced because they are all things right here. And they are necessary. Sending people back to school to adapt their current skill set is a necessary investment in the future.

We also don’t need the thousands of nuclear warheads that we maintain; the absurdity of having that many warheads is staggering. It is literally impossible to fire them all and expect humanity to exist afterward. We should be updating our military to be more precise, not in some humanity-defeating arms race that basically sets money on fire. The obsession with military size is outdated and narrow; our military should be judged on its effectiveness and precision. Having a million ships in the navy is irrelevant if, again, all that power essentially means the end of the world and if it is not capable of responding in a precise manner. We are so concerned with a show of force to prevent an attack that we don’t spend that time working on actual prevention; escalating arms races means eventual destruction.

Also, contracts accepted for government-funded projects should not be allowed to staggeringly increase in budget. The contracts should be honored, and any increase to the budget should have a thorough explanation and documentation. It is utterly ridiculous that the high speed train project in California has more than doubled in anticipated costs, especially considering its short track mileage. It’s an inexcusable drain on government spending and efficiency, and it limits our ability to improve our infrastructure, expand our mobility options, and create jobs.

Donald Trump and the Republican agenda is an attack–on governing, on poor people, on working people, and on the sick and elderly. They attack for the sake of supporting the rich, corporations, and large donors (which, typically, are some combination of those three). I do not believe Democratic agendas are inherently better; they suffer from the same lobbying foibles of the rich, corporations, and donors. I do not believe we can tax our way to prosperity. But I do believe it is possible to balance taxes with exhaustive investment in our people–on jobs, on education, on health, and, most importantly, on poverty.

What holds us back is threefold: an ingrained belief that government spending is a ‘handout;’ corporate short-sightedness that cares more about quarterly profit reports and duty to shareholders instead of employees and consumers; and an inability to see our nation as a fluid interface in which we all become responsible, in some way, of supporting those around us. We are selfish and greedy, and we have been told that it is only others who are actually like that.We ignore our own shortcomings while pointing out any that we can find in others–Ronald Reagan demonized welfare with the idea of ‘welfare queens,’ started by one woman who ripped off welfare. Our effort goes into discovering the few negative events and ignoring the ways in which our entitlement programs have helped lift up an incredible amount of people in the fight against poverty. We construct enemies because it is easier to blame the poor / the Other than it is to realize our country has failed to help us prepare for the technological changes in the work force and has also allowed corporations to dictate economic policy. You do not matter because there is no reason for you to matter, under these terms. That’s the caste system.

Capitalism needs corporations. But it also needs workers. It needs spenders. And the best way to get people to spend is to put money in their hands.Anything else is shortsighted.

#31: a quick rant about stupid sports journalism

I really don’t like Gregg Easterbrook, the guy who writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column for ESPN.com and author of some books, apparently [he really enjoys making sure those of who read his column know about his books. The amount of self-reference borders on parody, if parody were intended to pimp one’s sales]. He’s pompous, he makes contradictory statements within the same paragraph, and his tiresome edict that undrafted / low draft pick players are superior because of their ‘desire to prove themselves’ makes me wonder if he has ever actually watched Peyton Manning play football.

His moral judgement of football’s lack of care for its players, its failure to initially acknowledge and now take on concussions, and the overt way owners hold cities ransom for public funding even though they are all billionaires making billions from these very people already, are things I do agree with. However, this guy also runs a ‘Cheerbabe of the Week’ every column that always makes sure to include a picture of the lady’s boobs in motion. Chauvinism! Football! Tits! Old Rich White Guy trifecta. His definition of football morality extends only to criticize the people in power–it’s really no different than some horny high school dweeb drawing anarchy signs all over the place while trying to look at porn on his high school computer. Gregg’s not actually making a critical analysis of football based on equality; he’s making one based on his own desire to showcase what he considers Manliness Virtues, which, apparently includes oggling underpaid, overworked, not-even-represented, women cheering on the sidelines.

He’s constantly conflating the idea of ‘traditional’ offenses with manliness, lamenting the spread offense and disparaging teams who don’t run the ball when he thinks they should. His entire view of football is that of the 1930s: players should all be Moral, Undrafted Men playing the game for the Sake of Integrity and Grit or some happy bullshit. But then he turns around and talks about how the spread offense isn’t new (which is a fact. Google Mouse Davis) as though this somehow then makes it justifiable for teams he appreciates (the Patriots) to run spread concepts. He will not shut up about Michael Crabtree, the apparent reason San Francisco has not won a Super Bowl since he was drafted. They hadn’t won a Super Bowl for a long time prior to drafting him, and, actually, they were terrible for a while, but don’t let anything like that stop you, Gregg. You keep rolling.

There’s nothing manly about running the football. Plowing ahead for six yards does not prove your penis is enormous, Gregg. Football, despite almost every talking head’s opinion, is not a manly sport. It is a sport of skill, strength, and observational ability. That combination has nothing to do with sex or gender; it has everything to do with being an Athlete, a term, mind you, that is sexless. The idea that football somehow goes beyond Athlete to Manthlete only showcases the ineptitude of football, in general: the placement of a stereotype above the placement of actual success.

[This leads to a second (sub)rant, especially close to me because I cheer for two teams who say this all the damn time: I’m very tired of hearing Michigan people talk about the need to hire a Michigan Man for a coach who will operate a Michigan Football offense / the Steelers owner firing Bruce Arians as coordinator because he called too many pass plays and Pittsburgh needed to get back to running a ‘blue collar’ offense. What the fuck does that even mean? I don’t give a shit if my coach/team ‘identifies’ with the so-called nature of the school/city it plays in. Pittsburgh isn’t even a goddamn blue collar town; it may have been when the steel factories were in full bloom, but it has remade itself into a hipster, white collar, and medical-focused city. What has happened since we fired that goddamn pass happy motherfucker? Well, he took th O.C. job for the Colts, stepped up to interim head coach when Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia, led them to the playoffs, then took over the Arizona Cardinals, went 10-6 last year in the toughest division in football, and has them with a winning record again this year despite injuries to major defensive players. The Steelers, with their tough blue collar offense? Oh, 8-8, and constant bitching about how terrible Todd Haley is as an offensive coordinator. Thank God we’ve proven we’re tough motherfuckers with our ground-and-pound game because otherwise we’d have to look at how poorly we play and actually deal with it. As for Michigan, well, I’d say Brady Hoke is a disaster. He may be a nice guy or whatever, but his best season was his first, when he had RichRod’s players (and pretty much his offense because that’s what Denard Robinson knew how to run and was damn good at it, too) and since then it has been all downhill with one of the most miserable offenses to behold in the last couple of years. RichRod on the other hand went to Arizona, has put up huge offensive numbers, and has Arizona undefeated and about to play a major game against Oregon. I mean, I know he wasn’t a Michigan Man and he plays that sissy spread game that isn’t Michigan Football and heaven forbid the offense isn’t boring (also, RichRod’s offense is mostly designed to RUN THE BALL, YOU ASSHOLES). Did somebody need to yell at RichRod that he needed to fire his defensive coordinator no matter how close of friends they were and that he needed to recruit defensive players or hire someone who could successfully bring quality defensive players to Michigan? Yes, they certainly did. But this bullshit about how he wasn’t a Michigan Man and that being an outsider made him an inferior coach has led us directly to this moment in Michigan football. Guess what? People don’t want this job. You might think people do, but they don’t. The Big 10 is down, Michigan is down, and nobody wants to inherit this mess. Thank god y’all have showed everyone that you have a penis by sticking to your football ideals because who needs wins when you can flash your balls?]

Gregg’s favorite talking point has to do with where people are picked in the draft. He constantly harps on players drafted high who don’t ‘prove’ enough. He loves to cherry pick late draft picks [Tom Brady!] while ignoring the fact that most late draft picks don’t make it. I’m not trying to trash late draft picks; I think it’s great when a player proves people wrong, but it’s ridiculous to act like this is standard operating procedure for the NFL, as though every sixth-round QB is superior to any first-round one because a first round pick who fails is a bust and a sixth rounder is merely doing what sixth rounders are supposed to do: fail. Peyton Manning went number one overall; I don’t believe he lacks a work ethic or that if he had been drafted in the 4th round that he would somehow miraculously be even better because he’d have more ‘drive’ to prove himself. It’s such a straw man argument, one that can constantly be ‘verified’ by highlighting whoever fits your argument, regardless of overall numbers. What Gregg is really saying, once again, is that he thinks players should revere the NFL with unfailing celebration, that the ‘real’ NFL players are the ones who Man Up and Make It All Mean Something–and somehow high draft picks can’t do this because they are spoiled by being high draft picks. It’s an undeniably American view/stereotype: the praise of those who ‘raised themselves up by their bootstraps,’ showing us real ‘Murrican fans what a real ‘Murrican hero looks like.

Here’s Gregg in action with his most recent column, talking about how making major trades at the draft don’t work out for the people who trade picks for moving up to get a player; please, pay close attention to how he contradicts himself in the middle of the paragraph in the span of only a couple of sentences:

In 2012, Washington gave up three first-rounders, plus a second-round selection, for Griffin, who briefly injected excitement but mostly has been a letdown, with a 13-18 record as a starter. The team’s roster is depleted as a result of the deal — add three first-rounders and a second-round selection to the Washington depth chart, and the Persons might not be in the cellar. The Rams, who received the king’s ransom for RG3, hardly are tearing up the league. Since the Griffin mega-trade, Washington is 14-23 and St. Louis is 15-19-1.

If you’re following along at home, if Washington hadn’t traded those picks for RGIII, then maybe they wouldn’t currently be terrible; but those picks that the Rams got that Washington would have used have netted them a losing record. So, why the fuck would Washington not be in last place with those picks when the Rams are? There is no supporting evidence to say Washington is better at drafting players [because there isn’t any. They’re terrible. Dan Snyder is the worst.], nor is there any way to say draft picks equal all the wins. Gregg loves to point out the Patriots as the team who owns this mentality, as they hoard picks every damn draft, but they’ve won exactly as many Super Bowls as Washington in the past 10 years: zero. You know what makes teams good: appropriate personnel combined with quality coaching combined with quality schematics. You know what else? Luck. RGIII was dynamic his rookie season–it’s injuries that have destroyed him and his ability to win games, not fucking draft picks.

The entire premise of Gregg’s football argument boils down to this: we should value and praise those who most resemble the archaic ideals of 1950s manhood. And, yes, I realise this is not something Gregg alone supports; football constantly folds into itself over and over trying to prove how much of a Man sport it is. I expect that from former players, etc. But the idea that Easterbrook is a sportswriter paid to spew asinine, unsubstantiated opinions using cherry-picked data confuses me. Sports journalism can / should be nuanced, developed, and thought-out. I don’t give a damn if his column is an ‘opinion’ piece about football; the fact that he gives credence to the very base idea of Football is for Men renders his column inexcusable for ESPN to run, and having an opinion doesn’t mean you’re allowed to just fit outside data however you want to make your opinion look better.

Oh, and here’s another great one from this week:
Lots of people are climbing onto the anti-R*dsk*ns bandwagon now, and welcome aboard. I’ve been there for 15 years. I wrote a piece for NFL.com in 2004 protesting the R*dsk*ns name, before this became a fashionable cause.

Good for you, Gregg! You’re a fucking superstar! All the way back in 2004! I mean, my junior year in high school was 1997-98 and my history teacher asked the class if
Washington should be forced to change its name, and my guess is my middle-of-nowhere high school wasn’t exactly on the cutting edge of political movements.
Maybe instead of acting like you’re some kind of Movement Crusader, you could write about how important it is that this is gaining traction; maybe instead of patting yourself on the back, you could ask why an obvious racist epithet is taking so long to change; maybe instead of declaring yourself so fucking awesome, you could talk about the cultural impact of using that name and why our culture has, for so long, embraced / allowed its use so openly. No? Well, thank god you’re here, Gregg.

#30: a quick rant about the NFL

In some ways, it’s nearly impossible to know where to start with this mess. So, let’s just start rambling. A lot of response to the latest development in the Ray Rice debacle focuses on whether or not the NFL saw the video from inside the elevator and if the NFL has covered up this fact. This concern is, frankly, not relevant.

The sole reason finding out if the NFL viewed the video prior to determining Rice’s initial suspension is to decide if the NFL is lying to us now. But, again, that’s actually irrelevant. It doesn’t matter because there isn’t anybody who didn’t already know that Ray Rice slapped his wife and knocked her out because that’s what the police report said; that’s why the changed the initial charge to aggravated assault–a felony. The NFL elected, for whatever reason, to suspend a guy for 2 games after seeing–at the very least–visual proof of a knocked out woman being dragged out of an elevator by the man who was charged with knocking her out. The inside-the-elevator video does nothing but confirm what we already knew, what the Ravens and the NFL already knew, and they chose to do jack shit up until the moment the rest of the general public knew. It’s not a cover-up, it’s not ignorance, it’s not a lack of moral fiber; it is a complete failure by the NFL to understand that domestic violence needs to be addressed, and because they did not understand this, because they did not care enough to understand this until the public started to rage against their decision-making, they created a cover-up and showcased ignorance and a lack of moral fiber.

Of course Roger Goodell should lose his job; any argument against it is not a defense for due process–it’s a defense for allowing a person who failed to perform the role his position requires: to uphold the NFL to a specific standard of conduct. He should be fired not just for his failure in the Ray Rice event, but because the NFL has done nothing regarding Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald, two players charged with domestic violence this fucking offseason during which the Ray Rice shit went down. BOTH OF THEM PLAYED THIS PAST WEEK AND WILL PLAY THIS WEEK AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO FOR THE FORESEABLE FUTURE.

The NFL does not care; it will not care. The only way for the NFL to address this issue is to force them to reconsider what the NFL is: remove the anti-trust protection that Congress has bestowed on them; take away the public financing; and do not allow owners to take cities hostage in order to get taxpayers to fund their stadiums; and fire Goodell. The NFL will never care about this; they will only ever care about how it makes them appear. They want–they need–angry, over-muscled, over-stressed, players who must conform to a Manliness Culture, in order for their league to continue to bring in billions of [untaxed] dollars in profit. ‘Protect the Shield’ doesn’t say ‘protect the players and the people involved with the players.’ It says protect the money. The NFL is a mafia, and any one who thinks otherwise is a fool.

And there’s nothing worse than seeing all this and still realizing how much I like to watch football. I’m exactly what the NFL wants.