The Same Lame Blame Game


Here’s a fun little experiment you can do at home. Pick up a video game. It can be any kind of video game, all the way back to an Atari 2600 cartridge to a PlayStation 4 disc. Now, use it in the way it was intended by the manufacturer.

How many people did you manage to hurt? How many people did you kill?

Okay, now try using it in any way you can conceivably think of, even in ways never intended by the manufacturer. How many people can you manage to injure or kill before you get taken down by the police or your fellow citizens?

According to President Trump, the greatest threat to our country, and particularly our young people, comes from video games “shaping young people’s thoughts”, according to a report from the Washington Post. The report added that “[h]e also proposed that ‘we have to do something about maybe what they’re seeing and how they’re seeing it.’”

Well, yeah. Because goodness knows that we’ve established time and again that playing violent video games leads directly to an increase in violent behavior. Oh wait, no we haven’t. But just in case, we should violate the First Amendment rights of video game makers to be on the safe side, because that’s the best and most direct way to resolve the problem.

Apparently Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Council, suggested that violent video games “needed to be given the same kind of thought as tobacco and liquor.” Of course, because video games have been known to cause cancer and drunk driving. That’s some quality thinking there, Brent.

And that’s not the worst of the kind of conclusion-first, evidence-not-at-all thinking on display at this particular meeting. Rep. Vicki Hartzler was quoted as saying “[e]ven though I know there are studies that have said there is no causal link, as a mom and a former high school teacher, it just intuitively seems that prolonged viewing of violent nature would desensitize a young person.” I’m just curious, exactly what did you teach? Because I can’t imagine any teacher I ever had literally stating “I know there are studies that have said there is no causal link” and then trumping those factual studies with their own “intuition”. Then again, they never had the benefit of being legislators, which apparently gives you… supernatural powers?

Speaking of legislators, Sen. Marco Rubio felt the need to chime in with his usual wisdom, “acknowledg[ing] there is no evidence linking violent video games to the tragedy in Parkland. But he said he wanted to ensure ‘parents are aware of the resources available to them to monitor and control the entertainment their children are exposed to.’” Wow, that’s a brave stance. I wasn’t aware that the ESRB rating system for video games and the MPAA rating system for motion pictures were state secrets. Thanks for getting those declassified and making them available to parents everywhere, Sen. Rubio. With leadership like that you should consider running for President.

If these politicians and other “crisis actors” (yeah, I said it) really believe there’s a causal link between video games and real world violence, they need to step up and put their money where their mouth is. Start funding some quality, rigorous studies into the phenomenon, or better yet lift the ban on the CDC investigating the potential link. Address the very real concerns raised with the studies they continuously lean on (you know, the ones that don’t show a causal link?) and find something more than a spurious correlation.

The hysteria over video games recalls the hysteria over Dungeons & Dragons from the early 1980s, the outrage over explicit music that managed to stretch all the way from the mid-80s to the late 90s, banned books that seem to be a perennial controversy, or any time bad or undesirable behavior is blamed on media or culture rather than placed squarely where it belongs: on the people who perpetrate it. That’s not to say that the media doesn’t influence behavior to some extent, but to ban media in an attempt to control a handful of bad actors is very much akin to cutting off the noses of an entire community to spite one face.


Dealer Stands on 21


Before the rage trolls drop down into the comments to tell me what an awful person I am, let me get out in front of the controversy by acknowledging that (a) I am an awful person and (b) I am going to be touching on some hot button issues here. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, but I am not trying to stir up shit (this time). This is an honest exploration of the issues, and I welcome thoughtful feedback. That being said…

In the wake of the recent Parkland school shooting, several ideas have been advanced to tighten gun safety in the United States. Among these is raising the minimum purchase age for firearms to 21, a move which Dick’s Sporting Goods has already voluntarily taken. While I am not necessarily opposed to such a measure, it does lend itself to a broader question: when is a person an adult? The reason I ask is because there are a number of activities, even a few that are considered rights or responsibilities, that are age-restricted in our society, and it seems that the ones a person might find desirable are being more restricted as time goes on, while the ones that are less desirable only expand. Consider the following examples (all examples sourced from Wikipedia):

Alcohol: This one has varied, but has been somewhere between “age of majority”, 18, and 21 when there has been an established limit at all (mostly from the late 19th century on).

Tobacco: Again, the trend of setting an age restriction on these products seems to have started in the late 19th century in a few states, mostly in the 15-16 year old range, picking up speed in the mid-20th century. This generally changed to 18 in the late 20th century, with some states now moving toward 21 in the early 21st century.

Driving: This has remained a bit more consistent (most likely due to the relative innovation of automobiles and lag time in legislation), with states generally allowing learner’s permits between 15-16, restricted licenses between 16-17, and unrestricted licenses between 17-18.

Selective Service: Originally established 1917-1920, all men aged 21-30 were required to register; this was later raised to 45. From 1940-1947 all men aged 21-35 were required to register; in 1941 this was raised to 37. Starting in 1948 all men 18 or older had to register with the Selective Service; men aged 19-26 were eligible to be drafted at this time. In 1951 this age was lowered to 18 ½. In 1967 this range was changed to men aged 18 to 35. In 1975, “President Gerald R. Ford, whose own son, Steven Ford, had earlier failed to register for the draft as required, signed Proclamation 4360 (Terminating Registration Procedures Under Military Selective Service Act), eliminating the registration requirement for all 18- to 25-year-old male citizens.” Unfortunately, in 1980 Jimmy Carter brought it back for all 18-26 year old citizens. (Note: various deferments and exemptions have applied to all versions of the Selective Service.)

Voting – Prior to 1970, the legal voting age was 21. IN 1970, Richard Nixon extended the Voting Rights Act to cover age discrimination, which was challenged in Oregon v. Mitchell. The result of this case was that some states had two sets of voter rolls, one for federal elections (so that 18-20 year olds could vote) and one for state and local elections. The situation was resolved with the ratification of the 26th amendment, which made it unconstitutional to deny voting to anyone over 18 on the basis of age.

There are other examples, but these suffice. My question then is “when is someone an adult?” Is it when they turn 15 and get a learner’s permit? Perhaps at 21 when they can purchase alcohol? Or should we use the Selective Service standard, and decide that only men who are at least 18 years old are adults? (Sorry ladies, but at least you can’t be drafted.)

That last example, while deliberately provocative, also serves to further illustrate my point. The very reason the voting age is 18 instead of 21 is because of the Selective Service. The rallying cry of being “old enough to fight, old enough to vote” is certainly appealing, but there’s an innate fallacy in this thinking. By presupposing that 18 IS a valid age for conscription, the argument works. But what if I were to suggest that 15 was a valid age for conscription, so long as we likewise reduce the voting age to 15? After all, “old enough to fight, old enough to vote.” Clearly the idea is ridiculous on its face, which is exactly my point. Simply declaring someone capable of handling one responsibility because they have had another responsibility thrust upon them is not sufficient grounds to justify giving it to them.

Furthermore, why is someone sufficiently able to handle a car, a ballot, a cigarette (in some states), and sacrificing his life for his country, but not buying a drink or a gun? Again, I am not simply making an argument to lower the age of all of these to 18 or even lower; I am simply looking for a consistent and reasoned argument, either in favor of pegging them all at the same age or for keeping them all at different ages. If that one age should be 21, then why 21? What is special about that number instead of 18 or 25? If instead they should be spaced out, what is significant about each right that makes it less of a liberty available to a citizen of the United States (note that the last I checked I did see voting and the right to bear arms specifically covered in the Constitution; I did not see driving or tobacco. Alcohol was kind of a wash).

For myself, I don’t have a lot of great answers, but I would be most comfortable keeping the driving age as is due to the noted economic benefits it can engender, as well as the possibility of gradually introducing teenagers to expanded responsibility. Restricting the ownership of alcohol, tobacco and firearms to people over 21 would help reduce access to teenagers and others who are still developing both physically and mentally without being overly burdensome to adults. I would abolish the Selective Service and raise the voting age to 21; failing that I would expand the Selective Service to all US citizens and keep the voting age at 18, and anyone who is currently serving in the armed forces or who has received an honorable discharge from the armed forces would have all the rights and privileges accorded to a 21 year old citizen. It’s not a great solution, but it’s a little more logical, and it at least tries to deal with some of the issues.

 


Music Hath Charms…


In the great American tradition of putting career advancement above personal integrity, I’d like to take this opportunity to submit myself for Roy Moore’s Campaign Manager. By way of proving my value, I suggest the following campaign theme songs that I feel capture the spirit of both the man and his message.

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap – AC/DC

Don’t Stand So Close to Me – The Police

Mrs. Brown You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter – Herman’s Hermits

(She’s) Sexy & 17 – Stray Cats

Young Girl – Gary Puckett & The Union Gap

Rebel Yell – Billy Idol

Walk This Way – Run-D.M.C. ft. Aerosmith

Father Figure – George Michael

Seventeen – Winger

My Sharona – The Knack

Into the Night – Benny Mardones

I’m On Fire – Bruce Springsteen

Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon – Neil Diamond

Christine Sixteen – KISS

I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles

Little Girls – Oingo Boingo


The Latest Revelations of Sexual Harassment


With new shocking revelations coming out every day, I expect it won’t be too long before we see the following stories dominating the news cycle.

Little People Accuse Santa Claus of Workplace Harassment
“He loved it when we called him ‘Big Poppa’.”

Easter Bunny under Investigation for Inappropriate Contact with Minors
Those weren’t eggs he was hiding.

Tooth Fairy Admits to Sneaking into Sleeping Children’s Bedrooms
Left hush money under their pillows.

Elmer Fudd Arrested for Stalking Transgender Coworker
“Hunter” caught on tape referring to coworker as “wasckally”, making dire predictions of “wabbit season.”

Thomas Jefferson Accused of Sexual Assault in Workplace
Alabama Republicans encourage him to continue to run for office.


A Reasonable Proposal on the Minimum Wage


Gather ‘round, kids, time for Crazy Uncle Bob to go off on another one of his political rants. This time I’m taking aim at the “Fight For 15” Campaign, one of the apparently far-left movements that seems to be gaining some traction as a way for the Democrats to both look like they are on the far fringe of socialism and at the same time are completely ignoring the Rust Belt workers all the pundits say they lost in the last twenty years which has cost them the middle of the country.

Truth is, there’s a lot to deride in this particular movement, not the least of which is the fact that whoever came up with the idea of a $15 an hour minimum wage seems to have pulled that number out of a very large hat. There are a few other things to look at sideways in this movement, most significantly the “all or nothing” attitude that seems to have taken hold in contemporary politics. It doesn’t help that the arguments in favor of this more than doubling of the minimum wage seems to be exclusively predicated on an argument that lies somewhere between “people need it” and “people deserve it”.

On the other hand, the arguments I’ve most often heard against it tend to come down to (a) minimum wage jobs are intended for entry level workers, not people supporting families, so running it up would only hurt business and (b) raising the minimum wage would drive up inflation. Considering the last I checked “business” is doing just fine, and with a sweet little tax cut in the works crying poor mouth on behalf of businesses is a hard sell in a one-sided recovery that as of May Goldman-Sachs was predicting had a 2/3 chance of being the longest on record. As far as inflation concerns go, the current inflation rate is 2.2% for the last 12 months as of September 2017 according to the Labor Department, which is hardly something to sound an alarm about.

But as I see it, none of that is really the problem in this whole debate. The problem is that, as I mentioned before, both sides have dug in with their cherished positions and neither one is considering anything resembling actual… you know… facts. Which I am more than willing to admit included myself. Until recently.

I finally got tired of the ridiculous notion of a $15 an hour minimum wage, so I decided to get some serious ammunition to use against the proponents of this monstrous idea, something nobody had ever brought out before. I decided to do a little digging and see what the actual history of the minimum wage was. According to CNN Money, the Federal Minimum wage has been increased almost two dozen times since its inception, so increasing it is not exactly a novel idea. However, using the inflation calculator at http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/ a couple of interesting facts emerge. The first is that, in inflation adjusted 2017 dollars, the minimum wage actually topped out in 1968 at $11.35. Now granted, that’s no $15 an hour, but it’s a far cry from $7.25 an hour. Another thing that jumped out at me was the trend line. Take a look at the table below and tell me if you notice anything:

Year Minimum Wage IAD 2017
1938 $0.25 $4.38
1939 $0.30 $5.33
1945 $0.40 $5.48
1950 $0.75 $7.68
1956 $1.00 $9.07
1961 $1.15 $9.49
1963 $1.25 $10.08
1967 $1.40 $10.35
1968 $1.60 $11.35
1975 $2.10 $9.63
1976 $2.30 $9.98
1979 $2.90 $9.86
1980 $3.10 $9.29
1981 $3.35 $9.10
1990 $3.80 $7.18
1991 $4.25 $7.70
1996 $4.75 $6.69
1997 $5.15 $6.54
2007 $5.85 $6.96
2008 $6.55 $7.51
2009 $7.25 $8.34

 

Do you see what I see? Because I see not just the minimum wage going up, but real purchasing power going up for the first… I dunno… thirty years. Consistently. That’s across Democratic and Republican administrations (although maybe Eisenhower was just a softy). Then the slow, occasionally interrupted downward trend started, and that was bipartisan too. It wasn’t until George W. Bush’s second term that we started to see an upward trend in real purchasing power for the minimum wage again.

So with these facts in hand, I would like to steer the conversation in a new direction by posing a question nobody seems to be asking: what is the purpose of the minimum wage? It’s not enough to say the purpose of a minimum wage is to put a price floor on labor; that is the effect. The purpose is the reason we institute such a law in the first place. The only moral justification for such a price floor is to ensure that workers who cannot otherwise command a sufficient wage may do so. Such workers, though it seems impolitic to say so in this day and age, tend to be either uneducated, lack desirable skills, or lack sufficient job history. But they still need to make enough to get by, even if “getting by” doesn’t mean much.

Looking at the trends above, this certainly seems more in line with the original intent of the minimum wage, and I believe that there is a way to get there without going so far as to demand $15 an hour, which even when viewing the historical record seems excessive. Going off the average rate of increase in real purchasing power for the first thirty years of the program and looking at the adjusted peak of the minimum wage, the logical solution is to set the minimum wage at $12.85 an hour. Heck, I’d even be willing to go up to $13.00 an hour for folks who like round numbers. After that peg it to inflation and call it a day.

Both sides are missing out on an opportunity by passing up on a compromise like this. Getting the minimum wage meaningfully into the double digits would be a win for the liberals, even if it isn’t $15 an hour. And for the Republicans? With the absurd tax plan they’re trying to railroad through Congress, tacking on a meaningful minimum wage increase would not only give serious cover to blue state Republicans, it might even be enough to tempt red state Democrats. If nothing else it would be something better to point to and say “See? We really DO care about the middle class and the poor!”

But I know it’ll never happen. Because this isn’t the season for reasonable proposals.


Yes Virginia, There Is a Misanthrope


In this year of smear campaigns, fake news, and alternative facts, divisive tactics and hurtful rhetoric, Virginians are being asked to vote for a governor. Someone who can bring us all together as we face the challenges before our beloved Commonwealth and attempt to move past the tragedies that have shocked this nation. Someone who can heal the divide that has sprung up across so many constituencies, whether they be along partisan, racial, or even gender lines.

I am not that person.

Let’s face it, Virginia: you don’t want that. If you did, you wouldn’t even consider either of the guys running for office. Hell, you wouldn’t even consider anyone who would consider running for office in this day and age. So why are you settling for some hack who wants to cozy up to El Presidente without having the stones to openly embrace it, or the guy who can blow half of his lead in the polls in just over a week right before the election?

What I’m offering you is a real choice. Both of my opponents will pretend they care about you, the little people, and then go on to fulfill some bullshit agenda set for them from on high. I refuse to make any sort of empty promises, because the fact is I just don’t care about any of you. Unlike some politicians I can name, I don’t hate any specific group of people; in fact, I don’t hate anyone at all. I have a general disdain for humanity, but to say I hate you would imply a level of emotional investment I just can’t summon. So right there you’ve got at least a 50/50 chance of being better off with me in office.

As for my platform, I plan to institute a Bobpublic. What does that entail? Basically I’m in this for me. That’s right, I’m as rare as a unicorn and twice as beautiful: I’m an honest politician. I’m telling you straight out the only thing I want from being in office is everything I can get out of it. I’d admit to taking bribes and kickbacks except that quite frankly the only things people could bribe me to do are the things I was going to do anyway, so is it really a bribe? Sure, legally it is, but is it ethically a bribe? Either way I don’t care, I’d take the money. I’d even take the money for the stuff I wouldn’t do, just like the guys who are already in office. And just like them, I’d call the former “fundraising” and the latter “my salary”.

You want specifics of my platform? Sure, why not. I specifically plan to do whatever I feel like doing. Usually whatever makes my life better, or whatever amuses me. This would make your life better because, unlike most politicians, I wouldn’t go out of my way to make life miserable for specific groups of people. If something bad happened to anyone because of what I did, I would just consider it an added bonus (but for the papers I would refer to it as a “positive externality”, because we all like our leaders to sound educated).

You want me to get involved in social issues? You got it. Just to tweak My Not So Humble Sister, I’ll let the Washington Redskins keep their name, but they’ll have to change their team logo to a pile of small potatoes. Can a get a witness from the congregation and a side of fries?

I’m all for prayer in schools, as long as everyone converts to Bobtism. This requires a special ceremony in which everyone is Bobtised in a bobtismal fountain. Services are every week day from 4-7 and well drinks are half-price.

Now everyone please rise, place your hand somewhere that makes you feel good about yourself, and recite with me the new Pledge of Allegiance:

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of Bobmerica
And to the Bobpublic for which it stands
One Nation, Under Bob
With Liberty and Justice for Bob.

My fellow Virginians, when you go to the polls this November 7, make sure to vote Misanthrope. Not because you want to, but because your fellow Virginians deserve it.


Time to Pay the Piper


With the Washington Republicans once more pushing for tax cuts (which is about as unexpected as Democrats pushing for increased social program spending), we once again – or should I say “perennially” –  face the issue of increased budget deficits, gross overspending, and arguments over what is the right course for our nation’s economy.

Far be it from me to sit this one out.

Like any good armchair economist, politician, and red-blooded American who stands and/or takes a knee for the National Anthem (whichever you consider to be more patriotic), of course I’m certain I know what’s the right direction for our country, and I can sum it all up in a nifty catch phrase:

Somebody’s gotta take it in the shorts.

The problem as I see it is that we have lost sight of the idea of sacrifice in this country. Everyone looks to the government and sees one of two things: either a giant vampire sucking away all their hard-earned money, or a giant moneybag they can reach in and get whatever they want out. Ironically most people see the same thing at the same time. Frederick Bastiat put it best: “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” Nobody wants to pay, but everybody wants to play.

And that’s how we got where we are today: everybody wants the government to pay for roads, schools, police, military, healthcare (well, maybe not everybody…), social security, you name it. And everybody thinks their taxes are too high. Nobody wants to pay in, but everybody wants a payout. That’s what’s scientifically referred to as an unsustainable system, and sooner or later:

Somebody’s gotta take it in the shorts.

So here’s my proposal. I don’t expect it will make anyone happy, which in politics is usually a good sign. The first thing the Republicans (and the libertarians too; don’t think I’m letting you guys off the hook) need to do is give up the idea of “small government”. The United States has over 326 million people. It’s the third most populous nation in the world behind only China and India. We’re the third largest country in the world in land mass, ahead of even Australia, and they’re a fucking continent. The point I’m trying to convey here is that there will be no “small” government for our nation.

But we can have a smart government. Annnnnnd here’s where I start pissing off the Democrats and all the lefties.

We need to start being realistic about our needs and our priorities. I’m not saying we can’t have a “wish list” for national priorities, but they need to be just that: priorities. What comes first? What do we have to have, what do we want to have, and what are luxuries that are nice to have but can be jettisoned at the first sign of a downturn? How much government involvement is required at any given level, and how much is too much? Where can we afford to pull back and accept that, while we would prefer to have it, we just can’t afford it?

And this is part of what I mean by “sacrifice”. There are things we want but we can’t afford. In our everyday lives if we can’t afford things we want, we have to learn to do without. If we go around racking up huge amounts of debt, we eventually run out of people willing to loan us money. So instead we prioritize, we pay for the things we need, and we find a way to make do.

Now that I’ve antagonized the politicians, let me take a moment to antagonize the tax payers. Because the fact is regardless of how we set our priorities, we will never be able to cut back enough to support the lavish lifestyle Americans still desire at the bargain-basement prices they demand. Or, to put it another way:

Somebody’s gotta take it in the shorts. (Are you starting to see a pattern here?)

For starters, everyone needs to accept not just no tax cuts, but higher taxes. Yes, you heard me right. I’m asking Americans to suck it up and start paying higher taxes. “But Bob,” I hear you cry through your American Exceptionalism rage, “you claim to be a libertarian! By definition you should be opposed to taxation on principle!” Well, one, I don’t claim to be a doctrinaire libertarian these days, two, even if I was being a libertarian seems to mean being contrarian by definition, and three, I actually do believe I can be a libertarian AND support higher taxes.

Here’s why: a core tenet of libertarianism is personal responsibility, as well as a belief in the free market. As in “you get what you pay for and you pay for what you get.” And the simple fact is Americans have been getting a lot of stuff without actually paying for it for a long time now. Want proof? Here you go: http://www.usdebtclock.org/. The U.S. Debt is currently over twenty trillion dollars. That’s trillion with a T. That’s the debt, not the deficit. The deficit, for those of you who listen to politicians toss around the term so loosely, is how much we keep borrowing because we can’t be bothered to actually come up with enough money to actually cover the amount we spend as a nation each year.

Let’s put that in more simplistic terms, shall we? Imagine you owe $10,000 on your credit cards. Every month you borrow another $1,000 to cover your extravagant lifestyle. Your friends and family stage an intervention with you to try to reign in your spending and get you on the right path, and you promise to only borrow $500 dollars a month. You’ve cut your deficit spending in half! Aren’t you being fiscally responsible!

This is what politicians are talking about when they make a big deal about not increasing the deficit. They don’t want to borrow even more money every year just to cover the spending they themselves have already approved. And why do they keep approving it? Because they want to get re-elected. Because they know that if they make the tough choices they will get voted out by… us. We’re the problem.

So here’s what I’m calling for: We need to suck it up. We need to accept that it’s time to pay the piper. We need to accept that we can’t have it all. Tax the rich? Yes. But also tax the middle class, and the poor. Tax everyone, because everyone is part of the problem, and we all have to be part of the solution.

Everybody’s gotta take it in the shorts.

Here are a few proposals to consider for ways that everyone can take a hit:

  • Raise taxes across the board. Yes, it’s unpopular, but people need to start deciding what they truly value and if you want it, pay for it.
  • Get rid of the mortgage deduction. It’s already being baked into the price of houses anyway.
  • Raise the eligibility age on Social Security and Medicare. As life expectancy and health outcomes improve into later age ranges, societal expectations toward the elderly need to change.
  • Eliminate deductions for charitable donations. Yeah, I know this is a non-starter, but so is everything else on the list. The fact is the government should not be in the business of social policy. The government should be in the business of providing services and collecting money for those services. Either people want to support charities or they don’t; if they do they should do so because they believe in that cause, not because they want a tax break.
  • Speaking of social policy, let’s get rid of any and all subsidies for businesses. I realize this is more budget that tax policy, but considering many elements of the tax code involve businesses getting tax write-offs for a variety of reasons, it qualifies on both counts. A tax deduction is a subsidy as much as a direct cash payment is, and if a business can’t survive without that kind of support, we need to reconsider how we do business.
  • Finally, here’s one that’s going to hurt me personally, but like I said, everybody’s gotta take it in the shorts. Let’s get rid of the tax deduction for student loan interest. We can have a conversation about a better way to do higher education in this country, but for the time being we still have a huge bill to pay, and the better educated you are the better chance there is you have a job making enough money that you can kick in toward that bill.

Are there more deductions, loopholes, and giveaways we can live without? Yes there are. Are these the ones that need to go first, or at all? Maybe not. But the conversation needs to start somewhere. And “get your hands off my government money!” isn’t the right place to start it. A better place to start would be the words of one of our former presidents: “my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.”


The Vote’s On You


Just because it will color everyone’s perception of everything I say on the subject, I’m going to get it out of the way right now: yes, I voted. No, I am not going to say how I voted or what I voted on. That’s none of your damn business, but if you’re a regular reader or do a dive through the archives there shouldn’t be much doubt.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me get something else off my chest: I really don’t care if you vote. If you choose not to vote, that only increases the value of my vote by some small, practically imperceptible amount. But I’ll take it. Pennies add up. The fewer people who vote, the more each vote is worth, and I want my vote to be worth as much as possible.

If I were going to encourage you to vote, I would point out that if you don’t vote, you can’t vote “no”. I am a big fan of “no”. It’s something our government doesn’t hear nearly often enough. Vote “no” on as many things as you want, even if you have to vote “yes” in order to vote “no” to government (D.C., I’m looking in your direction, and I’ve got two ounces in my hand as we speak.)

I would also like to call for a moratorium on the oft-used and completely fallacious “if you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain.” You may as well say “if you don’t pay taxes you don’t get to complain about the debt,” or any number of equally irrelevant couplings. The sad fact is we all live under the same roof and obey the same laws made by the same government, and whether or not someone chooses to participate in the process of selecting that government does not remove their right to complain about it. Complaining is one of the few things we all get to enjoy equally, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or social standing. Putting a price on that is ridiculous.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who has made it possible for us to have the chance to decide whether or not to participate in deciding the course of our democracy. Certainly that includes the soldiers that have defended our democracy throughout its history, but I want to also acknowledge the others who don’t usually get mentioned.

Thank you to the teachers who have explained the process for generations. Thank you to the philosophers and thinkers who created and sustained a system that has endured. Thank you to the businessmen who have helped our country continue to grow and prosper so that we can continue to have a democracy. Thank you to the artists who have broadened our minds and given us a culture worth exploring and defending. Thank you to the workers who participate every day, not just once every couple years. Thank you to everyone who makes America a place worth voting for.

The politicians? They should be thanking us.


Headlines from the Future


In case you haven’t heard, David Koch “is donating a record $35 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History”. The Hall of Dinosaurs will be closed for seven years for renovations.

Here are my predictions for headlines seven years from now:

From the right: “Patriot David Koch Saves Smithsonian Museum From Corrupt and Incompetent Federal Government”

From the left: “Koch Brothers Attempt to Buy Smithsonian Museum; ‘Hall of Dinosaurs’ Renamed ‘Koch Brothers Explain How God Created Oil’ “


What’s REALLY Going on in Crimea?


There’s a lot of speculation going around lately about what’s the source of all the trouble in the Crimea region of Ukraine. Many are blaming Moscow for stirring up trouble, possibly as a precursor to an invasion. I’m here to reassure you now that the truth is something far, far more sinister:

It’s the people at Rand McNally.

To understand why, you have to go all the way back to the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. Things were looking good at first for high school students; we had one less Germany to memorize for Geography class, and only one Berlin to worry about, but we still had it pretty easy as far as Eastern Europe and Asia went. Basically all you had to know was “U.S.S.R.” and “China” and you got at least a C.

Then suddenly the U.S.S.R. broke up without any warning, and overnight we’ve got a Georgia that was never on our minds, more –ia’s than a Cthulhu summoning, and so many Stans you’d think it was a callback for “A Streetcar Named Desire”. In short, we got screwed. Oh sure, you might think the concerns of a few high school students pale in comparison to the desperate need to live free of tyranny, but you are overlooking one key element: these were the future mapmakers of the world. And nobody messes with mapmakers with impunity.

They bided their time, waiting decades to get all the pieces in place. They manipulated elections, staged revolutions, and even plotted assassinations where they needed to. Think I’m being paranoid? Think about this: they know where you live. They know where everybody lives. Nobody dares to cross them, not if they know what’s good for them. Do you really believe the Apple Maps roll-out was such a disaster because Apple can’t design an app? They wouldn’t play ball, and they got punished for it. Google pays their dues every month.

And now those poor high school kids who failed Geography because of a bunch of whiners who yearned to be free of a totalitarian regime are finally getting their ultimate revenge. They’ve manipulated the world and Russia in particular to dance to their merciless tune, all for one purpose: to thin out the number of countries they have to print on a map.

Hey, it’s less crazy than anything Vladimir Putin can come up with.