Monday, June 22, 2015

Flapjack Fracking

Maple syrup (organic), a mountain of pancakes and the dingy bathroom in the basement. Water leaks down here, in a basement in grey, foggy Jersey, but I'm feeling tops. I've got a couple thousand kilograms of perfectly combined flour, eggs and milk. This great stack of flapjacks makes me grin wide and evil, and I damn near take out three of them at once. I fold, then stuff the saturated, dripping disks of heaven into my mouth, without shame sitting atop a toilet seat.

I didn't always resort to eating pancakes in a dungeon like setting. But when my girlfriend moved in, things changed. The obvious benefits of living with her (of which I am so gracious) are outweighed tenfold by her restriction of my pancake intake.

"You're addicted," she cried. "Your killing yourself. Can't you see it? Your going to get fired at this rate. Then we will never be able to move out of this dump."
(I like this dump.)

"Your being dramatic," I said. "I'm fine."

"Oh really? Look at yourself," she said, before holding a mirror in front of me. (Don't ask where she got a large mirror from.)

I looked at my reflection in horror. She went out to dinner with coworkers, and I told her I had something to work on. I actually had just laid in bed with my pancakes. I could barely lift my arms from my body, due to excess syrup residue. Pancake mix was stacked around the room like cocaine, and I had rolled a three stack together, creating a pancake monstrosity. I stopped chewing the fat, pancake creation and lamented, "I need help."

Though she held me close, hid all the necessary ingredients and helped me get clean, it didn't take long for me to find myself locked away, in a bathroom basement eating life's sweetest nectar.

"Honey?" my girlfriend's voice called.

Oh shit. Her footsteps neared, coming closer and closer. I tried to finish them all, before. she....

"Oh my god," she gasped.


"Open your mouth," she demanded.

"No," I shot back, in a muffled tone.

"I can smell it. I can smell it. You're not even using the toilet."

I hung my head in shame. But this time she had a more drastic plan.

"It's called shock addiction treatment. They will show you pictures of the thing you are addicted to--" she looked at the "doctor".

"Pancakes, flapjacks, silver dollars, hubcaps, platters, charlie browns..."the doctor rang out.

"Right," my girlfriend said. "When it's finished, you won't want them anymore."

"Your brain will associate those Saturday morning delights with the pain of the shock. You ready?"

Of course he wasn't really asking me. I was already strapped up to the machine. Leads covered my body from my temples down to my ankles.

"Okay," I sighed.

"Love you baby," my girlfriend said. "And with this part of your life over and done with you can start working more hours and we can finally get our dream house."

"Dream house..." I said as a pipping hot, steaming pile of pancakes appeared on the screen.
One moment, I saw myself dining on the morsels, the next I was sent into an uncontrollable spasm.

"C'mon... what kind of sick, twisted quasi-scientific..."

More pancakes showed, this time chocolate chip. And again, electricity surged through my body.

"Baby," I plead. "I'll quit. Just end this madness."

"The doctor said you would say that."
Again and again, the treatment continued.

A couple weeks later, I was clean and clocking extra hours at work. I hadn't so much as thought about a pancake. To celebrate my sobriety, I met my girlfriend for lunch at a Brazilian restaurant in Hoboken. After parking the car, she looked over to me and said, "I'm so proud of you."
As we made our way to the restaurant door, a mad, zany, sleep deprived kid came running up to us yelling something unintelligible.

"What are you saying kid?" I shook him.

I'm interning for the radio station. It's just upstairs, and we are having a contest. My contestant just called out sick. Please help me out. The winner gets thirty-thousand dollars."

I perked up. My wife pushed me. So, we followed the kid up the stairs excitedly.

"Alright," he said. There is only one round. Let's hurry."

"What is the contest?" my girlfriend asked.

Her question was answered. On top of the table, inside the station's studio sat three plates of pancakes and two contestants already seated.

"Oh man," my girlfriend yelled. "We have this in the bag." She kissed me, told me to kick ass and stayed outside, while I was seated before a plate, pancakes, syrup, a knife and fork.

"Alright, we have our third contestant for WXRY's monthly flapjack fracking contest. On your marks.Get set. Go!"
I shoved my fork in, going with my old fold and stuff technique, but the moment it touched my mouth pain shot through me, and I shook in my chair almost falling to the floor.

"Hey, what's this guys problem? Eat the cakes," the radio host yelled.

I tried again, but the same outcome befell me. And the thirty-thousand dollars went to contestant number two. My girlfriend started to say something, but I put my hand up and said, "Let's just go home." Nothing more to say.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Is Santa Gay?

Christmas wrapping paper, bubble gum stuck to a shoe and two trophies staring back at me, drunken. One of the trophies was from football. On top, a running back doing a stiff arm. The other, a man bowing: from acting. During summer camp, I took the stage as the scrooge in the Christmas Carol.
I can do grumpy.

When I was younger-- four or five-- I tried to steal actual Christmas as the Grinch did. I took all the gifts up to my room and put them in a plastic bag. My grandmother found me out, and I was forced to return them. What kind of kid wants to be the Grinch? Me. And I was a great Scrooge.

Any way, it's June. Hot (fucking hot) yet I promised my six-year-old nephew a Christmas present; I'm trying to wrap it, but I keep getting sidetracked by the trophies on a shelf in front of me. Perhaps I should pick the gum off of my shoe. Or maybe I should just wrap this silly game with all his favorite TV cartoon characters in it, running around shooting at aliens.

Why am I wrapping up a Christmas gift in June? Well, I saw him earlier this week, and he gave those big, chinchilla eyes.

"Alright, alright. Of course I will."

And here I am, staring down at infinite Santas with their hats covering one eye and the other eye is winking. Is Santa gay? Why is he winking at me like that? I did have a couple cups of wine; I should probably stop.

I folded back one edge of the paper, then another--tape--the top edge, then bottom edge--tape--el fin.

He will definitely like this present. I'm such a good uncle. For a broke twenty-two-year-old uncle, I'm damn near Jesus.

All said and done, I put a sticker on the present and wrote his name in my best cursive. The penmanship wasn't perfect; I've done better. I moved on to writing my name next to the "From:". I wrote my name clearly and legibly. I was proud of the whole bit, but that damn cursive I wrote looked like damn chicken scratch. Reluctantly, I tried to make a T more legible by curving the bottom of the line. It began to look more like a J. I licked my finger and and tried to rub the curve off the T. The ink smugged everywhere. GOD WHY?

I scribbled out the whole name, tried to rewrite it, scribbled that out, then ripped all those Santa's faces up. After tearing the wrapping paper off, I took the game out of the box, put it in my PS4 and played it. Whatever. Better luck next time... I'll probably just send him one of those trophies with a quote about narcissism taped to it. He'll get it one day....But tonight I'll fall asleep, hoisting Finn up in the air as Jimmy Neutron, to give him a better shot at an alien who is trying to eat Clarence.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Why Is Haiti Poor?

Why Is Haiti Poor?

Self-evident ideas are without a doubt the most dangerous of them all.These ideas can be right without reason and accepted without question. Call it dogma, ideology, love-of, moral -- everyone has those things that are beyond reproach and are more or less common knowledge. Why are these ideas so dangerous, and what can we do to counteract such powerful forces? Well, maybe nothing; but maybe with a strong dose of thought, patience and a little help from a friend we can all cognate clearer.

Let's begin: Think of Haiti. What thoughts blossom when you consider the Caribbean island? There was an earthquake, an inescapable poverty (78% below the poverty line), deplorable housing, healthcare and education. This is a harsh reality that is no secret, but now I ask, why?

Do world powers like America share any fault?  Of course not we give tons of aid. Just bad luck? Probably not.

You might know that Haiti's founders were the first of any slaves to revolt and win. But what is lesser known is what happen after they freed themselves from the grips of Napoleon. And here I insert an excerpt from David Graeber's international bestseller, Debt.

...debt is not just victor's justice; it can also be a way of punishing winners who weren't supposed to win. The most spectacular example of this is the history of the Republic of Haiti--the first poor country to be placed in permanent debt peonage. Haiti was a nation founded by former plantation slaves who had the temerity not only to rise up in rebellion, amidst grand declarations of universal rights and freedoms, but to defeat Napoleon's armies sent to return them to bondage. France immediately insisted that the new republic owed it 150 million francs in damages for the expropriated plantations, as well as the expenses of outfitting the failed military expeditions, and all other nations, including the Unites States, agreed to impose an embargo on the country until it was paid. The sum was intentionally impossible (equivalent to 18 billion dollars), and the resulting embargo ensured that the name "Haiti" has been synonymous for debt, poverty, and human misery since.
If you where are already aware of the storied past than good for you. But, I share this 1) for the content itself and 2) for the self-evidence Graeber points out. 

A debt must be paid.

An interesting notion to think about. As for poverty, Haiti and common knowledge -- does this whittle at the foundations of any ideas you had? Should all debts really be paid?

Comment your thoughts.

Graeber, David. Debt. Melville House Publishing. London Oct. 2014.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Finder's Way

The Finder's Way

A woman and a man walking in a straight line meet. 
They lock eyes, and then clasp their hands together.
They eat fruit, and farm vegetables for themselves to eat. 
They build a house of wood, to shelter each other from bad weather.

They have children whom which they raise, and spend time.
 They collect animals and minerals, and berries of all kind. 
Eventually they are, a FULL FAMILY of 9. 
And even sing songs in the evenings, if they have time.

One day they decide to see the ocean. 
They pack up and ready themselves for a trip. 
While walking they meet a family, also full of kin. 
Under a campfire's light they laugh and they sit. 

Upon reaching the shore they see people galore. 
Men and women with their children, they fit right in.
They asked the people if they could fit any more.
They all were belated and greeted them with a grin.

Everyone was happy, and productive and gay. 
Sometimes they would fish and sometimes they would play. 
Sometimes families would fight and some children would cry. 
Some people got old and some of them died.

But others were born that stuck by there side.
Living harmoniously with those, in whom they confide.
They shared in their toil; their work and their play.
They shared fighting dangers, like bears side by side.

Not a soul would go hungry that for sure one could say. 
Until someone found a block of golden clay.
The finder picked up this item he saw.
He held it up high sending his peers in awe.

Not a mouth was closed shut, every retina in sparkle.
Every man, woman and child stood and looked at the marvel.
The finder put the block on display for the people to see.
Until the finder decided, "It is only for me."

So only in the house could the gold clay be found.
A price people paid to witness it from all around.
They paid in fish, and in wood, and in services 2.
They bent to his will every week for a few.

For safety of the gold object, he built up a mound.
With a gate built around, he was high up off the ground.
The GOLD, it was molded into a crown.
The people below visited with gifts, to this finder they were bound.

The finder dictated what people did, and when.
If they listened resources, would be shared with some men.
Children praised the crown and prayed for its graces.
Women kissed the hand of the finder with teary faces.

One night 3 young boys went up to the mound.
And awoke the finder trying to take the crown.
In the morning the the crimes of these boys were expelled.
And those boys for there charges were roughly exiled.

The people lived in fear, but still loved the finder.
Because he would punish those who spoke against him as a reminder.
The power the crown held made them bow under its spell.
The finder fed and clothed, them and then told them of HELL.

Hell was a place were all people would go, if they didn't obey, and paid what they owe.
Mothers told children, "Never forget to see the crown!"
In drones, on command the people came to know.
What they had to do to stay away from HELL's HOUND.

Men, Women, and children lived by the Finders Way:
"Let the crown be your guide, and you may have a golden day."
The Finders words... The Law- as in rules to be followed.
They were transcribed onto paper, and selected people lived as models.

As the finder grew older it was known his time was near.
What had to be done was evidently clear.
A sitting son of the crown, took a whisper into his ear.
He was urged to listen carefully, for these thoughts were held dear.

"The trick to the crown is not what I found. It is clay with paint that is not even profound. The trick behind people is to play at their emotions. After catching their attention just stay high above their ocean. When they wonder, and ponder, and think and contemplate tomorrow. CRUSH them with FEAR, GIVE them gifts, and WARN them of hell's sorrow."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Senators Cut Support for the Jobless

No Support from the GOP for the Jobless

      As news media and political experts around the country sit and scrutinize the governor in New jersey with scrupulousness, attention on the state is at a peak since Sandy. Republicans, democrats, and voters are all fixated on the robust executive, and what the "bridge-gate" could mean for the next presidential election. Now I'm sure the story is very interesting and someone should get to the bottom of it. But I don't think that 5-8 hours worth of Chris Kristie on FOX, MSNBC, and CNN etc.. is quite necessary. Like there is nothing else going on this week....

      Lets take a look. Hmmm... lets see. On January 14th, three days ago a bill titled S.1845 was filibustered. 45 of your Republican Senators decided that an extension on unemployment benefits was not necessary. This Emergency Unemployment Compensation Act began in 2008 when the financial crisis raised unemployment. Congress agreed that during times of financial despondency, when jobs are not there, and the jobs that are available can barely feed a family and keep a roof above heads, the government decided that an extension on benefits was warranted.1

     This month we have heard this enchanting mantra from the republican members of congress, "Republicans will get serious on poverty." Well...this makes sense. This is about as serious as it gets. These extended benefits needed to be cut as a matter of principle. After voting against ending the medley of filibusters, (that eventually were successful), the bill is provisionally dead. Apparently this was a matter of principle. Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin claim after voting that, "Republicans actually have principles." He continued, "I ran because...we are bankrupting our children's future." Overall the same tune is heard from every Senator who opposed the bill. "To continue to give money to these Americans is just going to send us further into debt", "Extending these benefits will not help these people get jobs", "The bill is fiscally irresponsible."2

The Cost

      The checks for 1.3 million Americans wont be cut. 1.3 Million mothers, sons, fathers and daughters will be at a loss. 1.3 million neighbors and ex-coworkers will be hurt by this cut. With the death of this bill comes a loss of food on the table, and no gas money to go look for a job. Many of the jobless are teetering on the edge of struggling and impoverished.  But with the budget in mind the money will be better spent providing skilled training to these unemployed workers. Because these laid off teachers, out of work electricians, construction workers and laborers from the manufacturing industry, many of whom are over the age of 40 have many choices in this country. They can try switching careers, going back to school and taking a lower paying job, to pay their mortgages. 

      According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, with the termination of these benefits the number of unemployed will be 5 million by the end of the year if congress doesn't act.3 You may see the lowering unemployment numbers as a positive indicator. But this statistic is skewed because many have given up the search.

It's Economics

      A balanced budget is of great importance. It comes down to economics for these senators. Economics means continuing bush's tax cuts for those in higher tax bracket. The 678 Billion dollars that the government will cut from taxes is all economics.

      Its interesting...good policy decisions seem to be centered around solid economics. Yet Mark Zandi, former adviser to Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona said, "No form of the fiscal stimulus has proved more effective during the past two years than emergency UI benefits." Other economic analysts have said the same thing. It seems that unemployment checks are spent. They stimulate the economy enhancing consumerism.4

      What are the real reasons behind why most Republican  senators have decided to oppose the bill? Could it have anything to do with the fact that the bill has been proposed by mostly democrats. Could it have anything to do with the fact that the president supports the bill?

      Listen to the news and you might hear a tea party member or two call these unemployed people lazy. I have a request for those whom want to perpetuate this notion. Go and speak to someone who has been without a job. Ask them what its like, ask them about this "vacation". Just because someone doesn't know what its like to get a million dollar bonus, worked hard and loss their job as result of an economic crisis or couldn't afford student loans doesn't mean they are lazy. These are hard working Americans. When will the welfare of a people outweigh political maneuvering. It appears they are not deserve a little more time to find employment. When will values actually mean more than a party. English writer and journalist Harriet Martineau put it best, "If a test of civilization be sought, none can be so sure as the condition of that half of society over which the other half has power."5

Interested in following what your congressmen and women are up to download the informed American app:
Flag your senators and representatives to see how they voted today!



Monday, January 13, 2014

America: The Republic not Democracy

Breaking News: America Expels Democracy

      I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America, and to the REPUBLIC for which it stands, one nation under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all1 ...The original text of the Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist minister as an attempt to foster nationalism, and patriotism in the post civil war America. Yes, its because of an anti-capitalist that every schoolhouse around the nation has flags for kids to salute to every morning, sounds like the beginning of a bar joke. 

No matter how important or unimportant you think the pledge is, there are a few terms within the text that are overwhelmingly seen as representative of American values (even if only by its own people). There is justice....liberty...and then there's the word republic. Republic? Was Francis Bellamy referring to the Good Old Party of today? Maybe, this was a foreshadowing of George Lucas's version of galactic order.

      According to Webster a republic is, "a country that is governed by elected representatives and by an elected leader (such as a president) rather than by a king or queen."2 The word republic can be found in the United states constitution; Article 4, Section 4 requires states to have "republican forms of government"... This may or may not incite a knee jerk reaction from you. Why doesn't it say democratic. America has always been the protector of democracy. We have even gone so far as to daub ourselves the proprietor of democracy. If we think back to the Iraqi insurgency, one of our main goals were to, "install a democratic government" a la Monsieur George Bush.

      Throughout history democracy is as American as apple pie, moonshine, and freedom fries. But for some reason the word has been left out of The Declaration of Independence, our Pledge of Allegiance, and  The Constitution of these United States. Why? Well...that is because the United States government is not a democracy. Shocking. This may seem debatable but it is very straightforward. The founding fathers of this "magnificent" nation disagreed on a lot of things. They weren't too sure on how to balance power amongst the young American government, there was disagreement on religious values, and a few of them may have quietly fought about the ethics of slavery. But what they did overwhelmingly agree upon was that democracy was the absolute worst form of government. Benjamin Rush compared democracy to the "devils work" and called it one of the "greatest evils". Benjamin Franklin said, "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!" It was no mistake leaving the word out of their documents, cursing it's utterance similar to "he who should not be named". The reasons for their disgust are clear as is the reasons why you cannot go five minutes without hearing the word from everyone in politics, from Marco Rubio, and John Boehner, Hillary and Obama.

What is Democracy?

      Democracy literally means, "the rule of man". The Greeks of Athens had the first documented democracy. Their brand of direct democracy went as so: The important men of Athens would come together and manufacture laws. Everything from what to do with poop to how to deal with Socrates was written out. Then "every eligible" citizen would go and vote yea or nea. The majority vote would go through. This is a direct democracy, this is the direct rule of people ruling over each other with equal power. In this system of government the majority of people rule without contest.3

      This is one of the exact reasons the founding fathers were against such a form of government. They wanted the furthest thing from a direct democracy.

      If this country was even a representative democracy. The people would vote for representatives directly. Then as in the direct democracy the majority voted candidate has absolute power. The will of the majority of citizens would be law. America has what Ben Franklin, John Adams and John Marshall all were fixated on, the republican form of government. Before we go into what exactly that is, it important to note that the republic the founding fathers were talking about is different from that of Machiavelli's writings.

We can look to John Marshal's Federalist Papers #10 to see what exactly the point of this republic form of governing is.  

          "If a faction consists of less than a majority, relief is supplied by the republican principle, which enables the majority to defeat its sinister views by regular vote. It may clog the administration, it may convulse the society; but it will be unable to execute and mask its violence under the forms of the Constitution. When a majority is included in a faction, the form of popular Government, on the other hand, enables it to sacrifice to its ruling passion or interest both the public good and the rights of other citizens..."4                    
                                                                                 -John Marshall

      Poetry ain't it? Marshall warned that the democracy leads to what is called "mob rule". This allows the majority power without protection of the minorities within a state. The republic provides for protections for every citizen equally. This is accomplished through a constitution. Liberty not equality is more important in a republic. In America representatives are voted by citizens indirectly. We have electoral colleges and party bosses that filter the masses from directly deciding who actually makes laws and passes them. Most importantly the constitution gives freedoms, and dictates exactly what powers each branch and state governments have. This is the most important aspect of the republic. A republic is the rule of law. Law can be stepped over by none; no matter how many guns the majority have, or how much money the majority have...well, in theory.


Why do Politicians lie?

I don't mean in general of course. In order to campaign effectively lying just comes with the territory. But I mean why speak of these democratic ideals when we have a republic?
      Imagine live in the democratic nation of America, in the state of New York. There is a referendum up for vote about pants regulations. This bill includes restrictions on super short and/or tight pants, super baggy pants, sagging of pants on men, and women are no longer allowed to wear pants. Come voting day the referendum is passed thanks to a super conservative faction rallying voters. This being a national vote, immediately becomes law, there are no restrictions on the government protecting rights of citizens not in the majority.
      This was the fear of the founding fathers. They really feared  democracy would restrict trousers! But this fear (Democracy) has become the hallmark of any political campaign. Why would politicians use the word democracy. Well...Campaigns are full of what is called subversion of language. When your senator speaks of protecting democracy, he is allowing you to make democracy synonymous with himself. Knowing that democracy coincides with equality you the people are led to believe that they support equality. Universal Equality! This is not the case.

They support a republic. In essence they support an ideal that the masses cannot organize enough, and are not capable to rule with efficiency. Which is why we need to indirectly elect the brightest, most morally sound of us all. (After a party chooses whom is the best of the best for us) Politicians don't want to be known as promoters of this elitist style of government. Law is not a very attractive speaking point. Though, it is a system they work in, being "a champion of Equality sounds way better."
      Now we can see through subversive language. Thanks to our founding fathers we have avoided mob rule. So new citizens of the republic, try and call as it is, a spade a spade. And remember you can't loose what you never had.