Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cookies of Liberty

As I walked out of the supermarket today two young girls accosted me and asked if I’d like to purchase Girl Scout cookies. The Girl Scouts had a folding table set up in the supermarket’s vestibule piled with boxes of cookies. Girl Scouts sell their cookies every year, guilting customers into buying their delicious mass-produced treats, and through the years the cookie favorites we grew up with are still there, sold by a new generation of wide-eyed Girl Scouts: Thin Mints, Do-si-dos, Tagalongs, Samoas, and Trefoils. New upstart cookies snuck into the family of treats, cookies with names such as Thanks-A-Lot, Lemonades and Cinna-Spins.
When the Girl Scout (and her accomplice – they always travel in pairs) looked up at me with those wet Spaniel-like eyes and asked “Do you want to buy some cookies?” how could I not react affirmatively to her request? These poor little Girl Scouts need help and we – the general working public – should acquiesce and donate to their worthy cause.
It is up to each of us to do our part for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America.
Bluntly, if we don’t buy Girl Scout cookies the terrorists will have won.

Me doing my part for my country.

I know it sounds harsh, but can you imagine the remnants of Al-Qaeda hunched over a Sterno can smoldering in a cave somewhere on the border of Afghanistan plotting against America, only to be rebuffed by thousands – no, make that millions – of uniformed Girl Scouts parachuting into Kabul, their tiny arms brimming full of boxes of Tagalongs and Do-si-dos? Maybe Osama bin Laden wouldn’t be a terrorist mastermind with a taste of a gooey caramel Samoa or the minty freshness of a Thin Mint!
Can’t you see Lady Liberty delivering that final death blow to America’s enemies with crumbly sweet cookies?
Girl Scout cookies are the last bastion of non-partisan support for our country. People balk at American flag lapel pins for their pomposity and uber-patriotic songs like "God Bless the U.S.A." for their blatant pandering to the trailer park set, but Girl Scout cookies appeal to every American who loves their country and sugary junk food with equal measure. Yes, in a nation where the average ass is the size of a Buick, isn't it great to know we can support our country's fight against terrorism while snacking on tasty cookies?
So the next time you’re scampering away from the supermarket, arms laden with adult diapers, Sanka and that large tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, don’t spurn the Girl Scouts selling cookies. It’s not just cookies they’re shamelessly peddling – it’s freedom in a chocolately coating.
Even if the only box remaining are the shortbread Trefoils nobody likes, or the lemon cookies that taste like shit, buy Girl Scout cookies and stop Islamo-Fascism before it takes root in the land of the free.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Stimulate Me

Under a rare effort of bipartisan agreement, Congress and the White House developed a stimulus package to bolster the country’s beleaguered economy.
Normally the phrase “stimulus package” is evocative of porn, which, like the plan Washington cooked up, means somebody’s getting fucked.
The solution to the problem by the Bush Administration and Congress is simple: in order to stimulate the economy, the government will give money for people to spend.
The $150 billion stimulus package gives $600 rebates to single taxpayers and $1,200 to married couples. Couples with children receive an additional $300. Businesses could receive $50 billion in incentives for updating their facilities. Businesses can also make immediate tax write-offs up to 50 percent on equipment and manufacturing facilities.
If passed by the House and Senate and signed by the president, 117 million families will receives their checks in May or June.
With a looming recession, Washington’s dumbed-down solution is to let everybody spend money, because if there’s one thing Americans can do better than anyone on the planet, it’s spend money. Go on! Be a nation of consumer-patriots helping the economy by purchasing plastic shit you don’t need! Instead of existing on the credit card, the government is giving us an allowance to fritter away at the mall! Spend it on googaws and gadgets and colorful, shiny things. Buy trinkets and knick-knacks and glimmering status symbols or bling-bling. If you don’t spend your rebate check, the terrorists will win, so spend your government-issued dough and be a proud American spender-citizen!
Yes, buying an iPod will save our nation from a crippling economic depression.
America loves to spend. Spending for the Iraq war is $9.6 billion a month. Our federal deficit – where we borrow from foreign countries – is projected to reach $250 billion this budget year, a 53 percent increase from last year.
The proposed stimulus package is about as effective as putting a Band Aid on a severed limb.
The deal is just a quick and lame fix to a dire economic problem. The cost of doing business demands cheaper production and that means relocating business overseas in China and India, where U.S. regulations don’t apply and where you can pay a sweatshop full of orphans 2 cents a day to work 12 hours with no bathroom breaks.
It means whenever I call tech support for an American product, I’m talking to Sanjay (who calls himself “Todd”) in Jaipur. It means we’re bolstering China’s economy and giving the Chinese jobs while Americans are getting shafted.
The cost of doing business means overseas is lucrative while remaining stateside is suicide for larger companies.
We need to fix the way we do business and make it favorable for Americans to be producers again and not just consumers. The only things Americans seem to be producing are trashy junkie celebrities and bad reality TV. We’ve gone from the top of the heap to the bottom of the barrel culturally as well as economically, with an appetite for the stupid, bizarre and disturbing. It is any wonder why our government cooked up a retarded way to stimulate economic growth? Giving people back their own money to spend?
When you get your $600 rebate, just save it. Refuse to spend it. Put it in your savings account and let it gather interest. With tough economic times coming, it makes sense to save instead of spend. My dad taught me that when I was a 7th grader. The government could have benefited from his practical advice instead of the orgy of spending and borrowing we’re all stuck in now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Hail to the King

This April will mark 40 years since Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in Memphis. In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law and it was first observed in 1986, but it wasn't until 2000 that all 50 states celebrated the holiday. Way to go, Arizona.

King was always one of my heroes. He inspired a generation to cast off biggotry and hatred and become one America. Through King’s words and more importantly, his actions of civil disobedience, he helped draw attention to the injustice facing blacks in America during segregation. King was jailed, threatened and intimidated for his beleifs.
For Al Sharpton to complain every little verbal altercation between whites towards blacks is the apex of racism, maybe the good Reverend should remember the bad old days. Having that buffoon Don Imus call a woman's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" and the shit that went down in the south in the 1950s and 1960s is completely different.
Here's what life was like if you were black in the early 1960s:

That's why civil rights was an important undertaking, because a civilization that treats people like this should look itself deep in the mirror and ask itself what the fuck it's really about. How did the country get this way? Prior to the Civil War, they were property. After the Civil War, they were lost citizens with phantom rights. A people falling through the cracks, ignored and scorned, they were shunned, relegated to the back of the bus or at separate lunch counters and drinking fountains.

All of that changed with King and other civil rights pioneers used their faith to preach about a better world, one where blacks were not better than whites, but where all races were the same in society; a true color blind nation where people were equal in the eyes of the law. King preached a rare message of tolerance sadly not heard today.
So what became of King's legacy? The black American community still faces many problems: the gangsta rap culture, an epidemic of drugs, school drop-out rates, single-parent families and a high murder rate among black youths. It's as though once King's assassination, black America just quit the fight. There's still more work to do, as King's mission is not yet complete. America has made great strides, but whenever some bonehead uses a noose as a "joke" or to intimidate, we realize we haven't come that far.
The struggle is still ongoing, but with each baby step of progress, with each black American in public office or serving the public trust or interest, America moves closer to King's dream, where people are "judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
So in the end, what do we get? A federal holiday where a majority of us still have to work. But in the end, that's what King would have wanted, I think. Recognition, respect and a chance to make all of our lives better and not just sit on our asses. That's what Labor Day is for.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitibility, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

"Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness."

"He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

"I submit to you that if a man hasn't discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live."

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Face Time With Corzine

I met New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine today at a invitation-only reporter’s roundtable. Corzine came to Cape May Court House, touting his transportation and infrastructure reform program and spent close to an hour with reporters outlining his proposal. When I arrived at the performing arts center where Corzine would speak, I was escorted into room where a reporter’s gaggle sat around a table with the governor. There were two other reporters, plus my editor and a bunch of photographers. New Jersey State Troopers and the governor’s security agents spread across the room. Corzine spoke softly and congenially about his program, which he says will pay down New Jersey’s $32 billion debt. He outlined a controversial move, to raise tolls 50 percent from 2010 to 2022 every four years. It’s kind of like the winter Olympics, but one where you ride the Luge of Frustration as you scramble for more quarters on the Garden State Parkway.

The proposal also calls for the creation of an independent entity to manage the toll roads. Dubbed the “Public Benefit Corporation”, this slice of bureaucracy will not contribute to the state’s debt because it will be an independent entity filled with citizens appointed by Corzine and representing various sectors of New Jersey life: environmentalists, truckers, planning and cat fanciers. The citizen members will oversee the PBC’s board of directors.

Corzine said the state of New Jersey is in fiscal trouble. How much trouble? Think about this: you wake up in a Las Vegas hotel room, your memory blotted out by alcohol from the night before, and there’s a dead hooker in bed next to you. That’s the kind of trouble New Jersey is in. Years of spending money like a coked-up teenager with a credit card created a mess so great, so colossal, so epic in scope, that if nothing is done to alleviate it, Corzine said the state would have to declare bankruptcy.

One good part of Corzine’s plan I like is the government will also be forced to make cuts. Layoffs, cutting expenses and just doing more with less is fine by me. All of those pension hogs in Trenton are putting the squeeze on John and Jane Taxpayer and we want some kind of relief. Squint hard, state workers; here comes a hot, white long-overdue blast of the Bukkake of Justice!

Of course the audience at the event, which resembled extras from the movie “The Hills Have Eyes” really let Corzine have it. Seems like Joe and Joline Sixpack don’t like a fancy-pants Democrat from the New Jersey’s northlands in their precious backwoods telling them of toll hikes or independent entities managing toll roads or chewing with their mouth closed. They let this big city liberal have it so bad, that the atmosphere of the meeting resembled Kvetch Night at your local senior center. Why do senior citizens complain about money so much? Listen, folks, the Great Depression is over. You don’t have to forage for tumbleweeds as a source of roughage. We have super markets now, some offering deals and discounts. Clip those coupons, granny; we’re saving cash.

Corzine had the guts to propose some solution to bail the state out of its fiscal mess. So it’s going to get rough for everyone in the next decade. Big deal! By then we wouldn’t be living in New Jersey anyway since the North American Union will go into effect in 2012 as part of a neo-fascist government banding together the United States, Canada and Mexico. The dollar will be worthless as we'll spend our Ameros on gasmasks, governmentally-sanctioned Bibles and Victory Gin.

Interviewing Gov. Corzine as part of a reporter’s roundtable made me feel special, like a real journalist, like a non-insane version of Katie Couric or a Dan Rather without the bulldog jowls or the grudge against freedom or a Bob Woodruff without the shrapnel. Okay, that was mean. Couric is not that insane. Anyway, talking to the governor made me feel proud to be part of the Fourth Estate, even if it’s just for a local newspaper in a small town nobody’s ever heard of nor ever will hear of again after the Great Purging of 2014.

Friday, January 11, 2008

What Would Jesus Legislate?

In December, a group of Congressional representatives from North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida introduced House Resolution 888, a bill “Affirming the rich spiritual and religious history of our Nation’s founding and subsequent history and expressing support for designation of the first week in May as ‘American Religious History Week’ for the appreciation of and education on America’s history of religious faith.”
The bill essentially makes the case that since America’s founding fathers, presidents and culture are religious in nature, and essentially Christian, that the government should teach “America’s history of religious faith”.
The bill also has Congress rejecting “in the strongest possible terms, any effort to remove, obscure, or purposely omit such history from our Nation’s public buildings and educational resources.”
So apparently if some atheist douchebag from California doesn’t want to say the Pledge of Allegiance and is offended by “In God We Trust” on our currency, he’s shit out of luck. Actually, who really cares about a few disgruntled atheists, an unimaginative lot who are so rational and logical, they’re rarely invited to parties and usually spend their time wearing black and reading Sartre.
House Resolution 888, currently in the hands of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is just another example of legislation that serves no real tangible purpose. It’s like the flag desecration amendment or an amendment defining marriage as a union between a woman and a masochist; feel-good crap designed to woo a certain political segment: evangelicals who want prayer in school and a wider role for religion in the public square.
To illustrate America’s religious history, the resolution lists several instances through history when religion cropped up, including Congress in 1777 importing the Bible to the states, Congress’ plans to print Bibles in 1782, the use of prayer and religious symbolism in swearing-in ceremonies and the inclusion of “one nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.
Amusingly, the bill lists one example as the Federal government’s distribution of “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth” beginning in 1904 to members of Congress “because of the important teachings it contained.” The book was originally created by Thomas Jefferson, who literally cut up the Bible and re-arranged the Gospels, omitting any supernatural instances and presenting a straightforward account of Jesus’ life. The rational Jefferson didn’t buy virgin births, miracles and resurrections and instead focused on what Jesus taught.
The bill also quotes several presidents who wax eloquently on the importance of God, religion and Christianity. Sorry, but just because a president says something doesn’t mean it’s absolute or correct.
If history isn’t enough to convince the godless heathens they need to study American religion, the bill wraps up by listing the religious architectural elements in the United States Capitol and religious artwork in other public buildings, including murals, statues and carved Bible verses.
Despite its references to America’s glorious religious past, House Resolution 888, fails to mention that the country God “singularly favored” (thanks, President William McKinley) used their strong western religion to enslave Africans, murder Indian tribes and conquer a continent based on “manifest destiny”.
Now some disclosure: I’m a Christian. I try and live a life worthy of the teachings of Jesus Christ – I try to be forgiving, compassionate and help those in need. I don’t try to convert everyone to my way of thinking or feel uncomfortable around those of different beliefs.
The real problem with Resolution 888, like a lot of legislation emanating from Washington, is it’s total bullshit. It’s created for puzzling reasons and is totally unnecessary.
Jesus warned about using religion in public:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” (Matthew 6:5)
Jesus also had a thing against accumulating material instead of spiritual wealth:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24)
The resolution’s backers apparently think America is under assault from political correctness. Ron Paul and Fox News claim secularists want to remove the Ten Commandments from public buildings and Christ from Christmas. How maladjusted are you that it deeply bothers you when a shop clerk wishes you “happy holidays” instead of “merry Christmas?” How many sleepless nights have you had that your kids are going to school without reading the Bible or receiving beatings from an overzealous, faithful schoolmaster?
The resolution is very insular in it’s religious affirmation. It’s essentially stating “Protestants have ruled and will rule America and no ACLU homos will stop us!”
I don’t think it’s the mention of religion that makes some people uncomfortable; I think it’s government mentioning it that causes discomfort. It’s like a whore lecturing about chastity. It’s hypocritical. Politicians are the biggest sleazeballs on the planet and their self-righteous demagoguery on the issue of religion is laughable. These are people who cajole, threaten and frighten themselves into power, and they’re standing on ivory pillars looking down at the unwashed masses lecturing us on morality.
If the Republicans really examined the life of Jesus, they’d disagree with most everything he stood for. After all, Jesus was a liberal Jew who helped the unfortunate and the poor, the same kind of person the GOP spends millions fighting in elections.
The resolution states the Supreme Court declared throughout the country’s history that the United States is “a Christian country”, “a Christian nation”, “a Christian people” and that “we cannot read into the Bill of Rights a philosophy of hostility to religion”.
Oh really?
Besides being a pep rally for Christianity, the resolution purporting to be about “America’s religious history” omits other religions. I know Protestants make up a bulk of the population and founded the country and basically run the place. It’s like America is an exclusive country club where Jews, Catholics and “others” are not allowed and don’t deserve mention.
But even George Washington knew the importance of religious freedom. Unlike the self-righteous, pious dickheads running America today, the founding fathers were either enlightened deists or educated Freemasons and didn’t want to persecute people of different faiths through legislation. George Washington in 1790 wrote a letter to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island after Moses Seixas, warden of the Hebrew Congregation of Newport wrote to Washington expressing the congregation’s support of the new president and saying the God of Israel also protected Washington during the Revolutionary War.
Washington’s letter responding to Seixas was addressed to the Jews of Newport and is cited as an example of religious tolerance and freedom: “The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens…May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Weird Snacks

British snacks are really great. No, they really are. Where else can you find Turkey and Stuffing flavor potato crisps? How about prawn cocktail flavored "fizzy melty snacks"?

Violet Crumble, labeled "Australia's Crisp Golden Honeycomb" is just like a British Crunchie bar, only bigger. Curly Wurly can best be described as a caramel chocolate braid.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

More of the Flotsam

Last installment of the Flotsam...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Flotsam

More of the Ocean City Flotsam...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

Happy 2008. Hopefully, this year will be one of triumphs, health and success for everyone. I wish nothing but the best for family and friends.

Now for a special treat - The Ocean City Flotsam. In 2003, when I was an associate editor (a title I had fleetingly) I put together a parody newspaper using some photos and templates. It took me a few weeks to write, layout and edit, but the end result is a satirical newspaper akin to The Onion (at least I think so). Incidentally, everything here is copyrighted 2003 by me.
I'm posting this project because I've had it tucked away in an envelope for four years. I showed it to a few people and they loved it, and said I should "do" something with it. Years passed, and it stayed hidden. People have said I'm talented, that I'm a good writer and creative, yet I have no real way of showcasing that talent. The new year made me realize we're all getting older and should take advantage of the gifts we're given, whether it be writing or singing or making people laugh. Why toil doing what we love if nobody else can enjoy it?
I've decided to let the parody newspaper out into the world and give people a glimpse of what I can do. It's not my shining moment or apex of my talents, but it's a start. Maybe it will inspire others to take advantage of their talents and not hide them away from the world out of fear, modesty or both.
In the grand sceme of things, this is really trivial, but I labored hard on it and guess I wanted the credit and recognition. It might be politically incorrect and juvenile in tone and content but nothing good we do should remain hidden in an envelope for years. It should be shared no matter the reception it receives.
I'll post more pages of The Flotsam over the next few days.
Enjoy and have a Happy 2008.