Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Union Pendulum

I read an article today about how the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is making a push to get non-union auto manufacturing plants to become union shops. Here's the article, if you're interested in reading. For those of you not interested in reading the original piece, it basically says that UAW leaders are going to try to convince auto workers who work in American Volkswagen and Daimler plants to unionize.

I'm going to make a prediction that the push will fail, and that the UAW will fade into irrelevance. In fact, I think that unions in general are charging headlong into obsolescence. It's widely accepted that union bosses are corrupt, unions tend to be adversarial with management, and their strong demands erode profitability of union shop companies. Basically, unions have become their own worst enemy.

The funny thing is, unions came about, in part, because of huge disparity between rich and poor, which is happening again in our society. The divide between the rich and poor is growing, and the unions are powerless to stop it. This is partially because non-union shops are less adversarial, and non-union shops tend to hire employees who are invested in the overall well-being of the company.

Unions did, and do, serve a purpose. They help to ensure that greedy individuals and companies don't take advantage of labor. Because of globalization however, companies can simply ship jobs overseas, reducing their costs, and putting Americans out of work. I'm not railing against this reality, I'm just pointing it out.

But unions are stuck in the 1920's. What they need to do is look forward. They need to realize that times have changed, and instead of helping maximize the wages of the individual laborer, they should act as a liaison between management and workers. They should encourage union members to find ways to save the company money and increase profitability, and acknowledge that jobs can go overseas.

Furthermore, they should focus on McJobs... service-based positions that can't be shipped overseas, but require little skill, which allows an employer to pay substandard wages to employees.

But that's not what's going to happen in the near term. What will happen is that union bosses will continue to be greedy, and advocate an us vs. them mentality. Union shops will close as a result, bringing unions effectively to extinction. Then, corporations will smell an opportunity to once again take advantage of the little guy, working conditions and wages will deteriorate, while the rich get richer. Eventually, the pendulum will swing back toward unionization, but it will be in a different form than what we see now. Furthermore, I suspect that next time unionization will be on a more global level, which will undermine corporations' ability to simply ship jobs to a country with low wages.

But then again, on a long enough timeline, any prediction is bound to come true.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm Better Than This Guy

People that know me realize I tend to treat people relatively equally. For the most part, I give the waiter the same amount of respect at the CEO, and the professional athlete deserves the same consideration as the invalid.

With that said though, there are some who earn my scorn and contempt. Con-men, thieves, politicians, rapists, and murderers don't rate very high in my book. Basically, if you consistently, consciously and willingly screw your fellow man in order to fulfill your selfish wants and desires, then you're not worth my time.

JD is a good example of someone who's not worth my time. When we were kids, I used to hang out with JD. He was a guy who lived by his own rules... he stayed out past curfew, cut class, smoked cigarettes and stole his parents' alcohol. In short, he was a lot of fun.

As I got older, I started seeing the dark side of his lifestyle. He stole money and valuables from his parents and friends. When most of us grew up and settled down, JD became a professional vagabond... working carnivals, begging on street corners, staying in homeless shelters, and preying on the lonely and downtrodden. Though he and I are no longer in touch, we do have one or two mutual friends who occasionally hear from him, and then feel compelled to fill me in on JD's latest goings-on.

At one point, several years ago, he was either engaged or married, and it looked like he was going to settle down. We shot some pool at one of our hometown bars and caught up. But this was an aberration. Within a few months, he was back on the road.

Every now and then, JD still calls one of our mutual friends. JD is homeless and jobless, but somehow manages to afford a cell phone. In fact, he even has a laptop, which he (apparently) conned some dumb chick into buying for him. But I'm digressing. JD will ask to stay with this friend, who for some reason, still allows JD to crash at his place. And after every visit, the friend invariably discovers that some moderately valuable item has disappeared. JD hasn't figured out that you don't shit in your own nest.

So... what brought today's story about? Well, it goes like this. Several months ago, when JD got his laptop, he got a Facebook account. He sent me a friend request, which I promptly ignored. Two of our mutual friends accepted his friend request.

JD updated his status a short time ago with something like "You can all just fuck off." One of the mutual friends said "Dude, chill out," and JD went off on him... extending the sentiment to me. I guess that JD is finally learning that people don't associate with you when you continually fuck your buddies. As for me, I didn't accept his friend request because he's one of those guys who consistently, consciously and willingly screws his fellow man in order to fulfill his selfish wants and desires. If JD would start contributing to society, instead of continually detracting from it, I would re-evaluate my opinion. But until then, I'm better than this guy.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Twelve Days of (Marine Corps) Boot Camp

With the Christmas season comes the onslaught of Christmas carols. Whenever I hear the Twelve Days of Christmas, I can't help but think of a version I learned while I was in the Marine Corps. I'm going to just write up the list. After all, I know that my readers are all smart enough to apply the list to the song. I know that there will be one or two items that non-Marines may not understand. If you're that curious, you could always enlist :)

Either way, Enjoy.

On the (x) day of Boot Camp, the Marine Corps gave to me...

12 Court Martials
11 Office Hours
10 Page Elevens
9 Tops a' spinnin'
8 Gunnys Jumping
7 Staffs a' Sweatin'
6 Sergeants Bitching
5 F*cking Shots
4 Sets of Cammies
3 Cammy Covers
2 Combat Boots
And a Haircut that wasn't worth a F*ck

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thank you, Adam Carolla

I’ve been thinking about Adam Carolla’s recent rant about OWS. In case you haven’t seen... rather, heard it... (the “view” is merely a still picture of Carolla during his audio rant) here’s a link. But you’ve got to read this BEFORE you listen to his diatribe. This isn't because I want the first shot per se. No, my request is based on a far more practical rationale. Carolla's piece goes on for over nine minutes, and statistically speaking, our collective attention span isn't long enough to read my words AND listen to Carolla's rant in a single sitting. So please, for the love of God, read my stuff first, and then, by all means, go listen to Carolla. (And dammit, I keep wanting to write Corolla... as in the Toyota economy car. Nothing against Adam... that's simply a slip of my fingers.)

Since I've asked you to read my article before listening to Carolla's take on life, I should give you a quick summary, which is my interpretation of what was said. Essentially, he asserts that the Millennials are a bunch of self-entitled whiners who were all brought up to believe that they were unique and wonderful. Now that they're adults, the millennials, who have entered the real world, are crying that life isn't puppies and rainbows, and the OWS movement is a result of this trend.

I'm going to start out by saying that I agree with Carolla -- to a point. When I was a kid, we played dodge ball, red rover, and tackle football. We rode bikes without helmets and rode in cars without seat belts. In school, we were even judged based on (gasp!) our academic achievements. Some kids earned their way into advanced placement classes, and others actually failed. Believe it or not, I know a couple of kids who were held back a year. And, you know what? We turned out okay.

Based on what I've read, Carolla and is only a few years older than me. We're both part of Generation X. We came of age in an era that required a lot of self-reliance, but society made a radical shift in its child-raising technique shortly after we became adults. Somewhere along the line, adults decided that declaring a winner and loser in competitive sports was damaging to the self-esteem of the losing team. They determined that dodge ball was too aggressive. They figured that holding back an illiterate child was counter productive.

Over time, this mentality grew to ludicrous proportions. The fat kid who took 30 minutes to walk 100 yards because he couldn't put down the f*cking twinkie long enough to concentrate on the race was labeled "equal" to the track star. The Mathlete was placed on the same plane as the kid who couldn't correctly answer "2+2." The young Shakespeare was placed in the same class as the kid who struggled to read "See Spot run." Everyone was a unique snowflake in a beautiful, unspoiled winter meadow.

This is an area where I agree with Carolla. The side-effect of this was that mediocrity and failure were celebrated, and excellence was downplayed -- nay, ignored. The best and brightest were stifled, and the slackers were rewarded. Now, in adulthood, they've entered the real world. The laziest of them, thinking that they're wonderful and special, are demanding their due, not realizing that they're actually receiving it... because WE brought them up to think that they're better than they are. The best of them seem to understand this, but have been raised to believe that striving for more yields no rewards.

To use a crappy parallel, this is a microcosm of Communism. Communism, in its theoretical form, is great. "From each according to his ability. To each according to his needs." It's a wonderful idea. In practice though, it sucks. Communism drags everyone down. If we're all treated equally, then nobody excels, because there's no reward for excellence... intrinsically or extrinsically.

But with that said, it's time to diverge from Carolla's point. In order to explain MY position, I'm going to start with a different Carolla piece. Roughly three to six months ago, I heard a different Carolla monologue. I assume that it was a podcast, but I can't find it. In that monologue, he used an analogy that discussed pushing a car. The point was that the top 1% of wage earners paid about 50% of America's taxes. So, picture the economy as a stalled car. In his discussion, the top 1% is already pushing half of the weight of the car, and he cries that it's not fair. And not only is it not fair, but some of the other half -- the ones that aren't carrying their weight, are screaming that they're tired, and that one percent isn't doing enough... that they should push more.

On the surface, Carolla makes a great point. If all things were equal, everyone pushing that car would be putting an equal amount of force into getting that car to move. What Carolla ignores though, is the fact that those pushing this theoretical car don't all have the same amount of strength. Some of the people pushing this car are old women. Some are in wheelchairs. At the opposite end of the spectrum, some of them are bodybuilders. To take this loose analogy a step further, some of the people involved are quadriplegics, and their only place is inside of the car. Let's say that there are 20 people pushing a 2000 pound car. If all things were equal, everyone would push with 100 pounds of force, and the car would move. (Okay, my physics is off, but the analogy remains.) But the fact of the matter is, two or three of the guys are quadriplegic. One guy is an Olympic power lifter who could theoretically push half of the car himself. The remaining seventeen of the people pushing this car are a few fifty-somethings who are past their prime, a couple of kids who haven't reached their potential, a couple of 90-pound weaklings, and a few average Joes. While it's reasonable to expect that everyone do their fair share, it's not reasonable to expect the quadriplegic to push with the same amount of force as the Olympic power lifter.

THAT is the idea behind asking the rich to pay more in taxes than the poor. During Carolla's discussion of the car analogy, he went back to the money issue. He basically said that he makes a lot of money, and he resents that he should be asked to pay for the poor. I'm not disputing what he's saying. In fact, I agree with what he's saying to some extent. But at the same time, he shouldn't expect the quadriplegic guy to push the car beyond his physical ability. That's just not reasonable. In fact, the quadriplegia should be sitting IN the car, and everyone else should push the car with the disabled dude inside of the vehicle. I agree with his assertion that there's a 20-something guy, in his prime, who's giving lip service to moving the car. These people do exist.

But reality is far messier than the analogy. We basically have two choices. We can either acknowledge that we won't tolerate people not carrying their weight, and screw the legitimately disabled in the process, or we can help the legitimately disabled, acknowledging that some people won't carry their weight. That's the reality of the situation. What that means in practice is that we don't assist everyone who genuinely needs it, or we agree to help everyone in need, with the understanding that some people will play the system and receive assistance that a moral person would not accept. In a pure capitalistic society, we are willing to let the least of us fall through the cracks. In a highly socialistic society, we allow the lazy to sponge off of the system. This is the crux of the moral dilemma we're facing right now. Personally, my best hope is for some sort of middle ground. I am willing to accept that some of us will fall through the cracks, while acknowledging that a few undeserving, immoral individuals will receive aid that they don't deserve. Realistically, that's the only answer that I can find. I just hope that whatever we come up with -- something that's open to refinement along the way -- will minimize abuse AND collateral damage.

In the end, it seems that the best answer will come from average, everyday citizens. When I am elected as your President, here's what I'd like to do... assemble a group of 50 to 100 Americans who will be tasked with the goal of implementing a sustainable economic agenda. They will propose an overall policy, in plain language, that will be forwarded to Congress for approval. This will have many ramifications. 1) It will show the public at large that finding a real solution to our current problems isn't as easy as it sounds. 2) It will accurately reflect the will of the people. 3) It will prove that average Americans from disparate walks of life are able to work toward a common goal. 4) It will reflect the will of the people at large. 5) It will expose politicians who are more concerned with their personal quest for power and wealth, those who are focused on the will of lobbyists, and those who genuinely care about the will of the people. 6) It will consider the reality that we need to live within our means... something that our current elected officials are unable or unwilling to understand.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

My Sound Bite for the Day

I don't want socialism, I just want businesses to be more concerned about people than dollars. I don't want anarchy, I just want a government that listens to its constituents instead of lobbyists. I don't want communism, I just want the poorest of the poor to have a fighting chance.

{Remember me on election day}

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Man Can't Keep Good Men Down

My town of Cedar Rapids Iowa has a small but committed Occupy movement. Unlike Oakland and New York, the Cedar Rapids occupiers have kept the area clean, and they have collectively decided on zero tolerance for drugs, alcohol and so forth at the occupy site. Furthermore, the site is in a location that in no way impedes the day-to-day operations of the city or its inhabitants. Yet, for some reason I can't quite figure, the City of Cedar Rapids has decided to evict the Occupiers, who are, in my opinion, exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I have stated previously that I generally support the fundamental ideas of the Occupy movement. Corporate greed and government corruption have undermined our collective ability to improve the average family's quality of life. What I envision is not a welfare state, but a country where industry puts the interest of people before profits, and where politicians listen to their constituents before kowtowing to corporate conglomerates.

I generally disagree with Oakland and New York in their disbanding of the local Occupy movements, but with the reported violence, assault, and other law violations, a small piece of me can understand their decision. However, based on what I have witnessed firsthand at the Occupy Cedar Rapids location, I see nothing other than a blatant power play on the part of local bureaucrats, and I believe that it an absolute infringement on the Constitutional rights of those who choose to Occupy Cedar Rapids. I support the Occupiers, and actively denounce the actions of my elected officials and the employees who carry out the order forcing Occupy Cedar Rapids to leave their site.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

More About Dave

In my last post about my presidential candidacy, I invited people to ask questions, and Sunny seized that opportunity and asked me a couple of questions. Below are her questions, and my responses. Furthermore, her questions brought to mind a few other items that I will address.

Question 1: What is your stand on drug testing for welfare benefits?

I am personally opposed to drug testing for welfare benefits. In fact, I am personally opposed to a lot of our country's drug laws. I believe that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated in a manner similar to alcohol. This would be a major blow to organized crime, would free up our police force and prisons for bigger issues, and would be a financial boon to our economy through reduced law enforcement and increased tax revenue. Furthermore, there is the slippery slope argument. Should we prohibit welfare recipients from purchasing alcohol and tobacco? After all, they are addictive and mind-altering, despite the fact that they're legal. I understand that people don't want their tax dollars being wasted on drugs. Hell, I even AGREE with this prospect. But this is a question of liberty in my mind.

With all of this said though, I wouldn't consider this one of my bedrock issues. What that means, in plain English, is that I am willing to defer to the will of the people in this instance. If a large majority supports drug testing as a condition of receiving welfare, then I am willing to support it. I know that sounds a bit wishy-washy, but I hope this illustrates that I am open to discussion and compromise.

Question 2: What exactly is your tax reform plan? Is it based on a (percent) of income for everyone, or something else?

A percentage tax is also known as a flat tax. In plain terms, workers are taxed a flat percentage on every dollar they earn. In principle this is a great idea. Everyone pays their fair share, and everything is gravy. But in reality, this doesn't work. Let's take a strictly hypothetical 10% tax rate. Tax on $20,000 is $2000. Tax on $2 Million is $200,000. The problem with a flat tax is that the poor guy is going to suffer a lot more over the loss of $2000 than the rich guy will suffer over over the loss of his $200,000. With this illustration as my base point, I support a graduated tax, which is far more stimulative to the economy. After all, the poor guy is going to spend all of his extra money, which circulates through the economy. The rich dude is going to be as likely to save that money, as opposed to spending it, which doesn't circulate through the economy to the same extent.

My big difference is that I want to extend this philosophy to the business world as well. Business should be taxed in the same manner as the family. Close the loopholes and pay your fair share, based on the amount of money that you made. There would be a few benefits from this approach... Businesses would be encouraged to spin off in to smaller (and leaner) entities. This would effectively eliminate the "too big to fail" connundrum we currently experience, and it would make business more nimble. The closing of existing loopholes would also allow a given business, industry or technology the opportunity to succeed or fail in its own right. The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in technology. This would also undermine a lot of the special interest lobbying in Washington.

I do not yet have specific numbers in mind. I DO believe that EVERYONE should pay some sort of tax... even the poorest of the poor. But what are my percentages? I really can't answer that sufficiently because I have not yet done the research (What percentage of Americans and corporations make what amounts of money.) Furthermore, I realize that what I espouse is kind of a pie-in-the sky kind of vision. The fact is, those who have will fight viciously to hold what they have. For this kind of thing to happen, we need to really clean our Congressional house, and get rid of the politicians -- on BOTH sides of the aisle -- who are beholden to special interests.

Okay, I originally planned to write more, but I also expected my answers to be more succinct than they've ended up. With that said, I am going to stop for now.

By the way, this is a Saturday, my day off, so I haven't spent a lot of time proof-reading for grammatical errors. Please forgive me, but my family time is important to me. Besides, I'm more interested in being authentic than being polished.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vote Dave in 2012

Manifesto: : A written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer.

As I’ve mentioned before, I am running for the office of President of the United States of America. I’m a little surprised by the small number of people who have asked me follow-up questions. Perhaps this is because people are afraid to vote for someone who is not a Democrat or Republican, because they don’t want to “waste their vote.” Maybe it’s because people are too jaded to consider an outsider as a real possibility. Maybe it’s because I smoked pot when I was younger. Who knows? What I do know, is that in order to have a real chance at becoming President, I need to keep my name in the press, or my candidacy will disappear. With this in mind, I’d like to rehash some of my policies, and re-invite you to ask questions about my candidacy… and, of course, to ask for your write-in vote come Election Day next November.

First and foremost, I am running on a write-in basis, because I don’t want money to corrupt my vision. This means that you’ll actually need to write my name on the ballot, instead of simply checking a box. I know this is asking a lot, but hey, nobody said that Democracy is simple. And if you believe that voting your conscience is "wasting your vote" when compared to buying in to the false choice of Democrat vs. Republican, then... well, then I guess I don't want your vote.

Though I’m not poor, the Presidential salary is significantly higher than what I currently make. Correct me if I’m wrong, but last I heard it was somewhere in the $300k per year range. In my household, that’s a lot of cash. I’m not doing this for the money. With this in mind, I plan to give somewhere between ½ and 2/3 of my salary away each year. This will be contingent on a few things though. For example, I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy, so if I have to go out and buy a bunch of spiffy suits to impress other heads of state, that will probably come out of my salary. But I won’t need a bunch of new suits every year. I’m perfectly content with my used vehicles, my wife wants to continue working (as opposed to being a full-time First Lady), and I’m happy with the public school my kids attend. In fact, I’d be perfectly content to work from my existing home, only traveling to Washington when it’s specifically required. But if I need --truly need-- this income to be a successful President, then I will reluctantly take it. However, I suspect that my needs will diminish as my Presidency progresses. (Like I said, I won't need new suits every year.)

I want to abolish our existing tax system and go with a simplified, slightly progressive tax rate that will apply to everyone… individuals and businesses alike. This means that the well-to-do will probably pay higher taxes than they do now. In conjunction with this, I plan to slightly reduce government assistance for the poor. Like I said earlier, everyone needs to suck it up in order to get our country back on track.

I do plan to continue saving for retirement. With this in mind, I will hire a money manager to make my retirement decisions. This way there will be no conflict of interest between my retirement and pending legislation.

I am ardently against spending more than we take in. It’s time that the government cut up its proverbial credit card and start working toward financial solvency. This is going to REALLY SUCK!! And for the people that are my age and younger, who have never benefited from the government’s coffers, I’m sorry! With that said though, I oppose a balanced budget amendment. Such an amendment would prevent deficit spending during times of bona fide National emergencies (such as if someone were to declare war on the U.S.).

For those of you who have crushing student debt, and are demanding relief: Sorry, but you’re on your own. I used the GI Bill AND took out Student Loans. I also worked part time. I’ve been paying back my debt for a decade, and will continue to do so for the next decade. Nobody ever promised you a job after college. Furthermore, it’s your responsibility to know what you’re getting yourself into when you apply for these loans. And finally, the government is more than flexible and fair when it comes to paying your debt. You have many repayment options, you can get deferments, and you can get part of your debt forgiven by doing grunt work for little money.

And while we’re talking about college, let’s look at tuition costs. It costs a LOT of money. In fact, it’s cost prohibitive. This is for many reasons… The state governments no longer have the money to subsidize post-secondary education as they once did… Society places an inordinate amount of value on post-secondary education (as opposed to trades like plumbing and so forth), so the demand is higher than it used to be, and professors are (theoretically) the cream of the intellectual crop. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard (or said) that professional athletes, actors and musicians – those who do little to advance our society – shouldn’t be making millions per year when our teachers make peanuts. Well, the fact is, that professors make good money and have killer benefits. But if we’re going to have qualified people teaching our kids, we should expect to pay for it.

I believe that officials in New York and Oakland were looking for an excuse to force the Occupiers out of their parks. Did drug use and violence occur in the parks? Most assuredly. Was there too much trash and uncleanliness in the parks? Absolutely. But I sympathize with the movement. This cracking down is just too close to Totalitarianism for my taste.

I guess that’s all for now. Once again, I invite you to ask questions, and ask that you vote Dave in 2012.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Proving" God's Existence

In addition to my blogging, I am known to occasionally haunt Facebook. Today, while cruising through the Facebook status updates of various friends of mine, I saw that RayRay had written this little gem. The text is unedited other than adding punctuation and spelling corrections...

If anyone can show me one example, in the history of the world, of a single spiritual or religious person who has been able to prove, either logically or empirically, the existence of a higher power that has any consciousness or interest in the human race, or ability to punish/reward humans for their moral choices, or that there is any reason (other than fear) to believe in any version of an afterlife, I will give you one of my legs.

That sounds like a challenge to me... a contest in which I will participate, but I want it to be said up front that if (when) I fulfill RayRay's challenge, I do NOT want his leg... nor any other part of his body. Let the games begin!

Dude... there is a major flaw in your phrasing. According to Wikipedia, empirical research is "a way of gaining knowledge by means of direct and indirect observation or experience." Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed all EXPERIENCED God in a way that lends enough credence (and subsequent documentation) to the existence of a God who is personally involved in, and concerned with, the lives of His children. THAT should be enough for me to be able to lay claim to that leg. But with that said, let me continue...

It seems that the basis of your question revolved around a fundamental belief that life is unfair. Well, let me be the first to acknowledge that life IS unfair. The thing is, God gave us ALL free will at the outset. The consequence of free will is that people can choose to act in a selfish manner, screwing over their fellow man for their own personal gain. This has perpetuated itself -- and even magnified itself -- through the ages. So, the question I believe you're asking is NOT "how can God not care," but rather "how can God let this crappy stuff happen to me?" The answer is free will.

Now, with that said, I would like to submit that you are looking at things from the wrong perspective. Instead of expecting God (the supreme being) to prove himself to you, maybe you should be prepared to do some of the work yourself. After all, how often are you willing to justify your decisions to your kids? Don't you expect them to take your words at face value, at least occasionally?

Still another way to look at things... You are asking for proof. But what kind of "proof" do you expect? And are you willing to look in the right direction? Are you willing to look at all? Let me give you a crappy analogy. For whatever reason, you've spent your entire life underground. You've heard that there's a place called "outside" where there is fresh air, the ceiling is so far away that you can't touch it, that the light is so bright that you need to shield your eyes, and that even the nighttime is never completely quiet. You've never experienced it. But does that mean it doesn't exist? THAT is a crappy analogy of faith. There is no scientific proof for what you seek, based on your hypothetical experience, but that doesn't mean that "outside" doesn't exist. Just because something cannot be scientifically reproduced with our current technology, does not mean that the "something" does not exist.

So, long story short... The Bible IS the empirical proof you have requested. But that's not the answer to your fundamental question. THAT answer can ONLY be provided by YOUR willingness to look beyond your five senses. You have challenged me... now it's my turn to challenge you. Are you up to it??

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running for President

Today I am declaring my candidacy for the Presidency of the United States of America, for the 2012 election cycle.

I am running on a strictly write-in basis, and this is for several reasons. First (in no particular order), I believe that it's foolish to ask supporters to donate money to my cause. We have more than effectively proven that campaign contributions are a corrupting influence in American politics. Second, the system rewards candidates who toe the party line, not people who think individually. Third, my political beliefs do not fall within the purview of a single political party, so I would not be a good fit within any party; therefore, my candidacy would not thrive if I were to affiliate with a single party. Fourth, I do not want to spend a lot of time polishing my image, my appearance, or my message, only to have a complex issue boiled down to a two-second sound bite, and then taken completely out of context. No, I'd rather campaign by my rules, remain true to myself, and risk losing.

Besides, I really don't want the job. The fact of the matter is, anyone who genuinely WANTS to be President (or hold any other elected office for that matter) is just a little off kilter. I am not a person who seeks power, fortune and fame. I am by nature a problem solver. I am willing to compromise. I want to keep my integrity. I am announcing my candidacy because I believe that none of the current candidates possess any of the traits genuinely necessary to get our country out of our current mess.

I understand that every candidate is required to take a stand on the issues of the day, so here are my positions on the various issues. If there's an issue that I've missed, please ask me about it, and I will tell you my position.

-The first thing you need to understand is that I don't plan to make any campaign promises. The word promise means a lot to me; I don't take promises lightly. I will tell you what I'd LIKE to do. I will tell you what NEEDS to be done, but I realize that I cannot make a promise that I cannot keep, so I will keep my promises to a minimum.

-I will likely change my mind on issues from time to time. This is not flip-flopping. This is absorbing new information and re-evaluating a position as I grow and learn. Contrary to what some people think, I believe that it's a good thing to be open to new facts, and to understand the necessity of compromise.

-I will vote with my conscience. Sometimes I will listen to what you have to say, sometimes I will not. This is NOT arrogance on my part. It goes back to previous statements that I try to be a man of integrity. Therefore, I cannot promise to do what's popular if it directly goes against what I believe is right.

-I WILL disagree with each of my constituents on at least one issue. If I agree with everything that every single constituent says, then I am pandering.

-I will try to get compensation reduced for politicians. They have voted raises for themselves for long enough. I also realize that there's a small chance that this will actually happen. After all, many of these politicians have grown accustomed to an elaborate lifestyle, and are unwilling to reduce their own standard of living. I understand that such a cut is overwhelmingly meaningless in the grand scheme of our federal budget, but the symbolism is huge.

-I will try to reduce or eliminate foreign aid to all of our allies. If they're truly our friends, they will understand that we need to take care of our own back yard for a bit. If they're not truly our friends, then they don't deserve our aid in the first place.

-I do not believe in too big to fail. The mere idea flies directly in the face of capitalism.

-Given the reality that Washington DID bail out big banks, and that these banks in turn did not live up to their end of the bargain by helping out Main Street, I believe that a bailout of Main Street is reasonable. However, I am also a firm believer in personal responsibility. So people who over-leveraged themselves in the first place through continually refinancing their homes and spending that money, through liars loans, and so forth, do not deserve a bailout. I think that a bailout should require people to prove that they deserve it.

-I believe in Keynesian Economics. The problem is that government is too quick to say "times are hard, let's borrow," and never get around to saving for that rainy day.

-I believe that EVERYONE needs to share in the pain necessary to get America back to where we should be. This means that benefits will be cut AND that taxes will increase. In conjunction with this, I believe in a progressive tax rate, because we are all Americans, and we should all feel an equal amount of pain in meeting the needs of our country. This is NOT a statement designed to punish the wealthy, it's simply an acknowledgement of the reality that a single dollar means a lot less to people who have many of them.

-In conjunction with a progressive tax system, I believe that every entity in America should pay taxes... no loopholes, no exceptions. It is farcical that people and businesses cry about high taxes on the rich and then exploit loopholes to pay lower taxes than the rest of us. Again, this is not a cry against the rich; it is pointing out flaws in the system. I realize that a simple graduated tax without loopholes would cause many IRS agents and CPAs to lose thier jobs. Unfortunately, I don't have a simple answer to that complex problem.

-I believe that being pro-life, yet supporting the death penalty is an inconsistent moral position. I also realize that neither of these issues will be resolved during my tenure as President.

-I believe that personal liberty has suffered too much, for too long. I believe that individuals should be able to decide whether or not to wear a seat belt or smoke marijuana.

-I believe that we have worried about ourselves long enough, and that it's time to start thinking about our neighbors and our country again.

-You need to understand that, when I'm elected, I will say or do things that anger you. I may drink a beer, smoke a stogie, or drop an F-bomb. Despite what you may think, I am not above reproach, and I am NOT politically correct. On the flip side of the coin, I will remain honest, and I will not cheat on my wife.

-You need to understand that I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy. You will RARELY see me in a suit, even in my State of the Union address.

-You need to understand that I will still carry an expectation of privacy... for me, and for my family.

-I believe that if you have a question regarding my position on any issue, you should leave a comment.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Radical Thought

I read a crazy idea from some nut-job proposing that the US Government give everyone a cool million, instead of doing bailout after bailout. At face value, it seemed absolute, positively ludicrous. Then I did a little number crunching. Based on my cursory research...

-We have a population of roughly 300 million people.
-The 2011 Federal Budget was 3.83 Trillion
-The 2011 Federal Deficit was 1.27 Trillion

This means that giving every man, woman and child in America a million bucks would be...

-Raise the total Federal Budget by about 5%, based on 2011 figures.
-Produce a one-time deficit increase of roughly 20%, based on 2011 figures.

However, the Federal, State and Local government could turn around and tax this money at the standard rate, which would give the Federal, State and Local government a HUGE influx of cash, which could (theoretically) be used for infrastructure and so forth (even though in reality it would probably be spent on $100 hammers for the military).

Even at a 33% tax rate, a family of four would still rake in a cool $2.6 Million (rounded down), affording the average family the opportunity to pay off every single debt, pay for kids' college, sock away enough money for a rainy day, and STILL buy a new car for every person in the house. Crazy? Maybe, but after a bit of reconsideration, it may not be as nutty as it first sounds.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I Believe

I am part of the 99%. I believe that America has fundamentally lost its way. I believe that everyone who reads this will disagree with at least one thing I say today. I believe that our nation, once founded on personal freedom, has become enslaved by economic pursuit of the almighty Dollar. I believe that a select few corporate and political elite are the slave owners. I believe that many of us willingly shackled ourselves by going into debt simply so that we could keep up with the Joneses. I believe that we have forgotten that life’s not about what you have, but who you have. I believe that the only way we can continue to survive as a country is for everyone to sacrifice… rich and poor… individual and corporation. I believe that we need to raise taxes and cut spending. I believe in God. I realize that, as a middle-class American, I may be asked to sacrifice more than the rich or the poor. I believe that the middle class is shrinking. I believe that your chance of being heard in Washington is directly correlated to the amount of money in your bank account. I believe that money has corrupted the premise of one man, one vote. I believe that 99% of us got the shaft in corporate bailouts. I believe I’ll have another beer. I believe that every man can choose to believe (or not believe) in any God he chooses. I believe in God, family, country… in that order. I believe that if we, the 99%, continue to scream loud enough, and for long enough, that the 1% will have no choice but to hear us. I believe that my standard of living will end up lower than that of my parents. I believe that my generation should sacrifice so that my children’s generation will not have a standard of living lower than mine. I believe that I have no right to expect my country to carry me if I’m too lazy to work. I believe that my country has made a social contract, promising to help if, through no fault of my own, I am thrown into hardship. I believe in the short-term hand up. I believe the long-term handout is wrong. I believe that changes in circumstances occasionally require changes in the rules. I believe that the only rules set in stone are the Ten Commandments. I believe in personal freedom. I believe in personal responsibility. I believe that the casual reader may consider some of my belief contradictory. I believe that 99% of you have stopped reading my words. I believe I’ll stop writing now.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Occupying Wall Street

Like a lot of people, I've been paying attention to the whole Occupy Wall Street movement. I've kept my mouth shut until now, because I've been formulating how to respond. That silence ends today.

I suspect that I'll have something to say that'll piss everyone off, but I'm going to start off by irritating the right. There's one of my Facebook friends who has spent a lot of time and energy re-posting right wing propaganda bashing on the Occupy Wall Street people. (By the way, I struck the "and energy" part, because any of the sheeple can re-post shit that others have already said.) My favorite one was that fancy little quip about 700 people getting arrested in one day, but saying that nobody has been arrested at a Tea Party rally. Well, whoop-dee-fucking-doo! I suppose that the civil rights protesters were wrong too. And while we're casting stones, let's DO talk about the Tea Party activists who cheered the idea of letting the uninsured die, or those who booed a gay soldier. It looks like somebody missed the point of this movement.

And let's look at Herman Cain's commentary on Occupy Wall Street. (By the way, I am going to paraphrase. If you want to know exactly what he said, then look it up yourself.) "It's not the fault of the rich that they're rich. But it is the fault of the poor and unemployed that they're unemployed." That statement has a LOT of truth in it. But it's not looking at the whole picture. First, that statement assumes that everyone was born with an equal opportunity of success and failure, and that all of your financial success and failure in life is in your hands. The fact is that those born middle and upper class have a large advantage over those born into poverty. But let's put that aside. Cain's comment absolutely dismisses the widely-accepted conclusion that our current economic circumstances is essentially a result of greed. Yes, the middle class was stupid by leveraging their homes, but it was the greedy bankers and Wall Street advisers that created the opportunity in the first place.

And let's look at the Democrats. These idiots want to "claim" and "take ownership" of the movement... something to offset the Tea Party. You're a bunch of fucking morons. You're just as guilty as the rest. The fat-cat union bosses, collecting their six and seven figure salaries, are jumping on the bandwagon, conveniently forgetting that they refused to negotiate when problems first arose, which contributed our abysmal employment situation. The Democratic politicians seem to ignore their votes that advocated stealing money from the poor and middle class, in order to prevent private businesses from failing, because they were "too big to fail."

What a lot of people are missing is that this isn't just a few lazy welfare cases squawking because the government isn't giving them enough crack money. In fact, there is no real, single issue uniting the Occupy Wall Street movement. This isn't a flash protest to a single hot-button issue. This is the result of a slow realization that a small group of financial and political elite have screwed the population at large. We don't begrudge people their rags-to-riches success. What we DO object to, is the corrupt and privileged few raping and pillaging the masses in order to protect their already-obscene level of wealth and power.

The super-rich (stereotypically) seem to resent paying high taxes to help the 10+% of the unemployed population. But these same individuals had no issue with walking, hat in hand, to our government, asking for a bailout for their pet company, because they were "too big to fail," all the while, ignoring the fact that their short-sightedness created the whole "too big to fail" scenario in the first place.

Many people decry my words as class warfare. Tax the rich. Screw the poor... Yada yada yada. No, the Occupy Wall Street movement is an issue of fairness. The rich are willing to let the poor and middle class twist in the wind, but when it comes to THEM losing THEIR creature comforts, the game suddenly changes. Occupy Wall Street is not about welfare, taxation, or what have you... it's about a perception that there's a fundamental unfairness in society. And yeah, life isn't fair, but the majority of us think that it's getting ridiculous.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Faith VS. Science

One of the most frustrating things I experience as a Christian is seeing the far right Christians completely dismissing science, and the far left wing atheists completely ruling out the possibility of God's existence. What people on both extremes of this alleged debate fail to realize is that they're not even waging the same argument.

The science buffs claim that God doesn't exist because there's no evidence that he does exist. I will concede this position, but only to a point. When an atheist says there's no proof of God's existence, what they are REALLY saying is that as of today, there is not sufficient scientific evidence to convince that atheist that God exists. From there, the atheist essentially claims that since there's no proof that He DOES exist, then he must NOT exist.

Unfortunately, there is a fundamental flaw with that argument. Mankind is constantly making new discoveries, therefore the advancement of our knowledge has not reached a conclusion. Remember... 2000 years ago, mankind believed that it was a man's seed that caused a child, not the sperm plus the egg. Only a few hundred years ago, we had no idea that germs caused illness. In other words, we don't know it all. Just because we can't PROVE the existence of something -- anything -- doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.

On the opposite side of the coin, we have the religious fundamentalists who refuse to acknowledge that the Earth is older than a few thousand years, and absolutely discounts the possibility that we did descend from apes. These individuals suffer from the opposite outcome to a similar blindness. Science has provided ample, reproducible evidence that the world has been around for more than a few thousand years. But because the Bible, which they believe to be the absolute, irrefutable, infallible, literal word of God says that we've been around for less than 10,000 years, it must be so.

What I'd really like to know is why we can't have it both ways. Specifically, I'd like to point out some of the worst-case scenarios if people would open their minds a bit, and allow themselves to explore this possibility that I've put forth....

Atheists: If I'm wrong, and no God exists, then what, exactly, are you out? So you've allowed yourself to hold on to a misconception. Bummer. The only reason that would be a big deal is if allowing yourself to believe in a God who didn't exist was your only mistake. On the other hand, if I'm right then you've earned an eternity with God. And even if there is no God, the general principles of Christianity, IMHO, is a great moral compass, even for non-believers. Furthermore, scientific studies show that people who believe in God are happier, healthier and generally live longer than those without faith.

Religious Fundamentalists: If I'm wrong, and all of our science is hokum, what exactly are you out? So you've allowed yourself to hold on to a misconception. Bummer. The only reason that would be a big deal is if allowing yourself to believe in science exist was your only mistake. On the other hand, if I'm right, then you have opened up an entire world of learning and growing as a person. And God takes delight in His children learning.

At the end of the day, this is my point. Faith is not science. Science is not faith. They are not mutually exclusive.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Love is Work

I read an internet article sometime last week that had a nugget of wisdom that's been rattling around my little brain for over a week. "Love, without rebuke, is not love." That phrase has come to mind many times since I originally read it, and the more I think about it, the more I respect the statement.

Rebuke. Constructive criticism. Reality check. The specific terminology may vary depending on the circumstance, the relationship, and the roles of those involved, but the idea behind the terminology is the same. I disagree with something you do or say, and I express my displeasure. Overall, there are two ways that people tend to react to criticism. Either they learn from the criticism, and grow as a person, or they become defensive and justify their actions, no matter how misguided the defense may be. In an ideal world, the recipient learns and grows from the critique. Unfortunately, the person receiving the reality check tends to justify their position, nothing is learned, and only hard feelings result.

The thing that rebuked people fail to realize is that reality checks are done out of love. I rebuke my children, not out of a need to control, but because I want what's best for them. My wife nagged me about smoking because she doesn't want to see me die a slow, painful death. I talk to my friend about his alcohol consumption because I see how it's undermining his relationship with his wife and kids. I rebuke because I care.

I try to be a good person and love my fellow man, but the fact of the matter is, I reserve my harshest criticism for those closest to me. "We only hurt the ones we love" is one of my most frequently-quoted euphemisms. Generally, I say it to a close friend after a particularly sarcastic comment. I love teasing my friends, and that's kind of my way of letting them know I love them, even if I did hurt their feelings.

That phrase is far more pertinent than most people realize though. When I rebuke a loved one, their feelings may be hurt, but all too often, those on the receiving end of my harsh reality checks fail to understand that I am saying things from a place of love. I chastise my daughter, knowing full well that she may become defensive and, in anger, tell me that she hates me. I counsel my friend, completely cognizant that he may shut me out. I was not always patient when my wife talked about my smoking. But as the title of today's post says, love is work. And love, without rebuke, is not love.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

Today's post is simply a repost of what I wrote on the 5th anniversary of September 11. There is nothing I can say that would better reflect what I'm sure we're collectively feeling.

I’m a little reluctant to write about 9/11, but I’m going to anyway. My reluctance comes from the belief that nothing I write could adequately express the importance of that day or those events, and from the knowledge that everyone else will spend a lot of energy reading and writing about that life-altering day. I’m doing it anyway because I feel that I must honor and observe the significance of that day, inadequate as my attempt may be.

Some of the events are indelibly seared in to my mind; others have undoubtedly faded with time. I remember getting to work and settling in to my chair for the day’s work, when one of my co-workers asked if I had heard the news.

“We’re at war,” he said. “Someone just flew a plane into one of the twin towers.”

“Are you sure it was deliberate? Maybe it was an accident,” I answered hopefully. I somehow knew that he was right, but wasn’t quite ready to accept the fact. We had a TV in the general area and decided to power it on. The reception was poor, but after a few minutes, we got a static-filled reception. The signal cleared up just in time for me to see the second plane hit the other tower. “Oh God,” I said, dumbstruck.

“What?”

“You’re right, we’re at war. Another plane just hit the other tower.” We stared at each other, speechless. It felt like someone had hit me in the stomach, and we both knew that everything had changed. After standing there dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity, we agreed to move the TV so a location where everyone could watch. We knew that no work would be accomplished that day.

From that point on, I don’t recall very many specifics. I remember talking to certain people, and I know the conversation was about the day’s events, but I don’t know what was said. I remember sitting in a restricted-access room in my office building, listening to the radio, watching streaming internet media, and reading articles. I remember being so numb that I had no reaction when I heard about the third plane hitting the Pentagon and the fourth plane crashing in the field. I remember watching the lines form at the gas station across the street, and seeing the prices rise as the lines grew progressively longer. I remember deciding that I’d go ahead and pay the higher prices the next day rather than stay in that line.

I remember the subsequent outrage at the price gouging over gas and other emergency supplies. I remember all planes in the nation being immediately grounded and thinking that was a great idea. I remember finding out that some of my friends were stuck at a conference because of the planes being grounded, but my company got them home by chartering a bus.

I distinctly remember being numb, and noticing that everyone else appeared to feel the same way. I remember the worldwide outpouring of grief and sympathy, exemplified by candlelight vigils. I remember our collective sorrow, and the global outpouring of love.

I remember watching the firefighters raising the American flag above the rubble of the towers, and seeing the irony in the flag being flown upside-down (a sign of distress). I remember how well Giuliani handled the situation, and how united we were behind our Commander in Chief. I vividly remember President Bush’s “sage” advice, telling us to fight terrorism by supporting our economy and rolling my eyes thinking “This is the best he’s got? Fight terrorism by spending money?” For the most part though, I remember instantly knowing that everything had changed. I remember America being united like I have never experienced before and probably will never experience again.

What do you remember?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

I've been hearing a lot of shit about WikiLeaks, and I've got to say that I've carried very mixed feelings about it. Part of me thinks that people who do bad things deserve to be exposed. Another piece of me understands that we are able to maintain our way of life because some of us are willing to do things that others shouldn't (or don't want to) know about. Part of me believes that crooked politicians should be exposed for their corruptness. Another piece understands that our diplomats need to put their best foot forward and express their true feelings about our alleged allies only behind closed doors. It is this ambivalence that has up until now buried my curiosity and kept me away from WikiLeaks. My need to know more finally outweighed my mixed emotions today, and I visited the site. As I cruised the site, I settled on a page entitled "Collateral Murder."

The contents of the site angered me, but not in a way that many of you think. After spending an hour watching the videos, all I could say was "Wrong." That word, in my context for today's post, means all of its socially accepted meanings at various times... incorrect... offensive to the senses... morally reprehensible... absolute bullshit... Please continue reading, as I explain.

The web page contains a written editorial of the videos, written in such a way as to lead a reader to believe that they are going to witness a premeditated, callous war crime. It also contains three video links.. a short version of a battle in the streets of Iraq, a long version, and an eyewitness account. I watched the long version, and the eyewitness account, and have come to a conclusion that's significantly different than the written overview, and from what Julian Assange alleges on the web page. (Based on what I see, the web page is a wholly owned subsidiary of WikiLeaks, but has its own domain name.) The following is my interpretation of what happened...

I started by reading the text of the web site, which talks about the "indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people." I was angered that the US Military could engage in such behavior, and needed to see the war crime with my own eyes. What I saw was reasonable behavior taken by rational military personnel. Basically, there were military aviators flying around in a hot zone, and they identified potentially hostile individuals walking with weapons. Our rules of engagement allow us to destroy armed Iraqis, and they did so.

After the armed personnel were killed, a van came to carry off one of an enemy who was wounded, not killed. The vehicle and its occupants were fired upon as well. The video later shows foot soldiers arriving on the scene, discovering two wounded Iraqi children, and arranging for medical care for the kids. The closest thing to "criminal" activity in the video is what comes out of a soldier's mouth after the discovery that kids were injured... "That's what happens when you bring your kids to war." This is a paraphrase, but the statement is reasonable, when taken in context.

The second video is an eyewitness account, and contains information not covered in the initial video. It turns out that two of the KIA were reporters, and one of the "weapons" was a camera. The kids were in the van that showed up to pick up the wounded guy, who was one of the reporters. The role of the van and the driver were never discussed. The soldier told his story. He was the guy who found the two kids in the van... the one who carried them out of the van, and arranged the medical evacuation of the kids.

-I am going to take the video of the firefight at face value.
-I am going to take the eyewitness account at face value.
-I am going to take the allegation that two of the KIA were reporters at face value.

With the aforementioned assumptions in mind, I am going to give my interpretation of the events of that day...

-The personnel in the Apache, who fired on the armed Iraqis, made a reasonable assumption. The camera was not the only item identified as a weapon, which means that the reporters were walking with armed Iraqis, who intended to fire on American soldiers. It is unfortunate that the reporters were killed, but based on my interpretation of the events, the reporters were not murdered.

-It was reasonable for the soldiers to destroy the van. There was no clear indication that children were in the van until AFTER the events unfolded. Was it unfortunate? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean that the events were criminal.

-The soldier who rescued the children from the van was clearly traumatized by the event. He attempted to get counseling, but his chain of command was unhelpful.

-Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, had a heavy hand in the compilation and dissemination of this information. He claims to be simply putting out information, but that's not true. He did not simply report the events. He blatantly allowed his personal opinion to color the events. If this is the manner in which Assange handles all of WikiLeaks, he is not a reporter. He is a man with a personal agenda, and is simply using information to achieve his ends.

So...

-The reporters who were killed were in the wrong place at the wrong time. But they knew the risks when they chose to go to Iraq.

-The pilots of the Apache helicopter were wrong by incorrectly identifying a camera as a weapon, and they were mistaken in their assumption that the van was another enemy trying to recover his wounded comrade.

-The superiors of the soldier who rescued the children made numerous, grave errors in judgment by blocking the soldier's attempts to get help for his trauma.

-But Assange is the worst of them all. He sensationalized his discovery, and tried to turn tactical errors into war crimes. What happened that day, assuming that I've interpreted things correctly, suck. No doubt about it. Two reporters died. Two children were gravely wounded. A soldier was traumatized by the events. His chain of command let him down and left him to flounder. But there is no war crime here. If this is typical of Assange's mode of operation, then the guy is pond scum and deserves every bad thing that's coming to him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Comedic Genius

Laurel and Hardy died before I was born, but through the magic of film, my father was able to introduce me to their work. To this day, I still love Laurel and Hardy. They are often imitated, but never duplicated. Their films bring back fond memories of hanging out with my dad, and allow me to re-experience the joy and innocence of childhood... partially through their pure, clean comedy, and partially from my own recollections.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Another (Futile) Plea for the Return of Personal Responsibility

I couldn't help but read this article about some dude in Houston who tried to break into some woman's house for the purpose of sucking her blood. Apparently, it "remains to be seen" whether or not "pop culture played a role in the attack," because the psyche eval hasn't yet occurred.

Ummm... GET A GRIP!!! It is not society's fault that this guy broke into this chick's house. Even if it turns out that the guy is a little bonkers (and face it, you've GOT to be a bit off your rocker to do what he did), it's NOT society's fault. The blame cannot be laid on Twilight, True Blood, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, or any of the countless millions of people who love any or all of the things vampire. Going with the odds, I will (for now) assume that he's some sort of homicidal or sociopathic individual, which is not the same as insane. This would make him, and ONLY him, responsible for his actions.

And in the unlikely event that he's schizophrenic or something like that, it's STILL not society's fault. That would just be chalked up to bad things happening in life. I'm really tired of people shifting responsibility away from the individual.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients?

Over the last few days, I’ve seen variations of the following status on Facebook. Such-and-such a state just passed a law requiring drug testing for all welfare recipients. Woohoo!! Make this your status if you agree. Six months ago, when I first started seeing this post, I angrily, vocally dissented, but now I’m ambivalent. I should start off by saying that I’m not on welfare, and I don’t do drugs. Whether or not this law impacts me is not the point. The issue I’m really trying to tackle is whether or not it’s okay to implement this type of law, and as I start this post, I’m really not sure what my answer will be at the end.

As I said a moment ago, I have long been against drug testing, for a couple of reasons. My first issue with drug testing isn’t against the testing per se, it’s a fundamental belief that the government should not be able to tell me what I can or cannot do with my body. If women are allowed to have an abortion, which is GUARANTEED to end a life, then I should be able to smoke a joint. Whether or not I CHOOSE to ingest THC is not the point… I should have the RIGHT. The second reason I have a problem with drug testing is that everyone is presumed to be a drug user, and people are required to submit a sample to PROVE that they do NOT break the law. This flies directly in the face of “innocent until proven guilty.” The fact that my employer could require me to pee in a bottle is a mere technicality, and the fact that we allow a variation of innocent until proven guilty because it’s a civil issue, not a criminal one, is unconscionable.

At the same time though, we as a nation are starting to finally realize that we need to change our government’s spending habits. Requiring people on public assistance to abstain from drug use is a reasonable request at face value. In fact, cutting public assistance to anyone convicted of breaking a law is reasonable at face value. But how far do we carry our reasonable thought process? Do we revoke welfare checks for someone convicted of jaywalking or someone who receives a parking ticket? By the same token, alcohol is legal, but excessive alcohol consumption is correlated with poverty, joblessness and so forth. Should we prohibit welfare recipients from consuming alcohol? How do we handle the medicinal use of cannabis in states such as California, where it’s legal?

If we are going to require drug testing for welfare recipients, then why stop there? Would it not be reasonable to expand this testing to people who receive ANY government benefits? What about the low-income working family who receives food stamps? Yeah, they’re working, but they could theoretically trade their food stamps for drugs. What about Social Security recipients? Yeah, I know they paid in to Social Security, but let’s face it; they’re receiving FAR more than they paid in, so they’re eligible for drug testing too. And what about the disabled war veteran? Yeah, he served his country, but now that he’s getting disability, he should have to pee in a bottle like everyone else.

The fact of the matter is, ALL of these seem like reasonable requirements. After all, my money is more important than your personal liberty. Why should I spend my hard-earned tax dollars to support anyone who does drugs? In fact, why should my tax dollars be spent on alcohol? It seems VERY reasonable to me that anyone on the government dole should be required to stay clean and sober… or lose their benefits. And what the heck… we should extend this to kids as well. Let’s make our kids submit to random drug testing. Because after all, if my kid doesn’t see that food is more important than drugs, then my KID should no longer be eligible for public assistance either!

Ohhhhh… but wait. I like beer! What will happen to ME if this is enacted? Sure, I can have a beer now, but what about if I lose my job? What about when I retire? Oh… then I’ll have to give something up. And let’s face it, my money is more important than you are, but my freedom is important than your money! Oh wait! Now I have a philosophical issue… because if I feel that way, then chances are most everyone else does as well. This means that I have a choice to make… which is more important in general… personal liberty, or money? Cash or freedom? I, for one, am going to choose freedom.

Like I said, I really didn’t know where I would end up as I started this blog post. I guess I know. I would really like to know who agrees with me, and who disagrees. So, let me ask a few questions of you, my readers…

-Should welfare recipients be required to submit to random drug testing?
-Should the dependents of welfare recipients be required to submit to random drug testing?
-Should those on social security be required to submit to random drug testing?
-Should those on disability be required to submit to random drug testing?
-Should any of the above groups be required to abstain from alcohol? Tobacco? If so, which groups?
-Should any of the above groups lose benefits for being convicted of a crime? If so, where do we draw the line?

Friday, August 12, 2011

An Open Apology to God

Dear God,

Hi, it's me [Evan]. I know that when many people experience problems in life, that they tend to doubt Your existence, or grow angry with You for punishing them. I'm not going to do that today. Nor am I going to ask You to reach down and fix my petty issues. No, what I AM going to do is publicly acknowledge that I got a bit preoccupied with the insignificant little details in my day-to-day life, and became complacent... complacent in my relationship with my family, and half-hearted in my relationship with You. Though I cannot promise that I will achieve the relationship that you desire, for I am mortal, I will do my humble best to pay attention.

Your Humble Servant,
[Evan]

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Power Change in Washington? Don't Hold Your Breath.

According to this article, a majority of Americans believe that incumbent politicians don't deserve re-election. Though the article says that "only 24% of all adults surveyed in the USA Today/Gallup poll said most members of Congress deserve re-election," the same article said that "56 percent of adults believe their own representative deserves re-election." What this basically means is that "your politician sucks, but mine is okay."

This mentality seriously undermines the idea of a major change in Washington. After all, I don't vote for your politicians, and you don't vote for mine. The ONLY way we will have any major change in Washington is for all of us to band together and throw out our own bums.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tighten Your Belt Already

I’m really sick of hearing my fellow countrymen bellyaching about money. Everyone’s crying about our country’s financial situation, but when push comes to shove, nobody is willing to make a real sacrifice and actually pay more in taxes, or suffer a reduction in their Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment, or whatever. You know what? It’s time for all of you to just shut the fuck up! I’m going to pick on a few demographics, but as I do so, you need to realize that I’m only singling out these groups to make a larger point.

Let’s start off with Social Security recipients. They’re a large, powerful demographic. When they speak, politicians shudder. As a result, Social Security has remained largely untouched, despite the fact that we’ve known for over two decades that current trends are unsustainable. Their rallying cry is that the government made them a promise. Am I the only one who thinks they have a selective memory? How many other promises has the government broken? What makes this promise so special? Has your age and wisdom taught you nothing? Are you still so immature that you fail to realize that circumstances change, and that not all promises can be kept? I honestly don’t care that you’ve paid into Social Security all of your life, because you are receiving FAR more than you paid in. I’ve paid in all of my life as well, but the sad fact is, there’s a very high likelihood that I will never get anything back. And you know what? I’m ready for that! So quit your bitching and share the pain!

What about the rich? They already pay more in taxes than everyone else. Yeah? So what? You are asked to pay more because you CAN pay more. I hear that high taxation on the wealthy is a disincentive to become wealthy. Sure, there’s a certain amount of reasoning there, but those arguing this position neglect to consider all of the super-rich trust fund babies who have never had to work a day in their lives. People who earn a lot of money deserve to keep it? Okay, but the operative word is “earn.” The wealthy may be asked to carry a heavier burden than the rest of us, but they have been more richly blessed as well.

Now let’s take a look at the opposite end of the spectrum… the super poor. They don’t have anything to begin with, so it’s not fair that they should be asked to sacrifice more. BULLSHIT!!! If you take more from society than you contribute, then you have no right to complain. You are not entitled to suck off of the government teat!

Corporations need to shut the fuck up too! I’m sick of hearing them complain about our high rate of corporate taxation, yet conveniently forget when the loopholes in our tax system allow them to effectively pay zero for the privilege of employing some of the most talented and dedicated employees in the world.

The reality is that our own selfishness got us where we are. The big question is whether or not we are going to man up and do what needs to be done, so that we can get ourselves and our decedents back on the road to fiscal sustainability. WE elected a government so partisan that we lost our top-notch credit rating. WE have allowed our politicians to spend money at an unsustainable rate. WE have come to expect the other guy to suffer so that we may keep our little creature comforts. And if WE don’t collectively tighten our belts – every one of us, then WE will collectively fail – every one of us. It’s time to put up AND shut up!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Evan’s 25th Reunion, Part VII of III (Wrapping it Up)

Over the last several days, I’ve written quite a bit about my 25th high school reunion. Along the way, I kept wondering just how long I should string things out. I wanted to be thorough, I wanted to have fun, and I wanted to keep everyone entertained. Including this post, which is my last on the topic, I will have written seven installments of my Reunion Trilogy… same as the number of Harry Potter novels. Coincidence? I think so.

On this, the last installment of my High School Reunion Trilogy, I am going to make a few random observations, in no particular order…

-When I first saw Trinda and Laurie, I thought they were a couple.

-I was pleasantly surprised and mildly disappointed at the turnout. Fifty-plus is a lot of people, but it’s also less than 20%. Those of us who showed up had a lot of fun. I suspect that many who didn’t, are still hung up about shit that happened in high school. And I AM speaking from experience. That’s why I boycotted the 10th. Having attended the 25th, I am happy that I got over my little high school hang-ups. I also hope that what I’ve written over the last week or so will help others get over their shit and choose to attend the next reunion… the 30th?

-I wish that Greg would have gone. I think that he would have had more fun than he realizes.

-It’s kind of interesting that Jim, a long-time friend of mine, lives 30 minutes away from me, but it requires a reunion for us to actually get together. Heck, our families are even buried next to each other at the local cemetery, and we STILL don’t see each other more than once every few years.

-It was really good to see Joe, and it was funny to discover that we’re both computer geeks.

-I’m glad that I could talk Sonny into going. He expected that nobody would remember him. I think that he was surprised at how many people did… and at how many of them were part of the popular crowd in high school.

-Russ graduated high school a year behind us, and he went on to become the band director at our high school. I’m very proud of him. And I think it was REALLY cool when Linda came up with the idea of all of us leaving him a note on the band director’s podium.

-Steve. I can’t say enough good stuff about him. We were very good friends in high school, and life sent us in different directions. Seeing him was undoubtedly one of THE highlights of my weekend. Keep in touch, maestro.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Evan’s 25th Reunion, Part VI of III (The Pits)

One of our Saturday events was an afternoon at the local swimming hole, affectionately dubbed “The Pits,” because the place started out as a clay pit that had filled up with water. I’m kind of proud of this one, because it was my recommendation to have a get-together there on Saturday, after the originally-planned afternoon at the skating rink fell through.

This was designed as a family-friendly event, so I took my kayaks along, with the idea that my younger daughter and I could spend some quality time together, and so I could help her learn how to roll a kayak. The day was hot and sunny, and the water was clear and cool… a wonderful combination that allowed us to spend a good hour or so puttering around in the boats.

One of the early arrivers was Linda, with her family in tow. When I saw Linda Friday evening, she showed pictures of her family, and I teased her about having a litter, because her family was so large. I really feel bad, because I can’t remember her hubby’s name, and I can’t remember if they had five kids or seven… but I seem to remember seven. And the reason I feel bad is because Linda’s husband seemed like a really cool guy, and awesome father. (You should have seen him playing with the kids at the pits! He was great!!) And the kids were just awesome… cute and polite, yet outgoing and fun. One of her boys was riding a little inflatable shark, and kept “attacking” my daughter and me when we brought our kayaks into range. It was a hoot!

Another fun part was the kayak rolling. There was a group of kids, not with the reunion, hanging out at the pits. As soon as I got my boat in the water, they came up to me and said “Hey, can we tip you over?”

“Sure,” I replied, without telling them that I could roll the boat back up. “Just give me a minute.” After I got myself situated, I told them to go ahead and tip me over. I stayed upside-down for about 15 seconds or so… just long enough to build up a little tension… and then I righted myself. The kids definitely weren’t expecting that. In fact, they were shocked that it could be done.

I should point out that I’m not exactly telling the story in a linear fashion, because THIS is when Linda’s family arrived. Linda asked about my spray skirt (a functional, though unfashionable accessory that’s absolutely necessary for rolling a kayak). When I told her the skirt’s purpose, she gathered her kids around, explained kayak rolling, and then I demonstrated. The kids were appropriately impressed, and I was sufficiently cool.

Shortly after this, others started showing up. My wife hung out with Duane and his wife, I focused on Erin, Linda’s family was a relatively self-contained unit, and the rest of the folks mingled very well. Though I was primarily playing with my kid, I did occasionally interact with my classmates, and I spent a lot of time feeling like I was a kid again, hanging out at the old swimming hole.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Evan’s 25th Reunion, Part V of III (I’ve got Street Cred)

Today's story is one that I can't thoroughly and accurately relay in one simple blog post. But I'm going to, so please forgive me if my words are a bit disjointed...

I know it sounds horribly stereotypical, but I believe that black people are generally better dancers than whites. I KNOW there are exceptions, and this is NOT some sort of value judgment, so just take the statement at face value… I’m going somewhere with this, so work with me.


Towards the end of the first night, a group of us decided it was time to hit a different bar. The building was home to a club we used to frequent when we were younger, but that establishment has long since disappeared. The business that replaced it was phenomenal! When I walked into 11 (I believe that was the name of the place… I was too intoxicated to remember), I felt like I was walking into an actual urban dance club! The music was the perfect volume and tempo for some serious booty-shaking, and the d├ęcor was exceptional. Heck, they even had a dress code (but they made an exception for us, cuz we RULE)!

Despite the atmosphere, the place was relatively empty. The bouncer said that they’d just opened up, which worked well for us… more room to dance. One thing I noticed was rather typical of any dance club. There were several young women dancing together, and invariably some dude tried to get in on the action… with absolutely no success. The women would turn their backs on the “player” and pretend like he didn’t exist until he (they) got the hint and skulked away. That all changed when I hit the scene.

I’m not going to make things sound like I was some sort of playboy myself, because that’s NOT the case. I’m a happily married man. The truth was far simpler… I just wanted to go out and dance. Since the wife was unavailable, I looked around for a classmate (or two) who wanted to hit the floor, and off we went. Ann, Babette (I think Shelly) and I were on the floor for only a couple of minutes, when the sharks started circling. Since we’re all veterans of the nightclub game, we all knew how to react… we didn’t specifically shut them out and we didn’t specifically ask them to join us either. But when they tried to do some not-so-subtle grinding, the girls moved closer to me, and the guys got the hint. Eventually, I was the only guy on the dance floor, and even the aforementioned young women, sensing that it was safe… rather, that I was safe… came back out to shake it. It kind of became an unspoken agreement that when the sharks circled, I was the safety net.

Now, this wasn’t JUST a case of me being a safe guy. In all humility, I’m pretty fly for a white guy. In fact, during this dance-fest, Babette’s boyfriend joined us on the dance floor, and she said something along the lines of “No offense honey, but I’d rather dance with [Evan]. Fortunately, Brian understood that I wasn’t moving in on his woman, and it was all good in the hood.

I must say that it was really FUN to dance like that… I haven’t done so for quite a while. And it was a nice boost to my middle-aged ego to be surrounded by all of those ladies. But what I think was funniest, was that all of the guys were standing at the edge of the dance floor, studying my moves. At one point, I leaned in to Ann and said “You know, every guy in this place will be copying my moves for months.” And, by the way, this is the point where I should mention that most of the guys studying my moves were black dudes, about 20 years younger than me.

And when I eventually did leave the dance floor to grab a beer, every guy in the joint – the ones who didn’t know me, anyway -- showed their respect by giving me a wide area of space. Seriously, these cats walked waaaaay around me. What can I say? I guess I’ve got street cred! Apparently, more than I realize.

By the way... there's a hidden moral to all wannabee playas out there. If you want a chance with the single ladies who are out there in a group with their girlfriends, you will NOT get what you want by imposing yourself and sticking your junk in their faces. What you need to do is get out on the floor, be willing to look like a fool, and just dance with yourself. Hell, you don't even need to have that many moves... just get out there and look confident. The women will come to you!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Evan’s 25th Reunion, Part IV of III (Waxing Philosophical)

Welcome to the fourth installment of my trilogy. I suspect that, unless you’re a regular reader of my blog, you didn’t think I could drag things out this long. The secret is to think like a politician… use a lot of words to say absolutely nothing. But enough of that. Let's talk about the reunion.

Friday night, my classmates and I all met up at a bar we used to frequent in our younger days. Many of us hadn’t seen one another for decades, so we did what comes naturally in this type of situation… we played catch-up. But how do you cram 20+ years of life experience into bite-sized chunks… and do that several times in the same evening? You talk about common stuff... marriage, kids, employment and so forth.

The problem with talking about this kind of stuff is that some people think of it as a competition. “Yeah, we both have jobs, but who makes more money? We’re both married, but who has a trophy wife?” We’ve been taught from a very young age that success has a relatively narrow, quantifiable definition, and too many of us allow ourselves to be defined by others. I’m going to use two examples…

I hadn’t seen Mike C. for a very long time. I know that it had been 15+ years, and am reasonably confident that it had been 20+ years. We used to run around in some of the same circles, so I was genuinely interested in hearing a bit about his life. He looked and sounded a bit embarrassed as he told me that he still lived in town, and was an exterminator. I could sense his self-consciousness, but was unable to put him at ease. The conversation was short, and we both moved on to speak with different people. What he didn’t seem to realize was that I was genuinely interested in hearing a bit about his life. I wasn’t there to compete and brag.

There was another guy there that I didn’t immediately recognize. This wasn’t a deterrent to me. I walked up to MANY people throughout the course of the night and re-introduced myself. Duane, however, beat me to the punch and said hi to me. I would never have recognized him! But what really struck me was how he carried himself. Duane was obviously a man content with his lot in life. There were people there who had “better” jobs, or more children, or whatever, but Duane didn’t seem to care. It appeared Duane was at the reunion because he honestly wanted to catch up with people from his past.

If you ask me, Duane’s approach to is far superior. The idea of competing in life can only lead to stress and despair in the long run. This is because in any given competition, there can only be a single victor. And, taking the occupational competition as an example, not everyone is cut out to be a rocket scientist or professional athlete, and not everyone wants to be a rich banker or brain surgeon. Maybe I misinterpreted Mike’s apparent unease, but from my perspective, if he’s happy with his lot in life when nobody else is around, then he’s a successful man.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Evan’s 25th Reunion – Part III of III (The Accommodations)

This one’s for Lynn, who said “Go for 3 in one day… be crazy!!! Just do it!! Peer pressure!!!!" But let me be clear… I’m done for the day after this post! You will need to wait until tomorrow (at the earliest) for the fourth installment of my trilogy.

This will cover a topic I touched on during my last post, but I need to back up over three decades before truly delving in. When I was twelve years old, my parents decided to move from Kansas back to their hometown of Mason City, IA. During the move, we stayed at the Sleepy Bear motel. I’ve always had fond memories of that place, but I am also a bit more skeptical with age. One thing that’s almost always a red flag when it comes to hotel accommodations is external doors. In my terminology, this is also what separates a motel from a hotel.

So, when I looked for a place to stay in Mason City, I considered a grand total of three places. I ended up selecting the American Best Inn for a combination of reasons… 1) I had fond memories of the place growing up. 2) It was very close to the weekend’s festivities. Close enough that I could walk, and not have to worry about drunk driving. 3) Price. Let’s face it, I’m money-conscious. 4) I asked my parents, who still live in Mason City, and they didn’t have anything negative to say about the place (until the next morning). I was willing to overlook the fact that it had external doors when I booked for the weekend. Big mistake.

When I got there, I saw that the pool was empty and broken. The front desk staff took… well, far too long… to realize that I had shown up. They fucked up my reservations and informed me that I’d need to change rooms the next day. And my motel room smelled like wet dog. With that said though, I planned to do nothing other than sleeping in the room, so I was willing to overlook the… ummm… minor inconveniences… that I had experienced. I went out and partied like it was 1999. My mom stayed in the room with my daughter while I was out living the high life.

When I got back, I was fairly intoxicated… and by “fairly intoxicated,” I mean “very drunk.” My head hit the pillow and I was out in seconds. The next morning is when I started noticing shit. When I woke up, I discovered that the comforters had a LOT of… ummm… feminine stains… on the underside. The bathroom (which I hadn’t visited until the next morning) was small, old and dingy, complete with peeling wallpaper. There was no bathtub, but the shower still contained a sleepy bear tile. I have to admit, a bit of nostalgia kicked in when I saw that.

Despite the fact that my daughter and I went to bed at the same time, I was up before her. So I left the motel and started my day. On my way out, I noticed that not only was the pool empty, it was downright TRASHED. I also saw that two of the prime first-floor rooms had become storage rooms. The curtains were not closed, and the rooms were in a major state of disrepair. But the capstone was probably when I saw too guys rolling “something” in Zig Zag rolling papers, right in the parking lot. Okay, that wasn’t the… ummm… lowlight.

At this point, I will remind you (from my earlier posts) that my wife met me in Mason City on Saturday. When we got back to the hotel, she saw a guy smoking from what she’s sure was a crack pipe, on the second floor balcony of his room.

We immediately cancelled our remaining night at the American Best, and moved to the Quality Inn. It was shortly after this that my dad told me that the American Best had a seedy reputation in town. Umm… thanks, dad, for telling me this when I originally asked!!

So, the moral of this story is that, unless you’re a crack whore, you should avoid the Mason City, Iowa American Best Inn motel at all costs. It really sucked.

Evan’s 25th Reunion, Part II of III (The Arrival)

I’m going to do something I don’t ordinarily do… a second blog post in a single day. I’m doing this ONLY because Gina, one of my classmates, said that she couldn’t stand the suspense. (Okay, that and because I have the day off.)

I have to admit, I was looking forward to my class reunion long before the actual event. In addition to seeing some of my classmates for the first time in a quarter century, I was also giving my life a mash-up… introducing my wife and younger daughter to people from my past. It’s always interesting when my past meets my present. My original plan for Friday was to drive up, register at the motel (which is a story unto itself), eat, and hit the first night of the reunion. The first hiccup of the weekend occurred when my wife called me at about 4:00, saying that she got hit with a last-minute task, and there was no way that we could all leave on time. Being light on my feet, I took it in stride and said that there were three options… we all three leave home a bit later, that she meets us later at the reunion, or that she flakes out altogether. She ended up meeting me the next morning, and I let my younger daughter (who is 14) make the drive up.

Once we got to town, I registered at the motel. The motel was MUCH more run-down than I remember it. But then again, the last time I’d stayed there was 30 years ago. I’ve got to say, my entire graduating class has aged far more gracefully than that motel. The room – nay, the motel in general – sucked so bad that we checked out after one night and moved to a different place. I don’t remember the last time I’ve done that. In fact, I don’t think I’ve EVER done that.

Okay, Gina, I will end your suspense now, and actually say something about the reunion. My overall impression was that we’d aged well, that the stereotypical high school drama was conspicuously absent, and that we all interacted well with one another based on who we are today, not who we were in high school. This exceeded my wildest expectations. More about that in my next installment.

Evan’s 25th Reunion, Part I of III (The Forward)

As the title suggests, I’ve decided to write about my 25th class reunion in a series of posts. Let me say from the outset that I pulled the number three out of thin air. I’m writing this on the fly, so I don’t know exactly how many parts this story will contain in the end. I do, however, suspect that it will be more than three, which means that I could theoretically end up writing “Evan’s 25th Reunion, part X of III.” Hey, it’s my blog, so they’re my rules.

I chose to break my experience into several posts for many reasons. You may have noticed that I don’t do daily posts like I used to, and this is an opportunity for me to get a lot of mileage out of one event… kind of like how the media got weeks’ worth of fodder over the government’s stupid, self-induced budget crisis. Furthermore, real life keeps me busy enough that it’s difficult to sit down and write an entire story in one sitting, even on weekends. And even if I did have enough time, I’d probably be too lazy to do it. Besides, let’s face it… we all live in the internet age, which means that our collective attention span is significantly shorter than it used to be. Therefore, if I had chosen to write a single long post, the chances of anyone reading my words start to finish are virtually zero. So why bother? In fact, I’ve decided that I’m going to end today’s post now. After all, I wouldn’t want to lose anybody. (And I get to draw things out for an entire extra day.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Days Gone By

This weekend I will be returning to my hometown to celebrate the 25th anniversary of my high school graduation. It’s with a nostalgic approach that I tell the following story of days gone by. I’ve written and re-written an introduction to this story numerous times today, but I keep straying too far from the point, so I’m just going to skip the intro and just delve right in.

During the summer between my junior and senior year of high school… wait… I need to back up a little farther…

When I was in high school, I noticed a lot of girls. Yeah, that’s natural, because, after all, I was a teenage boy. So of course I was going to notice a lot of girls. But I’m thinking of one girl in particular here. She was a year older than me... she had wonderful, waist-length, jet-black hair... a wonderful smile, even with braces... In short, she was beautiful. Though she had caught my eye on many occasions, I figured that we were worlds apart, and that I’d never have a chance with her. Somehow though, the planets aligned, and we met. I don’t recall when, where or how, but a cast party keeps coming to mind.

Knowing that was probably my one and only chance, I seized the opportunity and struck up a conversation with her. Again, I can’t remember what we discussed, but things must have gone well, because next thing I knew, we were dating. I was completely smitten with this young woman, and looking back it seems that I spent virtually every waking moment consumed with her. It seems that we were constantly together. When we weren’t together, I was looking forward to our next meeting. I was obsessed with her – in that teenage crush sort of way, not that creepy stalker way.

During the next couple of months, our mutual affection became more physical, though we never “went all the way.” Believe me though, I tried! I remember telling her that I didn’t kiss and tell. That was technically true, because I didn’t tell my friends per se, but I did have two friends in whom I confided enough vague detail that they were able to fill in the blanks.

Late that summer, I went on a family vacation. I didn’t want to go, because I couldn’t bear being away from her. But despite my longing for this girl, I met someone while I was on that vacation. I never got physical with the girl I met on my vacation, but the emotional connection was real enough for me to question the relationship I had with the girl back home. I came to believe that I had a crush on the girl back home, knew that I couldn’t carry it on any longer, and decided to end it after the vacation.

Wanting to say things as eloquently as possible, I wrote her a Dear Jane letter. Looking back, that was a shitty thing to do. But in my own defense, I had planned to at least deliver it in person and stand there while she read it. I stopped by her house many times during that day, but each time I knocked, there was no answer. Eventually, I lost my courage, and just left the note.

I was at a birthday party some time later… maybe later that week… and a couple of guys came up to me. One was one of the two friends I mentioned earlier… the other was a dude I had never met. They asked if they could chat with me in private. They took me aside and they both hit me… one in the jaw, the other in the gut. They said it was a message from the girl I’d left. They also told me that she wanted to talk to me, immediately… and further informed me that if I didn’t leave, right then and there, that they would find me and kick my ass.

I left the party and met with the girl. It was her and me, in public, surrounded by her friends, as she screamed and cried, and called me every name in the book. At the time, part of me felt bad for her. For the most part, I just wanted it to be over.

I don’t remember seeing her after that. In time, it all became a memory… the romance… the break-up… all of it, faded into the hazy, distant past. But every now and then, that summer comes back with a vengeance. And looking through the eyes of one who is much older, and a little bit wiser, the thing that re-surfaces most is a twinge of regret. Not over the relationship… not over having dated her… and not even at the public berating. No, what I regret is that I didn’t have the balls to look her in the eye, and actually say that I was breaking up with her. She was a good person who treated me very well. She deserved at least the courtesy of a face-to-face break-up.