Buying Democracy

It’s the simplest aspect to the American political process. Every American gets a vote (well kind of, but my concerns there are a matter for another day) and the person for whom the majority votes represents the people’s interest. That’s what I learned in the Boy Scouts. It’s what I learned again in Civics class. It’s what every ‘political expert’ on TV will tell you. From Washington to Obama it’s always been the same. The people choose.

The trouble is, you don’t choose your representatives anymore. The rich do. You have the illusion of a choice, of course. But what is really there for you is an option between corporate stooge number one and corporate stooge number two. When these stooges take office, they don’t represent your interests as they’re supposed to, they represent the interests of their financial backers. This is what our political climate has devolved to in the wake of Citizen’s United and other follow up cases.

This is the most flagrant evidence of corruption in American history and they don’t even bother to hide it. People are actually proud of how much their favored candidate received in campaign contributions (read bribes). In 2014 alone, a midterm election, 1.6 billion dollars was raised by candidates for the US House and Senate. That’s a million dollars per candidate. Two thirds of that money came from 0.22% of the American population. You don’t spend that kind of money without getting something out of it, and that’s a very small percentage of the population spending the money to get something. The rest of us are left hoping we don’t get abused too badly in the process.

Many naively assume that this doesn’t translate into politicians doing favors for those donors, but the first priority of the current congressmen now that they’re in office appears to be deregulating Wall Street, even repealing the ban of making risky investments with federally insured bank deposits (the activity that was largely at fault for the recent recession) and making it far more difficult to pass any new regulations against any industry. They’re also trying to slow the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and they’ve even cut funding to the IRS within the budget, thereby helping the wealthy elite avoid audits, which is expected to cost the federal government an estimated 2 billion dollars in revenue. I wouldn’t call that a useful addition to the budget.

There are group’s trying to fix this. Two I’m aware of are Larry Lessig’s Mayday PAC, which is trying to force candidates for national office to correct the situation (though I don’t see that happening since those are the people receiving all those high dollar campaign contributions), and Cenk Uygur’s Wolf PAC, which is trying to get state legislatures to call for a Constitutional Convention to propose an amendment prohibiting the current funding (this is my preference, and a group I strongly support, though not through my time or money as I have neither to spare). I’m sure there are more people pursuing this goal as well. After all, the majority of this country agrees with those of us who want to eliminate the problems of campaign finance. It seems to only be politicians and Supreme Court Justices who feel that anything less than a quid pro quo arrangement is not corruption.

I urge anyone reading this who has the time or money to contribute to look into Wolf PAC or a similar group and do what you can for what may be the single most important political issue of our generation. Make your voices heard to your state legislators. Demand a resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to eliminate the legalized bribery that the Supreme Court is allowing more and more. If, like me, you can’t contribute directly, at least do what I do. Tell your friends, family, coworkers, and anyone else who will bother listening to you to fight against this assault on the democratic process. Until the fight is won, we won’t have true representation.

In the meantime, just don’t let them buy your votes. Read up on the politicians, see what they’re really about. The fact that you’re a Republican and they’re a Republican, or you’re a Democrat and they’re a Democrat isn’t good enough. In reality, the people at the top of the political game are neither conservative nor liberal. They’re corporatist. If their ability to legally receive bribes goes any further, I’ll just have to be a seditionist.

I am not Charlie.

The staff of Charlie Hebdo were kind of asking for it. Not that they should have been killed, but they were killed due to their repeated instigation against the Islamic fundamentalist community. While I will support free speech to my last breath, I have no desire to lump myself in with people who make a living deliberately insulting other people’s religious views. I choose to identify with a group that’s fighting for a greater purpose.

Like two thousand people just trying to put food on their tables. That’s how many were killed in the Baga area in Nigeria during the same week as what is, comparatively, a child’s temper tantrum in Paris. Haven’t heard of Baga or the terrifying number of people who were killed there? You should have. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn just how broken our world is. The sheer scale of this crime sickens me to my core.

I’m not even talking about the crime committed by the terrorist group Boko Haram. I’m talking about the crime in progress by our news media. Two thousand dead and these bastards sweep it under the rug because apparently a handful of assholes, with enough going for them that they decided that the best use of their time was to insult people professionally, being killed by three terrorists was a more compelling story than what is likely the biggest attack since we kicked off this whole ‘War on Terror’ thing (I may be wrong and simply missed some other story in the last 14 years) perpetrated by what may be the largest and most dangerous terrorist organization in the world.

Why isn’t anyone talking about Nigeria? Is it the fact that the children lying dead in the street are black? The fact that none of the buildings burned to the ground were owned by white people? Why do we not care when these things happen to those people.

It’s not just that they’re black. We care when black Americans are killed. At least sometimes. If they’re unarmed. And really young. But when it comes to Africa, we pay no attention. I was pissed when I saw the story. It raised my blood pressure enough that I had to immediately start writing this post just to keep from exploding in a ball of rage. I assume many other people, the audience of our mainstream news, will also be pissed to learn about it. That’ll get you some views. So why doesn’t the media run this story?

That question is what really pisses me off. Not the answer to it, because I don’t know the answer, but simply the fact that the question can be asked. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and all the others. You people have one job. Report the news. Sure, a big part of your job is to editorialize based on what you think your viewers want to hear, but reporting comes first. I understand that a lot of stories will fall through the cracks. A pretty high school valedictorian gets killed by a drunk driver in Duluth? I don’t need to hear about that story. But two thousand dead in a massive terrorist operation. How do you not think that’s cause for a headline?

If I were a big enough asshole to demand someone’s job because their performance offended me, I’d be calling for the jobs of every single person in the media who decided not to run this story. None of you bastards are worthy of the first amendment that you claim to be supporting with your ‘je suis Charlie’ twitter campaign. You people sicken me. And you should sicken yourselves.

I’m writing this on January 13, which is a Tuesday (the day I finally saw a story about what happened), and I’ve set a rule for myself that these blog posts go out on Monday morning. This means it’ll be another six days before anyone reads this. I considered breaking that rule at this point just so I could share the outrage of these two thousand deaths, but fuck ‘em.

That’s Africa.

Those people can wait.

And to everyone in the news media with daily broadcasts and millions of viewers who are making the same decision?

Fuck you, too.

What’s Wrong with Porn?

There’s no problem with watching porn when the mood strikes. Everybody watches it, and it’s not like anybody’s getting hurt. It’s really no different than having a fantasy.

Except that it is different. For starters, you should have the mental capacity to generate your own fantasies. You had that as a child, why do you need an aid now? I’ll argue that it has something to do with the fact that you’ve been watching porn.

More importantly, I believe that watching pornography is deeply harmful. Mentally, emotional, physically, and (if you believe there’s an argument for such things) spiritually.

The more porn you watch, it seems to me, the more you need to satisfy the desire. This is similar to the cycle of drug use that takes a person from being a little adventurous at parties to being willing to do anything to get their next hit. The more deeply a drug addict pursues the artificial highs provided by their drug of choice, the lower their capacity to experience real, simple happiness. Similarly, as the ‘porn addict’ experiences more on the screen, he reaches the point where a flesh and blood woman, naked in his bed, does nothing to entice him. Thankfully, I’ve never reached this level myself, but I’ve heard stories of men, and even boys, who had. Imagine a teenager, who’s got a flood of hormones so intense that he’s likely to get an erection while thinking about bagels, being so sexually damaged from his porn viewing habits that he can’t achieve an erection when there’s an attractive girl there, willing to provide him with the real thing.

The way this differs from the drug analogy is that more of the same thing never seems to be sufficient. After watching the same video a couple times, you need to move on to something different. Maybe a new position, or a new girl, or a new guy, hell maybe two new guys. If you allow this cycle to continue, you will likely end up in a place where you’re watching, and getting pleasure from, things that you honestly consider to be repulsive.

I even have a theory that most men who watch child pornography start out with no tendency toward pedophilia. Rather, it’s simply the ultimate conclusion of chasing taboo. Part of the draw of pornography is that you’re not supposed to watch it. Once all the things I’m too timid to publicly admit having watched become mundane, you have to find another thing you’re not supposed to watch. If you follow this all the way through, you’ll find yourself watching something that every measure of decency, and even the law, forbids.

My own decision to swear off pornography came at a time when a man I knew, and generally thought of as a good guy, was arrested on child pornography charges. He said at the time, according to a news article about his arrest, that it was just something he started doing in the last couple years. Assuming he was being honest in this, I can’t imagine he simply had a switch flipped in his head, during his late thirties, which suddenly turned him into a pedophile. More likely, it was this cycle of escalation, which led to him enjoying something others (and I imagine even he) would view as horrifying.

I would say that the best solution is to forgo watching pornography all together, but I doubt most men would go for that. I’ve personally found myself drawn back to it in the years since I first came to the conclusion that watching it was harmful.

Instead, perhaps those reading this should simply resolve to limit their exposure. Swearing off internet porn may be a good first step. If you only have access to pornography that you have to buy in a store, there is a natural limit to the previously mentioned escalation.

After all, the problems people complain about concerning their excessive porn habits seem to be unique to the information age. Despite the religious fervor that stood in opposition to pornography in decades past, assuming it would turn every man who dared view it into a sexual deviant and moral degenerate, I’ve never read any account predating my adulthood that listed impotence as a potential side effect, yet a quick perusal of forums on the topic today will show just this.

So for the sake of your mental, emotional, spiritual, and notably sexual well-being, consider limiting or, preferably, eliminating your exposure to pornography. If nothing else, it may keep you from becoming an impotent pedophile.

Just Do Something

As I sit at my computer in the early days of a new year, I think back on the past fourteen of my adult life and the eighteen that came before that and wonder why I haven’t done any of the things I had planned back then. As a teenager, I had a buffet of options before me and wanted to pursue them all. Sailor, police officer, lawyer, writer, engineer, and even accountant (boring as it seems, I like dealing with numbers).

Endless possibilities, with endless potential. After all, I’m intelligent and motivated. Why shouldn’t I be the master of my own destiny? The fates would bow before me knowing that I was in full control and they had no say in the matter. The only trouble is that my control was not coupled with the focus required to take my place as a man of absolute authority over my realm.

Now, at thirty-two, I deliver pizza for a living. A mild physical disability held me back from the first two careers and prioritizing work over school has led to me only completing one semester of college in all this time which holds me back from three of the others.

There’s one of those old goals, however, that I can pursue despite my minor physical and educational impairments, and that’s writing. The only thing that has held me back from writing is my inability to finish ‘the great American novel’. Today I’ve considered a solution to that. I just need to do something. Rather than trying to write an opus and losing my patience for it a few chapters in, I’ll write this blog; just a little bit of writing to do here and there. As I do so, I’ll theoretically become a better writer and as I become a better writer I may find the ability to write something worthy of publishing, and then I can consider myself to have become a writer.

It seems to me that I, and many of my generation, have never learned how to turn goals into plans, or how to commence with putting those plans into action. We simply drift along from one dead-end job to another waiting for the perfect circumstances to come along before we seize the opportunity to pursue our passion. Some of us don’t even know what our passion is. We simply have a number of things we’d really like to try, but never even do that because the circumstances aren’t right. They never will be. You’ve got to make your circumstances rather than waiting for them to happen to you. That’s what I’m doing here.

I don’t know that anyone will ever read this. It’s not even really intended for public consumption. It’s more of a method to practice, and become proficient at, my chosen profession so that I may one day actually make it my profession, rather than simply being a lofty goal I’ve held for years without ever acting upon it. The value of posting it online comes from the fact that someone might read it. If anyone does, I’ve got to be sure it’s good. This is what makes it practice at professional writing, rather than simply keeping a journal, which is a worthy pursuit, but not something in which I can maintain an interest.

For anyone out there who decides to follow me on this journey, I’ll warn you that the subject matter is likely to vary drastically from one entry to the next. I’ll likely be writing about my efforts to become a better man, my political views, my thoughts on religion, and sometimes it may just be a random rant on how much of a dick my boss is. I plan to keep doing it, though, and if you plan to keep reading it, I’ll be happy for your feedback.

So this is my project for 2015. I’ll write a little bit every week and see where it takes me. Just to do something. With any luck, my project for 2016 will be to write that book. For my potential readers, who may be stuck in dead-end jobs looking for a way out, I urge you to do the same. I’m not necessarily suggesting you start a blog as I’m doing. After all, writing isn’t for everyone, and for all I know it may not even be for me. But any little thing to move beyond your current situation

Just do something.