Rants

Top Posts of 2016

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10. Keanu!!!, in which I review the Key and Peele film.

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9. How Should I Spend My Lottery Winnings, in which I make plans for a couple million bucks

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8. The DO’s and DON’T’s of Action Flicks, in which I compare and contrast the original Jack Reacher film with Skyfall

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7. How to Spot a Racist, a post that is even more important today than it was when I wrote it in 2013

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6. The Greatest Depictions of Single-Minded Emotion, a continuously popular blog

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5. VOTER’S GUIDE: California Propositions and Measures, a helpful voting tool

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4. Back Story, the story of my debilitating back injury and the miracle that went with it

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3. Ghostbusters (2016): A Superfan’s Perspective, my thoughts on the reboot

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2. Going Long: Reviews for “Kill Me Now” and “Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie,” reviews of a couple of independent films made by popular Youtube artists

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1. Predator versus “Predator,” my take on female teacher sexual scandals

 

 

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VOTER’S GUIDE – California’s Propositions and Measures

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the third party candidates, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Republican candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about my thoughts on the Democratic nominee, go here.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at Claifornia’s propositions and measures, shall we?  Since I am from San Diego, my ballot may be a little different than yours.

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THE MEASURES

Measure A: The SANDAG Tax

It sucks when you already voted to pay for something and then the project goes over budget, but that’s what happened here. It’s a half a cent tax increase that will fund the Purple Line Trolley and a coaster to Del Mar.

MY VERDICT: I say we do it. SANDAG is already committed to finishing the projects but do not know how they can fund it otherwise. Let’s save them the embarrassment of hosting a bake sale.

Measure B: The Lilac Hills Ranch Development

We have a housing crisis in San Diego, and this measure promises to help fix it.

MY VERDICT: Hell no! The only reason this is on the ballot is because the people behind the measure weren’t able to put it through the traditional way due to the fact that they would directly benefit from the real estate venture. AND they cut all of the regulatory provisions before they put it on the ballot. AND it’s on environmentally protected land. AND the majority of the space will be used for retail. Hell to the no.

Measure C: The Chargers’ Stadium Plan

A convadium!

MY VERDICT: As Tony Hawk said, “There’s no such thing as a convadium.” This is corporate welfare that would in no way benefit the tax payers.

Measure D: The Citizens’ Plan

This would raise the city’s hotel tax rate in an effort to pay for (part of) Measure C. Chargers fans love the idea of charging (pun) fans of rival teams. Mwahahaha! I can hear them twisting their mustaches now!

MY VERDICT: @#$% you.

Measure E: Removing City Officials

This measure would make it easier to remove and replace elected city officials who’ve committed crimes or other wrongdoing.

MY VERDICT: Well, we’ve had a pretty long string of bad mayors in San Diego. The current status quo requires death, resignation, loss of voter eligibility or a recall. This would allow for a special removal election. Seems like a good thing in our corrupt city.

Measure F: Job Security for Deputy City Attorneys

Basically city attorneys can be fired for no reason within the first two years of getting hired. This is much different than any other civil position, and this would require “good cause” for terminations.

MY VERDICT: No one is against this one. It seems like a no-brainer.

Measure G: Changes to the Citizens’ Review Board

There is already a board that review cops, but this changes their name and gives them the authority to review police involved shootings.

MY VERDICT: El Cajon was going to put this into place BEFORE the shooting last month, but they decided to put it on the ballot. This is a good way to give the community a voice and to keep things calm when there is actually no wrong-doing by the police.

Measure H: Changes to the City’s Purchasing and Contracting Process

Right now if there is a project that will require private contractors, the governing body has to publish an ad in the paper 10 days before filtering bids. This would put an end to the ad in the paper and would simplify things back to standard disclosure.

MY VERDICT: No one is opposing this, and newspapers? Seriously?

Measure I: San Diego High’s Balboa Park Location

There’s a charter school in Balboa Park. No, really, there is. They had a 50 year lease, and it’s up. This is to renew that contract.

MY VERDICT: You can’t build a new school by next year, can you?

Measure J: Money for Mission Bay and Other Parks

Right now Mission Bay Parks make a lot of money and other municipal parks don’t. This would allow the city to spread the money around and make repairs where needed in a more timely manner.

MY VERDICT: I LOVE Balboa Park and would like to see more money going there. I mean, they didn’t even have the resources for their centennial last year. Come on!

Measure K: Forcing a November Runoff

Right now if a candidate wins by a margin of more than 50% in the June primaries for city council, they win. This would put the two top competitors on the November ballot instead.

MY VERDICT: This one is split straight down party lines. The Republicans, who tend to win in June, say no. The Democrats, who tend to lose in June, say yes. It seems pretty silly to me, but whatever. Vote yes? Why not give the people more of a voice?

Measure L: Voting on Initiatives and Referendums in November

More people vote in November than in June. If something is going on the ballot, this would put it on the November ballot automatically.

MY VERDICT: This comes from the same place as K. I have to ask, what’s the point of having a June ballot if nothing is on it but primaries that don’t even matter until November? You know what? I change my verdict on K. Just do away with June as a month!

Measure M: Raising the Cap on Affordable Housing Units

Right now if you want to expand low income housing, you have to put it before the voters. This would just allow city planners to make that decision without the need for a vote.

MY VERDICT: Again, we are in a housing crisis. Yes please.

Measure N: Taxing Marijuana Businesses

If (likely when) Prop 64 passes, this would allow the crop to be taxed.

MY VERDICT: Every pothead I know says, “Legalize it. Just think of how much the government would get in taxes!” Don’t make every pothead I know into a liar. Vote yes.

Woooh!!!!

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THE PROPOSITIONS

51 – $9,000,000,000 for schools. That’s a billion with a b. It adds $500M of debt every year to the budget, it seems to bank roll construction companies, and it won’t go to the neediest school districts.

52 – Stipulates that legislators cannot divert funds away from Medi-Cal, thus ensuring that Medi-Cal and hospitals get the money. No one is opposed to this. Vote yes.

53 – Requires state projects over $2B to be approved by voters. This one is complicated as well. Basically a public works project (a bridge or a hospital) is paid for by the government and then paid back by the user (toll or patient). The high speed rail (which may be the target this bill is intended to take down), for example, costs a lot of money and should be paid for by ticket sales, but if it fails, eventually the tax payer is on the hook. So this would be a community accountability provision to theoretically stop government officials from “signing blank checks.” However, there are a couple of problems. 1) Local projects would be on the state’s ballot (ie San Francisco projects voted on by all of California). 2) There are no provisions for emergency spending, so they would also have to go on a ballot before the project could be started.

54 – Requires that bills are posted for three days on the internet before voting. Oh, and print. Yes, and print. Again, newspapers?

55 – There was a provision put in place for “rainy days” that was always meant to be temporary (7 years). It taxes higher income people (over $263K a year) at a marginally higher rate. Opponents of this measure argue that we shouldn’t be using income tax to fix our schools (which apparently need $9 BILLION dollars). As some papers have argued, this tax sucks, but not having the resources we need sucks worse (paraphrased).

56 – Packs of cigarettes will cost $2 more a pack, and e-cigs will have the tax too. The money will go to Medical. Looping in vapes makes sense, but this is a tax on the poor in my mind. Making a pack of cigarettes cost over ten bucks doesn’t stop addicts from reaching out for their addiction. It simply hurts their family’s budget more.

57 – Makes it easier for nonviolent offenders to get parole. But this one is more complicated than that too. 1) Nonviolent criminals can earn credits to shorten their sentence through good behavior and receive incentives such as education. 2) Juveniles won’t be able to be tried as an adult without a judge’s order. Obviously, the second is noble, but here’s the thing about the first. Rape of an unconscious person, taking hostages, and setting off a bomb with intent to injure are not considered violent crimes, according to the Penal Code.

58 – 1 in 5 students in California are not fluent in English. Right now there is a government mandate that dictates that those students are only taught in English-immersion classes so that they don’t languish in bilingual classrooms. This would allow for a variety of teaching methods rather than just one. Studies have shown that language immersion doesn’t work for every student, so this seems like a way to undo a government overreach.

59 – Pass or fail, this does nothing except express your opinion. If you hate the US Supreme Court’s verdict regarding Citizens United, vote yes. If you think political spending is free speech, vote no.

60 – THE MOST IMPORTANT vote in the country. In California, we are being asked to make a decision that will have a HUGE INFLUENCE on the entire world’s culture.   I’m not talking about Prop 64, which would decriminalize recreational marijuana. That would only change California’s culture, and it’s already been done in other states anyway.  Of course I am speaking of Prop 60, which would require all pornographic actors to wear condoms. The man behind this proposal is a gay rights activist with a myopic viewpoint that condoms are the method everyone should use. His reasoning for this new standard is that he doesn’t want young people to think “the only hot sex is without a condom.” He’s drawn criticism not only from the adult film actors but from other gay rights activists for his condoms only stance.  In my mind, this is a definite overreach. How would you enforce this legislation? I mean, if two cops bust in on a porno shoot and announce who they are, the viewers would simply fill their palm with more lubricant and expect that things are going to go in a new, exciting, possibly kinky direction. Besides, there are other ways to fight off AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, mainly a once-a-day pill that is the primary tool for adult actors right now that our advocate thinks is a cop out. The fact that the pornographic industry is as widespread (pun) as it is and there hasn’t been an AIDS epidemic should be illustrative enough to give the industry some trust that they are self-regulating already. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, if young people are watching porn and thinking it’s “the only hot sex,” they’re going to be sorely disappointed by reality.

61 – This prop has the most campaign spending in California history, so yeah!! It’s important to note that the majority of that spending is by the pharmaceutical companies to try to get you to vote no. The intent is for this bill to save Californians money when they buy their medicine, but it’s not exactly clear how it will work. It’s actually a landmark vote, and people like Bernie Sanders are campaigning hard for it to pass. But if it will actually work is up in the air, since a lot of that hinges on how those pharmaceutical companies respond to the state’s “negotiations” for drug prices after it passes.

62 & 66 – 62 repeals the death penalty. 66 speeds it up. The one with the most votes wins. This is a heavy issue. Vote your conscience and godspeed.

63 – Requires a background check to buy ammunition. I think this came from a Chris Rock routine, didn’t it? Obviously, if you’re a 2nd Amendment person, you’ll vote no. If you’re a stereotypical Californian, you’ll vote yes and hope there’s a provision to require a background check for gluten as well. I won’t say much on this, but if you’re a Boy Scout camp and have a rifle range, I hope your kids are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent enough to pass.

64 – Legalize it. Cypress Hill will advertise it.

65 & 67 – Okay. This one is complicated. 67 is a referendum. You see, 67 bans plastic bags, and California already voted to ban them. So 67 is a revote on the issue. However, 67 would take the 10 cent tax from the bag fee and gives it to environmental funds, which currently goes to the grocery store. Here’s what you need to know. Both of these measures are on the docket, because the plastic bag companies put them there. They want you to vote No on 67 and Yes on 65. Here’s where it gets tricky. If 65 passes, it eliminates 67. In other words, if you don’t want plastic bags, you have to vote yes on 67 (to ban plastic bags) and no on 65 (to give the tax to the environment). If you want to keep plastic bags and want the money to go to the environment, vote no on 67 and yes on 65. If both pass, only 65 passes. Does that make sense?


Aw yeah!!!!

 

VOTER’S GUIDE – Hillary Clinton

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the third party candidates, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Republican candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about California’s propositions and measures, go here.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at the Democratic candidate, shall we?

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Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Has there been a more controversial candidate in my lifetime? And why is she so much of a lightning rod? Certainly, there is SOME validity when her supporters say that her critics are acting out of a misogynistic worldview. When her opponent, for example, says she “doesn’t look presidential” or when inarticulate Trump supporters say “there’s just something about her,” they are likely referring to the fact that she’s not like our previous presidents. You know, she’s not a dude. It’s kind of like the lizard brain comments that members of white America have made about our current president. “He’s obviously not American.” Eek!

But there’s got to be more to it than hatred because she’s a female Ghostbuster, right? I mean, look at all of the scandals that she and her husband have been accused of! And that’s kind of the key for me. “She and her husband.” People that say that every witch hunt Hillary has endured is because she’s a woman miss the point. It’s because the Clintons – both Bill and Hill – are deemed untrustworthy by at least a portion of the population.

But here’s the thing, a part of me wants to forget about Bill and rage against the patriarchy, because it DOES exist. And it has been unfair to not only Mrs. Clinton but to a lot of women. I remember when she was first lady and people were complaining that she was too uppity and should know her place, sit down, shut up, and worry about things like the color of the curtains in the first bedroom and flowers on the side of the interstate like our previous first ladies. I remember being young and dumb in the 1990s and making jokes about her appearance and teasing my conservative buddies, suggesting they should ask Chelsea Clinton to the prom. I hear how people talk about Hillary to this day and note that it’s not the same way they talk about men in the same position. Regardless of how much they hate a man’s politics, they don’t say he’s catty or shrill or on his period. Talk about a vote to blow up the system!! Can I vote for an overweight, handicapped, non-English speaking, vegetarian Native American lesbian already?!

If you’ve been paying attention, Hillary is a two-faced career politician that will resort to underhanded tactics to get where she wants. This is true of all two-faced career politicians that will resort to underhanded tactics to get where they want. This leaves us with two questions:

1) Do you want a two-faced career politician that will resort to underhanded tactics to get where they want?

2) Are the rules different for Hillary?

And my answer?

1) As a centrist, I can answer that question for a lot of you. I’ve been paying attention and puking in my mouth every time you say it. Yes, you do. As long as they are on your side of the aisle, and before you get mad at me and say that isn’t true, ask yourself one little question. Have you ever justified the actions of your candidate by shrugging and saying this? “Well, they all lie. That’s why he HAS TO lie.” If you’re a Democrat or a Republican, of course you have. I don’t even know you, and I’ve heard you say it. Stop being disingenuous.

2) Just look at the undercover videos. Despite the fact that Hillary’s “political maneuverings” are essentially the plot line of every election movie in history, she has undergone severe scrutiny that is unprecedented.

Now, I just want to take a moment to clarify my position on this. I think these tactics are absolutely disgusting. They are the bane of our political process, and when you combine it with the entertainment journalism of the mainstream media and our animal instincts to be attracted to violence, you end up with stupid choices based on emotional responses to guys dressed up in Donald Duck costumes and street fights in front of political rallies. If you’re reading my opinions, you’ll probably see that I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican. There is no one that I can feel good voting for; partially because I want something that can’t exist in our money-fueled political system. I puke when you shrug off your candidate’s lies, because I am waiting for the candidate with enough integrity, determination, and grit to tell the truth and stand up for their convictions. And that person’s “truth” sure as hell had better not just be that “Rosie O’Donnell is disgusting.”

Alright, back to Hillary.

Let’s set aside the controversy for a moment and focus on her policies. I know that might be hard for some of you, but I don’t want to talk about Benghazi or e-mails or Chinese businessmen in the Lincoln bedroom. I really don’t want to talk about real estate deals from before I was in middle school. I just included them here for the purposes of search engines, and I’m done now. 🙂

Hillary is a hawk when it will get her your vote. She’ll talk about raising the minimum wage if she thinks it will cure your Bern with an “I’m with her” yard sign. She will remind you over and over again that she was part of the team that took down bin Laden, because you probably voted for Bush hoping that he would, and she’s hoping you will remember that when you’re in the polling station. Of course there are certain issues that she will never bend on, and some of those are serious issues that I know a lot of us disagree with her on. But overall, because she’s a two-faced career politician that will do anything to get what she wants, she actually cares about what the voters want, and as much as I hate to admit it, one of the things I value in a leader is that they listen to what their followers want and/or need.

Hm. Did I just endorse Hillary Clinton for president? I think I might have. At least one of her two-faces.

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VOTER’S GUIDE – Third Party Candidates in the Presidential Election 2016

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the Republican candidate, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Democratic candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about California’s propositions and measures, go here.

 

First of all, I think it’s funny that the California ballot pretends this is more than just a two party run. It barely qualifies, so why not put the two major parties at the top? It isn’t alphabetic. Is it by when they registered? If so, wouldn’t Hillary be on the page before the nominees are listed? She’s been running for president since she was 8.

Ahem.

Let’s not rule out the other three parties. Let’s examine them seriously.

 

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La Riva is very much against war, calling Clinton a war hawk and accusing her husband of being a war criminal as a result of the bombings in Kosovo and Bosnia. She’s the true “blow-up the system” candidate. She wants to change everything and work towards absolute equality. She is on the ballot in only a few states (Vermont, New Mexico, Iowa, Louisiana, Colorado, Washington, New Jersey, and California), and is the founder of her party. She previously had been a member of other parties and had tried to get the nomination through one of them, losing to Ralph Nader. While I admire her advocacy for social justice, I see her overall political views to be too radical for this moment in time. Realistically, a vote here would be valuable only as a protest against the two party system that sends a message that you want a more socialist agenda. If she were to actually become president, I would have serious concerns about how well she could play with others.

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Stein ran against Hillary before. I bet you didn’t know that? She was the Green Party candidate in 2012, but since this election has been such a dreamboat for America, she’s getting a lot more buzz as an alternative this time around. If you were upset that neither of the major candidates seem to be focusing on climate change enough, then this is your platform. They want to declare a state of emergency on the environment and get to work. Stein is the organic, clean fuel, environmental candidate, so much so that she has drawn criticism for her stance on GMOs and vaccines. She’s also a jobs advocate, believes health care and education are rights, wants to try to end poverty, and wants to reform the judicial, veteran, and immigration systems. While the Democratic Party likes to think of themselves as the place for idealists, they tend to attract pragmatic progressives who don’t think the Green Party has a chance at actually winning. Stein’s priorities are very specific to fixing what her party perceives as being broken, and unfortunately that narrow point of view has made her into a sort of pariah. With not much chance of making it to The White House, this is the team you vote for if you want to send a message that you care about the environment more than you do about party politics.

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It’s kind of interesting how much The Libertarian nominees are discredited as totally incompetent when you take into account the fact that both Johnson and Weld have been governors. Their platform is the ultimate hands-off approach to governance. If you want to know their stance on abortion or drugs or even education, it’s basically that people should be able to make their own choices without government interference. They do, however, have some areas that they find important enough to get involved in, such as criminal justice reform, wasteful spending, and term limits. There does seem to be an inherent flaw in the ideology, in my opinion. The official platform for education says, “Governors Gary Johnson and Bill Weld believe nothing is more important to our future as a country than educating our next generations.” However, making education a priority and then saying that you will “end the department of education” seems like a contradiction. Or maybe I just don’t get it. Also, saying that the free market rights itself is a worry. The free market is driven by low costs, which has led to historical slavery and environmental destruction. Whole species of animals have been “righted” by the free market, and despite the fact that conscientious people know that child labor is used in creating their smart phones, they still buy them. The only thing that protects the most vulnerable from being exploited is intervention on behalf of the people (ie government). So I don’t personally favor Libertarian ideology, but then again, I don’t really know exactly what they stand for. Johnson got booed at the Libertarian Convention for suggesting that maybe it’s a good idea to actually test people for competence behind the wheel before letting them drive. In a party so divided that the merits of a driver’s license is a hot topic of debate, it’s hard to say what a Libertarian actually believes, and since Johnson often gives non-committal answers or sounds uninformed on various topics, it is really hard to see what he personally stands for. I guess the point in 2016 isn’t so much to consolidate the party’s platform into one cohesive model so much as to confront what some voters perceive to be a broken system. Again, with little actual chance of moving into the beltway of Washington this election cycle, this is a protest vote. Libertarians tend to either be disenfranchised Republicans or disenfranchised Democrats, proving that the two party system is so poor at representing people that the one thing people running from both parties can agree on is that they hate the two party system.

VOTER’S GUIDE – DONALD J. TRUMP

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NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this are purely my own.  I simply want to expound upon my political thoughts regarding this year’s election, and I hope that there’s someone out there that finds this of interest.

If you’d like to read about the third party candidates, go here.  If you’d like to hear my thoughts on the Democratic candidate, go here.  If you’re interested in knowing more about California’s propositions and measures, go here.

But for now, let’s take a closer look at the Republican candidate, shall we?

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Interestingly enough, Donald J. Trump is also a protest vote. I said earlier this year that Trump voters aren’t that much different than Sanders voters. They are both mainly made up by working class people who think that their jobs are threatened. But whereas Bernie’s people wanted to compete with highly educated immigrants by reforming higher education in this country, Trump supporters are mainly concerned with competing with immigrants for lower paying, more unskilled labor. The biggest difference between them is where they focus their rage.

Bernie Sanders supporters were indignant at a system that they feel has let them down. Education costs being one of the biggest issues, they were also worried about rising health costs, disappearing social security, and social injustices and inequality. They are angry at the government for letting them down, and interestingly enough given the age of their beloved candidate, the older generation’s excess.

Donald Trump supporters are also mad at the government, particularly the current administration, but they are also angry at the people that threaten “the American way of life.” This is where the worry sets in, because a lot of what they say regarding this subject is either racist or sounds an awful like it is. The really worrisome aspect of this is that what they are saying has been empowered by the candidate himself.

Donald Trump’s temperament is a huge problem. He’s obsessed with getting into silly flame wars on Twitter and making cheap jokes about D-list celebrities. Probably because he himself is basically a D-list celebrity. He’s the guy you cast when you want cameo of a rich guy in your movie, but if it’s more than a couple of lines, you better call Christopher McDonald or Craig Kilborn.

It’s important to understand how Donald Trump sees the world. He is a deal maker, a business man. He sees things in a transaction-oriented manner. What can I get from you to make this worth it for me? When we went to war in Iraq, he thought it was a smart investment, because we could take their oil reserves. We don’t need to protect Japan and South Korea, because they should just get their own nuclear weapons and protect themselves. Theoretically, this works in the business realm, although it is often said that Trump doesn’t like to follow through on his arrangements, refusing to pay for services rendered and shortchanging his wives in their prenup agreements. How well would quid pro quo at best or the art of welching on the deal at worst serve the U.S. in foreign relations? It would probably destabilize Asia and gain us the reputation of being colonial war criminals.

As to domestic affairs, Trump is a guy who says he will close the loopholes that he benefited from as a “smart” businessman, but he hasn’t proposed any policy that would do so. Instead, he has promised to eliminate the “death tax,” which would personally benefit his estate. If you aren’t familiar with what the estate tax is, it’s basically when a person with a lot of money dies and their money is given away in the will, the recipient pays a percentage of their inheritance (ie income). He also wants to put a moratorium on financial regulations, cutting corporate taxes, and slashing the top rate on personal income taxes. This is a bill of goods sold to the Republican Party over the years as a way to generate jobs and stimulate the economy, which it would do if the 1% were interested in spreading their wealth. What we’ve seen over the last few decades, however, is that the gap between the wealthy and the working class has only widened, that more money is being horded at the top, and that despite all of the evidence, blue collar workers will vote against their best interests as long as they buy the rhetoric that the sagging economy is actually being caused by “those libtard socialists in Washington.”

Here’s why some people will vote for Trump despite the fact that … well, that’s he’s Donald Trump. Wedge issues. If you believe that abortion is immoral, then you have a stake in who is appointed to The Supreme Court. If you think that there’s a threat to your Second Amendment rights, then you have a stake in who is appointed to The Supreme Court. If you hate Hillary Clinton, think she personally murdered a bunch of people and has a tattoo on the back of her neck that says “666,” then you think that God can’t possibly work miracles as long as a Democrat is in the office, so we have to show the world how much we love Jesus by sucking it up and electing anyone that the holy Republican Party chooses from their pool of saintly, God-fearing vessels of Christ!

Wow. That got pretty twisted. Sorry about that.

1) You don’t have to worry about Roe V. Wade, because you already re-elected Bush to fill those Supreme Court slots with anti-abortion advocates, remember? Problem solved!

2) No one is trying to take your guns, and even if they were, you would shoot those commies long before they could, right? Problem solved!

3) Are you nucking futs?!?

Donald Trump is not the droid you’re looking for.

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Back Story

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Behold, a Christmas miracle!

 

The Accident

In the summer of 2005, I thought my license was suspended.  It wasn’t, and I don’t remember why I thought it was.  Honestly, it’s not all that important.  The essential thing for you to know is I was riding my bike to and from work every day.

I was working at the new, fancy mall, and ten lanes of traffic were between me and the place I wanted to eat lunch.  I enjoyed my meal, spending a little extra for a collectible cup I could use at home, and then I started back to my retail gig.

The light turned green, but there was a long line of cars waiting to make a right-hand turn.  I made the foolish decision of waving them past before I embarked across the ten lanes once again.  Still green, I stood up on the bike, put down my head, and peddled hard.  When I had picked up steam, I looked up in time to watch the light go from yellow to red.  I was flying past the median by then and had no choice but to try and clear the intersection.  I did okay.  Even though I suddenly found myself in an unwanted game of Frogger, I made it across eight and a half lanes before it happened.

The mind is a funny thing.  As the car came toward me, time froze, and my brain said to me, “Well, I guess I’m not immortal after all.”  And then action!  And bang!  I’m off the bike now, flying onto the hood of the car.  I see the look of shock and horror on the driver’s and passenger’s faces through their windshield.  Time freezes again, and I think, “That wasn’t so bad.  Maybe I’ll just be a cripple the rest of my life.”  They slam on the brakes, and I’m flung off the car.  I see the pavement blurry beneath my outstretched hands when time freezes a third and final time.  My mind says, “Now, this is going to hurt.”

I gathered myself off the road and picked up the bicycle I had borrowed from my roommate.  I remember being worried it might be damaged but thinking it was okay even if I couldn’t make it move by pushing it.  The car bumper had hit my hip and bent the bike.

Realizing I had dropped my take-home cup, I turned to fetch it.  Even in my state of shock, I decided better of venturing into traffic when I saw passing cars flattening the cup beneath their speeding wheels.

“Should we call an ambulance?” the driver of the car asked.

“No,” I said.  “You couldn’t have been going that fast.  Like – what?  Five or ten miles per hour.”

“It was fast enough for you to break the windshield.”

“I broke the. . .?”   I search my body for an injury, finding blood streaming down from my elbow.  “Oh.  Huh.  I guess, yeah, probably call the ambulance then.”

I was starting to get dizzy by then.  The world was pulsing in my head, and my vision was getting hazy around the edges.  One of my friends from high school came running up.

“Dave!” Sarah Johnson cried.  “I saw someone had hit a bicyclist.  I can’t believe it was you!  Are you okay?  Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “Could you go to my work and tell them I’m going to be late back from lunch?”

The initial injury was nothing more than a bruise stretching across my entire right side, a pain in my lower back, and a limp that lasted a few days.  I got some X-rays, and they didn’t show any major damage.

I took the only sick day I had from my job for a stretch of five years.  I’m dedicated, a workaholic afraid of being homeless if I don’t sweat my butt off and have near-perfect attendance for my employer.

That bit will be important later.

 

The Army Cot

At the time of the accident, I bounced back fast.  I was young (twenty-four years old), and though I had always had a sore back, the accident only made things marginally worse.  Yeah, I was seeing a chiropractor about lumbar and neck pains, but it was a manageable inconvenience.

Until 2011, which was when I introduced my girlfriend to my family.

Stella and I took a trip to Florida, where she met my father and spent time with my sister and nephew, and then we traveled to Ohio to stay with my mom in Buckeye country.  Stella shared a bed with my mother, and I slept on an old Army cot.  It was awkward, but I was actually excited about the cot.  I’d loved sleeping on one back in my Scouting days, but my eagerness only lasted one night.

I woke up and could barely stand.  I took another look at the cot and saw it was higher in the middle than it was at the head and feet.  Something about sleeping that way made my back go from annoying to a mess.

 

The New Job

Despite more visits to chiropractors, physical therapy, the orthopedic doctor, and even amateur Youtube hypnosis, things just got worse.  They eventually got so bad I had a few scary periods where my back made getting out of bed and walking nearly impossible.  Suddenly, I’m taking all of my sick time for three years in a row.  I even had to be taken out of the store one night in a wheelchair.

I told my orthopedic doctor the pain was reverberating throughout my body, including to my chest.  I have a history of heart palpitations, so I was instructed to follow up on that symptom with my primary care physician.  I ended up in a hospital for a couple of days after my EKG readings made it look like I was having a serious heart attack.

Look, that’s a whole other story.  The take-away was the hospital bed was terrible for my back, and I was off work yet again.

Recently, I was asked to take on a new role at my job.  I would be managing the external warehouse.  It was in my best interest, but I was reluctant.  They asked me about my hesitation, and I told them it was my back.  The job would be physically demanding, and the irony is the day they called to ask me, I had actually called-out because of my back.

A couple of days before, I had attended a beautiful wedding at Disneyland and hurt myself dancing to Sir Mix-A-Lot.  It was a regular “Baby Got Back Pain.”

This time, I was worse than ever and quickly declining from there.  I couldn’t bend down without holding myself up.  My right leg was twisted to the side.  My right hip was jutting upward.  My right shoulder was slumping a full two inches lower than my left.  My left thigh was numb.  I would have sharp pains in my right buttocks and down the leg.

I didn’t see a way to change any of this.  When people would ask me how my back was doing, which they were doing with a greater frequency than ever, I’d shrug and say, “It’s just my back.  It’s screwed up.”

I was scared.  I figured this was how it would be for me from then on.  I’d already sought help, and nothing worked.  I was just going to get worse and worse until I eventually die.

While everyone I talked to, including my new boss, had showed concern, none of them were deterred by my back issues.  The head of logistics, however, was deeply disturbed.  He began to question my abilities, referring to the physical aspects of the job I had brought up as my own concerns on multiple occasions.  He was right, but it didn’t make my situation any less precarious.  He told me to go and observe the business needs and then make the decision whether I thought I could live up to his expectations.

At this point, the machine was already in motion.  I would be taking over the warehouse in a matter of days.  Someone else would be doing the job I was vacating.  I didn’t see any good options.  This was a no-win for me.  It meant I’d either be agreeing to perform tasks I had already said I couldn’t do, absolving everyone else of guilt when I inevitably got hurt even worse, or I’d be demonstrating the fact I was becoming physically incapable of doing even the job I was leaving.

 

Broken

Stella had to help me get dressed.  Doing my job was becoming more and more difficult.  Even getting to work was hard.  Not one for saying things of a religious nature, Stella said to me, “Maybe this is God’s way of telling you something.”

I thought I knew what He’d be telling me.

The day before I was to take on my new role, I couldn’t get out of bed.  I called out and texted my new boss, letting her know I would be at the warehouse on Wednesday, “even if I have to crawl.”

Tuesday was my appointment to see my orthopedic.  It was my third or fourth visit with them, and I expected to simply get another prescription for physical therapy.  When they saw me come in this time, their shock was evident.  They gave me an X-ray, and the results were the same as always.  The bones are fine.  But this time, the doctor decided I needed an MRI.  He gave me a note for work, saying I would need to take three weeks off.

I went to work on Wednesday.  I did my best.  It was fifty degrees, and during that first hour, as I limped like a zombie behind my boss, I sweat through my hair.  And then I had a total emotional breakdown.  My worst fear: I would become so physically disabled by my back I could no longer earn a living, was coming true.

Of course, a lot of my worry was totally in my mind.  Despite the terrible timing, I could take a medical leave.  I didn’t want to let anyone down.  I wanted to do what was best for the company.  My back was forcing me to change.  I had to realize my health was supposed to come first.

I filed the paperwork and followed my doctor’s orders.  Things were bad.  I was in excruciating pain.  I’d lie in bed, getting up three times a day to use the bathroom.  My sciatic nerve would cause me more pain than I’ve ever felt each time I got up.  I’d shake, sob, and just want to return to bed, where I was trapped like a turtle on my back.

I sent Stella a few dark texts, informing her I couldn’t live like this anymore.  I’d never contemplated suicide before, but this was pain I could no longer endure.

 

The Turning Point

The day I had my MRI was a turning point.  I decided that morning my bed was a death sentence.  I would do whatever I could to remain sitting as much as possible, and I would not lay flat if I could help it.  Stella made me a make-shift Posturepedic bed on the couch, and we found the one chair in the house I could somewhat comfortably sit in.

We’d gone through so many chairs over the years, trying to make me comfortable.  We’d even replaced the mattress.  This had been a battle.

Getting to the appointment proved to be difficult, I ended up in a wheelchair after struggling in agony through the parking garage, across the street, through the lobby, up the elevator, and down most of the long corridor.  The things I had taken for granted as a young man were now impossible.  Not one to give up, it was becoming a growing habit nonetheless.

I was told my results wouldn’t be ready until Monday since it was a Friday, but not long after I got home, my orthopedic doctor called.  It was his day off, and he was out of town.  He had seen the MRI and wanted to know if I was okay.  He told me to go to the emergency room if I couldn’t make it to my appointment on Tuesday.  He told me he could see me on Sunday night, even with his office closed, because he would be back in town then.

I’d had a lot of people tell me to get a second opinion, to do anything I could to avoid surgery.  I have heard the horror stories about people who had worse problems after their surgery.

The orthopedic surgeon who had always prescribed me physical therapy and suggested I see a chiropractor, told me there was only one option: surgery

I had a severe hemorrhaged disk, seventy-five percent of which was pinching the nerve in my spine solidly against the bone.  He said it was fortuitous the nerve had found a way around the obstruction, because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to walk at all.  I would have just fallen down like a rag doll.  He’d need to remove the obstruction surgically, but afterwards, my back would be as good as new.

The advice for a second opinion – the terrible stories – everything crossed my mind, but they couldn’t dismiss the relief I felt.  I saw an end to my suffering.

You see, this issue with my back had grown steadily worse.  It made me feel old and weak.  It made me wonder if that thought which popped into my head as the car was hitting me – I would “be a cripple the rest of my life” – was true.  It made me seriously consider whether my life was worth living if it was going to continue down this road.  How could I ever act again?  How could I tell my stories?  How could I make a living?  How could I do anything if I couldn’t even get off my back?

Dr. Finkenberg’s prognosis brought me back to life.

 

Surgery

I was thinking about how I could best describe the sensation in each leg in writing, when I awoke in a total state of disorientation.  It gradually came back to me.  The last thing I could remember, I was on a gurney in the operating room, staring up at the faces of the people who were going to work on me.  I had been wondering how I was going to get on the operating table, and now here I was, in the recovery room.  I’d already had my surgery.

I’ll never know how they got me on that table.  I am not a small man.

The sciatic pain in my right leg was totally gone.  My foot no longer bent to an angle, and my knee could lay straight without an electric twang bending it back.  I was already walking more upright, even if the wound from my incision was going to take time to heal.  My body, which had contorted to accommodate my sore back, had to readapt, and my left thigh still buzzed with numb tension.  The nurses suggest that last one could be permanent nerve damage, but it wasn’t.

It’s amazing a procedure as savage as carving into my spinal column could be an outpatient visit, but I got to go home that evening, only about eight hours after I arrived.

I left with some nausea, a bottle of Percocet, and – thanks to my ready susceptibility to the Florence Nightingale Effect – a crush on about a half dozen nurses.  I also left with new hope, long term goals, and a short-term mission.

 

Unbroken

I think of one of my favorite authors, Laura Hillenbrand.  I adore everything she’s written, and my absolute favorite – even more than Unbroken and Seabiscuit – is the story she wrote about her own struggle.

Laura suffers from a very rare form of vertigo which can make her bedridden for months at a time, and she has overcome a lot to get where she has.

In Unbroken, Louis Zamperini is shot down over the ocean and spends 47 days adrift on a life raft.  In Hillenbrand’s book, the struggle of being stranded at sea is riveting and is given an extended, thorough retelling in a way no other author could have written it.  She absolutely brought it to life, and you can almost smell the salt air and feel the sharks bumping against the bottom of the raft.  Her strength lies in being able to describe a moment in minutia, bringing us with her into the events of history with unflinching, visceral observation, and I truly believe the long periods of sensory deprivation she faces due to her illness is some of what informs her incredible writing.

Laura Hillenbrand inspires me, and I was determined to take a page from her book during the time I would spend recovering.

My back stole my thirties, but I also feel like it has given me a future.  The experiences I have gotten from this will help me write my stories with more depth, and the eight-week medical leave I had to close out 2016 literally gave me the time I needed to finally finish Home Street.  It’s time to start the next chapter of my life.

All of this. . .

This was just my backstory.

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Light in a Dark Universe: A Spiritual Question

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Look up into the night’s sky, and you might see one of the other planets in our solar system blinking back at you.  But what you are actually seeing is the sun’s light reflecting off the surface of a heavenly body, much like how the moon’s light is merely a reflection and how the shadow of the earth cuts into that brightness.

Without a sun, planets live in darkness, with one exception.  Earth is the only planet (that we know of) that generates its own light.

Think about that for a minute and ask yourself a couple of questions.

Do I do a good job of reflecting God’s light or do I let the world darken it out in shadow?  And do I generate my own light?