Fixing America

The political ugliness that plagues this country every four years has already begun. I don’t follow politicians, they all lie. I do, however, have a few ideas that I would like to see as part of a presidential candidate’s platform. These are ideas for which I would happily cast my vote.

Problem: America’s infrastructure is collapsing. We have millions of miles of roadways, highways, bridges and railways (not to mention schools and universities) that are literally crumbling around our heads.

Problem: According to statistics, we currently have about 14 million people out of work in this country. Allowing for the fact that some may be unable to work for various reasons, that still leaves more than 12 million employable but unemployed.

Problem: We have spent, to date, about 1 trillion dollars on the Iraq war. This is what that number looks like: $1,000,000,000,ooo (one MILLION suitcases, each containing one MILLION dollars). Final outcome, not much different than when we started, unless you count all of the troops who needlessly lost their lives. Gas is almost $4 a gallon.

So, what does all this mean? Let’s just say that on third the cost of rebuilding our country is labor. 1 trillion dollars divided by 3 is $333 billion dollars. Divide that by say twelve million unemployed workers and you get $27,777.  That would be a decent year’s income for a lot of people. Granted, it is under the average income, but it’s a pretty good start. The rest of the money is for equipment and materials. By the way, for this to work, we need to bring our troops home and STOP SENDING MONEY TO IRAQ! Sorry for the yelling, but some of you are dozing off and this is important.

Yes, I know the money has already been spent, but it continues to be spent as long as we have troops over there fighting. Bring them home, spend the money here. Build and improve roads and bridges. Build schools, parks, playgrounds and homeless shelters. Clean up our cities and neighborhoods. You want money from the government? Work for it. Ok, so you aren’t a construction worker, all you know how to do is take care of children. You can help watch the kids of the people who are doing the construction work. It’s a job, you will get paid and since your kids are there too, you don’t have to pay for child care. I’m sure there will be enough money to pay for some college tuition for our graduating seniors, to insure that we have an educated work force in the future. Let’s pay them to get an education, not to have babies. Unless you are completely disabled, you can probably work a broom or a paint brush. There is something somewhere for you to do.

The government is notoriously BAD at managing money (note the billions of dollars that have been lost in Iraq… not spent, lost) so there is no way in Hell we can let them manage this project. Private industry, here is your chance to give back to the country that has given you such and awesome chance. No, we are not going to pay $1000 for a hammer; we are NOT going to pay “prevailing wages”… Sorry Unions, get over it, you’re part of the problem. I’m not smart enough to figure out the details, but let’s get people managing this thing that know what the fuck they are doing; and none of them were elected. They earned their positions. Bonuses, good ones, paid to those who can bring projects in on time and under budget. More bonuses paid to the watchdog companies who find and report those trying to cheat the system. I know there are as many questions as there are answers here, but I’m more of a “Big Picture” kind of guy.

We have a country that needs to be fixed. We have a HUGE workforce that needs to be employed. And we have BILLIONS of DOLLARS that are being squandered uselessly. Seems to me it’s just a matter of putting all of them in the same place at the same time, under the guidance of some folks who know how to get the job done. Now, you come up with a way to make this happen, not only will I give you my vote for President, I will volunteer, FOR FREE, on your campaign. Oh, there is one stipulation: If you lie to us and don’t follow this through, you are to be brought up on charges of criminal misconduct and sentenced to twenty years in Arizona’s “Tent City” prison. Still interested…. ?

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Does Addiction Count as a Disability? ADA vs. AA

I’m not even going to pretend that this post isn’t going to piss some people off; I’m pretty sure it will. Good. Far be it from me to avoid stirring the shit, especially on Halloween (ok, finished it a little late, sue me). If this subject hadn’t come up, I would have ranted about Christmas decorations up before Oct. 31st, but I have been saved from such a dismal topic.

For those of you bottom line kind of folks, here it is: The consequences of addiction can be changed by choice, as in working on recovery. The consequences of a disability, i.e. blindness, cannot. Pretty simple. Now for the long winded explanation.

Ok, so I have friends who are addicts. Most of them are in the recovery stage, thankfully and they lead productive lives. Of course I’m happy, they are friends and I don’t like to see my friends hurt. Some of them are not recovering, they are suffering. They haven’t gotten help, yet. Personal choice, theirs to make, but I will be really happy when and if they do. And supportive. However, one thing they are not is disabled. My son has cerebral palsy; he is in a wheelchair, probably for life. He is disabled and not because of anything he did to himself.

The reason I bring this up is someone I know lost their job due to behaviors stemming from substance abuse problems. Happens all the time. Often it is the wake-up call that gets them to seek help. This person has decided that their addiction should be a disability and that their job should be protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), as in they have been discriminated against. Did I miss a fucking memo? (proud that I got this far without an F-bomb). Disabled? Putting alcohol or drugs in your body is a choice. Being born blind, deaf or crippled is not. Please, please, please, do not let people start using this excuse to further the victim mentality in this country. Companies have behavior guidelines. If your behavior strays outside said guidelines and you lose your job, your fault. If you are an addict, get help. I don’t even have a problem with government and company sponsored programs (for which we as a society end up footing the bill). I wish no one had to suffer with addiction. But, if this is you, you are NOT disabled. Whether addiction is a disease is an ongoing debate (in my opinion at any rate), but so far, I have not heard of a virus or other biological agent that causes it. Genetics, yes, similar to other debilitating diseases, but to suffer the physical ailments of addiction, the addict must do something to themselves. Very much not disabled.

I did not research to find out how many AA meetings are held in the Los Angeles area, but I would be comfortable guessing at least a hundred. Last time I tried to find a support group for parents of disabled children, no such luck. They are few and far between. The ADA was enacted to be sure that those citizens who have physical and mental disabilities are given as much access to the world as possible. Wheelchair ramps, special parking places and the like are things that make their lives a little easier. (Don’t even get me started on assholes who park in disabled spots when they shouldn’t. I’ve had several such idiots ticketed at $300 each.  Good.) What next? Special padded parking spaces for those who drive under the influence so they don’t scratch their cars? You laugh, but our society has done things far more stupid than this (welfare, anyone?).

I am not a bleeding heart, but I am compassionate. I think as a society we have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves. This includes those with physical and mental disabilities. It also includes addicts. The difference is, addicts have to ASK for help. Until they do, we cannot help them. Those with disabilities are often incapable of asking for help, so we must initiate the help they need. The ADA is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by our government for those with disabilities. But there is a HUGE difference between ADA and AA. It all comes down to choice. Rant over (for now.)

The Last Great Act of Customer Service

So often we bloggers (including your truly) rant about how the world has done us wrong. My last post is a good example of this. 1st Amendment still in effect? Ok, I’m good.  Anyway, today, I get to sing the praises of… yes, it’s true… a customer service rep… on the phone… for TiVo… Yes, I know, if it had been the cable or cell phone company, I would have been on the phone to the Vatican.

Here’s the 411: We have been loyal TiVo subscribers for almost eleven years and still have our original Phillips DVR. It is not activated on the account as we bought a new one. The old one does not work on ethernet to the computer, only phone line, which we do not have. (Sorry for all the tech talk). Long story short (too late, I know) we wanted another unit for my son’s room. Called Tivo, talked to tech support. Wrong department, they sent us to Customer Service, specifically Account cancellation. Seems TiVo is pretty adamant about keeping customers, especially those from whom they have made thousands of dollars (Yes, kids, that’s where we spent your college money. But look at all the quality TV you got to watch). I spoke with a really nice guy named Terry who went above and beyond. He was friendly. He laughed at my lame jokes (actually, he thought Rancho Cucamonga was a funny name for a town. He lives in Denver, not his fault). Not only did he hook us up with TiVo’s newest DVR, he did it for free! Well, almost… we have to stay with them another 2 years…yada yada yada… like we’re going to stop watching TV… (have you met my wife? She should do programming for the networks). I was so impressed that I asked to talk to his supervisor, Francis, to give him a glowing review. (If you ever get good customer service, take the time to do this. It will make their day and confuse them all at the same time.)

Wow! A company that actually cares about customers.  OK, a few other points: 1. Terry spoke ENGLISH!  2. He lives in the US 3. I could understand him  Attention: Companies that want my money, please take notes and learn from this. Using a third world call center and CS reps that speak such broken English that I need subtitles to understand them does not endear you to me. I’m a writer, I blog…. I will say bad things about you.  But not TiVo…TiVo will get my money every month only after the electric bill but way before my mortgage (That’s a topic for another blog). And, unfortunately for customers, Terry will probably get promoted to supervisor. This is good for him and I wish him the best, but we need people like him on the front lines/phone lines to help us. Maybe TiVo will let him train new reps? That would be awesome. *shaking head* Well, I can dream… Thank you, Terry, you made our day.

All I Wanted – A Tale of 7 WTFs …..

I’m a simple man (no, not a simpleton. There is a difference, despite what commercials would have you believe). It doesn’t take a lot to keep me happy. But, Dear Universe, at least make an Effort (I promised not to use the EFF-WORD this time).

Yesterday  my wife and I went out for our 20th anniversary. No, not on a cruise, not to Paris for dinner (I’m a writer with a day job, not an author). First stop, T-Mobile to get a new cell phone. My little Nokia has been great for the better part of the last decade, but several keys don’t work very well and one of them is in my home number (yes, the speed dial number). It was time.

We were informed that it had been 89 months since our last upgrade. Months? You mean over seven years? (It’s like parents who tell you their kids age in months and you have the do the freaking math to figure out how old he/she is). Guess we were due. My wife complained that I was getting a new phone, but we share it. I just use most of the time. I digress, as usual. Oh, by the way, if you have something to do, better get it done and come back, this is going to take a while.

So, we’re at T-Mobile and I’m looking at phones with a keyboard as I have started sending a lot more text messages and pushing those little buttons three times to write a “C” is getting old (that’s why they don’t work anymore). Cheapest option was $39.00. All I wanted was a phone with a keyboard, ok, forty bucks isn’t too bad.  Nice Mr. Clerk takes the SIM card out of my old phone (no, not the computer game) and puts it in my new phone. I can do this. It takes literally thirty or forty seconds. Phone upgrade charge: $18.00  WTF#1? That comes out to $27 a minute or $1620 an hour. Holy Rip Off, Batman. And no, they won’t spot you the eighteen bucks if you move the chip yourself. So my upgraded, thirty-nine dollar phone came to just shy of seventy bucks after they added sales tax (not T-Mobile’s fault, that is another rant altogether). Another BTW, that does NOT include a car charger or USB cable to download your pics from the phone to your computer. *sigh* Folks, I haven’t even gotten to the punch line yet. An hour and half later, I received two text messages from friends and when I went to return them, my phone said “Service not supported” or some such phrase. WTF#2? I have unlimited text…. Ok, back to T-Mobile at 7:02… to find the doors locked. 7:00? on Saturday? WTF#3? Fortunately, nice Mr. Clerk recognized me and let me in.  Apparently, my SIM card was bad. It was changed, the phone worked and this part of the story has a  happy ending.

We decided to got to El Torito for dinner. There is a new one near our house and it’s one one of my wife’s three favorite places to eat (No, I did not encourage her because it is the cheapest of the three). Service, excellent. Music in the bar, horrible. WTF#4 Techno/house/rapcrap that made my filling rattle (really, only one). No, they do not have a dance floor. I am old and white, and even the ex-DJ in me could not stand it. We asked to be moved to the dining room and they were very good about doing so. Our waitress was great and never missed a beat. All I wanted was to enjoy dinner with my wife…..

I order a cranberry/pineapple juice. I don’t drink alcohol (no, I don’t go to meetings, I developed an allergy to it) and the drink was brought forthwith (that means right away). All I wanted was a drink. The straw in the glass was exactly as long as the glass was tall, meaning that there was no way to get my mouth on it. Really? WTF#5? I pointed this out to our waitress and she immediately hooked me up with a longer straw. Much longer. Like I said, she was great. All I wanted was a drink of juice, maybe several.

We went and saw “The Rise of the Planet of the Apes”. Good movie, but WTF#6? Commercials? Holy Marketing Crap, Batman! And BTW, to the powers that be, the commercial with the break dancing hamsters and fighting robots? Bite me… stupid doesn’t even scratch the surface. Oh, yeah, it was from KIA if I’m not mistaken. Teenagers don’t buy KIAs, so why does your commercial have their crappy music in it? All I wanted was to enjoy a movie with my wife. We did get to see four trailers, which I enjoy, and they all looked to be promising movies, but the hamsters still bugged me.

Last stop, I promise. Krispy Kreme donuts is in the same mall as the theater. Open 24 hours. My wife’s fave, raspberry filled glazed donut. All she wanted ….. you get the picture. WTF#7? A little FYI to Krispy Kreme… YOU SELL FREAKING DONUTS! IF YOU RUN OUT OF ALMOST EVERY FREAKING KIND OF DONUT, CUSTOMERS ARE NOT HAPPY! ARE YOU LISTENING? Holy Crappy Customer Service, Batman! We had to wait in line while every person in front of us rearranged their order to fit whatever lame selection was left. It’s Saturday, you know people buy donuts…. MAKE SOME MORE! And no, I’m NOT driving around for forty-five minutes to wait while you do it. PLAN AHEAD! They should teach this at Krispy Kreme Kollege, but apparently not. Sorry, this part does not have a happy ending. Wifey had to settle for a chocolate bar, which is a far cry from a raspberry filled glazed donut. Now I’m torn between making her happy and getting some this morning (giving lame KK more of my money) and boycotting them altogether. I don’t like their donuts. But my wife does. And she has been married to me for twenty years. We’ll see. Her tastes (in men) are obviously simple , so I probably shouldn’t complain. Too late. 1018 words later.

Don’t Take Yourself So Fucking Seriously

The title alone will eliminate a good number of readers from this post. Too bad. They are likely the ones who need it the most. *sigh* I can only help so many people, and they have to want help.  BTW, besides using the dreaded EFF-WORD, I also used an adverb *AA* (adverb alert, this will appear regularly *AA* and no 12 step program to help it, either).  People often say, “Don’t take yourself so serious.” That is grammatically incorrect, as the verb take is being modified, so seriously must be used. *AA* Just wanted to be clear on all that.

Ok, the reason I wrote this: Among millions of other great attributes that we as Americans seem to have misplaced or packed away in the attics of our minds is our sense of humor. “Holy Crap, Batman, these uptight people won’t laugh at a fucking thing!” You’re right, Boy Wonder, because we have become so cowed by the media (I say we in a general term, I suffer no such problem as I will demonstrate), beat over the head by the conservative right and had so much Political Correctness shoved down our throats, I’m surprised comedy clubs are still in business. (Actually, I’m not….. we need them more than ever). Really, people? Laugh, Dammit! Some of the shit going on around you is really funny.

If you are here because you found me on Twitter or Facebook (these two sites are conspiring to waste my entire life… no 12 steps here either) then you have been warned continuously that I have no filter between my brain and my mouth… or fingers in this case. A friend once said I should come with a warning label. I do. It’s the title of this blog. Sorry, last time I checked the First Amendment of the Constitution was still in effect. I don’t slander others or make fun of people who have real problems (that are not their own fault). I’m a nice guy. And some of the shit I say makes me laugh so hard I get tears running down my face. Happens to other people too. I am single-handedly keeping the mascara industry alive and well. This post might not do it, but at some point, I will make you laugh till you cry.

Now to the point (381 words later): Stop getting offended at stuff that is meant to be funny. You might not think it’s funny, and that’s OK, comedy, like all art and entertainment, is subjective. I personally *AA* think Ben Stiller is not funny at all, some of his movies are a scream, but not because he is in them. His bank account would dictate that many do not share my opinion. Comedian Lisa Lampanelli is one of my favorites. She is so NOT P.C. and my sides hurt every time I watch her. She makes racial comments, calls children “nig-lets, chink-lets and spic-lets”. She is lily white and dates black men, “I’ve had more black cock in me than a urinal at the Apollo” and constantly reams her audiences a new one. They even call her the “Queen of Mean”. Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock have done some great bits tearing into us lame white folks, and absolutely nothing makes me laugh harder. Because all comedy is based on some element of truth and we fucking know it. That’s what makes it funny.

There is an element of timing in comedy. Comedian Gilbert Gottfried lost his job as the voice of the Aflac Duck because of comments he made following the disaster in Japan. The joke was marginally funny at best and it was far too soon for it not to be construed as insensitive. There is a line… I’m usually walking it all the time. Keeps things interesting.

From time to time I will post things here that come to my mind, that I read on the internet (greatest waster of time in the world, sort of what you’re doing right now), see or read on Twitter, Facebook or someone’s blog. Maybe even a bumper sticker. It might be deep, it might be stupid and sometimes it will be funny. But it will NEVER pass through a filter for offensive content.  What would be the point? BTW, if this has offended you, I have a coupon below for 10% off the installation of your own sense of humor. It’s the least I can do. Now have a great fucking day. 🙂

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