Thursday, April 16, 2009

Post Tax Day Thoughts

Okay, so tax day came and went, and I ended up owing Uncle Sam (not his real name) a bundle. This has raised a bunch of questions that have undoubtedly been asked before, but since I am trying to chew up space here I'll ask them again.

Who knows, I may even try to answer them, although if you're looking for useful information I wouldn't hold my breath.
  1. Why do we pay income tax, anyway?
  2. Why is the tax code so insanely complicated?
  3. How come, no matter what color your clothes are, the dryer lint is always grayish-blue?
These are questions that have vexed people since the dawn of time, or at least since last Tuesday. So let's take a stab at 'em, shall we?

Why do we pay income tax, anyway?
There is a very good reason for paying income taxes. If we didn't have an income tax, then there would be no reason for the Internal Revenue Service to exist. As a result, all those IRS employees would be forced into the marketplace to find work. However, since the fall of the Spanish Inquisition, those kinds of skills aren't really in demand anymore (although George W. Bush did make a respectable try at bringing back the "good old days" as Dick Cheney called them), resulting in a large, surly crowd of people who really know how to screw up your life wandering around instead of being locked in a windowless concrete bunker in Washington, DC.

Another reason that some people like to bring up is that, without income taxes, there wouldn't be enough money to run the government. Without that money, individual Congresspersons would have to pay for their own sex scandals instead of letting the American public foot the bill. As a result, these sex scandals would be a LOT more boring, and since the only useful purpose I can see for the Federal government is the entertainment value of trying to figure out what that intern saw in the fat, balding 75 year old Senator in the first place we just can NOT let this happen.

Why is the tax code so insanely complicated?
It's not, really. That is, it's not that complicated if you are a Nobel prizewinning economist who also holds doctorates in political science and international game theory. For the rest of us, the tax code is expressly designed to cause brains cells to die and leak out our ears in such a way so that they sound like gravel rolling down a metal playground slide.

However, there are some really smart people out there who manage to understand the tax code well enough to know that it's basically full of crap. This is why, at the end of every year, they CHANGE it. After all, if the average taxpayer actually knew the 14,873 ways in which they were getting screwed they might get a wee bit upset and start ... oh, I don't know ... holding government accountable, or something.

How come, no matter what color your clothes are, the dryer lint is always grayish-blue?
Actually, nobody except Stephen Hawking knows the answer to this question, and he ain't talking. Literally.

So that's it. My annual Post Tax Day Roundup. If this article was at all helpful to you it was purely accidental. I gotta lie down.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tea For Two (Million)

The news has been awash of late with stories about these teabag parties taking place on Tax Day (like it's a holiday or something ... sheesh). For those of you that have been hiding under rocks, burying their heads in the sand or otherwise doing the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and saying loudly "La-la-la-I-can't-hear-you" I will explain.

On April 15th, 2009, people across the country will be taking part in protests against excessive taxation by staging a sort-of-reenactment of the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The difference being that instead of taxation without representation they'll be protesting taxation WITH representation and instead of throwing a couple tons of tea overboard into Boston Harbor they'll being throwing a few teabags into red plastic buckets they buy at Ikea.

The important thing to remember here is that in 1773, colonists were protesting a tax on TEA. Their reasoning was that if the tea was destroyed and never actually made it into circulation it could not be taxed. They felt strongly enough about the inequity of the tax on tea that they were willing to go without tea to avoid paying the tax.

This might not seem like a big deal now, but understand that in 1773 the afternoon tea was a social fixture among all classes of citizens. The reasons for this are obscure (meaning I don't want to look them up), but I suspect that it's because you'd feel like an idiot wearing a powdered wig and sipping brown liquor from a china cup with your pinky extended.

Following this reasoning it would make sense that the "teabaggers" as they have come to call themselves (and I don't think they are fully aware of the extremely intimate act this is a euphemism for) would, instead of throwing away tea, throw away the thing that is being taxed. Being the bastions of moral integrity these people claim to be, if they feel this strongly about it they should do without the thing being taxed rather than pay what they see as an unjust tax.

The thing being taxed, of course, is their income. Therefore it only seems right that, instead of throwing away teabags, they should throw their entire income into those red Ikea buckets.

Now, I can already hear some of you out there getting ramped up to point out that having big red buckets of cash lying around isn't exactly a bright idea. I'm way ahead of you. This is why I am selflessly volunteering to collect the cash myself and make sure that it gets distributed properly (or, to put it another way, Daddy needs a new fridge).

There's no need to thank me. I'm just doing my part to protext the First Amendment. I gotta lie down.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Shameless Self-Promotion

Okay, so I’ve had this thing up now for a couple of weeks and so far both Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow have completely failed to call me to be one of the talking heads on their shows. This is a glaring oversight on their part, I think, and one that needs to be corrected immediately if not sooner.

In that vein, here is a list of my qualifications to be a guest on one of their shows:
  1. I’m liberal. So liberal that I definitely believe abortion should be legal and, in the case of someone like Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, mandatory.
  2. I’m not as good looking as either one of them, so I pose no threat on that front. However, I AM better looking than Pat Buchanan or Nate Silver.
  3. I am an extroverted loudmouth who is not the least bit afraid of voicing an opinion, even if I know absolutely nothing about the subject at hand. “If you can’t say something nice, at least say something,” that’s my motto.
  4. I need the exposure, so that I can parlay that into becoming stinking rich.
So I think it is vitally important that I be added to the roster of pundits on either or both of these shows. However, since nobody wants to buy something sight unseen, I’m going to give a little sample of what it would be like.

Let’s say the topic is Republican opposition to President Obama’s economic stimulus plan (a fairly safe bet, since the GOP seems to be staking their entire existence on opposing President Obama’s economic stimulus plan), and what it might mean for the 2010 midterm elections.

Now, I could go with the usual approach favored by people like Gene Robinson and present a thoughtful, insightful opinion of the ramifications of the GOP opposition, but that sounds like real work so I’m going to avoid that like I would avoid some guy on the New York subway in a bunny suit cradling a shotgun in his lap and humming “I Feel Pretty” off-key. Instead, I would point out that it would be in the best interest of Americans overall to get guys like John Boehner out of there, because what is a guy from Ohio doing with a tan like that in the middle of winter anyway? If you’re going to represent Ohio in Congress, then you need to be EXACTLY as pale and pasty as your constituents.

I also feel very strongly that John Cornyn should be locked in a room and be forced to watch MSNBC until he either gets some common sense or his head explodes, whichever comes first.

Unfortunately Mitch McConnell isn’t up for re-election until 2014, so we have to deal with another six years of having a Republican leader with no lips.

In the interest of at least LOOKING like I know stuff, I will say this: I have heard that the GOP is using all this as a stalling tactic to slow the economic recovery so that they can use it as an issue in the 2010 elections. However, there are two factors that I believe also come into play here:
  1. I think they are looking to also use this as an issue in 2012, their reasoning being that if they regain the majority in 2010 they can then take the credit for the economic recovery that would most likely happen anyway and put Sarah Palin (or whoever) in the White House in 2012.
  2. They are severely underestimating the ability of the American people to smell a rat. I mean, think about it: Republicans spend two years opposing everything that comes down the pike and doing everything in their power to be obstructionist jerks, and all of a sudden in December of 2010 they become a bunch of good little helpers? And folks aren’t going to see that for what it is, a blatant attempt at a power grab?
There are those who would argue that the second one is actually a stretch on my part, and that the general public doesn’t have the attention span for that sort of thing. To quote Voltaire, “Even though I disagree with what you say I shall defend to the death your right to say it.” I would also add my own little tagline, “even if you are blindingly, mind-bogglingly, devastatingly wrong.” I think people do have the required attention span; it’s just that they are inundated with so much useless drivel every day, stuff gets pushed out of the way.

So Keith and Rachel, let’s make some magic here. I have opinions, a reasonable command of the English language and the ability to overcome the fact that I am about as telegenic as a blank wall. I gotta lie down.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My DVR Ruined My Evening

Every once in a while an issue comes along that I feel strongly about, something about which I have a well-reasoned, thoughtful opinion, a topic about which I want to start a healthy, intellectual debate. In these instances I depart from my usual pissant tone and instead try to present a sober, reflective view of the subject at hand.

This is NOT one of those times.

Instead, I want to complain about commercials. Mostly commercials in general, but making specific note of commercials on TV for pharmaceuticals.

It all started a few years ago when we got a DVR. Granted, we're only renting it from Comcast (which, along with Verizon and my local electric company form the Trinity of Doom that will spell the end of civilization as we know it), and occasionally it has attention deficit disorder in that I have to push the same button on the remote four or five times to get it to do anything, but whatever.

The DVR, in my opinion, ranks right up there with penicillin and duct tape as one of the most wondrous inventions in human history. With the DVR, I can skip right past commercials in which Billy Mays bleats something at ear-splitting levels about something I care nothing about. I can record mindless blather on one channel while watching mindless blather (i. e. American Idol, a favorite of my six year old daughter) on another. I can go to sleep at night knowing that late-night reruns of mediocre sitcoms from the 90s will be waiting for me in the morning.

However, on this one night (you might remember it ... it was the longest night of my life) the DVR wasn't working and we were forced to watch our tree-hugging, left-leaning, liberal-pantywaist pseudo-news show on MSNBC in real time. Which meant that we COULD NOT skip the commercials, and in between bouts of Keith Olbermann escalating the flame war between himself and Bill O'Reilly we were forced to watch the following drek:

  • A commercial in which Billy Mays was yelling about something. I don't remember what it was exactly; as soon as his beard showed up on the screen I was deafened by the screams of millions of my brain cells dying violently.
  • A commercial for some drug which is going to make your life a lot better, once you get past the dry mouth, nausea, nosebleeds, kidney problems, blurred vision, ringing in your ears, sterility, impotence and cardiac arrest.
  • Another commercial for another pharmaceutical product that will make your life even better than the first one but with even more hideous side effects. Although it should be pointed out that this commercial had cooler animation that actually had almost nothing to do with what the medication is trying to treat.
  • A commercial for a local car delaership offering huge rebates, ridiculously low prices and an announcer who obviously taught Billy Mays a thing or two.
  • A commercial for a pharmaceutical product to help an old guy get his groove back.

By this time, you must realize, my wife and I were catatonic. It was the pharma commercials that did it, I think. First off, there was surreal animation that looked like a cross between an acid trip and watercolor painting. Second, I think the commercial for the boner pills was the only one that actually stated what the medication was FOR.

Finally, though, it was the Cialis commercial. They are showing this guy who can't be a day over thirty five, who is fit, trim, healthy looking, with a full head of hair and perfect teeth. In short, a taller, better-looking version of George Clooney. I'm thinking if HE'S having a problem getting it up, then I'm pretty much doomed to a celibate life of failure.

Now I know some marketing weasel at the pharmaceutical company is going to start whining about how this helps show Cialis users as normal guys, but let's face it. The average Cialis user is not a slightly middle-aged model. The average Cialis user is under six feet tall, has a bit of a gut, thinning hair and tends to spend slightly more time than usual scratching things.

So get with the program, Big Pharma. Instead of giving us all infoeriority complexes because we aren't all model material, show us REAL guys. Guys with hair in inappropriate places. Guys who basically go through life as sexless ciphers. Guys like me, for example. I gotta lie down.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Tips On Public Speaking, Mr. President

Trolling through the blogs and news today, there is much hand-wringing and chest-beating over the President’s press conference last night. So I thought I’d weigh in. Granted, I didn’t actually SEE it, but I’ve never let the facts get in the way of forming an opinion before so why let it stop me now?

That being said, here are my top observations, in no particular order:

  • President Obama has some freaky skinny fingers. I’ve gotten so used to the Snausages exhibited by George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, etc. etc. that it’s a shock to see these things fluttering around the podium like a sack of angry tarantulas.
  • President Obama is not, inherently, a funny guy. Sure, he’s a NICE guy, but he’s not the yukmaster that some others have been. For example, there’s Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman” line, and when Dubya announced in 2003 that major combat operations were over under the “Mission Accomplished” banner? Hysterical! Anyway, he needs to step up his game on this front if he plans to leave any kind of lasting legacy.
  • I think the idea to staff the Treasury Department with trained monkeys is a bad idea. Nothing against the monkeys, mind you, but it would probably be more prudent to fill those positions with something slightly less likely to hurl feces at random passers-by. Instead, they need to get someone with the judgment to know that he or she should only hurl feces at the Wall Street executives responsible for this mess, George Steinbrenner, the Jonas Brothers or anyone who feels the need to pull all the way over to the RIGHT when they are waiting to make a LEFT turn. I’m thinking that Curt Schilling might want the gig since he’s going into retirement right now.
  • At one point Helen Thomas asked President Obama “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?” I gotta admit it. I was wicked impressed when the guy actually came up with the answer of “About a cord and a half, depending on the weather.”
  • I fully support the President’s assertion that the infield fly rule is the source of all evil and must be abolished immediately. I also agree with him when he said that failure to do so would force him to mobilize the National Guard against Barney, the purple dinosaur. Come to think of it, this isn’t entirely a bad idea.
  • Note to the President: next time you open with a tune from a hit Broadway show, stick with something simple like “Spamalot.” You don’t have the vocal range for “Rent.” And you can forget anything from Andrew Lloyd Weber.
  • I don’t really think the backup singers were necessary, although the sequined dresses and beehive hairdos were a nice touch. However, it probably would have worked a lot better if the singers were female. Just a thought.
  • Having Congressman Eric Cantor strapped into a straitjacket and a Hannibal Lecter mask and dangling from a pole over the press corps, while somewhat appealing to me personally, might raise a Constitutional issue or two. Likewise, locking Harry Reid in a cage with two rabid wolverines with only a single layer of chicken wire between them and telling him he couldn’t come out until he developed a real personality was, in my opinion, patently unfair to the wolverines.
  • Note to the President: next time you make a nautical metaphor don’t use a cruise ship. Everybody knows that cruise ships are the world’s largest supplier of fat people in horrible shirts, and quite frankly Rush Limbaugh fills our need on that front nicely, thank you. Also, I’d suggest an eye patch and a fake parrot.

So there you have it, Mr. President. Just a few suggestions and observations that I hope will make your next press conference more entertaining and informative. No need to thank me; I’m just doing my job as a citizen. I gotta lie down.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Awright, So It's Been A While ...

Okay, so I haven't updated this in a LONG time. I've been busy. And it's not like anyone was reading this anyway. Dammit.

So now I'm back, and snarkier and more ill-informed than ever. And I am here to spout forth random drivel on a number of topics, almost all of which are being discussed more intelligently elsewhere.

But my goal is to be FUNNIER. Or at least more blatantly pissed off.

That being said, I'm going to tackle the current economic recession, aka Why My Life Sucks Like An Electrolux Right Now.

See, like most Americans, when something like this happens my first and overriding instinct is to look for someone to blame. So after much soul-searching and deep contemplation and a couple of beers I've found the perfect foil (more on this in a bit).

I know, right? Who'd'a thunk it?

In the interest of full disclosure I would like to point out that I am a registered Democrat, I would rather go snowboarding on the surface of the sun than vote for the Shrub (I misses ya, Molly Ivins!) or anyone like him and I am firmly convinced Dick Cheney is the source of all that is evil and menacing and that nothing even remotely good comes from the blackened, withered, dessicated husk that is his heart. Moving right along ...

It has become quite popular these days to blame the Bush administration for the failings of our current economy. "If only Bush's SEC had enforced the regulations that WERE in place, and other regulations weren't lifted," those on the "Liberal Left" opine, "then our economy would be in perfect shape and nobody would be hungry and global warming would have ended and we'd all be living in an eternal springtime in the Gumdrop Forest." Then, snarling, they lurch back into their solar powered huts to eat grass clippings and mutter semi-intelligible rants about how Glenn Beck is such a dork.

Meanwhile, the conservative right says it's all Bill Clinton's fault (in much the same way that they blame him for internet porn, the decline of the US auto industry and the giant meteor that killed the dinosaurs), and that if we had only killed him when we had the chance then none of this would have ever happened and everybody -- well, the people that MATTER, anyway; everybody else can go scratch -- would be happily ensconced in their platinum-plated mansions, eating endangered species and not paying taxes on the hired help.

Me, I'm going to take a different approach, and lay the blame at the feet of the person who I believe is directly responsible for this mess, the sinister being who presents an innocuous yet somewhat boyish face to the public, the entity that seems to be so closely linked with everybody's lives.

I am speaking, of course, of Kevin Bacon.

I mean, let's face it. It's a widely accepted fact (assuming, of course, the same definition of "fact" used by Steve Doocy on Fox News) that everything is the universe is no more than six degrees of separation away from Kevin Bacon. I myself, am only three degrees away:

1. I once met Robert Duvall in 1986, while working as a roadie for Conway Twitty (not proud of that, by the way).
2. Robert Duvall appeared in "The Betsy" with Tommy Lee Jones.
3. Tommy Lee Jones appears in "JFK" with -- you guessed it -- Kevin Bacon.

So, considering that I'm only three degrees away from Kevin Bacon it should be merely a trifle to prove that the current economic mess is his fault. So let's begin, shall we?
  1. The current economic situation is a direct result of massive amounts of deregulation in the financial industry.
  2. Ronald Reagan was a hay-UGE proponent of deregulation.
  3. Ronald Reagan, in addition to being a big fan of deregulation, appeared in "An Angel From Texas" with Jane Wyman.
  4. Eddie Albert also appeared in "An Angel From Texas."
  5. Eddie Albert appeared in "The Big Picture" with our hero, Kevin Bacon.
So there ya have it. Our current economic downturn can be linked to Kevin Bacon in only five steps. Coincidence? I don't think so. I can prove it, to0:
  1. Our current mess was exacerbated by a lack of oversight from the SEC, headed by Christopher Cox, a George W. Bush appointee.
  2. W's dad, who also served as President, had Dan Quayle as his vice-president.
  3. Dan Quayle appeared in an episode of "Major Dad," starring Gerald McRaney.
  4. Gerald MacRaney played in "The NeverEnding Story" with Wolfgang Petersen.
  5. Wolfgang Petersen played in "Air Force One" with Xander Berkeley.
  6. Xander Berkeley played in "Apollo 13" with Kevin Bacon.
So, even though I had to compress a couple of steps, we can still get from Kevin Bacon to my life sucking in the requisite six steps.

So the only logical conclusion I can draw from all this is: Kevin Bacon has to give everybody a job. Or just me. Or maybe just send me a big pile of money so I can roll around in it with an evil cackle reminiscent of Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers movies. I gotta lie down.

Footnote: In an effort to get the far right to back me on this, I can also trace Bill Clinton to Kevin Bacon thusly:
  1. Bill Clinton was elected President in 1992.
  2. "My Cousin Vinny" was released in 1992.
  3. Joe Pesci starred in "My Cousin Vinny."
  4. Marisa Tomei appeared in "My Cousin Vinny" with Joe Pesci.
  5. Marisa Tomei appeared in "Loverboy" with Kevin Bacon.
It should also be noted that Marisa Tomei is freakin' gorgeous, and if she ever decides she needs to spend time with a balding, pudgy, unemployed computer geek she knows where to find me.

And The Oscar Goes To ...

Yeah, yesterday's column? Um ... no. Yesterday I posted that I had undergone a change of heart, a radical shift in my political lean...