G.H.E.Y. IN. H.D.

"God Hates Euroranger, Yes INdeed He Does"

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Sesquicentennial-burg

Posted by Euroranger on July 2, 2013


Monument to the fallen at Gettysburg National Battlefield

I’ve mentioned before that I hold a bachelor’s degree in American history and am fairly well versed with the American narrative but few other time periods of my country’s past are as fascinating to me as the two decades that started in 1850.  One thing that particularly saddens and concerns me is how disconnected from our history most Americans are.  As some or perhaps most of you know, tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg.  It’s usually one of the few events that public social studies education even mentions in particular about the Civil War.  It’s been turned into countless books, movies and documentaries.  Because of this it’s not entirely uncommon to encounter people who know about the military aspects of the battle and, presumably, what it meant.  However, more than the immediate advance and retreat of armies and drawing lines on maps, tomorrow is the sesquicentennial of when America changed from what we were founded to be to what we are today and it’s an auspicious event like this that reveals how much we do and do not know about our own national experience and foundation.  So, is this a post about what happened across a few miles of Pennsylvania farmland one hundred fifty years ago?  Kind of, but only inasmuch as it invites a closer examination for the “why” there was even a Civil War in the first place.  The widely held, public school curriculum explanation was that the war was all about slavery…and on a skin deep, superficial level, that’s true.  It’s as true though, as saying the AIDS epidemic is about a virus while ignoring all the societal and behavioral affects the disease touches or relies upon for it to be the globe spanning phenomenon it is.  So, if you hold the opinion that the Civil War was about slavery, allow me to enhance your understanding a little and, in the process, you might become a more astute citizen of our country and your ancestors.

Slaves. Bad right?

More than slavery, the Civil War was about two economic systems competing with one another for political dominance inside a single nation.  Nearly everyone knows that the South was an agrarian society that used a system of legal slavery as part of the workforce that drove that economy.  In more simple terms, the South was overwhelmingly comprised of farmers, some of whom (less than 15% by 1860) owned slaves to perform the work of farming.  Because of the amount of arable land and climate, mass agriculture in the South was much more feasible than could be done in the North.  The North also had farmers, of course, but the land and climate there didn’t lend itself well to large scale agriculture such as was the case in the South.  So, if that’s what formed the basis of the Southern economy (agriculture based on an indentured workforce), and my premise being that two economic systems were competing, what was the Northern economy doing?  Well, in short, the North was hosting the arrival of the Industrial Revolution which is the process by which an agrarian society transforms into an industrial one.  Initially industrialization in the United States used horse-powered machinery to power the earliest factories, but eventually switched to water power, with the consequence that industrialization was essentially limited to New England and the rest of the Northeastern United States, where fast-moving rivers were located.  Industrialization is all about two things though: using machinery and technology to increase productivity and, to be entirely blunt, Capitalism and the pursuit of profits.  Industrialization in the United States started in earnest around 1810 or so (an important date to remember).  So, at this point, we have slaves in the South and workers in the North, right?  Well, yes, but it’s somewhat more complicated than that.  Most people today think of workers in our contemporary sense and apply that notion to what a worker was in the North at the time.  This is simply false.

Not slaves…but better?

Today we have things like minimum wage, health insurance, workers compensation insurance, workplace safety laws, unions, OSHA, the EPA, child labor laws, unemployment insurance and so on.  Not so back then.  In fact, while people are exceptionally ready to refer to the Southern economy as “slavery” comparatively fewer know the term that was used, in both South AND North, to describe the Northern economy: “wage slavery” and “wage slaves”.  Coincident with industrialization in the North, the United States was also experiencing a veritable deluge of mass immigration from Europe that was capped by three potato famines in Europe which drove people to the United States (particularly Scots and Irish) to flee starvation.  Most of those ships carrying immigrants landed in places like Boston, Hartford, New York and Philadelphia and the people who got off those boats often brought nearly zero wealth with them…meaning they had no means to move very far from where they got off the boat.  Luckily for them (or maybe not) there were thousands of newly minted factories that always needed a supply of fresh workers.  However, workers in the North often worked 14-16 hours per day with only half a day off on Sunday, in appalling and unsafe conditions, for very little wages.  Injuries on the job were common and because workers hadn’t yet organized into unions, wages were the minimum of whatever the factory owner could pay.  If you got hurt on the job you were immediately replaced by another of the seemingly endless streams of freshly arrived immigrants and you were unemployed.  Because mass transit didn’t exist, you likely lived in a tenement house or “slum”.  Entire families were jammed into single rooms and if Dad or Mom was hurt on the job and couldn’t work, oftentimes it was the kids that went to work in their stead (and the factory owner would naturally pay less because they were children).  In short, the Northern economy was in many ways just as bad and sometimes worse than the Southern slave economy.  Of course, there is the perception that the Southern slave owner beat and lashed his slaves, raped the women and broke up families.  That did happen but not even remotely as often as was being portrayed by Abolitionists (people who wanted slavery outlawed) and a simple examination of what a slave meant to a slave owner makes it easy to understand why.

Much better.

The reason slaves were owned by so few people in the South was for one salient fact: slaves were expensive.  A healthy young slave could cost, by 1860, as much as $1000 dollars which at the time was about what it would cost to purchase 500 acres of land.  The importation of slaves was banned in 1808 so the only way to perpetuate more slave workers was to breed them.  This meant that keeping families together would eventually result in more children who would grow into productive labor and produce kids of their own and so on.  In short, slave owners looked at their slaves as an investment…much the same way a farmer of today might regard his combine or harvester machinery.  He paid a lot to acquire them and, if he was anything other than an idiot, he didn’t abuse them or diminish their value to him.  For much the same reason, the typical slave owner fed his slaves, clothed them, housed them and provided access to medical care for them when they were sick or injured.  Starving, naked, exposed and diseased slaves did less work and generated less profit so most slave owners took special care of their investment.  By contrast, the Northern factory owner cared only about profit.  He didn’t feed, clothe or provide shelter for his workforce because he didn’t have to.  If anything happened to a worker, he could always toss that damaged worker and get a new one from the vast pool of immigrants.  What was worse: even if you were healthy and working productively, nothing guaranteed that the factory owner wouldn’t replace you with someone who’d do your job for a penny per day less.  You were always in danger of being paid less and less for the same work you’d always done.  This is, in summary, the reality of the two sides of the Abolitionist debate: agrarian slavery or wage slavery…which brings us to a final political reality that caused the Civil War.

Our political system back then was much less cynical and money-driven than it is today.  The president, the House and Senate were all elected the same way then as now except the notion of “states” and “federal government” was radically different than today.  Back then, the federal government was small and had little effect on the day to day lives of Americans.  There was no income tax, the armed forces were small and we weren’t a Superpower…we were just an upstart nation of less than 80 years existence.  The nation truly was a collection of states UNITED for a common association.  One way of understanding it was that before the war, the term “the United States” was a plural and after the war it was a term that signified a singular.  States rights were very much the order of the day and only by amending the Constitution could that be changed.  Slavery was an institution that was up to each state to determine the legality of not the federal government…unless a Constitutional amendment was passed banning slavery.  This is a concept that some people today believe was a driving force behind seccession…but it’s just not true.  The balance in the United States had been nearly even between states that allowed slavery and those where it was banned.  This is important because, in order to amend the Constitution a two thirds majority in both the House and Senate must approve the amendment before it goes to the states where 3/4 of the states must vote in favor.  On the face of it, this seems unlikely and, to people at the time, it wasn’t really the concern.  By 1858, there were 17 free states and 15 slave.  Even had an amendment passed Congress it would never have garnered the support of 3/4 of the states.  So, what was the issue?  In short, it was fueled by the population surge in the North via immigration.  Each state gets 2 Senators and there is only one president who is elected via the electoral congress meaning that the winner has to “win” states…so on these two counts, the slave states would probably hold their own.  However, the House of Representatives is determined by the number of people that live in a particular area.  Immigration to the North from Europe meant that the census of 1860 would likely shift the number of Representative in the House decidedly to the North.  Back then, bills were introduced almost exclusively in the House which meant, to the South, that any future legislation or compromises that might be proposed to maintain the balance of power between slave and free states would be increasingly likely to be rejected.  In short, mass immigration in the North fueled by industrialization was tilting that balance irreversibly in favor of Abolition.  To most though, this might seem like a reasonable progression.  Since there was a vocal social element that wouldn’t allow slavery to exist un-decried and since the Bible itself (a consideration of monumentally greater affect then) spoke against slavery, it was unlikely that the two economic systems could continue to exist side by side within the same nation.  To many, the South needed only to give up their slaves and embrace capitalism and all would be good.  Except that, for the conditions in the South, capitalism was nearly impossible.

Freeing an entire population of around 3 million people who would then be forced to adopt a lifestyle none of them ever experienced was, even then, recognized as an unmitigated disaster waiting to happen.  People who had never had to search for and retain a job, deal with money, provide for a family, and in many cases even lacked fundamental educational skills such as reading and simple math could never acclimate in the immediacy of the moment that an enactment of Abolition would demand.  To make matters worse, even the Northern states who advocated Abolition in the South cynically put laws in place to bar internal immigration by freed blacks to their territories.  Entire blocks of counties in some Northern states had settlement bans for freed blacks.  Indeed, the average wage slave in the North had no interest in adding to the downward pressure on wages by European immigrants by adding 3 million newly freed African slaves to the mix (who would surely work for less than any white man).  Add to that that banking in the South was sparse and not nearly as accessible as it was in the North.  This meant that even if a potential factory owner in the South wanted to build a new plant and employ people for wages, he lacked ready access to capital to get it done.  Capitalism in the South simply wasn’t possible…and yet, to the South, it seemed the political realities of 1860 were about to force them into an expectedly disastrous transition to capitalism and that the states forcing them to do so wouldn’t even share the burden of the ensuing disruption.  Something that was supposed to be a right of each individual state to decide was ever more appearing to be dictated at the whim of other states who wouldn’t feel the effects of such decisions…which was a radical departure from the system most people regarded the United States at the time as representing.

So yeah, even 150 years ago, we still couldn’t settle political differences without being total dicks to one another.

Secession was literally the only real answer…and in December 1860, South Carolina did just that and left the United States.  The rest of the story is rather well known: other states joined the departure, a new nation was founded, the incoming president decided that the division of the country couldn’t be allowed and so he forced a military incident to spark a war.  For more than 2 years, the Confederacy stayed on the defensive, fighting battles mostly on their own territory against an invading foreign power…until the point came that they realized they needed to punch back while they still had the means to do so and force a final conclusive end on the battlefield in their favor.  And thus, Gettysburg.  General Robert E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia had, for more than 2 years, bloodied and stymied the much larger, better equipped but ineptly led Army of the Potomac…with no military resolution in sight.  A swift, hard strike North, capturing a state capitol (Harrisburg), winning a decisive battle and perhaps even capturing the enemy’s national capitol might bring the terrible conflict to an end in favor of the Confederacy.  Lots of history exists detailing just how close the South came to winning at Gettysburg.  Much less known is the waning level of Northern public support for a war they saw few victories in and for a cause many didn’t support (freeing the slaves) and how, perhaps, one more decisive Confederate victory might break the back of the Northern desire to continue the war.  That is what Gettysburg represents: the beginning of the triumph of the North’s system of capitalism over the more populist, agrarian, slavery-based system in the South.

And oh yeah, this is also the 150th anniversary of the fall of Vicksburg which was probably even more important to the ultimate victory of the Union over the Confederacy than Gettysburg was.  Most seem to forget all about Vicksburg because it involved the Union laying siege to not just an army but a city full of civilians and starving them into submission.  Making war on women and children is rarely celebrated though so you can be excused for not being aware of that.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in History, In the news, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

…and when Losing is actually Winning

Posted by Euroranger on June 10, 2013


Yeah, I’m juvenile this way. Still, good advice is good advice.

So, as many of you know, I’m a software developer.  Who else would sit at their desk 12-13 hours per day without restraints or really good meds?  I pen posts here in increments when I simply need to find something to distract myself from my daily professional activities.  Typically those distractions are things like wanting to simply give my brain a break from trying to untangle unnecessarily complicated code, learn something more about how to understand the black magic some DBA used when encapsulating business logic in a database…things like that.  I’m relatively good at what I do so I understand most things I see and can figure out most of the rest that I don’t.  I’ve been doing what I do for somewhere short of 15 years now so there isn’t much code or data wise that I can’t handle.  To that end, I make a fairly comfortable living primarily as a contractor while enjoying the revenues I get from personal projects that continue to make my customers happy.  I do well enough, in fact, that I have time during the week to take on additional work.  Now, a great many of you might think that working from home would be ideal and who couldn’t be delighted to do such work?  No commuting, no dress code, flexible hours and the like is cool, right?  Well, it is but there are distinct pitfalls that many wouldn’t realize.  One of them is that you typically don’t ever get to meet the people you’re working for.  That sounds minor but more and more, I’m coming to discover that it’s actually a major piece of a potential employee or contractor who is trying to size up a work opportunity for suitability.  By virtue of the fact that you’re seeing this comprise the topic for a post, I’ve had recent experiences that I feel I need to vent about share with those thinking of doing this kind of thing.

Thieving douchebags. Yeah, you should avoid them as well.

Several years ago I briefly worked as a remote developer for a firm in Jacksonville, FL (keep in mind, I’m located outside the Atlanta, GA area) who had a grass roots political organizing application.  Not to get into the specifics of the app because it was way too ambitious given the owner’s timeline, funding and overall technical acumen but I did code some pretty cool modules for this application that even today (roughly 4 years later) I’m still pretty proud of (think a Google maps mashup that would create a walking route overlaid on a map for volunteers to go door-to-door for “get out the vote” drives with pinpointed addresses for political supporters with a map popup with details for each address…yeah, it was damn cool).  Anyway, long story short, the owner turned out to be a budding little criminal and it wasn’t until after he decided that paying me was “optional” that I discovered that he’d done the same to the two previous remote developers who’d done work for him as well as later hearing the same about two subsequent employees.  He did it enough that he rated an article in the Florida Times-Union for his activities.  He’s now a cable installation tech in Anchorage, AK.  My guess is that Anchorage is probably as far as he could run away from his legal troubles back in Florida that didn’t require the use of a passport.  Lesson from that: if the employer is short, seems slimy and tries to impress upon you who his friends are to show big a wheel he is…be careful.  Narcissistic a-holes don’t much care about anyone but themselves.  I did contract work for another 3+ years after that without incident.  Long jobs, short jobs, one off jobs.  They all worked out and I did good work for them and they paid me what I was owed…which is really all I’m after.  But then I took a contract with a firm in Philadelphia earlier this year that made me recall why contracting can be such a racket.

Damned shame closets don’t hold all the thieving douchebaggery in. Guess they’re not built for that.

Now, this firm, to be honest, appeared to be on the up and up.  It was a small, start-up like company who were providing assessment tools to the post-secondary education market (read: “colleges and universities”).  This time I actually flew up to Philadelphia to make the acquaintance of the owner and other folks I’d be working with.  They all, on the surface, seemed to be a nice group of people.  But a couple of things were apparent initially and became more ominous as time went by.  One of those things was the number of previous developers’ notes I was seeing in the codebase I was assigned to work on.  Now, keep in mind, the entire team was comprised of just 4 people (owner, project manager, database/network guy, lead CF dev) plus me but as I progressed through the code I saw notes in there from no less than 5 other devs who had worked on this code…within the previous 6 months…none of whom were still with the company.  Yes, that did ring alarm bells but not loud enough that I had reason to evacuate.  The other thing that happened was the announcement shortly after I started that the project manager would be leaving the company.  Now, this in and of itself wasn’t anything to be concerned about but she was, seriously, the only employee that knew anything about what was going on.  It became clear to me very early on that if she got hit by a bus or was somehow otherwise removed from the picture, that this company would struggle mightily.  Her reason for leaving though was even more suspect.  She was moving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh for her husband’s job.  However, as I was doing MY job remotely and others (especially the owner) did much the same…why did she choose to not do her job from Pittsburgh remotely?  She easily could have but decided not to…and explicitly told me she didn’t have a job lined up in her new locale.  I don’t know about you but my family would find it difficult to get by on one income if we’d been relying on two…but this girl admitted it would be tough going and yet STILL didn’t seek to do her job remotely.  Third thing was the sudden “disappearance” of a remote developer they had who was in California.  One day up and quits responding to emails, Skype messages, everything…and nobody seemed at all concerned or surprised by it.  When most people go suddenly missing from their jobs, more often than not, it’s the employer who ends up calling someone to ask why such and such hadn’t been in to work recently.  Not so these folks.  The owner made a point of bringing it up during a telephone conference that he “was probably in jail” and had had other such occurrences before…except that this was news to both the lead dev and the database/network guy when I mentioned it later.  Anyway, long story shorter again, these folks called me one day to tell me to stop working despite the fact we had a contract that specified minimum guaranteed hours but when I asked if I should expect more work or if this was their way of ending the contract they said they’d have more work…it was only temporary.  Temporary, in this case, actually meant permanent and also apparently meant they’d decide to not pay me for the previous week of labor I’d provided.  They also decided to do this to their lead, in-house developer, as well and they stiffed him to the tune of around $15K.  The lesson I took from that: don’t wait until the warning signs are so piled up they’re like knocking over furniture before you make a move to protect yourself.

So, while those two were bad enough on their own, they had something in common: those assholes pretty much robbed me for their own gain.  However, something happened just this morning that makes me nostalgic for straight up crooks like that.  Recently, I entertained an opportunity to take on a FT developer role that I saw via LinkedIn on May 14 (that’d be just 3 weeks and some as of today).  I read the listing, knew I had the time and certainly the qualifications for the remote, telecommute position…so I applied and in short order I was interviewed and pretty much immediately offered the job.  Great right?  Well, on the surface you’d think so.  I mean, it’s a non-profit located in Maryland who caters to the education industry (something I already had a few years experience with).  The salary was low for my experience level but then again, I didn’t really take the job for the pay.  I took it for extra money and to stay gainfully occupied.  While they described their technical situation in terms that suggested they knew their application needed the kind of help I could lend it, it wasn’t until I actually got a look at their code and database that I realized the extent to which their product suffered.  For you non-devs out there (most of you, I think) the following paragraph of my admittedly subjective opinions will seem like Greek but believe me, this gets into nightmare territory dev-wise.

Quality Matters...somewhere else.

The only way this logo could be more ironic is if it was made with actual iron.

To begin, the application(s) they describe are actually one big application, not separated code-wise at all.  Crossover identity issues abound.  They move data around in the application via URL or form variables, both of which are ridiculously easy to hack and, for which, their code had nearly no validation or even any rudimentary protection whatsoever.  Further, while it was running on a relatively recent version of the server software I specialize in (ColdFusion) it was coded as though it had been written perhaps 10 years ago.  No concern with code organization, multiple redundant pages, absolutely zero use of any Object Oriented Programming, little code re-use, nothing to indicate that anyone who had looked at it had done so in the past decade or did so with any expertise whatsoever.  Potential SQL injection opportunities on practically every form page, easy to invoke looping race conditions, cross site scripting attacks…you name it and this application was ripe for it.  On top of that, as a new dev, I had no documentation, the code contained no commentary whatsoever, business logic was entirely contained in the CF code (as opposed to the more secure and more efficient database), data was stored with little regard to efficient retrieval and lookup tables?  Nah, who needs those when you can store all your data as single flat files?  And the cherry on top?  It’s all on one box.  Not just the database and codebase but the development environment as well as their production environment…all one box.  No versioning control software to be found either which means that if (when) their site is ever hacked, they have a snowball’s chance in hell of recovering the code and/or data and bringing up a restored box (and why mention the failover backup box when it doesn’t exist?).  In short, from a developer’s perspective, calling it a “challenge” was probably the nicest thing you could say about it.  But, as I gained access to their technical resources I resolved that I’d move methodically through this steaming turd of a Fisher Price application and, by God, make it better…and I was.

That is, until this past Friday.  Having cleared roughly 3/4 of the outstanding tech tickets in just 8 days and having only the ones that required greater business knowledge than I possessed remaining, I got an email Friday afternoon informing me that they were disappointed with the volume of my work product and had scheduled a performance evaluation for this morning.  Naturally, I was fired during that call today.  Keep in mind, this was but day 9 of my employment and only 7 days after I got access to their code and database.  I’d been given no goals, no expectations, nothing but tickets to work on and for which I had cleared all but the 4 I lacked the requisite business knowledge to address.  In short, I was fucking lied to this morning.  Nobody hires an employee, says nothing about their work performance in the interim and then fires them less than 2 weeks later.  I’m not all that broken up about not working further for such a schizophrenic and obviously dysfunctional imbecile like the woman I was reporting to but for crying out loud, at least be a prepared asshole when I question exactly what goals did I fail to meet.  The conversational equivalent of a shrug isn’t what qualifies a fat chick to be a CIO these days is it?  Somebody enlighten me some here.  I thought competence still had a spot in the American workplace.

Anyway, all of the above is merely my opinions on the companies involved (namely Patriot Information Systems which is unsurprisingly now defunct, AEFIS, Inc which will likely become defunct in the near future and Quality Matters which while the company name criminally abuses the definition of the word “irony” will likely stagger along like a drunk toddler for some more time) and shouldn’t be considered anything other than my right as a person relating anecdotal recollections of events I was involved in.  If any other devs wish to work for AEFIS or Quality Matters, I’ll be pleased to stand aside and watch you rush to your predictable reward.  After all, you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet…but some of it should cause prudent people pause.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in Coldfusion, Web Dev | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

When winning is actually losing

Posted by Euroranger on June 6, 2013


Hell, he even has three more years…assuming we survive that long, that is.

This will be a very brief post because I figured that many of you may find yourselves in the same boat I found myself in earlier today.

I was reading the latest “scandal du jour” spawned from the magnificent leadership that is our President Barry when it struck me that I’d actually lost count of how many scandals this historical embarrassment of an administration has piled up.  To be entirely fair, lately they’ve been falling out of this administration’s diseased uterus at a rate that practically nobody could keep up with so much so that you almost want to keep a scorecard (or need a program) to make sure the newer ones don’t eclipse the importance of the older ones…lest we forget.

So, anyway, without further ado, let me throw down a list of the scandals that call this administration “home”:

  • The Blagojovokujojevich (or however you spell that walking hairpiece’s name) selling Barry’s Senate seat scandal
  • The Joe Sestak bribery/influence peddling scandal
  • The ignoring the Black Panthers voter intimidation scandal
  • The Solyndra scandal (and all those like it)
  • The Pigford scandal (the Agriculture Department money giveaway to minority farmers)
  • The Fast and Furious, ATF gun-running into Mexico scandal
  • AG Holder perjuring himself about the Fast and Furious scandal
  • The dozens of Obama recess appointments scandal(s)
  • The GSA, VA, HHS and IRS spending money like it was water scandals
  • The Benghazi, abandoning Americans to die so we don’t offend Muslims, scandal (as well as the subsequent lying about it)
  • The IRS suppressing political organizations with agendas contrary to those of the President scandal
  • The Justice Department seizing telephone records of the AP scandal
  • The Justice Department seizing work and personal telephone records for a Fox reporter because he helped publicize a story embarrassing to the administration scandal
  • AG Holder blatantly perjuring himself when he said he knew nothing about the Fox reporter investigation scandal
  • The EPA, Freedom of Information Act preferential-to-liberal-groups record requests scandal
  • …and finally, today’s scandal: the NSA conducting a massive internal surveillance program that would make the KGB nod proudly

This guy has only been in office just over 5 years now and the above list is hardly exhaustive.  I could have included Kathleen Sibelius being found to extort money from companies HHS would administer or her having violated the Hatch Act when she was blatantly campaigned for a Democrat candidate in North Carolina or even Barry’s own habit of executive rule changes, instructing federal agencies not to enforce laws passed by Congress and just, in general, acting like the laws of this country don’t apply to him (or to anyone in his administration, for that matter).  Add to that the coming Obamacare debacle as well as his absolutely disastrous debt spending campaign that have us in the hole to the tune of around $17T by now.

I guess what I’m saying is, for all my study of American history, you’d have to go pretty damned far back in our past to find an administration and president as absolutely corrupt and dismissive of the rule of law as this guy.  The real irony is that in 2008, the mass of young people who poured out of college campuses nationwide to support candidate Obama and vault him into the presidency were doing so because of what they perceived as Bush’s corruption.  Outside of playing it safe and relying on questionable intelligence that was a product of the Clinton years, what scandals can we collectively recall from the Bush years?  Sure as hell not this many.  That all said, while this president’s administration is ever more quickly revealing itself to be the most anti-American, anti-taxpayer and thoroughly corrupt administration in generations, there is one American who casts his gaze on all this shit…and smiles:

If you ever thought you’d live long enough to experience a president who made Jimmy Carter look good…you’re either the world’s best fortune teller or the world’s worst pessimist.

So anyway, there’s your Obama Scandal Scorecard…for those of you playing along at home and trying like hell to keep up.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

Posted in On the web, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Your Memorial Day PSA

Posted by Euroranger on May 24, 2013


My backyard grill.  Magic occurs here frequently.

What a pinnacle grilling device looks like. Pictured here: a Weber Performer grill with metal deck, a chimney fire starter, Lawry’s Season Salt, black pepper, garlic powder, Mesquite wood chunks (lower left), bourbon neat. Not pictured here: gas bottles, a “barbeque”, indelible androgynous shame.

Memorial Day 2013 is nearly upon us and it’s time you were reminded what the holiday is all about.  First off, here in the U.S. we have two holidays that officially recognize those who served: Memorial Day and Veterans’ Day.  The difference is that Veterans’ Day honors all those who have donned the uniform for our country while Memorial Day honors those who not only donned the uniform but fell in service of our country.  I’d like to say it’s surprising how few people know the difference between the two but given the decrepit state of our educational system, I suppose it ought not be a huge shocker.  Anyway, having a holiday like Memorial Day at the end of May pretty much serves as the unofficial kickoff to the summer vacation season.  But more importantly, it is also kind of the official start of backyard grilling season and on that basis I’d like to take a moment to mention something I’ve become more aware of over the past few years:

Many of you have no frickin’ clue how to properly grill anything more complicated than a hotdog

Now, I know many of you sport a pair of balls and so you believe that you automatically know how to cook something on a grill.  Let’s just take a moment and test that myth with a quick quiz.  Please answer the following questions (we’ll give you an easy score chart at the end):

  • Do you own a gas grill?
  • When you use your grill do you ever refer to what you do with it as “barbecuing”?
  • Do you own and use something called a “barbecue fork”?
  • Do you own and use a poke thermometer to test the doneness of whatever it is you’re cooking on your grill?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, chances are, despite the technical presence of possibly functional testicles, you likely do not know either “jack” or “shit” about grilling.  You probably also have a favorite variety of wine that is NOT also a color, know the correct way to pronounce “Prius”, may wear clothing in a color that can be correctly described as “pastel” and probably regularly shave something on your body that isn’t your face.  The good news for you “fellas” is that these days you can get married in 12 states (as of last count)…so you have that going for you, I suppose.

But, I am a compassionate and helpful man and so, I am here to help even you fabulous fellas with guidance for how to grill this summer.  Now, if you’re a vegetarian, this PSA probably isn’t for you.  I mean, I have been known to grill corn, pineapple, asparagus, potatoes and other non-meat items on my grill…but that’s just a side benefit of my grill’s awesome powers.  It’s not the main reason for its existence.  No dear reader, a grill exists for a single purpose and that is to cook the flesh of tasty animals to a degree of doneness rendering a superior taste evolutionally irresistible to carnivores…a food chain club of which our species is a card carrying member.  So, enough with the build-up.  By now you’re asking “how can I become a master of grilling excellence”?  Read on and bask in the glow of the only male cooking genre that doesn’t require you to learn foreign words or wear silly clothes.

Tip 1: Your Grill – A great many of you might own something called a “gas grill”.  Now, to be clear, there are gas appliances that cook food and even do so in superior ways.  Those are not called “grills” though.  They are called “ovens”, “ranges” and “stoves” and the masters of those appliances are known as “women”.  Even women can learn to be superior grill masters but nobody can do so using a gas grill.  Grilling is fundamentally about three things: fire, smoke and meat.  Gas grills do provide the fire part but they have to be modified to produce the smoke part…ironically, by burning pieces of wood.  If you’re going to burn wood anyway, why not simply dispense with the gas grill altogether and go with a charcoal/wood grill?  That question really doesn’t require an answer because it’s rhetorical.  Grilling over wood and charcoal produces a superior taste to grilling with gas.  What’s more, some meats you grill will drip grease (via the rendering of fats found in the meats themselves).  In a charcoal grill, that grease falls onto coals which, in turn, burns and gets turned into smoke producing a pleasant aroma that flavors the meat.  In a gas grill though, that same grease drips onto a pan…where it remains.  That grease congeals into a fatty layer of slop on the bottom of your gas grill which is disgusting to say the least and which I find to be unsanitary.  Think of it: if the health department will cite a restaurant’s kitchen for grease buildup…what makes you think the same is okay in your grill?  Sure, you can clean it out of your grill but that’s more work, it’s nasty and it defeats the sole benefit that gas grills tend to boast of: speed of cooking.  Further, cooking over charcoal/wood simply results in a better taste.  You can debate that if you like but there is a word for your opinion on this point and that word is “wrong”.  So, in conclusion, you need to use a charcoal/wood grill.

Cuts of beef chart

Helps to know what part of the steer your steak comes from. Generally speaking, you want something from the top, mid back.

Tip 2: Your Meat – You CAN cook a great many things on a backyard grill but the one item you must master to be considered a grill master is steak.  The skill of consistently producing superior grilled steaks is one that comes with practice (not as much as you’d think) but it starts with what it is you’re actually trying to grill.  You can grill any cut or thickness of beef steaks on a grill but what we’ll use here for instructional purposes is what you typically think of as the main course when ordering at a steak house.  As most of us know, there are around a brazillion different cuts of steak.  You can go expensive (think: filet mignon, Porterhouse, etc), you can go middle of the road (eg: sirloin, round steak, rib steak) and you can go as cheap as you like.  What makes a steak good (my opinion here) is tenderness and taste.  Tenderness is best found (unless you use a meat tenderizer which I won’t go into here and never use) in cuts from the short loin and the rib with some coming from the sirloin.  Cuts from those parts can be thicker and juicier.  The other thing to know about beefsteak is that meat that is better marbled (muscle tissue interspersed with fat) tends to be more tender and tasty.  Incidentally, what makes a steak taste like a steak is the fat.  When cooked, fats render down to grease which is what moisturizes the meat as it cooks and it’s what provides flavor.  Therefore, your leanest cuts of beef, while indeed lower in fat and attendant cholesterol, typically won’t taste as good.  It’s generally agreed that the best cut of steak to grill is a ribeye steak or a T-bone steak.  So, to have a superior end product, you need a superior starting product.  Don’t go cheap on the meat.

Tip 3: Your Prep/Cooking – Now, there are a lot of ways out there in the world for how to do grilling “right”.  I don’t tend to tell anyone their way of doing things is wrong but there are a few tips you’ll hear that I’ll disagree with.  I’ll mention those as we go as I describe what I consider to be the essentials for grilling a good steak.  First off, you may have noticed in the first picture something I called a chimney starter.  There are two main ways to start a proper charcoal fire: with lighter fluid and via chimney starter.  Using fluid, you pile your charcoal into a pyramid shaped mound on the lower, burner grate in the grill, douse liberally with starter fluid (which tends to be mineral spirits or other volatile liquid) which you then light with a match.  The fluid ignites within and on the outside of the pile of coals and, visually, appears to burn out.  Much the same happens in a chimney starter to this point: you fill the starter with charcoal, loosely ball up two pieces of newspaper and place them under the chimney and light the paper.  In either case, enough heat is generated by the initial burning medium (fluid or paper) to create enough heat to ignite the lowest coals in either the pile or chimney.  Those coals, in turn, light the ones above and in a short time you will have flames popping up from the top of your pile/chimney.  At this point, you spread your lit coals out and try to even out the heat across the surface of the spread.  One tip I like to mention: if you want to cook more than one thing on the grill (like say for instance, mushrooms or corn or potatoes or whatever else) you may want to have parts of the grill that are hotter and parts that are cooler.  Because different things on a grill will cook at different speeds, you may want a cooler part of the grill to move things to in case they finish before the rest.  Also, some things you may not want to cook as “hard” or as fast as others so you place them over the cooler part of the grill.  You make hotter and cooler parts of the grill simply by piling your lit coals higher in some places (for more heat) and thinner in others (for less heat).  When your coals have a more of less uniform grey ash on them, you’re ready to grill.  Anyway, let’s get back to meat.

Preparing a steak for grilling is fairly simple and requires that you remember a few basic things:

  • You want your steaks to be fully thawed to room temperature before they go on the grill
  • You can season a steak with whatever you like but, for a true steak taste, try keeping it to salt, pepper and maybe a small dash of other things (garlic powder, cumin, etc).  Good steak doesn’t need its taste drowned by too many spices/flavorings.
  • Salt…there is such a thing as too much.  Also, salting the steak too much and too early can see the salt draw out moisture from the meat…usually something you want to avoid.
  • Retaining moisture in the meat is one of your larger goals when cooking a steak.  Therefore, “tenderizing” it by beating the unholy hell out of it or perforating it with a fork will break down the muscle tissues of the meat and allow the fat contained therein to leak out as it renders to grease as you cook it thus drying out your steak.

Outside of that, steak prep is pretty much up to personal tastes.  I prefer to keep my seasonings simple and basic for good cuts of meat and I’ll add something extra if the cuts are less prime.  You WILL hear people talk about applying oil to your meat before it hits the grill.  The concept here is to keep the meat from sticking to the grill surface itself.  Personally speaking, unless you’re going to use an oil with an exceptionally high smoke point, I don’t think the trade off of taste for not sticking to the grill is worth it.  What I tend to do to make sure the meat doesn’t stick to the grill when I put it on is to use tongs to move the meat a few moments after I set it on the grill and then close the lid.  The heat from the coals will sear the parts of the meat that weren’t touching the grate itself and those seared parts don’t stick nearly as easily to the grill.  5-10 seconds is all it takes, move the meat once and you should be good.  Some purists complain that this messes up the “grill marks”.  I choose to call those people “idiots”.  It’s about taste not tan lines.

Steak doneness chart

Use this handy steak doneness chart to know what people mean when you ask them “how do you like your steak”? DON’T print this. Memorize it then disavow you ever saw it. Men are supposed to just know this shit.

The next major question is: how “done” do you want your steak.  Doneness is nothing more than a combination of heat and time versus steak thickness.  If you waited for your coals to turn grey then your fire will be somewhere in the range of 325° and 425°.  This is the ideal temperature range for grilling steak.  Too hot and it tends to sear the outside of the meat leaving the interior raw and too cool and you take much longer to cook your steak and the meat will be done to a uniform doneness.  How done you like your meat then is something you want to experiment to find.  I prefer my steaks medium rare which means they acquire a decent sear with some charring on the outside while retaining a hot but reddish pink center.  However, how do you really know when your steak is “done” to your liking.  This is more art than science.  There are those who will suggest you use a meat thermometer and poke it into your steak to get an interior temperature measurement.  This is one of those cases where science just doesn’t cut it.  All poking holes in your steak will do is to let the rendered fat, in the form of grease, leak out of the meat carrying all the taste and moisture with it.  For this same reason, NEVER USE A “BARBECUE FORK” ON A STEAK ON A GRILL.  Invest in a good pair of tongs and a large spatula if you must maneuver your grilling meat.  And that’s something else: once you get accustomed to grilling a steak you should truly aim for only ever touching it twice once it’s on the grill.  Touch it once to flip it, a second time to remove it from the grill because it’s done…and nothing else.  Continually flipping a steak means you keep taking the lid off the grill.  Why does that matter?  The lid retains the heat of the grill which means that you’re also cooking the side that’s not facing the coals when the lid is on.  This speeds cooking time but it also keeps the temperature as constant as possible because the lid limits the amount of air that gets to the coals.  More air = hotter coals = higher temperature under one side while there is cooler temps on the other.  Continually opening the lid and flipping the meat also cuts way into your drinking and socializing time and makes you look nervous and clueless.  Keep in mind: grilling is also about male image, capability and confidence.

So, that’s NOT how to tell when your steak is done but how DO you know when to pull it off?  I tend to press a finger or one of the tines of the my tongs to the  middle surface of the steak after I flipped it.  The degree the meat springs back tells you how done it is inside.  Hard to press or springs back instantly means it’s well done (also the jet black char and cracking sound the meat makes when you touch it should be a dead giveaway).  If the meat has some give in it it’s less than well done and if it’s mushy as hell then it’s practically raw and you’re way too anxious.  Also, keep in mind, if you remove the steak too soon and discover it’s not cooked enough to your liking, you can always put it back on the grill for a few minutes but you can’t uncook a steak that is too well done.  Just something to remember: err on the side of rare.

Tip 4: After (aka: “Taking Your Victory Lap”) – So, you’ve successfully lit your grill, acquired a decent cut of meat, prepped and seasoned it the way you like and even managed to grill it to a state you intended all the while looking suave and in masculine control.  Time to eat, right?  Wrong.  Steak needs to “rest” once it comes off the grill.  This means, you need to let the grilled steaks sit at least 5-10 minutes before cutting into them.  Although you’ve taken the meat off the heat, there is still heat contained within the steak and it continues to cook inside a bit even after you’ve taken it off.  The juices inside the meat are still very fluid and moving around (migrating from the more cooked exterior toward the less cooked interior) and they’re not bound into the meat fibres still because of the overall temperature.  Allowing the steak to rest for a few minutes lets the juices be reabsorbed somewhat by the meat.  This means a juicier and tastier eating experience.  I usually place my steaks onto a large edged plate or a sided pan and then cover them with tinfoil.  The side benefit is that me appearing with the meat means my wife knows she has about 5-10 minutes to complete the remainder of the meal before we start eating.  It also gives you a chance to clean up a bit, close down the grill, retrieve or refresh your drink and bask in the adulation of other appreciative adults complimenting your superior grill master skills.

Final tip: try your steak without any new salt, pepper, steak sauces and so on.  I myself like the occasional A1 or Heinz 57 with beef…but if you grilled a good cut of beef and did it correctly, the beef on its own should be tasty indeed and not requiring flavoring.  If you didn’t perforate it, cooked it to reasonable doneness and allowed it to adequately rest, your steak should be juicy and flavorful (unless you carbonized it cooked it well done…in which case, it’ll taste like charred wood) and will earn you the compliments of your family and guests and continue to establish you as the alpha male in your household.  There is something male affirming about being able to take meat and fire and turn those two into a desirable meal…even if you drove a pastel Prius to go buy your “buddies” a wedding gift at Crate and Barrel.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

 

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Time for “Connect-the-dots”

Posted by Euroranger on May 14, 2013


Billy C. lying his ass off

Smell my finger. Smells like intern with a hint of “fuck your petty laws…I’m the fucking President”.

I’m going to try and keep this one short and to the point.  Yes, I know, I’ve said such before and that normally precedes a rambling soliloquy that probably ought to come with chapters and probably more pictures (for those of you with Attention Deficit Disorder).  I say “short and to the point” on this one because circumstances have, just this week, conspired to pull aside the nearly omnipresent curtain of time diminishment when it comes to apparently disparate issues that are, in fact, joined but that most think are not.  I guess what I’m really saying is that, for some issues, most people simply don’t get why some of us get all worked up about things because they don’t see how or why the issue, by itself, is such a big deal.  And the reason almost always is: because the issue ISN’T “by itself” at all.  For example, remember when Slick Willy got his willy slicked by Ho-monica in the Oral Office and the huge national debate about the impeachment that followed?  There are still, today, many people (the majority, in fact) that believe the entire impeachment process was about President Clinton getting a blowjob from a White House intern…when, in fact, the issue was that he lied to a grand jury when directly asked that question earlier.  That is: the president of the United States, the guy who stands at the pinnacle of American society, committed blatant perjury in front of a federal grand jury.  None of our jobs require us taking an oath when we accept the job offer.  The president’s does and the part of that oath he takes that says “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution” actually means something.  If we accept that it’s A-Ok for the president to lie his ass off to a federal grand jury then we pretty much say he’s not subject to ANY laws of the land.  That’s not the way America works and in Clinton’s case it wasn’t about the oral sex but that he LIED ABOUT IT and we as a people cannot let even a single instance of presidential law breaking slide.  This week’s example of issues being connected has kind of the same circuitous, but entirely valid and appropriate, logic involved.

By now, we should all know and accept that President Obama’s most recent attempt to neuter our 2nd Amendment rights has and will continue to fail.  Oh, the debate is still going on and those who want to see all of us disarmed in the absolutely laughably utopian result of no gun violence are still out there trying to shame people into supporting their position by saying that by not supporting them we instead support the mass murder of little children.  To Obama and his ilk in this debate, it’s about people “clinging” to their guns for no reason other that some misplaced aggression, some paranoia about crime busting through your door or even as a replacement for a small penis (I have no idea which body part they pick on if you’re a female 2nd Amendment defender though).  In fact, let’s quote Barry directly.  This is what Barry had to say in April 2008 at a fundraising event in San Francisco:

We’ve got a couple of folks who are heading out to Pennsylvania to go door to door with us. And the question was: What kinds of questions should I expect them to get?…The places where we are going to have to do the most work are the places where people feel most cynical about government…You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, Ohio—like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years, and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration. And each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or, you know, anti-trade sentiment [as] a way to explain their frustrations.

It’s only “clinging to your guns and religion” when you’re a Christian American. If you’re Muslim, hey, that’s your “culture” and we should be sensitive to that.

So, just so we’re clear here: the reason some of us want to retain our right to keep and bear arms, to Barack Obama apparently, is because times are bad, jobs have fled and the promised “progress” hasn’t reached these folks so they’re frustrated, racist, Christian, country folk.  THAT’S who wants to keep and bear arms and why…to those on the left.  To them, we don’t wish to keep and bear our arms through any actual thought out, rationally explained reason: we’re just jobless, poor, pissed off, Bible-thumping bumpkins.  Unfortunately though, for the anti-gun crowd, this week’s news pretty much illustrates what most of the rest of us actually believe and that is the 2nd Amendment exists as an ultimate means to address the encroachment of our rights by government when that encroachment goes too far.  In other words, when the government becomes despotic the 2nd Amendment means the people have the option (through force of arms) to overthrow that government.  Now, absent any evidence of the government being despotic, that kind of confirms Obama’s description of such people as “cynical about government”.  But like I said, this week put that whole “oh, you’re just being dramatic…the government isn’t like that” kind of leftist dismissal to the lie that it is.

First off, we had the evolving story of the IRS targeting groups whose political beliefs oppose those of the current administration for harassment via increased scrutiny of their applications for tax exempt status and higher than normal levels of audits and such.  Ever evolving in that initially it was explained as overzealous low level workers in isolated district offices but that turned out to be total bullshit with the revelation that the top guy at the IRS was aware of the activities and had been for more than a couple of years.  In short, the government tried to squelch dissenting political views in what we thought was our free society.  But that entire and ever growing debacle was joined today by the news that this same government demanded and got records listing telephone calls for the work and personal phone numbers of AP (Associated Press) reporters and various AP offices.  This was ostensibly done for a government investigation of a leak that lead to a report by the AP last year of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an Al Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States.

So, in literally successive days, we have our government actively suppressing free political speech of specific groups it doesn’t like through intimidation via our tax collecting apparatus AND violating the law, free speech, freedom of the press and individual privacy rights by seizing phone records for individuals that might have been associated with publicizing a story the government didn’t want told.  In both these cases, direct violations of the law were made by members of our government acting on instructions from someone higher up in our government…and all to suppress constitutional rights that the government found inconvenient.  In summary, we have government acting against entirely legal organizations solely due to the activities of those organizations being contrary to the pleasure of the existing administration.  This isn’t the first time this has happened.  Back in the 1970’s this identical situation was called Watergate and it lead to the one and only resignation of a sitting president (Richard Nixon).  Back then, the left was up in arms over the government disregarding the law and rights of organizations (like the DNC).  Time to find out if the left was outraged over the actual abuses…or by who committed them.

So, yes gun grabbers, some of us DO see a direct correlation between our 2nd Amendment rights and the fear (now somewhat more justified than before) that our government may one day decide that our rights are superfluous and disposable.  It can’t happen, you said last week?  How about now?  How many examples of our government acting like our individual rights are merely guiding principles and not the very foundation of our country does it take before you agree “we the people” need a means to address that?  Exactly when do these government excesses become enough to acknowledge that our Founding Fathers weren’t misguided idiots when they presumed our (the peoples’) need to protect ourselves one day from our own government?  Guess what, that was a rhetorical question because I don’t care what YOUR opinion is of where that imaginary line is in your head.  I just place my faith in the guys who did the hard and revolutionary work that built our country and not the dismissive assholes that dysfunctionally mismanage it today.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Ask Your Doctor If Sequesterol® Is Right For You

Posted by Euroranger on March 15, 2013


Godzilla...minus KY.

“Graahhrr!!!”
[“Bite the pillow. I’m going to love you now…vigorously”.]

So, here we are in Sequester-land.  It’s not so bad, right?  I mean, all the advance hype about it from some quarters would have led one to believe it would rate on the enjoyment scale somewhere between being boiled alive and being date raped by Godzilla.  The government hasn’t collapsed.  The world continues to turn.  Western civilization hasn’t collapsed in on itself despite the promised Armageddon that would result when the Air Force wouldn’t be able to purchase $10,000 toilet seats for their aircraft.  Barry did close the White House to tours but almost immediately backpedaled on that idiocy when he realized that closing the People’s House to tours claiming budget strictures (and blaming the Secret Service in the process) was laughable when we were also still spending money on his weekend golf outings (think “commandeered Air Force aircraft”).  In fact, spitting in school groups’ faces (the ones who’d planned months in advance and spent a fair amount of money to travel to Washington D.C.) is just one facet of the president’s plan to make the mandatory budget cuts hurt.  Memos have since surfaced at the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture and at Homeland Security instructing managers to cut back on services visible to the public, presumably to underscore their point that the government can’t possibly function without a daily exponentially increasing amount of tax money.  It seems kind of obvious, after the first week anyway, that the public won’t tolerate this kind of underhanded political gaming and so the forecasted doom and gloom hasn’t appeared and, even when it does, it likely won’t be nearly as apocalyptic as we were all told it would be.  In the meantime, enjoy crapping on the Air Force Gulfstream on the way to your tee off time Barry.  You’d damn well better use that gold plated pooper perch we paid for.

Anyway, something caught my eye today as I was perusing the news.  Barry wants to fund ways to encourage the United States to wean ourselves entirely off foreign petroleum.  Calling it the Energy Security Trust fund, Barry wants to encourage private industry to develop new ways to lower the cost of vehicles that run on electricity, biofuels, natural gas or other non-oil fuel sources.  He proposes drawing $2 billion over 10 years from royalties the government receives from offshore drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf.  Now, those who have read previous post on this blog may recall that I supported not just Barry’s decisive statement about wanting to move America away from a petroleum based energy infrastructure but also Bush’s bold statement during his State of the Union address which is going on…what…12, 13 years ago now?…to move the United States toward a hydrogen based economy.  Both statements turned out to be total politician lies so why does this pronouncement from Barry rate even a comment?  Well, something has changed and that something is that the United States is now nearly off foreign oil or are in a position to be if we decided to do so.  Recent technological leaps and the price of a barrel of crude have made extracting the oil under our own feet a viable activity.  Because of that, the Dakotas these days are booming oil fields and we’re sitting on so much untapped natural gas in this country that some experts suggest that even applying the curve of our ever increasing hunger for energy, we have about 200 years worth of natural gas under our back yards here.  So, Obama’s desire to set up a fund to encourage alternate energy technology sounds great right?  I mean, it’s even revenue neutral (or at least paid for) because it’d come out of the fees the government collects from offshore drilling permits.  Who could be against such a great idea?

All those who remember the Solyndra debacle, for starters.

Cost of White House public tours for one year: $936K
2010 White House state dinner for Mexican president: $970K
You kids wanna see the White House? Go get elected President of Mexico.

Look, as I’ve said before, I’m an American before I’ll accept any other label people like to use to describe their stances on things.  I personally think Obama has been a substandard president and shows the damage that can be done in electing a novice ideologue solely on the basis of race (and yeah, that’s why he’s there folks…unless you think Hope and Change would have worked for a similar white Democrat which we all know it would not have).  But he’s what we have to work with/endure so that’s that.  One of the reasons I dislike him though is that either his naivete about giving public tax dollars to private firms with no strings attached or his bald corruption of giving public tax dollars to private firms with no strings attached who contributed to his campaign as a kickback reward (pick whichever one works for you) is much less effective than simply crafting a tax incentive for such industries.  Why give these firms money we can ill afford to simply give away these days in the midst of Sequesterpalooza when writing a tax refund for successful such firms would be much more likely to, you know, actually produce the results you say you’re after?  The reason why is because Barry is simultaneously locked in an ideological battle with his Republican opponents over how best to form the nation’s financial house such that we don’t end up being Greece or Spain’s bigger idiot bailout brother several years down the road.  Front and center in Barry’s plan to do so is to…raise taxes on corporations.  It’d be kind of hard (even for Barry) to say “raise taxes on corporations” while at the same time saying “give tax breaks to some of them”.  He’s also railed about tax moneys that go to “big petroleum” but it’s those very firms that’d probably be best positioned and knowledgeable about how to create and deploy ways to lower the cost of vehicles that run on alternative energy.

To sum it up: great idea Barry (even if not even a single atom of it is from an original thought) but lousy way to implement it.  Reduce government spending (like maybe demand to know what’s so compelling about lesbians and gay men being fat that the NIH feels compelled to hand out $1.5M in a study to find out), create incentives for private business such that they grow, employ people (maybe even some fat gay ones) and create increased tax revenues…and stand the fuck aside and let America do what it does best: innovate.  Know why we’re nearly energy independent today?  It’s because it now makes good business sense to come up with the new drilling and extraction technologies.  The government had little direct role in encouraging or funding that.  That was nearly all private enterprise doing what it does: serving a need and responding to economic conditions.  Give those companies a tax break for doing the work we want them to do and, by God, they’ll do it.  It’s not like 240 years of history of free enterprise in this country could be mistaken.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Sports are dope

Posted by Euroranger on January 18, 2013


Kind of lends new meaning to the phrase “nut up or shut up” doesn’t it?

I like sports.  I enjoy watching hockey, football, auto racing and a couple of others.  When I was younger I played baseball and football and would have loved to have played hockey except that when you arrive in Canada at age 13 (from Florida via West Virginia no less), you’re already behind the other kids by…oh…12 years or so.  I did learn to skate and did enjoy playing pick up games on the local park’s tennis courts that the city of Mississauga parks and rec flooded each winter.  Point is, worldwide, sport is a big deal.  It’s a socially unifying force.  People who wouldn’t normally have anything to do with one another will sit in the stands next to each other and cheer for their common team.  Being a fan gives people a sense of belonging to a larger group and athletes are elevated to the status of heroes and gods for their accomplishments and mastery of their arena of competition.  Sport, via record keeping, allows us to compare ourselves to our predecessors.  Rushing touchdowns, passing yards, strikeouts, home runs, 100 meter dash times, weightlifting records…they allow us to compare today’s athletes to those of bygone eras.  But you know what?

Professional sports these days is an utter fraud

Amongst all the accomplishments of athletes around the world, one that seemed like it was the most amazing of them all, revealed itself yesterday as the total and complete lie that a lot of people suspected that it was.  Lance Armstrong, the seven time winner of the Tour de France, finally admitted that all of his Tour titles (of which he had already been stripped previously via an investigation) were due to cheating.  Now, let’s be clear, cheating in sports is wrong but there are “levels” of cheating that are wrong-er than others.  Take baseball for instance.  For many years I was a huge baseball fan.  I played.  I watched it on TV.  I’d go with my friends down to Exhibition stadium in Toronto with my $2 left field general admission ticket I’d buy at Dominion and watch the Blue Jays when they were still an awful expansion franchise.  I’d wait in the players’ parking lot for an hour after the game ended and meet the players.  I had a friend who babysat one of the Blue Jays player’s kids.  I got a ride home one time from one of the third basemen even.  Back in those days (the early 1980’s), baseball indeed had cheating.  Spitballs, scuffballs, and corked bats.  Players on base would steal signs from the catcher and relay them to the batter.  If you got caught, the most severe penalty for cheating was to be ejected from the game.  Football, hockey, basketball, soccer also had cheating but cheating there was in the form of holding or offside in football, interference, tripping, and so on in hockey and similar things in other sports.  Those instances of cheating is why referees exist and referees hand out penalties for cheating.  5, 10, or 15 yards field position is awarded to the opposing team in football.  2, 5, or 10 minutes (or even, GASP, game misconduct ejections) in the penalty box are handed out to the offending players in hockey.  Free or corner kicks in soccer and so on.  Sport was born, evolved and long ago recognized that players will always try to find an advantage over their opponents and some will circumvent the rules to do so.  The common thing all cheating in sport had in common back then was that it was something you could witness happening or be able to detect.  You can see a player getting held in football.  You can see a skater getting hauled to the ice in hockey and you can check the ball and detect Vaseline or pine tar or see that it’s been scuffed in baseball.  The offense can be discerned, the penalty for it imposed and the game resumes.  In other words, sports adapted to handle cheating and incorporated it’s own mini judicial system to manage it.

Barry Bonds before and after. Because, you know, some people magically grow enormous muscles and a new Cro Magnon brow ridge IN THEIR LATE THIRTIES.

However, there is a form of cheating that has always been difficult if not impossible to detect and it has now grown to such a degree that it nearly renders the things that make sports compelling, useless.  That is, of course, the explosion of athletes using performance enhancing drugs.  Now, let’s be clear here for a moment: the use of ingested substances isn’t a new thing.  It’s as old as sport itself.  Even the Greeks back in the BC days of the early Olympics would use things like opium juice, various hallucinogens and herbal concoctions to try and gain a competitive edge.  The early 1900’s saw Olympic athletes using things like strychnine, heroin, cocaine, and caffeine to try and boost the performance of athletes.  And starting in the mid 1950s amphetamines began to make an appearance in the amateur cycling world.  I would think that amongst most sports fans these represent a range of what most would call “minor” substances.  Herbs, alcohol and things like cocaine, amphetamines and heroin all exist but for other purposes (clearly some of them are illegal for those other purposes as well) but none of those were specifically created for athletes.  But then, in the late 1950s, that all changed with the introduction of anabolic steroids.  Steroids, in general, synthesize the strength-building properties of testosterone while minimizing the negative health effects.  Testosterone is a natural steroid found in everyone (men more than women) and promotes the building of muscle amongst other things.  However, the human body only produces a limited amount of testosterone.  Anabolic steroids are used to blow right past that natural restriction and allow athletes to build larger, stronger and faster muscles which will give them a strength and endurance edge in some sports.  All the substances I mentioned above are cheating…but steroids have that quality that seems to go over the line for most sports fans.

Which brings me back to baseball and ultimately Lance Armstrong.  I mentioned earlier that I was a huge baseball fan.  WAS.  I quit caring about baseball around the same time the Oakland A’s had “the Bash Brothers” Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco.  Major league baseball has had tandems of home run hitters before but there was just something about those two that pretty much everyone in baseball suspected wasn’t right.  For me, it was that baseball, more than any other sport I can think of, relies upon its history and stats.  When some of baseball’s longest standing records started falling in the late 1980s and at an ever increasing pace, it seemed obvious to me that baseball was allowing the abuse of performance enhancing drugs to sully their rich legacy.  Today if you look at the record books you see the name Barry Bonds has replaced both Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron in some important categories, Roger Clemens in a few others.  Both players, whether actually admitting guilt or not, used anabolic steroids and other performance enhancing drugs to erase the names of players who didn’t.  In fact, my original suspicions about McGwire and Canseco were eventually proved correct.  Both admitted to using steroids back then.  Today, I don’t know or even care about baseball records as they have no meaning.  Who cares how many home runs Barry Bonds hit in a season if the reason he hit them (at THIRTY SEVEN YEARS OLD!) was because it wasn’t him at all but because he was a muscular freak of nature due to rampant cheating?  Baseball does apparently because he’s still the official single season and career home run king…even after he was convicted of obstruction of justice during a government investigation of illegal steroid use.  He couldn’t even properly deny (he never knowingly took any illegal steroids) that was cheating because he had also already been indicted on perjury charges and probably feared that evidence would eventually surface that would fully expose his cheating.  But Lance Armstrong…

But apparently he can win one of the most grueling and physically demanding sporting events not once but 7 times. If that’s what it takes to nail Cheryl Cole, I get it. But still…

What can you say about this guy?  In a sport (competitive cycling) that practically INVENTED cheating via substance abuse we have a guy who, at age 34 won his final of SEVEN Tour de France titles after having survived cancer and the loss of one of his testicles.  Against a field of other athletes, where you can be reasonably assured the vast majority are abusing PEDs and who are years younger, here you have a guy who is missing half his testosterone production and yet not just competing in but dominating his sport.  If you ever needed a living illustration of the old saw “if it seems too good to be true” well, you have it in spades with Lance.  After retiring in 2005 the allegations, suspicions and investigations didn’t stop and eventually enough of his former teammates and enablers had fessed up leaving Lance practically alone in proclaiming his innocence.  Investigations finally determined there was enough evidence of cheating that professional cycling and finally the sanctioning body that governs the Tour stripped Armstrong of his 7 Tour titles in October of this past year…so 4 months later, Lance finally confessed to a long history of using EPO, testosterone, cortisone and human growth hormone, blood doping and transfusions.  And this brings me to the point of why I wrote this:

He admitted doing these things over a period of more than 20 YEARS!

Think on that admission a moment and let it digest.  He admits he started cheating like this in the mid 1990’s.  He was suspected from the very beginning and was tested almost continuously and constantly during his competitive years right up through his retirement in 2005…and he never once, not a single time, tested positive for any of those substances.  To a fan of cycling that means one thing but consider that cycling has access to all the same testing apparatus, methods and techniques that every other sport does.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that competitive cycling is a pioneer (right up there with the Olympics) in the field of detecting use of performance enhancing drugs by their competitors.  And yet, despite all that and despite the fact that Lance Armstrong was probably rivalled only by Barry Bonds as being the most obvious abuser of such substances in the history of sports, no test ever actually detected his cheating.  If athletes like Bonds, Armstrong, Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and a raft of others too lengthy to list here can cheat like this and not get caught, do you think that any professional athlete today is “clean”?  I mean, if you play a sport and someone will pay you to play it and then pay you a whole hell of a lot more to be one of the premiere athletes in that sport and you know that the agencies that exist to catch your perfidy are unlikely to do so…do you think an athlete will pass on that opportunity to make themselves rich, famous and adored by legions of fans?

Until professional sports starts taking an extremely hard line on athletes, it’s clear they’ll never get the upper hand on this kind of cheating.  In my opinion, you need to admit to yourself that you will not catch the majority of cheaters.  You therefore need to make the consequences for ever getting caught so severe that athletes won’t even start to consider doing it in the first place.  For one, a positive test that is verified by a follow up test should mean you’re suspended for one year from competing.  Once you return, testing is compulsory on a frequent and unannounced basis.  Missing a subsequent test or failing it gets you banned for life.  Period.  Further, all contracts for that sport should include a clause that the athlete will forfeit and refund all salary and other compensation to their team should they fail a test and any subsequent contract must be at the sport minimum the first year they’re back from their suspension.  Finally, for sports with a Hall of Fame, all star game or other recognition that you’re an elite athlete…yeah, you’re banned from that too.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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I know how to fix gun violence

Posted by Euroranger on January 16, 2013


Not too many days ago, I went through this blog’s posts over the past couple of years and made an interesting discovery: for the most part, I’m getting too damned serious about shit.  I used to be a less caring (read: “younger”) kinda guy and my attitude was that I’d probably be best served confining my attentions to bettering me and mine and our situation.  Lately, it seems that my previous attitude is running head on into a newer “we better start thinking about saving the country” attitude more often than it did before.  I’m guessing that’s probably because the situation for the country and our future seems a lot less rosy than it did just a few years ago and while I’ll get old eventually and revert to wearing Pampers, my grandkids (should my children ever exercise enough indiscretion to flirt with such disaster) will probably be wearing them too…and they’ll have a lot longer to deal with the mess we’re making right now than I likely will.  Case in point is the recent debate over the role of guns in our nation in the wake of the whack-a-doo who shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School a month back.  The overall knee-jerk reaction has been an increase in support for banning guns, banning certain types of guns, banning some kinds of accessories for guns and other assorted bans and things that look and sound like bans.  New York state snuck a ban past their Senate in the dead of night day before yesterday that, among other things, limits gun magazines to a maximum of 7 shots, and in another provision, a therapist who believes a mental health patient made a credible threat to use a gun illegally would be required to report it to a mental health director who would have to notify the state.  President Obama, just earlier today said he wants Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines and used his executive powers to order federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointed a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directed the Centers for Disease Control to research gun violence.   Great ideas, right?  I mean, surely these kinds of measures will fix our violence crisis once and for all, right?  Well, to be brutally honest:

They won’t do a damned thing about violence in general and gun violence in particular

And here’s why:

Every single gun comes with one of these. Application of a finger (not shown and not included with gun) is necessary to operate.

1./  The effort that pretty much everyone is talking about is directed at a class of inanimate objects.  In every fatal shooting, mass or otherwise, there are but 3 components involved: the shooter, the victim(s) and the gun(s).  I don’t think anyone is seriously discussing any measures regarding potential victims (well, actually, that’s not at all true but it’s not on the mass media agenda so it gets ignored).  So that leaves the government and pundits to consider the two remaining aspects.  Addressing one has the option of possibly being effective but more difficult to do (and philosophically problematic) while addressing the other, while easier to do, won’t likely be even marginally effective.  Given that it’s our government acting, you probably don’t need a hint to guess that the government is going to focus on the easy but ultimately useless option: the guns.

Well, why won’t banning “assault rifles”, larger magazines and such work?  Because criminals, by their very nature, don’t obey rules, restrictions or laws.  Let’s face it: if your grand plan is to go out in a blaze of glory and waste as many innocent lives around you as possible, you’re pretty much already contemplating breaking much more serious laws…like murder.  Seriously.  Murder is illegal, has been for some time and the penalties for doing it can be quite severe.  If you don’t believe me, look it up for yourself.  Anyway, if you’re planning to murder a whole bunch of people and the illegality and the prospect for the sanctions against murder don’t deter you, what makes anyone think a misdemeanor or minor felony infraction for using a banned weapon or banned magazine is going to effect your decision?  The truth is, and even proponents of these measures mostly admit such, they won’t.  People bent on murder and mayhem won’t give a flying rat turd for some minor weapons law.  What’s more, the same crowd that tends to think that prohibiting guns will cut down on gun violence also tend to have a large Venn diagram convergence zone with those who will tell you that the war on drugs is useless and should be abolished.  Think about that moment: banning drugs is stupid, useless, expensive, ineffective, hasn’t worked and violates the right to do what you wish with your own body…but banning guns will fix everything.

Right.

So, if banning guns, gun accessories and such isn’t the answer, what is?  For a novel approach, how about we address the actual issue, and that is:

Shown here: the proper way to disarm the criminally insane and prevent mass shootings.

2./  Consider addressing the supremacy of personal freedom over community security when it comes to the mentally ill.  Not once, in my recollection, has a gun gotten up, walked over and shot the everloving shit out of some person…all by itself.  In all the uncertainty there is in today’s world there is one thing you can pretty much take to the bank: gun violence always requires a person to be doing the violent part.  What gun laws truly hope to accomplish is to separate certain people from guns.  It’s just that their approach means that ALL OF US get deprived of our rights and separated from guns when it’s only a small fraction of us who actually need to be separated from them.  That small fraction are the people who are mentally unstable.  Now, I mentioned personal freedom versus community security for a reason and it’s this: have you ever seen the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?  In short, it was a movie made in 1975 about a book published in 1962 about the antics of an inmate in a psychiatric ward who wasn’t really mentally unstable.  The movie and book are very sympathetic to the cause of mental patients and helped form a public impetus (we’ll discuss Hollywood’s role in all this in a moment) that resulted in the ACLU filing many suits against states and mental health facilities arguing against involuntary institutionalization (read: “getting sent to the funny farm”) and even greatly weakened measures like AOT (“assisted outpatient treatment”) laws which feature preventative institutionalization and forced medication BEFORE they harm someone or themselves.  Today, it’s nearly impossible to commit someone to a mental institution because they have rights.  This is not altogether bad.  There is indeed a compelling argument that people ought not to be deprived of their liberty if they suffer from a mental condition.  That said, if you’re okay with placing the individual’s rights over the rights of the community for a safer society for all…incidents like Sandy Hook and Columbine are prices that society will pay for such largesse.  However, if you are going to respond to such massacres by discussing a curtailment of a person’s rights, should it not be the rights of the people who are doing wrong that should be discussed?

3./  Our society is a gun oriented and violent one and we should consider reeling that back some.  Listen, I play video games.  I’m a gamer.  And I like playing video games that feature combat, things exploding and, in general, mayhem and unimaginable violence.  I like action movies that feature guns and violence.  That said, I like those things in moderation and don’t mold my life and my actions to comport with a world view that the way characters act in video games and movies is something to be emulated in real life.  However, everywhere you turn these days, especially for children, you see violence.  Now, cartoon violence (like a coyote getting outsmarted by a speedy bird and suffering an anvil to the noggin for his failure) has always been around since the earliest days of both film and television and children that grew up in those circumstances didn’t turn into a bunch of crazed mass murdering psychopaths.  But that was also back in the day when kids got spanked in school, had expectations placed upon them, weren’t coddled and told they’re all winners no matter what they do and so on.  In short, back then, kids were still parented and learned that actions have consequences.  Not so much these days.  Since we as a society have decided to not actually directly raise our kids but sort of let them free range grow up any old which way, it may be that we need to revisit obscenity laws and perhaps some small return to censorship.  This, naturally, would be violently opposed by Hollywood who, in perhaps the biggest recent display of colossal irony this week, came out with a list of celebrities who think that guns should be banned/restricted when the movies and TV shows they themselves make a lavish and privileged living from glorify and exploit the violence that guns can wreak.  You see, taking responsibility for their own actions would be absurd and it’s the rest of us who should have our freedoms curtailed whilst they champion their freedoms of speech and expression.

Looking good here Hollywood! A-OK! In fact, let’s make a movie, TV series and a toy merchandise line to sell to kids! Thank God there’s no guns though, right?

And of course that’s fucking ridiculous and, of course, because Hollywood overwhelming supports liberal and Democrat politics, the president neatly skipped over any measures that might have even hinted that Hollywood scale back their 24/7 diet of violence and guns in the entertainment they churn out for society’s consumption.  So, in short, to truly curb gun violence we need to look at who it is that’s presenting the problem, address that problem and get serious about doing so while the other side blithely demands to know why we should even have a second amendment (the right to keep and bear arms).

If, after what I’ve said above, you’re still one of those people let me ask: were you one of the people who shrieked and moaned about how the Patriot Act trampled your rights? Maybe not but many did. Were you one of the ones who didn’t care for the government ordering banks to report deposits over a certain amount supposedly as a measure to curtail drug activity? Again, maybe not. Maybe you’re one of the ones who don’t care for government defined “free speech zones” for people who wish to protest. Maybe, maybe not. Regardless of how you answer on any of those, do you see the government ever relinquishing any of those restrictions on your rights? Ever seen a government spend LESS in a year than in a previous year? Even when we had the surplus not too many years ago, did you see the government go “whoops, took too much money…we’ll give that back”?

I’m going to go ahead and guess you wouldn’t like the government telling you what you can and cannot say or write. I’ll guess you probably wouldn’t like it if the police decided to pull you over and subject you and yours to a cavity search on the side of the road. Maybe if the police claimed they found you were smuggling 10 pounds of heroin in your rectum that you’d like to actually have a trial before being sentenced to life in prison? Or maybe, rather than prison, they decide to simply sell you into a life of slavery. You’d be okay with that? Maybe if you’re a woman you’d like to have a vote?

See, I’ll go ahead and guess that just because the constitution says you have a right to free speech, to not be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure, to a trial by judge and jury, to not be made a slave and allowing women to vote that you will follow that reasoning blindly and fully demand your constitutional rights.  However, would you be cool giving up THOSE rights that mean little to you personally? I mean, if you’re not saying anything then losing the right to free speech wouldn’t mean anything to you personally right? If you’re not a criminal then you really have nothing to fear from warrantless searches of you and your property, right? You’re not a criminal so the right to a trial won’t affect you…so surely you must be okay with jettisoning the 5th through 8th amendments, right? And hey, since you might not be black or a woman losing the 13th, 15th and 19th amendments won’t even affect you.

But here’s the rub: suppose, one day, our dysfunctional government decides that those rights ARE frivolous and superfluous and you don’t need them. Guess which amendment represents the ultimate means to address the loss of the others. The 2nd Amendment was written at a time that Americans were actively revolting against a government that was taxing them without representation, that would seize personal property to house foreign soldiers (3rd Amendment), that forced a government on them for which the people had no say and other assorted affronts. The 2nd Amendment is the only one that not only states a right but then goes further and explicitly declares that the right “shall not be infringed”. No other right takes that extra statement but the second. That’s because the framers had only a single example of a republic to work from when they were modelling ours: the Roman republic. Know what happened to the Romans?

They knew that even as good a system as a republic could falter and the government could turn against its own people. In Rome’s case, the senate handed over power to a strong man (an emperor) when (see if this sounds familiar) they were so gridlocked and their finances so screwed they couldn’t effect a solution via their existing government. The founding fathers likewise knew that no matter how thoroughly they tried to set it up, our government can and will eventually falter…and when governments go bad it’s the people that suffer and its the people that have to do something about it. Ergo, give the people the right to keep and bear arms so that if/when the situation warrants it, they can effect change.

Just because you’re short sighted enough to want to kiss off the only right that has any chance of guaranteeing the rest of them doesn’t mean your decision is wise or even informed. There are costs to trusting people with the power to change their own government when the government one day decides it doesn’t want to change. You can’t have that ability and have it have no repercussions.

Sandy Hook was a terrible tragedy.  The next Sandy Hook will also be a terrible tragedy.  However, if we’re going to start voluntarily giving up our rights for the illusion of security know in advance that the government almost never relinquishes power once it has taken it.  The way to reduce incidents like Sandy Hook is to identify those people whose mental state makes them more likely to commit such deeds and get them the help (or isolation) they and society both need.  Until we get serious about that then the next Sandy Hook is down the road a ways who knows how near or far.

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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No Cure For Stupid

Posted by Euroranger on November 12, 2012


As I mentioned last week, I wanted to take a few days to digest the recent election activity and then comment on it.  I’ll spare you all from a rant and tirade about how the election turned out, who did underhanded what to whom and so on and so forth.  You can find those a dime a dozen on the intarwebz and I strive to deliver a somewhat fresh (or at least different perspective) on not so much what happened but what it will mean to our country.  To that end, after a week of somewhat erratic contemplation, I have come to two conclusive opinions:

Franklin et al

These guys actively modeled our country on the Roman Republic. They even knew that one day, we’d screw it up just like Rome managed to.

1./ The decline of the American Republic is at hand – Well, THAT sounds all doom and gloomy, doesn’t it?  Exactly the kind of bombast you’d expect from some dyed in the wool, hard core conservative, right?  Well, my assertion is based on history and not partisan politics.  I don’t really care who won the election…what I care about is who was elected, what those people have demonstrated over the past several years and what it means to America’s future.  What I’m talking about, of course, is our national debt.  Currently, the national debt stands at (get this) $16,260,696,626,397.55.  I kid you not.  I got that figure from here.  Said in plain English that’s “sixteen trillion, two hundred sixty billion, six hundred ninety six million, six hundred twenty six thousand, three hundred ninety seven dollars and fifty five cents”.  However, by the time you read that number out loud it was already obsolete by nine million additional dollars or so.  Yep, we here in the United States pile up debt by the assload like nobody else.  Anyway, everyone knows (or thinks they do) that the debt is one big ass number, right?  Well, it is and most people think it’s always been this big.  But the word “big” in this context has dramatically changed over the past 5 years.  This year, we’ll add another $1.5T or so in new debt.  Prior to President Obama taking over though, our deficits were more in the neighborhood of 200 to 400 billion per year.  Truly bad numbers back then to be sure…but those numbers are less than 1/3 of what we’re doing these days.  Go back even further to the last time Congress claimed to get serious about controlling the debt and budget deficits and you see deficits of less than $200B per year.  Just so we’re clear: days where we ran deficits around $200B = shit’s serious enough to enact legislation to try and control Congress spending like a drunk sailor on shore leave.  Days where our deficits are more than 6 times that much = meh, who cares (aka: “today”).

Since you’ve read this far, you’re probably wondering: how does this equal the decline of the American Republic?  It’s not complicated but it does require understanding how the process for funding our debt works and accepting that history has a tendency to repeat itself.  Our debt is funded by our treasury issuing something called “T-bills” or treasury bills.  The government makes such bills available for purchase and buyers of those bills receive a guaranteed modest amount of interest on their investment.  That means that for every dollar the government borrows, it ends up paying like $1.10 or so which is the original debt plus the t-bill’s interest.  Governments, private firms, banks and individual investors buy t-bills because their return is guaranteed.  However, “guaranteed” is the sticky point here.  Every country issues debt bonds (t-bills) to fund their debts, public works projects, etc.  Every entity that issues such a debt bond receives a debt rating from several international ratings agencies.  This is basically nothing more than an assessment of the risk of that issuing country making good on their guarantee to repay.  For countries that’s called their “credit rating”.  On August 5 of 2011, for the first time in the history of our country, our credit rating was reduced by first one then all the major rating agencies from AAA (outstanding) to AA+ (excellent).  The reason this happened was explained as two main reasons: our debt to revenue ratio and our political gridlock (Dems and Repubs not playing nice together).  In short, what the international ratings agencies said to investors worldwide was “while we still like America as an investment, they’re not as solid as they used to be and they don’t appear to have a plan to improve the situation”.

What does this have to do with the American Republic?  Just this: we just re-elected both a president and a Congress who, collectively, have added somewhere north of SIX TRILLION DOLLARS IN NEW DEBT IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS.  Re-elected.  That means, that despite the fact that we all supposedly knew how bad the debt was, we still returned the same buffoons who have proved they can’t and won’t control their spending.  Alright, you might say, but still…what does that have to do with the health of the Republic?  Just this: the only real parallel we have to historically compare ourselves with is the Roman Republic that disappeared in 27 B.C. when the Roman Senate granted exceptional ruling powers to one man (Octavian) who proclaimed himself Augustus and became, in essence, a Roman emperor.  To understand why this happened and why it’s a parallel to our situation you only need to know the the Roman Republic was experiencing many of the same types of pressures we are today:

– rapid expansion from a small entity to a large, world spanning nation (the United States only really became the world spanning nation in 1945 after the end of WW2)

– both nations maintained large, well funded armies (Rome because they were conquering the world, ours because we can no longer allow Europe the luxury of fighting amongst themselves every other generation now that we have atomic weapons) that placed a drain on the nation’s finances

– both nations polarized into conservative and popular (liberal) factions where the former derived power from the elite class while the latter looked to the lower classes for support, dividing the people and classes into what seemed like warring factions

– both experienced eras of huge social upheaval.  For Rome it was the importation of millions of slaves who took over the menial work of nearly everyone while in the United States we preside over the continual destruction of the traditional family while redefining both societal and gender roles for men, women, adults and children

With society changing at such a rapid pace, the demands of the nations required more and more revenue.  Rome acquired theirs via conquest and higher taxes.  Already in the United States, the call has begun for higher taxes to support lavish social entitlement spending.  In Rome’s case, taxes then were sold as “patriotic” and many people paid them gladly.  However, they eventually discerned that their taxes were being misspent and wasted and many stopped paying their taxes.  In other words, Rome couldn’t fund their debts.  That coupled with the rapid remaking of society, gridlocked politics and no real reasonable solution in sight was when people started thinking that their only salvation was to turn everything over to a single person who would have absolute power.  In the United States, we already have the fiscal hole we’ve dug ourselves and the societal upheaval.  We lack only the rapid shutoff of financial solutions for our spending.  Should our debt and deficit problems remain unaddressed, the rating agencies will have no choice but to downgrade our credit rating yet again.  Do that enough times and suddenly you have a scenario where the United States can no longer find buyers for our t-bills.  If you think this is impossible, you have only to look at Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland and a host of others around the world to see the lie.  There is nothing special about the United States that magically insulates us from economical reality.  If we keep on this path we will eventually be truly broke…and then rather than a dictatorship, we’ll have another revolution.  Either way, it’s the end of the American Republic…and our re-affirming election last week means we’re at least another 2 years away from even starting to address the problem responsibly.

White Obama

Don’t tell me this isn’t every Democrat strategist’s wet dream

2/ The Democratic Party may not nominate another white male for president again – There.  I’ve gone ahead and said it.  Democrat white dudes winning the nomination may never happen again.  While to some that may sound racist, I submit that a suspension of social outrage is in order while we examine the election’s demographic breakdown.  That link goes to demographic results that are, well, fairly stark in terms of demographic politics.  To put it bluntly: if you were white you voted for the Republican to the tune of nearly 60%.  White voters in this country made up 72% of all those casting votes and Obama got just 39% of you.  And yet, he won the general election by 3%.  How is that?

He won because he carried blacks by 93%, hispanics by 71% and asians by 73%.  That being the case, what does that mean?  Well, let’s look at the last times Democrats ran white men as their candidate: Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000.  Both men ran against Bush who, by all reasonable accounts, was vulnerable in both elections, yet he managed to win.  The numbers though, tell the tale:

In 2000 the non white vote was 19% of the total.  In 2004 it was 23% and in 2008 it was 27%.  In none of the elections (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012) did the Democrat candidate carry the white vote despite it making no less than 72% of all votes cast.  The Democrats lost the elections in 2000 and 2004 by close margins.  In fact, in each year except 2008, the white vote decreased for the Democrats each election.  While Al Gore carried 42% of the white vote in 2000, Obama got just 39% of the vote in 2012.

What it means is this: the Democrats know (or should know) that they cannot win the presidency by counting on the white voter.  That voter has become ever more hostile to their message over the years (albeit gradually as Clinton carried only 44% then 39%)…but the white voter is losing influence in this country to the hispanic voter bloc.  While I was aware of these numbers somewhat (I didn’t know their exact breakdowns), last week I asked myself a fairly straightforward question and didn’t like the honest answer: if Obama had been a white male running on the record of his deficits, poor employment numbers and such, would he have been re-elected?  The answer to that, I believe, is “not a chance in hell”.  I have to say, given that the minority vote in this country (especially black and hispanic) is so skewed by the race of the candidate, that the Democrats will eventually come to realize that they won’t win the presidency unless their candidate is a minority or is female (although no polling back in 2008 showed Hillary doing well should she have won the nomination).  That, to me, is a rather sobering thought.  White voters have split between Democrats and Republicans fairly reliably regardless of the ethnicity of the Democrat candidate.  Not so for blacks and hispanics.  This suggests a low level racial component when campaigning for minority votes would not only be advisable but beneficial.  It also suggests that, for a block representing more than 1/4 of American voters, issues and platforms matter less than the race of the candidate does.  In fact, if these numbers were somehow reversed and showed a race bias on the part of white voters, I shudder to contemplate the volume of the racial protests that would follow.  However, in this current era of media-sponsored political correctness, not only will there not be a protest, the very existence of these numbers won’t even be mentioned and if they are mentioned, they’ll be summarily dismissed.

Except, I expect, by the king makers in the Democratic party who are just as good with such numbers as I or any of you would be…and they look for any edge they can get in the biggest political game on the planet.  Oh, and by the way, for the time it took me to write this post, the United States added an additional $227 million dollars in debt.  Nice, huh?

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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Your Thanksgiving turkey probably sucks

Posted by Euroranger on November 8, 2012


So, being 2 days after the election I’m sure some of you thought I’d likely be on here ranting and raving.  In truth, I had contemplated a post to discuss just where the hell America lost its collective mind.  However, while that post will likely go up sometime next week (unlike many, I like to think about what I want to say rather than merely blurting it out) I decided that I’d help out some of my fellow Americans regardless of whether they deserve the benefit of my generosity or not (that goes doubly for you idiots in Ohio, Virginia and especially Florida).  I refer, of course, to the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday and the iconic roast turkey supper that’s normally the centerpiece of such.  Now, a great many of you may believe that you are already adequately served by whatever passes for turkey at your house on our day of national reflection and thanks for the bounty that is (or used to be anyway) America.  You are, sadly but not unpredictably, incorrect.  I know this because I have sampled Thanksgiving turkey varieties over the years and places I’ve been and over those years I came to one inescapable truth:

Lots of you have no frickin’ clue how to cook a turkey

Now, you may say “hey, wait a minute…I like our T-Day bird” and, while it’s statistically possible that you may be one of the vanishingly few people who know how to properly cook a turkey, chances are you’re not and as a result you’re laughably wrong via ignorance.  Don’t feel bad though.  Not many folk know how to produce a Thanksgiving turkey whose taste will have your tongue slapping your brain clean out of your skull.  By now you’re either offended and wondering how it is I came to be drinking so early on a Thursday (my employer in New Jersey STILL doesn’t have communications since Sandy blew through town…BTW, thanks a ton, Verizon/Earthlink) or you’re offended and waiting to see a demonstration of my claims of superior fowl-based meal preparation.  Well, be offended no longer as I am about to reveal to you all, the recipe by which my father and I have been producing exceptional T-Day turkey meals for the past 44 years.  As a family, we have few traditions…but this is one of them.  My father started this and passed it on to me and I passed onto my stepson (although he hasn’t attempted this on his own yet).  I will, this year, take my 10 year old son aside and involve him in this effort.  In fact, we’ll be doing Thanksgiving supper down with my in-laws in Florida and my presence there was specifically requested so that I may cook the bird (presumably while the ladies commune with my wife’s 89 year old grandmother as she passes on the secrets to her sweet potato casserole and mashed potatoes…she has managed to break both her wrists as of 2 days ago and she’ll still be in casts come Thanksgiving day).

Before we begin, I want to stress that this process is a Man’s Job.  Yes, that sounds chauvinistic as all get out and sexist (and it is) but it’s also traditional and…well…that’s just the way it’s done.  The men folk wrangle the bird and commit breathtaking acts of culinary derring-do while the women folk wrangle whatever else we’re going to eat with supper.  Both genders get to claim they’re busting butt and working hard all the while consuming heroic amounts of alcohol supposedly unbeknownst to the other.  It’s like “Fair but Equal” except that it pertains to participating in meal prep.  So, without further ado, allow me to share the secret for producing a nearly perfect Thanksgiving day turkey.

First off: most of this process is accomplished outdoors (the cooking part anyway) because we’re going to use a grill.  Now, for those of you who may be “regionally challenged” (read: “not from the South and possibly also afflicted with a wife who hyphenated her last name”) when I say “grill” I mean a Weber charcoal grill, like so:

Weber grill

If you don’t recognize this stop reading now, travel to the nearest Home Depot or other commonly accepted “man place” and turn in your man card (if you haven’t already done so).

You see, roasting a turkey in an oven (sometimes in a bag…good God) is wimmen work.  Yes, you can plant your fat pasty butt on your couch and watch the Cowboys and Lions play football but why do that when you can do those same things AND get full man credit for cooking the turkey…and it turns out not tasting like soggy toilet paper with the consistency of a piece of wood?  Do you enjoy the disapproving glares of your wife and possibly mother and/or mother-in-law while they do all the work?  If you’re married, don’t you get enough of that already?  Anyway, we’re using a grill and not an oven.  In addition to the above mentioned grill, I have this handy recipe you can follow through to male culinary victory (and perhaps a small amount of restoration of your abandoned male dignity).

Ingredients/materials:

1 whole 18-22 lb turkey (I prefer Butterball but any will do)
2 sticks of butter
1 8oz bottle of Italian dressing (room temp)
1 1/2 cups white wine (also room temp)
2 quarts water
Various spices (thyme, marjoram, oregano, salt, McCormick’s Season Salt, pepper – basically any leaf spices and nothing citrus and no cayenne, chili powder, etc)
1 bag Kingsford charcoal (none of that easy lite crap or lighter infused stuff)
1 bag hickory chips
1 disposable aluminum drip pan
Cooking twine or wire
Large handled measuring cup (I use a quart size glass measuring cup with handle)
Medium sized bowl of water
Baste brush
Metal bulb baster (plastic can melt but is usable)
Bamboo skewers
Beer proportional to number of cooks/bystanders (recommend something seasonal like Sam Adams Oktoberfest)

Bird on grill

Good example of the bird centered over the drip pan with the banks of charcoal and chips to either side. Not pictured: women, children, other irritants, my drink.

In the measuring cup melt both sticks of butter in the microwave. To the melted butter add the Italian dressing and white wine. Add additional spices/salt/pepper if desired.  Mix together and set aside.  The room temp dressing and wine is important as using cold versions of either will cause the melted butter to re-congeal and make mixing near impossible.

Clean/wash turkey, remove neck, giblet bag (some like my wife’s grandmother make a gravy from these parts, we don’t tend to). Once the bird is washed inside and out, twist each wing around to the back and bind the wings together with twine or wire so that bird rests wings side down, breast side up. Apply a generous amounts of all spices to the neck opening and breast cavity using your hand to rub the spices into the meat from the inside (that part’s messy). Once done, use bamboo skewers to close the skin flap over the neck opening.  This completes the bird’s pre-grill preparation.  You should now acquire an adult beverage of your choice.  As an aside, Thanksgiving is one of those few days on the calendar that it’s entirely okay to start drinking before noon.  In fact, it might even be a law in some places.

Place at least two handfuls of hickory chips in a bowl with water and set them aside. In either a chimney starter or in a mound in the grill and with lighter fluid (I prefer the chimney starter) start 30 charcoal briquettes. When the briquettes are ready to spread, divide into two parts (15 coals each) on each side of grill with the disposable aluminum drip pan in center. The coals should be mounded on each side of the pan with a few to several in direct contact with the pan. Add 2 quarts of water to the drip pan and replace the cooking grill. Place the turkey breast side up (wings down) on cooking grill centered over the drip pan. Incidentally, this process is otherwise known as indirect grilling. Baste generously with the dressing/butter/wine baste. Retrieve a handful of wet hickory chips from the bowl, shake the excess water from the chips and divide evenly onto the briquette piles on either side of the turkey and close the lid (allow for half open vents on both top and bottom).

Every 15 minutes, open the grill, baste the turkey and apply a handful of damp hickory chips to either side of the bird. Try and baste/chip the bird as quickly as possible. Remember to baste first, chip second as the chips will start to smoke/burn within moments of applying them to the briquettes and getting a face full of fresh hickory smoke is every bit as delightful and entertaining as a pepper spray facial. Every 45 minutes, add 9 charcoal briquettes to each side of the drip pan when basting/chipping (baste first, add coals, add chips).

Depending on the outdoor temperature, a 20 lb bird will take anywhere from 4-5 hours total to cook. You know cooking is finishing when the skin on the legs starts to pull up the bones on each side. Once that starts, I usually give the bird around 30-45 additional minutes of grill time.

When removing the bird from the grill (you’ll want a large spatula or two to scrape it from the grill and two wads of paper towels to grip the bird to place on a pan or platter) be aware that the chest cavity WILL have an excess of juices and baste and those juices WILL be very hot. Having them pour out onto your arm is commonly described as “unpleasant”.  Take this from me…I know.

With the metal bulb baster, draw a sufficient amount of liquid both from the bird cavity and additionally from the drip pan if necessary with which to make a turkey gravy in a small saucepan.  The gravy is made by combining the ingredients on the stove with flour or starch to thicken the baste/juices.  You can add salt and pepper to taste and white wine if you’re fancy like that.  Be aware that this step requires you to venture into the “wimmen” domain of the kitchen (the room where you typically keep the beer) so try not to screw up your manly accomplishment of cooking the bird by doing or saying anything dumb here (because if you’ve been doing this right, you’ve been drinking for the past 4-5 hours by now).

Anyway, allow the turkey to rest at least 30 minutes after removal from the grill before carving. The bird can and probably will be nearly black. That’s normal. If done correctly, it’ll come out looking something like this:

Turkey about half done

As a helpful hint: if it’s cold out, you can keep your baste running free by leaving it on top of the kettle lid when you close it. The warmth from the lid will keep the baste nicely heated. And no matter how drunk you get, you won’t likely have trouble finding it.

Anyway, that’s all there is to producing probably the best turkey you’ll ever enjoy on a Thanksgiving.  The recipe has evolved over the years since my Dad started to do this.  For instance, the bottle of Italian dressing supplanted a much more complicated process where he basically made Italian dressing from all its constituent parts.  Only about 5-6 years ago my stepson suggested the white wine to cut an extra thick baste I had produced (because the dressing had been put into the fridge).  It worked great, the taste was better and hey, it’s wine so you can bet that stayed in the recipe.  This recipe has not only served us at Thanksgiving but also at Christmas a few times and, when we lived in Canada (where using a grill anytime after Labor Day produces incredulous neighbors who wonder aloud at such weather defying perversity) my Dad was asked to cook turkeys for neighbors/friends.

So, have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving holiday and should you decide to use this recipe let me know how it turned out for you.  I’ll get around to examining America’s national IQ disgrace in my next post.  In the meantime, enjoy!

My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.

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