Saturday, January 28, 2012

The 1 %

No, not the rich Wall Street bankers who reaped zillion dollar bonuses and not pay any taxes while the rest of the country suffered and lost their jobs.  I am speaking of people who live in rent-controlled or rent-stabilized apartments with the most tenuous claims to those apartments. 

Recently, residents of the upper west side of New York City have complained about large chain stores taking over complete blocks with their stores.  The residents say that the small business owner has no chance of succeeding when these stores come into their neighborhood, so they have proposed some kind of zoning regulation that new stores can only occupy a certain amount of storefronts.  All in the name of protecting small buisnesses, neighborhood aesthetics and warding off large and greedy businesses.  Yes, the true champions of humanity.

Allow me to suggest another motive, rent-control or rent-stablized aparrtments.  I think that most of these concerned citizens are more concerned with the status of their cheap rent in that neighborhood.  In the past fifty years, the price of almost everything has gone up, except for the rent they pay to live in those apartments.  The owners and landlords of those apartments have to pay for all of the services of those places, but they cannot pass on the costs to the renters.  So, how can they maintain these residences for low rent paying people?  One way to do it is to rent storefronts to chain stores who will pay market price or even a premium for the space to offset all of the low rent coming in from rent stabilized/controlled apartments. 

The fear of the large chain stores is that a different set of people will move into the neighborhood.  People looking for the convience of chain stores that are open for 24 hours and not just during working hours when those residents are actually at work.  Imagine working a very long day and getting home at 9 pm, only to find that there is nothing in the refrigerator, and all of the stores around you had closed at 8:30 pm.  You would have to go back out, walk 8 blocks to the large super chain store to get a package of instant noodles for dinner before collapsing in front of your television at 11 pm.  You are the type of person that these champions of humanity are rallying against.  Because you can afford to pay more rent than they pay, they fear that they will lose their sweet deal of an apartment. 

The fear of modernization and moving forward because one has to give a deal to which they are not entititled is worse than being a banker who bought insurance on bad debt and profited from it.  No one wants to pay rent, just as no one wants to pay taxes, but all of us do because that is the cost of living in a society.  If everyone just looked out for their own interests, then no good would come out of it.  For those who do not like paying market prices for rent, they should heed the advice of the President of the United States...PAY YOUR FAIR SHARE!!!!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The War Between The States...

...and the Federal Government of the United States of America.
That is what it should have been called instead of The Civil War (what the winners called it) or The War Between the States (which is how it is referred to in the South). 

New York City public schools have cast it as the war to free the slaves.  Although slaves were freed during the war, it was not the main point of the war as many would have you believe.  The war did end slavery and the slave trade in the South, but eventually, that was going to come to an end.  I understand that slavery (as practiced in the United States until the end of the 1870's) was a really bad thing because human beings were routinely mistreated and involuntarily denied their freedom.  The practice of slavery had to end for that reason.

Let us go back to the discussion of the war in the 1860's.  The reason for the war was that some states felt that the federal government had overreached its mandate and started to butt into the rights of the states.  The ugly practice of slavery was just one of the issues, but because it was really convienient and a despicable practice, it became the face of this war.  The South could not frame the war as a fight for the sovereignty of States and that is one of the reasons they lost the war.  If they had a better public relations machine, then they would have stood a chance. 

What was so important about States' rights?  The Constitution of the United States allots the Federal goverenment a certain degree of responsibility and it also leaves other responsibilities to the States.  The Bill of Rights, specifically the tenth Amendment, grants the States the rights that are not given to the Federal government and not prohibited by the US Constitution.  States are sovereign entities, although the exist within the context of the United States.  They are recognized for their individuality and entrepreneurship.  The States were not meant to be clones of each other.  When the Federal Government steps in and starts to regulate the States so that Vermont can be the same as Georgia, there is a problem.  The Federal goverenment has to recognize that the States have different economies, different resources and different needs and things that are good for Vermont are not necessarily good for the Georgia. 

The Civil War was much deeper than slavery, it was about the ability to decide one's own destiny (ironically for some Southerners, the ability to decide their own destiny depended on the suppression of that ability in other people).  A 'watered-down' presentation of the Civil War as the struggle to free the slaves is really a disservice to history.  It is a deep discussion on the resposibilities and roles of the many pieces of our government.  If it is simply presented as a war to end slavery, then where is the discussion of state sovereignty?  How will anyone learn about their rights and responsibilities?  By not delving further into the subject matter, all of us have become slaves of the federal government. 

All of us need to understand our system of government to become better citizens.  Following rules does not make us better citizens, it makes us slaves.  Being able to operate freely because of our deep understanding of our system of government makes us better citizens.  Better citizens make this country better.  The United States alows us to be free, but what does it really mean to be free in this country and what should we do with that freedom?

Saturday, January 21, 2012


At least once a year adults get dressed up in outrageous costumes to engage in fun.  I am not talking about what goes on in the privacy of one's bedroom (or whatever rooms on their private property that they may choose to engage in that type of activity between consenting adults).  Nor am I talking about Halloween, when some adults indulge in some healthy (and not so healthy) fantasies.  I am talking about sports fanatics, a breed that is probably worse than the most avid D and D 15th level warrior/mage fluent in Elvish, Orcish and Dwarvish.  I am not preaching tolerance, rather, I would like to propose that as a society, both should be treated with the utmost disdain because they are the same animal.

Let us consider two events and their participants.  The San Diego ComicCon which is considered the Super Bowl of all ComicCons.  Other cities may host their own events, but nothing can compare to this one event where people from all over the world come to see the lates in science fiction/fantasy dressed up as their favorite characters that range from Japanese anime characters to modern television adaptations of Japanese anime characters.  And the one sporting event that brings everyone together from all over the world (mostly the United States), the Super Bowl, which is considered the San Diego ComicCon of all football games.  There are other football games, but none of them can attain the fever pitch of the once a year event of The Super Bowl.  Fans come dressed, rather, adorned in their team uniforms (I choose the word "adorned" because some fans tatoo and paint themselves in the colors of that team).  Is it becoming obvious that these are the same type of people?

Let us examine some of the similarities...

Each is extremely knowledgable about their subject.  The sports fan can recite the rosters of each team (pre-season, regular season and post-season) since inception and even if they had switched cities.  They can also explain why the 1965 incarnation of the team (although not a championship season for them) was much superior to the 1988 incarnation of that team (a championship season) adjusting for all of the rule changes in the game and the extended regular season, the dilution of talent, the impact of free agency and the extended post-season.  They will insist that in a head to head match up, the 1965 team will handedly beat the 1988 team.  The Battlestar Galactica super fan will be able to recite the constitution of the governmental system and all of its laws and amendments of the 12 planets.  Not only that, he can list all of the presidents of the 12 worlds and their major political achievements. 

Each has a sacret object (or objects, depending on their economic status).  For the sports fan, it will be a signed football from a past championship season that has all of the autographs of the players and coaches.  If it is a super fan, then he would have bribed a locker room attendant for a used towel on that championship day.  This item will be sealed in a glass case and placed in a prominent area of the home.  For the sci-fi/fantasy devotee, it will be the lightsaber that was used by Darth Vader when he struck down Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Death Star as Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie were boading the Millenium Falcon.  And if he is lucky, there would be a picture of him and George Lucas in this collection of objects.  Actually, it will technically be a picture of him and Mr. Lucas, because as George Lucas was waiting for his take out order, this fan sidled into view and a friend snapped a quick photo to record this moment in history when the fan met his god.

Each will also have built a shrine in his place of residence (that is if his place of residence is not already a shrine) to their object of worship.  This most sacred place will be filled with the sacred objects much to the envy of their friends who share the same passion and to the misfortune of all others.  With every object, the story of its signficance to the team and the adventure of how it was obtained will be unfolded before you like the gift of crisp underwear on a Christmas morning.  All will listen with mouths agape, some in wonder and awe, and others in disgust and utter disdain for the loss of 30 minutes of their lives that can never be reclaimed.

One area tha I would also like to discuss is the pageantry of the events where the individuals arrive in full regalia of their respective events.  The confidence of a person to dress in this manner with utter disregard to the lack of physical fitness is not quantifiable in humanly attainable methods.  Sports jerseys (modest ones) may be acceptable, but tattoos, body paint and other types of identifying marks cross the lines of good taste.  The same can be said of people dressed as costumed superheroes.  I am quite certain in the limited number of comic books that I have read that Superman did not have a beer gut and Wonder Woman did not have spider veins (also, I am quite sure that neither Spiderman nor Spiderwoman had spider veins).  Just for the sake of decency, please consider the rules of good taste.

Just one more comment about dressing up.  Putting on the sports uniform of your favorite quarterback will not give you the magical ability to throw touchdown passes with pinpoin accuracy, nor can you catch passes thrown at 90 miles an hour.  The same goes for comic characters, fashioning Batman's utility belt out a hardware tool belt does not make you Batman and capable of fighting crime.  A piece of paper with the bus schedule between the convention center and the basement apartment in home of your parents is not a GPS. 

I am certain that many more simliarties can be made between these types of people, but I must go back to the original question: why is society more tolerant of a sports fan than a comic book fan?  The sports fan may have partcipated in organized sports in school which give him some kind of physical development that Jedi Knight training academy or Klingon language schools may not have endowed on others.  The present society encourages the bullying of the weak by the strong.  Is there one school counselor in the world who would advise a football player that maybe he should work on his Boba Fett costume because the jet pack does not match the armor?  If it were the other way around, a school counselor would advise someone working on armor for the Society of Anachronistic Arts to play some sports. 

It has been embedded into our belief system that might is right, and that is the reason that sports fanaticism is much more tolerable and accepted than sci-fi fanaticism.