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Caustic Countdown: 3 Ways To Recognize Empty Political Promises

24 Jul

We have again reached a critical point in our perpetual political cycle. Men and women are vying for positions of power within our governmental structure, utilizing every possible technique of persuasion to appeal to their potential constituents. Sort of like super-villians, except that they’re supposed to be helping us. Within their super-villianous arsenal of politic firepower are the usual attack ads, glorification campaigns, and subtle subconscious appeals that many of us have come to both love and loathe. But one particular technique stands out as one of the most disdainful to Americans today: the false promise.

Every individual regardless of political affiliation can cite an occasion of empty promises built upon manipulated hope. We couldn’t agree if peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are delicious if we put it to a vote (they are. Vote PB&J 2012), but Americans come together against these powerful but ultimately empty words. Cynicism is rampant in the voting population because many learned of the fallaciousness of these promises after they cast their ballot. Most voters would have at least debated their choice more intently if they had recognized an empty political oath beforehand. In the spirit of promoting a better future for our country by the ballot box, here are three ways to determine whether a candidate is being honest or playing the political game.

 

 

1) Guaranteeing a Power Play

 

America could easily be mistaken as being engulfed in an ideological civil war. Republicans and Democrats are constantly at each-other’s throats in an attempt to force a submission. If you were to scan the comment section on any major news site, your eyes would practically be seared by the acrid comments both parties are making in reference to the other. Our discourse falls well beyond the boundaries of polite debate, landing somewhere near the border of obsessive insanity. This vehement hatred is found even in the esteemed halls in the Capitol, because people still follow the petty patterns of the populace regardless of social position. Politicians refuse to work together, creating a stagnate system nearly devoid of compromise. While this in itself is a tragic issue, the nature of the beast can alert you to the existence of empty words.

 

The Promise:

“I will repeal Obamacare…” – Mitt Romney

 

Although Former Governor Romney is neither the first or last person to ever guarantee a power play, his statement best represents a potentially empty promise. It is impossible to say currently whether or not this particular promise is truly empty, but most analysts say that it’s not going to happen. Why? Because Romney would have to contend against a senate that still currently holds a Democratic majority. He’d be like an insect trying to pass through a parade of anteaters. The only way for him to actually repeal Obamacare is to have legislation sent through this partisan gauntlet. Judging by the ludicrously hostile nature of congress today, it doesn’t take a genius or political insider to know that there is no way that such a repeal will pass through (apparently, the anteaters are hungry). Sure, if elected, Romney will most likely fight tooth-and-nail to combat certain provisions of the law. He may certainly try to repeal it, but we know that such an effort will prove futile. If one is voting for an individual solely based upon a power play such as this, it might be wise to look for other aspects within the candidate you may deem favorable or consider alternative options.

 

2) Jurisdiction Issues

 

Many people assume that if elected to a prominent national office, the candidate will wield incredible political power. The problem though, is that our federal government exists within a system of checks and balances that separate powers to select branches. This division of power has been set in stone for over 2 centuries, paradoxically having been written down on an incredibly important piece of paper. The different responsibilities of certain branches are enumerated within the text of the US Constitution. There has never been an occasion where one branch can just encroach on the powers of the others without reprisal. They’re like siblings fighting for mommy’s attention. If one pushes, the other will scream “stop pushing me” while the other one starts to kick saying “Mom! The court’s pushing the executive branch!” It’s only a matter of time before mom (which I guess is us, in this weird metaphor?) says “Quit the bickering before I turn this damn car around!”  With this extensive pushing and shoving in mind, it’s incredibly interesting how many Americans are misled into believing a candidate’s eventual power will actually go beyond their constitutional limitations.

 

The Promise:

This sort of faux oath is so terribly common, it would actually be limiting the scope of the problem to post an example!

 

How often do we hear congressional candidates swear that their administration will work to directly reduce the crime rate? How about when Presidents or Governors promise to have a certain law passed or eliminate a certain social program? What’s incredible is that, by the endemic separation of powers, both of these are truly impossible to follow through with!

Take our hypothetical congressman for example. Legislators can write the text of a law, can set down the penalty for breaking said law, and they can even write exemptions within the text to clarify for certain circumstances. Other than that, however, they cannot actively fight to decrease the number of law-breakers. They are not a policing agency; they can’t patrol the streets and arrest someone for littering or running a red light. Unless they became a vigilante superhero (my bet is that they’d call themselves CongressMan and where a white wig to conceal their identity). They have no actual executive power that extends beyond the halls they debate in. Their responsibility is to write the laws.

Similarly, when those running for executive office often promise to have a law passed, they are just blowing  up a column of smoke with a very small flame. The President cannot actively present a bill to congress. He’s just not allowed to, it’s that simple. He can ask a member of the party to do so on his behalf, but his abilities to create new legislation is limited. That includes proposing cuts or increases in the budgets of government programs.

 

3) Time

Finally, we need to recognize the tremendous impact the passage of time has on our political system. This isn’t just alluding back to our perpetual election cycle. It has everything to do with a distinct, inherent limitation our government has. Contrary to the movies, our government doesn’t move with remarkable quickness with every issue. We prioritize, and even then certain “imperative” things are placed on the back-burner. We’ve been putting off rebuilding our infrastructure for years, and even important military maneuvers can take months to accomplish. Our nation isn’t like a motorcycle that can stop on a dime and shift directions based upon the whims of the current administration. We’re more analogous to a semi-truck: it may take a while to pick up speed but once we start moving, we move with incredible force and momentum. The layman, however, believes that certain grievances can be recognized and fixed within a single term. The reality demonstrates much less celerity.

 

The Promise:

“I will reduce the federal deficit by 50% in my first term”- President Barack Obama

 

Say what you will about the President’s term and policies, but we can’t deny that he was an extremely ambitious candidate. That sort of promise gave hope to a populous turned bitter by an increasing national debt and prolonged conflict overseas. The problem is, as it’s become clear now, that this was an extremely unrealistic goal. The national debt during the final years of the Bush presidency hovered around 8 trillion dollars. Truly an incomprehensible and jaw dropping deficit. Now, we live in a nation inundated with nearly 16 trillion dollars in debt according to the office of the treasury. Now, President Obama is promising that he simply needs more time in order for him to reduce the debt by a significant amount. The problem is that something that monstrously huge can’t possibly be significantly diminished in so brief a period. We would have to take our entire GDP, liquidate it, and put it directly towards our debt in order to make an impact. Something that actually does sound super-villanous if a politician were to propose it.

We live in an era where entertainment and communication is updated by the second. Our gratification is inching ever closer to instant. The nation as a whole, however, isn’t even close to that extreme of spontaneity. It takes time to correct past mistakes and change direction. Anyone promising otherwise suffers either from naïveté, or is trying to play off of our own.

 

 

 

 

Caustic Countdown: Four Insanely Mean-Spirited Political Ads

17 Jul

I should apologize for not posting more often. I could sit here and lie (after all, it is my job) and say that I’ve been busy. It’d be a half lie; I have been busy. Just not enough to justify such an extended absence. No. The truth is I’ve been having a hard time finding balance and order to my routine. I am not what you would call organized. At all. With this in mind, it’s amazing that I’ve managed to accomplish so much with my writing. But I can’t rest on my laurels, and my disorganization is restraining my potential. So I present Caustic Cookies version 1.5. It’s a beta right now, but I’m sure you’ll like it. If you have any suggestions, just drop me a line. I’d be happy to field questions on any intelligent basis.

Now to the fun stuff!

It’s easy in this world of political nonsense to feel entirely inundated with every facet of the machine. Personally, I feel like I can’t even go five minutes without having to explain my political position in some way. In order to combat this, I’m tempted to just sit back and say: “You know who really had their shit together? Lincoln. Boy, could he emancipate and propagate liberty like the best of ’em!” I’m a history nerd though, so it’s kind of nice to have some perspective to compare our current disorder to.

One of the greatest gripes of all comes in the form of these bombarding attack advertisements. Currently, Former Governor Romney is attacking President Obama based upon his health care mandate and the President is backlashing with details of Romney’s supposed corporate history. And it’s getting kind of nasty. It always does. It seems like our politicians are the proverbial children in the sandbox… if the children happened to be vying for the position of the most powerful man in the free world. (Would that equate to the slide on the playground them or the monkey bars? Such is the great philosophical quandary). And every election cycle, people find ways to believe that, if anything, it’s only gotten worse than the time before. It turns out that not only are they feeding a mass-delusion that legitimately affects the older population bracket, they also happen to be incorrect. It’s not their fault, however. See, it’s all a matter of perspective. Here are four political ad campaigns that makes today’s contenders appear as polite and courteous as stereotypical Victorian gentlemen. Which do not turn out to be as nice as everyone believes.

1: Jefferson v. Addams (aspiring king of England?!)

Despite the fact that the United States and England seem to now be best buds (the Blair Bush Bromance will go down as one of the most noticeable in political history), there was indeed a time where being closely associated with the English would destroy any hopes of social acceptance. Keep in mind that this period of time was namely until that pesky war of 1812 (a war which most Americans don’t recall the year it transpired. Seriously). Up until that squabble got resolved, it probably wouldn’t be very good for someone running for political office to be in close relations with higher British authorities. It would be worse if said politician was running for office and said close relation was the King’s daughter.

Boy, doesn’t that just sound like a wacky sitcom.

Enter John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, both uncontested intellectual badasses. Except for the fact that they had a contest between each other. Namely, the 1800 presidential election. Now this election went down in history for a number of reasons. But people forget that a large population of people didn’t vote for Adams because Jefferson had spread the entirely fallacious idea that Adams’ son was being wed to the King’s daughter in an attempt to create an American dynasty. Despite being called out on his lies, Jefferson still ended up winning. Chalk one up for liars!

3: Johnson’s Bomb (Not Talking about his Libido).

Now if you didn’t get the joke in the title, follow this link. It turns out that Kennedy wasn’t alone in enjoying the ladies as President.

Now. Back to business. And by business, I mean overtly insinuating that your rivals will ensure the nuclear apocalypse.

See that? That wasn’t exactly subtle. But neither was Johnson. He had a tendency to be upfront and dramatic when it came to certain nuances of his policy. He often allowed his size and low growl of a voice to intimidate dissenters. So it was in his nature when he presumably thought as he was running for a second term of ways to intimidate not just disorderly orderlies, but the nation as a whole.

He came up with this.

For those who didn’t follow the link, shame on you. Seriously, go click on it. It’s worth its metaphysical weight in metaphysical gold. I’m sorry to say that the exchange rate for metaphysical gold isn’t too high now, but still go click.

That’s right. Johnson insisted that electing his opponent would instigate a fiery hell of nuclear radiation and death. Needless to say, he was reelected.

2: Swift Boats for Justice.

Alright, this one is recent (it aired against Kerry in 2004), but it shows how quickly we forget. Because these were just flat-out mean.

Take a watch.

Now, essentially the message boils down to this: Kerry was lying about how bad-ass he was in Vietnam. Normally, this isn’t a problem, there are people who exaggerate about their war-stories every day. The issue came that he was using it as pro-Kerry propaganda during the campaign and he happened to piss off a lot of people he served with.

Honestly, I remember this election. I was convinced that Kerry was going to beat out Bush…up until these ads came on. Even though I was younger and didn’t understand the gravity of such an attack, I somehow knew that the game was over. Looking back on it, I’m surprised riots didn’t explode into the street such is the gravity of their statements.

1: Don’t Mess With Jackson

So far these have been rather harmless in the grand scheme of things. Sure, reputations were damaged (not irreparably) egos were bruised, but otherwise no harm no foul. Things got crazy; such is the nature of the beast, right? Well, this time, it arguably got someone killed.

Enter who is perhaps the greatest President of all time (if you choose to selectively ignore the whole trail of tears thing): Andrew Jackson.

And yes, I am aware that the parentheses and colon equals a frowny face emoticon. That was perhaps the one potmark of Jackson’s presidency that can really never be fixed. It was destructive and cruel, no doubt about it. But a political mistake doesn’t erase the other great things he is known for. Nor does it justify the fact that his wife was brutally assaulted by the media. To the point where she freaking died!

Jefferson and his wife were the quintessential star-crossed lovers. When they met, she was still married to an absent husband. But when they were together, he was incredibly abusive. So they just took the absence as a blessing and got on with their happy lives. The two never actually divorced, however, allowing the press to portray Mrs. Jefferson as a harlot. She soon died after this violent press started pouring in and Jackson was forever changed. He went from his rambunctious, violent nature to…swearing to avenge her death on every person who ever spoke ill of her. So the press managed to take his fury and direct it to his political opponents and themselves. Probably not the best idea.

Caustic Countdown: Three Insane Food Laws

22 Jun

Recently, there has been a lot of commotion over the proposed law in New York designed to make it illegal for fast-food providers to sell more than 16 oz of soft drink per transaction. The aim is to curb the tide of obesity by constricting the sale of sugary drinks and soda, which do in fact deal a heavy hand (pun totally intended) in raising obesity rates. Of course, the bill is quite controversial and many individuals feel that this is directly infringing upon the inherent freedoms in this nation. (Apparently, people believe that to get fatter than Gluttony and more lethargic than Sloth is directly in the constitution. It’s probably somewhere in the 28th amendment. Gawd Bless America!).

[Serious note: Some legal experts are quick to point out that this could seriously be illegal due to the interstate commerce clause. That being said, there is no endemic freedom to eat yourself to death and causing a burden upon society. I’ve read the constitution five times. It’s shockingly not in there.]

Proponents of the law believe that it is legal due to the fact that many seriously obese people create a burden upon taxpayers, thus warranting legislative intervention. I’m not one to pick sides (both of the constitutional arguments have merit and that’s left for more experienced people to decide. I yield to superior understanding), but I will say this: this is not the most insane law pertaining to the consumption of food. Actually, comparatively, this looks about as sane as illegalizing texting while driving.

3: Protect the Pigs!

As I mentioned above, I’ve read the constitution numerous times. Why? I don’t know. I get some weird kick when I read me some constitution. I get wired. That and the fact that my major is Government and World Affairs. But hey, the hankering for some constitutional understanding probably plays hand in hand. It’s a knowledgeable addiction. Plus, I actually like to know what I’m talking about when I talk politics with people. I don’t want to be the one who shouldn’t have opened his mouth and removed all doubt.

So I’m a lega-phile. And I’m a knowledge-a-phile. Most importantly, a nerd to boot. So when I was in high school and they asked me if I wanted to register to vote, I said, “awh hell yeah!” Just like that. In the middle of class. Clearly, I was an intellectual bad-ass.

Upon registering, I realized that I had to sign an oath to defend the constitution of the United States. No biggie. I had read it about three times by then, I was pretty comfortable with it. But then came the caveat. I also had to protect the Florida constitution. Well, shoot. I had signed my name and all. So I did what any legally bound nerd would do. I read the Florida constitution. What I discovered shocked me.

There’s an amendment protecting the sanity and safety of…

If you guessed a) children, you’re wrong. b) adults, you’re wrong. You’re actually getting colder. If you guessed c) kittens, sorry but no. If you guessed d) pregnant pigs, then you’re both oddly specific and correct!

Yep, the Florida constitution protects the rights of pigs who are, more likely than not, going to end up as bacon on my cheeseburger.

2: McBanned.

Now fast-food is helping obesity in the worst of ways. The way these companies see it, they give you food which barely qualifies for pets and you give them money. It’s like eating your cake and mugging you in a dark alley too!

We just learn to sit down and accept that these companies are running on the capitalistic system; they exist because people will pay them to. So the only logical thing is to accept this as an inevitability of human advancement or, if it really tickles your fancy, avoid perpetuating the system by not giving in to their business.

Or, you can just up and ban fast food from distributing toys. I mean, why just avoid them yourself? Clearly, you got to go all out for this to work. Think about the children!

In Santa Clara County, California, a law was passed banning McDonald’s from selling their infamously cheap Happy Meal toys. This presumably worked until they realized that most of the people who frequent the Golden Arches are a little too old to be playing with HotWheeles… Unless they’re able to hide them from their wife/girlfriend. In which case please, you brave souls, spread the word and tell us immature men your secret!

Of course, there were good intentions with this law. It’s just that its lunacy and ultimate futility kind of makes it one of those good intentions that paves the road to Hell.

1: Enjoy Champagne on a World War Technicality.

Who doesn’t enjoy the sensation of liquid victory? Whether it’s celebrating a win or a wedding, champagne is the go-to for bubbly happiness. Who wouldn’t like to take a sip of champagne to accentuate good times? Who hasn’t poured a glass or guzzled it straight from the bottle because damn it, you’re awesome!

Well odds are you haven’t and you probably never will.

See, if you live in the United States (where most of my readership lies) you have probably never actually tasted champagne. See, champagne isn’t just a type of sparkly alcoholic beverage. It’s supposed to be an indication of origin. In Europe, if you drink champagne it’s because that drink hails from the champagne region of france. Most of our champagne hails from California.

See, the treaty of Madrid first solidified the term champagne the legal property of the champagne region in the late nineteenth century. It was a treaty the United States wasn’t involved in. After that, the treaty of Versailles after World War One reaffirmed this legal right. Guess what, we weren’t involved in that either. Even though we tried to put forth several ideas in the treaty, we never actually ratified it ourselves. Meaning that it wasn’t until recently that the U.S. stated that all new bottles of sparkling wine had to be properly identified. How recent? Well, it’s still cool if bottles from 2006 and before use it.

Caustic Countdown: 4 Reasons why Prometheus was Terrible

12 Jun

First and foremost, I would like to apologize for my absence last week. Things were really hectic as I started to reorganize and get everything squared away for one thing or another. All in all, it consisted of doctor’s appointments, trips to south florida (twice last week) and familial obligations that needed to take precedence over my writing.  I am happy to announce that all the conflict and drama has been resolved (for now. One of the few things I happen to agree with in regards to Marxian theory is the fact that it is conflict which drives human interaction). So I’m back. And I’m back with a literary vengeance.

One of the most anticipated movies of the summer was Prometheus, a movie directed by Ridley Scott. Scott, as you may remember, was the director for the Sci-fi horror classic Alien and for the trail-blazing Blade Runner- so one does not simply expect bad movies from him. I happened to see Prometheus as it premiered on Friday; as you could imagine I was extremely excited. I needed a break from reality, I needed something that broke away from the usual monotony of sequels we’ve had over the last year. (Actually, it’s been sequels that have been dominating the box office for the last year. Most original films simply can’t compete with a familiar cast and plot line). Prometheus was advertised as a horror/sci-fi flick that seemed to stand all its own. I bought my Powerade, sat down in the theater and watched the magic unfold…

And I found myself hating it. Very, very quickly.

Despite the hype, I found Prometheus to be one of Scott’s worst creations. Don’t get me wrong; the story itself had a lot of potential and the special effects were incredible. And, granted, the acting was pretty dang good too. It’s just that those were just trying to put tits on a boar. There are four main reasons why I walked out of the theater disappointed after the credits started rolling. And it’s for these same reasons that I saw a lot of other eager viewers shake their heads and mourn the gaping hole in their wallet…

4: Alien, Alien, ALIEN!

I suppose I should just address the white elephant in the room: I was under the impression that this was a stand alone movie. I, like many other regular theater goers, do not extensive, obsessive research based around a ninety-second video. I have more pressing things than to freeze frame each shot and look for the hidden phallus. Plus, my showing was at ten PM Friday evening- the movie released at midnight earlier that day. If I so much as googled “Prometheus” I’d end up getting spoilers and those  are always terribly annoying. So I went into the theater, sat back, and watched. It wasn’t very long until I started noticing similarities to Alien. At first I was fine with it because, after all, what prolific director doesn’t put little tributes to prior efforts in their new stuff. But then as the plot came along, I started feeling nauseous. My thoughts pretty much followed these lines (warning:spoiler).

“Oh, parasitic alien…where have I seen that before?”

“Ohhh it’s going to burst right out of her, huh? That seems…original”

“So this android gets decapitated just like the old one did? Like, same white glop coming out and everything, eh?”

And then finally.

“Let me get this straight? Android infests guy with alien worm, alien worm-man has sex with girlfriend, girlfriend then gets pregnant with octopus, octopus grows to enormous size, eats face of bigger pre-human, pre human’s chest erupts with Alien queen? What in the actual Fuh-”

You get the idea.

That last one made me want to stand up, find the nearest table, and flip it. Thank God it came at the end so I was able to supress my table-flipping rage. Note: no tables were harmed through my viewing of Prometheus.

3: Plot Holes Galore.

Every great story has plot holes. Life has plot holes, we can’t possibly understand all of the intricacies beneath the normal mundanity that occasionally produces something extraordinary. That being said, we should be able to extrapolate the basic motives of characters. Right?

Guess not.

Exhibit A: the android freaking the hell out. The destruction of everything was single-handedly this one annoying animatron. Throughout the film, he goes out of his way to make sure that the entire crew suffers. As mentioned above, it’s his fault that the guy first impregnates the woman with an alien spawn. Why? Well, he never really answers that. In fact, other than acting as a way to kill off a couple of characters, it does nothing to move the plot forward. Eventually, he explains that he wants to kill his creator (he does towards the end). But that doesn’t explain why he was trying to kill everyone else. If he wanted the old man dead, why not shoot him into space as they all sleep in their capsules during the two-year voyage? He’s awake and sentient the entire time!  Nope. It really boils down to this. Why did he do it? Because screw you, there’s aliens now. That’s why.

More so than that, we are introduced to a giant spaceship in the very beginning of the film abandoning a pre-human entity…which never comes back. Oh well. Guess that arc wasn’t important. Then there’s the fact that even though the robot tries to kill her and kills her boyfriend/fiance, the female protagonist works with him towards the end anyways. And as the unlikely duo launch towards the stars, she sends out a half-assed message warning no one to visit the planet. Because this is a de facto prequel to Alien, apparently no one freaking listens. Plus, one of the characters added that a company put up a trillion dollars for this mission. If a one trillion-dollar exploratory mission says “do not come” the entire world’s going to know about it. It’s not like Roswell; you can’t just keep that stuff secret. So anyone who paid any attention at all left with either a splitting headache or developed a hernia from all of the illogical plot points.

2: What a Terrible Twist!

There are times where authors and artists try to create twists: surprising endings which are supposed to shape the audience’s perception of EVERYTHING. This movie was lacking in any of them.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, per say. Some movies accomplish a lot more with being direct with their story than those which try to play “gotchya” at the end. Prometheus was like that one kid playing manhunt with a flashlight, glow in the dark shoes, and neon green clothes. The surprises weren’t really surprising.

Take, for instance, the incredible discovery that the old man was actually on board all along. You only see his face after a certain point; before we were all told he had died. The intended reaction is “oh my God! He lives!” Actually, no. See, the android was talking to an entity within a private canister and told the mission leader that “he says try harder.” Simply put, there weren’t any other characters introduced who weren’t accounted for. It was a process of elimination- like the laziest game of clue ever.

Later on, the female mission leader is revealed to be the old man’s daughter. Even though this guy looks old enough to be 250 years old. Setting aside the visual incongruity, this was supposed to be another surprise. Except at the very beginning where his hologram insists that the robot was “like the son I’ve never had” and the mission leader just kind of looks at anywhere other than the image. Real smooth. At least we know who daddy’s favorite is…

Even the “shocking” ending that they had inadvertently created the alien queen wasn’t really surprising. As I mentioned earlier, the entire movie circled around Alien. It was just one of those surprises like getting deodorant for christmas. You pray that it won’t happen, you hope it won’t happen, please God don’t let it happen! When it does you sit back and moan. Not because you saw it coming, but because you did and even the knowing couldn’t mitigate how terrible it is.

1: Wussing- Out to the Max

Perhaps the biggest problem I had was with the ending. No, not the part where the infantile queen explodes from the chest of the humanoid. The fact that the protagonist doesn’t die.

See, I’m a big proponent of Oscar Wilde. And I love his famous quote in the Importance of Being Ernest: “The good ended happily and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means.” I didn’t want fiction with Prometheus. I wanted  something better, something believable. Frankly, that wasn’t delivered in the end.

I really did abhor the fact that the android mentioned “oh, by the by, there’s another ship out here. We can use it to escape. And I totally know how to use it even if at the moment I’m a disembodied head depending upon a woman who is neither a mechanic or pilot.” But sure enough, they manage to shoot off towards the sky.

Look, I’m fine with happy endings- if they fit. It didn’t here. Space exploration is messy business. Numerous people have died just trying to get to our moon! Could you imagine the mortality rate of a mission trying to travel to a planet light years away? It would be more realistic for everyone to have died. The reason it was acceptable for there to be a survivor in Alien was because, in that universe, exploring was presented as a job one could be trained for and ready for. Like Bering Sea fishing, it was dangerous but common enough. Here, this was the first time this had been attempted. Predictably, everything went to hell. Except one person managed to somehow escape. It didn’t come across as human luck and ingenuity; it was simply a directive prerogative to have at least one survivor. Honestly, without trying to come across as too terribly macabre, it would have been a better ending if the protagonist had suffocated on the planet, staring out into the vast empty sky beyond. Would it have been depressing? You bet. But at least it’d be the truth.

Caustic Countdown:5/28/12

29 May

My high school cross-country coach was a man of interesting axioms. He, of course, would offer certain quirky phrases as we ran (“Arms, Arms, Arms!” and “Relax to Run Fast” happened to be his favorites), but by far his most memorable has to do with- well- high school stupidity. He would always tell us “I want you guys to know that I love you as people…but you sure do make some interesting choices with your lives!” I thought it was the optimal attitude to have in regards to humanity: love your fellow man, but still admit that he can be a freaking moron (it’s like having your cake and eating it too!). So this week, we tip our hats to three individuals who have, recently, made some very interesting decisions with their lives.

3: Creative Videography

It may or may not come as a shock, but several people really seem to hate their local meteorologist. Maybe it’s because the uncertainty of weather and the uncertainty of man coagulates into a frustrated heap of failed predictions. Maybe it’s because people are envious of the fact that television meteorologists get to draw on a board, perform guesswork in front of thousands of people daily, and rake in an average of $85,000 a year. If everyone had this job you could be that every day some outlandish prediction would be made like, I don’t know, a meteor passing within 30,000 kilometers of Earth. I mean, what’s the likelihood of that?

Given this disdain, it’d be understandable if weather reporters somehow concocted a way to ensure the accuracy of their predictions- or even their on site reporting. But how could they accomplish this? Last time I checked, the doomsday machines controlling the weather were banned by the UN (seriously). Well, they could just kick sand to give the cheap illusion of 60Km/hr winds. Sure. Why not?

According to the hyperlinked article above, the weather conditions that the Romanian reporter was trying to emulate actually were occurring; they just calmed down before he hit the scene. So instead of reporting that the storm has miraculously passed, he felt it more prudent to have his camera man kick sand into his face as he reported on the storm that has passed. Unfortunately, this gaffe was immediately picked up on by even the least observant viewers as said production assistant was still in frame. Fortunately, both men get to keep their job. In fact, no report of them even receiving a formal reprimand has come to light. Instead, the station is simply shrugging and saying essentially “hey, it’s not doctored.” At least that’s an assertion that can’t be disputed. Rain or shine.

2: Pretty Ceremony, Petty Bride.

We’ve all been a little strapped for cash. This economy is tough; it wears down on people. But, as a wise man once said, there will always be life, liquor, and love- so why not just continue on with the weddings? (obviously, they are the perfect combination of all three). Well, considering that the price tag of a wedding is nearly half of the average American’s salary, there’s understandable trepidation about tying the knot. But hard times often inspires the creative side of people. It just so happens that no one qualified that these creative solutions had to be considered ethical. But, I mean, it’s not like someone will just go out and blatantly lie to fund their dream wedding? OK. No one will try to play the pity card to fund the wedding? Drats, OK, once more. No one will blatantly lie about dying of cancer soon after their wedding to swindle well wishers into giving money… You know what? I give up at this game.

That’s right. A New York bride has been convicted of faking a cancerous condition to elicit sympathetic donations for her “dream wedding.” Soon after the wedding, however, the husband alerted the police to the fact that his new beau was simply a liar. How he figured it out wasn’t explicitly mentioned- so I’ll just go off on a fictitious limb and say it was presumably from all of the calls asking either a) how his soon to be dead wife was doing or b) why his soon to be dead wife wasn’t dead yet. Such inquiries would be a real head-scratcher to any spouse.

Predictably, the couple has gotten a divorce but, scandal alert, he was there to pick her up from the jail cell as she was released. Do I detect the flame of romance being reignited? Readers, I honestly don’t give enough of a damn about their private lives to say (this isn’t TMZ after all). I will say this however: how twisted would it be if this was just something on the couple’s bucket list?

1:

There has been a lot of publicized hype about the immigration issues in the United States. However you stand on the fence with these issues (badum-ping), it can be agreed that we are at least attempting to limit the number of illegals entering. But with every advantageous means we employ, it can be assured that someone will craftily dodge or work around the issue. We’ve seen it time and time again in criminality- people will always try to be one step ahead of law enforcement.

On occasion, it helps to be in a pair of wheels designed to look like a UPS truck. You know, to have an advantage. Not to fulfill some child-like dream to become an international postman travelling between the U.S. and Mexico…while also being a secret agent…and trapeese artist. What? Some people like to retain their imagination.

Apparently, the car was decked out to look like a true UPS vehicle. It even had the unmistakable actual American citizen driving the damn thing to increase its authenticity. The difference is, besides the obvious fact that this vehicle didn’t deliver parcels but a baker’s dozen worth of illegals, may only lie in the color value of the logo. This van is just one of an emerging trend called “cloned vehicles.” And while the title may spark images of Optimus Primes lined up ad infinitum, they’re merely the creation and modification of vehicles so as to appear less obvious.

The cleverest of facades can’t pass through the immovable force of bureaucratic policy! The truck and passengers were caught and arrested at a routine inland vehicle check about 50 miles from the border. One can only hope they made their interesting decision even more so by deciding to exit the vehicle dressed as cardboard robots. They may not be transformers, but they apparently know how to hide in plain sight!

Caustic Countdown: 5/14/12

14 May

Good day to vampires, and good evening to those with proper circadian rhythms.

This last week was particularly eventful, politically. Even if you don’t happen to subscribe to the traditional news sources (and say, instead, you merely follow the Caustic Countdown), I’m fairly certain that you’ve heard about the hullaballoo going about in the political arena. Besides the fact that there are rich, privileged politicians, watching this display of strategic verbal evisceration is as close as we can comfortably get to the hunger games.

Now, I’m not going to get atop a pedestal and say “Obama is a scheming socialist; vote republican” or “Romney is a callous business man; vote Obama.” In my humble opinion, it’s all a bunch of puppetry which plays upon very real ideological foundations shared by a large propensity of Americans which are, in turn, polarized based upon minutiae and extraneous nuances. In short (in the words of my father, my mentor) it’s all *cough* bullshit, bullshit *cough* bullshit. A show, a facade, a play within a play- like in Hamlet except with less incest. I have my beliefs, you have yours. We all want this nation to grow stronger with each successive effort and generation. If we work together, regardless of petty differences, we can make America amazing for our posterity.

But even if I can respect your beliefs, and you can respect mine, we can all agree that sometimes politicians and their constituents do some, well… interesting things. So rounding out this week’s four is some recent political actions culminating in clean, bipartisan hilarity. Well, not so much clean. This is politics, after all.

5: Incarcerated vs Incumbant.

Elections are meant to be a serious matter. To vote poorly and for the wrong candidate is to embrace certain grave consequences. People will cite both this president and last as a cautionary tale in voting for “the right man.” However, consequences may already be pretty grave in West Virginia; how else can they justify a convicted Texas felon receiving 40% of the vote in a Democratic primary against President Obama.

Now I understand the whole premise of tactical voting. I even understand voting for Snoopy to send a message. But when 40% of the DEMOCRATIC vote rallies behind a convicted TEXAS felon instead of President Obama, then this man clearly has a damn good publicist. Either that or his platform must be really personable and relatable. It presumably includes things such as softer punishments on crime and mandatory sympathy for people who grow their hair out long enough for it to look like a mauled raccoon.

When asked why individuals had voted for the convicted felon, most reported a serious disdain for the President’s energy policies. Seeing as how he routinely pushes for green-technology and West Virginia is heavy in coal production, the apparent abhorrence makes sense. But still, wouldn’t it be interesting if the convict made it to the white house? I wonder if they would have to pardon him or merely force him to work by telecommuting.

4: Newt in Deep Water

Many people know Newt Gingrich in different ways. To some, he is the man who promised to get us to the moon… in less than a decade. To others (a smaller populous) he was a serious contender for president. To most, the man’s name makes him sound like he’s an amphibian from the Amazon.

The truth is that Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is all of these. Except for the Amazon part (although, I’m still waiting on the official DNA test results).  In addition, the man was a strong proponent of arguing for a balanced budget, responsible fiscal spending, and intelligent monetary policy. So is it a case of “whoops!” or delicious irony that he is in the biggest financial hole out of any of the candidates for president this cycle?

Sure, running a campaign is expensive. You have to spend loads of greenbacks just to continue shoveling those bittersweet negative advertisements down our throats. And then you need enough money to pay your employees and fly around in a private jet- and all that jazz. It racks up heavily. So heavily that he currently leads the current debt list- ahead of even multiple-attempt third-party candidates.

3: Not Too Merciful Court

Although many people consider the supreme court to lie within a political vacuum, the truth is that the influence of politics on the court is comparable to how prevalent a certain Serbian inventor’s work is to our daily lives. Although most of their rulings are displays of intelligence-fueled common sense (indeed, most opinions are levied with incredible super-majorities or carried with a unanimous vote), the most publicized often come down to pure political leaning.

This case didn’t even get the writ of certiorari.

Tom Petters was a man convicted of  orchestrating a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme. The stare decisis ruling means that the man will continue to serve his fifty year sentence. If fifty years sounds like an awfully long time for a few measly billions of dollars of personal wealth and welfare stolen from innocent victims, you’re in luck. You qualify to be this man’s attorney.

According to the article linked above, the primary argument of the man was that he’s innocent. But as the old adage goes, prisons are filled with innocent men. (Sometimes, they are at least present). However, the primary argument of his attorneys is that his sentence was simply too extreme. Considering though, that in 1992 the act of committing suicide was considered a veritable crime by the Judiciary branch, it may have been the wrong route to go.

1: Immoral (Even for a Politician).

All joking aside, we can agree that politicians are truly human. They have their personal flaws and shortcomings, to err is to be mortal. Many retire without a single official blemish on their official congressional record. Still- let’s be honest- it’s just too tempting to pick out the few who get caught in remarkably compromising situations and believe them to be emblematic of  representatives within our democratic-republic.

Then there are those guys who even stand out above that. So much so that they even get tried for corruption and cheat on their spouses who are ridden with cancer.

Let me be clear now. I don’t dislike John Edwards personally because of his policies. I don’t dislike him personally because he is a Democrat; and I wouldn’t dislike him personally if he was Republican or Independent. However, I do dislike him personally because, to be blunt, it takes a certain kind of asshole to cheat on your wife with a movie star and father an illegitimate child all while she battles cancer. I think that’s a fair, bipartisan statement.

So it aroused more venom when it came to light that Edward’s campaign manager allegedly paid said mistress nine-thousand dollars a month for living expenses.  Defenders insist that the money was a donation entirely unrelated to the fact that he was secretly (and literally) making babies.

For some reason, I want to invoke my father’s prior wisdom.

Caustic Countdown: 5/07/2012

7 May

Boy, oh boy. Wasn’t this weekend just eventful? Well, if not, then perhaps it was eventful because nothing happened? Schedule that thought in after you solve the riddle of the one-handed clap because that there is a doosey.

Even if nothing exciting happened over your weekend, you can bet that the world has kept on spinning and thus (by extension) something was bound to happen to someone else. If you decided to be the stereotypical odd-ball and proclaimed: “This is where Peter tells us nothing noteworthy’s happened”, then congratulations! You’re wrong! But in the best of ways, truly. Because if nothing happened then where would we as a society derive entertainment ? (And where would I, as an author, find further vindication that- sometimes- fiction just can’t match the twisted little reality we occupy?).

Today, in honor of artistic expression, I’ve composed three stories of recent artistic events… that are practically begging for notice. Starting off with:

The Teen Thinking Big About Byzantine:

It’s not every day that the prestigious Met museum in New York is proven wrong in anything Art related. Indeed, the institute is considered one of the most Avant-Gaurd and reputable museums in the modern world. So it was a rare occurrence when, recently, they were alerted to be inaccurate about something. Now, it’s not like they made a humongous snafu, the mistake was a geographical error in a map showing the size of the Byzantine empire under Justinian. They only neglected a country and part of a continent. Whoops! But the biggest surprise came that it wasn’t some historical expert which alerted them to the misleading map; it was a thirteen year old boy.

At first, the teen told reporters, they didn’t believe that an error actually existed. Understandable considering his lack of experience versus the museums several lifetimes of such. However, the truth is the truth and they eventually got back to him and alerted him that he was indeed correct. With the acknowledgement came an invitation to return for a special behind the scenes tour of upcoming exhibits. Because, unlike most high school teachers, the Met administrators are mature enough to recognize mistakes pointed out to them by a teenager and act to correct them.  Chalk one up for both the teen and the Met alike!

Screaming Over Prices:

Edvard Munch was the creator of perhaps the most recognizable expressionist art works. It’s known as “The Scream.” Although, to some, it’s merely understood as “Trippy Yellow Guy with Lucid Orange Sky.” The former is, clearly, not only more concise, but earns it’s place amongst less than ten other works which have sold for more than eighty million dollars.

I spelt that out for a reason; there was no damn typo. This joins a list of eight other works which sell for over the combined GDP of the five poorest nations in the world. If that doesn’t sound impressive, I didn’t say their budget. I said their entire Gross Domestic PRODUCT.

Of course, most of those other works are primarily Picasso’s- and the rest are also more relatively modern pieces. Still, it’s rather remarkable when a work of this acclaim sells. And sells to the tune of one hundred and twenty million dollars.

Performance Artist Creating Permanent House for Performance Artists.

At first glance, this seems self-gratifying. An artist creates a museum which specializes in her style of art. Interesting.

At second glance, it doesn’t seem any better. This woman is creating a permanent monument for performances. I.e, impermanent events. Something just seems wrong about that…

At a final glance (three’s my limit), I realized that it’s actually rather remarkable.

The facility being planned is meant to showcase an art form that’s relatively unknown. Furthermore, she’s planning on paying such artists and hosting classes for people to learn her particular style of art.

Nothing caustic to say about this one; it’s actually pretty dang cool.