Monday, February 23, 2015

Week of 02/23/2015

Enough With The Food Pimping!
Okay, I have a beef with the food pimps.
Oh you know who I’m talking about, don’t you?  I’m talking about the people that make it their mission in life to drop in all sorts of “special” foods into our heads.
Remember the diner scene in “When Harry Met Sally” when Meg Ryan’s character would come up with a really specific order for her food?  Now imagine if she specified which kinds of ingredients would be in her chef’s salad, and how that pie should be, and what specific brand of apples should be in the pie.  And now imagine if that were on the menu instead of her specifying it.
That is “food pimping”.
Fast Food giant Wendy’s is probably the most notorious of these food pimps, since they seem to love new “special” food.  Subway does it too sometimes.  Your franchise restaurants are guilty of it as well.  They decide that you “need” to consume what special food is “hip” and “happening”.
I’m not talking about what Taco Bell did when they teamed up with Frito Lay’s Doritos to come up with the Doritos Locos Tacos.  It’s a creative idea, but it’s really just limited to that one menu item.   Now if Taco Bell and Frito Lay put Doritos in pretty much every menu item, and other eateries followed suit, then that would be food pimping.
Food pimping pretty much started with Angus beef.  You see, it wasn’t enough to have just a regular hamburger or a regular steak.  No, you had to have an Angus burger and Angus steak and anything that came from Angus cows.  No other beef would do in the minds of these food pimps.
Then it was chipotle.  Everything had to have chipotle in it.  Every meal needed to be chipotle. Do you know what “chipotle” is?  It’s smoked and dried jalapeno pepper.  It’s a seasoning.  That’s it.  It’s like garlic, only garlic didn’t have food pimps shoving it down our throats like they did with chipotle.
Then it was Applewood bacon.  Not just bacon, which is already an internet sensation.  No, it has to specifically be “Applewood” bacon.  Bacon smoked by fire using wood from apple trees.  Not maple-smoked.  Not hickory-smoked. “Applewood”-smoked bacon!
And then you had to have a pretzel bun or a pretzel crust.  In other words, you had to cover the top of dough with an egg-wash and cook it until there was a hardened brown crust.  And if you were lucky, they took the additional step of adding salt to the egg wash before cooking it.  This was something the local Wendy’s forgot to do with their pretzel buns during one of my rare visits.  But if you don’t add the salt, then it really isn’t a pretzel.  It’s just browned egg-wash.
Then it was Asiago cheese.  Wendy’s got on a kick about Asiago cheese, or cheese that comes from Italian cows.
And then there’s Sriracha.  Subway started adding Sriracha to their sandwiches.  Do you know what Sriracha is?  It’s hot sauce.  That’s all that it is.  It is the name of a brand of hot sauce.
Oh, and let’s not forget Avocados.  Because avocado growers and Subway think you haven’t had enough avocados in your life.  And portabella mushrooms!  Have to have portabella mushrooms!  We need a fungus among us, don’t we?
Enough!  Enough of it all!
Let’s get brutally honest here… these food pimps need to go, and take their specialty foods with them.
None of these pimped foods are guaranteed to make your life better in any conceivable way.  They certainly won’t freshen your breath or lengthen your life.  They won’t make you any smarter, because if you were then you would know better than to waste your money on them.  They absolutely won’t make you wealthier… unless you’re a food pimp, of course.  All these things do is justify paying more for food that you could otherwise get at a local grocery store and cook up yourself without the hype.
You know what would be better?  If fast food places like Wendy’s got rid of the food pimping and concentrate on the things that bring people into the stores to begin with.  Like good food served hot and relatively fast at a good price and with generous portions.  We don’t care how the bacon is smoked or what kinds of cows provide the milk and the beef.  Make it hot – and I don’t mean through peppers – make it good, and make it relatively fast.  And make it look like the food we see on the menu; not something that was sloppily put together by someone trying to race a stopwatch.
Oh hell, all of this talk about food is making me hungry.  I think I’ll just make myself a peanut-butter sandwich on plain white bread using generic store-bought peanut butter and pour myself a glass of plain water to wash it down.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Week of 02/16/2015

#CrusaderWager Is A Sucker’s Bet
So Atlanta’s newer overpaid talking head has a challenge for people who don’t follow in lock-step with the conservative/neo-conservative script about Islam and violence.
Michael Graham is supposedly “sick and tired” about hearing people say that extremism itself is wrong and that it’s not just limited to Islamic extremism.  He doesn’t want to hear that retort anymore.  He doesn’t want to hear the truth.  He only wants to regurgitate the same fascistic script about how “only Islam” has a problem with violence and how “only Islam” has radical extremists that want to do harm to America.  Never mind the Christian extremists that have done harm in the recent past.  Never mind the Coptic Christians in Egypt that give as good as they get in terms of extremist outrage.  Never mind the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims in the border areas between Pakistan and India.  Never mind any of that… it’s “only Islam” that matters in his mind.  “Only Islam”.
Of course, Mister Graham is slick.  He’s quick to quantify his “only Islam” assertion to events after 9/11.  “Only Islam” in the Twenty-first Century.  “Only Islam” in recent years.  “Only Islam” in 2015.  Never mind anything that happened before 9/11 that would stain any other religious beliefs, especially Christianity.  “Only Islam” matters in his mind, and “only Islam” is what he pompously believes should be the only thing up for discussion.  “Only Islam”.
Or as the late-great George Orwell would put it “We’ve always been at war with Middle Eastasia.”
So Mister Graham has this challenge called “#CrusaderWager”.  Yes, it’s a “hashtag”… because, you know, propaganda has to be hip and current for it to be effective.  It’s not just about regurgitation.  Why do you think it’s called “TWIT-ter”?
Here’s the deal, should you agree to the mission: you agree to put aside $1 for every instance of Islamic violence in 2015.  Meanwhile, Mister Graham would put aside $100 for every instance of violence carried out by any other religion in 2015.  The “winner” is the person who has to set aside less money in 2015.  If you win, Mister Graham donates his pot to the charity of your choice.  If he wins, you have to give your pot to the Salvation Army.  (After all, where do you think the “Crusader” part of the “wager” comes from?)
Mister Graham thinks that this will shut his critics up.  And, believe me, there is a part of me that would love to take him up on that challenge simply on the thought that if I would win, he’d have to give his hundreds to the Freedom from Religion Foundation.
There’s just one problem with this “masterpiece” of a “wager”.
There’s no chance in hell that you could ever prevail. 
And it’s not because he’s “right”.  It’s because he knows something that the vast majority doesn’t.
Have you ever heard the media describe someone as a “Christian Terrorist”?
Go ahead and think about it.  Go back to all of the acts of terror in the 90’s here in the US done by non-Muslims.  All of the shootings and bombings, including the Olympic Park bombing of 1996.  Have any of those been declared acts of “Christian terrorism”?
Think about the Anthrax threats of 2001 committed by people like Clayton Lee Waggoner.  Even though President George W. Bush himself said that “anyone who sends Anthrax is a terrorist, and anyone who sends an Anthrax threat in the mail is a terrorist”, has anyone in the media or the federal government consider Waggoner to be a “Christian Terrorist”?  No, of course not! 
Shoot up a women’s clinic, and you’re considered an “Anti-Abortion Protestor” or a “Pro-Life Extremist”, not a “Christian Terrorist”.  Even if you got your “marching orders” from a self-appointed Christian minister with a degree from “Ordained-dot-God” and said “Praise Jesus” as you pulled the trigger and then quoted scripture as you left, the media will never, ever, ever, ever declare you to be a “Christian Terrorist”.
Consider this: two men walk into two separate workplaces and commit the same horrific acts.  One man says “Praise Jesus” as he does his bloody deeds, while the other says “Allah Akbar”.  Would these both count as acts of terrorism?
No, they wouldn’t.  Because while the “Allah Akbar” murderer would be instantly branded a terrorist, the “Praise Jesus” murderer would be written off as a “lone nut-case”.
How about the parent that quotes Scripture to justify killing their child versus one that quotes the Quran?  Again, the Quran-quoting “honor killing” parent would count as part of that religious violence, while the Bible-quoting parent would again be declared a “lone nut-case”.
That doesn’t really help out in the “wager”, does it?
And that, I believe, is the point.
Let’s get brutally honest here… I firmly believe that the so-called “#CrusaderWager” is a sucker’s bet.  Despite having a seemingly huge radio of 100-to-1 in your favor, there is no real way that you can prevail against Mister Graham’s assertion simply because there is this ongoing double-standard that negates violence committed by Christians and other religions and highlights those committed by Muslims.
Imagine what would happen if one of the TV stations – never mind a network news program or cable news channel – dared called acts of Christian terrorism for what they are like they do for acts of Muslim terrorism.  That station would be besieged by angry phone calls and letters from every church group out there, from every old lady with a crucifix and rosary clutched in their hands, from every C-Street office and political action committee from the Catholic League to the American Family Association, and from every politician owned by C-Street.  They would be told in no uncertain terms that the acts of Christian terrorists are “not those of true Christians”, and that “no true Christian would ever support or condone actions of violence”… even when there are biblical passages from both the Old and New Testament that say otherwise.  They would be badgered into supporting the lie that “no true Christian” can do what Muslim extremists have done.
This ongoing double-standard is what fuels the continual diatribe by people like Mister Graham in their fallacious assertion that “only Islam” has a problem with violence.  It not only conceals the past sins of those of other faiths, it also encourages even more Islamic extremism.  We come off as pompous and hypocritical, which only inflame those that know our actual history.  “Do as we say, not as we have done,” is the message we give.  To borrow from the New Testament, we try to remove the plank from the eyes of our neighbors, while ignoring the whole woodshed that has been long nestled in our own eyes.
Oh there is a chance that Mister Graham could lose, but it’s extremely slight.  If the Coptic Christians in Egypt are riled up enough, or if the tift between India and Pakistan heats up again, or if some religious group here in America decides to go nuclear over the film release of “Fifty Shades of Grey”, maybe then they will do enough damage to make Mister Graham lose.  But it would take a lot.  And it would also take the media identifying these incidents for what they are, which I doubt would happen.
Of course if there are no takers in Mister Graham’s “wager” – and I do hope that is the case – he will use that as his assertion that he is somehow “right”, and his associates and myrmidons will follow suit.  “Take the challenge,” they will demand.  “Prove him wrong.  Put up or shut up.”
They can go to hell and take their rigged games with them.  Their terms are not acceptable and they will not prevail in shutting people up who will remind them of the actual truth and of reality.  They will only result in having two separate enemies against them instead of “only Islam”.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Week of 02/09/2015

It’s Really Not About Islamophobia
I recently had something of a revelation about the conservative and neo-conservative mindsets of late when it comes to their continual droning on of waging war against Islam.
Yes, they go on and on and on about the “evils” of Islam, how Islam supposedly is the “only religion” that has an inherent and systematic problem with violence.  And no matter how many times you bring up the fact that Christians were just as evil and just as extremist in the past, the con/neo-con script will immediately jump down your throat with assertions that those incidents were in the past, but Islam has “always” been this way.  “Always”, they assert.
And by “past”, they mean some point after 2001, because there were Christian extremists even after 9/11 that were causing trouble.  Remember Clayton Lee Waagner and Eric Robert Rudolph and the Army of God?  Remember the Olympic Park Bombing and the Anthrax threats?  Those weren’t the acts of Muslims. 
Oh, but wait, those were all “lone nut cases”, right?  That’s also what the con/neo-con script dictates.  The script says that there are “no” Christian extremists, there have only been “lone nut cases” who are not “true Christians”, there have always been Islamic extremists, there are no “moderate Muslims” or “lone Muslim nut-cases”, and we have always been at war with Middle Eastasia.
Sound a little familiar?  It should, but I’ll back to that in a minute.
The other part of the con/neo-con script is the assertion that the continual droning for war and specifically of a war mindset is not… emphasis on “not”… and even more emphasis on “not” after that… and one more emphasis on “not” after that… about a “hatred of Islam”.  No, it’s supposedly not about Islamophobia.    It’s supposedly about survival.  We have to “fight them there so they won’t come here”… except when they do, because they’re supposedly already here and we just don’t know where or when they will strike.
You see, the cons and neo-cons don’t ever want to address the whole “Islamophobia” thing, because then it means that the problem is with them, and they don’t want the focus to be on them.  They want us focused on “the threat”.  Always focused on “the threat”.  Always… “the threat”.
And that brings me to the revelation that I had concerning their ongoing problem with Muslims.
I realize that if we concentrate on the assertion that the conservatives and neo-conservatives are simply Islamophobic and get them to admit to that – which in and of itself is unlikely – then we are ignoring the real problem.
You see, the very word “Islamophobia” means “fear of Islam”, and the conservatives and neo-conservatives that are sounding the war drums don’t really fear the religion.  In fact, the Islamic extremists have a lot in common with the conservatives and neo-conservatives.  They share the same things that disgust them.  It’s just that the Islamic extremists never had to filter their disgust.  They were allowed – even encouraged – to adopt a Lord of the Flies mindset because there was nothing that could stop them.
Imagine what the conservatives and neo-conservatives in America would be able to do if there wasn’t a “damned liberal media” watching them and calling them out on their antics.  Imagine what they could do if there wasn’t a system to keep them in check, if the people in power simply gave a wink-and-a-nod, or even just a wag of the finger, to them doing anything they want.  We’ve seen that, haven’t we?  Remember the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City?  Those weren’t “liberals” that drove the truck-turned-into-a-bomb, and they sure as hell weren’t Muslims.
No, the conservative and neo-conservative problem isn’t a “fear” of Islam.
Their real problem is fascism.
Let’s get brutally honest here… the conservative and neo-conservative mindset does not see Islam as much of a “threat” as it is a target to focus our attentions and our own fears on.  They see Islam as a willing and eager enemy to focus all of our military might on so they can justify even more spending for the military.  Why have the “Great American War Machine” make so many weapons and so much ammunition and find better ways to kill other people and blow stuff up if it’s all just going to sit around?
Here’s a great way to test this: imagine what would happen if, all of a sudden, the Islamic extremists suddenly vanished. All of them.  Every single extremist faction out there determined to “exterminate the Great Satan” are eliminated in one fell swoop.
Would that mean the conservatives and neo-conservatives would suddenly have nobody left for us to be in fear of?  Hell no!  If Islam were to suddenly not be a “problem”, then we’d have to worry about Russia again.  Remember Putin?  He’s still determined to bring the Cold War back.  And if it’s not Putin, then it’s North Korea.  That country is just one big attention whore just itching for a Dr. Phil intervention!  And let’s not forget China!  Oh, and illegal immigrants from Latin and South America.  And the drug lords!  Never forget about them!
You see, the thing is, without Islam to fear, conservatives and neo-conservatives would still have plenty of “threats” out there for them to fear-monger and use as political wedges to get and keep power over us.  All you have to do is ask yourself one simple question: has there ever been a time in political history when the conservative factions of America – regardless of party affiliation – did not have a looming threat for us to be afraid of?
Go ahead and ponder that for a minute.
The real problem for conservatives and especially neo-conservatives is their tendency to fall down the path towards fascism.  Because it’s the fascist that see nations defined only through conflict and war.  This is what Italy had to deal with under Mussolini from the 1920’s until the middle 1940’s.  Fascists “need” a continual enemy to wage war against and to focus the minds of the masses on, because as long they have us in that “with us or against us” extremist mindset, then they have carte blanche to do whatever they want.
It also means they don’t have to worry about the other matters of running a government.  They don’t have to worry about a crumbling infrastructure, or a failing education system, or budget deficits.  They don’t have to deal with gross abuses of government power or overcrowded prisons.  They can talk about them, even wring their hands over them, but they don’t have to really address those issues.  Because, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once said, “Silent enim leges inter arma… or “in times of war, the law is silent.”  And the same applies to all other matters of state.
I’m not saying that Islamic extremists are not really a threat.  There are still plenty of extremists around the world that are just itching to get attention through death and destruction.  And they do need to be dealt with.  But when you hear conservatives and neo-conservatives continually drone on and on and on about these extremists, and that we should not stop thinking about them ever, understand that it’s not from a position of “fear”, but from a position of fear-mongering and of fascism.