advice from a fake consultant

out-of-the-box thinking about economics, politics, and more... 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

On My Approaching Gay Anniversary, Or, I Break The Fourth Wall

So once again my writing schedule is going to be turned upside down by unforeseen events—but it’s going to be worth it, as I have one of the funnier stories to tell you that I’ve brought to these pages for some time.

It’s a tale of catering and rejection and redemption, all in one, along with a bit of the Harlem Renaissance thrown in for good measure, and the big circle that was created was officially closed last Saturday night.

So come along, Gentle Reader, and I’ll tell you the story of how I was officially notified that I’m a member of the gay community—by email.

“Did you know that dolphins were just gay sharks?”

--Heather Morris, as Brittany, from the television show “Glee”

So it all started with Groucho Marx.

I’m a huge fan of the Marx Brothers, and I had the chance to borrow the DVD set of his 1950s game show, “You Bet Your Life”. The very first episode of the series featured Gladys Bentley, who proceeded to pound out some of the best boogie-woogie piano I’ve ever heard; investigation revealed that the same person who was living as a woman in the 1950s was living, under the same name, as one of America’s best-known male celebrities in 1929.

A story emerged, a couple of thousand words later, of a person who had been a central part of the Harlem Renaissance, who had married a woman in a big public ceremony—again, in 1929—and who, by the time she made that “You Bet Your Life” appearance, had rejected it all in an effort of return to the “straight life” she had never really known in the first place.

So I posted the story, as I normally do, across a number of websites...and then I got the email.

The message was from the Bilerico Project website, who wondered if I might be interested in becoming a contributor. As they noted in the email, Bilerico is one of the premiere sites on the Web serving the LBGTQ community, and, as a member of that community, they knew I’d be glad to have the opportunity to associate myself with the site.

I immediately ran off to inform The Girlfriend of my new status—and I almost as immediately sent a message back, telling the folks there that I’d be thrilled...with one caveat.

I felt that they had to be informed that I’m a male who’s been with the same woman for 28 years...which, if you know anything about long-term relationships, pretty much makes me asexual.

We all had a good laugh over that, and despite the fact that I had “come out” to them, they were still willing to accept me as I am, and as a result I happily contribute to Bilerico to this very day.

Because I post to so many sites, I’m always trying to catch up with what’s going on everywhere, and just in time I happened to notice the story from one of the proprietors of the Bilerico Project, Bil Browning, who wanted us to know that he’d be in town over the weekend, and that a meetup was planned for Saturday night.

Off I went, and a great time was had by all, so far as I could tell, anyway, but we decided to go to a second bar...and that’s where the story gets good—at least for me.

So in a previous life I was a caterer, and if you’ve ever worked with a group of “food people”, you’re probably associated with the gay community on a daily basis. On our job it was not unusual to go into Seattle after work and hang out, and because one of our little group was gay, we would go to gay bars from time to time.

Now our gay friend was obviously there to hook up, and he would, but the two of us...well, not so much.

Nonetheless, my other friend (who we’ll call Dave, to protect the innocent), who was, to be honest, a better looking guy than me, would have men approach him, from time to time, to say hi.

It was never an issue, and we would explain...but you know, after a while I found myself wondering...”hey, what’s wrong with me?”

Even after Dave moved to the Portland, Oregon area we would still hang out, and one night we hit the downtown bars—including two gay bars that are immediately next door to one another.

Sure as day follows night, Dave gets hit on by all sorts of fact, folks who were expressing a variety of gender presentations came by to say hello to Dave during the course of the evening—and me...nothing.

Even The Girlfriend, who had watched all this happen in Portland with her own two eyes, began to give me a bad time about it...and she’s still giving me a bad time about it, even after a decade or so has gone by.

OK, so it’s last Saturday night, and we’re standing around in the second bar, in our little group...and somebody walked past and randomly groped me!

Oh, I was dying.

I tried to explain to the group what had just happened, but as you might imagine, they were just looking at me all kind of confused (and probably thinking...”what a dweeb”).

I had to leave fairly early, as I had another event to attend the next day, so after I finished my beer I left, and almost as quickly as I could get out of the bar I had The Girlfriend on the phone to tell her the good news.

So there you go: after years of “what’s wrong with me”, I’ve finally achieved validation, in my own weird way, The Girlfriend can no longer give me a bad time...about this, anyway...and I got to meet up with online friends that, if I hadn’t of been paying attention at just the right time, I would have missed.

Not bad for a Saturday night, if I say so myself—and I have a Sunday story, too, starring the inimitable Red Green, but we’ll save that for another time.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Few Quick Words About Small Government

We don't have a lot of time for a big discussion today, but I wanted to take a second and talk about basic Federal Government economics as they apply to Rand Paul.

It is his stated vision to reduce the size of Government...and it is an undeniable reality that the vast majority of the Federal Budget is focused on only a few areas of spending.

Today, we'll quickly run through that economic reality, and we'll challenge Dr. Paul to tell us where he stands.

So it's about as basic as this: the four biggest items in the budget are Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security, the Department of Defense budget, and interest on the Federal debt.

Those four items are 80% of the total 2011 budget.

What does that mean?

That means you can get rid of every other thing that Government does--no more people overseeing oil drilling, no food inspections, or border security, no FBI or ATF or DEA or CIA, or OSHA or MSHA, no National Guard or air traffic control or Coast Guard or NASA...or Department of Agriculture or food stamps, either--you can get rid of all of it, and government will still be 80% of what it is today.

And that means that the only way you can really make the Federal Government to cut one or more of those four core activities that Government is performing.

So which one will it be, Dr. Paul?

Are you against Medicare and Medicaid?
Should it be ended today?

What about Social Security?
Are you ready to tell Kentucky voters that Social Security should end, today?

Are you ready to tell Kentucky voters that you do not believe that the US should be the world leader in military technologies?

Do you think China should be the preeminent military power?

Let's get these questions in front of Dr. Paul, and even as he tries to dodge questions about the right of Woolworth's to keep its lunch counter white, let's make him face these questions as well...which are neither abstract nor obscure.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

On The Quirkiness Of Autism, Or, “Best.Story.Ever.”

So I’ve been away for a couple of weeks, and it’s time to get back to a more demanding schedule…but before I do, I have a story to tell you that is so hilarious that we need to put it on the front burner so we can get the weekend off to a truly great start.

To protect the innocent we’ll leave out all the names, but suffice it to say that this story takes us to the intersection of religious evangelism, childlike innocence, and the idiosyncratic nature of autism.

Some of you are going to think I made this up, but I promise, this is an actual, true, “really, honest, it really happened” story, and every word is as accurate as it could be, considering that it was a tale told second-hand.

And with all that having been said, let’s go to Spokane, where our story has been waiting for us.

“Nec dues intersit, nisi dignus vindice nodus Inciderit.”

(Neither should a god intervene, unless a knot falls worthy of his interference)

--Quintus Horatius Flaccus, De Arte Poetica, as translated by Dr. E.C. Wickham

So our friend’s daughter knows a family who has an adult autistic son living at home…and he’s absolutely fascinated by those little troll dolls with which we’re all familiar.

He stays at home alone during the day while Mom goes to work, and that’s how we get to the beginning of the story.

During the work day Mom gets a call, there on the job, and it’s her son, and he’s all excited:

“I got a troll, Mom…I got a troll!” he’s telling her, and she’s taking it in, but as I understand it, she was basically thinking “well, whatever…”.

At the end of the day, she came home, and he’s really animated, jumping up and down and talking excitedly about his new troll.

Mom asks to see the troll, and he takes her to his bedroom. In front of the closet door is his dresser, and he moves it out of the way, and he opens the door…and inside…

…is a “little person”—and he is some kind of pissed.

Apparently this poor guy had come to the door as part of his efforts to spread the Word of the Lord, and the autistic son had literally, without a word of warning, snatched him off the porch and ran him upstairs; presumably hoping he would be able to talk Mom into letting him keep what he obviously perceived as his own real live troll.

(Just for the record, we could not determine if he was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses or a follower of the Latter Day Saints or if he had some other religious affiliation.)

It apparently took a lot of explaining, but Mom was able to communicate to the evangelist that the son was not acting maliciously, and that it was a cognitive issue that was in play here, so all’s well that ends well, I guess.

But think about this for a second: if you came to someone’s front door, all anxious to spread the Word about your version of The Truth…and the next thing you know you’re sitting in a tiny, tiny, space, unsure exactly what happened or how you came to be there…unsure about how long all this will last…and really unsure about what’s to come when your stay in the closet is over…to whom, exactly, would you be praying?

Obviously, for some, this would be a test of faith, and they would come through with flying colors—but for a lot of other people, including me…well, I might be considering the potential of new religious options…sitting there, alone, in the dark, in that little closet.

So that’s my weekend story, folks: an amazingly strange situation, the opportunity to see if you can actually be forgiving enough to match the philosophical bent of your own deity, and, at least for one person involved, a chance to reconsider the old Texas saying: “dance with who brung ya”.

Now for next week, we have something really unusual: did you know the US Navy has been depositing nuclear-powered telephone-tapping tape recorders on the ocean floor for about three decades now…and that it may still be going on?

In between now and then: there are tax breaks that small businesses could really use that are available today, but not well known, as I discovered when I was talking to my friend who owns a small business. I’ll pass that information on to you, and with any luck, your favorite small business owner will be thanking you, too.

UPDATE - May 16th, 11PM: Over the past 24 hours there have been a number of comments on the various sites where this story is posted pointing out that this is a well-known “urban legend”, which is something I should have known about in the first place.

This story came to me from a friend of mine, and before I put pen to paper calls were made to get more details. Even this morning she maintains that what she told me is accurate

That said, I no longer have enough confidence in this story to continue to present it as accurate.

I have suspended the distribution of this story, and where it does appear, it carries this update.

So, my bad, and I should not have been taken in so easily, and, as you can imagine, I’m looking to do better in the future.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Operation Terraform, The Secret Obama Administration Plan For Arizona, Is Revealed

Washington (FNS)—An exclusive investigation by FNS reporting staff has identified and confirmed, through a second source, the Obama Administration’s secret plans for resolving issues with certain residents of Arizona that has been in the news over the past week, known as “Operation Terraform”.

The plan depends upon American authorities cooperating with the Canadian, Mexican, and North American Governments, and the plan will require one of the largest transport efforts since D-Day.

Until today, no one outside the involved agencies had been aware of the existence of the plan, much less its details, and as of today, no official will admit, on the record, that the plan is already in effect.

After September 11th, the United States Government, in addition to other policy initiatives, made a decision to move ahead with previous plans to establish a North American Government. After consultations with Mexico and Canada, Edmonton, Alberta, was chosen as the administrative center for the new organization.

In order to disguise the new construction, it was decided to locate many of the facilities under the West Edmonton Mall. This location was chosen partly because it has been in a state of constant construction for years and already contains a substantial amount of underground construction, making additional work less noticeable.

In 2002, a new office tower and a major underground expansion were begun underneath the new parking garage on the west side of the mall, and that facility today houses both North American Government administrators and a paramilitary base that provides a location from which special operations can be staged.

After the Tea Party protests began in April of 2009, the Obama Administration, who had decided already on the basic outline of Operation Terraform, coordinated with the other three Governments to more rapidly complete a database of the DNA of all North American citizens.

That process was assisted by the creation of an H1N1 flu scare in 2009, which caused people to obtain flu shots in record numbers. The DNA collected during that “inoculation” program means the database now has records for over 70% of the population in the North American Economic Zone.

After a frantic summer of effort by specialists from the US Army’s Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, the Centers for Disease Control, the FDA, and the National Institutes of Health, a DNA replication and human cloning facility was up and running, thanks to a tunnel connecting the Mall and the sub-basements of the nearby Misericordia Community Hospital.

From October until January unmarked trucks operated by KBR’s North American Government and Defense unit have coordinated with North America’s SuperCorridor Coalition to provide logistical support, moving the newly cloned human replicants from Canada, through the United States, to holding facilities operated by the North American Government in Sonora, Mexico.

As certain white citizens of Arizona who live in conservative voting precincts were identified crossing the Mexican border, they were being replaced by these replicants, with the intent of changing the long-term voting patterns in Arizona.

Unfortunately, the number of citizens transiting the border has declined precipitously in the past several months due to violence on the Mexican side, and changes to the plan had to be considered.

Beginning in February, US agents working the border began “sweep and clear” operations to establish corridors through which KBR could import replicant individuals so that substitutions could take place inside the United States.

A processing facility was required in the Phoenix area; KBR arranged with Basic Chemical Solutions to build a high-security entrance on their property for the underground bunker built by the North American Government’s Paramilitary Command on the south side of West Lower Buckeye Road just across from the Maricopa County Jail.

We have learned that about 12,000 Arizonans a month have been replaced since February, and that the program eventually intends to remove about 20,000 persons each month to long-term internment facilities in Central Sonora and Northern Alberta.

The Administration is seeing the recent shutdown of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps as evidence that the program is working.

The immediate goal is to turn Arizona into a reliably Democratic state by the time of the 2012 elections. If successful, the program will be established in other states, with Florida and Ohio probably being next on the list.

Operation Terraform has already affected Obama’s political agenda.

Conservatives are calling for the Administration to finish the border fence between Arizona and Sonora as part of the negotiations associated with an immigration compromise; since this would impair the ability of KBR to move people back and forth over that border the Administration has been unwilling to make such a deal.

The Democrats, however, assume that over time they will have to make fewer and fewer political compromises as more and more Conservatives are replaced by replicants who will always do the bidding of their Democratic Masters.

In the final iteration of the plan, members of the Democratic base are also being considered for replacement. Two “scouting parties” from the North American Government have infiltrated the Netroots Nation events in the past two years to gather information; based on that data a decision is expected in the next few months.