What is the Islamic State? Is it Al Qaeda’s “JV team,” as President Barack Obama asserted last year in an interview with the New Yorker? Is it something America should engage in war — “take them out,” as putative Republican front-runner Jeb Bush asserts?
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The Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Special on NBC last week was a fairly perfect affair. It touched all the right notes — humor and emotion tinged with that hint of self-importance that has given the show its edge over an incredible run.
Jon Stewart and I, we have a complicated relationship. I’ve long been a fan of his, in my own way. He’s an undeniably brilliant human being — witty, funny, self-deprecating — just an enormously talented person.
Typically what I do when I sit down to write my weekly treatise, is to start from a conclusion in my head that I presume to be true — say, that stop signs are generally a lazy and economically inefficient method of traffic control — and then work backward. What basic truths underwrite their inefficiency? Why don’t other people see them that way? Why are they attractive to city leaders, despite their issues?
If you’re not familiar with names like Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez, Aroldis Chapman and Jose Abreu, it’s safe to say you’re not much of a baseball fan. Each of those 20-somethings is arguably the best professional baseball player on the Dodgers, Marlins, Reds and White Sox, respectively, and each was born in the communist nation of Cuba.
When I was a kid just past the age of enjoying G.I. Joes, I stumbled upon a great book called “Marine Sniper,” a 1988 nonfiction tome about the Vietnam War career of Carlos Hathcock — at the time considered the deadliest sniper in American history. That title would eventually be taken by SEAL marksman Chris Kyle, who recounted his time in Iraq in his best-selling memoir-turned-movie, “American Sniper”.
Most of the backlash to President Obama’s proposal last week to make community college free for all students centered around that four-letter word at the heart of the matter. Pundits pointed out, correctly, that it’s literally impossible for a government to make something “free” — the product or service in question is always paid for by someone, either now or in the future.
Nearly six months have passed since the death of Eric Garner — a petty criminal suffocated to death by New York City police, mid-arrest. He was suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes — and the nation continues to watch the dominoes fall.
When I was in junior high school, my family relocated from Denver to a tiny speck of a town on the Eastern Plains of Colorado; a part of the state that’s inhabited by few and appreciated by fewer still — four hours from the nearest ski slope.
Many things happened on Christmas Day this year that were par for the yuletide course. Presents were opened by rapturous children and then quickly forgotten. Millions of people darted to and fro, ticking off the checklist as they moved among each family outpost. Preachers kept everyone five minutes too long at Christmas Eve Service. Countless boyfriends and husbands were cajoled into their yearly viewing of that treacly Christmas staple, “Love Actually.”
During halftime of the Monday Night Football broadcast last week, something extraordinary happened. Chris Berman ended his football commentary with a phrase so rare, the EPA is likely shortlisting it as an endangered species.
First, a thought experiment: Imagine the one person to whom you’re closest is in danger. Mortal danger. Someone, somewhere is threatening to kill them. And you have that person’s accomplice literally in your hands.
Corporate taxes in the United States are frequently in the news, as they’re a favorite subject of both the left and the right. Republicans unsurprisingly want them lowered, as America has the highest such tax rate in the world, among developed countries. Democrats, on the other hand, like to single out specific industries for either having to pay too much — e.g wind and solar farms — or benefiting from “unfair tax breaks,” which usually track closely with a company’s proximity to an oil well.
Writing about rape, as a man, is a fool’s errand, but it’s one I feel compelled to undertake. Men are imprisoned for rape at a 99-1 ratio to women, according the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics. So since men are all-but precluded from suffering the consequences of rape, some people believe they therefore have no ground on which to stand while debating rape-related issues.
As a point, I make an effort in this space each week to avoid mentioning politicians by name. That’s not to say my record’s perfect; on one occasion , I took aim at Barack Obama and George W. Bush for their vacation policies. And there are probably others as well. But I really try to avoid it.
Peer pressure is a bit of a two-edged sword. It can be used for good, like how societal shaming has resulted in tons of progress curbing smoking over the last decade. Or it can be not so good. Like when eighth graders pressure their friends to sneak out to the parking lot for a quick cigarette at half-time of the JV basketball game, but then you have to run around the far side of the school when you’re done so no one suspects anything and in doing so crash into an unseen T-post and bleed all over your shirt and then never try smoking again because it was clearly a sign from God.
Election Day is upon us, which means the inevitable fallout of partisan, finger-pointing opinion pieces dissecting the outcome is similarly nigh. And if Republicans retake the U.S. Senate, as they are expected to do, a good number of those fingers will be pointed at Charles and David Koch, two brothers who own an eponymous manufacturing company that just so happens to be the second largest privately held business in the nation.
Growing up as a preacher’s kid, I would conservatively estimate the number of weddings I’ve attended at 1.7 billion. And over those years of watching my dad do his thing between the bride and groom, I learned quite a bit about weddings.
In fourteen hundred ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. On that much, we can agree. The list of things beyond that which can be stipulated is pretty scarce, but in summary: someone at some point decided Columbus should get credit for discovering the Americas. Someone else, in turn, decided that was reason enough to declare a holiday on the anniversary of his “discovery.” And bingo-bongo, bank cashiers have been big fans of Cristoforo Colombo ever since.
Congress was not in session on Monday, October 6, 2014. No bills were passed. No votes lodged. No floor speeches speechified. Most of our elected representatives weren’t even in Washington, in fact. And yet the federal government took a step on Monday Oct. 6 that will affect more people than every piece of legislation that has passed through Congress in the last four years.
Back in my home state of Colorado, there’s been a ton of hullabaloo recently over teacher-led protests in a Denver suburb. People are angry because a school board member said she favored slanting the AP history curriculum toward conservatism, but the reason for the protests isn’t really germane, anyway.
When we’ve been bad little boys and naughty little girls — or rather, when we’ve been caught being bad or naughty — the government has two main ways it likes to get even: it takes our money or it takes our freedom. Run a stoplight; your penance is some cash. Run a stoplight naked, they take you to the clink. That’s our criminal justice system in a nutshell.
I am no expert on Scotland. I can point to it on a map — which, troublingly, puts me among only one-third of Americans — but I’ve never been there; never even known someone who was born there. What I do know about Scotland has basically been gleaned from Mel Gibson and that one episode of “Parks and Recreation” where Ron Swanson visits the Lagavulin distillery.
In his 1973 opus “The Gulag Archipelago,” Russian novelist and historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn relayed a story from a Soviet party conference during the rule of Joseph Stalin, noted dictator and late-night cinema enthusiast . The Communist leader had just given a rousing speech — or at least I assume it was rousing, given what happened next:
It’s a great premise, I’ll give them that. Executives at Fox have green-lit a new reality show, slated to hit your boob-tube Sunday night, called “Utopia.” The network is dumping 15 people onto a secluded compound and tasking them with creating a society from scratch. It’s a little bit “Survivor,” a little bit “Lord of the Flies.”
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