Monthly Archives: February 2014

Sochi 2014: What We (I) Learned

sochi-2014-logo-4

High/Lowlights:

  • USA  Men’s Hockey teased the hell out of us with a dominant offensive performance in the early rounds…only to choke on both sides of the ice in their last two, critical games.
  • USA Women’s Hockey suffered one of the single-most heartbreaking defeats I have ever witnessed. After being less than four minutes from gold against their bitter rival, Canada, the ladies gave up two goals and fell in overtime. Hard to watch.
  • Bode Miller is human but still has game. Ted Ligety is unnaturally good in the slalom…what a ride.
  • Mikaela Shiffrin will be around for a while. What a combination of intellect, natural skill, and sheer muscle memory.
  • Skeleton, Luge, and Bobsled remains way cool.
  • Gracie Gold was not.
  • Yuna Kim is as graceful and humble as a superstar gets.
  • Putin remains a tool.
  • Bob Costas…where do I begin. The master of self-aggrandizement leveraged his pink-eye into a national “thing”. What the hell? Oh, and then he continued his entirely inappropriate political rants during the “games”. For the record, I generally agree with his views, I just despise listening to them interrupt why I’m here in the first place: to watch men and women who have dedicated their lives to competition. It’s not all about you Bob.
  • Oh, and Bob…one other thing…we don’t button the bottom button of a sportcoat…c’mon buddy, step it up.
  • Johnny Weir’s false eyelashes…the guy is a fashion freak but a remarkably astute commentator.
  • Which brings me to the commercials:
    • Cadillac: The dude that casually glorifies the “superior” American work ethic. This one has received some criticism for advancing an obscene commercial ethic. I, again, generally agree with that criticism. The pursuit of “stuff” is at times obscene. But on this one, it’s get’s a pass for genuine swag factor and score. (ten point style deduction though for allowing the actor to…yes…button the bottom button on that nice suit…when he turns back to camera, the vent separates…the entire reason we never do that. A critical stylistic error here and a severe indictment of the ad agency that produced the spot).
    • McDonalds: The McCafe spot. I don’t think I’ve EVER been creeped out as much by a piece of television. A woman, who later turns out to be a McDonalds employee, offers a McCafe something-or -other to women “having a bad day”. Except her bizarre head tilt and nasally “enjoy” brings this to the level of Texas Chainsaw Massacre creepiness. Don’t believe me? Watch it once. Experience nightmares for a lifetime. You’ve been warned.
    • Chevy Equinox: Here’s the dude that apparently has an epic night with his “bros” and then decides to check with “Siri” to see if he has any messages in the car with his wife. A dumbass like this deserves to get busted by Siri for pulling a bonehead move like this. Mancard revoked.

Summary: I spend way too much time watching TV and way too little time studying for my Western Civ and English class…thank God these thing only come around every four years…


The Myth of Democracy and the Demise of the Fourth Estate

Our system of government is based on a concept of checks & balances between branches of government. Executive, legislative, and judicial. A fourth “branch” or “fourth estate” has historically been the informal final arbiter of truth within this system.

Journalism had enjoyed a reputation of objectivity for some years. Think Murrow, Cronkite, and the unsung heroes of truth that trudged the wires for AP and UPI. Broadcast journalism was the first to fall (the “Eyewitness News” model) and the line between truth and “message” became blurred.

NPR and PBS were my last hopes. NPR has increasingly come under fire for some administrative personnel decisions (Juan Williams) but for my money, continues to provide generally objective, thoughtful content.

Then PBS. Another stalwart of objective journalism. The PBS Newshour and Frontline are, in my opinion, unmatched for in-depth editorial content. Other news organizations such as Al Jazeera and BBC also continue to produce top quality content.

Now this.

I read this article from David Sirota and another piece of me died. To summarize, PBS is launching a two-year series called “The Pension Peril”. The series promotes cuts to public employee pensions (disclaimer: I am a former county employee who is not receiving a public pension and is adamantly opposed to exorbitant public pensions).

Here’s the poison pill: the series financed by, as the article states “former Enron trader John Arnold, a billionaire political powerbroker who is actively trying to shape the very pension policy that the series claims to be dispassionately covering.”

Et tu PBS? Your argument that you retain editorial control over content is a shameful expression of crap clearly designed to save face in light of the disclosure of your masters.

That the PBS Newshour promotes the series sickens me. When I think PBS, I think objectivity, truth, integrity.

Whether it is an economic reality forcing this funding or not matters little. They’ve entered the partisan arena inhabited by subjective “news” organizations such as Fox and the Wall Street Journal.

I have no argument with balance. The MSNBC counter to Fox and their ilk. What I have issue with is the demise of the Fourth Estate…

Of truth…

Of integrity…

Of the myth of democracy…


Personal Responsibility—this post brought to you by Bud Light!

24 hours have passed since the overdose death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman and the lines have been drawn. On the one hand, folks like me (and the AMA and the Supreme Court) arguing the disease model of alcoholism and addiction.

On the other hand, the vast majority of society calling Hoffman a loser, a weakling, a junkie and a man of terrible moral character. He simply made the wrong choices. It was his choice to put that needle in his arm. His death is his responsibility.

They’re only partially right. Once Hoffman was introduced to the disease model of addiction through treatment, he had a responsibility to A) admit that he had a disease and B) treat that disease. For twenty some years, he chose B.

But he then suffered from a medical issue that required a prescription for opiates. Inside his brain, the synapses that had long forgotten the omnipotent pleasure of that neurotransmitter dopamine, were gloriously reawakened. And it killed him. At some point, the seductive allure of that overwhelming feeling of pleasure, of wellness, predictably overtook his commitment to treatment. Opiate (heroin, Oxycontin, Vicodin) addicts are often “taken out” by the prescriptions of well-meaning physicians. They often return quickly to their opiate of choice and often die. I know of several people this has happened to. Often people, like Hoffman, who had long periods of drug abstinence.

So yeah, at the end of the day, he had a choice…throw himself headlong into his recovery, or fall victim to the chemical orgy taking place in his brain. It’s a battle borne out of the disease of addiction…that is too often lost.

Back to personal responsibility. I’ve been reading a lot of comments about his choices…his choice to slam heroin in the first place. I’m going to step out on a limb here and venture a guess that Hoffman’s first experience with mind-altering chemicals wasn’t with heroin. In fact, it was probably tobacco, or caffeine, or the most addictive drug–alcohol.

Alcohol is a mind-altering substance just like heroin. And it’s legal. And it’s deadly. And it’s abuse has filled our prisons in record numbers.

Yesterday’s Superbowl was chock full of advertisements aimed at promoting our ingestion of this mind-altering chemical…all the while being urged to “drink responsibly”.

What a joke.

To the alcoholic, there is no such thing. They MUST drink. It’s what defines the disease of alcoholism. That LEGAL substance, that we are constantly encouraged to consume, is the foundation of the disease.

How is heroin different? Or Vicodin? Or cocaine. Or marijuana? They are all mind-altering substances that are classified as illegal substances that act in our brains, on the cellular level, in the same exact manner as the legal substance alcohol.

But hey, he was just a junkie. He had a choice.

Drink responsibly…and continue to keep your head buried in the sand. They’re just junkies after all.


It’s Pretty Simple Really…

Courtesy Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Courtesy Robin Beck/AFP/Getty Images

We love to express shock and sadness when one of our icons dies of the disease of addiction. I did it here when Cory Monteith died.

It sucks. And it will continue. It’s pretty simple really. Until we…collectively…are willing to recognize facts: that alcoholism and addiction are a DISEASE, not a moral failing, not a weakness of character, these deaths will continue.

We like to laugh at those suffering. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at Amanda Bynes. Or Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. Or Dennis Rodman.

Do we treat them as if they had a chronic, progressive and fatal DISEASE. Of course we don’t. We use them as comedic fodder.

And when a guy like Phillip Seymour Hoffman spends his morning slamming Heroin instead of picking up his kids, we self-righteously feign shock and outrage.

I’m sick of it. I’m sick of living in a society that refuses to call this illness what it is: a DISEASE.

So, you’ve got cancer, and all your friends are talking behind your back about what a loser you are or a weakling. Come on man, you can beat this cancer, just get some radiation and be done with it.

Oh, did you hear about Suzie, the diabetic? I saw her buying a pack of candy at the store the other day. If only she’d wise up and start taking her Insulin.

Yeah…it’s what we do to our sick in this country. We jail them, we criticize them and we let them die. Because it’s easier for us to judge them than to help them. To offer a compassionate word or a sign of recognition that they are fighting a demon much bigger than all of us. A demon that no one can handle without treatment.

So in our ignorance, we continue to contribute to a culture of death. When we could have been funding more treatment centers and community outreach programs. Or stepping up and voting out the Neanderthal politicians in the pocket of the prison industrial complex that profit off the suffering of the disenfranchised masses.

It makes me sick to my stomach. Rest in peace Mr. Hoffman. Here’s hoping your death will make a difference…


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