On Getting Old…er

I was having a discussion with my kids tonight as I drove them back from their mother’s house to mine. You see, today my boys turned 16 years old. And while this is an inevitable outcome of raising children, feeding them and foregoing the desire to scream and run when they do the sometimes stupid things they do, it doesn’t make it any easier as a parent to look at yourself in the mirror and realize how viciously Old Man Time has beaten you up so far. This can be especially fun when you have baldness.

But as the discussion carried on, one of my sons quickly headed off the lament that I’m apparently offering out loud a bit too frequently — Dad’s getting old. Well, I felt the need to clarify my feelings on the matter. Continue reading “On Getting Old…er”

Reality 101

As we go into Day 9 of the shutdown of the Federal Government, the media has gone to great lengths to do two things:

  • Assign blame
  • Appear unbiased

The two obvious exceptions to this are the networks of Fox “Ultra-Conservative” News and MSLiberalNBC. The rest of the networks, by and large, have been doing everything they can to appear as unbiased as possible in their coverage with varying degrees of success. The problem is that has arisen from this is their apparent inability to give any kind of news without some strange obligation to make this issue look like it’s the fault of everyone involved.

This shutdown is the fault of the intransigence of the collective House GOP. There’s no simpler or direct way of putting that. You can argue with me about that all you want, but you’re wrong. It’s not an opinion. It’s a pretty well-established fact at this point. Largely because the Speaker of the House has maintained a thin mask that he is, in fact, at the mercy of the Tea Party members of congress and he wants to keep his Speaker’s Chair. His usually well-focused messaging is everything but focused, as he proved on Sunday on This Week. Continue reading “Reality 101”

A Scorned Lover’s Lament

After President Obama was elected back in 2008, I made a concerted effort to put a good distance between me and politics. It was like an abusive relationship. I was so in love, but politics inevitably made me into an unlikable person. Even when it donned that French Maid outfit and said all those naughty things I loved hear, I looked at my reflection in the mirror and was horrified by what my lusting affair with politics had made me become. I was a broken man.

Over the past five years, I’ve done everything I could to get away from that self-destructive lifestyle. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t check up on my old mistress from time to time. I watched from afar, knowingly, as my old temptress brought old friends to her bed. I did what I could to warn them, but I knew that perfume all too well and know what it does to one’s mind.

What I’ve learned is that politics is a very old mistress – something akin to a vampire; No, not a vampire in the Stephanie Myers-influenced nonsense, but a beast straight out of the tomes of Ann Rice. This creature has been around for centuries – feeding on her victims as the penultimate result of long, quiet, inescapable seduction. And much like a vampire, you cannot kill what is already corporeally dead.

Truth be told, I don’t necessarily want to end politics. Perhaps it’s the spousal abuse talking, or perhaps I’ve watched Return of the Jedi too many times, but I know there’s good in her. When you break it down to the basics, the word politics comes from the Latin word polis, which means “people”. And that’s what politics is supposed to be – the people making laws for the betterment of all. And, really, how can one not fall in love with such a vision?

In light of my mistress’s latest activities, I’m formally throwing my hat back into to the ring. So expect a bit more out of me in the coming days and weeks.

It’s Come To This

As a child of the 80s, I was raised initially to mistrust the country of Russia. It was the USSR back then, and everything they were was supposed to represent all that was evil in this world. President Reagan implored Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” and that wall finally came down in 1989. America basked in the glory that was the final victory in the so-called Cold War.

That’s how the history books will record it. That’s how it has been recorded so far. Communism was a failed system and Democracy, with the capital D, was the only way to enlightenment.

Now I must ask my fellow countrymen, be they republican or democrat, how it feels to know that a citizen contractor who worked for the NSA has sought and succeeded to find asylum in the country of Russia because his government, who touts “the land of the free and the home of the brave” as their stock in life, has found his exposing what everyone already knew was unspoken truth?

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so detached from true freedom. Fuck your parties, fuck your protections against our free society…this young man sought to bring to light a grievous overreaching of our government, in the name of protecting our way of life, and he’s a pariah. He didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, or even less what those we call our enemies knew; he only focused it for us so that we could see it more clearly.

Is this what Democracy means? If you dare to speak the truth, to pull back the curtain to expose the man behind it; is this the end result?

I was against everything that Preznit Bush spoke for, but only because I knew full well what his intentions were. He barely hid them. But now that President Obama is seemingly compliant with the very same raping of what it means to be free, what’s the fucking point? I’m absolutely disgusted with the whole endeavor. If being free means robbing people of their freedom to the point where they seek freedom in the nations that once represented everything but freedom, who do you believe?

This country needs to collectively pull its head out of its ass. Sadly, I don’t see that happening. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not holding my breath doing so.

 

Open Letter to Teenagers

As I’ve raised my kids, I’ve become more and more aware of an activity that frightens me to my core. And no, I’m not talking about my kids coming of age, realizing they don’t have to listen to me anymore, and moving out. (Although that is somewhat scary.)

There is something of a disorder that I’ve come to see in a lot of teenage kids out there — girls, mostly — and that is what is known in the lexicon as “cutting”. Now, to the brazen, jaded souls of the internet, this is a pitiful cry for attention from spoiled teenagers; I’ve seen the comments on various websites. And while other kids and even some adults can easily dismiss this in such a fashion, as a person who has seen this up close and personal, I’m affected a great deal more when I hear about. Especially when it concerns kids that are friends of my kids. Continue reading “Open Letter to Teenagers”

Learning to Live

Letting go of the anger and pain is an exercise that can give you a lot of false positives. Just when you think you’re beyond it all, something sneaks up and bites you in the subconscious and can leave you reeling for a while. I like to think of myself as a rational-minded person. In fact, sometimes my thinking can becoming to sickeningly logical to leave me checking to see how pointy my ears are.

But there are moments in which a memory will set off a chain reaction in my mind. A whirlwind of emotions takes shape and can leave me listless for days. All because of a song, an image, or even the turning of a particular phrase that would be otherwise meaningless to the rest of the world. And for me, to somewhat of a surprise, guilt is not something I experience. It’s more of a frustration or anger at myself. And the sorrowful regrets inextricably entwined to positive outcomes that I wouldn’t change for the world.

Sage Advice

Something I’ve noticed after going through an 18-month divorce is that I am now, apparently, an expert on the subject. I find this sort of funny because I hardly consider myself an expert. I read a great deal of articles during my own divorce. It shouldn’t be any surprise that most of them basically say the same thing:

  • If you have kids, keep them out of any discussions
  • Do as much as you can on your own because if you make the lawyer do it you’re paying a lot of money to do your busy work
  • Do not get petty and vindictive (the best advice I read was “those who seek revenge in divorce should start by digging two graves”)

This is all very good advice. The problem is that it is counting on two rational-minded people to follow the same mature course of action. Now I can’t speak for all people who’ve gone through divorce, but when you’re separating a marriage, rationality tends to be a very rare commodity, indeed. You are, after all, dealing with the separation of a life that you’ve built with another person. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding that decision, it is an emotional time. Hell, even if you’re a greedy, money-grubbing bastard, you’re going to get emotional about your finances.

Most of the people who have approached me (of course I’m not going to name names, here) have done so because they’re putting serious thought into divorce and want to know what they’re facing. The very first thing I always do is ask them if there’s anything that can be done to change the situation that, to them, has become so unbearable. “Have you attempted counseling?” “Have you talked to them about how much you hate hamsters?” etc. To my surprise, a couple of people hadn’t even entertained the idea of addressing the problem directly. And for the sake of their kids, I told them flat-out that they absolutely needed to address the problem before looking at pressing the mutually-assured destruction button.

The second tier are those who have addressed the other party, either directly or through professional counseling. These are the folks I really feel for. And their demeanor towards marriage is very different. The aforementioned people, who haven’t addressed issues with their significant other, tend to view marriage as something of an inconvenience — a buyer’s remorse of sorts. The latter people are genuinely hurt that the marriage they put their bets on as being a life-time deal went south. And I’ve talked to a couple of people like this. Sometimes this emotion is buried underneath a great deal of anger or outward defiance, but the underlying feeling is the same; “What the fuck happened and what can I do to make it better?”

My advice to any who reach this level is to prepare for anything and everything and get a lawyer. Every single relationship is different from the next, so there is no clear road map to follow — But getting a capable attorney is key, and making sure all your business is in order is absolutely necessary. My Ex would complain that I somehow failed the lawyer portion of this, and she may be right. But to me it clearly demonstrated that having a solid, knowledgeable and professional attorney is worth his or her weight in gold. My original attorney ended up being disbarred for embezzling money from his clients, his partners and even his own parents. Thankfully I wasn’t one of his targets. (If anything, I think I got a deal because the guy didn’t know how to bill for his own time properly.) Had I done a proper background check on him, I probably would’ve seen the warning flags from his history and gone with someone else. But having an attorney familiar with family law helps to successfully navigate the Ethereal Realm of Legaleezia, where they have their own customs, codes and language. Those who cross into its borders without a proper guide are looking to get run over by the Judge or opposing counsel.

And to reiterate the point I made earlier: Get your shit in order. If nothing else, you’re going to have to do this for your attorney who will need it for the divorce decree. Know every last asset and debt in your financial history. Get a copy of your record, including driving record, and be ready to have it reviewed. Get your medical history from your doctor — this is especially important for those who have a complicated medical history, physical or mental, and they’re seeking custody of the children. And as you’re doing all of this, recognize that your soon-to-be-ex is probably doing the same. And remember the golden legal rule: It doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what you can prove.

Now for the last-but-certainly-not-least part: Child Custody. I assume the reason most of the guys who’ve approached me asking about divorce stems from the successful result of the three-month child custody evaluation fun-time-party-land I went through. I’d just like to point out a couple of things about this, because I think it’s relevant. One, I was successful because had it been 100% up the kids, that would’ve been the result. Two, it didn’t hurt me any that they were of an age where their voice mattered in a court of law. While it is true that the modern day family court has come a long way from the “Mom always gets the kids” model from as little as a decade ago, the fact is that what matters to the legal system — meaning the court, the lawyers, the custody evaluator and even the court reporter —  is what’s in the “best interest of the children”. If you end up going the route of having a custody evaluation done, it’s going to come out very clearly to an unbiased party whether or not your parenting skills are a weakness or a strength.

I had one person ask me about the idea of working out a way where one parent gets one set of kids and the other parent gets the other set. The advice offered here is simple: Don’t separate the kids. They’re not furniture or decorative flatware. I know it seems like a logical course of action, but the fact is that the kids in a divorce are already going through an emotionally traumatic event wherein Parent A no longer lives with Parent B and “is it my fault?” When you throw separating their siblings into the different households, you’re literally destroying the only world they’ve ever known — and now their sibling has “chosen a side”. And, by the way, if you re-read my previous statement, how will it look to a custody evaluator that you want to do this? How does it rate on the “Best Interest Of The Children” meter? (Answer to both questions: Terrible.)

Now this is for all of you out there who are in the midst of divorce: Look in the mirror. Okay, wait until you’ve read this and then look in the mirror. Ask yourself, “Is <InsertExName> really someone who has an active and loving role in the life of my child/children?”

The answer should come quickly. Don’t over-qualify it. Normally that snap answer that comes to mind is the right one.

Now ask yourself this: “Am I a good parent who will go to the ends of the earth for my children?”

Again, this answer should be quick. Even if you’re an asshole.

Here’s the fun part of this little exercise — if you answered “Yes” to both questions, you’re going to share custody with your Ex. Get used to this idea. It doesn’t matter what ill feelings you may have with them, fundamentally, the kids have absolutely nothing to do with that. And all your kids care about, if you answered “Yes” to both questions, is that they’ll be able to see both of you as much as possible. That’s ALL that matters.

Now for the nitty gritty…Child Support. *Insert Scary Music Here* Here in Minnesota, child support is determined not by the old “full/shared physical custody” anymore so much as parenting time and disparity of income between the two parents. Why did I just smack you with that? Because your kids need your support. Even if you’re of the opinion that the other party is simply going to spend the money of themselves and not the kids, pay it anyway. Pay it happily and on time and don’t try to weasel out on technicalities. Why? Because even if the other person is using the money that they get on child support to buy collectable spoons of the 50 State of the Union, they’re still the ones who have to buy groceries, pay the heat bill and get money in the school lunch accounts. Unless you find that your children are being seriously neglected (in which case you immediately sue for a new custody hearing), how your ex spends their money is their business. Their personal finances are not your concern and, as an added bonus, your finances are none of their business either. You’ve been divorced and one of the better spiffs is independence from one another.

That’s all the advice I have for now. Just remember that if you decide the pull the trigger, it’s a long, tedious-to-the-point-of-madness process for those who are in contention. So do your own personal best to avoid turning the process into a way to punish your ex, and get through it.

Bubba’s Still Got It

I had forgotten how much I enjoy listening to Bill Clinton speaking passionately on his beliefs. He isn’t even running and I still want to vote for him.

Now, Republicans out there can get all huffy if you like, but I encourage you to listen to this speech with an open mind. You don’t have to admit anything outwardly, but take to heart the central themes that “We are all in this together” and recognize your own party’s failure to do so.

Context — It’s What’s For Dinner

Not having a reason to watch regular TV anymore does have it’s perks — I get to avoid the onslaught of political ads this time around. It’s not that I’m not paying attention, it’s just that all that most folks need to know about both candidates has already been pretty clearly spelled out. So that means the American people — especially from those poor sonsofbitches in battleground states — get to hear who can amass the better smear campaign. Making people nauseous is no longer a deterrent.

What you get used to is when some candidate makes a bold point that is more than eight words long, it’s a quote that is ripe for plucking by the opposition to be taken out of context. It happens a lot, but not so much in Presidential campaigns as the message control is like nothing you’ve ever seen. But it seems that Obama made this mistake, and the Romney campaign is running hard with it.

Even without a TV, I’ve become aware of the “You Didn’t Build That” roast that’s got the conservatives in fits. Of course it helps when the party flagship network spends the majority of two days of news cycle driving into the heads of its loyal viewers. The funny thing is that the Romney camp waited a bit before jumping into the fray on this one. But no longer — he’s beating that drum like a death metal stickman.

Something to keep in mind, especially if you’ve fallen for this particular talking point cudgel, is that Obama’s words were taking completely out of context. Here’s the full quote — I’ve bolded all but the only thing that Fox and its blind followers have been regurgitating.

OBAMA: If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. 

The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.

Context is a funny thing, isn’t it? It would be difficult to find someone who disagrees with the full statement Obama made. But he made the mistake of saying something that could be plucked and completely mischaracterized for the benefit of his opponent. That said, I wish that this would’ve been the worst mistake he’s made since he took the Oval Office. But we’re talking campaigning here, so let’s stay on subject.

Back in 2000, then Presidential Candidate Al Gore made a similar statement that was so horrifically taken out of context that most people don’t recognize it as anything but Gospel truth. See if you remember this one: “I invented the internet.” Damn that arrogant Al Gore! How could he be so full of himself?!

Well…he wasn’t. At least not any more than usual. Here’s the actual quote:

During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet. I took the initiative in moving forward a whole range of initiatives that have proven to be important to our country’s economic growth and environmental protection, improvements in our educational system.

And just to be clear, it was called “The Gore Bill“. Just another one of those big federal spending projects that actually benefited people that you never hear in that particular phrasing. Steep that, Tea Partiers.

But the fact is that the ruse worked well enough to stoke the fires of the Conservative base, and Bush was appointed to the Presidency. And the Romney camp is hoping for the same with this “You Didn’t Build That” nonsense. I wish I could say that the American people are smarter than that. But let’s be honest…

Tragedy in Aurora

Twitter is afire with comments about the fact that nutjob was armed with an AR-15. Yes, America, this weapon is perfectly legal to get. No, it’s not a fully-automatic rifle like you’ve seen in war movies. But I don’t care if he was armed with a minigun or a derringer — put a gun in the hands of the deranged and things get cuckoo.

Brace yourself for another few weeks of endless debate over gun control, which in this particular case would’ve made absolutely no difference. There are FAR more powerful weapons available legally for hunting. That said, the gun industry needs to find a better way of controlling who buys and uses their products. I like trained people, personally. Preferably without mental health issues, but I can see how that would be difficult to spot.

After dealing with my fair share of gun-toters, I can honestly say that while I don’t agree with the necessity of owning a firearm, I’m willing to concede the fact that some people find them as necessary as having an alarm system. And all of the gun-toters I personally know have had extensive training in the use and care of their weapons. So while I find them unnecessary, it’s good to know that those who do are getting (and in some cases teaching) proper use.

But to step back for a moment, I want to address my fellow liberals out there in the expected backlash of “Oh sweet heavens, we need more gun control”! I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, but I think this overreaction to what is a fairly unique, albeit tragic, event is mislabeling the problem. Like I said before, you can ban anything short of rubberband guns and some yahoo out there will figure out a way to make such a weapon lethal and demonstrate it to the horrors of unsuspecting people. That’s human nature. People find ways of hurting one another. Individuals, which for the sake of this point I shall label as “total fucking whackjobs”, will use these weapons in horrific ways.

Or, to use a line most Batman fans will understand: “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

On the flip side, conservative windbag Louis Gohmert, in the running for being the most personally reprehensible person in congress, heard of the shooting and publicly wondered aloud, “[Y]ou know with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying that could’ve stopped this guy more quickly?”

No, you ignorant piece of shit. I’m pretty sure people were more concerned about quickly getting out of the movie theater that was being attacked by a gas-canister-throwing, gas-mask-and-riot-gear-wearing, AR-15-weilding psychopath, along with a few hundred other terrified patrons. How about you take your fantasies of being the Lone Fucking Ranger back to that tiny little head of yours?

That said, I’d really like politics to stay out of this discussion. It’s gonna be a blamefest on the cable news networks. All of them will carefully glaze over the fact that this guy was nuts and it was an isolated incident that sucks hard. My heart goes out to the good people of Aurora, all of whom shared my love of the Dark Knight only to have such a wonderful thing turn so horrifying.