Will Work for Beer? Move to Amsterdam.

Dick Sharpe in 10 years
Dick Sharpe in 10 years

Happy 80 years of repeal! What better way to celebrate this glorious memorial than by sharing with you, our dear fans, that there is now a way for you to be homeless AND work for beer. Yes, you heard (read) me right – work for beer! The New York Times yesterday reported a story where homeless alcoholics in Amsterdam can pick up garbage around the city for cans of beer. The program is remarkably simple: 2 cans of beer just for showing up, then 2 more cans for lunch (with free food), and then depending on performance, 1 or 2 cans to knock off a good day’s work. Oh and don’t worry, the program also pays 10 euros (and rolling tobacco) for the days work, which may cover the cab ride back to your homeless shelter.

The idea behind it all is that, you cannot tell alcoholics to stop drinking, so why not put them to productive work rather than having them rot in a park somewhere? Depending on your personal level of social empathy, this is brilliant or extortion of people’s addictive disorders. It’s certainly riddled with controversy, even in a country where social welfare is very high relative to the rest of the world. What are your thoughts on the matter? stepasideshow @ gmail.com

A Suggestion to Keep Us “Safe” and Happy

Probably what the NSA datacenters look like - actual photo of Robs basement
Probably what the NSA data centers look like – actual photo is of Rob’s basement

The pursuit of happiness, a fundamental idea most attributed to the founding of the United States. Our government is particularly good at doing the exact opposite. This year, more than anything (including the government shutdown), the coming to light of NSA phone tapping reigns highest on the list of “Government-making-citizens-unhappy”.  It truly is an atrocity for this country. Not only is it a gigantic invasion of privacy, it is an enormous waste of resources. It has recently been reported that the CIA pays AT&T approximately $10 million a year  to acquire call data as part of its anti-terrorism efforts. Since the leaks, the agency says it only targets calls made within the United States to people overseas. But really, this is non-sense. For example, the NSA had been targeting current German chancellor Angela Merkel, hardly a terrorist target.

The effectiveness of these anti-terrorism campaigns is highly suspect. Agencies have reported that they have been able to deter dozens of terrorist homeland attacks, without going into too many details of course. It is entirely possible that these campaigns have saved some lives (probably not as many as proper gun control could save, but lets not go down that road right now), but at what cost?

So, I have a simple solution. All government agencies engaging in this type of eavesdropping come forward with it ALL, and in return, all citizens are entitled to a single line of telecommunication service. Cell phone service is expensive, and I’m pretty sure the majority of modern day Americans would gladly let the government read their text messages if they did not have to pay their monthly cell phone bill (count me in). It would be a new level of government transparency while actually offering a government service most people would be happy to accept. It may not make all citizens happy, but that is an impossible feat anyway.

The New York Times Obviously Hate ESPN

ochoThe New York Times clearly has it out for the mega-network ESPN. Perhaps it is because the political/sports statistician/wizard Nate Silver recently left the New York Times to join ESPN, and included his fivethirtyeight blog as part of the deal (which the New York Times never owned, just contracted it for three years). Or perhaps because even the New York Times hates Keith Olbermann, they must bash the network for allowing him to come back. Or maybe the New York Times hates Mickey Mouse, and must destroy everything in Mickey’s domain (most likely, in my opinion).

Regardless of the reason, The New York Times has been throwing punches at ESPN for the past week. It all started last Friday, August 23rd, when the New York Times reported that ESPN bailed on a documentary about head injuries because of pressure from the NFL. This kind of punch takes a clear shot at ESPN’s journalistic integrity, which lets be honest, its fans don’t really care too much about. I would bet most of the Monday Night Football fan base could give a shit less about concussions. However, that article was nothing in comparison to today’s exposé of the giant ESPN truly is. The New York Times starts off with the standard anti-competitiveness of the network, by mentioning it owns more rights to sports than it does capacity to air said sports. The article goes deeper into Disney’s lobbying efforts to keep bundled television, as opposed to a la cart television – where subscribers would only pay for channels they actually want to watch. ESPN gains A LOT by having TV providers bundle channels, because ALL subscribers pay $5.44 for ESPN programming, which is 4 times more than any other cable network. Of 100 million subscribers paying this fee, only about 25% of them actually tune to an ESPN network. This means Basement Rob is subsidizing Sunday Night Baseball and Monday Night Football for me (thanks Rob!). I’m sure given the choice, Basement Rob would not be paying for this subsidy.

The article goes on about how Disney let the FCC chairperson use Superbowl ad time on ABC to announce the analog to digital TV change years ago, likely because the FCC chairperson was in favor of keeping bundled television. The article tells tales of lobbying events in Washington where politicians were giddy to take pictures with Mohammad Ali, Carl Lewis, and Johnny Unitas. And there is even mention where a congressman with ties to the cable bundling bill was given a free trip to Disney for himself and his family. All classic Washington stuff really.

It’s long, but the article is worth the time.

 

The Supreme Court’s “Next-Level” Decision on Voting Rights

or die!
or die!

Here’s the problem with any legislation that deals with race – everyone is biased. For the most part, white people don’t know what it is like to be the victim of hate in this country, so it’s easy for them to think race is not a problem in this country anymore. I personally do not feel like race is as big an issue as it once was in this country, but then again I’m not an African American living in the south (or an employee of Paula Deen). So yesterday, when the Supreme Court ruled to overturn provisions meant to eliminate discrimination for minority voters, well, I didn’t know how to feel about it.

Here is what I do know; if redacting the section of the Voting Rights Act that had provisions to help ensure minorities are not discriminated against while voting, if this actually leads to problematic voting, it’s going to be well known, very quickly. Not sure if you heard of this thing called the “Internet”, but information travels across it pretty quickly. I also know this; the fact that we have to have a law like this on the books absolutely sucks. I like to think, in these modern times, that any person of any ethnicity should be able to vote free of discrimination. If anything, this ruling will be a strong test of our society, a test perhaps we are ready for.

Fox News Wet-Dream – Three Federal Scandals; All Obama’s Fault

"Something something dark side"
“Something something dark side”

Conservative pundits, particularly those on Fox News are having the time of their lives. There are three huge scandals rocking Washington right now, and all of them are the President’s fault! Or at least that’s what they’d have you believe. Let’s break down each one.

1. The IRS targeting Tea Party groups – This of course is the least likely to have White House involvement, although Fox News of course insinuates otherwise. While I agree, the IRS should not be targeting specific political groups for breaking tax laws, it seems obvious that this group would be targeted. For one, the Tea Party’s biggest political argument is that people pay too many taxes! But what makes them an even easier target, is the fact that these are small groups, with little money to begin with, and therefore don’t have the finances to hire big tax lawyers to help defend themselves against the IRS.  Remember, the IRS has been crippled over the last 30 years so they can only really go after those who can’t afford to defend themselves. What I find most sickening about this whole thing is the federal response; the President is “angry” and justice will be sought, and John Boehner want to know “who is going to jail” for this. Where was this level of response when large investment banks were corrupting the world financial markets with broken investments of bundled sub-prime mortgages? How many bank executives went to jail for that? Doesn’t matter, Obama hates the Tea Party and this is all his fault.

2. Benghazi – This is the scandal that just won’t die. Republicans are arguing that the White House covered up the fact that it was a premeditated terrorist attack and that it was a demonstration over a anti-Muslim You Tube video that turned bad. If only they can prove that the White House tried to cover it up because they were just a month away from election day. Two thoughts here. 1) How does that attack being a demonstration-gone-bad help the White House politically any more than it being a premeditated attack? 2) There has been no evidence of a cover-up, and the more documents that get released and more “whistle-blowers” that come forward only help prove there was no cover-up. Even the Wall Street Journal, my Op-Ed archenemy, fully acknowledges this is nothing more than poltical propaganda to tarnish the reputation of presidential potential Hillary Clinton. More and more this is looking like a CIA/defense strategy to not reveal the terrorist group to the public at first, because they couldn’t confirm it and they didn’t want the enemy to know that the US knew who did it. Regardless though, it is Obama’s fault and he should be impeached.

3. Department of Justice Going After the AP – This is in reference to the Department of Justice taking 2 months of records from the Associated Press because of intelligence leaks related to national security. Obama claims to not have knowledge of the record-grab, and even Attorney General Eric Holder says the operation was beneath him. Regardless, this is the President’s fault and even democrats are asking for Eric Holder to resign. On one hand, this is pretty wild for the federal government to infringe on the press’s ability to report the news. On the other hand, someone in the government is breaking rank and releasing sensitive information and needs to be flushed out. Someone needs to watch the Departed to learn how to smoke out a mole I think, at least that should have been the first step in finding the leak. Either way though, it is Obama’s fault.

NYC Soda Ban – Ineffectively Effective

Hold the carbonation please, I'll just eat the cubes
Hold the carbonation please, I’ll just eat the cubes

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made national news in 2012 when he announced a plan to limit the size of sugary drinks throughout all of New York City, as a way to help curb the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation. It was unprecedented and debated for weeks, if not months, on political talk shows, local and national news papers, late night shows, and at water coolers around corporate America. The debate is brilliant really; should government take away such a simple freedom in order to make its citizens healthier? Could such a simple regulation even make the nation’s largest city healthier?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. I was torn by the thought at first; on one hand I really did not care, because I don’t drink large sugary drinks (and I’m still fat, mind you). On the other hand, this type of government overreach is quite extensive, almost offensively so. It certainly seemed as if the law had more opponents than proponents, and a week before it was set to take effect, a New York State supreme judge ruled the law invalid. Of course, the judge did not strike down the ban because of its overreaching nature, but because the mayor never brought the measure before the city council, only the board of health (which is appointed by the mayor).

Even in defeat though, Bloomberg and soda ban proponents can declare victory I feel. While I still don’t feel that the soda ban is truly right for society, nor does it actually address the root problem of obesity, the initial ban and controversy brought so much light to the unhealthiness of soda and sugary drinks, that surely it has made some people think twice about their soda consumption. The proposed ban alone made soda manufacturers ramp up 8-ounce can production, which is gaining popularity throughout New York City delis and lunch spots. Some who want to fight obesity might think consumption is the root problem, but realistically it is the lack of education around healthy eating. Regardless if the ban ever does take effect, a lot more people are thinking about their sugary drink consumption, and that it truly a huge victory for us all.

Paul Ryan is Being a Douche

As if it were not obvious from this picture
As if it were not obvious from these pictures

Paul Ryan unveiled his much anticipated budget proposal today, and much to my surprise (I don’t know why) – it’s the same shit he’s been trying to pass for the past two years. This includes lowering corporate taxes, turning Medicare into a voucher program, and abolishing Obamacare. Ryan even publishes a letter in the Wall Street Journal promoting his plan to balance the deficit in 10 years. Ryan is correct that his plan will likely balance the budget in 10 years – but at the cost of unraveling some of the strongest social programs created over the last 50 years.

The biggest problem I have with Ryan’s latest budget proposal is the fact that it tries to remove Obamacare. This was a smart move for Ryan and the GOP last year when it was trying to win the White House, but as we all know, they lost. As a result of them losing, Obamacare will go into full effect without any chance of it being removed under our current president. Get over it Ryan, Obamacare is not going anywhere. Time to do some real work coming up with *new* ideas for a budget. Otherwise you’re only hurting your brand by bringing up old shit. Stop being a douche.

Of Racism and Assholes

I hit a diagonal-lined man with my car once and just kept driving..
I once hit a diagonal-lined man with my car and just kept driving.

Good news folks, I’ve renewed my Wall Street Journal subscription for the next three months, and you know what that means..

So this asshole Daniel Henninger writes a post titled “Is the South Still Racist?“, themed from the comments of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts earlier this week while the Supreme Court debated the necessity of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Poor little Henninger is “insulted” that he lives in a state that is deemed racist (or more technically, requires preclearance of any changes to voting laws), because he thinks times have changed enough since 1965 which warrant the bill unnecessary. Specifically, he speaks of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama.

First off, the fact that Mississippi just ratified the 13th Amendment might actually be enough to deem it racist. I know, “they tried before, but it wasn’t official because of a technicality”. To that I say, “yeah, they actually tried to ratify for the first time in 1995 – still 130 years too late you racist fuck”.

Second, I don’t doubt the fact that you, yourself, are not racist. I don’t know you and I won’t blindly judge you. But you don’t speak for your whole state. Even more so, you can’t possibly speak for the minorities in your state, and you cannot possibly pretend to understand what it’s like for minorities to live in those states. Considering the blatant racism that exists in some northern states, I would go as far as to say this whole country should fall under the jurisdiction of the Voting Rights Act.

And Finally, the reason you are an asshole, is for this nonsensical gem from your article:

At its center lies Justice Roberts’s blunt question: Is the American South irredeemably racist?

The answer should matter for a country that chose to call itself the United States of America and sacrificed much to preserve the idea. The common goal, one may assume, is to be united.

Please remember, this country chose to call itself the United States of America *before* there was a 13th Amendment. Yes, we *chose* “unity” while enslaving an entire race of people.  What the fuck kind of statement is this? I bet you thought this was brilliant, probably gave you goosebumps when you wrote it. Asshole.

Dow Record High: Significant or Arbitrary?

Notice how the non-Dow news is far more important?
Notice how the single piece of non-Dow news is far more important?

So the Dow is at a record high, after five and a half years of a staggering recovery. What does this mean though? It means that corporate juggernauts are back to full growth potential at the price of high unemployment. The last time the Dow was this high, unemployment rates were between four and five percent, whereas today we are close to 8 (probably significantly higher too, as this doesn’t count long term unemployed. In fact, with the sequester going into full affect and a large number of people losing their federal assistance, watch and see how the unemployment numbers start to drop even more over the next couple of months – it’ll be magic!) So really what this means is that big company’s are making more, with less, and isn’t that just great?

Maybe. Large profits with no one to give it to makes big company’s fidgety, specifically the shareholders. It could prompt a new wave of investment and innovation, which would ultimately lower the real unemployment rate which is ultimately what is best for the economy.  At the same time though, nothing has really changed from a year ago – almost all the company’s on the Dow haven’t shifted strategies, and their profit potentials are exactly the same (which is what the Dow is a measurement of). While this record high may be the confidence needed to increase investment in this economy, it’s not a good measurement of anything really. We’re still a country with a debt crisis, we’re still looking at greater-than-inflation health care costs, a looming higher education bubble, and finally levels of income inequality at levels not last seen since before the Great Depression. The Dow’s arbitrary high is nothing but false hope in an unsustainable economy if you ask me.

Tell us what you think at stepasideshow@gmail.com

Best Wall Street Journal Op-Ed (Seriously, it’s good)

I bet the still argue over who is buying lunch
I bet they still argue over who is buying lunch

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fresh post, and it’s not been due to a lack of news. However, rather than comment on any real news stories, I would like to continue my dive into the shitty readership over at the Wall Street Journal – a paper I just cannot get away from. Today’s issue featured a joint post by billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and even bigger billionaire Bill Gates, on the subject of eradicating the polio virus from planet earth. Apparently, eradicating a virus from the face of the planet is not a simple or inexpensive task, yet it is still a task that the Gates foundation decided to take on (it should be noted here that Gates did not initiate the eradication, he joined onto the existing effort of Rotary International). Bill Gates is spending the majority of his fortune to cure the world of things like polio, and Michael Bloomberg just signed up with a donation of $100 million. Not exactly a small chunk of change.

So, if you’re a sane human being with a human heart, you probably find this effort a noble cause, regardless of the political viewpoints of the ones making the donations. On the contrary, if you’re a regular reader at the Wall Street Journal, then this is “narcissism” and “egomania” and so on. Very little credit is given to these men for there efforts in the comments section. Yes, Bloomberg can afford to and still live a comfortable life without his $100 million – but he didn’t have to give it away. He could have easily passed down his wealth like so many others do so none of the world can get the benefit. Had this been Rupert Murdoch, these comments would have been filled with praise but because its the smoking/soda-banning-mayor-of-liberal-city, it’s just another gesture of pure evil. Grow the fuck up people.