Go Cry, Emo Kid

Well children, tonight’s question is what to make of Joe Stack, the pilot who crashed into an office building full of IRS employees in Austin, TX. While surfing the web today I’ve seen him called a patriot, a psychopath, a hero, a martyr, and most troubling, a terrorist. I sifted through the rambling suicide note/manifesto/tax conspiracy fanfic that he left on-line and I’m here to clarify for you all the label that should be affixed to him.

He spent the early 1980s trying to find a way to take advantage of the type of tax exemptions granted to religious organizations. He wrote, “We carefully studied the law and then began to do exactly what the 'big boys' were doing (except that we weren’t stealing from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God)." In particular he had a hard-on for what he called the “vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church” - but soon he expanded his ire to anyone with deep pockets. He wrote, “I learned that there are two 'interpretations' for every law; one for the very rich, and one for the rest of us…”

Who is this “us” he refers to? I don’t know too many of “us” who are doing well enough to own a private plane. I did a little checking and found that his plane, a Piper PA-28 Cherokee, was worth between $28k and $45K depending on the year and the condition. It’s a four-seater with a very limited range, just over 500 miles, so it’s really just a pleasure craft – an incredibly expensive device for joining the mile high club. I can't feel sorry for a guy who refuses to pay his taxes while he owns a $28k sex toy.

Although he wrote about surviving on peanut butter sandwiches when he was a starving student, those days couldn’t have lasted too long. His first wife declared bankruptcy in 1999, listing an IRS debt of nearly $126k. Now, I’m no tax lawyer but you have to be making some pretty serious bank to owe that much. Did she divorced him because of his terrible tax advice, or because she wasn’t into doing it at 30K feet?

Around that same time he spent $5000 – an amount that he referred to as, “pocket change,” travelling around bitching at elected officials about the tax code. When his efforts to change the tax code through the democratic process failed, he decided that “violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.”

Yeah – ‘cuz THAT’s what the constitution says. When the legislature doesn’t roll over for you, you should just kill federal workers until you get your way. This, above all, is the reason Joe Stack doesn’t deserve to be called a terrorist. Although I despise the methods of Al-Qaida and other extremist groups, I can actually understand the desperation behind it. The rank and file members of those factions perpetrate atrocities because they have suffered atrocities, on a national scale. Contrast that with Joe Stack, who owned his own business, owned a house, cars, and a private plane, and still had time to play in a country band for a little extra money. Not exactly the same sort of desperation.

Joe Stack’s act was simply the ultimate temper tantrum, thrown by a man consumed by the most pathetic sort of selfishness. That doesn’t make him a terrorist – it makes him the world’s oldest emo kid.


I know I promised to move all of my fitness posts over to my other blog, but this is more in keeping with my current angst, so it goes here.

I have hit the metabolic hurdle known as middle age. Although I am still seeing improvement in my strength and cardio I am stuck as far as weight loss goes. I used to be able to lose weight pretty quickly with a reasonable effort, but my metabolism seems to have slowed to a crawl in the last year or so. I have been losing and regaining the same 4 or 5 pounds for months now, seemingly regardless of diet or exercise. Add to this my body's fun habit of storing said fat around my midsection and you have an irritated and paunchy Pontifex Niger.

I'm nowhere near the size of this guy, but in order to reach some of my fitness goals (pull-ups, pistols, running longer distances, competing in grappling tournaments, etc.) I really need to lower my body weight. I am already quite strong in some ways, but my strength to weight ratio is pitiful. Even though I can press and pull quite a bit in various lifts, something as basic as a strict form dip is near impossible for me due to my tonnage. I don't mind working hard toward an exercise goal, but it is unlikely that my arms will EVER be strong enough to do that - more weight loss is required.

Excess abdominal fat is a warning sign that you may have "metabolic syndrome." The nutrition and fitness communities are quite divided on this issue - there's no clear consensus on the best way to burn off the spare tire, especially if you exhibit such resistance. There is also virtually no information written with vegans or vegetarians in mind. There is, however, general agreement in medical cirlces that it increases your chances of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Since I have a genetic history rich in such conditions I'm even more at risk.

The really shitty thing about this is that I have this nagging memory of a skinny, fit, and highly functional me. It happened many years ago when I did the Atkins diet. I lost 70+ pounds in a very painless way (well, painless to me but very painful to the animals involved). I was able to keep it off for quite a few years, even after I switched back to being a vegetarian. The problem for me seems to be the carb content of my diet - it's hard to eat vegan and not eat a lot of carbs, or at least, more than is currently recommended.

And regarding those recommendations - after roughly 25 years of observing trends in the nutrition and fitness industry, I have come to the conclusion that we are no closer to understanding human nutrition than we ever have been. The trend shifts every 4-5 years and frequently the new trend diametrically opposes the preceding one. We might as well just go back to trying to balance the 4 humours.

So you see my dilemma. I strive to live a vegan lifestyle for ethical reasons; I sincerely believe in trying to reduce suffering as much as possible. I know it has been scientifically shown that one can be fit and healthy as a vegan, but apparently I suck at it. Worse yet, sucking at it may kill me sooner, which would actually increase the suffering of my loved ones, my partner, and the children I'd like to have some day. I know that a carb-restricted diet would get my body weight down, and I also know that I feel good (physically) when I eat that way, but there is virtually no way to do that without eating flesh. Even if I found a local source of eggs that I could feel good about (no battery cages, no debeaking, etc.) I don't believe that I could eat primarily eggs for several months. I would have to eat meat, probably in sizeable quantities. When you add this to my usual February angst, I am seriously unhappy. I hate eating, I hate my body, and I hate my own weakness and lack of discipline.

As a Buddhist, I am supposed to seek out the middle path. The Buddha taught us to avoid both asceticism and hedonism, and strive for balance. Is veganism too ascetic? Is the no-carb thing too hedonistic?

I don't know.


Not sure what to make of this. It's being expanded into a feature film by the writer of District Nine.

Tea Speak

As you probably know, the Tea Party Convention is taking place right now in Nashville. A couple of other Tea Party groups and some Republican leaders have been a bit cross with Tea Party Nation for charging a $549 registration fee plus airfare and hotel to attend this little soiree. Two tea party groups in particular, the American Liberty Alliance and the National Precinct Alliance, are boycotting the meetings, and Representatives Michele Bachmann and Marsha Blackburn have both withdrawn from speaking engagements at the convention because the House Ethics Rules forbid members supporting a commercial venture. Spokesman Mark Skoda, however, says that no one should be surprised that Tea Party Nation is a for-profit venture. He told Time magazine (and I quote) "It's a misnomer that in order to be a grassroots activist, you have to be a pauper."

Given his misuse of the word "misnomer" I think it's perhaps a misnomer to call him a "spokesman." Now, I'm kidding a bit, but this slip of the tongue is actually a beautiful example of what's wrong with our understanding of the Tea Party movement. The term he was probably looking for is "misconception" - "It's a misconception that in order to be a grassroots activist, you have to be a pauper" - and even then his statement still doesn't make sense. By definition, a grassroots activist is someone who is working outside the traditional power structure, usually for little or no pay. You see, Skoda is redefining the term "grassroots activist" in a Tea Party way, and once you understand that, Tea Party rhetoric is much easier to comprehend.

My initial investigations have indicated that Tea Speak is not a completely new language – rather it is a dialect. They have a long list of words they have repurposed. Some of the most commonly misunderstood words in Tea Speak include Socialist, Communist, Nazi, Stalinist, Totalitarian, Oppression, Impeachment, and Racist. For the most part, they have no idea what these words mean in English, but each has been redefined in their own unique Tea Party way. For example, "impeachment" no longer means “the legal process of removing an elected official from office for misconduct." In Tea speak it means "we're still pissed off that our guy lost." Socialist refers to "not Republican" and "Totalitarian" translates as "guy who regulates banks." "Racist" has come to mean, "successful black man," "bipartisan" means "we want it our way even though we don't have the votes," and I'm not sure, but I think "Nazi" now means, "someone please pay attention to me!"

Now, far be it from me to stop these folks – I’m all for anything which splits the Right and insures that the Republicans can’t win in 2012, but the real misnomer here is to call this group of idiots a "political party." They are Jonathan Swift's confederacy of dunces, but old J-Money was only partly right. They don’t oppose Obama because he is a genius as Swift predicted, but rather because their masters and organizers see that opposing Obama is profitable. The money made this week in Nashville is small potatoes compared to the advertising revenues of Fox News and talk radio.

I’m new to this Tea Speak translation thing and I’m not fluent yet by any means, but I think “grassroots activist” now actually means "opportunistic whore.”

Why the Silence?

An update, and an explanation...

-So, grad school continues. I have been refocusing my prospectus so that the project is qualitative and not quantitative in nature, and that is just about done. I need to get it to my chairman and get it defended quickly so I can start grinding out the actual thesis - I want to get on with it and finish this damn thing.

-Soon we will know where everyone is going for the next school year, and the stress of finding new housing will begin. I don't know if I'm going to be heading off to a PhD program, deferring for a year, or just looking for a job. In any event, it is unlikely that I will be living in Flock Hall. That's a bit sad - I've found that I enjoy the tribal nature of communal living. To put this in perspective, in the last 32 months Flock Hall 2.0 has housed 14 people. Out of the original crew, I am the sole remaining inmate. I guess my sentence is done - this summer I'll probably be paroled to independent housing.

-My radio spots have been going quite well. I need to post links to the most recent shows, since I've done some well-received rants of late. It feels good to say what you've been thinking and have others raise a fist and say, "hell yeah!" That's been happening a lot lately. It makes me think that I might not just be talking out my ass.

-I'm enjoying the kid's class I'm teaching at the MMA gym. They are so pleasantly full of life and excited about working out. It's a real change from the exhausted and stressed grad students I spend my days with. The kids are happy to be at the gym, happy to run and sweat and get out of breath without goals or trying to fit into a certain dress size, run a certain distance, or lift a certain weight. I should pay more attention to their attitudes.

-I'm really struggling with my body right now. I gained some weight back during the last half of the previous semester and during Christmas, and now it's a bitch to get rid of it. I am not exactly filled with energy, either, so getting in extra workouts is tough. It's cold outside, so I am hungry all the time - it sucks.

-I haven't been posting much lately. I could give you numerous reasons, but it all boils down to me just being depressed. It is the dead of winter, I am struggling with meeting all of my obligations (to my degree, my friends, my pets, myself...) and I am tired. Really, seriously tired. It goes beyond a physical exhaustion (I'm actually getting much more sleep than I normally do) to an emotional, spiritual sort of tired. I am soul sick, perhaps, like that described by the Psalmist. Of course, his remedy is of no help to me - you can't turn to a god you don't believe exists.

-So the above is why this blog has been so quiet of late. I assume (hope) that when this cursed month passes I will get more sun and get outdoors more and I'll feel better. Until then, I can't promise that I will post anything regularly except my radio rants.