Monday, December 13, 2010

3 Videos Essential to Undertanding our System & Current Problems

This first video (actually in 4 parts, so just keep clicking subsequent links; you may have to click the "YouTube" icon on the video to actually watch it ON YouTube to see the rest) is a "critique" (more like the utter obliteration) of another video called "The Story of Stuff." "The Story of Stuff" is a leftist propaganda video about the American economic system which, infuriatingly, is being shown to kids in some schools. It's the typical leftist rant: our way of life is poisoning the planet, screwing the people of the world, and we should all feel guilty, guilty, GUILTY! This video takes "The Story of Stuff" and dismantles it, piece by piece, as the sickening bundle of misinformation, half-truths & outright propagandist lies that it is. I tell you, if I had a kid in school & found out they were showing this trash, I'd be 'recycling' my boots as suppositories up some teachers' & administrators' asses.

The second video series (in 5 parts, follow the links) is a 1979 episode of "Donohue," where renowned, Nobel-Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman explains to Phil Donohue about why the capitalist system works, why government growth & intervention is bad, and other economic & political truths that everyone should damn well know in the sixth grade, but they clearly don't. It is as relevant this minute as it was in 1979. The parallels are such (even discussing a government bailout of Chrysler!) that this interview could have been recorded today. As a bonus, Friedman makes Donohue look every bit like the ignorant, loudmouth, brainwashed leftist dipshit that he is.

I close with the great JFK, in a video that contrasts his position with that of Obama (in their own words) on the merits of lowering taxes across the board to spur the economy. Clearly, the Democrats of yesteryear are a different breed from the all-out Socialist shills of today.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

No Regrets

One year ago today, December 11, 2009, I was on a gurney, being rolled into the operating room for the surgery that would change my life. Tipping the scales at a morbidly obese 353 pounds, I was a walking (or, more likely, sitting or sleeping) time bomb. At 35, it had become a genuine question whether I would see 50, or even 40. Severe obstructive sleep apnea left me exhausted as I awoke several times per night, gasping for breath. It also meant that each night I lay down to sleep could have been my last, as the ever-increasing risk of congestive heart failure threatened to kill me in my slumber.

Like so many overweight, unhappy people, I had tried numerous fad diets, pills, & exercise videos. I bought exercise equipment that saw vigorous use for a week, a month, even a few months, then ended up as bad pop art sculptures upon which I hung clothes. I went through the spirit-crushing cycle of weight loss & regain over and over again. I had all but given up. I had seen some celebrities like Carnie Wilson & Gil "Buck Rogers" Gerard have tremendous success with early bariatric bypass surgery, but I really didn't give it much thought until, in 2007, my mother had this amazing, revolutionary procedure.

I watched her go through the classes, slowly using what she learned to make changes to her diet & lifestyle. Then she had the surgery, and I got to watch her literally transform over the succeeding months. Her physical transformation was matched by her emotional transformation. She was able to fit into normal size seats and normal size clothes. She wasn't ashamed to be seen or photographed. Her energy and joie de vivre grew day by day. By Thanksgiving of 2008, I was convinced.

In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," Morgan Freeman's character Red has a saying: "get busy living, or get busy dying." In December of 2008, I made the choice to get busy living. I signed up for Kaiser's "Options" weight loss program, a six month regimen of classes designed to educate participants about nutrition, weight loss, the psychology of eating & weight loss, and, most importantly, prepare candidates to undergo bariatric bypass weight loss surgery. You can read all about the class, the surgery, and my journey toward the operating table here.

Clearly, going under the knife is a pretty drastic solution for weight loss, but drastic problems require drastic solutions. There is some risk to any surgery, but I believed then, and believe now, that the risk of not having this surgery was far, far greater. Sure, I could die on the table, but in so many ways, I had already died. I was chronically exhausted. I was depressed. I had withdrawn from friends; I had withdrawn from life. I was so depressed and without hope for a real, happy life that I no longer cared if I died in my sleep. There were days that I would have welcomed it. Compared to those feelings, surgery suddenly didn't seem so drastic.

Well, it's been one year to the day since that fateful morning. One thing that I can say about it unequivocally: I have no regrets. Having this surgery has been the best decision I have ever made in (and for) my life. I look on December 11, 2009 as my re-birth. This surgery was my baptism, the ritual that symbolized my desire for, and commitment to, a better and more fulfilled life.

I knew that what I was doing was going to lead to some big changes, but I could scarcely have believed how big. A year ago, I was wearing 4X and 5X shirts & 60" waist pants from the big and tall store. Today, I buy XL off the rack at Walmart. A year ago, it was all I could do to walk to and from my car when I went to work. Today, I jog three miles, six days a week. A year ago, I didn't sleep though the night, being jarred awake, choking for air, several times a night. Today, I sleep like a baby through the night. A year ago, I could sleep for twelve hours, be awake for a couple, and turn around and sleep several hours more. Today I average 6-8 hours per night, and it is sometimes hard to fall asleep because of excess energy.

This surgery has helped me to change my life in countless positive ways, but it is not a magic pill. It is a tool. It has given me a leg up, but it does not do the work for me. This transformation has been as much about the transformation of my habits as it has been surgical prowess. I am almost entirely vegetarian now (I still eat dairy and fish). I rarely eat out or have fast food now, and I order healthier choices whenever I do. I snack on veggies instead of potato chips. I get out there and pound the pavement six days a week, no matter how much I may dread it some days. I make a dozen little choices for my health everyday--be it parking further out, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or walking to the store or instead of driving.

I have changed my life by changing my lifestyle, and I couldn't be happier for doing it. Every single day, often several times a day, I smile to myself, so happy that I did this. Every time the numbers on the scale go down, or I buy new clothes, or buckle a seat belt, or squeeze between two parked cars, it is a validation that makes my heart soar.

One year ago today, I was 353 pounds. At my all-time high, I was 385 pounds. Today, I weigh 233 pounds, and am still losing. I hope to get under 200, and I am confident that I will. I cannot even describe all the ways that this feels wonderful and has uplifted my whole life. For the first time, I feel good about how I look, and I can actually foresee a day where I will feel great. I look forward to waking up, to buying clothes, to going out with friends and talking to girls, to seeing my niece & nephew go to high school and college. I look forward to my life.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Strap 'Em Down!

The opposition by some--mostly on the left--to the death penalty makes my head spin. Dennis Prager makes an excellent case for capital punishment which I could not possibly improve upon here, so I won't try. I'll keep it simple: some people do things that are so heinous--that so shock our conscience, torture our imagination, and offend our very humanity to its core--that they deserve to die.

Take the case of Elizabeth Smart.

After attending an award ceremony at her school on the evening of June 4, 2002, 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart settled into her bed in the affluent Federal Heights neighborhood of Salt Lake City, Utah. That evening, actually the wee hours of June 5, Brian David Mitchell broke into bedroom that Elizabeth shared with her 9-year-old sister, Mary Katherine, stuck a knife to her throat, and forced the young teen to leave with him.

Smart was found alive, still a prisoner of Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee, some nine months later on March 12, 2003, in Sandy, Utah. She had been transported around with the couple and forced to "marry" Mitchell. She was raped repeatedly by him, often several times a day, for the duration of her captivity. From Wikipedia:

According to Smart's October 1, 2009 US federal court testimony, after Smart had gone to bed on June 4, 2002, a man Smart identified as Brian Mitchell had entered her bedroom and had "placed his hand on my chest and then put the knife up to my neck. He told me to get up quietly and if I didn't then he would kill me and my family. He was whispering, but it was still loud enough it could wake someone. He was dressed in sweats, sweatshirt, stocking cap, tennis shoes." After Smart had been led to Mitchell's camp in the woods, a woman Smart identified as Wanda Barzee "eventually just proceeded to wash my feet and told me to change out of my pajamas into a robe type of garment. And when I refused, she said if I didn't, she would have Brian Mitchell come rip my pajamas off. I put the robe on. He came and performed a ceremony, which was to marry me to him. After that, he proceeded to rape me."

It was later revealed during court testimony that Mitchell repeatedly raped Smart, sometimes multiple times daily and forced her to watch pornographic films. He often forced her to drink alcohol to lower her resistance. Once, when she vomited after drinking a large portion of alcohol, she was forced to sleep face-down in the vomit.

Now, in what universe should this piece of shit be kept alive? Does anyone seriously believe that someone who can kidnap & repeatedly rape a child can be "rehabilitated"? Does anyone believe that there is a realistic chance that a day will come when this man will be able to be safely released into society? If that was possible, is that a just outcome? Elizabeth Smart's life is ruined. She is undoubtedly coping the best she can with the help and love of friends and family, and I'm sure she has gradually gotten back to some semblance of a normal life. But this ordeal will, unarguably, be with her forever. The common understanding of the aftermath of brutal childhood trauma tells us that Elizabeth will likely have flashbacks, nightmares, and trouble with relationships and intimacy for the rest of her life. No matter how well she copes with this nine-month nightmare that was inflicted upon her, Elizabeth will probably look over her shoulder more than the rest of us usually do. In some very real ways, Elizabeth Smart will never be completely free of Brian David Mitchell. Is it just that he should ever be free, no matter how long his sentence?

More to the point, is it just that Brian David Mitchell should live? Isn't it far more just that Elizabeth Smart should never have to worry about the possibility, however small, that Mitchell will ever be released or escape? I think so. Doesn't she deserve the peace of mind of knowing that the man who brutalized her so horribly is dead, never to harm her or anyone else, ever? I think so. Doesn't society at large deserve the same peace of mind? Again, I think so.

According to the National Institute of Corrections, in 2009, it cost the taxpayers of the state of Utah approximately $30,594 per year to house an inmate in the Utah state prison system. Depending on the statistics one looks at, the average life expectancy of a man born in the US in 1953 (as Mitchell was) is 66 years. As of now, 2010, Mitchell is 57.

66 - 57 = 9 years
9 years x $30,594 = $275,346
That's assuming he only lives to 66, and it in no way accounts for any extraordinary medical expenses he will rack up if he develops heart problems, cancer, or whatever. It also does not account for the money the state will blow fighting the inevitable appeals to his sentence (he faces up to life in prison). Is there anyone who couldn't think of a better use for $275,346 (again, minimum)? A homeless shelter? An animal shelter? The Salvation Army? Shit, I'd rather have a bonfire with it than use it to keep a psychotic animal like Brian David Mitchell alive for one single minute.

In my view of the world, if you are capable of kidnapping & raping a child, humanity cannot and should not abide your continued existence on this planet. You offend, dirty and lower the entire human herd with your presence, and eliminating you elevates us all and makes the world a better place.