The Billionaire Bunker Question: Who Gets to Survive?

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It’s no secret that I am in the market for an underground bunker to wait out the apocalypse. But I don’t want just any bunker; I want the kind of luxury “doomsday bunker” that is becoming ever more popular with billionaires these days—a bunker with a gym, swimming pool, sauna, Jacuzzi, tennis court, movie theater, wet bar, dry bar, cereal bar, karaoke bar, sand bar, private chef, masseuse, library, smoking lounge, wine cellar, coffee shop, arcade, ping-pong table, golf simulator and casino. I’d also like a meditation garden, dog park, and fly-fishing pool, but if space gets tight I’d settle for a bocce ball court, or maybe a patch of grass to play lawn darts. 

I know, I know—this all may seem a bit much. But if these amenities seem extravagant to you, it’s probably because you are not a billionaire. There won’t be much to do after the world burns and everyone else is gone, so things could get pretty boring down there, one-hundred feet below the earth’s scorched surface, while we wait for the radioactive dust to settle. We’ll need to entertain ourselves in the interim, so including a few extras to help pass the time is not unreasonable. After all, there’s no law that says life in an underground bunker has to be miserable. But there is a law that says billionaires can build whatever they want, wherever they want, however they want, and no one can say a damn thing about it. This will be especially true after everyone else in the world is dead, so it’s not something we as a class tend to worry about. 

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Tad, you’re not a billionaire, so why did you use the word “we” in the previous sentence? Let me explain: 

I used “we” because, although I am not a billionaire yet, I intend to be one by the time the world ends. There’s plenty of money to be made in pre-apocalyptic capitalism, and I have a surefire idea: I am going to start a construction business that builds moats and drawbridges around the estates of the fabulously wealthy to keep the torch-and-pitchfork crowd out. The motto on the side of my truck is going to be: “High-tech security is fine, but for true peace of mind, you gotta go medieval on their ass!”

This will be fun, for a while. But at some point the world will collapse into apocalyptic mayhem and all us billionaires will have no choice but to retreat to our bunkers and wait. For how long, no one knows, which is why it is so important to have a number of entertainment options available. That’s why so many billionaires have been putting off watching “Game of Thrones”; they know there will be plenty of time to see it after the atmosphere is incinerated and (spoiler alert!) nuclear winter has indeed arrived. 

Elite entertainment facilities will be especially important in luxury-bunker complexes designed to house more than one family of billionaires and their respective support staffs. Billionaires need a great deal of support (otherwise they go crazy), so there will be plenty to do if you are a valued personal chef, masseuse, chiropractor, nanny, astrologist, or psychic to the super-rich. But billionaires themselves—especially captains of industry who made their fortunes building multi-national corporations—will have to find other ways to amuse themselves. 

The problem is that billionaires currently spend most of their time building their businesses, managing their investments, and trying to persuade reasonable people to think unreasonable things. But when everyone else in the world is gone, there will be no customers, no need for businesses, no use for money, and the sort of intellectual jujitsu billionaires use to justify their good fortune will fall on dead ears. Without businesses to build and competition to conquer, billionaires will have nothing to do. Their skill set will be obsolete. And for many, transitioning to a life of perpetual leisure is going to take at least a week or two, so it will be important to keep them/us occupied. No one wants to be locked in a room with a bunch of restless billionaires, because with so many dicks swinging around in a confined space, someone could get hurt. 

The point is, without a multinational conglomerate to run or some massive hedge fund to manage, billionaires will need to take up a hobby of some sort; otherwise they’ll go nuts. Personally, I look forward to the day when I can devote more time to my music and recording career. My bunker is going to include a fully equipped music studio, where I will record the catalog of post-apocalyptic ballads I plan to write. Songs like “Suck It, World,” “Eat My Dust (‘Cause That’s All That’s Left),” “Warm Enough for Ya?,” and one I’m sure will be an instant hit among my bunker-mates: “Boom, Boom, Boom, Ha, Ha, Ha.”

Survival isn’t just about staying alive, after all, it’s about being alive when everyone else is dead. And what better way to honor our good fortune than to sing about it at the top of our lungs! Earlier generations were taught that survival means huddling in a dingy basement for months at a time, eating nothing but canned beans and saltines. But our generation is proving that it doesn’t have to be that way. Survival can be fun. In fact, if we do it right, life without millions of testy rabble-rousers outside can be pretty fantastic. It certainly doesn’t need to be depressing. For billionaires, avoiding the post-apocalyptic hellscape should be cause for celebration. Let’s not forget, if we are locked in our bunkers with no way out, it means we won civilization! We kicked Mother Nature’s ass! Hell, we even beat the oceans! Deep in our bunkers, protected by six-feet of steel-reinforced concrete, we will finally be free to enjoy the rewards of all that winning. 

Of course, having written all of this, I’ve gone and gotten myself all excited about life after life as we used to know it. I just need a year or two to get my moat-and-drawbridge business up and running, and another year or two to build my awesome bunker. After that, I don’t much care what happens to the rest of the world, because my existential exit strategy includes several cases of Glenlivet XXVand everything Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime ever streamed. Watching these shows won’t just be idle entertainment, either—it will be important, because many are cautionary tales about how not to destroy civilization, if and when we get another chance. I’m also looking forward to watching the whole “Mad Max” series again, to see how accurate it was. 

I used to worry about climate change, nuclear weapons, loss of biodiversity, biological superbugs and all the rest. But now that I have a plan for surviving the apocalypse, I look forward to hanging out with my billionaire buddies and sharing stories about those heady days of yore, when making money was as easy as picking up the phone and calling your lobbyist. The only thing I worry about is what’s going to happen when all those hundred-millionaires out there want an awesome doomsday bunker too. You know, people like Tiger Woods, Tom Brady, Gwyneth Paltrow, Roger Federer, and Bono. I’m sure they’re all nice people, but I’m sorry, if you haven’t made at least a billion dollars in your time on earth, the question has to be asked: Do you deserve to live?

From where I plan to be sitting—in my chiropractically amazing luxury recliner, sipping the liquid gold that is The Macallan 1926—the answer is no. Because you know exactly what is going to happen—they’ll burn through a hundred-million or so trying to keep up with the likes of Gates and Bezos, then come whining to us for money. Subsidizing the existence of a bunch of ex-celebrities and sports stars is not what me and my billionaire friends want to be doing during the down time between the end of the last civilization and the beginning of the next one. Besides, we’ll have all their best work in the archive, available for viewing any time, so why would we even need them? 

Answer: We wouldn’t. All we need is us, a little entertainment, and a well-trained support staff to survive in the style to which we’ve become accustomed. And are entitled to. Because, you know, we won life, and deserve to enjoy what’s left of it.###

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Solve America's Billionaire Problem

Image: Pixabay

Image: Pixabay

My research team has analyzed the apocalyptic array of calamities facing our country (income inequality, stagnant wages, climate change, mosquito-born illnesses, too many labradoodles, etc.) and concluded that the fundamental problem in American society—the common denominator to all of these issues—boils down this: Rich people have gotten lazy.

The ultra-rich, multi-billionaire class in particular has succumbed to the seductions of sloth, and their indolence is imperiling the very foundations of American life.

Sure, the mega-rich may have worked hard for a while, toiling twenty hours a day to invent revolutionary products and technologies, overcoming obstacles with their indomitable spirit and entrepreneurial zeal, amassing their giant fortunes in relentless pursuit of the American Dream. Once they achieve The Dream, however, rich people tend to slow down. When their goals have been met and their wildest fantasies realized, they begin basking in luxury, coasting along on a plush carpet of cash, as if their work is done and they are now free to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Slowly but surely, their once-vibrant hunger to succeed is replaced by the insidious satisfaction of success itself, a condition of the soul that's as addictive as it is dangerous.

The symptoms are obvious. Once-vital captains of industry start sleeping late and hiring other people to serve them. They begin enjoying “leisure” time—i.e., time when they are not working—looking for ever-more-exotic ways to amuse themselves. After they’ve bought everything they want, and traveled everywhere there is to go, they end up shuffling around their mansions all day, their eyes glazed with boredom, unsure what eccentric pastime to take up next.

It’s quite sad. After their first billion, many tycoons gain twenty or thirty extra pounds (the so-called “billionaire bump”) and start taking long vacations on private islands where there isn’t much incentive to do anything. The more time they spend in these places, the less inclined they are to get back to work, creating a destructive cycle of inactivity and, ultimately, despair. The fire in their belly gradually dies out, and the energy and ideas that once sustained them—that once made them feel alive—become nothing more than fond memories.

The mega-rich aren’t the only ones suffering, though. Indeed, this epidemic of laziness among those larded with lucre is hurting us all. 

Consider: The mega-rich entrepreneurial and business elite are the most productive people in the world. They’ve created millions of jobs, built our modern society, kept the economy humming, and represent for all of us the virtue of hard work and the rewards that come with a well-funded, highly diversified stock portfolio. But now that a whole class of our most productive citizens are coasting, taking the foot off the gas pedal that got them there, they are slowing the rest of us down as well. The only remedy for this problem is to get our most productive citizens back in the game, doing what they do best: inventing products, providing solutions, building companies, and creating the glorious wealth to which all American citizens are entitled.

But how?

The solution to all of these problems (not to mention a few others) is deceptively simple. It lies in an innovative approach to capitalism called “re-capitalism,” which involves a radical restructuring of economic incentives that focuses on one essential goal: putting rich people back to work. 

The first step toward a re-capitalist society is to identify everyone in America who has a net worth of more than one-billion dollars.

The second step is to take all their money away. And I mean all of it—every last penny. Cash out all their stock options, liquidate all their assets, empty all of their bank accounts, and render them completely and utterly broke.

The last step in this innovative program is to give former billionaires a cardboard sign and a knapsack, drop them off at various freeway exits throughout the country, and wish them good luck.

I know what you’re thinking: Whoa there, cowboy, that’s income redistribution!

No, it’s not—it’s income re-capitalization. There’s a huge difference. If the income of billionaires were simply redistributed, there is a chance they could keep some of it. Income re-capitalization closes that loophole to ensure that former billionaires are stripped of everything, so that they can start over fresh, unencumbered by the baggage of their previous successes.

That’s ridiculous, you might say. Rich people would never go for it. And you’d be right, because, as I’ve been saying all along, rich people have gotten too soft and comfortable. But before you dismiss the idea entirely, ask yourself: Who is likely to be more motivated—a billionaire floating around on his yacht trying to figure out how to make his next billion, or a former billionaire who has lost it all and desperately wants to get it back?

This isn’t as cruel a proposition as it might seem. Remember, rich people are extremely smart and resourceful. They got rich once; they can do it again. And they don’t need luck, because they are goal-oriented self-starters who make their own luck. The only problem is that they are already rich, so they have no incentive to get rich. They’ve lost their can-do attitude because they’ve gone and done it. Re-capitalism simply puts the incentives back in the right place, giving rich people the motivation to go out and do what they do best—get rich, again.

They may protest at first, but trust me, the mega-rich will eventually embrace re-capitalism. By forcing rich people to once again pull themselves up by their bootstraps, they would rediscover the entrepreneurial spirit that once gave their lives meaning and purpose. And, by broadcasting their path out of poverty and back into the billionaire winner’s circle on the Internet, these über-citizens would provide us all with inspiring examples of how one person with no money and resources can, with the right attitude, get rich by sheer force of will.

The benefits to society would be immense. Just think what Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might accomplish if they gave more than a portion of their wealth away, but instead were forced to cough up all of their money and start all over again? Gates might invent a computer operating system that never needs upgrading. Zuckerberg might invent an entirely new form of social interaction in which people abandon their computers altogether and gather in the same room to talk.

Imagine how inspiring it would be for aging baby boomers who can’t afford retirement to see Warren Buffett and Sheldon Adelson standing on the side of the road, strategizing bold plans to recapture the glory of their younger years.

Think of all the good that could happen if all six members of the Walton family—who have more money than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined—gave all their money away to the bottom 42 percent and started over? Almost half of all Americans would see their income double instantaneously, and then they’d be able to witness firsthand how the Waltons use their wit and guile to scratch their way up from the bottom and once again become the richest people in the country—as they inevitably would.

Following their lead, the rest of America would be inspired to work harder and be more productive, just like the Waltons. The Waltons themselves would rediscover the value of hard work (a value they have likely forgotten), and would be seen as heroes for leading the greatest productivity surge in American history—simply by showing poor people how it’s done!

Of course, implementing such a plan would not be easy. The rich have gotten much lazier than they are willing to admit, and have become addicted to the creature comforts and privileges of great wealth. And, like all addicts, they’ll do anything they can think of to avoid going back to work. And believe me, they’ve come up with some howlers.

For instance, most rich people like to argue that income and capital-gains taxes are way too high, and that if they go much higher, super-productive rich people will have no incentive to work. But that’s patently ridiculous, a) because they already don’t work, and b) because—as every conservative knows—handing people money to work harder is absurd. You wouldn’t give a homeless person $200 million and expect them to go out and bust their ass at a job for eighteen hours a day. No, the only thing that gives people an incentive to work is the fear of grinding poverty—and that fear is precisely what the mega-moneyed billionaire class has lost.

For the good of the country, it’s time to pull our most productive citizens out of their palatial estates, jolt them out of their diamond-studded bliss, and put them back to work. The fact is, society is not getting enough value out of its most capable capitalists, and that needs to change. They are the ones who got society where it is today, after all. They invented all these fantastic cars, mesmerizing gizmos, and shiny kitchen appliances, giving us all an intoxicating glimpse at utopia. Which is great. But in their zeal to serve the public interest, a few of our most magnificent magnates of money-dom forgot to clean up after themselves. They can’t just abandon us now, in our time of need, when the planet is in peril and life as we know it is on the brink of extinction. The job isn’t finished. In order to get out of all the messes we’ve gotten ourselves into, we need these paragons of productivity to work some more of their entrepreneurial magic—to sprinkle the pixie dust of prosperity on everyone, so that we can all shop at Whole Foods and feel good about the future.

Certainly, losing everything might sting at first, but remember: these are positive, resilient, extraordinary people. In no time they would realize that they didn’t “lose” all their money at all; rather, they gained an opportunity to reinvent themselves and rediscover the joy of building a business from the ground up, starting with nothing. In a matter of years, they would all be billionaires again anyway—because that’s not only what they do; it’s who they are—and experiencing the satisfaction of success the second time around would be that much sweeter.

Through the miracle of re-capitalism, the rich and lazy receive a reward much more valuable than money: they get to re-experience the sense of self-worth that comes from amassing so much wealth that most people can’t even imagine it. When the rush of economic victory courses through their veins once again, there is little doubt that the crazy rich will embrace a “new normal” by voluntarily giving all their money away every time they reach the billionaire mark, and happily start over again with a cardboard sign and a knapsack.

Once re-capitalism re-energizes the economy and everyone in America has a chance to learn from the masters, new forms of status will inevitably take hold. The size of one’s bank account will no longer matter; what will say, “I am filthy rich,” is the number of times a person has reached the billion-dollar-mark and had to start over, without so much as a hot shower to wipe the stink off.

Another added benefit to this program is that the next time you see some scruffy-looking fellow at a freeway intersection holding up a cardboard sign, you might not feel so bad for him. You could say to yourself: There’s one of those former billionaires. I can’t wait to see how he succeeds.

And you, of course, would feel inspired, not depressed, as you roll through the light and leave them in your dust.

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide for Sociopaths, Deviants, and Cheapskates

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The holiday season presents special challenges for people who, by a simple quirk of mental wiring, are psychologically incapable of giving anything to anyone for any reason without wondering what’s in it for them. I’m talking about children, of course, as well as sociopaths, cheapskates, and people for whom the whole idea of “giving” is a betrayal of everything they stand for. 

 Fortunately, the phrase, “it’s the thought that counts,” offers the generosity-challenged a way to give “thoughtful” gifts without spending a dime. Here are just a few gift ideas for this special population of holiday misfits, most* of which are totally legal:

 

Leftover medications*

If you’ve recently had surgery, or have simply come to the conclusion that you don’t need all those meds anymore, gifting your leftover pharmaceuticals to a family member is a great way to re-purpose them. Nothing says “I love you” more intoxicatingly than a generous supply of Oxycontin, and everyone appreciates having half a bottle of Ambien around to help ease the strain of the holidays. The best part: If you ever need to dull the pain of your pitiful existence, or just get some extra shut-eye, you can always steal some pills back when you need them.  

*Technically illegal, but nobody cares.

 

Used shoes

Everyone has several pairs of gently used shoes in their closet—ones that seemed like a good purchase at the time, but in retrospect turned out to be a tragic fashion mistake. Such “pre-worn” footwear makes an excellent gift for that special someone in your family who doesn’t have enough old shoes in their own closet. To stretch out the fun on Christmas morning, wrap the shoes separately, hide them around the house, and have a family treasure hunt!

 

A Clump of Dirt

Giving your beloved a modest-sized clump of dirt may not sound like the best gift in the world, but it can be. The secret is in how you present it. Don’t skimp on the size of the clump—it should be anywhere from six inches to a foot in diameter, and weigh at least a pound or two. When your sweetheart opens the special Amazon box you’ve put it in, frowns, and says, “What’s this? A clump of dirt?,” you say: “No, my love muffin, that is our future. At great personal risk, I excavated that precious piece of soil from an acre of prime real estate on which I intend to one day build our dream home.” From there, you can embellish the story however you want. The important thing is to sell the story hard; otherwise, your beloved will misunderstand and think you gave her a dirt clod. And that’s just stupid.

 

A Shiny Rock

Much like a clump of dirt, a decent-sized rock can be an excellent free gift—if it is accompanied by a convincing enough story. The key to successful rock-giving is wrapping it in a story that tells the recipient: “I was thinking of you when I found this.” As always, plausible embellishment is the key. Let’s say you found a cool rock on the beach. That’s a good start. But when your true love opens it on Xmas morning, you have so say something like: “Long before I met you, my huggy-wuggy moon peach, I found myself strolling on a beach in Corfu at sunset, alone, forlorn, and unloved. Just as the sun slipped below the horizon, a golden flash of light glinted off this very rock, and I picked it up. It was strangely warm—comforting almost—and I swore at that moment that I would give it to my soul mate when I found her. And now I have.” 

People who believe in all that destiny/soul-mate nonsense will fall for this trick every time—especially if the rock has some quartz in it, in which case you can also claim that it has some mystical healing qualities, if they just rub in in the right places. 

 

Media Recommender (kid-friendly)

Kids—an excellent free gift for parents who are too busy to watch TV is to offer to be their “Media Recommender.” Your official responsibilities in this capacity would be to watch everything on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, and Amazon, and report back on shows your parents might be interested in watching sometime in the future, when they are not so busy. A great side benefit is that when your parents ask you to do the dishes or yell at you to take out the trash or mow the lawn or clean up your room, you can say that you are “busy” too, researching binge-worthy shows they might like. Remind them that this service is the “gift” you gave them, and lay it on thick about how you didn’t give this gift lightly, and how seriously you take the responsibility of media recommending, and why they should to. Then recommend that they watch all six seasons “House of Cards,” which will buy you plenty of time to figure out what to give them on their anniversary. 

Food Tester (kid-friendly)

Sure, the FDA may issue warnings about deadly e.coli bacteria lurking in your lettuce, but the truth is that it’s impossible to know when food is safe to eat. That’s why one of the most thoughtful presents you can give is an offer to be your parents’ “food tester.” For centuries, kings and queens have employed people to taste their food to make sure it isn’t poisoned, so what you’re really doing in this case is treating your parents like royalty. At every meal, then, you would take an extra chunk of steak off of each of your parents’ plates, a few dollops of mashed potatoes, and maybe a green bean or two. Dessert would have to be tested too, of course, as would any wine they choose to drink. If you are underage and your parents object to the wine testing, simply put a few drops of something called “syrup of ipecac” in their glass (you can find it in the medicine cabinet). When they finish vomiting, remind your parents that they should have let you taste the wine first. 

Ghostbuster (kid-friendly)

As we age, we naturally become more aware of death, and hence more wary of ghosts—that is, demons and spirits on the “other side” who may be waiting to exact their revenge on us for things we did to them in the physical world. Grandparents especially hate ghosts, because they dread being held accountable for the people they screwed to “get ahead” in life. That’s why offering to be their “ghostbuster” is such as welcome gift. To make the gift even more welcome, shortly after Thanksgiving you should start going to your grandparents’ house every so often in the middle of the night to knock a few paintings off the wall, flash the lights on and off, scratch on the walls, and maybe bang a few pots and pans around. By the time Xmas comes around, your offer to get rid of the ghosts in your grandparents’ house will seem like the perfect gift—just what they need to slip peacefully into the great beyond.  

Corporate Swag

If you are one of the many miserly sociopaths who also happens to be a high-functioning corporate executive, you are in luck, because you can give people an almost unlimited amount of company swag—t-shirts, mugs, water bottles, pens, bags, etc.—at no cost to you. Swag-gifting is also great for people with narcissistic personality disorder, because the merchandise is branded with your company’s logo, ensuring that every time the recipient looks at their generous pile of gift swag, they will think of you, the respected corporate titan who raided the company’s swag closet on their behalf. Nothing says “I care about you” more ambiguously than a professionally branded squishy brain, and nothing gratifies a narcissistic gift-giver more than enjoying the appearanceof generosity without wasting the time and money necessary to actually begenerous. That’s a win-win any sociopathic capitalist can celebrate.  

 

Personal Assassin*

Everyone has someone in their life that they wish they could kill, but social norms and an intolerant legal system make murder a lot more difficult than it ought to be. To turn this particular lemon into lemonade, pick a neutral greeting card from Walgreens and use it to write a nice note explaining that you will, within the next calendar year, dispatch and disappear any person they choose, as long as that person isn’t you. (Because that would be suicide, technically speaking, and you are only offering assassination.) True, murder can get a little spendy if you rely on expensive weaponry. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to kill someone using just your bare hands. Watch a few Youtube videos on the subject and pick the method that best suits your personality and grip strength. 

*May require some sneaking around after dark.

 Happy Holidays! (Whatever that means.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing Matters Anymore. Sweet!

Image by LazyKitty15 @ Deviantart.com

Image by LazyKitty15 @ Deviantart.com

What with the president endorsing the demonization and murder of journalists, Ivanka imitating Hillary Clinton’s email habits, and the average American’s belief that “Yemen” is an Asian noodle soup dish popular among college students, it’s clearer than ever that nothing matters anymore, and that the norms and values that once guided civilized society no longer apply. 

For me, personally, this is a huge relief. 

Throughout my entire life, my behavior has been unfairly (and now, it turns out, unnecessarily) restricted by certain societal “norms” and “values” about what I should and should not be allowed to do. It started early, with my parents constantly telling me no, I could not throw my food, and no, I could not put my hamster Harry in the microwave. Then it escalated, with bizarre rules about bedtime, and their illogical insistence that I stop wearing diapers and start using the bathroom. Even at the tender age of eight, I knew that diapers were a superior solution to the whole body-fluid evacuation problem, because they went everywhere I went, and bathrooms did not. Yet my parents—and yes, society—insisted that I start hunting around for stationary toilets every time I needed to tinkle, which is an obvious waste of time given modern advances in diaper-absorption technology. 

Thankfully, I am now approaching the age when I can comfortably return to having a portable bathroom attached to my ass everywhere I go—and, thanks to Donald Trump, it will no longer matter when and where I use it. If I am having dinner with friends at a fancy restaurant, and they object to the smell, I can now say with shameless confidence, “I am America and you are not, so shut up.” Before, I would have had to leave the table to go use the restroom; now, I can sit in one place all night long and enjoy my meal, and if the people around me don’t like it, theycan leave the table—which, of course, leaves more food and wine for me. 

Score one for discarded norms. 

In school, too, I was forced to endure an insane regimen of classes and homework, all to turn me into a productive, tax-paying citizen. But now that everyone knows the path to riches is through inherited wealth, insider trading, and bankruptcy court—and that paying taxes is for chumps—all of that effort to “learn” things in school has been exposed for the ridiculous charade it was. 

Sadly, for many years I believed the whole absurd notion that being “smart” was better than being stupid, and that smart people lead better, richer lives than stupid people, because smart people can “reflect” on the rich tapestry of their lives, whereas stupid people can do nothing but carpet their luxurious penthouses with costly tapestries that cannot think, but feel wonderful underfoot. Growing up, I was taught that “the unexamined life is not worth living,” when the truth is, the “examined life” isn’t worth anything either, especially if you examine it way too much, in which case there are only two possible outcomes: a Ph.D. or rehab. Even now, the herders of American democracy are instructing us all to become “lifelong learners,” when it is abundantly clear that education makes people poorer, especially if they take out loans to pay for it. Thankfully, now that I know the only reasonable thing to do with “intelligence” is to ignore it, I look forward to a life of blissful, unexamined ignorance—the kind of life I should have been living all along. 

RULES + NORMS = BOREDOM

The problem with rules and norms is that they tend to make life a lot less fun. Take driving, for instance. The “rules of the road” in America dictate that people should drive in lanes where the rest of traffic is headed in the same general direction. But where is the fun in that? Where is the challenge? I can tell you from personal experience that it is much more rewarding to fire up a joint and drive in the opposite direction, dodging cars that are coming toward you—exercising your reflexes and sharpening your response time—than it is to drive at the same speed in the same direction as everyone else. It’s also more life-affirming. Most people are bored and exhausted when they get home from work. But when I get home from a hard day at the office, I am juiced from adrenaline and simply grateful to be alive. Nothing is more fun than cheating death, and nothing is quite as satisfying as forcing some Lexus-driving nincompoop to swerve into a ditch. I used to get tickets and “warnings” from the police for my unorthodox driving preferences, but now that the rules of the road no longer matter, I am free to drive wherever and however I please. 

Another “norm” I will not miss is the whole idea of working and paying for stuff. For decades I have toiled to pay my mortgage and buy food for my family, when it turns out all I really had to do was inherit a few-hundred-million dollars and buy my own building. If you own your own building, you’re just a few fraudulent real-estate deals away from easy street. Throw in laundry service and a heated parking garage, and life gets even better. Toss in a few hookers, a casino, and a golf course, and boredom is a thing of the past. Add access to some nuclear launch codes and a shiny red button that’s just begging to be pushed, and the whole idea of working toward a better future begins to look pretty silly. 

For decades, American adults have been saddled with the responsibility of upholding nonsensical norms and other misguided “values” that make life a lot less entertaining. For instance, one of the biggest fun-killers in the world is being a parent. From the day they’re born, children are needy, narcissistic little shit-bags who instantly make it all about them, robbing their otherwise fun-loving parents of the freedom and joy that comes with not having children around. Before nothing mattered, people who sexed and procreated were expected to at least make an effort to feed, clothe, and yell at their spawn. But now, the breeding classes are blessedly free to outsource those duties however they please, often to grandparents who haven’t gotten the message yet that their efforts are a laughably anachronistic throwback to a time when people cared about the welfare of children and the importance of “family.” 

BLESSED FREEDOM

Alas, I am too old to take advantage of these newfangled freedoms, having already been duped into believing a bunch of 1980s nonsense about how “our children are the future.” Now that there is no future—or at least not one anybody is looking forward to—I envy the options young people have for dealing with the unfortunate consequences of unconscious and frequently inebriated coupling. Selling a newborn infant on the internet is easier than ever, for instance, and even the most obnoxious kids can fetch a decent price before the age of six, when they stop being so disarmingly cute. 

In these and many other ways, life in a world where nothing matters is bound to improve. Without even realizing it, most Americans have unwittingly sacrificed their freedom to live in a world with flush toilets, clean water, abundant food, smooth roads, 24-hour pharmacies, and semi-reliable internet service. Has it been worth the trouble? No, of course not. Life was meant to be brutal and short, not long and leisurely. Thankfully, now that nothing matters anymore, we as a people can abandon all that elitist nonsense about “society” and “culture,” and return to a blissful state of nature, where a kill-or-be-killed struggle for survival makes everything a lot more interesting. The exciting spontaneity of unfettered anarchy is something every American can learn to enjoy, especially the explosions and screaming, which will make every day seem like Independence Day.

The fun won’t last, of course. The moment things in this country approach an amusing level of apocalyptic mayhem, a bunch of buzz-killing busybodies will start arguing that we need to restore “order” and rebuild a society where things “matter” again. Then the whole cycle will repeat itself. Just be glad you live in an era of disintegrating values and norms, because the alternative is a life of boring predictability, where everyone does the same thing every day, nothing ever happens, everything is “appropriate,” and intolerable periods of peace and harmony stretch on for months. If these people get their way, an entire hellscape of reasonable competence could break out and ruin everything. 

DESTROY, REBUILD, REPEAT

If there’s one thing history has taught us, it’s that eras of extreme instability do not last. Wars come and go. Dictators get overthrown. Terrorists lose their nerve. People get tired of nonsense and start looking for “the truth” again. It’s all very disheartening. What most people don’t understand is that periods of public insanity should be savored, because the “adults” in the room will inevitably step in and shut the crazy fun times down. So enjoy it while it lasts, because—mark my words—the day will come when things start to matter again, and people dedicated to restoring order and civility will suddenly be everywhere, spreading their gospel of responsibility from sea to simmering sea. 

It’s frightening, I know. And I don’t want any part of it. But inevitably, the IRS will get its act together and start garnishing my wages. Then some dedicated do-gooder is going to knock on my door and serve me a subpoena, which is going to land me in front of some high-and-mighty judge who is obsessed with “justice,” and who has no sense of humor whatsoever about the idea of “civil disobedience,” especially when it is coupled with charges of public drunkenness and the “irresponsible” discharge of a “deadly” firearm. After being declared guilty by a kangaroo court, I expect that my freedoms will be stripped and I will be forced to make restitution by attending all sorts of meetings wherein I must pretend to regret my indiscretions, or risk banishment to a prison for the criminally creative—those of us who tried to make the most of our opportunities during that blessed period when nothing mattered and everything seemed possible, but whose innovations and breakthroughs caught the attention of federal agents suddenly swollen with a newfound sense of purpose. 

I do not look forward to any of this, which is why I don’t care nearly as much about the future as I do about the present. True, they say those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it—but the great thing about not learning any history is that you don’t knowwhen you’re repeating it, so it all seems brand spanking new! Best to enjoy it now, while the feeling is fresh, before some know-it-all intellectual comes along with a sad story about the fall of Rome, or some party-pooping scientist points out that your beach house is going to be underwater in fifty years. The good news is that bad news like that only matters in a world where people care about the future. In the world we’re enjoying now, the most prudent thing to do is ignore it all and hope that nothing suddenly starts to matter again—because when it does, the news won’t be quite as fun anymore, and neither will your life, or what’s left of it.### 

Explaining Republican Attitudes Toward Healthcare

Medical School Mural I, by Sam Blackman

Medical School Mural I, by Sam Blackman

With the mid-term elections coming up, healthcare has become a hot-button issue on the campaign trail. And while Democrats are preoccupied with preserving coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and providing “Medicare for all,” considerably less attention is being paid to the Republican perspective on healthcare. No one thinks to ask: When people get sick, what do Republicans think should happen to them?

The popular explanation for this oversight is that Republicans don’t get sick, owing to the fact that they eat a lot of red meat and avoid fresh vegetables—which, as everyone knows, contain liberal-leaning enzymes that affect people’s brains and make them want to shop at Whole Foods. If Republicans don’t get sick, the logic goes, they don’t need hospitals and doctors and all the fancy equipment that makes the American healthcare system such a Clinton-esque boondoggle. 

This theory is only partially true. Republicans do get sick—they just have radically different ideas about how to deal with their infirmities.

For example, one of the reasons that Republicans think Democrats are such weenies is that whenever they get a sniffle or a cough, Democrats go immediately to their doctor to find out what’s wrong. Their doctor tells them the obvious—that they have a cold—and charges the Democrat $80,000 for an insight that any reasonably competent Republican mother could have told them for free. To Republicans and their mothers, the whole “go see a doctor” trope is a scam, and if Democrats would just use some common sense when they get hives and start vomiting blood, they could save a lot of money. 

What Democrats don’t understand about attitudes toward healthcare on the other side of the aisle is that self-sufficiency is everything to Republicans. Only the weak need doctors and surgeons and nurses to help them when they are sick, and only the stupid would agree to pay thousands of dollars for services that any clever do-it-your-selfer could provide for less than twenty bucks. 

For example, if a Democrat breaks their leg and goes to the hospital to get it fixed, it’s going to cost them a small fortune. But when a Republican breaks their leg, they don’t immediately run to the nearest emergency room; instead, they find a helpful Youtube video and figure out how to set the break themselves. Chewing on a rag soaked in whiskey is all the painkiller a devout Republican needs, and re-breaking a bone to straighten it is like an angel’s kiss in the pain department compared to watching ten minutes of CNN.

“People forget that they can set broken bones themselves,” says Jordan Crane, a 58-year-old machinist who snapped his leg in three places when he kicked his 65-inch TV during a speech by Barack Obama back in 2014. “It’s not as hard as people think,” Crane says, “and you can save a bundle.” And though he doesn’t know why, Crane says women are more attracted to him now. “Maybe they like a guy who limps,” he says, “or dudes with one leg that’s six inches shorter than the other.”

The same goes for expensive surgeries that Democrats think the government ought to pay for. Republicans aren’t fooled by all the self-important drama surrounding surgery and all its supposed complications. Republicans like to keep it simple, so when a Republican needs surgery they just go to a drawer in the kitchen and grab an X-acto knife. That and a few cotton swabs are all anyone really needs to do most surgeries, and then it’s just a matter of slicing yourself open and digging out the offending organ. True, even the most dedicated Republican will admit that help from a wife or girlfriend might be necessary to sew the wound up neatly, but a staple gun will do in a pinch. 

Republicans feel the same way about dentistry. Nothing irks Republicans more than Democrats who think they need to go to the dentist every time a tooth hurts. There isn’t a Republican alive who doesn’t have a pair of needle-nosed pliers in their garage, and as every Republican knows, it only takes about two seconds to grab onto a rotting molar and yank it out. As it explains in the official Republican policy statement on dental care, “That’s why God gave us so many extra teeth.” 

Democrats think Republicans are cruel for not wanting to provide every American alive with a comfy security blanket when they get sick, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the thing Republicans know that Democrats don’t is how much more precious life feels when you’re not quite sure if you’re going to die or not. Pain, too, can be a spiritual wake-up call, especially if you black out and think you died, but didn’t, and wake up to find out that God has a little more suffering in store for you. 

In any case, Republicans don’t have a replacement program for Obamacare, or any other kind of care, because deep down they believe that Democrats are bleeding the nation dry with all this nonsense about health. $3 trillion just to keep Democrats alive? Please. If Republicans ever got their way, so-called “healthcare” would cost less then $100 per year, there’d be a lot more money to go around, and loads of namby-pamby Democrats would die simply because they don’t know how to cauterize a wound with a soldering iron. 

So, as you can see, Democrats and Republicans have entirely different perspectives on the issue of personal health. And when it comes time to vote, it helps to understand what those differences are. Say what you will about Republican attitudes toward healthcare, but it is refreshing to know that American ingenuity is alive and well, even if some who have embraced it are not. Because yes, you can stitch yourself up with a staple gun, but disinfecting the wound with engine grease is a mistake. Experienced Republican mothers use bathroom caulk for that kind of thing, and take their savings straight to the bank.    

 

 

A Good Life Coach Can Work Wonders

Several years ago I broke down and got a life coach. I was skeptical at first, but now that my life is back on track and all is once again right with the world (or at least with me), I hope my experience can give others the courage to take control of their own fate, by yielding it to someone else. 

Before I met my coach, my life was a mess. My energy was scattered all over the place, my priorities were totally out of whack, and no matter how hard I tried, I could not convince myself that life had any meaning whatsoever. But now, after years of expert coaching, that’s all changed. These days, I awake each morning with a strong sense of purpose and absolute certainty about what I am going to do on any given day, and why. The twin demons of doubt and fear no longer cloud my judgment, and I glide through my life with an ease others would envy if they could crawl inside my body and experience, if only for a moment, the peace and joy of being me. 

My coach’s name is Sarge, and, true to his namesake, he is an unforgiving taskmaster. Stocky and strong, with the swagger of a man three times his size, he has no patience for nonsense. At first, I tried to curry his favor by offering him savory biscuits and finding ways to make him laugh, but he wasn’t impressed. He didn’t even have to say anything; I could tell by the look on his face in those first few days that he was disgusted by my fawning efforts to please him, and found my entreaties pathetic. He knew he had his work cut out for him—but, professional that he is, he stuck with me through those first rocky weeks and slowly guided me toward a better version of myself. Over time, he molded me into such an amazing version of myself that I hardly recognize me anymore. Which is a good thing, because I used to scare myself when I looked in the mirror, especially in the morning. Now the face staring back at me is little more than an improbably handsome stranger, and I am oddly comforted by the fact that all his teeth appear to be intact. 

How did he do it? How did Sarge turn the old, used up me into the fabulous me I am today?

First of all, I had to admit to him, in writing and on social media, that my old way of living was not working. Which was true, because I was unemployed at the time, and no matter how many times I called Comcast, they refused to boost my Internet speed so that I could unlock better weapons in World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, which was essential, because Deathwing the Destroyer had returned from Deepholm, and my sworn enemies in the Horde were being ruled by none other than Garrosh Hellscream! I think most people would agree that it doesn’t get much more urgent than that. 

 Anyway, Sarge convinced me to give up WOW and make a pact with him to live each and every day as if it were his last. Before long, Sarge had convinced me to forsake the toxic habits of my past and embrace a more structured, disciplined future. Under his tutelage, I learned the importance of eating a healthy breakfast first thing in the morning, and sticking to a predictable, repeatable routine. Modest daily exercise was also part of the program—one or two walks a day, at least, with occasional stops at the local soccer field to practice wind sprints. He also taught me the importance of taking frequent naps during the day to recharge, and the value of conserving one’s energy in case the mailman pulls a gun on you and extraordinary measures are required to neutralize the attack. 

 Best of all, Sarge has taught me that bottling up all my anger inside is counterproductive and unhealthy. He is an excellent role model in this regard. Direct and to the point, Sarge lets anyone and everyone know whether they have pleased or displeased him, and he has shown me the wisdom of choosing one’s words very carefully, then repeating them over and over again, very loudly, until the offending person changes their behavior accordingly. 

 This approach is magic, because it is so emotionally satisfying. Before I met Sarge, if something upset me I would stoically accept it and try not to show people how I really felt. But now, after years of training, whenever I get angry, the bile of my rage flows straight through my body and out my mouth, with no mitigating filter whatsoever. Those old habits of repression are long gone, replaced anew by the spontaneous confidence that comes from speaking one’s truth, from the gut, really loudly, without really thinking about it. 

 For example, I was checking out of the grocery store the other day, and when I inserted my card in the chip reader, the cashier informed me that the chip reader didn’t work—that I would instead have to swipe my card the old-fashioned way. Now, in the past I would have simply overlooked this annoyance and swiped my card, as ordered, and that would have been the end of it. But this time, drawing on my years of training with Sarge, I simply let the cashier have it. I mean, I lit into her. I quite literally “barked” at her, letting her know in no uncertain terms how much I hate it when the chip reader doesn’t work, and how terrifying it is to wonder if its malfunction is going to lead to a security breach that devastates my personal finances and ruins my otherwise marvelous life! Loudly and insistently, as I have been trained, I repeated my grievance over and over, throwing the occasional growl in to let her know that I was serious, that I was not someone to be messed with, and that if it ever happened again, I would tear her throat out. 

 She was absolutely terrified. It was fantastic. 

 In these and many other ways, Sarge has taught me how to manage my emotions and use persuasion to get what I want. Each day brings with it new challenges, and each day Sarge teaches me something new, though his techniques can be admittedly unorthodox. Lately, on our daily walks, he has been trying to convince me that I should follow his example and start defecating outside, in public, where anyone can see. He calls it “the ultimate freedom,” and insists that someone will come along to pick up the mess, but I do not yet possess the strength of character necessary to follow his lead. 

 Though I have come a long way under Sarge’s expert guidance, there is always more work to be done—which is why, for the sake of efficiency, my life coach now lives with me and sleeps on my floor. I once asked him why it was necessary for him to follow me around all day, every day, as if I couldn’t take care of myself. He arched an eyebrow and gave me that sad look, the one that hints that I do not know what’s going on and never will. “I am not your life coach,” he seemed to be saying, “I am your Coach for Life.” 

 And I couldn’t be happier.### 

 

Whew, Glad I Visited a Financial Planner

Concerned that I might not have sufficient savings for retirement, I recently consulted a financial adviser in order to find out if my retirement plan was “on track,” and what to do if it wasn’t.

My adviser, a nice young fellow named Mike, welcomed me into his office with a firm handshake and asked me to sit down. After reviewing the documents I provided detailing my current financial situation—two Post-it notes and a rather insensitive letter from the IRS—he entered my data into his computer and “ran the numbers” to determine the best way for me to achieve my financial goals. 

He informed me that at my advanced age, and with a life expectancy of thirty more years give or take, I would need a nest egg of roughly $3 million in order to sustain the lifestyle to which I’ve become accustomed: i.e., spaghetti dinners, Netflix, a functional toilet, and a dry place to sleep. Since I long ago liquidated my 401K to pay medical bills, have no stocks or other investments, and have accumulated several-hundred-thousand dollars in debt over the course of my working life, he calculated that I was roughly $3.4 million short of my goal—so I needed to get cracking. 

Then he delivered the bad news: Considering my age and current portfolio, I was going to have to make some sacrifices in order to achieve my stated financial goals. 

“If you had started when you were twenty-five, I could have advised you not to buy a café latte every day, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion,” he said. “But in order to reach your goals, I’m afraid you’re going to have to not buy a lot more lattes.” He then informed me that in order to reach my financial finish line, I would need to not purchase a grand total of 112 lattes a day from here on out—and, if I could manage it, he recommended not buying as many as 120 lattes a day. 

I told him I was prepared to do whatever it takes. However, I expressed some concern that his latte-deprivation strategy wasn’t diverse enough. What if Starbucks goes out of business in ten years, I asked. What then? 

He hemmed and hawed and chewed his pen, then admitted that if I wanted to create a more diversified retirement portfolio, he couldn’t help me. What I needed was something called “wealth management,” he said, and he knew just the man. 

As you might expect, the wealth manager’s offices were quite a bit swankier than the mere financial adviser’s digs. Frosted glass windows, leather chairs, a cherrywood desk, lots of wall plaques, an in-office mini-fridge—the guy had it all. The casual luxury of his workplace filled me with confidence that I had indeed arrived at the right place to fulfill my financial dreams. Clearly, this was a place where money flowed like the Chicago river—backward and into areas no one would ever expect.  

My hope restored, we wasted no time getting to work. My wealth manager, Grayson, dismissed the whole café-latte strategy outright, and immediately declared that my financial goals would require a more “aggressive” approach. 

“How would you feel about not buying any new clothes or shoes for the next twenty years?” he asked. I told him that would be no problem, since I haven’t bought any new clothes in the past twenty years, either, so all I had to do was keep not buying them. 

“That’s an excellent start,” he said, and tapped a few notes into his computer. “Now, what would you say to not buying a Ford Escape every year for the next thirty years?” he asked, noting that at $25,000 apiece plus interest, the savings would be more than $750,000 alone, and would get me 25% closer to my $3 million goal. 

I told him I was prepared to go one better and not buy a Lexus X350 every year for the next thirty years, which would net me a whopping non-consumption savings of more than $1 million. 

He nodded his approval, then leaned forward and asked in a weird whisper how much “risk” I was willing to take in order to achieve my financial goals? I told him the same thing I told my financial adviser—that I was prepared to do whatever it took.

“Then would you consider not buying a 60-foot yacht every other year for, say, the next twenty years?” he asked.

Sure, I said. I’d not bought boats before, I told him—a canoe, a small bass boat, and a twenty-two foot sailboat—but I was prepared to endure the pain of extended yachtlessness if that’s what was needed. He said it was, but that we still had a way to go to develop a viable portfolio of non-purchases in order to ensure a comfortable retirement. 

“It might hurt a bit more, but I’m going to ask that you not to buy a home every five years from now on. Can you do that?”

I said I could, but that I might need to purchase a tent at some point. He indicated that buying a tent would be fine, as long as I didn’t need to set it up on land that I owned. “I only say that because you’re going to need to not buy several acres of property in the coming years, and a tent could complicate matters.”

The good news, he said, was that if I was willing to not purchase a bunch of Lexus 350s, several yachts, numerous houses and acres of prime real estate, I would be within reach of my retirement goals. If I did all that, I could rest easy in my golden years, secure in the knowledge that my financial stability was all but guaranteed. 

“In the end, it depends on how long you live,” he explained. Past the age of eighty-five things get a bit more difficult to predict, he said—but he did have one more piece of advice. 

“If, at 85, you need triple-bypass surgery, my advice from a wealth-management perspective would be not to have the surgery and save yourself $75,000,” he said. “If you did that, you’d die sooner, and you’d need less money going forward. Because, you know, there would be no more forward.”

I agreed that not living was an excellent strategy for containing costs, as long as I didn’t purchase a coffin or require a funeral, both of which are prohibitively expensive. He allowed as how some costs are unavoidable, but encouraged me to think “outside the box” when it came to my burial arrangements. A nice little urn, say, or an old pickle jar. 

As painful as it was, I feel much better now that I have a concrete financial plan in place. All I have to do now is not buy a lot of stuff for the next few decades. And on those days when my resolve weakens and I find myself in a Starbucks, I will give myself permission not to buy the most expensive item on the menu, knowing as I do that my financial future may well depend upon it.###

 

We All Need to Get Rich, Fast

One fact has become abundantly clear to me in recent weeks: I need to get rich, fast.

Somewhere around $1 billion should do the trick. But it’s not really about the money. No, it’s about what having that kind of money would do for my outlook on life. My attitude. My mental health.

Not being rich is depressing, you see. It makes you not want to get up in the morning and go to work, especially if that work involves a paycheck. Paychecks are for losers. If you’re earning a paycheck every two weeks, it means you don’t have millions stashed away in a sunny island shell company stealthily avoiding taxes. And, as everyone knows, not owning shell companies is a distinct disadvantage in 21st-century America.

My doctor has prescribed several medications specifically engineered to make me feel better about not being rich. True, the pills come in a variety of pleasing shapes and colors, but getting them is a hassle. First I have to sign up for health insurance every year, then go to the doctor, explain my symptoms (inability to pay my bills, buy a new phone, fix my car, or get HBO), convince him that I’m not lying, schlep over to CVS, get the pills, take them as prescribed, then supplement them with various legal and semi-legal substances, the most effective of which appears to be chocolate-chip cookie-dough ice cream.

The whole ritual is ridiculous. I’m quite certain my mood would instantly improve if, for instance, I could just sit on a mountain of cash and laugh all day at everyone who isn’t me.

Mornings would be more enjoyable, that’s for sure. I’d probably eat the same cereal and drink the same coffee, but my morning news scan would be so much more uplifting. I’d get to read about how hard my government is working for me, to make sure I get to keep more of my money. Instead of screaming at my laptop about “corporate welfare” and “carried interest” and gaping tax loopholes that haven’t been closed, I’d get a warm, snuggly feeling all over at the idea that next year I might be even richer. Thank goodness the government has the guts to ignore all that whining about the problems of the “middle class,” I’d think. Then I’d hug myself and congratulate me for not being a whiner or a victim.

It’s not hard to imagine how great being rich in the morning would be. If I were reading a column by Paul Krugman or Thomas Friedman (an old middle-class habit that might be hard to give up), my un-depressed mind would naturally serve me a pleasing thought: “I’m so glad I’m not part of this beleaguered ‘middle-class’ they keep going on about,” my brain would say. “Really, they should think about re-branding themselves. That word ‘middle’ does them no favors. It implies averageness and mediocrity. It suggests that they don’t have the guts, intelligence, or drive to inherit a fortune and take advantage of all the perks America’s tax code has to offer.”

Even if I got angry at the news, it wouldn’t be as bad if I were rich because my outrage would be tempered by the certain knowledge that I was right and they were absolutely, 100 percent wrong. “People in the middle class are morons,” I’d think. “I mean, why work for a shitty wage and get taxed at 30 percent when you can invest millions and have your capital gains taxed at 15 percent? That’s just stupid.”  

Or I’d think, “Here’s this communist Krugman going on about “income inequality” and talking about how people like me should give away more of our money so that things can be more ‘equal.’ But why should I have to go down in order for them to come up? Here’s an idea: Why don’t all those middle-class losers out there get a clue, belly up to the trough, and learn a little about white-collar fraud?”

It would be fun, I think, to read the New York Times or the Washington Post and see it all as the irrelevant chatter of a bunch of underpaid, over-weight journalists. “Honestly, the way these people go on about the cost of healthcare and home ownership and college tuition. It’s ridiculous,” I’d think. “They act like they don't have a million dollars to their name.”

The day would get even better after breakfast, because then I could indulge all my eccentricities and become a much more “authentic” version of myself:

“Albert, could you have Masterson fashion another gold-plated croquet mallet for me? Yesterday’s got scuffed.”

“I feel like sushi for dinner. What do you say we go to Japan?”

“Fill the tub with champagne. Those little bubbles feel so nice on my skin.”

“Can a cat be cryogenically preserved? If so, we need to buy a company that does that sort of thing.”

“The air is not fresh enough here. Cut down all the trees. Maybe that’ll help.”

You get the idea. It would be fun to think stuff up, say it out loud, and have teams of people around who are paid to figure out if I really meant what I said, and if so, how to make it happen.

Anyway, the rich are right—not having a lot of money is no way to live. For one thing, there’s the negative social stigma attached to people who have to shop for their own groceries. All those grubby people fingering the fruit, squeezing the tomatoes. It’s disgusting. And who knows what sorts of communicable diseases are transmitted through shopping-cart handles. Then there’s the whole idea of standing in line (!) for the privilege of having some random checkout person smear their germs all over your stuff. You get the idea: It’s barbaric.

If being rich only meant one thing—never having to set foot in Target or Costco—that’d be enough to convince me that being mega-stinkin’ loaded is the way to go. But add in the tax breaks and extra vacation homes and all the rest, and it’s understandable why rich people don’t want to give away more money than they have to. They’re good people. They know their life is better. And because they are so good and smart and right, they of course want everyone else in the world to live like them. That can’t happen if their lifestyle is diminished in any way, so they do what they can to make sure the government doesn’t get any wrong ideas—ideas that might make people think positively about the hellish indignity of a middle-class existence.

I get it, and I couldn’t agree more. Which is why I need to get rich, fast. At the moment we’re running alarmingly low on toilet paper, the cat’s litter box is starting to smell, and we’re down to our last frozen pizza. All of which I could deal with if my health insurance company hadn’t stopped covering my meds. It’s scary. If I’m not rich by the time my meds run out, there’s no telling what I might do. I might even vote for a Democrat. Or a woman. Or run for office myself.

But I’d rather be so rich that I didn’t have to care about anyone else. Except unborn babies. I’d still care about those. The last thing I want to see is more babies born into the dungeon of doom that is middle-class America. Lots of rich babies, that’s what this country needs. Who knows, one of them could grow up to be president someday.

What is Steve Bannon so afraid of?

This Halloween, many people are going to dress up as Steve Bannon, because they think he is the scariest person in the world. And as everyone knows, dressing up as the world’s scariest person is a lot of fun. It tells the world in no uncertain terms that you’re not really afraid, and to prove it, you are going to hide behind a rubber mask and demand candy from strangers.

Bannon was plenty scary as Donald Trump’s “chief strategist,” of course, but now that he has declared “war” on the Republican party and is recruiting an army of racist gasbags to challenge establishment gasbags for the privilege of gasbagging the American public—well, he’s gotten even scarier.  

But the more I watch Steve Bannon in action, the less afraid I am of him, and the more concerned I am for him.  

Let me explain:

I once knew a guy who did nine tabs of acid and came back from his adventure down the wormhole convinced that the world was going to end. Tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, probably the next day. Or the day after that. Pretty soon, at any rate, so get your affairs in order, he warned, or you might be annihilated with an unmade bed and fifteen bucks left on your Starbucks card.

He was scared, that guy, and he thought he was doing me a favor by warning me of my impending doom.

Bannon reminds me of that guy. Steve, I have come to realize, is not the most frightening person in the world; he is the most frightened. And because he is so afraid, he feels compelled to warn the American public about the monster he glimpsed at the bottom of his own personal abyss: a monster with the head of Hillary Clinton, the skin of Barack Obama, and the fashion sense of a Saudi Arabian housewife. Armed with several nuclear weapons and a tattered copy of the Koran, this hideous brown she-beast haunts poor Steve and drives him to say and do all sorts of ridiculous things, all in the name of saving Western civilization.

He has no choice, you see, because he has seen the enemy, and it is definitely not him.

Unfortunately, the burden of saving Western civilization is taking its toll. Just look at the man. He’s forty pounds overweight, his skin is blotchy, his eyes are sad and puffy, and he hasn’t had a decent haircut in years. Many people have speculated that Bannon is a raging alcoholic, because, you know, he looks like one. But it’s clear to me that Steve has been imbibing something much more toxic and self-destructive than single-malt scotch. It’s not just the conservative Kool-aid. Lots of people can watch Fox News all day long and not lose a wink of sleep. And plenty of people eat tax cuts for breakfast and still look good in a suit. Marco Rubio, for instance.

No, it’s something worse. I recognize that look in Bannon’s eye. It’s the look of a man who is trying desperately not to let other people know how terrified he is—by, conversely, warning others what they should be terrified of.

The question is: What mortal dread has Steve Bannon so shaken?

Is it really the prospect of living in a world over-run by people who tan better than he does? Or living in a country where people pray kneeling on a rug rather than sitting on a stool in front of a slot machine? Is it really an “administrative state” full of bureaucrats loyal to the idea of a one-hour lunch break and three weeks of vacation every year?

I think not.

No, my guess is that Steve Bannon is afraid of what he thinks he knows, based on the information and experiences he has absorbed thus far in his life. And, based on this knowledge, he has concluded that if he does not act like a complete asshole, everyone in the world will ignore him.

This is not an uncommon problem. Rush Limbaugh has the same affliction, as do Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, and Glenn Beck. Faced with the prospect of irrelevance, of being shunned by the herd, their heads begin to swell, their jowls loosen, they sprout an extra chin or two, and pretty soon these guys turn into barking bobbleheads who won’t shut up about all the things we, the people, should be fearing. If you boil it all down, though, they’re all saying the same thing, which is: Pay attention to me, goddammit, I’m yelling at you!!!

I don’t doubt their sincerity one bit. Why, InfoWars impresario Alex Jones is so afraid of the coming apocalypse that he has an entire website dedicated to selling survival gear and supplies for the end times. He does it as a public service, of course. First he informs people what they should be afraid of (the snake), then he sells them the remedy for their fear (the oil). You know, like a guy who sets your house on fire then offers to sell you a bucket of water—for fifty bucks, cash. You can’t argue that he doesn’t sell quality products, though. Among my personal favorites is his patented InfoWars Super Male Vitality serum (a real thing), which is going to be essential for aging white supremacists who want to re-populate the human race. Best of all, it’s gluten free! (Also real.)

But back to Bannon. I will grant that we live in strange times, and it is not unreasonable to be afraid of what is happening in our society. The problem with Steve Bannon is that he feels compelled to do something about it. The man wants to be a hero. Western civilization is on the brink, after all, and he has convinced himself that he is the only one who sees the situation clearly. For the rest of us, however, the world would be considerably less scary if Steve Bannon weren’t so motivated. If he weren’t so sure of himself. If he weren’t so . . . afraid. Of irrelevance. Of his own mediocrity. Of the demons he thinks he’s fighting, and of what he imagines might happen if he loses.  

If you’re still on the fence about what to wear this Halloween, take into account that it’s probably scarier to be Steve Bannon than it is to dress up like him. Besides, if you really want to scare the beejeezuz out of your neighbors, go all in and dress up as America. There’s nothing scarier these days, and everyone will know by your ironic costume that you are not afraid to live in this country. Not really. Because you know in your heart of hearts that someone will somehow come from somewhere at some point to save us from ourselves.

Let’s just hope that someone is not Steve Bannon.

Amazon's New HQ Should Go in My Backyard

Letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Subject: Where you ought to build your second headquarters

Hint: It’s not where you think

Dear Jeff:

It has come to my attention that you are looking for a place to build your new headquarters, and are currently considering all kinds of stinky, highly populated hellholes (aka cities) for a project that will cover several hundred acres and employ roughly 40,000 people.

Bad idea. Forget Chicago, Detroit, or St. Louis, and consider instead the advantages of building your second headquarters in a much more imaginative and unexpected place—namely, my backyard.

To be clear: I don’t mean somewhere near me, in the general vicinity of my home; I mean my actual backyard. There’s a good tenth of an acre back there, ample room for a decent-sized Quonset hut and a picnic table (for lunch breaks). I’m pretty sure I could have the new facility up and running in an afternoon. To sweeten the deal, I’d let Amazon piggy-back on my household wi-fi for free.  

There are plenty of other reasons Amazon should consider building its headquarters in my backyard.

First, consider the savings. The only person you’d have to hire is me, saving you the combined salaries of 40,000 people. Plus, we could order the Quonset hut from Home Depot (through Amazon, of course), which would save you $1.5-2 billion, depending on how great a snack machine you’re willing to give me.

But that’s not all.

I know some folks who live in Seattle, and they say that having Amazon in their backyard has created a massive traffic headache and upset the whole balance of the community because you hire young people, work them too hard, and burn them out in a year. Boo hoo. By now it must be obvious to you that the so-called Millennial generation has no grit, and the generation after them—let’s call it the WTF?! Generation—is even worse. I, on the other hand, come from a generation of workers who know how to shut up and get the job done, even if we hate every goddamn minute of it. We’re accustomed to boring, thankless work in a dysfunctional bureaucracy, and expect our time at work to be a soul-sucking waste of whatever talent God gave us. Plus, I drive a mid-size sedan and live in the suburbs, so the impact on traffic of hiring me vs. 40,000 Millennials would be negligible.

But let’s get down to nuts and bolts. What other advantages are there to hiring me to run your headquarters in my backyard? I understand that millions of people order stuff from Amazon every day, and that fulfillment of these orders is a top priority. Currently, people expect to click on something and have it delivered to their doorstep in a day or two, and even an hour or two in some places. Even you must realize that this ever-accelerating pace of delivery can’t go on forever. For one thing, it’s causing an increasingly common malady known as “Amazon Fatigue.” Amazon Fatigue (AF) sets in when a person has bought every conceivable thing they can think of, and their house is full of crap that sounded like a good idea when it showed up on Groupon, but now not so much. In extreme cases, the clicking finger of an AF sufferer is reduced to a calloused lump of useless flesh that can no longer nudge a cursor toward the “add to cart” button, and spasms uncontrollably when asked to “check out,” particularly if there is some question about whether or not the shipping will be free.

If you hire me to run your headquarters out of my backyard, I can significantly slow the spread of AF by drastically lowering people’s expectations about how soon their order will arrive. To begin with, I don’t like to work more than twenty hours a week if I can help it, so there’d be a built-in limit on my productivity. I’m also fairly lazy, so if, say, someone ordered a book, it might take me a several weeks to get around to pulling it off the shelf and boxing it up—more if they want me to go through the hassle of gift-wrapping it. Likewise, if someone ordered a pair of shoes, it might take me months to get around to it, because frankly, shoes are not that important to me.

The upside of all this, for Amazon, is that a delivery delay of several months would open up opportunities for small business owners to fill the gap—by, say, opening stores that sell books and shoes to people who want their stuff more or less immediately. That way, people could get in their cars and go pick the items up themselves, saving you millions in inventory, storage, and shipping costs. You wouldn’t have to do anything but sit back and let the orders pile up. But here’s the best part: You wouldn’t even have to do that, because as the sole employee of your new Midwestern headquarters, I’d be doing it for you! 

Mark my words: When you back off the whole manic delivery-at-your-doorstep-overnight thing, you’ll be hailed as a hero in the business community. By implementing my new “Delivery Maybe” policy, you’d spur the kind of economic development cities and towns all over the country are desperate for. People would love you. They’d shave their heads to be more like you. They’d name their kids something ironic with the letter “z” in it, like Zippy or Pizzazz, in honor of your visionary sluggishness. Best of all, you’d be sending an important message for future generations: that insanely fast delivery of all the heart’s desires is a recipe for despair, especially if you do it so often that your hand cramps into a gnarled ball of primordial pain.  

So you may be wondering: How much are all of these fabulous benefits going to cost you?

Once the hut is up and running, not much. My salary is negotiable, but I’d prefer to be paid in the form of Whole Foods gift cards. That way I could at least afford to eat while I work for you, which would be a step up for me. Rabbits ate all the vegetables I planted in the backyard this spring (conveniently opening up space for your new headquarters), and since I lost my previous job two years ago, efforts to retrain me into a more socially useful profession (I used to be a journalist) have sadly and repeatedly failed.

Please consider my offer. By hiring me, you’d save yourself a lot of trouble, and you’d be hailed as a hero for saving capitalism from, well . . . you.###