HAVE WE ALL BEEN TYPE-CAST IN THE GREAT AMERICAN LIFE?

I flew to Sacramento for a law firm job interview. I walked into the office lobby, and the senior partner appeared on a balcony above me. I knew from the partner’s facial expression when she looked at me there was no way in hell I’d be hired. I don’t know what she expected, but it wasn’t me.

After I was lead to her office, she asked me the weirdest question I have ever been asked in a job interview: “Do you think a man like you can work for a woman like me?” It was the first question asked, and I had no idea what she meant or how to respond. Potential replies raced through my mind, but I needed some answers from her before I could respond: What kind of a woman was she? What kind of man did she think I was?

Since the goal of a job interview is to get a job, and at the time I needed a job, I didn’t say what I was thinking which was, “What the fuck do you mean?” I knew before she asked the question I wasn’t getting the job but still mumbled something about how I was certain I could work for her.

It was a Sacramento law firm that did political/governmental law and lobbying, and needed someone who could do some press work. She read my resume and called me and asked if I would come to Sacramento. She seemed impressed by my bio, and I thought the job sounded like a good fit. I bought a new suit, paid for a fresh haircut, and she sprung for my airfare.

I admit I will never — at least in this universe — be model for GQ Magazine or even Car and Driver. While I was a writer/editor at San Diego Magazine, whenever they needed someone to model who remotely looked like a criminal, commercial fisherman, or truck driver, I was usually recruited. Once I was used as a stand-in for Santa Claus (even though at the time I was 30 pounds lighter than I am now), but if Santa is anything, he is blue collar. I mean, the guy can build anything.

I also confess, since beginning working for money above the table I have worked as a deckhand, window washer, construction worker, carpenter, avionics technician, plumber, burglar alarm repairman. (My wife made me quit that one because after the police allegedly checked out a burglary at the old Campus drive in theatre in San Diego I was confronted by an actual burglar who waived a long metal object, which appeared to be a knife, at me and announced his intention to kill me. I told him he should leave quickly because the police were coming. He turned around and ran. I. Guess he thought I was a fellow criminal. At another alarm, a policeman pulled his gun, pointed it at me, and commanded I halt and lay down in front of my truck, which had the San Diego Alarm logo printed on its side — the same logo that was on my work shirt.)

But, again, I digress. I also have been public relations writer, technical writer, magazine writer/editor, and both a criminal defense and civil attorney. I have never been a criminal that I recall.

But for some reason, people insist on stereotyping me. I call it “Castingism”. Once, while working as a deputy public defender, a young colleague approached me and asked to view my tattoos. When I told him I had none, he was shocked. He had thought I was a reformed outlaw biker.

My wife worked at the public defender’s office before I did. One Saturday we happened to encounter one of her colleagues and she introduced me.

He returned in shock to the office and announced, “Julie is married to a biker guy.”

Now, while I have owned a motorcycle or two (actually six), my background qualifies me to be more of a nerd than biker. I’ve worked as an electronics technician in avionics, as a technical writer, am a Phi Beta Kappa, and a graduate of a reasonably good law school. I have even been to Comic Con.

I once, for a short time, worked for a large cosmopolitan law firm where the managing partner said to me, “You know, Mike, you look just like a client I had once, a trucker who bought a suit and got a haircut for court. He looked like a truck driver who just bought a new suit and got a hair cut.”

The problem is people watch too much television and have seen too many movies where all plumbers show plumber’s crack when they bend over, most criminals look mean, a disproportionate number of suspects on cop shows are minorities, blondes are ditzy, redheads are fiery, Irish are drunks, surfers are spaced-out potheads, Black people are sidekicks to White people, and all fathers are blowhards like Homer Simpson.

It is as though casting directors for a television reality show called Life in America have chosen only male medical doctors who are incredibly thin and handsome, if not a little androgynous, female doctors who are beautiful but seem a little promiscuous and are so thin they appear to have eating disorders.

The legal shows are usually the same — beautiful lawyers unless, of course, they are criminal defense lawyers who appear sneaky enough to “get people off on mere technicalities.” The police all have college degrees, speak three languages, and are dedicated public servants, even though real police officers have IQs in the average range and more than a few police departments refuse to hire applicants with above-average intelligence. (There are exceptions. It’s my understanding Southern California departments do not turn down applicants who are extra bright.)

Life in America would be perfectly scripted. Plumbers would be showing their cracks, construction workers would harass young females who are just strolling past, powerful women would be beautiful, thin bitches, and everybody would seem to date everyone else.

Shakespeare said art imitates life. That may have been true in Elizabethan England, but in 21st Century America it’s the opposite: Life imitates art.

While statistics vary, most say Americans watch television six hours a day and spend another three to six hours a day watching taped shows. In short they either work or sleep or watch television. These estimates are probably on the low side because, according to the Nielsen ratings folks, people underestimate the time they spend watching television. There are not enough hours in a day, and something has to give. it’s usually sleep, which is probably why everyone seems sleep deprived, and may explain the rise in the number of Zombie movies.

It leaves four hours for the rest of living — things like sleeping, getting dressed, driving to and from work, cleaning house, shopping, paying bills, and the myriad other chores people perform. That doesn’t leave much time to spend with family and friends. In fact one book, Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam, says television has decimated organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Shriners, and bowling leagues. It appears people are too busy watching television to join a club.

Teenagers watch the least amount of television, and people over 65 watch the most, probably because teens have homework and spend time hanging with friends, and old folks like me live off Social Security and retirement income that often punishes them for working part-time, we usually don’t have homework, and instead of hanging out we go to bed early. When people ask me what I do for living, I tell them I get paid to get up in the morning. In truth, my hips, back, and various other health issues prevent me from doing much else. I usually have three to four doctor appointments a week.

What amazes me, however, is that people actually develop pseudo-friendships with television characters. People seem to love and anticipate “reunion” shows where characters from previously cancelled programs have a get together showing how the characters aged with time. Viewers act as though they are attending a reunion of old friends and become part of the television show

Since I grew up without a television, and my wife and I didn’t have one for six years, many old shows most people see as repeats, I will see for the first time.

Please excuse me. Gilligan’s Island is on.

Do they ever get off that damn island?

DUMP TRUCK PART TWO, Chapter One: The One-Legged Wife Beater

It was a standard domestic violence scenario excepting one thing: The defendant, a tall white man in his 30’s, had only one good leg. His bad leg wasn’t a leg but a wooden prosthetic, which he periodically removed. While sitting next to Burke during his preliminary hearing, his leg had been removed so the deputy district attorney could use it while questioning the witness who also was the victim.

“Is this the leg the defendant hit you with?” asked the prosecutor.

“Yeah,” the witness replied. “My old man took it off and smacked me up alongside the head with it. Hurt like all get-out. Left a big black and blue mark. It’s gone now….”

“Your honor,” the prosecutor said, “move to enter this prosthetic leg into evidence as exhibit A.”

“Wait a minute,” the client said, “you’re gonna give me my leg back, ain’t ya? I need it to get about.”

Those in the gallery could be heard to quietly laugh, which Burke thought was a good thing. It would be difficult for the judge to hold his client to answer for a felony if the judge thought it was funny, and even the judge suppressed a grin.

“Have the people taken sufficient pictures and measurements?”

“Yes,” the prosecutor responded, “and I have provided them to the defense.”

“Mr. Burke, if I should return the leg to the defendant and the leg should be lost or misplaced, will you stipulate to the accuracy of the people’s pictures and measurements?”

Burke couldn’t help but milk it, “And if I don’t, he has to hop around until trial?”

“Yup.”

“Ok, I guess so.”

“Mr. Burke, yes or no?”

“Yes. So stipulated.”

“And your client agrees?”

Burke looked at the client who, without prompting said, “I need my leg, so yeah, I stipulate. Does that mean agree?”

“Yes, Mr. Scoggins,” the judge said, “it means if you lose your leg and this case goes to trial the pictures can be shown at the trial as a representation. Madam Clerk, enter the leg as Exhibit A and have the bailiff return it to the Defendant. Mr. Prosecutor, you may return to your examination.”

“Thank you. Now Mrs. Scoggins, you say the defendant hit you with the leg. Did it leave a mark?”

This was an important turning point. If it left a mark, a black and blue contusion, it would be a felony. No mark, a misdemeanor.

“Big ol’ black and blue mark all across the side of my face.”

“And what happened next?” the prosecutor asked.

“He hit me again and again. A couple, three, four times. Marked me up some more. Then he lost his balance. And he fell.”

“Did you call the police?”

“Yes. A couple of weeks later. I made out a report. That time he just pushed me down. But I told them about the previous time and they charged him with that too.”

“What happened next?”

“They took him to jail but then they let him out ‘cuz they didn’t know what to do with a one legged man in jail. But he’s been restrained from being around me so I don’t know where he is living now.”

“You’re just mad cuz I was going to move out,” the client shouted, “You just wan…”

“Mr. Burke, control your client,” the judge interjected, “or I’ll hold your client in contempt.”

Burke leaned toward his client, patted him on the shoulder, and whispered to him, “Dude, settle down. Our goal is to keep you out of jail.” Burke settled back into his slightly uncomfortable waiting room-style chair (the kind with metal legs, a padded seat and back, and no wheels) and his thoughts drifted.

Judge Rita Billings had been in felony domestic violence court for over two years and was burnt out on the subject. It wasn’t that she was a bad judge but rather she was a bored judge. She was tired of prosecutors on crusades, whiny clients, defense attorneys whom she thought believed everything their clients said, defendants who were incapable of keeping hands to themselves, and mostly dealing with the same four cases over and over again. They were:

  1. Partners in some sort of relationship — usually living together but sometimes married and sometimes just dating — argue over a relatively trivial matter, over money, or children, or just the stress of day-to-day living. Nobody seems to know who pushes or slaps whom first but he is usually bigger, has been in actual fights, and pushes and punches a lot harder. She has a mark, and he is arrested. She doesn’t really want him to go to jail, especially if he has a job, so she doesn’t show up at court and doesn’t testify. Eventually, charges are dropped, he is released, restraining orders are cancelled, and he goes home, until the next time.
  2. He wants to leave. She doesn’t want him to leave and blocks the doorway.   He shoves her out of the way. She loses her balance, trips, and smashes her face on a coffee table or an end table or some other table, which leaves a mark on her face. He is arrested for felony spousal abuse and taken to jail.
  3. They have a serious argument over him and his girlfriend or her and her boyfriend, and a physical fight erupts. She gets a bruise and calls the police but then forgives him. She doesn’t want him in prison and doesn’t testify.   He is released and goes home till the next time.
  4. He has a bad day at work, kicks the dog and beats her up. Nobody knows why. He is just an asshole who beats people up. She happens to be available. She doesn’t testify because, “I love him and he said he would change.” He doesn’t.

Everyone wanted to blame something or someone, and alcohol seemed to be the easiest target. But that did a disservice to drunks everywhere who didn’t beat their spouses. The problem was that prosecution of particular crimes came in and out of style like clothing or cars. One year it was crack cocaine, the next it was crimes against old people. This was the judge’s first assault with a wooden leg case.

Although Burke was new to the Fresno County Office of the Public Defender, he was in his fifties.   Because his father had been a crime reporter then a city editor for a metropolitan newspaper, Burke had been reading newspapers for a long time and had seen the fashionable wave follow a pattern: Bored city editor needed to fill space and needed something to attract readers. Bored city editor called bored crime reporter, said he needed copy, and asked what can be used. Crime reporter’s sister’s brother-in-law was going through a nasty divorce and was arrested for smacking his wife around, so crime reporter said he’d write a series on a crime spree of domestic violence. The series was written, published, and even won several journalism awards.

Local Fresno prosecutor read the award-winning series and decided to apply for a federal grant to create a domestic violence team to more fully prosecute wife beaters. A team of two prosecutors, three police officers and a district attorney investigator was created, which meant two more prosecutors, three more cops (nobody knew why the police got the extra hire, but it just happened), and an investigator were hired.

No money was provided for defense attorneys. Burke decided giving more money for defense would just have made getting convictions and guilty pleas harder to get which would have made the prosecutor and police look bad. Besides, most people, including judges and prosecutors, figured if a person got arrested they were probably guilty so why muck up the system with unnecessary trials? The fewer public defenders, the less time spent on defense work, the fewer trials there were, and the more guilty pleas would be entered on the books.

That way, he thought, the great non-Constitutional goal of the American criminal justice industry would be achieved: Calendars would be moved, defendants would plead guilty to felonies and would be disenfranchised, prisons would be built and filled, and jobs would be created.

There was one simple problem: Crime was down. Way down. Burke had the somewhat unfortunate ability to remember most things he read. After leaving corporate law, he began reading about criminal law and read it was way down. He had read that in 1990 there were around 2,605 murders in New York City but in 2014 there were over 2,000 fewer.

It occurred to Burke his clients weren’t simple-minded criminals but instead they were brain damage victims. They were both victims and victimizers. When oil corporations began putting lead in gas, and car makers began making cars that ran on leaded gasoline, the government built more prisons and fewer schools and hired more police than teachers. College tuition rose, students went into debt, and America housed more prisoners than any other nation in the world.

The judge commanded Burke’s attention back to the preliminary hearing, “Mr. Burke? Mr. Burke, cross-exam?”

“You didn’t take any pictures of your bruises?” Burke asked.

“Not the time he hit me with his leg. And the second time they didn’t come out. But they were there. I got thick skin and don’t bruise easy”.

Burke had no idea how having thick skin mattered or what she even meant. She was light-skinned and blond. But he decided too much money for building prisons and hiring cops and not enough money for building schools and hiring teachers created people like her.

“No further questions.”

“Does the prosecution have a motion?”

‘Yes,” said the Deputy DA. “We ask defendant be held to answer for felony violation of Penal Code section 275.5, spousal or abuse of a significant other.”

“Does the defendant have a motion?”

“Yes,” Burke said. “Motion to dismiss for lack of any evidence or at the very least reduce this to a misdemeanor pursuant to PC 17(b).”

Burke thought his best chance was a reduction to a misdemeanor, at least for the humor value.

“I think something happened here,” the judge said, “but I don’t think there has been any evidence of felony behavior. I order this reduced to a misdemeanor and have this case sent to misdemeanor court.”

The case would eventually evaporate into a mist of absurdity with his client going to some program, not to make him better but to make it look like everybody was doing something, and until then the judges, cops, prosecutors and defense attorneys would still have work. Burke returned to his earlier thoughts and concluded: If we pass enough laws to make enough things illegal, we have to hire enough cops to arrest suspects, build enough jails and prisons to hold them, hire a few attorneys to defend them, prosecutors to prosecute them, and finally judges to judge them. It creates well-paying jobs.

The point wasn’t to stop crime, but to make sure everyone kept the system chugging along.

SPRINGTIME IN FRESNO: THE TOLERABLE SEASON

(Text and photos by OldGuyMike.)

Fresno should post signs on all roads entering its county limits stating, “WARNING: LIVING IN OR JUST TRAVELING THROUGH FRESNO POSES SERIOUS HEALTH RISKS. Fresno air is chock-full of particulate matter from trucks, cars, fireplaces, farms being tilled, pesticides, herbicides, and other agriculture chemicals, including heavy metals, and can pose serious health risks including cancer, asthma, valley fever, emphysema, and other lung and heart problems. Enter at your own risk. Pregnant women are advised to stay out.”

In Fresno, spring isn’t the cruelest season. It is just the only tolerable season. During summer it is too hot to breathe and too dusty to want to. The only escape from the misery is to travel west until one runs into the Pacific Ocean where one can smell the salt water, feel the gentle sea breeze, and swim in the cool Pacific waters. The coastal escape is about two and half hours away, and coastal housing is expensive.

Where to be during a Fresno summer.

Where to be during a Fresno summer.

Also, eventually one must return, and the return can be painful, perhaps more painful than having spent the time in Fresno. If one doesn’t know of a pleasure, one doesn’t miss the pleasure when it is gone. Only junkies miss heroin when it is gone. People who have never experienced it will never miss it. If you are trying to escape a Fresno summer, remember it could lead to an addiction and the inevitable withdrawal when returning from an apparent paradise to the purgatory named Fresno.

Where else to be during a Fresno summer.

Where else to be during a Fresno summer.

Fall in Fresno is similar to summer but cooler. However, there is a danger in fall. Because of the coolness, the air is easier to breathe but just as dangerous. It is just a tastier poison and there are fewer escape destinations. Some travel to Yosemite or the nearby foothills and view the color change of tree leaves but soon realize Fresno fall colors can’t compete with New Hampshire or Canada. The Canadian fall is prettier and the people are nicer. Spending the money traveling to the North East may very well be worth the extra cash. If you are desperate, buy a book with nice pictures and save several thousands dollars.

Fall near Fresno but with cleaner air.

Fall near Fresno but with cleaner air.

Winter isn’t particularly nice in Fresno. It is cold, and the Tule Fog frequently sneaks in to provide drivers with zero visibility. This isn’t San Francisco fog that makes things romantic and artistic looking. No, it’s more like a blinding cold steam rising from the ground. Every year cars run into each other because drivers refuse to admit they can’t see past their hood ornaments and drive 70 miles per hour down the freeway. Also, the fog holds pollution in a similar way a sponge holds water. It is often painful to take a breath.

Of course, there are winter places nearby which are enjoyable. Again, they are two or three hours away and require some cost. And again, returning to Fresno is painful. Many escape the Fresno winter by trekking to either nearby mountains, which usually are blanketed in snow, or a desert such as Death Valley or the Mohave. The starkness of deserts is fascinating and beautiful so long as it isn’t summer when the heat will kill you. Literally, heat stroke can be a killer. The snow-covered mountains are a more popular escape. Sierra Summit attracts snowboarders and skiers, and nearby snow parks are great for tobogganers and budding bobsledders.

Mojave in winter.

Mojave in winter.

Winter near Fresno.

Snow near Fresno.

However, I have been to the snow and feel obligated to warn you, the white stuff called snow is wet, cold, and generally not pleasant. And since I don’t like stuff that is cold, wet, and generally uncomfortable I usually venture to the desert. If God had wanted us to frolic in the white, cold, and wet, he would have made us furrier than we are. This would make us all appear to be walking Chia Pets and probably be too warm for most summers. It would also save on clothing costs, but would be hard on the fashion industry. Also, it would solve the abominable snowman question.

But as an Old Guy, I digress. Turning 65 gave me the right to digress. It is actually a requirement of Old Guys.

Even without added digressions, we have one season left: spring, Fresno’s only survivable season. It is the only season not requiring going someplace else to enjoy yourself. It could be that compared to all other Fresno seasons spring seems better, or it could be in the spring Fresno is better. I don’t know which is true, but everything Fresno is better in the spring.

Close up on the spring Blossom Trail.

Close up on the spring Blossom Trail.

That white stuff is blossoms, not snow.

That white stuff is blossoms, not snow.

The nut trees explode in pink, white, and lavender flowers. The nearby rivers and lakes begin to fill with water, and the weather moderates. Gone are the winds, cold, and fog of winter. The sauna-like heat of summer is still in the future.

This is a grape bud.

This is a grape bud.

There are only grapes in this field.

There are only grapes in this field.

In spring the grape fields begin to bloom, and the marijuana fields planted between the lines of grapes begin to be hidden by the growing grapes and are no longer visible. I am told by those in the know even Fresno pot is better in the spring.

DEMOCRACY IN INACTION, or How the Right Stays in Power

Conservative America has a long history of keeping Liberals from the polls.

Only five percent of the word’s population lives in the United States, but 25 percent of all the world’s imprisoned people are held in the United States. It appears that we have become the worlds largest penal colony. Not only are racial inequities apparent (12-13 percent of Americans are African American, but make up 40 percent of prison population according to 2009 U.S. Department of Justice statistics).

The American Criminal Justice System needs a name change. The word Criminal “Justice” needs to be replaced with the words “Extortion, Distortion, and Disenfranchisement”. Every day, guilty pleas are extorted from confused, fearful, and ill-educated defendants who don’t understand the system, don’t understand their rights, and usually don’t understand that their right to a fair trial is a right not a bargaining chip for the prosecution to use to extort a plea. They do understand that probation and spending as litle time as possible in custody is much better than spending a long time in one of our many overcrowded incarceration centers.

Here is a typical example: Couple living together argues over money. He decides to leave and he heads for the front door. She manages to get there first, blocks his way, and he pushes her aside. She falls and bruises her shoulder. A neighbor calls the police, and he is arrested and charged with a felony carrying up to four years in prison.

Now, I’m not saying couples don’t get into arguments where someone is seriously injured. But after handling thousands of these cases, I can say serious injuries are happen in a minority of them, but those cases are the ones we hear about in the media whose motto seems to be “If it bleeds it leads”.

But when it comes to crime and punishment that doesn’t matter. What will happen is this: The deputy district attorney will charge everything possible, including adding enhancements for serious bodily injuries, but then make a much better offer to settle, such as a stay-away order and a felony conviction but no prison time if the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. The defendant will have to attend a 52-week batterers treatment class but will be released from jail right away. This offer must be transmitted to the defendant along with the amount of prison prison time he could serve if he rejects the offer, goes to trial, and is convicted. Judges have a tendency to “jamb” (harshly sentence) people who go to trial and lose. Statistically, if a defendant goes to trial for a felony he most likely will go to prison.

I can say from my professional experience that a White male is more likely to be offered a misdemeanor over a felony. In fact, I’ve read studies conducted by both USA Today and the Wall Street Journal concluding that minorities are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be charged with a felonies, and more likely to be incarcerated. They also are more likely to be Liberal. Political poll after poll shows minorities lean to the political left.

In America, being White could keep you out of jail. But regardless of color, the accused still have choices to make.

To plead or not to plead? Aye, there’s the rub. The client will not be able to see his partner for up to a year, and the batterers treatment program costs money, and he will pay for it. Sure, the statute mandating this says the fee must be on a sliding scale based on the ability to pay. But judges seldom enforce this, and because a private nonprofit organization provides the treatment, there is doubt if the judge even has the power to do so.

I have never seen research showing these programs work. There is no evidence they reduce domestic violence. What they do, however, is allow a judge to say she did something to prevent domestic violence without sending anyone to our overcrowded prisons. It also can create a felon who is unable to vote. Since our prisons are packed with minorities, primarily Hispanic and African American, and since minorities usually vote for Liberal candidates and causes, it is a good way to disenfranchise Liberal voters.

crockford_Ballot_Box_Behind_Bars

However, it probably isn’t as effective as requiring a government picture identification before one can vote. The most common government identification is a drivers’ license, which costs money. Even if someone can cough up the cash for a driver’s license, they often lose the license because they can’t afford outrageously high fees for minor infractions.

My research shows the fancier one’s car is and the richer one is the more likely one is to commit traffic infractions. A $300 speeding ticket is nothing to someone making $2,000 a week, but it is a truckload of cash for someone making $700 a week and it will likely to go unpaid resulting in a drivers license being jerked. Not only then does one lose the right to drive but also the right to vote if a picture identification is required, which often
means one less Liberal voter.

If someone can’t produce the picture identification and can’t register to vote, he will probably never sit on a jury. Felons are automatically disqualified, and because jury lists are chosen from voting rolls and DMV records, getting a representative jury is nearly impossible. What you end up with is White, middle class, conservative juries, and they tend to convict the poor or minority.

Declaring one a felon and requiring identification are subtle ways of disenfranchising large segments of voters. Before the Civil War only White male property owners could vote. Eventually, the property ownership requirement was dropped in most states. And after the Civil War African Americans technically could vote. But most Southern states were able to disenfranchise them by onerous literacy tests and high poll taxes. It is doubtful most Southern Whites could pass these tests but they were “grandfathered in” because if one of their direct ancestors could vote before 1860 the descendant didn’t have to take the test.

Until August 26,1920, half the United States population couldn’t vote simply because they had XX chromosomes instead of XY. Since most polls show women tend to vote Liberal, it is often argued that without women’s suffrage it is doubtful FDR would have been elected and the New Deal wouldn’t have existed, resulting in very different world today.

Indeed, it seems much of the Conservative agenda has been a particularly forceful effort to keep Liberals from voting. Our overloaded prison system, requiring voter identification, slavery, and preventing women from voting are just some of the many methods Conservative America has historically used to keep certain people out of the polls.

The Rich, The Entitled, and The Jerks

Like most folks, I am not wealthy.

Hemingway and F. Scot Fitzgerald always had a dispute over whether rich people are different from the rest of us. Fitzgerald believed they are and Hemingway believed they just had more money. It turns out they were both right: The rich are different from us because they have more money, which makes them into rich, entitled jerks. At least, that is what an article in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 014617213501699 reported in The Teamster Nation Blog of September 9, 2013. I can’t afford to subscribe to The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, but I’ll take the Teamster’s word for it.

And if you toss celebrity into the Rich Entitled Jerkdom, they become bigger jerks. I am certain of this for two reasons. One, when I was a member of the Forth Estate and worked for a glossy magazine, I met many celebrities who were also rich, and with a few exceptions they were jerks. My very practical wife says they suffer from what she calls Acquired Celebrity Personality Disorder (ACPD).

If you don’t believe me, watch The Celebrity Apprentice where rich, entitled, Donald Trump takes glee in firing lesser rich, entitled, but just as jerky celebrities. Trump, who has declared business bankruptcy several times (he always seems to go broke when he is getting divorced) and claims to be worth billions, claims much of his money is in his “brand”. It turns out many of the buildings with the name TRUMP tacked onto them aren’t owned by him. He licenses his name to the real building owners. He convinces other rich people he is rich — worth billions including his “Brand”— and he will allow them to put his name on the building for a price. Now that is ACPD.

It sounds like a great racket.

Occasionally, Trump hints he might run for President. He will trot out a lot of tired right wing tropes and claim all the money he made entitles him to the Presidency. He never seems to tell people the most important thing he did to get money was have rich parents. And if you listen to him carefully, you’ll get the feeling he believes most criminals are Hispanic or African American, which sounds pretty racist to me. According to Trump, President Obama was born in Kenya and does not meet the Constitutional requirement of being a natural born American Citizen. Trump has not made the same complaint against Senator Ted Cruz who was born in Canada.

Hearing and watching him, one gets the feeling Trump is a three year-old who will do or say anything to get attention. With yellow hair, orange skin, and his lower lip curved outward, he is becoming a Saturday Night Live-type parody of himself. Of course, he is a great target for parody and he seems to enjoy the attention. He became embroiled in a spat with actress/comic Rosie O’Donnel for reasons I don’t understand other than it had something to do with the Miss USA Pageant. Since I don’t watch beauty contests — finding them on the smarmy side — and don’t think O’Donnel is all that funny, I had little interest in their spat. Trump loved the publicity.

He has an incredible ability to get his name mentioned on television, in newspapers, and in other media. He doesn’t seem to care for what and will say anything to achieve that goal.

He even has licensed his name for clothing, and sometime ago I was given one of his ties as present. Although I haven’t worn a tie for some time, it is a handsome one. Before I retired, I did wear it to court and received many compliments. Since I have never been known for sartorial excellence, I enjoyed the compliments.

A research team at the University of California has found that even when a game is rigged and all the players know the game is rigged, the winners still become entitled jerks. The investigators had subjects play Monopoly®, where one player received obvious advantages: The winners initially received more money to start with, more money when they passed “Go”, they were given two dice to toss instead of one, and they were allowed to charge more rent for their properties. Even though all the players knew the game was rigged, the winner still slowly became a bigger and bigger jerk, as though he or she deserved the advantages because of some universal moral secret.

What I find curious, however, is the losers didn’t complain of the game’s obvious unfairness. Nobody demanded the rules be restructured or the winner be ostracized for cheating, or simply refused to play. No, they just kept on losing and being bullied by a jerk. In fact, they seemed to admire the winner because if he did win there must be some moral or religious reason. God must love the rich more.

The economic system Donald Trump exploits also has a tinge of religion to it: Surveys show many Americans believe God is in control via the “invisible hand of the marketplace”. That this hand is invisible, yet moves in a predetermined way, implies it is omniscient, omnipotent, and distributes wealth in a just way. The rich are rewarded and the poor punished.

People like Donald Trump depend on the rest of us swallowing this drivel. What other reason can he have to act like such an entitled jerk?

BUCKET LISTS

It seems everyone has a “Bucket List” consisting of unusual things they want to do before death. The concept never made a lot of sense to me. If one believes in an after-life, why not wait until then to do those things? It’d be a lot cheaper and I’m sure your heirs would appreciate the extra cash you would have spent on Bucket List items. If one doesn’t believe in an after life, there will be no memory of having completed the List and therefore, in a way, the List itself would have never existed.

However, I’ve always found interesting what people put on their Bucket Lists.

I’ve asked around and received different answers that can usually be classified by gender or age. But even those that are gender/age neutral amaze me with their shallowness.

For example, people who do not have a tattoo usually put “get tattoo” on their List. Conversely, people who have tattoos usually list “have tattoo removed”. For reasons I fail to understand, a lot of folks want to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.

For some reason, travel is a big Bucket Lister, or at least what they call travel is popular. It consists of:

  1. Tell all your friends you are going somewhere and will see something interesting, say, the Sistine Chapel.
  2. At considerable expense, go there and see it. As proof, take a selfie proving you’ve been to the Vatican.
  3. Splash selfie on facebook.
  4. Return home.
  5. Tell all your friends you’ve seen the Sistine Chapel. Say you were surprised it was so small. Show them your selfie.

The entire process takes 3-4 days.

I’ve decided most people travel not to learn new things or go places or even see things they’ve already seen pictures of.

No, they travel so they can tell their friends they’ve been places and seen things. Strange exotic places and things. Of course, they never actually spend time in any one place or talk to anyone. That’s not really important to them.

I once had a friend who spent six weeks travelling through seven European countries. He didn’t trust European food and only ate at McDonalds. For some reason, he believed McDonalds had the only edible food in Europe. He went all the way to France and ate no French food, and in Italy, he didn’t even have a pizza. When he returned, however, he did show me hundreds of pictures. Going to Europe was on his Bucket List.

Lest you think I am above such things as Bucket Lists, I will share mine:

  1. Have a shopping trip to Costco where I do not have to wait in the checkout line for over an hour.
  2. Go for a motorcycle ride and not be nearly run over by either a soccer mom driving a mini-van or anyone driving a BMW. Soccer moms and BMW drivers are more deadly than drones.
  3. Live in a world without SUV’s, mini-vans, or BMW’s.
  4. Read a daily newspaper without at least one story about the United States invading a country somewhere.
  5. Go a whole day without looking at Facebook.
  6. Get a tattoo and then have it removed.
  7. Get somebody to explain the difference between the Hell’s Angels and the San Diego Yacht Club other than one organization likes motorcycles and the other organization has money and likes boats. Both have membership committees that weed out “undesirables”. Both clubs’ “undesirables” seem remarkably similar. True, Yacht Club members have better manners, but Hell’s Angels are more direct, so it’s a push.
  8. Spend an entire week without one person telling me they really need an assault rifle.
  9. Go a full day without hearing “Easy Listening Music”. Its neither easy to listen to nor music.
  10. Never hearing another man say a threesome is on his bucket list. I have ADHD and I can’t pay attention to one woman, let alone two.
  11. Show up on the FORBES “400 Richest Men in America” list.
  12. Go an entire week without any of my children asking for money.
  13. Learn to say no when my children ask for money.
  14. Surf big waves, I mean, really big waves, like at Todos Santos.
  15. Live in a shack on a beach in Punta Colonet south of Ensenada and spend my time drinking good beer. Or bad beer.
  16. Have a rug that actually ties the room together.
  17. Move to San Francisco.
  18. Have a third home in Costa Rica.
  19. Sail to Tahiti.
  20. Smoke pot with Willie Nelson. He has to provide the pot because my dealer has become an Assistant District Attorney and is paranoid about being fired.
  21. Go a year without hearing about anyone else’s Bucket List.

The problem with a Bucket List is that by the time you have enough money and time to do the things on your List, you lack the physical ability to do them. Or as Oscar Wilde said, “The problem with youth is it’s wasted on the young.” Not that I mind being an Old Guy. It’s being an out of shape Old Guy that I particularly mind. For example, I know I would never now be able to surf a big wave because I no longer have a good sense of balance and I fear my swimming ability has decreased. The whole thing seems like a nasty trick. When you are young enough to do a Bucket List kind of thing, you don’t have the money or the time to do it.

The problem is that by the time one has the money and time to live one’s Bucket List, one usually lacks the physical ability to perform the specified item on said Bucket List.

When one is young one is simply in shape. I came that way, but as I aged I found I had to work to stay that way. Then I was prescribed medication that made me hungry all the time. I ate, and I ate a lot of food that made me fat. I stopped the medication and lost weight, but not enough to be able to move well enough to get back into shape. So I traded one illness for another.

Another problem with aging is your body won’t do what your mind tells it to do. Your body gets an attitude like a rebellious teenager. If you tell it to do one thing, it will do another, which is usually pain inducing. Your children will then tell you of people much older who do the things you can’t do. Don’t worry because they’ll be old someday, too, and will have children who say the same things to them.

To all you future parents out there, never use this line on a child: “When I was your age I could…(fill in what they can’t do).” It’ll boomerang back like a Frisbee thrown directly into a wind gust and render you toothless.

Despite what psychologists say, no child will announce, “I wish I could spend more time with Mom and Dad.” In fact, only a few children even want to be seen with Mom and Dad. It just reminds them how dependent on Mom and Dad they are.

I’ve read multi-generational households are becoming common today because it is hard to find a decent job and if a young people do find a jobs, they frequently carry so much student debt (necessary to get the educations required to get the jobs) that living with good old Mom and Dad is required for their survival.

This is a circuitous way of saying what the last item on my Bucket List is:  Seeing the day when my children can live on their own. I’m certain that’s the first thing on their Bucket Lists.