Taxation is Theft, and You is an Idiot

June 3rd, 2018 9:41pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Taxation is Theft, and You is an Idiot.

A popular libertarian slogan is "taxation is theft." This may be one of the dumbest statements ever made.

The way language works is that we use different words to denote different things. We have one word for "cat" and another for "white."  Because a cat and white two different concepts. This convention – using different words to denote different concepts – serves us well because it enables clear communication.

One problem with language is that people sometimes misuse the verb to be.  People say, “The cat is white” when they really mean something like, “The cat has white fur.”  It’s harmless in that instance, but one popular form of argument is to think of something bad – theft – and equate it to something else you don’t like – taxation – using the word is.

Let’s break it down. Theft is when I take something from you without any legal right with the intent to permanently deprive you of it.  For example, Section 18-4-401 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, provides in relevant part, “A person commits theft when he or she knowingly obtains, retains, or exercises control over anything of value of another without authorization or by threat or deception…” (Emphasis added).  And before you get all pissy about the way I punctuated that, writing “(Emphasis added).” after a quotation, see the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983) where the U.S. Supreme Court did the same thing, with only that Rehnquist dissenting.

Taxation is when government requires you to pay money pursuant to the lawful authority granted to the government in the organizing document or laws passed by your elected representatives.

In the context of federal taxes in the United States, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution provides in relevant part, “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States…”  The Sixteenth Amendment provides, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

So, while "taxation is theft" is catchy and simple, it is logically wrong, as are many simple "X is Y" statements.

Instead of simply asserting that taxation is theft, I recently challenged some libertarians to define both terms and explain why taxation is theft.  One libertarian friend took me up, but he’s a smart man and he saw my point, then attempted to go around it by asserting, “Taxation is legalized theft,” which gives new meaning to the term theft because using that line of thinking there are two types of theft – legal and illegal.Taxation is when the government of the jurisdiction that you live in, whether you like it or not, requires you to pay money pursuant to the lawful authority granted to the government in the organizing document or by laws passed by your elected representatives.

But libertarians are not shouting, “Taxation islegalized theft,” they are shouting, “Taxation is theft.”  And, sadly, in an age where conservatives loath knowledge and science, simple phrases appeal to people that lack the time or desire to consider complex issues. That’s why I purposely used “You is an idiot” in this essay’s title – to illustrate what happens when we use is to equate unrelated concepts.  Of course, not everyone that proclaims “taxation is theft” is an idiot.  Libertarianism is one concept and idiocy is a separate concept.  That’s why we have different words for them.

Finally, note I did not assert “taxation is theft” is THE dumbest statement ever made. That would probably be something like, “Hey, I think we should take Ryan Leaf over Peyton Manning,” or “There is no difference between the two parties,” or “Roy Cohen is better looking than Mark Cohen.”   

So, while "taxation is theft" is catchy and simple, it is also wrong, as are many simple "X is Y" statements." Instead of simply asserting that taxation is theft, I challenge them to define both terms and explain why taxation is theft.

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Great Moments in My Air Force Career

June 3rd, 2018 9:48am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Early one morning in 1985 or 1986, while I was serving as a young Air Force legal officer, my pals and I were sitting around the lounge at the Base Legal Office at Offutt Air Force Base, drinking weak government coffee and talking sports. Parking on that side of the base was limited, and you had to arrive early if you wanted a decent parking space.

We were a group of young JAG officers, mostly captains, one first lieutenant, and one crusty old Senior Master Sergeant whose job was to oversee the enlisted staff.  We were talking about a young boxing phenom named Mike Tyson.  My back was to the entry.

Suddenly the Senior Master Sergeant stood and called the room to attention.  I’d been on active duty more than two years already and had never seen anything like that in the relaxed atmosphere of the Base Legal Office. And I thought, “Sergeant Longuil, I’m not falling for your bullshit at 7:00 a.m.”  But then my pals also stood and came to attention.  So, I turned around in my seat to see what was going on.    

And there was the four-star general that commanded the Strategic Air Command, General John T. Chain.  And the full colonel who job it was to follow him around.  I stood, faced him, and came to attention.

Well, I guess General Chain figured my response was “good enough for a lawyer” because he said nothing. Unaware of the parking problem, he remarked about how good it was to see folks at work so early in the morning, then went on with the rest of his day.

As I look back on this incident, I think if you are going to give a man the power to destroy the world by deploying ten thousand nuclear weapons from missiles, bombers, and submarines, it’s probably good that he has the kind of personality that can let small stuff - like a young captain not standing quickly - go like water off a duck’s back. 

Posted in: Humor

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The True Story of Snappy the Turtle and Trooper White

February 23rd, 2018 6:42pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

This is a true story. I changed the names to protect some of the men involved.  Some are from Nederland and own, like, music businesses and stuff in Nederland, and they would not want their involvement known. I have also changed my brother Roy Cohen’s name to “Troy” to protect his identity.  Oh, and I changed the name of the Nebraska State Trooper because the tall Caucasian Trooper with the buzz cut that was patrolling Highway 83 near Thedford that Wednesday morning probably would not want his supervisors to know about this. 

These events took place in July of 2008.  Each year some of my guy friends get together and rent a bunkhouse on the Niobrara River near the Nebraska / South Dakota border.  We call this Mancation. It’s a yearly event where we sit around the fire discuss quantum physics, praise our mothers, and drink milk.  I don’t want to give the exact location because some of the guys have wives and girlfriends, and they don’t want the wives and girlfriends hiring someone to spy on us.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning and I driving my Dodge Durango north on Nebraska Highway 83 with the music cranking.  There were four other men with me –  my brother Troy and three others.  The windows were down.  I had not consumed any alcohol or drugs because I was driving.  And I don’t do that kind of thing. Troy and the others had maybe consumed some tequila, a few Colorado herbal products, and/or some other things. I mean, if we’re being honest, they were in an altered state. Because we had just purchased enough alcohol at the WalMart in North Platte to supply fourteen men for five days.

You must understand that we kind of stood out. Because I had a Thule rooftop carrier on top of my SUV and we had written “Kim Jong-Il’s Dead Body” on it in yellow paint. And we had written a lot of other silly stuff on the sides of my vehicle.

Highway 83 has one lane in each direction and there is very little traffic. There are mostly just a lot of marshes, cows, and red winged blackbirds.  When what to my wandering eyes should appear but a snapping turtle that must have been fourteen inches in diameter slowly crossing the road. We could not believe this size of this guy. I mean, Thedford, Nebraska, ain’t exactly the Galapagos. 

Now, my mom is from Alabama, and I lived in Alabama while in the Air Force, so, though I am not a redneck myself, I know the redneck mind. I can think like a redneck. And I realized that if we did not help this turtle, whose named was Snappy, get to the other side of the road, some redneck in a pickup would purposely run his 275/65 R17’s over Snappy and kill him. 

But though I can think like a redneck, I’m also half-Jewish, which means I can also think like God. Or at least Moses. I knew the right thing to do was help Snappy. We pulled off to the side of the road. We all got out of my SUV and approached the turtle. I carefully put one hand on each of side of Snappy’s shell, thinking I would just pick him up and deposit it on the grass on the other side of the road.

Well, let me tell you, those little f$#%$ers have LONG necks that can reach around further than you think and bite you faster than a Republican congressman caught having sex with a child can say “family values.”  And they’re freakin’ heavy. So, I instantly dropped Snappy and knew I needed to come up with another plan.  “Find a stick,” I said.

Sticks ain’t easy to come by in the sandhills, but Troy produced a tiki torch from the back of my SUV, so I used the torch to start prodding Snappy to the other side of the road. The absurdity of five over-educated middle-aged men using a tiki torch to prod a giant turtle across a highway in rural Nebraska amused me. And it was even more amusing to Troy and my friends because they were enjoying what you might call a tequila sunrise.  So, we were all laughing hard and a couple of the guys wanted to get photos of this turtle.

It was about this time that the Trooper (remember the Trooper?  This is a story about the Trooper) pulled in behind my SUV and activated his flashing lights. He exited his vehicle, took a as they say in police jargon, took a quick look at the rooftop carrier with “Kim Jong-Il’s Dead Body” painted on it, and said, “Good morning, fellas, I’m Trooper White from the Nebraska State Patrol, what do we have going on?” He was trying hard to keep a straight face and give the stern State Trooper look.

Being a lawyer, I knew just what to say. “Well, we were just minding our own business and driving the posted speed limit with Kim Jong-Il’s dead body on top of my truck when this freakin’ giant turtle thumbed us down…”  And then Trooper White couldn’t hold it in anymore and cracked a smile.  And I explained we were just trying to do a good deed for Snappy before some drunk liberals from Colorado high on pot tried to run him over.

Trooper White really couldn’t think of anything to charge us with, but he was amused and stayed with us until I finished prodding Snappy to the other side of the road. He was very friendly. He did not ask any of us for our ID and if he noticed that Troy and the others might have consumed a few things, he didn’t say anything. 

Trooper White pulled away and then we all piled back into my Durango. Troy and the others went back to maybe consuming a few things. I never asked Troy or the others about the quantity of illegal substances they might have had in the back of my SUV. I didn’t want to know. Snappy went on to lead a productive live. He lives with his wife and three children near Thedford, Nebraska.

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The True Story of Dave Cleveland

January 19th, 2018 6:25pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

 The facts giving rise to this column began 48 years ago.  I was in seventh grade at Cherry Creek West Junior High.  (This was before the political correctness Gods decided “junior high” might stigmatize the little ones and changed it “middle school”). 

Believe it or not, in 1970 I was not the 215-pound black belt specimen of masculinity that I am now.  In fact, I was kind of a wuss.  I got picked on a lot.  Especially in gym. 

One day we were all lined up in the gymnasium for jumping jacks or whatever.  The kid in front of me, whose name I don’t remember and who probably has a half-dozen domestic violence convictions now, started picking on me.  The kid behind me was a tall boy named Dave Cleveland.  I did not know Dave well.  We did not hang in the same circles.  Dave saw what was going on, walked up to the other kid, gave him a push, and emphatically told him to leave me alone.  And that was the end of my ordeal, at least on that day.    

Dave and I were not friends.  He didn’t really know me.  He could have minded his own business.  But he did the right thing and it stuck with me.

That would be a good story if it ended there, but it doesn’t.  About eight years later I worked one summer at a pizza place in Glendale called Figaro’s Pizza.  This was great job for a twenty-year-old because I got free pizza, all the 3.2% beer I could drink, and had control over the music.  

One Friday night Dave Cleveland walked in with some other people to drink beer and play pool.  I took his order at the counter.  I don’t think he recognized me.  (To be fair, I looked a lot different.  And it was a Friday night in 1978, so many twenty-year-old men would have been drunk, stoned, or both). 

I called Dave’s name about ten minutes later to tell him his pizza was ready.  He came up to the counter and began to remove his wallet from his jeans pocket.  “It’s on the house,” I said.  He gave me a quizzical look, shrugged, took his pizza and went off to enjoy the rest of his evening.

Through the magic of Facebook, Dave and I were able to reconnect.  And because my agreement with the Mountain-Ear is that I can write anything I want so long as I don’t get the paper sued, I thought I would use this opportunity to publicly thank Dave 48 years after he stuck up for me.

I think the lesson here is stick up for others when you can.  It’s the right thing to do.  And you might get a free pizza.

Posted in: Personal

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My Pledge of Allegiance

October 13th, 2017 7:37am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Click Here to read MY PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

Posted in: Politics

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The Case for Nuclear War

September 5th, 2017 12:14pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I am so tired of my liberal snowflake friends whining about the possibility that Trump might start a nuclear war. I guess I’m just one of those people that always sees the glass as half-full.

It’s true that a nuclear war would kill hundreds of millions of innocent people. But you can’t stop the analysis there; you must also consider the possible benefits of a nuclear war.

One benefit of a nuclear war is that we could finally put the global warming issue to rest. When you have a nuclear war, stuff burns. Burning causes smoke. Smoke blocks the sun’s rays. Without the sun’s rays, the Earth cools. Scientists call this Nuclear Winter. Global warming solved.

Another benefit would be intense pressure on Congress to pass meaningful healthcare reform. Nuclear war brings radioactive fallout. Radioactive fallout causes all sorts of cancers. The Americans that survive a nuclear exchange will unite as never before to pressure Congress to establish a healthcare system that provides coverage for all Americans.

Nuclear war would also have economic benefits. As with any Republican economic program, one of the main selling points of a nuclear war would be job creation. After the mushroom clouds subside, someone will have to clean up the mess. Someone will have to rebuild the roads, bridges, schools, and infrastructure. And with a critical shortage of workers (due to so many being dead or ill), the free market will make sure these are high-paying jobs. And, as we all know from Republican Economic Theory 101, those workers will spend that money in the few remaining stores and it will trickle down to the less fortunate.

A nuclear war would also solve the overpopulation program. In 1960, Colorado’s population was 1.753 million people. Today it is 5.57 million people. No wonder it takes five hours to drive from A-Basin to Denver on a Sunday afternoon. A nuclear war would restore a little sanity to our out of control growth.

Finally, a Trump-initiated nuclear war might cause a few of the surviving voters to reconsider their belief that “there is no difference between the two parties.” It might cause a few surviving voters to rethink their opposition to “voting for the lesser of two evils.” I’m not saying a nuclear war would have these effects, just that it might. It’s theoretically possible. You can’t rule it out.

In closing, I’m tired of the nattering nabobs of negativism looking only at the downside of a nuclear war without considering the possible benefits. As Americans, we owe it to ourselves to examine the issue objectively and consider both the costs and the benefits.

            

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The Proper Use of Animal References in Law

July 31st, 2017 7:38pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

CLICK HERE TO READ "The Proper Use of Animal References in Law." 

Posted in: Humor

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Love Does Not Conquer All

January 22nd, 2017 9:28am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I enjoyed attending the Women's March in Denver. I wanted my body to be among the many protesting the new regime and mourning the loss of what once was a great nation. I saw many creative signs, but I saw some proclaiming, "Love Conquers All." That's garbage. Love did not defeat the Nazi's. Infantry defeated the Nazi's.

Republican fascists have been taking advantage of the basic goodness of Democrats, liberals, and progressives for decades. They are better at dirty politics than we are. Nixon successfully demonized George McGovern, a man that flew more than two dozen missions over Germany. Lee Atwater employed a subtle racism in his Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis, a man that spent two years in the Army in post-war Korea. These draft-dodging fascists defamed Navy hero John Kerry with their Swift Boat BS. It is way past time to start fighting fire with fire. Our mantra must be, "When they go low, we go for the throat.”

Sign all the petitions you want, but Republican politicians don't care. Their corporate pimps pay them to push an agenda. They know that even if they don't win re-election, their pimps will give them a job paying five times what they collect now. Arlo Guthrie once said, "If you want to end war, you gotta sing loud." It's time to start treating these so-called leaders like the corporate whores and traitors they are. Showing them any respect only makes them think you are a sucker.

Stand outside their offices and homes with signs and make noise. Write scathing letters to the editor. Show up unannounced at their offices and ask tough questions to their staff, and get it all on video. Then post it. Put bumper stickers on your vehicle to let others know your views. (I just ordered a stick that says, “Proud Veteran. Not My President”). If you can find their home address or phone, share that information so it goes viral.

I have Republican friends. Not all are stupid or racist. So, tying the GOP to Hitler might seem unfair. As a generalization, I don’t think it is unfair, but who cares if it is? Being fair has gotten us nowhere. Do you want to run a noble campaign and lose or do you want fight fire with fire and win? It’s that simple.

It's time to mock the Republican party and its leaders mercilessly. Every Republican leader today is either stupid or a corporate whore. If you believe God created the earth five thousand years ago because the Bible says so, despite the evidence of carbon dating, you are stupid. Not all Republican leaders can be stupid, though, because some have been successful doctors and lawyers. But their corporate puppet masters pay them to spout nonsense that will fire up their stupid constituents -- statements like, "Bill Clinton will Take Your Guns” and “Obama will take your guns.”  Pro-lifers love to show photos of aborted babies, and that’s their right. Why shouldn't we show photos of homeless vets and heckle Republican leaders that vote to cut VA funding?  We shouldn’t we tie Trump, McConnell, and Ryan to Putin and call them traitors? That’s what they are.

Employing outright lies and racism, Trump tapped into the justifiable anger of the American people. (He had help from a Republican FBI director and a corporate owned media that wanted this to be a close election and ignored his many flaws). The way to win this war is to make this a battle between the 1% and the rest of us. We must mock and demonize Republican leaders until public contempt for them is so palpable that they decide they'd rather return to private life. The Vietnam War ended when Nixon could not get any sleep because protestors were shouting outside his bedroom window every night. There's a lesson to be learned there.

I’m not saying you must hate Republican leaders; hate harms your body. I’m just saying you’re naïve if you believe love will solve this problem. Don’t hate them; mock and demonize them in a calm, dispassionate manner to delegitimize them. It’s not personal, you’ll just be doing a job for your country.

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How to Intervene in a Bullying or Threatening Situation

November 15th, 2016 12:31pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

To see this article as a PDF, CLICK HERE   

Introduction

The 2016 presidential election exposed the fear and hatred that simmers just beneath the surface in some Americans.  The Ku Klux Klan endorsed Trump.  Trump stirred up fears of immigrants, Jews, Muslims, and blacks.  Trump bragged about sexual assaults.  Trump’s Vice President, Pence, a smug, self-righteous evangelical, is openly hostile to gays.  Many conservative leaders believe rape is just a risk inherent in being a woman.  Many conservative politicians are hostile to any person speaking out against their policies.  Their behavior, and similar behavior by some of the supporters, has emboldened bullies and haters. 

In this atmosphere of fear and hate we must resolve that we will protect those unable to protect themselves.  If we want to make America great again, the first step is to show we believe in equality, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and doing what is right.  We must show we will not tolerate the abuse of our fellow citizens or visitors to our once great country.

You may encounter a situation where you must decide whether to intervene to protect another.  This article offers some thoughts on how to analyze such situations and intervene if you decide to intervene.

Nothing is foolproof.  Intervention carries risk.  There are no guarantees. 

The Four A’s

I think of four stages to intervention – awareness, assessment, approach, and action.  But each situation is different and you may encounter a situation that requires you to make an instant assessment and take immediate action.

Awareness

If you want to help others, you must be alert to situations where others need help.  A good rule of thumb is to trust your gut.  If you sense something is wrong, it probably is.  Some things that may indicate a bullying or threatening situation is present or may develop include:

Loud voices or yelling

Abnormal patterns of movement such as people standing still while others are moving

One person abnormally close to another – “in their space.”

One person touching or grabbing another

One person running from another

Physical threats such as someone making a fist or throwing things

Unusual gestures such as flailing arms

Assessment

If you believe a situation exists or may develop, you must assess the situation.  The time available for assessment will depend on the circumstances.  In some situations, you may have to make an instant assessment.  Some factors to consider in making your assessment are:

How great is the threat to the other person and to yourself?  

How immediate is the threat? (Is there time to call 911?)

Is it verbal or physical?

How agitated does the aggressor appear to be?  (Is there still time to defuse things?)

Does the aggressor have a weapon?  (A man wearing a fanny pack with the pouch in front probably has a handgun in it).

Do you have a weapon or easy access to a weapon?

How many aggressors are there?

How many bystanders are there that might lend a hand?

Once you assess the situation, if you don’t feel safe intervening in any way, call 911.  You should remain on the scene so you can provide a statement to law enforcement.  If you are not ready to call 911 or don’t think you have time due to the urgency of the situation, go to the next step.

Approach

            1. Stop and Look.  If you see a concerning situation, before you get closer to the situation, stop, and look at the people involved.  Often the aggressor see you, recognize that they are drawing attention, and calm down. 

       “What are you looking at?”  Sometimes the aggressor will stare back at you and say, “What are you looking at?”  It’s a rhetorical question.  The aggressor knows darn well what you are looking at and why you are.  Say nothing, hold your ground, and continue to look directly at the situation.  If you move closer the aggressor may consider it challenge.  If you back away, the aggressor may consider at sign of weakness or fear.  You may want to take out your cell phone and prepare to dial 911.  You may want to begin recording the incident on your cell phone.

                        “This is none of your business.”  Sometimes the aggressor will stare at you and say, “This is none of your business.”  Again, the best response is to hold your ground and say nothing.  Just stand still and continue to demonstrate your concern.  If you must say something, you can say, “Sir, it is my business because I’m concerned for both of you.”  You might also add something like, “Look, I already took a picture of you and sent it to my friend.  Let’s just stop and call this done and move our separate ways.”

            2. Verbal De-escalation.  If the situation has not yet become physical, you may be able prevent that by using verbal de-escalation techniques.  The idea is to show concern and empathy to prevent the aggressor from becoming more agitated.  Some examples:

“It looks like you folks are having a bad day.  Is there anything I can do to help?”

“I can see you are upset, let’s all take a deep breath and relax before this gets out of hand.” 

            3. Command and Consequence.  If verbal de-escalation does not work, you must give a command and consequence:

                     “Sir, if you don’t calm down, I will call the police.”

                     “Sir, leave him alone or I will call security.”

Have your phone out be ready to dial when you say this.  Be far enough away that the aggressor cannot reach you to stop you.

4. Positioning.  As all this is going on, if you believe you may have to intervene physically and you intend to do so, you should gradually get closer to the aggressor so you will be able to close the distanced quickly.  You can converse with aggressor as you slowly approach.  You can put your hands up with your palms open in a defensive posture as you approach to show you don’t want any trouble.  (If your hands are already up with your palms open, it’s very easy to turn those open palms into fists if you must).

Action

            If the situation appears to be escalating and you conclude you must take action, here are some possible actions:

            1. Dial 911.  If you have a phone, dial 911.  State your name, your location, and what you are seeing that concerns you.  Describe the others involved, and be sure to say what the aggressor is wearing so the officers that respond know what to look for. If you don’t have a phone, ask to borrow someone else’s phone.

            2. Scream.  Bullies do not like attention and they especially don’t like police officers.  Start screaming, “Police!”  Your screams will attract the attention of others, drawing a crowd, which is exactly what the aggressor does not want.

            3. Physical Intervention.  The law allows you to use reasonable force to protect yourself or another.  If you are not an experienced fighter, the general idea is to use the hard surfaces of your body (knuckles, knees, heels, elbows, palm heels) against the soft portions of the aggressor’s body (groin, eyes, throat, vital organs).  Also, consider whether you have a weapon available.  A belt with a metal buckle can be a weapon.  A cane can be a weapon.  A cup of hot coffee can be a weapon.  A purse or backpack can be a very effective weapon.

Conclusion

Most bullies are cowards.  Just as a lion always attacks the weakest gazelle – the one straggling behind the pack – bullies pick on the weak.  If you stand up to an aggressor, the aggressor usually backs down.  Most Americans are good people.  If you demonstrate leadership, others will back you up.  To ignore bullying is to encourage it.  We can no longer ignore it and pretend it is not our problem.

...

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I'm Just a Liberal From Muskogee

October 26th, 2016 1:35pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

I’m Just a Liberal From Muskogee

            In 1969, Merle Haggard's first big hit was "Okie from Muskogee." Conservatives loved it because it was an ode to traditional American values. Amidst the seemingly constant anti-war protests and big city riots, the song shot up to No. 1 on the country charts. Okie was so popular with middle America and rural voters that President Nixon invited Haggard to the White House.

            I was listening to Okie the other night while downing shots of that horrible Jeremiah Weed whiskey, and it struck me that the song no longer represents the values of today’s conservatives. Here are some lines from that song and how I think today's conservatives should rewrite the lyrics to reflect their values:

          “We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee.”  Suggested change: “Many of us smoke marijuana in Muskogee, but in spite of our claim to believe in states’ rights, we want the feds to keep it illegal so big pharma and distilleries can continue to make insane profits.”       

         "We don't make a party out of lovin', We like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo."  Suggested change: “We don’t make a party out of lovin’, except for adultery (Sen. John Ensign, Sen. David Vitter, Rep. Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, and Gov. Mark “I’m hiking the Appalachian Trail” Sanford), playing footsie with an undercover cop in an airport (Sen. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig), gay texting (Rep. Mark Foley), sexual harassment (Sen. Bob Packwood), and grabbing women by the pu#$%y.  Those kinds of parties are OK.”

         "We still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse."  Suggested change: “We wave the confederate flag down at the courthouse because it represents our racism and hatred for the Kenyan-born Muslim President intent on taking our guns and imposing Sharia Law. Even though we claim to believe in democracy, we’re going to secede from the union if we don’t get our way. The election is rigged. And tax cuts.”

         "And the kids here still respect the college dean."  Suggested change:  “Education is bad.  We don't need a bunch of smart people telling us what to do. Education is just lies put forth by the global elites and the New World Order. Global warming is a hoax.”

         “We don't burn our draft cards down on Main Street."  Suggested change: “The current system of sending young people, mostly from the lower rungs on the economic ladder, off to war, paying them a small amount, and then not funding the VA upon their return, is working well.  Hell, I’d enlist myself, but I broke my little toe playing “kick the can” when I was a kid. We support our troops, unless they are Democrats such as John Kerry. His Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts are all fake.”

            Well, there you have it – an easy way to bring a classic country song up to date to reflect today’s conservative values.

            By the way, by the time of his 1981 hit, “Rainbow Stew,” Merle Haggard was singing about peace, clean energy, and truth in government. In 2010, President Obama invited Haggard back to the White House.  After meeting the President, Haggard said, "It's really almost criminal what they do with our President. There seems to be no shame or anything. They call him all kinds of names all day long, saying he's doing certain things that he's not.”

Posted in: Politics

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Zen and the Art of Being a Platypus

August 29th, 2016 11:22pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

“When analytic thought, the knife, is applied to experience, something is always killed in the process.” – Robert M. Pirsig.

Nuclear powered weasels frolic in the morning mist, as the chromosomes in my crooked toes silently tap to the rhythm of the spaghetti resting peacefully atop my chartreuse lawn mower.

Okay, that was gibberish. I wrote it to get your attention. And to help you exit your logical mind. Because today I want to muse about logic and labels – labels you apply to yourself and others.

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Pirsig observed that the scientific method often breaks things down into their component parts. Then we label those parts. For instance, we can describe a motorcycle by referring to the fuel system, the electrical system, and the power system. This process is useful, but somewhat artificial. When you look at a motorcycle, you won’t see anything labeled “fuel system.” We break things down and label them because it helps us think about and discuss things, but in doing so we often lose sight of the big picture – the motorcycle as a whole. Pirsig writes, “Mark Twain's experience comes to mind, in which, after he had mastered the analytic knowledge needed to pilot the Mississippi River, he discovered the river had lost its beauty.

Which brings me to the platypus. Biologists traditionally divided vertebrates (animals with a spine) into five categories - mammals, fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Mammals have fur and give birth to their offspring rather than laying eggs. Reptiles lay eggs. Amphibians can live on land or in water. Then along comes the platypus. It has fur. It lays eggs. It lives on land and in water. Is it a mammal, a reptile, or amphibian? Biologists got tired of debating this and gave up. They created a new class of vertebrates - monotremes (egg laying mammals). So now, there are six classes of vertebrates. Did God change the number from five to six?  No, man did. The universe and the animal kingdom stayed exactly the same.  Biologists just changed their way of looking at things.

I know what you’re thinking.  Cohen is sucking down shots of Jeremiah Weed, listening to vulgar Mojo Nixon tunes, and hammering away on his Panasonic CF-52 laptop because he has nothing better to do on a Friday night. True, but irrelevant. I could still be right.

Think about the labels we apply to ourselves and others. We always employ some version of the verb “to be” when we apply labels. There were four cliques at my high school – the jocks, the nerds, the freaks, and the hicks. But not every student fit easily into one of those four categories. There was a kid on my track team who mostly smoked dope. He missed many track practices. But he would somehow make it to the meets and almost always place first in the mile race. (This was before the pointy-headed liberal elitists at Harvard shamed us all into using the metric system).  Was that kid a freak or a jock? He was a platypus. He did not feel constrained to place himself into one of the artificial categories others had created.

Back in 1936, a young man was born in Texas. His father was an Army officer who pushed him hard. He was an exceptional athlete and became a Rhodes Scholar. After earning a master’s degree at Oxford, he joined the Army and became a helicopter pilot. So exceptional was he that the Army offered him a chance to teach at West Point. Sounds like a pretty straight laced guy, right? Certainly not the kind of man that would throw all that away and become a pot smoking, folk singing hippie. His name was Kris Kristofferson. Platypus.

Ever hear of Bruce Dickinson? Probably not. He flew Boeing 757’s for an airline. He wrote some books. He was nationally ranked in the sport of fencing. Oh yeah, he was the lead singer for Iron Maiden. Platypus.

You’ve probably never heard of Tom Scholz either. He was a nerd who earned a master’s degree at M.I.T. and then worked for Polaroid. Pretty boring dude until he formed the band, Boston. Platypus.

You don’t have to be a musician to be a platypus. Take the case of Charley L. Johnson, Ph.D. He spent most of his adult life as an unknown professor of engineering at New Mexico State University. Typical nerd. Oh yeah, he was the quarterback for the Denver Broncos for four years. He played pro football for 15 years, and during some of those years, he was studying for his doctorate and serving on active duty (not in the reserves) in the U.S. Army. Typical platypus. (Johnson wasn’t the only platypus ever to play Quarterback for the Broncos. For a very brief time, the Broncos had a quarterback named Fred Mortensen. He never achieved NFL success, but he is the only Broncos quarterback ever to call a play in Chinese. He spoke fluent Mandarin).

Don’t worry; you need not be an athlete to be a platypus. There once was a young man from a small town in Missouri who became a lawyer. The law bored him, so he gave it up and taught high school. He liked gazing at stars and began studying astronomy. His name is Edwin Hubble. He discovered that the universe is expanding. America named a telescope after him. The Platypus telescope.

Changing careers is a great way to show your platypusosity. You can go from actor to President (Ronald Reagan), comedian to U.S. Senator (Al Franken), Astronaut to U.S. Senator (John Glenn), carpenter to actor (Harrison Ford), lawyer to fried chicken king (Col. Sanders), farm worker to artist (Grandma Moses), teacher to comedian (Joy Behar), journalist to fashion designer (Vera Wang), or actor to Panama’s Minister of Tourism (Ruben Blades).

You can change your religious or spiritual views. You are not stuck with the labels your parents applied to you or that you applied to yourself. There was once a young man who, after working as a printer and banker, earned a master’s degree in theology and became an Episcopal priest. But he realized the statement, “I am an Episcopal priest” wasn’t accurate. He was just him. Episcopal priest was just his current occupation. Two different things. He wasn’t stuck with the label. So he decided to study Buddhism. His name was Alan Watts.

You can also reject political labels. When I tell people I am a registered Democrat, they are often surprised to learn that I support gun rights, favor tougher enforcement of immigration laws, and support making English our official national language. I am a political platypus.

You are you. Your labels are not you. You are more than the sum of your labels. Labels others apply to you are artificial classifications they are employing to make things easier for them – they do not change you in any way. The same is true for labels you apply to yourself. You can change the labels you apply to yourself.

Be careful with the word “is.”  To say, “She is a Republican” is simplistic. It would be more accurate to say, “She is currently registered to vote as a Republican.” But that is not who she is.  She may also be a mother, a guitarist, a scientist, and a rap music fan. 

If you want to be happy, stop feeling constrained by labels others apply to you or that you apply to yourself. Labels are just words, they are not you. And stop applying so many labels to others because those artificial labels are preventing you from seeing the entire person.

Some self-help gurus encourage their clients to visualize themselves as a lion or hard charging rhinoceros. That’s okay, but lions and rhinos lead pretty one-dimensional lives. I say visualize yourself as a platypus.

You can do it. Be one of the few. The proud. The platypuses.

Posted in: The Big Picture

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Hodge Podge

August 28th, 2016 8:05pm - Posted By: Roy Cohen

Lark Buntings Laughing in the trees,

 

Hoarding butterscotch by the threes;

Crying "shark" throughout the night,

Tasting coffee in their sight.

 

Lark Buntings grinning,

Dying fast;

Now who’s laughing,

Laughing last.

 

Kangaroos have gender foes,

Shooting tadpoles from their noses;

Playing pinball in the sand,

Joey hears the Promised Land. 

 

Hush little Joey hush,

Hush little Joey hush.

 

Apple seeds dance with merry,

To the horrid sounds of Joe Perry,

And his project,

His project failed.

 

License lends to licensees,

POWs on their knees;

Bike spokes cycle round the wheel,

Gong Show fans of mass appeal.

 

Taylor Daine and Tesla feud,

My Aunt Rose was so damn rude,

In her big senilitude.

 

Ponder questions rarely asked,

Space cadets are always last;

Sometimes after they’ve been gassed,

They hear their chromosomes,

They hear their chromosomes.

 

Electrical fooling machine works well on me,

Keith Olberman’s harsh reality steals my eccentricity;

It’s okay, I forgive the man,

Boston crab cakes in Siam.

 

Cleansers made from toxic powders,

Can’t connect without a router.

 

I draw conclusions from the clouds,

And talk as though I know McCloud;

Man, Chief Clifford’s so damn loud.

 

I like my water clean.

I like my water clean.

 

Spoken words are sewn by rhythm,

Doesn’t matter what’s within ‘em;

Music sounds from words of fashion,

Thoughts confused are another’s passion.

 

Take upon my oral list,

And weld the thoughts so often missed.

Feel the power, poets lurk;

Taste the gospel of their work.

Posted in: Poetry

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Three Models for an Analysis of the Aesthetic Value of Country Music

August 26th, 2016 1:21pm - Posted By: Mark Cohen

Three Models for an Analysis of the Aesthetic Value of Country Music

Posted in: Humor

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We Cannot Let a Madman Get Nuclear Weapons by Kim Jong-Un

August 11th, 2016 11:08pm - Posted By: Kim Jong-Un

The World Cannot Allow a Madman to Obtain Nuclear Weapons

By Kim Jong-Un

Editor’s Note: Mr. Jong-Un is the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea).  Mr. Jong-Un’s views do not necessarily reflect those of the Mountain-Ear.

Greetings Americans! I know our countries have had their differences, but there are times when adversaries must put aside their differences for the greater good – times when the danger created by non-cooperation is so great that survival itself depends on the willingness of enemies to set aside their squabbles and confront the greater threat. Now is one such time.

Since the dawn of the nuclear age, nations have worked together to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons and prevent rogue states from obtaining them. The traditional rationale for nuclear weapons has been deterrence. The theory is that nations with nuclear weapons can use their nuclear threat to deter attacks, thereby preserving peace.

If you think about it, deterrence has worked pretty well since the end of World War II. There have been no worldwide wars since 1945. However, one scenario that now haunts the community of nations is that a madman will obtain nuclear weapons and launch a nuclear attack that could result in our planet’s destruction. A few months ago, your President Obama said, “There is no doubt that if these madmen ever got their hands on a nuclear bomb or nuclear material, they would certainly use it to kill as many innocent people as possible.”

Last week, MSNBC reported that your Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, recently asked a foreign policy expert advising him why the U.S. can't use nuclear weapons. Such statements are of great concern to North Koreans and people around the world. What kind of madman thinks that way?

There is a great deal of other evidence suggesting that Mr. Trump suffers from serious mental illness. Making fun of a reporter with a disability. Ejecting a baby from a campaign rally. Calling a war hero like John McCain a loser. Joking about earning a Purple Heart. Bragging about the size of his penis on national TV. Calling for the assassination of Hillary Clinton even though he knows she could kill him just like she killed Vince Foster and tens of thousands of Bernie Sanders supporters. The man is simply not rational.

The United States has approximately 2,500 deployed nuclear weapons and another 2,600 in reserve, along with thousands of warheads in its inventory. It is the world’s most powerful nation. The thought of giving a madman like Donald Trump control of this arsenal is terrifying.     

Last week, President Obama said Mr. Trump is not temperamentally fit to be President. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea agrees. 

Therefore, although it pains me to say this, North Korea urges you to vote for Hillary Clinton. Especially if you live in a swing state.

Posted in: Politics

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Trump Vows to Fire Smokey the Bear

July 15th, 2016 11:47am - Posted By: Mark Cohen

On Sunday Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump vowed to fire Smokey the Bear if elected. Speaking to a crowd of more than fourteen people at the Foursquare Pentecostal Gospel Church in Clanton, Alabama, Trump vowed that if elected his first act would be to tell the famed symbol of forest fire prevention, “You’re fired.”

Noting that Democrats had long ago chosen a black bear to be the mascot of the U.S. Forest Service, Trump said, “The choice of a black bear was a meaningless act of political correctness and shows how racist the liberals are.”  Trump added, “We must choose our fire prevention mascots based on merit – not skin color.”

“When I am president,” Trump thundered, “my first act will be to make the polar bear the official symbol of forest fire prevention in America!” Buoyed by the cheers of the crowd, Trump added, “In 2016, there is no reason America’s fire prevention mascot can’t be white!”

After Trump’s speech, CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Trump whether it would be fitting to make the polar bear America’s symbol of forest fire prevention given that Alaska is the only state that is home to polar bears.  “Have you ever seen a forest fire any place where polar bears reside?” Trump responded. 

“There are no trees in the Arctic,” Tapper pointed out.

“I’m tired of your liberal BS,” Trump said. “That’s it.  No more interviews for CNN!”

Later that day on a Fox News program Trump repeated his vow to fire Smokey the Bear.  “Listen, “Trump added, “that corrupt skank Hillary Clinton may be in bed with the Black Lives Matter movement, but the Trump administration will be colorblind.”  Trump added, “In fact, I think we need to get rid of this ‘Give a Hoot! Don’t Pollute’ owl, too. Maybe replace him with a toucan or something. You won’t believe how much color America’s mascots will have in a Trump administration!”

Trump’s comments cast doubt over the future of McGruff the crime dog, who is black. A senior Trump advisor told me, on the condition of anonymity, that Trump may replace McGruff with a Chihuahua in an attempt to woo Hispanic voters. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has experience as Trump’s lap dog, is also a possibility. 

Posted in: Humor

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