For all the Marianne Williamson naysayers, who claim she’s a political lightweight, a spiritual leader who has no business in politics, check out Williamson schooling conservative pundit Dave Rubin in this hour-long interview on his show, The Rubin Report. There are some truly golden moments here where the “hot grandma,” as someone reduced her during the first Democratic Debates, schools the once comedian and ex-liberal.
Assuming Trump isn’t ran out of office on a rail before November 3, 2020, some serious decisions have to be made on who is going to run against him. Chances are we won’t be hearing of any fed up group of Republicans running through the West Wing with a long piece of timbre while the Grand Old Party (GOP) controls the upper house. It is morbidly fascinated how the GOP carries this vulgarian’s water. What will they say when their constituents have had enough of Trump and the voters will finally move them to act after going along with his dubious actions all this time? In the meantime, all we have is satire as in the bitterly humorous Saturday Night Live faux-film trailer The TBD Story. If Trump goes he will most likely be voted out of office in 2020 and that will be a harder task than some think.
In the meantime, the minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for at least ten years, we need to re-tool our health care system—either by plugging up the holes in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or moving to a Medicare for All solution. We are in five wars in the Middle East and Africa, we need to address climate change, clean up our electoral system, and get money out of politics to name only a few of the many serious challenges. There are some who believe that in order to defeat the sitting president these issues will have to be placed on the back burner go with a more moderate candidate.
Or maybe not.
With the exception of top-polling Biden, most of the Democratic candidates have platforms that are more to the Left than in any other time since the 1960s. It’s too early to tell, but maybe we are seeing the beginning of the end of the centrist Democrat. If you miss the Biden elephant (err donkey) in the room, it looks like the popular Democrats are beginning to lean to the Left. Maybe it is time for a change–I mean real change. But as I said, it’s too early to tell right now. Regardless of how things are right now, presidential elections are always both exciting and frustrating we also have a Republican who is challenging the president. Bill Weld could win if the Right ever finds the courage to stand up to Trump, which doesn’t look like that will happen since it would initially hurt the party.
So here is the list in quasi-alphabetical order. I gave each of my favorite candidates a *. While Bernie currently has my vote, I’m using my coveted splat, to separate the good (or great) from the rest of the meh-to-ugh herd. These aren’t predictions just a very brief evaluations of the current contenders. I also gave these candidates Greenpeace’s rating on their plans to address climate change. (BTW, both Trump and Weld got F grades from the environmental organization.)
Here are my main picks.
Then again, maybe my title is bullshit. Since declaring his candidacy, Biden has threatened to kill all chances of getting someone on the Democratic ticket that will promise any substantive change in Washington. Either Sanders or Warren could still prevail, but the centrist’s hope of a 2016 do-over is alive and well with Joe in the race.
Moderates believe that Biden has the best chance of pulling some of Trump’s votes away, though that is debatable. Just because Biden was Obama’s Vice President (VP) doesn’t necessarily mean the people voted for Obama then switched to Trump will now vote for Biden. It is true how it didn’t take some people long after Trump’s win to start pining over the good old days of the Obama years. Or as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) said in an interview on Yahoo News Skullduggery TV, “There’s an emotional element to that…But I don’t want to go back. I want to go forward.” Joe is a throwback to the perceived good-ole-days of Obama. Biden still believes in the ACA despite the corporate-friendly’s less than perfect success rate that stranded 30,000 Americans from health care.
Joe wouldn’t be on the top portion of this list if it weren’t for his popularity. He should be in the afterthoughts with Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Tim Ryan. The most significant reason Biden has a good chance is brand recognition. Of course, like everyone else in the horse race, history may catch up with the career politician from Delaware. Every candidate has some bad history to deal with, but Biden is a career neoliberal politician–there’s plenty of shit:
- His pro-corporate voting record in the Senate
- His tough-on-crime legislation that has resulted in more severe sentencing on African Americans and Latinos than Whites
- His horrible handling of Anita Hill questioning during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings
- His hawkish voting record including his votes on the Iraq War
All of that makes his shoulder rubs and hair smelling seem petty–at least for now.
It’s no surprise that Joe received a D- from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change.
Governor of Montana successfully expanded Medicare in his state and is also pro-LGBTQ rights and pro-choice which shouldn’t be a big deal considering he’s a Democrat, but he’s done this and has been reelected in a Red state that Trump won in 2016 by 20 points. Never mind the Bullock, he failed to make on to the first Democratic Debates on June 26 and 27.
While he thinks he is a pro-environment governor, Greenpeace thinks differently, giving him a D on his Greenpeace report card. Ouch!
Mayor Pete is a likable guy who had virtually no name recognition when he began his campaign. Now Buttigieg polls in the top five of the Dems. The Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, initially comes off as a very friendly and bright candidate. He claims to be a great admirer of Bernie Sanders, but he’s more complex, with plenty of contradictions and recently he gave in to big-money contributions and his past actions aren’t as friendly as his smile and demeanor and smile express. After he graduated from Oxford with a Rhodes scholarship the Sanders admirer, spend three years working for the controversial consulting firm of McKinsey & Company that helped the brutal Saudi Arabia regime and pharmaceutical companies like horrible Purdue Pharma push pain killers like OxyContin. His views on higher education are very different from someone like Sanders. His views on Israel and Palestine further separate him from the progressive wing of the party and his anti-Iranian comments are not what the Dems need–at least not what the Dems this side of Obama would desire. Buttigieg, like everyone else who is polling well at this point (except for Sanders and Biden) has jumped on a modified Medicare for all bandwagon, liking a single payer option while Sanders is still for the most ambitious version and Biden sticking with the ACA (at least for now). Buttigieg is not that great in my humble option, but the Democrats could do a lot worse. (Biden and all the candidates in the lower half of this post, for instance.)
Mayor Pete received a lowly C from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change.
Obama’s former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Castro’s says the three main planks to his platform are establishing a humane immigration policy that also entails revamping immigration enforcement by breaking up Immigration and Customs Enforcement, adopting universal health care, and aggressively addressing climate change.
Greenpeace gave Castro a lowly D+ score. Shame!
Bill de Blasio * (?)
I was proofreading this post when I heard of Mayor de Blasio’s entry into the 2020 Presidential race. Prepping this post for publishing and de Blasio still doesn’t have his platform out for America to see, just this self-serving, but accurate (to the best of my knowledge) campaign ad. The ad says more about what de Blasio has done as a mayor than what he would do as a president. I have followed NYC’s mayors from Rudy Giuliani’s response to 9/11 (and downhill from there), through the Stop & Frisk years of Michael Bloomberg, and what I interpreted has far superior leadership of the current mayor. The only reason why I place the question mark after the * is because while I’m impressive with de Blasio the Mayor de Blasio the Presidential Candidate hasn’t provided the voters with a campaign platform.
The Mayor announced after Greenpeace submitted their questionnaire to candidates on plans to address climate change.
Tulsi Gabbard (nearly a *)
It took me a while to find a website where Tulsi has laid out an aggressive platform, but her campaign wants you to check out a new website which doesn’t have her platform unless I’m blind. (Is she backing out of some of her campaign promises already?) While I can understand that Tulsi is behind Harris and Buttigieg in the polls–they have a certain star quality even if they have serious flaws—it is depressing to see that the promising Congresswoman from Hawaii is not keeping up with the likes of O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar, Castro, and Hickenlooper. This is a bad sign for the much better candidate. She has more political courage than nearly all of the candidates polling better than she does. For instance, she has said that Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange’s charges should be dropped, and Edward Snowden should be pardoned. She explained, “There is not an actual channel for whistleblowers like them to bring forward information that exposes egregious abuses of our constitutional rights and liberties, period.” Regardless of what you think of these actors, it takes guts to make these statements ahead of virtually everyone else.
I would love to give her a *, but I have concerns about Gabbard. Her views are, at times, anti-Arabic and often pro-strongman. Though her comments on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad are well known, thought out, and refreshing, as is her stand against regime-change wars, her admiration for brutes like Abdel Fattah el-Cisi of Egypt and Narendra Modi of India should give the voter pause. What’s worse, her perceived anti-Islamic stance have garnished her the unwanted support of the KKK and some other hate and fringe groups. There is also the issue of her views on LGBTQ rights. Gabbard opposed civil unions and same-sex marriage until the early 2000s. This was due to her Christian upbringing. She has been for same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights since the mid-2000s. Finally, while most of her money comes from individual contributions, she has taken Big Pharma contributions. This may be why her Medicare-for-all stance is not as progressive as other candidates are.
In 2016, Gabbard, who was a co-chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), criticized Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz decision to hold only six debates during the 2016 Democratic Party primary season rather than the usual 12-16. Many progressives, Bernie supporters, and politicos saw this as more of a coronation of Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC) by the DNC instead of a fair primary season. Gabbard resigned her post at the DNC in protest of the committee’s perceived unfair support of HRC and openly endorsed Sanders. She also was on the right side of Standing Rock—taking her place with the Native Americans and other protesters facing off against the militarized police and their water cannons. Elizabeth Warren only came out with objections to these injustices long after the dust had settled and it was politically safe to do so.
Sadly, she only received a B from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change.
Mike Gravel *
Mike Gravel has been in the fight against war and supports social justice longer than Bernie has! Gravel isn’t putting a lot of effort into this campaign. I think he’s only in the race to mix things up—to keep candidates honest by offering the best policies and then to compare them to others. He also didn’t make it to the first Democratic Debates on June 26 and 27, which is a shame. He would have challenged a lot of the biggest bullshitters like Biden, Booker, and Harris.
I would suggest we all follow Mike on Twitter @MikeGravel. His critiques of the other candidates, especially centrists, are spot on and, at times, quite funny. Here’s one from early June, “In a time when the global fight is between progressivism and fascism, history will not look kindly on those who declared themselves ‘moderates.'”
Greenpeace didn’t give Gravel a grade.
Despite her desperate attempts to let us all know she is Black (playing Tupac at book signings, dancing to Cardi B, using Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday the day to announce her run for the presidency.), Harris’ record with black Californians when she was Attorney General (AG) isn’t something very soulful. Harris is one of the better bets for the Democratic nominations. She may sound kinder, gentler now, but she wasn’t a progressive when she was California’s AG. Check her record. Besides her lock ‘em up approach in California, she’s a run of the mill centrist Democrat cut from HRC cloth. Her idea of giving a tax refund of $6000 to families making less than $100k a year and a refund of $3000 to individuals making less than $50k a year is a backward approach to solving poverty. Also, this plan doesn’t address folks who are unemployed or retired.
Tut-tut, Harris only received a C- from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change.
Inslee seems like a one-plank candidate, but it’s the right one: climate change. His campaign website doesn’t betray that rather myopic approach to running a presidential bid. As he told Dave Roberts of Vox, “I believe there is one central, defining, existential-with-a-capital-E threat to the future of the nation: climate change. It is clear that it will only be defeated if the United States shows leadership. And that will only happen if the US President makes it a clear priority — the number one, foremost, paramount goal of the next administration.”
Jay gets the highest grade out of all the presidential hopefuls from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change: an A-.
Bernie Sanders *
Bernie announced on February 19 and in 24 hours raised $6 million blowing the rest of the pack away. He also led the pack in the polls until Biden announced. He’s popular enough to get targeted for being too old (remember the press going after both Bernie and HRC last time?), a socialist (Yawn), and his base (they were too young to know better or the “Bernie Bros” were a bunch of misogynists). These days the press is going after his wealth (I guess being a rich Democratic Socialist is hypocrisy) sometimes throwing in some All-American antisemitism too! (He’s rich and stingy, folks and we all know what that means, wink, wink.)
Bernie has a comprehensive and detailed platform. As we have heard many times on TV and on YouTube, if you are paying attention, Bernie is for higher taxes on the 1% including raising the Estate Tax for multi-millionaires. He has a robust foreign policy platform—something he was criticized for lacking during his last presidential bid, Sanders hired Matt Duss, a foreign policy wonk who has filled in any gaps his previous presidential bid had.
Sanders is not perfect; he voted for Bill Clinton’s devastating Crime Bill though, is on record as being very critical of it up until he voted for the thing. Some of his floor votes having to do with our endless wars in the Middle East were dubious. For instance, he has criticized drone attacks on their ineffectiveness rather than their use. There’s plenty of other stuff to criticize him on, but he still is the best bet here unless you want to vote for Gravel or wait for an excellent third party candidate to throw away your vote on while feeling good about yourself.
In his latest book Where We Go From Here, Sanders correctly explains that while the U.S. has two major political parties when it comes to domestic issues it really only has one party when it comes to foreign policy. I’ve been studying this for years and it was vindicating to read it in an American politician’s letters. It’s interesting to note that part of Sanders’ success is that he has evolved from a time when he referred to both the Democrats and Republicans as “the ruling party.” When he first elected it to Congress in 1991, he was known as a political outsider and renegade. Consequently, he couldn’t get on a committee seat. I read somewhere (not in any of the Sanders books I have read) that Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank told him to “stop pissing in the punch bowl” (or something to that affect). Sanders mellowed out and finally struck a balance. He was then able to quorum with the Democrats and has grown in popularity ever since.
Much to my surprise, Bernie received only a B+ from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change.
Elizabeth Warren *
Warren isn’t a progressive, as she and most Democrats call themselves these days. (I believe the only Democrats running for president that are progressive are Gabbard, Gravel, Sanders, Williamson, and maybe de Blasio.) I still like her. She is probably the least favorite/most practical vote of the candidates I have given the treasured *. If it boiled down to Biden, Warren, and anybody else except for Bernie, I would betray my progressive allegiance and cast my vote for Liz.
In fact, Warren is far from a progressive. In Jacobin, writer Shawn Gude once compared Warren with Sanders: “Warren is a regulator at heart who believes that capitalism works well as long as fair competition exists; Sanders is a class-conscious tribune who sees capitalism as fundamentally unjust.” This is why I would always choose Sanders over Warren, but the senior Senator from Massachusetts is a decent person, a good lawmaker, and if Bernie doesn’t make it I think she is my candidate. Her campaign website is thorough though her views on war, intel, and security make me think she’s been hanging out with Diane Feinstein too much!
Warren received a B from Greenpeace on plans to address climate change.
Marianne Williamson *
Williamson is a terrific spiritual counselor, author, and activist who has helped and mentored countless people, including celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. I have listened to her speak many times dealing with matters of the heart, spirit, and love. Since she began her campaign, I have heard her talk politics, and I am impressed, but not entirely surprised. She has been an activist most of her life–working with the HIV/AIDS community, women’s advocacy, as well as fighting poverty and hunger. Check out where she stands on the issues. In my view, she would be better than almost all of the candidates listed here and she holds her own in tough TV interviews. Of course, she doesn’t stand a chance, though don’t tell that to my yoga teacher! She thinks she’s the answer to Trump. She deserves a place at the debates, but she might not meet the DNC’s new criteria for either of the upcoming debates. We will see.
I was surprised to see that Greenpeace gave Williamson only a C on plans to address climate change.
Andrew Yang *
I firmly believe Andrew Yang is a candidate that needs to be heard by more people. He is by far the most thought-provoking candidate on the 2020 campaign trail. (Noticed I didn’t say the best.) The Democratic Leadership in Iowa said he has the “most detailed and comprehensive set of policy proposals we’ve ever seen at this stage in the campaign” and it even dwarfs Sanders and Warren’s policy page in depth and breath.
If nothing else, Yang has provided us with the best quote from any candidate in this election cycle:
“The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian man who likes math.”
Too, he has the best anti-Trump campaign merch: A black baseball cap with the word “MATH” on it standing for “Make America THink” but I think it also implies “look at the data—don’t listen to the rhetoric.” While I like to think that most candidates are trying to reach Trump’s base, if at least to try to appeal to their rational side, Yang’s cap comes off as a “fuck you” to them. If I’m right, he will not reach the ex-Obama supporters who voted for Trump in 2016.
Yang calls himself the first nerd to run for president, and he just might be, but don’t be taken in by his charm. Looking at his proposed polices means some severe sacrifices to be made and chances to be taken. Adopting Yang’s ideas is in some ways abandoning Sanders’—many of them have become hard-won DNC policy objectives. Where Sanders says, “we have to fight for the little guy,” Yang almost suggests throwing in the towel. It’s what he wants to do with this growing amount of displaced workers that I find so fascinating. Where Sanders believes we can bring jobs back in one form or another via something like national works programs as in FDR’s New Deal or Rep. AOC/Sen. Ed Markey’s Green New Deal, Yang believes the jobs are going and will not return—at least in their original form. He refers to this as “The Great Displacement” in his book The War on Normal People.
Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are destined to replace truck drivers, assembly line workers, distribution line workers, fast food workers; as well as many educated, white collar workers like call center workers, radiologists and other medical staff, even investment advisers and no political movement will be able to stop this product of The Fourth Industrial Revolution which we are on the cusp of right now. Re-educating workers—something Sanders and others believe in–has a horrible success record, Yang claims. In his book, he treats automation and AI as our destiny, and that is where Universal Basic Income (UBI) comes in, what he calls the “Freedom Dividend,” giving it a political spin. If you don’t have the time or inclination to read Yang’s data-heavy book, check him out on YouTube.com. Many countries in European and around the world have implemented UBI with success, and Alaska has had a form of UBI in place since 1982.
Yang’s Freedom Dividend would place $1000 in the pockets of all adult Americans every month. It doesn’t matter if you have not participating in the workforce for years or you are David Koch–everyone gets the Freedom Dividend each month. Yang isn’t the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus. While he says he’ll fight for your Freedom Dividend, he won’t “Fight for $15.” In fact, Yang doesn’t believe in a minimum wage—your Freedom Dividend will pick up the slack while freeing up business owners to determine how much you are worth an hour. Hmm. His ideas have garnered him a patchwork of followers comprised of progressives, libertarians, socially-conscience Republicans, and yes, math nerds.
Another main plank to Yang’s comprehensive platform is Value-Added Tax (or VAT). VAT is what would finance for UBI. Also, if VAT is implemented it would be an unavoidable tax, everyone pays; from the manufacturer to the distributor, to the seller, and ultimately the buyer and that includes many corporations that currently dodge taxes like Amazon. View the short video above to see how VAT generates revenue. Many countries around the world successfully employ VAT.
Yang is for a conservative variation of a single payer health system. He has had an up-close experience with our byzantine health care system working as a VP of the software startup, MMF Systems, Inc. So, his experience with health care in America is unique on why we need to change our health care system especially because he sees so many jobs disappearing and with those jobs, many will lose their health benefits.
Before my oldest son got me to check out Andrew Yang and his Freedom Dividend idea, I read Rutger Bregman’s brilliant Utopia for Realists. The Dutch historian’s little masterpiece covers the history and benefits of UBI (as well as ideas on reduced work hours and open borders). I have attempted to reach Bregman for his thoughts on the only U.S. presidential candidate who is pushing for UBI, I haven’t heard word back, but I am sure the Dutchman and the candidate disagree on far more things than they agree on. As I recall Bregman stresses how UBI can fight poverty as well as the depression that often comes with long-term joblessness. I believe in $15 an hour minimum wage, labor working with businesses when integrating automation and AI, and instituting UBI (having VAT pay for it). Let’s be honest, $1000 a month to someone who is gainfully employed would be great–it would allow for more recreation time and the spending would stimulate the economy. To the unemployed, $1000 would be a helping hand. Also, to a homemaker or a single mom (Yang often references his wife who works at home and doesn’t get a dime for it) $1000 would give the homemaker more free time. Though I know Bernie Sanders is not a fan of UBI, I think UBI would benefit Sanders’ and other candidates’ platforms.
Here’s a Marxist reply to UBI as a replacement for lost jobs due to automation and AI. Note: If you don’t want to watch the whole program skip to the 19:25 mark where Professor Richard Wolff gets to the solution.
Despite Yang’s impressive proposed policies, Greenpeace only gave him a lowly D+.
Finally, there are these boring candidates:
Bennet’s campaign page reads like a middle school civics text book–something your parents would approve of, but with a conservative approach to our health care problem and our climate change challenge. We could do better.
The once heroic mayor of Newark, NJ, is now someone I wish would just go away. He–like everyone in this sad grouping has been bought by corporate America.
Delaney is a boring centrist who sounds similar to Biden: uninspiring, suggesting half-measures, and seems to be focus solely on beating Trump. He deserved being booed for a solid minute at the California Democratic Convention after telling the crowd that Medicare for All is neither good policy nor politics. He’s another multi-millionaire politician protecting his Big Pharma backers. Next.
Senator Gillibrand fancies herself a progressive. Oy! She used to be a Blue Dog Democrat when she was in the House, which is to say she sucked. If she really is a progressive, she’s a shitty one–taking all that money from Wall Street and big law firms. Pass.
The guy with the last name you just can’t imagine the word “President” in front of without laughing is another boring centrist that that once compared Sanders to Stalin. He deserved the boos he received at the California Democratic Convention like Delaney. The only thing interesting about him is his surname.
She’s famous enough for Grammarly to correct my failed attempt at spelling her name and there are some other interesting things about the U.S. Senator from Minnesota, but it is quite a tell when Republicans like this Democrat. She’s known to be a pragmatist—having a good relationship with Republicans as well as neoliberal Democrats (not including some staffers, I understand). This reminds me of Obama, and we all know how that turned out.
His “Change Can’t Wait” commercial is stylistic and the tagline sound familiar. There’s not much more I can say about him other than he didn’t make the debate cut.
This guy didn’t make it on to the debate stage either. I sure sign he won’t be a round very long. The only thing good I can say about Moulton was something he said to a reporter from Intelligencer when the reporter commented that Joe Biden is the “most foreign-policy forward person in the race” and “the one with the most legislative and executive experience” Moulton shot back, “I think it’s time for the generation that went to Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the generation that sent us there.” Aside from that, he mainly spouts more uninspiring centrist tripe. Next.
Barack Obama told David Axelrod on the podcast “The Axel Files” about his one-on-one meeting with O’Rourke, “He’s Barack Obama, but white.” Not the ringing endorsement you might want, especially when O’Rourke came into the race with no platform, telling his audiences he was looking for ideas. Beto doesn’t fill me with much–if any–confidence. I liked him better when he was trying to take Ted Cruz’s seat because anybody would be better than Ted Cruz would. Just like when he was in the House of Representatives, he is still taking corporate money, so it is no surprise that O’Rourke is backing Medicare for America.–the medical industrial complex’s answer to the rising popularity of Medicare for All. I’m sticking with Bernie’s plan. Hey Beto, if you run against Ted in 2024 I’ll throw more money your way.
There’s not much to say about Congressman Ryan representing Ohio other than he makes me sleepy just listening to him. He appears to have no fresh ideas. I was surprised he is in the first round of debates.
Swalwell is the guy who has promised he would choose a female as a running mate if he were nominated. Good for you, Eric!
Then there are the Third Parties and Independents
In 2000 I was one of the spoilers that helped George W. Bush win the presidency by voting for Ralph Nader. Well, not really, but I pissed some people off when, after the election, I told them I voted for the Green Party Candidate. In 2012, I cast a “protest” vote for Jill Stein. In both cases, my votes had no affect except to make me feel good.
It’s too early (for me at least) to pick any obvious candidates from a third party that I would want to win, and I get to vote for someone that makes me feel good–like Ralph Nader. Instead, I get the feeling that, like in 2016, I’m going to be holding my nose and voting for an unpopular Democrat in 2020. Looking at the long list on the Ballotpedia site I found such Independent and Nonpartisan presidential hopefuls as “Sexy Vegan,” “Seven the Dog,” “Internet Beef,” and representing the “Ace Party,” “Voice Over Pete.”
One thing is for sure, there’s one person (besides Trump, of course) who I definitely won’t be voting for…
Howard Schultz (What is the antithesis of an *?)
With candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren in the field, there is a chance we can have a candidate with a progressive tax system. Enter Howard Schultz, the billionaire coffee magnate and ex-NBA team spoiled-sport owner that promises to protect our limousine tax code, not improve our horrible health care system, just make things better than they are with Trump. His campaign should be called “Let them drink lattes!” So far, the only “campaign” promise he has made is to ensure that the tax dreams of lawmakers like AOC, Warren, and Sanders are nothing more than that. His stalled campaign only harps on how horrible Trump is and that the two-party system is broke. Stop the presses, boys, Howie has a revelation! Recently, people close to him have explained his silence: business-friendly Biden is now in the race. If Biden is not nominated, Schultz may run as an Independent, possibly siphoning off some votes that might go to a Sanders or a Warren. That is making some progressive politicos like Mike Figueredo (below) very angry.
So there you have the candidates–well, at least the ones with name recognition. Of course, some of these may drop out before the debates start, and even more before the convention. But would if it comes down to Biden? I mean, look at the field? The majority of the candidates would throw their support to Biden over Sanders. Maybe this is why I can see most Democrats holding their collective nose and “voting sensible.” I guess my Yeats pun would “fall apart.” (Okay, I’ll stop.)
While the Democratic Party seems to be moving to the left, the specter of four more years of Trump governs that forward motion. And that is truly depressing. It’s too early to tell at this point, but the prospect of a truly liberal and anti-neoliberal party is almost enough to make jump for joy, but it’s too early for the streamers, balloons, party hats, and horns.
I’ll leave the last word about moving forward in American politics to a Dutchman.
My wife and I spent two weeks in Vietnam and China recently. Below are some images from the trip. The main part of the vacation was in Vietnam. The time in Beijing was a stop off on the way home to visit with our son, his beautiful wife and their adorable two daughters.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
There is almost no semblance of traffic control in Vietnam: no traffic lights (except for the very rare ones on large streets); there are no crosswalks nor indicators for pedestrian crossings. Scooters outnumber cars and trucks 10 to 1. It is controlled chaos. Pedestrians cross streets when it looks safe and the scooters ride around the pedestrians like water around river rocks. Even the sidewalks weren’t safe. Scooterists helped themselves to use what we take for granted as walkways part of the road as well as scooter parking spaces. As fun as the three cities we visited in Vietnam, it took a toll on us. We were exhausted each night when made it back to our hotel. The weather had us in shorts and all I could think of is getting clipped in the calf, chin, or Achilles’s heal by a scooter’s foot peg.
My first authentic banh mi. I was worried about eating pork due to African Swine Fever which hit Vietnam back in 2017. Still, I ate pork three times in first two days. I worried about drinking water. This was remedied by always drinking bottled water (assuming the local bottlers were properly filtering their product), and I worried about drinking any iced drinks since it was highly likely the ice came from non-filtered water. As it turned out I drank four drinks with ice in them. So much for being cautious.
We took a Mekong Delta tour where we visited the Tho Xa My Phong; Vinh Trang Pagoda, drank coconut juice right from a coconut with lunch–just like an obvious tourist. We also watched caramel candy being made, visited beehives, and a honey bottling operation.
The following day we visited the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden. We skipped the animals. Too depressing. We toured the Palace of Reunification where–before Saigon fell–the building used to house the South Vietnamese President.
Nha Trang is an international vacation spot where English takes a rumble seat to Russian. In fact, most of the non-Vietnamese we heard was Russian. This goes back to the Soviet Union days where Soviets vacationed above the 17th Parallel. After the reunification, Russians started vacationing further south. In some ways, this is their Mexico–a relatively close, cheap, and warm place to kick it. A lot of cigarettes are sold here, sometimes via “cigarette girls” walking the streets. Russians obviously didn’t get the memo on the health hazards of smoking. Russians can pick people like us out–holding hands while crossing the street, sometimes frozen in the middle of the street in fear. One Russian snapped at us mid-crossing, “Cross with confidence!”
These are common images. People sitting or lying on their scooters. The guy on the left is one of many Grab riders–Asia’s answer to Uber. There are supposed to be Grab taxis, but all we saw were scooters. The picture on the right was taken in Saigon.
I was enjoying vacation so much I forgot politics and political podcasts and just deleted my alerts. As of this posting, I’m still not listening to most of them. It feels nice. The whole time we were in Vietnam and Beijing Sacramento was experiencing some serious rainfall. I’m glad we got the rain and even happier that I dodged it.
A word about Vietnam (and as I would find out later) Beijing napkins. They don’t offer very big ones–very skimpy ones, to be honest. However, every meal comes with a wet nap. I would open them right away and place them on my lap which was awkward–especially when we were in Saigon and Nha Trang since I wore shorts and could feel my shorts getting damp as I ate.
The first 24 hours in Hanoi were fun. Our hotel was near St. Joseph’s Cathedral. I had hot and iced Vietnamese coffee quite often while I was Vietnam. The fourth and fifth images below are from a walking street food tour we took on the second night. The pho was good, but I didn’t feel well after eating the meat in it. For our last stop we had Vietnamese coffee with a whisked egg yolk in it. It was the best coffee I had the whole trip, but thinks didn’t feel so good in my gut by this time. A couple of hours later I was tossing everything up I had that day and then some. I spend our last day in Vietnam retching and praying this all would be over by the time I got to the airport. It was, but that was a horrible 24 hours.
Here are more of Alanis. (I guess the secret is out, I’m a proud grandfather.) The last one is of Alanis and Grandpa, Bin Man’s father.
Only a couple of things left to do before leaving Beijing for home:
Funny thing is, Peter had a concern about me walking around Tiananmen Square with a sheet of paper with words on it–as if it could be interpreted as a protest sign to someone of authority that doesn’t read English. Seconds after raising the harmless sign for the picture, I was confronted by someone from–I think–the People’s Liberation Army, but he just wanted me to move along and was quite polite about it. I shuddered later thinking it could have been someone pushing me into a paddy wagon!
When I was regularly reviewing burgers in the Sacramento area on this site I found at least three restaurants that served some of the best burgers in town that were easily within walking distance from my office. Esquire Grill and Grange made excellent burgers, but the best burger in the neighborhood was from Ella’s; an exquisite specimen made from Wagyu beef, Gruyere, and topped with a sunny-side up egg! All of the above were, and I imagine still are, nice places to eat where the burger will run you from $15 to $20. I don’t spend that much on lunch anymore nor do I eat much beef–it’s easier on the digestive system and on the planet to stick with poultry and veggies. On the occasions when I eat out, I take it easy on my wallet. One place that is more practical and yet very good is La Cosecha: a patio-style Mexican restaurant in Cesar Chavez Plaza here in Downtown Sacramento. Its main customers during the week appear to be civil servants, like myself, on lunch breaks, but from its impressive website, La Cosecha is also open for dinners and weekend brunch, so this only shows what a homebody I am. La Cosecha, or in English “The Harvest,” is impressive considering its small footprint and funky design on the west side of Cesar Chavez Plaza.
The place used to be called Cafe Soleil and it had less of a restaurant, more of a taco stand feel: line out the door because the food was good and the understaffed crew seemed unorganized. The windows and glass doors were covered in pastel-colored copy paper that featured the latest new and scratched menu items. Some of these signs were misspelled and often used unnecessary quotation marks that only gave the place charm. I don’t remember what kept bringing me back, the excellent breakfast burritos or the unintentionally humorous signage.
When the owner died after a long bout with cancer, her partner took over, but could not make it work and Cafe Soleil closed in or around early 2015. This was mostly due to renovations the City was doing to the plaza that made it difficult for the restaurant to attract customers with construction signs and fencing perpetually around. After Cafe Soleil closed the structure remained vacant for a couple of years and the eves of the building became a respite for the homeless that claimed the plaza after hours and on the weekends.
When the building reopened as La Cosecha in May of 2017, it was with a consistent menu, a full wait and kitchen staff and inviting details that made it look less like a taco stand and more like a sit-down restaurant. The only thing quirky I noticed about the place is how customers were discouraged to use the convenient side doors near the to-go window herding them through the front door even if they wanted to pick up an order. It’s a little confusing, but not a big deal.
La Cosecha’s menu features a lot of great sounding stuff. If I don’t watch it I’ll be camped here every lunch until I have tried all the dishes. Also, their Saturday/Sunday Brunch items make me want to get up early on the weekends and make the trek. Normally, though I stick with either their fish or chicken tacos. On this day; however, I wanted to try a torta and found just below the two tortas entries, a hamburger. I had to check it out–GI tract and environment be damned! I’ve been to run-down Mexican drive-ins that have called their hamburger a torta, but I believe that is a misnomer. La Cosecha clearly makes the distinction on their menu. So, in the spirit of honest labeling, I am having today, the Mexico City Burger.
The Mexico City Burger (CDMX) is an eight ounce beef patty, topped with melted cheese, mild poblano chile peppers, pickled onions, arugula, Cosecha’s special sauces on a large sesame seed bun. The poblano and the pickled onions give the Mexico City Burger a one-of-a-kind taste. I can’t say it ranks with any of the burgers I listed at the top of this post, but it is also about four dollars cheaper and a very different experience. The melted (or Fundido) cheese also gives the burger a festive taste–like nachos on a burger. This is not the kind of dish you want to order on a first date–it is messy with each bite the molten cheese pulls apart so that you often have to use your other hand to manage the stringy cheese. As for the arugula, well that’s just the chef’s damn good taste! Oh yeah and the waitress and Google helped me with the trailing parenthetical acronym: CDMX stands for Ciudad de Mexico or Mexico City. Thanks, waitress!
The fries aren’t bad, but lack the character of the main event: plain, but crispy steak fries where I was hoping for some Mexican seasoning or some other element that made them stand out. The dish is served with a ramekin of ketchup and a steak knife. I didn’t need the ketchup, but as I struggled with the molten cheese I knew I should have used the knife! I was grateful the bun held up and didn’t disintegrate as so many buns do when handling these kinds of ingredients.
As I write, this I can tell I am jonesing for some more La Cosecha. This burger is worth a reprise, but there are so many other things to check out: Carnitas De La Plaza, Tijuana Caesar Salad, and maybe one (or both) of the two real tortas. Buen provecho!
“I would like to electrocute everyone who uses the word ‘fair’ in connection with income tax policies.” — William F. Buckley, Jr.
’Tis impossible to be sure of any thing but Death and Taxes – The Cobbler of Preston by Christopher Bullock
Maybe it is because America fought a war over taxes that taxation has such a bad rap in this country. The only thing I hate about taxes are is annually preparing them. Personally, I don’t mind paying my fair share of income tax or gas tax or tax for other goods and services. I never have minded this seemingly Un-American duty. When I gazed upon the stub of my very first check from Taco Bell, I truly believed the funds pulled out of my gross pay was going to something worthwhile and/or necessary.
My introduction to the “evils” of taxation came when I voted in my second election. It was 1978 and Proposition 13 was the biggest item on the ballot. Prop 13 was the property tax revolt initiative introduced by Howard Jarvis and Paul Gann that radically changed California tax code–many people would later say for the worst. Though I recall my father, a Democrat at the time, was a big supporter of the initiative. I was neither aware of the damage the passage of the measure would reap down the road nor why the voter referendum was so popular. (Though many years later my father would say that property taxes were out of the control and Prop 13 fixed the problem.) I assume there was truth in that, but around the time the initiative was placed on the ballot, my father was on his way to becoming a Reagan Democrat and then a full-blown Rush Limbaugh-listening Republican so he may have also been on his way to being more fiscally conservative.
I am guessing I parroted my father’s ballot choices on many of the candidates and initiates on the 1976 and 1978 ballots. Sometime before the polls opened in those two elections my Dad, Mom, and I would sit down at the dinner table with our sample ballots and my Dad would give his reasons why he was voting for what candidate and for what initiative. I remember him stressing how we should all vote for the same things or we would be “canceling out” each other’s votes. My Mom would always tell me later with a wink that she was going to vote for whomever and whatever she wanted. Still, I didn’t understand anything about property taxes only that I didn’t pay for them. I also didn’t understand where the tax money went. Over the years I would figure it out with law enforcement and fire departments experiencing budget cuts, with people being thrown out of the apartments due to no rent control, and the State has to resort to the lottery to prop up our depressed schools. Wealthy neighborhoods were able to supplement their State education funds with local taxes that bolstered neighborhood public schools. The creation of charter schools also helped the affluent districts while negatively affecting depressed districts. Schools in depressed areas have to depend mostly on State taxes that Proposition 13 gutted. The long-coming teachers strike in Los Angeles is an example of counties taking back some of the monies lost due to Prop 13 and charter schools in rich school districts. The teachers tentative got back more nurses, more counselors, got more middle-school and high-school librarians and the teachers received a 6% raise. Will this raise taxes in Los Angeles County? I can’t see how it wouldn’t, but we are talking about our future. First Chicago, then West Virginia, then Oklahoma, now L.A. with strike talk happening in Denver and Oakland. We are seeing a reckoning a long time coming. Hopefully, this trend will ultimately affect the entire K-12 public schools in the U.S.
I learned another lesson on how fickle Americans can be when it comes to taxes and what taxes can buy or save on a local level. A couple of years after I most likely followed my father’s lead and voted Yes on Proposition 13 I became an employee of Tower Theatre–one of the last classic movie palaces in Sacramento at a time these kinds of theaters where closing down across America and video rental shops like Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, and Redbox were on the rise. While working as part of the floor staff I would hear older patrons go on about The Alhambra–a true movie palace that harkened back to the Golden Age of Hollywood. When it fell into disrepair in the early 1970’s Safeway Stores purchased the property and building to develop one of their supermarkets on the site. As Matias Bombal, local cinema impresario explained the doomed theater’s fate in a letter to the editors of Sacramento News and Review dated March 28, 2004:
“The blow was not delivered by Safeway, but by the people of Sacramento. Safeway Stores, upon hearing the tremendous public outcry of its potential destruction, offered the building and property back to the City of Sacramento for exactly what they paid for it. A special bond measure election was held to raise money to buy the property, and Sacramentans, likely not interested in additional taxes at that time, voted against it. With no acceptance by the City or any private party to buy the Alhambra, Safeway proceeded with their development.”
Safeway had the new store’s entrance designed in a vague homage to the movie palace’s front and it retained the water fountain now in the south side of the parking lot, but for many, these were hollow gestures. Now people pine about the long-gone movie palace, but I always wonder if some of the people bellyaching about the theater’s demise long for it, but not the tax that would have saved it from the wrecking ball. Apparently, at the time most people were watching their wallets and not the big silver screen.
I spent most of my adult years a political junkie, I spent most of the 1990s politically out of it while my wife and I raised a family. It was in 2000 with the election of George W. Bush I jolted back into politics especially when Bush doled out a huge tax cut for the rich and started two wars on a credit card. Before he left office when would me deep in debt. I became even more in tune with politics in the 2008 presidential election. Around that time, I recall all kinds of chicken little comments revolving around candidate Barack Obama, the U.S. Senator from Illinois. Besides the dog whistle racism, there were the fears that he was a socialist. While I hadn’t become a Democratic Socialist yet, I knew Obama was not a socialist–far from it. I recall an interview with the now disgraced Bill O’Reilly. The host’s opening comment went something like, “You’re a big tax-the-rich guy.” I looked up the video on YouTube and was reminded of Obama’s reply, “[chuckling] Just you, Bill.” I recall remembering that O’Reilly was the highest paid TV announcer of the time. Only a handful of primetime anchors make anything close to that amount, but the amount of money seemed ridiculous. (I will come back to this point later.) Why do the networks pay out that much for a talking head? It’s not as if they are professional athletes. (And don’t get me started on how much athletes get paid.)
As it turned out Obama really wasn’t that big of a “tax-the-rich guy.” True, taxes did increase a little to pay for the huge Affordable Care Act, but that wasn’t much compared to all the right-wing hype. Obama followed the Clinton centralist Democrat playbook, fiscally being about as center-right as any president since Reagan. Now, only social issues separated the two parties. Obama’s cabinet was a who’s-who in neoliberalism: Lawrence Summers, Timothy Geithner, Tom Perez, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel. Still, it was all the birthers, dog-whistle politics, and the unfounded “weak on Putin” crap that pissed me off. What is wrong with being a tax the rich guy, anyway (even if you’re not)?
It was Obama’s (and let’s not forget W’s) decision to bail out the banks with taxpayer money that helped birth the Tea Party movement. Or at least that is what most people like me believe. We know now that, unlike the later Occupy Wallstreet movement, the Tea Party movement was mostly Astroturfed, or as the historian, Thomas Frank put it: “Never has there been a phonier, more transparent bid to mislead an angry public. Supposedly a protest against bank bailouts, it was actually launched from among the futures traders on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange—and then backed to the hilt by Beltway libertarians looking for a way to distance themselves from the badly damaged Republican brand.”
I didn’t like the Tea Party movement, but I was too busy at the time feeling betrayed by Obama and Democrats. I felt the party had lost its political courage. When the catastrophic 2010 midterms came around and the recession deepened I was ready to leave the party. I was looking for someone to believe in. Barack Obama did more to push me to the left–the real left than anything else. I hadn’t read The Nation since my college days. I began reading it every week now. I found some hope in its pages or maybe all it did was rile me up. I was introduced to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)–I immediately became a member. I also discovered Bernie Sanders and his newly published book The Speech, the transcript of a nearly nine-hour filibuster by the Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont in December of 2010.
The filibuster was so inspiring that the volume of viewers watching the now historic speech on C-SPAN crashed the Senate server. Sanders had been around for years and I found articles in The Nation that went back to the days he was the radical Mayor of Burlington, but he was brand new to me thanks to the myopic mainstream press. Bernie was a member of the DSA. I also liked how he went after corporations and the ultra-rich. I bought and read The Speech in a record time for me. Then, I sought out the C-SPAN video of the filibuster, downloaded it on to my PC and watched it–mesmerized–over two nights late into those evenings. For me, Sanders was the voice crying out from the neoliberal wilderness (though I didn’t know what “neoliberalism” meant at the time). After reading the book and watching the filibuster, I began spending more time on YouTube looking for more of Sanders speeches and interviews. To be honest I really don’t remember when I found the video below of Elizabeth Warren that reiterated what I have thought about taxes for quite some time now. It appears to have been taped in the Bush years, but I think I found it later. I’m not sure now. It predates Warren, the U.S. Senator. Perhaps it was when she was an Obama appointee. Whatever its release time Warren’s take on taxes is spot on.
Later, during Bernie’s 2016 presidential run I heard conservative friends and associates complain that Bernie wanted to give away “free stuff.” I pointed out that the “free stuff” they were referring to were critical in getting the economy and the poor and middle-class prosperous again, but all they saw were higher taxes. My retort was higher taxes for whom? Not us! This “free stuff” was to help educate and assist the people who keep the economy rolling like Elizabeth says in the video. It is frustrating how so many people–especially conservative, but mainline Democrats, too–think a healthy economy has absolutely nothing to do with taxation that keeps public services firing on all eight. When the attacks on Sanders’ “free stuff” were less abusive, they tended to be patronizing: an otherwise very intelligent, conservative, woman who works in a cubicle near me was so concerned that all these millennials were cheering for Bernie and all the things he promised (e.g. free public college education, college debt forgiveness, Medicare for all, paid family and medical leave, creating a jobs program, $15 an hour minimum wage, strengthening and expanding Social Security, et al.) with no way of generating the revenue to pay for these these things except through raising taxes. I kept my mouth shut. I knew the answer. Sanders had laid out how these services would be funded, but the mainstream press and especially Fox News (which I assumed this otherwise smart woman was getting her news spoon fed to her conveniently left out the part of Sanders’ plan. Bernie has explained how these programs would be funded, I could send this link to anyone who thinks these ideas are foolish, but it is far worse to think we should stay the course and what the middle class continues to shrink. When Sanders wasn’t speaking about this “free stuff” he wanted to give away to undeserving citizens who were strapped with debt or sinking below the poverty line he was talking about corporate taxation, taxes on Wall Street speculation, estate taxes, and other taxes that made the candidate the target for smears by the DNC, the Washington Post, the New York Times and the nearly every other mainstream media outlet.
The best things that came out of Bernie 2016 were the progressive political action organizations Our Revolution, Brand New Congress, and Justice Democrats, and one of the candidate’s organizers: Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. Ocasio-Cortez ran and defeated the ten-term incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley for the New York’s 14th Congressional District. From there she easily defeated her Republican opponent in the general in 2018 and at age 29 became the youngest woman to be elected into the Congress. As a freshman Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC) would float the idea of a progressive marginal Federal income tax to Anderson Cooper on CBS’ 60 Minutes. A kind of tax rate we have not seen in this country since the 1970s. AOC told Cooper, “If you look at our tax rates back in the ’60s when you had a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, let’s say, from zero to $75,000 maybe ten percent or 15 percent, et cetera. But once you get to, like, the tippy tops–on your 10 millionth dollar–sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent. That does not mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.” That last sentence is critical since Cooper suggested AOC is a “radical.” This from a man who makes $12 million annually. Fox News’ Sean Hannity was outraged by AOC’s suggestion and misquoted her tax idea multiple times to Fox’s angry, white middle-class viewers. By the way, Hannity is reported to pull down a ridiculous $36 million a year.
Above AOC explains–again–how a marginal tax rate works, this time on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. The graph below is a visual history of how this country taxed the rich. Things went all to hell when Reagan took office. After AOC floated the marginal tax reform, I found two of my favorite podcast hosts talking about it. Jeremy Scahill on Intercepted brought up the subject of marginal tax rates with Stephanie Kelton, the popular economist and adviser to the Bernie Sanders 2016 campaign. Listen here at the 31:40 mark. Also, Richard Wolff talked about it on his January 23, 2019 installment of Economic Update. Pick up Prof. Wolff’s discussion about tax reform at the 15:28 mark. But most remarkable was Jamelle Bouie’s piece in the Op-Ed section of January 28, 2019, New York Times. Bouie’s writes how inequality has highly negative consequences on society and that AOC’s marginal tax reform idea, Elizabeth Warren’s tax plan, as well as many of Sanders ideas are gaining traction because the fact that “trickle-down” economics has never worked, that a healthy middle-class is what creates jobs by purchasing good and services which in turn creates more demand that results in jobs growth and higher wages. Since Occupy Wall Street and especially since the Sanders campaign and the wake of activism that has followed more people are figuring this out.
On a personal note, I don’t think anyone in my family (with the possible exception of my two sons) sees the world the way I do. My brother is a wealthy fiscal conservative. When my father was alive we used to argue over politics until we both come to the conclusion that neither of us is going to change the other’s mind so we stopped. The last political exchange we ever had, I think, had to do with a draconian budget proposal by Paul Ryan. My dad liked it and wanted to know what I thought. I just now qualified it as “draconian” so the reader knows how I felt about it. Still, I held my tongue and said something like I don’t know much about it and the subject was dropped. The last time I tortured a family member with my politics it was about income taxes and my mom was the victim. She told me that an affluent family we have known for years moved to Nevada because the income taxes were more favorable. I knew it was none of my damn business, but it just rubbed me the wrong–a well off couple spending virtually their entire lives in California enjoying all that the state has to offer–much of it due to taxes. Then move across the border. I know that’s not as bad as millionaire tax shelters, offshore accounts, et al, but it still–emotionally if not intelligently–rubbed me the wrong way. I made some comment that I bet they could handle paying the State taxes considering what they got out of the State over the years. It was a dumb argument, I know. I just got turned off how a wealthy family who I assume are pretty much set for life wants more. My mom snapped at me about how it was their money and they could do what they want with it. I shut my mouth at this point and salvaged our lunch date.
Every once in a while, I run into David, a lobbyist for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association motoring his way to the Capitol on his electric wheelchair. David is a fellow Christian. We met through a Bible study I used to attend at the State Capitol and it is mainly because of this connection I say hello and ask how he’s doing whenever I see him. I feel a little shame that I have a bad taste in my mouth whenever we exchange hellos. It’s an especially bad feeling because he is a perfectly well-mannered individual and if you asked him about me I am sure he would say that while he doesn’t really know me very well there is absolutely no animus between us. But for me, that’s not completely true. Back when we were in the Capitol Bible study he would make a comment every occasionally that rubbed me the wrong way. Maybe it was about the homeless problem or welfare. A better person–a better Christian–might confess his ill feelings and then hope the two would talk and pray it out, but I hold my tongue and just stew in it. I know he wouldn’t say anything stone cold about people less fortunate than us, but I’m pretty sure he would say or may actually have said something like “the State shouldn’t be responsible for the homeless, people below the rising poverty line–the church needs to step up.” (The church–as if it was a monolithic entity with a large budget and enough service workers to pull off these needed services so conservatives who don’t want their tax dollars going to the destitute can sleep at night knowing “The Church” is at work–regardless of they are putting any scratch in Sunday’s offering plate. Then again, maybe it’s my prejudice against his lobby firm he works for. I seem to think of Howard fucking Jarvis every time I see David motoring towards the Capitol or his office. As long as I envision depressed and overcrowded schools with overworked and underpaid teachers, Howard Jarvis pops into my head.
When I see David in his wheelchair riding from his office to the Capitol or back, or drinking a latte at Oblivion Comics and Coffee I have the opportunity to talk politics, but I envision him sounding like one of those anti-gas tax initiative commercials or telling me how the California Lottery is filling the gap his crappy Prop 13 created. (He’s younger than me by well over 20 years. He wasn’t born when the tax initiate made it on the ballot.) Yeah, I know, I need to let this go. It’s a free country, right? Not only that, we’re supposed to be hermanos en Cristo, for Cristo sake. Still, I marvel how people don’t want to pay for anything that just might help the community at large and especially the less fortunate if it means forking out some of their own earnings.
Taxes, especially fair income taxes, estate, taxes in the form of offshore penalties, taxes on capital gains, and dividends taxes can be great equalizers. And, yes, I do believe you can have too much money regardless of what you do for a living. Though there are plenty of rich people who would disagree with me. Enter billionaire Howard Schutz of Starbucks fame, who thinks he can make America great again by running as an independent centrist and hopefully defeating all the Democrats that are now jumping on the progressive tax bandwagon. President-hopeful Starbucks calls the tax ideas of AOC and Warren “punitive.” No shit Schultzy, you’re a fucking billionaire! Any truly progressive tax plan is going to make Daddy Starbucks feel like he’s been kicked in the balls every April 15. And downstream the least of us will see improvements. I’m all for that! If you ask U.S. Senator (and possible presidential-hopeful) from Ohio, Sherrod Brown he would call Schultz a “total idiot.” or as Robert Wright in his The Mindful Resistance Newsletter (January 27-February 2, 2019) said it a bit more decorously “If you’re a billionaire, and you live in a country that’s in the throes of a populist revolt on both the left and the right, and the country is being run by a guy who figured being a billionaire qualified him for the White House and is now widely loathed, maybe you should sit this one out.”
I know everyone has a right to their own opinion, but whenever someone like Schultz or one of those grossly over-paid news commentators or one of the mouthpieces of the Koch Brothers, the Walton family, or Sheldon Adelson offer their two bits about taxes and economics it rings so utterly self-serving considering these are the people who have the most to lose while their fellow citizens living in abject poverty just may benefit from a more progressive tax plan. I seriously doubt David, the low-tax lobbyist I see occasionally, would agree. Perhaps one day I’ll broach the subject the next time we run into each other in Oblivion and maybe even talk over cappuccinos. I could ask how his wheelchair handles the potholes of California streets only to find that he was not happy how Prop 13 played out. I’d sip my cappuccino feeling like a dick, ah, but a tax-the-rich democratic socialist dick!
2a : a strong persuasion or belief
5: an unknown quantity
It was on a mid-October Sunday afternoon when I came up with the hair-brain idea. I texted my wife, who was running errands at the time, that I was going for a bike ride. She replied that she wanted to accompany me. I said okay, but for reasons revealed below, I really wanted to do this ride alone. When we were gearing up to ride, she asked where we were going. I told her to the gym and that I wanted to pick up the shoes I had stored in my locker. She didn’t ask why so I thought I dodged a bullet. At the gym, she hung out in front, guarding our bikes while I went inside. When I came out with the neon blue, new-looking running shoes, she asked why I wanted to take them home. (I guess I didn’t dodge that bullet after all.) I told her I was thinking of taking up running. The faintest of smiles shot across her face before she said something about how I should keep them at the club and get back into doing the Breakfast Club (a three-day, early morning, interval exercise class I wrote about in an earlier post). I didn’t want to argue and she graciously let it pass. I’m sure she doubted this running thing would last. It never started. Read on.
As I publish this post, I haven’t run in these shoes even one yard. Back when I was a junior gym rat, my trainer advised me that in between nights of interval training in the weight room (also known as burst circuits) I should fit in time for a cardio workout. Never having a problem throwing money at new interests, I just had to get respectable, if not top-end running shoes. While sitting in a fitting chair at the local Fleet Feet in Sacramento, Al, a sixty-something, mustachioed man with matching salt and pepper hair, talked to me about running. An ex-police officer who sold shoes part-time in his retirement, Al told me he had been a runner his whole life and now was helping his wife recover from a hip replacement. He introduced me to interval running. Interval running is running or jogging mixed in with walking or “recovery time,” as it is called by runners. I told the ex-cop, as he adeptly maneuvered his shoehorn behind my heel to nestle my Fred Flintstone foot (short, broad, and flat) into the mid-range priced running shoe that I plan to run two minutes on the treadmill followed by one minute of walking. You see after I heard his tale of running one minute and resting six I figured, I don’t have a new hip to break in so I’ll do a two/one jam. Al, probably noticing my less than an athletic frame, questioned my ratio. Then, after he found out I haven’t run since my annual high school Six Minute Run/Walk PE evaluation in my senior year, he strongly urged that I employ a less aggressive run/recovery formula. Naah. What does a svelte ex-cop who has been running daily for years know about running?
So with my brand new ASICS Conviction X running shoes on my dogs, I started hitting the treadmill. I felt I was making progress, though I did have to ease up on the run to walk ratio. I’m not sure what I ended up doing: maybe two minutes jogging (never running) and two minutes walking in recovery mode. About three weeks into my weekly routine (interval training with weights on Mondays and Fridays with the treadmill on Wednesdays) my right hip began to hurt during my jog. I ignored it. It got worse. Then I changed my run/recovery formula to the ex-cops’ wife’s bum hip formula. It still hurt. What’s worse, it began to bother me long after I stepped off the treadmill. The pain subsided while riding my bike home nor did it hurt during my time in the weight room. Eventually; however, it became a constant pain: on my bike, in the weight room, and at my desk at work. It even started affecting my sleep–feeling the sharp pain whenever I rolled over. I finally switched over to a recumbent bike where all of the bikes faced sports bar-size screens of Fox News. (I have always known my gym was a conservative bastion. My only solace is that my headphones were connected to my iPod Shuffle and not tuned to the TVs.) Finally, the pain subsided.
Shortly after I switched from the treadmill to the recumbent bike, my wife and I were binge-watching the entire six seasons of The Sopranos that had become available on Netflix. In the last few episodes of the final season, my lower back began to hurt–badly. The pain most likely came from laying on a lumpy couch for hours many nights in a row. My doctor put me on Vicodin and ordered an MRI. When the results came back, it revealed I had Degenerative Disk Disease. My gym rat days were over. To be honest, I didn’t have to give up the recumbent bike, but I just couldn’t sit on those things, looking up at Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity anymore, even if their voices were muted. My doctor referred me to a Physical Therapist.
It was serendipitous that the PT I was referred to was a member of my health club–we recognized each other immediately. She recommended a yoga class offered at our club which was taught by Amanda, a teacher who specialized in Restorative Yoga. Amanda also had worked with the PT modeling postures for photos the PT gave to her patients to do at home. As for my new neon ASICS running shoes, I stuffed them in the back of my gym locker to shine only on my water bottle and gym clothes. For four and a half years, I exclusively practiced yoga, shunning my neo blue, “Rhyno Skin” shoes for my black flip-flops until November of 2017 when I started the Breakfast Club workouts previously mentioned. At first, I thought this early morning routine to be High-Intensity Interval Training (or HIIT), but I was mistaken. It was just another form of interval training. It only seemed high intensity because I was in such poor shape.
I used to tell people that yoga saved my life. And I believe practicing the ancient art has kept me limber and that has helped manage my Degenerative Disk Disease. I rarely have back pain, my posture has improved, and I usually catch myself whenever I began to slouch. Still, yoga has done very little if anything for me cardio-vascularly speaking. Also, the practice has done virtually nothing in the way of toning my flabby body or give me something even faintly looking like a six-pack. (My eating habits get credit for what looks more like a keg.) The Breakfast Club workouts were three days a week at 6:30 in the morning. It was not sustainable for many reasons: it was too early, especially in the winter; while it was definitely a sweat-inducing workout, I never felt I was building my muscles–I rarely felt sore the next morning like I did when I was doing burst circuits. When I dropped that class, I also decided to switch my yoga classes on Tuesday and Thursday for two Power Pump classes on those same evenings. My barely-worn shoes got a new job; they gave me support while I was swinging dumbbells and kettle weights with women young enough to be my daughters. So, once again, I felt out of place, but it was a healthy workout and better than the Breakfast Club routine. Still, I didn’t like that the Thursday class had a revolving set of uninspiring instructors. The Tuesday night instructor was great, but I missed the Vinyasa yoga class I dumped that night for this one. Ultimately, I ended up returning to the yoga classes and I stuffed my new-looking shoes back into my locker. I would think about those shoes whenever I stepped on the scale. Yoga has benefited me in manifold ways, but I don’t burn many calories on Tuesday and Thursday nights, an hour at a time. Because of this and my poor eating habits, I have gained all the weight I lost when I was doing interval weight training twice a week and interval running on the treadmill in between.
Thinking about putting my new shoes to work some months ago, I thought about riding the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail (American River Bike Trail) to progressively longer and longer lengths on days off. One night (conveniently, when it was too late to go on a ride) I thought about getting an early start on that coming Saturday and riding the six-mile Sacramento River Bike Trail then continue to ride the entire thirty-two mile American River Trail to Folsom and back. I then rethought the idea and told my wife I wanted to try to ride about half that length. She looked at me as if I said to her I wanted to climb Everest. The thing is I trust her opinion over my own when it comes to my enthusiasm for bike riding and my ability to execute this or most kinds of exercise regimes. To wax the tired trope: she knows me better than I know myself. Also, I have seen my wife patch an inner tube as if she was in a pit crew at the Indy 500. I’ve heard her talk about having to do the same thing on the road more than once. I only tried it one time in the parking lot of a local Target and the damn thing leaked. From that day forward whenever I get a flat I walk the bike home–calling my office that I would be late then the house to see if someone can drive me and my lame bicycle home or to work. Getting stuck six or sixteen miles away from home on the American River Bike Trail with a flat gives me serious pause. At least I would have comfortable, nice looking shoes to hoof it back home. Maybe long-distance bike riding isn’t the solution. My poor reader is probably bored stiff by now, but writing this stuff out makes me see the absurdity some of these ideas are.
Aside from exercising more, I need to cut down on my caloric intake. In September, I began seeing online ads for something called Huel: a meal replacement shake. (The name, by the way, is a portmanteau for “human fuel.”) In early October, I started taking the product ads seriously, checking what real people on YouTube and WordPress had to say about it. I first dipped my toe in the meal replacement shake world by consulting my supplements pusher, Gabriel. He didn’t know what Huel was. He discouraged me from going the meal replacement route and suggested a diet consisting of more frequent, smaller meals on smaller plates–“perspective is everything,” as is often said. He also encouraged a healthy, filling shake near the end of the workday so I wouldn’t overeat when I got home, at the dinner table, or indulge in late-night snacking (probably my three worst diet killers). He then set me up with some healthy shakes packets and shaker–all free. I felt guilty that I was sure I was going to go with Huel despite his advice and generosity.
Huel is not necessarily a diet shake like SlimFast and the packs Gabriel gave me. That’s the main reason I continued to look into the product: I wasn’t looking for one of those bogus “miracle diets.” I just wanted to get away from the vicious cycle of skipping breakfast, having bakery goods for my morning break, then eating out for lunch. (The morning break was such a predictable ritual that the baristas at my favorite coffee house often plated a chocolate croissant before I arrived at the register.) While the personalities on YouTube reviewing Huel say they lost weight or hoped to lose weight, the marketers at the company are not selling the product as a weight loss solution. Check out this video it’s only one example of the company’s approach. Still, I wanted to use the product as part of my exercise and diet plan. The Plan has six elements:
- Continue to commute to work and back on my bike–rain or shine–being aware of my travel time and trying to beat my best time
- Consume Huel almost exclusively at work
- Show restraint when I’m at home before, during, and after dinners
- Continue to practice yoga on Tuesday and Thursday nights
- Try not to binge on weekends and holidays
- Find an additional, more strenuous, form of exercise and stick with it
That was and continues to be the plan. To be honest looking back on this plan three months after drafting it, Bullet Points 1 and 4 are no-brainers. “Continue” are the key words in those points. I’ve been doing these for a while–I might as well create bullet points to continue to breathing, talking, walking, and sleeping each day. Bullet Point 2 is also easy to keep, at least at this point, even though I have fallen off the wagon from time to time. Bullet Points 3 and 5 are the most difficult challenges here and Bulletin Point 6 is huge–I haven’t begun that one.
I re-downloaded my Lose It! application to my smartphone to help with the diet portions of the plan. I had used this program before with great success: I went from 222 to 198 pounds. Then I started gaining weight again. I initially blamed the weight gain on my father being terminally ill: I was spending more time at my parent’s house where I did not mind my intake and family members and friends would bring food. My mom and I would do lunch once a week then, too. I would buy the old trope that people gain weight when they are under stress. The only problem with that is I eat more when I am happy or between sad and happy–that gray void I am usually in. When my dad passed logic dictated I should have started losing weight again, but I didn’t. I doubt stress had anything to do with it. I’ve been on this rollercoaster before: dropping below 200 the first time I was on Weight Watchers about ten years ago. There was nothing magical about the Lose It! app when I started gaining weight. Where I once was watching the food I was about to eat, reviewing the calories with the help of the app so I wouldn’t go over, all I was doing now was performing a postmortem on my diet the day after going over my assigned caloric intake.
After I gained back all the weight I initially lost, I deleted the application from my phone (the weight graph and daily calorie count were too depressing to view). All this time, whether I was diligently riding to work on my bike–regardless of the weather–and doing yoga or more intense exercising I was always eating as if I had a tapeworm. Through all of this, I religiously stepped on the balance beam scale once a week at my gym. Of the men at my gym who weigh themselves, I am one of the few that weigh 200 pounds or heavier. I easily deduce this from having to move the large counterweight off the “150” notch to the “200” before sliding the lighter weight across the 50-hash marked beam to my current “fatness.” My wife thinks it’s inconsiderate not to “zero out” the scale when you are finished with it. At least it gives me a goal, though I am not working too hard to achieve it: being like the rest of the sub-200 members.
During the first week of this new diet, while the Huel was in route, I drank Gabriel’s complementary shakes for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday and never donned my neon-blue shoes to start on Bullet Point 6. I knew that one was going to be the hardest part of this new plan. As far as the breakfast/lunch meal replacement thing, that idea came from a fellow blogger. He drank Huel only on the weekdays because he didn’t want to prepare meals. From the blogger’s pictures, he looked like he was in good shape though he said that he had lost some unwanted weight thanks to Huel. I didn’t see a Huel diet working for me at home. The idea of making a shake in a kitchen with the aromas of baked potatoes, mac & cheese, my wife’s pizza, and pre-made/fast food was a mountain I could not scale, even if it certainly would have spared me a lot of calories. Breakfasts and lunches at work were the most convenient times to Huel it, though it wasn’t the most critical times during the week–if my fat could talk it would say things like: “Hi, I’m that huge chunk of brioche and butter Jack had when he got home from work.”
“Hello, I’m the second, giant slice of sweet potato pie Daddy jammed down his gullet when no one was looking, because if no one saw him, my calories don’t count.” “Greetings, my name is Chicken Garlic Gourmet Pizza–Large Slice #5 my brain had after everyone else told him he should stop two slices ago.”
If I were to execute this plan, it meant having the bags of mix delivered to my work and possibly having to endure the smirks and cracks from the big warehouse guys who would be signing for the deliveries. Also, I would have to field questions from everyone walking by the break room as I play with my powder in the morning and lunchtime. As it turned out I was spared any teasing or questioning. No one really cared about my mystery powder or poked fun at the fat guy making the shakes. I dodged some karma. It was not so long ago my morbidly obese ex-boss, Fernando, used to have SlimFasts for breakfast and lunch each day along with an item of fruit. I remember the fruit well. From time to time when I was heating one of my Weight Watcher SmartOnes, he would tsk-tsk my choice of lunch telling me I was not going to lose weight with high-sodium TV dinners. “Jack, you need to eat fruit!” the plus-size boss would stress that last word while shaking one of his plus-size citruses in my face just to get his point across. Despite all the SlimFasts he chugged he never slimmed–fast or in slow motion.
My first shipment of Huel came in on the last Monday morning in October. When I created my initial lunch shake, it was using three scoops of the grind, which is the standard recipe. I immediately cut down the recipe to two scoops per meal. That would save me about 170 calories a meal. As for the taste: the oats is the first thing that hit me. My guess is that’s what’s supposed to make you feel full when you’re finished. I didn’t feel like I was going to hurl my Huel, but I did feel like the shake had topped me off and there was no more room for my chocolate croissant.
I commented in an earlier post that I had read Ron Roll’s book Finding Ultra and that it nearly inspired me to take exercise more seriously, not just commuting on my bike and practicing yoga. Along with training, Roll wrote a lot about diet. I started looking into plant-based foods that were easier to maintain. That’s where my Huel diet came from. I don’t need a Vitamix or a Blendtec for these meals. (Though it is fair to say you can make more tantalizing and nutritious shakes with a blender than with the shaker–adding raw fruit, legumes, and vegetables to your powder that a shaker will not render drinkable.) The main ingredients in Huel are flaxseed, brown rice, pea protein, sunflower, oats, and MCTs (medium-chain triglyceride) from Coconut. There are no animal products in the ingredients, it’s all “plant power,” to quote Roll. I am sure; however, Roll would never recommend food ground into powder. My friend Angus, a gym rat and paleo dieter, seemed to approve of the ingredients in Huel. We sat in his truck one night before a Bible study discussing my latest diet. He looked up the product on his phone. He seemed impressed, but he wasn’t won over.
But is consuming Huel for weekday breakfasts and lunches sustainable as a diet? I hate to be negative, but probably no. (And bullshit, Jack, you love being negative.) Still, I consider my Huel diet a jump start, something I am going to ride out as long as I can until I find something to replace it. My wife already has come up with a sound replacement for my breakfast shakes, but weekday lunches are a more significant challenge. I can change my Huel subscription as my diet changes. I have plenty of time to figure out what I am going to do.
Thanks to Huel’s online Forum, I can connect with hundreds of fellow “Huelers.” I’ve received plenty of recipe suggestions. Since hooking up with the message board and getting some recipes, I’ve tried Huel with a shot of espresso, Huel with leftover coffee, Huel with instant coffee, Huel with instant cocoa mix, Huel with instant apple cider mix and applesauce. Many of these recipes I have replaced water for almond milk. Thanks to Huel’s Facebook page I found out you can bake with Huel, but I haven’t hauled any of the magic mixtures back home to try making cookies, pancakes, or whatever. Huel also offers Flavor Boosts: Chocolate, Chocolate Mint, Strawberry, Mocha, Apple Cinnamon, Caramel, Chai, Banana, and Cappuccino. I bought the Cappuccino flavor boost that mixes with my Vanilla powder. It made my shakes taste a little like my favorite espresso drink. I also have Banana which I like and I just received Mocha, but I haven’t tried it as of this writing. I plan to order Strawberry soon, but all of them sound interesting. Many of these Flavor Boosts used to be only available in the UK. Huel-UK–where the product originates–has even more products including Huel bars and Huel granola. If these products become available while I am still on this diet, I will definitely check them out.
There are some negatives about the Huel diet. Huel has a bad rep for giving the Hueler horrible-smelling farts. Since I’m used to my brand I was worried this would be a game changer, but I haven’t had any problems in that area. My farts smell just fine, thank you! What did initially change in that general department is the regularity. I spent the first 30 years of my life shitting only two to four times a week and I have the hemorrhoids to show for the irregularity. My friend and fellow blogger Chip mentioned in one of his posts of a kid who refrained from shitting for a whole week. I think I’ve done that! When I got married, I became as regular as the rising sun. I didn’t have to go first thing in the morning like my father and I think my brother has to go, but if I miss a day, I’m not happy. When I started my Huel diet, everything stopped down there for the first couple of days. This, for the most part, runs counter to most Huelers’ experience. Maybe the first day had nothing to do with Huel; I had had a shitload, eh-hem, of Halloween candy the night before. On Shittless Day 2, I was on the Huel Forum wanting answers. For the Huel peeps that were stopped up, Chia seeds solved the problem. On Day 3–with an order of Chia seeds on the way–the damn broke. (Jesus and did it break! I’m glad institutional plumbing was under me when I testing my building’s flush!) Now two teaspoons of Chia seeds go in my morning Huel and everything is back to normal. Aah, regularity: it’s the thing that replaces sex in oldsters like me.
But what about the big question: has Huel worked as a diet method for this blogger? I was encouraged to lose eight pounds in the first two months, averaging about a pound a week. While this appears to be a success story, I’ve been down this road before, so I wasn’t optimistic. This weight loss, I am sure, is coming from switching to Huel, but as I stated earlier, the Huel part of my diet makes up less than half of my twenty-one weekly meals and that’s not counting snacks. In the skirmishes known as my work meals, Huel has definitely taken the hill, but the battle royale at home is far more treacherous, with sweet hazards and fast and convenient food booby traps everywhere. My willpower is tested more often on my home turf then at my M-F, 8 to 5. If I don’t stay true to Bullet Points Three and Five of the plan, the Huel part of the program will be meaningless.
Leading up to my Week 5 weigh in I was logging daily caloric overages due mostly to over-eating during dinners and postmeridian-hour snacking: I was losing weight despite what I was consuming at home. Also, I attended a doctor’s appointment where the specialist noted my body mass index had me defined as “Obese.” Instead of the usual reply of “I know, I know” I wasted her time by telling her I am drinking meal replacement shakes for half of my meals and, at that time, had lost six pounds. I was talking to the back of her head as she concentrated on a recent sleep study results then turned to face me, giving me one of those perfunctory smiles and said, “That was probably excess water.” (Read: the weight loss will end soon and you will have to knock off the Snickers, Fatso.)
I survived the long Hueless four-day Thanksgiving period with the pitfalls of stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie. Considering I maintained the same weight is an impressive feat. I credit scrutinizing my food options while logging what I ate on the smartphone app. Since I started with Huel, I have had planned Hueless breakfasts and lunches. In some of those instances, I consumed fewer calories in a meal than what is in a Huel shake. Unfortunately, there have been plenty of cases where I just broke down: bagel or donut mornings at work. Damn that Tan, Gracie, and Jackie, being generous leaders. Huel now has premade shakes. Why don’t they just buy a dozen of those and cram them into a pink box?
Without seriously following Bullet Points 3 and 5, I still needed to address Bullet Point 6: “Find an additional, more strenuous, form of exercise and stick with it.” The Breakfast Club didn’t pan out, nor did the Power Pump classes. The idea of running turned out to be a bitter joke and the more I think about it, the less appealing weekend bike trips look. Still, would if I went riding with a group of people. Maybe that would encourage me. Also, would if I could never get a flat on a bike. Would if I never had to keep my bike tuned up. Would if, unlike my commute–where I rarely push myself–this ride came with a trainer telling me “You’re sandbaggin’ it Jocko, pick up the pace!” Most important, would if I can use my neon-blue ASICS’; would if the “X” in Conviction X equaled indoor cycling! My gym has an indoor cycle program with Stages Indoor Cycles–presumably the best available–not that it matters to me. I have been thinking about taking an early Saturday morning spin on my bike, now I can take a spin class using someone else’s bike. Well, the first two Saturdays started with me turning off the alarm I had set explicitly for this workout and falling back asleep until my dog woke me up. The third time I did it, barely.
I was miserable freezing my ass off on the scooter ride to the club early Saturday morning–a bad omen for doing this thing every Saturday morning through the winter. At the club, I dressed down donning the blue shoes and made my way to the spin room. I was just checking the operation out this time. I didn’t know if my saddle was too high or too low. I fidgeted with the toe clips pedals; the kind my wife always encouraged me to replace my standard platforms with: “You only generate power one way with platforms; you use an additional set of muscles with toe clips.” I also see people filing in wearing cleats, whipping out toolkits from their gym bags and switching the toe clips on the spin bikes for egg beaters–the kind my wife uses on her road bikes. What a hassle! The most significant change to get used to from my hybrid commuter is the big blue screw between my legs that determined the resistance. (I wished these things had gears like a regular bike.) I only rode the indoor cycle for half an hour then quit. I didn’t feel like working out that day but just wanted to ease into this new workout. I never returned to the class–at least as of this writing: Bullet Point 6 is so far a non-starter.
As of this writing, I weight 223. That’s only a few pounds less than when I started this latest stab at a diet at the beginning of October, but a couple of pounds more than my lowest weight in these fourteen weeks. Oh but wait, it gets far worse. Did I tell you, dear reader, that I have been tracking my weight since January of 2013? When I stepped on the scale at that time, I weighed 222. In the six years of dieting, I’ve gained one pound. If you excluded 2014 when I dropped to under 200 I’ve my dieting has a colossal failure. Christmas 2018 was no different than any other Christmas–I ate enough gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies, dip and chips, appetizers, sweet potato pie, chocolate cake, and ice cream to stuff an adult bison. The week after Christmas wasn’t much different. Is it really my job to hoover up all the remaining Nestle Toll House milk chocolate morsels, Reese’s peanut butter chips, and my wife’s rejected Christmas cookies? Apparently yes. What makes this year different from any other? It is no different. I guess I’ll end up just like the rest of the fat tourists in my club who sign up for the new year with the hope that they will lose weight. Of course, they will fade away soon enough and I will once again have more space around my locker to spread out. The only difference is I have the club membership with a weight room, four studios choked with spin bikes, elliptical machines, treadmills, recumbent bikes, rowing machines, pilate reformers, an Olympic-size swimming pool, three handball quarts, a full basketball quart and a group exercise schedule that provides options for just about anyone who can afford the membership. All of that and my many diet gimmicks and I gain a pound over five years. Not quite a Subway guy success story.
On New Year’s Eve at work, I received a text message from my old friend, Simone. She wished me a Happy Birthday. (It’s my 61st, and thank you very much!) She also bugged me about challenging a work classification consolidation that seems more like a demotion for me despite my Human Resources leads waxing on how great it is for all of us. Finally getting her to change the depressing subject she told me she had registered for the Shamrock’n Half Marathon.–an annual running event she does each year ever since she beat cancer. For some crazy reason she got me to sign up, but I opted for the 5K instead of the main event. I’m sure I’ll be walking most of the way, but I’ll call it “recovery time” so I don’t sound like a lazy ass. The race is in three months and as long as my fat ass is in this chair typing away, I can keep telling myself I can do some practice runs without really doing anything to prep myself. The 5K cost me only $44 and I get a green t-shirt out of it. Shortly after signing up for the 5K I received an email from an associate at work about SacFit a Sacramento running and walking club that includes a good friend from work who has run whole marathons so I doubt I would be keeping up with him. That email led me to look up Fleet Feet’s No Boundaries— another running and walking club that meets up in Land Park, close to where I live. (And hey, from the pix on the website it looks like I get a blue t-shirt out of it.) I sent No Boundaries an email (because that is so easy) to look into membership. I’ve looked into the Fleet Feet club before and have received a warm response inviting me to come out to Land Park on a given Saturday only to sleep in, turning off the alarm I was so solemn to abide when I set it the night before just like the night before that Saturday morning spin class. All this running talk is probably just a bunch of shit. If I am not bullshitting myself and my reader this time, I may write a post about training for and running a 5K.
I either do this running thing or maybe try a HIIT class–there’s one on Wednesday nights that I have been mulling over. Or just dump the last bullet point in my plan. Maybe the “X” in Conviction X equals zero–at least when it comes to strenuous exercise. If I don’t do the HIIT class I’ll keep the shoes in my closet until I’m inspired to address Bullet Point Six again and stick with my Huel shakes and beg my fat brain to take it easy on the snacks and go easy on the Hueless meals. Show some Conviction, for X sake!
As a toddler, I might as well have worn a hat that said, “C-Section Baby” to remove all doubt from anyone who cast their eyes upon my giant head and thought, “How did mom birth that kid?” On second thought, I would have to wear a T-shirt–they wouldn’t be able to find a hat large enough for my gargantuan grape. My small mouth only accentuated the problem. Growing and keeping my hair longish helped for a while until I began to lose it. Then, after I got married, I began to gain weight followed by my receding hair graying. So the images below are not intended to impress. “There but for the grace of God go I,” I suppose.
Sometime in the mid-70s, we saw Rich Little at a casino in South Shore or Reno, Nevada. Rich Little inspired me to become an impressionist, but like everything else, once I found out it took a lot of practice and hard work, I dumped it. Leasure suits? Good God! Were my brother and I feigning senior citizens?
I’m not sure if this was taken in 1987 or 1988 since I lived with my future wife and her kid, Peter, for a year. Call it a test drive. Of course, it worked out swimmingly. This is one for the images from a photo booth at either the Pizza Hut or the Time Zone arcade across the street in Old Sacramento. I spent countless hours and quarters on Peter at the Time Zone. First Pizza Hut then, when Ely was a toddler Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was once a pizza snob before this time in my life. Now, it was whatever Peter and later Peter and Ely wanted no matter how shitty the pizza. Parenthood.