Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Things that annoy the hell out of me (part 1)

There was a time, not all that long ago, when this here blog was updated on a daily basis. There were, indeed, times when I updated this blog several times a day. Why? Because writing whatever the hell I wanted and when I wanted amused me. I never had a huge following, but there were enough people keeping up with what was going on over here to make everything worthwhile.

So, what happened? I tapped into my print journalist roots and decided to put up a serious site over at That site is still going strong and the traffic count over there is healthy. What’s more, the format allows me to write some honest-to-goodness news about stuff I like and that’s dandy fun. However, I do miss the freedom of an informal blog such as this one.

Specifically, I miss the ability to gripe about things just because I feel like it. It’s time to indulge my petulant complaining once again, so I’m starting a new series here at The Natural State Hawg“Things that Annoy the Hell out of Me.” This series will be in several parts and I’m not sure how many there will be yet because, well, it turns out that a lot of stuff annoys the hell out of me.

So, here we go with Part 1.

political-symbols-democrat-republican-o1. Politics. Let me make two things perfectly clear. First of all, I’ve got a bachelor’s degree in political science and started to suspect when I was in college that politics was mostly absolute crap. Second, I’m a Republican simply because I hate them slightly less than Democrats. Neither party, frankly, is worth a damn.

What annoys me most about politics is that we Americans have a tendency to identify ourselves by which political party we like. In fact, we tend to take politics personally – anyone who agrees with us is smart and worthwhile, whereas anyone who doesn’t is stupid and, perhaps, evil. The tendency to base the value of an individual solely on which worthless politicians they supported in the last election is a tragedy.

Here’s why – neither party gives a damn about the majority of us. Want proof? Influence-peddling and vote-buying was bad enough before the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, thus reinforcing what a lot of us have long suspected – it’s groovy for moneyed interests to have the unfettered ability to purchase votes at will.

If you want to know the disgusting details of Citizens United, just click the link above and get ready to be furious. Here’s why that case is such a slap in the face to us insignificant voters – groups and corporations are allowed to raise, essentially, as much money as they want and fling it at candidates. The National Association of Realtors (NAR), for example, passed a $40 dues increase in 2011 in response to Citizens United and that move means that the trade organization has $40 million more to spend on candidates (add that to the $11.47 million spent by the NAR federally in the 2010 election cycle and you’re talking about some serious money).

And, let’s not just pick on the NAR here. Trade organizations, corporations and other groups were flinging money at politicians before Citizens United and now they can throw even more cash at the government. So, who do you think our elected officials are listening to – the lobbyist backed by millions of dollars or you and your pitiful little vote? Under that system, who benefits – the voters and society or the selfish interests of an organized few?

Getting too wrapped up in politics is pointless and the notion that we should dislike people for sticking with their piece of trash politicians instead of our ineffective politicians borders on insanity. We’ve gone from a representative republic to a government that’s up for grabs like an eBay auction, and being overly loyal to either major party in such a system is a waste of time. In a perfect world, lobbying would be a felony punishable by something truly terrible (an Orwellian “Room 101” scenario comes to mind).

2. The overly sensitive. Have a look at this story from Martinsville, Va. You may have heard about that one – a city councilwoman made a 16-year-old girl cry because the alleged adult was offended by a stick figure on a quilt that was the result of a project taken on by students at Piedmont Governor’s School in that city. Hit the link for details – the whole account is disturbing.

Sadly, groups and individuals getting offended and ruining a good time for the rest of us has become par for the course. Over the years, I’ve seen fist-fights break out on the grounds of the Arkansas State Capitol over flag burning (a practice I find abhorrent, by the way), churches blocking MTV in the 1980s in some cities in this state (I can block programming I don’t like on my own, thank you), atheists throwing hissy fits about Nativity Scenes at on the Capitol grounds and a law professor who circulated a list of words we students weren’t allowed to use in the school during the early 1990s.

I’d wager we’d all get along a lot better if we didn’t go out of our way to find reasons to be offended. If you live in a free and open society, the chances are good you’re going to be bothered by something, Grow up and learn to deal with it.

3. Arkansas’ damned state lottery. Not long ago, I was standing in line in a convenience store and was there for some time as a lady bought about $400 worth of lottery scratchers. She made her purchase then the woman behind her had to waste a couple of hundred bucks on those things.

“What on earth is going on?” I asked when I got to the register.

“It’s Tuesday,” the clerk said.

“Yes, it is Tuesday. So what?”

“That’s when the new lottery tickets come out. They’re released every Tuesday because that’s when people get their support checks.”

“So, people are taking the cash the government is giving them to live on until they find jobs and blowing it on lottery tickets?”


That’s just great. So, we’ve got people taking money meant to pay bills, buy food and those little conveniences and buying lottery tickets instead. The worse part of that scenario is that the state of Arkansas is in on it. Good grief.

I voted against the statewide lottery when it was put on a ballot and now I think it’s even a worse idea. Yes, Arkansas kids can get scholarships through the cash the lottery raises for the state, but colleges here have responded by raising tuitions in line with those scholarships. It’s looking more and more like we’ve gained nothing from the lottery and that should surprise no one.