Thursday, June 21, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Epic Fail: The War On Drugs

Nic Cage Just Doesn't Know How To Say 'No'
In order to ascertain where your country is headed you need look no further than where and how your government is spending your money. In the United States, over the past 20 years, state expenditures on prisons have outpaced spending on higher education by a factor of 6. Last year, California spent $9.6 BILLION dollars on their prison systems--nearly double the amount they spent on state colleges. 

Surely all of this money is spent helping keep our society safer, right? Surely not. Unless you feel that perpetrators of victimless crimes are the primary scourge to your personal safety. And if that's the case, you're an imbecile and probably don't even know how to read these 'words' anyway (no offense). In 1980, only 15 inmates out of every 100,000 were in jail on drug-related charges. By the mid-90s that figure had sky-rocketed to 148 per 100,000. Today it is even higher. In fact, HALF of all federal inmates are in prison on drug convictions. Worse yet, 4 out of 5 of those arrested merely possessed contraband without any intent to distribute. Consequently our prisons have now ballooned to numbers unseen in human history, beyond even the Gulags of Soviet Russia--more than 6 million Americans are currently under 'correctional supervision.'

These staggering statistics are all a result of the so-called 'War On Drugs,' launched during the Reagan Administration and universally deplored ever since as an abject failure, by any conceivable measure. A recent report signed by Reagan's own Secretary of State, George Shultz, concluded that "vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have CLEARLY failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption." And in the wake of this war waged on our own citizens, we have seen the meteoric rise of drug cartels throughout South and Central America, leaving tens of thousands dead along the way, hundreds of thousands of families torn apart, billions of dollars spent (wasted). All this, yet recreational drug use in America is as prevalent in 2012 as ever before. In fact, it's thriving.

Do These Guys Know How To Party Or What?
How and why does this failed policy continue? Who on Earth would proclaim it a good idea to remain on the same path when even the country's most vocal moral pundits--like Christian Right Posterboy Pat Robertson--openly object? As with any questionable aspect of our ethically-bankrupt brand of Capitalism, it's essential to concentrate not on how much money is being spent (which is invariably a lot) but to where that money is going. 

Whitney Houston's House
Too often debates get bogged down on the monetary sums associated with unimaginable failures. Take for example the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. While the average American is aware that over a trillion dollars has gone into these endless quagmires, what percentage of citizens knows precisely who received majority of those funds? The same can be said for the most costly war fought here on our own soil. Many Americans fail to recognize that the prison industry is a multi-billion dollar business swelling to the lucrative heights of the military-industrial complex. And the very same Reagan administration that fought so futilely to counter the scourge of drug-use in the 80s also brought us rampant, irresponsible privatization. So at the same time that we started accumulating more prisoners than ever before, large private companies arrived on the scene--many from overseas--to begin developing the infrastructure necessary to house all of these new detainees. A happy coincidence, no?

Nowadays, oversized corporate interests--that would happily see half the damn population incarcerated if it helped their bottom line--lobby Congress every year to insure that anti-drug legislation stays as heavy-handed and non-sensible as ever.

If you're not infuriated, you're not paying attention. But if you are paying attention, it's up to you as one of the few informed citizens out there to help spread the word about what this 'war' is really all about: corporate profits. And just because you advocate a sensible drug policy--one that doesn't pluck otherwise  law-abiding individuals off the streets at a tremendous cost to taxpayers and families everywhere--it doesn't mean that you're enthusiastically encouraging everyone to try drugs. I am advocating that, but it doesn't mean that you have to in order for us to ally our common interest: putting an end to unscrupulous profiteering at the expense of the public weal

If you are totally satisfied living in a country that spends billions more on incarcerating rather than educating its citizens, then by all means continue not doing anything and let's all see where this path leads...


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

24 Hours In...Austin, TX

Austin City Limits
So you have nary a day to soak up one of the country's most electrifying cities? Well let an experienced guide..umm, guide you with our exciting new report that--in a spirit of unbridled originality--we have elected to call '24 Hours In...'

Austin, TX

Home to the most liberal population within a 2,785 kilometer radius, Austin, Texas is commonly regarded as an isolated bastion of sensibility submerged amidst an endless sea of card-carrying lunatics. This is incontrovertible truth. But to me, that doesn't make the city any more endearing. In fact, it makes it all the more terrifying. If I per chance stumble beyond these friendly confines with California license plates firmly affixed to my eco-friendly hybrid (I don't actually own one, but it is implied) I'll almost certainly be chainsaw massacred in seconds flat. Nobody will come to search for my bloodied remains.

Nonetheless, if you are traveling across the country via the traditional southern route--typically involving unsavory swaths of i-10--you are bound to traverse endless miles worth of Texas, and so you owe it to yourself to spend at least a day in this unexpected outpost of hip bars, great BBQ and most importantly, incredible live music.

For me, the only way to bare the sweltering climate (meteorological and cultural) of this part of the country is to drink...heavily. Thankfully Austin is home to some of the best microbrews in all of Texas. Skip the rest and head straight for the best: Independence Brewery (3913 Todd Lane). It's here in this unassuming, industrial part of town that owner Rob Cartwright and his wife Amy produce their tasty-ass craft beer for the lucky people of southeastern Texas. They opened the warehouse in 2004 and
Rob Cartwright of Independence Brewery

their artful array of ales, lagers and stouts have been getting more and more refined ever since. You can snag bottles of their sensational Stash IPA or crave-worthy Convict Hill Stout from most package stores around town. But on the first Saturday of every month, Rob and Co. open the doors to the brewery, offering free samples while supplies last. Live music and local food abounds and well-behaved pooches are welcome to join in on the fun. This is the ideal venue from which to get your hands on some of their limited edition seasonal suds, like  Lupulust Tripel--a heavily-hopped Belgian  clocking in at 9% ABV. If you are looking for something a little more suited to continued consciousness, I highly suggest Independence Pale Ale. It's an intense, rusty blast of bitterness yet still session-worthy with a sensible 5.6% ABV.

All of this beer drinking is bound to build up an insatiable appetite for a bountiful daytime feast. And when you're in Texas there's really only two dining options at every meal: Tacos or BBQ. Since you're already in the general neighborhood you might as well check out the innovative fare that's cooked up on the daily at Torchy's Tacos (1311 South 1st Street). This is not your mom's Mexican eatery. The menu here is chock full of insanely Gringified delicacies like the famous Trailer Park featuring sumptuous southern fried chicken, green chiles and poblano sauce. And when in might as well get it 'trashy,' which means removing that menacing green lettuce and replacing it with copious amounts of greasy queso. Torchy's also rewards its loyal patrons with a slew of off-menu specialties like the unearthly Ace of Spades taco. You have to eat this multi-meated monster to believe it, so I'll just hold off on the description and assure you to order it...NOW.

Torchy's Trailer Park Taco
If all of this lusciously-larded lunching somehow doesn't activate your appetite or your type-II diabetes, perhaps it's BBQ that floats your boat. Well sail away my friend, you've arrived in one of the galaxy's premiere destinations for slow-cooked carnivorous cravings (I can't vouch for any meat prepared beyond the confines of the Milky Way). If it's still early enough in the afternoon--and you are blessed with pristine Karma--perhaps you'll be fortunate enough to scarf down some pulled pork and life-altering beef brisket from Franklin Barbecue (900 East 11th Street) before they run out, as they usually do, seemingly before noon. This unforgettable, finger-licking affair is notable for the juiciness of their fare and their sizable portions. Come hungry and be preferably several pounds underweight because I don't see how you could avoid obesity if you lived within 10 miles of this place. They recently received a huge heaping of hype from famously-fancied idiots who have even larger followings than the Revolting Blog, so be prepared to line-up and wait. It is after all only fitting that you should be herded like cattle before gorging yourselves on unsustainable amounts of cooked cow.

Stubb's Bar-B-Q
By this time of day, if you have any common decency whatsoever, you're clearly craving some big-time cocktails and live, local jams. And if you don't know, now you know: 6th Street is the place to be when you wanna keep it weird in Austin. The epicenter of any bar crawl, this thoroughfare is closed down most nights of the weekend creating a promenade of drunken revelry underpinned by the thumping array of diverse music wafting out the doorways of each and every establishment. If its rock or blues-related, there's a band playing it somewhere on or around 6th Street. But there's perhaps no more eclectic a mix of boppin' beats than what you'll find on stage at Stubb's Bar-B-Q (801 Red River Street) The self-avowed home of 'cold beer and live music' continues the proud tradition of southern rock that was once pioneered by the licks of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Joe Ely and John Lee Hooker. While you're enjoying the tunes, be sure to sip on one of the most beloved local libations: the Mexican Martini. Described as the Margaritas more sophisticated older sister, it basically takes those classic ingredients and embellishes the flavor with a little bit of Sprite and some jalapeƱo-stuffed olives.

The Salt Lick

If you're anything like me, you'll probably be chased out of town sometime before downing your final 6 cocktails but just slightly after descending into a foggy haze of unforgivable debauchery. But prior to your designated driver questioning his/her friendship with you on a very fundamental level, make sure they bring you to the most obligatory pitstop in all of Texas: The Salt Lick (18300 Farm to Market Road 1836). This cafeteria-sized eatery features one of the most-photographed BBQ pits in the Western Hemisphere. Please post it to Facebook ASAP so you can make all of your friends jealous of your insurmountable originality. Located on the outer periphery of the metropolitan area, the Lick prides itself on unabashed Hill Country hospitality. And by hospitality I'm not suggesting that they'll be pleased to have you. Heavens, no. I simply mean that they'll actually let you bring in your own beer and will even ice it down as you go to town on $20 all-you-can-shovel-into-your-mouth smoked meats. The brisket is good, and the pulled pork more than serviceable, but the ribs are the real stand out here. Fill up a hearty plate of leftovers for you to take on the road with you because you're not going to find anything this good for hundreds of miles in any direction. Unfortunately there's no hope of you leaving this place feeling even remotely comfortable in your waistband, even if you're wearing sweatpants--especially if you're wearing sweatpants--everything is bigger in Texas, as they say. But have no shame; you just fucked the shit out of this city in less than one calendar day. Now quickly get the hell out of here and don't even consider coming back until it's time for Austin City Limits.