An Interview with God

Professor Jean Decety, a neuroscientist from the University of Chicago, studied over 1000 children from around the world and published a paper in the journal  Current Biology, which found that children from religious households are actually less generous than kids from a secular background.

While most people think of religion as making people more generous, it appears that this one study contradicts this common belief. So to get to the core of this study, it’s only fitting to ask the creator of the universe what He thinks, so we offer you an interview with God.

Me: As the main object of worship in all the world’s religions (except for those druids who seem to worship trees, but are indirectly worshipping you after all), what do you make of this latest study that shows people are less generous if they’re religious?

God: Well first of all, you have to realize that studying people is an inexact science so it’s hard to draw general conclusions from a sample of 1000 kids. But to answer your question, the problem with religion is that it allows people to interpret it any way they wish to justify their own lifestyle choices anyway. Generous, caring people use the Bible to justify continuing to be caring and generous towards others, while selfish people find ways to use the Bible to justify being selfish to others. Just look at all the religious extremists currently controlling the Republican Party and you can see what happens when selfish people use religion as an excuse to hide their own obnoxious behavior.

Me: So you’re saying religious people aren’t necessarily more or less generous than secular people?

God: That’s right. Remember, I gave people free will and look what a mess they make of it. Historically, people have used the Bible and religion to justify slavery, war, torture, and racism. That’s not a fault of religion so much as it’s a fault of people who hide behind religious righteousness so they can appear saintly while continuing to perform horrible, selfish deeds. Again, just look at the right-wing religious extremists in the GOP and tell me if those people aren’t looking out for their own selfish interests at the expense of anyone they consider to be outside their groups.

Me: Do you think religion brings people closer together or divides them apart?

God: Again it boils down to free will. For some people, religion provides rules to guide people into generous and loving behavior. For others, religion provides equally strong rules for hurting others, discriminating against others, and oppressing others all in the name of religious freedom. I didn’t give people the right to make others miserable, but that’s what happens when you give people free will. Just look how free will turned out in Satan and you can pretty much see how it works with right-wing extremists in the GOP as well.

Me: Why do you think right-wing religious extremists overwhelmingly support the GOP?

God: Most likely because the GOP actually listens to them and caters to their whims, no matter how small they might really be compared to the rest of the party. Yet because religious extremists are the most vocal, they tend to exert more influence than the larger majority that stays silent.

Me: Do you see any hope in people overcoming the negative aspects of religion and only embracing the positive aspects?

God: Don’t make me laugh! You really think people will actually read the Bible and follow rules like loving thy neighbor when they can simply focus on other parts of scripture to justify their own horrible behavior? That’s a good one. You see, far too many people use religion as a way to separate and divide themselves from others. When you join a particular religion, it gives you an identity and anyone outside of your religion is obvious an outsider, unworthy of the same benefits you deserve for choosing to join a particular religious group. Just look at how most people want to get to heaven. That’s a selfish thought right there. If they were truly religious, they would want to sacrifice their own lives so someone else could get into heaven, but most religious people don’t think like that. They want to get into heaven for selfish reasons masked as religious doctrine so they can avoid seeing how they’re really selfish and self-centered. If all those selfish people really got into heaven, it would actually look more like hell.

Me: So what would you say to all those people who blame other religions for atrocities while avoiding mentioning the atrocities of their own faith?

God: Those people make me laugh because they embrace the worst aspects of human behavior while disguising them as religious beliefs. Strip away religion from these people and you simply have maniacal psychopaths no different than Charles Manson or Jack the Ripper. The only difference is that serial killers at least acknowledge they’re hurting others.

Me: if you could recreate the world all over again, how would you do things differently?

God: Well I’d probably put a disclaimer in the Bible explaining that you can’t take the word of God literally because it’s all your interpretation anyway. But most religious people wouldn’t want to read something like that, so that seems like a waste of paper. I suppose I’d like to tell religious extremists that they really don’t know what they’re talking about, but if these people won’t listen to reason and logic, what are the chances they’d listen to someone like me, who they claim to worship and love while ignoring everything I tell them anyway?

Me: It’s certainly been interesting talking to the creator of the universe, knowing that He feels just as frustrated dealing with humanity as everyone else.

God: Thank you, and let me say that even I still can’t figure out a way to bring peace to the Middle East. You can’t wait for God to fix things on this planet. People have to learn to do it themselves, but then again, that’s something else most people don’t want to hear, even if it comes from God Himself.

Me: Thank you God for agreeing to this interview. I hope people will one day get a chance to listen to you for a change.

God: I wish they’d listen to Me too, but if they did, they’d have to actually change their behavior rather than find ways to justify it, so you know that’s never going to happen.

It Can’t Happen Here

Sinclair Lewis once wrote a novel about a fascist dictator taking over the United States. The novel, called “It Can’t Happen Here,” shows how easily Americans could be swayed to support a fascist dictator since it’s always easier to blame others for a nation’s problems rather than take an honest, objective look at the problem and find solutions using brains instead of military might.

But not using the military to force nations other nations to work for our benefit isn’t what many extremists want. After all, they prefer being a bully rather than thinking and cooperating because thinking and cooperating takes too long when it’s easier just to beat somebody up instead.

If Sinclair Lewis’ novel can’t convince that it can happen here, perhaps you’d like to read the story of an American teacher who created a fascist movement in his classroom during the 60’s when many American students were already fed up with the government.

These students willingly went along with their teacher, even to the point of turning on each other. Each day, the teacher created new rules that made the students’ lives tougher and harsher, yet because the change was so gradual, the students went along with it.

Finally when the experiment went too far, the teacher stopped it, but his exercise proved his point that it’s far too easy for people to support fascism than you might think. After all, if people willingly spend money supporting Kim Kardashian, it makes fascism look good in comparison.

To read how a California teacher convinced his class to embrace fascism, click here. Then you can use this story as a warning to others. The only problem is that it will only warn people willing to think, and those are the people in the minority of any nation.

Who Would Hitler Vote For?

With so many people jockeying to become the GOP Presidential candidate, it might be interesting to look to previous experts in politics to see who they think might be presidential material. Now through the miracle of imagination, we bring you an interview with Adolf Hitler.

ANNCR: Welcome Adolf. We’re glad you can join us in analyzing the top GOP candidates.

HITLER: Glad to be here. After all, hell is getting crowded these days with people like Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong-Il.

ANNCR: As the former dictator of the Third Reich, what is your opinion of the top GOP contenders and which one do you think will become President of the United States?

HITLER: What most people don’t realize is that dictators always get the support of the people in the beginning because dictators tell people what they want to hear. That’s why Donald Trump is currently the leader. What better way to rally his supporters than to blame all the problems of your country on illegal immigrants. It’s brilliant! I did that with the Jews back in Germany.

ANNCR: Donald Trump says he wants to deport 11 million illegal immigrants from the United States. Do you think his plan is feasible or not?

HITLER: Of course it’s feasible. In the early days of my rise to power, I slowly pushed the Jews out of Germany. At first we just pressed them to leave on their own. Then when other countries, even the United States, refused to let Jews in because they didn’t want them either, all the Jews kept coming back to Germany. Since it was easier to round them up and exterminate them rather than keep trying to push them into other countries that refused to let them in because they were Jewish, I believe it’s only a matter of time before Donald Trump’s plan of mass deportation will turn into complete misery and chaos for all Mexican families and the entire United States in general. Naturally we know Trump is really talking about Mexicans when he talks about illegal immigrants because do you really think he’d deport a Brazilian supermodel just because she overstayed her visa restrictions?

ANNCR: So you see a future of concentration camps and extermination for Mexicans in America’s future?

HITLER: Hey, it’s what Trump supporters really want anyway. They just need someone to give them permission to express their discriminatory ideas. Why do you think so many Germans supported me? I gave them permission to let their cruelty express themselves on the Jews. Do you think I could have killed 6 million Jews on my own without the willing cooperation of so many law-abiding German citizens?

ANNCR: Well, let’s talk about Ben Carson. He’s a well-known neurosurgeon with nearly identical right-wing extremist views as Donald Trump.

HITLER: I love doctors! In fact, Doctor Josef Mengele was one of my best friends.

ANNCR: So do you think Ben Carson has a chance to be elected President?

HITLER: I see Ben Carson having a better chance of getting a cabinet position within the Trump administration. Ben Carson was the first doctor to successfully separate conjoined twins at the head. Josef Mengele loved experimenting with twins as well, so maybe Ben Carson can use his medical skills to find a solution to your illegal immigrant problem like Josef Mengele tried to do with the Jews.

ANNCR: Let’s talk about Carly Fiorina. What do you think of a woman running a country?

HITLER: I’m a firm believer of women’s rights just as long as they allow a man to have most of those rights. The best part about Carly Florina is that she drove Hewlett-Packard into the ground and walked away with a multi-million dollar golden parachute for her efforts to enrich herself at the expense of the workers. That’s the mark of a dictator if I’ve ever seen one.

ANNCR: Let’s get back to Donald Trump. If Trump gets elected, how do you think he’ll fulfill his promise to “Make America Great”?

HITLER: That’s easy. When I was rebuilding Germany, I used a similar phrase to make Germany great again. One way to make any nation great is to become the smartest, most productive people in the world and build a great civilization, but that takes too long. It’s far faster and simpler to make a nation great by building up your military and invading an easy target like Poland.

ANNCR: Do you see Trump’s promise of making America great again leading to a military buildup?

HITLER: Not necessarily any more of military buildup than your country’s been doing for the past few decades anyway. What Trump needs to do is find a common enemy (beyond the Mexicans) and start getting easy victories to give people a sense of satisfaction. I started by invading Poland and annexing land. Then I worked my way up to invading Belgium, Denmark, and France. Trump needs to start small by attacking Mexico and maybe some of those Central and South American countries that keep selling illegal drugs to Americans who keep buying them. Create a phony outrage, justify it with a military excursion against a weak opponent, and then the people will be so happy and blood thirsty that they’ll want to keep attacking one more country after another because they think they can’t lose.

ANNCR: Is war a valid long-term strategy for making a nation great?

HITLER: Of course not. Look where I wound up. But that’s not the point. People want simple solution to complex problems, so if you can convince them that blowing up another country that can’t put up much of a fight will make them feel better about themselves and their country, that’s all that matters.

ANNCR: If Trump does start a war, do you think it could escalate out of control?

HITLER: Of course. I thought I could invade Russia and win, so it’s likely Trump will keep using military force against all the nations of the world until he goes one step too far. Then it will be too late and he’ll wind up fighting a losing battle that he can never win.

ANNCR: If Trump did start a war with a bigger country like Russia or China, and started to lose, what do you think he would do next?

HITLER: Trump has an ego the size of Jupiter, so if he starts a war that starts turning against him, you know he’ll launch a nuclear strike just to protect his fragile ego. When you compare the deaths of millions of innocent people around the world to avoiding admitting that you were actually wrong, why would you believe Trump would do anything but destroy the world rather than admit he was wrong?

ANNCR: Well, Hitler, your insight on the thinking process of Donald Trump and the other GOP contenders is certainly enlightening. Fortunately most of the GOP supporters don’t read or learn about history so they can’t benefit from your mistakes.

HITLER: That is the beauty of people. They prefer making the same mistakes over and over again rather than learning from the past. That insures people like me and other future dictators will always have a chance to wreck the world once more.

ANNCR: Thank you Hitler, and let us know the next time you’ll be back on Earth to share your wisdom and insight with people who want neither wisdom or insight.

HITLER: It’s my pleasure. I’m looking forward to seeing Donald Trump turn the United States into a fascist dictatorship. Perhaps my Thousand Year Reich might find new life among Trump supporters after all.

ANNCR: Thank you Hitler, and good night.

The Price of Vanity

After watching the movie “Interstellar” about the differences in time  when astronauts spend a few hours on a planet with dense gravity, but to someone in orbit, that same amount of time translates into over a decade, I got the idea of how these differences in time might be put to trivial uses.

Specifically, if empty-headed celebrities were so obsessed about staying young through Botox and plastic surgery, what would a wealthy celebrity think of time dilation as a technique for staying young much longer?

Of course, if you tay young while your audience ages, that creates an entirely different situation for a celebrity. Hence the title of my short story poking fun at the idea of what would happen if a celebrity met time dilation. The result is a short story called “The Price of Vanity.”


The Price of Vanity

by Wallace Wang

“You don’t have a choice.”

Blake Jacobs stopped, ran his fingers over the stubble of growth on his chin, felt the deep lines of wrinkles creasing his cheeks from years, no, make that centuries, of working the Time Routes, and stared into the baby blue eyes of the freshly scrubbed, pink-cheeked punk blocking the path to his own starship. A quick glance at this young man’s chest, shoulders, and arms showed that he wore no official badge of authority over Blake other than his neatly pressed and tailored business suit that fitted him about as well as hand me downs thrown over a scarecrow in a corn field.

Blake grunted his disapproval and stepped around this young man, only to find his way blocked once again.

The young man smiled the type of grin you have when you’re holding 21 at a blackjack table. “I said, you don’t have a choice.”

Blake dropped his faded flight bag on the pitted concrete floor of the space port. How long had he been lugging this battered bag on his Time Route flights? Ten, twenty years, tops, although to the people on this planet, it must look more like a 300-year old antique by now.

The young man, who couldn’t have been many months past the legal drinking age, reached into his jacket and flipped out a business card that he handed to Blake. JON STARLIGHT, PUBLICIST TO THE STARS, the card read.

Blake refused to take the business card until Jon blinked uncomfortably and shoved it back in his jacket.

“I’m sure even a man of your status has heard the name Heidi Hakima?” Jon spat out the word “status” as the sarcastic insult that it was.

Blake grunted. Names meant little to him. The only names he bothered to memorize any more were the names of the next star systems he would visit. His whole life was devoted to piloting starships through wormholes connecting galaxies together. It was steady work and the pay was great precisely because few people wanted to deal with the drawbacks that involved watching names of people you once knew slowly fade into oblivion.

Blake grimaced and pretended to think hard. “Heidi Hakima?” he blurted out. “Isn’t she that air-headed bimbo with no talent and an equal amount of brains to match?”

Jon puffed out his chest indignantly. “Heidi Hakima is the number one reality TV celebrity in the solar system. She has the top-rated television show with over 40 billion social media followers, a multi-billion dollar fashion and fragrance product line, and numerous movie appearances to her name, not to mention a hit single that topped the pop music charts for a week.” Jon let his eyes conspicuously study the filthy overalls that Blake wore. “And she can probably buy and sell you, your starship, and everything your mother ever bought for you a million times over.”

Blake grunted. “Like I said. That air-headed bimbo who has no talent.” He tried to move around Jon but the stubborn bastard stood in his way again.

“We need your starship,” Jon said.

Now it was Blake’s turn to blink uncomfortably. “I’m sorry. For a minute there I thought you said that you needed my starship.”

Jon grinned and flashed teeth that shined an unnatural shade of white. “You’re a Time Route pilot, right?”

Blake nodded. He didn’t like the fact that Jon seemed to already know something about him.

Jon clapped both hands on Blake’s shoulders as if they were best buddies meeting at a high school reunion. “Then that’s why you don’t have a choice!”

Blake stared in confusion. “Okay. So tell me what that means?”

Jon grinned. “That means you have the privilege to be the exclusive pilot for Heidi Hakima’s next publicity stunt!”

Blake stared at Jon long and hard, then tried to walk around him but Jon inexplicably popped up to block his path again.

“It pays well,” Jon said. “Very well.”

Blake shook his head. “I don’t care if it pays off the international debt of South America. I’ve got a job to do.” Blake tried to walk around Jon and found Jon standing in front of him once more.

“You don’t understand,” Jon said. “You have the only Time Route starship on the planet.”

Blake shrugged. “There’s another one coming in ten years.”

“And Heidi Hakima will be ten years older when that happens. That’s completely unacceptable for someone of Heidi’s stature as the most popular socialite in the solar system.” Jon draped a conspiring arm around Blake’s shoulders as if to share a secret. “Celebrities don’t like aging. It makes them look old.”

“Everyone ages,” Blake said. “And everyone looks old.”

“But not Time Route pilots,” Jon corrected. “They stay young forever. Or at least as close to forever as possible. Tell me, how old are you?”

Blake had to stop and think. For some reason, he found this mental calculation harder than trying to calculate the change in fuel consumption rates when orbiting the gravitational pull of a black hole. “Forty, maybe forty-five years old?”

Jon shook his head with a silly grin. “Three hundred and twenty-nine years, eight months, seven weeks, and three days old,” he said. “Give or take a day or two.” When Blake glared at him, Jon quickly explained, “I looked up your birth certificate in the Hall of Records.”

“Well,” Blake said. “That’s the drawback of being a Time Route pilot. When we go through those wormholes, we’re aging at a different rate than everyone back home.”

“Exactly!” Jon shrieked as if Blake had just won the grand prize on a TV game show.

Blake waited for Jon to say something else, but he just stood there smiling like a mute idiot.

“That’s why most people don’t want to be Time Route pilots,” Blake added. “Who wants to go out for a week on a job and come back to find that everyone you knew at home is now twenty years older than you are? You lose a lot of friends that way.”

“I understand perfectly,” Jon said again with a stupid grin.

Blake waited for further explanation, but Jon just kept grinning that Blake started to fantasize how many of those pearly white teeth would pop out if he punched him in the mouth.

Finally, Jon spoke. “I work in show business. It’s critical, no, make that vital, that my clients look as young and attractive as possible for as long as possible, and you can’t do that when your skin starts wrinkling and draining your youth away like a fatal disease. Tell me, how sexy is a sixty-year old woman?”

“Well, there’s always some people who…”

“Not sexy at all,” Jon interrupted. “Twenty is perfect. Eighteen is better. Sixteen is just on the cusp of ripening into full sweetness while still under the age of legality.”

“You can’t stay young forever,” Blake said.

“Oh yes you can. And you are proof that it is not only possible but preferable.” Jon whipped out two pictures from his jacket and shoved them in Blake’s face.

The first picture showed a young blonde girl, obviously still a teenager, posing and smiling for the camera. The second picture showed the same young blonde in the same seductive pose, but clearly bigger, heavier, and more importantly, older.

Just as quickly, Jon yanked the pictures out of Blake’s hands and shoved them back into his jacket again. “See the difference? That only represents a five year change, but you can already tell that Heidi’s lost some of that innocent glow in her eyes and that skinny body of a raw teenager.”

“Why doesn’t she do what other celebrities do?” Blake asked. “Plastic surgery.”

Jon smiled his stupid grin and shook his head so vigorously that Blake hoped that it would fall off. “Heidi is not just any celebrity. Heidi is unique. She’s a trend setter, not a follower. Besides,” Jon added. “Plastic surgery still doesn’t look natural over time. Get too much plastic surgery and most people wind up looking like deformed monsters that scare little children on Halloween. Heidi doesn’t want to look artificially young. She needs to look naturally young and there’s no better way to do that than to stay young forever.”

“Hence the Time Route.”

Jon nodded. “Hence your lack of choice.”

“No deal.” Blake tried to move away but Jon popped up again to block his way.

“Like I said before,” Jon warned. “You don’t have a choice.”

Blake pointed in the direction of his starship. “I have plenty of choices. Nobody tells me what to do.”

Jon rubbed the fingertips of one hand together with his thumb. “Name it. Heidi’s willing to pay any price.”

Blake rubbed his fingertips together in imitation and slowly dropped all but the middle one to shove in Jon’s face. “Maybe you don’t hear very well, Mr. Starlight. I said no deal. Besides, I’m already booked on a route. You can catch me when I return and maybe by then I’ll have changed my mind.”

“That will be twenty years from now,” Jon said. “Our time. For you, it will just feel like a week.” When Blake glared at him, Jon shrugged. “I looked up your schedule. I know a little about time dilation too.”

“Well if you know so much about time dilation, you can tell Miss Hakima that she can age gracefully like everyone else or she can just go to…”

“Hell-o!” Jon turned and waved at a mob of people that suddenly flooded into the space port. At the tip of the human phalanx crowded the paparazzi photographers, falling all over themselves to snap a continuous stream of images they could hopefully sell to one of the celebrity gossip tabloids.

This rolling, undulating mass of beings reminded Blake of a swarm of mosquitoes, shapeless and formless, but looking quite solid none the less. Occasionally when the paparazzi would part ever so slightly, Blake caught a glimpse of a cheery, smiling, overly made up face of none other than Heidi Hakima.

Protecting her from the swarming mass of paparazzi were a ring of bodyguards who grimly held rank and shoved their way forward like a wall of football blockers guiding their punt return specialist downfield.

Further behind came the screaming fans who fell over themselves in a desperate attempt to touch just a fragment of Heidi’s clothes. Failing that golden prize, they satisfied themselves with reaching their outstretched hands as close to her as possible before one of her bodyguards gruffly shoved them back to make room for the next irrational fan to take his or her place.

Jon turned with a triumphant smile. “May I present Heidi Hakima.”

The phalanx of bodyguards parted like the Red Sea for Moses as the screaming fans mingled with the paparazzi to get the best view of Heidi and catch every word of wisdom that fell from her pouty red lips.

“I’m so excited just to be me,” Heidi squealed. The fans roared their approval while camera flashes burst around her like an out of control fireworks display.

“Get some shots of Heidi in the cockpit,” Jon said, directing the crowd to the open cargo door of Blake’s starship.

“Nobody gets on my starship without my permission!” Blake roared. Two beefy bodyguards quickly blocked Blake from view of the crowd and glared at him to shut his mouth or else.

As the crowd surged into the starship, Jon turned back to Blake. “As I was saying about not having a choice.” Jon reached inside his jacket and pulled out a freshly printed letter on official Star Route stationary.

Blake’s eyes scanned the embossed letterhead, the straightforward order commanding him to do what Jon Starlight asked for or risk having his pilot license revoked for eternity, and the commander’s signature scrawled at the bottom to the make the whole order valid and official.

“Heidi is always willing to pay the price for whatever she wants,” Jon explained. “And she always gets what she wants.” He gingerly plucked the letter out of Blake’s fingers and tucked it carefully back inside his jacket. “Like I said. You don’t have a choice.”

Inside the starship, everything was a mess. Actually, that wasn’t quite true. Everything that belonged to Blake was a mess because someone had tossed everything he owned into sloppy piles that had been dumped in the hallway.

“I had to move your junk out of the way,” Heidi explained as she tossed her perky head one way and then another while posing in the captain’s chair as cameras captured her every move. “It just cluttered the background of my pictures.”

Then Blake saw the broken balsa wood airplane that someone had stepped on and shoveled to the side.

“What’s this?”

Heidi barely took the time to glance in Blake’s direction as she lifted her chin and smiled for the cameras. “Oh, that piece of junk didn’t match the color of my dress so I pushed it aside.

“You broke it!”

“It’s just a stupid toy.”

“It’s not a stupid toy.” Blake tried to keep his voice steady and calm, but the air hissed through his teeth like a locomotive engine about to burst. “That was a toy from my childhood.”

“Just get another one.” Heidi flung a scarf around her neck and dangled the tip of her high heel off the painted nail of her big toe.

“It’s not the toy that’s important,” Blake hissed. “It’s the sentimental value. Let me tell you something about Time Route pilots.”

The throng of paparazzi photographers suddenly went quiet and still.

Blake rushed in front of Heidi as two burly bodyguards immediately pinned his arms behind his back and pulled him away.

“Time Route pilots don’t have a home, we don’t have a family, we don’t have any friends, and do you know why? Because we don’t belong anywhere. No matter where we go, everything changes since the last time we’ve been there. That’s why the only thing we do have are our memories, and those memories are stored in what little we own. You take those sentimental items out of our lives and it’s like cutting our lifeline to who we are and where we came from.”

Heidi rolled her eyes and twirled her fingertip against her temple to indicate a crazy man. The paparazzi tittered. Someone took a picture.

Jon Starlight immediately stepped in front of paparazzi as the two bodyguards hauled Blake away. “Be sure to get pictures of Heidi piloting the starship.”

Heidi put on a grim look and pretended to steer the starship. More camera flashes followed.

“Let’s see the Heidi Hop!” someone shouted.

Heidi made an exaggerated face as if she we’re tired of hearing this, but obediently stood up, balanced on one leg, and hopped on one foot while pursing her lips and tilting her head at an angle.

“Be-bop de-woop,” she giggled and thrust her bottom towards the crowd. The photographers went wild, especially when Heidi did her trademark Heidi Hop once more, put her hand out, and crushed a second balsa wood airplane resting on the control panel.

The words of Jon Starlight still rang in Blake’s ears. “All we want you to do is take a short hop into that wormhole of yours, circle around for a day, and come back. Do that without getting yourself killed and Heidi will pay you 500,000. That’s guaranteed money. If I’m not mistaken, that’s at least a year’s pay for a Time Route pilot like you.”

Blake wasn’t happy, but he couldn’t do anything about it with two of Heidi’s goon bodyguards protecting her at all times. In fact, there really wasn’t much of anything Blake could do once he set the starship on auto-pilot. A pilot’s whole job consisted of landing, taking off, and programming the computer to do everything else. And, he reminded himself, deal with the unexpected, which was something that computers still couldn’t do.

In Blake’s case, the unexpected was having to babysit Heidi and her two bodyguards back and forth through a wormhole while resisting the urge to open an airlock and kick all three of them out in the direction of the nearest black hole.

Despite drifting past galaxies that few humans had ever seen in history, Heidi was already bored.

She glanced at the gold and diamond watch that her fifth ex-husband had bought for her during their honeymoon that had been filmed for the finale of season 6 of her reality TV show.

“How much longer until we get back?” she whined in the tone of a little kid constantly asking her parents on a long car trip, “Are we there yet?”

Blake didn’t say anything so one of her bodyguard goons nudged him with his fist in a not so friendly manner. “Hey, the lady asked you a question. It’s a good idea if you answer it.”

Blake stared into the scarred faces of both bodyguards that looked like they’d taken a full load of shrapnel from some past war that solved nothing. He tapped a button to light up a computer screen. A swirling mass of different colors appeared that looked meaningless to anyone but an experienced Time Route pilot.

“We’re here,” Blake said, pointing to nowhere in particular. “But it will take some time before we can get home.” Another spot on the map caught his eye. Blake chanced a quick glance at both bodyguards, but none of them appeared to understand anything of what they were looking at.

“However,” Blake added suddenly. “We are closer to this planet than we are to home.” Just saying the word “home” sounded foreign to Blake’s lips, but nobody seemed to have noticed.

Heidi glanced at the other planet that Blake pointed at. “So what?”

“So?” Blake tried to imitate the phony enthusiasm that he remembered Jon Starlight’s voice had. “That means more people to see you!”

Heidi perked up. “Really?”

Blake nodded. “It’s a new colony. You could be the first celebrity to visit it. They’ll worship you.”

Heidi squealed with delight. “I’m a trend setter, not a follower,” she boasted.

Blake nodded. “That’s what I’ve heard.”

“Then what are we waiting for?” Heidi nearly shrieked. “Let’s go!”

Blake held up a hand and put on the most serious expression on his face he could think of, which was when his beloved Green Bay Packers lost the Super Bowl to a last second field goal. “I have to warn you it will take time.”

“We’ve got plenty of time,” Heidi screamed. Then her voice dropped to a more dreamy tone. “An entirely new planet to worship me.”

Blake glanced at his wristwatch. “We’re supposed to be gone just for a day, but if I take you to this colony and back, that will take us a week.”

“A week, a day, whatever.” Heidi stabbed the computer map with her manicured fingernail. “I can’t let down my fans!”

“Of course not,” Blake said. “But first, we need to get approval to make our course change official.”

“I’m telling you let’s go,” Heidi screamed with joy. “How much more official can that be?”

“Well,” Blake said, “we need authorization and approval. Those things take time, you know. And money.”

Heidi jabbed the computer screen again so hard that Blake momentarily thought her finger would go right through it. “I’ll pay any price to get what I want. You tell me what we need to do and we’ll do it.”

Blake tapped a button to contact the Time Route office. “Okay, I’ll let you take it from here.”

Only later could Blake marvel at the fact that he had spent an entire week cooped up inside a starship with the vapid, pointless, and overbearing personality known throughout the galaxy as Heidi Hakima, and managed to suppress the urge to walk outside in space without a helmet. For someone used to time dilation, Blake had to admit that had been the longest week of his life, putting up with the spoiled behavior of someone who was only famous because she was already famous. It reminded Blake of one of those paradoxes in his science books about Albert Einstein and the theory of relativity.

“I can’t wait for my fans to see me come home,” Heidi squealed. Suddenly she got a worried look on her face. “How do I look?”

One bodyguard pulled out a camera and snapped a quick picture. The second bodyguard pulled out a picture they had taken a week ago. They held the two pictures side by side for Heidi to study.

“You still look the same, Miss Hakima.”

Heidi jumped up and down with joy and stood by the cargo door like a puppy anxious to be let outside before it has an accident. When Blake opened the cargo door, Heidi triumphantly stepped forward, bent one leg in a sexy pose, thrust both arms in the air, and shouted, “I’m back!”

Nobody cared. A few space port workers in greasy overalls briefly glanced in Heidi’s direction and continued on their way.

Heidi looked around in disappointment. “Where is everybody? Where’s Jon Starlight? Where are the paparazzi? Where are my fans? Hello, everyone. This is me!”

This time no space port workers bothered to pause and look in her direction.

Blake strolled by Heidi, touting his worn flight bag, and nonchalantly glanced at his wristwatch. “Right on schedule,” he said. Then he looked carefully at Heidi. “You look as young as you did the day we left.”

This seemed to soften Heidi up, but her lower lip stuck out in a pout when she saw the empty space port that greeted her. “Jon Starlight is going to hear from me about this!” She pulled out her phone and tried to make a call.

“We’re sorry,” said a computerized voice, “but this phone has been disconnected due to lack of payment.“

Blake pretended to stretch his arms. “I forgot to tell you. When you go on a Time Route, you have to make sure you leave behind enough money to pay all your bills. Why don’t you call from the Time Route office?”

Inside the Time Route office, Blake sat in a chair and propped his feet on a desk while Heidi made her call.

“I’m sorry,” said the voice of a young girl who Blake guessed was just an intern out of college, “but Mr. Starlight no longer works for the company. How may I help you?”

Heidi’s face wrinkled up in confusion, and Blake noticed that those wrinkles gave a hint to what she would look like when she would get older. “I’m Heidi Hakima,” Heidi shouted into the phone.

The girl on the other end paused for the longest time. Finally she blurted out, “Who?”

Heidi let out an exasperated sigh. “Only the most popular reality TV star in the universe. Hello?”

“Heidi Hakima?”

“Do you have a problem hearing or do I need to talk to your boss?”

Blake heard the young girl whispering something and then she said, “I’ll put you through to my supervisor right away.”

Heidi pointed to the phone and made a face. Blake shrugged his shoulders in sympathy.

A gruff man’s voice came on the line. “Hello, who am I speaking to?”

“This is Heidi Hakima. You know, the Heidi. The one with the hit reality TV show? Hello? Did everybody get hit by a case of the stupids while I was gone?”

The man was silent for a moment. “Heidi Hakima?”

Heidi let out another exasperated gasp. “Haven’t I been telling you my name for the past five minutes?”

The man went silent for a long time. “Jon Starlight no longer works for the company any more.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” Heidi said. “I think your stupid secretary told me that already.”

The man on the other end of the line sucked in his breath. “Ooo boy. I don’t know how to tell you this.”

The tone of the man’s voice made Heidi pause.

“Where are you?” the man asked.

“I just landed. I’m at the space port right now.”

“Oh.” The man cleared his throat. “We were expecting you years ago.”

Heidi’s face went white. “What are you talking about? I just left a week ago.”

“You see,” the man on the other end continued, “Jon Starlight is dead. He committed suicide after the police caught him embezzling money from all of his clients. Especially you.”

Heidi frowned. Blake hummed softly to himself and pretended not to be listening.

“What do you mean, especially me?”

“You were gone for twenty years, Heidi,” the man said. “The network had to cancel your reality TV show. Once people stopped seeing you on TV everyday, there was no reason for anyone to buy any of your products so your company went out of business.”

“What about the money?” Heidi’s voice could barely speak above a whisper.

“That’s where Mr. Starlight came in. Apparently he stole from all of his clients, but when you failed to return, he basically drained all your accounts and cashed in all your assets. I hate to be the one to tell you this, Heidi, but you’ve been bankrupt for the past ten years.”

Heidi dropped the phone. Blake turned around in his chair.

“Anything wrong?” he asked.

Heidi ran out of the office. Blake followed at a leisurely pace.

Heidi stood in front of a group of space port workers checking a starship. “Hey!” she shouted and waved her hands over her head. “It’s me!”

The workers just stared at her. Finally, the oldest worker frowned and walked up to her. “You look just like Heidi Hakima.”

“I am Heidi Hakima!”

The older man laughed. “That’s impossible. She’d be about forty, maybe fifty years old by now.”

Heidi balanced on one leg, bent the other one, and hopped on one foot while pursing her lips and tilting her head to one side. “Be-bop de-woop,” she desperately giggled, and thrust her bottom out. “That’s the Heidi Hop.”

The man nodded. “You’re good. You could probably get a job in Las Vegas as a Heidi Hakima impersonator.” Then he walked away.

Heidi turned to Blake. “What’s going on?”

Blake exaggerated a yawn and glanced at his wristwatch again. “Time dilation,” he said. “We’ve been gone a week but back here, time moved much faster. If my calculations are correct, one week through the wormhole is equivalent to twenty years here.” He glanced at Heidi. “You still look young though.”

Blake started to walk away, then stopped and turned around. He fished a contract out of his pocket and held it in front of her. “By the way, I think you still owe me 500,000 bucks.”

Heidi stared at the contract in disbelief. “I don’t have any money,” she whispered.

Blake shrugged. “In that case, you’ll just have to work off what you owe me. I’ve been looking to hire a janitor for the longest time because I need someone to clean out grease traps in the kitchen, hose down the walls in the trash compactor, and scrub toilets in the bathrooms. I’ll even pay a little above minimum wage.”

Heidi collapsed in a heap on a crate and buried her face in her hands. Blake sat down next to her. He thought that if you stripped out her entitlement mentality and cauterized her immature personality, you might find a decent person inside after all. In any case, he would have the prettiest janitor in the Milky Way. Provided, of course, that she would actually work for a living, but he would find that out in the next week, or twenty years, whichever came first.


The Confederate Flag Debate

During the American Civil War, the Confederacy tried to leave the Union. In the process, they fought the Union armies and killed thousands of Americans, which is more than ISIS, Al Qaeda, and the Taliban have killed combined. So that means instead of worrying about Muslim terrorists attacking the United States, we should really be worried about Southern white people attacking and killing innocent Americans instead.

First, we should invoke tough immigration laws since most Southern white people’s ancestors come from Europe, so let’s shut down our borders and deport all Southern white people out of this country and back to where they belong in Finland, Norway, France, Sweden, and England. Obviously it doesn’t matter how long they’ve lived here. They’re not real Americans so they need to go back to where they came from, even if they didn’t come from there.

Second, the Confederate flag represents an army that lost, so if southern state capitols feel the need to fly the Confederate flag, then the state capitols in all the original thirteen colonies should be flying the British flag to commemorate the British loss in the Revolutionary War.

Third, the Confederate flag represents states that supported slavery. So if Southern states want to relive the days of slavery, they’re more than welcome to work in sweat shops in New York and Los Angeles so they can relive the good old days when people worked just to survive one day longer.

Some people say that the Confederate flag represents pride for a region of the country that has the highest poverty levels, the lowest education levels, and a history of violent discrimination against blacks, so it’s easy to see why Southerners would be particularly proud of those accomplishments.

If the South truly wants to boast about their accomplishments, perhaps they need to show the rest of the country how to eliminate poverty, boost education, and treat others who are different to create a stable and thriving economy. If they could do that, then that could justify flying the Confederate flag.

Of course, they won’t do that because that takes effort, intelligence, and a willingness to change their current way of thinking, so in that regard, they’re no different than Northerners running Washington D.C.

You Owe Me a Job

If you have an e-mail address, you’ve probably received dozens of messages from Nigerian oil ministers or American soldiers in other countries who have miraculously stumbled across millions of dollars and need just you to help them transfer the funds to your bank account.

The people running those scams are amateurs. I have a plan to swindle far more people on a daily basis and still hold my head up high as a valued member of society. If you’re interested, you can be part of my new movement called You Owe Me a Job.

This is how it works. Come to me for four years and pay five figures a year in return for my wisdom that I’ll impart upon you, and that wisdom will be giving you lots of free time to party, get drunk, get laid, and have fun.

After four years of sitting in boring classes taught by teachers who have little real world experience making money from their own knowledge, I’ll print up a piece of paper with your name on it with the following letters printed in fancy Old English calligraphy, and this is what that headline of this piece of paper will say:

You Owe Me a Job

All you have to do is hand that piece of paper to any company where you want to work, and that company is supposed to be so impressed that you have a piece of paper with your name on it that they should instantly give you a high paying job based on the four years of knowledge you supposedly accumulated at my organization.

If you want to make even more money, you can come back to my organization for another two to four years and I’ll hand you a second or third piece of paper with your name on it that also has the headline in Old English calligraphy that reads:

You Owe Me a Job, Ph.D.

The more pieces of paper you have that say “You Owe Me a Job,” the more likely a company will have to hire you and grant you a huge salary. Of course, to get these pieces of paper, I suggest you take out more loans than you can possibly pay back within a lifetime, but what does it matter if in return you get an actual piece of paper that tells potential employers, “You Owe Me a Job.”

So the basic idea is that you pay a lot of money to party for four years and have fun, then attend classes learning trivial topics, and in the end you get a piece of paper that you can present to others stating “You Owe Me a Job.”

It’s that simple! And it works (except when it doesn’t, which is most of the time). Don’t bother starting your own business. Don’t worry about learning skills that could help you actually produce results for others. All you need to be successful in life is to have at least one piece of paper with your name on it that you can hand to others stating “You Owe Me a Job.”

By the way, did I mention my special alumni program where people I ripped off (I mean educated) turn around, get jobs and give even more money to my organization so they can feel good about the sports teams I’ll organize?

I’ll make money from broadcasting and licensing rights from my sports teams and in return, you get nothing but a warm fuzzy feeling that can last a lifetime, knowing that you support a sports team from an organization that could care less about your existence other than asking for money from time to time. And all you get in return is a pice of paper you can frame and show to others that says “You Owe Me a Job.”

Those are the most powerful and persuasive words on the face of the planet. Now isn’t that worth going into debt for life to have for yourself?

Keep the Federal Government Out of Our Lives

One of the more common themes you’ll find from conservatives is the idea that the Federal government has too much control. The right-wing wants the Federal government to butt out of state control over education, religion, and discrimination. That way the states can educate people the way they want (keep them ignorant) allow religion to freely flourish (as long as it’s not a religion they don’t like), and pass laws to allow them to discriminate against anyone they choose (especially gays).

So if states want the Federal government to butt out of their lives, how come these same states like the Federal government spending billions every year building weapons, maintaining military bases, and researching every more effective ways to kill people we don’t like?

Certainly if states don’t like the Federal government telling them they can’t discriminate against gays and lesbians, they should also be fighting against a Federally-controlled military-industrial complex too, right?

Imagine if the Federal government butted out of the military. States would be forced to organize and equip their own militias. Without Federal money, the individual states would never be able to afford expensive aircraft carriers, billion dollar stealth fighter jets designed to combat a threat that isn’t likely to happen, or waste money building nuclear missiles that can blow up the world a thousand times over.

Instead, states would be forced to keep their militias at home so American soldiers wouldn’t be sent overseas to invade countries in a pre-emptive strike that will turn out to be based on faulty intelligence, not to mention the immoral idea that attacking other countries is a valid defensive strategy.

Without Federal money, states would never have hundreds of military bases around the world with troops stationed there, wasting Federal money that could be better spent building our infrastructure at home like roads, bridges, schools, and hospitals.

Perhaps the right wing has a point. If we got rid of all our Federally-funded programs that prop up the military and defense contractors while bankrupting the nation and impoverishing its own citizens, states and their population might really be better off.

So how come states aren’t arguing to reduce Federal spending on the military? After all, they do want the Federal government to butt out of their lives, right?

A Way to Balance the Budget

Every year, Congress complains that they can’t balance the budget while they spend taxpayer money on their own luxury trips around the world, hiring mistresses as private secretaries, and funnel government contracts to friends and relatives while complaining that serving the public is somehow a hardship.

Since the recent Pacquiao/Mayweather fight recently earned close to half a billion dollars, the answer to balancing the budget by raising money is clear. Have pay-per view broadcasts of Congressmen beating the living daylights out of each other.

If Congressmen (and women) are serious about doing everything they can to serve this country, then risking skull fractures, concussions, and broken jaws should be an available option for them as well. Put two Congressmen in a ring and let them beat each other to a bloody pulp. Now regardless of who wins, the public will at least get their money’s worth, the money from pay-per view can go towards balancing the budget, and everyone gets to see their favorite Congressmen get beaten to a pulp live on TV.

To make the action even more exciting, make the fight last until one Congressman is knocked unconscious. To prevent faking injuries, allow the victor to designate a member of the public to rape the unconscious Congressman in the boxing ring after the fight. This will insure that neither Congressman will have an incentive to take a dive to the canvas and end the fight earlier to avoid physical pummeling.

Congressmen say they’re interested in serving the public, so let’s take them at their word and see how interested they are in getting their nose broken to help balance the budget. If they’re not willing to shed a little of their own blood to help make this country better, then obviously they’re not really interested in serving the public. In which case they should be kicked out of office and have their taxpayer funded pension and health care stripped away from them and given to a citizen chosen at random. After all, why should Congressmen get the benefits of taxpayer-funded pensions and health care when the taxpayers themselves don’t get similar benefits?

Perhaps if watching two Congressmen beat each other to a pulp on live TV proves profitable, we could expand this program to include international politicians as well. As long as the only people getting hurt are politicians, that will be a definite improvement from the way the system works by hurting taxpayers today.

The Pro-Life Mindset

Abortion is murder. That’s the basic idea behind the pro-life movement. If you accept that a fetus, at the time of conception, is a living creature and abortion takes a human life, then you’re firmly in the pro-life side of understanding that abortion is murder.

Yet while pro-life advocates protect unborn fetuses because they want to respect the sanctity of life, where were all the pro-life advocates when a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri?

After all, an unarmed black teenager represents life just as much as an unborn fetus. Whether the black teenager committed a crime or attacked the police officer is irrelevant. What matters is that he was alive and the white police officer, for whatever reason, was responsible for killing him. That’s taking a life just as much as aborting an unborn fetus.

You also never saw pro-life advocates protesting the Vietnam War when F-4 Phantom jets were spraying napalm on villages filled with men, women, and children who had no idea what was going on. Obviously men, women, and children in Vietnamese villages are forms of human life just like unborn fetuses, so where were the pro-life advocates then?

Whenever there’s war, death penalties, and police shootings, the pro-life advocates fail to come out in force to protect the sanctity of life. So based on their actions, the answer is clear. Abortion can be morally acceptable if we just classify unborn fetuses as communist, non-Christian, minorities. Now we can slaughter as many fetuses in abortion clinics and pro-life advocates, based on their past actions, should be happy.

Forget about using a scalpel to scrape out a fetus in an abortion. Let’s spray napalm in those uteruses and root out those fetuses like communist villagers in Vietnam.

Don’t even think of taking pills to prevent pregnancy when you can using a fire squad to kill an unborn fetus like a prisoner on death row.  We don’t need abortion clinics to wipe out generations of fetuses. We just need to send in the Marines to blow up everything that could keep a fetus alive. After all, that’s what we did in Iraq and pro-life advocates didn’t seem to mind watching cruise missiles, live on CNN, blowing up buildings in Baghdad and killing untold numbers of innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.

If pro-life advocates want to stop abortions because it’s murder, then they should also stop war, the death penalty, and police shootings for the same reason. It’s murder to take a human life, so let’s get all those pro-life advocates together and after they get done bombing an abortion clinic, we can get them to use their bomb-making skills and gunnery skills to mow down innocent people in the Middle East and in our own backyards where poor minorities live in neighborhoods condemned to poverty.

After all, life is precious whether it’s in the form of a fetus, a poor minority, a non-Christian, or someone living in another country that happens to have natural resources that our multinational corporations want to exploit.

I’m sure even pro-life advocates would agree with me on this one. Provided, of course, that they’re actually pro-life.

Religious Freedom vs. Discrimination

Indiana’s governor Mike Pence recently signed a bill (in privacy away from the scrutiny of the media) that protects the right of individuals for religious freedom. That’s great news because that means the Taliban, al-Qaida, and ISIS can now move to Indiana, force everyone to submit to Sharia law, and have full and complete protection from government intrusion under this new religious freedom law.

Perhaps we can even get Boko Haram involved so they can move to Indiana, kidnap hundreds of schoolgirls, sell them into sex slavery while forcing others to become the sex slaves of Boko Haram fighters all under the protection of religious freedom. After all, we wouldn’t want to think Indiana discriminates against Boka Haram because all they want to do is practice their form of religion free from government intrusion.

With the Taliban, al-Qaida, ISIS, and Boko Haram taking over Indiana by shooting men, kidnapping women, and recruiting young children to join their ranks, Indiana’s governor Mike Pence should be more than pleased that he’s allowing religious freedom to protect these groups from government interference. After all, why should the government control what people can say or do when historically religions have been doing that for years?

Perhaps the Mormons can move to Indiana too and start practicing bigamy, which the United States government had earlier forced the Mormons to stop practicing. That’s definitely a clear case of government intrusion into the lives of people who just want religious freedom.

The Ku Klux Klan also practiced their own twisted form of Christianity to justify terrorizing blacks in the South. The burning cross is merely a symbol of Christianity so the KKK should be free to burn crosses on everyone’s lawns in the name of religious freedom.

With so many groups currently banned from practicing their full beliefs until now, Indiana will soon become a religious mecca of complete freedom from government interference. Maybe when the government admits they have no right to interfere with religious freedom, we can even make it legal for the Jehovah Witnesses to visit Mike Pence in Indiana. After a long session talking to a Jehovah Witness, even Mike Pence might want to think twice about granting religious freedom to others without government oversight whatsoever.

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