Thursday, May 31, 2012

The World Needs A Good Copy Editor

I like to think that I am good with words. Given the examples I encounter on a daily basis for my work and my life in general, I can guarantee with no sense of pride or elitism that I land in the top 1% percentile. I sometimes have to convince myself that our educational system is made primarily up of teachers teaching kids to randomly smush letters together until a group of monkeys with typewriters give the thumbs up, because I have walked through the depths of hell and back: I have seen the sentence that has gone nowhere, and I have seen the co-worker who wrote it livid beyond imagination that I wasn't able to decipher the Da Vinci Code of work-related responsibility I was supposed to divine from his scarcely functioning literacy level.

Of course, some of this can be forgiven. Everyone makes mistakes--myself included--but I find it endlessly irritating that there are people out there who have managed to secure an actual, living career out of writing, and are subsequently paid reasonably large sums of money specifically for the purpose of spelling things correctly. And yet they often manage to find a way to botch the job because they quite frankly don't know what they are doing.

A few weeks ago, this popped up in a local newspaper. It's more amusing and more of a graphic design flaw than a chalkboard-scratching incident of mangled English, but it does reinforce the need that regardless of how creative your graphic designer is, it's always a good idea to get another set of eyeballs on their work before you send it to the printer:

Fast forward to yesterday, in which two major corporations manage to embarrass themselves in spectacularly awesome fashion. First was Groupon, a company that used to be awesome when they sent me offers for tasty restaurants and tickets to local attractions but now sends me a bunch of useless shit about hair extensions and dance lessons. I still get their emails on the off chance that I can get some extra Team Fortress 2 hats, because that would be sweet and, hey, emails are free. Anyway, they sent this to me today. Maybe they should look into securing some twofers on health education classes.

Clearly, this was a lazy cut-and-paste job from Mother's Day. I would like to point out that Groupon's valuation is roughly $12 billion, approximately zero of which was used to pay an unemployed English major to spend more than three seconds looking at an email that's being sent out to millions of people.

And finally, of course, the Mitt Romney campaign had someone they paid millions of dollars to tell them that social media is important, yo, so they should have someone develop an application that people can easily download to show their support. Up until now the Romney campaign has been content with people showing their support by leaving large unmarked burlap sacks of cash behind the dumpster at their headquarters, but Mitt figured it couldn't hurt. Except that it did.

For the Groupons, media outlets, and presidential campaigns out there, I would just like to point out that I am more than willing to have you pay me money to make sure you're not missing the blatantly obvious and embarrass yourself to the entire nation. I'm just putting it out there.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Wisdom of the Internet

I still have comments enabled on my old, defunct blog, so I occasionally get a notification when someone writes something on one of my columns. For the past three years, these comments have pretty much exclusively involved 1) getting discount prescriptions, usually but no limited to boner pills; 2) winning overseas lotteries despite the fact that I have never entered one; or 3) hot Russian prostitutes ready to pay airfare just to spend a quiet evening with yours truly. Despite the fact that the majority of the traffic to this blog comes from what I believe to the Russian whorehouses, I generally disregard these as what they are: spambots.

However, yesterday someone wrote a comment on one of my columns, which I assume was not spam because there were no links involving cut-rate mortgages. The column was tangentially about gambling (this was back on 7/7/2007) and this commenter had the following add to the collective wisdom of the internet:
i know wat these online sprots books do, if you are a high roller, making 
alot of money on their website, theyll wager your amount you put up or more 
at thier local casino and when you win, they just collect the money for you 
and put it in their private accounts. when its time for payout they wire money 
to other locations to switch up payouts for you. and they city always happens 
to be surrounded by casinos. just a thought
 Makes you think, doesn't it?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Land of a Thousand Taxes

Government budgets are tight pretty much everywhere, so it's no surprise that there are some fairly ridiculous tax proposals floating around. Obviously, there's no such thing as a popular tax--you're taking property away from someone by force, after all--but the more economically efficient taxes are often the least politically popular ones, so it's difficult to find a practical way of determining what direction to go.

First off, let's get this straight--I think taxes should be minimal, and that is roughly in line with what I think the government should be doing. So when I'm advocating tax schemes below, it's with the intention that it's still as low as could possibly be done. 

I've never been a fan of single-source tax proposals. Just like anything else, it's not exactly difficult to alter your behavior to avoid paying taxes. Some people call this a loophole, but it's not always that--think of the "sin" taxes, such as on booze and tobacco--that are done in part because they are inelastic (smokers will still buy smokes regardless of price) but also to discourage that behavior (they will stop after a certain point). Likewise with various property taxes--a good way to subtly control the sort of individuals that live in your area (cough, cough) is to raise the property tax rate as a "price" of living in a better-off area. You can't look at these laws, then turn around and claim that slapping a tax on corporations doesn't change how they do business. Of course it does.

So single-source taxes (everyone only pays property taxes, or sales tax, or income tax, etc.) are usually a bad idea--the more creative one is, the easier it is to avoid taxes altogether. Sure, it's less efficient, but throwing out four or five types of taxes will pretty much guarantee that a specific individual is going to get hit with a tax at some point.

There's also no shortage of very stupid ideas concerning taxation. Sometimes it involves taxing unusual things--there was a Johnstown Flood Tax on alcohol in my home state that was intended to pay the victims of that disaster, yet mysteriously are still on the books despite the fact that its goal was accomplished in the 1940's.

So when this story is released, it makes me cringe. Nurses (for some reason) are petitioning for a financial transaction tax--50 cents on every $100 worth of financial transaction. I do not know why a group nurses are proposing this, since it doesn't have anything to do with health care, but the fact that they're branding it a 'sin' tax (apparently making money is a sin) probably explains a lot. It's a stupid idea for lots of reasons--it would grind nearly all liquidity in the market to a halt; it would make our financial system significantly less efficient as people artificially trade less, and it would be much easier just to tax the income from these transactions, like we already do--and it takes only a few minutes of thought to realize this would effectively destroy the nurses' own pension system. And, yes, we used to have a tax on transactions and some other nations have it, but the system is much different now than it was a century ago, just like the tax laws are different in each nation.

Italy also found itself on the wrong end of a tax proposal, as they planned to levy a tax on pet ownership. Italy's own financial situation is pretty shaky, but even this tax proposal caused such a furious reaction it was retracted the same day it was made.

There's no perfect tax solution. Sadly, it doesn't involve taxing the rich (they already pay more, and they're the ones that will be creating new jobs) or somehow abolishing hated taxes (if you're going to throw out property taxes, as many cranky local municipalities want to do, you're just going to end up paying for it some other way). The worst part is eventually one of these awful ideas will become law.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Timeline to the IPO

Facebook's IPO is going to be released today, with an initial per-share price of $38. In other social media news Pinterest has apparently secured $100 million in new funding. Neither of these companies sell a product, nor is there an effective long-term business plan. Is this the beginning of a new tech bubble?

Probably not, but there's still room to be fairly cautious. First, Pinterest--this is a web site with no known way of generating revenue. Businesses love it when you pin their products; at this point, it's mostly recipes and household products, since Pinterest started off with a highly middle-class female demographic. But exactly how Pinterest is going to capitalize off of this remains to be seen. It's free advertising for Crisco and Burberry, so why would they pay anyone any money? It defeats the purpose of what makes it unique.

Likewise, Facebook may eventually run into issues. If you don't know by now, Facebook isn't the product--you are. They make their money through ads, to be sure, but they're also collecting massive amounts of data every time you press a "Like" button or mention Doritos in a post. They then sell this info to marketers. There's plenty of completely valid ways this can be spun, but the big question mark is how long Facebook can remain as popular as it currently is. Hopefully no one has forgotten MySpace.

Even now, Facebook is getting cluttered with games and the new Timeline setup has diminished enthusiasm for many long-time users. If people stop posting and liking on Facebook because they can't stand to be there, and use it primarily to set up events, the entire revenue model of Facebook more or less collapses. Sadly, social media hasn't matured to the point where one big, stable company will always be around. It seems right now that Facebook is it, but it's only been open to the public a few short years. General Motors made a poorly-timed (for Facebook) announcement that they were pulling their Facebook ads, finding then ineffectual. This doesn't bode well for their only other main source of revenue.

Part of me also thinks that social media is sort of a mess. On one hand, we have things such as Instagram that aren't in any way creative or original, but somehow managed to gain a huge following and a pricey buyout by Facebook. There's a lot of seemingly useless stuff out there--Klout, in particular, seems like a badly-algorithmed circle-jerk--that people are paying plenty of attention to and venture capitalists are throwing money at it. And yet the few clean, simple ideas I've thought of in my spare time have yet to be implemented. An I an underfunded genius, or are people pretty much not very demanding when it comes to how useful social media can truly be?

Did Facebook overshoot its value? Sadly, I don't have the time to run any sort of half-assed analysis, but I suspect so. It's a hot new company that people are going to assume is going to be around forever, but once they have to answer to shareholders (even minority shareholders, which is everyone except Mark Zuckerberg at this point) the entire entity known as Facebook is going to change.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The House of Morgan

For those who don't follow massive financial disasters like I do, the recent news that J.P. Morgan has just lost a massive amount of money probably isn't all that surprising. What is surprising is the reaction--or, at least, some of it.

While chief investment officer has mysteriously "retired," both the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched investigations as to what, exactly, happened, without going into a whole lot of detail as to what they were looking for. It's early yet, of course, but that doesn't sound particularly good.

Right off the bat, let's get this straight--it's entirely possible that something criminal has gone on, or at the very least financial regulations have not been followed properly. In fact, in any complex financial transaction, there are always regulatory issues; not because big bankers are greedy or sloppy, but because the regulations are so complicated and worryingly elastic that some government official is bound to find something wrong.So no matter what, some obnoxious official is going to hold up a sheet of paper with "evidence" of wrongdoing, even if such evidence is not particularly compelling. All the people want to hear is that a fat cat got smoked at his own game.

Here's the problem: big banks exist because they have the leverage to take big risks. Everyone involved would love it if financiers made money all the time, but if that were the case anyone could do it. Part of the "game" of finance is that there is some level of risk involved, and that's how profits are made.

Of course, this isn't the same as, say, gambling or chance. While there are certainly factors outside of one's control that could affect success, that's part of the information-gathering process. If there is a chance that a cold snap could destroy the coffee crop, that should be factored into whether one should invest in, say, Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts. You've got a hunch that the Nook might do better than expected than the Kindle, but all of the bits of information--which may seem random to some--are collected in the grand total of "the market" and come up with a premium to pay over what the Nook or the Kindle would normally be The firm or individual who can best assess this information, and take the most prudent calculated risks, is the one who ends up rich.

The $2 Billion-with-a-B loss by J.P. Morgan is not good news for the economy. But failures are just as important as successes in the free market, and not every complete loss is cause for a government investigation.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Static and Noise: Easy Money

No Respect: I just watched an old clip of Rodney Dangerfield on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno from about ten years ago. Rodney's gone, now, but you have to respect the man. While he certainly couldn't do it all--he had a pretty limited range of schtick--he did what he did very, very well. And in this case, he made Jay Leno incredibly uncomfortable, which is always a plus. He's a great example of a late bloomer, not hitting it big until he was well past the time when most comedians usually hit stardom--his late 40's. In his performances, he would just fire off a battery of jokes, and if something wasn't connecting with the audience, he's change course. Yes, he's crass, the old premise of "no respect" gets tired, and his jokes are always hit or miss. And he's definitely a throwback to the old-school comedy. But you know what? He gets some solid jokes in every set, and that's more than you can say for the vast majority of current comedians.

30 Rock: It appears that perpetually on-the-fence television show 30 Rock will get one last, short season. I always liked 30 Rock, but it eventually seemed to be a bit too clever for its own good; it also seemed to switch too rapidly from smart, witty dialogue to awkward slapstick and poorly-executed farce. I admittedly lost interest around season 4 or so, catching it only on occasion. The whole Alec Baldwin I-don't-want-this-job-but-I'm-still-signing-contracts nonsense also irritated me. While it's still good, the quality decline has prevented me from regarding it as a weekly desire. I'll eventually catch up all the episodes some rainy weekend on Netflix or something.

Everything Is Changing: It's not exactly a secret that the nature of viewing television is changing rapidly. I believe we are going to very soon enter a make-or-break situation in how the large media corporations deal with this change. From Dish Network's feud with AMC to the specious packaging setup of HBO, viewers are going to be kept from specific programming they want to consume, and how consumers react to this will decide the fate of the future of television. If it's all piracy and theft, media will crack down on offering shows via that method. If people simply want to consume entertainment and aren't very interested in specific programming (historical dramas or fantasy, not necessarily Mad Men or Game of Thrones) it will move in a different direction. Will (legitimate) online viewing or DVRs increase dramatically, changing how advertising rates are determined? Now that the cost of viewing programming has dropped significantly and the costs are tied up almost exclusively with the creative content, at some point the business model of the entertainment industry is going to have to change. So far it has done so reluctantly. It had better change its outlook if it wants to survive.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Draw This!

It appears that the latest app fad, Draw Something, has become an alarmingly horrifying bust.

Zynga, for those who do not know, are the masterminds behind FarmVille, the highly addictive and completely pointless Facebook game that cropped up a few years ago. Building off of that success, they've rapidly released a slew of new games, all of the "casual" genre. They generate their revenue from multiple different streams, but they generally involve getting you to download the game for free, and then paying for extras later. Draw Something, like dozens of others, are now owned by Zynga.

It's actually a very popular business model, and one that is not necessarily bad. My current favorite addiction, Team Fortress 2, has adopted this model: after being a standard pay-and-play game for a few years, they decided to release it for free and charge for microtransactions, small in-game purchases. There are different ways of doing this, of course; many casual games let you buy stuff so that you get cool stuff quicker. These tend to be decried by gamers since you're basically paying for your victory, although most casual gamers, who are mostly playing for their own leisure and not to brag to their friends, may not care as much. More popular with players are the simply cosmetic changes--say, letting you name your weapons or allowing you to change item colors. They don't affect gameplay, but it makes the experience more enjoyable--and at 99 cents a pop, most players can justify these small transactions.

And yet, while Zynga isn't hurting (they cleared $300 million in revenue last year), they've had two spectacular failures in the past year or so. The first was Words with Friends, a vastly popular Scrabble clone that collapsed under its own weight. Unable to handle the massive number of new players, the game frequently froze and failed to connect after words were played. The fad also passed. Similarly, Draw Something's phenomenal success collapsed almost immediately once acquired by Zynga, as a poor word base (repetitions were common), only to be augmented by paid advertisements (who wants to draw Taco Bell?) caused former fans to simply stop playing.

Of course, while Zynga has bought games at their prime and saw them rapidly diminish in popularity, they have another business model, known primarily as "stealing other people's ideas." Again, two major cases of accusations of theft have been leveled at the company: the once-popular Mafia Wars was nearly identical to Mob Wars, while Tiny Tower was copied as Dream Heights. They've also gotten in trouble with the makers of Oregon Trail by making a near exact clone of that classic game. The law is tricky--you can't copyright game rules, but you can copyright the art and design of games--but their ham-fisted handling of the situation has already derailed several merger proposals.

In the end, of course, most casual gamers won't care about playing copied games, but will abandon games once they get bored. Based on rumors swirling about the company (they famously mistreat employees, most recently by demanding employees give back unvested shares or face termination), it's unlikely they have the corporate culture to maintain a succession of games to keep their brand afloat.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dog Tweet Dog

This past week has demonstrated to me one of the major pitfalls of getting your news solely from Twitter.

I don't always have ready access to news, so most of the day I'm relying on my phone if anything of note happens. Usually this services my needs, except for the fact that I forgot one rather important detail: it's an election year. Three times in the past week or so my Twitter feed has been clogged up with stories that make me pull a WTF face.

Actually, it started a few weeks ago, when some people started commenting about Barack Obama eating dogs. "Wait, what?" I thought. Since this is the internet, and all, I assumed it was some weird meme or a running joke on a late night talk show, so I didn't pay it any mind. I eventually found out earlier this week, however, that the reason people were making jokes about it is because Obama confessed in his autobiography (Dreams From My Father) that while a student in Indonesia he once ate dog.

Under normal circumstances, this would be not be A Thing--it might make the news and comedian might joke about it for a day or two, and then everyone would move on to more important things. However, the Democrats (though to be fair not the Obama campaign) have in the past made a deal about Romney's treatment of his pet dog.  So now it's definitely A Thing--one side has opened up the "Canine Gap," so both sides can lay claim that they treat puppies better.

Then earlier this week people started talking about a "composite girlfriend."  Again, on Twitter, this is without any context whatsoever, so for a full day I was very confused about all of the jokes and banter. There, it turns out that a very sloppy reporter ran a story about how Obama used a composite character template for his girlfriend in his autobiography, only to find out that he outright told everyone in the beginning of the book that he used composite characters right off the bat. The original author wrote a correction--that later needed to be corrected because it, too, was wrong--but the original story made the rounds before his massive error was caught. It was a non-story that everyone talked about for about a day. But that phrase--"composite girlfriend"--was unique enough that it's stuck now as A Thing.

Finally, yesterday I started seeing a lot of information about some Julia who supports Obama. Like, a lot of people talking about it. I ran through all of the Julias that I knew, and realized that most famous Julias appear to be dead. (Has anyone checked on Mrs. von Trapp lately?) Turns out Julia is simply the focus of the Obama's campaign--a fictional (composite?) individual, crafted to be the epitome of middle-class female banality, living life through the benefits that an Obama presidency has granted her. Sadly, as a campaign tool, it appears to be rather clumsy and--despite it's interactive nature--very old-fashioned in its execution. (It was almost an invitation for the RNC to run a parallel commentary about how bad things have gotten in the last four years, and while claiming the ways you have made life better is pretty standard in political campaigns, they overdid it by painting Julia as someone who was carried her entire life on the backs of the government--a sentiment large portions of swing voters probably aren't going to appreciate.)

None of these things ended up being major. Sadly, there is a Presidential election later this year, so petty, emotional issues that have little to do with governance are going to fill the airwaves--and, now, Twitter feeds. This, of course, is nothing new; goofy distractions have been a staple of campaigns since George Washington.

The Pledge: The answer to each of the questions raised by the above issues is: Who gives a shit?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Board Game Review: Cold War: CIA vs. KGB

Ever want to relive the deadly yet exciting world of Cold War espionage? Cold War: CIA vs. KGB is Fantasy Flight's card game that attempts to simulate this epic struggle. 

The object of the game is to accumulate 100 points. To do so, each player is trying to win an objective. These objectives can be one of two different things: it is usually a nation (a Cold War hotbed of conflict, like Angola or Cuba) or it can be an event, like a Summit Meeting or the Olympics.

 Examples of Objectives. Notice that "Space Race" is an event, while Turkey and Panama are nations.

During each turn, a new objective is turned over; each objective has a Population rating, a Stability rating, and a point value. (These ratings will be important later.) Players then select which agent they are going to use. Each agent has a different ability--while some are more useful than others, there is always a chance that your agent could be terminated. For example, one agent allows you to claim a bonus objective, while another will allow you to win the objective even if you lose. Sometimes agents are placed "on leave," which means they are ineligible to be used, and guarantees that you can't play the same agent twice in a row. 

The "Director" agent, who can claim a bonus objective if the CIA wins.

Then, each player will take a turn dealing with a group. There is a deck of various groups that are used to win the objective; there are four types (Military, Economic, Media, and Political) and there is one of each numbered 1 through 6. Each player takes a turn either drawing a new card or activating their existing card; ultimately, they are trying to hit as close to the objective's Stability rating without going over. A player can only draw as many groups as the Population of the objective; likewise, the Stability rating is different for each objective.

However, each group can also be used in a different way. Once used they are "mobilized," meaning that they cannot be used again. Military cards can be used to destroy other groups (including your own); Economic cards can cause a normal card to be mobilized (or vice versa); Political cards allow you to move a group to your rival, or steal one of theirs; and Media cards allow you to look at the next group and decide if you want to take it, discard it, or leave it for your rival.

 Examples from each of the group types (clockwork from top left): Media, Economic, Political, and Military

Since you are trying to hit a specific number, but not go over, all of these actions can have a great impact on your success. You can force lousy cards on your rival, or take out a key group, or take any number of options. When both players pass, the conflict is resolved; the player closest to the Stability without going over wins. There's an easy set of tiebreakers as well, since the fine-tuning of the actions will often cause both players to be very close to the Stability rating of the objective.

If either player ends up going over at this time, they cause civil disorder--which terminates their agent and gives an automatic victory to their opponent. Agents are revealed and effects are determined, and the winner tallies up their points.

All of the nation objectives simply give you points; event objectives give you a small number of points, but can also be used for a special ability (such as saving your agent if they cause civil disorder, or re-adding a terminated agent to your hand). You don't have to, but they can be useful--though you do have to give up the points if you do so.

When one player reaches 100 points, they win the game. Once you get used to the rules, a game can be played in a half hour to forty-five minutes.

A few of the minimal parts in the game; mostly reminder tokens.

What I liked about the game:
  • The gameplay is very tight. There isn't much room for error, but there are also a lot of options open to each player. You never feel like there's an obvious move.
  • The production is excellent. It almost seems a little over-produced, but the game is decently priced so it's not a bad thing. (I don't know what the pending reprint is going to look like; this is for the first edition.)
  • The bluffing game of Agents can be very fun. Does your rival have the Assassin in play, or are they playing it safe with the Deputy Director? Even if a player wins the objective, they may suddenly find their future much less bright due to the actions of the Agent.
  • Combine that bluffing with a solid push-your-luck element and you have a good feeling of educated guesswork--and then you utilize your groups to consciously make things better for yourself or worse for your rival. These are simple rules, but the possibilities are greater than a simple exercise in card-drawing.
  • The design of the game covers all the bases. There are fail-safes for all kinds of tiebreakers and things that could cause the game to go haywire; they managed to create a reasonably simple rule-set to cover all potentialities.

What I don't like about the game:
  • Both sides play exactly the same. While I understand why this was done, for a game with so much potential for flavor this seems like a missed opportunity.
  • The Event cards are a disappointment. Their "population" is 1--which means each player draws one card, and the highest card wins. (There's a little wiggle room with Military cards, but not much.) It's a very luck-driven process; given the pains the designers went through to mitigate the luck every other way, it seems very out of place. Thankfully there are not many Events.
  • Because the game plays so tightly, both players will often end up going back and forth fine-tuning their groups until both are at the Stability number, and then it's more or less random based on the tiebreaker who actually wins the objective. And sometimes it does not matter what you do, you know you are going to lose. I would have liked to have seen some sort of hidden bonus to keep players guessing. True, the presence of various Agents (notably the Master Spy) can make this unpredictable, but as it stands both players grind their groups down until someone lucks out a win, or else one player completely blows it and takes their lumps--which could mean the end of the game.
The verdict? The game play is very well done, and you get a pretty good sense that you are engaging in this epic back-and-forth struggle for world domination. Still, without any sort of variation I can see it getting a touch stale, especially as experienced players who can tug the balance of power find themselves winning by the luck of the tie-breaker. I'll give it a B-. As an occasional game I would rate it higher, maybe even a solid A, but I think frequent play will cause this game to be much less fun.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Back And To The Left

Recently, a witness to the assassination of Robert Kennedy, Jr., claims that there was a second shooter. This is understandably big news, considering that it has long been assumed that Sirhan Sirhan was the only shooter in an assassination attempt that was held in a crowded room with cameras rolling. Such a claim seems implausible, but that is what makes absurd yet oddly possible claim exciting information.

Of course, conspiracy theorists always have a field day when new information such as this comes out—especially if that information was suppressed by the government or a large corporation or, ideally, a large corporation at the behest of a government agency. Not only does this validate the theorists’ beliefs—they ARE keeping information from us and there WAS a conspiracy!—but it also leads to speculation that other, less realistic theories could also be valid as well.
Thankfully, this new news has, in fact, caused a lot of people to come forward and confirm some long-standing assertions by conspiracy theorists:
  • At one point the Freemasons did, in fact, control most of the world’s governments and accumulated a sizable percentage of the entire global wealth, and used this to alter the course of history as we know it. Sadly, at this point, they exist mostly to get reduced-rate car and home insurance rates.
  • Princess Di didn’t die in a car wreck. Diana and Elton John had a child and her name is Lady Gaga. IT ALL MAKES SENSE, RIGHT?
  • The ancient Bavarian Illuminati, far from being the source of overthrown governments and the co-option of major religions, is, in fact, a wildly misunderstood multi-level marketing business which brings all-natural organic skin creams and off-brand energy drinks to consumers.
  • There has been a long-lasting worldwide effort to infiltrate the water supply with mind-altering pharmaceuticals. Unfortunately, the only effect they can successfully cause with these chemicals is to get people to buy more purified bottled water.
  • Global warming is real, but it’s not man-made. The Sun is going through menopause, so it will pass. Just…don’t say anything, okay?
  • Ghosts and poltergeists are real. However, they are less interested in flipping your hall light on and off and knocking random items off of your shelf while you sleep and significantly more interested in watching you shower naked.
  • Nikolai Tesla had created far more wondrous inventions than has been recorded in the history books. The only thing that we’re sure of is that he was unable to perfect time travel, because if he had he would go back in time and knock Thomas Edison flat on his pasty white ass.
  • You’ve seen the Shriners riding those goofy carts around in parades? They’re not just being silly, they secretly control the entire global oil supply and are showcasing the future of transportation. Heed their actions!
  • Do you want to know The Secret? The Secret is that you just paid $39.95 for something you could learn observing human behavior for, like, three minutes.
  • Aliens do, in fact, exist, but all of the paranormal activities people witness are by design. Odd shapes in the sky, unexplainable phenomena that show up for no reason and with no explanation, and of course lots of lots of anal probes; this was all in preparation to prepare themselves for their one and only goal, which is to become customer service representatives for Comcast.
  • There really was only one gunman in Dallas: Jackie Kennedy. I mean, c’mon. Marilyn Monroe? Countless interns and sycophants? Three-quarters of New England? JFK was more ravaged by STDs and shame than Vietnam eventually became. The commies just made a perfect patsy for the wiles of a woman scorned.
  • The royal family in England does, in fact, operate as a drug-running operation. Because, seriously, what else are they doing?
  • The CIA and the National Security Agency do not, in fact, listen in on your phone calls or intercept your mail; they have neither the resources nor the inclination to do so. They will¸ however, hack into your Facebook account and awkwardly “like” six-month-old status updates made by your ex-girlfriend.
  • The Mafia has seen its cornered industries—alcohol, narcotics, gambling, Presidents—have all but been co-opted by street gangs, looser government regulations, and the Internet. At this point their only money-making enterprises are Chinese Laundromats and tampons.
  • The Church of Scientology is, in fact, not a corporation set up to generate revenues based on the theological fears of a wealthy and vulnerable subset of the population, but a legitimate social construct used to provide a metaphysical answer to the meaning of life and provide an accessible code of conduct for a moral lifestyle. Actually, on second thought, no—there are some things too crazy for even the conspiracy theorists.