As a professor of Critical Thinking at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, CA, my entire academic life I have been constantly receiving similar feedback on my observations and opinions, something along the line of, “I have not really thought of it that way before.” Jimmy’s intention is to develop critical thinking skills, look at things a different way and to question everything. I speak and write of all aspects of life, from Buddhism to twerking, from the spiritual to the profane, from meditation to pornography. It all makes for great conversation and analysis.

So sit back, read and/or listen, and question me as we learn in the tensions of life.

Voting…Or Not

I preface this blog entry with the qualification that I am not a political expert in any way, shape or form (are you listening Holliann?). However, I do know how to structure sentences and do have an opinion…not to mention I pay WordPress $100 a year for this domain name…so read on!

The 2016 presidential election is still over 14 months away and the party nominations are beginning to heat up in a big way. It is around this time of year that I hear people discussing the candidates and for whom they will vote.  Oddly, it seems most of us have a feel for who we like and do not like–yet really have no real, legitimate “grounded” reasons why. I hear things like, “Trump seems like such an asshole,” or, “Hillary is a bitch,” or, “Bernie Sanders reminds me of my loving grandfather.”

Hardly astute political observations when deciding on who shall be the next “Leader of the Free World.” Or are they as good as any other observations? Stay with me here people. I have come full circle on my former harsh critiques of a superficial voting base. I suggest 3 basic unpopular options -well, kinda 4– for those of you considering voting in the next election…and please read on before you judge me too harshly and cast me as un-American. I do have my reasons.

1. Don’t vote.vote151

2. Vote for whoever makes you feel better about life.

3. Close your eyes, point down, and select the candidate at your fingertip.

We’ll get to number 4 later….

Yes, I’m dead serious.

First off, two of my favorite thinkers, economists Stephen Dubner and Steven Leavitt from Freakonomics, would tell you straight out that voting is the biggest waste of time a person can spend. In a New York Times article they wrote in 2005, they claim following:

 Why would an economist be embarrassed to be seen at the voting booth? Because voting exacts a cost — in time, effort, lost productivity — with no discernible payoff except perhaps some vague sense of having done your “civic duty.” As the economist Patricia Funk wrote in a recent paper, “A rational individual should abstain from voting.”

The odds that your vote will actually affect the outcome of a given election are very, very, very slim. This was documented by the economists Casey Mulligan and Charles Hunter, who analyzed more than 56,000 Congressional and state-legislative elections since 1898. For all the attention paid in the media to close elections, it turns out that they are exceedingly rare. The median margin of victory in the Congressional elections was 22 percent; in the state-legislature elections, it was 25 percent. Even in the closest elections, it is almost never the case that a single vote is pivotal. Of the more than 40,000 elections for state legislator that Mulligan and Hunter analyzed, comprising nearly 1 billion votes, only 7 elections were decided by a single vote, with 2 others tied. Of the more than 16,000 Congressional elections, in which many more people vote, only one election in the past 100 years — a 1910 race in Buffalo — was decided by a single vote. 

So, according to them, why do people vote? They provide 3 reasons:

1. Perhaps we are just not very bright and therefore wrongly believe that our votes will affect the outcome.

2. Perhaps we vote in the same spirit in which we buy lottery tickets. After all, your chances of winning a lottery and of affecting an election are pretty similar. From a financial perspective, playing the lottery is a bad investment. But it’s fun and relatively cheap: for the price of a ticket, you buy the right to fantasize how you’d spend the winnings – just like you get to fantasize that your vote will have some impact on policy.

3. Perhaps we have been socialized into the voting-as-civic-duty idea, believing that it’s a good thing for society if people vote, even if it’s not particularly good for the individual. And thus we feel guilty for not voting.

I once was of the strong opinion that not voting was better than casting an ignorant vote. However, for the following two reasons -my 2nd and 3rd options-I have changed my mind. Funny what a little research can do.

My second possible option concerning voting -vote for who makes you feel better about your life- is grounded in the following principle concerning the logistics of the presidency: The actual power of the president.

I believe that one of the most important considerations when considering presidential candidates is to understand the nature of the presidency and the actual power he or she possesses.

Bernadette Meyler, a Cornell Law Professor, breaks down presidential power into five general areas -that I can simplify here:  

1. Leader of the Armed Forces

2. Judicial and Cabinet Appointments

3. The Execution or Non-Execution of Laws

4. Power of Persuasion over Congress

5. Foreign Policy

Perhaps a sixth power, tangentially related to power #4 above, and arguably the greatest power a president may have, is that of the bully pulpit. Whether or not a president is for or against abortion, gay rights, immigration reform or tax increases/cuts –just to name a few issues– means very little insofar as the president alone is concerned. Our system of checks and balances does not allow for a dictatorship and these types of issues are the result of the judicial and legislative branches of government, in tandem with the executive branch. That said, the president has the power to wield a rather hefty sword of persuasion towards these, and other, entities –yet he or she can never vote or judge in their stead.

So how much power does the president really have?

I would argue that the president has far less power than most of us think. Conversely, I would also contend that supreme court justices have substantially far more power than we give them credit. The president may appoint justices, yet the  senate needs to approve them (too bad for Robert Bork….look it up kiddos). In terms of my gay friends who can now marry, Justice Anthony Kennedy has far more power than Barack Obama. In fact, President Obama does not have ANY power in this matter whatsoever –other than to use his powers of persuasion to attempt to shape public and political opinion.

So, Jimmy, what is the point?

The way our system functions, the president is far more a “purveyor of political perception” over a “perpetrator of power.” Yes, the president can declare war, appoint cabinet members, and free convicted felons, yet, none of these things are ever done in a vacuum nor without weighing the political consequences of making such decisions. If the president makes grave errors in any of these types of decisions, the president will politically pay dearly for it. This is why presidents wait until their term is nearly over to start pardoning their white collar buddies, among others, in prison –to avoid political fall out. Just hours before his final term in office, on January 20, 2001, Bill Clinton released 140 people from prison (this act was known in some circles as “pardongate”). To grant these pardons any sooner would have been political suicide and he would have had hell to pay.

So, yes, the president certainly wields a strong power of persuasion yet will not commit any acts that will result in his or her own political suicide. Hence, we potentially can have a wild presidential pit bull in office, yet due to political ambitions in the great majority of cases, the president is laced with a strong political sedative to behave in accordance with popular opinion –left wing or right wing be damned.

My opinion these days? Vote for whomever makes you feel better about your life and this country. It’s as good a criteria as any.

Finally, if either not voting or voting based on feeling does not work for you, I would recommend my third option: Randomly select anyone. There are strong reasons to support an ignorant voter base, many discussed here in Harvard Professor Jennifer L. Hochschild’s article, “If Democracies Need Informed Voters, How Can They Thrive While Expanding Enfranchisement?” In this article she states the following:

If everyone was passionately and knowledgeably engaged with the issues, the losing party would not grant legitimacy to electoral results or to controversial legislative or judicial decisions, and that would threaten the existence of the state itself. As Bernard Berelson and his colleagues put it, “the apathetic segment of America probably has helped to hold the system together and cushioned the shock of disagreement, adjustment, and change.”  After all, democratic participation is hard and often unrewarding work, especially if one invests time and energy in learning about electoral or policy choices; in this view, a democracy needs the apathetic ignorant to balance the passionate experts. 

My paraphrase of the above sentiment? We need a lot of people not to give a shit or else there might be civil war and/or anarchy. Sure Thomas Jefferson would disagree, though he did not live in the age of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and Reddit –not to mention Disneyland…all worthy competitors for our precious time, attention and resources. These things keep us in a politically flaccid and mind-numbing state. We need political apathy in this country and our survival depends on a majority of ignorant voters.

I find it quite laughable when I hear either the extreme right or extreme left claim they will leave the country if a certain candidate wins. No you won’t.  Shut up. (Although if Trump wins I certainly won’t go to Mexico because I’d probably never get back over that wall). The president just doesn’t change things all that much. Flee to France if you must, Johnny Depp, though if the president mattered that much, our country would never have survived the Jimmy Carter era.

Of course there is a 4th alternative…be passionate and spend copious amounts of time studying the candidates and issues. But that would require, as stated above, often hard and unrewarding work: Having to check facts and investigate political voting records can be a real bitch. Particularly when you consider your one vote has about as much chance for counting as winning the super lotto…10 times in a row.

Yep. That’s what I thought.

I told you all I am no political expert…just a blogger with an opinion. And for a $100 bucks a year, you better believe you are going to get it.


If you had an opportunity to start a business yet you knew going into it that you had a 90% chance of failure, would you start it?

Unless you are either overly optimistic or just plain dishonest, the answer would be a resounding no. Sure you might be the lucky 10%…yet not likely.

Yet, for those who are looking to get into this business of marriage, this is the approximate chance your marriage will be successful.

Allow me to explain.

While doing some research on marriage and divorce, I noticed some very interesting facts (a midst some very complicated and difficult-to-decipher statistics). For example:

  • Indeed it may seem at first glance somewhat counter intuitive, the states with the highest divorce rates, as of 2012, are the conservative, “bible belt” states.  For example, Arkansas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Kentucky and Mississippi have the highest divorce rates of all states in the US, hovering around 4.8 divorces, per year, per 1000 people –translating to over around a 50% divorce rate over the life of the marriage (I did not count Nevada with a whopping divorce rate of 5.5 divorces for every 1000 people because, well, it’s Nevada and people get drunk, marry, divorce on any given weekend).
  • The lowest divorce rates in the US are by far the more liberal, educated states. For example, the lowest divorce rates in the country are New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Illinois -which has only 2.4 divorces, per year, per 1000 people.
  • The lone curve ball concerning the above data is that the lowest divorce state in the US is Iowa with only 2.2 divorces, per year, per 1000 residents. Go figure.

Now, trust me on this one, there exists mountains of information concerning marriage and divorce statistics, odds, etc… So please allow me to summarize as simply as possible the greatest influence in whether or not a couple will divorce:

By FAR, first and foremost: Education. Sociologist Steve Martin calls this the great divorce divide. Couples with a Bachelors Degree or higher are 30% more like to stay together since 1970. On the other hand, couples with little to no higher education are 6% more likely to divorce since 1970.  Education matters and we could theorize for days as to why…including the fact that those that can stick out an education through thick and thin are far more likely to stick out a relationship when times get tough. In addition, those with an education typically get married at an older age and, statistically, make more money –all things that help a marriage survive. According to National Affairs:

This growing divorce divide means that college-educated married couples are now about half as likely to divorce as their less-educated peers. Well-educated spouses who come from intact families, who enjoy annual incomes over $60,000, and who conceive their first child in ­wedlock — as many college-educated couples do — have exceedingly low rates of divorce.

Other very important factors concern where you live, age when married, income bracket and whether or not your parents are divorced.

So here is my mathematical marriage disaster equation: Odds of getting divorced: 40-50%. Odds of remaining 50-60% remaining true to their marriage vows (read: cheating): Half? 30%? Odds of remaining 30% being truly happy and content in their marriage? 10%? 15%?

This leaves, pending on how nitpicky you would like to get with these numbers, approximately a 10-15% chance of having a fruitful, happy relationship till death do you part.

I believe, by virtue of anyone’s fuzzy divorce math, marriage in 2015 is a total failing institution.  Of course the US is not as bad off as some other countries, Belgium, for example, has a 71% divorce rate –compared to anywhere from 40% to 55% chance of divorce, over one’s life, in the United States.


And here is what I am not saying:

I am not saying we should do away with marriage, no need to throw the bridal baby out with the nuptial bathwater –I am saying we have a very large social problem and we need to somehow fix it. I do abide by the notion that divorce is a terrible thing for families and society at large. It is a major problem. Thus, when society has a major problem it is in all our best interests to try and solve it.

Yet, I ask, is divorce just an inevitable path for most? Is there anything we can do about it? Not surprisingly, as one who has been pondering this social plague for many years, we do have some possible solutions.

1. Make divorce very difficult to obtain. It used to be very difficult to divorce in the United States –until September 4, 1969 when California Governor Ronald Reagan, who divorced his first wife, Jane Wyman in 1948 when she accused him of mental cruelty and, essentially, wanted to clear his name, signed the first no-fault divorce legislation in the US (a decision he reportedly later regretted). Prior to no-fault divorce, spouses seeking divorce had to prove that their partner was at fault for the marriage breakdown -essentially stripping the couple of power and giving it to the individual. Accepted legal grounds for divorce included (but were not limited to) physical or mental abuse, abandonment, insanity, or lack of sexual intimacy.  There are strong arguments for and against n0-fault divorce –though one thing is for damn certain: Divorce rates skyrocketed after this legislation was enacted –doubled, in fact. The biggest jump in divorce rates has nothing to do with a lack of morality or religious affiliation, for example, it all has to do with how difficult or easy the process is to get a divorce. I say that society is far better off making it very difficult, though not impossible, to break a lifelong vow.

2. Make marriage very difficult to obtain. Let’s think about this for a moment. If you want to put a pool in your backyard, you must pull permits, adhere to strict codes, pay thousands of dollars, all the while being continually inspected by city officials. Want to get married? Walk down to the courtroom, fill out a piece of paper, fork over a few bucks and DONE. Or, better yet, just drive to Vegas. What does it say about our society that it is easier to commit to one person for the rest of your life in an ironclad contract then it is to put a pool in your backyard? If we make divorce difficult to obtain, we should also make marriage equally as difficult.  There are two things our society has completely ass-backwards that we treat with high esteem –two things that any two dumbasses can do: Get married and have children. Why do we celebrate an act that, eventually, makes society a far worse place with its terrible ending? I say we treat those wanting to get married with suspicion and doubt. If you want to really achieve something in this life, get a college degree or start a successful business…making ill-advised commitments and spitting out kids is easy –discipline and self-motivation is not.

3. Marriage contracts. The thing I love most about the idea of marriage contracts is that it forces two people to sit down, negotiate issues and make a plan: The things every couple should do, though, typically, do not. Marriage contracts can come in a variety of forms, including options, buyouts, consequences, finances, time limits, you name it. A customary contract would be a 10 year-deal –at which time two people can sit down and discuss renewing, or not. Do I think marriage contracts are ideal? Hell no. I do believe contracts may dull the sting of two people separating because is there no expectation of “till death do you part.” At the very least marriage contracts do not place unreasonable expectations on a couple…though choosing to not extend a contract may be emotionally difficult for some, at least all things were discussed and laid out prior so there are no surprises. It is not coincidence that professional athletes in their final year of their contract have, by far, their greatest and most successful years? Why would it be any different for relationships that are about to expire? If my contract is about to expire and I want I want to renew? You better believe it is extra time at the gym and a myriad of wonderful floral arrangements on the daily.

4. Do not marry. There is a part of me that wants to make the claim this is the easiest and best route because, as they say, the number one cause of divorce is marriage–so let’s just stop doing it. However, I do believe there is hard wiring in the majority of human nature that drives each of us to pair up with someone and do life together. Therefore we can stop calling it marriage though I believe the partnering phenomena will continue regardless. With the advent of common-law marriage, also known as sui juris marriage, informal marriage, or marriage by habit and repute, where a couple is legally considered married without ever officially getting married, doing away with marriage would have little benefit. Thus, we can stop getting married yet good old Uncle Sam will just automatically do it for us. I, for one, believe the government should have nothing to do with the act of marriage. Of course part of the overall declining divorce rate is due to the fact fewer people are marrying and, if children are not involved, perhaps this is a better route for many to take, common-law marriage be damned.

5. Consider different types of marriage options. Why do you think the more conservative, Christian states have the highest divorce rates? Because, for them, there is only one type of marriage and, for them, divorce is a superior option than thinking outside the marriage box. I could not disagree more. Divorce sucks. There exists plenty of different marriage options outside of traditional ones; so many, in fact, any couple can modify and customize their marriage to make it work best for them. I have met people in freedom-based, polyamorous, child-centric, convenience, open, practical, etc…arrangements that work best for their particular situation. Of course I completely disagree with having only one traditional marriage option….but perhaps that is another blog for a different day.

As a society we can rule with reason or we can rule with emotion. Emotionally, to reconsider the fundamental, traditional act of one of culture’s cornerstone events, marriage, is unthinkable and unbearable, despite what our reason might suggest to the contrary. Of course most of us would rather keep doing what is familiar.

Thoughts? Please discuss.


I never was much of  a drinker–”was” being the operative word in that phrase. I did the usual high school-football-player-getting-drunk-bullshit on occasion, (highlighted by passing out my senior year at a party and getting dolls laid upon my limp body by the party goers…sure it was humiliating though that is price you pay for this American rite de passage); yet, overall, I never really drank all that much. So much so, that I doubt more than a drop of alcohol ever crossed my lips in my 20′s and damn near most of my 30′s.  I am not sure what really changed for me, perhaps it was children who were getting older (no more infants) and some additional added stress in my  religious job of yore – a nice cold one at the end of the day became increasingly enticing for me around this time.

alcohol-on-shelvesDuring my 40′s, particularly late 40′s, was when my drinking accelerated – for a variety of reasons -reasons I really do not need to get into in this blog. Let’s just say the last 5 years or so (damn you Jason Robert Brown…you are a hack…but that is a different blog for a different day-”I could shove an ice pick in my eye, I could eat some fish from last July, but it wouldn’t  be as awful as a summer listening to Jason Robert Brown’s shitty lyrics…in Ohio or elsewhere“) I have overindulged. No, I have no DUI’s -actually not even a speeding ticket in 10 years- my relationships are awesome and my work productivity is as strong as ever. Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of my drinking the past 5 years has been my poor liver…yet even liver blood tests I received back not too long ago were all normal -better than normal, in fact.

Drinking was, and is, fun. It is a delightful way to wind down from a long and productive day. Other than a cognitive awareness of what it potentially can do to my body, I have no good reason to stop…even temporarily. Outside of a drunk Facebook post or two or three or four, drinking life is good.

Yet now I am reconsidering the role of alcohol in my life, just as I have reconsidered the role of caffeine in my life: I enjoy it though I want to be addicted to nothing but the air in my lungs and the ground under my feet.

I guess I just had that voice inside me saying, “Slow down big guy…it’s a marathon not a sprint.” So, a few weeks ago, I decided to slow the hell down. I cut way back (I heard cold turkey was not a great idea) and now have not had a drink in a couple of weeks. Foregoing the evening nightcap is the toughest part of it all. Why? Because my evening nightcap became the mid-evening nightcap, became the early evening nightcap, became the late afternoon daycap. For the time being, I am opting to be sans cap.

Am I planning on drinking again? Well, I have no formal “plans” to drink. It’s not like I’ve drafted a memo that I am going to take a shot of Vodka on September 17 at 5:36pm rain or shine and cc’d it to my superiors; yet, I do not have plans not to drink, either.  I want to treat alcohol the same way I treat Hostess Powdered Donettes, every once in a while it’s an amazing treat…just can’t overindulge.

Yes, I know you AA people (I love you guys BTW, you guys are awesome) claim that there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to alcohol and perhaps you are absolutely correct–in fact, you probably are correct–but, like the child that doesn’t believe the oven is nearly as hot as mama says, some things the individual must find out on her own.

Therefore, it was very strange last week when I was spending the night in Redlands and saddled up to my favorite bar, The Royal Falconer.  At this time, I did something I have NEVER done in my life…ordered a non-alcoholic beer, the infamous O’Douls -the beer I once thought was for losers meandering down the sober walk of shame. The fact of the matter is that I had no idea whether or not bars even serve drinks without alcohol and, though the selection is few and far between, I have come to find out that most do. Nice. I sat at the bar and nursed my children’s drink while eating some fish tacos (Thursday night is taco night…$1.75 per…not bad) when the bartender inquired as to why I was drinking a non-alcoholic beer. I told him I have not had a drink in a week or so and am just trying to slow down.

Then the irony went down. The provider of all things alcohol to a thirsty Redlands crowd became the pious pontiff of prudence and temperance.

The bartender literally sat down behind the bar and began preaching to me his alcohol “testimony” -he has been sober for nine years–no meetings, no AA- a sermon complete with dates, times and details.

“I have no trouble serving anyone and have no judgement,” he explained, “but if I can help just one person who wants to quit, quit, I feel like I have helped the planet.”

Weird. This was like being at a nudist camp and the head nude dude is telling you to put your clothes on (yes, JUST like that). Or the priest instructing you to sin. Or the nutritionist telling you to eat more Hostess Donettes. Or the evangelical pastor telling you NOT to give your money. Or, better yet, Timothy Leary telling you to put away your acid and have some milk and cookies.

Just weird. Ironic, don’t ya think?

After a rather lengthy message, which included his mother dying of cirrhosis of the liver at age 44, the very self-aware, charismatic man offered a firm handshake (and I do mean firm, as in I will break your hand) while offering me the best of luck.

I sat at the bar and looked up at the mugs of some deceased former Royal Falconer patrons who, according to Pastor P. Bartender, essentially drank themselves to death over a period of years: A continual, stark reminder of the poison that those lined up at the well are ready to ingest. Now, I have I heard of buzzkills and boner killers before, but this one took the freakin cake. It is like sitting down and crackin a cold one with both the grim reaper and Jack Kervorkian.

This whole thing reminded me of a Buddhist aphorism along the lines of, “When you are ready to learn, a teacher will appear.”

Of course I have no doubt I will engage in the devil’s brew again, perhaps later than sooner or vice-versa. Yet, I will never forget that evening at The Royal Falconer. It could, eventually, be a game changer.

Well done, Pastor P. Bartender. At least ya got me thinking.






Today, as I blog on the subject of relational cheating, I must say upfront what I am NOT saying: I do not encourage cheating, I do not condone cheating and I would strongly encourage you NOT to cheat on your partner. I blog today as one who is objectively looking at what I perceive to be a problem in society (and please argue with me on these perceptions!) and make some, perhaps, unpopular observations concerning the nature of relational cheating. I am trying to understand cheating and its role in society.  I am one who likes to look at what is happening without moral judgment -which tends to cloud productive and objective thinking.

Let’s get this party started, ya cheatin’ bastards.images

There is a fundamental rule I have learned in my lifetime: People are going to do whatever the hell they want to do and very little can be done to stop them.  As a society, we set up certain punishments and incentives to discourage or encourage certain behaviors with some degree of success, yet, I would argue, these punishments and incentives are not as effective as we might want to think or want them to be a great deal of the time.

Our prisons are filled with people who murder, rob banks, molest children, etc…in spite of the fact we have set up strong punishments for such people. Conversely, our government has set up certain financial incentives to save additional money in certain programs, Roth IRAs for example, yet millions do not take advantage of such programs while our savings rate as a nation is one of the lowest in the world, around 4.5% in 2013, 16th out of the 28 countries in this study.

Thus, we can conclude that for some, neither punishments nor incentives are necessarily indicators that behavior will be changed or altered. In terms of infidelity, obviously the threat of divorce or being the family pariah is not a strong enough punishment to dissuade many from cheating. In the end, the human being will act like a human being regardless of consequences. Why? We are getting there…

I blog today on an issue I once blogged about a couple of years ago–the fact that many people always have and always will cheat in their relationships. I do not want to sound like a broken record and simply rewrite what I wrote in my blog of nearly two years ago. In that blog I focused much more on people’s self-righteous indignation towards cheaters (and you will get a strong dose of that in this blog as well…at least I’m consistent), mainly directed at a website whose sole purpose is to make cheating “safe and easy.” Today I want to address the human condition of why people, of both genders, cheat, and offer my observations of the cheating world.

Today I begin with 3 fundamental questions: Why do people cheat, how many people cheat (an impossible number to figure out with great precision) and what, in fact, constitutes cheating -at least for the sake of this blog. I will work off a few basic assumptions that you may or may not agree with:

  • First off, though there are many reasons people may cheat, the primary reasons are sexual fulfillment, new emotional connections and newfound excitement in an otherwise mundane and dull relational existence. It simply spices up the main course meal of life. Many who cheat are still very much in love with their partner.
  • Secondly, the assumption is that A LOT of people cheat, much more than what we may currently think. Of course this is not a stretch as a contemporary “cheating” website was recently hacked and threatened to expose the name of all 37 MILLION, yes million, users. When one considers this is only 1 website of many, is it farfetched to conclude A LOT of people cheat, perhaps MOST people? I do not think it is. When you consider that most people who do cheat do not get caught and sure as hell are not going to tell anybody, the number of  cheaters -again, a number we can never be entirely sure of- is astronomically high. I am sure there are many more people cheating on their taxes than have ever been caught cheating on their taxes. Most of us might hate to admit it though cheating, can be argued, is a fairly normative human behavior.
  • The final assumption, for the sake of this blog, is that any physical intimacy -be it a one time make out session or ongoing affair- though certainly different in scope and potential fall out, are all considered cheating at some level in a traditional arrangement.

My first observation is this: When most people engage in a particular somewhat normative behavior, why do we demonize it and not simply accept it as part of the human condition? Maybe “cheating” is just a human being being a human being. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “human exploring,” as in, “She is one of the most notorious human explorers I know.” Homosexuality was once considered a disease, transgendered people were mentally sick and women were considered inferior to men. We evolve as a people when we let go of our biases and see reality for what it is -and it first comes with accepting the behavior of those (seemingly) different from us without judgment. Many evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists contend it is monogamy that goes against the grain of human nature, not cheating.

“But, wait Jimmy, I am human and I do not cheat.” Thank you, oh omniscient one. I’ll take your word for it…though read on. To this I respond that I am human and am not gay…though a lot of humans are. I am human and I am not asexual…though a lot of humans are. I am not into S&M…at least not tonight…but a lot of humans are. The human experience is vast and diverse -simply because someone does not share my personal proclivities does not make them any less human and certainly not any more or less moral.

My second observation concerns the indignant responses society has toward cheaters, errr, explorers (I promised you I would get there!). My thought is “thou protesteth too much.” Human beings tend to get the most riled up over issues they personally struggle with the most. Since most people have explored -or at the very least have had thoughts of exploring outside of traditional set-up- it is no wonder we project our own personal frustration onto others who have been caught. Our reactions may be generated by inward jealousy for those who have not cheated yet would love to, or, for those who have cheated it is just creating self-righteous theater to make you look like a monogamous hero. Just like the angry senator who consistently votes against gay rights only to be caught with a young male intern in a compromising position…same type of hypocrisy.

I am currently reading a book, Modern Romance, by Comedian Aziz Ansari…who wrote this book along with a number of respected academics and relational researchers. In the portion of the book dedicated to cheating, in particular the very high prevalence of it contrasted with the reaction of disgust towards it, he opines, “…when it comes to sex and relationships, what we believe in theory does not line up with what we do in practice…When you compare this level of disapproval with the data on the actual prevalence of cheating, it paints a strange picture. Do we really believe that all these masses of people who engage in affairs are moral monsters? That makes quite a lot of monsters. It seems that we reluctantly accept the act of cheating in our own lives while still condemning the practice at large.”

Preach it Aziz. Perhaps the only thing worse than a cheater is a hypocritical cheater.

When faced with a wall of insurmountable facts and data, humans tend to poo poo such evidence if it makes them feel discomfort or flies in the face of what they so desperately want to believe. Most prefer a shallow and unrealistic romance with illusions over and above a deep relationship with truth -and the truth is cheating is well within the realm of normal human behavior.

My third observation concerns a troubling traditional marriage contract between two people that forbids either of them to “explore” EVER and under no conditions. Why? Do we now own the other person upon commitment? I hate to go all 1970’s on your asses though we had a saying back then that suggested, “If you love something set it free.” Yes, technically it is “cheating” because most of society has drafted an unreasonable and unrealistic contract for the majority of people. Therefore the primary problem lies in the untenable contract much more than in the human beings who are just acting like, well, uh, human beings.

Or does it?

I am not convinced that hoping and aspiring to a very difficult goal, some might say a nearly impossible goal, is necessarily a bad thing. Yet, I am not saying it is a good thing either. To aspire to an objective that separates us from other animals, keeping our baser instincts controlled and intact may be a very positive venture for society in general, particularly the family structure. Yet, the downside is pretty strong as well…by aspiring to something that is very difficult to achieve and then being devastated when it is not realized comes with a very painful emotional price tag -not to mention lawyers fees and court costs. Ahhh…the tension. Still, in the end, I would say the costs of such aspiration outweigh the potential rewards of it.

I understand that many people have been hurt by the behavior known as “cheating.” I contend that it was not the “cheating” that was devastating, rather the above-mentioned social constructs we have created that placed certain expectations on certain types of relationships. Perhaps if we rid society of this expectation, cheating would become exploring (I know I am using that word a lot and do not care for it all that much…but the English language does not have word for a “cheater” that is not laced with hate and vitriol…let’s think of one kids) and we could all calm down and accept the human animal for what it is. In other words, we could become much more European -53% of the French believe exploring to be morally acceptable. Or Chilean, 33%. America? 16%. Americans are notorious for preferring devastating divorces over empathy and understanding…lawyers are thrilled.

In most of my courses the examinations are taken online with open books and open notes. I instruct my students that it is impossible to cheat…you can use anything you wish and you can even take the test together as a group. The confused students, who are conditioned like Pavlovian mutts to finding creative and inventive ways to cheat on exams, are often disarmed and bewildered. As the professor, I am relieved of my burden of detecting, finding and calling out cheaters. It’s nice. As a result, my classes often get together as a group in our library, collect their books and notes, open their exams together and then discuss and argue communication concepts for about an hour…it is a beautiful thing to see students working together in this way. I believe that they are learning FAR MORE than if I stuck with a traditional method of examinations.

I think you get the analogy.

The goal in my courses is student learning –nothing more, nothing less. I never want convention to get in the way of student learning. For most of us, I believe our goal in life is to be happy and fulfilled yet often our convention may get in the way of those simple goals. I am not talking about a relational free-for-all, rather a basic understanding and acceptance of how human beings operate- and it’s high time we stopped the self-righteous moral outrage.

So people are going to do whatever they hell they want to do. Can we all just accept that fact and move forward and act accordingly?

Relationship advice author Dan Savage, in his book American Savage, sums up my sentiments quite nicely: “I’m not saying that being cheated on by your spouse is not a big deal, or a violation, or a betrayal. It is all of those things. But if more people understood how difficult monogamy is over the long term, and how common cheating is, and if people were encouraged to assess the actual particulars of a particular adulterous incident rather than seeing all cheating as essentially equal…maybe more marriages would survive the nearly inevitable infidelity.”

Smart guy, that Savage.

I realize arguing that “cheating” /slash/ exploring as a fairly normative behavior and should be accepted as such is a very unromantic, nontraditional, and an uncomfortable position to take. Ironically I am in no way promoting cheating…I just want to look at reality, as uncomfortable as it may be, and help save relationships. The choice seems rather simple, we can either keep aspiring to a lofty goal and continue to be devastated or we can identify the true human condition, stop aspiring and accept the human being for what it is.

There you have it. My longest blog ever. I try to keep my blogs to a thousand words…I guess I cheated, errr, explored.


Insert Title Here: Feeling Somewhat EnTITLEd Today

So what’s in a name, or more specifically, a title? I’ve been thinking about this subject recently since a former student of mine, Holliann (who recently graduated from University), wanted to get together for a chat concerning some of her strange and unusual experiences while away at school.

“Thanks Professor. I will see you then,” is how she concluded our social media conversation.

“Please, call me Jimmy,” I told her.

“I don’t think I can,” she said, “but I’ll try.”

“Just do it,” I told her.

Such formal titles make me somewhat uptight and uncomfortable. I understand why certain people would rather stick to formal convention, yet it still does not set right with me.


This exchange really got me to thinking. What are the criteria for determining whether we call someone by their first/last name or their title/position?

I teach for crying out loud…I am not part of  some kind of regal Monarchy.

If someone asks me what I do for a living I will say Professor. When someone, anyone—students and non-students alike—ask me what I would prefer to be called, I usually instruct them to call me Jimmy. Yet I have found over the years that students, both past and present, are very reluctant to call me anything but Professor.

As a result, now I simply instruct students to refer to me in the moniker they feel most comfortable calling me, provided it is not disrespectful.

So I feel like “Comedian” Seinfeld when I ask, “What is the deal with this whole title thing?”

Please understand…I realize most companies have a myriad of job titles from CEO’s to Janitors, yet we do not call the Janitor, “Janitor Fred,” rather they are Fred -who happens to be the Janitor.  Or we refer to Frank Jones, CEO of such and such a company, rather than CEO Jones.

I wanted to find out more so I went where most of my students go for research, Wikipedia. The site did not provide much help though did offer me the following definition: A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone’s name in certain contexts. It may signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may be inserted before a last name.

Yes, I knew that. Thanks Wikipedia. You reminded why you are a crappy source and my students cannot cite you.

I get the whole old school idea of respect, professionalism and appropriateness, yet where do we draw the line and why? I do not refer to Baseball Player Kershaw (ironically we do call his coach, “Coach”), Plumber Stan, Musician Slash, Model Klum, Artist Nick, Accountant Jones, Neuroscientist Williams or Announcer Scully.  Then when it comes to 5 specific fields—namely religion, politics, education, military and medical—we engage in a mad orgy of title-driven monikers.


If one contends that those 5 areas are more deserving of respect than some others, how unnecessarily disrespectful is that to those other professions?  Are there commonalities in these 5 areas that might designate them for fancy titles? Or is just random cultural bullshit that we have just adopted because, as one of my students recently observed, most people are just “sheeple” and usually do not ask such questions.

I do. In particular when I give a shit about something.

It does seem that within each of the title-driven fields the one common theme is that the various “titled” people directly exert a certain amount of power and control over others. Yet, so do directors, producers, and most business owners and they do not warrant a title when others refer to them.

Then I think about nobility. Are religious, medical, education, military and politics more noble professions, hence a fancy title? Hmmmmm…I wonder what my musician and artist friends would have to say about that?

When I was telling Holli about this blog I was writing, she suggested that maybe we place more trust in the people in those 5 areas, hence the titles. Yet we still must place trust in our engineers so our bridges and buildings will not fail us. In fact, we must place the most trust in our babysitters and childcare workers and they are not referred to as Babysitter Mary.

Therefore it is not about power, importance, nobility or trust…why the titles?

It would seem to me to be an issue of basic identity. When we refer to someone by their title, it is important we see them as first and foremost by their profession.  Is it that when we speak to Pastors, Senators, Professors, Generals and Doctors it is imperative that we see them through this lens exclusively?  Why? What if I would prefer to be known as Jimmy first, Father second, Partner third and then, maybe, just maybe, Professor would land around fourth. Blogger? Maybe 20th.

A title really is a show of power and authority.  As a low power distance person in general -meaning I do not gravitate toward separating myself great distances from those over whom I have power- I have no great need to be thought of in terms of title first, person second. In terms of authority, separating yourself from others by slapping on fancy titles is hardly an effective means of gaining respect. I would rather be respected for the quality of what I do over the quality of the title that has been bestowed upon me.

For those who do not respect my style of teaching or leadership, throwing an ornate title to my profession is not going to change that anyway.

I am not dismissing titles as worthless or in some way negative, rather I am questioning the inconsistent use of them and whether or not they are entirely necessary.

So call me Jimmy. You can do it Holliann! But, hey, if you can’t, I get it.  Just try.


Prostitutes, Whores Or Escorts? Thoughts On The World’s Oldest Profession And My Encounter With a Real Life Lady Of The Night

whoreAs a Communication Studies professor, I believe I have heard nearly every subject matter on the planet there is designed to inform and/or persuade others. If I were to identify just a handful of the, “If-I-Hear-This-Speech-One-More-Time-I-Am- Going-To-Kill-Myself-And-Innocent-Bystanders-In-The-Process” type speeches, the list would go something like this:

  1. Give Blood
  2. Learn CPR
  3. Legalize Marijuana
  4. Practice Safe Sex
  5. Legalize Prostitution

Of course I kid with the killing myself part…and there are good reasons these subject matters are on the most common list–as they are really poignant and important. I suppose I just love original topics…yet I realize students in the class have not heard these topics delivered over 10,000 times, as I have, so they are certainly allowed to deliver such topics. In spite of the fact I personally abhor the redundancy, I realize these topics NEED to be addressed, particularly giving blood and CPR –as CPR saved my father’s life nearly 3 years ago.

Therefore I find it strange that I feel compelled to write a blog on one of these topics that so bore me…so why now?

I was at the gym on the treadmill (shocking!) watching an MSNBC show on the horrors of Prostitution.  Of course it was an overly dramatized, one-sided view that painted all women as victims and all men as scumbags, but what else is new?  Our eyeballs are drawn to drama…whether it is true or not. My point of view is this: When will the “World’s Oldest Profession” be honored and acknowledged as such? When do we finally accept it as part of the human condition and let it work better for everyone…solicitor and solitcee alike?

Why are so many human beings such self-serving, goddam hypocrites when it comes to issues of a sexual nature? If one more anti-gay Senator gets caught fondling his young male intern, the only standard we will have left to serve in government is double, as in double-standard.

From Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Services Union: “There…needs to be a shift in attitudes to agree that sexual expression, for the mature, can take the form of negotiating and paying for sexual services; that this activity is a privately protected right and is subject to the equal protection laws, for starters. If someone poses as a prostitute and rips off a customer, that should result in a prosecution for theft. Which is not the state we’re in right now.” These laws hurt everyone involved–from the abused prostitute to the one ripped off by the abusive prostitute.

Do I believe that human trafficking and abuse among prostitutes exists? Yes. Of course I do. Just as I believe exploitation and abuse exists in EVERY industry, be it religion, politics, the workforce, etc. This is why Samuel Gompers, so many years ago, created a union as human beings carry a natural propensity to exploit others. When and where do they exert this propensity of abuse? Whenever they can in whatever circumstances they can.

Yet there is no easier context for exploitation and abuse than the unregulated sex industry. Why? Because it is illegal.

If one were to use the exploited and abused argument to argue against prostitution–which is severely more pronounced in the sex industry than most others–I would contend that this argument provides an even stronger reason to legalize prostitution and allow them to form unions and benefit from law enforcement when needed.  Why? Because regardless of one’s personal moral stance on prostitution, it is going to happen anyway, with or without government protection.

Well, one could safely argue that an anti-legalization stance on prostitution is a stance AGAINST the protection and safety of women.

Consider the analogy of abortion, (please do not misunderstand, I hate abortion more than I hate divorce…but this is a different blog for a different day) regardless of one’s stance on this issue, they are going to happen anyway. We can either make it safe for women or not.

I often then get the question, “Well what if one of your daughters wanted to be a prostitute?” Like any job one of my children wanted to pursue, I would definitely want to make sure they have thought it completely through and are certain it is the right path for them. It would be no different for prostitution. I would want to be assured that she has thought it through completely and it is the correct path for her.

But we cannot just legalize immoral activity just because people are going to do it anyway. People rob banks, should we legalize that?”

Thanks omniscient arguer –though even you cannot argue successfully with Jimmy. Prostitution is a mutually consenting act between adults that benefits both parties–activities like robbing banks hurts other people.

But, hey, don’t take my word for it and why should you? I am not a prostitute.  So I went to interview a real, live “escort” of about 3 years, who works in the Southern California area. She happens to be an acquaintance of mine and gladly gave me permission to use her experiences in this blog…as long I did not mention her name.

So, prostitute, what about all those shows like MSNBC who show the dark side of prostitution?

“In every industry there is going to be an exploitation of labor. I am sure it happens in prostitution but it is a small percentage. It has never happened to me. I love my job,” she explained.

And what kind of ratings would a television show get if they interviewed people who are really happy and have no complaints and the fear of the universe was not coerced upon them? Pretty lousy.

So, Lady Of The Night, have you ever had a bad experience?

“Yes, once. About a year ago when a guy started to creep me out a bit. But it was not a problem. I just ran out the door.”

Not a bad batting average for an escort whose encounters are deep into the hundreds.

She explained that the key to successful escorting is finding the right madam (read: pimp) who screens all “Johns” and knows how to make the correct matches.

Of course, since all of this now has to be done in secret, it makes this process much more difficult and far riskier.

“I know this is something I can only do for a small window in my life,” explained the mid twenty-something escort, “I will probably be out of it in a couple of years. But it is good for me right now.”

Wow. She has never been hit, nor pressured, nor hurt, nor trafficked…in fact she is one of the happiest people I know who happens to make really good money. She is not scared, alone, uneducated, nor exploited. Quite the contrary, this self-empowered woman has a Bachelor’s Degree from one of the most prestigious Universities in the world.

Some might contend this particular escort is the exception. Perhaps…but would not the abused and exploited sex workers benefit from being able to climb out from under their rock and report abuse to authorities?

And what’s the downside to prostitution again?

Oh, yes. It’s illegal.

These are my thoughts on college students’ fifth favorite topic to speak about. The best part is that now if you ever want to speak on this matter, you have a really reliable source.



People Are Suffering Around The World And I Do Not Really Care…Neither Do Most Of You

It was a lazy summer Wednesday afternoon so I decided to do something I do not often these days -catch a movie at the local theater.  Today when I now go to the movies, I want to see something “easy” and relatively mindless -meaning no complicated plot lines and low-context stories that require my complete attention and demand I stay awake. I prefer movies with simple story lines and very interesting characters -think Big Lebowski meets The Truman Show meets The Poseidon Adventure meets anything Steve Buscemi. My real life has enough drama and complicated story lines -no need to go to the movies for more of that. On this particular day I decided to take in “San Andreas” and appreciate the eye candy of watching my state shake to shit…in 3D.


As I watched the movie something occurred to me that I often get in a lot of trouble for saying, hence the title of this blog. As I watched Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fight and struggle to save his family from death, I noticed he did something that most of would do if in that same situation -he watched people dying left and right, people he could have helped, in order to save, specifically, his wife and daughter. In other words, he would rather watch 100′s of people die in order to save 2, because those 2 are his own family.  Theoretically, if someone informed you that 10 strangers are going to die unless you agree to lose 1 very much loved one, most of us would probably choose to kill off 10 strangers in order to save our 1 beloved.

Why are we humans wired this way? Why would we, generally, and again, theoretically, work feverishly to protect our beloved selected few at the possible expense of losing many? Thank the universe most of us are never handed that choice and I am relatively certain how most of us would respond.

We could make the genetic slash DNA argument that we are all hardwired to protect our small tribe -be it children, parents, siblings- first and foremost.  Thus it is pure instinct and, bottom line, we are animals acting upon what our reptilian brains dictate.

Several years ago a student, Lou, introduced me to a concept he referred to as the “monkeysphere” -which I later found out to be more formally termed, “Dunbar’s Number.” If I were to risk huge oversimplification of this fascinating theory it would go something like this: All primates are only capable of caring and having social relationships with only a certain number of other primates depending on the size of their brain. Thus, from the size of an animal’s neocortex, the frontal lobe in particular, you could theoretically predict the group size for that animal.

If we were to buy into Robin Dunbar’s theory, the human being is capable of having approximately 150 casual friendships, 50 close friendships, 15 intimate relationships -for example, you could turn to these people in times of sorrow- and, finally, 5 ultra intimate relationships, meaning good friends and/or family members. These numbers are only averages and there is huge range among people, depending on personality type, etc.. In addition, social media is definitely playing a role in reshaping these numbers somewhat -though I think you get the idea here -as human beings we are only capable of only so much REAL empathy and social reciprocity towards others.

So I will take this understanding and stray from it just a bit yet still abide by its logic -our brains are simply not capable of truly caring for everyone on the planet experiencing suffering of some variety. I believe if we could do so we literally would go crazy. Yes, literally. Reality can be such a bitch that we must shut off part of our brain in order to not experience it in totality. So if I see a report of a tsunami in Japan, should I, or better yet even, CAN I, truly care?

Some recent brain science suggests that our brain functions quite differently when dealing with 3 distinctly different groups of people. First off, our brain handles interaction with real people with high personal relevance to us quite differently from, second, real people who have no personal relevance to us (think famous people) and, third, fictional characters -my hunch is this is part of our necessary survival process. So, let’s say one is watching a fictitious movie of a young child choking, a news report of a famous person’s young child choking, or one experiences their own young child choking (even if it were on film) our brain reactions would be highly different. Imagine if we witnessed hundreds of people dying in the aforementioned tsunami and we felt the same sense of care and empathy as if each of these people were in our ultra-intimate circle? Again, if we did, we would absolutely go out of our minds.

Now, here is what I am NOT suggesting. I am not suggesting that people cannot react to global tragedies and act with benevolence…of course they can and many do. Whether it is a tsunami in Japan, a hurricane in New Orleans, or an earthquake in Nepal we have seen people (think “Doctors Without Borders”) act lovingly and altruistically on such occasions. However, I would argue that these tragedies are simply the Disaster Du Jour, induced by a selective media that only plays the most viewable disasters for ratings, the ones that strike the most fear into our psyche, while making it feel hip to get on the bandwagon of support and fulfill our social need to belong.

Sound cynical?

Consider that if we felt real empathy for those suffering we would not have to wait for a Disaster Du Jour, that plays like great theater, in order to practice such empathy -there are plenty of more boring tragedies to go around that do get much media hype.

  • More than two-thirds (70%) of all people living with HIV, 24.7 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including 91% of the world’s HIV-positive children. In 2013, an estimated 1.5 million people in the region became newly infected.
  • Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year.
  • In 2014 alone, 5 million people were treated around the world for malnutrition and illness including:
    • 2,718,401 people in Nigeria
    • 104,117 people in Democratic Republic of Congo
    • 93,043 people in South Sudan

Shall I go on? Cause this is only the beginning.

Of course most of us fall for the proverbial hook, line and sinker for tragedies that news directors would like us to support (when I used to pastor I would plead with people not to let news directors dictate their prayer lists…that went over really well…now I write blogs…but I digress). I would argue that if we practiced REAL caring, TRUE empathy, and REAL concern we would not have to wait to do something until we watch Disaster Du Jour on TV and gasp in horror. Do we really care OR do we feel a sense of wanting in on the collective story in some way, shape or form, and, in a strange way, feel a bit better about ourselves in return? In the same way it so much more difficult to truly love one person than it is to “love” thousands, it is far easier to “care” about a tragedy in Nepal than to truly be a good and loving companion to your closest loved ones.

But Jimmy, just because I cannot truly love and be concerned for these people to the degree I would a close loved one, this does not mean I cannot care and empathize to a lesser degree and do what I can to help.”

Thank you omniscient arguer.

Perhaps we could have a semantics argument over the words care and empathize, yet I do contend we have been conditioned to view nearly all image-based news as a mild form of entertainment, even in spite of the fact it could provide us a twinge of what feels like concern and empathy.

I am often criticized when I say when we watch these natural disasters unfold we are being entertained…not in a humorous, “ha ha” kind of way, rather in a a theater of the macabre sense. We are watching others misfortune unfold half way around the globe and the tugs at our heartstrings are generated by those suffering who are well outside our monkeysphere slash Dunbar’s Number. Certainly none of us WANT others to suffer, yet we strangely do not mind being entertained by others misfortune, rationalized and condoned in the name of what feels like empathy. We gasp and shriek that this is horrible…yet we watch and watch and watch. Contemporary media has created a generation of eavesdroppers in the name of news.

If we want to practice true humanitarianism, perhaps we should not send a check to some organization in god-knows-where, China (Buttfuck, Egypt?). What if true humanitarianism was defined as being loving, kind, giving and compassionate to all those within your Dunbar number, to the people we can truly make a difference in their lives? Perhaps the world would be be a much more caring and empathic place.

I have heard the term, “Think locally, Act globally.” I would argue we must act locally first and foremost.

But perhaps I overthink.

Maybe I just should have watched JurassicWorld instead. I heard it’s pretty good.