Solving the Budget Crisis

During a brief break from my almost-constant working, I was sitting at Starbucks having coffee with the locals and we figured out how to solve California’s budget crisis.   Actually our idea solves some other problems as well.  So here it is . . .

How about if California really (not in the just-for-those-really-sick-people-who-need-it way) legalized marijuana.  Taxing the sales of marijuana would be a good direct revenue source, but the plan does even more than that.  Legalizing marijuana would be a tremendous stimulus package for California. 

Agricultural interests would, clearly, be served by having a new cash crop.  Grapes can only take California so far when people cannot afford to buy expensive wine.   Bars and clubs would need to remodel to create smoking spaces, giving the construction industry a boost.  Marijuana shops could open in some of the boarded-up shops that are procreating all over the state.  Liquor stores would see a boost in sales as they diversified.   Marketing campaigns would be needed, along with packaging, branding and website development.  Accountants would find a new market.  Shippers could put some of their idle trucks to use. 

And, let’s not forget the affects on crime.  Drug dealing on the streets would be reduced, along with the crime attendant on that activity.  Police would be freed to deal with other serious crimes – like Hollywood stops at neighborhood intersections. 

Among other benefits, stress could be reduced statewide if happy hour included a hit or two of marijuana, old hippies could come out of the closet and California would likely see a boost in tourism.

If legalizing marijuana does not provide sufficient stimulus and revenue, California should take a hint from Nevada and legalize prostitution, as well.  We all know it’s happening, but nobody can calculate the gross revenue going untaxed. 

Like legalizing marijuana, legalizing prostitution would create a growth industry.  The construction industry could get busy rehabbing old hotel properties, the health industry could get busy figuring out how to monitor the health of registered or licensed prostitutes and the police would be freed to focus on crimes that actually hurt people. 

I know the pimp lobby will fight prostitution legalization efforts, just as the gang leaders will fight the legalization of marijuana, but I think we can all agree that special interests should not be controlling California during these times of budget crisis.  Can’t we?



Post Christmas Follow Up

Our new Wii is in the house.  There is a new Wii in a neighbor’s house as well.  The difference is that the neighbor’s Wii came with my favorite – you guessed it – Guitar Hero.  I finally got to see Guitar Hero first hand.  Although I actually did not spend much time checking it out, I did notice some of the song titles and was not surprised to see that even the song titles contained suggestive themes.  Being familiar with those songs, I knew they were not the songs I want stuck in my daughter’s head. 

We all know that sex sells.  Combine those suggestive themes with Rock and Roll and you have a match made in capitalism dreamland.   And the game even looks fun. 

Fortunately, the neighbor’s Wii system also came with an Indianapolis speedway game that was more fun – something about driving backwards through the brickyard and causing crashes really appeals to those kids who are, in my opinion, much too young for the suggestive themes of Guitar Hero.  Ah, the innocence of youth.  I just hope they don’t grow up driving that way in my neighborhood.

Walmart’s Values – rated “L” for “Lacking”

Wow, Walmart, bringing families together, way to go.  Oh, excuse me, my tongue got stuck in my cheek there for a minute.  What I meant to say was, “Could Walmart be any less family oriented?” 


Several times lately (obviously, I am watching too much television), I have seen a commercial for Walmart and Guitar Hero® that absolutely blows my mind.  (You can see it here:  At first, it all seems so incredibly nice – a whole family, gathered in the living room, playing Guitar Hero® together.  Music, dancing and smiling faces – what could possibly be wrong with this picture. 


The baby in the high chair is swinging his/her feet in time to the music, with head bobbing.  The preschool daughter jumps up and down in her purple patent shoes while her blonde ringlet curls bounce along with her.  The son, probably 7-8 years old plays drums, with his head bobbing to the beat.  Dad sets the rhythm at the beginning of the clip and then is seen in the background jamming on a guitar.  Mom is the star, up front playing guitar and thanking Walmart for making the Xbox and Guitar Hero® affordable so, “now this family is always together.”  The whole family. 


Are you wondering yet why I think this is not a “family-oriented” commercial and Walmart really blew it?  The answer comes at the very end of the commercial when the voiceover informs us that Guitar Hero® and, indeed, maybe this entire vignette, is “rated T for teens.” 


Now, I don’t proclaim to be any kind of an expert on rating systems, but I assume that “T for teens” means there is something about Guitar Hero® that is inappropriate for younger children.  The Guitar Hero® website identifies “mild suggestive themes” as the reason for the rating.  I have no idea and will probably not bother to find out exactly what “mild” or “suggestive” mean in this context.    


Walmart, on the other hand, should find out.  Walmart is sending this not-quite-Currier-and-Ives scene into our homes for the holidays.  Why, I wonder, could they not have used a family with teenage children.  Don’t families with teenagers need togetherness?  I suspect they have already saturated the teen market and are looking for a new demographic to target. 


Is anybody else offended by Walmart and their “togetherness” family beaming with joy (and greed) while the baby in the highchair participates in an activity rated “T for teen?”   I really can’t blame the mom – I know she is only an actress and those are, likely, not her children.  And, besides that, she is barely out of the teen years herself. 


My friends know that I am not against my daughter watching television or playing video games in moderation.  They also know that I try to keep my daughter away from television commercials.  She is way too easily influenced by them in extremely subtle ways that she cannot comprehend and guard against.  She knows that Walmart wants her money, but she does not understand the extent to which Walmart is willing to portray life unrealistically to get it.  She has no idea that Walmart is willing to ignore family values and common sense, sacrificing the greater good of children and families in the process, in their quest for the last Christmas dollar of the season.  Unless prompted, she would not even question the underlying message that we should all just ignore the rating system and let even the baby play the game rated “T for teens.” 


My daughter does not know these things.  The adults watching should. 


When the teen market has been saturated, Walmart needs to go after a younger market, so Walmart does.  That is capitalism.   Maybe the target of my outrage should be Activision Publishing.  According to its Guitar Hero® website, the game ratings range from “Everyone 10+ to  Teen.”  Is this really necessary?  It seems simple enough to create a version of Guitar Hero® that is appropriate for all ages.  There are plenty of good songs with family-appropriate lyrics and no suggestive themes, mild or otherwise.  I think it could be done.   


Even at E-10+, Walmart’s happy family need not apply.