Show me the money: When keeping it hot goes global

Show-Me-the-Money

Whew, can you smell that? Of course you can’t now, but wait a few minutes. There it is…there it is. Now let it settle. A ninja just passed some strong smelling evidence of garlic, grain and milk from the night before…and then disappeared.
Silencers are the deadliest of all gasses. You know what I’m talking about. You’ve eaten something that comes back to surprise you in a gastrointestinal kind of way. I call it the dirty ghost. It’s the noxious trail of tears that you leave in your wake as you cleverly maneuver yourself away from the scene of the flatulence crime.
Even stink would say that stinks!
Now that I have your attention, let’s talk about another gas.
Natural gas.
Russia and the United Stated are the world’s top producers of the stuff. The United States, thanks to new technology (see fracking) has recently unseated the one-time champ of all time. Russia still has the upper hand in the global economy though as they are obligated, by contract, to provide natural gas to all of Western Europe. Without their gas supplies many parts of Western Europe would simply freeze during the often harsh winters.
Now, before you get started, the United States, under then President George W. Bush, because of a belief that our supplies were dwindling, considered importing natural gas from Russia. We had a real world problem. How do we prevent half of our country from freezing if we run out of natural gas during a harsh winter? Russia was a practical solution, albeit a risky political alliance.
Now the suits in Washington have started their collective finger pointing and ideological saber rattling against what Russia is doing in Crimea. By referendum, albeit true or fake, Ukrainians in Crimea, most of who are ethnic Russians, have voted to rejoin the Russian Union. In other words they want to become part of Mother Russia again.
So what’s the big deal?
Most Americans are unaware that Crimea is a small peninsula in the Black Sea that is north of Turkey and East of Romania. Had it not been for the recent Winter Olympic Games in Sochi most Americans wouldn’t even know where that part of the world is. Needless to say it’s not a region of the world that holds any strategic geographical advantages for the United States, unless it’s about……..natural gas. Crimea is the home of a major natural gas pipeline that comes from….wait for it, wait for it, RUSSIA.
So what does this have to do with anything? One of my all-time favorite Arizona Cardinals, Rod Tidwell, said it best when he exclaimed, “show me the money!”
The president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has never really been an ideological friend of the United States. Big deal, we’ve never really been an ideological friend of his either, so we’re even. However, whenever he starts to flex his muscles everyone in the European Union, and thus America by default, starts to take notice. This is no different (even though I find it somewhat hypocritical for us to get involved in the internal affairs of sovereign nations, but that’s a different topic.)
A few weeks ago, Speaker of the House John A. Boehner said

“One immediate step the president can and should take is to dramatically expedite the approval of U.S. exports of natural gas. The United States has abundant supplies of natural gas, an energy source that is in demand by many of our allies, and the U.S Department of Energy’s excruciatingly slow approval process amounts to a de fact ban on American natural gas exports that Vladimir Putin has happily exploited to finance his geopolitical goals. We should not force our allies to remain dependent on Putin for their energy needs.”

So, if we don’t want our allies to become dependent on Putin, then who do we want them to become dependent on? It should not go without notice that Halliburton, yes, Halliburton has started exploring for natural gas in Poland and Shell Oil just signed a contract that allows them to explore for natural gas in, wait for it, wait for it….Ukraine!
In other words, become dependent on us, not them.
There’s a valid argument for price competitiveness of the global market for natural gas. Anytime there’s a monopoly on anything you’re asking for rampant corruption. I get that. But Boehner’s statement goes both ways. If Putin is using his resources to spread his geopolitical goals, then won’t the United States do the same? And as much as I hate to say this everyone in the world doesn’t, nor should they, aspire to live our way of life, nor do they want to live a Russian life.
In the end I fear this is, once again, about the almighty dollar. Rod Tidwell was right. We want access to Russia’s global market for natural gas. Russia wants to keep those markets. In the interim, as always, we have to create a boogey man who wants to kill us. To me, this one is simple. It’s not about politics. It’s about money. It’s about money that comes from the sales of natural gas.
And it stinks!

Dear Republican Party…a love letter

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Hi. How have you been?
When I was flipping through the television channels the other day I saw you. I sat down to watch. I listened. It’s been awhile since I let you back in. After we broke up it was hard for me because, well, we were so close before. I couldn’t bear to even hear your voice, let alone see you. The distance was good for my own sanity, but not for reasons that you might think.
I didn’t want it to end, and I don’t think you did you either. At least that’s what you said, but we both knew that it couldn’t continue the way it was going. We were fighting too much.
There was a time that I believed that we were going to last forever. We were like peas and carrots, like okra and collard greens, like cheese and macaroni. We were loyal to one another. Inseparable is what we used to say to each other.
I was ready to do what it took to stay.
Ours was a romance that was never supposed to happen anyway. I had only dated people my parents and peers approved of, and so did you. I think the danger of it all helped make our bond stronger. I still remember the first day we met. I thought you were beautiful in a way that I had never even considered admiring before. You were new, fresh, bold, and alive. You thought I was chasing you just for the benefits.
But you were wrong. I really liked you.
You took the time to get to know me, to know my fears and my feelings of inadequacy. You took me whole, flaws and all, and still answered the phone when I called you the next day.
And then we fell in love.
We both wanted the same things. We were both impatient and wanted what we wanted now. No excuses. No long speeches. No acts of appeasement. We had both grown tired of the status quo.
We wanted the real.
Do you remember the time we both stood outside in the rain registering voters? It was you, me and an ironing board along with a bag full of voter registration forms. I would go chasing after people as they tried to avoid us “You said you were going to sign this,” I’d jokingly yell at them. They’d start to laugh as I cut off their escape route and give them a pen to sign. Then you would walk up behind me and their entire facial expression would change, like I had done something wrong.
I knew that it hurt you. I wish I could’ve made it go away.
But you put on your tough face and said that it didn’t bother you, “that people had a right to choose or reject.” But I knew that it bothered you deeply because you kept talking about it later on when it was just the two of us. I understood. No one likes being rejected for who they are and what they believe. I had dealt with that every day of my life and it had deadened parts of me. I had learned to deal with it. You took a different approach. You weren’t able to handle it that way. You said that was unacceptable, and you wouldn’t have it. I found it particularly refreshing that you took a different approach to something neither of us had control over. I had never thought enough of myself to question what I had been bred into believing was an unfortunate reality.
But that’s what made us work. We were in the trenches together, changing the world one person at a time. I had your back and you had mine.
Then things started to change. I don’t know if it was me or if it was you. You said that I stopped looking at you the same way. I said that what you wanted from me was unsustainable and unrealistic. When people disagreed with us you began saying things like “they’re stupid,” or “that’s typical.” Those words came from pain, not from your heart. I knew the difference. I knew who you really were. But I guess eventually you just got tired of feeling like you had to defend yourself.
Still, I found a problem with your new resolve.
“So, why do you say they’re stupid?”
“Because THEY are. THEY are never going to change,” you said.
“What makes us any different than them,” I asked.
That’s when you said the words that cut me like a hot, fiery blade.
“You’re not one of them. You’re different.”
I never forgot those words. They put a sour taste in my mouth, like I had been forced to swallow an old dirty boot.
Did I have to be ontologically distinct from the masses that looked, lived and thought like I used to think in order to be in the “in crowd”? That really opened my eyes and made me think, what made me the “other” in your eyes.
And was I the “other” in the eyes of my peer group as well?
You started becoming hypersensitive and ham fisted about ideals, IDEALS. The ideals became more important than the people they were designed to help. In other words the message became more important than the vehicle. It seemed that you became obsessed with countering the ideas of others and saying why they weren’t good for the common good of everyone.
And you became very angry and defiant. You weren’t the same anymore.
That’s when we began fighting more. Every word that we said to one another became a problem. If we weren’t with your friends you were very short and rude. I didn’t know you anymore.
You said the same about me.
When I saw you on TV the other day my heart became sad because I know that we had something really special at one time.
Just the other day my girlfriend asked me “why did you break up with your ex?” I didn’t have an answer that was sufficient. On TV the other day I found myself agreeing with some of the things you said. It felt good. Maybe one day we’ll meet up again. I would like that.
Until that time I wish you well.
Sincerely,
Your former boyfriend

Nelson Mandela the Mannequin: Heromania gone wild!

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Heroes are often revered as being the best part of ourselves that we have never been able to attain. They are the shining beacon of hope that illuminates an often dark and scornful world.
But they’re not mannequins. They have lives that often aren’t as tidy as we’d like to believe.
So the question is do they still get to be called heroes if their lives are, well, kinda whack?
George Washington is often revered for being the first elected president of the newly formed republic of the United State. It is also a well-known fact that, as a contemporary of his day, he owned slaves. What is often reported is that, upon his death, he freed them all. The truth of the matter is that, yes, while he did free his own slaves, of which he personally owned about 30, the vast majority of the slaves he owned were called dower slaves (the ones he inherited from his wife’s family), which amounted to over 100 living souls. He willed them to his grandchildren.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with ending modern day slavery in our country by virtue of the Emancipation Proclamation. However, he also said in the early fall of 1858, before the Civil War began, the following:
“I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people.”
Ouch! You won’t find that in your history book.
Mohandas Gandhi led India away from the yoke of British colonialism and exploitation and was probably one of the greatest social liberators of our modern era. However a little known fact about him was this: nightly he was sleeping, naked, with his 19-year-old grandniece (though not in a sexual way).
Mother Teresa took money from known criminals and cultist, but refused to give it back. Towards the end of her life she was subjected to an exorcism because of her increased tendency of going into fits of rage and behaving erratically.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a well-known extra-marital affair on his wife and recently, it has been proposed, may have plagiarized his doctoral dissertation.
Caesar Chavez, it is also reported, lived in several homes throughout California but would change clothes before standing before migrant workers and the media in order to portray himself as a pauper.
President Ronald Reagan, documents show, was aware of the White House’s involvement in the infamous Iran-Contra scandal. Additionally, Alzheimer’s is a progressively degenerative disease. It ultimately led to his death. We will never know, for certain, just when the first signs of it began to manifest. Was he still operating as the Commander-in-Chief? Should he have stepped down? And what about the spiritists that Nancy Reagan consulted with on the regular and invited to the White House.
Nelson Mandela, early in his activist career, belonged to an organization that espoused the violent and bloody overthrow of the apartheid regime.
And so the list goes on.
In our neo-humanist society illusive and self-righteous perfection becomes the all-encompassing prism that all acts, both private and public, become judged through. Our heroes are not given room to have a scratch, a scrape, a variance within the slightest degree, a smudge, a ripple, a point of non-congruence, nothing. In other words the often flawed and revolting attributes that makes them relatable is vilified. Their humanity becomes the mangled and useless carcass that is thrown to the side of the road and left to be scavenged by the media hounds.
Of course I’m not saying that the occasional good deeds of a mass murderer should be the grounds for an absolute pardon of all earthly sins. That would be a deceitful over-simplification. I’m saying that fallible, fallen, broken, deceitful and sometimes irrational humans are capable of greatness.
I do believe there’s a danger in portraying our heroes as monolithic do-gooders who never falter or sway from their cause. The old adage “if it’s too good to be true then it probably is” becomes a hefty powder keg in the hands of detractors who sniff around for the slightest slip up. Making our heroes an impenetrable single dimension of goodness basically sterilizes them and makes them into, well, mannequins, caricature. It also discourages other people who might be heroic but are battling demons they didn’t know their heroes were also battling. Furthermore it underscores the reality that people have the capacity to evolve, to grow, to, dare I say, change.
So yes, I want to know that my heroes scratch when they itch, that they bleed when they’re cut, and that when they fall they contemplate not getting back up. I want them to have one leg shorter than the other, get angry and throw things, cry, cuss like a sailor and pray like a saint. I want them and all of their rotten humanity to be who they are while they’re doing great things. Being human is not a liability; it’s a beautifully awkward and complex asset.
In other words, it’s the anti-mannequin.
What do you think?

Who’s on first? The monster of health care reform vs a comedy team

abbott and costello

Abbot and Costello made a great comedy team. One of their more hilarious routines was the “Who’s on First” bit. What made the routine so funny was that no matter how much Abbott pleaded for clarity, Costello would repeatedly confuse the matter in a nonchalant way that insinuated to his comedy partner that it was his fault for not understanding something seemingly so simple.
Fast forward to the characters we have running the government today and you wonder the same question: Who’s on First?
Everyone knows that the current healthcare system is screwed up. It doesn’t take a scholar to figure that out. We don’t need special interest group-sponsored doctors telling us that we should “stay the course” and everything will be fine, nor do we need poverty pundits, and yes, I said it, poverty pundits telling us the sky is falling when it comes to healthcare costs in this country.
We can all smell the stench that is rising from the trash heap But like any pile of garbage it’s hard to pinpoint exactly where the odor is originating from. Is it the leftovers we threw away last night, or the dirty diaper we threw away a week ago?
Here’s the twisted reality that I believe is at the core of this problem: Physicians, for the most part, actually want the patients they treat to get well. The insurance companies, most of which are either publically or privately owned, want to make a profit. So, how do you make a profit out of sick, dying people? Easily; you charge the healthy ones, you charge them deep, and you charge them that way for as long as you can.
I recognize that I’m oversimplifying a very complex problem. But I’m only bringing this to the table to illustrate that there isn’t only one answer, and you would think that our elected officials would understand and agree to that. There has to be compromise, which in Washington seems to be equivalent to saying another c-word.
Depending on who has the mic, this allegedly is what is going on behind closed doors. But, this is far from the truth. What we have here is a stalemate in reverse; it’s very stale and nowhere near mating.
The Affordable Healthcare Act has been ratified as law by the Supreme Court. Get over it! It’s done. Depending on who you listen to this act is either the greatest assault on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that we have ever seen in our lifetime, or it’s the greatest thing next to sliced raisin toast with cinnamon swirl.
I understand the hesitancy of those who aren’t crazy about it. Never before in this country, minus slavery, has by virtue of being alive meant that you are immediately indebted to a controlling agency. Think about it. Auto insurance is mandatory only if you own a car. Homeowners insurance is necessary only if you own a home. Health insurance is now mandatory if you’re….breathing. It’s attached to you being a living, corporeal being. Yeah, let that settle in a little. The individual mandate is a tax on being alive.
There are a lot of people (Tea Party) who take a hardline against taxes of any kind. These people (Tea Party) are great with pointing out the problems of what has been retitled Obama care, but have yet to offer a solution whose logical conclusion doesn’t include sending the poor person who gets sick out to sea in a burning boat. (I mean, really, who doesn’t want to go out like a Viking? Just think of the cottage industry that it would create.)
Republicans, for the most part, have tried to push Tort reform, which puts limits on how much a plaintiff can sue for if they claim and prove that they’ve suffered damages while under a physician’s care. It is believed that the amount of money that is spent on frivolous lawsuits and overzealous juries prevents the medical field from being able to lower prices for care. And while this might be a component of the problem, it is, by no means, the whole solution.
But here’s the rub against the often impassioned pleas of the Republicans against the scourge of “Obama care”; Mitt Romney, their presidential candidate, proposed and signed into law a very similar program in Massachusetts in 2006. Yes, Massachusetts is a lot smaller, but after some tweaking (not twerking) it has been hailed as one of his greatest and most long lasting of his achievements. The individual mandate has been most effectively put in place by, dare I say, a Republican. So it’s not that it won’t work, it’s that “our guy” isn’t the one doing it.
Democrats have sheepishly boarded the support train behind this president who was sent over from central casting and have formed a human shield around the executive office. I can only imagine that had the president been a republican, the democrats would be doing the same thing that the republicans are doing now.
And who suffers from this political gridlock? The people do. The powers that be don’t get their way, so let’s screw the people.
So again I ask………who’s on first?

Sex and the shower….the real argument.

Michael-Sam

This week the National Football League’s frenzied media machine has been bombarding us with something that I believe is a non-issue, and that’s the announcement by a wanna-be professional football player that he’s gay.
Big whoop dee do!
First of all he hasn’t even tried out for a team. There’s no guarantee that he’ll even make the cut. I think that his manager made a brilliant marketing strategy move by blitzing the media with this “announcement”. Let’s face it, if no one drafts him the story will be because he was gay. The first team that does ultimately offer him a contract will be applauded by every network, every politician up for re-election and they may even get their own reality show on the Bravo! Channel.
But I digress.
I mean, really. Central casting couldn’t have come up with a better sequel to a lackluster Super Bowl whose best performance was Bruno Mars and The Red Hot Chili Peppers during the half-time show. I say kudos to the NFL for creating much needed traction to keep people interested in their product now that the season is over.
First of all professional athletics has always been about your performance on the field. Are you a play maker or are you a bench warmer? It really does come down to that simple formula. Can you do something on the field that is going to make your team win? Will you help to fill seats? Will you help the owners make more money?
Football is a gladiator sport. Next to boxing and mixed martial arts (MMA for the uninitiated) there is no other sport where sheer brutality is actually applauded. If a person wants to dedicate themselves to this line of work, where you’re always one hit away from a career ending injury, then I say have at it.
But wait a minute! When does only one side of any argument get to control the mic?
What about the showers?
I’m sorry, but this is as valid of a point by non-gay athletes as it is a rallying cry by gay athletes that say no problem exists.
In the movie 42 about Jackie Robinson there was a scene where one of the white players asked Jackie why he didn’t shower with the team. Jackie replied, “Because I don’t want to make the other guys feel uncomfortable.” During that time, and sadly there are remnants still alive today, a lot of white America hadn’t yet welcomed the possibility that blacks weren’t innately inferior to whites. Standing stark naked in a shower with your third leg glistening in the sudsy downpour was a little too “in your face” to people still battling their own prejudices. While he chose to cross many lines in his life, that’s one that he initially chose to not cross.
If I was the only male showering with a bunch of naked female teammates I’d have to keep my eyes in front of me. My natural arousal reflex would be in full…throttle. As a young man amped up on testosterone after a hard fought battle on the field, for me to not look at a glistening wet finely tuned nude woman’s body and not have a reaction is not impossible to do, but it’s asking me to work really, really hard to not do.
This is the concern of many non-gay athletes. The showers are a very private place for reflection and relaxation after a long and physically demanding game. Standing next to a guy who is attracted to other guys in a testosterone fueled environment is very unsettling to some guys. Even the most remote idea of the slightest possibility that another man is attracted to you while in this stage of vulnerability is something that, understandably, is a hard pill to swallow for many.
Yes, there are going to be some guys that have a real problem with this reality, but in a gladiator sport, chalk that up as a workplace hazard. Like in Jackie Robinson’s era, there were some guys that would always hate him simply because he had more active melanin then they had. Likewise, everyone is not going to jump aboard this wagon. They’re just not.
Of course, there have been many other gay athletes in the NFL before and probably currently are now. To the best of my knowledge there haven’t been any complaints of a violation of locker room/shower etiquette. Men have a naturally occurring expanding comfort zone radius when around other men. It’s unspoken, but real. Plus he played in college, so that Michael Sam can manage this I have absolutely no doubt.
Which brings me back to my original point: this is a non-issue. Michael Sam being gay is about as relevant, on the playing field, as the sexual escapades of someone who vigorously practices their heterosexuality on multiple women. There is no moral high-ground in this arena of over-the-top excess often exhibited in professional athletics.
The bottom line is this: if he’s good enough to make a team and can contribute on the field, let the guy play. Furthermore, stop talking about who he wants to be intimate with when he’s off the field. That has no bearings on his performance on the field should he be good enough to make a team.
Likewise, stop trying to brand everyone who has a concern as being homophobic, bigoted or uneducated. I believe that some concerns are warranted for both sides of the argument. We cannot legislate or control opinions. As offensive as some of them may be, that’s the price and benefit of freedom.
What do you think?

Porn: The lipstick wearing pig

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It’s hard to believe that less than 60 years ago movie and television censors considered a husband and wife sleeping in the same bed as being too risqué. This was also a time in the media where you could watch someone get shot by a machine gun on screen and no blood would ooze from their bodies, where newborn babies looked more like 1 year olds, where women seemed to awake wearing a designer gown and black people pretty much didn’t exist.
But I digress.
People were portrayed back then as having simple, less hedonistic lives. Partying until the wheels came off may’ve been as simple as going out for ice cream every Friday night. It was definitely a time of innocence. My case in point is the lyric to a popular song that came out in 1928 called Let’s Do It. Try running those lyrics up the flagpole at any elementary school today and I’m sure that you’d get a wide range of very, err, colorful responses. But for the sake of my argument I want to extract some of the lyrics to drive my point home:
“I’ve heard that lizards and frogs do it
Layin’ on a rock
They say that roosters do it
With a doodle and cock”

If you were to ask a child back in the 30’s and 40’s what the song was about, more than likely they’d say “it’s about falling in love”, which is what the song was about. But to a child of today the title of Let’s Do It would probably mean something much more colorful. Throw in “doodle and cock” and I’m sure that you’d probably need to have a signed hold harmless agreement, a good attorney and some strong ears.

There is something to be said about innocence, about it being preserved and about it being valued. Unfortunately in our quest to “keep it real” sometimes innocence becomes the kid who, instead of wearing the brand new Jordan’s to school, wears corrective orthopedic shoes that have heavy metal braces adorning them.

It comes as no secret that we all want “the real thing” in our lives. Whatever that “real” thing might be, that’s what we want. We don’t want to be teased with the watered down second string version of it. We want the in your face, genuine article, it don’t get no better than this sho nuf real thang!

In the department of relationships it’s real intimacy that people want. That’s the sweet spot that we all crave. It’s the pièce de résistance of life, being able to share your brokenness with someone else who is equally broken, and together all of those broken pieces make a beautiful mosaic. The problem is that in our instant gratification world people sometimes aren’t willing to pay the price for it. Intimacy ultimately requires both parties to give up something of themselves, and that can be scary.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that intimacy is difficult to define in our very fast paced world. It’s difficult because it’s not a one-size fits all ideal. What is intimate to me may not even be in the same neighborhood as intimacy to someone else. Couple that with the fact that men, in general, have a harder time expressing intimacy because of how we’re wired, and socialized. Women can battle through the maze of emotional intactness a little more easily than men can. Without sounding sexist or the slightest bit condescending, it is, also, how they’re wired.

Sex has long been considered to be the ultimate expression of an intimate encounter. Unfortunately the sex industry, namely pornography, has stolen that car, stripped it of anything of value, and then returned it to its owner completely and utterly useless.

The rapid growth of the porn industry is directly proportional to how society has grown to overemphasize convenience, excess and a disdain of innocence.

I’ve heard proponents say that being anti-porn means being anti-sex. This is a non sequitur argument because comparing pornography to sex is like saying driving your speeding car off a cliff is the same as cruising along the coastline with the top down and your arm around the person you love.

The two are not even remotely similar.

The porn industry has a higher STD rate than prostitution. There are more cases of HIV among porn actors and actresses than any other profession. That alone should scare people away, the fact that you’re doing things, in many cases, that the human body is not designed for and the body simply can’t handle it. And while testing is highly recommended it is not illegal to not be tested. These tests are paid for by the performers themselves, so reliability is sketchy at best.

“But it’s their own personal choice. They can choose to do something else if they wanted to.”

Really? The vast majority of the performers in this industry are young girls who have dropped out of high school, have abusive environments that they’re trying to escape, or who already work as prostitutes. They’re not capable of understanding the lifelong ramifications of their decision, as most teenagers don’t. All they see is the money, and producers pray on this type of naiveté. And it’s not just girls either. The pay-to-be-gay movement among young men is just as strong. If you’ve never heard this practice before it’s when a supposedly heterosexual male will perform homosexual acts on camera, for money. Thus the moniker exists: pay to be gay.

Probably most damaging is the fact that participation in this industry is the equivalent of painting a huge red mark on your fore head. The advent of the internet pretty much insures that your children and grandchildren will get to see what grandma did for a couple of bucks. That’s awesome! But seriously, one of the reasons that many of these performers wind up committing suicide is because, after they’re used up, they’re banished to a prison of varying degrees of lifelong solitude.

I’m not beating up on the porn industry for the sake of sport. I see it becoming more and more of an issue because, well, quite simply, young people don’t think and are primed to be convinced that they can get in and then get out (no pun intended…okay, maybe) without being scarred for life. This is simply not true. So many young women, and men, have thrown their lives away by falling victim to the artificial glam and glitz that this industry promises. In reality it’s more like a meat grinder with society left to pick up the pieces. Families are being torn apart due to addictions and false standards that no one can live up to in real life. So, in conclusion, all of this leads me to the conclusion that, as glamorous as the industry tries to make itself, if there ever was a pig in lipstick the porn industry is that pig.