Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Putting the Hype into Hypocrisy

Immediately after signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776, the Founding Fathers began to rancorously bitch at each other and disagree on many a political issue. For instance, Jefferson was a champion of "states rights" while Madison and Hamilton were leading "federalists". Here's the primary difference: State's Rights = the states get to boss the fed around; Federalism = Washington gets to boss the states around. Even today, this argument isn't totally settled but the Feds have had the upper hand ever since that pesky Civil War back in the mid-19th century. The current Supreme Court is trying to re-balance the scales.

From the outset, one of the primary "state's rights" issues was slavery. Jefferson argued that the states should each decide for themselves. At the time, Jefferson was busy making babies with his slave, Sally Hemmings, and probably didn't want the federal government legally messing with a really sweet arrangement. (I'm nearly certain that Miss Hemmings was given a binding "yes-no" vote regarding sleeping with Massah Thomas, but it's just my intuition.)

Well, this slavery argument festered for the better part of 80 years until it was finally settled by force of arms in 1865 (politics at an extreme level). The Federalists won this particular skirmish. If they hadn't--and if you currently live in one of the original Confederate states and you are white--you could own your very own darkie today. Given current demographic realities, however, contemporary slaves would likely be Guatemalans. On second thought, were slavery still legal in the south, there would likely be far fewer Central and South Americans blithely scurrying across the border. I'm sure that some conservative or libertarian talk-show host has already proposed "the slavery solution" as an effective curb on illegal immigration (I'll check Lou Dobb's Twitter posts as he is the most likely candidate).

All of this is to illustrate that early in our Republic, politicians argued, scuffled, occasionally dueled and voted based primarily on contrary beliefs and differences of ideology. Today's politics, although they are often elaborately cloaked in ideology, are really, truly, actually, no kidding about money. I give you, as example number one, the junior Senator from Connecticut, Joseph I. Lieberman. As a observant Jew, Joe would like you to think of him as Joseph I. Liebermensch, a "man" yes, but one who stands out as particularly reliable, stalwart, brave, true and independent in a robust and very self-reliant independent way; sort of an Adult Jewish Eagle Scout.

Joe, having had no chance of being re-elected as the Democratic candidate from Connecticut in 2006 by losing the primary, peeled himself away from the Democratic Mother Ship and ran as a faux independent (actually he called his campaign the "Connecticut for Lieberman" party). It worked and Joe returned to Washington as Senator. His actions chapped off a number of really important Democrats and Joe repaid their bad attitudes by endorsing and campaigning for John McCain and Sarah Barracuda in the 2008 election. Joe can torch a bridge, push come to shove.

Now we come to Joe's most visible, if not shiny, hour since 2000 when he actually made Dick Cheney look good during the V.P. debate.

Health care legislation has returned Joe to center stage. In Joe's hands rests the outcome of the entire nation's dysfunctional health care contraption.

Joe has recently risen up, done an airborne 180 that would make Nureyev proud, and, mid-leap, tossed a wrench directly into the cogs of the Congressional sausage-making apparatus.

Let's keep Joe's stated and actual reasons for his behavior simple.

Joe "Remember, I am an independent and self-reliant mensch in a very independent way" Lieberman's stated reason: The current Senate health care legislation is fiscally irresponsible.

Joe objects to two very specific provisions. First, he opposes the "public option" insurance proposal. Second, he also opposes the "Medicare Buy-In" alternative, an idea that he championed as late as September (not September 2008, this year's September which was, what, less than 90 days ago?). He claims not to recall his recent position. If true, that fact alone should give the citizens of Connecticut a queasy feeling about old Joe's mental faculties.

Both of these insurance alternatives would give people a choice between private insurance coverage and a government version. This, loyal readers, is a key distinction.

Independent Joe represents Connecticut. Hartford is in Connecticut. Hartford is the Valhalla of big insurance. In fact, five times a day, across this great land, insurance agents are required to repair to their prayer mats, face Hartford, kneel and pay homage. This is the reason that your insurance agent is so often "away from (his or her) phone" when you call.

One of the downsides of leaving the Democratic Party was the loss of financial support for campaigning. So, more than ever, Joe really, really needs the $427,894 that the Hartford insurers gave him just this last reporting period. Over his Senate career, big insurance has provided Joe with way north of $1 million. Now, big insurance absolutely, positively wants no provisions in the current health care legislation that would create bona fide competition. The public option or the Medicare Buy-In alternative would certainly do that. Someone probably recently reminded Joe of that, given his memory problems of late.

So, wrapping himself in the tasteful pashmina of "fiscal responsibility", Joe has doubled back on Reid and the rest of those loathsome Democrat/nanny state wimps and stood up for the "58% of Americans who currently oppose the current health care legislation", even though this opposition cannot be based solely on federal deficit concerns.

Besides, as a recovering consumer behavior researcher, I am leery of statistics that claim to represent the feelings of the American people regarding complex issues. The answers to many such questions can be easily manipulated by the way the question is asked or by carefully selecting the group of whom you ask it, or both. This, plus, at least 25% of adult Americans couldn't tell you the difference between a "public option" or a "public restroom" and they get their current and ever-changing political viewpoint from either Old Blevins down at the Neon Angel Lounge or some talk-show entertainer. Subtract that 25% out of the data and the percent of Americans who have some knowledge of the issues yet still oppose modestly modifying health care--for the eventual good of most Americans--is probably 33% which is, coincidentally, about the number of Americans who are insurance agents.

Senator Lieberman (and now we come to the actual reason) has insured that the financial spigot in Hartford will continue to gush lucre his direction. And, even should Joe fail in his 2012 bid to remain a Senator from Connecticut--and it seems highly likely that he will fail--Joe has insured (ahem) that a lucrative lobbying job for the insurance industry awaits. Therefore, supporting the legislation would indeed be fiscally irresponsible, primarily for Saint Joseph his-own-self. So much for ideology. Perhaps Chris Dodd should challenge Joe to a duel related to insurance industry fund-raising since the slavery issue has been settled already.


Observoid of the Day: Can't wait for the Rose Bowl Parade featuring Tiger Wood's All-Ex-Mistresses Marching Band.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Outing the Coca Cola Santa

It's always about this time of December that my thoughts turn to Saint Nicholas.
I can't explain it. You would think that his being such a culturally important figure, Santa would also enter my thoughts in, oh say, July or May, in much the same way that thoughts of the Pope, Augusto Pinochet or Tiger Woods occasionally pop into my head unbidden throughout the year. But, as far as I can recall, that doesn't happen. Nope, on the Santa front, it is just one of those December things.

And, unlike many, I don't conjure up the the Coca Cola version of Santa, the morbidly obese one, a condition caused partly by his habit of chugging sugar-laden Cokes from breakfast until the cocktail hour. This St. Nick would likely have such a caffeine buzz going that Mrs. Saint Nicholas, nee Earlene Goldberg--a long suffering saint in her own right--couldn't get the old boy to calm down and make anything before 2 or 3 every morning. Of course, at the North Pole, it's hard to keep to a regular circadian schedule what with 24 hours of daylight half the year and 24 of dark the other half. Seems to me that Santa ought to relocate to improve the efficiency of his operation. I'd suggest somewhere near the equator in southern Asia, closer to lead paint suppliers and where most of the toys are jobbed out to third-party providers anyway. It would way shorten his supply chain.

No, the St. Nick of whom I think is the one from the Clement Clarke Moore poem, the one that I read to my children so many times that I can still recall it from memory. I sometimes intentionally made mistakes when I read it to my son as a way to determine if he was asleep or just listening with his eyes closed. If it were the latter, he would stop me mid-poem, insist on a correction by reminding me of the right words. He would do this without opening his eyes..."Dad, it's not, Vomit, Stupid, Dagwood and Nixon, it's Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen."....or, "Dad, it's not a 'bowel, foul and smelly' it's a 'bowlful of jelly'". Tykes demand accuracy.

Moore's poem describes Saint Nicholas as a "little old driver so lively and quick", a description that runs quite contrary to the dressed-in-red slab of humanity that I saw today at the Mall, posing stoically with screaming toddlers and greedy pre-teens with lists of "demands" in hand. In fact, later, as I left the mall by my usual side door route, there was "Santa", next to a dumpster, beard hanging from one ear, sucking on a Marlboro Light and looking haggard. I strongly doubt that this was the real Santa. He seemed neither lively nor quick and he was at least 250 lbs. past "little". If this Santa tried to come down our chimney, there would be a prolonged interruption of his intended delivery schedule.

The poem also describes the flying reindeer as "tiny" and the sleigh as "miniature", additional clues that if one were to plop the Mall Santa or the Coca Cola version onto the sleigh, there would likely be some serious issues with The International Brotherhood of Flying Reindeer, Local 001.

Moore was the scion of a prominent New York family. His father, Bishop Benjamin Moore, officiated at the inauguration of George Washington, invented lead paint and was personally responsible for the creation of the accent wall color "Tangy Tangerine" in 1808. But, as so often happens, I digress.

The magical St. Nick in Moore's poem is dressed "all in fur, from his head to his foot", a sartorial decision that has just caught the attention of PETA, an unusually irritating organization that plans to station members with buckets of fake blood on rooftops across the globe this year in hopes of creating a media event. My bet is that they just freeze their butts and get coal in their stockings. I suppose St . Nick could pick out some cold weather gear from REI but then he could easily be mistaken for any number of small, round southerners who pile on the down when the temperature plunges into the 50s.

Clement Moore's Saint Nicholas is my kind of Santa: smokes a pipe (not Marlboro Lights), is a jolly elf, lively, quick, magical, wouldn't think of letting relatively enormous and greedy children sit on his lap, wears leather, knows where all the "bad" girls live, has a license to fly, is droll, has twinkling eyes, merry dimples, rosy cheeks and a red nose. In brief, a very small W.C. Fields. Now we're talking.


Observoid of the Day: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a stop at the ATM.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Bob of Rights

In 1789 the U.S. Congress wrote the first 10 amendments to the Constitution. These amendments, for those of you who were out with the Chicken pox during this 5th grade class, are known as the Bill of Rights and were adopted in 1791. I don't know exactly who "Bill" was but there were a number of "Williams" who were involved in the Revolution. I assume that someone (probably that jokester, Franklin) slapped some poor William's nickname on the legislation and it just slipped through.

These 10 Rights were added to the Constitution to satisfy those members of Congress who were concerned that without them that the Federal Government could become tyrannical, much like the central governments of Europe at the time and similar to today's DMV offices. These amendments were vaguely written in one or two areas, e.g. armed militias, gun ownership rights, privacy issues, the government's relationship to religion, liberty and such. Many folks these days believe that they know exactly what each of these amendments means because they can divine the writers' specific intent, i.e. "I can own a rocket propelled grenade launcher if I want to, the Second Amendment guarantees it."

I'm a bit more guarded in my interpretation given that the 1789 framers were unfamiliar with grenade launchers. "To bear arms" does suggest that the writers had in mind personal firearms and not more advanced weapons of war. Citizens, for instance, were not guaranteed the right to "bear howitzers" or "naval gunboats". I'm sure that there are some out there in reader land who disagree and plan to build their own naval gunboat for back yard defense, local ordinances and lack of water be damned. Go right ahead. The construction and maintenance activity will likely preclude you from positioning yourself for a Supreme Court slot or starting your own talk show.

In any case, the Bill of Rights has been and will likely continue to be, at the heart of contentious issues. People of intellect on both sides of the divide will disagree and the pendulum of legal interpretation will swing left and then right as the makeup of the Supreme Court evolves. Currently, Antonin "Batman" Scalia and Clarence "The Quiet Robin" Thomas bat from the right side along with Roberts and Alito with Kennedy as the switch hitter whose stats are a little weaker from the left side, if you get my drift.

But I take keyboard in hand today to talk about the "Bob of Rights" not the Bill of Rights. The Bob of Rights, named after fellow Georgian Billy Bob (he asked that his last name not be revealed) are founded on his observations of fellow Americans as they go about their daily routines. These Rights are based on many citizens' sense of entitlement regarding a number of issues and activities and they exercise these Rights with abandon.

And so, with no further to do, here they are.


The Bob of Rights (2009)

Be it knowneth hencefortheth and forevermoreth, not including Federal and State holidays, weekends and regular work days, by all who are in the literate to non-literate continuum and who are bona fide legal residents of the United States of America plus Puerto Rico, American Samoa, the American Virgin Islands and Canada (just a joke, you overly-sensitive Canadian readers) that the following are apparently guaranteed Rights of Individuals in spite of the fact that they do not appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution but have been observed time and again by Billy Bob (and others). To whit: An Individual, because he or she is very special, has the Right to:

1. Ignore the line of cars patiently waiting in the exit lane and speed down the adjoining lane and force someone to let you into the front of the line because you drive a (BMW, Escalade, Mercedes, Lexus, etc. etc.).

2. Forward unsubstantiated, unattributed and scurrilous e-mail postings to everyone on your distribution list and insist that they do the same "for the good of the country".

3. Bang your over sized carry-on luggage against the heads and shoulders of fellow passengers unlucky enough to have an aisle seat.

4. Hoodwink the hosts and authorities, crash an important state event, get your picture taken with all the pooh-bahs and then demand $500,000 to tell your story to some faux news outlet.

5. Take a multi-million dollar bonus based on profits that were either (1) not profits after all or (2) profits made because the rest of the American public provided money to keep your business afloat for another year and because that's the way it has always been done on the south end of Manhattan Island.

6. Drive 80 MPH on the bumper of the schmuck ahead of you, another very special person who is already going 25 MPH over the posted limit and who has cars on either side, thus precluding a lane change.

7. Bring your five-year-old poorly parented child onto public transportation and let said five-year-old run the show for the duration because "that's the way (he or she) acts at home" (apologetic smile).

8. Loudly share your cell phone conversation with all around you, those who understand that you are very special and so therefore just can't wait to hear the details of when you got on, how long you will be on or when you will be getting off the friggin (train, plane, elevator, escalator, bus, what have you).

9. Ignore the "Don't Walk" light and enter the crosswalk while the "Left Turn" arrow is illuminated thus freezing left turn traffic and glare menacingly at anyone who dares blow their horn at your-own-special-self.

10. Strongly and loudly state your opinions on topics about which you have very little factual knowledge and no expertise.

Thus sweareth, stateth, avereth, orateth, sayeth and proclaimeth Billy Bob (Anon) this December 1, 2009.


My thanks to Billy Bob for sharing this vital information. For the good of the Republic, please forward this to all of the people on your e-mail distribution list. If you don't, someday you will have bad luck and/or die.


Observoid of the Day: If you have a bunch of clowns, you're going to have a circus.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Light Through Old Windows

In the late eighteenth century, America's Founding Fathers (salute) came together in Philly, declared the colony's independence from England, established a constitution and very possibly invented the cheese steak sandwich. The first two accomplishments are irrefutable facts.

We remember many of these Founding Fathers (there were no Founding Mothers, and this is an important fact as you will see directly) as literate men of property, education and creativity. Most of them were Christians--with the exception of a handful of the most influential--all of them were Caucasian and all of them wore silly pants, which were the rage at the time. Many wore wigs, a style that has pretty much faded away, except in some sectors of the entertainment business. These men clearly saw themselves as qualified to lead the country and to be selected and re-selected by voters who were similar to them: literate, educated, land-owning white men.

I suspect, that if the Founding Fathers were to learn that in today's America we encourage to vote anyone who is at least 18, can prove legal citizenship and can fog up a mirror, they would be horrified. Women voting? Nonsense. Negroes? You surely jest. Illiterate workers? Outrageous. Indians? Now you are just being silly.

The "All men are created equal" thing was limited to the aforementioned "men" and to a certain class of capable men, in other words, the Founding Father archetype.

Eschewing current political correctness, let me opine that our Founding Dads had a point. Wait, put down that rock and hear me out.

I strongly believe that citizens of the female persuasion, Blacks, Indians, non-property owners, laborers, et al, who were originally left out of the voting equality equation should be included, just as they are now. However, if any of these folks is a certifiable moron, I don't want them helping me select representatives or to run for office themselves. Moron inclusion is the standard now and it is a major contributor to the fact that we get a fair share of morons in state and federal legislative seats. The fact that we don't have effective moron screening as part of the voter or candidate registration process is unconscionable.

Let me be clear, I don't mean to denigrate morons and for those of you who are morons, "denigrate" means to "put down" or "to make fun of".

Seriously, we don't let people drive cars who can't pass the driver's test but we let people vote--no, we encourage people to vote--who know virtually nothing of the policies, implications and nuances of the issues at hand or the machinery and purposes of the three branches of government. Many of these voters likely don't have the capacity to be informed voters, much like some people can't safely merge onto a freeway. Both are dangerous types in their own special way.

There is a faint but growing wail building in the distance as the liberals amongst my readers began to understand my rather conservative take on voter's rights. My take is simple: an adult U.S. citizen has a right and duty to vote but only as long as there is some evidence that he or she has the mental capacity to think clearly and independently.

Along with the right to vote comes the obligation to be informed instead of merely influenced by those who would twist and spin the facts. If one is unable to think rationally for themselves, someone else will always be available to think for them, rationally or not. Based on much of what I see and read on the Internet, it's clear that some citizens, many of whom would probably make good next door neighbors and/or drinking companions, should be kept away from the polling station through threat of force because they are political and policy morons. Ergo, we get the government that we deserve.

Some may argue that I just don't want people voting or serving in office who do not agree with my personal political views. Au contraire. There is always room for disagreement and ideological differences between people of informed goodwill. For instance, I believe that the current proposed health care legislation is better than doing nothing, although it is far from being adequate to solve the problems of the system long term. Others, on the other hand, may think that an entirely different approach is the better way to go; I'm glad to hear them out, maybe even give their ideas a try. However, if you carry a sign showing corpses at Buchenwald and equate that horror to "Obama's health care solution", your right to vote or hold office should be immediately revoked because you are a moron.

I haven't solved the moron screening conundrum and so I can't provide a simple solution today. Perhaps science could invent a machine similar to a metal detector that emits a silent alarm when a moron passes through. It would be silent so that the moron not be unduly embarrassed. Surely they suffer enough embarrassment by routinely saying and doing moronic things, i.e., former Congressman and soon to be convicted scofflaw Tom DeLay appearing on Dancing with the Stars. A moron screening machine could have caught him before he even ran for Congress.

I will be interested in your thoughts and comments regarding voter and candidate registration moron screening. Be advised, if what you write is moronic, names and embedded cookie identifiers will be archived for possible future use.


Observoid of the Day: Willie Nelson is the son that Ozzie and Harriet never mentioned.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Full Disclosure

Some readers likely missed the announcement on October 6 that the FTC has set new product and service endorsement rules for blogs. We bloggers, however, straightened up and took notice.

Many bloggers, my-own-self included, were shocked, shocked I tell you, to learn that some of our less ethical peers were using their world-wide communication platforms to earn money and receive free stuff from the marketing departments of various for-profit, capitalistic firms.

See, when these devious bloggers have the chance, they sing the praises of a particular product or service, without mentioning that they are actually on the touted provider's payroll. Scurrilous, just scurrilous.

When I first learned of this practice I was so upset that I had to take a break from reading the WSJ online and kick back with an ice cold and amazingly refreshing bottle of caffeine-free Coke Zero, the only sweetener-based drink that really does provide a pick-me-up without causing caloric intake guilt. I recommend Coke Zero without reservation. I've tried the Pepsi version and it just doesn't have it going on, you know what I mean; it's kinda flat.

Where was I? Oh yeah. Anyway, marketing sharpies are constantly trying to find ways to make people buy stuff that they don't really need; worming their slimy way into the social networking arena is just the latest trickery.

Speaking of worms, my dog is now completely worm-free thanks to Interceptor Flavor Tabs, a palatable monthly tablet that has kept my dog completely free from heartworms, adult hookworms, adult roundworms and whipworm infections. I mean, this stuff is amazing. If you have a dog that you treasure and you can't stand to see him or her dragging a wormy butt across your $4,000 imported Persian, Interceptor Flavor Tabs are the answer. Of course, that's just my opinion; I'm not a veterinarian or anything, just a simple blogger.

The FTC is "...taking this nefarious endorsement practice quite seriously," according to Rick Calvert, chief executive of the blogger conference, Blog World & New Media Expo. Fines of up to $11,000 per violation can be imposed on bloggers who fail to reveal to readers that their endorsements are compensated, either through direct payment or the receipt of free goods and services.

Speaking of services, I recently experienced some of the best that I have ever had on a Carnival Cruise ship adventure to the Caribbean. Just a sensational trip, start to finish. Not a want went unattended. I've tried all the other cruise lines and, what with all of the vacationing sales managers, dentists, insurance agents, blue hairs and Midwestern families with their strange Fargo accents who usually end up at my table, they couldn't deliver the faux royalty experience that I was looking for in a four-day, three-night romantic get-a-way for under $1,000 per. But, Carnival came through with colors flying. I've even coined a slogan based on the experience: "Carnival, the cruise line for the particularly picky."

Of course, the practice of product placement in television and movies is an established and hoary marketing deceit. History suggests that product placement in movies began with the release of "Gone With The Wind" in the late 1930's. Apparently, in the scene where Rhett tells Scarlett that he "...(doesn't) give a damn", in the background, sitting on a foyer table behind Scarlett, is her Blackberry. One has to look very quickly to see it but the power of subliminal advertising is well-known among marketing gurus.

Speaking of "quickly", I want to share with you my high regard for Levitra, the erectile dysfunction drug. Those folks at GlaxoSmithKline Corporation put the "A" team to work creating this product. I mean, it's "pop the puppy and bingo", if you get my drift. I tried Viagra and found the "warm-up" time to be a real problem, often resulting in one of the necessary actors in this interpersonal drama being deeply asleep when the desired result was finally achieved. As you might imagine, this was frustrating for all concerned and sometimes necessitated single partner activity just to keep the relationship from deteriorating into late-night squabbles and finger-pointing. Eli Lilly's Cialis is O.K. but requires that the partners recline in adjoining claw-foot bathtubs of warm water while staring into the sunset for some period prior to coitus. What I found was that the soak created significant "pruning" (wrinkling, if you will) of all body parts. This "prune" look tends to work at odds with the intended result of the drug, lessening the hubba-hubba quotient of the act. No, for my ED dollar, Levitra is the one. But, that is just my opinion; I'm not a doctor or anything, just a humble shagger, I meant blogger.

Clearly, these endorsement practices by some unethical and widely-read bloggers have put me in a high dudgeon. This state-o-mind is prompted by the fact that these bloggers are both widely-read and highly compensated and I'm not. In such a state, I could just rant on-and-on-and-on. However, seeing as how Mad Men will air in a few minutes on HBO, one of the finest cable operations on the entire planet and well worth whatever your local cable provider is charging extra for the privilege of having it in your home*, and Mad Men is far and away the best thing on the telly since Bonanza, I will demur.


*Comcast provides my HBO service at no additional charge in return for certain promotional considerations. (FUFTC)

Observoid of the Day: If "The carrot and the stick" is good motivation, wouldn't "The chocolate eclair and the two-by-four" be even better?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Like Summer Camp Without the Chiggers

Wow! What a weekend!!!!

I just returned from the Anti-Obama March on Washington. They called it a "march" but we actually took a bus. From the looks of some of the other "marchers" it's probably a good thing too, because many of them didn't appear to be prepared to march any further than from the La-Z-Boy to the fridge and back (ha-ha).

We staunch true Americans came from all over this great country to wave placards, shout slogans and basically de-rail Obama's plan to convert our great country to socialism, communism, Marxism, fascism, Moslemism, Muslimism, tyrannyism, feminism, Bolshevism and all the other evil "isms". The good "isms", the ones that we support are: Americanism, capitalism, individualism and freedomism.

According to FOX News and Michele Malkin, our protest group was 2,000,000 strong. Of course, the D.C. police department claimed that there were about 70,000 demonstrators but then what would you expect from a department that has to kiss up to the new and illegitimate president and whose Chief of Police is probably some uppity with a hidden agenda. Oh, my bad, the D.C. police chief is a white woman by the name of Lanier. Makes you wonder if she can do the job AND take care of her family. She'd have to be a regular Sarah Palin and that's unlikely.

Anyhoo, in a country of 300 million people, the difference between 2 million and 70 thousand is a rounding error isn't it?

I was amazed at the diversity of our group (whatever its actual size). We were a veritable cross-section of true Americans. There were young white women, middle-aged white women, elderly white women, young white men, middle-aged white men, elderly white men, short white people, tall white people, thin white people and husky white people. There was even one women who looked sort of Oriental or Asian or whatever it is that slopes prefer to be called these days. I didn't actually see her in person but I saw a YouTube clip where she was praying in front of the camera. I couldn't tell from the video prayer exactly what she was praying for but it had to be something good because it was a prayer, right? She kept opening her eyes to see if the camera was still running and as long as it was, she would close her eyes again and continued praying. What a trooper!!!!

I'll bet that if Jesus were alive today and on earth, instead of being alive today but in heaven at the right hand of God, taking names, he would certainly have joined our crusade. Like us, Jesus was a rebel and he loved poking fun at people like that illegitimate president, Obama, who is just an uppity nig...a man with an evil agenda and certainly not one of us.

The creativity of our group was just too much fun. I was impressed by many of the signs and slogans. They just made me proud. Some of my favorites include:

The placard that read "The Zoo has an African (picture of a lion) and the White House has a Lyin' African" (ha-ha).

There was a great sign that read "Bury Obama with Kennedy" (ha-ha). What a clever way to say that a dead Obama would be good for the country without actually, you know, threatening the president which, apparently, is against some law. If you ask me, free speech regarding presidents has taken a real beating ever since the Kennedy shooting (John or Bobby, take your pick).

One large man had created a t-shirt with this message across the front: "We're mad but we came unarmed. This time." (ha-ha) It's subtle, I'll admit, and I had to think about what it meant for a few minutes. Here's my take; his message makes the point that unless things change (or not change) the way we true Americans want them to change (or not change), gun play is an option. That's how potentially dangerous we are.

One guy had created a large, long poster with pictures of Mussolini, Castro (Fidel not his weenie brother, Raul), Stalin, Obama (altered to look like Heath Ledger as the Joker in "Dark Knight" ha-ha), Marx (Karl not Groucho, silly), Chavez (Hugo not Cesar, the grape-picking communist, although that would have been good too) and Hitler. Some wiseacre reporter tried to point out that communism and fascism are very different "isms" and that Hitler and Stalin were mortal enemies because of their "ism" differences. But, that's not the point is it? If I have to explain to you what the point is, you are likely not one of us.

Another really clever placard read, "Politicians are Like Dipers. They need to be changed often and for the same reason." Poor guy had left out the "a" in "Diapers" and had to pencil a tiny one in between the "i" and the "p" but you couldn't really see the "a" from a few feet away. His idea was great though and besides, what's a little illiteracy among true American friends?

I'm pretty sure that our messages got through to the powers that be. According to Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Rush, Sean Hannity and the rest of the brave and unbiased journalists, the administration and their lackeys in the Congress are now running scared. With the 2010 mid-term elections looming, they are afraid that they could be changed like dirty dipers (ha-ha).


Observoid of the Day: The Black Hole Theory of the Human Condition = some people are so dense that nothing illuminating ever escapes from them.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dear Children: I Apologize

I should have done this long ago but I kept hoping that things would work out; praying that I wouldn't have to humble myself with an apology. However, it has reached a point where the inevitable is, well, inevitable.

So, (deep breath), here goes.

I am deeply sorry about the Baby Boom; no really, very deeply, remorseful even.

Being one of the very oldest Boomers my-own-self, I take great responsibility for our unusually irritating generation, much as an oldest child often takes responsibility for his or her siblings. We had good intentions. At least the road to hell is well paved.

There are a number if specific failings that deserve full disclosure. However, before I go down that inglorious list, let me acknowledge that we actually did pretty well in the music department.

The Baby Boom rescued the 1950's music scene from, among others, Gogi Grant, Kay Starr, Frankie Lane, Jo Stafford and Mario Lanza. And, although there was a brief 1956 "Hit Parade" uprising by the "old schoolers" when Hugo Winterhalter released "Canadian Sunset", rock-n-roll beat back the challenge easily.

Launched in 1955 by Bill Haley and his Comets, rock-n-roll never much looked back. Almost immediately it gave us Elvis (pre-Army, authentic,"I ain't fat yet", bad boy), The Platters, The Champs, The Coasters and Domenico Mudugno. The magic fuel in the R&R tank was the introduction of the Les Paul solid-body electric guitar. In all of its various designs, the electric guitar was, and is, the bedrock requirement. It gave rise to such Baby Boomer rockers as Dion and the Belmonts, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Chuck Berry, Bruce Springsteen, Robert Palmer, The Eagles, Bon Jovi and scores of others, some of them wimmin', like Martha and the Vandellas and Bonnie Raitt.

There were the occasional lapses, I'll admit, like the unfortunate Sheb Wooley "Purple People Eater" release, but in the main, the music created and supported by the Boomers is still classic, hummable and endlessly covered by contemporary pretenders. I think that even the most ardent Boomer haters will have to admit that our music is far superior to rap, krunk, ska, grunge, punk, bitpop, filk or skronk.

I'm also sure, however, that even with the music, the Baby Boom's multiple sins outweigh this singular contribution. And so, let us commence the secular confession and apologia.

I'm ashamed that you have to endure Viet Nam War stories. The Boomers weren't responsible for this particular dust up but we contributed most of the blood in the "blood and treasure" part of the equation. Now, at any gathering that includes Boomer men, someone will launch into a primarily fabricated account of their heroics during the Tet offensive or some such. In my experience, having been on active duty with the U.S. Army (salute) from 1969-1972, those who actually had "in country" combat experience rarely want to re-visit the experience and those who tell the tales were probably somewhere safe and warm, like Toronto.

We lied about Woodstock, sorry. It was a lot more fun if you weren't actually there. Crawling in the mud, sleeping in the rain, worrying about tainted drugs and arguing with some dipwad from New Jersey about the meaning of Joe Cocker's version of "A Little Help From My Friends" is only fun in hindsight. Personally, I was doing most of these same things when Woodstock occurred, except that I was in basic training at Fort Leonard Wood. I can assure you that "fun" was not how we thought of it then, or even in hindsight.

We ask forgiveness for our George McGovern support. Not that George isn't a fine fellow, he is, and not because we, in our "let's change the world" young idealism were wrong about Richard Nixon, we weren't, but we should have backed a candidate who actually had a chance of winning. George amassed a whopping 17 electoral votes by taking one state, Massachusetts. The man couldn't even carry his own state of South Dakota, the political equivalent of not being able to get laid while at the Chicken Ranch. We Boomers must take our lumps for our part in the public re-emergence of Tricky Dick from his lair in San Clemente.

We regret Bill Clinton and deeply regret W. We may end up regretting Obama, a very young Boomer, he, a fact that may grant him a bye, depending on how things go. As for Bill and Hillary (co-presidents), while the country was actually in reasonably good shape economically, we pretty much dismantled the financial regulatory system during their tenure and this came back to haunt America big time. It isn't so much Bill's lack of foresight and leadership that deserves a mea culpa from Boomers, it's our support for a recovering nerd and policy wonk with little or no class and no self control whatsoever. He was the first Boomer president and yet his historic legacy will usually begin with the words, "Using a cigar...". Ouch. Apparently, not learning a major lesson regarding Boomers, the country turned to yet another, this one poised to lead thanks only to having won the Lucky Sperm Contest. As the second presidential representative of our cohort, W was a genuine embarrassment. While he would likely make a great next door neighbor, you know, genial, willing to lend tools and a hand, share a cold one, etc. etc., I already have good neighbors and none of them strike me as Leader of the Free World material either. Obama is probably the Boomers' last shot. I just wish that he had actually been born here, wasn't a closet Muslim and didn't have that whole Antichrist cloud hanging over his head.

We are mortified by our sheer numbers; forgive us. True, it was our randy parents who, caught in the titillating afterglow of saving the world from fascism, resumed a normal home life and bred like mink. By January 1,1946, the first of 77 million Boomers emerged from wombs across the country, screaming for attention and succor, activities that we habituated. The harvest of our parent's libidinous loins didn't slow to a more puritanical pace until the year 1963 finally closed up shop. By then, the demographic charts contained this humongous lump of humanity that has since been working its way through the American digestive tract like an entire pig in a python. When you walk down the street today, one of every four passersby is a Boomer. They are the ones who have that smug look of the entitled.

We're ashamed that you are an only child. That's right, we could have followed our parent's example and practiced unprotected sex and the "rhythm method" through our fecund years and provided you with many brothers and sisters just like we had; the kind of family with, at the very least, a middle child who would go on to either win a Nobel or become a stalker; the kind of family that makes family reunions interesting, large and sometimes dangerous. Instead, believing every word of Paul Ehrlich's book, we reined ourselves in to just 2.1 children per couple, often foregoing rug rats altogether. We were discovering ourselves through navel contemplation. Producing a big family would have been a tremendous distraction.

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who....oops, wait, no one actually trespassed against us. In fact, we pretty much got the long end of the stick. We would really, really like to return the favor, kids. However, we do actually want everything that has been promised us. So, the next best thing is for us to keep on taking, piling on the debt (you can pay it later) and plead for your understanding as your standard of living falls, your payroll taxes steadily mount, your children face their limited educational and career choices while we Boomers sail on through our very special, meaningful, creative and blessed lives. We want every red cent of our Social Security, even the The Donalds and the Bills and Melindas among us. We want it, even though the amount we paid in is far short of what we'll extract, now that we are living 30 years past our retirement. Fair's fair. And, those artificial joints, we want those too, at your expense of course, and I know that I speak for The Donalds, the Bills and Melindas, the corporate pooh-bahs, the investment bankers and the Hollywood icons on this issue. We're all sorry, damned sorry, sincerely sorry. But the fact is, and we don't know on whom to blame this, Boomers just weren't wired for sacrificing for the common good. Apparently, our parents and their parents used up all the genetic altruism fighting the Axis of Evil (the first one, not W's pretend one). We don't know where your altruism came from; certainly not from us.

I'm sure that there is much more that you expected to see in a blanket apology from a Baby Boomer but whatever it could possibly be is easily countered with slippery, lawyer talk, e.g. "...that depends on what the meaning of 'is' is."

We are sorry, though, in a way in which only Boomers can be sorry (not being one, you wouldn't understand). It is deeply, truly, in-the-marrow painful, a pain that can only be managed with Medicare Part D prescription anti-psychotics.

Kids, please find it in your collective hearts to forgive and forget, and quickly. Bear in mind, without the Baby Boom it is unlikely that "Saturday Night Fever", "Grease" and "Urban Cowboy" would be classics. You're welcome.


Observoid of the Day: There is no known collection of Hugo Winterhalter's Greatest Hits.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Slip Sliddin' Away

The American Public says, "We're mad as hell and simply won't take it anymore. Kick the rascals out. Give us a new and promising administration; we'll even vote for a nearly black guy."

"What do we want? A growing economy! When do we want it? Now!"

"What do we want? Victory in Iraq! When do we want it? Now!"

"What do we want? Higher employment! When do we want it? Now!"

"What do we want? Affordable health care! When do we want it? ....hummmm, well, sometime soon would probably be good but let's not rush into anything that might possibly impact us personally because, you know, we don't really like our insurance companies all that much but, then again. And, we can't actually afford the brand-named drugs that keep us from having a massive health problem, like dying, but if we don't eat on Thursdays we can squeeze the pills into the budget, so there is a work-around. Plus, we can see 'ol Doc Wilson for a physical if we don't mind waiting until after the holidays and he is, after all, one of the last family docs in our area. Yes, yes, the uninsured are in a tight bind but, as W reminded us back in the day, they can always go the emergency room. So, on reflection, and with plenty of very helpful information from the insurance industry, drug companies, the AMA and bona fide experts like Glenn Beck and Senator DeMint, it seems prudent to kick this particular can, you know, down the road, again, I think."

President Obama campaigned, in part, on the promise to fix the American health care system. In other words, to stick his ungloved hand into the beehive, bless his heart.

Obama and his budget sidekick Peter Orszag made a strategic decision to put "health care cost inflation" at the very tip of the reform spear and then aimed that spear at the for-profit health insurance industry. However, the other health care players (docs, hospitals, drug companies, durable medical equipment manufacturers, et al) know that their time is coming. So, they have circled the wagons, even though they don't much care for the guys in the insurance wagon with its big bull's-eye on the canvas.

In the meantime, big chunks of the American public have gone all wobbly on health care reform. It sounded good until the details started to emerge and then the opposition had something to spin. We Americans do love our spin cycle.

New York Times conservative columnist, David Brooks has noted: "Voters often have only a fuzzy sense of what each individual proposal actually does,....(but,) it must involve big spending, big government and a fundamental departure from the traditional American approach."

So, support is flagging. Americans are anxious about the unknown and this is perfectly reasonable. The unease is primarily a "big spending, big government, big deficit and self-interest" defensive response.

Here's Obama and Orszag's strategic mistake: they have not effectively communicated that to do nothing assures an even bigger spending government that, in the very near future, gets pulled into a nearly bottomless financial abyss by health care costs. Medicare will be leading the group over the edge, leaving its heel marks right up to and over the precipice.

I find that reviewing facts often helps to steady a wobbly thinking process. The following facts have nothing to do with what health care reform should look like. They are simply facts that focus one's thinking, sort of like a firing squad with you as the guest of honor. Final cigarette?

1. In 1993, nearly all health insurance providers in America were not-for-profit. Back then, for every $100 of premiums collected, $95 was paid out in health care reimbursements. Today, for-profit health insurers dominate the market. For every $100 of premium revenue, Wall Street pressure demands that they pay out no more than $80 in reimbursements.

2. About 47 million Americans do not have health insurance because they (1) don't want to spend the money, (2) don't have the money to spend or (3) have a pre-existing condition that precludes them from buying coverage. Still, when their health gets desperate (or even not so) they seek and get some medical care and that cost is shifted to the rest of the insured or affluent population. If you are well-insured, rich or both, you get great health care in America, but you also get the burden of paying for relatively modest health care for the rest of the country.

3. Today, an M.D. with a specialty, can routinely earn $500,000 (taxable) income, many exceeding $1 million. A family doctor can expect an average of $171,000 (taxable). It is the latter physician of which America needs more, particularly geriatricians, but isn't producing because of the income disparity.

4. Americans pay for medical procedures not outcomes. As a cause and effect result, those U.S. cities and towns with more physicians, diagnostic equipment and medical facilities have the highest per capita spending on health care but do not have better outcomes than markets that spend less per patient.

5. Thanks to market forces, Americans pay far more for patented drugs--moderated by paying less for generics--than their first-world brethren. Even so, on a per person basis, America is the prescription drug spending champeen by nearly a two to one margin and the largest share is for patented drugs. And, thanks to market forces, patented drug prices in the U.S. are escalating annually at double digit rates. (The scramble to raise prices on newer drugs is thought to be the industry's defense against any health care reform. "When the government is talking about more aggressive discounts, your start price is going to determine your end price," according to Catherine Arnold of Credit Suisse. "I don't think I have ever seen anything quite like this.")

6. One half of America's hospitals lost money in the final quarter of 2008. Through the first quarter of 2009 that dismal statistic had moderated to about 30%. The median profit margins across the entire hospital industry were just 3%, compared to an average of 17% for the drug industry.

About 100,000 Americans die each year because of preventable mistakes made in hospitals primarily due to under staffing and flawed communications, often caused by cost-cutting measures.

8. Using the American Enterprise Institute's estimate, so that my conservative readers won't jump down my throat for using Harvard's much higher and more oft-quoted estimate (I don't happen to believe it either), at least 108,200 American families declared bankruptcy due primarily to medical debt in 2008. It's likely to run a bit higher this year. By comparison, added together, the number of personal bankruptcies due to medical bills in France, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Canada, England, Iceland, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, yadda, yadda, are nearly non-existent.

9. Using tax levels consistent with the past half century in America, then subtracting entitlement payments as currently promised for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, The Heritage Foundation (another conservative think tank) estimates that sometime just before 2020, there won't be enough money in the federal treasury for anything but the entitlement programs. The Medicare portion of the problem--and it is the largest problem--is the direct result of two variables: (1) health care cost inflation and (2) 77 million Baby Boomers lurking at Medicare's door.

10. Inflation adjusted wages in America have remained stagnant since about 2000. Virtually all of the potential increase in our standard of living has been re-directed to pay for health care cost inflation.

11. Leaving the health care situation "as is" insures that there will never be another opportunity for a tax cut. In fact, just the reverse in inevitable.

Seems to me, as a nation with many pragmatists, that we ought to try and improve something, even if it's just a little bit. The chance to do something is slipping away on wobbly gurney wheels.


Observoid of the Day: Things aren't as bad as they seem, they're worse.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bumper Sticker Solutions Needn't Apply

If I were a much smarter and more analytical writer, I might have written the article to which I now direct you. Alas, David Goldhill gets the credit and all I can do is to say, "Attaboy" and pass it along. I thank my son-in-law, Travis Thomas, and my friend Pat Morgan (knuckle dragging conservatives, both) for bringing this article to my attention.

If your tolerance for reading about health care solutions is limited to Twitter-length messages, this piece is likely wasted on you. If, however, you could benefit from some well-researched straight talk about the real (but politically unrealistic in the short-term) changes needed to heal a dysfunctional "system" and introduce true free-market cost discipline into American health care, then your time and reflection will be well-spent.

Copy and paste this URL into your browser:


Observoid of the Day: Dude ranch horses and lemmings have much in common.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just Shoot the Old Geezer

Regarding proposed health care reform legislation, pundit Charles Krauthammer ("Kraut" in certain salons) wants to "be honest about death counseling" according to his syndicated column in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, August 21, 2009. In this op-ed, Kraut quickly distances himself from Sarah "death squad" Palin. Her comments on this aspect of the House's proposed legislation clearly proves that Ms. Deathacuda is a cup, saucer, salad plate, butter knife, dinner fork, spoon and water glass short of an entire place setting. This fact makes her the darling of voters who live in a parallel universe called the Paranoid Dimension, aheeeeeeeooooo.

Some of these voters have shown up at the recent and infamous town hall meetings waving posters of Prez BHO altered to make him resemble Hitler. Apparently, Kraut (not unlike my-own-wizened-self), doesn't believe that these voters will be dissuaded from the "death squad" belief so he attacks the end-of-life-counseling provision from a different angle to widen the dissenting audience to include the less creepy elements. While not a fascist plot to euthanize the infirm and helpless, he says, the counseling and attendant outcome (the creation of a Living Will) "mean nothing" at the end-of-days and is, in a strange and illogical flip-flop, a subtle government push toward a less expensive end for the elderly.

In Section 1233 of H.B. 3200, there is a provision allowing for the payment to doctors for their time to meet with Medicare patients and discuss the patient's end-of-life health care wishes. Doctors can do such counseling now but it's a freebie. Kraut asserts that introducing payment into the equation is bad thing. Doctors, he claims, would bring the subject up "whether the patient asked for it or not," because there would be a financial incentive to do so. Such discussion may then lead to the creation of a Living Will and we know what Kraut thinks about those.

Kraut, no doubt, is glad that Terri Schiavo avoided that conversation with her family doctor and let Congress decide about her end-of-life care. Oops, isn't that government involvement in health care decisions? Damn those ideological hard places and contra-logical rocks.

Further, Kraut argues, "Living Wills" are literary, not legal, documents. Here's Kraut's take on his personal Living Will (note that Kraut has one in spite of his professed belief about them): "I've had some good innings, thank you. If I have anything so much as a hangnail, pull the plug." From a literary perspective, and one does write their own wishes in the document, his is but one long cliche. From a pain and suffering perspective, Kraut is apparently deathly afraid of hangnails. Specificity in a Living Will is good but hangnails seem a pretty low bar. Well, we all have our quirks. I am, for instance, morbidly afraid of the "erection lasting longer than four hours" that I hear so much about on the telly. If this condition arises on my deathbed, UNHOOK THE VENTILATOR!

For those of you who think that Charles Krauthammer is the epitome of measured and objective observation, stop reading now, call your real estate agent and ask about buying a lot in a Paranoid Dimension subdivision, aheeeeeeooooo.

The way that most elderly Americans die in 2009 bears little resemblance to the way it occurred even as recently as 1950, thanks to giant advances in medical care. This fact is a double edged blade. American medicine has been successful in lengthening life but lousy at recognizing when life lengthening efforts become negative for the patient, who, at this late stage, often cannot speak on his or her own behalf. American medicine attacks a 1950 paradigm with 2009 technology, it treats people to death. The result is often quite heartbreaking for the family; painful and scary for the dying.

The expense of such care, while high in absolute dollar terms, adds only about 1.1% to the country's total health care spending. Therefore, the issue of counseling with a doctor and creating an Advanced Directive isn't about significantly putting the brakes on costs as Kraut would have us surmise. It is about going through the dying process on one's own terms.

A well-written Advance Directive, updated as frequently as wished and as circumstances change, is the best defense against three things: (1) a dying process that you don't want, (2) unfair pressure on family members to reach consensus about what you would want and (3) pressure from the medical team to take additional action or pull the plug, as they may advise.

An Advance Directive can instruct the medical team to be aggressive and keep a patient breathing for as long as possible, damn the consequences, or it can stipulate that when the hangnails appear, stop treatment. Kraut may want to revisit this particular stipulation as he ages. It is the specificity of the document (current condition, prognosis, quality of future existence, pain tolerance, both physical and mental, etc.) that puts the patient in control. Advance Directives (an umbrella term under which exist both Living Wills and Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care) are legal documents. The medical team (and the family) would ignore them at their peril.

When surveyed, 90+% of Americans say that when their time comes, they want to "die at home, emotionally and physically pain-free, with dignity and autonomy, unafraid of caregivers and surrounded by loved ones." Currently, 80% of deaths among the elderly occur in an institutional setting, e.g. hospital ICU or nursing home, with the patient often tethered to one or more machines, surrounded by well-meaning and competent technicians (strangers) and suffering one form of pain or another. This is how 4,000 elderly Americans die every day, almost none of them with an Advance Directive.

There are plenty of things in the proposed health care legislation that deserve criticism and revision before we jump off of the unintended consequences bridge. Opposing end-of-life-counseling, however, is a cheap side show (particularly the Ms. Deathacuda version) that should be euthanized.


Observoid of the Day: Money won't buy happiness but it makes being melancholy more bearable.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Is it Nuts in Here or is it Just Me?

American political dialog (for public consumption) and reality are conveniently shielded from one another by a wall of fear. That fear is composed of the politician's fear of election (power) loss and the voter's fear of hearing about entitlement loss. What follows is an example of what is said and heard versus what is real but not heard.

I will paraphrase the Obama health care dialog: "We need to reform the system so that everyone can be covered by affordable insurance and can receive affordable care and no one will have to sacrifice if we do it right."

Here is a shortened version of reality: "The health care cost crocodile is eating the American way of life, currently it has swallowed an entire leg and is going for the other, so we must cut the first leg off at the hip to save our entitled ass."

Here's another example: Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee said on The News Hour last week that "the entire country should look to the examples of the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics where costs are relatively low and the outcomes good and replicate those models as a way to moderate health care cost inflation."

Here's the reality that he didn't mention: Both of those facilities pay their doctors--not for procedures--a salary. It's the primary reason that the care in those facilities is less invasive and less expensive. The day that Senator Alexander introduces Republican-sponsored legislation that puts all American doctors on salary is the day that Nancy Pelosi and Jim DeMint are caught in a compromising embrace in the Senate cloakroom.

You want more examples? No? Well too bad.

Here's a paraphrased version of the conservative push-back on reforming anything about American health care: "We have the greatest health care system in the world and if we change it there will be.....wait for it......wait for it, rationing!"

Here's the reality: America has great health care if you can afford it, otherwise it's mediocre at best and non-existent at worst. We already ration health care in America; we do it through cost and it's rapidly slipping out of the reach of even those with basic health insurance.

Speaking of rationing, let's do a little exercise inspired by a recent op-ed column by Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton, a small university in New Jersey (not that there is anything wrong with that).

Suppose that there is patient in your insurance pool who has aggressive liver cancer that will kill him in 12 to 24 months. There is a drug called Sutent that slows the spread of the cancer and could give this patient an extra six months of life if he starts taking it now. Whatever the insurance pool pays for this patient and others like him in the pool will impact future premiums for all pool members. Please answer "yes" or "no" to the following questions.

1. The Sutent costs $50 per month, should your insurance pool pay?
2. The Sutent costs $1,000 per month, should your insurance pool pay?
3. The Sutent costs $10,000 per month, should your insurance pool pay?
4. The Sutent costs $100,000 per month, should your insurance pool pay?
5. The Sutent costs $1 million per month, should your insurance pool pay?

If you answered "no" at any point in this continuum, you believe in rationing; you must be a realist and therefore, according to the conservative right, a leftist "socialized medicine" pinko. Otherwise, you are a strict non-rationer; you can march with Glen and Rush, gasbags who never take the "no rationing" argument to a thoughtful conclusion. You can beat the drum and argue that all life, regardless of circumstances and cost, must be paid for with everyone's last dollar. Frankly, I'm not willing to go down, along with my children and grandchildren, on that flawed fiscal ship.

The political will to do the things that would truly moderate health care cost inflation in America is not to be found in D.C. because the message contains news of change and sacrifice for most Americans and the entire health care industry. Try getting elected or re-elected on that platform.

Here's another reality,the necessary sacrifices, if designed and distributed fairly, would not ruin our lives nor wreck the balance sheets of the health care industry. However, the legislative sausage that is currently being packaged in Washington does little or nothing to curb health care cost inflation and a whole lot to place the economic sacrifice on future generations, in spite of Obama's message to the contrary. If the Republicans had a better solution than, "do nuttin' honey", we could turn to them.

Where's Ross Perot when you really need a short Texas nut case to lead a third party?


Observoid of the Day: A martini may quench many things but one of them is not thirst.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The AntiChrist Wears FootJoys

I snuck out to the golf course earlier this week. As is so often the case, I was alone because none of my friends are dumb enough to play golf, which spelled in reverse is "flog". The friendly first tee starter matched me up with a pair of brothers, I'll call them Daryl the Younger and Daryl the Older.

The Younger was an investment manager for a national brokerage firm, married, the father of two teens and, in outward appearance, a pretty standard suburban fellow. Daryl the Older had been in sales for a telephone equipment manufacturer but was "between opportunities", married and the father of a 20-something who was soon to go to college. He too was a typical-looking once-a-month golfer: Bermuda shorts, Polo shirt, anklet socks and a baseball cap with a University of Georgia logo.

We were an agreeable threesome and exchanged pleasantries, golf cliches--"never up, never in", "You da man", etc.--and bits and pieces of personal information.

It came to light that I was a writer of sorts and they asked about the nature of my latest efforts. They were hoping, I imagine, that I was a famous author of crime fiction or, given that I have a rainbow hued umbrella on my golf bag, romance bodice rippers. They tried to hide their disappointment when I explained that I wrote policy-wonkish non-fiction with nary a sex scene, except for occasional comments about various politicos and their penchant for having sex with those other than their spouses.

After grabbing a cold one at the turn, we arrived at the 10th tee. The Younger asked what I thought of the proposed health care reform currently being turned into sausage by the congress. My response indicated (1) that I thought that both political parties were avoiding the core problem of America's health care crisis (provider cost inflation) and (2) although Obama was addressing insurance coverage for all, he was not providing cost inflation solutions, a combination that would prove too expensive.

Apparently, my answer indicated that I was not an Obama worshipper because Daryl the Younger followed on with this question, asked without the slightest hint of irony, jest or sarcasm and apropos to nothing that we had been discussing, "What do you think about Obama being the AntiChrist?"

I am, if I do say so my-own-self, pretty quick on my 9.5 B width feet but to this question I could only manage a weak, "I beg your pardon?"

Given a few hours I did come up with one or two clever rejoinders such as, "I thought that Cheney had a lock on that", or "Barack's new dog is going to be very disappointed." However, as with all bon mots, better never than late.

The Younger continued, "He matches up on many of the signs of being the AntiChrist. You should check it out."

I did a quick take over each shoulder to make sure that Allen Funt and his camera crew were not lurking in the bushes. No, I was quite alone with Daryl and Daryl. I turned to my companions, took a deep breath and said in a clear, if somewhat tremulous, voice, "So, how 'bout those Braves?"

This being Georgia, I could have used "Dawgs" instead of "Braves" and the result would have been the same. We immediately launched into a sports conversation unrelated to politics or religion and thus it remained for the last nine holes.

The incident, brief as it was, is unsettling on a number of levels. One would think that for a person who believed that a sitting U.S. president was the Biblically prophesied AntiChrist, drastic action would be warranted. Daryl the Younger is not a wild-eyed, wild-haired crazy in the mold of Rasputin but faced with worldwide Armageddon shouldn't he be out plotting heroic measures to save mankind? But no, he's out playing golf.

The opposing, yet still unsettling, possibility is that the Younger, being a Christian, which is a necessary ingredient in the AntiChrist scenario, is comfortable in the eventual triumph of good over evil wherein the Christians are olly-olly-in-free. The Younger may be looking forward to the big day with great anticipation. Shoot, he may have voted for Barack just to help kick-start the program. It depends on when the Obama/AntiChrist news hit the Internet and talk shows, before or after the November elections.

Also, curiosity being what it is among writers, I visited the Internet and found several unsettling sites devoted to the specific topic of Obama the AntiChrist. These sites have one common denominator, all of them are spooky in their sincerity. I also found that Obama is not the only living person currently in the running as the AntiChrist. The Pope is also a contender, given his position as head of the Catholic Church (which for some is enough said) and his brief stint in the Nazi Youth Corps.

But, back to Obama the AntiChrist. Perhaps most unsettling of all is the fact that Obama is a golfer, one of the fraternity of self-loathing masochists in soft spikes and hideous slacks. I think that the Biblical prophets, being all-seeing and all-knowing, would have mentioned something about that in the 27 signs of the AntiChrist. However, I have carefully read all 27 signs and there is no mention of anything that would seem related to golf. There is, however, the "666" sign (Barack=6 letters, Hussein=6 letters and Obama=5 lett....never mind).

It is in the following bit of presidential golf information that I found proof that Obama is not the AntiChrist. By all reliable accounts, Barack is a hacker, just like the rest of us delusional clowns who buy $400 drivers. We who load up on Titleist Pro V 1 balls at $4 each only to launch them directly into the first water hazard that confronts us. This group who own range finders that give accurate distances to the pin, a very thin object 183 yards away which we couldn't hit unless it was a mistake; middle aged men in Nike golf clothing (just like Tiger's) who attack the course like a better dressed version of a Texas chain gang hacking weeds in a bar ditch. He's one of us.

If Obama were the AntiChrist, with immense power and total control, he'd have game. Perhaps the Pope plays to scratch. Yikes!


Observoid of the Day: Silence is golden; duct tape is silver.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Miss Elainy

There has been much in the news recently that deserves comment. Reams have already been written about certain people and issues. You may think that all pertinent information on the following topics has made it into the public domain and that any additional perspective would be redundant. Of course, you would be wrong. In my review of available information on these stories, there is a glaring gap and that gap is the perspective of an aging white guy transplant
from the mid-west who is currently living in the deep south. This is a gross oversight that must be addressed.

So, without further ado--and there has been a gracious plenty of that--I present said perspectives.

Michael Jackson. From all indications, Mr. Jackson is still dead. As a business model strategy, one that closely parallels that adopted by The King his-own-self, Elvis Presley, when your act is popular primarily because you have become a parody of your own-earlier-self, death is an excellent career move. Reportedly, there is a large cache of unreleased MJ recordings which will now be packaged and relentlessly marketed via Infomercials. These new recordings, along with collections of MJ's "Greatest Hits", MJ's "Mediocre Hits" and MJ's "B Sides" will continue to create millions of dollars of revenue. The most interesting aspect of this looming marketing juggernaut is the question of who, exactly, will benefit. My prediction, given the early indications based on recent child custody discussions, family comments to the media and such, is that the scramble for a place at the MJ lucre trough will make the family squabbles over Dr. MLK's money-producing legacy look like a pillow fight at a Brownie Scout pajama party.

Sarah Palin. For my personal entertainment dollar, Ms. Palin is still the most interesting nut job in the Republican party, and recall, this is the party of Governor Mark "I love your tan lines" Sanford, Newt "Hey, here's yet another new idea" Gingrich and Nevada's Senator John "The wife and I joined the Promise Keepers (wink, wink)" Ensign. These are tough acts with whom to compete but the Thrilla from Wasilla is more than up to it. It helps, of course, to have an entire family, a daughter's former main squeeze and a hairdresser at the Beehive Beauty Salon who are attracted to media mics like liberals to Birkenstocks. Some say that Ms. Palin is "crazy like a fox" and, in part, I agree. If you want to sharply focus your mind, imagine that Ms. Palin, given the right set of circumstances, could eventually have access to the U.S. nuclear arsenal codes; David Letterman should watch his tasteless remarks.

Swine Flu. This illness is now officially called the H1N1 virus after a well-orchestrated outcry from the U.S. pork industry claiming that the handle "Swine Flu" was a pejorative, reflecting poorly on pigs and, more to the real problem, ruining bacon sales. The moderately serious influenza has spread worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. It is thought to have incubated and first spread from porker to human in rural Mexico. Apparently, pigs are no longer needed to spread the bug and neither are Mexicans. One could assume that if the bug can jump from pigs to humans that it can also jump back, a possibility that the Chinese government is suppressing lest its population of 2 billion pigs becomes restive and takes to the streets like unhappy Uyghurs. Ironically, a report out of Michigan this week indicates that out of 10 cases of H1N1 in one hospital's ICU, 9 of the patients were obese. This medical observation is another PR body blow to pigs in general and swine in particular.

Global Warming. Al Gore missed the fact, probably because he was born several million years too late (a fact about which Tipper is somewhat conflicted), that Earth has had significant warming(s) in the past. Thanks to these earlier warming cycles, Hollywood has been able to create blockbuster releases bases on the flora and particularly the fauna of those epochs. (I am still working on the difference between "epoch", "eon", "age" and "era". I mean, why do we say, "The Jazz Age" instead of the "The Jazz Epoch"? Huh? Huh?) Anyway, without those warmer days of yore, we could not have enjoyed such classics as "1 Million Years, B.C." with Raquel Welch in that really, really fashion-forward one-piece animal skin (PETA approved) or "Jurassic Park" in which Laura Dern proves that the acting gene isn't necessarily passed from father to daughter. It seems to me that the most important reason for reducing greenhouse gases isn't the warming impact, it's that we're all breathing this crappola into our lungs!

Health Care Reform. According to the pundits and experts (rarely the same people) there are "billions here" and "trillions there" to be spent, saved, squandered, applied, acquired and/or taxed, all associated with U.S. health care. The Democrats push for this or that reform, the Republicans push back. For all of the pushing and pushing back, it seems inevitable that some legislation is going to pass, but it isn't likely to help much. Here's why: unless a majority of Americans and their representatives are willing to admit (1) that it is not an appropriate use of the innovative free market to let that market set the agenda for national health care (as the providers do now) (2) that paying providers for procedures, regardless of the potential and actual outcomes, is a poor way to run the rodeo and (3) that it is a fallacy to assume that the payers--government, private insurers or patients--are going to rein in the cost associated with items (1) and (2), which are now ordained by the providers plus flawed policy. If we don't address the primary reasons why health care costs in America are unsupportable and climbing, those rising costs will continue to eat America's corporate budgets, America's family budgets and America's federal budget. Both parties are dodging these realities. If you were looking for a chuckle in this final item, sorry. I'm as serious as a colonoscopy prep about this one.


Observoid of the Day: Cats are needy; they just refuse to let on.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Free Market Convert

I confess, I have been desperately wrong about runaway health care costs and the solution. I'm deeply, deeply ashamed of my stubborn insistence that the free market is precariously tipped in favor of the providers and therefore lacks the essential mechanism for encouraging innovation, efficiency and competitive pricing. How silly of me, as has been pointed out by a number of concerned readers. The real solution is not less free market activity plus more gummit planning (intervention) but quite the opposite.

I am now bathing in the soothing light of the free market solution. Either that or there is a large locomotive bearing down on my position. If I squint, maybe I can tell which.

Clearly, as my betters point out, the gummit can't do anything right. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. The Post Office clearly doesn't work. The IRS is an embarrassment. Our Federal highway system is the laughing stock of the free world. The FBI, CIA, Secret Service and NSA are out of control and routinely trample the rights of up-standing, often gun-totin', citizens (especially those patriotic Minutemen protecting our southern border). NASA hasn't put a man on the Moon for 40 years (and maybe not even then). The CDC can't protect us from flu caused by Mexican pigs. The list of failed or anemic government programs just swells.

The free market is the answer. Given the right incentives and the freedom to innovate and compete, private enterprise could replace all of these inefficient, fraud riddled, wasteful and lumbering bureaucratic gummit sloths. I am now so convinced of this orthodoxy (think: enthusiastic reformed smoker) that I believe America should immediately adopt free market policy across the board, starting with national defense, the largest, most unwieldy, wasteful and inefficient of our federal budget gobblers.

Just think of the possibilities.

Each patriotic defense contractor, currently saddled with top-down planning coming from those yokels in the Pentagon (and we could certainly use that building and land for something more productive), would be free to approach each individual, consumer group or state to sell their wares: naval vessels and munitions to those with oceanfront properties to defend and land based military hardware to the land-locked. Everyone would be free to choose from whatever the defense industry decided to present to them, unless, of course, they couldn't afford it.

And, since places like Florida and Maine have no real beef with any Middle Eastern, Far Eastern or former Soviet entities, there would be no wasteful spending for additional vessels or munitions to patrol those parts of the world. Certainly, residents of places such as Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska are morally concerned with possible dust-ups and genocide in faraway lands but sending their artillery, tanks, bullets, armored personnel carriers and such to wield a big military stick would be seen for what it is, wasteful use of dollars.

The military equipment manufacturers would decide who needed what, based on their superior judgment and profit potential. Then they would make their case to citizens and state legislators (and here in Georgia we hold our state Representatives in particularly high esteem, at least the ones who aren't currently serving time) and then build and deliver the hardware. There would be a real scramble in the competitive bidding process to drive the costs down. Just think, acres of inexpensive Bradley Fighting Vehicles in Wisconsin, a tarmac chock-a-block full of bargain-basement F22s in Ft. Worth, etc. Then, as contractors came up with new and innovative weapons systems, regardless of the real or imaginary threats to the population, market them directly to the voters and encourage the politicians to buy (sort of like big pharma's, "Ask your doctor if you are healthy enough for sexual activity" pitch).

The current system of planning national defense and then directing private enterprise to produce the required equipment (admittedly, at a profit) is for socialist sissies. It is the Nanny State run amok. Look at the military messes it has gotten America into. We don't need no stinking planning; the providers know what's best; certainly better than those pesky four stars and gummit bureaucrats. (I don't know about you, but when I hear "bureaucrat" I think of short-sleeve, drip-dry dress shirts and clip-on neck wear.) The providers, however, are free market innovators and they would never produce and sell military equipment that wasn't desperately needed somewhere by somebody, would they?

Of course, there would still be some gummit involvement (sorry Libertarians), but just at the state level. That would be where a Congressional sub-committee, headed in Georgia by a guy whose real job is in industrial pest control in Macon, can decide how many mortar tubes the state really needs next year. Oh, and shoulder-fired missiles, don't forget them, they are really, really cool. You could buy one for home use.

Naturally, the funding would have to be arranged through the individual voters in each state to insure that it is a totally free market defense system. Deciding whether or not to take part would be up to each citizen, akin to deciding whether or not to have health insurance. The gummit shouldn't force anyone to pay for military equipment if they have better things to spend their money on--and it is their money, you tax-and-spend liberal bastards.

I'm sorry, but I feel strongly about this.

I am planning to evaluate the improvements that a totally free market orthodoxy will have on the other gummit agencies. I get goose flesh just imagining how much different and cheaper, not to mention innovative, our national highway system will be after a couple of decades of free market direction sans gummit oversight.

Rest assured, BHO is on my distribution list for this post. He has got to come to his senses and soon.


Observoid of the Day: You cannot out-think a person who isn't thinking.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ayatollahs, Imams, Mullahs and God

I charged up the old cell phone, cozied up next to the land line on my desk and dialed God's unlisted number (see earlier post for the technical explanation). There were a number of clicks, some static, a faint whirring and finally a gender-neutral voice that sounded like Joan London channeling James Earl Jones.

"Hello, Boots." It was God. "I've been expecting a call from you.

"What happened to your receptionist," I inquired?

"Oh, that job is handled by a revolving crew. Answering my line for eternity is very boring so we try to rotate every billion years or so with the harpists. We're smack dab in the middle of a crew change so I'm doing my part to make things go smoothly. Besides, I knew it was you. Your antique Nokia phone creates a distinctive ring."

"So, what's on your mind." God likes to cut to the chase, none of that "How's your mom an' em" small talk. Besides, God already knows how your mom an' em are.

I told God that I had been following the Iranian Election dust-up pretty closely and was wondering about Heaven's take on the situation.

"Well, first of all, there are quite a few of those Iranian clerics who are in for some really, really unpleasant surprises when their numbers come up. I've got my nether world emissary arranging for some unique treatment. Satan takes great delight when we send down special requests. It gets the old boy's creative punishment juices boiling. I hear that there will be some virgins involved but certainly not in the way that those clerics day-dream about, heh, heh." God can generate a wicked little chuckle.

I noted that much of what the clerical leaders throughout the Middle East say and do, they say and do in the name of God; "Allah Akbar" and all that.

"And, that," said God, "is where they get their collective beards in the wringer. I defy anyone, cleric, theologian, Jew, Muslim, Christian or Oral Roberts to point to a place where I purportedly say it's O.K. to kill innocent people in the street. Ridiculous."

"The underlying problem,' God continued, "is that throughout the history of the earth, at least since humans have been around, some of them have tried to put words in my mouth. They do O.K. for awhile but eventually they botch it up big time. For instance, I never sent Saul and his army to slaughter all of the men, women and children of Amalek. How stupid is that? That was some man's agenda. I'm not about the wanton slaughter of innocent people."

"Muhammad didn't do any better in keeping some silly stuff out of the Koran," God continued. "Of course, if one hangs out in the Arabian desert for years and years all by your lonesome, one is likely to write some weird stuff. He was no exception."

I told God that I was confused by many of the Muslim titles and names that get bandied about in the press. I wondered what the differences were between an ayatollah, an imam and a mullah.

"Beats me," said God. "That just more of that man-made foolishness. One is either truly trying to be holy or not. As far as I'm concerned, it's far better not trying to be over-the-top holy and admit it than it is to slap a title onto your name indicating that you are particularly holy and then do a bunch of unholy things."

So, I observed, the differences are no greater than, say, than those between a preacher, a pastor and a priest.

"Pretty much," said God, "except, of course for the celibacy part, which, I'm pretty sure, the pastors and preachers want no confusion about whatsoever."

And, so, I continued, the differences between Sunni Muslims and Shi'ite Muslims are similar to the differences between Methodists and Episcopalians.

"Well, not exactly," said God. "Shi'ites try to kill Sunnis and vice versa because of some minor differences. Episcopalians and Methodists have minor differences, for instance, Episcopalians have nicer cars, but that rarely leads to gun play or beheadings."

"Look," said God, "it's not just the Muslims who let religious titles get out of hand. The Catholics are particularly culpable. They have padres, priests, deacons, monsignors, bishops, cardinals and a pope. Geesh. And, the more august the title, the sillier the hat. How would you like to sit behind the Pope on movie night at the Vatican Cinema 6?"

God seemed pretty steamed up so I tried to change the subject with a question about Joseph and Mary and the quality of their relationship once they had successfully dealt with the virgin birth deal.

"Hold on," said God, "I've got an urgent call from one of the parallel universes. We'll have to talk another time, Boots. Take good care."

The line went silent and I was alone with my thoughts. The "parallel universe" comment was intriguing and I intend to follow up on that subject.


Observoid of the Day: Although they both start with "A", the Appalachian Trail and Argentina are not the same thing but some folks apparently missed that day of geography class.