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.