Other bits and pieces

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Apathy of Memory

After Sept 11, America experienced a surge of patriotism. Flags were everywhere, French Fries were being called 'Freedom Fries', people on the street desperately tried to remember the words to the Star Spangled Banner. People really came together with a common pain and a common drive to make a stand as Americans. The tempo of that fervor was naturally temporary in nature. That's to be expected, but I didn't expect people to purge the whole thing from their minds so quickly and completely. It's like a double amputee who gets kicked in the nuts by a mugger who steals one of his wooden legs, and then a couple of weeks later, sees him at his AA meeting and is like, "Hey man, yeah, no, no, don't worry about it. It's my fault. I shouldn't have been there. Can I give you a foot massage, or something?"

The WTC movie has been made, screened, hailed, panned, not seen by me, and forgotten. The Phrase 'Let's Roll!', while corny from the beginning, is a forgotten punch line. President Obama is going to stop referring to the 'War on Terror'. (I can't remember what he decided to call it, maybe the 'Friendly American Peace Intervention) Toby Keith is back to making music about, well, whatever it was he used to sing about before 9/11 (I'm guessing macro-economics). Oh yeah, and check this out, the company that owns the WTC site has decided to drop the name 'Freedom Tower', from the new building at the 1, World Trade Center address--and the first office space to be leased will be to a Chinese company.

A news report last week said that most Americans are 'fatigued' over reporting of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are no longer interested in reading news stories about them. There are so many other things on Americana's minds. There's the economy, our sexy new president with a unicorn in his pocket for every man woman and child on Earth, Lindsey Lohan, Global Warming (or, are we calling it 'Climate Change now?), the poor illegal aliens that aren't getting enough of our money, and last, but not least: Octomom.

That's right. The people in this country would rather hear about a bat-shit crazy woman who has mistaken her uterus for a party favor than the war to defeat this nation's enemies who want to kill all us. In December, while our mother's sons were engaging in battle, every single media outlet was watching with bated breath to see if O.J. was going to jail.

To a certain extent, I get it. Here's sort of linear look at media reporting since 9/11: war, war, war, war, war, SPACE SHUTTLE GO BOOM, war, war, war, war, war, BIGGER WAR, war, war, war, war, MARTHA STEWART JAIL, war, war, war, war, war, BIG TSUNAMI EVERYBODY DIE, war, war, war, war, war, EVERYONE'S BUYING HOUSES, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, YOUR HOUSE WON'T SELL, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, GAS PRICES, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, ANNA NICOLE SMITH, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, SOME MISSING WHITE GIRL, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, ANOTHER MISSING WHITE GIRL, war, war, war, war, GREAT DEPRESSION II, THIS TIME IT'S PERSONAL war, war, war, war, war, BLACK GUY IS PRESIDENT, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, war, OCTOMOOM

Just because we're sick of hearing about the war doesn't mean it's not there. People are so easily distracted by the bright, shinny penny. "I would like to talk to you today about something near and dear to my....OH LOOK, A MIDGET RACING A CAMEL!" The Jihadi's know perfectly well how do defeat the Great Satan (that's us); they know we are an ADD collective and that all they have to do is wait us out until we get bored and go do something else. Do you think that shit would have worked against the Romans? "Hey, Hadrian, this wall is only like a foot and a half tall, you think we should make it a little taller?" "Nah, the Romans will see it and be all like, "ahhh, I don't want to step over that, let's just go back.""

We need to get our heads back in the game. (so to speak)

"He who wishes to fight must first count the cost. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be dampened. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor dampened, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue... In war, then, let your great object be victory, not lengthy campaigns."
-Sun Tzu, the "Art of War" 400-320bc

Text ©Raymond Smith- 2009

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hail to the State

Over a number of years, Americans have gone gleefully prancing around a financial playground, having it all, jacking up prices, and truly believing that all you need to make money is a little bit of money; and that everyone can do it. We vastly reduced the amount of real product we produced in this country. We sent thousands of jobs overseas because it was cheaper. We hedged, schemed, flipped, and short sold anything and everything in the ongoing quest to become wealthy without doing any real work. Then, when it all blew in our faces, we did exactly what you would have expected--blamed the government and cried like wounded lemurs for the government to get involved and make it all better. Well folks, their involved, but it's not going to be like a visit from your rich uncle. It's likely to be more like getting a prostate exam by an anteater.

Your Uncle Sammy, with your support (and by support I mean the mob of torches and pitchforks), has obtained controlling financial interest in some the largest and most powerful corporate institutions in America. Wow, now isn't that just the awesomest thing from awesome land. Just this morning, President Obama announced a plan to increase oversight of executive pay at ALL banks. Last week, congress drafted legislation targeted at taking away 90% of the bonuses paid to AIG employees. But, isn't all this a good thing?

The bonuses paid to AIG employees were contractually obligated in those employee's contracts from well before the financial crisis. AIG was legally bound to pay those bonuses, but when an angry mob and media get behind the force of change, the rule of law gets trampled. Legislative restraint? Are you kidding? Congress took longer to take a collective dump than it did to churn a brand new law aimed specifically at individual bonuses. Did you read that? Your government drafted a law specifically to take money from specific individuals because people were just mad about it. That should scare the ever-loving shit out of you.

We were so willing to let the government bail out all these industries. That is to say, we were willing to let the government take a bunch of our money and give it to the companies who's products we weren't willing to buy. Think about that! General Motors is in trouble because you won't buy their cars--trade your money for their goods. No problem, your government will trade your money for...uh...nothing. Well fuck me in the conservatory with the led pipe! That's a hell of a deal for GM! Oh wait, no, the gov didn't trade for nothing. That money didn't come without strings. No, now the gov can tell GM how to run it's business--and many, many other companies.

So who's asking for and getting the money? Pretty much everyone. Banks, automakers, insurers, media companies, towns, home owners (hard to use that word and not laugh, owing $400k on a $200k house hardly makes you the owner of anything), etcetera. And with each dollar comes a measure of government control. So, the government, also known as 'the state', has controlling interest in all the aforementioned industries.

We used to make fun of countries with state run media.

©Raymond Smith- 2009

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Wax My Nuts

The Philadelphia Daily News, an organization that prides itself in highlighting the repugnant on-goings in other cities so as to mollify the real image people have of Philadelphia as an unlivable cesspool, has published an article last week about a New Jersey initiative to ban Brazilian Waxing. Folks in Jersey, having clearly tackled all the really big problems, like, well, the misery of having to live in New Jersey, are actually using words like 'statute' and 'genital waxing' in the same sentence, and somehow managing to maintain a stoic composure.

The ban is being proposed by the New Jersey State Board on Cosmetology and Hairstyling. The what? They actually have that? Does every state have of a Board on Cosmetology and Hairstyling? Is there an official abbreviation for it, like NJSBCH, or C&H board? This is absolute foolishness. The NJSBCH (http://www.state.nj.us/lps/ca/nonmedical/coshair.htm) actually falls under the NJ Department of Law and Public Safety. Yeah, they're the folks you have to go to in order to obtain a license to be a barber, or beautician. Yeah, I said that. You have to have a license to cut hair. Now maybe you, the reader, may be aware of this, and maybe it's more common than I think throughout the other states, but it's still stupid. It's hhhaaaaiiiiirrrr! It's not a bulldozer or a supertanker. The actual law for this is Title 45, Cosmetology and Hairstyling N.J.S.A. 45:2D-1 to 45:2D-18.

Under current law, waxing of the face, neck, arms, legs, and abdomen are legal. Since not specifically mentioned in the statute, a full Brazilian is technically not legal, hence the effort to ban it outright. I can't believe I just typed the previous sentence with a straight face. How in a stone of crows did a state legislature, under the scrutiny of anything more intelligent and powerful than a pair of lesbian sugar gliders, manage to pass a law having ANYTHING to do with removing hair from one's body? If ever there was a more compelling reason to avoid driving through NJ, and thus avoiding a penny of my money going towards taxes that are enabling this kind of jack-assery, I've not seen it. And, yes, I know; the state I live in probably has it's own version of the NJSBCH and I just don't know it, so don't bother pointing that out. I'll just pretend it doesn't exist—much like the ravenous bugblatter beasts of Trall, which believe that if you can't see them, they can't see you. [Douglas Adams, HHG2G]

While I'm typing this, I have a browser window up with the webpage to the C&H board. I'm tempted to start poking around in the other Department pages to see what other fourberie councils of public largess are lurking in there. Is there a State Board of Disco and Dry-humping? How about the Council for the Weights and Measures of Distributed Table Sugar? I don't know if I really want to see how far down this rabbit hole I can go.

Silliness aside, here's the real problem, and as much as it pains me to say it, it has nothing to do with NJ: Occupational Law-making. See, if I make my living as a farmer, I have keep raising crops to get paid. If I'm a used car salesmen, I need to sell the cars on the lot to justify my paycheck. If I'm a proctologist, I need to shove a pipe up someone's pooper four times a day to pay for that new Mercedes. If I'm a lawmaker, I'd better stay lock-step with other lawmakers in the incessant production of laws if I want to earn a living. And there it is. Laws become products. The legislature produces them...and they won't...ever....fucking....stop. It's the ultimate self-licking ice cream cone.

I need more laws in my life like I need a rash on my right butt cheek. Legislators should be like volunteer firemen. Just go on about their normal lives; working at the deli, selling books at the all-Christian book store, reconciling the obituaries with the next edition of the phone book, etcetera. In the mean time, the state is humming along on all its laws until HOLY SHIT, we have an issue and a law that doesn't address it! Call the lawmakers! They all race to the statehouse in their Priuses and Hummers, hammer out some hard-hitting statutes that codify that pesky loose end, and then back to work. Instead, our capitol buildings, like steaming factories, churn day in and day out (while in session) belching out law after law, slowly but surely destined to regulate every aspect of human life. There are already laws to tell me where I can walk, how my dog can poop, what I can put in my trash can, where I can smoke, and how many times per hour my business' digital sign can change its message. (Tucson, AZ.....no shit) With our occupational legislators and their constant machinations, I have not doubt than by the time I'm 90, there's going to be a law that says men over 89 can't have a glass of scotch and a copy of Hustler in order to safe guard my ticker. I'll try to get my whole head in front of the shotgun; which will probably already be illegal.

©Raymond Smith- 2009

Saturday, March 7, 2009

gezondheidszorg systeem

There's been much whining over a number of years from every ideological point of view over our what most would call the health care system here in the United States. The most common flanks from which our embattled system is attacked aren't too far askew from those that attack pretty much anything else in America that doesn't vigorously serve out heapings of helpings from it's largess to those who didn't earn it and don't deserve it. Just for fun, let's examine a few of the popular ways to either attack, or defend our nations health care system.

Blame: Someone is to blame. Someone is always to blame. But it's not me--can't be me. But, I'm gonna be mad, because man, I'm owed something. People blame law makers for not regulating health care to the point that you have to fill out three sheets of paper, which must be approved, routed through central files, forgotten, disapproved, appealed, and then re-signed just to gain access to the forms which must be filled out in triplicate and will eventually grant you access to the insurance forms that you don't need. Law makers blame other law makers because they're in the opposite party, which clearly is the party not regulating enough, or was it too much, shit I can't remember--probably both. Disenfranchised Americans (Disenfranchised, by the way, is a PC word that means, "The extremely loud bitchy people who are too lazy to take any initiative to make things better, other than to bitch very loudly and call themselves 'disenfranchised'.") blame insurance companies because they're huge, have all the money, and have never paid any claim ever. (All the disenfranchised people watch 'The Rain Maker' a lot.) Insurance companies blame lawyers for their incessant malpractice suits on behalf of everyone who hurt themselves trying to save their neighbor's cat from being swept down a storm drain (They should know better because man, it's gone.) and wasn't happy with the color of the Band-Aid they received. Lawyers blame their clients because clearly all these people independently figured out to sue their doctor over the mesotheleoma (or however the fuck you spell it) they may have had from having driven past that asbestos farm (Does asbestos come from a farm?) 10 years ago without seeing 75 lawyer adds on TV every 6 hours to possibly, dare I say possibly, plant that litigious idea in their heads. And, who do Doctors blame? All of the above! Plus, they hate that whinny bitch JD on Scrubs, but everyone hates him.

Let's compare. Ah yes, the only way to quantify the quality of something unquantifiable under the existing laws of God and nature is to compare it to something of someone else's (For the record, I have never compared my 'something' to the 'something' of someone else, but if I did, mine would be huge). Whatever side you're on, it doesn't matter, the easiest way to make your case for, or against our health care system is to compare it to that of someone else. Our system can either be, A: Clearly inferior and likened unto the middle ages compared to the health care system in Norway. The fact that Norwegians pay something like 110% of their income in taxes and have a habit of killing themselves at rate commensurate with the plague is of no matter. Or, B: A whole hell of a lot better than the health services available in Darfur, where the life expectancy is somewhere around 42.5 minutes.

Remember when? If the two methods described above prove insufficient to either deride, or glorify our health care, you can always support your argument by reminiscing. This is also the method of the true artist. At some time in our past, either in this universe, or a parallel one that you made up, the nation's standards of health care were far worse, or far better than they are now. Plus, as a bonus, you get to throw in the blame and comparisons available at the time, which just sweetens this to no end. You could say that while in 1690, as the American colonists were dying of starvation and rampant disease, their infant mortality rate was far better than that of the Indians that kept giving them pieces of corn. You would of course be wrong, but it's so far back that no one is really going to check your facts anyway, so go nuts.

Putting all that aside, let me tell you the real problem with health care in America: Rights, or the perception of them. The term 'rights to health care' have been prevalent in stump speeches by every politician at almost any level of government for at least ten years. “I'm going to secure the health care that you deserve.” “I'll see to it that every American will see their rights to quality health care come to fruition.” And that, ladies and gentleman, is the problem. People think health care is a right. It's not.

Health care is in collection of technologies developed and sold as a means of profit by an industry. There are lots of products and services today that fit that description--and you don't have an inalienable right to any of them. Do you have the right to an MRI? 20 years ago they didn't exist. What about an X-ray? Those weren't around until 1895. Did people have a right to them before that, or after? You have the right to health care in the same manner you have a right to eat organic food. You have the right to buy it. Which means you have the right to make your way through life, making choices that put you in a financial position to pay for health care; either buy paying for insurance, or just paying the doctor like they did in 1985. Or, you can spend your money on pornography; incidentally not a bad choice either.

So, you want health care? Obtain it the way you obtain a tube of toothpaste or a magnum condom: buy it with your money, and quit telling me it's my fault that an alcoholic can't have a fucking liver transplant because he can't hold a job.

©Raymond Smith- 2009
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