The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Short and to the point

Just a short note today, folks. I’m here because last night I heard Juan Williams take up the new Democratic meme that the problems of the former junior senator from Illinois’ signature legislation are the fault of Republican obstructionists in the Congress.  Furthermore, there are no Republican alternatives to that legislation and such ideas that do exist would only create more problems in the health insurance marketplace. 

This is interesting on any number of levels, or at least I think so; you may think otherwise.  First, a Democratically controlled Congress passed this monstrosity without a single Republican voting for it, that the Democratic leadership in the Congress went out of their way to cut the Republicans out of the legislative process entirely, and that this same leadership systematically ignored Republican alternatives to some of the more gimcrack ideas that later became law.  As a result, the Democrats are stuck with this law in a way they no longer find congenial and are casting about for someone else to blame.  Second, the idea that the Republican alternatives like health savings accounts and permitting the interstate sale of health insurance would cause more problems than currently exist in the market is an interesting one, given that the current problems in the health insurance market are entirely of the Democrats’ own making.  People making this argument remind me of a man who has managed to set his neighbor’s house on fire arguing with that neighbor that he should not call the fire department to put out the fire because the neighbor hasn’t given enough thought to how he’s going to rebuild.   Stupid is as stupid does, as the incredibly wise Mr. Gump said, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that when the house is on fire, you (or the fire department) put the fire out first.  But I suppose that reasoning’s too simple for the smartest people in the room.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The cat in my hat, and other tales of societal woe...

The cat shat in my hat.  I do not know why the cat shat on my hat; I suppose that the cat did so because, like George Mallory climbing Mount Everest, the hat was there, or it could be that this particular cat dislikes humans with more than the usual feline animosity and decided to move its bowels in my hat to demonstrate his disdain for me in particular and humanity in general, but whatever reason the cat did it, the fact remains that the cat shat in my hat. The day has been going downhill since then.

After finding a new hat, one that is just a bit too large for me, I should say, but otherwise acceptable, I drove off to work. From my home in the outer rim of our happy little burg’s suburbs, if a place as small as our happy little burg can have suburbs, I managed to avoid every old lady, every red light, every garbage truck, and every guy trying to make a left turn against a mile long run of oncoming traffic, a feat that you may consider nothing short of miraculous but tells me that the Lord is feeling hostile towards me today and so wants me to get to work in time, the better for His heavenly wrath to come down on me in an environment I can’t get out of quickly. There are days when you know that you've got a bull's eye tattooed on your back for everyone to see.

And so it came to pass that The Messiah of the Jews, who is not to be confused with the Jewish Messiah, which he says is another job title entirely, comes into the egregious mold pit wherein I labor for my daily bread and tells me that people from the Dominican Republic dress in black to worship Bavomit, the god of excrement, that his reading of the I Ching tells him that he is the Virgin Mary, the very embodiment of the Eternal Feminine, and would I please give him a dollar for a cup of coffee? He is annoyed at his rabbi for not letting him make changes to the local synagogue's Torah scroll; apparently, the section on medical marijuana is not clear enough and he needs to make sure that everyone knows that weed is a good thing. I agreed that his rabbi was being entirely unreasonable about not letting him mark up a Torah scroll with a pencil stub I gave him, but he [the rabbi] would come to see the light very shortly. Pleased with this answer, the Messiah of the Jews stalked out of the building to get a cup of coffee; yes, I gave him the dollar. I know I shouldn't, that it will only encourage him to come back tomorrow for another dollar, but there are some conversations that you just want to end and this was one of them. 

I was elated when he left, said emotional state lasting for about two seconds, for as the Messiah of the Jews left, the UFO man came in. The UFO man, as you might imagine, earned his sobriquet because he has let everyone here in our happy little burg know that a UFO abducted him years ago in Peekskill. I am not sure why extraterrestrials would want to abduct him out of the billions of people they could have abducted or what it is about the people of Peekskill that would be so attractive to extraterrestrials; Peekskill looks more or less like every other Hudson River town that I’ve ever seen; but then I am not sure why terrestrials watch Honey Boo Boo or the Jersey Shore, either; there is no accounting for tastes, after all. He wants to write a book about his abduction, which actually sounds a lot like one of the National Lampoon vacation movies as viewed through a peyote-induced psychedelic haze with a shot of Jim Beam on the side, but he can't find a ghostwriter to take on the project. This may be because, like the Messiah of the Jews, the UFO man is certifiably nuts or it may be because UFO man lives on cigarettes. I don’t think he eats anything—he just smokes. Merely being in his presence will turn a nonsmoker into a two pack a day man in less than three minutes, and I am sure that when the UFO man finally goes to his final reward, whether that reward is in the afterlife or on some other planet, someone here in this world will be bidding for the mineral rights to his lungs. There's a lot of carbon in them there lungs, folks, a lot of carbon. 

Today, however, he just wanted to know how he could get the Department of Labor's website so he could check his unemployment benefits. This surprised me no end; I had always assumed that some form of employment was a necessary precondition for receiving an unemployment check, but this does not seem to be the case. Unfortunately for him, to find one's benefit history online one must first have a verifiable email address, and fortunately for me, he didn't have time to set one up today. And so he left, taking with him his miasma of stale tobacco and staler extraterrestriality, and I sat behind my desk wondering, not for the first time and probably not for the last, why am I doing this? It does seem pointless. Perhaps I just like futility. Stranger things have happened, you know, and it isn’t even lunchtime yet.

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Monday, November 04, 2013

Proud and prejudiced, or was Lot's wife the victim of a salt intensive diet?

It is a truth universally acknowledged here in the second decade of the twenty-first century that an unmarried middle-aged man without children and in possession of a good fortune must be in want of government mandated pediatric dental insurance.  Pediatric dental insurance is a marvelous thing; you can trace most of the world’s troubles these days to places where no one offers pediatric dental insurance, Brazilian bikini waxing, or daylight savings time as an energy saving measure; and having pediatric dental insurance will certainly ease many a concerned parent’s mind when little Janie or Johnny needs their first root canal at age four because they’ve gorged themselves on sugar and spice and everything nice to the point where their milk teeth have rotted away, but why an unmarried man without children and in possession of a good fortune would need the ease of mind conferred by having government mandated pediatric dental insurance is a little hard to understand, unless, of course, the purpose of requiring an unmarried middle-aged man without children and in possession of a good fortune to buy government mandated pediatric dental insurance is to separate the unmarried middle-aged man without children and in possession of a good fortune from as much of that good fortune as the government can get away with and still leave the  thoroughly plucked chicken enough to live on until they return to pluck him again next year. 

Similarly hard to explain these days is why a woman past her childbearing years would need to have insurance to cover the costs of her maternity leave.  This would appear, at first glance, to be something of a nonstarter, but I hear from those who know more about such things than I do that it does makes perfect sense. After all, as we see in the Book of Genesis, Sarah conceived Isaac when she was in her eighties or nineties, just as the angels said she would just before they moseyed off to blast Sodom, Gomorrah, and the rest of the cities of the plain from the face of the earth.  So if fertility was possible then, albeit with supernatural assistance, how much easier will it be in our scientific age for great-grandmothers to conceive and therefore need the access to the mandated maternity coverage, as well as the coverage needed to provide all the walkers, wheelchairs, and bassinets the new geriatric mom will need?  Clearly, the need is there, and being there, the government must meet the need, or better yet, have the mother to be meet the need. 

That the need is unlikely to the nth degree is neither here nor there; many things are unlikely, like Mariano Rivera blowing a save or my losing twenty pounds or the government requiring banks to loan money to people who can’t pay the loans back, but unlikelihood is scarcely a good reason for not doing what is right, necessary, and proper for the advancement of the common weal.  You could argue that such insurance is best paid by young people of childrearing age, but that would make you a racist or some other form of very bad person who doesn’t know what they are talking about.  Everyone knows that young people don’t have that kind of money these days, what with the economy being so anemic, the job opportunities in women’s holistic karma studies not as good as they used to be, and the weight of tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid student loans forcing our smartest young minds back into their parents’ basements to do what they do best: mope and bewail their fate on Twitter. There is an argument to be made here about whether requiring young people to buy overpriced government mandated health insurance when they don’t have any money to buy that insurance in the first place was such a smart idea, especially since, if I am to believe what I read in the press, the foundational idea of the former junior senator from Illinois’ reworking of the American health care system was that the young and healthy would be paying more in order to subsidize the older and sicker, who would pay less, thereby inverting the usual order of the insurance universe. I am sure this must be incorrect, as must be the reports that children, if that is the proper word, can stay on their parents’ insurance plan until they are twenty-six, since this would mean that young adults would simultaneously have to pay and not have to pay for their government-mandated health insurance.  Since both options cannot be true, I think it safe to say that neither is true, because the best and the brightest minds of this our Great Republic couldn’t be that dumb…

I do wonder, however, simply as an aside here, whether or not Lot was able to collect on his wife’s life insurance or if the insurance company, hewing to the strict terms of the contract, refused to pay, pointing out to the new widower and his now suspiciously pregnant daughters that the late Mrs. Lot was, first, responsible for her own demise; she did, after all, look back at Sodom after Lot specifically told her not to; and second, that her transformation into a pillar of salt is a classic example of that category of events known as Acts of God, said acts being uninsurable and therefore not covered by anyone’s plan, government mandated or not. It’s always important to read the fine print in any insurance plan: you can never tell what mischief the lawyers are hiding in there until you look for yourself

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Friday, November 01, 2013

Writer's block, or the revenge of the incredible zombie rats

If you are a long time reader of these pages then you are probably accustomed to my more than occasional bouts of writer’s block, which is a most annoying affliction to suffer from, no two ways about it, and leads me to look at blank pieces of paper in much the same way someone suffering from chronic constipation looks at toilet bowls; relief will come when the page or the bowl is full, but getting from here to there is a Sisyphean labor in reverse.  I wish I knew when these dry spells were coming, but life does not reveal such things for reasons best known to itself.  You wouldn’t think that it would be hard to write satire at a time like this, when the former junior Senator from Illinois and his malfeasant crew of hacks, henchmen, and horse thieves are falling all over themselves trying to deny that the public has caught them with their pants down around their ankles in the middle of Main Street USA, but writer’s block is a vile condition that respects no condition save illiteracy and spares no sufferer from its ongoing psychic distress, and so the public nudity of our prairie solon must go uncommented on for the time being.

People familiar with my unending fight with this horrid condition understand just how much I loathe its never-ending mental anguish and try to help, offering me all manner of solutions to the problem.  I should try, for example, to suffer through the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and by taking a pencil to this sea of troubles, end them, which is a nice way of saying that I should write through the dry spell as if it wasn’t there as well as showing that they’ve actually read Hamlet.  This is a nice idea if you want to drape the occasional bit of Shakespeare over your cocktail party conversation, but I don’t go to cocktail parties, largely because I have all the personality of a wet newspaper, and Hamlet, if you remember the play, winds up dead at the end of Act V, a consummation devoutly to be skipped, if you want my opinion, and to be skipped for as long as medical science can arrange the skipping.  And, of course, if I could write through the dry spells I would be writing and not suffering through the tortures of writer’s block.  In short, if I could, I would, but since I’m not, I ain’t.  That’s just the way this puppy floats.

People who know about this sort of thing also suggest that I should restrict my intake of caffeine.  I must admit that this particular line of reasoning took me surprise; I had never heard that caffeine ingestion caused writer’s block, ingrown toenails, or any other malady that I had ever heard of, although I do suppose that caffeine probably causes cancer in laboratory rats, but then again, at this point what doesn’t cause cancer in laboratory rats? Laboratory rats seem susceptible to a whole slew of diseases that ordinary rats seem to shrug off without any problem, so it seems to me that laboratory rats should probably stop hanging around laboratories so much; it’s clearly not good for their health. In any case, let me just say that while I appreciate the suggestion, cutting back on the caffeine is not going to happen.  My intake of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi will continue at its present ridiculous pace and no amount of do-gooding by well-meaning friends is going to change that.  The science on that may not be settled, but my opinion is and my opinion is the one that counts here.  

If I wanted to I could blame the block on my encounter with the knockout game, an activity in which socioeconomically disadvantaged urban youths wearing hoodies and shorts polish their boxing skills on unsuspecting passersby, but that hardly appears likely; the young practitioner who tried this on me didn’t even manage to knock my glasses off, much less knock me out, and I doubt such a feeble attempt would have caused writer’s block of such longevity.  I mean, really, if you have the advantage of surprise and you still can’t knock a gimp’s hat off of his head in one mighty blow then you should learn to play something that is more your speed, like Chutes & Ladders or Parcheesi.  

So I must sit and wait this thing out, I fear, and my apologies to one and all who come here. I realize that my wild inconsistency in posting must be irritating in the extreme, and I assure you that no one is more irritated about these seemingly endless dry spells than I am.  Having the syrup and not being able to pour, to use Gertrude Stein’s quip about a blocked member of the Lost Generation, is frustrating to the nth degree. I do promise, however, that I will be back posting just as soon as the dry season ends. Really. I mean it.

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