Monday, November 25, 2013

"Take my apology, please"


        When asked about the millions of Americans who are losing their health care plans as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the president responded,
        "I am very sorry that they...are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me."
        What did he say? Is that really an apology or is it more like an apologoid, the way a humanoid robot is a lot like a human but, somehow...isn't really a human? Similar, but not the same. Not really.
        In an apology, you're supposed to take responsibility for what you did, say that you're really sorry you did it and that you'll do what you can to make it better and won't ever do it again. This 'apology' was more like,
        "I was sorry to hear about your health insurance, Mrs. Goldberg. Here, I brought you some cookies."
         "Thank you, Mr. President. That was very thoughtful of you." 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Have A Heart or...Maybe A Kidney


       "Of course I'm pro-choice. A woman owns her body and can do what she wants with it."
       "Even give part of it away? Donate a kidney?"
       "Of course. It's her body."
       "Haw about if she wants to sell a kidney to someone? It's her body, right?"
       "No! Definitely not! Rich people would get all the kidneys and poor people would just...die. What are you, some kind of a damn...Republican?!"
                                                               *** 
       Each year, over six thousand Americans die waiting for a kidney transplant. Many more thousands die waiting for liver, lung or heart transplants. 
       There are now only two ways to get an organ for transplantation, i.e. either from a living donor (kidney, liver, lung) or cadaver (all). Living donors are usually, but not always,
relatives or friends. To get a cadaver organ, you go on a list and wait. It's illegal to buy an organ. Has to be a donation and with nothing given in return.
        Now, suppose the gov't allowed a free market in buying and selling human organs with regulation to prevent fraud and assure informed consent. Maybe sounds a little ghoulish (unless you happen to need a transplant) but, nevertheless, what would be the result?
        Well, if you were rich enough and had been unable to find a willing donor before, you would probably offer a lot of money to buy an organ (it's possible to live a perfectly normal life with only one kidney, and with liver and lung, you would offer to buy only a piece of the organ). In the case of a heart, you would, of course, have to make an offer to the family of the deceased.
         So, while you had been on a list, or on several lists, waiting for an organ, now that you've been transplanted, you're off the list(s) and everyone below you moves up a notch. What's wrong with that? 
         The rich get their transplants the fastest but most everyone else gets theirs faster now that there are fewer people on the list. Isn't that a good thing? that everyone improves his or her lot in life even though not necessarily at the same rate?
        And, of course, if organ-selling were to become legal, it's a pretty safe bet that many more organs would become available. And, like everything else that some people want to buy and others want to sell, as the supply goes up, the price would eventually start to come down.
       And finally, isn't this exactly the kind of thing that insurance was designed for, i.e. a lot of people paying a small amount each year so that if they are someday one of the relatively few who need to purchase an organ for transplantation, it wouldn't bankrupt them?
        Of course, there's no reason that any of this would ever have to become compulsory. If you're not interested in a transplant and would prefer dialysis, well, "If you like your kidney, you can kee..." No, really.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Syria, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?

        On August 4, 1964, two American destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS Turner Joy, were operating in the Gulf of Tonkin when they were attacked by...no one.
        Relying on 'faulty intelligence' claiming that the destroyers were attacked by North Vietnamese naval forces, Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution which provided the legal basis for the Vietnam War during which over 50,000 Americans, an estimated two million Vietnamese and several hundred thousand Laotians and Cambodians were killed. Oh, well. Mistakes happen. Don't blame us. We only work here.
          And in 2003, in Iraq,
              "You got the WMD's?"
              "No, I thought you had them."
              "Hmm, maybe I left them in my other pants."
        And now, it's Syria's turn. Anybody know why we're getting involved in a sectarian, tribal, civil war when we can't even tell the good guys from the bad,
            "Who was that Shiite I saw you with last nite?"
            "That was no Shiite. That was my Sunni."
        If only the moderates would have an 'M' stamped on their foreheads and the Jihadi terrorists, a 'T.J.' (Arabic is read from right to left), it would all be so much simpler. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Here Come the Chickens

       The Department of Justice last week announced that it's considering sending federal monitors to New York City to monitor the NYPD's  'stop and frisk' policy because it might be unconstitutional and might even be in violation of the right to due process of many in New York's minority communities.
        What?! Federal monitors in New York?!
        But, but, federal monitors are supposed to go to Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia and South Carolina and places like that. They need federal monitors down there because they're... the South!!!
       We don't need federal monitors. We're the North. We're liberals and progressives and...Democrats. We go to Central Park and do the wave. Then we sing about poverty and social justice and racial harmony. It's so sad it sometimes makes us cry. See! See! These are real tears, in case you didn't notice.
       Knock! Knock!
       "Who is it?"
       "Got some chickens out here for you."
       "What? We didn't order any chickens."
       "Yeah, well come on out and tell that to the chickens. They say they're just...coming home to roost."  

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Subpoena the Easter Bunny?

       When former IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman was asked whether he had ever informed anyone in the White House about the brewing 'scandelle', he replied that he had not.
       In 118 visits to the White House, the subject had never come up? Not even in casual conversation? No, he couldn't recall that it ever had.
       Could he remember exactly why he had been to the White House 118 times in the two years before the last election? Could he even remember one visit?
       "Um, the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn with my kids." [actual quote]
       Try that next time an IRS agent comes calling to ask how you're living in a house worth more than the gross domestic product of Canada but have never had any reportable income. Oh yeah, and why the 118 visits to the Cayman Islands in the past two years.
       "Um, snorkling with my kids."
       Apparently nobody, except for maybe Tiger Woods, tells President Most-Transparent-and-Honest-Administration-in-History anything. The White House chief of staff and chief counsel, as well as other high administration officials knew about the IRS business over a year ago but nobody ever told the president. 
       "Mr. President, did anybody in the White House know about the IRS scandal?"
       "I didn't know anything about it until I read about it in the papers."
       "Mr. President, with all due respect, the question wasn't what you knew. It was about whether anyone in the White House knew. With all due respect again, Sir, this all happened before the last election and some have suggested that it might possibly have effected the outcome if it had become known."   
       "Ok, well, got to go now. 'E pluribus unum,' baby (got to show the kids that I'm still cool). 'E pluribus unum.'  [trans. 'The Easter bunny ate my homework.']  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

'Weinerville'

       Ex-Congressman/former underwear model Anthony Wiener is running for Mayor of New York City. No big deal. This is America. Anyone can run for anything.
       What is more interesting is that Weiner and Weiner are reporting a joint income of almost half a million dollars for 2012, the bulk of which came from Anthony's new consulting business. What is he consulting about? Well, navigating the rules and regulations that he helped write while he was in Congress, of course.
       So, let's see, Mr. Smith, or Mr. Weiner, goes to Washington and spends his (or her) time writing laws that are too incomprehensible for any 'normal' human to understand. Then one day, he (or she) retires, gets dressed, and spends the rest of his (or her) life being paid a ton of money to interpret these laws for people who will have their savings confiscated and maybe even go to jail if they get it wrong. 
       Is this a great country or what?!
       The Founders named the capitol 'Washington' after a guy who was thought to symbolize integrity, honesty...what they thought the new government ought to represent.  Maybe time for a name change?

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Madonna Factor

         "Osama, that American singer, now she sings of being like a virgin. She is mocking The Messenger and Allah!"
       "You are right, Mohamed. We can not allow this. Go and call Khalid, Nawaf, and Ziad. Then get 15 more. Go to America. Take flight training. When you are ready, you must hijack several American airplanes. Fly them into tall buildings, the taller the better. Forget your family, your friends, the wonderful life you had planned. This will not stand."
       "Okay, Osama. But one thing..."      
       "Yes, Mohamed?" 
        "That 'stand' business. Please, no more George Bush impersonations."
                                                                 ***
       Does anyone really believe that the problem we're facing is people who hate us just because they don't like our way of life, our freedoms? That they hate us so much that they would come all the way over here and kill us, and themselves, just because they don't like the way we live, our music, our movies?  Whew! Talk about being 'killed' by a bad review in the Times.
       Does that really make any sense? Could there be more to it than just that?
       Hard to believe but there was a time when America was widely respected and admired in the Middle East. We had the same freedoms then that we have now, similar way of life, maybe slightly different music and culture but not really all that different. Of course, that was also before oil became such an issue. And before we were supporting the Shah, the Saudi royal family and all the rest. Just a coincidence?
       Think it might have made a difference if we weren't always the ones backing those guys? Who knows? There are fringe people everywhere and they're always looking for an excuse to do bad things to people. But still...
       Maybe The Founders really were onto something with that business about staying out of everyone else's affairs, i.e., "Peace, commerce and friendly relations with all nations, entangling alliances with none." Worth a try? For a change? Maybe. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Willie Sutton Goes to Cyprus

      Willie Sutton was a notorious American bank robber.
       When asked why he robbed banks, he answered with a phrase that has become part of the American Lexicon as well as of the oath taken upon graduation by law school students everywhere, i.e.,  'That's where the money is.'
       Cyprus is an island nation in the Mediterranean Sea and is a member of the European Union. Like many other members of that proud organization [Proud of what? Nobody knows.], the government of Cyprus recently discovered that money does not, in fact, grow on fig trees,
       "Dimitrius, my fellow Minister. We will have to give up our fine villas, our cars. Hummus will no longer flow in the rivers. What will we do?"
       "Relax, Pecunius. I have just finished reading a very interesting book about a famous  American back robber. I think I have an idea."
       And, so, the Cypriot government decided to take 10% out of all the deposits in all the banks of Cyprus. Just push a computer key and (Slurp!) 10% of your money is now in the treasury of the government of Cyprus. What could be easier? No bills to send. No stamps to buy. They're actually doing it for your own good. Just, click, click, and it's done. If only Willie Sutton had had a computer...
       Think it couldn't happen here in America? Think again. 
       The Cyprus tax is just another type of 'ad valorem' tax, i.e., a tax 'according to value.' We already have taxes like that, e.g., real estate taxes, car taxes (in states that levy a yearly tax on the value of your car), estate taxes. Not that different from a tax on the value of your savings.
       Next time you hear, 'spread the wealth...', 'more investments...', 'you're entitled...', just substitute, 'Click, click. Slurp, slurp!' Then go out and buy the biggest mattress you can find so that you'll have a place to store what's left of your life savings.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Senor Ponzi?

     One of the reasons often given for immigration reform is that younger immigrant workers will pay into the Social Security and Medicare systems so that aging workers will be able to receive their 'benefits.' But, isn't that a classic definition of a Ponzi scheme, new money brought in so that it can be paid out to 'old' investors to keep the system afloat...until the new 'investors' eventually need to receive their benefits as well?
     There are a lot of good reasons to implement immigration reform but this is not one of them. Entitlements need to be either reformed or, better still, privatized. Making a Ponzi scheme more...Ponzi-like...doesn't make a lot of sense.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hagels and Bagels

       When the President nominated former Senator Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense, it was revealed that he had said that many people were intimidated by the 'Israeli lobby.'  I know he said 'Jewish' lobby but he's from Nebraska. Jews, blacks, transgenders, New Yorkers...all the same. He meant 'Israeli.'
       Anyway, so is there an Israeli lobby? 
                                                                          ***
       Washington, D.C. - May 24, 2011 - 1:00 P.M. : Congressman remains seated during
                  24th standing ovation for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as he
                  delivers historic address to joint session of Congress. 
        Washington, D.C. - May 24, 2011 - 1:01 P.M. : Primary challenge rumored for
                  'sleeping Congressman.'
                                                                         ***
       Of course there's an Israeli lobby! And of course there's also a Black lobby, a gay lobby,  a General Electric lobby, a Screen Actors Guild lobby, an AFL-CIO lobby...There's even rumored to be a 'lobby' lobby for tenants living in pre-WWII apartments and whose landlords won't paint...the lobby. Washington is a lobby town.      

Friday, January 4, 2013

Woe, Roe

      
       Most people who get a gift will say, simply, "Thanks" or maybe, "Hey, what a great Chia pet. Just what I always wanted."
       Rarely will it be, "You're what?!!!"
       So, referring to every pregnancy, whether wanted or not, as a 'gift from G-d' is probably not a great idea, especially if you're a Republican. It could make it difficult for ANY Republican to get elected to anything, even the Presidency. I know, hard to believe, but still...
      And forced sonograms, 'personhood' laws, etc. are not going to change anything either.
      Any state with a Republican Governor and a Republican legislature that passes a law requiring transvaginal sonograms for any woman wanting to have an abortion (and, regrettably, the states trying to pass these laws are all 'red' states) will assure only one thing.
      It will assure that at the exact moment that any woman is forced to submit to such an indignity, at the exact moment, at the exact nano-milli-microsecond that that probe is inserted, it will assure that one more woman's name will add itself to the list of voters who will never, ever, under any circumstances, never ever never never ever vote for a Republican again for the rest of her natural life...no matter what he or she is running for. Can Republicans afford that? Is it worth it?
      And, remember, it's not just one vote we're talking about here. Men 'hang out, shoot a few hoops, talk stupid, whatever...'  Women...flock. What you do to one, you did to a whole lot of others.
      And forget that 'personhood' business, trying to get a fertilized egg declared a person. It'll never work and will do nothing except tie up in knots a lot of busy courts and make a lot of overworked judges very angry. Ever notice that the only ones who really like this idea are all those nice trial lawyer fellows who missed out on the tobacco and asbestos feeding troughs and are not going to make the same mistake again? By the way, ever notice which political party they all belong to? Hint: it's not yours. 
      And to our friends on the other side of the aisle, you won. Roe is the law of the land and it's not going to change. You got an 'unconditional surrender'. Be gracious. 
      The many people who get heartsick over this whole business are not a bunch of country bumpkin, hard right, hypocrite, Fox News watchers. They're just regular folks who get sick every time a fetus is 'extracted' and they're hurting...and a fair number of them are women who went thru it.