Saturday, January 24, 2009

Get Over Yourselves...
There is a certain commercial on the air these days advertising a very interesting product (which shall not be named, because I will give no one free advertising). This product is a little gadget intended to amplify sound. As the commercial begins, we see a frustrated older woman who can't hear the numbers being called out at Bingo. An older gentleman who's wife admonishes him to lower the volume on the television set. They are both frustrated, presumably, because their hearing problems are making life unbearably difficult.

Enter the SilverEarClipThingy (SECT)! The easy way to amplify sound; you can watch TV without keeping your spouse awake, hear your children from yards away (without, apparently, having to keep an eyeball on them), listen for the doorbell while working in the garden, detect game sooner during your hunting trip. Yes, SECT! will change your life, it's so damned useful.

But then, the commercial gets a little stupid.

You see, not only will SECT! help those who can't hear, or have a definite need for increased hearing. Oh no, it does so much more! And this is where the commercial starts to get into the realm of the creepy...

It will allow you to eavesdrop on other people's conversations, you see. We see people at a party, one wearing SECT!, while two others a distance away talk about him. Another walks down the street wearing the device while his neighbors discuss his recent purchase of a car; a new arrival in the neighborhood with SECT is able to hear his female neighbors evaluate his looks, same for a winsome female walking down the beach who has her physique positively evaluated by other women. There are, apparently, millions who appear to have some sort of sick need to listen into other people's conversations....just to see if they're the topic of conversation!

How do I come to this conclusion? Why advertise this ability of SECT! unless someone believes it's a solid selling-point, and given the American propensity to market-research anything within an inch of it's life, I can almost guarantee that somewhere, some marketing expert focus-tested self-absorbed eavesdroppers and narcissists and found that they would absolutely stampede to buy SECT! I can see it all now:

Barroom and nightclub brawls in which someone with a SECT! picked up a passing whisper from 75' away, and because they were drunk, misinterpreted it.

Businessmen using SECT! to eavesdrop in public places (bars, restaurants, airport lounges, etc.) on their competition's cellphone conversations, lunch meetings, etc.

A police officer or district attorney with a SECT! manages to listen into the communication between a defense lawyer and his client.

It should only be a matter of time before the SECT! gets dragged into court by the ACLU. Which in this case, might be a good thing. I hope they do, and succeed -- because I'd just love to see all of those self-absorbed assholes who think I have nothing better to do than talk about them all day (to some of my acquaintance, it should be my full-time obsession) mentally torture themselves trying to discern whether they are the center of the universe or not. It's a fate too good for people like that, but it would be fun to watch, nevertheless.
Alan Colmes is Missed...
I have been watching the brand-spankin' new travesty on Fox which is entitled "Hannity", which is basically "Hannity and Colmes" without;

a) Colmes.
b) A clue.

Sean Hannity is one of my least favorite television personalities, and no, it has nothing to do with his politics (I agree with him about 95% of the time). What I object to about Sean Hannity is his ability to repeat the same things ad nauseum in a brilliant display of expired equine thrashing, without the ability to recognize that he's already preaching to the choir, on the one hand, and without recognizing how annoying this process is on the other. Yes, we know Sean, so-called liberals are full of shit; you're not exploding any myths, or imparting a cosmic secret.

You're also not changing any minds so far as I can tell, but that's another argument altogether. The incredible fact, it seems to me, about what passes for intellectual debate in the realm of politics these days is the ability to appear to be listening to the other side while their ideas bounce off your skull like peas against a steel helmet. People are talking, words are being spoken, but no one listens. They yack, and they yack, and no meaningful exchange of information takes place. Usually, this is because both sides are absolutely convinced of the righteousness of their cause, even when they know they are spouting complete and utter nonsense.

When the two people involved in the conversation happen to agree, it's even worse. In this case, information is not only *not* being exchanged, some absolute disinformation is being endlessly recycled.

Case in point: Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh speaking about the future prospects of the republican party. Give Rush credit for having the temerity to express some very salient points (mostly because they are glaringly obvious-- one thing republicans are good at is avoiding the obvious) about a loss of collective wits, an inability to rein in spending, the inability of the Bush Administration to clearly make their cases for war, on winning the war (the success of The Surge), and Homeland Security (no attacks on American Soil since 9/11). He was absolutely correct in his assertions.

Rush was also absolutely correct when he castigated republicans for abandoning any semblance of conservatism during the Bush years. Where he was wrong, in my estimation, is the source of this dereliction of duty.

According to Rush, the problem within the republican ranks is what he referred to as (paraphrasing to the best of my memory) "those Northeastern, blue-blood, Rockefeller republicans who don't wish to be seen in the same party as people with Southern accents who watch NASCAR." He then went on to say that this particular beast also has a (again, paraphrased) "psychological need to be liked by everyone", and that it was this element of the republican party which was responsible for taking the party leftwards, and which was instrumental (I guess) in leading the more staunch conservatives astray. Of course, the concept of the division of spoils and the practically one-party rule of government for the first part of Bush's term don't enter into his argument, conveniently. He would probably blame Mark Foley, Larry Craig and Jack Abramoff on the Northeastern Blue-bloods, too, if he could get away with it. Yeah, it was northeastern liberal republicans who caused a US Senator with a reputation as a staunch anti-gay-rights crusader to seek a handjob in an airport restroom...as if...

Anyways, Rush and Sean threw this theme back and forth between each other for several minutes before Rush made his grand pronouncement; the party needed to be more conservative. Well, no shit! I could have figured that out, thank you very much.

Now, when you hear Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity talk about the party needing to be more conservative, rest assured that the sort of conservatism they'd like to see doesn't just stop at lower taxes, small government and strong national defense. If it did, I'd have no issue. But, I know the people who listen to Hannity and Limbaugh on a daily basis (I only spent several years being crucified by them over at FreeRepublic for having an independent thoughts), and this would still not be 'conservative' enough. They want the full Reagan.

What, pray tell, is the "full Reagan"?

Ronald Reagan, conservative god, stood for all the things today's republican stands for; smaller government, lower taxes, strong national defense. So far, so good. However, Reagan came to power by creating a coalition between more mainstream (classically-liberal) republicans and the Christian Right which has been more trouble for the republican party than it has been help, in my opinion. Reagan gathered their fervent support by promising them two things he could never deliver: a return of prayer in the public schools, and an end to abortion on demand. And the Christian Right in this country has, ever since, demanded that they be given that which Reagan promised.

Now, on the abortion issue, I happen to agree with them. But I don't believe the solution to the problem is a Constitutional Amendment or draconian laws, or an advance of religion into the national electoral process. The solution is cultural and will not be solved by government action in any case. The Christian Right disagrees, which is why any republican candidate for president who isn't one of their own, gets luke-warm or little support from them (see: Rudy Guiliani, John McCain, G.H.W. Bush, Bob Dole), while those who speak their language (or who just tell them what they want to hear) are elevated to divine status (see Reagan, G.W. Bush). It also explains why republicans got clobbered in the 2006-midterms; even with control of all three visible branches of government, all the republican party ever managed to do for the Christian Right was to get an Executive Order against fetal stem-cell research, a Congressional Resolution and appeal to the Supreme Court in the dark of night in a (failed) effort to keep a vegetable alive, and two members of the Supreme Court.

Abortion is still alive and well. No prayers allowed in schools. All over the country they are having to share their religious symbols in the public square with those of other faiths (we're not talking about genuine instances of persecution, I'm only speaking of incidences where accommodation and compromise are called for and the Christian Right acts as if a pogrom took place against them) .They're pissed off.

This is what I fear; I don't mind people who happen to be religious practicing their faith in the privacy of their home or house of worship -- but I do worry about pissed-off zealots who believe they are both persecuted *and* owed something practicing that faith at the ballot box. Rush and Sean think this idea is just fine. And a winner.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Wonders of Modern Medicine, Part Deux...
Yet another wonder drug with yet another list of disturbing side-effects. This particular drug (which won't be named for obvious reasons) claims to treat those with Type II Diabetes. We'll call it 'Wonderpill!'.

Wonderpill! is supposed to help those with Type II Diabetes control their blood sugar, and of course,the commercial follows the same pattern of others of it's ilk. Good thing, right? Check out these side effects:

*Wonderpill! will lower your blood sugar, sometimes to the point where you might develop hypoglycemia, which is like having almost no blood sugar at all.
*Wonderpill! has some (unspecified) effect on the kidneys, and the ad warns that your doctor will have you undergo a regimen of regular blood tests for kidney function.
*Allergic reactions include rash, hives, swelling of the face, lips, tongue and throat which may cause difficulty in swallowing or breathing. You are advised that if this occurs, you should call your doctor or hospital (assuming you can talk, being short of breath and with a swollen throat).
*Most common side-effects are: upper-respiratory infections, stuffy or runny noses and sore throat (I wonder if your throat feels sore when it's swollen?).

Yes, take Wonderpill! which won't actually cure your diabetes, but will help you to control it (i.e. you will just have to adjust all aspects of your lifestyle and continue to take this friggin' drug for as long as we can get you to), so long as you don't suffocate or have your kidneys shut down first.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History Begins Today...
Today is the Day of Days! All that has happened before is now irrelevant. It shall all be erased and forgotten, as it was a time of evil, selfish men, plotting the enslavement of us all in dark, secret chambers deep within the bosom of Mother Gaia, who nearly destroyed our planet with their industrial filth, and started wars brought on by their avarice, greed, sexual inadequacy and their primitive superstitious religious fervor.

All of this will soon be nothing but a very bad memory, like the sort that lingers after a nightmare. The Heavens Have Opened and Behold! A new Light has descended upon us who will cure the ills of the world. He will Stop the Violence and Heal the Planet. Choirs of Angels will be on every street corner, heralding the arrival of The One, spreading the word that Change We Can Believe In has finally come, and that all of mankind is welcome to join the transformative experience that gave Chris Matthews a tingly leg, and which promises to spend more money than actually exists in order to bring Everything to Everybody Everyday.

Barack Obama is to be sworn in as President of the United States today. Certainly a historic moment, but the way the media folks have carried on about it for damn-near a month now, I feel as if he doesn't feed the heaving multitudes in front of the Capitol with a couple of loaves and a fish right after he says "So Help Me God", while farting the score to "Hello, Dolly", I might be mightily disappointed.

After all "Yes We Can". Right?

I wish President Obama luck, as I'm not all a rainy day and because I have to live here too. But he will need more than luck if he's to navigate the rocks and shoals of the modern world, and I for one, am not convinced that he's prepared to do it. He basically ran a campaign which was a mirage; Obama could be anything you wanted him to be, depending on your mental state and pet peeve, but you could never pin him down on anything specific. But now he has to deliver, and catchy slogans and symbolism and retro-revolutionary rhetoric won't cut it. The rubber meets the road, right now.

There will be, we're told, four days of revelry in Washington, D.C., hearkening back to the days of the Imperial Triumphs, sans gladiatorial combat and adequate toilet facilities. Already the idiot box has been commandeered by the networks who have decided that I have need to know every minute detail of the whole thing, in real time, a week before it occurs. I hope that once this stupidity has run it's course that someone remembers there's a country to run and that they've elected someone who said he could do it.

And then, I want them to use the same amount of energy they used to get him elected, and the same amount they've wasted on reporting his every-waking-moment since Election Day in agonizing, painstaking detail, to hold him accountable. I won't hold my breath, since the media love affair with this man is bordering on psychotic, but, to coin an appropriate phrase "I have a dream..." that they will, especially after the media figures out it got suckered by this man, and then gets blamed for not telling us peasants about it beforehand.

After all, they have their credibility to protect, right?

Fingers crossed. I shan't be watching television for the next four days.

Update: The Fuhrer Oath as recited by the Obamatards earlier this week.
Osama Bin Dyin'?
This article from the Washington Times reports that 40 suspected terrorists from the tribal areas of Pakistan/Afghanistan are dead of bubonic plague. Three thoughts on this;

a) Good.
b) Very Good.
c) When will the rest get it and die, too?

After my thirty seconds of near-orgasmic glee at the thought of dead terrorists who suffered horribly before they expired (without killing masses of us in the process), the implications of this began to sink in; forty terrorists are dead -- of bubonic-fuckin'-plague.

Which begs the question; how did they get the plague?

Well, plague is endemic to Asia. It wouldn't be surprising at all if these guys managed to contract the disease the old-fashioned way, and came into contact with infected animals and their fleas. I would assume that sanitary and living conditions in the tribal highlands of the Northwest Frontier haven't advanced much beyond the Stone Age. These guys practically live with their farm animals (when they aren't molesting them), and the parasites they carry or attract in their mud huts or caves, so I wouldn't think transmission of bubonic plague would be much of a problem under those conditions. Perfectly explainable.

And then there's another possibility; what if they were trying to purposely cultivate the plague for use as a weapon, and the experiment went horribly wrong, killing forty people they didn't intend to kill?

This is a question that haunts me, particularly today. For today, Barack Obama takes the oath of office. The same Barack Obama who says he will close Guantanamo Bay, and find a way to get America out of Iraq. The Lightworker who wouldn't torture a terrorist with a nuclear Sword of Damocles hanging over us --- not unless the lawyers told him it was okay, at least. In short, Barack Obama who preached a message of surrender on the terror front so that he could garner the anti-War vote and the adulation of squishy Europeans who's opinions don't really count.

What happens if those nutjobs in the mountains were actually trying to make a plague bomb? What would Barack Obama do?

There are some who would pooh-pooh that fear. Who would tell me "Matt, be serious. Do you really think The Anointed One would allow some Terrorist with a can of infected fleas to attack us?" And I think "Yeah, I think he would. Not on purpose, mind you, but I think this man is in so far over his head, and that democrats and the left are so panty-bunched over America's 'image problem', and the perception that the Bush Administration so compromised civil liberties in this country, that the methods we've used to avoid attack these last eight years will fall by the wayside. The people we count upon to protect us from retards with plague bombs will be hauled before Congressional tribunals and mercilessly questioned within inches of their lives, publicly identified and humiliated, if not prosecuted, putting their successors into permanent CYA mode.

The conditions which existed in the security apparatus of the 1990's will return, and another 9/11 would be almost assured, and perhaps, only a mater of time.

While it's all well-and-good that forty low-life, no-account, murderous-barbarian assholes are dead, I want to know why and how, because that suddenly seems important. It's of paramount importance to me now that a man who's resume wouldn't be sufficient to run your local Taco Bell is in charge of the security and military apparatus of this country, and he seems hostile to both, and beholden to a section of the political mass which thinks force is always wrong -- and doubly so when we (Americans) use it -- and who is wedded to the idea that we can always talk our differences with these fanatics out over a latte. Even while they kill everyone at the table.

Some might say there's a third possibility, and that these guys got the plague because we, The United States, gave them the plague. This is certainly what the 'Arab Street' will say in the coming days and months, and also certainly what the opponents of the War on Terror in the West will say. It will be a conspiracy theory bonanza for the Birkenstock set. The theories will run the gamut from the frustrated Bush team deciding to have one last, and brutal, shot at Osama before they leave office, to a complicated milleaux-- involving the American-Zionist Conspiracy, The Illuminati, and McDonald's -- designed to turn the pristine wilderness of the Northwest Frontier into a Capitalist Disneyland. That will probably make sense to someone, but you would reasonably expect that sort to be on some sort of heavy medication.

In any case, it's is imperative to find out how they got that thar' plague and died before the implications of that question become little more than an academic curiosity, and become a matter of life and death for us.

Update: Related article here about how unwelcome Osama's boys are making themselves. Perhaps between this and plague, they might have overstayed their welcome in Pakistan/Afghanistan.
The Wonders of Modern Medicine?
I was watching television this evening when one of those commercials comes on. You know the ones -- a drug is being advertised which is billed as the cure-all to whatever ails you, no matter how ridiculously minor. By now, you know the formula these commercials use; see unbelievably well-preserved Baby-Boomers (these drugs are always targeted at Baby-Boomers, who believe they have a right to live forever without anything resembling a physical defect or inconvenience) enjoying some rigorous outdoor activities (they seem to enjoy rock climbing, mountain biking and deep-sea diving the most), while a woman with a voice that reminds you slightly of Adolf Eichmann -- only you picture her in lingerie-- regales you with a 10-second recitation on the problem the drug is supposed to treat, and then spends the next 50 seconds of the commercial listing all the side-effects and dangers associated with this panacea.

You really have to listen to these things to get the gist of what's being sold. In 99-out-of-100 cases (I would guess) you are being sold a silver bullet for a specific problem, which is usually something not exactly life-threatening, but which is severe enough to affect your 'quality of life' (usually this means the embarrassment of the malady prevents you from partaking of all that pharmaceutically-enhanced-Baby-Boomer life has to offer).

For obvious reasons, I shall not name the drug in question, but we shall refer to it as 'Superdrug!', which is supposed to be a godsend to those who suffer from what used to be called 'the heartbreak of psoriasis'. While Superdrug! will, indeed, keep your skin from swelling and flaking in the most hideous and disturbing way, it comes with the following side-effects:

*You might develop tuberculosis
*You might put yourself at a higher risk for lymphomas and autoimmune disorders, like Lupus.
*Increased bleeding (put all those sharp objects away!)
*Depressed immune system making you vulnerable to other infections
*Lowered T-cell counts (T-cells help you fight infections)
*Quote: "Serious, and sometimes fatal infections may occur during treatment with Superdrug!"
*Contact your doctor right away if you: cough, sneeze, have shortness of breath, or fatigue.

Then comes the laundry list of disclaimers:

Don't take it if you have an allergy to *the scientific name of the drug in question* (Like, Duuuuhhhh!), or if you are also being treated with *another drug that does the same thing*.

Before using Superdrug!, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs whatsoever, or if you have:

*an active or recent infection (what sort of infection is not specified, so a cancker sore presumably qualifies)
*a history of tuberculosis
*hepatitis B
*congestive heart failure (the phrase 'may cause new, or worsening heart failure' was used in the commercial)
*lupus
*an allergy to latex rubber
*a disease that affects the nerves or muscles, such as multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barre syndrome
*if you are scheduled to have major surgery or receive any vaccines.
*Superdrug! is not expected to be harmful to an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment.
*Your name may need to be listed on a Superdrug! pregnancy registry when you start using this medication.It is not known whether Superdrug! passes into breast milk. Do not use this medicine without first talking to your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.
*Using Superdrug! may increase your risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast, colon, prostate, or lung cancer, lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes), or melanoma. This risk may be greater in children and young adults. You may also develop an autoimmune disorder such as a lupus-like syndrome.

Of course, while Sexy-Nazi-Voiceover-Woman was telling you all of these things, our intrepid commercial Baby Boomers scaled Mt. Everest, played rugby, attended a sculpture symposium, and took up Zen Archery, giving you the impression that Superdrug! literally changed their lives for the better.

You have to start to wonder just what the hell people are putting into their bodies. And then, you have to start to wonder just what kind of mentality one must have in order to believe that swapping psoriasis for possible heart failure or tuberculosis is a risk worth taking, and which makes plunking down a couple of hundred bucks for a supply of Superdrug! seem like an awesome deal (well, pretty soon most of our extremely-active-better-than-average-looking commercial Baby-Boomers won't have to actually pay that couple of hundred bucks, so who cares?).

What really strikes me as ridiculous about this sort of thing is that somehow we're allowed to proscribe a drug which purports to cure something, but which then leaves a score or more of other potential problems in it's wake, and we still call this 'medicine'. From my own experience with prescription drugs, it seems as if very often there is a mentality at work which says 'take the pills -- I have other patients to spend 10 seconds with', or 'solving your problem might require I make an effort, be honest with you, or give you a practical solution -- take this pill instead.'

It's a sad commentary on modern society that people will shell out enormous amounts of money for Superdrug! and all the rest of these new pharmaceuticals. With most of the ones being advertised these days, it seems the cure is often much worse than the disease.

Monday, January 19, 2009

If He Were Republican...
He'd be criticized for hobnobbing with rich 'fat-cats', and wasting millions of dollars on self-aggrandizement while Americans starve. The very people who publicly embarrassed GM executives for taking private jets to Washington so that they could be humiliated by people who, on a good day, might be able to find their own asses with both hands and a flashlight, are tossing tens of millions away on The Messiah..for parties. You can read about it here.

Hat tip to Yahoo News.

Can you imagine what would be said if George W. Bush or John McManiac indulged in such extravagence? Keith Olbermann might have puppies on the air, or at least an aneurysm, screaming about it.

And it's supposed to be Republicans who are clueless?

Good to See They Try to Set the Right Example...That little tyke is being taught rabid anti-Semetism, along with poor grammar and spelling. The terrible part is that she will eventually grow up to be forced into an arranged marriage, and pump out little boys by the bushel who will want to grow up to kill themselves, and us, believing it to be the highest calling.
There is no hope for the Muslim world. I'm convinced.