Friday, July 09, 2010

On King James...

So, LeBron James has decided to play in Miami, forsaking Cleveland (perhaps the most loyal of all sports fans, considering their city hasn't won anything since the Magna Carta was signed) for the sunnier climes of Florida.

A few remarks:

1. I hate basketball. With a passion. What's even worse than basketball is the American version of the game which is less about sport and more about contrived soap-opera drama. If it wasn't "Can Kobe win without Shaq?" storylines, it's all about "Where will LeBron Go Now?", and it's all frankly sickening.

Give LeBron credit where it is due; he does something that I cannot, at a level that is most extraordinary. I can appreciate the athleticism, skill and artistry of what he does, but can you really justify LeBron James being a potential billionaire for basically tossing a ball through a hoop that he can reach without his feet breaking contact with the floor?

2. To me, sports must involve three things: physicality, defense and competition. Of all the major sports played in America (sans "women's" sports) , basketball is perhaps the second-least physical (baseball is hardly physical at all -- the majority of the action revolves around two men playing catch, and the other seven standing around waiting for something to happen). Yes, sometimes you catch an elbow under the rim, or take a charge in the chest, but it's not like football or hockey where one of the objectives is to actually flatten an opponent in order to gain an advantage.

This si why, contrary to the protests of fat, rich, gay White Men everywhere, Golf and Tennis are not sports, and Tiger Woods is not an "athlete"; he's just a guy who's good at putting a ball in a distant hole without anyone trying to take his head off, or throw him curveballs.

By definition, any game in which it is possible to routinely score 100 points is bereft of defense. You can't bump anyone, you can't hand-check, you can't even put your butt in someone's mid-section and block him out anymore (like you could, and were expected to, in the Old Days). Nowadays, the game of basketball is all about dunking, with players allowed a 20-foot running start on their leaps (whatever happened to traveling calls?). This is not exciting, to me, and it gets rather repetitious. If there's little or no physical contact, like someone allowed -- and waiting -- to take your head off when you make your run to the hoop, then there's no defense.

3. This whole "Where will the Big Three Play" drama (James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade) is a example of collusion between players to hold, basically, an entire league hostage to their desire to play together at extremely high salaries. These three guys basically got together and formulated a plan to build their own "Dream Team", and they have the talent to ensure that it happened. I can just imagine what would have been the reaction of the NBA Player's Association if Management (i.e. the Owners) had gotten together to collude in ensuring that players weren't signed by certain teams, conspired to hold salaries low, or had made arrangements to "spread the talent out" by Gentlemen's Agreement. You can bet the players would scream bloody murder.

Yet, James, Bosh and Wade have done just that, and openly. There were meetings between them, all eagerly covered by a sport's press that has nothing better to do until football season starts. There wasn't even a hint that what these three guys were/are doing is in the best interests of the game, the fans, and the league.

The excuse that Free Agency and their talent level gives them the right to do this is fatuous; had these guys been, say, construction workers or computer programmers, than workers acting collectively or individually to ensure they got the best deal for as many of their colleagues as possbile is a good thing.

But Professional Sports is not the same as the conventional labor market. These guys are employees, and beneficiaries, of a Federally-protected Monopoly. NBA basketball is a racket, in much the same way as the NFL, MLB and the NHL are; there is only one Big-Time professional basketball league in the United States, and this be it.

4. I'm getting sick and tired of hearing NBA players say that everything they do is "about the Ring", and "bringing a Championship to X", because at the rates at which these guys are being compensated, it's probably all bullshit. I could live quite happily, thank you, if I made $16 million a year (guaranteed) to run around in my shorts chasing a ball in a game without defense without having achieved a Championship season, or even entry into The Hall of Fame. The truth is that the majority of NBA players will never see their name engraved on a trophy, or enshrined in the Hall of Fame, but they will have been paid a shitload of money to do something that millions of men would give a testicle to do for free just once. If I had a big, fat bank account, I could console myself quite easily if I never got a Ring, or that call from the HOF.

And somehow, there's always someone willing to take these guys seriously when they spout that sort of nonsense, and it happens every day. Right now, there's a utility player for the Kansas City Royals talking about being in a World Series. Right now, there's a St. Louis Rams 5th-round draft pick talking about a shrine in Canton with his name on it. At this moment, I can promise you that one of the dimmer bulbs on the Florida Panthers is predicting a Stanley Cup in South Florida.

It usually doesn't happen, but somehow they are obligated to say it (to keep the fans interested and hopeful, I guess), and you can usually tell they don't buy a single word they've uttered on either subject.

LeBron James is probably a billionaire already, considering endorsements, and he's never won a damned thing. Not only that, but he's just manipulated The System without the force of actual credentials/achievements (i.e. playoff success) at all, in a way that no one outside of professional sports will ever be able to do. Do you really think LeBron James cares about a Championship when he has a billion in the bank?

Somehow, we take these guys seriously when they spout this kind of garbage.

The NBA is going to rue the day it let the inmates run the Asylum. Baseball already has $200 million players so that the average fan a cannot afford regular visits to the ballpark, and very soon, the same will happen in Miami; we're talking $86 million for Bosh, $99 million for James, and I don't know (nor can bothered to find out) what Wade is going to get. In Miami. Do you really think Miamians can afford to the soon-to-be-ridiculously-priced tickets the Heat will need to sell to keep these three guys in green?

So, I say congratulations to LeBron James for at least being able, as a probable-billionaire, to stick up the other real-billionaires. But otherwise, this really all just a large, stinking pile of manufactured bullshit which makes us reg'lar, thinking folks sick to death of professional athletes and their phony posturing, manufactured drama, and lip service to us, the Paying Customer.

How Would You Fix It? Part I

Here are some suggestions about how to correct the biggest problems our country faces today. They will have the virtues of being direct and unencumbered by either sensitivity, or Political Correctness. Sensitivity is for brain-addled Libtards, and Political Correctness is for those unable to grasp verifiable, and often ugly, truths because of the psychic pain and guilt it inflicts upon their fragile little metrosexual psyches. Truth often hurts -- it should. Without a foundation of truth, no problem can ever be identified, let alone solved.

This is but the first installment. I plan to have three installments in the series.

I will get an inbox full of venom, I'm certain, because my solutions spare no one's feelings. In fact, they don't even take anyone's feelings into account. Actually, so far as I'm concerned, everytime I get a nasty e-mail from a panty-bunched, bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, metrosexual Citizen of the World (i.e. Libtard), I will reward myself with a nice Milky Way Bar, if only because I would regard the epithets of hater, homophobe, xenophobe, racist, sexist, anti-this-that-and-the-other as great big shiny badges of affirmation, and I won't be able to find anyone able to produce the medals I'll deserve to have pinned to my chest for it all fast enough.

None of what I advocate will ever be done, because it just makes too much sense and goes against the grain of both political parties, in that they would all eliminate the possibility of graft, and put an end to the tired old game of allowing politicians to pontificate and posture without actually having to do anything.

So, here you go. You don't have to agree, but you do have to deal with it. In no particular order;

A) Illegal Immigration: 1. Build a nice, new, open-air prison in the New Mexico desert (where they used to do all the nuclear testing). Ensure that it has no buildings, an inadequate water supply, and just the very barest rudiments of sanitation. Make sure it's in the hottest,most-radioactive portion of the desert you can find, and fence it in with razor wire and landmines. Once there, captured illegal aliens will be kept until they can be "repatriated" to their country of origin.

2. Place 50,000 troops along the southern border, equipped with packs of snarling, vicious attack dogs trained to leap into action at the first scent of chipotle. Give the troops "shoot-to-kill" orders, so that when the Invaders from the South ignore their three warnings to turn back, you can show them we mean business.

3. Those fortunate few who manage to evade the minefields, dogs, machine-gun nests and snipers by surrendering, or being granted mercy by the Border Patrol and Marines, or just got themselves slightly wounded, will be shipped to that lovely open-air resort in New Mexico I've just mentioned, where they can bake in the heat and prey upon each other under the sight of machine-gun-armed watch towers.

4. The President of the United States (not this one, because he hasn't got any balls) will make a public announcement; if you're in the country illegally, you will have 90 days to see to your personal affairs, and then yo9u can get the hell out of the country. If you don't, we've got a nice vacation in New Mexico planned for you, where you will branded upon the forehead and hands to make it easier for us to identify you again, just in case you decide to try sneak north one more time.

5. Alert all business owners in the US that the fines and penalties for illegally hiring illegal aliens will be trebled. Remind them of the old capitalist axiom that if you can't stay in business without breaking the law, you probably shouldn't be in business --and then put them out of business permanently.

6. Eliminate "Birthright Citizenship" for any child born in an American hospital in cases where at least one parent (to be determined by DNA testing) is NOT a citizen or legal resident.If that qualification cannot be met, ship mother and child to the new Disneyland in New Mexico as a birthday gift, just as soon as that's medically feasible.

7. Tell the President of Mexico to run his own goddamned country, and to keep his tubercular peasantry on his side of the fence. In days past, a mass-migration of the sort that is common on the southern border used to be called "an invasion", and was resisted by military force.

8. The State Department will stop handing out visas, to anyone, like candy. No visa will be approved without an adequate background check on the potential recipient, and if takes a decade to complete it, that's just too bad.

9. Make English the Chief Lingua Franca of the United States. Government at all levels will no longer pay for bi-lingual education. It will no longer print, transmit, distribute or provide any service or form written/conducted in anything but English, unless doing so is necessary to maintain public order and safety, or is deemed to be in the national interest.

10. Set up a $5 billion prize to go to the first asshole who manages to genetically engineer a head of lettuce that can be picked by a machine.

B) War on Terror
1. The recent "disappearance" of 17 Afghans brought to the United States for training is indicative of something our political leadership has failed to grasp. If we assume that those 17 men were considered to be the best-and-the-brightest that Afghanistan had to offer, then the lesson of their desertion is that a) they won't fight for their freedom or country, and b) they have no interest in helping to build a better future for their country, families, or culture. If we're losing in Afghanistan, then this is a remarkably clear reason of why; even the best Afghans don't give a shit -- the rest are simply fighting for their centuries-old right to be wife-beating, animal-molesting, opium-smoking, piss-poor, praying-five-times-a-day douchebags. I suggest a new strategy that I like to call "Fuck 'em. Scorched Earth", and then leave.

2. The sectarian violence in Iraq continues, because a) we're protecting the next generation of Saddam Husseins with American guns, b) Islam is a murderous ideology which preys upon the unaware and defenseless, and since Rumsfeld's "Dead-Enders" couldn't whack the Great Satan's military, they're more than content to whack each other. Every IED, every marketplace bomb, every mortar attack on a city center is training for the various forces in Iraq who are just waiting for us to go home so that they can fight each other for the honor of being the next bunch of dumbasses to challenge the United States again...and lose again. New Strategy -- Fuck 'em. Scorched Earth and then leave.

3. Iran should not have a nuclear weapon. Period. If that means the only places left to hear the Farsi language spoken is in the depths of Hell, then so be it. If that means that the only traces of Persian culture left anywhere is whatever is to be found in museums, then that's too bad, as well. The idea that there's a nascent "democratic" movement in Iran (the one the "experts" have been talking up for 3 decades now) was crushed in the streets of Tehran last year, and even if it had been successful, it would only have brought "reform" at the margins of Islamic life. There are no "moderates" in a theocracy. New negotiating Strategy; Fuck 'em, Scorched Earth.

4. Pakistan is NOT our Ally; it is the biggest failure of British foreign policy in history, and is nothing but a bubbling cauldron of anti-Western hatred, murder, duplicity, and has perhaps the worst smelling people on Earth. New approach to Pakistani relations; Fuck 'em. Scorched Earth.

5. Saudi Arabia is NOT our Ally; they simply like our money -- and like the Germans --would rather that the United States pay for it's defense. That just means more money for the thousands of Saudi"princes" to waste on the non-Islamic delights of the West -- Booze, blonds, gambling, drugs, and porn -- that they can't get at home. Saudi Arabia is a den of pious hypocrites presiding over a mass of camel-raping nomads. Basis for a new Saudi relationship; Fuck 'em. Scorched Earth, then leave.

6. No change for the good in the Islamic world will come from US. It must originate with THEM. An entire culture, millenia-old, must be transformed. That transformation will not happen because Americans built schools and roads; it'll happen only when the consequences of NOT changing are made apparent, like when half the Middle East is a smoking crater. Ask the Japanese and Germans -- both once on the receiving end of the Fuck 'Em, Scorched Earth policy -- how that worked out.

7. realize that many of the "Security Measures" put in place since September 11, 2001 are really restricting the freedoms of Americans more than they are hindering terrorists. Security efforts should be redirected towards stopping and going after REAL terrorists. If this means racial profiling of certain individuals and groups, then that's the price we need to pay for security, and the price they pay for not turning their murderous relatives in to the authorities.

8. Terrorists do not recognize anyone else's Human and Civil Rights, international borders, thenicities of the Rule of Law, or the rules of basic decency, therefore, they are entitled to the same measure of regard.

9. Declare that any terrorist attack on the United States and it's allies will result in immediate retaliation against every terrorist or organization within reach of American power, regardless of whether any particular group was responsible for that attack or not. Just kill every terrorist within reach.

C) The Government
1. Shut down the Federal Government -- except for really essential services -- for three months out of every year. Send the overpaid union slobs for the government home for a nice, long vacation without pay.

2. Pay every federal worker the minimum wage that their democratic party lapdogs advocate so loudly for. Give raises to them based solely on merit, which in a Federal Bureaucracy usually means someone can count to 20 without removing their shoes and socks.

3. Close the Department of Education (which educates no one), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (think: does the typically American "urban" look "developed" to you? HUD is a welfare housing scam), phase out the Post Office (e-mail is free, you know), consolidate every "Civil Rights Division" in every federal department within the Department of Justice (why do the Department of Transportation and the HHS have "Civil Rights" divisions?), immediately revoke every Executive Order, Signing Statement or Presidential Dictate and such that have the names Barack Obama, William J. Clinton, or James Earl Carter on them.

4. Stop the whoring of the political class, and publicly fund elections, with a reasonable cap on campaign spending (this might be one of those few ideas Libtards have that I can agree with).

5. Repeal the McCain-Feingold Tenure for Elected Offcials....err...Campaign Finance Reform Act.

6. Encourage the electorate to throw every remaining Aging Hippie and decrepit Cold Warrior out of Congress. They are hopelessly stuck in the past and nothing short of dynamite -- or unemployment -- will convince them that they live in the 21st Century now.

7. Make having passed the Bar Exam or having once practiced Law a disqualification for public office.

8. If there's a mandatory retirement age for the rest of us, there should be one for Congresscritters, too.

9. Someone should be tasked with going through the Federal Register and immediately repeal any law or regulation that has been superseded by technology, or which has not been enforced in any meaningful way since 1970, so long as doing so does not compromise public health or safety,or represent a danger to Civil Liberties.

10. No member of Congress should be allowed to become wealthy while in Public Service. They should be required to place all of their assets into blind trusts, post monthly financial statements, and as soon as a Congresscritter announces an income of $1 million or more, they should be investigated to find out just how they got it.

11. Declare that Congress will no longer be allowed to borrow money without there first being a National Emergency, declared by a 2/3 majority vote in both houses.

12. Add a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution. Not balanced in the "out years", not balanced by accounting tricks, not anything that describes a "reduction in the rate of spending growth" sort of fantasy, but a mathematically provable balanced budget which can be audited by standard accounting methods, and which requires that spending be balanced by cuts.

13. No more Earmarks. No more sneaking transportation Bills into Education Bills, and other tricks. No more changing Congressional rules to suit the needs of either party at any particular moment. Every Member of Congress should be required to post their daily activities, votes and positions on a publicly-accessible website available 24/7/365 so that the voters know what they're up to. Every memeber of Congress should have a microchip implanted in them so that we can find them 24/7/365, to be removed when one leaves office.

14. No tax hikes without a 2/3 majority vote of both houses.

D) The Economy
1. Repeal ObamaCare and it's attendant taxation.

2. Demand repayment of all TARP funds by a date certain, with interest.

3. Do not spend the remaining "Stimulus Money". There were no "shovel-ready" projects so much as there were democratic party allies to be paid off, and the majority of the cash is still in the pipeline. Might as well put it back into circulation so that the credit markets aren't quite so tight.

4. Declare "Tax Holidays" where the Federal government will not collect any personal income taxes whatsoever. Say, two or three months out of every year, anytime after April 15th. Put money back into the consumer's hands and let it work it's magic.

5. Declare a Tax Amnesty where anyone who owes back taxes and is NOT being investigated for criminal activity can be given the opportunity to reach a reasonable settlement with the government. The IRS should be designated as a Terrorist Organization.

6. No Inheritance Taxes. You already paid taxes while alive, you shouldn't have to anymore after you've died.

7. No Capital Gains Tax on any profit of less than $100,000.

8. Re-instate the Glass-Steagall Act, and make the mega-financials divest themselves of their conflicted interests. There will be no more "Too Big to Fail" after that. Allow the Bankruptcy laws to operate the way they were intended to when a corporation goes into default.

9. Get the Federal Government out of the Mortgage Business; dissolve Fannie and Freddie and liquidate their assets.

10. Promote policies which will bring a return of the manufacturing sector to American shores. Since the United States cannot compete in the field of "cheap" manufacturing because of lower wages around the world, the thrust of these policies must be the promotion of High-Quality manufacturing processes. If Americans can't make it cheaper than anyone else, then we can damned well make it better than anyone else! As the saying goes, "Cheap usually turns out to be expensive", so you might as well make it worth the customer's while to spend the extra money for the good stuff.

11. Develop an energy policy which is high on nuclear, clean coal and natural gas (i.e. domestic sources), and not-so-hot on petroleum. Stop the Ethanol Subsidy, because it is actually stifling creativity in the area of alternative fuels..Announce a government-sponsored $5 billion prize to the first person or organization that can produce both a viable alternative fuel, and an engine which can run reasonably-efficiently and reliably on it.

12. Destroy the Progressive Income Tax Code, and start over from scratch. No more giving "Tax Credits" to people who don't pay taxes, no more loopholes or special regulations. Simply state that the Federal Government will take x-percentage of your total gross income (salary, tips, wages, capital gains), and not a penny more, regardless of income level.

13. Pass tough Tort Reforms and get the lawyers out of the Boardrooms, Factories, Hospitals and off my television set.

14. Pass a law declaring the United States is a Right-to-Work Nation, and bust the unions which artificially skew the wage scales, prevent the free circulation of labor, and who are buying politicians with their member's money.

15. Lower Corporate Tax rates to make American business more attractive to investors, foreign and domestic.

16. No VAT taxes.

Make of this what you will.

Tomorrow in Part II, I'll tackle Race Relations, Energy, The Two-Party System and the BP Oil Spill.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Why Do We Even Have a Post Office?

The Postal Service wants more money because it's going broke. I don't mind forking over another 2 cents to mail something (because I'm a 21st Century guy, and I actually mail things like...maybe twice a year), but at some point you have to start wondering just why we even have a Post Office at all.

After all, this is an Electronic Age, where e-mail is pretty much free, cell phones, computers and Blackberries a are ubiquitous, and if you're a real geek, you can get a bunch of iPhone Apps that will turn your handy little piece of Electronic Heroin into a lean, mean machine that can do calculus, allow you to watch television, read a book, and maybe even fillet a panda, if you need to. Who needs the anachronistic process of writing an address on an envelope, licking something that tastes like a mixture of those black jelly beans that no one eats and ass, and walking to the mailbox anymore?

Why, it's not as if my mail carrier actually delivers much of anything to my home anymore. I get three bills (gas, electric and cable), and the rest of it is stuff I can most certainly do without; catalogs I never asked for, direct mailings from the local politicians, those Val-U-Pacs full of mostly-useless coupons from local businesses that apparently can't get customers without a coupon for 10% off carpet cleaning on odd-numbered Thursdays only, or without offering a free set of steak knives that always break the first time you use them for every 50 pound bag of World War II-surplus no-name brand dog food you buy (I guess because once the food kills the dog, those knives might come in handy?). Same for my gas and cable bills...mostly ads.

I would guesstimate that for those three actually useful pieces of mail I get every month, I probably get somewhere between four and six pounds of useless paper and cardboard that I never wanted, never asked for, and simply toss away. And even those three useful presents I get are stuffed with all sorts of advertising and completely inane shit, which means the guy who lugs the mail around all day probably has 90% of all that wear and tear on his back thrown away.

Take my electric bill, for example; Con Edison is very thoughtful and sends me a three-page bill every month (it needs to be three pages because two of them are simply a rundown of the ass-rape taxes that the Fed'ral Gubmint and NY State have so thoughtfully put upon my energy use), and the third is taken up by those lovely bar-and-pie graphs giving me -- a complete doofus apparently -- a handy visual aid to show me just exactly how I'm getting the Big Purple Electric Shaft every month.

The other six pages of nonsense, printed in color no less, are devoted to advertisements and public pronouncements...usually about how Con Edison is dedicated to saving the environment, although not by saving trees, it seems, and those "Helpful Hints" like "Turn Out the Lights When you Leave the saves Energy!". My mother only shouted that at me all my life, Assholes, so lay off. Maybe there are Con Ed customers somewhere who weren't hen-pecked or developing common sense when they were children, and somehow it fell to the Electric Company to fill this void? That's when they aren't hectoring me to donate to some charity, letting me know that I can reach a Customer Service Representative (three lies for the price of one, complete with photo of a model who is just to awesomely gorgeous to work for Con Ed. Sure, entice the lonely, chronic-masturbator-losers out there to call by putting a pretty face on the bill. I wonder how many a day call wanting to talk to The Chick in My Electric Bill?) 24-hours a day, and reminders that you should Run Like Hell if You Smell Gas and Call a Professional, and a friendly reminder that you just might want to stop looking for the source of the mysterious gas odor in your darkened basement with your Zippo lighter aflame.

I can't, for the life of me, figure out where all the catalogs come from. I figured it was from the online services or utility companies that I use selling my address as part of a mailing list. Now, for some reason I can't discern, I get an actual J.C.Penny catalog just about every other week, and it's not the small one, either. I never shop at J.C. Penny. Radio Shack has my address, yessirrreee, and, no--- I didn't give it them. Lilian Vernon? What the fuck am I going to do with a Lilian Vernon catalog? I hate fucking cats, and I don't need a tea cozy, a hand-knitted dick warmer, or a genuine Lebanese Straw doormat with my dog's photograph silk-screened upon it under the caption "Grrrrrreeetings!". I don't have a dog, for one thing, and the only Lebanese anything that will ever enter my house will probably have D-cups, been converted to Christianity, and possessed of absolutely no gag reflex, whatsoever. Donald Trump, would you please stop asking me to feed your slot machines? No, I don't care if you have Rich Little and Dion and the Belmonts playing the Taj this weekend -- I'm not making the trip! And a man with your cash can get a decent wig, already!

I mean, do we really need all this stuff? It seems to me that a Postal Worker is really expending a lot of effort to hand-deliver information that is already on a website somewhere, and he's actually only expensively delivering absolute shyte. Wouldn't it just be cheaper to encourage those still getting a paper bill to use the website (something I'm about to start doing more often), where they can get that info and conduct their business, too? No envelope, no printing costs, no energy wasted shipping bills back and forth, no Lilian Vernon, no Lebanese, no Pizza Hut or Domino's special offers -- Pizza Hut? Dominos? This is New York. Anyone who eats at Pizza Hut when we have the best pizza on the fucking planet should be made into a Lilian Vernon Doormat -- just a Happy Postman who doesn't have to lug all that crap around; forests spared, gasoline saved, fewer trucks on the roads, fewer delays at the airports.

I mean, it's not as if the Post Office actually makes money, anyway. It's a freakin' Federally-protected MONOPOLY ... and it's still broke.

So why does it persist? Why hasn't the Electronic Age eliminated such an organization?

Primarily, because there's still a significant percentage of people in this country who aren't computer literate. These are mostly Old Folks -- who won't oblige us and die already and spare us the expense of supporting them well after their productive value to society is long past. Mostly, they remember FDR fondly (suckers!), and will tell you the tale, ad nauseum, about how they walked to school through five miles of foot-high snow, uphill both ways, without shoes (because it was the Depression, you know), everything cost a nickle (you could get a lung transplant for a nickle back then, it seems), and they never mastered anything more complicated than a rotary telephone. Which they still have. That's when they aren't ruminating upon the virtues of Epsom Salts and Jimmy Stewart, or drifting into Alzheimer's.

These people will need to be accommodated, and worse, they'll need to be accommodated in the manner to which they have been accustomed, which means a pile of dead trees delivered by an overpaid federal employee who collects, sorts and hauls absolute crap all day for a living. Asking these people to adapt automatically encompasses huge problems (not least of which, is their predictable, full-throated menstrual fury about why is it things need to change?), primarily one of expense and convenience; these people might not own a computer or cell phone, wouldn't know how to work one, can't be bothered to learn how, and would probably scream to a Congresscritter who will sponsor a Free-PC-For-Your-About-to-Drop-Dead-Anyday-Great-Gram bill.

Of course, blind people will need paper bills printed in Braille. Accountants will scream for paper hardcopies, and let's not forget the one, true advantage that paper has over a computer -- it never breaks.

The second problem is one of security. I would probably do everything online if it wasn't so ridiculously-easy to hack a computer or cellphone. The average user is dumb as a fucking stump about internet security, and even the security companies themselves routinely have their security breached (mostly by ex-Employees that they've screwed over. They never learn!). Until encryption software becomes user-friendly, hacker-resistant, and cheap for the majority of knuckleheads out there, most will still receive a bill. Even large corporations who can presumably get the best-and-brightest to hack-proof their systems will suffer security breaches (most of them already do, because you can't hire the best-and-brightest through a second-rate service that you've never laid eyes on in Mumbai, even if it is cheaper than hiring Americans).

Of course, we could stimulate the development of such software and systems, if we just made an effort to do so. I don't know why environMENTALists aren't pushing for online bill payment every goddamned day, even above Windmills, Global Warming/Freezing and The Virtues of Hemp , just to save trees and prevent air pollution. They'd be a damned sight more useful in this endeavor, and they'd actually have some things they've never had before --- a point, and an achievable goal.

Naturally, the reason why we still have a Post Office is (everyone together, now!)....Political!

The Post Office is a super-duper federal jobs program for nose-picking dolts who just couldn't qualify for that top-flight janitorial or fry cook job. Post offices employ thousands of unionized people-who-know-how-to-look-busy-when-they're-just-jerking-off, and those jobs are located in Congressional Districts that come with politicians attached to them, like ticks. The unions are often generous with the campaign cash and "volunteers". Closing a Post Office anywhere is an activity akin to suggesting that we pass a decree certifying that blind, three-legged kittens are an excellent source of protein and Vitamin C, and an excellent winter fuel. People will suggest that you be strung up for even daring to say something like that. There have probably been more Presidents assassinated than Post Offices closed, I'd reckon. So long as there's overpaid-and-otherwise-unemployable unionized government douchebags doing a completely-superseded-by-technology job, there will be politicians who will protect them.

Which means someone will have to pay more for a monopoly system that's run like a Chinese fire drill, is always broke, and that fewer and fewer people actually use. Twenty years from now, we'll all have microchips in our heads (or something) that will connect us to the internet and e-mail, and all sorts of other shit, and some dumbass in a blue polyester uniform that hasn't changed since the1950's will still be dropping a shitload of useless paper on my doorstep, and delivering Delinquency Notices to People Who No Longer Live Here. I mean, it's already getting to the point that when someone says "Check the mailbox", they automatically go to the Blackberry to start looking for e-mail. Within a very short span of years it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that old-fashioned mailboxes will once again become antiques.

So, I say let the Post Office have it's two cents now; but someone should just have the balls to finally suggest that, within a decade, we may not need it anymore, and then begin the process of dismantling a quaint reminder of days gone by. The occupation of "Letter Carrier" should soon be going the way of the Barber-Surgeon, Town Crier and Witch Doctor. If someone in a position of authority actually did this sort of thing-- planned the slow demise of the Post Office over time -- it might even serve as a form of economic stimulus; DHL and FedEx already do it better than the Post Office, and the technical problems of securing personal data and networks, and of protecting financial information, would draw a ton of investment money back into the Technology field. Telecommunications would experience new growth. People could be put back to work in the Private Sector, rather than the Public One. The Unions would be struck a death blow, and it might even serve as a model of how the Private sector might eventually obviate the need for many government services altogether, saving the taxpayer billions!

Which is why no one will do it, naturally. And why five years from now when the Post Office isn't even delivering the Lilian Vernon catalog anymore, the price of a First-Class stamp will be $11.95.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Blogger is Upgefuckt Again...

Blogger seems to be having issues with handling replies to posts. Not sure when this started, seems to be a common issue for many blogs this day. If you've posted a reply to something in the last 24 hours or so, it may not appear, even if I have "okayed" it.

So don't take it as me ignoring you. It's just Blogger (but hey, the damned thing is free, so what do you expect?).

Fell Off the Wagon This Weekend...

You know, I once had a serious problem with booze. We're not talking about the kind of drinking one might call "social", but with the kind one typically associates with "Jesus Christ, this guy has a Death Wish" drinking. I pretty much spent my 20's in an alcoholic swirl, and looking back on it all, I'm surprised I even lived through it. Back in those days, it was nothing to put away a fifth of Canadian Club, or spend a day with my Best Friends -- Jack, Jim, and Old Grandad. Once I had discovered the Joys of the Margarita (the straight-up kind, with a salted glass, and not that girly, frozen shit), I can promise you that I had nights where how I managed to get home safely was a complete mystery -- it's almost as if I just pointed the car in the right direction and it found it's own way home. I once actually set a Tavern record and downed 18 whiskey highballs in one sitting...and still drove home that night.

Yes, there was plenty of drunk driving in those days, too (no accidents, though). In fact, I can tell you that I was given Field Sobriety Tests on at least four occasions -- and passed every one of them with flying colors, garnering little more than a warning to be careful, and I can't tell you how in the world I managed that. Every time I was under the impression that THIS time was the one where they finally would nail me, because even I had to admit I was fucking soused. A night on the town routinely came with a minimum $300 bar tab, and I was on a first-name basis with about 50% of the bartenders in New York City. Drinking all night and then pulling a 12-hour workday tomorrow, with little more than 20 minutes of sleep and a shower, was not uncommon.

Of course, back then I didn't know about depression and obsessive compulsive disorders and their connection to/with alcoholism, and whatnot. I just felt jollier and more confident when I was plastered -- not to mention that I had suddenly became incredibly charming to the ladies -- and I was able to pull it all off. They call that being a "functioning alcoholic", and my level of "function" must have been off the charts. Until that one evening when I was about 27. That night is still a blur. All I remember is that I awoke, in the driver's seat, in my driveway, with the engine running, my foot on the brake, and the car in gear. I have no idea how long I had been sleeping in that precarious position. That and the intense pain in the middle of my forehead, like someone had driven a nail between my eyes, was enough to convince me that this was probably a good time to stop drinking.

And I did. Mostly. I never got totally smashed again, and I (almost) never went past four drinks a night ever again...except that week where I managed to keep an English country inn in business practically all by myself. But there was a wedding involved in that one, so...I pretty much kept booze, except for the occasional beer, or (more rarely) two or three drinks here-and-there, out of my life. That was before 9/11, of course, when the boozing started all over again, but was quickly reigned in once more because Vodka and Tonics don't play nicely with Xanax.

I hadn't had a serious bout of drinking for perhaps six, maybe seven years...until Saturday.

I was invited to backyard barbecue by one of my sister's neighbors. It turns out that I had been invited because I make the best fucking sangria you've ever tasted in your entire life. And it's true: I can make a sangria that would make a Spaniard cry and curse his Mother. The ladies at this party had a taste for Sangria, and one of my sister's friends remarked that "no one does it like him!", and off I went to mix up five gallons of the stuff for them.

That's where it started. One of the problems with making a really good Sangria is all the tasting you invariably need to do to get it just right. Particularly when you use my recipe, which calls for a generous dose of brandy. Anyways, as soon as I showed up, I was handed a beer, which somehow became six or seven. Then it was Sangria, again, another six or seven large cups. I should have stopped right there, but they broke out the schnapps and assorted liqueurs, and I was pretty much wasted and not even thinking about it. I must have done another four or five shots of Who-The-Fuck-Knows after that. The walk --more like a zig-zag stagger home -- thankfully short, must have looked like an old-time game of Frogger to an outside observer.

And for the first time in perhaps 20 years -- I was sicker than hell. Puking like a dog. Heaving so heavily that my abs still hurt two days later. Totally useless the next day, too, and unable to even look at food. I spent my 4th of July on my living room couch, gulping water and thinking "right now would be a good time for the Douchebag Police to come and shoot you, and put you out of your misery, Dumbass." I was ashamed of myself, and mightily pissed...I should know better. My nephews saw the whole thing, and they thought their drunken Uncle was something funny. Some example I set, huh? The oldest decided to be a wiseass and ask me how my old behind handled my hangover. That made me even more embarrassed and pissed off. They look up to me, and I love the shit out of them; they should not have seen any of that. I let them down.

The next time someone asks me to make them some Sangria, I'm telling them to take a long walk on a short pier (I'll just give them the fucking recipe and wish them luck). I was offered a beer today -- temps hit high 90's, and, boy, would that have been good! -- and politely refused. I'm thinking I'm going to need a month to recover from Saturday, and I'm not taking anything harder than a Coke, if I can help it, from now on.

I'm getting too old for this shit.

The Good News, The Bad News...

A few months back, I posted here that I was suspected of having contracted sarcoidosis, and that the disease may have been linked to my proximity to Ground Zero on 9/11, and the smoke and debris which persisted for months and years afterwards.

Well, the bad news is that, yes -- I do have sarcoidosis. Confirmed. Nailed down. No question about it.

The really good news is that the contributing factors do not appear to have been exposure to the (worst of) the toxic materials that were released during the collapse and subsequent fires (we're talking really bad stuff, like asbestos, mercury, lead, PCB's, dioxin and shit like that). I've been tested for exposure to those horrors, and thankfully, they don't seem to be much in evidence. However, it is difficult to actually identify what is the cause of this syndrome, and it's generally believed that the hyper auto-immune response which causes sarcoidosis is typically not triggered by exposure to a single source, but by a combination of many sources. It's this sort of uncertainty and the potentially-unlimited number of possibilities that makes sarcoidosis difficult to diagnose.

Fortunately, there are no signs of persistent granulomas (small, fibrous tumors), although my initial chest x-ray did indicate there might be some in the lungs. Whatever that was has pretty much disappeared -- no one knows how or why-- and the doctor is not (at this stage) concerned that the affliction is going to become debilitating, although we'll just have to wait and see if it becomes/remains chronic. So far, the only things we do know is that it seems to become worse with the arrival of spring (it's shown up two consecutive years in a row, now), and tends to tail off when the really hot weather arrives (like today when it hit 96 degrees outside, and all of a sudden, the worst of the tiny little red blotches on my forearms arms seem to have gone completely).

This means, of course, a battery of allergy tests is in the offing. Literally hundreds of them. Starting next week. I'm going to be tested for every pollen, spore, mold and fungus known to mankind, to judge by the Doc's demeanor. He seems genuinely interested in this case, perhaps even genuinely perturbed by the elusive nature of it all. I can't tell if he's just really pissed, taking this inability to give clear and concise answers beyond "maybe", "we're not really sure", and "well, it might be..." as a personal affront to his medical reputation, and personal honor. Whatever; so long as he cares that much, I'm thinking it's a good thing.

It also means someone is coming to my house to vacuum every speck of dust, test every surface, sample the air in the house and in the neighborhood, not to mention check my soap, laundry detergent, deodorants, colognes, and every household cleaner under the sink. No stone is being left unturned.

The other piece of good news is that at least I won't have to take steroids to keep my lung function up. As an aside: the last lung function test I took was damned impressive, considering that I've smoked for 27 years, am a good 50 pounds overweight, and haven't run more than a few hundred feet in years. Not a whiff of cancer or lung damage on the x-rays, either. Fuck You, Tobacco Nazis and Secondhand-Smoke-Kills Pansies! How do you like them apples?